Category: Jon N. Hall

Unless Changed, the Tax Bill Should Die


Since the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government has been borrowing and spending money like there’s no tomorrow. In November, I reported about the new rollover regime we just entered, in which the feds will be refinancing the debt run up during the Obama era. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the $8.388T debt the feds will be rolling over in the four years that started on Oct. 1, 2017 is more than the debt incurred during the eight years of Obama, which was $8.096T, (that’s the Public Debt from Jan. 20, 2009 to Jan. 20, 2017). So, we must redeem the Obama era debt in half the time it took to run it up!

A single $1T deficit in fiscal 2009 during the crisis might be acceptable, even warranted, but four trillion-dollar deficits in a row are unforgiveable. Those four deficits were so large that despite lower deficits in his second term, they gave Obama an average deficit of more than $1T a year for his eight years. The Public Debt, which is the real debt, went from $6.3T to $14.4T while Obama was in office. What did we get for all that debt and all that spending?

For years after the financial crisis the federal government and the Federal Reserve took extraordinary actions. What money the feds didn’t borrow, the Fed created, “out of thin air” as they say, through QE, “quantitative easing.” The Fed is now poised for a drawdown of its $4.5T balance sheet, and has already changed ZIRP, its “zero interest-rate policy,” slowly raising its funds rate. Now, add to all this the new tax bills under consideration that will cut revenue and raise deficits and we have uncertainty. Markets don’t like uncertainty.

Having looked at the House and Senate tax bills, there’s not much to like in them. It would be better to have no new tax legislation than this. And I write that having advocated tax reform for years. But there’s no real reform in these tax bills, and they raise the deficit at the worst time, (see above). As a Republican voter, I hate to write those lines, it pains me, but in their major legislative efforts this year the GOP Congress has been disappointing. They need to fix that soon.

The tax bill needs to be revenue-neutral; the feds need to be taking in at least as much money in the first year of its implementation as in the previous year. One reason for this is that Congress doesn’t seem to be able to cut spending. Also, in certain areas, like Defense, Congress needs to spend more than it has been. For example, there’s been a lot of news lately about our military readiness; some airplanes must be cannibalized to keep other planes operational.

One unacceptable change in both the House and Senate bills is the elimination of the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was instituted to ensure that earners with hefty incomes pay at least some income tax; it was a check against the excesses of Congress in their creation of exemptions, write-offs, and preferences like the “carried interest” loophole. Guess we’re headed back to the good ole days when some high-income earners paid no income tax.

One of the more daft things about fiscal legislation is the 10-year projections that lawmakers make. They need to stop that. Congress cannot bind a future Congress. If Dems get control of everything again, they’ll be able to dash the GOP’s tax law to smithereens, and they’ll end the legislative filibuster to do it. Dems will undo the GOP’s handiwork, and taxes in America will continue to be “a disgrace to the human race.”

What Republicans should be doing is forging a tax law that is so efficient, so sane, so just, so simple, and so popular that Democrats would be afraid to tinker with it. But that’s not what the GOP Congress is doing; they’re just rejiggering the same rickety mess, looking for “pay-fors” to offset rate cuts. There’s very little creativity in these tax bills, and at a time when creativity is sorely needed.

The big disappointment with the two tax reform bills is that the more important reform is being held hostage to the less important one. That is, corporate income tax reform has been yoked to personal income tax reform. Republicans are even selling their bill as a “middle-class tax cut,” when most middle-income Americans already have very low effective rates. They’re even telling personal income taxpayers that they’ll be able to file their taxes on a postcard, (presumably so others can see what their incomes are).

Since Congress isn’t likely to come up with sensible personal income tax reform before the end of the year, they should focus on just the corporate income tax, which is the tax that economists think is the bigger drag on the economy.

Some Republican members of Congress are saying that the GOP must pass tax reform or they’re toast in next year’s midterm elections. If they pass anything like the two bills before us, the opposite may actually be the case. In “The GOP’s Tax Plan: Paving the Way to a Democratic Majority” at The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford writes: “Even if we forget about their impact on the deficit (and we shouldn’t), the Republican tax plans have been characterized by extraordinarily sloppy thinking.” He then details proposed changes to formerly untouchable tax expenditures that the GOP had best rethink.

Republicans members of Congress need to pull back from the brink. What they ought to do in the waning hours of 2017 is repeal not only ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which the Senate bill proposes, but the employer mandate as well. And that needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. They should then tell Americans that those repeals are actually tax cuts, which would be true. And then GOP members should set the corporate income tax rate to 30 percent. That also needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Although modest, the above changes would give GOP members of Congress a measure of credibility — they will have delivered some tax relief and partially made good on their promise to repeal Obamacare. That credibility would allow congressional Republicans to then proclaim that they intend to make additional changes to the tax system in 2018, which might be made retroactive to Jan. 1. Among the changes should be real simplification, especially for business, so that the cost of compliance can be cut.

Considering their historic victories last November, congressional Republicans seem intent on giving a bright new meaning to “screw the pooch.” However, there’s still enough time in what remains of 2017 for them to redeem themselves and demonstrate that they do have the “right stuff” after all.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government has been borrowing and spending money like there’s no tomorrow. In November, I reported about the new rollover regime we just entered, in which the feds will be refinancing the debt run up during the Obama era. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the $8.388T debt the feds will be rolling over in the four years that started on Oct. 1, 2017 is more than the debt incurred during the eight years of Obama, which was $8.096T, (that’s the Public Debt from Jan. 20, 2009 to Jan. 20, 2017). So, we must redeem the Obama era debt in half the time it took to run it up!

A single $1T deficit in fiscal 2009 during the crisis might be acceptable, even warranted, but four trillion-dollar deficits in a row are unforgiveable. Those four deficits were so large that despite lower deficits in his second term, they gave Obama an average deficit of more than $1T a year for his eight years. The Public Debt, which is the real debt, went from $6.3T to $14.4T while Obama was in office. What did we get for all that debt and all that spending?

For years after the financial crisis the federal government and the Federal Reserve took extraordinary actions. What money the feds didn’t borrow, the Fed created, “out of thin air” as they say, through QE, “quantitative easing.” The Fed is now poised for a drawdown of its $4.5T balance sheet, and has already changed ZIRP, its “zero interest-rate policy,” slowly raising its funds rate. Now, add to all this the new tax bills under consideration that will cut revenue and raise deficits and we have uncertainty. Markets don’t like uncertainty.

Having looked at the House and Senate tax bills, there’s not much to like in them. It would be better to have no new tax legislation than this. And I write that having advocated tax reform for years. But there’s no real reform in these tax bills, and they raise the deficit at the worst time, (see above). As a Republican voter, I hate to write those lines, it pains me, but in their major legislative efforts this year the GOP Congress has been disappointing. They need to fix that soon.

The tax bill needs to be revenue-neutral; the feds need to be taking in at least as much money in the first year of its implementation as in the previous year. One reason for this is that Congress doesn’t seem to be able to cut spending. Also, in certain areas, like Defense, Congress needs to spend more than it has been. For example, there’s been a lot of news lately about our military readiness; some airplanes must be cannibalized to keep other planes operational.

One unacceptable change in both the House and Senate bills is the elimination of the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was instituted to ensure that earners with hefty incomes pay at least some income tax; it was a check against the excesses of Congress in their creation of exemptions, write-offs, and preferences like the “carried interest” loophole. Guess we’re headed back to the good ole days when some high-income earners paid no income tax.

One of the more daft things about fiscal legislation is the 10-year projections that lawmakers make. They need to stop that. Congress cannot bind a future Congress. If Dems get control of everything again, they’ll be able to dash the GOP’s tax law to smithereens, and they’ll end the legislative filibuster to do it. Dems will undo the GOP’s handiwork, and taxes in America will continue to be “a disgrace to the human race.”

What Republicans should be doing is forging a tax law that is so efficient, so sane, so just, so simple, and so popular that Democrats would be afraid to tinker with it. But that’s not what the GOP Congress is doing; they’re just rejiggering the same rickety mess, looking for “pay-fors” to offset rate cuts. There’s very little creativity in these tax bills, and at a time when creativity is sorely needed.

The big disappointment with the two tax reform bills is that the more important reform is being held hostage to the less important one. That is, corporate income tax reform has been yoked to personal income tax reform. Republicans are even selling their bill as a “middle-class tax cut,” when most middle-income Americans already have very low effective rates. They’re even telling personal income taxpayers that they’ll be able to file their taxes on a postcard, (presumably so others can see what their incomes are).

Since Congress isn’t likely to come up with sensible personal income tax reform before the end of the year, they should focus on just the corporate income tax, which is the tax that economists think is the bigger drag on the economy.

Some Republican members of Congress are saying that the GOP must pass tax reform or they’re toast in next year’s midterm elections. If they pass anything like the two bills before us, the opposite may actually be the case. In “The GOP’s Tax Plan: Paving the Way to a Democratic Majority” at The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford writes: “Even if we forget about their impact on the deficit (and we shouldn’t), the Republican tax plans have been characterized by extraordinarily sloppy thinking.” He then details proposed changes to formerly untouchable tax expenditures that the GOP had best rethink.

Republicans members of Congress need to pull back from the brink. What they ought to do in the waning hours of 2017 is repeal not only ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which the Senate bill proposes, but the employer mandate as well. And that needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. They should then tell Americans that those repeals are actually tax cuts, which would be true. And then GOP members should set the corporate income tax rate to 30 percent. That also needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Although modest, the above changes would give GOP members of Congress a measure of credibility — they will have delivered some tax relief and partially made good on their promise to repeal Obamacare. That credibility would allow congressional Republicans to then proclaim that they intend to make additional changes to the tax system in 2018, which might be made retroactive to Jan. 1. Among the changes should be real simplification, especially for business, so that the cost of compliance can be cut.

Considering their historic victories last November, congressional Republicans seem intent on giving a bright new meaning to “screw the pooch.” However, there’s still enough time in what remains of 2017 for them to redeem themselves and demonstrate that they do have the “right stuff” after all.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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The Moore Affair Is in the Hands of Alabama


The allegations of sexual improprieties with minors against GOP senatorial nominee Roy Moore have created tumult in Republicans circles. Several sitting U.S. senators have opined that Mr. Moore is unfit to serve. We’ve even heard some wonder whether Moore, if elected, should be seated.

The issue of whether the Senate can refuse to seat a new senator was explored back in January of 2009 in a scholarly paper by Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation: “The Constitutional Requirement to Seat the Senator from Illinois: Upholding the Rule of Law.” It’s so scholarly that it has 22 endnotes, but it’s eminently readable. You might want to read the pristine PDF version, as the main page has suffered some formatting problems, but the print version might be more to your liking as its endnote numbers are clickable. What Spakovsky addressed was the seating of Sen. Obama’s replacement:

The refusal of the United States Senate led by Harry Reid to seat Roland W. Burris fails that test. Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich under the authority of the 17th Amendment to replace outgoing Senator Barack Obama.[1] It is clear from a review of the applicable constitutional provisions, Supreme Court case law, and the history of the Constitutional Convention and the Constitution’s subsequent ratification that the Senate does not have the constitutional authority to exclude Burris. There are no political or other objectives that the Senators opposing his seating could possibly have that would in any way justify such a stark and direct violation of the Constitution.

Mr. von Spakovsky made a solid case that the Senate does not have the authority to deny any duly elected senator his rightful seat. He also asserted that “certain Senators are not even questioning the ‘qualifications’ of the designee but the qualifications (and actions) of the executive who appointed him as a Senator”; the Illinois governor was having a mess of legal problems. In any event, Sen. Burris was sworn in on Jan. 15, 2009, Mark Kirk succeeded Burris on Nov. 29, 2010, and Gov. Blago was convicted in 2009 and remains imprisoned to this day.

If the U.S. Senate were to not seat Moore, it would surely set off a constitutional contretemps between the feds and a state, and the Senate would ultimately lose. However, the Senate does have the authority to expel its members, and expulsions are final, not appealable.

Of course, Congress rarely expels its corrupt members. For instance, if Sen. Bob Menendez is found guilty of his current corruption charges, you can be sure that few Democrat members would vote to expel him. (Even if Menendez is acquitted, the Senate should make its own judgment about the senator’s guilt and then decide whether he really should be in Congress, as an acquittal could be another case of jury nullification or some other miscarriage of justice.)

If I were an Alabaman and Roy Moore were the GOP nominee, I’d vote for Moore and hope the Senate would seat and then expel him. But expelling Moore would require Democrat votes, and Democrats might not want to cooperate. Dems might want to hang Moore around the necks of Republicans. After all, if they voted to expel, Democrat senators would be fairly certain that a more suitable Republican would soon show up without the baggage of Roy Moore.

Alabama Republicans shouldn’t beat themselves up about their “mistake,” as voters in other states have done the same thing. GOP voters in Nevada erred in 2010 when they chose Sharron Angle, which gave Harry Reid another term. Primary voters in my state of Missouri messed up with Todd Akin, whose comment about “legitimate rape” led to Claire McCaskill, who’s out of step with most Missourians. There are many other examples of primary voters choosing badly, so Alabamans shouldn’t fixate on Moore. (Republican voters in all the states could benefit from a Nov. 10 National Review article by Jonah Goldberg.)

Recently, American Thinker ran “Repairing the U.S. Senate” by yours truly. For you states’ rights folks, the article also appeared at the Tenth Amendment Center under a more provocative headline. The good citizens of Alabama might take a look at my short piece. You see, the Senate is not what it was intended to be.

And that’s because of the dang 17th Amendment, which established the popular election of U.S. senators. With popular elections, a candidate “owns” his nomination. Moore refuses to step aside because he won the primary; the nomination “belongs” to him. And if elected in the general, Moore will “own” his senatorial seat, not the people of Alabama.

If state legislatures still chose U.S. senators, as they did for most of our history, Alabama might not be having her Moore problems. America should repeal the 17th Amendment and go back to having state legislatures choose U.S. senators. Not only that, the repeal should stipulate that senators hold their jobs only at the pleasure of their state legislatures. In other words, state legislatures could sack senators at any time. U.S. senators should be seen as ambassadors of states to the central government in D.C. But with the 17th, they’ve gone rogue, and have forgotten why they’re in D.C., which is to represent the states.

The great state of Alabama is one of the reddest of red states. It would be a pity if she were represented by someone as out of step with Alabama’s culture as Doug Jones, who would immediately become a lackey of “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer. It is now left to the government of Alabama to fix this problem. That might mean getting “creative.”

Alabamans should take a cue from someone Roy Moore has derided: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Conservatives were grateful to McConnell when he sat on Obama’s third nomination to the Supreme Court, which resulted in America getting a strong conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch. I suggest that Alabamans “pull a McConnell” and sit on this thing. Postpone the general election, repeatedly if need be, refuse to sign papers, pass new laws, do whatever you have to do to stretch things out, be” creative” in delay. With Luther Strange, Alabama already has a decent man in the U.S. Senate who’s supporting President Trump’s agenda. Let him stay there, Alabama.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

The allegations of sexual improprieties with minors against GOP senatorial nominee Roy Moore have created tumult in Republicans circles. Several sitting U.S. senators have opined that Mr. Moore is unfit to serve. We’ve even heard some wonder whether Moore, if elected, should be seated.

The issue of whether the Senate can refuse to seat a new senator was explored back in January of 2009 in a scholarly paper by Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation: “The Constitutional Requirement to Seat the Senator from Illinois: Upholding the Rule of Law.” It’s so scholarly that it has 22 endnotes, but it’s eminently readable. You might want to read the pristine PDF version, as the main page has suffered some formatting problems, but the print version might be more to your liking as its endnote numbers are clickable. What Spakovsky addressed was the seating of Sen. Obama’s replacement:

The refusal of the United States Senate led by Harry Reid to seat Roland W. Burris fails that test. Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich under the authority of the 17th Amendment to replace outgoing Senator Barack Obama.[1] It is clear from a review of the applicable constitutional provisions, Supreme Court case law, and the history of the Constitutional Convention and the Constitution’s subsequent ratification that the Senate does not have the constitutional authority to exclude Burris. There are no political or other objectives that the Senators opposing his seating could possibly have that would in any way justify such a stark and direct violation of the Constitution.

Mr. von Spakovsky made a solid case that the Senate does not have the authority to deny any duly elected senator his rightful seat. He also asserted that “certain Senators are not even questioning the ‘qualifications’ of the designee but the qualifications (and actions) of the executive who appointed him as a Senator”; the Illinois governor was having a mess of legal problems. In any event, Sen. Burris was sworn in on Jan. 15, 2009, Mark Kirk succeeded Burris on Nov. 29, 2010, and Gov. Blago was convicted in 2009 and remains imprisoned to this day.

If the U.S. Senate were to not seat Moore, it would surely set off a constitutional contretemps between the feds and a state, and the Senate would ultimately lose. However, the Senate does have the authority to expel its members, and expulsions are final, not appealable.

Of course, Congress rarely expels its corrupt members. For instance, if Sen. Bob Menendez is found guilty of his current corruption charges, you can be sure that few Democrat members would vote to expel him. (Even if Menendez is acquitted, the Senate should make its own judgment about the senator’s guilt and then decide whether he really should be in Congress, as an acquittal could be another case of jury nullification or some other miscarriage of justice.)

If I were an Alabaman and Roy Moore were the GOP nominee, I’d vote for Moore and hope the Senate would seat and then expel him. But expelling Moore would require Democrat votes, and Democrats might not want to cooperate. Dems might want to hang Moore around the necks of Republicans. After all, if they voted to expel, Democrat senators would be fairly certain that a more suitable Republican would soon show up without the baggage of Roy Moore.

Alabama Republicans shouldn’t beat themselves up about their “mistake,” as voters in other states have done the same thing. GOP voters in Nevada erred in 2010 when they chose Sharron Angle, which gave Harry Reid another term. Primary voters in my state of Missouri messed up with Todd Akin, whose comment about “legitimate rape” led to Claire McCaskill, who’s out of step with most Missourians. There are many other examples of primary voters choosing badly, so Alabamans shouldn’t fixate on Moore. (Republican voters in all the states could benefit from a Nov. 10 National Review article by Jonah Goldberg.)

Recently, American Thinker ran “Repairing the U.S. Senate” by yours truly. For you states’ rights folks, the article also appeared at the Tenth Amendment Center under a more provocative headline. The good citizens of Alabama might take a look at my short piece. You see, the Senate is not what it was intended to be.

And that’s because of the dang 17th Amendment, which established the popular election of U.S. senators. With popular elections, a candidate “owns” his nomination. Moore refuses to step aside because he won the primary; the nomination “belongs” to him. And if elected in the general, Moore will “own” his senatorial seat, not the people of Alabama.

If state legislatures still chose U.S. senators, as they did for most of our history, Alabama might not be having her Moore problems. America should repeal the 17th Amendment and go back to having state legislatures choose U.S. senators. Not only that, the repeal should stipulate that senators hold their jobs only at the pleasure of their state legislatures. In other words, state legislatures could sack senators at any time. U.S. senators should be seen as ambassadors of states to the central government in D.C. But with the 17th, they’ve gone rogue, and have forgotten why they’re in D.C., which is to represent the states.

The great state of Alabama is one of the reddest of red states. It would be a pity if she were represented by someone as out of step with Alabama’s culture as Doug Jones, who would immediately become a lackey of “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer. It is now left to the government of Alabama to fix this problem. That might mean getting “creative.”

Alabamans should take a cue from someone Roy Moore has derided: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Conservatives were grateful to McConnell when he sat on Obama’s third nomination to the Supreme Court, which resulted in America getting a strong conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch. I suggest that Alabamans “pull a McConnell” and sit on this thing. Postpone the general election, repeatedly if need be, refuse to sign papers, pass new laws, do whatever you have to do to stretch things out, be” creative” in delay. With Luther Strange, Alabama already has a decent man in the U.S. Senate who’s supporting President Trump’s agenda. Let him stay there, Alabama.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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The Big Mistake in Obamacare Replacement Plans


When Democrats were peddling ObamaCare to an unsuspecting America, they told us that the price of health insurance would go down by thousands of dollars. But the opposite happened, and it continues to happen. The way that real insurance works is that policyholders get lower premiums if they are less likely to file claims and thereby cost their insurance companies money; that is, if they pose less risk. Insurance companies set premiums by using actuarial science to calculate risk.

But ObamaCare policies don’t price for risk, everyone pays the same regardless of risk due to the ACA’s “community rating” policy. However, there’s another way to keep the price of premiums down and that’s for policyholders to agree to pay some of the costs of the medical treatment incurred in their claims, i.e. deductibles and copayments — the lower the premium, the higher the deductible.

So, ObamaCare tried to make premiums affordable by having much, much higher deductibles. But some folks who file claims with ObamaCare can’t pay their deductibles. ObamaCare took care of those folks through CSRs, cost sharing reductions, where government pays the policyholder’s deductible.

Unlike its premiums, the ACA did not provide automatic funding of the CSRs. Instead, Congress must regularly approve the funds for the CSRs, and Congress hasn’t been doing that. This back-loaded little aspect of the ACA has been driven home recently by President Trump’s executive order to stop payment of CSRs. Democrats and their stooges in the media are wailing that the president’s order is “arson” and “sabotage.” They caterwaul that without the CSR payments the price of ACA premiums will, surprise, surprise, shoot up even higher. They seem to think that the ACA should be exempt from the “Laws of Insurance.”

On May 12, 2016 in House v. Burwell, a federal judge found that the payments of CSRs are unconstitutional because Congress hasn’t been appropriating the funds. Law Professor Timothy Jost has written much on the case (archive); here’s what he wrote on the day of the decision. Though Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 is quite clear in requiring that money cannot be “drawn from the Treasury” without an appropriation from Congress, Democrats seem to think that the president should just keep on lawlessly spending money, just as Obama did.

The media has been rather careless in reporting this story; they often refer to the CSRs as “subsidies.” But there’s another ObamaCare subsidy that one receives when the government helps to pay for one’s health insurance premiums. That is the main subsidy, and it has complicated folks’ income tax returns. Unlike premiums, which must be paid every month, the CSRs are subsidies that would never need to be paid if no one filed a claim. But policyholders do file claims, so the true cost of ACA policies needs to include the $7B that the CSRs are costing taxpayers. That’s the same $7B Democrats think Pres. Trump should be spending without congressional authorization.

Congress has the power to appropriate the funds for the CSRs, and recently Sens. Alexander and Murray have reached a deal to do just that. However, the deal is for a two-year appropriation, which Republicans should reject for a much shorter funding period, should they be inclined to vote for this deal. Not only that, Republicans should get some concessions, too:

Just minutes before Alexander announced the deal, White House legislative director Marc Short emerged from a Senate GOP lunch saying that “a starting point” in exchange for restoring the cost-sharing payments “is eliminating the individual mandate and employer mandate” — the central pillars of Obamacare.

But the mandates aren’t “the central pillars of ObamaCare.” ObamaCare made inroads into several huge areas of health insurance, and most of ObamaCare would still stand if the individual mandate were repealed. What would be affected by the elimination of the individual mandate is the Individual Market.

Because most Americans receive health insurance through their employer or through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Obamacare trained its corporatist sights on the Individual Market. It is this group that receives all the media attention, but it is by far the smallest sector. Before the implementation of the ACA, the Individual Market, which is also called the “Non-Group” market, comprised just 4 percent of the population.

Repeal of the individual mandate would likely result in throngs of healthy young Americans choosing not to buy health insurance, which would indeed doom the Individual Market under Obamacare. But that should happen anyway. You see, government needs to get completely out of the Individual Market; Congress needs to let the Individual Market be totally private.

But what we’ve seen with the various Republican repeal and replace plans is that they retain government involvement in the Individual Market. Continuing the government’s involvement in the Individual Market with the individual mandate and subsidies is the Republican’s “Big Mistake” in their replacement plans.

Here’s a question that should be asked of all congressional Republicans: Will you vote to repeal the individual mandate? Any GOP congressman who is for the repeal of the individual mandate cannot also be for the federal government’s continued involvement in the Individual Market, because that market depends on that mandate. In their repeal and replace plans, Republicans are sabotaging themselves by being for contradictory things.

With ObamaCare you get both high premiums and high deductibles. But ACA premiums would have been even higher had Democrats structured ObamaCare like real insurance with reasonable deductibles. The people ObamaCare hurts the most are those who pay the full price for health insurance at the exchanges.

If people don’t have the funds to pay the full price for health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, then they need to be put into Medicaid. Congress should especially be putting ACA subsidy recipients with pre-existing conditions into Medicaid. All taxpayers should be helping to pay for those very sick poor people, rather than having a disproportionate amount of it paid by those in the Individual Market.

Besides being incoherent, the Supreme Court decision to uphold the individual mandate was a rewrite of the ACA. The Court did not defer to Congress when it saved Obamacare, it legislated. Congress should resent the Court’s usurpation of its power to write law. If the high court will not strike down bad law, then it is left to Congress to do so.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

When Democrats were peddling ObamaCare to an unsuspecting America, they told us that the price of health insurance would go down by thousands of dollars. But the opposite happened, and it continues to happen. The way that real insurance works is that policyholders get lower premiums if they are less likely to file claims and thereby cost their insurance companies money; that is, if they pose less risk. Insurance companies set premiums by using actuarial science to calculate risk.

But ObamaCare policies don’t price for risk, everyone pays the same regardless of risk due to the ACA’s “community rating” policy. However, there’s another way to keep the price of premiums down and that’s for policyholders to agree to pay some of the costs of the medical treatment incurred in their claims, i.e. deductibles and copayments — the lower the premium, the higher the deductible.

So, ObamaCare tried to make premiums affordable by having much, much higher deductibles. But some folks who file claims with ObamaCare can’t pay their deductibles. ObamaCare took care of those folks through CSRs, cost sharing reductions, where government pays the policyholder’s deductible.

Unlike its premiums, the ACA did not provide automatic funding of the CSRs. Instead, Congress must regularly approve the funds for the CSRs, and Congress hasn’t been doing that. This back-loaded little aspect of the ACA has been driven home recently by President Trump’s executive order to stop payment of CSRs. Democrats and their stooges in the media are wailing that the president’s order is “arson” and “sabotage.” They caterwaul that without the CSR payments the price of ACA premiums will, surprise, surprise, shoot up even higher. They seem to think that the ACA should be exempt from the “Laws of Insurance.”

On May 12, 2016 in House v. Burwell, a federal judge found that the payments of CSRs are unconstitutional because Congress hasn’t been appropriating the funds. Law Professor Timothy Jost has written much on the case (archive); here’s what he wrote on the day of the decision. Though Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 is quite clear in requiring that money cannot be “drawn from the Treasury” without an appropriation from Congress, Democrats seem to think that the president should just keep on lawlessly spending money, just as Obama did.

The media has been rather careless in reporting this story; they often refer to the CSRs as “subsidies.” But there’s another ObamaCare subsidy that one receives when the government helps to pay for one’s health insurance premiums. That is the main subsidy, and it has complicated folks’ income tax returns. Unlike premiums, which must be paid every month, the CSRs are subsidies that would never need to be paid if no one filed a claim. But policyholders do file claims, so the true cost of ACA policies needs to include the $7B that the CSRs are costing taxpayers. That’s the same $7B Democrats think Pres. Trump should be spending without congressional authorization.

Congress has the power to appropriate the funds for the CSRs, and recently Sens. Alexander and Murray have reached a deal to do just that. However, the deal is for a two-year appropriation, which Republicans should reject for a much shorter funding period, should they be inclined to vote for this deal. Not only that, Republicans should get some concessions, too:

Just minutes before Alexander announced the deal, White House legislative director Marc Short emerged from a Senate GOP lunch saying that “a starting point” in exchange for restoring the cost-sharing payments “is eliminating the individual mandate and employer mandate” — the central pillars of Obamacare.

But the mandates aren’t “the central pillars of ObamaCare.” ObamaCare made inroads into several huge areas of health insurance, and most of ObamaCare would still stand if the individual mandate were repealed. What would be affected by the elimination of the individual mandate is the Individual Market.

Because most Americans receive health insurance through their employer or through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Obamacare trained its corporatist sights on the Individual Market. It is this group that receives all the media attention, but it is by far the smallest sector. Before the implementation of the ACA, the Individual Market, which is also called the “Non-Group” market, comprised just 4 percent of the population.

Repeal of the individual mandate would likely result in throngs of healthy young Americans choosing not to buy health insurance, which would indeed doom the Individual Market under Obamacare. But that should happen anyway. You see, government needs to get completely out of the Individual Market; Congress needs to let the Individual Market be totally private.

But what we’ve seen with the various Republican repeal and replace plans is that they retain government involvement in the Individual Market. Continuing the government’s involvement in the Individual Market with the individual mandate and subsidies is the Republican’s “Big Mistake” in their replacement plans.

Here’s a question that should be asked of all congressional Republicans: Will you vote to repeal the individual mandate? Any GOP congressman who is for the repeal of the individual mandate cannot also be for the federal government’s continued involvement in the Individual Market, because that market depends on that mandate. In their repeal and replace plans, Republicans are sabotaging themselves by being for contradictory things.

With ObamaCare you get both high premiums and high deductibles. But ACA premiums would have been even higher had Democrats structured ObamaCare like real insurance with reasonable deductibles. The people ObamaCare hurts the most are those who pay the full price for health insurance at the exchanges.

If people don’t have the funds to pay the full price for health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, then they need to be put into Medicaid. Congress should especially be putting ACA subsidy recipients with pre-existing conditions into Medicaid. All taxpayers should be helping to pay for those very sick poor people, rather than having a disproportionate amount of it paid by those in the Individual Market.

Besides being incoherent, the Supreme Court decision to uphold the individual mandate was a rewrite of the ACA. The Court did not defer to Congress when it saved Obamacare, it legislated. Congress should resent the Court’s usurpation of its power to write law. If the high court will not strike down bad law, then it is left to Congress to do so.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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The Escalating Costs of Higher Edumacation


On October 8, the Kansas City Star ran an editorial on its website that appeared in print the next day under the headline “Lower college costs or face extinction.” Though its byline was the Kansas City Star Editorial Board, you might wonder if some outsider wrote the thing, because the Star has been decidedly left-wing for some time now. The paper no longer seems to have any more-conservative voices, like E. Thomas McClanahan, Chris Lester, Jerry Heaster, and George Gurley Sr. of not so distant days gone by. In any event, if one is interested in the soaring inflation we’ve seen in college in recent years, the Star’s short editorial might be worth reading; it even has some links.

The main takeaway from this editorial is that a growing number of Americans no longer think that a four-year college degree is a good investment. Young folks can go tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt just to get a bachelor’s degree and then can’t find a job. Fifty years ago, one could work one’s way through college or work during the summer, and obtain a bachelor’s degree debt-free. And back then, there was the “perma-student,” i.e. permanent student, who just liked to learn stuff or liked the college life or didn’t like the idea of moving on into the “real world,” and so stayed in school for years. It used to be, fifty years ago, that having a four-year “vacation” before you entered the real world wasn’t so huge a decision; so what if your degree didn’t really prepare you for anything specific, college didn’t cost all that much. But today, with the cost of college having risen so steeply, most youngsters need to have a plan and be taking courses that will pay off with job opportunities.

The editorial notes that total student debt now exceeds $1.3T, which is larger than credit card debt, but space limitations prevent the editorial from diving very deeply into the causes of inflation in higher education. So just why does college cost so much; what has driven higher education’s monstrous inflation?

One reason is demand. Progressives have drilled into our heads that everyone needs to go to college Consequently, America sees masses of young folks going to college who really shouldn’t be, and they’re borrowing tons of money to attend. The federal government became an enabler in this folly by guaranteeing student loans. Such loans are not supposed to ever be forgiven, unlike other debt. But then along comes socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders who tells us that student debt, all nearly $1.4T of it, should be written off, forgiven. You see, this crazy old fart thinks that “free” College for All is a “right,” and that government should pay for it.

With high demand, which includes foreign students, there’s little reason to cut prices for tuition and such. Higher education has a fairly assured stream of revenue. And some of that revenue comes from state legislatures which make annual gifts from state treasuries to state universities courtesy of taxpayers, some of whom can’t afford tuition.

Another type of inflation is bloat, and America’s colleges and universities have become quite bloated. They’ve created bureaucratic sinecures for armies of new administrators, as in offices of Diversity and Inclusion, which require their own vice chancellors to ensure that federal mandates, like Title IX, are adhered to. And there’s the bloat of the new “disciplines,” such as Gender Studies. America wouldn’t have split the atom nor gone to the Moon with such graduates, nor will they help us compete with the Chinese. And there’s the bloat of the new amenities colleges offer, like fancy health spas. If you know that all you want is to just become an electrical engineer and go to work for Intel or AMD, sorry kid, you gotta help pay for the bloat first.

Another type of inflation is grade inflation. Employers claim that too many of today’s graduates are barely literate, and can’t function well at their jobs. Nonetheless, graduates have all the correct opinions on race, gender, how the country should be run, etc. They’ve paid through the nose with nothing to show for it but being nicely indoctrinated with all the latest political psychobabble. One might actually graduate from college a worse person than one was before entering. In recent years we’ve had ample evidence of this in the treatment of guest speakers at various colleges. Why aren’t these student hooligans being expelled?

Students are ignorant, that’s why they’re in school, to rectify that sad condition. But their “tenured radical” professors tell them they know more than their elders and should protest the appearances of conservatives and libertarians, like David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, and Charles Murray. If these students would just shut their ignorant yaps and listen, not only could they learn something from these guest speakers, but they might also have a few laughs. Time was when odd, edgy, outrageous speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos would have been warmly welcomed by students. It seems that curiosity has been bred out of today’s “snowflake” college kids.

I was once told by a college English professor that college isn’t a business. Well then, why do they advertise? And why do they tell their recruits how much more money they’ll earn if they just get one of their degrees?

There’s a new trend for four-year liberal arts colleges to start calling themselves “universities,” even though they still don’t have medical, dental, and law schools. Nor do such “universities” have graduate programs in much of anything, except maybe the odd MBA. Such relabeling is false advertising. (Maybe junior colleges will start thinking they’re universities.)

Just as government screwed up the market for health insurance, it has also screwed up the market for higher education. Government needs to quit throwing money at colleges. Congress should end federally-backed student loans. At the very least, taxpayers shouldn’t be backing loans for degrees in the touchy-feely majors, like literature, art history, and music. Those are areas that most of us, including me, revere. But the feds can’t afford to subsidize them any longer. Also, such studies aren’t in the “public interest” in the way that engineering, medicine, and science are. Besides, America really doesn’t need any more bartenders with degrees in philosophy.

Ending federally-backed student loans would surely create a scramble in academia to adapt. But only by turning off the money spigot will colleges be forced to reorganize, cut bloat, reduce staff, and operate more efficiently so that prices for an education might be reasonable.

Perhaps the dearest cost of college is in having a generation of young Americans seriously in debt before they even start out in life.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

On October 8, the Kansas City Star ran an editorial on its website that appeared in print the next day under the headline “Lower college costs or face extinction.” Though its byline was the Kansas City Star Editorial Board, you might wonder if some outsider wrote the thing, because the Star has been decidedly left-wing for some time now. The paper no longer seems to have any more-conservative voices, like E. Thomas McClanahan, Chris Lester, Jerry Heaster, and George Gurley Sr. of not so distant days gone by. In any event, if one is interested in the soaring inflation we’ve seen in college in recent years, the Star’s short editorial might be worth reading; it even has some links.

The main takeaway from this editorial is that a growing number of Americans no longer think that a four-year college degree is a good investment. Young folks can go tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt just to get a bachelor’s degree and then can’t find a job. Fifty years ago, one could work one’s way through college or work during the summer, and obtain a bachelor’s degree debt-free. And back then, there was the “perma-student,” i.e. permanent student, who just liked to learn stuff or liked the college life or didn’t like the idea of moving on into the “real world,” and so stayed in school for years. It used to be, fifty years ago, that having a four-year “vacation” before you entered the real world wasn’t so huge a decision; so what if your degree didn’t really prepare you for anything specific, college didn’t cost all that much. But today, with the cost of college having risen so steeply, most youngsters need to have a plan and be taking courses that will pay off with job opportunities.

The editorial notes that total student debt now exceeds $1.3T, which is larger than credit card debt, but space limitations prevent the editorial from diving very deeply into the causes of inflation in higher education. So just why does college cost so much; what has driven higher education’s monstrous inflation?

One reason is demand. Progressives have drilled into our heads that everyone needs to go to college Consequently, America sees masses of young folks going to college who really shouldn’t be, and they’re borrowing tons of money to attend. The federal government became an enabler in this folly by guaranteeing student loans. Such loans are not supposed to ever be forgiven, unlike other debt. But then along comes socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders who tells us that student debt, all nearly $1.4T of it, should be written off, forgiven. You see, this crazy old fart thinks that “free” College for All is a “right,” and that government should pay for it.

With high demand, which includes foreign students, there’s little reason to cut prices for tuition and such. Higher education has a fairly assured stream of revenue. And some of that revenue comes from state legislatures which make annual gifts from state treasuries to state universities courtesy of taxpayers, some of whom can’t afford tuition.

Another type of inflation is bloat, and America’s colleges and universities have become quite bloated. They’ve created bureaucratic sinecures for armies of new administrators, as in offices of Diversity and Inclusion, which require their own vice chancellors to ensure that federal mandates, like Title IX, are adhered to. And there’s the bloat of the new “disciplines,” such as Gender Studies. America wouldn’t have split the atom nor gone to the Moon with such graduates, nor will they help us compete with the Chinese. And there’s the bloat of the new amenities colleges offer, like fancy health spas. If you know that all you want is to just become an electrical engineer and go to work for Intel or AMD, sorry kid, you gotta help pay for the bloat first.

Another type of inflation is grade inflation. Employers claim that too many of today’s graduates are barely literate, and can’t function well at their jobs. Nonetheless, graduates have all the correct opinions on race, gender, how the country should be run, etc. They’ve paid through the nose with nothing to show for it but being nicely indoctrinated with all the latest political psychobabble. One might actually graduate from college a worse person than one was before entering. In recent years we’ve had ample evidence of this in the treatment of guest speakers at various colleges. Why aren’t these student hooligans being expelled?

Students are ignorant, that’s why they’re in school, to rectify that sad condition. But their “tenured radical” professors tell them they know more than their elders and should protest the appearances of conservatives and libertarians, like David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, and Charles Murray. If these students would just shut their ignorant yaps and listen, not only could they learn something from these guest speakers, but they might also have a few laughs. Time was when odd, edgy, outrageous speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos would have been warmly welcomed by students. It seems that curiosity has been bred out of today’s “snowflake” college kids.

I was once told by a college English professor that college isn’t a business. Well then, why do they advertise? And why do they tell their recruits how much more money they’ll earn if they just get one of their degrees?

There’s a new trend for four-year liberal arts colleges to start calling themselves “universities,” even though they still don’t have medical, dental, and law schools. Nor do such “universities” have graduate programs in much of anything, except maybe the odd MBA. Such relabeling is false advertising. (Maybe junior colleges will start thinking they’re universities.)

Just as government screwed up the market for health insurance, it has also screwed up the market for higher education. Government needs to quit throwing money at colleges. Congress should end federally-backed student loans. At the very least, taxpayers shouldn’t be backing loans for degrees in the touchy-feely majors, like literature, art history, and music. Those are areas that most of us, including me, revere. But the feds can’t afford to subsidize them any longer. Also, such studies aren’t in the “public interest” in the way that engineering, medicine, and science are. Besides, America really doesn’t need any more bartenders with degrees in philosophy.

Ending federally-backed student loans would surely create a scramble in academia to adapt. But only by turning off the money spigot will colleges be forced to reorganize, cut bloat, reduce staff, and operate more efficiently so that prices for an education might be reasonable.

Perhaps the dearest cost of college is in having a generation of young Americans seriously in debt before they even start out in life.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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Repairing the U.S. Senate


With the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill to repeal Obamacare flaming out, not even getting a vote, one might wonder whether it was a lousy bill or if something else were amiss. As the bill seemed like pretty decent legislation, its failure to get a vote may be due to what the U.S. Senate has become. Today’s Senate is populated with careerists: professional politicians. Such politicians can be more attuned to the interests of their donors than to those of their constituents.

One of the healthiest things to have come out of Congress in decades was Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America back in the 1994. The Contract promised several huge changes, like welfare reform, and the new Republican Congress, the first in forty years, actually delivered on several of those big promises.

One of the big disappointments of the Contract was the failure to get term limits in its Citizen Legislature Act; the careerists in the House defeated it 227-204. That failure to get term limits left the Senate with two members, Collins and McCain, whose declared opposition to Graham-Cassidy sank it. Collins and McCain would have been long gone if we had gotten the Contract’s term limits.

If we’re ever to get term limits for Congress, the Constitution must be amended. Because the swampy careerists in Congress are never going to initiate such an amendment themselves, we’ll probably need to have an Article V constitutional convention. Good luck on that, (he wrote ironically).

On Sep. 26, the Blaze reported that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) had appeared on Fox News addressing Sen. McCain’s cancer and advising this: “I think Arizona could help him — and us. Recall him, let him fight successfully this terrible cancer, and let’s get someone in here who will keep the word he gave last year.”

It might be healthy for the state of union if wayward members of Congress could be ousted with a recall election, but unfortunately recall elections aren’t available for Congress. In “Can U.S. Senators Be Recalled?” at the Daily Signal, Benjamin Shelton treats the issue of recall elections vis-à-vis the Congress; it’s well worth reading, and short.

If voters would like to be able to hold recall elections and oust their U.S. senators for breaking their promises rather than waiting for the next regular election, then they’re going to need to mount an Article V constitutional convention, because Congress is unlikely to initiate such an amendment. Good luck.

If you don’t like the fact that your U.S. senators are breaking their promises to you, then you might start blaming yourself, because with the 17th Amendment in 1913, we started electing U.S. senators by popular vote. You, dear voter, have been sending the same people back to Congress year after year, to the point that we’ve actually had a senator or two whose age was in excess of 100. It’s as though the Senate were an episode of “Survivor” (not that I’ve ever watched that show).

If you think that the 17th Amendment was a mistake that should be repealed, then you’re probably going to need to convene the states, as provided for by Article V, because there’s little chance that sitting congressmen are going to initiate an amendment to repeal the 17th. Again, good luck.

The original character of the Senate and the intent of the Founders was laid out in The Federalist in Nos. 62, 63, 64,65, 66, 75, and 76. In Federalist No. 62 we read:

In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty. […]


Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is, the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the States.

So the House of Representatives is the People’s house, and the Senate is the house of “the several States.” But that was before the passage of the 17th Amendment, which changed the character of the Senate. Now, U.S. senators answer to the People, not their state legislatures. On ObamaCare repeal, Sen. McCain is at odds with his state and its residents. Arizona has experienced ObamaCare premium hikes of more than 100 percent, but Sen. McCain is more interested in “process,” “regular order,” and some ethereal bipartisanship (with the Hun, no less) than he is in getting a little relief to his constituents in Arizona.

Democrats often bemoan the money in politics. If U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures, wouldn’t there much less of a need for campaign money? The 17th Amendment was a mistake and should be repealed, because it changed the character of the Senate. Senators are now “freelancers,” and don’t need to worry about the wrath of the voters until just before the next election. The U.S. Senate has become a club, and it’s a club that isn’t very responsive to the folks. Their job in life is first to raise money for their reelection campaigns, and second to make laws for the rest of us to live by, laws that don’t apply to U.S. senators.

The repeal of the 17th might also contain the right of state legislatures to recall their senators if they aren’t voting in the interests of their state. With such a recall mechanism, Sens. Collins and McCain could be relieved of their duties for their opposition to Graham-Cassidy by their state legislatures. In recent years, several states have been underrepresented because their senator had suffered an aneurysm, stroke, or brain cancer. But there’s no mechanism to replace them, so the state suffers. The 25th Amendment (Section 4) allows us to relieve of his duties a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” but we have no such avenue for incapacitated senators. Recall by state legislatures would also be useful for senators who are just too old, like Strom Thurmond.

If you’d like your state legislature to be able to ensure that you’re fully represented in the Senate by being able to recall and replace ailing senators, then you’ll most likely need to convene the states by way of Article V because sitting senators will likely never approve of such a thing. Good Luck.

Hillary Clinton believes we should abolish the Electoral College and do for the presidency what we did for the Senate a century ago. That is, elect the president by popular vote, i.e. the People. With the Electoral College, the States elect POTUS; the People elect only Electoral College electors. But isn’t POTUS more the leader of the States than the leader of the People?

If we were to abolish the Electoral College, why not go “unicameral” like Nebraska and abolish the Senate as well? Going unicameral, as in having only the House of Representatives, would diminish the States. But if Democrats had enough numbers in Congress, going unicameral might not require an Article V convention, as the Dems don’t seem to have much respect for the States. But the States would then kill it. You see, the Senate is supposed to represent the States, and the States still have a bit of “residuary sovereignty,” (see Federalist No. 62).

There needs to be a great deal more turnover and churn in the Senate. For the last 104 years, since the ratification of the 17th Amendment, the low rate of turnover has been largely due to voters; they send the same people back to D.C. election after election. They do this because their senators “bring home the bacon,” and give them “free stuff.” But the Senate has become dysfunctional, swampy, and corrupt (see Bob Menendez). Because the amendment avenue for fixing the Senate is so daunting, it is left to you, dear voter, to change that body. And the way to do that is to throw the careerist bums out in the caucuses and primaries.

In 1787, the Founders gave us a stable, sound, and solid system, but the tinkering and tweaks since haven’t always improved that system. By not even proceeding to debate on Graham-Cassidy, it may be time to retire this description of the U.S. Senate: “The world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

With the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill to repeal Obamacare flaming out, not even getting a vote, one might wonder whether it was a lousy bill or if something else were amiss. As the bill seemed like pretty decent legislation, its failure to get a vote may be due to what the U.S. Senate has become. Today’s Senate is populated with careerists: professional politicians. Such politicians can be more attuned to the interests of their donors than to those of their constituents.

One of the healthiest things to have come out of Congress in decades was Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America back in the 1994. The Contract promised several huge changes, like welfare reform, and the new Republican Congress, the first in forty years, actually delivered on several of those big promises.

One of the big disappointments of the Contract was the failure to get term limits in its Citizen Legislature Act; the careerists in the House defeated it 227-204. That failure to get term limits left the Senate with two members, Collins and McCain, whose declared opposition to Graham-Cassidy sank it. Collins and McCain would have been long gone if we had gotten the Contract’s term limits.

If we’re ever to get term limits for Congress, the Constitution must be amended. Because the swampy careerists in Congress are never going to initiate such an amendment themselves, we’ll probably need to have an Article V constitutional convention. Good luck on that, (he wrote ironically).

On Sep. 26, the Blaze reported that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) had appeared on Fox News addressing Sen. McCain’s cancer and advising this: “I think Arizona could help him — and us. Recall him, let him fight successfully this terrible cancer, and let’s get someone in here who will keep the word he gave last year.”

It might be healthy for the state of union if wayward members of Congress could be ousted with a recall election, but unfortunately recall elections aren’t available for Congress. In “Can U.S. Senators Be Recalled?” at the Daily Signal, Benjamin Shelton treats the issue of recall elections vis-à-vis the Congress; it’s well worth reading, and short.

If voters would like to be able to hold recall elections and oust their U.S. senators for breaking their promises rather than waiting for the next regular election, then they’re going to need to mount an Article V constitutional convention, because Congress is unlikely to initiate such an amendment. Good luck.

If you don’t like the fact that your U.S. senators are breaking their promises to you, then you might start blaming yourself, because with the 17th Amendment in 1913, we started electing U.S. senators by popular vote. You, dear voter, have been sending the same people back to Congress year after year, to the point that we’ve actually had a senator or two whose age was in excess of 100. It’s as though the Senate were an episode of “Survivor” (not that I’ve ever watched that show).

If you think that the 17th Amendment was a mistake that should be repealed, then you’re probably going to need to convene the states, as provided for by Article V, because there’s little chance that sitting congressmen are going to initiate an amendment to repeal the 17th. Again, good luck.

The original character of the Senate and the intent of the Founders was laid out in The Federalist in Nos. 62, 63, 64,65, 66, 75, and 76. In Federalist No. 62 we read:

In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty. […]


Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is, the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the States.

So the House of Representatives is the People’s house, and the Senate is the house of “the several States.” But that was before the passage of the 17th Amendment, which changed the character of the Senate. Now, U.S. senators answer to the People, not their state legislatures. On ObamaCare repeal, Sen. McCain is at odds with his state and its residents. Arizona has experienced ObamaCare premium hikes of more than 100 percent, but Sen. McCain is more interested in “process,” “regular order,” and some ethereal bipartisanship (with the Hun, no less) than he is in getting a little relief to his constituents in Arizona.

Democrats often bemoan the money in politics. If U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures, wouldn’t there much less of a need for campaign money? The 17th Amendment was a mistake and should be repealed, because it changed the character of the Senate. Senators are now “freelancers,” and don’t need to worry about the wrath of the voters until just before the next election. The U.S. Senate has become a club, and it’s a club that isn’t very responsive to the folks. Their job in life is first to raise money for their reelection campaigns, and second to make laws for the rest of us to live by, laws that don’t apply to U.S. senators.

The repeal of the 17th might also contain the right of state legislatures to recall their senators if they aren’t voting in the interests of their state. With such a recall mechanism, Sens. Collins and McCain could be relieved of their duties for their opposition to Graham-Cassidy by their state legislatures. In recent years, several states have been underrepresented because their senator had suffered an aneurysm, stroke, or brain cancer. But there’s no mechanism to replace them, so the state suffers. The 25th Amendment (Section 4) allows us to relieve of his duties a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” but we have no such avenue for incapacitated senators. Recall by state legislatures would also be useful for senators who are just too old, like Strom Thurmond.

If you’d like your state legislature to be able to ensure that you’re fully represented in the Senate by being able to recall and replace ailing senators, then you’ll most likely need to convene the states by way of Article V because sitting senators will likely never approve of such a thing. Good Luck.

Hillary Clinton believes we should abolish the Electoral College and do for the presidency what we did for the Senate a century ago. That is, elect the president by popular vote, i.e. the People. With the Electoral College, the States elect POTUS; the People elect only Electoral College electors. But isn’t POTUS more the leader of the States than the leader of the People?

If we were to abolish the Electoral College, why not go “unicameral” like Nebraska and abolish the Senate as well? Going unicameral, as in having only the House of Representatives, would diminish the States. But if Democrats had enough numbers in Congress, going unicameral might not require an Article V convention, as the Dems don’t seem to have much respect for the States. But the States would then kill it. You see, the Senate is supposed to represent the States, and the States still have a bit of “residuary sovereignty,” (see Federalist No. 62).

There needs to be a great deal more turnover and churn in the Senate. For the last 104 years, since the ratification of the 17th Amendment, the low rate of turnover has been largely due to voters; they send the same people back to D.C. election after election. They do this because their senators “bring home the bacon,” and give them “free stuff.” But the Senate has become dysfunctional, swampy, and corrupt (see Bob Menendez). Because the amendment avenue for fixing the Senate is so daunting, it is left to you, dear voter, to change that body. And the way to do that is to throw the careerist bums out in the caucuses and primaries.

In 1787, the Founders gave us a stable, sound, and solid system, but the tinkering and tweaks since haven’t always improved that system. By not even proceeding to debate on Graham-Cassidy, it may be time to retire this description of the U.S. Senate: “The world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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The Purpose of Political Parties


On Sep. 25, the Washington Post ran “The Democratic Party’s nomination process isn’t democratic enough” by Ronald A. Klain. Mr. Klain has an impressive list of jobs and accomplishments. Kevin Spacey portrayed Klain in the HBO film Recount (2008), which dramatized the Bush-Gore 2000 election battle in Florida. Klain was also a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

The focus of Klain’s article is reforms that he thinks will make the Democrats’ presidential nomination process “more democratic.” But shouldn’t the paramount concern and purpose of a political party be to find the best nominee, not the process by which the nominee is chosen? Klain does not believe his party’s nomination process is “rigged,” but writes:

… you have to acknowledge that the complexity of the process fuels criticism that it was constructed by insiders, to advantage insiders. Moreover, the current nominating process — built over decades in successive waves of reform, counter-reform and re-reform — is so jerry-rigged as to be incomprehensible to all but the most savvy observers.

Mr. Klain wants future Democrat nominees to be “democratically chosen by the broadest possible cross section of voters.” That means abolishing caucuses and using only primary elections. Klain offers up the numbers to demonstrate why primaries are more democratic than caucuses. He also believes Democrat primaries should be open to independents, although not to members of other parties.

Klain is running into a wall: the states. The states conduct elections and enact laws regarding primaries and caucuses. And those laws differ significantly from state to state. So it seems that Klain is doing nothing less than advocating an amendment to the Constitution to take away such prerogatives and responsibilities from “the several States,” at least for the selection of the convention delegates.

My solution to the problem of the primary-caucus system is simpler than Klain’s, and it is this: Convention delegates should be chosen by a party’s state committees only, and those delegates should vote for whomever they want as their nominee, regardless of the results of the primaries and caucuses. Any state law that would dictate to a party how their convention delegates must be chosen or how their delegates must vote in their conventions should simply be ignored.

You’ll notice that unlike Klain I’m not advocating for the abolition of anything. It’s better to just ignore unenforceable laws that should never have been enacted in the first place. Parties should not be quasi-governmental.

Some might think that I’m proposing that nominating conventions be “open.” But a more apt word would be “closed,” as they’d be closed to everyone except party insiders. But none of those insiders would be elected officials. Elected officials should never be allowed to work in a party’s organization. Having Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) as the head of the Democratic National Committee would never be allowed in a decent party system, and not because she is crooked or incompetent, but simply because she’s an elected official.

In choosing a party’s presidential nominee, why does Mr. Klain fixate so intently on democracy? We get enough democracy in general elections. Democracy has given the world, including America, some real stinkers. The voters aren’t always right. Of course, the voters aren’t always given good choices, thanks to the “process” Klain wants to only tweak.

In 2016, voters on each side gave us nominees that were unacceptable, if not loathed, by the other side. Many Americans believe that the Democrats’ nominee, the woman Mr. Klain advised, is an irredeemably corrupt, unregenerate liar who should be going through the judicial system rather than an endless round of talk-show appearances. Yet, she’s the one whom the primary voters chose. The primary-caucus system has been coming up with very divisive nominees, so why keep that system?

The very system that sewed it up for Hillary, the ultimate insider, also made it possible for her to be challenged by an outsider, Bernie Sanders. Hillary is now blaming that challenge for her defeat in the general election. On the Republican side, the same system gave us the ultimate outsider in the person of Donald Trump, a complete political neophyte. That same system forced GOP voters to split up their votes among 17 candidates. Ironically, the system set up to serve insiders allows invasions by outsiders. If a non-Democrat like socialist Bernie Sanders can run in Democrat primaries, then what prevents a non-Democrat like neo-Nazi Christopher Cantwell or the race monger Louis Farrakhan from doing so?

The success of Trump should be sending a loud message to the parties that careerist professional politicians are losing favor with the folks. There is any number of people who have never held elective political office who could perform the job of president. The parties might start looking to them.

With my reform, would Democrat delegates have nominated Clinton? Wouldn’t they have drafted and nominated someone who wasn’t despised by half the country? Surely the Democrats’ bench isn’t so narrow that they must choose between the Dragon Lady and a socialist outsider.

Ron Klain thinks the “Democratic nominating process is a 1977 AMC Gremlin [when it] should be a 2017 Tesla.” And he thinks that the process can become a Tesla only when more people chime in by voting in primaries. That means that nominating conventions would remain mere rubberstamps of the primaries. I have another idea: Nominating conventions should be such that anyone, including the very best person, can be drafted.

Parties should be autonomous, self-determinative, and private. If you don’t like the nominees that come out of their conventions, then form your own damned party. Hell, I might even vote for your party’s guy… or gal.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

On Sep. 25, the Washington Post ran “The Democratic Party’s nomination process isn’t democratic enough” by Ronald A. Klain. Mr. Klain has an impressive list of jobs and accomplishments. Kevin Spacey portrayed Klain in the HBO film Recount (2008), which dramatized the Bush-Gore 2000 election battle in Florida. Klain was also a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

The focus of Klain’s article is reforms that he thinks will make the Democrats’ presidential nomination process “more democratic.” But shouldn’t the paramount concern and purpose of a political party be to find the best nominee, not the process by which the nominee is chosen? Klain does not believe his party’s nomination process is “rigged,” but writes:

… you have to acknowledge that the complexity of the process fuels criticism that it was constructed by insiders, to advantage insiders. Moreover, the current nominating process — built over decades in successive waves of reform, counter-reform and re-reform — is so jerry-rigged as to be incomprehensible to all but the most savvy observers.

Mr. Klain wants future Democrat nominees to be “democratically chosen by the broadest possible cross section of voters.” That means abolishing caucuses and using only primary elections. Klain offers up the numbers to demonstrate why primaries are more democratic than caucuses. He also believes Democrat primaries should be open to independents, although not to members of other parties.

Klain is running into a wall: the states. The states conduct elections and enact laws regarding primaries and caucuses. And those laws differ significantly from state to state. So it seems that Klain is doing nothing less than advocating an amendment to the Constitution to take away such prerogatives and responsibilities from “the several States,” at least for the selection of the convention delegates.

My solution to the problem of the primary-caucus system is simpler than Klain’s, and it is this: Convention delegates should be chosen by a party’s state committees only, and those delegates should vote for whomever they want as their nominee, regardless of the results of the primaries and caucuses. Any state law that would dictate to a party how their convention delegates must be chosen or how their delegates must vote in their conventions should simply be ignored.

You’ll notice that unlike Klain I’m not advocating for the abolition of anything. It’s better to just ignore unenforceable laws that should never have been enacted in the first place. Parties should not be quasi-governmental.

Some might think that I’m proposing that nominating conventions be “open.” But a more apt word would be “closed,” as they’d be closed to everyone except party insiders. But none of those insiders would be elected officials. Elected officials should never be allowed to work in a party’s organization. Having Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) as the head of the Democratic National Committee would never be allowed in a decent party system, and not because she is crooked or incompetent, but simply because she’s an elected official.

In choosing a party’s presidential nominee, why does Mr. Klain fixate so intently on democracy? We get enough democracy in general elections. Democracy has given the world, including America, some real stinkers. The voters aren’t always right. Of course, the voters aren’t always given good choices, thanks to the “process” Klain wants to only tweak.

In 2016, voters on each side gave us nominees that were unacceptable, if not loathed, by the other side. Many Americans believe that the Democrats’ nominee, the woman Mr. Klain advised, is an irredeemably corrupt, unregenerate liar who should be going through the judicial system rather than an endless round of talk-show appearances. Yet, she’s the one whom the primary voters chose. The primary-caucus system has been coming up with very divisive nominees, so why keep that system?

The very system that sewed it up for Hillary, the ultimate insider, also made it possible for her to be challenged by an outsider, Bernie Sanders. Hillary is now blaming that challenge for her defeat in the general election. On the Republican side, the same system gave us the ultimate outsider in the person of Donald Trump, a complete political neophyte. That same system forced GOP voters to split up their votes among 17 candidates. Ironically, the system set up to serve insiders allows invasions by outsiders. If a non-Democrat like socialist Bernie Sanders can run in Democrat primaries, then what prevents a non-Democrat like neo-Nazi Christopher Cantwell or the race monger Louis Farrakhan from doing so?

The success of Trump should be sending a loud message to the parties that careerist professional politicians are losing favor with the folks. There is any number of people who have never held elective political office who could perform the job of president. The parties might start looking to them.

With my reform, would Democrat delegates have nominated Clinton? Wouldn’t they have drafted and nominated someone who wasn’t despised by half the country? Surely the Democrats’ bench isn’t so narrow that they must choose between the Dragon Lady and a socialist outsider.

Ron Klain thinks the “Democratic nominating process is a 1977 AMC Gremlin [when it] should be a 2017 Tesla.” And he thinks that the process can become a Tesla only when more people chime in by voting in primaries. That means that nominating conventions would remain mere rubberstamps of the primaries. I have another idea: Nominating conventions should be such that anyone, including the very best person, can be drafted.

Parties should be autonomous, self-determinative, and private. If you don’t like the nominees that come out of their conventions, then form your own damned party. Hell, I might even vote for your party’s guy… or gal.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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Melancholia: Rethinking a Movie


Thinking that I would soon have to trade in my DVR and thus lose all my recorded movies I decided to watch one that I had recorded more than three years ago but hadn’t seen: Melancholia (2011) by the Danish writer-director Lars von Trier. As I survey von Trier’s oeuvre, I see that I haven’t seen much of it, but I believe I did see Europa (1991), and perhaps even in the theatre. In America, Europa is known as Zentropa, which happens to be the name of von Trier’s film company.

Melancholia may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It operates on (at least) two levels. The first level is that of the “art film.” The second, which I think more Americans will appreciate, is more of a straight drama. But the art film takes precedence, as the film starts out with an actual overture where we see very static images set to the Act I Prelude of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

After the overture we see a white stretch limousine trying to negotiate a tight turn in what looks to be a forest. In the limo are two newlyweds still in their ceremonial finery. We’re left to conclude that the limo never got around the bend, because our newlyweds are next seen walking up the drive to the posh golf resort hosting their wedding reception. The bride’s sister informs them they’re two hours late.

If the rapturous “music of the spheres” overture bores you, you might just like the wedding reception, which is peopled with several stellar stars including Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier, and the recently deceased Sir John Hurt. Hurt and Rampling play the divorced parents of the bride, and when the alienated two are asked to deliver speeches there’s a bit of ugly rancor.

Melancholia has some beautiful camera work, such as when the wedding party ventures out on the manicured lawn at night to release small hot-air balloons, which seem to be made of paper. They’re a lovely sight against the night sky as they float off; one balloon catches fire. The entire movie takes place at the lovely Tjolöholm Castle in Sweden, which serves as the movie’s golf resort.

In the middle of the reception dinner, the bride excuses herself, but instead of going to the powder room, she goes outside. And what do we hear but the opening strains from Tristan, which we’ll hear from time to time throughout the movie. The bride takes a golf cart out across the links, then stops, and squats on a green to urinate. While relieving herself she looks up at the night sky with wonder, all to Wagner. (I myself prefer to micturate to Mahler.)

When the bride returns to her reception, it moves on to the cake cutting and the dancing. But as the evening rolls on, we begin to suspect that the bride is quite disturbed, perhaps even clinically depressed. We also learn that she is not by any means “marriage material,” as she commits an unforgiveable act that ends her marriage on her wedding night.

Melancholia is divided into two parts, each named for a sister. Part I is named for Justine, the bride, and Part II is named for Justine’s sister Claire, who is married to the owner of the resort, where they live with their young son. Part I is all about the disastrous wedding reception, and Part II concerns an intervening world event of incalculable importance. If you haven’t seen the film and are interested in doing so, then you might want to stop reading now.

SPOILER ALERT:

The shattering world event of Part II is the advent of Melancholia, a new planet that is on its merry way to rendezvous with Earth, hopefully in a “fly-by.” But the Internet is abuzz with stories that Melancholia will crash into our little planet. Early in Part II, the dysfunctional, depressed Justine comes to live with her sister, and upon arriving she seems to be good for nothing but sleep. Part II is about how Justine, Claire, and Claire’s husband John, deal with the prospect of total loss.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is taking the possibility of imminent doom rather calmly compared to her sister, to whom she offers little comfort. Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is the more sympathetic sister. Claire’s husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) tries to assure her that the planet will indeed fly by them.

Part II raises very interesting “metaphysical” issues. Justine is bleakness itself and is resigned to the End of World. She tells Claire that life on Earth is evil, and that no one will miss us. You wonder whether Justine loves anything on Earth. Unlike her sister, Claire is tormented by the prospect of losing everything. Perhaps that’s because she has a child. Claire seems to love the Earth and her life on it, life on Earth is good, and so she suffers. The contrast between the two sisters in how they face The End of the World is, or should be, the focal point of the movie: do you love life or not? (I wish I had screened Melancholia back in 2014 so that I could have included it in “The End of the World and Other Entertainments.”)

RE-EDITING MELANCHOLIA:

But what’s the point of joining these two stories? Except for sharing some of the characters, Part I and II seem unrelated. I could see splitting them apart to make separate movies. That would mean adding a new second half to Part I and adding a new first half to Part II. Part I, the wedding reception, is excellent as it is, and a new second half could be developed in any number of directions. For instance, von Trier could follow the story of the groom. Part I is fecund with possibility for a terrific second half that doesn’t lead to the destruction of the planet. Making Part II into a separate movie, however, might be more difficult than Part I.

It’s doubtful that Mr. von Trier would be up for splitting his movie in two, but Melancholia could still be salvaged as a single movie. I like this movie, and I think I know how to fix it. Here are some ideas:

In Part II Justine tells Claire that she “knows things.” As evidence, she tells Claire how many beans were in the bottle in the wedding reception contest, which Claire knows is correct as the caterer told her the number. Justine also thinks she “knows” that life exists nowhere but on Earth, which would make the enormity of the approaching planet more so. Is Justine omniscient or what? Also, at the very end of Part I Justine looks up into the sky and says: “The red star is missing from Scorpio and Antares isn’t there.” But it’s daytime; can she see stars in daylight; is she superhuman? Such elements distract from the real story. Cut them.

Another thing to cut is the “art film” stuff, such as when Justine goes out to look at a night sky that has two orbs, the Moon and Melancholia. She does this lying on the ground naked as a blue jay, all while Wagner blazes away. The scene is a distraction and doesn’t further the story. Although we’re all grateful to see Ms. Dunst in the altogether, the scene needs cutting.

And something needs to be done about the overture. If von Trier simply must have his overture, then he might think about using different images. You see, Tristan is about love and longing, but the visuals he uses in the overture make it ponderous, rather than rapturous. Tristan’s Act I Prelude has always seemed a special, singular piece of music to me; serious opera lovers might resent its appropriation to accompany the End of the World. The quickest, easiest, and perhaps best fix for the overture is to simply cut it.

These cuts, I think, will strengthen the film, and perhaps even get it a second run. That means more money. Lars baby, we can fix this flick. Call me.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Thinking that I would soon have to trade in my DVR and thus lose all my recorded movies I decided to watch one that I had recorded more than three years ago but hadn’t seen: Melancholia (2011) by the Danish writer-director Lars von Trier. As I survey von Trier’s oeuvre, I see that I haven’t seen much of it, but I believe I did see Europa (1991), and perhaps even in the theatre. In America, Europa is known as Zentropa, which happens to be the name of von Trier’s film company.

Melancholia may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It operates on (at least) two levels. The first level is that of the “art film.” The second, which I think more Americans will appreciate, is more of a straight drama. But the art film takes precedence, as the film starts out with an actual overture where we see very static images set to the Act I Prelude of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

After the overture we see a white stretch limousine trying to negotiate a tight turn in what looks to be a forest. In the limo are two newlyweds still in their ceremonial finery. We’re left to conclude that the limo never got around the bend, because our newlyweds are next seen walking up the drive to the posh golf resort hosting their wedding reception. The bride’s sister informs them they’re two hours late.

If the rapturous “music of the spheres” overture bores you, you might just like the wedding reception, which is peopled with several stellar stars including Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier, and the recently deceased Sir John Hurt. Hurt and Rampling play the divorced parents of the bride, and when the alienated two are asked to deliver speeches there’s a bit of ugly rancor.

Melancholia has some beautiful camera work, such as when the wedding party ventures out on the manicured lawn at night to release small hot-air balloons, which seem to be made of paper. They’re a lovely sight against the night sky as they float off; one balloon catches fire. The entire movie takes place at the lovely Tjolöholm Castle in Sweden, which serves as the movie’s golf resort.

In the middle of the reception dinner, the bride excuses herself, but instead of going to the powder room, she goes outside. And what do we hear but the opening strains from Tristan, which we’ll hear from time to time throughout the movie. The bride takes a golf cart out across the links, then stops, and squats on a green to urinate. While relieving herself she looks up at the night sky with wonder, all to Wagner. (I myself prefer to micturate to Mahler.)

When the bride returns to her reception, it moves on to the cake cutting and the dancing. But as the evening rolls on, we begin to suspect that the bride is quite disturbed, perhaps even clinically depressed. We also learn that she is not by any means “marriage material,” as she commits an unforgiveable act that ends her marriage on her wedding night.

Melancholia is divided into two parts, each named for a sister. Part I is named for Justine, the bride, and Part II is named for Justine’s sister Claire, who is married to the owner of the resort, where they live with their young son. Part I is all about the disastrous wedding reception, and Part II concerns an intervening world event of incalculable importance. If you haven’t seen the film and are interested in doing so, then you might want to stop reading now.

SPOILER ALERT:

The shattering world event of Part II is the advent of Melancholia, a new planet that is on its merry way to rendezvous with Earth, hopefully in a “fly-by.” But the Internet is abuzz with stories that Melancholia will crash into our little planet. Early in Part II, the dysfunctional, depressed Justine comes to live with her sister, and upon arriving she seems to be good for nothing but sleep. Part II is about how Justine, Claire, and Claire’s husband John, deal with the prospect of total loss.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is taking the possibility of imminent doom rather calmly compared to her sister, to whom she offers little comfort. Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is the more sympathetic sister. Claire’s husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) tries to assure her that the planet will indeed fly by them.

Part II raises very interesting “metaphysical” issues. Justine is bleakness itself and is resigned to the End of World. She tells Claire that life on Earth is evil, and that no one will miss us. You wonder whether Justine loves anything on Earth. Unlike her sister, Claire is tormented by the prospect of losing everything. Perhaps that’s because she has a child. Claire seems to love the Earth and her life on it, life on Earth is good, and so she suffers. The contrast between the two sisters in how they face The End of the World is, or should be, the focal point of the movie: do you love life or not? (I wish I had screened Melancholia back in 2014 so that I could have included it in “The End of the World and Other Entertainments.”)

RE-EDITING MELANCHOLIA:

But what’s the point of joining these two stories? Except for sharing some of the characters, Part I and II seem unrelated. I could see splitting them apart to make separate movies. That would mean adding a new second half to Part I and adding a new first half to Part II. Part I, the wedding reception, is excellent as it is, and a new second half could be developed in any number of directions. For instance, von Trier could follow the story of the groom. Part I is fecund with possibility for a terrific second half that doesn’t lead to the destruction of the planet. Making Part II into a separate movie, however, might be more difficult than Part I.

It’s doubtful that Mr. von Trier would be up for splitting his movie in two, but Melancholia could still be salvaged as a single movie. I like this movie, and I think I know how to fix it. Here are some ideas:

In Part II Justine tells Claire that she “knows things.” As evidence, she tells Claire how many beans were in the bottle in the wedding reception contest, which Claire knows is correct as the caterer told her the number. Justine also thinks she “knows” that life exists nowhere but on Earth, which would make the enormity of the approaching planet more so. Is Justine omniscient or what? Also, at the very end of Part I Justine looks up into the sky and says: “The red star is missing from Scorpio and Antares isn’t there.” But it’s daytime; can she see stars in daylight; is she superhuman? Such elements distract from the real story. Cut them.

Another thing to cut is the “art film” stuff, such as when Justine goes out to look at a night sky that has two orbs, the Moon and Melancholia. She does this lying on the ground naked as a blue jay, all while Wagner blazes away. The scene is a distraction and doesn’t further the story. Although we’re all grateful to see Ms. Dunst in the altogether, the scene needs cutting.

And something needs to be done about the overture. If von Trier simply must have his overture, then he might think about using different images. You see, Tristan is about love and longing, but the visuals he uses in the overture make it ponderous, rather than rapturous. Tristan’s Act I Prelude has always seemed a special, singular piece of music to me; serious opera lovers might resent its appropriation to accompany the End of the World. The quickest, easiest, and perhaps best fix for the overture is to simply cut it.

These cuts, I think, will strengthen the film, and perhaps even get it a second run. That means more money. Lars baby, we can fix this flick. Call me.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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What's Up for Obamacare This Fall?


On August 22, the Washington Times ran “Senate health panel announces hearings on Obamacare markets” by Tom Howell, Jr., who quoted health committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander: “While there are a number of issues with the American health care system, if your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire, and the fire in this case is in the individual health insurance market.”

Alexander is “pushing for legislation that props up Obamacare’s markets, which failed to attract young and healthy people in the early rounds, in part by funding critical ‘cost-sharing’ reimbursements.”  In this effort to prop up Obamacare’s markets, Alexander is seeking a bipartisan solution, working with Democrat Patty Murray.  The article also reports a bipartisan plan being forged by two governors that “would focus on stabilizing the individual market.”

It seems that some Republicans have given up on their pledge to repeal Obamacare.  On Aug. 21, The Weekly Standard ran “Diagnosis: Heartburn” by Jay Cost.  The blurb was “Is an Obamacare Bailout Coming?”  Jay Cost thinks so, and the reason for it won’t please conservatives:

If history is any guide, conservatives should prepare themselves for some kind of bailout of the insurance industry – a backstop of some sort to keep insurers on the exchanges, offering policies that are not prohibitively expensive. Such a subsidy, while sure to generate bad headlines, would be perfectly in keeping with the corporatism that has defined our welfare state for more than half a century. …


The unfortunate truth is that many Republican politicians are much more comfortable with Obamacare than they have let on these last seven years. Push comes to shove, they like its corporatist approach, and rather than doing the hard work to reform it will prefer simply to write a check to the insurers.

Mr. Cost repeatedly refers to “corporatism.”  Republicans in Congress need to appreciate that one form of corporatism is the economic system of fascism.  Corporatism is when government gets in bed with business, and it hasn’t worked very well in the health insurance industry.  On August 8 at The Hill, Mallory Shelbourne quoted Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell:

Now our new president has of course not been in this line of work before. And I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process. And so, part of the reason I think people feel like we’re underperforming is because too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality and the complexity of legislature may not have been fully understood.

McConnell doesn’t seem to appreciate that the problem with his legislation is its complexity.  But there’s nothing complex about repeal.  Repeal can be entered on a single sheet of paper.  Republicans in Congress made the replace part complex by trying to retain Obamacare’s “individual market” and its subsidy program.

If Senator McConnell can’t get repeal done this year, then he needs to be replaced as majority leader with someone who can.  One August 10, The Daily Caller ran “Here’s Who Could Replace McConnell As Senate Majority Leader” by Thomas Phippen.  It’s an impressive list, but unless McConnell’s replacement is prepared to jettison the filibuster, the GOP will just be playing games.

If Republicans like Senators Alexander and McCain are so anxious to get back to regular order and bipartisan legislation, then what they should have done back in January is a simple repeal of the individual and business mandates that would have taken effect immediately.  That would have told the Dems that the GOP was serious about keeping the promises they made to the voters, and it would have created the possibility for some real bipartisanship.  Instead, Republicans reach out to the opposition only after they’ve failed.

The above repeal of the individual mandate should also have outlawed commanding Americans to buy things, thus codifying certain dicta in NFIB v. Sebelius (see page 50 of the pdf): “The Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. Section 5000A would therefore be unconstitutional if read as a command.”

Repealing the individual mandate would be disastrous for what’s left of the Obamacare exchanges.  But Obamacare was disastrous for the pre-existing individual market.  The GOP’s replacement legislation is complex precisely because it is trying to retain Obamacare’s replacement for the individual market – i.e., the exchanges.  Government needs to get totally out of the individual market for health insurance.  It was government that ruined the individual market, which now requires constant infusions of government cash to private insurance companies just to keep limping along.  There’s your corporatism, America.

Having wasted the first seven months of a historic opportunity to change the direction of government, the Republican Congress is turning out to be a huge disappointment.  There’s still time enough to turn it around.  But if Republicans are not willing to do what’s necessary to keep their promises to repeal and replace, then each and every one of them needs to be primaried and replaced.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.

On August 22, the Washington Times ran “Senate health panel announces hearings on Obamacare markets” by Tom Howell, Jr., who quoted health committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander: “While there are a number of issues with the American health care system, if your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire, and the fire in this case is in the individual health insurance market.”

Alexander is “pushing for legislation that props up Obamacare’s markets, which failed to attract young and healthy people in the early rounds, in part by funding critical ‘cost-sharing’ reimbursements.”  In this effort to prop up Obamacare’s markets, Alexander is seeking a bipartisan solution, working with Democrat Patty Murray.  The article also reports a bipartisan plan being forged by two governors that “would focus on stabilizing the individual market.”

It seems that some Republicans have given up on their pledge to repeal Obamacare.  On Aug. 21, The Weekly Standard ran “Diagnosis: Heartburn” by Jay Cost.  The blurb was “Is an Obamacare Bailout Coming?”  Jay Cost thinks so, and the reason for it won’t please conservatives:

If history is any guide, conservatives should prepare themselves for some kind of bailout of the insurance industry – a backstop of some sort to keep insurers on the exchanges, offering policies that are not prohibitively expensive. Such a subsidy, while sure to generate bad headlines, would be perfectly in keeping with the corporatism that has defined our welfare state for more than half a century. …


The unfortunate truth is that many Republican politicians are much more comfortable with Obamacare than they have let on these last seven years. Push comes to shove, they like its corporatist approach, and rather than doing the hard work to reform it will prefer simply to write a check to the insurers.

Mr. Cost repeatedly refers to “corporatism.”  Republicans in Congress need to appreciate that one form of corporatism is the economic system of fascism.  Corporatism is when government gets in bed with business, and it hasn’t worked very well in the health insurance industry.  On August 8 at The Hill, Mallory Shelbourne quoted Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell:

Now our new president has of course not been in this line of work before. And I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process. And so, part of the reason I think people feel like we’re underperforming is because too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality and the complexity of legislature may not have been fully understood.

McConnell doesn’t seem to appreciate that the problem with his legislation is its complexity.  But there’s nothing complex about repeal.  Repeal can be entered on a single sheet of paper.  Republicans in Congress made the replace part complex by trying to retain Obamacare’s “individual market” and its subsidy program.

If Senator McConnell can’t get repeal done this year, then he needs to be replaced as majority leader with someone who can.  One August 10, The Daily Caller ran “Here’s Who Could Replace McConnell As Senate Majority Leader” by Thomas Phippen.  It’s an impressive list, but unless McConnell’s replacement is prepared to jettison the filibuster, the GOP will just be playing games.

If Republicans like Senators Alexander and McCain are so anxious to get back to regular order and bipartisan legislation, then what they should have done back in January is a simple repeal of the individual and business mandates that would have taken effect immediately.  That would have told the Dems that the GOP was serious about keeping the promises they made to the voters, and it would have created the possibility for some real bipartisanship.  Instead, Republicans reach out to the opposition only after they’ve failed.

The above repeal of the individual mandate should also have outlawed commanding Americans to buy things, thus codifying certain dicta in NFIB v. Sebelius (see page 50 of the pdf): “The Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. Section 5000A would therefore be unconstitutional if read as a command.”

Repealing the individual mandate would be disastrous for what’s left of the Obamacare exchanges.  But Obamacare was disastrous for the pre-existing individual market.  The GOP’s replacement legislation is complex precisely because it is trying to retain Obamacare’s replacement for the individual market – i.e., the exchanges.  Government needs to get totally out of the individual market for health insurance.  It was government that ruined the individual market, which now requires constant infusions of government cash to private insurance companies just to keep limping along.  There’s your corporatism, America.

Having wasted the first seven months of a historic opportunity to change the direction of government, the Republican Congress is turning out to be a huge disappointment.  There’s still time enough to turn it around.  But if Republicans are not willing to do what’s necessary to keep their promises to repeal and replace, then each and every one of them needs to be primaried and replaced.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.



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Fox News and the 'Both Sides' Issue


For at least the last nine years, Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel has been telling us that “journalism in America is dead.” During Obama’s first campaign, Sean was a lone voice warning anyone who would listen about what Obama actually was: a radical leftwing ideologue. But folks didn’t listen, and so we got eight wasted years and a deeply divided America.

On August 18, the Washington Post ran “To curtail hate, James Murdoch must clean house at Fox News” by Jennifer Rubin. She accused James Murdoch, son of Rupert and CEO of 21st Century Fox (which owns Fox News) of hypocrisy, and added: “Murdoch seems blissfully unaware of — or in denial about — his family’s role in creating the Trump phenomenon, fueling the rise of a xenophobic, racist demagogue and continuing to fan the flames of his noxious populism, which has brought us to where we are.”

If Ms. Rubin has a vendetta against Fox it may be because she’s acquitted herself poorly there. Here is a video of Bill O’Reilly taking her to the woodshed for being utterly unprepared to appear on “The Factor.” A few weeks later, Tucker Carlson had Rubin on his Fox show (video) where she was again silly and unprofessional. Perhaps it’s the Post that needs to clean house.

Ms. Rubin is a blogger. Her blog at the Post is “Right Turn” and her bio-line says it offers “reported opinion from a conservative perspective.” It’s difficult to see what’s conservative about her perspective. She appears quite comfortable throwing around the Left’s usual cheap charges of hate, racism, xenophobia, and immorality. Rubin does not have the demeanor of a serious analyst. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Post, might want to consider keeping her off TV. Or maybe he could find a blogger who’s an actual conservative. One only has to look at Rubin’s blog headlines to suspect that she’s a rabid anti-Trumper.

It’s doubtful that there is any other news story where the anti-Trump media has been as nakedly obvious as in the ruckus over President Trump’s remarks about the August 12 incident in Charlottesville. The anti-Trumpers criticize the president for speaking of “both sides”; of supposedly making an equivalency of the neo-Nazi, KKK, white-supremacist side of the skirmish and the alt-left, Antifa side. But if one wants an evenhanded report of what Trump actually said in the aftermath of Charlottesville, then one must tune in to Fox News.

In “Are President Trump’s new Charlottesville remarks enough?” (9 min. video) on the August 14 edition of Fox’s “Special Report,” Mollie Hemingway sat on a panel with three men and pushed back against the narrative:

It’s like we’re living in an alternate reality here. People are […] not listening to what Donald Trump actually said on Saturday and they’re not reading the actual full comments that he gave, where he was explicitly denouncing bigotry and violence, where he called on people to come together.


And the fact is there actually is a violence problem on both the left and the right. In recent years Americans have seen violent protests everywhere from Portland, Berkeley, Ferguson, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Brooklyn, Baltimore. All throughout the country people have experienced these violent protests.


There was an assassination attempt against Republicans by a totally mainstream, progressive, leftist activist. And there is a problem on all sides and people need to come together to denounce all of those things and not tar the entire Democratic Party as being part of the leftist violence and not tar the entire Republican Party as part of the rightist violence.

Ms. Hemingway demonstrated that she was one journalist who wasn’t buying the media’s received wisdom, and she won that debate handily. And then the next night on “Special Report” (7 min. video), Laura Ingraham sparred with Charles Krauthammer on the “both sides” issue and how the MSM has got it all wrong, and again, the lady came out on top. Krauthammer is usually a very solid analyst, but when he spoke of “what’s in his heart,” he stepped in it. Miss Laura immediately shot back: “You can read a heart, wow, you really are a PhD.”

The anti-Trump media wants to be taken seriously as analysts but without doing much analysis, (except for psychoanalysis). We’re expected to accept whatever these people say as the assessments of sophisticated, highly moral, and wise people, not the partisan rants of those who want to bring down a president or at least slow down his agenda.

The “method” of the anti-Trump media is to report their assessments without showing the steps that got them there. They trot out their final judgments but not the supporting detail. If they did report more of the facts, they’d have to defend their conclusions. So in the anti-Trump media we’re treated to judgments without much in the way of argument.

The president was right to refer to “both sides.” The alt-right had a permit to demonstrate, the alt-left did not have a permit. The alt-left could have stayed away from the demonstration, but instead chose to attend and mix it up with the alt-right. The mayor of Charlottesville could have deployed police to keep the two groups apart, but that doesn’t seem to have been a priority for him.

The anti-Trump media don’t seem to know how to think about these events. So here’s a question for them: What if the car incident with its death and injuries hadn’t happened, what kind of story would the press be reporting then? If they were honest, they’d write of two radical extremist groups who got into a rumble. And they’d have to lay most of the blame on the alt-left side, as they had no permit to be there. If the alt-left had stayed away, we’d have had a non-story story.

If the anti-Trump media weren’t so busy trying to ruin Trump, they might report that “both sides” in Charlottesville, the neo-Nazis and the Antifa, are rather similar. They might even ask whether Antifa is fascist, as it certainly uses the violent street tactics of Blackshirts and Brownshirts. That “both sides” could be fascist would be too much for the MSM to wrap its head around. That “both sides” are more alike than they’d like to admit is inconvenient for the narrative. If one side is worse than the other, so what; both groups are repellent, un-American bands of outlaws, and are national embarrassments, especially in the pathetic way they fight.

After faring so poorly on “The Factor,” Rubin must have rejoiced when O’Reilly left Fox News. But FNC had already been “cleaning house,” dropping Greta van Susteren, Megyn Kelly, and suspending Charles Payne and Eric Bolling. (By the way, the new shows with Tucker Carlson and Martha MacCallum are terrific.)

Changing the “thrust” of Fox News would be a monumentally bad business decision for James Murdoch. CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and the networks have a monolithic sameness that is all lockstep left. Fox is the alternative, and about the only one, which is why FNC’s been #1 for so long. Without Fox News, America would be much farther down the road to fascism. The establishment media needs to emulate Fox News and start reporting “both sides.”

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

For at least the last nine years, Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel has been telling us that “journalism in America is dead.” During Obama’s first campaign, Sean was a lone voice warning anyone who would listen about what Obama actually was: a radical leftwing ideologue. But folks didn’t listen, and so we got eight wasted years and a deeply divided America.

On August 18, the Washington Post ran “To curtail hate, James Murdoch must clean house at Fox News” by Jennifer Rubin. She accused James Murdoch, son of Rupert and CEO of 21st Century Fox (which owns Fox News) of hypocrisy, and added: “Murdoch seems blissfully unaware of — or in denial about — his family’s role in creating the Trump phenomenon, fueling the rise of a xenophobic, racist demagogue and continuing to fan the flames of his noxious populism, which has brought us to where we are.”

If Ms. Rubin has a vendetta against Fox it may be because she’s acquitted herself poorly there. Here is a video of Bill O’Reilly taking her to the woodshed for being utterly unprepared to appear on “The Factor.” A few weeks later, Tucker Carlson had Rubin on his Fox show (video) where she was again silly and unprofessional. Perhaps it’s the Post that needs to clean house.

Ms. Rubin is a blogger. Her blog at the Post is “Right Turn” and her bio-line says it offers “reported opinion from a conservative perspective.” It’s difficult to see what’s conservative about her perspective. She appears quite comfortable throwing around the Left’s usual cheap charges of hate, racism, xenophobia, and immorality. Rubin does not have the demeanor of a serious analyst. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Post, might want to consider keeping her off TV. Or maybe he could find a blogger who’s an actual conservative. One only has to look at Rubin’s blog headlines to suspect that she’s a rabid anti-Trumper.

It’s doubtful that there is any other news story where the anti-Trump media has been as nakedly obvious as in the ruckus over President Trump’s remarks about the August 12 incident in Charlottesville. The anti-Trumpers criticize the president for speaking of “both sides”; of supposedly making an equivalency of the neo-Nazi, KKK, white-supremacist side of the skirmish and the alt-left, Antifa side. But if one wants an evenhanded report of what Trump actually said in the aftermath of Charlottesville, then one must tune in to Fox News.

In “Are President Trump’s new Charlottesville remarks enough?” (9 min. video) on the August 14 edition of Fox’s “Special Report,” Mollie Hemingway sat on a panel with three men and pushed back against the narrative:

It’s like we’re living in an alternate reality here. People are […] not listening to what Donald Trump actually said on Saturday and they’re not reading the actual full comments that he gave, where he was explicitly denouncing bigotry and violence, where he called on people to come together.


And the fact is there actually is a violence problem on both the left and the right. In recent years Americans have seen violent protests everywhere from Portland, Berkeley, Ferguson, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Brooklyn, Baltimore. All throughout the country people have experienced these violent protests.


There was an assassination attempt against Republicans by a totally mainstream, progressive, leftist activist. And there is a problem on all sides and people need to come together to denounce all of those things and not tar the entire Democratic Party as being part of the leftist violence and not tar the entire Republican Party as part of the rightist violence.

Ms. Hemingway demonstrated that she was one journalist who wasn’t buying the media’s received wisdom, and she won that debate handily. And then the next night on “Special Report” (7 min. video), Laura Ingraham sparred with Charles Krauthammer on the “both sides” issue and how the MSM has got it all wrong, and again, the lady came out on top. Krauthammer is usually a very solid analyst, but when he spoke of “what’s in his heart,” he stepped in it. Miss Laura immediately shot back: “You can read a heart, wow, you really are a PhD.”

The anti-Trump media wants to be taken seriously as analysts but without doing much analysis, (except for psychoanalysis). We’re expected to accept whatever these people say as the assessments of sophisticated, highly moral, and wise people, not the partisan rants of those who want to bring down a president or at least slow down his agenda.

The “method” of the anti-Trump media is to report their assessments without showing the steps that got them there. They trot out their final judgments but not the supporting detail. If they did report more of the facts, they’d have to defend their conclusions. So in the anti-Trump media we’re treated to judgments without much in the way of argument.

The president was right to refer to “both sides.” The alt-right had a permit to demonstrate, the alt-left did not have a permit. The alt-left could have stayed away from the demonstration, but instead chose to attend and mix it up with the alt-right. The mayor of Charlottesville could have deployed police to keep the two groups apart, but that doesn’t seem to have been a priority for him.

The anti-Trump media don’t seem to know how to think about these events. So here’s a question for them: What if the car incident with its death and injuries hadn’t happened, what kind of story would the press be reporting then? If they were honest, they’d write of two radical extremist groups who got into a rumble. And they’d have to lay most of the blame on the alt-left side, as they had no permit to be there. If the alt-left had stayed away, we’d have had a non-story story.

If the anti-Trump media weren’t so busy trying to ruin Trump, they might report that “both sides” in Charlottesville, the neo-Nazis and the Antifa, are rather similar. They might even ask whether Antifa is fascist, as it certainly uses the violent street tactics of Blackshirts and Brownshirts. That “both sides” could be fascist would be too much for the MSM to wrap its head around. That “both sides” are more alike than they’d like to admit is inconvenient for the narrative. If one side is worse than the other, so what; both groups are repellent, un-American bands of outlaws, and are national embarrassments, especially in the pathetic way they fight.

After faring so poorly on “The Factor,” Rubin must have rejoiced when O’Reilly left Fox News. But FNC had already been “cleaning house,” dropping Greta van Susteren, Megyn Kelly, and suspending Charles Payne and Eric Bolling. (By the way, the new shows with Tucker Carlson and Martha MacCallum are terrific.)

Changing the “thrust” of Fox News would be a monumentally bad business decision for James Murdoch. CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and the networks have a monolithic sameness that is all lockstep left. Fox is the alternative, and about the only one, which is why FNC’s been #1 for so long. Without Fox News, America would be much farther down the road to fascism. The establishment media needs to emulate Fox News and start reporting “both sides.”

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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Oliver Stone and Confederate Monuments


Some conservatives may have issues with Hollywood director Oliver Stone. But in the wake of the recent horror in Charlottesville and the uproar over Confederate statues, I’m reminded of the segment in his 2017 The Putin Interviews when Stone ventures out into Red Square to visit the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. He strolls past the graves of Brezhnev, Dzerzhinsky, Andropov, and then comes upon the resting place of one Joseph Stalin, heavyweight contender for the title of History’s Biggest Monster. Standing before Stalin’s grave with its accompanying statue, Stone said this (source, pdf-page 31):

The most famous, uh, villain in history next to Adolf, according to many people, Joseph Stalin. To the people on the, of the revolution in the left, for which, uh, communism meant a change, and better change for the workers, he was a disaster in the sense that he left a horrible reputation, uh, and stained the ideology forever.

That reminded me of the scene in Stone’s 1994 Natural Born Killers where two longhaired teen boys are asked for TV what they think about Mickey and Mallory, the movie’s glamorous celebrity killers:

BOY 1: I’m not saying, you know, I believe in mass murder or that shit, but … don’t get us wrong.


BOY 2: Yeah, you know, we respect human life and all.


BOY 1: But, if I was a mass murderer, I’d be Mickey and Mallory.

Yes, but isn’t which mass murderer one wants to be really just a matter of taste, i.e. personal preferences? Watch this video for 12 seconds if the dialog amuses you. And now back to Oliver Stone in Red Square:

Uh, wh– it’s mixed with blood and, and terror. But he did play a huge role in World War Two, and was a very close ally with, uh, the U.S. during World War Two. M-Mister Trotsky, no? Where is he? Ask — no Trotsky, right? Stalin, uh, managed to erase, uh, Trotsky’s memory. He ended up being killed in Mexico by Stalin’s agents. Let’s go. On Stalin. He said that, you know, he’s said negative things about Stalin, uh, and of course, he’s widely condemned in the world. But, at the same time, we all know that he led, uh, Russia to victory over Germany, over fascism. And, uh, what does he make of that, by, by, uh, let’s say that ambiguity?

Confession: Despite his leftist politics, I admire some of Stone’s films; e.g. I think he did a fine job on Nixon, (my favorite progressive). I couldn’t find a video of his stroll in Red Square, but here’s a short video of where Stone was; you’ll notice the bust of “Uncle Joe,” as FDR was fond of calling him.

I cannot confirm whether history is being taught properly in post-Soviet Russia, but if there are any Russians who still revere Stalin, I’d bet they have one foot in the grave, but maybe not. And Stalin’s not the only monster honored in death; the mummified remains of Lenin are nearby, (which Stone visited, as I recall). One doubts that Russians think highly of Napoleon Bonaparte, who brought ruin to much of Europe. The French, however, still seem to lionize him, even naming a pastry and a cognac after him. And lest we forget, on May Day the Chinese are treated to Mao’s image, another world leader lackadaisical about human life.

The point of dragging The Putin Interviews (trailer) into the current flap over Confederate monuments is to show that other nations — that many in the Left think are ever so much nicer than America — continue to honor mass-murdering tyrants through their statuary. And the crimes of these still-celebrated thugs are far worse than anything military leaders of the Old South ever committed.

Everyone in America now agrees that slavery is a monstrous crime. But is it as monstrous as deliberately starving millions of citizens as Stalin did in Ukraine?

Americans who think the most important thing we can do right now is to pull down a bunch of statues might consider that what they want to do with rebel monuments is exactly what Stalin did do: erase history. Stalin was known for airbrushing out every new persona non grata from official photos. The murderous Khmer Rouge also had ways of nullifying history:

The idea behind Year Zero was that the existing society within Cambodia had to be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture had to replace it from scratch. All history of the nation [before] Year Zero was deemed largely irrelevant and had to be purged and replaced from the ground up.

Ideas like Year Zero are old; French revolutionaries had their Year One, and even started their own calendar. (The past must go.) I don’t know if any statues of Pol Pot exist in today’s Cambodia, but his method was all about destroying the past, and starting over. We should hope that is not “who we are.”

Stone speaks of “ambiguity” with regard to Stalin. The ability to grapple with ambiguity has never been the strong suit of the Left. One wonders if any in the anti-Confederate statues mob ever dons a Che Guevara T-shirt. And consider the rich ambiguity of tax scofflaw “Reverend” Al Sharpton complaining of how tax dollars are being used to pay for the maintenance of rebel statuary.

Nowadays, many Americans seem to be offended by just about everything. But we have no God-given right not to be offended. Conservatives were offended by the inane utterances of Barack Obama for eight years, but we soldiered on. Before the South seceded, Johnny Reb was our fellow countryman, even our brother. We must learn to live with uncomfortable ambiguities, such as this one: The greatest political minds in history were America’s Founders, and some of them owned slaves. So get over it. It’s time for the mob to move on.

America has so many huge problems right now — dysfunctional government, terrorism, stealth jihad, the rollover of federal debt (which starts in earnest in October), the opioid crisis, you name it — that one might think that folks wouldn’t have time to worry about nonthreatening things like old statues. But no, the Left wants to control the narrative, the language, and the past.

As they say in the upper reaches of Westeros: the North remembers. And so should we all, especially our history.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Some conservatives may have issues with Hollywood director Oliver Stone. But in the wake of the recent horror in Charlottesville and the uproar over Confederate statues, I’m reminded of the segment in his 2017 The Putin Interviews when Stone ventures out into Red Square to visit the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. He strolls past the graves of Brezhnev, Dzerzhinsky, Andropov, and then comes upon the resting place of one Joseph Stalin, heavyweight contender for the title of History’s Biggest Monster. Standing before Stalin’s grave with its accompanying statue, Stone said this (source, pdf-page 31):

The most famous, uh, villain in history next to Adolf, according to many people, Joseph Stalin. To the people on the, of the revolution in the left, for which, uh, communism meant a change, and better change for the workers, he was a disaster in the sense that he left a horrible reputation, uh, and stained the ideology forever.

That reminded me of the scene in Stone’s 1994 Natural Born Killers where two longhaired teen boys are asked for TV what they think about Mickey and Mallory, the movie’s glamorous celebrity killers:

BOY 1: I’m not saying, you know, I believe in mass murder or that shit, but … don’t get us wrong.


BOY 2: Yeah, you know, we respect human life and all.


BOY 1: But, if I was a mass murderer, I’d be Mickey and Mallory.

Yes, but isn’t which mass murderer one wants to be really just a matter of taste, i.e. personal preferences? Watch this video for 12 seconds if the dialog amuses you. And now back to Oliver Stone in Red Square:

Uh, wh– it’s mixed with blood and, and terror. But he did play a huge role in World War Two, and was a very close ally with, uh, the U.S. during World War Two. M-Mister Trotsky, no? Where is he? Ask — no Trotsky, right? Stalin, uh, managed to erase, uh, Trotsky’s memory. He ended up being killed in Mexico by Stalin’s agents. Let’s go. On Stalin. He said that, you know, he’s said negative things about Stalin, uh, and of course, he’s widely condemned in the world. But, at the same time, we all know that he led, uh, Russia to victory over Germany, over fascism. And, uh, what does he make of that, by, by, uh, let’s say that ambiguity?

Confession: Despite his leftist politics, I admire some of Stone’s films; e.g. I think he did a fine job on Nixon, (my favorite progressive). I couldn’t find a video of his stroll in Red Square, but here’s a short video of where Stone was; you’ll notice the bust of “Uncle Joe,” as FDR was fond of calling him.

I cannot confirm whether history is being taught properly in post-Soviet Russia, but if there are any Russians who still revere Stalin, I’d bet they have one foot in the grave, but maybe not. And Stalin’s not the only monster honored in death; the mummified remains of Lenin are nearby, (which Stone visited, as I recall). One doubts that Russians think highly of Napoleon Bonaparte, who brought ruin to much of Europe. The French, however, still seem to lionize him, even naming a pastry and a cognac after him. And lest we forget, on May Day the Chinese are treated to Mao’s image, another world leader lackadaisical about human life.

The point of dragging The Putin Interviews (trailer) into the current flap over Confederate monuments is to show that other nations — that many in the Left think are ever so much nicer than America — continue to honor mass-murdering tyrants through their statuary. And the crimes of these still-celebrated thugs are far worse than anything military leaders of the Old South ever committed.

Everyone in America now agrees that slavery is a monstrous crime. But is it as monstrous as deliberately starving millions of citizens as Stalin did in Ukraine?

Americans who think the most important thing we can do right now is to pull down a bunch of statues might consider that what they want to do with rebel monuments is exactly what Stalin did do: erase history. Stalin was known for airbrushing out every new persona non grata from official photos. The murderous Khmer Rouge also had ways of nullifying history:

The idea behind Year Zero was that the existing society within Cambodia had to be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture had to replace it from scratch. All history of the nation [before] Year Zero was deemed largely irrelevant and had to be purged and replaced from the ground up.

Ideas like Year Zero are old; French revolutionaries had their Year One, and even started their own calendar. (The past must go.) I don’t know if any statues of Pol Pot exist in today’s Cambodia, but his method was all about destroying the past, and starting over. We should hope that is not “who we are.”

Stone speaks of “ambiguity” with regard to Stalin. The ability to grapple with ambiguity has never been the strong suit of the Left. One wonders if any in the anti-Confederate statues mob ever dons a Che Guevara T-shirt. And consider the rich ambiguity of tax scofflaw “Reverend” Al Sharpton complaining of how tax dollars are being used to pay for the maintenance of rebel statuary.

Nowadays, many Americans seem to be offended by just about everything. But we have no God-given right not to be offended. Conservatives were offended by the inane utterances of Barack Obama for eight years, but we soldiered on. Before the South seceded, Johnny Reb was our fellow countryman, even our brother. We must learn to live with uncomfortable ambiguities, such as this one: The greatest political minds in history were America’s Founders, and some of them owned slaves. So get over it. It’s time for the mob to move on.

America has so many huge problems right now — dysfunctional government, terrorism, stealth jihad, the rollover of federal debt (which starts in earnest in October), the opioid crisis, you name it — that one might think that folks wouldn’t have time to worry about nonthreatening things like old statues. But no, the Left wants to control the narrative, the language, and the past.

As they say in the upper reaches of Westeros: the North remembers. And so should we all, especially our history.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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