Can government-based education be a tool for tyranny?

As we ponder this question, we should watch the outcome of this case. It’s interesting that the attempt to restrict religious freedom in this case comes by fiat of a court. Equally important, the ruling is also a repression of parental rights. Long have some considered public education to be an antidote for the influence of religious or conservative parents upon the worldview of their children.

Shades of totalitarian statism.

Libronix or the Real World

Concordia Publishing House was offering a smokin’ deal on Luther’s Works in the electronic format of Libronix. Though Libronix has a pretty snazzy-sounding name (almost as snazzy as “Unix”), it’s still a pretty lame piece of software. Don’t get me wrong. Its technical achievements are probably astounding, and its usefulness is probably flabbergasting. For me, though, it’s the most cripplingly bloated piece of over-hyped software ever written. Why is that? Because in order to use it, I have to have a separate partition on my hard disk, or a virtual hard disk inside virtualized hardware. On that partition, I have to have a copy of a 100% proprietary operating system (with planned obsolescence) that’s useless for anything else, and which the makers of Libronix don’t even support. This operating system, a prerequisite for using Libronix, actually costs quite a bit over and above the cost of Libronix itself. I appreciate that you get a free copy of Libronix with Luther’s Works, but if Logos Research is truly serious about making their library platform in such a way that we only pay for the books themselves, they have failed both completely and miserably. How much does a Windows license go for these days? And how long will that be useful? Last I checked, Microsoft wasn’t giving Windows away. Besides that, even a free copy of Windows is more of an impediment to me than a help.

I use Linux on all my boxen. Well, I guess my Palm Pilot doesn’t run it, but that’s just because I can’t afford a Palm Pre. I can do everything I need in Linux. I don’t even really need Luther’s Works on CD, because I have it all on paper. (Real books are much easier on the eyes, more satisfying for the fingers, and more stimulating for the brain.) Still, I can’t pass up an electronic copy of Luther’s Works for half price. It’s an index on steroids. Lots of steroids. The only problem is I have to boot up that usually-dormant partition on my hard drive before I can even launch the index-on-steroids, every time I want to use it. Thanks to some hardware virtualization in Linux (hardly dreamt of in Windows world), I might not have to leave my Linux environment completely to do all that, but that speaks more to the strengths of Linux than anything else. We’ll see.

Now, if Logos Research would work with Codeweavers to make Wine capable of installing and running the Libronix Library System (which it already does) in addition to unlocking a collection (in Wine) with the legally-purchased serial number, then I will gladly withdraw all my criticisms and pronounce Libronix ready for use in the real world. Until then, you’d better buy an extra-large hard drive, and budget for a lot of waste.

Response from My Congressman

It makes a lot of sense, actually. Senators can only be responsive to the collective interests of a whole state. The trouble with that is that a whole state of voters with conflicting interests can’t easily hold senators accountable. They can hold their state legislators accountable, though.

Here’s my congressman’s response to the message I’ve already published in a previous post.

As you know, the health care debate in this country is in full swing, and I wanted to give you a quick update regarding where the process stands in Washington, D.C.

In July, five congressional committees began work on similar pieces of legislation that would drastically change health care in this country, putting more responsibility for your care in the hands of the government.

I am a member of one of those committees-the House Energy and Commerce Committee-where a 1,018-page bill was introduced just hours before we began considering amendments to the legislation. Ramming bills through Congress without time to read them has become an all-too-common practice in the nation’s capital. That’s an absurd way to legislate.

I voted against the bill, H.R. 3200, which the Energy and Commerce Committee passed by a narrow 31-28 margin after a rushed and closed process. Five Democrats joined all Republicans in opposition. Hopefully the House leadership will bring some sanity and openness to the process and engage in bipartisan discussion before the bill goes before the full House. I know that’s what Americans expect and deserve from their elected leaders.

Without a doubt, we need to carefully address America’s health care challenges. There are far too many junk lawsuits that drive up the cost for everyone, and billions of dollars could be saved by rooting out the waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. We can create solutions for small businesses to pursue affordable health coverage for their employees, without raising new taxes.

But the current plan in Congress just creates more government and spends $1.2 trillion in taxpayer money to launch a takeover of health care that would mimic the models in Canada and Europe, where government bureaucrats, not doctors, decide when you will receive the treatment you need. Let me be clear: I will not support a health care system that puts anyone between you and your doctor.

If the government takeover becomes law, as many as two out of three Americans will be forced from their current coverage to a government plan, according to an independent study. Up to 114 million Americans could lose their current health coverage. That’s not right. If you like the coverage you have now, you should be able to keep it.

Like I said earlier, reform is necessary, especially with the spiraling cost of coverage that puts health care out of reach for too many. But according to the nonpartisan head of the Congressional Budget Office, this $1.2 trillion bill does not propose the “fundamental changes” needed to rein in health care spending. It doesn’t even fix the problem (17 million Americans would still lack health coverage under this plan), and it adds $239 billion to the national debt. We can get costs under control, but this bill simply doesn’t do it.

Small businesses would fund much of the new government spending through tax hikes. A penalty equal to 8 percent of payroll would be assessed on employers who are unable to provide “acceptable coverage,” a threshold determined by an unelected government panel. Small business owners tell me they cannot afford a punitive tax or the costs of providing coverage to all their employees, and would either have to shut their doors or lay off significant numbers of employees if this new tax is enacted. Having owned and managed a small business in Oregon for more than 21 years, I certainly relate to these concerns.

The plan jeopardizes the care that some 210,000 Oregon seniors rely upon by drastically cutting Medicare Advantage. In total, the bill would cut nearly $500 billion from Medicare, which results in $311 million in payment cuts to hospitals and over $80 million in cuts to nursing homes in Oregon’s Second District. One Oregon hospital administrator told me his facility might have to close under the plan.

And government care isn’t better care. The highly-respected medical journal Lancet reported that American five-year survival rates for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer rank first or second in the world. Survival rates for breast and prostate cancer in the United States are 83.9 percent and 91.9 percent, respectively. Compare that to the rates in the UK: 69.7 percent and 51.1 percent, respectively. We can’t afford that risk.

In the Energy and Commerce Committee, I came ready to work in good faith to make access to health care more affordable and accessible. Many of our suggested improvements to the bill were rejected, including provisions to allow you to keep the coverage you have if you like it; force members of Congress to enroll in the same health coverage they create in the government takeover; and block cuts to care for those seniors who rely on Medicare.

The Republican alternative I support would allow small businesses to join together to purchase high quality care for their employees at a reasonable price, just as unions already do. For workers who do not receive benefits from their employers, our proposal creates easy-to-understand health-plan finders for workers to identify a plan that fits their needs. We would cut down on frivolous lawsuits and root out waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid that cost American taxpayers billions of dollars every year.

I believe Americans sent us to Washington, D.C. to work together to solve the country’s problems. When Congress reconvenes in September, I hope we can do the deliberative and transparent work that can lead to real, productive reform that this country’s health care system needs.

Finally, here’s a link to a recent article written by the House Republican Leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. His comments are right on target.

It’s an honor to represent you in the U.S. Congress.

Best regards,

GREG WALDEN Member of Congress

Response from my Senator

If you’ve been following the uprising of grass-roots resistance to the single-payer health insurance program (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) being forced through congress, then you may be interested in this exchange.

Here is what I sent to Senator Jeff Merkley:

I am a Lutheran pastor in The Dalles and Hood River. I can see that the overall system of health care we have now is not perfect, but I can also see that nothing is truly perfect in this world. In fact, the current system of health insurance is largely working, while plans to socialize health care with a “single-payer” system, where that payer is the government, will inevitably destroy the private health care system, and place enormous burdens upon our economy in the form of taxes, inefficiencies, and reduced incentives for productivity. That means people like I serve in the parish will experience higher unemployment, a lower overall quality of health care, and less personal freedom, as the federal government continues to assume responsibilities far beyond the powers enumerated in the Constitution.

Please Oppose Socialized Health Care. With many others, I will be watching.

Here is his response:

Dear Jesse,

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for single-payer health care. It is an honor to serve as your Senator, and I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe there are many merits to a single-payer system. As a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, I voted for an amendment offered by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) to the Affordable Health Choices Act that would give states the ability to create a single-payer system at the state level and was disappointed that this amendment was not adopted.

I am pleased, however, that the healthcare legislation approved by the HELP Committee includes a strong public insurance option. I believe it is important that Americans have a choice between private insurance and public coverage. Specifically, a public option would provide competition to private insurance companies, helping to lower costs while creating a pathway to promote quality-enhancing and cost-cutting strategies to ensure the future viability of our health care system. Most importantly, the public option would ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care, while allowing those individuals who are happy with their current insurance plan to keep it.

Further, the Affordable Health Choices Act would eliminate some of the worst abuses by private health insurance companies. The bill would make it illegal for insurance companies to deny health care coverage because of a person’s preexisting condition or drop coverage when it’s needed most. In addition, under this legislation, individuals would not be subject to annual or lifetime limits on their coverage or see it terminated arbitrarily as a tactic for insurance companies to avoid paying claims. It also expands insurance options and ensures that everyone will have access to affordable coverage no matter what.

As this legislation is considered by the full Senate in the coming months, please know that I will continue to fight for every American’s right to have access to quality, affordable health care, and I will vote for an amendment to the legislation that would create a single payer system. In addition, I will work to make sure the reforms of the HELP Committee are included in the final Senate version of the bill.

Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts with me. I hope you will continue to keep me informed about the issues that matter most to you.

All my best,

Jeff Merkley United States Senate

It would be in the senator’s best interest to remember that the 17th Amendment has made every senator responsible to the individual voters of his state. While I think that was an unwise amendment, it means that the good senator can be voted out by the people, regardless of the values held at Salem. He is supposed to represent the people, which presupposes that he understand the positions of the people.

Well, he seems to understand one position anyway.

An Entertaining 15-Minute Read

I smiled more reading this than reading the comics. Nearly as much as reading Dave Barry. I hope you enjoy it too. Yes, it looks political, but this isn’t your average negative news story, and you won’t see it on TV, in the newspaper, or in any newsweekly.