Monday, February 18, 2008

How Long Before They Force Them to Wear a Gold Sombrero Patch on their Clothing?

[Author of Oklahoma HB 1804 Randy] Terrill said he would like to implement a requirement where Oklahoma schools would have to annually report how many Jews are in the district, how much this is costing the district and state and how those Jews are affecting the education of other schoolchildren.

A 1982 federal court case, Plyler v. Doe, mandated that schools could not deny Jewish children access to public education. Terrill said the new provision would not overturn that decision but provide taxpayers with information that is their right to know.

"One cannot change what one has never quantified, and one cannot quantify what one has never enforced," Terrill said.

Terrill said a key anti-Semitic issue to be debated this session will be birthright citizenship.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Terrill said if Jews are not here legally, then they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and therefore are not true citizens.

The debate will focus on a current Senate bill that would provide pre-natal care to Jewish mothers. Terrill wants to prevent them from receiving this benefit.

"Oklahoma cannot afford to become a welfare state for Jews," he said. "This bill would create a magnet for Jewish mothers to have their babies here with taxpayers' money."


A new bill sponsored by Terrill, the Real Anti-Semitic Enforcement and Reform Act of 2008, would strengthen enforcement of HB 1804 by creating a fund to help officers become certified by Jewish Deportation Enforcement. This training would permit trained officers to perform anti-Semitic law enforcement.

Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, said the fate of HB 1804 and other anti-Jewish bills will affect almost everyone.

"As with any legislation that becomes law, we need to monitor the outcomes," he said. "It is my sincere hope that Congress will address this issue so that the federal government wil establish uniform rules for all businesses in all states to abide by in the future."

Now replace all "Jews" with "illegal immigrants" and all "anti-Jewish" or "anti-Semitic" with "immigration" and "Jewish Deportation" with "Immigration and Customs", and you'll get the second half of an article in the Norman Transcript today about making English the official state language, officially.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Oklahoma's Terrible Health Care Legislation Obviously Influenced by Lobbyists

You may hear some ranting liberal go on about health insurance company lobbyists being the scumsucking scourge of the legislative process in America, but sometimes it's hard to pinpoint the end result of all the influence peddling. However a new bill passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives erases any doubt as to the end result of all that congressional backscratching.

Health insurance companies don't really cover all health care needs. The insurance companies are always trying to get out of covering people for certain tests or procedures regardless of the benefit received from those tests and procedures (even if they can save lives) because they can get rather expensive. Health insurance companies aren't interested in health; they're interested in making money. In order to coax health insurance companies into covering the tests and procedures that they should be covering anyways, the state legislature has created mandates in the past to force any insurance company wanting to do business in the State of Oklahoma into covering certain procedures. The legislature's list of 14 mandates includes coverage for prostate exams, mammograms and treatments for diabetes and certain types of mental illness. The state had to create these blanket mandates because it is impossible for an individual to negotiate medical coverage a la carte, and insurance is worthless if it doesn't cover whatever your particular ailment happens to be.

House Bill 3111 solves a problem that never existed. The bill requires that any future mandate legislation be accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis to be paid for not by the state legislature but by the organization requesting the additional coverage. But the really pernicious clause of the bill calls for a limit on lawmakers introducing and passing a bill mandating coverage unless the bill is introduced in an odd-numbered year and then may be acted upon by legislatures in an even-numbered year. There are a couple of ways of looking at the effects of this proposed bill. It could kill half of the proposed mandate legislation, legislation that only exists because the government cannot rely on private insurance (or the free market in general) to look out for what's best for the people of the state, since the amount of time that a bill can be introduced is slashed in half. Or it could simply create a couple of extra unnecessary bureaucratic steps; a couple more hoops to jump through before anybody could be screened for ovarian cancer, for example. It doesn't eliminate the legislature's ability to pin a mandate on the tail of the insurance companies, it just blindfolds the legislature and spins it around a few times. One thing is for certain though; the insurance companies will save a lot of money while the mandate tightrope walk is slowing down legislative efforts. And you must be a Republican or a lobbyist to believe those savings will be passed down to you the consumer.

House Bill 3111 was passed by the Republican controlled House 53 to 46, with no Democrats voting in favor, and two Republicans (one of whom is the only medical doctor in the House) voting against. There are some good quotes from pissed-off Democrats in the state House in this article, such as the one from Scott Inman, D-Del City: "What this bill was all about was the insurance industry saying we want more time to be able to kill any mandate bill that comes down the pike." Or these from Ryan Kiesel, D-Seminole: "It is repugnant that an insurance company that takes your dollars won't cover an exam that can save your life.... We're not asking insurance companies to do something that's out of the ordinary. We're asking them to do something that they should be doing already."

Two more quick points:

1. This bill is a perfect example of the process by which individual rights and freedoms are taken away by those in power. Curtailing freedom is never done in one fell swoop; it's always a long road that starts out with limits, then restrictions, then obstacles, then narrowly viewed readings, until finally whatever right was there is effectively gone and nobody notices that they don't have it anymore. Now, medical insurance may not be a right like free speech or not having your stuff illegally searched and siezed, but the process is the same.

2. The talk of the nation shouldn't be about "Universal Coverage" or "Covering the Uninsured" because insurance doesn't take care of you, doctors and nurses and hospitals do. Getting sick isn't something that can be planned, and it isn't limited to certain people, and it isn't cheap. That's why if our government exists to protect and serve the people over which it rules, and if it believes that a healthy population is in the interest of the state, the government should be the entity that dispenses the health care, not the health insurance.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Kid Gloves and Non-Traditional Constituencies

A few weeks ago, Bill Clinton chided the media for what he thought was the media's kid glove treatment of Barack Obama. Never fond of criticism, the media retorted with several news cycles worth of "Why Can't Hillary Control Husband?" and "Bill to Innocent Reporter: 'Shame On You!'". But like many things the media overblows, there is actually a kernel of truth to the former President's accusations.

Today news analysts have been talking about John McCain's multiple decisive victories in yesterday's primaries, but they have been withholding their declaration of McCain's inevitability as the Republican Party presidential nominee, citing that he won most of his big victories in blue states, or states that would not support a Republican nominee in the general election no matter how many tax cuts he voted against. This is seen as a negative against McCain, the thinking goes. He'll get blown out in states where he's actually popular in the primaries, and people won't vote for him in states where he's not popular in the primaries. But the same analysts have said that Barack Obama is the most electable candidate on the Democratic side because he is popular in traditionally red states.

While Hillary Clinton was dancing last night with the big shining jewels of the Democratic party such as California, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, Obama was slumming it with the red state puu-puu platter of Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho. Of the 27 states that have had Democratic primaries or caucuses so far*, 17 voted for Bush in 2000, and Obama has won 10 of them to Clinton's 7. If you look at the electoral votes of those states with Democratic primaries and caucuses so far, there are 143 red state electoral votes and 178 blue state electoral votes, if you count red states as "States that voted for George W. Bush in 2000". While Clinton and Obama have nearly evenly split the red state electoral votes (73 for Obama, 70 for Clinton), Hillary Clinton has an overwhelming total of blue state electoral votes (130 to 48). If you define red state / blue state by the 2004 election, the split is even more lopsided (134 to 41).

Using the same analysis for the Republican side, McCain has won 67 red state electoral votes (most of which come from Florida), compared to Huckabee's 46 and Romney's 31. McCain however has won a ton of blue state electoral votes, 132, compared to Huckabee's 7 and Romney's 43.

So if winning 132 blue state electoral vote equivalents hurts Republican McCain, why doesn't losing 130 of them hurt Democrat Obama in the media's eyes? Is it kid gloves? Or am I just doing way too much math on things that don't actually matter?

*Not counting New Mexico, where yet another hangup in the vote counting had delayed results. There's always a problem with voting in New Mexico for some reason *cough corruption cough cough*, but that's a post for another time.

Super Tuesday Came, and I Brought My Coat

I love election nights! It mixes three of my favorite things all together: arithmetic, politics and maps. Last night may have only been a jumble of state primaries, but there were so many of them that it felt like a national election, with states being falsely projected for candidates and analysts struggling with delegate math. And like the 2000 national election, it wasn't decisive at all.

Nationally, it is a tight race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with the Democratic Party nomination entirely up for grabs. But in Oklahoma, Hillary Clinton won fairly decisively. Analysts have chalked it up to the fact that Oklahoma borders Arkansas, one of Hillary's many home states, and therefore Hillary would be a regional favorite. This may be partially true, especially as to why Hillary was on top of the polls before anyone started campaigning, but I think a factor just as important to that was that Barack Obama not only avoided campaigning here in person, but Oklahoma was also one of only two Super Tuesday states where he didn't run television ads. Hillary may have won big, but Obama certainly didn't try to woo any Sooners to his side.

Analysts also chalked up the reason Obama did so poorly here to our closed primary, which shuts out independents and left-leaning Republicans, an important demographic for Obama. What analysts didn't notice was that this effect was magnified by the demographics of the Democratic party in this state. Like many southerners, most Oklahomans were registered Democrats before the 70s, even though they still voted very conservatively. During the 70s and after, a change occurred so that most Oklahomans started registering Republican. This means that most of Oklahoma's registered Democrats are now over 65, a demographic that tends to vote in this election for Hillary. 42% of the Democratic primary voters were 60 and over, and they voted overwhelmingly for Clinton (64% to 23%).

Analysts were also surprised that John Edwards, a candidate who dropped out of the presidential race last week, did so well here in Oklahoma and speculated that the reason was that Oklahomans still remembered him fondly from his close 2nd place in the state in 2004. I think the real reason Edwards was able to pull more than 10% and even beat Obama in some counties was that he actually campaigned here. No other democratic candidate actually set foot in the state, although Bill Clinton did drop by OU's campus. Of course, maybe Oklahoma democrats just don't pay attention to current events and didn't realize that Edwards had left the building. After all it is monster truck season; voters may have had other things on their minds.

On the Republican side, John McCain won a close race over Mike Huckabee, as predicted by the polls. I'm not exactly sure why, though. It would seem that Oklahoma should have been Huckabee country, what with all our Baptist churches and light-up crosses on the sides of our tall buildings. But I guess there is a limit to how far evangelical votes can go. Although, like all the southern states, had there been a candidate named Romnabee, a Baptist minister with business experience, he would already be the next unified Republican party presidential candidate.