Odds & Ends stumbled across on a chilly Wednesday in a crazy world:
Seems like a fair question: Why sign a bad spending bill now if you're willing to shut down the government to block a bad spending bill later? We've all heard that there's seemingly nothing President Trump can do that will turn his base against him. This seems like it might be that one thing, though. The budget proposal is getting slammed hard in conservative circles. It reads like something that would come out of a Democratic administration with a Democratic House and Senate.
"Betrayal beyond belief," says Consrvative Review, "Dem priorities funded; Trump's scuttled." "With this budget," says Business Investor's Daily, "the swamp wins." Why vote Republican, Rush Limbaugh asked Vice President Mike Pence, "if the Democrats are gonna continue to win practically 95% of their objectives, such as in this last budget deal?"
Republicans have as many lame excuses for this budget and why they'll do better in September as Hillary Clinton does for losing the election. Don't expect the truth from either of them. "We're deathly afraid of being blamed for a government shutdown" and "I was just a lousy candidate."
News from the science front. To ensure its survival, the human race must colonize another planet within 100 years, says Stephen Hawking: "The astrophysicist has made a new documentary, Expedition New Earth, as part of the BBC's new science season Tomorrow's World. In it he will claim that time is running out for Earth and if humanity is to survive climate change, asteroid strikes, epidemics and overpopulation we will need to leave our planet and venture further afield." I like the idea of leaving the planet, but I think the good professor is a bit pessimistic.
Meanwhile, another scientist says time travel is mathematically possible:
The past is the final frontier.
Traveling back in time isn't necessarily science fiction, according to a new paper published in Classical and Quantum Gravity. The paper's title, “Traversable acausal retrograde domains in spacetime,” creates the acronym TARDIS – the name of the fictional time machine in “Doctor Who.”
“People think of time travel as something as fiction,” Ben Tippett, the lead author of the study, told The University of British Columbia. “But, mathematically, it is possible.”
Specifically, the paper describes a spacetime “bubble” that would travel faster than the speed of light – thereby allowing it to move backwards. The idea that an object can travel through time if it reaches the speed of light is based on Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity.
Of course he gives himself a pretty good out. In order to traverse the past, we need something that doesn't exist yet. And Tippet isn't sure if it's something that ever will. It's like expounding on quantum physics. It can never be proved or disproved, so you can say pretty much anything you want.
The big hangup on repealing and replacing Obamacare is pre-existing conditions, a phrase that seems to lead to "the suspension of all thought." As Roy Avik points out in Forbes, it has never been quite the problem it was cracked up to be:
First: prior to Obamacare, the vast majority of Americans with health insurance were already in plans that were required to offer them coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions. Employer-based plans were required to offer coverage to everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions. So were Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs like the VA. Employer- and government-based plans, prior to Obamacare, represented 90 percent of Americans with health insurance.
The other 10 percent were people buying coverage on their own, on the individual market. In most — but not all — states prior to Obamacare, people buying coverage on their own could, in theory, be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.
That gets us to point number two: that in practice, a tiny percentage of Americans were being denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition prior to Obamacare. We know this in general because surveys consistently indicated that this was the case, and in detail because of an Obamacare program called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, or PCIP.
PCIP was designed to work from the years 2010 to 2014, as a bridge until Obamacare's insurance regulations took effect. During those years, Americans could sign up for heavily subsidized coverage under PCIP if they had documented proof that they had been denied coverage by an insurance company and had a pre-existing condition….
Enrollment in PCIP peaked in February 2013 at 114,959. Not exactly a national crisis.
Remembering the simpler times.
"I write on the internet. I'm sorry" for my part in getting you sucked into this compulsive, destructive wallowing in online political polemics: "Try to pinpoint the last time you took a purposeless walk through the late spring breeze, when there was no itch in your hand to reach for a mobile device, and you felt like the wind and sky around you had nothing to disclose to you other than the vast and mysteriously sympathy of existence itself. Was it 2007? Or as far back as 1997? Does just asking the question make you feel ill?"
"I cut cable TV and lived to tell about it; you should do it, too." Of course, he's not talking about unplugging and reading books instead or, heaven forbid, sitting down for a chat with friends and family. He's talking about giving up the cable box in favor of streaming Netflix and other services over wi-fi. Yeah, a real get-back-to-nature guy.
Someone who goes out of the way to strike a nonpartisan chord should have more than a little credibility. Cal Thomas is as conservative a columnist as you'll ever read, but he points out in a column on "the selling of the presidency" that the practice of retiring chief executives cashing in goes back a long way:
The headline in the March 5, 1929, edition of the Chicago Tribune read, “Plain Citizen Coolidge Shuts Desk and Quietly Goes Home.” Calvin Coolidge would write a newspaper column from Northampton, Mass., for which he presumably was paid a pittance, but other than that he refused to exploit his notoriety or accomplishments as president for money.
When he left office in 1953, Harry S Truman and his wife, Bess, repaired to Independence, Mo., where they lived in a house they had previously shared with her mother. Truman refused to serve on any corporate boards and rejected other financial opportunities that might have been his because he said he did not want to diminish the integrity of the presidency.
Richard Nixon departed from that standard, charging $1 million for an interview with David Frost. The selling of the presidency, to paraphrase the title of a 1968 book by Joe McGinniss, had begun.
Every president since Nixon has used the office as a stepping stone to great wealth. Ronald Reagan was paid $2 million for two speeches in Japan.
George W. Bush has made an estimated 200 speeches since leaving office, some to benefit wounded warriors and others to benefit himself. Bush once told The New York Times, “I don't know how much my dad gets, but it's more than 50, 75 thousand dollars a speech.” According to Politico, Bush 43 makes between $100,000 and $175,000 per appearance.
Then there are the Clintons, who took post-presidential moneymaking to new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective).
Now comes former President Obama, who is receiving $400,000 for a one-hour speech at a conference run by Cantor Fitzgerald, a Wall Street firm. Like his Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded soon after he took office with no accomplishments to warrant it, Obama is getting the money primarily for his celebrity, not his deeds.
Thomas thinks the cashing in demeans the office, but that's not his main concern. The ex-presidents are, after all, private citizens entitled to earn whatever the market will bear. But as long as they insist on going after so much money, he writes, why should taxpayers continue to foot the bill for them? Good question.