“Obamacare is racist”

When I think of elderly people, including the ones naive enough to have believed Obama’s lies (at their age, they should have known better), my heart bleeds as I try to imagine them navigating Obamacare, and that’s true whether the system works or is broken.  No matter what, a generation that wasn’t raised on computers, and that may be further hampered by physical disabilities, is not going to find even the best possible site easy to navigate.

My mother, who was born in the very early 1920s, is a very bright woman, but she was never able to master computers.  The is true for all of her friends, both the ones I’ve known my whole life and the ones I’ve met since she moved into a retirement community.  My father, my mother-in-law, and my father-in-law, alav ha-shalom, all had the same problem.  They were old dogs, and computers were a new trick.  This cartoon pretty much sums it up:

Mom's keyboard

If you’re laughing, it’s because you know someone — probably a person over 70 — who views the computer precisely that way. Obviously, this isn’t true for all older people, but it’s certainly true for a greater number of them than you’d find in the 50-70 cohort. Moreover, in the under 50 cohort, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have at least some familiarity and comfort with computers.

For the older people, dealing with Obamacare is going to be a nightmare — and they are the some of the ones who will be most intimately connected with it.  After all, I doubt that many, if any, of them have insurance with pregnancy benefits.  That means that, if they don’t get insurance through some retirement fund, their policies will be cancelled and they’ll be pitched into the Obamacare marketplace.  Once there, they’re going to have to figure out the Obamacare exchange.

Robert Avrech, at Seraphic Secret, reminds me that I’ve forgotten another cohort of people who can’t handle the difficulties of Obamacare.  Unlike the elderly, who are limited by vision problems or arthritis or dementia or unfamiliarity with a new technology, these people are limited by . . . race, and only by race.

Yes, race.  To see why, check this out.

Only Progressives could believe that robots will destroy the economy

ATM

The newest Ivy Tower Leftist explanation for the economy’s disastrous jobless recovery riffs off of Obama’s remark a couple of years ago about the disastrous effect of ATMs.  You remember that, don’t you?

President Obama explained to NBC News that the reason companies aren’t hiring is not because of his policies, it’s because the economy is so automated. … “There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

Robot

It took a little while for Obama’s minions to catch up with his genius, but catch up they have.  First, 60 Minutes ran a segment in which two MIT thinkers earnestly explain that Americans are going to be increasingly jobless as robots take on more and more of the jobs laborers used to do.  (I didn’t despair when I watched this.  Instead, I was absolutely fascinated by the way warehouse robots save human backs and feet.) AP then got in on the act, explaining with equal earnestness that technology is killing jobs and therefore keeping the economy stagnant.  Typically for the Left, these great thinkers are conflating two actually unrelated things:  the first thing is jobs that are replaced by technology; the second thing is a weak economy that stubbornly refuses to grow.

1912 Model T Ford

In times past, the innovation and a stagnant economy were not related.  Yes, the wheelwrights vanished when cars came along, but cars were part of America’s stunning early 20th-century leap into the modern era.  The economy went crazy, not just because the car industry itself created new jobs, but because the ability to travel speedily and with almost no limits on distance created other opportunities.  People could now travel to jobs that would have been unavailable to them before.  Factories previously powered by steam or water (or humans), suddenly had the internal combustion engine.

1920s tractor

Cars also brought about mechanized farm work and agricultural transport.  These not only made it possible for American farmers to feed a growing, mobile, vastly dispersed nation, but they also improved the nation’s overall health.

Keypunching computer data in the 1950s

In our own lifetimes, computers didn’t do away with jobs.  Instead, they changed old jobs and created new ones.  Between 1960 and 2008, computers also helped supercharge the economy, especially when it came to the advent of personal computers and, later, the internet.  It’s absolutely true that people got left by the wayside; that economic bubbles grew and burst; and that start-ups broke down — but overall, these amazing technological advancements created a bigger economic pie, not just at home, but abroad too.

The carpet beater

Another way of thinking about this is to look at changes in the domestic sphere.  Women used to boil water to do their laundry, wring it out by hand, and then hang it on lines.  To clean their carpets, they’d have to roll them up, drag them out, hang them on a line, and beat them.  Every dish needed to be hand washed and, if there was no counter space, hand dried.  Before flush toilets, someone had to empty those chamber pots and before modern plumbing, servants drew baths by hand.

Victorian house servants

In a pre-modern age, these tasks required massive human labor.  It wasn’t that middle class Victorians didn’t do laundry, clean carpets, wash dishes, or carry water.  They did those tasks; or more accurately, a phalanx of servants did those laborious tasks.  Even a young middle-class couple, just starting out, would have a cook and a housemaid.  And then on laundry day, a laundry woman would come in to help out too.

The world economy did not collapse when labor-saving appliances destroyed the necessity for these domestic jobs.  Instead, the same economy that produced labor-saving devices required people to make, deliver, and market these devices.  The economy shifted and opened ever further.  That’s why I’m writing on a computer, rather than sitting in a darkened room dipping a quill pen in ink.

Bankrupt Solyndra

Why is this changing economy different?  Simple:  in other times, when the jobs shifted, the government didn’t put into place policies that deliberately destroyed economic alternatives that would create employment for those whose jobs become obsolete.  In today’s America, though, the avenues for new forms of commerce and employment are closing, thanks to ever-increasing taxes, regulations, hostility to corporations and industry, and an obsessive government focus on a green energy sector that does not have the chops to grow on its own.

In other words, the Left is only able to conflate obsolete jobs and permanent unemployment because it’s looking at a particular moment in time, one in which the remnants of our once-thriving private sector are still introducing labor-saving devices, even as the Progressive government’s heavy hand is simultaneously suppressing that start-ups that would have piggy-backed on this new technology and provided different (and often better) employment opportunities.

Segregated drinking fountain sign

Ultimately, Progressives, despite their forward-looking label and their “Forward” slogans, are relentlessly reactionary and regressive.  They live in a finite economic world, blind to history’s ever-repeating lesson that, when there is individual freedom, the economy always expands.  Still fighting the battles of the 1960s, they believe Jim Crow is America’s default racial setting, that Muslims are picturesque people on Cook’s tours, and that unwed mothers’ only choices are using coat hangers or becoming social outcasts.

Oh!  I almost forgot.  They also think that, when it comes to aging and medicine, Americans die young, after the hoary old doctor with his stethoscope has done what he could.  As to this last delusion about our modern world, Charles Krauthammer, in summarizing Barack Obama’s historically polarizing, blatantly statist inaugural address, says it best:

At its heart was Obama’s pledge to (1) defend unyieldingly the 20th-century welfare state and (2) expand it unrelentingly for the 21st.

The first part of that agenda — clinging zealously to the increasingly obsolete structures of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — is the very definition of reactionary liberalism. Social Security was created when life expectancy was 62. Medicare was created when modern medical technology was in its infancy. Today’s radically different demographics and technology have rendered these programs, as structured, unsustainable. Everyone knows that, unless reformed, they will swallow up the rest of the budget.

(Credit for some of the ideas in this post has to go to a delightful book I’m reading: Lucy Worsley’s If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home. It is a charmingly written reminder that the world is not static, and that fighting yesterday’s battles without an eye to today’s knowledge is a fool’s game. The Left is certainly masterful at the fight, but its ultimate aims are hopelessly and dangerously retrograde.)

A singularly unfortunate photo placement

I tend to check out the Yahoo! News aggregator periodically, because it’s a good way to see what the Yahoo algorithm decides is “popular.”  I’m pretty sure a computer program generates the images that go with the tagged news stories, and sometimes the computer makes some very bizarre choices, that have everything to do with computer logic, and nothing to do with common sense.  That’s how one explains this match-up, which I captured at 9:35 a.m. P.S.T.:

The most popular news headlines on current events - Yahoo! News - Mozilla Firefox 10202009 93222 AM

Maybe I’m too much of a literalist, but the combination of caption and picture makes it look as if the woman and children are the “swine” at issue.

It’s easy enough to figure out what went wrong, and it’s a singularly good reminder of the limitations that result when you rely on computers to do all the thinking.  If you click to the news story itself, you again see this picture matched with report of H1N1 in Minnesota pigs — but you get a little more info about the photograph, which is described as follows:

A woman takes her daughter and other girls to school in Baghdad September 27, 2009. Iraq will temporarily shut down thousands of schools in two provinces and some in Baghdad after discovering 36 new cases of the H1N1 flu virus, Iraqi officials said on Tuesday.

What this means is that the computer managed to match a story about H1N1 in pigs, with a picture about H1N1 in Iraq — and at the same managed to make it look as if a caring mother and her sweet daughter are the swine in Minnesota who were found to have H1N1.

Regrouping as a prelude to political blogging

I had my day all planned.  I was going to head out early for a one hour talk at the local school regarding cyber bullying, and then I was going to come home and blog a while about Obama’s speech, since I’ve had more time to think about it.  But the best laid plans and all that.  Here’s what actually happened:  The talk on cyber bullying lasted more than two hours and covered a lot more than cyber bullying.  Instead, the officer giving the talk educated all of us parents about social networking and internet chatting.  All of us in the audience are sophisticated computer users, but at the adult level.  We use it for business and as an informational, resource, as well as for emailing with our friends, family, colleagues, and child management networks (schools, carpools, sports, etc.).  I think every one of us in the audience, while we’d heard lots about MySpace and Facebook, and things like that, was completely ignorant about how they operate, and about how they serve as honeypots for predators and killing fields for bullies.

We all left the room feeling somewhat depressed and quite overwhelmed by the task of protecting our children from the really bad stuff out there.  The officer gave us information about programs that monitor computer use (so you can see what your kids are doing and so that you have a record of instant messages, which are the predator mode of communication and are not normally saved), about authentication programs to help limit the pool of people with whom your child chats (such as Portcard), and about the importance of simple oversight and good communication with ones children.  Still, there’s no getting around the fact that, even as I educate myself today, social network and chat sites are proliferating; the cyberspace landscape keeps changing; and the children have the ever-increasing ability, thanks to free sites, free emails, and access to computers outside the home, to put themselves, quite innocently, in harm’s way.  Protection efforts sometimes seem about as effective as trying to sweep the tide back with a mop.

I’m not giving up, of course.  I just feel somewhat overwhelmed by the task.