Some conservatives have charged that the government is interfering with "religious rights" because the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover contraception, which, while objectionable to certain religious groups, is not to all and is a matter of basic health care. In the Hobby Lobby case, we have seen the judiciary side with the right of a religious employer to deny certain types of contraception in their insurance policies. How far will the courts go? As we know, a "right" ends where the rights of others begin.
Actually, the ACA does not require that employers agree with any medical procedure; it simply requires insurance companies to cover certain types of care. Government is well within its rights to impose reasonable standards on any business, including insurance companies. Nor does the ACA require that any employee use contraception or seek any other type of medical care.
Actually, coverage of contraception might hold down health care costs. The insurance companies should be delighted. After all, contraception is much less expensive to them than a pregnancy and delivery!
Unless I am mistaken, the law already recognizes the right of purely religious employers of priests, ministers, nuns, pastors, and other religious workers to deny some types of medical coverage based on religious beliefs. After all, they are employees of religious bodies that have certain expectations of their members and they are unlikely to seek such treatment anyway.
This is very different than businesses, non-profit organizations and even colleges and other institutions with some connection to religious bodies but which are not purely religious in nature. After all, these institutions and enterprises may, and often do, employee people of different faiths or differing opinions on these matters. Not all people, including very religious people, object to contraception, including those forms that some consider abortificants.
If this trend and logic continues, it may lead to a very dangerous "slippery slope." This is especially true when we talking of businesses whose owners may adhere to a particular religious belief but whose purposes are non-religious in nature. Such an employer may employee people who are not of the owners' faith. In that case, an employer's right to object to a particular medical procedure or prescription may interfere with an employee's legal right to seek such treatment.
Where do we draw the line? Although much of this controversy deals with certain types of contraception what about companies whose owners oppose all forms of birth control? Should employers who are Christian Scientists and who do not believe in doctors be able to "opt out" of any care for their employees except that provided by Christian Science practitioners? Should employers who are Scientologists be allowed to refuse coverage for mental health and psychotropic medications? Should Jehovah's Witnesses be permitted to refuse coverage for employees in need of a blood transfusions or an organ transplant even when the employees do not share the beliefs of that faith regarding these procedures?
Or, what about the "snake handling" Holiness churches in parts of the American South? Snake handlers believe they are commanded by God to pick up venomous snakes and that if they have enough faith and are in the right relationship with God, the snakes will not bite them. If they are bitten anyway, they believe that one should not go to the ER but should instead rely on divine healing. Should an employer of that faith should be able to refuse his or her employees medical treatment for snakebite?
The precedent of exempting employers from the law due to "religious belief" could even go further and interfere with other civil rights and liberties. For instance, a number of faiths stand in strong opposition to gay and lesbian people. Should owners of businesses who feel that way be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation? Should they be allowed to deny coverage to the same-sex spouse of an employee? What about those whose faith teaches that women should not work outside the home or engage in certain occupations? And, what about those that embrace racist ideologies as a tenet of their faith?
(Scott Cracraft is a U.S. citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
The recent snowstorm over the Thanksgiving Day holiday was a reminder to a lot of people that lost their power of just how important electricity is. There's nothing worse than a cold bird especially when you have a whole house full of people coming. And the fact that you quite possible don't have any heat creates a less than perfect holiday atmosphere. So how do you prevent this and be able to cook the bird, have some heat, and watch the ball game all at the same time? The obvious answer is, of course, a generator. Another possible answer would be to move to Florida, but they have hurricanes, so you still might need a generator.
Having a generator can really be a life saver, but it can also help in the sale of your house. I can't tell you how excited some buyers get when they see that a generator is included in the sale of a home. I don't necessarily think it will make or break a sale, but it sure does come as a valued added bonus.
If you don't have a generator for your house and want to buy one there are two types; portable or stationary. A portable is generally less expensive, is gasoline powered, and has to be wheeled outside to use. They generally have limited fuel capacity so you have to keep fueling them up if the power is out for a long time. You can buy a 4,000 watt generator for as little as $300-400 at any of the home improvement big box stores. These won't power much but the very basics just to get you by. A larger 10,000 watt unit will run you around a grand and a whole house portable unit of 17,500 watts could run you $2,500 or so. The important thing is that you don't wait until the power is out to go buy one. Remember the ice storm of '98? In a very short period of time there weren't any generators anywhere left to be found... and I do mean anywhere.
Obviously, once you have a generator you need to be able to hook it up to the things you want to run. For years I got by running extension cords from my small portable to run the TV and refrigerator. As long as I could watch the ball game and keep the refrigerator going I thought we were pretty good shape. My generator wasn't large enough to run the furnace but our propane fireplace kept the house warm enough. There's also something to be said for having running water but unless you have a bigger generator you won't if you are on a well. Water pumps take a lot of juice when they start. But the real way to get power into your house is through a generator transfer switch and that should be professionally installed to provide power to the circuits that you want to run. One of those will run you anywhere from $200 to $350. I had one of those babies installed and Murphy's Law has held true; I haven't lost the power for more than an hour since I put it in.
The Cadillac plan, of course, is to have a stationary generator that comes on automatically the minute that tree comes down on the wires in the middle of the night. They are really nice when you are away over the Christmas holiday in Barbados and you aren't around to wheel out old Nellie and hook it up. It really saves a lot of worries to for homeowners that are here just seasonally. These units are fueled by propane and will start themselves up periodically to make sure they're running correctly. They can provide service to just few chosen circuits or your entire house if sized correctly. Costs for these units vary depending on the size but you are likely to pay around $5,000 for a 20KW generator plus installation. Like everything else, you'd want to shop around but choose an industry professional that installs these for a living. You should also not put the cart before the horse and buy the generator before you have that professional size it for your exact needs. Hey! Maybe this would make a great Christmas present for yourself??
As of December 1, 2014 there were 952 residential homes on the market in the towns represented in this real estate market report. The median price point came in at $259,900. As of Nov 1, 2014 there were 1137 homes on the market. The somewhat large drop in inventory this month was due to the large number of listings that expired and have not yet returned to the market. The current inventory represents an 11.7 month supply of homes on the market.
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 12/1/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
Free enterprise is proving to be Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's most potent foe.
Moscow's February 2014 invasion of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and its immediate annexation drastically altered international diplomatic calculations. In a year marked by the homicidal rise of the Islamic State and Chinese probes of East Asian maritime borders, Putin's destruction of post-Cold War security arrangements is the most dangerous challenge to global peace.
Yet U.S. and Western European attempts to penalize the Kremlin its Crimean theft and blunt its relentless "slow war of moral attrition" in Eastern Ukraine have been erratic. Though France's decision to halt its sale of assault ships to Russia sent the message that business is not as usual, it was seven months late in coming. E.U. and Obama administration government-directed economic sanctions have been incrementally effective. Financial sanctions directed at key oligarchs in Putin's inner circle might undermine his power base, but that remains speculative.
However, the free market attack on Russian energy exports has hit the Kremlin hard.
The stunning surge in U.S. and Canadian energy production spurred the assault. Improved drilling and production techniques created the surge. The key technique is hydraulic fracturing, better known by its media nom de plume, fracking. Fracking has opened previously untapped "tight" gas and oil reservoirs. The U.S. has reduced its energy imports and in some markets is now exporting energy.
Oil has dropped from $110 to $75 a barrel. Even low-information American car owners see the wallet-level payoff. A gallon of gas now costs about a buck less than it did last year.
Private investment and commercial companies spurred the fracking revolution. If anything, the Obama administration, kowtowing to its hard-left environmentalist base, has attempted to hamstring the U.S. energy industry innovation. Radical enviro hypocrisy pollutes rational debate; at one time, many in their clan touted natural gas as a wonder fuel.
Well before Crimea, European nations resented Russian natural gas price gouging. The Kremlin used pricing threats to bully Ukraine, Poland and even Germany into political concessions.
After the Crimean travesty, the Baltic States and Poland demanded alternative gas supplies. The Obama administration quietly agreed to permit U.S. gas exports and the development of a liquefied natural gas exporting facility.
American LNG supplies might reach Poland in three years. That's good news. Here's the bad news: Putin has three years to exploit E.U. divisions and politically split NATO.
Or he had three years. Enter Saudi Arabia. America's "fracking" success challenges Saudi global oil dominance. What's the price point where fracking becomes unprofitable? Estimates run from $55 to $70 a barrel for oil. The Saudi oil ministry intends to find out and says it will not cut production. The market will determine price.
Though Russia can strangle Ukraine by denying gas supplies, the stunted and corrupt Russian economy survives on energy sales. Without its cash crop of oil, and gas, Russia is a big cabbage farm with a second-rate armaments industry. Cabbage, tanks, ICBMS and nuclear weapons mean Russian is not quite a petro-emirate writ large, but the cruel analogy has instructive utility.
If Russian nukes mean open war with Moscow is too risky, then attacking the Kremlin's cash generator is war by appropriate means.
Are the Saudis trying to defend Ukraine? I doubt it. The Saudis suspect they will be fencing with North American frackers for decades. It is very much in the Saudis' economic interest to retard the fracking revolution. It is also in their geo-political interest. Lowering oil prices sends a message to Washington that the Saudis matter; it also harms rival Iran.
The geo-political damage to Russia in ancillary but so welcome and so richly deserved. If the Obama administration wants to practice some truly smart diplomacy, it should expand oil and gas exploration on U.S. federal lands.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)
Last Updated on Friday, 05 December 2014 10:21
Few truly appreciate the enormous economic benefits the Affordable Care Act will deliver to the American people over time, the middle class included. But you'd expect New York's seasoned Democratic senator, Charles Schumer, to "get it" rather than belittle the 2010 federal health care law as a political inconvenience for his party.
Amazingly, Schumer recently complained that reforms affected only "a small percentage of the electorate." Has he any idea what's going on — I mean beyond the calculations of the most recent election, the planning for the next?
A time-honored way to freak out the middle class is to call a government program a plan to "redistribute" income to the less fortunate. Obamacare's foes never miss the chance. Schumer plays into that narrative.
Anytime you help people obtain benefits they couldn't afford before, money is going to move. There is redistribution all around us, in Social Security, in Medicare, in farm subsidies, in the tax code.
George W. Bush and a Republican Congress pushed through a Medicare drug benefit for which the poor paid almost nothing and richer beneficiaries paid more. And because these modest sums funded little of the program, almost the entire cost was shifted to the taxpayers. The Medicare drug benefit was redistribution big-time.
There is indeed some redistribution in Obamacare. When you include the value of health coverage, the reforms boost income in the bottom fifth of earners by at least 6 percent, according to The Brookings Institution. This number would have been higher had 23 states not rejected the law's offer to cover more of the working poor under Medicaid.
Whose income is being sent to the less wealthy? Those in the top three-quarters, Brookings says, though their income loss is proportionally quite small.
Bear in mind that government subsidies are available to folks earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
That means the help goes well into the middle class.
The soaring cost of medical coverage deserves much blame for today's stagnant wages as employers take it out of workers' paychecks. The Affordable Care Act is already credited with starting to curb the rise in health care spending. It stands to reason that companies will eventually pass some of the savings on to their employees.
The health reforms redistribute a lot more than money. They expand peace of mind and freedom to start a business.
Knowing that an insurer can't drop your family when a member gets ill is priceless. Under the old regime, even the well-to-do couldn't get coverage if someone had a pre-existing condition.
And there's the redistribution of opportunity. Many Americans not cushioned by wealth nevertheless dream of founding their own company. They continue working for others rather than lose their family's health benefits. We call this "job lock." Offer them dependable, affordable health coverage and many will take off, leaving job openings for newcomers.
Meanwhile, the structure of work is changing. As companies depend more on part-time labor, more workers must stitch together several part-time jobs, none offering health benefits. Many positions are now being filled by independent contractors — that is, people who work for themselves. Both groups need a way to obtain coverage at reasonable cost.
The rich can pay for their own health care, and the destitute get it free. The assurance that a medical crisis won't sink a family is a gift to the middle class.
So the Affordable Care Act is not some distraction in the quest for more jobs and better pay. It is more jobs and better pay. It's an economy less burdened by a bankrupting health care system. It is big, and even our politicians should know that.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
In July of 1967, after race riots gutted Newark and Detroit, requiring troops to put them down, LBJ appointed a commission to investigate what happened, and why. The Kerner Commission reported back that "white racism" was the cause of black riots. Liberals bought it. America did not.
Richard Nixon said of the white racism charge that there is a "tendency to lay the blame for the riots on everyone but the rioters."
The Nixon-George Wallace vote in 1968 was 57 percent to Hubert Humphrey's 43. In 1972, Wallace was leading in the popular vote in the Democratic primaries, when he was shot in Laurel, Maryland. In November of 1972, Nixon and Agnew swept 49 states.
Among the primary causes of the ruin of FDR's great coalition, and the rise of Nixon's New Majority, was the belief in Middle America that liberals were so morally paralyzed by racial guilt they could not cope with minority racism, riots and crime. And so they lost the nation for a generation.
That same moral paralysis is on display in the aftermath of the grand jury conclusion that Officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defense when he shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.
When initial reports came in, that a police officer had confronted an unarmed black teenager on a main street at noon and shot him six times, it seemed like a case of a cop gone berserk. But, day by day, new facts emerged. The "gentle giant" Brown had, 15 minutes earlier, pulled off a strong-arm robbery, grabbing a store clerk half his size by the throat while stealing cigars. And Brown was in the middle of the street, and maybe high on marijuana, when he refused an order to move onto the sidewalk.
Then came leaks from the grand jury that the 6'4", 292-pound, 18-year-old punched the officer in the face in his patrol car and went for his gun, which fired twice, wounding Brown in the hand. Wilson got out and told Brown to get on the ground, as Brown walked away. After this, what happened is in dispute.
Several grand jury witnesses perjured themselves by testifying that Wilson shot Brown in the back. All of Brown's wounds were in the front. Others said Brown turned and faced Wilson, with four of them saying Brown moved toward or charged the officer.
The pattern of shells from Wilson's gun indicates he was backing away while firing at Brown.
The grand jury concluded that not only did most witnesses support Wilson's version, but the forensic evidence was consistent with what Wilson said had happened, and contradicted Brown's lying companion.
Hence, no indictment, and wisely so. No jury, based on the known evidence, would conclude "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Wilson committed murder or manslaughter.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch concluded he had no case and would not prosecute unless a grand jury, which had seen and heard all the evidence, concluded otherwise. It did not.
Yet, Michael Brown's death, whatever the grand jury decided, is an irreversible tragedy, horrible for his mother and father.
But what happened last week was not a tragedy but a national disgrace, a disgusting display of adult delinquency.
Monday night we witnessed in Ferguson a rampage of arson, shooting, looting and vandalism, with police and National Guard ordered not to interfere. Stores and shops, the investments of a lifetime for their owners and the livelihood of their employees, were firebombed and pillaged as police looked on.
For a week, mobs blocked highways, bridges and commuter trains from New York to Oakland. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was disrupted. On Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, moms and their kids at malls had to climb over unruly protesters to do their Christmas shopping. The civil rights of law-abiding Americans were systematically violated.
And where were the president and his attorney general?
Neither Barack Obama nor Eric Holder has yet to stand up and declare, unequivocally, that, in America, the full force of law will be used to halt, prosecute and punish those guilty of mob violence, no matter the nobility of the "cause" in which it is being committed.
America is a democratic republic, a free society of 320 million. That society and that republic will not survive if a precedent is set that masses of people can organize and attempt to shut it down when what happens within that system displeases them.
Make no mistake. The Ferguson riots of recent months were like neighborhood cookouts compared to Watts in '65, Detroit and Newark in '67, and Washington, D.C., and a hundred other cities after the 1968 assassination of Dr. King. But the reaction of our political, media and moral elites seems even more irresolute than that of the liberals of the 1960s.
Only three weeks in office, Eric Holder called us "a nation of cowards." Observing his and his boss' performance in the wake of the Ferguson riots and other rampages, the same word comes to mind.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2014 10:48