Archives for January 2013

Mugged By Obamacare, then Hugging the Mugger

There’s the old adage that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality. A twist on that is a liberal is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality. That is, even those who are victims of measures that they support are so stuck on their ideology that they keep supporting those same measures.

A recent WSJ article (“Health Law Pinches Colleges”) describes colleges and universities that are cutting back on the hours of their adjunct professors in order to avoid having to provide them with health insurance coverage under Obamacare. The article points to a professor whose hours are being cut, resulting in a salary cut of $2,000. The professor said in response, “I think it goes against the spirit of the [health-care] law,” Mr. Balla said. “In education, we’re working for the public good, we are public employees at a public institution; we should be the first ones to uphold the law, to set the example.”

That sounds like somebody who was a big supporter of Obamacare. And I bet that person is still a big supporter of Obamacare. He seems upset with his employer for not abiding by the spirit of Obamacare. He probably doesn’t realize that his employer, also probably run by Obamacare supporters (given that it’s a college), just cannot afford to abide by that spirit and has no other choice but to cut his hours. The alternative would be to resort to more drastic measures like laying people off.

I bet lots of Obamacare supporters who’ve been victims of Obamacare are thinking in the back of their mind, “I’m a sacrificial lamb for the public good; there must be a greater good in Obamacare despite being personally negatively affected.”

Little do they realize there are millions of sacrificial lambs all across the nation. So many such lambs mean that Obamacare is not a public good, but a public bad.

Envy/Jealousy Behind Virginia Tech and Newtown Shootings?

Arguably the worst evil committed in the world stems from the dual emotions of envy/jealousy. The tens of millions of people who died under Communism during the 20th century did so at the hands of people who largely were motivated by envy against the rich or at least against those better off than them. That same emotion in large part brought about the murder of millions of Jews under National Socialism, as they typically were wealthier (thanks to their emphasis on education).

At the individual level as well, terrible crimes have been committed based on envy/jealousy. For example, particularly in Asian countries, there are instances of women throwing acid on other women’s faces in order to erase their physical beauty.

The Virginia Tech shooter in 2007 was motivated in part by envy. His so-called multimedia manifesto was laden with expressions of hatred for the rich. “Among the materials was a DVD with 27 QuickTime video files, totaling about 10 minutes, showing Cho talking directly to the camera. He does not name anyone specifically, but he mentions ‘hedonism’ and Christianity, and he talks at length about his hatred of the wealthy,” according to an MSNBC article.

Envy/jealousy is an incredibly powerful emotion and explains a lot of evil in this world. It could help explain one of the most evil actions of recent times, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot to death 20 mostly first graders along with many of their teachers and administrators. According to FoxNews, “Two law enforcement sources said they believed Nancy Lanza had been volunteering with kindergartners at the school. Most of Lanza’s victims were first graders sources believe Nancy Lanza may have worked with last year….Adam Lanza believed she cared more for the children than she did for him….”

If the report is accurate, then it appears Adam Lanza thought his mom loved him less than she loved the kids, prompting him to kill them.

That’s what jealousy does. That’s what envy does. That deadliest of the seven deadly sins gets nowhere near the media attention it deserves. There should be a national discussion on the evil that results from envy, in an effort to try to tamp down on some of the emotions that drive people to do terrible deeds.

Visitors to Air and Space Museum Made Parking Attendant Rich

Have you ever been to the new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va. near D.C. – the one near Dulles Airport that features the Space Shuttle, the Concorde, the Enola Gay, and a lot more? If you did you may recall that the $15 parking fee is a bit steep. You also may not be aware that your money wasn’t necessarily going to help fund the museum. It was going to help fund the lifestyle of the parking attendants.

Smithsonian visitors unknowingly gave Mr. Meseret Terefe a total of nearly $500,000 over the course of his duties. Two other parking attendants were guilty of the same thing.

I live only a mile from the museum. I went there a lot during his three-year tenure, but fortunately he never got any of my money. That’s because of you’re a local like me, you know that parking is free after 4:00 pm, until when the museum closes at 5:30 pm.

Seems he was “unplugging the electronic vehicle counters installed in the parking booths” or “not handing customers a serialized parking ticket to display” in order to pull off his embezzlement.

Still, it makes one wonder. Couldn’t the management of the Air and Space Museum have been more vigilant over those three years? I mean $500,000 – that’s a heck of a lot of revenue to let go down the drain. Couldn’t someone working there have entertained the possibility that an enterprising parking attendant could theoretically get away with something like that, and that therefore he or she should be monitored for possible discrepancies? Couldn’t someone have done an occasional estimate of the number of cars in the parking lot for a given day, and figure out that revenues were far less than what they should have been?

According to court documents, shortly after Terefe started working there in 2009, Ms. Freweyni Mebrahtu told him he was putting her and others at risk by not stealing, because the number of cars he was reporting was higher than others’ reported numbers. Not long after he got on board with the scheme, one of his managers – who court documents only identify as A.H. – insisted on getting half of the ill-gotten gains. Another participant in the scheme was Ms. Genete Yigzu, who according to a Department of Justice spokesperson has since passed away.

If Terefe noticed that the number of cars he was reporting was significantly higher than those of booths manned by other co-workers, why didn’t anyone at Udvar-Hazy or PMI (the parking contractor) notice that as well?

Rule 1 is to always assume or at least entertain the possibility that anyone accepting cash that doesn’t belong to them may not always act honestly, and that extra efforts should be made to keep tabs on that person or persons.

Carrying out periodic visual car counts, especially using video surveillance footage, and comparing that with the number of reported vehicles should have been a no-brainer. Another mistake was badly designed parking booths. The embezzlers unplugged the vehicle counter whenever they pocketed the cash.

So have redundant vehicle counting mechanisms in place, for starters. Separate the vehicle counters from the booths, as well. Do adequate background checks on workers. Consider moving to a non-cash system, like what Metro did in 2004 after millions of dollars went missing from its lots. And keep better tabs on workers, especially those handling cash.

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BTW the museum is known as the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. No, Udvar and Hazy aren’t the names of two great scientists who discovered a comet or whatever. Udvar-Hazy is the last name of the main donor to the museum. A pet peeve of mine is that on the nearby highways, signs for the museum state “Udvar – Hazy Air and Space Museum.” First of all the signs have bad punctuation. It should be Udvar-Hazy not Udvar – Hazy. Second of all, except for one of the newer highway signs on the Beltway near Tysons Corner, nowhere do the signs say that it’s the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. So motorists may be thinking it’s just another air and space museum, not the Smithsonian air and space museum. Talk about poor marketing skills of whoever made the signs,  and of whoever has left the signs that way for the past seven years or however long the museum has been around.

That’s the government for ya.