Sunday, March 28, 2010

Liberal Bias Whopper at CNN – As Plain As the Eye Can See

The liberals in the media usually hide their bias a little better than this – CNN news announcer Fredericka Whitfield, while talking over a shot of a TV camera panning the crowd at a Nevada Tea Party rally that numbers at the very least well into the thousands, if not well over ten thousand, says this: "Hundreds of people, at least dozens of people - we haven't gotten a count of how many people turned out there.”

Repeat – while the TV camera pans a crowd of many, many thousands, at least, she describes the crowd as “hundreds of people, at least dozens of people.”

These little bloopers are always revealing. She forgets that she’s not writing an article for print, where the reader would rely on her representations. She forgets, because she apparently isn’t very bright, that she can’t lie on TV about a picture that we the viewers are also seeing.

Newsbusters has the video here, and Gateway Pundit also weighs in here.

NewsBusters also says that a reporter for the liberal web site Politico estimated the crowd at 20,000, although he then tarred speaker Sarah Palin with the standard liberal “inciting violence” smear; no report that he hurled the other standard liberal smear – that the Tea Partiers are all racists as well. Perhaps he’s saving that one for his next report.

John M Greco

Related Post:

Liberals Who Read Only Liberal Media Don’t Know the Half of What’s Really Going On – Case in Point: The Obama Team’s Bungled Freeman Nomination

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Passage of DemocratCare

* Democrats in the House passed the Senate version on DemocratCare by a vote of 219-212; they needed 216 to pass. Just three votes to spare. Congress has just passed, and Obama has just signed into law today, one of the most momentous bills in American history on a straight single party vote, with not a single Republican vote, by a remarkably slim margin in the House where even many Democrats voted against it. We’ll now find out if a hyper-partisan approach to health care reform can last.

* Democrats have long blamed all ills on George W Bush, but this time it’s my turn. Ronald Reagan left a third term for his legacy, but Bush left us not just Obama but Democrat super-majorities in both Houses of Congress. His mishmash of policies, often confused, inconsistent, and poorly managed, his embrace of the oxymoronic “big government conservatism” that got him and his Republican allies nowhere, his often poor choices in personnel, and most importantly his utter inability to defend his positions and persuade Americans of their merits all led to a devastating wipe out of Republicans over two elections. How different things would be now if there had been all last year only, say, 56 Democrat Senators instead of 60 and 10-15 fewer Democrats in the House; Democrats needed every one of their 60 votes to break a threatened Republican filibuster and bring the Senate health care bill to the floor for a vote, where they then easily got the 51 votes needed to pass. Bush in his second term was weak before his adversaries and left conservatives and independents enervated and angry, and now we live with the consequences.

* The story of how, in Illinois, three Democrats now represent historically Republican districts is instructive, and one I have posted on in the past (link). Big government, back-slapping, go along - get along Denny Hastert, former Republican Speaker, decides to retire mid-term, and a mentally-fogged Republican electorate nominates twice an astoundingly weak perennial candidate who proceeds to lose not one but two elections (a special and a regular biennial) in less than 12 months to a Democrat political newcomer (Foster). In another district, an old, doddering Republican congressman (Crane), the longest serving in Congress at the time, who had stayed around way too long, gets defeated by a smart, young Democrat newcomer (Bean) who runs, as so many of them do, as a fiscal conservative and social moderate – liberal?, hell no. In yet another district, the incumbent Republican congressman (Weller) unexpectedly announces his retirement to run off with his new Latin American bride, the daughter of a former dictator of Guatemala (a puzzling development), and then his hand-picked successor, the winner of the Republican primary to replace him, decides at the last minute not to run after all, leaving a mad dash to find a replacement candidate, a somewhat unskilled newcomer to politics, who loses the seat (to Halvorsen). All had been Republican districts, all now with supposedly “moderate” Democrats, all of whom voted for DemocratCare. That’s three votes just in one state that could’ve and should’ve been Republican but for Republican party ineptness.

* The Stupak fiasco was remarkable. The Michigan Democrat, elected explicitly as “pro-life”, insisted for weeks that he could never support the Senate bill because of its permissive language with regard to government funding of abortions. At the very end, after Speaker Pelosi held firm, he folded and sold out his principles (assuming he had them to begin with) and voted for the Senate bill, hiding behind a meaningless, infinitesimally small fig-leaf executive order Obama issued at the last minute to provide him some cover for his vote. Unfortunately for Stupak, everyone knows the order is meaningless and cannot ever contravene what’s in the Senate bill, and the Democrats laugh at how cheaply he was bought out. By first holding out but then selling out at the very last minute for nothing to a president who is not just pro-abortion but defended infanticide while in the Illinois Senate, Stupak looks like a big ass and now has Democrats who despise him and Republicans who hate him. A remarkable achievement. The 11th hour sell-out by Stupak and the small band of similar supposedly pro-life hold-out Democrats gave Pelosi the votes needed for victory.

* Pelosi’s public relations stunt before the vote, walking around outside with black congressmen while holding the big gavel used during the Congressional civil rights fight decades ago, is a transparent effort to bolster the despicable Democrat strategy to paint everyone opposed to DemocratCare as racist (and the black politicians were happy to allow themselves to be used as props). Moreover, some black congressmen played up the race card, alleging, without documentation or corroboration, they heard racial slurs from tea party demonstrators. Personally I doubt their stories; a very convenient time to shout racism at 30,000 anti-Obamacare protestors. I heard a number of angry liberals call in to conservative talk radio all lathered up and energized about these “facts”, which some conservatives foolishly played into by asserting that most tea partiers are not racist. Sheesh. Playing the race card works and smearing Republican and conservative opponents as racists has long been a basic play in the Democrat playbook, so no doubt we’ll hear many more such smears in the months to come.

* The new law contains an "individual mandate" ordering every American to buy health insurance, said by Democrats to be constitutional under the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce. Never before has the mere act of being alive been regarded as interstate commerce; never before has a law compelled an American to engage in interstate commerce through the purchase of a good or service (in this case, health insurance). If this law survives constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court, where it will inevitably end up, then any and all theories of Constitutional limitations on federal government power are gone, and the United States has truly crossed a threshold and entered the second phase of its existence, one of vastly diminished liberty and unrestrained central government control over our lives.

Repeal and Replace.

John M Greco

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another Hollywood Liberal, This Time Tom Hanks, Runs Off the Rails

Tom Hanks, in a recent Time Magazine interview (link) promoting his new miniseries about the fighting in the Pacific theater of WWII titled “The Pacific,” said the following:
Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?"
Amazing. Yet another example of the self-loathing mindset of some Western liberals, who see the glass of Western culture and history 1/5 empty rather than 4/5 full. Through Hanks we see the liberal dogma of the evil in Western culture and white guilt over past racism, real, exaggerated, or imagined.

Hanks is breathtakingly ignorant of history. He sees racism as a significant part of the American spirit during the war, but ignores how we fought beside and in defense of many East Asians, including, to name only a few, Chinese, Polynesians, Filipinos, and Burmese. How could it possibly be that our motivation to fight the Japanese was based on racism against East Asians? He also ignores or is grossly ignorant of our massive, expensive, and successful effort to rebuild Japan after the war. We rehabilitated the Japanese at great expense even though we wanted to “annihilate” them because they were “‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods”? This is astoundingly incoherent and without historical foundation.

Then, to compound his felony, he projects that same imagined racism on our current war against radical Islamists, implying Americans are fighting this war out of racism toward Muslims, showing more ignorance of many things, not the least of which we fought in the Balkans not long ago to protect Muslims against European Christians.

John Hinderaker of Powerline Blog asks “Does Hollywood Make You Stupid?” (link).

Historian Victor Davis Hanson, in a post at Pajamas Media titled “Is Tom Hanks Unhinged?” (link), writes:
… Hanks’ comments were sadly infantile pop philosophizing offered by, well, an ignoramus. Hanks thinks he is trying to explain the multifaceted Pacific theater in terms of a war brought on by and fought through racial animosity. That is ludicrous….
Despite Hanks’ efforts at moral equivalence in making the U.S. and Japan kindred in their hatreds, America was attacked first, and its democratic system was both antithetical to the Japan of 1941, and capable of continual moral evolution in a way impossible under Gen. Tojo and his cadre. It is quite shameful to reduce that fundamental difference into a “they…us” 50/50 polarity. Indeed, the most disturbing phrase of all was Hanks’ suggestion that the Japanese wished to “kill” us, while we in turn wanted to “annihilate” them…. In short Hanks’s comments are as ahistorical as they are unhinged .…
The interview in Time is by liberal historian Douglas Brinkley and carries the astounding and risible title of “How Tom Hanks Became America's Historian in Chief.” The Hollywood liberals and their media jock-strap sniffers just won’t stop denigrating the United States.

John M Greco

Related Post:
“The Pacific” Premiers – In the First Hour, American Racism & Torture, and Moral Equivalency

Thursday, March 18, 2010

“Scheme & Deem” and Other Democrat Health Care Offenses

We Americans are witnessing an extraordinary grand political passion play unfold before our eyes, beyond our imagination, as the senior leaders of the national Democrat party, supported by the majority of its Congressional delegation, are attempting to muster support for an unpopular health care bill through means ethically offensive, patently deceitful, and arguably unconstitutional.

It has long been clear to the sentient that by all of their actions but by only a few of their words, the intellectual vanguard of the Democrat party consists of committed believers in European-style socialism focused on the outward appearance of economic equality, a race- and gender-driven political spoils system (“social justice”), self-loathing over perceived past white wrongdoing (global “imperialism”), and the gradual replacement of the rule of law by the rule of unelected elites through the “legal” theory of the Living Constitution (in which liberals fool the hoi polloi by pretending to base their redistributive, “social justice” decisions on the actual rule of law). But I don’t think in my lifetime there has ever been such a public, naked display of contempt for our established rules of democratic government. The Democrat leaders are saying that their bill will be a good thing for Americans, and it doesn’t at all matter that a majority of Americans don’t want it, and if the rules of American government have to be subverted in order to achieve their end, so be it.

Yesterday Fox News interviewed Barack Obama, and among other things he was dismissive of concern about the process being discussed that the Democrats might use to claim passage of their health care bill, saying “I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.” This has to be one of the most astounding statements in the history of our Republic. The President of the United States expresses unconcern about the validity, the constitutionality, of the process by which his signature plan, Obamacare, might be enacted.

Ann Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, in a post today (link) expressed so well the horror any lover of the rule of law should feel at Obama’s remarkable statement:
As if procedure is a frivolous sidetrack that only trivial or devious people care about. Barack Obama was a constitutional law professor. Much of constitutional law is about procedural rights and structural safeguards that check power. Justice Felix Frankfurter famously wrote: "The history of American freedom is, in no small measure, the history of procedure." Law professors are seriously engaging with the constitutionality of the "deem and pass," and our erstwhile law professor Barack Obama would imperiously wave procedure aside as a distraction not worthy of his time. Let's concentrate on the end and pay no attention to the means. When the most powerful man in the world says that, we should feel revulsion and alarm.
And so I have documented the crazy, alarming process the Democrats are about to begin for my own personal later reference, since years from now, long after Americans have thrown all these dangerous bums out of office, I think I might scarcely believe it all. It is frightening, and profoundly embarrassing, to me to recognize that what follows might happen for real in America and not in some piece of fiction.

1. Senate Democrats have already passed their version of health care (HC) “reform” – the “Senate” bill. Democrats won a vote to bring the bill to a floor vote 60-39, with all 58 Dems and the two independents (de facto Democrats) voting for cloture; the bill itself passed by majority vote. No Republicans voted either to end debate on the bill or for the bill itself.

2. House Democrats have already passed their version of HC “reform” – the “House” bill. It passed 220-215, with one lone Republican vote, Chao of LA (who now says he will vote against the Senate bill if and when it comes to a House vote).

3. The two bills differ significantly in certain particulars. For example: the House bill exempts unions from higher taxes on “Cadillac” health care benefit plans (which many union members have), a feature lacking in the Senate bill; the Senate bill has all the ugly special “bribes” that were needed to secure specific votes, such as the “Cornhusker Kickback”, the “Louisiana Purchase”, and “Gator Aid” (which exempts Florida, where the Medicare Advantage plan is popular, from the general gutting of Medicare Advantage in the Senate bill); and significantly, the Senate bill has language that is seen as potentially permitting federal funding for abortions, whereas the House bill contains the “Stupak Amendment” (insisted upon for their needed votes by a group of anti-abortion Democrats), which explicitly bans federal funding for abortions, consistent with current law and practice.

4. It is generally believed that the House bill could not pass the Senate, and vice versa. Since it is harder getting a bill through the Senate because of the risk of filibuster, getting the Senate bill through the House is the less difficult approach.

5. The House Democrats cannot secure enough votes to pass the Senate bill straight up as it stands, in significant part because many Democrat representatives do not want to go on record as voting for such extremely unpopular parts of the Senate bill such as the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator Aid. Also, Speaker Pelosi’s assurance to House Democrats that if they voted to pass the Senate bill the House would immediately pass a companion bill that would remove, or fix, the unpopular provisions of the Senate bill has been unpersuasive to many House Democrats for this reason: they fear that these “fixes” would never come to pass because the Senate would be unable to pass some or all of them, even if the Senate Democrats tried to pass such House “fixes” via the risky and uncertain “reconciliation” process. Also, some House Democrats fear (undoubtedly with very good reason) that as soon as they passed the Senate bill, Obama would sign it into law, and thus once some version of Democrat health care reform was law, the political will to ram through certain fixes in the Senate via reconciliation will peter out, and the fixes will never happen.

6. Therefore, the House Dem leadership has concocted a convoluted grand scheme that would have the House Democrats pass the Senate bill without an explicit vote on it and would give House Democrats political cover by allowing them to remove the unpopular parts of the Senate bill at the same time.

7. The House Democrat leadership’s plan, endorsed by Rules Committee Chairwoman Rep Slaughter, is to pass in the House a new “Slaughter Rule” bill that would have two parts: Part 1 would “deem” the Senate bill to have passed the House, and Part 2 would change, or fix, the Senate bill to remove the significant parts that House Democrats find objectionable. This scheme would allow the House Democrats to “pass” the unpopular Senate bill without having to go on record as explicitly voting for it, thus allowing members to assert that they voted for a different bill that removed the unattractive elements of the Senate bill. But, in effect, by voting for the House Slaughter “combo” bill (my terminology), they would be voting for and against the Senate bill at the same time.

8. It seems to me that this Democrat grand “scheme and deem” is predicated in part upon the belief that, once the House combo bill passes, Obama could not sign the Senate bill version of HC reform into law because the House combo bill and the Senate bill would not be the same thing. It has been thought to be settled law that the exact same bill must pass both houses of Congress before the president can sign it into law, but this construct may be about to be challenged. Passing a “Slaughter Rule” combination bill seems to address the fear among some House Democrats that if the House passed the Senate bill as is with only a promise of a future fix, Obama would sign the bill into law and the fix would never happen, either because of political resistance in the Senate or loss of interest by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, who, among other things, all like the weak anti-abortion language of the original Senate bill and would be delighted to declare victory with the Senate bill and move on.

9. If the Slaughter Rule bill were to pass the House, then, as I understand the theory, the Senate would need only to pass the Part 2 (the “fix”) of the House bill, called by some the “reconciliation” bill. Since the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts to fill the vacant seat created by the death of Edward Kennedy, the Democrat caucus only has 59 votes, and it needs 60 votes to break a filibuster and bring the House fix, or reconciliation, bill to the floor for a vote. Thus the talk among Senate Democrats of passing the House fix bill via the controversial tactic of “reconciliation,” which requires only 51 votes to pass and avoids the possibility of filibuster (hence the term “reconciliation” bill).

10. The problem with the grand scheme at this point is that there is no guarantee that the Senate rules would allow all of the “fixes” in the House “combo” bill to be passed via the reconciliation process (the abortion language is regarded as a good example), and if the House fix bill could not pass the Senate in its entirety, then there would be no Democrat HC bill that Obama could sign into law, which would leave the House Democrats hanging with a vote on this cockamamie scheme that ultimately failed in the Senate.

11. For the Democrats, this grand scheme is further complicated by the fact that the Senate rule appears to be that the reconciliation process can only be used to modify an existing law, not simply a previously passed Senate bill. If this interpretation were to hold up, then the Democrat scheme fails, for the House would have needed to have passed the original Senate bill as is and Obama would have had to have signed the Senate bill into law before the “fix” bill, desired by many House Democrats, could be passed in the Senate via the reconciliation process.

12. For the Democrats, even ignoring the problems with trying to pass the House “fix” bill in the Senate via reconciliation, their hope for the grand scheme is also significantly challenged by the fact that many people think that the scheme is unconstitutional, for the Senate and the House would not have passed the same piece of legislation, as they would bring to Obama’s desk the original Senate bill, the House Combo bill, and the Senate fix, or reconciliation, bill (assuming that the Senate passes the fix part of the House bill exactly as it is worded in the House bill). Obama would need to sign all three, but not one of the three would have passed both houses of Congress. If the Senate Democrats revised the original Senate bill to incorporate the House “fixes,” even if there were the votes for this, then still such a revised Senate bill would not be the same piece of legislation that the House combo bill would be, thus again the constitutional problem of Obama trying to sign into law a House bill and a Senate bill that are not the exact same piece of legislation.

Of course, Democrat leaders may twist just enough arms and extend just enough bribes to get a majority of House Democrats to pass the Senate bill straight up as is, without the “scheme and deem,” which Obama could then sign into law. But if they were able to pass it this way up till now, they would have already done it this way, the normal, straightforward, constitutional way.

The hallmark of liberalism in America used to be the defense of legal procedure and the rule of law as the surest way to protect liberty. The contemporary leaders of the Democrat party are turning that notion on its head as their pursuit of power now trumps historic procedural safeguards. It’s not much more of a step for a political party one day to just dispense with all this procedural rigmarole and declare their bill the law of the land and call out the troops. It’s happened before, just not here.

John M Greco

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An American Story: Blindness in Preemies, Oxygen Therapy, and Helen Keller -- Dr Arnall Patz

Today’s Wall Street Journal contains an obituary (link) of a remarkable man, Dr Arnall Patz, and a remarkable anecdote about that remarkable man.

It is a long-standing pearl among medical students that pure oxygen therapy for breathing difficulty in premature infants puts them at risk for blindness caused by retrolental fibroplasia. The man who discovered that connection, Dr Arnall Patz, died last week.

Stephen Miller reports in the WSJ:
Arnall Patz helped solve the riddle of how 10,000 babies went blind. Dr. Patz, who died [on March 21st] at age 89, was the … ophthalmologist who in 1954 showed that treating premature babies with pure oxygen had the unexpected result of destroying eyesight in some. By the simple expedient of regulating oxygen levels inside incubators, the epidemic was quelled. "Never in the history of ophthalmology has a blinding condition become so quickly widespread and equally rapidly been abolished," wrote Sir Stewart Duke-Elder, a Scottish ophthalmologist, in the 1970s.
A epidemic of retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) seemed to have grown up just as treatments for preemies had improved. By the time of Dr. Patz's investigations in the early 1950s, an estimated 10,000 children had been blinded in the U.S. and abroad…. Ophthalmologists were searching for a cause in the way preemies were treated—possible culprits included vitamins and hormones. Dr. Patz, a resident at Washington's Gallinger Municipal Hospital, nearly didn't manage to bring his study off, because it involved experimenting on babies, and because the idea that oxygen could cause harm was so counterintuitive. The gas provided obvious benefits for preemies, often turning them to a healthy pink from blue in the incubator. "It had become standard practice to put babies in incubators and crank up the oxygen," he said in a 2004 interview with the Baltimore Sun.
Having failed to obtain a grant, Dr. Patz borrowed funds from his family and demonstrated that oxygen could cause blindness in opossums, rats and kittens. The gas did this by causing blood vessels in the eye to became overdeveloped, damaging the retina. The scientific community was skeptical. "These guys are going to kill a lot of babies by anoxia to test a wild idea," warned grant referees for the National Institutes of Health.
By turning down the oxygen on half the infants in his study, Dr. Patz was able to demonstrate that oxygen therapy had caused the epidemic. A wider study confirmed his results and was announced in 1954.
One man is challenged by a problem, thinks through a solution on his own (and his family’s) dime, and dramatically improves the lives of thousands. A great American story, a great human story.

Soon after his discovery, Dr Patz met Helen Keller:
Just two years after the RLF results were announced, in 1956, Dr. Patz and another researcher, Everett Kinsey, who performed the wider study, were given the Lasker Award for clinical research. Also honored was Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine.
Helen Keller presented Dr. Patz's award in a ceremony in Atlantic City, N.J. Ms. Keller seemed nervous, Dr. Patz later told his son, Jonathan Patz. She kept feeling the inscribed nameplate on the statuette. After she handed it to Dr. Patz, he realized why: Someone had given her Dr. Salk's statuette instead of Dr. Patz's.
Dr Arnall Patz, a great American, RIP.

Richard Balsamo

Monday, March 15, 2010

“The Pacific” Premiers – In the First Hour, American Racism & Torture, and Moral Equivalency

The first episode of the Hanks/Spielberg Miniseries “The Pacific” aired last night. Oh boy.

Responsible for two pre-9/11 extremely well-done war stories set in the European Theater of WWII – “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers,” the duo returns with an ambitious drama about a group of Marines in the Pacific Theater.

After the obligatory home front background vignettes, the action starts at Guadalcanal, with the story centered on a thoughtful new Marine who wants to be a writer and who had a very cold send off from his father. We hear many racist references to the Japanese uttered by a number of different guys. We see the Americans isolate a Japanese soldier in a shallow stream and torture him with non-fatal rifle shots until the Thoughtful Marine compassionately shoots him dead, thereby establishing him as the Moral One (in contrast to many of his fellow Marines). We see this Thoughtful, Moral Marine find and reflect over some possessions in a dead Japanese soldier’s bag -- a picture of that soldier and a young woman, a small figure (? a religious object) – which establishes the humanness of the enemy and suggests the moral equivalence of the combatants.

Hanks has created a stir with his recent comments emphasizing the racism of Americans toward the Japanese in WWII, because, says Hanks, the Japanese were so different in appearance and in culture. To many commentators, Hanks has magnified such feelings way out of proportion to historical reality, while ignoring, either from ignorance or design borne of ideology, the fact that Americans fought closely along side many other East Asian ethnicities (e.g., Filipinos, Chinese, Burmese), the tremendous cruelty of the Japanese (e.g., the “Rape of Nanking” and the Bataan Death March), the fact that America was viciously attacked without warning, and the tremendous kindness and effort with which Americans rebuilt Japan after the war. Furthermore, Hanks analogized the views of the American Marines toward the Japanese in WWII to what he feels are current racism-tinged wars in the Middle East today.

In what are probably less than the first 30 minutes of combat sequences in this miniseries, we see the particularly-post-9/11 liberal view that American servicemen, just regular, typical Americans, are often racists and torturers, and are morally equivalent with the enemy. Was every single Marine in WWII the paragon of virtue? Perhaps not, but by all accounts almost every one did his duty in a decent way under tremendous pressure, and yet Hanks and Spielberg chose to portray racism and torture in just the first episode. It’s very hard to understand where their minds have gone off to, and why.

John M Greco

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Legitimate Fury Over Obama’s Dept of Justice Gitmo Lawyers

There’s a significant controversy (link; link; link) raging about Obama’s Attorney General Holder’s resistance to releasing the names of lawyers he has hired to work in the Obama Justice Dept. who previously represented Gitmo detainees. By now, some names have been released. Defenders of the Holder and Obama have asserted that all “defendants” are entitled to representation and as such questions about past legal work of Obama/Holder Justice Dept. attorneys are inappropriate. But this response is a “straw man”, since no one critical of Holder has argued that “defendants” are not entitled to representation.

The invaluable Andy McCarthy at National Review Online explains that the concern is that these attorneys, while almost certainly not agreeing with the terrorists’ use of violence, may broadly agree with the terrorists’ view about the evils of Western culture, rooted as it is in such principles as individual liberty, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and freedom of speech. These principles are in conflict with the fundamentals of Islam, in which Islamic law is the organizing principle of society, devoid of such Western concepts as separation of church and state and freedom of speech.

The deep concern is that attorneys who have been an active part of what David Horowitz has called the “Unholy Alliance” between radical Islam and the American left are now in senior positions in the Obama Justice Department. Andy McCarthy writes (link):
…[J]ihadist terrorists, and Islamist ideology in general, hold that the United States is the root of all evil in the world, that it is the beating heart of capitalist exploitation of society’s have-nots, and that it needs fundamental, transformative change. This … is why Islam and the Left collaborate so seamlessly. They don’t agree on all the ends and means….. But before they can impose their utopias, Islamists and the Left have a common enemy they need to take down: the American constitutional tradition of a society based on individual liberty, in which government is our servant, not our master. It is perfectly obvious that many progressive lawyers are drawn to the jihadist cause because of common views about the need to condemn American policies and radically alter the United States.
That doesn’t make any lawyer unfit to serve. It does, however, show us the fault line in the defining debate of our lifetime, the debate about what type of society we shall have. And that political context makes everyone’s record fair game. If lawyers choose to volunteer their services to the enemy in wartime, they are on the wrong side of that fault line, and no one should feel reluctant to say so.
Americans have a right to know and should want to know about the past activities and current beliefs of attorneys who are now in senior positions in the Obama Justice Department.

John M Greco

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Illinois Wins a Silver Medal in Fiscal Irresponsibility, Narrowly Missing a Gold, But Beats Out New Yorkers

Cynical fans of Illinois politics, a popular spectator sport, will feel chagrined at hearing that their home state just missed out to California for a gold medal in fiscal irresponsibility.

Thomas Donlan, in an editorial comment (link) on the woeful state of state finances in today’s Barron’s Magazine, offers, from a Pew Center report, comparative state data on an interesting metric of state insolvency: compared to the state’s amount of “spending necessary to continue all services and give expected salary and benefit increases,” what is that state’s projected revenue shortfall [for I presume this fiscal year]? California takes the gold medal at a 49% shortfall, but the hardy Illinoisans, led by the big spending pols from the Second City, grabbed the Silver medal in a close second place finish with 47%. Arizona, surprisingly at least to me, placed with 41%, and those big-shot easterners from New York and New Jersey were relative pikers at 32% and 29% respectively. It isn’t easy designing a spending plan twice the size of your income, but Illinois pols managed to do it and outshine New York in the process. Kudos.

And just the other day we received more data on just how much government workers cost us taxpayers. For years it was an accepted truth that government workers were paid less than their private sector counterparts in return for less threat of job loss from layoffs and a solid, if not better, retirement package. And we now know that this is no longer true, and hasn’t been for a while. USA Today just released a report (link), based on its own detailed analysis of federal data, on how much more federal workers make relative to the private sector: they make more in wages, more in benefits, and have a much better retirement deal, all with practically no threat of workforce downsizing. Anyone surprised? State and local workers also have higher total benefit packages than private workers in comparable jobs.

In response to my post (link) the other day on the wreak that is the Illinois state balance sheet, friend and reader The Good Doctor, a political independent, comments:
Mr. Greco and I agree. [T]here [sh]ould be no support for any politician who is not working to cut spending, including cutting the "off limits" existing pension programs for current employees. Yes, of course they will say it is impossible because you have to change laws, but what kind of government says to citizens that we are going to tax you more for [excessive] incomes for [retirees]? [T]he greater-than-private-sector salaries and benefits have not resulted in more efficiency or productivity [in state government], so what do we have for [the gold-plated state benefit packages]? My belief is, and one could probably argue from data, that productivity is hurt by such a give away.
I agree that these politicians (of all stripes) have ruined government finances to the detriment of all except those who receive the largess and who get the votes. In other words, not the citizens of the state.
John M Greco

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Obama’s a Hypocrite When It Comes To His Own Health Care

Like most statist, big-government elites, Obama apparently feels he is above the rules promulgated by fellow intellectual-vanguardists and by which the rest of us must live.

As part of his recent physical check-up, Obama chose as the screening test for colon cancer a “virtual” colonoscopy, which is essentially a CT scan of the colon, rather than an actual colonoscopy, the standard, recommended test which consists of a direct visualization of the lining of the colon by a doctor using a flexible tube with fiber optics.

Why? Presumably because it’s easier on the patient. The problem: The test is not recommended by the US Preventive Task Force, whose recommendations drive coverage in government programs and greatly influence coverage in private plans. Obama’s test is not covered by Medicare. Furthermore, most plans won’t cover such colon cancer screening tests for normal-risk individuals under age 50; Obama is 48 years old, and there’s no information I have seen to suggest he has a family history of colon cancer that places him at above-average risk.

This episode reinforces what we all know – that government elites know that whatever health care rules come to exist under socialized medicine won’t apply to them. Note the recent story of a Canadian provincial premier who chose to have necessary cardiac surgery in the United States, with his own money, rather than rely on the quality and efficiency of his own country’s system of medical care; Mark Steyn commented (link) on the Premier's statement that "it's my health, it's my choice": "the Canadian state does not accept that proposition, which is why, if a Canadian such as Mr Williams wishes to exercise his choice he is obliged to leave the country."

David Whelan wrote at Forbes Magazine online (link):
President Obama talks a lot about how Americans should hold the line on health costs by following evidence-based medicine and not rushing to embrace every new high-tech medical device. But when it comes to his own body, it turns out that he won't drink his own medicine…. Last year Medicare made the controversial decision to skip paying for these [“virtual colonoscopy” CT] scans, saying the evidence was too thin…. The decision showed how comparative effectiveness research, which the President funded in last year's stimulus bill and continues to champion, might lead to tough decisions to block certain kinds of expensive tests and treatments.
Dr. Mark E. Klein commented in the Wall Street Journal (link):
In 2008, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a report that found that there was not enough evidence to determine whether Medicare should cover virtual colonoscopies. Medicare based its decision not to cover the virtual exam on the task force's findings.
I applaud the president. He and his physicians correctly recognized virtual colonoscopy as an excellent alternative to screen for colon cancer. Why undergo a traditional colonoscopy—a procedure that carries a risk of serious complication and requires sedation—when a safer screening method is available?
Of course, the problem is that Americans over the age of 65 do not currently enjoy the same option. They cannot have a virtual colonoscopy unless they are willing to pay out of their own pockets for it. You can imagine their surprise to learn that the president had personally chosen a procedure that his own administration had decided did not warrant Medicare coverage.
This is one reason why Americans fear a government-backed health plan. They have been told that such a plan would not affect the availability of high-tech diagnostic tests and treatment, but their eyes tell them otherwise.

John M Greco

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Illinois’ Unnecessary Budget Crisis & Irresponsible Solutions

Illinois is said by all to have one of the most serious budget crises of all the states, with a balance sheet deficit between $11.5 and $13 billion relative to an annual budget (read spending plan) of about $28 million (WSJ; WSJ; Dennis Byrne; Dennis Byrne). The politicians’ technique is simple. First, recklessly spend borrowed money you’re not sure you can ever pay back on Democrat special interest groups (i.e., unionized government and education employees, with their way-beyond-private-sector salaries and pension plans, and the poor on Medicaid). Then, when revenue and budget trickery fail, declare a crisis. Then, while making superficial and largely symbolic spending cuts that don’t touch the major spending categories linked to those interest groups, declare any cuts to those special groups “off limits” and enact symbolic spending cuts to highly visible functions like state park hours. Then, in ponderous tones echoed by the liberal media, declare that a tax hike is the only answer to fix the Illinois budget.

We’ve seen this kabuki theater routine when the state income tax was first passed and then when the rate was raised from 2.5% to 3%. Each time politicians assured Illinois taxpayers that the extra revenue would fix things for good. Of course, all that extra tax revenue did was reset the cycle – spend, spend, borrow, and tax; repeat cycle in perpetuity.

Here are just a few astounding facts about Illinois’ finances I’ve gathered from my clippings:

* From 1998 through 2008, despite revenue that has gone up by many billions, spending has skyrocketed: per capita state expenditures after inflation have climbed almost 47% while the state population has grown only 4%.
* Medicaid is almost 30% of the current spending plan. Note, however, that since 2000 the state's Medicaid rolls have gone up 59% while the state’s population has grown only about 4% (link).
* Illinois has the most underfunded public pension plan of all the states, with a deficit that some say is now approaching $50 billion. Note, however: According to a recent Cato Institute report, state and local employees in the U.S. earn $1.45 for every dollar private workers earn; state workers get $2.18 in health benefits for every one dollar private-sector counterparts receive; public-sector workers receive $6.95 in defined-benefit pension benefits for ever dollar given to private-sector workers. And, to add insult to injury, “some states allow workers to retire early, begin to collect a pension, and then go back to work for the state at their old job, earning a salary as well as a pension” (link). This is now unaffordable and unconscionable.

Of course, it is widely reported that Illinois already has a requirement to balance its budget each year. But each year the politicians dissemble and through budget trickery of dubious ethicality spend way more than available revenues in violation of the law but yet are never held accountable. This must change. Carefully thought-out proposals have been advanced (Illinois Policy Institute; Illinois Policy Institute; Chicago Tribune) without the tax increases touted by Democrats.

From my view, there should be no increases in taxes or other fees, which would just reset the pernicious cycle perpetrated for a generation by Democrats aided and abetted by some Republicans. There should be serious cuts in the spending plan to reverse a decade of unwarranted and irresponsible increases, with no area of spending off-limits. Illinois spendaholic politicians have ruined this state’s finances to buy crass political power through what amounts to bribery of segments of the electorate, and giving them more taxes to misspend won’t do the state's productive taxpayers any good.

John M Greco

Related Post:

Illinois' New Governor Proposes a 50% Tax Hike To Close Budget Gap Caused By Years of Reckless Overspending