Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Liberal Love & Lies From MSNBC About Healthcare in Repressive, Socialist Countries

Tom Friedman, the NY Times reporter who openly pines for the authoritarian control possessed by nominally-socialist dictators, which bestows an effectiveness unencumbered by the retrograde necessities of free elections and the rule of law, you’ve got more company.

One of the biggest lies used to impugn U.S. healthcare in particular and the American system of free-enterprise in general is that the infant mortality rate is much lower most everywhere else in the world, especially in those authoritarian, freedomless countries American liberals admire so much. 

Now comes propagandist Andrea Mitchell, who on MSNBC (link) “did a particularly fawning segment about Cuba’s health-care system”, referring to “the advantages of the Cuban system, the low infant-mortality rate, for instance, which is legendary around the world....  As the conversation continued, MSNBC splashed the headline ‘Cuba’s Infant Mortality Rate Is Better than the U.S.’ across the bottom of the screen."

I seriously doubt that anyone outside of the most deluded liberal precincts (which include MSNBC) truly believes that “Cuba’s Infant Mortality Rate Is Better than the U.S.”

From Ramesh Ponnuru (link):
[L]iberal columnist ... Cohen’s top reasons for thinking [the U.S. has] a crummy [healthcare] system are our relatively low life expectancy and our relatively high infant mortality rate....  As conservatives and libertarians have pointed out time and again, the health-care system is not the reason for these statistics. Here’s the way I put it a couple of years ago: “In this country, a premature delivery followed by death would be counted toward the infant-mortality rate; not so in some other countries. And whatever we think of our health-care system, it is not to blame for the fact that America has a lot of car wrecks and homicides. When health economist Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider adjusted for these factors, the U.S. had the highest life expectancy of any developed country. (And they didn’t correct for obesity rates, which would make our advantage look even bigger, just like our waistlines.)”
Scott W. Atlas, M.D., senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at Stanford University Medical Center (link), examines the data and reports and concludes:
The fact is that for decades, the U.S. has shown superior infant-mortality rates using official National Center for Health Statistics and European Perinatal Health Report data — in fact, the best in the world outside of Sweden and Norway, even without correcting for any of the population and risk-factor differences deleterious to the U.S. — for premature and low-birth-weight babies, the newborns who actually need medical care and who are at highest risk of dying.
In summary, the analysis and subsequent comparison of neonatal- and infant-mortality rates have been filled with inconsistencies and pitfalls, problematic definitions, and inaccuracies. Even the use of the most fundamental term, “live births,” greatly distorts infant-mortality rates, because often the infants who die the soonest after birth are not counted as live births outside the United States. In the end, these comparisons reflect deviations in fundamental terminology, reporting accuracy, data sources, populations, and cultural-medical practices — all of which specifically disadvantage the U.S. in international rankings. And unbeknownst to organizations bent on painting a picture of inferior health care in the U.S., the peer-reviewed literature and even the WHO’s own statements agree.
Oh, one more thing about Cuba -- another reason for its supposedly low infant mortality rate, which even to begin with is not believable:  terminating the risky [pregnancies] at what may be the world’s highest abortion rate, with some reports indicating that it is more than 60 percent.” (link)

Let’s see where Mitchell goes for medical care the next time she’s really sick.  Any bets that it’s Cuba?  Where will her doctors have been trained?  Any bets on Cuba, or some other third world country?

Either Andrea Mitchell (like so many other liberals who bash America by falsely embellishing socialist countries) is stupid and unaware of the truth, or she’s lying in furtherance of her greater political cause.  My money’s on the latter. 

John M Greco 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Should Republicans Be a Strong Horse or a Weak One?

The estimable Peter Wehner calls out (link) Rick Santorum for pushing back hard against a New York Times reporter, and appears to endorse the squishy Britt Hume’s take on it all, as opposed to Sarah Palin’s.

I am not a particular fan of Palin, who often does herself no favors despite the horrible smear job she has taken from the liberal media (and sometimes from some conservative media as well, not to mention McCain and his campaign staff), and I have no knowledge of the specific Santorum incident.  However, having said that, it has been "sober, mature, thoughtful and reasonable" milquetoast conservatives, similar in nature to Hume, whose inability or unwillingness to stand up to the leftists and their agenda has enabled Obama and his ilk to bring us to where we are now.  Despite his considerable baggage, Gingrich showed, for a while until he lost his way again, how to push back against the overt and covert biased liberals in the media.  

When politically unknowledgeable or indifferent voters look at the parties, and, as a well-known political operative once said along this line, when they see one that looks like a strong horse and one that looks weak, they are naturally drawn to the strong horse.

John M Greco     

Friday, March 16, 2012

Unilateral Disarmament

During a visit to Afghanistan, Obama's top war leader Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had an audience of about 200 American troops  disarmed (link; link) before entering the large tent to boost their morale.  Panetta's aides brushed it all off as a harmless precaution, saying with all the talk among Democrats back in the States they got a bit mixed-up as to who was on which side, but they think they've got it all straight now, so no harm no foul.  Major General Mark Gurganus, an American, laughed it all off, saying "this is not a big deal," and in an unconfirmed report was heard to say that anyone can make a mistake and that the Panetta team was quickly brought up to speed on the connection between the Obama Administration and the American troops.  All's well that ends well.

John M Greco

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"I pledge allegiance to Barack Obama, and ...."

A Florida Democratic Party county chairwoman flies over Party headquarters an American flag altered with President Obama's image in place of the stars, and sees nothing wrong with that (link), asserting that "certain elements cannot accept Barack Obama as president" and perhaps reasoning that it's easier for Democrats to pledge allegiance to the Leader when his face is on the flag. What a woman -- patriotism and brains.

John M Greco

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Aida at the Lyric

I took in Aida at the Lyric Opera the other day, and I do mean take in, for Aida one needs eyes as well as ears.  Outside of the vault scene perhaps not the most melodic of Italian operas, but is there one with more exotic pageantry?  Well, none that I’ve seen and this year’s offering at the Lyric does not disappoint.  New Lyric General Director Anthony Freud  writes in the guide book that this production is “as sumptuous a vision of this glorious work as you will find in any opera house today.”  Chinese soprano Hui He was fantastic as Aida and received a very warm ovation; the program guide says she’s sung the role many times, including at the Met and the Verona Arena.  Amneris was sung by Russian mezzo-soprano Anna Smirnova, whom Jay Nordlinger in The New Criterion said “sang with aplomb and guts” last season at the Met in Don Carlo, another by Verdi on a large scale.    

I'm fortunate to have seen Pavarotti about 30 years ago at the Lyric as Radames.  The guide book says that this year’s production is the one by Joel/Halmen that premiered with Pavarotti in 1983, but then, I seem to remember, the doomed lovers sang to each other in a vault with the spurned and remorseful Anmeris standing over them, while this time she was beneath them.  Well, either way, the love duet is the musical piece most worth waiting for, and one has to wait a good while – Aida is a long opera.  Once again, no elephants, but stunning visuals, rousing choruses, spectacular processionals, just enough ballet, great voices, and an unbeatable finale – grand opera indeed.

R Balsamo

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Bernini: His Life and His Rome

Bernini: His Life and His Rome
Franco Mormando
University of Chicago, 2011
I’ve recently finished a fascinating account by Boston College professor Franco Mormando of the life of the leading Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini and the Rome in which he lived and worked.  The city in the 17th century was a highly political environment for an artist like Bernini, who maneuvered continually to secure and maintain the patronage of the very worldly Popes and their very rich, often feuding families. In Bernini’s time, Popes funneled much of what wealth they could acquire into public art to impress all with the majesty of the Church in Counter-Reformation Rome.  Rich and noble families such as the Borghese and the Barberini figure large in the story, as do sordid details of the intrigue, corruption, and scandals of Baroque Rome.

Bernini was born in Naples of a Tuscan father, a sculptor himself, and a Neapolitan mother, and is said to have gotten his artistry from the former and his temperament from the latter.  Before long his remarkable talent was discovered in Rome.  He perhaps best defines the Baroque emphasis on natural realism filled with the two elements that most come to my mind when looking at a Bernini sculpture -- emotion and movement.  Although he was primarily a sculptor and architect, he sometimes designed entire artistic presentations, perhaps best illustrated by The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, that combined sculpture, painting, architecture, and decoration into a beautiful whole called “bel composto.”

The backgrounds on his greatest works are well covered:  Apollo and Daphne (which, according to D’Epiro and Pinkowish in Sprezzatura, Bernini considered his “most virtuosic sculpture”), The Rape of Proserpina (Pluto and Persephone), David, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, the Roman Jesuit church Saint’ Andrea al Quirinale (said to be his most self-satisfying composition, and what Mormando calls "the jewel of his architectural crown"), and of course his work at St Peter’s Basilica. 

Bernini became a wealthy man but by late in life he was somewhat reviled in Rome by the commoners as a living symbol of Papal extravagance amidst widespread poverty.  After his death, the Baroque style fell quickly from tastes in favor of the neoclassical, and Bernini’s status seems only to have revived in recent generations.  To me, his work is more appealing than some of the cold and stiff works of Renaissance and neo-classical artists. 

Completing the book over a period of a few weeks, and reading other books and materials concurrently as I typically do, I needed to resort to keeping notes on index cards to keep track of the Popes and other characters as well as Bernini’s major works in each phase of his life.  A detailed time line of events, a glossary of major characters, and a few maps would have helped immensely.  I also would have liked more detail about Bernini’s daily life and his family, with occasional “day in the life” portraits.  Nevertheless, Mormando’s story is engaging, informative, and well-referenced, and attractively bound in a rich cloth cover by the University of Chicago Press.

There is, surprisingly, no public memorial to Bernini in Rome, whose cityscape owes so much to the man’s influence.  Mormando closes by imagining an indignant retort by Bernini’s son and biographer Domenico:  “ ‘You seek a mere marble tomb?  A single, puny plaque?  A lone portrait to contain the memory of so colossal a genius?’  Instead, grandly sweeping his arm across the magnificent panorama of the city of Rome, he invites us with haughty but justifiable pride: ‘If you seek his monument, just look around you!’ ”

R. Balsamo