Saturday, March 06, 2010

Alice in Medical Care: Part IV

By Thomas Sowell
http://www.townhall.com/
March 5, 2010

Some years ago, one of my favorite doctors retired. On my last visit to his office, he took some time to explain to me why he was retiring early and in good health.

Being a doctor was becoming more of a hassle as the years went by, he said, and also less fulfilling. It was becoming more of a hassle because of the increasing paperwork, and it was less fulfilling because of the way patients came to him.

He was currently being asked to Xerox lots of records from his files, in order to be reimbursed for another patient he was treating. He said it just wasn't worth it. Whoever was paying-- it might have been an insurance company or the government-- would either pay him or not, he said, but he wasn't going to jump through all those hoops.

My doctor said that doctor-patient relationships were not the same as they had been when he entered the profession. Back then, people came to him because someone had recommended him to them, but now increasing numbers of people were sent to him because they had some group insurance plan that included his group.

He said that the mutual confidence that was part of the doctor-patient relationship was not the same with people who came to his office only because his name was on some list of eligible physicians.

The loss of one doctor-- even a very good doctor-- may not seem very important in the grand scheme of heady medical care "reform" and glittering phrases about "universal health care." But making the medical profession more of a hassle for doctors risks losing more doctors, while increasing the demand for treatment.

A study published in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of Law & Economics showed that a rise in the cost of medical liability insurance led to more reductions of hours of medical service supplied by older doctors than among younger doctors.

Younger doctors, more recently out of medical school and often with huge debts to pay off for the cost of that expensive training, may have no choice but to continue working as hard as possible to try to recoup that huge investment of money and time.

Younger doctors will probably continue working, even if bureaucrats load them down with increasing amounts of paperwork and the government continues to lower reimbursements for Medicare, Medicaid and-- heaven help us-- the new proposed "universal health care" legislation that is supposed to "bring down the cost of medical care."

The confusion between lowering costs and refusing to pay the costs can have a real impact on the supply of doctors. The real costs of medical care include both the financial conditions and the working conditions that will insure a continuing supply of both the quantity and the quality of doctors required to maintain medical care standards for a growing number of patients.

Although younger doctors may be trapped in a profession that some of them might not have entered if they had known in advance what all its pluses and minuses would turn out to be, there are two other important groups who are in a position to decide whether or not it is worth it.

Those who are old enough to have paid off their medical school debts long ago, and successful enough that they can afford to retire early, or to take jobs as medical consultants, can opt out of the whole elaborate third-party payment system and its problems. What the rising costs of medical liability insurance has already done for some, other hassles that bureaucracies and politicians create can have the same effect for others.

There is another group that doesn't have to put up with these hassles.
These are young people who have reached the stage in their lives when they are choosing which profession to enter, and weighing the pluses and minuses before making their decisions.

Some of these young people might prefer becoming a doctor, other things being equal. But the heady schemes of government-controlled medicine, and the ever more bloated bureaucracies that these heady schemes will require, can make it very unlikely that other things will be equal in the medical profession.

Paying doctors less and hassling them more may be some people's idea of "lowering the cost of medical care," but it is instead refusing to pay the costs-- and taking the consequences.

- Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Obamacare worth the price to Democrats

By MARK STEYN
The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/sections/opinion/
2010-03-05 10:35:13

So there was President Obama, giving his bazillionth speech on health care, droning yet again that "now is the hour when we must seize the moment," the same moment he's been seizing every day of the week for the past year, only this time his genius photo-op guys thought it would look good to have him surrounded by men in white coats.

Why is he doing this? Why let "health" "care" "reform" stagger on like the rotting husk in a low-grade creature feature who refuses to stay dead no matter how many stakes you pound through his chest?

Because it's worth it. Big time. I've been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible. In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally "conservative" parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect (Let's not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a "conservative").

The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless.

Republicans seem to have difficulty grasping this basic dynamic. Less than three months ago, they were stunned at the way the Democrats managed to get 60 senators to vote for the health bill. Then Scott Brown took them back down to 59, and Republicans were again stunned to find the Dems talking about ramming this thing into law through the parliamentary device of "reconciliation." And, when polls showed an ever larger number of Americans ever more opposed to Obamacare (by margins approaching three-to-one), Republicans were further stunned to discover that, in order to advance "reconciliation," Democrat reconsiglieres had apparently been offering (illegally) various cosy Big Government sinecures to swing-state congressmen in order to induce them to climb into the cockpit for the kamikaze raid to push the bill through. The Democrats understand that politics is not just about Tuesday evenings every other November, but about everything else, too.

A year or two back, when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing north of the border by taking me to the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission, a number of outraged American readers wrote to me, saying, "You need to start kicking up a fuss about this, Steyn, and then maybe Canadians will get mad and elect a conservative government that will end this nonsense."

Makes perfect sense. Except that Canada already has a Conservative government under a Conservative prime minister, and the very head of the "human rights" commission investigating me was herself the Conservative appointee of a Conservative minister of justice. Makes no difference.

Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever-expanding number of government jobs will be statists – sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily "compassionate" statists, but always statists. The short history of the post-war welfare state is that you don't need a president-for-life if you've got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect "conservatives," as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the Left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who, for tuppence-ha'penny or some such, would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place.

Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV, crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it's so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.

OK, then what? You'll roll it back – like you've rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you've undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel'n'dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus:

"Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?"

Indeed. Look at it from the Dems' point of view. You pass Obamacare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years. And you come back in 2012 to find your health care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier. That's a huge prize, and well worth a midterm timeout.

I've been bandying comparisons with Britain and France, but that hardly begins to convey the scale of it. Obamacare represents the government annexation of "one-sixth of the U.S. economy" – i.e., the equivalent of the entire British or French economy, or the entire Indian economy twice over. Nobody has ever attempted this level of centralized planning for an advanced society of 300 million people. Even the control-freaks of the European Union have never tried to impose a unitary "comprehensive" health care system from Galway to Greece. The Soviet Union did, of course, and we know how that worked out.

This "reform" is not about health care, and certainly not about "controlling costs." As with Medicare, it "controls" costs by declining to acknowledge them, or pay them. Dr. William Schreiber of North Syracuse, N.Y., told CNN that he sees 120 patients per week – about 30 percent on Medicare, 65 private on private insurance plans whose payments take into account the Medicare reimbursement rates, and about 5 percent who do it the old-fashioned way and write a check. He calculates that, under Obamacare, for every $5 he now makes, he'll get $2 in the future. Which suggests now would be a good time to retrain as a realtor or accountant, or the night clerk at the convenience store. Yet Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., justifies her support for Obamacare this way:

"I even had one constituent – you will not believe this, and I know you won't, but it's true – her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister's teeth."

Is the problem of second-hand teeth a particular problem in this corner of New York? I haven't noticed an epidemic of ill-fitting dentures on recent visits to the Empire State. George Washington had wooden teeth, but, presumably, these days the Sierra Club would object to the clear-cutting. Yet, even granting Congresswoman Slaughter the benefit of the doubt, is annexing the equivalent of a G7 economy the solution to what would seem to be the statistically unrepresentative problem of her constituent's ill-fitting choppers? Is it worth reducing the next generation of Americans to indentured servitude to pay for this poor New Yorker's dentured servitude?

Yes. Because government health care is not about health care, it's about government. Once you look at it that way, what the Dems are doing makes perfect sense. For them.

© MARK STEYN

Friday, March 05, 2010

Millions For the Sex Predator, Death For His Victim

by Roger Hedgecock
http://www.humanevents.com/
03/05/2010

Just a quick jog between a long school day and family dinner. For 17 year old Chelsea King, a familiar route in a neighborhood park. For this A student and symphony orchestra member, another great day in the San Diego suburbs. Her last day. She never came home. She never will.

After a 5 day search of the area by family, friends, several thousand volunteers, and multiple law enforcement agencies, Chelsea's body was found in a shallow grave near the jogging track. DNA recovered from her underwear found nearby identified a registered sex offender who has now been charged with Chelsea's rape and murder.

John Albert Gardner III is escorted by sheriff deputies as he glances toward the judge at an arraignment where he pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the case involving teenager Chelsea King in a San Diego Superior Courtroom Wednesday March 3, 2010 in San Diego.
(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)


The sex offender was not at his registered address in Lake Elsinore, (Riverside County) CA, but was visiting family in the Lake Hodges (San Diego) area where the park and jogging path is located.

This wasn't the first time for the sex offender. He pled guilty to molesting and beating up a 13 year old neighbor girl in May 2000.

In that case, the court ordered a psychiatric evaluation which was done by Dr. Matthew Carroll. His report called the perp a "continued danger to underage girls in the community" and an "extremely poor candidate" for treatment. In conclusion, Dr. Carroll urged "the maximum sentence allowed by law".

That sentence was 11 years in state prison. While the San Diego District Attorney's prosecutors sentencing memo incorporates Dr. Carroll's findings and notes that the predator "never expressed one scintilla of remorse for his attack upon the victim", despite overwhelming evidence of guilt.
Nonetheless, the prosecutors recommended just 6 years. The predator was released after 5. In the wake of the Chelsea King killing, law enforcement is looking at a number of unsolved attacks on young girls and women in the same area since his release.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. It's part of an epidemic that terrifies parents and their kids everywhere in this country.

In California alone, more than a quarter of the 8,750 registered sex offenders released from prison are not living at the registered address or are homeless. Another 900 sex offenders are not registered at all despite being legally required to do so.

Longer sentences, post sentence mandatory treatment, chemical castration, voter initiatives named after past victims of these predators--it's not working.

Jessica's Law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of a school or park. Megan's Law puts the registered address of a sex offender on a website to advise the public of their whereabouts. Expressing the then prevailing Liberal attitude, Megan's Law was opposed by outgoing San Diego Sheriff, Bill Kolender as violating the sex offender's "right to privacy".

These laws have widespread public support, but the result is the opposite of public expectation. Experience now shows that there is less protection for our kids as more sex offenders claim homelessness and the 16 member California Sex Offender Management Board provides (at taxpayer expense) group homes for sex offenders in residential neighborhoods.


Chelsea King

In other words, in California, taxpayers spend millions in the search and recovery of victims, millions more for the investigation and trial of the sex offender, and then millions more for incarceration, rehabilitation, and parole. But no matter how many laws are passed by the Legislature or by the voters by Initiative petition, and no matter how much money is spent, the result is more predators, more raped and dead kids, and more terrified and angry neighborhoods.

The System of bloated bureaucracies provides lengthy and expensive "justice" for the predator--but does not protect our kids.

In Washington D.C., there are too-numerous-to-count groups to protect the condor, the polar bear, and the wolf. There's a great effort to track and document the numbers and the movement of these precious animals. Where are the groups tracking and documenting the wolves who prey on our children ?

Not too long ago in our country, molesting a child resulted in death to the molester--swift and sure justice for the victim and the victim's family. In those old days, incidents of child sex predators were few and far between. Not any more. The liberal faith in rehabilitation and opposition to punishment of criminals coupled with a sex saturated culture has produced an epidemic of sex predators aimed right at our kids.

Protecting children from violent sex predators should be the highest priority for government. Pretending to do so while pandering to liberal constituencies, building huge union dues paying indifferent bureaucracies, and allowing the problem to get so much worse has enraged the public.

It's time for action. Find, register, and monitor every released sex predator. Execute child rapists. Send child molesters to prison for life.

In Chelsea King's name, stop the charade. Protect the kids. Let Chelsea be the last victim of a sex predator and the System that released him.

Roger Hedgecock is a nationally-syndicated radio talk host. Visit rogerhedgecock.com. The Roger Hedgecock Show is syndicated on the Radio America network.

Alice in Health Care: Part III

by Thomas Sowell
http://townhall.com/
Thursday, March 04, 2010

With all the controversies, charges, counter-charges and buzzwords swirling around the issue of medical care in the United States, there is a lot to be said for going back to square one and asking just what is the fundamental problem.

President Barack Obama, flanked by health care professionals Barbara Crane, left, and Stephen Hanson, speaks about health care reform, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The quality of the medical care itself is not the problem. Few-- if any-- countries can match American medical training, medical technology or the development of life-saving pharmaceutical drugs in the United States. Most countries with government-controlled medical care cannot come close to matching how fast an American can get medical treatment, particularly from specialists.

Political hype is no reason to throw all that away. In fact, policies based on political hype over the years are what have gotten us into what is most wrong with medical care today-- namely, the way it is paid for.

Insurance companies or the government pay directly for most of the costs of most medical treatment in the United States. That is virtually a guarantee that more people will demand more medical treatment than they would if they were paying directly out of their own pockets, instead of paying indirectly in premiums and taxes.

Since people who staff either insurance company bureaucracies or government bureaucracies have to be paid, this is not bringing down the cost of medical care, but adding to it.

What also adds to the costs are politicians at both state and federal levels who mandate additional benefits to be paid for by insurance companies, thereby driving up the cost of insurance.

If medical insurance simply covered risks-- which is what insurance is all about-- that would be far less expensive than covering completely predictable things like annual checkups. Far more people could afford medical insurance, thereby reducing the ranks of the uninsured.

But all the political incentives are for politicians to create mandates forcing insurance companies to cover an ever increasing range of treatments, and thereby forcing those who buy insurance to pay ever higher premiums to cover the costs of these mandates.

That way, politicians can play Santa Claus and make insurance companies play Scrooge. It is great political theater. Politicians who are pushing for a government-controlled medical care system say that it will "keep insurance companies honest." The very idea of politicians keeping other people honest ought to tell us what a farce this is. But if we keep buying it, they will keep selling it.

One of the ways of reducing the costs of medical insurance would be to pass federal legislation putting an end to state regulation of insurance companies. That would instantly eliminate thousands of state mandates, which force insurance to cover everything from wigs to marriage counseling, depending on which special interests are influential in which states.

It would also promote nationwide competition among insurance companies-- and competition keeps prices down better than politicians will. Moreover, competition can bring down the costs behind the prices, in part by forcing less efficient insurance companies out of business.

Another very real and very big cost behind the high prices for medical treatment are the many forms of expensive "defensive medicine" that doctors and hospitals have to practice, in order to avoid being sued by unscrupulous lawyers. Expensive and unnecessary tests and treatments cost even more than the multimillion dollar awards that clever lawyers can get from gullible juries.

Tightening up the laws, so that junk science does not prevail in courts, would create some real savings in medical costs. But, since plaintiff's lawyers are big financial contributors to the Democratic Party, that is unlikely to happen during this administration.

Finally, there are costs that are high because people want medical care in more comfortable surroundings-- a private room rather than a bed in a ward, for example-- and are willing to pay for that. This is more common among Americans.

There is no reason for others to interfere with that, just because of a mindless mantra of "bringing down the cost of medical care" or class warfare rhetoric about "Cadillac health plans."

- Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Son of Hamas Founder Speaks of Islam

Posted by Calvin Freiburger on Mar 5th, 2010
http://www.frontpagemag.com/

Visit Newsreal

Pamela Geller is calling attention to a major “Hannity” segment Fox News aired last night: an interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, an ex-Muslim for whom “whistleblower” is the Understatement of the Year:



Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of a jailed Hamas terrorist leader and MP, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, the most popular figure in that extremist Islamic organization. Mosab, as a young man, assisted his father for years in his political activities. He converted to Christianity and operated undercover in the service of Israel’s intelligence agency for a decade. Yousef reveals this information in an upcoming book, Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices.

In other words, not somebody who can be dismissed as some bigoted right-wing fear-monger, but somebody whose opinion was shaped by years of personal experience and what must have been agonizing soul-searching. And what is his conclusion? Not only does he unequivocally condemn the murderous ways of Hamas, but he also has harsh words for Islam itself:

Mosab Hassan Yousef: “The god of the Koran hates Jews anyway, if there was “occupation” or not”

The problem is with the god of Islam”

“this is not about being brainwashing, this is how people grow up everything around you in that society school, street every evet is telling you those facts about Islam.”

[...]

Hannity: We keep hearing about that there is a distinction, the difference between radical Islam and mainstream Islam

Mosab Hassan Yousef: This is a big mistake. Comparing between moderate Muslims and fanatics. This is not how we compare it. All Muslims to me are the same. At the end of the day they believe in thegod of the koran and they believe that this koran is from that god.

Hannity: You’re saying that most Muslims think that jihad is where they need to go

Mosab Hassan Yousef: It’s not their choice. If they believe that the koran is from the word of god ………..

Hannity: So let me ask this again. So when people talk about moderate Islam, you’re saying it doesn’t exist?

Mosab Hassan Yousef: It doesn’t exist.

At this point, many will object to Mosab’s denial of the very existence of moderate Muslims, and not without reason—there’s the Free Muslims Coalition, there’s Irshad Manji, and as Ryan Mauro recently highlighted, there’s the UK’s Sheikh Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, who just issued a comprehensive fatwa against jihadist ideology. Indeed, Mosab himself says:


Muslims have moralities, responsibilities, logics, more than their god. The most criminal terrorist Muslim has morality, a minimum of humanity, more than his god.

However, acknowledging the existence of decent, humane people who call themselves Muslims doesn’t invalidate Mosab’s premise; it simply raises the very real possibility that the decent people aren’t the ones practicing the truest interpretation of their faith. That’s a harsh conclusion that many will doubtlessly find uncomfortable, but in our zeal to avoid offending anyone, it would seem equally offensive to dismissively assume a man born and raised in the world he describes, risking his life to tell his story, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

The Left condemns all claims that Islam is anything but a “Religion of Peace” as mere right-wing slander, insisting that there’s no need to take a closer look at the ideology motivating our enemy. But the truth is, most Americans couldn’t even begin to imagine the things Mosab Hassan Yousef has been through, the physical danger he has subjected himself to, and the decision to split from his own father to do the right thing; in return, the least we could do is listen.

Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

Why I No Longer Support Decriminalizing Marijuana

The latest scientific conclusions — which are causal, not merely correlative — show that pot use significantly increases the likelihood of mental illness.

by Clayton E. Cramer
http://pajamasmedia.com/
March 3, 2010

Back in the 1970s, when I was first exposed to the idea of decriminalizing illegal drugs, it seemed like a good idea. My interest was abstract: I didn’t smoke pot. My wife and I signed a marijuana decriminalization petition one evening around 1980 for a group that acted like they had fallen out of a Cheech and Chong movie. They asked if we could contribute a joint or two to the cause. They were utterly shocked when we told them: “We don’t smoke pot.” They just could not imagine that anyone would support decriminalization without a more personal interest.

There’s no question that making drugs illegal creates serious problems for our criminal justice system. It clogs the courts, it corrupts police officers and government officials, and it funds some really sleazy people. All of this is true — but it turns out that there are some substantial social costs on the other side that simply don’t get any attention. While it may sound like I have been watching Reefer Madness (1936) – a tragically overwrought portrayal of the dangers of marijuana — it turns out that mental illness is one of those social costs.

A surprising number of scholarly studies in the last 25 years have demonstrated that marijuana use seems to cause an increase in psychoses such as schizophrenia, and somewhat less dramatic mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

Let me emphasize: This isn’t just correlation analysis — finding that people with a current mental illness are disproportionately potheads. I am well aware that people with significant mental illness problems tend to “self-medicate” using various psychoactive drugs (including alcohol). No, these are longitudinal studies that show the marijuana use comes first, with the mental illness later in life.

The first of these, involving Swedish conscripts, was published in the Lancet in 1987. Those who had used marijuana heavily by age 18 were six times more likely to develop schizophrenia. A British medical journal paper published in 2002 performed a longitudinal study in New Zealand and found that:

Firstly, cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of experiencing schizophrenia symptoms, even after psychotic symptoms preceding the onset of cannabis use are controlled for. … Secondly, early cannabis use (by age 15) confers greater risk for schizophrenia outcomes than later cannabis use (by age 18). The youngest cannabis users may be most at risk because their cannabis use becomes longstanding.

This paper, from the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2004, should also make you a bit concerned. From the abstract:

On an individual level, cannabis use confers an overall twofold increase in the relative risk for later schizophrenia. At the population level, elimination of cannabis use would reduce the incidence of schizophrenia by approximately 8%, assuming a causal relationship. Cannabis use appears to be neither a sufficient nor a necessary cause for psychosis. It is a component cause, part of a complex constellation of factors leading to psychosis.

There’s unquestionably a genetic component. This Schizophrenia Bulletin (2008) paper tells us:

Cannabis use is considered a contributory cause of schizophrenia and psychotic illness. However, only a small proportion of cannabis users develop psychosis. This can partly be explained by the amount and duration of the consumption of cannabis and by its strength, but also by the age at which individuals are first exposed to cannabis. Genetic factors, in particular, are likely to play a role in the short- and the long-term effects cannabis may have on psychosis outcome. … Evidence suggests that mechanisms of gene-environment interaction are likely to underlie the association between cannabis and psychosis.

Obviously, only a fraction of pot smokers are going to go crazy and join the 1-3% of Americans who are psychotic. Think of smoking marijuana on a regular basis as playing Russian roulette once with a 50-shot cylinder, one of which has a live round. (Of course, now that you know that, maybe you do have to be crazy to smoke marijuana.)

At this point, you may be saying: “Big deal! It’s my life! If I want to smoke pot and risk going crazy, that’s my choice!” I would concede that point, except that as of 2002, schizophrenia alone of the mental disorders was costing the United States $63 billion a year in medical costs and in disability payments. Much of that cost is directly governmental, since schizophrenics usually aren’t able to work and thus are reliant on the government.

You might also argue: “What about alcohol? Doesn’t it have risks?” No question — and these risks have been recognized for a long time. Arguing for decriminalization of marijuana because alcohol is a big problem is like arguing that because one of your feet is gangrenous the doctor should also amputate the healthy foot just to be even-handed. (Or even-footed, I suppose.) If anything, instead of decriminalizing marijuana, we should be looking at discouraging alcohol — and recognizing that while Prohibition didn’t work, there may be approaches more educational, and less drastic, that can.

- Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer and historian. His sixth book, Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie (Nelson Current, 2006), is available in bookstores. His web site is http://www.claytoncramer.com/.

Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due

Who gets to claim responsibility for success in Iraq? Joe Biden?

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com/
March 5, 2010 12:00 A.M.

‘Victory has a hundred fathers,” John F. Kennedy said, “and defeat is an orphan.”

By that standard, George W. Bush has won the Iraq war.

Last month, Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed on CNN’s Larry King Live that the peaceful transition to democracy and the (partial) withdrawal of U.S. forces “could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”

Initially, I ignored Biden’s comment because, well, he’s Joe Biden. As critical as I may be of the Obama administration, holding it accountable for Biden’s mouth seems grotesquely unfair.

But then White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended the vice president, suggesting that it was Obama who put Iraq “back together” and worked out bringing American troops home. More on that in a moment.

Then, just this week, Newsweek, which spent years ridiculing Bush, came out with a cover story titled “Victory at Last: The Emergence of a Democratic Iraq,” in which the authors grudgingly and tentatively credit Bush with creating a democratic Iraq.

No word yet on whether Michael Moore will publicly cut off some fingers, like a failed Yakuza henchman, to atone for his misdeeds.

The Newsweek story might indeed be premature; recent upticks in Iraq violence demonstrate that nobody’s out of the woods yet. From what I can tell, there may be a rough summer ahead if a new government can’t be formed quickly. There almost certainly will be more bombings during this weekend’s elections and beyond.

Still, when the Obama administration starts taking credit for success in Iraq, you know things have changed for the better. Now, of course, it is a grotesque distortion of logic and even political decency for the White House to be taking credit for victory in Iraq.

Obama wouldn’t be president today if he hadn’t opposed the war. His opposition is what most distinguished him from Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Obama also opposed Bush’s surge, which turned Iraq around. He and Biden both claimed that it would actually make things worse. “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence,” then-senator Obama declared in January 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”

When Gibbs went to bat for Biden, he said that Obama’s achievement was “putting what was broken back together and getting our troops home, which we intend to do.” When it was pointed out that the proposed U.S. withdrawal had been set in the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the Bush administration, Gibbs claimed it was the “political pressure” of candidate Obama that made such an agreement possible.

On the merits, this is pretty pathetic stuff. The same administration that blames all of its mistakes on problems it inherited now wants to take credit for accomplishments it inherited.

Still, it's good news. First and foremost, it's a sign that the war in Iraq, while costly and deservedly controversial, was not for nothing. Putting Iraq on a path to democracy and decency is a noble accomplishment for which Americans, of all parties, should be proud. Even if you think the war wasn't worth it or that it was unjustified, only the truly blinkered or black-hearted can be vexed by the fact that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone and the country is on the path to better days.

Second, it shows that America's victories aren't Republican or Democratic victories, but American victories. The same goes for its losses. At times it seemed that at least some opponents of the Iraq war wanted America to lose because they thought that was synonymous with Bush losing. It doesn't work that way.

Indeed, that's what's so interesting about the strange turn in the zeitgeist. Many of the war's most ardent opponents claimed that Americans didn't like the war for the same reasons the hard left didn't. But all that talk about "imperialism," "neoconservatism," "Cheney-Halliburton blood for oil" and the rest was not at the core of the war's unpopularity. What most Americans didn't like was that we were losing militarily and losing the precious lives of our troops. Unlike the hard left (and certain quarters of the isolationist right), most Americans don't care that the U.S. has troops stationed all around the world. They don't think we're an evil empire because of our troops in South Korea or Germany.

What most Americans care about is winning, or, more accurately, winning in a good cause. Public attitudes are still raw when it comes to the war, and for good reason. But a generation from now, if Iraq is a stable, prosperous democracy, Americans will in all likelihood think the war was worth it, and that George W. Bush was right.

Onward, He Said, Regardless

Obamacare is heading into its fifth act, and it’s looking like a tragedy.

By Charles Krauthammer
http://www.nationalreview.com
March 5, 2010 12:00 A.M.

So the yearlong production, set to close after Massachusetts’ devastatingly negative January 19 review, saw the curtain raised one last time. Obamacare lives.

After 34 speeches, three sharp electoral rebukes (Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts), and a seven-hour seminar, the president announced Wednesday his determination to make one last push to pass his health-care reform.

The final act was carefully choreographed. The rollout began a week earlier with a couple of shows of bipartisanship: a February 25 Blair House “summit” with Republicans, followed five days later with a few concessions tossed the Republicans’ way.

Show is the operative noun. Among the few Republican suggestions President Obama pretended to incorporate was tort reform. What did he suggest to address the plague of defensive medicine that a Massachusetts Medical Society study showed leads to about 25 percent of doctor referrals, tests, and procedures being done for no medical reason? A few ridiculously insignificant demonstration projects amounting to one-half of one-hundredth of 1 percent of the cost of Obama’s health-care bill.

As for the Blair House seminar, its theatrical quality was obvious even before it began. The Democrats had already decided to go for a purely partisan bill. Obama signaled precisely that intent at the end of the summit show — then dramatically spelled it out just six days later in his 35th health-care speech: He is going for the party-line vote.

Unfortunately for Democrats, that seven-hour televised exercise had the unintended consequence of showing the Republicans to be not only highly informed on the subject, but also, as even Obama was forced to admit, possessed of principled objections — contradicting the ubiquitous Democratic/media meme that Republican opposition was nothing but nihilistic partisanship.

Republicans did so well, in fact, that in his summation, Obama was reduced to suggesting that his health-care reform was indeed popular because when you ask people about individual items (for example, eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions or capping individual out-of-pocket payments), they are in favor.

Yet mystifyingly they oppose the whole package. How can that be?

Allow me to demystify. Imagine a bill granting every American a free federally delivered ice cream every Sunday morning. Provision 2: steak on Monday, also home delivered. Provision 3: A dozen red roses every Tuesday. You get the idea. Would each individual provision be popular in the polls? Of course.

However — life is a vale of howevers — suppose these provisions were bundled into a bill that also spelled out how the goodies are to be paid for and managed — say, half a trillion dollars in new taxes, half a trillion in Medicare cuts (cuts not to keep Medicare solvent but to pay for the ice cream, steak, and flowers), 118 new boards and commissions to administer the bounty-giving, and government regulation dictating, for example, how your steak was to be cooked. How do you think this would poll?

Perhaps something like three-to-one against, which is what the latest CNN poll shows is the citizenry’s feeling about the current Democratic health-care bills.

Late last year, Democrats were marveling at how close they were to historic health-care reform, noting how much agreement had been achieved among so many factions. The only remaining detail was how to pay for it.

Well, yes. That has generally been the problem with democratic governance: cost. The disagreeable absence of a free lunch.

Which is what drove even strong Obama supporter Warren Buffett to go public with his judgment that the current Senate bill, while better than nothing, is a failure because the country desperately needs to bend the cost curve down and the bill doesn’t do it. Buffett’s advice would be to start over and get it right.

Obama has chosen differently, however. The time for debate is over, declared the nation’s seminar-leader-in-chief. The man who vowed to undo Washington’s wicked ways has directed the Congress to ram Obamacare through, by one vote if necessary, under the parliamentary device of “budget reconciliation.” The man who ran as a post-partisan is determined to remake a sixth of the U.S. economy despite the absence of support from a single Republican in either house, the first time anything of this size and scope has been enacted by pure party-line vote.

Surprised? You can only be disillusioned if you were once illusioned.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010, The Washington Post Writers Group.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

AWOL in the Bunning Battle

The GOP shows why Obamacare is a good bet for the Left.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
http://www.nationalreview.com/
March 4, 2010 4:00 A.M.

If Obamacare passes, Obamacare is forever. Just ask Jim Bunning.

The Kentucky Republican finally caved in Tuesday after relentless pressure from other senators — including Republicans — to drop what the Politico called his “one man” filibuster of a bill to extend expiring unemployment benefits. Technically, it was not a filibuster. It was an objection to a procedure, called “unanimous consent,” used to speed along uncontroversial legislation.

In this case, there ought to have been raging controversy: Bunning was objecting to yet another monthly extension of unemployment payments absent an explanation of how it would be paid for.

He was right to do so. These extensions happen continually. The stimulus — which is a redistribution of wealth from the private to the public sector, and from people who work to people who don’t — extended unemployment benefits for 53 weeks. Another extension in November added 20 more weeks. Cato’s Alan Reynolds reports that this brings the total to 99 weeks of benefits in high-unemployment states. The measure on which Bunning has relented adds another month. And having browbeaten him into withdrawing his objection, Democrats will now seek an extension through the end of this year, i.e., another 36 weeks or so.

None of this is paid for. Instead, the government borrows ever more money, incurring ever more debt and ever more interest on that debt. The price tag on the relatively modest, stopgap measure Bunning was blocking is put at $10 billion, but that does not count the interest that will be paid on the money borrowed to fund the bill. To count the interest would be to highlight the fact that we are filching the money from our children and their children rather than paying for spending today by cutting something else. Bunning wasn’t even against spending the money; he just wanted the something else identified and cut.

That proved unacceptable, and not only to Democrats. Maine’s Susan Collins took to the Senate floor to assure Americans that Bunning’s radical views about Congress’s not spending yet more billions it doesn’t have “do not represent a majority of the Republican caucus.” And sure enough, they didn’t. Once Bunning backed down, the measure passed by a whopping 78-19.

Think about that. We are talking about $10 billion in a year when Leviathan is slated to spend a total of $3.6 trillion. The majority of Senate Republicans joined Democrats in concluding that the allocation of every one of these 3.6 thousand billion dollars is so vital that not one of them could be sacrificed in favor of unemployment insurance. So another $10 billion just gets heaped on the already unfathomable trillion-dollar deficits stacking year upon year.

The pols call these mounting months (now years) of unemployment benefits “temporary,” even though the real unemployment rate remains in the double digits and no relief is in sight. The “temporary” label is a budgetary trick. It enables lawmakers to sidestep “PAYGO” — Pay As You Go — restrictions that require the federal government to pay for current obligations out of current revenues. Democrats recently made a big show of reinstituting PAYGO — but not until after they’d blown deficit spending through the stratosphere.

It was a bit of theater Democrats had good reason to believe they could pull off. When Republicans controlled Congress, they made a mockery of PAYGO entitlement restrictions, particularly when it came to enforcing Medicare cuts that were required by law. As the Heritage Foundation’s Bruce Riedl observes, PAYGO was a gimmick to project the illusion of fiscal responsibility even as budget deficits soared. Thus it comes as little surprise that, even as President Obama’s sudden paeans to PAYGO ring in our ears, Democrats are slyly sidestepping it.

Besides unemployment compensation, what is in the bill Bunning was blocking? The proposed goodies include public funds to prevent what would otherwise be a 21 percent reduction in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.

Of course, these are exactly the sort of steep cuts that enacting Obamacare would accomplish. Given that enacting Obamacare is the Left’s ne plus ultra, why not just let the Medicare payments get slashed now? Because Democrats realize that if people get a load of how Obamacare would actually work before it is a fait accompli, they will scream bloody murder. So the game is to make certain that doctors don’t feel the pinch now, just as the game is to pass Obamacare now but delay its implementation until 2013 — allowing Obama and Democrats to get through the 2010 and 2012 election cycles without being held accountable for the epic disaster that will be government-controlled medicine.

In sum, Bunning’s battle gave Republicans a chance to make points about runaway deficit spending, the fraudulence of PAYGO posturing, the foolish redistribution of wealth to create expensive and unproductive government jobs, unemployment-benefit extensions that Democrats refuse to pay for and that actually increase unemployment, and the monstrous rationing that would be wrought by Obamacare. So, did Republicans rally behind Bunning? Not a chance.

Why? Why abandon this fight when the GOP has the facts on its side? Why no enthusiasm when a year of Obama’s forced march to crony socialism has the public more receptive than ever to the case for slashing government? Simple: Republicans are afraid of being demagogued — as Democrats and the media demagogued Bunning — as wanting to cut off funding (i.e., money we don’t have) for unemployment insurance and the usual laundry list of other Big Government baubles like COBRA coverage, satellite TV dishes, the “highway trust fund,” etc. Republicans also did not want their own sorry PAYGO history rehashed.

Here’s the sad truth: For all the shining they did at last week’s White House “summit” on health care, when it gets down to actually putting the brakes on the Big Gummint Express, most of today’s Republicans are AWOL. They’re great at the debate society. But making the fight on something concrete, really saying no when it means grinding redistribution to a halt, means taking the slings and arrows. No thanks, they say, let’s just make the whole thing go away on a voice vote, the sooner the better. Indeed, while Senator Bunning should be lauded for engaging this fight, it is telling that he took it on only after deciding not to seek reelection.

In a Corner post this past weekend called “Transformation,” I dissented from the heady palaver on the Right about how Democrats are headed for a November Waterloo. I think the Left has already factored in the inevitability of setbacks — perhaps heavy setbacks — in the next few election cycles. While our side swoons over the prospect, the statists coldly calculate that these losses are a price well worth paying in order to impose a transformative takeover of the economy.

It is a perfectly rational calculation for two reasons.

First, with a significantly bigger and more powerful government bureaucracy, there will be many avenues for leadership to reward Democrats who lose their seats after casting the unpopular votes necessary to enact the Left’s program. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who spent his post-Clinton wilderness months in a lucrative sinecure at Freddie Mac, knows well how this game works — and, under Obama’s command, the economy is becoming one big Freddie.

Second, and more important, Democrats know the electoral setbacks will only be temporary. They are banking on the assurance that Republicans merely want to win elections and have no intention of rolling back Obamacare, much less of dismantling Leviathan.

For my money (while I still have some), that’s an eminently sound bet. The Bunning battle, in which the GOP was nowhere to be found, is the proof. Bunning just wanted Congress to live within its gargantuan means. Yet, the Washington Post ridiculed him: “angry and alone, a one-man blockade against unemployment benefits, Medicare payments to doctors, satellite TV to rural Americans and paychecks to highway workers.” That’s outrageously unfair, but it is a day at the beach compared to the Armageddon that would be unleashed upon any attempt to undo Obama’s welfare state on steroids.

As it turns out, Republicans didn’t have the stomach for a fight over wealth transfers that plainly exacerbate the problem of unemployment. Why would anyone think they’d take on a far more demanding war, in which Democrats and the legacy media would relentlessly indict them for “denying health insurance to millions of Americans”?

Even if the GOP gets a majority for a couple of cycles, even if President Obama is defeated in his 2012 reelection bid, Obamacare will be forever. And once the public sees that the GOP won’t try to dismantle Obamacare, it will lose any enthusiasm for Republicans. Democrats will eventually return to power, and it will be power over a much bigger, much more intrusive government.

Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?

National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books, 2008).

All in the Modern Family

The genre has been declared dead many times, but a hit show is reviving the half-hour TV comedy with a combination of edge, quirkiness—and family values.

By KATHERINE ROSMAN
The Wall Street Journal
FEBRUARY 26, 2010
http://online.wsj.com/home-page

What do you call a mother of three, naked under her trench coat that gets caught in a hotel escalator just as she randomly bumps into her father and his much-younger Colombian wife whose 11-year-old son is trying to woo a girl with the help of his stepbrother, his stepbrother's partner and their adopted Vietnamese baby daughter, who was dressed by one of her fathers in one of his feather boas for Valentine's Day?

The new face of network-television family comedy.


ABC

Ed O'Neill and Sofia Vergara as Jay and Gloria in 'Modern Family.'


ABC's "Modern Family" is a first-season hit and one of the few half-hour TV comedies to break out in recent years, partly because its creators are invoking the edgy sensibility of cable TV shows such as "Weeds," "South Park" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Exploring three branches of a dysfunctional family, it is the first network comedy hit to largely focus on a gay couple raising a child. (The short-lived "It's All Relative" touched on the topic six years ago.)

But in truth, "Modern Family" is a conservative show, steeped in the conventions of sitcom history. Created by two veteran TV writers, Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, "Modern Family" descends from a lineage of family sitcoms like "All in the Family" and "The Cosby Show"—programs that broached combustible social issues, but within the safe confines of loving families. Mr. Lloyd grew up with these traditions: his late father is the legendary television writer David Lloyd ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Cheers," "Taxi").

"I remember hearing from Dad that for good story-telling, you have to give all the characters something they want and set up obstacles to them getting those things," he says.

Like many classic sitcoms, "Modern Family" is careful to end each show with a figurative, if not literal, family hug. This distinguishes it from a precursor: "Arrested Development" was a cult hit, but it never won a large audience; viewers seldom had the sense that these family members liked each other.

TV comedy has been declared dead many times. Some say this is the longest drought since the early 1980s (then came "Cosby"). Besides critical praise, "Modern Family" is pulling in an average 9.48 million viewers per episode—more than "Glee," "The Office," "30 Rock" and "The New Adventures of Old Christine," which is the most recent surviving comedy to have had, in 2006, as good an opening season as "Modern Family." And this comes in the battleground time slot of Wednesdays at 9: since it began to face off against "American Idol" in January, "Modern Family" has held firm, according to Nielsen Co.


Family photos

David and Christopher Lloyd

"Modern Family" writer Christopher Lloyd writes a remembrance of his late father, comedy writer David Lloyd who wrote for such shows as "Cheers," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Frasier."


The strong appeal stems, in part, from the many different types of characters for many different types of Americans to identify with. "The whole show is a send-up of contemporary culture, a mirror of the contemporary American family and something of an amalgam of many different sitcoms that came before it," says Richard Dubin, a former TV writer who is now a professor at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

The thread that has attracted the most attention is that which follows Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), son of the show's patriarch, Jay—played by longtime "Married … With Children" star Ed O'Neill—and brother of Claire, who is married to Phil (Ty Burrell). Mitchell is in a committed same-sex partnership with Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), and they are raising their adopted baby daughter. In a nation torn by debate about gay marriage and adoption, it's an eyebrow-raising family situation for network television. (ABC reports no large-scale protests or consumer boycotts of the show.)

The writers dig into some of the tensions between straight parents and gay children that emerge even within the realm of relatives that love and mostly accept each other's lifestyles. Jay cares about spending time with his son's partner, but when the chosen activity is racquetball, he worries about being in a locker room with a gay man, telling the camera documentary-style, "I mean, for me it's a locker room. For him, it's a showroom." When Cameron runs into Jay and his friends outside a restaurant, Jay introduces Cameron as a "friend of my son's."

"They have been so smart in the portrayal of what it means to be gay in a family that tries but sometimes fails to be totally welcoming," says Jeffrey Richman, a writer who has worked with Messrs. Lloyd and Levitan on sitcoms like "Frasier," and is gay.

Yet Mitchell and Cameron are actually the most normal of the lot. While Cameron can play to gay stereotypes with his dramatic hand gestures, he and Mitchell are mostly depicted as adults trying to survive parenthood. A recent episode had them fighting with each other amid the stress of trying to sleep-train an infant. Cameron calls the method of allowing a baby to cry itself to sleep "torture" and sobs uncontrollably as he listens to his daughter's wails over the baby monitor; Mitchell rolls his eyes at his partner's histrionics. It harks back to "The Cosby Show," which was revolutionary in portraying an upper-middle-class black family as an upper-middle-class family that just happened to be black.

"Modern Family" is filmed with a single camera, unlike the many sitcoms shot by multiple cameras on a stage. The show's actors occasionally speak directly to the camera in "mockumentary" style, so the writers can avoid canned, clunky scenes to explain motivations and feelings. The humor seems more natural and subtle. "It's very underplayed and that's hard to do in comedy," says James Burrows, the prolific sitcom director and co-creator of "Cheers."


Ewan Burns for The Wall Street Journal

Steve Levitan, center, working on 'Modern Family.'



In 2008, Messrs. Levitan and Lloyd were coming off a high-profile failure in "Back to You," a workplace sitcom with big stars: Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. Friends since they worked together on the staff of "Wings," the writing partners would meet at their office and casually bat around ideas, telling tales about their wives and kids. "We were licking our wounds and we would just end up telling funny stories about what happened that weekend at home," Mr. Levitan says.

Late that summer, they pitched the idea to Twentieth Century Fox Television, which wound up producing the show (and, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp.). Mr. Levitan described a (slightly embroidered) incident when he went into his eldest daughter's room to tell her to shut off the computer and go to bed, then heard a voice from the computer say, "Nice boxers, Mr. Levitan." (She was Skyping with a friend.) This resurfaced in an episode of "Modern Family" when Claire, played by Julie Bowen, finds herself, in undergarments, getting ogled by her teenage daughter's boyfriend who is hanging out in the daughter's bedroom, via video chat.

The two writers are funneling not just their personal lives, but also bringing to the show a history of professional angst and ambition in a frustrating field. Mr. Levitan, 47, was a TV news reporter in Wisconsin when he decided he wanted to write sitcoms. He worked for Disney producing movie trailers while he wrote spec scripts and networked. He landed a staff writing position on the 1990s NBC sitcom "Wings." Later, he worked on "The Larry Sanders Show," then took a staff job on "Frasier" for one year, during which time he was creating and developing the pilot for "Just Shoot Me," which starred David Spade and Wendy Malick. From there, he jumped from failure to failure, such as "Greg the Bunny" and "Stacked," a sitcom in which the pin-up Pamela Anderson played a bookstore clerk. "I overestimated the American public's willingness to see Pamela Anderson as anything other than Pamela Anderson," he says.

To go from writing a part for a "Baywatch" alum to getting praised by the likes of Mr. Burrows has left Mr. Levitan buoyant. The morning that "Modern Family" was nominated for a Golden Globe for best comedy or musical series, Mr. Levitan tweeted, "A very good morning! My tuxedo has 'Dust Me' written on it." (The show later lost to "Glee.")

Mr. Levitan, the outgoing front man who uses Twitter, complements Mr. Lloyd, a quiet writer who still works on yellow legal pads.

Mr. Lloyd got his first staff job writing for "The Golden Girls." From there he went to "Wings," and then worked as the executive producer at "Frasier" for eight years. (His father worked for him on "Frasier.") He created a few shows; they all tanked. He and Mr. Levitan then teamed up to create "Back to You," and were pained by its swift cancellation. They took some time off, then reconvened to imagine their next big idea. Mr. Levitan wanted to do something more sophisticated and biting than a typical sitcom. He worried about doing a straight family show. "Family shows become sappy and a little familiar," he says.

But he felt that pitfall could be avoided with a single-camera, faux-documentary style like that of "The Office." Mr. Lloyd, by contrast, was growing leery of the state of sitcoms, many of which seemed needlessly snarky and risqué.

"Warmth has gone out of fashion, and that has never made sense to me. If you make audiences laugh for 29 minutes and then feel some warmth at the end, they'll come back week after week," he says.

On the makeshift set of the Valentine's Day episode of "Modern Family" at the Century Plaza Hotel, a scene features comedian David Brenner delivering a stand-up routine. Jay and his young wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) are in the audience and withstand a slew of barbs aimed at their age difference: "How do you know your husband is cheating on you? He comes home with two sets of teeth in his mouth."

As the shooting takes place, Mr. Levitan tries to sit in the chair set up by the director's monitor, but he can't be still. He paces. "I'm Type-A," he says, iPhone in his hand.

The end of the scene calls for Jay/Mr. O'Neill to walk out of Mr. Brenner's show, embarrassed and insecure. His wife assures him she will always stay with him.

"What about when I'm 80, when I'm in a wheelchair and need oxygen?" asks Jay.

Gloria, who is a native of Colombia, responds: "What if I gain 100 pound? You going to leave me?"

As dictated by the script, Jay pauses briefly and answers, "No!"

At the end of the take, Mr. Levitan says, "Ed, let's try that again, but let's have a nice long pause before you answer her."

Ms. Vergara as Gloria again asks her husband—rhetorically—if she'd leave her if she got fat. Mr. O'Neill's Jay stands, a deer in headlights, saying nothing as his wife begins narrowing her eyes, angry. "No!" he finally says.

But Mr. Levitan is not totally satisfied. He asks for one more take—same pause but with a slight adjustment to the scene's end. "I feel like a kiss is called for," says Mr. Levitan.

Write to Katherine Rosman at katherine.rosman@wsj.com

SUBPRIME MORTGAGE CRISIS HITS WHOREHOUSES

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
March 3, 2010


It looks like Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes is on track to win another endorsement from ACORN!

This week, Hynes announced that "no criminality has been found" after his investigation of the videotapes made by investigative journalists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, which show ACORN employees counseling the pair on getting a mortgage for a house of prostitution.

(They got a choice of government loans: Phat Fannie Mae, Prince Freddie Mac or Barney Fresh Daddy Frank ... aka "Sir Fix-A-Lot.")


James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles posed as a pimp and prostitute to solicit financial advice from ACORN.

I'm just glad to know that Hynes conducted a thorough "investigation" first. Who did he have screen the videotapes, Gov. Paterson?

If his investigators had actually watched the videotapes, they would have found ACORN employees apparently advising a pimp and prostitute on how to defraud mortgage lenders, deposit prostitution money in a bank, hide money from the government and avoid detection while running a whorehouse with teenage girls from El Salvador.

I'm not a lawyer -- oh, wait, yes, I am -- but I count approximately a half-dozen state law crimes being discussed on those tapes, from money laundering to advancing prostitution.

In a "Eureka" moment, ACORN Employee-of-the-Month Volda Albert identifies for O'Keefe and Giles the problem they had been having getting a mortgage:

Albert: Um, is it legalized? Is prostitution legalized in New York state?

O'Keefe: It's not. It's not, unfortunately.

Albert: Well see, that's your problem.


As ACORN employee Milagros Rivera said, "You can't say what you do for a living because of the law." But displaying ACORN's can-do attitude, she explained: "Honest is not going to get you a house."

ACORN employees helped concoct a scheme to hide from the lender the source of O'Keefe and Giles' down payment money. Albert suggested that O'Keefe "pay a down payment -- or (Giles) can transfer to somebody else, who is not in that business ... a close friend, then (Giles) can transfer that, and then he can give you, like, a gift to purchase."

Under New York law, hiding the true source of down payment money from a lender constitutes mortgage fraud. Also, using the proceeds of criminal conduct in any banking transaction is money laundering.

Does anybody need a flow chart at this point, or should I continue?

To help Giles hide her income from turning tricks, ACORN employee Albert advised Giles to open two banking accounts, depositing no more than $500 per week in each one. (This would not only enable her to conceal her illegal earnings, it would also qualify her for free checking.)

But Albert's most inspired idea was that Giles get a "house with a backyard. You get a tin can ... and bury (your money) down in there, and you put the money right in, and you put grass over it, and you don't tell a single soul but yourself where it is."

Back when I was in Louisiana, we advised people to put their illegal money in the freezer, but that didn't work out so well. And I guess putting your money in a mattress isn't advisable if you live in a whorehouse.

Anyway, Albert was particularly detailed on the tin-can-in-the-backyard investment plan: "Keep thinking: 'I have a yard. I have a house.' You gotta start coming out with, like, plants and you start doing -- so it won't be suspicious. You start buying plants for the backyard in pots and what have you, and you mark a spot."

She later told Giles: "You are not paying Social Security, so you'll have society, all right? You are not getting a pension, so you need to save that money for in later years." ACORN: Helping Plan Your Financial Future.

If only shady lawyers advised clients to bury money in cans in their backyards, instead of putting it in tax shelters, we wouldn't have all those attorneys clogging up prison cells!

The ACORN employees also stressed that Giles should do nothing to attract attention to her prostitution money. Albert said: "You can buy a decent car for yourself, no big fancy thing to attract people, all right?"

In Albert's defense, this could have been common etiquette advice. No one likes a showy hooker.

Even after Giles explained her plan to house a "slew" of 13-, 14- and 15-year-old girls from El Salvador for her prostitution business, Rivera simply responded: "So you guys ready to schedule that (mortgage application) for the summer?"

Rivera clearly missed her calling -- she should be pushing vacation time shares in Boca Raton beach condos.

Under New York law, a person is guilty of advancing prostitution if he: "knowingly ... aids a person to commit or engage in prostitution (or) ... engages in any other conduct designed to institute, aid or facilitate an act or enterprise of prostitution."

It is a class D felony (up to seven years in prison) if the prostitute is under 19 years old -- as the ACORN employees knew Giles was -- and a class C felony (up to 15 years in prison) if the prostitute is under 16 years old -- as Giles stated the El Salvadoran girls were. (And if she's under 15 years old, Eliot Spitzer may be involved.)

If none of the advice given by ACORN on those videotapes constitutes conspiracy or aiding or abetting a crime, see this column next week for my opus: "10 Detailed Plans to Kill George Soros and Why This Might Be Right for You."

COPYRIGHT 2010 ANN COULTER

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Today's Tune: Patti Smith- Gimme Shelter

(Click on title to play video)

Gore still hot on his doomsday rhetoric

By Jeff Jacoby
Boston Globe Columnist / March 3, 2010
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/

THE CASE for global-warming alarmism is melting faster than those mythical disappearing Himalayan glaciers, but Al Gore isn’t backing down.

In a long op-ed piece for The New York Times the other day, Gore cranked up the doomsday rhetoric. Human beings, he warned, “face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.’’ His 1,900-word essay made no mention of his financial interest in promoting such measures - Gore has invested heavily in carbon-offset markets, electric vehicles, and other ventures that would profit handsomely from legislation curbing the use of fossil fuels, and is reportedly poised to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire.’’ However, he did mention “global-warming pollution’’ no fewer than four times, declaring that “our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation’’ if we don’t move decisively to reduce it.

By “global-warming pollution,’’ Gore means carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a “pollutant’’ in roughly the way oxygen and water are pollutants: Human existence would be impossible without them. CO2 is essential to photosynthesis, the process that sustains plant life and generates the oxygen that human beings and animals inhale. Far from polluting the world, carbon dioxide enriches it. Higher levels of CO2 are associated with larger crop yields, increased forest growth, and longer growing seasons - in short, with a greener planet.

Of course carbon dioxide also contributes to the greenhouse effect that keeps the earth warm. But the vast majority of atmospheric CO2 occurs naturally, and it is far from clear that the carbon dioxide contributed by human industry has a significant impact on the world’s climate.

On the other hand, it is quite clear that the economic and agricultural activity responsible for that anthropogenic CO2 has been enormously beneficial to myriads of men, women, and children. In just the last two decades, life expectancy in developing nations has climbed appreciably and infant mortality has fallen. Hundreds of millions of Indian and Chinese citizens have been lifted out of poverty. Whatever else might be said about carbon dioxide, it has helped make possible a dramatic increase in the quality of many human lives.

But there is no awareness of such tradeoffs in Gore’s latest screed. He brushes aside as unimportant the recently exposed blunders in the 2007 assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
These include claims that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035, that global warming could slash African crop yields by 50 percent, and that 55 percent of the Netherlands - more than twice the correct amount - is below sea level.

Gore seems equally untroubled by Climategate, the scandal involving researchers at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, who apparently schemed to manipulate temperature data, to prevent their critics from being published in peer-reviewed journals, and to destroy records and calculations to keep climate skeptics from double-checking them.

Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s errors and the Climatic Research Unit scandal have triggered major investigations, and opinion polls show a falloff in the percentage of the public that believes either global warming is cause for serious concern or that scientists see eye to eye on the issue. Yet Gore insists, against all evidence, that “the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged.’’

To climate alarmists like Gore, everything proves their point. For years they argued that global warming would mean a decline in snow cover and shorter ski seasons. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,’’ one climate scientist lamented to reporters in 2000. The IPCC itself was clear that climate change was resulting in more rain and less snow.

Undaunted, Gore now claims that the blizzards that have walloped the Northeast in recent weeks are also proof of global warming. “Climate change causes more frequent and severe snowstorms,’’ he posted on his blog last month.

Gore is a True Believer; his climate hyperbole is less a matter of science than of faith. In almost messianic terms, he urges Congress to sharply restrain Americans’ access to energy. “What is at stake,’’ he writes, “is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.’’

But while Gore prays for redemption, the pews in the Church of Climate Catastrophe are gradually emptying. The public’s skeptical common sense, it turns out, is pretty robust. Just like those Himalayan glaciers.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jacoby@globe.com.

Drawing: Barrie MaGuire/ NewsArt

Alice in Health Care: Part II

By Thomas Sowell
http://www.townhall.com
March 3, 2010

What is most like Alice in Wonderland is discussing medical care reform in the abstract, as if there are not already government-run medical care systems in this country and elsewhere.

Yet there seems to be remarkably little interest in examining how government-run medical care actually turns out-- medically and financially-- whether in Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration hospitals in this country, or in government-run medical systems in other countries.

We are repeatedly being told that we need to have a government-controlled medical care system, because other countries have it-- as if our policies on something as serious as medical care should be based on the principle of monkey see, monkey do.

By all means look at other countries, but not just to see what to imitate. See how it actually turns out. Yet there seems to be an amazing lack of interest in examining what government-controlled medical care produces.

While our so-called health care "summit" last week was going on, British newspapers were carrying exposes of terrible, and often deadly, conditions in British hospitals under that country's National Health Service. But this has not become part of our debate on what to expect from government-controlled medical care.

Such scandals are an old story under the National Health Service in Britain, one repeatedly producing fresh scandals that their newspapers carry, but ours ignore.

In addition to a whole series of National Health Service scandals in Britain over the years, the government-run medical system in Britain has far less high-tech medical equipment than there is in the United States. Neither in Britain, Canada, nor in other countries with government-run medical care systems can people get to see doctors, especially surgeons, in as short a time as in the United States.

It is not uncommon for patients in those countries to have to wait for months before getting operations that Americans get within weeks, or even days, after being diagnosed with a condition that requires surgery. You can always "bring down the cost of medical care" by having a lower level of quality or availability.

But, again, you may never learn any of this by following most of the American mainstream media. It is not that they don't make comparisons between medical care in different countries. But they tend to feature news that will promote government-controlled care.

One of the statistics they spin endlessly is that life expectancy in some countries with government-controlled medical care is higher than in the United States. What they don't tell you is that, in some of these countries, all the infants that die are not included in infant mortality statistics, as they are in the United States.

More important, both political and media supporters of government-controlled medical care consistently confuse medical care with health care.

Much, if not most, of health care depends on what individuals do in the way they live their own lives-- including eating habits, alcohol intake, exercise, narcotics and homicide. A study some years ago found that Mormons live a decade longer than other Americans. But nobody believes that Mormons' doctors are that much better than other doctors. When you don't do a lot of things that shorten your life, you live longer. That is not rocket science.

Americans tend to have higher rates of obesity, narcotics use and homicide than people in some other countries. And there is not much that doctors can do about that.

If those who make international comparisons were serious, instead of clever, they would compare the things that medical science can have a great effect on-- cancer survival rates, for example. Americans have some of the highest cancer survival rates in the world, and for some particular cancers, the highest.

When you can get to see a doctor faster, and get treatments underway without waiting for months, while the cancer grows and spreads, you have a better chance of surviving. That, too, is not rocket science. But it is also something that you are not likely to see featured in most of the media, where people are promoting their own pet notions and agendas, instead of giving you the facts on which you can make up your own mind.

- Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Wilders’ Best Witness

by John C. Zimmerman on Mar 3rd, 2010
http://www.frontpagemag.com/

As the trial of Geert Wilders for insulting Islam moves forward in the Netherlands, the one witness that could clear him of these charges will not be called.

Muhammad Taqi Usmani is a highly respected and well-known expert on Islamic law who served for 20 years as a Sharia judge on Pakistan’s Supreme Court. He is quite possibly the world’s most influential Islamist thinker and writer outside of the Middle East. Usmani is a frequent visitor to Britain, where his monograph Islam and Modernism caused a great deal of controversy.


Muhammad Taqi Usmani

Why is Usmani so important for the purposes of Wilders’ trial? Simply put, Usmani’s interpretation of Islamic doctrine as it concerns non-believers is the same as Wilders’. Indeed, the critical lesson to be gleaned from Usmani’s work bolsters the very argument that Wilders is on trial for making – namely, that the doctrine of jihad, as expounded in Islamic texts, inherently poses a threat to Western civilization. In fact, Osama Bin Laden made the exact same point in a lengthy essay entitled “Moderate Islam is a Prostration to the West” (reproduced in Raymond Ibrahinm’s The al Qaeda Reader).

I don’t know if Wilders is familiar with Islam and Modernism. However, the reader of this work will be struck by the similarities between it and Fitna, the short film that has played a significant role in landing Wilders in court. The critical difference between the two is that no one – especially no Muslim thinker, writer or the Organization of Islamic Countries – has ever accused Usmani of hate speech or of insulting Islam. And yet, consistency of treatment would mandate that if Wilders must go to trial, so should Usmani. At the very least, Usmani should be publicly condemned and ridiculed by prominent Muslim thinkers in Muslim countries.

Consider the nature of his work. Islam and Modernism is broadside attack against modernist Muslim thinking and Western civilization. Usmani is critical of modern practices such as charging interest, women and men working together, birth control, and science that it is not used to further religious thinking. Even America’s moon landing in 1969 is described as an “international crime.”

However, it is his chapter on offensive jihad, which he calls aggressive jihad, that is most significant for purposes of Wilders’ trial. Offensive jihad is the Islamic doctrine that requires Muslims to subjugate unbelievers to Islamic rule by imposing a number of restrictions, including paying a special tax known as the jizya. Usmani categorically rejects the idea, stated by some modern Muslim thinkers, that offensive jihad can be abandoned if Muslims are freely allowed to proselytize among non-Muslims (though non-Muslims can never freely proselytize in Muslim countries). He states that “in my humble knowledge there has not been a single incident in the entire history of Islam where Muslims had shown their willingness to stop jihad just for one condition that they be allowed to preach Islam freely.” He cites the Quran to the effect that “killing is to continue until the unbelievers pay jizyah after they are humbled and overpowered.”

The jizya is important in Usmani’s eyes because it is the necessary precondition for non- Muslims to convert to Islam. He asks:

“How can the efforts of Muslim missionaries be effective in an atmosphere where anti-Islamic doctrines [are] being spread on the strength of political power with full vigor, and their propagation carried out with means not possessed by Muslims?”

Essentially, Usmani is arguing that Islam cannot compete on an equal footing with non-Islamic doctrines and that it is the subjugation of the non-believers to Islamic rule that is needed before they will convert. Hence, Islamic rule must precede conversion efforts. He approvingly cites the view that “[b]y commanding jihad Allah does not mean that the unbelievers be killed outright, but the aim is that the religion of Allah should dominate the world…”

Usmani is a “moderate” in that he does not favor waging offensive jihad until Muslims are strong enough. Thus, peace agreements “along with all efforts to accumulate the sources of power [by the Muslims] are indeed lawful…If Muslims do not possess the capability of ‘Jehad with power’ agreement may be made till the power is attained.” However, once that strength is attained, offensive jihad must be launched. Though he does not mention it, Usmani appears to be basing this tactic on Muhammad’s temporary treaty with the Quraysh tribe known as “The Treaty of Hudabiyyah”. He made this treaty at a time when Muslims were too weak to fight the Quraysh.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Wilders’ and Usmani’s interpretation of Islam is beside the point. The real question is: How can Wilders be prosecuted for agreeing with the interpretation of a world-renowned Islamic thinker and scholar – a scholar who has never been accused of hate speech or insulting Islam? At the very least, Islam and Modernism should be submitted as a defense exhibit at Wilders’ trial.

- John C. Zimmerman is author of Holocaust Denial: Demographics, Testimonies and Ideologies, and has also published on jihad and Islamism.