Archive for August, 2009

Jerome Groopman On Obamacare

He’s not a fan

I think that everyone should read this article. Dr. Groopman and Dr. Hartzband take on the myths about the US health care system and also directly confront the most obvious problems of Obamacare. We are short of bandwith, so I will quote just one section, the section that explains why the US is #37 in health care, worldwide:

•?The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 37th In the world in quality. This is another frightening statistic. It is also not accurate. Yet the head of the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a powerful organization influencing both the government and private insurers in defining quality of care, has stated this as fact.

The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. No. 1 among all countries in “responsiveness.” Responsiveness has two components: respect for persons (including dignity, confidentiality and autonomy of individuals and families to make decisions about their own care), and client orientation (including prompt attention, access to social support networks during care, quality of basic amenities and choice of provider). This is what Americans rightly understand as quality care and worry will be lost in the upheaval of reform. Our country’s composite score fell to 37 primarily because we lack universal coverage and care is a financial burden for many citizens.

So that’s why. I never bought for an instant that we were really lagging Europe, Canada, Australia, etc., but I didn’t understand how the game was rigged. Obama’s presentation is built on lies, distortions and half truths.

- Aggie

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What the [Bleep]?

Didn’t he used to be Barack Obama?

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 30% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -11.

Overall, 46% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. That’s the lowest level of total approval yet measured for Obama. Fifty-three percent (53%) now disapprove.

Now, this is news. While the passionate haters have outnumbered the passionate butt-smoochers for a long time now, President Obama’s overall favorability has been balanced. Now he’s down seven.

That’s not good. Not good at all.

Unless you’re one of us! We Bloodthirstani couldn’t be happier.

And this is civics Cialis to us:

Twenty-nine percent (29%) are confident that Congress knows what it’s doing when it comes to the economy. If Americans could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, 57% would throw out all the legislators and start over again. Just 25% would vote to keep the Congress.

As Congress is led by Democrats, we are happier still.

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Palestinians Say the Darnedest Things

I try to hate them, but I can’t. I just can’t.

They’re just too funny:

Hamas hinted on Monday that Fatah officials who have been in the West Bank for their party’s recent convention might not be allowed to return to the Gaza Strip.

“The Gaza Strip is accessible for all Palestinian people, BUT officially and in coordination with the government in Gaza. It is not accessible for those who violated the law and coordinated with occupation,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Ma’an.

With regards to future unity negotiations with Fatah, Barhoum said, “The date of the next round was not confirmed. Egypt will release a draft about the unresolved topics for Hamas and Fatah to discuss.”

Good. You do that, Egypt. It beats putting hot pokers in your eyes. Oh wait, that’s what you do to your prisoners.

Send in the clowns. Too late, they’re already here.

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Black-Hating Caucasians

As Henry Louis Gates might say, “This is what happens to a black man in Russia.”

Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia’s capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study.

Africans working or studying in the city live in constant fear of attack, according to the report by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.

A quarter of 200 people surveyed said they had been assaulted more than once.

Some 80% had been verbally abused.

But the number of assaults was down from the MPC’s last survey in 2002.

The report’s clear conclusion was that Africans living in Russia exist in a state of virtual siege….

But it’s getting better! At this rate, they’ll be welcome at borscht counters everywhere in about 2057.

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Lord, What Fools These Moralists Be

I’ve always heard that the energy drain necessary to make a hybrid car was greater than that to make a SUV or pickup—but now we know even more:

The Prius hybrid automobile is popular for its fuel efficiency, but its electric motor and battery guzzle rare earth metals, a little-known class of elements found in a wide range of gadgets and consumer goods.

That makes Toyota’s market-leading gasoline-electric hybrid car and other similar vehicles vulnerable to a supply crunch predicted by experts as China, the world’s dominant rare earths producer, limits exports while global demand swells.

Worldwide demand for rare earths, covering 15 entries on the periodic table of elements, is expected to exceed supply by some 40,000 tonnes annually in several years unless major new production sources are developed.

Jack Lifton, an independent commodities consultant and strategic metals expert, calls the Prius “the biggest user of rare earths of any object in the world.”

Each electric Prius motor requires 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of neodymium, and each battery uses 10 to 15 kg (22-33 lb) of lanthanum. That number will nearly double under Toyota’s plans to boost the car’s fuel economy, he said.

If you haven’t keyed a Prius just for the superiority of their owners, now you have an ecological reason. Please don’t; I would never encourage anyone to break the law. But I’m sure there are some EarthFirsters out there who know without any help from me how to handle resource hogs like Prius owners.

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Democracy’s Declining Health

Reader Kyle brought our attention to this story (and thanks a lot to you guys for making our, uh, “job” easier!):

The United States of America is devolving into medical fascism and Massachusetts is leading the way with the passage of a new bill, the “Pandemic Response Bill” 2028, reportedly just passed by the MA state Senate and now awaiting approval in the House. This bill suspends virtually all Constitutional rights of Massachusetts citizens and forces anyone “suspected” of being infected to submit to interrogations, “decontaminations” and vaccines.

It’s also sets fines up to $1,000 per day for anyone who refuses to submit to quarantines, vaccinations, decontamination efforts or to follow any other verbal order by virtually any state-licensed law enforcement or medical personnel.

The bill really does seem to exist. I found the official text of it here (though I confess to not having the time or inclination to reading through it with a fine-toothed comb). Neither the Glob nor Herald has covered it as far as I’ve been able to determine, but one local TV outlet has (YouTube here).

Among the provisions are these violations of civil liberties:

Here’s some of the language contained in the bill:

(Violation of 4th Amendment: Illegal search and seizure)

During either type of declared emergency, a local public health authority… may exercise authority… to require the owner or occupier of premises to permit entry into and investigation of the premises

(Violation of 14th Amendment; illegal arrest without a warrant)

…an officer authorized to serve criminal process may arrest without a warrant any person whom the officer has probable cause to believe has violated an order given to effectuate the purposes of this subsection and shall use reasonable diligence to enforce such order.

(Government price controls)

The attorney general, in consultation with the office of consumer affairs and business regulation, and upon the declaration by the governor that a supply emergency exists, shall take appropriate action to ensure that no person shall sell a product or service that is at a price that unreasonably exceeds the price charged before the emergency.

“Involuntary Transportation” (also known as kidnapping)

Law enforcement authorities, upon order of the commissioner or his agent or at the request of a local public health authority pursuant to such order, shall assist emergency medical technicians or other appropriate medical personnel in the involuntary transportation of such person to the tuberculosis treatment center.

$1,000 / day in fines

Any person who knowingly violates an order, as to which noncompliance
poses a serious danger to public health as determined by the commissioner or the local public health authority, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 30 days or a fine of not more than one thousand dollars per day that the violation continues, or both.

Forced vaccinations

Furthermore, when the commissioner or a local public health authority within its jurisdiction determines that either or both of the following measures are necessary to prevent a serious danger to the public health the commissioner or local public health authority may exercise the following authority: (1) to vaccinate or provide precautionary prophylaxis to individuals as protection against communicable disease…

Forced quarantine for those who refuse (illegal imprisonment without charge)

An individual who is unable or unwilling to submit to vaccination or treatment shall not be required to submit to such procedures but may be isolated or quarantined pursuant to section 96 of chapter 111 if his or her refusal poses a serious danger to public health….

It’s beyond me how this compares with other emergency legislation, but it sure seems to go way, way beyond what the Feds are considering:

The CDC’s report, released Monday, may well create some level of hysteria. It said 1.8 million Americans could become seriously ill this fall and as many as 90,000 could die.

In truth, America’s national pandemic response plan has been shaped by lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which killed millions globally and did include gun-point quarantines. If the circumstances are deemed dire enough, the government’s “Pandemic Influenza Plan” allows for strong measures, such as banning public gatherings and calling in the military to help with law enforcement.

Yet the far greater concern for public-health officials right now is more mundane: trying to make sure that there is enough vaccine to meet demand – and that there are enough healthcare professionals on hand to handle a potential influx of patients.

We’ve already reported on the hysteria over the 90k deaths. In fact, that wasn’t a CDC figure at all, but a White House one—which the CDC expressly reludiated, saying they expect nothing like that.

But back to the jack-booted thugs:

In the event of a health crisis, the federal government has broad powers. New rules enacted by the Bush administration include swine flu among quarantinable communicable diseases. For its part, the Obama administration is also reportedly reviewing proposals to strengthen three-decade-old federal quarantine policies, including, according to some reports, presidential power to impose a six-day quarantine on those affected by swine flu. The Department of Health and Human Services has asked the Pentagon to assist local health officials in the event of a pandemic.

But these are clear attempts at preparing for the worst.

“There’s not going to be compulsory vaccination,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, an analyst at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “But what you may be picking up on is that the military does have a lot of healthcare professionals, so [the government] may be enlisting some of the extra hands that are out there.”

Could someone please tell that to the Democrats here in the State House? The cradle of liberty is in danger of smothering under the weight of the Democratic super-majority here.

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Flipping Out (NSFW)

Reader Judi shares evidence of why the Kennedys are always Number One in our hearts:

A woman that appears to be the daughter of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg gives the middle finger to an unknown crowd member during Thursday’s procession.

Our photographer was not close enough to know what happened to prompt Rose to do this, but it looks like she was responding to someone in the crowd. Who knows what rude comment she might have heard?

Because sometimes near universal adulation and worship isn’t enough.

Maybe she saw one of these t-shirts (another tip o’ the hat to Judi):

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Bush Lied, People…Tried (To Ignore This BS)!

If you laid all the lies and fabrications about the Bush administration end to end, you’d, well, you’d have a typical daily edition of the New York Times:

Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge exposed himself as a weasel nearly two weeks ago when he allowed his publisher to gin up bogus book buzz with a false claim about the Bush administration pressuring him to alter homeland security alerts for political purposes.

He confirmed his weaseliness again in a USA Today interview published today, in which he walks back the sham allegation:

Former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, speaking for the first time about accusations made in his new book, says he did not mean to suggest that other top Bush administration officials were playing politics with the nation’s security before the 2004 presidential election.

Last week, when word got out about Ridge’s accusations, Rumsfeld’s spokesman Keith Urbahn issued a statement calling them “nonsense.”

Now, Ridge says he did not mean to suggest he was pressured to raise the threat level, and he is not accusing anyone of trying to boost Bush in the polls. “I was never pressured,” Ridge said.

Actually, what Mr. Urban said was: “Stupid Boy”:

You stupid boy, oh, I’m the same old
Same old stupid boy

Yet more proof (though none is needed) of the Left’s discontent with debating the issues, instead resorting to distortions and inventions to make their point. It’s never enough to disagree, the other side must be WRONG. Morally, spiritually, cosmologically wrong. Then there’s nothing to debate.

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Congress Shall Make No Law

But it can make all the threats it wants:

On Wednesday, before he addressed a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Reid joined the chamber’s board members for a meet-’n’-greet and a photo. One of the last in line was the Review-Journal’s director of advertising, Bob Brown, a hard-working Nevadan who toils every day on behalf of advertisers. He has nothing to do with news coverage or the opinion pages of the Review-Journal.

Yet, as Bob shook hands with our senior U.S. senator in what should have been nothing but a gracious business setting, Reid said: “I hope you go out of business.”

Later, in his public speech, Reid said he wanted to let everyone know that he wants the Review-Journal to continue selling advertising because the Las Vegas Sun is delivered inside the Review-Journal.

Such behavior cannot go unchallenged.

No citizen should expect this kind of behavior from a U.S. senator. It is certainly not becoming of a man who is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. And it absolutely is not what anyone would expect from a man who now asks Nevadans to send him back to the Senate for a fifth term.

If he thinks he can push the state’s largest newspaper around by exacting some kind of economic punishment in retaliation for not seeing eye to eye with him on matters of politics, I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don’t have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal.

For the sake of all who live and work in Nevada, we can’t let this bully behavior pass without calling out Sen. Reid. If he’ll try it with the Review-Journal, you can bet that he’s tried it with others. So today, we serve notice on Sen. Reid that this creepy tactic will not be tolerated.

We won’t allow you to bully us. And if you try it with anyone else, count on going through us first.

That’s a promise, not a threat.

And it’s a promise to our readers, not to you, Sen. Reid.

The media in general couldn’t be more compliant if they were getting paid by the lascivious act—and it’s still not enough for the Democrats. The aren’t happy until—well, they’re never happy. There’s always an opponent they haven’t smeared yet, a rich person with more money than they deem appropriate.

Such thinking usually winds up with the person hanging upside-down in the public square. Reid would make a fine trophy in front of the MGM Grand or the Bellagio.

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Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,

I am writing from Camp Intifadah:

Welcome to Camp Hamas

100 thousand kids and youth spent their summer vacation training in 700 Hamas training camps. The camp’s curriculum includes firearm training and military drills in order to nurture the next generation of militants.

700 summer camps, for children and teenagers, operated this summer by terror organizations along the Gaza Strip – operating under the slogan – A “Victory for Gaza – The Glory of Jerusalem”. The camps are operated by the Hamas in order to encourage the next generation of this organization. In the same area many summer camps are operated by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) – the main “competition” of Hamas’s summer camps. The Hamas reacted by presenting the UNRWA camps as “child corrupters”, trying to discourage the parents from sending their kids to the foreign aid organization’s camp.

How would the UN corrupt Palestinian children?

I hope you’re sitting down:

Hamas condemned the United Nations on Sunday over the international body’s apparent plan to teach Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip about the Holocaust.

A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which educates some 200,000 refugee children in Gaza, said the Holocaust was not on its current curriculum. He would not comment on Hamas’ statement that it was about to change.

Branding the Nazi genocide of the Jews “a lie invented by the Zionists,” the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip wrote in an open letter to a senior UN official that he should withdraw plans for a new history book in UN schools.

Note that this implies (and is confirmed later in the article) that the UN currently doesn’t even come near mentioning that “Zionist lie”, the H-word.

But I bet you already knew that.

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Keeping America Safe

Or not

A clever, streetwise classmate of mine at the Central Intelligence Agency’s junior officer training program—a former Delta Force officer—quickly and rudely discovered that counterterrorism in the much-vaunted Reagan years wasn’t a serious endeavor at Langley. He had original and provocative ideas on using physical force to scare the bejesus out of terrorist suspects who had American blood on their hands. Although the CIA was then filling up with operatives pretending to be engaged against a growing terrorist menace, Langley’s counterterrorist data bank and real operational planning were near zero. My friend’s ideas were too unsettling. He resigned. By the time I resigned in 1994, CIA counterterrorism had become an inflexible, lumbering creature, incapable of countering the wicked anti-American forces gaining strength in the Middle East.

Fast forward to eight years after 9/11: Has Attorney General Eric Holder damaged the CIA’s improved counterterrorist capacity by his decision to employ a special prosecutor to investigate whether crimes were committed by the agency’s interrogators? From the moment Barack Obama won the presidency, Langley’s use of “enhanced interrogation” was obviously over. The appointment of a prosecutor guarantees that unless the United States is again devastated by a terrorist attack—on a scale greater than 9/11—CIA operatives will certainly decline any future order by a Republican president to interrogate roughly a jihadist. Langley’s junior officers may still receive survival and escape training, which is the baptismal font for the agency’s enhanced interrogation techniques. But members of al Qaeda will not similarly get to enjoy the experience.

Regardless of whether one believes CIA-inflicted waterboarding, sleep deprivation or severe psychological coercion (suggesting that harm could come to a family member of a taciturn al Qaeda detainee) constitute torture, such actions may have produced an intelligence bonanza and saved thousands of lives. The released and heavily redacted 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report on interrogations doesn’t make a crystal clear case in favor of enhanced interrogation, but it certainly does suggest—and one has the distinct impression that the Inspector General was personally inclined against the rough treatment—that senior officers in the Directorate of Operations consistently found the interrogations to be valuable in collecting critical information against some members of al Qaeda, especially Mr. Mohammed.

We will never know whether being nicer—building rapport—with Mr. Mohammed would have eventually worked and produced the same or better results than CIA methods did. It’s possible. But what those who argue this position are really saying is that the variables of human nature—that even the hardest holy warriors, men who live to die and slaughter infidels as an expression of divine love and vengeance—will always yield to physically noncoercive methods that don’t have that much psychological punch either. This is a very Christian way of looking at interrogation: FBI agents are supposed to reach into the souls of jihadists and as father-confessors get them to voluntarily cooperate. It’s morally redemptive for all concerned. It’s neat and clean. No deadly plots go unbroken.

Even if the 3,000 intelligence reports produced between Sept. 11, 2001 and April 2003 from the CIA’s “high value detainees,” that is, the folks who likely received rough treatment, were released, we might not resolve the debate between those who believe exclusively in the utility of rapport-building interrogations and those more skeptical about FBI methods applied to those who fly airplanes into skyscrapers. But the publication of these documents would probably help. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, a busy man, undoubtedly just read the summaries given him by the CIA and believed them; Mr. Obama, a busier man, has certainly by now perused the same operational assessments and dismissed them. (Mr. Obama could hardly do otherwise since he’d so emphatically declared during the campaign, before having classified access to Langley’s work, that enhanced interrogation had both disgraced us and made us less safe.)

Until these reports are made public, or at a minimum the detailed and regular agency assessments of the reports’ value are released, we on the outside cannot better assess whether enhanced interrogation techniques worked. Mr. Obama has certainly set the stage for an enormous row that could well consume much of the energy of his administration if the special prosecutor brings charges against any CIA official for the way he interrogated an al Qaeda terrorist with 9/11 blood on his hands. And it’s an excellent bet that if the Justice Department starts prosecuting CIA officers, some hard-left European magistrates, who are still furious that their governments abetted the Bush administration’s counterterrorism in clandestine ways, won’t be far behind in bringing lawsuits against U.S. officials. Euro-American security ties are strong (self-interest is a strong glue) and have been mostly immune to the storms that regularly strike the trans-Atlantic community (the invasion of Iraq actually deepened the intelligence exchanges between us and the antiwar French and Germans).

But the prosecution of high-profile CIA and Bush administration officials for “torture” could well spotlight U.S.-European clandestine dealings sufficiently to make them subject to political litmus tests—something that has rarely happened even with ardently leftist European governments.

As difficult as these problems could prove for the Obama administration, the CIA and the Justice Department, there’s a more immediate operational issue for the clandestine service: Langley, once again, probably cannot field a competent group of counterterrorist interrogators.

Too disturbed by this to comment.

- Aggie

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Notice The Al’s

Look over to your right, to the section that says Categories. Scroll down to the first Al and keep reading. Don’t they make a cozy crew?

- Aggie

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