Archive for January, 2008

Libya’s democracy

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

There is a report from Iraq that Quaddafi’s son is head of a terrorist group in northern Iraq. How could that be ? Well, listen to his definition of democracy.

“My father has been promoting the idea of direct democracy in Libya for almost 26 years now,” he said to New York Times reporter Craig S. Smith in December, 2004. “It’s quite rational and logical that we have to continue in that direction.”

What does that democracy look like ?

Here is what his father says about democracy in The Green Book: “Political struggle that results in the victory of a candidate with, for example, 51 percent of the vote leads to a dictatorial governing body in the guise of false democracy, since 49 percent of the electorate is ruled by an instrument of government they did not vote for, but which has been imposed upon them. Such is dictatorship.” His solution to the problem of “false democracy” is his version of “direct democracy” that enshrines himself as leader of 100 percent of the people rather than a mere 51.

I wouldn’t get comfortable about Libya, even if their nuclear weapons are in Tennessee.

A new name in Massachusetts

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I noticed when this Republican came very close to defeating a Democrat with a famous name in a safe (D) seat in Massachusetts, in spite of opposition by the local paper including dirty tricks such as deleting comments on their blog. Shades of\. The campaign was unbelievably vicious and good for him in being willing to take them on again.

Now he is showing just how courageous he is by declaring for the seat of John Kerry. I think it’s terrific and I have already sent him a donation.

This story is another example of the left-wing bias of Google. Do a search and all the hits are antagonistic to Oganowski even though he almost won the election.

A glimpse of the future

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The US Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That is the First Amendment which applies to every square foot of US soil except Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, three people circulating petitions for an amendment to the state constitution were arrested, placed in handcuffs and hauled off for violating a liberally interpreted Oklahoma law requiring petition circulators to be residents of the state.

Oklahoma’s version of TABOR, the Stop OverSpending measure, quickly found itself the subject of an all-out “blocking” effort by the public employee unions and a vast coalition of alphabet soup groups that seem to really cherish overspending. People opposing the initiative were encouraged not only to complain to store managers to have petitioners denied access to store entrances and parking lots, they were instructed to prevaricate for their cause: blockers have publicly admitted to lying to store managers about the behavior of citizens petitioning outside stores.

My impression was that petition circulators are allowed access to private property, such as store parking lots, because that is the only way to get access to the public.

This wasn’t merely a few renegades. Jeanne Berg, a liberal labor activist from Oregon, was hired to run a campaign of harassment. Blockers were hired from throughout the country and paid as much as $100 a day. Their function? Swarm around anyone out circulating the petition and create enough street theater and mayhem to chase away citizens who, since the measure was overwhelmingly popular, would otherwise be likely to sign.

What to do ? Well, many petitions are circulated by people who are paid for legal signatures. They are not as easily intimidated as volunteers, at least until now.

Unlike most initiative states, Oklahoma has a residency requirement allowing only Oklahoma residents to circulate a petition. But when the petition company checked with state officials to determine what constituted a resident, those officials said that a person could move to Oklahoma and immediately declare residency—and begin petitioning.

Then the powers of the state began to intervene.

And the Oklahoma Supreme Court came to their aid, providing a much different standard for residency than in the past. The judges now equated residency with a “permanent home.”

The effect ?

The court thus struck enough signatures from the 300,000 gathered to deny the people of Oklahoma a vote on the spending cap measure.

The power of the public employee unions and others who want to see unlimited government spending is impressive. The three who were running the initiative campaign, a public initiative, were arrested and taken to jail in handcuffs and leg irons, lest they miss the point.

You see, stopping the people from voting to cap spending wasn’t enough. The people who run the state of Oklahoma want to make certain that upstart reformers like Rick Carpenter don’t dare attempt any future initiatives, and that professional petition managers like Susan Johnson or “outside agitators” like me quickly think better of providing any assistance to such citizen-initiated efforts.

Orange County, CA where I live has once declared bankruptcy. The public employee pension system has been declared insolvent. The response ?

A political campaign to defeat those who warn of insolvency.

John Moorlach is the only Republican candidate in the state actively criticizing unions for their over-the-top pension deals. That, insiders say, has mobilized the unions to make an example out of John.

Who is Moorlach ?

As you know, John warned of the County’s 1994 bankruptcy and subsequently as Treasurer has imposed fiscal discipline, restored solvency and assisted in the County’s recovery.

John Moorlach was a private accountant who ran for the office of County Treasurer in 1994 against the incumbent, warning that the County’s investment strategy in the bond market was too risky. The LA Times opposed him, dismissing his fears as unfounded. He lost that election and six months later the County declared bankruptcy ! Moorlach was elected Treasurer at the next election and is now a County Supervisor. The unions failed to defeat him in 2006.

Because now, more than 10 years later, Moorlach finds himself returning to his town-crier role and back to using the B-word – bankruptcy. Moorlach has been telling anyone who will listen – and many who don’t want to – that Orange County could face a $5 billion shortfall largely due to the new, expanded retirement benefits for county employees.”You know this is a train wreck coming, then it happens,” he said. “You kind of want to thump your chest but at the same time, you want to cry because you have to deal with the problem.”Moorlach’s train-wreck scenario began last August when the supervisors approved the union’s contract that included the pension hike. Moorlach argued that any increase placed more stress on a system that was already believed to be $1 billion short.

Of course, Orange County is not Oklahoma. Not yet.

Healthcare reform

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

In my book on the history of medicine I included a chapter on the history that led to the present crisis in health care economics. Basically, there are three general causes of the problem. One is technology. When I was a medical student 40-some years ago, there were no coronary care units, no coronary bypasses, no total hip replacements and life expectancy was about 72 years. When Bismark first established the retirement age at 65 in Germany, that (age 65) was also the average life expectancy. Now it is over 80 years and rising, which leads to the second cause. We have an aging population. Everyone outside of the Muslim world does. Old people need more care and technology has provided the nexus between high technology and age that is breaking the bank.

The third cause is more complex and varies from area to area, depending on the financing of health care. The United States has a mixed system for financing health care. Medicare and Medicaid are government single payer systems for care of the elderly, disabled and the poor (mostly women, children and nursing home residents). In recent years, the mechanism of paying in these systems has changed to the Health Maintenance Organization in many cases. The HMO, as it is abbreviated, is a creature of sociologist and rehabilitation physician, Paul Ellwood.

It would appear that Dr. Paul Ellwood, and his subsequent InterStudy organization, did not expect that the control of their HMOs would be by business executives and corporate shareholders committed only to their own fiduciary motives rather than medical professionals committed to a higher ethic.

The Achilles heel of the HMO system has been the role of perverse incentives. When Paul Ellwood coined the term HMO, he had in mind the fact that fee-for-service medicine creates an incentive for the doctor to do “more” care than the patient really needs in order to increase his own income. John Wennberg, of Dartmouth Medical School, calls this “supplier induced demand.” They did not seem to consider that a powerful HMO has an incentive to do the opposite. In the days before health insurance, the doctor and the patient had a more balanced relationship. Yes, there was a gap in information greater than that between, for example, a car owner and mechanic. Yes, the stakes were higher for the patient than having to buy a new car. Still, the transaction was easier to understand and the incentives were in better balance. Health insurance removed the transaction from the cost-benefit analysis of the patient and doctor to a remote, impersonal third party that, in the early days, had little incentive to interfere. Premiums were often paid by yet another, fourth party, the employer or the government. It is only recently that cost became the driving force it is today.

In his book, “Comeback”, David Frum attributes the distress of the middle class in the US today to the erosion of incomes due to the double whammy of FICA taxes to support programs for the elderly and health insurance premiums deducted by the employer.

In 1992, as President Clinton took office, anticipation was high that a solution was at hand. The Dartmouth people were heavily involved with designing the Clinton Health Plan but the political process went off the rails in an example of how not to do legislative action.

Since the failure of the Clinton attempt at reform, the HMO process has evolved and the only winners appear to be the corporate entities that found how profitable for-profit HMOs could be. They have done this by victimizing both doctors and patients. There has to be a better way.

I’ll post more about this in days to come.

Eurabia report

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I have previously posted some concerns about the Islamization of Europe. Here is a new report on the effect of these changes on gays in Europe. My impression of the political concerns of gay activists here is that they do not see how American policies toward radical Islam are making their lives safer. It must be comforting to think that gay marriage is the only concern you have.


Monday, January 28th, 2008

As long as we are discussing the dhimmitude of certain American institutions, what about this one? The Harvard Middle East Studies Institute produces a factoid that the 800,000 (or 1.5 million) residents of Gaza require 680,000 tonnes of flour per day to survive. So each resident requires almost a half tonne (or a tonne) of flour per day ? What do they do with it ? I thought they were starving. Let’s get our terms right, to begin with. A tonne is a metric ton or equivalent to 2200 pounds, more than an English ton which is 2,000 pounds. The article in the Boston Globe accuses the Israelis of a “stranglehold” on Gaza. With the residents eating all that much flour every day, maybe the Israelis are just worried about obesity.

Although Gaza daily requires 680,000 tons of flour to feed its population, Israel had cut this to 90 tons per day by November 2007, a reduction of 99 percent.

Let’s see. Ninety tons is 180,000 pounds or a quarter of a pound per person per day. Other sources put the average flour consumption at 350 to 450 tonnes per day. Any way you look at, it Harvard is putting out ridiculous propaganda, but then we knew that. The Harvard version is that it takes a ton of flour per day to ward off starvation.

Washingtonstan update

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Strange things are going on at the Pentagon. Earlier this month, I posted a question about the firing of a military expert on Islamic radicals. Claudia Rosette seems to have been just as interested in this story. She made inquiries about Hesham Islam, the “expert” whose opinions were enough to end Coughlan’s stint at the Pentagon. Last Friday, she wrote an article at NRO about who Islam really is. Now his profile has disappeared from the Pentagon website. That is a cached version.His exciting life story, questioned by Rosette, has some oddities. He describes being bombed as a child in his apartment in Cairo during the 1967 War. Israel did not bomb any Cairo residential areas. The Pentagon has no evidence, or is willing to share no evidence, to support many of his biographical details. He says he was a survivor of a ship sinking in the Arabian Sea at the age of 16.The profile goes on to describe young Hesham Islam as a “merchant mariner adrift for three days in the Arabian Sea after an Iranian torpedo sunk his 16,000-ton cargo ship, drowning all but Islam and four of his crewmates.”That profile is now gone from the Pentagon website. Rosette, an experienced investigative reporter (who wrote the definitive account of the oil-for-food scandal) can find no evidence of such a sinking.Later, his career took another turn:In 1985 he joined the Navy as an electronics technician in the submarine service. According to his Pentagon biography, he went on to serve on a number of ships, in largely technical and operational posts, before hooking up with Gordon England and finally arriving at his current job in the Pentagon.My earlier guess that a 20 year career that ended as a LT Commander (A major in other branches) would not be distinguished unless begun as an EM, was correct.He does have one qualification for his high position in the Pentagon; he hates Israel.He argued that U.S. support for Israel “has negatively affected the attainment of U.S. objectives in the Middle East.” He blamed the influence of American Jews on U.S. policy for a host of ills, ranging from Arab “retaliation” against Americans, to jobs lost overseas, to hampering sales of “defensive arms to friendly Arab states.”Is that why Gordon England, his boss and #2 man at the Pentagon, chose him as a senior aide ?Well, he did have a distinguished career before enlisting in the Navy as an EM.In 1980, according to the profile, Islam immigrated to the U.S. to get married, being suddenly love-smitten after receiving a photo of an American pen pal with whom he had been corresponding sight-unseen for more than three years. For the next five years he worked in what the spokesman describes as the “food services” industry. In 1985 he joined the Navy as an electronics technician in the submarine service.Well, at least he wasn’t driving a taxi ! What in the hell is going on ?Is this guy a mole ? An Islamic mole ? Does anybody else read Tom Clancy novels ? In one of them, I think Executive Orders, an Islamic mole becomes a Secret Service agent, ready to assassinate the President when given the order by his Ayatollah.This is going to be a big story , I hope. We need to find out why this guy was spiking careers of people who were worried about Islamic radicals infiltrating our society.

The Greenspan amendment

Monday, January 28th, 2008

In his recent memoir, Alan Greenspan says he’s been pushing a constitutional amendment of his own devising. It reads: “Anyone willing to do what is required to become president of the United States is thereby barred from taking that office.”

I announced my support for Fred Thompson, and signed up for monthly donations (I was an optimist), just a couple of weeks ago. After the South Carolina primary, Fred, a fourth place finisher, dropped out of the campaign. Maybe this is why. He is normal.

The man or woman who seeks out such a life and enjoys its discomforts is not normal. Not crazy necessarily, but not normal, and probably, when the chips are down, not to be trusted, especially when the purpose of it all is to acquire power over other people (also called, in the delicate language of contemporary politics, “public service” or “getting things done on behalf of the American people”). The case is made, in defense of the contemporary campaign, that this is an efficient if unlovely way to choose leaders: It winnows out those who lack the stamina and discipline necessary to lead a rich, large, powerful, and complicated country. By this argument, Thompson failed because he deserved to.

But the opposite case is easier to make–that the modern campaign excludes anyone who lacks the narcissism, cold-bloodedness, and unreflective nature that the process requires and rewards. In his memoir -Greenspan remarks that of the seven presidents he has known well, the only one who was “close to normal” was Jerry Ford. And, as Greenspan points out, Ford was never elected.

God help us with the kind of president we get from this system, although Bush looked more relaxed than most.

The explanation for John McCain’s amnesty plan

Monday, January 28th, 2008

I have a home in Arizona and have wondered why John McCain would ignore all the evidence about the harm that illegal immigration brings to heavily impacted communities. Now I know why he does it. Remember Sutton’s Law ? Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks and replied “That’s where the money is!” The man who is funding McCain’s last try at the presidency is the chairman of Univision, the Spanish language TV empire that fought English-only education in California. If children are educated in, and become fluent in, English, why would they watch Univision programming once they become adults ? I don’t blame Univision for wanting an indentured class of Spanish only TV watchers, even if they can never progress in the American economy, but why would McCain want this ?

In the final weeks of the campaign, Republican billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, owner of the Univision Spanish-language television network, provided millions of dollars in cash and free air-time to the No on 227 campaign, which overall outspent the Yes campaign by a ratio of 20 to 1 in advertising. Despite this financial mismatch Proposition 227 passed by one of the widest margins in recent history, winning a larger percentage of the vote than any contested initiative since Proposition 13 in 1978.

I guess it is all about money after all. McCain is the enemy of “soft money” in political campaigns isn’t he ?

A. Jerrold Perenchio, chairman of the Spanish-language media giant Univision and a McCain national finance co-chairman: $11.3 million

Well, maybe not when the money is coming his way.

This is what victory in Iraq looks like.

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Michael Totten’s latest post from Fallujah shows what winning in Iraq looks like. It isn’t all rosy, look at the last paragraph. Still, the change from three years ago is astonishing. Of course, the opponents of the war have moved the goalposts.