Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Truth and Terri Schiavo's Brain Are Both Wrecked

You know, after the 2000 and 2004 elections I really had begun to think that it was the people on the left end of the political scale that habitually ginned up crises, distorted the facts, ignored established law in favor of their own emotional take on a given situation, constantly wanted to change the rules or ignored the rules to suit their own whims, and so on.

How totally un-cynical to think that way. I am embarrassed.

With the Terri Schiavo case I am forcefully reminded that right-wingers are capable of exactly the same sorts of things.

Ginning up a crisis? Ignoring ethical guidelines for the sake of emotionalism? Boy, you should hear some of these talk radio people hitting the emotional hot buttons or look at conservative online forums. That a person has the right to refuse any treatment has been established law for many years now, that a person's autonomy should not be violated is a conservative ideal, and yet they want to throw this out the window.

Refusing to face the truth? There is no therapy, there is no test, and there is nothing whatsoever that is going to make any difference in her condition. An MRI of her brain will tell us nothing that will do any good. She has been this way for fifteen years. The way she is now, however you want to describe it, is the way she'll be for the foreseeable future. That's just the fact of it whether some people want to face the truth or not. The possiblity of some sort of miraculous recovery is nill.

Distorting the issues? We are getting one red herring after another from the right-wingers on this matter. Whether or not Terry is actually in persistent vegetative state, whether or not she got an MRI of her brain, whether or not a miracle is possible, whether she got this or that type of therapy are all irrelevant. The only thing that has any relevance is what Terri would want to have done if she could tell us.

Unfairly smearing people? The way in which the husband has been smeared is despicable. He has been accused of neglecting Terri, of refusing to provide "necessary" treatment, of refusing to have "necessary" tests done, of wanting her dead for his own selfish reasons. All of these allegations have been shown to be false in the courts.

Refusing to abide by the rules? Disregard of due process? The whole issue of whether the husband is the one to tell us what her wishes would be given his current situation is relevant, but the court has considered that very matter carefully already. We ought to respect that process. The people who in good faith spent the hours actually going over all the evidence of her status and attendant issues have been denigrated by the idiotic, ill-informed second-guessing that some conservatives have been doing.

Bolton Tells It Like It Is

The UN is just a joke. Might as well have fun with it.

If you're going to play the oldest established permanent floating transnational crap game for laughs, might as well pick an act with plenty of material. What I love about Bolton, America's new ambassador to the U.N., is the sheer volume of "damaging" material.

Like this:

"There is no such thing as the United Nations."

"If I were redoing the Security Council, I'd have one permanent member: the United States."

"It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law."

...Sending Bolton to be U.N. ambassador is like . . . putting Sudan and Zimbabwe on the Human Rights Commission. Or letting Saddam's Iraq chair the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Or sending a bunch of child-sex fiends to man U.N. operations in the Congo. And the Central African Republic. And Sierra Leone, and Burundi, Liberia, Haiti, Kosovo, and pretty much everywhere else.

All of which happened without the U.N. fetishists running around shrieking hysterically. Why should America be the only country not to enjoy an uproarious joke at the U.N.'s expense?

Judge in Schiavo Case Not Activist

No doubt a lot of people will be slamming this judge for being "activist" for not granting the Schindlers an injuction, but he in fact had no choice. He was just following the letter of the law in a straightforward manner just as conservatives have always said that judges should do.

The granting of an injunction hinged only on whether or not the Schindlers were likely to prevail on appeal. There was just nothing that supported that contention. All of their previous appeals to federal court has been turned down, and they provided nothing new to support a new appeal. In the hearing the judge was practically pleading with the Schindler's lawyer to come up with something that justified an injunction.

Conservatives have always said that they want judges to apply the law and not make it. But if judges just apply the law as written or established then they will unavoidably make rulings that even they don't like. It's only the activist judges who get to change the law to get the outcome they want.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Cost of Care

We have been struggling in this country with the issue of rationing medical care for as long as I can remember. First it was restrictions on what traditional medical insurance would pay for. This was quickly eroded by lawsuits against insurance carriers. Then it was the gatekeeper concept for a while, and that was also eroded by patient dissatisfaction and by lawsuits. Restricting access to specialists, restricted formularies, etc. didn't work. And now we are pretty much back to the status quo ante, except that even more people can't afford medical insurance than ever before.

Having observed all of this my impression is that the only way to impose rationing is to do it across the board all at once, and the government will have to do it. The government is the only entity with enough power to make it stick. I don't think that we have the political will in this country to do that yet, and things will have to get much worse before we do.

This is not a perfect solution, of course, because the government will be susceptible to political pressure to inject nonsense and idiocy into the system. For example, there are categories of disease recognized by US government health entities that received recognition as real biological disease states only because the people who think they have those diseases, which are in fact most likely psychosomatic, have pressured the government into that position. Not because there is any actual evidence of an objective, biological abnormality.

The health care system of a certain Scandinavian country is at the verge of crisis over this sort of thing, in which a large proportion of the population is claiming disablity for having a disease that does not actually exist but that the system was politically forced to recognize.

We do have rationing in this country, make no mistake about it. And the rationing is of the form that poor people don't have access to the range of options and convenience of care that wealthier people do.

You might think that with medical insurance that you have access to the "best" care. It's not true. There are levels of care above you that you could only dream about, that only the very rich elites of this country can get. For example, if you need, say, a hemorrhoid removed you can use your company supplied insurance and go see a physician, get tests done 3 weeks later, surgery scheduled 6 weeks later, get kicked out of the hospital on the day of surgery and deal with any problems that arise between then and your next follow up visit yourself at home. If you can afford to forget the insurance you can fly somewhere and the whole thing will get done in 2 or 3 days, and nobody will rush you out of the door after surgery.

But don't worry, the care is more convienient and the doctors are more likely to humor you, but the rich are no healthier for it. Take a look at Michael Jackson's face if you doubt it.

Having been involved in the charity care end of the profession for many years I happen to think that the care provided by public hospitals is often the more rational because patients are generally not in a position to strong arm health care workers into providing unnecessary or extravagent care. Yet most of the time the care is quite adequate for the purpose of actually keeping people healthy, and because there is often more organization and more continuity those poor people generally get better care for chronic problems like hypertension and diabetes.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Farm Is Where Socialism Dies

Everyone is familiar with George Orwell's novel "Animal Farm" wherein the faults of Marxist-Leninism were explored using barn-yard animal characters. But there is little recognition of the extent to which it is on the farms of a nation that the practice of a centrally controlled economy and collectivism is shown to be unworkable.

From the very beginning of the socialist experiment in Russia the farms were problematic. Lenin personally felt it necessary to demand that peasant farmers be summarily executed because they were refusing to fall in line with the communist program. Stalin starved rural peoples to death in order to avoid the trouble they were causing with his control of the economy.

It's a phenomenon that illustrates the way in which leftist ideas have sprung not from the experience of ordinary country people, who have learned through experience the lessons of human nature, the necessity of private property, and the necessity of a free market, but from the elite urban intellectuals, who have been seperated from nature and rural life all of their lives, often for several generations.

It is, in fact, only from the minds of people who have no experience in practical matters, unavoidable in rural life, that ideas like collectivism and central economic control could possibly originate. Only from the mind of people like Marx, unable to do anything but research and write in a library, supported by rich fools like Engels, could the Communist Manifesto spring.

Every farmer knows the importance of establishing boundaries between his land and the land of his neighbors and enforcing those boundaries and knows what will happen if this is neglected, human nature being what it is. Every farmer knows what happens to land on which the flocks of several farmers graze, human nature being what it is. Every farmer knows and can deal in the market and knows the importance of being able to quickly sell his produce in a fair market and of having the flexibility to respond to changing conditions of the weather, the market, insect threats, and other factors. Every farmer knows what happens to people who are denied the benefits of their own production, who have no stake in their work on in the land.

Only the urban intellectual is unaware of the importance of these things or could possibly even imagine that command control of all of these things or collective property is possible. Only an intellectual completely ignorant of basic human nature could think a thing like the "new Soviet man", unconcerned about private property and working only for the common good, could ever arise.

It was only with the most brutal force that farmers in the Soviet Union were made to conform to central control. And the farmers never, ever gave up the market, which continued in an illicit form for seventy years. What little land they were able to call their own they used to the utmost, and it was said that the little gardens tended by farmers supposedly for their own use outproduced all the other land that was held in common.

Bush, Clinton, and Pre-Packaged News

The Instapundit writes:

A LOT OF PEOPLE are noticing this story from the New York Times about prepackaged fake news from the Bush Administration. But if you read the whole thing, to coin a phrase, you come upon this passing acknowledgement:
The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration, is continuing despite President Bush's recent call for a clearer demarcation between journalism and government publicity efforts.

Funny, but I don't remember much of a stink about it when it happened during the Clinton Administration.

The Instapundit article goes on to point out that a big proportion of the news stories we see in the papers and on TV were written by trade, industry, union, consumer, and other interest groups for that very purpose, i.e., to further their own agenda. It has become, more or less, a standard way of communicating with the public for any interest group, and a big part of an editor's job at a news organization consists simply of wholesaleing these outside sources of copy.

A paper's "slant" is increasingly determined by which of these sources of copy that they are willing to use. Thus, the New York Times, say, is loath to use anything produced by the Administration but will lap up anything cranked out by the DNC or anyone else in their leftist orbit. A large proportion of the left wing organizations out there exist for no other reason than to produce and send out these "press releases" which are in fact prepackaged stories that reporters can make their own simply by inserting their by-line at the top.

For example, if you see a story about a defective product on the market that is harming people you can almost bet that the story was mostly written by the group of lawyers who want to put together a legal action. For another example, many of the stories you see about global warming and the environment are mostly written by environmentalist groups pushing this agenda.

Thus, the idea that the Administration somehow violated the principles of an "independent" press is laughable. A Jeff Gannon type reporter in passing stories on from the Administration would be doing nothing more or less than exactly what other reporters do all of the time.

Given this background, one is inclined to wonder just where it is that the New York Times gets all this concern about the sanctity of the press. Rather than ask why the Bush or Clinton administrations do this it might be more to the point to ask why it is that the Administration alone from all interested parties should have this avenue of communication closed to them.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

In the European Streets...

...They're not marching for Arab democracy:

Why are so many Westerners, living in mature democracies, ready to march against the toppling of a despot in Iraq but unwilling to take to the streets in support of the democratic movement in the Middle East?

Is it because many of those who will be marching in support of Saddam Hussein this month are the remnants of totalitarian groups in the West plus a variety of misinformed idealists and others blinded by anti-Americanism?

Or is it because they secretly believe that the Arabs do not deserve anything better than Saddam Hussein?

Those interested in the health of Western democracies would do well to ponder those questions.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Freedom? Why Europe Can't Be Bothered

Europe has pretty much given up on the whole undertaking [the idea of freedom and democracy] now: we tried it and it ended in the Terror. We went through our phase of proselytising democratic revolution with Bonaparte and look where that ended. Spreading freedom? All that amounts to is killing off one generation of autocrats and replacing them with another. Trust the people? They are just as likely to follow a fascist demagogue as to perpetuate the sacred principle of justice.

Better to make your cynical peace with the worst aspects of human nature than to pretend that free men will always choose good over evil. Much better to make a mutually profitable trade-off behind the scenes than to expose political decisions to the popular will. What evidence is there that the people actually know what is best for them? Most charitably, the European philosophy of government - shortly to be permanently installed under the EU constitution - is paternalistic. At worst, it is arrogant and authoritarian.

But whatever it is, it no longer has a belief in real democracy of the kind that Americans recognise - government of the people, by the people and for the people - at its heart.

Europe has traded liberty for security, democracy for reasurring bureaucratic control and over-regulation. European hatred of the US stems in good part from jealousy of American self-belief and from European shame over their lost ideals. To them, American talk about spreading freedom is a reproach.

Anyway, europeans have found something better than personal freedom. They have found the wealth one gets from spending nothing on national defense. So now they are not even fit to defend themselves or sort out problems in the own back yard like the Balkans. They have neither the will nor the military resources to help America spread freedom to anyone.

Hillary is a Lose-Lose for the Democrats

This author thinks that at the very time when Democrats need to be seriously rethinking their agenda that a Hillary candidacy for President would encourage them to dig their heels in and refuse to examine what has been going wrong for their party:

Mr. Clinton himself was, of course, re-elected. Otherwise, since his ascension, the Democrats have lost two Presidential races; lost control of the House of Representatives; lost control of the United States Senate; lost, on balance, more state legislatures and governorships than they have gained.

Granted, given all the variables—national trends, local idiosyncrasies, the giant sea change that was Sept. 11—it would be ridiculous to lay all this rubble entirely at the feet of the former President. But it is much more ridiculous to sculpt it, somehow, into an argument that America is longing for more of him.

Yet this is precisely the argument that whole swaths of Democrats will make....

Court Backs Three Oxen Dowries

WASHINGTON, D.C.: In a far-reaching decision that will likely create complicated consequences for the American livestock and wedding-planning industries, the Supreme Court this morning ruled 5-4 that all US marriage dowries "must include three non-diseased oxen."

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited "the weight of the expansive penumbra surrounding the historically emerging and prevailing opinions of tribal shamans from Lesotho to Myanamar" in issuing the historic ruling in American Cattleman Association vs. Modern Bride, Helverson, et al.

In a scathing and sometimes caustic dissent, Judge Antonin Scalia wrote that "Holy. Freakin'. Sh*t."

In keeping with the desire of the court to consider international opinion regarding the law, the court also found:

=That signage on U.S. Interstate Highways must be translated to both French and Flemish by 2007.

=That starting Friday, motorists may drive on either side of American roads.

=That prevailing Nepalese-Canadian-Yemeni standards should be considered in opening the way for legalized stonings at arranged gay marriages.

=That although it reversed death sentences for prisoners convicted of crimes committed while juveniles, states may voluntarily terminate prisoners as "extremely late-term abortions" under Roe v. Wade.

=That a previous decision by a European panel should be overturned, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg should be declared winner of the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest.

=That, considering the tradition of international courts of ignoring US court rulings, this ruling itself was unconstitutional.

It's Time to Praise Wolfowitz

Let us now praise Paul Wolfowitz. Let us now take another look at the man who has pursued - longer and more forcefully than almost anyone else - the supposedly utopian notion that people across the Muslim world might actually hunger for freedom.

Let us look again at the man who's been vilified by Michael Moore and the rest of the infantile left, who's been condescended to by the people who consider themselves foreign policy grown-ups, and who has become the focus of much anti-Semitism in the world today - the center of a zillion Zionist conspiracy theories, and a hundred zillion clever-Jew-behind-the-scenes calumnies.

...it's time to step back and observe that over the course of his long career - in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Central and Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East - Wolfowitz has always been an ardent champion of freedom.

Vietnam the Next Iraq?

Perhaps soon the "lessons of history" from the War in Vietnam that the left attempts to apply to Iraq and every other conflict that the US has become involved in since the '70's won't even apply that well to Vietnam any more.

This story details a conversation with Dr. Que, a pro-democracy dissident in Vietnam that the authorities there, under international pressure, have recently released from prison.

Dr. Que does not have access to the daily diet of news that feeds the free world. But given the feats of modern technology to spread information, he knows enough about what is now happening in the Middle East so that he wished to share his views on how America's intervention in Iraq is like the war in Vietnam, and how it isn't. The similarity, he says, "is the same fighting spirit for freedom." The difference, he adds, is that in the fight for freedom, the side America is on "will triumph this time."


"The world is changing," says Dr. Que. "There are more opportunities than ever."

He is right, and if the world is changing, it is because the U.S. is hardly alone in prizing freedom.