Daily Archives: August 27, 2009
This is … disturbing:
“… I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to take part in a conference call that invited a group of rising artist and art community luminaries “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”
Now admittedly, I’m a skeptic of BIG government. In my view, power tends to overreach whenever given the opportunity. It’s a law of human nature that has very few exceptions. That said, it felt to me that by providing issues as a cynosure for inspiration to a handpicked arts group – a group that played a key role in the President’s election as mentioned throughout the conference call – the National Endowment for the Arts was steering the art community toward creating art on the very issues that are currently under contentious national debate; those being health care reform and cap-and-trade legislation. Could the National Endowment for the Arts be looking to the art community to create an environment amenable to the administration’s positions?”
Hmmm. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I’ll go with “abso-freak’n-lutely” as my answer.
Oh, wait. Was that a rhetorical question?
I learned after the conference call that there were approximately 75 people participating, including many well respected street-artists, filmmakers, art galleries, music venues, musicians and music producers, writers, poets, actors, independent media outlets, marketers, and various other professionals from the creative community … Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.
We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.
Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.
Erm, yes, I guess that was a rhetorical question.
The NEA is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts. That is right, the largest funder of the arts in the nation – a fact that I’m sure was not lost on those that were on the call, including myself. One of the NEA’s major functions is providing grants to artists and arts organizations. The NEA has also historically shown the ability to attract “matching funds” for the art projects and foundations that they select. So we have the nation’s largest arts funder, which is a federal agency staffed by the administration, with those that they potentially fund together on a conference call discussing taking action on issues under vigorous national debate. Does there appear to be any potential for conflict here?
Assuming that I can answer that one, I’d say the potential for conflict is rather high. If an entire industry is almost entirely supported by the government then, when that benefactor starts making “suggestions” about how that industry should behave, you can bet that the industry will respond. In this case, propaganda posters, statues, billboards and movies would be the expected outcome. In the American car business, increased hybrid car production is the most likely result of government intervention (that is why Fiat was brought in after all).
So what do you think will happen when the federal government is in charge of paying for health care? If the government were to “suggest” that certain medical procedures should be favored, or that certain patients should receive care before others, do you suppose that the medical industry will have much leverage to resist? And suppose that new reforms are proposed after passage of whatever bill is frankensteined together this Fall. If the government is going to be paying most of the bills, who do you think the insurance companies, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, et al. will be paying more attention to when the Obama administration and its minions come calling? Patients or the government?
That is a rhetorical question, because I already know the answer.
Via the Liberty Papers, this one is a keeper:
The problems of our economy have occurred not as an outgrowth of laissez-faire, unbridled competition. They have occurred under the guidance of federal agencies, and under the umbrella of federal regulations.
-Sen. Ted Kennedy (1979)
And that remains just as true now about broader government (especially health care/insurance) as it was when Kennedy first uttered it about transportation.
Coming soon from a lefty near you:
A new survey commissioned by the AARP asks respondents to what degree they support or oppose “[s]tarting a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” — a public option, in other words. The results are interesting, though not necessarily surprising to those who have been closely following the debate.
All: 79 percent favor/18 percent oppose
Democrats: 89 percent favor/8 percent oppose
Republicans: 61 percent favor/33 percent oppose
Independents: 80 percent favor/16 percent oppose
Let that sink in for a moment — 61% of Republicans and 80% of Independents support some sort of “federal health insurance plan” according to MyDD’s Jonathan Singer, who adds:
Indeed, a supermajority of even Republicans supports a federal program to provide individuals with a choice for their health insurance coverage, with just a third of the party membership opposing such a plan.
So why, again, are supporters of a public option finding such difficulty in Congress?
Regardless of the veracity of these numbers, you will hear them spouted over and over again by every leftwing outlet available (yes, that includes the MSM). It will become gospel amongst ObamaCare supporters that 80% of Americans support a public option, just as it’s become gospel that there are 47 Million uninsured individuals in this country, or that Tea Party advocates are in the paid employ of the health insurance lobby. Yet, problems abound with this survey.
Where to begin. Firstly, when I say “according to Jonathan Singer” above, I mean that the poll question he quotes is nowhere to be found publicly, so there is no way to verify its accuracy. The AARP has no link to it (and in fact does not even mention the poll), nor does the company, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (“PSB”), that conducted the survey.
If in fact the question was worded as described by Singer, then the inclusion of the phrase “if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” alters the results dramatically. Although some have suggested that this is the reason we need health
care insurance reform so desperately, it completely ignores the fact that those who can’t afford health insurance are generally covered by Medicaid, SCHIP and other federal and state programs. So when respondents are asked whether such people should be covered, how do we know they aren’t thinking about those federal and state programs already in existence and not the public option as proposed by Obama and Congress? In short, we don’t. To be fair, the question allegedly refers to “starting a new” program, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people understood the question to be asking about ObamaCare’s public option.
Indeed, according to PSB, “only 37 percent define ‘public option’ correctly” and “about one-fourth of those polled believe the ‘public option’ is a national health care system, similar to the one in Great Britain.” Of course, how to “correctly” define the public option is not revealed, but suffice it to say that the survey’s respondents did not reveal they had a concise grasp upon what a public option actually means.
Then there is the transparency problem. Although PSB claims (pdf) its survey has a margin of error of “+/- 3.10% at the 95% confidence level and larger for subgroups” it also states that it was done over the internet “on August 12-13, 2009 among 1,000 Americans”. Because the data are not released (at least, not to the public, although Singer apparently has access to a copy), it’s impossible to tell, and difficult to understand, how an internet survey could determine that only Americans responded, that the respondents were actually associated with any political party (e.g. registered voters), or that respondents were even separate people. In addition, how is that an “internet survey” completed over two days received only (and exactly!) 1,000 responses? Again, we don’t know because the actual poll data are hidden from public view. But it looks awfully suspect when such a survey has 61% of Republicans, and 79% overall, responding favorably to a public option, when numerous other polls out there show much lower support.
Finally, there is a potential bias problem. PSB, the company who conducted the survey, is not exactly a bystander in this debate. The “P” in “PSB” is Penn. As in Mark Penn. Remember him?
Mark Penn, the strategist who dashed Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes, is the Wall Street Journal’s “Microtrend”-spotting columnist. He’s also CEO of PR giant Burson-Marsteller. Only a scumbag would abuse the former to drum up business for the latter.
Mark Penn’s latest (old, and none too insightful) ‘Microtrend’ column is about “glamping”—glamorous camping. It ran last weekend. By Monday, according to an internal email obtained by Gawker, Burson was already trying to recruit companies from the industry featured in the column as clients. Burson Executive Vice President (and former Bill Clinton speechwriter) Josh Gottheimer urged Burson’s senior staff—including Founding Chairman Harold Burson, US President & CEO Patrick Ford, and others, to use Penn’s column as a tool to approach clients in the camping industry about business. Not only that—he recommends that Mark Penn “send a note” to the CEO of these potential clients requesting a meeting.
The WSJ is currently investigating whether the allegation that Penn used his column to generate business created any conflict of interest problems [Ed. - gee, you think?]. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by another one of his companies (PSB) is claiming that support is monstrously high for a public option. And what does PSB do?
Penn, Schoen & Berland (PSB), a member of the WPP Group, is a global research-based consultancy that specializes in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip political, corporate and entertainment clients.
Any guesses as to which clients PSB might be after, and why they only released their survey results to friendly (i.e. partisan lefty) outlets?
It’s my guess that the 80% number is going to tossed around quite a bit in the next coming weeks as Congress gets back to work
screwing us passing legislation in September. Just remember that, as of right now, there are many, many reasons to be quite skeptical about that number.
UPDATE: As bains points out in the comments, Jonathan Singer has amended his post, without explanation and (still) without any link to the data, so that “commissioned by the AARP” has been struck out. There’s really nothing wrong with that (it’s not as if the words disappeared altogether), but the omissions are more than a bit strange.
Also, with respect to polling data, Rasmussen released this today:
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey show that 43% of voters nationwide favor the plan working its way through Congress while 53% are opposed. Those figures are virtually identical to results from two weeks ago.
As has been true since the debate began, those opposed to the congressional overhaul feel more strongly about the legislation than supporters. Forty-three percent (43%) now Strongly Oppose the legislation while 23% Strongly Favor it. Those figures, too, are similar to results from earlier in August.
While supporters of the reform effort say it is needed to help reduce the cost of health care, 52% of voters believe it will have the opposite effect and lead to higher costs. Just 17% believe the plans now in Congress will reduce costs.
There’s lots more, so go RTWT.
And one last thing. Some of you may notice a certain comment that I let through the filters. It’s not technically spam, but it is one of those pernicious attempts to make some favorite meme go viral that it might as well be spam. You may also notice that I will have gone into the comment and ripped it to shreds. I reserve the right to do so at my leisure, because I have the power and spammenters (as I shall now call these vermin) do not. Neither do they have the common courtesy to even read the post, but instead they simply post their drivel whenever the come across the right keywords. In return, I shall treat these spamments (see what I did there!) as my own personal canvas upon which to express my personal disdain for such ignorant, disrespectful malcontents.
That is all.
MORE: OK, someone went ahead and deleted the comment after I approved it, thus depriving me of my fun. So … carry on.
That’s what Nick Gillespie at Reason hopes the death of Ted Kennedy signals.
Gillespie says that when all the lionizing of Kennedy is said and done, a little perusal of what he has been responsible for during his tenure is called for. And, while doing that, we should ponder the effect on our national culture those pieces of legislation have had. After making that analysis, freedom loving people should vow, “never again”.
The legislation for which he will be remembered is precisely the sort of top-down, centralized legislation that needs to be jettisoned in the 21st century. Like Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and the recently deposed Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Kennedy was in fact a man out of time, a bridge back to the past rather than a guide to the future. His mind-set was very much of a piece with a best-and-the-brightest, centralized mentality that has never served America well over the long haul.
Bigger was better, and government at every level but especially at the highest level, had to lead the way. In an increasingly flat, dispersed, networked world in which power, information, knowledge, purchasing power, and more was rapidly decentralizing, Kennedy was all for sitting at the top of a pyramid and directing activity. In this way, he was of his time and place, a post-war America that figured that all the kinks of everyday life had been mastered by a few experts in government, business, and culture. All you needed to do was have the right guys twirling the dials up and down. As thoughtful observers of all political stripes have noted, this sort of thinking was at best delusional, at worst destructive. And it was always massively expensive.
We are, at this very moment in time, confronting both the cost and the damage wrought by the Kennedy legacy. And the administration in place is, hopefully, the dying gasp of that sort of 20th century thinking brought forward by political impetus alone.
The real message of the August townhalls is that the American people have had enough of that sort of thinking and that sort of legislating. What you’re hearing and seeing are a people beginning to understand and reject the Byrds, Stevens, Kennedys, Obamas and Pelosis of the political world because the price, both literally and figuratively, has become much too high in terms of the their money and their liberty.
Ted Kennedy did what he believed was right and good for America. He was, as Gillespie says, a man of his time. As with all men, his time has passed. It is also time to bury his legacy because just like him, its time has passed as well.
There was a bit of a push-back a week or so ago on Twitter by Brits who wanted us to quit dissing their National Health Service and to say how very happy they were with it. However a report from the Patients Association seems to beg to differ with the happy Twits. They’ve found that the care provided within the NHS is really nothing to brag about:
In the last six years, the Patients Association claims hundreds of thousands have suffered from poor standards of nursing, often with ‘neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel’ treatment.
The charity has disclosed a horrifying catalogue of elderly people left in pain, in soiled bed clothes, denied adequate food and drink, and suffering from repeatedly cancelled operations, missed diagnoses and dismissive staff.
The Patients Association said the dossier proves that while the scale of the scandal at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – where up to 1,200 people died through failings in urgent care – was a one off, there are repeated examples they have uncovered of the same appalling standards throughout the NHS.
Interestingly, much of the complaining has to do with the nurses in the system:
While the criticisms cover all aspects of hospital care, the treatment and attitude of nurses stands out as a repeated theme across almost all of the cases.
Claire Rayner, President of the Patients Association and a former nurse, said:“For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our helpline from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses.
“I am sickened by what has happened to some part of my profession of which I was so proud.
“These bad, cruel nurses may be – probably are – a tiny proportion of the nursing work force, but even if they are only one or two percent of the whole they should be identified and struck off the Register.”
The charity has published a selection of personal accounts from hundreds of relatives of patients, most of whom died, following their care in NHS hospitals.
Now I have no idea how the government bureaucracy which is charged with hiring and firing medical personnel in the UK works, but it is a bureaucracy and I’m sure it has a very long and difficult procedure that is required before anyone can be let go. Additionally, my guess is that the UK suffers from a nursing shortage just like most of the rest of the world. So it is my guess – and that’s all it is – that the nurses cited in the report, which they claim are probably a “tiny proportion”, have been complained about for years. I’d further guess that should another report be authored in another 5 years by the Patients Association, the same complaints received now will be received then because, given the shortage and difficult procedure necessary to fire a nurse, the same nurses will be working and performing just as they have in the past.
But that’s just me guessing based on my experience with government bureaucracies. And, I’d further assert that it is and always will be a systemic problem with any government bureaucracy.
That’s what Bernard Goldberg is saying. Yeah, this is ancient history now, but it is also one of the first controversies QandO got involved in up to our necks – the “Rathergate” story. The main part of that story was that CBS had allegedly been provided documents that proved that Bush had gotten preferential treatment joining the Air National Guard to avoid Vietnam, he’d gone awol and, in essense he was a “cowardly draft dodger”.
Of course that all came apart when it was proven that the documents were forgeries done with technology only available well after George Bush’s service.
One of the aspects of that story that sort of got lost in the shuffle was that Bush had volunteered to fly in Vietnam. It surfaced briefly and then, with all the other parts of the story taking on a life of their own, especially those linked to the documents, it was lost in the shuffle.
Goldberg finally read the 234 page report that CBS had an outside panel do about the Rather/Mapes story.
Until now, the controversy over the Rather/Mapes story has centered almost entirely on one issue: the legitimacy of the documents – a very important issue, indeed. But it turns out that there was another very important issue, one that goes to the very heart of what the story was about – and one that has gone virtually unnoticed. This is it: Mary Mapes knew before she put the story on the air that George W. Bush, the alleged slacker, had in fact volunteered to go to Vietnam.
Who says? The outside panel CBS brought into to get to the bottom of the so-called “Rathergate” mess says. I recently re-examined the panel’s report after a source, Deep Throat style, told me to “Go to page 130.” When I did, here’s the startling piece of information I found:
Mapes had information prior to the airing of the September 8  Segment that President Bush, while in the TexANG [Texas Air National Guard] did volunteer for service in Vietnam but was turned down in favor of more experienced pilots. For example, a flight instructor who served in the TexANG with Lieutenant Bush advised Mapes in 1999 that Lieutenant Bush “did want to go to Vietnam but others went first.” Similarly, several others advised Mapes in 1999, and again in 2004 before September 8, that Lieutenant Bush had volunteered to go to Vietnam but did not have enough flight hours to qualify.
As I recall Bush flew the F-102, one of the more dangerous aircraft to fly. There were a number of squadrons of the aircraft Bush was flying still in service in the VN theater. But at that time they were being phased out. Bush apparently volunteered but because of the aircraft only those with a certain number of flight hour experience were being accepted. Great round up of the aircraft and its history here.