Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Health Care: It Is Getting Hostile Out There

An interesting video here – you could entitle it “What The Hell Is The Rush?!”

It is Arlen Specter at a healthcare townhall meeting being given whatfor when he says that they have to rush on the health care bill. Also speaking is Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. It would be hard to characterize the crowd as “warm and welcoming”.

The one thing I think politicans will hear almost universally is the public demands they read and understand the bill they’re voting on – not their staffers. And until they do and can discuss it rationally and actually bring it to the floor and debate it – giving debate all the time it needs – they don’t want them voting on it.

Now, that’s not to say that some of those making this demand don’t want to see health care reform passed as a result. But I think even they understand that there is no crisis and their is no rush to pass such legislation quickly. That’s a self-imposed political desire – passing it quickly – because Democrats understand that not doing so risks getting nothing passed at all.

We’ll see if politicians heed this message or, when they head back into the atmosphere prevalent inside the beltway, again fall into line with party leadership and try to rush this turkey through.

If the video is any indication, doing so could end up being a very big electoral mistake.

~McQ

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President Obama: Media Savvy or Overexposed?

New York Magazine has an article about Barack Obama which begins:

Since occupying the White House, Barack Obama has hosted fifteen town-hall meetings; appeared in more than 800 images on the White House Flickr photo-stream; and held four prime-time press conferences, the same number held by George W. Bush in his entire presidency. He’s sent a video message to the people of Iran. He’s given an address in Cairo that was translated into fourteen languages. He’s sat on Jay Leno’s couch, where he riffed about the supreme strangeness of having his own motorcade (“You know, we’ve got the ambulance and then the caboose and then the dogsled”), and he’s walked Brian Williams through the White House, where he introduced the anchor to Bo the dog. Two weeks ago, when he made a controversial comment at a press conference (that the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” toward Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.), he followed up with yet another press appearance in the White House briefing room—and an exclusive interview on Nightline. And that was before he sat down for a well-publicized beer with Gates and the offending officer …

Such are the president’s media habits. It’s gotten to the point where one expects to see and hear from him every day. He’s in the information business almost as much as the policy business. “This is president as content provider,” says Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman and adviser to George W. Bush. “It’s like when Rosie O’Donnell had a show and a magazine and a blog.”

The obvious and not very subtle point of Gillespie’s comment is people tired of Rosie O’Donnell rather quickly, especially when she was overexposed at that time, and her star quickly faded.

The question I’ve been pondering for some time is whether Obama risks overexposure to the point that people just start tuning him out? For a political junkie like me, I’ve mostly tuned him out already, since after listening to a couple of the town halls, I’ve realized that what’s going on with him now is not much different than during his campaign. He has a set of talking points, depending on the subject, and you can depend on him repeating them. During questions, he’ll repeat them again. Knowing the talking points, I see no need to watch them delivered again and again – especially when I know most of them are nonsense.

As things develop and more and more people who aren’t in the “political junkie” category pay closer attention, will they too end up having the same reaction I have had? Especially when they see the talking points (“your taxes won’t go up by even a dime”) turn to political dust?

And here’s another point from the article’s subtitle:

Barack Obama’s ubiquitous appearances as professor-in-chief, preacher-in-chief, father-in-chief, may turn out to be the most salient feature of his presidency.

It may indeed end up being “the most salient feature of his presidency”, but I wonder how long Americans are going to stand being lectured about almost every aspect of their lives, especially as the economy continues to tank? At what point do you suppose the majority will say, by tuning him out, “why don’t you concentrate on governing the country and we’ll take care of running our lives?”

New York Magazine, unsurprisingly, thinks that this seemingly deliberate strategy of “ubiquity” isn’t the same as overexposure and is thus a good thing:

It’s a large helping of Obama, surely. But those who think the White House has overdone it are missing the point. In today’s media environment, ubiquity is not the same as overexposure. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s critical to any understanding of the Obama presidency.

What they’re referring too is this country’s celebrity culture. And Barack Obama was certainly a political rock star on the campaign trail. But this premise that his “ubiquity” now is going to be a good thing seems to ignore the ubiquity of George Bush in terms of media exposure, especially in the last 4 years of his presidency. Few will argue that exposure was a “good thing” for him. Most of it, however, was media driven and mostly negative.

New York Magazine is arguing this is different (and I’d agree since much of Obama’s “ubiquity” is also media driven and mostly positive).

But just as Americans tired of George Bush, doesn’t this seeming overexposure of Barack Obama, especially this early in his presidency, risk the same will happen to him? New York Magazine may find referring to it as “ubiquity” somehow makes his constant appearances on just about every subject something other that overexposure, but I’m not ready to buy into that just yet.

I’m already tired of seeing him. I’m just wondering if the same thing will happen to the majority of my fellow citizens – and, if so, what political effect that might have.

~McQ

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Six months and counting: Team Obama looks pretty pitiful at this point

I have not posted much lately. Busy. Very busy. I don’t see how McQ does it. He’s a machine.

But I have been paying attention, and I must say Obama is as amusing during his first six months as I had hoped, and maybe more. Here’s a brief summary of where he’s at as far as I’m concerned, categorized into various types of success and failures on the political front.

Continue reading

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Iran Ready To Build Nuclear Bomb?

That’s what the UK Times is reporting:

Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb, Western intelligence sources have told The Times.

The sources said that Iran completed a research programme to create weaponised uranium in the summer of 2003 and that it could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader.

Of course, what we don’t know about Iran’s capability could fill a book. We’ve seen it variously reported that they a year away to ten years away – a good indicator that for the most part intelligence agencies haven’t a clue in reality.

However, as we know, nuclear bombs are old technology. The genie has been out of the bottle way too long to believe that Iran can’t build a bomb if it dedicates the time and resources to do so. And it certainly seems to have done both.

So now what?

That’s the salient question now. Let’s assume Iran has a bomb by this time next year – then what?

Well here’s the apparent game plan:

If Iran’s leader does decide to build a bomb, he will have two choices, intelligence sources said. One would be to take the high-risk approach of kicking out the international inspectors and making a sprint to complete Iran’s first bomb, as the country weathered international sanctions or possible air strikes in the ensuing crisis. The other would be to covertly develop the materials needed for an arsenal in secret desert facilities.

Last week, during a series of high-level US visits to Israel, officials outlined Washington’s plans to step up sanctions on Iran, should Tehran fail to agree on talks. Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, and General James Jones, the National Security Adviser, said that Iran had until the end of next month, when the UN General Assembly is to meet, to make a positive move towards engagement.

If Tehran fails to respond, Washington aims to build a tough international coalition to impose harsh sanctions focusing on petroleum products — an area where Iran is particularly vulnerable because it sends almost all of its crude abroad for refinement.

The feeling, of course, is if these sorts of sanctions can be imposed, it will hurt the regime even further by adding more unrest among a population already not happy with the election outcome. And, per the Times, hit directly at the Revolutionary Guards Council, which is the main exporter of terrorism through its surrogates in various parts of the world.

Of course what isn’t mentioned by the Times is the one big fly in the ointment of getting this done – China. No China, no sanctions. And China has developed a pretty close relationship with Iran based on petroleum trade. In 2004 it signed two huge oil and gas deals with Iran. Presently 45% of China’s crude imports come from the Middle East and that’s expected to rise to 70% by 2015. In 2008, China finalized a $70 billion deal to develop Iran’s Yadavaran oil field in exchange for the supply of liquefied natural gas. And much, much more.

So China is not going to be keen to cripple a nation which it has invested so much time and money in developing a relationship with – especially if it wants to maintain its own economy (and keep its own internal unrest to a simmer) during recessionary times.

Bottom line? My guess is a lot of tough talk and fist shaking at Iran, but in the end, nothing much happens and Iran ends up with its nuke. The play will be made in the UN where China has a seat on the Security Council and I’d almost bet the house that nothing comes out of that organization with any teeth whatsoever or China won’t vote for it.

Bottom bottom line – Israel, who we seem bound and determined to have worse relations with, is probably going to have to find a way to destroy the capability on their own. Militarily they’ve been quietly developing the strike capability for some time. And Saudi Arabia, which is very worried about an Iranian nuke and what it would do to the balance of power in the region, has given Israel a subtle nod that it would turn its back should the Israelis fly over their territory to strike Iran – unprecedented in the history of the region and an indication of the depth of fear the Saudis harbor.

But reliance on the UN and “sanctions”? I just don’t see that happening.

~McQ

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Middle Class Tax? Knock, Knock – “Hello Out There!”

Read this carefully. This is from George Stephanopoulos:

To get the economy back on track, will President Barack Obama have to break his pledge not to raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans? In a “This Week” exclusive, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told me, “We’re going to have to do what’s necessary.”

Geithner was clear that he believes a key component of economic recovery is deficit reduction. When I gave him several opportunities to rule out a middle class tax hike, he wouldn’t do it.

“We have to bring these deficits down very dramatically,” Geithner told me. “And that’s going to require some very hard choices.”

“We will not get this economy back on track, recovery will be not strong and sustained, unless we convince the American people that we are going to have the will to bring these deficits down once recovery is firmly established,” he said.

For the gullible who believed their taxes weren’t going to go up “one dime”, Turbo Tax Tim is laying the ground work to prove your gullibility.

For those who never believed the “promise” to begin with, big surprise, right?

But the more important point is found in Geithner’s last sentence in the cite. In there he’s telling the public that they have to bear the cost of this administration’s profligacy. Because, you see, they spent your money (like the porkapalooza they called the “stimulus package”) like drunken sailors on shore leave and it is now up to you – the sober ones in this deal – to bail them out. But watch ’em – they’re going to claim they saved the economy.

And now they’re ready to save the climate and fix your health care too.

Yes some very hard choices are going to have to be made – some adults are going to have to stand up to Timmy and the boys and say “no”.

~McQ

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Dodd, Cancer and Health Care “Reform” – Be Careful What You Wish For

First let me wish Sen. Chris Dodd a full recovery from the prostate surgery he will undergo soon to remove the cancer he’s been found to have.

But with all things personal, politicians try to turn them into “teachable moments” that support what they’re trying to do. And Dodd is no exception.

“I wanted to let you know that I’ve been diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer,” Dodd wrote. “Luckily, a routine test allowed my doctor to catch it at a very early stage, and my prognosis is excellent – we expect a full and speedy recovery. I want to assure you that I am feeling fine.”

“After the Senate adjourns at the end of next week, I’ll have surgery to remove the cancer,” Dodd wrote. “After a week or two of recuperation, I expect to be right back to work. After all, as a member of Congress, I have great health insurance. I was able to get screened, seek the opinions of highly skilled doctors, consider all the available options, and choose the treatment that was right for me.”

He added, in a reference to his current work to pass healthcare legislation, “I know you’ll agree that every American deserves the same ability. We have healthcare legislation to pass – and an election to win. And I can’t thank you enough for your support.”

The implication, of course, is that without universal health care or universal health insurance, detection and survival rates must be lower than they could be.

But a quick check of systems with universal care and insurance doesn’t at all back up the implication:

Survival was significantly higher in the United States for all solid tumors, except testicular, stomach, and soft-tissue cancer, the authors report. The greatest differences were seen in the major cancer sites: colon and rectum (56.2% in Europe vs 65.5% in the United States), breast (79.0% vs 90.1%), and prostate cancer (77.5% vs 99.3%), and this “probably represents differences in the timeliness of diagnosis,” they comment. That in turn stems from the more intensive screening for cancer carried out in the United States, where a reported 70% of women aged 50 to 70 years have undergone a mammogram in the past 2 years, one-third of people have had sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy in the past 5 years, and more than 80% of men aged 65 years or more have had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. In fact, it is this PSA testing that probably accounts for the very high survival from prostate cancer seen in the United States, the authors comment.

99.3% survival rate on prostate cancer in the US vs. 77.5% among the “universals”. How can that be, given Dodd’s indication that he’s just among the lucky ones? How in the world can the US, with such a badly broken system manage to save all but 0.7% of the prostate cancer patients, while the exemplar of universal care – Europe – loses 22.5% of theirs?

The PSA? It is a blood test. It is a test routinely run in the US when people have bloodwork done. And look at the testing for breast and colon cancer – isn’t that “preventive medicine”? So why aren’t the Europeans running all of these tests?

Good question. My guess would be cost. Here’s the result:

The age-adjusted 5-year survival rates for all cancers combined [Europe] was 47.3% for men and 55.8% for women, which is significantly lower than the estimates of 66.3% for men and 62.9% for women from the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program ( P < .001).

The point? Don’t buy into this “the system is broken” rhetoric in which politicians claim to have a better way of providing health care. My guess is a significant portion of Europeans diagnosed with various cancers would much rather be treated here than there.

~McQ

[HT: Carly B.]

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The Revolt Of The Scientists

Apparently it is getting a little hot in the scientific community when it comes to AGW and skepticism. And it is the skeptics who are firing the broadsides. Melanie Phillips brings us the latest:

More and more scientists have just about had it up to here with the rubbish being put out as the ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming. Marc Morano reports how members of the American Chemical Society (ACS) have risen in revolt against the group’s editor-in-chief — with demands for his removal — after an editorial appeared claiming ‘the science of anthropogenic climate change is becoming increasingly well established.’

The editorial claimed the ‘consensus’ view was growing ‘increasingly difficult to challenge, despite the efforts of diehard climate-change deniers.’ The editor now admits he is ‘startled’ by the negative reaction from the group’s scientific members.

His readers had responded as you see in these two representative replies:

ACS member scientist Dr. Howard Hayden, a Physics Professor Emeritus from the University of Connecticut: ‘Baum’s remarks are particularly disquieting because of his hostility toward skepticism, which is part of every scientist’s soul. Let’s cut to the chase with some questions for Baum: Which of the 20-odd major climate models has settled the science, such that all of the rest are now discarded? […] Do you refer to ‘climate change’ instead of ‘global warming’ because the claim of anthropogenic global warming has become increasingly contrary to fact?’

William E. Keller wrote: ‘However bitter you (Baum) personally may feel about CCDs (climate change deniers), it is not your place as editor to accuse them—falsely—of nonscientific behavior by using insultingly inappropriate language. […] The growing body of scientists, whom you abuse as sowing doubt, making up statistics, and claiming to be ignored by the media, are, in the main, highly competent professionals, experts in their fields, completely honorable, and highly versed in the scientific method—characteristics that apparently do not apply to you.’

Some pretty heavy shots across the bow.  I’d love to see if Baum answers the two questions Dr. Hayden posed (especially the first).

ACS isn’t the only “revolt” that is taking place among scientists:

On May 1 2009, the American Physical Society (APS) Council decided to review its current climate statement via a high-level subcommittee of respected senior scientists. The decision was prompted after a group of 54 prominent physicists petitioned the APS revise its global warming position. The 54 physicists wrote to APS governing board: ‘Measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th – 21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today.’

The petition signed by the prominent physicists, led by Princeton University’s Dr. Will Happer, who has conducted 200 peer-reviewed scientific studies. The peer-reviewed journal Nature published a July 22, 2009 letter by the physicists persuading the APS to review its statement. In 2008, an American Physical Society editor conceded that a ‘considerable presence’ of scientific skeptics exists.

In addition, in April 2009, the Polish National Academy of Science reportedly ‘published a document that expresses skepticism over the concept of man-made global warming.’ An abundance of new peer-reviewed scientific studies continue to be published challenging the UN IPCC climate views.

I bring these sorts of examples up over and over again because it has become obvious that there is absolutely no scientific “consensus” concerning AGW – none. And those who continue to contend there is are, in fact, the real deniers.

~McQ

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