Thursday, April 30, 2009
One of the great coups of the movement for same-sex marriage has been to plant the premise that it represents the inevitable future. This sense has inhibited even some who accept that marriage is by nature the union of a man and a woman. They fear that throwing themselves into the cause of opposing it is futile — worse, that it will call down the judgment of history that they were bigots.
Yet a majority of Americans continue to oppose same-sex marriage. Support for it has certainly increased over the last 15 years, but the assumption that we can predict the future in which same-sex marriage is uncontroversial by drawing a straight line from this trend is unwarranted. Even among young voters, a majority of whom support same-sex marriage, that majority is hardly overwhelming.
Our guess is that if the federal judiciary does not intervene to impose same-sex marriage on the entire country, we are not going to see it triumph from coast to coast. Rather, we will for some time have a patchwork of laws. The division will not be so much between socially liberal and socially conservative states as between those states where voters can amend their state constitutions easily and those where they cannot. Thus same-sex marriage is likely to stay the law of the land in Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and Connecticut, and perhaps also in New Hampshire.
In two of those states, at least, democratic procedure is now being respected. Vermont has chosen to recognize same-sex marriages legislatively, and New Hampshire may do so. While free from the taint of lawlessness, these decisions seem to us unwise. Few social goods will come from recognizing same-sex couples as married. Some practical benefits may accrue to the couples, but most of them could easily be realized without changing marriage laws. One still sometimes hears people make the allegedly “conservative” case that same-sex marriage will reduce promiscuity and encourage commitment among homosexuals. This prospect seems improbable: Where governments have recognized same-sex marriages and civil unions, this recognition does not appear to have had any noticeable effect in this respect. In any case, the encouragement of commitment among homosexuals is simply not as important a goal as the encouragement of lasting heterosexual bonds.
Which brings us to the question of equality. Same-sex couples want their unions recognized by governments in large part as a symbolic affirmation of their equivalence, at least for public purposes, with traditional married couples. As individuals, of course, homosexuals are the equal of any other citizens in their rights to vote, own guns, speak freely, and so forth. But making them (or anyone else) feel valued is not a legitimate task of public policy; and their sexual relationships do not further the purposes for which governments should recognize marriage.
Both as a social institution and as a public policy, marriage exists to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rearing of children within stable households. It is a non-coercive way to channel sexual desire into civilized patterns of living — and not just any sexual desire, but desire of the type that regularly produces children. State recognition of the marital relationship does not imply devaluation of any other type of relationship, whether friendship or brotherhood or even same-sex romantic attachments. Governments can rightly take all kinds of steps that enable people to form, and prosper in, any of these relationships. They can make it possible for them to go about their lives in peace, and make it easier for them to establish the contractual arrangements that help with running a household. In none of those cases, however, is it necessary for the government to recognize the friendship or sexual relationship as such.
State recognition of same-sex sexual relationships singles out one kind of non-marital relationship and treats it as though it were marital, and it does this for no good reason. No, we do not expect marriage rates to plummet and illegitimacy rates to skyrocket in these jurisdictions over the next decade. But to the extent same-sex marriage is normalized here, it will be harder for American culture and law to connect marriage and parenthood. That it has already gotten harder over the last few decades is no answer to this concern. In foisting same-sex marriage on Iowa, the state’s supreme court opined in a footnote that the idea that it is best for children to have mothers and fathers married to each other is based merely on “stereotype.”
If worse comes to worst, and the federal courts sweep aside the marriage laws that most Americans still want, then decades from now traditionalists should be ready to brandish that footnote and explain to generations yet unborn: That is why we resisted.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
You lost my vote years ago so I guess you haven't lost anything new.
Flashback to June 7, 2005, the First-Year Player Draft.
The Baltimore Orioles have the 13th pick in the draft. Future Major League stars Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmermann, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, and Cameron Maybin have all been taken in the previous 12 picks.
The best remaining player on the board is debatable. Outfielder Trevor Crowe is still available. As is John Mayberry Jr. from Stanford. Speedy outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is still on the board, as well as hard throwing right hander Matt Garza.
Most mock drafts have the Orioles taking a look at 6'7'' Chris Volstad. So many options. Who do they take?
Volstad was considered one of the top rated pitching prospects in the draft. He featured a mid to upper 90's fastball with a decent changeup and a hard breaking curve.
The wild card on the board, however, is a little known catcher from Westfield High School Virginia named Brandon Snyder. He's an athlete who played a little bit of shortstop early on, but switched to behind the plate where he showed a knack for the defensive side of the game.
On offense, he was a force. In his senior year at Wesfield, he maintained a .500 average while knocking in 29 runs. He received a full scholarship to LSU, but when the Orioles drafted him with the 13th pick, Snyder turned down LSU's offer to play pro ball.
Flash forward to April 22, 2009. Chris Volstad is 2-0 in three starts for the Florida Marlins. Matt Garza is fresh off an 11-win season in which he helped lead the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series. Ellsbury is coming off a 50-steal season with the Red Sox.
And Brandon Snyder? Well, if you ask him, he's right where he should be. More importantly, he's where he wants to be.
After signing his first professional contract back in '05, Snyder was assigned to Bluefield, hardly a glorious stop for a player making a few million dollars more than his teammates, but a good place to start for an 18-year-old straight out of high school.
In addition to catching, Snyder spent at least one day a week testing out his range at third base. Whichever position he played, it surely didn't affect his hitting. In 44 games, he notched 39 hits, eight doubles, and eight homers, while driving in 35 runs, scoring 26 himself.
Throw in seven stolen bases and Snyder appeared to be on track to a promotion, which he got toward the end of the season.
Snyder appeared in eight games for Aberdeen, the Orioles new short-season affiliate. He was even better there, knocking 11 hits in eight games with six RBI and a .393 average.
More impressive was Snyder's knack for the strike zone. At two levels, his walk-to-strikeout ratio was a very good 30:43, more than impressive for a player months removed from high school.
The year 2006 began with much promise, with Snyder set to advance a level to Delmarva—quite an honor for such a young player.
It looks like the promotion may have come a little too soon though, as Snyder struggled to keep his average above the Mendoza line.
After suffering through 38 games in which he hit a whopping .194, showing none of the plate discipline he showed at Bluefield or Aberdeen, Snyder struck out 55 times with only 9 walks.
Something was wrong. Snyder wasn't hitting the ball with any authority and was chasing pitches way out of the zone.
The Orioles, thinking they may have rushed Snyder a bit, sent him back to Aberdeen to see if the problem was mental and allowed him to regain some confidence in his game.
Whatever the O's hoped for, they didn't get.
Snyder was even worse for the Ironbirds than he was in Delmarva. In 34 games, he hit only .228 with only 10 extra base hits, only one home run, five walks, and 43 strikeouts.
Discouraged, the Orioles sent Snyder for a check up. After much debate over what injury Snyder was suffering from, or if he was even suffering from anything at all, a diagnosis came down: Snyder had a torn labrum.
Disappointed, the O's shut Snyder down for the season.
The following season brought new hope for Snyder. In 2007, he would repeat the season at Delmarva, and the O's were hoping they would see the Snyder of old.
To take some of the pressure off of him as well as to ease the pressure on his arm, the O's moved him from behind the plate as stuck him at first base.
Snyder started the season off slowly, and many in the Orioles circle were beginning to use the "B" word, as in bust. But as the season wore on, Snyder began to heat up.
After the All-Star break, he was unstoppable.
He did suffer a few nicks and scrapes over the course of the season, but all in all, he made it through the 2007 campaign relatively healthy. He finished the season with a .283 average and knocked 11 home runs, driving in 58.
He still showed a propensity to strike out a lot more than he walked, but as the season reached it's end, he showed real progress in terms of plate discipline.
The Orioles were so thrilled with Snyder's progress that they named him their 2007 Comeback Player of the Year. Hardly the award the youngster was hoping for, but a recognition of his perseverance and hard work nonetheless.
The Orioles also rewarded Snyder with a trip to the Hawaiian Winter League, where he raked at a .378 clip, leading the league.
Building on the confidence he gained late in the season and in Hawaii, Snyder was bumped up a level to Frederick. Showing a renewed commitment and clearly enjoying playing well for the first time since 2005, Snyder had a stellar season in 2008.
He suffered through an occasional slump but, for the most part, he played very consistently. He finished the season with a .315 average and set career highs with 13 home runs, 80 RBI, 33 doubles, and 70 runs.
He also made progress in the strikeout department, cutting down from 107 to 83. In addition, he played good defense at first base, and even got some playing time at the hot corner.
Snyder showed how far he had come when the Orioles invited him to spring training. It was more of a formality to reward him for his hard work, but Snyder took the honor seriously, notching three hits in seven at-bats.
After some time at the O's minor league camp, Snyder broke camp with the O's Double-A affiliate, Bowie. The season isn't yet a month old, but Snyder has played incredibly well so far, pacing the club with a .370 average, two home runs, and eight RBI.
He makes no bones about it, that the time he spent in big league camp was invaluable telling MASNsports.com, "going to Major League camp was one of the greatest things I've ever gotten to do. You learn what it's like to carry yourself as that type of player and have, almost a little bit of swagger in that you know your ability and can trust it."
The journey hasn't been exactly what the O's or Snyder had hoped for, but one thing is sure: Brandon Snyder has got that swagger back, and he is definitely back in the Orioles' long term plans.
Hopefully, he can stay there, and make Westfield High proud.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
What exactly is the definition of an “assault weapon?”
The assault weapon definition in the proposed Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007 (H.R. 1002) could be stretched to include any firearm. The bill labeled the AR-15 rifle as an assault weapon. The AR-15 shoots the same ammunition as some “civilian rifles,” for instance the Remington Model 700 and Winchester Model 70.
Many Americans incorrectly believe that civilians are able to own fully automatic weapons (machine guns) where once the trigger is pulled, rounds are expelled at a fast rate. An AR-15, for example, is the semi automatic civilian version of the U.S. military's M16 rifle. The M16 has a three round burst option but the AR15 can only shoot one round at a time.
The most ridiculous argument for the assault weapons ban is that it will make obtaining weapons harder for drug dealers and gangs. Anyone who honestly believes that gang members and coke dealers will follow the law has no common sense or intelligence. An assault weapon ban only punishes law abiding gun owners who respect the law.
In the NYT editorial, Carter warps several statistics to get his point across. He cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in stating that “more than 30,000 people died from firearms” in 2006, which is correct. What he doesn’t say is how many of those deaths were caused by assault weapons or how many of those deaths were suicide. In 2005, there were 30,694 deaths caused by firearms with almost 60% of those deaths from suicide.
Automobile accidents kill more people than firearms; should sports cars then be outlawed? After all, on most U.S. highways the speed limit is 65 miles per hour and sports cars are designed to go much faster than 65 mph. Similarly, drunk driving accidents kill more people than firearm homicides; should alcohol be outlawed as well?
Carter writes that former Presidents Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton also supported a ban on assault weapons. If the assault weapon ban was so successful, then why was the 2005 firearms related death rate for youths lower than it was during any of those Presidents’ terms? After all, George W. Bush, President in 2005, opposed the assault weapons ban.
Carter equates anyone who wishes to own an assault weapon to those who kill policemen or commit massacres at schools:
[N]one of us wants to own an assault weapon, because we have no desire to kill policemen or go to a school or workplace to see how many victims we can accumulate before we are finally shot or take our owns lives.
With all due respect Mr. President, the overwhelming majority of gun owners with assault weapons use them for hunting and self-defense of their homes and families, not for murder.
Carter calls the National Rifle Association’s policies – “extreme.” I supposed supporting and defending the Constitution and 2nd Amendment makes them an extremist organization according to him. He also states that the NRA defends “criminals’ access to assault weapons,” which is incorrect. Criminals won’t be affected by any gun law period, that’s why they’re criminals.
Former President Carter did not have his facts straight in today’s editorial just as he didn’t possess competent leadership during his presidency. The assault weapons ban is simply an attack on the 2nd Amendment in an effort to slowly chop it away. It is only when we realize this that we learn from the plight of gun owners in Canada and the United Kingdom.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Governor Sebelius has shown an unwillingness to back down from her extreme pro-abortion agenda. Just this past Thursday, Governor Sebelius vetoed “The 2009 Late-Term and Partial-Birth Abortion Regulation Act” in Kansas that would have put important restrictions on the abortion industry.
Once again Kathleen Sebelius has sided with her abortion clinic friends like George Tiller rather than act to protect women and children from the particularly horrific practices of partial birth and late term abortions.
Write your Senators today and once again urge them to vote NO on Kathleen Sebelius.
As governor, Sebelius has repeatedly vetoed other common-sense restrictions on the abortion industry like the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, which would have implemented restrictions on late-term abortion procedures. She has opposed or vetoed several abortion-accountability bills, including legislation that would have required medically-supported clinic regulation. She has also vetoed legislation requiring explicit medical reasons for post-viability, late-term abortions.
It is bad enough that Kathleen Sebelius has pushed her abortion agenda on Kansas. We cannot allow Sebelius’ radical pro-abortion agenda to be implemented for the whole country.
This fight is now more crucial than ever as opposition to Sebelius grows.
Please tell your Senators to join the growing chorus of opposition to Kathleen Sebelius!
There is still time to make your voice heard!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
It’s appropriate that the United Nations has a headquarters here in Geneva. The Swiss are know for their cuckoo clocks, and the UN is known for its cuckoos.
As Day Three concluded at the United Nations Durban Review conference, Iran’s representative, Alireza Moaiyeri, formally objected to the diplomatic dissing of his President at the start of the week, when delegates walked out on the Iranian president’s speech. As Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being a “cruel and repressive racist regime,” representatives from approximately two dozen European nations marched from the Assembly Hall in protest.
More specifically, Iran’s ire was directed at Jonas Gahr, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who spoke immediately after Ahmadinejad and denounced his hateful rant. Gahr said the messages in Ahmadinejad’s speech amounted to “incitement of hatred, spreading politics of fear and promoting an indiscriminate message of intolerance.” He added that Ahmadinejad’s allegations made Iran “the odd man out.”
“We strongly reject [Gahr’s] unwarranted and unsubstantiated references,” said Iran’s Moaiyeri, and we “consider them as without merit, unacceptable and out of order.” Moaiyeri also questioned “the Norwegian Foreign Minister’s sense of hearing to the applause given to the president by some members of the delegations.”
It’s frightening that such an obtuse and thin-skinned regime is about to acquire nuclear weapons.
The Iranian delegate also attacked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon protesting his “deplorable, irresponsible and unwarranted statements.” Ban issued a statement on Monday after Ahmadinejad spoke which said in part:
“I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian President to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this Conference seeks to achieve...It is deeply regrettable that my plea to look to the future of unity was not heeded by the Iranian President.”
“Those statements,” said Moaiyeri, “utterly contradict the UN well-established norms and practices to the affect that a civil servant of the United Nations should at all times abide by the principal of impartiality and refrain from making judgmental remarks on the position and statement made the members, let alone a head of state.” He argued that the “dignity of the head of state of a United Nations member should be respected and safeguarded at all times by all member states and in particular by the UN Secretary-General.”
One might argue that Ban did just that. At UN conferences, speakers submit their remarks in advance – as did Ahmadinejad in this case. Delegates, the media, and presumably the Secretary-General – whose response referenced his “earlier meeting” with the Iranian president – had access to the speech before it was delivered. Yet, Ban obediently took his seat in the Assembly Hall right behind Ahmadinejad and listened politely. When the European delegates protested, Ban remained seated and stayed to hear more.
Also on the dais as Ahmadinejad spoke were Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the President of the Conference, Amos Wako, who is Kenya’s Attorney General. According to the Rules of the Conference, “The President...shall have complete control of the proceedings and over the maintenance of order thereat.” Wako, had he chosen, could have insisted on decorum, ruled Ahmadinejad out of order, and prevented him from continuing his speech. A UN official confirmed for me that “it is the prerogative of the chair of any meeting to make a decision to halt a speech.”
Of course, any delegation could have challenged such a decision, but an objection by the chair, or a walkout by Ban, would have been preferably to the stale and dispassionate denunciations routinely issued by UN officials.
Thomas P. Kilgannon is the President of Freedom Alliance and the author of Diplomatic Divorce: Why America Should End Its Love Affair with the United Nations. He is reporting from the Durban Review Conference in Geneva as a correspondent for Radio America.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Reacting to the endorsement, Senator Cuccinelli said "I am humbled to receive the support of such a great leader as Fred Thompson. I am proud of all the support we have received spanning the Commonwealth, from unit chairmen to precinct captains to newcomers in the political process from every part of Virginia, all this support points to a winning effort in May and November."
The following is adapted from a speech delivered in Naples, Florida, by John C. Goodman,
President, National Center for Policy Analysis, on February 18, 2009, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar. It is reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.
I'll start with the bad news: When we get through the economic time that we're in right now, we're going to be confronted with an even bigger problem. The first of the Baby Boomers started signing up for early retirement under Social Security last year. Two years from now they will start signing up for Medicare. All told, 78 million people are going to stop working, stop paying taxes, stop paying into retirement programs, and start drawing benefits. The problem is, neither Social Security nor Medicare is ready for them. The federal government has made explicit and implicit promises to millions of people, but has put no money aside in order to keep those promises. Some of you may wonder where Bernie Madoff got the idea for his Ponzi scheme. Clearly he was studying federal entitlement policy.
Meanwhile, in the private sector, many employer-sponsored pension plans are not fully funded. Nor is the federal government insurance scheme behind those plans. We have a potential taxpayer liability of between 500 billion and one trillion dollars for those private pension plans, depending on the markets. And on top of that, roughly one-third of all Baby Boomers work for an employer who has promised post-retirement health care. As with the auto companies, almost none of that is funded either. Nor are most state and local post-retirement health benefit plans. Some California localities have already declared bankruptcy because of their employee retirement plans and the first of the Baby Boomers is still only 63 years old.
What all this means is that we're looking at a huge gap between what an entire generation thinks is going to happen during its retirement years and the funds that are there—or, more accurately, are not there—to make good on all those promises. Somebody is going to be really disappointed. Either the Baby Boomers are not going to have the retirement life that they expect or taxpayers are going to be hit with a tremendously huge bill. Or both.
The Mess We're In
How did this crisis come about? After all, the need to deal with risk is not a new human problem. From the beginning of time, people have faced the risks of growing old and outliving their assets, dying young without having provided for their dependents, becoming disabled and not being able to support themselves and their families, becoming ill and needing health care and not being able to afford it, or discovering that their skills are no longer needed in the job market. These risks are not new. What is new is how we deal with them.
Prior to the 20th century, we handled risks with the help of family and extended family. In the 19th century, by the time a child was nine years old, he was usually paying his own way in the household. In effect, children were their parents' retirement plan. But during the 20th century, families became smaller and more dispersed—thus less useful as insurance against risk. So people turned to government for help. In fact, the main reason why governments throughout the developed world have undergone such tremendous growth has been to insure middle class families against risks that they could not easily insure against on their own. This is why our government today is a major player in retirement, health care, disability and unemployment.
Government, however, has performed abysmally. It has spent money it doesn't have and made promises it can't keep, all on the backs of future taxpayers. The Trustees of Social Security estimate a current unfunded liability in excess of $100 trillion in 2009 dollars. This means that the federal government has promised more than $100 trillion over and above any taxes or premiums it expects to receive. In other words, for Social Security to be financially sound, the federal government should have $100 trillion—a sum of money six-and-a-half times the size of our entire economy—in the bank and earning interest right now. But it doesn't. And while many believe that Social Security represents our greatest entitlement problem, Medicare is six times larger in terms of unfunded obligations. These numbers are admittedly based on future projections. But consider the situation in this light: What if we asked the federal government to account for its obligations the same way the private sector is forced to account for its pensions? In other words, if the federal government suddenly closed down Social Security and Medicare, how much would be owed in terms of benefits already earned? The answer is $52 trillion, an amount several times the size of the U.S. economy.
What does this mean for the future? We know that Social Security and Medicare have been spending more than they are taking in for quite some time. As the Baby Boomers start retiring, this deficit is going to grow dramatically. In 2012, only three years from now, Social Security and Medicare will need one out of every ten general income tax dollars to make up for their combined deficits. By 2020—just eleven years down the road—the federal government will need one out of every four income tax dollars to pay for these programs. By 2030, the midpoint of the Baby Boomer retirement years, it will require one of every two income tax dollars. So it is clear that the federal government will be forced either to scale back everything else it's doing in a drastic way or raise taxes dramatically.
I have not even mentioned Medicaid, but it is almost as large a problem in this regard as Medicare. A recent forecast by the Congressional Budget Office—an economic forecasting agency that is controlled by the Democrats in Congress, not by some conservative private sector outfit—shows that Medicare and Medicaid alone are going to crowd out everything else the federal government is doing by mid-century. And that means everything—national defense, energy, education, the whole works. We'll only have health care. If, on the other hand, the government continues with everything else it is doing today and raises taxes to pay for Medicare and Medicaid, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that, by mid-century, a middle-income family will have to pay two-thirds of its income in taxes!
Cleaning Up the Mess
The only sensible alternative to relying on a welfare state to solve our health care needs is a renewed reliance on private sector institutions that utilize individual choice and free markets to insure against unforeseen contingencies. In the case of Medicare, our single largest health care problem, such a solution would need to do three things: liberate the patients, liberate the doctors, and pre-fund the system as we move through time.
By liberating the patients I mean giving them more control over their money—at a minimum, one-third of their Medicare dollars. Designate what the patient is able to pay for with this money, and then give him control over it. Based on our experience with health savings accounts, people who are managing their own money make radically different choices. They find ways to be far more prudent and economical in their consumption.
As for doctors, most people don't realize that they are trapped in a system where they have virtually no ability to re-price or re-package their services the way every other professional does. Medicare dictates what it will pay for, what it won't pay for, and the final price. One example of the many harmful effects of this system is the absence of telephone consultations. Almost no one talks to his or her doctor on the phone. Why? Because Medicare doesn't pay a doctor to talk to you on the phone. And private insurers, who tend to follow Medicare's lead, don't pay for phone consultations either. The same goes for e-mail: Only about two percent of patients and doctors e-mail each other—something that is normal in every other profession.
What about digitizing medical records? Doctors typically do not do this, which means that they can't make use of software that allows electronic prescriptions and makes it easier to detect dangerous drug interactions or mistaken dosages. Again, this is something that Medicare doesn't pay for. Likewise patient education: A great deal of medical care can be handled in the home without ever seeing a doctor or a nurse—e.g., the treatment of diabetes. But someone has to give patients the initial instruction, and Medicare doesn't pay for that.
If we want to move medicine into the 21st century, we have to give doctors and hospitals the freedom to re-price and re-package their services in ways that neither increase the cost to government nor decrease the quality of service to the patient.
In terms of quality, another obvious free market idea is to have warranties for surgery such as we have on cars, houses and appliances. Many are surprised to learn that about 17 percent of Medicare patients who enter a hospital re-enter within 30 days—usually because of a problem connected with the initial surgery—with the result that the typical hospital makes money on its mistakes. In order for a hospital to make money in a system based on warranties, it must lower its mistake rate. Again, the goal of our policy should be to generate a market in which doctors and hospitals compete with each other to improve quality and cut costs.
We won't be able to make any of this work in the long run, however, unless we pre-fund the system. Today's teenagers are unlikely to receive medical care during retirement if they must rely on future taxpayers, because taxpayers of the future are unlikely to be agreeable to living in poverty in order to pay their elders' medical bills. This means that everyone must start saving now for post-retirement health care. I would propose that everyone in the workforce put a minimum of four percent of his or her income—perhaps two percent from the employer and two percent from the employee—into a private account, invested in the marketplace, that would grow through time. These private accumulations would eventually replace taxpayer burdens.
In summary, if health care consumers are allowed to save and spend their own money, and if doctors are allowed to act like entrepreneurs—in other words, if we allow the market to work—there is every reason to believe that health care costs can be prevented from rising faster than our incomes.
The Market in Action
Let me offer a few examples of how the free market is already working on the fringes of health care. Cosmetic surgery is a market that acts like a real market—by which I mean that it is not covered by insurance, consumers can compare prices and services, and doctors can act as entrepreneurs. As a result, over the last 15 years, the real price of cosmetic surgery has gone down while that of almost every other kind of surgery has been rising faster than the Consumer Price Index—and even though the number of people getting cosmetic surgery has increased by five- or six-fold.
In Dallas there is an entrepreneurial health care provider with two million customers who pay a small fee each month for the ability to talk to a doctor on the telephone. Patients must have an electronic medical record, so that whichever doctor answers the phone can view the patient's electronic medical record and talk to the patient. This company is growing in large part because it provides a service that the traditional health care system can't provide. Likewise, walk-in clinics are becoming more numerous around the country. At most of these clinics a registered nurse sits in front of a computer terminal, the patient describes his symptoms, and the nurse types in the information and follows a computerized protocol. The patient's record is electronic, the nurse can prescribe electronically, and the patient sees the price in advance.
We're also seeing the rise of concierge doctors—doctors who don't want to deal with third-party insurers. When this idea started out in California, doctors were charging 10-15 thousand dollars per year. But the free market has worked and the price has come down radically. In Dallas, concierge doctors charge only $40 per employee per month. In return, the patient receives access to the doctor by phone and e-mail, and the doctor keeps electronic medical records, competes for business based on lowering time costs as well as money costs, and is willing to help with patient education.
Finally, consider the international market for what has become known as medical tourism. Hospitals in India, Singapore and Thailand are competing worldwide for patients. Of course, no one is going to get on a plane without some assurances of low cost and high quality—which means that, in order to attract patients, these hospitals have to publicize their error rates, their mortality rates for certain kinds of surgery, their infection rates, and so on. Their doctors are all board-certified in the United States, and they compete for patients in the same way producers and suppliers compete for clients in any other market. Most of their patients come from Europe, but the long-term threat to the American hospital system can't be denied. Leaving the country means leaving bureaucratic red tape behind and dealing instead with entrepreneurs who provide high-quality, low-cost medicine.
As these examples suggest, liberating the medical market by freeing doctors and patients is the only way to bring health care costs under control without sacrificing quality. Continuing on our current path—allowing health care costs to rise at twice the rate of income under the aegis of an unworkable government Ponzi scheme—is by comparison unreasonable.
JOHN C. GOODMAN is the president, CEO, and Kellye Wright Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University, and has taught and done research at Columbia University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, Southern Methodist University and the University of Dallas. He writes regularly for such newspapers as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor's Business Daily and the Los Angeles Times, and is the author of nine books, including Patient Power: Solving America's Health Care Crisis and Lives at Risk: Single-Payer National Health Insurance Around the World.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
More from Tom Kilgannon reporting from Geneva...
Geneva, Switzerland – The absence of President Barack Obama from the United Nations’ Durban Review Conference is not appreciated by the UN hierarchy and was noted at the outset of the meeting this morning. While a handful of nations are boycotting the conference because of it’s bias toward Israel, it is the U.S. President who UN officials had most hoped to see here. The presence of America’s first black President would lend some desperately needed credibility to the summit, they believe.
In his opening statement this morning, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon observed that “some nations, who by rights should be helping to forge a path to a better future, are not here.” He said he “deeply regrets” that the U.S. and others – to include Canada, Italy, Israel, Australia and others – “have chosen to stand aside.”
To emphasize the U.S. absence, Ban invoked the words of a former U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt. “My allegiance and sympathies,” Ban noted, “have always been with the men and women in the arena, struggling with courage and determination to win the day.” He added that “it may be easier to criticize those efforts from afar, but it does not advance the universal cause.”
For his part, Mr. Obama said that he “would love to be involved in a useful conference,” but U.S. participation “would have involved putting our imprimatur on something we just didn't believe in.”
Is it possible the President realizes the United Nations isn’t the serving of peaches and cream that he thought it to be? During his campaign for the White House, then Senator Obama habitually criticized the Bush administration for ignoring the United Nations. But when faced with the text agreed to by Durban II delegates, Obama said it “raised a whole set of objectionable provisions,” and was “not something we can sign up for.”
Navi Pillay, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights was harsh in her criticism of Obama’s absence, saying the U.S. has “permitted one or two issues to dominate their approach to this issue.” Pillay said she was “shocked and deeply disappointed by the United States decision not to attend a conference that aims to combat racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance worldwide.”
The Commissioner suggested that the U.S. should have attended the conference and expressed any objections “in a footnote.” Had the U.S. chosen that route, she explained, “we could have all moved on together, and put the problems of 2001 behind us.”
In the world of the United Nations, resolving deeply held religious and political convictions is as simple as that.
In the case of Durban II, the President calculated his involvement with the United Nations would do him more harm than good. Nonetheless, he held out hope for the global institution. “I believe,” he said, “in the possibility of the United Nations serving as an effective forum to deal with a whole host of transnational conflicts.”
The UN is not the “effective forum” of your aspirations, Mr. President, and it will likely never be. You can hope, but the United Nations is not going to change.
Thomas P. Kilgannon is the President of Freedom Alliance and the author of Diplomatic Divorce: Why America Should End Its Love Affair with the United Nations. He is reporting from the Durban Review Conference in Geneva as a correspondent for Radio America.
Mental Thoughts from the Right Side
We Are All Extremists Now
April 18, 2009
April 15th has come and gone. A day where the productive members of society were busy sending in their tax returns to the government and in many cities there were tea parties being held protesting the unprecedented economic power grab by the Obama administration through higher taxes, unprecedented borrowing, government confiscation of companies and property, and the reckless creation of new government mandates. This infamous day was preceded by the release of a Department of Homeland Security report outlining what they perceive as threats to American security against which Secretary Napolitano and the DHS will be applying considerable resources. It appears that the DHS is less concerned with terrorists captured on the battlefield and more concerned with the legitimate activities of American citizens, specifically people who fit the profile of a "domestic right wing extremist". Many Americans will be surprised to learn that "right wing extremists" are people who hold mainstream political views at odds with Obama's vision for America. This report should not be seen as a simple security assessment by the DHS. Instead it is a political expression - made by the Obama administration - and an opening shot in an attempt to isolate political opponents and competing viewpoints that don't fit into his grand design, and broadly indict conservatives as a whole. It should also serve as a chilling sign as to how far this administration is willing go to isolate political groups or political views that run contrary to their design. There were many stories about President Clinton using the IRS as a tool to silence uncomfortable critics. It appears the Obama administration is prepared to go further.
The DHS report clearly identifies the threats the agency deems as a threat. Interestingly enough, before it goes into any detail it states the following:
"The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic right wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for right wing radicalization and recruitment."
So right before it indicts political opponents, the DHS states it makes such allegations based on no objective or specific data, information, or proof. It is identifying these domestic threats using assumptions and supposition. On a side note - it is also interesting to note that Secretary Napolitano has lost her distaste for using the word "terrorist" - I guess she only likes this word when referring to her fellow Americans. Let's take a look at what the DHS considers domestic right-wing extremists:
"Right wing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly anti government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
The bulk of the document references right wing extremists and hate groups, etc - but as seen by the excerpt above that broad term includes anyone who may be pro-life, anti-illegal immigration (not immigration as they assert) or disagree with a reckless expansion of the federal government. When read carefully, this report justifies scrutiny and tracking of individuals who hold legitimate and mainstream political positions that contradict those of the Obama administration. This report uses terms that Secretary Napolitano deemed "unpleasant" when referring to terrorists and terrorist attacks. It seems she has a lower regard for American citizens who disagree with her than illegal combatants capture by our military forces on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the DHS report goes further and indicts all US veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghan wars as extremists who pose a threat to the nation's security.
"Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right wing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that right wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities."
This is a shameless charge and is supported by Secretary Napolitano through her reference to Timothy McVeigh and the attack in Oklahoma City. Secretary Napolitano, in her stumbling explanations in response to harsh questions after the report’s release – gives the impression that Timothy McVeigh is the only soldier she really knows and forms her judgments accordingly. Only the most cynical and hateful of people could look upon the best this country produces and label them a threat. However, I am not surprised, these are the same people, the same party that called our volunteer Army and Marines murderers, Nazis, and terrorists at the start of the Iraq War. Their inclusion in this report is a reflection of the latent hostility liberals and Democrats have for the armed forces and this country. Is anyone really surprised by this?
One also has to wonder why only “right wing” extremists are included in this report. Is the Secretary's hidden message that only conservatives are a threat? I guess Sec. Napolitano has never heard of leftist groups like The Earth Liberation Front. This group has burned down homes (felony arson) to 'protest' in addition to a ski resort and a Bureau of Land Management horse corral in Oregon. The founder of this organization has actually issued a field manual guiding members on how to sabotage property to reach their radical environmental goals. You can add groups like Mecha that want Latinos to take back the American Southwest or organizations like the Weatherm... oops – can't go there can we?
In addition to targeting conservatives, this report demonstrates how language and terminology can be used to isolate and demonize political adversaries and delegitimize their viewpoints through the organs of the federal bureaucracy. The fact this report was released a day before the planned "Tea Party" protests - protests by people who would be considered "right wing extremists" by Secretary Napolitano - is chilling. Even more shocking is that this administration spends great effort to accommodate terrorists, give them civil trials within US territory and even offer them welfare benefits and government assistance while they are here. Meanwhile, American citizens are targeted for scrutiny or if they dare protest against policies that they believe will harm this country's future. This unbelievable policy position combined with Obama rhetorically throwing his own country under the bus during the G20 Summit and his meetings in Mexico and Latin America would make most reasonable people wonder where Obama's favor lies. Obama sat and listened to dictators like Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chavez publicly chastise and insult the United States with absolutely no defense or retort offered by President Obama. He showed no emotion or even responded with any visible body language. He sat, nodded, and took notes while these thugs painted the United States as the world’s devil. His lack of words or response speaks volumes about the President.
In the end, the specifics of this report are really the side show and are not the main issue. Conservatives are not really surprised by the DHS report and have grown to expect such treatment from liberals/leftists in power. Aside from demonstrating an inherent disdain of conservative viewpoints this report serves as a reflection of the sensibilities of President Obama. He is a man who clearly is uncomfortable with the very nation that put him in its highest office and to a certain degree a man who dislikes the traditional aspects of the United States. Everything this President does overseas from his 'Apology Tour 2009' and accepting America's fault for all the world's woes confirms his disdain for the United States. His warm handshakes with Hugo Chavez and his outreach to Castro to change the “errors of the past” demonstrate his reflexive understanding and sympathy with the viewpoints of our enemies. He reinforces this notion by constantly repeating his goal of “remaking America” or “remaking the foundation of our economy”.
The nation-wide series of Tax Day Tea Parties demonstrate that the American people are waking up to the fact that Obama is not what the change for which they bargained on Election Day. How long can Obama's popularity last as people begin to realize they have President that doesn't like them very much and is willing to say so in public, overseas, and in front of cameras? How long will his magic last as his administration explicitly demonizes American citizens who hold pro-life views, believe in limited government, might support a third party candidate, or who might have just stepped off a plane after serving their country in multiple tours in Iraq? How long will the American people accept a president who sacrifices chunks of American sovereignty to international institutions in an effort to pay for “past sins”?
Americans deserve better from their President.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Geneva, Switzerland – The UN’s Durban Review Conference opens here on Monday, but it will not have the participation of President Barack Obama – a major disappointment for the United Nations and its admirers who complained of neglect during the Bush years.
The conference, which claims to address the “contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” is just another opportunity for delegates to hurl epithets at the U.S. and Israel. The conference was on the Obama administration’s wish list from the start. Shortly after winning the election in November, Mr. Obama signaled his desire to make the meeting, and his State Department worked hard to craft an outcome document it could support. At the United Nations, however, “change” does not come easy to those who harbor anti-Semitic views.
Had things gone their way, Team Obama hoped to send the President from the Summit of the Americas to “Durban II,” as it is called here. Meet-ups with Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chavez in Trinidad could have been followed by a chance encounter in Geneva with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – cementing Obama’s “Axis of Affection.” Oh, what might have been.
Alas, Obama’s much anticipated group hug with the United Nations will have to wait. But it should make you wonder. If Obama – who has bowed to the Saudi king and rubbed elbows with Ortega and Chavez – doesn’t want to be seen in the company of these UN miscreants, what must they be up to?
In two words – bureaucratic terrorism. The conference is dominated by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and is used largely as a forum to promote hatred of Israel. The gathering in Geneva is a follow-on to the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa in 2001 – a conference which found the American and Israeli delegates walking out in protest. It was described by the late Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, as “the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period.”
This week’s Durban Review Conference reaffirms the discredited text of the 2001 meeting, and adds an element which promotes censorship of speech that is deemed critical of Islam. In the most recent version of this conference’s outcome document, one section states in part:
“...all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts shall be declared offence punishable by law, in accordance with the international obligations of States...”
This text is part of a continuing effort by the OIC and the UN to prevent “the defamation of religions.” The only religious criticism they wish to stop, however, is that of Islam. We’ve all seen the vitriolic and often violent response of Muslims to prominent criticisms, or perceived criticisms, of Islam or Mohammed. The Durban Review Conference aims to codify that attitude into international law.
While a focus on “Islamophobia” is a major part of the conference, there are other troubling aspects. The text of the outcome document also:
“invites governments and their law enforcement agencies to collect reliable information on hate crimes in order to strengthen their efforts to combat racism.”
As we saw last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security doesn’t need any more encouragement to collect information on its own citizens.
As in all UN gatherings, the United States is a target of criticism at the Durban Review conference which condemns “colonialism” and “foreign occupation” – diplomatic epithets often hurled America’s way in the General Assembly. In the U.S., anybody expressing concern about our open borders policy has been targeted by the Left as racist and hateful – a charge which the delegates of Durban II are happy to encourage. The UN urges nations to:
“prevent manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at country border entry areas, in particular vis-à-vis immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers...”
The Durban Review Conference is another example of hypocrisy in action at the United Nations. President Obama was right to stay away from the United Nations this week. I wish that were his instinct toward the institution as a whole. Unfortunately, I suspect that Barack Obama’s absence this week will only make his heart grow fonder of the UN.
Thomas P. Kilgannon is the President of Freedom Alliance and the author of Diplomatic Divorce: Why America Should End Its Love Affair with the United Nations. He is reporting from the Durban Review Conference in Geneva as a correspondent for Radio America.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Your infantry unit is outnumbered 8 - 1, and the enemy fire is so intense, from 100 or 200 yards away, that your own Infantry Commander has ordered the Medi-Vac helicopters to stop coming in.
You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns, and you know you're not getting out. Your family is half way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again. As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.
Then, over the machine gun noise, you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter and you look up to see an unarmed Huey, but it doesn't seem real because no Medi-Vac markings are on it.
Ed Freeman is coming for you. He's not Medi-Vac, so it's not his job, but he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire even after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.
He's coming anyway. And he drops it in, and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 2 or 3 of you on board.
Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire, to the doctors and nurses. And, he kept coming back.... 13 more times..... And took about 30 of you and your buddies out, who would never have gotten out.
Medal of Honor Recipient, Ed Freeman, died last Wednesday at the age of 80, in Boise, ID......May God rest his soul.
The White House asked Georgetown to cover a monogram symbolizing Jesus' name in Gaston Hall, which Obama used for his speech, according to CNSNews.com.
The gold "IHS" monogram inscribed on a pediment in the hall was covered over by a piece of black-painted plywood, and remained covered over the next day, CNSNews.com reported.
The Washington Times' Belief Blog asked the university about the presidential request:
Julie Bataille from the university's press office e-mailed me that the White House had asked that all university signage and symbols behind the stage in Gaston Hall be covered.
"The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they've done for other policy speeches," she wrote. "Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn't high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context."
While the "IHS" directly behind where Obama spoke was covered over, CNSNews.com said the monogram was still visible in 26 other places in the hall during his speech. Those areas just weren't as prominent.
The Belief Blog talked with the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Institute at Georgetown University, who said he didn't think "this is motivated by theology, but by communications strategy."
The blog also talked with Catholic University spokesman Victor Nakas, who felt a bit more strongly on the subject:
"I can’t imagine, as the bishops’ university and the national university of the Catholic Church, that we would ever cover up our religious art or signage for any reason," Mr. Nakas wrote. "Our Catholic faith is integral to our identity as an institution of higher education.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Today is Thomas Jefferson's birthday. Born in 1743, Jefferson was described at age 32 as a young man who could "could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin."
Jefferson referred to his election as President as "the revolution of 1800." It was even more hazardous than the famous "hanging chads" of the Florida recount in 2000. His two terms as President were followed by two terms for his closest friend and political lieutenant, James Madison. These two terms were followed by two terms-almost uncontested-for Jefferson's second closest political ally, James Monroe. By the time John Quincy Adams was elected President in 1824, this son of an old political rival also counted himself a Jeffersonian.
As President, Jefferson doubled the size of the nation with the Louisiana Purchase. He ordered Lewis & Clark on a Expedition of Discovery that was the nineteenth century's version of the Apollo Moon program. It would be hard to accept the view of one leading Evangelical scholar that Jefferson left office "in disgrace."
This American renaissance man was incredibly gifted. His birthday ought to be a national holiday for defenders of religious liberty. Jefferson famously vowed "upon the altar of God eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man." His Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786) set a world standard for religious liberty and is one of the three achievements Jefferson asked to have inscribed on his tombstone.
Jefferson was a famous man of science. He served, after Benjamin Franklin, as the President of the American Philosophical Society, the new republic's leading scientific organization. In his mind, religious liberty and science did not clash. Nor should they.
But they do clash in Pennsylvania. There, two and a half years ago, a federal judge banned the teaching of Intelligent Design in the Dover public schools. Claiming that ID is a thinly veiled attempt to introduce impermissible creationism into public school classrooms, the judge predictably cited Jefferson's "wall of separation" in his opinion. Even in the U.S. Supreme Court had not hopelessly confused the meaning of that famous phrase from President Jefferson's 1802 Letter to the Danbury Baptists, it is certainly odd to cite Jefferson in clamping down on freedom of inquiry.
If Judge John Jones knew his man, he might have considered the strange fact that Jefferson was himself an advocate of Intelligent Design. He actually used the phrase "intelligence in the design" in rejecting the atheism of his French philosopher friends. In a long letter to his reconciled political foe, former President John Adams, Jefferson was at pains to describe what he had learned, not from Holy Scripture, but from his scientific studies about the origins of the universe. (Let's preserve Jefferson's eighteenth century spellings and punctuation. It's still less fraught with error than that judge's ascerbic opinion.)
On the contrary I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it's parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to percieve and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it's composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with it's distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms. We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in it's course and order. Stars, well known, have disappeared, new ones have come into view, comets, in their incalculable courses, may run foul of suns and planets and require renovation under other laws; certain races of animals are become extinct; and, were there no restoring power, all existences might extinguish successively, one by one, until all should be reduced to a shapeless chaos. So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have existed thro' all time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a creator, rather than in that of a self-existent Universe.
Design, cause and effect, superintending power, restoring power, a fabricator of all things-not the kind of fabrication we see in the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence-but a Maker, oops, a maker. How many ways could he have said it? This ain't all an accident, folks.
So, today, in the service of the Supreme Court's rendering of the First Amendment, we have a chapter-and-verse denial of the worldview that Thomas Jefferson and his dear friend James Madison thought was fundamental. Well, you have to watch out for those fundamentalists, you know.
Judge Jones said that Intelligent Design was just a subterfuge to sneak creationism into the classroom. The horror!
Perhaps Judge Jones should read Daniel Boorstin's Lost World of Thomas Jefferson. There, he would learn that Mr. Jefferson-and all the most advanced scientific minds of the early republic-believed fervently in a Creator. Perhaps that's why they thought we also had unalienable rights-endowed by our Creator.
"The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time," Jefferson wrote in his famous 1774 pamphlet "A Summary View of the Rights of British North America." That pamphlet was his audition for the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence.
Delegate John Adams was so taken with Jefferson's ideas-and with his "peculiar felicity of expression"-that he drafted the draftsman to pen America's founding document.
One wonders whether in Pennsylvania's public school history classes it would be permissible to teach that the founders of this republic-without exception-believed in a Creator God. Or that the Declaration and Constitution are suffused with their enlightened understandings.
Pennsylvania has other constitutional oddities. In their Supreme Court chambers in Harrisburg, you can see Moses carving the Ten Commandments. The famous Violet Oakley mural lists each item of the Decalogue and even refers to these Judeo-Christian tenets as "Revealed Law" (capital R, capital L).
Until they were caught in the act, Pennsylvania Supreme Court officers had intentionally blurred the Oakley text in pamphlets they printed for visitors. How strange that Alabama's elected Chief Justice Roy Moore was forced off the bench for bringing into his courtroom a marble monument of the Ten Commandments. Yet, Pennsylvania's seven justices have sat placidly for a century under a full-color representation of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments-replete with fire and lightning!
Jefferson knew what he meant when he pledged eternal hostility to all forms of tyranny over the mind of man.
I had the honor for several years of taking groups of students to Mr. Jefferson's amazing home at Monticello. There, I would note what columnist George Will's famous quote about Jefferson: "He lived as a free man ought to live." No, I would emphasize. Honest John Adams lived as a free man ought to live. He never freed his slaves because he never had any.
Even so, Jefferson should be honored by all. As President Kennedy memorably said in 1962 when he hosted a dinner for forty-nine American Nobel Prize winners: "I think this is the most extraordinary [collection of] talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
by Thomas P. Kilgannon
In this brief, but dramatic reign of Barack Obama, America is, regrettably, entering a post-Constitution phase of our Republic. Four years hence, will “We the People” have the influence in our government that we once did? It’s not looking good. Congress – playing with things such as taxing bonuses paid to bankers – is so unconcerned with the Constitution one wonders if they’ve read the prohibition of Bills of Attainder and ex post facto laws. Obama’s Solicitor General and Attorney General are trying to limit Americans’ rights under the First and Second Amendments, respectively. Private industry has been dramatically redefined. Domestically, the people have little say.
In foreign policy however, President Obama welcomes the input of citizens – foreign citizens, that is. This is where the real danger to our Constitution lies – with globalists who will place America’s fate in foreign hands. It’s the outsourcing of our independence – and it’s about to get worse.
Enter Harold Koh, Dean of Yale Law School, until he was recently nominated by the President to be the State Department’s Legal Advisor. Those who thought they knew all the reasons to detest lawyers haven’t met Harold Koh.
Professor Koh is a legal warrior of the far left and a cancer on American sovereignty. He is a committed transnationalist who, in his own words, “believe[s] in and promote[s] the blending of international and domestic law.” It is the responsibility of American courts, Koh maintains, to “promote the development of a global legal system.”
In Mr. Koh’s mind, our Constitution is but a footnote in a larger, more relevant body of law established and adjudicated by foreign governments, international institutions, the United Nations, and the World Court. This professor, who is about to become America’s lawyer, places more trust in legal theories created in cafe conversations than in the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Koh’s international outlook mirrors Obama’s domestic philosophy – create equality by limiting and punishing the best and the brightest. His writings outline his belief that America can only be as good as other nations allow us to be.
For example, in a 2002 essay, Koh expressed his opposition to America’s involvement in Iraq by stating that the U.S. should not get involved “without explicit United Nations authorization.” Such notions are limited in their impact when expressed by an Ivory Tower academic. When advocated by the top legal advisor at the State Department, however, they become American policy and have real and dangerous consequences for our national security.
Not only does Koh want the Oil-for-Food Gang determining America’s national security interests, he urges “constructive engagement” with the International Criminal Court (ICC), an unaccountable body that he views as a vital component of a “post-Cold War global justice system.” Toward that end, he advocates sharing information and U.S. intelligence with the ICC; appointing a special envoy to the Court; participating in ICC review conferences; and repealing provisions of the American Servicemembers Protection Act, which was adopted to defend U.S. troops from ICC indictment and prosecution.
Last year Koh argued that the new Secretary of State – the person he might soon be advising – “should withdraw the Bush Administration’s May 2002 letter to the United Nations” which removed Bill Clinton’s signature from the ICC treaty. Each of these steps, Koh argues, “pave the way for eventual U.S. ratification of the Rome Treaty” for the International Criminal Court.
As the Court was created to hear cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, Americans who are most vulnerable to the ICC’s political whims and show trials are high ranking government officials and our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. Were legitimate charges ever to surface against U.S. troops, ICC adherents would find the Uniform Code of Military Justice lacking. They believe America’s system of jurisprudence is unable to properly dispose of such cases. They would find it helpful to appeal Supreme Court decisions with which they disagree to a “higher authority.”
Don’t think it won’t happen. Recently, the hostility of international ambulance chasers resulted in a Spanish court entertaining a complaint against six Bush administration officials for the advice they provided the President on matters related to Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Spanish court claims “universal jurisdiction,” meaning its authority knows no bounds. The ICC operates in a similar capacity. Recently, the ICC issued, and is considering, indictments on individuals of nations which are not a party to the Court.
This is the international law to which Professor Koh subscribes – an adherence to multiple and changing standards in an effort to criminalize conservatism. Koh’s views are ruinous to American sovereignty and a danger to U.S. service members. His nomination as State Department Legal Advisor must be defeated before he can put his words into action.
Thomas P. Kilgannon is the President of Freedom Alliance and the author of Diplomatic Divorce: Why America Should End Its Love Affair with the United Nations.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Today, the game of baseball lost one of its greatest voices of all time and one of its nicest people.
He didn't just describe the games. His voice took hold of those games and made them his personal amphitheater.
The home runs weren't officially home runs until Harry Kalas told you they were outta here.
The long outs didn't make Philadelphia's hearts flutter unless the volume on every speaker suddenly quadrupled and Harry announced they've got … a … chance.
Strike three wasn't strike three until Harry The K gave it that little chuckle and reported some Phillies pitcher had just struck some poor, overmatched schmoe with a bat "right on outta there."
And when the impossible happened, when a Word Series title run erupted in front of his eyes, his town couldn't be totally sure this mind-warping event had actually happened until the great Harry Kalas' golden voice exploded with the words: "The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 world champions of baseball."
So here is what people like me, people who have lived most of our lives in Philadelphia, are wondering on this sad and tragic day:
How are we going to do this?
How are we going to go on in a world with no more "outta heres?"
How do we fill the unfillable void that will hang over us forever now as we try to contemplate life, and baseball, without Kalas?
Can't be done. Can it?
The games will go on. The sport will go on. Voices will crackle out of our TV speakers. That's the way it has to work. That's the way it has always worked.
But we don't have to pretend it will ever be the same, because when you've spent 6,000 nights, over four decades, listening to Harry Kalas put his inimitable stamp on a baseball game, it's way too simple to say baseball will never sound the same.
Baseball in Philadelphia will never be the same.
I'm one of the lucky ones. I got to know one of the special human beings on this planet. It was one of the great thrills of my career.
Once, I was just one of the fortunate hordes who had the pleasure of listening to Harry Kalas. Next thing I knew, I was working alongside him.
Back when I was a rookie beat reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and something memorable would happen on the emerald field below me, I'd often find myself thinking: I wonder how Harry called that one?
His voice, his presence, was that powerful. Even when you were witnessing something live, with your very own eyes, you still felt as if you were missing something -- because you hadn't heard Harry describe it.
If it had been only me thinking those thoughts, I'd have gotten therapy and tried to get that little voice out of my head. But it wasn't just me. Ohhhhh no.
Those players down there were way more addicted to that voice than I was.
Back on May 10, 2002, Phillies center fielder Doug Glanville hit an inside-the-park home run, the only inside-the-parker of his career. You know what he remembers about it now? Kalas' call of that magic moment.
The second he crossed home plate, Glanville said, "I wanted to hear him announce it. That was every bit as important to me as running around the bases."
Wait. Hold on here. You mean this man had just done something very few human beings have ever done, and all he could think of was the sound of That Voice? How can that be, you ask? Because it was Harry. That's how.
"Harry had that special gift," Glanville said Monday. "Just with his words and the emotion in his voice, he could take you to that game and put you right in that moment. If I was trying to explain to somebody what it's like to hit an inside-the-park homer, I'd say, 'Just listen to Harry call it.'"
But it wasn't only Glanville. When something big -- especially something really, really big -- came along, Kalas' voice towered over the event like a thunderclap from the heavens.
Let me transport you back to April 18, 1987. It's a day I'll never forget. I got to see Mike Schmidt hit his 500th home run that day. But that's not the part I'll never forget.
The scene that is lodged in my brain forever was a scene that took place long after Schmidt's emotional home run trot. The interviews were over. The players were all dressed. The bus to the airport was almost ready to leave.
Then Harry Kalas entered the room.
It just so happened that he and his broadcast buddies had brought with them a tape of Kalas' still-indelible call. And so, right then, right there, life in that room screeched to a halt. Everything stopped. The bus could wait.
All 25 players gathered around the tape recorder. The "play" button was pushed. And here came That Voice:
"There it isssss. Nummmmmber 500. The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt. And the Phillies have regained the lead in Pittsburgh, 8-6."
They listened to it once, and they roared so loudly the walls shook. So then they listened to it again. And again. And again. And again. Screaming just as loudly every time.
That's when it hit me: Even they didn't realize what had just happened here -- not until they'd heard Harry The K put it into words.
Well, you know what? At least those words live. Still.
I heard them all over the airwaves Monday. It's the one consolation on days like this. Because Kalas did what he did, because he uttered his special brand of poetry into a microphone, the words live on.
We need them now. We need to hear those words again. And again. And again. And again.
We need That Voice because it has been such a constant in all our lives for as long as most of us can remember. And not just at game time.
When I heard the sad news Monday, I called my daughter Hali -- one of the great Harry The K fans on earth. Through the tears, she told me she had just changed the ring tone on her cell phone -- to the sound of Harry Kalas calling the final pitch of the 2008 World Series.
Later, my wife, Lisa, tried calling our neighbors, Bob and Karen Scheur, because we knew they'd want to know. They weren't in. But their answering machine clicked on -- and there was Harry Kalas' voice informing us that Bob and Karen had just gone on a lonnnnnng drive, and they were outta here … so please leave a message at the sound of the beep.
"The funny thing is," Bob told me later, "that in November, Karen finally said, 'It's time to change the tape.' So we did. But as soon as we did, my friends would call and say, 'Hey, what happened to Harry?' So when it was time for pitchers and catchers, we changed it back. It's one of the rites of spring. Harry's back."
I could relate to that feeling -- totally. In fact, my last conversation with Harry came just a couple of weeks ago, in Florida. Pitchers and catchers had reported weeks earlier. The games had been going on for nearly a month. But for the first time ever, those games were going on without Harry.
He'd had some medical issues, described as nothing serious. So the Phillies were muddling along without him as best they could. And then, one day, I was walking down a ballpark hallway and there he was.
"It's a Harry The K sighting," I said. "Now we can finally get this season started."
He laughed. We shook hands. We talked a little baseball. He was ready to go. And now, so was I.
But I was only half kidding. It wasn't baseball season without Harry Kalas -- not for me. And not for millions like me.
So now what?
There will be a season. And in time, I'm sure, we'll be grateful there's a season.
But it will take some getting used to -- because, for millions of Philadelphians, Harry was what baseball sounded like.
If there's a rhythm to the heavens, if there's a script to every life, then we can take some solace in knowing there was an amazing finish to Harry Kalas' script.
In the final game he ever called, on Sunday in Denver, Matt Stairs gave him one final, dramatic, game-winning outta here.
Before the final home game Harry ever called -- on Wednesday, when the Phillies received their World Series rings -- he was handpicked by team president Dave Montgomery to throw out the first pitch.
And in the final postseason game he ever called, he got to tell all those people who loved him that the Phillies -- his Phillies -- were "2008 world champions of baseball."
That was their moment. But he made it his moment. And that's only fitting because, for the people of Philadelphia, Harry Kalas didn't just describe their moments. He made their moments real.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
President Obama’s First 70 Days
It really does all make sense.
By Victor Davis Hanson
In just the first 70 days of the new administration, a number of Obama supporters have expressed some dismay at their new president. Some find his ethically challenged appointments at odds with his soaring moral rhetoric.
Others lament his apparent inability to stir up supporters in impromptu speeches, at least in the manner he did with set oratory on the campaign trail. And they worry about his occasionally insensitive remark.
Many cannot quite figure out why, after lambasting George W. Bush for running a $500-billion deficit, Obama has outlined eight years of budgetary red ink that would nearly match the debt run up by all previous U.S. presidents combined.
But such disappointments should be tempered. Not only is Obama simply drawing on his past 30 years of education, writing, work, and associations, but he is also properly reflecting the worldview of many of those working for him.
What, then, is the mindset behind America’s new approach to domestic policy and foreign affairs?
If you believed that average Americans are not well educated, do not think in sophisticated and rational ways, and cannot be trusted to make good decisions, whether for themselves or for their nation, then you would expand the power of better-educated and wiser government overseers. This would ensure that, instead of millions of private agendas that lead individuals improperly, and at times recklessly, to acquire and consume, we would have benevolent and far-sighted powers directing our lives in ways that benefit the environment, the economy — and themselves.
If you believed that highly educated and sometimes distracted liberals occasionally slip on rather mundane questions of taxes, lobbying, and conflict of interest — but not at all in the felonious, premeditated manner of the corporate hierarchy — then it would be necessary to overlook such minor lapses for the greater good of marshalling talented and well-disposed experts into progressive government.
If you believed that socially minded liberals are tolerant and extraordinarily empathetic, then their rather impolite speech is not at all offensive. Constant disparagement of the previous administration, and jokes about fellow Americans — ranging from the physically or mentally impaired, to Nancy Reagan and her séances, to the stereotyped religion and culture of a clinging middle America, to the purported prejudices of a “typical white person” — are not insensitive, let alone callous. No, the evocation of these occasional infelicities reflects the tally-sheet of nitpicking right-wing agitators, keen to bring down a hard-working progressive sacrificing for the people.
If you believed that compensation in this country was intrinsically unfair — that income is arbitrary and quite capriciously rewards some while unjustly shortchanging others — then you would wish to hike income and payroll taxes on high earners to reach confiscatory levels so that a fairer government could correct the errors of an unfair market for the benefit of the many. Higher taxes on some, then, are not just a means of raising revenue, but an important redistributive tool of government to spread the wealth around.
If you believed that government does too little for the average citizen — that at present, with its unnecessary wars and perks for the wealthy, it cannot ensure everyone lifelong entitlement — then you would wish to double, even triple present federal expenditures. The key would be to borrow enough now to provide relief to the people first, and only afterwards to worry how to pay off the resulting deficit of $1.7 trillion. Once people are accustomed to the services they deserve, they will ensure that their representatives find the right revenue mechanisms to guarantee that such necessary benefactions continue. If you build programs to help the people now, the necessary taxing and borrowing for a $3.6-trillion budget will come.
If you had little idea of how businesses are created, how they are run, and why they sometimes go broke, and if you thought that the truly talented and sophisticated never go into business but instead gravitate to the Ivy League to be trained as lawyers, professors, writers, and organizers, then you would assume that our present problems are largely the fault of the former, and can best be addressed by putting as many of the latter in your government as possible.
If you believed that Main Street and Wall Street have little, if anything, to do with why publishers can afford to extend million-dollar book advances, or why the Ivy League has millions in scholarships for students, or why foundations, universities, and governments can afford to hire so many advisors, consultants, administrators, lawyers, and professors, then you would never really connect the conditions that promote good business with those that allow intellectuals, technocrats, and bureaucrats to thrive.
If you believed that those with capital have had an unfortunate head start, or have done dubious things that others less fortunate would not, then you would seek ways to forgive loans, to allow the indebted to start over with a clean slate, to ensure new borrowing with record-low interest rates, to lower or eliminate taxes on most people, and to expand in turn the financial help from the government — and not worry that stocks are down, dividends are nearly nonexistent, interest on deposits is at a record low, equity in real property has often disappeared, and accumulated capital is itself often diminished or insecure.
If you believed that the story of the United States is more a narrative of gender, race, and class oppression than of brave souls promoting liberty and trying to reify the promise of the Constitution, then you would have empathy for fellow victims of such endemic Western oppression. The cries from the heart we are hearing from Bolivia and Cuba, from Iran, Syria, and the West Bank, are not anti-American, much less illiberal: they are efforts to articulate the oppression that the people in those places have suffered at the hands of others.
While in the short run the once-victimized may need to be deterred in their anger from harming the United States or themselves, in the long run their legitimate grievances must be addressed through a variety of concessions, apologies, or dialogues in order to promote the general peace. That a Hugo Chávez calls Americans “gringos,” or Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva blames “white, blue-eyed” bankers for the financial mess, or that state-run Palestinian papers refer to Jews as “pigs and apes,” or that the Iranian president serially claims the Holocaust is a concoction of Zionists, is all an unfortunate rhetoric of the oppressed (in the same way Reverend Wright once referred to Italians as “garlic noses”), brought on by colonization and exploitation, rather than proof that a large portion of the world beyond our shores is run by racist — and rather loony — people.
If you believed that the traditions and customs of the United States are largely a story of the oppressed overcoming the perniciousness of the privileged, rather than the collective efforts of the many to stop tyranny, then you would talk about past oppression, past victimization, and past unfairness far more than you would evoke Shiloh, the Meuse-Argonne, or Iwo Jima.
If you believed that the United States is hardly exceptional, but merely one nation not all that different from others, then you would have confidence in the aggregate wisdom of the United Nations, and the cultural and economic paradigms provided by the nations of the European Union.
If you believed that wars, crises, and international tensions are brought about by miscommunications, misunderstandings, and Western insensitivity, rather than by despots trying to advance illiberal agendas whenever and wherever they sense an opening, then you would blame past administrations for our present ills, with all their bellicose and retrograde talk of preparedness, deterrence, and pre-emption. You would grandly proclaim a new age of harmonious relations, and count on your rhetorical abilities and charisma to persuade past rivals and mischaracterized enemies that, at this rare but opportune moment, there are no real differences between us — and thus no reasons for future disputes.
In other words, if you believed as President Obama and many of his advisors do, then you would do what Obama and his advisors are now doing.
— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.
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