Res et Explicatio for AD 8-24-2009

Monday, August 24, AD 2009

Salvete AC readers!

Buckle Up! Because here are today’s Top Picks in Catholicism:

1. The Reform of the Reform project continues as the Congregation for Divine Worship recommended the following:

  • Voted almost unanimously in favor of a greater sacrality of the [Latin] rite.
  • The recovery of the sense of Eucharistic worship.
  • The recovery of the Latin language in the celebration.
  • The remaking of the introductory parts of the Missal in order to put a stop to abuses, wild experimentation’s, and inappropriate creativity.

In addition they declared the reaffirmation of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.

Pope Benedict XVI continues in correcting the abuses and misinterpretations of Vatican II with these rectifications and tweaks.

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5 Responses to Res et Explicatio for AD 8-24-2009

  • Quote: “According to an interview featuring E. Michael Jones, who knew several prelates close to Medjugorje explained the contrasts on how both popes approached the issue. It seems that JP2 wanted to believe in the Marian apparitions but was hesitant due to the evidence to the contrary while Papa Bene isn’t hesitating to begin to make a ruling against the validity of these questionable apparitions.”

    Unfortunately, Mr. Jones takes wide liberty in making statements that cannot be supported. The entire piece written by Jones is a sham and an embarrassment to him and others who promote his books and articles. Jones lacks any direct quotes and is thus left to fabricate the truth based on his skewed view of Medjugorje. Cardinal Ratzinger was involved from the beginning in removing judgement of Medjguorje from the local Bishop to the Yugoslavia Conference of Bishops and more recently to the Vatican. A more full rebuttal to Jones can be found here:
    http://catholic-ecclesia-dei.blogspot.com/

  • Timothy,

    We all struggle do discern God’s will, for some it’s easier than others.

    But when the Virgin Mary tells her Medjugorje seers to join the priesthood and convent and you refuse, that is enough for me to believe that the Marian apparitions are a sham and nothing more than the devil playing these poor kids (no adults) for all their worth.

  • Please Taco; there’s more than just that which would lead one to doubt the sham that is Medjugorje.

    Our Lady of Fatima it certainly is not.

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Yeah, But Who's The Senior Partner?

Sunday, August 23, AD 2009

Obama and God

 

On August 19, Obama told a group of rabbis on a teleconference to support ObamaCare that “We are God’s partners in matters of life and death.”  The always indispensable Iowahawk reveals here that Obama was speaking literally.  I guess this is in line with the joke, at least I hope it is a joke, going around the country.  What is the difference between God and Obama?  God doesn’t think He’s Obama. 

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2 Responses to Yeah, But Who's The Senior Partner?

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Remember that 7 trillion deficit? Make that 9 trillion.

Friday, August 21, AD 2009

Obama Ink

As Obama goes on vacation, the Administration saw fit late Friday afternoon to release the news that the projected deficit was going up over the next ten years from 7 trillion to 9 trillion.  No doubt the Congressional Budget Office will have even more dire numbers, as the administration has consistently put the best face on the increasingly dire deficit numbers.  As I have constantly warned on this blog, our economy is about to hit a debt wall that will lead to a horrendous economy for years to come.  Fiscal lunacy, simple fiscal lunacy.  Some of my prior posts on the process by which we are careening towards national bankruptcy are below.

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9 Responses to Remember that 7 trillion deficit? Make that 9 trillion.

  • Banking crises are expensive to resolve. S.H. Hanke last fall noted that resolution of recent crises had resulted in public sector commitments ranging in size from a sum equal to 16% of annual domestic product (Korea) to a sum equal to 52% of domestic product (Argentina). Please note that by 1940 the ratio of public debt to annual domestic product was 0.52 and by 1945 it was 1.19. The difference is that we had large pools of accessible private savings in 1945. We also had as President Harry Truman, who may have been more devoted to fiscal balance than anyone who has occupied the office since 1933, and he in 1945-47 faced a Republican Congress led by men of late Victorian upbringing. We have been in worse shape before; regrettably for us, both the populace and the political class were once of a higher calibre.

  • As much of an admirer of Truman as we might be, Bill Clinton was probably more devoted to fiscal balance, considering the mess he inherited from Reagan-Bush, and what he was able to accomplish, thanks largely to a peaceful decade after Gulf War I.

    It’s cute how the deficit is packaged, regardless of the party in control. Try asking someone, “How much do we owe, and what will the payments be?” Lots of people can answer the first about their house or car. Very few the latter question. Try asking either populace or the political class (oxymoron?) the question on the fed budget.

  • “As much of an admirer of Truman as we might be, Bill Clinton was probably more devoted to fiscal balance, considering the mess he inherited from Reagan-Bush, and what he was able to accomplish, thanks largely to a peaceful decade after Gulf War I.”

    Well Todd you got one point right. Clinton came in after the Cold War and he ignored the rising jihadist threat and thus there were no wars on his watch. He was basically a typical spend through the roof Democrat, but he was saved from his own instincts by the GOP taking control of Congress in 1994, largely due to his botched attempt to saddle the country with ClintonCare. Plus the tech bubble generated ever-increasing amounts of revenue throughout the 90s. Bubba had better fiscal fortune than any president since Calvin Coolidge.

  • Here is good article from 98 on Bill Clinton and the budget:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=5656

  • Todd,

    Deficits as a ratio of domestic product were abnormally large in the years running from 1981-93. The tax cut legislation implemented in 1981-84 is partially responsible for this, as was the recession in 1981-82, as was the increase in military expenditure implemented from 1979-85. The Democratic Party had control of Congress for half that time, however, and was never without organizational leverage through control of the House Budget and Appropriations Committees through the whole twelve years. Both the administration and Congress agreed on proportionate reductions in military expenditure and tax increases after 1988. That, the antagonism of the Republican Congress after 1994, and eight years of unchecked economic growth allowed the deficit to be extinguished in 1999. The previous surplus budget was in the fiscal year concluding in 1969, also at the close of a period of unchecked and abnormally high economic growth.

    It is forgotten that Pres. Truman and Congress faced in 1945-47 the most difficult economic situation of any which arose during the period running from 1938 to 2008. Output was declining at a rate of 10% per year in 1946 and the Army and Navy disgorged some 9 million men as the country demobilized. If I am not mistaken, the nominal value of the outstanding public debt actually declined during Truman’s eight years in office, something it has not done since.

  • …President Harry Truman, who may have been more devoted to fiscal balance than anyone who has occupied the office since 1933…

    Heh

  • What this tells me is that we can expect inflation in a big way. Good grief. Can you even imagine a number like 9 Trillion and the taxes that will be levied to meet it. Not only that but the government never gets their numbers right. I’m looking to secure what money I have in things that will hold value. This morning I’m looking at gold and silver spot prices with the widget http://www.learcapital.com/exactprice and thinking that I might very well see a buying opportunity shortly. Of course I can’t help but wonder if this admin is capable of what FDR did by confiscating gold and making it illegal to own back in his presidency.

    The fact that our government continues to refuse to give numbers and access to those numbers by it’s citizens on the gold reserves our nation holds is my opinion is telling me we may see the precious metals move in a big way in the coming year.

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Obama Administration to Severely Wounded Vets: Suicide is Painless!

Friday, August 21, AD 2009

As the Wall Street Journal reports here, the Veteran’s Administration is providing seriously wounded veterans with a pamphlet entitled “Your Life, Your Choices“, which encourages veterans to refuse treatment and die.

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14 Responses to Obama Administration to Severely Wounded Vets: Suicide is Painless!

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  • Is it a co-incidence that neither Mr. Clinton nor Mr. Obama served in the armed forces?

  • What makes the Clintons and Obamas think their contribution to society is better than a helpless person who needs care? Their culture of death brings a sorrow to society greater than the unselfish loving care for others making a suffering life as good as possible, Some day they will value life when they find themselves useless ,or will they choose suicide? Would they talk their own parents or children into suicide if they thought their life not worth living? Their actions are not compassion. They are coldly eliminating undesirables.

  • Did you read this pamphlet? It is not about committing suicide. Where is “Compassion and Choices” listed as a resource? The resource mentions Choice in Dying which is a link to a website about advance directives. Here is the link to the actual pamphlet.
    http://www.rihlp.org/pubs/Your_life_your_choices.pdf

  • Holly, please. The whole thing is an advertisement for embracing the Grim Reaper. Page 21 is a riot. The smart people who put this together knew what they were doing, and it was to encourage Vets in tough health situations to give serious consideration to ending it all. As to Choice in Dying, I do not know why the Wall Street Journal article referred to Compassion and Choices although I think the author may have been referring to an earlier version of the pamphlet. Heaven knows that Choice in Dying is little improvement. Read more about the organization here.

    http://usspecialinterestgroups.com/choice-dying-cid

    “The most controversial right-to-die issue with which the CID has been involved recently is physician-assisted suicide. According to CID, physician-assisted suicide refers to a situation where a physician provides medications or other interventions to a patient with the knowledge that the patient will use the medications to end their life. This differs from withholding care or otherwise allowing a sick patient to die, because the physician is acting to help end the patient’s life, rather than ceasing treatment that might prolong it.”

    “The legality and morality of physician-assisted suicide has been hotly debated. CID has advocated for an open discussion of the issue, rather than supporting or opposing the practice.”

  • “V.A. Bureaucrats in Retreat? [Jack Fowler]

    Jim Towey’s powerful Wall Street Journal article — “The Death Book for Veterans” — was published Tuesday and revealed how the Obama administration has resuscitated a once-kiboshed end-of-life primer, Your Life, Your Choices: Planning for Future Medical Decision, which Towey says steers “vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living.”

    Sarah Palin picked up on it yesterday and put out an APB via Facebook. Then Fox announced that Chris Wallace was going to have Towey on FNS to discuss the V.A. program. And I’m told Rush Limbaugh went to town on it.

    Surprise, surprise: The PDF file for Your Life is now carrying a front-page warning that wasn’t there this morning:

    The following is a 1997 publication that was produced under VA IIR Grant No. 94-050, “Development of an Advance Care Planning Workbook,” 4/01/95 – 3/31/97. The document is currently undergoing revision for release in VA. The revised version will be available soon.

    Curious: Since this disclaimer is now on the cover page, does that mean the V.A. isn’t covering up?”

    From National Review today:

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/

  • I wonder if Holly read the pamphlet. The case studies were pieces of work. Note how in several the “unknown” wish of the patient is for non-treatment–how convenient!

    I’m horrified that wounded kids and elderly veterans are being issued this disaster of a handbook. It’s tough enough to deal with the life changes that a serious injury or illness can present without having people with no personal stake in your survival trying to steer your thinking in the directions it promotes.

    Even if the brochure were a completely innocuous education campaign, when soldiers (sailors, airmen) are sick and hurting is the worst possible time to bring up the advanced directive question. If the VA thinks having an advanced directive is that critical, they should be promoting it to active duty members of the military, not wounded warriors.

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  • Donald, I think the money quote in the CID description you cite is about 5 paragraphs down in the History section:

    “Choice in Dying officially became an organization in 1991 with the merger of Concern for Dying and the Society for the Right to Die.”

    If I recall correctly, Concern for Dying used to be known as the Hemlock Society.

    What is really disturbing about the VA booklet is the fact that many troops disabled in Iraq/Afghanistan suffer from traumatic brain injuries. Depression is a known side effect And the VA is handing them booklets in which they’re encouraged to reflect on whether “not being able to shake the blues” may constitute a “life not worth living.” They need treatment, not a push off the cliff.

  • Can’t find in the article where the obama admin said “Suicide is Painless!”, can someone help me out?

  • The title of my post Dominic is my editorial comment on what I think the pamphlet amounts to.

  • From the words to the theme song of MASH:

    Through early morning fog I see
    visions of the things to be
    the pains that are withheld for me
    I realize and I can see…

    [chorus]:

    That suicide is painless
    It brings on many changes
    and I can take or leave it if I please.

    I try to find a way to make
    all our little joys relate
    without that ever-present hate
    but now I know that it’s too late, and…

    [Chorus]

    The game of life is hard to play
    I’m gonna lose it anyway
    The losing card I’ll someday lay
    so this is all I have to say.

    [Chorus]

    The only way to win is cheat
    And lay it down before I’m beat
    and to another give my seat
    for that’s the only painless feat.

    [Chorus]

    The sword of time will pierce our skins
    It doesn’t hurt when it begins
    But as it works its way on in
    The pain grows stronger…watch it grin, but…

    [Chorus]

    A brave man once requested me
    to answer questions that are key
    ‘is it to be or not to be’
    and I replied ‘oh why ask me?’

    ‘Cause suicide is painless
    it brings on many changes
    and I can take or leave it if I please.
    …and you can do the same thing if you choose.

  • Just what I would expect from Obama & Liberals.

Who Says No

Thursday, August 20, AD 2009

People at various points in the ideological spectrum have pointed out it’s a little odd to see conservatives objecting to the idea of the government deciding what medical procedures ought not to be covered, when they’re apparently okay with insurance companies deciding what procedures ought not be covered, or with people not being able to afford procedures because they lack good insurance. However, it strikes me this difference may actually make a fair amount of sense, both for some pragmatic reasons and some emotional/ideological ones.

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6 Responses to Who Says No

  • Mark Steyn:

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YmI3YzBjMTI4NDVjMjViMThjM2VhMzQwYjY4YjdkODE=

    Right now, if I want a hip replacement, it’s between me and my doctor; the government does not have a seat at the table. The minute it does, my hip’s needs are subordinate to national hip policy, which in turn is subordinate to macro budgetary considerations.

    ***
    You’re accepting that the state has jurisdiction over your hip, and your knee, and your prostate and everything else. And once you accept that proposition the fellows who get to make the “ruling” are, ultimately, a death panel. Usually, they call it something nicer — literally, like Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

    ***
    After my weekend column recounted the experience of a recent British visitor of mine, I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Glasgow who cannot get an x-ray for his back — because he has no sovereignty over his back. His back is merely part of the overall mass of Scottish backs, to which a government budget has been allocated, but alas one which does not run to x-rays.

    Government “panels” making “rulings” over your body: Acceptance of that concept is what counts.

  • After my weekend column recounted the experience of a recent British visitor of mine, I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Glasgow who cannot get an x-ray for his back — because he has no sovereignty over his back.

    See, I’m instinctively opposed to greater government involvement, but I can’t see it ever happening in America. X-rays aren’t that expensive, and he would always be able to buy an X-ray on his own dime. X-rays aren’t that expensive. It’s not a conservative principle to demand that government welfare programs pay for everything imaginable.

  • I’d say it is when the government program forecloses other options.

  • But I don’t see how a government program here could even conceivably prevent anybody from getting an X-ray on their own dime.

  • “People prefer making hard choices themselves — even if it’s not much of a “choice”. “”

    I hope this is true!

  • Bonus, if your insurance company sucks and you go buy something else, you don’t have to keep paying the old insurance company.

6 Responses to Stop the Abortion Mandate

  • Most Democrats would never vote for a bill that didn’t cover abortion? Why not?
    The truth is that no one is FOR abortion. Just a woman’s right to decide.
    Republicans want to cover Viagra because they feel “erectile dysfunction” is a “medical condition”. If Democrats can’t cover abortion, then Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to cover Viagra.

  • “The truth is that no one is FOR abortion. Just a woman’s right to decide.”

    Rubbish. That is akin to saying that no one was pro-slavery but merely the right of a white to decide whether he owned a black. Thank you for proving my point that for most Democrats and their members of Congress the right to abortion is the holy grail.

  • Erectile dysfunction is a disorder that is corrected by medication. Pregnancy is a natural condition whose end is a live, human infant. The equating of the two shows in part why you, and Democrats in general, don’t understand the issue.

  • Though I will say, at a pragmatic trade off level, I’d be willing to see people with erectile disfunction have to pay for medication out of pocket, if the trade off would result in a total ban on any funding for abortions — not because I’d see them as the same thing, but because I’d see them as of much different levels of importance. I just don’t think that that party of NOW and NARL has any interest in making the trade.

  • I wouldn’t disagree with that. I don’t think everything can or should be covered. The illustration for rdean is that given medication for erectile dysfunction is a form of health care. Directly terminating a pregnancy is a form of murder. Two very different things.

  • Perhaps I am getting senile, but I do remember Senator Boxer asking [some years ago, of course] “Since when is pregnancy a disease.”.

ObamaCare and Medicare

Thursday, August 20, AD 2009

An ad put together by Dick Morris for the League of American voters.  Morris is Bill Clinton’s campaign manager from 1996.  I’ve always regarded him as 80% bovine droppings artist and only 20% shrewd political analyst, but I think this is a highly effective ad.  The elderly are quickly becoming aware that any cost savings in regard to ObamaCare are going to be wrung out of medicare.   As a lifelong Republican, I also find it hilarious that Democrats, Democrats!, are coming a cropper on medicare.  Payback may not be an angry female dog, but it is rarely pleasant for the recipient.

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2 Responses to ObamaCare and Medicare

  • Douthat wrote a good column on this, although his advice was that the Republicans should be more cautious in playing the anti-Medicare-cost-savings role. I think I agree with him that it’s a “win the battle, lose the war” type move for Republicans.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/opinion/17douthat.html?_r=1

  • Two thoughts on this.

    First, there’s been a lot of snide commentary over the last month about people telling congressmen to “keep your government hands off my Medicare” and whatnot, with the implication being that grandpa doesn’t realize Medicare is a government program. What the comments seem to suggest, however, is a fear on the part of seniors that creating new government health care entitlements elsewhere will result in cutbacks on Medicare, which is precisely what Obama is in fact proposing. There may be more artful ways to express that fear in a sentence, but saying “keep your government hands off my Medicare” is not such a bad way of putting it.

    Second, I know a lot of people on the left (and on the right) view the public option as a step closer to single payer. But if Medicare is any indication the opposite is true. If the government hadn’t adopted Medicare and Medicaid in the midsixties we’d probably of had some sort of universal health care system years ago. As it is seniors are one of the major obstacles to expanding coverage.

The 13th Day

Wednesday, August 19, AD 2009

[Updates at the bottom of this post as of 10:33 pm CST for 8-20-2009 AD]

The 13th Day is a film based on the true story of the Marian apparitions to three shepherd children at Fatima Portugal on the 13th day of six consecutive months in 1917, starting on 13 May.  The three children were Lucia Santos and her cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto.  These apparitions at Fatima were officially declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

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Equality, A False Assumption That We Need

Wednesday, August 19, AD 2009

[This is the first in a loose series of posts attempting to articulate the implications of inequality, of various sorts, in our society and economy. ]

It seems counter-intuitive to claim that we should hold something to be true when it isn’t, but it seems to me that there are at least a few cases in which we should act as if something is true even if it is not. The example that I have in mind has to do with equality.

As Catholics we believe that all human beings are of equal dignity in the eyes of God. In the US, all people are equal in the eyes of the law. However, this does not necessarily mean that all people are of equal ability in regard to any specific quality. And indeed, it’s readily apparent that people are indeed not equal in regards to ability. Some people have greater physical abilities than others. There is huge variation in mental ability, and among different kinds of mental ability. And there is a fair amount of evidence that much of this variation is either genetic, or determined by experiences so early in life as to be much more the result of your relatives choices than your own.

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17 Responses to Equality, A False Assumption That We Need

  • This post reminds me of two books, DC… Bork’s discussion of radical egalitarianism in “Slouching Towards Gommorah” and it negative impact its had on American society in the last forty years, and more recently, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, in which he argues that a big portion of success is due to things beyond the control of the person who is successful (i.e. the relevant of various environmental factors).

    I take your point regarding education, but your final sentence gives me pause… can it be that we are really better served by an illusion than by reality?

  • Truth is always better.

    The important truth here, however, is one which is not well understood.

    “All men are created equal” is a falsehood, at least as regards abilities. God gives different talents to each, different graces to each, different circumstances to each. Whither then equality?

    The truism lies elsewhere: Moral Rights are always the other side of a Moral Duty, and these all point to the end of life, which is to freely exercise our God-given creativity in a single pursuit, that of knowing, loving, and serving God.

    “Equality” in the phrase “all men are created equal” therefore comes from two places:

    (1.) The equal love of God, in that He loves His created persons each infinitely and infinities are as equal as makes no odds; and,

    (2.) The right to moral treatment of each person, which is the reflection of the moral duty of all other persons to treat them morally. A subcomponent of this duty is that component which deals with force, and that force is twofold: (a.) The force we use to protect innocents against force or fraud by others, and (b.) The force we exercise against non-innocents when they initiate force or fraud against innocents.

    Now under the broader heading of moral treatment of persons, the hallmark of moral use of force is this: (a.) We are morally obligated to offer equal protection to all innocents in proportion to the value God assigns them with His infinite love, not in proportion to some lesser attribute such as income or ability; and, (b.) We are morally obligated to exercise force against them in proportion to their crimes or attacks only, without regard to other attributes such as income or political connections.

    Item (a.) is generally phrased “equal protection under law” and Item (b.) is generally phrased “let the punishment fit the crime” or in cases of warfare “proportional response.”

    In the end, then, WE DO NOT NEED TO LIE TO OURSELVES.

    (We should never. No one who wishes to be on good terms with the person who calls Himself the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life, should be thus dismissive of the truth merely because it is convenient.)

    Instead we must understand that “equality among men” is a more particular kind of equality, expressed in two spheres; namely, judgments of transcendent value, and our duties in the use of force (normatively, through the tool called government).

    TRANSCENDENT VALUE: God loves us all infinitely, and we should be imitators of Christ, who is one in being with the Father. Being finite beings we lack the power to exercise infinite love for all equally, but we come close by exercising great love for all equally. Ergo: We value all human lives equally, and live lives of sacrificial love directed at our neighbor equally with ourselves.

    USE OF FORCE (normatively): Equal protection under law, proportional armed response, and punishments that fit the crime.

    USE OF FORCE (in the gravest extreme): Just War Doctrine (for gravest-extreme force writ large), Proportional Response for self-defense with intent to stop, not slay or exercise revenge on, an attacker (for gravest-extreme force, writ small).

    There is no lie in these formulations of equality.

    One final note: The above would work well if human beings were all Vulcans a la “Star Trek”: Able to suit their actions to known logical truisms at all times.

    However, we are passionate creatures and our emotions need taming and training.

    Hence one other addendum: In applying the terms of equality described above, we must undergird our intent with feelings of love as best we can. We must, with the help of the Holy Spirit, feel divine charity towards others. This often doesn’t work, so we must often act as we would act if we felt that way, in the hopes that our feelings will “catch up” over time.

    Some might regard THIS as a self-deceit, an illusion: “Isn’t it lying to myself or others, to act in a way I don’t really feel?”

    But it is not, because when our emotions are disordered, they tell us nothing about what is true, but rather react in a way that is closer to falsehood. In that sense, emotions are not like thoughts which can be true or false; they are more like the weather, which merely happens (sometimes conveniently and helpfully, sometimes inconveniently and unhelpfully).

    To the extent we resist, subdue, and retrain those emotions over time, we are in no way being dishonest; we are rather re-calibrating our emotions to be reflective of the truth. This is an intrinsically honest act, since it acknowledges the truth and acts upon it.

    In the end, our first loyalty is to the truth. How could it be otherwise, when our first loyalty always belongs rightfully to The Truth?

  • To talk about “equality” in these terms is to use the word in such a general way as to make it incomprehensible. Its too abstract. Equality of what? Health, happiness, sanctity, income, appearance of worldly success, ego? Not an exhaustive list, but I think you get the idea. Equality in my mind or that of others? How many others?
    Equality of dignity? Equality of ability? Equality of opportunity? Equality of outcome? I think you need more specificity.

  • Patrick makes a good point. ‘Equality’ in the general sense is not a principle of the founding father’s of the United States, conversely it is a principle of the French revolution.

    The founding father’s explain their use of “created equal” by saying what rights they are endowed with – “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful comments. Looking at these, I think I want to hone and limit by point a bit:

    It strikes me that it’s a basic (or at least, very commonly held) American idea that anyone could go anywhere and do anything. Often people tell this to kids, “If you work hard enough, you can grow up to be absolutely anything you want.”

    However, many studies suggest that is pretty definitely not the case. People who are below average in a set of abilities at age 8 are usually not going to turn around and excel in those abilities ten or twenty years later. If you have a low IQ at eight, you will probably never have a high IQ. If you have low musical abilities at eight, you will probably not become a concert pianist. If you are lowsy at sports at eight, you will probably not become a pro baseball player. Etc.

    Some people take from this that we should test people at an early age, determine their abilities, and not bother wasting resources on trying to teach people things they won’t be able to do. Thus, if someone tested as having an IQ of 90 and low mathematical abilities, you wouldn’t bother ever trying to teach that person math beyond a six or eighth grade level. If someone had low verbal abilities, you wouldn’t try putting them through high school literature, much less college. Etc.

    I think there’s a certain appeal to this approach for some libertarians and conservatives, partly because we’re used to arguing against quota systems which are used to try to guarantee equality of outcome.

    However, even though we know that people do not have equal abilities, it seems to me that we are better off trying to educate people as if they do have equal abilities — partly out of a sense of idealistic fairness, but mostly because it seems to me that the evils of telling someone “You’ll never amount to anything much, so you go over there and learn to be a manual worker. Don’t bother with any math, science or literature.” are much greater than the evils of “wasting” resources on trying to teach people things that they don’t end up mastering very well.

    That’s not to say that I think we should pour infinite resources into _making_ them come out equal. After all, they probably won’t anyway, since people don’t actually have equal abilities. But it seems to me that “anyone could amount to something” is an important ideal to maintain, because although it is true that in a worldly sense not everyone will amount to anything, I’m not sure that we’re likely to be as good as we think we can be about telling who is capable of amounting to something, and the injustice of closing people off from opportunity strikes me as much greater than the “waste” associated with offering them opportunity they don’t fulfill.

    Hopefully that’s a little more clear…

  • And much is expected from those to whom much is given. At the end of the day, those lacking in abilities who keep on keeping on may be astonished to find themselves first, for some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.

  • “Some people take from this that we should test people at an early age, determine their abilities, and not bother wasting resources on trying to teach people things they won’t be able to do.”

    I believe that is exactly what we ought to do… though the tests must be able to account for psychological problems that can inhibit academic performance.

    “but mostly because it seems to me that the evils of telling someone “You’ll never amount to anything much, so you go over there and learn to be a manual worker. Don’t bother with any math, science or literature.” are much greater than the evils of “wasting” resources on trying to teach people things that they don’t end up mastering very well.”

    It surprises me that the person who is usually a libertarian pragmatist in economic matters is making this argument now 🙂

    If the contention here is that specialized programs necessarily result in the message to less intelligent students that they will “never amount to anything”, I say that is illogical.

    Social attitudes, which are malleable, have more to do with how this kind of education would be received than anything else. Having a blue collar job that pays well is not “amounting to nothing” – especially if a person has a family, has friends, has a faith and a community.

    It is only “amounting to nothing” by the snobbish bourgeois standards of the upper classes. “Everyone must go to college” is how the white upper class, at the same time, a) validates its mode of existence, b) declares it superior to others, c) relieves its misplaced guilt that not everyone shares in the boundless privilege of their world.

    I firmly believe we should have a tracked educational system, because it would be much better for the many who actually do fall through the cracks. How many “gangbangers” and “trailer trash” would have benefited from a solid “blue collar” trade school track, instead of having the smoke of college blown up their bums?

    Society works best, and people function their best, when they have a rough idea of their place and when each social place is respected – not belittled through a complicated, contradictory, and often self-indulgent psychological issue held by people in positions of importance (who have forgotten their own role).

    I do disagree, however, with Murray’s comment at the end about “social problems” – he clearly has a materialist bent on his approach. The wealthy have sins as much as the poor, the educated as much as the uneducated.

    In fact, I believe the sins of wealth and power and intellect are far greater – and so does the Bible, in the Book of Wisdom. The lowly are always granted special pardon by God, while the mighty will suffer a mighty torment for neglecting their duties or abusing their power. The kind of vocational education that Murray is talking about – what 99% of education has become – does not and cannot improve or heal the soul. People with high IQs can be sociopathic monsters.

    But there IS a kind of education that can do it… the more I read Mortimer Adler, Alan Bloom, et. al., I am convinced of that. I think it is a very Catholic notion as well, though none of the Catholic schools teach it.

  • I mean none of the grade schools. But Thomas Aquinas College has the sort of program I am talking about. Only there is no reason it can’t be begun in high school for those who are interested (regardless of IQ).

  • It is only “amounting to nothing” by the snobbish bourgeois standards of the upper classes. “Everyone must go to college” is how the white upper class, at the same time, a) validates its mode of existence, b) declares it superior to others, c) relieves its misplaced guilt that not everyone shares in the boundless privilege of their world.

    And yet it seems that this notion is primarily espoused by the left-wing academic elite, who claim to have the interests of the less forunate as their goal.

    In any event, the premise is very good. People who can’t get into college academically for whatever reason SHOULD NOT BE IN COLLEGE. Therefore, eliminate all forms of affirmative action in college admissions (that is not to say there shouldn’t be FINANCIAL assistance for those who are able to succeed academically but lack the financial wherewithal). Instead, there should be generous offerings for trade schools which would allow those unable to meet academic standards to be materially successful and perhaps build a better life than their parents enjoyed, and especially provide a better future for their own children.

  • Well Matt, we agree 99%.

    I’m not sure it is an exclusively left-wing belief. It was, as Murray points out in other articles, a tenant of the Bush administration via “No Child Left Behind”.

  • “People who are below average…are usually not going to turn around and excel in those abilities ten and twenty years later.” The key word in your sentence, though, is “usually.” You did not say “never.” I think there is a substantive public policy and moral judgement difference between the two.

    The second most important word you used was “excel.” Let me give you an example to make my point: Our local public school system felt that high school PE should not be graded on measures of physical ability (e.g. running, jumping, reach, etc.) because some people had it and others don’t. So, instead, they give “grades” based on just showing up, and so forth, playing non-competitive games and so forth, while claiming that their goal is to turn the students into adults that have a life long dedication to fitness, Yahda, yahda, yahda. (Obviously, if that’s the goal, you can’t measure whether they have excelled at their work, but that’s another topic.)

    The Catholic high school doesn’t measure fitness in absolute terms, either. However, they measure improvement over the semester. Base line test the first day, final test at the end. Various sports and fitness training inbetween. I can’t measure their graduates’ life long fitness either, but over 1/3 of the students turn out for the track team every year and Sports Illustrated rates them the #2 sports high school in the country.

    My point is that, as someone who is, at this point in my life, the policy maker, rather than the student, my goal is to make things better than they would be without me. Our local public school district about breaks their own arm patting themselves on the back about the academic success of their top students. However, longitudinal comparisons show that they take students that come to them well above average academically and the schools turn them into above average students. Is that a good school district? On the other hand, what would you say about a district that takes kids from the 10th percentile on average and moves them over 12 years to the 30th percentile?

    So, coming back full circle, I have some involvement with a local Jesuit Nativity School, a middle school for inner city kids. The typical student comes to them, entering 7th grade, with academic skills at about the 3rd grade level. Six years later, their record is that roughly 19 of their kids out of 20 go to college.

    Can you be anything you want to be? I’m not sure that’s a relevant question. The greater social issue is whether young people are being led to have the motivation to try to be anything. I see a lot of kids who are just drifting. For them, it isn’t a matter of what opportunities are available to them. The issue is whether they are willing to make the sacrifices required to take advantage of them.

  • The kind of vocational education that Murray is talking about – what 99% of education has become – does not and cannot improve or heal the soul. People with high IQs can be sociopathic monsters.

    But there IS a kind of education that can do it… the more I read Mortimer Adler, Alan Bloom, et. al., I am convinced of that. I think it is a very Catholic notion as well, though none of the Catholic schools teach it.

    I do strongly agree with you there. I believe strongly that everyone can benefit from a strong liberal arts/humanistic education up through what I think ought to be about a high school level — and I strongly object to the idea that some people should be sectioned off at the age of eight or ten and told: “You’ll never be able to follow math beyond basic arithmetic, and you’ll have decent reading or writing skill so why bother.”

    I very much like what Adler and Bloom have to say about education, and I looked at going to TAC, though in some ways I think it’s better as a high school approach than a college approach.

    I guess that’s where the “It surprises me that the person who is usually a libertarian pragmatist in economic matters is making this argument now” part of it comes in. Part of my libertarian-ish leaning has to do with wanting to see equality of opportunity. And another part has to do with distrusting people’s ability to predict the future — and thus not wanting to see people cut off from opportunity.

    I want to get back to your point about pursuing a blue collar career not being “not amounting to anything” in a later post, because it leads into some other thinking I want to get into in regards to the modern economy and the problem of inequality. For now, I’ll just stick to saying that I think if you have a liberal arts level education at a high school level, it’s a overall gain as a human being. And I am concerned that when someone doesn’t go to college they often end up putting themselves on a road which makes it a lot hard to hit higher income brackets. How much of a problem one sees that narrowing of opportunity as depents on a lot of other things.

  • Joe,

    I’m not sure it is an exclusively left-wing belief. It was, as Murray points out in other articles, a tenant of the Bush administration via “No Child Left Behind”.

    I said primarily, and I would never deny that Bush was sometimes influenced by the elite on the left (it was Teddy’s bill after all).

  • D,

    “For now, I’ll just stick to saying that I think if you have a liberal arts level education at a high school level, it’s a overall gain as a human being.”

    I agree, but I don’t think it should be subject to testing and grading. A simple pass/fail perhaps, and those who excel can be singled out for honors courses that are more challenging.

    America has become obsessed with grades, with quantitative indicators of intelligence. There is no evidence that it has ever made America a better country.

    Vocational education should be graded, though. No argument there.

    “And I am concerned that when someone doesn’t go to college they often end up putting themselves on a road which makes it a lot hard to hit higher income brackets.”

    Statistically, yes – though returns on educational investment are decreasing.

    It wasn’t this way when industry and manufacturing took place in this country. College-mania is in many ways a consequence of the destruction of real opportunities for blue collar work that was skilled and in demand.

  • I agree, but I don’t think it should be subject to testing and grading. A simple pass/fail perhaps, and those who excel can be singled out for honors courses that are more challenging.

    America has become obsessed with grades, with quantitative indicators of intelligence. There is no evidence that it has ever made America a better country.

    I’d have to think about that. Having been homeschooled in high school, I effectively went without grades, and I don’t think it hurt me in any big ways. But at the same time _some kind_ of measurement of performance is often useful to people, especially highly competitive ones. Still, I’d agree that there’s an over/wrong emphasis on grading and testing often in education.

    It wasn’t this way when industry and manufacturing took place in this country. College-mania is in many ways a consequence of the destruction of real opportunities for blue collar work that was skilled and in demand.

    Agreed, to an extent. I think a bigger influence has been that technological advancements and globalization have allowed modern “knowledge workers” to be far more productive, measured in terms of the dollar impacts of their actions, than much of anyone could be 50 years ago — thus allowing that type of worker to far outstrip blue collar workers. Though I’m not sure to what extent we can do anything about that, or that it would be a good idea to if we tried.

  • As someone in a “blue collar” manufacturing industry, I can tell you that your concept, Joe, of herding high school students who aren’t making it academically into shop class is a quarter century out of date. Vocational education is no longer done at the high school level, although you may find some lingering traces of it. You need high school level math, science and computer skills to succeed in a blue collar occupation these days, because the specific training you need for your career is done at the community college/junior college level.

  • “Shop class” was just an example. And there is no reason it can’t be brought back, that the sort of training one gets at a junior college cannot in fact begin in high school.

    Delayed adulthood is a social problem, not a blessing, as I see it. High school age teenagers are capable of a lot more than modern society gives them credit for. For those not pursuing a “white collar” professional career, there is no reason that trade school can’t be over by the age of 18, with more specialized training occurring on the job.

A Public Option: the Left's Waterloo?

Wednesday, August 19, AD 2009

Blackadder has had a couple very interesting posts lately arguing that a public health insurance program wouldn’t sound the death-knell to private insurance companies (and hence competition for the consumer) which many have been arguing it would.

What I find interesting is the vehemence of the left regarding a public option… consider this quote from a WaPo story today:

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12 Responses to A Public Option: the Left's Waterloo?

  • One wonders how many of the people now loudly insisting that a public option is essential to health care reform had even heard of the idea a year ago.

  • Chris,

    At the same time, we find in the same article indications that the GOP’s strategy is yet again merely to try to take down ObamaCare without proposing a real alternative… Sen. Kyl from Arizona and Rep. Price from Georgia both offer comments critical of the co-op proposal, but offer nothing as an alternative strategy. Perhaps this is just the WaPo reporter leaving them out, but I have my doubts.

    You’re simply repeating the left’s talking point that the Republican’s don’t offer alternative reforms. The Republicans have offered numerous times reforms which have been defeated by Democrats at every turn.

    – tort reform!
    – allowing individuals to deduct their private health care premiums
    – allowing small businesses to pool across state lines to purchase health insurance for their employees

    John McCain’s health care proposal included eliminating the employer deduction in favor of an individual tax credit, this would eliminate the majority of “previous condition” issues because people would not lose their coverage if they lose their job.

    At the current time, due to Democrat majorities in both houses the Republicans can not bring any of these proposals to the floor, and the media is not cooperating in getting them out to the public.

  • Fair enough, Matt. I guess I’d like to see a more coordinated communications strategy on the part of the GOP, then, to get their word out. If the media isn’t cooperating… go around them. It’s not impossible.

  • Chris,

    Fair enough, Matt. I guess I’d like to see a more coordinated communications strategy on the part of the GOP, then, to get their word out. If the media isn’t cooperating… go around them. It’s not impossible.

    I agree, if we don’t figure out how to do this, we will fail, regardless of unfairness.

  • Obama appears to be stuck. He wants to jettison the public option portion of his health care plan out of (legitimate) concern that it could bring down the entire bill. It appears, however, that the more left-wing Democrats won’t vote for a bill without a public option.

    I’m not really in the business of helping Obama out. However, it might be interesting to see what sort of concessions he would be willing to make in order to garner Republican support for a public plan. Suppose, for example, that the health care bill kept a public option but was altered to include some or all of the reform items Matt mentioned above. Wouldn’t such a bill be preferable to the status quo?

  • BA,

    Wouldn’t such a bill be preferable to the status quo?

    I’d still be concerned by a lot of the other interventions in the existing bill. Also, it seems like the trade-off from a “public” option would be a “co-op” option, which is funded by the government and controlled by the government as a sort of trojan horse government option.

  • As a tangent. The “Death Panels” were supposed to be a figment of the right’s imagination. I wonder how that plays given this:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204683204574358590107981718.html

  • It’s certainly interesting to see how firmly the left has latched on to the fairly anemic public option in the current plan.

    I wonder if some of this is that the second half of the 20th century wasn’t exactly kind to collectivist-minded idealogues. The ideas of Smith turned out to be a lot better at creating liveable societies than those of Marx. But health care has, to many, remained the one area in which people can convince themselves “market bad, centralized planning good”. As such, having the government provide health care has an appeal to partisan Democrats out of proportion to the amount of good that a particular program is likely to do.

  • One thing that bothers me is that all the fuss over the public option has allowed the abortion provision in the bill to go unchallenged. As Catholics are we really more concerned about the economic implications of the bill vs its deadly intent to fund infanticide?

  • Fr. Charlie,

    I thunk you’re mistaken, the outrage over the government No private or blocked number calls please takeover is multifaceted and it include opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion, and coercive euthanasia. I don’t think there’s a shortage of vocal opposition to any of these aspects.

    All of these elements are a natural extension of the government takeover. Even if hey weren’t mentioned in the law they would become enshrined in practice. That’s part of the reason Catholics should oppose any government takeover.

  • er.. think.

  • I would like to think you are right Matt, but I don’t know. While the Ins. companies need some serious regulation, I am totally opposed to a govt. run health care system. But at the end of the day, I can live with almost anything except publically-funded abortion and euthanasia. The “death-panel” campaign may have protected us on the latter, but besides the US Bishops Conf, I hear almost nothing in the public debate about abortion. What I am saying is that some of the energy needs to go into exposing what this bill will do to the unborn.

Nat Hentoff on the Death Panels

Wednesday, August 19, AD 2009

Obama Fear

Nat Hentoff has always been my favorite Leftist atheist.  A strong pro-lifer in a New York milieu where pro-lifers are regarded with less tolerance than cannibals, Nat Hentoff is a man of the Left who always has been a strongly independent voice and mind.  In an article today, which is here, Hentoff confesses to being scared of the Obama administration:

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17 Responses to Nat Hentoff on the Death Panels

  • All that any government panel would do here is say what the government pays for; you’d be free, as always, to buy your own medical care above and beyond that. It’s quite odd to see so many conservatives acting as if a government welfare program absolutely must pay for anything and everything that someone wants, without regard for necessity, quality, or usefulness.

  • SB under ObamaCare there would rapidly be no private insurers. Without private insurance there would be no effective recourse from denial of coverage for treatment except for the independently wealthy which is precisely the case in Great Britain. This is of course why the US routinely is the destination for medical treatment by wealthy idividuals seeking treatment in this country that will not be paid for by the national health care plans in their country. This leaves aside the issue that many national health care plans forbid private payment for health treatment.

  • Donald, didn’t you and Nat Hentoff get the memo from Sharon Begley? This stuff about ‘death panels’ is all a ‘lie’.

  • Having just returned from Europe, I can report a great exasperation over the US debate. For what it’s worth, the NHS is by far the most popular part of the welfare state. When a Tory MEP went on American media to criticize it, Cameron stronly rebuked him. Europeans are absolutely disgusted that there can be opposition to the simple goal, the human right, of providing healthcare for all.

    And as for “death panels”, it is precisely the for-profit system that weighs human life by cost. In states today, hospitals have the power (even if family does not agree) to terminate life in cases where they deem not worth living. And for a direct comparison of the US and UK, consider what happened to Elizabeth Anscombe’s daughter.

  • Europeans are absolutely disgusted that there can be opposition to the simple goal, the human right, of providing healthcare for all.

    Well, bully for them

  • And bully for the Catholic church, which also sees it as a basic human right. And yet I have yet to see a single credible plan from the opponents of reform that would guarantee universal healthcare.

  • We will simply have to bear up under the disapproval of Europeans.

    In regard to the British National Health System here is a section of an article written in defense of that system which appeared in the New York Times recently:

    “But there are limits. Without an endless budget, the N.H.S. does have to ration care, by deciding, for instance, whether drugs that might add a few months to the life of a terminal cancer patient are worth the money. Its hospitals are not always clean. It is bureaucratic. Its doctors and nurses are overworked. Patients sometimes are treated as if they were supplicants rather than consumers. Women in labor are advised to bring their own infant’s diapers and their own cleaning products to the hospital. Sick people routinely have to wait for tests or for treatment.

    Because resources are finite and each region allocates care differently, waiting times can vary widely from place to place. So can treatment, as in the United States, regardless of how it is paid for.

    Limited in what treatments they can offer, doctors sometimes fail to advise patients of every option available — or every possible complication. American doctors, conversely, often seem strangely alarmist about your future and overeager to prescribe more expensive treatment.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/weekinreview/16lyall.html

  • Donald,

    I fully expect that in this iteration, there will be a market for non-approved care (and perhaps insurance to pay for it). Should non-approved care be deemed illegal in the next iteration, as was proposed in Hillarycare, this would be a black market. This, of course, would be the exclusive province of the wealthy.

    What I yet fail to grasp about the whole proposal is how doctors will stay in business with malpractice risks remaining static, and thus malpractice insurance premiums remaining high, while approved compensation is reduced.

    The “right” to healthcare becomes more difficult to obtain when there are fewer doctors.

  • Death Panel a Lie? The bill stipulates 11 people, none a spiritual advisor, come up with the guidelines for what a “provider” (not necessarily a Dr.) will be required to tell you regarding end of life counseling then record your wishes (answers) in a database. The goal is to quit spending money to keep people alive. “Death squad” is strong language, but not entirely out of line.

    Funny I have never heard any real evidence that people would actually chose to quit suffering. Certainly you could argue that families are keeping people alive that may have opted out of critical life support, but equally there are people who’s loved ones pulled the plug, where the patient may have decided not to. What makes anyone think the margin of error is not 50/50. Additionally what about the people like me that let my wife know my wishes, but have given her the permission for final say so. I worry about her burden more then my suffering. Suffrage is part of our salvation.

    Can you see it now, a spouse arguing “keep him alive” and the government computer with a DNR checkmark next to the patient’s name, which was made by a government worker put in a database built overseas to the lowest Bidder? National rent a car just charged my business rental to my home credit card. They blamed a “software refresh”.

  • In regard to the British National Health System and euthanasia, I don’t know what else to call this except deathcare:

    http://www.tldm.org/News12/Britain'sPathwayToEuthanasia.htm

  • “The “right” to healthcare becomes more difficult to obtain when there are fewer doctors.”

    Oh DMinor, ye of little faith! His Obamaness will simply bring forth new legions of doctors through government fiat: complete government control of their practice, less money, longer hours, who could resist that!

  • I have been following the uproar in the British press regarding MEP Daniel Hannan’s comments. The thing that struck me was that both his critics and supporters seem to agree that mixed sex wards are a bit much.

    I think most Americans would balk at the very idea of wards, nevermind mixed sex ones! I have had more experience of being a patient than I would have liked over the past few years. Being an inpatient is not fun, even if you have a private room. Being in a ward with 29 strangers of both sexes – oh, yes, that’s quite “progressive” – by the standards of 1870.

  • Anyone who thinks that citing European snobs is helpful when arguing with Americans is letting his passion get the better of his ability to make an argument.

    Anyway, I don’t get the passion here. I care about whether people are healthy. But, as any literate person knows, insured-status is a very poor proxy for whether someone gets healthcare, and then getting healthcare is a very poor proxy for whether someone is actually made healthy.

    For the information of people not blinded by ideology and rage, listen to this amazing fact: The number of people killed by getting healthcare (hospital infections, doctor error, etc) is 43 TIMES the number of people who die for lack of health insurance. (Compare http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2004/mar2004_awsi_death_02.htm and http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/healthcare/2002-05-22-insurance-deaths.htm).

    43 times the number of dead people. Killed by healthcare.

    Too startling a figure, you say? A more conservative estimate comes from Barbara Starfield’s JAMA article in 2000, which estimated that 225,000 people die every year from getting too much healthcare. That’s 12 times the number allegedly killed for a lack of health insurance.

    But people who wouldn’t know a JAMA article from a NEJM article are all whining about how to give more healthcare to more people.

  • S.B.’s argument that from 12 to 43 times as many people die FROM healthcare as from a lack of health insurance would seem to indicate that we should be arguing for LIMITING health insurance coverage instead of expanding it.

    Or, rather, it would if you followed the same logic as those who insist that the allegedly vast numbers of people dying from lack of health insurance proves we need a national or universal health care system.

  • Ivan Illich was something of a crank, but he did have a point to make about the degree to which life expectancy is fairly insensitive to the sophistication of medical practice and the degree to which illness can be iatrogenic. I have a wretched example in my immediate family.

  • MM,

    Did you see fit to inform your European interlocutors that Americans are (when they bother to think of the continent) totally disgusted with the collapse of religion and the family in Europe, with the overall low wages and economic opportunity, and with the social acceptability of sport event violence and public drunkeness? Or do you only convey disapproval one way — from former colonial masters to their ex-subjects who better stop dragging their knuckles and bloody-well get with the program? Overall, the fact that more Europeans relocate to the US than Americans relocate to Europe probably tells us more about how people really feel than your discussions with like-minded friends across the pond.

    SB,

    In a sense, the comparison is a bit simplistic. I think a better analysis might be the percentage of people admitted to hospital who die from (or are seriously injured by) hospital contracted diseases and malpractice versus the percentage of the uninsured who die from lacking essential mediate care.

    Still, the overall point is very important: Health care and health are not synonymous. For example, if you eliminate accidents, suicides and homicides, the US actually has a higher life expectancy than any of the countries our health care system is usually compared to. And although everyone (except apparently MM) recognizes the UK’s NHS is a total cluster, and death rates from nearly all specific ailement (especially preventable hospital-contracted diseases resulting from lack of sanitary conditions) are much higher in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, their life expectancy is actually pretty much the same as in countries with much more functional health care systems.

    Medical care can help individual people life longer, but the effect of health care provision on overall population life expectancy is much more remote. (I suppose because how long you live _after_ beign diagnosed with cancer doesn’t have all that much effect on the overall population life expectancy — as compared to factors like how common cancer and heart disease are overall.)

  • Elaine — that’s an interesting idea. For example, there is a very good case for having the government implement a Pigouvian tax or a fine on the use of antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics has led to resistant superbugs, such as MRSA, which then kill or maim people. It’s a public health hazard. It’s surreal that we’re talking about making the health hazard worse (i.e., helping people pay for antibiotics).

4 Responses to Obama Bipolar?

Freak Show

Tuesday, August 18, AD 2009

Megan McArdle links to a Financial Times piece by Clive Cook which includes the following quote:

The gap between the right of the Republican party, which is providing the angriest critics of the reforms, and the left of the Democratic party, which thinks the proposals too timid, is unbridgeable. These groups do not merely disagree. They despise each other. Their differences are only secondarily about policy. They hold each other’s values in contempt.

These snarling extremes are nonetheless somewhat alike. They have an equal and opposite penchant for conspiracy theories. Almost a third of Republicans, according to a recent poll, believe the unsupported story that Mr Obama was not born in the US (in which case he would be disqualified from serving as president). But remember that more than a third of Democrats subscribe to the even more outlandish theory that the Bush administration knew about the attacks of September 2001 in advance.

One of the annoying qualities of national debate over the last several months (which seems to increase as Democrats become more desperate about their flagship legislation) is the attempt to find the very looniest possible elements of the right and portray them as being mainstream.

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5 Responses to Freak Show

  • Attempts to compare 9/11 “Truthers” to “Birthers” overlook an important point. The question “Is Barack Obama a natural born U.S. citizen?” can only be interpreted one way, and has only two possible answers — yes or no. Either he was or he wasn’t; there’s no in between.

    However, the question “Did Bush know about the 9/11 attacks in advance?” admits of several possible interpretations, listed in order from most to least plausible:

    1. Bush had access to intelligence information indicating the POSSIBILITY of a major terrorist attack being planned, but did not believe the threat serious enough to warrant immediate action.

    2. Bush was given credible but inconclusive information indicating that a terrorist attack was likely to occur in the late summer-early fall of 2001, but again, did not believe the information warranted any significant action.

    3. Bush had good, solid information indicating that Al Qaeda was planning a terrorist attack on the U.S. on or about 9/11/01, and deliberately chose not to take action, since he wanted to use the attack as a pretext for increased security measures and for waging war against countries he didn’t like.

    4. The Bush administration planned and staged the attacks from the outset and merely made them appear to have come from an outside enemy.

    Now, quite a few people (Republicans as well as Democrats) subscribe to theories #1 and #2, whereas only hardcore “Truthers” subscribe to #3 or #4.
    The first two theories mean that Bush simply made an honest mistake in not taking indications of a terrorist attack more seriously, or at worst, that he may have shown poor judgement. However, to embrace #3 or #4 is the real “conspiracy theory” equivalent in irrationality to “Birther” conspiracy theories.

  • The question “Is B. Obama a natural born citizen” can very easily be interpreted in several ways– and most of them are perfectly sane; here’s some ways that the answer could be “no”:
    1) His father, as an official rep of a national party in his home land, counts as a diplomat– thus, the child would be a citizen of Obama Sr’s homeland, as Obama’s mother didn’t fulfill the requirements for her children to automatically be nat-born cits.
    2) Obama renounced his citizenship by taking, as an adult, an Indonesian passport.
    3) Obama was adopted by his mother’s second husband and became a citizen of that country. (2 and 3 is why folks want his college records, BTW)
    4) Obama was born outside the US.

    This is off the top of my head, with a topic I’m not even really interested in.

    “Truther,” on the other hand, is applied to those who think that “9/11 was an inside job.” This would include some of the folks who think Bush “knew about it ahead of time,” but not all of them would be Truthers.

    Now, all that done… the quote is horribly inaccurate or misleading; there was a survey that said one-third of folks surveyed in Utah did not believe or weren’t sure if Obama was born in the US.

    Anne Coulter, of all folks, had a pretty decent point on this whole stupid “Oooh, there’s boogie men! You’re idiots!” argument.

  • Good point, Foxfier.

    Recall that before the election someone had fun going around asking rank-and-file Obama voters if they supported his pro-life stance and his selection of Palin as VP — and many said yes.

    In this case, it wouldn’t surprise me if many of the polled “birthers” don’t even know that you aren’t allowed to be president if you weren’t born in the US (which is, these days, a rather odd rule) and their responses don’t amount to much more than “Yeah, he’s got an odd name and I think I saw on TV he has relatives in Kenya — maybe he was born over there.”

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Bob Novak, May the Perpetual Light Shine Upon You

Tuesday, August 18, AD 2009

Robert Novak

Catholic convert Robert Novak died today.  He was many things:  a fellow University of Illinois alum, a devoted family man married to his beloved wife for 47 years, and a hard bitten journalist with a nose for news unrivaled in the business.  Novak was a conservative, but he never let his politics get in the way of a story.  Always staunchly pro-life, and respectful of Catholicism, his embrace of the Faith a decade ago came as little surprise to me.  I never met him, but I will sorely miss his presence in the public square.  May he  now be enjoying the Beatific Vision.

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5 Responses to Bob Novak, May the Perpetual Light Shine Upon You

Conservative Nation

Tuesday, August 18, AD 2009

2009 -08-04-consumer-confidence-better

Gallup is out with an interesting poll here showing that self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals in all but three states, often by substantial margins.  In three states, Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts, liberals and conservatives are tied. Liberals are only in a majority in the District of Columbia.  The state by state results are here.  As a conservative I would like to thank President Obama for his hard work in swelling the ranks of conservatives in time for next year’s elections. 

 

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6 Responses to Conservative Nation

  • It’s certainly true that the number of people identifying as ‘conservative’ has gone up, but party affiliation (i.e. ‘Republican’ v. ‘Democrat’) is more instructive from my perspective – and tells a very different story about the relative strength of the parties. Measured by registered party affiliation, Democrats have a sizable advantage in 30 states; Republicans in 4.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/122003/Political-Party-Affiliation-States-Blue-Red-Far.aspx

  • Ah, John Henry, but it is the independents who usually determine the elections and in the latest polls their views are swinging strongly in a Republican way. As a conservative, I’ll take strength in ideological numbers over party id any day. We’ll see in 2010.

  • November 2010 is an eternity away, politically speaking.

    Just as it was unwise to extrapolate permanent Republican and Democratic majorities based on the elections of 2002/2004 and 2006/2008 respectively, it’s too early to tell if this has some modest realignment potential or is just focused anger at a current set of policies.

    A lot can happen in 14 months.

  • Self-described conservatives have outnumbered self-described liberals for decades, so that’s not really new. Registered Democrats have also traditionally tended to outnumber registered Republicans, though the gap did close briefly during the Bush years.

    I suspect that the polling on conservatives vs. liberals paints an overly rosy picture (at least from a conservative perspective). People who hold stereotypically liberal views have a tendency to disclaim the liberal label (perhaps you’ve noticed this) which would tend to make the number of liberals appear lower in polling than is actually the case.

  • I doubt if we have to wait till 2010 on second thought. The Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections are usually fairly accurate bellweathers for the coming year, and those will occur in November of 2009.

    If people aren’t going to self-identify as liberals now with liberals in complete control of the federal government they never will. I think Gallup is catching something here. I might also note that there are a fair number of self-described Democrats who haven’t voted for the party of the donkey in years. My mother-in-law is such a “Democrat”.

  • Per Rasmussen the Gop has led the Democrats now on the generic Congressional ballot for eight straight weeks.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/generic_congressional_ballot

    This of course is very important because candidates are now being recruited and building up warchests.