Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quote of the Decade:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

-- Senator Barack Hussein Obama, March 2006



Good advice
Texas senator Ted Cruz addressed the NRI Summit earlier today. Wearing a business suit and black cowboy boots, he had the podium removed from the stage so he could roam freely, and spoke without notes. In his remarks, Cruz offered guidance for his fellow GOP lawmakers. On his way out, I asked him to pass along some of that advice for National Review Online readers who couldn’t be here today, and about the role that the NRSC, of which he–along with Ohio senator Rob Portman– serves as vice chair, will play in the 2014 election.

Cruz’s advice: First, “stop listening to the New York Times” and “understand that…you were elected to the House by the same people that elected President Obama.” Second, “stop bad legislation,” and third, “use leverage points…to push forward serious solutions to the crushing fiscal and economic challenge facing this country.” Over the long term, Cruz emphasized the importance of defeating Democrats in the realm of ideas, and offered thoughts on how to do so: “every answer to every question on every policy issue domestically should focus on growth on opportunity,” which have “made the United States a land of such incredible prosperity” and explain why, for centuries, “people have come from all over the world to the United States seeking a better life.”



Too Much Brotherhood

As noted about a month ago in this space, the controversial policy of equipping the Egyptian air force with F-16s will proceed, with the full blessing of the State Department, according to the Washington Free Beacon, which picked up the latest of this long-simmering story from FoxNews.

State, according to the Free Beacon, is eager for the deal to close because it will enhance "U.S. security interests." Deal to close is putting if very liberally, since it is certain who the mark in this deal is: the U.S. taxpayer. The "foreign aid," as State qualifies it, includes as well 200 Abrams tanks, the Free Beacon reports.

The idea that advanced aircraft in the hands of a Islamist regime enhances U.S. security is bizarre. The only possible use of these air craft and tanks is to enhance the power of a government in Cairo that hates us, that hates our only regional ally, Israel, and that shares the philosophy of organizations, such as the Palestinian Hamas, that our government has defined as "terrorist."
It behooves senators in the upcoming confirmation hearings for the top international affairs positions to ask the president's nominees how this massive arms transfer serves U.S. interests.



The New Patriotism

Obama wants to restore liberalism as America’s official faith

President Obama’s second inaugural address wasn’t eloquent, but it was effective.  As oratory, it made one false step after another, the result of straining for presidential orotundity. “For we, the people,” he said, for example, “understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” A “shrinking few” makes it sound as if they are declining, or perhaps shy, and a “growing many” as if they are prospering — the opposite of his intention. The words are supposed to reinforce the argument.

And when discussing foreign policy, even speechwriters as young as Obama’s ought to know to avoid Neville Chamberlain’s notorious phrase, “peace in our time.”

Politically, however, the speech drove home its message: that President Obama stands in the tradition of Jefferson and Lincoln, and that those who oppose the Obama administration must also oppose the principles of Jefferson and Lincoln, and are therefore outside the pale of American democracy.

Obama wants to seize the title deeds of American patriotism from the Reaganite Republicans. To do that, he has tried his best, following Bill Clinton’s example, to replace memories of lefty flag-burning from the Sixties with recent images of liberals’ effusively embracing flag and country and the military. After initial resistance, Obama even agreed to wear a flag pin on his lapel. God, too, gets strange new respect: Though He was booed at the Democratic convention and got admitted to the platform only by chicanery, He is mentioned six times in Obama’s second inaugural (seven, if you count a quotation from the Declaration of Independence).

For the strategy to work, Obama must, however, redefine patriotism and its object. Accordingly, he began his inaugural address with a prominent quotation from the Declaration’s most famous sentence. This was not primarily a gesture of civic solidarity. It was his way of reinterpreting American principles, of staking out new territory for the familiar words “equality” and “liberty,” which he proceeded to redefine in the rest of the speech.

This is an old liberal parlor trick. Into the magic hat goes a fluttering canary; presto chango, out comes a fat, complacent rabbit. Several commentators (especially Scott Johnson at Powerline) have already exposed the president’s sleight of hand. But for sheer audacity, it’s hard to beat the ideas juxtaposed and equated in this speech’s couple of thousand words.

To put it briefly: Obama began by saluting “the enduring strength of our Constitution” (not its wisdom or justice) and affirming “the promise of our democracy,” meaning the country as it will be, the America of our imagination, which to a modern liberal is the only thoroughly justifiable object of patriotic sentiments. Then he quoted the great sentence from the Declaration that begins “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . . ” One sentence later — one sentence! — and the Declaration was in the rearview mirror and we were off on “a never-ending journey” to “bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.”

At least those foundational “words” seemed to have a meaning, or to have once had one. Because a short half-page later, Obama explains that “our purpose” is “what the moment requires” and that it is doing what the moment requires that “will give real meaning to our creed.”

So now the meaning of the Declaration’s solemn propositions seems to come entirely, or almost entirely, from our own needs, preferences, and choices. Only urgent and imperative actions such as fighting climate change and protecting entitlements “will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.” The fathers’ Declaration, though perhaps meaningful to them in their age, is empty and meaningless in ours until we fill it up with our own values. The “timeless spirit” of the Founding obligates us to follow the changing spirit of our times — always as interpreted by liberals, of course.

Thus “equality,” which for Lincoln meant the recognition of our equal humanity and therefore equal freedom, means for Obama the compulsory redistribution of wealth. “Liberty,” in turn, transforms into the right to live out the lifestyle of our choice, free from others’ offensive remarks, and with federal subsidies as necessary or demanded.

Even as the Declaration’s original meaning fades, so does the Constitution’s. Toward the end of the speech, Obama mentioned that the oath of office he had taken that day “was an oath to God and country,” not so different from the oath a new citizen or a soldier takes. Actually, though all these oaths are sworn before God, they are properly speaking oaths to support the Constitution. The presidential oath is emphatic, and distinctive, in that regard. He alone (unlike new citizens or soldiers) swears to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Obama overlooked the main element of his own oath, which is not so surprising given his allegiance to the living constitution, which is rather different from the written one.

The galling thing is that his efforts to rewrite the American political tradition may succeed. Franklin Roosevelt’s similar project not only worked, but worked so well that for two generations New Deal Democrats dominated American elections, remade American government, and reinterpreted our Constitution almost at will. Obama is no FDR, but then he doesn’t need to be. Liberalism has already done a great deal to define democracy downward.  

Where are the Republican politicians, the conservative statesmen, who will dedicate themselves to opposing, and reversing, this latest installment of the corruption of our republican principles and institutions? By now, all the usual arguments about the bad economy and our burgeoning debt have been exhausted. The usual electoral stratagems urged by the usual GOP consultants have been tried and have failed. It will take uncommon political intelligence and virtue, not to mention good luck, to rescue our free government.



Hope for the Senate

There are 100 seats in the United States Senate, each having a term of six years.  Their tenures are staggered so that 1/3 of them face election every two years.  Democrats currently hold a 55 to 45 seat advantage.  But if the Republicans assert themselves artfully, they could very well take the majority in November of 2014.  Here’s how:

Of the 33 Senate seats up for election, 20 are currently held by Democrats and 13 Republican.  Nine of the Democrats should comfortably win re-election; Chris Coons of Delaware, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Carl Levin of Michigan, Max Baucus of Montana, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

The recent announcement by Tom Harkin that he will be retiring as Iowa’s Senator puts that position in play for the Republicans.  That makes two confirmed Democratic retirements, adding Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia who is likely to be replaced by Republican Shelley Moore Capito.  Saxby Chambliss, Republican from Georgia, also announced his retirement at the end of this term.  However, Georgia should be safe for his replacement, having voted 53% to 46% for Romney in 2012.

Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina and South Dakota are unnaturally represented in the Senate by Democrats.  The Republicans should certainly be able to pick up those seats.

John Kerry will undoubtably take the assignment of Secretary of State next month, leaving the Democratic Governor of Massachusetts with the responsibility of appointing his replacement.  This may give Republican Scott Brown an opportunity to retake his old job as Senator.

If the state-level Republican parties will offer strong nominees and disciplined campaigns, it is possible for Democratic Senators Mark Udall of Colorado, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire to be defeated next year.  And for the one that got away in 2009, Saturday Night Live clown Al Franken must stand for an early re-election in 2014.  Let’s hope for a successful rematch from the suspiciously jilted Norm Coleman.

Elections like 2014 that take place at the mid point of a presidential second term traditionally go against the president’s party.  And Barack Obama’s overreaching this year and next should really get Americans in the mood for tapping on the brakes.  With a gain of six seats, the Republicans can control the Senate and block much of Obama’s ambitions.  They could even deny more revisionists to the Supreme Court during Obama’s final two years in office.

In 2014, the Republican’s 32 seat majority in the House of Representatives ought to hold, and even extend.  My greatest hope; the swearing in of a bellicose, John Wayne federalist as president in January of 2017, along with a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress.  They would have two years to hurl the pendulum back within sight of equilibrium.   And we just might save this nation.



Obamacare's medical records debacle

Mickey Kaus

After I  posted an item about “wonkblogger” Ezra Klein’s confident embrace of Obama’s $19 billion push for electronic medical records, I received several emails from readers who know more than I do. The two excerpted below suggest I was wrong: The effect of the electronic records crusade hasn’t been disappointing, with cost-savings failing to materialize. It’s much worse than that.

From Alert reader #1:

"My wife is an overworked Family Doctor and hates electronic medical records.  It was sold as an enormous time saver but turns out to have slowed her down.  She used to be able to talk to a patient, check off boxes on her records form as she spoke to them and say goodbye.  Now instead of checking a box with a pen, she clicks on  a box on her computer screen, waits for it to open, marks the appropriate checkoff, and then closes it.  Repeat .  Repeat.  Repeat. Then close the patients file.  Maintaining eye contact is a thing of the past.  However. Her billing has gone way up.

Things she used to do but never add to her billing are now added automatically because the nanny program prompts her.  I think the electronic records enthusiasts thought that they were pushing best practices.  “Was patient advised about smoking” “ Was the patient counseled about weight loss and diabetes/ hypertension etc” My wife always did these things but never added them to her bill-now she gets paid for doing it.  It seems like electronic proponents were wrong on BOTH of their selling points … [E.A.]"

From Alert Reader #2

"My wife is a staff physician [at] a major East coast hospital.
Her employer was one of the first to sign up for federal money to implement a system which hospital management freely acknowledges is “terrible” but there was so much money on offer that they couldn’t say no.

Probably the biggest problem with electronic records is simply that it requires the physician to input all notes and orders, rather than dictate them.

As a result, as my bride puts it, “they’ve taken the highest paid person in the department and turned him/her into a data entry clerk”.

On average, she and her colleagues spend more time per patient wading through drop-down menus, clicking boxes and filling in required but utterly irrelevant information than they do at the bedside, actually treating the patient.

In short, it’s her experience that they see fewer patients per shift than they did previously, and spend less time with each one, now that they are required to sit down at a computer after seeing each patient and jumping through hoops to place orders instead of, as previously, simply telling the nurse what is needed and then moving on to the next patient.

But of course things like this always sound good when sales reps are explaining them to bureaucrats. Nobody bothered to actually ask the physicians or to do an independent study to see the results." [E.A.]

Again, it’s possible that electronic records will eventually pay huge benefits, once an entire network (or maybe a better, voice-activated entry system) is in place.  Or it’s possible that Dr. Groopman and Dr. Hartzband’s skepticism will be borne out–and that the real purpose of the electronic database will  not be to help achieve better, efficient care but to justify the government in stopping treatments deemed cost-ineffective.

Some of the early software systems are apparently particularly kludge-y -– but that doesn’t get Obama off the hook if, as Emailer #2 suggests, his $19 billion incentive encouraged hospitals to hurriedly adopt these inferior systems in order to get federal cash before the 2014 deadline.

Sounds like so far, so bad …


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc



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