Saturday, January 29, 2011

"This rather odd little German dynasty"

That is the extraordinary description that Christopher Hitchens gives to the British Royal family. Clearly he retains a lot of hatred from his Leftist days. Sad that a man with only a little longer to live is trying his best to be remembered as a shrill abuser. Most of us mellow with age.

His rage arises from the success of the British movie, "The King's Speech". He resents that the movie is a feelgood story rather than meticulous history. He points out ways in which the movie glosses over the rough edges of the times it describes. Hitchens calumniates Edward VIII, George VI, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. His central point is that they were all nicer to Hitler than he, with the wisdom of hindsight, would have been.

Hitchens is of course partly right in that Edward VIII was very weak character and Chamberlain was very badly mistaken. But the first thing that Hitchens completely and quite dishonestly ignores is the tenor of the times in which all four moved. Hitler and the Fascists were at the time widely admired outside Germany, particularly among the political Left. The description of Mussolini by FDR as "that admirable Italian gentleman" perhaps best captures the mood of the times. Harvard, too, was pro-Nazi. Churchill was one of the few who stood against that mood.

Secondly, Hitchens fails to remark the vast public antipathy towards war that prevailed in England at the time. After the horrors of WWI, almost every living soul in Britain considered another European war unthinkable and wished that no stone be left unturned to avoid such a war. In his policy of appeasement Chamberlain was simply representing the nation that he led.

So Edward VIII's undoubted enchantment with Hitler and George VI's support for Chamberlain were well within the normal range of opinion for the times. Neither man had Hitchens' luxury of seeing events from the vantage point of the year 2011.

Hitchens is also enraged that Churchill supported Edward VIII for a time. But Churchill was by that time quite conservative and in a monarchy support for the King is simply normal conservative practice.

Hitchens accuses the makers a popular movie of distorting history but it is Hitchens the historian who is the biggest distorter of all -- JR


The Myth of a Divided America

By David Bozeman

A prevailing myth, common among both liberals and conservatives, is that America is sharply divided, with roughly 35 percent of us liberal (though most polls put that number around 20), 35 percent conservative, with the remaining 30 that could go either way. You know the drill: Because we are so polarized, we must find common ground, we need to work together, and, in the spirit of unity, we have got to blah, blah, blah…

True, we certainly appear divided, but our tradition of robust, spirited debate should be as much a source of pride as it is a cause for national handwringing. In fact, we remain a people galvanized behind such defining concepts as individual initiative, responsibility, free enterprise and American exceptionalism.

We like our trucks big and our cars fast (so you know what you can do with your Cap & Trade). We devour excess, and we lovingly reward our kids with Happy Meals and bestow Wal-Mart gift cards to friends. If the above choices seem crass and commercial, America offers such a wide array of options in both lifestyle and thought that we are truly the envy of the world. The epic conflict today lies not among classes of citizens but between a relatively tiny cadre of elitists in Washington and the rest of this country.

America is largely a friendly nation, and our political discourse is among the most civil in the world. Our citizens are not at war with each other but are merely resisting attempts to “transform” (candidate Barack Obama on numerous occasions in 2008) a great nation.

Liberalism constantly butts heads with America’s most cherished defining traditions and institutions: prayer, Christmas, the Boy Scouts and our military (by way of banning many college ROTC programs). It is liberals who audaciously claim dominion over large segments of our nation’s economy. It is liberalism that advances itself not by the tacit acceptance of large majorities of the electorate but by judicial fiat and incrementalism.

The overriding point, however, is not that America is a center-right nation. In fact, on issues such as the minimum wage, entitlements and maybe a few others, we tend to lean left. And, unfortunately for Republicans, our votes don’t always reflect our ideological balance, which is where Democrat presidents tend to hit the hard wall of reality. President Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, is learning that continued electoral success rests on moving to the center and abandoning (or at least concealing) his hard left agenda. Republicans, on the other hand, who stay to the right and offer the starkest contrasts, tend to succeed beyond their wildest expectations.

But, again, what matters is not so much America’s left/right make-up. We define ourselves less on ideological persuasion than on common-sense values. And we are not divided, at least not to the extent that some in the media would claim.

A free people tend to resolve their differences peacefully, whether as individuals or groups. The idea of two Americas would tend to benefit those power-hungry pointy-heads who always place themselves above the fray and whose recipe for calm typically entails one particular side ceding or diluting their free speech in the name of “civility.”

Indeed, always beware of those who emphasize and foster division. It is the motives of career politicians, pundits and activists and not the honest concerns and conflicts of average Americans that demand scrutiny. We are not as much divided as we are under siege and only our cherished freedom to publicly accuse our ruling classes will sustain us as a nation and as a beacon for the rest of the world.



The ‘HealthStat’ Seduction

The community-policing model of health care is at odds with any notion of limited government

If professional writing were the guild it often appears to be, Atul Gawande would be a scab. A surgeon and professor, Gawande also writes beautifully for The New Yorker about health care.

His latest article, “The Hot Spotters,” focuses on what Gawande claims is a revolutionary approach to health care. In Camden, N.J. — hardly a garden spot in the Garden State — just 1 percent of the people who used the city’s medical facilities accounted for 30 percent of the costs. One patient had 324 hospital admissions in five years. Another single-handedly cost insurers $3.5 million.

A third fellow, weighing 560 pounds, with both an alcohol and a cocaine problem, spent more time over a three-year period in the hospital than out of it. But thanks to work by a crusading doctor, Jeffrey Brenner, the man was pulled back from the brink, cutting his hospital visits dramatically.

Brenner’s theory is that we can save billions by delivering better health care to the sickest people. Brenner was inspired by the CompStat approach used by police in New York City during the 1990s to tackle crime where it is most concentrated. Just as cops got out of their cars and walked a beat in the worst areas, under Brenner’s “HealthStat” approach doctors and nurses get out and get involved in the lives of the sickest patients.

Brenner’s results are impressive. All it takes is a near-religious dedication to getting involved in the nitty-gritty of patients’ lives.

In a similar effort, a clinic formed by Atlantic City’s casino workers’ union and its biggest hospital treats only the patients with the highest medical costs. The clinic often hires health “coaches” from outside the health-care profession, because too many of the professionals have become bureaucratized, trained to say “no” to almost any question.

Gawande recounts how one such coach — a former Dunkin’ Donuts cashier named Jayshree who speaks Gujarati — helped a seriously ill Indian immigrant get well enough to use a walker instead of a wheelchair. Why did this patient listen to Jayshree after she wouldn’t take similar advice about diet and exercise following her first two heart attacks? “Because she talks like my mother.”

A preliminary study found that the Atlantic City effort achieved real cost savings. But it was also lucky, statistically speaking. A single heart transplant for any one of its gravely ill patients would have wiped out all of the savings.

Still, Gawande’s enthusiasm is infectious, and so is the passion of professionals like Brenner. Where Gawande falls short is in explaining how all of this justifies “Obamacare” (apparently he hasn’t gotten the memo about not using that term).

Yes, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act funds pilot programs like Brenner’s, but it also fuels the sort of bureaucracy that even Gawande and Brenner concede strangles innovation. It makes insurance companies into even more sheltered monopolies — health utilities, in effect — and appeases many of the political constituencies that stand to lose money from this style of counterinsurgency medicine.

Also, we know that Obamacare incentivizes corporations to dump their most expensive patients onto public exchanges. Which means taxpayers will pick up a much bigger tab than we were told.

Given these disappointments with the latest cures for the system, perhaps a little skepticism about the ability of “hot-spotting” to make it all work out is in order, too.

But what I find most striking about Gawande’s celebration of the community-policing model is how at odds it is with any notion of limited government. He is tone-deaf to those who might bristle at the idea of medicalizing society.

In Camden, Brenner wants to put social workers in “hot spot” buildings so residents can be coached daily about their diet and exercise and harangued to quit smoking. He cajoled the 560-pound alcoholic drug addict to resume church attendance.

This all sounds fine, from a medical perspective. But citizens are not patients.

Brenner is a private citizen doing heroic work. But if this model were to be nationalized, you would in effect have agents of the government serving as lifestyle coaches and health “mothers.” Surely you don’t have to be a “tea partier” to find that creepy.



Government’s “Other” Gluttony

When will our leaders get the message? All told, both parties have added more than $8 trillion (and counting) to the national debt over the last ten years – an avalanche of deficit spending that has our nation fast approaching fiscal Armageddon.

Given the dimensions of this looming crisis, it’s understandable that the debate in Washington, D.C. is focused almost exclusively on dollars and cents. Yet as limited government advocates continue to drive this fiscal dialogue, it has become increasingly apparent that we cannot turn a blind eye to the government’s “other” gluttony –its voraciousness with respect to gobbling up our individual liberties.

That loud sucking sound you hear in cities and towns all across America isn’t just money being vacuumed out of your wallet or pocketbook – it’s the steady vacuuming up of our once-inalienable rights.

This trend goes much deeper than the unconstitutional individual mandate of “Obamacare,” which would force Americans to pay fines of up to 2.5 percent of their annual income if they decline to purchase insurance.

It’s about Americans being physically molested by Homeland Security agents and having their laptops and cell phones seized without probable cause. It’s about the FCC infringing on freedom and commerce on the internet while the SEC is empowered to seize and liquidate financial institutions all over the country on a whim. It’s about the Federal Reserve investing trillions of dollars in secret while government at all levels continues inventing new definitions of “public use” to take away your private property.

It’s about overzealous politicians of both parties handing down overreaching legislation to overpaid bureaucrats and overstepping judges. It’s about the creation of convenient enemies, the cultivation of fear – and never letting a crisis go to waste.

“It’s sometimes easy to lose perspective of just how extreme and outrageous certain erosions are,” author Glenn Greenwald noted in a recent piece about warrantless computer seizures at America’s borders. “One becomes inured to them, and even severe incursions start to seem ordinary.”

More here



House GOP considers “privatizing” Medicare: "Months after they hammered Democrats for cutting Medicare, House Republicans are debating whether to relaunch their quest to privatize the health program for seniors. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is testing support for his idea to replace Medicare with a fixed payment to buy a private medical plan from a menu of coverage options. Party leaders will determine if the so-called voucher plan will be part of the budget Republicans put forward in the spring."

For the budget crisis, a fake solution: "The latest Obama plan would cut projected outlays by an estimated $400 billion in the next decade, and the Republican alternative would cut spending by $2.5 trillion. It's a measure of our predicament that these enormous sums wouldn't make a lot of difference, even if they were achieved. They're the equivalent of trying to empty a swimming pool with a tablespoon."

The gambling question: "So, the state of Florida has set itself up as a protector of the morals of Floridians. But if gambling is a vice, as most people in Florida — including gamblers — would acknowledge, then why does the state allow it at all? If gambling is immoral then it is immoral. Whether it is done in a state-approved and state-regulated gambling facility or done in secret in the privacy of one’s home is irrelevant. ... On the one hand, the state tries to discourage gambling, but on the other hand wants people to gamble so it can get revenue for its coffers."

Race: An interview with Eugene Robinson: "Eugene Robinson contends in his new book that black America has changed, going from one fairly unified group with a common set of goals (civil rights, economic empowerment) to four different groups: the Transcendent, the Mainstream, the Emergent and the Abandoned. He outlines each group and writes that in order to understand where they are going in the 21st century, black Americans need to understand where they are now."

State of the world: Will 2011 be the next 1989?: "Almost nobody saw the collapse of communism coming. Despite a plethora of scholarship after the collapse suggesting that it was inevitable, you would be hard pressed to find analysts in the 1980s who thought the Iron Curtain was about to come down. So as unlikely as a serious of democratic revolutions spreading through the Middle East might seem from our current vantage point, the chances that the Cold War would come to a (practically) bloodless conclusion so swiftly seemed equally unlikely."

FTC resorts to carjacking: "The Federal Trade Commission forced a Georgia woman to sell her car as punishment for selling cosmetic contact lenses over the internet without first asking for customers’ prescriptions. In papers filed last week with a federal court in Atlanta, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, acting on the FTC’s behalf, accused Da Young Kim, the sole owner and manager of Gothic Lens LLC, of failing to obey the Commission’s rules governing the sale of contact lenses. The FTC fined Kim $50,000, but due to her limited financial resources, the Commission seized her car in lieu of payment." [Government protection of a monopoly]


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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