Libya claims that there was a deal on the Lockerbie bomber being released

The Labor government in Britain must be really damaged by this. Do I believe that they would do something like this? No. But as long as Libya claims that there was a deal, it must be doing real harm to Labor. The real question is why the Obama administration couldn't convince the UK not to release this terrorist early from prison. This terrorist had served well less than half his term and there was no reason that he should have been released early.

Gaddafi met Megrahi on Friday, embracing him and getting a kiss on the hand in return. The beaming Libyan leader expressed gratitude to Brown and Queen Elizabeth.

'This step is in the interest of relations between the two countries...and of the personal friendship between me and them and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries,' he told Libyan TV.

His son Saif al-Islam went further, saying that whenever he had met British officials to discuss business, the issue of Megrahi's release was a condition of any deal being struck.

Mandelson said he had met Gaddafi's son twice in the past year and the issue of the Lockerbie bomber had been raised both times, but his release was not tied to business deals.

'It's not only completely wrong to make any such suggestion or insinuation, it's also quite offensive,' he told reporters. . . .

In all British interests regarding Libya, I always put you on the table,' Saif al-Islam's newspaper quoted him as telling Megrahi on his return to Libya.

'All the visits of the ex-Prime Minister Blair and the big secret and public work that all the parties entered into was carried out in order to release you. The exploitation of British-Libyan political and trade interests was always done with the aim of releasing Abdel Basset al-Megrahi.'

European governments including Britain's are lobbying hard for business in Libya as it emerges from years of sanctions. Oil companies such as BP and Shell (LSE: RDSB.L - news) are among several British firms hoping to make big profits in the desert country. . . .

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Obama administration using taxpayer dollars to fund health care campaign

So do the Democrats really believe in government contracting out services? Apparently they do, though this is a surely less justifiable use than contracting out services that the government should be doing. Fox News has this:

The White House hired a private communications company based in Minnesota to distribute mass e-mails, helping to shed light on how some recipients received e-mails in support of President Obama's health care plan without signing up for them, FOX News has learned.

The company, Govdelivery, describes itself as the world's leading provider of government-to-citizen communication solutions and says its e-mail service provides a fully-automated on-demand public communication system.

It is still unknown how much taxpayer money the White House provides to Govdelivery for its services.

The revelation comes after the White House acknowledged this week that people were receiving unsolicited e-mails from the administration about health care reform and suggested the problem was with third-party groups that placed the recipients' names on the distribution list.

Republicans quickly pounced on the news.

"This is yet another ominous chapter in the administration's rabid campaign to jam its radical health care scheme onto an unwilling public by any means necessary," Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan said in a statement.

Govdelivery sent hundreds of e-mails from senior adviser David Axelrod asking supporters to help rebut criticism of Obama's health care plan circulating on the Internet. It also sent e-mails highlighting Obama's speech to the Muslim world in Cairo and the announcement of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court nominee.

Several FOX News viewers complained they received these e-mails even though they had never requested any communication from the White House. . . . .

Fox News also has examples of unsolicited emails that people have been receiving on health reform.

FOX News has offered the White House examples of what hundreds of people say were unsolicited e-mails on health care, Barack Obama's presidential campaign or his political organization, Organizing for America, but spokesman Robert Gibbs has declined to respond.

The offer comes after a testy exchange on Thursday between correspondent Major Garrett and Gibbs over the e-mail list.

Gibbs told Garrett on Thursday that he couldn't respond until he saw who received the e-mail because he doesn't have "omnipotent clarity."

Asked whether the White House seeks other pieces of information to identify those who might be curious about health care even though they have never signed up for e-mails or visited the Web site, Gibbs said he would have to see the e-mails to know.

Pressed to explain why he couldn't answer, Gibbs said "Well, I hesitate to give you an answer because you might impugn the motives of the answer."

"Why would you say that?" Garrett asked incredulously.

"Because of the way you phrased your follow up. I'd have to look at what you got, Major. I appreciate the fact that I have omnipotent clarity as to what you've received in your e-mail box today," Gibbs said. . . . .

It doesn't seem to have helped Obama's poll ratings, though possibly they would be even worse without this.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 27% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14. These figures mark the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. The previous low of -12 was reached on July 30 (see trends).
Prior to today, the number who Strongly Approved of the President’s performance had never fallen below 29%. Some of the decline has come from within the President’s own party. Just 49% of Democrats offer such a positive assessment of the President at this time. , , ,

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MSNBC responds to selective editing of Arizona health care protest

Politico has this post where they quote an MSNBC spokesperson as saying:

"Contessa was speaking generally and not about that specific person with the automatic weapon."

1) The semi-automatic rifle was not a machine gun.
2) Contessa Brewer said: “But also there are questions whether this has a racial overtone. I mean here you have a man of color in the presidency and white people showing up with guns strapped to their wastes.” Another person on the same show noted the “anger about a black person being president” and about "the black man becoming president. You know we see these hate groups rising up.” Note that they did not say that black and whites were showing up. It would have undone their racial tone argument if they had. They clip running at the time that she was speaking was of the man carrying the civilian version of the AR-15.


O'Reilly discusses some of Jon Stewart's selective editing of clips

Travel icon Arthur Frommer won't visit Arizona because people are allowed to openly carry guns

From the AP:

PHOENIX — Travel icon Arthur Frommer says he won't be spending his tourism dollars at the Grand Canyon, or anywhere else in Arizona, because the state's laws allow people he described as "thugs" and "extremists" to openly carry firearms.

The author of budget-travel guides said on his blog Wednesday that he was "shocked beyond measure" by reports that protesters openly carried guns and rifles outside a Phoenix building where President Barack Obama spoke on Monday.

Frommer says he won't personally travel in a state where civilians carry loaded weapons as a means of political protest.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon says he spoke with Frommer Thursday and invited him to visit the city to clear up any possible misconceptions about safety.

You can read Mr. Frommer's own discussion here. Unfortunately, he doesn't really understand what happened in Arizona (see here and here).

Well, Opencarry.org has a list of other states that Mr. Frommer won't be able to travel to (their maps are interactive and allow you to see the precise laws in different states). There are ten other states that have laws similar to Mr. Frommer. There are 17 other states that he should probably also want to avoid. For example, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia is exactly the same as Arizona in terms of openly carrying a gun and within Philadelphia people can carry openly with a permit. At the very least, Mr. Frommer will be stuck to visiting just Philadelphia in the state.

Thanks to Anthony Troglio for also noticing this link.

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Michigan has seen big increase in the number of concealed handgun permits

The Livingston Daily has this story for Michigan.

Gun ownership rapidly on rise in county

The number of law enforcement positions in Michigan peaked in 2001 at 23,151. At the end of May, that number had decreased to 21,171, according to statistics compiled by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.

However, 46 communities recently received funding from a $1 billion economic stimulus program designed to help keep 160 police officers on the job.

In 2008, the number of gun permits issued in Livingston County averaged 78 per month. As of June 24, that number increased to 171 per month.

Statewide, the number of active concealed weapons permits rose more than five times from 53,000 in 2002 to 291,380 in 2008, according to the Michigan State Police's concealed pistol licensure annual report. The CPL was once known as a "carrying a concealed weapons" permit or CCW. . . .

Florida has 601,625 concealed handgun permit holders as of July 31, 2009.

In Texas, at the end of last year there were 314,574 permits.

Adding together just Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Texas, and Virginia indicates that there are almost 2.5 million permit holders just from those five states.

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Concealed-weapons permits in Virginia reaches 188,900

There has really been a national explosion in the number of concealed handgun permits the last couple of years. Here is a story on Virginia.

Virginia's permit requests, gun sales rise at record clip
By Louis Hansen
The Virginian-Pilot
© June 8, 2009

Driven by safety concerns or political angst, gun sales and applications for concealed-carry permits are booming.

Applications for concealed-carry permits statewide have jumped 42 percent from the same period last year, when the state issued a record number, according to the Virginia Supreme Court. In South Hampton Roads, this year's requests are running nearly 40 percent over last year's. Most are granted.

In May, the number of active concealed-weapons permits in Virginia reached 188,900,according to the Virginia State Police. More people than ever are eligible to carry concealed handguns in the state.

Reported firearms sales by licensed dealers and gun shops in Virginia have also skyrocketed.

Dealers sold 60 percent more guns in November 2008 than they had in November 2007, according to State Police records. Sales by licensed dealers are on pace to break last year's record by more than 30 percent. The totals do not include private sales. . . .

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Obama administration raises 10-year deficit estimate to $9 trillion

During the eight years that President Bush was in office, the country racked up a total deficit of $2.5 trillion (go to table B-78). The largest deficit during an congress occurred when the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate during Bush's last two years in office. The deficit during the last year that the Republicans controlled the House, Senate and Presidency was $162 billion. Now remember that these estimates of the deficit are by the Obama administration and are thus likely to be conservative. Even so, the average deficit is estimated to be $900 billion per year. That is 5.6 times greater than the last purely Republican deficit. It is about 3 times greater than the average deficit under the Bush administration. Remember during the presidential debates, Mr. Obama claimed that our economic problems were due to the large Bush deficits and that he promised to cut government spending to solve that problem.

Reuters reports:

The Obama administration will raise its 10-year budget deficit projection to approximately $9 trillion from $7.108 trillion in a report next week, a senior administration official told Reuters on Friday. . . .

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So much for Obama's denials about rationing for old people

Bush stopped this "death book" and Obama reinstated it. A copy of the death book with a just added disclaimer, can be found here.

If President Obama wants to better understand why America's discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

"Your Life, Your Choices" presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political "push poll." For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to "shake the blues." There is a section which provocatively asks, "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?" There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being," "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and that the vet's situation "causes severe emotional burden for my family." . . . .


"This is a slippery slope," he said Sunday. "When you look at the book it makes people feel like they're a burden and they should do the decent thing and die. ... When a veteran comes back from Iraq, they shouldn't be given a book like this."

Towey called the guide "fundamentally flawed" and said it should be pulled from the Web site. . . . .

[Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs] said it was one of many options for injured veterans, calling it "simply a tool."

"This ultimately is about the ... health care for veterans," Duckworth said.

Though Duckworth said the document has not been fully vetted, an official directive from July tells VA health practitioners to refer veterans to the document. Duckworth questioned whether that directive had been authorized at the highest levels. . . .

For another discussion see this.


90 Percent of New Zealanders don't think that spanking children should be a criminal offense

From the BBC:

NZ votes against child smack ban
Child on stairs (file image)
The law was seen as a step in lowering NZ's high child abuse rates

New Zealanders have voted by a wide margin in favour of allowing parents to smack their children, two years after a law banned discipline by force.

The legislation was brought in two years ago to try to lower the country's high rate of child abuse.

The referendum asked: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

The referendum is non-binding, and Prime Minister John Key has said he will not change the existing law.

Based on preliminary results, 54% of the voting population took part in the referendum, with nearly 90% responding No, the election commission said. . . . .

Countries where spanking a child is banned: Austria, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela.


Big increase in the number of concealed carry permits in Florida

Florida Today has this discussion on the number of new permit holders.

"We're still sitting on about 50,000 applications," Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said. "We're getting in about 14,000 or 15,000 a month, and whenever they get a good slug out, they're getting another 15,000 in."

Bronson asked the Legislature during the spring for the authorization to hire 61 temporary employees, bringing the total to 202. They have helped whittle down a backlog that then stood at 90,000 for all types of concealed-weapons permits. The backlog alone was roughly equal to all the applications received in 2008 -- 90,331 -- and the department received 75,520 applications in the first six months of this year.

That puts the state on pace for close to 150,000 concealed-weapons permit applications this year. Most applications are approved, department spokesman Terence McElroy said, because the law allows any law-abiding gun owner to get a license. Few pay the $117 application fee if they have a felony record.

There were 607,977 active concealed-weapons permits as of July 31. . . . .

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Mexico decriminalizes small-scale drug possession

The Associated Press has this:

Mexico decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin on Friday—a move that prosecutors say makes sense even in the midst of the government's grueling battle against drug traffickers.
Prosecutors said the new law sets clear limits that keep Mexico's corruption-prone police from extorting casual users and offers addicts free treatment to keep growing domestic drug use in check.
"This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty," said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general's office. . . . .

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New Fox News Op-ed: "The Media Gets It (Really) Wrong, Again, On Guns"

This is the start of my new Fox News Op-ed on how the media has been covering guns at the different Town Halls on health care.

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire last week, a man carried a handgun a few blocks away from the site where President Obama was scheduled to hold a town hall a couple of hours later. Was it a danger or not? The man carrying the gun, William Kostric, even had permission to have the gun on private church property while he was protesting Obama's appearance. Everybody from the New York Times to USA Today to CBS News expressed their outrage, interpreting it as a hot head threatening the president and linking it to militias and conservative talk radio. A prominent liberal radio talk show host came out saying that conservatives "want Obama to get shot." New legislation related to this incident is even being proposed in Congress.

Obviously no one wants to see a president even remotely threatened and people need to be sensitive to such things. But worrying over a law-abiding citizen legally carrying a gun several blocks and a couple of hours away from an indoor event that the president will attend is overdoing it.

Before the president's town hall meeting, an MSNBC host noted: "Apparently there is fairly significant, almost disturbing news, let us know what is happening there in New Hampshire." A reporter, Ron Allen, breathlessly responded: "There is a man in the crowd who has a gun, a handgun strapped on his lower leg. . . . And I suspect that he won't be here when the president gets here in a couple of hours time." . . .

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DNA evidence at crime scenes might be able to be faked

Just having this discovered, even if it is never used, is going to cause lots of trouble in court cases.

Scientists in Israel say it's easy to "engineer a crime scene" with fabricated DNA evidence, throwing in doubt the strength of the prime standard in criminal cases that has been used to secure thousands of convictions.

The Tel Aviv-based scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from another subject. . . . . They were able to make the match by accessing a DNA profile in a database without even using any actual tissue or blood from the person they were mimicking,

"You can just engineer a crime scene," said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the study. "Any biology undergraduate could perform this."

It may also be possible to scavenge DNA from a stray hair or discarded cigarette butt and turn it into a saliva sample, a development that has worried the American Civil Liberties Union. . . .

The study, which was published in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics, can be found online.

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MSNBC distortions trying to start a race war, distortions on guns

I have written extensively about the media distortions over people carrying guns at various health care protests (see here).

Showing the clip of a man carrying the “assault rifle,” but editing it so that one was not able to see the man’s race, Contessa Brewer said: “But also there are questions whether this has a racial overtone. I mean here you have a man of color in the presidency and white people showing up with guns strapped to their wastes.” Another person on the same show noted the “anger about a black person being president” and about "the black man becoming president. You know we see these hate groups rising up.”

Now watch this and you will see clearly from CNN that shows the man carrying the gun is black.

UPDATE: Of course the entire event in Arizona was staged.

"Oh, it's more planned than you think," Hancock responded. He then let loose with a string of details, including how Hancock contacted the Phoenix police department days before the event and how he was partially motivated to do so because of the controversy surrounding William Kostric, the man armed with a gun outside of Obama's town hall in New Hampshire last week. . . .

UPDATE2: I posted elsewhere this response from MSNBC.

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Some pieces in the Washington Times

More on rationing in the Obama Health Care plan

If Obama wants to use rationing to rein in the government's health care budget, why not just reduce more what is spent on Medicare and Medicaid? Why do they have to take over even more of the health care industry? Martin Feldstein has this discussion in the WSJ:

The White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a report in June explaining the Obama administration's goal of reducing projected health spending by 30% over the next two decades. That reduction would be achieved by eliminating "high cost, low-value treatments," by "implementing a set of performance measures that all providers would adopt," and by "directly targeting individual providers . . . (and other) high-end outliers."

The president has emphasized the importance of limiting services to "health care that works." To identify such care, he provided more than $1 billion in the fiscal stimulus package to jump-start Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) and to finance a federal CER advisory council to implement that idea. That could morph over time into a cost-control mechanism of the sort proposed by former Sen. Tom Daschle, Mr. Obama's original choice for White House health czar. Comparative effectiveness could become the vehicle for deciding whether each method of treatment provides enough of an improvement in health care to justify its cost.

In the British national health service, a government agency approves only those expensive treatments that add at least one Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) per £30,000 (about $49,685) of additional health-care spending. If a treatment costs more per QALY, the health service will not pay for it. The existence of such a program in the United States would not only deny lifesaving care but would also cast a pall over medical researchers who would fear that government experts might reject their discoveries as "too expensive."

One reason the Obama administration is prepared to use rationing to limit health care is to rein in the government's exploding health-care budget. Government now pays for nearly half of all health care in the U.S., primarily through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The White House predicts that the aging of the population and the current trend in health-care spending per beneficiary would cause government outlays for Medicare and Medicaid to rise to 15% of GDP by 2040 from 6% now. Paying those bills without raising taxes would require cutting other existing social spending programs and shelving the administration's plans for new government transfers and spending programs. . . . .

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Palin corrects the record on Obama's claim that there will not be any rationing in health care plan

I really don't understand how the NY Times and others couldn't claim that she is correct on all this.

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin defended her claim that the Democratic health care proposal would create “death panels” in a statement Wednesday night slamming President Barack Obama.

“Yesterday, President Obama responded to my statement that Democratic health care proposals would lead to rationed care; that the sick, the elderly and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system these ‘unproductive’ members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care,” Palin wrote in a note on her Facebook page.

“The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled ‘Advance Care Planning Consultation.’ With all due respect, it’s misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients,” she continued.

“Section 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years, and more often ‘if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual ... or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility... or a hospice program.’"

The White House and Democratic lawmakers have blasted Palin in recent days for suggesting that her own son, Trig, would have had to face a bureaucratic panel to get access to health care under the provision in the House health care proposal because he was born with Down syndrome.

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil,” Palin wrote last week.

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Comparing Bob Dylan to Professor Gates

Michael McGruther made what should have been an obvious connection to more people.

On a rainy day last week in Long Branch, NJ, Bob Dylan, wearing a hood, was peering into a for-sale home when a neighbor called the police fearing he might be a burglar. Two young officers arrived on the scene and neither of them knew who Bob Dylan was. They asked for I.D. - he had none but explained he was a musician on tour with John Mellencamp and they were set to play at a nearby stadium in Lakewood. Without fuss or anger, Mr. Dylan was escorted back to his tour bus where he produced I.D.
That was that. End of incident.
The way CNN reported it made certain you’d never see the obvious correlation to the Professor Gates incident in Boston. How did they do this? With the headline, ”Bob Dylan a Complete Unknown in NJ Town,” which is a pretty vague headline and gives no indication police were even present. . . .

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Life expectancy rates by race

The latest numbers are available here.


Shepard Smith grills Obama Press person over Obama flip flops Public Option

A copy of the video can be seen here. Shepard Smith just won't let Bill Burton go when he is denying what Obama said on tape multiple times.

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Shaming criminals to stop committing crime

Something that looks like it works:

PEORIA, Ill. -- This industrial city, hard hit by the recession, has found a new, low-budget way to fight crime: Park an unmanned, former Brink's truck bristling with video cameras in front of the dwellings of troublemakers.

Police here call it the Armadillo. They say it has restored quiet to some formerly rowdy streets. Neighbors' calls for help have dropped sharply. About half of the truck's targets have fled the neighborhood.

"The truck is meant to be obnoxious and to cause shame," says Peoria Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard.

The Armadillo has helped alleviate problems like drug dealing that can make neighborhoods unlivable.

Police got a call at 2:30 one morning from Mary Smith, a 58-year-old computer operator at a Butternut Bread Bakery. Fighting back tears, she asked for relief from her neighbors' incessant yelling.

She and her husband, Terry, 61, a Butternut baker, have lived in their home on North Wisconsin Avenue for 30 years, and have seen the neighborhood fall into drug trafficking. The police suggested using the Armadillo.

That weekend, the truck pulled up to the offending neighbor's house. A police officer knocked on the door and told the residents a nuisance report had been filed. Within 24 hours, the Smiths say, the house was quiet. The occupants moved out soon thereafter. . . .

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Democrats try to silence opposition by intimidation

From the Politico:

House Democrats are probing the nation's largest insurance companies for lavish spending, demanding reams of compensation data and schedules of retreats and conferences.

Letters sent to 52 insurance companies by Democratic leaders demand extensive documents for an examination of "extensive compensation and other business practices in the health insurance industry." The letters set a deadline of September 14 for the documents.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, signed the three-page letter dated Monday.

An industry source replied when asked for comment: "This is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition designed to silence health plans." . . . .


Washington Post: Obama administration backs itself into a corner on government health insurance

The Obama administration has gotten itself in a fix. After vacillating over whether they would offer government health insurance, the Obama administration feels that it must push through that part of the bill. Of course, doing that means that they can't get any Republican votes. The Dems will try to paint that as a Republican problem and claim that they are refusing to be bipartisan. If the Obama administration had simply kept their message straight, this likely wouldn't have happened. The Washington Post has this discussion:

President Obama's advisers acknowledged Tuesday that they were unprepared for the intraparty rift that occurred over the fate of a proposed public health insurance program, a firestorm that has left the White House searching for a way to reclaim the initiative on the president's top legislative priority.

Administration officials insisted that they have not shied away from their support for a public option to compete with private insurance companies, an idea they said Obama would still prefer to see in a final bill.

But at a time when the president had hoped to be selling middle-class voters on the ways in which insurance reforms would benefit them, the White House instead finds itself mired in a Democratic Party feud over an issue it never intended to spotlight.

"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform."

"It's a mystifying thing," he added. "We're forgetting why we are in this." . . .

Republicans signaled Tuesday that dropping the public option would not garner additional GOP backing. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the second-ranking Senate Republican leader, criticized an alternative idea of creating a private insurance cooperative, calling it a "Trojan horse" that was effectively the same as the public option.

"It doesn't matter what you call it, they want it to accomplish something Republicans are opposed to," he said. "There is no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar bill."

Kyl's comments came as other conservative Republicans joined in to bash the co-ops idea. Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) said "a co-op that is simply another name for a public option, or government-run plan, will be rejected by the American people."

One Democratic strategist involved in coordinating the pro-reform message among many like-minded groups said the Republican response was predictable.

"We were always concerned about leading with our glass jaw," he said. "We felt we probably shouldn't make health-care reform be about this because it falls so easily into the socialized medicine, big-government theme." . . .

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Are medical academic research papers written by other scientists?

The main problem with this concern is that academia is quite competitive. If something gets published that is wrong, it will damage the reputation of those academics who published it. I am much more confident of that happening on science issues (not policy issues in medical journals). This from the NY Times:

With a letter last week, a senator who helps oversee public funding for medical research signaled that he was running out of patience with the practice of ghostwriting. Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has led a long-running investigation of conflicts of interest in medicine, is starting to put pressure on the National Institutes of Health to crack down on the practice. . . .

Like many of the universities, N.I.H. appears reluctant to tackle the issue. A spokesman said the agency was committed to maintaining objectivity in science. But he added that in the case of ghostwriting allegations, universities and other institutions that employ researchers are responsible for setting and enforcing their own ethics policies.

“How long does it have to go on before it actually is stopped? One way to stop it would be if the actual authors were punished in some way,” said Dr. Carl Elliott, a professor at the Center for Bioethics of the University of Minnesota. “But the academics who are complicit in it all never seem to be punished at all.”

The full scope of the ghostwriting problem is still unclear, but recent revelations suggest that the practice is widespread. Dozens of medical education companies across the country draft scientific papers at the behest of drug makers. And placing such papers in medical journals has become a fundamental marketing practice for most of the large pharmaceutical companies. . . . .

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Media carries a lot of water Obama on health care

Take these results from the new NBC poll under the headline: "Myths Endure on Health Care, Highlighting Doubts on Overhaul."

Nearly half of Americans believe that a proposed overhaul of the health care system means the government will decide when to stop providing medical treatment to senior citizens, according to the latest polling by NBC News released this evening. . . .

Possibly Americans believe this because it is true. The sad thing is that more Americans don't believe this.

Additionally, 50% believe that the overhaul will use federal tax dollars to pay for abortions. While it is unclear if the final bill would do so, current law bans federal funds from being used to fund abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. . . .

True the law isn't passed yet. It is also true that current law forbids this, but why is that relevant? The bills do allow this, and that is the bottom line.

July 17, 2007
Obama speaking to planned parenthood

in my mind reproductive care is essential care, it is basic care. And so it at the center and at the heart of the plan that I propose. . . . It will be a plan that will provide all essential care including reproductive services.

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Drugs and sports for the elderly

Given all the discussion about drugs in sports, this seems like the perfect counterpoint. I especially like the line: “Who’s 75 years old and not taking medications?” The NY Times has this piece.

In his apartment outside Philadelphia, Frank Levine pulled a list of prescription medications from his refrigerator, his hands shaking slightly. There was metformin HCl and glipizide for his diabetes; lisinopril for his blood pressure; and Viagra.

“I need it,” he said recently.

Mr. Levine, who is 95 and has had operations on both knees, in June set the American record in the 400-meter dash for men ages 95 to 99, only to see it broken at the U.S.A. Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships a few weeks later. “Nothing counts unless you’re first,” he said.

Mr. Levine belongs to a generation of track and field athletes who are breaking records for speed, distance and endurance at ages once considered too old for competition. In a sport tarnished by doping scandals, the older athletes raise anew the question of what constitutes a natural body for people who are at an age when drugs are a part of life.

“Who’s 75 years old and not taking medications?” asked Gary Snyder, national chairman of U.S.A. Track & Field’s masters committee, which will oversee more than 100 competitions this year for athletes over age 30. . . . .

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Crime plummeting?

In 2007, the claim was that crime was surging. USA Today had the headline: "Cities see crime surge as threat to their revival." As I mentioned at the time, the claim was a hoax because of selective reporting of crime rates.

Well, now there are reports of lower crime rates across the country (though it hasn't been even and the total change in crime rates isn't completely obvious).

Overall in the city of Los Angeles, property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, were down 6.4% over the same period last year, while violent crimes, including homicides and rapes, were down 4.9%. The only citywide increase was a 1.6% rise in robberies. Elsewhere in the county, the Sheriff's Department reported a 10% drop in serious violent and property crimes in the areas it patrols.

Other large American cities similarly have bucked expectations this year. New York City posted a dramatic 14% drop in overall serious crimes, while Chicago and Houston also saw declines. Across the country, however, things are far more uneven. More than 100 large police departments have reported increases in property crimes or robberies this year, according to a survey by a police research group. . . .

The New York Times in a very biased article from August 1st on the reasons for the changes talks about the total changes this way:

Not that the news is bad — from New York to Los Angeles to Madison, Wis., major crimes, violent or not, are down between 7 percent and 22 percent over the same period last year. In Chicago, the number of homicides dropped 12 percent. In Charlotte, N.C., hard hit by the banking crisis, that total fell an astounding 38 percent. It is too soon to conclude that crime will decline throughout the recession, and the new numbers, which come from standardized reports that police departments send to the F.B.I., have yet to be made into a national measure. But crime was supposed to go up, not sharply down. . . .

Some of those cities that are experiencing a drop this year saw a big increase last year (note overall murder rates fell 4.4 percent last year). For example, Chicago's murder rate went up 15 percent last year, Seattle's went up 21 percent last year, Charlotte went up 9.2 percent, and New York City by 5.4 percent. Looking at these big cities last year and you would have thought that crime was really going up, but when all the numbers were in for the entire country the murder rate had fallen. The murder rate had fallen not only for the US as a whole, but also for large cities with populations over 1 million (-4.3 percent). Indeed, the murder rate had fallen for every size city. I pick the above cities because I was asked about those cities by a reporter ("New York, DC, LA, Seattle, Charlotte, and so on . . .").

The one type of crime that is clearly falling nationally is bank robbery.

A new report issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) indicates a decline in the number of reported violations of the Federal Bank Robbery and Incidental Crimes Statute. In the second quarter of 2008, there were 1,444 reported violations of the statute, while in the second quarter of 2009 there were 1,304 reported violations. . . .

For those who aren't familiar with the pattern of murder rates in New York City, this graph from June this year is interesting. By the way, the total number of murders in New York City this year up to that point were lower than in 2008, but higher than in 2007. Here are the number on the change in US crime rates from 2007 to 2008.


GOP Leads for First-Time on Health Care

Rasmussen says that Democrats still lead on ethics issues and are tied on Iraq, but they are losing on every other issue. The ethics issue is amazing to me.

For the first time in over two years of polling, voters trust Republicans slightly more than Democrats on the handling of the issue of health care. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that voters favor the GOP on the issue 44% to 41%.
Democrats held a four-point lead on the issue last month and a 10-point lead in June. For most of the past two years, more than 50% of voters said they trusted Democrats on health care. The latest results mark the lowest level of support measured for the party on the now-contentious issue.
Public support for the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats has fallen to a new low with just 42% of U.S. voters now in favor of it. That’s down five points from two weeks ago and down eight points from six weeks ago.
Overall, Republicans lead Democrats in terms of voter trust on eight out of 10 key issues for the second consecutive month, and the two are tied on one issue. . . .

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New Fox News Op-ed: "Why Are Democrats Pretending They're Fighting Giant Insurance Companies?"

My newest piece up at Fox News starts this way:

Democrats are fighting the greedy medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies to provide Americans health care, right? Surely anyone who listened to President Obama talk last week in Portsmouth, New Hampshire last Tuesday would think that. But while the Democrats are calling these companies evil for wanting to prevent the government takeover of health care, Democrats are working closely with these very same companies to support President Obama's health care plan. In fact, in exchange for favorable treatment in the health care plan, these companies are financing a massive ad campaign to support it. . . .

Please feel free to put up any comments on the Fox News page. Thank you.

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Do you want Obama Merchandise? Try the NBC store

My son Maxim has this piece up at Fox News.

If you’re a fan of all things Obama, NBC Universal's online store has no fewer than 29 options for your buying pleasure -- from a shirt with the president's picture proclaiming "YES WE DID" to both of his books to a special inauguration DVD to a refrigerator magnet of the first couple. . . .


The good and bad of the USA Today/Gallup Poll on the economy

Most Americans think that the stimulus had either no impact or a bad one.

My guess is that part of this is that 68 percent of the people think that a year from now the economy will still be in a recession or worse.

I think that these last numbers will prove quite wrong and unfortunately that will mean that more people will incorrectly give the government spending the credit for the improved economy. For my take on all this, see here.

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A few recent editorials on health care

"Mexican Army takes over customs on US border"?

I would have thought that this would have gotten more attention.

Mexico's Army took control of customs Sunday on the busy US border, as federal authorities pulled agents off the job in a massive anti-corruption shakeup, officials told AFP.

An Interior Ministry official said the dismissals were being carried out at all Mexican border facilities, and that the customs agents were being replaced.

Customs agents were sacked after some were found to be linked to contraband operations, according to sources at the ministry.

Agents in Nuevo Laredo, on the border with the southern US state of Texas, were called in Saturday to be told they were fired, and to hand in their badges and weapons. A total of 1,100 agents were sacked, Mexican media said.

Army troops took over customs border posts temporarily on Sunday.

Mexico and the United States share a border that stretches across some 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) and are partners with Canada in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Mexico is in the midst of a raging war on organized crime, and has expressed serious concern about US weapons crossing into the country.

During a visit to Mexico last week, US President Barack Obama praised President Felipe Calderon for his controversial military crackdown on the country's drug gangs, which involves more than 36,000 troops.

The United States has pledged around 1.6 billion dollars to tackle drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America under the Merida Initiative, which also includes funds for training and equipment to boost security on the Mexican side of the border. . . .


Housing prices continue to fall, emphasis is put on the fact that they are falling at a slower rate

How bleak is the long term picture on housing?

The good news? According to the closely watched Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which tracks home prices across 20 major cities nationwide, the three-year housing slump slowed sharply in April and May.

May's decline was just 0.2%, the slowest in two years. . . . .

Prices may -- may -- be nearing the bottom in many markets. But beyond the headlines, there are plenty of reasons to stay cautious. There may even be fresh dangers just ahead.

And even if prices have stopped falling, it may be years before they start rising sharply again.

First, late spring is traditionally the strongest season in the real-estate market.

And it's hardly a surprise the market saw some green shoots this time around. It's enjoying not one, but two, gigantic taxpayer subsidies -- an $8,000 refundable tax credit, or gift, for first-time buyers, as well as those cheap mortgage rates. The Federal Reserve has been spending billions of dollars to keep interest rates down.

Both are only short-term fixes. Any sustained economic upturn would be expected to send long-term mortgage rates rising again, dousing the real-estate market with fresh cold water. . . .

The picture on inventories isn't as good as it sounds, either. A lot of unsold homes have simply been put up for rent instead, especially in the most difficult markets like Miami. The result? A glut of empty rentals as well.

New waves of foreclosures and distressed sales may be coming, too. In states such as California, it can take many months for delinquencies to turn to foreclosures, which means last winter's bad news may still be coming down the pike. Meanwhile, vast tranches of teaser-rate mortgages are due to reset later this year and in 2010.

As for the economy: Both unemployment and household debt levels remain at extremely high levels by the standards of postwar history. Either is bad news for housing. The combination is very bad. . . . .

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Canadian Doctors want private insurance companies

Before Americans adopt the Canadian system possibly Americans might want to ask Canadian Doctors what they think of the system. Well, they aren't very happy. This report from the Canadian Press was filed with the start of Canadian doctors' annual convention.

SASKATOON — The incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association says this country's health-care system is sick and doctors need to develop a plan to cure it.
Dr. Anne Doig says patients are getting less than optimal care and she adds that physicians from across the country - who will gather in Saskatoon on Sunday for their annual meeting - recognize that changes must be made.
"We all agree that the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize," Doing said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"We know that there must be change," she said. "We're all running flat out, we're all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands."
The pitch for change at the conference is to start with a presentation from Dr. Robert Ouellet, the current president of the CMA, who has said there's a critical need to make Canada's health-care system patient-centred. He will present details from his fact-finding trip to Europe in January, where he met with health groups in England, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands and France.
His thoughts on the issue are already clear. Ouellet has been saying since his return that "a health-care revolution has passed us by," that it's possible to make wait lists disappear while maintaining universal coverage and "that competition should be welcomed, not feared."
In other words, Ouellet believes there could be a role for private health-care delivery within the public system. . . .
"(Canadians) have to understand that the system that we have right now - if it keeps on going without change - is not sustainable," said Doig.
"They have to look at the evidence that's being presented and will be presented at (the meeting) and realize what Canada's doctors are trying to tell you, that you can get better care than what you're getting and we all have to participate in the discussion around how do we do that and of course how do we pay for it."

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Why won't Dodd and Conrad release their documents regarding Countrywide?

From the WSJ:

The three Republican and three Democratic Senators say they conducted an exhaustive probe and inspected 18,000 pages of documents. They say they found "no substantial credible evidence as required by Committee rules" that the Senators received mortgage rates or services that weren't commonly available to the public, and thus did not violate the Senate gift ban.

We'll have to take their word that the evidence wasn't "substantial," because they didn't release those documents, nor did they encourage Mr. Dodd to release any of his records. Readers will recall that in February Mr. Dodd staged a peek-a-boo release with selected reporters but did not allow anyone to have copies of the documents. If the evidence was so clear-cut, why the months of stonewalling?

The Associated Press may have the answer. AP recently noted that among the peek-a-boo papers were two documents titled, "Loan Policy Analysis." Reports AP, "The documents had separate columns: one showing points 'actl chrgd' Dodd — zero; and a second column showing 'policy' was to charge .250 points on one loan and .375 points on the other. Another heading on the documents said 'reasons for override.' A notation under that heading identified a Countrywide section that approved the policy change for Dodd."

How does Mr. Dodd explain that one? He may not have had to. The Senate ethicists don't seem to have required either Mr. Dodd or Mr. Conrad to provide sworn testimony. . . . .

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Liberals are boycotting Whole Foods for its stand against the government health care takeover

Mackey's op-ed seemed quite sensible to me, and I am more likely than ever to go out of my way to buy food there.

In a Wall Street Journal editorial titled, "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare," John Mackey, the founder and C.E.O. of Whole Foods—one of the world's biggest retailers of "natural" and organic foods—stirred up furor among his left-leaning customer base by denouncing Obama's health care plan as likely to "move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system." In the editorial he gives eight reform strategies—one based on his own policies at Whole Foods—for an alternative system with "less government control and more individual empowerment," and suggests that we use reform to get to the real roots of the health care crisis: obesity and unhealthy eating habits.

And while these concepts alone may not seem enough to incite a riot (though starting off with this Margaret Thatcher quote wasn't likely to endear him to many of his liberal customers—"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money") according to the hundreds of angry comments already being posted in response to the Op-Ed, it appears to be this sentiment that spurred on boycotters. . . .