May 29, 2007

 

Yeah, subsidized healthcare is just the bees knees...

From: The New York Post

MOORE'S SICK RX
By: MICHAEL TANNER

Michael Moore's new film "Sicko," a critique of the U.S. health-care system and paean to socialized medicine around the world, premiered amid great fanfare at Cannes last month. Time magazine reviewer Richard Corliss rejoiced, "The upside of this populist documentary is that there are no policy wonks crunching numbers."

Wouldn't want anyone messing up Moore's fantasy with ... facts.

The American health-care system undeniably has serious problems, and Moore effectively dramatizes the suffering of people caught up in them. Yet he often exaggerates those problems. For example, he frequently refers to the 47 million Americans without health insurance, but fails to point out that most are uninsured for only brief periods, or that millions are eligible for programs like Medicaid but fail to apply.

Moreover, he implies that people without insurance don't get health care. In fact, most do. Hospitals are legally obliged to provide care regardless of ability to pay, and while physicians don't face the same requirements, few are willing to deny treatment because a patient lacks insurance. Treatment for the uninsured may well mean financial hardship, but by and large they do get care.

Moore talks a lot about life expectancy, suggesting that people in Canada, Britain, France, and even Cuba live longer than Americans because of their health-care systems. But most experts agree that life expectancies are a poor measure of health care, because they are affected by too many other factors like violent crime, poverty, obesity, tobacco and drug use, and other issues unrelated to a country's health system. Americans in Utah live longer than those in New York City, despite having essentially the same health care.

And when you compare the outcome for specific diseases, like cancer or heart disease, the United States clearly outperforms the rest of the world. When former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi needed heart surgery last year, he didn't go to an Italian hospital or to France, Canada or Cuba. He came to the Cleveland Clinic.

While overly critical of U.S. health care, Moore overlooks the flaws of national health-care systems. He suggests, for example, that Canada's waiting lists are mere inconveniences, interviewing apparently healthy Canadians who claim they have no problem getting care. Yet nearly 800,000 Canadians aren't so lucky. The Canadian Supreme Court has pointed out that many Canadians waiting for treatment suffer chronic pain and, "Patients die while on the waiting list."

Similarly, Moore shows happy Britons who don't have to pay for their prescription drugs. But he didn't talk to any of the 850,000 Britons waiting for admission to National Health Service hospitals. Every year, shortages force the NHS to cancel as many as 50,000 operations. Roughly 40 percent of cancer patients never get to see an oncology specialist. Delays in getting treatment are often so long that nearly 20 percent of colon-cancer cases considered treatable when first diagnosed are incurable by the time treatment is finally offered. Perhaps Moore could have talked to some of these folks?

Visiting France, Moore waxes ecstatic about the government's willingness to pay for nannies to help care for newborns. He apparently doesn't notice that the taxes necessary to pay for such a system have given France one of the lowest rates of economic growth in Europe or that many of the country's best and brightest are fleeing.

Moore also slides over the facts when he implies that the French system is "free." It's funded through a 13.55 percent payroll tax, a 5.25 percent income tax and other taxes on tobacco, alcohol and drug-company revenues. And the system is still running a $15.6 billion deficit.

And French patients still have to pay high co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses, and physicians can bill patients for charges over and above what the government reimburses. As a result, 92 percent of French citizens have private health insurance to complement the government system. Yet there remain shortages of modern health-care technology and a lack of access to the most advanced care.

America needs to have a serious debate about how to fix our health-care system. But Moore's demagoguery and refusal to address the numbers will do little to contribute to that debate. Maybe he could've used a few policy wonks after all.

Michael Tanner is director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute.

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Copyright 2007 - The New York Post

 

Good point whether you like it or not...

From: The ECP Centre - No Apologies Column

Anti-Social Tendencies of Atheism
Friday, May 25, 2007

I don't know what atheists are more dogmatic about: 1) the claim that they are rational or 2) that theists are a danger to society.

It is probably immaterial which is the most important; both are essential to the atheist cause - but neither is actually true.

Richard Dawkins is a member of a growing class of celebrity atheists, and he stakes his career on these two arguments.

His latest book, called The God Delusion, attempts to systematically dismantle the respect that Christianity has been accorded in the West.

No Apologies is available for you to listen to on our website (www.ecpcentre.org) for free. Every week a new broadcast of No Apologies will be uploaded to our website for your listening pleasure.

Dawkins is disturbed that religion continues to get a free ride in our society. "Religion," says Dawkins, especially the religion of the God of Abraham, "has had too much respect." So he has set out to change that.

For Dawkins and his cohorts, the way to change this is through an aggressive public relations campaign. Dawkins contends that up 'til now, religion has been treated with kid gloves. But if you expose the evil and irrational nature of religion, then religion is done. And, although his primary target is so-called "right-wing" Christianity, Dawkins isn't discriminating. All religion needs to be exposed, even "moderate" religion.

I have already written and rebutted this kind of argument in several of my columns. So it is unnecessary to say much more. However it's worth repeating that atheists are propagandists and not rational debaters when they claim that religion is solely responsible for all the evil in the world.

Atheists need to hear this: "rational" people do not advance intellectually dishonest arguments for the sake of their cause. To be rational, one must be "sensible" and that means at the very least, being "honest". Rational people don't invent things to gain credibility and they don't spread lies. Yet, this is precisely what Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are doing when they accuse religion of being the world's source of evil, but ignore atheists like Stalin and Mao and Hitler.

Another atheist who clearly hasn't appreciated this point is Austin Cline. He has a website dedicated to rebutting theists. He says that my kind of "conclusion," that all those people murdered in Russia by Stalin and by Hitler in Germany, cannot be laid at the feet of atheists or atheism. These atrocities never happened "in the name of atheism" he says.

He reasons like this: "Atheism isn't a principle, a cause, a philosophy, or belief system that people fight, die, or kill for." It's just like being killed by a tall person, says Cline. You don't blame "tallness" when someone is murdered by a tall person. "People don't get killed in the name of being tall and the same is true of atheism."

Cline's game of philosophical dodge-ball is infantile. He is also being remarkably dishonest regarding the nature of atheism. My greatest quandary is whether I would look too much like a fool by even trying to interact with his absurd comments. Is this a case of, "don't answer a fool according to his folly, lest you become like him?"

However, some might find his sophistry persuasive so there is risk in not rebuffing Cline. Therefore, Cline needs to be answered, lest he think he is wise in his own eyes.

So atheism isn't a "principle, or a cause," or a "system of belief?" It is just a "thing" that someone holds out in mid-air, so to speak! Call it bare-atheism. But if that's true of atheism, the same can be said about theism. Can't it also be true that theism is just a bare idea that does not necessarily lead to any particular logical actions that can be tied to theistic presuppositions?

The failure with Cline's argument is that it doesn't line up with reality. No idea is bare, least of all an idea as foundational as theism or atheism. The question about God essentially drives everything humans do.

Put another way, no one holds to a governing idea like atheism or theism in a vacuum. "Bare" anything is impossible. People hold these theological premises as part of - as foundational to - a system of thought. Theism is either Christian theism, or Judaic theism or Islamic theism, or Deism or even Polytheism, and atheism is either secular-humanism or communism or libertarianism (in some cases). And on that note I challenge Cline to show me one atheist who isn't a humanist.

The basic foundation to every system of thought is predicated on this question: is there a God or not?

Which leads me to another fallacy in Cline's argument - the fallacy of irrelevant analogy. Cline's appeal to "tallness" is irrelevant. Tallness is a physical feature, and as that, it is a completely different animal from something like a governing principle. "Tallness" is a passive, physical trait, that doesn't necessarily influence the way people act. A governing principle however is not a physical trait, and it is not passive, it influences everything we think, speak and act on.

And that is why Cline's argument is ridiculous. Cline says that "people don't fight, die or kill for [atheism]".

That's right Cline, people are killed for believing in God, not for not believing in God.

But it's like I said, Cline's argument is foolish and it is intellectually dishonest.

Thankfully, not all atheists are as dishonest as Cline. At least in Dawkins' case there is a willingness to admit to atheism's anti-social tendency. Dawkins says that atheists should work to do away with the social respect accorded to people of faith.

However this begs a question: how long will it take Dawkins' academic disrespect of theists to turn into political oppression?

After all didn't Stalin, Mao and Hitler begin with disrespect of Christians on rational grounds also?

Yours for our culture,
Tristan Emmanuel - ECP Centre President

 

One Right the Charter lacks...

This is an article from the May 2007 edition of "FraserForum." It is written by Elizabeth Brubake, Executive Director of Environment Probe. Elizabeth makes some excellent points, among them the entrenchment of property rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/admin/books/chapterfiles/May07ffbrubaker.pdf#

 

Cuba's Health Care Reality...

From: The New York Post

SICKO: WHITEWASHING FOR FIDEL
By: RICH LOWRY

Is all that ails the U.S. health-care system that it's not run by a communist dictatorship? That has long been a premise of apologists for Fidel Castro who extol the virtues of medical care on his totalitarian island nation.

Left-wing documentary filmmaker Michael Moore is reviving this Cold War relic of an argument in his new movie on health care, "Sicko," which premieres in a few weeks and favorably compares the Cuban health-care system to ours. Moore ostentatiously took a few sick 9/11 workers to Cuba for care. "If they can do this," Moore told Time magazine, referring to the Cubans, "we can do it."

All that the Cuban government has done, however, is run a decades-long propaganda campaign to convince credulous or dishonest people that its health-care system is worth emulating. These people believe - or pretend to believe for ideological reasons - that a dictatorship can crush a country's economy and spirit, yet still deliver exemplary medical care.

Cuban health care works only for the select few: if you are a high-ranking member of the party or the military and have access to top-notch clinics; or a health-care tourist who can pay in foreign currency at a special facility catering to foreigners; or a documentarian who can be relied upon to produce a lickspittle film whitewashing the system.

Ordinary Cubans experience the wasteland of the real system. Even aspirin and Pepto-Bismol can be rare and there's a black market for them. According to a report in the Canadian newspaper the National Post: "Hospitals are falling apart, surgeons lack basic supplies and must reuse latex gloves. Patients must buy their sutures on the black market and provide bed sheets and food for extended hospital stays."

How could it be any different when Cuba embarked on a campaign of economic self-sabotage with the revolution of 1959? It went from third in per capita food consumption in Latin America to near the bottom, according to a State Department report. Per capita consumption of basic foodstuffs like cereals and meat actually has declined from the 1950s. There are fewer cars (true of no other country in the hemisphere), and development of electrical power has trailed every other Latin American country except Haiti.

But the routine medical care, we're supposed to believe, is superb. The statistic frequently cited for this proposition is that Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America. Put aside that the reflexively dishonest Cuban government is the ultimate source for these figures. Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America prior to the revolution and has lost ground to other countries around the world since. It also has an appallingly high abortion rate, meaning most problem pregnancies are pre-emptively ended.

Other countries in Latin America have made advances in health without Cuba's vicious suppression of human rights (which, no doubt, contributes to the island having the highest suicide rate in Latin America). The way public health works in Cuba was nicely illustrated by the case of Dr. Desi Mendoza Rivero, who complained of an outbreak of dengue fever that the regime preferred to ignore in the late 1990s, and was jailed for his trouble.

As is always the case with Cuba, anything that's wrong is blamed on the United States. If there is a shortage of medicine, well, that's because of the U.S. embargo. But the United States is not the only country in the world that sells drugs. Cuba could buy them from Europe or elsewhere, and the U.S. embargo makes an exception for medicines.

The only reason to fantasize about Cuban health care is to stick a finger in the eye of the Yanquis. For the likes of Michael Moore, the true glory of Cuba is less its health care than the fact that it is an enemy of the United States. That's why romanticizing Cuban medicine isn't just folly, but itself qualifies as a kind of sickness.

E-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com

Copyright 2007 - The New York Post

 

The World of double standards...

From: The New York Sun
http://www.nysun.com/article/54731?access=431977

The Wolfowitz Standard
New York Sun Editorial
May 18, 2007

News out of the World Bank suggests it's none too soon to start thinking about what might be called "The Wolfowitz Standard." If top management of the international organizations are going to be held to the standard Mr. Wolfowitz was held to, who else should come under the microscope? Here is The New York Sun's quick list. We don't allege any wrongdoing. But if one is looking for offices in which to start applying the Wolfowitz Standard, here are some recent cases:

Mark Malloch Brown and George Soros. The United Nations Development Program cooperated, during the years that Mr. Malloch Brown headed it, on projects with Mr. Soros's philanthropies. At the UNDP Mr. Soros and his aides were allowed influence and access. In some countries, the two agencies operated as one unit. Mr. Malloch Brown describes their relations as a "friendship." While at the UNDP, Mr. Malloch Brown fetched up as a tenant in a house adjacent to Mr. Soros's mansion in Katonah, N.Y. Mr. Malloch Brown insists he paid Mr. Soros a market-rate rent. In our opinion that's worth an investigation. Mr. Molloch Brown was recently named vice chairman of Mr. Soros's Quantum Fund.

Shengman Zhang. Mr. Zhang was the World Bank's managing director until 2005. His wife worked directly under him at the Bank. He recently argued that his case was different than Mr. Wolfowitz's because there was no bank rule against married spouses working together, but there was a rule against sexual relations between bank employees. Shaha Riza was employed by the bank for seven years prior to Mr. Wolfowitz assuming the presidency. Their relationship began long before he became president.

Nicolas Stern. Mr. Stern was chief economist and senior vice president at the World Bank between 2000 and 2003. When Mr. Stern, a Briton, was named to the job by James Wolfensohn, then president of the Bank, several staffers complained about violations of Bank rules against nepotism, because Mr. Stern's brother, Richard, at the time served as the Bank's vice-president for human resources. Nicolas was hired and the complaints were never addressed, according to Bank sources.

Ban Hyu-Yee and husband Siddharth Chatterjee. Both the daughter and son-in-law of Secretary-General Ban work for the U.N. Childrens Fund in Nairobi. UNICEF does not directly report to the secretary-general, but Ms. Riza did not report to Mr. Wolfowitz either. Would a promotion for Mr. Chatterjee within the United Nations system involve the signature of his father in law? What arrangements have been or should be made? As in the Riza-Wolfowitz's case, the young Ms. Ban and her husband have worked for UNICEF long before her father came to the U.N.

Kofi Annan. In one of the most written-about controversies in the United Nations, a company called Cotecna, which employed Kojo Annan, the young son of the sitting secretary-general, Kofi Annan, was hired by the United Nations to inspect goods in Iraq without an acknowledgment of conflict of interest. Unlike in the current case, where Mr. Wolfowitz never hid his relation and has stuck with several arguments to explain the situation, the Annans have changed their stories several times as further reporting found original arguments untrue.

It may be that there are extenuating circumstances in some or all of the cases cited above. We weren't worried about Mr. Wolfowitz's relations with Ms. Riza, but more important than any specific case is the principle that there be a standard that applies across the board. Now that Mr. Wolfowitz has decided to resign from the World Bank at the end of June, let it be just the start of a global cleanup in the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions that spend so much time preaching to the rest of the world on the dime of the American taxpayer.

Copyright 2007 - The New York Sun

 

A So-Con makes his case...

From: The ECP Centre - No Apologies Column

The Bottom Line - Fiscal Conservatism Isn't Conservative
Friday, May 11, 2007

It's time to dispense with the notion that "fiscal" conservatism is conservative. I know we are used to this kind of distinction - there are "social" conservatives and then there are "fiscal" conservatives - but philosophically this distinction doesn't hold water.

Genuine conservatism, to start with, does not create false distinctions between the economy and society. Conservatism includes a belief in tax cuts and spending limits for civil government, but the conservative vision is far bigger than that. Genuine conservatism is a worldview - it is a philosophy about life and society - so it is a much broader philosophy than the "Fiscals" make it out to be.

No Apologies is available for you to listen to on our website (www.ecpcentre.org) for free. Every week a new broadcast of No Apologies will be uploaded to our website for your listening pleasure.

Strategically it may be good political tact to concentrate on economic policy during an election, but one should never confuse strategy with the totality of a philosophy.

Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly happy that "Fiscals" believe in cutting government taxes and limiting federal spending, but really, believing in tax cuts is a no-brainer; even a Rock Star like Mick Jager understands that much.

As I said, Conservatism is a philosophy about life, and culture, and the very important balance of power between social institutions like the family, the church and the state. And that is where tax cuts and spending limits come in; you see tax cuts are the very important procedural constraint we place on civil government to ensure it does not become a pariah that ends up devouring the family and the church and other integral social institutions.

Government is far too powerful as a social institution and that is why it needs to be held in check. When it ventures beyond its legitimate role in society - to establish and enforce civil justice (as opposed to social justice) - it in fact becomes a social pariah, a monster. And that's where tax cuts and spending limits come in; they are the best way to starve the beast.

And that's why I want to clear the air: because when "Fiscals" deride Socons - conservatives - with the false accusation that we're simply imposing morality on others and we want to use the government to do the imposing, they've got it all wrong.

Conservatives are simply saying "civil government simply has no jurisdiction," it has no right, either to change the nature of marriage, or to fund abortions, or to create "universal day-care." It simply has no business and that's why tax cuts and spending limits are fundamental to conservatism. Because when you cut off the civil government's food supply - tax dollars - it simply has less money to get involved in social projects it simply has no business being in.

When people say to me, "Times are changing, Tristan. People no longer hold to 'traditional values'," I say, "That may be the case, but the agent to bring about these so-called changes should not be the civil government."

If the culture is going to change it should happen naturally, and from the bottom up, through the free market, the family and other social institutions. And not by government manipulation or the social engineering that is happening because public money is given to particular special interest groups; that is a monstrous distortion of civil government's power and purpose.

That's why "Fiscals" are the biggest political irony around. For, while they criticize "social" conservatives for being "single-issue" driven - focusing too much on family values - it is the "Fiscal" conservatives who in fact have whittled conservatism down to a basic procedural policy while forgetting the reason for it.

You simply cannot defensibly argue for tax cuts and spending limits and then approve of social programs all in the name of being "socially liberal" or "progressive" or even "compassionate" (which is such a misnomer anyway - but that's for another column).

Social programs cost taxpayers lots and lots of their money. Take one simple example: Considering the well-documented evidence of the chronic, and expensive health problems related to sexual behaviour, including the recent reports about rising rates of diseases like syphilis among homosexuals, you can be sure that the motive of self-interest that "Fiscals" talk so much about would probably cut the number of practicing homosexuals or those engaged in heterosexual sex outside of marriage by 50-80% if Canadians had to pay for their own health care. But try selling free market health care to so-called Fiscals!

That's why I maintain that "fiscal" conservatism isn't conservative. It is a confused coalescing of mutually exclusive ideas. You simply cannot mix conservative economic policy - tax cuts and spending limits - with leftwing sympathies for social programs that cost lots of money and radically undermine the balance of power. It's like trying to mix water and oil. It just can't happen.

Yours for our culture,
Tristan Emmanuel - ECP Centre President

 

Lessons for the Left...

From: The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/07/AR2007050701223.html

Progressives' French Lesson
By:
E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007; Page A25

Is Europe moving right? Is the democratic left in trouble?

The decisive victory of Nicolas Sarkozy over Socialist Segolene Royal in France's presidential election on Sunday was the most recent example of the battering that moderate-left parties are taking from the forces of globalization and discontent over immigration.

A few days earlier, Britain delivered a rebuke to outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party in local elections. Last September, Sweden's Social Democrats were voted out of power, a blow to the progressive spirit in light of the country's standing as a model egalitarian society.

Earlier in 2006, in the land of single-payer health care, Canada's Conservatives under Stephen Harper came back from near-death 14 years ago to form a minority government. In 2005, Germany's Social Democrats lost their majority, though they cling to a share of power under Christian Democratic Chancellor Angela Merkel.

There are some countertrends toward the left, notably in Australia, according to recent polls. A populist left (quite different from the moderate European variety) has gained ground in Latin America. And Democrats might take heart that France and the United States have moved on opposite electoral cycles ever since Socialist Francois Mitterrand won power in 1981, just a year after Ronald Reagan's election.

Nonetheless, the social democratic and liberal left faces a big problem because globalization makes the movement's core pledge - to produce economic growth that lifts up the poor and the middle class as well as the rich - far more problematic.

For much of the period after World War II, national governments found it relatively easy to redistribute wealth and income through taxes and decent wage agreements negotiated by strong labor unions. Globalization and heightened competition are taking a toll on unionized industrial jobs, while national governments have less freedom of action when capital is so mobile. As a result, thriving emerging economies are enjoying higher growth rates than their traditionally wealthy competitors.

In France, Sarkozy promised that by deregulating the labor market, he could create more growth and more jobs. Royal pledged to preserve and expand some of France's generous social protections - although she also bowed to the imperatives of global capitalism by sounding some modernizing themes. Sarkozy's clarity trumped Royal's well-meaning muddle.

Fear that immigrant and particularly Muslim communities were not integrating well into France also helped Sarkozy. His tough-guy image allowed this center-right candidate to court the far-right constituency of Jean-Marie Le Pen. According to the polling agency Ipsos, voters who backed Le Pen in the election's first round went to Sarkozy on Sunday by more than 5 to 1.

Here again, Royal played defense by offering her own version of patriotic politics - French citizens should learn the words of the Marseillaise, she said, and keep a French flag in their cupboards. But she also felt an honorable obligation to criticize some of Sarkozy's harsher positions on immigration. Worries over immigrants trumped fear of Sarkozy's hard line.

And where Royal won by almost 3 to 2 among public-sector workers (she also carried students and the unemployed), she lost private-sector workers (as well as the retired). The left can't win without a better showing among workers in the private economy.

In fact, Royal's biggest problem was reflected in another Ipsos finding: While 42 percent of her voters said their ballots were aimed primarily at keeping Sarkozy out of the presidency, only 18 percent of Sarkozy's voters said they cast negative ballots against Royal. The left is in trouble when its campaigns are based more on anxiety about the right than on the hopes that progressives inspire.

It would be a mistake to draw too many American lessons from the troubles of European social democrats. For one thing, the social insurance system is much weaker in the United States than in Europe, where even conservatives support substantial government provision for health care and child care. If European voters seem willing to gamble on a bit less security because they have a lot of it, American voters now seem inclined to ask for more because they have so little.

But the center-left clearly needs a shot of dynamism. It must convey a clearer sense that it knows how to preserve social justice in a globalized economy and how to respond to a growing impatience with government. It must figure out how to preserve civil liberties, protect immigrants and foster an inclusive sense of national solidarity at the same time.

With their European friends in some trouble, American progressives may have both the opportunity and the obligation to find the new formulas.

E-mail: postchat@aol.com
Copyright 2007 - The Washington Post

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