Friday, July 31, 2009

banning tanning beds

This is probably on the "horizon" for Congress and Obama, given their penchant for paternalism and their desire to ration health care.

After all, science has determined that tanning is as poisonous than arsenic and mustard gas.

But at least you look good, until the cancer sets in...

Here's the article from the AP's Maria Cheng (hat tip: C-J)...

International cancer experts have moved tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category, deeming them as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas. For years, scientists have described tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation as "probable carcinogens."

A new analysis of about 20 studies concludes the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. Experts also found that all types of ultraviolet radiation caused worrying mutations in mice, proof the radiation is carcinogenic. Previously, only one type of ultraviolet radiation was thought to be lethal.

The new classification means tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation are definite causes of cancer, alongside tobacco, the hepatitis B virus and chimney sweeping, among others.

The research was published online in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on Wednesday...

"cash for clunkers" seen with wheels on cinder-blocks on the interstate

Another federal clunker policy goes clunk into the night.
Thanks to Congress and the President for damaging the economy further...

Equity? Nope.

Efficiency? Do you want to be a stand-up comedian?!

Thought it would stimulate the economy? If you haven't had E100.

Trying to stimulate special interest groups? Definitely.

Here's a representative article from the AP in the C-J...

The White House said Thursday night that it is reviewing the government's popular “cash for clunkers” program amid concerns the $1 billion budget for rebates for new auto purchases may have been exhausted in only a week.

What's the big deal? It's only a billion...
Hey, at least they stopped it (for now) after a billion!

what can we learn from Gates-gate?

We sent this longer version to the WSJ-- without success. The shorter version-- the latter half, focusing solely on the discrimination angles-- was published in a variety of papers throughout Indiana....
____________________


Now that the saga of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Officer James Crowley has moved to the back-burner, let’s look at three less obvious lessons from Skip and Jimmy’s not-so-excellent adventure.

Understand that government is the use of legitimate force. Not necessarily “legitimate” in terms of morals and ethics, but legitimate in terms of what is legal. Police officers have moral and legal authority to use force in order “to serve and to protect”. At times, they may exceed or fail to exercise their authority. But the nature of their job implies a readiness to apply force.

It follows that one should be on their best behavior around the police. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know that yelling at police officers will increase the probability that one will be arrested. In this case, even if Professor Gates was treated improperly, he clearly had it within his power to avoid being arrested.

At its root, government policy is about the use of force—whether to regulate behavior, to redistribute income, or to restrict mutually beneficial trade. We can miss this point by focusing on a democratic process where we seem to exercise tremendous choice over those who govern us. Or we can underestimate this point by assuming that government is typically benign.

President Obama’s word choice tells us something about his worldview. His now-famous decision to speak to the specifics of the Gates case was an over-reach of startling proportions.

It was surprising in that Obama “spoke stupidly” when he is usually so careful—often painfully so—with his words. (As a corollary, perhaps it should worry us that he values “diplomacy” so much, but is willing to speak out-of-pocket on awkward and sensitive issues.)

It was odd in that he is the Commander in Chief and chooses the Attorney General to be the chief law enforcement officer in the United States. A president’s default position should be to support the police.

It was sad in that our “post-racial” President botched a key moment for race relations. Instead of sticking to eloquent but general remarks about the underlying issues, Obama extended his comments to inappropriate specifics that created a firestorm and deepened unfortunate stereotypes.

Finally, it seems revealing in terms of what he thinks about his powers of intellect and assessment. This connects to the current debate on health care. In both cases, the President believes that a federal solution is the best way to handle problems. Instead of deferring to the locals who knew far more about the Gates situation, Obama presumed to be able to speak with expertise. In health care, he imagines that a single, grand, federal experiment in a remarkably complex and important arena is preferable to 50 state-wide experiments.


Everyone discriminates.

Labor economists distinguish between “personal discrimination” and “statistical discrimination”. Interestingly, both stem from a form of ignorance. The former is a subjective preference rooted in a socially unacceptable form of ignorance. A person doesn’t like a group of people out of bigotry.

The latter is more interesting because it is based in the reality that all of us make important decisions with imperfect and costly-to-obtain information. Out of varying degrees of ignorance, we make choices with the best information available to us at reasonable cost. Often, our best information about individuals involves their affiliation with groups. So, we stereotype from what we know about a group to members of that group. By definition, all of us discriminate in this manner.

Consider a pool of job applicants. The firm has relatively little information about candidates. So, they generalize from what they do know: where the applicants went to school, their GPA and field of study, the quality of reference letters, job experience, and so on. None of those are definitive; they are only somewhat predictive. For example, will someone with a 3.8 GPA be a more productive worker than someone with a 2.8 GPA? Usually, but not always.

Think about the term “prejudice”. Taken literally, it means to "pre-judge", implying that someone is making a decision with too little information. At times, such decisions are necessary—and hopefully, people do the best they can with the info they have. At other times, it implies an unnecessary rush to judgment.

In this particular moment of crisis, both parties—Gates dealing with the police and the police dealing with him—were making important decisions with (very) limited information. By definition, Gates and the police were engaged in stereotyping. Of course, it is ironic that Gates did this while self-righteously accusing the police of doing the same. And it is absolutely fascinating that, by their training, both Professor Gates and Officer Crowley are “experts” on racial profiling.

Sadly, in judging the events from the outside, many people have been unnecessarily quick in a rush to prejudicial judgments in favor of Professor Gates or the police. The irony here is greatest among those, including President Obama, who have pre-judged by accusing Officer Crowley of discrimination.

One of my colleagues reduced the Gates situation to the following: Would a 58-year old man, with the same attire, etc.—but white—have been treated the same way? The question is only somewhat helpful. Interestingly, it sets up potential accusations of age-ism, sexism, and “clothes-ism” (or class-ism). Should it have mattered to Officer Crowley if Gates was 18, 38, or 88 years old? Would a similar woman have been arrested in this case? What if Gates had been dressed in a ripped t-shirt or a tuxedo?

At the end of the day, the police and our President must make vital decisions with information that is far less than ideal. Hopefully, they do the best they can with what they have—in humility and patience—drawing the best, reasonable inferences from a competent worldview, formidable character, and the best available data.

Gates is related to Crowley...awesome!

Are you kidding me?
(hat tip: Craig Ladwig)

From Niall O'Dowd with ABC News...

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the black professor at the center of the racial story involving his arrest outside his Harvard University-owned house, has spoken proudly of his Irish roots.

Strangely enough, he and the Cambridge, Mass., police officer who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley, both trace their ancestry back to the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages.

In a PBS series on African-American ancestry that he hosted in 2008, Gates discovered his Irish roots when he found he was descended from an Irish immigrant and a slave girl.

He went to Trinity College in Dublin to have his DNA analyzed. There he found that he shared 10 of the 11 DNA matches with offspring of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fourth century warlord who created one of the dominant strains of Irish genealogy because he had so many offspring.

Ironically, James Crowley, whose name in Gaelic means "hardy warrior," is also descended from the same line as Gates, having very close links to Niall of the Nine Hostages...

When it came to the bedroom, it seems that Niall of the Nine Hostages was even more fearless and energetic than he was on the battlefield.

This warlord was responsible for the very common Irish surname "O'Neill" -- which means "descendant son of Niall." It is also the name of Irish pubs all over the world.

The researchers also found that as many as one in 12 men in Ireland have the same DNA as the Irish king -- and in Ireland's northwest, that figure rises to one in five.

Obama and Palin (cont'd)

They are now quite similar in one more respect...

Falling poll numbers!

Monday, July 27, 2009

realism vs. utopia on health care availability

Michael Tanner, from Cato, in USN&WR, with a helpful piece...

No one can fail to be moved by heartbreaking stories of people suffering and unable to get healthcare they want or need. But compassion is a sentiment, not a policy.

We tend to talk about healthcare in the philosophically abstract. "Is healthcare a right or a privilege?" goes the refrain. In reality, it is neither.

Healthcare is a commodity -- and a finite one at that....

The real debate, therefore, is not about whether we should ration care but about who should ration it. Currently, that decision is often made by insurance companies or other third-party payers. Obama and congressional Democrats want to shift that decision-making power to the federal government....Free-market healthcare reformers, on the other hand, want to shift more of the decisions (and therefore the financial responsibility) back to the individual.

People should have the absolute right to spend their own money on whatever they want, including buying as much healthcare as they want. And, if they are spending their own money, they will make their own rationing decisions based on price and value....

Of course, as a compassionate society, we may choose to help others pay for some care. That's a worthwhile debate to have. But our resources are not unlimited. Choices will have to be made. And, therefore, the real question should be: Who will make those choices?...

Obama's strategic failures on health care

Again, something I've blogged on quite a bit: the politics of health care reform-- most notably, here and here and here...

Here, some good points from Kim Strassel in the WSJ...

These mistakes are so basic that the cynic in me wants to know whether the Dems knew this would fail from the beginning and wanted to propose something as a cover-their-tails maneuver. Nahh....

Democrats won everything in last year’s election. You wouldn’t know it from the way President Barack Obama [and the Democratic Congress] is blaming the GOP for his flagging health agenda....The party of the left owns the White House, a filibuster-proof Senate, and a 70-seat House majority....You can’t blame the GOP when you own every Washington institution....

The president is a skilled politician and orator, but the real test of a new administration is whether it can shepherd a high-stakes bill through Congress. In retrospect, the mistakes are growing clear....

Living in the short term: The administration thought it was clever back in February, using its $787 billion “stimulus” as an excuse to pass all manner of non-stimulating spending. But the bill sent deficits soaring, forcing those numbers to the center of today’s health debate and unnerving Democratic deficit hawks....

Unleashing Congress: Not wanting to repeat Hillary Clinton’s mistaken attempt to micromanage Congress, the administration took the equally dangerous path of no management at all. Left to wild impulses, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy took the most radical of Mr. Obama’s proposals (a public option entitlement) as a starting point, and ran left with new mandates, income tax surcharges, and business penalties....

False deadlines: Mr. Obama is right to worry this project is a race against time and falling poll numbers. But the administration’s unwavering demand for bills before recess led to the gridlock it hoped to avoid....

Bobo's boo-boo on Gates

My second response to the Gates saga...

This one in response to an op-ed by Dr. Lawrence Bobo, a colleague of Dr. Gates at Harvard, in the WP and reprinted in the C-J...

...my best friend, an affluent, middle-aged black man, was arrested at his home after showing identification to a white police officer who was responding to a burglary call. Though the officer determined that my friend was the resident of the house and that no burglary was in progress, he placed my friend in handcuffs, put him in a police cruiser and had him “processed” at our local police station.

This outrage did not happen at night. It did not happen to an unknown urban black man. It happened, midday, to internationally known scholar Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.

Of course, this is a slanted description of the events in question. But I'm more interested in his last statement and what he thinks it implies (vs. what it, in fact, implies).

Bobo says that Gates is internationally known. But for the purposes of police activity, the relevant question is whether he was locally known. And the answer seems to be no. Bobo is confused on this point, conflating the two categories of "known-ness"-- or assumes some form of elitism that such things shouldn't happen to internationally known scholars.

I believe the police officer was motivated by anger that my friend had not immediately complied with the officer's initial command to step out of the house.

This is statistical discrimination-- and probably a poor version of it-- on the part of Bobo. He has no way to know this.

In hindsight, I think Skip did the right thing; he could have been injured (if not worse) had he stepped out of his home before showing his ID. Black Americans recall all too well that Amadou Diallo reached for his identification in a public space when confronted by police and, 41 gunshots later, became the textbook case of deadly race-infected police bias.

Apples and rocks...

Skip, 58, is one of the most readily recognized black men in America...

Uhh, no...Talk about ivory tower; this guy is clueless about what is recognized in the public eye!

Even before the charges were dropped Tuesday, I knew in my bones that this situation was about the level of deference that a white cop expects from a black man. According to his own written report, this officer understood that he was dealing with a lawful resident of the house when he made the arrest and was no longer concerned about the report of a “burglary in progress” involving “two black males.” No, by this point we're talking about something else entirely.

Exactly (except it probably had little or nothing to do with race): it seems to be primarily about the level of deference that a cop expects from citizens. It wasn't about burglary; it was about Gates being an idiot on his front porch after the incident should have been over.

Democratic super-majority is "not enough" OR McConnell gets off a zinger

From the AP in the C-J...

Democratic and GOP officials acknowledged Sunday that Obama's ambitious plan would not pass without the aid of a doubtful GOP, whose members are almost united against the White House effort.

"Look, there are not the votes for Democrats to do this just on our side of the aisle," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., the chairman of the budget committee.

Sen. Conrad mis-spoke or is confused about his party's super-majority status!

Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat and a member of the fiscally conservative "Blue Dogs," said he doubts the Democratic-controlled House could pass a proposal as it's drafted now.

OUCH! Glad to see the Blue Dogs step up on something!

Sensing a public uneasiness over the pace and price tag of the overhaul, Republicans said the longer the delay, the more the public understands the stakes of a policy that has vexed lawmakers for decades.

Yep. And then there's the little matter of the prospects of "overhaul". Thus, the rush to prejudice-- pre-judgment-- on the part of Obama and the left wing of the Democratic party.

"The only thing bipartisan about the measure so far is the opposition to it," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

NICE!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"masculine" Christianity

Brief excerpts from a lengthy essay on the pros and cons of this movement-- by Brandon O'Brien in Christianity Today...

The disparity in men's and women's attendance in American churches has made men the target of specialized ministry over the last two decades. Promise Keepers kicked off the men's movement in 1990 by challenging stadiums full of men and boys to fulfill their duties to God and their families. Today a growing body of literature is leveling its sights on the church, suggesting that men are uninvolved in church life because the church doesn't encourage authentic masculine participation.

The first writer to popularize this concern was John Eldredge, who, in his three-million-selling Wild at Heart (Thomas Nelson, 2001), lamented that the masculine spirit was at risk because "most men believe God put them on the earth to be good boys." The church's tendency to promote discipleship as merely becoming "nice guys" keeps men from embodying their God-given maleness.

O'Brien then cites: 1.) David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church who founded "Church for Men"; comedian Brad Stine who was inspired by Murrow and began GodMen; and 3.) Paul Coughlin, author of No More Christian Nice Guy-- before responding:

I respect what these authors are trying to accomplish. They recognize that the Jesus of the Bible—unlike the Jesus of much contemporary Christian art and music—was not afraid to denounce, challenge, and offend....The movement's method of reclaiming the radical nature of the gospel, however, poses a genuine threat to Christian discipleship....

The masculinity movement's solution assumes that Jesus came to model genuine masculinity. The authors don't say so explicitly, but their rhetoric assumes manly instincts are inherently godly...Besides offering an extremely narrow view of masculinity, this framework totally excludes women from real discipleship. To begin with, it blames them for neutering the gospel...Perhaps worse, if Christ is the model of masculinity, then women can't imitate him. They can pursue him as the lover of their souls. They can imitate his devotion to the Father in their relationships with their husbands. But they can't become like him in any essential way....

Two letters in the next issue take some issue with O'Brien:

Roger Olson, a professor of theology at Baylor, agrees with his critique but complains about his "failure to say what it means to be masculine as a Christian". To be fair, I think O'Brien at least implicitly lays out some of that vision. But to Olson's point, it's always easier to critique than to put forward a positive vision of a complex topic.

A second letter writer, Mark Jalovick, pens praise for regular men who are too busy doing the right stuff to all excited about the debate. Again, the point is valid, but there is still an important discussion to have about the feminization of parts of the church.

a call to revival in the Christian family

From Gene Edward Veith in World...

Christians worried about the state of our culture often look for political and legal solutions. Others hope to turn things around by getting involved with the media and the entertainment industry. But culture begins at home.

Studies have long shown that the chances of a child growing up to become a criminal plummet to almost zero if he is raised by two loving parents. Two-parent families are also the most effective anti-poverty program....

I hasten to reassure single moms that none of these dire consequences necessarily come to pass. Christians, especially, have God's promise to the fatherless that "I will be a father to you" (2 Corinthians 6:18). But Christians who want to strike a mighty blow in the culture wars would do well to build up their own families....

Often churches are part of the problem, with so many activities that add to the busyness of the week rather than encouraging members to devote time to their families.

Christians also need to recover the joy of family life, not a spirit of harshness, with the father trying to rule with an iron fist and the mother controlling her children with rigid rules and severe punishments....

A revival of the Christian family would have far-reaching cultural ramifications. A network of strong and happy families would help stabilize American culture. They would also provide a powerful Christian witness to the cultural casualties who, on the deepest level, yearn for a family like that.

the sign of the Cross

From Nathan Bierma in Christianity Today...

Bierma's essay is, in essence, a reflection on two books-- The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, the Mystery, the History, by Andreas Andreopoulos and The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer, by Bert Ghezzi.

Over time, Christians have imbued this small, simple gesture with volumes of theological meaning. Holding three fingers together — thumb, forefinger, and middle finger — as you make the sign symbolizes the Trinity. Holding the other two fingers against your palm represents the two natures of Christ, human and divine. Dropping the hand from forehead to waist to begin the gesture represents Christ's descent to earth. The upward movement that follows represents his resurrection. And so on....

The origins of the sign are unknown; as Andreopoulos points out: "our information is sparse because this ancient practice emerged naturally, as something that made sense to most Christians."

Bierma then briefly discusses:

...the debates over whether to finish the motion with a left-to-right movement (left cross) or right-to-left (right cross). The right cross, still practiced by Eastern Orthodox believers, symbolizes how "Christ descended from the heavens to the earth, and from the Jews (right) He passed to the Gentiles (left)," according to Pope Innocent III. In Roman Catholic practice, the left cross has become standard, showing, (in one of many interpretations) that the believer hopes to be not on Christ's left—with the goats, as in Jesus' parable—at the day of judgment, but on Christ's right....

Then, the punchline:

Protestant objections to the sign of the cross are seldom articulated beyond the vague dismissal, "It's a Catholic thing," but Martin Luther prescribed the sign of the cross in his Small Catechism, and the sign has long been part of Episcopal and Lutheran practice. As both Andreopoulos and Ghezzi show, the sign of the cross is hardly a uniquely Catholic practice; it has deep roots in the early and Eastern churches and clear ties to Scripture.

After reading these two books, this previously ignorant Protestant, for one, has decided to introduce the sign of the cross into his daily prayer, as a link with the early church, a sign of God's claim on me, and a reminder of the mystery of the Trinity.

Whether we practice it or not, the sign of the cross is one manifestation of how physical—how embodied—worship really is....

C.S. Lewis quote-of-the-week

“There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’…All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolic attempt to express the inexpressible…People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.”

--Mere Christianity, book 3, ch. 10

Saturday, July 25, 2009

why is there seemingly so little competition in the market for health insurance?

From the AP's Maureen Groppe in the C-J...

Increasing the government's role in health care would interfere with natural market competition and reduce consumer choices, critics of the idea say.

But by one measure, there's little competition now among health insurers with four companies dominating the country. The American Antitrust Institute says one or two firms dominate most U.S. cities.

A case in point: Indiana's largest insurer, Indianapolis-based WellPoint, controls 58 percent of the state market, according to the American Medical Association. WellPoint and the state's next-largest insurer, The HealthCare Group, control a combined 75 percent of Indiana's health insurance market.

The administration of President Barack Obama argues that a proposed public insurance plan run by the federal government would force private insurers to compete on price and value....

There's some competition and the government proposes to provide more. But two vital things are left unanswered and even unasked:

1.) What level of subsidy will the government insurance provide. The greater the subsidy, the more likely that the govt option gains more monopoly power than the current arrangement.

2.) Are there any govt policies contributing to the market concentration in the health insurance industry. That number seems relatively high to be "natural". It smells like something that the govt has had a hand in creating. If anyone knows any particulars, let us know!

Although there are more than 1,000 private health insurance carriers, 94 percent of the nation's metropolitan areas meet the federal antitrust definition of being highly concentrated, according to a 2008 survey by the American Medical Association. One insurer controlled at least 30 percent of the commercial market in most areas and controlled at least half the market in 44 percent of the areas.

These are odd numbers. How can there be 1000 carriers, but so little competition within any given city?!

seeking to erode or end employer/employee flexibility in health insurance

From the editorialists of the WSJ...

About 177 million people—or 62% of those under age 65—get insurance today through their jobs, and while rising costs are a problem, according to every survey most employees are happy with the coverage. A major reason for this relative success is a 1974 federal law known by the acronym Erisa, or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Erisa allows employers that self-insure—that is, those large enough to build their own risk pools and pay benefits directly—to offer uniform plans across state lines. This lets thousands of businesses avoid, for the most part, the costly federal and state regulations on covered treatments, pricing, rate setting and so on. It also gives them flexibility to design insurance to recruit and retain workers in a competitive labor market. Roughly 75% of employer-based coverage is governed by Erisa’s “freedom of purchase” rules.

Goodbye to all that. The House bill says that after a five-year grace period all Erisa insurance offerings will have to win government approval—both by the Department of Labor and a new “health choices commissioner” who will set federal standards for what is an acceptable health plan....

In other words, the insurance coverage of 132 million people—the product of enormously complex business and health-care decisions—will now be subject to bureaucratic nanomanagement....

So when Mr. Obama says that “If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what,” he’s wrong. Period. What he’s not telling the American people is that the government will so dramatically change the rules of the insurance market that employers will find it impossible to maintain their current coverage, and many will drop it altogether....

the moderate GOP senators and health care "reform"

From Kim Strassel in the WSJ...

If there's one guy who may hold the whole health-care world in his hands, it's Sen. Chuck Grassley. That ought to have President Barack Obama worried.

The Iowan has for months served as GOP point man on ObamaCare. He has an unusually tight relationship with his Democratic counterpart, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. And he vowed early on that if there was a deal to be found, he'd find it.

That determination gave Republicans heartburn. Conservatives saw Mr. Obama's sweeping health ambitions, and saw no good coming from the Grassley-Baucus powwow. Fresh in their minds was Mr. Grassley's past work to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which the left marked as its first big step toward greater government health care.

Mr. Baucus knows that most major sustainable legislative achievements -- from the Reagan tax cuts to welfare reform -- have had bipartisan support. Getting Mr. Grassley's imprimatur meant getting moderate Republicans, maybe even a sizable chunk of the GOP. It meant shoring up nervous Dems. It meant a health reform that might last.

It also meant listening to Mr. Grassley. Committed as he's been to getting legislation, the Iowan has been clear on what he considers nonnegotiable. The White House and liberal Democrats have cavalierly ignored these parameters, vexing him greatly in the process. There are growing signs the Republican may exit the table. He won't have walked away; he'll have been shoved.

Mr. Grassley took President Obama at his word that the goal of this exercise was to lower costs and insure more Americans. But from the start he rejected the idea that this could be accomplished by government squeezing out the private market....

Left to their camaraderie, Messrs. Baucus and Grassley might hammer this out. But Senate liberals, who never wanted compromise, are forcing Mr. Baucus to choose between their bread and Mr. Grassley's butter....

Mr. Grassley goes his own way, and he may yet irk Republicans. But so far he's serving as a good litmus test of how committed the Democratic majority is to working with the other side.

Noonan on Obama's health care woes and his unusually lame presser

Here's Peggy Noonan in the WSJ...

This is big, what’s happening. President Obama appears to have misstepped on a major initiative and defining issue. He has misjudged the nation’s mood, which itself is news: He rose from nothing to everything with the help of his fine-tuned antennae....The president, in short, may be facing a real loss. This will be interesting in a number of ways and for a number of reasons, among them that we’ve never seen him publicly defeated before, because he hasn’t been....

His news conference the other night was bad. He was filibustery and spinny and gave long and largely unfollowable answers that seemed aimed at limiting the number of questions asked and running out the clock. You don’t do that when you’re fully confident. Far more seriously, he didn’t seem to be telling the truth. We need to create a new national health-care program in order to cut down on government spending? Who would believe that? Would anybody?

The common wisdom the past week has been that whatever challenges health care faces, the president will at least get something because he has a Democratic House and Senate and they’re not going to let their guy die. He’ll get this or that, maybe not a new nationalized system but some things, and he’ll be able to declare some degree of victory.

And this makes sense. But after the news conference, I found myself wondering if he’d get anything.

I think the plan is being slowed and may well be stopped not by ideology, or even by philosophy in a strict sense, but by simple American common sense. I suspect voters, the past few weeks, have been giving themselves an internal Q-and-A that goes something like this:

Will whatever health care bill is produced by Congress increase the deficit? “Of course.” Will it mean tax increases? “Of course.” Will it mean new fees or fines? “Probably.” Can I afford it right now? “No, I’m already getting clobbered.” Will it make the marketplace freer and better? “Probably not.” Is our health care system in crisis? “Yeah, it has been for years.” Is it the most pressing crisis right now? “No, the economy is.” Will a health-care bill improve the economy? “I doubt it.”...

the probable implosion of Obama's health care plans

I can think of a number of reasons to expect health care "reform" (as currently proposed by the Democrats) to founder, resulting in nothing except a cover-your-tail exercise or at most, modest changes.

1.) Spending/debt: The massive increase in spending and debt under Bush and now even moreso under Obama-- both make a super-spending effort nearly impossible.

2.) The recession: The economic downturn makes reform somewhat more likely in that more people are without care and feel more vulnerable. But that is easily trumped by the realization that imposing costs on firms can't be a smart move during such a deep recession.

3.) The biggie: It's akin to "throw the bums out" of Congress, but I like my bum pretty well. (We don't like Congress, but we like our own representative well enough.) With respect to health care, people believe that the system is broken. But most people are content enough with their own health care-- such that a massive change will be viewed as too risky by too many people to be viable politically.

4.) If the Dems have any historical memory, they have to remember that they spent ten years in relative Wilderness because of Clinton's health care plans in 1993-4. Presumably, they're a little antsy about the prospects of an eerie repeat.

nailing the economy and all workers

From the editorialists of the WSJ, a focus on the new payroll taxes and top marginal income tax rates proposed by the Democrats...

[REVIEW & OUTLOOK]

Say this about the 1,018-page health-care bill that House Democrats unveiled this week and that President Obama heartily endorsed: It finally reveals at least some of the price of the reckless ambitions of our current government....

Mr. Obama's February budget provided the outline, but the House bill now fills in the details. To wit, tax increases that would take U.S. rates higher even than most of Europe. Yet even those increases aren't nearly enough to finance the $1 trillion in new spending, which itself is surely a low-ball estimate....

A new payroll tax. Unemployment is at 9.5% and rising, but Democrats will nonetheless impose a new eight percentage point payroll tax on employers who don't provide health insurance for employees. This is on top of the current 15% payroll tax, and in addition to a new 2.5-percentage point tax on individuals who don't buy health insurance. This means that any employer with more than $400,000 in payroll would have to pay at least 25% above the salary to hire someone. Result: Many fewer new jobs, with a higher structural jobless rate, much as Europe has experienced as its welfare states have expanded.

Given the inelasticity of labor supply, an additional 8% payroll tax will result in 8% lower wages. Nice trade-off, huh?

This is the saddest part of all: extending such a painful tax (far more painful for most people than the so-called income tax). Instead of extending it, any true friend of the working poor and middle class would be looking to reduce or eliminate it. Sadly, Democrats don't qualify.


the bailouts of unions and poorly-managed companies continues

From a handful of writers in a WSJ article, a story of redistribution...

Money will be taken from taxpayers in order to give about $90,000 per Delphi worker. How nice!

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. agreed to take on $6.2 billion in pension liabilities from bankrupt auto supplier Delphi Corp., putting in place a key piece in the bailout of the car industry but renewing pressure on a government agency facing huge burdens as more companies fail....the government will take over payments for 70,000 workers and retirees that Delphi says it can't afford under its restructuring plan....

The move also removes a major obligation that has slowed Delphi's nearly four-year trip through bankruptcy court...Still, Delphi faces other formidable challenges....

Louisville, racism, and the civil rights movement

An article about Tracy K'Meyer's new book, "Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South"-- from the C-J's Judith Everton...

(K'Meyer, a professor of history at U of L, is a modest social acquaintance of mine; her husband Glenn used to work at IUS before U of L lured him away.)

She found that Louisville's location as a border city between the North and South was a relatively less virulent place for African Americans than cities in the Deep South, partly because Louisville blacks were not faced with Jim Crow restrictions on voting as were African Americans in more Southern cities.

There are other factors. Coalitions of black activists, liberal whites and religious organizations have traditionally worked together for racial equality in public accommodations, employment and housing. Also, Louisville's geographical location ensured that the city would maintain commercial ties to the North.

Compared to Birmingham, Ala., and other Southern cities, Louisville's buses were not officially segregated, and reaction by police to sit-ins and protests was less brutal....

That doesn't mean racism did not exist, K'Meyer said. Physical attacks by whites against blacks, including the firebombing of a black family's home in 1954 and other acts of racial hatred occurred. But more often, bigotry was more subtle and segregation more ambiguous, said the historian....

K'Meyer's research reveals that Louisville's civil-rights movement involved a series of peaks and valleys. Tipping points for change occurred with the sit-ins in the early 1960s, demonstrations for open housing and the school-busing crisis of the 1970s....

another (prospectively) racial incident; a much happier ending

Hey, this is a lot better than the Gates/Obama story:

A nice vignette from the C-J a happy ending for the awkward dismissal of a group of inner-city kids from a pool in Pennsylvania a few weeks back...

Explaining the expulsion, the president of the swim club said, “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.” The man later apologized for the incident, and what he called his poor choice of words.

Boy, it'd be nice if Obama moved from regret for a poor choice of words to an apology!

The kids caught in this unfortunate event have happier things to look forward to. They're going to Disney World. Entertainment magnate Tyler Perry, star of all the Madea movies, is sending the 65 kids who got kicked out the pool to the Florida theme park from Aug. 1-3. He's paying for everything...

the case of Henry Louis Gates: race in America, rampant & ironic prejudice, and the connection of Obama's unfortunate remarks to federal health caree

This image of Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his Cambridge home has earned more than $4,000 for the photographer and the agency he hired.

The police report and the story of "the photo" is provided here (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

A lot has been said about this, but let me provide some value-added from the viewpoint of a Labor economist:

-The base of prejudice is a lack of information. The term itself means to "pre-judge", implying that someone is making a decision with too little information. At times, such decisions are necessary-- and hopefully, people do the best they can with the info they have. At other times, there is an unnecessary rush to judgment.

-In a moment of crisis-- in this case, both Gates dealing with the police and the police dealing with him-- agents make important decisions. But in judging the events from the outside, looking into the past and with less-than-ideal info, people have been unnecessarily quick to rush to prejudicial judgments. The irony here is greatest among those who pre-judge by accusing the police of discrimination, basing their inferences on limited info and a lack of humility in forming and publicly sharing those inferences.

-The funniest and most revealing example is President Obama's now-famous over-reach in his "word choice" at his presser. Funny-- again, given its irony. Surprising in that he is usually so careful (often painfully so) with his words. Revealing-- in what he thinks about race and what he thinks about his powers of assessment. Odd-- in that he is supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer whose default should be to support the police. Sad-- in that he will not apologize for creating and then stepping in a steaming pile of dung, harming rather than advancing race relations in the U.S.

-The connection to health care? Obama believes that a federal solution is the best way to handle local problems. He has faith in government and his own powers of discernment-- and correspondingly, far less faith in markets, local decision making, and the intellect of others. Instead of deferring to the local experts who knew more about the situation, Obama presumed to be able to speak with expertise to a situation in which he had far too much ignorance. In health care, he presumes the same thing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Baron Hill just voted to take your money and give it to Planned Parenthood...

UPDATE: The Pence Amendment failed, mostly, on party lines.

Baron Hill voted again to take our money and give it abortion providers.
Not exactly "Hoosier values" or "fiscal conservatism".

Thanks Baron!

Pence Amendment to get a vote today

I've been critical of the Republicans (including my Republican Congressional opponent in 2006 and 2008) for tolerating taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, even when they controlled Congress and the Presidency.

After they lost Congress in 2006, Rep. Mike Pence brought forward an amendment to end the taxpayer funding to the largest abortion provider. Why didn't it get done earlier-- while they were in control? I don't know. The potential answers range from ignorance to lack of passion about the issue to some remarkably cynical options.

I have no idea about the probability of its success in a Democratic Congress. (It did not pass last year!) But I'll certainly be praying!

Here's an op-ed by Pence-- and here's the press release from the American Life League. The press release does not specify what the amendment amends, but Pence makes clear that it is the annual HHS budget bill.


Washington, DC (24 July 2009) – In a Thursday surprise, an amendment to strip hundreds of millions of dollars from the nation's largest abortion business is set for a Friday vote on the House floor.

The Pence Amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion chain, of Title X funding in the Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill passed successfully through the House Rules Committee late Thursday.

"In a time of economic crisis it makes no sense for the federal goverment to spend millions of dollars killing millions of future taxpayers," said Shaun Kenney, executive director of American Life League. "Why are the American people forced to fund this vile organization? It's time our legislators represent the will of the people against Planned Parenthood's powerful Washington lobby."

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) introduced the Amendment Tuesday which states:

“None of the funds made available under this Act shall be available to Planned Parenthood for any purpose under Title X of the Public Health Services Act.”

American Life League motivated supporters around the country in the past week to support the measure. ALL's STOP Planned Parenthood project is the nation's largest watchdog organization dedicated to eradicating Planned Parenthood in the United States.

“Millions of tax dollars are wasted each year fueling an organization that promotes eugenics and protects sexual predators under the guise of ‘family planning’” said Rita Diller, national director of American Life League’s STOP Planned Parenthood project.

Kenney agrees:

"Planned Parenthood is leeching off our impoverished economy while raking in money hand over first," Kenney said. "Any legislator who votes to fund Planned Parenthood is putting the lives of men, women and children at risk."

American Life League was cofounded in 1979 by Judie Brown. It is the largest grassroots Catholic pro-life organization in the United States and is committed to the protection of all innocent human beings from the moment of creation to natural death. For more information or press inquiries, please contact Katie Walker at 540.659.4942.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blue Poodles or Blue Chihuahuas?

When it comes to fiscal matters, how can we more precisely categorize Baron Hill and the Blue Dogs? (Sounds like a bad rock band!)

Borrowing a phrase from a friend who borrowed from someone else...

It'd have to be Blue Chihuahuas or Blue Poodles.

They could also be stand-up comedians. Baron is SO side-splitting funny when he tells us that line about being a fiscal conservative. Hi-larious!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

guest post: Are We Truly One Nation Under God? (Have We Ever Been?)

My second guest post-- the first from someone I've never met and this one from a friend of mine, Shawn Farley...

Shawn wrote this for July 4th. But its questions are eternal-- from the failure to self-govern in Genesis to the idolatry toward government in the Old Testament, as well as contemporary idolatry in the World and even in the Church.

----------------------------

It’s that time of year again.

You know, fireworks, parades, cook-outs, and a national holiday we Americans call “Independence Day.” For evangelical Christians, it almost certainly involves a special sermon, recognition of veterans, possibly a class or two in Sunday School, and maybe some patriotic songs during the church service.

During the class(es) in Sunday School and the sermon, statements made by the founding fathers of our nation will probably be listed. Such statements by George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or others will be expanded upon.

All of this is perfectly harmless – almost.

However, before we dig into this point, let’s first examine the information known.

The first time I re-examined my beliefs on the subject of the American Revolution occurred when working with a supplier from England. This gentleman was a naturalized citizen of the United States, but had been born and raised in Great Britain. I remember working with Peter in late June 2001 and asking Peter what he was going to do for Independence Day.

Peter looked at me dryly as only the English can do and asked, “You mean the day of American insurrection?”

His statement caught me flat footed. I wasn’t sure what to say. So, I laughed and Peter laughed at his very dry joke.

Still, the thought lingered.

I began re-thinking what I had learned in the past. Why had the colonies rebelled? What had driven our forefathers to do this?

I reviewed what had been written and said by these revolutionaries. I reviewed Thomas Payne, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson. Since then, I have sat in on lectures on other signers of the Declaration of Independence. “Give me liberty or give me death!” the statement by Patrick Henry rings loudest from the statements by the American Patriots. The entire Declaration of Independence, written largely by Thomas Jefferson, was a treatise expanding on this statement with the rational argument that separation from England was the logical conclusion. One of the flags developed was that of a snake with the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.” So much has been written, said, and preserved about this phase in our history.

My conclusion was what we have always heard and were taught: “Taxation without representation.” Though freedom of religion was a reason for the first settlers to come to the western hemisphere aboard the Mayflower, there was no indication that religious intolerance was a reason for the revolution. In fact, if one reads the Declaration of Independence, there is absolutely no mention of any infringement on religious liberties. Around the time of the Revolution, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Anglicans, and many others were thriving in the English Empire. John Wesley was working out the basis for the Methodist movement to begin.

The last paragraph of the Declaration makes an appeal to God for the “rectitude of our intentions” (Wikipedia). When I searched the word “rectitude”, the equivalent was “righteousness”. Could it be the signers were seeking God’s approval for their undertaking?

What all of this tells us that the American Colonists rebelled for the simple fact that we did not want to pay taxes to England in large part because we, the American colonists, were not represented in either house of the English Parliament.

From there, our nation began a struggle to break ties with the British. We fought them all up and down the Atlantic Coast. Initially, the English succeeded against us. However, due to our perseverance and diplomacy to involve the French, we prevailed culminating at Yorktown, Virginia with the surrender of General Cornwallis. Incredible sacrifices were made by all involved. Indeed, many of the men that signed the Declaration were hunted down and killed or imprisoned.

We have invested, as a nation, the last 233 years expanding on this experiment in modified democracy. We have developed the model for the world with our Constitution, we have cultivated a fierce independence on a personal level with results that are sometimes breathtaking. We have created an economy that is, even in its current depressed state, still the envy of the world. Our innovation has allowed us to defeat diseases, defeat Russian communism, and advance the civilizations of the world. We are the “City on a Hill” from a materialistic and worldly perspective.

As an American, a veteran (yes, I was in the 82d Airborne Division making 40 jumps – some of them with my eyes open!), and a patriot, I am so proud of these efforts of the individuals of our nation and the collective synergy that has developed in spite of our differences. I am so proud of the likes of Ridgeway, Gavin, Shelton, McArthur, Nimitz, Lee, and even Grant. Of King, Bell, Edison, Whitney, Kennedy, and countless nameless others who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf!

But, mixed in with these successes are the seeds of our destruction. For example, let us take that so well known statement of Patrick Henry. If we change a few words in this statement, the statement sounds strangely like one that might be made by my six-year-old daughter. “Give me a toy or I’m going to cry!”

We expanded the borders of our country under the premise of Manifest Destiny dislodging countless people in the process who had lived on this land for quite possibly 2000 years if not longer. We took from Mexico the current states of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. Texas declared their own independence from Mexico and eventually joined the Union.

Then, we had the ultimate test of our own – the American Civil War or War Between the States as it is sometimes known. In fact, as Mr. Peter (my supplier) had shown me above, the definition of an event depends on one’s perspective. For the people in the South, this war has become known as the “War of Northern Aggression.” Regardless of how this war is known, it began for the same basic reason the Revolutionary war did some 85 years earlier - the South did not want to be told what to do by the Federal Government. This issue was so divisive that in fact the issue is still not settled in parts of our country almost 150 years later!

You see, we started at a very early age focusing on “me”. We expanded west because it was our self-proclaimed destiny. We took California because it was ours. We seceded from the Union because the Abolitionists were infringing on our rights [to keep others enslaved thus taking their rights]. All of our efforts became about “me” in one form or another.

It is at this point that we must look to that book we evangelicals at least say we put first in our lives – the Bible. What did God, through the hands and intellect of the writers of this great work, tell us about living on this rotating ball called earth from the perspective of a redeemed child of God? The best example is the life that God in the flesh, Jesus, lived during the 33 years he walked, ate and slept among us. Jesus lived a sinless life thus providing us the standard of how to live, so let us examine what he did.

Jesus paid his taxes (Matthew 17: 24-27) and urged his fellows Jews to pay their taxes (Mark 12: 13-17) in spite of the fact there was no representation for the Jews in Rome. The Romans had conquered Canaan and what they said went! Talk about taxation without representation! Jesus did not want a rebellion. As Jesus lead a sinless life, we are to assume he did not lead a rebellion to become the political leader he was prophesied to be in the Old Testament as it was not the Father’s will at that time. In fact, when faced with the possibility that he may be forced to the center of an insurrection against the Romans, Jesus withdrew (John 6: 14-15) and actually pushed many of his followers away (John 6: 60-67)!

Peter tells us to respect the leaders that are over us stating "For the Lord's sake, respect all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed." (I Peter 2:13-14). Note that Peter writes "For the Lord's sake". He is pleading with us. Peter goes on to write "Fear God, and respect the king." (I Peter 2: 17).

Paul tells us the same in Romans 13: 1-6 even going so far as to say that "anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished." (Romans 13:2) This is not a request to submit to the authorities placed over us. Paul does not write that we really should do this if we feel like it. Paul does not write that it might be a really good idea to pay our taxes. Paul writes emphatically that we are commanded to do these things.

Based on these examples from Scripture, what conclusion can we draw from the actions of our forefathers? What does one call it when one does the opposite that God the Father commands? I believe the term is spelled S-I-N. Yes, I know that may be shocking to some of you reading this that I would write that the actions taken by the heroes of our country are sinful. It almost sounds like I am writing for a communist or socialist newspaper attempting to disgrace our country. However, please bear with me a little longer as I describe the consequences of this sin.

Does everyone agree that there are negative consequences for any sin? Look to the original sin. Once Adam and Eve tasted the first time of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, there was nakedness and shame. Then, anger from God. Then God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skins (where do you think the skins came from? Yes, God had to kill at least one animal.) Then banishment from the Garden of Eden. Then pains in child birth and "work" took on a negative connotation. Then death entered the world. (Genesis 3) Finally, God would be required to take on the form of a man (John 1) and die on a cross to save us! (Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, John 19:30)

How about adultery? Does anything good come from adultery? Look at David. His actions ended in the deaths of Uriah and David’s and Bathsheba’s unnamed illegitimate son. (2 Samuel 11 - 12) Think of how this sin of adultery has impacted someone you know personally. Is it a positive impact?

Do you see where this goes? There is a never ending trail of pain and sadness that comes from committing sin.

With so many examples for living under authority from the New Testament, why did our founding fathers decide to take things in their own hands? More importantly, however, is what have been the consequences of this sin?

Now we focus on the consequences of our nation’s sin; the sin of our forefathers. To start this final section, I ask you to list out all of the issues that plague our nation from the perspective of an evangelical Christian. A great number come to mind. Abortion. Divorce. Pornography. A general decline in morality. Same sex marriage. Pick one or two or three! Please take note before proceeding that I am a fallen human just as you are and just as the any person that may have dealt with or is in the middle of any of these or countless other situations.

Now take these issues and do a thorough review of why any one person would want to engage in any of these activities. For example, why does a woman want an abortion? Statistics tells us that 93%+ of the time a woman wants an abortion is because the coming child would cause a change to her life that is unwanted by her whether fear of being not ready, fear of being unable to afford a child, parental influence, interference with career plans, etc. "Give me my abortion or give me…”

The divorce rate in the United States is currently between 50% and 53% depending on where you look. Regardless, one in two people you will meet have had a divorce or will have one in their lifetime! Again, why? “I just didn’t love him or her anymore.” “I fell in love with someone else.” “I just wasn’t happy anymore.” “Give me my divorce or I’ll sue you for it!” There are some valid reasons for divorce such as physical abuse or child molestation or abuse to name a few. Even in these situations, the abuser is wrapped up in themselves and not looking at what is happening to the person they vowed to love and honor. Again, it is all about “me”.

We evangelicals sit around and wring our hands over these issues and many others. We stress over what is becoming of our nation. We shake our heads when we read the latest headline and take on a judgmental tone when hearing that our neighbors are dealing with one or more of the issues listed above. We worry about Judge Sotomayor being nominated to the Supreme Court and what impact having a "liberal" judge on the court may have. We worry about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and how this will impact the Republican Party and how it looks bad on us. How can this be happening we ask one another. And then, during this time of year, and often throughout the year, we idolize the very people who set us on this course. We wonder how “the separation of church and state” ever emerged into our national conscience since it was never in the Constitution to start with. Maybe we should start by realizing that what we idolize every year is not at this time was not what God intended. Maybe we should take the lead in humbling ourselves before God and praying for our country and stop with the hero worship whether the heroes are from 230 years ago or last November.

What we engage in is compartmentalization. This is the same compartmentalization that allows a minister to preach about how evil adultery is while at the same time carrying on an extra-marital affair himself. Or how a state governor justifies flying to Argentina to be with his mistress and yet has the nerve to apologize to his wife and their four children. Or how a president claims to be a Christian while allowing prisoners to be tortured during his watch. Or how another president looks straight into a camera and says he did not have sex with that woman only to find out that later that he did indeed have sex with that woman. Or how the most vocal advocate for global warming jets around the country in his G5 expelling more pollutants into the atmosphere than riding a commercial jet that was going that direction anyway. Or how I ignored the homeless person this past week while in Tennessee while listening to contemporary Christian music on the radio. What a bunch of hypocrites we are!

Maybe the problem with our nation is what occurred with David in 2 Samuel 24 by taking a census. Instead of relying on God as the strength of Israel, David decided to take a count of the number of warriors who could “handle a sword” (2 Samuel 24:9). Having received the count of 1,300,000 warriors, David must have felt some sense of satisfaction or pride in having built an army so large. Surely, no one would think of attacking Israel now! However, in verse 10, David begins to feel guilty for doing this “foolish thing” (2 Samuel 24:10). Maybe the pride that we feel in the accomplishments of our nation is what is coming between God and us? Maybe our national pride is our sin? As Jesus’ lessons and statements tell us, we are to let nothing come between God and us. Could it be that our continued celebration of our own revolution and our national accomplishments has become our downfall? Could it be that by continuing to celebrate our own national sin, we are failing to seek forgiveness and thus we fall into the trap of Romans 1 of being turned over to our sin?

I realize this is a difficult side of this topic to consider, a side that the vast majority of Americans have never considered. As a result, the first reaction will be one of anger and that the entire argument is based on an incorrect premise. However, I am asking you to step back a re-consider all of the notions you have had.

Please do not misunderstand that we are called to move forward and to live out the Great Commission. Regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves, repentance and forgiveness are available. We can ask forgiveness. We can go on our knees to God and ask forgiveness and break the chain.

Perhaps, this July 4, instead of celebrating breaking God’s commands, we should repent instead. Perhaps, we should get rid of the pride that has built a wall between God and us and return to God only for our protection, strength, and provision. Perhaps we should focus on being Christians only and leave everything else at the altar.

Take a hard look in the mirror, fellow evangelicals. We have met the enemy and he is us!

Monday, July 20, 2009

9th District in 2010 coverage

Hoosier Pundit does a nice job on this, so there's no need for me to re-create the proverbial wheel.

I don't think it looks good for the GOP in 2010. Obama's slide will continue, but I don't see it as quick enough-- and I don't see the GOP poised to take advantage. One thing that will probably slow Obama's slide: The Left is constrained by the national debt in a way that will likely prevent it from shooting itself in the foot on health care.

As HP notes: In the 9th, it's difficult to imagine that an ideal but modestly-funded candidate would be able to rise up successfully against incumbent Hill in 2010.

Friday, July 17, 2009

health research in the WSJ

I didn't know they provided this feature on a regular basis, so I'm blogging about that-- as well as the particulars of this report...

Migraines and Breast Cancer: Women with a history of migraines were 74% as likely to have had breast cancer as women who reported no migraines...The reduced risk was similar among both pre- and postmenopausal women, and even for women who drank alcohol or smoked tobacco. The association between migraines and breast cancer is of particular interest because both diseases are influenced by hormonal changes... (Read more.)

Mental Health: People who were married or lived with a partner around age 50 retained much more cognitive function two decades later than people who at midlife were single, divorced or widowed...subjects who were widowed around age 50 and continued to live without a partner were nearly eight times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s... (Read more.)

Smoking On Screen: Adolescents who see larger numbers of movies in which a main character smokes are more likely to try smoking regardless of whether that character is a “good guy” or a “bad guy”... (Read more.)

Stress and Risk: Stress increases the difference in risk-taking behavior between the sexes, causing men to take even more risks and women to take even fewer... (Read more.)

Epilepsy: Two types of cells that act as part of the brain’s immune-system response to help heal brain injury and infection may also cause chronic epileptic seizures by overexciting nearby neurons... (Read more.)

increase the minimum wage to drive up (minority) teen and head-of-household unemployment

More details on the higher minimum wage (after my recent posts on this-- here and here)-- and in particular, its adverse impact on teen and minority teen employment-- from the editorialists in the WSJ...

Here's some economic logic to ponder. The unemployment rate in June for American teenagers was 24%, for black teens it was 38%, and even White House economists are predicting more job losses. So how about raising the cost of that teenage labor?

Sorry to say, but that's precisely what will happen on July 24, when the minimum wage will increase to $7.25 an hour from $6.55. The national wage floor will have increased 41% since the three-step hike was approved by the Democratic Congress in May 2007. Then the economy was humming, with an overall jobless rate of 4.5% and many entry-level jobs paying more than the minimum. That's a hard case to make now, with a 9.5% national jobless rate and thousands of employers facing razor-thin profit margins....

Keep in mind the Earned Income Tax Credit already exists to help low-wage workers and has been greatly expanded in recent years. The EITC also spreads the cost of the wage supplement to all Americans, not merely to employers, so it doesn't raise the cost of hiring low-wage workers....But that single mom can't collect those checks if she doesn't have a job, and the tragedy of a higher minimum wage is that it will prevent thousands of working moms striving to pull their families out of poverty from being hired in the first place.

If Congress were wise and compassionate, it would at least suspend the wage hike for one or two years until the job market recovers. We know this Congress won't do that, but someone has to speak up for the poorest, least skilled Americans.

*Democratic* Catholics are OK: another double standard on Sotomayor

Given the pro-choice position of most Democrats, Democratic Catholic is either an oxymoron or must refer to a cultural/cafeteria Catholicism. But that's a topic for another day...

Here, William McGurn points to a double standard on Sotomayor's nomination in the WSJ-- the acceptance of her Catholicism when the Catholicism of Roberts and Alito was supposedly cause for concern. So much for liberal tolerance and political consistency.

Of course, this follows the double standards of Sotomayor and her most fervent supporters on the matter of her (in)famous remarks about race and judicial ability.

In opening yesterday's Judiciary Committee hearings on Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, Chairman Pat Leahy (D., Vt.) alluded to the religious prejudice that has too often intruded on the process.

The first Jewish nominee, he noted, had to answer "questions about the Jewish mind and how its operations are complicated by altruism." The first Catholic nominee, he added, "had to overcome the argument that, as a Catholic, he'd be dominated by the pope."

"We are," Sen. Leahy declared, "in a different era."

Maybe. It's true that if Ms. Sotomayor is confirmed there will be six Catholics on the Court -- a higher percentage than almost any Notre Dame starting lineup of the past three decades. It's also true that notwithstanding a few scattered references to this fact, for the most part the judge's religion has been greeted, as a USA Today headline put it, with a "yawn."

How different from just a few years ago. Back when the nominee was Sam Alito, talk was about the "fifth Catholic" on the bench. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, complained that "with Alito, the majority of the Court would be Roman Catholics."

Before that it was John Roberts....And let's not forget Bill Pryor, whose Catholicism came into question when he was nominated for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003. Back then, Mr. Leahy's colleague, Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), put his worries about Mr. Pryor's faith this way: "His beliefs are so well known, so deeply held, that it's very hard to believe -- very hard to believe -- that they're not going to deeply influence the way he comes about saying, 'I will follow the law.'"....

...the relatively soft reaction to Ms. Sotomayor's Catholicism is because of a calculation that when it comes to hot-button issues such as abortion or gay marriage, she doesn't really believe what her church teaches....

why not try health care reform at the state level first?

If we're going to try a given experiment (e.g., "the public option"), why not start with a few states to see if it will work?

The potential answers: stupidity, hubris, or it's not really about trying to improve health care.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

the new health care plan for those in Congress?

HR 615 proposes that those in Congress should have the same health care plan that they pass for us (hat tip: FortWayneNews.com)-- instead of having an exemption.

Sounds like a nice piece of accountability....