Thursday, April 29, 2010

Health Care Costs

The costs of health care continue to rise.

Much of the blame for this is placed on the insurance companies, pharmaceutical giants, and individual health care givers who all seem to put profits above a patient's health.

It wasn't that long ago that Barack Obama, himself an unrepentant smoker, criticized the medical profession for coaxing unwary patients into too many needless medical procedures. And, I suppose, not one of his personal physicians has ever urged him to quit smoking and to watch his cholesterol.

Today the pharmaceutical company Dendreon received FDA approval of its prostate cancer vaccine Provenge.

The new vaccine, Provenge doesn't prevent cancer, unlike the polio shot or recently approved vaccines that block infection with viruses that cause most cervical tumors. Provenge, which will cost $93,000, also doesn't cure cancer.

But studies show that the vaccine does help men with advanced prostate cancer live four months longer than men given placebo shots, says Philip Kantoff of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, primary investigator of a study of 512 men.

After three years, 32% of men given Provenge were alive, compared to 23% given a placebo shot, Kantoff says. That's a significant benefit for men with such advanced disease, who would otherwise live only about 22 months, Kantoff says.
It has taken Dendreon years to get FDA approval for their new treatment with early clinical information released nearly a decade ago. Since that time numerous clinical tests have been done and the company's prospects for survival have risen and fallen with the vaccine's perceived future.

Provenge is genius. It helps represent a new generation of medical discoveries that are manufactured for a specific individual. The Provenge treatment is a process that begins with the extracting of a patient's own blood cells and then incubating them with the Dendreon fusion protein. (I don't pretend to understand this...) The vaccine is administered in a series of three shots.

The cost of $93,000 is visually stunning particularly when it appears to buy only an intermediate step toward an ultimate cure.

With FDA approval now in hand, who can we expect to receive the $93,000 treatment? Certainly any man suffering with prostate cancer would like to be among the recipients. Should the treatment be made available to every man with Medicare and Medicaid? Should the government make it mandatory that this new vaccine be administered to any candidate sufferer with private insurance? Or should only those individuals who have the ability to pay out of pocket be able to extend their lives?

These are moral questions that I'm not even going to enter into.

The important thing to note is that it is the enormous sums of money in the aggregate health care system, from the investors who front the capital for medicines with no hope of a short term return on investment, to the astronomical expenses associated with a demanding FDA and clinical trials, that have taken prostate cancer from a certain short term death sentence onto the threshold of hope.

Many more years ago than she would like you to realize, my sister was born at St. Luke's Hospital in Marquette. (This was waaaaay before I blessed the world.) Ten days in the hospital for mother and child, the delivery room fee, medicine, dressings, and laboratory came to a whopping $62.50. This was in the days before sonograms, MRIs, pacemakers, quadruple bypasses, and, incidentally, back when the diagnosis of leukemia came with a death certificate.

Medical care costs a lot these days, but these increases are not solely the fault of evil dabblers trying to make a buck off the poor soul who just developed a cough. The same system that brought us greedy insurance companies, lecherous big pharma, and selfish country club doctors also happens to be the same system that just today delivered to prostate sufferers the hope of Provenge.

How much is hope worth?

Bad Week For Blogging

Too much stuff going on and too little time to get any of it done.

I'll check back in a few days when things settle down.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Smoke and Mirrors

As everyone now knows, GM's claim to have paid back all of their bailout money ahead of schedule and with interest is at best a public relations stunt.

While the claims were quickly jettisoned by Forbes Magazine, the claims were accepted in some quarters that the bailout money was wisely spent and that the American taxpayers actually came out ahead on the deal.

Leaving aside GM's magic show, I'd like to know how American taxpayers would have gained had the money been paid back in full (with interest.) Would the principle and interest have been applied to the debt? Would the money recovered from the bailout have been reapplied to a budget deficit the likes that have never before been seen on this Earth?

The fact is, unless true principle and profit are directly applied to the debt (which this wasn't in any case) the grandchildren and great grandchildren of American taxpayers will be on the hook for the money. If there had been a profit, which there wasn't, and it had been invested back into other facets of the bailout to be used to otherwise stimulate the economy, which it would have been, the taxpayers would still have to walk away with the bill.

Smoke and mirrors folks. The smoke distributed by GM, the mirrors a donation by your government.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Defining Michigan's Failure in One Sentence: Volume 7

If Democratic voters had the chance, they would make Geoffrey Fieger their candidate for governor, according to a poll released Friday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Us Versus Them

cross posted at Right Michigan

You will find few people that are not concerned with the educational system in this state and in this country. When measured against the accomplishments of other nations around the world, America is not considered anywhere near the top, and when compared to other states in this nation, tens of thousands of Michigan students are corralled in some of the most dismally performing public school systems from sea to shining sea.

When it comes to education, the success of any Michigan child is essentially dependent upon a roll of the dice. If a child is, for example, born below Eight Mile, his or her chances of ever graduating are about a third of what they are in many other parts of the state, and a diploma, if ever received at all, will often times be worth little more than the paper it is printed on.

If a child is born in Bloomfield Hills, his or her education will be partially financed through state coffers to the tune of approximately $12,000 per year. If that student's cousin is so unfortunate as to be born in Oscoda County, the cousin's education will be worth about $7,000 per year to Lansing.

It is relatively easy to determine how much money is being spent per student in a classroom, or how much money is being invested into each classroom.

What is harder to quantify is the quality of the instruction. Let's be honest, while most of us had great learning opportunities with many wonderful teachers, we all had at least one teacher (and probably several) who was flat out lousy.

Many teachers are lousy because they simply cannot relate to children, are bored, are too easily distracted, cannot control a classroom, are poor communicators, lack the proper temperament, or simply need to slog through the last few years of a government paycheck before they can begin to collect a lucrative government retirement check.

While teachers are plentiful, quality teachers are not as available. To remedy this our state has wisely adopted a legal framework in which a crappy teacher is treated exactly the same as the best teacher in the state. The bored teacher will get the same raise as the invigorated one. But, which classroom do you suppose the motivated student would rather sit in?

While parents have no doubt who the good and lousy teachers are, not all organizations are as concerned with this triviality.

The Michigan Education Association--a collective organization with philosophical ties more closely associated with Karl Marx than with Milton Friedman, is one such organization. Now, I don't for a second believe that the MEA desires vast swathes of their membership to be lousy, in fact, they probably want the opposite, but they are not paid union dues to improve teacher quality or to even concern themselves with it overmuch. At the MEA, compensation isn't just job one, its job only.

The MEA has one mission when it comes to its members, and that is to gather for each and every one of them the best benefit and pay package possible. The best teacher in the school will get the same raise as the worst teacher. The teacher who makes students fear the prospect of asking for help with assignments will get the same rate increase as the teacher who spends hours upon hours with students poring over details. The teacher that makes telephone calls to parents will get the same increase as the teacher that refuses to talk to parents outside of conference hour.

It is a practice that can only have a negative effect on good teachers.

When the MEA measures the effectiveness of its operations it has to be much more pleased with its results than many Michigan school districts are with theirs. The MEA desperately needs taxpayers to pony up more funds so that its members can continue to enjoy some of the nation's highest teacher salaries while the taxpayers already suffer with the worst state economy in the country.

In an effort to keep things thus, the MEA has organized a protest at the State Capitol today to encourage lawmakers to increase funding to the public schools.

Members of Michigan's largest teachers union were expected to rally in support of what they call adequate and stable funding for public schools at the state Capitol.

The Michigan Education Association wants more money for schools but the cash will be difficult to find given the state's financial problems. Lawmakers don't appear willing to consider tax increases.

The rally was set for Friday.

The state faces a projected overall budget deficit of about $1.7 billion for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. School funding cuts are possible as lawmakers continue to debate budget solutions.

The MEA has opposed some of the proposals Gov. Jennifer Granholm and lawmakers have made to try and save money, including a proposal aimed at prodding more teachers into retirement.
Hey, isn't today a school day?

I love many teachers and I thank them often (the good ones) for the efforts that they have invested in my children. I love them because I know that they don't need to put in that effort, and my children have been the recipients of their sacrifice. Good teachers today are a blessing because, by legal framework, they go above and beyond what is required of them.

The MEA has always talked a good game and has performed well in its one small corner of public education. (You know, that portion that doesn't concern itself so much with the quality of the education but demands that it cost a lot.)

The MEA knows that this is an "Us versus Them" situation. They know where their salaries are and that their benefit packages are unsustainable. They know that the system they have helped to hammer into place not only hobbles the earnings potential of the very best teachers, but also rewards those that are incompetent and keeps them in a profession that deserves better participants. They know where the economy is--that taxpayers are fleeing this state by the thousands and that homes that once had children playing in the front yard now sit behind for sale signs.

Fiscal sanity must soon return to this state and country if we are to survive. However, as the MEA marches today on the Capitol lawn asking for more money, taxpayers across the state are loading up the moving van.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Despite the Nice Weather, I'm Still Under It

I've been fighting a bad cold for the past week and it has sapped me of a desire to do anything but cough.

I am starting to feel a bit better and hopefully, if I'm able to catch up on the things I'm now behind on, will blog a bit tomorrow.

We'll see.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

UN Fails Miserably

The United Nations would love to be the go to guy when it comes being the final arbiter of world justice and relief. Yet, when given the opportunity to prove its mettle in such efforts it fails miserably.

The latest example is in Haiti where it has been found that a majority of funds funneled through that esteemed world body for the Haitian earthquake relief effort went not to the struggling islanders but rather to UN staffers.

The United Nations has quietly upped this year's peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island.

The world organization plans to spend the money on an expanded force of some 12,675 soldiers and police, plus some 479 international staffers, 669 international contract personnel, and 1,300 local workers, just for the 12 months ending June 30, 2010.

Some $495.8 million goes for salaries, benefits, hazard pay, mandatory R&R allowances and upkeep for the peacekeepers and their international staff support. Only about $33.9 million, or 4.6 percent, of that salary total is going to what the U.N. calls "national staff" attached to the peacekeeping effort.

Presumably, the budget also includes at least part of some $10 million that the U.N. has spent on renting two passenger vessels, the Sea Voyager (known to some U.N. staffers as the "Love Boat") and the Ola Esmeralda, for a minimum of 90 days each, as highly subsidized housing for some of its peacekeepers and humanitarian staff. The tab for the two vessels, which offer catered food, linen service and comfortable staterooms and lounges, is about $112,500 per day.

Under a cost-sharing formula, the U.S. pays a 27 percent share of the entire $732.4 million peacekeeping tab for Haiti during this 12 month period, or about $197.7 million.
Hat tip to Bruce at Q&O who opines:
So in essence, about $235 million of that $732 million dollar budget is actually going to Haitian relief. Certainly everyone recognizes it costs money to put relief workers and peacekeeping troops in to a situation such as that, but imagine, if you will, the outcry if a private charity was found to be only using 22% of its money to actually do the job for which it was donated, and, instead had spent the bulk on the things the UN seems to think take priority over relief for Haitians.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Newly Discovered Boundary

Carlita Kilpatrick was not so concerned with the separation of her assets from that of her husband's when she scored a brand new Lincoln Navigator as a direct result of his dalliance in corrupt Detroit politics.

Just saying.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pain Panels

Of course, the Democrats and their sympathetic cheering section cried foul at the Sarah Palin pronouncement that nationalized health care would institute the creation of "death panels."

NPR's Rober Siegel highlighted the comment in a lengthy interview with Bill Adair of that found that the death panel comment was "the lie of the year."

SIEGEL: So, in a year that more generally may be remembered as the year of my kid is in that balloon, or we were invited to the state dinner, you've gone through politicians' statements. And you heard it first, the First Annual lie of the year is...

Mr. ADAIR: Death panels: The claim by Sarah Palin that the health care bill includes death panels that would make some determination of whether people could live or die. We decided that was the lie of the year because not only was it so inaccurate, but it spread so widely and it became a really important talking point in the debate about the health care bill.

It really helped, I think, define the health care bill for a lot of people, even though it was wrong. And it, in many ways, the Democrats spent much of the late summer and early fall fighting the death panel claim and other falsehoods rather than defining the bill themselves.

SIEGEL: And how well have you done at tracing the origins of this particular whopper, that there are death panels written up in the health care bill?

Mr. ADAIR: Well, it was actually Palin herself - as far as we can tell - who was the first to use the phrase death panels. But the concept that the Democratic plan might somehow promote euthanasia actually goes back to the early part of the year to an editorial in The Washington Times that suggested that.
Yet, when put to the test of economics, it becomes clear that price controls of any product will decrease the availability of the product. When a finite and shrinking resource must be spread about to meet the needs of an existing and growing consumer base, there will be shortages. It was not the creation of a government committee called a "Death Panel" that Palin was pointing to, but rather the inevitable creation of a new machinery necessary to allocate finite resources to a list of potential patients.

If there is not enough care to go around, someone, somewhere, somehow will have to determine who should get the care. That care might be determined by the age of the patient, by the patient's lifestyle, by his time in line, by his political affiliation, or any of an infinite number of arbitrary reasons. The point is, that the shortage of the resource makes it necessary for a choice to be made.

A case in point.

NHS bars woman after she saw private doctor
A WOMAN has been denied an operation on the NHS after paying for a private consultation to deal with her severe back pain.

Jenny Whitehead, a breast cancer survivor, paid £250 for an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon after being told she would have to wait five months to see him on the NHS. He told her he would add her to his NHS waiting list for surgery.

She was barred from the list, however, and sent back to her GP. She must now find at least £10,000 for private surgery, or wait until the autumn for the NHS operation to remove a cyst on her spine.

“When I paid £250 to see the specialist privately I had no idea I would be sacrificing my right to surgery on the NHS. I feel victimised,” she said.
Was Ms. Whitehead the victim of a "pain panel," or was she merely the odd person out in a system that routinely rations surgery by pushing needed operations months down the road?

I would submit she is the victim of both.

h/t Powerline

Wealth is Bad

Wealth is the enemy, that is, if you are to believe the opinions displayed in a documentary airing frequently on the Green Channel over the next few weeks. The documentary titled "Planet Earth: The Future" was actually first broadcast on the BBC in 2006.

Rarely do you hear wealth discussed as being a problem. After all, it is the creation of wealth that lifts millions of people out of the grasp of disease and starvation each year, it is wealth that allows affluent people to donate and volunteer billions upon billions of dollars worth of aid to charitable causes such as Haiti earthquake relief and the World Wildlife Fund, and it is wealth alone that has allowed each successive generation of free market Americans to enjoy a better quality of life than the previous generation.

Among those speaking on the documentary, however, wealth clearly is a problem for it delivers exactly as economists would attest--it allows for a higher standard of living for humans. And this is bad.

Why is wealth so bad according to environmentalists?

There are several reasons for this but the first and most important is that it allows for a disproportionately large human population--today's being perhaps twice as large as what the Earth is capable of sustaining. (Six versus the optimum three billion individuals.) Each of these resource gobbling parasitic humans must live off the dwindling natural resources of the planet and in doing so must encroach further and further into the habitats of stressed flora and fauna for survival.

I have underestimated the aptitude of every socialist the world over for embracing economic structures that destroy wealth. I have said time and time again that their policies would lead to accidental (though predictable) impoverishment.

I should be more selective with my accusations.

There are a certain number of socialists that wish to institute global socialism not because of a misunderstanding of economic outcomes, but precisely because they do understand that socialism will put the brakes on a developing world that can feed and clothe and cure the diseases of its people. What better way to attain the target of three billion humans than to starve or infect them?

The next presentation for Planet Earth: The Future will be on the Green Channel on April 22.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dems Endorse Leyton

Michigan's economy might be in the dumper, its population might be dwindling, its factories might be closing, its neighborhoods might be spotted with for sale signs, and its unemployment rate might be higher than that of any other state over the past four years, but as the Democrat Party in Michigan sees it, these aren't reasons enough to try and change the major factor behind such malfunction.

In a last-ditch effort to win as many votes as possible for the endorsement, [Genesee County Prosecutor David S.] Leyton spoke out against Medicaid fraud and spoke in support of the unions.


Leyton drew perhaps the loudest cheers when he said he will "fight to make sure Michigan never becomes a right-to-work state."

Friday, April 16, 2010

WATZ Smears Alpena Tea Party

Is radio station WATZ in Alpena owned and operated by homophobes, or are they simply profane? Hard to tell...but this headline in today's news clearly indicates that one of the two situations does exist within the station's ownership and management.

Tea Baggers Rally in Alpena

I don't have to go into all the gory details about what a teabagging sex act is, but needless to say that I don't believe that WATZ would ever consider publishing the headline "Cocksuckers Rally in Alpena."

Yet, when citizens assemble to protest the size of a government gorged on both taxpayer dollars and every red cent that it can borrow from the Chinese, because this viewpoint runs contrary to a sitting president who happens to be a kindred spirit with most journalism practitioners of today, they are labeled teabaggers.

So, WATZ...what are you? Are you homophobes that get off by calling each other faggots behind closed doors, or do you simply have potty mouths that Mommy didn't wash out often enough with the Irish Spring?

In either case you ought to be ashamed of yourself for such poor journalism. Journalism standards used to suggest at least a modicum of objectivity in the reporting of news. At WATZ, apparently, that attitude has morphed into one that doesn't let the opportunity for a cheap political taunting to go to waste.

h/t commenter grannynanny at Right Michigan

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bittersweet is...

attending the last parent-teacher conference of my life.

Government Vs. Government on Energy

One might think, in theory at least, that taking action to save the planet would be good for the birds that have to live in it. Then again, one might think that disallowing an action that might unnecessarily kill birds would also be good for the planet.

But, what is one supposed to feel about an action contemplated by climate friendly planners, in an attempt to save the planet, when that action might end up killing the birds preemptively?

Muskegon County's effort to "go green" is running up against an unlikely foe: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which says the county's proposal to erect wind turbines would endanger birds.
Jennifer Granholm's next generation energy solutions and the jobs of tomorrow that depend upon them, are coming under increasing scrutiny by environmentalists and concerned citizens wherever they are proposed.

Large solar farms wreak havoc upon the locations where they are installed, are fitfully inconsistent, present difficult transmission problems, demand huge public subsidies, and the solar panel manufacturing process produces huge amounts of toxins.

Wind farms are eyesores, endanger birds and bats, present transmission problems, produce inconsistently, demand huge public subsidies for implementation, and swallow huge amounts of energy in the manufacturing process.

Advanced battery technology is expensive, does not bypass the energy production stage, and continues America's reliance on unstable foreign regimes for energy commodities.

Ethenol? I'm not even going to get into that again.

We know how unpopular coal plants are. We know too that Obama has effectively choked off any increase in domestic oil drilling for at least several more years. While there is the hint of some movement in the nuclear energy arena, it is a very highly subsidized way of producing energy and any new plants that ever come on line in the next few decades will not compensate for those aging reactors that will go offline.

So, if we are unable to rely on legacy energy sources because of their environmental impacts, and we are unable to rely on the next-gen fragments of an overall mosaic energy solution because of seagulls, tortoises and snail darters, what will we be able to depend on to provide a long term energy solution?

Don't worry, I'm certain that someone from the government is working on it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blogging Break

I have a lot of things that need to be accomplished over the next few days that are going to put a serious cramp in my ability to blog.

I am targeting Monday as my return to regular blogging though I might miss that by a day or so depending upon developments. In the mean time I'm going to be seriously scaling back.

In the interim...Happy Tax Day!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Perfect Excuse For Another Freedom Rant

One business' attempt to skirt Michigan's impending anti-smoking law.

His idea: He's converting a room currently occupied by the bar's virtual golf machine into a "tobacco specialty shop" --one of only two types of businesses exempt from the smoking ban. (The other is casinos, and as Schweifler notes, "I don't have a casino.")

His plan is to personally sell cigarettes from a little counter to customers wanting them, while the customers sit and smoke to their hearts' content, protected from the elements and not bothering the bar's residential neighbors.
I will always choose the non-smoking venue when I can. Always. I am not alone in this.

This is not, however, where it will end. Everywhere on Earth where behavior control legislation is the norm, control efforts become more restrictive. Let us take smoking as an example.

Right now the exceptions to this law in Michigan are specialty smoke shops and casinos. This is not the case in many states where even smoke shops and casinos are unable to allow smoking. In some places smoking is not only not allowed with the establishment but it is also not allowed within several feet of the front door of any establishment.

In many places smoking is not allowed in city parks or in any other public space. In other areas even third-hand smoke is becoming an issue where those charged with cleaning up the effects of second hand smoke are themselves a soon to be recognized victim collective.

Hey, I hate smoking. Only one thing torques me off more than some rude punk kid blowing smoke into my eyes, and that is a bureaucrat trying to pigeonhole my behavior into an acceptable expression--not because I like my clothes smelling like a dirty ashtray, but because I want to be able to choose whether my clothes smell like an old ashtray or not.

We Americans are nonchalantly ceding our freedoms to a growing government in small and almost unrecognizable bits and pieces. Smoking is not a very sympathetic behavior and I blame the smokers themselves as much for this as I do anyone else--really, do you have to grab an ashtray and relocate it right next to me?

But, the government's clambering over control of our personal freedoms under the guise of our own protection will never become anything but more restrictive, and our behaviors are already being closely monitored.

If American society can expect to enjoy free health care it can certainly expect to live according to the rules by which it is administered. If citizens breathe air owned by world citizens they certainly should be expected to exhale only the properly mixed cocktail of harmless gases in return. If the world's resources are finite, certainly fairness has to dictate that their usage be proportionately nourishing. If citizens enjoy a safe society they certainly should be expected to think and behave in a manner that promotes stability.

When it comes to protecting the health, safety and the environment of citizens, nothing (except nuclear weapons) is off the table. If that means be it. You will run your business as allowed. You will sell what is approved and buy only what has gone through the proper channels. You will put in those new windows, wear that helmet, and drive a high mileage car according to the speed limit. You will report that $50, display the nutritional values, build according to the code, test for lead, and use an approved burn barrel.

But even controlling our behaviors is no longer enough to guarantee the right outcome. Soon the government will not only control what you might choose to do, but the soon to be apparent effects of Obamacare will, for the first time that I am aware, make it criminal for Americans not to do something for the purpose of enjoying an heretofore unrecognized inalienable right.

"Enjoy your free health care, Sally. Here is your $2,500 fine."

Bars and restaurants are cautiously being folded into the collective. As long as it is happening to them and not the rest of us, why should we care? Let's let it strike us closer to home before we stand up for ourselves.

Oh, and light up outside.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Bart Calls it Quits

Bart Stupak, the nine term representative from Michigan's first congressional district is calling it quits after cheesing off all but about five of his constituents.

His vote for Obamacare after months of opposition to it exposed the crafty bureaucrat for what most of his constituents hoped that he was not--a rudderless turncoat willing to sell out his most adamantly defended moral position for the promise of a larger socialist state.

Since his stand on Obamacare became nationally newsworthy, he found himself being sniped at from both sides of the political aisle. He already had a democrat primary challenger for reelection that had garnered an endorsement from the NOW, had already lost endorsements from Right to Life, and the Republicans and tea party protesters seemed more energized than ever to see him become unemployed.

Stupak has said that his recent plummet in popularity has nothing to do with his decision to drop out and that he is comfortable with his vote on Obamacare. I think this is a too convenient answer to an uncomfortable question. Had the Obamacare vote not taken place this year I am certain that Bart Stupak would be standing for reelection this fall.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party Express is rolling through Bart's district with its first stop taking place in Bart's home tome of Menominee last evening.

The Tea Party Express is now taking on a new theme through its leg in the 1st District. While its pass through the area was initially promoted as a launching pad from which motivated conservative activists could begin the process of defeating Stupak in the fall, it has now become a celebration of the power of individuals against big government and tone deaf politicians of all stripes.

All Stupak protestations aside, it feels wonderful to have even a small voice in a still great land.

Israel is Being Treated Like the Enemy

Barack Obama's foreign policy for the Middle East is becoming increasingly clear--it holds no trust for America's strongest historical ally in the region and is discounting the value of a thriving and stable democracy amidst the ruin and chaos of Muslim theocracy.

Barack Obama and company clearly believe that it is Israel that stands between the region and a long lasting peace. They believe that Israel is not making the necessary concessions to keep the peace process moving forward. Recognizing too that the United States has provided Israel with valuable foreign assistance since its inception (and also recognizing that Israel's standing in the larger world is on a par with chancre) Obama is using every inch of leverage he can to apply pressure to the only Jewish state on Earth.

Obama's tactics concerning Israel require equal portions of naivete, willful misreadings of history, and malice.

There will be no lasting peace in the Middle East as long as Islam contains within its basic charter a demand to kill the sons of pigs and apes, those who mislead, the infidels, and the enemies of Islam. This charter infers an elevation of Jerusalem to holy city status despite there being no specific reference to it within the text.

Israel has made many overtures to their Arab enemies. They have given monetary aid, medicine, energy, and food. They have ceded land and razed their own settlements. During past peace negotiations Israel conceded to a vast majority of Arab demands if only it could enjoy peace. Yassir Arafat answered these concessions with a huffy exit and an Intifada where the favored Arab negotiating tactics became the suicide vest.

Obama must willfully ignore these facts and myriad more if he believes that Israel is the obstacle to peace. Yet he persists.

In the past few weeks the Israel/American relationship has soured even further. The Israeli Prime Minister was insulted in a manner unprecedented by any previous occupier of the White House. It was lectured to by a V.P. incapable of teasing his own hair. It has been admonished by the Secretary of State. And now it is having its scientists denied visas at the same time that Arab terrorist apologists are being granted visas in order to further fan the flames of anti-Israeli sentiment among America's progressive and Muslim communities.

In a world where the Jews could previously count on perhaps one country to understand their desire to survive, there now might be none.

America voted for change. We certainly have it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Spoonful of Pettiness

Bart, on top of everything else that you've done, that's about the ugliest suit I've ever seen.

Enjoy the express.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Defining Michigan's Failure in One Sentence: Volume 6 (Madden Curse Edition)

Within hours after Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans announced a 25% dip in homicides in the first quarter of this year versus last year, he was called to a home with two dead bodies on the lawn.

Birthrates Decline as Parenting Costs Increase

If it were merely measured by the number of government provided supports in place, raising a kid would be a lot cheaper than it has ever been.

The earned income tax credit, larger dependent deductions, state supported day care, family leave, food and housing allowances, job training, SCHIP, heat and energy credits, free cell phones, subsidized transportation, unprecedented college assistance, unemployment benefits that run undefined months into a mottled future, and a plethora of government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, are all designed in large measure to ease the pain and costs of parenting.

With all of these and many more blessings of a benevolent government, how can it be that the US' and Michigan's birth rates are declining? If assistance programs from teary eyed bureaucrats were any indicator we ought to be chucking babies out of the womb faster than an unplugged President Obama can utter "uh, free health, uh, care for the, uh, millions of, uh, uninsured children." (Okay, bad example, but you know what I mean.)

The problem is, of course, that all of these government programs actually inflate the systemic cost of living in this country and consequently increase the costs of parenting. Through an intrusive slight of hand these caretakers simply place a grossly inefficient damper on the economy that does nothing more than rearrange who initially pays for what. The resultant higher direct costs are then heaped on fewer and fewer people who must keep their heads afloat by pushing these costs down hill.

The burden must be addressed by a smudged market that increases the overall price of doing business to those capable of investing in our economy, while it also forces consumers on the lower tiers of consumption to face the consequences of a struggling economy.

Those capable of investing respond in predictable ways. They reduce their consumption, maintain acceptable profitability levels by cutting back on staffs and compensation, take their businesses to locations where they can efficiently produce, or close up shop.

Those who are dependent on the jobs and wages and benefits provided for by business owners also adjust predictably. Those that are still employed stop having as many children while the unemployed stay home and watch The View in between calls to MARVIN.

Even young married adults with little business or real life experience know this much. Why can't bureaucrats figure it out?

One Reason Why Our Economic Recovery Will Disappoint


What many people seem to be forgetting of late is that the world economy was already in a downturn before government lending, fiscal, and monetary policies (and the credit crises that they created) were readily apparent.

Before Lehman Brothers folded. Before Fanny and Freddie got caught holding the bag for subprime lending. Before WaMu and AIG were caught with billions upon billion of dollars of overpriced mystery assets.

Before any of these causes were on the lips of unemployed Americans, oil had already spiked to levels that helped batter the airline industry, the automobile industry, the shipping industry, and helped to shave the value of whatever was contained within the purses and wallets of Americans. No product that was shipped by rail, or truck, or car could be delivered as cost effectively as it could just a few months before.

People tired of dumping $60 in the gas tank at every fill up and began to curtail vacations, unnecessary trips to town, restaurant fare, and many other expenditures that in previous years they would have made without hesitation. Henry Waxman even ceased his weekly trips to the salon to have his nostrils waxed.

There was a lot of talk about fixing the perceived problems of the energy markets though the specific problem of oil supply was not addressed. Bart Stupak deftly waved an accusing finger in the air and asserted it was the fault of evil oil companies and selfish speculators. When energy pundits and free marketeers demanded that America expand her oil fields and other established energy capabilities they were scoffed at. Instead, they were greeted with talk of cap and trade, carbon credits, clean and renewable energy, and an Earth in the death grip of CO2.

"It will take too long to bring this oil to market."

"Oil prices are unnecessarily high as a result of evil oil companies."

"Speculators are the cause of the problem."

Despite all of this, America's befuddled leaders specifically sought out a course of action that would guaranteed exorbitant energy prices in the future--and that future is arriving quickly.

They did this by refusing to allow oil and natural gas production in areas that have proven expansive reserves. They did this by hobbling the established energy industry in the licensing and construction of energy facilities. And they did this by pumping the economy so full of printed dollars that when inflationary pressures begin to pop up the speculative markets will shift their investments into commodities--including oil.

Get ready for an expensive driving season and for distant cries of GOUGER! from our hapless political pet, Bart Stupak.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ray LaHood: Toyota Probably Even Guiltier Than We Thought

Perhaps this is the transparency in government that Barack Obama meant in his run up to the election--the public bashing of out-of-favor employers who happen to not be majority owned by the US government.

“This is the first thing that we have found. It may not be the last thing, it would not surprise me if we discovered other information.”
This comment made by Transporation Secretary Ray LaHood in the wake of a $16.4 million fine levied against Toyota for that company's failure to report safety problems to GM's owner quickly enough.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the US government, majority owners of unionized GM and Chrysler, is giving the strong arm to Toyota literally promising to uncover more wrongdoing at the large non-union employer and attempting to damage that automaker's reputation.

In fact, it is in the best political interests of union pandering US government officials (did I mention the US government is the majority owner of GM and Chrysler?) if Toyota is even suspected of some currently undiscovered slight of hand, let alone found guilty.

This is not to excuse Toyota for any wrongdoing they may have committed, but their vehicles have historically been recognized as being some of the safest and of the highest quality on the American road. Those companies now owned by the US government? Not so much.

Simply Wondering

how inescapably stupid I would have to be if I entered a comedy club hoping not to be offended.

h/t Overlawyered

At Least The Asbestos Won't Kill *** UPDATED

There was hope of some relief for Detroit citizens as word came from on high that thousands of the city's feral houses would be demolished as part of an effort to rid the decaying city of eyesores, safety hazards, and places of crime.

Many of Detroit's vacant buildings, estimated to number into the tens of thousands, slowly decayed after decades of abandonment without maintenance--most of them simply vacated when tax liabilities and maintenance needs began to dwarf property values. As crime rose and city services declined, fed up residents left the Motor City without so much as a forwarding address.

Now the discarded buildings serve as squatters' residences, drug houses, and as the targets of arsonists. Their cadavers have been picked clean by metal scavengers and relic hounds, the grounds left covered in broken glass, rotten wood, trash, and betrayed memories. And asbestos.

And therein lies the problem for Mayor Dave Bing and his aggressive attempt to remove evidence of blight. Bing's plan of action was stalled after a total of one house had been razed by Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and Environment after concerns that the structures being destroyed had not been screened for asbestos and that a required ten day notice before demolition had not been issued.

After learning about the demolition program on Thursday, a state inspector arrived in southwest Detroit to find a city contractor razing a house on the 1100 block of Lewerenz without first inspecting for asbestos or giving the required 10-day demolition notice, state officials said.

City officials said they have since tested the house for asbestos through a private contractor and found none.

But before the city restarts demolition, it must test for asbestos in each structure and remove any that is found -- a process that could take months depending on what is found, state and city officials said. Then the city must give the state a 10-day advance notice on each structure before sending in the bulldozers.

The removal of asbestos is important, federal environmental regulators say, because of the potential release of microscopic fibers that can cause cancer of the lungs, esophagus, stomach and colon.

Asbestos is a big problem in Detroit because nearly half of the city's houses were built between 1930 and 1950, the prime period when asbestos was used in insulation, paint, furnaces and vinyl floors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It also is found on hot water and steam pipes.
Anyone who has been around an asbestos removal operation knows that the costs of such can become astronomical. The asbestos (or asbestos containing materials) must be stripped from the structure in a separate operation and disposed of as a hazardous waste before the rest of the property can be razed.

While the DNRE is confident that Mr. Bing can still achieve his goals of removing 3,000 structures from the city landscape, this will have to depend on a couple of things--how long the money will hold out, and how great a backlog is created as significant amounts of asbestos are located.

This is not, however, an article that tries to quantify the value of a human life. It is an article that instead recognizes that the buildings as they currently stand are already a hazard to the community. History has shown that the EPA overstated its concerns on the hazards of asbestos. Mesothelioma related deaths, the cancer most often associated with asbestos, are estimated to be approximately 1 in 1,000,000 (less than one in a city with Detroit's population.)

The DNRE is concerned with asbestos becoming airborne and therefore a threat to people who might breathe it. However, Detroit's abandoned buildings already pose an intrinsic danger to everyday citizens as well as police and fire crews.

How many deaths will be averted by the delays made necessary by the DNRE and the EPA? Then again, how many will they cause?

*** UPDATE *** 9:30 PM

Nothing motivates a bureaucrat more than one thinking his authority has been stepped on. After a little heavy petting, all is fine with the world!
"The DNRE and City of Detroit agreed that today's meeting was productive and allowed the City the opportunity to share their plans and timelines for this demolition project, and for the DNRE to outline the procedures necessary to ensure compliance with all state and federal regulations. Both parties will maintain an ongoing dialogue to ensure ongoing compliance and cooperation."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Free Phones in Michigan

Why are people making 150% of the poverty level (not even defined as poor) qualified for a free cell phone with 200 free minutes per month? I'm one of those grizzled old timers who doesn't even think that poor people should get free phones unless a private company is willing to give them one, let alone people who by definition are above the poverty line.

Families that make an income of 150 percent of the poverty guidelines or below qualify for the service -- the levels vary for different-sized households.

The service provides a phone, free voice mail, call waiting and caller ID, along with the 200 free minutes.

It is supported by the Universal Service Administrative Company, an arm of the Federal Communications Commission which stipulates that low-income customers be able to have access to communication devices.
Taxpayers subsidize phone services for many who are completely capable of providing their own but who would rather have someone else pay for them. This hurts the profitability of the private sector while creating a needless entitlement and will not only result in the loss of private sector jobs but will encourage the expansion of bureaucracy.

Is it any wonder that the size of the government continues to grow as the private sector has difficulty creating jobs?

Friday, April 02, 2010

To DPS' Old Guard, Kids Come Second

cross posted at Right Michigan

How long has it been since the average Detroit Public School graduate measured up to national academic standards? Further, how long has it been since Detroit's graduation rate itself measured up to national standards?

Most of the cream of the crop (that is, students with involved parents that will not accept failure from their children) long ago were removed from DPS. Whole families moved out of district to avoid the DPS while still others did whatever they could to afford a private education.

While there remains many good students and many more potentially good students at the mercy of a DPS classroom, these students are handicapped by block headed teachers' unions worried more about their benefits and pay, knuckle headed administrators worried more about power and territory, and boneheaded vendors and money changers more worried about heavy wallets.

Things are so bad that Detroit measures at the absolute bottom of the nation in both graduation rates and in standardized student testing scores. Dead last. Good grief, worse than Cleveland.

Parents can send their kids to an average public school in the Bronx with all of their teacher rubber rooms and administrative graft, and still have a better chance of success with their kids' education than their counterparts in Detroit.

After years of mismanagement and quantifiably disastrous results Gov. Granholm, moving at a snail's pace, finally installed Robert Bobb to start cleaning up the mess. Of course, by that belated time tens of thousands of students had already had their best opportunity for a good education stolen from them, but Granholm's motto has always been "better late than never."

Bobb has been in place for more than a year and the very preliminary initial results have been nothing less than spectacular, at least on the money end of things and in the realm of community involvement. Tens of millions of dollars in waste and fraud have been eliminated. Many ineffective and disaffected administrators have been ridden out on a rail. The unions have been put on notice that now is not the time for business as usual, and Bobb's efforts to recruit volunteers to help teach Detroit kids to read has swelled to over 6,000.

Had Detroit's established education complex kept its eye focused on the sole purpose of the DPS, that of educating children, things could never have gotten so far out of hand. However, after that focus was lost, the state had little choice but to take over from the incompetent and selfish locals the responsibility of the schools.

I mention all of this because it is still evident that Detroit has a long way to go if it is even going to reach average when compared to other urban school districts around the country.

Despite its paring of fraud and cutting other costs, DPS is still broken. Despite its volunteer reading army, most children within the district are solidly behind the learning curve. And, perhaps worst of all, despite all evidence pointing to the childrens' needs for rapid change, members of the power hungry old guard are still fighting Robert Bobb tooth and nail for every smidgen of privilege and pomp it can muster.

From the Freep:

The warring Detroit Public Schools board and the district's emergency financial manager Robert Bobb agreed this week that they need to hash out a truce. But each side set conditions that appear to be unfavorable to the other.

The push to cooperate comes after state Superintendent Michael Flanagan sent a letter saying the two sides must jointly sign an application for DPS to be eligible for a chunk of Michigan's $115 million in federal school improvement grants.

Bobb made the first move, writing a letter Tuesday saying the two sides can adjust the working protocols devised last year for "much more civil" engagement -- if the board drops its lawsuit against him. It alleges that Bobb does not consult the board on financial matters, as required by law, and is illegally making academic decisions.

In a letter dated Thursday, board president Otis Mathis wrote that the board will "come back to the table" if Bobb halts implementation of his academic plan, for which the board had no input, and reconsiders the number of proposed school building closures.

"The board has been ignored," board vice president Anthony Adams said. "The issue is whether he's prepared to accept us as a partner."
Well geez, why wouldn't he want to partner with the same panel of entrenched idiots to which most of this mess can be attributed?

I am reminded of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There was gross incompetence at the local, state, and federal levels, and President Bush finally appointed General Russell Honoré to command the relief efforts from one centralized point.

Gen. Honoré was given the sole authority to get things rolling. Erased from the discussions were the disaster relief panels that had performed so poorly under pressure, hand wringing lawyers who clogged communication lines, politicians with territory to protect who had failed to follow their own disaster relief plans, and civic boards setting contrary priorities that made unreasonable demands on resources.

One man was entrusted to wade through the crap and things began to get done.

I heartily applaud the necessary changes that Robert Bobb has made. I'm not going to declare him a miracle worker as there are still too many changes that need to be made, but he is the closest thing to a miracle worker the DPS has seen in many a year. Yet he is being fought nearly every step of the way.

It is time for the state of Michigan to pursue every legal means possible to remove every atom of power away from the Detroit school board until such a time that the DPS has been set on a new course. At that point it can take over a district from Mr. Bobb that is both less bureaucratic and actually concentrated on the education of students.

Each year the Detroit Public Schools graduates approximately 30 percent of the students that entered its doors as kindergartners. More than half of those that graduate do not meet national standards. In the process of that thirteen years of enrollment, that institution spent hundreds of millions more than it took in, took in tens of millions more than it legally should have, and lavished extravagant salaries and benefits on thousands of employees who were incompetent and thousands more that were corrupt (and a few that were dead.)

It is laughable that the school board continues to insist on what it considers its rightful power and prestige after such a long term of performing at a level too poor to be thought of as merely incompetent.

Robert Bobb needs to have the sole authority to make the changes to get the DPS back on its feet and into a position to where it can begin to educate all of its children more effectively. The last gaggle of buffoons failed miserably.

It is time for the state to give it to him.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Birthday Bash!

Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi is celebrating his 58th birthday today in a mansion surrounded by friends, family, and government well wishers.

It was not supposed to be so.

Al-Megrahi was released years early for reasons of compassion from a 27 year sentence after he was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. Al-Magrahi was given the sentence for his part in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie.

At the time of his release eight months ago, Al-Megrahi was assumed to have three months to live. Also at the time of his release there was much speculation that Al-Megrahi's affliction was not as serious as his doctors alleged. His personal doctors have refused to make public his medical records and Scottish officials at the time of his release ceded the medical care of Al-Megrahi to his doctors.

Despite his terminal ill-health, Al-Megrahi has been able to welcome over 30,000 well-wishers at his bedside while also finding time to work on an autobiography. Truly his recovery has been remarkable.

Pan Am flight 103 had no survivors.