24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

In Hoc Anno Domini

This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published in The Wall Street Journal annually since.

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression -- for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

14 December 2009

The Progressive Religion

As Christmas approaches, my thoughts have naturally turned towards things of a more religious nature.

The cause of this change in mindset hasn't all been Christmas-related activity. Much of what has oriented my thinking has been the religion of progressivism.

This is a topic I've addressed numerous times before--so many times, in fact, that I don't dare do a search of my archives and post every link to every article in which I've treated the subject. You'd be bored (more than usual) and I wouldn't have time to go and pick up my laundry from Tony all the way out in Queen's Park.

Suffice it to say that the progressive religion, though perhaps as not clearly outlined as other, more organized and defined religions is, in fact, a religion.

And the leftists--liberals and members of the Democrat party--who reject and sometimes mock Christianity and other religions (not all leftists, but a sizable vocal minority), are no less devout and pious in their belief system than their country bumpkin hick Christian friends on the right.

Indeed, as Byron York points out in latest article, leftist progressives are just as superstitious (in some cases, depending on definition, more so) as conservatives.
"Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics," the Pew study says. For example, 21 percent of Republicans report that they have been in touch with someone who is dead, while 36 percent of Democrats say they have done so. Eleven percent of Republicans say they have seen a ghost, while 21 percent of Democrats say so. And nine percent of Republicans say they have consulted a fortuneteller, while 22 percent of Democrats have.
There's more. Seventeen percent of Republicans say they believe in reincarnation, while 30 percent of Democrats do. Fourteen percent of Republicans say they believe in astrology, while 31 percent of Democrats do. Fifteen percent of Republicans say they view yoga as a spiritual practice, while 31 percent of Democrats do. Seventeen percent of Republicans say they believe in spiritual energy, while 30 percent of Democrats do.
There are some areas in which the two partisan groups are similar. When Pew asked respondents whether they have had a religious or mystical experience, 50 percent of Republicans said yes, as did 50 percent of Democrats. But overall, there are sizable disparities.
Progressives behave in all the same ways that conservatives do--it just so happens that their religion is become the public religion that Christianity was in Europe in preceding centuries and like Catholicism and early Protestant churches, they use public/government bodies to enforce the right amout of piety.

By recycling (in some areas here in London, you must recycle under penalty of law).

By purchasing carbon indulgences offsets (to rectify past--or future--"bad" behavior).

By paying a forced tithe (taxes) to fund "research centers" like the CRU and other so called "green initiatives" whose goals generally center around public information/marketing campaigns that guilt individuals into donating even more of their money. Or, if you have none, into supporting legislation that will compel those who do, but who do not want to pay (how unrighteous of them!) to pay higher taxes to fund Al Gore's next PowerPoint.

Whatever happened to the separation of Church & State?

Whatever happened to the separation of Church & Science?

Let's take the first, church & state. The consensus opinion in the United States is that separation of church and state has largely aided individual religious liberty. For the most part, I agree. However, if you look at Europe today, the involvement of the state with church seems to have done more damage to the latter than anyone anticipated. No one goes to church. Churches, cathedrals, meetings houses (mosques excepting) are all empty. Religion has become secularized and is no longer compelling to the masses.

In this instance, America's separation of church, while initially about religious liberty, seems to have saved American churches from the same fate as their European brethren.

It is possible, therefore, to surmise that a similar forced adoption of progressivism as the public religion would create the same sort of generational backlash that public religion did in Europe. Granted, it took centuries, but now the youth pay no mind to the faith of their fathers. Indeed, they know practically nothing about it.

The problem, of course, is that those of us who do not want to worship mother Gaia would be forced to do so until the zealotry of the current generation of environmental fanatics died out. Given the haste with which fads seem to pass nowadays (and the blatant cooking of the books at the CRU), this would probably only really hurt (and by hurt I mean kill) people in lesser developed countries while those of us in the developed world would only have to deal with the inconvenience of much higher taxes, lower standard of living, etc. I'm a poor student so whatever.

Before we go any further, take a little time to watch this enlightening Q&A with Michael Crichton:

Second & lastly (if you're still with me), science & religion. Look, I have no problem with those who honestly believe (whilst I'm a heretical "denier." note the religious language) in the religion of progressivism with environment, multiculturalism, tolerance, government, taxes (tithes) as their tenets. I wouldn't criticize your belief system at all, except that you insist on turning your beliefs into public policy.

The other major problem I have with you is this--the complete bastardization of science. If you've been following (at all) what's been happening with the scandal at the CRU, you know what I'm talking out. If you don't, here's a pretty good place to start. What has been done is nothing short of a triumph of tribal politics (the sort of stuff they're supposed to leave to me) over science. Where the data didn't produce the right graphs, they "massaged" it. Where the data contradicted their findings, they deleted it. Where skeptical scientists published articles in good academic journals, they ganged up and tried to keep them out or discredit the journal. And where all of this failed, they fantasized about beating up those who disagreed with them.

Whatever climate science has become (or ever was) it is no longer science. The only ones permitted into the inner sanctum and given access to the holy raw data are those who can be trusted to apply the right sorts of "homogenizing" effects or use the tricks of those who actually know how to use (and by use I mean really, you know, use) statistics.

If all of this only hurt their own cause, I would just laugh and laugh and laugh. But no, their complete misrepresentation, misuse and abuse of the scientific method and the peer-review process has done damage to science as a whole. And that really ticks me off. The pressures of faith and money (the environment business is worth tens of billions of dollars after all) have turned "climate science" into nothing more than propaganda machine. Like other rent-seekers, their whole goal is to do whatever is necessary to get more money (see your local newspaper for the latest alarmist prediction).

To sum up: Believe in Global Warmism if you want. I'll leave you to your religion the same way you leave me to mine. However, do not conflate your religion with science, impose it by the state, or try other public policy shenanigans to compel my observance.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

02 December 2009

Unemployment By County, Now In Easy-To-View Youtube Format

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

Christina Romer, Tribal-Economist For President Obama, Still Blaming Bush

She also still thinks Cash for Clunkers was a good idea--willful suspension of disbelief and all that.

Apart from repeating the company line about how much things sucked when Obama took office and how he's done everything humanly possible to right the ship, Romer proposes even more government intervention in the private sector. This intervention will require even more government spending, natch.

Among other things, I'm reading Rose & Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" (incidentally, an excellent Christmas gift idea). Given the incredible increase in the money supply over the last year both through government spending and the actions of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, Friedman's cautions regarding the dangers of inflation seem timely. Page 275:
It takes time for these reactions to occur. On the average over the past century and more in the United States, the United Kingdom, and some other Western countries, roughly six to nine months have elapsed before increased monetary growth has worked its way through the economy and produced increased economic growth and employment [ed. note: matches up well with the recent "good" news that the US economy shed only ~167k jobs last month]. Another twelve to eighteen months have elapsed before the increased monetary growth has affected the price level appreciably and inflation has occurred or speeded up. The time delays have been this long for these countries because, wartime aside, they were long spared widely varying rates of monetary growth and inflation. On the eve of World War II wholesale prices in the United Kingdom averaged roughly the same as two hundred years earlier, and in the United States, as one hundred years earlier. The post-World War II inflation is a new phenomenon in these countries.
As sure as Obama and co. will continue to propose increased government spending, inflation will come.

When it does, it will act as a tax that robs the rich and poor alike.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

President Obama Owes Our Troops More Than What He Promised Last Night (UPDATED)

Ace runs through it all more extensively than I am either able or have time to do, but I do want to make a couple three points.

1. If he is worried about government spending, why is he focused on the relative pittance it would cost to fully fund the fight in Afghanistan and not the ridiculous cost of spending related to the Spendulus, Obamacare, & his bloated budget?

2. Why opt for an alternative that was not one of the 4 suggested by your commanders on the ground? Do you really know better than they?

3. A drop-dead date? Really? You think that will help either us or our allies? Enough with appeasing the leftists--they make up a small fraction of the 52% who voted for you in 2008. This is a stupid, stupid strategy.

I had a conversations a couple of weeks ago with several intelligence types and they all agreed that President Obama taking time tot sort this thing out was a good thing. None of them anticipated that the way in which he would "sort this thing out" would be an irresponsible plan that is more appeasing the extreme left of his party than legitimate solution to the Afghanistan question.

President Obama's inexperience is showing, once again.

Our troops deserve better.

You ought to read Byron York, too, who writes about Democrat party political lies calculations w/re: to Iraq & Afghanistan:
Democratic voters and candidates were playing a complex game. Nearly all of them hated the war in Iraq and wanted to pull Americans out of that country. But they were afraid to appear soft on national security, so they pronounced the smaller conflict in Afghanistan one they could support. Many of them didn’t, really, but for political expediency they supported candidates who said they did. Thus the party base signed on to a good war-bad war strategy.


Other top Democrats adopted the get-tough approach, at least when it came time to campaign. In September 2006, as she was leading the effort that would result in Democrats taking over the House and her becoming speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi said George W. Bush “took his eye off the ball” in Afghanistan. “We had a presence over there the past few years, but not to the extent that we needed to get the job done,” Pelosi said. The phrase “took his eye off the ball” became a Democratic mantra about the supposed neglect of Afghanistan — a situation that would be remedied by electing ready-to-fight Democrats.

But now, with Democrats in charge of the entire U.S. government and George Bush nowhere to be found, Pelosi and others in her party are suddenly very, very worried about U.S. escalation in Afghanistan. “There is serious unrest in our caucus,” the speaker said recently. There is so much unrest that Democrats who show little concern about the tripling of already-large budget deficits say they’re worried about the rising cost of the war.

It is in that atmosphere that Obama makes his West Point speech. He had to make certain promises to get elected. Unlike some of his supporters, he has to remember those promises now that he is in office. So he is sending more troops. But he still can’t tell the truth about so many Democratic pledges to support the war in Afghanistan: They didn’t mean it.
I have friends who support our efforts in Afghanistan who thought they could vote Democrat and do no damage to our efforts there.

Guys, I hate to tell you, you were wrong.

President Obama unveils his new Afghanistan strategy today, and in the nick of time Senator John Kerry has arrived with a report claiming that none of this would be necessary if former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had only deployed more troops eight years ago. Yes, he really said more troops.

In a 43-page report issued yesterday by his Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry says bin Laden and deputy Ayman Zawahiri were poised for capture at the Tora Bora cave complex in late 2001. But because of the "unwillingness" of Mr. Rumsfeld and his generals "to deploy the troops required to take advantage of solid intelligence and unique circumstances to kill or capture bin Laden," the al Qaeda leaders escaped.

This in turn "paved the way for exactly what we had hoped to avoid—a protracted insurgency that has cost more lives than anyone estimates would have been lost in a full-blown assault on Tora Bora."

The timing of the report's release suggests that Mr. Kerry intends this as political cover for Mr. Obama and Democrats, and some in the press corps have even taken it seriously. But coming from Mr. Kerry, of all people, this criticism is nothing short of astonishing.

In 2001, readers may recall, the Washington establishment that included Mr. Kerry was fretting about the danger in Afghanistan from committing too many troops. The New York Times made the "quagmire" point explicitly in a famous page-one analysis, and Seymour Hersh fed the cliche at The New Yorker.

On CNN with Larry King on Dec. 15, 2001, a viewer called in to say the U.S. should "smoke [bin Laden] out" of the Tora Bora caves. Mr. Kerry responded: "For the moment what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way." The Rumsfeld-General Tommy Franks troop strategy may have missed bin Laden, but it reflected domestic political doubts about an extended Afghan campaign.

Remarkably, Mr. Kerry is now repeating those same doubts about Mr. Obama's troop decision, saying that the "Afghans must do the heavy lifting" and that he supports additional troops only for "limited purposes" and wants the U.S. out within "four to five years." Adapting his legendary 2004 campaign locution, Mr. Kerry is now in favor of more troops after he was against them, but in any case not for very long.
Since Senator Lieberman left in 2006, there are few responsible adults left in the Democrat party.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

01 December 2009

The Power Of Markets In Healthcare: I Have Seen A Vision Of The Future And This Is It

Division of labor and specialization.

The approach has transformed health care in India through a simple premise that works in other industries: economies of scale. By driving huge volumes, even of procedures as sophisticated, delicate and dangerous as heart surgery, Dr. Shetty has managed to drive down the cost of health care in his nation of one billion.

His model offers insights for countries worldwide that are struggling with soaring medical costs, including the U.S. as it debates major health-care overhaul.

"Japanese companies reinvented the process of making cars. That's what we're doing in health care," Dr. Shetty says. "What health care needs is process innovation, not product innovation."

At his flagship, 1,000-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, surgeons operate at a capacity virtually unheard of in the U.S., where the average hospital has 160 beds, according to the American Hospital Association.

Narayana's 42 cardiac surgeons performed 3,174 cardiac bypass surgeries in 2008, more than double the 1,367 the Cleveland Clinic, a U.S. leader, did in the same year. His surgeons operated on 2,777 pediatric patients, more than double the 1,026 surgeries performed at Children's Hospital Boston.

But Jack Lewin, chief executive of the American College of Cardiology, who visited Dr. Shetty's hospital earlier this year as a guest lecturer, says Dr. Shetty has done just the opposite -- used high volumes to improve quality. For one thing, some studies show quality rises at hospitals that perform more surgeries for the simple reason that doctors are getting more experience. And at Narayana, says Dr. Lewin, the large number of patients allows individual doctors to focus on one or two specific types of cardiac surgeries.

In smaller U.S. and Indian hospitals, he says, there aren't enough patients for one surgeon to focus exclusively on one type of heart procedure.

Narayana surgeon Colin John, for example, has performed nearly 4,000 complex pediatric procedures known as Tetralogy of Fallot in his 30-year career. The procedure repairs four different heart abnormalities at once. Many surgeons in other countries would never reach that number of any type of cardiac surgery in their lifetimes.

Dr. Shetty's success rates appear to be as good as those of many hospitals abroad. Narayana Hrudayalaya reports a 1.4% mortality rate within 30 days of coronary artery bypass graft surgery, one of the most common procedures, compared with an average of 1.9% in the U.S. in 2008, according to data gathered by the Chicago-based Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

It isn't possible truly to compare the mortality rates, says Dr. Shetty, because he doesn't adjust his mortality rate to reflect patients' ages and other illnesses, in what is known as a risk-adjusted mortality rate. India's National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers asks hospitals to provide their mortality rates for surgery, without risk adjustment.

Dr. Lewin believes Dr. Shetty's success rates would look even better if he adjusted for risk, because his patients often lack access to even basic health care and suffer from more advanced cardiac disease when they finally come in for surgery.
In addition to keeping costs low so the people of his country can afford life-saving heart surgery, Dr. Shetty also turns a profit--about 7.7% after taxes and more than the 6.9% average in the United States.

This is the sort of thing I'm talking about when I refer to market reform of healthcare. Neither I, nor anyone else has to come up with all the answers, indeed, we couldn't possibly do so. That is for a market, full of enterprising, profit-seeking individuals to figure out.

The role of government is not to provide healthcare for everyone through some sort of trojan horse-like public option that morphs into British- or Canadian-style socialized medicine. It is to get the hell out of the way of a free market that would lower costs and improve quality.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.