Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WSJ.com - Major Hasan and Holy War


WSJ.com - Opinion: Major Hasan and Holy War


A domestic Islamic threat is real, and the FBI is unprepared to fight it.

It shouldn't require the U.S. to have a French-style, internal-security service to neutralize the likes of Maj. Hasan. He combines all of the factors—especially his public ruminations about American villainy in the Middle East and his overriding sense of Muslim fraternity—that should have had him under surveillance by counterintelligence units. Add the outrageous fact that he was in email correspondence with Anwar al-Awlaqi, a pro-al Qaeda imam well-known to American intelligence, and it is hard not to conclude that the FBI is still incapable of counterterrorism against an Islamic target.

For the FBI, religion remains a much too sensitive subject, much more so than the threatening ideologies of yesteryear. Imagine if Maj. Hasan had been an officer during the Cold War, regularly expressing his sympathy for the Soviet Union and American criminality against the working man. Imagine him writing to a KGB front organization espousing socialist solidarity. The major would have been surrounded by counterintelligence officers.




Monday, November 23, 2009

WSJ.com - Eric Holder's Baffling KSM Decision


WSJ.com - Opinion: Eric Holder's Baffling KSM Decision


On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to question Attorney General Eric Holder about his decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others in criminal courts rather than military tribunals. As the father of Todd Beamer, who died on United Airlines Flight 93, I was able to attend that hearing.

In his opening remarks, Attorney General Holder acknowledged that these defendants could have been brought to trial in civilian court or before military tribunals. But he made the argument that trying them in our criminal courts would restore the integrity of our judicial system. He assured us that the trials would be quick, that the safety of New Yorkers would be paramount, that classified information would not be revealed, that the evidence was overwhelming, and that justice would be served.

Then the Republican members proceeded to ask Mr. Holder thoughtful questions. Some examples:

How can we be assured that these enemies will be found guilty? Given that criminal courts are now the presumed venue for those captured on the battlefield, will soldiers need to read them their rights at the time of capture? Since you wish to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis to the presumed civil venue, don't all those captured need to be read their rights and have the opportunity to remain silent? Won't this venue expose intelligence to our enemies? Can our classified information really be secured? Can we in fact predict how the judge will rule? If these people are brought into the country will they get additional rights under immigration law? What if they claim asylum?

The attorney general seemed bewildered in the face of these inquiries. Recurring themes in his responses included "I think," and "I can't imagine," and "I am not an expert in immigration."

Has our attorney general not considered these issues, or imagined the possible unintended consequences that will arise from his historic decision? It certainly seemed that way. If he had, he would have had better answers.





Friday, November 6, 2009

How American Health Care Killed My Father

You really need to read this article!  (even if you delete all my other ones – read this one!)

I have read, literally, hundreds of articles on health care this year; this article is the best I’ve come across from any source.  It is written by a Democrat (and Obama supporter), but it is not partisan at all.  If you want to understand the many forces standing in the way of better health care, read this article!  A few paragraphs are quoted below.





Keeping Dad company in the hospital for five weeks had left me befuddled. How can a facility featuring state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment use less-sophisticated information technology than my local sushi bar? How can the ICU stress the importance of sterility when its trash is picked up once daily, and only after flowing onto the floor of a patient’s room?...  Why, in other words, has this technologically advanced hospital missed out on the revolution in quality control and customer service that has swept all other consumer-facing industries in the past two generations?


I’m a businessman, and in no sense a health-care expert. But the persistence of bad industry practices—from long lines at the doctor’s office to ever-rising prices to astonishing numbers of preventable deaths—seems beyond all normal logic, and must have an underlying cause. There needs to be a business reason why an industry, year in and year out, would be able to get away with poor customer service, unaffordable prices, and uneven results—a reason my father and so many others are unnecessarily killed.


All of the actors in health care—from doctors to insurers to pharmaceutical companies—work in a heavily regulated, massively subsidized industry full of structural distortions. They all want to serve patients well. But they also all behave rationally in response to the economic incentives those distortions create. Accidentally, but relentlessly, America has built a health-care system with incentives that inexorably generate terrible and perverse results. Incentives that emphasize health care over any other aspect of health and well-being. That emphasize treatment over prevention. That disguise true costs. That favor complexity, and discourage transparent competition based on price or quality. That result in a generational pyramid scheme rather than sustainable financing. And that—most important—remove consumers from our irreplaceable role as the ultimate ensurer of value.


I’m a Democrat, and have long been concerned about America’s lack of a health safety net. But based on my own work experience, I also believe that unless we fix the problems at the foundation of our health system—largely problems of incentives—our reforms won’t do much good, and may do harm. To achieve maximum coverage at acceptable cost with acceptable quality, health care will need to become subject to the same forces that have boosted efficiency and value throughout the economy. We will need to reduce, rather than expand, the role of insurance; focus the government’s role exclusively on things that only government can do (protect the poor, cover us against true catastrophe, enforce safety standards, and ensure provider competition); overcome our addiction to Ponzi-scheme financing, hidden subsidies, manipulated prices, and undisclosed results; and rely more on ourselves, the consumers, as the ultimate guarantors of good service, reasonable prices, and sensible trade-offs between health-care spending and spending on all the other good things money can buy.


Would our health-care system be so outrageously expensive if each American family directly spent even half of that $1.77 million that it will contribute to health insurance and Medicare over a lifetime, instead of entrusting care to massive government and private intermediaries?


But let’s forget about money for a moment. Aren’t we also likely to get worse care in any system where providers are more accountable to insurance companies and government agencies than to us?



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

WSJ.com - The Worst Bill Ever

Hyperbole? Maybe. Maybe not.

In a rational political world, this 1,990-page runaway train would have been derailed months ago. With spending and debt already at record peacetime levels, the bill creates a new and probably unrepealable middle-class entitlement that is designed to expand over time. Taxes will need to rise precipitously, even as ObamaCare so dramatically expands government control of health care that eventually all medicine will be rationed via politics.

Yet at this point, Democrats have dumped any pretense of genuine bipartisan "reform" and moved into the realm of pure power politics as they race against the unpopularity of their own agenda. The goal is to ram through whatever income-redistribution scheme they can claim to be "universal coverage." The result will be destructive on every level—for the health-care system, for the country's fiscal condition, and ultimately for American freedom and prosperity.

A new "health choices commissioner" will decide what counts as "essential benefits," which all insurers will have to offer as first-dollar coverage. Private insurers will also be told how much they are allowed to charge even as they will have to offer coverage at virtually the same price to anyone who applies, regardless of health status or medical history.

The cost of insurance, naturally, will skyrocket. 

As Congress's balance sheet drowns in trillions of dollars in new obligations, the political system will have no choice but to start making cost-minded decisions about which treatments patients are allowed to receive. Democrats can't regulate their way out of the reality that we live in a world of finite resources and infinite wants.

Monday, November 2, 2009

WSJ.com - Obama and the Old Hat People

In a world defined by nearly 100,000 iPhone apps, a world of seemingly limitless, self-defined choice, the Democrats are pushing the biggest, fattest, one-size-fits all legislation since 1965. And they brag this will complete the dream Franklin D. Roosevelt had in 1939.

The health-care bill is big, complex, incomprehensible and coercive—all the things people hate nowadays.

It's easy to make jokes about how insubstantial the millions of people seem to be who are constantly using technologies like Twitter. But these new digital and Web-based technologies, which have decentralized virtually everything, now occupy most of the average person's waking hours at work or at home. 

The one lump that won't change is government. Government in our time is looking out of it.

The larger point here isn't necessarily partisan. It's a description of the way people live their lives in a 21st century world, and how disconnected politics has become from that world.