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June 29, 2009

A Single-Issue Confirmation Vote for Sotomayor?

 R E V E R S E D !

 

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And

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Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 by Jay B. Gaskill

Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]

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THIS IS MORE THAN A SPEED-BUMP FOR THE SOTOMAYOR NOMINATION

IS PAYBACK COMING?

 

SCOTUS, in a 5-4 decision has ruled against pro-minority discrimination, reversing a lower-court decision (in which Ms. Sotomayor is on the now losing side) that voided a race-neutral competitive promotional examination for firefighters because an insufficient number of minorities made it to the top.  There was no evidence of actual invidious discrimination.

Here is today's AP report:

"New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

"The ruling could give Sotomayor's critics fresh ammunition two weeks before her Senate confirmation hearing. Conservatives say it shows she is a judicial activist who lets her own feelings color her decisions. On the other hand, liberal allies say her stance in the case demonstrates her restraint and unwillingness to go beyond established precedents."

Whatever the nominee now says, her appointment to the Supreme Court will be understood by all observers to represent a decisive vote against race-neutral employment decisions whenever they adversely impact a minority group

 

Never before in my memory has a nominee been so clearly and unambiguously trapped on one side of a contested issue before Senate confirmation.

Make no mistake:  Not just conservatives are concerned about this issue. Many liberals are now prepared to move beyond the race-based "counter-discrimination" policies of the 70's and 80's.  And many centrists thought (mistakenly it now appears) that Mr. Obama's election would represent a breath of fresh air on the race issue, a return to less race conscious public policies. 

 

Ms. Sotomayor's proponents will counter that she will recuse herself on the pending case (since Justice Souter whom she would replace retires before the case has been finally resolved).  That would be unconvincing as would her own protestations that she "hasn't really determined the issue" from the fresh perspective of an Associate Justice of SCOTUS.

 

In the absence of any other ammunition against her, Judge Sotomayor will probably be confirmed.  But one more wedge issue will have arisen within the now-fragmenting Obama coalition.  Democratic Senators pressured to swallow reservations and confirm this nominee will not forget the experience.  There will be payback....

 

JBG

 

 

 

June 22, 2009

THE COMING ‘OBAMA-CARE’ TRAIN WRECK

THE COMING ‘OBAMA-CARE’ TRAIN WRECK

 

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The full article as posted on THE POLICY THINK SITE in htm format –
LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/HeathCareTrainWreck.htm

 

 

RATIONAL ALTERNATIVES
OR

HEADLONG PLUNGE

 

 

MONDAY MORNING
TODAY’S NEW YORK TIMES (6-22-09)

 

“The three different House committees working on the legislation hold a flurry of hearings, the Senate health committee resumes its public drafting sessions, and the Senate Finance Committee continues its intense back-room negotiations in an effort to bring down the cost of the legislation and find common ground on how to pay for it.

 

“In the Senate, the initial cost estimates by the Congressional Budget Office left lawmakers with severe sticker shock. And the joint bill unveiled on Friday by a trio of powerful committee chairmen in the House seemed to offer Americans even more generous health benefits, suggesting an even higher price tag.”

 

 

The current hard sell is like pushing bypass surgery on someone who just needs cholesterol reducing meds and daily aspirin.  Worse still, the bypass that is proposed will actually starve the heart, eventually requiring a new one.  By that time, the only option will be a crude mechanical heart, one size-fits-all, and a wheelchair.  We are on the precipice of a legislative catastrophe, one that risks permanent damage to the best health care system in the world.

 

THE PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGE

 

On June 10, the president said that affordable health insurance is “an economic imperative, but it’s also a moral imperative.”  He went on to tell the crowd that the “next eight weeks is [sic] going to be critical.  And you need to be really paying attention and putting pressure on your members of Congress to say, ‘There's no excuses – if we don't get it done this year, we're probably not going to get it done.’”

 

And he added this challenge: “To those who criticize our efforts, I ask them, ‘What's the alternative?’”
 

 

A SANE RESPONSE

 

Mr. Obama, your partisans are disturbed by that irritating, in-house truth teller, the Congressional Budget Office, whose cost numbers are chillingly honest.  There is no realistic scenario in which the pending utopian plan, however the costs are disguised, does not come with a huge tax burden.  You have asked for an alternative.  There are several sane ones.  Let’s have a look....

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The health-care partisans are in a headlong rush towards an autocratically administered “single payer” model that presents the risk of degrading or even destroying the finest health care delivery system in the world. 

 

Their core proposal creates a covertly subsidized, federal plan to “compete” with the pay-as-you-go, over-regulated “private” plans. But that is a loss leader, analogous to the corporate behemoth that uses predatory pricing to destroy its rivals then takes over the market.  But instead of wringing out profits from the customers who were undercharged as a lure, the health care “reform’ partisans are planning something even worse. 

 

This is a “bait and switch” game: First the government “reform” will offer unaffordable arrangements at cut rates.  This is just to ensure political buy-in, counting on the magical thinking of an enraptured congress the less tightly wrapped members of which are still willing to pay the bills with fairy money.  Because the proposed level of care is unsustainable at cut rates, the government will then be forced to substitute reduced care levels for the 80% who are already generally satisfied with their care.  Why will this inevitably happen?  When entitlements are created, the money will run out.  This is a political axiom, like night follows day.  When cost containment fails, as it must, taxes and fees will go up dramatically.  When voters complain about that (and they will because taxpayers and politicians will eventually refuse to fund exponentially growing open-ended entitlements), the government will be forced to cut budgets.  

 

Over time, services will be reduced until the socialist equilibrium is reached: equally mediocre care to all at bloated costs. 

 

Top-down, bureaucratic cost containment has a clear history: It always fails.  The pathetic attempts of government bureaucracies to imitate market-driven efficiencies are like drunken Cossacks plodding their way through a ballet.  Subsidies prop up prices.  Bureaucrats are clueless when asked to produce real efficiencies, but they do know how to reduce performance.  The inevitable budget cutbacks are always felt in delayed diagnosis and treatment (check out Canada, the UK and Europe – follow the treatment exodus to the USA).  Soon we get questionable clinical decisions to deny “costly” therapies, then...finally, a health care system that begins to resemble the Soviet model:  The politically favored get reasonably adequate service and everyone else is left standing in line.  Want to see how difficult the achieving recovery from that end-state would be?  Have you visited the new Russia lately?

 

This well trodden path would be foolish to take in the best of times.  During a recession it would be flat out insanity.  Fortunately, a growing number of Blue Dog Democrats are beginning to see this scheme for what it is.  Should the answer simply be NO?  That would be far, far better than the poison-pill entitlement scheme currently at the prow of the “reform” juggernaut.   But there are realistic alternatives.  If moderates and conservatives take up the president’s challenge, here in outline form is what their response should look like.

 

 

REAL-WORLD STRATEGIES

 

1. Incremental reform.  We are living through an economic crisis, not a heath care crisis.  Global, top down “reform” proposals have failed in better times, and they deserve even more to fail now when the consequences of making bad policy are amplified tenfold.

 

2. Better portability and access.  The proposal is for “better” not perfect. 

 

3. No new unfunded (or under-funded) entitlements.  See the financial crisis referenced above.

 

4. Address the real problems. These are the three categories of health care problems that affect most people some of the time and some of the people all of the time:

            (a) Increasing the portability of insurance coverage;

            (b) Improving basic care access for the indigent;

            (c) Containing runaway costs.

Note that these problem areas are presented as “Needs improvement”, not “Crisis demanding radical solutions”.

 

5. Make incremental, testable progress.  By addressing the real problems realistically and gradually, there will be an opportunity for a progress metric, allowing for self correction and adjustment.

 

 

REAL WORLD REFORM

PART ONE
PORTABILITY AND COST CONTAINMENT

 

Routine visits: 

 

Americans need to be retrained to go to a physician or a clinic (see indigent services below) for routine care.  The common, real world patient experience is that direct pay-for-service prices are priced lower than subsidized services, particularly when all costs and charges are widely posted.  Pre-tax income should be voluntarily allocated to medical care accounts, whether directly by an employer or an individual, whether in a lump sum during a tax year (for a credit if the money had already been subject to federal income tax withholding) up to 10k per individual or during the tax year as non-taxable income. 

 

These funds can be freely transferred and shared, within a family or circle of friends, or when a charitable campaign is organized to assist a deserving patient.  Prepaid medical cash cards will be developed and used for this purpose (see indigent services below) for the needy.

 

Price transparency:

 

Hospitals, physicians and clinics will be required to post actual costs and prices and given incentives for discounts, including a tiny subsidy for accepting credit card payments (offsetting the bank-lender fees).

 

Expanded, shared risk pools:

 

In cooperation with state governments and private insurers, the government will insure shared risk pools that contain a sufficiently large mix of patients to offset the high-cost patients.  The resulting per-patient cost then is shared by all private insurers who buy into the pool, subject to the federal guarantee.  Note: The scope of the guarantee is carefully limited, though it can be augmented by state, municipal and charitable supplements. 

 

The risk pools should be assembled incrementally, but available nationally as they come on line.  An illustrative example of the first pool: $4,500 deductible per condition or per year for serial conditions, with a $1 million cap.  Private individuals could buy in directly; private insurers could contract to fold the group in to a package that expanded coverage at either end.  Each fiscal year, the prices would be reevaluated by industry and government actuaries.

 

 


PART TWO
INDIGENT SERVICES

 

Means-tested, “free” clinics: 

 

The requirement that no one can be turned away from an emergency room would be relaxed whenever a hospital, otherwise subject to that mandate, facilitates the establishment of a qualifying clinic nearby to which the hospital contributes at least one physician on call and a nurse practitioner.  The financial arrangements are to be kept flexible, with an expectation that private donations, religious or otherwise, could be commingled with public resources, including volunteer medical staff protected by law from all but the most extreme malpractice claims and other work restrictions.  Ditto: all qualified volunteers. 

 

These are to be structured as not-for-profit entities, loosely affiliated with the parent hospitals that would establish operating standards but would be fully insulated by law from all liability. 

Fees for service would be scaled, a nominal fee for all (to be waived in extreme cases) up to the full fee. Credit cards and prepaid medical cash cards accepted.  Prescriptions issued.  Generic drugs offered at cost.

 

Fast Track Medical Bankruptcy: 

 

A separate, streamlined bankruptcy procedure will be established for medical expenses only, debt discharge limited to the medical ones plus ancillary debts directly related. 

 

At the bankruptcy court’s discretion under rules established by that court, for good cause additional bankruptcy filings can be entertained before the current waiting period for regular bankruptcies.

 

Generic Drug Program: 

 

Any drug withdrawn from the market by its patent holder or primary manufacturer after the original patent has expired becomes “public domain” after the expiration of one year from withdrawal. 

 

All disputes relating to the public domain issue, including those arising from controversies concerning the asserted scope and duration of the patent(s) or grounded in clams for compensation based on “public taking” grounds will be referred to the courts for expedited eminent domain proceedings; these courts are empowered to reasonably compensate the patent holder or aggrieved licensees for any taking. 

 

A list of all reasonably efficacious generic medicines would be maintained and posted by the FDA.  All listed generic medicines may be manufactured and sold within the USA or outside for sale in the USA without restriction, at the market price or they may be donated below that price without restriction.

 

 

 

[][][]

 


FINDING THE BRAKES

 

Blue Dog Democrats are beginning to get the message: DON’T SCREW THIS UP FOR OUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN. 

 

The American people are profoundly uneasy about ‘health care reform” for a good reason.  A one-party political machine is currently at the controls of the runaway train.  POTUS and this congress have jammed the in-box with spending so far beyond the national means that the unpaid bill is staggering.  The train is running out of control and our president fears a loss of momentum?    

 

We should fear a coming fiscal train wreck.  That will be difficult enough to endure without adding the unnecessary destruction of the best health care delivery system in the world.

 

Will the forces of reason and restraint acquire the necessary backbone in time? 

 

Stay tuned....

 

JBG

 

 

 

 

June 10, 2009

FOREIGN TERROR COMBATANTS HAVE MIRANDA RIGHTS???

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PRINT LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/Miranda4Terror.htm   


FOREIGN TERROR COMBATANTS HAVE MIRANDA RIGHTS
TELL ME IT AIN’T TRUE
 

Background:


 

From the LA Times, May 28:
“Reporting from Washington -- The FBI and Justice Department plan to significantly expand their role in global counter-terrorism operations, part of a U.S. policy shift that will replace a CIA-dominated system of clandestine detentions and interrogations with one built around transparent investigations and prosecutions.
"Regardless of where any bad guy is caught, we want the bureau to be in a position to put charges on them," the official said, adding that the Bush administration's emphasis on CIA and military operations often marginalized the FBI -- especially when it came to interrogating suspects.

“Like others interviewed for this article, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity because no one has been authorized to discuss the initiative publicly."We have no comment on it at this time," FBI Assistant Director John J. Miller, the bureau's chief spokesman, said when asked about the initiative”

 

TODAY’S REPORT

A leading republican on the House Intelligence subcommittee, Mike Rogers, has reported that FBI agents may now be required by the Administration to Mirandize Afghanistan terror (i.e., ‘high value”) detainees. [Weekly Standard – LINK: http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/06/miranda_rights_for_terrorists.asp ]
I can just imagine the Dick Cheney version of Miranda:
“You have the right to remain silent, [even during enhanced interrogation]. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law [provided you live to see a court of law, and provided you are lucky enough to be prosecuted in the USA.]
“You [will] have the right to speak to an attorney [in the USA.  No, O. J. Simpson’s legal team is NOT available] and to have an attorney present during any questioning.
“If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.  [We are sorry but there are no funds for a publicist at this time, but at no cost to you, we are providing the latest copy of the Al Qaeda interrogation manual for terrorists in the field.]”


___

I devoutly hope that the ‘Miranda-your-high-value-terrorist’ reports are somebody’s idea of a joke.

Returning to the ‘LA Law’ method of dealing with terrorists and enemy combatants in the field is suicidal naiveté.


Tell me it ain’t true.


JBG


 

 

June 02, 2009

SEVEN POUNDS - David Brooks & the Dismemberment of General Motors

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All contents, unless otherwise indicated are --
Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article - except for personal use - is needed. Forwarded links welcomed.

 

Contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

As posted on “The Policy Think Site” in htm format,
LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/GMCSevenPounds.htm

 

 

SEVEN POUNDS
David Brooks & the Dismemberment of General Motors

 

 

 

In the movie “Seven Pounds” (2008 Columbia), Will Smith plays a work-driven executive with a beautiful wife and a beach house who is consumed by guilt when to takes his eyes off the road to take a business call, causing a spectacular crash that kills his wife and an entire family of six.

 

He makes amends by giving away his house, then parts of his body to deserving people, his brother, a close friend – who is enlisted in the end game, then a little boy, an ailing, beloved coach – you get the idea.  Having given the parts that one can live without, lung lobe, liver slice, bone marrow, the story comes down to the parts that will end this man’s life, his eyes to a blind musician and his heart to a woman with whom he has fallen in love.   Let’s skip the rest....

 

It occurred to me this is the GMC parable of our time.  In a chop shop, stolen cars are “parted out” because the parts can bring in more money than the car itself.  The Will Smith character had apparently concluded that his life had reached its useful end and he decided to part himself out.

 

It looks like the GMC dismemberment will follow the same pattern: its European division goes to a Russian-Canadian group, the Hummer goes to the Chinese (I’m not making this up) and with any luck the Saturn division will go the Renault-Nissan).  That pretty much leaves the beating heart.

 

Enter David Brooks who today addressed the failure of the whole bail-out notion because of GM’s defective “heart” (corporate culture) in “The Quagmire Ahead”.  Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/opinion/02brooks.html?_r=1&ref=opinion .  I’ve made the same points in this space: See “Toying With Carz” http://jaygaskill.com/ToyingWithCArz.htm  , and “The
Great auto Salvage Operation” http://jaygaskill.com/AutoSalvageOperation.htm  .

 

The problem is that the “heart” of the GMC culture is so toxic that it will kill its next host.  This is why the administration is now trapped into keeping it o life support, possibly forever.  The same political mindset that was willing to pull the plug on Terri Schiavo in 2001), can’t bring itself to so the same for a spectacularly failed carmaker.  There are many wonderful things about the liberal mindset, but realistic toughness in the business world isn’t among them.  We the taxpayers have been sold a colossal lemon. 

 

When do we get our rebate?

 

JBG

 

June 01, 2009

Demons And Us

As Published On
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And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

DEMONS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

 

From time to time, I post some reflections on my ‘Bridge to Being Blog’ a place where I tend to address the bigger issues that concern the great secular-religious divide.  In the above referenced piece, I address the question of evil in a “novel” way.

 

The full article is posted on the Policy Think Site in htm format. 

LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/Nightmare21.htm

 

Here is a short excerpt from that article, “The Demons Inhabiting G-d’s Universes

 

When the history of this brave new century is written, I believe that one of its earliest prophets will be the cyber-scientist, Bill Joy, who invented Java script, the computer language that knits our web communications together.  His prophesies were first set out in powerful article written in early 2000 for WIRED.  “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” has never gone off-line or out of print.  Here is the LINK: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html .  This is a wide ranging discussion about the future of cyber and nano-technologies, their promise and dangers, but there is a sobering takeaway point for those of us who see the relevance and extreme danger represented by meta-Evil in its 21st century incarnations:

 

“Thus we have the possibility not just of weapons of mass destruction but of knowledge-enabled mass destruction (KMD), this destructiveness hugely amplified by the power of self-replication.

 

“I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals.”

 

The potential link-up of the demonic mindset with KMD’s is a transcendent threat to humanity.  We face the ongoing prospect of emerging negative charismatic leaders who in turn can command the resources to ignite a series of catastrophic events that collectively could reduce civilization to something resembling the Terry Brooks nightmares I’ve just referenced. 

 

Existential Evil must be resolutely, courageously and effectively opposed with practical, real world measures.  The entire world sat by idly during the first holocausts of the 20th century.  Never again...is more than a slogan.  It is a survival imperative. The moral and physiological damage from a passive, pacific and ineffective response to the looming new holocausts in this century will empower ontological evil, possibly beyond our power to contain it.  I do not exaggerate that the tendency to deny or dismiss existential and ontological Evil opens the doors wide to a local version of the End times.

 

Our personal “demon” inoculation lies in the maximum incarnation of the life affirming Creative Agency in each of us.  The task before us is to take the life affirming, creation-affirming, theogenic ethos out of all sectarian limitations, well beyond the religious-secular boundary into the world at large.  All morally aware men and women, secular and religious, need to accept the charge.  If we are to get through the present century intact, people of good will everywhere need to enlist.

 

JBG

 

 


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