Commentary Magazine


Topic: cancer

Incitement Kills — but Not Always Its Intended Target

The Israel Defense Forces has finally published the conclusion of its inquiry into the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah, the woman allegedly killed by Israeli tear gas while protesting the security fence in the West Bank town of Bili’in last month. The official conclusion of the inquiry, based on Abu Rahmah’s hospital records, is medical error: a misdiagnosis leading to inappropriate treatment. But if that conclusion is correct, then what really killed Abu Rahmah is not mere error but the Palestinians’ own anti-Israel incitement.

The inquiry concluded that “doctors believed Abu Rahmah was sickened by phosphorous fertilizer and nerve gas. She was therefore treated with atropine and fluids, without Palestinian doctors realizing that she had in fact inhaled tear gas.”

Atropine is the standard treatment for poisonous gas. But it can be deadly if given in large doses to someone who hasn’t inhaled poison gas.

And this is where incitement comes in. Anyone who knows anything about Israel would know that the IDF doesn’t even use nerve gas against combatants armed with sophisticated weapons, much less against rock-throwing demonstrators.

But wild allegations of preposterous Israeli crimes are standard fare among Palestinians, and indeed throughout the Arab world. Israel has been accused of everything from poisoning Palestinian wells with depleted uranium to sending sharks to attack Egypt’s Red Sea resorts in order to undermine that country’s tourist industry. And one staple of this genre is the claim that Israel uses poison gas against Palestinians. Indeed, the claim was publicly made by no less a person than Yasir Arafat’s wife in a 1999 meeting with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton: Suha Arafat charged that “intensive daily use of poison gas by Israeli forces” was causing cancer among Palestinians.

Had it not been for the fact that such preposterous claims are so routinely reported as fact that they have become widely believed, Abu Rahmah’s doctors would never have entertained the possibility that her symptoms were caused by poison gas. They would instead have focused on plausible causes of her complaint, and thereby avoided the fatal misdiagnosis.

Palestinian incitement has cost Israel thousands of dead and wounded and contributed to the blackening of its image overseas. But the Abu Rahmah case underscores the fact that the ultimate victim of such lies is the society that perpetrates them. For when the distinction between truth and falsehood loses all meaning, a society becomes dysfunctional.

You can’t run a functioning legal system if rampant conspiracy theories mean key verdicts will be widely disbelieved, as may well be the case with the inquiry into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. You can’t run an army if you fall so captive to your own propaganda that you misread both your own and the enemy’s capabilities — a fact that contributed to the Arabs states’ disastrous loss to Israel in 1967. And it turns out you can’t save lives if you let propaganda warp your diagnoses.

The Israel Defense Forces has finally published the conclusion of its inquiry into the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah, the woman allegedly killed by Israeli tear gas while protesting the security fence in the West Bank town of Bili’in last month. The official conclusion of the inquiry, based on Abu Rahmah’s hospital records, is medical error: a misdiagnosis leading to inappropriate treatment. But if that conclusion is correct, then what really killed Abu Rahmah is not mere error but the Palestinians’ own anti-Israel incitement.

The inquiry concluded that “doctors believed Abu Rahmah was sickened by phosphorous fertilizer and nerve gas. She was therefore treated with atropine and fluids, without Palestinian doctors realizing that she had in fact inhaled tear gas.”

Atropine is the standard treatment for poisonous gas. But it can be deadly if given in large doses to someone who hasn’t inhaled poison gas.

And this is where incitement comes in. Anyone who knows anything about Israel would know that the IDF doesn’t even use nerve gas against combatants armed with sophisticated weapons, much less against rock-throwing demonstrators.

But wild allegations of preposterous Israeli crimes are standard fare among Palestinians, and indeed throughout the Arab world. Israel has been accused of everything from poisoning Palestinian wells with depleted uranium to sending sharks to attack Egypt’s Red Sea resorts in order to undermine that country’s tourist industry. And one staple of this genre is the claim that Israel uses poison gas against Palestinians. Indeed, the claim was publicly made by no less a person than Yasir Arafat’s wife in a 1999 meeting with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton: Suha Arafat charged that “intensive daily use of poison gas by Israeli forces” was causing cancer among Palestinians.

Had it not been for the fact that such preposterous claims are so routinely reported as fact that they have become widely believed, Abu Rahmah’s doctors would never have entertained the possibility that her symptoms were caused by poison gas. They would instead have focused on plausible causes of her complaint, and thereby avoided the fatal misdiagnosis.

Palestinian incitement has cost Israel thousands of dead and wounded and contributed to the blackening of its image overseas. But the Abu Rahmah case underscores the fact that the ultimate victim of such lies is the society that perpetrates them. For when the distinction between truth and falsehood loses all meaning, a society becomes dysfunctional.

You can’t run a functioning legal system if rampant conspiracy theories mean key verdicts will be widely disbelieved, as may well be the case with the inquiry into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. You can’t run an army if you fall so captive to your own propaganda that you misread both your own and the enemy’s capabilities — a fact that contributed to the Arabs states’ disastrous loss to Israel in 1967. And it turns out you can’t save lives if you let propaganda warp your diagnoses.

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New Facts Emerge in Abu Rahma Case

The IDF has released more details of its investigation of the bizarre death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a Palestinian woman killed near an anti-Israel rally near Bil’in. Palestinian activists have blamed her death on tear gas fired at the protest by IDF soldiers, but that claim has seemed increasingly dubious as more information has come to light.

The investigation initially found that additional medical issues were likely involved, and now the IDF has reportedly concluded that the woman died from medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital immediately after the rally:

Jawaher Abu Rahma, the woman who Palestinians claimed was killed a week and a half ago by IDF-fired tear gas during a demonstration near Bil’in, died as a result of the medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital, the commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said on Friday.

Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon said that the IDF’s conclusion was based on new medical documents it received from the hospital which indicated that the woman received doses of different types of medication completely unrelated to tear gas inhalation.

According to previous information released by the IDF, Abu Rahma was given drugs that are typically used to treat cancer, poison, or a drug overdose. This led some to wonder whether the woman was suffering from cancer long before she was allegedly exposed to tear gas. But based on the new evidence, it doesn’t appear that cancer was what killed her.

Of course, there have been so many contradictory reports on this issue that it’s probably unwise to speculate on the true cause of her death, at least until the IDF releases its final conclusion. But it’s been obvious for a while that tear gas probably wasn’t the culprit — especially considering that Abu Rahma was reportedly about 500 meters away from the rally, and inside a house, when the non-toxic gas was fired.

But despite the growing evidence, anti-Israel activists are continuing to use the incident as a political pawn. Last Friday, activists dedicated an anti-Israel march to Abu Rahma, and others are distributing petitions in her name to ban the supposedly deadly tear gas.

The IDF has released more details of its investigation of the bizarre death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a Palestinian woman killed near an anti-Israel rally near Bil’in. Palestinian activists have blamed her death on tear gas fired at the protest by IDF soldiers, but that claim has seemed increasingly dubious as more information has come to light.

The investigation initially found that additional medical issues were likely involved, and now the IDF has reportedly concluded that the woman died from medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital immediately after the rally:

Jawaher Abu Rahma, the woman who Palestinians claimed was killed a week and a half ago by IDF-fired tear gas during a demonstration near Bil’in, died as a result of the medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital, the commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said on Friday.

Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon said that the IDF’s conclusion was based on new medical documents it received from the hospital which indicated that the woman received doses of different types of medication completely unrelated to tear gas inhalation.

According to previous information released by the IDF, Abu Rahma was given drugs that are typically used to treat cancer, poison, or a drug overdose. This led some to wonder whether the woman was suffering from cancer long before she was allegedly exposed to tear gas. But based on the new evidence, it doesn’t appear that cancer was what killed her.

Of course, there have been so many contradictory reports on this issue that it’s probably unwise to speculate on the true cause of her death, at least until the IDF releases its final conclusion. But it’s been obvious for a while that tear gas probably wasn’t the culprit — especially considering that Abu Rahma was reportedly about 500 meters away from the rally, and inside a house, when the non-toxic gas was fired.

But despite the growing evidence, anti-Israel activists are continuing to use the incident as a political pawn. Last Friday, activists dedicated an anti-Israel march to Abu Rahma, and others are distributing petitions in her name to ban the supposedly deadly tear gas.

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ObamaCare and Political Insanity

According to the New York Times:

Soon after the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday, Republicans in the House plan to make good on a campaign promise that helped vault many new members to victory: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea-Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.

Democrats, who in many cases looked on the law as a rabid beast best avoided in the fall elections, are reversing course, gearing up for a coordinated all-out effort to preserve and defend it. Under the law, they say, consumers are already receiving tangible benefits that Republicans would snatch away.

The story goes on to report this:

Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, challenged the Republicans to bring it on. “We will respond by pointing out the impact of repeal on people’s lives,” Mr. Andrews said. “On women with cancer who could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On senior citizens who would lose the help they are receiving to pay for prescriptions.”

Democrats argue that repeal would increase the number of uninsured; put insurers back in control of health insurance, allowing them to increase premiums at will; and lead to explosive growth in the federal budget deficit.

It’s hard to know if Democrats are serious about pursuing this course. If so, they are heading down a perilous political path. Here’s why: the more the public learns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the more they dislike it — and they dislike it plenty right now.

In addition, the thinking that continues to animate many Democrats — namely, that the only reason Obama’s health-care overhaul isn’t wildly popular is because of a “communications problem” by the White House and congressional Democrats — is wholly in error.

The problem is that ObamaCare is a monstrous, incoherent piece of legislation that is/will (among other things) increase premiums, force millions of people off their existing coverage (which many of them are happy with), and increase, not decrease, the federal-budget deficit. It will harm, not improve, our health-care system. In almost every respect, it compounds rather than ameliorates our problems.

If Democrats want to relitigate ObamaCare, they will find a Republican Party plenty eager to join them.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. With that definition in mind, it is fair to say that on health care at least, the Democratic Party’s strategy is bordering on insanity. If Mr. Obama and his party want the political debate of 2011 to center on health care, they will pay a huge political price for it.

According to the New York Times:

Soon after the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday, Republicans in the House plan to make good on a campaign promise that helped vault many new members to victory: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea-Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.

Democrats, who in many cases looked on the law as a rabid beast best avoided in the fall elections, are reversing course, gearing up for a coordinated all-out effort to preserve and defend it. Under the law, they say, consumers are already receiving tangible benefits that Republicans would snatch away.

The story goes on to report this:

Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, challenged the Republicans to bring it on. “We will respond by pointing out the impact of repeal on people’s lives,” Mr. Andrews said. “On women with cancer who could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On senior citizens who would lose the help they are receiving to pay for prescriptions.”

Democrats argue that repeal would increase the number of uninsured; put insurers back in control of health insurance, allowing them to increase premiums at will; and lead to explosive growth in the federal budget deficit.

It’s hard to know if Democrats are serious about pursuing this course. If so, they are heading down a perilous political path. Here’s why: the more the public learns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the more they dislike it — and they dislike it plenty right now.

In addition, the thinking that continues to animate many Democrats — namely, that the only reason Obama’s health-care overhaul isn’t wildly popular is because of a “communications problem” by the White House and congressional Democrats — is wholly in error.

The problem is that ObamaCare is a monstrous, incoherent piece of legislation that is/will (among other things) increase premiums, force millions of people off their existing coverage (which many of them are happy with), and increase, not decrease, the federal-budget deficit. It will harm, not improve, our health-care system. In almost every respect, it compounds rather than ameliorates our problems.

If Democrats want to relitigate ObamaCare, they will find a Republican Party plenty eager to join them.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. With that definition in mind, it is fair to say that on health care at least, the Democratic Party’s strategy is bordering on insanity. If Mr. Obama and his party want the political debate of 2011 to center on health care, they will pay a huge political price for it.

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Morning Commentary

Are Republicans coming around on New START? Eight GOP members voted to open debate on the treaty in the Senate last night, which some see as a “proxy” for the final vote. New START needs nine Republican supporters in the Senate to pass.

As repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell passes the House for a second time, it picks up another Republican supporter in the Senate: “‘After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,’ [Sen. Olympia] Snowe said in a statement.”

Well, this pretty much ensures that the next Organization of the Islamic Conferences summit is going to be sufficiently awkward: “Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak compared Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East to a ‘cancer,’ according to a cable released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. ‘President Mubarak has made it clear that he sees Iran as Egypt’s — and the region’s — primary strategic threat,’ says the secret cable, sent April 28, 2009, from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”

Two writers and recent Columbia graduates discuss in the New Republic the problematic politics of the university’s controversial new Center for Palestine Studies: “Of course, there is nothing wrong with gathering a broad-based community of scholars behind a new academic initiative. Columbia and American academia need a venue for the interdisciplinary study of Palestine. But, unaccompanied by a dedication to real expertise, the CPS will be little more than a clique of like-minded academics whose defining commonality is hostility toward Israel. In its current form, it’s likely that the first Palestine Center at an American university will lead the way not in ‘a new era of civility,’ but, rather, in politicizing Middle East studies further than ever before.”

The Guardian is predictably outraged that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was given to, apparently, a neocon: “[Liu Xiaobo] has endorsed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. … Liu argues that ‘The free world led by the US fought almost all regimes that trampled on human rights [and the] major wars that the US became involved in are all ethically defensible.’… Liu has also one-sidedly praised Israel’s stance in the Middle East conflict. He places the blame for the Israel/Palestine conflict on Palestinians, who he regards as ‘often the provocateurs.’”

Ross Douthat responds to Mitt Romney supporters who excuse the politician’s “serial insincerity”: “I believe that Mitt Romney is a more serious person, and would probably be a better president, than his campaign style suggests. But issue by issue, policy by policy, that same campaign style makes it awfully hard to figure out where he would actually stand when the pandering stops and the governing begins … because everything he does feels like a pander, I don’t know where he really stands on any of them. And freak show or no freak show, base or no base, that’s no way to run for president.”

Are Republicans coming around on New START? Eight GOP members voted to open debate on the treaty in the Senate last night, which some see as a “proxy” for the final vote. New START needs nine Republican supporters in the Senate to pass.

As repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell passes the House for a second time, it picks up another Republican supporter in the Senate: “‘After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,’ [Sen. Olympia] Snowe said in a statement.”

Well, this pretty much ensures that the next Organization of the Islamic Conferences summit is going to be sufficiently awkward: “Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak compared Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East to a ‘cancer,’ according to a cable released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. ‘President Mubarak has made it clear that he sees Iran as Egypt’s — and the region’s — primary strategic threat,’ says the secret cable, sent April 28, 2009, from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”

Two writers and recent Columbia graduates discuss in the New Republic the problematic politics of the university’s controversial new Center for Palestine Studies: “Of course, there is nothing wrong with gathering a broad-based community of scholars behind a new academic initiative. Columbia and American academia need a venue for the interdisciplinary study of Palestine. But, unaccompanied by a dedication to real expertise, the CPS will be little more than a clique of like-minded academics whose defining commonality is hostility toward Israel. In its current form, it’s likely that the first Palestine Center at an American university will lead the way not in ‘a new era of civility,’ but, rather, in politicizing Middle East studies further than ever before.”

The Guardian is predictably outraged that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was given to, apparently, a neocon: “[Liu Xiaobo] has endorsed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. … Liu argues that ‘The free world led by the US fought almost all regimes that trampled on human rights [and the] major wars that the US became involved in are all ethically defensible.’… Liu has also one-sidedly praised Israel’s stance in the Middle East conflict. He places the blame for the Israel/Palestine conflict on Palestinians, who he regards as ‘often the provocateurs.’”

Ross Douthat responds to Mitt Romney supporters who excuse the politician’s “serial insincerity”: “I believe that Mitt Romney is a more serious person, and would probably be a better president, than his campaign style suggests. But issue by issue, policy by policy, that same campaign style makes it awfully hard to figure out where he would actually stand when the pandering stops and the governing begins … because everything he does feels like a pander, I don’t know where he really stands on any of them. And freak show or no freak show, base or no base, that’s no way to run for president.”

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Christopher Hitchens Talks to Charlie Rose

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

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Christopher Hitchens, Jon Stewart, and More

In his moving article in Vanity Fair about his cancer, Christopher Hitchens disclosed that just before he went on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he violently threw up — the result of the illness he had learned about that morning, when he woke unable to breathe, was barely able to cross his hotel room to call for help, and was saved by emergency treatment by doctors who did “quite a lot” of work on his heart and lungs and told him he needed to consult an oncologist immediately.

That evening he nevertheless appeared as scheduled on Stewart’s show (and then at the 92nd Street Y, where he threw up again), unwilling to disappoint his friends or miss the chance to sell his memoir. In the article, he did not describe what he said on The Daily Show, but his appearance there is worth remembering for reasons going beyond his extraordinary fortitude in proceeding with it.

The video is here. At the end, after discussing his work in a camp for revolutionaries in Cuba in the 60s, there was this colloquy:

Stewart: If you had been young today, going through this same sort of [unintelligible], where do you think your alliances would be, where do you think you would have—

Hitchens: Well, I teach at the New School, and I teach English and a lot of journalists and would-be journalists come, and I often hang out with young people who are journalists, and I’m sorry for them, in a way. Because what are they gonna do – I mean, are they going to say ‘I’m a global warming activist’? It’s not quite the same, is it?

Stewart: Isn’t it all the same once you realize that your idealism — you can use it to further your aims, [if] you realize that nothing is nirvana, nothing is perfect?

Hitchens: Oscar Wilde used to say that a map of the world that doesn’t include Utopia isn’t worth looking at. I used to think that was a beautiful statement. I don’t think that at all anymore. I tell you, to be honest, the most idealistic and brave and committed and intelligent young people that I know have joined the armed forces. And they are now guarding us while we sleep in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. … I never would have expected that would be what I would say about the students I have to teach.

Stewart’s audience, which is often raucous, listened to this in silence.

Hitchens writes in Hitch-22 that these days he thinks about “the shipwrecks and prison islands to which the quest [for Utopia] has led” and that he came to realize that “the only historical revolution with any verve left in it, or any example to offer others, was the American one.” His appearance on the Daily Show was an example not only of his physical courage but also of the intellectual audacity that pervades his book.

In his moving article in Vanity Fair about his cancer, Christopher Hitchens disclosed that just before he went on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he violently threw up — the result of the illness he had learned about that morning, when he woke unable to breathe, was barely able to cross his hotel room to call for help, and was saved by emergency treatment by doctors who did “quite a lot” of work on his heart and lungs and told him he needed to consult an oncologist immediately.

That evening he nevertheless appeared as scheduled on Stewart’s show (and then at the 92nd Street Y, where he threw up again), unwilling to disappoint his friends or miss the chance to sell his memoir. In the article, he did not describe what he said on The Daily Show, but his appearance there is worth remembering for reasons going beyond his extraordinary fortitude in proceeding with it.

The video is here. At the end, after discussing his work in a camp for revolutionaries in Cuba in the 60s, there was this colloquy:

Stewart: If you had been young today, going through this same sort of [unintelligible], where do you think your alliances would be, where do you think you would have—

Hitchens: Well, I teach at the New School, and I teach English and a lot of journalists and would-be journalists come, and I often hang out with young people who are journalists, and I’m sorry for them, in a way. Because what are they gonna do – I mean, are they going to say ‘I’m a global warming activist’? It’s not quite the same, is it?

Stewart: Isn’t it all the same once you realize that your idealism — you can use it to further your aims, [if] you realize that nothing is nirvana, nothing is perfect?

Hitchens: Oscar Wilde used to say that a map of the world that doesn’t include Utopia isn’t worth looking at. I used to think that was a beautiful statement. I don’t think that at all anymore. I tell you, to be honest, the most idealistic and brave and committed and intelligent young people that I know have joined the armed forces. And they are now guarding us while we sleep in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. … I never would have expected that would be what I would say about the students I have to teach.

Stewart’s audience, which is often raucous, listened to this in silence.

Hitchens writes in Hitch-22 that these days he thinks about “the shipwrecks and prison islands to which the quest [for Utopia] has led” and that he came to realize that “the only historical revolution with any verve left in it, or any example to offer others, was the American one.” His appearance on the Daily Show was an example not only of his physical courage but also of the intellectual audacity that pervades his book.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias’s] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.'”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.'”

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias’s] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.'”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.'”

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Don’t Try This at Home. No, Seriously.

So this guy, this North Korean financial-guru guy, was put in front of a firing squad because his fiscal policy was goofy.

Mr Pak Nam Ki was responsible for revaluing the communist regime’s currency last November, but his attempts to curb inflation caused nationwide misery — and leader Kim Jong Ill was not amused.

It is understood the execution is an attempt to contain civil unrest.

His last words?

What the –? We’re a Communist dictatorship. H-e-e-e-e-el-l-l-o-o-o-o. Our economy is SUPPOSED TO COLLAPSE. I thought you guys wanted massive inflation and a worthless currency — and so delivered same in a timely fashion. Had anyone seriously suggested that I revive our economy, I would have said, “First, shoot the little dimwit with the Golf Channel sunglasses.” Wait — you told me I could have cigarette first … What do I care if it causes cancer? … Secondhand smoke? Are you kidding me with the secondhand smoke? The entire country is enveloped in a cloud of toxic waste and you’re worried about secondhand smo–

Now why all of  sudden can’t I get this out of me head?

So this guy, this North Korean financial-guru guy, was put in front of a firing squad because his fiscal policy was goofy.

Mr Pak Nam Ki was responsible for revaluing the communist regime’s currency last November, but his attempts to curb inflation caused nationwide misery — and leader Kim Jong Ill was not amused.

It is understood the execution is an attempt to contain civil unrest.

His last words?

What the –? We’re a Communist dictatorship. H-e-e-e-e-el-l-l-o-o-o-o. Our economy is SUPPOSED TO COLLAPSE. I thought you guys wanted massive inflation and a worthless currency — and so delivered same in a timely fashion. Had anyone seriously suggested that I revive our economy, I would have said, “First, shoot the little dimwit with the Golf Channel sunglasses.” Wait — you told me I could have cigarette first … What do I care if it causes cancer? … Secondhand smoke? Are you kidding me with the secondhand smoke? The entire country is enveloped in a cloud of toxic waste and you’re worried about secondhand smo–

Now why all of  sudden can’t I get this out of me head?

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Speaking of Retirements . . .

With more and more senators and congressmen heading for the exits, it’s a good question how this will affect two other possible retirements from the Washington stage: those of Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Stevens will soon be 90 and has not hired his usual quota of clerks for next year — traditionally a sign of impending retirement. Justice Ginsburg (who will be 77 next month) has not been in good health in recent years, having had two bouts with cancer.

But if they retire at the close of the current term, in late June, will President Obama be able to get his nominees to replace them through the Senate before the election in November? If present trends continue (they usually don’t, of course), that’s unlikely.  The more probable a Republican landslide in  November comes to seem, the more probable is a Republican filibuster to prevent liberal replacements for these liberal justices.

In 1968, lame duck Lyndon Johnson tried to get his buddy Justice Abe Fortas raised to the chief justiceship upon Earl Warren’s retirement. Although Republicans were in the minority, they and their Dixiecrat allies were able to block Fortas. And Warren stayed on as chief justice, as it appeared that, with a likely impending Republican victory in November, no Johnson nominee could be confirmed. The following year, President Nixon nominated the lackluster Warren Burger to replace Warren as chief justice and, when Fortas had to resign in a scandal, ended up nominating Harold Blackmun (author of Roe v. Wade) as his replacement after two failed attempts to nominate Southerners.

If there is a Republican Senate majority next year, President Obama would have no choice but to nominate moderates in order to get them confirmed. Wouldn’t it be a delicious irony if President Obama’s picks had the effect of moving the Court to the right, however incrementally?

With more and more senators and congressmen heading for the exits, it’s a good question how this will affect two other possible retirements from the Washington stage: those of Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Stevens will soon be 90 and has not hired his usual quota of clerks for next year — traditionally a sign of impending retirement. Justice Ginsburg (who will be 77 next month) has not been in good health in recent years, having had two bouts with cancer.

But if they retire at the close of the current term, in late June, will President Obama be able to get his nominees to replace them through the Senate before the election in November? If present trends continue (they usually don’t, of course), that’s unlikely.  The more probable a Republican landslide in  November comes to seem, the more probable is a Republican filibuster to prevent liberal replacements for these liberal justices.

In 1968, lame duck Lyndon Johnson tried to get his buddy Justice Abe Fortas raised to the chief justiceship upon Earl Warren’s retirement. Although Republicans were in the minority, they and their Dixiecrat allies were able to block Fortas. And Warren stayed on as chief justice, as it appeared that, with a likely impending Republican victory in November, no Johnson nominee could be confirmed. The following year, President Nixon nominated the lackluster Warren Burger to replace Warren as chief justice and, when Fortas had to resign in a scandal, ended up nominating Harold Blackmun (author of Roe v. Wade) as his replacement after two failed attempts to nominate Southerners.

If there is a Republican Senate majority next year, President Obama would have no choice but to nominate moderates in order to get them confirmed. Wouldn’t it be a delicious irony if President Obama’s picks had the effect of moving the Court to the right, however incrementally?

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The Virtues of Leaving Well Enough Alone

Among the many lessons to be learned from yesterday’s election in Massachusetts is that politicians should not play games with established law for short-term political advantage.

Like most states, Massachusetts law called for the governor to appoint someone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat until the next general election. But in 2004, Republican Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and Democratic Senator John Kerry was running for president. To prevent Romney from appointing a Republican in the event of a Kerry victory, a bill was submitted to the General Court (as Massachusetts calls its legislature) to strip the governor of this power and require a special election to be held from 145 to 160 days after the seat became vacant. The bill stalled in the legislature, however, until Senator Ted Kennedy personally pushed for its passage. Governor Romney vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Kerry, of course, lost the election, so the only result of this maneuvering was to diminish whatever public respect there was for the political establishment in Massachusetts. Then in 2009, Senator Kennedy, dying of cancer, asked that the law be changed again to allow the appointment of an interim senator (by the now Democratic governor, Deval Patrick) until the special election was held. President Obama endorsed the effort to be sure of having the votes in the Senate to push through his health-care legislation.

But by the time the special election was nearing, the wheeling and dealing in the Senate had so disgusted Massachusetts voters that the sacrificial lamb nominated by the Republicans began to look like a political tiger. More wheeling and dealing in the White House to secure union support for a final bill further disgusted the electorate and that — together with a very good campaign by the Republican and a lousy one by the Democrat — was enough to put Scott Brown in the seat held by the Kennedy family (or its surrogates) since before Scott Brown was born.

Had the Massachusetts Democrats and Senator Kennedy simply left the law alone in 2004, this election would not have taken place, and the Democrats’ 60-seat majority in the Senate would still be intact. Had the Massachusetts Democrats, Senator Kennedy, and President Obama left the law alone in 2009, the Senate would have been forced to bargain with Republicans to secure passage of the health-care bill. A bill might have emerged that would have had more public support, and the president and the Democrats might have escaped an epic political disaster.

Among the many lessons to be learned from yesterday’s election in Massachusetts is that politicians should not play games with established law for short-term political advantage.

Like most states, Massachusetts law called for the governor to appoint someone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat until the next general election. But in 2004, Republican Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, and Democratic Senator John Kerry was running for president. To prevent Romney from appointing a Republican in the event of a Kerry victory, a bill was submitted to the General Court (as Massachusetts calls its legislature) to strip the governor of this power and require a special election to be held from 145 to 160 days after the seat became vacant. The bill stalled in the legislature, however, until Senator Ted Kennedy personally pushed for its passage. Governor Romney vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Kerry, of course, lost the election, so the only result of this maneuvering was to diminish whatever public respect there was for the political establishment in Massachusetts. Then in 2009, Senator Kennedy, dying of cancer, asked that the law be changed again to allow the appointment of an interim senator (by the now Democratic governor, Deval Patrick) until the special election was held. President Obama endorsed the effort to be sure of having the votes in the Senate to push through his health-care legislation.

But by the time the special election was nearing, the wheeling and dealing in the Senate had so disgusted Massachusetts voters that the sacrificial lamb nominated by the Republicans began to look like a political tiger. More wheeling and dealing in the White House to secure union support for a final bill further disgusted the electorate and that — together with a very good campaign by the Republican and a lousy one by the Democrat — was enough to put Scott Brown in the seat held by the Kennedy family (or its surrogates) since before Scott Brown was born.

Had the Massachusetts Democrats and Senator Kennedy simply left the law alone in 2004, this election would not have taken place, and the Democrats’ 60-seat majority in the Senate would still be intact. Had the Massachusetts Democrats, Senator Kennedy, and President Obama left the law alone in 2009, the Senate would have been forced to bargain with Republicans to secure passage of the health-care bill. A bill might have emerged that would have had more public support, and the president and the Democrats might have escaped an epic political disaster.

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Who Responds?

The person selected to respond to the State of the Union has a rough time. There is no competing with the pomp and excitement of the president in a prime-time appearance before Congress, the Supreme Court, the cabinet officials, and all the honored guests. Usually, the unlikely recipient of this “honor” gets awful reviews. (Think Tim Kaine’s odd-eye brow appearance and Bobby Jindal’s presidential buzz-halting performance.) So who should do the honors this year?

Bill Kristol recommends an ordinary American fed up with Obama’s agenda, maybe a doctor. There are lots of good possibilities. Perhaps Rep. Parker Griffith could do the honors, explaining why he couldn’t stomach a party that would behave so irresponsibly on health care. The Republicans might have a cancer survivor like Carly Fiorina explain why empowering bureaucrats to ration care is a bad idea. The Republicans might have Dick Cheney replay his face-off against Obama from earlier in the year, updating it for the subsequent dreadful decisions on KSM’s trial and the moving of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining him could be Debra Burlingame and other 9/11 family members, talking about the lunacy of giving KSM a public forum to preach jihadism. Or the Republicans could have a bipartisan evening, inviting Rep. Bart Stupak to talk about abortion subsidies and Jane Hamsher to talk about paying for health-care “reform” on the backs of the middle class.

There are a lot of options because, frankly, Obama has made many, many bad calls. It will be up to the Republicans to see in 2010 if they can find effective spokespeople to make the case to the American people — who at least for now seem awfully receptive to each of the messages I suggested. In fact, Americans poll overwhelming in the GOP’s favor on all of these items. And that, no doubt, is why Republicans are looking forward to a successful 2010 election year.

The person selected to respond to the State of the Union has a rough time. There is no competing with the pomp and excitement of the president in a prime-time appearance before Congress, the Supreme Court, the cabinet officials, and all the honored guests. Usually, the unlikely recipient of this “honor” gets awful reviews. (Think Tim Kaine’s odd-eye brow appearance and Bobby Jindal’s presidential buzz-halting performance.) So who should do the honors this year?

Bill Kristol recommends an ordinary American fed up with Obama’s agenda, maybe a doctor. There are lots of good possibilities. Perhaps Rep. Parker Griffith could do the honors, explaining why he couldn’t stomach a party that would behave so irresponsibly on health care. The Republicans might have a cancer survivor like Carly Fiorina explain why empowering bureaucrats to ration care is a bad idea. The Republicans might have Dick Cheney replay his face-off against Obama from earlier in the year, updating it for the subsequent dreadful decisions on KSM’s trial and the moving of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining him could be Debra Burlingame and other 9/11 family members, talking about the lunacy of giving KSM a public forum to preach jihadism. Or the Republicans could have a bipartisan evening, inviting Rep. Bart Stupak to talk about abortion subsidies and Jane Hamsher to talk about paying for health-care “reform” on the backs of the middle class.

There are a lot of options because, frankly, Obama has made many, many bad calls. It will be up to the Republicans to see in 2010 if they can find effective spokespeople to make the case to the American people — who at least for now seem awfully receptive to each of the messages I suggested. In fact, Americans poll overwhelming in the GOP’s favor on all of these items. And that, no doubt, is why Republicans are looking forward to a successful 2010 election year.

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Death — Panels and Otherwise

Doctor and Senator Tom Coburn goes chapter and verse through ObamaCare, making the case that even without a public option, the bill is replete with rationing provisions that will squeeze care to save costs. He explains:

For instance, the Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill—composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members—will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program. Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients’ access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production. It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns. And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

There are also the comparative-effectiveness research programs that have been employed “as rationing commissions in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year.” There are also 14 mentions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, one example of which was the now infamous mammogram guideline recommendation. And while Medicare “buy-in” is dead, the Reid bill still plans to increase Medicaid coverage to those with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level, meaning more rationing. (“Washington bureaucrats have created a system that underpays doctors, 40% of doctors already restrict access to Medicaid patients, and therefore ration care.”)

Americans may not have figured out all the details yet. (And who can blame them, since Reid and his bill-to-be remain behind closed doors.) But they’ve figured out that their care will not be what it once was if ObamaCare passes. Democrats keep insisting that the public will love it once it’s in place. But will they? It’s hard to see how denying care is going to be popular. Funny, it used to be liberals who told us that the measure of a just society was how we treated the sick and old. Now Democrats are straining to pass a bill with creative mechanisms for denying care. You’d think liberals would be appalled.

Doctor and Senator Tom Coburn goes chapter and verse through ObamaCare, making the case that even without a public option, the bill is replete with rationing provisions that will squeeze care to save costs. He explains:

For instance, the Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill—composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members—will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program. Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients’ access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production. It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns. And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

There are also the comparative-effectiveness research programs that have been employed “as rationing commissions in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year.” There are also 14 mentions of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, one example of which was the now infamous mammogram guideline recommendation. And while Medicare “buy-in” is dead, the Reid bill still plans to increase Medicaid coverage to those with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level, meaning more rationing. (“Washington bureaucrats have created a system that underpays doctors, 40% of doctors already restrict access to Medicaid patients, and therefore ration care.”)

Americans may not have figured out all the details yet. (And who can blame them, since Reid and his bill-to-be remain behind closed doors.) But they’ve figured out that their care will not be what it once was if ObamaCare passes. Democrats keep insisting that the public will love it once it’s in place. But will they? It’s hard to see how denying care is going to be popular. Funny, it used to be liberals who told us that the measure of a just society was how we treated the sick and old. Now Democrats are straining to pass a bill with creative mechanisms for denying care. You’d think liberals would be appalled.

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Why It Matters

Carly Fiorina delivered through the GOP weekly radio address this devastating critique on mammography guidelines:

The task force did not include an oncologist or a radiologist, in other words, cancer experts did not develop this recommendation. They said that most women under 50 don’t need regular mammograms and that women over 50 should only get them every other year. . . If I’d followed this new recommendation and waited another two years, I’m not sure I’d be alive today.

This is precisely the discussion that the Democrats don’t want to have because the implications go to the heart of ObamaCare and the inevitable results of government-run health care. As Fiorina explained, “The health care bill now being debated in the Senate explicitly empowers this very task force to influence future coverage and preventive care. Section 4105, for example, authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to deny payment for prevention services the task force recommends against.”

You can call it a “death panel” or you can call it “comparative effectiveness research,” but once you empower government to pay for, regulate, and control the inevitably exploding costs of government-run health care, you are going to have such panels telling Fiorina and millions of other Americans that they aren’t going to get the same care they once did. And that’s one very big reason why Americans are so skeptical of ObamaCare.

Carly Fiorina delivered through the GOP weekly radio address this devastating critique on mammography guidelines:

The task force did not include an oncologist or a radiologist, in other words, cancer experts did not develop this recommendation. They said that most women under 50 don’t need regular mammograms and that women over 50 should only get them every other year. . . If I’d followed this new recommendation and waited another two years, I’m not sure I’d be alive today.

This is precisely the discussion that the Democrats don’t want to have because the implications go to the heart of ObamaCare and the inevitable results of government-run health care. As Fiorina explained, “The health care bill now being debated in the Senate explicitly empowers this very task force to influence future coverage and preventive care. Section 4105, for example, authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to deny payment for prevention services the task force recommends against.”

You can call it a “death panel” or you can call it “comparative effectiveness research,” but once you empower government to pay for, regulate, and control the inevitably exploding costs of government-run health care, you are going to have such panels telling Fiorina and millions of other Americans that they aren’t going to get the same care they once did. And that’s one very big reason why Americans are so skeptical of ObamaCare.

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Three-Quarters of the Way There

President Obama is giving General McChrystal about three-quarters of what he wants — 30,000 of 40,000 troops. Thus it is appropriate that his speech was about three-quarters good.

The good parts were his signals of resolve and determination. He said, for example, that we have a “vital national interest” in Afghanistan and that we are there “to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country.” In the same vein, I loved his conclusion:

And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.

One can easily imagine those words being spoken by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.

The problem is that there is plenty of reason to doubt Obama’s resolve in Afghanistan. On the plus side, he committed to sending more troops than some White House aides wanted, and he committed to sending them at once, refusing to draw out the process by announcing “off ramps” in the deployment plan or “benchmarks” that the Afghan government must meet before we send more forces.

But then he undercut some of the urgency he conveyed by pledging “to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.” If this is such a vital national interest — and it is — why is our commitment so limited? How can he be so confident that the extra 30,000 troops — who will be lucky to arrive in their entirety by next summer — can accomplish their ambitious mission in just a year?

Obama tried to triangulate by adding: “Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.” He also stressed that he would only begin a drawdown in July 2011, not end it; the pace and length of the exit remain to be determined. Thus he suggested that he might still walk away from the redeployment deadline, just as he walked away from the deadline to close Guantanamo. But the message that’s going out to the Taliban right now is that they just have to wait 18 months and the infidels will be out the door. That may not be accurate, but that’s what our enemies will hear.

The deadline is designed to placate the liberal base of the Democratic party. I predict that won’t work — the left-wing will be incensed by the extra troop deployment, regardless of the time line. So his gambit fails politically as well as strategically. That’s too bad, because otherwise his policy on Afghanistan is fairly sound.

President Obama is giving General McChrystal about three-quarters of what he wants — 30,000 of 40,000 troops. Thus it is appropriate that his speech was about three-quarters good.

The good parts were his signals of resolve and determination. He said, for example, that we have a “vital national interest” in Afghanistan and that we are there “to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country.” In the same vein, I loved his conclusion:

And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.

One can easily imagine those words being spoken by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.

The problem is that there is plenty of reason to doubt Obama’s resolve in Afghanistan. On the plus side, he committed to sending more troops than some White House aides wanted, and he committed to sending them at once, refusing to draw out the process by announcing “off ramps” in the deployment plan or “benchmarks” that the Afghan government must meet before we send more forces.

But then he undercut some of the urgency he conveyed by pledging “to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.” If this is such a vital national interest — and it is — why is our commitment so limited? How can he be so confident that the extra 30,000 troops — who will be lucky to arrive in their entirety by next summer — can accomplish their ambitious mission in just a year?

Obama tried to triangulate by adding: “Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.” He also stressed that he would only begin a drawdown in July 2011, not end it; the pace and length of the exit remain to be determined. Thus he suggested that he might still walk away from the redeployment deadline, just as he walked away from the deadline to close Guantanamo. But the message that’s going out to the Taliban right now is that they just have to wait 18 months and the infidels will be out the door. That may not be accurate, but that’s what our enemies will hear.

The deadline is designed to placate the liberal base of the Democratic party. I predict that won’t work — the left-wing will be incensed by the extra troop deployment, regardless of the time line. So his gambit fails politically as well as strategically. That’s too bad, because otherwise his policy on Afghanistan is fairly sound.

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Transparency Continued

The New York Times seems miffed that Barack Obama didn’t release his full medical records–just a one page doctor’s letter missing key answers to obvious questions.(e.g. How much did he smoke and has he really quit?) It seems downright odd that he wouldn’t have released all his medical records. After all, the old guy with a history of cancer put it all out there. Why all the cloak and dagger?

The Clintons perfected the art of making nondisclosure an end unto itself, a tactic that often seemed pointless and counterproductive. If there is not some deep dark secret in Obama’s medical records why conceal all of them from view? It makes as much sense as the Clintons sitting on their tax returns and the White House logs for a year.

One wonders if Obama learned the wrong lesson running against them.

The New York Times seems miffed that Barack Obama didn’t release his full medical records–just a one page doctor’s letter missing key answers to obvious questions.(e.g. How much did he smoke and has he really quit?) It seems downright odd that he wouldn’t have released all his medical records. After all, the old guy with a history of cancer put it all out there. Why all the cloak and dagger?

The Clintons perfected the art of making nondisclosure an end unto itself, a tactic that often seemed pointless and counterproductive. If there is not some deep dark secret in Obama’s medical records why conceal all of them from view? It makes as much sense as the Clintons sitting on their tax returns and the White House logs for a year.

One wonders if Obama learned the wrong lesson running against them.

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It Would Help If. . .

The broadcast networks are donating money and raising awareness about cancer. That is commendable. But since they are in the news business perhaps they could start by doing a feature story on Senator Charles Grassley’s shenanigans with the FDA which are literally killing cancer patients. The former head of the FDA’s Office of Oncology Products writes:

The senator is demanding a full-scale review of each and every product ever approved, and is asking for a rejudgment by GAO “to ensure that drugs approved on surrogate endpoints are both safe and effective.” You can bet these bully tactics will have an effect. Look for greater demands by the FDA for cancer programs to not use the accelerated approval pathway. . . The FDA ordered a change toward the much stricter endpoint of overall survival, adding years to the time it will take to evaluate the drug’s efficacy. U.S. cancer-drug development stands on a precipice overlooking a new dark age in which each new product’s development is longer and costlier than the last. Companies may decide it is not financially viable to even bother developing new drugs, and the pipeline for new products to treat cancer could slow even more. Mr. Grassley’s legacy could be thousands of additional cancer deaths.

In fact, there are lots of stories out there which would help current and future cancer patients. The networks could explain how frivolous litigation keeps life-saving drugs off the market. Or they can detail how excessive government regulation prevents patients from getting breakthrough cures. It is no secret that timid bureaucrats cowed by media firestorms and litigation are often a barrier to new and promising treatments.

So the next time a candidate opposes tort reform, we should expect the news networks to jump on the story and remind us that runaway litigation impairs health care, prevents or delays new drugs from coming to market, and sets back the war on cancer, right? And, of course, they should probe the record of the presidential candidates on litigation reform so we can see whether trial lawyers or the health of the American people carry more weight. Doing all these things–ferreting out stories that might make a real difference to cancer patients–would be the best service they could provide.

The broadcast networks are donating money and raising awareness about cancer. That is commendable. But since they are in the news business perhaps they could start by doing a feature story on Senator Charles Grassley’s shenanigans with the FDA which are literally killing cancer patients. The former head of the FDA’s Office of Oncology Products writes:

The senator is demanding a full-scale review of each and every product ever approved, and is asking for a rejudgment by GAO “to ensure that drugs approved on surrogate endpoints are both safe and effective.” You can bet these bully tactics will have an effect. Look for greater demands by the FDA for cancer programs to not use the accelerated approval pathway. . . The FDA ordered a change toward the much stricter endpoint of overall survival, adding years to the time it will take to evaluate the drug’s efficacy. U.S. cancer-drug development stands on a precipice overlooking a new dark age in which each new product’s development is longer and costlier than the last. Companies may decide it is not financially viable to even bother developing new drugs, and the pipeline for new products to treat cancer could slow even more. Mr. Grassley’s legacy could be thousands of additional cancer deaths.

In fact, there are lots of stories out there which would help current and future cancer patients. The networks could explain how frivolous litigation keeps life-saving drugs off the market. Or they can detail how excessive government regulation prevents patients from getting breakthrough cures. It is no secret that timid bureaucrats cowed by media firestorms and litigation are often a barrier to new and promising treatments.

So the next time a candidate opposes tort reform, we should expect the news networks to jump on the story and remind us that runaway litigation impairs health care, prevents or delays new drugs from coming to market, and sets back the war on cancer, right? And, of course, they should probe the record of the presidential candidates on litigation reform so we can see whether trial lawyers or the health of the American people carry more weight. Doing all these things–ferreting out stories that might make a real difference to cancer patients–would be the best service they could provide.

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Bookshelf

• One of the many sins for which the baby boomers must someday answer is the extent to which their chronic self-absorption has devalued the memoir as a literary genre. Fortunately, it is still possible to write a good book about an unhappy childhood, and Alyse Myers has done just that with Who Do You Think You Are? (Touchstone, 250 pp., $24).

Part of what is so paradoxically interesting about Myers’ book is that it contains none of the can-you-top-this horror stories (many of which later prove to be fictionalized) that are the stock-in-trade of so many contemporary memoirists. Nor does she write of her youthful sorrows with the chop-licking lasciviousness that is no less endemic to the genre. Her story is simple and straightforward, and she tells it with the laconic, unadorned directness of a hurt child. Born into a working-class family of Jews from Queens who failed to make the economic grade, Myers knew the quotidian heartbreak of being raised by a hard-hearted, seemingly loveless mother and a disillusioned father who had withdrawn his affections from his spouse to seek romantic consolation elsewhere. He died of cancer when Myers was eleven, leaving her in the hands of a now-single parent whose coldness was as puzzling as it was painful.

It is, in short, the old, old story, only ennobled by Myers’ transparent style and given further value by the fact that Who Do You Think You Are? is as much a tale of upward mobility as it is a chronicle of disorder and early sorrow. Such tales are growing less and less common in literary America–most of our writers, it seems, now come from comfortable backgrounds and board the new-class escalator in elementary school–which makes it all the more profitable to read about the way things used to be not so very long ago:

I counted the days until my eighteenth birthday, when I would legally be able to move out and rent my own apartment. And the more I traveled away from her, from her apartment, from her life and into Manhattan-to go to high school, to go to museums, to explore the streets and neighborhoods-the more confident I became and the more I felt I deserved everything my mother thought was out of her league.

That last phrase, it seems to me, is the key to understanding Myers’ mother: she had gone as far as she thought she could go, landing a dull job as a switchboard operator at a girdle factory, and her daughter’s modest ambitions filled her with a volatile mixture of fear and resentment. Not until her daughter had a daughter did Myers mère find it possible to express a kind of love for her own child, and not until she died did Alyse Myers make a discovery that helped her to understand the source of her mother’s angry disappointment. Again, there is nothing especially unusual about all this–Tolstoy was wrong about the alleged variety in the lives of unhappy families–but the art of a memoir is in the telling, not what is told, and the unselfconscious simplicity with which Myers tells her tale conceals no small amount of artfulness.

• By a fortunate coincidence, I read Who Do You Think You Are? immediately after finishing Jeanne Safer’s Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult’s Life-For The Better (Basic Books, 227 pp., $25). The author is a New York-based psychotherapist who already has three exceedingly readable books under her belt, and this one, like its predecessors, is both sensible and thought-provoking. Don’t be thrown by the honest but macabre-sounding subtitle: Dr. Safer has brought off the hard task of casting a cold eye on the feelings of relief that so often follow upon losing a parent in one’s own adulthood, acknowledging that “the death of a parent-any parent-can set us free” and offering practical suggestions for acting on that insight. I don’t usually go in for self-help books, but Death Benefits is an exception.

• One of the many sins for which the baby boomers must someday answer is the extent to which their chronic self-absorption has devalued the memoir as a literary genre. Fortunately, it is still possible to write a good book about an unhappy childhood, and Alyse Myers has done just that with Who Do You Think You Are? (Touchstone, 250 pp., $24).

Part of what is so paradoxically interesting about Myers’ book is that it contains none of the can-you-top-this horror stories (many of which later prove to be fictionalized) that are the stock-in-trade of so many contemporary memoirists. Nor does she write of her youthful sorrows with the chop-licking lasciviousness that is no less endemic to the genre. Her story is simple and straightforward, and she tells it with the laconic, unadorned directness of a hurt child. Born into a working-class family of Jews from Queens who failed to make the economic grade, Myers knew the quotidian heartbreak of being raised by a hard-hearted, seemingly loveless mother and a disillusioned father who had withdrawn his affections from his spouse to seek romantic consolation elsewhere. He died of cancer when Myers was eleven, leaving her in the hands of a now-single parent whose coldness was as puzzling as it was painful.

It is, in short, the old, old story, only ennobled by Myers’ transparent style and given further value by the fact that Who Do You Think You Are? is as much a tale of upward mobility as it is a chronicle of disorder and early sorrow. Such tales are growing less and less common in literary America–most of our writers, it seems, now come from comfortable backgrounds and board the new-class escalator in elementary school–which makes it all the more profitable to read about the way things used to be not so very long ago:

I counted the days until my eighteenth birthday, when I would legally be able to move out and rent my own apartment. And the more I traveled away from her, from her apartment, from her life and into Manhattan-to go to high school, to go to museums, to explore the streets and neighborhoods-the more confident I became and the more I felt I deserved everything my mother thought was out of her league.

That last phrase, it seems to me, is the key to understanding Myers’ mother: she had gone as far as she thought she could go, landing a dull job as a switchboard operator at a girdle factory, and her daughter’s modest ambitions filled her with a volatile mixture of fear and resentment. Not until her daughter had a daughter did Myers mère find it possible to express a kind of love for her own child, and not until she died did Alyse Myers make a discovery that helped her to understand the source of her mother’s angry disappointment. Again, there is nothing especially unusual about all this–Tolstoy was wrong about the alleged variety in the lives of unhappy families–but the art of a memoir is in the telling, not what is told, and the unselfconscious simplicity with which Myers tells her tale conceals no small amount of artfulness.

• By a fortunate coincidence, I read Who Do You Think You Are? immediately after finishing Jeanne Safer’s Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult’s Life-For The Better (Basic Books, 227 pp., $25). The author is a New York-based psychotherapist who already has three exceedingly readable books under her belt, and this one, like its predecessors, is both sensible and thought-provoking. Don’t be thrown by the honest but macabre-sounding subtitle: Dr. Safer has brought off the hard task of casting a cold eye on the feelings of relief that so often follow upon losing a parent in one’s own adulthood, acknowledging that “the death of a parent-any parent-can set us free” and offering practical suggestions for acting on that insight. I don’t usually go in for self-help books, but Death Benefits is an exception.

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Stallone, Rambo, and Islamofascism

Sylvester Stallone has made a fourth Rambo movie, which will be released later this month, in which Rambo helps Burmese rebels. This would be a matter of no interest — Stallone is 60 years old, after all, the scandalously successful second Rambo was released 22 years ago, and an afterthought Rambo III came out in 1988 — except that Stallone’s sixth Rocky movie, released last year, was surprisingly decent. The movie-idolator audience of the website Aint It Cool News interviewed Stallone in connection with the new film, and he gave a quite remarkable answer to a quite remarkable question.

The question:

In the eighties, John Rambo took on villains who were the real villains of the day: ruthless, invading Russian commie b—-rds hellbent on global communism. So I always assumed that if Rambo returned he’d be taking on the real villain of this day: extreme, radical Islamist b—rds hellbent on worldwide jihad. It seems like all of today’s movies have [wimped] out on making Islamofacists the bad guys even though they are clearly the bad guys in the real world right now. Why is Rambo [wimping] out on this mission? Has he become politically correct?

Stallone’s answer:

I thought the idea of Rambo dealing with Al-Qaeda, etc. would be an insult to our American forces that are actually dying trying to rid the world of this cancer. To have at the end of a 90 minute movie the character of Rambo seizing Osama bin Laden in a choke hold then dragging him into the Oval Office then tossing him in the President’s lap declaring “The world is now safe, Chief” would be a bit insulting. We’ve seen today every film that deals with the Middle Eastern situation has failed because it is a subject people find incredibly painful to sit through while it is ongoing. Maybe ten years in the future a good film will be produced on the subject. Right now I believe revealing a situation like the ongoing genocide in Burma provides a compelling story simply because it is true and is the longest running civil war in the world.

Sylvester Stallone has made a fourth Rambo movie, which will be released later this month, in which Rambo helps Burmese rebels. This would be a matter of no interest — Stallone is 60 years old, after all, the scandalously successful second Rambo was released 22 years ago, and an afterthought Rambo III came out in 1988 — except that Stallone’s sixth Rocky movie, released last year, was surprisingly decent. The movie-idolator audience of the website Aint It Cool News interviewed Stallone in connection with the new film, and he gave a quite remarkable answer to a quite remarkable question.

The question:

In the eighties, John Rambo took on villains who were the real villains of the day: ruthless, invading Russian commie b—-rds hellbent on global communism. So I always assumed that if Rambo returned he’d be taking on the real villain of this day: extreme, radical Islamist b—rds hellbent on worldwide jihad. It seems like all of today’s movies have [wimped] out on making Islamofacists the bad guys even though they are clearly the bad guys in the real world right now. Why is Rambo [wimping] out on this mission? Has he become politically correct?

Stallone’s answer:

I thought the idea of Rambo dealing with Al-Qaeda, etc. would be an insult to our American forces that are actually dying trying to rid the world of this cancer. To have at the end of a 90 minute movie the character of Rambo seizing Osama bin Laden in a choke hold then dragging him into the Oval Office then tossing him in the President’s lap declaring “The world is now safe, Chief” would be a bit insulting. We’ve seen today every film that deals with the Middle Eastern situation has failed because it is a subject people find incredibly painful to sit through while it is ongoing. Maybe ten years in the future a good film will be produced on the subject. Right now I believe revealing a situation like the ongoing genocide in Burma provides a compelling story simply because it is true and is the longest running civil war in the world.

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Huckabee’s Further Flip-Flopping

According to The Hill,

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has reversed his position on a federal ban aimed at workplace smoking and now believes the issue should be addressed by state and local governments. The about-face is apparent in a Huckabee campaign statement, sent to The Hill Tuesday evening in response to questions about the smoking ban proposal. It clashes with the stance Huckabee has taken during his race for the White House and with his record as governor of Arkansas, when he signed into law a measure prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places. At an August 2007 forum on cancer hosted by cyclist and activist Lance Armstrong and moderated by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Huckabee said he supported a federal smoking ban. “If you are president in 2009 and Congress brings you a bill to outlaw smoking nationwide in public places, would you sign it?” Matthews asked. “I would, certainly would. In fact, I would, just like I did as governor of Arkansas, I think there should be no smoking in any indoor area where people have to work,” Huckabee responded, triggering applause from the crowd.

This comes in the aftermath of Huckabee’s head-snapping change on immigration. Only a few weeks after he lectured the other candidates about the virtues of providing student loans to children of illegal immigrants, he proudly accepted the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, a group fiercely critical of illegal immigrants. Huckabee then adapted an immigration plan that is very much at odds with his past position.

It also comes in the wake of Huckabee’s declaration that his conscience would not allow him to run advertisements critical of Mitt Romney in Iowa—a declaration, it’s worth pointing out, he made at a press conference in which he revealed to reporters the ad he refused to run, thereby ensuring it would get widespread attention. But Huckabee’s conscience seems to have gone on sabbatical the other day, when he responded to Fred Thompson’s substantive criticisms of his record this way: “Fred Thompson talks about putting America first, and yet he’s the one who is a registered foreign agent, lobbied for foreign countries, was in a law firm that did lobbying work for Libya. I certainly wouldn’t put my name on something like that.”

Such things might be dismissed as par for the political course, except that Huckabee, who once favored quarantining AIDS patients but now denies it, has made a virtue out of his supposed steadfastness. “You are not going to find moments on YouTube of me saying something different about the sanctity of life today than I said ten years ago, ten minutes ago, or fifty years ago,” Huckabee has said, referring to footage of Governor Romney declaring his support for abortion rights, a position he later changed. “You are not going to find something in YouTube where I said something completely different about gun ownership and the second amendment than I did last week, ten weeks ago, ten years go.”

Those words seem far less compelling than they once did. What we are finding is that Huckabee, who has long believed in religious conversions, appears to have a new-found affinity for political ones.

According to The Hill,

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has reversed his position on a federal ban aimed at workplace smoking and now believes the issue should be addressed by state and local governments. The about-face is apparent in a Huckabee campaign statement, sent to The Hill Tuesday evening in response to questions about the smoking ban proposal. It clashes with the stance Huckabee has taken during his race for the White House and with his record as governor of Arkansas, when he signed into law a measure prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places. At an August 2007 forum on cancer hosted by cyclist and activist Lance Armstrong and moderated by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Huckabee said he supported a federal smoking ban. “If you are president in 2009 and Congress brings you a bill to outlaw smoking nationwide in public places, would you sign it?” Matthews asked. “I would, certainly would. In fact, I would, just like I did as governor of Arkansas, I think there should be no smoking in any indoor area where people have to work,” Huckabee responded, triggering applause from the crowd.

This comes in the aftermath of Huckabee’s head-snapping change on immigration. Only a few weeks after he lectured the other candidates about the virtues of providing student loans to children of illegal immigrants, he proudly accepted the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, a group fiercely critical of illegal immigrants. Huckabee then adapted an immigration plan that is very much at odds with his past position.

It also comes in the wake of Huckabee’s declaration that his conscience would not allow him to run advertisements critical of Mitt Romney in Iowa—a declaration, it’s worth pointing out, he made at a press conference in which he revealed to reporters the ad he refused to run, thereby ensuring it would get widespread attention. But Huckabee’s conscience seems to have gone on sabbatical the other day, when he responded to Fred Thompson’s substantive criticisms of his record this way: “Fred Thompson talks about putting America first, and yet he’s the one who is a registered foreign agent, lobbied for foreign countries, was in a law firm that did lobbying work for Libya. I certainly wouldn’t put my name on something like that.”

Such things might be dismissed as par for the political course, except that Huckabee, who once favored quarantining AIDS patients but now denies it, has made a virtue out of his supposed steadfastness. “You are not going to find moments on YouTube of me saying something different about the sanctity of life today than I said ten years ago, ten minutes ago, or fifty years ago,” Huckabee has said, referring to footage of Governor Romney declaring his support for abortion rights, a position he later changed. “You are not going to find something in YouTube where I said something completely different about gun ownership and the second amendment than I did last week, ten weeks ago, ten years go.”

Those words seem far less compelling than they once did. What we are finding is that Huckabee, who has long believed in religious conversions, appears to have a new-found affinity for political ones.

Read Less

The First Movie of the Post Stem-Cell Debate Era!

The highly entertaining sci-fi flick I Am Legend stars Will Smith as the last man left in New York City (and maybe on earth) after a cure for cancer mutates into a virus that kills 90 percent of the population and turns 99 percent of the remnant into flesh-eating zombies, is likely to be the big winner at the Christmas box office. Those who enjoy tracking blockbusters more for their allegory than their grosses, though, may relish the movie’s timing because of its surprising subtext about how religion and science can co-exist.

Call this the first movie of the post-stem cell-debate era. After last month’s wonderful news that genetically matched stem cells could be developed without embryos, liberals were flummoxed (and maybe angered) by the news that, when it comes to medical ethics and science, Bush-era America actually could walk and chew gum at the same time. No embryos means no embryo destruction, therefore no moral problems with the stem-cell research of the future.

Smith plays a soldier/scientist immune to the virus that has destroyed humanity and turned Manhattan into a postapocalyptic wasteland where deer and other wildlife run free but there is no sign of another human being. In a twist on the grimy despair of last year’s similar Children of Men, Smith’s character has hopes of using his own blood to concoct a serum that will reverse the effects of the virus and turn the zombies back into ordinary people. He’s an atheist who believes that science, and science alone, holds the key to the future. But in a third-act twist, it turns out that religion and blind faith will have equally important roles to play if there is to be a cure–you might also use the word “salvation”–for humanity.

The highly entertaining sci-fi flick I Am Legend stars Will Smith as the last man left in New York City (and maybe on earth) after a cure for cancer mutates into a virus that kills 90 percent of the population and turns 99 percent of the remnant into flesh-eating zombies, is likely to be the big winner at the Christmas box office. Those who enjoy tracking blockbusters more for their allegory than their grosses, though, may relish the movie’s timing because of its surprising subtext about how religion and science can co-exist.

Call this the first movie of the post-stem cell-debate era. After last month’s wonderful news that genetically matched stem cells could be developed without embryos, liberals were flummoxed (and maybe angered) by the news that, when it comes to medical ethics and science, Bush-era America actually could walk and chew gum at the same time. No embryos means no embryo destruction, therefore no moral problems with the stem-cell research of the future.

Smith plays a soldier/scientist immune to the virus that has destroyed humanity and turned Manhattan into a postapocalyptic wasteland where deer and other wildlife run free but there is no sign of another human being. In a twist on the grimy despair of last year’s similar Children of Men, Smith’s character has hopes of using his own blood to concoct a serum that will reverse the effects of the virus and turn the zombies back into ordinary people. He’s an atheist who believes that science, and science alone, holds the key to the future. But in a third-act twist, it turns out that religion and blind faith will have equally important roles to play if there is to be a cure–you might also use the word “salvation”–for humanity.

Read Less




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