A New Can Of Worms
26 September 2003
John Cox on Reimportation

Radio host, Senate candidate, Illinois Policy Institute Director,John Cox does it all. Everyone should check out his forceful argument on the prescription drug re-importation issue:

"Mark McClellan, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, is delivering a speech in Cancun today, finally addressing the real problem here: price controls imposed by Europe and other developed countries with substantial senior populations, such as Canada and Japan."

Part of the reason we pay more for drugs than Europeans and Canadians is that they are free riding off the American economy. Their price controls mean Americans bear the brunt of the $800 million it takes to bring a drug to market.

The refreshing thing about John is that in this era where politicians are heavily scripted robots; he's not. He relishes putting his best case forward and he isn't afraid of mixing it up. What you see is what you get.
25 September 2003
Is it Pro-Life or anti-abortionist?

Over at Breaking Views today Eric Zorn discusses The Chicago Tribune's Public Editor's, Don Wycliff, comments regarding a spat between IL Right To Life and the Tribune. The dispute arises over whether one characterizes the right to live movement as a mere anti-abortion movement or as a wider pro-life movement. Wycliff is uncomfortable with the anti-abortion label, Zorn is not:

Our style book, Wycliff points out, decrees that "except in direct quotations or proper names, do not refer to people or groups as pro-life or pro-abortion .... If a shorthand description is needed, use abortion opponents, anti-abortion; abortion-rights proponents, pro-abortion rights."

Wycliff writes, "For several reasons this provision has never sat well with me. Among other things, it reduces the concerns of the `pro-life' movement to abortion, which is manifestly not the case."

Well, it manifestly is the case, just as the "pro-choice" movement's concerns can farily and usefully be reduced to the issue of abortion. Some "pro-life" people happen also to be against capital punishment, yes, but the crossover isn't large.

I think Zorn's characterization of the pro-life movement is a bit simplistic. I’m open to correction or clarification, of course, but the pro-life and pro-choice dichotomy may work for specific groups, but surely not for the movement. Let me try to explain.

Probably the largest pro-life organization in the world is the Catholic Church. To them life begins at conception and ends at natural death. Their pro life stance includes euthanasia, doctor assisted suicide, capital punishment (in most but not all instances) and some gene therapies. They're not a "Pro-life organization" set up to fight abortion, but they are surely members of a larger pro-life movement made up of many different groups.

I don’t believe it is accurate to simply refer to the pro-life movement (different from specific right to life groups/organizations) simply as anti-abortion and a few crossovers to capital punishment.
3rd Year Itch?

Bush's Poll Numbers are beginning to bottome out:

"President Bush's job approval has dipped to 49 percent in an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, the lowest level of his presidency in that poll.

The poll results reported on NBC's ''Nightly News'' are close to the 50 percent job approval in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll out Monday. Some other polls still have the president in the mid-50s."

With the constant drumbeat from the press on Iraq and the economy, it's no wonder. However, the tide is turning on Iraq, the press is coming justifiable pressure to change their story line to better reflect reality. I saw a little of that on Nightline last night.

On the economy front, the President's job approval ratings on the economy are going to lag behind indicators for sometime. The economy is definately rebounding, but just as the recession hit before a lot of people realized it, so will up tick in the business cycle.

What is always fun to watch is the skittish congressmen in the President's party begin to push the panic button. They'll either begin to "stand-up to" the President or merely whine. Either way, it's always worth a laugh...
Daley Jumps On Tax Swap Bandwagon

In today's Sun-Times we learn that the Mayor is looking for new revenue sources. First they trout out the big lie:

"Elgin's problem-plagued School District U-46 is a classic example of 'what's broken' in a state that ranks 49th out of 50 in its support for public schools, according to Elgin Mayor Edward Schock."

Illinois ranks 49th in the portion of money it gives to the local school districts who raise about 48 percent of their LOCAL school budget through property taxes. In funding, Illinois ranks around 20th but falls drastically in ranking when it comes to getting dollars to the class room.

Then, there is this little jewel:

"The way I describe it, we're crawling. Then, you walk and then, you run," said Daley, who desperately needs more money to help finance a proposed five-year teachers contract with a $1 billion pricetag. It promises 4 percent pay raises in each of the five years.

Chicago Board of Education budget director Pedro Martinez says money is already budgeted for the raise in the first year, but coming up with the rest of the money will take work. He said they'll focus on administrative efficiencies, boosting attendance, lobbying the state and federal government for more money and, as a last resort, increasing property taxes. None of these are guaranteed income sources."

Chicago just signed a lucrative contract with its teachers union and they want YOU to pay for it.

24 September 2003
Steve Neal's World

Steve Neal attacks the Jack Ryan campaign for hosting Bill Bennett, but in his righteous indignation Neal demonstrates a level of obtuseness that is truly worth remarking on...

Let's begin with Neal's quote selection:

For example: "America's children, he [William Bennet] declared at the 1992 GOP national convention, aren't ''animals in heat'' but ''thinking creations of God.''"

Neal finds the thought that kids are "thinking creations of God" as somehow evidence of a crackpot. Does Steve Neal agree with the other half? That kids are, "animals in heat?"

Neal uses the Bennett quotes in a way that suggests a dichotomy. Which would you prefer to be called -- an animal in heat or a thinking creation of God? The meaning of Bennett's quote is that humans are rational, thinking creatures and should be treated as such. To Neal that's controversial?

or how about this one:

''Cultural problems,'' he asserts, ''require cultural solutions.''

Wow, Steve you really got Bill there. That quote is almost as outrageous as saying that economic problems require economic solutions. In Neal's world a flat tire must require an engine overhaul.

Then this:

''Government,'' he later wrote, ''through law, discourse, and example, can legitimize and delegitimize certain acts. In a free society, where the people decide, leaders must understand that few things they do matter more than speaking about the right things in the right way.''

There is nothing false in this quote. Government does pass laws, debate issues and sets precedent. Again, where's the controversy? Is Neal suggesting that we hold our leaders to lower standards? Is it okay for public officials to lie, cheat and steal while passing and enforcing laws that say we can't? Steve, you need to get out of Chicago more.

And this:

There's no doubt Bennett has the gift of gab. But he has always shirked the hard work of shaping public policy. While peddling that old-time religion, he preaches family values and self-control.

''We should know that too much of anything, even a good thing, may prove to be our undoing,'' Bennett proclaimed in The Book of Virtues. He added that we ''need to set definite boundaries on our appetites.''

In Neal's world moderation must be shunned. Family values -- something that even Bill Clinton promoted, albeit with an expanded notions family -- are out of bounds. I would also inquire into how "peddling" values and self control is evidence of shirking "the hard work of public policy?"

Finally, Neal segueys into the gambling issue with Bennett:

Bennett has listed ''problem'' gambling on his index of cultural indicators. His political organization, Empower America, has fought the expansion of casino gambling.

It turns out that this quacking scold is a compulsive gambler. Bennett has reportedly blown $8 million in gambling dens over the last decade, but when the Washington Monthly and Newsweek recently exposed this addiction, Bennett insisted that he doesn't have a problem. ''I've gambled all my life,'' he said, ''and it's never been a moral issue with me.''

Bennett, who plays video poker and slot machines, then made the dubious claim that he has ''come out pretty close to even.'' That's unlikely.

The man of virtues once wrote that credibility is everything. ''Whether you're talking about a police officer, a teacher, a doctor or car mechanic,'' he said, ''it matters greatly whether that person's word is good.''

First, Bennett does contradict Empower America's index of cultural indicators, but Bennett is correct in saying that HE never thought of gambling as a sin -- nor does his church, nor did he ever discuss gambling. That makes Bennett guilty of not being on the same page as his boss, not hypocrisy. Moreover, casino expansion and gambling are two separate issues.

Second, is $8 million a lot of money for Bill Bennett? I'm not sure it is. Both Bennett and his wife say it never led to financial problems or interefered with his work.

In the Air Force they told us you were a problem drinker if you had problems because of alcohol (i.e. you got sick, it made you late for work because of a hangover, you fought with your wife, etc.). That doesn't make you an alcoholic or a binge drinker. In the military if you did it once and then missed work; you a have a problem. It didn't matter if you had one drink or one hundred.

Is there any evidence that Bennett had a gambling problem? Money is a relative measure. If I have $8,000 in savings and I gamble away $6,000 I have a problem. If I'm worth $20 million and I gamble $8 million of it away I don't have much of a problem. Is there evidence that Bennett missed work to play the slots? Did he go into debt? Did he and his wife fight over it? It's funny how in Neal's world context doesn't matter.

Now on to the big picture stuff:

1. Neal attacks Bennett for believing humans beings are THINKING creations of God.
2. Neal attacks Bennett for being a "compulsive gambler" i.e. BEHAVING like an animal.

The predicates of "thinking" and "behaving" are the operations in question, not the prepositonal phrase "of God;" even in Neal's twisted world a writer should see that. Neal's problem isn't that Bennett "thinks" nor is it that Bennett is "compulsive." Neal's problem is that Bennett exists.

I also find it interesting that Neal wants it both ways in attacking Bennett for promoting self control as public policy and then hypocrisy for not exercising said self control. If you don't believe moderation is a virtue, how can you attack someone for not living up to the virtue of moderation?

Neil can write some interesting items regarding politics and that is why I read him. But when it comes to profiles, whether positive or negative, the guy falls apart. He is utterly incapable of nuance. Neal's nose is either firmly implanted in his subject's rectum or the subject is worse than Hitler. Bennett deserves some criticism for the gambling incident, but inferences or accusations of hypocrisy are over the top. Alas, I remind you Neal isn't the only person to make that mistake. Bennett has also contributed mightily to the public debate in good ways, Neal is incapable of seeing that.

Attempting to smear a public intellectual for having the temerity to advocate moderation, that people are rational creatures and should be treated as such, and that there are cultural problems in this country that need to be addressed is just despicable. I would argue that in the future that Neal avoid dissecting the views of public intellectuals, because this column shows that intellectually, Steve Neal is not up to the task.
Want More Money For Less Work?

Be a public school teacher.
23 September 2003
State Firings Law Suits Top $500K

At what point does the law of diminishing returns kick in?The Bloomington Pantagraph tallies the damage. This could be balloon into a huge political problem for the Governor:

"Gov. Rod Blagojevich's decision to fire dozens of former Gov. George Ryan's appointees has cost taxpayers more than $500,000 in legal fees.

And the fight over the ousted patronage workers is far from finished, meaning the tab will grow even larger.
Two private law firms have already been paid a total of $517,256 through June 30 to deal with 'employment litigation' on behalf of the governor's office, according to state records."

Illinois Medical Practice Insurance Crisis

Belleville News-Democrat highlights the need for heart patients to go across the Mississippi:

"Patients needing heart surgery may have to look across the river for treatment next year if the only group of heart surgeons in the metro-east can't find affordable insurance to cover their medical practices.

Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates of Swansea was told earlier this month that coverage for its five heart surgeons wouldn't be renewed in 2004. The loss of coverage would send all heart patients to St. Louis and translate into a loss of jobs here, area hospitals said."

Broder Offers Counterintuitive Take on California Recall

Sometimes David Broder has some really interesting insights. He does today.
Democrats to Filibuster DC Vouchers???

Every red herring in the arsenel, every anti-democratic maneuver will be attempted to forestall the inevitable in DC. Even People for the American Way would rather have the DC Government be shut down, rather than have to stomach a rather timid voucher proposal for DC.

Truly, truly ugly, nasty people.
With Their Improving Cuisine You Know They Had to Find Something Else

Leave it to Theodore Dalrymple to find it:

"Who says the leisure class is no more? On the contrary, as a recent weekday visit to the new spiritual heart of Britain revealed to me, it is very large indeed. Of course, the modern leisure class is not necessarily very high on the registrar-general’s scale of social classes from I to V, but that is another matter altogether. "
The Despot's Quagmire

Tunku Varadarajan shares a recent visit with Bernard Lewis:

"Although we 'keep voicing fears that democracy won't work in Iraq, that's not what they're saying in the Middle East.' There's a real terror there among the despots 'that democracy in Iraq will work.' Here, Mr. Lewis rests his case, as if to ask, Is there anything more to be said?"

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