Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hayder Al-Khoei on wikileaks: A record worse than Saddam’s? Think again.

From Al-Khoei's response to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the British Iraqi Forum,
The west should indeed be blamed for many of the catastrophic events that unfolded in Iraq throughout its history, but it would be both naïve and insincere to try to pin all the blame on Bush and Blair. If anything, these leaks confirm previous suspicions that terrorists came ten a penny from neighbouring Syria and Iran.

To Iraqis like me, who have lost immediate family-members both pre and post 2003, the sudden burst of conscience from a public that was silent during three decades of the harshest, most despotic regime the Middle East has seen in the last few centuries is abhorrent in itself, and leads me to question the motivation behind the sudden faux-concern for the plight of the millions of suffering Iraqis. Here in London, Iraqis campaigned for years against Saddam, and tried desperately to convince people like Ms Alibhai-Brown to support their worthy cause. Very few heeded the calls; apparently stories of Iraqis dying are not all too interesting. Unless of course the West is somehow culpable in the killing.

It is such a shame that commentary on Iraq has been reduced by many to an industry focused at selling news with little regard for history and context. Much of the suffering in Iraq today is a direct result of Saddam’s legacy. It is the failure to understand and appreciate historical context that has led to the crass, shallow, superficiality that has become a feature of much of the news coverage in Iraq.

It is cruel to count victims as statistics who perished in the recent war, but if we want to be soulless and academic, then the civilian victims that are identified in the latest documents make up only one-third of those who vanished during the Anfal campaign under Saddam. More to the point, Ms Alibhai-Brown seems to paper over the fact that tens of thousands of the post 2003 war victims were in fact targeted by a ruthless insurgency in Iraq, and insurgency that relies on remnants of Saddam’s regime for funding, logistics and indeed recruits. Saddam may have been arrested, tried, and executed, but his men are still in Iraq committing the same crimes they have always been committing. The legacy of Saddam is still claiming lives and it is still destroying the country.

Gay's on the Wrong Side of Love

Bay Area Reporter on Gay voters shift slightly to GOP
The number seemed startling: 31 percent of voters who identified as "gay, lesbian, bisexual" in a national exit poll on November 2 said they voted Republican. Just two years ago, only 19 percent voted for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Is the "gay vote" for Republicans really changed that much?

Is it really that large – 31 percent?

Keen News Service looked at the vote November 2 in precincts in heavily gay neighborhoods in six cities around the country. That data suggests the gay vote for Republicans was 26 percent. But that 26 percent represents a seven percent increase over how those same precincts voted in the 2006 midterm elections.

And when you consider that the national exit poll data was re-weighted a few days after the election so it would correspond with actual election results – meaning the estimate of the gay vote for Republicans is now calculated at 29 percent – then the two data sets are not that far off.

Furthermore, notes Patrick Egan, a public opinion specialist and professor at New York University, both sets of data show a relatively similar shift. Between 2006 and 2010, the exit poll data showed a shift of about five points toward voting Republican. The gay precinct data showed a shift of about seven points.

Walter Russell Mead: Can The L-word Be Saved?

First in a series on defining Liberalism 5.0.
During the next couple of weeks I will post some more about what 5.o liberalism will look like and how it both breaks with the policies and world view of 4.0 liberals while seeking core liberal values in a changing world. But whether we still call it liberalism or whether we find some new word to stand for our deepest national hopes and dreams, American society must move beyond the increasingly dysfunctional and outdated ideas of 4.0 liberalism. Whatever was the case in the past, it just doesn’t work now. If we don’t recognize that and move on, economic decline and social stagnation will undercut our prosperity, endanger our liberty and undermine our international power and domestic security. That is a future no true liberal could love.
A series I'll be following because today's 4.0 Liberalism certainly dysfunctional and outdated.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas on the West Side 'L'

Santa rides outside and that's gotta be awfully cold.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Liveblog: Students’ Day in Iran, Dec. 7 (16 Azar) 2010

Updates over at Dissected News.

Below reportedly of students from Sharif University in Tehran.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Benedict XVI: Christian Radical

Samuel Gregg writing Ratzinger's telling us to quit over analyzing Jesus. Jesus was what he said and the message pretty simple.

Read the whole thing, but here's Gregg's conclusion.

There's a Humanist and Pagan response here, but I don't think much of a Christian one that withstands Ratzinger's Radicalism.
But why, we might ask, does Benedict belabor the point? One reason is surely the damage done to Christian faith by scholars parading various pet theories as “facts.” Another reason, however, may be Benedict’s sense that even many faithful Christians have forgotten the radical implications of accepting Christ as whom he says he is.

First, such an acceptance rescues Christianity from becoming what the German philosopher Rüdiger Safranski calls “a cold religious project”: a “mix of social ethics, institutional power thinking, psychotherapy, techniques of meditation, museum curation, cultural project management, and social work.” That’s a concise description of the “liberal Christianity” that’s helped empty Western Europe’s churches, particularly in Benedict’s German homeland.

Second, it forces us to take seriously aspects of Christianity that have disappeared from public view over the past forty years.

In recent decades, Benedict claims, Christian preaching has stopped mentioning the Last Things revealed by Christ: i.e., heaven, hell, and the fact that all of us will be judged. Instead, preaching has become “one-sided, in that it is largely directed toward the creation of a better world, while hardly anyone talks any more about the other, truly better world.”

For confirmation, just look at the websites of those religious orders which talk endlessly about social justice without relating it to Christian belief in the limits of earthly justice and the reality of divine justice. This diminishes Christianity to either what Benedict calls “political moralism, as happened in liberation theology” or “psychotherapy and wellness.” It also, some might interject, encourages us to conjure up secular messiahs who, not being God, cannot possibly fulfill religious-like expectations of hope and change.

In the end, it results in the same thing: practical atheism, at the heart of which is a teddy-bear Christ who, as Benedict wrote years ago, “demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us.”

And therein may be the essence of Benedict’s Light of the World. Yes, Christ always offers us forgiveness. Nonetheless, Benedict adds, Christ also “takes us seriously.” Having stated who he is, Christ leaves us free either to accept him as he really is and order our lives accordingly, or to construct what another Christian scholar, Thomas More, called “worldly fantasies” of our own making.

More radically different paths are hard to imagine.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chicago's Gastropub Revolution

Thanks to Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap just down the street (for now) from Meadville Lombard. Via the Chicago Bar Project
Chicago's smoking ban went into effect January 1, 2008, thanks in large part to the Woodlawn Tap, known to its Hyde Park clientele as "Jimmy's" in honor of the bars long-time proprietor, Jimmy Wilson. According to Sean Parnell, creator of Chicago Bar Project and author of Historic Bars of Chicago, "The Sun-Times surveyed the air quality according to EPA standards in the smokiest Chicago restaurants and bars and found Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap to be the worst. Patrons had always claimed that the bar was smoky, but no one realized that it was equivalent to breathing in the air following a volcanic eruption."

Critics warned the ban would spell doom for the traditional Chicago bar. They were right. Gone are the days when bars can rely on faithful regulars putting in eight-hour shifts on their favorite stool. This has literally cleared the air and forced a change of strategy for any would-be bar owner. It's also created a pleasant side-effect: bars have become accessible to a whole range of new clientele. Women are increasingly attracted to gastropubs and gastrolounges because they no longer fear leaving with hair and clothes smelling like an ashtray at a downtown Vegas casino after 10 minutes, and their more discriminating palates are satisfied by the upscale board of fare. And with so many young professionals living in the area, a smoke-free atmosphere with fine food & drink also appeals to those with small children before they make their required exodus to the suburbs. Thus, tables are filled by day with families, in early evening with couples, and at night with those seeking after-dinner drinks and perhaps more than just culinary sustenance… While the focus may now be more on turning tables than turning coasters at Chicago bars, the goal is still the same—to create an experience that will drive repeat business and they've done just that.
Cheers...

Health Care Reform: Cutting Supply of Care to reduce Costs of Care?

An example of the weird way the Feds approach the high costs of care not be adding to supply, but by cutting supply.  Solving the problem of the scarcity of care, by making care more scare.  In this case the care is Durable Medical Equipment for seniors.
North Carolina’s leader in home medical equipment advocacy and education, NCAMES, is mobilizing its membership base to support efforts led by Rep. Sue Myrick (R - NC, 9th District) to have the Federal government address fatal flaws in a bidding program affecting thousands of seniors and patients in need beginning in January 2011. The bidding program decides which home medical equipment companies can service patients who use Medicare to pay for their equipment

Copies of a November 24 letter co-signed by Rep. Myrick and Rep. Bruce Braley (D - IA, 1st District) which was sent to Donald Berwick, M.D., Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), were distributed to hundreds of NCAMES member companies statewide. In the letter, Reps. Myrick and Braley press Dr. Berwick about a recent study revealing that more than 40 percent of the companies selected by CMS’ flawed bidding program to provide HME services are financially unstable and unable to provide necessary medical supplies.
“The bidding program managed by Dr. Berwick’s agency is killing small businesses across North Carolina and needlessly endangering thousands of home medical equipment patients,” Beth Bowen, NCAMES Executive Director, said.
According to Bowen, testimony at a Congressional Subcommittee hearing this past September was overwhelmingly against the CMS bidding program, with example after example given of its negative effects such as forcing home health care patients into institutional care. Bi-partisan support for halting the bidding program has been growing over the past few months, Bowen said, with elected officials like Rep. Myrick pushing CMS harder to address concerns.
For example, Rep. Myrick pointed-out in her letter that many contract winners chosen by CMS actually have credit limits of less than $10,000, are on credit hold, or are so far behind on their payments that their accounts have been turned over for collections or legal process.
The CMS bidding program, “has a poor track record” Myrick wrote, emphasizing that seniors will have difficulty obtaining the supplies and services they need, and “The new system could drive out quality suppliers who have reliably served seniors in the past.”
And here's Don "PJ" Berwick's response to Congress via Bid News Blog,
WASHINGTON — AAHomecare reports that in his first appearance at a Nov. 17 hearing on health reform before the Senate Finance Committee, CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D., singled out national competitive bidding program as an example of how the federal government can save money.

When Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, questioned him about projected savings under the Affordable Care Act, Berwick responded that the costs of DME had fallen 32 percent in “the trial” (Round 1) of the bid program, “returning something like $150 million I think back to beneficiaries in those nine trial areas.”

According to AAHomecare, “Berwick focused only on short-term savings attributable to the bidding program and not on the sharp reduction in patient choice and access to quality care that will result from the misguided program and the badly designed bidding system.”
Focused only on short-term savings. Next step is reduce demand-for-care to meet the reduced supply-of-care and Liberalism's getting pretty raw about how to reduce demand for care.

پخش اطلاعیه دعوت برای بزرگداشت روز ١٦ آذر در دانشگاه تهران / Hand outs in Tehran University Calling for Protest on Dec 7

Via Mir Hossein Mousavi میر حسین موسوی
Students of Tehran University distributed hand outs calling on their fellow classmates to participate in protests on National Student Day (December 7) despite heavy security presence. Green students of Tehran University along with other brave students all over the country by putting up the photos of imprisoned student activists invited their classmates to be the voice of political prisoners on National Student Day and protest to the brutal injustice by the coup government.
The Islamic Organization of Students of Amir Kabir University by issuing an invitation called on all students across the country to attend the protests on National Students Day (December 7) and chant "University is Alive". In their statement, the students of this university also call the civil movement of Iranian people and especially the students' movement vital for the future of the country and add that the students' movement is "a thorn in the eye of the tyranny" and ask the students to continue the path.

Re: Publishing Sermon Titles: "Crowds Smash Door: Near Riot to Hear Fosdick"

From Leonard Sweets review of Liberalism and Lost Days: A Re-evaluation of Fosdick.
 These were the days when Christians literally beat down the doors to get into church. "Crowds Smash Door: Near Riot to Hear Fosdick" ran the headlines of a 1924 newspaper. It was not uncommon for people to wait in front of the church for more than two hours in what they called the "bread line" so that they could be fed at Fosdick’s table. Church members were ticketed to ensure seating, but others had to find fragments of nourishment where they could, with some sneaking into already packed balconies through fire escapes and other evasive subterfuges, and with Fosdick’s own seat filled by a standee as soon as he entered the pulpit. The carnationed, gray-gloved ushers, or what Fosdick termed his "Guard of Honor," were really the city’s best-dressed bouncers and bodyguards. "We had a hectic time yesterday in the ushering business," one memorandum from a head usher reported. "One lady fainted. Two ladies crawled under the ropes on the pleas of wanting to go away and then beat down the center aisle. Mr. Lawton held them up. The crowd in the south gallery was dense and passing the plate was difficult and lengthy, as every one wanted to chip in -- bless their hearts. This explains why the other chap and I had to sprint down the aisles to catch up with the procession." Liberal causes found patrons in wealthy benefactors like John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who was ubiquitous in Fosdick’s career, and prominent public-relations experts like Ivy Lee, who retailed Fosdick like breakfast cereal through market analysis, mass distribution and image-building.
These were also the days when the papers routinely listed sermon titles for the coming Sunday. I'm guessing Rev Fosdick sure let the flock now what was coming.

Like marketing breakfast cereal? Well, breakfast is the healthy way to start the day. No sin marketing a way to a healthy spiritual life either.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Paul Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal: Bring on the Death Panels.

Via Net Hentoff: Real Death Panels Are Coming Our Way
NEW YORK Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in economics and an influential New York Times columnist, also has a blog, "The Conscience of a Liberal." On ABC's "This Week" (Nov. 14), during a discussion on balancing the federal budget against alarming deficits, he proclaimed the way to solve this problem is through deeply cost-effective health care rationing.

"Some years down the pike," he said, "we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes." That would mean the U.S. Debt Reduction Commission "should have endorsed the panel that was part of the [Obama] health care reform."

Sarah Palin was one of the first, and the most resounding, to warn us of the coming of government panels to decide which of us -- especially, but not exclusively, toward the end of life -- would cost too much to survive.

She was mocked, scorned from sea to shining sea, including by the eminent Paul Krugman for being, he said, among those spreading "the death penalty lie" as part of "the lunatic fringe." (Summarized in "Krugman Wants 'Death Panels,'" Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Nov. 15.)

Soon after he had left the ABC studio, someone must have alerted Krugman that -- gee whiz -- he had publicly rooted for death panels!

Swiftly, on his blog, Krugman admitted he had indeed said those dreaded words, but:

"What I meant is that health care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they're willing to pay for -- not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we're willing to spend for extreme care."

"Extreme care," Professor Krugman? To be defined by government commissions, right?
Extreme Care... Liberalism as we've known it spent. That's the Death Panel at work now. The idea and conscience have gone bankrupt and no extreme care's going to revive the ideological corpse.

Update: The conclusion from Paul Hsieh's, The Free Market Is Not Another Form of Rationing
Individuals are entitled to health care that they purchase themselves, is owed to them by contract (e.g., insurance), or is given to them as voluntary charity.

Whenever government attempts to guarantee an alleged “right” to health care, it must also control it. Bureaucrats and politicians must ultimately decide who gets what health care and when, not doctors and patients — if only to control costs. This is true rationing, and it necessarily violates the actual rights of the practitioners forced to provide care on the government’s terms (rather than their own) and the taxpayers forced to pay for it.

The free market is therefore the antithesis of rationing. It respects individual rights, whereas rationing unjustly violates individual rights — a crucial moral distinction.

If liberals are genuinely concerned about making health care more affordable, they should support free market reforms. Although the current American system is not a free market (but rather a mixed system), it is the least-regulated sectors of medicine — such as LASIK eye surgery — that follow the typical free-market pattern of falling prices and rising quality that we take for granted with computers and cell phones. This can and should be the norm in all of health care.

So when someone argues that a free market in health care would be just “another form of rationing,” challenge that claim. You won’t merely be debating semantics. You will be defending justice and individual rights. You will be helping to lower costs. And if someday you need an MRI scan in six days rather than six months, you may even be saving your own life.
...and my classic example of how government intervention in Health Care involves decisions on Capital Investment. Think the corruption brought to Illinois Government with the Health Facilities Planning Council, and Hospital Execs wearing wires for the Fed as they're shook down for bribes, or the Guv Blagojevich himself shaking down Chicago's Childrens Hospital.