Monday, January 31, 2011

“Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister”

From the City Journal, a moving and perceptive account of a teacher in an urban school, and the trials of his female students, quite frequently pregnant and never married.

In terms of the welfare of a child, having an unmarried mother is about the worst thing that can happen to the child. But having kids of out wedlock of socially acceptable. And these girls can’t imagine it being any other way.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cutting the Budget

An e-mail from a cousin of ours:
The President ordered the cabinet to cut a whopping $100 million from the $3.5 trillion federal budget!

I’m so impressed by this sacrifice that I have decided to do the same thing with my personal budget. I spend about $4000 a month on groceries, medicine, bills, etc, but it’s time to get out the budget cutting ax, go line by line through my expenses, and go to work.

I’m going to cut my spending at exactly the same ratio -1/35,000 of my total budget. After doing the math, it looks like instead of spending $4000 a month; I’m going to have to cut that number by twelve cents!

Yes, I’m going to have to get by with $3999.88, but that’s what sacrifice is all about. I’ll just have to do without some things, that are, frankly, luxuries.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Obama and Egypt

From Al Jazeera (yes, Al Jazeera):
President Obama, say the ‘D-Word’

It’s incredible, really. The president of the United States can’t bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like “freedom” and “tolerance” and “non-violent” and especially “reform,” but he can’t say the one word that really matters: democracy.

How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama spoke the word loudly and clearly - at least once.

“The fourth issue that I will address is democracy,” he declared, before explaining that while the United States won’t impose its own system, it was committed to governments that “reflect the will of the people... I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

“No matter where it takes hold,” the president concluded, “government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power.”

Simply rhetoric?

Of course, this was just rhetoric, however lofty, reflecting a moment when no one was rebelling against the undemocratic governments of our allies - at least not openly and in a manner that demanded international media coverage.

Now it’s for real.

And “democracy” is scarcely to be heard on the lips of the president or his most senior officials.

In fact, newly released WikiLeaks cables show that from the moment it assumed power, the Obama administration specifically toned down public criticism of Mubarak. The US ambassador to Egypt advised secretary of state Hillary Clinton to avoid even the mention of former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, jailed and abused for years after running against Mubarak in part on America’s encouragement.

Not surprisingly, when the protests began, Clinton declared that Egypt was “stable” and an important US ally, sending a strong signal that the US would not support the protesters if they tried to topple the regime. Indeed, Clinton has repeatedly described Mubarak as a family friend. Perhaps Ms Clinton should choose her friends more wisely.

Similarly, president Obama has refused to take a strong stand in support of the burgeoning pro-democracy movement and has been no more discriminating in his public characterisation of American support for its Egyptian “ally.” Mubarak continued through yesterday to be praised as a crucial partner of the US. Most important, there has been absolutely no call for real democracy.

Rather, only “reform” has been suggested to the Egyptian government so that, in Obama’s words, “people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances.”

“I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform - political reform, economic reform - is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt,” advised the president, although vice-president Joe Biden has refused to refer to Mubarak as a dictator, leading one to wonder how bad a leader must be to deserve the title.
We don’t agree with all of the article (feel free to read the rest here), but the writer (a professor of history at University of California, Irvine) has a point.

It is important to avoid cheap-shot criticism of Obama. Like every American president he has to balance human rights against American interests. And indeed, American interests are often consistent with the interests of the world (in not wanting radical Islamic regimes, for example).

Further, no US president, including those like Carter and George W. Bush who have rhetorically supported democracy, has anything close to a pristine record of supporting democracy.

But Obama promised “hope and change.” Obama went around the world apologizing for America’s supposed faults.

But now it appears that he’s no visionary. And not only is he no visionary, he’s less the visionary than was George W. Bush.

The fact that he doesn’s believe in American exceptionalism may be a large factor here. Whatever he may say about “democracy” and “human rights,” he simply has trouble believing that the American way is better, and that America’s enemies are usually bad people.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

The More Civil Politics of the Past

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Milwaukee County Executive Candidates to Speak at Law School

From an e-mail:
The major candidates in the race for Milwaukee County Executive will make their first joint appearance Friday, Jan. 21, at Marquette University Law School during a forum co-sponsored by the Law School and the Milwaukee Press Club.

The event is scheduled from Noon to 1:15 p.m. and will be held in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall, which is located at 1215 W. Michigan Street.

Invitations to the forum have been extended to philanthropist Chris Abele, interim Milwaukee County Executive Lee Holloway, State Rep. Jeff Stone and former State Sen. Jim Sullivan. The candidates will be questioned by a panel of Milwaukee journalists.

The candidates will square off in a Feb. 15 primary. The top two contenders will advance to the April 5 general election. Public admission to the candidate forum is free, but seating is limited, and pre-registration is suggested. A light lunch will be served.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Arizona Shootings, Sarah Palin and the Tolerant, Compassionate Left

Friday, January 07, 2011

Does a JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theorist Have Anything Useful to Say About “Peace”?

Marquette’s Center of Peacemaking, an organization that opposes the use of military force by the U.S. and its allies (American’s enemies? No so much) is bringing to the campus one James Douglass.

We know a bit about Douglass, having reviewed his book on the JFK assassination for the website Washington Decoded.

Bottom line: it’s really bad.

Douglass, being a “peace activist,” sees America as under the control of the evil forces of militarism, an opaque nemesis he calls “The Unspeakable.” Those folks killed JFK, he believes. Since he is including Obama in the talk, we might wonder whether he believes that Obama is, like his mythical Kennedy, an opponent of the militarists, or their lackey.

His answer: “Obama has become an obedient servant to his national security state, and as a result, a source of despair to many of his supporters.”

His book on the JFK assassination gives a lot of insight into his thought processes, which are a jumbled, self-righteous, muddled mess.

His claim that Kennedy had decided that Vietnam was lost, and that the U.S. should pull out and let the Communists take over runs contrary not only to the best historical sources (one of which is Robert Kennedy’s statements in an April 1964 interview) but JFK’s own statements. In September 1963, Kennedy flatly told Walter Cronkite in a broadcast interview “I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake.”

Also in September, Kennedy was asked by Chet Huntley whether the U.S. should reduce aid to South Vietnam. His reply: “I don’t think that would be helpful at this time.”

When describing the supposed JFK conspiracy, Douglass buys a host of crazy theories that even most established conspiracy theorists reject.

He believes, for example, that there were multiple “Lee Oswalds” running around the countryside, leaving a trail of sightings that was supposed to implicate poor innocent Lee.

Douglass believes conspiracy witnesses that have long been discredited. For example, he accepts at face value the latter-day claims of one Dr. Charles Crenshaw, who was in the operating room when doctors were trying to save the life of Oswald after Jack Ruby had shot him.

In his book, Crenshaw claimed that Lyndon Johnson called and demanded that a confession be extracted from Oswald. But that wasn’t in the book when Crenshaw first tried to sell it to publishers. In the first version, he had LBJ calling and demanding that Oswald be killed (that doctors should “drown Oswald in his own blood,” that is, transfuse him until his lungs collapsed). When no publisher would buy that version, he changed his story to make it (barely) more plausible.

Yet for Douglass, Crenshaw has no credibility problems at all.

The Minds of “Peace Activists”

Douglass is thus all too typical of “peace activists” and their Manichean view of the world. The forces of evil are many and powerful, and the forces of righteousness few and beleaguered.

If this vision of the world requires one to suspend all critical thinking, and believe whatever reinforces ones own moral pretensions, so be it.

The Director of the Center of Peacemaking, one Simon Harak, spoke at Marquette in 2005, and asserted that depleted uranium anti-tank rounds used by U.S. forces in Iraq had resulted in numerous deformed babies. And indeed, he regaled the audience with photos of deformed infants.

Unfortunately, the World Health Organization has examined the issue, and concluded that DU munitions would produce only very minimal doses of radiation, and could not be responsible for the deformities that Harak showed.

But hey, why worry about those scientific trivialities when you are promoting “Peace.”

People who genuinely want to promote peace need to have some respect for logic and evidence.

People who genuinely want to promote peace need to beware of beliefs that make themselves feel very self-righteous.

And people who genuinely want to promote peace need to be careful of siding with Communist totalitarianism (which many of them did during the Cold War) or with terrorism (which they frequently do today).

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Canadian Health Care: Yet More Failure

Given that socialized medicine in Canada was the model that proponents of ObamaCare looked to -- although happily they had to make some large compromises -- news from north of the border is relevant.

From The Star:
It’s no surprise to Thelma Lee that emergency room wait times are not meeting provincial targets.

Lee said her 41-year-old daughter, Marlene Stephens, died Saturday after waiting nearly 90 minutes at the William Osler Health Centre’s Etobicoke campus emergency room with breathing problems.

Lee feels her daughter was not seen fast enough by medical staff.

“They didn’t touch her,” said the grieving Lee. “She was crying out, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’. . . Nobody attended to my daughter.”

On Monday, Auditor General Jim McCarter released his annual report which found that despite putting an extra $200 million into shortening emergency room wait times over the last two years, “significant province-wide progress has not yet been made.”

“Complaints about overcrowding and delays in hospital emergency rooms have persisted for years,” McCarter told a news conference on Monday.

Emergency room waits for people with serious conditions sometimes reached 12 hours or more, the report said. That is far greater than the province’s 8-hour wait time target, the report found.

And for emergency patients who need a hospital bed, they waited on average for about 10 hours but some waited 26 hours or more, according to the 2010 Annual Report.

“Our audit found that wait times for patients with less serious ailments have been reduced somewhat,” McCarter said. “However, there has been only minimal progress in reducing wait times for patients with more serious conditions.”

Health Minister Deb Matthews defended the province’s ER wait times strategy, saying Ontario is the first province to set targets and measure waits.

“When we started, about 81 per cent of people who went to emergency departments were seen within the target,” she said. “Now we are at 85 per cent . . . a lot of hard work goes into getting those wait times down.”

McCarter’s report shows the real problem with ER waits doesn’t necessarily start in the emergency department.

A big part of the problem is the lack of in-patient beds, which forces admitted patients to be housed in the emergency departments, the report said.

The lack of in-patient beds is influenced by two things, McCarter found. Beds are being blocked by patients who no longer require hospital care but who are waiting for a long-term care bed and by “less-than optimal practices” by hospitals in managing patient flow to free up space.

“There is no question; the ER is the canary in the coal mine. When something isn’t being properly being managed anywhere in the health system, the problems then show up in the emergency department,” Matthews said, adding that is why the Liberals are expanding homecare initiatives.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the auditor has been saying for some time that an investment in long-term care beds can help the backlog.

“It makes me sad when I hear about families who have to wait 23 hours with their sons or daughters in an ER room,” Hudak said.

“It is absolutely outrageous when you see the money is there but it has been abused and wasted in scandals . . ..”

Hudak said getting rid of Local Health Integration Networks — 14 bodies across Ontario that direct community-based health care planning — would save the system $250 million. That money could go back into hospital care, he said.

New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath said Ontario families are forced to play a waiting game for services and even life-saving programs.

“Families are waiting longer in emergency rooms . . . and to get their loved ones into long-term care or see them provided with home-care support,” she told reporters.

Lee called 911 early Saturday morning after her daughter collapsed with breathing problems when she came down the stairs.

Paramedics arrived quickly, but Lee said her daughter waited for about 90 minutes in the emergency room before being treated.

“This should not be happening in Canada,” Lee told the Star on Monday.

Stephens, an early childhood educator and mother of two sons, did not have any pre-existing breathing problems, said Lee.

Susan deRyk, chief communications officer for William Osler Health System, said the hospital cannot comment on any individual patient case due to patient privacy. “Our sympathies go out to the family,” she said.
Of course, horror stories about emergency rooms in the U.S. are not unknown. But this case is consistent with systematic data collected by the Auditor General.

It is in the nature of systems of socialized medicine to starve the providers. Given the choice of raising taxes, or imposing explicit draconian rationing, the politicians simply demand that the system produce better outcomes with the same resources -- or equal outcomes with fewer resources. But quickly that catches up with patients.

ObamaCare does not make it certain that this will happen in the U.S. But the vast increase in the power of the Federal government over health care now makes that a very real danger.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Russ Feingold to Be Visiting Professor at Marquette Law School

From Wispolitics.com:
(MILWAUKEE) –Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold will join the Marquette University Law School faculty as visiting professor of law beginning the spring semester 2011, the university announced today. Feingold completed his third term in the U.S. Senate January 3.

“Senator Feingold joins Marquette Law School with a substantial academic, legal and legislative background,” said Joseph D. Kearney, dean of Marquette University Law School, in announcing the appointment. “He will draw on all of this in working with students in their analysis of some of the most complex legal issues facing our nation and world today. I look forward to his service on our faculty.”

Feingold will teach an elective course, Current Legal Issues: The U.S. Senate, to upper-level law students. He earned his undergraduate degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a former Rhodes Scholar and an honors law graduate of both Oxford University and Harvard University. He practiced law for six years with two Wisconsin law firms, Foley & Lardner and LaFollette & Sinykin. Feingold served for 10 years in the Wisconsin Senate and 18 years in the United States Senate, where he was a member of the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Budget and Judiciary Committees.

“As I looked at beginning to write the next chapter of my professional life, the opportunity to be in a Wisconsin classroom with engaged law students is one I found very appealing,” said Feingold. “Marquette Law School is a dynamic place, and I look forward to being part of it.”

While teaching at Marquette University Law School, Feingold also expects to begin work on a book.
Hiring failed politicians in academia to provide a bit of pizazz is a rather old tradition, so we can’t bitch too much about this.

Back in 2002, when a disgraced Tom Ament was forced out of his office as County Executive due to a pension scandal, Marquette’s administration approached the Political Science Department, asking whether we might be willing to have him on board in some capacity. We basically said “no, we are not in the business of trying to lend legitimacy to an unethical political hack.”

Feingold is not corrupt in the way Ament was, but his haughty and arrogant liberalism was repudiated by the voters this past November. His hiring continues the trend of the Law School hiring local celebrities and giving them cushy positions.

We don’t doubt that Mike Gousha has earned his keep, mounting a fine speakers series, bringing top “movers and shakers” to Marquette. But we have begun to wonder: just how is the Law School doing in attending to its bread and butter — tenure track faculty who do the teaching and publishing?

[Update]

The Badger Catholic weighs in with a decidedly negative view of the Feingold hiring.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

FBI Special Agent in Charge to Speak at Law School

From an e-mail:
Thursday, February 10—FBI Special Agent in Charge Nancy McNamara—McNamara is the first woman to head the Milwaukee Division of the FBI. Before her appointment last fall, she served as section chief in the Criminal Investigative Division at FBI headquarters. From national security to public corruption, we’ll learn more about the FBI’s mission today, and about the professional journey that resulted in McNamara’s historic appointment to her post in Milwaukee. 12:15 p.m., Eckstein Hall, Reserve Your Spot
In public esteem, the FBI has been up and it has been down. Under legendary director J. Edgar Hoover the prowess and professionalism of the “G-men” were almost mythical in the perceptions of the public.

But Hoover was the perfect exemplification of Acton’s dictim that “power corrupts,” and when his abuses of power were publicized in the late 60s and 1970s, the reputation of the Bureau took a hit.

But bureaucracies tend to maintain themselves, and in spite of Hoover’s excesses, the FBI continued to be an organization with a high degree of professionalism.

Today, the Bureau doesn’t tower over local law enforcement agencies in terms of professionalism the way it once did, because those local agencies are now much better trained and expert.

But the Bureau is still a rather elite agency, a prestigous place to be if you are in law enforcement, and “front and center” in the war against terror.

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