Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Long Time No See

Well Hello There!

I know that some (most) of will see this on your Google Buzz and wonder why the heck you are paying attention to Google Buzz, anyway, so let me issue a warning: this post is about abortion and contains no original content. However, it is a highly informative and compelling article that I'm not sure any of you would see if I did not put it up on this, my limited forum.

For anyone who has perused this blog for the entirety of its existence, you will no doubt remember my post containing original content about the subject long ago, when I knew far less than I know now. Come to think of it, maybe I should re-read it and change it up a little bit because it might be embarrassing for its simplicity and self-aggrandizement (nevermind, its still here and unaltered, warts and all).

I will be discussing this article by Matthew Franck at National Review.

The Gosnell Case and American Abortion Law
Will abortion-rights advocates continue to defend the current regime?

On January 14, just eight days before the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, a Philadelphia grand jury issued a 261-page report on the horrifying career of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist whose West Philadelphia “Women’s Medical Society” it described as a “baby charnel house.” For decades, Gosnell ran a squalid abortion clinic, violating every conceivable norm of law and medicine by anyone’s standards, from the merely bad (almost nonexistent record-keeping and unlicensed clinic staff), to the truly appalling (employing unsanitary equipment and horribly injuring many of the women who came to him). Two women died in Gosnell’s “care,” and he and two of his staff are charged with third-degree murder in the death of one of them, Karnamaya Mongar.

Over the years, Gosnell specialized more and more in late-term abortions, and his preferred method in cases of the most advanced pregnancies was to induce labor in the women who came to him. What resulted in hundreds of cases was a live birth. And thus the issue that has garnered the most attention to the Gosnell case: The doctor is charged with murdering seven babies born alive in his clinic, whom he, or one of his staff under his direction, killed in the first minutes of their post-natal lives by “snipping” their spinal cords (that was the doctor’s own word for it) with scissors at the neck. The grand jury is morally certain there were many hundreds of “snipping” victims, but these seven are the only ones of whose deaths there is solid evidence today.

The women who came to Gosnell’s clinic — poor and desperate, late in their pregnancies, and willing for whatever reason to endure the horrors of his ministrations — wanted to be rid of their babies. This result he provided them. But it is difficult to locate the moral difference between the deaths Gosnell brought about in utero and those he accomplished post-natally. Does an unborn child at 26 weeks of fetal development have less moral standing than a born child at 25 weeks of fetal development? Does the latter’s living and breathing outside the womb for ten minutes, or ten seconds, confer a status that the former lacks? How can that be?

This is the absurd moral corner into which the Supreme Court backed us in 1973. Not that it bothered Dr. Gosnell. He was in the getting-rid-of-babies business, and no one was going to be sent home with a live one. Viewed in a coldly rational light, the doctor’s logic was admirably consistent: before birth, after birth, it made no difference.


But in 22 years, not one prosecution has occurred under this provision of Pennsylvania law. Until now. In the Gosnell prosecution, Philadelphia district attorney R. Seth Williams has a choice. Does he go forward with the 33 counts of “illegal late-term abortion” (a fraction of the actual number of such abortions Gosnell performed, but all that can be solidly proven under a two-year statute of limitations) — as well as the eight murder charges? Or does he quietly drop them?

And if he does charge Dr. Gosnell with illegal abortions as well as murder, abortion-rights advocates such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood have a choice. Do they continue to agitate for the regime of abortion on demand that they’ve been defending for 38 years? Do they fold this particular hand, and concede that some abortions occur too late to be permitted at all? There is danger for them in this. If a viable unborn child has a right to life, what about the one just a week or a day shy of viability? And the one just a bit younger than that?

Abortion-rights advocates will be right to sense that the stakes are all or nothing. But do they want Dr. Kermit Gosnell to be the face of the legal order to which they have devoted their energies for four decades?

— Matthew J. Franck is director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.

I skipped the middle because I'm lazy and I want everyone to read the end. It appears the slippery slope of defining the moment that life begins might be tilted the other way if the prosecution in this case decides to address the abortions committed in utero.

See you next year!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Healthcare Example

This got me fired up this morning. For those that don't see what I may infrequently post on facebook, I've put the article here and my response. This was posted by a former high school classmate with the following comment. My response is at the bottom.

Former classmate: "Oh Tea Partiers and other healthcare reform opponents, what do you have to say about this? "


10-Day-Old Baby Denied Health Care CoverageBy Melissa Newton FORT WORTH (CBS 11 / TXA 21) ―

Houston Tracy is just 10 days old, but the little boy has already lived through trying times."He was born with what's called transposition of the great arteries." his father, Doug Tracy said. "It's heart wrenching; I hated it."The congenital heart defect causes the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart to become switched.It's a condition rarely detected before birth."My whole pregnancy was simple, it was easy, no complications, doctor visits were great," Houston's mother, Kim Tracy said. "Perfect sonograms, great little pictures and then, he wasn't perfect."The baby was rushed to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth where he had life-saving surgery."He's doing really good," his mother said with a smile, "he's a little tough guy."While baby Houston is fighting for recovery, his parents found themselves in another battle: Fighting the insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.The Tracy's are both small business owners and do not carry health insurance for themselves. They do carry insurance on their two other children and tried to get insurance for Houston, but they found out Wednesday his coverage was denied."They kept saying it's preexisting, it's preexisting, but I don't know how it can be preexisting on a baby that was just born." his father said. "If it's mandated that everyone have health insurance, than how can one be denied?"Blue Cross and Blue Shield can't comment on the family's situation, but did comment about the health care reform law, and how it may affect coverage."We will work closely with our customers to keep them informed of any changes that may result from the new law," said Margaret Jarvis, the company's Senior Manager of Media Relations. "We will continue to review the bill's requirements on our business and their respective time frames to ensure full compliance."While the Tracys said they'll do whatever it takes for their baby, they have no idea at what cost.A "Houston Samuel Tracy" fund is set up at Bank of America to help the family cover medical costs.

My response:
What do you want to hear? Most private individual insurance policies offer de-facto coverage to babies born from an insured mother. The baby's mother CHOSE to NOT have her own insurance, which meant her baby wasn't automatically covered at birth. Sounds like the mother's fault. By choosing to not have coverage for themselves, they denied their ... See Morebaby automatic coverage, and took the risk that if their baby were born with a health issue, it wouldn't be eligible for its own new coverage. The article, and you, of course, fail to mention this very important fact. Health insurance (not health CARE) is a risk-based service provided by companies that have to run sustainable businesses. If insurance companies are forced to cover everyone that asks for coverage, their costs would overwhelm their income and they'll go bankrupt, which of course denies coverage for EVERYONE. It is immensely sad that this baby was born with a defect, but in this world things happen that are expensive, many that are out of our control. When those things happen, it is the person's responsibility, along with the beneficence of fellow citizens, to bear these costs. (Use this publicity to set up a fund where the public can donate to cover the costs of care for this child). It is not the role of the government to FORCE everyone to bear the costs of the private matters of others.

A final note. At the end of the article is information about a fund that indeed has been set up to help the family pay for the medical expenses. This is how it ought to work. We live in a free country where we ought to be free to help (or not help) when situations like this happen.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Businesses React to Rising Cost of ObamaCare: They're Cutting Benefits

This is from a ticker so I'm not posting the link because won't be active for long, but I didn't make this up. These examples are coming from the Wall Street Journal.

Remember the part in the ObamaCare pitch when they said if you like your
current healthcare, it won't change?

Turns out it might.

Companies are already announcing that their healthcare premium costs are going through the roof. Some are responding by firing people. Some are cutting
benefits. And some are presumably eating it.
But costs they are a-rising.

A few examples from the WSJ:-- Caterpillar said it would cost the
company at least $100 million more in the first year alone.-- Medical device
maker Medtronic warned that new taxes on its products could force it to lay off
a thousand workers.-- Verizon announced to employees that it will likely have to
cut healthcare benefits to offset the new costs.

So, people who like your employer-provided health insurance, get ready to pay more or get less.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Empire in Decline

I'm very behind on things that are important, however, I found this article especially interesting, because the guy talking is a hedge fund manager. Yet, he has a very liberal arts/classically educated take on what the health bill means for the USA.

I can't remember if it was Plato or Aristotle, I think Plato, but I'm not sure if it was in the Republic, but at some point he mentions that societies that are becoming weaker will inevitably have many doctors, a trend in this country and the modern world completely aside from the health bill.

The point of the guy in the article is that many doctors, coupled with the 'demand' for universal healthcare, is a sign that the people are relying more and more on the state to take care of them, which of course is a sign of weakness. I say 'demand' because I'm not convinced that greater than 50% of the population wanted this bill, especially given that it supposedly will provide health coverage to only around 10% of the population (and even that number is highly questionable) while costing EVERYONE ELSE in much greater proportion.

I find the health bill and what it means troubling not just with a financial and socialistic perspective, but also a greater politically philosophical one (which does tie to the socialistic perspective, I know). Universal health coverage, with a deep dependence on government, is a concept fundamentally tied to Utopian ideas, which are stupid (and I don't say that flippantly) and ultimately represent an impossible reality. Yet in many ways those ideas are at the root of any liberal, whether they realize it or not.


Health Care Law Signals US Empire Decline?

The passage of the health care law shows that the US empire is declining because it illustrates the fact that people expect the state to take care of them, David Murrin, the co-founder of Emergent Asset Management hedge fund manager, told CNBC.
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama signed into law health care legislation that expands health coverage for the poor, imposes new taxes on the rich and forbids insurance practices such as refusing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
In their expansionary phase, empires force people to go out, seek risks and fend for themselves, Murrin said, reminding of the dismantling of the British empire after the war, when the National Health Service, which ensures universal health coverage in Britain, was created.
"This (empire decline) is actually a dead-set course that societies get into and it will happen very quickly I'm afraid," he told "Squawk Box Europe."
"As you start to build a system it becomes cohesive because of its success... the fractures in the American system I think are more apparent than ever," Murrin added.
China's rise will be much faster than most people anticipate as the country's military prowess increases, he said.
"We all know there's going to be a change, the surprise will be the pace of that change," Murrin said, noting that "all empires when they decline they underestimate their challengers."
The peak for commodities will be reached somewhere between 2020 and 2025 and it's the period before that that must be watched, as China seems much more willing to take risks than Western countries, he predicted.
- Watch the full interview with David Murrin above.
"You have a lot more males in China then you do in the west," he said, noting that 56 percent of the Chinese society was male, because of the country's policies to control population and because of traditions which value males more than females.
"What that means is that they're far more risk-oriented than a society in the West...if you look at conflict and your ability to risk your males in conflict," Murrin explained.
China has started to innovate and has worked out what the West's weaknesses are so it can overtake developed countries, he added.
The country is investing heavily in Africa, which Murrin calls a "huge opportunity" because it has the best demographics in the world and a big resource pool.
"I think Africa, as a generic theme, is the hottest thing in town," he said.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Deficit

This is a great article. I have been intending to post on the dangers of the borrowing that the U.S. is doing, but just haven't done it. This will serve as (a much better than what I could produce, probably) substitute for now.

Conservative politics have traditionally meant reduced spending (I know it didn't work that way with Bush) and liberal politics generally advocate bigger government and more spending, and so its hard to believe that the budget will get anywhere near balanced (as Obama hope to get with the commission mentioned at the end of the article) while Democrats are in power, unless there is a large increase in taxes. This is incredibly serious and threatens our standard of living as Americans in the least, and threatens our entire government and way of life at worst.


The federal budget deficit has long since graduated from nuisance to
headache to pressing national concern. Now, however, it has become so large and
persistent that it is time to start thinking of it as something else entirely: a
national-security threat.
The budget plan released Monday illustrates why
this escalation is warranted. The numbers are mind-numbing: a $1.6 trillion
deficit this year, $1.3 trillion next year, $8.5 trillion for the next 10 years
combined—and that assumes Congress enacts President Barack Obama's proposals to
start bringing it down, and that the proposals work.
These numbers are often
discussed as an economic and domestic problem. But it's time to start thinking
of the ramifications for America's ability to continue playing its traditional
global role.
The U.S. government this year will borrow one of every three
dollars it spends, with many of those funds coming from foreign countries. That
weakens America's standing and its freedom to act; strengthens China and other
world powers; puts long-term defense spending at risk; undermines the power of
the American system as a model for developing countries; and reduces the aura of
power that has been a great intangible asset for presidents for more than a
"We've reached a point now where there's an intimate link between
our solvency and our national security," says Richard Haass, president of the
Council on Foreign Relations and a senior national-security adviser in both the
first and second Bush presidencies. "What's so discouraging is that our domestic
politics don't seem to be up to the challenge."
Consider just four of the
ways that budget deficits also threaten American's national security:
• They
make America vulnerable to foreign pressures.
The U.S. has about $7.5
trillion in accumulated debt held by the public, about half of that in the hands
of investors abroad.
That means America's government is dependent on the
largesse of foreign creditors and subject to the whims of international
financial markets. A foreign government, through the actions of its central
bank, could put pressure on the U.S. in a way its military never could. Even
under a more benign scenario, a debt-ridden U.S. is vulnerable to a run on the
American dollar that begins abroad.
Either way, Mr. Haass says, "it reduces
our independence."
• Chinese power is growing as a result.
A lot of the
deficit is being financed by China, which is selling the U.S. many billions of
dollars of manufactured goods, then lending the accumulated dollars back to the
U.S. The IOUs are stacking up in Beijing.
So far this has been a mutually
beneficial arrangement, but it is slowly increasing Chinese leverage over
American consumers and the American government. At some point, the U.S. may have
to bend its policies before either an implicit or explicit Chinese threat to
stop the merry-go-round.
Just this weekend, for example, the U.S. angered
China by agreeing to sell Taiwan $6.4 billion in arms. At some point, will the
U.S. face economic servitude to China that would make such a policy decision
• Long-term national-security budgets are put at risk.
year, thanks in some measure to continuing high costs from wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, the U.S. will spend a once-unthinkable $688 billion on defense.
(Before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, by contrast, the figure was closer to $300
Staggering as the defense outlays are, the deficit is twice as
large. The much smaller budgets for the rest of America's international
operations—diplomacy, assistance for friendly nations—are dwarfed even more
dramatically by the deficit.
These national-security budgets have been
largely sacrosanct in the era of terrorism. But unless the deficit arc changes,
they will come under pressure for cuts.
• The American model is being
undermined before the rest of the world.
This is the great intangible impact
of yawning budget deficits. The image of an invincible America had two large
effects over the last century or so. First, it made other countries listen when
Washington talked. And second, it often—not always, of course, but often—made
other peoples and leaders yearn to be like America.
Sometimes that produced
jealousy and resentment among leaders, but often it drew to the top of foreign
lands leaders who admired the U.S. and wanted their countries to emulate it.
Such leaders are good allies.
The Obama administration has pledged to create
a bipartisan commission charged with balancing the budget, except for interest
payments, by 2015. The damage deficits can do to America's world standing is a
good reason to hope the commission works.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Prediction

Quick post this morning. First, I'd like to encourage everyone to go down to the Whole Foods CEO post below and read the comment. We have a new participant, and look forward to more contributions to this discussion. I owe responses to some of the recent posts as well, and I will get to them.

I wanted to post this link/story. I have no idea who this man is, his political leanings, economic schooling, etc, but his dire prediction is one that I have feared ever since I started studying economics (it was one of my majors) in college. I have always feared that one morning we'd wake up and find that things we thought had value like 'wealth' and 'money' would be worthless. Such a catastrophe doesn't just 'happen,' but is the result of many many many poor decisions by many many parties (including you and me).

Don't think it can't happen. Many institutions that nobody dreamed
could ever 'fail' went away in a heartbeat just last year. Not even the
U.S. and the almighty dollar are too big to fail.

"The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic
system as we know it today, wars, massive government debt defaults and the
impoverishment of large segments of Western society," Marc Faber writes in
the September issue of The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report.

A statement like that pretty much speaks for
itself, but it's a bit more complicated than appears on first blush.

Faber has been bullish -- especially on commodities and emerging market
stocks -- for some time now and believes the current global recovery trade
will last another two-to-three years, as discussed in more detail in a
forthcoming clip. But he has major long-term concerns about the dollar's
long-term viability given rising U.S. deficits, massive unfunded mandates
and the fact "we have a money-printer at the Fed."

This combination will eventually lead to runaway inflation, wholesale
debasement of the dollar, and a major lowering of living standards for
most Americans and many Europeans as well, says Faber, who is "highly
confident" in this grim prediction.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I hope we learn from a recent huge mistake.

If you have bad credit, is home ownership a right? I think that the subprime mortgage crisis showed everyone that home ownership is not a right. Check out this article from the New York Times published on Sept. 30, 1999.

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending

Published: Thursday, September 30, 1999

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''

Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''

Under Fannie Mae's pilot program, consumers who qualify can secure a mortgage with an interest rate one percentage point above that of a conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage of less than $240,000 -- a rate that currently averages about 7.76 per cent. If the borrower makes his or her monthly payments on time for two years, the one percentage point premium is dropped.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings.

Fannie Mae officials stress that the new mortgages will be extended to all potential borrowers who can qualify for a mortgage. But they add that the move is intended in part to increase the number of minority and low income home owners who tend to have worse credit ratings than non-Hispanic whites.

Home ownership has, in fact, exploded among minorities during the economic boom of the 1990's. The number of mortgages extended to Hispanic applicants jumped by 87.2 per cent from 1993 to 1998, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. During that same period the number of African Americans who got mortgages to buy a home increased by 71.9 per cent and the number of Asian Americans by 46.3 per cent.

In contrast, the number of non-Hispanic whites who received loans for homes increased by 31.2 per cent.

Despite these gains, home ownership rates for minorities continue to lag behind non-Hispanic whites, in part because blacks and Hispanics in particular tend to have on average worse credit ratings.

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed that by the year 2001, 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low and moderate-income borrowers. Last year, 44 percent of the loans Fannie Mae purchased were from these groups.

The change in policy also comes at the same time that HUD is investigating allegations of racial discrimination in the automated underwriting systems used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to determine the credit-worthiness of credit applicants.

A version of this article appeared in print on Thursday, September 30, 1999, on section C page 2 of the New York edition.

Clearly, this program was one of the worst mistakes in the recent history of this country. Home ownership for the credit-unworthy is not a right. Ten years later, some tell us that healthcare is a right. Maybe we can learn from this mistake instead of repeating it. Imagine where our economy and our country would be now if the loosening of standards to extend mortgages had been greeted with as much furor as healthcare reform is being shown now? I bet that Obama would not have been elected President.

Tangent alert: On Charlie Rose tonight, I watched an interview with an author named Jim Collins. His most recent book is called How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. He studied how huge, massive businesses fail. His writing can be expanded to apply to a huge, massively successful country like ours. He lists five steps that a company undergoes on the way from being on top of the world to no longer existing or, even worse, becoming irrelevant. The step that reminds me of the current push for healthcare reform is "Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More". This step is marked by a poor decision to expand too fast into an area where the consequences of failure are not worth the risks. Expansion by the government into the healthcare industry strikes me as classic over-extending.