People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Suggestion To The Times Copy Editor

This headline: "Separating the SCHIP from the chaff"

Should have been this: "Separating the SCHIP from the Shinola."

Just trying to help.

Oh No! Not 40%!

There seems to be a disconnect here. Either that or I'm completely missing something.

The Roanoke Times argues this morning, in an editorial entitled "Preschool By The Numbers," that funding should be found for getting the 4-year old children of poor Virginians into preschool. Why? Seems there are fewer poor kids than rich kids to be found there.


Two points to be made before you click on the link to check their fuzzy math:

(1) You're going to find that the percentages of poor kids attending and ALL kids attending are remarkably similar, not dissimilar. (40% vs. 43%)

(2) Except for making passing reference to "long-range studies," the numbers provided tell us nothing about the viability of preschool. Does it serve any purpose beyond that of babysitting? Where are those stats?

And now that you've read the column and have absorbed the thrust of the editorial - that we should provide for poor kids' preschool because rich kids are attending - a third point:

(3) Should we also fund Caribbean cruises? Pilates classes? Wine cellars? Season tickets to the Roanoke ballet? Pedicures? I'll bet the disparity between poor and not-so-poor in each of those classes is even greater. Why not fund them?

Statistics, fellas, are useful little buggers. But sometimes they have to be attached to some useful postulate. Tossing out a number - 40%! - and claiming that it makes "the need apparent" only makes your level of understanding the issue less apparent.

Does ... it ... help ... the ... kids ... in ... the ... long ... term?

Show us those stats and we'll have a discussion.

I Wondered What That Smell Was

Democratic leaders campaign through Southside, S.W. Va.

Quote Of The Day

To my everlasting shame, I'm going to quote Maureen Dowd:
When pundettes tut-tut that playing the victim is not what a feminist should do, they forget that Hillary is not a feminist. If she were merely some clich├ęd version of a women’s rights advocate, she never could have so effortlessly blown off Marian Wright Edelman and Lani Guinier when Bill first got in, or played the Fury with Bill’s cupcakes during the campaign.

She was always kind enough to let Bill hide behind her skirts when he got in trouble with women. Now she deserves to hide behind her own pantsuits when men cause her trouble.
"Gift of Gall," The New York Times, November 4, 2007

Quote Of The Day II

Wisdom for the ages, from Washington County Treasurer Fred Parker, directed at those of you who are still undecided which levers to pull (or screens to touch ...) come election day:
"Remember, voting is just like driving a car. If you want to go forward, you pull it down in ‘D’ for Democrat; if you want to go backwards you put it in R for Republican."
If you don't know what your choices are by Tuesday, or if you're just too lazy to get off your dead ass and find out about the candidates coming before you and the issues at hand, I'd encourage you to stay home and watch Oprah. Parker has an alternative suggestion.

You decide.

He Just Couldn't Resist

So I read in this morning's New York Times an article concerning the massive, and shocking, number of pork earmarks that have been attached to the in-the-works military appropriations bill for 2008 (nearly a half billion dollar appropriation) in Congress. 1,776 earmarks to be exact.

After reading the names of those congresspersons who were most guilty of wasting the peoples' hard-earned income on this sleezy practice (the usual suspects top the list - Young - Alaska, Murtha - Pennsylvania, Lewis - California, Moran - Virginia), I did some checking to see if my congressman dipped his fingers too into this sewer of waste and (potential) corruption.

I scrolled down the list. And scrolled.

Just at that point when I thought I would be able to sing Representative Rick Boucher's (D-Abingdon) praises for having fought off the inclination to do bad, I found this:

Center for Injury Biomechanics -- Boucher, Rick

What is that? You can find out by going here.

Is it a worthwhile expenditure? Who knows?

The problems with this type of earmark are two-fold: (1) the military didn't request that money be spent on the research (at least not at this CIB) and (2) earmarks are, by their inherent nature, no-bid contract awards.

So this may be a duplication of effort. It may be a complete waste of money, providing the military with nothing of value. It may be this; it may be that ...

Regardless, the Pentagon is going to get it anyway. As are we. In the shorts. Again.

Perhaps we should provide Mr. Boucher with half a kudos for limiting himself to only one earmark in this bloated appropriations bill (Bill Young - a Republican, ahem - has 59; Murtha - 46). So here's a kud to you Rick.

But this practice - rife with the opportunity for both waste and corruption - must be stopped. Now and forever.

Otherwise the government spins out of control - even more ...

* Not to be outdone, Virgil Goode (R-Rocky Mount) has two earmarks posted.
** Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), to his credit, has zero.

Somebody Here Is Wrong

From yesterday's Roanoke Times ("A nomination founders"): "Michael Mukasey's nomination as U.S. attorney general is in trouble in the Senate Judiciary Committee over his refusal to say waterboarding is torture, and thus illegal. Waterboarding clearly is torture."

From yesterday's L.A. Times ("Mukasey all but a shoo-in for approval"): "Michael B. Mukasey appeared on Friday to be all but assured of becoming the nation's 81st attorney general when two Senate Democrats broke ranks and said they would support the retired federal judge to head the Justice Department."

Take your pick ...

Rudy's Right

I knew Rudy Giuliani would be in for it when he released that ad the other day that reminded us of his bout with - and triumph over - prostate cancer a few years ago. The same ad that reminded us also of the fact that our health care system, as measured by the most important statistic available - mortality - is head and shoulders above and more successful than is the government-administered British health care system at detecting cancer(s) and preventing early deaths.

Socialist Paul Krugman, New York Times, wasn't the first but he was the nastiest to respond, saying in his Thursday column:
“My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States? Eighty-two percent,” says Rudy Giuliani in a new radio ad attacking Democratic plans for universal health care. “My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine.”

It would be a stunning comparison if it were true. But it isn’t.
As it turns out, Paul, yes, it is.

From Dr. David Gratzer*, physician and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute (In "Malignant Rumor," City Journal): **
Let me be very clear about why the Giuliani campaign is correct: the percentage of people diagnosed with prostate cancer who die from it is much higher in Britain than in the United States. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports on both the incidence of prostate cancer in member nations and the number of resultant deaths. According to OECD data published in 2000, 49 Britons per 100,000 were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 28 per 100,000 died of it. This means that 57 percent of Britons diagnosed with prostate cancer died of it; and, consequently, that just 43 percent survived. Economist John Goodman, in Lives at Risk, arrives at precisely the same conclusion: “In the United States, slightly less than one in five people diagnosed with prostate cancer dies of the disease. In the United Kingdom, 57 percent die.” None of this is surprising: in the UK, only about 40 percent of cancer patients see an oncologist, and historically, the government has been reluctant to fund new (and often better) cancer drugs.
The point? The British, in an attempt to keep health care costs low, ration that care. Doctor visits - including those to the oncologist - have to be scheduled, sometimes months in advance. For those people (in this case, men) who are willing to wait in line, that wait sometimes makes the difference - in terms of early detection - between life and death. Then there are those who simply don't want to fight the bureaucracy. They never even show up to be diagnosed. And die.

So, you'll read from those who want us to be like the British that their mortality rates are no worse than ours (being a student of statistics, I know that the rate of mortality in England is most assuredly identical to that of the USA; both stand at 100%) but one can't escape the cold, hard numbers. Because we have a far-superior health care delivery system compared to the Brits (and everyone else on the planet), cancers are detected much earlier here, and more lives are saved.

Here's what you need to consider. Our system (though not perfect) is the best on earth. It is also very expensive. You want it to be less costly? Drive down its effectiveness. Ration care. Mortality rates be damned. We can be like the British and have affordable health care for everyone.

If that's what you really want for your children and grandchildren.

* Dr. Gratzer advises the Giuliani campaign.
** Get his book: The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care. It's on sale.

Sorry. I Can't Be Witty Tonight.

What does it say about late-night television humorists when those who write their jokes for them go on strike and Leno, Letterman, et al. find themselves having nothing with which to entertain the masses?
Strike set to silence talk shows

The Writers Guild of America has asked its 12,000 members to stop working and set up picket lines from Monday.

It wants more cash for work which goes on "new" media such as DVDs or online.

Shows hosted by stars such as Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart are expected to stop almost immediately as they rely on a supply of topical jokes. (link)
Leno had this to say about the affair: "They call it the toughest time for comedy writing since those three weeks back in the 1990s when Bill Clinton stopped dating." It's not known who was inserting those words into Leno's mouth when he cracked that joke. Apparently they weren't his own.

From all indications, that may have been his last yuck for a while. How embarrassing.