The Marvels of Socialized Medicine

June 19, 2009

In a new twist on the law of unintended consequences, Canada’s government-run health system provides an economic stimulus to the airline industry.

From the Windsor Star:

Hunt has stage IV melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. Once it reaches stage IV, melanoma is very difficult to treat and Hunt seems to have only one option left.

Interleukin-2 is a protein in the human body that stimulates the immune system and helps infection-fighting cells multiply and grow. It is used to treat certain types of cancers such as advanced melanoma and renal cancer. IL-2 was approved by Health Canada several years ago, but its use is not as widespread in Canada as it is in the United States.

OHIP covers pre-approved IL-2 treatments in the U.S. for Ontario residents who need it, but Hunt has been waiting to get the life-saving drug for two months.

Here is a stage IV cancer patient waiting two months to get approval for a life-saving drug. But this isn’t the newsworthy part of the story.

He was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2005, when a large, strange-looking mole appeared on his chest. The mole was removed and Hunt underwent chemotherapy.

Over the years, regular checkups at the Windsor cancer clinic didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, but in April, a routine X-ray ordered by the family doctor revealed a tumour in Hunt’s chest. Another tumour had attached itself to a lymph node and more were discovered in Hunt’s bowel.

Hunt and his wife were floored. How could cancer spread so aggressively in the body of a seemingly healthy, young, fit man? And why didn’t anyone catch the melanoma recurrence before it reached the final stage, leaving Hunt with precious little time to fight back?

Despite regular checkups over a four-year period, Hunt’s doctors didn’t catch the recurrence of cancer until it reached stage IV. But this isn’t the newsworthy part of the story either.

Hunt had bowel surgery in Windsor but not all the tumours could be removed from his intestines. He sought treatment in Detroit and had a consultation with an oncologist there but didn’t get OHIP’s approval to proceed because of a simple mistake in the paperwork, Meghan said.

Frustrated, the couple spent hours on the phone, calling doctors, the Ministry of Health and local politicians, hoping that someone could help them.

But while they were scrambling to secure Hunt’s treatment in Detroit, there was a change in OHIP rules.

OHIP will now only cover Hunt’s cancer treatment in Buffalo, NY, where the Roswell Park Cancer Institute is the ministry’s only “preferred provider” of IL-2 treatment for metastatic malignant melanoma and renal cell carcinoma. The Ministry of Health has a number of funding agreements with out-of-country health care facilities, which are chosen based on specific criteria.

Because of a paperwork error, the OHIP would not approve treatment to save Mr. Hunt’s life. Then, while he and his family were struggling with bureaucratic red tape, the OHIP changed the rules requiring Mr. Hunt to seek treatment elsewhere. Is this the newsworthy part of the story?

After much bureaucratic wrangling, Hunt will finally meet with specialists in Buffalo today and find out when he can begin treatment there. But he still doesn’t understand why he and his family have to make the four-hour trip instead of simply crossing the border to get the same medical care in Detroit.

Ministry spokesman Andrew Morrison said the Roswell Park Cancer Institute was selected as a preferred IL-2 treatment provider in May because it seems to be favoured by Ontario’s doctors and oncologists at a lower cost to the government.

Between April 2007 and April of this year, 55 Ontario patients have been referred to Roswell Park for IL-2 treatments, compared to four patients sent to the Harper University Hospital and the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, Morrison said.

The average cost of sending a patient to Roswell Park was $113,000, compared to $125,000 at the Harper hospital and $148,000 at the Karmanos facility, he added.

It’s comforting to know that Mr. Hunt’s heartrending plight served a greater purpose. Thanks to his sacrifice, Ontario taxpayers “saved” $12,000 in hospital fees. This might help defray perhaps a fraction of the cost of the bloated government regulatory apparatus, unnecessary travel expenses, and salaries of the bureaucrats Mr. Hunt’s family have wrangled with over the past year.

To ensure that the process is fair and competitive, the ministry will review the status of Roswell Park next April, Morrison said.

To be continued?

Full story here.

In a sense, Canadian citizens have been fortunate. Their government-run health plan usually lets them cross the border to receive medically necessary care they can’t get in Canada. After ObamaCare, where will they — and we — go for life-saving treatments?


A Prophet For Our Time

June 17, 2009

Today’s Jewish World Review features an insightful article by Rabbi Yonason Goldson on the corruption of language in contemporary political and ideological discourse. The following excerpt, which discusses George Orwell’s profound insights into the relationship between language and thought, is particularly instructive:

In his essay “The Principles of Newspeak,” the appendix to his classic novel, 1984 (published 60 years ago this month), George Orwell describes how the leaders of his totalitarian future have contrived to assure their hold on power by replacing English with Newspeak, a language containing no vocabulary for concepts contrary to the platform of the state-run Party. By controlling language, the Party controls its people’s very thoughts.

Intuition suggests that language is a product of thought: if we think clearly, automatically we will speak clearly. Orwell demonstrates the opposite, that thought is a product of language. Because we formulate our thoughts in words and sentences, incompetent use of language guarantees muddled thinking. If there are no words for rebellion, uprising, or discontent people will find it difficult to formulate and articulate the concept of overthrowing even the most corrupt and oppressive government.

Students of Orwell will shudder when applying this simple axiom to the corruption of modern language. Advertisers and politicians have known for years that the best way to manipulate public perception is by arranging words in unconventional combinations. Car dealers know that potential customers will feel better buying cars that are “pre-owned” rather than “used.” A certain former president knew that the American people would not respond to the gravity of his presidential peccadilloes if distracted by pondering what the meaning of “is” is.

But linguistic confusion became institutionalized with the rise of political correctness. By dodging frantically out of the rain of potentially offensive terms, we soak ourselves in a torrent of euphemisms for simple words the thought-police deem pejorative. When illegal aliens become “undocumented workers,” we lose all sense of the danger posed by the porous condition of our borders. When terrorists become “insurgents,” we more readily accommodate the moral equivalence that blurs the line between aggressors and defenders. When abortion becomes “reproductive freedom,” the horror over the indiscriminate murder of innocents vanishes altogether.

Similarly, when marriage is bereft by judicial fiat of the definition that has served for thousands of years, the foundations of the family structure erode like sand castles before the approaching tide. And as it becomes taboo to make any direct reference to race, class, ability or performance without fear of hurting one group’s collective feelings or another group’s collective self-esteem, the words that form our thoughts and understanding end up so fully shorn of their dictionary definitions that they cease to mean much of anything at all. In short, nothing makes sense.

Read the entire piece here.

A common example of semantic deception in the media lexicon is their selective use of the word “hypocrisy.” Just last week, when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took her 14-year-old daughter Willow to a Yankee game last week, David Letterman made the following tasteless jokes in his Top 10 Lists:

”During the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.” and

“The toughest part of her visit was keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter.”

Somehow in the dustup over the first comment, Letterman received a free pass on the second and far more reprehensible comment insinuating that Palin’s daughter was a prostitute. In any event, a simple apology would have resolved the matter. Instead, two days later Letterman issued a defiant phony “apology,” claiming that he thought he was making a joke about Palin’s 18-year-old daughter, Bristol. As if that justified the remark.

For some people, apparently it did.

The next day on The View, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Joy Behar got into a heated argument about Letterman’s faux apology and the glaring media double-standard regarding children of politicians. Behar not only defended Letterman’s remarks, she went on to say that Bristol Palin deserved such treatment because she was going around promoting abstinence. Since Bristol had gotten herself pregnant by her high school boyfriend, according to Behar, this made her a hypocrite.

No, it doesn’t. While Behar did not explain what she means by “hypocrisy,” her use of the term to describe Bristol Palin’s promoting abstinence indicates that Behar does not know the meaning of the term. Her imprecise terminology reflects her muddled thinking and consequent lack of judgment.

The word “hypocrisy” is derived from the Greek word hupokrisis, which means to pretend. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing when he really believes another, not someone who fails to live up to her professed beliefs. The latter is not hupokrisis but hamartia, which literally translates as missing the mark. It is one of the Greek words in the New Testament translated as “sin.”

Bristol’s pregnancy does not refute the sincerity of her belief that abstinence is the ideal when it comes to teenage sexuality. If anything, Bristol’s pregnancy has given her greater insight because she understands both the temptations and consequences of pre-marital sexual behavior. Her promotion of abstinence given her personal circumstances is no different from Magic Johnson taking up the cause of AIDS awareness after he was diagnosed as HIV positive or of incarcerated prisoners taking part in “Scared Straight” programs for at-risk teenagers. There is nothing hypocritical in what these individuals are trying to accomplish. If anything, such efforts are praiseworthy, and do not cease to be such because the messengers sometimes fall short of the mark. However, because liberals sneer at abstinence programs and loathe conservatives, Bristol Palin is falsely labeled a “hypocrite,” and Magic Johnson is not.

We see this erroneous view of “hypocrisy” overly bandied about in progressive circles by people who otherwise reject the Judeo-Christian concept of sin and have muddied the two terms. The result is a false dichotomy in which the imperfections of some are labeled “hypocrisy,” while even greater failings of others are excused under an equally distorted concept of “tolerance.” Harsh judgments are passed by “non-judgmental” and “tolerant” liberals, based not on the behavior in question, but on the identity of the person engaging in the behavior. If a conservative talk show host made similar comments about one of Obama’s daughters, it is doubtful that Hasselbeck would have defended such comments, but one suspects Behar’s reaction would have been very different.

We profess equal protection under the law, but as Orwell observed in another masterwork, some pigs are more equal than others.

I was discussing this subject with a liberal colleague at work. He suggested that I was making esoteric distinctions that don’t matter very much on a practical level: “What difference does it make if we call something ‘hypocrisy’ rather than ‘sin’”?

Students of Orwell such as Rabbi Goldson understand that the ubiquity of linguistic confusion and empty slogans in contemporary political discourse represent something more sinister than muddled thinking. Left unchecked, the corruption of language invariably leads to the debasement of ideas and ideals. In extreme cases, verbal deception can result in an invidious form of self-delusion tantamount to brainwashing and the blurring of distinctions between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and evil.

Writing from prison, Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer witnessed first-hand the enormity of evil that can take root in such noxious soil:

Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than evil. One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked and, if need be, prevented by force. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly we have no defense. . . The fact that the fool is often stubborn must not mislead us into thinking that he is independent. One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him. He is under a spell, he is blinded, his very nature is being misused and exploited. Having thus become a passive instrument, the fool will be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. Here lies the danger of a diabolical exploitation that can do irreparable damage to human beings.
— Letters and Papers from Prison

I look forward to reading more from Rabbi Goldson on his blog Torah Ideals.

Comrade Obama and Kafka’s Messengers

June 3, 2009

From Reuters:

Venezuela’s Chavez says “Comrade” Obama more left-wing [than Castro and Chavez].

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday that he and Cuban ally Fidel Castro risk being more conservative than U.S. President Barack Obama as Washington prepares to take control of General Motors Corp.

During one of Chavez’s customary lectures on the “curse” of capitalism and the bonanzas of socialism, the Venezuelan leader made reference to GM’s bankruptcy filing, which is expected to give the U.S. government a 60 percent stake in the 100-year-old former symbol of American might.

“Hey, Obama has just nationalized nothing more and nothing less than General Motors. Comrade Obama! Fidel, careful or we are going to end up to his right,” Chavez joked on a live television broadcast.

Full piece here.

Well, it takes one to know one.

Ronald Reagan once said: “America represents something universal in the human spirit… You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany, and you won’t become a German. But anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.”

Reagan understood and valued American exceptionalism. One of the things that made America unique is the possibility of becoming American. You don’t become a Frenchman or a German. In other countries, your nationality is entirely an accident of birth. In America however, you can become an American by pledging allegiance to a shared set of beliefs, to an idea and to an ideal. As Chesterton said, America is the only nation founded upon a creed:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The corollary to Reagan’s observation is that many Americans today no longer embrace our nation’s founding principles. Some are ashamed of American values; a few actually loathe the very idea of American exceptionalism. They are American in the same way that Frenchmen are French and Germans are German; they are Americans solely by accident of birth. If they aspire to become anything, they would become Frenchmen or Germans or citizens of the world, anything but Americans.

As Obama nationalizes the banking and automobile industries and prepares to nationalize healthcare and impose massive energy tax hikes via so-called cap and trade legislation, both Communist oppressors and refugees from Communism see the same thing happening here.

My good friend Luis at Boiling Frogs was born in Cuba. He and his family came to this country fleeing the evils of Communism under Castro. They quickly embraced American values and gave allegiance to the uniquely American ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. In doing so, they became Americans. Those who have never experienced life without the precious freedoms others died to preserve often take them for granted. My friend Luis and other refugees from Communist countries do not. Their first-hand experience of misery and poverty and hopelessness and despair of life under Socialism, of life without freedom, gives them a much keener sense when our fragile freedoms are threatened.

Like Kafka’s messenger, who tried to deliver a message of great importance that is ignored and sneered at by those it was intended to help, these witnesses see what is happening and are desperately trying to warn us before it is too late. But their message of great importance is ignored and blithely dismissed by accidental Americans and others too distracted by their iPods and Wiis to notice.

Ronald Reagan warned that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” It remains to be seen whether this generation will be the one that allows the blessings of liberty to be extinguished, perhaps forever.

The “New” GM

June 1, 2009

. . . has a plan, sort of:

DETROIT (AP) – With an almost certain bankruptcy filing days away, General Motors is beginning its reinvention, planning to retool one factory to make its smallest vehicles ever in the U.S. and rid itself of the biggest.

. . . GM said it plans to reopen a shuttered U.S. factory to build subcompact cars. The retooled factory would be able to build 160,000 cars a year and create 1,200 jobs, offsetting some of the 21,000 that will be lost when GM closes 14 factories by the end of next year.

. . . GM is banking on more demand for smaller cars previously shunned by Americans. The government decided earlier this month to raise fuel economy standards for the entire U.S. fleet by 2016 (emphasis mine).

Building the cars you don’t want that government will force you to buy!

The market responds:

GM’s stock tumbled to the lowest price in the company’s 100-year history, closing at just 75 cents after trading as low as 74 cents. The government plan for GM revealed Thursday would make the shares virtually worthless.

Understatement of the year:

Smaller costs after bankruptcy should help the companies make money even though compact cars carry far smaller profit margins than pricey SUVs. But there remains a risk that gas prices will remain low and the cars won’t sell, blowing up the automakers’ new business models.

Full article here. Read it and weep.








Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No, it’s Socialism! Strange visitor from the 19th Century claiming powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men!

Socialism . . . which can plunder the wealth of affluent nations, crush industries with its perverse plan to punish success and reward failure!

And who, disguised as Barack Obama, mild-mannered Marxist figurehead for a cesspool of corruption and cronyism, fights a new-ending battle against TRUTH, JUSTICE and THE AMERICAN WAY!

Don’t worry America. There’s plenty more Hope and Change™ on the way. Coming soon to an industry near you!