Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Commentary 8- Reagan's Legacy

Posted by Myrhaf on his website

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Reagan's Legacy

Some Republicans want to put Reagan's face on Mt. Rushmore. In our bitterly divided America, in which both sides say 20 words attacking the opponent for every one word they say supporting their own side, I wonder if the Republicans really think Reagan deserves this honor or if they just want to rub the liberal nose in conservative shit.

Reagan was a mediocre President who got a few things right. (You could say the same thing about Teddy Roosevelt, whose image is on Mt. Rushmore; he's the farthest one back, as if the artist knew something was wrong including him among Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.)

The best thing about Reagan was his supply-side economics and tax cuts that spurred an economic boom that, with a few dips along the way, we are still enjoying. He is given credit for ending the Soviet Union, but the fundamental reason it failed is the nature of communism. Socialism, or "planned chaos" as Mises called it, can't create wealth and simply cannot compete with the productive dynamo that is capitalism. Reagan was lucky to be in the White House when the Potemkin Village that was the Soviet Bloc began to collapse and people saw it was an empty facade.

Reagan's pragmatism toward Iran and terrorism, with his non-response to the Beirut barracks bombing and his Iran-Contra Scandal, makes him the single man most responsible for our feckless Middle East policy. Conservatives blame Carter and Clinton, but the enemy knew those men were weak. Reagan is worse because he pretended to be strong but was in fact as weak and appeasing as any liberal you could find. Our pretense at strength convinced people such as Osama bin Laden that America is a paper tiger. We still have not proved him wrong.

The size of government more than doubled during the Reagan Presidency. You can blame it on Tip O'Neill's Democrat Congress, but the fact is that Reagan didn't have what it takes to stand up to the big spenders. Such weakness is the stuff of mediocrity.

Worst of all, Reagan brought the Religious Right to power, destroying the Goldwater paradigm of a party dedicated to individual rights. With Reagan, the contradictions in the Republican Party grow. 20 years later we have a Republican President who expands the welfare state like a liberal and brings in faith to work with the welfare state -- and calls it "compassionate conservatism." The Republicans are well on their way to becoming, like the Democrats, a force for tyranny rather than for freedom.

Reagan on Mt. Rushmore? It would be an act of injustice.

Original referenced Link

My Commentary

Mike Zemack said...
Reagan, I believe, had two great achievements that puts him among our most consequential presidents.

First, his foreign policy strategy, I believe, was instrumental in bringing down the Soviet Empire. During the 1970s, the Soviets were gaining strength and influence due to the appeasement policies of the West. This included the moral sanctions implicit in America’s policies of Détente and peaceful co-existence. It was generally accepted in the West that the Soviet Union was solid both militarily and economically, and that the only way to avoid a catastrophic war between East and West was to accept and get along with them. This translated into massive economic “aid”, subsidized “trade”, and the sale on credit of advanced technologies. This enabled the Soviet Union to achieve, by the late 1970s, virtual nuclear parity with the U.S.

While you are right that “ the fundamental reason it failed is the nature of communism.”, this by no means gives reason to believe that it was inevitable that the Soviet Empire was on the verge of collapse. The demoralization of the forces of freedom behind the Iron Curtain due to the acceptance as legitimate of their rulers by the world’s foremost bastion of freedom, America, coupled with the material and moral support of the West in general could have easily enabled the Soviet Empire to survive for many decades, very possibly with dire consequences for us.

Reagan’s great achievement was in recognizing the fact of Communism’s utter bankruptcy. This may seem
obvious in retrospect, but it must be remembered that Reagan bucked a virtually unanimous consensus of hostility toward his policies and convictions. Alan Greenspan, in his recent book, stated that Reagan was one of only two people that he knew of that believed that the Soviet Union was a house of cards ready to collapse if Western support were withdrawn. The other was Ayn Rand.

When Reagan declared the Soviet Union an “evil empire”, thus removing America’s moral sanction, the dissident forces behind the iron curtain were electrified and emboldened. At the same time, Reagan set out to remove the economic lifeline of Western support while simultaneously pressuring them with America’s military re-armament and “Star Wars.” The dye was cast. A close friend and co-agent of his endeavor, Margaret Thatcher, said in here Eulogy for President Reagan “So the president resisted Soviet expansion and pressed down on Soviet weakness at every point until the day came when communism began to collapse beneath the combined weight of those pressures and its own failures.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Reagan was instrumental in triggering the Soviet collapse.

His second major achievement is one that you briefly acknowledge… his economic policies. But more importantly, Reagan unapologetically went to bat for the productive in America. In his Inaugural Address in 1981, he said such things as “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”…and “We hear much of special interest groups. Well, our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we're sick -- professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truckdrivers. They are, in short, ``We the people,'' this breed called Americans.”…and “It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.”…and “We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are not heroes, they just don't know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they're on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity.”

Nowhere in that speech do you here the usual phony political handringing about the “poor” and the “downtrodden” who never had a chance. As you point out, he then backed up his ritoric by rolling back regulation and slashing income tax rates from 70% to 28%. We have had only two mild and brief recessions since and we are still enjoying the benefits of those tax cuts, as rates are still well below those that Reagan inherited.
But Reagan’s most important domestic achievement may be that he halted for a time the Socialist advance in America. For this, Objectivists can be a little thankful for the time he bought us. Since the rise of Reagan, Objectivism has gained a small but significant and growing foothold in academia and the culture. With the “Reagan Revolution” beginning to give way to a reinvigorated Statist Left, we are at least in a better position now to offer a strong alternative, especially since the Republican Party has become, at least for the moment, pretty much useless (or worse).

There is much to criticize President Reagan for. His advocacy for returning prayer to the public schools, for example, as well as his Social Security “fix” and the failure to make much of a dent in federal spending. Although he did recognize the long-term threat posed by Islamic Fundamentalism, he let his military advisers talk him out of an attack on terror camps in Syria after the Beirut bombings (which he wanted to do).

But the re-acceleration of the statist trend in America today as well as the sorry crop of GOP candidates so far makes Reagan look awfully good right now. Flaws, contradictions and inconsistencies aside, America could, in my opinion, do a lot worse than to get another Ronald Reagan as our next President.

The Death Penalty vs. Abortion

From NJ Voices

Corzine and the Sanctity of Life

Posted by Murray Sabrin December 18, 2007 8:47AM

Yesterday, Governor Corzine proudly signed legislation abolishing the death penalty. I applaud the governor's commitment to end the death penalty in New Jersey, because I now oppose the death penalty after supporting it all my adult life.

In Governor Corzine's remarks at the state capitol he said, "I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To these questions, I answer yes." Truer words were never spoken. Yet, the governor has a blind spot, or more accurately a black hole, when it comes to another issue about the sanctity of life: abortion.

On a website, "Jon Corzine on the issues," several quotes appear from his public statements about abortion including one made during his 2000 campaign for the United States Senate: "I am passionately pro-choice, and I would be one of the U.S. Senate's most vocal and tenacious leaders in protecting a woman's right to choose. I oppose legislation banning so-called late-term abortions, because anti-choice extremists are using such legislation to chip away at Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that guarantees a woman's vital constitutional right to choose. I trust the women of America to make their own health decisions without the intrusion of government."

I too was a passionate defender of a woman's right to choose even though I disagreed with the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision as an unwarranted intrusion in the right of states to decide this or any issue that should be the prerogative of state legislatures. That is the hallmark of federalism, one of America's founding principles.

When I learned about partial abortion from a student of mine in the mid 1990s I was appalled that this procedure could be legal in America or for that matter in any civilized society. Even Democrats such as former New York City mayor Ed Koch and the late New York U. S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called partial birth abortion infanticide. Crushing a baby's head and then sucking out its brains is morally repugnant, and yet the pro-choice extremists do not have the courage to condemn this procedure.

After reading Rep. Ron Paul's defense of the pro-life position from a limited government perspective in his 100 page book, Challenge to Liberty: Coming to Grip with the Abortion Issue, I too became an advocate of protecting the lives of the unborn.

Meanwhile, Governor Corzine can speak eloquently about the sanctity of life when he signs a law abolishing the death penalty, but he denies the unborn the right to their lives. Women carrying an unborn child never say they are having a fetus, they always say I am having a baby.

Abortion is the taking of a human life, a very special life that is being developed inside a woman's womb. After birth an infant develops outside the womb under the guidance of his or her parent(s). Does anyone believe a woman can choose to end the life of an infant because she has an unlimited "right to choose?"

Governor Corzine is intellectually inconsistent and philosophically obtuse, when it comes to the abortion issue. If the life of a killer can be spared by the state for committing a heinous crime, then surely the life of the unborn should be protected by the state. In short, if the "sanctity of life" has any meaning, it means that no life can be taken by the state or anyone else. After all, the role of the state is to prevent aggression against innocent human life, including life in the womb. Otherwise, we do we need a state?

My Commentary

Posted by Zemack on 12/18/07 at 2:21PM
In Governor Corzine's remarks at the state capitol he said, "I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To these questions, I answer yes." Truer words were never spoken.

I couldn't disagree more.

The death penalty issue is primarily a moral one, and it boils down to one question... does human life have value, or doesn't it? If it does, then that which destroys it is evil and thus has no value. The act of committing cold-blooded murder (the taking of another's life in the absence of extenuating circumstances) is the ultimate violation of one's most fundamental right...the right to life. By taking the life of another human being, the cold-blooded killer thus forfeits the right to his own life.

Remember that we are speaking here of the most heinous type of crime...the rape-murder of a child, the gunning down of a store clerk during a robbery, the assassination of a police officer. To speak of "the sanctity of life", or of "love" or "compassion" (as Sister Helen Prejean was quoted today as saying) for life's destroyers is to make a mockery of those terms and to devalue the lives of all of us.

One can not value man's life and the destroyer of man's life at the same time. To the extent that one assigns value to the destroyer of man's life, then to the same extent he is devalueing man's life. There is no way out of this lethal contradiction. Not if one's standard of value is man's life.

The death penalty is justified, morally justified, not because of hatred or revenge. Nor is it justified on the grounds of deterence. The ruling principle in favor of the death penalty is justice. The ultimate crime must be met by the ultimate punishment. Death to cold-blooded murderers, the destroyers of life, is the ultimate affirmation of "the sanctity (and value) of life."

Sadly, by abolishing the death penalty, our great state of New Jersey has chosen to devalue life.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Commentary 6- Pre-school and Vouchers

From NJ Voices

Vouchers are the Obvious Choice
Posted by Tom Moran December 13, 2007 9:00PM
Categories: Family & Kids, Hot Topics
To the Rev. Reginald Jackson, head of the Black Ministers' Council, the remarkable success of the state's private preschools holds an obvious lesson.

We need more school choice. We need to break the monopoly of the public school system. We need to build on this success by at least experimenting with vouchers in the K-12 system.

"These preschools, 70 percent of which are privately owned, are providing a good foundation for these children," he says. "The only way we're going to know if it would make a difference in the later grades is by giving it a chance."

That, of course, is not going to happen in New Jersey. Because here, even talk of vouchers causes the teachers unions and the education establishment to break out in hives.

A voucher system would allow parents to pick whatever school they want, public or private. And these guys don't want anybody to mess with their cozy monopoly, which works so well for all the adults involved.

Already, some educators in the suburbs are taking up battle stations. As the governor moves to expand preschool offerings to their districts, they are promising to keep the private preschools out of the loop.

"We would prefer to do it ourselves," says Somerville Superintendent Carol Leary. "They will start out here as 3-year-olds and hopefully go right through high school."

It's a pity, because the preschool program today is probably the most remarkable success story of the last decade in this beleaguered state.

It relies on a healthy mix of public and private preschools that all receive public money -- even those that are religiously inspired. About 45,000 children attend the schools, most of them in the poor urban districts known as Abbotts.

The results are in. The first wave of these kids have reached grammar school, and are showing markedly higher scores on their reading and math tests. Fewer of them are landing in expensive special education programs. And teachers say these students tend to be better behaved.

How did this happen in a state that has taken such a hard line on school vouchers, and has only grudgingly allowed charter schools?

It was an accident. The Supreme Court in 1999 ordered the state to establish preschools in the Abbott districts, and the public schools didn't have the space or the teachers to do the job. They made room for private schools because the court put a gun to their head. Even the teachers unions went along.

"Initially I was dead-set against it, too," says Tom Dunn, the former superintendent in Elizabeth who now lobbies for school administrators. "But I was proven wrong."

As a convert, Dunn knows how public educators can turn this into a turf war, how someone like Leary could insist on banning private schools when she concedes she has no room in her own schools to do the job.

"There's a feeling that I'm going to be responsible for this, so I want control, and I don't want to be blamed for something that goes wrong," he says. "I can understand that initial reaction. But this works. And I plan to work with the superintendents to embrace this."

Maybe some districts will bite. Maybe they'll realize that the important point is whether the preschool is teaching children effectively, not whether it is public or private.

In the Abbott preschools, the state was perfectly impartial. It insisted on small class sizes, qualified teachers, and a proven curriculum. And it sent in teaching coaches, and enough money to make it work. That supervision is far more aggressive than is typical in pure voucher systems, so this is really a kind of hybrid.

But the preschools in these districts are both public and private. And because parents make the final choice about where to enroll their kids, the schools must compete for business.

So here we are. We have a success story, and the question is whether we have the wisdom to repeat it.

Meanwhile, Jackson says he will keep tilting at his windmill, pushing for a voucher system in the upper grades. He knows he won't get it anytime soon. But for him, this is at its core a human rights issue.

It is simply wrong, he says, to force poor children into public school monopolies when everyone knows many of these schools are failing, and even dangerous. He often asks a simple and telling question of those who disagree: "If you were in one of these urban districts, would you send your children there?"

Jackson is not quitting on the public schools. He sits on the board in Orange. And he is chairman of the board at Essex County Community College, where he says more than 80 percent of those graduating from the public schools need remedial classes.

"I've been in Jersey for 30 years and ever since I've been here they've talked about reforming the public schools, and they haven't," he says. "That is my major frustration."

And it will remain so, in all likelihood. Because New Jersey's political establishment is not about to yield on this one -- no matter what magic is being brewed in those Abbott preschools.

Commentary Begins

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by philsgold on 12/14/07 at 12:02PM
The great defender of individual rights and capitalism, Ayn Rand, wrote that the best way to overcome the public school problem would be to institute a voucher system. In her essay she writes that very few people would want to buy a pair of shoes manufactured by the government; why then, would anyone buy something so crucially important as their children's education from the government!

How wonderfully ironic it was to read Tom Moran's advocacy of school vouchers. When an advocate of all things socialist, liberal, and statist has to admit the complete failure of his own creation, it is indeed a fun day for all us "enemies of the State". Now, all we need is for Tom and his liberal friends to admit that the government is a complete failure at everything except police protection, courts, and the military. So, instead of giving back our money through a voucher system, why not let us keep it in the first place. Oh my God, could we ever be trusted to dispose of the fruits of our own labor and thought?? Of course not!! We need the guidance of our great socialist leaders, like Hilary, Nancy, and the swimmer.

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by hglindquist on 12/14/07 at 5:14PM
Well, philsgold ... maybe we the people would buy Ayn Rand's arguments if we had not experienced the guidance of great monopolist leaders up close and personal from time to time.

What is there about a banana republic that appeals to you? And do you use "Heckuva job, Brownie" government to prove your point?

Some stuff on Ayn Rand from wikipedia.com:

According to Rand, "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship - the desire to look up to man." (1968)


In a Playboy magazine interview, Rand stated that women are not psychologically suited to be President ...

There's more, but why bother ... most of us know what she thought.

The fact that she was right on vouchers doesn't prove that everything else she uttered was also correct. Or that because she was wrong on so much, that vouchers are then also wrong.

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by Zemack on 12/14/07 at 8:03PM
I heartily applaud your defense of the pre-school system against what can only be called a hostile takeover attempt by the state. Pre-school is the last bastion of what can be called true educational freedom in America, where parents are free to exercise their rights in deciding the course of their children's education by choosing from a free market array of competing schools.

I also applaud your identifying the true nature of the "public" (read government-run) school system as a monopoly. I would add coercive to that label. And, like all coercive (i.e., government-enforced) monopolies, our school system is beset by exploding costs and deteriorating quality.

I also emphatically endorse Mr. Jackson's idea of extending educational freedom to all grade levels, with two important changes;

1. I would replace vouchers with a direct tax credit to the parents for their education expenses. These credits would be applied both to local property taxes and income taxes. I would also encourage the creation of private scholarship funds by applying the same tax credits to voluntary contributions for scholarship purposes. The scholarships could be granted to parents whose educational expense may exceed any tax credits they may qualify for. The problem with vouchers is they violate the church-state separation, a crucial doctrine for preserving religious freedom in America.

2. Vouchers also leave too much control of the schools in the hands of the state (i.e., the education establishment), which leads me to my second important change. Government money always comes with strings attached, and the worst of the voucher strings is the mandate that schools must use a "proven" curriculum. This inevitably stifles new, entrepreneurial thinking. And we desperately need original, innovative, even radical new ideas in educational curriculum, methods, and philosophy.

Ultimately, I prefer that all schools be privately owned and run, i.e. a completely free market in education. But the dramatic reforms advocated by Mr. Jackson and yourself are a huge step toward better schooling in America.

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by Zemack on 12/14/07 at 9:15PM
To Philsgold:

I, too, am an admirer of Ayn Rand for her moral defense of individualism and capitalism, among other things. But in the 40 years since I first discovered her writings, I don't ever remember her advocating vouchers. I do know that she advocated tax credits, with which I concur (see her essay on page 247 of the book "The Voice of Reason").

To Hglindquist:

If you really understood Ayn Rand and her philosophy, which requires a great deal of study, you may not agree with her but you wouldn't make the kind of ad hominem attacks you made in the first two comments in your post. Also, cherry-picking and presenting those two quotes out of context is rather unfair and very misleading of her character. Rarely has history produced a stronger or more courageous and independant woman.

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by hglindquist on 12/15/07 at 8:47AM
My dear Zemack,

Most of us who disagree with Ayn Rand can actually use numbers to refer to her ideas, they are so well known. (Probably even those who agree with her can.) Plus that is why I referenced my source. People can read the whole wikipedia entry if they care to. It would be redundant for me to repeat here, wouldn't you say?

And I am glad you single me out for using "ad hominem" attacks ... which is a common retort of the uptight when they are being poked fun at. Jeez-lou-eeze, Zemack, this is the bloggosphere.

See, what most of learned in kindergarten is that if you don't have rules on the playground, bullies rule.

And what we are currently witnessing in the mortgage markets AND in the major league illegal use of drugs ... are clear examples of the so-called "free" market that does not pay for the damage it does out of the profits it earned ... to the point that even ye ol' Milton Friedman admitted before he passed on that there was no "free" market ... due to these very externalities, as these brilliant idiots call them. (Would you like the reference? Is "brilliant idiot" too "ad hominem" for you or does it actually catch the irony of intelligent individuals serving greed cloaked in principle?)

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by hglindquist on 12/15/07 at 9:19AM
But returning to vouchers ... and being a member of the working class ... with bono fides extending from my parents and their parents to my children and their children ...

Most of us in the small towns and communities that spawned the public education system were part of mostly homogeneous communities ... at least I was in most of my years in public education. My family's values were the values taught in public school ... yes, religious, ethical, and social values were pretty much common ones ... at least publicly ... including prejudices (all one has to do is read the text books).

And I think the majority of folks still believe their particular public school is teaching the values they want taught. (Which is why they are against vouchers. They think they will be net resource losers for their schools.)

But it is appears to be equally obvious that a (growing?) number of families -- particularly the working poor in large urban centers -- are discovering that their children come back from public school in worse condition than when first enrolled ... with the strong arm of the state forcing them to keep sending their children to these schools even though the parents know it is harming their children's value system. They would like vouchers ... but they are a minority.

Am I right in thinking this way, or not?

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by Zemack on 12/15/07 at 3:45PM
To Hglindquist;

Your schoolyard bully comment is, I guess, a reference to free markets. But what you actually, and unwittingly, describe is the exact system we have today in America...a mixed economy. A mixed economy is one in which the government acquires enormous powers over private economic activity which serves as a means or tool of anyone with political power or pull to impose its agenda on others by force. In other words, it empowers the bully.

True Capitalism, which doesn't exist anywhere today including in the United States, actually banishes force from human relationships by restricting the power of the state to the vital task of protecting individual rights (i.e., enforcing the "rules" as objectively defined by reference to those rights). This means, to protect the individual from the initiation of physical force, including governmental force. Thus no one, not even the rich, can impose his will on others by the acquisition of political influence and power because the tool of governmental coercion is removed. Capitalism, properly understood, means the separation of state and economics. All economic associations between people are voluntary, with each person acting in his own self-interest with the corresponding legal and moral obligation to respect the rights of all others to do the same. Free markets disarm the bully.

This relates to the school issue in this way. If a group of people, no matter how large their majority, want to pool their money to form a community school, it is their right to do so. But they have no right to use the taxing power of the state (or the municipality) to force everyone else in the community to pay for it ...i.e., to initiate the use of force against others for the purpose of forming a "public" school. Government under Capitalism protects the rights of the minority to chart its own course, including the smallest of all minorities, the individual. This is why Tom Moran's article was so exciting to read. However imperfectly and inconsistantly, he is taking a strong stand in favor of individual parents against the community's schoolyard bully, the entrenched educational establishment.

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by hglindquist on 12/15/07 at 8:11PM
Zemack, one hardly knows where to begin because it is such a broad sweeping set of statements ... let's see if we can put some meat on the bones to chew on, shall we?

You write ...

Capitalism, properly understood, means the separation of state and economics. All economic associations between people are voluntary, with each person acting in his own self-interest with the corresponding legal and moral obligation to respect the rights of all others to do the same. Free markets disarm the bully.>/i>

What is your definition of a free market? And do you have an example, even in theory ... of one that claims to work? Like if it is free of regulation, then how does it disarm the bully? Put I don't yet know what you mean by a free market.

Then I would ask, what are these rights of all others that each of us is supposed to protect? Is this something like the old joke of the "right" of both the rich and the poor to be arrested for sleeping under the bridge?

Until we define individual rights that the state will have the vital task to enforce, we are sort of at a loss ... aren't we?

And if a person responds by saying our Constitution defines our rights then we run into a couple of major philosophical impediments to laissez faire ... like the last statement of Article I, Section 8: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

Seems as if we have a representative form of government whose legislative branch is empowered to create all kinds of mischief regarding laissez faire ... like isn't it then the right of we the people to impose those regulations on ourselves that we deem suitable and are in accord with our Constitution? (Which always is a problem for the Libertarian when defending the Constitution ... or maybe you don't think it is?)

Another of those couple of major impediments to the honorable observance of rights that I mentioned above is how we have handled treaty rights with the indigenous populations ...

Then we have issues of ownership ... that stem in part from the treaty rights that I just mentioned ...

And that is a small scratching of the surface ...

I always get the feeling that when anyone calls for protecting the rights of the individual to chart his/her own course ... it is always from the current situation forward with a newly defined set of rights, never from a rational attempt to define what the situation should/would be if it had been fairly arrived at ... according to the rights we had in force before we decided to come up with a new set of rights. Maybe that's not that clear to you? Let me know. I can have another go at the wording.

Anyway ... to my way of thinking ... we should start by defining the individual rights that we are discussing ... and setting forth the historical record of their claim to current preeminence. Don't you think? I mean if we want to be clear and not simply mouth meaningless platitudes?

And from your opening statement regarding the separation of state and economics ... I would then ask whether you consider "economics" to be the primary concern of the state? And if all other functions of the state should be subordinate to its role vis-à-vis economics? And then do our shared values stem from the relationship of the state to economics? Is that Marxian? (You know that links up with some history behind the neocons ... or am I wrong in thinking that? I could look it up, if you think I am off base.)

Like I said, there is a lot to chew on in what you wrote ...

But wait ... one more thing ... you write ...

True Capitalism, which doesn't exist anywhere today including in the United States, actually banishes force from human relationships by restricting the power of the state to the vital task of protecting individual rights (i.e., enforcing the "rules" as objectively defined by reference to those rights).

Could you explain exactly how this thing called "True Capitalism" goes about banishing "force from human relationships by restricting the power of the state"?

Seems I remember something about the state (in the form of the NYPD) interfering with the car window washers at intersections in NYC as playing a role in cleaning up that city? Was that or wasn't it a good thing? How does that enter into this free market stuff, like for the boots on the ground? Or how do you keep kids from becoming garbage scavengers? Or do you? I mean, how does this theory apply to the real world? (Scrap aluminum and copper bring a good price ... at least according to The Wire.)

Then again ... maybe we can't have this True Capitalism, so we have to learn how to live with what we can have. What about that idea?

In that case, maybe this concept we have of balancing power to limit the abuse of power makes sense. What about THAT idea?

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by Zemack on 12/16/07 at 6:41PM
To hglindquist

"Zemack, one hardly knows where to begin because it is such a broad sweeping set of statements"

Yes, I know. I was trying to define a broad set of principles in a brief statement and then relate them to the voucher issue. That usually raises more questions than it answers. You raise some good ones, and I will try to briefly answer a couple of them.

But first, I need to state that I am NOT a Libertarian. They are anti-government, I am not. They believe one has the right to "do as one pleases", on any whim or emotion, regardless of consequences to oneself or others, I do not. Neither am I a neo-con. I ascribe to Objectivism, Ayn Rand's philosophy of individualism.

"Until we define individual rights that the state will have the vital task to enforce, we are sort of at a loss ... aren't we?"

Yes, we are. Individual rights, properly understood, is a moral concept that defines a person's proper conduct in relation to others. A right is possessed by all individuals equally, but imposes no unchosen obligation on others. My reference to the school issue in my last post is one example. Similarly, a "squeegee man" has a right to offer his services to clean your windshield, but he has no right to do it against your will,while blocking traffic, then demand payment for an unwanted service and, when you refuse, to vandalize your property (which I witnessed happen to a friend). Individual rights are not an arbitrary creation of any state, legislature, king, society, democratic majority, or collective. They are natural requirements of man's, every individual man's, life and survival. This is implicit in the words "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Could you explain exactly how this thing called 'True Capitalism" goes about banishing "force from human relationships by restricting the power of the state'?"

Essentially, a person's rights can only be violated by force, the threat of force, or fraud (the indirect use of force). Specifically, laissez-fare capitalism (which is what I mean by "true" capitalism) banishes the INITIATION of force. A person who assaults or robs another is initiating force, which is illegal in any society. Government, though, has a legal monopoly on the use of force. Under capitalism, the state is restricted from initiating force in the same way. Income "redistribution", which is legalized theft, would not exist under capitalism. Neither would the special-interest, pressure group warfare of our mixture of freedom and governmental coercion and controls (a mixed economy). One can gain the product of another person's labor only by trading his own work product in return through a voluntary exchange called trade. But when the government accrues the legal power to dispense economic favors and advantages on one group at the forced expense of another, it has aquired the authority to INITIATE force. Thus, whoever happens to gain control of the mechanism of government has acquired the legal authority to initiate the use of force, i.e,, to violate the rights of others. It is in this way that the "bully" (in this case, the educational establishment, including the teachers union through its political connections), can impose its economic agenda (universal taxpayer-funded preschool) on those who don't agree.

"Seems as if we have a representative form of government whose legislative branch is empowered to create all kinds of mischief regarding laissez faire ... like isn't it then the right of we the people to impose those regulations on ourselves that we deem suitable and are in accord with our Constitution?"

Our constitution is one of the greatest documents ever written, but it has flaws and loopholes (such as the commerce clause) that ultimately set us on a course toward statism, which is accelerating today. Our founding principles of individual self-determination and limited representative government were never intended, I believe, to endorse the collectivist premise implied in your reference to "the people". There is no such entity as the "people" except as a figure of speech. The "people" ( or society or the public, etc.) cannot be separated from the individual human beings who make it up. The "people" is not some entity separate from and superior to its individual members. When you speak of " the right of we the people to impose those regulations on ourselves", you are distorting the meaning of our founding principles by declaring that some people have the right to violate the rights of other people by imposing special restrictions (regulations) on their freedom of economic association and activity through the initiation of governmental force. Invoking the "will" of the people, the public, society, or any other kind of collective by politicians is a cover for their intent to violate someones rights.

"What is your definition of a free market? And do you have an example, even in theory ... of one that claims to work"

Again, the collectivist premise. A "free market" is not an entity and cannot claim anything. It is a social system based on the freedom of every individual to pursue his/her own welfare and happiness by his own effort through voluntary production and trade. While laissez-faire capitalism has never existed, the empirical evidence that it "works" is overwhelming. Countries that are predominately free economically have always had the highest standard of living. Look at the Western countries after the enlightenment, the difference between East and West Germany (before the fall of the Soviet Union), North and South Korea, Taiwan and (until recently) China. Look at the resource-poor Japan and Hong Kong, compared to the widespread poverty of the oil-rich Middle East. Look at the emerging middle classes of Asia and Eastern Europe after they adopted even limited free market reforms. Liberate the "common man" under even limited capitalism and the result will be rising general prosperity. In the same vein, liberate education in this country and you will see rising quality and falling costs.

"In that case, maybe this concept we have of balancing power to limit the abuse of power makes sense. What about THAT idea?"

It is my understanding that that principle relates to the sphere of government only...the balancing of the three branches of the federal government and of the power between the state and federal governments. But if you mean using political power to balance economic power, then this is obviously wrong. Political power is legalized force. Economic power is simply the power to produce wealth. No amount of economic power gives a person the authority to violate another's rights. It is only by the purchase of political influence and pull that any private group (economic or otherwise) can gain that sort of power (i.e., through the connection between state and economics).

Ayn Rand called Capitalism an "unknown ideal". And so it is. If you're interested in learning more about this "unknown ideal", hglindquist, you can go over to the capitalism.org website. I hope you don't think me too presumpuous in suggesting this.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Commentary 5

Pass the family leave insurance bill
Posted by Carla Katz December 12, 2007 11:32AM
Categories: Family & Kids, Hot Topics, Policy Watch, Politics, The Working Life
It's been a decade of drama--heated discussion, arguing, yelling and ultimately screaming from all sides of the family leave debate. Do we give working people in New Jersey some resources, and therefore the possibility, to allow them to take some time off to care for seriously ill family members or for a new child in their life? The answer, we hope, before this lame duck session ends, will soon be YES.

This last week has seen the worker-paid Family Leave Insurance bill ( A-3812/S-2249) morph, yet again, to reflect the competing arguments of the business lobby and the strong coalition of labor, seniors, community activist and parents. The original 10 weeks of leave bill has been effectively changed to 6 weeks to match California's family leave legislation and legislators have proposed amendments insuring against abuses and granting special rights to small business.

While compromise is expected in the bill-making process, the bill's sponsors, including Senator Steve Sweeney, and Governor Corzine, have drawn the line at excluding workers who are employed by smaller businesses. They are absolutely right. Small businesses are the least likely and often least able to provide paid time off of any kind and their employees suffer most when they need to be out to care for family members. They also represent nearly half the workforce. It would be the lowest paid, women and Latino workers who are the most likely to be hurt by such an exclusion and it's unfair.

On Thursday, the Assembly caucus is slated to discuss the bill and decide whether to move the bill forward for a vote. The debate has lasted a decade. The compromises have been made. It's time has come. Post the bill--and pass Family Leave Insurance.

Move on paid family leave act
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The viability of a very worthwhile paid family leave bill is being threatened by a relentless Chicken Little attack from the state's business community, which argues that passage would cause the sky to fall on scores of small companies and mom-and-pop operations across the state.

Whether the proposal continues to live could well be settled today when the Assembly's Democratic caucus takes up the issue and decides whether it should move forward.

For us, there is no question that it should.

It's hard to understand how those who espouse family values and profess to have compassion for working families could scuttle the measure. What's wrong with allowing a worker to take time off to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child or an ill relative?

Oddly enough, there are objections even though the program would not cost the state or businesses a dime and would impose no new requirements on companies employing fewer than 50 workers.

The program would be funded through a payroll de duction -- probably $1 or less a week. The money would be enough to allow a worker to receive two-thirds of his salary up to a maximum of $502 a week. Small businesses would have to allow for the paid leave program only if they already offer voluntary unpaid leave. Small firms would not be required to hold positions open. And workers planning to take a leave would have to give 30 days' no tice, providing employers plenty of time to find a replacement if necessary.

Another major objection centered on the length of the paid leave. Initially, workers were to get 12 weeks. That was reduced to 10 weeks, and now Gov. Jon Corzine and others are willing to whittle that down even further -- to six weeks.

Over the years, each at tempt to improve conditions for workers was met with dire predictions similar to those being voiced now by the business community. The 40-hour workweek and the minimum wage, it was said, would ruin the nation's economy. That forecast turned out to be as wrong as Chicken Little's.

Lawmakers need to recognize that today's workplace is considerably different from that of just a few decades ago. Workplace rules need to reflect that reality. A paid family leave program does just that.


Posted by Zemack on 12/13/07 at 4:09PM
The "worker" who hopes to grab an unearned "paid family leave" at someone elses expense; the busy-body advocates who would use the coercive power of the state to impose their "insurance" scheme on everyone else; the disinterested citizen who doesn't much care because it will "only" cost one dollar per week [!?!] are all contributing to the growth of government power and the erosion of our freedom.

Taken in isolation, this bill won't cause the sky to fall. But the advance of statism in America is being fueled by the commulative weight of one government-imposed plan after another, each serving as the model and justification for the next, as the Star-Ledger itself points out in today's editorial reference to the 40 hour workweek and the minimum wage.

Every worker has the right to set aside his own money in a "rainy day fund" to cover unexpected leave time. Paid family leave do-gooders are free to set up private charitable funds based on voluntary contributions to assist others but have no right to compel participation through the taxing power of the state. The mawkish concern by the family leave advocates for the plight of "workers" is an emotional smokescreen that hides the real issue... the violation of each individual's right to manage his/her own financial affairs.

The Paid Family Leave Act is a further assault on individual rights and should be defeated. It's time to draw the line against statism.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Commentary 4

Thanksgiving: A Most Selfish Holiday

By Debi Ghate

Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We're taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.

What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?

Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as "a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production." She was right. This country was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land and build spectacular cities, shaping what is now the wealthiest nation in the world. It's the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great achievements, and enjoy prosperity. We uniquely recognize that production leads to wealth and that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. It's no accident that Americans have a holiday called Thanksgiving--a yearly tradition when we pause to appreciate the "bountiful harvest" we've reaped.

What is today's version of the "bountiful harvest"? It's the affluence and success we've gained. It's the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy. It's the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It's the good life.

How did we get this "bountiful harvest"? Ask any hard-working American; it sure wasn't by the "grace of God." It didn't grow on a fabled "money tree." We created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting excellence for ourselves and our loved ones. What we don't create ourselves, we trade value for value with those who have the goods and services we need, such as our stockbrokers, hairdressers and doctors. We alone are responsible for our wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday.

So, on Thanksgiving, why don't we thank ourselves and those producers who make the good life possible?

From a young age, we are bombarded with messages designed to undermine our confident pursuit of values: "Be humble," "You can't know what's good for yourself," "It's better to give than receive," and above all "Don't be selfish!" We are scolded not to take more than "our share"--whether it is of corporate profits, electricity or pie. We are taught that altruism--selfless concern for others--is the moral ideal. We are taught to sacrifice for strangers, who have no claim to our hard-earned wealth. We are taught to kneel rather than reach for the sky.

But, morally, one should reach for the sky. One should recognize that the corporate profits, electricity or pie was earned through one's production--and savor its consumption. Every decision one makes, from what career to pursue to whom to call a friend, should be guided by what will best advance one's rational goals, interests and, ultimately, one's life. One should take pride in being rationally selfish--one's life and happiness depend on it.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize what we are truly grateful for, to appreciate and celebrate the fruits of our labor: our wealth, health, relationships and material things--all the values we most selfishly cherish. We should thank researchers who have made certain cancers beatable, gourmet chefs at our favorite restaurants, authors whose books made us rethink our lives, financiers who developed revolutionary investment strategies and entrepreneurs who created fabulous online stores. We should thank ourselves and those individuals who make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable--those who help us live the much-coveted American dream.

As you sit down to your sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner served on your best china, think of all the talented individuals whose innovation and inventiveness made possible the products you are enjoying. As you look around at who you've chosen to spend your day with--those you've chosen to love--thank yourself for everything you have done to make this moment possible. It's a time to selfishly and proudly say: "I earned this."

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Response from Christine:
I take issue with this article.

What about the people who, through no fault of their own, were born into horrible circumstances? Not everyone was given a "plate" full of love, education, and knowledge of the ability to create a better life for themselves. Do we just say, "To hell with them!"? It's much easier to say that strangers who have no "claim to our hard-earned wealth" should fend for themselves, but without the work ethic and love that you received from your family of origin, you could very well be in their position with no hope to rise above it. I'm sure the American Dream, seemingly so attainable to those enjoying our way of life, seems completely out of reach to many. This article makes me cringe inside for its celebration of selfishness and pure disregard for the plights of those around us. Have you ever thought why it is you were born into this country, into this family? Why do we have the life we do and others struggle in darkness from the moment they are born? Sure we have worked somewhat to get where we are, but we had an easy start- in families that, while not without flaws, valued hard work, determination and perseverance and had the love for each other as the foundation. Those values were passed down, and while some may be able to find or create those things for themselves without receiving as positive a legacy as we have, others are caught in cycles of hopelessness and feel they can't escape.

Those people who look to God with gratitude this time of year- those that are spoken of so disdainfully in this article- are the ones who primarily help those that remain hungry out of their own bounty and blessings. It is a shame that compassion isn't valued in this article.

In answer to Christine:

I guess that ode to thanksgiving really got your intellectual juices flowing. Your response though has a number of fallacies and misunderstandings that I would like to attempt to correct. Ethics is a complex subject that requires enormous thought and analysis which it would obviously be impossible to cover in an e-mail. But I will try to clarify as briefly as possible some points.

Selfishness, the rational kind, does NOT equate to a disregard for others. It merely means that one’s own life and well-being is properly the central focus of one’s concerns. This does not mean it is wrong to help others. What it does mean is that charity is not one’s primary concern or obligation, but is instead relegated to the status of a minor virtue to be engaged in out of good will and generosity, not duty , guilt, or compulsion, and only when one believes in the worthiness of the recipient and can afford it (broadly speaking). This is not an arbitrary assertion, but is backed up by the facts of reality. Charity is made possible by the production that comes first. Production comes before charity or any kind of need. The requirements of man’s life and survival (products and services such as food, shelter, transportation, music and entertainment, computers, nails, etc., etc., etc.) are not found ready-made in nature, but must be produced by him in a process of thought and productive work. Productive work requires the selfish virtues of hard work, inventiveness, the pursuit of education and knowledge, the setting of long-term goals, acting on one’s own independent thought and judgement, the development of ones abilities (whether natural [God-given, if you prefer] or acquired), integrity, honesty, and self-esteem. Why are these selfish attributes? Because they are generated by the self; your self. You can be encouraged by loving parents. But you must be self-motivated…by choice. You must be dedicated to excellence…by choice. You must acquire the knowledge you need by a process of mental effort…by choice. Etc. If charity is a virtue, then the selfishness that makes it possible is the greater and higher virtue. To reverse the two is to reverse cause and effect. To place charity and need above productiveness is the road to universal destitution. Then what would "the needy" do. The ethics of rational, enlightened self-interest (or egoism) corrects the moral inversion which is altruism (the ethics of self-sacrifice).

It is no accident that America, the richest and most prosperous country in the history of the world, is also the most generous. Americans give more per-capita than any other nation, by far. This is borne out by numerous surveys (although I don’t have them at my fingertips). But again, don’t reverse cause and effect. The moral premise implicit in the words "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and in the concept of the inalienable rights of the individual (every individual) is that each person owns his own life and can set his own course according to his own self-interest. This is the source of this country’s greatness. The morality of altruism and its correllary collectivism is undercutting our founding principles and is slowly leading us to statism and socialism.

Some people are indeed "born into horrible circumstances". But so long as an individual is of sound mind and body, he can not be given a pass. In America, being free and possessing free will, he can choose to take the necessary steps to overcome his disadvantage. And people in these circumstances do this all of the time, sometimes with a helping hand, sometimes not, but always by their own effort. A person’s life is not determined by the circumstances of his birth. If it were, then we do not possess volition, there is no need for morality, and perpetual poverty is man’s fate, as it was for most of history prior to the industrial revolution. But a person’s need does not give him a license to steal or to mooch. He can depend on the voluntary generosity of others if he is worthy in their judgement, but his need does not give him a moral claim on the lives of others. (In the case of those who are incapable of fending for themselves [a small minority], they can and should be able to depend on ample private charity. A society based on the value of each individual life would not allow the indigent or orphaned children to die in the streets.)

We are indeed fortunate to have been born in the USA. But America was no accident. The Enlightenment and it’s shining offspring, America, liberated people from the primitive ideas of the past and enabled the tremendous advances in quality of life after centuries of stagnation and poverty, all based on the Enlightenment idea of every individual’s ability to run his own life. In nations where dark age conditions still exist today, it is because of the primitive beliefs that permeate their cultures, such as mysticism and tribalism. To the extent that they throw off their irrational ideas and embrace "Western" values (which are really universal values) they can prosper. Many countries have done that, as witness the newly emerging middle classes of former third world countries in Asia and of Eastern Europe. Americans should neither apologize nor feel guilty for their prosperity because of the misery in other nations. The same path to a better life is open to all of them if they so choose. (Americans can help by vigorously promoting it’s founding ideals and through expansion of free global trade,)

Finally, I think compassion is prevalent throughout this Thanksgiving message, in the form of being thankful for all of the people who enrich our lives by producing the things that we want and need but do not and could not produce for ourselves. What they give us is the chance to trade our single work product for that of countless others, enriching their lives as they enrich ours and our loved ones. Isn’t the food (or anything else) that one may donate to someone in need of assistance made possible by the food producers who work mainly for their own profit? Don’t they, without whom we would all go hungry, deserve the most thanks? The true benefactors of mankind are every person who engages in productive work. The "celebration of selfishness" that makes you cringe is the source of the good life we all enjoy in America, if you understand the meaning of "selfishness" as I do.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Commentary 3

Teacher pay must be earned
Posted by Star-Ledger editorial board November 17, 2007 10:30PM

It would be foolhardy to entrust the education of children to schools that do not pay their teachers enough to hire and keep good ones.
So no one should mind that most New Jersey communities are now paying starting teachers $40,000 or more a year. The New Jersey Education Association once set $40,000 as a statewide goal. Some communities are already paying rookie teachers $50,000 or more, and that salary now is the NJEA's goal.
To think it was only 22 years ago that people railed against state legislation that required all districts to pay teachers at least $18,500.

Teaching is a very demanding profession, and $50,000 does not go very far in a high-cost state like New Jersey.
Of course, others making $50,000 do not have the schedule of summer vacations and free days that teachers enjoy, nor the protection of tenure in their careers.
Taxpayers who pay teachers' salaries, and the students whose futures very much depend on what happens in classrooms, have a right to demand good work for good pay.
But it also is foolhardy for the NJEA to pretend that its demands are all that matter in districts where property taxes, chiefly for education, are reaching maximum load. In many communities, the overall educational results remain marginal, and the per capita income of residents is not close to $50,000. It is similarly foolhardy to tolerate contracts that demand added pay for teachers to do anything new or extra.
The NJEA has set the bar high for salaries. The bar for performance must be high as well.
It is only when respect flows freely between teachers and those they serve that the payoff for both teaching and education is what it should be.


Posted by Zemack on 11/18/07 at 8:38PM
Only a free market in education can ensure that the best teachers receive the highest pay. An arbitrary set of standards created by some board or committee can never take into account such intangible teacher qualities as inspiring the student's interest, generating his (or her) understanding rather than merely cramming his head with facts, and training his mind on the tools of logic necessary to acquire and integrate knowledge on his own and to relate that knowledge to broader abstractions.

Only when the people who know their children best, the parents, are able to "vote with their feet (and their education dollars)" and enroll their children with the teachers and schools they judge best will we begin to see a resurgence in America's quality of education. The schools with the best teachers, educational philosophies and methods will succeed and proliferate, while the inferior schools will either change or fall by the wayside.

Original referenced link

Friday, November 16, 2007

Commentary 2

By Rowan Callick, The American

From Vietnam to Syria, from Burma to Venezuela, and all across Africa, leaders of developing countries are admiring and emulating what might be called the China Model. It has two components. The first is to copy successful elements of liberal economic policy by opening up much of the economy to foreign and domestic investment, allowing labor flexibility, keeping the tax and regulatory burden low, and creating a first-class infrastructure through a combination of private sector and state spending. The second part is to permit the ruling party to retain a firm grip on government, the courts, the army, the internal security apparatus, and the free flow of information. A shorthand way to describe the model is: economic freedom plus political repression. link to full article


Readers' comments

By: Mike Zemack on November 15, 2007
at 9:01 pm

The essential principle of Capitalism is the abolition of force from human relationships, with people dealing with each other by voluntary association and trade to mutual advantage. Authoritarianism is rule by brute force. The two cannot co-exist, longer term, except as a transition to a system of full politico-economic freedom. Economic freedom by permission is a contradiction in terms. The China Model seems to “work” because economic freedom is a pre-condition to political freedom, but only a precondition. One can view the trend toward “economic freedom plus political repression” positively, but only if it is part of an evolution toward limited constitutional government. Ultimately, this lethal contradiction must be resolved by a turn to individual rights and the rule of objective law rather than men, or collapse into despotism and economic destitution. The China Model is a pipe dream of parasitic little dictators like Hugo Chavez who fantasize about absolute rule over the wealth created by free people. But, alas, free minds and free markets are corollaries that won’t submit to the power-lusting whims of the Chavez’s of the world.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Commentary 1

Morality or economics?
Posted by Terry Golway November 07, 2007 8:43AM
Categories: Politics
I wouldn't be so quick to view the failure of the stem-cell bond question as a referendum on the state's finances. That's how it's being played in the media today, but I think it's a rush to judgment.

As Professor Joseph Marbach of Seton Hall University points out in today's Star-Ledger, lots of church-going voters went to the polls thinking not about the state's debt, but about the morality of stem-cell research.

Most political observers, I would argue, fail to take into account the many conversations that took place in and around houses of worship before Election Day. Professor Marbach noted that some voters may have been influenced by clergy who oppose stem cell research, or who believe that such research requires a broader discussion of ethical implications.

I think he's absolutely right.

And, by the way, there's nothing wrong that that. When the sacred intersects with the secular, clerics have every right to speak up from the pulpit.

But I found that people who complain about this mix of church and state generally are inconsistent in their concerns. Conservatives were aghast two decades ago when many clergy in the U.S. supported the nuclear freeze movement, and when American Catholic bishops called for more affordable housing and cuts to defense spending.

Liberals welcomed the clergy's support. But when today's clerics denounce abortion or gay marriage or stem cell research, liberals invariably raise the issue of church-state separation. In general, I've found, political activists welcome clerical support but turn into strict constructionists when clergy oppose their views.

Stem cell research is not just another political issue. For many people of faith, the issue is loaded with moral and ethical implications that have yet to be resolved. To see the bond question's failure in strictly political terms is to be blind to the concerns of voters who weren't thinking of the state's grim finances. They were concerned about ethics and morality -- issues that are not necessarily associated with politics and government these days.

There's no question that stem cell research holds a great deal of promise. But it may be that the state's voters want to hear more about how the research will be conducted, and less about how they will pay for the research.

My Commentary:

Zemack on 11/09/07 at 4:52PM
I agree that the state's fiscal problems is unlikely to have been the reason for the defeat of the stem cell bond issue. But I don't think that the vote was a referendum on the level of support for this area of medical research either.

I strongly support unfeddered stem cell research, and I voted against the bond issue. This is not a contradictary position.

Stem cell research, including embryonic, is a highly moral area of study; moral, that is, if human life is the standard of value. Try looking at a loved one or dear friend and then declaring that their lives are less valuable than a cluster of cells called an embryo, which is a potential, not an actual, human being.

But to claim support for stem cell research on the basis of man's value while simultaneously violating the rights of those who disagree by forcing them to pay for your beliefs through their taxes is a contradiction in terms. Supporters can use charitable contributions, investments in private research companies and other means to voluntarily finance stem cell research. Opponents can refuse to by medical products resulting from this work.

No one should be forced to act against his own judgement.

Referenced Link

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Post Reference 10- re: American Cancer Society

September 10, 2007 -- THE American Cancer Society announced recently that it will spend its entire advertising budget next year not on urging Americans to stop smoking or get mammograms, but on campaigning for a government takeover of the U.S. health-care system. This is perverse: It's hard to imagine anything worse for cancer patients than government-run health care.

For all its faults and all the criticism that it has received, the United States' free-market health-care system has made America the place you want to be if you have a serious illness.

Cancer patients understand this. The overall five-year survival rate for all types of cancer for men in America is 66.3 percent, and 62.9 percent for women, the best outcome in the world.

We shouldn't be surprised. The one common characteristic of all national health-care systems is that they ration care.

Sometimes they ration it explicitly, denying certain types of treatment altogether. More often, they ration more indirectly - imposing global budgets or other cost constraints that limit the availability of high-tech medical equipment or imposing long waits on patients seeking treatment.

In the United States, there are no such government-set limits, meaning that the most advanced treatment options are far more available. This translates directly into saved lives.

Take prostate cancer, for example. Even though American men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than their counterparts in other countries, we are less likely to die from the disease. Fewer than 20 percent of American men with prostate cancer will die from it, against 57 percent of British men and nearly half of French and German men. Even in Canada, prostate cancer kills a quarter of men diagnosed with the disease.

A big part of the reason is that, in most countries with national health insurance, the preferred treatment for prostate cancer is . . . nothing.

Prostate cancer is a slow-moving disease. Most patients are older and will live for several years after diagnosis. Therefore it is not cost-effective in a world of socialized medicine to treat the disease too aggressively. The approach saves money - but at a high human cost.

Similar results can be found for other forms of cancer. For instance, only 30 percent of U.S. citizens diagnosed with colon cancer die from it, compared to fully 74 percent in Britain, 62 percent in New Zealand, 58 percent in France, 57 percent in Germany, 53 percent in Australia and 36 percent in Canada.

And less than 25 percent of U.S. women die from breast cancer. In Britain, it's 46 percent; France, 35 percent; Germany, 31 percent; Canada, 28 per- cent; Australia, 28 percent, and New Zealand, 46 percent.

Even when there is a desire to offer treatment, national health-care systems often lack the resources to provide it. In Britain, for example, roughly 40 percent of cancer patients never get to see an oncology specialist. Delays in receiving treatment under Britain's national health service are often so long that nearly 20 percent of colon cancer cases considered treatable when first diagnosed are incurable by the time treatment is finally offered.

In Canada, the Society of Surgical Oncology recommends that cancer surgery take place within two weeks of preoperative tests. Yet one study indicates that median waiting time for cancer surgery in Canada ranged from 29 days for colorectal cancer to more than two months for urinary cancers. Radiation treatment and new therapies, such as brachytherapy, are also far less available than they are in the United States. Consider this: seven out of 10 Canadian provinces report sending prostate-cancer patients to the United States for radiation treatment.

But the advantages of free-market health care go far beyond an absence of rationing. With no price controls, free-market U.S. medicine provides the incentives that lead to innovative breakthroughs in new drugs and other medical technologies. U.S. companies have developed half of all the major new medicines introduced worldwide over the last 20 years.

In fact, Americans played a key role in 80 percent of the most important medical advances of the last 30 years. Eighteen of the last 25 winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine either are U.S. citizens or work here.

If the American Cancer Society got the government-run national health-care system it wants, we would eliminate consumer choice and put a stop to the innovations we count on to improve our health. It would condemn thousands of cancer sufferers to waiting lists and denied care. In the end, it would cost lives.

If the Cancer Society truly wants to help Americans suffering from that complex array of diseases called cancer, it will get back to campaigning for mammograms and quitting smoking, and keep the government out of the picture.

Michael Tanner is director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute.

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A Canadian Doctor Describes How Socialized Medicine Doesn't Work
By DAVID GRATZER | Posted Thursday, July 26, 2007 4:30 PM PT

I was once a believer in socialized medicine. As a Canadian, I had soaked up the belief that government-run health care was truly compassionate. What I knew about American health care was unappealing: high expenses and lots of uninsured people.

My health care prejudices crumbled on the way to a medical school class. On a subzero Winnipeg morning in 1997, I cut across the hospital emergency room to shave a few minutes off my frigid commute.

Swinging open the door, I stepped into a nightmare: the ER overflowed with elderly people on stretchers, waiting for admission. Some, it turned out, had waited five days. The air stank with sweat and urine. Right then, I began to reconsider everything that I thought I knew about Canadian health care.

Dr. Jacques Chaoulli faces the media in Montreal in June 2005, after he got Canada's Supreme Court to strike down a Quebec law banning private insurance for services covered under Medicare — a decision the rocked the country's universal health care system.
I soon discovered that the problems went well beyond overcrowded ERs. Patients had to wait for practically any diagnostic test or procedure, such as the man with persistent pain from a hernia operation whom we referred to a pain clinic — with a three-year wait list; or the woman with breast cancer who needed to wait four months for radiation therapy, when the standard of care was four weeks.

Government researchers now note that more than 1.5 million Ontarians (or 12% of that province's population) can't find family physicians. Health officials in one Nova Scotia community actually resorted to a lottery to determine who'd get a doctor's appointment.

These problems are not unique to Canada — they characterize all government-run health care systems.

Consider the recent British controversy over a cancer patient who tried to get an appointment with a specialist, only to have it canceled — 48 times. More than 1 million Britons must wait for some type of care, with 200,000 in line for longer than six months. In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August 2003 heat wave — when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity — 15,000 elderly citizens died. Across Europe, state-of-the-art drugs aren't available. And so on.

Single-payer systems — confronting dirty hospitals, long waiting lists and substandard treatment — are starting to crack, however. Canadian newspapers are filled with stories of people frustrated by long delays for care. Many Canadians, determined to get the care they need, have begun looking not to lotteries — but to markets.

Dr. Jacques Chaoulli is at the center of this changing health care scene. In the 1990s, he organized a private Quebec practice — patients called him, he made house calls and then he directly billed his patients. The local health board cried foul and began fining him. The legal status of private practice in Canada remained murky, but billing patients, rather than the government, was certainly illegal, and so was private insurance.

Eventually, Chaoulli took on the government in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Representing an elderly Montrealer who had waited almost a year for a hip replacement, Chaoulli maintained that the patient should have the right to pay for private health insurance and get treatment sooner. A majority of the court agreed that Quebec's charter did implicitly recognize such a right.

The monumental ruling, which shocked the government, opened the way to more private medicine in Quebec. Though the prohibition against private insurance holds in the rest of Canada for now, at least two people outside Quebec, armed with Chaoulli's case as precedent, are taking their demand for private insurance to court.

Consider, too, Rick Baker. He isn't a neurosurgeon or even a doctor. He's a medical broker — one member of a private sector that is rushing in to address the inadequacies of Canada's government care. Canadians pay him to set up surgical procedures, diagnostic tests and specialist consultations, privately and quickly.

Baker describes a man who had a seizure and received a diagnosis of epilepsy. Dissatisfied with the opinion — he had no family history of epilepsy, but he did have constant headaches and nausea, which aren't usually seen in the disorder — he requested an MRI.

The government told him that the wait would be 4 1/2 months. So he went to Baker, who arranged to have the MRI done within 24 hours — and who, after the test revealed a brain tumor, arranged surgery within a few weeks. Some services that Baker brokers almost certainly contravene Canadian law, but governments are loath to stop him.

Other private-sector health options are blossoming across Canada, and the government is increasingly turning a blind eye to them, too, despite their often uncertain legal status. Private clinics are opening at a rate of about one a week.

Canadian doctors, long silent on the health care system's problems, are starting to speak up. Last August, they voted Brian Day president of their national association. Day has become perhaps the most vocal critic of Canadian public health care, having opened his own private surgery center and challenging the government to shut him down.

And now even Canadian governments are looking to the private sector to shrink the waiting lists. In British Columbia, private clinics perform roughly 80% of government-funded diagnostic testing.

This privatizing trend is reaching Europe, too. Britain's Labour Party — which originally created the National Health Service — now openly favors privatization. Sweden's government, after the completion of the latest round of privatizations, will be contracting out some 80% of Stockholm's primary care and 40% of its total health services.

Since the fall of communism, Slovakia has looked to liberalize its state-run system, introducing co-payments and privatizations. And modest market reforms have begun in Germany.

Yet even as Stockholm and Saskatoon are percolating with the ideas of Adam Smith, a growing number of prominent Americans are arguing that socialized health care still provides better results for less money.

Politicians like Hillary Clinton are on board; Michael Moore's new documentary, "Sicko," celebrates the virtues of Canada's socialized health care; the National Coalition on Health Care, which includes big businesses like AT&T, recently endorsed a scheme to centralize major health decisions to a government committee; and big unions are questioning the tenets of employer-sponsored health insurance.

One often-heard argument, voiced by the New York Times' Paul Krugman and others, is that America lags behind other countries in crude health outcomes. But such outcomes reflect a mosaic of factors, such as diet, lifestyle, drug use and cultural values. It pains me as a doctor to say this, but health care is just one factor in health.

Americans live 75.3 years on average, fewer than Canadians (77.3) or the French (76.6) or the citizens of any Western European nation save Portugal. Health care influences life expectancy, of course. But a life can end because of a murder, a fall or a car accident. Such factors aren't academic — homicide rates in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries.

In The Business of Health, Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider factor out intentional and unintentional injuries from life-expectancy statistics and find that Americans who don't die in car crashes or homicides outlive people in any other Western country.

And if we measure a health care system by how well it serves its sick citizens, American medicine excels. Five-year cancer survival rates bear this out. For leukemia, the American survival rate is almost 50%; the European rate is just 35%. Esophageal carcinoma: 12% in the U.S., 6% in Europe. The survival rate for prostate cancer is 81.2% here, yet 61.7% in France and down to 44.3% in England — a striking variation.

Like many critics of American health care, though, Krugman argues that the costs are just too high: health care spending in Canada and Britain, he notes, is a small fraction of what Americans pay. Again, the picture isn't quite as clear as he suggests. Because the U.S. is so much wealthier than other countries, it isn't unreasonable for it to spend more on health care. Take America's high spending on research and development. M.D. Anderson in Texas, a prominent cancer center, spends more on research than Canada does.

That said, American health care is expensive. And Americans aren't always getting a good deal. In the coming years, with health expenses spiraling up, it will be easy for some to give in to the temptation of socialized medicine. In Washington, there are plenty of old pieces of legislation that like-minded politicians could take off the shelf, dust off and promote: expanding Medicare to Americans 55 and older, say, or covering all children in Medicaid.

But such initiatives would push the U.S. further down the path to a government-run system and make things much, much worse. True, government bureaucrats would be able to cut costs — but only by shrinking access to health care, as in Canada, and engendering a Canadian-style nightmare of overflowing emergency rooms and yearlong waits for treatment.

America is right to seek a model for delivering good health care at good prices, but we should be looking not to Canada, but close to home — in the other four-fifths or so of our economy. From telecommunications to retail, deregulation and market competition have driven prices down and quality and productivity up. Health care is long overdue for the same prescription.

Gratzer, a physician, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. This article is adapted from the forthcoming issue of City Journal.

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Avastin® (bevacizumab)
Avastin was the first anti-angiogenesis therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is currently approved for the treatment of two of the three largest cancer killers in the U.S.:1, 2

Colorectal cancer: In combination with intravenous (IV) 5-fluorouracil (FU)-based chemotherapy for first- or second-line treatment of patients with metastatic carcinoma of the colon or rectum (February 2004, June 2006)
Lung cancer: In combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel for the first-line treatment of patients with unresectable, locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (October 2006)

"Firsts" in Patient Survival
Avastin with IV chemotherapy is the first and only FDA-approved biologic therapy proven to extend overall survival in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and advanced NSCLC.1 In NSCLC, Avastin plus chemotherapy is the first drug combination in 10 years to improve upon standard first-line treatment, and the first targeted therapy ever to extend overall median survival beyond one year in a large, randomized clinical study.

Targeting VEGF/Mechanism of Action
Avastin is a therapeutic antibody (not a chemotherapy) designed to bind to and inhibit human vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein believed to play an important role in the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and the maintenance of existing blood vessels throughout the lifecycle of a tumor.3 By inhibiting VEGF, Avastin may interfere with the blood supply to a tumor, which is thought to be important to a tumor's ability to grow and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. The effects of Avastin on tumor blood vessels may also enhance the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to the cancer.4-6

Clinical Trial Data

First-Line Treatment in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
The Avastin FDA approval for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic carcinoma of the colon or rectum is based on data from two trials. The pivotal trial was a large, placebo-controlled, randomized study that demonstrated a prolongation in the median survival of patients treated with Avastin plus the IFL (IV 5-FU/Leucovorin/CPT-11) chemotherapy regimen by approximately five months, compared to patients treated with the IFL chemotherapy regimen alone (20.3 months versus 15.6 months). In addition, this study demonstrated an improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) of more than four months (10.6 months in the Avastin/IFL arm compared to 6.2 months in the IFL-alone arm).1

Second-Line Treatment in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
The second-line approval for Avastin is based on results of a randomized, controlled, multicenter Phase III trial (E3200) of 829 patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer who had received previous treatment with irinotecan and IV 5-FU as initial therapy for metastatic disease or as adjuvant therapy. The study showed that patients who received Avastin plus the IV 5-FU-based chemotherapy regimen known as FOLFOX4 (oxaliplatin/5-FU/leucovorin) had a 25 percent reduction in the risk of death (based on a hazard ratio of 0.75), the primary endpoint, which is equivalent to a 33 percent improvement in overall survival, compared to patients who received FOLFOX4 alone. Median survival for patients receiving Avastin plus FOLFOX4 was 13.0 months, compared to 10.8 months for those receiving FOLFOX4 alone.1

First-Line Treatment in Metastatic NSCLC
The FDA approval for this indication was based on results from E4599, a randomized, controlled, multi-center trial that enrolled 878 patients with unresectable, locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic non-squamous NSCLC. Results showed that patients receiving Avastin plus paclitaxel and carboplatin chemotherapy had a 25 percent improvement in overall survival, the trial's primary endpoint, compared to patients who received paclitaxel and carboplatin alone (based on a hazard ratio of 0.80). One-year survival was 51 percent in the Avastin plus chemotherapy arm versus 44 percent in the chemotherapy-alone arm. Median survival of patients treated with Avastin plus chemotherapy was 12.3 months, compared to 10.3 months for patients treated with chemotherapy alone.1

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends Avastin plus intravenous 5FU-based chemotherapy as a first-line treatment option for advanced colorectal cancer and in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel in appropriate patients for the first-line treatment of advanced non-squamous NSCLC, two of the three largest cancer killers in the U.S.7

The most serious adverse events associated with Avastin across all trials were gastrointestinal (GI) perforation, wound healing complications, hemorrhage, arterial thromboembolic events, hypertensive crisis, reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome, neutropenia and infection, nephritic syndrome and congestive heart failure. The most common adverse events seen in patients receiving Avastin across all studies were asthenia, pain, abdominal pain, headache, hypertension, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, stomatitis, constipation, upper respiratory infection, epistaxis, dyspnea, exfoliative dermatitis and proteinuria.

The Avastin Timeline
1989 Napoleone Ferrara, M.D., and his team at Genentech clone VEGF and publish in Science some of the first evidence that a specific angiogenic growth factor exists.
1993 Ferrara and his team publish a study in Nature demonstrating that an anti-VEGF antibody can suppress angiogenesis and tumor growth in preclinical models.
1997 Genentech submits an Investigational New Drug (IND) Application to the FDA and begins a Phase I trial of Avastin.
1998 Phase II trials of Avastin begin.
2000 A Phase III trial of Avastin in first-line metastatic colorectal cancer (in combination with the IFL [5-FU/leucovorin/CPT-11] regimen) begins.
May 2003 A Phase III trial of Avastin and the IFL chemotherapy regimen in first-line metastatic colorectal cancer exceeds its primary endpoint of improving overall survival, and meets its secondary endpoints of progression-free survival, response rate and duration of response.
September 2003 Genentech submits a Biologics License Application (BLA) to the FDA for Avastin in metastatic colorectal cancer under the FDA's Fast Track program. The FDA grants Priority Review (a six-month review of the application).
February 2004 FDA approves Avastin in combination with intravenous 5FU-based chemotherapy for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic carcinoma of the colon or rectum, making Avastin the first approved anti-angiogenesis treatment for cancer.
April 2004 The NCCN, an alliance of 19 of the world's leading cancer centers, updates their Colorectal Clinical Practice Guidelines and adds Avastin in combination with intravenous 5FU-based regimens — including those using oxaliplatin or irinotecan — to its list of first-line treatment options for advanced colon or rectal cancer.
May 2005 A Phase III trial of Avastin plus paclitaxel and carboplatin chemotherapies in first-line non-squamous, NSCLC meets its primary efficacy endpoint of improving overall survival.
A Phase III trial of Avastin plus paclitaxel chemotherapy in first-line metastatic breast cancer exceeds its primary efficacy endpoint of improving progression-free survival, compared to chemotherapy alone.

October 2005 The NCCN updates its Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology and adds Avastin in combination with chemotherapy to its list of first-line therapy for advanced NSCLC.
June 2006 FDA approves Avastin in combination with intravenous 5-FU-based chemotherapy for patients with second-line metastatic colorectal cancer.
October 2006 FDA approves Avastin in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel for the first-line treatment of patients with unresectable, locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic non-squamous, NSCLC.

Based on data showing that VEGF may play a broad role in a range of cancers, a global development program for Avastin currently includes more than 300 clinical trials in 20 different tumor types. Avastin is being evaluated in Phase III clinical trials for its potential use in adjuvant and metastatic colorectal, renal cell (kidney), breast, pancreatic, non-small cell lung, prostate and ovarian cancers. Avastin is also being evaluated in Phase I/II trials as a potential therapy in a variety of solid tumor cancers and hematologic malignancies, and is being studied in combination with other targeted therapy agents in the absence of chemotherapy.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

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Clinton's Hostile Preschool Takeover
By DARCY OLSEN AND BRUCE FULLER | Posted Friday, July 20, 2007 4:30 PM PT

Sen. Hillary Clinton ignited few fireworks, speaking before the nation's largest teachers union over the July 4 holiday. But one proposal is proving explosive: state-run preschool for all families.

Olsen is president of the Goldwater Institute, a think tank. Fuller, a Berkeley sociologist, is author of "Standardized Childhood" (Stanford University Press).

This op-ed ran in Investor's Business Daily. To view my commentary, click here.