Monday, August 10, 2009

Who is going to be the govt. God who decides who gets to live and who gets a pill?

World's oldest dog turns 26

In dog years the terrier-cross is 182, the equivalent of being born in 1827.

He lives in Louisiana in the United States of America.

"I never spoiled Max," said his owner Janelle Derouen.

"I've never fed him anything but Kiddles and Bits [brand of dog food] and a few treats like those beefy doggy bones.

"We don't give him any food from our table," added Janelle, 49, who lives with her husband Billy, also 49, in New Iberia.

Max, who is greying, has a veterinary birth certificate to prove his age and is awaiting official confirmation from Guinness World Records.

Janelle and Billy bought Max from a local sugar cane farmer in 1983.

"He was the only one in the litter that was brown and I liked the colour so I took him home," said Janelle.

Max has been visiting the same vet since birth at the Robichaux Veterinary Clinic in New Iberia. An 80s puppy Max's birth was formally logged in 1983.

Until recently it was believed that Chanel, a geriatric Daschund-cross from New York was the oldest dog alive but Chanel, who turned 21 in May, is a full five years junior to Max.

Chanel is riddled with health problems, struggling desperately to see, walk and hear.

But Max is still in fine health and only suffers from mild arthritis and some cataracts. His secret, says Janelle, is not worrying about anything at all.

"He's a very, very laid back dog," said Janelle.

"He likes to lie down, relax, nap, sleep a lot and keep life simple. He'll play with the kids for a bit but if they bother him too long he'll wander off.

"He doesn't have any fancy toys, just a bit of rope and a regular squeaky ball."

Janelle and Billy held a special birthday party for Max on Sunday.

"We spoiled him just a little bit that once," said Janelle.

Bachmann Seeks Transparency in Bailout Operations

As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I recently had the opportunity to question Elizabeth Warren, the Chair of the panel that was charged with oversight of the $700-billion Wall Street bailout operations. I was then, and remain today, concerned that this panel is not operating with full transparency. It seems to me that a panel that was commissioned with giving taxpayers insight into how their money is being spent on the Wall Street bailout should itself be a model of openness.

Today, I followed up with my questioning with a letter to Ms. Warren. The text of my letter is below for your review:

Ms. Elizabeth Warren
Chair, Congressional Oversight Panel (COP)
732 North Capitol St., NW
Rooms C-320 and C-617
Washington, DC 20401

Dear Ms. Warren,

I was disappointed to hear that for a third time, the Congressional Oversight Panel (Panel) has rejected a motion by Congressman Jeb Hensarling to improve the Panel’s transparency and accountability measures.

As you know, this motion would have required that within 20 days of each Panel meeting, both an official transcript and minutes be made available to the public, including those conducted by telephone. The motion also included a confidentiality safeguard which stated that the Panel could refrain from making certain meetings public with a simple majority vote. In my view, this is more than reasonable and I urge the Panel to reconsider the motion.

The Panel’s main objective is to shed light on how the U.S. Treasury is spending the $700 billion of taxpayer money authorized under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). This is a serious responsibility. The public outrage against the TARP was, and still is, undeniable, and the taxpayers footing the bill for this program deserve to have access to all the oversight resources available. I’m very concerned about the signal the Panel has sent to the American people and Members of Congress by rejecting this transparency motion. In fact, I find it ironic that a panel created to provide oversight is rejecting oversight of its own operations. Your rejection of these very reasonable accountability measures seems contrary to your very mission.

Additionally, I’m concerned that the Panel’s oversight of the TARP is not sufficient. The Panel’s website clearly shows that it has only held on average one public hearing per month since December 2008. Until last Monday, the Panel had held no public hearings with the largest TARP recipients and has yet to question the largest financial institutions about their administration of TARP funds. And, only one hearing over the past 8 months included Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner – the main administrator of the TARP. How can the Panel achieve its oversight mission given this schedule?

There also seems to be a level of secrecy surrounding the basic functions of the Panel. As you made clear at the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on July 22, 2009, the Panel has no specified budget for its operations. And when I request two fundamental pieces of information, a public phone number and official transcripts of the Panel’s meetings, you responded with some confusion and stated, “We don't have official transcripts… We have typing that comes back from someone who listened to our tapes, who is not part of our panel, not part of this process, and no one has verified the accuracy of any part of it.” Your responses make a strong case that Congressman Hensarling’s transparency motion is critical to improving the Panel’s accountability.

For a Panel tasked with examining the transparency and effectiveness of the TARP, I am concerned that the Panel’s own operations are lacking in this very area. On behalf of the taxpayers that I represent, the Minnesotans who are footing the bill for the TARP, I would appreciate a written explanation as to why you voted against Congressman Hensarling’s motion for greater transparency. They deserve to know what is happening with their money.

I look forward to working together to strengthen the oversight of the TARP and ensure that the Panel’s activities are open and accessible to citizens across our nation. I appreciate your consideration of these concerns and look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.


Michele Bachmann
Member of Congress

What Does Health Care Reform Mean for the Most Vulnerable Amongst Us?

Michele Bachmann

When Congress returns to Washington from its district work period, the President’s health care reform proposal is expected to be at the very top of our agenda. Much of the discussion so far has been in sound bites and debate snippets and about numbers and sterile ideas. But, health care reform should be about people.

It’s important that we look deeper into statements of some of the Administration’s top advisors to get some insight into where the legislative proposals on the table may lead us. Betsy McCaughey, former Lieutenant Governor for New York and founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, recently shared some statements by two of President Obama’s top advisors in the New York Post that should give us pause about the very human consequences of health care reform.

I encourage you to read her column from July 24th (Deadly Doctors: O Advisors Want to Ration Care):

THE health bills coming out of Congress would put the decisions about your care in the hands of presidential appointees. They'd decide what plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have and what seniors get under Medicare.

Yet at least two of President Obama's top health advisers should never be trusted with that power.

Start with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.

Emanuel bluntly admits that the cuts will not be pain-free. "Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality are merely 'lipstick' cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change," he wrote last year (Health Affairs Feb. 27, 2008).

Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, "as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others" (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008).

Yes, that's what patients want their doctors to do. But Emanuel wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.

Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.

Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.

He explicitly defends discrimination against older patients: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years" (Lancet, Jan. 31).

The bills being rushed through Congress will be paid for largely by a $500 billion-plus cut in Medicare over 10 years. Knowing how unpopular the cuts will be, the president's budget director, Peter Orszag, urged Congress this week to delegate its own authority over Medicare to a new, presidentially-appointed bureaucracy that wouldn't be accountable to the public.

Since Medicare was founded in 1965, seniors' lives have been transformed by new medical treatments such as angioplasty, bypass surgery and hip and knee replacements. These innovations allow the elderly to lead active lives. But Emanuel criticizes Americans for being too "enamored with technology" and is determined to reduce access to it.

Dr. David Blumenthal, another key Obama adviser, agrees. He recommends slowing medical innovation to control health spending.

Blumenthal has long advocated government health-spending controls, though he concedes they're "associated with longer waits" and "reduced availability of new and expensive treatments and devices" (New England Journal of Medicine, March 8, 2001). But he calls it "debatable" whether the timely care Americans get is worth the cost. (Ask a cancer patient, and you'll get a different answer. Delay lowers your chances of survival.)

Obama appointed Blumenthal as national coordinator of health-information technology, a job that involves making sure doctors obey electronically delivered guidelines about what care the government deems appropriate and cost effective.

In the April 9 New England Journal of Medicine, Blumenthal predicted that many doctors would resist "embedded clinical decision support" -- a euphemism for computers telling doctors what to do.

Americans need to know what the president's health advisers have in mind for them. Emanuel sees even basic amenities as luxuries and says Americans expect too much: "Hospital rooms in the United States offer more privacy . . . physicians' offices are typically more conveniently located and have parking nearby and more attractive waiting rooms" (JAMA, June 18, 2008).

No one has leveled with the public about these dangerous views. Nor have most people heard about the arm-twisting, Chicago-style tactics being used to force support. In a Nov. 16, 2008, Health Care Watch column, Emanuel explained how business should be done: "Every favor to a constituency should be linked to support for the health-care reform agenda. If the automakers want a bailout, then they and their suppliers have to agree to support and lobby for the administration's health-reform effort."

Do we want a "reform" that empowers people like this to decide for us?

The Economic Impact of The Waxman-Markey Cap-and-Trade Bill on Western States

Testimony before
The House and Senate Western Caucus

July 30, 2009

My name is Ben Lieberman. I am the Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and Environment in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.

I would like to thank the House and Senate Western Caucus for the privilege of participating in today's hearing. I'll be discussing the costs of the cap-and-trade approach to addressing global warming and The Heritage Foundation's economic analysis of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (Waxman-Markey). As you know, the House narrowly passed this bill, which is similar to, but has more stringent targets and timetables than, the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill that was rejected by the Senate last June.

It is clear that cap and trade is very expensive and amounts to nothing more than an energy tax in disguise. After all, when you sweep aside all the complexities of how cap and trade operates--and make no mistake, this is the most convoluted attempt at economic central planning this nation has ever attempted--the bottom line is that cap and trade works by raising the cost of energy high enough so that individuals and businesses are forced to used less of it. Inflicting economic pain is what this is all about. That is how the ever-tightening emissions targets will be met.

The only entities directly regulated by Waxman-Markey would be the electric utilities, oil refiners, natural gas producers, and some manufacturers that produce energy on site. So the good news for the rest of us--homeowners, car owners, small business owners, farmers and ranchers--is that we won't be directly regulated under this bill. The bad news is that nearly all the costs will get passed on to us anyway.

What are those costs? According to an analysis we conducted at The Heritage Foundation, an updated version of which will be out shortly, the higher energy costs kick in as soon as the bill's provisions take effect in 2012. For a household of four, energy costs go up $436 that year, and they eventually reach $1,241 in 2035 and average $829 annually over that span. Electricity costs go up 90 percent by 2035, gasoline by 58 percent, and natural gas by 55 percent by 2035. The cumulative higher energy costs for a family of four by then will be nearly $20,000.

But direct energy costs are only part of the consumer impact. Nearly everything goes up, since higher energy costs raise production costs. If you look at the total cost of Waxman-Markey, it works out to an average of $2,979 annually from 2012-2035 for a household of four. By 2035 alone, the total cost is over $4,600.

Beyond the cost impact on individuals and households, Waxman-Markey also affects employment, and especially employment in the manufacturing sector. We estimate job losses averaging 1,145,000 at any given time from 2012-2035. And note that those are net job losses, after the much-hyped green jobs are taken into account. Some of the lost jobs will be destroyed entirely, while others will be outsourced to nations like China and India that have repeatedly stated that they'll never hamper their own economic growth with energy-cost-boosting global-warming measures like Waxman-Markey.

Since farming is energy-intensive, that sector will be particularly hard-hit. Higher gasoline and diesel fuel costs, higher electricity costs, and higher natural gas-derived fertilizer costs all erode farm profits, which are expected to drop by 28 percent in 2012 and average 57 percent lower through 2035. As with American manufacturers, Waxman-Markey also puts American farmers at a global disadvantage, as other food exporting nations would have no comparable energy price-raising measures in place.

Overall, Waxman-Markey reduces gross domestic product by an average of $393 dollars annually between 2012 and 2035, and cumulatively by $9.4 trillion. In other words, the nation will be $9.4 trillion poorer with Waxman-Markey than without it.

It should also be noted that the costs are not distributed evenly. Low-income households spend a disproportionate share of their incomes on energy, and thus would be hit harder than average by Waxman-Markey. Of course, the bill has provisions to give back some revenues to low-income households, but it is likely that these rebates will amount only to some portion of each dollar that was taken away from them in the first place in the form of higher energy costs and higher costs for other goods and services. Waxman-Markey also disproportionately burdens those states, especially in the Midwest and South, that still have a substantial number of manufacturing jobs to lose, as well as those that rely more heavily than others on coal for electric generation. In addition, because the bill raises energy costs, it hurts rural America much more than urban America. Rural Americans, farmers and non-farmers, spend an average of 58 percent more on energy as a percentage of income than their urban counterparts, and those costs would go up.

The disproportionate burdens affect the West. Coal mining will be very hard-hit, so Montana and Wyoming and other coal-producing states will see this important sector of their economies shrink significantly. Western oil and natural gas producers will face higher costs as well. The promise of oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming will never be realized under Waxman-Markey. As I mentioned, agriculture is hard-hit, and that particularly includes things common in parts of the West that are not well positioned to partially defray their costs by availing themselves of offsets, like ranching on federal lands, fruits and vegetables, and potatoes. And of course the long distances rural Westerners have to drive in the course of each day means that gasoline and diesel price increases hurt them more than other Americans.

In conclusion, it is not surprising that support for Waxman-Markey is heaviest in those parts of the country, the urban centers in the West Coast and Northeast, that are least harmed by it. Even there, the economic damage would be bad enough, but the citizens in the rest of the country and their representatives, and especially those who represent the rural West, should really be asking many tough questions about the economic impact of cap and trade.