ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Life Imitates South Park

It seems that Maine has its own share of Mr. Garrisons (who in one South Park Episode teaches kindergartners how to properly use a condom). On to the story fromMaine:

Maine school to offer contraceptives

After an outbreak of pregnancies among middle school girls, education officials in this city have decided to allow allow one school's health center to make birth control pills available to girls as young as 11.

King Middle School will become the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available, including birth control pills, patches and condoms. There are no national figures on how many middle schools provide such services. Most middle schoolers range in age from 11 to 13.

"It's very rare that middle schools do this," said Divya Mohan, a spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.

Portland's three middle schools reported 17 pregnancies during the last four years, not counting miscarriages or terminated pregnancies that weren't reported to the school nurse.

The Portland School Committee approved the plan, offered by city health officials, on a 7-2 vote Wednesday night. Whether the prescriptions would be offered this school year or next wasn't immediately clear.

King is the only one of the three schools with a health center, primarily because it has more students who get free or reduced-price lunch, said Lisa Belanger, who oversees Portland's student health centers.

Five of the 134 students who visited King's health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland's school health centers.

Committee member Sarah Thompson, also the mother of a King eighth-grader, supported the policy, even though it made her "uncomfortable."

"I know I've done my job as a parent," Thompson said. "(But there) may be a time when she doesn't feel comfortable coming to me... (and) not all these kids have a strong parental advocate at home."

Chairman John Coyne opposed the change, saying the roles of social agencies and public schools have blurred over the years. "At some point there needs to be a clearing of the gray lines," he said.

The other "no" vote Wednesday night came from Ben Meiklejohn, who said a parental consent form, which allows students to receive any kind of treatment at the school health center, does not clearly define the services being offered.

Some opponents cited religious and health objections.

"We are dealing with children," said Diane Miller, a former school nurse said. "I am just horrified at the suggestion."

Another opponent, Peter Doyle, said he felt the proposal violated the rights of parents and puts students at risk of cancer because of hormones in the pill.

Supporters said a small number of students at King are sexually active, but they need better access to birth control.

"This isn't encouraging kids to have sex. This is about the kids who are engaging in sexually activity," Richard Veilleux said.

Condoms have been available since 2000 at King's health center. While students need parental permission to be treated there, the treatment itself is confidential under state law.

At King, birth control prescriptions will be given after a student undergoes a physical exam by a physician or nurse practitioner, Belanger.

Nationally, about one-fourth of student health centers that serve at least one grade of adolescents 11 and older dispense some form of contraception, said Mohan, whose Washington-based organization represents more than 1,700 school-based centers nationwide.
Question: at what point does facilitating statutory rape make you an accessory to the crime?

And the "they're just gonna do it anyway" argument is another form of the bigotry of low expectationsTM. High School kids are probably going to experiment with drugs & alcohol, but you don't see in-school liquor stores, head shops, or needle exchange programs - at least, not outside of San Francisco.

A few other comments:
  1. Why is it that 18 year old males volunteers for military service are considered by the Left to be "children" - incapable of making an informed decision - while at the very same time they consider 11 year olds to be capable of engaging in sexual intercourse.
  2. This has very little to do with disease prevention, since the pill is part of the program. One wonders if the condoms will come in a variety of flavors, be "ribbed for her pleasure," etc...
  3. If I lived in this school district, I would be pulling my kids out of this school; if I have to consent for my child to get his/her ears pierced, take an aspirin, etc, but don't have to consent to the distribution of a birth control pill, the district clearly is filled with adults who are clueless
Finally, I wonder what the presidential candidates think about this situation.

We know that Barack Obama actively promoted sex-ed for kindergarten when he was a state Senator in Illinois, but it'd be interesting to see what the other Lefties think about this topic.

Michelle Malkin is also covering

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Steyn on Health Care

Been spending a lot of time commenting at leftist blogs about healthcare, expansion of S-CHIP, etc. and am amazed about their inability to argue effectively. Their position essentially boils down to "Where's my stuff?" (which was first asked to Phil Hartman as candidate Bill Clinton by an patron of a McDonald's during one SNL skit in the 90s).

Well, Mark Steyn had this excellent repost over the weekend of an article he'd written on the comparative merits of US and Canadian healthcare systems, and it's worth reading the entire thing:

Now wash your hands
from The Western Standard, November 22nd 2004

What's the defining characteristic of a government health service? It's one word, a word that, in its medical context, doesn't exist south of the border--"waiting," as in "waiting list," "waiting times," waiting, waiting, waiting.

I was sick over the summer and, down in New Hampshire, I went to see the local doctor, who referred me to a specialist. Let's just run through that manoeuvre again, in case it happened too quickly for those accustomed to Quebec levels of treatment: I saw the GP on Tuesday, got referred, saw the specialist Thursday. As is often the case in the U.S., the doctor was Canadian, and indeed came from a long line of Canadian doctors--both his parents practise in Ottawa. Making idle chitchat as his fingers felt his way around my fleshly delights, he explained that "waiting" is built into the concept of a government health service: "If you need surgery," he said, "it's in my interest to get you in and operated on as soon as possible, because that's money for me. The faster it happens, the better my cash flow. But when the government runs the system, every time you get operated on it costs the government money. So it's in their interest to restrict or delay your access. When you look at the overall budgets--salaries, buildings--it's not hard to understand that the level of service you provide to the patient is one of your few discretionary costs. So the incentive is to reduce that."

He was chuckling merrily as he explained this, and I got the feeling he'd said it to many Canadians over the years. Defenders of our system often point out that America spends a higher proportion of its GDP on health care than Canada and yet has lower life expectancy. I'm not sure I quite understand the point they're making. I have employees on both sides of the border. When my assistant in New Hampshire has a doctor's appointment at 9 a.m., she's in his office by 9:07 and back in my office by 11. My assistant in Quebec, living in a jurisdiction with the lowest doctor-patient ratio in the western world, can't get a doctor's appointment, so she goes to her local CLSC at 9 a.m., and waits, and waits and waits and waits all day to be seen.

I doubt Chantal's and my loss of economic activity is factored into those health-care-as-a-proportion-of-GDP costs. In Canada, we accept that if you get something mildly semi-serious, it drags on while you wait to be seen, wait to be diagnosed, wait to be treated. Meanwhile, you're working under par. The default mode of the system is to "control health care costs" by providing less health care. Once it becomes natural to wait six months for an MRI, it's not difficult to persuade you that it's natural to wait 10 months, or 15. Acceptance of the initial concept of "waiting" is what matters.

The other week, I made some remarks about C. difficile in The Chicago Sun-Times and observed that it was caused by inattention to hygiene--"by unionized, unsackable cleaners who don't clean properly; by harassed overstretched hospital staff who don't bother washing their hands as often as they should." Michael Miner, in the city's "alternative weekly," The Chicago Reader, took exception to this, mainly because, in a clean American convalescence home, his mother had contracted C. difficile and died. He has my sympathies. I'm not sure that it's wise to trash my argument purely on personal experience, but, since he brought up his mother, let me bring up my wife.

A few years back, she felt herself beginning to miscarry. Nobody was at home so she called a cab and went to the emergency room at the Royal Victoria. Knowing what "emergency" means in the Quebec system, she grabbed a novel on the way out--an excellent choice, Mr. Standfast by John Buchan, our late Governor General. It's 304 pages, and my wife had the time to read every single one of them before any medical professional saw her. While she was reading, she was bleeding, all over the emergency room floor, the pool of large dark red around her growing bigger and bigger, until eventually a passing cleaner ran her mop over the small lake and delivered a small rebuke to my wife for having the impertinence not to cease bleeding.

Maybe it was just bad luck. Michael Miner at The Chicago Reader got U of T's John Marshall on the phone to assure him that "Canadian medical standards are on average every bit as high as American medical standards. It has nothing to do with the structures of the health care system." Oh, really? If Miner's mother was dissatisfied with her convalescence home, she could always pick another. And don't give me all the fine print about HMOs and co-payers: in the last resort, you or your loved ones can always reach into your billfold and go anywhere you can afford. At the Royal Vic, no matter how many bills you wave around, you still have to bleed all over the floor because they're the only game in town. Universal lack of access. Equality of crap--very literally, as the C. difficile outbreak demonstrates.

Since my wife's experience, the average wait time in Montreal emergency rooms has apparently gone up to 48 hours. So don't pack an overnight bag, take two, and the complete works of John Buchan. The natural consequence of a system built on waiting is that more people do what she did--sit in the hospital, waiting to be seen, bleeding all over the floor until a cleaner (and it's one cleaner per two floors at many Montreal hospitals) wipes it up with a dirty mop and then runs the same mop over the floor in the isolation ward upstairs.

That's the C. difficile story. That's why the fatality rate in Montreal is four times (officially) the North American average. "In many institutions, housekeeping staff has been reduced while nursing workloads have increased," reports Quebec's Clostridium Difficile-Associated Diarrhea Clinical Study Investigators Group. "Compliance with hand hygiene has been shown to decrease as workloads increase . . . Wards and emergency departments have become more crowded, and bed turnover is rapid. This makes containment of C. difficile exceedingly difficult, especially among patients with fecal incontinence." According to Dr. Louise Poirier of the Quebec microbiologists' association, "It's not that easy if you are a nurse and you have six patients. You take your gloves off and you go far away, find a sink, wash your hands, go back, put on another gown. You do that sometimes 20 times in an afternoon."

Hygiene is the number one issue in Canadian hospitals, and a problem with hygiene is the logical consequence of a system built on "waiting." On March 7 last year, Tse Chi Kwai went to Scarborough Grace Hospital and, as is traditional, was left on a gurney in emergency for 12 hours, exposed to hundreds of people. Two days earlier, his mother had died of SARS but, despite displaying to her doctor all the symptoms detailed in the several health alerts on the subject, had cause of death listed as "heart attack." And at Scarborough Grace, even after discovering that Tse's mother had recently died after returning from Hong Kong, Dr. Sandy Finkelstein concluded that, even if Tse was infectious, it was only with TB. Lying next to Tse on that ER gurney hour after hour was Joe Pollack, who was being treated for an irregular heartbeat. He was subsequently sent home but returned on March 16 with symptoms of SARS. He was admitted and isolated, but apparently it never occurred to the hospital to isolate Mrs. Pollack. So she wandered around the wards and infected an 82-year-old man from a Catholic Charismatic group.

Mr. Pollack, Mrs. Pollack, the 82-year-old Catholic Charismatic and his wife all died. None of these people went anywhere near Southeast Asia. They were exposed to SARS by the Toronto health care system, as was the 82-year-old's son, who was also unknowingly infected at Scarborough Grace and went on to expose another 500 to SARS at a religious retreat. As I wrote in the National Post at the time, "Only in Canada does the virus owe its grip on the population to the active co-operation of the medical profession. In Toronto, the system that's supposed to protect us from infection instead infected us. They breached the most basic medical principle: first do no harm."

Almost all scandals in Canadian hospitals boil down to the same thing: a decrepit system unable to observe basic rules of hygiene and quarantine. Sometimes it's SARS, sometimes it's C. difficile, sometimes it's hundreds of women going in to the Captain William Jackman Memorial Hospital in Labrador City and being gynecologically examined with unsterilized instruments-and thereby potentially exposed to chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis or HIV. And almost all these crises are due to, in Dr. Marshall's words, "the structures"--a system that ensures sick people wait longer in crowded rooms in dirtier hospitals will, by definition, spread disease.

One day it will be something much worse than C. difficile.
I for one can't wait for socialized medicine! Sounds lovely!

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Monday, October 15, 2007

Times Select - Please Come Back!

Is it just me or was the blogosphere less nutty with Krugman, Dowd, and Rich safely concealed behind the TimesSelect wall?

Or perhaps the trio have simply been inside the TimesSelect bubble for so long that they've convinced each other that left-wing moonbattery actually represents enlightening and thoughtful opinion?

Three examples appeared in the last couple of days:

  1. Paul Krugman throws his hat in the ring to support Algore's idiotic claims about global warming, stating that Algore is "more credible than ever." huh? Krugman laughed at Algore's idiocy 15 years ago and as respected scientist laugh at the "science" that algore is promoting...
  2. Frank Rich calls those who support the effort in Iraq Nazis. This is what passes for clever editorializing... go back to art reviews, you tool.
  3. Krugman asserting, like every 4th grader, that the GOP really is just a party of meanies

Just saying... If this is the type of content that Pinch thought people would pay good money for, he's demonstrating his inability to understand the marketplace. Because I can go to DailyKos, DU, or any other number of moonbat sites and get the same idiocy for free.

Mr. Sulzberger - Bring back the TimesSelect Wall!

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Moonbats & Democrats - Killing Our Soldiers

This news in the NYPost has me incensed:

By CHARLES HURT, Bureau Chief

October 15, 2007 -- WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence officials got mired for nearly 10 hours seeking approval to use wiretaps against al Qaeda terrorists suspected of kidnapping Queens soldier Alex Jimenez in Iraq earlier this year, The Post has learned.

This week, Congress plans to vote on a bill that leaves in place the legal hurdles in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - problems that were highlighted during the May search for a group of kidnapped U.S. soldiers.

In the early hours of May 12, seven U.S. soldiers - including Spc. Jimenez - were on lookout near a patrol base in the al Qaeda-controlled area of Iraq called the "Triangle of Death."

Sometime before dawn, heavily armed al Qaeda gunmen quietly cut through the tangles of concertina wire surrounding the outpost of two Humvees and made a massive and coordinated surprise attack.

Four of the soldiers were killed on the spot and three others were taken hostage.

A search to rescue the men was quickly launched. But it soon ground to a halt as lawyers - obeying strict U.S. laws about surveillance - cobbled together the legal grounds for wiretapping the suspected kidnappers.

Starting at 10 a.m. on May 15, according to a timeline provided to Congress by the director of national intelligence, lawyers for the National Security Agency met and determined that special approval from the attorney general would be required first.

For an excruciating nine hours and 38 minutes, searchers in Iraq waited as U.S. lawyers discussed legal issues and hammered out the "probable cause" necessary for the attorney general to grant such "emergency" permission.

Finally, approval was granted and, at 7:38 that night, surveillance began.

"The intelligence community was forced to abandon our soldiers because of the law," a senior congressional staffer with access to the classified case told The Post.

"How many lawyers does it take to rescue our soldiers?" he asked. "It should be zero."

The FISA law applies even to a cellphone conversation between two people in Iraq, because those communications zip along wires through U.S. hubs, which is where the taps are typically applied.

U.S. officials had no way of knowing if Jimenez and his fellow soldiers were still alive during the nearly 10-hour delay.

The body of one was found a few weeks later in the Euphrates River and the terror group Islamic State of Iraq - an al Qaeda offshoot - later claimed in a video that Jimenez and the third soldier had been executed and buried.

"This is terrible. If they would have acted sooner, maybe they would have found something out and been able to find my son," said Jimenez's mother, Maria Duran. "Oh my God. I just keep asking myself, where is my son? What could have happened to him?"

Duran said she was especially frustrated, "because I thought they were doing everything possible to find him."

"You know that this is how this country is - everything is by the law. They just did not want to break the law, and I understand that. They should change the law, because God only knows what type of information they could have found during that time period."

What really has me ticked is the disingenuousness of those on the Moonbat Left (which apparently includes the NYTimes) who have consistently portrayed the Bush Admin practice of using NSA surveillance on terrorist communications as a domestic spying program. As stated in the article and in this Wired Magazine article (see graphic below), most communications are routed through the US - even cell calls between two people in distant lands - and the Moonbat Left's desire to score political points against the Bush Administration - by incorrectly portraying the FISA issue as a domemstic surveillance program - has now cost the life of a soldier.

Here's a graphic of telecom traffic in 2005... hmmm, seems like it's all flowing through the US! (Click graphic for larger image.)

Here's the disingenuous reaction from Christy "Blackface" Hardin Smith at Firedoglake. (I would comment there, but we know that they don't allow any facts to pierce their bubble.):
let me just say the following: (1) FISA should not apply to foreign calls — everyone agrees on this — and so the blaming of FISA is disingenous, at best. (2) As Kagro rightly points out, the problem in getting the warrants in this case was with the Bush Administration’s staffers in the NSA and the DOJ, not with the FISA court. If they can’t do their jobs, then that is their fault, not the fault of the law or the courts. Period.

Let me just say the following:
  1. Christy Hardin Smith is an idiot. Not everyone agrees that foreign calls are outside of the purview of FISA. This is the very justification that the Bush administration gave its critics which Hardin "blackface" Smith scoffed at. The fact that a cell phone call from one Iraqi in Iraq to another Iraqi in Iraq is traversing the same US trunks that a US domestic call follows makes it impossible to verify that the NSA is only listening to an Iraqi-Iraqi call.
  2. That Christy Hardin Smith, as an attorney herself, thinks that any attorney can make a legal justification within 10 hours and have it approved is laughable. Once you insert attorneys into the decision making process, any decision or change has to be reviewed by that attorney - and the very soldiers involved in this situation became unable or qualified to even decide whether an attorney should be engaged or not - thus, you get the inertia which killed Jimenez. Frankly, I'm surprised it only took them 10 hours to get the authority.
Christy and the ACLU know better...

They fail to understand the threats our enemies pose to us. They fail to understand that a law developed 30 years ago is insufficient in the 21st century.

They fail to understand that their actions and legalistic justifications have consequences - dreadful consequences for soldiers like Jimenez and his brothers in arms.

Previous FISA coverage by ARC here, but be sure to read MontereyJohn's post on FISA and the expectation of privacy and this post by me from 2005 (!) regarding the FISA law. This bit of information seems (unfortunately) important now:
The standard of proof required to obtain a warrant from the foreign intelligence court is generally considered lower than that required for a criminal warrant - intelligence officials only have to show probable cause that someone may be "an agent of a foreign power," which includes international terrorist groups - and the secret court has turned down only a small number of requests over the years. In 2004, according to the Justice Department, 1,754 warrants were approved. The foreign intelligence court can grant emergency approval for wiretaps within hours, officials say.

As we've seen, it is possible to get approval within hours. However, in many instances we don't have hours before something terrible happens.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler
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