Friday, June 22, 2007


Solstice Distractions

For those RT fans hanging out in the Big Apple tonight (and tomorrow), come drop by for a night of excellent entertainment: The Yes Show features a fine selection of improv games staged by four teams of talented improvisers (yes, including your humble host)!

Date: Friday, June 22 & Saturday, June 23
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Location: Stonestreet Studios,
48 W. 21st Street (bet. 5th & 6th)
8th floor.
Cost: $15 (with free beer!)

Lots of fun and games, a la "Who's Line Is It Anyway?"

Hope to see you there!

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"Purple" Reign

A nice story by my Post colleague Michael Riedel on how The Color Purple -- especially now that it is featuring "American Idol" winner Fantasia -- is attracting a new audience to the, ahem, "Great White Way."

Oprah Winfrey wins again!

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Federalist Fred eats a Tort

It appears Fred Thompson is starting to show what his agenda will be as president, and that agenda is decidedly federalist.

his radio commentary yesterday, Fred was applauding the state of Texas for their solution to rising medical malpractice insurance rates (bold parts added by me):
"Out-of-control medical malpractice lawsuits have been a problem in many parts of the country for a long time. Malpractice insurance costs can be driven so high, that doctors and insurance companies flee to more reasonable business climates. With too few doctors, it’s the patients who suffer the most.

In the past, those who want to solve this problem have tended to ignore our Federalist tradition. They've driven right past their state houses to their airports and flown to Washington to ask for national legal remedies. Fortunately, now we're seeing that states can take effective action themselves.

Only a few years ago, Texas was losing doctors fast. Rising malpractice insurance rates were fueling what analysts called a crisis. In some parts of the state, emergency wards were closing and residents were facing long trips for even basic medical care. The doctors who were most likely to leave the state were those hit hardest by malpractice insurance premiums -- the "high risk" specialists such as neurosurgeons, cardiologists and obstetricians.

Then, in 2003, Texas passed Prop 12, capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits to $750,000. $250,000 of that applied to physicians. There were no limits put on damages for medical expenses or economic expenses such as past and future lost income.

At the time, there were only four insurance companies left in Texas willing to cover doctors, and they were scheduling rate increases. Now 30 insurers are doing business in the Lone Star State and others are moving into the market. Rates have fallen on an average of more than 20 percent. Malpractice lawsuits have fallen 50 percent,

So many doctors have now requested Texas medical licenses that thousands are backlogged and an emergency appropriations was passed to help the Texas Medical Board speed up their processing. Now, other states are considering similar legislation to stop the loss of their own doctors to Texas. I consider this a small but important victory for the principles of Federalism.

Mind you, Fred is not opposed to federal solutions where needed. Back on May 24th in his radio commentary, Fred had this to say about medical records:
If a used car salesman can check your credit in minutes, doctors ought to be able to pull up your vital records. If you can trade stocks online, doctors ought to be able to chart blood pressure or cholesterol levels over the years instead of making decisions based on a couple of recent readings. If the police can find outstanding parking ticket in seconds, emergency medical workers should be able to get information to save your life, or your child's, as easily. If you can access your bank account online, you ought to be able to check your own medical records, and fix them if they're wrong.

President Bush has been asking for such a system, with proper privacy protections, since he took office. Last year, both the senate and the house passed bipartisan bills designed to help bring our medical records into the modern era, but the differences between the two versions were never reconciled and nothing came of them.

It's pretty clear that this is one of those wheels that isn't going to get any grease until it starts squeaking.

The fact that Fred is not opposed to federal solutions, where they are called for, is important to consider within the framework of tort law.

Back in April,
Ramesh Ponnuru over at National Review took Fred to task for his views on tort reform:
"Thompson didn’t oppose all types of tort reform, as some outlets have reported. When President Clinton vetoed the Securities Litigation Reform Act, Thompson voted to override the veto. (John McCain voted with Clinton.) After Sept. 11, he voted to protect businessmen from liability for terrorist attacks. And he voted for class-action reform, too.

On some issues, however, he voted against tort reform. In most of these cases, he objected to the reform on federalist grounds. For example, he voted against a federal reform of medical malpractice law, arguing that states should enact any needed reforms. There is a strong argument for Thompson’s position. If a state makes it too easy to sue doctors, most of the costs of that policy will fall on the state’s own residents. Doctors, especially in specialties that tend to draw litigation, may leave the state for more welcoming jurisdictions. So there is a built-in incentive for states to get the policy right.

But sometimes the incentives don’t line up so conveniently. The worst jurisdictions effectively set product-liability law for the entire country, because they apply their standards to companies everywhere. The litigation explosion is a symptom of a breakdown of federalism, which wasn’t meant to let the judges of Madison County, Illinois, regulate interstate commerce.

While Fred did respond to Ponnuru, his response did not get to the heart of Ponnuru's argument, specifically about product-liability law in the last paragraph above. Fred's response:
"That's why I suggested to Mr. Ponnuru that if conservatives use Federalism as a tool with which to reward our friends and strike our enemies, instead of treating it as a valued principle, we are doing a disservice to our country -- as well as to the cause of conservatism."

Fred also responded to Ponnuru on the National Review website, and again did NOT respond to the product-liability issue.

Ponnuru responded to Fred's response, although Ponnuru did not bring up the issue again either, unfortunately.)

When lawyers farms localities, looking for the most favorable place to file a product-liability lawsuit, are they not, in effect, performing interstate commerce?

Fred needs to be careful about how he applies the federalist principle. If he is willing to accept federal oversight of medical records, but NOT federal product-liability tort reform, then he runs the risk of appearing sympathetic to tort lawyers.


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Thursday, June 21, 2007


Forget Global Warming

The other day, I jokingly made a comment over on my blog buddy
Myrhaf's site:

I feel pretty safe making that prediction.

Sometimes, I can be downright omniscient, even in jest.

Today, I read an article over at by Timothy Patterson (who is "professor and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University"). Apparently, Global Warming is NOT what we have to worry about:
"Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments."

Mind you, I am NOT hopping aboard the Global Cooling bandwagon yet, because, as Dr. Patterson says:
"Meantime, we need to continue research into [climate change]...and immediately halt wasted expenditures on the King Canute-like task of "stopping climate change."

On a related note, Myrhaf's post, on which I commented, was about a website which is pointing out flaws in temperature measuring stations. One post by Anthony Watts at specifically compares two temperature measuring stations and their results. One station, which has seen a lot of human construction around it, including a parking lot, a cell tower, and even a barbecue grill, shows steady warming over the last century. The scary thing Watts points out about the station:
"The data from this station is part of the USHCN (US Historical Climatological Network) and is used in the computer modeling used to predict climate change."

The other station, which is out in the middle of nowhere and has been for the last century, shows an initial drop followed by relatively consistent temperatures.

In other words, the argument for man-made Global Warming does have some validity. Through human construction and activity, we are affecting the temperature measurements.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


September Never Ends

Here's a golden oldie. Let's go back to that interesting time -- just a few short days after the 9/11 attacks. Remember those flights that ushered out various Saudi nationals -- and several members of the extended bin Laden family?

Well, it appears that at least one of them may have been charterd by Osama bin Laden himself. This according to FBI documents obtained by the right-leaning public-interest legal group, Judicial Watch:
One FBI document referred to a Ryan Air 727 airplane that departed Los Angeles International Airport on September 19, 2001, and was said to have carried Saudi nationals out of the United States.

"The plane was chartered either by the Saudi Arabian royal family or Osama bin Laden," according to the document, which was among 224 pages posted online.

The flight made stops in Orlando, Florida; Washington, DC; and Boston, Massachusetts and eventually left its passengers in Paris the following day.

In all, the documents detail six flights between September 14 and September 24 that evacuated Saudi nationals and bin Laden family members, Judicial Watch said in a statement.

"Incredibly, not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value," Judicial Watch said.

"These documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to
question the thoroughness of the FBI's investigation of the Saudi flights.

"For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23
passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight ... on another document the
FBI claims to have interviewed 15 to 22 passengers on the same flight."

Now, let's underscore the "may" in the document. One FBI source tries to completely dismiss the notion of bin Laden chartering the plane -- or of the Saudi nationals that left being suspicious:
"There is no new information here. Osama bin Laden did not charter a flight out
of the US," FBI special agent Richard Kolko said.
"This is just an inflammatory headline by Judicial Watch to catch people's attention. This was thoroughly investigated by the FBI."
Kolko pointed to the 9-11 Commission Report, which was the book-length result of an official probe into the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.
"No political intervention was found. And most important, the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals that left on chartered flights. This is all available in the report," Kolko said.

Consider that last paragraph for a moment: "the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals that left on chartered flights."

Yet, these flights began on September 14th.

So, we are supposed to believe that -- after the worst, most-widespread attack in the continental U.S. ever; launched by unknown foreign individuals; with the vast majority of its resources working to either confirm/deny whether a follow-up attack was underway or tracking down leads to other plotters -- the FBI was able to complete background checks on an unknown number of Saudi nationals and bin Laden family members within three days?

That, simply speaking, beggars belief.

"Thorougly investigated by the FBI." Yeah, just like those anthrax attacks.

Yes, the 9/11 Commission ostensibly gave a clean bill of health to the FBI's behavior doing these background checks. But, obviously, this otherwise-redacted line ("The plane was chartered either by the Saudi Arabian royal family or Osama bin Laden.") would likely have jumped out at investigators and warrented a bit more study, don't ya think?

You know, you don't really need A-plus examples of government incompetence to fuel conspiracy theories.

But they sure don't hurt.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The Other Other New Yorker's Tough Day

It will be a busy time for all of us New York bloggers if Mike Bloomberg actually gets into the race -- trying to keep up with three presidential candidates. So, in the interests of completeness, let's turn to the GOP contender.

Rudy Giuliani didn't have quite as "positive" a news day as Hillary and Bloomy.

In the morning, Newsday revealed that Rudy resigned/was dropped from the Iraq Study Group after blowing off most of the meetings in the first two months.

For good measure, the paper also noted that Rudy opted for paid speeches which netted him $11 million rather than attend the ISG.

And later in the day, Rudy's South Carolina campaign chair -- also the state treasurer -- was
indicted on cocaine charges. That's not a reflection on Rudy -- but it's not exactly great news at moment when Fred Thompson is surging in the Palmetto State.

Oh, one more thing, Lindsey Graham must find the Ravenel scandal rather interesting.

UPDATE: A reader adds: "Giuliani suffered another blow [Tuesday] also. Barely a week after declaring he won't compete in the Ames straw poll, Giuliani loses his most prominent supporter in Iowa -- former Rep. Jim Nussle [appointed by Bush to take over the Office of Management and Budget]. Giuliani's people have pissed A LOT of Iowans off skipping Ames and Nussle jumping ship is a clear signal to 'Giuliani-pledged' Iowans that they are now free to do likewise."

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President Bloomberg?

Rise of the independent.

That screech you just heard was from a certain lady living in Chappaqua, NY -- for reasons detailed here, little less than a year ago.

UPDATE: Appropos of my previous post, Hillary's Celine Dion theme song choice was strangely prescient: Titanic was a large, expensive vessel that sank after being struck by an iceberg.

As the old joke goes..."Eh, iceberg...Bloomberg, what's the difference?"

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Hillary For President....of Canada?

The backstory on her new Celine Dion campaign song.

Guess she decided not to use "
My Heart Go On" given its association as the theme song for a movie about a huge, expensive vessel that sank after unexpectedly being hit in the water.

With this choice, Hillary is apparently determined to cause her poll numbers among men to "sink" even lower.

UPDATE: Oh, and the now-notorious Bill-Hill "Sopranos" parody. I have to admit that it is rather witty.

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Monday, June 18, 2007


The Fundamental Contradiction... our current foreign policy is noted by Andrew Sullivan: Democracy just ain't what it's cracked up to be in the Middles East.

Meanwhile, we decided
to back (and arm) Fatah, the "moderate" faction of Palestinians -- and they go get their Hamasses handed to them by a better trained fundamentalist opponent.

So, what do we do in Iraq --
arm marginally more secular Sunni insurgents against al Qaeda in Iraq fundamentalists?

Result -- a marginal "win" for the Sunni insurgents in Anbar province -- for now. Of course, the government of Nuri al-Maliki, is fundamentalist Shiite. How soon before our erstwhile allies take the same arms we've given them and turn them against the Shiite majority -- thus creating enough anarchy to force us to step in between the two factions once again?

While being shot at with our own guns?

I sort of understand the tactical reasons for doing this, but after a while when you do make the same tactical move which ends up backfiring, shouldn't it call into question the overarching strategy which the tactics were supposed to implement?

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