Sunday, August 23, 2009

Calling the Obama Bluff

Over the weekend Pres. Obama called for an honest debate about his health care plan, a call about as genuine, I’m sure, as Attorney General Eric Holder’s call for a dialogue about race.
Obama said the overhaul would not cover illegal immigrants nor use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and he does not intend a government takeover of health care — as critics have claimed at contentious town hall-style meetings with members of Congress.

He also took a swipe at "death panels," an idea former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin introduced on her Facebook page.

"As every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called death panels — an offensive notion to me and to the American people," Obama said. "These are phony claims meant to divide us."

First of all, Sarah Palin didn’t “introduce” the idea of death panels in her August 7, 2009 Facebook post. Betsy McCaughey was all over this in February, warning about the health-care rationing controls hidden in the President’s stimulus bill.

Then, Rep. Michele Bachmann gave a speech warning about this on the floor of the House of Representatives on July 31st., quoting directly from the mouths of Obama’s own health-care advisers on their theories of limiting health care for the less promising cases.

All Sarah Palin did was mention how this elephant in the room was threatening her own child, Trig.

But some people just can’t handle Sarah Palin, so here are some other “credible” persons who’ve looked into it and seen the equivalent of life-denying rationing:

Ann Althouse: "I have found myself saying, in conversation, 'I'm afraid Obama is going to kill me.'"

Nat Hentoff: "President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board . . .decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive. Watch for that life-decider in the final bill. It's already in the stimulus bill signed into law."

Liberal Washington Post reporter Charles Lane: "[A]s I read it, Section 1233 is not totally innocuous. . . . [because it] addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones. Supporters protest that they're just trying to facilitate choice -- even if patients opt for expensive life-prolonging care. I think they protest too much: If it's all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what's it doing in a measure to 'bend the curve' on health-care costs?"

Good question. Oh, and I consider myself credible, at least in my own mind. I have looked into this, and I've got no doubts these people have every intention of establishing government control over end-of-life decisions for the sake of what they consider a higher good.

But Obama doesn't really want you to look into it for yourself. He wants you to trust him that all the really credible people agree with him that everything is hunky-dory with this plan.

Now do you really want to take Jon Stewart's scornful word for something this important?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Old Soldiers Never (Used To) Die, Now the VA Has End-of-Life Counsellors

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Death Book for Veterans
Ex-soldiers don't need to be told they're a burden to society.


If President Obama wants to better understand why America's discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

"Your Life, Your Choices" presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political "push poll." For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to "shake the blues." There is a section which provocatively asks, "Have you ever heard anyone say, 'If I'm a vegetable, pull the plug'?"

There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as "I can no longer contribute to my family's well being," "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and that the vet's situation "causes severe emotional burden for my family."

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

One can only imagine a soldier surviving the war in Iraq and returning without all of his limbs only to encounter a veteran's health-care system that seems intent on his surrender.

I was not surprised to learn that the VA panel of experts that sought to update "Your Life, Your Choices" between 2007-2008 did not include any representatives of faith groups or disability rights advocates. And as you might guess, only one organization was listed in the new version as a resource on advance directives: the Hemlock Society (now euphemistically known as "Compassion and Choices").

This hurry-up-and-die message is clear and unconscionable. Worse, a July 2009 VA directive instructs its primary care physicians to raise advance care planning with all VA patients and to refer them to "Your Life, Your Choices." Not just those of advanced age and debilitated condition—all patients. America's 24 million veterans deserve better.

Many years ago I created an advance care planning document called "Five Wishes" that is today the most widely used living will in America, with 13 million copies in national circulation. Unlike the VA's document, this one does not contain the standard bias to withdraw or withhold medical care. It meets the legal requirements of at least 43 states, and it runs exactly 12 pages.

After a decade of observing end-of-life discussions, I can attest to the great fear that many patients have, particularly those with few family members and financial resources. I lived and worked in an AIDS home in the mid-1980s and saw first-hand how the dying wanted more than health care—they wanted someone to care.

If President Obama is sincere in stating that he is not trying to cut costs by pressuring the disabled to forgo critical care, one good way to show that commitment is to walk two blocks from the Oval Office and pull the plug on "Your Life, Your Choices." He should make sure in the future that VA decisions are guided by values that treat the lives of our veterans as gifts, not burdens.

Mr. Towey, president of Saint Vincent College, was director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (2002-2006) and founder of the nonprofit Aging with Dignity.

When Left and Right Both Smell a Rat

Writer Nat Hentoff is a leftist and an atheist who's always had credibility with me because of his unwavering pro-life stand, and his straight-down-the-line defense of civil liberties (life included).

Hentoff reacted last week to Obama’s health care plans by writing, “I am finally scared of a White House administration.”:
I was not intimidated during J. Edgar Hoover's FBI hunt for reporters like me who criticized him. I railed against the Bush-Cheney war on the Bill of Rights without blinking. But now I am finally scared of a White House administration.
President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive. Watch for that life-decider in the final bill. It's already in the stimulus bill signed into law.
As blogger, The American Catholic points out, “When Sarah Palin on the Right and Nat Hentoff on the Left both view with alarm the idea of government panels having the final say on medical treatment, it is time for all citizens to take this issue quite seriously.”

Please read Hentoff's entire article here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Swastika Equivalence: It's Six of One, 600 Dozen of Another

The Detroit Free Press today had this quizzical observation:

Conspiracy theories ran amok last week over who was responsible for the “Hitler guy” parad­ing around at U.S. Rep. John Dingell’s rowdy town hall meeting Aug. 6 in Romulus.

Jamar Penn, 25, was identified as the one carrying around an oversize-photo of President Barack Obama with a Hitler mustache. He man­aged to appear in a majority of news accounts about the event.

Left-leaners were convinced Penn was evi­dence of a fascist streak in the opposition to the health care plan.

For anyone out there who supports the Obama health initiative and is alarmed by the “Fascist streak” in the opposition, can you explain for me how insulting something one deeply opposes by comparing it with Nazism is evidence that one has a fascist streak?

Why would a Hitler-loving Fascist show his contempt for someone by creating a banner with his enemy’s image made up to resemble his idol and hero?

By the way, for a useful retrospective on recent comparisons of political opponents with Hitler, see Bush as Hitler, Swastika-Mania: A Retrospective , and A Short Walk Down Memory Hole Lane.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dingell Compares Health-Care Dissidents to KKK

Palin Is Right About the Death Panels

You’re now hearing Sarah Palin being criticized and ridiculed for condemning “death panels” that are referenced nowhere in the House health-care bill. And it’s true there is no reference to the death panels in the House bill.

But that isn’t proof that our Sarah is stupid: it’s proof (as if we needed more) that Barack & Co. are sneaky and deceptive about this very dangerous agenda.

The death panel language isn't in the House bill now because it was hidden in the stimulus bill passed in February. Remember? That was the other bill that Barack & Co. wanted passed before anyone could read it.

Frank Beckmann on Friday described how “the so-called economic stimulus bill” rushed through Congress earlier this year, “put into place the first phases of a government-controlled health care system.” :

Americans eventually discovered that the administration had appropriated more than $16 billion to create a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research and a Health Information Technology department that can fine doctors and hospitals for not making 'meaningful use' of its recommendations on health care.” (“Politicians dismiss health dissidents at their peril”).

Nor are the fears about “death panels” or “killing grandma” (or, in Palin’s case, denying care for her son, Trig), wild exaggerations manufactured by Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck. The plan for government review panels is quite real, and these guys are bound and determined to get them in place.

Former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey described the system in detail back in February, even while Barack was insisting the stimulus bill needed to be passed without delay or debate:

Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan

Barack Obama's stimulus bill contains the right mix of tax breaks and cash infusions to jump-start the economy.

Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.

New Penalties

Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

Elderly Hardest Hit
Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).

The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board discussed in Daschle’s book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision.

Hidden Provisions

If the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing. Defenders of the system say that individuals benefit in younger years and sacrifice later.

The stimulus bill will affect every part of health care, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated and how much hospitals get paid. The bill allocates more funding for this bureaucracy than for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined (90-92, 174-177, 181).

Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional. Daschle supported the Clinton administration’s health-care overhaul in 1994, and attributed its failure to debate and delay. A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”

More Scrutiny Needed

On Friday, President Obama called it “inexcusable and irresponsible” for senators to delay passing the stimulus bill. In truth, this bill needs more scrutiny.

The health-care industry is the largest employer in the U.S. It produces almost 17 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Yet the bill treats health care the way European governments do: as a cost problem instead of a growth industry. Imagine limiting growth and innovation in the electronics or auto industry during this downturn. This stimulus is dangerous to your health and the economy.

McCaughey provided this update recently about how funding for the quality-of-life panels was secreted in the stimulus bill:

Slipped into the bill was substantial funding for comparative effectiveness research, which is generally code for limiting care based on the patient’s age. Economists are familiar with the formula, where the cost of a treatment is divided by the number of years (called QALYs, or quality-adjusted life years) that the patient is likely to benefit. In Britain, the formula leads to denying treatments for older patients who have fewer years to benefit from care than
younger patients.

When comparative effectiveness research appeared in the stimulus bill, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., (R., La.) a heart surgeon, warned that it would lead to “denying seniors and the disabled lifesaving care.” He and Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) proposed amendments to no avail that would have barred the federal government from using the research to eliminate treatments for the elderly or deny care based on age.

In a letter . . . to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House budget chief Peter Orszag urged Congress to delegate its authority over Medicare to a newly created body within the executive branch. This measure is designed to circumvent the democratic process and avoid accountability to the public for cuts in benefits.

Sounds like Sarah Palin knew exactly what she was talking about.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

America Calls Retreat

Steven Emerson gave a chilling interview to Bill Bennett this past week about the unraveling of eight years of the American war against radical Islamic jihad.

You can listen to it here.

'Give Me Yor Tired, You Poor, Your Clunkers, Your Computer Files'

Here’s a little something from our “This Isn’t Creepy At All” Department.