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Archive for December, 2010

The good news is that I just finished up a couple of days skiing at Okemo and Killington with the kids.

The bad news is that the Georgia Bulldogs ended a miserable season with a pathetic loss to a mediocre University of Central Florida Team. We got home in time to watch the 4th quarter, which was a rather unfortunate 15 minutes.

A few other year-end observations.

I’m hopeful that my efforts to spread the message of freedom and prosperity are having at least some positive impact. My videos were watched about 420,000 times this year. Almost 900 people are now following my efforts on twitter, and this blog as been far more successful than I had hoped (Glenn Reynolds deserves a lot of the credit since his Instapundit links drive an amazing share of the traffic to International Liberty).

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The invaluable Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner is an expert at exposing the corruption of big government, and his article about for-profit colleges and government-subsidized tuition shows that everybody involved in this fight is sleazy. Unfortunately, no matter who wins, the taxpayers lose. It’s also worth pointing out that the main effect of government-financed tuition payments and loans is to drive up the cost of college – another example of the third-party payer phenomenon.

Here are key passages from Tim’s column.

For a case study in the tawdry and twisted world of Washington policymaking and lobbying, you can’t do much better than the current fight over the subsidies and regulations for for-profit colleges. Behind every argument is an ulterior motive, around every corner is a conflict of interest, and in every pocket there is cash procured through government policy supposed to serve the public good. …don’t confuse “for-profit” with “capitalist.” Without federal subsidies in the form of Pell grants and federal loan guarantees, the for-profits might not exist. At the very least, they would be much smaller. About 87 percent of the revenue at the biggest for-profits comes from federal taxpayers, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. They belong to a class of company that I call Subsidy Sucklers. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, earlier this year declared war on the for-profits, ordering the Government Accountability Office to investigate these schools’ marketing techniques. The GAO produced a scathing condemnation. …But a closer look revealed a murkier picture. The GAO last month corrected the paper, modifying 16 of the report’s 28 findings. At Education Week, Rick Hess wrote, “all 16 of the errors run in the same direction — casting for-profits in the worst possible light.” The credibility of Harkin’s star witness in his August hearing, Steven Eisman, was also called into question. Eisman is a short-seller who reportedly stands to make big money if the stocks of for-profit colleges collapse. He also is a vocal lobbyist for new regulations that would cripple these colleges. The term for Eisman is Regulatory Robber Baron. … Bill Clinton’s former special counsel Lanny Davis first flagged Eisman’s role in a Politico op-ed, and liberal ethics “watchdog” Melanie Sloan followed up, criticizing Harkin for allowing Eisman to testify, sparking the liberal American Prospect to ask in a headline, “Why Are Progressives Fighting Student Loan Reform?” The answer: money. On September 17 — about three months after Davis’s op-ed — Davis registered as a lobbyist for the Coalition for Educational Success, a trade group of for-profit colleges. Then in November, Sloan announced she was joining Davis’s lobbying firm. Also lobbying for the for-profit colleges are six former Democratic congressmen and three former Republican lawmakers. This tale has no good guys, but it does have a moral: When you inject government into an industry, you get some pretty unsavory results.

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Courtesy of Powerline Blog, we have a story about how Sweden’s bureaucratic health system made a mistake and…well, I’m not sure how to delicately phrase this…so let’s just give you the headline of the story: “Man’s penis amputated following misdiagnosis.”

Here are some of the details from a news report about the incident.

The man, who is in his sixties, first visited a local clinic in Blekinge in southern Sweden in September 2009 for treatment of a urinary tract infection, the local Blekinge Läns Tidning (BLT) reported. When he returned in March 2010 complaining of foreskin irritation, the doctor on duty at the time diagnosed the problem as a simple case of inflammation. After three weeks passed without the prescribed treatment alleviating the man’s condition, he was instructed to seek further treatment at Blekinge Hospital. But it took five months before he was able to schedule an appointment at the hospital. When he finally met with doctors at the hospital, the man was informed he had cancer and his penis would have to be removed.

The fact that doctors amputated the man’s penis is not the point of this post. Bad things happen in any country, including medical mistakes by well-meaning people. But a five-month wait for an appointment is an indictment of Sweden’s government-run system. We don’t know if the man’s equipment could have been saved if he got a timely appointment, but a less-drastic approach surely would have been more likely.

But I doubt Sweden’s political elite are too concerned about this story, just like America’s beltway insiders probably don’t worry about the consequences of Obamacare. Waiting lines, after all, are for mere taxpayers. Folks such as Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi will always rig things so they get to jump to the front of the line.

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The Incest Edition of “You Be the Judge”

We have a heavy “ick” factor today.

Our previous thorny legal posts have involved vigilante justice and a rather gruesome application of (what I assume to be) Sharia law.

Our question today is whether government should have laws against incest for people over age 18, and we’re discussing this because Switzerland is considering a law to legalize sexual relations between adult family members. Here’s a blurb from the U.K.-based Telegraph.

The upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law decriminalising sex between consenting family members which must now be considered by the government. There have been only three cases of incest since 1984. Switzerland, which recently held a referendum passing a draconian law that will boot out foreigners convicted of committing the smallest of crimes, insists that children within families will continue to be protected by laws governing abuse and paedophilia. Daniel Vischer, a Green party MP, said he saw nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex, even if they were related. “Incest is a difficult moral question, but not one that is answered by penal law,” he said. Barbara Schmid Federer of The Christian People’s Party of Switzerland said the proposal from the upper house was “completely repugnant.” …The Protestant People’s Party is also opposed to decriminalising the offence which at present carries a maximum three year jail term.

This issue also has been in the news because a Columbia University Professor recently was arrested for having sex with his 24-year old daughter, though the relationship apparently began after the woman turned 18.

If I was the the mother, sibling, or other relative of this woman, I would break Professor Epstein’s kneecaps (or perhaps aim a little higher), but I suppose there’s no reason why government should be involved in sexual matters between consenting adults.

That having been said, I certainly think it is appropriate and legitimate for the government to closely investigate, in instances such as the Epstein case, to see if any incest occurred before age 18. And if it did, break out the pruning shears.

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Previous posts on this blog have featured charts showing that Obama’s policies are not working (see here and here). I even showed a cartoon making the same point.And I cited a column with data comparing Reagan and Obama.

The Heritage Foundation has a very powerful addition to this genre, a chart comparing job performance during the Reagan and Obama Administrations.

This is a remarkable image, but let’s start with some disclaimers. There are lots of factors that impact economic performance, and many of them are outside the control of politicians. Moreover, it is impossible to know what would have happened in the past two years or in the early 1980s if Obama or Reagan had chosen different policies.

But even with these caveats, it is difficult to look at this chart and not conclude that Obama’s big government policies are much less successful than Reagan’s small government policies.

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I was thinking of doing a serious post about the TSA, especially after reading about the government’s petty and reprehensible attack on the pilot who exposed the bureaucracy’s absurdly inconsistent security rules. I also noticed a story about a 56-year old former rape victim who was arrested because she refused to let TSA bureaucrats grope her.

But then I saw these videos and they appealed to my juvenile sense of humor. Since most of my TSA posts poke fun at the bureaucracy in some form or fashion, I decided that they deserve to be my final (hopefully!) TSA post of 2010.

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