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Panic City

Unease about McCain. Jim Johnson: The view from Cornell. Lethal insurance. The Colbert Christmas drug show. A Scot never forgets. Plus much more.

9.23.08

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START PANICKING
Re: Robert Stacy McCain's Time for a GOP Panic?:

It's always time for a GOP panic when John McCain is out taking shots at Republicans. His potshot at Chris Cox last week is vintage McCain. In every emergency our boy slams his Republican friends first and conservatives hardest. Now he wants to nominate the Cuomo kid for SEC Chairman...what is John Sidney smoking these days?

A week ago I was ready to vote for him, but I don't know now.
-- Judy Beumler
Louisville, Kentucky

You can spin it any way that you can think of but the truth of the matter is that America woke up and realized that John McCain is losing his mind! I have been a Republican for most of my adult life and I've never seen anything like this. Sarah Palin is no more ready to VP than I am! In fact, I'm probably better qualified. And you want her to be a breath away from the presidency? With an aging man who seems to be suffering from senility? Are you crazy? Or do you think we are?
-- Nancy Hart

Robert Stacy McCain replies:
Well, certainly the proposal that Chris Cox be replaced with Andrew Cuomo as SEC chairman would be admissible as evidence of a Republican candidate's insanity. Putting a Democrat in charge of the stock market? As the kids say, that's wack.

In reading Robert McCain's article, I was thrown off. He tone seemed to indicate that the criticism of Sarah Palin has had a negative effect. He writes, "Relentless media criticism of Palin seems to have succeeded, at least temporarily, in turning Palin from an asset to a debit for the GOP ticket."

Although I am no accountant, I did learn enough in accounting to know that an asset is a debit in double-entry book keeping, while a credit is a liability. So either he's really saying that the criticism (or questions by some standards) has had no effect on Palin, or his accounting is as woeful as Fannie and Freddie's (ace lobbyist cum McCain advisor Rick Davis should have known). Like many Americans I wonder if Sarah Palin (let alone those who write about her) knows the difference between debits and credits -- knowledge fundamental to understanding America's financial crisis. The "criticism" of Palin could be more accurately characterized as asking questions of her mettle. There has been little outrage when difficult questions have been asked about Barack Obama and he has answered those questions. Palin meanwhile has been insulated from answering almost all questions and those being asked are decried as unfair.

Should you have the opportunity to interview our Vice Presidential candidate, go ahead and ask her what's the difference between credits and debits.
-- Matthew Beckwith

"The other" McCain wrote a book on sex, crime and corruption in the Democratic Party. Is there anybody who believes that the Republican Party is immune to these? Who traded an unattractive wife against a rodeo beauty with a lot of money?

Presumably "the other" McCain is not the right man to author a book on these flaws of the Republican Party.
-- Gabriel Sabbagh
Paris, France

The pre-election popular vote is irrelevant. Likely electoral votes would be more informative. Obama could win by a million votes in New York and California and lose by thousands of votes in many other states with more cumulative electoral votes.

Incidentally, it has been decades since pollsters didn't give the Democrat presidential candidate at least a 5% lead, even as late as election eve. Put not your trust in pollsters. They use numbers to effect change, not to measure it.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

I love how it must be the media's attacks on Palin taking their toll, rather than voters merely changing their minds about her as they get to know more about her.
-- Bob S.

Robert McCain refers to former Democratic consultant Jim Johnson as a "disgraced former lobbyist." And Mr. McCain also repeats a completely discredited claim, denied by both the Obama Campaign and Franklin Raines himself in an email Mr. Raines wrote to the McCain campaign. I have three questions. On what basis is Jim Johnson "disgraced"? If it is a disgrace to be a former lobbyist, then the McCain campaign would be utterly disgusting (i.e. Charlie Black, a chief advisor). So I think readers and Mr. Johnson deserve for Mr. McCain to cite examples of Mr. Johnson's public malfeasance that extend beyond him holding a different political perspective.

My second question is: there have been reported ties for days between current McCain staffers and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Today it was reported that Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, was paid $2 million lobbying for the deregulation that Senator McCain is now blaming for the current Wall Street crisis. Why is that that is less noteworthy to Robert McCain than Mr. Obama's ties to advisors that have either not spoken to him or advised him in months? Also, it seems that Robert McCain is relying on outdated reports that said Franklin Raines was an advisor to the Obama campaign. He was not. They have spoken to one another only briefly on one occasion when Mr. Raines sought a meeting. This is a claim being made by both Mr. Obama and Mr. Raines who wrote an email to the McCain campaign complaining about the ad.

Why is it that they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt? If this was Senator McCain, judging by their past tactics in the campaign they would cite McCain's POW service as a reason he could be trusted. But is the hatred for Obama so intense that when he and another man are said to have a working relationship and both men deny it, people like Robert McCain assume Obama is lying. I think these are all valid points that deserve to be clarified. I thank you for your time and effort. I hope you will respond.
-- Tyrone Sevens
Cornell University

Robert Stacy McCain replies:
To begin with, I didn't refer to Jim Johnson as a "lobbyist," disgraced or otherwise. Johnson, whose Democratic Party activism dates back more than 30 years, was the CEO of Fannie Mae 1991-98. A federal investigation found that Fannie Mae failed to disclose the full amount of Johnson's compensation, reporting his 1998 compensation as about $6 million, when it was in fact about $21 million. (Source)

Fraudulent accounting to hide two-thirds of the CEO's pay from investors? If that doesn't qualify Johnson as "disgraced," I don't know what would.

I wrote, Obama "reportedly solicited advice from" Raines -- and, indeed, this was reported by the Washington Post. If you have a beef with the journalistic standards at the Post, perhaps you should take it up with Len Downie. As to whether their reporting is "completely discredited" merely because both Obama and Raines denied it, perhaps it is helpful to remember how a certain Washington Post article from January 1998 prompted a rather famous Democratic denial: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." (Youtube video)

It was during the tenure of Johnson, and his successor Raines, that Fannie Mae became mired in the unsound business practices that recently unraveled in its complete collapse. As noted in my article, Obama was second only to Chris Dodd in contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: (Source)

Nothing is more persistent in politics than the belief of liberals that no behavior by Democrats, however sleazy or even criminal, ever amounts to anything really scandalous. Tell it to Mary Jo Kopechne, sir.

EXPENSIVE KILLER
Re: David Hogberg's Death and the Uninsured:

Though 18,000 Americans without health insurance die each year, many times more Americans with health insurance die annually. The prudent course, then, would be NOT to hold insurance. Insurance is lethal.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

I wonder if they consider being kept alive and in a vegetative state as a good health outcome? I will bet that people who have auto insurance probably, on the whole, have better looking cars, especially if the deductible is low. Maybe the auto body guild ought to get together a study that would keep their people just as busy as those working in healthcare? If the government was getting the bill for your auto repair however, you might have to take a lot of cars to the crusher sooner than the owners wanted to. Of course, the SUV's would be the first to go.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

The "people die because they don't have health insurance" may be accurate, but it's not the complete story.

People will die because of inadequate health care in every system, whether it's private health insurance, fee-for-service, or government funded.

The difference is that if one chooses fee-for-service (preferring to spend the difference on something else, or unable to pay for private health insurance), then that person decides which medical services are worth the cost.

When health care is government-funded, then some bureaucrat or committee decides which medical services are to be funded.

Canada is a good example of this. There are a great many medicines which aren't available in Canada, because they've been deemed too expensive. That's great for the pocketbook -- except when the allowed medicines don't work, or have bad side-effects. So my wife would have been out of luck in Canada after she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of glaucoma -- we had to try a number of medicines (each one costing more than the previous type) until we found one which halted the damage to her optic nerves.

England also provides another good example -- it's nearly impossible to get heart surgery for a patient who's older than 70, and there are long waits for younger patients. That's of more-than-academic interest to me -- my father was visiting England in 1999, and began having heart problems while he was there. He was told "oooh...you'd better get your name on a waiting list, since you'll have to sit around for months before you can get coronary bypass surgery." He responded with "I'm an American, so I'll get that surgery as soon as I get home." And that's what happened =- my sisters met Dad and Mom at the airport, and drove Dad straight to the hospital.

To reiterate -- every system denies medical care to some because of the expense. The only question is: "do you want to decide what's too expensive, or do you want someone else to decide for you?"
-- Calvin Dodge

The same minds that run statistics to reach the brilliant conclusion, "...it is possible that the number of deaths annually due to uninsurance could be as low as zero or as high as 47,000," are the same ones who manage institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And yet the public wonders how we ended up with our current crisis.
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

COLBERT CAN'T SAY NO
Re: George H. Wittman's Mexican Badlands:

In the early '80s, there was a reaction against having TV make light of drug use and give at least indirect support and approval to drug use. There was even a failed variety show that had a skit on drugs, after which Buck Henry broke character and turned to the camera and gave, in the spirit of a reluctantly fulfilled duty, a little sermon on how bad drug use is, whatever the humor there may have been in the skit.

One very sad evidence of the shift away from this reluctantly more moral position has been the frequent joking and bantering by Jay Leno about his bandleader's supposed use of marijuana. But the most blatant offenders lately have been the two Comedy Central hits, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Both have had representatives of drug movies on for repartee and yucks. At least Stewart tried to include, without any real success, arguments that drug use is ultimately bad and wrong. Colbert doesn't even try.

Now Colbert is doing a Christmas special in which he is going to sing a drug-based parody of "Little Drummer Boy" with the well-known druggie Willie Nelson; it will be called "Little Dealer Boy." So Colbert will manage to be both drug-promoting and sacrilegious in the same song. Outrage is appropriate, and even more so, with the evidence of the drug-domination of Mexico provided by Wittman's column, not to mention the power of the drug trade among some ethnic groups and gangs inside the U.S.
-- Richard L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

WE'RE NUMBER 1!
Re: William Tucker's Dueling Narratives of
America
:

William Tucker's "duel" can be reduced to one idea: those who still believe in American exceptionalism and those who don't. McCain does, Obama doesn't.

Perhaps it hasn't occurred to a lot of Americans, but the reason Obama relies so heavily on a Teleprompter may be due to the fact that he is incapable of speaking off-the-cuff about the unique greatness of this nation.
-- Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

MISALLOCATED
Re: George H. Wittman's Holding the Bag in Moscow:

Putin could use Russia's windfall oil revenues to rebuild Russia's military and intimidate Russia's neighbors, in an attempt to compensate for recent deep humiliations. Or Putin could invest the mountain of money in infrastructure, education, and such key technologies as biotechnology and nanotechnology, thereby ensuring a dynamic Russian economy into the highly competitive decades to come. Putin has chosen the former, much to Russia's future detriment.

Ronald Reagan taught Russians how to spend themselves into bankruptcy in the 1980s. Now they know how to collapse their own economy.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

CLEVER RUSE
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s The Democrats' Sham Energy Bill:

It's clear that these energy bills are a ruse to prevent the moratorium from lapsing. They are attempting to mislead the public into thinking that Congressional action is necessary to allow drilling...the truth is that no Congressional action is needed to allow the moratorium to lapse naturally and open up reserves.

This is our leadership? A viper's nest of liars, conmen, snake-oil salesmen and sunshine patriots. The question is how bad does it have to get before the American People wake up and put these clowns where they belong...in the unemployment line
-- major

PRESENT COMPANY EXCLUDED
Re: Brett Joshpe's Obama the Harvard Lawyer:

We need more articles enlightening us about lawyers/Harvard and the damage both do. While I lived for a time in Montgomery, Alabama, my wife and I attended a showing of the musical deriving from Cervantes Don Quixote. Site was the beautiful Shakespeare Center there. Arriving early, we browsed the gift shop and lo and behold purchased our most prized Pair of T shirts (we having a weakness for such). A beautiful red, they are inscribed with: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. --Henry VI." Though still a registered lawyer, I left it long ago. Only the very wealthy can afford a fair fight in the system that has evolved. Lawyers are one thing. Harvard ones, quite another.
-- M.J. Turkelson
Lebanon, Ohio

READ MORE BORING BOOKS
Re: Lawrence Henry's How to Read a Hundred Books:

I'm just wondering why Mr. Henry only reads works of fiction. Non-fiction would seem to be a world full of works that he could (and should) spend more time with.
-- John E. McConnell
Asburn, Virginia

SCAPEGOATS NEEDED
Re: Letters under "Bankers Will Be Bankers" in Reader Mail's Long Arm of the Law School:

I'm telling you, no matter how you explain it, most people are not going to understand why their government is going to bail out the financial institutions that are facing collapse.

A few years ago, the banks pushed through Congress legislation which allowed them to increase monthly payments on the one hand and make bankruptcy more difficult to declare on the other. There was quite a bit of moralizing about people paying their debts. On top of these are the expensive penalties that are charged when payments are late or one is over their credit limit -- even if by a single penny.

Now these banks are in trouble and we are the ones who have to get them out of the hole their dug for themselves. Corporate heads walk away with millions and benefits while those who can least afford it are left holding the bag.

This viewpoint may be overly simplistic but political reality is the public is not going to look too kindly on this additional debt laid on them and their children and grandchildren for those who are only looking out for themselves.

Luther had a saying. "The little thieves they throw into prison. The big thieves they hold grand feasts." So it appears to the general public.
-- Mike Dooley

TWO CENTS, 100 MPH
Re: Ira Kessel's letter (under "Why Stop at 100?") in Reader Mail's Long Arm of the Law School:

We were discussing driver's licensees for teenagers and the question of raising the minimum age. I threw in my two cents by referencing the cognitive abilities of adolescents. I pointed out three characteristics: 1.) Adolescent judgment is not of adult caliber (they often don't know when to back off when the red flags go up), .2.) They display an inability to link future consequences to their present actions. And 3.) They display an avoidance of personal accountability for their mistakes.

In reply, Ira M. Kessel compliments my "thoughtfulness" and then states: "Yet the same thinking does not apply to having schools throw condoms to students? Just asking, Mike." Being that I hadn't mentioned anything about handing out condoms to teenagers either way, I'm puzzled why this challenge was thrown my way.

Be that as it may, for my part I think handing out condoms is a horrible idea. However, I also generally find that one's answer depends on what you think is the real problem. Is the problem that teenagers are having sex and having babies or is the problem that teenagers are having sex? One perspective is aghast at all those unwanted infants plus the contaminant diseases. The other perspective is concerned at the widespread infraction of divine/natural law and the emotional damage adolescents suffer when they are confronted with adult issues they are not prepared for.

I am far more concerned for the potential emotional damage teenagers expose themselves to in "premature" sexual activity than the prospect of surplus infants. For this apprehension condoms offer no defense. Yes, poor judgment, insufficient capacity to link present action and future consequences, and avoidance of personal accountability do come into play with teenage sex.

Of course, there will always be those who will tell us that accessing the body parts of others when they were sixteen or thereabouts were some of the more wonderful moments in their lives. How can something that turned out to be good be wrong?

The answer is that there is a kind of evil which is not truly wicked in itself. Evil often is the illicit use of something intended for good. Sex in itself is meant for good. It is its wrongful use that does harm to one's spirit. So it is not surprising that something good would come out of adolescent sex. What would truly be surprising would be if nothing good came out of it.

The tragedy is we have lost the language in our culture to seriously speak to one another about hazards to a teenager's spirit -- hazards to anyone's spirit for that matter. The Germans have an expression called "unhealthy health." What it refers to is the phenomenon of gravely ill persons suddenly appearing to have an upturn in their wellbeing only to die afterward. Handing out condoms to teenagers may appear to be a positive, proactive solution; but it really is a sign of death.

For all its worth, that's my two cents.
-- Mike Dooley

FINDING SCOTLAND
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's (very old) Losing Scotland:

The article "Losing Scotland" went on and on about Scottish people being anti-English with not the slightest acknowledgement of the dreadful anti-Scottish abuse that is conducted in English" newspapers and magazines and on the Internet. Every week, some clown is proclaiming in mainstream print that "the Scots" are a nation of racists and/or parasites supported by the English taxpayer. No respectable Scottish publication would allow the English to be insulted in this way on their pages.

When I lived in London, I was on the receiving end of racist insults and, on two occasions, racist violence. Many Scots have experienced this. The last two occasions that the Scotland team visited to play England, our national anthem was drowned out by booing and the Scotland fans showered with bottles by England fans chanting, "I'd rather be a Pakki than a Jock!" Many English people celebrate in delight when the Scotland team lose. I am not suggesting that the racism is all one side -- I will leave that kind of partisanship to Hal G. P. Colebatch.

One thing in this article is a downright lie: there is prejudice and bad feeling on both sides of the Border but there is certainly no "anti-English obsession" in Scotland. This pernicious nonsense is based on the swollen-headed, self-important notion of England's idiot minority that Scotland is such a boring little place that the natives have nothing else to do except be "obsessed" with their wonderful, fascinating English neighbours. This horribly patronising and self-glorifying attitude does nothing but harm to Anglo-Scottish relations. Think about it: how would you like to share a house with a guy who keeps babbling on about how "obsessed" you are with him and how he is the centre of your otherwise barren little existence? How much of that do you think you could stand before you moved out in disgust?

Apart from anything else, Scotland's bigots expend most of their energy on sectarian hatemongering. Both Catholic and Protestant make up vile poems and songs about one another. A recent sickening example can be found here: Sing it to the tune, "The Sloop John B." if you have the stomach for it.

There is a stinking great mountain of anti-Catholic/Irish songs like that and an equal amount of anti-Protestant stuff from the other side. And yet...there are no anti-English songs or poems for the simple reason that even Scotland's most pathetically small-minded bigots do not find the good people of Hetton-le-Hole, Weston Supermare or Leighton Buzzard important enough or interesting enough to devote much time to them. Nevertheless, many English people, quite unaware of Scotland's bitter sectarian divide, preeningly imagine that every Scottish nose is pressed up against the window-pane "obsessively" hating and envying their English "betters." I guess anything that makes life in Leighton Buzzard a bit more bearable...

The next time The American Spectator reports on the Anglo-Scottish divide, how about a bit more open-minded spectating and less lazy assumptions that merely reflect English prejudices.
-- Rob Johnston
Deepest, darkest Scotchland
P.S. I sincerely hope that Colebatch's relatives who supposedly fled Scotland and moved to England in disgust at the "anti-English obsession" do not experience the kind of anti-Scottish racism that I experienced (from an idiot minority, not from most people) when I lived in London. I was abused, twice assaulted, and I found myself referred to by the nauseating appellation, "sweatie" -- the usual English derogatory term for Scottish people. If Colebatch's relatives get the treatment that I got, I wonder where they will go scampering off to next? Are they looking for a country where the entire population effortlessly above ethnic prejudice? They will certainly not find that in England, any more than they found it in Scotland.

We Scots do not claim to be superior to the English; we are simply sick and tired of being depicted as inferior to them in character. Take this garbage about an "anti-English obsession." This is the exact equivalent of a patronising American Northerner depicting American Southerners as thinking about nothing except hating "Yankees" and going on and on ad nauseam about the Civil War because these Southerners have nothing else in their sad little lives to occupy them. It is as grossly insulting, hideously condescending and absurdly misrepresentative as that. I might as well announce that the English have an anti-Scottish obsession (it sometimes seems that way nowadays). Would not do so, of course, because I am fully aware that making negative generalisations about whole nations or ethnic groups is the very essence of racism. Could some responsible member of your staff please take Hal Colebatch aside and explain this to him?

NO INTERNET, NO PROBLEM
Re: Bill Croke's Out of Touch:

What a wonderful piece of writing! It made me remember my own childhood in rural Alabama in the '40s and '50s. There was a lump in my throat when I finished reading it and a hunger in my heart for a return to the simpler life. Thanks again for the memories.
-- Ruth Warren
Canal Fulton, Ohio

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