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March 2018

Socialized Medicine: A Dose of Reality by Ileana Johnson

Although Britons do have affordable access to primary-care doctors, and everyone in the UK is covered through high taxes, they are subjected to extensive waiting periods for specialists, surgeries and hospitalization. The fact is that many patients die waiting for treatment.

Rather than rejecting the basic free-market principles of the US economy — as a 2016 Harvard University survey found that most do — young Americans would do well to ask themselves why it is that so many people from countries with socialized medicine flock to the United States for treatment.

According to a recent Pew poll, support for universal health care, provided and paid for by the federal government, is higher among American millennials than among older generations. Young Americans seem to believe that socialized medicine is a “cure-all” for health-care ills in the United States, as it ostensibly is elsewhere, such as Canada and Britain.

Unfortunately, there are facts that would appear to put this fantasy to rest by the facts — for instance, the tragic and untimely death of a 20-year-old British woman in her dorm room last March. Victoria Hills, a first-year student, died of an ear infection, after “postpon[ing] visiting her campus general practitioner because her student loan had not come through and she couldn’t afford the prescription.”

There seems to be a myth that all medical care, procedures and drugs are free under a socialized system. Although Britons do have affordable access to primary-care doctors, and everyone in the UK is covered through high taxes, they are subjected to extensive waiting periods for specialists, surgeries and hospitalization. The fact is that in the West, as the ability of physicians to provide services becomes stretched, many patients die waiting for treatment.

5 Reasons To Watch ‘The Prince Of Egypt’ With Your Family This Week This somewhat overlooked telling of the story of Exodus is serious and beautiful for adults and kids.By Mary Katharine Ham

It’s Easter weekend. Like any good Southern mom, I have approximately 17 pairs of shoes for my daughters and me, three coordinating but not matchy-matchy Sunday dresses, and some very matchy-matchy polka-dot bunny leggings I picked up at Target in the little girls’ section for good measure. Those were all easy to find.

A little trickier to find are activities that commemorate the actual reason for Easter in a way that young children can understand and enjoy. Obviously, if you’re looking for stories of suffering and sacrifice that end with the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises, start with the Bible.

But may I also suggest the 1998 animated movie, “The Prince of Egypt.” This ambitious production was the first project undertaken by Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks and was the top-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time, but it’s a bit of a forgotten gem 20 years later.

Here are five reasons to watch it this weekend with your kids.
1. It’s Epic

I don’t mean epic in the overused modern Internet slang way. I mean the themes are serious and universal, the story timeless, the music moving. Animation allows for the locusts and the blood and the frogs to pour forth in a truly stunning fashion, giving the Exodus story the towering, overwhelming imagery it was meant to have. There is one shot, during the parting of the Red Sea, of a whale silhouetted behind the giant curtain of water as a parade of tiny people walks to freedom in its shadow that is just stunningly beautiful.

As Roger Ebert said in his review, “What it proves above all is that animation frees the imagination from the shackles of gravity and reality, and allows a story to soar as it will.”

A lot of animated films aim to be entertaining for both adults and kids, tossing in sly jokes for the parents in the crowd. Pixar is famous for this. “The Prince of Egypt” feels more like an animated film for adults that children will also enjoy. There’s a bit of comic relief in the form of the Pharoah’s two hapless magicians (Martin Short and Steve Martin), but the movie is dignified and sophisticated. I discovered it as an adult and it holds up 20 years later with my kids.
2. The Cast

“The Prince of Egypt” was lauded for its voice acting, and with good reason. The cast is a bunch of A-listers in their prime in the ‘90s. Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Patrick Stewart, Sandra Bullock, Danny Glover, Helen Mirren, the aforementioned comic superstars as Pharaohs lackeys, and a special treat for any cast, but particularly voice acting — Jeff Goldblum.

Junk science: California calls coffee ‘cancerous’ By Monica Showalter

People have been enjoying and drinking coffee for thousands of years and recent health studies suggest it’s rather good for you, but now, all of a sudden, the State of California claims it has “science” to support the notion that coffee causes cancer.

That’s why some numbskull judge ruled that now all coffee must carry warning labels, same as dreaded, dangerous, cigarettes, warning everyone of cancer and attempting to get at least some people to stop. Can you say: ‘judiciary out of control?’

Associated Press reports:

A Los Angeles judge has determined that coffee companies must carry an ominous cancer warning label because of a chemical produced in the roasting process.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that Starbucks and other companies failed to show that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed any risks. He ruled in an earlier phase of trial that companies hadn’t shown the threat from the chemical was insignificant.

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, a nonprofit group, sued Starbucks and 90 other companies under a state law that requires warnings on a wide range of chemicals that can cause cancer. One is acrylamide, a carcinogen present in coffee.

What this activist suit and consequent judicial overreach represent is a sort of medicalization of food, nanny-state-style, as if food itself were some sort of toxic medicine, full of side effects, instead of a combination of risks and rewards, all ameliorated by moderation of use. And this judicial order to label coffee as cancerous is hideously disproportionate – the same sorts of carcinogens criticized in the coffee roasting process found in minute quantities can also be found in roasted peppers and bacon, too. Now coffee joins the ranks of all the other things that can possibly cause cancer, along with air pollution and BPA water bottles and building materials, many of which also carrry warnings yet change no behavior and improve no one’s quality of life. Now coffee needs to carry the explicit warning label, as if we would all like to buy a product full of as many warnings of side effects as an advertised prescription medicine on television, and as if those labels actually give any useful context or probability of cancer. It’s nonsense, because people who do get cancer rarely ever know what actually causes it. What’s more, as oncologists will tell you, none of these risk factors, not one, have anything like the predictive power of getting cancer as genetics do.

Another Tenured Professor Fired over Speech By George Leef

Tenure used to protect professors against termination for anything short of criminal behavior. In today’s PC climate, however, it’s no match for administrators who want to get rid of someone who’s said things they dislike. Violations of vague “harassment” policies are the weapon they employ.

That’s what Louisiana State professor Teresa Buchanan discovered in 2015 when she was terminated over her tendency to use coarse, blunt language. Even though she was a good teacher (she taught in LSU’s school of education), the administration decided to fire her after some complaints from students and an outsider. Objections from the faculty senate, which opposed Buchanan’s firing, made no difference.

With the assistance of FIRE, Buchanan took her case to court, but lost when the district court judge dismissed her complaint. I write about the case in this Martin Center article.

I have never been a great fan of tenure, but universities that have it should not undermine it with terminations for speaking in ways that offend “progressive” ears. Faculty (tenured or not) shouldn’t have to worry that the next thing they say or write will upset one of those people on campus who are looking for excuses to drop the ax on their perceived ideological enemies.

Married to a Child? Here’s a Brochure! By Bruce Bawer (!!!!!?????)

Our story begins with two Swedish government agencies. The job of the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) is “to ensure good health, social welfare and high-quality health and social care on equal terms for the whole Swedish population.” It is part of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. The Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) is “the authority that considers applications from people who want to take up permanent residence in Sweden, come for a visit, seek protection from persecution or become Swedish citizens.”

On March 24, the two agencies released a four-page brochure. It was entitled “Information for Those who Are Married to Children.” Yes, you read that right. Its cover featured a cheery drawing of a very dark-skinned girl in hijab and a somewhat dark-skinned boy and girl in more Western-looking garb. The style of illustration was recognizable from a thousand children’s books. But this wasn’t a children’s book. It was a brochure for adults living in Sweden whose “spouses” are minors.

The brochure started off by stating: “Child marriages are prohibited in Sweden.” Well, yes, technically. But the very existence of the brochure is a reflection of the fact that such marriages exist and are officially tolerated. The brochure explained the reason for the prohibition: “Children have the right to be children and not to have the responsibility that a marriage involves.” Also, children need schooling; marriage can lead a child to experience physical and psychological problems; and if a child gets pregnant, that, too, can lead to problems.

There followed a list of some of the rights that children supposedly enjoy in Sweden, among them the right to divorce, to refuse sex (even with a spouse), and to obtain an abortion. The brochure stated that having sex with a child is illegal, even if you are married to her. Again, all this is technically true. But in practice, nobody is arrested or imprisoned for being “married” to a child.

Knife Violence on the Rise in Germany By John Ellis

While this country is embroiled in a shouting match over gun violence, Germany finds itself in an internal debate about the rise in knife violence. Unlike this country, though, many in Germany seem to be focused on finding the root cause and, hence, the solution. As The Local reports of Germany, “police statistics [show] that refugees and asylum seekers are significantly over-represented in violent crime statistics.”

Titled “String of knife attacks further fuels debate over refugees and violence,” the article begins by listing a series of violent knife attacks. Almost all of the attacks were done by male teenage refugees. The listed knife attacks are disturbing and the article concludes with the statement, “At least seven knife attacks were recorded last weekend alone.” The article then adds, “the prevalence of asylum seekers as suspects in these crimes has given voice to those who say the government’s liberal refugee policies have made the country less safe.”

While there are undoubtedly leftists in Germany pushing back on ascribing the rising knife violence to refugees, it is refreshing that a country is seemingly interested in finding the actual problem instead of blaming knives—something that leftists in America would do well to imitate.

In an earlier article, I wrote about how guns have been around for as long as there have been schools in this country. In fact, previous generations openly carried guns to school. That fact means that the rise in gun violence in schools is not due to the presence of guns. In the article, I then explained that “when looking for solutions to problems, you need to first deal with variables that were introduced around the time the problem began. Guns are not the actual problem, and treating them as the actual problem will help ensure that the problem will never be solved.”

KGB Deception Is No Myth Diana West

Removing a few blinders from the Washington Post’s “Outlook.”

On March 18, 2018, the Washington Post Outlook section categorized KGB influence operations and my book, American Betrayal, both as “myth.” In response, I sent in the following essay, which Outlook has turned down.

I am the author of that unnamed “book written in 2013” whose research and argumentation, anchored in nearly 1,000 endnotes, were labeled a “myth” by Mark Kramer (“Five Myths about Espionage,” Outlook, March 18, 2018).

Here’s how Kramer made his case in “Myth No. 5”:

A surprisingly common misconception about spies is that they set out to change policy in the countries where they operate. A book published in 2013, for example, alleged that Stalin’s spies in the 1940s had effectively “occupied” the United States and guided the policies of the Roosevelt administration.

Since Kramer forgot to mention it, the title of that “book published in 2013” is: American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character (St. Martin’s Press). On page 68, I set out to describe the impact of the secret honeycombing of the halls of power and influence in New Deal/wartime Washington, D.C. by an intelligence army of covert agents and communists under Kremlin discipline — more than 500 have now been identified — and came up with “for all intents and purposes occupied.”

A goodly number of these secret agents, of whom Alger Hiss is only the most famous, reached senior policy-making positions in the FDR administration. In Kramer’s telling, however, all they really did as they inched closer and closer to the Secretary of the Treasury or State or the President was filch classified documents. Questions concerning whether/how these secret agents and ideological communists influenced the direction of U.S. policy- and even war-making to the Kremlin’s advantage — questions my book explores — are to be dismissed as what Kramer describes as a “surprisingly common misperception.”

Given that Kramer wrote an op-ed last year about the long history of “Moscow’s active measures to influence U.S. politics and undermine U.S. foreign policy,” perhaps it is his own recent Outlook statement that is surprising; however, it is no myth.

That there exist “spies” — better known as agents of influence, for example — who seek to “change,” or, more realistically, influence policy-making and other activities of rival nations is a fact. It is an especially salient fact in the case of the fronts, networks and sophisticated campaigns of deception directed by the KGB, and overseen, at least in the post-Stalin era, as renowned Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky reminds us, by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow. Lest there be any confusion, this has been going on for one hundred years — not only in “the 1940s.” My own book aside, I am afraid that when Mark Kramer, as director of Cold War Studies at Harvard, dismisses all of this and more as “myth,” it is akin to the Army Corps of Engineers dismissing as “myth” the presence of water in the Mississippi River.

Washington’s Fantasies Are Not People’s Reality By Victor Davis Hanson

The Beltway’s sober and judicious foreign-policy establishment laments Donald Trump’s purported dismantling of the postwar order. They apparently take the president’s words as deeds and their own innate dislike of him as disinterested analysis.

But is the world really imploding after 70 years of supposed “calm”? (Disregarding the Korean and Vietnam wars; Chinese, Cambodian, Rwandan, and Balkan genocides; at least six Middle East conflicts; 9/11; a dozen U.S. interventions; a nuclear Pakistan and North Korea; the Cuban and Berlin nuclear standoffs; 20 years of Palestinian terrorism followed by 20 years of radical Islamic successors; a European Union financial and border meltdown; the Russian absorption of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, to name just a few “hot spots.”)

In other words, Trump did not inherit an especially stable world. So has any elite expert over the past two years attempted to make sense of how some positive and much-needed change abroad was guided by Trump, someone without political and military experience and with a flawed character—and how and why that sometimes happens in history?

Correction, Not Chaos
In truth, after 2016, the United States is increasing its financial commitments to NATO. Several European members of the alliances may finally be addressing their prior unmet obligations and increasing defense spending.

The United Nations at least understands from Ambassador Nikki Haley that the United States will call out, rather than aid and abet, its occasional anti-Semitic lunacy. The president did not arbitrarily cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement. Instead, the agreement is up for renegotiation on terms other than the expectation that the United States will always accept asymmetrical deals as part of its required role as the continent’s superpower.

The world itself is not in chaos as alleged. It seems a far safer place than it was between 2009 and 2016. ISIS is no longer a viable threat, promising to establish a new caliphate, in between beheading, burning alive, and drowning the innocent on video.

In for a Penny, in for Impound How Trump and the congressional GOP can undo the worst of the omnibus.Kimberley Strassel

Plenty of Republicans remain bitter that their party passed that bloated $1.3 trillion omnibus—almost as bitter as President Trump, who felt pressured to sign it. But this fight doesn’t have to be over.

Across Washington, principled conservatives are noodling with an idea that—if done right—could be a political winner. It’s a chance for Republicans to honor their promises of spending restraint and redeem themselves with a base turned off by the omnibus blowout. It’s an opening for the GOP to highlight the degree to which Democrats used the bill to hold the military hostage to their own domestic boondoggles. And it’s a chance for Mr. Trump to present himself again as an outsider, willing to use unconventional means to change Washington’s spending culture.

It’s called the 1974 Impoundment Act, which allows the president to order the rescission of specific funds, so long as Congress approves those cuts within 45 days. The act hasn’t seen a lot of use in recent decades. Barack Obama never saw a spending bill he didn’t like, and George W. Bush never sent any formal rescission proposals to Congress—likely because he took the position that presidents ought to have a fuller line-item veto power. Many conservatives agree, though Ronald Reagan used rescission where he could and holds the title for most proposals. Even so, the total amount all presidents since 1974 have put forward for rescission ($76 billion) and the amount Congress ultimately approved ($25 billion) remains pathetic.

Republicans could change that. Their control of the White House and both chambers gives them an unusual opportunity to cut big. Under the Impoundment Act, a simple majority is enough to approve presidential rescissions—no filibuster. It’s a chance to take a hacksaw to the $128 billion by which the omnibus exceeded the 2011 domestic-spending caps—everything from carbon-capture technology to pecan producers to the Gateway Tunnel Project to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The political danger here rests in Mr. Trump moving unilaterally, with a rescission package that shames his fellow Republicans in Congress and puts them at greater risk in the midterms. The trick is instead for House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to request Mr. Trump go the impoundment route, or for the White House and congressional leaders to make a joint announcement.

Which gets to the other trick—getting congressional Republicans to come on board and take credit for spending cuts. The GOP is correct that most of the spending hikes were at Democratic demand, but many Republicans used that as an excuse to stuff in their own pork. Messrs. Ryan’s and McConnell’s job is to explain that, with midterms at stake, the party needs to prove it can do a better job with the federal fisc. CONTINUE AT SITE

A Trump Choice for Veterans Shulkin favored the status quo of limited health-care options.

It wouldn’t be a normal week in Washington without a Trump Administration personnel melodrama. But this week’s removal of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is important on the policy merits, and let’s hope his successor is more amenable to allowing retired service members to make their own health-care choices.

On Thursday Mr. Shulkin took to the New York Times to warn of “political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans” by supporting “privatization leading to the dismantling of the department’s extensive health care system.” This self-justification exercise will not be remembered as the most graceful exit.

Mr. Shulkin has been on the way out for several weeks, and his euphemisms are about his months of infighting with White House and other Administration officials. The unsubtle innuendo in the press is that Mr. Shulkin was run out by the nefarious Charles and David Koch through a policy group called Concerned Veterans for America.

Yet no one except Mr. Shulkin is talking about “privatization.” Concerned Veterans for America in a white paper has sketched out a plan to restructure the VA and allow it to focus more on the expertise its doctors have developed in, say, post-traumatic stress and prosthetics. The plan includes a premium-support payment so vets could buy discounted private coverage from a menu, much like federal employees do. A current vet who preferred to be treated for diabetes elsewhere would be free to make that choice.