Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Should "Bed Blockers" be left to die?

Should a society leave newborn babies to die, if the cost of their survival is higher than the majority wants to pay?

That is the question now being mulled over in the United Kingdom, according to The Sunday Times:

The Sunday Times
March 26, 2006

Doctors call premature babies ‘bed blockers’
Sarah-Kate Templeton, Medical Correspondent

PREMATURE babies who require months of expensive intensive care in neonatal units have been labelled “bed blockers” by one of Britain’s royal colleges of medicine.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says the huge efforts to save babies born under 25 weeks are hampering the treatment of other infants with a better chance of survival and a healthy life.

If the British change their national health system's policy and allow such premature babies to die, they would be the second European country to make such a choice:

It would shift Britain towards practice in Holland, the only European country that accepts such babies should die. One paediatrician opposing such a change described it as “involuntary euthanasia”. However, Susan Bewley, chairwoman of the ethics committee of the RCOG, said: “I would prefer that every baby could be treated, but we cannot get away from the fact resources are not endless.”

Alongside the probabilities of survival with medical attention, the costs are outlined in the article:

About 800 babies are born each year under 25 weeks. Medical advances mean about 39% of those born at 24 weeks now survive, and 17% of those at 23 weeks. A normal-term baby is born at 40 weeks.

The cost of treating very premature babies is high. A neonatal intensive care bed costs about £1,000 a day and very premature babies can require intensive care for four months.

Research to be presented at the Royal College of Paediatrics conference shows babies born at 25 weeks or under cost almost three times as much to educate by the time they reach the age of six as those born at full term — £9,500 a year compared with £3,900.

Professor Sir Alan Craft, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics, said: “Many paediatricians would be in favour of adopting the Dutch model of no active intervention for these very little babies. The vast majority of children born at this gestation who do survive have significant disabilities. There is a lifetime cost and that needs to be taken into the equation when society tries to decide whether it wants to intervene.”

Sometimes the ability to do something presents dreadful choices when that ability has both limits and high costs. (Here is a description of the limits of our abilities as manifested in survivors' disabilities.)

What price can be placed on a human life?

If it were an adult, the answer need not come entirely from society. The adult who needs medical care could answer the question when he decides what proportion of his own earnings to set aside for the costs of his care. Differences in ability (but not willingess) to provide for one's own care could be equalized by society's subsidy.

Who could answer for a prematurely born child?

There seems to be no easy answer, yet a society may not be able to afford to do everything for everyone.

For countries that have adopted "socialized medicine" as their method of paying for care, the answers must come from the majority of citizens through their government.

I wonder how the question will be answered in the U.S.A.

We already have a substantial degree of government-funded medical care for the elderly, so will that be the first group for whom the question must be answered here?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The "R" is for Regional, not 'rithmetic

In the previous entry, I noted that something important was missing from the Kitsap Sun editorial opinion endorsing the idea of higher property taxes for the Kitsap Regional Library:

The relevant information is missing from the opinion, i.e., by how much has the library's tax revenue increased in the past five years?

Why didn't the Kitsap Sun and the Kitsap Regional Library tell people the actual amount of the library's revenue increases?

It seems apparent that the extent of the increases would have been an inconvenient fact for people to consider when deciding whether KRL needs a property tax "lid lift":

The total increase in property tax revenue from 2001 through 2006 turns out to be 18.2 percent.

It seems obvious that an increase of only 1 percent a year could not result in an 18.2 percent increase in only five years.

The lowest increase occurred in 2003, when the KRL levy went up by 2.75 percent, and the highest was 2006, when it increased by 4.1 percent.

The average annual increase in KRL property tax revenues since 2001 has been 3.4 percent.

Now it all makes sense: If the KRL can fool the voters into believing that their revenue has increased by only 1 percent each year since 2001, they may find it easier to persuade the voters to approve a higher property tax. And, it appears they can count on the Kitsap Sun to go along with the game.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sun Spots: Kitsap Sun Endorses KRL Property Tax Lid Lift -- Sight Unseen

The opinion published in today's edition of the Kitsap Sun supports voter approval of a property tax increase ballot proposition that neither the voters, the Kitsap Regional Library board of trustees, nor the Sun's editors have seen.

Next year, KRL is planning to ask Kitsap voters to approve a one-year levy. The measure is needed to help maintain the library’s level of services, considering its levy rate has been reduced by almost 10 percent over five years.

By any measure, Kitsap Regional Library offers residents here one of the most progressive and successful mid-sized library systems in the nation — and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. We hope you’ll remember that now ... and also next year.

It seems that knowledge is not one of the things the editors believe to be necessary before deciding how to vote on a ballot measure.

By how much would the Kitsap Regional Library board like to increase its tax revenue? Wouldn't it be nice to know this little bit of information before deciding whether to endorse the idea?

The editors describe the proposal as a "one-year levy," but they are surely wrong. A levy increase for only one year would be useful for a one-time capital expenditure, but not for meeting operating costs that purportedly exceed the revenue provided by the tax increase authorized by Initiative 747 without voter approval.

The proposal being considered by the library board is certainly what is called a permanent lid lift. If the voters approve, the library's levy lid would be raised to whatever limit the voters allowed for the following year -- and that next year's levy would set the lid for all subsequent levies until another lid lift is authorized by the voters. In short, taxes would be permanently higher, not just higher for one year.

The editors make the strange statement that a voter-approved levy increase is needed because the library system's "levy rate has been reduced by almost 10 percent over five years."

The effect of I-747 on the tax rate would perhaps be a reason to approve a lid lift, if the library spent its tax rate.

It doesn't spend its tax rate. It spends its tax revenue.

The relevant information is missing from the opinion, i.e., by how much has the library's tax revenue increased in the past five years?

Oddly enough, that information is also missing from the article which apparently prompted the editorial opinion to be written. In place of the needed information about the increases in revenue is an untrue statement about the effect of I-747:

Voter-approved Initiative 747, passed in 2001, caps annual budget growth of libraries at 1 percent. As property values increase, the library district’s tax rate drops, and revenues are limited to a 1 percent increase.

The first version of the article's statement made this stunningly wrong statement (since corrected):

Voter-approved Initiative 747, passed in 2001, caps annual budget growth of libraries at 1 percent, meaning that as property values increase, the library district’s revenue drops.

Anyone who has paid the least attention over the past few years knows that I-747 does not limit the increases in property tax revenue available for the library system's budget to 1 percent a year. It doesn't have that effect on any taxing district's property tax revenue increases.

The article also contained this explanation from the KRL spokeswoman about this year's increased expenditures:

Library officials say the cap in revenue gradually has limited funding for aging facilities and ultimately could lead to cuts in services, including the ones being implemented now.

"We’re hoping that everyone enjoys these new hours and services so much that they won’t want to give them up," Newell said.

How's that for forward thinking? The libraries will increase spending this year by staying open longer, among other things, and then plan to ask for a tax increase next year -- based on the fact that the spending increases aren't sustainable without a lid lift.

The editors describe this situation as one in which a lid lift is needed to "maintain the library's level of services." Odd, isn't it? They increased their expenditures just this year to a level that may require a lid lift to sustain, and that action is seen by the editors as the "level of services" which ought to be maintained.

Why not maintain the level of services that can be sustained without a lid lift, and then ask the voters for an increase in order to raise the level of services? The spokeswoman gives the reason: It may be easier to persuade people not to force a cut in services (especially if the proponents remain as silent next year about the beginning date of those services as they apparently now are about the actual revenue increases enjoyed by the library over the past five years).

Since the editors of the Kitsap Sun find this tax increase to be acceptable sight-unseen and based on a total absence of information about the impact of I-747 on the library's revenues, a reasonable person surely would wonder if there is a tax increase that the editors wouldn't like.

Heck, even an unreasonable guy like me wonders.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Oh, Come on, Canada

According to the Globe and Mail, the Canadians are demonstrating against the "war on terror" by the thousands in a "worldwide" effort:

Rallies mark third anniversary of Iraq invasion

Canadian Press

Thousands of antiwar protesters took their message of peace to the streets of Canadian cities Saturday, joining countless others worldwide marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In Toronto, police estimated around 1,000 protesters, including students, trade unionists and religious groups, assembled in front of a downtown courthouse across from the U.S. consulate for the country's antiwar rally.

The French, too, are engaged in protests against the war:

Thousands protest in France

Associated Press

Police loosed water cannons and tear gas on rioting students and activists rampaged through a McDonald's and attacked store fronts in the capital Saturday as demonstrations against a plan to relax job protections spread in a widening arc across France.

The protests, which drew some 500,000 people in cities across the country, were the biggest show yet of escalating anger that is testing the strength of the conservative government before elections next year.

Oh, my mistake -- the French are busy at the moment.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The piper must be paid

As I was saying, there can come a time when foreigners have little use for more greenbacks.

Here's a statement of the conclusion reached in a study report from a fellow who is thought to know what he's talking about:

The amount of foreign capital inflows required to sustain an American economy in which both the government and individuals eschew savings and spend beyond their means -- and imports far exceed exports --has soared to record highs. But even if the foreign appetite for U.S. Treasury securities and other U.S. assets continues to grow, a day of reckoning for what economists call our "current account deficit" is likely to arrive soon. And the price will be paid in a currency drop that will significantly reduce domestic economic growth.

So far, only the lowly Washington Times has given this idea any play:

U.S. trade deficit rises sharply
By Patrice Hill
March 15, 2006

The U.S. trade and investment deficit with the rest of the world ballooned to $805 billion last year, for the first time reflecting a spiral of rapidly growing debt service costs caused by rising interest rates.

The surge in the external deficit, which is larger than any other nation's at 6.4 percent of economic output, comes as the United States is spurning foreign takeovers of ports and oil companies and raising doubts about its ability to keep financing such unprecedented levels of debt, analysts say.

"It is certainly something to worry about," said Martin Feldstein, an economics professor at Harvard University and president of the National Bureau of Economic Research. "Continuing to attract funds when the current-account deficit is that large and continuing to rise is bound to become a serious problem."
The deficit amounts to about $2.2 billion a day in funds from abroad -- about the equivalent of one DP World ports deal every three days.

These funds, culled from every nation from Asia to the Middle East and Canada, mostly are invested in U.S. stocks and bonds, including the mortgage-backed securities that finance purchases of American homes.
A study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month concluded that the U.S. faces "a day of reckoning" soon from the pileup of debt, which will be marked by a drop in both economic growth and the value of the dollar and financial markets.

Economist Sebastian Edwards, author of the study, said that because of the sheer enormousness of U.S. debts, a sharp economic decline is the most likely scenario, with gross domestic product falling by as much as 5 percent in what would be a deep recession.

At some point, we need to begin paying our own way; and in the meantime we need to allow the people who accept our greenbacks to buy us out -- lock, stock and barrel.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Awash in Greenbacks

Via Pajamas Media and Orrin Judd: Washington state business leaders (well, at least the free trade believers) are unhappy with the cancellation of the Dubai ports deal:

Business leaders decry Dubai decision
By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Local free-trade advocates had harsh words Friday for the political tempest that led a Dubai company to back off its bid to manage cargo terminals at six U.S. ports.

"It is a victory for the bad guys," said Bill Center, president of the Washington Council on International Trade. "I can't imagine anything Osama (bin Laden) would be happier about."

What happens when the Middle East is awash in greenbacks with few ways to invest them in U.S.A. enterprises? With what will we buy their oil?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Washington Republicans Dour in Victory

Sometimes it seems that Washington Republicans can't win for winning.

As reported in The Seattle Times, the Republicans in the legislature aren't happy about the enactment of some of their ideas:

Republicans say legislative moves by Dems dim GOP election hopes
By Ralph Thomas and Andrew Garber
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — When majority Democrats wrapped up this year's legislative session Wednesday night, some of their biggest achievements read like a Republican Party wish list.

They took steps to resolve long-standing water disputes between farmers and environmentalists in Eastern Washington. They handed sizable tax breaks to farmers and the timber industry. They won a truce in the years-long war between business and labor over unemployment insurance. And they pushed through tougher penalties for sex offenders.

What's going on here?

Republicans say passing those bills was more about politics than policy — a strategic move by Democrats to take away GOP campaign issues ahead of the fall's legislative elections.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said he doubts any of those bills would have gotten far this year if elections weren't a few months away. "You have to ask yourself why, in a short session, so many big things came out of here," he said.

No, Sen. Hewitt, I ask myself why you're unhappy about having your ideas enacted into law. If they were good things to do, why aren't you glad they were done? Is it really more important to have things to complain about on the campaign trail?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

AP Tasted Crow But Didn't Swallow

In today's edition of The Seattle Times (and in the print, but not online edition of the Kitsap Sun) was an AP article that almost got it right about the levees, floodwalls, topping, breaching, warnings, and Bush's statement. ( seems to have been the first to put this article online, if my "Google" news search is any indication.)

Breach or overrun? What feds knew about levees
By Tom Raum
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Much of the controversy has focused on 10 words: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

President Bush made the statement in a TV interview Sept. 1, three days after Katrina slammed [into] the Gulf Coast and inundated much of New Orleans.

Apparently, there really can be a corrective effect from the work of the big fellows in the "blogosphere" like Power Line. The article as published by the Sun and Forbes, but not the Times, noted:

The transcripts and videotapes have touched off a brushfire among liberal and conservative bloggers, provided midterm election-year ammunition to Democrats and brought a defense by the White House.

Of course, the article didn't point out that the "ammunition" used by the Democrats was bovine excrement. That aspect of the leftists' partisan behavior must be so well known and understood by all that the writer thought it unnecessary to state it explicitly.

Unwilling to eat the crow after tasting it, the AP had this to say about the attempt to portray Bush as either completely ignorant or brazenly untruthful:

There is no specific mention of levees being breached at Bush's videoconference with federal, state and local disaster management officials on Aug. 28, the day before Katrina's landfall. A videotape of that meeting was one of two videos and seven transcripts of Katrina-related briefings reported by The Associated Press last week.

But there were dire warnings of a gigantic storm that could overflow the levees at that session and at other pre-landfall conferences. And specific mention of possible breaches was raised at an Aug. 29 teleconference that included Joe Hagin, deputy White House chief of staff.

Yes, there was a "specific mention" by Hagin the following day -- it was a direct question hours after the storm hit, and it was answered by a Democrat. But the AP doesn't say so until many, many paragraphs later:

Concern over possible levee breaches does show up in the transcript of an Aug. 29 conference. Participating from Air Force One, Hagin, the deputy White House chief of staff, asks about "the current status of the levee system."

Brown, who later resigned as FEMA chief under pressure, told participants he had spoken twice that day to Bush directly and that the president was "asking questions about reports of breaches."

Blanco said that, as of then, "we have not breached the levee" but "that could change." The Louisiana governor said, however, that water in some low-lying areas was 8 to 10 feet deep.

Note how the statement by Brown is interposed between the question and answer, as though he was responding. The actual response was from Governor Blanco. Brown's statement was not made in response to Hagin's question.

Note also how the answer by Blanco matched pretty well with what had been anticipated if levees were "topped" -- flooding in low-lying areas to a depth of 8 to 10 feet, but not flooding throughout downtown New Orleans and around the refuge of last resort, the Superdome.

It's something to keep in mind, because the AP propagandists and Democrats will surely scrape this stuff off their shoes and throw it again later.

This is also something to remember for next time. The congressional report (in the "levees" section) described the reason for the unexpected flooding of downtown New Orleans:

In contrast, there was little or no overtopping along most of the levees in the vicinity of Lake Ponchartrain. The only breach along Lake Ponchartrain was in New Orleans East, which was probably due to overtopping. But in the drainage canals that feed into Lake Ponchartrain — the 17th Street and London Avenue Canal — there was no overtopping, and the failures were likely caused by weaknesses in the foundation soil underlying the levees, the weakness in the soils used to construct the earthen levee embankments themselves, or weaknesses caused by vegetation growing along the levees. These were the most costly breaches, leading to widespread flooding of central New Orleans — to include the downtown area and several large residential neighborhoods. According to Van Heerden of LSU, “the surge in Lake Ponchartrain wasn’t that of a category 3 storm, and nor did it exceed the design criteria of the standard project hurricane.” Nicholson of ASCE concurred with this assessment, adding, “If the levees [on Lake Ponchartrain] had done what they were designed to do, a lot of the flooding of New Orleans would not have occurred, and a lot of the suffering that occurred as a result of the flooding would not have occurred.” [Emphasis added.]

When people, including Bush, talked in the days immediately after the storm about the unexpected, surprising or unanticipated levee breaches that flooded New Orleans, it was often in the context of the greatly increased difficulties posed by the extensive flooding when those floodwalls gave way.

On the evening of the day the storm hit, it looked as though New Orleans had been spared. Late that night, the failure of the floodwalls and the greatly increased flooding became apparent. The next morning, the task of getting to the people stranded in the Superdome was far more daunting. Just cutting a way through the debris on the roads and highways wouldn't be enough.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Seattle Times Echoes AP Lie

The Seattle Times published an editorial opinion piece today that continued the lie:

Transcripts and a government video revealed the administration and the president were warned in advance about the perils of Hurricane Katrina, the vulnerability of levees and the potential for catastrophe.

The president is not directly responsible for making sure ice and cots are available, but he is accountable for the urgency of the response by his team.

Before the storm hit, he was told firsthand about the dangers. So, it is mystifying how he could stand before the American public four days later and declare no one could have anticipated the levees being breached. [Emphasis added.]

Earlier, a room full of people he presumably leads told him exactly that. [Emphasis added.]

Occasionally the Seattle Times editors show some sense, but this isn't one of them. Bush was informed by Max Mayfield, the weather expert, that he didn't think anyone could say with any confidence whether or not the levees would be "topped" by the storm surge. No one told Bush that the levees would be "breached," yet the Times claims someone did.

Here's an idea: Name one person in that "room full of people" who told Bush "exactly that."

Friday, March 03, 2006

The AP Lies: "Topped" isn't "Breached"

There are times when the bias of some news media organizations is clear. This is one of those times.

The AP obtained videotapes of the August 28 and 29, 2005, videoconferences regarding hurricane Katrina, then put together a hit piece.

Here, you will find that hit piece. Click the link, "Bush gets storm warning."

On that tape, you will hear the weather expert (Max Mayfield) state on August 28:

"I don't think anyone can tell you with any confidence whether the levees will be topped or not, but that is obviously a very grave concern."

AP claimed that President Bush's statement four days later contradicted the warning given by Mayfield.

Bush's statement, as shown on AP's tape, was:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

Notice what AP would rather you not notice: "topped" is not the same as "breached."

When a storm surge causes water to "top" a levee, some flooding will occur. But, since the water only overflows the levee for a short time as the storm surge passes by, the flooding wouldn't be expected to be severe -- and the flood waters wouldn't be expected to continue to rise after the storm surge passes.

When a levee is breached (or, as in the case of Katrina's effect on New Orleans, canal floodwalls give way unexpectedly because of inadequate design and construction), the flooding is far more severe for the simple reason that water will continue to come in through the gaps until the water in the flooded areas reaches the level of the sea or lake from which the flood waters come.

It's a big difference.

The tape of the August 29 conference, which occurred at midday before the high storm winds had cleared the area sufficiently for rescue operations to begin, Louisiana Governor Blanco is heard telling everyone that there were reports of water "coming over the levees." She then stated that to her knowledge "we have not breached the levees."

Not until late that night was the failure of the canal floodwalls reported as a fact.

People participating in the videoconference on the day the storm hit would have understood that the storm surge had caused water to "top" the levees, so limited flooding would affect people in the area and response efforts. They would not have expected the flooding to get worse, since no one had reported to them the fact that the canal floodwalls had failed in several places.

Why won't the news media report the news accurately? Are they really that stupid? "Journalists" may be the least educated and least intelligent of all "professions," but don't they speak English?

The answer is obvious: The AP is not a news service -- it's a propaganda organ of the left side of the political spectrum.

Update March 4: According to Power Line, the AP released a "correction" last night, acknowledging that their story had erroneously treated the words "breach" and "topped" as meaning the same thing. Their calumny did the damage to Bush that they wanted, and now they can claim to have corrected the record.

Meanwhile, truth is once again still getting dressed while the lie runs halfway around the world. The Democrats have, naturally, posted the lie told by their propaganda organ on their own web site:

AP: Bush Knew About Levee Dangers
The Associated Press has obtained video footage from a briefing attended by Michael Brown, President Bush, hurricane experts, and a host of others in which Bush is clearly warned of the dangerous levee situation in New Orleans, despite saying: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

Would anyone wager that they will correct the record? There have been comments posted which tell them it's a lie, so they've been handed the truth on a silver platter.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bennish at Overland High: A school within a school?

Jay Bennish's social studies and American history classes at Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado, appear to involve something other than a study of history and society.

As reported by the Denver Post, Bennish has been placed on administrative leave while the Cherry Creek School District figures out what to do about his use of the classroom for leftist political ranting -- to a captive audience of high school students.

The article provides a link to an audio recording of Bennish's diatribe in class after President Bush's State of the Union address. Bennish sounds like a Michael Moore/Howard Dean/Albert Armand Gore wannabe.

It seems that Bennish has been conducting his own little "school within a school," and the only difference between it and a madrassa is the absence of Islamic studies.

He has had the effect he no doubt intended: Persuading naive teenagers that he is correct, and that no one should expect a balanced presentation of issues in an academic environment. His acolytes walked out of class in protest over his removal from the classroom:

At least 150 Overland High School students walked out of class today to protest administrators' decision to put a teacher on leave while they investigate remarks he made about President Bush during class, including that some people compare Bush to Adolf Hitler.

Look at the photograph published alongside the article. That is one possible outcome of Bennish's bigoted approach to his duty to provide an education to his students. It is undoubtedly what he wanted to achieve -- as he indoctrinated as many students as possible so they would accept his dogma as truth.

Bennish has been teaching social studies and American history at that school since 2000, and "was the subject of similar complaints a few years ago."

How many chances should he get before being tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail?