Monday, August 31, 2009

Thought for Today

"The brave and bold persist even against fortune; the timid and cowardly rush to despair though fear alone."

~~~~~ Tacitus (55-117 A.D.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thought for Today

"In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude."

~~~~~ George Washington

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mark Steyn on Teddy's Passing

As he has done so many times before, Mark Steyn says it best in his new NRO column, Airbrushing out Mary Jo Kopechne. Here's a pullquote:
He dared us to call his bluff, and, when we didn’t, he made all of us complicit in what he’d done. We are all prey to human frailty, but few of us get to inflict ours on an entire nation.
Click here to read the whole thing.

Thought for Today

"The great secret of doctors, known only to their wives, but still hidden from the public, is that most things get better by themselves; most things, in fact, are better in the morning."

~~~~~ Lewis Thomas

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thought for Today

"A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog."

~~~~~ Jack London

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thought for Today

"We may not imagine how our lives could be more frustrating and complex – but Congress can."

~~~~~ Cullen Hightower

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mean, Cruel, and Heartless

8/26/2009 UPDATED AND BUMPED. He's finally gone to his reward – whatever it may be.

ABC News has put up an impartial account of the 1969 "incident" here: Chappaquiddick's Indiscretions Forever Tarnished.

Many are now in mourning for this moral cretin. Sorry, but I am not among them.

May God have mercy on his soul.

ORIGINAL POST 5/21/2008 8:40 PM

Amidst all of the shock and sadness, shouldn't someone have mentioned that all of the copious tears of sorrow over Edward Kennedy's brain cancer diagnosis are being shed for a murderer? Nobody else has, so I'll take on the thankless task.

I guess that makes me mean, cruel, and heartless.

Maybe I am, but on the other hand, I've never killed anybody, either.

Tell you what, though – before you decide, read this thorough, impartial account of the events of July 18, 1969, "Incident on Chappaquiddick Island," on

Sen. Edward Kennedy has already lived 39 years past the day when Mary Jo Kopechne drowned inside his car. Back in 1969, he used his family's wealth, power, and influence to escape any real punishment for his crime. Since then, he has used his position as a powerful senator to do incalculable damage to this country. The only real price that this shameless hypocrite ever paid was having to abandon his plans to run for the presidency. Perhaps it's ungracious of me to state that he's finally going to get what's been coming to him all these years, but I'm doing it anyway.

Lion of the Senate, my butt! If he had a shred of decency within him, he would have resigned from public life following the "Incident on Chappaquiddick Island." The fact that he did not speaks volumes about the man's character. The Senate, as well as the entire nation, will be much better off once he is no longer a member.

For his sake and the sake of his family, I only hope that his death, when it comes, will be swift and painless. Certainly, he will not have to suffer anything like the prolonged agony and horror that Mary Jo Kopechne must have suffered as she fought for her life inside his submerged Oldsmobile.

UPDATED: Finally, someone is telling the truth about the record of this despicable excuse for a man. Michael Savage has posted "The Real Kennedy Record" on his website, along with a short opinion piece, "The Real Ted Kennedy," by his show's producer, Beowulf Rochlen.

Read through the list of Kennedy's "accomplishments," then decide whether he is really deserving of this massive national outpouring of sympathy and sorrow.

My first instinct was correct. As a fellow human being, I'm sorry that Kennedy has been struck with an incurable and fatal brain cancer. But at the same time, as a patriotic American, I'm overjoyed that the U.S. Senate will soon have to pull itself together and learn how to function without him.

Thought for Today

"He who attacks the fundamentals of the American broadcasting industry attacks democracy itself."

~~~~~ William S. Paley

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thought for Today

"During my eighty-seven years I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think."

~~~~~ Bernard M. Baruch

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thought for Today

"A winner hopes for a miracle after everything else has failed. A loser hopes for a miracle before anything has been tried."

~~~~~ Sydney J. Harris

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thought for Today

"When thought is too weak to be simply expressed, it's clear proof that it should be rejected."

~~~~~ Luc de Clapiers

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thought for Today

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."

~~~~~ Henry Van Dyke

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thought for Today

"My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous."

~~~~~ Mark Twain

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thought for Today

"He who labors diligently need never despair; for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor."

~~~~~ Menander of Athens

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thought for Today

"Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen."

~~~~~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thought for Today

"Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."

~~~~~ John Quincy Adams

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mark Steyn Hits Another Grand Slam

Mark Steyn has got to be one of the most consistently great writers on the planet. Here's the beginning of his latest must-read column, this one on the subject of American health care, You’ve Had a Good Innings:
Some years ago, when I was a slip of a lad, I found myself commiserating with a distinguished American songwriter about the death of one of his colleagues. My 23-year-old girlfriend found all the condolence talk a bit of a bummer and was anxious to cut to the chase and get outta there. “Well,” she said breezily. “He had a good innings. He was 85.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” he said. “I’m 84.”

That’s where Obamacare leads: You’re 84, and it’s easy for him to say. Easy for him to say what you need — or don’t need. Relax, he assured an audience of puffball-lobbing plants in Portsmouth, N.H. . . . By the way, when I mock “puffball-lobbing plants,” obviously all such events are stage-managed, but the trick is to make it not quite so obvious. When Nixon was campaigning in ’68, Roger Ailes used to let a couple of dirty no-good long-haired peaceniks into the room so his candidate could swat ‘em down: It ginned up the crowd, made for better TV, and got the candidate pumped. “Thought it went well tonight,” he’d say. “Really socked it to those hippies.” In essence, Ailes stage-managed it to look un-stage-managed. If those who oppose Obamacare are merely a bunch of “un-American” “evil-mongers” (according to, respectively, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid), the cause would benefit from allowing the president to really sock it to a couple of them once in a while. To retreat behind a wall of overly drooling sycophants does not help Obama at this stage in the game.

A little later in the piece, Mark characterizes the British health care system thus:
In Britain, they use a “Quality-Adjusted Life Year” formula to decide that you don’t really need that new knee because you’re gonna die in a year or two, maybe a decade-and-a-half tops. So it’s in the national interest for you to go around hobbling in pain rather than divert “finite resources” away from productive members of society to a useless old geezer like you.

As with pretty much everything Mark writes, you'll want to read the whole thing.

In Memoriam: Les Paul

Les Paul (June 9, 1915 – August 13, 2009)

Mary Ford (July 7, 1924 – September 30, 1977)

Thought for Today

"Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty."

~~~~~ Samuel Adams (1722-1793)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dr. Alex Lickerman: A Prescription for the Health Care Crisis

Dr. Alex Lickerman, practicing physician and blogger extraordinaire, has just written A Prescription for the Health Care Crisis. I enthusiastically recommend it for anyone with an interest in health care reform. In particular, I think it should be required reading for all of our U.S. Senators and Representatives.

Here's how it begins:
With all the shouting going on about America’s health care crisis, many are probably finding it difficult to concentrate, much less understand the cause of the problems confronting us. I find myself dismayed at the tone of the discussion (though I understand it—people are scared) as well as bemused that anyone would presume themselves sufficiently qualified to know how to best improve our health care system simply because they’ve encountered it, when people who’ve spent entire careers studying it (and I don’t mean politicians) aren’t sure what to do themselves.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that if he had an hour to save the world he’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes solving it. Our health care system is far more complex than most who are offering solutions admit or recognize, and unless we focus most of our efforts on defining its problems and thoroughly understanding their causes, any changes we make are just likely to make them worse as they are better.

Though I’ve worked in the American health care system as a physician since 1992 and have seven year’s worth of experience as an administrative director of primary care, I don’t consider myself qualified to thoroughly evaluate the viability of most of the suggestions I’ve heard for improving our health care system. I do think, however, I can at least contribute to the discussion by describing some of its troubles, taking reasonable guesses at their causes, and outlining some general principles that should be applied in attempting to solve them.
By all means, go read the whole thing.

For what it's worth, I did, then left Alex this comment:
Alex, this is an excellent, thoughtful, apolitical discussion that ought to be required reading for all of our U.S. Senators and Representatives. Perhaps a few of them would get the message that the subject of health care is far more complicated and interdependent that they realize. Therefore, they need to tread very, very carefully – because any well-meaning “reforms” they enact are far more likely to result in adverse unintended consequences than in real improvements.

Indeed, Congress’ past track record is replete with examples of laws passed with the best of intentions, but that nevertheless ended up causing far more, and in many cases, far more serious, problems than they solved. As just one recent example, consider the case of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). One year ago, it was enacted with the universally approved aim of stopping the importation of dangerous lead-laced toys from China. Only later did we learn that among its myriad other unintended side effects, the law also bans the distribution of children’s books printed before 1985.

CPSIA was intentionally written in such a manner as to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission no discretion in determining whether or not the law applies to a given situation. At the same time, its specific requirements are so nebulous that in reality, the specific requirements of the law are, basically, whatever the Commission says they are. The perverse end result is to make it impractical or impossible for thousands of small, specialized companies with limited resources to remain in the business of furnishing low-volume items intended for children, while rewarding the very same huge, big-box store chains that caused the problem in the first place by importing cheap junk from China – since they are the only ones with sufficiently deep pockets to comply with the new law.

Oddly enough, the exact same House committee chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who is primarily responsible for the disastrous, gotcha-filled CPSIA is also the prime mover behind the House health care reform bill, as well as the even more disastrous cap-and-trade measure already approved by the House, but thankfully not yet passed by the Senate.

In view of their abysmal record, why should we have any confidence that Rep. Waxman and his myrmidons will do a better job with the infinitely more complex task of health care reform than they did with the CPSIA and the cap-and-trade bill? On the contrary, it seems to me that we would be well-advised to keep these arrogant know-it-alls as far away from our health care as possible.

Thought for Today

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

~~~~~ John Quincy Adams

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thought for Today

"The ultimate consequence of protecting men from the results of their own folly is to fill the world with fools."

~~~~~ Herbert Spencer

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mark Steyn Gives Away the End Game

Mark Steyn deftly addresses the nature and purpose of Obama's approach in Untangling the Spaghetti:
"That’s where all the poor befuddled sober centrists who can’t understand why the Democrats keep passing incoherent 1,200-page bills every week are missing the point. If 'health care' were about health care, the devil would be in the details. But it’s not about health or costs or coverage; it’s about getting over the river and burning the bridge."
Not exactly the "Hope" and "Change" they voted for, is it?

Before he has finished his first (and, Lord willing, only) term, Barack Hussein Obama will most assuredly have succeeded in one unintended endeavor: he will have replaced Jimmy Carter as the most stunningly incompetent president in our nation's history. Meanwhile, let us do all we can to prevent him from getting over that river.

Rich Lowry Nails It

In his latest column, Rich Lowry flawlessly articulates the phenomenon we've all been seeing ... and catalyzing: On Health Care, a Populist Revolt. Here are the first few paragraphs:
The best moment of almost every YouTube video of the raucous town-hall meetings on health care is the same: It’s the nonplussed look on the face of the senators and congressmen who have rarely suffered such indignity. Be assured: No one talks to them that way in the “members only” elevators in the U.S. Capitol.

Nancy Pelosi and Co. insist that the town-hall protesters are the tools of special interests. Not likely. Almost all of the special interests have been enticed or bullied into cooperating with Obamacare. The alphabet soup of major players on health-care policy is basically on board — PhRMA (the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America), the AMA (American Medical Association), the AHA (American Hospital Association), AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), and the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons).

Pres. Barack Obama and the Democrats may still imagine themselves insurgents storming the gates, but that self-image should have expired last November. On health care, they have played a brilliant inside game. They have used their sheer power to cut deals with craven lobbyists seeking to limit damage to their clients. Everything was set for a cram-down of sweeping legislation — with special interests uttering hardly a peep — before August in a well-executed power play.

Then public opinion intervened. Obama is now on the wrong side of a genuine grass-roots revolt by people who feel ignored by everyone who is supposed to be representing them.
To read the rest, go here.

Ronald Reagan Speaks Out on Socialized Medicine

Thought for Today

"The right to be left alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."

~~~~~ Justice William O. Douglas

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thought for Today

"Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen."

~~~~~ Peter Marshall

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For ...

Hugh Hewitt occasionally receives and reprints an email from an anonymous correspondent – an advertising executive who uses the nom de email "Bear in the Woods." Yesterday's, On Canadian Health Care --From "Bear in the Woods", was particularly insightful. Its author encourages others to pass it along, and I'm privileged to honor his request.
This isn't about advertising. It's about experience. Some of which, I feel I have to share. If you think it's worth it, please forward this post, or cut and paste it, and email it. may end up on a "fishy" list, but, whatever. It's too important not to share. And it's the true story of some of my experiences. I'm not a doctor, and I don't play one on tv. I don't know all the proper terms for what I'm about to describe. But I do know what happened, because I was there.

My wife is Canadian. So are my kids. The kids are American, too -- they have US Birth Abroad papers, and yes, they have birth certificates. They have passports from both countries. I met my wife while shooting in Vancouver. She didn't want to leave just because we were getting married, so i lived there for 3 years. Those three years changed my views about a lot of things. Health care is one.

I went into it with an open mind. After all, I'm not Canadian, so i wasn't paying for it. I paid if I needed to go to the doctor. The prices were really low, because they were government-subsidized. One pretty big emergency room visit for a kidney stone cost me CDN $500. Not bad, in comparison. Of course, Canadians picked up the rest of my tab. Boy, did they ever.

One of the reasons I never became a Landed Immigrant (Canadian equivalent of a Green Card) was because I didn't want Revenue Canada near my paycheck. My business was in the US, and the IRS is plenty, thank you. Back then, which was almost 10 years ago, I think it was CDN $35,000 or so that was the beginning of the 50% bracket. (I do not know if that number is accurate. It could be higher. But it's really, REALLY low, compared to our highest threshold.) Now, add Provincial (state) income tax to that. Note that you cannot deduct any mortgage interest, or much of anything, from either. Then add a national GST (Goods and Services Tax) to everything you buy. On top of that, add PST (Provincial Sales Tax) to everything you buy. AND add special provincial and local taxes to purchases of special things, which aren't, typically, all that special, and actually cover a lot of the things you buy. One special thing, for instance, is gasoline. I just got off the phone with my brother-in-law, who can't remember, exactly, but he thinks gas is about $1.09 right now in Vancouver. That's for a liter of gasoline. A LITER. Which would make it over $4.00 a gallon. And that's not too bad, these days, he says. If you smoke (I don't), the tobacco taxes will kill you before cancer will.

So, what do all those taxes buy you, in the form of health care? Well, let's talk about that kidney stone I had. If you've ever had one, you know immediately why I went to the emergency room. As it turns out, growing up in Florida, and as a member of my particular family, means I'm predisposed to more. Looking forward to that. Anyway, this one was my first one, and it hurt worse than anything had ever hurt. I didn't see a doctor at the ER, but the nurse (or PA - I don't know for sure) was able to give me some Darvocet, and a prescription for more. I also got an appointment with a urologist for the following week, which was a fast-track exception, because I was a foreigner. A week later, still a bit dazed from a growing Darvocet habit, I got to see the guy, who was really nice, and was hoping to move to the US to practice, so he could make a decent living. He told me I'd probably pass the stone, and would simply need to take the Darvocet until I did. If, however, I didn't pass it in about a week, they'd have to think about breaking it up with ultrasound. I'd heard about this from my dad. Apparently, it's pretty quick, and totally painless -- the machine breaks up the stone into small bits with sound waves, and you pass the bits easily. Most US hospitals, and a lot of clinics, have a machine to do this. The only hitch? In all of BC, there's one machine. This is a place about 125% bigger than Texas. Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada. And there's one machine. It travels the province like a roving minstrel. It wasn't due back in Vancouver for 6 more weeks. I passed the stone two days later. Thank God.

The brother-in-law I spoke to tonight is an interesting story. Seems his tonsils reached the point, about 3 years ago, when they simply could not do their job anymore. In fact, they began to cause serious infections. So serious that, more than once, he had to be rushed to the hospital, and kept for several days. He required IV for fluids, and for drug delivery, while in the hospital -- and was listed as critical on both occasions. The doctor informed him he required a tonsillectomy as soon as possible. Until he got his tonsillectomy, there would be, he was assured, more hospital visits. The first available date for him -- a guy in his 20s -- was two years away. For 9 months, in order to stave off infection, he did an outpatient plan where he went to the hospital 3 times a day, every day, to receive treatment via IV. (Once every 8 hours.) A week on the plan, a week off. Doesn't seem like a cheap, or pleasant, experience to me, but what do I know? Luckily, his tonsillectomy got fast-tracked, and he was able to get it after only 9 months of this regimen. Nine freakin' months. Makes the expense of ice cream and cowboy pajamas, and the week of quiet, back when I was five and had my tonsils out, seem -- I dunno -- quaint.

I have a lot of stories like this. More than I can write here, and way more than you'll read. And I only lived there three years. Stories about my wife, her mom, more brother-in-law stories, some pretty scary ones about my kids, and a particularly sad one about my wife's grandmother. Most aren't life and death -- the grandmother one is -- but all of them illustrate a health care system that's inefficient, and reduces choice -- because it's run as a government bureaucracy. I tell the funnier ones because there are plenty of truly scary ones already out there. I didn't want to be accused by the YouTube lady at the White House of spreading disinformation. Hey, this is comedy. Of sorts. I do want to tell one more story, though. Because it illustrates how socialized health care -- socialism in general -- reaches beyond the doctor's office:

One night when my son was six months old, he had a raging fever that went beyond normal baby fever. My boy is, well, feverish, so it wasn't a completely unusual thing -- but this one was unusually high, and climbing. Unfortunately, we were out of Infant Tylenol, which had shown past success in bringing his fever down. So I went to the store to get some. Now, we lived in a suburb, about an hour from downtown Vancouver. It was about 9:30 p.m., so the only nearby store that was open where I could buy Infant Tylenol was the big Safeway, which had a good pharmacy. When I got to the cold medicines isle, I found that the Tylenol, including Infant Tylenol, was locked up behind a plexiglass door on the shelf. I was no stranger to locked OTC medicines -- I've lived in New York and Miami, and I know that people steal stuff. Especially drugs. So i asked the clerk if she could unlock it so I could buy some Infant Tylenol. She looked at me like I was from Mars.

"Oh, no, Hon -- the pharmacist has gone home. She leaves at 9:00. She has to be here for us to sell it."

Well, that's a stupid rule, I thought. And I said so. But, it's not a rule, she assured me. It's the law in BC. That's right -- the law. Never mind that even if the pharmacist had been in the store, she wouldn't have a clue what I was buying -- or even that I exist -- because when she's there, it's unlocked, and it's four isles away from where she works. You can buy it at a regular register. That is, as long as the pharmacist is in the building. Why? Because somebody might have a question. This is Infant Tylenol, for cryin' out loud! What is there to ask?

We ended up calling an ambulance when my son's fever reached 103F (still can't do Celsius) and continued to climb. We had an emergency room visit, where, you got it -- Infant Tylenol -- brought the fever down, and he was ok in an hour. Well, thank goodness we took the economically efficient way out of that one. The Tylenol at the Safeway might have cost us $25 or $30 (remember all those taxes...). But the ambulence and the ER were FREE. Well, ok, the Canadians paid for it somehow.....

Incensed, I went back to Safeway the next day to see what, exactly, I can't buy when there's no pharmacist on site. Cold medicines, of course, can be dangerous, so what else is too dangerous for people without proper guidance? Turns out most anything with any kind of medicine in it. Tegrin Medicated Shampoo, is, apparently, dangerous. So is Oxy-10 facial scrub. And the list goes on, and on, and on. It's funny, in a very sad kind of way. Socialized medicine leads to socialized over-the-counter medicine, which leads to socialized zit medicine. It, itself -- socialism, I mean -- is a disease.

I know this post is long. But the stories are worth repeating. Because the issue is big, and it's complex, and it has unintended, and intended consequences. Our elected representatives don't want to read the bill, because they don't want to know, or hear about those consequences. Or because they do know, and they believe those consequences are perfectly acceptable, in the name of increased control of our choices, and our lives. I won't pretend that the US health care system is perfect. It's not. But it's a hell of a lot better than what exists in Canada. And anyone who tells you different is either lying, or just plain wrong.
For older posts on the subject of Canadian health care, look here and here.

Thought for Today

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."

~~~~~ Cicero

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rabinowitz on Obama & Co.

The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz is always worth reading. Her latest column, Obama’s Tone-Deaf Health Campaign, is a deadly accurate diagnosis of what ails the Obamessiah's health care reform campaign. Here's how she begins:
It didn’t take chaotic town-hall meetings, raging demonstrators and consequent brooding in various sectors of the media to bring home the truth that the campaign for a health-care bill is, to put it mildly, not going awfully well. It’s not hard now to envision the state of this crusade with just a month or two more of diligent management by the Obama team—think train wreck. It may one day be otherwise in the more perfect world of universal coverage, but for now disabilities like the tone deafness that afflicts this administration from the top down are uninsurable.

Consider former ABC reporter Linda Douglass—now the president’s communications director for health reform—who set about unmasking all the forces out there “always trying to scare people when you try to bring them health insurance reform.” People, she charged, are taking sentences out of context and otherwise working to present a misleading picture of the president’s proposals. One of her key solutions to this problem—her justly famed message encouraging citizens to contact the office at if they got an email or other information about health reform “that seems fishy”—set off a riotous flow of online responses. (The word “fishy,” with its police detective tone, would have done the trick all by itself.)

These commentaries, packed with allusions to the secret police, the East German Stasi and Orwell, were mostly furious. Others quite simply hilarious. Ms. Douglass, who now has, in her public appearances, the air of a person consigned to service in a holy order, was not amused.
If our rookie president were to listen to such criticisms, learn from them, and modify his approach accordingly, he might actually get somewhere. Fortunately for the citizenry, he is far too arrogant, stubborn, and solipsistic for that. Or, as Dorothy Rabinowitz so eloquently describes him,
The president has a problem. For, despite a great election victory, Mr. Obama, it becomes ever clearer, knows little about Americans. He knows the crowds—he is at home with those. He is a stranger to the country’s heart and character.
By all means, go read the whole thing.

An Excellent Judge of Character

Thought for Today

"Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid."

~~~~~ John Wayne

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thought for Today

"Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together yield themselves up when taken little by little."

~~~~~ Plutarch

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Banning of Pre-1985 Children's Books

It seems that relatively few people are aware that as of February, 2009, it has become illegal to distribute children's books printed before 1985. The Washington Post wrote a comprehensive story about it last March 24th, Book Dealers Told to Get The Lead Out by Michael Birnbaum, but the rest of the mainstream media, even including the New York Times, ignored it.

Now, we're stuck in a classic, Kafka-esque example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Unless they are willing to spend $300 to $600 per book to ascertain that its lead content is within safe limits, no one can legally do anything with a pre-1985 children's book except throw it away. The penalty has been set by law as a fine of up to $100,000 for each violation.

Meanwhile, no one has yet come up with a single case in which exposure to a pre-1985 book has ever caused any child to develop an elevated blood lead level, much less a case of lead toxicity.

Walter Olson, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, has written an excellent discussion of the problem for The City Journal, The New Book Banning. He has also posted about it several times on his personal blog, Overlawyered, most notably here: CPSIA and Vintage Books. For all of his posts on the subject since February 24, 2009, including dozens of links to other useful resources, click here.

Among Walter Olson's many excellent links is this outstanding article in The New Atlantis magazine by Elizabeth Mullaney Nicol, Keeping Books Safe: A Bad Law Threatens Our Past. Here are Olson's comments on the article in Overlawyered, CPSIA and books: “A bad law threatens our past”.

More recently, Jonathan Adler, Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University and one of the group responsible for The Volokh Conspiracy blog, posted The End of Vintage Kids' Books?

The CPSIA law itself is immensely complex, leaving its enforcement open to considerable bureaucratic discretion and arbitrary caprice. As you will learn, to date, no one has been able to get reliable information on exactly what the law means in given situations. In fact, the CPSC's Guide to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters and Charities (PDF) is quite nebulous about precisely which measures are necessary to assure compliance in a given situation. Compliance would be difficult enough in a large organization with a separate Compliance Department. In a tiny one- or two-person business, it would be an impossibility.

At the time it was passed and signed into law, few realized the devastating effects of this new law. By November of 2008, though, the word had begun to circulate among libraries, dealers in used books, small manufacturers of children's toys, and thrift shops. Many of these people deluged the Consumer Products Safety Commission with thousands of justified, well-documented complaints. As a result, on January 30, the CPSC issued a stay postponing enforcement of the law for one year. However, there is far less to the stay than there seemed to be at first glance. It merely affects the enforcement of the law, not the requirements for compliance with its standards. In other words, its practical effect is more to agree to look the other way for a year – to relieve the CPSC of responsibility for policing violations of the law – than to excuse businesses from compliance.

For example, while the CPSC will not prosecute a used book seller until 2010, and that seller is not obligated to test his books for lead content, he is nevertheless obligated to insure that all of the books he sells after 10 February 2009 do not exceed the 600 ppm lead level which went into effect on that date. How he is supposed to be certain of compliance in the absence of testing, as well as what may happen to him in 2010, are left to his imagination.

A few days ago, I posted about this issue on the forum at Distributed Proofreaders. One respondent, who does not seem to comprehend the seriousness of the problem or the lack of any scientific justification for this book ban, wrote:
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the act, lead in the books' inks could make its way into the mouths of little kids.
My reply to her was as follows:
Let's apply a modicum of common sense here, please.

First, we do not need an agency of the U.S. Government to tell us that anything that will fit can make its way into the mouths of little kids, as well as into their nostrils, ears, and other body orifices. Just ask any pediatrician. But does that mean, for instance, that just because dried beans can make their way up children's nostrils and require surgical extraction, we should outlaw dried beans?

Second, even in the unlikely event that a child were to ingest several entire pages from an old book at once, the dose of lead he would absorb even under a worst-case scenario is orders of magnitude below that which would cause toxicity.

Modern testing methods have become so exquisitely sensitive that we can now detect a minuscule trace amount of nearly anything anywhere. However, it's important to maintain one's perspective in evaluating those test results. We should not jump to the unwarranted conclusion that barely detectable trace amounts of toxic substances ought to be of just as much concern as physiologically significant amounts which are orders of magnitude greater. Indeed, certain minerals -- not lead, but, for example, selenium, are essential nutrients in trace amounts, but deadly poisons in higher doses. "The dose makes the poison."

CDC considers a blood lead level of 10 µg/dL or greater to be significant in children. Its recent data indicates that since the late 1970s, average blood lead levels in children have dropped approximately 80%, essentially to the background level of between 2 and 3 µg/dL. The remaining pockets of high blood lead levels in children occur in those living in poor urban areas, in old housing, and in conditions of rank poverty.

Bottom line: While there are still a few areas of the U.S. in which children may have unacceptably high blood lead levels, there has never been any association ever demonstrated between high blood levels in children and exposure to books printed before 1985. Destroying those books will not help those unfortunate children at all. On the other hand, though, destroying them will most assuredly deprive future generations of children of the cultural enrichment they might have absorbed by reading those books.

While it's true that SOME of the old books have been reprinted in new, guaranteed lead (and phthalate)-free editions, for economic reasons, most have not and are not likely to be. In addition, most of these newly reprinted books have not been reproduced in their original form. Instead, they have been re-edited – bowdlerized, rendered politically correct, and thoroughly disinfected of any language that might possibly cause offense to one of the many professional offense-taking groups out there. In many cases, even the original illustrations are replaced by balanced, politically correct substitutes. Therefore, these reprinted versions cannot possibly convey the same experience as the originals did when we read them as children.

I thought it was interesting that in a post on the topic of the CPSIA and its effect on children's books and toys, ShopFloor blogger Carter Wood linked to the Project Gutenberg text of the classic 1922 Margery Williams Bianco story The Velveteen Rabbit. He considers it an allegory to the CPSIA situation:
The Velveteen Rabbit captures so well the horrible, even cruel effects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which has led to destroyed toys and children’s books. Excerpt:
And so the little Rabbit was put into a sack with the old picture-books and a lot of rubbish, and carried out to the end of the garden behind the fowl-house. That was a fine place to make a bonfire, only the gardener was too busy just then to attend to it. He had the potatoes to dig and the green peas to gather, but next morning he promised to come quite early and burn the whole lot.

As he so often does, Mark Steyn came up with one of the most succinct explanations of why this book banning is so wrong that I have yet seen:
A nation’s collective memory is the unseen seven-eighths of the iceberg. When you sever that, what’s left just bobs around on the surface, unmoored in every sense.

Last March, James Lileks, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's great columnist and blogger, wrote Whoa! Lock up those kids' books chock full o' lead, including this great line:
The law seems to presume that children, having read and enjoyed a beloved story, will eat it.
It's hard to believe that something like this could happen under the radar in this once-free country, but nevertheless, it has. Now, we must do what we can to cope with this new reality.

Members of the public who have learned about CPSIA and its many (presumably) unintended consequences have been deluging the CPSC with angry complaints. In truth, though, their complaints are misdirected; the Commission's hands are tied. The language of the law is so specific and so strict that it leaves the Commission very little room to exercise any degree of discretion, to say nothing of common sense. The only way that we will ever get relief from this onerous, nightmarish new law is to insist to our Senators and Representatives that they act to amend it as soon as Congress reconvenes. Time is truly of the essence. 10 February 2010, when the one-year stay (itself of questionable legality) expires and the CPSC begins full enforcement, will be here before we know it.

8/9/09 19:30 CDT UPDATE and BUMP:
Commenter Wacky Hermit was kind enough to inform me about this useful site, What is the CPSIA?, which deals with the broader effects of the CPSIA, and doesn't concentrate solely on books.

Thought for Today

"Nature creates ability; luck provides it with opportunity."

~~~~~ François de La Rochefoucauld

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thought for Today

"Compromise is never anything but an ignoble truce between the duty of a man and the terror of a coward."

~~~~~ Reginald Wright Kaufman

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thought for Today

"Jazz will endure as long as people hear it through their feet instead of their brains."

~~~~~ John Philip Sousa

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thought for Today

"Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don't they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the Prohibition once did, why, in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth."

~~~~~ Will Rogers

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thought for Today

"Have you ever been out for a late autumn walk in the closing part of the afternoon, and suddenly looked up to realize that the leaves have practically all gone? And the sun has set and the day gone before you knew it – and with that a cold wind blows across the landscape? That's retirement."

~~~~~ Stephen Leacock

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Truly Revealing Moment

Thomas Lifson of the American Thinker brings us this remarkable moment in his story Obama's revealing body language. It's particularly meaningful to me because like Professor Gates, I, too, must walk with a cane. I know all too well what a challenge it is to negotiate a set of steps without a handrail – and how welcome someone's strong, steady arm is under such circumstances.

While his "friend" Obama strides ahead oblivious, Prof. Gates understandably hesitates because he knows all too well that one misstep can send him sprawling face-first onto the concrete steps. Sgt. Crowley quickly realizes his problem, and despite the fact that Prof. Gates had recently slandered him as a racist cop who singles out blacks for mistreatment, offers his arm. As we can see, Prof. Gates gratefully accepts.

Why does Sgt. Gates unhesitatingly offer his arm to this man who had caused him so much unwarranted grief? Because he is a class act – a trained professional and, above all, a kind, decent human being who saw Prof. Gates not as an embittered black activist, but as a fellow human being in need of assistance.

So why didn't President Obama offer Prof. Gates his own arm, or at least arrange for someone else to assist him down the steps? Because at heart, he is a piece of dog squeeze – a thoughtless, vain, arrogant, pompous, self-absorbed excuse for a human being.

And as for you Obamabots who take offense at my words, and who make excuses for their man's atrocious behavior – "You really have to cut him some slack because he's the President, and he's a busy man" or some similar rot – ponder the contrast between Obama's behavior toward his friend and this other president's behavior, under similar circumstances, to a political adversary, the frail, elderly Sen. Robert Byrd.
Hat tips to Thomas Lifson, fellow AT blogger Clarice Feldman for updating his post with the Bush-Byrd picture, and Glenn Beck for widely disseminating this story.

Grimly Amusing Misplaced Modifier

The increased incidence of misplaced modifiers in the popular media is a bit of a sore point with me. Sometimes, they're good for a chuckle. Far too often, though, they completely change the meaning of a sentence.

Consider these examples:

I only love her.
I love only her.

You just can't eat one.
You can't eat just one

In both cases, due to the different placement of a single word, the first and second variants have totally different meanings.

The British tabloid The Sun, which presumably ought to know better (after all, English is their mother tongue), informs us that an "Aide 'killed' Jacko with Demerol hit as Doctor Murray slept."

It's just one more segment of a sad and tragic story, of course, but if you look about halfway down in The Sun's article, you'll find this gem:
Dr Murray is said to have told Los Angeles police about administering Propofol two days after Jacko died on June 25.

Sun editors, did Dr. Murray really administer the Propofol two days after his patient died? Is it possible that you meant to tell us that "Two days after Jacko died on June 25, Dr Murray is said to have told Los Angeles police about administering Propofol?"

Sen. Alexander Nailed!

If you haven't yet seen it, you NEED to read Erick Erickson's incisive – and all too accurate – Redstate post about our Senior Senator, Lamar Alexander Plays Lapdog to Barbara Boxer and Endorses Government Mandated, Tax-Payer Funded Abortion. It includes this truly memorable description which well and truly describes the once-promising Boy Wonder politician:
... feckless crapweasel and serial capitulator
If nothing else, Lamar has definitively disproven Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Lamar has devolved from a universally praised moderately conservative two-term Tennessee governor with a promising future – some of us even dared dream of a future Alexander presidency – to a – well, feckless crapweasel. Lately, his principal concerns seem to be the betrayal of his constituents and the undermining of the principled conservatives among his (nominal) party's membership.

Read Erick's column and you'll undoubtedly agree.

Thought for Today

This one's for the Global Warmists among us:
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

~~~~~ Richard Feynman

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thought for Today

"The quickest way to get money into this economy is not to take it in the first place."

~~~~~ Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) on today's Fox News Sunday during a discussion of the effectiveness of the Obama stimulus package vs. tax cuts and governmental spending discipline in ending the recession

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Thought for Today

"Early in my business career I learned the folly of worrying about anything. I have always worked as hard as I could, but when a thing went wrong and could not be righted, I dismissed it from my mind."

~~~~~ Julius Rosenwald