Friday, August 21, 2009

Is this a new low for socialized medicine?

British paedophile given free Viagra on the NHS - despite string of attacks on children

A paedophile with a 30-year history of abusing children is being prescribed Viagra on the NHS - and there is nothing the authorities can do to stop him. Roger Martin, 71, merely has to visit his GP to obtain the libido-enhancing drug, even though experts warn it will enable him to continue preying on children despite his age.

The probation officers who oversee Martin are powerless to interfere with the administration of prescription drugs. He does not have to tell his GP about his criminal past and even if he does, doctors cannot take convictions into account. Martin suffers from numerous illnesses including diabetes, for which Department of Health guidelines say Viagra can be prescribed. He has forced himself on a string of youngsters and his latest assault was on an 11-year-old girl last year.

But when he was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court yesterday a judge chose not to send him to prison after being persuaded he 'wouldn't be able to cope' with a spell behind bars.

Last night Martin, a widower, claimed he 'wasn't doing anything wrong' by taking Viagra. But child safety campaigners and MPs reacted with horror and demanded the loophole be closed. One critic said it was 'sickening' that taxpayers' money was being spent on Viagra for a convicted child abuser. Claude Knights, director of children's charity Kidscape, said: 'I am shocked that someone has been given a chemical aid to sexual activity when they are misdirecting their urges. It gives them a chance to abuse more children.'

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said: 'This is a bizarre and outrageous example of where common sense gets thrown out of the window in preference to so-called human rights and political correctness. 'Someone needs to get a grip here and start thinking about what's in the public interest instead of ticking boxes like a robot.'

Martin, of Dogsthorpe, Peterborough, has a history of sex offences dating back to 1978 when he was convicted for having unlawful sex with a 15-year-old baby-sitter. He pleaded guilty to his latest offence of touching an 11-year-old inappropriately when she visited his sheltered accommodation home in December 2008 to do some cleaning for pocket money. Judge Nicholas Coleman ordered him to attend a three-year sex offenders' treatment programme and banned from having contact with children indefinitely.

Last night he said his Viagra use was 'a personal thing really'. He added: 'I live on my own and I don't have any female company and I don't think I'm doing anything wrong.'


Want your NHS records to stay private? Good luck

If you don’t want your health records stored online, you may have some trouble finding the 'opt out' section. A British example of the reality behind greasy socialist promises

If you are registered with a GP in any of six primary care trusts — Bolton, Bradford and Airedale, Bury, Dorset, South Birmingham and South West Essex — you will, in the past week, have received a leaflet about new “summary care records”. It comes with a letter explaining what’s in the leaflet, and a form to order another leaflet in one of 12 formats, from the sensible (Braille) via the surprising (Farsi) to the faintly depressing (easy-read picture version).

If, like me, you develop an eye spasm when privacy issues arise, you might want to opt out of having your health records stored online. If you have no continuing medical conditions (besides the eye tic) and are capable of speaking and listening to doctors, you might think you don’t need your records to be computerised. And opting out means that when the laptop of private information is inevitably left in a pub somewhere in Berkshire, you won’t have to grind your teeth in impotent rage.

The leaflet explains that if you want to opt out, you can do so at — but go to that site, and you will search in vain for any mention of opting out. And when I say search in vain, I mean by clicking on each available link, not using a search box.

There is no search box. Once you’ve clicked on all the links, you will be no wiser. Many of the links have sub-links, which you are welcome to try. They also yield nothing, other than the occasional derisive hoot when they are called “HealthSpace Troubleshooting”.

You will have need to refer to your glossy leaflet, ignore it and try the covering letter again. Eventually you will discover that you must type to gain access to the list of “early adopter PCTs”. Click on your area. Only then can you download the opt-out form. There is no link to a “patients” or “info” page on the site you first went to. The patient page is the internet equivalent of being behind the fake door covered in books that leads to the secret room.

This, you will recall, is exactly why you are incensed about privacy. Because when they tell you that they value your privacy, what they are actually telling you is that they will take advantage of people being too busy to track things down or too polite to bother their GP’s practice manager during a pandemic.

Douglas Adams’s Arthur Dent once sighed that plans to demolish his home were “on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’”. Do not fear the leopard. The form can be accessed from here.


Why ‘Obamacare’ Is Failing

The Obama administration has been astoundingly incompetent

By Jonah Goldberg

To listen to the White House and its supporters in and out of the media, you would think that opposition to “Obamacare” is the hobgoblin of a few small minds on the right. Racists, fascists, Neanderthals, the whole Star Wars cantina of boogeymen and cranks stand opposed to much-needed reform.

Left out of this fairly naked effort to demonize many with the actions of a few is the simple fact that Obamacare — however defined — has been tanking in the polls for weeks. President Obama’s handling of health care is unpopular with a majority of Americans and a majority of self-proclaimed independents.

Focusing on the town halls has its merits, but if you actually want Obamacare to pass, casting a majority of Americans as the stooges of racist goons may not be the best way to go.

Imagine if George W. Bush, in his effort to partially privatize Social Security, had insisted that the “time for talking is over.” Picture, if you will, the Bush White House asking Americans to turn in their e-mails in the pursuit of “fishy” dissent. Conjure a scenario under which then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott derided critics as “evil-mongers” the way Harry Reid recently described town-hall protesters. Or if then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert and then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay had called critics “un-American” the way Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer did last week, or if White House strategist Karl Rove had been Sir Spam-a-lot instead of David Axelrod.

Now, I’m not asking you, dear reader, to do this so that you might be able to see through the glare of Obama’s halo or the outlines of the media’s staggering double standard when it comes to covering this White House. Rather, it is to grasp that the Obama administration has been astoundingly incompetent.

Lashing out at the town-hall protesters, playing the race card, whining about angry white men, and whispering ominously about right-wing militias is almost always a sign of liberalism’s weakness — a failure of the imagination.

The Left, broadly speaking, has been attacking conservative talk radio and all it allegedly represents for the better part of 20 years now. When Bill Clinton needed a convenient villain, he attacked Rush Limbaugh. When Bush emerged victorious from the Florida recount, liberals concluded that what they really needed was their own version of Limbaugh. In March, at the first sign of resistance from congressional Republicans, Obama complained that the GOP was Limbaugh’s lap dog, and both the White House and much of the press corps went into anti-Limbaugh campaign mode.

It’s funny how these supposed champions of the Enlightenment can’t grasp that people can disagree with them for honest reasons. Instead, we simply must be Limbaugh’s automatons, which is to say racist, fascist thugs.

In addition to the slander, such complaints are monumentally, incandescently lame coming from a party that controls Washington. According to liberals themselves, these evil-mongers are a tiny minority, a bunch of “Astroturf” frauds. So why not ignore them and get on with the work you were elected to do?

Well, because they can’t — or won’t.

One of the reasons the term “Obamacare” has become a journalistic convention is that there is no bill. You can’t talk about Obama’s actual health-care plan because there isn’t one. There are a bunch of competing bills, proposals, and ideas swirling around the halls of Congress like flotsam in a sewer. As even Robert Reich, Clinton’s labor secretary, recently conceded, the failure to put forward a concrete proposal allows opponents to pick from a menu of scary ideas and possibilities, all of which can be labeled Obamacare.

Suspicion of bad motives is only reinforced by Obama’s determination to steamroll to victory. Indeed, Democratic dudgeon that the town-hall protesters don’t want civil debate is hysterical, given that Obama wanted this over before the August recess. No wonder the president who thought the time for talk was over long ago now doesn’t like the talk he’s getting.

Some might say the real story is to be found in the eroding support from independent voters and Blue Dog Democratic congressmen. Or in the panic among seniors that Obama will raid Medicare. Or in his inability to get progressive Democrats to agree to a bipartisan approach. Or maybe the real story is Obama’s manifest inability to sell a program he’s invested his presidency in.

But no. Obama wants the debate to be about angry white men. And, as lame as that is, that’s what’s happening. It won’t make Obamacare a reality, but it will shift the blame from where it rightly belongs.


Public Health Care Option Still Available

In the debate over health care reform, the White House said a public health insurance option is not off the table after all. The government-run public option would provide insurance to millions of uninsured Americans. The public option is the most controversial aspect of the president's reform plan, but the White House said reports that the president is ready to abandon it are just not true.

Over the weekend, Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seemed to signal a willingness to drop the public option. "That is not the essential element," said Sebelius. No public option, no reform bill, many Democratic lawmakers warned and now Sebelius said the media got it wrong. "All I can tell you is that Sunday must have been a very slow news day because here's the bottom line: absolutely nothing has changed," Sebelius said.

What may be changing is consumer confidence. The latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey shows Americans' confidence in health insurance coverage and affordability dropped in July with the largest drop among seniors. The AARP blames it on what it calls scare tactics by opponents of reform.

"People are hearing about rationed care and death panels, things like that. Things that aren't in the bill aren't remotely true, but it certainly gets people concerned," said AARP spokesman Jordan McNerney.

Critics of reform said people are concerned because they don't want a "government take over of health care."

Those critics continue to speak out at town hall meetings like one in Oklahoma.

"People are trying to say, 'Washington you're not paying attention to us,' and it's common when you feel somebody's not listening to you. You get in their face and raise your voice," said analyst Ernest Istook, with the Heritage Foundation.

In an interesting twist, the drug industry and a consumer advocacy group have launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign thanking 15 senators for working across the aisle to try to get a reform bill passed.

Currently, there is much to debate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the public option will be a part of the bill the House considers, but on the Senate side analysts said dropping the public option may be the only way to win over conservative Democrats. It could, however, also alienate progressives in the party.


Unfair government competition

The Postal Service is a scary model for health care

According to President Obama, government health insurance will create competition in the health insurance industry. It simply would provide another alternative to existing plans offered by private companies, the argument goes. Like many Americans, we simply don't believe it. Whenever the government enters into a market, it will try to expand its share and take over the sector.

During a town hall meeting last week at Portsmouth, N.H., Mr. Obama pointed to the U.S. Postal Service as evidence that private companies don't need to worry about competition from the government. "If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It's the post office that's always having problems."

If the president considers the Postal Service as an example, we should all be scared. The Postal Service is a classic example of both inefficiency and extreme monopoly power.

The Postal Service has staunchly resisted competition from UPS and FedEx since their infancy. Even though the Postal Service loses money in the overnight delivery business, it resisted infringement on its turf. The Postal Service has often increased its first-class mail rate to be well above cost, then used those profits to subsidize its overnight delivery service. For example, it raised first-class stamps to 33 cents in January 1999 and simultaneously reduced the price of domestic overnight express mail from $15 to $13.70, even though it was already losing money at the $15 rate.

Despite numerous advantages that FedEx and UPS could only dream of having, the Postal Service loses money. In addition to direct subsidies, the Postal Service is exempt from paying state sales, property and income taxes. It uses some of the most expensive real estate in the country rent-free. Perhaps Mr. Obama has not noticed, but nobody else but the Postal Service is allowed to deliver regular first-class mail, and only the Postal Service has access to Americans' mailboxes.

The Postal Service has not managed to kill off UPS and FedEx because these private companies have better on-time delivery and much lower costs. But that is not because the government postal business did not try to squeeze out the competition. When a government agency gets into an industry, it tries to get bigger, even when it is not profitable.

The competition that Mr. Obama envisions between government and private insurance companies won't be fair. Many proposed regulations, such as eliminating caps on what insurance companies will pay out or preventing insurance companies from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, will eliminate private insurance. But even if the government only tilts the playing field partially in favor of a government insurance plan, making it artificially cheaper, a lot of Americans will give up their private insurance to save money. Government insurance gradually will take over, and service will deteriorate.


Dirty secret No. 2 in Obamacare

In my last column I explained that dirty secret No. 1 in Obamacare is that the House bill grants government the authority to come into homes and usurp parental rights over child care development. I have a few more secrets to share over these hot August political nights.

Dirty secret No. 2 in Obamacare is that Obama is not the leader of Obamacare. And neither is Congress. The one who has been spearheading the initiative behind the scenes is one who goes under the misnomer "adviser" to the Obama administration, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist and breast oncologist and brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And "his bible" for health care reform is his book, "Healthcare Guaranteed."

Dr. Emanuel has served as special adviser to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget for health policy as far back as February, when he confessed to the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times that he was "working on (the) health care reform effort." The first draft of Obamacare?

If you want to know the future of America's universal health care, then you must understand the health care principles and plans of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. I find it far more than coincidence how much Dr. Emanuel's book parallels Obamacare's philosophy, strategy and legislation. First, Dr. Emanuel rejects any attempts at incremental change or reform to our health care system (Page 185). What's needed, he concludes in his book (p. 171), is an immediate and totally comprehensive reconstruction of health care as we know it. That of course describes the vision of Obamacare to a tee.

Second, in the chapter "Opening the door to comprehensive change" starting on p. 171 (which reads more like a political and mass-manipulating strategy than a health care manual), Emanuel drives home "a key political lesson: the need to rush the legislation through." (Seen this methodology being used lately?!)

He then cites historical proof: "Within a few months, President Johnson rammed the four central elements of his Great Society program through," and Medicare and Medicaid were born. Emanuel says that the reason the Clinton administration couldn't pass a health care bill was because it waited too long (after his inauguration – the political honeymoon period) and it "established a large task force that worked in secret. … The delay and the secrecy were deadly" (p. 181). Sounds to me that Dr. Emanuel is as much a political strategist as he is a doctor.

You are bearing witness to these political principles at work at this very moment in Washington and across this nation with Obamacare. President Obama and Dr. Emanuel both know that if too much time elapses their legislation is likely to die (and their preferences with it) because Americans will actually have time to examine it and come up with better alternatives.

Third, as Obama crusades around the country pitching Obamacare, he continues to avoid giving virtually any specific details of the program. That too is a strategy of Dr. Emanuel: "Americans need to avoid the policy weeds. Focusing on details will only distract and create tangles and traps" (p. 183). So "details" of health care reform are "weeds"? That is why we continue to hear only warm-and-fuzzy generalities from Obama like,"If you've got health care, the only thing we're going to do is we're going to reform the insurance companies so that they can't cheat you."

Fourth, Dr. Emanuel describes a comprehensive government health care program that is completely run by a national health board with 12 regional health boards ("modeled on the Federal Reserve system" – p. 83).

Imagine a national health board with the power of the Federal Reserve?! Imagine them doing with medicine and health what the Fed does with interest rates and the financial system. An apolitical board like that sounds appealing at first, until it is immune in ways (like the Federal Reserve) to congressional protocol and oversight. Once these boards are in place, like the Federal Reserve system over our financial system, they will have absolute power over the ebbs and flows of the medical world.

Critics would say, "But that is not the national board as described in Obamacare or H.R. 3200." Not yet anyway. Of course, Obamacare uses much softer language for describing a national board – they call it the "Health Benefits Advisory Committee" (there's that "advisory" word again!), which would be under the executive branch (like the Federal Reserve).

Does anyone doubt that the duties and power of the Health Benefits Advisory Committee will morph and grow over time? And what liberties and controls will they have 10 years from now? I have a hunch they will be very reflective of the power of the Federal Reserve – I'll let you guess why.

Fifth, Dr. Emanuel believes in the "phasing out of Medicare and Medicaid" (Pages 88-89, 94-95). Of course, no proposed legislative wording by the current administration is going to describe the eventual elimination of these programs, at least in these incipient stages – remember, this bill is a sales pitch, too. But what stops the "Health Benefits Advisory Committee" care from "phasing them out" down the road? Could their eventual termination be the reason this administration won't merely reform those programs to accommodate their universal health care desires? But then again, maybe you believe Obama when he "avoids the policy weeds" by saying, "Nobody is talking about trying to change Medicare benefits. What we want to do is to eliminate some of the waste that is being paid for out of the Medicare trust fund."

Sixth, Dr. Emanuel believes in ending employer-based health care (Pages 109-112). President Obama knows that to propose such a restriction on American freedoms and choice would mean certain death to this legislation, let alone likely his popularity as president. However, throughout all Obama's rhetoric about how Americans will have the choice of health care insurance, they will have little choice in the matter, especially when employers are footing the bill. As any businessman knows, why would a company pay the exorbitant costs for employees' private health care insurance when they can benefit big time from a free ticket for government health care coverage? Some have even proposed that provisions in the House's health care legislation, under the titles "Limitation of New Enrollment" and "Limitation on Changes in Terms or Conditions" (p. 16), could essentially make individual private medical insurance illegal.

Seventh, Dr. Emanuel believes a universal health care program could be paid for by phasing out Medicare and Medicaid, adopting a value-added tax of at least 10 percent, etc., and then allowing Americans themselves to "pay extra with after-tax dollars" (p. 100) for additional medical benefits (beyond the norm of the government program). Ironically, Obamacare proposes cutting $500 billion from Medicare and proposing taxes upon the wealthy, as just a couple ways to pay for the $1 trillion it will cost to run the new national health care program over 10 years. But even the Congressional Budget Office says that won't be near enough.

Just last week at a Montana town hall meeting, the president continued to struggle to explain how he would pay for Obamacare without taxing the middle class. Of course, three of his top advisers (Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers and White House senior adviser David Axlrod) have already gone on the record saying they will not rule out the need for a middle-class tax hike to pay for Obamacare.

The truth is, whether the money comes from higher corporate taxes, taxing employer-provided health insurance, eliminating health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts, limiting the deductibility of medical expenses, increasing taxes on selective consumptives, etc., or all the above, trust me, sooner or later, we all will pay.

Eighth, speaking of ethics, enough has been written lately about Dr. Emanuel's end-of-life counsel and consultation, including his advice from The Hastings Center Report (1996) that medical care should be withheld from those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens. ... An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

I find it striking that Obama's ethics have similarly allowed him already to pass more laws increasing the terminations of life in the womb than any administration since Roe v. Wade. To add insult to injury, Congress has repeatedly rejected amendments to this universal health care bill that would prevent federal funds to be used for abortions.

Friends, if you don't think Dr. Emanuel's and President Obama's "life ethics" will bear out in the practice of the policies within their future universal health care program, I have a London bridge to sell you in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Obama was telling the truth about this campaign promise: His presidency would provide "the most sweeping ethics reform in history." I guess more Americans should have been watching which way he was sweeping.

In short, whether in title or not, Dr. Emanuel is Obama's health care czar. Obamacare is a junior version of Emanuel-care, or should I say the beginning stage of Emanuel-care. What's almost eerie is how they both could be juxtaposed to intersect in full bloom sometime in America's future.

One last thing: Someone once said to me, "If two people think so much alike, you can bet that one person is not thinking." Think about it.


Some more news and views

Dem investigators target health insurers: "House Democrats are probing the nation's largest insurance companies for lavish spending, demanding reams of compensation data and schedules of retreats and conferences. Letters sent to 52 insurance companies by Democratic leaders demand extensive documents for an examination of 'extensive compensation and other business practices in the health insurance industry.' The letters set a deadline of Sept. 14 for the documents. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, signed the three-page letter dated Monday. An industry source replied when asked for comment: 'This is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition designed to silence health plans.'"

Obama: Ignorant or lying?: "The proliferation of Obama's gaffes and non sequiturs on health care has exceeded the allowable limit. He has failed repeatedly to explain how the government will provide more (health care) for less (money). He has failed to explain why increased demand for medical services without a concomitant increase in supply won't lead to rationing by government bureaucrats as opposed to the market. And he has failed to explain why a Medicare-like model is desirable when Medicare itself is going broke. The public is left with one of two unsettling conclusions: Either the president doesn't understand the health- insurance reform plans working their way through Congress, or he understands both the plans and the implications and is being untruthful about the impact."

We've long had a public option: "Rebutting concerns that the public option would be a government- subsidized plan, Obama has said repeatedly that it won't be. Rather, it would function as a nonprofit insurer. He said in Colorado, 'a public option can only work if they have to collect premiums just like a private insurer and compete on a level playing field.' If that is true, then there is no need for a public option plan because roughly half of Americans who have private health insurance get it from the same type of entity Obama says he wants to create -- a nonprofit insurer. According to the same Census report that produced the figure of 46 million uninsured Americans, 202 million of us are covered by private insurance. According to the Alliance for Advancing Nonprofit Health Care, an industry group, 'Of the 138 health plans in the United States with at least 100,000 medical enrollees, 84 or 61% are nonprofit.'"

Why do Democrats pretend they’re fighting Big Insurance?: “Democrats are fighting the greedy medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies to provide Americans healthcare, right? Surely anyone who listened to President Obama talk last week in Portsmouth, New Hampshire last Tuesday would think that. But while the Democrats are calling these companies evil for wanting to prevent the government takeover of healthcare, Democrats are working closely with these very same companies to support President Obama’s healthcare plan. In fact, in exchange for favorable treatment in the healthcare plan, these companies are financing a massive ad campaign to support it. … According to FOX News, the dreaded pharmaceutical companies are apparently ready to spend at least $150 million, and possibly as much as $200 million, to push the healthcare changes President Obama wants. Private insurance companies, who launched the famous Harry and Louise ads that were deemed so important in defeating the Clinton takeover of the healthcare industry in the 1990s, have now launched similar ads with the opposite message supporting President Obama.”

Insuring health : "When [American voters] voted for ‘free’ health care, they were proactively declaring, by pulling those voting levers, that it was fine and dandy by them to take the needed funds from their neighbors and ultimately to shoot them dead if they refused. So it’s not really ignorance alone; there is, at root, an ethical question at work, and it centers on the gross immorality of casting a vote. Yes, politicians are malevolent or stupid, most likely the former in my view, but everyone who votes for them is complicit, up to his neck, actively taking part in the most humongous act of armed robbery in the history of man. That is not ‘insurance’ — a perfectly sound idea involving the voluntary sharing of the risk of heavy but unpredictable loss — this is theft, neither more nor less. That is the real, moral disease that has infected the core of this society and no amount of medical care is going to cure it.”

New public option, same as the old public option? : “OK, so what is a health insurance co-op? Many Americans are familiar with neighborhood food co-ops in which members join and then purchase a variety of produce, meats, and other groceries at cost. Some 120 million Americans are served by various co-ops according to the National Cooperative Business Association. Unlike most private companies, cooperatives are owned and controlled by their members, not by outside investors. In addition, co-ops return any surplus revenues they may earn to members. In June, Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D-N.D.) floated a plan for creating consumer-owned nonprofit health insurance cooperatives as an alternative to the Democratic plan. Conrad is part of a senatorial gang of six which includes three Republicans and three Democrats that has been trying to hammer out a bipartisan health care reform package for several months. He sees rural electric cooperatives and agricultural cooperatives as models for his health insurance cooperatives.”

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