Friday, January 28, 2011


Dr. Gosnell's House of Horrors.
Photo credit.

According to a Philadelphia grand jury report, under the administration of Tom Ridge, a pro-choice governor of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) stopped annual inspections of abortion clinics in about 1993, because of the fear that such regular inspection might result in having to close abortion clinics and diminish the number of abortion providers.

As a result, the clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell remained in business, despite the serious health violations recorded while inspections were still the rule. Under the administration of Gov. Ed Rendell, who also favors legalized abortion, the DOH continued its practice of ignoring annual inspections and reports of health care violations at abortion clinics.

Gov. Rendell restored the practice of inspections in 2010, after federal and local law enforcement searched Dr. Gosnell's clinic for evidence of various crimes, including illegal dispensing of controlled substances.

The search of Dr. Gosnell's clinic revealed a house of horrors, with body parts and filth strewn about. It was a "health care" facility that routinely infected the women it "treated" with venereal disease, and that killed many of its patients, as well as killing babies born live after botched abortions. Dr. Gosnell and his staff now stand charged with several murders, and with operating a racketeering enterprise.

As disturbing as the clinic was, the report's account of the DOH's deliberate policy of ignoring the horrendous conditions at the clinic is also infuriating. DOH stood by for a decade and a half, knowing that Dr. Gosnell was operating an abattoir, but taking absolutely no action whatsoever to inspect the clinic or stop the insanity.

You can read a description of events, and download the horrific grand jury report of the investigation, at this link. The grand jury report is an astonishing piece of investigative work and a great service to the public.

The report makes terribly sad reading. I would stay away from it unless you are convinced you need to know about some of the darkest consequences of the abortion industry.

For those who are cavalier about the role of government regulation in society, this is a harsh reminder that reasonable health and safety regulations are a necessary burden in a fallen world. "The market" may be solicitous, indifferent or hostile to people's health and safety. It depends upon where the most profit lies. The market knows only one good, and that is profit. Profit is not an inherent evil, but an efficient market is no guarantee of good moral choices.

While profit is not an inherent evil, abortion is. It is a mortal sin. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2271:

"Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."

Dr. Gosnell's abortion clinic was not the norm. But given the DOH's reckless connivance for 15 or more years, one begins to wonder how many other Dr. Gosnells there are.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Eternal Optimist's oldest daughter announced in an email today that the latest blog, "Entitle This," was a "bummer," and that EO needs to propose fixes, not just point out problems.

EO agrees entirely. Accordingly, he has decided to become Mr. Fix-it.

Here is a simple fix for the complex problem of the federal budget deficit:

Stop spending so much money.


Politicians do what we tell them to do, eventually. So we have to change their behavior by changing our behavior. We have to stop voting for politicians who spend borrowed money on us like a drunk sailor on a geisha.

Here are some practical things you can do to change the federal budget mess. Some of them are easy, some are harder.

1. Pray. Praying is the single most important and efficacious thing you can do for any problem.

2. Go to confession. I'm sure there's lots of work to be done.

3. Pay off your debts. Lead your Congressman by example.

4. Volunteer to forgo 1/3 of whatever federal money you yourself currently receive. I know, that's flat crazy, but if you can't do it, how do you figure your Congressman can?

5. Figure out how to make up the federal money somewhere else. Or sit on your ass and do nothing until the government goes broke and you have to live on zero. That's a plan.

6. Write your Congressman and Senators once a week, telling them how upset you are that 1/3 of federal budget expenditures come from borrowed money. Ask them to get back to you about what they did that week to fix the problem. Don't be rude.

7. Give money and time to politicians who will actually cut spending. Let the other politicians know you are voting against them, and giving money to their opponents. Explain why. Don't be rude.

8. Ask your Congressman and Senators to vote to repeal Health Care. We don't need more crack to smoke in our debt-pipe right now. When we fix our existing entitlement programs we can talk about more entitlements.

9. Kill business welfare, including farm subsidies. Businesses should survive or not based on their ability to compete in the market, without subsidies. No one can or should take Republicans seriously about controlling government spending until they slaughter their own sacred cows. Or hogs. Or whatever.

10. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (S2M2) benefits have to be reformed and cut. We no longer have the option of doing them stupid. If we don't rationalize them and put them on a permanently sound financial basis, they will break the government. Then, zero benefits, which is a lousy solution for poor people.

For those who find this repulsive, you can't hope to cut military budgets if you won't reform entitlements. Think of it that way.

11. Get out of Afghanistan on the best terms possible. EO has supported the war in Afghanistan for a long time. I believed it was a "just war," under Catholic theological teaching. But s*&$ happens, in the form of we've run out of money. If the Taliban comes back, life is tough that way. We still have Cruise missiles and aircraft. Our national survival does not depend on a particular result there right now. In contrast, if we don't fix the budget, we crash.

For those who find this repulsive, you can't hope to cut entitlements without cutting the military budget. Think of it that way.

If you need to cut the military budget, you have to end the war. You can't ask soldiers to fight a war while only shooting 1 bullet a week and taking the train to work.

12. Explain what you are doing to other people. Ask them to get busy, too. Don't be rude.

Here's a list of broad categories of federal expenditures. See the graph in "Budget Art" (an article from December). Try to figure out where to get $1.27 trillion (1,270 billion). I did the math below. I don't like the cuts, but they add up to $1.27 billion.

I would love to see a less painful plan that would work. I just don't have the smarts to think of one.

Discretionary: Link
Defense - $895 billion
Cut 200 B (Afghanistan costs about 119 B)
Other discretionary - $520 billion (rest of government, except entitlements)
Cut 200 B

Mandated entitlements:

Social Security - $730 billion
Cut 250 B
Medicare - $491 billion
Cut 160 B
Medicaid - $297 billion
Cut 100 B
Other - $612 billion
Cut 360 B
Interest $251 billion
[Can't cut]

Total cuts: 1.27 TRILLION


There's been a lot of talk lately about federal "entitlements," like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Eternal Optimist says entitle this: we are cruising fast toward a U.S. bond and currency crash.

See officer, I only had one beer . . .

Right now the federal government's annual expenditures are running 50% over its income. The government's income (taxes) is about 2.5 trillion, while expenditures are at about 3.8 trillion. Eternal Optimist wrote about this in "Budget Art."

This means we have to borrow 1.3 trillion just to cover this year's expenses. That's a big credit card bill.

Big Credit Card People.

We have a fragile economy. In 2009-2010 we borrowed an extra 2 trillion, over and above our normal borrowing, to try to fix it, with limited success. Increasing tax rates to pay for our spending is not a good option, since tax increases torpedo the economy.

Our total indebtedness is about $14 trillion. Which is more than our nation's annual income, or GNP. That's a hefty mortgage.

U.S. treasury bonds are promises people buy from us: promises to pay them interest over time. People give us cash for our bonds because the bonds are liquid and safe. "Liquid" means they are accepted by just about everyone for various purposes - collateral, payment of debts, outright sale. "Safe" because they are backed by a large, powerful and relatively well run economy and government.

For the last 50 years it has been smart for investors to buy U.S. bonds (treasuries). People got paid their interest, in a currency (the dollar) that wasn't depreciating much, if at all, compared with other currencies. We seemed safe, dependable and strong.

Uncle Sam, before he went on a bender.

Perceptions are changing. Investors looking at the U.S. see a government that can't pay its bills from current revenues, and has no plans to fix the problem. This strikes the casual observer as unsafe, undependable and weak.

New American Image
Our "plan" right now is to keep borrowing indefinitely. So just ask yourself: would you feel good about lending money to a guy who had no prospects of increased income, was making $25,000 a year, spending $38,000 a year, and had no observable intention of changing this situation? And oh, by the way, the prospective borrower is already $140,000 in debt.

That sound like a good credit risk?

If things continue as they are, investors will come to the same conclusion about our bonds that they came to about our housing market. Which is that prospects for getting repaid are actually worse than they thought. They've under-estimated the risk of default, and over-valued our bonds. Which means our bonds get devalued harshly and quickly, and our cost of borrowing skyrockets.

Barbarian investor about to trash U.S. treasuries.

The risk of simple default ("we won't be paying interest on our bonds this month") by the U.S. is probably still negligible, although "never say never." But the risk of loss through currency devaluation is significant. The U.S. can cheapen the dollar by expanding the money supply.

The effect is that a $100 debt incurred today is paid back "in full" with dollars in 12 months, but the dollars have depreciated. The 100 "payback" dollars are only worth, say, $75. So the investor (maybe you) loses money, even if the borrower (the U.S.) fulfills the letter of its loan agreement.

Right now investors are uneasy, but if one of our big states, like California or New York, actually declares a default on their bonds, it will start looking like the first half-hour of "Independence Day," when the aliens are busy destroying the earth.

Investors devaluing U.S. bonds.

When investors look around to see who else might default (that's what they do when they take a hit) they will think this: "the feds are in worse financial shape than California, except that the feds can totally screw me by printing money instead of "honestly" defaulting."

This will dampen enthusiasm for federal bonds.

Of course, investors may shrug their shoulders and say "we better buy fed bonds rather than invest in state bonds." But they might also say "we better buy Chinese, Brazilian, German or Indian bonds rather than any of that U.S. crap." Nowadays there are plenty of other economies to bet on. Depends on who is behaving better at the moment.

Brazilian banker: all that money, and Carnival, too!

There are dozens of our states in bad financial condition right now, with political cultures that will not permit them to make the budget cuts they need to avoid defaults. The chances of one of them going over the edge in the next 12 months is high.

Just the fact that this argument is plausible today, as opposed to even 4 years ago, should be cause for concern. Bond prices are based on market estimates of the probability of future events. When default becomes more plausible, for any reason, bond interest rates push up, and bond prices push down.

To think that the market in U.S. bonds is immune to the loss of investor confidence that hit the mortgage and housing markets in 2007-2008 is "magical thinking." Especially when we Americans are presently doing everything in our power to convince lenders that we are financial idiots.

New American Financial Image.

So either put a credible plan in place to cut federal spending by about 1.3 trillion, or the markets will make us do it shortly by turning off the debt tap and telling us to go home, it's closing time.

Closing Time.

I'm just saying.

Monday, January 10, 2011


The man who shot Congresswoman Giffords and more than a dozen other people Saturday had some internet postings.

You can read them here.

Figuring out why criminals commit crimes is usually a very tricky business. That is why, ordinarily, we don't make people's motivation a part of the definition of a crime. People are very complicated, internally. Especially the mentally ill.

Democratic politicians and media types have it all figured out, though, in the case of Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter in Tucson. They know that he was inspired to shoot 19 strangers in broad daylight by Sarah Palin, because she used a bullseye on her website as a symbol to "target" races she thought were critical during the 2010 election. The race involving Congresswoman Giffords was one of the "targeted" races.

Never mind there is no evidence Loughner ever read anything by Sarah Palin.

Never mind Loughner is apparently fixated on government's efforts at mind control through grammar. Yes, you read that correctly.

Never mind Loughner is living in a world almost entirely of his own construction, impervious to outside influences.

Apparently the new liberal mantra is that using any symbols or language derived in any way from firearms causes psychotics to shoot lots of people in parking lots. In Tucson. If this theory were motivated solely by hysteria it would be risible. The fact that it is a calculated political strategy makes it malevolent.

Using this new liberal theory of causation, we should be banning lots of stuff.

1. All mention of global warming by Al Gore, as it caused the World Trade bombing on 9-11. Now don't get mad: remember, under liberal rules we don't actually have to show that two events are connected before we can condemn something we don't like and connect it with mass murder.

2. Democrats who have "targeted" Sarah Palin. Obviously they are hoping for an attack by some mentally ill person.

3. Rahm Emmanuel, for targeting corporate donors. Clearly he is hoping some nut will take their money.

4. Nancy Pelosi, for targeting Congressional budget leaders over health care issues. No doubt Pelosi has already stimulated some mentally disturbed liberal to commit mass murder.

5. Harry Reid for targeting power plant emissions. This is an obvious attempt to stimulate terrorist attacks on our infrastructure.

6. Lyndon Baynes Johnson, RIP, for starting a War on Poverty. In retrospect it becomes apparent that LBJ meant to massacre poor people.

Liberals really need to calm down and try to stop being nutty. First it was the George Bush = Hitler whackos. Next it was the Sarah Palin = Hitler crowd. Now mainstream Democrats are arguing that Sarah Palin has grammar-mind-control-powers over a psychotic and made him shoot a conservative Democrat in Arizona.

This stuff makes "birther" conspirators look like the Buddha.

If the new standard of political speech is that we cannot say anything over which a psychotic might obsess, that leaves a pretty narrow band of available speech. The word to describe that narrow band would be "nothing."

Sunday, January 9, 2011


After a gun-wielding psychotic shot 19 people, killing 5, including a federal judge, in Arizona yesterday, I was waiting for Democrats to begin trying to use this tragedy for their political gain. It happened quickly. In today's news I saw this quote:

Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democratic leader in the Senate, on Sunday cited imagery of crosshairs on political opponents and Sarah Palin's combative rallying cry, "Don't retreat; reload." "These sorts of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response," Durbin said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

"The attack might be the work of "a single nut," Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, whose Arizona district shares Tucson with Giffords' district, said Saturday, the day Giffords was shot. But he said the nation must assess the fallout of "an atmosphere where the political discourse is about hate, anger and bitterness."

Senator Dick Durbin.

It is absolutely repulsive to use a tragedy like this for political gain. This behavior is odious. Apparently Sen. Durbin and Rep. Grijalva have no capacity to be repulsed.

Right now is a time to extend one's sympathies to the victims' families, to offer to help, and to draw together as a people. Instead, Sen. Durbin and Rep. Grijalva (call them DG) are trying to create sound-bites to gain political benefit. This is disgusting, creepy behavior, like the telephone fraudsters who were posing as a 9-11 victim's fund right after 9-11 happened.

It is stupid and almost criminal to suggest that Sarah Palin is responsible for some psychotic going off on a shooting binge. If conservatives suggested such a thing about a liberal, the New York Times would throw a holy, first page fit in 50 point type. Apparently a double standard is at work. Shocking.

Sadly, politicians like DG don't get it. They turn even this type of horrendous tragedy into political grist within 24 hours. They think this is slick.

Representative Raul Grijalva
Photo Credit

DG should take a step back from the brink of the abyss and assess their own culpability for a toxic political environment. To attribute a psychotic's murderous actions to one's political opponents makes ordinary debate impossible. It is the height of folly and irresponsibility.

This is not political speech. It is slander. It is willfully untrue, and the motive is to gain political leverage.

The American people are fundamentally fair, and they prefer people who play fair. DG's "dumb and dumber" bit will cost the Democrats far more in credibility with the American people than the health-care bill ever did. The Democratic leadership had better lance this boil quickly, or the infection will go systemic.

BTW, under the DG theory of political speech, by making the systemic infection analogy, I may have prompted some psychotic to infect DG with a noxious biological agent. Of course, that's not my intent, but then, given the toxic political sewer in which DG seem to be delightedly splashing about, I guess I'd better make that clear.