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Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises; for never intending to go beyond promises; it costs nothing.
-- Edmund Burke


Lincoln ended the Cooper Union speech thus: 'LET US...DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.' He didn’t tell the Republicans 'let us go out and win this thing.'

My duty, as I understand it, is to treat the buncombe that passes for serious campaigning with unrestrained ridicule; to pillory the slippery, ignorant incumbacrat now in office; to state the truth about the issues before us as I understand them; to park my name on the ballot where there would otherwise be a vacancy. I don’t propose to do this by pretending to suffer from the abdominal conflagration known as a 'fire in the belly.' I’m not going to try shaking the money tree by trying to convince people that an obscure, retired drover of undergraduates is likely to unseat an entrenched incumbent backed by a powerful Democratic machine.

Here, with a tip of the hat to H.L. Mencken, is my impression of the 'serious' political rhetoric in these degenerate latter days: 'It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup; of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights...It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and dumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.'

"It isn't positions which lend men distinction, but men who enhance positions."

-- Agesilaus King of Sparta 400-360 B.C.

Character or Issues? Lots of voters these days, and far fewer than you may think in times past, look to "the issues" to inform them as to who they should vote for. It’s all very scientific - you make a chart of the "issues" and how you would like your "representative" to vote on them, and you move down the list industriously marking them off until, Voila!, you have found your mammal.

How dead, dusty, scientific, and, well,
~ droll.

This is what is called "process" over "intuition of character". People are expected to choose their President based on their “gut feeling” about him or her. But when they look for a legislator, they look for a ventriloquist who is channeling themselves.

Process can be applied in many areas, almost always to the detriment of whatever human factor it is that is being "processed". I’m certain it works quite well when applied to, say, chemical processes, but people? The teaching profession, for example, is famed for its process approach. The holder of X degrees and X number of hours working for X number of years after submitting to X number of soul stifling conferences and colloquia is entitled to X number of dollars. And of course cannot be fired for any cause short of having sex with their charges, and you’d better have that on tape as well. So using "process", we now have a system which can be scientifically proven to have all the right people in all the right places, and cannot be altered (why would one alter perfection?). The only problem is that the students get dumber every year. Believe me, the Professor knows, having spent 32 years dealing with the dumbing down of America. And people wonder why Frary left New Jersey 2 weeks after he retired.

Or take banking. In the old days, a banker would consider the reputation for frugality, industry and thrift of the applicant, make a first hand determination of their character (there’s that pesky notion again!), and either make the loan or not. Today of course we have far superior methods based on "process". A has income X, has credit score X, works for employer X for X number of years, gets mortgage on X terms. We have now removed the archaic “character” factor, assuring us scientifically that credit has now been allocated in the safest manner possible assuring the greatest return with the least possible risk. And along comes the subprime mortgage crisis, and the world teeters on the edge of the Second Great Depression. How discomfiting.

Some problems that might interfere with our scientific eager beavers of the Process Weltanschauung* would be obvious to any child who was ever disappointed by buying a toy they saw on TV, but I will be happy to list a few for you:

*(you are welcome to look it up, but please don’t expect me to dumb this down for you. Every high school student in America knew what Weltanschauung meant as late as 1948, thank you)

A. Politicians sometimes lie. Shocking, but almost certainly true. In fact, I saw an analysis once of why lawyers did better than any other group at politics, the upshot of which was they had "a more flexible view of the truth." The worst are the ones who decide to seek office A, and discern by polling that the people want to hear B, so they abandon their previous position C, and by the time they get into office, all you’ve got is alphabet soup. A thin, watery gruel, I assure you.

B. Speaking of flexible, we arrive at the concept of "slinky". Abe Lincoln once explained that a good politician did not have to lie in order to mislead people, and being a lawyer, he probably knew what he was talking about. There are certain orators who can bloviate along for hours without saying one single thing and people proclaim them as the new Messiah. Do you really think they can fool enough voters to get elected like that? YES THEY CAN.

C. And then there is backbone, another character trait. Let’s say you find a candidate, A, who is a positively genetic match for all your pet hobby horses. And yet, he or she is a spineless worm. Remember Churchill’s dictum: "Courage is the one essential virtue, because without it all the other virtues are meaningless." You might discover that you are really better off with candidate B, who only agrees with you on 7 of 10 issues, but will actually STAND UP for them.

D. So, finally, I advise you to approach an election the way a jury hears a case. Just as in an election, not everybody on the jury is going to be a genius, and you’ll have to consider the character of those who testify in your deliberations, but you will usually come up with the guy (or gal) who will actually DO SOMETHING. Good clues might include someone who will tell you something they know you don’t want to hear ("ethanol is bunk" or "the auto jobs are not coming back to your state" or "it could be a catastrophe to stop short of victory in Iraq right now"), but remember that what you are looking for is a stout character (no pun intended, and certain parties have lost more than 20 pounds since the campaign started, thank you) who actually has the courage of their convictions to do as they say.

So if you want to quiz Frary on the "issues", show him the proposed Bill. If it is before the Congress at this time, he will be happy to tell you how he will vote on it if elected - IF you will afford him the opportunity to explain his reasoning. You can learn more about a man by watching how his principles inform his reasoning than you can by eliciting a pat, poll tested answer. Example: "Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare." What does that mean? It means whoever wrote it thinks you are an idiot, and you should act accordingly.

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

-- Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), Speech to the electors of Bristol. 3 Nov. 1774

So here is a little sneak preview, courtesy of the Editors*, of how Professor Frary would dissect an "issue". You know, people come up to candidates every day and say "Are you for national health insurance?" ~What does that mean?~ "It means a single payer system.” ~What does that mean?~ "It means free health care for all." ~You mean it won’t cost money to have doctors and hospitals and medicines anymore?~ "Well, not exactly, but the patient wouldn’t have to pay anymore." ~You mean there would be no new taxes to pay for this?~ "Well, sure, but the new taxes would only be on some people, or at least some more than others, and everyone would benefit." ~Do you have any idea at all what you are talking about?~ "Sure, I saw it on NBC!"

Good Lord?!

* Editors, i.e., people who can plausibly deny that Professor Frary can be held accountable for anything which follows.

FEELING SICK YET? OR How to Think About Health Care.

"And yet, in this Brave New World of HMOs and healthcare agencies that look to the bottom line, many academic health centers are being told I'm sorry, we're not reimbursing you for these functions which are not directly related to the patient care activities that we have listed in our brochure." -- First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Harvard Medical School Commencement Speech, June 4, 1998


Yes, this is the famous Billy Carter, who in 1976 said: 'My mother went into the Peace Corps when she was sixty-eight. My one sister is a motorcycle freak, my other sister is a Holy Roller evangelist and my brother is running for president. I'm the only sane one in the family.'

While he may have well have been right, he was by no means a model for good health practices. Billy smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day (Camels, no filter), gorged on 7,000 calories daily (heavy on the pork chitlin’s and the BBQ ribs) and drank a case of beer every evening (although it wasn’t Coors: "Marijuana is like Coors beer. If you could buy the damn stuff at a Georgia filling station, you'd decide you wouldn't want it."). Billy died at the ripe old age of 51, and you can bet his medical bills weren’t pretty.

So when you think of "national health care" think of Billy. How do you intend to deal with the Billys of this world? Already you see Medicare freeloaders whose common attitude is ~("It doesn't cost me anything so what the h***?")~ A patient has the sniffles and decides to go to the ER, or demands a specialist when in fact none is needed ~("What the h***? I'm not paying for it.")~ They view an emergency room visit as a trip to the spa - and some inner city hospitals have actually been bankrupted by people who call a cab, tell them it’s for a visit to the ER, get the ride downtown, and then go SHOPPING. The hospital has to pay the cabfare - but the government doesn’t reimburse without a patient ID.

The folks who’d like to bring you "free" health care haven’t thought this one through. And "if you think health care costs a lot now, wait until you see what it costs when its FREE!" (Thank you, P.J. O’Rourke)

Others have thought it through. Most of the plans call for a National (Health) Identity Card, with info about each "patient" embedded in the card, and monitored from a Federal database containing medical details about every individual in the country. No card, no care. I heard a "liberal" explain that with modern technology we could eventually "oversee" the health choices of people like Billy. Just put a microchip in Billy’s neck, and we could monitor his proximity to undesirable products or activities. I suppose at that point we would send the Health Police along to "help" Billy make "the right choice". Lovely. I wonder if any of these people have ever read Brave New World?

As for our current mess, I blame Hillary Clinton. "Her main task for Bill involved the comprehensive fouling-up of the nation's healthcare arrangements, so as to make them considerably worse than they had been before and to create an opening for the worst-of-all-worlds option of the so-called HMO, combining as it did the maximum of capitalist gouging with the maximum of socialistic bureaucracy. This abysmal outcome, forgiven for no reason that I can perceive, was the individual responsibility of the woman who now seems to think it entitles her to the presidency." (My apologies to Christopher Hitchens, who wrote that last piece, but it was just too good to pass up).

How does Mr Hitchens' worst-of-all-worlds option look in the real world? Let's consider a true story, without getting into anything messy like actual names. Perhaps John Frary has a friend. Maybe his friend is a fisherman. He probably spends a lot of time out in the elements, exposed to the sun, and in due course, he develops skin cancer. The cancer is successfully removed. The insurance company pays the bill. End of story?

Well, not really. You have to consider the sort of friends The Professor would cultivate. Ornery cusses to a man (or woman). So the fisherman, even though he is completely off the hook, so to speak, writes to the hospital and has the temerity to ask for a copy of the bill. In due course it arrives, and he is startled to discover that not only has he had a caesarian section, but that the bill includes charges for several days of nursing!

So our rugged individualist calls up the insurance company and attempts to set the record straight, as it were. No dice. The process has been successfully completed. No one at the insurance company customer service office has the slightest clue what to do now. And these guys are in business to turn a profit! Imagine, if you will, what will happen in that glorious new era when the people on the other end of the line are civil service folk, concentrating on getting the maximum allocation in the next budget. And some people think this will cost less?

But what about all those "plans" we keep hearing about? All the major plans are just reshuffling the deck in the never ending quest to stick someone else with the bill. No candidate has had the guts (yet) to tell the American people the truth as the cost of health care, already the highest in the world, continues to spiral out of control. The nation's health care tab rose 6.7% to $2 TRILLION DOLLARS last year, and the US now spends $7026 per person per year - scads more than anybody else on the planet.

'The most serious threat to the United States,' U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, the federal government’s chief auditor, has warned, 'is not someone hiding in a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan but our own fiscal irresponsibility.' And with Medicare’s costs expected to exceed revenues by $34 TRILLION over the next 75 years, Medicare is largely to blame. Congress will vote this year on whether or not to start reining the spending in.

But not because they want to. When Congress created a universal prescription drug benefit in 2003, adding an estimated $9 trillion to the program's long-term deficit, [they also included a "cost containment" mechanism to help control Medicare spending. This mechanism requires Congress to "consider" cost-savings legislation when accountants project that taxpayers bear an "excessive" burden of more than 45 percent of the program’s costs. This year, for the second year in a row, accountants have concluded that the taxpayer’s share of total Medicare costs will be over 45 percent. The President will send legislation to Congress to help remedy this new tax burden, and Congress will be required to take it up by this summer, promising a vote on an important Medicare reform measure this year.]source: Heritage Foundation. And my sympathies to us all on that vote, considering that Nancy Pelosi is in charge.

Wanna bet how Mike Michaud is going to vote? Sneak preview - can I get anyone to give me 10 to 1 odds he will NOT vote to slop the hogs? Guys like Mike figure the last government program to stop paying off will be their pension, and seeing as how they get to vote on who gets what, they may be right.

An Actual doctor in Minnesota spells it out for us: Everyone wants to make the bogeyman out of insurance and blame them for everything. Well- "non-profit" HMO's have the same issues. Making consumer's more responsible for their health care in both terms of health decisions/lifestyles and the actual purchasing health care will go a long way. If I am healthy, eating right, exercising, and getting my physicals as needed- my bloated insurance premiums are subsidizing a irresponsible, or lazy or non-compliant patient. Is this fair??

Tort reform is huge. Notice how the Canadian or UK don't have million dollar punitive verdicts against their systems? It's not just the verdict money- it's the defense costs and more importantly the huge price of defensive medicine spent to try to avoid a lawsuit. Example- let's say you are Dr. Smith. with patient XYZ. You can diagnosis XYZ without this test with 99% certainty. Now- the test costs you nothing as the doctor, and the test may reduce your legal liability- why shouldn't you order this $2000 test as the doctor even if you feel medically you do not need it? Now- multiple this scenario times 30,000 and you wonder where our medical dollars go?

Lastly- Ethics. How much should our system spend on certain cases?? Should we as a society spend $3 million on a 5 month premature baby? Other countries do not. A large percentage of our health care dollars are spent in the last year of a patient's life. Example- your mother has a terminal illness and will pass away in the next 6 months. An experimental treatment that costs 1 million is available and best case scenario add 6 months to her life. Should we as a society pay for this?? Other countries do not. A million dollars of medical care could go a long way for other patients. Unless we have the guts to address real issues like this- everything is just rearranging the furniture."

- Rex Inver - Grove Heights, MN

As for the doctor’s point about the healthy subsidizing the Billy Carters of this world, consider this lovely chart:

And who do you suppose these hippopotami expect to pay for their health care? Could it be those who diet and exercise? You know, when you spend money on something, you subsidize it. Whatever you subsidize, you get more of. Passing laws like the one rejected in Mississippi this year that proposed making restaurant owners responsible for turning obese patrons away from the trough will not work in a free society. But it won’t work in ANY society if you are going to give the sort of people who aspire to being buried in a piano case a free ticket to medical care. The American "lifestyle" is so unhealthy that the current generation is projected, with all our medical advances, to be the first generation in US history to have a LOWER life expectancy than the one before it.

Now the victim's rights activists are leaping into the fray as well, claiming that obesity (definition: severely overweight) is really a disease, and that airliners should be required by law to give these victims two seats instead of one on commercial flights. I wonder who will pay for that... but I don’t wonder much.

Of course, they could just take the advice that Orson Welles got from his physician: 'My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.' But that would require self control, a species of self reliance that has fallen woefully out of favor in our Nanny State culture.

So we’ve tried a system based on capitalism plus socialism, and now we have to choose one or the other. Socialism, we are assured, has only failed in the past because "people like us" were not in charge. But I suspect that it has failed because it is precisely people who thought like that who WERE in charge. Experimenting with human beings as the test subjects requires a certain mindset. The Greeks called it Hubris, and our best translation of that term is "overweening Pride" - the kind that goes before a Fall.

And of course we all remember Winston Churchill’s observation about our choice: "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

Of course, any sort of capitalist solution runs up against the sort of "peepul" who want to take the "profit motive" out of medicine. As for taking the profit out of insurance, why would you want to raise the cost of health care? I mean Scrooge might ("Then let them die and decrease the surplus population"), but you? IF you got rid of the profit, you would get rid of the insurance companies. You'd have to replace them with a government bureaucracy. Costs would double, easy.

Example: Private enterprise could deliver first class mail for about 25 cents a letter, with a profit of 10 to 12%. The government gets one third or so of that profit back as taxes. Everybody wins.

The government of course does not allow private enterprise to deliver the mail, as they have taken on the task themselves and declared it a legal monopoly. Their bureaucracy delivers first class mail for something over 40 cents a letter, and loses money doing it. And needless to say, there is nothing to tax. Everybody loses.

Of course, this isn't a fair comparison - health care is far more complex, so the costs would be far higher. And are, right now. Tried to read a hospital bill lately?

So what’s capitalism get us, besides profits that can be taxed? Simply put, competition. Have you noticed how the price of big screen TVs, computers and cell phones just keep falling every year even as they get better? Its the exact same with medical technology. Lasic eye surgery used to cost $2500 per eye, and it was quite risky. Now its nearing foolproof status, and the price in some markets is down to $479 an eye. Then why is everything else medical going up 8-10 even 12% a year while lasic is dropping? Because lasic surgery is one of the only medical procedures that hasn’t been swallowed up by the socialist/capitalist medical bureaucracy. That’s right, insurance and Medicare don’t cover it. The price of dentistry used to fall every year for the same reason, but once dental insurance became common and Medicaid discovered teeth, the prices skyrocketed. Limiting insurance to catastrophic illnesses, and even in catastrophic cases to those that were not self inflicted, would solve these problems within a matter of months. We would not only keep the finest and most innovative medical system on earth, but we would also be able to afford it.

Young Frary on Phone
The Young Professor in his Austin Power Days.
Right now health care is on target to swallow up 25% of the Gross National Product just a few short years from now. Medicare and Medicaid alone will be bigger than the entire Federal Budget is NOW when our children try to retired. This is more than twice as much as anybody else on the planet is paying (and it's even higher than that in Maine!), and every solution proposed by the soft socialists will only accelerate the crisis. Every projected cost benefit of single payer or mandatory insurance schemes are based on two simple premises: the coercion of individuals "for their own good"; and selectively allowing others to die. Do you actually believe the voters will allow these "economies" to take place?

As for forcing corporations to purchase insurance (notice how often the word "force" comes up in these schemes? although the preferred terminology is "require", which is the same critter with a college education), a far better approach would be to break the job=insurance connection completely, and introduce some competition into a system based on individual choice. This would help exports, lower inflation, increase medical innovation, lower interest rates and reduce taxes and reduce your health costs - the only thing that has ever driven prices down is the market. And what terrible sacrifices will you have to make to bring all this about? You will have to SHOP. Just like you shop today for long distance or cell phone rates. Some of us remember the Dark Ages when there was only one rate and only one place to get a phone, and even though the cost of living has tripled, rates are lower now than then. If we had kept the monopoly, we could be looking forward to cell phones - in just another hundred years or so. Monopolies do not deal well with change.

We could give every man woman and child in the US a $3000 medical savings account for less than we are paying for Medicare and Medicaid right now and let them decide what to do with it. Let them combine accounts in family groups and borrow against future revenues for real emergencies, and let them decide when to gather around the bed and say goodbye. Better us than Big Brother. Costs would drop like a stone.

So forcing everyone to buy an insurance policy, or forcing everyone to submit to genetic testing for a National Health ID Card, or forcing every small business to insure their employees would just push the whole system right over the edge. Costs would increase even more rapidly than they are now. If people could vote themselves unlimited health care, and damn the cost, don’t you suppose they just might? And then questions like who will pay for the drugs that suppress Johnny's male type behavior in kindergarten, whether or not to pay for self esteem counseling, what to eat for dinner, or how "we" determine who should get a sex change operation will leave the sphere of private choice forever, and a Brave New World WILL be born.
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