War with Iraq

Isntapundit has an interesting view on war with Iraq, as well as a link to his commentary on editorials in The Nation and the L.A. Times, against and for invading Iraq.


Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the Dogs of War....

It seems that some of the media pundits have been saying that the only way the Bush Administration will be able to take away attention from the ongoing corporate corruption scandals, and the shrill allegations from the left of wrongdoing by Bush and Cheney, is for the U.S. to invade Iraq.

Though the motivation behind such an invasion is less likely to be what Liberals imply and is more a pre-emptive action to prevent greater chaos in the future, I have to admit that it has a certain appeal.

Mind you, I'm no warmonger. I'd be the next-to-the-last one to say "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." (My dear brother isn't quite so...umm....magnanimous.) But removing Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party is looking more attractive all the time. Despite the anger from the Muslim world that such a move might create, I believe that many of Iraq's neighbors will quietly applaud our actions and breathe a sigh of relief.

Of course many of the Liberals in the U.S. will bewail the death of Iraqi civilians, but that's what happens in war. During the Gulf War, Saddam had civilians moved into and around Iraqi military installations and weapons facilities in an attempt to prevent their destruction by Coalition air power. It did give pause to the Coalition military commanders, but in the end those installations and facilities were destroyed. Civilians did die. The Coalition couldn't allow the use of hostages, and that's what these civilians were, to deter the campaign against Saddam and the Iraqi military. It is a horrible fact, but civilians are always killed in war, either by accident or by design. The U.S. military tries hard to limit civilian casualties, but it's impossible to avoid.

Despite the pasting Iraq took during the Gulf War, it is still a formidable military power. Saddam Hussein still has designs on becoming a major player in the Middle East, if not the outright overlord. He covets Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and many other Gulf states. He wants to be the Great Leader of the Arab world. I believe he's willing to kill as many people as necessary to achieve that end. I also believe he'd be willing to use weapons of mass destruction in his bid for power as he's used them in the past against Iran during the nine year war with Iran, and against the Kurds within Iraq. I doubt it would bother him in any way if the people of Iraq have to die in order for him to attain his goals. He certainly seems to be willing to kill his own people if he thinks he will gain some advantage in doing so. He has done so to stifle any opposition to his rule within Iraq.

Were the U.S. to invade and conquer Iraq, what should America do once the war is won? Maybe it's time to do some real nation building along the lines of the Marshall Plan after World War II. Perhaps if we had done that after the Soviet Union had withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Taliban would have never come to power and Al Qaeda would not have had a secure base of operations. We must do that in Iraq, for the consequences of not doing it will be far greater than we can probably imagine.


Malpractice- Kill All The (Tort) Lawyers, Redux

An earlier post of mine mentioned the problem some states were having retaining doctors, and specifically obstetricians. A report on ABC's World News Tonight shows that the problem is worse that I had originally thought.

ABC's report focused on two OB/GYNs in the town of Cleveland, Mississippi forced to close their joint practice because their malpractice insurance premiums rose 500%. (No, that isn't a typo- five hundred percent!). They couldn't afford the premiums and the only choice they had was to close the practice, abandoning a number of patients, one less than three weeks away from delivering her child. Women in Cleveland will have no choice but to travel 40 miles to another OB/GYN, and the worry is that he may not be able to practice much longer for the same reason. The average premium increase in the Mississippi delta region was 400%!

This problem reaches far beyond Mississippi. Nationwide, malpractice premiums for OB/GYNs have risen over 160% in the past 10 years. The increasing number of malpractice suits and large settlements over those same ten year period are to blame. The American Medical Association says there are nine states in the U.S. that have reached crisis proportions when it comes to malpractice premiums and doctors leaving their practices. Another 18 states are showing signs of the same problem.

Dr. Thomas Purdon, former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports, "In the past year, at least 10 to 20 percent of all OB/GYNs in the country have either stopped delivering babies, stopped doing gynecological surgery, or even given up practice altogether."

Some may argue that the malpractice suits were justified, that the doctors being sued screwed up. In some cases, I'd agree with them. But I'll bet a lot suits were filed because a patient or family wasn't happy with the way things turned out. Maybe a newborn had some health problems that didn't become evident until the child was born. Maybe a new mother had health complications from the birth. Some of this would have been unforeseeable. Some of these problems could have been caused by the mother herself for not following the doctor's orders during her pregnancy. And sometimes, shit just happens.

But don't fret! Here come the lawyers! They'll get you a load of cash to ease your suffering!

So your baby was born with a club foot? Not a problem. Sue the doctor!

Labor was brought on prematurely because of a traffic accident and the baby later died? It must be somebody's fault. Sue the doctor!

It was a boy rather than a girl? I guess somebody screwed up. Sue the doctor!

There were unexpected complications during and after the birth? Somebody should have expected them. Sue the doctor!

And so on, and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

If this isn't a call for tort reform, I don't know what is. If it doesn't stop here, then one medical specialty after another will fall. And then we'll really be in trouble.

And so the chickens have come home to roost.

I'll go out on a limb here and bet that female lawyers and the wives of lawyers have a really tough time finding an OB/GYN that will take them on as a patient.

Maybe payback is a bitch.......

UPDATE: On Thursday, July 25th, ABC's World News Tonight reported that the two OB/GYNs in Cleveland, Mississippi were contacted by an insurance carrier that offered them short term coverage. Their practice will remain open for the time being, but this is only a reprieve. Their coverage will expire in a couple of months.


First, Kill All The (Tort) Lawyers-- an Update

A comment posted by Vegard Valberg about the McDonald's Hot Coffee incident in my earlier post pointed me to a website that blew away the veil of an urban legend. My understanding of the incident was quite flawed and this website cleared that up. Usually I check my facts, but in this case I really screwed up. Rather than post the entire thing, I'll just post the Mythbuster link and let you read it for yourself. Thanks for setting me straight, Vegard!


First, Kill All The (Tort) Lawyers

Shakespeare may have had the right idea, at least when it comes to tort lawyers. You know the ones. They have slick TV ads implying that everyone is entitled to money because they've been wronged by someone/something/someplace, that it's not your fault that you were too stupid to read the directions before immolating yourself and burning your house to the ground. It appears that the message that is taught to the populace over the years has changed from taking responsibility for your own actions to finding someone else to blame instead. At least that's what the tort lawyers want you believe. They've made the stereotype of the ambulance-chasing lawyer become all too true. It is because of this that tort reform has become more important than ever.


Because without it business, medicine, recreation, or just plain living will become damn near impossible.

There was a movie some time back titled Cherry 2000. It was a comedic sci-fi picture that gave a brief glimpse of a possible future America where dating was negotiated by lawyers. The details were worked out to the nth degree, including such mundane things as holding hands, kissing, or an arm around a shoulder at a movie would be allowed, and to what extent. If a relationship developed beyond that, the lawyers would then negotiate such things as sexual relations including the type, frequency, location of said sexual acts. Observers would be present to make sure that both parties lived up to the contract. When I first saw that bit in the movie I thought it was hilarious. But now I wonder if it might actually come to pass. If it does, then we as a society are doomed. And rightfully so.

The American public has already felt some ill effects, and it will only get worse.

Some examples:

-- Some school and public playgrounds have had jungle gyms, slides, seesaws, and swings removed because of liability lawsuits or the fear of them. In some cases playgrounds have been closed outright because the municipalities didn't want to be sued in case little Johnny fell down or little Susie scraped a knee.

--Does anyone remember this one? A woman purchased a cup of hot coffee at a McDonald's drive-thru. After paying for the coffee and taking the cup of hot coffee from the employee working at the drive-thru window, she placed the cup of hot coffee between her legs, then drove off. When she then stopped at the exit of the McDonald's, the action of her moving her foot from the accelerator to the brake squeezed the cup of hot coffee between her legs. The extra pressure on the cup caused the plastic lid to pop off and spew hot coffee over the inside of her thighs, scalding her and causing first degree burns. She sued the McDonald's franchise and won because they hadn't warned her often enough that their hot coffee was hot!

Update: See below about the real McDonald's Coffee incident.

-- In some states physicians are leaving practices or moving them because malpractice insurance rates are so high. In Mississippi, for example, lawyers pressing malpractice suits have put so much pressure on the medical profession that physicians are voting with their feet or changing to less demanding professions, leaving many people there with less medical care. In Nevada, obstetricians are becoming an endangered species as more of them drop their OB practices or relocating them due to high malpractice insurance premiums. A friend of mine from my high school days dropped obstetrics from her OB/GYN practice because the only ones making any money from it were her insurance company and her lawyer.

-- A side effect of malpractice suits with large damage awards, even those suits based on junk science, has been to increase the cost of health care. Physicians now order extra tests to verify a diagnosis. This is not to double check the diagnosis so much as to gather exculpatory evidence for any malpractice suits that might be filed.

-- Small business are being forced to pay for the clean up of polluted waste sites even though the U.S. government admits they had nothing to do with the improper disposal of wastes. In one case, a number of auto repair shops, garages, and auto dealers in southern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts are being billed for the clean up of a toxic waste site owned by a hazardous waste disposal firm. The various small businesses involved had contracted with the waste hauler in southern New Hampshire to properly dispose of used motor oil, coolant, ATF, and other fluids collected from their maintenance and repair operations. The waste hauler was licensed to haul and dispose of the waste. Little did the client businesses know that the hauler was dumping the waste into open, unlined pits rather than recycling or processing the waste as had been contracted. To quote Weirs Times columnist Publius, "There have been efforts made to correct the way in which the removal of designated Superfund sites is financed.....but the basic problem remains. The E.P.A. has eliminated the concept of fault from consideration in assessing fines and penalties. The federal bureaucrats are robbing even small business people who may face bankruptcy in cases where they readily admit that they have done nothing wrong, and have met every requirement of law and regulation in disposing of their waste." Who is responsible for this mess? One guess, boys and girls.

Two other points Publius makes that ring true, at least to me. The first:

"While it is true that the Clinton/Gore administration was more of a Lawyer's Government than any other thus far in American history, the removal of the concept of fault from consideration in lawsuits from torts to ACLU allegations of abusive Christmas decorations has been an ongoing process for decades. This single element is enabling members of the trial bar to suck up an ever growing share of the wealth of the U.S.A. on the flimsiest of pretexts even when buttressed only by junk science as has been the case with breast implants."

Dow Chemical was bankrupted due to a lawsuit about the health problems associated with the use of silicone breast implants. Incomplete data was massaged to prove that breast implants caused a host of health problems, though there was no comprehensive clinical study performed to prove the allegation. Studies done after the fact proved that there was an increase in certain autoimmune diseases or weakened immune systems amongst some women that had implants, but the increase was shown to be due to a risky lifestyle. Women with similar lifestyles but without breast implants showed the same increase of these same autoimmune diseases and immune system deficiencies. So it wasn't the breast implants that caused the problems, but rather the unhealthy lifestyle of the women affected. Of course this didn't affect the billions in damage payments made by Dow and the millions collected by the lawyers.

The second point:

"There was a time when attorneys at law were professionals who were available to advise and represent citizens who claimed to have been injured by the wrongful actions of another person or entity. Today TV viewers face a deluge from often shady characters from who they wouldn't buy a used car."

How many businesses in this country have had to pay large sums for injuries real or faked, not because they were at fault, but because they had deep pockets the lawyers thought worth picking? How many times have lawyers filed suit in shotgun fashion, naming anybody or any company even remotely connected to an allegedly defective product or service? I recall an instance where a trucking firm was forced to pay a claim in a defective and injurious product lawsuit even though the firm had done nothing more than haul the product from the factory to a distribution warehouse. The firm had nothing to do with the design, manufacture, promotion, or sale of the product in question. The firm had no financial ties to the manufacturer. The only thing the trucking firm was guilty of was taking on a contract to haul a product from point A to point B.

With the actions of September 11th in mind, trial lawyers must be drooling at the prospect of millions and millions in dollars in fees collected through class action suits as the result of terrorist acts committed against the U.S., its businesses, and its citizens. The fact that the actions of September 11th can be considered an act of war hasn't stopped many of these lawyers from filing suits against the airlines, the FAA, the New York Port Authority (owners the World Trade Center), the airports where the hijackers had boarded the aircraft, and a number of other entities and companies. Other than tying up the courts for decades, what purposes will these suits serve other than to enrich these bottom feeders?

Hmm. Could it be there might be a solution here? Is it possible, just possible, we could sic these lawyers on Al Qaeda? Could we solve two problems at the same time by allowing these two forces to wipe each other out?

On the other hand, they might just end up joining forces and then we'd all be doomed..... *sigh*

Update: A comment posted by Vegard Valberg about the McDonald's Hot Coffee incident pointed me to a website that blew away the veil of an urban legend. My understanding of the incident was quite flawed and this website cleared that up. Usually I check my facts, but in this case I screwed up. Rather than post the entire thing, I'll just
post the link and let you read it for yourself. Thanks for setting me straight, Vegard!


"Cultural Diversity" and the Balkanization of America

Seeing the uproar over the decision by three judges of the Ninth Circuit court over the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance got me to thinking about the melting pot that is supposed to be America.

My maternal grandparents came from Finland. They arrived knowing no English. In time they learned it. My grandfather was a machinist, my grandmother a housewife and housekeeper. Over the years, they managed to earn their way in to the American Dream. My grandfather started his own business in Hartford, Connecticut- Swan Tool and Die. My grandmother had cleaned the houses of other Americans, some native born and some immigrants like her. They had a nice home in Wethersfield and a summer cottage on the seashore in Madison.

Never once did they complain about being pressured to forget their cultural heritage, forget where they came from. Why?

Because it never happened.

They came to America to make their fortune, to raise a family, to become Americans.

My mother grew up speaking English. Her older brother had been born in Finland, but he learned English at a young age and probably forgot most of the Finnish and Swedish he knew. My grandparents wanted them to be Americans. And they were. But they never forgot their heritage.

But over the past couple of decades it seems that an increasing number of politically correct liberals believe that immigrants shouldn't have to give up their cultural identities and backgrounds and be assimilated into American culture. They expect us to forget and suppress our cultural heritage in favor of those of foreign lands far away. They seem to think that foreign cultures are superior to western culture, and specifically American culture. They appear to believe that cultural diversity is all important and that everything else should be sacrificed to attain it, even if it means the destruction of the very thing that entices immigrants to risk everything to come to America.

If these misguided souls had their way, America would be a series of ethnic and cultural enclaves, miniature reproductions of all of the foreign lands immigrants left behind. There would be no pseudo-homogenization, no 'melting pot' that is America. They don't seem to realize that American culture was created by taking the best of many other cultures and adapting it, making it our own. If we do it the way that those screeching about cultural diversity want it done, all we would do is recreate the very conditions that so many fled by coming here. The very political, ethnic, cultural, and religious tensions that existed elsewhere would now exist here. There would be ethnic cleansing, dictatorships, oppressive theocracies, and a host of other problems that we really don't want here. We would become another set of artificial Balkan states, along with all the strife that comes with it.

There's nothing wrong with remembering and celebrating our cultural roots, remembering where we came from. There's no problem with observing customs 'from the old country', as long as they don't violate any laws. There's nothing wrong with speaking a language other than English when amongst your family and ethnic peers. But don't expect everyone else in America to bend over backwards to preserve your cultural heritage at the expense of American culture. If someone wants to preserve their cultural heritage and not be assimilated into our culture, not learn our language, not be bound by our laws and our culture, then why did they leave their homes and come here?

To paraphrase Alexis de Tocqueville, "One can go to France and never become French. One can go to England and never become English. But one can go to America and become an American." It's about time that the misguided few remember that.