28 November 2009

Climategate: "Scientists" Abandoning Science

One of the first great statements of the need to protect the environment is Chief Seattle's 1855 letter to President Franklin Pierce, a letter which echoes his environmentally conscious 1854 speech before Isaac Ingalls Stevens, then Governor of the Washington Territory.  The letter is poetic in its depiction of the connection between Man and nature:
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.
The letter is also, alas, a lie.  There is no evidence Si'ahl--Chief Seattle--ever wrote such a letter, or even said what is ascribed to him in the 1854 speech. 

"No evidence" seems to be a recurring theme among those who proclaim great concern for "the environment", as the recent release of emails obtained by a hacker from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) strongly suggests.  Just as there is a seeming wide gulf between the historical reality of Si'ahl and the mythology of the environmentally prescient Chief Seattle, there is a wide--and growing--gulf between the dire predictions of the global warming "alarmists" ensconced in the CRU and the actual empirical data.  So dramatic is the disparity between the published CRU findings and their source data that one journalist, James Delingpole of the Daily Telegraph, has somewhat portentiously (and perhaps prematurely) proclaimed the growing scandal "the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?"   The "science" that has inspired the nations of the earth to gather first in Kyoto, now in Copenhagen, and soon in Mexico City, all for the sake of reversing 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', is as much of an airy piece of chicanery as the words of their philosophical forebear Chief Seattle.

Some might argue that it matters not if the scientists at the CRU were perhaps overly aggressive in their statistical manipulations....errr..."analyses" of climate and temperature data.  Given that the world over we see glaciers receding and ice caps melting, it is perfectly obvious that something is changing in our environment--and a changing climate can greatly impact our own quality of life, even our viability as a species.  If the problem is real, what does it matter if some well-meaning scientists "exaggerated"?

The answer is found first in Jerry Clark's concluding paragraph of his 1985 debunking of the Chief Seattle myth:
Does it really make any difference today whether the oration in question actually originated with Chief Seattle in 1855 or with Dr. Smith in 1887?  Of course it matters, because this memorable statement loses its moral force and validity if it is the literary creation of a frontier physician rather than the thinking of an articulate and wise Indian leader.  Noble thoughts based on a lie lose their nobility.  The dubious and murky origins of Chief Seattle's alleged "Unanswered Challenge" renders it useless as supporting evidence.  The historical record suggests that the compliant and passive individual named Seattle is not recognizable in the image of the defiant and angry man whose words reverberate in our time.
No matter how noble the intentions of Dr Mann and the researchers at East Anglia's CRU, the nobility of their purpose disappears in the mendacity of their method.  Their zeal and insistence to put forward their climate hypotheses as the only viable explanations for what we see in the world around us is the behavior of religious fanatics, not objective scientists; they have replaced the skeptical scientist's persistent question of "why" with the fundamentalist's fervent proclamation of "because."  That is their great error, their great sin, and, ultimately their great downfall.

Science is more clearly defined by what is unknown rather than what is known.  Even a lay person may see the world around him changing, but it is the scientist who ponders that change, who seeks the underlying cause or causes of that change.  It is the scientist who ever asks "why" and never presumes the answers to be final--and when a scientist excludes all hypotheses but his own from consideration, he ceases to be a scientist.

Moreover, because even the lay person can see the changing world around us, not only is it not necessary to manipulate and misrepresent data, it is not helpful.  If the changing world threatens humanity's existence, then accurate information and proper scientific inquiry are what humanity needs most, not the arrogant zealousness of a benighted few.  In matters of climate, as in all matters, the truth is what matters, not who proclaims that truth.

And in matters of climate, there is one truth that resonates today as it did in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy gave his commencement address to the graduating class of American University:
So, let us not be blind to our differences - - but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.
Unlike Si'ahl, Kennedy actually did say those words.

Can We Afford This War?

Glenn Thrush on Politico reports this interesting bit of discourse by Nancy Pelosi:
PAY-FOR WAR. Pelosi was far more fiscally conservative when it came to Afghanistan, expressing sympathy with congressional liberals, including Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.), who thinks war funding should be subject to Blue Doggish “pay-for” rules.

"I think we have to look at that war with a green eyeshade on," Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the lefty bloggers, according to HuffPo’s Ryan Grim. "There is unrest in our caucus about: Can we afford this war?"

Pelosi qualified her remarks by noting that cost is not the top concern. "I think the American people believe that if it's something that's in our national security interest," she said, the investment is worth it.

But it still has to be paid for, she said. "Everything else has to be paid for. It must be fiscally sound. We have to hold it to the same standard, as well."
"Can we afford this war?" is a seemingly prudent question, but only if one ignores the nature of war--a focused and rapid expenditure of national treasure and human life.  War is a costly and bloody undertaking in the best of circumstances.  For that reason, a prudent man will never choose to wage war, all things being equal; for that reason, war will invariably choose the prudent man.

Yet such a choice is necessary before one can address the question of "can we afford this war?"  Consider for a moment how the typical determination of affordability is made:  If one is buying a house or a car, one determines affordability on the basis of current income--one can (or cannot) absorb the monthly payment of the loan that facilitates the purchase.  If one is selecting a restaurant, one determines affordability on the basis of how much cash one has on hand (or how much room is left on a credit card).  In every instance, the question of affordability is contingent on the question of desirability--we must want the house, or the car, or the meal, or the war, before the question of affordability can have any relevance.  The antecedent to "can we afford this war?" is "do we desire this war?"

Thus it is that warfare, particularly in the modern era, is a distinctly non-economic affair, for what rational person would answer affirmatively the question "do we desire this war"?  Yet that is exactly what Nancy Pelosi has done by implication, merely by speculating on "can we afford this war?" regarding Afghanistan.  For Pelosi to be concerned about whether the war can be "afforded" necessitates Pelosi desiring the war;  Pelosi, it seems, wants a war.

Thus it also is that the question is, invariably, the wrong question.  War is never desirable.  It may at times, be necessary, but no more than that.  The merits of war rest on war's necessity, not on war's "affordability."

The proper question, the question Pelosi ignores in her desire for war, is "do we need this war?"  The question has already been advanced by President Obama himself, when he deemed Afghanistan a "war of necessity."  The true debate over Afghanistan is not a debate over cost, but a debate over how (and if) war in Afghanistan advances America's security and national interests.  The true debate is over how much of a necessity the war in Afghanistan actually is.

Perversely, if Pelosi's Democrats have as their best argument that America can "afford" the war, they have already answered that question of the war's necessity:  not very.

08 September 2009

Health Care Tax Unconstitutional

Senator Max Baucus unveiled his "compromise" health care plan today. One of the signature elements is mandatory purchase of health insurance by all Americans:
Just as auto coverage is now mandatory in most states, Baucus would a require that all Americans get health insurance once the system is overhauled. Penalties for failing to get insurance would start at $750 a year for individuals and $1,500 for families. Households making more than three times the federal poverty level - about $66,000 for a family of four - would face the maximum fines. For families, it would be $3,800, and for individuals, $950.
Baucus needs to be flogged, flayed, drawn, and quartered for this insanity.

First, let us demolish the straw man comparison to automobile insurance.  The mandatory coverage for drivers is liability coverage.  Drivers must have insurance coverage to pay for damages they cause in an accident.  Nowhere in the 50 states is there a law mandating drivers or car owners have insurance to cover repairs to their own vehicles.  The only time such coverage is imposed on a vehicle owner is when a lien holder demands.  Auto liability coverage is hardly a parallel for health care insurance.

Requiring all people to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, moreover, is an unconstitutional health care capitation tax.  It is a tax because it is a levy imposed by the United States.  Worse, it is a direct tax imposed only on a subset of American citizens (those without health insurance), and thus is explicitly proscribed by the Constitution.

The power to tax is found in the first clause of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Article I Section 9 of the Constitution limits the power of taxation through the following restriction:
No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
The Sixteenth Amendment clarifies this language to explicitly allow taxes upon income:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
The penalty tax, being imposed arbitrarily on a discrete class of taxpayers--those persons not subscribed to a health insurance plan--is absolutely not uniformly imposed tax, nor is it imposed in proportion to a census or enumeration (indeed, the conditional nature of the tax precludes the possibilities of uniformity or proportionality).  It is not assessed with regard to income, and thus does not qualify as an income tax, and so is not excluded from the proportionality requirement via the Sixteenth Amendment.

The Supreme Court Case POLLOCK v. FARMERS' LOAN & TRUST CO (157 U.S. 429) states the matter quite explicitly:
Nothing can be clearer than that what the constitution intended to guard against was the exercise by the general government of the power of directly taxing persons and property within any state through a majority made up from the other states.
The health care penalty tax is unconscionable and unconstitutional, and needs to be eliminated from public debate on health care immediately.

06 September 2009

Afghanistan: Never America's War

There is but one reason for the United States to have military forces in Afghanistan:  to confront and eliminate the capacity of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda to find safe haven from which to attack the United States itself.  That was the thrust and practical consequence of the five-point ultimatum President George W. Bush delivered to the Taliban in his 20 September 2001 address to a joint session of Congress:
By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder. And tonight the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban:
-- Deliver to United States authorities all of the leaders of Al Qaeda who hide in your land.
-- Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens you have unjustly imprisoned.
-- Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country.
-- Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. And hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities.
-- Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.
These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion.
Indeed, the United States was never significantly troubled by the presence of the Taliban per se; it never granted formal recognition to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan declared by the Taliban after taking Kabul in 1996, but had little cause to eject them from Kabul.  But for Al Qaeda, the United States would have no quarrel with the Taliban.

This is not idle supposition.  Al Qaeda moved itself to the forefront of American counter-terrorist thinking with the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998, and again with the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.  Even before the 9/11 attacks, the United States was preparing to confront Al Qaeda militarily, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, with a National Security Presidential Directive having been prepared and awaiting President George W. Bush's signature just days before 9/11:
The document, a formal National Security Presidential Directive, amounted to a “game plan to remove al-Qaida from the face of the earth,” one of the sources told NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski.
The plan dealt with all aspects of a war against al-Qaida, ranging from diplomatic initiatives to military operations in Afghanistan, the sources said on condition of anonymity.
America's strategic adversary is without any doubt Al Qaeda and not the Taliban.  Even if the Taliban were to take aggressive action now to eject Al Qaeda leaders from Afghani territory, Al Qaeda would still have places in which to gather resources, train, and plot future actions.  Somalia, the world's other unequivocally failed state, has become increasingly receptive to an Al Qaeda presence within its borders:
Osama bin Laden has been urging Al-Qaeda followers to open up shop in Somalia for years, but there was always doubt about whether that call would resonate in a largely secular nation with a historic wariness of Arab interference. No longer. After January's attacks by Ethiopia--which were backed by U.S. air power and aimed to reduce the threat of terrorism--an increasingly international Islamist presence has flourished in the country, drawn by the chaos of postinvasion Somalia and the chance to strike back at the U.S. and its ally Ethiopia. In Mogadishu, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi told TIME that an alliance has formed among Somali nationalist rebels, remnants of the overthrown Islamic government, and rebels from the Ethiopian border region. U.S. officials accuse Eritrea, which has fought several wars against Ethiopia, of lending troops to the insurgency. Other observers say hundreds of foreign jihadists are arriving in Somalia. Transitional federal government President Yusuf Abdullah has accused Iran and Pakistan of funding the rebels, while others in Mogadishu point to Libya, Egypt and disgruntled elements within the Somali diaspora.
It is vital to remember that, before the Taliban conquered Kabul in 1996, Al Qaeda's headquarters was in Sudan, and that Osama bin Laden made common cause with the Taliban only after being expelled from Sudan in 1996:
A decade later, when Sudan kicked Bin Laden out of the country and he had nowhere to go, he turned to Tora Bora for sanctuary. He flew a chartered jet to Jalalabad in May 1996 and lived for a time in the nearby caves. Later that year, he moved his headquarters to Kandahar, the Taliban regime's spiritual capital in southern Afghanistan, but maintained a family and a house in Jalalabad.
It is also vital to note that some within the Sudanese government appear in recent years to be rather in favor of bin Laden returning to Sudan, having practically invited his Al Qaeda operatives to resume their prior activities in that country:
The document requests all government agencies to allow “foreign Jihadis who came to Sudan with Osama Bin Laden in 1994 to resume their political activities in Sudan given the circumstances surrounding foreign intervention in Darfur to support armed forces and the people of Sudan to fight Zionist enemies”.
The decision outlines certain steps to be taken to allow Al-Qaeda to operate in Sudan such as unfreezing their bank accounts and returning all properties confiscated in 1996.
In all fairness, it must be noted that the official Sudanese posture has been one of cooperation with the United States against global terrorism, as that same article highlights the assistance Sudan has given the United States against Al Qaeda:
The Los Angeles Times revealed last month that Sudan has secretly worked with the CIA to spy on the insurgency in Iraq, an example of how the U.S. has continued to cooperate with the Sudanese regime even while condemning its suspected role in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Darfur.
The U.S.-Sudan relationship goes beyond Iraq. Sudan has helped the United States track the turmoil in Somalia. Sudanese intelligence service has helped the US to attack the Islamic Courts positions in Somalia and to locate Al Qaeda suspects hiding there.
Sudan might be a future haven for Al Qaeda, but hardly a safe haven.

Yet the presence of Al Qaeda supporters within Somalia and Sudan are sufficient to demonstrate that defeating the Taliban militarily in Afghanistan will not defeat Al Qaeda at all.  Al Qaeda has other places of refuge besides the hills of Tora Bora, other desolate lands in which to organize and train terrorists.

The Taliban before Al Qaeda was not America's concern.  The Taliban after Al Qaeda should not be America's concern--and therefore the Taliban should not now be America's concern.  The Taliban is one of many competing insurgent forces seeking dominion over Afghanistan, and is more ethnic than religious in nature.  The Taliban leadership are entirely Pashtuns, and the motivation to reestablish Pashtun dominance in the region cannot be overlooked in their continuing influence within Afghanistan; indeed, their expansion into Pakistan arguably has less to do with religious fanaticism and more to do with a long-standing ethnic conflict between Pakistani Pashtuns and the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani Army:
The Pakistani army is composed mostly of Punjabis. The Taliban is entirely Pashtun. For centuries, Pashtuns living in the mountainous borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan have fought to keep out invading Punjabi plainsmen. So sending Punjabi soldiers into Pashtun territory to fight jihadists pushes the country ever closer to an ethnically defined civil war, strengthening Pashtun sentiment for an independent "Pashtunistan" that would embrace 41 million people in big chunks of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
 Thus it becomes clear that America's war against the Taliban is very much an accidental war--a war of coincidence only.  Perversely, America's war against the Taliban is the very essence of what President Obama described as a "dumb war":
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
The words then Illinois State Senator Obama used to describe Iraq apply even more forcefully to Afghanistan.  Afghanistan is not merely a dumb war, it is a dumb war that was never America's war in the first place.  Afghanistan is the accidental battlefield between the United States and Al Qaeda, and no more than that.  This realization, and the realization that the true adversary in Afghanistan remain Al Qaeda, points the way to a plausible strategy in Afghanistan:  separate Al Qaeda from their Taliban patrons, strive to qwell the ethnic tensions between Afghani Pashtuns and Pakistani Punjabis, give voice and credence to the very real ethnic (and non-Islamic) tensions in that part of the world. 

Afghanistan was never America's war.  The Taliban was never America's adversary.  America's adversary is and remains Al Qaeda, and the transnational terrorism movements it foments and supports.  Drive Al Qaeda from Afghanistan and let the ethnic peoples of that region resolve their ethnic differences--by words and peaceful parley, preferably, but by force of arms if that is their will.  Target Al Qaeda, and leave Afghanistan alone.

29 August 2009

The Kennedy Contradiction

That Edward Kennedy was a true "lion of the Senate" has by now been said by enough pundits and members of the chattering class as to render the phrase the artless and clunky cliche it was no doubt destined to be. Edward Kennedy was a formidable Senator, having put forward more than 2,500 pieces of legislation in his career, over 500 of which were enacted into law. Even a brief sampling of the laws he had a hand in passing shows an extraordinary breadth of legislative accomplishment: the Americans With Disabilities Act, No Child Left Behind, Head Start, Immigration Act of 1965, and the National Cancer Institute (for which he obtained the support of no less an adversary than President Richard Nixon merely by taking his name off the bill) are but the smallest sampling of historic legislation Kennedy helped bring into being.

Edward Kennedy was not just a "lion of the Senate", he was a true "lion of liberalism"--and perhaps the last such lion. Kennedy's vision of government was an extension of the progressive ideals of FDR's New Deal, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. To such liberals, "the forces of government should be marshaled to improve conditions for the greatest possible number of Americans, with particular emphasis on the excluded and disadvantaged. It is not government’s only obligation, in this view, but it is the paramount one." It is an expansive view of government, one opposed not only by Republicans, who at least nominally hew to the Reagan aphorism that "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." but also by moderate Democrats who fashion their politics after President Clinton's "third way".

That Kennedy firmly believed in the unchallenged virtue of expansive government is beyond question. One need look only to his famous speech at the 1980 Democratic Convention, which laid out a veritable manifesto of liberal political ideas and policies:
Let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation.

Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy.

Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs.
Indeed, much of today's rhetoric about health care reform is a mere restatement of what Kennedy said nearly 30 years ago:
Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must -- We must not surrender -- We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth.
So it is that one can see in Kennedy's own words the great contradiction that is at the core of Kennedy the Senator, Kennedy the Liberal, and indeed of all the progressive liberal ideology of which Kennedy was the last great champion. That contradiction is a sublime bit of hypocrisy--that to care for people is to shield them from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and thus some people must so order society as to "protect" the rest of humanity. The essence of liberalism is that individuals are powerless even to decide their own fates; Kennedy seemingly extended that pessimism into his personal life, judging by his handwringing over Chappaquiddick:
Kennedy's future loomed, suddenly uncertain. "What am I going to do, what can I do?" Kennedy asked.
By being the last lion of liberalism, Kennedy thus became the living demonstration of liberalism's failure--the philosophical failure of its policies and practical failure of its politics. His education legislation (Head Start, No Child Left Behind) has not reversed declining quality in American education.   Despite the creation of the National Cancer Institute, the prognosis for people afflicted with the brain cancer that claimed Kennedy has improved only a little--and for many other cancers has not improved at all. His reputation as a bipartisan, collegial, and even compassionate legislator did not stand in the way of his highly partisan, inflammatory, and highly inaccurate attacks on Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork:
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens."
For Kennedy the Liberal Lion, everything, including basic civility and decency, could and should be sacrificed to advance the liberal agenda.  Indeed, with his savage attacks on Bork, Kennedy introduced politics and policy into the judicial confirmation process in a way that has continued ever since, as every subsequent nominee is subjected to grilling on his or her judicial philosophy, with the Senate sitting in judgment on whether that philosophy comports with the American "mainstream." For Kennedy the Liberal Lion, the end of preventing a jurist whose ideas might be at odds with Kennedy's liberalism justified the means of upending the old Constitutional order of Senators ensuring federal judges were technically qualified and competent to interpret federal law and replacing it with a new order of Senators approving judicial appointments on the basis of whose theories of jurisprudence best advanced their agenda.

In the end, even the rule of law gave way to the cause of Kennedy's liberalism. In 2004, when the junior Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, was running for President, Kennedy persuaded the Massachusetts legislature to strip the power to appoint a replacement from the Republican governor, Mitt Romney. In 2009, with health care reform legislation hanging in the balance, he wrote to that same legislature asking them to reverse that law, so that Democratic governor Deval Patrick could speedily appoint Kennedy's successor. The end of securing Massachusetts' second Senate seat for the Democrats justified the means of cynically reversing a law passed barely five years ago.

The contradiction that was Senator Edward Kennedy was the contradiction of all liberals who look to government as the agent of social change and social justice--that government must mandate the just order of society because man by himself has failed to do so, and so society must trust those men who serve in government because none other can be trusted.  It is a sad, albeit fitting, epitaph to note that the greatness of his career was predicated on the smallness of his vision of humanity.

24 August 2009

An Honest Debate?

In his 22 August 2009 Internet and radio address, the President called for "an honest debate" on health care in this country.  Specifically, he called for one not "dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are."  At the same time, he rather facetiously claims that "we've had a vigorous debate about health insurance reform, and rightly so."

To quote one of his erstwhile allies in the Congress, Barney Frank, that last statement invites the question of the President: "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"

What "vigorous debate about health insurance reform" is he talking about?  Is he referring to the reform (the meaning of which is, after all, "to change things") which pledges to allow the 84% of Americans with insurance who actually like what they have to keep things exactly as they are?  Is he referring to the reforming of health care costs, with the goal of "bending the curve down" towards lower costs overall, which commits the federal government to spend an additional $1 Trillion over the next 10 years?  Is he referring to the reform of extending insurance to the much ballyhooed 47 million in this country who do not have insurance--which includes some 10 million illegal immigrants and about double that number of people with incomes well above the poverty line who, for whatever reason, simply choose not to purchase health insurance?  Is he referring to the reform of expanding the use of diagnostic procedures and tests to catch disease early in hopes of reducing costs of care--the cost of which increase overall health care spending?

Of all the "outrageous myths" being spread about health care reform, the most outrageous is that there has been any debate at all on the topic.  Insurance reform that begins with promising 84% of Americans that nothing will change cannot be reform by definition--if nothing is changing, nothing is being reformed.  Cost reform that does not seek to alter the dynamics of health care economics cannot be reform by definition--if nothing is changing, nothing is being reformed.  Reforming treatment protocols by using more tests to identity more sick people to apply existing treatment regimens cannot be reform by definition--if nothing is changing, nothing is being reformed.

A true debate on health care reform would openly question the status quo in American health care.  One such question, which gets only scant attention, either from the Congress or the media, is "why must health insurance be an employment benefit (and thus employer-subsidized)?"  Another such question, which has received equally scant attention from the Congress and the media, is "why are health care providers paid for each test and procedure, regardless of its ultimate utility in treating the patient (the reimbursement scheme generally summarized as "fee for service")?"  A question that is not being asked at all is "how well have existing regulations served in facilitating quality health care delivery?"

I am no doctor, I am no politician, I am no lobbyist.  My interest in health care reform is my own health, and how I will care for my own health.  My interest is in health care that is affordable, that treats illness and promotes my good health without draining my bank accounts in the process.

I want the President and the Congress to return to Earth and address these real questions about health care.  I want health care reform.  I want a debate on health care reform.  I have yet to see one.