Roseanne Roseanna Dan, Military Takeovers, and Other Subjects
Following is a revised version of my comments to the P-G Correspondent:
As I predicted, the Biden story has disappeared like a big rock tossed into the ocean.
I knew one of your predecessors, Ann McFeatters, now gone, and I used to call her -- not to her face -- the PG's Roseanne Roseanne Dan (after the Saturday Night Live character played by Gilder Radner). Ann was not a bad person in any sense, but she sometime lacked a certain, well, "fair and balanced" approach. Also, she had a tendency to babble.
During the 2004 campaign, I told Ann that the best thing she could do for her readers was to "hold both candidates' feet to the fire." In fact, she did exactly that -- and ended up writing some of her best columns.
With national security writer Jack Kelly, the most notable thing to me is not his political conservatism, but his skepticism about "official" reports. Early (very early) in the Afghan War, he was citing Israeli intelligence sources, who had some of the best insights into the tenacity of the Taliban. Also, he's been very critical of the FBI's ability to deal with terrorism -- and I've also been hard on the FBI, which I sometimes call "The Uptight White Boys Club." As for the CIA, the best book I've read about it was Bob Baer's "See No Evil," and it is not a favorable view of The Corporation, as it was called in the old days.
In my view, telling the truth is always the best policy -- although not sometimes the most "politic" approach. I was once offered a lot of money (by the Rockford Institution as it was called then) to write an article very critical of Jesse Jackson. I told them I had mixed feelings about Jackson -- this was 25 years ago -- and I did not think an attack article was appropriate. (At the time, Jackson had a Bill Cosby element, challenging Black young people to do their homework, etc.) Rockford never asked me to write again.
Thirty years ago, I wrote for another publication (not for a lot of money) an article very critical of gays/lesbians. Later, I apologized for doing it because it was, in retrospect, mean-spirited and embarrassingly replete with misinformation. Also, personally, I thought the article was part of an un-Christian, uncompassionate phase of my life.
How this relates to you: I realize it's important for you to have decent relations with John Murtha, Jason Altmire, and Bob Casey. Yet I think it's important not to have illusions about them. In almost all cases, they are maddeningly glib about complicated issues.
For example, increasing federal spending on what I call "closed systems" (higher education and health care are two) usually backfires and causes costs to increase at a higher rate. A closed system is one where the supply -- health care or education -- is NOT increasing but the demand is. So, putting more money into the system has a perverse effect. The recipients, education and health care, sop up the additional funds and, as in poker, raise you a few hundred billion dollars.
For example, federal spending on higher education during the Bush Administration has gone up 147%, but the costs have risen even faster! Ergo, parents and their children have an increasingly difficult time paying college costs. The Altmire, Murtha, Casey solution, as I understand it, is to give more money to affluent people so the kids can go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, PSU, and Pitt. Good luck!
Essentially, as the costs of something rise at a rate higher than inflation, the increased federal spending doesn't make a dent. If the number (supply) of doctors, hospitals, med schools, and prestige universities were increasing, things would be better, but they're not. The additional money doesn't increase the supply, although it does create new demand (more students).
Medicare and Medicaid have poured trillions (literally) of dollars into the health care system. Has all that money improved health care, other than marginally? I wrote in my blog recently about something called MEDVIP. It's a franchise system that allows family doctors to work less, deal with a high-class clientele, and make an average of $400,000-plus annually. These aren't famous surgeons or Harvard Med School profs; they're primary-care physicians.
And Jason Altmire's solution is? Oh, that's right; he believes doctors can do no wrong and the problem lies almost entirely with the insurance industry.
On Iraq: "redeployment (to Okinawa or elsewhere) is really a euphemism for fighting terrorism by erecting "Fortress America." The hallowed recommendations of the 9/11 Commission incline in that direction. The idea is that if we X-ray 11 million (!!!!!!) storage containers and keep foreigners (aside of course from Mexicans and Canadians) out of the country, we will be safe. One might ask: what about the container that comes in from Canada and doesn't get X-rayed?
If one wants to advocate "Fortress America," that is worth a debate. However, it's not an exercise in candor to call it "redeployment."
Do Jack Murtha, Jason Altmire, and Bob Casey know these things I've outlined, which essentially consist of basic economics getting foiled by political considerations? I fear they don't. Alternatively, one or more of them may know, but they believe it's impolitic to say so. One of the reasons Rick Santorum lost was that he practiced a variation on what's now known as "speaking truth to power." In Rick's case, he talked "truth to voters," which can be dangerous to one's career.
Overall, do the voters of PA have a right to know that their representatives are not representing them very well? I think they do. When Jack Murtha (holding court in "Murtha's Corner") praises Jason for taking position Murtha supposedly opposes, something strange is going on.
steve maloney ambridge, pa