Daily Wisdom

March 29, 2009

Obama Radio Address Translated

A Disney Birthday

Hello "Viewers". I'm back from my much-needed Florida vacation. It was my first travel vacation in almost 2 years (read: "true" vacation). My wife (Mrs. Hawkeye) found a great deal at Disney last November when tourism was not a major priority for most people. For under $750 each ($1500 for the two of us), they covered our air fare, transfers between the airport and hotel, 7 nights at the Pop Century Disney resort, admission to all the parks, and bus transportation between the hotel and the parks. Food was on us, but Disney also gave us a free $200 gift card which covered a good chunk of our meals and snacks.

Cinderella Castle

The Magic Kingdom was our first stop, and before entering the park I notified them that it was my birthday (another program my wife learned about). I was therefore eligible for a number of free gifts, so I chose the $75 gift certificate for merchandise (food and beverages were not included). I also got a big button saying "Happy Birthday Jim". Everywhere I went in the park, Disney employees were wishing me a "Happy Birthday". It got a little embarrassing when other guests at the park started doing it too.

Mrs. Hawkeye

For dinner, we went to the "Chef Mickey" restaurant in the Contemporary Resort. Naturally, all the Disney characters had to come over and share in my birthday celebrations...

Hawkeye and Mickey

Hawkeye and Donald

Mrs. Hawkeye and Pluto

The parks included: Magic Kingdom, Disney Studios (formerly MGM Studios), Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney (formerly Lake Buena Vista), two water parks, and of course there was Epcot...

Epcot - Space Ship Earth

The weather was great: mid- to upper-50s for the low, mid- to upper-70s for the high. Low humidity and sunshine most days. It rained one morning while we were eating breakfast, but stopped before we left for the park. It also rained for about 10 minutes while we were at Epcot one afternoon.

Do you remember "The Monkees" from the 60s? Well, we saw Davy Jones perform at Epcot. At the moment, he's doing three shows a day on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. He has a great act. In between songs from the Monkees and others, he does a comedy routine which highlights his (and our) age. Here's some paraphrased examples...

Hi everybody! I'm Davy Jones' father... Davy will be out in a minute!

Back in the 60s, I used to be a heart throb... today I'm a coronary!

Some of the other 60s entertainers are coming out with new songs, like:

Hermans Hermits -- "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Walker"
Righteous Bros. -- "You've Lost That Sense of Feeling"
Paul Simon -- "50 Ways to Leave Your Liver"

My favorite ride at Disney is 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. Especially the part where the pirate says: "ARRRR... It's Davy Jones!" So of course I say: "Hi!" Then he says: "Davy Jones... ARRRR!"

I found this on the net. What Davy Jones sounds like today...

Epcot - Lake scene (click to enlarge)

The Pop Century resort where we stayed was divided into different areas representing different decades (50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s). The theme of each area reflected that decade. And there were "larger than life" toys scattered throughout the grounds of the resort...

Hawkeye and Potato Heads (click to enlarge)

I just couldn't pass up the following picture...

Hawkeye Personified? (click to enlarge)

Although we had a good time, I became painfully aware of how liberal (and commercial) the Disney people are. Although the TV in our room provided something like 50 cable channels, about 10 of them were Disney channels (park-related, resort-related, vacation services, movie trailers, etc.) and on top of that, FoxNews was not one of them. I had to suffer through a week of CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC, CBS or ABC for my news. Keith Olbermann must still think Bush is President because he continues to blame all of our problems on Bush (in between his sophomoric rants against Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity). The only bright spot was when CNN's reporter hammered Obama about deficits at his press conference on Tuesday.

U.S. Pavillion, Fife & Drums (click to enlarge)

In the U.S. Pavillion at Epcot, they have a presentation about American history -- from a liberal perspective of course. FDR gets his own animatronics, as does JFK. Truman is not mentioned. Eisenhower and Reagan are barely mentioned in passing. Sandra Day O'Connor is featured. Bill Clinton is shown with Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Neither Bush is mentioned. There is a fleeting scene of Ground Zero in New York and what appears to be soldiers in either Afghanistan or Iraq as the word "Heroes" flashes by unconvincingly. All this before Dr. Martin Luther King is prominently honored for a minute or more. The presentation ends with an inspiring piece of music and the promise of future "progress" in America. Hmmmm. OK. And we couldn't even see the Hall of Presidents because it is currently being "Obamafied".

Mr. & Mrs. Hawkeye (click to enlarge)

Of course, what would liberal theology be without the "green" mantra. We must use less energy and stop global-warming. Even the restrooms are equipped with products from "EcoLab" (sounds eco-friendly if nothing else). Then there are the recurring themes of salvation: Save the Planet, Save the Land, Save the Seas, Save the Birds, Save the Animals, Save the Whales, etc. Oddly enough, I heard or saw no mention of human salvation. I heard nothing about saving souls, clothing the naked, healing the sick, or feeding the hungry (unless it is through research sponsored by a government grant to NASA). I heard nothing about saving humans who are forced to live under tyrannical dictators. I heard nothing about sharing the gift of freedom with others around the world. Oh well, I guess you can't have everything.

Hawkeye ready to flee Liberal-Land

March 16, 2009

Global Warming News - Feb 2009

Real News Stories To Share With Global-Warming Skeptics

February opened in Europe with icy temperatures and snow. On February 2nd, south-east England saw the worst snow in 18 years, with all London buses pulled from service. Heathrow Airport was closed. In Paris, flights were delayed and snow caused several road accidents. Snowfalls also snarled traffic in several parts of Spain, including the Madrid area. Up to 20cm of snow fell in parts of Switzerland, while part of the road around the San Bernardino tunnel was closed. A storm disrupted ferry travel from the Spanish port city of Algeciras to Morocco.

UK snow - Feb 2009.

France's road traffic agency urged motorists to cancel non-essential journeys, with roads difficult and in a small number of cases impassable around Paris and in the east near Strasbourg. Despite a dozen road accidents in the Paris region there were no injuries, officials said. Flights were delayed by at least half an hour at Paris' Orly and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airports. One of Orly's two runways was closed. Air France canceled a third of their short and medium haul flights from Charles de Gaulle Airport during the morning, but said long haul routes would not be affected. In Italy, three people died and 500 people had to be evacuated from their homes amid adverse weather conditions.

With some parts of London already blanketed under 8 inches (20 cm) of snow, forecasters were predicting a foot (30cm) of snow for south-east England and 20 inches (50cm) for the north-east, as another band of snow was approaching. Most Surrey schools were closed, with more than 450 shut in Essex, and 255 closed in Berkshire. Leicestershire and Rutland gave pupils at 200 schools the day off. Thousands more were closed across Wales, London, north-east England, East and West Sussex, Kent, Norfolk Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk, where snow-ploughs were out on the county's roads for the first time in more than 15 years.

UK snow - Feb 2009.

In North Wales, two climbers were killed on Snowdon. The mountain saw heavy snow all weekend. The men were reported missing on Sunday night, February 1st. A rescue team found their bodies on Monday morning. All flights at Heathrow Airport near London were cancelled until 1700 GMT and customers whose flights were cancelled were being advised not to come to the airport. The airport was closed after a plane slipped off a taxiway due to the snow and icy conditions. Passengers aboard the Cyprus Airways flight were unharmed. Speaking at a press conference at 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "We are doing everything in our power to ensure services, road, rail and airports are open as quickly as possible, and we are continuing to monitor this throughout the day."

On February 3rd, parts of the UK struggled with another day of disruption. With snow continuing to fall, more than 6,000 UK schools were shut, including 578 in Wales, 450 in Hampshire, 428 in Birmingham, 400 in Essex and 350 in Leicester and Rutland. Authorities had already announced that nearly 40 schools in Wales would remain closed on Wednesday, February 4th. Wales and south-west England bore the brunt of the snow. South-east England saw further delays on roads and cancelled trains and flights, while "gritters" (road sanders) struggled to reach some areas in the Pennines. Forecasters were warning more heavy snow could fall later in the week.

UK snow - Feb 2009.

Snow turned to ice with temperatures dropping as low as 17.6F (-8C) in parts of southern England overnight following the storm. That was colder than Nuuk, the capital of Greenland which was 34F (1C) at the time. The Met Office issued an extreme weather warning to motorists across the UK to beware of icy roads and drifting snow while rail and air passengers were advised to check with their operators before travelling. The business community estimated that the freak weather could end up costing the already recession-hit UK economy £3 billion amid predictions that the chaos could last all week.

On February 7th, Scotland was hit with more snow causing driving delays, but skiers said the conditions were "phenomenal". Roads were closed across northern Scotland and forecasters said the snow would continue throughout the day. The Forestry Commission of Scotland warned people to stay away from forest areas in the north east due to the heavy snow on trees. They were particularly concerned about cross-country skiers. About 12.5in (30cm) of snow fell in Aviemore overnight, while there was 2.5in (6cm) in Aberdeen, and the snow was still falling. Southern Scotland experienced snowfalls of about 4in (10cm) in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway.

Scottish skiers - Feb 7, 2009.

On February 8th, more snow and ice pushed Britain's cold spell into a second week, after Saturday night's temperatures dropped to the lowest of the winter so far. The mercury fell to -15 degrees celsius at Dalwhinnie in Scotland, beating the previous low of -13, recorded in December. Temperatures were well below zero across the country, as the freezing conditions claimed three more lives over the weekend, including that of a six-year-old boy who fell through the ice on a pond in the village of Streethouse, West Yorkshire. The boy became trapped beneath the ice, and divers were sent in to pull him out. He was taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Wakefield, but died soon afterwards.

On February 9th, almost 100 schools were closed or partially closed in north east Scotland as bitterly cold weather continued to cause problems. More than 80 schools were closed in Aberdeenshire, and a handful in Moray, Shetland and Aberdeen, where temperatures fell to -12C overnight. In the highlands, temperatures were the coldest since 1986, where Aviemore recorded -18C, and Altnaharra was down to -15C.

Snow in Scotland - Feb 9, 2009.

On February 16th, heavy snow damaged a 150-year old cedar tree in a National Trust garden in Gloucestershire. The Cedar of Lebanon is the centrepiece tree at Hidcote Manor Garden, in the Cotswolds. The tree lost three big limbs in the heavy snowfall. Other trees also lost branches, including Atlas Cedars and evergreen holm oaks. John Rippin, deputy head gardener at Hidcote Manor, said: "The main tragedy is the Cedar of Lebanon, which is the centrepiece for the old garden. It actually pre-dates the garden. It was designed by Lawrence Johnson, who designed the central axis of the garden to line up with the cedar."

150 year-old UK cedar damaged - Feb 16.

In early February, Jammu and Kashmir shivered in sub-zero temperatures, and the night-time temperatures showed a downward trend. The Kargil and Leh districts, in frontier region of Ladakh, reeled under extreme cold as the night-time temperatures dipped to -18.6 and -11.8 degrees Celsius, respectively, on February 9th the MET office said in Srinagar. Kupwara in northern Kashmir was the coldest place in the Valley with minimum temperature dipping to -5.5 degrees Celsius.

In Jammu, a man was found dead who was suspected to have died from the cold. The body of one Nazir Guroo (30) was found on the road at Bemina in Jammu, raising the death toll to five this season. Fresh snowfalls were seen in many parts of the valley. In Himachal Pradesh, cold conditions continued in higher reaches while in the plains mercury rose marginally. At Keylong, the lowest temperature was recorded at -11.9 degrees Celsius while it was -2 degrees in Kalpa. In Srinagar, the night-time temperature dipped to season's lowest of -2.7 degrees Celsius. Pahalgam hill resort and Qazigund in south Kashmir also also experienced cold nights with minimum temperatures dipping to -4.5 and -1.5 degrees Celsius respectively.

United States
Florida saw below average temps for the first week of February. Most of South Florida saw temperatures plunge into the mid- to upper-30s. Inland areas near the Everglades experienced near freezing conditions. The National Weather Service says all the nippy weather was not that unusual, but a bit abnormal for February, as it more commonly arrives in January.

Kentucky ice storm - Jan 29.

Over a quarter of a million people in Kentucky remained without power after a devastating winter storm pummeled the state with ice and snow late in January. National Guard troops went door-to-door, checking on families in the areas worst hit by what Governor Steve Beshear called "the biggest natural disaster that this state has ever experienced in modern history." Emergency personnel said up to 6,500 residents had to leave their homes for other shelter across the state as conditions deteriorated. The storm was blamed for at least 16 deaths at that point, and authorities expected people would be without power for "a couple more weeks". Many of the deaths resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning after residents pulled power generators inside their homes to keep warm.

President Barack Obama finally declared Kentucky a disaster area on Thursday, February 5th in the wake of the deadly ice storm, ordering federal aid to supplement local recovery efforts. Governor Steve Beshear had sought the major disaster status earlier in the week. The storm was blamed for 27 Kentucky deaths. The storm initially cut power to more than three-quarter of a million homes and businesses, a state record.

Kentucky ice storm - Jan 31.

On February 9th, California was hit with another storm, with rain at the lower elevations and snow above 2500 feet. Wind gusts, blowing snow and poor visibility were encountered in the mountain passes and canyons. Frazier Park northwest of Los Angeles had already gotten 4.5 inches of snow when the article was written. Winds were clocked up to 35 mph at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Icy bridge in California - Feb 9.

On Friday, February 13th, a fast-moving snowstorm hit Nebraska. Some parts of Nebraska saw 10 inches of snow and drifts up to 3 feet as the storm moved east across the state. The storm forced schools and businesses to close and events to be cancelled. At its peak, the storm was dropping 1 to 1-1/2 inches of snow per hour on eastern Nebraska.

On February 16th, snow closed I5 in California at Gorman around 4 a.m., and it was expected to remain shut indefinitely. At lower elevations, the storm produced drenching rains which forecasters said might be the worst of the season, triggering fears of mudslides. Most areas were under a wind advisory for gusts up to 45 mph, but gusts up to 60 mph were expected in the mountains. In the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, blowing snow was creating near-whiteout conditions. Several inches of snow accompanied by strong winds had already fallen in the Tejon Pass and Grapevine areas, and 2 to 3 feet of snow was expected at the higher high elevations. "This is going to be very dangerous, with the winds and the snow," said Stuart Seto, a National Weather Service specialist in Oxnard. "Near whiteout, zero visibility."

Snow in California - Feb 2009.

The same storm dropped more than 2 feet of snow in portions of the Sierra Nevada, which had skiers and farmers rejoicing. The latest snowfall was just in time for the Presidents Day weekend, traditionally one of the busiest periods of the season for Lake Tahoe ski resorts. Skiers and snowboarders packed the slopes Saturday after a string of storms left up to 6 feet of snow at Tahoe since Sunday and the best ski conditions this year. "I haven't seen this many people with powder up to their waist in a very long time," said Rachael Woods, spokeswoman for the Alpine Meadows resort just north of Tahoe.

On February 17th, an article in The New Hamphire (the student publication of the University of New Hampshire), talked about the excessively snowy winter there this year. According to the article, USA Today noted that this winter was already the snowiest in New Hampshire in 135 years. UNH suspended all operations a full day in advance of alarming reports of an oncoming snowstorm, which dropped 12.2" of snow, bringing the year-to-date total to 71.3"

Scientific Opinion

CO2 Satellite Crash A Setback: On February 24th, a NASA satellite crashed into the icy waters near Antarctica. The $278 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was designed to monitor how CO2 enters and exits the Earth's atmosphere -- hoping to yield a picture of a rhythm that is much like taking a breath. Forests and oceans absorb the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, while burning fossil fuels and decaying plant and animal life put more back. There is a delicate balance between the two processes that shifts with seasons and weather patterns -- plants, for example, pull in more CO2 in spring than in winter, when many lose their leaves.

Loss of the U.S. satellite comes at a time when some recent scientific studies have suggested that the world's oceans and forests are losing their ability to absorb CO2, said Scott Doney, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Doney called the crash yesterday "a substantial setback." He said, "There have been some studies in the North Atlantic and the Southern Ocean that suggest the ocean is becoming a less effective 'sink'." [Editor's Note: A "sink" is like a sponge that absorbs. A "heat-sink" absorbs heat. A "CO2-sink" absorbs carbon dioxide.]

But while scientists have a basic understanding of the carbon cycle, they can't account for all the CO2 humans produce, said Scott Denning, a professor at Colorado State University who worked on the NASA project's science team. "The basic idea is that between the oceans and the land, about half of the fossil-fuel carbon dioxide is being taken up and not going into the air," he said. "We need to understand that better to predict what's going to happen in the future." The satellite that crashed was supposed to help scientists do that. It was 9 years in the making.

Japanese Scientists Diss IPCC: A report from Japan's Society of Energy and Resources says "recent climate change is driven by natural cycles, not human industrial activity". Most of the five researchers who contributed to the report disagree with the UN’s IPCC view that recent warming is primarily the consequence of man-made industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. Not surprisingly, the report has received little attention from the U.S. press, which has bought into the man-made global-warming hype...

...the press has accepted the basic threat of [global] warming and is now prepared to address the cost and feasibility of various solutions. --Curtis Brainard, Columbia Journalism Review, 26 January 2009

The five researchers essentially debated one other in the report, which highlights the differing views of the five prominent scientists. All but one of the scientists disagreed that global warming is the result of human activity.

Contributing to the report were: 1) Syunichi Akasofu, professor emeritus at the University of Alaska, and former director of the Fairbanks Geophysical Institute and the International Arctic Research Center, 2) Shigenori Maruyama, professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, 3) Kiminori Itoh, professor of Physical Chemistry at Yokohama National University, 4) Seita Emori, head of the National Institute for Environmental Sciences, and 5) Kanya Kusano, director of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

Remarkably however, the subtle and nuanced language typical in such reports has been set aside. One of the five contributors compared computer climate modelling to "ancient astrology". Others castigated the paucity of the US ground temperature data set used to support the hypothesis, and they declare that the unambiguous warming trend from the mid-part of the 20th Century has ended. Only one of the five top Japanese scientists commissioned for the report concurs with the man-made global warming hypothesis. The only researcher to agree with the IPCC's assertion was Emori, who is himself a member of the IPCC.

JSER is the academic society representing scientists from the energy and resource fields, and acts as a government advisory panel. For a translation of key passages from the report you can go HERE.

Political Opinion

Alarmist Ratchets Up Fear: NewsBusters commented on a Reuters story HERE, that "despite evidence to the contrary" one alarmist is declaring that the climate is heating up "far faster than scientists had predicted". The Reuters article quotes a Chris Field, whom they refer to as a "top climate scientist" and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. According to the Reuters article...

Field said "the actual trajectory of climate change is more serious" than any of the climate predictions in the IPCC's fourth assessment report called "Climate Change 2007." --Global Warming Seen Worse Than Predicted, 14 February 2009
So let's stop and think about that statement for a moment. Field refers to something he calls "the actual trajectory of climate change". But with what parameter or unit of measure does Field calculate such a trajectory? Clearly it cannot be global temperature, since global temps have actually declined over the last ten years. Perhaps the article itself will give us a clue as to what Field is alluding...

[Field] pointed to recent studies showing the fourth assessment report underestimated the potential severity of global warming over the next 100 years. "We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected, primarily because developing countries, like China and India, saw a huge surge in electric power generation, almost all of it based on coal," Field said. --Global Warming Seen Worse Than Predicted, Reuters, 14 February 2009

So there we have it. Chris Field measures the "trajectory of climate change" in direct correlation to the amount of man-made greenhouse gas emissions that enter the atmosphere. This is an elegant and novel approach. Rather than use an appropriate and meaningful unit of measure like temperature to guage global-warming, we can now simply use man-made CO2 emissions as a measurement. The genius of this method of course, is that it eliminates any incongruities one might encounter with actual temperature data.

Naturally, the impact of "climate change" according to Field is frightening. The article's author says Field suggested that "the continued warming of the planet from greenhouse gas emissions could touch off large, destructive wildfires in tropical rain forests and melt permafrost in the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gasses that could raise global temperatures even more." Scary stuff that CO2.

Unfortunately however, Chris Field is NOT in fact "a top climate scientist" after all. According to the NewsBusters article, a simple Google search revealed that he "isn't even a climate scientist at all"...

Chris Field is a professor of biological sciences whose shtick is pushing something called "global ecology." Field has no more expertise in predicting future climate patterns than, say, a proctologist performing brain surgery. --NewsBusters, 15 February 2009

Alarmist Attacks Doubting Media: John W. Delicath, director of the Left-leaning Media Matters Action Network, in an article at the Huffington Post, did a hatchet-job on those in the media who have had the unmitigated gall to "cast doubt" on "the reality" of climate change...

To hear certain cable news figures tell it, the existence of winter weather raises doubts about the reality of global climate change. Can the Earth's climate really be getting warmer if it's still snowing, they ask. Such a simplistic non sequitur might be funny were it not for the melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels, and the misinformation imparted to viewers by those entrusted to inform them [emphasis added]. --John W. Delicath, Media Snow Job: Weather Events Used to Cast Doubt on Reality of Climate Change, 13 February 2009
[Editor's Note: Since I am one to use snowfalls and record cold temps to "cast doubt" on "the reality" of global-warming, I was personally offended by the statements of John Delicath -- NOT. In fact, I am amused to find myself in the company of Lou Dobbs, et al., who were the focus of Delicath's rant. My use of snowfalls and record cold temps is not so much to disprove the idea of global-warming, as it is a form of satire. Nevertheless, it has been argued convincingly that even this anecdotal evidence is building against global-warming.]

Unfortunately, what Delicath doesn't say (or doesn't know), is that the polar ice caps melt every summer and then re-freeze every winter. Yes, in 2007 the Arctic polar ice cap melted a little more than usual, but in 2008 it didn't melt as much as 2007. And so far in 2009, total global sea ice has returned to the same levels seen at the end of 1979 when data collection first began (see HERE).

What Delicath also doesn't say (or doesn't know), is that sea levels have been rising for 20,000 years since the end of the last glacial maximum, or "ice age" (see HERE). And that was long before man-made emissions of CO2 would have had any effects on sea level. Not only that, but the rate of sea level increase has actually been slowing over the last 8,000 years or so (see HERE).

Click to enlarge.

From a geologic perspective, sea level rises have almost flat-lined. Furthermore, it appears that the rate of sea level rise has continued to decrease in the last two years (see HERE, and note the 60-day smoothing line).

Click to enlarge.

When Delicath talks about "the misinformation imparted to viewers [or readers] by those entrusted to inform them", he undoubtedly cannot appreciate the utter irony of his statement. It is the left-wing "journalists", the media-hacks, and the political "water-boys" like Delicath who continue to impart misinformation, dispense propaganda, and ignore REAL science, in an effort to promote their liberal-socialist agenda. And they do it with such an attitude of arrogance and elitism as to gag a maggot.

Gore Changes Presentation: Former Vice President Al Gore is removing a dramatic slide from his global warming presentation. The New York Times reports that Gore used a graph from a disaster research center in Brussels to illustrate that human-driven climate change is, "creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented."

But the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), which came up with the raw data, says no such direct correlation can be proven: "Justifying the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts essentially through climate change would be misleading. Climate change is probably an actor in this increase but not the major one... We need to be cautious when interpreting disaster data... and remain objective scientific observers."

Gore's decision to remove the slide came following an address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago (AAAS). Two days after the talk, Mr. Gore was sharply criticized for using the data to make a point about global warming by Roger A. Pielke, Jr, a political scientist focused on disaster trends and climate policy at the University of Colorado. Mr. Pielke noted that the CRED stressed in reports that a host of factors unrelated to climate caused the enormous rise in reported disasters. Among such factors is the "development of telecommunications, media and increased international cooperation [that] has played a critical role in the number of disasters that are reported internationally."

March 12, 2009

A New Direction

Do you remember in 2006 when the Democrats were pushing their slogan "A New Direction for America"? Well, they have definitely taken the stock market in a "new direction". If you click on the following images, you can see the enlarged versions. Please note that although both charts are the same width, the Republican chart covers 6 years, while the Democrat chart covers only 2 years. So, one way to look at these charts is to say that while it took Republicans a whole 6 years to push the Dow Jones up 13-14% or so, it only took Democrats only a bit more than 2 years to drop it more than 40%!

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

People wanted "Change" and they got it... their 401K's changed dramatically for the minus side. People wanted "Hope" and here it is... people are hoping the markets will go back up.

March 07, 2009

The Bush Legacy: My View - Part 2

This is Part 2 in a series about the legacy of President George W. Bush as I see it. You can read Part 1 by clicking HERE. It is clear that any discussion of the Bush Legacy will inherently be colored by the political or philosophical views of the author. It is nearly impossible to produce an unbiased view of this, or any President's legacy. And, without the luxury of time to reflect back on what kind of place our nation and our world have become as a result of his policies, we can only attempt to suggest what history might say about him. Let us then consider some facts as we know them...

Compassionate Conservatism
George W. Bush ran his 2000 presidential election as a "compassionate conservative". It was a label which many assumed was merely a slogan intended to make him sound more moderate and acceptable to Democrats. The phrase was widely attacked by those on the Left as well as those the Right. Many on the Left thought the phrase to be vacuous or contradictory. Many on the Right were offended by the term, believing that Bush was trying to differentiate himself from the "typical" conservative who therefore must be "heartless".

Compassionate Conservative Cartoon - 1999.

At first, the term "compassionate conservative" was thought to be something new which George W. Bush had invented himself, but the phrase had already been used to describe his father, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, in 1986. The term was probably originated by historian and presidential advisor Doug Wead in 1977. In 1979, Wead gave a popular speech entitled “The Compassionate Conservative” at the annual Washington Charity Dinner. Wead contended that the policies of Republican conservatives should be motivated by compassion, not protecting the status quo. Wead declared himself to be “a bleeding heart conservative,” meaning that he cared for people and sincerely believed that a free marketplace was better for the poor.

Marvin Olasky
As defined by Dr. Marvin Olasky, "compassionate conservatism" is the outreach of conservatives to help poor people turn to self-reliance as a means for improving themselves. In his 1992 book, 'The Tragedy of American Compassion', Olasky argued that private individuals and organizations, particularly the Christian church, have a responsibility to care for the poor, and he contended that the challenging, personal, and spiritual help of Christians, common until the 1930s, was more effective than the government welfare programs of recent decades. In 1994, his book gained the endorsement of William Bennett and Newt Gingrich, who gave a copy to every incoming Republican freshman representative in the 1994 Congress.

In 2000, Olasky wrote another book entitled 'Compassionate Conservatism: What it is, What it Does, and How it Can Transform America'. Interestingly enough, George W. Bush wrote the introduction. Author Michelle Goldberg says that Olasky was an advisor to Bush’s first Presidential campaign, and influenced not only the thinking of Bush, but the thinking of the Republican Party as well -- a reference no doubt, to Newt Gingrich and others who read his works. Myron Magnet described "compassionate conservatives" this way in a Wall Steet Journal article...

Compassionate conservatives [...] offer a new way of thinking about the poor. They know that telling the poor that they are mere passive victims, whether of racism or of vast economic forces, is not only false but also destructive, paralyzing the poor with thoughts of their own helplessness and inadequacy. The poor need the larger society's moral support; they need to hear the message of personal responsibility and self-reliance, the optimistic assurance that if they try -- as they must -- they will make it. They need to know, too, that they can't blame "the system" for their own wrongdoing.

--Myron Magnet, What Is Compassionate Conservatism?, 5 February 1999

George W. Bush seemed to echo such sentiments in his use of the term "compassionate conservative". As quoted in an article at the Hoover Institution, Bush said...

Government cannot solve every problem, but it can encourage people and communities to help themselves and to help one another. Often the truest kind of compassion is to help citizens build lives of their own. I call my philosophy and approach “compassionate conservatism.” It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and on results. And with this hopeful approach, we can make a real difference in people's lives.

-—President George W. Bush, April 2002

From this statement then, we can conclude that George W. Bush did not believe that government was the answer to every problem. Nevertheless, he must have imagined that some problems can be tackled best or only by the government. He was not averse to having the government help "our fellow citizens in need", so long as there was an emphasis on "responsibility" and "results". Bush clearly felt that conservatism and compassion are not mutually exclusive. In fact it seems, he believed that when implemented correctly, the effects of conservatism are by their very nature a form of "compassion". Another statement from candidate Bush in the Hoover article mentioned above, reinforces this...

I am convinced a conservative philosophy is a compassionate philosophy that frees individuals to achieve their highest potential. It is conservative to cut taxes and compassionate to give people more money to spend. It is conservative to insist upon local control of schools and high standards and results; it is compassionate to make sure every child learns to read and no one is left behind. It is conservative to reform the welfare system by insisting on work; it’s compassionate to free people from dependency on government.

--Presidential Candidate George W. Bush, 2000

Bush with 'Compassion In Action' banner.

Thus, "compassionate conservatism" was a foundational principle for President Bush. It provided the structural framework around which his domestic policies and programs would be developed. It also affected his foreign aid programs in a very positive way, as we shall soon see. George W. Bush sought "to actively help our fellow citizens in need", but he didn't merely want to throw money at a problem -- a bad habit for many politicians -- President Bush wanted to get "results". He truly wanted to help people and to make a difference in their lives.

Bush felt that one way to accomplish this was to have greater involvement from non-governmental entities such as faith-based organizations. From personal experience, he knew that the power of faith can transform lives. He also knew from Dr. Olasky's books, and perhaps from experience as well, that faith-based programs can be more effective than governmental programs. And when he thought it was necessary to use legislation for addressing a particular issue, he demanded "responsibility", "accountability" and "results".

Faith-Based Initiatives
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) was an office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. OFBCI was established by President George W. Bush through an executive order on January 29th, 2001. It represented one of the key domestic policies of the Bush campaign promise for "compassionate conservatism." The initiative sought to strengthen faith-based and community organizations and to expand their capacity to provide federally-funded social services, with the idea that these groups are better-situated to meet the needs of local individuals.

As Texas governor, George W. Bush had used the "Charitable Choice" provisions of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) to support faith-based groups in Texas. PRWORA (otherwise known as "welfare reform", or "workfare") allowed "faith-based" entities to compete for government contracts to deliver social services. He wanted to do the same at the federal level.

For fiscal year 2005, more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations (FBOs). Between fiscal years 2003 and 2005, the total dollar amount of all grants awarded to FBOs increased by 21 percent (GAO 2006:43). The majority of these grants were distributed through state agencies to local organizations in the form of formula grants (GAO 2006:17).

OFBCI National Conference - June 2008.

Critics of the OFBCI, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), alleged that it violated the Establishment Clause by using tax money to fund religion. But the White House established certain restrictions on FBOs that accepted government funding to protect the separation of church and state.

  • They may not use direct government funds to support inherently religious activities such as prayer, worship, religious instruction, or proselytization.
  • Any inherently religious activities that the organizations may offer must be offered separately in time or location from services that receive federal assistance.
  • FBOs cannot discriminate on the basis of religion when providing services (GAO 2006:13).

  • Critics also questioned whether FBOs were more "successful" or "efficient" than government agencies at delivering services. However, some preliminary studies suggested that they might be. For example, a 2002 study of interim housing programs in Michigan found that FBOs were more likely to focus on values, treat their clients in a more comprehensive manner, and be perceived by their clients as more caring. Terms such as "loving", "nurturing", and "helping" were used to describe caseworkers in programs which scored high in faith integration. According to the study...

    One of our most important findings is that there is no standard approach to service delivery that characterizes all FBOs... there are significant differences among FBOs. There are also significant differences between the FBOs, whether publicly or privately funded, and the one government agency in our study:

    Clients perceive frontline workers at most, if not all, faith-based organizations as more caring than those who work for the government agency. As it turns out, what appears to make the greatest difference in the lives of the homeless are the qualities of the tenant managers, case managers, and on-site counselors who interact with clients on a day-to-day basis, regardless of the setting. Whether clients perceive frontline workers as caring, empathetic people or simply as enforcers of rules and regulations with an unsympathetic ear makes the crucial difference [emphasis added].

    --How Faith-Based and Secular Organizations Tackle Housing for the Homeless, October 2002

    Faith-based contractors involved in a New York City Charitable Choice Demonstration Program designed to help individuals who had lost their welfare benefits because of compliance problems, had a difficult time making contact with the majority of the targeted group -- many of whom had moved or were living in shelters after losing their welfare benefits. But once a client was reached, the success rate among the FBOs was, on average, half-again higher than anticipated, while certain individual FBO programs scored two and one-half times better than expected.

    In December 2004, a benchmarking report suggested that faith-based nursing home care was superior to that of non-FBOs...

    For nursing homes, CMS [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services] provides data related to resident characteristics and for deficiencies discovered during inspections and from complaints. We found that:

  • Regarding data from nursing home inspections, church-related nursing homes had, on average, fewer deficiencies (e.g., nutrition and diet deficiencies) than the average for all other types of nursing homes.
  • On average, church-related nursing homes had 25 percent fewer inspection deficiencies than all other types of nursing homes.
  • Findings related to complaints followed the same pattern as for inspection deficiencies.
  • Church-related nursing homes had, on average, fewer complaint deficiencies than the average for all other types of nursing homes combined – on average, 57 percent fewer complaint deficiencies than all other nursing homes.
  • Church-related nursing homes also had fewer average inspection and complaint deficiencies than other non-profit nursing homes.
  • The differences between church-related and other non-profit nursing homes were substantially less than the differences between non-profit and other types of nursing homes (which includes both for-profit and government-run nursing homes).
  • Church-related nursing homes had only 6 percent fewer inspection deficiencies than other non-profit nursing homes.

  • --Using Administrative Data to Compare the Performance of Faith-Affiliated and Other Social Service Providers, December 2004

    For more such study results, go HERE.

    Bush with Katrina response FBO volunteers.

    Faith-based organizations also got high marks for their response to Hurricane Katrina. In February 2006, a White House report praised faith-based organizations for their response to the devastation, and it noted that their successes came largely "in spite of, not because of, the government." The report -- The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned -- included a call for better integration of faith-based groups in future emergency planning operations. Among its recommendations was the designation of a specific office within the Department of Homeland Security as a point of contact for such organizations. In recognizing the important role they played, the report found that better leveraging of the work of faith-based groups would allow government to more effectively concentrate its energies and resources.

    Southern Baptists serve meals after Katrina.

    In a section entitled "What Went Right," the report lauded the recovery efforts of faith-based organizations and noted several examples of the services these groups provided and continued for some time to deliver. Among them:

  • The efforts of some 6,000 Southern Baptist Relief volunteers from 36 state conventions were recognized for running mobile kitchens and establishing "pop-up" shelters at churches or other agencies.
  • Operation Blessing was cited for providing food and shelter, transporting supplies, and for making $4 million in grants available to churches and smaller relief groups for recovery efforts.
  • The Salvation Army was highlighted for fielding more than 60,000 health and welfare inquiries and helping to locate 25,508 people nationwide.
  • Christ in Action, based in Manassas, Virginia, was recognized for setting up mobile kitchens in Mississippi and for repairing over 500 houses in time for families to reoccupy them by the end of December.

  • Jewish volunteers build homes after Katrina.

    "These and many other faith-based organizations filled the gaps that other private and public sector organizations could not," the report stated. But the report also conceded that faith-based groups encountered difficulties working with government, which sometimes impeded their relief efforts, according to information collected from briefings with faith-based leaders. To download the entire 217-page White House report in PDF format, click HERE.

    On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, faith-based organizations were still hard at work. The 'Center on Philanthropy' and 'Corporation for National and Community Service' estimated that $5.3 billion had been donated in private money to Gulf Coast hurricane relief and 500,000 volunteers had donated services. But it was apparent that the year-long effort was beginning to put a strain on the FBOs. "At some point we can't afford it," Desmond Brown, Director of Health and Welfare Policy for Catholic Charities USA, said in a Washington, D.C. speech. He was referring to Katrina relief and reductions in federal aid for general human services. "There will be a point, God forbid, that we will have to say we can't provide you with a hot meal." For more information, go HERE.

    Source: Pew Forum Survey
    For eight years, the Bush administration sought to open the door wide to funding religious groups that offer social services of all kinds – among them job training, drug treatment, prisoner reentry, and after-school programs. It brought unprecedented visibility to their efforts and boosted the number funded by federal programs.

    But the administration also pushed the envelope, funding groups that included religious elements in their social-service programming, a practice the courts have generally rejected. The most controversial issue was whether religious groups should be allowed to hire only people of their own faith as staff in federally funded projects. Some in Congress and other critics insisted that groups should not be allowed to engage in such selective hiring, calling it discrimination. The debate became so intense that Congress never approved specific legislation for the faith-based initiatives, and the Bush administration implemented the program largely through executive orders.

    In a last-minute gift to faith-based organizations, the Bush administration in late 2008 issued guidelines for prospective grantees on how to gain exemption from laws that specifically prohibit religious hiring, citing a legal opinion from the Justice Department. “The administration has fought for [FBOs] with every possible tool at its disposal,” said Ira Lupu, a legal expert on the [faith-based] initiative, in a December 2nd, 2008 session of the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy. And America has been well-served because of those efforts.

    Education Reform
    Before becoming President, candidate George W. Bush ran on a platform that included among other things, a) education reform, and b) reaching across the aisle to get things done in Washington. Both of those objectives were met in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110), often abbreviated in print as NCLB, and sometimes pronunced "nicklebee". Immediately after taking office, George W. Bush proposed the legislation on January 23rd, 2001. Congress based its legislation on the "blueprint" proposed by the president. The legislation was coauthored by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) and George Miller (D-CA) in the House, and by Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the Senate. The Act, introduced as HR 1 during the 107th Congress, was passed in the House of Representatives on May 23rd, 2001, and in the Senate on June 14th, 2001. In both houses it passed with bi-partisan support. President Bush signed it into law on January 8th, 2002.

    President Bush signs No Child Left Behind bill.

    Bush said that the goal of the legislation was to demand accountability from the public schools to address "the soft bigotry of low expectations" that had beset schools for so many years. It also provided parents with more flexibility in choosing which schools their children could attend, promoted an increased focus on reading, and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). First Lady Laura Bush, herself a former school teacher, no doubt helped to influence the original legislative "blueprint" put forward by the President.

    NCLB employed the theory of "standards-based education reform", which is founded on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. NCLB required states to develop assessment tests in basic skills that would be given annually to all students in certain grades, in order for those states to continue to receive federal funding for schools. NCLB did not assert a national achievement standard; standards were set by each individual state. This was done to keep in line with the principle of local control of schools, and in order to comply with the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which specifies that powers not granted to the federal government nor forbidden to state governments are reserved powers of the individual states.

    NCLB also imposed consequences for schools that could not demonstrate "adequate yearly progress", which was defined as annual improvement in test scores (e.g. each year, a school's fifth graders must do better on standardized tests than the previous year's fifth graders). Schools which received Title I federal education funding, were mandated to make such annual progress or else be put on a list of "failing schools" to be published in the local newspaper. Parents of children in a "failing school" were given the option to transfer their children to another school. In addition, the Title I funding of a "failing school" was cut, and the school was forced to provide special tutoring for its students.

    Bush speaks about No Child Left Behind.

    I think the No Child Left Behind Act is one of the significant achievements of my Administration because we said loud and clear to educators, parents, and children that we expect the best for every child, that we believe every child can learn, and that in return for Federal money we expect there to be an accountability system in place to determine whether every child is learning to read, write, and add and subtract.

    This is a piece of legislation that required both Republicans and Democrats coming together, and it is a landmark legislative achievement. But more importantly, it focused the country's attention on the fact that we had an achievement gap that -- you know, white kids were reading better in the 4th grade than Latinos or African American kids. And that's unacceptable for America. And the No Child Left Behind Act started holding people to account, and the achievement gap is narrowing.

    When you couple that with a very strong literacy initiative, which [First Lady] Laura [Bush] has been a part of, it begins to focus our whole system on solving problems early, and not accepting this premise that you're just going to move people through the system and hope for the best, and insisting upon high standards for every single child. And I'm very proud of that accomplishment, and I appreciate all those here in Washington and around the country that have worked hard to see that the promise of No Child Left Behind has been fulfilled.

    --President George W. Bush, Bush on His Legacy, 28 November 2008

    Initially, NCLB was enacted with bipartisan support but was later criticized for placing too much emphasis on testing, and for Washington's failure to provide the money that schools needed to meet the demands for improvement. But as with any topic of debate, there are always two sides to the story, and supporters of the legislation insisted it was working. In December 2006, the U.S. Department of Education released a report quoting improving test scores and pointing to success stories. Here is an excerpt...

    The long-term Nation's Report Card (NAEP) results, released in July 2005, showed elementary school student achievement in reading and math at all-time highs and the 'achievement gap' closing.

  • For America's nine-year-olds in reading, more progress was made in five years than in the previous 28 combined.
  • America's nine-year-olds posted the best scores in reading (since 1971) and math (since 1973) in the history of the report.
  • America's 13-year-olds earned the highest math scores the test ever recorded.
  • Reading and math scores for African American and Hispanic nine-year-olds reached an all-time high.
  • Math scores for African American and Hispanic 13-year-olds reached an all-time high.
  • Achievement gaps in reading and math between white and African American nine-year-olds and between white and Hispanic nine-year-olds are at an all-time low.

  • The state-by-state Nation's Report Card results, released in October 2005, showed improved achievement in the earlier grades in which NCLB is focused. In the last two years, the number of fourth-graders who learned their fundamental math skills increased by 235,000 -- enough to fill 500 elementary schools!

  • Across-the-board improvements were made in mathematics and in fourth-grade reading.
  • African American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs in a number of categories.
  • Forty-three states and the District of Columbia either improved academically or held steady in all categories (fourth- and eighth-grade reading, and fourth- and eighth-grade math).

  • The Nation's Report Card Trial Urban District Assessments for Reading and Math, released in Dec. 2005, showed students in select urban school districts improving faster than their peers over the last two years.

  • Fourth-graders in 8 of 10 urban districts made larger gains in math than the national average.
  • Fourth-graders in 7 of 10 urban districts made larger gains in reading than the national average.
  • Eighth-graders in 7 of 10 urban districts made more progress in basic math skills than the national average.

  • The Nation's Report Card Science 2005 Report found significant academic gains by fourth-graders.

  • Overall, fourth-graders improved four points in science achievement over 1996 and 2000 levels, with the lowest-performing students making the largest gains.
  • African American and Hispanic fourth-graders made significant gains as well, narrowing the achievement gap.

  • And the Nation's Report Card Trial Urban District Assessment for Science, released in Nov. 2006, showed narrower 'achievement gaps' for low-income students than for the entire student body, between nearly all of the participating school districts and the nation.

    --U.S. Dept. of Education, No Child Left Behind Act Is Working, December 2006

    Some of the criticism against NCLB focused on special needs students, students who were handicapped, and students who were learning to speak English. According to the critics, such students would not be able to perform as well as other students and would inherently bring down test scores. The Eduwonk blog had this to say in response to such critics...

    NCLB’s “adequate yearly progress” provisions have some problems, sure. But the reality is that they’re not nearly as bad as the rhetoric about them, and some of the problems fall in the “lesser of several bad choices” category because of the current state of play of state policy. These Hill staffers are not as dumb or out of touch as people think... [an Olson-Hoff article] in Education Week debunks some of the common myths, especially the scapegoating of English-language learners and special-ed kids. In the end, despite some sharp edges, we’re back to the question of whether we’re going to hold schools accountable for educating discreet subgroups of kids, or not. In other words, is the right unit of analysis kids or schools? And also, again we face the disconnect between really grim achievement gaps and concerns that NCLB is telling us that some schools aren’t doing a very good job... those kids do go to school somewhere! --The Horrid AYP Unmasked!, 18 December 2006

    Some critics suggested that NCLB created incentives for schools, districts, and states to manipulate test results. For example, schools have been shown to employ "creative reclassification" of drop-outs (to reduce unfavorable statistics). NCLB also may have caused some states to lower their official standards. Because each state could produce its own standardized tests, a state could make its statewide tests easier to pass, thereby increasing test scores. Missouri for example, improved testing scores but openly admitted that they had lowered the standards. Critics also said that punitive measures against "failing schools" created incentives to set expectations lower rather than higher. Critics even said the legislation tended to increase segregation by race and class, to be followed-up by pushing low-performing students out of school altogether.

    Other critics argued that NCLB caused teachers to "teach to the test", focusing all their efforts on things that they knew would be included in the tests to the exclusion of everything else. For example, the special focus of NCLB on reading and math might mean that other areas of learning, including music, art, or physical education, would take a lower priority or be eliminated altogether. But in 2006, a study by NAMM/MENC found that NCLB apparently had little impact on music education. According to the study, of those surveyed, 76% said NCLB had no effect on music education, while only 20% said that NCLB was having an impact on music eductation. But, critically, there was almost an even split between those who said NCLB was having a positive impact versus those who said it was having a negative impact. In fact, the balance swung just barely in favor of positive (51 percent to 49 percent).

    While there may be some truth in these various criticisms of NCLB, none of them reflects poorly on President Bush. In his attempt to reform education, George W. Bush made a good-faith effort to establish a plan whereby schools would be held accountable for their performance, or lack thereof. His goal was to eliminate the "achievement gap" between wealthier suburban white students, and the less-fortunate urban African-American and/or Latino students. It was not his intention to see states lower their educational standards, or to have schools come up with "creative reclassifications". His intent was to motivate schools and teachers to get down to basics, and to perform their function of teaching. His intent was to "get results" and to "eliminate complacency".

    On the other hand, educators and/or state employees may have succumbed to the temptation to lower standards, manipulate test scores, or willfully circumvent the law in order to achieve some advantage at the expense of their students' education. If such is indeed the case, then any and all of the blame lies with these so-called "educators" and/or state employees who thus chose to lie, cheat and steal. Laws such as NCLB may create "negative incentives", but no one is forced to break the law. When laws such as NCLB are written and enacted, it is assumed that honest citizens will make a good-faith effort to comply with the law, not to circumvent it for face-saving or financial reasons; and particularly not at the expense our children's education.

    Health Care
    Medicare was created in 1965 as a health insurance program administered by the United States government, particularly for senior citizens aged 65 and over, or who meet other special criteria. Since then, the role of prescription drugs in U.S. health care has significantly increased. As new and more expensive drugs have come into use, patients have found prescriptions harder to afford, particularly the elderly for whom Medicare was designed. As early as the 1980s, stories began emerging describing the plight of seniors on fixed incomes who were faced with choosing between buying food or medicine. It was an often-repeated and common complaint.

    Bill Clinton ran heavily on health care reform during the 1992 presidential election campaign in an effort to address such problems. After taking office in 1993, he established a task force with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as its chairperson. The goal of the task force was to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing universal health care for all Americans, and was to be the cornerstone of Clinton's first-term agenda.

    Hillary Clinton discusses health-care plan - 1993.

    The Clinton Health Care Plan of 1993 came under strong opposition from conservatives, libertarians and the health insurance industry. Even Democrats, rather than uniting behind the President's original proposal, offered a number of competing plans. By September 1994, the final compromise Democratic bill was declared dead by Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. Opponents of the plan have continued to deride it as "HillaryCare". By the time Bill Clinton left office, virtually nothing had been done to improve or reform health care. George W. Bush set out to rectify that situation through implementation of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.

    Officially known as the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (Pub.L. 108-173, 117 Stat. 2066), it is also called the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA). The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on June 25, 2003 as HR 1, sponsored by Speaker Dennis Hastert. After contentious debate, close votes (including some vote-reversals by Republican House members), the legislation finally passed on November 25th, 2003 and was signed into law by President Bush on December 8th.

    Bush signs Medicare Modernization Act.

    This legislation produced the largest overhaul of Medicare in the public health program's 38-year history. It was initially estimated to cost less than $400 billion over 10 years. Conservative Republicans had promised to vote against the bill if it cost more than that. Only a month after the bill was signed into law, the ten-year cost estimate was revised to $534 billion. It was reported that an administration official, Thomas A. Scully, had concealed the higher estimate and threatened to fire Medicare Chief Actuary Richard Foster if he revealed it. By early 2005, the White House Budget had increased the 10-year estimate to $1.2 trillion. Critics of the bill were primarily fiscal conservatives and libertarians who opposed the high price tag and its expansion of entitlement programs.

    At the signing ceremony, President Bush said the measure would give older Americans "better choices and more control over their health care, so they can receive the modern medical care they deserve. Our government is finally bringing prescription drug coverage to the seniors of America." He said that then-President Lyndon Johnson, when he signed the Medicare Act of 1965, established a "a solemn promise to America's seniors. We have pledged to help our citizens find affordable medical care in the later years of life. And today, by reforming and modernizing this vital program, we are honoring the commitments of Medicare to all our seniors."

    According to a report issued by the strongly Left-leaning 'Center for American Progress' in December 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not have enough data to fully determine the effectiveness of the Bush Medicare Part D prescription drug program. CMS is the agency that administers Medicare, and it collects and disseminates data for both governmental and non-governmental research purposes. The lack of data is blamed on the fact that Medicare Part D is implemented by many competing private firms who are not required to provide such data.

    Volunteer assists prescription drug plan enrollment.

    What is known however, is that about 57 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries -— roughly 25 million seniors —- are now enrolled in either stand-alone privately operated drug plans, or private Medicare Advantage plans, under which beneficiaries receive all of their health services, including drugs. We also know that the creation of Medicare Part D has dramatically increased the number of seniors with prescription drug coverage. According to a recent survey, only 8% of seniors lacked drug coverage in 2006, compared with about 33% before the program was introduced. It is also known that about half of all beneficiaries qualify for Part D’s Low-Income Subsidy program and face virtually no out-of-pocket costs.

    In October 2007, AARP conducted a telephone survey of 400 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older with the drug benefit. Results suggested that people who have Medicare Part D drug coverage report high levels of satisfaction with the plan and their premiums, with many stating that prescription drugs are more affordable now than they were prior to their enrollment.

    About eight in ten individuals (78%) aged 65 and older with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage said they think they made a good choice in selecting their drug plan. About 17% said they were extremely satisfied, and 42% said they were very satisfied with their current plan. About 20% of respondents with Medicare Part D coverage said they thought their prescription drugs were much more affordable, 24% thought somewhat more affordable, and 19% said just as affordable as they were before their enrollment.

    As previously stated, the primary critics of the legislation were conservatives and libertarians. Many felt that this was nothing more than another liberal give-away program. Some even went so far as to suggest that it resulted in the significant Republican losses at the polls during the 2006 mid-term elections. They argued that Republicans were seen as having abandoned their "core conservative values". But there were plenty of other reasons for the mid-term election results, and it seems hard to believe that Medicare Part D played a major role in the Republican losses. For example, it seems highly unlikely that voters would be persuaded to elect moderate or liberal Democrats because Republicans had not been "conservative enough".

    There were in fact, a number of conservative elements to the legislation. Coverage was to be available only through private insurance companies and HMOs versus direct government administration. With a wide array of plans available, participants were provided with choices that would best serve their particular needs. Participation was voluntary rather than mandatory, unlike most universal health care proposals. The government was barred from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to avoid having the government unfairly dictate prices to the drug manufacturers (producing a potentially negative impact on profits). The program provided a subsidy for large employers to discourage them from eliminating private prescription coverage to retired workers. And it prohibited the government from establishing a formulary, in order to prevent the government from dictating which drugs would be covered and which would not.

    For President Bush, the prescription drug benefit was simply another example of "compassionate conservatism". People needed help, and in his own words, "It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need." President Bush wanted to get results because, "It is conservative to insist on responsibility and on results." The legislation was targeted and focused. It incorporated conservative elements that restricted unwarranted government involvement. And he saw this legislation as a way to "make a real difference in people's lives."

    HIV-AIDS Relief
    In 2003, President Bush launched the 'U.S. President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief' (PEPFAR) to combat global HIV/AIDS - the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history. The initial legislative authorization for PEPFAR was P.L. 108-25, the United States Leadership Against Global HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (Global AIDS Act). According to its website, through FY2013 PEPFAR plans to work in partnership with host nations to support:

  • Treatment for at least 3 million people.
  • Prevention of 12 million new infections.
  • Care for 12 million people, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.
  • Training of 140,000 new health care workers in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.

  • Bush being thanked for his HIV/AIDS program.

    PEPFAR's success has been due in large part to the fact that US funding has gone to faith-based organizations who have been implementing the programs. Here are just two of the many success stories which have come out of PEPFAR...

    Namibia: In 1998, the late Archbishop Bonifatius Hausiku of Namibia’s Roman Catholic Church announced the launch of Catholic AIDS Action, a support group for orphans and vulnerable children. Two years later, Catholic AIDS Action, with support from an international NGO, had built a national network of organizations providing home-based care and other services to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. In partnership with the Namibian government, PEPFAR helped the network expand to include other local FBOs such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rhenish Church, Apostolic Faith Mission, Catholic Health Services, Lutheran Medical Services, Church Alliance for Orphans, Lifeline-Childline, Philippi Trust and the Evangelical Lutheran Church AIDS Programme.

    In collaboration with the Namibian government and with PEPFAR support, Family Health International helped to strengthen these and other faith-based initiatives through technical assistance and training in program management, finances, monitoring and evaluation. Services provided by the network of FBOs included HIV counseling and testing services; support groups; anti-retroviral treatment; prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission programs; care and support for orphans and vulnerable children; and training for counselors for both government-managed and community-based programs.

    In addition, FBOs increasingly began addressing the underlying community issues that amplify the epidemic’s impact, including alcohol abuse, domestic violence and inadequate nutrition for vulnerable community members. The synergy between faith-based initiatives and Namibian government programs has been, and will continue to be, a key to the successful national response to HIV/AIDS.

    South Africa: In South Africa, a similar program is fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Nazareth House, an FBO located in Cape Town, was the first Catholic orphan care institution in South Africa to provide pediatric anti-retroviral therapy for the HIV-positive orphans it cares for. Nazareth House is currently caring for children made orphans by AIDS and adults living with HIV. Most of the patients in their charge can no longer care for themselves or be cared for by their family or community, due to the complexity or severity of their symptoms.

    Nazareth House was one of the first sites where anti-retroviral therapy was provided as part of the Choose to Care initiative. By replicating similar small-scale programs implemented through the diocesan and parish system, the Catholic Church has been able to scale-up HIV programs that remain rooted in and responsive to the needs of local communities. According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS...

    This approach has been proven to be effective as is shown in a study recently researched and written by Rev. Robert J. Vitillo, Special Adviser on HIV for Caritas Internationalis. The study has now been published as part of the UNAIDS Best Practice Collection as an example of how a coordinated response to the epidemic made by a faith-based organization has increased HIV prevention education, care and support to communities affected by AIDS as well as complementing governments’ efforts to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support [emphasis added]. --A Faith-Based Response To HIV In Southern Africa, UNAIDS, 20 December 2006

    Getting Results: The president's HIV/AIDS program spent more than $15 billion across Africa from 2003 to 2008. Principally focused on providing Africans with anti-retroviral drugs to treat the disease, the program has been such a success that it has been extended to 2015 at $48 billion. Approximately 1.7 million people were on the therapy at the end of 2008. Bush also initiated a five-year, $1.2 billion effort to combat malaria which has provided 4 million insecticide-treated bed nets and 7 million drug therapies to vulnerable people.

    President Bush hands out mosquito nets - Feb 2008.

    The Bush AIDS/HIV funds have clearly been credited with saving lives. Even critics of the program concede what is obvious to thousands of HIV-positive patients, like James Kan, a patient at a clinic in the Tanzanian capital -- the program has worked. "I would have died," Kan said. "Yeah, that is exactly what could have happened."

    The money from Washington turned clinics, which formerly dispensed little more than advice, into institutions of healing; institutions that dispense anti-retroviral drugs for free. Those drugs would have otherwise cost thousands of dollars each month. "Funding for this program has really made big changes," said Dr. Twalid Ngoma, who oversees the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam, where Kan and hundreds of other AIDS patients are treated. "There is now hope. Before that, HIV was a death sentence. Everybody died."

    Public health worker Amy Cunningham, director of Columbia University's International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs in Tanzania said, "Without these drugs, and without the kinds of services we've been able to help Tanzania carry out, you would have a huge swath of a missing generation. A whole generation has been able to continue living." While the pandemic still remains a continental scourge, nearly everyone familiar with the Bush administration program concedes that the progress in combating the disease has been undeniable.

    Other African Initiatives
    A little known fact for many Americans is that President George W. Bush has established an enduring legacy in Africa. When Bush traveled to sub-Sahara Africa in February 2008, he was greeted by large and tumultuous crowds of admirers. Polling data from the Pew Foundation showed that approval ratings for the United States exceeded 80 percent in many African countries, some with large Muslim populations. In Darfur, some families named their newborn sons George Bush. What was the reason for such admiration?

    Cheering crowds greet Bush in Africa.

    In Sudan, the United States played a central role as peacemaker in ending a 20-year civil war between the Arab north and African south, which killed 2 million people. America played an important role as mediator in Burundi, Liberia, Northern Uganda, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo after civil wars devastated all five countries.

    It was the Bush administration that first raised the alarm about the atrocities in Darfur, organized a massive humanitarian relief effort to save people in the displaced camps, and rallied an international coalition to send peacekeeping troops to restore order through the United Nations and the African Union. Even though the civil war continued, casualties declined and people were being fed by aid agencies, thanks to US government generosity. As a result, President Bush was very popular among the Africans in the camps.

    President Bush speaks about Darfur.

    The Bush administration doubled foreign aid worldwide over his eight years in office, the largest increase since the Truman administration, and he used it to encourage poor countries to undertake political and economic reform. Here again, President Bush wanted to see "results", so his foreign aid came with a caveat calling for "responsibility". Bush did not simply throw foreign aid money away.

    Total US government development aid to Africa alone quadrupled from $1.3 billion in 2001 to more than $5 billion in 2008, and is scheduled to go to $8.7 billion in 2010, principally for education, healthcare, building civil society, and protecting fragile environments. It should be noted that primary school enrollment in Africa is up 36 percent since 1999.

    Africa received $3.5 billion in additional funds from Bush's Millennium Challenge Corporation initiative, which rewarded poor countries that encourage economic growth, govern well, and provide social services for their people. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, approved in 2000 and reauthorized in expanded form in 2004, provided trade benefits with the United States for 40 African countries that implemented reforms to encourage economic growth.

    Since 2001, US exports to Africa have more than doubled to $14 billion a year, while African exports to the United States more than tripled to $67 billion, of which $3.4 billion has been in goods other than oil. USAID has provided more than $500 million in trade capacity building for poor countries to access international markets, which is the only way Africa will escape the poverty that has for too long oppressed the continent.

    Bush greeted warmly in Tanzania.

    While Bush's critics have given him little credit for his African initiatives, they will be among his most enduring legacies in a region of the world neglected by policymakers from both parties for far too long. Africans will long remember what Bush critics have ignored.

    Even Vanity Fair, one of President Bush's harshest critics, was forced to acknowledge his role in African development. In a series of (20) cover photos for the July 2007 edition, photographer Annie Leibovitz captured (21) people "who put their famous faces to work for this issue". Called "The Africa Issue", Vanity Fair focused all of its stories in this issue on Africa, with special guest-editing by Bono. President Bush appeared on (2) of the covers as seen below.

    Click either image to enlarge.

    Vanity Fair said their covers were "21 people shout-outs for the challenge, the promise, and the future of Africa". What follows is their almost grudging "tribute" to George W. Bush...

    We at Vanity Fair didn't think there could be a silver lining to the Bush administration, but perhaps it is, of all things, President George W. Bush's work for Africa. As the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — an independent monitor of global spending — reports, the U.S. has quadrupled aid to the continent over the last six years. In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS primarily in Africa, and two years later pledged a $1.2 billion initiative to fight malaria in the 15 African countries hardest hit by the disease.
    American liberals may not appreciate President George W. Bush, but millions of people at home and abroad, have been helped by him.