Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama's "team"

Well, this is interesting. Obama has named his new economic team and it has me quite intrigued. Geithner, Summers and Romer will be advising the new President when he takes office and, to be honest, I am a bit optimistic about it, particularly Romer’s presence. Christine Romer is hardly a Leftist. In fact, if you do your research, you’ll find out that the Left is not happy about her appointment. However, Wall Street responded favorably. Why? Because she is more of a supply-sider than a socialist. Romer could easily serve in any Republican administration, she is very much right of center, which is a good thing for economic times like these. She is pro-free trade and market oriented. She does not believe that government intervention can revive or stimulate the economy. She has been quoted as saying “…tax increases are highly contractionary” and cause a “…large, sustained, highly significant negative impact on output.” All indications show that both Geithner and Summers tend to lean this way as well.

What does that mean? Well, it tells me that Obama may govern as a centrist. That he will listen to economic advisors when they tell him that raising taxes during a recession is disastrous. It means that there will be no tax hikes in 2009, and possible not even in 2010, even though Obama has stopped short of officially announcing it. If this is true, then he improves his chances of re-election dramatically and stands to succeed as our leader. That’s good news. Now, let’s hope that he stands strong against Congress when they try to strong-arm him and his economic team, which is sure to happen. I only wish he would just come out and announce that he will not raise taxes during his first year. That would have a dramatic impact on the market and could potentially trigger a recovery. Why he has failed to do this, I don’t know.

So I give Obama a B+ on his economic team. His campaign rhetoric on redistribution of wealth so far appears to be only that. Hopefully, he won’t follow through on it. We’ll have to see how the media responds. Interesting how they brutalized Hillary and McCain for their economic proposals and have been rather silent so far regarding Obama’s economic team when that team could have just as easily been appointed by Obama’s former opponents.

Now the bad news. Hillary for Secretary of State??? Are you kidding me? This is very disappointing. I suppose Obama is attempting to mend fences here but couldn’t he have named her to a lower level cabinet position? She is not qualified for the job and has a very shady history relating to Bill’s final days as president. Foreign leaders will not take her seriously and may consider her a pushover. This is dangerous. My only hope is that her past will prevent her from being confirmed, but that’s a long shot. Obama missed it big time on this and it looks like nothing more than politics as usual, something he promised to stay away from. This gets a big fat “F” from WEP.

Good job on the economic team, very bad on the Sec State appointment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Marine Corps Marathon

On October 26 I ran my first marathon. It was the famous Marine Corps Marathon held annually in DC. I’ve been meaning to document my experience for a while and felt that the post-election lag would be ideal. Some parts of this are gross, I apologize. And it is rather lengthy, but it’s necessary for me to write it down while it’s still fresh. Hope you enjoy.

I didn’t realize I would be so nervous. Why the nerves? Isn’t this a leisure activity? I guess it has to do with the fear of not meeting a particular challenge. I set this goal in May – at a time when I was running no more than 1-2 miles. Here I am, five months later, about to begin my first full marathon. It’s a cool, crisp morning and sleeves would be nice but I know that soon I wouldn’t need them. The runners – thousands of us – are gathering in our respective start corrals as the clock approaches 8 AM. A Marine Osprey does a flyby. Very cool. I can hear Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” playing somewhere in the distance. Then, I hear a countdown over the loudspeakers and at zero a howitzer fires, thundering the start of the wheelchair participants. Ten minutes to go. I do a few last minute stretches. To my right, a guy is hugging his wife and son. Another supporter has brought their dog. I start to finalize my early strategy – go easy until the pack thins then open it up, make it to mile 16 and the tourist attractions will distract enough to get me to the final 5 miles. The howitzer fires again and the lead corral is off.

We slowly start to walk towards the starting line, the pack lurching forward. I’m a mid-level runner so there’s about an equal number of runners in front and behind – 30,000 in total. I notice some around me trying to break into a sort of walking jog. Conserve the energy, I told myself. Just walk until you reach the start. It took me about 4 ½ minutes to finally reach the starting line and I pick up into a light jog. The pack simply doesn’t allow for anything faster. I resisted the urge to start weaving between runners to quicken my pace. Conserve the energy, be patient. We passed the 26 mile marker – the finish line is very close to the start – and it gave me a chuckle. Miles 1 and 2 went by fast with the excitement and the pure adrenaline. We ran through Rosslyn in front of huge crowds. It was amazing. We turned onto Lee Highway and began the first of two big climbs. It was early and I was pumped, so this wasn’t bad. Plus, the crowd drowned out any effect a climb would have.

We turned onto Sprout and headed back towards Georgetown. The previous climb became a downhill run and the pace quickened. By now I was at a steady 10 minute/mile, which is what my target was. This was an isolated part of the course and for a while it was just us runners. People began darting off into the woods to relieve themselves of some excess pre-race fluids. At first, I thought this was pretty gross, but it became such a common sight on the course that I eventually figured it was normal for a race this size.

The course merged onto Washington Parkway and we got our first glimpse of the Potomac as we approached mile 4. A heavy fog had set in and the opposite shore was barely visible. As we climbed up to the Key Bridge I could see the tower of Healy Hall at Georgetown Univ. peeking above the fog. It was breathtaking and I wished for a camera. Later I would find photos from other runners on the web. Great stuff.

We crossed the Potomac and turned north up Canal. Again it was an isolated part of the course but the pack had begun to spread out a bit. I passed marker 5 and 6 and was able to stretch out my stride, quickening to a 9 minute pace. By this time I was feeling good. The early stiffness typical of any long run was gone, along with any early jitters. The blood was moving through my legs, I was loose, my breathing was steady. I was at a good place. Soon the others runners started to fade away and I slipped into my own little world, just me and the road. That’s always a good place to be, even for a rookie like myself. But it was about to change.

At mile seven the course turned onto Reservoir and MacArthur and headed into Georgetown. We began the second big climb, and this would ruin my day. Dreams of darting across the finish line with a triumphant smile would soon be dashed. I trained on hills at home, in the Texas heat, and thought I was adequately prepared. I was wrong. For one, the climb was steep, steeper than I expected, and it was long. Nearly one mile uphill. That was longer than I had previously run. Plus, the road narrowed a bit, which bunched us up. We also began to surpass the wheelchair racers at this point, which meant further bunching. The bunching meant shortening my stride, thus more steps, uphill for over a mile on a pretty steep grade. By the time we reached the top I could feel my calves really tightening, like I just finished with 1000 calf raises in the gym. To make things worse, we started on a downhill run that took an equal toll. Seeing Georgetown was cool, but the tightness in the calves took away from any appreciation of it. I had to hop over the remnants of someone’s nausea, apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt the effects of what on paper seemed like a simple climb.

We merged back onto Canal and passed by the tail-end of the pack heading the opposite direction. I took pity on them for what they were about to endure. We turned onto M Street, through the heart of Georgetown. It was wider here and I was able to stride out some, relieving some of the tightness. Despite this, my pace remained steady at about 10 minutes/mile. A few more turns, another short downhill run (rather steep), past markers 9 and 10 and we were on Rock Creek Pkwy. At some point we passed the Kennedy Center and Watergate, but I didn’t notice. I was too concerned about my legs, hoping they wouldn’t start cramping this early. So far, so good. Tight, but still functioning well. I could’ve done without that climb, but overall I still felt pretty good and I was happy with my pace.

We merged onto Ohio, through East Potomac Park and then West Potomac Park, beginning a long isolated stretch along the perimeter of the golf course. The tightening in my calves was getting worse. We passed markers 11 and 12 and for the first time I began entertaining the notion of walk breaks. Way too early for that…not a good sign. Thus began the mental battle that I learned would be such a part of this kind of race. Near marker 12 I passed a woman walking, on her cell phone. I heard “come get me, I’m done”. No way was I at that point. Keep going.

We turned at the point and headed back up Ohio, passing the halfway mark along the way at a little over 2 hours. Not bad at all. Despite the tightness and the bundled pack, I was still on a good pace, much better than I expected. I was shooting for 4 ½ hours and so far was on target. I retrieved an energy gel from my pack and downed it with some water. I passed marker 14 still feeling okay, but somewhere near marker 15 the cramps hit. Both calves locked up in spasm. It hurt…badly. This was a first. In all my training runs, some as long as 20 miles, I have never cramped up, even when consuming less in fluids. No doubt this was due to the previous climb. I pushed through to about halfway to mile 16, and then had to walk for about a tenth/mile. I started back running, hoping the cramps would ease but they didn’t. I did an intermittent run-walk through miles 15-17. This was a bummer because as we approached the Mall the crowds grew substantially, 4-5 deep in places, and I had to walk past them. That sucked. Also somewhere at this point we passed the Lincoln Memorial, but I never saw it.

Near marker 17 we passed the White House, and I was able to take a good look since the pack was rather thin and my cramps were easing off. I started back running and was able to tolerate it a little better but was by no means pain free. And then the stomach cramps hit. This wasn’t muscular pain, it was intestinal pain. I had to go. Not sure why, again this was something that had never happened during my training. Maybe it was too much pasta the night before, maybe it was the energy gel. I don’t know. But I contemplated stopping at a porta-potty. I didn’t want to lose the time but I wasn’t sure if I could hold it in to the finish. I was literally trying not to crap my pants in front of thousands of people lined along the Mall.

We passed the Capitol building and I resisted the urge to give Congress the finger, instead refocusing the energy towards my bowels. I saw a group of porta-potties on the right near marker 18. The line was short so I stopped. My stomach was feeling a little better so I opted just for number 1. Maybe relieving some bladder pressure would help my gut. I had already lost time walking and didn’t want to lose anymore. Surprisingly, it helped.

I got back on course and was able to maintain a slow jog, about an 11-12 minute/mile pace. My stomach pain was gone, but the calves just wouldn’t leave me alone. At marker 19 I stopped and stretched them on the curb, hoping to buy some distance. An onlooker gave me a word of encouragement and I could only respond by saying “ouch”. We turned off the Mall and headed toward the Rochambeau Bridge, past mile 20. This is where I felt every ounce of energy completely drain from my body. I’ve heard people describe “the wall”, the moment where you feel like you literally can’t take another step and I always thought the reports were exaggerated. They aren’t. The science behind it is the body has depleted all glycogen reserves in the liver and muscles, leaving only fat as an energy source, which is inefficient, thus the lack of energy. The thought of another 6 miles was overwhelming and I wondered if this was it. Was this the moment that I quit? I though about it. Then I thought about all the training, those early AM runs where I would have rather slept in. The runs in the Texas heat where I questioned my own sanity. The fact that I travelled all this way to challenge myself. Was I going to quit? Hell no.

Instead, I walked across the bridge to mile 21 while fighting myself. My brain wanted to quit, my body sure as hell did. But I recalibrated my strategy and settled on a timed run-walk. 4 minutes running, one minute walking. Surely I could do this for 6 miles.

We turned off the bridge and headed into Crystal City. So far my strategy was working. It got me through miles 21-23 and the larger crowds helped. But soon 4 minutes of running was too much. I adjusted to 3 running, 1 walking. Then 2 running, 2 walking. I had no energy…none. It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been tired before, but this was totally different. Keeping to the 2-on-2-off strategy became difficult, but I pushed on as we exited Crystal City, back under the interstate. I passed mile 24, and saw a young girl probably mid-teens leaning over and vomiting profusely. Her entire body was heaving, this girl was hurting. I wanted to say something encouraging but couldn’t. By this time the pain in my legs was excruciating, I was completely wiped out and the noon sun was starting to beat down on me. My will was starting to wither. My feet were sore, my knees swollen and tight, my hips and ankles hurting. I silently wished her well and kept on.

Downhill to mile 25 and I decided to walk ½ mile to prepare for the finish. It was getting warm. One mile to go. The intermittent walking was no longer working. The pain in my calves had surpassed anything I had ever experienced. By this time crawling was becoming a legitimate option. I retrieved a photo of my kids and looked at it. Their faces, smiling. I looked at my youngest and remembered his battle against meningitis. He faced something much tougher than what I’m facing, and triumphed stronger than before, stronger than I will ever be. The photo was my last option for motivation, my “broken arrow”, to be used when I was near the end, and it worked. It was exactly the final motivation I needed and I started running again, slow and wobbly, but running nonetheless. Every step felt like a knife in my calves, every breath burned. As we drew close to mile 26 the crowd began to swell and I mustered every ounce of strength I had for the final push. We passed mile 26 and turned into Arlington Cemetary. The crowd was huge and loud. The final 1/10 mile was straight uphill towards the Iwo Jima Memorial. The crowd was deafening and this climb sent explosive pain into my calves, but it finally leveled out and I finally crossed the finish - clutching the photo - at 4:46:50.

Shortly thereafter a Marine officer hung the finisher’s medal over my neck and they took my picture in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial. I finished. No, it wasn’t the time I wanted and it was painful, but I finished. Sure, there were moments where I wanted to quit, where I no longer thought it was worth it, but I finished. I raced against myself, challenging my body, mind and spirit like I had never challenged it before, and I finished. I was a marathoner!

That night was painful, but my body recovered. And my spirit had been given a taste of accomplishment. I am a marathoner, but I have a time to beat and on February 1 in New Orleans I intend to do just that. People have told me that running is addictive, but I disagree. Running itself sucks, it’s the feeling afterward that’s addictive and I can’t get enough of it. It's amazing what I will go through to get it. I got a taste on October 26 and even though I was temporarily miserable, I want more.

Special thanks to all the Marines and volunteers along the course. What a great job and what an amazing event!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Another trillion, please

When is this going to stop??

From Reuters today:

"The U.S. financial system still needs at least $1 trillion to $1.2 trillion of tangible common equity to restore confidence and improve liquidity in the credit markets, Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst Paul Miller said...The bulk of the capital will have to come from the U.S. government, Miller said. The government needs to take the initial steps to begin the process, and private capital and earnings can finish the job. "The quicker the government acts, the sooner the financial system can work through its current problems and begin to supply credit again to the economy," he said." FULL STORY

Nearly $2 trillion of taxpayer has already been sunk into failing companies, and now another trillion?

This is absolute madness!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bailout? What was I thinking?

Well, based on the latest news I think it’s time for me to admit to my mistake. Supporting the government bailout was dumb…very, very dumb. I heard our politicians telling us that we were facing a crisis, something that was going to affect us all. I believe “main street” was the catch phrase du jour and I fell for it. Dumb.

My fellow conservatives were shrieking their disagreement and I didn’t listen. This was different. These companies were too big to fail. I was caught in the net of fear and I trusted the government to be responsible with the money. I trusted them to draw a line, to avoid the temptation of extending its power and getting more involved in the free market. This was supposed to be the exception and not the rule and I trusted the government to abide by that. Very dumb.

Gingrich led the opposition, stating that this amount of money would bring unprecedented corruption to Washington, that there was no way they could control it and that there was no guarantee that it would work and the taxpayers would get paid back. He made some very good points but I gave in to the fear that the White House was brewing, that Congress was echoing and I voiced my support for the package on this very sight. Big mistake. Now look what’s happening. Pandora’s Box has been opened.

First, the treasury says that of the initial $350 billion that was freed for bailout purposes, all but $60 billion has already been allocated. In other words, they’ve already burned through nearly half the money. Hank Paulson sat before Congress and told them that the money was needed urgently so he could begin buying up “toxic debt” from our financial institutions. To delay action would be catastrophic.

To this date not one dime has been spent for this purpose. In fact, I’m not sure if anybody really knows where the money is going. Paulson hasn’t exactly been 100% up front about it. Transparency and accountability? These words don’t exist inside the monetary vortex of Washington.

Two days ago, Paulson declares that he has changed his mind and will instead use the money to purchase stock in failing companies and let the companies themselves use the added revenue to solve their problems. In addition, he has extended the taxpayer infusion to other industries, including credit agencies, insurance agencies and others.

And the results? Unless I’m mistaken, the economy continues to fall, credit is still frozen and no one on Wall Street has any confidence to invest because of the uncertainty the government has created by playing god with the free market. In fact, every time Paulson opens his mouth the market drops. Not a good thing considering this guy is an unelected official who has been granted the power of a soft tyrant. The precedent is dangerous.

And, worst of all, government action hasn’t helped. If anything, the government has made the situation worse. The market has yet to correct itself because of all the uncertainty created by Washington. Like I’ve always said, if you want something screwed up really bad then let the government handle it. I violated that principle by initially supporting the idea of a bailout. Very, very dumb.

Now the automakers are asking for a bailout and Obama and Congress appear poised to give it to them. I thought the bailout was meant to save main street, not any company that flirts with bankruptcy. It would be a shame if the Big 3 went under, but that won’t affect me and it won’t affect the majority of Americans. Yet the government feels compelled to continue their free market meddling at my expense.

Washington has been swarmed with an army of lobbyists each trying to secure a piece of the bailout pie. The president of the American Bankers Association voiced concerns yesterday that money won’t be available to help smaller banks free their credit lines. A long line has formed with hands out and the smaller banks are apparently at the back of that line. AIG is going to get more money because the original $75 billion wasn’t enough. American Express just announced that they’re now a bank holding company, most likely because they also want some government money. AllState, Metlife and GMAC financing are also in line. But that’s not all. Lobbyists from the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association both want money so dealerships can “keep their showrooms stocked”. How exactly does that relate to a national financial crisis? It’s now the taxpayers’ responsibility to make sure my corner auto dealer keeps his showroom stocked?

Today, Freddie Mac is asking for more money. Sure! We’re writing checks Left and Right, why not give more taxpayer dollars to a failed and sinking franchise?

And let’s not forget about other governments. Several states have begun begging for federal money, along with some larger cities. If it’s my responsibility to bail out the auto industry, then why not bail out legislatures who can’t even balance a checkbook??? Fiscal responsibility for state and local governments is now nothing more than a suggestion as long as big brother Fed is there with money whenever you can’t balance your own budget. In the Washburn household, whenever income isn’t sufficient we cut expenses. I guess that’s too much to ask for government agencies.

And if that isn’t enough, the Fed is intent on changing the rules regarding federal money – as evidenced by Comrade Paulson’s latest decree. I guess there are no contracts here. Some Dems have discussed further restrictions on executive pay and shareholder dividends. Folks, when you change the rules like that it scares off investors and injects the most virulent of atmospheres into the market…uncertainty. This makes it more difficult for these companies to free themselves from the government nipple and operate independently. Perhaps that’s the idea, I don’t know.

"We are like a tenant signing a lease contract with the landlord where the landlord can come back and change the terms after the fact, and in fact we are going to have a new landlord in a couple of weeks," said Ed Yingling of the bankers association.

It appears that companies who take this money have just signed a deal with the devil, and there is no way out. I think the same can now be said of us taxpayers. And to make matters worse, all of this is happening on the eve of a dramatic Left shift in Washington, where politicians will be eager to exert maximum government power over the free market. Any industry that asks for money will likely get it, at a very steep cost. Once the government gets their claws in, they won’t let go. My fears of socialism are looming larger every day.

No lines have been drawn, no one has clearly defined the stopping point. No one has clarified just how far the government will go. Will this continue until Washington has ownership stakes in every corner of the economy?

We hear world leaders criticize greed in the free market, yet no one is willing to allow the greedy to get what they deserve….bankruptcy. I’m at the point where I’m okay with them all failing. Whether we’re talking about automakers or state treasuries, let them all go bankrupt. Instead, we bail out the greedy with main street’s dollars in the name of protecting main street. So far, the tally comes to about $10,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. I personally think it would make more fiscal sense to give that money to the people. Imagine the economic stimulation of 10K for every US citizen. No, that’s way too simple. Let’s instead use it for the government’s own portfolio and (according to Obama) RAISE taxes on main street. It’s all rather nauseating. What was I thinking?

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Before all of this I thought Bush’s greatest failure was not anticipating the insurgency in Iraq after Hussein’s departure. No more. Free market capitalism took a giant step backward to give way to neo-socialism under his watch, and he championed the cause locked arm-in-arm with Congressional Democrats. Now he has the audacity to say the government shouldn’t go too far.

Mr. President, with respect, once Pandora’s Box is opened there is no closing it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"A virus that causes cancer..."

So I just viewed the commercial for the one billionth time. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about… “a virus that causes cancer”. The ad is for Gardasil, the relatively new vaccine for HPV, a group of viruses that we have been aware of for quite some time that can, in fact, induce changes on the cervix leading to cervical cancer. Merck Pharmaceuticals is the manufacturer and they have launched a marketing campaign with one objective in mind…fear. I have long been a skeptic of Gardasil and I will not immunize my children unless some new evidence emerges that changes my mind. I simply don’t think it’s necessary.

Some of you may remember my post roasting Texas governor Rick Perry for his proposal to mandate Gardasil for all girls. I think such a policy is ridiculously authoritative and irresponsible. Perry has since backed down, but the issue remains very much alive. 41 states have taken the matter into consideration, including 24 legislatures that are considering mandatory vaccination. Most notable is Virginia, under some rather shady circumstances. In Decemeber 2006, Merck announced it would invest $57 million to expand its plant in Elkton, Virginia to manufacture Gardasil. Two months later, Governor Kaine signs legislation that makes the vaccine mandatory for school attendance. Four months after that, Merck announces an additional expansion of $193 million in Elkton. You decide.

So why would a physician – a family physician at that – be opposed to such action? Well, it’s a simple matter of risk versus benefit.

First, Gardasil is expensive, upwards of $1000 for the vaccine series. And it has been a boom for Merck, bringing in $1.5 billion for the drug company last year alone. Naturally, much of this tab is paid by governmental entities since the poorest families can’t afford the vaccine. Even if you assume that Gardasil would eliminate all deaths from cervical cancer (which it doesn’t) then you see that it costs about $70K for each year of life saved. This is a big number when you compare it to other anti-cancer measures. The natural question is: What are we getting for our investment?

Merck’s answer is cancer prevention. We are vaccinating young women against cervical cancer, thus saving money on treatment and lost productivity. But there are more questions about this vaccine - and Merck’s marketing - yet unanswered. If you watch the commercials you will get the impression that cervical cancer is a major public health threat. The actors do a good job of expressing fear and concern that we are all at risk. The message: get immunized now. This is just one reason why I oppose allowing drug companies to advertise on television. For years, doctors acted as a buffer between patients and drug makers. Now, the drug companies can take their pitch straight to the customer and the result is a lot of misinformation, fear, unnecessary doctor visits and uninformed decision making.

The fact is cervical cancer isn’t the big danger that Merck wants us to believe. Last year 3,600 people died from it in the US. Not a big number compared to other diseases. Pap smear screening has been very effective in reducing cancer rates and saving lives. Since we started routinely using pap screening, the rate of cervical cancer has dropped 74%. It is the most successful cancer screening tool ever discovered. Basically, if one maintains their routine screening then cervical cancer becomes less of a threat. The vast majority of deaths are in people who don’t get screened.

So, perhaps the vaccine could eliminate the need for these tests, again saving money. Wrong. The vaccine only covers viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancer. So, pap smear screening STILL must be done even if you’ve been immunized. You’re still at risk. The problem is – and what many doctors fear – that many people will assume that immunization incurs 100% protection or would he happy with the 70% number, and these people will fail to continue their pap tests. This would be dangerous. I could easily argue that cervical cancer rates are in danger of INCREASING from the use of this vaccine. Another danger would be a decrease in regular physician visits that lead to screening for other diseases. In comparison, breast cancer is 16 times more common than cervical cancer, and women are 10 times more likely to die from it. Often breast cancer screening is done during routine women’s health and pap smear visits. So, if women aren’t getting their paps done, they may be missing out on important other screening tools.

Then there’s the question of effectiveness. Merck expeditiously pushed this thing through the approval process, again stressing the urgency of cervical cancer in America. The FDA gave in. Gardasil only took 6 months from application to approval, whereas most vaccines take 3 years. This is concerning. Some clinical data shows the vaccine may not last, with evidence that immunity wanes after only 3 years. A longer approval process may have brought this further into light. Even the fine print on their commercials says: “duration of protection has not been established”.

Not that Merck is too concerned about waning immunity. That simply means regular booster shots would be required. More shots equals more money. See how it works?

Yet the fear-mongering continues. The American College Health Association has joined in. This from one of their campaigns: “You, the female students sitting in your class, your sorority sisters, your teammates and your best friends could all be at risk.” Sounds a lot like Merck’s commercial. Now, the ACHA recommends all female students get immunized, despite the fact that many women this age are sexually active, already have HPV, and getting immunized would be minimally effective if at all. What the heck is going on here?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for preventive medicine. In fact, it’s the backbone of family medicine. But that doesn’t mean that I am willing to recommend my patients do things that would be costly and of little benefit. Protecting against cervical cancer is important. This can be done by getting regular pap smear tests as recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gyn. Do this, and cervical cancer isn’t much of a threat. Paying a lofty price for a vaccine that, at best, only grants you 70% protection that may or may not last for only 3 years isn’t in the patient’s best interest. Until new evidence emerges, my opinion won’t change.

In Merck’s defense, it is true that cervical cancer remains a global problem. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide, mainly because of high rates in developing countries where pap screening is seldom available. So here is my challenge to Merck: Stop advertising Gardasil in the West and instead take that money and use it for a free vaccination or pap program in the third world. Any chance this will happen? If so, I will be the first to echo praise for this company.

I’m not beating up on the drug companies. In fact, I support our pharmaceutical industry. They’re one reason why we have the best health care in the world. But allowing them to advertise directly to consumers is wrong. It presents too much opportunity to distort facts for the purpose of financial gain. Any health care plan that doesn’t stop this practice is incomplete in my mind. The drug companies have lots of money, and that money can be spent better than on misleading commercials and fear-mongering.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Blaming Palin

This is what I’m talking about. Just a few days after losing the election, and some “unnamed” McCain aides have begun their attempts to throw Sarah Palin under the bus. Yesterday, I said the conservative revolution is about to begin, and now we see the old guard of the republican party fighting back. They want to retain control and since Palin is one of us, they have to destroy her before any hint of 2012 support gains hold.

I was never 100% comfortable with Palin’s qualifications, but I argued that she wasn’t any less qualified than Obama. This argument was never countered by the Obama supporters. And now the McCain folks want to blame Palin for the loss. I disagree.

For one, without Palin the conservative base would have never rallied around McCain. Personally, I would have voted for him but there would have been zero enthusiasm. McCain is simply not a conservative. But Palin energized the conservatives across the country to the point that I – for the first time ever – actually gave money to a campaign and put a sign in my yard. I’m not saying that conservatives would have voted for Obama, but I am saying the turnout for McCain would have been smaller without Palin.

The other thing is obvious. Just look at the poll numbers. Before Palin, McCain was trailing. After Palin, he was leading and this lead was approaching double digits. Then the financial crisis hit and McCain’s campaign completely fell apart. The man who tried to paint himself as a conservative all of a sudden became a populist. Folks, populism isn’t something conservatives are warm to. It’s one small step away from liberalism. Not once did McCain mention the Community Reinvestment Act. Not once did he mention that Joe Biden voted for deregulation of the industry (McCain, on the other hand, did not) and Bill Clinton signed it into law. Not once did he mention bad economic decisions by home buyers. Instead, he parroted the “Wall Street greed” mantra and it left us conservatives wondering if we actually had a dog in this fight. He allowed Obama to lay the blame for the mortgage meltdown on the Republicans and did nothing to counter the argument. He suspends his campaign to go to Washington and then votes for a bill loaded with pork barrel spending – something he has argued passionately against. All of this is not Palin’s fault. While he was trying to find his footing on the matter she was drawing crowds triple the size of his. She was the only one who talked about “living within our means”.

During the third debate, he mentioned Warren Buffett as a potential treasury secretary. What? Buffett is another Soros. What about Romney? And why on earth didn’t McCain bring up the Reverend Wright issue? Why didn’t he discuss Dodd and Frank, and the loads of money given to them and to Obama by Fannie Mae? There were many mistakes made in this campaign, but choosing Palin wasn’t one of them.

When unnamed staffers start making ridiculous assertions I immediately toss them aside. If someone doesn’t have the sack to go on record, then they have no credibility with me. So I think it’s ridiculous to claim that Palin thought Africa was a country, and she didn’t know what nations made up North America. Are you kidding me? This is the most popular and, arguably, the most successful governor in the country. This is not a dumb woman and any attempt to paint her as such will be met with a huge backlash from the conservative base. The liberals may believe it because they want to believe it, but we know better. Attacking Palin is nothing more than assigning blame for a poorly-run campaign.

I won’t pretend that Sarah Palin had a vast wealth of Washington knowledge. She didn’t. And she clearly lacked political experience. So what? What she brought was strong judgment and a demonstration of conservatism. She lived it. This woman risked her career to blow the whistle on political and corporate corruption and her tenure as governor has been marked by a constitutent-before-party principle. She is a problem solver with loads of charisma and charm, backed by sound judgment when confronted with tough choices. Those are qualities that we need in Washington.

The problem is that often people like her are so turned off by the nastiness in politics that they lose the stomach for it. See Condi Rice for another example. Whether or not Palin will be back is up for debate, but I think it’s shameful for any Republican to blame her for the failures of the McCain campaign. And if John McCain is the man I think he is, he will come out and condemn these attacks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My fellow conservatives...

To all my fellow conservatives and WEP faithful, let’s not hang our heads low. There is hope here. Yes, it’s possible that America just elected a Marxist for President and gave him a very Liberal congress to govern with, but it’s also possible that the Marxist won’t venture too far from the center. And it’s also possible that he may not be a Marxist after all. That would be nice.

Don’t listen to the pundits who say conservatism is dead in this country. That’s bull. Yesterday’s exit polls showed that 44% of this country identify themselves as moderates, 38% as conservative and only 22% as liberal. Those are good numbers for us and it tells me that much of Obama’s support were protest votes against a morally bankrupt Republican party. Good riddance! Plus, Obama had to paint himself as a centrist in order to win. He had to run as a moderate or he never would have won. That’s encouraging. This is still a center right country even though it will be governed by the far Left for at least the next 2 years. Perhaps this is exactly what conservatives needed, a complete dismantling of the modern day Republican party, allowing it to be rebuilt into something that would make Reagan proud. We’ll see if someone emerges as a new leader, prepared to build a party that will truly represent conservative political ideals.

And don’t listen when the Left pressures you to be more bipartisan. That’s just code-speak for “betray your principles”. They have no intention of being bipartisan, but they will certainly expect us to be. Hold your conservative ideals close and don’t let go of them. They will attempt to isolate us as fringe in their push to Europeanize this country. They will call us names like “divisive” and “antagonistic” and the media will be more than willing to peddle their rhetoric. Again, this is their way of separating us from what we believe. Don’t let them do it. We are the only hope this country has. If we go down, America is lost.

Pray for the military. For those who remember serving under Clinton, you will remember times of very low morale. Those were difficult days for our men and women in uniform and let us all pray that those days don’t return. Pray that President Obama will not misuse the military as Clinton did and pray that God keeps our troops in high spirits. Fighting is hard enough, fighting while serving under a Commander in Chief you don’t believe in is even harder. I will remember our troops in my prayers and I ask that you do the same.

Don’t listen when they say that Reaganomics is a failure. The statistics don’t lie. Recessions come and go and there will always be short periods of economic slowdown, but the big picture is clear. Supply side economics has produced incredible economic growth for this country top to bottom and turning our backs on it would be a disastrous mistake. Obama may attempt to reverse these policies. If he does, he will fail. That would be a shame, but at least it would vindicate Reagan’s economic ideals and pave the way for re-implementing his policies. Let’s hope we don’t have to say “told you so”.

Don’t listen when they say the UN is good for us. The UN is a third world organization whose primary goal is equalization of global military and economic power, which starts by weakening the US. The UN is corrupt and completely inept. Anything they say or do must be greeted with a great deal of skepticism, and our President should keep that in mind as well.

Don’t listen when they say that terrorism should be treated like nothing more than a natural disaster. We all know better than that. We still have a big fight on our hands and a change in leadership is coming. What that means for our fight has yet to be determined, but whatever happens we must never lose sight of the fact that we have been drawn into war by an enemy that seeks our complete and utter destruction.

As for the Republicans, let’s kick them to the curb once and for all. They betrayed us like never before and it began when Gingrich’s Congress left office. Gingrich’s exit was the beginning of the end of the Reagan revolution and yesterday was the death blow. It’s time to revive that cause. The dark days of Delay, Hastert, Frist and Lott are over. Let us now start working on rebuilding the conservative movement with leaders who won’t betray us, and let’s use the ’06 and ’08 elections as reminders of what happens to those who forget where they came from. It may not seem like it now, but this election may be a blessing in disguise. Remember, we had to endure 4 years of Carter to get Reagan. Perhaps 4 years of Obama will bring us the next great conservative leader.

As for Obama, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. We owe that to the country we dearly love. Let’s not behave like the Left did when Bush won office, plotting resistance to anything he plans to do. Instead, let’s give him an opportunity to turn away from the extremist Left that molded him and his career, and remain in the center as he promised. Should he veer, we will most definitely call him on it, but he deserves a chance. It would be unpatriotic not to grant him at least that. Let’s give the guy a chance to prove himself. He didn’t win our vote, perhaps he can win our respect by the way he governs. There is a chance that he won’t govern from the far Left. He is an incredibly ambitious man and re-election will be his priority. If he governs from the far Left his chances in ’12 will be slim. His ambition may work in our favor. It’s also possible that we were wrong in our assertion that he is a Marxist. His record is thin and therefore can be deceptive. Maybe he is a centrist after all. Perhaps he will surround himself with economic advisors that tell him not to raise taxes during a recession. Perhaps he will listen to his military advisors who tell him not to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.

Maybe Biden was wrong when he suggested that Obama’s leadership would invite attacks from our enemies. Maybe Hillary was wrong when she criticized his inexperience. Maybe BJ was wrong when he said Obama came to him looking for the “right answers” so he could sell it to the country.

Maybe his cap and trade policy will get filibustered and we won’t face skyrocketing electricity bills. Maybe the same thing will happen to the fairness doctrine and the union card checks. Maybe one of the strict constructionist Supreme Court justices won’t leave office during his term. As McCain says, nothing is inevitable here.

It is my fear that if Obama implements the economic plans that he has proposed it will be disastrous. I hope I’m wrong. He has a large burden to carry. He is the first black President and for that reason alone I hope he is successful. I don’t want to see this man fail, which is why I urge him to stay in the center and not give in to Leftist ideology. I will be praying for him and so should you.

I am willing to give him a chance and I will be watching him like a hawk. I hope he doesn’t veer from his campaign rhetoric, but if he does I will be the first to call him on it. Accountability is what we need most in Washington and WEP will be watching. We can’t tolerate extremism and Leftist ideology. No country has survived that kind of government and America will be no different. Therefore, we must hold strong.

So start compiling an email list of all your representatives and senators and be prepared to write them. The minute our government tries to take this country to the far Left we will have to dig in our heels. We may go down, but by God we will go down swinging.

Yesterday, a dear friend texted me as the first votes started rolling in. It said “Gingrich-Jindal 2012”. Now that has promise. My fellow conservatives, let’s seize the opportunity. May we all pray that Obama succeeds, but prepare for his failure. 2012 is only four years away and it can be the year the Reagan legacy was reborn.

God bless you all. God bless our next President. And God bless our beloved country.