Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Did socialism kill in France?

Virginia Postrel posts here and here on how France's socialism (must ... take ... vacation ... in ... August ... even ... if ... grandma ... broils) likely contributed to the heat-related death toll. Virginia also offers a wise disclaimer: "I was not referring to the French health care system, which I know little about, but to the general structure of society, economy, and government."

But it's possible the health care system was culpable for some of those deaths, as this op-ed by Grace-Marie Turner of the free-market Galen Institue points out. (We ran this in the Review-Journal but didn't own the Web rights.) Money quote:

Now we learn that the health care system is micromanaged by the government, even to the point of determining whether there can be air conditioning in hospitals.

Sophisticated ventilation systems are widely available and in use in the United States that can filter contaminants out of the air. The government may not want to spend the money to air condition its hospitals, but it should recognize that safe new technologies exist.

However, once a law like this gets on the books, a hospital board can't vote to install cooling systems, as they could in the United States. Instead in France, it literally takes an act of Parliament.

Yet single-payer health care remains all the rage on the American left.

Search-a-palooza 2003, World Tour

Attorney General John Ashcroft's nationwide whistlestop tour promoting the USA Patriot Act whizzed thru Las Vegas today. I'll link to the appropriate local stories when they're available. Here's my friend Jacob Sullum's take on the act, along with an interesting "defense" of the Patriot Act by Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute. Check out this little segue:

The key phrase here is "seek a court order." It is inconceivable that the court that oversees espionage and counterterrorism investigations will approve a records request made because the FBI doesn't "like the books" someone reads, or "because she wrote a letter to the editor that criticized government policy," as the ACLU claims.

The ACLU also argues that Section 215 violates the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. But like it or not, once you've disclosed information to someone else, the Constitution no longer protects it. This diffuse-it-and-lose-it rule applies to library borrowing and Web surfing as well, however much librarians may claim otherwise. By publicly borrowing library books, patrons forfeit any constitutional protections they may have had in their reading habits.

So the government would never keep tabs of what books you read (just tell that to folks in Denver), but don't worry your pointy little heads, because your library records are public information anyway. Gee, I feel more secure already.

By the way, Mr. Ashcroft fielded a few softball questions from TV folks, but didn't talk to the print press. Nor did he find the time to schedule an editorial board meeting with the state's largest newspaper (my employer). That's interesting, since we've had lengthy meetings with Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Interior Secretary Gale Norton (twice) and even Housing Secretary Mel Martinez. The Review-Journal enthusiastically endorsed George W. Bush in 2000 and even covered Mr. Ashcroft's back during his contentious confirmation. Somewhat regrettable quote:

His opponents obviously hope that they will cow the incoming attorney general, pushing him to abandon his common-sense conservative views on issues like gun ownership, racial quotas, online privacy and the abuse of anti-racketeering statutes.

My, how times have changed.


As this Review-Journal news story point out, Ashcroft regularly and intentionally dodges the print press in favor of getting his mug on TV (and avoiding the tougher questioning he'd get from us ink-stained wretches):

Ashcroft's speech was closed to the public. His 90-minute visit included his 30-minute speech, 10 minutes with federal judges and a series of three-minute interviews with local television news stations.

Ashcroft declined to answer any questions from reporters with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Associated Press or the Las Vegas Sun. Ashcroft's spokesman, Blair Rethmeier, said newspapers wouldn't be allowed to question his boss because of a "tight schedule." However, he said Ashcroft commonly gives television reporters quick interviews and rejects newspaper interviews.

Ashcroft returned to Washington, D.C., via a government jet after leaving Las Vegas.

The attorney general most recently visited Las Vegas in May 2002 and gave a speech about law enforcement cooperation, followed by a news conference where he answered four questions.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Hurry home early, hurry on home

VH-1's special on the making of Warren Zevon's final album "The Wind" airs tonight. Check your local listings.