Who is telling the big lies about health care research?

Bilbray and Heck (R-J photo)

Never let the facts get in the way of a campaign theme.

Democrat Erin Bilbray, in a debate with incumbent Republican Congressman Joe Heck covered by the Las Vegas newspaper, accused Heck and all GOP lawmakers of being responsible for the presence of Ebola due to federal budget cuts for health research.

Heck pointed out that Congress this year voted to boost funding for the Centers for Disease Control by 8.2 percent.

“Our CDC needs to be funded. Our hospitals are not prepared to address this issue,” Bilbray insisted.

IBD graphic

She obviously is getting her talking points from this administration.

CDC head Thomas Frieden blamed budget cuts when he said, “There are outbreaks happening today that we’re not able to recognize, stop or prevent as effectively as we should be able to.”

The head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, said if there had been no budget cuts “we probably would have had (an Ebola) vaccine in time for this.”

All lies. There have been no budget cuts. The CDC’s budget is 25 percent higher in 2008 and 188 percent higher than in 2000. The NIH budget is double that of 14 years ago.

It ain’t how much money they get that matters, but how they spend it.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the NIH has spent more than $39 million on valuable research to cure what ails us.

For example, the agency spent:

— $2,873,440 trying to figure out why lesbians are obese.

— $466,642 to find out why fat girls have a tough time getting dates.

—  $2,075,611 encouraging old people to join choirs.

— $674,590 texting drunks in bars to try to get them to stop drinking.

— $2,101,064 on wearable insoles and buttons that can track a person’s weight, and $374,670 to put on fruit and vegetable puppet shows for preschoolers.

— $275, 227 on new children’s menus.

— $430,608 for mother-daughter dancing outreach to fight obesity.

— $105,066 following 16 schizophrenic LGBT Canadians for a study on their community experiences.

— And my favorite, $2,466,482 to a researcher to develop “origami condoms,” in male, female, and anal versions. The inventor has been accused of fraud for using grant money for plastic surgery and parties at the Playboy mansion.

— $5 million to “mine and analyze” social media to study American’s attitudes toward drug abuse, and $306,900 to use Twitter for surveillance on depressed people.

Free Beacon noted that Health and Human Services has just recently contracted with an outside source to spend $8.6 million to research and test an Ebola vaccine.


The sin of omission

The Las Vegas newspaper has a story on the death of its long-time features editor, Frank Fertado, 65.

The Review-Journal story recounts his three decades with the paper as an innovator and dedicated manager, pointing out the improvements he heralded. He launched the Friday Neon entertainment section. He brought on board movie, food, music and television reviewers. He created the annual Best of Las Vegas.

It quoted friends and co-workers about his genial nature, passion and dedication.

But the newspaper account falsely says he “retired in September 2012 after newsroom reorganization consolidated the positions of features and sports editor.” He did not retire. He was retired.

Frank Fertado

The paper’s story neglected to point out that Frank was one of the editors who were crumpled up like yesterday’s newspaper and summarily tossed out two years ago — without explanation, without rationale, without any recognition of his decades of service, devotion and long hours, without any compassion whatsoever. He was devastated. Where else at his age was there to go?

The story quotes two of the people who were kicked to the curb along with Fertado, without bothering to mention their ousters either.

Nor does it mention that Frank grew to abhor the Best of Las Vegas feature, which had morphed from a tip of the hat to Las Vegas achievers into an annual excuse to extort advertisers, turning the editorial content from whimsical and amusing into rote spewing of ink to wrap around the ads.

“It’s a great loss. Frank was a real pro. … His influence continues to be reflected in the R-J today and will be well into the future,” the story quoted the newspaper’s editor, Mike Hengel, as saying.

Two years ago this was the excuse for the management blood bath:

“I am sorry to have to take these painful steps,” Hengel said. “All of these individuals have helped to make the Review-Journal the dominant source of news and information in Southern Nevada. I believe, however, that a structure which removes a layer of management will best serve our readers going forward.”

What he said then was a crock. What he said now is true — but disingenuous, misleading, deceptive, callous and without candor or frankness, as well as being mendacious, heartless, remorseless, shameless and soulless on his part. (As editor Walter Matthau said to reporter Jack Lemmon in “The Front Page” as he was typing a string of pejoratives: “Yes, and in that order.”)

Sorry to have to say what no one else has been willing to, but Frank never shirked from the truth.

He was one of the most guileless and caring people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing for more than 20 years. He did not deserve the raw deal the paper dealt him.

Rest in peace, Frank, we who knew you all those years will cherish the memories of your laughter and your dedication to the profession and your fellow professionals.










You can’t believe an administration that talks out of both sides of its mouth

Apparently you can’t get Ebola by sitting next to someone with the disease on a bus, but if you have Ebola you can transmit it to someone else by sitting on a bus. Huh?

Tom Frieden via IBD

That is what Dr. Tom Frieden, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this week during a teleconference, according to the Boston Herald.

At first Frieden  said you “cannot get (Ebola) through casual contact like sitting next to someone on a bus.”

A few minutes later, Frieden said, “If you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, and you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.”

This was the same Frieden earlier said “any hospital in the country can take care of Ebola. You don’t need a special hospital room to do it.”

But after two Dallas nurses contracted the disease while treating a Liberian man who died of the disease, Frieden said, “We could’ve sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from day one about exactly how this should be managed.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to issues visas to people leaving the countries infested with Ebola.

And the administration is blaming the lack of an Ebola vaccine on budget cuts that never happened.

Talking out of both sides of the mouth can spread a lot of manure.

Newspaper column: If you haven’t studied the candidates and issues, DON’T VOTE!

Early voting starts Saturday. Election Day is Nov. 4. It is time to start cramming for the test — a test of the American democratic republic.

Normally this time of year you hear: Be sure and vote. Your vote counts. It is your civic duty to vote.

My admonition to you today is: Don’t cancel out an informed vote with an ill-informed one! If you haven’t studied thoroughly the issues and candidates, stay home. If you are only up to speed on a select number of items, by all means, vote on those, but leave the others blank, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

Remember, the ballot is not like a pop quiz. You don’t get credit for wild guesses. All you do is dilute the votes of those of us who took the time to study the candidates and ballot initiatives.

Voting a straight party ticket is no salve for ignorance in Nevada, because major party candidates self select with no vetting by the parties for philosophy or ethical standards.

Early voting (RGJ photo)

The ballot franchise is not universal after all. Certain felons can’t vote, nor should they, because they may not have the best interest of the community at heart. They are crooks after all.

Until 2004, the Nevada Constitution also denied the right to vote to any “idiot or insane person.” That year the “idiot or insane” language was changed to the more politically correct “a person who has been adjudicated mentally incompetent, unless restored to legal capacity.”

I always thought we should have taken that opportunity to add: “or any self-imposed ignoramus, as determined by a poll test.”

Perhaps, you could still vote if you, as found in a survey a couple of years ago, are one of the 53 percent of Americans who does not know who the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is. But maybe not if you were among the 4 percent who guessed Harry Reid. And certainly not if you are a Nevadan and don’t know who Harry Reid is.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

On the other hand, David T.Z. Mindich, a journalism professor, former editor for CNN and author of “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News,” once commented: “It is not hyperbole to say that if a citizenry unilaterally abandons political knowledge, it relinquishes power as well. It has been said that America is a system ‘designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots.’ But this is not entirely true. The Constitution does provide checks against our greatest mistakes of the moment. And elections do provide a quick check against the government’s neglect of the people. But nothing in our Constitution protects us against the long-term ravages of neglect by the people themselves.”

Perhaps that explains how in the Republican congressional primary for District 4 a guy named Mike Monroe, an unknown Las Vegas handyman who did no campaigning whatsoever, picked up 22 percent of the votes, won outright in White Pine and Esmeralda counties and was within a handful of votes to the frontrunners in Lyon and Mineral counties.

New citizens have to take a civics test. Why should the mere fact that a native-born person has inexplicably managed to survive for 18 years qualify that person to have the power to alter the political makeup of our state and country? Before being allowed to vote in Nevada, why shouldn’t a person be required to, say, name the current governor and one of our two U.S. senators?

Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of “The Myth of the Rational Voter,” observes: “In theory, democracy is a bulwark against socially harmful policies. In practice, however, democracies frequently adopt and maintain policies that are damaging. How can this paradox be explained?

“The influence of special interests and voter ignorance are two leading explanations. I offer an alternative story of how and why democracy fails. The central idea is that voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and they vote accordingly. Despite their lack of knowledge, voters are not humble agnostics; instead, they confidently embrace a long list of misconceptions.”

As Will Rogers said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

If you know some self-imposed ignoramuses, please offer to drive them to the polls … on Nov. 5.

Obama: An ego bigger than Dallas

It is not about the safety of American citizens. It is all about Obama. First, last and always.

In one of the most insulting and brazenly egotistical comments ever uttered by a president, Obama said Wednesday after uncharacteristically canceling a fundraiser to meet with his advisers about the Ebola virus:

“I want to use myself as an example just so that people have a sense of the science here. I shook hands with, hugged, and kissed not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients. They followed the protocols, they knew what they were doing, and I felt perfectly safe doing so.

“And so this is not a situation in which, like a flu, the risks of a rapid spread of the disease are imminent. If we do these protocols properly, if we follow the steps, if we get the information out, then the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low.”

This came moments after his condolences to two Dallas nurses who have contracted Ebola while caring for a Liberian who died of the virus — two nurses who followed the protocols and wore protective gear and one of whom was given permission by the CDC to fly to Ohio with a low-grade fever even though the head of the CDC says she shouldn’t have.

Though a Dallas nurse should not have boarded an airline after being exposed to Ebola, the president made no comments about or illusions to stopping flights from West Africa, where more than 4,000 have died of the disease.

No quarantine of foreign citizens. But U.S. military commanders have given the authority to quarantine the 3,000 troops being sent to Africa for 21 days to be monitored for signs of the disease.

For days lawmakers have been calling for curtailing flights from West Africa. On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner wrote in a statement:

“A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider along with any other appropriate actions as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow. The administration must be able to assure Americans that we will stop the spread here at home.”

But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “That’s something that is not on the table at this point. Shutting down travel to that area of the world would prevent the expeditious flow of personnel and equipment into the region, and the only way for us to stop this outbreak and to eliminate any risk from Ebola to the American public is to stop this outbreak at the source.”

Or bring the source closer to home as people try to flee the region?

Don’t you think Obama should hug and kiss those two Dallas nurses if the chances of  “widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low”?


Obama meets with Ebola advisers. (White House photo)

Getting your head right, Part 2: Thought Police subpoena sermons of pastors opposing ‘Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance’

When an alert reader first brought this news item to my attention I was certain that someone had taken an item from the satirical website The Onion and disguised it as a news story.

I imagined the original headline had to have been something like: “Houston’s tolerant city officials will not tolerate any intolerance whatsoever.”

But, no, gentle reader, there appear to be too many references to this news from the Houston Chronicle to Fox News to a Houston TV station.

The lede on the Chronicle story reads:

“Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists who have sued the city.”

Specifically the subpoenas are demanding copies of “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” Mayor Parker is Houston’s first openly lesbian mayor.

Resistance is futile

HERO is the acronym for Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. This ordinance apparently protects transgendered person’s “right” to use a restroom consistent with that person’s “gender expression,” regardless of actual biological sex. Opponents have dubbed it the “Sexual Predator Protection Act.”

According to a Fox News account, ministers who fail to comply with the subpoena could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

Opponents of the ordinance, passed in June, gathered 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed — but the petition was thrown out due to alleged irregularities.

A court date on litigation aimed at repealing the ordinance is set for January and the subpoenas are part of the discovery for the case on behalf of the city.

City Attorney David Feldman told the Chronicle that the pastors’ sermons are relevant to the case because they used the pulpit for political campaigning that encouraged members to sign petitions opposing the ordinance.

Ordinance opponent, Erik Stanley, an attorney for a group called Alliance Defending Freedom, told Fox News, “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge. This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

In this day and age of constant social media posts and purloined audio and video posted on the Internet, do the Houston officials really even need a subpoena? Perhaps they could take a page from George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”:

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

And once you are found out, there is the certain outcome:

“We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation … we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.”



Time to get your head right or else?

The pendulum always swings, doesn’t it?

After years of government-sanctioned and even government-ordered racial discrimination, the pendulum swung and we got affirmative action.

So, now that the courts have overruled the voters in nearly half the states on the matter of gay marriage, the pendulum swings to discrimination cases against bakers and farm owners for declining to provide their “public accommodation” services to gay couples.

Now, as a closet libertarian I have no problem with couples of just about any ilk forming unions under civil law — though I do have some problem with government discriminating against people for the purpose of taxes and benefits based on contractual living arrangements and have misgivings about changing the definition of words at the drop of a bouquet and wonder how this will bode for the “right” to plural and/or other forms of “marriage.”

What I do have a problem with is the sudden pendulum swing by liberals to vilification of people who in good faith or conscience do not wish to participate commercially or privately in a superficial ceremony.

One local columnist called on the Nevada federal judge who upheld the state gay marriage ban to resign because he recused himself — without stating why — when the case was remanded by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “If pang of conscience prevents him from living up to that oath, or carrying out the duties imposed on him by law, the proper remedy isn’t to simply slink away on one case. It’s to resign,” wrote the self-righteous columnist who has been known to rail against his own newspaper’s editorial stances rather than resign.

The headline on the Fox News story about the baker fined for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding said he was required to undergo sensitivity training, though the story actually said he and his staff had to submit to “comprehensive training on Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.”

In either case it sounds like getting your head straight.

You can’t found a country on liberty and free speech and then demand uniformity of thought and conscience. And conscience without the freedom to act is not liberty.

The concept of live and let live means government should not dictate behavior to either gay couples or bakers any more than the law should demand that doctors provide abortions or churches provide marriage services to all comers.

Freedom of speech requires freedom of thought and belief.

Colorado cake shop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake. (AP photo)