Saturday, October 16, 2004

Is <i>Rap Artist </i> An Oxymoron?

A rap artist, a person named KRS-One, finds much to be satisfied about in the fall of the Twin Towers. Evidently he was once turned away by security guards there for talking and dressing like, well, like a rap artist, and now justice has been served. Three thousand people paid with their lives for the affront. Or something like that. Here's the story:

If Osama bin Laden ever buys a rap album, he'll probably start with a CD by KRS-One. The hip-hop anarchist has declared his solidarity with al-Qaida by asserting that he and other African-Americans "cheered when 9-11 happened," reports the New York Daily News.

The rapper, real name Kris Parker, defiled the memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks as he spouted off at a recent New Yorker Festival panel discussion.

"I say that proudly," the Boogie Down Productions founder went on, insisting that, before the attack, security guards kept Blacks out of the World Trade Center "because of the way we talk and dress. "So when the planes hit the building, we were like, 'Mmmm - justice.'"

The atrocity of 9-11 "doesn't affect us the hip-hop community," he said. "9-11 happened to them, not us," he added, explaining that by "them" he meant "the rich ... those who are oppressing us. RCA or BMG, Universal, the radio stations."

Parker also sneered at efforts by other rappers to get young people to vote. "Voting in a corrupt society adds more corruption," he added. "America has to commit suicide if the world is to be a better place."

Having availed himself of his first amendment right to sound like an moron as well as dress the part, KRS has evidently taken umbrage again at the way the story was reported.

He offers a resounding non-rebuttal here. The fellow claims in his reply to be a philosopher and a keen observer of social events. Viewpoint has no doubt that as a thinker he's a fine rap lyricist.

Profiles in Shamelessness

Charles Krauthammer has commentary on the utter dishonesty of the Kerry/Edwards exploitation of the stem cell issue, and John Edwards' shameless promise to heal paralysis victims if he and John Kerry are elected. Krauthammer, who has himself been confined to a wheel chair since he was a medical student, finds the Democrats' pandering on this issue completely repugnant. Some excerpts from Krauthammer's column:

This is John Edwards on Monday at a rally in Newton, Iowa: "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery. Hope is good. False hope is bad. Deliberately, for personal gain, raising false hope in the catastrophically afflicted is despicable.

The implication that Christopher Reeve was prevented from getting out of his wheelchair by the Bush stem cell policies is a travesty.

George Bush is the first president to approve federal funding for stem cell research. There are 22 lines of stem cells now available, up from one just two years ago. As Leon Kass, head of the President's Council on Bioethics, has written, there are 3,500 shipments of stem cells waiting for anybody who wants them.

Edwards and Kerry constantly talk of a Bush "ban" on stem cell research. This is false. There is no ban. You want to study stem cells? You get them from the companies that have the cells and apply to the National Institutes of Health for the federal funding.

In his Aug. 7 radio address to the nation, Kerry referred not once but four times to the "ban" on stem cell research instituted by Bush. At the time, Reeve was alive, so not available for posthumous exploitation. But Ronald Reagan was available, having recently died of Alzheimer's.

So what does Kerry do? He begins his radio address with the disgraceful claim that the stem cell "ban" is standing in the way of an Alzheimer's cure.

This is an outright lie.

Krauthammer closes his column with these words: "There is no apologizing for Edwards's remark. It is too revealing. There is absolutely nothing the man will not say to get elected."

Ditto that for John Kerry.

The Kerry Gaffe

Hugh Hewitt doesn't seem ready to let go of the Kerry remark about Mary Cheney's sexual orientation any time soon.

Personally, although the statement seemed to have been thoughtless and gratuitous (We wonder how Kerry would've felt had someone chosen to publically comment on his daughter's choice of a totally transparent dress at a recent soiree), we'd be willing to give the Senator the benefit of the doubt that he had no malicious intent.

We would, that is, if it weren't for the fact that Kerry no doubt knows dozens of public figures in his own party that he could have used as examples, but he choose someone who is intimately related to the opposition (Hmmm). We would be willing to give Senator Kerry the benefit of the doubt if it weren't for the fact that John Edwards pulled the same stunt in his debate with Dick Cheney, and if it weren't for the fact that Mary Beth Cahill declared Mary Cheney's sexual orientation to be "fair game" (What's next, "open season"?), and if Kerry himself had had the grace to offer a sincere apology for having precipitated such a misunderstanding.

So far from getting an apology, what we got from Mrs. Edwards was a totally graceless comment that Lynne Cheney's pique at Kerry's remark shows her to be ashamed of her daughter. This crass statement by Mrs. Edwards is, in our opinion, even worse than Kerry's original blunder, assuming that Kerry's original blunder was indeed a blunder and not a calculated and cynical attempt to discredit the Bush/Cheney ticket by announcing to the world, or that part of it that may have been unaware, that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter.

The Flu Vaccine Shortage

The Democrats have been quick to accuse the Bush administration of dropping the ball on the matter of flu vaccine supply, but this is an example of political opportunism masquerading as profound concern for human welfare.

The available supply was cut in half because that portion of it produced in England was found to be contaminated by a bacterium. This raises the question, of course, of why we have to rely on foreign manufacturers to supply our vaccine in the first place. The answer is that over-regulation by the FDA and the fear of litigation have made domestic production unprofitable. In 1988 there were twenty five companies in the United States producing vaccines. Today there are only two. The rest weren't able to make enough money to cover the cost of insurance and R & D, so they decided to get out of the vaccine business altogether, and we were forced to seek our vaccines abroad. As a result, possibly thousands of people, perhaps many of them children, will die this winter because there isn't enough medicine with which to innoculate them against the flu. It's a good illustration of how government screws everything up when it tries to control too much.

Another problem is that demand for flu shots fluctuates from year to year as public interest waxes and wanes. Last season brought huge demand for a flu shot; the year before saw little interest. But flu shots have to be made six to eight months in advance, so the manufacturers must rely on projections which puts them at risk of creating far more vaccine than there is demand for. Since they can't store it, whatever they can't sell is a total loss. Companies often have to discard millions of doses a year.

Yet a third problem is that the government has become the most important purchaser of vaccines and now controls the market. This is because public health agencies have stepped into the market to help the poor by providing low-cost vaccinations. While this sounds like a laudable goal, the "public customer" has come to dominate the market. This has lowered prices for these medications.

With prices low, the risks associated with vaccine manufacture have become relatively more important. Vaccine manufacturers continue to be sued in vaccine-related lawsuits. Over the past 15 years, such litigation has chased several companies out of the vaccine business altogether.

What we need is more companies making vaccines in the United States. That means it has to be more profitable with less liability risk and fewer economic restraints. These important medicines save thousands of lives each year. To burden the manufacturers with onerous pathways to regulatory approval, unrealistic standards and exorbitant and unreasonable legal judgments, and to depress profits and innovation with price controls, is to cheat the American people.

It's hard to see how the Bush administration, which advocates all of these measures, can be fairly held responsible for this year's vaccine shortage, but it's not hard to see that an administration in thrall to trial lawyers and "big government" regulation of industry will be a major part of the problem, not part of the solution. John Edwards, who, as a lawyer, has enriched himself by bringing suit against medical practitioners, and his running mate, John Kerry, have consistently opposed measures that would effect genuine tort reform and are also strong advocates of government regulation. Despite Senator Edwards' claim the other day to possess supernatural powers of healing, both his and Kerry's records give the beleaguered flu sufferer little hope of any future relief.