Thursday, August 27, 2009

Government-Run Maternity Care

If you're a young woman planning on having a family in the next ten years and you're not sure what to make of the debate swirling around nationalized health care you may find this article from the British Daily Mail Online helpful:

Thousands of women are having to give birth outside maternity wards because of a lack of midwives and hospital beds.

The lives of mothers and babies are being put at risk as births in locations ranging from lifts to toilets - even a caravan - went up 15 per cent last year to almost 4,000.

Health chiefs admit a lack of maternity beds is partly to blame for the crisis, with hundreds of women in labour being turned away from hospitals because they are full.

It shows the incredible waste that has taken place that mothers are getting this sort of sub-standard treatment despite Gordon Brown's tripling of spending on the NHS. Labour have let down mothers by cutting the number of maternity beds and by shutting down maternity units.

The NHS employs the equivalent of around 25,000 full-time midwives in England, but the Government has promised to recruit 3,400 more. However, the Royal College of Midwives estimates at least 5,000 more are needed to provide the quality of service pledged in the Government's blueprint for maternity services, Maternity Matters.

At the same time almost half of all midwives are set to retire in the next decade.

There are more details at the link. When government controls the health care system women give birth on toilets. What a metaphor.


Somali Pirates

We haven't heard as much about piracy off the coast of Somalia lately. Part of that may be due to the fact that three pirates were killed by U.S. Navy SEALS when they took an American ship captain hostage, and some of it is due to measures that merchant crews are taking to thwart piracy. Strategy Page fills us in:

Off Somalia, 136 ships have been attacked so far this year, and 28 (21 percent) have been taken. Last year, the pirate success rate was 40 percent. Moreover, 80 percent of the attacks defeated do not involve the foreign warships now patrolling the coast. The merchant sailors, and the ship owners, have adopted defensive measures that have become remarkably successful in defeating pirate attacks. For the captain himself, the best defense is knowing what speeds and maneuvers his ship can use to keep the pirates away. Larger ships can create dangerous wakes for the pursuing speedboats, by zig zagging. Captains also have to learn how fast their ship can accelerate to escape oncoming speed boats. Normally, captains are more skilled at moving their ships at slower speeds. Putting the pedal to the metal and hot roding around the high seas is not normally part of their skill set. But that's how you avoid getting hijacked by pirates. Captains are learning, and so are their crews.

Ship captains are organizing and drilling their crews on things that can be done to keep the pirates from getting aboard. This ranges from stringing barbed wire around likely boarding points, to practicing the use of fire hoses and other tools (like long poles) to keep the ladders or grappling hooks from enabling the pirates to get aboard. These drills build confidence in the ability of the crew to defend their ship.

The sailors also now keep track of where the nearest warships are, and prepare a "safe room" (an area of the ship the crew can barricade themselves in, until help arrives.) This includes providing emergency communications in the safe room. All this takes advantage of the fact that the pirates cannot take control of the ship unless they have the crew. Usually this comes down to barricading the crew in the engine compartment. If the crew prepares for that eventuality (having a radio available to contact the warships, along with water, food and medical supplies there), just getting everyone into the engine room when it appears that the pirates are going to get on board, means that the pirates will be caught between the crew they cannot reach, and the approaching warship that can certainly reach the pirates.

This is all good as far as it goes, but it seems to me that it would be a lot easier to just let it be known that there are teams of armed guards on board these ships. Whether there are or not, it would certainly deter the dilletantes among the brigands and at least give pause to the more resolute careerists.


Lopsided Playing Field

Over at National Review Online John Pitney explains that contrary to what some might think, the President and his party enjoy every advantage a political party could hope for, yet they nevertheless may fail utterly to impose their agenda and to lead the country into the land of socialist milk and honey to which the leadership wants to take it.

The list of advantages is probably unprecedented in our political history. Here's Pitney:

Start with Congress. A few years back, House Democrats complained that the Republican majority was shutting them out of the legislative process. Now Speaker Pelosi and company are pulling tricks that Tom DeLay never dreamed of. A Brookings study concludes: "The number and percentage of restrictive rules used by Democratic leaders to control debate and amending activity on the House floor exceeded the degree of control and departure from regular order exercised by their Republican predecessors." The ruling party is even unfairly censoring Republicans' official mailings to constituents.

Senate Democrats have 60 votes, enough to close debate if they all hang together. Such strength is extraordinary. Democrats last crossed that line in the 95th Congress (1977-1979), and Republicans have not done so in more than a hundred years. Democrats claim that their majority is less decisive than it seems because they are more fractious than Republicans. But they aren't. In roll call votes during 2008, Senate Democrats scored higher in party unity (87 percent) than Republicans (83 percent).

Democrats do not exactly face a hostile media environment, either. The evening news broadcasts of the Obama-friendly Big Three networks have dropped in the ratings, but they still draw far more viewers than Fox News. That's why the Gibson and Couric interviews could do so much damage to Sarah Palin.

What of all-powerful talk radio? Rush Limbaugh reaches up to 25 million Americans, many more than other syndicated hosts. That's a big number, but it means that at least 80 percent of voters are not listeners. More significant, polls show that most Americans have a low opinion of El Rushbo. So the "Limbaugh Did It" theory works only if he can mesmerize millions who dislike him and/or don't even listen to him.

Liberals and Democrats also dominate the hot medium of our time, the Internet. During the 2008 campaign, the Obama campaign mastered social networking and other online technologies. By far the most popular political blog is The Huffington Post. Along with Talking Points Memo and others, HuffPo conducts a great deal of investigative journalism that advances liberal causes. As the Politico reported last year, the Right lags badly in this regard.

What about money? According to stereotype, the well-heeled GOP can bury the Democrats in campaign cash. That image is obsolete: Any Republican financial advantage is long gone. In 2008, Barack Obama smashed all fundraising records and got most of his money from large donors.

He raised twice as much as McCain from physicians and other health professionals, and three times as much from the health-service and drug industries. And listening to his attacks on the insurance industry, you would never guess that it supplied him with almost as much money ($2.3 million) as it did McCain ($2.4 million). No wonder Obama could co-opt business opposition to the health plan and strike a deal with Big Pharma: His corporate ties were a pre-existing condition.

The Democrats continue to hold the money edge. So far in the 2010 election cycle, Democratic national committees have raised $12 million more than their Republican counterparts.

And as in the past, liberals have the upper hand at foundations and universities. Research from these institutions has been especially important during the health-care debate. A Yale professor, for instance, devised the "public option."

So why is it proving so hard to get any more of their legislation passed? It's a testament to two things: the egregiousness of the legislation and the political incompetence of the leadership. Even so, they might still prevail by the sheer force of all that they have going for them.