- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

WAR ON SCIENCE

“Last week, President Barack Obama convened a health care summit in Washington to identify programs that would improve quality and restrain burgeoning costs,” Drs. Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband write in the Wall Street Journal.

“He stated that all his policies would be based on rigorous scientific evidence of benefit. The flagship proposal presented by the president at this gathering was the national adoption of electronic medical records - a computer-based system that would contain every patient’s clinical history, laboratory results and treatments. This, he said, would save some $80 billion a year, safeguard against medical errors, reduce malpractice lawsuits and greatly facilitate both preventive care and ongoing therapy of the chronically ill,” noted the doctors, who said they voted for Mr. Obama.

“Following his announcement, we spoke with fellow physicians at the Harvard teaching hospitals, where electronic medical records have been in use for years. All of us were dumbfounded, wondering how such dramatic claims of cost-saving and quality improvement could be true.

“The basis for the president’s proposal is a theoretical study published in 2005 by the RAND Corporation, funded by companies including Hewlett-Packard and Xerox that stand to financially benefit from such an electronic system. And, as the RAND policy analysts readily admit in their report, there was no compelling evidence at the time to support their theoretical claims. Moreover, in the four years since the report, considerable data have been obtained that undermine their claims. The RAND study and the Obama proposal it spawned appear to be an elegant exercise in wishful thinking.”

REAL BRUTALITY

Retired Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness bristles when he hears the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, described as “one of the toughest prisons on the planet,” as the Washington Post did in a Feb. 23 front-page article on a Kuwaiti detainee who became a suicide bomber in Iraq after his release from Gitmo.

A fighter pilot shot down over North Vietnam on April 30, 1967, Mr. Thorsness spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi, including a year in solitary confinement.

Speaking Thursday night at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, the Medal of Honor recipient said his North Vietnamese captors’ “policy was to torture,” despite having signed the Geneva Conventions. He said he was “interrogated 18 days and nights” after being captured.

Denied medical attention because of his “uncooperative attitude” and subjected to torture, Mr. Thorsness was released on March 4, 1973, still on crutches.

Mr. Thorsness, now 77, noted that Muslim detainees at Gitmo get Korans and culturally sensitive food, reports Peter Parisi of The Washington Times. “We had none of that,” he said, adding that he and his fellow POWs were given “lousy food” and got to “bathe” with a couple of cups of water from a faucet every three or four days.

“We all looked and smelled about the same,” he told his audience of several hundred.

When he and his fellow POWs held a news conference upon their return home and were asked by reporters whether they had been tortured, he said, “We had the scars to show them.”

CHAFEE VS. OBAMA

“One of Barack Obama’s high-profile Republican endorsers during the campaign said he was ‘stunned’ that the president could muster only three Republican votes for his stimulus package and put the blame squarely at the president’s feet,” Sam Stein writes at www.huffingtonpost.com.

“In an interview with the Huffington Post, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who endorsed Obama during the Democratic primary, acknowledged that the president’s post-partisan appeal was suffering from a dearth of moderate Republicans in Congress. But he added that the ‘onus was on’ Obama to get broad backing on his first major piece of legislation. And by this metric, he failed.

” ‘The whole appeal of the Obama candidacy was post-partisan, and to get off to that start I thought was surprising,’ said the Rhode Island Republican. ‘Ultimately, the chief executive has so much power, and just as a spectator, I thought the onus was on him to just to make it happen. Get 80-or-so votes on your first big initiative, whatever it is.’

” ‘To get off to that start, really, I was stunned about that vote in the House. Oh, come on! You’ve got to get that first vote, whatever it takes,’ Chafee added. ‘It was kind of sloppily put together or something and it just gave to partisan oxygen,’ ”

For the record, Mr. Chafee announced in summer 2007 that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent.

GETTING IT RIGHT

The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, in a blog at www.weeklystandard.com, points to the important role played by a reporter for The Washington Times in revealing problems with the appointment of Charles W. “Chas” Freeman Jr. to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Mr. Freeman withdrew his name Tuesday.

Prominent blogger “Mickey Kaus says that the Freeman story proves ‘you can no longer be a well-informed citizen if you just read the [New York] Times and [Washington] Post print editions,’ ” Mr. Goldfarb writes. “True, but the beginning of the end for Freeman came from Eli Lake’s devastating reporting in The Washington Times on Freeman’s foreign financial ties.”

Mr. Goldfarb added: “What’s so stunning is that all the pieces of this story existed three days ago, but the [New York] Times and the Post had zero interest in covering it. It was only after Freeman wrote his ridiculous farewell note blaming a Jewish conspiracy for his misfortune that the story moved to the front page of both papers - and both papers basically defended him and his version of events. The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus reports on who was talking to who on background rather than dig into Freeman’s ties to the Saudis and Chinese, and the [New York] Times managed to write Pelosi out of the story entirely.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or Greg Pierce.

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