- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

‘DEAR MOAMMAR’

Moammar Gadhafi knew just what to do with Gordon Brown’s personal request addressed to ‘Dear Moammar’ that Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi, the only man ever convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, not be given a hero’s welcome upon his return to Tripoli last Thursday. He gave him a hero’s welcome,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“The British government has been at pains in recent days to insist it had no hand in the decision by Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to release Megrahi, who is apparently dying of prostate cancer, on ‘compassionate grounds.’ Not so, said the Libyan dictator, who publicly praised ‘my friend Brown,’ along with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew, ‘who all contributed to encouraging the Scottish government to make this historic and courageous decision.’ For good measure, Gadhafi’s son Seif told Libyan TV that Megrahi’s release ‘was always on the negotiating table’ in ‘all commercial contacts for oil and gas with Britain.’

“Mr. Brown, who has been outspoken about business opportunities in Libya, discussed Megrahi’s prospective release with Gadhafi at the G-8 summit in July, while U.K. Business Secretary Peter Mandelson had his own discussions with Seif. A letter to Mr. MacAskill from Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis noted that no legal reason prevented Megrahi’s release, and added that ‘I hope on this basis you will now feel able to consider the Libyan application.’

“Prince Andrew has previously led trade delegations to Libya and was planning to attend a forthcoming gala celebration in honor of Gadhafi’s 1969 seizure of power. That trip has now been scrapped, though we wonder what part of Gadhafi’s dictatorship it would have been appropriate for the prince to celebrate: the terrorism abroad, or the brutality at home?” the newspaper said.

“Meanwhile, Megrahi’s release has turned politically radioactive for the U.K. and Scottish governments. It has also led to a serious falling out with the U.S.; FBI Director Robert Mueller publicly accused Mr. MacAskill of making ‘a mockery of the rule of law.’ Given the disgrace of Megrahi’s release, the shame that now attends the decision’s authors is its only consolation, for which, perversely, we have ‘dear Moammar’ to thank.”

PAYING THE PRICE

“Health care is different. It’s ill-suited to market mechanisms because it deals with matters of life and death,” Caroline Baum writes at www.bloomberg.com.

“I’ve heard this so often from so many quarters that I was starting to believe it. Then I asked myself, ‘Why?’ ” the writer said.

“The market does a fine job when it comes to basic necessities, such as food and shelter (at least under normal credit expansion). Why is it that prices, the mechanism for allocating goods and services in a free-market economy, aren’t up to the task when it comes to medical care?

“For starters, there aren’t many observable prices, at least to the end-user. Consumers have no idea what a procedure costs, and no incentive to look beyond their co-payment.

“A market can’t function without prices. The only way to contain costs, or the growth in costs, is to make sure consumers of health care have access to prices and some skin in the game.

” ‘But this is life and death we’re talking about,’ I can hear you say. (It’s only about death one time per individual.) ‘How can I worry about what a procedure or surgery costs when I’m critically ill?’

“No one is suggesting individuals comparison-price shop via BlackBerry from a supine position in an ambulance en route to the emergency room.

“We can, however, with proper information, make those choices when we’re healthy.”

CUTTING MEDICARE

“One of the most disturbing things about the current health care debate is that some Republicans are positioning themselves as defenders of Big Government Medicare and against efforts to trim the program’s costs,” Cato Institute tax and budget expert Chris Edwards writes at www.cato-at-liberty.org.

“Yet the taxpayer costs of Medicare are expected to more than double over the next decade (from $425 billion in 2009 to $871 billion in 2019), and the program will consume an increasing share of the nation’s economy for decades to come unless there are serious cuts and reforms. Even the Obama administration talks about ‘bending the cost curve’ to slow the program’s growth.

“Yet Republican National Committee ChairmanMichael Steele [took] to The Washington Post [on Monday] to defend Medicare against any cuts, while at the same time criticizing the Democrats as ‘left-wing ideologues.’ ”

He added: “Fiscal conservatives, who have come out in droves to tea party protests and health care meetings this year, are angry at both parties for the government’s massive spending and debt binge in recent years. Mr. Steele has now informed these folks loud and clear that the Republican Party is not interested in restraining government; it is not interested in cutting the program that creates the single biggest threat to taxpayers in coming years.”

LOOK IN MIRROR

“When the next natural disaster strikes, who are you going to call?” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

…”Well, it better not be the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says Ohio’s disaster chief, Nancy Dragani. Sounding a lot like Michael Brown, the former Bush-era FEMA director who was run out of town after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Dragani, who also heads the National Emergency Management Association, wants you to first look in the mirror,” Mr. Bedard said.

“Says Dragani: ‘We’ve got to begin to remind ourselves as a people of personal accountability. It’s my responsibility, to the best of my ability, to take care of myself, my family, my dog, my cats, my mom who lives down the street, and the lady that lives next door. I believe that’s my responsibility. I believe it’s your responsibility.’

“In little-covered comments at a Heritage Foundation meeting this [past] week, Dragani, an adviser to FEMA, former Ohio National Guard official, and aide to Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, charged that the public has traded personal responsibility for personal expectations from the feds.

“For Brown, who touted the address and a Congressional Quarterly article about it on his Web site, the speech sounded like a vindication of sorts. He wrote, ‘My hat is off to Nancy for saying those things that I said during my tenure, but which was drowned out by the press and the critics of me and President Bush. Unfortunately, the solution to this problem lies in political leadership. I don’t see that anywhere in the near future.’c ”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com

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