Wednesday, August 25, 2004

YR News- Convention Edition

1. Brooklyn Convention Party - Monday, August 30, 2004

Friends of Bob Capano, The Urban Republican Coalition and Young Republicans

Invite you to Celebrate & Watch the First Night of the Republican Convention at

Peggy O’Neill’s
8123 5 Avenue
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Monday, August 30, 2004
7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Complimentary Buffet & Drink Specials !!
(Karaoke After the Convention)

2. YR Convention Watch and After Parties

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights during the convention we will have a suite at the Bedford Hotel, 118 East 40th Street (bet Park and Lexington Avenues) in Room 1603 , where will will hold convention watching parties each night starting at 8pm and continuing until the wee hours. We will have a limited selection of drinks and light munchies. YR's are encouraged to BYO alcohol and any additional food they would like to contribute.

Please email to RSVP or for more information.

3. NYYRC General Meeting - September 9, 2004

Our guest speaker will be Steve Malzberg, host of the late evening show on WABC Radio. Mr. Malzberg will discuss current events and the upcoming elections from his perspective as a conservative in the media.

Time: 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Place: Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmens Club
283 Lexington Ave (bet 36th & 37th St), 2nd Floor
Admission: Members - FREE, Non Members - $5, F/T Students - $2.

Please join us for drinks after every meeting in the backroom at Saga, on Lex and 39th.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Dog Eats AFT Homework

A teachers union's dishonest study of charter schools.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

It is not unusual for interest groups to issue misleading reports that further their political agenda. And for this reason, newspapers generally ignore them, treat them with great skepticism, or make sure they vet the study with independent observers.

Not so in the case of the recently released study of charter schools issued by the American Federation of Teachers, which, after receiving top billing in the right-hand corner of the front page of yesterday's New York Times, was picked up by news media across the country. According to the Times, the AFT had unearthed an apparent coverup by the Department of Education, which had buried key findings in "mountains of data . . . released without public announcement." The department, it seems, is taking a long time to issue its report on charter schooling in America.

So the AFT took matters into its own hands, attributing its success in conducting the study to "a combination of intuition, prior knowledge, considerable digging, and luck." Perhaps. But within a few hours of its release, we were able to replicate its results--and conduct a similar "study" of religious schools besides.

The AFT's conclusion: "Charter schools are underperforming."

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called the nation's report card, show students in charter schools doing less well than the nationwide public-school average, which includes middle class students from well-heeled suburbs. Similar results are obtained within selected states.

Big deal. These results could easily indicate nothing other than the simple fact that charter schools are typically asked to serve problematic students in low-performing districts with many poor, minority children.

Indeed, if the AFT believes these findings, it must also concede that religious schools excel. According to the same NAEP data from which the AFT study is taken, religious schools outperformed the public schools nationwide by nine points, a gap that is as large as the public school-charter school difference AFT is trumpeting.

On other occasions, the AFT has objected to interpreting such findings as evidence that religious schools are superior, on the grounds that they attract an especially able group of students. But for charter schools, apparently, similar student differences are less important.

"To enhance the fairness of the analysis," the AFT study makes comparisons among students eligible for free lunch and in various kinds of communities, which again shows public school students doing better than those in charter schools. But if these simple comparisons prove the AFT case, then they also prove that religious schools are better than public ones--for within these same categories, religious schools outperform public ones.

Indeed, the AFT's most telling comparisons-- the ones within ethnic groups--cut against the case it is trying to make. This comparison is vital, precisely because prior research has found ethnic differences to be large. Yet when the authors look just at African-American or Hispanic children, they find no statistically significant difference between public school students and those in charter schools.

But do any of these findings--within ethnic groups or otherwise--say anything meaningful about the quality of charter schools? Not a bit. For starters, one must do much more than look separately at students grouped by free lunch status, ethnicity or school location, in order to take into account family influences on a child's learning capacity. All of these factors--and many other considerations--must be combined into a sophisticated analysis in order to begin to gauge how well students perform.

What makes such a task essential is the simple fact that charter schools are usually placed in challenging situations. Most states allow charter schools to form only where students are having difficulties, and charter schools are, in many cases, then asked to accept the most challenging of students. Any credible analysis of their effectiveness must account for these facts on the ground.

But this just touches the surface. The AFT study only looks at student performance at a single moment in time. One needs to track student progress within a school over multiple years in order to ascertain how much the child is learning. Moreover, nothing in these data accounts for the length of time that a charter school has been in place--a factor known to have an impact on a school's performance. First-year schools usually have difficulties. Having just hired new staff and teachers, implemented new curricula, and acquired a building facility to use, new schools often face considerable start-up problems. Almost one-third of the charter schools nationwide were less than two years old when the NAEP was administered, raising doubts about whether even a sophisticated analysis of NAEP data would be relevant once charter schools have had time to become well established.

According to AFT official Bella Rosenberg, "Analyses are always welcome, but first things first. . . . Surely the interests of children are better served by timely and straightforward information about whether charter school performance measures up to the claims made for it."

Of course timeliness is important, but bad information is worse than none. To know whether charter schools are doing better, careful analyses are essential. For all of the reasons outlined above, the Department of Education is well advised to prepare its report on charter schools carefully, taking as much information into account as possible. If this explains the official report's delay, this can hardly be called a coverup.

The limited information currently available prevents anyone, including the AFT, from taking even the most modest steps toward addressing these issues. In short, the AFT's report tells us hardly anything about the relative effectiveness of charter schools. But one thing is sure: Charter schools do not appear to be bastions of privilege. What remains unclear is how much they can do for the underprivileged. Sadly, the AFT report tells us nothing about that.

Messrs. Howell, Peterson and West are researchers in the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard. Mr. Peterson is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Edwards' malpractice suits leave bitter taste

By Charles Hurt
Published August 16, 2004

The American Medical Association lists North Carolina's current health care situation as a "crisis" and blames it on medical-malpractice lawsuits such as the ones that made Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards a millionaire many times over.

One of the most successful personal-injury lawyers in North Carolina history, Mr. Edwards won dozens of lawsuits against doctors and hospitals across the state that he now represents in the Senate. He won more than 50 cases with verdicts or settlements of $1 million or more, according to North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, and 31 of those were medical-malpractice suits.

During his 20 years of suing doctors and hospitals, he pioneered the art of blaming psychiatrists for patients who commit suicide and blaming doctors for delivering babies with cerebral palsy, according to doctors, fellow lawyers and legal observers who followed Mr. Edwards' career in North Carolina.

"The John Edwards we know crushed [obstetrics, gynecology] and neurosurgery in North Carolina," said Dr. Craig VanDerVeer, a Charlotte neurosurgeon. "As a result, thousands of patients lost their health care."

"And all of this for the little people?" he asked, a reference to Mr. Edwards' argument that he represented regular people against mighty foes such as prosperous doctors and big insurance companies. "How many little people do you know who will supply you with $60 million in legal fees over a couple of years?"

Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Edwards declined to comment beyond e-mailing his and John Kerry's "real plan for medical-malpractice reform."
The plan calls for one measure that Mr. Edwards previously had said is meaningless and does not impose caps on verdicts for economic damages or limits on attorneys' fees.

One of his most noted victories was a $23 million settlement he got from a 1995 case — his last before joining the Senate — in which he sued the doctor, gynecological clinic, anesthesiologist and hospital involved in the birth of Bailey Griffin, who had cerebral palsy and other medical problems.

Linking complications during childbirth to cerebral palsy became a specialty for Mr. Edwards. In the courtroom, he was known to dramatize the events at birth by speaking to jurors as if he were the unborn baby, begging for help, begging to be let out of the womb.

"He was very good at it," said Dr. John Schmitt, an obstetrician and gynecologist who used to practice in Mr. Edwards' hometown of Raleigh. "But the science behind a lot of his arguments was flawed."

In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a joint study that cast serious doubt on whether events at childbirth cause cerebral palsy. The "vast majority" of cerebral palsy cases originate long before childbirth, according to the study.

"Now, he would have a much harder time proving a lot of his cases," said Dr. Schmitt, who now practices at the University of Virginia Health System.

Another profitable area of litigation for Mr. Edwards was lawsuits against psychiatrists whose patients committed suicide.

In 1991, he won $2.2 million for the estate of a woman who hanged herself in a hospital after being removed from suicide watch. It was the first successful medical-malpractice case in Mr. Edwards' home of Wake County.

During jury selection, Mr. Edwards asked potential jurors whether they could hold a doctor responsible for the suicide of their patients.

I got a lot of speeches from potential jurors who said they did not understand how that doctor could be responsible," Mr. Edwards recalled in an interview shortly after the trial. Those persons were excluded from the jury.

In the end, Mr. Edwards scored $1.5 million for "wrongful death" and $175,000 in "emotional distress" for the woman's children.

One thing I was grappling with was how to explain to the jury the difference between loss of companionship and society — the things under the wrongful-death statute — and emotional pain and suffering, which superficially sound like the same thing," he said at the time. "What we did was to tell them the wrongful-death damages are for the loss of all the things that a mother does for the child. But the emotional pain and suffering damages represent the grieving. The pain is something you feel over the death of your mother."

In 1995, as Mr. Edwards neared the pinnacle of his success, Lawyers Weekly reported on the state's 50 biggest settlements of the year.

"Like last year, the medical malpractice category leads the new list, accounting for 16 cases — or 32 percent — three points better than last year," the magazine reported. "By and large, that upward trend had held since 1992, when only four [medical malpractice] cases made the survey."

Mr. Edwards was singled out.
"Another reason for this year's [medical malpractice] jump was a strong showing by the Raleigh firm of Edwards & Kirby," it reported. "Partner John Edwards was lead counsel in eight of the 16 medical malpractice cases in the top 50."

Later in that article, Mr. Edwards was interviewed about the $5 million he won from doctors who delivered Ethan L. Bedrick, who had cerebral palsy. Mr. Edwards credited the jury focus groups that he routinely used to help prepare his arguments.

"They gave me several bits and pieces of information to use when addressing the jury," Mr. Edwards was quoted saying. "You can use them to decide whether to get involved in a case or whether to accept a settlement offer, but our primary use is trial presentation."

The article went on to observe: "Focus groups can be put together for as little as $300, according to Edwards — a small investment compared to the $5 million won in Bedrick."

It is not clear just how much Mr. Edwards made as a lawyer, but estimates based on a review of his lawsuit settlements and Senate records place his fortune at about $38 million.

Like many Democrats, Mr. Edwards has benefited from the generosity of fellow trial lawyers, who have given millions of dollars to Mr. Edwards' political campaigns and other political endeavors.

Part of the platform that Mr. Edwards is running on includes medical-malpractice reform. The Democrats' plan would go after insurance companies that increase doctors' premiums and ban lawyers and plaintiffs for 10 years if they file three frivolous lawsuits.

One tenet of their plan would "require that individuals making medical-malpractice claims first go before a qualified medical specialist to make sure a reasonable grievance exists."

However, Mr. Edwards said in a 1995 interview that such pre-screening is unnecessary.

"Pre-screening as a concept is very good, but it's already done by every experienced malpractice lawyer," he told North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

As a result of these and other cases, insurance rates for doctors have skyrocketed — putting some out of business and driving others away, especially from rural areas. And doctors who have lost cases to Mr. Edwards have been bankrupted.

Patients, meanwhile, are left with rising health care costs and fewer — if any — doctors in their area. It is increasingly a nationwide problem, physicians say.

Dr. VanDerVeer, the Charlotte neurosurgeon, recalled one recent night on duty when two patients arrived in an emergency room in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where the area's last neurosurgeons quit earlier this year.

"No one in Myrtle Beach would accept responsibility for these patients," he said. And because it was raining, the helicopters were grounded, so the patients were loaded into ambulances and driven the four hours to Charlotte.

Upon arrival, one patient had died, and the other learned that she merely had a minor concussion — and a $6,000 bill for the ambulance ride.

"That's just one little slice of life here," Dr. VanDerVeer said. It's a direct result of the medical-malpractice situation that John Edwards fomented."

Dr. Schmitt had spent 20 years delivering babies in Raleigh. Though he had no claims against him, his insurance tripled in one year. With no assurances that his rates would ever drop, or just stop rising, he left town.

For Mr. Edwards' part, he doesn't necessarily begrudge the doctors he sues.

In the book he wrote while campaigning for president, "Four Trials," Mr. Edwards referred to the doctors who he'd won millions from in two cases.

"In the E.G. Sawyer case and the Jennifer Campbell case, the defendants were not malevolent but were caring and competent doctors who worked in good hospitals and yet made grievous mistakes," he wrote. "They had erred in their judgment, but no one could despise them."

Doctors, however, take it all a bit more personally.
"We are currently being sued out of existence," Dr. VanDerVeer said. "People have to choose whether they want these lawyers to make gazillions of dollars in pain and suffering awards or whether they want health care."

John Kerry’s Bodyguard of Lies

By Thomas Lipscomb

NEW YORK -- Winston Churchill often repeated Stalin's observation that "in wartime truth is so precious that she should always be attended to by a bodyguard of lies." And now that the Democratic National Convention has ended with Kerry's acceptance speech concentrating on his four-month service in the Vietnam War 35 years ago, rather than his service during the past 35 years, it appears particularly appropriate.

One of the pesky IRS Code 527 organizations that now buzz through the campaign atmosphere like insatiable horseflies in the aftermath of McCain-Finegold reforms has had the presumption to raise some serious questions about the truth of John Kerry's Vietnam wartime service.

Called "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth," the group has a website, airs TV ads running in key "battleground" states, and has published a book. The conniving and self-promoting lies of the John Kerry it portrays make Sammy Glick look like a rank amateur.

If the incidents it details are true, Kerry was a coward who fled in battle having unintentionally thrown his current supporter, Jim Rassmann, overboard in his panic. Kerry tried to get his first Purple Heart on the basis of a tiny self-inflicted wound from his own grenade. His supporter, Max Cleland, accidentally blew both his legs off and one hand off with one of his own grenades, but never asked for a Purple Heart because, just as in John Kerry's case, there was no enemy action at the time. Kerry went behind the back of the commander who refused his medal request and the doctor who had treated him, and got one anyway.

Swiftvet officers watched this kind of behavior for four months into Kerry's 12 month "tour of duty." Then three of them told him pointedly that he'd better use the three Purple Heart escape clause and return to the States fast. Kerry left the next morning. And those are just a few of charges the Swiftvets are making. It certainly is a very different picture of the war hero than his campaign has been painting of their JFK: John Forbes Kerry -- but this time as John "Flashman" Kerry.

"CONSIDER THE SOURCE" INVITED Kerry campaign spokesman Luis Vizcaino. And last week Marc Elias, General Counsel for Kerry-Edwards 2000, and Joseph Sandler, General Counsel for the Democratic National Committee sent a hurried and semi-hysterical letter warning television stations not to run Swift Boat Vets ads setting out their definition of "the source" It is well worth reading as a reductio of Kerry campaign logic.

"The group is a sham organization," it points out. Yet the Swift Boat Veterans had been organized months earlier with the IRS and Federal Election Commission, just like and dozens of other 527s, and was no more "sham" than they were. As a matter of fact they had elected to remain unincorporated under the regulation and take the risk of being perhaps the only 527 in which its members were willing to accept personal liability for their actions, unlike MoveOn which had compared Bush to Hitler. The Swiftvets are either very brave or very dumb.

"The advertisement contains statements by men who purport to have served on Senator Kerry's SWIFT Boat in Vietnam… they pretend to have served with Senator Kerry… ." Actually nothing in the ad calls any of the men it cites as being Kerry's crew members. And there can be no doubt they "served with Senator Kerry" in the same Coastal Group 11 at the same time. Worse still, 16 out of the 23 surviving officers and commanders who served with Kerry at the base now claim he is unfit for command, much less to become commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. And the Swiftvets claim to have a total of 254 members who served from Seaman to Admiral in Kerry's Coastal Squadron 1, including several of Kerry's commanding officers and some sailors who had been on Kerry's boat.

"Fake 'witnesses' speaking on behalf of a phony organization…"? Swiftboat service was not a lone wolf operation. Kerry's boat ran in tandem with other Swiftboats who were anywhere from 10 to a couple of dozen yards away, rather like World War II aircraft using formations to protect one another in combat. So the crews and commanders of other boats during Kerry's operations were witnesses all right. They kept a keen eye on anything another boat was doing, right or wrong—particularly since the mistakes of another boat could threaten their own survival. And boat commanders like Kerry, rather than enlisted crew members of his or any other crew, were more likely to have the best understanding of how the mission was being performed by another commander.

"The entire advertisement, therefore, is an inflammatory, outrageous lie"… and should stations run it anyway…"your station is responsible for the false and libelous charges made by this sponsor." Remarkable. On the face of the simple facts recited above, Elias and Sandler may have written the first legal letter in campaign history that actually commits the violations it charges its target with… making "false and libelous charges." It also raises a clear question of tortious interference with existing and proposed contracts between Swiftvets and the stations they had lined up to run the ads.

THEN THERE ARE THE "chilling effect" First Amendment violations of Swiftvets' perfectly ordinary 527 conduct in using its donors' funds to make its point of view heard without supporting a particular candidate. Ironically the real question is, who do Elias and Sandler represent? Who retained them? From their signatures as General Counsel it appears that both are working on behalf of and being paid by the taxpayer-funded Kerry campaign

But to do what? To threaten television stations that they may be sued for libel, purely on the basis of Kerry campaign assertions of false statements by individuals who are likely lack actual malice and were certainly in a position to have relevant opinions, if fallible memories, of events that happened 35 years ago? This is long before Kerry had any professional association with the Democratic Party. Let's assume Elias and Sandler are absolutely correct in their assertions and there is no statute of limitations on this kind of outrageous libel (there is, and it has passed). Isn't this Kerry's personal case to prosecute, not the Democratic Party's?

What if, for example, the Democrats had decided to run commercials based on what they felt was valid information attacking Richard Nixon for getting rich by cheating his shipmates at poker on those boring supply runs in the South Pacific during his naval service 25 years earlier and perhaps running a black market operation on the side out of naval stores at various ports? Should the Republican Party have used donor money to prosecute a case that has nothing to do with Nixon's political service?

Whatever the truth of the Swiftvets charges, they are a credible organization and their members were certainly in a position to have informed opinions. And in their unincorporated 527 status they are easy to sue and they are now on the record. So where are all the lawsuits against them for libel? Imagine the awards John Edwards' trial lawyer buddies can get out of an operation which, according to Al Hunt -- in one of his most embarrassingly often wrong but never in doubt rants, is "significantly funded and directed by Texas fatcats and political operatives."

In the New Republic yesterday, a naif named Kenneth Baer begs the Democratic Party to commence a major lawsuit against the Swiftvets for libel, lèse majesté, whatever. And given the sloppy work Elias and Sandler have done so far, that would be the answer to the Swiftvets' prayers. Wait till those expedited depositions start to leak -- forget the trial. Baer was a speechwriter for Al Gore. He runs "a Democratic consulting firm." The GOP should be so lucky as to have him gain influence.

In the meantime, Dick Morris, John McCain, Bill O'Reilly and others should stop twittering about how rude and crass and dishonorable and counterproductive it is to even explore such nasty possibilities in public and take a look at the charges and supporting documentation brought forth by the Swiftvets. Does it matter whether they are funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, George Soros, or The Tooth Fairy? What does matter in a close presidential election is if there is significant evidence that some or all of the Vietnam service Kerry has elected to make the center of his campaign to move from "war hero" to "war president" is a tissue of lies.

And it is time for the press to look into the charges brought by the Swiftvets. The Swiftvets have depositions, phone numbers, on the record statements, and for all of the innuendo from the Kerry apparatchiks, not one of the Swiftvets has enjoyed a fancy hotel room paid for by the Bush campaign, much less gone on a campaign tour with the candidate. It is easy to see what the nine Kerry crew members are getting out of their 15 minutes of fame. But what's in it for the 254 Swiftvets? It is important to answer that question in considering their charges.

Thomas Lipscomb was the chairman of the New York Vietnam Veterans' Leadership Program which worked to develop employment of heavily minority area veterans. He is the founder of Times Books.