January 22, 2011

AP Philly Abortion Clinic Story Gives Rendell a Pass, Misses Serious Error in Grand Jury Timeline

In an Associated Press report by Patrick Walters yesterday afternoon, the following two reasons were offered as to why the Philadelphia abortion “clinic” operated by Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was arrested and charged earlier this week “with murdering seven babies and one woman who went to him for an abortion,” had not been inspected since 1993:

  • Democratic former Governor Ed Rendell, who left office on Tuesday after eight years as Keystone State chief executive, claimed that officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), in the AP’s words, “didn’t think its authority extended to abortion clinics.”
  • The grand jury indictment of Dr. Gosnell says that DOH “decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.”

According to the indictment handed down against Gosnell, the hard-to-handle first explanation (If DOH doesn’t have jurisdiction, who does? No one?) is a subset of the second, i.e., the opinion on lack of jurisdiction was part of a longer-term effort to come up with reasons to avoid inspections. Walters never told readers that, and in doing so largely let Rendell off the hook for the fact that almost half of 17-years involved — the longest time period of any Keystone State governor contemporaneous with the non-inspection regime of non-inspection occurred on his watch (the others: Bob Casey, prolife Democrat, somewhere between 13 months and two years; Tom Ridge, prochoice Republican, 6-3/4 years; Mark Schweiker, prolife Republican, 15 months). Walters also saved the grand jury’s overall “political reasons” assessment for Paragraphs 9-12 after giving Rendell’s explanation paragraphs 1-4.

Bob Casey? Yes, though the grand jury for some reason didn’t recognize it.

Here are the relevant paragraphs from Walters’ report:

Pa. ex-gov. flabbergasted by lax abortion scrutiny

Former Gov. Ed Rendell said Friday he was “flabbergasted” when he found out last year that the state Health Department didn’t think its authority extended to abortion clinics such as the one in Philadelphia where prosecutors say a doctor used scissors to kill viable babies.

Rendell, a Democrat whose second term as governor ended last week, said in a statement that he ordered increased inspections after a clinic raid early last year yielded gruesome accounts of bloody floors and baby parts in jars. Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who ran the clinic, was charged this week with murdering seven babies and one woman who went to him for an abortion.

“I was flabbergasted to learn that the Department of Health did not think their authority to protect public health extended to clinics offering abortion services,” Rendell, also a two-term Philadelphia mayor in the 1990s, said in a statement released through a spokeswoman.

… In its report, the grand jury said the department and other agencies – including the Department of State, under which the Board of Medicine falls – allowed Gosnell’s clinic to operate nearly unimpeded since the late ’70s. It hadn’t been inspected since 1993.

… The grand jury said politics played a role in the abortion-oversight issues.

In its report, the panel said the Health Department “decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.”

Health Department lawyers changed their opinions and advice “to suit the policy preferences of different governors,” the report said. The department dropped its policy of annual inspections in the mid-1990s under Gov. Tom Ridge, who supported abortion rights, the report said.

A health department lawyer testified about a 1999 meeting of high-level state officials “at which a decision was made not to accept a recommendation to reinstitute regular inspections of abortion clinics,” citing a concern that routine inspections would lead to “less abortion facilities, less access to women to have an abortion.”

While conveniently skipping Schweiker’s tenure, which followed Ridge and preceded his own, Rendell is strongly implying that Ridge was fully aware of what Department of Health officials were deliberately not doing. That’s interesting, especially because even the grand jury has the no-inspection timeline out of sync with the timing of gubernatorial terms, in at least three places:

(Page 9) But at least the department had been doing something up to that point, however ineffectual. After 1993, even that pro forma effort came to an end. Not because of administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.

(Page 15) Senior legal counsel Kenneth Brody insisted that the department had no legal obligation to monitor abortion clinics, even though it exercised such a duty until the Ridge administration, and exercised it again as soon as Gosnell became big news.

(Page 147) Under Governor Robert Casey, she said, the department inspected abortion facilities annually. Yet, when Governor Tom Ridge came in, the attorneys interpreted the same regulations that had permitted annual inspections for years to no longer authorize those inspections. Then, only complaint- driven inspections supposedly were authorized. Staloski said that DOH’s policy during Governor Ridge’s administration was motivated by a desire not to be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.

This next sentence requires bolding: The problem is that Casey served until January 1995, so a no-effort period of more than a year occurred under his watch, because the grand jury says that annual inspections ended in 1993. How could they mess up something so obvious so completely?

This is not to imply that Casey was aware of DOH’s laxness. It seems inconceivable in light of his prolife convictions, which among other things caused him to be denied the opportunity to speak at the 1992 Democratic convention when proabort Bill Clinton was nominated, that Casey could have known and would not have done something about it. In fact, it seems reasonable to ask if DOH began the complaints-only inspection regime in secret for “political reasons” under Casey in order to embarrass him if he followed through with an attempt to challenge Clinton in the 1996 Democratic primaries. Casey appeared intent on running against Clinton until health problems sidelined him. It’s hard to understate how furious Bill and Hillary Clinton and their Pennsylvania supporters were at Casey’s non-support during the 1992 general election campaign.

The policy begun under Casey appears to have remained on autopilot for the next 15-plus years without Ridge’s, Schweiker’s, or Rendell’s knowledge, until last year. The grand jury indictment does mention “a meeting of high-level government officials in 1999 at which a decision was made not to accept a recommendation to reinstitute regular inspections of abortion clinics,” but does not say who those “high-level government officials” were, or how high-level they were.

As far as I can tell, though it’s reasonable to wonder why a deliberate policy of non-inspection in the absence of specific complaints continued for so long under Ridge, and it’s reasonable to believe that an involved governor should have eventually found out about it, it has yet to be established that he actually knew. Rendell’s contention about Ridge advocating a deliberate non-inspection policy, and his “somehow” forgetting that Ridge wasn’t his immediate successor, both seem conveniently contrived. Patrick Walters’ failure to challenge Rendell, especially on the succession issue, was a really weak moment.

It would also be useful if someone would look into the grand jury’s obvious timeline problem, what may have caused it, and what may have motivated it. Someone other than Patrick Walters, please.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

‘Let’s Pretend’ Headline via Reuters: ‘Accounting Tweak Could Save Fed From Losses’

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:10 am

Trick? Or “tweak”?

On Friday, a Reuters report at CNBC noted the Federal Reserve’s journey into the accounting and reporting twilight zone earlier this month. In doing so, it conducted a clinic in how to make unreality look acceptable and make a dangerous situation appear palatable.

In the el bizzarro world at Reuters and those the wire service interviewed for its article:

  • A change in how one accounts for things can magically make a functionally insolvent entity solvent again.
  • Such a change can also mean that an entity which has run out of cash and has to beg for funds no longer has to.
  • Calling a genuine erosion of capital something other than an erosion of capital means that it’s no longer an erosion of capital.

Gee, why didn’t they just do this at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers 2-1/2 years ago and let things go on as usual?

Here’s most of the Reuters report (bolds supporting the bullet points above are mine):

Concerns that the Federal Reserve could suffer losses on its massive bond holdings may have driven the central bank to adopt a little-noticed accounting change with huge implications: it makes insolvency much less likely.

The significant shift [1] was tucked quietly into the Fed’s weekly report on its balance sheet and phrased in such technical terms that it was not even reported by financial media when originally announced on Jan. 6.

But the new rules have slowly begun to catch the attention of market analysts. Many are at once surprised that the Fed can set its own guidelines, [2] and also relieved that the remote but dangerous possibility that the world’s most powerful central bank might need to ask the U.S. Treasury or its member banks for money is now more likely to be averted.

“Could the Fed go broke? The answer to this question was ‘Yes,’ but is now ‘No,’” said Raymond Stone, managing director at Stone & McCarthy in Princeton, New Jersey. “An accounting methodology change at the central bank will allow the Fed to incur losses, even substantial losses, without eroding its capital.” [3]

The change essentially allows the Fed to denote losses by the various regional reserve banks that make up the Fed system as a liability to the Treasury rather than a hit to its capital. [3] It would then simply direct future profits from Fed operations toward that liability.

This enhances transparency [4] by providing clearer, more frequent, snapshots of the central bank’s finances, analysts say. The bonus: the number can now turn negative without affecting the central bank’s underlying financial condition. [5]

“Any future losses the Fed may incur will now show up as a negative liability as opposed to a reduction in Fed capital, thereby making a negative capital situation technically impossible,” [3] said Brian Smedley, a rates strategist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and a former New York Fed staffer.

Other notes:

  • [1] — When does an “accounting tweak” turn into a “significant shift”? It seems that the answer is: “When you’re no longer worried about  writing a deceptive headline.”
  • [2] — When a hardened leftist is in the White House and the central bank is trying to save his administration from the consequences of its historically unprecedented profligacy, silly things like “guidelines” don’t matter.
  • [3] — In all three instances cited the correct term is not “capital,” it’s “reported capital.” What’s really happening is that the accounting change involved enables the Fed to tell financial statement readers that it has more capital than it actually does.
  • [4] — You know you’ve entered the twilight zone when an accounting maneuver designed to cover up losses is tagged as a transparency enhancement.
  • [5] — This is where entering the accounting and reporting twilight zone ultimately takes you. In the real world, all the numbers-manipulating exercises in the world can’t change an entity’s “underlying financial condition.”

Such accounting trickery wouldn’t work, even in the short term, unless it were presented favorably by an establishment press desperately trying to keep the economy from hitting a wall while its favored president is in the White House. It’s not at all unreasonable to believe that if the Fed had done this while George Bush was still around, it would have been treated as accounting chicanery of epic proportions — which is what it really is.

It would appear that the Fed is one serious spike in interest rates away from becoming the newest member of the “Progressive Hall of Shame.” Current members include Social Social Security, Medicare, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac — all government monsters which, having been allowed to grow far beyond their original charters, subsequently became “too big to fail.” The fact is that all of them have failed. They may soon have to make room for the country’s central bank.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: After abortionist’s conviction, clinic whistleblower to receive award

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:53 am

From Germanown, Maryland, and Hyannis, Massachusetts:

Jan 21, 2011 / 01:35 am

A pro-life group’s first whistleblower award will go to a former clinic worker in Massachusetts who provided evidence that an abortionist’s negligence played a role in the death of a woman injured in an abortion.

Abortionist Rapin Osathanondh ran an abortion clinic in Hyannis, Massachusetts. He was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case of a woman, 22-year-old Laura Hope Smith, who died in 2007 after an abortion he performed.

Prosecutors charged that he failed to monitor Smith while she was under anesthesia, delayed calling emergency services when her heart stopped, and then lied to try to cover up his actions, the Associated Press says.

Osathanondh was also a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Kim Nichols was one of the clinic workers who testified against the abortionist. She will receive $25,000 from Operation Rescue’s Abortion Whistleblowers Program at a Jan. 22 pro-life rally at the Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Maryland.

“Due to Nichols’ courageous and truthful testimony before the Massachusetts Board of Physicians, Osathanondh was declared a danger to the public. His two abortion clinics were closed and he surrendered his medical license, rather than suffer the humiliation of revocation,” commented Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue.

Newman said Smith’s testimony was the basis for the criminal charges which resulted in the abortionist’s conviction. She also endured threats and harassment from Osathanondh.

Nichols told Operation Rescue she had begun to work at the abortion clinic about 10 years ago because she was bothered by the upset young girls in the waiting room and wanted to help them. She said the doctor’s treatment of both patients and employees was “very bad” and many quit because of the abuse.

She reported that Planned Parenthood sent many referrals to the abortionist from both the Boston area and from other states. Though she at first thought she was helping the girls at the clinic, Nichols’ world came “crashing down” when Smith died while Nichols was holding her hand during an abortion.

“Laura’s death shook me to my core. I told the doctor that we should close this clinic down. This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Nichols commented, according to Operation Rescue.

Osathanondh tried to get Nichols to lie for him. When she refused, he began to make harassing phone calls and told her she would hurt the clinic employees and the girls seeking an abortion if she told the truth. He also claimed that she would lose her house in Smith’s mother’s lawsuit if she did not go along.

Nichols said she is now “definitely pro-life” and wants to tell young girls who are considering an abortion to reconsider.

“I want to tell them that abortion will affect them for the rest of their lives and that that it may even sterilize them. I want them to know that they can be physically maimed or worse; they could die, like Laura did,” Nichols commented. …

Go here for the rest of the story.