Friday, September 18, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) I've said it before and I will say it again: swine flu may end up being the single biggest factor in creating national healthcare.
2) The look on the co-anchors face is priceless. Of course, this is on a FOX outlet...
3) I had a feeling that Obama scrapping the Bush missile shield was the precursor for something much more important. Thie shield was ill-advised and ill-conceived and would have done precious little to protect Europe.
4) Also on the foreign affairs front, is it possible that Obama might end up truly being the saviour that he was mocked as during the general election?
5) Given the sudden irrelevancy of Ann Coulter, perhaps Beck on the cover of Time is the best thing that could happen, despite the similar fawning treatment he is being given?
6) Prediction: ACORN will quietly be re-funded before the summer recess 2010.
7) Maybe they installed a spine?
8) You know, if you read this headline uncarefully, you might think there's a story about space porn here.
9) Cthulhu for kids. Also, a cologne. Also. What's Cthulhu? Think Flying Spaghetti Monster, only cooler.
10) ThumbPer, my polydactyl kitteh who loves water, has competition.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Short Lesson In Finance

Stocks are priced based on a gamble that future earnings will rise. The more likely that is to occur, the higher a stock price generally goes.
The actual price itself is an estimate of the value now of those future income flows.
OK, so with that said, explain how this new insurance "plan" from Max Baucus makes sense for the average American?:

In an important victory for the insurance industry, Senator Max Baucus's legislative proposal does not call for a government-run health plan that would directly compete with private insurers. Insurance stocks rose on that news Wednesday.

Although that exclusion had been expected, its confirmation Wednesday meant that the insurance companies "ducked a bullet," said Erik Gordon, a business professor and industry analyst at the University of Michigan.

The Baucus proposal is "a lower dose of poison than the other proposals," he said in an e-mail message. Other bills circulating in Congress call for a government-run public insurance option.

Ironically, this is the bill closest to the vision of one Barack Obama, President of these here Yoonited States, even without a public option.
Many have written, far more eloquently and knowledgably than I, reminding Obama and Congress about the need for a public option to compete with private plans, thus reining in healthcare costs, or at least mitigating their startling inflation.
So when a key Senator, one of the Group of Six bipartisan panel trying to write a bill that everyone can be happy with, presents this, without any Republican support whatsoever, one has to question the commitment of the Democratic party to truly reforming healthcare.
Not health insurance: healthcare. Yes, I have in the past advocated baby steps, and this bill is a small step towards the ultimate goal of universal coverage under a single payer plan, like every other intelligent, civilized nation on this planet has.
But there are baby steps and there are baby steps and this is less a step than a crawl. And all the evidence you need for this is the fact that the stock prices of insurance companies, the gauge of how much profit they will earn in the future, spiked higher on this announcement.
If Wall Street, which does many things badly but does price stocks on earnings with remarkable efficiency, buys into the notion that Baucus' bill is good for the insurance industry, already burning holes in its pockets with all the money it's earning, then how goddamned good can it be for you and me, huh?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If It Quacks Like A Bigot... can call it a duck, but it's bigotry:

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was among the first to assert that Congressman Joe Wilson's heckle revealed an underlying racism:

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys... Joe Wilson yelled 'You lie!' at a president who didn't. Fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!... But Wilson's shocking disrespect for the office of the president - no Democrat ever shouted 'liar' at W when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq - convinced me: Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it.
 Her belief racism was at play was echoed by Democrat Representative for Georgia, Henry Johnson, who told media: "I guess we'll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people. That's the logical conclusion if this kind of attitude is not rebuked."
 Now, I'm posting some of this tongue-in-cheek. I don't think the color of Obama's skin matters as much to Wilson and the other bigo-- I mean, Republicans as his policies and, more important, the position he holds. After all, Bill Clinton was about as white as they get, despite being called "America's First Black President", and look what these jackals did to him.
No, I think Obama is being clever as all get-out here. He's got his surrogates playing the race card for him, because he knows the one thing Republicans are terrified of right now is being portrayed as racists. After all, Obama won in a veritable landslide over the second whitest politician in America, John McCain, so to be racist at this point would be shown to be woefully out of touch.
What I think the Republicans are doing is playing dirty pool, a game they've excelled at since at least Lee Atwater helped Bush the Elder win the Presidency in 1988. Yes, there are clear insinuations in Wilson's outburst of disrespect, but my suspicion is that's more about a rookie President being put on the ropes by a "loyal" opposition (who really had the floor in August to try to derail national healthcare reform) and finally going that one last obvious step over the line.
But note what occured in August: the astroturf movement that saw town hall meetings across this nation interrupted by organized yahoos executing instructions from their puppet-masters like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, the paranoid inflation of numbers of people opposing Obama's policies, even mocking his decision to take a vacation "at a critical juncture in American history".
All of these pushed an envelope of paranoia and desperation that even a moment's reflection reveals. Wilson's "lie" chant merely sealed the deal for Americans who may or may not have put out that moment's reflection. It coalesced and concretized the perception that not only are the Republicans out of power and losing their grip on the electorate after spending twenty years demonizing liberalism and Democrats, but that the Republicans know theirs is a sinking ship and that it's not about helping people live better lives, it's about holding onto power to reward their cronies and conspirators in plutocracy.
That's not to say there is not an element of racism in this opposition. For one thing, it's easier to oppose someone whom you have dehumanized and pointing out differences dehumanizes people. "They" can do what "they" want because "they" are (insert trait here).
It makes it easier to portray yourself as a savior, saving "ordinary folks" from the clutches of "they," but it's also a lazy way out of honestly engaging in policy discussions.
By dehumanizing someone, you make their opinion and views irrelevant to the discussion. "They" are not as good as "we" are, so "we" don't have to take their arguments seriously.
But of course, you miss out on the many opportunities to test your views, to strengthen and bolster those views, and to improve policy for everyone.
Obama's playing this correctly: he's taken the high road (note the very high-minded section of his speech the other night pertaining to realistic solutions being considered), while allowing his surrogates to dip into the same mud his opponents have smeared.
The Republicans' real problem is, they don't have a responsible and prestigious enough spokesman who can meet Obama's tactic head-on. All their spokespeople are either wallowing in the same mud that Jimmy Carter and others are flinging back at the GOP or the spokespeople who could conceivably wrest this debate back to a temperate level have been isolated and quarantined as irrelevant by the GOP.
Like Michael Steele, who could easily have met Obama on his playing field but for some bizarre reason decided to genuflect to the nattering nabobs of negativism in his own party.
Or John McCain, who has had to fight a rear-guard action in his own party to protect his reputation from Sarah Palin and the other neaderthals.
Instead, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, two men who have absolutely nothing at stake in politics, who can shift positions on any issue at any time if their ratings appear to warrant it, have taken the helm of the Republican party.
This is much like allowing Bozo The Clown to run a bank. It's entertaining, but ultimately unprofitable.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Can Hope

I, for one, hope the Obama administration is not taking lessons from Dick Cheney and the Bushies on how to keep us safe:

Federal and city counterterrorism agents raided homes in New York City early Monday after a man under surveillance for suspected ties to al-Qaeda met with people in Queens, federal officials said.

Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said after receiving a briefing from federal authorities Monday afternoon that the suspect's visit this weekend triggered the raids.

"He was being watched, and concern grew as he met with a group of individuals in Queens over the weekend," King told ABC News on Monday in a report forwarded by his office. "The FBI went to court late last night for an emergency warrant to conduct the raids this morning."

OK, that's not too bad, right? I mean, the FBI is keeping mum about the nature of the investigation and that it's ongoing and all that, but...well, as my post last Tuesday suggests, the US government might have a bit of a hair trigger on inicidents like this.
Here's the bit that worries me, a little, that perhaps the Obama administration might be taking a tougher stance than it has to, in order to deflect right wing criticism:
Authorities said there were no arrests.
Bingo. You execute search warrants when you have probable cause to believe a crime has been or is about to be committed. Suspicion, paranoid delusion, or rumour should not ever be considered "probable cause", and yet the lack of arrests tells me that the FBI feels it might have gotten lucky, but didn't.
And if anything, this ought to have the fright-wing of the nation in turmoil. Wasn't it just a few months ago they were up in arms over a Bush DoJ document outlining the right wing hate groups in this country and how improved surveillance was essential in order to keep us safe from that form of domestic terror?
But of course, in that warped, counterintuitive Bizarro logic of the right-wing political landscape, where consistency is measured in nanoseconds while crowds are inflated beyond comprehension, this is a quieting moment, where it would be hard to criticize a President for being strong on terrorism, especially in light of Osama bin Laden's...remember him? Because Bush sure didn't!...recent taunting of Obama. 
But it worries me.  

Monday, September 14, 2009

Health Care, Not Insurance

This is precisely why we need a national health service, and not the mishmosh of tangled threads of bureaucracies and naysayers that the Republicans and other fascists want to use to keep us down:
No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

[...]According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

In case you were wondering where the cost savings that would pay for this healthcare reform is coming from, those numbers speak loudly. Right there, just in obesity and diabetes, you have a $260 billion a year. A year.

Considering Obama's paltry proposal will only cost $1 trillion this decade, that savings alone, even if only half realized, means American healthcare would show a profit....IF WE ENACT ACTUAL HEALTHCARE!

Now, there are many who would say this is tantamount to dictating what Americans can and cannot eat.

Bullshit. How many Americans really listen to their doctors? Because if Americans were that easily persuaded off their bad habits, we wouldn't need healthcare reform. We wouldn't need to rein in rising healthcare costs.

You'd think the private insurance companies would have glommed onto this fact: if Americans eat healthier, that's more profit in their pockets.

But then you'd have to take into account America's "farm" lobby (really, it's better called "agribusiness" or for a more descriptive face "Big Food"), which is among the biggest contributors to heartland legislators, bigger in many cases than banks or credit card companies.

As an anecdotal example, just try talking to an Iowa caucus about cutting farm subsidies. There's a quick way to lose a primary cycle.

We don't need insurance reform. We need healthCARE reform, a system that encourages Americans, perhaps even thru tax incentives, to eat healthier, to lose weight, to stop smoking.

Indeed, many private insurers do this now, offering cash incentives: $400 per annum to visit a health club, discounts for being a non-smoker, discounts for attending weight-loss classes, and I'm sure there are a few that will actually rebate some of your premiums if in fact you do lose weight.

Imagine on your 1040 being offered the chance to take a few hundred bucks off your bill to the IRS by affirming, honestly, that you've quit smoking? Or can offer evidence that you went dutifully to the gym twice a week? Or you completed a marathon or a hundred mile bike ride?

We already use the tax code to reward good behavior, to construct social good, like the charitable or home mortgage interest deductions. What's wrong with using this device to cut a tax bill that everyone agrees is going to become more bloated as the tax code ratchets up from the ridiculously undertaxed position it has been for the past eight years?