Friday, May 01, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Souter to leave SCOTUS. Silly sibilant seance soon seeking suitable Supreme.

2) MEMO to hedge fund managers: The party is over. You want twenty percent of the operating profit your fund makes? That's OK, but you'll pay real taxes on it now.


4) And it only took seven years and a Democratic administration to accomplish!

5) Interesting, until you give a thought to the whole Cradle of Humanity thing.

6) This bill should have passed, but the banking lobby got to it first. This stinks. I blame the Bush bailout, because banks know they can always come back for more, but what about we, the people?

7) And now for something completely different: a dancing parrot!

Poor taste in music, however.

8) The Kentucky Derby is tomorrow. Looks like a wide-open field. I'm probably going to put a bet down on Friesan Fire, tho.

9) Apparently, they take road rage seriously in the UAE.

10) Brings a whole new meaning to "Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Staying alive, staying aliiiiiive!"

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reframing The Propaganda

From the formerly reliable newswire service now owned by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the Second Coming of the Messiah:
WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- Republican leaders say they're planning a new effort to revive the party's image and rebuild after the loss of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party.

The new initiative, to be called the National Council for a New America, will involve an outreach by GOP officials including John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former national GOP chairman, CNN reported.

Others on the "panel of experts" will include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, younger brother of former President George W. Bush; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Things that make you go "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm," indeed.

Draw the battle lines, and Katie, bar the door, the Republican Civil War has formally begun!

This could be a doozy, since both sides have deep pockets and both sides have deeply dogmatic beliefs about the direction the Republican Party needs to go in.

Unlike the Democrats, who underwent their soul-searching change thirty years ago when the deep divide between liberals and moderates coalesced after Jimmy Carter's defeat in 1980 (and look how long that lasted and that was a polite falling out!), this one has all the earmarks of being rancorous and nasty.

One the one side, you have Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and all the other numbnuts and yahoos whose only claim to fame is a loud voice and someone dumb enough to pay them to speak (Richard Mellon Scaife).

On the other, the line up is pretty impressive, and is clearly an attempt to staunch the bleeding that is likely to occur now that Arlen Specter has jumped ship. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Richard Lugar will be targeted by the more conservative wing of the party for dismantling, and could follow suit. Included in the list noted above is the force majeure of the Republican Party, Sen. John McCain.

McCain's candidacy, as pathetic as it was, almost singlehandedly saved the Publicans from instant obscurity, attracting independents and even some moderate Democrats (PUMAs, mostly) to his cause. Based strictly on numbers, McCain should have done much worse, and any other Publican would like have been crushed under Obama's wheels.

This is a problem the GOP has had coming for decades. The strident and aggressive attitude and enforcement (Remember Tom "The Hammer" DeLay?) has bubbled up ever since they caught a lucky wave in the timing of the Reagan presidency, and have taken credit for the policies that dealt long-term damage to the American economy.

Thirty year old ideas, which is all the Publicans have been able to dish up for, well, thirty years, have holes in them. The world moves past them quickly. You need to catch up.

I'm not sure who to root for, to be honest. Part of me sees a chance to have a Democratic hegemony for the bulk of this century and thinks that's a good thing, so wants the Rushians to win. Part of me remembers that thirty year old ideas get stale for both sides and that Bill Clinton was most successful when he co-opted some obscure Publican ideas and gave them his own spin, so I'd like to see McCain wrest the party back.

Either way, we're witnessing the end of conservatism.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hump Day Humour Blogging

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Idiots Write The News

Today's example: Whistling Past The Graveyard

You keep believing that, Count of Mounting Crisco. After voters have had a taste of national healthcare and a revivified economy, the GOP will be lucky to maintain 30 seats in the Senate.

H1N1, Anyone?

I've deliberately stayed away from the swine flu story this week because frankly, apart from the Mexico crisis, it doesn't seem to be that virulent.

Already, 70 cases have been reported in the US, with the first death in Texas, a toddler, the typical fatality in a flu epidemic.

Although the WHO and the US are taking steps to treat this as a pandemic, and there's evidence to believe that while they are being cautious, they are not being alarmist, there are reasons to think that this is being blown a little out of proportion by the global media.

For one thing, this is not the first swine flu outbreak in the US. And like that epidemic, there are strains of the avian flu mixed in the virus. It will be bad (I had that flu) but it should be a fairly short-lived matter, perhaps two or three months for it to work its course.

So of course, I urge you to stay healthy, wash your hands frequently, and if you know someone from California or Mexico or New York City (or live there), be extra careful in keeping yourself from catching anything.

And cross your fingers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Healthcare: A God Given Right

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Framers of the Constitution relied heavily on their own prior declarative thoughts when devising the laws of our land, yet were curiously silent with regard to the "life" portion of our rights.

We ought to fix that.

We have guarantees that, no matter how destitute you are, your liberties will be protected. We have an army and police forces that will protect, serve, and defend your property, no matter how meager. We guarantee you access to an attorney should you run afoul of the law or your neighbor.

We don't provide the same protection for your life, however. We don't guarantee you a doctor. If we guarantee you any care, it's emergency room care and the hospital will still sue you for money until they've bled you dry.


I could get into the whole "well, you know, back in those days the doctor was the local chap who applied leeches and leeches were free" argument, and accept that the Founders were men without vision.

Not impossible. Just unlikely.

I don't think the Founders, as they could not with the Second Amendment, could foresee a day when we'd have advanced diagnostic tools, nuclear medicine, the ability to delay death for decades.

In the 1700s, you were lucky to live until forty if you were a man and fifty if you were a woman. Why worry about maintaining your health if all it would do is give you a few weeks?

They didn't have antiseptics (Joseph Lister wasn't born until the 1820s). They had pain-killers after a fashion...basically, rum... microscopes were a relatively new thing as was the concept of microbiology and bacteria and viruses causing human diseases (remember the whole "leech" thing?). Antibiotics weren't even on the horizon. Sterilization and pasteurization were half a century in the future.

Who needed healthcare coverage?

Well, now we do. And as the Delcaration of Independence requires government "to secure these rights," the only solution to this perplexing problem is the most obvious and simplest one. As well as the most patriotic.

National health care.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Dream Realized

It's too early to open the champagne or to even assess the package, but we've taken a big step as a nation:
Late last week President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders agreed to use "budget reconciliation" if necessary to jam a massive health-care bill through Congress.

Most Americans probably greeted this news with the glazed eyes and yawns that should rightfully accompany any discussion of "the federal budget process" longer than 30 seconds. But this decision is a deeply troublesome attempt to circumvent the normal and customary workings of American democracy.

It's a radical departure from congressional precedent, in which budget rules have been designed and used to reduce deficits, not expand the size of government. And it promises bitter divisiveness under an administration that has made repeated promises to reach across the partisan divide.

If we can ignore Sununu's posturing and calling for a whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaambulance, on balance what this means is that some form of national health coverage will be in place within the next few weeks.

Undoubtedly, it will piss everyone off, which means either it is stellar piece of legislation or a complete bonehead bill.

National health care is long overdue in this nation. For too long, health insurance and healthcare has been both overpriced and underservicing the needs of the people of this country, unless you were rich enough (or worked for or with a large enough organization, which is diametrically opposed to American capitalism) to afford premium coverage.

Health insurers knew they have a captive audience and treated us all monopolistically. You went to work for an employer: take it or leave it.

Healthcare decisions effectively became the domain of your employer, who picked and chose coverage not based on what was best for you, but for his or her bottom line. By extension, your health care plan was next determined by the actuaries and bean counters at the insurer, not the doctor you saw. Their decisions guided not only his courses of treatments, but in some cases even forced him to tailor his diagnosis to get you out of his office faster, not necessarily healthier.

Doctors are not innocent in this scam, to be sure, although their guilt is not one of conspirator but of expeditor. The doctor or hospital must look to their own bottom line, knowing that their revenue stream is determined by two factors: limited time (who can work 25 hours a day?) and limited reimbursements.

Therefore, the faster they can churn patients out, the more money they can earn. This is not conducive to good healthcare, much less preventive healthcare. What doctor is going to waste precious revenue-earning time with you, discussing diet alternatives or recommending a good heart monitor? "You're fat, lose weight, next?"

Sununu's problem is two-fold: one, he sees national healthcare as socialized medicine (as if somehow our free enterprise model is helping anybody), and two, he's watching a parliamentarian trick used against his party.

Here's how that works: normally in the Senate, a bill must pull a supermajority. Sounds stupid and it is, but because of the filibuster rule, a simple majority is no longer sufficient to determine the will of the people.

The filibuster is the subject of a very long post in its own right, and I can't do justice to it here. Suffice it to say I feel it is necessary when something as controversial as committing the resources of this nation to a foreign objective is at stake, but quite unnecessary when 51 Senators determine, after 218 Representatives, that something as fundamental to the "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" of the American people is at stake.

And there's the rub. Rather than letting health insurance stand or fall on its own merits, in the conference to resolve discrepancies in the annual budget Democrats can slip it in as a budget resolution, and it passes with a simple majority.

Tricky, to be sure, but whatever it takes, this is necessary. To delay this vital need of the nation a year longer or more until even the most hard-headed conservative "gets it" is both deadly and economically dangerous.

So John?

Shut up.