Friday, October 02, 2009

Ain't That America?

Or are we living in the time of the plague?

Detroit: Too broke to bury their dead

We can bail out General Motors and big banks, but let a poor person die and we stack 'em like cordwood.

We could have had healthcare for the poor. That might have prevented a lot of this. But no, the economic royalists MUST have their say and way.

Nopbody Asked Me, But...

(ed. note: Yea, I know, I misspelled "Nobody" but I can't change it or else the link gets hosed. I blame the wine.)

1) In not unexpected news, serial misogynist David Letterman admitted to banging his staff like a cheap drum. All puns intended.

2) I think it's safe to say that Micro$oft has lost its way. When will Gates step back in?

3) The Nobel Prizes will be awarded next week. Will Bob Dylan win in literature? I think he's a slam dunk, but then this is Scandinavia...

4) If this poll had been posted about the last President, you can bet there would have been mass round-ups of the voters and internment in prison camps, overseen by Michelle Malkin.

5) Finally, a financial story one can sink one's teeth into, complete with shady bankers, conspiracies involving high government officials and yes, sex. Well, not sex, actually...

6) This fucking idiot helped the dollar fall on the foreign exchange markets yesterday with her inane...ok, insane questioning of Ben Bernanke...about ACORN! Way to stay classy, Mickie!

7) My teeth grind from the stupidity.

8) This is the first piece of computer hardware to excite me since the original iPhone. Rumours are rumours, but this one seems more and more realistic.

9) So, imagine riding your bicycle for 25 hours. From 10 AM Saturday to 10AM Sunday. In a frog costume. In Utah. I'm sorry...which part of that seemed surreal to you? (MissC, feel free...)

10) Darth Vader has a breakdown on the M1.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

More Puny Poutrage

Glenn Beck ought to try poutine. It might make his memory better:
Last night Fox News continued its disregard for the facts in an attempt to smear the Administration's efforts to win the Olympics for the United States. In the past, hosting the Olympics has been a source of pride and unity for the country, but once again Fox News' Glenn Beck program has shown that nothing is worthy of respect if it can be used as part of a partisan attack to boost ratings.
At the White House blog, there is a list of misstatements and outright lies Beck told just Tuesday night.

Let me add one more: Beck, aided and feloniously abetted by the rest of the rubber-lipped goon squad (e.g. Michelle Malkin, among others), has been outraged that Barack Obama would go to Copenhagen to make the case for the Olympics to come to Chicago, his home town.

Yet, strangely silent he was when George W. Bush was vacationing in Crawford, TX (I hesitate to say he was ranching) in August 2005 when Katrina hit and 250,000 people were stranded for days without adequate food, water, or shelter.

Even more strange, he had nothing to say about Bush's extended vacation in the summer of 2001, when he was shown a PDB warning that Al Qaeda was imminently to attack Americans on American soil, likely using commercial aircraft.

Indeed, he came to church on Bush in the last few months of the Bush term, finally speaking out against the massive bank bailout...which he supported just days earlier!

The sense I get from the right wing this month is, they've lost the battle on healthcare reform, lost the battle on economic stimulus, lost the battle on government aid for banks and the auto industry, and are faced with having to find some way to attack what appears to be a rock-solid wall around the Obama castle.

By flinging mud, or worse.

And when you fling mud, two things happen to a large wall:

1) Nothing.

2) It back-splatters back all over you.

The past few years have seen the decline of the heavyweights of right-wing punditry: Rush Limbaugh was shown to be a power-craved madman who would tear apart the GOP for his own ego. He was quickly muted. Ann Coulter was shown to be a whiny-voiced harridan who would attack anyone for a buck. She was quickly muted. Michelle Malkin was shown to be a hypocritical fussbudget with a counter-top obsession and a need to punish innocent children. She was quickly muted.

Into the void has stepped Glenn Beck. He will undoubtedly meet the same fate.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More On Fairness

Barbara Ehrenreich made me late for work this morning.

No. Really. OK, a movie she was in that was playing on LinkTV made me late. And if you missed my side note yesterday, The American Ruling Class is one more reason to support LinkTV.

You may know Ehrenreich from her writings in Time Magazine. If you're a with-it Progressive, you know her books, like Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America

Which brings me to this morning's appearance on LinkTV. The American Ruling Class is a mythical tale of two young men-- one rich, one poor-- graduating an Ivy League college, and being presented with the crossroads of choices: sell souls to Goldman Sachs and make a lot of money, or keep your souls and give back to society. It is, in short, a study of the American oligarchy. Or plutocracy. Whichever terms you feel best fits. Who rules America, really?

Back to giving. I didn't get to watch the whole thing...late for work, remember?...but I did catch a critical scene for the purposes of this blog.

Lewis Lapham (the film's protagonist and its writer) squires one young man to breakfast at the IHOP. There, they encounter Ehrenreich, working as a waitress, struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage and tips, already a hundred dollars behind on her rent budget for this month.

She sits down with Lapham and one young man, and makes the most astounding observation. Yes, many of the wealthy "give back" to society, to the tune of millions of dollars each year.

But look at what the working poor give to society: cheap labor.

A billionaire who gives away a million dollars a year is giving one-tenth of one percent of his net worth. Even a "good Christian" making a hundred thousand a year and tithing ten thousand is only giving away ten percent of his income.

But the working poor?

In order that you can have cheap lettuce, or mass-produced sneakers, or convenience stores open around the clock, they give 100% of their livelihood, often at a dear cost to themselves. Working two and sometimes three jobs, they struggle and fight to survive so you can have goods to buy on eBay, or cereal on your grocer's shelves.

We owe these people something. Why?

Look, throughout history, even slaves got some form of healthcare coverage, at the very least adequate to keep them working the fields for the master. It was cheaper to heal them than to buy a new slave and integrate him into the farm culture. Even slaves got some form of education, because it was more efficient to communicate with someone who could speak your language.

Slaves got got food and clothing and water, and a place to sleep. Granted, it was far from adequate, but today's working poor don't even have these guarantees any longer. Lose your job, lose the apartment or trailer you are living in, lose your money for food and clothing, and forget about insurance! If you're making $10,000 a year and insurance costs (minimum) $1,200 a year, who in their right mind would buy insurance?

The American Ruling Class (released in 2005, ahead of the housing bubble burst) notes the staggering amounts of money that Americans earned in the 1990s and early '00s, but also notes that most of the jobs that wealth created were low-wage, no benefit jobs that were almost guaranteed to ensure a serf class, forced to tolerate the most ignominious working conditions in order to bring you your iPod.

We owe them a lot. We owe them our lives and lifestyles, and it's about time we started paying them that debt.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I was walking around my neighborhood at six AM today, and sort of mulling life, as my iPod died on my walk. I had a thought, rather a series of thoughts, and wanted to share them with you on this, Yom Kippur.

I guess this train of thought was triggered by watching LinkTV's presentation of an address by author and journalist T R Reid regarding his world tour surveying healthcare abroad.

(SIDE NOTE: If you can give, this is a good time to donate to LinkTV, a network dedicated to bringing you perspective and analysis of the news that you won't get from mainstream media)

Reid consistently pointed out that, logically, it is impossible to frame the current healthcare crisis as anything other than a moral question: Is the healthcare system fair? What is the ultimate responsibility of a government to its people if not to ensure they have long and productive lives?

He has a point: for all the flaws inherent in other country's healthcare systems, most notably the long waits for elective procedures in Canada's Medicare system, they are at their lowest common denominator, fair. The length of time a rich person waits under Canada's Medicare system (which was LBJ's model for his eldercare system) is the same as for a poor person.

It is, at heart, an ultimately fair system. Yes, if a rich person can afford to, he or she can opt to fly to the States and pay for knee surgery or to see an orthopedist, rather than wait a couple of weeks in Canada. But Canada also doesn't extend this triage function to life-threatening conditions: if your heart is on the fritz, you get seen immediately, rich or poor.

Fairness. It never has to be justified. But unfairness does.

And somewhere in the dark of the night of my sleep, this thought nagged at me, and I began to have an insight into human beings.

When we behave badly, we have to rationalize ourselves. We have to justify that behavior. We have to make excuses.

Fairness is inherent. Fairness is obvious. Fairness needs no excusing.

Just like getting up off the couch and taking a four mile walk needs no rationalization. It needs nothing other than "I wanted to stretch my legs."

Sitting on that couch for another hour, that requires rationalizing. That requires excusing: "It's raining. I'm tired. It's cold."

Or to put it another way, when was the last time you had to explain to a cop why you were going under the speed limit?

Good behavior is what it is: Bonnum commune communitatis. Bad behavior needs to be explained, excused and forgiven.

Back to healthcare then: what rationalizations would the corporatists give for the current state of healthcare in America? That it makes a profit for the shareholders of insurance companies?

Is that fair? Is it fair that the CEO of Oxford or CIGNA or Blue Cross earns a fat little bonus at the end of the year while people without insurance, some 700,000 each year, are forced into bankruptcy and 200,000 people die of treatable and preventable illnesses, all because insurance companies have to protect that precious little dividend and that precious little stock price at the expense of a healthier citizenry?

This is not about socializing medicine, either. For example, America generally operates under the German healthcare system, developed by Otto Von Bismarck over a century ago. Private doctors, private insurance, private hospitals, except costs are controlled. For example, Japan, which has 3,000 health insurance providers, cap administrative costs at 1.5% of premiums, meaning insurance companies have to spend 98.5% on insuring patients. Canada caps costs at 6%, and that's with a government health insurance.

American insurance companies bank 20% of premiums as "administrative costs". That's an awful lot of forms to fill out! And the Japanese spend about $3,500 per annum on healthcare and insurance. Americans spend $7,500.

And no one in Japan files bankruptcy because of medical bills.

Fairness. It never has to be explained, it never has to be justified.

It only has to be experienced.