Friday, June 20, 2014

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Presidential politics seems to be heating up early this cycle. We’re starting to see opposition research come to the fore two years out.

2) Of course, sometimes it doesn’t even require an opponent to trip yourself up.

3) And one more Presidential campaign item: Start hotting up the popcorn.

4) Another fact that provides evidence that we are careening to worldwide war: There are more refugees now than at any time since the last world war. Think this doesn’t affect us? Think again. Texas calls them criminals, potential drug mules and every insult a politician can legally muster into speechifying, but the tragic fact is, things at home not only in Mexico, but Honduras and Guatemala and even Colombia, are so bad, parents will risk their childrens’ lives to see them safely into El Norte.

5) A real ugly chapter in New York City history closes. Not everyone feels the closure. Not one cop, not one malicious ADA, was ever punished for this crime.

6) You know, my arthritis has really been bothering me lately.

7) We’re sending “troops” to Iraq.

8) Looks like the Teabaggers have shot themselves in the foot. Again.  

9) This week in star farts

10) Listen, about that arthritis….

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Well, At Least Someone's War Will Be Paid for With Iraq Oil...

Just not ours:

Sunni militants hung their black banners on watchtowers at Iraq’s largest oil refinery, a witness said Thursday, suggesting an ever-increasing stranglehold on the vital facility by insurgents who have seized vast territories across the country’s north. A top Iraqi security official and a militant fighting for control of the plant said the government still held it.

The fighting at Beiji, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, comes as Iraq has asked the U.S. for airstrikes targeting the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. While U.S. President Barack Obama has not fully ruled out the possibility of launching airstrikes, such action is not imminent in part because intelligence agencies have been unable to identify clear targets on the ground, officials said.

The Iraqi witness, who drove past the sprawling Beiji refinery, said militants also manned checkpoints around it. He said he saw a huge fire in one of its tankers. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals.

Iraq still holds the facility, but it’s just a matter of time.

ISIS/ISIL seems to have a game plan in place: they’ve been very methodically gathering economic power in addition to strategic positions and military hardware. This does not bode well for the Iraqi people or for that matter Iran and Syria.

But there’s also an element of Dispensational Christian-like thinking involved:

The three-year Syrian war has attracted even more foreign fighters than the Afghan war. One possible reason is a prophecy, popular among global jihadists, about the final battle before Judgment Day. “There are hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that predict an apocalyptic war of good vs. evil, and according to one hadith, it would start in Syria,” says Solahudin, a Jakarta-based terrorism expert.

Yea. That’s going to work out well.

By the way, it’s not just America that is reaping what it sows.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

But Of Course, Republicans Want to Go Back to This

US Healthcare: DOA

The 2014 Commonwealth Fund survey found that the United States ranks lowest when it comes to quality and efficiency of healthcare systems among 11 industrialized countries.

The healthcare system of the United States has been a topic of heated debate in the last decade but its performance has always remained consistent, ranking worst among industrialized countries for the fifth time. It was also the case in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010. The United Kingdom was ranked as the best while Switzerland followed closely behind. The researchers also studied Australia, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden.

The report said the United States spent $8,508 on healthcare per person in 2011 but the United Kingdom only spent $3,406 per person even as it ranked higher in providing quality and safe healthcare than the U.S. All other 10 nations spend a lot less than the U.S. healthcare per person and as a gross domestic product but still achieved better quality.

So let’s sum up: most expensive, lousy results, and as the article goes on to state, the results would be even worse but for the fact a significant and substantial percentage of Americans simply opt out of any healthcare whatsoever.

Because expensive.

Where does all that money go, then, if not into patient care?

Believe it or not, right into the ground, if we are to believe a study by US News and World Reports:

Over the past year, “the profit margin for health insurance companies was a modest 3.4 percent,” Newman points out, quoting data provided by Morningstar, a company that rates mutual funds. Morningstar would have no reason to low-ball the insurance industry’s profits; its readers are looking for highly profitable sectors of the economy where they can invest.  But the health plan industry is not one of those sectors: insurers ranks 87th out of 215 industries.

“The most profitable industry over the past year has been beverages, with a 25.9 percent profit margin,” Newman reports, “Right behind that were healthcare real-estate trusts (firms that are basically the landlords for hospitals and healthcare facilities) and application-software (think Windows).  The average for the oil and gas industry overall was 10.2 percent, three times the margin in the health insurance industry.

But those insurance company profits are slightly masked by the fact they are net profits, after things like, ohhhhhhhhh, executive salaries and bonuses, and who knows what other hidden little benefits.

Now, drug companies are not a whole lot better but at least they serve a purpose. For instance, Amgen earned about a 30% profit, but this is after credits for R&D and amortization of drug development costs against the revenue they generate. No one is suggesting they should stop doing vital research or get some premium profit for saving lives.

Which is something insurance companies create obstacles to: saving lives. They are our death panels. They are our “just say no” brigade.

This is the scenario Republicans want to take us back to: sticking our healthcare dollars into the ground under hospitals and clinics, rather than use them to save lives.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

When You Get Dissed By Bigoted Rednecks...

You’ve really shot your load:

The Duck Dynasty clan — the family behind the popular A&E reality show — is backing one of its own for the congressional seat that may or may not be vacated by Rep. Vance McAllister, the married congressman who was caught on a security tape making out with a married staff member.

McAllister, a Louisiana Republican, first said he would not run again after the kissing video went viral, then said he was keeping his options open, and is now leading a recent poll even though he has not declared his intentions.

But now a new entry in the race: Pharmaceutical representative Zach Dasher, a member of the Duck Dynasty family, says he is joining the race.

McAllister won a special election to Congress in 2013 in large part because of the support of the racist, homophobic, pedophilic clan members.

McAllister then felt his oats, felt her oats, and the rest is history. McAllister, as the excerpt above points out, has hedged on whether he’ll seek re-election or not.

Apparently, marriage vows are not the only vows he has ambiguous feelings about. In truth, what is the shmuck going to do after Congress, anyway? He has some experience in the oil business, but then this is Louisiana and you can’t spit without hitting an oilman. He does own some fast food franchises and a paper hat probably suits him.

Running Dasher raises some interesting issues: for one thing, it somewhat inoculates his cousins from being viewed as outliers in society. For another, it means big grift potential in a state where grifting is a high art form. And despite the drop in ratings, Duck Dynasty and its family remain popular figures on the far right political spectrum.

Louisiana’s Fifth has a twenty year string of Republican victories (the sole Democrat to win, Rodney Alexander, switched parties shortly after taking office in 2004), and there’s no reason to expect this district can be flipped.