Monday, July 02, 2012

Fixing Healthcare Good

Avedon Carol,  "Games People Play"

Ian Welsh, "To point out the obvious on today’s Supreme Court Decisionon the ACA"

 Darshak Sanghavi, Slate "Don’t Celebrate Yet: The Supreme Court’s decision will make it much harder to extend healthinsurance to America’s poor. "

New York Times, "Roberts Shows Deft Hand as Swing Vote on Health Care"

CNN, Emotions high after Supreme Court upholds health care law

Wikipedia, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius


A universal requirement to buy insurance isn't really the same as universal health care, and you'd think that the boosters of the Affordable Care Act must know this. That's why it's difficult to decide what looks more ridiculous, democrats and others praising the pro-mandate Supreme Court decision, or Romney supporters cavilling about how the governor's healthcare bill for Massachusetts was different.

One of the generally unstated premises of  so-called healthcare reform, at least as practiced in this country, has been, "how do we protect regular, respectable people from the needs of the poor" as if the need for healthcare is different  for different  segments of the population, and they are  intrinsically in competition with one another for the same (artificially) scarce resources. Obama himself  has repeatedly offered as a  selling point of the 2010  Affordable Care  Act that "people who liked their insurance could keep it"  as if he were really  saying  that he was protecting the middle class from the uncertainty that something scary like a federal single-payer plan might entail.  Simultaneously progressives argued, without evidence, that ACA would bring us closer to single-payer, someday, but then again nobody listened to them.

A lot of people seem to buy the premise that the needs of the poor are the big problem with the American healthcare system, as opposed to, say, the needs of private insurance companies, or the huge debt that doctors have to assume to get educated, etc.

 (I detect the poor vs everybody else assumption in  this short piece by Matthew Yglesias, who at least recognizes that Roberts and the rest of the court pushed the door closer to fully shut for real socialized healthcare in the US, rather than opened it wider.)
A 'death by a thousand cuts' is likely to be in the offing, in which legislators gradually reduce the coverage requirements for the "minimum liability" policies people will need,  resulting in junky insurance policies that don't really cover anything but keep you legal becoming the norm for many, and simultaneously allow pols to point to dubious statistics about increased overall coverage. Likewise a reduction in the 'burden' of the fine businesses must pay if they don't want to cover their employees, resulting in more businesses that have to cover their employees not doing so, cue to an expert who expresses surprise at this turn of events on the evening news. Next, there will be  reduced access and funding for medicaid, justified by the afore-mentioned dubious stats about increased coverage, so that politicians can demonstrate how ACA saves money, shifting the costs from employers and governments to individuals along the way.

You may object that if you vote for the democrats this will prevent these things from happening. But just as Obama insisted on a deficit commission, remember that ACA was designed from the start to be vulnerable to such funding cuts and loosening of  regulation. A universal plan, some kind of single payer or national health plan wouldn't have created a wary fence between the haves and have nots, and  would eventually  become as popular as medicare or social security.

ACA wasn't random;  it serves both the democrats and the republicans(and the insurance companies).  So the dems can frighten you about coverage being on the chopping block, while republicans frighten you about spiralling out of control costs. Win-win.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

12 May 2012

Sam Smith, "America's Silent Collapse" December 2011

Numerian, "Peak Money Arrives" January 2012

Stan Goff, “The Roles of Finance, Food, and Force in US Foreign Policy” February 2012

 Read these articles or else. I've never tried that approach before, I don't know if it's effective because it's funny, or ineffective because it's unfunny, or just ineffective because I'm a bad pitchman. The Numerian and Goff pieces are long, but worthwhile, like the other shorter one by Sam Smith.

I haven't posted in a while in part because I see less point in blogging than I have in the past. Blogs may make the occasional writer occasionally celebrated, "raise awareness" of this or that, and maybe even help people feel less lonely, but they're not going to make the world a better place or anthing like that. I was about to write "...blogs aren't going to change the world" when I realized I'd want to add, "...and that's probably for the best."

 Or maybe it isn't, I don't know. I do know that in blogging as in other things it's unrealistic to assume the larger world of actors think like you and your ilk, or even that you and your ilk are all or mostly right. That's not the same as opting for perpetually noncomittal relativism. Obviously some things matter, like alleviating suffering and inequity, and saving the planet from ecological collapse.

Still on a personal level I'm unwilling to devote the kind of time I'd like to blogging if I'm going to blog. I may come back eventually, but presently I feel no enthusiasm for it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The man on the street, April 2012

Big Brother Follows You: Like?

I'm not sure what the phenomenon is called: "street-steering?" The thing that happens when a journalist calibrates the range of responses to a question in man-in-the-street interviews, whether deliberately or subconsciously, according to her sense of where the acceptable limits of discourse lie. We're human, and it's reasonable to assume this happens, whether through avoiding interviewing certain persons, how she asks questions, or simply discarding some interviews altogether when the answers are not TV friendly. Or Youtube friendly, if you prefer.

Clearly I don't know if this is happening here, and possibly I pick on Lori Harfenist too much, but I wonder if people really have such sheepish views about a security state. Then again, maybe I'm sheepish too.

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Max Keiser and Bitcoin

Keiser Report: Anti-Bank Currency (E272)

As is generally the case with Keiser Report videos, the first half is Keiser and Stacy Herbert's patter and the second part is an interview, this time with one Michel Bauwens, regarding the the advent of Bitcoin. Possibly you've heard of it before, an internet based currency, which Keiser seems bullish on.

It occurs to me that Bitcoin is a little like silver insofar as its status makes it vulnerable for the possibility that some groups may try to corner the 'market' in Bitcoin some day, should it start to gain serious traction.

I liked what Bauwens said, however, around 17:00-18:45, about how the problem with capitalism in its current manifestation is that it's based on the false assumptions of "pseudo abundance and artificial scarcity"(of natural and financial resources, respectively, although for the latter category he's also talking about the artifice of Intellectual Property as a construct...)

The interview starts at around 12:30.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

An apology?

According to the New York Times Afghans aren’t angered by the recent “alleged” murder of 16 Afghans at the hands of an American soldier.


KABUL, Afghanistan — The mullah was astounded and a little angered to be asked why the accidental burning of Korans last month could provoke violence nationwide, while an intentional mass murder that included nine children last Sunday did not.

“How can you compare the dishonoring of the Holy Koran with the martyrdom of innocent civilians?” said an incredulous Mullah Khaliq Dad, a member of the council of religious leaders who investigated the Koran burnings. “The whole goal of our life is religion.”

That many Americans are just as surprised that what appears to be the massacre of 16 people at the hands of an American soldier has not led to mass protests or revenge killings speaks volumes about a fundamental disconnect with their Afghan partners, one that has undermined a longstanding objective to win the hearts and minds of the population. After more than 10 years, many deaths and billions of dollars invested, Americans still fail to grasp the Afghans’ basic values. Faith is paramount and a death can be compensated with blood money.

That the mullah was astounded and a little angered is subjective not objective and is a matter of opinion. Still this is an old trick where you find one person with a particular view that jibes with whatever propaganda you are spreading which in this case would be Afghans are religious fanatics. Yet with just a quick search on the net we find a totally different story coming from the Guardian and is in fact reported one day prior to the NYT story and with the vast resources available to a media giant such as the Times omitting the protest reported on Tuesday in a Wednesday article had to be purposeful in order to slant the news though in this case it is more like an outright lie.


Around 2,000 students in the Afghan city of Jalalabad join a protest on Tuesday against the US-led military campaign in their country …

And keep in mind we don’t really know what is going on in Afghanistan having to rely on the likes of the NYT and the Guardian and the rest of the media which never questions anything the government says. We simply don’t know yet compare what we do possibly know which is that there were 2,000 Afghans involved in a protest and were outraged by the murders and compare that to what the NYT implies. It seems clear that the NYT is trying to portray Afghans in a poor light. They are fanatics, crazy, and accept “blood money”, they aren’t like us “normal” and “sane” Americans that shoot small children and laugh while doing so as some reports say happened in the murder spree. Then the NYT tells us that Obama apologized when in fact the quote they use is not an apology by any stretch of the imagination.

“The statement coming from President Obama, saying the killing of Afghan children felt the same as if they were American children, was reported widely by the local press,” Mr. Humayoon said. “Previously you would have a bland apology.”

It may be a statement of empathy but it is clearly not an apology not even a bland one. An apology would be something more like “We are truly sorry and apologize for the people who died as a result of American violence.” True apologies usually contain the words apologize and sorry. To imply that all Afghans are not moved by the death of small children and others because of the opinions of one Mullah is like saying all Americans are crazy because of what one American may have said. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to believe that Afghanistan may be just as diverse in its population as most other nations are.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Dennis Kucinich Raises His Retirement Age by Two Years

ufo pic

I'll admit I will miss Dennis Kucinich in the congress, fighting the good fight, or at least playing a character on television who does. OK, that sounds churlish, like I'm edging towards saying "don't let the screen door hit you..."

Oh, you know.

If you don't know, let me be clear: Yes, while Dennis Kucinich does have an inspiring background story, truly raising himself up from humble beginnings, ultimately it wasn't enough. While he did some good things in public life, like fighting for the municipal electric system in Cleveland and voting against the Iraq war in 2002, and against the initial ACA legislation in 2009, ultimately he buckled two years ago in 2010 on the final vote on ACA in March of 2010, surrendering his consent to the poison pill of the individual mandate that he knew was still in the contract he signed. Hell, even Arthur Silber praised Kucinich in the fall of 2009 for standing up against the individual mandate, but of course standing up doesn't count for much when you subsequently sit down, and Dennis sat when Barry and Nancy told him to.

Undoubtedly there are other pressures we don't even see. I'm not even making fun of his alleged belief in UFOs, I couldn't care less about that. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the peculiarity of his pledging his Iowa delegates to Obama in January of 2008, and not been so moonstruck.(I note that presently Ron Paul is making similar gestures of deference towards Romney.)

One imagines Kucinich's vote was important because his liberal cred had value, so that on the evening news you could see a story about how a prominent liberal stalwart, etc, etc. (They monetize darn near everything nowadays!)

Next case.

I am wizened and grizzled, and I know better than you, because my cynicism gleams in the darkness. No, that's not true either, and far too many bloggers adopt that pose because it makes them feel powerful. Snark aside, I genuinely liked Kucinich, and when he buckled I was greatly disappointed. To be fair I still like him, and wonder if presently a career like his is the best that can be hoped for from people in public life. If so, this only reinforces the sense that one is better to stay away from politics whenever possible.

Kaptur beats Kucinich in Ohio Democrats' battle, will face 'Joe the Plumber'

CLEVELAND -- Veteran U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated Rep. Dennis Kucinich on Tuesday in a closely watched Democratic battle in a newly drawn congressional district linking Toledo and Cleveland along the Lake Erie shoreline.

She will face Samuel Wurzelbacher, who became known as "Joe the Plumber" for expressing working-class concerns about taxes to then-candidate Barack Obama during a stop in the region in 2008.

The redrawing of the 9th District meant at least one of the Democrats' political careers representing Northern Ohio in Congress would end Tuesday night.

Kucinich conceded defeat shortly after midnight, accusing Kaptur of running "a campaign lacking integrity, filled with false truths."

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

The rise of liberalism

Having once considered myself a liberal I can claim at least some small amount of insight into how they think, or don’t think, which might be more appropriate. The far right is and has been committing political suicide which is no great loss to humanity. The largest threat to humanity or at least that part of humanity that still retains some elements of humanity such as those “primitives” that dwell in third world nations are American liberals.

Why American liberals? Because American liberals live in the most powerful nation on the planet both in monetary influence and militarily. Liberals now support president Obama who shall once again rule for another four years as a tyrant barring some unforeseen catastrophe to his re-election campaign. I will not bore you with what Obama has done and is doing since this has been repeated thousands of times and would be pointless. The fact remains that despite Obama’s horrid record on the environment, human rights, war, and the rest, liberals will support him once again in the coming election.

The biggest threat to humanity these days are not much different than those in the past which would be mass starvation, pollution of our environment which not only stems from industry but our wars that pollute the land, sea, and air, destroy natural habitats on a grand scale, and promote the continued reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and oil as well as nuclear power (which also keeps our nuclear weapons on track), and the machinations of the US in its bid to retain its monopoly over the world economy which though good for corporate America and corporate Europe has devastated the third world nations that are far too poor to compete in any meaningful way with western powers. Liberals support all of this whether they admit it or not or just outright lie about it to themselves and each other.

The worst aspect of liberalism as it exists today is that they will not hear one word of criticism for the political monsters that they support with few if any reservations. Bring up the mountains of bodies resulting from campaigns such as the recent one in Libya (another essentially destroyed nation like Iraq) and most liberals will turn a deaf ear to you. They simply will not listen to you at all. Liberals are tribal in nature and you are either a faithful member of the tribe or you are not, and if not you are considered to be either a fool or some kind of monster from the bowels of hell. Liberals bear a tribal hate for conservatives even for the few that are quite sane.

Liberals do not support peace. Liberals support war. This has been made clear by their support of Obama. Liberals do not support a more fair distribution of monies between the various classes. This has been made clear by their support of Obama. Liberals do not care about the peoples of the third world or how they suffer in order to support the life style that liberals enjoy or at least that of the more wealthy liberals of which there are many. Liberals do not care about the environment as they so loudly proclaim because it is more important that their symbol of liberalism, Obama, retains his power in the Whitehouse.

With the decline of the far right and their Republican Party one wonders who liberals shall blame for their support of war, environmental rape, and the unfair monetary practices of Wall Street. One thing is for sure and that is they won’t blame themselves.