Monday, August 31, 2009


There are a lot of irritating things about the healthcare/insurance debate, but to me one of the most irritating is how conservatives are creating their own reality, how they are shaping the debate in the way they describe it.

When healthcare/insurance reform (which I am going to just call healthcare from here out) started a few months ago, a majority of Americans were in favor of it. It is easy to see why, right now the 15% of us without health insurance and the millions of us who have lousy health insurance have to pay astronomical bills even for brief emergency room visits. Those of us with employer based coverage get a great deal in paying for only a tiny fraction of our health insurance (and we get a tax break on what we do pay), and our employers also get a tax break, but still the cost of our insurance adds maybe ten grand on average to our employers payroll costs per employee. That factors into the cost of everything we make (including export goods). And of course there are the stories of medical cost driven bankruptcies (apparently about half I think), and the anecdotes of people’s coverage being terminated right before they have an operation or some expensive treatment. All of which is to say there was, as there should be, a fair amount of support for changing the system.

Now, Obama had decided to allow Congress to actually write the healthcare reform bills. He gave them some guidelines he wanted to see, and I guess he thought maybe Congress would get together and produce something bipartisan (this time, as opposed to what happened with the stimulus). That didn’t happen, and in fact when the bills were produced, the Republicans particularly targeted one House bill, and circulated emails with distortions of its various provisions. I suspect (really, believe) that those distortions were also communicated on the conservative talk radio and TV shows. Republicans started to push back, in the Senate, suggesting that because the Democrats did not have 60 votes (with Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd ailing), they would block any legislation with a largely united front and a couple of defecting Democrats. The end of July deadline was missed, and then the townhalls started. At first, only a couple of speakers were screaming and carrying on. But when it happened, it was captured on video and played in an endless loop on the TV news. Conservative pundits seized on these episodes as signs that public support for health care reform was dropping, and as they did, they created that reality. When people heard that other people were no longer supporting health care reform, their own support wavered. When they heard socialism and death panels, they forgot about saving money and started worrying that we would become Nazi Germany.

Last Friday I heard the analysis of Shields and Brooks on the PBS News Hour. Generally I like David Brooks at least some. But on this occasion he leapt out of the gate with the statement that public support for health care reform was below 50%, and it looked like nothing would be done. Naturally Shields backed him up, because nobody wants to tell the News Hour viewers they are too stupid to understand the issues (and to be fair, the people who no longer support health care reform never understand the issues).

There has been some intelligent push back. TR Reid has just published a book comparing health care systems all around the world. The more people hear the nuts and bolts, the down and dirty good and bad of other countries health care systems, the more they may decide we really do want something more like what they have. Up till now, conservatives’ anecdotes of how people have to wait for inferior care in Europe have dominated the news cycle. But if French men and English women are actually heard, they will talk about how waits are not the norm, and how the care is both complete and inexpensive.

Some Congressional Republicans, in their incredible hubris, have actually been upfront that their goal is to hand Obama a defeat. It does not matter to them that millions of people will continue to suffer if health care reform is defeated. And meanwhile they are aided by the legion of conservative pundits; some, like Limbaugh, Beck and Quinn who are so deluded they simply don’t know better, and some, like David Brooks, who ought to be ashamed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday funnies and not ...

Jack Kelly’s column today is very silly. His central premise is that everybody crapped on the CIA this past week. But the problems he discusses, in particular being a second seat on intelligence gathering (except when it comes to interrogation), would have had to have developed over some time. The CIA didn’t become the embarrassing relative on January 20th, George Bush and his administration had to be pushing them down for some time. In fact, Kelly mentions the CIA’s failure to see 9/11 coming, presumably to shift some blame on Clinton. But in the intervening year, the Bush administration did nothing to make the situation better? Also, Kelly literally seems to imply that other countries will only respect us if we torture terrorists. It is amazing how far we have sunk, pulled down by the likes of Dick Cheney and Jack Kelly.

I think a more important piece in the forum section is the one by TR Reid. Since conservatives have started calling the various plans in Congress “socialist” (actually, they pretend it’s one plan, one conspiracy), they have also made accusations that the systems in other industrialized countries have these awful features, such as forcing you to delay care, and making you take the doctor they want you to have (both basically rationing care). Conservative also say that medicine in other industrialized countries is primitive compared to the US. Of course, there might be something to that, in that at least for Congresspersons, they have absolutely the best care.

Meanwhile, those in favor of health care/insurance should welcome the comparisons to systems in other industrialized countries. In most every aggregate sense, the systems of other countries beat us. They pay less, yet they have better infant mortality rates and longer life spans. There may well be some specific diseases survival rates where we do better, and I have heard conservatives argue we are too fat and that may affect some of the outcomes. But to really argue that we have the best system, the conservatives are reduced to arguing, as did Mitch McConnell, that polls show Americans think their health system is the best. If the French think their system is the best, does that matter? Or if the World Health Organization rates the French system the best, does that matter? (no, the WHO is a bunch of furiner’s)

So first let’s be clear here, the American health insurance system relies on the worst features of capitalism, and suppresses the best features. As far as competition goes, for example, the American system falls down in at least two ways. Although the biggest cities may be different, in many markets, including Pittsburgh, there are one or two insurance giants that dominate the market. UPMC and Highmark could compete, but why bother? Neither has stock holders, both are non-profits who make “excess revenues” they can plow back into executive bonuses. I believe for the Universities, for example, both Highmark and UPMC offer plans, although UPMC has an edge because of its domination of Oakland. And I believe this story is repeated all across the country, albeit some places with for profit companies.

Our administrative costs for health insurance are the highest in the world. Evidently that’s no accident, paying claims, while important in every other country in the world, is considered a mark of failure for US health insurance companies. The fewer claims that are paid out of premium dollars, the more that could be returned to stockholders. Of course, that doesn’t apply to UPMC and Highmark, except that they could claim they need to be competitive with for-profit firms, to maintain their foothold here (they would call it tenuous, I would call it a strangle hold).

Now, I am not going to try to replicate TR Reid’s essay here, or even comment extensively on it. I don’t want to do that partly because other countries use a variety of different systems (a point Reid emphasizes). Some do rely entirely on private health insurance, some have health insurance entirely administered by the government. The one thing all other industrialized countries do is recognize that government has a substantial role to play in health care. It’s not that they see it as a human right. Rather other countries have realized that the free market can not handle health care in industrialized nations. If you leave it up to the free market, you end up looking something like the United States, where a substantial number of people have no health insurance, some number of other people have substandard insurance, and costs rise in part because everyone else pays the health care bills for these people. There are also more bankruptcies than there need to be, as patients (if they survive, or their families) struggle and fail to pay astronomical health care costs. Interestingly, conservatives want to make the situation worse, by removing one of the few government regulations there are and allowing insurance companies to sell health insurance across state lines. While this would seem to address the competition issue, insurance companies would have to try to set up physician networks possibly thousands of miles away, doctors would have to deal with getting reimbursement from a company possibly thousands of miles away, and patients … you get the idea. I suspect insurance companies might all set up in one state with friendly laws and use those laws as a shield. I know from personal experience that state insurance commissioners can sanction out of state companies and yet it does not curb their behavior. At least you can picket and embarrass local companies.

I did major in economics a long time ago, and while I am not saying that makes me Alan Greenspan (or even Andrea Mitchell), I did learn a little bit. Market failure is where the free market doesn’t work. One of the canonical examples is where the local government sets aside a piece of land for people to graze animals on (such as cattle or sheep) and people destroy it with over grazing. But monopolies or oligopolies are generally considered market failure too, and those are the cases where the government needs to step in. I think that the health insurance industry is a series of a ologopolies that feel free to not provide clear information to subscribers and drop coverage on flimsy pretenses, and thus needs regulation.

I haven’t mentioned anything about doctors and hospitals. That’s because I think we need to address health insurance first. I do think that there needs to be reform on the medical side as well. I think addressing rates of infection in hospitals, computerizing health records (which may not eliminate mistakes, but would make records easier to access and would also put more eyes on records) and finding a better way of addressing mistakes when they are made are all very important. But I think addressing health insurance will help the country as a whole more and faster.

Read the TR Reid piece in the Sunday PG, and talk to your friends about it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A tale of two ...

I have been ignoring local politics here. Between the pension bill and the stealth assessment issue (can Onorato delay long enough for the State legislature to take over the delaying duties?), there is certainly enough to write about. But not today.

Meanwhile, I was just thinking of Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford. As I recell, people were annoyed and somewhat disappointed that Governor Palin just up and left (and somewhat baffled). Although some imminent scandal was predicted at the time, none has shown up. Since then, she really hasn’t done much that she couldn’t have done as governor; maybe some of her Facebook entries would have been frowned on.

And then there’s Sanford. Caught in a weird scandal, an extra-marital affair he is continuing, his constituents evidently would like him to resign. I mean, I gather people thought he was doing an adequate job, and were ok with his, er, performence up to the minute it turned out he has a mistress. But now his own party has written him off, his lieutenant governor has offered to fall on his own sword for Sanford (take over if Sanford resigns, but not run for the seat when regular elections come up), but still Sanford won’t budge.

Republican Congresspersons may be more disciplined than the Democrats (although also a slight bit nuttier), but the governors are pretty entertaining. Except poor Bobby Jindal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oil peaking out from beneath the ground ...

The NYTimes had a guest opinion piece yesterday from a Michael Lynch, an “energy consultant”. He suggested that we are nowhere near Peak Oil and that the “natural: price of oil is around $30 a barrel. Peak oil is the halfway point in our oil reserves, the point where, among other things, we have gotten the bulk of the easy to get oil and it becomes more and more expensive to take out of the ground (or convert from oily sand to gasoline). Now, I don’t know who Lynch is, I don’t know if he has an agenda; I suspect the oil companies would have preferred he had forecasted a natural price of oil at a somewhat higher level, like $75 a barrel. But I am willing to accept his statement, and yet I am unconvinced that we should not try to alter our behavior in some ways.

One note here about reality. Just saying the natural price of oil is $30 a barrel means basically nothing. Lynch is dismissive of people who complain about the political situation of some of our suppliers, and yet the price of gas shot up to over $4 a gallon last summer, the highest they had ever been, and the run up was cause by … nothing. There is “nothing” to stop that from happening again. In fact, the oil companies would not mind that happening again, or at least gas staying artificially high (as it is at this particular moment).

Now, we have built an economy and a way of life based on cheap oil that we never have to worry about running of. We drive to work in massive SUV’s, we drive to the store (alone) in the same SUV’s, we have food and everything shipped over massive distances. We use oil for plastic, fertilizer, and a bunch of other things (I admit I don’t know what all else). Truly I don’t care about the current crop of SUV’s as long as there is not another generation next year, and the current crop only lives its natural life span and dies out. I still believe that even if oil is actually relatively plentiful now, we should treat it as scarce and use it frugally. That means changing our lifestyles in some ways and encouraging corporate America to change their methods. That means we need to get over our prejudices about using public transportation and even bikes (powered or acoustic, so to speak). That means we need to go to farmers markets (more than we do now), creating a demand for local foods that will draw in more local farmers. Which in turn will hopefully mean we can send a signal to agribusiness that we are going to reduce our consumption of their products until they stop using petroleum based fertilizers, and start using more labor intensive but also more natural methods. Because we don’t want to have dead zones in coastal areas created by runoff from America’s corn fields.

Now Congress can create CAFÉ standards and perhaps (I hope) tax gas at a high level. Maybe diesel used for transporting goods by rail can be exempted from the tax (and maybe trucks can get a partial exemption) and part of the proceeds of the tax can be put into the EIC (and even perhaps in lowered taxes to us more middle class Americans). But we need, as Americans and most importantly as parents/adults, to force ourselves to make changes in our behavior. We need to ask whether trips to the store are necessary, we need to car pool or take the bus (at least part way) or bike or walk to work. We need to do those things explicitly so our children will see that treating oil as a scarce resource to be available for future generations is something important to us. We need to send that signal to agribusiness as well, to both conserve oil and protect the environment. And it doesn’t have to stop there, we can insulate more in our houses, choose compact fluorescent light bulbs and higher efficiency appliances, treating all energy as something to be used frugally, so that we might have it to power our future cars and bicycles. And that’s even if we get it from solar or wind power.

I suppose some people see that as a horrible way to live. I see it as making respectful, thoughtful choices (that actually save you money). And I can’t see how that could ever be a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fearmongers two, the revenge ...

I was just going to take a fast shot, remark that it must drive former President Bush crazy that Miss Venezuela has won the Miss Universe pageant twice in a row now. Hugo must be cackling.

But I got to thinking some more about the health/insurance care/reform debate. Conservatives are making a transparent effort to throw every possible argument out there and just see what sticks. They know there is almost no hope they can influence the debate, so they are trying to shut it down. Getting rid of the Public Option was fine for them (except I don’t think it is actually dead) but they still want to delay (“let’s take our time and do this right”) and essentially defeat it. Tom Coburn, on the Meet the Press a couple of Sunday’s ago said two opposite things about end of life counseling. First he said it was an intensely private thing, where government had no place (a thing for families only). Then he said doctors would ignore end of life directives and practice defensive medicine because only the family says what the end of life directive is, there is no official authority involved.

But conservatives are really outrageous on Medicare. First, because it will start losing money in eight years, it is held up as an example of why government should stay out of the health insurance business. Then the fact it only pays 80% of a doctors’ charge is held up as a problem. That other 20% must be made up somewhere else, according to conservatives it is passed on to private insurance. So even though Medicare is going to start losing money, it should not be trying to contain costs. Would it be ok to raise taxes to prevent Medicare from going into the red? No, not in this economy! Meanwhile, Republicans portray themselves as the saviors of seniors, only interested in protecting them.

People should realize that private health insurance companies also only pay 80% of what they describe as a Usual, Customary and Reasonable charge for whatever service. Doctors and hospitals often accept that (from private insurers and Medicare) because the payment is guaranteed. But we should know that Medicare is not unique in trying to contain costs.

Still, that people are buying into conservatives arguments is, to me, nothing short of astonishing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fearmongers ..

I finally watched the political comedy thing that John McIntire (and others) does last night and of course there was Jack Kelly this morning. In Re McIntire, there was comedy including McIntire repeating bits from his blog (with a few wince worthy moments), a perfectly fine and funny Gab Bonesso (except for a questionable Jerry Seinfeld imitation) and then a panel discussion, first with John Steigerwald and Sean Collier, and then also with the two Political Junkies. And that is when it went down hill. Although, I suppose, as Dayvoe said later, it makes for good theatre …

Steigerwald just took the straight line, simplistic conservative position. Which really bothers me. I probably won’t do him justice, but he started with something about how it was interesting that about the death panels part of “the bill” was taken out thirty minutes after the story hit the news (as if there is only one bill, instead of the at least five in congress right now). The conversation followed his accusations that the Public Option would create socialism. I believe someone asked whether he wanted Medicare around (a reference to the Public Option) at which point I believe he said no. I know someone said “Medicare works” at which point he said “It does?” and went on about the 80 percent reimbursement rate and how someone has to make up the twenty percent. It was the sort of thing where I could feel myself getting dumber (and if you don’t understand the 80% thing, go look it up or something). He said that if your insurance company dos something you don’t like, you can

This was not a debate, this was a conservative throwing out inflammatory points and not having them batted down. Which is a real shame, first because I would have enjoyed seeing that bullshit dealt with, but also because there are things conservatives could say that might well make a difference, help the reform we need to have. For example, the issue of pre-existing conditions ought to be treated in shades of gray, not just black ad white. I mean, sure, there are a lot of anecdotes of health insurance companies cancelling policies right before expensive treatments because they found some unrelated issue not reported on initial insurance applications. But I suspect we could find some examples of outright fraud as well. Pre-existing conditions probably needs a more complicated treatment itself, involving maybe a panel of doctors to judge cases and penalties like being transferred to the public plan with higher premiums if the panel rules in favor of the insurance company. And that’s just one example, we could also talk about what to do about physician’s salaries, how much reform will cost under various scenarios, how to maintain innovation in medicine and particularly in pharmaceuticals. Yet none of that receives any attention if people just yell socialism. If you don’t want to talk about the details, then clearly you think you current system is good enough. Can we say ostrich?

As for Jack Kelly, he starts by stating that the country has abandoned Obama, and moved to the right, citing particularly a Gallup poll. But I am told that the ideologies people list (conservative, liberal, what have you) don’t necessarily determine their party ideology. To realize that, one need only think of Reagan Democrats, or the pretty conservative Democrats who run this city and the conservative Democrats who vote for them. Kelly then states (vaguely) “Polls show that -- mostly by large majorities -- independents oppose Mr. Obama's health-care plan, his cap-and-trade energy bill, his nationalization of the auto industry and his $786 billion "stimulus."”. Of course, we aren’t allowed to know which polls.

Kelly complains about a cross section of Congressmen, media people and entertainers all trotting out the “race card”. Which, by the way, is not one allusion, but several. Janeanne Garafolo suggested the Tea Parties were about “hating a black man in the White House” while a Congressman (James Clyburn) said he seen crowds like the ones at the Town Hall’s before, at protests against Civil Rights. He also likened health care/insurance reform to a civil right, which considered the wretched record of health care for African Americans does not seem unreasonable.

Look, conservative commentators whip up conservatives with ridiculous scare tactics, and Kelly gives them a pass. Let the liberals respond, and suddenly the liberals are the unreasonable ones. Meanwhile, the clock ticks on health insurance/care reform, and Mr. Kelly can smile because he’s got his, and what does he care about the uninsured?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cash for Clunkers clunking aht ...

I noticed the Cash for Clunkers program is ending Monday, two months before it was supposed to. I would bet the automakers would prefer it went at least until the end of the month.

I did not watch the PBS News Hour last night (the rest of my family prefers anything else, including perhaps Cash Cab, which I do enjoy). Nor have I read any opinion pieces on it recently. So my perspective has not been guided (not to say co-opted) by pundits. As far as I can see car dealers probably largely brought about the end of this program. They were telling anyone who would listen that they had a very large number of unfiled claims, at least they were back when the government went back to the well and authorized more money for the program a few weeks ago. I suspect that, like how the stimulus has not actually spent that much money yet, the government has not done that many reimbursements yet. So in fact there is no way to know whether the demand for new cars this week is as high as it was last week. Of course, the whole situation is artificial; people may be buying cars they would not have bought for even two years because of the prices. Still even the modest gains in gas mileage will help the over all situation of the country. Plus the anticipation of lower demand may bring the price of oil down.

Still, it is hard to be too optimistic. Car companies may bring back idled workers for a few months to make cars ordered, replenish dealer inventory and so on, but I wonder if they will not soon be back on the street, and if a bunch of dealerships will not still be closed (as I believe they were scheduled to do). So it is hard to see this whole thing as much more than a blip in our current decline, either a brief up tick or even just a slower decline. Plus it is disheartening to see Americans so willing to take on even more debt even if in a good cause and for getting a bargain.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A story Grisham would love to write ...

I don’t claim to be a fan of great literature, in fact, I like Robert Parker’s Spenser and legal thrillers. I read, but usually don’t actually enjoy, John Grisham’s books, preferring Scott Turow’s legal thrillers. I don’t feel that Turow’s plots are condescending, for example. In his first book, the big frame-up the main character sees turns out to be a fit of jealous rage (oddly coldly calculated) by his wife. In other words, something we might actually expect to see in the real world. By contrast, Grisham likes to concoct plots with conspiracies involving the mob or corporation and other characters like members of the Supreme Court or (I believe) Presidents.

I bring this up because I think the whole birther thing could be a book plot that Grisham might want to write, although maybe I am being too hard on Grisham. Davoe at Two Political Junkies references some polling carried out by Public Policy Polling that indicates that a quarter of respondents think Obama was not born in the US, while another 14% are not sure. That 14% could include people who never watch the evening news (although they must watch or listen to Limbaugh, Beck or Quinn, at least a little bit), or they are smart asses. A few people polled (4%) thought Hawaii is not part of the US.

The polling apparently indicated what I would call a strong correlation between the level of education you have (or more properly don’t have) and how likely it is that you believe Obama was born in the USA (cue Springsteen). The thing is, if you are interested and are willing to look, all the aspects of this issue can be addressed. What the grandmother said and why, the Hawaiian birth certificate (or Certification of Live Birth, sigh), why the Hawaiian officials have acted the way they have, and so on. The facts of the issue are more interesting (to me) than some silly conspiracy theory. Plus the fact that while I approve of the President being US born, it is hard to see a reason why it would matter in this case, how it would affect anything.

I have noticed some commenters on other blogs supporting the arguments of the birthers. Some even claim to have graduate degrees. I assume that they in fact know better, but just want to provoke liberals. And then people wonder why the country is polarized.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To be Fat in America ...

This is one of those posts where I am not sure where to begin and really not sure where to end.

I read a couple of different things yesterday that got me thinking. First of all, the Chief something or other at the Cleveland Clinic said that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t hire fat staff (he may have used a more precise term, such as obese or overweight). I sort of assume there might be a lead by example sort of thing there.

I also read something from a researcher who denies that obesity is actually a problem. Collectively our BMI has tipped from something like 29 to something like 30. This researcher (can’t remember his name, I am sure you could find it) says that statistically the slightly overweight do better in life expectancy than people with a “normal” BMI, so how could this small change be so negative. Now, he left himself an out, distinguishing between being physically fit or not, but if you are physically fit and yet have a high weight to height ratio, you pretty much have to be Arnold Schwartzenger (sp?).

I read comments on one blog (Shakesville?) about the Cleveland Clinic guy. One women in particular complained that she had a joint disease, exacerbated or caused by being over weight, she was in considerable pain, and yet doctors only told her to los weight (after waiting for hours for an appointment). What’s worse, they made no suggestions for an exercise or dietary program.

Now, I don’t know the circumstances of the woman’s doctor’s visit(s), how she was as a patient. But I believe it is true that many doctors don’t have a clue about how to recommend healthy diets (and by diet I mean regular eating plan, maybe geared to a certain calorie number), and/or may not recommend specific exercise plans either. Plus, we know (*know*) that agribusiness, grocery stores and the restaurant/fast food industries stack the deck against us. Healthy foods in grocery stores are relegated to the edges of the store, and have experienced considerable price inflation while the less healthy processed foods have gone down in price. And restaurant portions have gone down in price.

I do want to take a brief tangential sidetrack right here to say that I realize there can be much more involved here than just health, in fact, health may not be part of the equation when people talk about weight. Women have struggled and continue to struggle with body image issues and diseases that have a strong social component like anorexia and bulimia. I, for one, believe it is perfectly reasonable to bring those issues up in this discussion. I still believe in weight management for purposes of assisting in having good health. But I think that no one, female or male, should be hounded about their weight for purposes of conforming to a social ideal.

Even as I write this, I am sitting at my computer, as I will sit all day at a computer. I did a bit of exercise earlier this morning, and I will walk a mile-ish from where I park to my office. At lunch I will walk a bit, maybe a mile, after I eat. But all that is not enough. Despite what this researcher says about BMI, I am overweight. As a consequence, my blood pressure and blood sugar is up, and I need to get both down.

And that’s really what this is about. You can decide for yourself if you are overweight or not. And if you are reading this, you are smart enough to take some control. I realize that single moms, for example, are somewhat trapped in having no one to watch the kids while they exercise (well, maybe a boyfriend, but not necessarily), and have to eat (to some extent) what the kid(s) want to eat. But in general it should be possible to take some control of your diet, and to go on Craiglist and snap up that twenty five dollar exercycle. This is one of those public policy questions where we could each decide individually to make the change and end the issue. That would be big win for health care reform.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whose healthcare?

I like Meet the Press. OK, under Tim Russert there were times when he tried to ambush politicians and others with zinger questions. Occasionally he managed to seem down right mean, as when he talked to a local official of a Parrish outside New Orleans after Katrina, and essentially suggested he had lied about the danger the official’s grandmother had been in. Dick Gregory, on the other hand, does not seem to be as mean, but has less control over the show.

Which he really needed this week, with a show about the health care/insurance debate. MTP had Rachel Maddow, Dick Armey, Tom Daschle and Tom Coburn on, seated left to right in that order. The liberals defended the efforts of Congress and the President, while the conservatives attacked them. And I learned no new facts.

But I saw a debate where, when the Town Hall protestor images were presented of Obama portrayed as Hitler, Dick Armey was quick to us that had had ads depicting George W Bush as Hitler back in 2004. Well, in fact, the organization had solicited ads from private citizens, and then was going to run the best (as chosen by a panel of entertainers) to run. The submissions were sitting up on the website, but when the organization realized what these ads showed, they yanked them.

Armey didn’t mention any of those circumstances. Maybe brought the offensive images on themselves, but the details do paint a different picture. That Armey was willing to, at the very least, not present the whole truth is an indication of where the healthcare debate has gone.

Despite Jack Kelly’s column today, despite Sarah Palin’s wild exaggerations about the death panels and out of context repeating of Ezekiel Emmanuel’s past writings, the questions are simple. Is the current system good enough? Well, for some Americans, yes. Those with good jobs at large companies don’t pay too much of their paycheck to get coverage that mostly takes care of everything. Because their employer pays the bulk of the premium, taxes do not include that part of health care, although whatever the employer produces is impacted by the cost. And of course we pay taxes for other things, like being the only Superpower, and spending money and lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. Plus there is a fraction of the voting and non-voting public that is either uninsured or underinsured. For them the healthcare system is at best a trap; if they enter it that could be fatal to their finances, their lives or both.

The next question is absolutely tangential to the healthcare/insurance debate, and yet has occupied our attention for at least a week. Will senior citizens be forced to accept voluntary counseling for the end of life options by the government, and is that one of the ways the government is trying to save money. Coburn’s comments on this were interesting and informative. Coburn called it an intensely private affair, mom and/or dad deciding how they want to die, on the government should not have any part of. He also said (I can’t remember if before or after) that because of the pressure of defensive medicine, a senior citizen’s end of life directives might be ignored. Anyone with any sense might point out that if the government has your end of life directive on file, it might be less easy for doctors to ignore it.

I could go on with a painstaking examination of the Meet the Press episode or Jack Kelly’s column, but I think I will try to wrap it up. I want to mention my brother went out with a woman whose daughter had leukemia. She also had a low level job with no health insurance. I guess she had been on her mother’s plan when she got initial treatment for the leukemia and then it went into remission. When she started to feel bad later when she was on her own, she put off going to the emergency room until it was too late. Last night at the Blogfest I talked to a person who, along with his girlfriend/finance(?) work out of their home. They buy insurance, but very often it goes up rapidly. They were looking at an HSA/high deductible plan. But they would have to be lucky, for the next five or ten years they would have to not have any significant costs in order to build up some money in the Health savings Account. And then they would be trapped in the plan, having so much invested in it. These are the real people I have met who suffer under the current system.

But, as David Brooks put it on Friday (on the PBS newshour), it is the President who is telling “whoppers”.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who's Obamacare?

It seems like I have read certain well regarded local bloggers complaining about Presdient Obama outsourcing the detail work of health care/insurance reform off to Congress. Because we know that if Obama had worked on it himself (or, say, given it to Michelle Obama to work on, in secret) and then just sprung it on Congress, nothing bad could possibly happen.

Of course, I should realize that anything Obama does will be wrong. The stimulus plan won’t work, until it starts working, and then people will decide the rest of the stimulus should be cancelled. Obama will be too close to the banks, except when he is too far away and over regulating. Obama won’t be doing enough for minorities, except when he steps into the Skip Gates thing and then is trying to persecute white cops.

The American public should understand that Obama is doing them an incredible favor by putting health care/insurance legislation in the hands of their legislators. It is a lot easier to get my opinion to Mike Doyle than to Barack Obama (although all Doyle will hear is one more person for end of life counseling). Of course, Obama is getting some insulation, a group to share the blame with if people don’t like the way the legislation shakes out. Plus, if Congress is writing the legislation, then the opposition is less likely about the fact that Obama is black. And if you think that every voter is entirely enlightened, and never takes race into account when forming an opinion about someone's policy, I have some beautiful grassy land to sell you (that just happens to be outside Phoenix).

Again, of course, people will say that it is Obama (or myself) who is hyper sensitive, with no reason for being so. I would say in response, I will respect that opinion if you are black in America.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sarah Palin, Writer?

Sarah Palin, a few days ago, suggested the Obama’s healthcare plan would make her Downs Syndrome child Trig and her aged parents stand in front of a “death panel” (She suggested this, apparently, on her Facebook page). Obama has since spoken to this, saying that the House bill (HR3200?) has a provision for senior citizens to be offered end of life counseling, but no one is obligated to accept it or create a living will or whatever. Certainly no one is obliged to choose when and/or how to die.

Palin has responded to Obama on Facebook. It is an eloquent, intelligent examination of the subtle ways that the House bill might compel senior citizens to accept the end of life counseling and write living wills. In short –

I don’t think Palin wrote it


I don’t think half of her followers will read it (perhaps will be able to read it).

But I think it should still be responded to. And the response is, she has a point, albeit a limited one. If a senior citizen does go into a nursing home, and their new doctor (because the old doctor may transfer care to the nursing home) meets them for the first time and in the course of a first examination the doctor initiates a conversation about living wills and whether the senior citizen wants extraordinary life saving measures, the senior citizen may think that is simply a normal thing this nursing home does. And since the House bill cuts reimbursement to hospitals, doctors and nursing homes for other things to save money, the doctor would have reason to have this consultation (which Medicare will pay for).

Now, I don’t have a living will, I am not a senior citizen, and if I am injured and go on a machine, I am fine with being kept alive until a cure/treatment is found, or my brain can be transfered into a gleeming killer robot. I gather, though, that at least some, maybe many senior citizens don’t like the idea of being kept alive on a machine if they have some kind of crippling brain injury or incident. At the same time, they may not know what their options are or how to enforce their desires. So a consultation like the kind in the bill is actually not a bad idea for many people. The rest have the option of being offended and ordering the doctor out of the room (or whatever).

Palin also spends a few sentences bashing Ezekiel Emanuel, brother to Rahm and advisor to the President on healthcare. See, Ezekiel is an academic interested in health care ethics. So he has written about health care rationing, probably a good idea because it is something we may have to face. And Palin takes his comments out of context and claims the President wants to provide healthcare only to … well, who knows. Apparently not to her Downs syndrome baby or her parents.

Who's on the red side for 2012?

Our country is still tied up in knots politically, much as it seemed to be in 2000. Back then, we elected a Democrat but the Republican snuck in. Nine months later, we were glad to have a tough hand on the wheel. Gradually it dawned on us that in fact the hand on the wheel might have been tough, but was none too bright.

But we have gotten used to having Republican Presidents. In the last 28 or 29 years, we have had Republicans in the White House for twenty of them. The Congress has passed back and forth, probably more Democratic than not. But all those years of Reagan and Bushes have pulled the Country to the right. The last eight years and really the last year or so have suddenly turned people off to conservative ideas. Tax cuts still seem nice (those who are working would like one now), but not a panacea. What’s interesting is that so many people have not swung back to the liberal fold. Obama has had to make hard sells on some issues so far. He met resistance from conservatives on the stimulus, and now on health care he is meeting resistance from self defined independents. The thing is polls show a majority of Americans want health care reform. But conservatives have succeeded in reframing what’s been proposed as death panels, Medicare reduced to nothing and the government giving everyone an ID card and getting access to our bank accounts. People are so worried they are starting to carry guns to town hall meetings. Just imagine if the next George Sodini or Richard Poplawski shows up armed at a town hall.

I have been surprised that Obama, while he has described what he wants in legislation, has largely outsourced the detail work to Congress. At first I thought he might be doing that because he might have formed a belief while a Senator that Bush had ignored the Congress. But now I am of the opinion that he has given the ball to Congress to avoid having to acknowledge the race card. That is, if Obama is even more out front on legislation such as health care reform, and it runs into tremendous public opposition, eventually someone, somewhere, will decide the opposition is because Obama’s black. I think Obama wants to avoid that situation at all costs.

But I started this post looking at Republicans and I want to return to that. They seem so adrift right now. Among the politicians there seems to be no rising star. So many have fallen to scandal (Sanford and Vitter(?) recently) and the rest disappoint (McConnell, Boehner, Steele and Jindal). Among the pundits, the intellectual conservatives (Brooks, Will, Frum, Noonen?) are largely being eclipsed by the blowhards (O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, Orly Taitz?). Salon online mentioned that Pennsylvania’s favorite son, Rick Santorum, is in Iowa testing the waters. Salon then raised the possibility of the Obama White House’s dream ticket: Santorum/Palin or Palin/Santorum. I mean, Gingrich is still out there somewhere, but I can see where a hard core of fanatical followers would just love to see Palin and Santorum run.

And so would David Axelrod. And Jon Stewart, and Steven Colbert. The debates … would be classic.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Two health care presentations ...

Barack Obama tried to take his case on health care/insurance reform to the American public today in a town hall style New Hampshire. Frankly now that everyone is talking about how the angry public at these town hall meetings might be Republican agitators instead of people with a genuine concern, I think some of the steam might already have been let out of the opposition to health care/insurance reform. Obama’s town hall was apparently pretty civil inside, although protestors on both sides yelled at each other outside.

Arlen Specter also had a town hall meeting in Harrisburg this morning, with a somewhat different feel. When he took questions, he got down and stood a couple of feet away from the questioners. Sure enough, they screamed at him (so much so that security moved in, and Specter had to wave them away). Say what you want about Arlen, he has some toughness left in him; he didn’t flinch as questioner after questioner yelled at him up close and personal. Apparently after maybe thirty minutes people stopped yelling, but I guess passions still ran high.

Does anyone really think that we should leave health care alone? The costs have been going up for as long as I can remember. Not that a solution will be easy. I mean, we can certainly look at what hospitals with low rates of infection and medical mistakes do, and try to copy them. We can do things like reduce legal awards for malpractice, but doctors who make two mistakes (that rise to the level of malpractice) need to be moved into other non-patient care areas of medicine. No more cover ups by medical societies. Getting patient records on to computers would also help in improving care, and possibly avoiding costly mistakes.

But past that, as long as insurance companies are the primary delivery system for health care payment and reimbursement, the system will have perverse incentives and continue to be a case of market failure.

Yet the Republicans, paid heavily by health industry lobbyists, are trying to block any meaningful reform. And people are buying the propaganda. Just ask, which Republicans are getting rid of their government health care in favor of a private plan?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Arrr, Matey ...

I wonder if Jack Kelly actually has feathers and a beak, because he is parroting the Republican line on healthcare reform (or at least trying to), no matter how self contradictory it is.

I am not going to spend a whole lot of time on Kelly’s column. He wants the status quo and he wants to make changes to make us more responsible. In other words, he doesn’t know what he wants. Republicans like John McCain say we should end the payroll tax deductions on health insurance, Kelly wants to transfer the tax deduction to individuals. Kelly thinks we will become more responsible about our own health insurance and treatment if we have to pay for annual yearly checkups, because we will know that will save us money in the long run. Which contains a nugget of wisdom, except that a lot of people will skip annual checkups if they have to pay for them. Meanwhile, if we disconnect health insurance from employers, then the benefit of having a whole group to cover and spread costs around will be lost for insurance companies, and they will raise rates prohibitively. Thanks Jack.

This is without detailing how Jack tells us that new healthcare machinery and drugs are naturally more expensive. It sounds for all the world like Jack wants to ration healthcare (except perhaps for himself).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

That was the week that was ...

Extra points if you recognize the post’s title reference.

Quite a lot happened this week, nationally and not counting the Bridgeville shootings. The Kenyan birth certificate of Barack Obama surfaced at the beginning of the week, by week’s end a judge has tossed it out as evidence in Alan Keyes' lawsuit claiming Obama is foreign born, due apparently to lawyer Orly Tait’s ham handedness in submitting it into evidence (the kind of thing I sort of thought would be the case). Too bad, if it had stayed in evidence someone might have done an official investigation into it, and it would have been officially dismissed as a fraud.

The unemployment rate came down, just like it had been noted in the last couple of weeks that the GNP had dropped much less that the previous quarter. The thing is, those numbers could be revised back up or down or whatever, so we might just as well not count chickens yet. But they are somewhat encouraging.

Cash for clunkers is going great guns, and should have a reasonable effect on our consumption of gas, and the amount of pollution we generate. Of course, so too would everyone driving at 55 on the highway.

I tried to suggest. on other people's blogs, that assault rifles and high capacity magazine pistols should be banned. Yes, we could do more in mental health, try to reduce the stigma, etc. I personally would be comfortable with mental health getting more attention. But, I think for other people it really would seem like a police state if you had to see a shrink every six months to make sure the “state” did not consider you a public hazard. I suggested that the founding fathers would be horrified at the killing power of modern guns (which I still believe) and I was told by others what the founding fathers thought. I realized that I may not know exactly what the founding fathers might think about modern issues, but they are dead and never lived in an era like today. I mean, they were smart guys and all, but they lived in an era when the number of people you could shoot depended on how many guns you and your friends could carry. Because it would take 30 seconds or so to reload one bullet into a gun. I frankly am getting less concerned about what the founding fathers thought and more interested in what is likely to work now. I know, heresy in the eyes of the religion of conservatism. And while I accept that everyone being armed might have a deterrent effect, it still might not stop people in the heat of some passionate argument from pulling out a gun and trying to shoot each other. And there would be a lot more of them with guns. Plus there is no guarantee that average Joe or Josepine is not more likely to shoot me or some other innocent bystander than a bad guy. Meanwhile, if no one has a gun, it certainly would reduce the number of people you can shoot (or who can shoot you).

I apparently don’t understand logic.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Smart cash for clunkers

Setting aside Sodini and Obama’s COLB for a while ….

All the talk about the Cash for Clunkers program has reminded me of what was I guess an announcement of mathematical common sense a year or two ago. It was pointed out by someone (I canna remember who) that replacing vehicles at the low end of the mileage scale with even mildly better vehicles was more beneficial than taking good cars and replacing them with the best. Of course, it would be ideal to replace the worst with the best, but we should take what we can realistically expect.

It all comes down to a 100 mile trip. Take Fred, the suburbanite. He bought a pick up truck a few years ago (the commercials won him over) and it gets 10 miles per gallon (MPG). That 100 mile trip takes 10 gallons of gas in Fred’s pickup. If Fred trades in his truck for a mid sized SUV (remember, commercials) that gets 20 mpg, suddenly the trip only takes five gallons of gas. Five gallons saved, for Fred and the rest of us.

Now take Nick, the city dweller. Nick has a Honda Accord, which he bought because all his friends had them. It gets 25 mpg (not great, but good, 4 gallons of gas on the 100 mile trip. Now Nick wants the Toyota Prius, a 50 mpg car (because all his friends are buying them). Now the trip will only take two gallons, very impressive.

But the Sierra Club should give it’s environmentalist of the year award to Fred, because going from bad to merely mediocre does more for all. So too the Cash for Clunkers may not put that many Prius’ on the road, but the overall savings in gas will do us all good. The Ford Focus is the top seller in the program, which is great. The Focus is a fine and capable car that gets good mileage. I got 35 mpg in one on a trip I took, beating the EPA estimates with cautious driving.

This link is where I got the figures for the above hypothetical, and it has some other good links too (

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Things this week...

I have been thinking about this shooting Tuesday night. After reading this guy Sodini’s web page I have some sort of sympathy/empathy for the guy. Except.

I had a period a fair number of years ago where I was living in a small studio, I had a low paying job and no girlfriend. I was not especially friends with co-workers, although I was friendly, and I belonged to a running group. But it seemed like an isolated time for me.

Never the less, I did not make a plan to shoot people, I did not write on paper that I knew I was crazy, etc etc. If you think that something you are planning is something that other people would consider wrong, that is the point where you are obliged to seek mental health assistance. And that is the point where my sympathy stops, that this guy Sodini knew something was wrong with himself and did not do anything about it.

Back on the birthers, Salon has a handy guide for refuting birther arguments that seems fairly complete. I am still hoping for more evidence against the Kenyan birth certificate, just because I want a stake through the heart of the thing, not a hundred pin pricks. For example, this Kenyan BC references a specific page in a book where the birth was supposed to be recorded. If this book can be located and no such birth be recorded on that specific page, or better yet, if it turns out this book never existed, that will satisfy me. Then Orly Taitz can reveal the source of the Kenyan BC, and anyway she will be entirely discredited.

Meanwhile, I also wonder about Obama’s original birth certificate (and I think Salon is unconvincing on that part too). Not that I doubt it exists, or that I think Hawaii should have released it or anything. But it is part of the distraction. Maybe Obama should have a collection of conservative commentators like David Brooks, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly be shown the thing in exchange for writing honestly about what they see. That would be giving legitimacy to the birther movement, but it is already legitimate in the minds of many idiots around the country, and maybe revealing the birth certificate to several conservative journalists would knock down the percentage of people who don’t believe Obama was born here by a few points. And we could get down to calling (if you will forgive the expression) a spade a spade and say the remaining birther’s are simply racist.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Guns and the people they kill ...

The unfortunate incident at the LA Fitness center in Bridgeville has knocked the birther issue and even Bill Clinton’s visit to North Korea off the radar, at least for Pittsburgh. As Obama unfortunately said, we don’t have all the facts yet, in fact, I think we may never know all the facts. But that won’t stop me from venturing an opinion.

In 1981, James Garner reprised his role of Maverick the gambler in a series titled “Bret Maverick” (quite enjoyable, by the way, available on Netflix). In the pilot episode, before a poker game the sheriff disarms Maverick by taking his “hog-leg”, the big Colt 45 revolver so familiar in cowboy movies. But then the sheriff takes the various mini guns and derringers Maverick has hidden about his person. This was actually fairly accurate for the old west. It was common for towns to ban carrying guns openly, so a huge industry sprung up of offering various very small guns to carry concealed. They would have only one bullet, maybe two, rarely more and if so, only very small bullets. Sometime the one or two bullet varieties had a relatively large size bullet, but all of them had an atrocious range, not much more than the length of a table. The point being, concealed weapons have been with us for almost as long as there have been guns. But only recently have they become dangerous to more than one or two people at a time.

Modern semi-automatic pistols can carry 12, 13 or even 15 bullets, of varying sizes of bullets (calibers). This originated with the military market, but has proven popular with the civilian market as well. If you carry spare magazines (the things that hold the bullets) in your off hand (the one not holding the pistol) and if you are somewhat practiced, you could fire perhaps 45 shots in under a minute. That is astounding for something you could carry well concealed under a jacket. And of course modern bullets are much more lethal than they used to be. A bullet proof vest can prevent a fatal shot to the chest, but there are all sorts of caveats and who wears a bullet proof vest in a gym anyway.

This incident will bring the second amendment types out of the woodwork. They will say no “assault weapon” (military style rifle) was involved so even by the greatly reduced standards of current gun control debate, the government can make no comment. They will say that the guy was a criminal (by definition) and a nut, and this was a failure of public health screening or whatever that the guy was not flagged and prevented from owning guns. The second amendment types might even advocate allowing people to keep guns close by as they work out, to shoot someone like this.

But to me the point is that in order to have the right to bear arms, we tolerate the deaths of untold numbers of innocents each year. Additionally, some neighborhoods not only see the deaths of innocents but wars between rival gangs using weapons unimaginable 200 years ago. And the police have to keep up, switching from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols holding fifteen bullets, changing the shotgun in their car for an assault weapon. The police now do not know what awaits them when they answer a call not only in Garfield but also in Stanton Heights. The police may start wearing helmets, body armor and carrying assault rifles as a matter of course. The second amendment types who saying being able to own a gun is the only way to avoid a police state may end up forcing one on the rest of us.

I mean, what conclusion should we draw?

There is that sort of irony that Europe has stronger gun control, and better health care if you are shot.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Certification of Live Birth - COLB-EZ, COLB and COLB-A

SO I have been following and increasingly posting/commenting on this whole “birther” thing (I tend to comment at 2PJ’s). I mean, Obama has gotten a copy of what the State of Hawaii issues, something good enough for passports, and still the “birther’s” find reasons to doubt him (it’s a forgery, he has dual citizenship, his grandmother in Kenya saw him born there, his Indonesian step father adopted him and Lord knows what all else).

As I posted earlier today, this Orly Taitz (lawyer/dentist extraordinaire!) has produced an image and perhaps a real paper copy of a Kenyan birth certificate for Barrack Obama. The source, according to her, must remain anonymous because if Obama knows his/her identity, Obama will have the source killed. It’s disappointing to think that no judge will ever let this Kenyan Birth Certificate into evidence in any trial. It would be fun to find out if the book record of Obama’s birth that it references even exists, and if it does, what it says on the page referenced by the birth certificate.

Meanwhile, I have been fascinated by this whole conflict over the long form versus short form certification of live birth in Hawaii. I finally took it upon myself to educate myself about these forms. Here’s what I found out.

First of all, World Net Daily, a fairly conservative and clearly pro birther website, made a big deal about the existence of some Hawaiian homeland state agency, which provides benefits for people of native Hawaiian descent. The thing is, to prove your ancestry you need that long form COLB, which details some of your heritage. And I looked at this Homeland website and indeed it mentions the need for the long form COLB, even though the Hawaiian Department of Health says they do not give out the long form COLB, at least not without very good reason. How can this be, how can this be reconciled?

Well, the Homeland website references the long form, and says you should contact the Department of Health, but it doesn’t say you will receive the long form COLB. Instead in implies that someone from the DOH will look at your COLB, and either talk directly to the Homeland people or else give you some kind of certification that you are a native Hawaiian.

Which is interesting, because that is essentially what the Hawaiian Secretary of Health did for Barrack Obama. The Secretary went and looked at Obama’s long form COLB in their records, and then came out and said that Obama’s long form COLB is on file, and that he could confirm Obama is a US citizen.

Certainly the Hawaiians used to make the long form COLB available, in fact it was likely the only type of birth certificate back 48 years ago. But starting about thirty years ago Hawaii started computerizing (you remember Hawaii 5-0 and their computer), and now when you ask for a birth certificate they literally print one up, based on the data that was entered in over the last thirty year. So that COLB that Obama posted on the web is not authentic in the sense that if Obama requested it on May 7th of last year, it was probably printed on May 14th. That’s how they do things now in Hawaii. Their Department of Health website has no mechanism for requesting the long form, only a COLB of their choosing.

Of course, the Hawaiians could release Obama’s long form COLB to the media or whomever. But I don’t think they are going to do that, at least not until either the President asks them to or a judge orders them too. After all, if Hawaii released the long form, it would piss off the President because Hawaii had caved to the nutjobs, and it would piss off the “birthers” because it would not prove their arguments.

Obama could talk to the Hawaiians, have them xerox the long form COLB or take a picture of it, or even put it on display in a museum. But Obama is not going to do that. If he caves to the “birthers”, who knows what nutjob group is next. Obama has apparently drawn the line at a document good enough for a passport.

As I say, I find this whole thing fascinating. To deny obvious facts like that has painful implications for our nation’s future. Congress might pass a law about driving big cars or about carpooling to work, And there’s always a group like the “birthers”, who might well say that the effectiveness of conservation is a myth. That’s why it is probably a bad idea for Obama to ask Hawaii to release the long form COLB. To prevent birthers and others from thinking Obama has to give them everything they think they want, especially since they don’t/won’t have a good reason for asking for it.

Where's the long form?

Can we look at the "Birth Register of this Province", Book 44B, Page 5733? Has anyone verified the existence of and positions of E.F. Lavender, M.H. Miller or Joshua Simon Oduya? Does the Kenyan minister of health (or whomever is responsbile for such records) verify the existence of the birth certificate and/or a birth record?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Jack's latest.

Jack Kelly's column today is surprisingly mild in it's indictment of Obama. Of course, it starts by comparing apples and oranges, but what else is new?

"Here's a data point that should give liberals pause: There is no statistically significant difference between the proportion of Americans who think ill of Sarah Palin and the proportion of Americans who disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.”

(Read more:

Two PJ's ends some time on how Kelly's gets the numbers wrong (by making a comparison across two polls reaching different people, for example), but there's something more, I think. Is it the same think to "think ill of" versus disapproving of current job performance? I think that disliking a person is pretty unambiguous, but disapproving of job performance? That can include the people who think Obama is a socialist (likely Palin voters) versus people who think Obama is asking the Republicans to participate too much (not likely Palin voters). It could include groups that think healthcare/insurance does not need to be reformed and people who would like to see much more reform than Obama is asking for(perhaps including that Palin constituency, the rural poor, who tend not to have healthinsurance).

But Kelly really wants to set up an equivalency between Palin and Obama. Why? Because Kelly wants Palin to be the Republican candidate in 2012. Oddly, we can guess that Obama and his campaign would likely prefer to run against Sarah Palin as well.

I think wanting Palin to run in 2012 is why Kelly says that the now lost healthcare battle (and Kelly considers healthcare lost because it’s August and there’s no healthcare bill out of Congress) is not the end of Obama’s Presidency. I suspect that Kelly actually thinks it is a major blow to Obama, and the Republicans are going to make Obama their bitch, to order around as they please. In particular Kelly thinks that because he is at pains to tell us 66 new Congresspersons were elected in districts that voted for either George Bush or John McCain. Kelly figures those Congresspersons have already deserted Obama.

But as Kelly himself pointed out, Clinton survived a perhaps worse health care debacle. And because of Republican over-reach” (Kelly’s phrase) , Clinton was able to have a pretty good Presidency.

I think Kelly thinks Obama is going to be a one term President and soon we will have President Palin. I think that’s really unlikely, at least the President Palin part. But Jack is entitled to his fantasies, and apparently thinks we as well (entitled to his fan.. ta …sies).

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Waiting for an apology ...

No, in this post I am not talking about Gates or Crowley.

I remember, in even just the last couple of weeks, how conservatives and then (predictably) journalists starting to say that the stimulus has failed.

I mean, I remember further back several months ago, when the stimulus debate was going on, and how Democrats and the White House were saying a couple of different things. First it was important to get moving on it right away, first thing for the new administration, because families were suffering at that moment, and more would suffer shortly. At the same time, the stimulus was going to take two years to run through, and wouldn’t ramp up fully until near the end of 2009. That’s because it takes time for money to leave DC and get out to the states and be slotted properly into projects. Now, the registered voter in me was pissed that it was going to take such a long time to get the stimulus working, but the accountant type in me approved of actually having procedures to make sure that at least most of the money was spent on real things (looking at you, Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and your bundles of money).

Now, in economics there is the concept of expectations, the idea that if you own a sandwich shop, and you think a bunch of a guys are going to be hired next week to work on a bridge down the road, maybe you hire a waitress now. That concept has been battling with the idea that we might slip into the second great depression, and we only recently learned the outcome. This past week, maybe two weeks after we were told the stimulus has failed, we are being told the economy slowed its decline this past quarter, only dropping one percent instead of the five or six percent of the first quarter and the last quarter of last year.

Of course, at least one economist (and probably more) was saying the stimulus had nothing to do with this better number. But since we know most reporters and all Republicans know nothing about economics, I think it is reasonable to expect them to apologize and concede the President really is the One, the Messiah who will deliver us to a new economy, and a new post-racial America where we all love each (eww, gross) and no one will be hungry and it will be the end of history, …. again.

Wait, the Messiah is black?