Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mock Them

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab waited until the last 20 minutes of his flight from Amsterdam to Detroit before he attempted to blow up his underpants - he was probably waiting for the end of the in flight movie ... I think it was "Four Christmases" with Vince Vaughn. Definitely worth delaying your martyrdom for an hour and a half.

And before anyone asks - HELL YES I'm making light of a terrorist act. I'm treating it with all the mockery it deserves.

You see, there are a bunch of idiot politicians and "opinion leaders" trying to make hay off of this attempted attack. In effect they are using it to attack us all over again. Congressman Peter Hoekstra, an idiot, immediately released a fundraising letter asking us to help him defeat the terrorists - he's running for governor of Michigan. Senator Jim DeMint is blasting the lack of strong leadership at the TSA even though he personally has been blocking the confirmation of the new TSA chief for several months. Pat Buchanan, Tom Ridge, Dick Cheney and others are outraged, OUTRAGED I say - that the underpants bomber has been arrested and indicted and will be prosecuted in an actual courtroom just like non-law abiding Americans. Some are even demanding that we torture this stupid deluded kid, even though he has been completely cooperative, has admitted to his plans, his ties to al Qaeda (well, to al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, which is not really the same "al Qaeda" as Bin Ladin's al Qaeda, but birds of a feather), and is answering any questions asked of him, but still, they want him tortured ... not for information (which we are getting), but ... just because ... These are the same idiots who claim it is too dangerous to prosecute international terrorists in US courts, even though we have already convicted over 400 of them and they have been locked away in our federal prisons for years without problem. These idiot cowards have such a low regard for American justice that they would have us become exactly the type of lawless nation that the terrorists accuse us of being.

Here's the deal. These terrorists are not supermen. They aren't bigger than life, they don't have super powers, they aren't able to defeat our justice system, they can't escape from our supermax prisons. They are, to a man, pathetic wimps. They are weaklings. They attack innocent civilians because they know they can't handle a fair fight. They use fear because they are too pathetic and lame to be able to use persuasion.

The idiot coward fools who build them up are helping the terrorists and hurting America rather than protecting it. They are collaborating with the terrorists in making us more fearful and less free. Their approach of ramping up the fear is exactly the wrong thing to do. We need to put the terrorists in their proper place - prison - and treat them as what they are - weaklings, wimps and morons. I love that we are calling this latest guy the "underpants bomber", that disdain is exactly correct. We should be mocking these fools in the media, not building them up as bogeymen.

Sensible security makes sense, but the cost is too high if we trade our freedoms for security. We need to respond to the threat of terror with vigilance and mockery.

Eventually one of these morons is going to get lucky and actually succeed in their attack. We still need to mock them. They send a thousand morons, and one is bound to get through. Give them no respect. Refuse irrational fear. Yes, we'll grieve the loss of innocent life at the hands of moronic cowards who are too afraid to put up a fair fight, but we should never fear or respect them.

Related post: They don't give a damn about our freedom

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to do it

Fox news has taught me that a president must never bow to a foreign leader. Here is the correct way to greet them:

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Best Health Care Bill that Money Can Buy

The Health Care Reform Bill is slowly falling together. The big insurance companies are getting almost everything they want. Public financing to subsidize them, a requirement for the uninsured to buy insurance or pay a fine, and guaranteed profits. Looks like they lose on the public option -except that it will not be available for the vast majority, only to the uninsured - and only if your state decides not to "opt-out". So it won't really be "competition". If you like the insurance your employer offers - you can keep it, and if you don't like the insurance your employer offers - you have to keep it anyway. So much for "options".

A few congressmen will be offering amendments to make the public option a true option for everyone - introducing actual competition. Others will be offering a bill allowing individual states the right to offer a single payer plan in their state - the proven method for providing the best care at the lowest cost. Use the the chart below to understand how your congressional representative makes their decisions (from the Center for Responsive Politics).

Every member of Congress and the total contributions they have received from the Health Care industry from 1989 through June 2009.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Send in the Big Dog

Ted Kennedy's passing leaves Massachusetts without full representation in the US Senate, and the nation without our greatest champion for Universal Health Care right when we need him the most.

With respect to the probability that Massachusetts will change it's law to appoint a temporary Senator until a new Senator can be chosen in a Special Election in February - most of those suggested in the media as replacements are not going to be interested in a temporary position from which they will be barred (as seems likely) from running in the special election

What Massachusetts, and the nation, needs is an strong interim Senator with no interest in a permanent position, but who has the stature, ability and connections to step into Kennedy's very large shoes and push Ted's health care reform through. Even better if that is someone with a long commitment to universal health care, who would find this temporary role as a chance to fulfill one of his own greatest goals.

I can think of one person who perfectly fits those needs:

Bill Clinton

He'd have to change his address, yet again, but he can afford it. He's been vetted - both as a former president and most recently during Hillary's confirmation.

The Big Dog can carry Kennedy's water for 5 months, working to get Universal Health Care passed, while Massachusetts works out who they want to elect for the permanent position. Then he can retire with his greatest legislative failure as president redeemed, and Ted Kennedy's legacy fulfilled.

Monday, August 24, 2009

SOCIALISM! Booga Booga Boo!

I think conservatives are confused. They see government spending money on social services and think social services ... hmmmm ... socialism. They see the name of the old USSR - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and think ... hmmm ... communism ... is socialism. They look at the name of the Nazi Party - The National Socialist German Worker's Party ... hmmm ... fascism is socialism. Thus in the conservative mind, every form of political-economic system is socialism. Communism is socialism, Fascism is socialism, Capitalism is socialism. EVERYTHING is socialism!

OK.... let's clear a few things up.

Government paying for things is not socialism. Government providing social services is not socialism. Those are both normal functions of a capitalist state - recognized as such since Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations and drove a stake through the heart of mercantilism and defined what would come to be known as the modern Capitalist state. Specifically Smith outlined 3 broad areas of government responsibility; national defense, administration of justice, and providing those public goods which are essential to a free and prosperous society. Those public goods which Smith identified were infrastructure and education - which are essential to both the public weal and commerce. In today's more complex world social safety nets are also essential to commerce. The example of the cost of private healthcare crippling our industries points toward the utility of providing social services within a capitalist system - they are part of the human infrastructure that supports private enterprise and makes it more competitive.

The Nazi Party - formally The National Socialist German Worker's Party, was originally a Worker's party (pro union party) until taken over by Adolf Hitler, he added the word "socialist" to the name in a gambit to attract more working class members, but from the beginning of Hitler's involvement the party was firmly (even homicidally) anti-union and anti-socialist and anti-communist. They finessed the inclusion of "socialism" in their name by saying they were against "liberal" socialism, their "version" of socialism had nothing to do with actual socialism, and consisted instead of a form of social Darwinism.

So what is socialism? It is an economic system where the means of production of goods is owned by the people.

Government buying goods - or services - is not socialism. As an economic system socialism can exist in either democratic or authoritarian political systems.

Authoritarian Socialism is Communism.

Liberal Socialism (not neoliberal) or Social Democracies are democratic states with free enterprise market systems and extensive social welfare systems in which certain key industries may have been nationalized, but those states maintain private ownership of capital. Recently this has been referred to as EuroSocialism. Both modern Capitalist states and EuroSocialist states have mixed economies with both private enterprise and government sector industry, the difference being the relative balance between the two.

Conservatives will accuse progressives of trying to move the balance of the mixed economy in the United States closer to that of European States. And they have a point. But the point is not quite the indictment they make it out to be. To attribute any perceived policy as "socialism" doesn't make it anti-capitalist. Social Welfare programs - which are common to Capitalist and Socialist systems - are not socialist in and of themselves - they are not the means of production of industrial goods. But they do help support the industrial system - social welfare programs ultimately buttress capitalist enterprise. The social welfare system exists to support capitalist industry as much as any other intended benefit.

Perhaps EuroSocialism should be called Democratic Social Capitalism. It's benefit to capitalist enterprise has been well demonstrated in the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown and the quick recovery of the EuroSocialist sector while we still flounder here in America. With their stronger safety nets many European citizens suffered no loss of health care, less deprivation from high unemployment rates, and were able to keep buying goods at a great enough level to revive industry and return their economies to positive growth. The 2008 recession ended quickly in Germany, France and much of Scandinavia.

I'm not afraid of the "S" word, I just don't think it is used properly. Mostly it is used as an epithet - and grossly incorrectly at that.

Modern progressives believe in private enterprise and private ownership of property and commerce. They don't want government or public ownership of the means of production, they don't want government factories making shoes, or cars, or consumer goods. They think there are things that government does better to the benefit of the public and of private enterprise, and there are things that government funds better but lets private enterprise provide. That's not really Socialism, so lets call it Social Capitalism.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The High Cost of Doing Nothing

"ObamaCare", the opposition name for the health care reform effort now proceeding through 4 or 5 bills in Congress is rather short on true reform since its number one goal seems to be to preserve the astronomical profits of the industry. But ... is it worse than doing nothing?

The Congressional Budget Office recently scored one of the Democratic proposals, and concluded that it would cost $1 trillion over 10 years, or even $1.5 trillion in the worse case.

My God - how can we afford that! That's like 1/7th of what we spent in a little over a year bailing out Wall Street!

Well, not exactly. The CBO scored an early version without a public option or employer mandate, it now says that plan would "only" cost $600 billion over 10 years and that doesn't include all the savings that would be achieved from such things as new cost controls and far fewer of the very high costs from uninsured people avoiding early care and waiting for expensive publicly funded emergency care. $600 billion - over 10 years - is about a third of what we'll spend on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still - an extra $60 billion a year is a lot of money. Can we afford it?

Better question: can we afford doing nothing?

America has the most expensive health care system in the world - and for that we provide the best health care industry profits in the world, but not anywhere near the best health care outcomes for our population - we are solidly in the second tier of emerging nations in overall quality of health care, no where near the rest of the industrialized world - we are bested by such industrial powerhouses as Costa Rica, Dominica, Chile, Cyprus and Columbia.

For that we are paying nearly twice as much as any other nation - 17.6% of our GDP - over $2.5 trillion this year. Costs are increasing at a rate of over 6% every year, in 10 years time we'll by spending over $4.6 trillion per year, about 21% of GDP.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services actuarial center (in the Dept of HHS) calculates that 47.4% of the total expenditures on health care in the United States will come directly from government sources this year - and by 2019 that will increase to 51.7%.

With National Health Expenditures increasing from $2.51 trillion this year to $4.67 trillion in 2019, and the public paying 47.4% today increasing to 51.7% in 10 years, the extra cost to taxpayers of doing nothing will be $5.66 trillion dollars.

And on top of that the average taxpayer can expect to be paying twice as much for their private health insurance.

Kinda makes $600 billion look like chump change.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Senator Jefferson Beauregard "Jeff" Sessions III: Tool

In an interview on NPR Senator Jeff Sessions reiterated his problem with statements Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made in a 2001 speech.

It was a speech that reflected a judicial philosophy that a person's background, sympathies and prejudices (those were her words) can impact your ruling. She said her background could affect the facts she would chose to see as a judge. That's ... I believe that is a disqualifying thing, frankly.
This is so basic to American law, your justice and the result in a court should not depend on the judge's personal views, background or ethnicity. A judge makes ... takes an oath to be impartial, the oath says, ah, you will do equal justice to the poor and rich alike, and that you put on that robe and it represents a fundamental commitment to put aside all those things and to be fair and objective in the process.

His statement includes direct quotes from Sotomayor's 2001 Berkeley speech which included the now infamous "wise Latina" remark. In fact, they are from passages that expand and explain that remark:

Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which i am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. but I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that i reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

Notice that taken in context the Sotomayor statements - that according to Sessions represent a disqualification for her appointment, explain the need to ensure impartiality and fairness completely the opposite of what Sessions claims she said.

The fact that Sessions admitted he was directly quoting from those statements proves that he was perfectly aware of what she was actually saying.

His mischaracterizations are nothing less than deliberate lies.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Did the US Navy just save the world?

The US Navy made an announcement a few days ago that may ultimately put an end to the causes of Anthropogenic Global Warming - they have developed a process that produces replicable evidence of Cold Fusion.

Cold fusion experimentally confirmed
Neutron tracks revive hopes for cold fusion
After 20 years: New life for cold fusion?

Although some claim that it cannot be proven to be the result of fusion, these experiments produce heat, gamma rays, helium, and neutrons, but no radioactive waste. If it ain't Cold Fusion, it's close enough. If this proves out, and can be usefully upscaled, it will mean the end of the energy crisis, oil wars, man made global warming, and your Exxon stocks. Buy palladium futures now.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sorry about destroying the world

Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

Yes, I read that letter several days ago. I felt a lot of sympathy for Jake DeSantis and his many coworkers who have borne the brunt of outrage from the public over their company's role in destroying the world. Clearly most of them bear no blame for the Credit Default Swap and Derivatives gambling at the center of the fiasco.

But there was something that kept bringing me back to his letter, even though he said all the right things and comported himself honorably ... something bothered me.

And I think I am getting closer to nailing it down ... there is, behind the heartfelt concern and aggrieved forthrightness a sense of - entitlement.

This is a guy who made great sacrifices - apparently foregoing a 7 figure salary (for a year!) in exchange for a promised million plus bonus ... ummm ... yeah ... but the undercurrent is of course he deserved more money.

He was entitled to those great sums for the important work he did while destroying the world - keeping in mind that he personally was not responsible for the really bad stuff (even though the division that he was the EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT of WAS responsible ...)

I applaud his promise to donate his after tax bonus of 750 thousand dollars to those hurt by his company's work at destroying the world. He is by all accounts a good man, personally generous and well liked. But still, there is something about his fully justified whining that just feels a bit unworthy ... it must just be my own failing to properly appreciate that those who are our betters are entitled to their sense of ... entitlement.

Another view