Sunday, February 28, 2010
Some liberals are pushing to end the longtime practice...of channeling American aid through faith-based organizations. That change would be a catastrophe. In Haiti, more than half of food distributions go through religious groups like World Vision that have indispensable networks on the ground. We mustn’t make Haitians the casualties in our cultural wars.
A root problem is a liberal snobbishness toward faith-based organizations. Those doing the sneering typically give away far less money than evangelicals. They’re also less likely to spend vacations volunteering at, say, a school or a clinic in Rwanda.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
(1) Tort reform (which most experts estimate would account for about a one percent saving in health care costs);
(2) Allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines (which would result in a "race to the bottom"); or
(3) Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to essentially do away with Medicare altogether. (Just imagine your aging parents without access to health care. Scary.)
I have a suggestion for the Republicans. Just simplify your position to four words that could fit easily on a bumper sticker: Let Them Eat Cake.
It's also more honest.
(Chris Cillizza's, also in the Washington Post, is good, but strictly for political junkies.)
Friday, February 26, 2010
It was a few minutes after 7 o’clock in the morning, Dec. 7, 1941. Lt. Kermit Tyler, an Army fighter pilot, was manning the aircraft tracking center at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, near the vast Pearl Harbor naval base, when he received a phone call from a nearby radar station. Two Army privates watching the screen reported picking up a large group of approaching planes.
Lt. Tyler's response?
“Don’t worry about it.”
Not only are more and more people losing their coverage when losing their jobs, but more and more private companies are dropping insurance for their employees. If reform doesn't pass, look for this trend to accelerate.
And that's why I don't think health care reform will ever die, even if the current bill fails. The American health care system is just too dysfunctional to continue.
Over the next few days (and perhaps weeks, but no more), the nation's columnists, editorial page writers, and television commentators will weigh in. If the summit changed any of their minds we'll know very shortly. And if so, they could move public opinion just far enough to give the House Democrats cover to pass the Senate bill. Then it would be up to the Senate to pass the bill through reconciliation and present it to the president for his signature. Although reconciliation will be messy, the heavy lift here will be in passing the bill through the House. Yesterday, George Stephanopolous said that the bill did not have the votes in that chamber. We should know very shortly whether they can be found or not.
Again, keep your eye on Intrade.com.
Brown is seeking to persuade voters his Labour government has the best policies to cement the recovery. The Conservatives’ poll lead has narrowed to as little as six percentage points as ministers argue that David Cameron’s plan to cut spending this year risks plunging the economy into a “double-dip” recession.
While Brown has until June to hold the election, Labour Party documents point to a vote to coincide with local authority polls on May 6 -- less than two weeks after the statistics office publishes its preliminary estimate of first-quarter GDP.
Keep an eye on what happens in Britain this spring. It could provide clues to our own elections this fall. If Brown and Labor do better than expected, it could auger well for the Democrats.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
In the next few days, the media will act as a filter and mold public opinion. If it breaks in favor of reform, the bill will pass. If not, the congressional Democrats will cave.
I'll be watching Intrade.com for clues.
The Wall Street Journal has a splashy piece this evening on the White House's plan B for health-care reform: a fallback approach that would cover 15 million people, do less to reform the system and cut costs, and carry a lower price tag. Call it health-care lite.
There's only one problem with this. As my beloved 90-year-old mother used to say, "It's baloney sausage." Klein calls it:
A vestigial document that's being blown out of proportion by a conservative paper interested in an agenda-setting story.
So instead of reporting the news, the Journal is trying to shape the news in the Rupert Murdoch style we've all become accustomed to with Fox News.
Oh, and the reason I didn't link to that Journal article is that I can't find it now. I wonder if they pulled it after Klein's post.
And that's why I've switched my home page from the Journal to Bloomberg.
Sixteen of the 22 “reconciliation bills” that have made it through Congress were passed in the Senate when Republicans had majorities. Among them were the signature tax cuts of President George W. Bush, the 1996 overhaul of the welfare system, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage insurance policies and the Cobra program allowing people who leave a job to pay to keep the health coverage their employer provided (the “R” and “A” in Cobra stand for “reconciliation act”).
“Is there something wrong with ‘majority rules’?” Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, once said of the reconciliation process when his party controlled the Senate. “I don’t think so.”
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I don't care what anybody says; the "department store mannequin" (as Bill Maher calls him) is a non-starter. Romney ran in 2008 with all the money in the world and an open field and couldn't get to first base. You see, Mitt Romney has one glaring problem as a candidate: he can't get people to vote for him. Write him off.
Keep your eye on Newt Gingrich instead.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
As usual, most of it revolved around food. My mother never skimped on meals and that hasn't changed; she even served cake and ice cream for dessert on Friday and Saturday nights.
Is it somebody's birthday around here or something?
Oh, and if you want to see two 90-year-olds move really fast, just offer to take them out for a corned beef sandwich. (They almost ran me over on the way to getting their hats and coats!) You would have thought I was taking two kids to see the circus...
Postings were light today because I was in full Paul Krugman mode. After reading an article about him in the latest New Yorker, I went to the library and picked up some of his books. I'm about a third of the way through The Conscience of a Liberal. It's really good.
I'll get back on the straight and narrow tomorrow. Hope you're all enjoying my song selections.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Eric Zorn, writing in the Chicago Tribune today, sheds some light on the problem:
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last month found that 58 percent of respondents either didn’t know or were unaware that the bills now in Congress would prohibit insurance companies from setting lifetime caps on coverage.
Fifty-seven percent didn’t know the bills would require insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of what they take in on health care; 56 percent didn’t know the bills would shrink the “doughnut hole” in Medicare drug benefits.
In all, nine of the 21 listed proposals scored higher than 50 percent in the “didn’t know” category. Other scores were surprisingly high: For example, 39 percent didn’t know the bills would prohibit insurance companies from charging higher premiums based on a person’s existing condition or medical history.
A Pew Research Center poll, also released last month, found six in 10 Americans didn’t know that people with existing medical conditions would have an easier time getting coverage under the proposals in Congress. Among self-identified opponents of the bill, seven in 10 didn’t know. And only 15 percent of all respondents knew that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that, if passed, the bills will decrease the federal deficit (by $100 billion) over the next 10 years.
It makes me wonder, what do people believe are in the bills?
Thursday, February 18, 2010
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I don‘t feel that the Senate or Congress in general is working as well as it should. I think it‘s in desperate need of reform. I think you‘ve got a lot of good people trapped in a dysfunctional system right now. And with regard to the left-wing bloggers, you know, I believe in the 1st Amendment. They‘ve got a right to criticize me. Sometimes it gets a little personal. You know, you‘re only human, you don‘t like that. But you know, you‘ve got to accept that in our society, so I do.
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Breaux, he took a shot at the left-wing bloggers, as he calls them. And the question is, is that part of the difficulty of being a U.S. senator, you get hit from your extremes, from the liberal side, the left, and the right, if you try to work a deal in the center?
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you say to the J.D. Hayworths on the right who are to there beating the heck out of John McCain and the Katrina Vanden Heuvels over on the left who are raising hell about the Democrats like you, Senator, or anybody that might go to the middle? I want to start with you, Mr. Cohen. What do you say to your extremes when they get all the noise on TV? They got nothing to lose. I guess that‘s one thing you can say, that you‘ve got nothing to lose!
COHEN: What‘s wrong is no one is willing to take tough decisions. It used to be, when Senator Breaux and I were in the Congress, that in the Senate, you could be a statesman for four years and then go run for reelection the last two (my emphasis). Now it‘s running every moment, raising money, out on the road. And what we‘re seeing is the polarization taking place and no decisions being made because they‘re too tough.
To which I say, Boo-hoo! You have to run for reelection for six years now. So--stop! Serve for six years in the best way you know how and then step down if you have to. Why is it more important for a guy like John McCain to get reelected to the Senate than it is for him to stand up to a thug like J. D. Hayworth? McCain is forever talking about honor and courage and blah, blah, blah. Why doesn't he show some himself and just vote his conscience?
The [Republicans] want insurers to be able to cluster in one state, follow that state's regulations and sell the product to everyone in the country. In practice, that means we will have a single national insurance standard. But that standard will be decided by South Dakota. Or, if South Dakota doesn't give the insurers the freedom they want, it'll be decided by Wyoming. Or whoever.
This is exactly what happened in the credit card industry, which is regulated in accordance with conservative wishes. In 1980, Bill Janklow, the governor of South Dakota, made a deal with Citibank: If Citibank would move its credit card business to South Dakota, the governor would literally let Citibank write South Dakota's credit card regulations. You can read Janklow's recollections of the pact here.
Citibank wrote an absurdly pro-credit card law, the legislature passed it, and soon all the credit card companies were heading to South Dakota. And that's exactly what would happen with health-care insurance. The industry would put its money into buying the legislature of a small, conservative, economically depressed state. The deal would be simple: Let us write the regulations and we'll bring thousands of jobs and lots of tax dollars to you. Someone will take it. The result will be an uncommonly tiny legislature in an uncommonly small state that answers to an uncommonly conservative electorate that will decide what insurance will look like for the rest of the nation.
Dan Kennedy, who follows new-media journalism, says Connecticut is a particularly vibrant example of how entrepreneurial online journalists are filling a lot of the holes left by the decline of newspapers.
A longtime Connecticut journalist, Paul Bass, has become one of the most watched exemplars of scrappy, low-budget, high-impact local journalism — based on reporting, not attitude and opinion — through his New Haven Independent and Valley Independent Sentinel in the Naugatuck Valley.
“If your beat is the funeral parlor, you just think people are dying,” he said. “If you step outside, you see just as many people are being born. We’re returning to an era when we get news from more than one source again, human beings, rather than one monopoly newspaper sending out as few people as possible so it can make as much money as possible. It’s a new golden age.”
And bloggers will be at the forefront of it all.
Nicholas Kristof, in the Times today, asks a similar question, "Do We Really Want the Status Quo on Health Care?":
The United States Public Interest Research Group calculated last year that without reform, insurance premiums for those with employer-provided health care would nearly double by 2016.
(That amount would be coming out of your paycheck--if your employer still offers insurance. Rising health insurance premiums was the main reason incomes were flat in the aughts.)
Also last month, the Urban Institute applied its computer model of health insurance costs to a scenario in which there is no reform, and this is what it found:
“Over the next decade in every state, the percent of the population that is uninsured will increase, employer-sponsored coverage will continue to erode, spending on public programs will balloon, and individual and family out-of-pocket costs could increase by more than 35 percent,” it said. It added that the number of uninsured Americans could reach as many as 65 million in another decade.
Just this morning, The Wall Street Journal (the print version of Fox News), had a story, "Factories Gear Up to Hire":
Manufacturers are seeing more signs that the U.S. economic recovery is on a solid footing, opening the way for new hiring as well as call-backs for factory workers laid off during the depths of the recession.
What? Jobs coming back? That's not supposed to be happening yet! This would be a nightmare for the GOP. Their whole "Party of No" strategy has been based on the expectation that the economy would not recover and jobs would not return in time for the mid-terms.
What else would Republicans run on in November? Foreign policy and national security have been taken off the table. Culture Wars? Settled. The only thing the Republicans have been successful at harping on is the deficit (which they helped to create) and jobs (without a better idea of how to create them). But now, if this story is true (and The Journal has always been a reliable fade) it could take the gun right out of Republicans' hands. Make no mistake, unemployment is expected to remain high for years, but if the rate can be seen as moving down between now and November, it could remove the most potent issue for the GOP going into the mid-terms.
Don't be too surprised if the Democrats retain control of both the House and the Senate.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
He started cutting hair when Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. He was 12.
The people at the Guinness Book of World Records who concern themselves with such things have proclaimed Mr. Mancinelli, who turns 99 on March 2, the world’s oldest barber.
“He might be pushing 100,” [one customer] said, “but he still gives the best shaves around.”
Is that safe?
After dusting off Mr. Jaffe’s neck with a brush full of talcum powder, Mr. Mancinelli seated another man, and in a voice just loud enough to be heard over a Filippo Valli song playing on the radio, began telling him how old-school barbers like himself “were once like doctors.”
“I used to have a bottle of leeches on my counter, and I would put them on people’s skin to drain blood,” he said, not noticing that half a dozen men waiting for him and three other barbers were hanging on his every word. “In those days, while giving a haircut, I would put a leech over a black eye to bring down the swelling, or on the arm of someone who had high blood pressure because the thinking was their pressure might drop.”
...it is critical that we learn from the financial crisis and put in place reforms to avert a repeat of 2008 or something even worse.
Congress must pass financial regulatory reform. Delays are creating uncertainty, undermining the ability of financial institutions to increase lending to the businesses of all sizes that want to invest and fuel our recovery. Our overriding goal in restructuring our financial architecture should be that taxpayers never again have to save a failing financial institution.
He finishes up by saying:
...we must not lose our sense of urgency, or the political courage to make the necessary reforms to ensure our long-term prosperity.
After watching the health care debate over the last year, is there really any hope that Congress can pass meaningful financial regulatory reform? Already, Wall Street is encouraging Harold Ford to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand for the Democratic nomination for the U. S. Senate from New York.
If you think the health care industry is powerful, wait until you see the financial industry!
Also, I'd love to ask all of these retired white people, do you realize that you are getting more from the federal government in Social Security and Medicare than you ever put in?
Monday, February 15, 2010
THE TOP TEN (In order of release)
1. Revolver by the Beatles
2. If I could Only Remember My Name by David Crosby
3. The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
4. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
5. The Nightfly by Donald Fagen
6. Thriller by Michael Jackson
7. Graceland by Paul Simon
8. Achtung Baby by U2
9. (What's the story) Morning Glory by Oasis
10. Supernatural by Carlos Santana
A week ago, the Pope condemned the abuse of children by members of the clergy.
Whatever happened to the Sermon on the Mount?
All throughout the campaign of 2008 and up until last summer, health care reform polled well. Only after its opponents began to demonize it did its numbers begin to slip. And after the town hall meetings in August, it became clear that reform would be an extremely heavy lift. Congressmen and senators just don't like to vote against the will of their constituents. As any self-respecting Chicago mobster would tell you, "It's bad for bizness."
So Thursday is the last chance for the proponents of reform. President Obama will try to make the Republicans look as if they have no ideas and are obstructionist. If successful, he may persuade the congressional Democrats to pass a bill. And that's why it would be political suicide for the GOP to boycott the meeting. Empty chairs do not make for good optics.
The Republicans, on the other hand, will try to portray their opponents as attempting to shove an unpopular bill down the throats of the American people. They will try to come off as bargaining in good faith while the Democrats are hopelessly out of touch with the public.
So who will win the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people? The bill is unpopular with the public right now, but so are the Republicans. Can Obama--once again--snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? If so, America may get a bill. If not, health care reform will be dead for another generation.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
A Failure of Capitalism is especially good for the layperson, as it is written in easy-to-understand English.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The Times has an obit of General Frederick Weyand today (all emphasis mine):
Frederick C. Weyand, who served as the commander of American forces in Vietnam in the final year of the war, a duty he carried out despite having become convinced as early as 1967 that the war was a hopeless venture, died on Wednesday at his home in Honolulu. He was 93.
At a cocktail party in Saigon in 1967, General Weyand, speaking of [General William C. Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam] had told Murray Fromson, a CBS news correspondent: “Westy just doesn’t get it. The war is unwinnable. We’ve reached a stalemate, and we should find a dignified way out.”
In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Fromson said: “He was very candid, and a very decent guy. A lot of the generals felt that way, but he was willing to sit down and talk about it.”
This was in 1967, a year before the Democratic convention in Chicago, two years before Woodstock, and three years before the shootings at Kent State, in which four students were killed.
Play catch — Invent Games
To Fly, Flip Away Backhanded
Flat Flip Flies Straight
Tilted Flip Curves — Experiment!
Friday, February 12, 2010
So who's Debra Medina and why should anyone care? According to Politico:
A pistol-packing nurse and home-schooler with close ties to Ron Paul is emerging as a wild card who is reordering the dynamics of the March 2 Texas Republican primary for governor.
Powered by tea party support, Debra Medina’s rapid climb is raising the prospect that the three-way GOP primary that includes Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will be decided by an April runoff.
Medina, who has crafted her grass-roots campaign around a sweeping plan to repeal property taxes and an expansion of gun rights, gained significant attention and traction after her colorful appearances alongside Perry and Hutchison in two recent televised debates.
According to the Dallas Morning News:
Debra Medina's campaign for Texas governor tumbled, and spent Thursday trying to right itself, after the Republican iconoclast didn't immediately dismiss a fringe theory that the Bush administration played a role in the 9/11 attacks.
Medina was speaking on Glenn Beck's nationally broadcast radio program when the host asked her if she believed the American government had any involvement in the destruction of the World Trade Center.
"I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard," she replied. "There's some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I've not taken a position."
I used to be a fan of Ayn Rand and read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, as well as other fiction and non-fiction by Rand. I like novels and I like talking about philosophy. But I live in the real world.
Apparently Ryan does, too. When the economy was in crisis, he voted for the bank bailout and the auto bailout. That's reassuring.
This would certainly help meet his goal of balancing the federal budget.
But wouldn't this be like me balancing my household budget by not buying any more of that pesky food at the grocery store?
Anyone can balance the budget by ending Medicare and Social Security. That's simple math. The difficulty is in balancing the budget while maintaining a reasonable safety net.
...penned the equivalent of an obstruction manual -- a how-to for holding up health care reform -- and distributed the document to his Republican colleagues.
Yesterday morning on CNBC Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said he is now willing to work with Democrats on a bipartisan jobs bill. Say what?
And an article in the Times this morning says:
Key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a rare bipartisan agreement on Thursday on steps to spur job creation.
What is going on here? Did I wake up in Bizarro World? Or is the public finally tiring of the Republican Party's strategy of obstructionism?
On the front page of the Times this morning, another article is titled, "Poll Finds Edge for Obama Over G. O. P. Among the Public." Aha!
At a time of deepening political disaffection and intensified distress about the economy, President Obama enjoys an edge over Republicans in the battle for public support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
They credit Mr. Obama more than Republicans with making an effort at bipartisanship...
For all the erosion in support for Mr. Obama, Americans say he better understands their needs and problems and has made more of an effort to be bipartisan than Congressional Republicans, the poll found.
“It feels like an attempt to sabotage the majority and to regain control of power rather than working on a compromise,” John Smith, a Republican from Greenville, S.C., said of his party after participating in the poll.
Americans appear hungry for an end to partisan infighting in Washington, so much so that half of respondents said the Senate should change the filibuster rules that Republicans have used to block Mr. Obama’s agenda. Almost 60 percent said both Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans should compromise in the interest of consensus.
But Mr. Obama is seen as making more of an effort to do that: 62 percent said Mr. Obama was trying to work with Congressional Republicans, while the same percentage said that Republicans were not trying to work with Mr. Obama.
“Obama is certainly trying,” said Bonnie Ewasiuk, 60, of Woodbridge, Va. “I’m a Republican so I don’t like to go against the party, but Obama has reached out and had meetings and I don’t think the Republicans are going to be responsive. All you see from them is negativity.”
You don't suppose the Republicans read the polls, do you?
(All emphasis mine.)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I have a theory about Bill Clinton: his philandering worked in his favor politically, especially with a demographic chunk that usually shies away from liberalism: American working guys. It made him more accessible. Here was a fellow who got it on with faded lounge singers and then celebrated with a Double Quarter Pounder and fries at the local McDonald's. If that ain't pickup-truck nirvana, what is?
I couldn't disagree with Klein more. In fact, I think that was exactly Clinton's problem with white males: he was an average-looking guy who cheated on his wife and got away with it--and every other guy in America was jealous.
If I have to play by the rules, so does Bubba--especially Bubba. What makes him so special? He's no better than me!
And that was one of the main reasons white males went along with the impeachment. No, Virginia, it wasn't about his lying under oath; it was about sex after all.
(It was really all about getting Bill Clinton, but that's the subject of another post.)
...a radical plan to balance the federal budget by slashing the sacred cows of American entitlement spending: Social Security and Medicare.
Most developed countries have a generous safety net. Germany, for example, has had universal health care for over a hundred years. Why can't the United States do that?"I'm a limited-government, free-enterprise guy, but TARP... represented a moment where we had no good options and we were about to fall into a deflationary spiral."
But isn't TARP prima facie evidence that government must step in from time to time to correct the failings of the free-market system? Wasn't TARP essentially a refutation of the laissez-faire approach that Ryan and so many other Republicans have? If TARP was truly necessary, as Ryan contends, than can't other government measures be justified to correct imperfections with the free-market system?
In regard to the political climate in America, the tea party movement, and the failure to pass health care reform:
CHARLIE ROSE: How much of this has to do with a sense that Washington and power in America is elitist and does not either represent or listen to me?
DAVID BROOKS: I think it's likely.
The first thing to remember is we had this period of trust in government '32 to '64. That was the exceptional period in American history. It was because of Franklin Roosevelt and because World War II. People had trust. But for all the rest of American history, there has been this strong current of distrust.
It's magnified, I think, by a lot of things. It started with Watergate, Vietnam, and all of that. But then I do think we have become a class society to this degree that people in Washington -- including myself and maybe the viewers of this program -- are predominantly coastal, highly educated, and we live in a different world.
And it's not traditional sort of liberal academic elites. I don't think that's what it is. It is, in this country until 1964 college educated and non-college educated families were basically the same. The divorce rates were the same, volunteering was the same, voting patterns were the same.
That began to divide. And now you have this chasm in lifestyle. So people in the college educated class have half the divorce rates of people in the high school educated class, vote twice as often, volunteer twice as often, and most importantly have a much higher degree of social trust.
Do you trust the institutions of society? People in my class have a relatively high level of trust. People with high school degrees or some college -- which is the vast majority -- do not have that level of trust and they do not think those people get it.
So if you have this climate of opinion in the country and you get the whole country really concerned about economics and you talk to them for nine months about health care, they're going, whoa, what is that about?
And then if you -- if it at a moment of economic insecurity you add what you might call political insecurity with the whole raft of changes, they're going, whoa, what are you doing here?
DAVID BROOKS: People feel trustful and are willing to take a risk what the wind's at their backs, when they're feeling comfortable and security. It's basic attachment. There is a child psychology.
CHARLIE ROSE: When they're hurting they don't feel trust.
DAVID BROOKS: No, pull in. Why are you adding more insecurity in my life?
Brooks next tackles Paul Ryan's budget proposal and health care plan:
DAVID BROOKS: And everybody in Washington on both parties now bows down do that context with the exception of a guy named Paul Ryan, who's a Wisconsin Republican, who proposed a budget which would really be balanced. Whether it's a political seller is a crucial question because it basically cashes out Medicare, gives people a check which will not cover their health care costs, but that's reality.
I've looked at Ryan's health care plan and, as far as I can tell, it would balance the federal budget by essentially privatizing Medicare. That's all well and good, but it seems to me that the upshot would be that the elderly would eventually be priced out of health care. What private insurance company would write a policy for a 70-year-old? So the elderly--excepting the very rich--wouldn't have access to health care. Is that really how we want to balance the budget? Brooks doesn't think so. (Phew!)
CHARLIE ROSE: What mistakes can the Republicans make?
DAVID BROOKS: By seeing the public revulsion as a ratification of a libertarian economic philosophy. People are against Washington therefore they want a libertarian view of government. Well, we actually tried that. Gingrich tried that, Delay -- not so much Delay, but Gingrich tried that. And Paul Ryan, who's a very respectable and I think a very admirable member of Congress, what he is essentially proposing is very intellectually honest but is essentially voucher government. It's government would give you a voucher for health care.
CHARLIE ROSE: Give you a voucher? You buy your own health care. You make the choices.
DAVID BROOKS: Right. And that's an intellectually coherent and honest position. I do not think that's where the country is. I do not think the country has lost a sense of common security and common cause. I don't think they're in that more libertarian spot. And so I think the Republican would make a mistake of over-interpreting the protest as an ideological shift, which I don't think it is.
CHARLIE ROSE: Turning the corner here -- science, the brain, which we're doing a series on, which we've completed. What is it that's drawn you this subject? For all of your -- from the wide spectrum of your interest, there have been three or four columns about the brain. What is it you're coming to, what is it you're discovering, and what's worth --
DAVID BROOKS: Nonetheless, they don't solve philosophical problems. They don't give you a new philosophy of life. But they do confirm or validate some old philosophies.
If you thought that emotion was not separate from reason, that we were all fundamentally emotional creatures, then this confirms that, the importance of emotion. And so few if you felt we were fundamentally social creatures, then this confirms that, because we get dopamine surges when we have social conferences.
If you thought we were utilitarian, purely rational individualists, then this disconfirms all that. So it confirms certain -- it settles certain philosophical arguments, or at least biases you in one direction. And I found that just tremendously useful.
...Australian employers added the most workers in more than three years in January, the fifth straight monthly increase, according to the statistics bureau in Sydney.
“People are more optimistic for the time being and a bit happier the way the world is panning out,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage $1.1 billion at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne. The employment data “exceeded expectations.”
The Australian dollar gained 1.5 percent to 88.84 U.S. cents and the yield on Australia’s benchmark 10-year note increased six basis points to 5.51 percent after the statistics bureau said the country added 52,700 workers in January, three times as many jobs as economists forecast.
There was “a big boost for the Aussie” from the labor force number, said Amber Rabinov, an economist in Melbourne at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “The numbers put more emphasis behind the feeling that the unemployment rate has peaked and we’re now seeing it steadily head lower.”
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The mainstream media hates the Tea Party movement almost as much as it hates Sarah Palin, and the reason is simple. That's because both are a threat. Palin is a threat down the road, whether it be in 2012 or beyond. The Tea Party is a threat because it is galvanizing Republicans.
The mainstream media disputes this, of course, but I think Sammon has a point. And what's more, I hope he's right; I hope the mainstream media disapproves of the tea party movement and Sarah Palin. The former is a coalition of ignorant cranks, and the latter may not even be qualified to be governor of Alaska, much less president of the United States.
As the economy recovers, both should fade back into the woodwork.
...It is this kind of news, and this kind of expectation, that inspired us — 68- and 67-year-olds whose only previous civic involvement was fighting a local housing initiative 35 years ago — to go to our first tea party meeting in March 2009 near our home in Worcester County, Mass. We went out of senses of patriotism and duty to defend our Constitution.
But we also went out of anger. Anger that our three grandchildren would be faced with the impossible task of turning back government-controlled health care, unthinkable deficits and tax rates approaching 60 percent. We love them too much to leave them that kind of fight.
I'd love to ask this couple (and my 81-year-old neighbor) if they would be willing--for the Tea Party Cause--to give up their "government-controlled health care" (Medicare) and their Social Security benefits. It sure would go a long way to taming those "unthinkable deficits" and those "tax rates approaching 60 percent."
I'm sure the Andersons wouldn't have any trouble finding an insurance company to write them an affordable policy at their age. (You don't have any pre-existing conditions, do you?) And I'm also sure they must feel really guilty receiving more in Social Security benefits than they originally paid into the fund. If they didn't have those pesky Social Security checks to cash every month they could just have their three grandchildren support them directly without all that fuss of going through the federal government.
So how angry are you, Rob and Joy Anderson?
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
From Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic:
"If the primaries were this year, I suspect she'd be nominated," a senior adviser to one of Sarah Palin's potential rivals confides.
And therein lies the problem for the GOP. Although Palin invoked Ronald Reagan's name at least three times (by my count), she didn't resemble him in the least. On the contrary, the Gipper was a sunny optimist who could win over Democrats and independents. I can't imagine anyone other than her most loyal supporters being attracted by this speech.
This could be a train wreck in the making.
Cathy Young, a contributing editor at Reason, the libertarian publication, has an article on Rand today. I figured it would be an admiring piece, but I was wrong. It's actually quite good. One of the parts that struck a chord with me was:
In pure form, Rand's philosophy would work very well if human beings were never helpless and dependent on others through no fault of their own. Unsurprisingly, many people become infatuated with her philosophy as teenagers only to leave it behind when concerns of family, children, and aging make that fantasy seem more and more implausible.
I've often wondered if having children would have softened Rand's outlook on the world.
Is it really necessary for the pope to say that? Shouldn't that just be understood?
...you don't gain an advantage if you give the other side a major accomplishment and then tell the American people they really did a good job reaching out to you and your colleagues. That's the equivalent of saying to your employer, "Don't give me a promotion, and in fact, think hard about whether you might want to lay me off next year."
...As I've said before, it is very near to impossible to build out an ideological model explaining why Republicans who voted for the deficit-financed Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit would vote against the deficit-neutral health-care reform bill. But it's very easy to build out a model explaining why Republicans would vote for a bill that would help them if it passed and against a bill that would hurt them if it failed...Good-faith disagreement is not the explanation that best fits the data.
...If we're going to give the minority party a reason to want the majority party to fail at governing the country, we can't also give them the power to make the majority party fail at governing the country.
Monday, February 8, 2010
I still think Palin's chances of winning the GOP nomination in 2012 are about fifty/fifty, but the chance of her winning the general election is practically nil. In fact, it would be a bloodbath for her and the rest of the Republicans, on the order of Barry Goldwater.
The GOP establishment knows this, and they have to be sweating.
“It would be absurd to not consider what it is that I can potentially do to help our country.”
“I won’t close the door that perhaps could be open for me in the future.”
Who constructs a sentence like that?
Sunday, February 7, 2010
One of Professor Block’s studies drew particular notice in the news media. Published in The Journal of Research in Personality in 2006, it found that subjects who at 3 years old had seemed thin-skinned, rigid, inhibited and vulnerable tended at 23 to be political conservatives. On the other hand, 3-year-olds characterized as self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating and resilient were inclined to become liberals.
Pundits’ responses to the study ranged from enthusiastic approval to caustic dismissal, depending on the politics of the critic.
I wonder what Professor Block would say about a 23-year-old conservative who grew up to be a 51-year-old progressive.
Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge...
Geoffrey, not Jeffrey.
...was born in 1925 in Chipping Norton in England,
Chipping Norton? Is that the name of a town? Sounds like something you eat.
...in the Cotswolds hills halfway between Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon.
In Merrie Olde England!
...His father, Leslie, was a builder. His mother, Evelyn, was a milliner.
Or was his father named Evelyn and his mother, Leslie? No matter.
...He was an only child and the first of his family to progress beyond grammar school.
The first in his family to progress beyond grammar school gets a PhD in theoretical physics?
There will always be an England!
Two months of Senate negotiations over legislation to rewrite financial regulations — a top priority of the Obama administration — fell apart on Friday amid wrangling over a proposal to create a consumer financial protection agency that would oversee credit cards, mortgages and other products.
The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, said that Democrats would forge ahead with their own proposal, in the absence of Republican support. That could result in a bitter partisan fight resembling the struggle over health care — an outcome that Mr. Dodd has said for months he would try to avoid.
After watching the health care debacle for the last year, is there any reason to be optimistic that the Senate can pass a financial reform bill?
“I have severe athlete’s foot — feet. I get a foot scrub out of respect for my wife because getting into bed with what I have when I take my socks off isn’t respectful to anybody.”
He said he and his brothers were not spoiled growing up. “My grandmother beat the [expletive] out of us with an electric cord,” he said.
"I’m a heterosexual. I don’t know what anyone can say to me to make me sexually be with a man.”
Stop! If we promise to vote for you, will you shut up?
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Friday, February 5, 2010
The White House has suggested that it would like Obama to address the Senate GOP Conference, with TV cameras present.
Good idea, you say? It seems that the Republicans see it a little differently:
"They don't want anything to do with it," said a GOP insider. "They want the whole thing to just go away."
Barring a political miracle, we're going to learn the cost of doing nothing—nothing significant to restrain health-care cost increases, nothing to prod the health-care system to produce more benefit for each dollar it takes, nothing to expand health-insurance coverage.
This, too, will be ugly and unpopular.
"Failure to enact health reform will result in increasing numbers of people without health insurance because fewer employers will offer it and many employees will not be able to pay the cost of plans that are available," predicts Stephen Zuckerman, a health economist at Washington's Urban Institute think tank.
"For people not offered employer coverage, many will not be able to get coverage due to pre-existing conditions that insurers won't cover or because premiums simply won't be affordable. Even people with coverage will find costs becoming a greater financial burden," he said.
And all of us—employers, workers and taxpayers—will spend ever more on health care.
The numbers are so large they're hard to grasp. The U.S. health-care tab in 2009 was $2.5 trillion, equal to 17.3% of the nation's gross domestic product, the sum of all its output, much bigger than 2008's 16.2% because the recession depressed GDP. The economy will grow again, of course, but health-care costs will rise even faster. In a new forecast, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services predict that without some big change, health care will amount to 19.3% of GDP by 2019.
Last spring, the Urban Institute ran the do-nothing outcome through its computers, and offered three scenarios. In the best case, the number of uninsured rises to 57 million, or 20.1% of the population, from 49.1 million, or 18.4%, in 2009, most of them middle-income adults. More employers drop coverage as it grows more costly. The fraction of Americans on the government's Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program, now at 16.5%, would rise sharply to between 16.5% and 18.3%—and that's without the much-derided "public option."
All this will swell an already large budget deficit. The "fiscal course that we're on, out in 2020 and 2030 and 2040, is unsustainable and it needs to be addressed," White House budget director Peter Orszag said this week. "If we don't address rising health-care costs, there's nothing else that we're going to be able to do that will alter that basic fact," he said.
This year, Medicare and Medicaid will cost nearly $725 billion, about 50% more than Congress appropriates for all domestic agencies from the National Park Service to K-12 school aid. In 2014, the cost is projected at $950 billion. Gulp!
If nothing changes, employers who still offer health insurance will pay more for it, and will pay lower wages as a result.
In the Urban Institute's best case, employer premiums per worker will rise 64% over the next decade. In the worst case? They more than double. Gulp!
...one of college and professional football’s most dynamic running backs in the 1940s and early 1950s despite a small frame and a lack of speed.
Small, but slow. Funny, that's how people used to describe me.
Known as Bullet Bill, he was hardly speedy. In a sprint contest before an all-star game, he ranked 15th among 16 running backs. But in the game, he ran back a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
Dudley also served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1966 to 1974.
Ted Morrison, a fellow delegate, once said of Dudley: “He was direct, unvarnished. Diplomacy was not what he was paid to do.”
Hmmm. Small, slow, and hard to get along with. Remind you of anyone?
In addition to his fluency in German, he had a means of persuading them to reveal vital information.
“We used to tell the prisoners that we had two internment camps, one in Florida and the other in Siberia,” Professor Trefousse told the Brooklyn College alumni magazine last year. “I would hang a sign around the neck of a prisoner that said ‘Russia’ and send him out into the yard. He would ask a guard what the sign meant. Nine times out of 10 the prisoner came right back in and told us everything we wanted to know.”
I wonder if Dick Cheney ever thought of that.
Cohen, a pawnbroker and owner of a cleaning supplies company,
...shocked the political establishment by beating four state lawmakers to nab the Democratic nomination with 26 percent of the vote. Illinois voters choose the nominees for governor and lieutenant governor separately -- so although [Illinois Governor Pat] Quinn and Cohen didn't campaign together, they now make up the Democratic ticket.
Lieutenant governor? Who cares?
There was little media coverage or public scrutiny of the candidates for a job that carries little political power but is just a heartbeat — or an impeachment — away from being the state's chief executive. Even his opponents never made a large issue of it.
The current governor, Pat Quinn, assumed the office after the impeachment of his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich. All right, so what?
[Quinn] is now trying to dump a running mate who has been accused of abusing women, failing to pay child support and spending lavishly on extramarital affairs.
The [Chicago] Tribune reported Wednesday that police and court records from an October 2005 incident show that Cohen's then-girlfriend alleged he put a knife to her throat and pushed her head against a wall. Public records show that the woman, his 24-year-old girlfriend at the time, pleaded guilty to prostitution that same month.
Cohen said Thursday he didn't know the woman was a prostitute and met her when he got a "straight massage" at the Eden Spa.
How was he supposed to know she was a prostitute?But a Glenview police report indicates his ex-girlfriend freely told an undercover officer posing as a massage customer that women there performed sex acts for money. The April 2005 report detailed a sexual act that Cohen's ex-girlfriend performed for $150, then told the undercover officer that the spa operator "is well-aware of what the girls are doing."
Glenview? Did I read that right?
Cohen said on Thursday he has no intention of leaving the race.
In fact, he has his own take on the situation:
"My honesty and integrity in putting it out there is the best thing that could happen to the party," Cohen told the Tribune.
I couldn't agree more.
His ex-wife, Debra York-Cohen, appeared with him Thursday as part of a media blitz aimed at repairing his image. York-Cohen said she stood by allegations she made during the couple's divorce, but that Cohen's bad behavior took place when he was using steroids.
Steroids? Who said anything about steroids?
"Although I may have taken steroids and or performance enhancing drugs in the past I have not utilized any of these drugs in the last two weeks."
Oh well, as long as you haven't taken any drugs in the last two weeks...
But new disclosures showed that even as Cohen was spending more than $2 million of his own money to run TV and radio ads for his campaign, his ex-wife in December was accusing him in court of being $54,000 behind in child support payments. Cohen and his ex-wife declined to discuss the ongoing case.
"Everybody makes mistakes, and that's what happened to me," Cohen said. "It has no bearing on me leading the people of Illinois."
Makes sense to me.
Cohen maintained that his candidacy is "a strength for the party."
Of course it is.
"I'm the guy that's going to help the governor to come up with these creative ways to bring in revenue," he said.
This should be interesting...