Weekend Update 11-03-2012

Posted: November 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 11-03-2012

This election is indeed about Medicaid and the lives of millions of people. If you’re even going to pretend to be “pro-life” you can’t ignore it. And count my oldest daughter among those who might even be alive today because of Medicaid. She had pneumonia as an infant and it was because we were covered by Medicaid (as young teen parents) that we were able to get her prompt treatment. Would she have died in other circumstance? That’s impossible to say, of course. But many people do each year. Medicaid is, literally, a lifesaver. And, as Krugman points out, it’s the private sector insurance industry that has runaway administrative, premium, and service costs. Across the board, the government programs have drastically lower administrative costs and do a much better job of containing service costs. The assertion that, at least in this arena, the private sector is more efficient, is simply an ideologically driven myth completely unsupported by the facts.

I should write something on the utterly absurd notion dominating the right that government can’t create jobs — that government jobs are somehow not “real” jobs or a substantial agent in our economy. But in the meantime, Krugman does a good job of exposing it for the flat-earth thinking that it is.

‘But are we ready to become a country in which “Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it” becomes a winning political argument?‘ Indeed, it seems absurd to reward blackmail and, in a political sense, terrorism. The GOP has already demonstrated it’s perfectly willing to point the economic gun at this country’s head and I don’t see any sign that they aren’t willing to pull that trigger.


Weekend Update 10-27-2012

Posted: October 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 10-27-2012

Spent the week at ARIN XXX. Didn’t do much bloggy sort of reading. A few tidbits.

I loved the Foundation Trilogy. (And the Robot novels. And End of Eternity. And so on and so on.) So it’s no surprise I enjoyed Krugman’s foreword to a new printing of it.

Think of the 45 million Americans who either will or won’t receive health care based on who wins on November 6. And since it’s my kids who you will be throwing under the bus, I’ll be happy to kick you in the nuts if you make the wrong choice.

Romney. 100% wrong on the 47% Enjoy Jay Smooth’s take.

 


Weekend Update 10-20-2012

Posted: October 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 10-20-2012

I was struck by one thing about Krugman’s post on reasons his perspective on an issue might change over time — that he had to write it at all. Just in the normal course of life, our views, perspectives, and understandings evolve and change over time in response to experience. In fact, if it didn’t, we would tend to consider that a form of mental illness. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Death by Ideology. Yes. Romney’s and Ryan’s plan for health care in America involves killing tens of thousands of people a year in order to give tax cuts to a handful of the wealthiest Americans. And these are the people and the agenda for whom “pro-life” Americans are supposed to vote? Seriously?

IBM ignores the law on H1-B visas. No real surprise in the US today. Of course, this is the vision for America of Romney specifically and the GOP in general. Strangely, a lot of people they fully intend to screw will vote for them. Is it a manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome?

Mitt’s “small business start-up” line referencing Bain Capital is so utterly absurd it amazes me that anyone can listen to him spout it with a straight face.

Ah, reminiscent of the days when bosses would take employees from the company town to the polls to vote under direct threat about how to vote. Is there any doubt what sort of America Romney seeks to recreate?

Arthur Brooks created a stir with his claim in 2006 that conservatives were more generous in their giving than liberals. Finally, his assertions and data have been examined to see if they hold up. The results? Not so much. I ran into this post first. But I strongly recommend people read the actual paper. There were a number of other interesting results in it, not least the impact partisanship has on giving. A study like this can’t really examine motives, nor can it determine how much of the “charitable giving” actually benefits those in need. But conservative giving is more likely to go toward religious causes, especially to their own congregation. That sort of giving is more subject to social pressure. (I do find it interesting that Utah was the conservative outlier, which might suggest that the LDS church remains better able to exert that sort of pressure.) More of that giving also falls into the category of “intangible religious benefit” rather than direct aid to those in need. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if liberals in the US were more likely to give charitably to the “arts” which also offer “intangible” benefits. Of course, I was also struck by the uniformly low levels of charitable giving as a percentage of income in the US. Jesus was right. Wealth tends to have a negative effect on us.

The Romney jobs plan? When you sort through the lies, Krugman seems to nail it. “To summarize, then, the true Romney plan is to create an economic boom through the sheer power of Mr. Romney’s personal awesomeness.

 


Weekend Update 10-13-2012

Posted: October 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 10-13-2012

My older son was born on Saturday, October 13th, 1984 during the end of the Texas-OU game. (It was a tie that year.) I remember this clearly because the anesthesiologists were playing tag team bringing in updates on the score. Such is the way of things in Texas. This year the 13th again falls on a Saturday and once again the Red River rivalry is on full display. (Hook’em!) Happy birthday son. I love you.

Pflugerville ISD is extending insurance benefits to domestic partners. Somewhat surprisingly it appears we’re the first school district in Texas to do so. My youngest is currently a sophomore at PHS and she’s the fourth child we’ve raised in this district. It’s an excellent school district and I’m proud of them for taking the lead on this. Employees currently pay the premiums for their family members, and that continues in this expanded policy. It just provides a mechanism for domestic partners to purchase health insurance. Of course, this is Texas and we all know Jesus is against extending health insurance coverage to the wrong sorts of people. It will be framed (actually I’ve already heard it so framed) as an “attack on traditional marriage.” It’s hard to tell what definition people have in mind, but last I checked we already provide such benefits to divorced and remarried couples, so I think that ship has long since sailed. And the same people who rail against this also tend to rant against a government provided single payer health insurance system (basically Medicare for everyone) which would obviate the need for policies like this. Heck, they are even against the much more limited “Obamacare” reform, which essentially implements the Republican proposals from the last thirty years. In our reality, this is a perfectly reasonable action and it extends the number of people who have meaningful access to our healthcare system. Hopefully more school districts across the state will follow PISD’s lead.

What’s the source of the projected budget deficits? A number of factors are involved, but moving forward the primary contributor is the Bush era tax cuts.

Voucher denial indeed. Apparently this Orwellian newspeak approach actually works among the GOP true believers. Go figure. But the principle of “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” applies, though in this case it’s more “sh*t stinks, whatever you call it.”


Weekend Update 10-06-2012

Posted: October 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 10-06-2012

Brad Delong on the Ryan tape (which hasn’t received nearly as much attention). No real surprises. We all knew that about the man and it falls perfectly in line with the Romney video. Basically the GOP wants to continue to rip apart pretty much everything that built us into a strong and prosperous country in the 20th century.

Gotta love the bald-faced dishonesty of a man like Ryan. This column dissects one of his latest statements. It would “take him too long to go through all the math” about his plan because, quite simply, what he proposes is arithmetically impossible. But details like that are unimportant to a flimflam man.

Given that there’s not a chance in hell I will ever vote for RomneyRyan, I’m pretty uninterested in the debates and have no plans to watch any of them. But Robert Reich’s comments are interesting. Am I surprised Romney lied convincingly? Perhaps by the ‘convincingly’ part, but lying is official GOP policy these days. The more outlandish, the better. So no, I’m not surprised. Just business as usual. As Romney’s sick joke illustrates. Also read the full column version.

I am a Rock. In some ways my childhood and my life.


Weekend Update 09-29-2012

Posted: September 29th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-29-2012

How the Scriptures become Scripture. Yep. The Apostles did not leave behind a clear canon of texts. They left a Church into which they had poured their lives. And it was that Church which preserved and eventually canonized their surviving writings.

I hope Robert Reich is right, but I’m not certain. I think there’s a significant swath of our country that really is that racist and will otherwise vote for people who want to do things to them that are contrary to their own self-interest. Their hate and other irrational forces override even that basic element. In order for people to vote and make a decisions from a perspective of rational self-interest (which I consider a vastly lower threshold than a perspective of love) they have to be able to perceive reality as something close to what it actually is. And I’m not seeing that in our country today.

Mitt Romney — the confidence fairy!

Jay Smooth on the tale of the two tapes — Romney’s and Obama’s from four years ago. Yep, they do tell very different stories as they reveal the character of the two men.

And what’s the polite way to say we think Mitt’s a bit weird?


Weekend Update 09-22-2012

Posted: September 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-22-2012

Deification (theosis) is also self-emptying (kenosis) for there is no other kind of life revealed to us in Christ. The fullness of life in Christ is found in His emptiness. Fr. Stephen again. Also be sure to read his post, Hiding and the Hidden God.

The secret video of remarks by Romney at a fundraiser didn’t really reveal anything new to anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention. The grotesque meme that half our country consists of grifters and deadbeats has been circulating on the right for quite some time now. But perhaps having it exposed in such a public manner will finally begin to purify the putrid mess. This is the true face of the modern GOP. And the meme if completely wrong, of course. Yes, at this particular moment in time, about half our country does not pay any federal income tax. I’ve discussed this particular bit of lying with statistics in the past, but Mark Thoma does an excellent job of stepping through all the facts, not just a select few. Those not paying income tax right now are overwhelmingly students and the elderly. And those are groups who either will pay federal income tax in the future or who have paid them over the course of their lives. Most of the rest of the current bump is a direct result of the Great Recession itself. When you’re out of a job or have dropped into the bottom quintile by taking a job with much lower pay, you don’t tend to pay income tax. Moreover, federal income tax is just one tax out of many and is designed to be the least regressive. Federal payroll taxes are paid by everyone with wage income. State and local taxes and fees are paid by everyone. And consumption taxes like sales, gasoline, and excise taxes tend to be a much larger share of the tax burden on the poor. I will also point out that since our country now has the least class mobility of any industrialized nation, if you’re born poor, the odds are you will remain poor your entire life. As a friend of mine pointed out at work, we actually have a model of “supply-side economics” taken to its logical extreme. It was called feudalism. Krugman has a few words as well.

An excerpt from Romney’s speech receiving less attention than others — his 95% comment. The article explores just how extraordinarily out of touch Ann and Mitt Romney are from the reality of living in this country. They actually seem to believe their own delusional statements. As a teen parent in one of the poorest counties in our country, and with parents who, at least at that time, didn’t have much either, I certainly relied on the fragments of our porous safety net to keep from plunging even lower than we did. (And we’re talking not always having electricity or running water or enough food version of near bottom. Fortunately, at the worst, we did always have family who had homes, so actual homelessness was never an imminent danger.) I got lucky. Simple as that. Sure, I’ve worked hard. And I’m pretty intelligent. But mostly? Pure luck. I live in a country that is overall wealthy (though the gap has grown substantially since those days). I’m a white male from a family that is highly educated, even if they haven’t always had money. And all of that matters. And then at a number of key points in my life, I was simply in the right place at the right time and got a chance to show what I could do. Mitt succeeded on his own? If he had been born into a barely literate, dirt poor family in the Ozarks that would be a believable story. As it is? Not so much. But apparently he and his wife believe it.

An excellent article exploring the question of whether or not Romney can get a majority.

Of course the three-tier health care LaVonne Neff proposes would work. So would many others. And all better than what we do now.


Weekend Update 09-15-2012

Posted: September 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-15-2012

Once again, the facts fail to support GOP ideology. This time it’s their predilection to blame the poor for being poor that’s not supported by any evidence. Not that I believe facts or evidence will make any more difference here than they have anywhere else. Sigh.

So it sounds like at least some Republicans (Rand Paul in this case) actually believe in the fantasy world they inhabit and are shocked when thinks like facts, this time on the plummeting levels of government employment under President Obama, contradict their delusions. Of course, I tend to believe that people who can’t tell fact from fantasy are poor candidates for actually governing our country. Unfortunately, it seems to many of our citizens prefer fantasy to reality and elect leaders who reflect their fantasies back to them. And there’s apparently a video of Rand Paul’s reaction if anyone wants to see it.

Yes, Romney thinks we’re stupid. It’s an open question at this point whether or not he’s right — or at least right about enough voting Americans to win the election.

Obstruct and Exploit. Yep. If we reward people who refuse to actually govern, then we will entrench that behavior.

The federal government is an insurance company with an army. Yep. A pretty accurate description. I happen to work for the billing/accounts receivable bit of that government, but overall? Yep, that’s about it.

Here’s a shocker. The Census Bureau reports the income gap between the top fifth of Americans and the rest of the country grew sharply in 2011.

The iPhone Stimulus. The magical belief that a dollar spent in our economy by the government is somehow different in nature than a dollar spent by a business or individual is one of the stranger ones out there.

The Truth About Dishonesty.


Weekend Update 09-08-2012

Posted: September 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-08-2012

DecodeDC. It’s a project by ex-NPR reporter Andrea Seabrook drawing on her years of frustration trying to cover politics in Washington.

Rosie Ruiz Republicans. Again, I can’t really think of anything to add.

The Luck of the Draw. “Spirituality consists in how you deal with what you’ve been dealt.” People who learn something of my life are often shocked by my experiences. Heck, even my own wife is sometimes surprised and doesn’t really understand how I’m as sane as I am. Like most people, I can’t really imagine a life other than the one I’ve had. But I suppose it has strayed from what most people would consider a “normal” life. Yet it is fundamentally my life. And anything I can call spirituality necessarily operates within its context. So this post by Fr. Stephen resonates deeply with me.

Read to the bottom of the post. It was good to see someone else mention Nixon’s health care reform proposal. Yes, the ACA is essentially Romney’s health reform plan implemented at the national level. And yes, Romney’s plan was the natural extension of the Republican 1993 health reform bill. And yes, that bill in turn developed from the work of conservative politicians and think tanks in the 80s. But before all of that, the roots of the entire constellation of the GOP health care reform proposals over the past four decades (until Obama had the unmitigated gall to agree with them in 2009) can be found in Nixon’s proposal. It failed because of Democratic opposition. Senator Ted Kennedy and most Democrats wanted essentially Medicare for everyone. (I still think that was and is the superior solution, but at this point that’s water under the bridge.) Some of my early childhood memories include Watergate on TV. I remember going to see All the President’s Men with my mother when I was ten or eleven. It’s somewhat strange that we would wax nostalgic for a president like Tricky Dick today. But it does help illustrate how utterly insane the current version of the GOP has become.

The metaphor of a house fire is a good one in this instance. It’s better, at least, than much of the claptrap that passes for journalism today.

I haven’t watched the video of President Clinton’s speech, but I did want to highlight a line from the text — one that reflects something I’ve said repeatedly. “People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets.  What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.” The math involved is not even particularly difficult. The GOP has become brazen in its lies and magical thinking. It’s time for them to pay the price. If you reward people for lying, they will continue to lie to you.

Cleaning up the Economy. Yup. We’ve needed and still need more debt relief, more capital infusion to stop the shedding of government jobs at the state and local level which has formed the real drag on our economy (each such job lost has multiplying ripple effects in an already weak economy), and similar measures, but we have cleared the worst and are on the right track.

Linus Torvalds delivers a smackdown like no other. A collection of some of his better ones. Read and enjoy!

I don’t watch the party conventions. I don’t listen to much political speech. I prefer to get the proposals and policies and dig into them. And I may skim the printed version of a major speech. But I heard so much buzz about Michelle Obama’s speech, I decided to check it out for myself. All I can say is, damn. She was good. See for yourself.

Ryan a Catholic? Perhaps. But not a very good one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Nzy5TuwcLc

And that intrigued me. So I found Sister Simone’s “Nuns on the Bus” kick-off. Paul Ryan ticked her off when he claimed his budget reflected Catholic social doctrine. In some way, I think I’m Christian in no small part because of the influence nuns have had on my life at different junctures. And not a one of them ever cared that I wasn’t Catholic — or maybe even Christian — when I encountered them.

And this was the final stop of the Nuns on the Bus.

And then I discovered Sr. Simone had been on The Colbert Report. Enjoy!

The Colbert Report
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Weekend Update 09-01-2012

Posted: September 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-01-2012

The Romney Lying Machine. Nothing surprising. And it’s hardly just Romney. The entire GOP lies. Constantly. Blatantly. Egregiously. And they mostly get away with it. The days of newspeak are upon us.

Saving Serious Ryan. Since most people won’t read the report and, as far as I can tell, apparently can’t handle basic mathematics, gaming the system “works.

Galt, Gold, and God. Personally, I think all the arrogant, pretentious GOP “leaders” like Ryan desperately need a “Trading Places” experience. Strip them of wealth, reputation, connections, and every other support system, throw them out on the streets, and then see what they think of America’s social safety net. I doubt any of them would do as well as Dan Akroyd did. They have eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear.

Voucherizing Medicare. It’s really a matter of whether or not the American people are as collectively stupid as the GOP obviously believes we are. Guess we’ll see.

Republicans: We Won’t Build That. I can’t even think of a comment to add. It’s sad, really.

LaVonne Neff looks at four countries that already meet the Republican Party’s stated “goals” for a health care system (since they still lack anything that could even loosely be called a plan). Of course, pretty much every developed nation except the US already manages to provide quality, cost-effective health care to all its citizens, so it’s not very difficult to find examples. And her reference at the end of this post is priceless. And deadly accurate.

RomneyRyanomics: A Bad Deal for the Working Class. As he notes in the article, their economic plan basically involves slashing the programs on which the middle class depends and raising middle class taxes in order to pay for massive tax cuts to the wealthy. I find it hard to believe that’s actually what most Americans want, but then people rarely act in rational ways. And when we do, it’s often not actually because it’s rational. We’re much better at rationalizing a decision, which is not the same thing at all.

Krugman on the five themes expressed during the RNC. They all share a common element. Not that I bother watching political conventions either.

Robert Reich isn’t even covering Macroeconomics 101 in this post. His points are so basic that those who don’t already know them simply have no idea how an economy functions. Now I wouldn’t put people like Romney in that category. I imagine he does understand. He just doesn’t care. His goal seems to be to win power so he can further enrich himself and his peers while reducing or eliminating any financial obligation they still have to the country and society that provided the framework and support that allowed them to acquire that wealth in the first place.

Medicare Killers. Yep. Basically, they are doubling down on their belief that the American public is too stupid to tell their *ss from a hole in the ground. Sadly, they might be right.

Gluten and MSG “hidden” in foods.

I’m still enjoying “Now, I’m the One’s That’s Cool!” Truth be told, my childhood and high school experience was more … complicated … than the stereotype. RPG player and gamemaster. Beat Space Invaders when that cost quarters. (And anyone remember the Mattel handheld football game) Straight A student who competed in things like math contests. Actor. Football player. Tended to flirt. Teen parent. And things I don’t write about. I had a foot in a lot of different worlds, but didn’t wholly belong to any. In a lot of ways, that’s still true.