Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sour mood

47 million Americans lack health insurance, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute.

The number of Americans lacking health insurance rose by nearly 8.6 million to 47 million from 2000 to 2006, with children and workers from every income level losing coverage, a new report said on Thursday.
The increase was "driven primarily by the continued erosion in employer-provided health insurance," said the report by the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute.
In 2006, 2.3 million fewer Americans received health benefits from their employers than in 2000, the report said, noting the decline does not take the population increase into account.
Nearly 60 percent of the nation's children are covered by the insurance provided by their parents' employers, but 3.4 million fewer children had benefits in 2006 compared with 2000.
"Public health insurance is no longer offsetting these losses," said the report by the nonpartisan think-tank.

Is it any wonder that people are so unhappy today? Pretty much since Bush took office, the national mood has been in a downward spiral. Why? The war, for one. It was supposed to last six months. You know, a cake walk, rose petals thrown at our feet, etc. All bullshit.
The surplus that Clinton left us? The promise of finally starting to chip away at our national debt that has been spiraling out of countrol since the Reagan years? All gone. Instead, we are spending hundreds of billions every year on the Iraqi boondoggle while Republicans, at the same time, insist that we can’t afford comparatively tiny increases in domestic spending back home.
It does not compute. You can’t continue to support spending hundreds of billions in Iraq year after never-ending year, while telling us that we can’t afford to fix problems at home and expect the nation’s mood to do anything but bottom out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Life is a Rock

I had this song on a Ronco record collection when I was a kid and I nearly had the lyrics memorized (or at least what I thought were the lyrics). Now someone has put together a custom video for the song that is truly hilarious.

Fox in the hen house

Here is a story that spells out more clearly than any other I’ve read in a while what is really wrong with the Bush administration and the core of the Republican Party today:

The nation’s top official for consumer product safety has asked Congress in recent days to reject legislation intended to strengthen the agency, which polices thousands of consumer goods, from toys to tools.

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

The measure is an effort to buttress an agency that has been under siege because of a raft of tainted and dangerous products manufactured both domestically and abroad. In the last two months alone, more than 13 million toys have been recalled after tests indicated lead levels that sometimes reached almost 200 times the safety limit.

Ms. Nord’s opposition to important elements of the legislation is consistent with the broadly deregulatory approach of the Bush administration over the last seven years. In a variety of areas, from antitrust to trucking and worker safety, officials appointed by President Bush have sought to reduce the role of regulation and government in the marketplace.

Republicans are not interested in practicing good government. Their ideology precludes it, so rather than using the government to protect the interests of the people as it is supposed to do, they shut it down and attempt to undermine it at every point. Bush has filled our government with these kinds of ideological cronies such as Mrs. Nord who are looking out for the best interests of their former and probably future employers and not the interests of the people.
It is truly despicable.

Gurwitz hearts Rudy

Jonathan Gurwitz has a throwaway column today, which is fine and to be expected every once in awhile. He spends the better part of it quoting humorous comments from Stephen Colbert.
But he closes off the piece with a paen to his favorite presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. He is overly excited about the following quote, as if it offers some kind of refreshing directness and steadfastness not found in the statements of other candidates. Here is the quote:

"If I come out here and I take a poll and I try to figure out what you all believe, and then I just repeat to you what you all believe, then I'm a follower. I may be a good actor if I do it well, but I'm a follower.

"What you're entitled to from me is what I really believe, the sum total of my intellect, my experience, my education, my conscience, my heart, my mind. And then you have a right to agree with that, disagree with it, partially agree, partially disagree and then figure out if I'm the right person for you to support.

"But for me to twist myself all up to try to figure out exactly what you want to hear and today say one thing and the next day another thing and a year from now — if you do that too long, you lose the sense of what leadership is all about."

That’s fine and all, but he didn’t really say anything there, now did he? It’s not like he was clarifying or defending any of his social positions that conservatives might have concerns with. He just talked around them. But that somehow makes him less of a tailor and straddler, according to his fawning fan Mr. Gurwitz.

15 Laterals

I don't think the Marx Brothers could have come up with a game-ending play this crazy...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Modern Jacobinism

I nearly missed reading this op-ed in the Sunday NYTimes. It draws some rather sharp distinctions between the Bush/Cheney/Rove wing of the Republican Party today with the Jacobins who ruled France in the wake of the French Revolution.

The Jacobins shared a defining ideological feature. They divided the world between pro- and anti-Revolutionaries — the defenders of liberty versus its enemies. The French Revolution, as they understood it, was the great event that would determine whether liberty was to prevail on the planet or whether the world would fall back into tyranny and despotism.
The stakes could not be higher, and on these matters there could be no nuance or hesitation. One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny.
Confronted by a monarchical Europe united in opposition to revolutionary France — old Europe, they might have called it — the Jacobins rooted out domestic political dissent. It was the beginning of the period that would become infamous as the Terror.

Among the Jacobins’ greatest triumphs was their ability to appropriate the rhetoric of patriotism — Le Patriote Fran├žais was the title of Brissot’s newspaper — and to promote their political program through a tightly coordinated network of newspapers, political hacks, pamphleteers and political clubs.

Even the Jacobins’ dress distinguished “true patriots”: those who wore badges of patriotism like the liberty cap on their heads, or the cocarde tricolore (a red, white and blue rosette) on their hats or even on their lapels.

Insisting that their partisan views were identical to the national will, believing that only they could save France from apocalyptic destruction, Jacobins could not conceive of legitimate dissent. Political opponents were treasonous, stabbing France and the Revolution in the back.

To defend the nation from its enemies, Jacobins expanded the government’s police powers at the expense of civil liberties, endowing the state with the power to detain, interrogate and imprison suspects without due process. Policies like the mass warrantless searches undertaken in 1792 — “domicilary visits,” they were called — were justified, according to Georges Danton, the Jacobin leader, “when the homeland is in danger.”
If the French Terror had a slogan, it was that attributed to the great orator Louis de Saint-Just: “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” Saint-Just’s pithy phrase (like President Bush’s variant, “We must not let foreign enemies use the forums of liberty to destroy liberty itself”) could serve as the very antithesis of the Western liberal tradition.

On this principle, the Terror demonized its political opponents, imprisoned suspected enemies without trial and eventually sent thousands to the guillotine. All of these actions emerged from the Jacobin worldview that the enemies of liberty deserved no rights.

No End In Sight

I’d love to see this movie at some point.

E-N diverts blame for SCHIP failure

The San Antonio Express-News has another editorial out today that is a piece of work.
It trys to make the case that the blame for Congress’ failure to pass an SCHIP extension should fall equally on both Republicans and Democrats.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans support this legislation that a small minority of rightwing Republicans have been blocking. Democrats have already made many compromises in the legislation resulting in thousands of children being excluded from the program because their parents make too much money or because they are LEGAL immigrants. How many more children does the Express-News want to see kicked off of the program before they will concede that the Democrats have compromised enough?
When you read the editorial, they spend 90 percent of it talking about how Republicans have failed to compromise. And yet the headline of the piece is “Both sides to blame for SCHIP gridlock”. What do they chide Democrats about? Not rescheduling the vote because a few Republican congressmen were going to miss it. Would rescheduling the vote have made any difference? Would these Republicans have come back and changed their votes if the Democrats had put it off longer? Not likely. It made no difference ultimately because they were still short the votes necessary to override Bush’s promised second veto. But this slim reed of criticism was good enough for the editorial board to lay blame equally on both sides. They have to be “fair and balanced” after all.
What is really going on here is that while the editorial board nominally supports SCHIP, they are at heart a partisan Republican outfit that endorses Republican candidates almost exclusively across the board. So they are trying to bend over backwards to shield Republicans from the public’s justifiable anger on this issue and divert it unfairly onto the other side.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Importance of Social Security

Via Kevin Drum, I found this informative article on Social Security that is worth a careful read:

Social Security has never been more important to more Americans than it is now. Private pension plans continue to dwindle -- currently covering only about 20 percent of private-sector employees -- and the national rate of savings hovers around zero. We just can't afford to cut Social Security benefits further. There's no way to make up for the loss.

Social Security benefits are vital to nearly all recipients. About a third of the elderly rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income; two-thirds count on it to supply at least half of their income. The program lifts 13 million elderly beneficiaries above poverty.

Without Social Security, 55 percent of the disabled -- and a million children -- would live in poverty. The program is particularly important to women and minorities. It provides 90 percent or more of the incomes of almost half of all unmarried women age 65 and older (including those who are widowed, are divorced or never married), and it is the sole source of income for 40 percent of elderly African Americans and Hispanic Americans.

Social Security is the nation's most effective anti-poverty program. But it's much more than that. For every worker it provides a solid base on which to try to build an adequate level of retirement income. To weaken that foundation would be grossly irresponsible.

Grossly irresponsible! That’s the Republican Party’s mantra these days. It’s George W.’s middle name. The radical right can’t tolerate effective government programs that do what they are supposed to do! It undermines their entire anti-government philosophy! That is why they want it privatized. Not that they think it will work better that way. They don’t really care one way or the other about that. They just can’t stand having it continue as a successful government program.