Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Best Article on The Three Lies

Normally I read Mighty God King for the snarky comics commentary and the ever-growing research on how Betty Cooper is insane.  But this weekend a guest commentator posted this great reminder about how and why politicians lie so often:
...But the point still stands, and has in fact stood throughout all of human history. There are certain lies that will always work in politics, no matter how often they’re used, no matter how often they’re debunked, and frequently, even if both the speaker and the listener know they’re lies. Because they’re seductive. They’re things we want to believe are true, and so we let ourselves go along with them because the truth is nasty and unpleasant and the lie is warm and comfortable. There has always been an audience for these lies, and there always will be. The three lies are:
1. It’s somebody else’s fault.
2. There are easy answers.
3. You shouldn’t have to pay for it.
We've seen a lot of those three lies during the recent years-long ruckus over the Democrats' Health Care Reform efforts.  We've seen them nearly every time there's an election year, although in the past ten years or so given the full-campaign-mode politics now operates by we're basically seeing them 24/7.
Each of those lies are easy and seductive.  Isn't it pretty to think that it IS somebody else's fault your work pays you nothing, that your kids aren't learning, that your roads are bumpy and your latte less foamy?  Simplistic, three-word banner-worthy explanations go into the brain so much quicker than a 50-page treatise (wait, you need to know what that word means, right?) that may be more factual but can be soooooo dull.  And this is America: nobody (mostly the upper class... and the middle class... for the poorer class it isn't a question of not wanting, they just honestly can't afford it) wants to pay (screw taxes!) for anything (what do you mean more money means better lattes?) ever.
And so politicians lie.  It's Not Your Fault: BLAME SOCIALISTS.  Hey y'all, I'm one of you so VOTE FOR ME and git er dunn!  And let's CUT THOSE TAXES 'cause that will fix the deficits and force them ebil governments to cut poor people's welfare benefits!
The one thing that guest commentator Seavey doesn't mention, however, is that for all this lying the politicians are NEVER held accountable for it all.  True story.  Every election year these guys head back home as incumbents and for all the anti-incumbent mood the national voters are in, we voters keep sending them back!  After all "It's all them OTHER elected officials who keep lying to ya!  Trust your own dawg, people!"
THIS is why I push for that amendment idea that spells out:
  • Lying is NOT protected speech;
  • Any elected or government employee caught lying in some form or another (there are different types of lying) will get suspended without pay pending investigation.  If it's proven the person knowingly made a false statement (such as having foreknowledge of actual data or evidence and saying otherwise), they get removed from their job and banned for life from federal employment AND acting as a lobbyist or petitioner to any branch of federal government.
It'd be nice if we ever get to see an amendment like that even get through Congress: I doubt it, as everyone in government is gonna HATE being forced to tell the truth.  PS: there will be an exception made for National Security purposes, of course, but I'd make damn sure what gets listed as National Security gets to be a VERY SMALL list (energy policy is NOT a security concern!).  PSS: If an elected official doesn't WANT to say the truth, he/she could always say "I'm unable to answer that question at this time."  Well, it WOULD be truthful.  PSSS: Anything along the lines of "I don't recall" however should be construed as lying, or else be viewed as brain damage, especially if the idiot says "I don't recall" over 70 times during testimony.
Ahem.  That's a lot of postscripts for a paragraph, I know.
Yes, there is lying in government.  And Yes, these lies are making it harder and harder to get anything fixed in this nation.  So YES, we need to make it punishable to lie.  It's gotta happen, and the sooner the better.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Have I Added Frum and Friedersdorf to My Links Over On The Side?

I've been trying this year - an unwritten new year's resolution - to get my dad weaned off of Glenn Beck and onto more, well, coherent conservative commentators.  Like Marc Ambinder on the Atlantic or even David FrumConor Friedersdorf was recommended to me by people on Ambinder's site.  Sadly, dad's not much of a blog follower and I don't have the parental locks for his FiOS channels to block FOX Not-News.

Still and all, I keep up with them, and for what won't be my last entry about the whole Health Care Reform headache, I found this by Frum about how the Far Right in the Republican leadership (Sen. DeMint's phrasing) declared this would be Obama's Waterloo (bold highlights are mine, some clippage of the original post may occur):

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.
It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:
(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.
(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.
So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:
A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.
At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.
Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. (NOTE: People seem to forget Perot pulled a lot of votes away from Bush the Elder.  Clinton didn't have a true mandate in 1993, although he did well enough in the 1996 election to earn a second term.  Only a GOP-held Congress by then blocked Clinton from re-attempting any left-leaning programs).  The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.
This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.
Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.
...No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November (NOTE: unlikely.  Democrats would have to lose more than 55 House seats, when you consider incumbents have a huge advantage even in anti-incumbent public moods.  That's not even considering how the Senate will shake out this midterm), how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? (Answer: none)  How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? (Answer: that would definitely bring on rioters)  How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage?  (Answer: depends on how the parents are getting along with their slacker kids)  And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal? (Answer: surprisingly yes.  But only after he pulls off that rubber mask and reveal he's a lizard alien from Reticula Beta.)

...There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible... I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.
So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

So What's It All About Then, This... Health Care Reform You Seek?

Well, the shouting ain't over but the stress on my psyche probably is.

So what exactly are we gonna get out of this Health Care bill just passed?

Here's a link to Politifact about what's NOT in the HCR package: Top 5 Lies About Health Care.

Another link to Politifact about what will happen through this HCR package: Top 10 Facts To Know...

That Top 10 list goes like this (cut and pasted from the Politifact article by Angie Holan, with following comments by me, so the list is accurate but the comments aren't, please do note this. heh):

1. The plan is not a government takeover of health care like in Canada or Britain.  This isn't Single Payer.  For all the yelling and screaming about bureaucrats making medical decisions, the truth is the insurance companies and the hospitals/doctors will still be the go-to people for paying and managing health care.
2. Insurance companies will be regulated more heavily Although not every aspect of the insurance industry will be regulated, some caps and restraints on what companies can do will be put in place... by 2014.  While it seems painful that it can take 4 years for this to take effect, there may yet be ongoing efforts between now and then to gradually phase the companies into the new restrictions and guidelines.
3. Everyone will have to have health insurance or pay a fine, a requirement known as the individual mandate. This is the mandate that seems to be causing most of the dissatisfaction with people: it will force people either to pay into an HMO of some kind or else pay fines to the government, without regard if the person can actually afford to do either.  The Public Option proposal - where the government provides a low-cost alternative people could afford - was meant to counter this, but said Public Option ("ZOMG Government Takeover" by the Far Right, "ZOMG Health Insurers Will Dump the Sick and Poor Into It" by the Far Moderate) was too much a sticking point to pass (this time). 
4. Employers will not be required to buy insurance for their employees, but large employers may be subject to fines if they don't provide insurance.  Part of the problem with rising health care costs was how companies - especially the larger firms - couldn't keep up with said costs and were dropping out of HMO plans.  Given the size of the company - over 50 employees - said company is going to have to get health care coverage.  How will the companies afford them?  Tax credits, I believe.  Another option not in this current program but one that could help would be more competition: most states are dominated by one health care company, which means monopolistic (profit at all cost) practices.  Give companies more cost-effective choices and you'll see more businesses able to afford the HMOs.
5. The vast majority of people will not see significant declines in premiums.  Premiums (what you pay out of pocket) won't change for most currently insured.  People in self-paid PPOs might even see their rates go up in the short-term.  What will happen is that the rate of increase for said premiums will ease off: instead of 5 percent to 30 percent rate increases, people will see 1 to 3 percent.
6. The plan might or might not bend the curve on health spending.  Via Holan: "The most recent estimate of the plan, released Thursday by the CBO, said that it would spend $940 billion over 10 years. But new taxes, penalties and cost savings would offset that spending, according to the CBO, so that overall the plan pay for itself, dropping the deficit by slightly $138 billion over 10 years. Obama has said the plan will save more than $1 trillion in the second 10 years, but that estimate, according to the CBO, is highly speculative."  Via me: there are still other aspects of health care spending - promoting more competition with more HMO choices for one - that could go a long way to reduce the costs that were threatening to overwhelm everything.
7. The government-run Medicare program will keep paying medical bills for seniors, but it will begin implementing cost controls on health care providers, mostly through penalties and incentives. There's been evidence for years that Medicare was rife with abuse and waste, adding to the costs.  Hopefully the right things - waste, double billing, other sinful deeds - will get cut as the reforms get implemented.
8. Medicaid, a joint federal-state program for the poor, will cover all of the poor, instead of just a few groups the way it currently does.  This might be as close to government-run health care as we'll get.
9. The government won't pay for elective abortions. But the conservatives are still screaming about "baby killers" because of this new health care bill.  For the Love of Ceiling Cat, you wingnuts, not everything should be viewed through that pro-life prism of yours!  Can you consider the slight possibility that now because health care is accessible to all - especially the poor - that expectant mothers can afford to keep their fetuses and raise healthy children?
10. No one is proposing new benefits for illegal immigrants.  That's true: your fruits and vegetables are still going to get picked and packaged by illegals working sick and sneezing on everything.  ENJOY!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Keep Humming "The Final Countdown"

After years, after months, after so many God-Help-Us moments, it might be over.

We might get a half-baked Health Care Reform bill by the end of tonight.

Yes, the bill won't be perfect.  It's not going to be like any of the other universal health care programs other capitalist nations provide.  But it's a start, it has a few saving graces to it, and other things to make health care better can get added to it later once the Far Right b-llsh-t gets proven wrong.

And maybe now we can get Obama and the Congress to focus on what really matters: GETTING ME A JOB DAMMIT!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just To Note, This Happened Too

While the media and the political Beltway bubble obsess over the final stages of the Health Care Reform effort, this happened:

President Obama signed a jobs bill into law on Thursday, but declared that the measure, which is intended to spur employment by providing businesses incentives to hire new workers, “is by no means enough.”

Of course it's not enough.  I'm still without a full-time job over here.

The bill itself is pretty meager:

The bill gives employers an exemption from payroll taxes through the end of 2010 on workers they hire who have been unemployed for at least 60 days. It also extends the federal highway construction program, shifts $20 billion to road and bridge building and allows small businesses to accelerate the depreciation on investments they make in equipment, by allowing them to write off purchases of up to $250,000 right away.
But while Mr. Obama began the year vowing to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs,” he and the Congressional Democratic leadership have taken a largely incremental approach. Some economists have said the measure Mr. Obama signed will have only a modest impact on unemployment, and Democrats are already planning to follow it up with legislation that would extend more than $30 billion in corporate tax breaks and aid to small businesses.

As you can see, the bill focuses more on construction jobs - which I will admit had been hit hard by the Recession and which does fit into Obama's Stimulus programs - and on providing businesses tax credits to hire people currently unemployed.  But I really don't see anything here that helps where I work.  There's nothing here for library growth or retention - in fact states are still looking at cutting funding for libraries.  There's nothing here directly in technology and computer jobs for my computer skills.

The other problem is that the $15-20 billion in the bill isn't all that much.  Seriously, at the federal level that's kinda cheap.  Considering that having 9.7 percent of the employable population is officially out of work - equal to about what, 27 million Americans? - I would think that any... Actually I don't consider anything much past my own nose right about now when it comes to getting employed.  It's been more than 14 months now that I've been unable to find anything full-time that would hire me, that I could justify as a good hire...  I know I'm being selfish, but there's gotta be a lot of guys and gals just like me - college-educated, struggling, white-collar or office-trained - in the same boat and in no position to go for these 'shovel ready' jobs.  Where's the 'clipboard ready' jobs, eh?

The only two options I'm facing right now are 1) running a write-in campaign for the US Senate or 2) Sending my resume to every CEO job on Wall Street so I can get some of that awesome BONUS moneys.  So what if I lack an MBA?  Those company boards are more clueless than I am when it comes to Economics 101 (hint: Buy Low.  Sell High.  I could write a book on that!...).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Side Note: Making an eBook

I bit the bullet a week ago and ordered the POD service XLibris to make my short story collection Last of the Grapefruit Wars available in eBook format.

There's a few eBook devices out there - Kindle, Sony eReader, Nook - and the publisher has already converted it in Kindle and Sony format (not sure what format Nook uses).

I'm not sure how soon Grapefruit Wars will be available on the market in ebook format and I'm checking every day when it will, but for those of you with an eBook reader... BUY MY BOOK!  BUY IT!  I NEED THE STAT COUNT!  FIVE THOUSAND BUYERS AND I GET A NEW TOASTER OR A BOOK DEAL OR SOMETHING!  Ahem...

Sorry.  Being unemployed and desperate for ANYTHING in terms of income kinda does push the Panic Mode button for me.  I'd be a little more proactive with advertising and all, but with the POD (Print On Demand) system you have to pay for your advertising, and I just don't have the budget for that.  I barely had enough to justify the cost of ebook conversion... but I figure as electronic publishing becomes the norm this is a good investment for now.

Oh, and one more thing.  BUY MY BOOK!  BUY IT!!!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

It's Just The Mood I'm In

I'd love to post more often.
There tends to be a lot of things going on in the political scene that I'd love to comment on.
Part of the problem is that most of the time, other people (especially the ones I've got linked to the side here) say things exactly the way I'm thinking, so repeating them gets to feel redundant.
Part of the problem is I have distractions - looking for work, for example, or trying to snap another bout of crippling writer's block - that keep me from the blogging here.
Mostly, though, it's the depression.  I know I got it, I've taken meds for it before, but a shift in work locations ended that and I never got back to it at the new workplace and so...  And then I lost my focus at work, and then I lost my job, and... And part of me doesn't want to use this depression as an excuse, you know?  But it's piling on top of me, one thing feeding the other, and the depression coming from the lack of work and turning right around to discourage me as I look for new work, and so on.
I'd love to go to the doctor's and see about getting back onto some kind of antidepressant, but my COBRA runs out in June and so what's the point of trying to start up a treatment that's not even going to last for 3 months?  It'd be nice if they ever develop an OTC antidepressant that's non-addictive / non-lethal so I wouldn't have to freaking worry about the bills and the medical bureaucracy.
But on the bright side, this prolonged unemployment is giving me motivation to look into running for the US Senate!  Why not?  It's a job, isn't it?  The hours are good and the pay/benefits are great!  So all I gotta do is convince enough Floridians to vote for me as a write-in candidate come November and WOOT!  I got a job.  And I can't be any worse than this SOB who just screwed half the country over for some ego-driven BS (holding up unemployment benefits for 27 million Americans?  Forcing thousands of federal employees out of work?  Smart move, Bunning.  You just proved the liberals and their blogger buddies right about you and your GOP buddies being uncaring BASTARDS).
So vote for me!  Wartenberg in 2010!  I NEED THE WORK!  (Most Honest Campaign Platform Ever.)