I know this is mean

July 28, 2009

…but you know what, this is my blog and if you don’t like it, oh well, sucks to be you.

Why do people like this get to reproduce?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32191966/?GT1=43001

If you ask me, it’s a case of thinning the herd.

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I’m sitting here listening to the Orioles game on the radio (they beat the Red Sox, 6-2,if you’re interested), and also listening to the post-game and its advertisements and PSAs. A frequent PSA I hear comes from smartsteps.gov and the Ad Council, exhorting our children to eat more bananas.

Bananas are a great food, no doubt about it. Everybody loves ’em! They’re tasty, versatile, relatively inexpensive, available year-round, chock-full of a variety of nutrients, and portable. I consider them the perfect bicycle food. On a segment in the Discovery Channel show Home Matters, they claimed that bananas are the top-selling produce in America.

But we don’t need the government to tell us what to eat.

I’ll be updating this post as needed to relate other government-sponsored PSAs, both radio and TV, that dictate personal behavior and conduct. In fact, if I sit here long enough, I’ll be hearing another one on the Orioles post-game show, exhorting fathers to be more participatory parents. (Yup! As I’m typing this, it came up. Fatherhood.gov. I don’t put these in hyperlinks because I don’t want any of you thinking I support them dictating personal behavior.)(And as I was typing that, another one came up. Losetheexcuse.gov, exhorting us to conserve energy. by doing common-sense things like turning out unwanted lights in the house. How much of your tax dollars were wasted on the creation of a PSA telling you to do something you probably do already?)

Your views vs. my views

July 25, 2009

For many years now, I’ve been concerned that members of the two houses of Congress treat their jobs as license to pursue their personal fantasies. In the past year or so, I see evidence that that mindset extends to people looking at the Presidential candidates. Consider: A candidate for, let’s say, U.S. Representative, says: “I intend to do X, Y, and Z if I am elected. If you agree with those things, vote for me.” Sounds reasonable on the surface, right? It’s the way candidates have campaigned at least as long as I’ve been eligible to vote. However, it’s not how reps and Senators are supposed to do their jobs. Their job is to represent us. NEVER ONCE have I heard a candidate say, “I will put aside my personal beliefs and values and do A, B, and C because you, my constituency, want me to.” The result is kind of a mandate-based way of executing their jobs where they must think, “Hey, they elected me, they must be cool with everything I want to do.” (This is also a danger of single-issue voting: You vote for someone based on their views on one issue and you may not like what you get in the other issues. For example, you may vote for someone who says she’s pro-life on the abortion issue but get a whole package which includes pro-life on the capital punishment issue, which you disagree with.)

Now it’s happening here in a non-elected position.I post this now because of the recent Senate confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor. What this has to do with Miss Sotomayor is that she’s being forced to explicate her values for a job in which one is explicitly tasked with setting one’s personal values aside. The assumption on the part of the questioners is that once in the position, she (or anyone in that job) will use the job as a bully pulpit from which she will shove her values down our throats.

I figure the reasons Mr. Sessions, Mr. Graham, Dr. Coburn, et al., are making her explicate her values, besides my point that it’s become the status quo, are a) they think it’s okay to do their jobs that way, and b) we’ve just had eight years of a President who shoved his agenda down everyone’s throats and they were cool with it, probably even enjoyed it. They most likely enjoyed it because they shared his agenda. Shoe pinches when it’s on the other foot, doesn’t it, gentlemen?

The most bizarre application of this theory was revealed last year in a comment thread on a Washington Post article where Ron Paul’s stance on abortion came up. Having delivered thousands of babies in his first career, Dr. Paul personally abhors abortion. Commenters on the article thought that because he’s pro-life, he personally would prevent all women from having safe, legal abortions. Hello—anyone in there? McFly?! Ron Paul is a Libertarian! The whole point of the libertarian movement is to allow people to make their own decisions, including ones you don’t agree with. If there was any one candidate, possibly the only one, who would not push a personal agenda, it was Ron Paul.

Alan Dershowitz famously said (I’m paraphrasing) that the mark of a great First Amendment lawyer is to successfully defend someone whose views you virulently disagree with. Why do so many people not seem to understand this? Could it be that pushing their personal agenda is the only way they know?

Today in Yahoo! news, there’s an article on the Free State Project, a libertarian-based movement to get 20,000 liberty-minded households to relocate to New Hampshire, where, the theory goes, during the Presidential primaries and caucuses, they can foment real political change:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090725/ap_on_re_us/us_camping_for_freedom

I notice on this page, there’s no link to comment on this article. To quote Dana Carvey, how conveeeenient.

The mainstream media never misses a chance to make libertarians look like tax-evading gun nuts. (A similar screed in Newsweek hit the streets in hard copy last summer.) They say, and I say often myself, that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. With this story out there, I’m not so sure. To Adam Geller, the byline on the AP story: Thanks for nothing, asshole.

McNair update

July 13, 2009

Over the past few days, the McNair case as a matter of criminal investigation has been closed, the police declaring it to be a murder-suicide. Something still doesn’t sit right with me, but that’s their ruling and there’s nothing I can do about it. I guess if the ballistics tests prove Kahemi fired the shots from her gun to both McNair’s head and her own, it’s correct. Like DNA, ballistics tests do not lie.

Assuming that’s what really happened, it bothers me that, at age 20, Kahemi felt that killing herself was the only way out of a bad life situation she was in. It was bad from a money standpoint, and possibly from a love standpoint, since she saw yet another woman entering McNair’s condo, but she did not have the life wisdom necessary to conclude that suicide was the only solution. Many, many people, myself included, have had rough patches in their lives way worse than what she had—at least she had a job, a car, a healthy body, and presumably a future—and they not only didn’t kill themselves, they didn’t take anyone else down with them. Kahemi took the selfish, lazy way out. She caused untold anguish to many people, most importantly the four little boys who now have to grow up with the notion that some trim on the side who had no rightful claim to their dad killed him.

Folks, if you’re young, say college age give or take five years, and you’re depressed, you think your life is one big shit ball, GET HELP. Talk to a therapist. Talk to your clergy. (That’s what they’re there for.) If you’re in college, that’s what the Counseling Center is there for. If you’re employed, that’s what your company’s EAP is there for. If you’re in financial trouble, get financial or debt counseling. If you’re about to flunk out of Harvard, transfer to Towson, for crap’s sake. (No offense to Towson, as I used to work there, but trust me, a degree from a state school is better than no degree from an Ivy.) If your love is fucking you over, take Dan Savage’s advice and Dump the Motherfucker Already. There will be others.

You’re not old and experienced enough to know that yet, but you will some day, as long as you don’t blow your brains against the wall. I’m not telling you this because I don’t understand—I’m telling you because I do understand.

Let the kid rest

July 13, 2009

When Elvis Presley died, I remember Johnny Carson, tired of the constant media hand-wringing, saying in a monologue a few days later, “Let the kid rest!” At no time could this comment once again be more apropos than now, with the incessant, and I mean that word literally, attention the media are giving to Michael Jackson.

Here’s my sincere plea to the media: SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY. He’s dead. Get over it. Move on to other topics. Topics that may be exponentially a greater intellectual challenge to you, but which we all need to hear about. Don’t take the lazy way out. Cover the Sotomayor hearings, the possibility that Cheney and Gonzales might soon be subpoenaed by the Justice Department, or even the Home Run Derby tomorrow night*, for crap’s sake.  But do us all a favor and LET THE KID REST.

*(For the record, my money’s on Ryan Howard, although I’d like to see Joe Mauer win it. Mauer had an off weekend, which I witnessed in person.)

I’m sitting here in a hotel room in a Midwest city, listening to Kathleen Sebelius and a few Senators discuss and debate government-run health care with Wolf Blitzer on “State of the Union.” Prior to this segment, Blitzer’s show ran a couple of interviews with ordinary Americans who are out of work and in danger of losing any coverage they may have had. (For those of you who may be unaware, when you are separated from a job in which you were paying for your share of a health insurance plan of any kind, by law the employer must offer you the opportunity to continue to pay for that plan on your own. This is COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, and it allows the covered to pay 100% of the premiums for up to 18 months to continue the same level of coverage he or she previously had. I’ve participated in it myself a couple of times, having been laid off from jobs four times in my career due to budget shortfalls. It can be expensive, but can also be cheaper in the long run than paying for a catastrophe,  like an auto accident or sudden cancer diagnosis, out of pocket.)  One interviewee said on camera, “We’re the only industrialized nation that doesn’t do this for its citizens….I say, don’t talk about it, do it!

For a couple of years now, I’ve been railing against the prospect of any government-run single-payer plan in this country. If you’re looking for a surefire way to run both the economy and the medical industry in the US right down the shit tubes, this is the best way to do it. Here’s why:

  1. People confuse universal health care coverage with universal health care. To be fair to the politicians and talking heads, for the most part they’re not the ones interchanging the terms. But many citizens are. Just because you have coverage does not mean you will be able to obtain care.  Artificially increasing demand without a concomitant increase in supply increases the value (i.e., the cost) of the item being offered. In both Canada and Britain, the result has been rationing of available medical services. This is tantamount to an increase in cost, the exact opposite of the desired result. The cost increase can sometimes be seen in terms of time rather than money:  Patients wait longer to see a doctor, with sometimes fatal results. (Canada: http://www.patientpowernow.org/2008/03/25/universal-health-care-kills/) (Britain: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1114446/A-smear-test-saved-life.html, or just do a search on the name “Katie Brickell”) With rationing, because the government is paying for it, the government gets to decide when and what level of care you receive. This, tragically, is how Katie Brickell became famous. Let’s say you’re a 29-year-old female, and you and your doctor know there is a strong history of breast cancer in your family. You want a mammogram, or perhaps even a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (a scorched-earth solution, but it does happen).  But government guidelines state that women don’t need baseline mammograms until 35. Guess what? You’re shit out of luck. “Oh, but exceptions could be made for compelling circumstances,” you argue. Okay. The compelling circumstance is the knowledge and experience her doctor possesses. This is the way care occurs now. Why do we need an extra layer of bureaucracy to achieve the same end result we now have? Who should decide whether you can have the mammogram: your doctor, you, or some unfireable GS-7  paper-pusher in Washington?
  2. There is already a nationwide shortage of both physicians and nurses.  There were, as of the 2006 census, 800, 547 physicians and 2,417,150 nurses in the U.S. (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/health_nutrition/health_care_resources.html) The highest patient-provider ratios, not surprisingly, are in jurisdictions with both large populations and high costs of living, such as Massachusetts, New York, the District of Columbia, and my home state of Maryland, where according to this census there is one doctor for every 415 residents, and one nurse for every 847 residents. This is the third-lowest patient-doctor ratio in the country. On some other message boards I post on, others argue that the solution therefore is to train new doctors. Well, duh! Why didn’t I think of that?! Thinking like that should be in the “No Shit, Sherlock” section of the news. Consider: If there’s already a shortage of doctors, and teaching is one of the lowest-paying, lowest-prestige professions in this country (and it is), does it not also follow that there has been and will continue to be a shortage of medical faculty? (Everything I’m saying about medical education can be extrapolated to osteopathic and nursing education as well, so I’m not mentioning those just in the interest of avoiding redundancy.)  If government takes over all health care, all doctors therefore will be Federal employees.  According to the American Medical Association, in 2007 the average debt a new M.D. graduate emerged from medical school with was $139,517. (http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/medical-student-section/advocacy-policy/medical-student-debt.shtml) Now, if you’re a shiny new medical school graduate, and you’re looking down the barrel of debts that high, or higher, since that’s an average, would you want to accept a government job to pay that off? My guess is not. Most Federal hirees with first professional degrees go in at a GS-11 level, which currently begins at $49,544 at Step 1. Pretty puny, huh? Let’s say we jack them up to a GS-13. Ooo! They’re now eligible for a biiig $70,615 at Step 1. And that’s assuming the government would hire them straight out of medical school with no residency, which is unlikely. Now, we could bring them in on the separate GS schedule for senior-level, scientific and professional employees, which begins at $117,877.  Not bad. Let’s suppose we dump all the new American doctors, as well as the eventual foreign doctors who immigrate here, into that system at that salary, since that’s the only place they can go. Guess who’s going to pay for that? (see #4 below) So, knowing that you’d emerge from medical school with debts like this, and knowing that under a government-run single-payer system, your only career option was a government job, would you pursue that career path? I wouldn’t. Such a plan would actively contribute to a decrease  in the number of adequately trained physicians in this country. Not what we need right now. Nice going government, you just increased demand and decreased supply at the same time.
  3. The sharp decrease in provider supply will lead to an increase in less qualified providers. Some have suggested importing doctors from foreign countries. Okay, sounds reasonable on the surface. We already have many doctors here who got their medical education elsewhere. Let’s take a look at some of the requirements in foreign medical schools:
    France: Medical education in France comprises 3 years of basic medical science at the undergraduate level, followed by 3 years of hospital rotations and a residency of variable length. ( Ann Emerg Med. 1998 Jan;31(1):116-20)
    India: A medical degree in India is an undergraduate degree comprising  the basic clinical sciences and concomitant practical bedside training (http://www.indiaeducation.net/Medical/undergraduate/). Undergraduate degrees in India are three years in length. Graduate medical training can optionally be pursued.
    Russia: A medical degree in Russia is a five- or six-year program, similar to the duration of a pharmacy degree in the U.S., which could be five years for a bachelor’s degree or six years for a Pharm.D, which is currently the degree of practice. (http://www.medical-education-in-russia.com/medicaleducationinrussia.htm)
    Britain: Like India, a British medical degree is an undergraduate degree. Unlike India, however, study can last five or six years.
    Taiwan: Medical study in Taiwan is generally a seven-year program, with the last year being the bedside rotations.
    And those are just some of the most industrialized nations. That’s not counting the infamous “box top” medical schools, whose home countries I do not wish to mention, but if you’re reading this you probably already know whom I’m talking about (I’m looking at you, Ross University).  Here’s my point: No country in the world, not even the UK, has as rigorous a medical education system as the US. Virtually all of these foreign graduates require additional education and certifications, sometimes needing to repeat clinical courses or hospital rotations, to become licensed to practice in the US. And that’s not including the English language courses some of them would need to take. So, despite coming to this country hoping to ease a burden, they actually would contribute to it by needing at least some of the expensive education we require of our homegrown doctors. As well, here’s an oft-neglected aspect of this scenario: Some, including Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, have suggested that the flip side of a single-payer plan be that everyone is required to carry insurance. (Obama backed off on this by suggesting that not everyone,  just every child, be required to have some kind of coverage.) That means that every immigrant doctor coming here hoping to ease the burden would be required to become part of the burden. Stated another way, they too would become mandatory consumers of the plan, before they gain the remedial education necessary to alleviate the burden. Again, this is a great way to cause an increase in demand while reducing the supply, since these new immigrants cannot help increase the supply of doctors until they get licensed and board-certified.
  4. You’re going to be forced to pay for other people’s insurance before you take care of your own family’s needs. This morning, Sebelius stated, “Well, I think we all bear a share of the burden for paying for this.” When she says “we all bear a share of the burden,” she’s basically talking about collective responsibility. That’s communism, folks. It’s the exact opposite of what this country was founded on. Kathleen, look at me and read my lips: NO, WE DON’T. Yes, bitch, I’m shouting. We don’t all bear the burden. Apparently, though, you would like us to. The only way to pay for a government-run single-payer plan is with taxes. In other words, folks, before you pay for your family’s basic needs with your take-home pay, taxes get taken out and used to pay for total strangers. Strangers who may not take care of themselves the way you do. Perhaps strangers whose health is a result of lifestyle choices you don’t agree with. Personally, I don’t care to pay for the medical care of some fat, chain-smoking teen parent who may have been drinking alcohol when she was pregnant, and her child(ren), in, oh, say, Alaska. Fuck that. I could see a situation where a taxpayer with religious objections to, say, alcohol consumption would resent being forced to pay for the coverage of alcohol-related illness. (Extrapolate that to AIDS or abortion and you can see the shitstorm brew right before your eyes.)
    “But other industrialized nations do it!” Yup.  And their take-home pay is much less than ours. The countries I hear touted the most as models of universal care, Sweden and Denmark, take a much bigger chunk out of paychecks to pay for that universal, single-payer plan they have.  A Danish take-home check is about 45% of gross wages earned. Forty-five percent. Sweden, 52%.  http://blog.canadianbusiness.com/take-home-pay-in-oecd-countries/, also http://www.fool.co.uk/news/Comment/2004/c040224e.htm
  5. Do you still really want a government-run cradle-to-grave health care system? And do you not mind paying for others? If so, fine. Move to Europe. Leave me and my paycheck out of it.

    (Post hoc 9/12/09: A poster to the comment boards at http://www.washingtonpost.com tipped us off to this insightful article in the Atlantic Monthly: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care And I’m not just saying insightful because he agrees with me. He has the experience and economics chops to back it up.)

This morning on CNN, some talking head was discussing the job situation in Michigan (bleak, we all know that) and how the state has had to find other ways of boosting their local economy rather than rely on the automotive sector. One of the post-industrial sectors they are looking at is the film industry.

It seems to me that the best thing an economy of any size in the U.S. can do is move away from a manufacturing base. The natural progression of any society is agricultural -> industrial -> post-industrial, where post-industrial can be service-based or intellectual-based.  (Look at my home town and my current residence: unlike 40 or even 30 years ago, the biggest employer in Syracuse is Syracuse University, and the biggest employer in Baltimore is the Johns Hopkins University. Both cities left their industry—Allied Chemical, American Can Company—behind.)  Other countries can compete in the manufacturing sector, but almost no other country can compete in the service-based sector—as anyone who’s had to talk to a help desk in India can affirm.

Lou Dobbs has a bully pulpit by virtue of his TV exposure. He continually rails against the putative death of the manufacturing industries in the country. OMG—we’re losing manufacturing jobs!! OMG! Only 4% of our clothing is made in the U.S.!  (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-january-10-2008/lou-dobbs)

OK with me.

How many of you have ever said, “I’d love for my daughter (or son) to grow up to be a union garment worker”? Doctor, teacher, astronaut, Nobel Prize-winning scientist, yes, but factory assembly line workers? Not bloody likely. In this day and age, post-industrial skills and post-industrial, service-sector jobs are necessary for the economic health of any nation. It is the natural progression from an industrial economy.

Rather than peeing and moaning about how people aren’t buying American cars any more, and this is coming from a lifelong Chevy owner,  perhaps Michigan should start selling something people will buy. There’s one thing that no one else but Michiganders can sell, and that’s Michigan.

McNair Update

July 7, 2009

I find myself going over the newly revealed circumstances of the McNair shooting the way some people obsessed over the angles of the JFK assassination. As of right now, the insinuation is that the paramour bought the gun and used it to kill him and herself.

Ballistic tests will prove one way or the other (like DNA, ballistic tests do not lie), but for her to grease him doesn’t make sense. McNair was Sahel Kazemi’s sugar daddy and meal ticket. Supposedly he was going to divorce his wife and marry her. She got lavish gifts from a very rich, still young man. Why would she want to fuck that up?

On another site I posted that the two most powerful forces in society are money and pussy. This whole event, of course, has aspects of both. I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that an autopsy on Miss Kazemi will reveal an early pregnancy.

Fuck This

July 7, 2009

Nice going, old man. This is the EXACT opposite of what your forefathers, and you for that matter, fought and died for.

Nice going, old man. This is the EXACT opposite of what your forefathers, and you for that matter, fought and died for.

 

This is not a link to the video. It’s just a screen cap illustrating the concept of modern fascism. Don’t bother clicking on it.