Wednesday, September 30, 2009

guns allowed in Arizona bars

I know there are stupider ideas out there, but none are coming immediately to mind. From AP:
Under the law, backed by the National Rifle Association, the 138,350 people with concealed-weapons permits in Arizona will be allowed to bring their guns into bars and restaurants that haven't posted signs banning them.

Those carrying the weapons aren't allowed to drink alcohol.

Curiously, people carrying guns openly will not be allowed in bars, just the people concealing. I would like to know by what logic a concealed weapon is necessary protection while a visible one is not.

Furthermore, if you bring a concealed weapon, you can't drink if the bar has posted a sign saying "no guns," though of course there's no way for the bartender to know if you're concealing. Even then, however, the sign only counts if it is more than a month old, hasn't "fallen down" (golly, I wonder what qualifies as having "fallen down?"), is a special state-approved government sign, and if the offender is a resident of Arizona.

What a Byzantine, nonsensical system the gun lobby has created.

it's the system

Dan Wetzel unloads on the BCS, and it's only week 4. Florida, Alabama, and Texas haven't even lost yet.

Gonna be a fun year for college football, my friends. And by "fun," I of course mean "infuriating."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

just one more weakness in the NCAA's ranking system

When efforts like this from Texas Tech against a top 5 team yield no gain in rankings whatsoever. One of the most baffling weaknesses in the system is in its inability to contextualize losses. Teams may lose ground for winning badly against supposedly inferior teams, but nobody ever gains ground for losing well against great teams.

The unranked Red Raiders outgained the #2 Longhorns in nearly every category, in Austin, but lost the game on a punt return and a nasty hit on the quarterback resulting in a fumble. For that, Texas Tech lost votes.

This is one of the big reasons, perhaps even the biggest single reason, why we have to spend the first 3 weeks of every season watching the big teams beat up on I-AA schools and the doormats of the MAC. All that matters is "the W."

it's the end of the world as we know it

and they feel fine.

Seriously, this is toads raining from the sky, dogs and cats living together.

College Football Hall of Fame going to Atlanta

It was only a matter of time, really.

Obama why?!


Monday, September 21, 2009

the rise of the Washington Huskies

Heh. Southern Cal drops one every year, and usually it's just due to the Trojans not taking the game seriously enough until it's too late. This year, though, you have to wonder when that same fluke winner also scared the hell out of LSU.

I gotta admit, I've been quietly rooting for Washington for several years now, and watching for Jake Locker to mature into the primetime player he has the capacity to be. The kid could have gone anywhere (and I believe was pursued by Pete Carroll), but chose to stay with the home team and help rebuild it. In this era of the mercenary athlete, I have a lot of respect for the few who can show a modicum of loyalty and hometown pride.

Plus, he's fun as hell to watch.

Friday, September 18, 2009

so what's in the damn things?

Been looking online for any news source that bothers to tell us what's in the Baucus plan or the House ones, other than which ones are more "liberal," how much it costs, and whether or not they commit the cardinal sin of providing healthcare to illegal immigrants. After spending a little time finding the name of the Baucus bill (it's "America's Healthy Future Act," in case you were wondering), I found a copy of the early, layman's terms iteration of the bill, all 223 pages of it, which is a little long for a layman to read in his spare time, especially one who doesn't know much about the ins and outs of healthcare policy.

John Dingell's plan (America's Affordable Health Choices Act), however, is over 1000 pages. Pretty much all I can find about it is how much it costs and whether it funds abortions and euthanasia. This bill has been around at least July, when it was endorsed by the American Medical Association, and that's the full extent of its coverage. Great job, journos!

I found only a couple stories and posts that actually deal with the content of the bill: one here from RJ Eskew at the Huffington Post, one here from Ezra Klein on the CBO's quite positive assessment of it, and one here from Forbes. In fact, it looks like Ezra Klein may be the only person in the country repeatedly writing about what is in this bill.

From how it sounds from these stories, as well as what I've read elsewhere, it's really irritating how Baucus seems to look for every way possible to get money from the Treasury into the pockets of insurance companies. It's almost obsessive, like he's deeply apologetic over the slight of making them stop cutting off service to people right when they most need it and looking for ways to make it up to them.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CEO of Whole Foods advocates lower taxes, more Whole Foods shopping

I was driving to Indianapolis yesterday and listening to NPR, when the topic of Talk of the Nation transitioned to John Mackey's controversial editorial and the tension between social and personal responsibility in healthcare. I spent the next 30 minutes listening to several doe-eyed, credulous personalities discuss the merits of Mackey's point, and started to worry that I'm becoming a cynic.

You do realize that John Mackey's editorial was just a concealed pitch for shopping at Whole Foods, don't you? Is the gist of this editorial not: "hey, there's no need to worry your little heads about funding public healthcare. That could lead to higher taxes on me! Just buy these quality organic bananas and you'll be fine?"

Honestly, the not so subtle Randian undertones should have been the first tip-off that he's writing from self-interest. Well, perhaps the second, after the fact that he runs a health food business and is writing about healthcare.

Friday, September 11, 2009

back on topic, people

Yes, we all know that the outburst was highly irregular and a huge no-no for elected representatives. We all have a pretty good idea why President Obama was denied a basic respect granted to every other president in the history of the republic, and grasp the significance of that denial emanating from a representative of South Carolina. It was also not lost on most of us that a Louisiana congressman delivered the rebuttal from Strom Thurmond's old office.

But let's be honest: this is all just political theater. It's bullshit, easily digestible fluff that keeps us from having to talk about an issue that requires thinking.

You know what we don't know?

We don't know what kind of coverage Obama envisions the public option providing. Will it provide coverage for dental cleanings? Eye exams? Anyone have a ballpark estimate on the deductible? The copay? Will it be able to negotiate lower drug prices?

We don't know what the role of Medicaid will be under this new system. After all, Medicaid was created to handle precisely this problem of the poor lacking access to basic healthcare. Will it be scrapped, boosted, what?

We don't know who will be responsible for the public option. Will its administration fall under the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services? Will it be run by the states? A wholly new and separate entity?

We don't know how the Administration plans to enforce the individual mandate on buying health insurance. How will they check to see if we're covered? What happens if someone refuses to purchase it? Will they go to jail?

We don't know what measures, if any, will be taken to address the problem of astronomical premiums for malpractice insurance. Sure, Democrats and liberals are (rightly) suspicious of attempts to curb the ability of regular people to seek damages when they are significantly hurt, maimed, or killed, and apparently the number of lawsuits and amount of damages has been on the decline since the early '90's, but it is clear that high malpractice premiums and the overly common practice of defensive medicine are significant factors in the high cost of healthcare.

We don't know what measure, if any, will be taken to address the exorbitant and unmitigated cost of medical school. The NHSC is a great first step, but the vast majority of doctors are still starting out in the field hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole from school loans, which undoubtedly affects the amount they have to charge for services.

These are pretty basic questions thought up by some wanker on the intarwebs with no inside knowledge of the medical field whatsoever, and yet here we are, past the time of debate and at the "time to act," and there have been (to my knowledge) no attempts even to ask these questions of our representatives, let alone answer them.

And why is that? Because every time the president spends an hour of primetime television trying to bring us back on topic, the conversation gets derailed even before he gets off the air onto Henry Louis Gates, and civility in the House, and death panels, and socialism, and abortion, and the stupidity of Republicans yelling to keep the government out of Medicare.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's health insurance reform speech

The text here. Remembering the emotion of last year's squabbles between Democratic primary candidates on health care reform, it is notable that the current plan appears to be candidate Obama's insurance exchange plus Obama's subsidies for the poor plus Clinton's insurance mandates, with Edwards' method of enforcement. This is all, of course, leaving aside candidate Kucinich's health plan, Medicare for all, which is still the best plan, but that doesn't really matter at this point.

Judging from the president's words last night, it's pretty clear that the public option he envisions is an anemic thing, capable of providing care but not of providing it well enough to compete for customers who can afford to go elsewhere. That is a shame, and the Reaganites who believe government only works when it redistributes wealth upward will make some serious political hay out of it down the road. I know that sounds like politics rather than policy discussion, but it is in policy where we will pay dearly for this compromise.

Also, we heard it officially tonight: the president's plan will mandate that people purchase private health insurance, and use subsidies to help the poor afford it -- in other words, tax revenue funneled directly into the pockets of Wall Street health insurance investors. Free money for the bad actors who caused much of this mess in the first place. I still don't get this compromise. If you want to achieve universal coverage, why not just create a public option and sign everyone up for it? Then set it up so that the fees and services for the public option begin next year, and add a form to this year's taxes whereby people find out how much they owe for the public option, or can check a box to decline the option if they provide their alternative policy. No policy, no checking the box. No need for fines or other enforcement mechanisms than the IRS' current policies and staff. Universal coverage. Easy peasy.

How is forcing people to pay private insurance premiums preferable from either a political or policy standpoint?

On the other hand, there is this:
Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse.

It doesn't deal with the issues of millions of uninsured people, obscenely high malpractice insurance premiums, or of various other problems in the health care industry, and will only be as good as the organization charged with enforcing it, but this paragraph alone probably makes the bill worth signing. If the Democrats can't get a workable universal coverage/universal access bill out of the Senate, it would be worth their time to create a separate bill with these provisions alone to put an end to the most barbaric abuses in the system. I'm tempted to say I would prefer that even to universal coverage provided in the rest of the plan.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Joe Scarborough defends the president's speech to schools

I can't believe anyone even has to make this point. The degree of hateful, paranoid hysteria caused by having a president Barack Obama has definitely surprised me. I remember people being a little crazy when Clinton was elected, but I was in Lubbock back then, so it wasn't exactly surprising. This is something else entirely, something harder to understand because the charges often don't match up with anything. After all, I can understand conservatives complaining about Obama being a big spender (I can understand hypocrisy, after all), or being liberal or whatever, but I totally missed the part where he became a bad example to kids.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

reporting politics, not policy

CBS released a poll showing that huge majorities of Americans don't understand the reforms Democrats are pushing on health care. Newspapers and TV networks have been giving us nonstop footage of the parade of crazy going on in town halls across the country. I've even seen some reports on Obama's/Democrats' inability to galvanize support being based on people's lack of understanding of what they're proposing.

So... eh... why don't you tell us? I've seen several online videos that explain the proposals clearly and concisely, often in cartoon form. Why can't the Nancy Snydermans of the various networks do something like that? Why are they all just waiting for an instructive voice to drown out the din on nonsense?

After all, apparently health care literacy is so low, even other journalists need a couple of basic lessons. It would be nice, for instance, for someone to tell Maria Bartiromo that Medicare isn't available to people under 65 (then again, judging from her Celebrity Jeopardy! performance, she might be a lost cause. Yes, CNBC hired this woman to tell you about financial news every day). Or tell other journalists that the public option does not establish a single payer system.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

you just don't get it, do you?

I understand that this article approaches the topic from a health perspective, but if you're looking at things from that perspective, you just shouldn't talk about pizza. Certainly that would be preferable to this blasphemy:

Next time you're hankering for a pie, grab a slice from one of these premium pizzas.

Pizza Hut 12" Fit and Delicious Diced Red Tomato, Mushroom and Jalapeno (2 slices)
300 calories
16 g fat (7 g saturated)
1,220 mg sodium
46 g carbs

Domino's Thin Crust Ham and Pineapple Pizza (2 slices)
294 calories
14 g fat (5 g saturated)
790 mg sodium
30 g carbs

Chuck E. Cheese Individual Cheese
540 calories
19 g fat (8 g saturated)
1,255 mg sodium
69 g carbs

Pizza Hut Meat Lover's 12" Pan Pizza (1 slice)
330 calories
18 g fat (7 g saturated, 0 g trans)
820 mg sodium
27 g carbs

Pizza Hut? Domino's? CHUCK E. F**KING CHEESE?? Look, I don't care what the dietary considerations are, you just can't give the "best barbecue sandwich" award to the McRib. Don't laugh; this is serious business. I almost had an aneurysm when I saw "premium pizzas" and "Domino's" appear in the same section.

You, sir, are Hitler. A communist Hitler. A fascist, communist, socialist Hitler if Hitler were also the kiddie-porn-filming love-child of Dick Cheney and Omarosa. YOU WILL ATONE FOR THIS SACRILEGE!

Greenwald on Jenna Bush: Reporter!

Greenwald on Jenna Bush getting hired as a "reporter" on Today at a time when actual journalists are getting fired left and right:
They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it's really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from. There's a virtually endless list of politically well-placed guests equally qualified to talk on such matters.
Just to underscore a very important, related point: all of the above-listed people are examples of America's Great Meritocracy, having achieved what they have solely on the basis of their talent, skill and hard work -- The American Way. By contrast, Sonia Sotomayor -- who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Bronx housing projects; whose father had a third-grade education, did not speak English and died when she was 9; whose mother worked as a telephone operator and a nurse; and who then became valedictorian of her high school, summa cum laude at Princeton, a graduate of Yale Law School, and ultimately a Supreme Court Justice -- is someone who had a whole litany of unfair advantages handed to her and is the poster child for un-American, merit-less advancement.

I just want to make sure that's clear.

I lol'ed.