Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Things That Make Me Smile

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (August 20, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

It's nice to come across some good news, especially during a week which has been as frustrating as this one has been. This good news came from a Federal Court in Texas.

For the second time this week, a federal court here has blocked a Texas election law as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.

A three-judge federal court said Texas may not enforce its strict voter identification law, ruling it would discriminate against poor and minority voters and have the effect of barring them from voting.

The judges said the new law would require tens of thousands of registered Texas voters who are poor and do not drive cars to travel to a state motor vehicle office to obtain the required state photo ID card. And one-third of Texas counties do not have a Department of Public Safety (DPS) office, they noted.

“Even the most committed citizen, we think, would agree that a 200- to 250-mile round trip — especially for would-be voters having no driver’s license — constitutes a substantial burden on the right to vote,” said Judge David Tatel in unanimous opinion.

He noted that about 13% of the state’s black voters, and 7% of its Latinos, do not have an automobile in the household. And the state drivers’ license offices are not open on weekends.

“Poorer citizens, especially those working for hourly wages, will likely be less able to take time off work to travel to a DPS office,” Tatel said. “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges the right to vote.”
[Consider the entire block quoted in bold type.]

I quoted the article extensively because the court's reasoning is so solid and so fact-based that I am hopeful the Supreme Court will refuse to hear the case or will uphold the decision if it does grant the writ.

The facts and the conclusion make it ever so clear that the law was intentionally and purposefully intended to suppress the vote of those who just might vote Democratic. And this Texas law (and the kinds of facts described) is just as oppressive as the laws in Florida, Pennsylvania, and the other states where the Republican led state legislatures have rammed through similar laws.

Hopefully the Department of Justice will take a look at those laws and start pushing there as well.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Well, OK Then

(Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

OK, OK, I know it's two days in a row for touting a Horsey cartoon and column, but I liked what he had to say and I'm also not feeling too sharp after falling yesterday and landing hard on my butt. It's hard to think clearly while sitting on an ice pack and popping pain killers.

In any event, Horsey provides us with the perfect picture of today's Republican Party, a picture which is supplemented by other news from the convention.

He begins the column by noting the parade of people of color during Tuesday's proceedings, both as speakers and as delegates casting their states votes for the nominee. And then he moves in for the kill.

Republicans truly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that the best thing a poor Latino or an underemployed African American can do to better his or her condition is to vote for a party that intends to let rich people keep more of their money. Showing off all those non-Caucasian officeholders is a way of saying to skeptical minority voters, "These guys have chosen the Republican path and just look where it has gotten them!"

It is a way for a party dominated by affluent white people to not feel embarrassed by their lack of diversity and, in fact, to assert a kind of superiority: "Democrats pander to you and keep you in thrall to the welfare state; we Republicans offer you a better way -- the free-market, pull-yourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps way."

In a year when Republicans are brazenly trying to suppress the minority vote in Ohio and Florida and are taking the hardest of hard lines on immigration, voting Republican may be a tough sell in minority communities. Still, the party has found some forceful salesmen who have risen from those communities, and they are filling the stage in Tampa with them.
[Emphasis added]

But, wait! There's more. Also on Tuesday, one of the uglier episodes of the week occurred on the convention floor: a CNN African American camerawoman was assaulted by two delegates.

Two attendees at the Republican National Convention were thrown out of the convention center in Tampa on Tuesday after throwing nuts at a black CNN camerawoman and saying, "this is how we feed the animals." [Emphasis added]

That was Tuesday. Yesterday, Anne Romney was apparently sent out to do some damage control (via Eschaton). Speaking about women and Hispanic voters, Lady Anne had this to say:

Romney said her “importance in speaking out is making sure that those coalitions,” referring to women and Hispanic voters, “that would naturally be voting for another party wake up and say, You’d better really look at the issues this time.”

“You’d better really look at your future and figure out who’s going to be the guy that’s going to make it better for you and your children, and there is only one answer,” Mrs. Romney said, giving a harsher pitch than we usually hear from the woman who wants to be the next first lady.

“It really is a message that would resonate well if they could just get past some of their biases that have been there from the Democratic machines that have made us look like we don’t care about this community,” Romney said. “And that is not true. We very much care about you and your families and the opportunities that are there for you and your families.”

Um, yeah. Sure. And that's why the GOP platform would outlaw abortion for any reason and would build a fence the whole length of the Mexican border, and why her husband promises to de-fund Planned Parenthood and lies about President Obama's rolling back welfare reform to appease "his base" (wink-wink).

I really hope the American electorate isn't as stupid as the Republican Party thinks we are.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Los Angeles Times: Bringin' In The Snark

(Click on image to enlarge, and then be good enough to return.)

I am delighted to report that the stodgy Los Angeles Times is beginning to loosen up a bit, well, at least some of its political and op-ed columnists are. Yesterday I burst out laughing twice: one simply because of the headline, the other for the entire column.

First, the headline:

For GOP, storm's timing makes it harder to be anti-government

The story appended to the headline is actually pretty straightforward, but it does make the point that the GOP regulars were going to have a hard time decrying government involvement when several states were going to need all sorts of government assistance as Isaac finishes its run.

And then there's David Horsey's column from yesterday, again about the impact of Isaac.

Could God be irritated because some of the Republicans who claim to speak for him are breaking his commandments?

On Monday, while the convention delegates had plenty of time on their hands, many of them attended the Faith and Freedom rally featuring Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly. At the event, the 88-year-old firebrand of Christian conservatism tore into President Obama for waging war on religion. She went way beyond the usual complaints about his support for abortion rights and access to contraceptives for women working at church-supported institutions. She repeated a series of myths that have been debunked repeatedly, such as the one that claims Obama always excises the words "endowed by their Creator" whenever he quotes the Declaration of Independence.

Maybe, unlike Schlafly, the Lord checked out YouTube and found Obama has used that phrase on many occasions. Could it be that God is sick of so-called Christian leaders lying and bearing false witness by repeating falsehoods churned up from the far edges of right-wing media?

Naw, probably not. Tropical Storm Issac was likely always intended as another blast at New Orleans for continuing to give shelter to gay poets, jazz musicians and drunk college women who flash their breasts for a string of Mardi Gras beads. The rain and wind in Tampa are mere collateral damage that faithful Republicans should recognize as a blessing.

After all, the storm forced Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to rush back home, thus saving the delegates from another disappointing speech by a onetime GOP golden boy who has failed to develop the knack of fervently lying for the Lord.

And that's just the last section of the column!

Now if the paper's news pages would just get with the program ...

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Something Made Me Smile: Updated

Mitt Romney can't seem to inspire anybody, not even Republicans, no matter how hard he tries. A new poll indicates that people would rather see the GOP platform than hear Mitt speak at the convention.

As Republican delegates prepare to approve the party’s 2012 platform on Tuesday, a new national poll shows that Americans are more interested in what’s in that document than they are in Mitt Romney’s and Paul Ryan’s acceptance speeches.

Details of the platform have trickled out over the last week, as the Republican National Committee completed the drafting process, but the document has not been made public. Earlier Monday, in an indication that party platforms may do more harm than good, Republican House Speaker John Boehner suggested that the GOP issue a one-page platform. The 2008 edition, more svelte than those of the past, clocked in at 55 pages.

The new poll, released Monday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, also found that public interest in Romney’s address is significantly lower than for GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s acceptance speech at the 2008 convention.
[Emphasis added]

I know, I know: a platform doesn't bind a presidential candidate even if he's elected. It is, however, a document that spells out the vision and the yearnings of the party faithful. It is supposed to be something which displays what the party ultimately stands for, its core beliefs. Right now, it appears that the crazies have won in that respect.

The complete document is supposed to be released tomorrow, but almost as soon as it was finalized, bits and pieces were leaked to the press. The plank that got the most ink and electrons, of course, was the "no abortion whatsoever" one, coming as it did at almost the same time Congressman Akin made his ill-fated comments on a woman's body refusing impregnation by rape. But several other planks also got some attention.

A good illustration of the tension between activists and more election-focused party leaders is the language on immigration. The initial proposal drafted by party officials took a less aggressive stance than the GOP had in 2008, apparently with an eye toward improving its image among Latino voters. But pressed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading advocate of state crackdowns on illegal immigrants, the platform committee restored provisions calling for a fence along the entire border with Mexico, withholding federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities and denying in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. ...

On taxes, the committee reiterated its support for lower rates and a simpler tax code. At the same time, it dropped a provision from the 2008 platform that called for retaining one tax break in particular: the deduction for home mortgage interest. This move was backed by representatives of the Romney campaign, while allies of real estate agents and the construction industry pressed the committee to reverse course. Ultimately, the committee agreed to call for preserving the deduction if tax-simplification efforts fail — a meaningless stance, considering that the deduction won't be at risk if Congress doesn't try to simplify the tax code.
[Emphasis added]

Is it any wonder why so many people are anxious to see just what the platform says? Or why House Speaker Boehner wants just a one-page summary released?

I think this is going to be a fun day.


After another cup of coffee, I realized it will be possible to produce an accurate GOP Platform in even less than the one-pager Boehner wanted.

"4 More Wars"


1. Women
2. Blacks/Browns
3. Poor People
4. Elders


Monday, August 27, 2012

Because We Need Daddy's Help

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / Charlotte Observer (August 24, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Mitt Romney spent the last few days campaigning in Ohio before the GOP convention. One of his main goals was obviously to reach out to women, to reassure them that the whole notion of a Republican War Against Women was an Obama fabrication. He handled the issue in typical Romney fashion.

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney declared Saturday that "women need our help" as he promised to promote women-led businesses should he defeat President Barack Obama in November's election. ...

"Just a word to the women entrepreneurs out there, if we become president and vice president, we want to speak to you, we want to help you," Romney said with running mate Paul Ryan at his side during an outdoor rally that drew an estimated 5,000 people to the Columbus area. "Women in this country are more likely to start businesses than men. Women need our help."
[Emphasis added]

So there, Barack Obama! Mitt is too going to look out for women's interests, because they need help, help only a man can give them.

Notice how it's not all women who would get protected by this manly man, just the entrepreneurs. He, a very successful businessMAN will help them. The rest of us? Eh, not so much.

Evidence of that came as he took on the issue of women's reproductive rights.

Addressing contraceptives, Romney said he and other Republicans “of course … recognize that people should have a right to use contraceptives. There’s absolutely no validity whatsoever to the Obama effort to try and bring that up.”

Romney has, however, vowed to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood, which, along with other services, provides contraceptives to those who cannot otherwise afford them. ...

On abortion, Romney said: “That is something where men and women have alternative views on that, or different views. We look at an issue like that with great seriousness and sobriety and recognize that different people have reached different conclusions,” Romney continued. “But it’s not just men who think one way, women also in many cases are pro-life. There are two lives at stake: the child — the unborn child and the mom — and I care for both of them.”
[Emphasis added]

I guess we needn't bother our pretty little heads over such issues. Big Daddy Mitt will handle them, just like his party has in adopting a plank in its platform which would not allow abortions for any reasons, including rape, incest, or the health of the woman.

Since I doubt Mitt carries any change, someone really ought to loan him a quarter so that he can buy a clue.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Poetry: W.H. Auden

(For the families of those US and coalition forces killed in Afghanistan.)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 8/22/12 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Draco Lizard

(Photograph by Premaphotos, Alamy and published at National Geographic. Click on link to learn more about this flying lizard.)

Now, If *I* Ruled the GOP

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (August 22, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then be kind enough to return.)

The GOP seems to have lost control, something which really surprises me, especially when it comes to Congressman Akin's campaign in Missouri against incumbent Claire McCaskill. Yes, Akin's remarks about the female body's ability to block conception in the case of "legitimate" rape was off the wall, so far off the wall that the media (print, television, internet) exploded. But, the damage control exercised by the GOP regulars was just as off the wall. They demanded that Akin withdraw as a candidate, allowing the party to replace him.

Now,me, I would have taken him aside and told him "Dude, you fucked up. Just apologize by saying you misspoke and that what you really meant was that abortion in cases of rape adds another wrong to the already horrible situation."

But no, instead, the entire apparatus came down on Akin, demanding he go away. He refused. I mean, what does he have to lose? At his age, this is his last hurrah, especially since there was no way short of a write-in campaign to get on the ballot for his congressional seat. Apparently the party was unwilling to front the costs for that.

The stance has to have pissed off the Tea Party which voted for him in the primary, along with other Republicans who liked him better than the other two candidates. Their votes mean nothing to the party?

Additionally, the party leaders not only demanded he withdraw, the funders also withdrew their support: no more Karl Rove and Koch Brothers millions for ads. They pulled the trigger too quickly, in my opinion. Sure, the Democrats were going to make hay with the comments, noting that this member of a House science committee was spouting this nonsense, and noting that Akin and VP-designate Ryan co-sponsored a bill limiting abortion to cases of "forcible rape." But it would have died down after a week or so, especially if campaign ads focused on Akin's position of deficit spending and the economy.

Instead, the ad money is gone (at least for the time being -- I have no doubt that at this point the Roves and Kochs of the party are busy inventing a new SuperPac and/or 501(c)4 group to funnel money back into the campaign), and Claire McCaskill, who really was vulnerable has a shot at keeping her job while Akin tries to raise funds as a new Don Quixote.

And even worse, the platform committee has decided on a plank which forbids abortion in all cases. Now the Dems have the hypocrisy two-by-four to wield, which Kevin Siers has graphically displayed.

But, hey! I'm not a Republican. I'll let them arrange their own destruction.

The only thing is that regardless of the outcome of this particular election, the rest of us won't win much if anything.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

...And All His Rowdy Friends

(Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

A-a-a-and another musician weighs in on our Kenyan Muslim Socialist President:

Country music veteran Hank Williams Jr. is doing his best to become the official troubadour of the we-hate-Barack-Obama crowd. During a performance at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 17, Williams told the audience, “We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him!”

The throng of heartland Americans cheered enthusiastically.

Williams isn't the first and only. Ted Nugent and Dave Mustaine have also targeted President Obama with some pretty virulent speech, accusing him of planning to take our assault rifles away by staging the Colorado and Wisconsin rampages to do so. It really has become, as David Horsey points out, an American tradition that goes back a few decades. I just don't remember it being quite this hateful. I assumed that the underlying motivation was the fact that Obama was an African American, but Horsey suggests there's more at work, and he may very well be right.

...What seems strange is that Obama elicits such extreme dislike when, in fact, he is an exemplary family man and his policy positions would have made him a conventional liberal Republican not that long ago.

Many will argue that the hatred has everything to do with the color of Obama’s skin. Unquestionably, race is a factor for some people, but the phenomenon is bigger and broader than that.

Hank Williams Jr. is really typical of a large number of Americans who simply do not like how the country has changed. (One of his songs is a nostalgic tribute to the Old Confederacy built around the lyric, “If the South would’ve won, we’d have had it made.”) In the minds of folks like Hank – addled by talk radio tirades, apocalyptic evangelism and Internet fabrications – Obama has been morphed into a creature who embodies everything they believe is wrong with the urban, multiracial, feminized, gay-tolerant, secular society America has become.

They do not really hate Barack Obama, they hate today’s USA.
[Emphasis added]

Perhaps so.

And that's a shame. A damned shame.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012


The Republicans want to move on from the Akin debacle and want the presidential campaign to concentrate on economic issues.

OK, I'm up with that.

Mitt Romney has declared that the first thing he would do as president is repeal Obamacare. Apparently he believes that, like a CEO, he can rule by fiat. I'm sure that congressional Republicans will disabuse him of that misconception soon enough.

Romney also wants to restore the billions that Obamacare cut from Medicare. That is almost as interesting, especially since those "cuts" have resulted in savings in health care and have shored up Medicare (see Off the Charts for a summary as to how that works).

And he would stop funding such wasteful programs as NPR, PBS, and the National Endowment of the Arts, because, of course, they've had such a heavy impact on our burgeoning budget deficit.

That's about as specific as Mr. Romney has been so far when it comes to the economy, which makes a discussion of his plans kind of short winded. Fortunately, his partner on the ticket, Paul Ryan, has been more specific. As a congressman, he proposed a budget which dealt with Medicare in a very interesting fashion: he would, in effect, privatize it, throwing Medicare recipients some vouchers to use in shopping for health care insurance in the open market.

David Lazarus took another look at Ryan's plan in his his latest column for the Los Angeles Times. He suggests that it's not just the elders who would suffer under such a proposal.

Amid all the chatter about whether Paul D. Ryan's proposed changes would, as Democrats say, "end Medicare as we know it," one group has been largely overlooked: disabled people.

The vast majority of Medicare's roughly 48 million beneficiaries are seniors over the age of 65. But about 8 million are disabled people of all ages. The federal program was expanded in 1972 to include those with permanent disabilities.

Many seniors are rightly concerned that Ryan, the conservative congressman tapped by Mitt Romney as his vice presidential running mate, has proposed a plan that could result in higher out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare coverage.

But disabled people could be in for an even bigger shock.

"People with disabilities are among the most vulnerable of the Medicare population," said Tricia Neuman, senior vice president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "They have chronic conditions that require ongoing care, and, in many cases, they have relatively low incomes." ...

[David Lipschutz, policy attorney with the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy] also warned of significant consequences for so-called dual-eligibles — people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid because of age or condition as well as income level.

According to some estimates, the Ryan plan would cut Medicaid federal spending for low-income people by about a third over the first decade. Healthcare analysts expect many people to be dropped from the program as funding dwindles.
[Emphasis added]

So, not only would Granny be put on the ice floe to oblivion, so would Uncle Harry with the testicular cancer. Nice plan, that.

Is that really what we want for this country? Healthcare for the upper classes but not for the most vulnerable among us?

Lazarus concludes that the surest way to a decent healthcare plan for the nation is to offer Medicare to everybody, something I don't think I'll see in my life time, but I think he's right:

What's the solution? I suggested it last week, but I'll make it more explicit here: Medicare for all.

Rather than increasing the role of mostly for-profit companies in healthcare, a more economically rational and socially equitable approach would be to spread medical risk throughout society via a national insurance plan. ...

"Government-run healthcare doesn't work," Ryan said last year. "Wherever we've seen government-run healthcare, it's failed."

He's wrong about that, as the facts plainly show. And he's wrong about any reform of our healthcare system that makes things tougher for the very people we need to help most.


I'm not thrilled about another four years of Barack Obama, given the last four, but he's sure as hell a lot better than the two yahoos the Republicans have thrown at us.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Scarlet Letter

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 8/21/2012 by the Washington Post. Click on image to enlarge and then please hustle your fanny back here.)

I'm still fuzzy-brained from the allergy meds, but that hasn't stopped me from continuing to re-read Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter. I am reading this now as part of my drive to re-read novels from my past, but also because I wanted to consider the historical underpinnings in American (and, for that matter, world) history when it comes to misogyny. Needless to say, not much has changed in the 160-some years since the novel's publication. Many men still want to control the lives, the bodies, and the destinies of women.

As some of you may recall from your high school English class, the novel takes place in 17th Century Salem, Massachusetts at a time when the Puritans still ruled in New England. The heroine, Hester Prynne, has been condemned by the authorities for being an adulteress and bearing an illegitimate child. Her punishment is public shaming, including having to wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing for the rest of her days. Complicating her life further, she refuses to name her partner in this "crime", who, it turns out, is her pastor.

Something I had forgotten about the story was that Hester was already married. Her family arranged a marriage to a man who was older and physically deformed while both still lived in England. He decided to go to the New World (America) to make his fortune and she followed after him. He disappeared and was presumed lost at sea, but she no definite proof of that, so she was still married but without a husband. He, of course, turns up at the moment of the first public shaming of Hester and swears to find and punish the man who cuckolded him.

I'm more than a third of the way through the book and today I read the part where the town's leaders (all men, including a couple of religious leaders and the governor) have met to decide whether or not to take Hester's child from her so that she could be raised as a good Christian, something her mother clearly is not. The pastor (and father of the child) persuades them not to remove the child, but does so once again without revealing his true role in the matter.

The utter hypocrisy and misogyny of that culture reminds me a great deal of today's brand of Puritans, people like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan who see women only as sluts to be branded and handcuffed and put to shame in the public square. Toles' cartoon touches only one aspect of the war against women (victims of rape), but the war itself extends to women being able to control their bodies when it comes to conception and other health issues, and being able to control their destinies when it comes to careers and pay.

We really haven't come a long way, baby.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mental Health Day

(Allergies. Maybe later.)


Monday, August 20, 2012

Do No Harm

This article had me fuming since I read it on Saturday. The combination of the horrid heat, the crap coming out of the various campaigns, and this revelation made for a lousy weekend. I didn't appreciate that.

When Bill Buck accidentally cut off the tip of his finger at his Duarte cabinet workshop two years ago, he headed to Huntington Memorial Hospital's emergency room.

He assumed his insurance company would sort out the $12,630 bill from the plastic surgeon, Jeannette Martello.

But Martello wasn't satisfied with the $3,500 insurance reimbursement, so she returned the check and filed a lawsuit against Buck, his wife and his business for the full amount, according to the state attorney general's office. She also began a process to force the sale of Buck's home to collect the money, records show.

Martello's use of aggressive tactics to collect fees from emergency room patients like Buck — including lawsuits, taking out liens on their homes and damaging their credit — prompted an unprecedented court case by state health officials and a judge's order for Martello to cease the practices. ...

The state's managed health care department, which tried more than once in recent years to halt Martello's bill collection practices, said there were at least 10 court cases in which the doctor allegedly violated the law by seeking payments from patients covered by managed care. It's not clear how many patients overall may have been affected, but Los Angeles County Superior Court records list Martello as a plaintiff in more than 50 civil cases since 2010, many of them breach of contract claims.

Under state law, patients like Buck with managed care plans are entitled to have their emergency care covered, experts said. Disputes over payments — for patients with certain plans — are supposed to be resolved between the doctor and the health plan under a 2009 California Supreme Court decision, experts said.

"The Supreme Court was very clear," Lucas said. "If the doctor is unhappy with what they are getting paid by the managed care plan, they need to fight it out with the health plan and leave the patient out of it."
[Emphasis added]

Huntington Memorial Hospital (one of the finest hospitals in Southern California) has terminated its ER contract with Dr. Martello. The California Medical Board (the state's doctors' licensing agency) has filed an accusation, the result of which could cost Dr. Martello her license. And the doctor's response, via her lawyers? Hey, she provided the service, she should get paid. After all, Mr. Buck (and other patients she has tried to gouge) was stable when she got there. He could have elected to have one of the other ER doctors to stitch his finger up.

Yeah, right.

A guy sitting in the ER with a bloody stump of a finger who depends on his hands to do his work can make that kind of decision because he knows a plastic surgeon would just cost too much. That assumes, of course, that someone in the busy ER has pointed out the cost differential to him and that he has calmed down enough to actually hear and understand what is being said.

And that leads to the broader issue of health care in the country, something being "debated" this election cycle. Yes, the US has a fine, even excellent cadre of medical providers. The problem is that only a few can freaking afford to access it. That was the whole point of the ACA and the Medicare cost reductions which President Obama developed. Is it a perfect solution? Hell, no! But it's a welcome start on the road to reining in the cost of treatment so the rest of us can get it. Managed care need not be a dirty phrase. It does not mean death panels. What it means is that those of us who are not filthy rich (and I use the adjective intentionally) can finally get that treatment early on, before the treatment is extensive, and can get that treatment in awful emergencies like Mr. Buck's.

Yes, it does mean that health care providers won't make the gazillions to which they fervently believe they are entitled. They'll still do all right. And that brings me to the cherry on this foetid sundae:

Martello, a 1988 UCLA School of Medicine graduate, also has published a plastic surgery magazine and offered a line of skin care products. She attended law school at UC Berkeley, though she is not licensed to practice law in California, according to the State Bar of California. [Emphasis added]

Orly Taitz, anyone?

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Lewis Carroll

(I've been following politics too closely in this heat.)


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

--Lewis Carroll

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 8/15/12 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Blue Dasher

(Photograph taken from Ifthethunderdontgetya. Click on the link for some more absolutely stunning photography.)

There's No There There

(Click on image to enlarge and then please hustle on back.)

David Horsey has a wonderfully acerbic column on Mitt Romney's amazing ability to change positions at the blink of an eye. Horsey focuses primarily on Mitt and Medicare, but he does mention a few other "flip-flops" which have been so glaring that even wimpy Democrats have been pointing them out.

After watching the verbal contortions Mitt Romney has put himself through in the last week when speaking about Paul Ryan’s budget plan, it has become impossible to take seriously anything he has to say.

The soon-to-be presidential nominee of the Republican Party has praised Ryan’s plan as a commendable product of the “intellectual leader” of Congress. But, after naming Ryan as his running mate and being hit by a torrent of questions about the harsh particulars of Ryan’s budget, Romney and his surrogates quickly put distance between his own budget plan and that of his new political partner.

Yet, almost simultaneously, to keep the party’s conservative base from thinking he was shying away from Ryan’s fiscal rigor, Romney contradicted himself by describing his own plan as essentially the same as Ryan’s, apart from a few minor details.

And then, when the Romney campaign began running ads slamming the Obama administration for $716 billion in cuts to Medicare funding, observers pointed out that Ryan’s plan takes a similar amount out of Medicare. President Obama hit back on the campaign trail, insisting his cuts come at the expense of insurance companies and service providers while the costs of Ryan’s voucher alternative come out of the pockets of Medicare recipients.

In response, Romney announced that, as president, he would restore the money Obama took away -- which makes it hard to imagine he will become a champion for Ryan’s cuts. Implicitly, Romney has joined a growing list of Republican candidates running from the Medicare piece of Ryan’s budget.
[Emphasis added.]

Mitt has engaged in the same contortions regarding when it comes to Planned Parenthood, health care, gay rights. It's no wonder that right wingers are a little hesitant to go crazy for him.

It is abundantly clear that when he is not spouting generalities and platitudes about the greatness of America and the wonders of free enterprise, the few specific stands he takes are completely provisional. Romney goes beyond mere flip-flopping; he never really lands anywhere.

Sincere fiscal conservatives are right to mistrust the man who becomes the official GOP nominee in a few days. Yes, he would probably further lighten the tax and regulatory burden on big corporations, but that is easy duty, popular with big donors and party stalwarts. When the tougher challenges face him, though, like fixing Medicare and balancing the budget, it is not hard to imagine Mitt Romney doing back springs as he runs away.

My theory is that Mitt Romney believes he is entitled ... to everything. He is a rich white male who has coasted through life. He isn't used to being questioned, to being challenged. He has been successful, at whatever cost to everyone else, so he intends to be successful again, at whatever cost to everyone else. We should should all just shut up and hand him the presidential crown. It's his proper due.

Like I said: there's no there there.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

(Photo snagged from Presto-chango. For more wonderful pictures of Larry Elvis, Curly, and Other Persons' Pets, click on the link.)

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (August 14, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then be kind enough to return.)

Yesterday I commented on the Romney-Ryan campaign as being more suitable for 1912 than 2012 because it seemed to be geared to the new breed of Robber Barons. I'm more convinced than ever that Horsey's analysis was apt after reading this AP article:

Twenty-six big U.S. companies paid their CEOs more last year than they paid the federal government in tax, according to a study released Thursday by a liberal-leaning think tank.

The study, by the Institute for Policy Studies, said the companies, including AT&T, Boeing and Citigroup, paid their CEOs an average of $20.4 million last year while paying little or no federal tax on ample profits, according to regulatory filings.

Some companies cited in the study said it was misleading. They also said they took advantage of tax deductions and credits designed to free up money for companies to spend in ways that stimulate the economy. ...

Among the "kingpins" it criticized was CEO James McNerney Jr. of Boeing. It said he got $18.4 million in pay last year while his company received a tax refund of $605 million.

The study also laid into Citigroup for paying CEO Vikram Pandit $14.9 million while the bank received a net $144 million in tax benefits.

Eighteen of the 26 companies received cash back or credits to apply against tax in the future, according to the report.

The study, a 45-page attack on the corporate tax code, said deductions and credits are allowing companies to lavish big pay packages on executives so they can cut their tax bills while Washington gets less money in a time of trillion-plus deficits.

"Our nation's tax code has become a powerful enabler of bloated CEO pay," the study said.
[Emphasis added]

Of course, AP felt compelled to note that the study was done by "liberal-leaning think tank" and to offer the excuses of the companies as "balance." Those excuses are laughable, yet are offered with great seriousness.

AT&T is so busy trying to screw its union employees that those employees have had to go on strike to get some reasonable negotiations started. And other employers are still laying off workers: yesterday's new unemployment figures show an increase over last week's figures.

Meanwhile, the CEOs are making out like bandits, or like Mitt Romney, who yesterday announced that he has in fact been paying taxes the last ten years, at the frighteningly high rate of 13%.

Yeah, that's impressive. The rest of us (at least those of us lucky enough to have a job and an income) are paying at 35%.

But that's not good enough for Romney and Ryan: they want to cut taxes even further for our elite.

To which I say, "Fukkem. With a rusty chain saw. Sideways."

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Those Good Old Days

(Click on image to enlarge and then come on back.)

David Horsey provides an interesting historical perspective to the current presidential campaign. He suggests that especially the Romney-Ryan ticket seems more attuned to 1912 than 2012, and traces the evolution of and now attack upon liberal policies such as the safety nets put in place by FDR.

From the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a different, liberal ethic drove our politics, even during the Republican administrations of Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford. That ethic said government must provide a safety net for the less fortunate among us and set limits on business interests that foul the environment, exploit workers and bamboozle consumers.

All of that changed with the Reagan administration. Since then, even under the two Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, those liberal principles have been under attack. It's pretty hard to dispute Horsey's analysis up to this point, although I do have some reservations with his next point.

Now, with the political pendulum stuck between the contending philosophies of right and left, the 2012 election offers voters a stark choice between the classic liberalism of the Obama administration and the militant conservatism of the Republican “young guns” in the House of Representatives. With one of the most prominent of those young guns, Paul D. Ryan, tapped as Romney’s choice for vice president, it is clear the Republican Party wants more than a restoration of the compromising conservatism of Reagan. The GOP seeks a return to the good old days of McKinley and Taft.

The budget plans that Ryan has put forward as chairman of the House Budget Committee would underfund or seriously alter nearly every liberal program instituted since FDR’s New Deal. His schemes would also lower taxes on the rich to a level not seen since the 1920s while whittling away at the deductions for home mortgages and philanthropic giving that have helped the middle class. In 2010, he proposed a complete elimination of the capital gains tax, a step that would allow people who live off their investments -- people such as Mitt and Ann Romney -- to pay no taxes at all. ...

Over the last 100 years, the planks of the Socialist Party platform of 1912 -- items like a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, and precursors to Social Security and Medicare -- became mainstream ideas and pillars of American life. During the liberal era, a huge middle class was created as the American economy became the most vibrant and innovative in the world. The income gap between the rich and everyone else narrowed. A college education became the norm. Most people moved to the cities or suburbs. Women left home and went to work. The U.S. became a more equal, multi-racial society.

The core question before voters in this campaign season is which ethic -- conservative or liberal -- will guide our society in this new century. A lot of the folks supporting the Romney-Ryan ticket are shouting that they want to take their country back, but back to what?
[Emphasis added]

My quibble is with Horsey's characterization of Barack Obama as a "classic liberal." He is more akin to the "liberalism" practiced by Bill Clinton and other DLC types. Remember, it was this group that "reformed" welfare. It is a Wall Street oriented liberalism which always has the health and well-being of the captains of industry in mind.

That said, however, I do not think Horsey overstates his position that the choices this time around are stark, nor do I disagree with his description of the intentions of the GOP and the moguls who stand behind that party. The question then becomes one of whether the Democrats will be brave enough to hammer this message home during the campaign, or whether they will once again play it safe, knowing that our owners will disapprove of any straying from the reservation.

I am not as pessimistic as I was last week at this time, but I'm not quite at the level of unbridled optimism.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Because It's Too Damned Hot

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (August 12, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

As much fun as the Romney/Ryan Express is turning out to be right now, I'm just too overwhelmed by the heat wave in Southern California to be coherent enough to blog about it. It's as if my brain and my body have decided to head off into some other dimension in protest.

Now, I'm willing to admit that August and September are the hottest months for this area and that days of temperatures in the upper 90s and even triple digits are not that unusual. This heat wave, however, is different. First of all, humidity levels are much higher than in usual in SoCal. It's been like breathing and moving through wet cotton.

Second of all, while we might have spells of three or four days of high heat, we don't have several weeks of it with no end in sight. We're well into week two of these temps. Yesterday the high was 96F for the mid-San Gabriel Valley. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be 95F, and then the temps are supposed to start climbing again. That will put us into week three of the heat wave, and that is unusual.

What is worrisome from the practical 'here-and-now' is that our energy sources are badly strained because the San Onofre nuclear power plant (which supplies a considerable amount of electricity to Southern California) is down and won't be up until after the summer is over, if then. We've had several "flex alerts" called, asking consumers to reduce power usage as much as possible between noon and 9PM to avoid brown outs. People have complied, but that still doesn't offset the loss of the power from San Onofre.

I've tried to cut my personal usage as much as possible. I've ramped the a/c to kick in at 80F, unplugged everything but the refrigerator, and stayed off line during the afternoon. The problem is that I live in an apartment building with a stucco exterior. Now stucco is a wonderful insulator. It keeps the building cool during most sieges. When it's this hot for this long, however, the stucco gets hot and holds the heat in.

And what is more worrisome is that this might very well be a pretty good indication of the future. It won't be unusual, not at all, not here or elsewhere. And I really don't see that anyone anywhere is willing to do anything about it.

Jim Morin's cartoon nailed it.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

But That's Not All

(Click on image to enlarge and then come on back.)

It's pretty clear that the primary focus of coverage on Paul Ryan, the chosen running mate for Mitt Romney, has been on his economic plan which contains a provision to gut and destroy Medicare. That was pretty much the focus of David Horsey's recent column. However, Horsey also raised another set of issues (albeit obliquely) concerning Ryan in his discussion of what the Ryan selection meant for former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

In endorsing the Romney-Ryan ticket on Saturday, Santorum described Ryan as “a full spectrum conservative” who shares not only Santorum’s fiscal ideas but his “solidly pro-life, pro-family” philosophy, as well. What happens if voters convincingly reject Ryan’s hard-line conservatism? That is the one thing that could kill his chances to become the Republican heir apparent. But if such a rejection is bad for Ryan, it would be bad for Santorum too, along with any other “full spectrum conservative.” [Emphasis added]

In other words, Ryan is not just a "dead-eyed granny killer," he's also a full-on anti-choice, anti-woman's-health warrior, as noted in this New York Times article.

Though best known as an architect of conservative fiscal policy, Representative Paul D. Ryan has also been an ardent, unwavering foe of abortion rights, has tried to cut off federal money for family planning, has opposed same-sex marriage and has championed the rights of gun owners. ...

In an interview with the conservative Weekly Standard in 2010, Mr. Ryan, an observant Roman Catholic, played down the possibility of a truce on social issues, which had been suggested by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a Republican.

“I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” Mr. Ryan said then. “You’re not going to have a truce. Judges are going to come up. Issues come up, they’re unavoidable, and I’m never going to not vote pro-life.”

In nearly 14 years as a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, Mr. Ryan has not only voted for legislation that would cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood and the Title X family planning program, but also backed bills to establish criminal penalties for certain doctors who perform the procedure known as partial-birth abortion.

He is a co-sponsor of a bill that would define fetuses as people entitled to full legal protection, a proposal that has become the latest focus in the battles over abortion The bill declares, “The life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”
[Emphasis added]

It's clear that that the Romney campaign was looking for more than just a deficit reduction hawk to fill out his ticket and that he was playing to more than just the Tea Party wing of his party. Ryan provided the very mix Romney needed.

While it was refreshing to see a major newspaper point out the cultural warrior aspect, it would be even nicer to see the Obama campaign and Democrats in general paying some attention to this part of the equation. As we move closer to the conventions and to the election I hope to see some solid portrayals of Ryan as totally out of the mainstream and just wrong for this country.

There's more at stake than a "balanced" budget.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

That's The Ticket

(Graphic stolen from Democratic Underground.)

Mitt Romney finally announced his running mate on Saturday morning: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). In typical Romney fashion, Mitt introduced Ryan as "the next President," but, hey, what's one more verbal gaffe at this point?

The choice wasn't all that surprising (unless, of course, your name is Tim Pawlenty): Ryan is a GOP superstar right now. His plan to balance the budget by destroying Medicare to finance more tax cuts for the 1% qualifies him as a very serious force in the political world, especially in the eyes of the far right-wing of the party. Mitt is still trying to convince those people he's a conservative and obviously hopes his choice for running-mate will accomplish that.

So who is this superstar? Well, he's someone who thinks government needs to be small and needs to stop meddling in the affairs of individuals and businesses. Unlike Mitt Romney, he wasn't born wealthy. Nope, he made his way in the world by his own, unassisted efforts. Atrios summarized Ryan's accomplishments thusly:

Public high school.

Public university.

Worked for family business.

Congressional staffer, with service jobs for additional money.

Speechwriter for Jack Kemp.

Staffer for Sam Brownback.

Member of Congress.

Capitalism, just as Rand envisioned.

'Rand', of course, is Ayn Rand, a "philosopher" that Ryan was heavily impressed by, at least in days gone by. Recently, he seems to forget that part of his bio, a lapse that fits nicely with Mitt Romney's own penchant for convenient recollection. At least one member of the press took a closer look:

Back in 2005, an up-and-coming lawmaker named Paul Ryan credited the polemical novelist and libertarian Ayn Rand as a central inspiration for his entry into public life. Ryan toiled in those days in relative obscurity, a well-respected but low-profile member of the House of Representatives.

By the spring of 2012, the boyish congressman had become a Republican star, widely named as a possible vice presidential pick. He also had become considerably less comfortable being linked to the controversial Rand, an atheist with a tartly Darwinian world view. ...

Journalists who have recently written about Ryan suggested that his infatuation with the Russian émigré author, who died in 1982 at age 77, has hardly waned. The favorite son of Wisconsin has recently been insisting that his embrace of Rand amounted to a youthful infatuation. In an April interview with the National Review, Ryan said that the reports linking him to Rand were essentially “an urban legend.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told Robert Costa of the National Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.” He added that he had merely “enjoyed a couple of her novels,” which also included another bestseller, “The Fountainhead.”

But Ryan made no bones about his philosophical influences just a few years ago. He told the Weekly Standard in 2003 that he gave his staffers copies of “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents. Speaking to a group of Rand acolytes in 2005, Ryan said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” ...

Jonathan Chait, writing in New York magazine, suggested Ryan cannot slough off his connections to Rand’s thinking that easily. The journalist cited Ryan’s 2009 remarks about the immorality of government attacking productive members of society.

“It is not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big or the healthcare plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason,” the lawmaker said. “It is the morality of what is occurring right now, and how it offends the morality of individuals working toward their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack, and it is that what I think Ayn Rand would be commenting on.”

So, a new dream team has arisen to save the nation. Perhaps the best summary came from mp, a commenter at Eschaton.

Here you have a white male top of the ticket born into privilege, picking another white male not born into privilege, but taking advantage of the safety net he now wants to set ablaze.

Why, yes. I think that gets it nicely.

That reminds me. I need to stock up on more popcorn.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Poetry: William Blake

from Proverbs of Hell

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the
destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep.
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.
The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that
they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once, only imagin'd.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse,
the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
One thought, fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

--William Blake

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (August 7, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Canada Lynx

(Photograph from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Click on the link to find out more about this big-footed kitten.)

The Best Money Can Buy

The Center for Responsive Politics continues to track expenditures for election ads for this cycle. Once again, the group's Open Secrets blog takes a look at those groups contributing millions for ads without having to reveal the source of the money.

As of today [August 6, 2012], spending reported to the Federal Election Commission by groups that aren't required to disclose the sources of their funding has nearly tripled over where it stood at the same point in the 2010 election cycle, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics.

By Aug. 6, 2010, groups registered as social welfare organizations, or 501(c)(4)s, as well as super PACs funded entirely by them, had reported spending $8.5 million. That figure has soared to $24.9 million in this cycle.

In 2008, nondisclosing groups reported spending $8.3 million at this point in the campaign season. ...

Any group claiming 501(c)(4) status under the Internal Revenue Code is supposed to spend less than half its budget on political activity, such as independent expenditures. However, as OpenSecrets Blog has described, some groups spend much of their money on issue ads, and also fund other tax-exempt groups with similar political philosophies that in turn spend their money on advertising.

The increase in the overall reported spending by nondisclosing groups this cycle is likely attributable in great part to the fact that this is a presidential election year. An additional factor may be that this is the first full election cycle since the January 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC and other legal developments freed up fundraising and spending by outside groups. ...

Much more spending is yet to come, if 2012 is anything like 2010. Nondisclosing groups reported to the FEC that they spent $130 million for the whole 2010 election cycle, and 93 percent of it was unleashed after Aug. 6.

If that pattern holds true, more than $300 million in political spending will be reported to the FEC by groups that do not have to disclose their donors and are not supposed to have politics as their primary function. Much more money will never be reported, except in vague summaries months -- or even years -- from now, when these groups file their tax forms with the IRS.
[Emphasis added]

And that money is being targeted carefully. Progressive candidates like Sherrod Brown are facing a deluge of nasty ads without being able to match the money spent. In other words, the rest of us are being shut out of the process without knowing who is financing the opposition.

I'm not a big Obama fan, but I'll tell you what: I'll still show up on election day and vote for him and the Democrats in the hopes that one of the members of the conservative wing of the Supreme Court will either retire or die. Justice Kagan is not exactly my cup of tea, but a Romney appointee will no doubt mirror Scalia and Alito.

Like I keep saying: I'm getting too old for this.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

(Yup, another one of those episodes at my place, also.)

Pleasant Surprises Are Always Welcome

It doesn't take much to cheer me up most of the time. As rotten as I felt yesterday after over-extending myself in the heat on Wednesday, I perked right up after reading this L.A. Times editorial. The editorial board got it right this time.

Its subject is the Romney campaign attack ad claiming that President Obama is gutting the 1996 Welfare Reform Act by erasing the return-to-work requirements. That law was mean-spirited and misguided, based as it was on a lot of myths about Welfare Cadillac Queens, but it passed (and was signed by an allegedly Democratic president). What this administration did, however, was simply listen to the complaints of states trying to comply with the law and finding some difficulty in doing so, and coming up with a way to remove some of the burdens on the states.

As much as lawmakers in Washington like federalism in concept, they have trouble accepting it in practice. In 2005, Congress eliminated some of the welfare law's flexibility and imposed new paperwork burdens, prompting several states to ask Washington for relief. Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would use the authority granted by the law to let states experiment with new, potentially more effective ways to move parents from welfare to work. Most controversially, the department said states could apply for waivers to consider "work activities" and participation measurements other than the ones specified in the law. For example, the department said, a state might propose to allow longer vocational programs to be counted as work activities.

States get no more aid when their caseloads rise, so they have a strong incentive to move welfare recipients onto private payrolls. Nevertheless, critics of the administration cried foul over the administration's plan, and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney produced ads accusing Obama of "taking the work out of welfare." On the contrary, the administration is trying to get the federal government off the backs of states eager to spend more of their (limited) welfare aid on programs that really do help put parents into jobs that can sustain their families. That task is hard enough, considering the cuts that California and other cash-strapped states have made to programs that help poor parents obtain child care and transportation. Yet when it comes to designing successful welfare programs, Romney and other administration critics seem to believe Congress knows best. That's principled federalism for you.
[Emphasis added]

I think the editorial is unnecessarily kind. This ad really doesn't have anything to do with federalism. What it has to do with is the ongoing war against the poor, particularly the poor of color. It was a "dog whistle" aimed to rouse the worst part of the Republican base. The important thing, however, is that the editorial board blew its own whistle on the distortion and lies.

And that was a pleasant surprise.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Why I Love Cartoonists

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 8/9/12 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Click on image to enlarge, then please return.)

This is one of those cartoons that doesn't need much comment, which is how you know that the cartoonist has nailed it.

And that's a good thing, especially today. The heat here in SoCal has gotten to me. My brain is fried and I ache all over.

Hopefully I can be more lucid tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Do Nothing

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (August 7, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then kindly return.)

Congress is on vacation. Again. When our representatives return in a few weeks, there will be less than two months before the election, and then about two months remaining in the 112th Congress. In other words, not too much of any real substance will be accomplished.

That is not too surprising, after all. Not too much beyond the ACA has been enacted since 2008. And as far as I can see, both sides of the aisle have engaged in political posturing and dithering to avoid any meaningful legislation since 2010. I'm not alone in that assessment, as this CNN article from back in June makes clear.

According to a CNN analysis of congressional records that looked at bills that became law and the number of days lawmakers worked, members of the House have spent more than 150 days and Senate just over 140 days in session so far, comparable to previous Congresses at this point in the term.

But of the thousands of measures introduced, only 132 passed both. About one-fifth of those measures were to approve official names for post offices.

In the previous Congress, the House worked 286 days and the Senate worked 349 days. That Congress passed 383 bills, according to Library of Congress records. Each Congress spans a two-year cycle.

The logjam means important pieces of legislation -- such as the transportation funding bill and measures to address high student loan rates and, yes, even the budget -- haven't passed. ...

At this point, the foot-dragging and finger-pointing is all about embarrassing the other party, [Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution] said.

"It is about generating blame for something, about trying to put the other side in a difficult political position."
[Emphasis added]

All of this "foot-dragging and finger-pointing" is mostly because there is an election coming up, but there are other elements involved: keeping the wealthy business donors happy and keeping defense contractors happy have always been a priority.

These yahoos are getting over $100,000 a year in salary and thousands more in benefits to work part-time to accomplish nothing.

Nice gig, eh?


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

I Just Don't Get It

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (August 6, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then come on back.)

I really don't get it. Why is Mitt Romney being so stubborn about releasing his past tax returns the way other presidential candidates have and the way his own father did? He claims he has nothing to hide, so why the refusal? He has to know he's giving the Democrats a huge weapon to use against him, made even worse by his steadfast refusal to even acknowledge the issue, as if he really did have something to hide.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that "a source" told him Mitt didn't pay any taxes for the ten years in question. Republicans howled in protest, telling Reid to put up or shut up. The RNC head even called Reid a "dirty liar" on a Sunday talk show, thereby generating even more spin for the mills.

Others have suggested that Romney took advantage of an amnesty program and brought his offshore money back onshore without paying any taxes. Maybe, then, he actually didn't pay any taxes, but under the program, that certainly wasn't illegal. I guess he and his campaign felt that would still look bad. It might, but not as bad as it looks right now when it appears he actually is hiding stuff from the electorate.

Another view is a bit more fanciful, but certainly not out of the question. From Emptywheel (via Susie Madrak):’s a thought.

Harry Reid, Mormon, and Senator from Nevada, is the one leading the charge to return attention to Mitt’s tax returns.

He attributes his claim that Mitt paid no taxes for ten years to someone who invested with Bain. Now he may know his purported Bain-related source because he travels the halls of power. But Bain has very close cultural ties to the Mormon Church–according to some, improperly so. Moreover, because Mitt and other Bain execs have given so much to the Mormon Church in the form of Bain stocks, high ranking Mormon insiders may have a better idea of what Bain Capital actually does–and how Mitt valued his holdings before he gave them to the Church–than most others.

So Reid may be calling out Mitt not just as a former boxer, but as someone who shares a very wealth-based and close knit faith with Mitt.

Add in the practice–which even an outsider like me saw when I lived in UT and worked for a predominantly Mormon company in the 1990s–of gossip about tithing, notably whether Mormon colleagues tithed pre- or post-tax. That’s another reason why Reid may have a better sense of what Mitt’s tax practices look like than DC pundits might guess on face value.
[Emphasis added]

If that's the case, it would appear that Romney fears losing Utah and Idaho and Nevada if he chiseled his own church.

Ultimately, I think the reason is that so much has been made about his expensive tastes and his personal wealth that showing just how much money he has earned each year and how little he paid in taxes would make it appear that he really has nothing in common with 99% of the population and isn't likely to defend the interests of the plebes.

But, who knows?

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Monday, August 06, 2012

It's My Birthday

Today is my 66th birthday and one of the ways I'm celebrating it is by not blogging on things that happened over the weekend and that depressed me (domestic and international violence will have to go on without me). I probably won't even read the newspapers I usually read early in the morning, although I may relent later in the day if I'm exceptionally bored.

Instead, I plan on sipping champagne at various times during the day and on wearing purple.

For those of you who would like to give me a present or two, please consider a donation via PayPal or a gift certificate to No gifts are necessary, however, just keep dropping by.

And may the day be peaceful for all of us.


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Dylan Thomas

(Tomorrow is my 66th birthday. Each year this poem means more to me.)

Twenty-Four Years

Twenty-four years remind the tears of my eyes.
(Bury the dead for fear that they walk to the grave in labour.)
In the groin of the natural doorway I crouched like a tailor
Sewing a shroud for a journey
By the light of the meat-eating sun.
Dressed to die, the sensual strut begun,
With my red veins full of money,
In the final direction of the elementary town
I advance as long as forever is.

--Dylan Thomas

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 8/3/2012 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Atretochoana eiselti

(Photo by Juliano Tupan / Divulgacao and published by the Los Angeles Times. For more on this eyeless amphibian [not a snake] click on the link.)


David Lazarus, business and consumer columnist for the Los Angeles Times, finds the GOP stance on Medicaid to be mean-spirited. Of course it is. The only family values these yahoos have involve their families and only their families.

My colleague Noam N. Levey reported this week that conservative politicians at the state and federal level are laying the groundwork to scale back Medicaid if the GOP takes control of Congress and the White House in November.

Some Republican governors are already cutting coverage for low-income people, arguing that Medicaid has grown ineffective and unaffordable. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers in Washington are renewing calls to limit Medicaid funding from the federal government.

This is scary stuff. Medicaid, or Medi-Cal as it's known in California, is the safety net for individuals and families who can't afford health coverage or don't receive medical benefits from employers.

Medicaid and the related Children's Health Insurance Program cover about 70 million people. Half this number are poor children. ...

Medicaid has some real problems, not least the fact that many physicians won't treat people covered by the program because they say the government's reimbursement rate is too low. Medicaid is also straining to keep up with rising demand that has resulted from the prolonged economic downturn.

But the program also is a bulwark against society cruelly turning a blind eye to those most in need. Medicaid is a declaration that healthcare in the United States is not limited solely to those fortunate enough to have well-compensating jobs or fat bank accounts.

Medicaid isn't just another budget item, such as the nearly $80 billion the Air Force has spent so far developing a new fighter jet, or the almost $600 billion that the Navy will spend on warships over the next 30 years.

Medicaid is people. It's a fair chance.

I guess it's all a matter of priorities with the folks in the Republican Party. Poor people are not high on their list. In fact, poor people are probably not even on their list.

I'm getting too old for this.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

(Political cartoon by Ruben Bolling and published 8/2/12 at Daily Kos. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

Ruben Bolling's cartoon really nails it, doesn't it? I'm just sorry I couldn't get a larger image to load. I suggest you click on the Daily Kos link: you might have better luck in getting a larger image than I did. Keep the cartoon in mind for the rest of this post, because there really is a connection.

Because of the Citizen's United decision, campaign spending this election cycle has skyrocketed. Corporations and the wealthy are perfectly free to pour whatever they choose into SuperPACs and 501(c)4 organizations and they have done so, on both sides of the political spectrum. Open Secrets has published its latest report on campaign expenditures and have included a prediction for the totals.

The 2012 presidential and congressional elections will be the most expensive on record, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates -- though not by much. The Center predicts, based on data from 18 months of fundraising and spending, that the elections will cost $5.8 billion, an increase of 7 percent from the 2008 cost of $5.4 billion. But outside spending, which is soaring while presidential candidate spending declines, is a wild card that makes predictions tricky. ...

The presidential race by itself will cost about $2.5 billion, the Center predicts, in funds laid out by the candidates, Democratic and Republican party committees and outside spending groups. The candidates have raised about $608 million, compared with more than $1.1 billion at this point in the 2008 cycle.

The big factor in 2012 is outside money. These elections -- presidential and congressional -- are the first in which new, post-Citizens United rules will have been operative for the entire two-year campaign cycle. While outside spending groups existed in previous presidential election cycles -- Americans Coming Together, for example, on the liberal side, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for conservatives -- that U.S. Supreme Court decision and other legal developments led to the proliferation of super PACs and the growth of other outside spending groups that don’t have to disclose their donors.

As a result, spending by outside groups will make up a far larger proportion of the total spent in the 2012 election than in previous cycles and will add up to, at a minimum, $750 million, the Center forecasts.
[Emphasis added]

For a breakdown of the donations and expenditures as of the July 21, 2012 reporting deadline, go here, but keep in mind that these figures do not include the 501(c)4 groups who are not required to file reports listing donors or expenditures. I have a hunch that the Center For Responsive Politics forecast is going to be quite low and that we are actually looking at over $3 billion in the presidential contest alone, with hundreds of millions (if not a billion) in congressional races.

So, back to the Bolling cartoon.

Businesses are sitting on a lot of cash (fish, hut repair kits, coconuts) because they claim a certain "uncertainty" over the economic future of the country. Banks, who got bailed out by us, are not loaning money to smaller companies who might actually put people back to work because of "uncertainty" over the economic future of the country. Yet there seems to be several billions of dollars available to spend freely on buying politicians to ensure that there will still be plenty of cash in the coffers for our owners.

In the mean time, the politicos already in office and who want to keep their jobs are cutting funds to such "give-aways" as food stamps for the poor so they can cut taxes even further for the 1% elite.

It kind of makes me want to scream.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012


(Click on image to enlarge and then return)

David Horsey's recent cartoon and column had me laughing loudly enough to annoy my cat. Once again, a cartoonist has nailed it in one.

I am starting to feel sorry for Mitt Romney. On an international tour of three countries, he made news in two of them by dissing the London Olympics and infuriating the Palestinians. The poor guy – for months, people have complained that he never says what he really believes. Now he’s in trouble for too boldly saying what he actually thinks.

And that's the amazing part. Romney, who frequently has trouble speaking the truth, did this time, and it got him into a whole gilded bowl of trouble. What's even more stunning is that he managed to do this in what should have been a walk in the park:

The intent of Romney’s excursion abroad was to increase his street cred as a potential world statesman, but, even if there had been no mini-media storms, it is hard to see how anyone would be overly impressed by his play-it-safe itinerary. Traveling to Britain, Israel and Poland is about as risky for an American politician as a tour of country clubs would be for an executive from Bain Capital.

Now, if Romney had gone to Pakistan, Venezuela and Somalia, we would have something more interesting to talk about than minding one’s manners at the Olympic Games.

Ouch! That has to leave a mark.