Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Got It Figured Out

While on my 30-minute walk today with Prozac the Boston Terrier, it hit me like a flash. I'm listening to "Planet Money" podcast (thanks for turning me out to this, Tana), and they're talking about what's really going to cure Europe's economic woes. Guess what is? Economic growth. And can you guess what is going to cure all our ills here in the US? I'm talking the deficit, unemployment, income disparity, cancer . . . everything. Everything gets better with economic growth. Right?

Wrong. Economic growth is good for right now. But the whole premise of economic growth is flawed. It's a great concept for a globe with about 3 billion people on it. Mother Earth could sustain the consumption of resources this many people would use. But the globe currently has well more than twice that living on it, with even more projected. The population won't level off till there's something like 9 billion people. Now if you've been paying attention at all, the Earth and its bounty is groaning under the weight of its current population. And to sustain all these people, we're tearing the tops off mountains for coal, fishing out thousands of square miles of ocean for fishes, clear cutting rain forests all over. And Earth is protesting: huge chunks of Antarctica falling off, killer storms everywhere, water shortages, creeping desertification, poisoned rivers, square miles of floating plastic dead zones in three oceans, toxic waste in the entire environment, animals species disappearing every day, monstrous growing cities slowing chewing up hundreds of acres and replacing arable land with slums. Not to mention billions, that's billions, of people living at the very edge of mere survival throughout the world.

So what's the problem here? The problem is the fundamental theoretical underpinning of the capitalistic system. Now, I'm not holding out any kind of brief here for an alternate system.* No, what I'm saying is if everything good is premised on the notion of more consumption this year than last--and everything bad if we don't have this--we're sooner or later finished. Simple as that. Survival of the human species, it seems to me, depends on qualities in human beings that are, to say the least, scarce. That would be selflessness and wisdom. All the religions have this figured out: selfishness kills bodies and spirits; wisdom is self-surrender. But isn't the whole notion of capitalism based ultimately on selfishness? the idea that things are not good and are not improving unless I, we, my country has more now than before? And then more than that next year? When are we going to figure out that this just is not going to work?


Here's a related video by a great band, Talking Heads. These guys had it figured out.

*Not because I wouldn't favor one, but I seriously wonder what could work at this point. I don't see any evidence that any of them do for everybody.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Caniption

That's what the Catholic Church is having over what they claim is a matter of constitutional rights, specifically the right of free speech--and according to one bishop the rights of conscience. All over the country pulpits vibrated yesterday with letters of indignation from bishops because of the Obama administration's rule that requires contraceptive services such as birth control pills be included in the health care insurance plans under the Affordable Health Care Act. Though churches and other directly-worship connected institutions are exempt, places like hospitals are not. So the Catholic bishops are having shit fits.

I would like to raise several points of order. First, it's been well-established by any number of surveys that Catholics by a massive percentage, like over 90, practice birth control despite what the Church teaches on the matter.
A report released last year shows about 98 per cent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptive methods banned by the church. The study showed practices of Catholic women are in line with women of other religious affiliations and adult American women in general.
Nearly 70 per cent of Catholic women use sterilization, the birth control pill or an IUD, according to the Guttmacher Institute research. (Source)
So the natural question arises, just who are these bishops talking to? Second, where are the voices of these models of morality when it comes to issues that aren't "safe" from government retaliation or even more to the point, retaliation from the pews? Which, need we note, translates into far fewer shekels in the collection plates.* Did we hear them denouncing the war in Iraq, which was launched on the basis of a passel of lies by the president and henchmen? The immorality of nuclear weapons? Did we ever hear these paragons of virtue condemn the gross inequities of daily life in this country: the disparity of income, the scandalous number of people who go hungry every day in the land of the free? How about the crimes being committed against the earth by corporations? Hell, no. You're not going to hear this stuff from the pulpits. That's way likely to piss off people with wallets.

Third, anybody who is morally repulsed by an insurance plan that covers contraception, well, they can go get a plan that doesn't. Nobody has to actually use birth control or the morning after pill if it does violence to their religious beliefs. But what about the Methodist who works in a Catholic hospital. Does she not deserve a comprehensive health insurance plan?

Finally, this is the same bunch of people who kept their mouths tightly shut while hundreds of priests in their charge molested and sexually abused children all over the country. (In fact, some of the bishops were pedophiles, too, graduated up the chain.) This is the same bunch of people who didn't have the balls to purge their own ranks after virtually every single one of them suborned pedophilia in their dioceses for decades. This is the same bunch of people that is still spending millions of dollars trying to fend off legal settlements with the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The whole lot of them have forfeited their right to lecture the rest of us and the US government, no less, about freedom of conscience! Not until they all stand publicly in sackcloth covered with ashes every Sunday for about five years should they open their pie holes about what's constitutional.

*Although there are still some progressives in the Catholic Church, it is a predominantly conservative organization whose hierarchy sees the world in the same way Republicans do. I have to confess this is impressionistic evidence from close observation on my part. As part of the Church's hierarchy for over 25 years, I listened to the political opinions of hundreds of Catholic leaders, cleric and lay, in several different parishes. Let me tell you. Progressives among these people were scarce.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

MOPs--We Gotta Have 'Em

A "bunker buster" at White Sands, New Mexico, 2007

Right up there is a picture of your tax dollars at work. That, friends, is a "bunker buster," a bomb designed to destroy sites that are located in hardened underground shelters, like, say, Iranian or North Korean facilities connected with their nuclear programs. In Pentagon gobblespeak this 30,000-pound bomb is called a "massive ordinance penetrator," MOP, naturally. Its hard--ahem!--to ignore the phallic implications of the monstrosity itself as well as its name.

Apparently, however, this particular penetrator is impotent in its present configuration. Can't go deep enough to blow those dirty Iranian bastards and their nasty nuclear devices or labs or storage spaces or enrichment places or whatever the hell they've got buried down there to kingdom come. So the Pentagon wants to administer some Viagra to the MOP. You and a whole bunch of other taxpayers have already paid $330 million for 20 of these things. The Pentagon is looking for another $82 million to make these bombs more powerful and secretly requesting Congress for the money. The bombs will then cost $20.6 million apiece. (Source)

Which might be fine if they would work even then. But we're warned by the Pentagon that these MOPs might not work against facilities built under mountains.
The Pentagon was particularly concerned about its ability to destroy bunkers built under mountains, such as Iran's Fordow site near the Shiite Muslim holy city of Qom, according to a former senior U.S. official who is an expert on Iran.

The official said some Pentagon war planners believe conventional bombs won't be effective against Fordow and that a tactical nuclear weapon may be the only military option if the goal is to destroy the facility. "Once things go into the mountain, then really you have to have something that takes the mountain off," the official said.

Got that? For $408 million dollars, we get MOPs that still cannot take mountains off. And tactical nuclear weapons are the "only military option" to do it. But of course. What lunacy!*

*Do I have to remind anybody that is is the normal mental condition of the Pentagon?

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I remarked tonight to Susan that my mom was going to be 91 years old on Tuesday . . . an amazingly long life. She responded that I had good genes and I would live to be that old too. "I hope not," I said. "The world is going to be in terrible shape by then." She simply said . . . "Things are going to keep on going on." And that, brothers and sisters, pretty well summarizes the two of us. I'm cursed, she's blessed. I'm cursed with a psyche that won't let me let go of all these "big" concerns. Susan, blessed be her beautiful heart, is anchored in the right here, right now. She worries about whether the grandkids are gonna have a good time at whatever they're doing. She's in the immediate, always. That's the way she thinks; that's the way she loves.

I'm much more drifty . . . I worry about the grandkids, too, and my own kids, for that matter. But I worry about the kind of world they are going to inhabit. There are so many troubles, so many problems that seem positively insoluble. Hell, they are everywhere you look. The change of climate and its already-perceptible effect on the global weather patterns; the economic crisis which seems to bode worse every day, despite what our leaders tell us; the gross disparity of the share of the world's bounty among nations and people; our broken political system; the rise of the rule of plutocrats across the world; the persistence of war and our country's worship of it; our wretched educational system that gets worse every year; water crises in parts of the US and in large parts of the world; a global population that is too large for the planet to sustain now and which will add another 2 billion people by mid-century. I worry about humanity's endless capacity for cruelty, greed, and savagery. About its insistence on murdering other people who don't share their religious beliefs. And so on and on.

It's not that I spend all my time in contemplation of these things. I'm just making the point that it's a curse to contemplate these things even part of the time every day, which I certainly do. There are too many of them. It's too much. Overwhelming. And it's an exercise in futility, as Susan so gently reminds me.     

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Great Art Form

You cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without 
1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity; 
2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety; and 
3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know. 
This is how you allow and encounter mystery. All else is mere religion.
I'm OK with #1. I'm shaky on the other two. I am greatly drawn the kind of Christian spirituality that Richard Rohr expounds. He wants us all to practice great art, and he teaches us how. I refuse to believe that the Holy is beyond. No, it is in all things.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

And God Said, "Let There be Morons."

This is the kind of thing that confirms us as idiots in the eyes of the world:
An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, despite pleas from scientists and religious leaders to keep religion out of science classrooms.
Senate Bill 89 allows school corporations to authorize “the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life” and specifically mentions “creation science” as one such theory.
State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who voted for the measure, said if there are many theories about life’s origins, students should be taught all of them. (Source)
 The vote in the Senate Education Committee wasn't even close: 8-2. Now the bill will move on to the Republican-controlled Senate. If it passes, the school districts of the state will have the option teaching intelligent design as a theory explaining the origins of life right alongside the "theory" of evolution in science courses. (Source)

Creation science is to science as justice is to military justice. This is ridiculous. You know, I just have to shake my head. I grew up (and was educated) in a time when science and scientific learning garnered respect. Now, in some quarters, if scientists teaches it, it is wrong. This creation science bit and the denial of global warming are just two of the most visible of this disturbing trend. What is a normal person supposed to make of this? I find it scary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Military Justice

Did you see where the last Marine out of eight, Staff Sgt Frank Wuterich, was given a virtual free pass at his court martial for his part in the murder of 24 Iraqi civilians including 10 women and children and one guy in a wheelchair, in the town of Haditha in 2005? The charge against all of these Marines was manslaughter. This was another of those horrific acts that we actually heard about--how many other atrocities committed by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan do you think will never come to light? I would argue that several more are out there. After one of the Marines in his squad was killed by an IED, Wuterich told his squad to shoot first and ask questions later as they entered a clutch of houses down the road from where the IED exploded. The other seven guys? Well, one was acquitted, and the other six guys had charges against them dropped. Wuterich pleaded out: he got to walk in exchange for a guilty plea to a single charge of negligent dereliction of duty.

The source article says nothing about his being dismissed from the service, but he's getting busted and is taking a pay cut. A little out of whack with the crime, dontcha think?  We should note that military justice has actually progressed in sparing the guilty in this matter of murdering civilians. During the Vietnam war, Lt William Calley, who gave the order that resulted in the death of over 500 civilians at the village of Mai Lai, and his court martial sentenced him to life imprisonment, which only seems fair to me. (I have to observe, however, that Calley was basically the fall guy for this crime; it got covered up all up the chain, and didn't come out but by the investigative reporting of Seymour Hirsch of the NYT.) But there was such and outcry and furor that President Nixon pardoned him right out of Leavenworth and into civilian life. Wuterich, too, and his fellow killers will now blend back into American life as if nothing had ever happened. But Haditha will never be the same again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Stacked Deck

Reading in the paper today an article about bankruptcies. Two big name companies are now seeking what's called the "protection of Chapter 11" [of the bankruptcy code]. Hostess Brands--the Twinkie people--and Kodak. On the heels of American Airlines just a while back. I had only a general idea of what Chapter 11 was all about. I knew that it allowed companies to duck out of paying some of their creditors, and then come back to life as a company without a lot of that bothersome and pesky debt to worry about. What I didn't know, but probably should have, was the logical consequence of protecting a corporate entity is unprotecting everybody else involved. Which, when you think about it, is why corporations love Chapter 11, and why they got their legislative lackeys to write the law the way they did.

The company wins, but there a bunch of losers in Chapter 11. First, of all the stockholders, the owners of the business. They rarely get anything. Workers are fired. The landlord, he gets stiffed. And most egregious of all, the retirees . . . they really take it in the ear. But not to worry about the executives of many of these firms; they continue to draw their inflated salaries and bonuses. All three of the companies we've mentioned want to use bankruptcy to get out their pension promises. This is the second bankruptcy for Hostess. The federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which I never knew existed, is there to pick up the pieces*, within limits, for the retirees who get screwed by companies, but as you might imagine, it is currently running a (record) deficit of $27 billion mostly because it's had to cover so many workers left high and dry by their companies.

Be aware, if you aren't already, that since 2005, the bankruptcy laws for individuals have been tightened considerably. Student loans cannot be written off, for example. It's a stacked deck in favor of the moneyed interests, like everything else in this country.

*Funds are provided by a tax on the companies.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Out of Sync . . . Again

Joe Paterno died today. He had lung cancer for a while. He went in the hospital just a day or so ago. And he's not going to come out.

I was doing something very unusual for me today. I watching NFL football. Something I rarely do, unless it's the Saints. But yesterday, Susan and I watched both the AFC and NFC championship games (great ones, btw), and I told her I don't if I have ever in my life watched two NFL games in one day. And during both, the gushing of tributes for Paterno started. Just two thoughts. And I guarantee you, either of these thoughts, much less the two of them put me out of sync with the vast majority of the rest of this country. Which I seem to be most of the time.

First, what was this guy, anyway? He was a damned football coach, for Pete's sake . . . a football coach who held his job a long time. A guy who apparently had already been defied on the Penn State campus long ago. All kinds of stuff named after him, and a holy shrine on the campus for him where the vigil lights--just like for the Sacred Heart of Jesus or Mary Immaculate in Catholic churches--now glow at his holy feet.

When prayers to Paterno cure the sick, he'll be sanctified a saint.
I repeat: this man was a football coach. He made no lasting or even temporary contribution to the history of western civilization. He's not leaving a building, a work of art, or even a recipe book behind him. His achievements, wins on the football field, bowl appearances, and so forth are like dust in the wind. Nobody remembers them. Which brings me to the second thought. I'm going to remember this guy, alright, and maybe others will, too. I'm going to remember him as somebody who suborned the practice of pedophilia by one of his longtime assistant coaches right there in his sports complex . He made a perfunctory report up the chain, but he did nothing else. Nothing. ("I wish I would have done more," he later said, after he had been outed. Well, no shit, dude!) He didn't confront the scumbag who was abusing children, much less fire his ass; he didn't press the school to investigate; he didn't follow up on his own report. What he did do was let the scumbag Sandusky continue to abuse kids. That's what "Joe Pa" means to me. I'll never forget him for that, just like I will never forget the hundreds of Catholic bishops who did the same exact thing with their vast collection of clerical scumbag pedophiles at the same time they posed as paragons of rectitude and arbiters of morality.

Update I: As expected, the media is overflowing today with bowing and scraping over Paterno. On Penn State campus there were a thousand candles and votive lights at the bronze shrine to the guy. Tears and lamentations.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Field of Dreams

It was a fair book by Ray Kinsella, made famous by the movie "Field of Dreams" with Kevin Costner and James Early Jones, he of one of the greatest voices on the planet. Anyway, you all know how crazy about baseball I am. It's actually worse than you might think. There's not a day that passes that I don't dabble in something having to do with baseball. For example, I'm beginning to stir about selecting my fantasy teams for this season. I played fantasy ball for the first time last season. This coming season I'm going to be in two fantasy leagues.

I'm getting off the track. I wanted to tell you about something baseball-connected, but not necessarily this stuff. Part of my routine every day that passes is checking in with Baseball-Reference. There is simple nothing better for baseball people than this place. You can get lost there for days. Anyway, a regular feature of the site is an "In Memoriam" section listing the names of  MLB-connected people who have died. I check it out sometimes because I'm curious, especially about guys who have died at fairly young ages. For example, today a guy named Randy Stein is listed. Who was this guy? Only 58 when he died. Why? How?

Well, the site won't tell you that. It'll tell you how old he was and the date of death. But the web yielded an obit for the guy. Early Onset Alzheimer's, which was diagnosed four years ago, was what killed him. As major leaguers go, this guy was pretty obscure. A pitcher with three teams for four years, he wasn't very good either.

But he went on to become successful in the insurance business. He liked the beach, and camping, pulling pranks, and M&Ms. Married to his high school sweetheart for 36 years; two daughters and a son; a grandchild. But now he's in the Field of Dreams. And he's left behind a whole lot of people who wish he were any place else and could not care less that his career ERA is 5.72.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wait a Second . . .

I got to thinking about the last bullet from yesterday's entry. I heard on the radio today--well, actually, it was on my iPod, and it was a recent episode of "This American Life" that reminded me about this. I remember the figures given there were like this. In 2006, a reputable poll recorded that 79 percent of Americans accepted the fact that human-stoked global warming (that is, a substantial increase in greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, in the earth's atmosphere) was a fact. (I refuse to use the term "believe in" when referring global warming, as if we were talking about Santa Claus rather than a scientifically-verifiable fact.)  Three years later, that figure had dropped to 46 percent. 

So wait a second . . . what the hell is going on here? Okay. Let's do the logic. Who would gain if human-stoked global warming were not a fact? Who would gain if all these alarms about greenhouse gases would just go away? The answer is obvious: every industry associated with carbon dioxide emissions. And guess who these industries are? Did you guess industries connected in any way with fossil fuels? Gold star for you! and don't forget all the associated industries, the pilot fish on the bodies of traditional energy companies. By all accounts, the largest effort to debunk global warming has come from ExxonMobil. The oil giant has mounted a sophisticated, worldwide campaign that has obviously succeeded. And of course, their lackeys in Congress have assisted them. This campaign has been hugely successful. Just look at the numbers.

Of course, this kind of corporate hooey can only be swallowed if people are uninformed. Need I rail once again at the woeful ignorance of the American people on a vast number of subjects? I'm sure you're tired of hearing it.

This is a very interesting website: The Global Warming Portal

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Little Worrisome, Wouldn't You Say?

Just think for a second about the implications of the following, all of which were culled from the "Index" in the latest number of Harper's.
  • Number of members of Congress among the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans by net worth: 57. (So what this means is that the body making laws for the 99 percent is either 13.1 or 10.6 percent comprised of the super rich people in the top one percent--depending on whether you're talking just representatives or reps and senators.) And they call this a "representative" democracy. We know very well who's represented up there don't we?
  • Every $1 billion in military spending creates 11,000 jobs; the same amount spent for education creates 27,000.
  • Hydrocodone is number one prescribed drug in America. US deaths attributable to painkiller overdoses were up by a factor of four from 1999-2008.
  • An average of 18 US veterans commit suicide every day--an astonishing figure. "Support the troops" is the easiest platitude to mouth, but it's a joke, really. Veterans are screwed over in myriad ways once they've been used up.
  • By 2050, the world will require 70 percent more food production to sustain the world's population; meanwhile, one-quarter of the world's land is considered "highly degraded" right now because of soil erosion, water pollution, loss of biodiversity. This is a pretty hopeful situation, no?
  • In 2011, 75 percent of Americans believed in anthroprogenic global warming; today 44 percent do. (A triumph of the "big lie.")

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our Lovely, Insane Country

Bumper Sticker Sentiments Captured Recently in Norman, OK
OK, so Norman, Oklahoma, probably has enough Bubbas and Bubbettes resident to be a cause for concern, but believe me, in this state, Norman is a glowing oasis of culture. I have just two questions about this bumper sticker:
  1. Let me get this straight . . . this guy is saying that all those wars (and all those wonderful soldiers thereof) are keeping us from being taken over by Arabs? Muslims? Mexicans? Immigrants of any description--who don't speak English, of course? Or is he referring to the soldiers of the British Empire in the 17th century who kept us from having Algonquin or Huron as our national language? You can thank a surfeit of idiocy for bumper stickers like this. If I were the teacher who taught this jackass how to read, I would not own up to it.
  2. (Which kinda leads logically from the first question . . .) Just what kind of ninny puts this on his car for the whole world to see?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Allah Akbar

A few days ago, a federal appeals court--not always the voice of sanity, but in this case definitely so--to the surprise of no one who knows anything about the US Constitution, declared unconstitutional Oklahoma's recently approved proposed constitutional amendment that barred judges in the state from considering Sharia or international law in formulating their decisions. (See here.) The Bubba electorate of this state thought that was such a fine idea they voted for it en masse, by a 7 to 3 majority, when it was offered as a state question in 2010. A couple of Republican dingbat representatives, naturally, had proposed the measure. It was nothing but hysteria-driven nonsense, but that the electorate of this state was heartily in favor of blatant discrimination against a religion other than Christianity just shows to what pass we've come in this country. Since 9/11, it seems the whole country has taken leave of its senses.

The federal judges pointed this very fact out: the proposed amendment openly discriminates by name against a specific religion, it said. Moreover, the supporters of the law could not point to any specific problem the proposed amendment addressed. "Indeed," they wrote, "they admitted at the preliminary injunction hearing that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Everybody's Bashing "Obamacare"--and They Should

Everybody whose Republican and running for the presidential nomination are universal in bashing it. Much as I hate to revisit the subject of healthcare reform, because it makes me crazy to have to think once again of how a "progressive" president buddied up with the trolls in big pharma and the health insurance industry to ensure that the so-called healthcare reform legislation took care of their interests and not the interests of all those "American people" out there who were supposed to benefit. Problem is, nobody is calling this spade a spade.
Ultimately, Obama and his corporate-backed allies organized enough conservative Democrats in Congress to win, effectively turning healthcare “reform” into a blank-check TARP-style bailout for the health industry. But, of course, to even whisper that last truism is to now run the risk of being labeled a blasphemer in a conversation that can only tolerate misleading red-versus-blue analyses. In today’s national political debate, there are Republicans who insist “Obamacare” is a Canadian-style “takeover” of America’s healthcare system, and there are Democrats who insist that the health bill is a major Medicare-like achievement — any other argument, no matter how valid, has been vaporized by election-season pressure to fall in ideological line. (source)
 The fact is, however, is that those same American people for whom all politicians of whatever stamp have been and are being royally screwed once again by the corporate overlords who run this country. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health which focused on the state of Arizona underscores one major fact. Having medical insurance doesn't mean people are not burdened by medical debt. This debt, and not whether one has health insurance or not, is the main barrier to people getting needed health care.

Democrats may not be saying it--indeed, healthcare "reform" is going to be trumpeted by the party hacks and professionals as one of the administration's great successes during the coming campaign--but in fact the legislation is not going to help many people outside of the corporations it was passed to protect. Plus it is a thoroughly misunderstood piece of legislation. People don't understand what the so-called reform really did. So it's good to remind ourselves of exactly what a pig-in-poke this legislation is. Here's the source for the following chart. It was formulated immediately before the bill passed in the Congress in spring 2010.

So don't let all the froth you're going to have to endure on this issue cloud the truth. And the sorry truth is, we are being played again by the people who continue to make a mockery of the "public interest."



1. This is a universal health care bill.

The bill is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance.
Per the CBO:
  • Total uninsured in 2019 with no bill: 54 million
  • Total uninsured in 2019 with Senate bill: 24 million (44%)
2. Insurance companies hate this bill

This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the insurance company trade association, in 2009. The original Senate Finance Committee bill was authored by a former Wellpoint VP. Since Congress released the first of its health care bills on October 30, 2009, health care stocks have risen 28.35%.
3. The bill will significantly bring down insurance premiums for most Americans.

The bill will not bring down premiums significantly, and certainly not the $2,500/year that the President promised.
Annual premiums in 2016, status quo / with bill:
Small group market, single: $7,800 / $7,800
Small group market, family: $19,300 / $19,200
Large Group market, single: $7,400 / $7,300
Large group market, family: $21,100 / $21,300
Individual market, single: $5,500 / $5,800*
Individual market, family: $13,100 / $15,200*
4. The bill will make health care affordable for middle class Americans.
The bill will impose a financial hardship on middle class Americans who will be forced to buy a product that they can’t afford to use. A family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $5,243 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income — out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible.
5. This plan is similar to the Massachusetts plan, which makes health care affordable. Many Massachusetts residents forgo health care because they can’t afford it. A 2009 study by the state of Massachusetts found that:

  • 21% of residents forgo medical treatment because they can’t afford it, including 12% of children
  • 18% have health insurance but can’t afford to use it
6. This bill provides health care to 31 million people who are currently uninsured.

This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured must purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. Some will be assisted with government subsidies.
7. You can keep the insurance you have if you like it.
The excise tax will result in employers switching to plans with higher co-pays and fewer covered services.
Older, less healthy employees with employer-based health care will be forced to pay much more in out-of-pocket expenses than they do now.
8. The “excise tax” will encourage employers to reduce the scope of health care benefits, and they will pass the savings on to employees in the form of higher wages.
There is insufficient evidence that employers pass savings from reduced benefits on to employees.
9. This bill employs nearly every cost control idea available to bring down costs.

This bill does not bring down costs and leaves out nearly every key cost control measure, including:
  • Public Option ($25-$110 billion)
  • Medicare buy-in
  • Drug reimportation ($19 billion)
  • Medicare drug price negotiation ($300 billion)
  • Shorter pathway to generic biologics ($71 billion)
10. The bill will require big companies like WalMart to provide insurance for their employees
The bill was written so that most WalMart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage.
11. The bill “bends the cost curve” on health care.

The bill ignored proven ways to cut health care costs and still leaves 24 million people uninsured, all while slightly raising total annual costs by $234 million in 2019. “Bends the cost curve” is a misleading and trivial claim, as the US would still spend far more for care than other advanced countries.
In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP.
Annual cost of health care in 2019, status quo: $4,670.6 billion (20.8% of GDP)
Annual cost of health care in 2019, Senate bill: $4,693.5 billion (20.9% of GDP)
12. The bill will provide immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition. Access to the “high risk pool” is limited and the pool is underfunded. It will cover few people, and will run out of money in 2011 or 2012 Only those who have been uninsured for more than six months will qualify for the high risk pool. Only 0.7% of those without insurance now will get coverage, and the CMS report estimates it will run out of funding by 2011 or 2012.
13. The bill prohibits dropping people in individual plans from coverage when they get sick. The bill does not empower a regulatory body to keep people from being dropped when they’re sick. There are already many states that have laws on the books prohibiting people from being dropped when they’re sick, but without an enforcement mechanism, there is little to hold the insurance companies in check.
14. The bill ensures consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to challenge new insurance plan decisions. The “internal appeals process” is in the hands of the insurance companies themselves, and the “external” one is up to each state.
Ensuring that consumers have access to “internal appeals” simply means the insurance companies have to review their own decisions. And it is the responsibility of each state to provide an “external appeals process,” as there is neither funding nor a regulatory mechanism for enforcement at the federal level.
15. This bill will stop insurance companies from hiking rates 30%-40% per year.

This bill does not limit insurance company rate hikes. Private insurers continue to be exempt from anti-trust laws, and are free to raise rates without fear of competition in many areas of the country.
16. When the bill passes, people will begin receiving benefits under this bill immediately

Most provisions in this bill, such as an end to the ban on pre-existing conditions for adults, do not take effect until 2014. Six months from the date of passage, children could not be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, though insurance companies could charge more to cover them. Children would also be allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. There will be an elimination of lifetime coverage limits, a high risk pool for those who have been uninsured for more than 6 months, and community health centers will start receiving money.
17. The bill creates a pathway for single payer.

Bernie Sanders’ provision in the Senate bill does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, so no, it doesn’t create a pathway for single payer.
Obama told Dennis Kucinich that the Ohio Representative’s amendment is similar to Bernie Sanders’ provision in the Senate bill, and creates a pathway to single payer. Since the waiver does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, it is nearly impossible to see how it gets around the ERISA laws that stand in the way of any practical state single payer system.
18 The bill will end medical bankruptcy and provide all Americans with peace of mind.

Most people with medical bankruptcies already have insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses will continue to be a burden on the middle class.
  • In 2009, 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy
  • Of those, 62% were medically related
  • Three-quarters of those had health insurance
  • The Obama bill leaves 24 million without insurance
  • The maximum yearly out-of-pocket limit for a family will be $11,900 (PDF) on top of premiums
  • A family with serious medical problems that last for a few years could easily be financially crushed by medical costs
 *Cost of premiums goes up somewhat due to subsidies and mandates of better coverage. CBO assumes that cost of individual policies goes down 7-10%, and that people will buy more generous policies.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ride On

If you don't like this, you're probably on life support already.

The band is Little Axe. The song is "Ride On." We need something pleasant to close out this week.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Piss on US

I imagine there's nobody in the whole world with access to media who doesn't know about the latest outrage perpetrated by US troops, in this case Marines, in one of our endless Middle East wars. Afghanistan. Desecration of the bodies of dead enemies. Four marines pissing on the dead bodies of three Taliban fighters. It's all on video, which if you're interested, can be found on YouTube. The video, placed on YouTube by another marine with the handle "semperfiLoneVoice,"--good for you and Good bless you, man--Tuesday, went viral Wednesday afternoon. (see this story) Official US government spokespeople, including the secretaries of state and defense, have publicly deplored the incident. Afghans and other Muslim nations are outraged, of course, and ever more convinced that the US military are vile, infidel occupiers, not the friends we profess to be. Two of the sadistic blockheads that did this have been identified. And I'm sure they'll run the other two down. And while they're at it, they need to get the guy who videoed the whole disgusting scene.

Listen, these guys are not the whole Marine Corps, but they and the miscellaneous sadists, outright killers, and other psychos that have been caught for crimes against innocent civilians and prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. are representative of the inevitable consequences of war. Unfortunately, they probably represent a goodly number of their comrades. Why? Because saturated in an environment of violence and hatred, people readily shred their humanity. Above all else, war brutalizes people, it gives free rein to the basest impulses of humankind, it robs human beings of their capacity for rational thought. I was about to say it turns them into animals. In fact, animals seem more circumspect than people whose humanity has been distorted out of all recognition by the mindless violence and destruction of war.

So what's the upshot of all this? Yet another demonstration of how callous and cruel a country we've become. These guys might as well have pissed all over this country, because that's the upshot of what they've done in the eyes of the world. The guilty will be punished probably, not as severely as their gross crime deserves, but the memory of what they did and what they represent won't be going away.

Update I: The response of many people to this outrage is almost as outrageous. And really, really disgusting as well as scary. Check this out--read the comments. What a country we live in!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Friend Bob

Below, verbatim, is an email I recently sent to an old friend from my days as a historian for the Air Force at Tinker. He's a retired AF colonel, a staunch Republican, gun nut, lover of fast cars. That is, totally opposite from me. But we've remained friends across these barriers. Some background. As is his custom, he forwarded to me some right-wing b.s. written by another retired AF pilot. The gist of it was everybody in the current administration are devils and they have to turned out for the country to be saved. In reply I demurred, saying, among other things, that neither of the political parties was going to save the country and it was foolish to think so. To my surprise, he responded that he agreed, but he then asked "what's to be done?" This is my reply.
Is there anything that can be done, my friend? Obviously, the political process is not going to produce anything but more of the same, which means an ever burdensome existence for millions of people in this country. I'm not so sure anything substantial gets changed now without bloodshed and mayhem--not that I'm suggesting we go grab our pikes.

One of the enduring characteristics of this country is that it has, from the very beginning, thought of itself as superior to every other nation on the planet. By nature superior, by choice of God superior. Which somehow endows us with the power (or grace or ability or blessing, depending on where you're coming from) to escape history. When in fact, as a historian and I'm sure you can see it yourself, I can tell you our path looks just like the paths of other empires now on the dust heap of history. Concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of a small elite, endless wars (you can already hear the drumbeats for conflict with Iran), military spending sapping the creative impulses of the country, proliferation of internal controls, growing dependencies on the resources of others, and so on. What happens is there eventually comes a breaking point that brings the edifice toppling. Could be internal or external. Point is, it's inevitable.

I don't think there's much we wise old heads can do to change things materially. Unless there's some way I haven't heard of to get us off this path we've charted for ourselves. We can practice charity. We can take whatever course our wisdom as elders dictates whether that be as much service we can render to those being hurt, wounded, ground down, discouraged by this cruel process or helping others understand. We can embody peace and pass on to our progeny and any others we can influence virtues like honesty and compassion. And we have to muster as much faith as we can to see things through ourselves.

I know all of this sounds awful fatalistic . . . but I've tried to be honest about the way I really see things. We, both of us, are caught up this this maelstrom, Bob. And we know in our heart of hearts that politicians of any stripe or party are not going to save us. That's why I'm really calm about this election, and all to follow, actually. I've finally concluded that they don't mean anything. They don't change anything. They are a periodic plaything for the power elites and the lamestream media, and an obsession for all those political junkies, bloggers, and pundits. In fact, they are fraudulent exercises to convince the credulous that they actually have a voice in the way the country is governed. Both of us know better.

Sorry. I didn't mean to get so "soap-boxy" on you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

All the Stars Are Aligning

All the stars in the heavens are beginning to align so the heavens will be just right for this country's next war. Have you noticed all the news lately about Iran's nuclear program? And have you gotten a load of what the GOP bimbos (with the exception of Ron Paul) running for the presidential nomination promise in the way of policy toward Iran? Virtually the same as that pronounced by Leon Panetta, the new, but not improved secretary of defense. Basically the policy is this: the U.S. (and the European Union) do not like the Iranian nuclear program, which, they say is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon. This prompts one of the two "red lines" that Panetta says Iran cannot cross. Therefore tougher economic sanctions that will make it harder for Iran to market its oil will be imposed. In response, Iran has threatened to blockade the strait of Hormuz through which a healthy chunk of the world's oil must traverse on its way to market. The US, says Panetta, will not allow Iran to block the strait of Hormuz. This is another "red line."

You would think that this is sufficient to satisfy anybody's fears that the US will not be standing tall in the face of yet another Islamic threat to the serenity of the world. But no. One of the more prominent bubble-heads running for president, Rick Santorum, asserts that Panetta has his facts wrong and that Iran's construction of a nuclear weapon is a "virtual certainty" unless the US military intervenes. So here's a guy that says "attack them now." Rick Perry, another of the gigantic intellects that wants to president, says we need to send troops back to Iraq! Presumably to be right on Iran's doorstep when it becomes necessary to invade the country.

Does any of this sound familiar? This is the unmistakable saber-rattling that occurs before deployment of the US military on yet another mission to save the world. The Pentagon and executive branch are in the process of ginning up another bogy-man that is a threat to freedom, world peace, and US interests. We know how this process works. And we know what lies at the end of it. More war. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Keep Saying . . .

. . . that nothing more that happens can surprise me. I keep saying it, and I keep being wrong. Catching up on a string of recorded "Colbert Report" shows, I encountered one that highlighted this story. I'm telling you, friends, this is a dangerously psychotic country we live in. The show was one obviously some days before Christmas. Colbert reported that the Scottsdale (AZ) Gun Club was offering the following "Get Your Holiday Picture With Santa And His Machine Guns!"  A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are two. Under the happy family, note the flyer advertising this good deal. This site has more pictures if these don't make you sick enough.

Does this madness, this abomination, require any further comment? We are a doomed people. (If I didn't already have a great title for this blog, "We Are a Doomed People" would do nicely. Straight-forwardly true.)

. . . and baby makes three. Peace on Earth!

No, I'm not making this up.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Still Obsessing

The question of why we like the things we do is still on my mind. I got sidetracked yesterday because I took off on collecting. I didn't mean to, although it was connected. What initially started me wondering was how some people do not and apparently cannot like baseball. My son-in-law comes to mind, and my wife. They aren't alone; there are many such people around. What forms our taste in anything? Sports, food, movies, music, culture, activities, books, and so on ad infinitum. Is it entirely enculturation? My dad took me to see baseball at the ballpark. I did the same for my boys. I like baseball; they like baseball. Simple cause and effect?

Or is it something innate? One of my regular readers here told me recently that she cannot stand rock and roll. Now here's a gal who doesn't mind being labeled an ex-hippie chick. Doubtless she was exposed to many, many hours of rock music. Who would have thought that someone with such a label would not like rock and roll? But she doesn't. Some people don't like broccoli--I don't--some don't like roller coasters--I'm neutral--don't like reading--I love it--don't like wearing hats--I do. Could all this be a function of personality? Maybe, like everything else they are beginning to discover, it's genetic. My God, if the advertisers ever crack the genetic code, we're all done for. They will own us even more than now, and that's a frightening thought.

At any rate, the randomness of individual people is a source of endless wonder and delight for me. We're all like fingerprints and snowflakes. No two ever alike. Ain't it great?

Friday, January 6, 2012

What's to Like?

I was thinking the other day about a question I don't know the answer to. Why do we like the things we do? Where do our tastes in anything come from? What got me to thinking about this was my anticipation of the arrival of some stamps I ordered from a dealer up around Chicago. I collected stamps as a teenager. When I was in the Air Force in my mid-20s, I gave my entire collection, lock, stock, barrel, and stamp hinges, to a service friend. (Whatever possessed me to do this, I'll never know. It was an accumulation of about ten years worth of collecting, both U.S. and foreign, in a big fat album. This avid collector, a guy named Lanny Sockwell, must have thought he had died and gone to heaven.) I have kicked myself any number of times for this idiotic largesse since I resumed collecting stamps just a few years later.
So I collect stamps--just U.S.--and I have a bunch of books and music CDs, too.* It would be fair to say I'm a collector of these also. What makes some people like to collect things, while others have no interest at all in such things? I would suppose some people collect because they aim at having the collection worth something. But no true collector collects so he can sell his stuff. No, it's something much more intangible. Somehow, when I finish out a series, say all the commemorative US stamps issued in 1992 or 1940, there's a sense of accomplishment that sets in, a feeling that something significant has occurred. The complete set of books by an author or poet, same thing, even if you have not read the book. That's not necessary at all. Or every CD by a band or artist.

It's a great feeling. Nobody but another collector can understand this. I don't understand it myself.

*I've also got miscellaneous collections of things that aren't "active" collections, but that I'd never get rid of. Baseball cards, post cards, a few Mardi Gras doubloons.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Let's (Not) Get on with It

Michael Hirsh writing in the National Journal make some points that I'd like to comment on. His basic premise is that the GOP presidential nomination race is over. It will be Obama vs Mitt Romney in the November general election. I think he's right about this. But along the way, he has a few other pertinent observations:
  • All the media frothing and flummoxing between now and whenever Romney secures the nomination is just a waste of time. Nobody still standing is going to win the Republican nomination over him. 
  • The coming election will be one of the most vicious in our history and probably really close too. (Right on both counts. Super PAC funding of TV campaigns--allowed under the horrendous Supreme Court decision--which candidates can disavow as not coming from their camps, won't exhibit the slightest restraint. It's going to be nasty, but all US elections are nasty.)
  • The nomination is already beyond Gingrich, but he will fulminate anyway. Yep, that's what Gingrich does.
  • Let's get it straight about Rick Santorum. He's a frigging bum "whose views on sexual morality are close to medieval and whose neocon foreign policy (e.g., bomb Iran) won’t fly after a decade of disastrous wars—and who, on top of that, was once considered one of America’s dumbest senators by his peers on Capitol Hill—has very, very little chance of getting close to the nomination. He doesn’t have the money, the infrastructure, or the appeal beyond the hard right. The pundits will talk about his history as a blue-state senator, but the fact is that when Pennsylvania voters learned how truly right-wing Santorum was, he lost by 18 points in 2006 (he hasn’t held office for five years)—which, as Molly Ball of The Atlantic points out, 'was the biggest loss ever by an incumbent Pennsylvania Republican senator.'” 
  • Neither Romney nor Obama will have a very enthusiastic base going into the election. Let's forget about Romney, a whore salivating after the nomination who will say anything to get it, and focus on Obama (who at one time I was actually enthusiastic for). "Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, in a powerful broadside this week, observed that progressives are flirting with Paul for the simple reason that Obama "has done heinous things with the power he has been vested," including waging covert wars with both Islamist extremists and with Iran. Greenwald accused progressives of not conducting an honest debate with themselves in which they admit the real trade-offs of this Democratic administration: We'll accept unchecked executive power in which Muslim children are killed as collateral damage in drone strikes and bankers are secretly bailed out, as long as we can have fewer cuts to entitlements and a more progressive Supreme Court. Said Greenwald: 'It is the classic lesser-of-two-evils rationale, the key being that it explicitly recognizes that both sides are 'evil': meaning it is not a Good versus Evil contest but a More Evil versus Less Evil contest.'"
  • This last is what the general election will be about. Not about conservatism vs liberalism.
  • Nothing will change as a result of this election. Nothing. The US government is bought and paid for no matter which party is in the White House. "In truth, Obama and Romney are far closer in mindset and philosophy than anyone is willing to acknowledge just now. Obama, despite his image, has sought to placate business and left Wall Street largely intact, and he is taking a far tougher line on foreign policy--one that reflects a traditional GOP "realpolitik" view and a dramatic ratcheting up of covert war-- than is generally acknowledged, even when it comes to China. Romney, increasingly desperate to win over his base against the onslaught of "Not-Romneys," has allowed his rhetoric to grow more inflamed on the trail, including commitments to a balanced-budget amendment and partially voucherizing Medicare as well as eliminating Obamacare. But based on his history, if he gets the nomination he is unlikely to follow through fully on these overheated pre-primary pledges and do many things dramatically differently, either on the economy or foreign policy. The problems of slow growth, chronic deficits and an overextended military will inevitably lend themselves to similar solutions from either an Obama or a Romney administration." That's the end of the quote. Allow me to observe, however, that these "similar solutions" will not solve any of the problems.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"So What"--Really?, Part II

So you've seen all the numbers last time. And you've heard some of the stuff these "So What" people are saying. One guy, who attends the Catholic church to hear his mom sing in the choir, but for no other reason says, after reading neuro- and evolutionary psychology concludes that "we might as well be cars(!) That, to me, makes more sense than believing what you can't see." I don't suppose anybody has bothered to point out to this deep thinker that you can't see psychology either, nor atoms, nor truth, freedom, etc., etc. Maybe he doesn't believe in these things either, but I rather doubt it.

The thought processes that dismiss the validity of spirituality are broken and shallow, in my opinion, at least judging by the kind of comments the article contained. Here's another: "God? Purpose? You don't need an opinion on those things to function." Well, no, I don't guess you do. But you will function as what? Some creature of the consumer culture whose sole purpose in life is to acquire and to amass. And then there's this: "There may be unanswerable questions that could be cool or fascinating. Speculating on them is a fun parlor game [sic], but they don't shed any meaning on my life." Well, of course they don't, Bozo, because the meaning of your life is determined for you by the consumer culture that envelops you. And in fact, by making such a statement, you're basically saying that your life has no meaning. If you're good with that, than you're even more hopeless than you appear at first blush.

That gets to the root of it. The whole problem with discarding the big questions as irrelevant to one's life is that it makes one's life meaningless by definition. And if life means nothing, than there is no barrier to rationalizing the worst human behaviors imaginable. All the suffering we inflict upon one another, the injustices, the screaming inequalities, the stupid waste of resources and human lives--all of this can be justified if our lives are defined by nothing other than the accident of our being here.

I'm not claiming to have any answers to the big questions, no way. And I can certainly sympathize with those who execrate the baleful effects of organized religion in human history. Not a single one of them is blameless. But because religion is imperfect, grossly so, it seems to me, throughout human history, does not therefore mean our lives have no meaning other than what the world says. Hell, if that's the case, I'll take religion at its absolute worst. For at least they, in their halting, sometimes infuriating, sometimes scandalous and cruel ways, accept the concept of something bigger, something beyond the grubby, greedy self.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"So What?"--- Really?

For some reason, and it's difficult to explain, this morning's piece in USA Today (which has become a frequent source lately since it lands in the driveway five days out of seven) entitled, "God, religion, atheism 'So what?' That's what many say" was really kinda upsetting to me. My spiritual journey in a nutshell: lifelong dissident Catholic; ordained deacon; out of the Church for myriad reasons since August 2010.

But still, to read that "So what?" characterizes the attitude of a growing number of people about matters spiritual is distressing. Apparently there are quite a few in this category, and judging my own family, both immediate and extended, and Susan's, too, that's pretty much the prevailing attitude. I cannot determine that many of those we are closest to and know best care about spirituality or even wonder about it. Maybe I do them all a disservice, and if so, I'm certainly sorry. But so it seems to me.

Here are some numbers:
  • 44 percent told one survey they spend no time at all seeking "eternal wisdom"--a pretty lousy phrase, I think, but there it is
  • 19 percent say "looking for meaning" is "useless."
  • Another survey finds 46 percent who never wonder whether they will go to heaven
Well, okay, on this one, I haven't got much of a problem. I don't wonder about it at all myself. Heaven is a specifically Christian concept, and so is the notion--derived from Scripture and expanded and expounded by centuries of theology and Church pronouncements--of "earning" a way there or forfeiting your place there by your actions is at best problematical and at worst, silly. I tend towards the silly side. Why? Because the whole concept anthropomorphizes God into a crabby and totally unreasonable perfectionist who contradicts himself at every turn by first creating humankind in his own image, according to Scripture, then instilling it with appetites, proclivities, bad genes, and drives that ultimately cause it to fail his rather exacting code of behavior which must be followed to get into heaven. The other alternative is hell where you go if your behavior doesn't measure up to the said exacting code. Yet the Christian God is a god of love. Hmmm.
  • Same survey found 28 percent who say finding a "deeper purpose" in the their life is not a priority
  • 18 percent of those surveyed scoffed at the notion that God has a plan or purpose for everyone.
Does this mean that 72 percent are intent at some significant level on finding a deeper purpose in their lives? What does "priority" mean in this context? What about the 10 percent between the seekers and the scoffers? Are they seeking a deeper purpose but only sometimes or without much fervor? Sorry, I digress.
  • 6.3 percent of Americans are totally secular, "unconnected to God or a higher power or any religious identity and willing to say religion is not important in their lives."
This figure is from Pew Forum's 2007 Religious Landscape Survey; it seems really low to me.

In fact, this has turned into quite a little essay, so I'll have to take it up again tomorrow. Right now I'm tired, and the subject really deserves closer attention than I've got to give it right now.

Monday, January 2, 2012

LaLa Land

Here's how you know you're in LaLa land. PBS Newshour correspondent begins the night's program with "all eyes on Iowa, the center of the political universe." [Double take and sound of palm hitting forehead.] I'm getting less and less tolerant of hyperbole. And this really goes over the top, no? It's the worst kind of lamestream media nonsense. Center of the political universe??? For starters, how about the hubris and over-weening self-regard and self-importance of this statement? As if the political universe, whatever that is supposed to mean, didn't include other countries of singular significance. I suppose it's inevitable that Americans will continue to believe that they are the center of the universe, political or otherwise . . . at least until some national or global life event makes it unquestionably certain that the US is not the center of anything, unless we're talking about ignorance and naivete about the course of empire, the tides of history. 2012, I fear, will be another chapter in our continuing decline.

As for Iowa, the cast of clowns there vying for the Republican nomination for president . . . how can anybody take this aggregation seriously? I'm already detecting an undercurrent of extreme dissatisfaction or extreme indifference among Republicans with the presumptive winner there, Mitt Romney, a shameless chameleon who virtually salivates when he contemplates the prospect of being president. He stands for nothing whatever but saying whatever it will take for him to get elected. And this guy is looking like the likely opponent to Obama? Please.

But the media is in a frenzy. They now have eleven heavenly months in front of them they can devote to the feckless, meaningless poring over the entrails of the presidential "race." As if Iowa and every other caucus, straw poll, or primary actually meant that this country has decided to arrest its headlong plummet to terminal mediocrity. As if what president the corporations own will make a difference to the rest of us.