Lying Media Bastards

September 21, 2009

Vocab

I’ve got a theory I’m working, haven’t decided yet if it works:

In modern right-wing political rhetoric, “freedom” means “power”, “liberty” means “power” and “justice” means “control”.

Discuss.

Posted by Jake on September 21, 2009 8:53 am

September 12, 2009

Obama Says Words, Bad Man Yells

First of all, I think it’s very sad that the fevered outburst of Senator Joe Wilson is getting more news coverage than the content of the speech he was bursting out about. And many liberals are basking in their outrage that a man would yell at the president during one of his royal courts, and loving all of the fury and disdain being heaped upon the Senator. Really? Obama’s a human being, and a politician, and deserves to be called on his shit. If he doesn’t lie, he certainly talks out of both sides of his mouth enough that you can’t pin down his claim well enough to determine it’s truth or untruth.

Of course, Joe Wilson was also full of shit, and IS being called on it. But funny that when you bomb civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or give trillions of taxpayer dollars to wealthy investment bankers, it’s no big deal. But when you yell rudely during a speech, you clearly owe the nation an apology.

It also pissed me off when I listened to the NPR talking heads on the radio prior to Obama’s speech. They were talking about what Obama had to say in his speech to win political points, or bring up his poll numbers, or win public support for health care reform. I was thinking, “hey! Why not talk about what he has to do so that my working poor friends don’t get sick and die?”

While health care insurance reform is certainly an important issue, there are many other important issues about American health that aren’t getting much mainstream news coverage. The incredibly unhealthy American industrial diet, the way that healthy foods are often out of reach (economically or geographically) of poorer folks, the uber-busy American work/commute-day that gives them little time to cook or exercise, air pollution, water pollution, and more. None of these issues are currently on the table, just the idea of making some moderate alterations to health insurance regulations.

Which is important, of course. The best figures I can find say that about 22,000 adults die each year solely because they don’t have health insurance (the figure’s a little squiggly, it only covers people 25-64. What about children or the elderly?). That’s 7 9/11’s a year. The deaths of three thousand by horrible terror attacks, we have enough passion to invade two countries (three, if you count the ongoing attacks on parts of Pakistan), give sweeping new powers to the goverment, and scorch large portions of the Constitution. 22,000 dead from corporate business-as-usual, well, that’s not enough to get the blood pumping. Because it’s all part of the plan, as the Joker might say.

The simplest health insurance reform I’ve heard is to expand Medicare. Lower the entry age, let people buy into it, something like that. Americans love them some Medicare, I imagine this idea would be very popular, and not require gymnastic contortions to pull a workable legislative plan together.

One more interesting point, is that for all the fear that the Obama plan is “government-run health care” (it isn’t), a number of recent studies and surveys say that the best health care in the United States today is the Veterans Health Administration (VHA, or VA). This is hard to believe, given the VA’s popular reputation, especially the Walter Reed scandal, but it appears to be true. Of course, this apparently high quality health care institution is government-run health care. Not single-payer national health insurance, like the UK or Canada or Medicare, but actual government doctors, government hospitals, etc. I’m not saying that America needs an all-government health institution for all Americans, just throwing this out there.

And finally, the train wreck of our national health care also shows how bankrupt American democracy really is. In a recent speech, Noam Chomsky pointed out how Americans have favored some sort of national health care program for five or six decades, but it’s always called “politically impossible” by politicians and the press. And it is only now coming to the fore, he claims, is because some big American businesses are starting to favor it: if the government pays for people’s health insurance, the companies don’t have to spend the money to buy it for their employees (it’s a wonder that more businesses haven’t been on this bandwagon for years). But there’s our democracy: large majority of the voters, no change; some players in the business world, Congress takes action.

Okay, let’s start looking at the new plan that Obama outlined in his big speech.

The first part sounded promising: laws to prohibit insurance companies from dropping customers when they get sick, from limiting coverage, and from using pre-existing conditions as an excuse not to take on new clients in the first place. The devil will be completely in the details on this part. If the loopholes are big enough, or the enforcement lax, these provisions will be meaningless.

The second part sounded shady-to-appalling. First of all, all Americans will be forced to have health insurance. If you’ve got it now, cool. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to buy it. His reasoning is valid, that no insurance company would willingly accept the prohibitions mentioned above, without having a larger base of healthy client premiums to add to the pot. But fuck them. Seriously, I give 0% of a shit about insurance company CEOs and their shareholders and their diamond-encrusted polo ponies. Fuck them and what they want. Any justice-minded politician at all would be looking at ways to break the backbone of the insurance companies’ power, not how to help them maintain or prosper.

Then Obama mentioned some confusing “health insurance exchange”, which would somehow make insurance affordable for people who currently can’t afford it. Um… okay? I don’t understand what this is, and have not seen any revelatory analysis that explains what the fuck these exchanges are, how they will work, or how the free market– which so regularly allows capitalistic vultures to pick everyone’s bones clean– is going to accomplish this. His argument is that insurance companies will be competing with each other for all these new customers, and therefore the rates will become cheap and affordable. Honestly, these days companies compete not through price and quality, but through advertising, so I don’t see this as likely.

If you still can’t afford this new, cheap insurance, you’ll get tax credits that will make up the difference. This also kinda sucks. If you can’t afford it, you might not be able to afford paying for it, and then getting that money back in a tax return twelve months from now. I’d prefer some sort of subsidies right away for these folks.

Then, Obama somehow talks about how great it would be to have a public option (as part of the health exchange), yet seems to also say that it’s not mandatory for his new plan to have a public option. This would be presumably some sort of Medicaid-like program, but again, no details, not even enough to tell if this will even exist. This is the only saving grace of his “exchange” idea. If there is a public option, it might actually be a cheap alternative for people. Otherwise, I imagine many of the nation’s poor wil be forced to buy insurance with cheap premiums, little coverage, and exorbitant deductibles if they ever try to actually use their coverage.

The only other good news about this is that there will be some sort of “hardship waiver” for people who still can’t afford health insurance, even after all of the wonderful half-ass measures above. Again, devil in the details, it will depend on what the government defines as “hardship” and how difficult they make it to get one of these waivers.

But never mind that, Obama said that it would take four years to set this up in the first place.

The rest of the plan is about methods to cut cost, which is ridiculous since we’re a) keeping the same corrupt, inefficient, for-profit insurance companies at the head of this thing and b) making it illegal to negotiate with corrupt, inefficient, for-profit drug companies to get medicine at more reasonable prices.

How does the Obama plan match with any of the bills that Congress has actually compiled to vote on? I have no idea. Seems like the whole plan’s moot if no legislator actually puts these elements into a bill.

In conclusion, I typed a lot just now.

Posted by Jake on September 12, 2009 6:51 pm

September 7, 2009

Astroturf is Made from Petroleum

Stopping at one of my local gas stations today, I noticed that they were selling advertising space on top of the pumps. As if that was not irritating enough, the ad slot nearest me had a big picture of Uncle Sam warning me that “Proposed ‘Cap and Trade’ Legislation WILL COST YOU MONEY!”

It went on to claim that if this enviornmental legislation is passed, it will cost me an extra 77 cents per galon, $7.70 for 10 gallons, and $15.40 for 20 gallons. It then advised me to take action by visiting VoicesForEnergy.com. It even had little flyers I could take home with me (I am now slightly kicking myself for not taking them all and throwing them away).

So, first off, “cap and trade” is a bad idea. The concept is that government regulations come up with a maximum amount of pollutants that each company can pump into the air (the “cap”). Then, your company can make deals with other companies that are polluting less than their maximum to allow your company to continue pumping out as much crap as you ever did (the “trade”). So the total amount of pollution doesn’t decrease, small companies get cash bonuses, and the big companies continue making robber baron profits, minus a small amount they’ll pay for their pollution credits. Why actually pass laws that will, y’know, regulate pollution, when you can pass half-assed shit like this?

Anyhow, I guess even the small amounts that big polluters will have to pay for their pollution credits is too much for these guys (gold-plated lobster forks don’t grow on trees, you know), so they have started the propaganda already. To their very small credit, the fake citizen outrage group promoted at my Valero gas station actually has the Valero name and logo at the top (mixed in with their astroturf org logo), which is ten times more honest than most corporate propagada. Kudos to you, corporate slime lords.

Their website continues to throw out scare figures, and has a simple form for you to fill out to send to your Congressvermin, with a single link “to learn more about federal climate legislation.” Now, the area of energy economics is not my field of expertise, so I jumped down to the footnotes on this page o’ facts.

Source #1: American Petroleum Institute. Says their website, “we are the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.” Clearly, we can take their word at face value, as they have no conflict of interest in this fight.

Source #2: a study by Garbriel Calzada Alvarez PH.D. A quick googling of this name found an article claiming that Alvarez is a member of the Prague Network “which, according to Radio Prague, is ‘an international grouping of institutions aimed at countering panic connected with global warming.’” Okay, so a global warming denier. Excellent. Next.

Source #3: the Cato Institute. A well-known and powerful conservative/evil think-tank. The mantra on their website is “individual liberty, free markets, and peace.” Presumably, not in that order…

Source #4: MasterResource. The site bills itself as “a free-market energy blog”. The group of bloggers who write for the site include former Enron staffers (including a former speech-writer for Ken Lay), a member of the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute, members of the Cato Institute, and several global warming deniers.

Source #5: The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Well, not exactly. This “proof” is actually a press release from Republican Senator James Inhofe (who receives a sizable amount of campaign contributions from energy industries [but honestly, which Senators dont?]), which tries to spin a hearing with EPA officials to mean “if China and India don’t reduce their greenhouse gases too, there’s no point in us decreasing ours”.

Of course, I haven’t debunked a single argument made by these folks, but as it’s a corporate-fronted activist site, with information provided by players with vested interests, spin doctors, and ideologues, I’d at least say “look somewhere else for facts”. And maybe “don’t buy gas from Valero”.

Honestly, without massively cutting our greenhouse gases, we’re probably going to get most of the painful consequences that Al Gore and sci-fi movies warn us about. It’s not going to kill off mankind, but we’re going to get the floods and the droughts and the mass immigration of refugees and some of the disease. And we’re probably not going to massively cut our greenhouse gases, because, as the late great Kurt Vonnegut put it, “we were too damn cheap and lazy.”

Posted by Jake on September 7, 2009 9:38 pm

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