/* Google Analytics Code asynchronous */

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Income Inequality

Uber economist Larry Summers notes that the stylized facts of his youth have been remade on rising income inequalities.

After asking, "What is to be done?", this apparently doesn't shake his faith that there is some way to be found in which capitalism doesn't favor ... capital. Scratching head on that one ...

Anyway, I have an alternative answer.

The antidote to free-market re-distribution is to provide the freedoms that a society couldn't afford, arguably, in the past: a single-payer healthcare system is a GREAT place to start!

(Thanks. No charge for these observations, this helpful service, Larry. Is that so wrong?)

Those Pesky Liberals Without Bifocal Tradeoff Lenses

This country desperately needs better gas mileage. -Arch-Conservative, Charles Krauthammer, railing about those who fail to see "tradeoffs" (a.k.a. "liberals").

Stagger back. Did we actually see the Right run a flag up that we need better mpg? Finally, the correct diagnosis! (30 years in the making, since Carter, and a $2 Trillion dollar quagmire-war later - see sidebar - ..., but who's checking your "fail to see"?) What we need aren't people who see tradeoffs, but those who can properly diagnose a problem (a.k.a. "liberals").

But it does not come free. - ditto

Boggle. Of course it does. Existing technology supports it. We don't even have to appeal to innovation, to future technology improvements - you know, Bush's "Technology Now!" campaign to solve all our energy woes.

And, look, my 'revenue neutral' demand appears to have currency with the Pigou Club cul-de-sac Mavens over at G-Mankiw's blog (they'll apparently compromise most anything as a first step toward full-out Pigovianism?):

The most efficient and equitable way to both increase mileage and reduce gasoline use (increased mileage alone can induce people, perversely, to drive more) is with a new gasoline tax, refunded by means of reduced payroll taxes to make it revenue neutral. -ditto

But, sadly, the man who calls for everyone to see tradeoffs proposes a false one. We could have *both* CAFE improvements AND Pigou. Given the history of how the gas tax started as a dedicated tax and then got purloined by Congress, I'll vote CAFE first and whatever Pigovian, revenue neutral you can muster, after ... (Besides, you had all the branches of government to do it, but chose repeal of inheritance taxes instead. Oooo, Our Hero!)

Sicko: The Day After and the Coming Deluge

So half of US healthcare is already government-funded; and patient satisfaction with treatment is the highest in the world. Does that not count for something in the argument? -AS


First, Moore cannot put everything into his film. He's already said that one could make a whole film on the drug companies themselves.


What's more, I can just hear the thousands of private health insurance boosters - recall that there are three to four times as many health industry lobbyists in Washington than there are members of Congress, all of whose Blackberrys are working overtime this weekend! -- who are screted away, probably this very moment, on their beepers, with Nexis, with investigative services, to discredit everything and everyone who said anything or appeared in Moore's film.

Expect on Monday to find the backstories of every single 9/11 worker, Peena probed and discredited as 'old news', systematic problems dismissed (as always) as "mistakes" and "cracks", deaths contrasted with smiling children, and a slew of PR to make insurance industry executives look like Mother Theresa, working hard to provide 'affordability', with "Big Government" regulation the real culprit and, of course, those horrible, nasty trial lawyers who inject even a shred of accountability into the system portrayed as the bane of everything patriotic and 'American'.

We know the drill. At least some of us. Maybe enough to turn the tide?


Anyway, on to the direct point:

No, because ...

On the first part, the government is paying larger sums because it is being 'adversely selected'. Put simply, the government is getting hit with large, end-of-life bills that the insurance companies are avoiding (to their profit), among other things.

Second, questions about 'satisfaction with treatment' hardly mean quite as much when you have so many without and without enough. Do you feel "satisfied' with treatment, knowing that it occurred at the expense of someone who was culled from your socialized, private insurance pool? Even moreso, knowing that is a false tradeoff forced on you?

Third, the most important point is that one can concede the point, in argument, about "satisfaction", and still point out that it would be possible to have more people 'satisfied' by moving to a single payer system, that gets rid of the "Nanny Corporation" and its waste.

A Car In Glasgow Has Been Burning for Over Six Hours ... ???

The "breaking" news arrived here around 2 p.m. As of just before 8 p.m., FOX and CNN were still showing the same 'burning car', without any qualification, like "earlier today".

These media "outlets" are clearly ready for whipping up the next frenzy on any terrorist attack that may truly be a tragedy.

FOX is threatening "Geraldo Amok At Large" at 8 p.m. Can you think of anything more intellectually dangerous?

What does it all mean? What does it all mean? What does it all mean? What does it all mean? ...

It means a criminal blew up in Glasgow, today, so far with the perp seriously injured only. Next. Seriously, before we frighten ourselves to death and forget that everything doesn't have to be interpreted and re-interpreted into a grand, cosmic challenge of Islamic "jihad" against ... well, everything.

Landmark Testimony on Global Warming and Energy Efficiency

"Cap and Trade" is coming to America.

I've seldom seen such a candid and forthcoming appraisal about how backward energy provision in the USA has been. Full set of statements and video available from Senate "Examining Global Warming Issues in the Power Plant Sector."

Someone should cross-correlate energy policy with the GOP's much touted govenorships, to see which states have been lagging on producing energy efficiency. I was stunned by the amount of savings that appear to be left on the table.

From Darbee:

In California, efficiency is the first resource that we look at to meet our customers' demand [made possible because of 'de-coupling' in California, i.e. not paying energy companies to simply produce more energy - other states have other regulatory ways of trying to get at the same thing, but not all]. In fact, we meet half of our demand through energy efficiency. Over the past 24 years, we have avoided the need to build approximately 30 large power plants ...

In NJ, we're still reeling in various ways from the effects of the GOP's reckless 'energy deregulation' policies ...

The GOP Watches While American System Bleeds

More reason not to vote for GOP leadership. They have simply been asleep at the wheel since 1994, at least. In looking up bits on the ever rising co-pays for "managed care" that was supposed to provide full access once you bought into an HMO, I found this:

What is one way to take an ordinary insurance income stream and accelerate it? Well, you start raising co-pays to drive down "loss-ratios" and/or use "pre-approval", etc., to make utilization onerous or risky. Follow this up by putting serious caps on the plan and exclude or limit as much treatment as you can, either upfront or with fallback-refusal, fraud-net "questionnaires", while still claiming to provide "coverage".

The result: booming earnings, a soaring stock price, and possibly a huge non-cash CEO payout.

Anyway, here is how one person put it on the B-P blog:

So far in this discussion we have not talked about the declining coverage in available private insurance plans. This is a huge problem as well. Over the last decade my dental plans went from 90% payout to "60% of usual and customary for approved procedures only." The list of exclusions on my health plans quadrupled in size. Deductables rose, EVERY name brand drug was taken off the formulary (even when there was no generic), and my coworkers started to have increased trouble with denial of claims. Over this same period premiums more than tripled.

This is yet another reason why simply compelling private insurance will not solve the problem. Absent government regulation of coverage and costs, quality of insurance will continue to decline until the effect of buying insurance is identical to donating money to the insurance corporations.

That's pretty much the book on Romney-care and other ideas that fall short of the much needed single-payer system.

What this doesn't cover (and something Michael Moore leaves out of sicko), is that people have very little way of tracking how their insurance is being reduced. Few really know what their Nanny-Corporation is doing behind the curtain year-to-year ...


Have you ever gotten complete listings of what is covered, each year when you enroll (if you are lucky enough to) or are you asked to "Call us, and we'll tell you"?

Have you ever heard of companies providing complete details to prospective applications or much more than, "Yes, we provide 'full' medical and dental."?


Here's another one (and an item for someone who wants to do serious healthcare reform advocacy): Have you ever tried to find out the names of the people who are responsible for determining if your claim is paid or denied?

It's never published in any materials you ever get as part of standard issue. that I've seen or heard.

You can request it. Boy, is that a bad idea. About ten years ago, I put in a phone call to ask for the list (I believe you might be entitled to this disclosure by law), on not much more than a whim, just to see who the Who's Who was. Was I ever persona non-grata. I got "20 questions" on the phone, most of them hostile. At the end, I would have bet that my name got put on a watch list of people looking to sue the company or something. All I wanted to do was to see who was running my health care - I really had NO other agenda.

Media Watch: "Sicko"

Since "Farenheit 911", 'the Media' appear to be skeptical of Michael Moore, although the more we learn about the inside workings of the Bush White House, the less disingenuous Moore's portrayal becomes.


AC 360 had a representative of the insurance industry on, who, when pressed, opined something like, "Do employers purchase enough [health insurance] coverage?"

Well, no! D'oh.

If companies want to provide 21st Century "health" benefits, let them focus on preventive care plans, time away for 'recovery' and 'family leave' (both mental health items) and possibly retraining/sabbatical, and gym/healthclub benefits (and the like, such as holistic centers and even spas, that many people find very useful). Let them get out of basic medical and health insurance (they've already gotten out of pension insurance, so there is plenty of precedent).

I mean, if they cannot even represent the film properly, why should anyone listen to them on weighty matters like health care? From that perspective, I'm looking forward to more rounds of hyperbole from AS-like commentators on the issue!

Nothing to remark from Jon Stewart's i-view, except that Jon was looking for Moore to make an Rx at the end ("Tell us what to do"). Three words: Single payor system.


Larry King asked Moore if his trip to Guantanamo was a "gimmick". Many commentators ignore that Moore didn't set out to go to Cuba, he just followed the U.S. Gov't to Gitmo and ended up in Cuba.

There was a short Larry King 'moment' in which he said, (close quote), "They torture you, then they repair you", in referring to the brand spanking new medical facilities at Gitmo. True, he said it was a jest, but I think CNN is slipping. Carol Costello called NYC's electricity provider "Con Air", during the recent subway power outage.

AS presents this crap movie review, which is divorced from the actual facts of the film to such an extent that it makes the case against itself and its supporters. I mean, if they cannot even represent the film properly, why should anyone listen to them on weighty matters like health care? From that perspective, I'm looking forward to more rounds of hyperbole from AS-like commentators on the issue!

Looking for Joy in the Wrong Places

A Michael Moore-style anecdote from Ontario. Demagogery is a two-way street -AS, in The Joy Of Socialized Medicine

  1. At least AS is honest that the Right has historically fallen back on demagoguery to makes its counterpoints (and probably will prospectively, too). In truth, if this clip has any educational value, it is that people should understand the difference between single payer and single provider. The problem in this clip is single provider, not single payer.

  2. If you want to do just demagoguery, you've got your one person. I'll see your one and raise you 46 million with no insurance, of whom 9 million are children and countless others who are under-insured. I have two other Aces in the hole:

    1. My counter-example: would you advise someone to have their insurance company pay for an HIV test? Now? Ten years ago? For various reasons, at various times, it may be desirable to pay on your own, and not because of a single-payer system. [May as well do all the education, that goes beyond just taking pills, etc.]

    2. Medicaid is I think the largest or second largest payer for those with AIDS. Are we to abandon that snidely disparaged "joy of socialization" in favor of letting those who have the wealth get the care they need?

  3. The problem is that Moore's perspective isn't demagogic, because single payer systems of medicine are delivering both satisfaction and healthcare that is producing longer lives in many cases. Even Cuba, with its low standard of living ranks pretty good on life expectancy.

  4. Last, this is just more lies about the film and lies about the solutions.

    We have a single payer, for many people already. One is called Medicare/medicaid. Another exists for Federal Employees (and members of Congress). The VA is BOTH single payer and single provider, so it doesn't count. Is AS a hypocrite for not criticizing any of those? Probably.

    With Medicare, no law denies people the right to purchase their own insurance or to seek treatment outside the coverage that is offered. If fact, companies have made money selling supplemental medicare insurance.

    Any more sweet little lies from reform intransigents about the necessary shortfalls of a single-payer system? Expect a boatload!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sicko: The Right Has Every Reason to be Very Afraid

Little but plaudits for "Sicko" from the keyboard here, and not just because the End-the-Nanny-Corporation side of fixing America's broken healthcare system is smart.

The Right has every reason to fear. The end of paying insurance money to be so obviously ripped off, denied services by people whose job it is to find ways to call claims anything but valid, and made less healthly on average than 36 other industrial countries that all rank higher is just within Americans' grasp, if they are unafraid to ask for it. The estimated $100 milliion dollars spent last time to "fight Hillary", fill people with fear of change, and threaten people with the "decay of Socialism" says otherwise.
The two-hour film breezed by. It's engaging. It never drags.

I agree with others that its film-making is technically better than some of Moore's other films.

The best part is how Moore dispenses with all of the ways that the Republicans have fought to discredit what has been "obvious" and accepted to folks in other nations, who don't have to deal with a history of false warnings on the topic. He deals with all of them, wittily: the cries of "Socialism! Socialism!", the AMA fighting alongside Ronald Reagan, the drug companies 'buying up' Washington. There is even a clip, that is absolutely precious, of Nixon saying one thing in private and then "selling" his health plan on TV to the nation, while the obvious duplicity drips from his every word.

Truly, the way we've treated healthcare in this country is the seamy underside of what the putative "Greatest Generation" left undone, much to their shame. Yet, they still have time to "fix it", many of them.

The Right has every reason to fear. The end of paying insurance money to be ripped off, denied services by people whose job it is to find ways to call claims anything but valid, and made less healthy on average than 36 other industrial countries that all rank higher is just within Americans' grasp, if they are unafraid to ask for it. The estimated $100 milliion dollars spent last time to "fight Hillary", fill people with fear of change, and threaten people with the "decay of Socialism" says otherwise.

Brace yourself.

I'm not always a big fan of Tony Benn, but I'll tell you, he does a masterful job in the film. He even notes that Maggie Thatcher said that 'National Healthcare is safe in our hands". Sorry, AS, but it's true.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

16 Year Old Upstages O'Reilly

Just when you thought American students weren't getting an education, one takes The Man Who Wouldn't Shut Up to town:

(hat-tip: bloggernista)

More on Big Pharma: The European Connection

This is what the left wants to do to pharmaceutical research in the US as well. There's a case for it: the usual leftist case for nominal equality over quality and progress. They're not being honest about it. They need to be. -AS

Wow. The film hasn't even been released and everyone is already lobbing "dishonest".

It may be that "socialism always fails", but it's not clear that this is an example of it.


The principle reason that the U.S. has been a center of gravity is because it hasn't addressed the soaring costs of drugs, rising rates of drug utilization, or pharmaceutical companies possibly using pricing power to continue to drive "high" profit growth for ever larger companies.

Here is a graph of how prices for drugs on patent have moved in the U.S. versus the rest of the developed world. Had the U.S. moved to improved access years ago, instead of "managed care", it's not clear whether a shift away from Europe would have occurred, in the same degree.

What's more, not all of the shift in R&D to U.S. protection has been the result of a price umbrella, either. The U.S. has a deep market and well established lines between private and public research. The Europeans do not.

# It would be too simplistic to attribute the deterioration of the European pharmaceutical environment to a single factor. As a whole, Europe remains less attractive for R&D investments than the US. The economic and healthcare environments, the science base, the investment conditions, the regulatory framework, and societal attitudes towards new technologies all contribute.
# US patients, for example, are better informed and more willing to embrace innovation - they want to have the benefits of new approaches to healthcare and new treatments immediately, and to use them effectively.


Last, I'm not big on governments getting involved in price-setting or questioning anything but blatantly fraudulent 'drug innovations' (or doing much else than facilitating level playing fields, redressing externalities, or regulating natural monopolies).

However, sometimes monitoring and working with industry to reduce cost, is enough. Have a look at this reported success:

The [Canadian Patented Medicine Prices Review] Board’s record in fulfilling its mandate is well-known. We have achieved compliance with the Patent Act through our ongoing monitoring of the prices of new and existing patented drugs, obtaining the cooperation of patentees through our Voluntary Compliance Policy, and in using the statutory provisions for public hearings and remedial orders when necessary.

Over the past decade, the publicly-funded drug plans, which account for approximately 40% of total drug expenditures in Canada, have adopted a large number of innovative approaches to help contain costs while still providing for prescription drug coverage.

These initiatives by both levels of government have helped to ensure that drug prices in Canada have not increased faster than overall consumer prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Staying Focused, In Order to Dust the Healthcare Intransigents

A great source: Physicians for A National Health Program.

Couldn't have made the point too much better myself:

"The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison [it does on most of the major metrics that physicians use] and still leaves 46 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment though a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans"

Know Civil Preparedness: A Boatload of resources

Trying. Hard. To. Ignore. Ann. Coulter.

A brief look at Media Matters today confirms (a) another chapter in Lies and the Lying Liars and (b) that Ann Coulter's deliberate sensationalism should be ignored.

David Gregory takes chief journalistic loser status with this, "If you strip away some of the inflammatory rhetoric against your husband and other Democrats ...".

The point is that we are all tired, tired of the shock-jock D'Souza's and Coulter's. We know their schtick is deliberate (by their own admissions). Why are you trying to resuscitate it?

Separately, it looks like it might be a good time to get an analyst who can dissect the poor media coverage of the healthcare debate, as that heats up.

[Update: Joe Sudbay feels the same way.]

iPhone - a Luxury Tax?

I love gadgets as much as the next, but a $400-$600 phone, with a $60/mo minimum connectivity charge?

Either Apple should have included this in the "RED" program or maybe this item belongs on a luxury tax list ... There might be a billion kids in the world without shoes. Do we really need 40 million people with an iPhone?

I'm not saying "no" to really cool things like iPhone - just, well, how is it NOT conspicuous consumption? If we let people be fashion forward, then have them do it with flair: donate some fraction back ...

More on Big Pharma :: Disinformation by Implication?

There is much that can be changed within the sprawling thing we call "healthcare", without doing anything about Big Pharma.

In other words, one can actually take steps to improve access and efficiency without touching the drug companies.

Therefore, those peddling either/or scenarios centered around "Drug Companies", or "whole system down the tubes" analogies are deliberately misinforming folks.

If both Wyeth and Novartis have to consider that their next blockbuster drug is going to bring in less revenue, the probability that Drug X will be that blockbuster has to be higher in order to justify spending the money to find out. -AS, quoting the Drum-head

I'll suggest that this is a misunderstanding of the drug development market.

"Blockbuster drugs" are going to get developed, under almost any circumstances, even if almost all patent protection were removed. They are just too big and there is just too much money to be made.

The question then becomes about the marginal drug researched/produced.

Now, you can argue that patent protection, prescription-stabilized markets, handsome returns and large companies all militate against a Corporation taking risks on 'small market' drugs, speculative therapies, or very, very costly guesses on where basic science is headed. All of these things do not fit the most desired risk profile.

And, in fact, you see that reflected in the market. The marginal drugs are frequently researched by companies that finance and run like venture capital. The big companies that acquire these smaller, venture firms run them like that too, internally, in some cases, I think (I haven't looked in a while, but I think that's accurate). Otherwise, they are involved in buying "winners", picking up stage-II or stage-III prospects, pulling them into their Big Pharma marketing machines, etc. [In fact, if one wants to drag the AIDS period into it, which is probably not constructive, big pharma are historically poor at things like vaccine development, where liabilities are enormous and understandably so - perhaps even rightfully so.]

Marginal drugs are unlikely to be deeply jeopardized, therefore, if some strides are made to ... restructure the way(s) profits are taken on big-time research drugs. An initial patent protections period that recoups a drug's development cost in 5-7 years (that's a guesstimate of the shelf life of some therapies), and then a tradeoff between cost-reduction and extended patent protection (until some better idea comes up).

Again, all this could take place separately from changes to the system to provide improvements in access and an end to the "Nanny Corporation".

Thursday a.m. Roundup

Somehow, I don't think all of the Daily Dish's posts show up when I click 'refresh'. It seems as though there are more posts on the blog when I go back and re-read it. Perhaps, some are 'in progress' and get posted at later times, but with an earlier sequencing. It's not a failing. It's just that the material doesn't stream serially, I guess, the way I expect it.


1. Dunegrass. :: ... more fun to "get lost" in a cornfield or bamboo patch?

2. Any day now, Reihan will reboot himself. :: Looking forward to a properly booted and ready-to-rumble Reihan.

3. Matt Yglesias defends himself. :: One Harvard guy rushes to another, proving two adages. One, that Harvard guys are persecuted and fragile. Two, "you can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much." More to the point, both viewpoints in counterinsurgency are useful. COIN didn't replace "capture or kill" with "embarrass or embolden". You need all those tools, I think.

4. [Thatcher] remains the unsung heroine of recent British history: :: Maggie was totally punk !? Maybe with an unexpected legacy:

Ronald Reagan’s world lead to two things: An overwhelming sense of what-the-fuck-let’s-just-get-drunk-and-fuck-shit-up nihilism and hatred of Reagan. The former lead to the Meatmen/GG Allin school of punk; the latter to what we now think of as “Reagan bands.” [Keep reading, for Maggie's treatment]

5. "A welfare state attempts to care for the poor, but does so through compulsion." -a reader, AS . LOL. "Compulsion"? Is that like, "knee-jerk"? Maybe try, 'collective redress' - that seems to capture just how 'welfare states' amended the festering problems that came before them. If Andrew and his reader want to go back and live in the 1880s, say, and find out how "successful" they are, let them, I say. No FDA, no social security net, no higher education loans, opportunities for those with the right religion and the right race (or sex), hangings for sedition. Go for it - it was SO grand, eh? A veritable Golden Age!

6. Journalists don't list faith mags: Another case of being totally out of touch. :: Eh. Seems like it should be a separate list, anyway, otherwise it looks like posturing, as in, "See, I have faith, I read Faith magazine."

7. The Conservative Case Against War :: I'll just leave the Cons to argue this one out among themselves, but some Liberals believe that Conservatives are naturally disposed to wars in order to protect their property ...

8. Beards. Most of Corporate America still doesn't know what to do with that ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Disinformation Campaign on "Sicko" Starts


Reforming healthcare is what marketing people might call a 'technical sale'. It potentially involves knowing details about insurance and lingo. There is a learning curve, an education that has to take place hopefully starting now, because the forces of disinformation will be stronger than ever, as time goes by.


One of the systems Sicko suggests as a template for a remodeled American health care is the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS).
Well, until I see it myself, I'll take A.O. Scott's opinion that, although Moore investigates Cuba and Britain, he doesn't approve them as templates for remodeled America. So, this statement is just false.


Moreover, a wholesale shifting of healthcare from the private to the public sector simply means replacing rationing by wealth with rationing by number, and a drastic decrease in individual freedom on both sides of the medical equation.

This is unclear, which is unfortunate, when starting out by calling someone (Moore) a 'practiced liar' and 'not too smart'. What does 'shifting healthcare' mean, exactly? No one has proposed that doctors should be employed by the State, as they are in Britain, right?

We don't have just rationing by wealth, we have rationing based on employer. This has to end, one way or another. That is increased freedom. Employers should get out of the business of being insurers. Given how they've abandoned their pension obligations, for instance, it's fairly plain that they are just not any good at it.

There is no reason that a society should enthusiastically tolerate drastic increase in wealth disparity and wring its hands over some redistribution for healthcare, which, in the long-haul, can significantly improve the wealth of a nation by improving the human capital available. A healthy workforce is an economic good.

You'd replace insurance company bureaucrats who deny care with government bureaucrats who deny care.

Economically, we'd pick up all the profits of the insurance companies into public savings. As for being denied care of some amount, that probably always should be on the table, until the nation is much richer per capita. I'll take my chances with a BlueCross-type government agency, than with myriad insurance companies whose job it is to make sure that 'insurance' is a losing proposition for everyone in the pool in general (otherwise, how would they garner a 'profit'?).


And slashing the profit motive from the drug companies will simply mean fewer new drugs for fewer illnesses....

The European health systems have, of course, been free-riding on private U.S. drug research for decades. Name a great new drug developed in Europe these past ten years.

Yeah, I don't follow that at all. The big pharma companies have gobbled up their European equivalents, in order to create scale. Pharmacia didn't have an empty drug pipeline when it merged with Upjohn or was later acquired (sure, it's Sweedish, but which 'European drug companies' are we talking about?). The French have long been known to have been ahead on the development of many therapies.

Besides, I'd challenge anyone to show just how much basic science is done by major pharma, these days. I'd hazard that a large part of their effort is in other areas - important, but not in the way that is put forward with sweeping praises.

Meanwhile, this simplistic either/or analysis doesn't capture alternatives for managing drug development costs. Not that all of healthcare reform has to occur at once. For instance, what about the proposition that exclusive patents last for, say, 10 years, after which exclusive patents can be extended for another 10-15 years, provided that the government is satisfied that the drugs start being marketed at 'generic' prices. In other words, trade extended patent protection for a price reduction, after the initial patent period. I'm quite sure that companies would be willing to do that. It would bring down the cost of drugs and continue to provide all the powerful financial incentives that are needed to ... to pay for ... let's see, wasteful direct advertising, wine-and-dine the doctor routines, contribute to the political campaigns of everyone, massive issue advertising every 10-12 years, etc.


Oh, and just to make it complete: This is a tradeoff that the Right will deny until they are red in the face, but it's a real tradeoff.


And yes, I see no problem with the wealthy having access to better care than the less wealthy.
The problem with this is that it's open to interpretation in the worst way [I mean, probably worse than Moore]. I wonder if AS realizes that there are some people who think that the wealthy deserve better health care, even if 'better' is defined in terms of some people having NO access, even basic, not in terms of having, say, Beverly Hills house calls and private hospital rooms?

I have less worry that the Left is going to shut down the lifestyles of the wealthy or super wealthy than I do of those who are more than willing to let 'those without' make do without. This is particularly why the 'Conservative' effort on healthcare is generally baffling as a studied 'viewpoint', as a question of emphasis, or as the 'other side of the coin'.

Race ... and the deep end

Not to pick at old wounds, ... -AS

Note: don't. It's bloody ugly.

But that such subtle differences exist, and that we will soon be able to measure them rather clearly, is something we're just going to have to deal with at some point.

Note: when the science comes in conclusively, maybe that is the time. Before then, this type of consciousness raising is ... ill-considered.


I'm outta this exchange, for the most part.

I think both sides are talking past each other. I doubt an article 'caused' anyone to have a permissive attitude (if it did, that's a different problem). I'm not sure that the phase-shift that occured medically in 1996 amounted to an "End of Plague", which denotes eradication. Perhaps it was just an unfortunate title, or a deliberatively edgy one, which is somewhat understandable from a written perspective.

I'm not sure what the appropriate demarcation for 'the cocktail' relief rally would be. From inside the HIV-positive circle, it was obviously a massive change. From the wider, outside-the-circle perspective, it was sorta like a Pyhrric victory, not a cure, not an eradication, but a ... powerful stopgap? Is it a celebratory day, as AS suggests? Is it even 1996? Maybe it is something like this, an AIDS Memorial/Museum. There is that deeply memorable monument/statuary in Vienna that commemorates the Black Death, that comes to mind. In any case, a quiet place, to sit and reflect and remember:

I never cried the way I cried over you,
As I put down the telephone and the world it carried on.
Somewhere else, someone else is crying too,
Another man has lost a friend, I bet he feels the way I do.
And now I'm left without, but you're here within.
As I watch the sun go down, watching the world fade away,
All the memories of you come rushing back to me.
As I watch the sun go down, watching the world fade away,
All I want to do is kiss you once goodbye.

Summer comes and I'd remember how we'd march,
We'd march for love and pride, together arm in arm.
Tears have turned, turned to anger and contempt,
I'll never let you down, a battle I have found.
And all the dreams we had, I will carry on.
As I watch the sun go down, watching the world fade away,
All the memories of you come rushing back to me.
As I watch the sun go down, watching the world fade away,
All I want to do is kiss you once goodbye, goodbye,
Goodbye, goodbye.

And all the dreams we've had, I will carry on.
As I watch the sun go down, watching the world fade away,
All the memories of you come rushing back to me.
As I watch the sun go down, and darkness comes to me,
All I want to do is kiss you once goodbye, goodbye,
Goodbye, goodbye

Kiwis Kissed By Kalypso Today

Team New Zealand put up a 2-to-1 advantage in the finals against the defending Swiss Alenghi team, in an amazing race that saw two changes in lead.

The Kiwis caught an early wind shift to open up an amazing 300+ meter 'blowout' lead, but then lost most of that on a rare crewing error that caught the spinnaker and forced a cut-sheet jibe (as well as the unrelated dippy-dip pictured above). In what looked like brilliant tactics, Alenghi skipper Brad Butterworth challenged the Kiwi team near the top forcing them to defend their position and, thereby, putting them onto a slightly slower tact. Rounding the top he pulled ahead by no more than a boatlength, but the Kiwis gambled a second time, this time on a left hand side wind shift pulling them through; and it worked for what the reported account calls an 'improbable win' and one for the record books.

Video here.

Separately, Formula One racer Lewis Hamliton, mentioned on these pages, has the driver's lead, with two weeks to go to Silverstone. (McClaren well ahead of team Ferrari. Kimi down on the list, at fourth ...).

The Myth of Socialized Medicine

But I grew up with socialized medicine, and I know what a disaster it is. It's coming, of course. -AS

Maybe, this is some evidence that AS hasn't 'done his homework' on health care.

I haven't read all of the plans for health care (nor all that I intend to on the upcoming, massive healthcare debate); but no leading candidate, on either side of the isle, is proposing what Andrew grew up with. (Besides, Andrew himself seems to have somehow come away from the British system without having been mutilated...)


I've heard Rudy Giuliani repeat the 'talking point' that the Dems are proposing 'socialized medicine'.

Tell me, when employers create a 'insurance risk pool', what is that except a 'socialization'? Everyone in the pool benefits by sharing / 'socializing' the risks in the pool.

The only difference with Giuliani (and others) is that companies set up (and cull?) these pools for profit.

What smart people are talking about is recognizing that the "Nanny Employer" model is bust, and building a single pool for most risks (but maybe not ALL).

Cutting out the financing costs associated with private risk pools will (a) reduce the amount spent on healthcare by tens of billions, (b) realize that savings in terms of access for a greater number of people, and (c) keep the current system of misallocated private physicians and seriously overpriced lab services, medical equipment, and prescription drugs largely unchanged.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Case of the Missing Facts ...

turning American politics into a battleground primarily between those who believe the Gospels mandate an expansive welfare state and those who believe they mandate government's moral regulation of human birth, death and sex. -AS

What welfare state is that?

We haven't had a serious 'welfare state' in America, almost ever.

Jerry Falwell started out on the Left. It was the Right that figured out how to misuse him (broadly visible in a number of ways, not the least of which is the hypocrisy on the Right about its own compassion).

Thinking of government action and law as a tool in part of a struggle for a better society I don't think is anything to be ashamed of. One might argue about that principle taken to excess, but I'm not sure it is anything new.

Meanwhile, I haven't read all of Obama's reportedly "Christianist" speeches, but it looked to me from what I read that that term may not apply. He appears to be motivating a sense of mission ('universal principles'), not standing out in front of the Supreme Court with jeuveniles shouting, "Righteous judges!" and passing out little plastic babies, etc. (cf. Jesus Camp). What's more, from all that I've seen, he's encouraging people to weigh alternatives, to evaluate, to consider his health-care proposal, for instance, not as 'dogma' but as policy. This is not a Christianist stance, arguably. It's also light years away from funding Christian organizations with State funds to do the work ...

Nanny Camera, More Like it

From the annals of liberal busy-body hell: what you can and cannot say when trying to rent or sell an apartment in New York City. -AS

Oh, I know plenty of non-liberals who would never venture a 'defense' of NYC's brokers ... In fact, there was significant hope for a while that the internet might dis-intermediate this almost non-value creating crowd.

The rest just shows a lack of understanding of the history of abuses of this kind and the sordid history of NYC ... 'landlordship'.

More on the End of Gay Culture

Among the more anachronistic relics of the gay liberation period is the Pride Parade. ... The far left accuses the opters-out of being racist. Nah. They're just bored. And faintly embarrassed. -AS

Discriminated against because of their sexuality, gays and lesbians march in NYC's Pride 2007 and 'show it off'. The often garish celebration makes many gays and non-gays squeamish, either because they don't understand or they would rather ... have more decorum on the road to Freedom?

So far as I know, NYC has never had a "Pride Parade" - it's always been a "March". This is part of the problem with those who came through the 'liberation period', with barely feigned 'embarrassment' ... I suspect there are any number, too, who, despite all their crying about who is or isn't "out" that might be in the public eye, most likely never stepped out into fifth avenue themselves. For many, being part of the March was a step in their personal journey. Those who never did it, or who think they got the same elsewhere, have only half-truth.

As for the here and now, I think AS wrote in one of his "End of Gay Culture" pieces that he was rather ambiguous about it all. Perhaps that means he hasn't listed the benefits of 'gay culture' or, just as likely, has a blind spot for being embarrassed by it? Besides, what is p-town, except a vestige of 'gay culture', of homophobia really? It was clearly a place of seclusion, the furthermost point, just like many other spots, sought for obvious benefits of ... being out of sight. Why go hours and hours through what is now blistering cape traffic to be in this particular point? How is that so much different than Gay Pride?

Truly, if I had to pick one thing that was great socially about being gay, it would probably be the vast array of people who I would have never, ever have met in other circumstances.

Frankly, I just have to laugh at all those who get squirmy because their 'gayness' suddenly associates them with a bunch of people who they find ... unattractive. You know, THOSE people. Even moreso for those who complain that the March doesn't represent them, but then they stay out, ensuring further lack of representation, so that they can pour drinks for 'the select' from the rooftop or the balcony or write snidely from the sidelines. The "boredom" of these folks is actually sidelining the importance of fraternity and sorority within the LGBT community. Sure, one can postulate that 'the world' is post-gay and it's not needed, but I think that's short-sighted. Unlike Andrew, I firmly believe in culture centers and cultural touchstones.

Truly, if I had to pick one thing that was great socially about being gay, it would probably be the vast array of people who I would have never, ever have met in other circumstances. I LOVE the diversity of the gay community and the fact that I have this weired, intangible bond to so many people on such terms.

See also:

Religious groups take lead for gay pride

Center may make Chicago gay destination

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Pride - Whatever Color Your Stripes!

Headed off to Pride March. Playing it by ear this year. For kicks, p-dog wants to march with/as "New Labour", but I think we'll end up with "bi-curious supermodels on ecstacy" like always ... ha! Probably just meet some friends and hang out. Good weather, good fun. Avanti!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ah, To be Bruited in the Wonkier Precincts of the Blogosphere - There's the Thing

"Sicko" approacheth. A.O.Scott finds humor:

If you listen to what the leaders of both political parties are saying, it seems unlikely that the diagnosis offered by “Sicko” will be contested. I haven’t heard many speeches lately boasting about how well our health care system works. In this sense “Sicko” is the least controversial and most broadly appealing of Mr. Moore’s movies. (It is also, perhaps improbably, the funniest and the most tightly edited.) The argument it inspires will mainly be about the nature of the cure, and it is here that Mr. Moore’s contribution will be most provocative and also, therefore, most useful.

“Sicko” is not a fine-grained analysis of policy alternatives. (You can find some of those in a recently published book called “Sick,” by Jonathan Cohn, and also in the wonkier precincts of the political blogosphere.)

Iran's Crackdown

In The Mullahs Move, AS rightly and importantly takes note of changes going on inside Iran.

The Iranians have an entire "Mullocracy" that is devoted to finding new reasons to 'hate America' and disparage all things "non-Islamic" or not "revolutionary" enough for them. This has been and continues to be an effective public diplomacy for them, from time to time.

The question then becomes, who is keeping the dossier on Iran, so to speak? Who is doing the detail work of public diplomacy? There are Senators and strategists who are ready to pull the levers of CIA black-ops and even "strategic bombing" campaigns. Iran continues to distinguish itself as a 'bad actor', if you believe reports of how they support lawlessness (perhaps even terrorism). All this suggests that Iranian-style 'fundamentalism' is job one.

Now, if you go to VOA you find that "Iraq" is a "topic", but you won't find Iran broken out. If you go to the major news outlets, you will find the proverbial 'Iraq' page, but few are tracking Iran. Instead, we have Israeli officials like Netanyahu making visits to the U.S. to prompt the international community to 'live up to its obligations and responsibilities' vis-a-vis Iran. (Elsewhere, we are left with barely serviceable catch phrases that may not even be accurate, like the oft-repeated "wipe them off the map".)

Groups like Amnesty and HRW aren't dropping the ball, but 'CIA Detention' still outranks HR abuses in Iran on the list of action priorities ...

Meanwhile, the 'authority' of the Mullahs and the desired permanace of 'The Islamic Revolution' is gravely in question:

By VOA News 21 June 2007
An international human rights group is urging Iran to stop executing people under the age of 18.

Human Rights Watch says Iran executes more minors than any other country in the world. It says Iran has carried out 17 such executions since 2004. It says some juveniles were given death sentences for crimes they committed when they were 15.
Human Rights Watch says the only other countries known to have executed juveniles since 2004 are Sudan, which executed two juveniles and China and Pakistan, which each executed one.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Economic Crockpots

If rent regulation is going to exist, then let's at least be accurate about what it represents: counterproductive warm-fuzzy-feeling politics that violate every principle of elementary economics ... -AS, Reader

What "economics" would that be? The externalities that create congestion, just so that the government can tax the very consequences of that and rent-seekers can exploit it outright?

For pity's sake, ...

Oh, and isn't it great that you can buy your Prada tax-free in NYC, now? Just the kind of leadership NYC needs ...

Andrew Sullivan Arm Candy


AS picks up "Woofs!" and smiles for an arm candy snapshot in Vitae, Ursus Major. [a herrin'-bone bear?]

Separately, I'll share this. We've longtime been knowledgeable of 'hyper-masculinity', but it's hard to convey the amounts of daily hilarity we found when wikipedia put up a stylized entry on 'homomasculinity', a term that still causes chuckles over its very conception. The pidgeon hole of what is and isn't 'homomasculine' took quite a raucous pounding for a while, as in, "you know you are a red-neck if ...", if you catch my drift.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wartime Anthropology In Times of War

Patrick Porter makes the case that acculturation is not a fog light of war.

On the war in the culture or the culture in the war:

The dogma of cultural determinism, then, often fails to deal with many of the complexities of military performance. Its empirical and conceptual shortcomings reflect a more fundamental problem. Cultural determinism sees what it wants to see in history, making facts fit a theory to confirm its urgent contemporary agenda, which is to alert today’s militaries and decisionmakers to the profound differences between cultural traditions. But however seductive and well-intentioned the theory, competing ways of war are hammered out in a matrix in which culture was one element that interacts with others, such as material circumstances, power imbalances, and individuals. It would be ironic if the many war cultures of the past were forced into simplistic categories in order to encourage cultural sensitivity in the present. -PP

Seminal piece for follow-on questions:

Other writers, including Richardson, have made the case for managing strategic cost-consideration in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. This seems to me the point at which cost and assymetry meet:

From Ho Chi Minh to Osama bin Laden, weaker sides have announced their will to make sacrifice without limit. It is precisely this which they reckon advantages them against the stronger enemy, with its nervous politicians and civilian population reluctant to spend endless blood and treasure. As demonstrated by more than a million dead communists in the North’s ultimate victory in Vietnam, bloodless methods and being economical with casualties was emphatically not a war-winning strategy

Also, looking below, we can muse about how the 'culture warriors' have put war back into the culture:

Win a Date with Tagg

A date? Statistically, we should be looking out for one of his younger brothers, right?

Just-Tax-Our-Kids Republicans

Because Trillion Dollar Quagmires are a Family Value

A proverbial Republican 'wish mountain'. Cut taxes now so your kids can pay them later.

So far, just about every GOP effort to 'cuts taxes' has just piled up a mountain of debt for the kids to be taxed to pay, either directly or indirectly.

Now, if Romney said something about putting an end to the "CEO culture", that has been bad for business and bad for politics, he'd be more than fluff. Why do you think that all those politicians want to fly on private jets everywhere, except that their perceived "peers" in business are living as large as is now being unearthed in the Conrad Black trial, for instance?

Meanwile, the 'prediction markets' appear to be living up to the research that suggests they lead rather than lag the poll, as seen on the sister blog here vis-a-vis today's Drudge-linked Rasmussen poll showing Thompson ahead of Giuliani.

Of course, even the prediction markets are no match for our broken third-branch and our feckless two-party, political lock-jaw. As The Onion observes, "Poll: Many Americans Still Unsure Whom To Vote Against".

Dog Days of Summer

Summer arrives officially in the Northern Hemi. Enjoy! (I prefer the Indian summer to the dog days of summer, anyway, so I have to wait -- and, no, it's not a Whales of August thing).

(But, do mind the melanoma - only 3% of the cases, but 80% of deaths, with 90% of those related to the dark side of the sun. There, I've done my civic duty, which is maybe more than we can expect from the oddball Bush appointee for Surgeons General)

error: These are the ACS figures for incidence and mortality from cancer. The numbers from the source that I used above did not sit right with me, it's been bothering me since, and I've finally had time to pull other numbers.

A Thought

Hamas’ Wanted List has 85 names on it, and understandably, anyone linked to the Fatah security forces is laying low.

Q: Gaza today is what Iraq (or large parts of Iraq) could look like after a pullout, true or false?

How many Israeli lives will it cost to re-occupy Gaza?

In a piece that looks a little too influenced by his Israeli handlers, Seth Gittel eventually gets to the crux of 'global counterinsurgency' (I use that phrase, because we can point to Somalia, Waziristan, and maybe places in Thailand, Indonesia, and Nigeria facing similarly situated breakdowns in the political demarcations of State power):

The issue no relevant party — Israel, the PA, the US, the EU — has ever been able to deal with is what to do with the rejectionist, Islamacist forces that seek to control the Palestinian Authority.

It's a vexing set of problems, no doubt, but it's not without approaches. One is continual pressure, on known 'rejectionist forces'.

Another is understanding how these groups evolve and insinuate themselves, and working to forestall that, at each point along the way.

Last, is recognizing the amount of political will that is required to run a 'global counterinsurgency'. 'Rejectionist' groups have arguably been very organized, usually trading off their singleness of purpose. Counteraction probably requires a similarly organized and concerted effort.

Lefty Christianists?

Has the church failed that miserably that we now have to look to secular government, which is fundamentally less efficient than individuals looking out for each other, to fix the woes of society? - writer to AS

AS comments:

Socialism and left-liberalism and "compassionate conservative" are really devices with which the state assumes the moral obligations of the individual - and increasingly robs the individual of the resources to be charitable herself. -AS

That's too broad brush to me.

"Conservatism", with its abject alignment with 'free-market liberalism', produces atomistic forces in society, not 'brotherly' ones. What's more, it teaches by exmaple, most recently, that everything can be 'outsourced'.

The idea that people, left or right, are not looking for government to be a positive moral force is probably without foundation. People want 'good government', and that goes beyond procedural fairness.

Stranger Than Fiction

An uncanny juxtaposition?

Item: Vatican promulgates, "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road"

Item: "[Texas] Crowd Kills Man After Car Hits Child"

And people say that 'The Church' is out of touch ...

Politico Speak - Things That Make Us Laugh

A while back, so many were taken to task for describing Obama as well spoken. But you can understand, partly, why that characterization has a broader base than just racial mis-perceptions or prejudice.

To wit, I was listening to the radio and some local swell came on and suggested that (paraphrase), "This was the agreement, and - you know - it has not been adheeded [sic] to." I assume he combined "not adhered to" and "not heeded", to come up with "adheeded".

Then Mayor Bloomberg said something like, "We've gotten to the point that politics is so partisan, that if you have lunch with someone from the opposing party, you are a Parana." I think he was trying for "pariah" (and I'm pretty sure I didn't hear him wrong).


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Born Free

The Village Voice does a cute little cover for its "Queer Issue". In a long, but interesting cover story, we find:

Most people will do anything to avoid calling children under the age of 10 "gay." Teachers, especially, have reason to avoid the topic, says Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. "They're putting their fingers in their ears and going 'La-La-La, I'm not going to address this' because I'm not going to get accused of having some nefarious hidden agenda with the children."

It's entirely possible to get overdosed on "gay and lesbian" during Pride Month, but so far, we are having a great time.

I feel like a 'music appreciation' walking stick. This month will include everything from Xanadu (AS should suggest his friend who has a PhD in camp not to miss the production - even though it is not strictly camp, it has the chance to be a cult classic, that one) to Tool (maybe also Passing Strange). The True Colors concert was a really good time, without any real weakness in the lineup. Beth Ditto is almost tantric on stage, at some points - I was transfixed. P-dog was happy that Dresden Dolls did Black Sabbath. Cindy Lauper is inimitable. I love her spoken voice, too, which can summon up a childlike innocence, no matter how much you hear it ("Don't hate the haters"). Erasure revealed that there may be a lost generation of gays-in-polo-shirts who know the songs but don't know how to dance ... Anyway, you get the picture. Oh, yeah, I was able to get b-day seats for the Yankee Doodle boy to see hot-ticket Jersey Boys, so we're packing it in, even after the party officially stops.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The New Arafat?

That way Hamas gets to keep power in Gaza, maintain its popularity as fighters against Palestinian oppression, and avoid any actual responsibility for governance. Not exactly a recipe for diminishing their power or popularity. -AJ

It struck me, when I read this incisive observation, that this 'positioning' is the same as Arafat's... glup. 2X.

And the idea that the Hamas was never given a chance to govern is wildly absurd. But, blame everyone seems to still have traction as regional apologetics.

Just because the Hamas is organized politically doesn't mean that they are for the people. Of course, they do all their social work among the poor and uneducated, so that they can pretend that they are 'for the people' when they set out to 'blow shit up'.

Nor is it even clear that they should not have been banned as a political party (which is, afterall, a view that is arguably consistent with 'democracy'), a view in Israel that was set aside by the USA, in favor of Hamas, a chance for them to govern.

But, like Hizbollah in Lebanon, what have they brought but sorrow, despair, and death, riding under the banner of 'glory'? There are even billboards in Lebanon, admittedly in the Northern parts, that say, "Choose Life". And all say, Amen.

More Democracy, Please

Another blogger rethinks the notion of democracy promotion in foreign policy -AS

Two things.

I'd like a little more Democracy in America please, never mind foreign policy. A few more years of 'What's the matter with Kansas?' might just be enough, meaning that I'm a little tired of being outvoted in the Senate, which includes votes from the like of Inhofe, for instance.

As for the rest, i.e. foreign policy, please, no. I hope that the Dems never 'realistically' convince themselves to get involved with, say, the likes of Pinochet, as much as did those around Reagan and his 'Reagan Devolution'.

Also, there seems to be something inherently contradictory in espousing a relatively idealistic strategy for things like civil rights and disparaging the capacity of whole regions to enjoy the benefits of freedom from Executive puissance.

When Aces Get Trumped

It's seems to be no secret that AS could live without Ace of Spades, but I have to concur that the recent screed doesn't get a pass because it purported to be funny. It trades on nasty stereotypes, that gays are by definition unable to control themselves sexually (are wanton), in both the Tyson chicken distribution center metaphor and the irresistibility-of-Ace "test".

The core insecurity, as old as the hills, is that heterosexuals might have their manliness questioned by gay men, backed up with the schoolyard idea that Ace-heteros are at the head of the pecking order when it comes to that. ("Not that I'm saying homosexuality is incompatible with masculinity, of course." - but of course you are!). The real side-splitting stuff comes later, but reinforces this view. After having portrayed all homosexuality as basically wanting to get drilled (or be held by a real man), Ace relies on Glen Reynold's wife, not his fellow travelling butchsters, to vouch the pundit's masculine virtue. With logic like that, it wasn't the low road that Ace took, but the corkscrew roller coaster ... a weeeeeeee - look, ma, no hands!

Finally, anyone who would write this in a public forum and then wonder about The Left calling them gay has to get a little public psychological intervention, right? Afterall, if I borrow a movie line to sum it up, Ace basically looks in the mirror and says, "Yeah, I'd f- me!:"

Is Instapundit A Homo? Well, I think I met him three times or something, and he never tried to pork me. Given the fact I'm 180 pounds of rompin'-stompin' Clydesdale-clompin' 180 proof sex, I'd say he successfully passed that test.

Find that horse a bit and saddle ... before he hurts himself again.

[And what's with 180-proof, that I missed? Isn't that 10% shy of the full monty?]

Bomb Making Skills Spread Globally :: GOP Jeopardizes National Readiness

As the GOP's Commander continues with the failed DADT policy, letting go highly skilled IED experts like Antonio Agnone, the world changes around him and his, rendering their policies arcane.

Today's GOP is not fit for duty. It's simple.

This may seem like deliberately beating a dead horse, but honestly, every now and again there is just a confluence of evidence, nothing more - I certainly didn't plant an explosives story at National Defense mag.

10,000 Troops Move to Diyala

Please, God, let this not be a continuation of "whack-a-mole" strategy. link (warning: Fox "News")

Having not yet won the Battle of Baghdad for what is left of Baghdad (that I know, at least), the military moves to the Battle of Baqubah. [Let's hope this shows a relentless adaptiveness and full-speed alacrity, if nothing else in general.]

As I recall, the new commander in the North has only been up there for a short while (change of the guard in the late summer / fall of last year).

Let's hope that the price paid for this "clear" operation is backed up with "hold" and "build". One doesn't want to get stuck in platitudes or 'old thinking', but paying in blood for the same ground twice - sucks!

Oh, yeah: 108 degrees in Baghdad, expected high of 111 degrees. ... er, God Save the Queen!

[note: updated Agnone info. below.]

Monday, June 18, 2007

"Legacy of Service"

JA, hot on the beat and apparently quick-thinking on his feet, puts up a great interview with Iraq Marine Veteran Antonio Agnone.

Iowa gets the first salvo of the new "Legacy of Service" tour, that highlights former active duty military personnel talking about the ongoing risks to national readiness posed by the backward prohibitions on gays and lesbians. (part two, part three of the Iowa Independent's coverage).

Apart from being an important civil rights issue, this highlights another failing of the Republicans on National Security matters. Given how 'strong on defense' is not yet dead as a rally cry for the GOP, I'm not sure why progressive punsters and candidates are not actively seeking to drive the nails into that coffin. I hate to think it is because Dems are just not comfortable striking out with their own views on national defense.

Clinton 'learned defense' and it helped him, one could argue not to be portrayed as soft on defense (as I recall, he even bumped up one of the DoD's budget proposals, during the time when the military spending was set by bipartisan agreement to fall).

It seems to me that now is a good time to forget that 'shadow policy' and for Democratic candidates, in particular, to come into the light of their own!

(note: I'm still checking on Agnone's rank. Reports say he was an officer, but they don't specify.)

update: o.k., Agnone was a super engineer and zippy logistics officer (all of you with OR or IE backgrounds, be still your hearts, he's taken). Now, I'm guessing, but it appears that he did so well he got fixed up with the 2nd Division guys, here, and got attached to the 22nd MEU, guessing as a 1stLt.

Pic says it all! (and, yes, they have a motorcycle club for vets):

His partner, Brandon, an airman, remains a mystery so far (meaning I'm not sure if he is a former Marine, etc.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Heatbreak Songs of Summer

Ataris. Maybe this one will make it to Guitar Hero III?

Today is the day when leatherfolk from everywhere ... er, dress up and frighten the "vanilla" public?

Let's Go Hawaii!

This settles it. Time to finally move to Maui.

The Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit, writes a state-by-state scorecard on health care and provides a sort-of 'interactive' map. (hat-tip bweek).

With more and more states doing what obviously needs to be done, the federal government may turn out to be ... a venue for earmarks? grrr...

"We ought to jump on that like a duck on a June bug"

Army in Iraq able to keep finger in the dyke, journalists call such "possible signs of progress". humm...

Even Armies need cooperation:

"If you've got folks who say, 'Hey, this is my hometown, and I'm tired of the violence and if you simply train and equip me, I'll protect my hometown.' We ought to jump on that like a duck on a June bug," says Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Home Alone?

I wasn't going to say anything, but who else feels like poor Evan is a walking advertisement against home schooling? (AS posted the CNN interview, but there was another one in which the anchor ended by saying, "You know what, Evan, I'm so over you." gulp.)

Test your emotional IQ here:

iNfoRmaTION age of AnXiety: Trust the Feds?

New term for the new millennium: an "information dragnet":

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An internal FBI audit has found the agency violated rules ...
...some two dozen of the newly discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have, the audit found.

Louie, in the millennial remake of "Casablanca" (also set in Casablanca?):

"Major Strasser has been shot.


Subpoena the usual databases."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Homosexual "Lifestyle"

I was just about to write how someone could make a fortune taking "Notes From the Homosexual Lifestyle", just to unravel that brainlessly repeated compaction, but it appears that CNN has beat me to the punch with a request for comments/video. Surprisingly, I'm supposed to be "uncovered" by them. LOL.

Let's see, I got four new tires for the car last week, after some slippy-slip in the rain knocked up a rim. They are most excellent and I got a great price. The guy at the store was very competent. Bored yet? No? How 'bout if I throw in a gripping narrative of how I was the sole bidder in an eBay auction for new car floor mats?

Our aging pets are doing really well this month, but they are aging pets, afterall. I wonder if CNN wants a picture of that? :-( A friend shared a recipe for wholesome, homemade pet food, which I tried this week. Is that something I could dramatize, I wonder?

The big excitement at NJ Pride was that they switched it around this year, so that the stage faced east. We got some good swag (I have a zippy new pocket tape measure that p-dog - that's like b-rabbit - scored for me from Provident bank, after I lost the last one. Yeah, I actually am the type that could put something like that to use). Bored yet?

Didn't have to crowd into an overpriced and attitude filled venue to see the Gin Blossoms perform on the weekend. Fresh strawberries up at the corner. The blackberry bushes up there just put out their blossoms. My weekend Sangria didn't come out very well (I even picked up a Spanish Merlot, grrrr...). That's got to be worth a 'homosexual moment' in time, no?

Between work and ADLs, the quotidienne probably dominates 90% of our 'homosexual lifestyle', which is why that phrase seems like someone's mind on crack.


The Hamas fortification of Gaza is deeply troubling and will have reverberations for a long time, quite possibly.

It's as if all of the worst fears about the Gaza withdrawal and post-Arafat elections came true. (Even though getting rid of Arafat was supposed to be a solution of some kind. Now, it doesn't even appear as a step in the right direction...)

Congrats, MassEquality

MassEquality, a lean organization, deserves kudos for their work in the fight for marriage for gays and lesbians in Massachusetts. Today, as is now well reported, the Constitutional Convention voted down the measure.

This "vindication" vituperation from AS I'll just let pass in favor of wishing AS and Aaron good luck on the occasion of the official go-ahead for their wedding this fall and a gentle reminder that AS isn't the only one agitating for equality.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bible Totin' Homos

As any reader of Virtually Normal will know, I do not doubt that the Bible condemns homosexual sexual acts. - AS

Well, that's interesting, but I'm not sure I'm willing to accept your lack of doubt. Perhaps AS could show which passages he finds the most persuasive in eliminating all doubt and why?

The chapter on "Prohibitionists", as best I recall, doesn't contain much scriptural exegesis. It does have a long bit wrestling with natural law theory/doctrine (Finnis or Finney, if I remember one of the two footnotes, offhand, outside of Aquinas), which is, of course, not scriptural. (The usage of "natural" as it occurs in the scripture has been hotly contested as support for what 'natural law' theorists typically mean).

Pardon me, but your slip is showing, Ma'am

I haven't heard much from the belly of the beast, lately, so I took a tour over at the AEI website. Found this quote, first thing, right on the main page, which causes one to stagger back:

"Adequate preparation is more urgent as January 2009 draws near, when the government will be handed over for the first time since 9/11 to a new administration and security team."

More urgent?

It's Sad

It sad, Bush Sr. keeps thinking that his son has served honorably. Even as late as the weekend's Billy Graham library dedication, he's said so.

CAFE standards revisions make it to Senate floor ...

It happened. In our lifetimes. Under a Republican President.

Sure, it's a small token: existing technology solutions phased in over ... do I hear one year, two years, five years, ten years? No, a generation!

What do you estimate the odds are that the US, which is near the bottom of most industrialized nations, at around 25 mpg, makes it up to where Japan is, at 45+ now (and rising)? The legislation sets the bar in the mid-thirties. Even China is higher than USA - how do you think that plays when we sit at the table to talk about paying the cost for global warming (you know, as in "show American leadership")?

Here is another interesting set of statistics. Over the past three years, Exxon has returned $56 billion in cash, via stock buybacks. That would have funded the entire capital expense for both GM and F for the three years, and get this - with eight and half billion dollars left over! In other words, if we didn't have "free" markets, one might have re-directed the oil profit 'excess' to kick starting the huge-cost development cycle of the major auto dealers to the tune of three consecutive years!

Of course, to Cheney-Bush, it is more important that we fight al-qaeda "over there" ...

Re-imagining Marriage

"Family Reunion" is a new piece by Jon Rauch, a written follow-up, no doubt, to his recent debate about David Blankenhorn's [DB] The Future of Marriage.

Blankenhorn reports that he went away to his lucrative values echo chamber for a year to think about marriage, specifically marriage for gays and lesbians. Pardon me if I'm not impressed by that alone, as a claim to seriousness. Who did he talk to, besides some relationship radicals, who sometimes seem to think that all kin can be fictive to the extent that people are seemingly reduced to lego blocks? So what if he swats some of the low-hanging fruit from the musings of some of the more prominent writers on the topic, like AS, JR, and EW. Heck, I could do that in a weekend, never mind a whole year!

I have yet to uncover dispositive evidence that Blakenhorn's mission wasn't to find new and clever ways to expound against gay marriage, to write propaganda for Catholic doctrine, as it were. I'm patient, however.

Jon seems to think that Blakenhorn has shifted the debate in a positive way, but I'm completely unconvinced. To be sure, the arguments are different than the mud-pit of "I'm-right, you're-wrong, now go to hell". Perhaps it is a "lift" to frame things as rival goods - doesn't that, afterall, imply that gay marriage is a good in itself, in order to even make that formulation serious? But I just see it as a pernicious shift, not a laudable one, toward the age-old and powerful prejudice of "save the children" [hey, did you notice that, even just today, AG Gonzales is using the 'save the children' defense - it's real and pernicious].

What's more, Jon doesn't seem to consider that DB thought, "Well, I'm not going to be able to play the "right"/"wrong" divide on this, without a rehash of the 'natural law' stuff; and, if I try to rely on empirical sciences, the best I'm going to be able to do is come up with an 'on balance' assessment." Once he got into it, perhaps he realized that he could formalize his 'on balance' musings as a "greater good" argument, and do so along the lines of popular prejudice, a positioning that would juice his views, accordingly, and satisfice his sponsors.

If you think I'm being unfair, consider this. The "rival goods" exist in his rhetoric (and in his heart?) only insofar as the one can be discarded in favor of the other. DB, so far as I know, has yet to articulate any expression - social or otherwise - for the 'human dignity' of homosexual love and partnership. [hint: this 'silence' also follows Catholic doctrine - celibacy. Coincidence? Qien sabe?]. At every turn, he either dodges the question (remains unprescriptive), remains unheard, or chooses to be descriptive.

"Egalitarians," writes Jon, "may hate that idea, but it isn't stupid or bigoted." Perhaps, but why not go further and challenge DB's anthropology? There are at least three considerations.

For one, such a formulation could be bigoted if we find the basis of the 'discrimination' to be unfounded. Following DB's apologetic use of anthropology, I can find an 'antropological definition' of slavery (even Biblical ones), yet today, we largely reject the 'institution of slavery'. If we found that the 'antropological definition' marriage was formulated in ways that were ignorant (or hostile) of homosexual relationships, either historically or in the way we might think of them today, then we can, in fact, reject 'the anthropological institution' of marriage, and we can reasonably think of the prior formulation as having been bigoted (ignorant).

Separately, the one social meaning of marriage may have been what was required, in days long past, to guide and circumscribe an uneducated, nameless, randy, and superstitious populace to ... well, 'salvation', frankly - let's not pretend that, at least in the West, the Church's goal of saving souls wasn't as much the 'public purpose' of most of sexual ethics as 'binding children to parents'. Of course, there may have been other social utilities of the institution, but the Church's grip on sexual ethics was political power, I think we can assert without mistake... Today, we have more educated and tolerant populace, in many places, one that might be able to support a greater nuance in the social meaning of marriage, one that might accommodate a sub-group that was expediently abandoned in the past. By way of contrast, in places such as large parts of Africa, with poverty, low average education, and high degrees of 'cultural superstition', one finds anti-gay 'bigotry' thriving and being vocally supported institutionally by the Churches (and Mosques), quite often.

The third is the appeal to 'clusters of beliefs' as a way to measure what is right or wrong. That just seems like a recipe for institutionalized bigotry ... Enough said.

And, in the end, what do these 'clusters of beliefs' tell us anyway? To me, all they say is that there isn't a 'traditional way' of approving 'gay marriage', yet (at least one that is admitted on surveys). So, yeah, when you measure attitudes, 'gay marriage' comes up as part of a 'liberal value cluster'. D'oh. "Traditionalists" turn out to be their own worst enemy.

If DB is so concerned that 'gay marriage' is a right of personal expression, he should stop 'teaching' that is it one. If he keeps waxing on about how Canada's law alterations 'changed marriage for everyone', he should suggest how the law ought to have been changed (I could), instead of taking it as immutable truth. The list goes on, but the idea is the same: instead of complaining that 'gay marriage' poses risks, start articulating the understanding that proscribes those risks, from a "conservative" viewpoint, if you must . For marriage dirigistes, sitting back and saying, "No" to gay blessings/matrimony followed with "I told you so" is not a option for a serious mind on the matter.