Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Hail to the Deserter-In-Chief

A snippet from Juan Cole -

One person with direct knowledge of the incident told me that a US officer in Iraq had had to threaten his tired, dusty, frightened men with being disciplined if they did not stop referring to Bush as "the Deserter."

Is that a catastrophically successful morale problem?

But here's my favorite from Cole -

So it wasn't a catastrophic success that caused the problem. It was that Iraq was being run at the upper levels by a handful of screw-ups who had all sorts of ulterior motives, and at least sometimes did not have the best interests of the country at heart. And Bush is the one who put them in charge.

And what makes anyone think he would put better people in charge in a second term? Has he ever shown that he can hang with the right crowd?

About that legacy...

Atrios links to a Gregg Easterbunny article in Washington Monthly in which he opines -
A reelected Bush, if he wants to win favor with historians, will have to do something impressive, statesmanlike, and out of character.
Various organizations claim to build character - the Boy Scouts, sports, YMCA, etc..

Maybe the Bush family thought the presidency was a way to instill some character in Junior?

Dubya's pooper-scooper

Poor Scottie McClellan; who in their right mind wants the job of explaining what comes out of Dubya's mouth?
Q Do you want to expand at all on the President's comments this morning on the "Today Show," about the war on terror?

MR. McCLELLAN: What about them?

Q He said -- I'm paraphrasing here -- he said that it, specifically, could not be won, but you could make conditions safer for Americans.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he was talking about winning it in the conventional sense. That's what he was talking about. I mean, this -- you've often heard him talk about how this is a different kind of war. We face an unconventional enemy. And it's -- I don't think you can expect that there will ever be a formal surrender or a treaty signed, like we have in wars past. That's what he was talking about, when he was talking about that. It requires a generational commitment to win this war on terrorism. I think you heard him talk about his two-prong strategy, that we must continue to stay on the offensive and bring the terrorists to justice before they harm us. We also must work to advance freedom to defeat the ideologies of hatred and tyranny. So that's what he was talking about. You can't put a time frame on it, per se.
I suspect what happened here is Dubya got his time frame messed up.

The moment-of-truth "I don't think we can win it" comment was supposed to come after the election, not before.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Where do I sign up?

Via Charles2 -

This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: We are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.

Join us.

Resistance is futile.

Read the manifesto, right now.

Wolf Blitzer wants to know

If you click on the above title, provide your name, city, state, and zip code, you can tell Wolf -

What does President Bush need to do to win your vote? Share your thoughts as we discuss what the president needs to do on the issues of Iraq, national security, the economy and values. Send us your comments on the issue of the day, and tune in to "Wolf Blitzer Reports" at 5 p.m. ET to see how Wolf's political guests respond to viewers' e-mails.

I have a feeling the little ol' box provided isn't anywhere big enough for my comments.

For starters -

1. 'Fess up on his wild, irresponsible youth and adulthood, including full disclosure of his TANG and arrest records.

2. Apologize for stealing the 2000 election.

3. Reverse every evil, greedy environmental, economic, military, educational, and pseudo-scientific bit of legislation he's signed into law.

4. Abolish the so-called "partial birth abortiion" ban.

5. Respect the separation of church and state.

6. Fire Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, and Condileeza Rice.

7. Withdraw all U.S. troops immediately from Iraq or enlist his daughters in the Marines.

8. Reverse the tax cuts for the wealthy.

9. Unleash the hounds on Haliburton.

10. Repeal the Patriot Act.

11. Admit he acted like a sorry-ass coward on September 11th.

12. Full-court press to allow adults to marry whosoever they love.

13. Swear before the entire world to uphold the Geneva Conventions.

14. Revoke all recess appointments.

15. Resign immediately.

16. Renounce for all time any Bush family claims to the Presidency.

When I see each and every one of those items come to pass, I'll think about voting for him.


I beg to differ - it IS the Bush foreign policy. Posted by Hello

"I take this man to be my unlawfully wedded husband"

Ann Wagner, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, grimaces as Marc Racicot prepares to bare his fangs and suck her blood.

George Bush arrives in New York City, thoughtfully supplying the rope for his own hanging.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Old wounds, still festering

Since the beginning of Kerry's campaign it has been clear that there were a substantial number of veterans, and Vietnam veterans in particular, whose support he would never be able to attract because of his participation in the movement against the Vietnam War. While men like John McCain and Max Cleland have been able to "put the scars of Vietnam behind them", and relate to opponents of the war without rancor or bitterness, there are still many veterans, their families and friends who cannot. At the emotional core of this group are those who lost a father, husband or other close relative or friend in the Vietnam War and for whom "making peace" with opponents of the war would feel like a betrayal of their loved one - an admission that he and his sacrifice had been forgotten. (link)

I really had to take some deep breaths after reading the above; I also lost a loved one and several good friends in the Vietnam war. Until those losses started piling up, I was actually a supporter of the war.

I don't know why my losses hit me so differently, but it just never occured to me to search for "meaning" in their deaths. They were average, decent young men who didn't have the money or grades or connections to avoid the draft. They didn't willingly give up their lives for something - why should I search for the meaning that eluded them?

Nor have I forgotten their sacrifice; I only consider them sacrificed on the wrong altar, which makes their sacrifice all the more memorable.

Of Ha Shoah - the Holocaust - we say Never Again. Of needless war, we forget too easily.

Anger is a part of grieving, as is the urge to find somewhere to lay the blame. It's curious to me that, for some, the anti-war movement became a focus of blame, and not the politicians who actually put them in harm's way.

I've met a few of those embittered people Teixeira describes. After all this time, their wounds are still raw, and their grief still darkens their life. They still cling to that kernel of blame they assigned over thirty years ago, despite the confessions of history, and it's sad.

Equally sad is their determination to vote for another man whose war-of-choice is only resulting in more needless deaths. The emotional wounds of long ago apparently blunt their ability to ask, "why?".

We should never have to ask "why?" when a death occurs during war, military or civilian.

Who's naughty, who's nice

Greg provides a link to the Corporate Equality Index (PDF warning, but a good summary here on Greg's blog), rating corporations on their record in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, investors, and consumers.

As a straight old married lady of many years, what does this have to do with me?

It's a matter of - as conservatives are so fond of spouting - personal responsibility.

When my friends and relatives and their children are discriminated against, I take it personally.

And it's my responsibility to say so - with my voice, my money, and my vote.

Just another focus group

For every one of the demonstrators in New York there are thousands with you in spirit.


And take "Frances" with you.


Saturday, August 28, 2004

Saturday night cat blogging

What better way to spend Saturday night than exploring wacky websites?

Have some fun at My Cat Hates You.

Iraq war in a nutshell

From Melanie -

"Ask yourself the question, why is the most powerful nation on earth reduced to fighting a rag-tag "army" to a draw? Because 1.) we shouldn't be there in Iraq in the first place and 2.) Rummy is the new MacNamara. This is the height of self-deception."


Don't ask me what's going on in Najaf.

I've tried to follow and understand all the ins and outs of Islamic cultural and religious sensitivies, but the only thing I'm sure of is that it's much more complex than Bush's idea of good versus evil.

Juan Cole does as good a job as anyone in sorting things out. But I still wonder what would be happening if we substituted "Temple Mount in Jerusalem" for "the shrine of Ali in Najaf" -

Meanwhile, the full extent of the destruction inflicted on Najaf by the US military may never be fully appreciated in the U.S. itself. How many civilians did our troops kill in their campaign in a densely populated urban area against the Sadrist street gangs--especially in the first days of the conflict before most city residents fled the old city? I find chilling the words of John Burns and Dexter Filkin of the New York Times

' One of the last American actions before the cease-fire went into effect involved the use of a 2,000-pound, laser-guided bomb to strike a hotel about 130 yards from the shrine's southwest wall, in an area known to American commanders as "motel row." '

Meanwhile, back at the ranch -

"A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans and who seek the chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more. The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."
(Dick Cheney, Aug. 12, 2004)

I doubt the innocent citizens of Najaf or devout Muslims world-wide are very impressed either.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Thank you, George Bush, and your "culture of life"

BOSTON (Reuters) - An explosion that blew out a number of windows at a Boston-area laboratory specializing in stem-cell research was caused by a pipe bomb, local police said on Friday.

No one was wounded in Thursday's early morning blast at Watertown, Massachusetts-based Amaranth Bio, which says on its Web site its technology is focused on organ regeneration and that it is working on cures for diabetes and liver disorders.

In a statement, Watertown police confirmed the explosion was the result of a pipe bomb and said they believe someone broke into the facility. No arrests have been made, police said.

Local radio station WBZ reported that police had identified a "person of interest" in connection with the explosion. Watertown police were not immediately available for comment on the report.

Would it be uncharitable of me to wish diabetes or a liver disorder upon the culprit?

Solving the health care crisis

Premiums too high? No access to health care? Profit-crazed HMO's causing businesses to crumble?

No problem. Here's the solution - put Bryan and Andante in charge.

Back in February, I posted something about how we pay the high overhead costs of health insurers and other insanities inherent in a for-profit health care system.

What followed was an exchange of suggestions/rants between myself and commenter Bryan.

Here you go - and feel free to add your own:

Bryan: I spent some time on a database project for a medical billing system. It was a huge mass of data caused by the fact that every individual company uses different codes for the same procedure.

If you are on Medicare and go to the doctor for treatment, the doctor bills Medicare for the treatment and then bills you or your secondary insurance company for the portion that medicare doesn't cover. The codes for Medicare and the second company are not likely to be the same, and the amount that will be authorized is based on that code.

The purpose of what I was working on was to locate one code that would be cross referenced to the applicable codes for other insurers.

This cross-referencing is a major overhead cost for doctors and medical billing companies. It is also the reason it takes so long for you to see any bills.

A single insurer system, with a single set of forms, and a single set of codes would save millions of dollars a year.

Andante: If I'm not mistaken, even Medicare and Tricare (the DoD program) use different codes. I've tried "matching" the statements my mother receives for her medical bills, and it's a completely lost cause.

There was a PBS documentary some years ago, contrasting the U.S. and Canadian system. I'm not at all sure of the figures, but the typical, moderate-sized hospital might employ 100-200 people to handle billing. The same size Canadian hospital employed something like eleven.

Canada's system isn't perfect - which one is? - but it's more cost efficient. And Canadians are far more likely to see a doctor for wellness and preventative care.

Not to mention that it makes my blood boil to see those CEO salaries, when I'm struggling to pay for ordinary stuff like cholesterol checks, flu shots, etc.

Of course, a switch to single-payer would open the job-loss can of worms...but heck, with all those jobs this wonderful economy is creating....

Bryan: To make it even more confusing the explanation of the codes is different.

My Mother is also currently Medicare/Tricare and she watches those bills, even though she isn't paying them. As a bookkeeper she really doesn't like it when one charge is described two different ways.

Every insurance company issues a 3-4" binder of codes with frequent updates. There are so many opportunities for error it is mind boggling.

I wouldn't do massive amounts of firing, I would want to shift people to verification and auditing in a single-payer system. There is an absurd lack of audits in the current system.

Andante: The combination of Medicare and Tricare can't be beat. With all my mother's ailments, I bet she doesn't pay more than $100 a year.

Here's the Andante Super-duper Plan To Overhaul Health Care -

1) Crack down on the pharmaceuticals. There's no reason the government can't negotiate lower prices on drugs, especially those commonly used by the elderly such as blood pressure and cholesterol medications. My own cholesterol prescription just jumped from - get this - $10 per month to $70 per month. I realize I am extremely lucky to have a good prescription plan, but I sure hate to mess with something that has been so helpful to me. I'm going to try another, comparable medication and just hope it works.

2) Make it mandatory that all health insurance companies use a standard, common coding system, as you suggest. Great idea.

3) Implement a very basic Medicare-type plan for ALL U.S. citizens, covering 100% of things like immunizations for infants and children, yearly physicals for all ages, flu and pneumonia shots for everyone at the appropriate age, prenatal care, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, mammograms, prostate checks, and chest x-rays. Everyone who files an income tax return would have to kick in the $$$ for it, and would have a card to verify that they did so and are eligible for the program.

4) Gradually expand the program to a universal, single-payer plan. Those who wish to keep private insurance can do so - the single-payer wouldn't have to cover everything. Health insurance company employees, as you say, could be shifted to verification and auditing. Also offer free job re-training for those who could shift to something like nursing, nursing aide, medical technician, etc.

5) Full speed ahead on stem cell and therapeutic cloning research. With the proper ethical guidelines, this research could CURE so many devastating & expensive diseases.

Bryan: First, most of the new and improved drugs are minor variations on the original with the expired patent. Too often they simply add something to control the most annoying side-effect, and then double the price. Same as software: you have to buy the upgrade because it fixes the bugs in the original.

I've lived all over the world, and you could get private insurance anywhere, including the former Soviet bloc.

We have all these existing government health care programs for government workers at all levels, as well as Medicare. It's stupid and expensive.

Why have a VA healthcare system, why not give veterans access to the existing, local health care?

You cut to the core, prevention. It is so much cheaper to provided decent pre-natal care than to deal with a low-weight infant in a neo-natal ICU.

I'm a system analyst and programmer and looking at what passes for a health care "system" in the US is a horror story for analysts. Everything is so WRONG, so disjointed, so unsystematic, so illogical. This lack of system is why it is so easy to commit frauds. When people complain about Medicare fraud, they should consider that Medicare has more checks in place than almost any other plan.

The solutions are obvious, but the people who think it's okay for Ashcroft to look at what books you check out of the library don't want the government involved in health care. As near as I can tell it's because Hillary Clinton thought it was a good idea.

Andante: Whenever I mention single-payer "universal" health insurance to conservative acquaintances, they sneer at "socialist medicine".

"Socialist" medicine, as practiced in Great Britain and Russia does indeed have big problems; frankly, I wouldn't want it here, either.

However, when I explain the difference, they are actually quite interested. Perhaps if the debate were framed differently, more people would be interested enough to push for change. The "Harry and Louise" ad poisoned the air and set us back a good ten years or more.

Single-payer automatically solves another problem - the physical and mental damages caused by malpractice.

Negligent physicians could (and should) still be slapped with heavy penalties, but would no longer be liable for lifetime care of the victim. A "cap" could then be reasonable established for pain and suffering, bringing malpractice insurance rates down.

Heads up for Wilmington, NC

Monday, General Wesley Clark will travel to North Carolina to campaign with John Edwards. General Clark and Senator Edwards will appear at an event at 10:30am ET at Kenan Auditorium at UNC-Wilmington. For those of you in the area, please call (910) 343-8000 for ticket information.

Sick puppies

9/11 toy found inside candy bags

I guess Republicans aren't the only ones trying to use 9/11 to their advantage.

Speaking of health care...

Did I ever mention that Mick over at Dispatch from the Trenches does an excellent job of raising my blood pressure?

Take your pick of posts; Mick is all over the Bush administration's lousy record on labor rights

I've worked in a lot of situations - office, retail, restaurant, factory - and there wasn't one place that I didn't feel used and abused by management.

The worst had to be the cotton mill. I got tired of working office hours with the constantly ringing telephone, no breaks to speak of, and low pay. I accumulated a couple of fancy titles, but no raise or bonus to go with them.

I thought mill work would at least make for a change - fewer hours, higher wage, and I'd be able to leave my work at work.

All those things came to pass, but we were treated like retarded four-year-olds by the supervisors and management. The accumulated cotton dust under a machine caught fire once - it didn't do much more than create a lot of smoke, but WE had to put it out, not any safety crew or the fire department.

It took quite a while to get it out, with supervisors standing on the sidelines yelling instructions. Those of us who were closest to the fire spent the next couple of hours coughing and some had difficulty breathing.

As far as I know, nothing dire ever became of all that inhaled cotton dust smoke, but the company sure didn't care if it did. Just "get back to work!", as if we'd been goofing off.

With textile mills closing all over the state, workers are afraid to complain and risk losing their job. North Carolina is a "right to work" state (a misnomer if ever there was one), and there is no union to speak for the majority of factory workers.

The Bush Labor Department has bent over backwards to grant every wish of Big Bidness. Mick can tell you all about it.

I'm thinkin' it's way past time we had the son of a millworker (who earned his money the hard way) in position to do something for hardworking Americans.

The "Unity" Plank

(Or, as Norbizness suggests - "Like Lipstick on a Bigoted Pig")

...in which the GOP tells anyone who disagrees with them to basically walk the plank -

“We recognize that the Republicans of good faith may not agree with all the planks in the party’s platform. This is particularly the case with regard to those planks dealing with abortion, family planning, and gay and lesbian issues. The Republican Party welcomes all people on all sides of these complex issues and encourages their active participation as we work together on those issues on which we agree.”

Christopher Barron, the Policy Director for the Log Cabin Republicans isn't happy.

Barron was outraged. He may still try to take the issue to the floor of the convention. “We’re going to let people know about this.” And as McElligot sees it, this means trouble for Bush. “If we lose in the platform fight, Bush loses in the election,” she said, suggesting that moderates are ready to bolt. “The feeling among our members is changing. We’re not voting blind. And it will be a shock come November when we pull a different lever.”

I wouldn't hold my breath, though it would be nice to see the Log Cabin Republicans and other moderates cured of their masochistic tendencies.

Put this shoe on the other foot

Via Atrios, TBogg, and...aw heck, HERE -

In an interview with WorldNetDaily, "Band of Brothers" member James Wasser flatly denied he told a former swiftboat crew mate that he had always despised their skipper John Kerry but "came around" after a persuasive, private meeting with the senator at the beginning of the presidential campaign.

Gunner's mate Steve Gardner, featured in the latest Swift Boat Veterans for Truth television ad challenging Kerry's war record, has been claiming on numerous TV and radio talk shows in the past month that Wasser made that statement to him in a telephone conversation in early March.

Gardner told WND he got Wasser's number from Boston Globe reporter Michael Kranish and called his old war colleague after 35 years of separation.

Recalling the conversation, Gardner, paraphrasing, says he told Wasser, "The John Kerry I know is not the John Kerry you guys are talking about. How can you campaign for him after despising the ground he walked on?"

Gardner, 56, of Clover, S.C., has speculated it's possible the men were bought off somehow, but, whatever the case, he thinks Kerry used his powers of persuasion to bring them to a glowing, positive view diametrically opposed to the one they held in Vietnam.

He claims Wasser's reply was something like this: "I felt the same way you did, buddy, but after John sat us down and talked with us for awhile, we came around to his way of thinking."

"...speculated it's possible the men were bought off somehow."

I've wondered a bit about that myself, so it might be useful to step back for a bit of review.

Whose opinions of Kerry changed? Maybe Swift Boat Liar George Elliott?

Tapper looked at the ad for "Good Morning America" in a piece that included McCain's comments and called into question the credibility of George Elliott, a Vietnam veteran who appears in the new anti-Kerry ad.

Elliott says in the ad, "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam." But back in 1996, when Kerry was running for re-election in Massachusetts, Elliott came to Kerry's defense, saying at a press conference, "The fact that he chased armed enemies down is not something to be looked down on."

Swift Boat Liar Adrian Lonsdale?

*Adrian Lonsdale, who in 1996 called Kerry "among the finest of those swift boat drivers."

Maybe someone should check some bank accounts?

Wasser, reached at his home in St. Anne, Ill., says he has heard Gardner make the claim on the radio and, while acknowledging the phone call took place, strongly denies he said he had flip-flopped.

"That's abolutely, g-- d---ed false, and that's as nice as I can put it." Wasser said.

He said he still respects Gardner as a "Vietnam crew mate brother," but "I will absolutely refute that statement. It is absolutely false."

Man, we need Wasser in the diplomatic service. I would have gone right through the phone lines and strangled the S.O.B.

Asked to respond after hearing Wasser's denial for the first time, Gardner replied, "It was just a conversation between he and I, and he sure said it."

"I actually would have expected him to say, 'Well that's kind of what we said,'" continued Gardner. "But now, quite obviously, he's enmeshed with what's going on."

He added: "It's really a shame for those guys to allow John Kerry to get into their heads that bad."

Wow, if John Kerry has such powerful mental persuasive powers, that sounds like just what we'll need to get this country back on track and win back the world's respect.

We now return to your regularly scheduled health care rant

Maybe I’m beating a dead horse, but the Bush administration’s drug reimportation ban really pisses me off.

You know - the claim that drugs manufactured here in the United States somehow become tainted when they are shipped across our borders?

In the Bush Mind, the "taint" comes when they are purchased by American citizens at lower prices, which should surely tell us something about "compassionate conservatism".

It’s obvious to anyone over the age of three that the Bush administration is only interested in boosting Big Pharma’s profit margin.

Every morning, I open my e-mail inbox to find at least three messages from some fine souls who want to sell me “discount drugs without a prescription!”, including Xanax, Vicodin, Viagra, and some sort of "Super Viagra!" which sounds like something guaranteed to cause one of those four-hour erections.

I worry much more about those drugs than anything our senior citizens purchase from Canada, but apparently they're not taking any chunks out of pharmaceutical profits and therefore no cause for concern by the FDA.

And bless Paul Krugman, who looks today at the tie between our crappy, for-profit health care industry and the jobless "recovery".

In most advanced countries, the government provides everyone with health insurance. In America, however, the government offers insurance only if you're elderly (Medicare) or poor (Medicaid). Otherwise, you're expected to get private health insurance, usually through your job. But insurance premiums are exploding, and the system of employment-linked insurance is falling apart.

Some employers have dropped their health plans. Others have maintained benefits for current workers, but are finding ways to avoid paying benefits to new hires - for example, by using temporary workers. And some businesses, while continuing to provide health benefits, are refusing to hire more workers.

In other words, rising health care costs aren't just causing a rapid rise in the ranks of the uninsured (confirmed by yesterday's Census Bureau report); they're also, because of their link to employment, a major reason why this economic recovery has generated fewer jobs than any previous economic expansion.

As a good first step, I like the Kerry proposal that the government pick up catastrophic health costs.

Perhaps then our so-called health insurers can concentrate on paying for all those preventative tests that the medical establishment urges us to undergo.

Not that I trust them to do the right thing and lower their deductibles and premiums; that will only happen when someone is willing to stare down the health insurance industry and force them to release their stranglehold.

That someone sure isn't George Bush.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

Won't hear this at the GOP convention

Actually, at the highest level. Bush set the stage for abuse in February 2002 when he declared that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to al-Qaida prisoners and that the Taliban were unlawful combatants unqualified for prisoner of war status.

When the man at the top says the usual rules don't apply, abusive excesses are a predictable result.

The Swift Boat Liars who are so incensed at the Vietnam anti-war movement and the charges of atrocities in that country probably won't be discussing Abu Ghraib, either.

For Pete's sake, we didn't even paint schools in Vietnam.

An obit to live up to

My deepest sympathy to TBogg and his family on the passing of his father.

When it's my time, I hope I will merit a obituary like this.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Unlike Our Preznit, I admit my mistakes

(Sometimes it's a full-time job. )

I've ranted previously about the Bushie ban on reimportation of drugs, and guess what?

I was wrong, sort of.

In some circles, that's called "flip-flopping"; in others, it's taking responsibility and accepting the obvious.

Reimportation is a stop-gap; Kerry supports it, Bush opposes it, though he claims to be "thinking about it".

As a stop-gap measure, it's better than what we have and Kerry is 100% right to support reimportation. But it's not the best idea out there.

So, what is "drug reimportation"?

For the most part, Big Pharma manufactures the drugs here, in the good old U.S. of A.

The drugs are then imported to Canada (for example). Canada buys in bulk, and therefore can negotiate lower prices.

The "reimportation" occurs when American citizens buy their prescriptions from Canadian pharmacies.

Why are we putting up with this nonsense?

Because the pharmaceutical lobby has a stranglehold on the issue. You've seen the television commercials - Big Pharma tells us the drugs we buy today finance the research for tomorrow's cures.

Well....not entirely.

Robert Kuttner, co-editor of American Prospect -

But as author Merrill Goozner documents in his book, The $800 Million Pill, much of the money attributed to "research" goes to advertising and copy-cat drugs rather than true breakthroughs, and much of the actual research is financed by taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health. Economist Dean Baker has calculated that only about one dollar in five that US consumers spend on inflated drug prices go to finance drug research. Baker adds up all the money contributed by taxpayers to drug companies through Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, and NIH. He concludes that it would be more cost-effective to pay for all drug research through government grants and then put the results in the public domain. Manufacturers, as in the case of aspirin, doxycycline, and other off-patent drugs, would then earn only a normal profit, and all drugs would be far cheaper.

The Bush administration has the gall to declare themselves "concerned for the safety" of reimported drugs.

Drugs From Canada? FDA Chief McClellan Leaves Door Open If Safety Is Assured

Drug reimportation booms as U.S. safety task force is named;
Proponents urge the federal government to seek ways to bring drugs safely into the country or to find another way to control costs.


Drug Reimportation Bill Called 'Risky'

The list goes on and on, but they have one thing in common - all the noise about "safety" comes from the Bush administration or pharmaceutical companies.

Again, Kuttner -

If the administration were not hostile to the idea of drug imports or cheaper drug prices, it would be easy to set up safety spot checks. Indeed, in areas where the administration promotes free trade, it satisfies its safety concerns with spot checks of raw agricultural products imported from countries whose rudimentary sanitary standards are far less sophisticated than Canada's. To add insult to injury, the administration is actually pressing America's trading partners who have lower drug prices to raise those prices so that our high prices won't stick out like a sore thumb and tempt Americans to seek cheaper drugs from abroad.

Hopefully, President Kerry will make reimportation legal within his first one hundred days in office.

And then start leaning hard on Big Pharma.

Between Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration, surely the government can throw them a bit of business - for reasonable prices.

This is what I put up with

Open our daily paper on any day of the week, turn to "Letters to the Editor", and flip a coin between "laugh" and "cry".

From today's edition -

Clinton left Bush a mess

It is true President Clinton left a mess for President Bush to clean up, and nobody wanted to help, all they did was run their mouth and complain. He is more man than the whole group are.

Why are people so unthankful they do not want God or any thing that is right. The time is coming when they will get their wish. I do not think they will like it. Whatsoever a man soweth so shall he reap. The Bible is true. Life is what we make it. So trust in the Lord.

Irene Blackburn

N. Centennial St.

So there, Irene - I have set you sailing down the information highway so anyone with an internet connection can see what an ignoramus you are.

Here's a link, if you really want to go through the hassle of registering. The High Point Enterprise (or "The High Point Surprise", as we say in these parts) doesn't really need to be on your list of "must reads".

Obviously, our "Letters to the Editor" page needs to move over to the comics section.

Don't laugh (much)

Hiccuping Pennsylvania State Legislator Released From Hospital After More Than a Month

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Some politicians can't stop talking; one Pennsylvania pol couldn't stop hiccuping. But the state lawmaker has now beaten the affliction after weeks in the hospital.

State Rep. Larry Roberts, a Democrat running for re-election, was back in his office Tuesday after being released from a hospital where he had been treated since July 19.

"Not only were the hiccups debilitating, but I was not allowed to have anything in my mouth, so I had to deal with a feeding tube, and that made matters worse," Roberts said in a statement Tuesday.

Neither Roberts' staff nor the House Democratic Communications Office described the cause of the chronic hiccups or the treatment that helped him get a handle on it.

As I said, don't laugh - much.

I rarely get the hiccups, but when I do it can become lengthy and painful. Rep. Roberts has my sympathy here.

Going to the emergency room for hiccups was actually only the second most embarrassing medical moment I've had. Taking my five-year-old daughter to her pediatrician when she stuck a wadded-up piece of bread up her nose was - and I hope, will remain - number one.

At least the fine folks at the emergency room refrained from laughing at my hiccups, which is more than I can say for the pediatrician who fished the bread-wad out of my kid's nose.

A nurse gave me a teaspoonful of sugar, and told me to swallow it, keeping it as dry as possible.

Lo, and behold - no more hiccups.

Of course, the $100-plus-change bill would have been enough to scare them out of me.

More hiccup cures here.

I have my doubts about some of them - like "saying pineapple" and "think of all the bald men you can".

"Scream for as long as you can" sounds like a winner - all you have to do is think of the emergency room bill, and you can keep screaming for quite a while.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Your resource for hurricane questions

Cajun style.

Lisa doth provide.

Kerry on Daily Show

Tonight, Comedy Channel, 11:00 p.m. (Eastern)

I love The Daily Show and watch it whenever I can.

What impresses me here is that my 19-yr-old daughter and all her friends watch it religiously.

Senator's camp says show good way to reach young voters

Earlier, before being clawed by Kerry's reps, we spoke to "Daily Show" executive producer Ben Karlin, a charming man who did not take offense at our questions and who promised that the Comedy Central program would try especially hard to resemble an actual TV news show tonight during its Kerry encounter.

"We're going to focus exclusively on events of 30 years or more ago . . . and not on anything relevant to anything beyond 1964," Karlin said.


"All of us [on 'The Daily Show'] are just blown away by the turn the campaign has taken," Karlin said. "We cannot believe that this is what is being talked about at this juncture. It's so astounding to us. We are trying to work through our amazement and to conduct a meaningful conversation absent of incredulity, because [the interview] is not going to go anywhere if you just say, 'What the [expletive] is going on?' "

Karlin said he will nonetheless suggest that that be the first question Stewart puts to Kerry tonight.

"If you just want to pinpoint the success of the Republican Party and Bush, this is a perfect case study," Karlin continued, "because George W. Bush has put a moratorium on talk about his behavior under the age of 40 and everyone [in the press] is abiding by it. 'Were you or were you not an alcoholic or did you just have a drinking problem?,' 'Were you or were you not a drug abuser?' Meanwhile they're debating whether [Kerry's war] wounds drew blood or were they superficial, or occurred in the same day, or whether he shot a guy wearing a toga. . . . How is that possible?"

Karlin rocks.

Update Here's highlights

I believe this qualifies as a cut in military benefits

Marines slash final combat training in half

Under growing pressure to ship Marines to Iraq, the Marine Corps is cutting in half the rigorous field combat training it gives units preparing to deploy, senior officers say.

The Marines hope to make up the time by intensifying this final, pre-deployment training and focusing it on skills needed to survive and prevail in Iraq's brutal combat conditions. This means practicing more nighttime operations, ambushes, city fighting and guarding of convoys.

(Link via Atrios)

I'll agree with the second paragraph - provided this intensified training is combined with the field combat training.

Has this administration done anything right?

As the worm turns

Via Blah3 -

Vets call for resignation of Clackamas prosecutor in Swift Boat ad

Alfred French, 58, a senior deputy district attorney, appeared in the recent ad by the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth and said: "I served with John Kerry. . . . He is lying about his record." French also signed a legal affadavit attesting to the claim.

But French, in an interview with The Oregonian newspaper last week, said he was relying on the accounts of three other veterans when he said Kerry lied.

"I was not a witness to these events but my friends were," said French, who was awarded two Bronze Stars during the war.

That acknowledgement fueled Monday's protest, where the veterans contended French is unfit to serve as a prosecutor after swearing to facts that he never personally witnessed.


Before recording the ad, French did indeed sign an affidavit that said: "I am able to swear, as I do hereby swear, that all facts and statements contained in this affidavit are true and correct and within my personal knowledge and belief."

Way to go, Mr. Senior Deputy District Attorney! I believe that's called "hearsay evidence" and cannot be introduced in a court of law.

The court of public opinion and political smear campaigns is another story. But it's still cowardly, craven, and unbefitting a public servant and unworthy of a veteran.


Monday, August 23, 2004

Use it or lose it

Some health insurance packages offer the option of tax-free health insurance accounts or "flexible spending" accounts. Employees direct a part of their gross wages into their personal health account, and their taxable income is reduced when it's tax filing time.

Sounds good, except for two things -

Number one - unless you have a direct line to God (like our preznit) you don't know what sort of health care expenses your're going to rack up in the coming year.

Number two - in many cases, any unused funds in your account revert to your company's coffers. Naturally, businesses love this.

Fortunately, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley is addressing the problem.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked the department to determine if it can rewrite the rule on its own. He noted that several proposals have been offered in Congress that would modify or eliminate the so-called "use-it-or-lose-it" provision.

"The current rule unjustly enriches employers at the expense of hard-working employees who participate in FSAs (flexible spending accounts)," Grassley wrote. "Modifying this rule would help millions of Americans meet their health care expenses and make the FSA rules more rational."

Rational is always good. Until this country joins the rest of the industrialized world and blesses it's citizens and economy with universal health care, rational will have to do.

Wal Mart turns the corner

And the stock market responds -

Wal-Mart Sales Slump Pushes Stocks Lower

NEW YORK (AP) - A disappointing sales forecast from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sent stocks mostly lower Monday as investors worried that oil prices, which stabilized after last week's highs, would curb consumer spending and hurt companies' third-quarter earnings.

When will the Bush administration finally admit the economy is in the tank?

When used clothing retail sales slump? When lemonade stands report lower earnings? School bake sales go bust?

It's Happy Hour

Via Jerome, from Intervention -

The New Freedom Initiative proposes to screen every American, including you, for mental illness. To this end, the president established a New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, to study the nation’s mental health delivery service and make a report. It’s interesting to note that many on the staff appointed to the Commission have served on the advisory boards of some of the nation’s largest drug companies.

The commission reported that “despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed,” so it recommended comprehensive mental health screening for “consumers of all ages,” including preschool children because “each year, young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviors and emotional disorders.”

Children and school personnel will be the first to be screened. The panel concluded that schools are in “key positions” to screen the 52 million students and six million adults who work at the schools. By doing this, the commission expects to flush out another six million persons not now receiving treatment. But who will decide the screening criteria? Bush and his people? The drug companies? What are their qualifications?

Thought I'd give Big Pharma a helping hand on this screening process.

Answer "Yes" or "No" to the following:

1) Have you ever been sad?
2) Have you ever been angry?
3) Have you ever been tired?
4) Have you ever been frustrated?
5) Have you ever been in a "bad mood"?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above, pResident Bush and Big Pharma are coming to the rescue!

Run, don't walk, to your family physician and demand your prescription of Prozac or other brand-name medication today.

Remember, a happy American is a patriotic Amerikan.

A penny saved is a DVD player at Christmas

On my day off (when I'm supposed to be restoring order to the house) I'm watching LOTR - Return of the King . Again.

We come to my favorite part - the final charge of the Rohirrim.

I may be a gentle, peaceable Quaker lady, but my Norse blood betrays me every time.

The mass of riders - the Eorlingas - appear on the horizon, framed by the rising sun, heralded by battle horns, staring defiantly at the vast enemy army in their path....


The DVD player stutters and stalls.

It's not the DVD itself - it does this off and on with any DVD you try to watch. Sometimes it will pick up and play normally after 10-15 seconds, other times it won't. It's a cheap player (Norcent), and I've had it.

Any not-too-expensive recommendations? If I save a bit here, and a bit there, maybe I can persuade Santa to provide.

New overtime rules

Help me out here.

It sounds to me like these new overtime rules allow businesses to do whatever the hell they want, and workers are free to spend their time and money challenging them in court.

A wide swath of occupations, including some registered nurses, nursery school teachers, store and restaurant managers, computer workers, funeral directors and chefs are likely to lose their eligibility for overtime pay.

On the other hand, the new rules guarantee that anyone earning $23,660 a year or less is eligible for overtime. Until now, only workers who made less than $8,060 a year qualified automatically. The administration says 1.3 million lower-income and "blue collar" workers in fields such as retail, manufacturing, food service and hospitality industries will gain from this change.

Other likely losers are in a new category of "highly compensated" workers who will be exempt from overtime pay. They earn at least $100,000 annually and perform some administrative or executive duty such as managing one or more employees.

Police, firefighters and other "first responders," plus practical nurses, health therapists and some military veterans, are exempt from the curb and are eligible for overtime regardless of their earnings. Also exempt - from any part of the rules - are union members who are working under collective-bargaining agreements.

Some provisions do not apply in states with wage and hour laws that offer greater worker protections than the new federal rules. The states' rules apply in those cases. The states involved are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The U.S. Department of Labor is working with officials and employers in those states to clarify the situation.

Critics of the new rules worry that roughly 6 million workers, most of whom earn $23,600 to $100,000, could lose overtime pay depending on the way their employers interpret the rules and define their jobs.

Here's a novel approach - "If you work overtime, you get paid time-and-a-half for it. Period."

Happy birthday Julio Franco!

We have something in common.

He says he's 46.

I say I'm 39. Again.


Sunday, August 22, 2004

They threw a party, but not many came

The Gainesville Republican Party found themselves in hot water for disttribuing flyers promoting a "Swift Vote Veterans for Truth" rally.

All that hot water for not much of nothin' -
Activists for both candidates showed up at the event, with more than 70 Kerry supporters competing with a smaller, pro-Bush contingent.

Free association day

Americablog reminds us that in the run-up to stealing the 2000 election (when oil prices were around $28/barrel), Bush said -
...that if elected president, he would "jawbone" OPEC members by calling them and saying "we expect you to open your spigots."
Judges 15:15 - And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.(KJV)

I know my mind works in strange and mysterious ways - no need to remind me.

There's this...

Explanation Sought for Lobster Decline
Researchers in various localities have blamed the trouble on diseases, pollutants, and predators. But that fails to explain any larger pattern.
...and then there's this....

Lunch for one — 38 lobsters
KENNEBUNK, Maine — America's top speed-eater wolfed down 38 lobsters in 12 minutes Saturday to win the World Lobster Eating Contest.

Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., won $500 and a trophy belt for consuming 9.76 pounds of lobster.


Saturday, August 21, 2004

More politicizing terror, ho-hum

Some of that dreaded terrorist "chatter" was recently picked up, indicating possible targeting of our food and drug supply.
"While we must assume that such a threat exists generally, we have no specific information now about any al-Qaeda threats to our food or drug supply," said Brian Roehrkasse, spokesman for the Homeland Security Department.
However, acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford took it a step further -
"Cues from chatter" gathered around the world are raising concerns that terrorists might try to attack the domestic food and drug supply, particularly illegally imported prescription drugs, acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester M. Crawford says.

Crawford said the possibility of such an attack was the most serious of his concerns about the increase in states and municipalities trying to import drugs from Canada to save money.
If acting Commissioner Crawford was able to say this with a straight face, I'd say his "acting" is pretty good.

Those sneaky terrorists! Infiltrating Canadian and Mexican pharmacies, pinpointing those drugs that just might be purchased by seniors from the U.S., and slipping a little cyanide into the bottles!

From the days of yesteryear (2000)

A clip from a Bush vs McCain debate makes a killer Kerry ad.
This new Internet ad features Senator John McCain rebuking then candidate Bush for refusing to disavow or condemn hateful and vicious attacks on McCain’s military record.

Some Veterans Still Bitter at Talk of Crimes
...while the group appears to be rooted in Republican politics and big money, several veterans who signed the letter said in interviews yesterday that they are casually into politics and generally are not convinced that Kerry is lying, but they do not like the candidate because of his polarizing speeches in the 1970s.

James Zumwalt, who attended the group's first news conference in May, said he joined the group solely to set the record straight about the allegations of war crimes included in "Tour of Duty," a Douglas Brinkley book about Kerry's Vietnam service. Now, Zumwalt says, "I kind of have mixed feelings" about the tone of the group's attacks. "I would not try to question the awards given to him or his service."
Fine - it is everyone's right to object and make their objections known.

What isn't right is attacking Kerry's service record, challenging his honesty, twisting facts, and telling outright lies.

As the Poorman says - "We're so far gone that Chris Mathews thinks it's ridiculous."

I sure can't think of anything to top that one.

(Update) Via Atrios and William Rood -
"The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there," Rood said in a 1,700-word first-person account published in Sunday's Tribune.


...I know that what some people are saying now is wrong," Rood wrote. "While they mean to hurt Kerry, what they're saying impugns others who are not in the public eye."
This is the whole point, in a nutshell.

Rightly or wrongly, many vets are still bitter over the Vietnam anti-war protests. But twisting that bitterness into attacks on vets themselves is stupid, wrong, and will eventually backfire.

A bird in the hand

Mick (From the Trenches) reminds us of something that bears close watching - and remembering -

United 'Likely' to Cancel Pensions
United Airlines, moving closer to a cost-cutting change feared by employees and retirees, said it probably would cancel its pension plans in hopes that the move would help the carrier emerge from bankruptcy proceedings.


United, a subsidiary of UAL Corp., already has stopped making contributions to its four pension plans. They are $8.3 billion short of what would be needed now to fully fund future retiree obligations, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal agency that insures corporate pension plans and stands to inherit United's obligations if the airline scraps its plans.
These are corporate-funded pensions, not 401K plans. However, the next time someone starts extolling the glories of privatizing Social Security, it's a good thing to keep in mind.

The promise of corporate-funded pensions, generous 401K plans, and comprehensive health care insurance is like being showered with flowers, candy, and protestations of eternal love.

Social Security and Medicare are the wedding ring.


Friday, August 20, 2004

Cooking up more terrorists

U.S. Now Said to Support Growth for Some West Bank Settlements
For the last three years, American policy has called for a freeze of "all settlement activity," including "natural growth" brought about by an increase in the birthrate and other factors. As a result, when settlement expansions have been announced, American officials have called them violations.

After the latest Israeli announcement, however, administration spokesmen said they were withholding judgment.

"What we have asked of the Israeli government is to let us know what it is that they are doing," Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said Thursday in answer to a question at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.
Why? So the Bush administration can order up a rubber stamp?

Get your Adult Daily Requirement of Kerry-Optimism


Shoulda, coulda, woulda

Who could ever forget Tom Burka's hilarious "headline" -
Bush Would Have Kept Medals If He Had Earned Any, Says Hughes
In the same fine tradition, the CIA is now preparing a report that might best be titled -
Iraq Might Have Used WMD's Against United States If They Had Any

Having failed to find banned weapons in Iraq, the CIA is preparing a final report on its search that will speculate on what the deposed regime's capabilities might have looked like years from now if left unchecked, according to congressional and intelligence officials.

The CIA plans for the report, due next month, to project as far as 2008 what Iraq might have achieved in its illegal weapons programs if the United States had not invaded the country last year, the officials said.

The new direction of the inquiry is seen by some officials as an attempt to obscure the fact that no banned weapons — or even evidence of active programs — have been found, and instead emphasize theories that Iraq may have been planning to revive its programs.
'A U.S. intelligence official denied that political pressure was playing a role in shaping Duelfer's report. "That's nonsense," the official said.'

It certainly is.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

A culinary delight

Here at Collective Sigh, we're always anxious to pass along quick, easy, cheap recipes.

Lead Balloons comes up with a creative and unique way to prepare roast suckling pig AND a good reason to get the troops out of Iraq.

Oh, dear.

Cattle Call for Dock Workers at LA-Area Ports Brings in 300,000 Applicants for Job Lottery to Select 3,000
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A rare shipping industry cattle call for lucrative temporary dockworker jobs drew more than 300,000 applications for a special lottery Thursday to fill 3,000 slots at the nation's largest port complex.
Here's a thought - maybe the Department of Homeland Security could hire some of them to inspect shipping containers?
Severe cargo congestion and labor shortages at American seaports are creating long delays in delivering goods and potential threats to national security, dockworkers and security experts say.

The problems are particularly acute at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's busiest, handling roughly a third of the nine million cargo containers that arrive in the United States each year.


(David Arian, president of Local 13 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which works the Los Angeles waterfront) said that terminal operators had begun to hire small numbers of additional workers to handle the freight backlog but that as many as 13,000 extra full- and part-time waterfront workers were needed in the Los Angeles ports alone.(NY Times)
It would be nice to see some recruiters from Homeland Security contacting the 270,000 who won't get those jobs, but don't hold your breath.

(Update - as Mick points out, I can't count, which means there are even more who won't get those jobs. Should be 297,000)
Jack of all trades, master of none

Okay, so I ramble a lot.

I blame the Sixties.

No, not bad drugs. The only "bad drug" I ever took was prescribed by my family physician.

So much happened in such a short space of time - Vietnam, civil rights, Tolkien, rock stars overdosing, political icons getting assassinated - it's really a wonder we Flower Children can focus on anything for long.

Just lookin' over the last week's posts, and so far I've touched on the following:

Iraq, absentee ballots, birthdays, the crappy economy, health care, toilets, Yassir Arafat, faulty intelligence, ballistic missile defense system, Bible versions, Tweety, troop redeployment, Kerry rallies, Jimi Hendrix, hurricanes, and the Olympics.

I guess I'll never get nominated for that "Best Expert Blog" or "Single Issue Blog" award.

But I haven't mentioned cars or donkeys lately, so I suppose I should point out the race between a Porsche and a donkey cart.


The donkey won.

From the Telegraph -
A donkey cart beat a Porsche sports car in a mile-long race on the congested roads of Viana do Castelo, northern Portugal, to demonstrate the town's need for a new ring road.
You can read more elaborate accounts elsewhere, including the donkey's age (7) and name (Tironi). No word on the Porsche driver's name or age.

Actually, I have a great deal of sympathy for the Porshe.

The geniuses on our County Commission placed not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE schools within a ten mile radius served by two secondary roads.

Now that school has started in this area, and the school buses are on the prowl, I'm reminded that I can walk to any one of those schools during morning rush hour faster than I can drive.

A nickel here, and dime there...

Funny how money can disappear so quickly, isn't it?

Senators Ask Where $8.8 Bln in Iraq Funds Went
The audit by the Coalition Provisional Authority's own Inspector General blasts the CPA for "not providing adequate stewardship" of at least $8.8 billion from the Development Fund for Iraq that was given to Iraqi ministries.


Among the draft audit's findings were that payrolls in Iraqi ministries under Coalition Provisional Authority control were padded with thousands of ghost employees.

In one example, the audit said the CPA paid for 74,000 guards even though the actual number could not be validated. In another, 8,206 guards were listed on a payroll but only 603 people doing the work could be counted.
I'll bet the ranch we'd have a better accounting of tax money if Rummy hadn't replaced Gen. Jay Garner with his golden boy Bremer.

Double-check the absentee ballot

As murfmom reports, you may need to read the instructions extra-carefully.
The almost 6" x 12" official absentee ballot mailing envelope is much larger than a standard 4-1/8" x 9-1/2" business envelope. The clerks at my local post office confirmed my suspicion that extra postage is necessary for delivery. You need $0.49 of postage, not a $0.37 stamp as printed in the official instructions!!!
This was in Miami-Dade County (!), but if you're planning to use an absentee ballot anywhere you might want to be cautious.

At first read, it may not sound like a big deal; however, these ballots will be returned to the sender, possibly too late to be mailed - and counted - correctly.

As the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared".


Happy Birthday, Bill!

I have a co-worker who is a rabid, right-wing, neocon Republican and accomplished Clinton-hater. She shares the same birthdate.

Time to call her up and sing "Happy Birthday" to the both of them, as I do every year.

I'm so thoughtful that way.

The jobs/health care connection

Here’s an opening for Kerry/Edwards to drive a truck through.

Businesses – especially smaller ones – are crashing head on into the high costs of health care.
A relentless rise in the cost of employee health insurance has become a significant factor in the employment slump, as the labor market adds only a trickle of new jobs each month despite nearly three years of uninterrupted economic growth.

Government data, industry surveys and interviews with employers big and small indicate that many businesses remain reluctant to hire full-time employees because health insurance, which now costs the nation's employers an average of about $3,000 a year for each worker, has become one of the fastest-growing costs for companies. Health premiums are sapping corporate balance sheets even more than the rising cost of energy.
Businesses are coping in a number of ways; none of them beneficial to either their ultimate bottom line or to employees -
Businesses, meanwhile, are trying all kinds of coping strategies. Some companies have responded by shifting part of the health insurance burden onto their workers or by ratcheting up premiums and deductibles. Some have eliminated coverage for dependents, while others have canceled their medical plans altogether. Many have frozen or reduced wages to compensate for ever bigger health insurance bills.
It’s a good time to compare the Bush and Kerry strategy for dealing with these rising costs and their effect on businesses.

The Bush plan emphasizes tax credits, medical savings accounts, and tort reform.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, tort reform’s impact on health care costs would be less than 2%, with the lion's share of savings going to malpractice insurers.

Tax credits and medical savings accounts are strictly “after the fact” policies. Health care costs would continue to skyrocket and patients would continue struggling to pay them.

Medical savings accounts are only of benefit to those who have sufficiently high wages to set aside the money needed to cover medical expenses. They do nothing to address the problems of lower-wage workers or the unemployed.

John Kerry’s plan, on the the hand, directly addresses both the impact of high cost to businesses and the strain on employees -
A centerpiece of Mr. Kerry's plan would be to reduce health insurance premiums by having the federal government pick up 75 percent of the cost of catastrophic medical care. That would reduce the cost to employers and employees about 10 percent, or $1,000 a year, according to campaign officials.
The Bush campaign claims to be a friend to small business while continuing to feed big-donor special interests.

True relief for the struggling economy is in plain sight - with Kerry/Edwards.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Laugh of the day

...and it works better than any missile defense system.

German men told they can no longer stand and deliver
German men are being shamed into urinating while sitting down by a gadget which is saving millions of women from cleaning up in the bathroom after them.

The WC ghost, a £6 voice-alarm, reprimands men for standing at the lavatory pan. It is triggered when the seat is lifted. The battery-operated devices are attached to the seats and deliver stern warnings to those who attempt to stand and urinate (known as "Stehpinkeln").

"Hey, stand-peeing is not allowed here and will be punished with fines, so if you don't want any trouble, you'd best sit down," one of the devices orders in a voice impersonating the German leader, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. Another has a voice
similar to that of his predecessor, Helmut Kohl.

The manufacturers of the WC ghost, Patentwert, say they are ready to direct their gadgets at the British market.

Their prototype English-speaking WC ghost says in an American drawl: "Don't you go wetting this floor cowboy, you never know who's behind you. So sit down, get your water pistol in the bowl where it belongs. Ha, ha, ha."

They also plan to copy the voices of Tony Blair and the Queen.

So far 1.8 million WC ghosts have been sold in German supermarkets.

But Klaus Schwerma, author of Standing Urinators: The Last Bastion of Masculinity? doubts whether it will ever be possible to convert all men.

"Many insist on standing, even though it leads to much marital strife," he said.

In German, the phrase for someone who sits and urinates, a "Sitzpinkler", is equivalent to "wimp".
I plan on installing the one with the Queen's voice.

One up on Bush

I've never been able to stomach Yassir Arafat, but I've got to admit he's a bigger man than George Bush...if not by much -

Arafat Acknowledges 'mistakes' but Doesn't Say What They Are
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Yasser Arafat acknowledged Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority has made "mistakes," but the rare admission appeared to be aimed more at deflecting criticism about his corrupt government than making real changes.
Ariel Sharon, on the other hand, keeps making the same mistakes -
Sharon OKs 1,000 new homes in West Bank settlements
...and the United States responds forcefully -
U.S. withholds judgment on Israeli plan for 1,000 new homes in West Bank settlements
Has anyone ever told the Bush administration that for every new settlement in the West Bank and Gaza, another terrorist is created?

Send in the clowns.

Republican House Intelligence Vice Chairman gets religion

Retiring Republican House Intelligence Vice Chairman Says War in Iraq Was Unjustified
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A top Republican congressman has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and the situation there has deteriorated into "a dangerous, costly mess."

"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Rep. Doug Bereuter wrote in a letter to his constituents.

"Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action," he said.

No "happy retirement from the White House" card for you, Doug.

This day in history

August 18, 2004 - Mr. Andante celebrates the Big Five-Oh.

He shares the day with an assortment of characters, shady and otherwise -

1587 Virginia Dare
1750 Antonio Salieri
1917 Casper Weinberger
1927 Rosalynn Carter
1933 Roman Polanski
1934 Roberto Clemente
1937 Robert Redford
1952 Patrick Swayze

I wonder if any of them got a bottle of Metamucil, a pair of magnifying glasses, and a can of strawberry Ensure for their birthday.

It was a close contest between Mr. Andante, Robert Redford, and Patrick Swayze, but I think I'll keep him anyway.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Bush adds another sure-fire vote-getter to the stump speech

Bush Plugs Missile Defense System Plan
"I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system don't understand the threats of the 21st century," the president told applauding workers.

The president noted that last month Boeing engineers loaded the first missile interceptor into a silo in Alaska. He characterized that as the beginning of a national shield "that was envisioned by Ronald Reagan."

Bush said opponents of the system are "living in the past. We're living in the future. We're going to do what's necessary to protect this country."
I can't think of a single, lady-like, printable comment.

"That's my boy!"

I've always thought it amusing when fundamentalists claim the King James translation is the only legitimate version of the Bible.

And they never seem to realize that the founding fathers of Christianity picked and chose from many writings; discarding some and including others, sometimes from purely political motivations.

I'd love to send a copy of this translation to The Wrong Reverend Jerry Falwell for Christmas.

Good as New is the wildest, wackiest, perhaps worst, of today's trendy Bibles
After Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, he saw "the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased' " (Mark 1:10-11, Revised Standard Version).

Compare that with this new translation: "A pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's Spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy!' "

There are many such chatty or doctrinally denuded passages in Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures, an exceedingly loose New Testament paraphrase by Britain's John Henson, a fundamentalist-hating Baptist.


The Apostle Paul taught that "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" and that if unmarried singles or widows "cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:2,9).

Henson's version: "My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner. ... If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated!" Likewise, Henson has Jesus rewriting the Ten Commandments: "Don't take away someone else's partner" (Matthew 5:27).

In 2004, this clearly implies approval for unwed heterosexual and homosexual couples, possibly including temporary live-ins.

Henson simply chops out things he doesn't like.

For obvious reasons, one currently debated Bible passage is this from Paul: "God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men" (Romans 1:26-27).

Wielding a censor's blue pencil, Hensom produces:

"God let them go on to pursue their selfish desires. Women use their charms to further their own ends. Men, instead of being friends, ruthlessly exploit one another."

Henson even cuts out eight entire New Testament books that don't suit him: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.

Kerry to visit Queen City on Friday
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will arrive in Charlotte on Thursday to attend a function Friday morning at Central Piedmont Community College.

Kerry's speech will start at 9 a.m. at the Grady Cole Center on 310 N. Kings Drive. The candidate will discuss plans to create jobs, build a stronger economy and provide better access to health care.

Organizers are expecting between 500 and 700 people to attend the invitation-only event, but there might be unused tickets. To put your name on a waiting list for tickets, call the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party at (704) 525-5843.
(Thanks to Island Dave for the tip)

Turning a corner, of sorts

Hardball, 8/16/04;
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Matthew Dowd of the Bush campaign and Tad Devine of the Kerry campaign. Well, you never know what‘s what‘s coming next. It‘s heating up. Today Senator Harkin who was a Navy pilot. He‘s the senator from Iowa. He slammed Vice President Dick Cheney calling him a coward over Cheney‘s ridiculing of John Kerry‘s assertion that he would fight a more sensitive war on terror.

Quote—this is Harkin speaking, the senator from Iowa. “I just outrages me that someone who got five deferments during Vietnam and said he had ‘other priorities‘ at that time would say that... When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil. He‘ll be tough, but he‘ll be tough with someone else‘s kid‘s blood.”

He called him a coward a number of times, Matt. Your response?

DOWD: I think it‘s just outrageous that Tom Harkin, a surrogate for the Kerry campaign, that would do it. Bill Clinton served the presidency with distinction without having served in Vietnam or in a war. Ronald Reagan served a presidency with distinction without having served a war or in a world war. And I think this name-calling is very unfortunate that has to happen in this environment.

MATTHEWS: Tad, your turn?

DEVINE: Well, first, Chris, I think we just made some history. We‘ve heard the Bush campaign say that Bill Clinton served the presidency with distinction. That‘s a breakthrough. We‘ve turned the corner on that one, I‘ll tell you that.

Bush unveils large-scale troop redeployment plan
President Bush on Monday announced that 70,000 U.S. troops based overseas would be brought home under a massive global redeployment plan that could cost billions of dollars before it begins to produce any savings.
Restructuring our military to meet post-Cold War realities has always been a good idea, but....

Maybe I'm just skeptical because it's something Bush proposes; after all, his administration doesn't exactly have a great track record for "getting it right".

However, a scheme that will cost billions of dollars that we don't have AND dump a lot of spouses into the already-stagnate American job market doesn't float my boat.

I have no illusions these troops will stay in the United States. They'll be shipped off to alien, forbidding climes (without their families) where we will have to pay exhorbitant costs just to keep the bases in electricity and pay off the local corruption machine.

Since the Bush administration is all about "image", I suspect trumpeting the return of thousands of troops (even though they're returning from Germany, Japan, and South Korea and not Iraq and Afghanistan) will probably be good for a few votes.

Geez, I hate being so cynical about every move my government makes.


Monday, August 16, 2004


Note to self:

Taking 89-year old mother to a half-day assessment at geriatric clinic is more exhausting than moving child into college dorm.

The good news - her memory loss problems are most likely what will happen to all of us, should we be lucky enough to live for eighty-nine years.

I, on the other hand, feel at least eighty-nine, and was reminded I can't read a map worth a hoot.

But at least we got a nice tour of Winston-Salem, NC, and even saw some Kerry/Edwards signs and bumper stickers - a rare sight in our part of the woods.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

Not a Bush/Cheney rally Posted by Hello

Also not a Bush/Cheney rally Posted by Hello
Kerry Put On Defensive About Iraq
Over the past week, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have thrown Sen. John F. Kerry on the defensive with a daily assault designed to tarnish his credentials as a possible commander in chief. But the orchestrated attacks also revealed the president's vulnerabilities on the issue that continues to shape the presidential campaign as much as any other.

The volleys over terrorism came after Kerry and his advisers believed they had put behind them most questions about his capacity to lead the country in a war on terrorism. Instead, Kerry and his advisers allowed themselves to be drawn into a new debate about Iraq and terrorism and were forced to rebut daily charges that Kerry has equivocated and sent conflicting signals on national security.
What a bunch of crap.

1) Kerry or his advisors need to read Josh Marshall -
Sometimes in baseball a batter decides to take a pitch. He's decided in advance that he's not going to swing no matter what comes down the pike. But in most cases, when a batter steps up to the plate, he doesn't decide whether he's going to swing until he sees the pitch. Only an idiot decides in advance not knowing what he's going to face. And yet this is roughly what the Bush camp says was the only reasonable, or I suppose manly, approach to the Iraq war.
Only a complete fool would go into a situation as complex as the Iraqi war with a pre-set plan that will not change under any conditions.

Until President Kerry and his advisors can assess the facts on the ground, they can't make a reasonable decision. And those facts change constantly - which brings us to....

2) President Kerry will have to order a complete overhaul of the intelligence, rooting out the Cheney-poisoned stuff.

Then, and only then, can anyone make reasonable decisions on how to get out of the Iraqi quagmire.


August 15 - This day in history

1969 - The Woodstock Music and Art Fair opened in upstate New York; over 400,000 attended.


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Checking in on the neighbors

Finally finished checking around on all the bloggers & other folks in Charley's path -

Bryan's area dodged a bullet.

Island Dave is hanging in there, and blogging as of 12:36 p.m. today; his brother in Sarasota is fine.

Pete finally got in touch with his Grandmom - she's one of the lucky ones living in up-to-code housing.

No word yet from Greg; I've e-mailed him and hope he can respond soon. Update: Just got the word - all is well with both Greg and his folks.

Charles2's family is fine.

Mustang Bobby's area wasn't affected - he has links to area newspapers.

Hope I didn't miss anyone...let me know if I did.

NOT Clinton's fault

In the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, relief agencies and FEMA face a daunting task.

Unless the Bush administration has poisoned FEMA, too, let's remember -
One of FEMA's institutional problems was that it was a product of the Cold War, and many of its resources were devoted to dealing with a possible nuclear attack on the United States. After taking office, (James Lee) Witt worked to redirect those resources to help with disaster relief. Said Zensinger: "The thinking was: `We didn't have the Cold War anymore. Why don't [we] pay more attention to domestic issues?' "

Witt has also made the agency more responsive to the victims of natural disasters. By implementing a toll-free hot line and upgrading the agency's technology, Witt has helped to reduce from an average of 30 days to just five to 10 days the time it takes for victims to apply for and receive federal financial assistance.

In addition, Witt has made disaster mitigation one of his priorities. He created a program called Project Impact, which targets communities where disasters are likely to occur. Under the program, communities form partnerships with both the government and the private sector to enforce stricter building codes and to strengthen existing infrastructure. FEMA has also moved or bought 19,000 homes that are prone to massive flooding. According to Dale Shipley, the executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, mitigation has been Witt's greatest achievement. "That's his legacy, I think," Shipley said.
In 2001, Witt put his accumulated expertise to good use, forming James Lee Witt Associates-
a crisis and emergency management consulting firm based in Washington, DC with offices in Atlanta, Chicago, and Sacramento. JLWA has unrivaled experience and hands-on knowledge of public safety, disaster mitigation, continuity of operations, and emergency management issues. JLWA bridges government agencies and non-profits with industry and constituents, advises educational institutions, and assists state and local governments, as well as international bodies to prepare for and recover from disasters and crises.
JLWA was intimately involved with assisting state and local governments after Hurricane Isabel, making sound recommendations for improvements in infrastructure and preparedness.

Most recently JLWA was chosen to advise the Pennsylvania's Ready Campus program-
James Lee Witt Associates (JLWA) has been selected by Pennsylvania Campus Compact (PACC) to work with Pennsylvania colleges and universities on the Ready Campus initiative.

Ready Campus, a partnership among educational institutions and their neighboring communities, is designed to strengthen the preparation for and response to emergencies by using campus facilities and training campus volunteers.
The country owes a lot to this quiet, humble man who so ably reinvented FEMA and continues to benefit the country today.


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