Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Other Points of View I Don't Get

Is there a class in liberal economics somewhere that I could take? I ask because I'm obviously missing something, and when I ask people about it they just look at me like I'm speaking Croatian.
Phil Angelides is running for the Democratic slot in November's gubernatorial election, and his platform seems to consist in large part of "making the multi-millionaires and large corporations pay their fair share." I can see why that sings to voters, but I have no idea why anyone would give it any credence.
I try to point out that corporations do not pay taxes, that corporations are not people, that consumers pay the taxes levied on corporations. I point out that the last two airliners that will ever be built in California have just been flown out to their buyers. Corporations and their multi-millionaire corporate officers and investors can live anywhere while having their product (to the extent that we still create products) manufactured anywhere. If I win the Lotto I can buy a condo in Nevada for residency purposes and still enjoy the California lifestyle.
I'm also having an issue with the people whining about the "farmland" in South L.A. Los Angeles takes 14 acres to build a trash-to-energy plant, but the environmentalists blocked that. (Way to go, guys. Still have the trash and no new energy sources, but what the hey.) The courts tell L.A. to give the owner his land back, but now there are squatters gardening there. The owner agrees to sell to them, but they can't afford to buy so now we have Joan Baez, Daryl Hannah, and a couple of tree-sitters protesting. I am mindful of last year when we were all ready to tar and feather Justice Souter for ruling against propery rights. I still believe the Supreme Court was wrong then, and that the squatters have no legal claim now.
So... what am I missing?

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Word About Sen. Lloyd Bentsen

I'm experiencing a personal sense of loss with the news of Sen. Bentsen's passing.
There are so very few remaining in national politics who engender any feeling of respect, and - for me - he was certainly one of the few. He put me in mind of Jimmy Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Rest in peace, Senator.

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A Word About HM3 Lee Hamilton Deal

Petty Officer Third Class Lee Hamilton Deal, 23, of West Monroe, La., died May 17, as a result of enemy action in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was operationally assigned to Regimental Combat Team-5, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and permanently assigned to 2nd Marine Division Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
HM3 Deal had a life... and he might have had a good life.

Semper Fi

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Too Many Alternatives

So much to talk about and so little time... There are so many offenses at so many levels and I can choose only one at a time to explore.

The President's nomination of Gen. Hayden to head the CIA is a natural for me. Mr. Bush, in clear violation of FISA and the "Patriot Act," sets the NSA on a program of domestic spying; and now he nominates his director of that program, an officer of the U.S. Air Force sworn to defend the Constitution, to head the CIA. On the other hand, the neo-fascists have done their preparation well, and more than 60% of Americans are more in fear of their "enemies" than of losing their civil liberties.

I'm leaning toward state or local stories.

A Bay-area judge has suspended the California high school exit exam because it discriminates against... well, basically kids who can't pass it. His points are well-taken, that English-learners and the poor have a harder time passing the test. In my opinion, it is this kind of thinking that has made a high school diploma worthless. The exit exam tests English and math competency at the ninth grade level, and if a "graduate" can't pass that then how on Earth can I give him a job? How does he break out of the cycle of poverty?

The California Governor contest exemplifies why I stopped working on campaigns. Steve Westly appears to be a fiscal conservative who sings to a majority of voters in the polls, but Angelides is getting the Democratic Party endorsement apparently because... in the tradition of Gray Davis and Cruz Bustamente... he's next in line, works well for or with public employee union leaders, and has a ton of money from his real estate developer connections.

Meanwhile, Arnold, whose only virtue was that "his heart is in the right place," has also suddenly found a ton of money for next year's budget to pay off/pay back the money he "borrowed" from public programs during the first two years of his administration. The poorest and most disadvantaged? Well, they need better connections, don't they?

Both parties are stumping for the ultimate election-year lie: the $37 Billion building program with "no new taxes!" Why is California's bond rating right down there with Louisiana's? Could it be because Californians... as many Americans... don't recognize that debt must eventually be repaid? "Win-Win" my ass. It's at least 30 years of debt-service (interest), and hopefully an eternity of refinancing so you never have to repay the principal.

P.S. I didn't mention that the levee repairs at New Orleans won't be ready by June 1st after all.
When you see people such as Secretary Rumsfeld complaining that criticism of the Administration is damaging the U.S. position overseas you just want to scream: "Then stop lying! You are accountable to us! We're supposed to challenge you! That we catch you at it is your fault!"

Where to start...

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Speaking of Really Bad Ideas...

I know that I need to work on not just wildly ranting here if I care at all about anyone ever reading this, but in 2006 with not one but two dumb-ass wars going on, massive Reagan-esque deficits, and millions of Americans reduced to planning their lives around oil company profits I learn that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) wants to usurp a national park to open a recreational killing field for military personnel.
I lived in Mr. Hunter's gerrymandered district for a number of years. He does have a distinguished military record, but every once in awhile you see him in the Alec Baldwin role in Mercury Rising.
I don't presume to speak for all veterans... or for any veterans other than myself... but it strikes me as a little... more than a little... sick to expropriate one of the beautiful Channel Islands from the National Park system, transport populations of non-native deer and elk onto it, and then to invite people... even military people who arguably deserve recreational opportunities... to kill those populations just for the hell of it.
Geez, Duncan, call the animal shelter in El Cajon and maybe they'll let you gas some puppies or something. Better still, get some help.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm

Yesterday my boss and I had a rare conversation that didn't involve work, and we got to talking about the immigration demonstrations taking place. I can't say that I was completely surprised by her attitude because she did vote for Bush-Cheney twice and for Arnold, but still...

Her position on illegal immigration was that life could be hard and that was a shame, but that Mexican economic issues were Vicente Fox' problem and not ours. I pointed out that there did seem to be some degree of bias in the emphasis on the southern border, and she said she didn't really have a problem with that. I asked her if she had any thoughts on the proposal to make illegal immigration a felony and she just dismissed that out of hand saying, "It'll never pass." Then it got a little surreal...

I asked how she could maintain such unsympathetic views given that her first language was Spanish. She responded that these migrants were different, not like her grandparents when they came across in 1940. These migrants, in her view, weren't committed to the U.S., but to providing for their families in Mexico and returning to Mexico at the earliest opportunity. Why, they don't even have established businesses and phone numbers. They only have cell phones, and can't be found from one year to the next if she wants them to do more work around her home.

She also mentioned that migrant families received more services for her tax dollars than she did, especially because she had to pay all those taxes for schools and her daughter goes to a private school. She acknowledged that this was generally true of all poor people though and not just migrant families. You've got to feel for those Republicans.

Okay, I admit that I have issues with the flags. Display the American flag right side up, and don't display the flags of other countries at all. I'm a huge fan of the freedom of speech, but I get this visceral response to disrespect of our flag.

Other than that I personally think we're overdue for recognition that the migrants are here, they've always been here, and we don't really and truly want them to go away. Deal with it.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Doing What's Right

Someone... okay, it was Joared... asked if I had any thoughts on the stories about Wellpoint's Blue Cross of California and Blue Shield denying coverage to beneficiaries.
This item in the April 26 L.A. Times (registration required) presents information given by Blue Cross employees during depositions. This second item in the April 28 L.A. Times reveals that Blue Shield has also been named as a defendant in three similar suits.
Let me just say at the outset that... to me... this stinks. Maybe it's just that no one has ever loved me as much as Mr. Shernoff, the attorney making his living from these cases and similar cases over the years, apparently loves his clients. Maybe it's that I deal with temptation pretty regularly since I now have a history of cancer that makes applying for life insurance... problematic.
The plaintiffs, bless their hearts, have purchased individual coverage policies all of which require a detailed medical history and most of which offer limited coverage for pre-existing conditions. Mr. Norris, one of the plaintiffs, would have the reader believe that he had no idea that disclosure of his son's history of ear aches and speech problems was important for the application, and is aghast that Blue Cross has denied coverage for the $15,000 surgery to remove the child's adenoids.
Listen I know why people do it... and I know why insurance companies have become suspicious when chronic disease suddenly and acutely rears its ugly head immediately after the insurance coverage kicks in. The plaintiffs probably aren't bad people... they are people in need. The insurance companies may very well be run by bad people, but they aren't in business to lose money; and if they don't catch fraudulent (or "oops" or whatever) applications at the front end then they have to raise all of our premiums to cover the losses. Consumer needs versus corporate fiduciary duty... or greed.
What we need is Universal Health Coverage. Until we get that these stories are going to go on and on.
Oh, and I'm happy that Mr. Shernoff and Mr. Flanagan got their names in the paper. Way to go, guys!

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