Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday Mashup (9/22/09)

(And I also posted here.)

  • It seems as if that one-man GOP idea factory, Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich, is at it again (here)…

    Add another feather in the veritable bird's nest that is Gingrich Inc. The former speaker of the house, and all-around conservative idea-smith, has launched a news website for Hispanic Americans, the rapidly growing segment of swing voters. It's called The Americano, and it is the bilingual brainchild of Sylvia Garcia, a longtime employee of Gingrich Communications, the former speaker's consulting business. "The idea came during the election," Garcia says. "There really isn't any media that is covering conservative values for Hispanics. Everything you see is very one-sided."

    And so, conservative-minded Hispanics will find an opinion piece about how voter identification efforts are damaging the GOP brand among Latinos, a "History of U.S. Elections as Seen By Hispanics," and a piece about how the embattled non-profit ACORN was caught in a sting that involved a false claim about 14 El Salvadoran prostitutes.
    I wonder if he’ll link to this item from his new site, in which he said the following…

    The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. … We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto."
    Nah, that would make him too much of a pendejo, I suppose.

  • This Reuters news story tells us the following…

    UNITED NATIONS, Aug 4 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will chair a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council next month on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said on Tuesday.

    The meeting will take place on Sept. 24 during the annual summit of the U.N. General Assembly. The heads of state of the other 14 Security Council members will be invited to participate, Rice said in a statement.

    "The session will be focused on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly and not on any specific countries," she said. "Over the next several weeks, we will work closely with members of the Security Council to prepare for this important meeting," Rice added.

    Obama has vowed to take new steps to reduce U.S. stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed in Moscow in July to reduce their Cold War arsenals of deployed nuclear warheads by around a third from current levels to 1,500-1,675 each.
    And of course, since we’re talking about the U.N., you can count on the right-wing echo chambers to communicate portents of doom (here, in the person of Claudia Rosett – when it comes to Democrats, the glass is always half-empty for these people; I have to admit that this New York Times column by Clyde Haberman today was amusing, however).

    Anyway, here is Rosett...

    President Obama plans to make history Thursday by chairing a special, summit-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council. This will be the first time an American president has done so, and only the fifth time in the United Nations' 64-year history that such a heads-of-state meeting has been convened in that chamber. The focus will be on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The pressure will be strong for Obama to emerge with some sort of substantive outcome that can be hailed as a success.

    Beware. In the matter of making history, there are some things worth doing, such as breaking the racial barrier to the White House or ending the Cold War. And then there are other instances, in which, if something has never been done before, there may be good reasons for not doing it now.

    In the case of chairing the Security Council, there are plenty of reasons a president should not do it, ever. It demeans the U.S. presidency, and there's a big risk it will bind Obama far too intimately to bargains for which America is likely to pay dearly and reap mainly trouble.
    This is perfectly consistent for Rosett, who trashed the U.N. Human Rights Council here (yes, there are bad actors in that group, but our “strategy” of isolation and finger-pointing worked so beautifully for Bushco, didn’t it?), demeaned the 2007 World Toilet Summit here (yes, there is one, and it’s actually a big deal for poor nations trying to develop proper sanitation), and also trashed Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria here (even though Pancake Joe Pitts did the same thing, without a word of rebuke from Rosett or anyone else…except yours truly, of course).

    Meanwhile, I thought this was a pretty clear-headed analysis, including the following…

    Obama's task today is at once easier and more daunting than Bush's. The new president sails into New York on a wave of global goodwill. Proclaiming an "era of engagement," he has returned the United States to a multilateral path, through steps both symbolic and concrete. He has vowed to rededicate the United States to the international rule of law, engineered U.S. entry into the UN Human Rights Council, reenergized U.S. leadership on climate change, proposed reforms to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and declared his intent to submit for Senate ratification long-languishing treaties like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    Obama does not need to woo his UN audience. As the anti-Bush, he will have them at hello. Bush, after all, was an instinctive unilateralist who approached his annual New York trip with the enthusiasm of a root canal patient. Obama actually believes in multilateralism-and thus may have more to lose if it fails. He arrives in New York with massive global worries, including a sharp economic downturn, a fraying nuclear nonproliferation regime, and a shaky state-building mission in Afghanistan. His job is to persuade his rapt global audience that recent improvement in U.S.-UN relations cannot be taken for granted-and that multilateralism must deliver results that advance U.S. and global security.
    And by the way, Obama’s predecessor did more to “demean the U.S. presidency” in his term in office than Obama could ever do with the same amount of time, even if he actually tried.

  • I know I got into this also yesterday in the post related to N. Gregory Mankiw, but former Missouri Repug governor Matt Blunt propagandized as follows in the Murdoch Street Journal today (here)…

    I took office in January 2005 at a time when runaway lawsuits were driving up the cost of doing business in my state and forcing doctors and other business owners to close their doors. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform keeps a list of states ranked according to their legal environment. At the time, Missouri ranked among the 10 worst.

    We put a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages and created rules to prevent baseless cases from getting off of the ground. Previously, personal injury lawyers could file cases if they got a written affidavit from any qualified health-care provider claiming that there was negligence. We tightened that by requiring that the affidavit come from an active professional practicing substantially the same specialty as the defendant.

    We also took another common-sense step. Doctors often express empathy to a suffering patient regardless of fault. Saying you are "sorry" for someone's plight is a testament of good character, and should not be used against you in court. But tort lawyers were claiming that such statements were an admission of guilt. We stopped that abuse.

    Tort reform works. Missouri's medical malpractice claims are now at a 30-year low. Average payouts are about $50,000 below the 2005 average. Malpractice insurers are also turning a profit for the fifth year in a row—allowing other insurers to compete for business in Missouri. This will drive down costs, which will save government programs money as well as improve the system for patients. It will also leave doctors with more resources to invest in better care.

    Since 2005, Missouri has moved up to 31st on the Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform's list.

    Because we passed tort reform, cut taxes and controlled state spending, Missouri's economy is now in better shape than it would have been. During the four years I was in office, about 70,000 net new jobs were created in my state.
    And in addition to “tort reform,” Blunt and the Missouri congressional Repugs instituted the following (according to this article - and I'd like to try and verify that 70,000 number, but since Blunt didn't do his sourcing properly, I have no intention of doing his work for him)…

    Along with the Republican leadership in the General Assembly, Blunt trimmed state spending in order to keep the budget balanced without raising taxes. Particularly controversial were provisions eliminating parts of the state's social entitlement programs. The cuts were criticized by editorials in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.[8][9][10] After some minor changes to the Governor's original requests the final version was passed.[11] Many Missourians who had previously depended on Medicaid were no longer eligible for benefits. Approximately 177,000 Missourians had their health benefits cut off due to these legislative actions.[12]
    Also, as noted here…

    …critics say the ($350 K cap) hurts the needy and elderly who are declining to file medical malpractice suits because the lower cap on damages means that even if they win, most of the money will go to attorneys.
    And as noted here, that cap limit isn’t adjusted for inflation (and the number of doctors is increasing no matter what area of medicine you’re talking about, or where, by the way).

    And the Inky tells us the following here (about Missouri in particular)…

    "From my perspective, that was one of the best things ever to happen in the state of Missouri," said Kansas City ophthalmologist John Hagen, an outspoken supporter of tort reform. "It not only enabled us to retain physicians but to recruit new ones."

    Since the 2005 changes, malpractice premiums at Hagen's practice have fallen 24 percent. (Kansas City neurosurgeon Steve) Reintjes said his have declined 30 percent.

    But overall health-care costs in Missouri are still going up. The same is true in states that have enacted even more stringent tort reforms, such as Texas. This suggests a tort system run amok is, at best, only a small contributor to the nation's health costs.
    And besides, as Wikipedia tells us, if Blunt was supposedly so successful in Missouri, how come he ended up serving only one term?

  • Update: And once more, this feigned outrage is hilarious coming from the political party that gave seniors higher copays for Medicare Advantage (even though providers have been compensated well enough) as well as the infamous Medicare Part D "donut hole."

  • Finally, I have to communicate something which is truly shocking, my fellow prisoners.

    See, I used that Internet thingie to travel to the blog of J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times (here), and the following message appeared:

    What, J.D.? No more attempts at equivalency between alleged Obama misdeeds at the VA (the transgressions in question were committed by a Bush appointee) and whether or not health care reform will be successful (here)?

    No more wisecracks about using stimulus funding to repair the Sellersville Armory, including replacing windows and doors with energy efficient options, as well as safety cameras on I-95 (though I suppose part of that story is certainly “local” - here)?

    And best (?) of all, no more “Angel of Death” columns about health care reform (here)?

    I have to admit that I’m a bit nonplussed here. I’m having a very hard time believing that Mullane will actually confine himself to matters related to Bucks County, PA (about which he is fairly astute, actually) and not find the impulse to propagandize on national issues in a matter like that in which he claimed here once that “(George W.) Bush’s words weren’t Lincolnesque, but his presence made up for it” during the 2004 presidential campaign.

    I give him two weeks.
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