Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Gun Rules Over All

The New York Times tells us the following today (from here – this is a long one)…

Congress has shamefully caved in, yet again, to the gun lobby and abandoned the effort to grant the long-suffering District of Columbia a voting representative in the House. Hopes for passage were high this year, until the historic measure was poisoned in the Senate with an amendment to strip the district’s government of its power to enact responsible gun control laws.

Sadly, the district’s need for strong controls was dramatized Wednesday when a man the authorities identified as a white supremacist opened fire with a rifle and killed a guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The gun lobby galvanized anti-gun control Republicans and timorous Democrats in both houses to stop the representation bill in its tracks. Pleas from district officials about public safety drew no interest from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likewise failed to sway Democrats too cowardly to stand up to the gun lobby in next year’s elections.

Most disappointing, President Obama showed no appetite to confront the gun lobby and campaign for a clean bill. He had already signaled his weakness when he signed a credit card reform law that included another senseless gun lobby diktat — to allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks.

Representative Steny Hoyer conceded on Tuesday that the votes for passage had evaporated. He noted disagreement among city officials. Some wanted acceptance of the amended measure because the city’s chance for a voting representative was unlikely to occur again soon.

The net effect is to maintain the district as a laboratory for Congress’s plantation whims. And also, of course, to add swagger to the gun lobby. It does not have nearly the Election Day clout that its supporters, and those who cower before it, fear — but is now free to attach its repressive District of Columbia measure to the next bill that comes along.

All Americans, not just residents of the nation’s capital, should worry that an obeisant Congress and administration has proved no test for the gun lobby’s agenda.
I keep promising myself not to post on this topic, and then events take place in the news or commentary is written that make this issue impossible to ignore.

Before I say anything, though, I should state that I’m not going to use James von Brunn as a launching point for any anti-gun remarks. Yes, his instrument of death was purchased illegally, but he was a product of domestic terrorism, and I think his commitment to kill was such that he would have used any instrument at his disposal to do so (knife, dirty bomb, screwdriver, poison…you name it). Also, Scott Roeder’s affiliation with the “pro life” craziness of Randall Terry and Operation Rescue is the matter at fault in his case.

Maybe I should “back up” first, though, to earlier in this week and communicate the following.

On Tuesday, I put together a post over at the Wordpress site that really wasn’t much of anything, linking to a column by Bob Herbert from April and an article in last week’s People Magazine citing gun violence statistics (Herbert’s column states as follows)…

There is no way to overstate the horror of gun violence in America. Roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Americans are murdered every year, and more than 12,000 of them, on average, are shot to death. This is an insanely violent society, and the worst of that violence is made insanely easy by the widespread availability of guns.

Homicides are only a part of the story.

While more than 12,000 people are murdered with guns annually, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (using the latest available data) tells us that more than 30,000 people are killed over the course of one typical year by guns. That includes 17,000 who commit suicide, nearly 800 who are killed in accidental shootings and more than 300 killed by the police. (In many of the law enforcement shootings, the police officers are reacting to people armed with guns).

And then there are the people who are shot but don’t die. Nearly 70,000 fall into that category in a typical year, including 48,000 who are criminally attacked, 4,200 who survive a suicide attempt, more than 15,000 who are shot accidentally, and more than 1,000 — many with a gun in possession — who are shot by the police.

The medical cost of treating gunshot wounds in the U.S. is estimated to be well more than $2 billion annually. And the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, has noted that nonfatal gunshot wounds are the leading cause of uninsured hospital stays.

The toll on children and teenagers is particularly heartbreaking. According to the Brady Campaign, more than 3,000 kids are shot to death in a typical year. More than 1,900 are murdered, more than 800 commit suicide, about 170 are killed accidentally and 20 or so are killed by the police.

Another 17,000 are shot but survive.
Well, as a result, I received a trickle of comments from gun supporters citing this case for a supposed justification for the claim that the federal government cannot impinge on their personal rights (more from lawyer Adam B here at The Daily Kos; I’ve managed to read about this some more since everything has calmed down for the moment based on what I will describe shortly, though how anyone can claim that a case involving the slaughter of over 100 African Americans by a white mob absolves their actions is something I can’t completely comprehend).

And, foolishly, I responded to a Wordpress-post comment in the Cruikshank case, as well as a study by someone named Gary Kleck claiming that there are about 2 million instances a year of people defending themselves from criminals with their guns (I found a link debunking the study which I published, though another commenter added somewhat testily that further evidence had supported Kreck, though of course there was no link provided to his new evidence; I'm not providing links to this stuff here because it's not my point to rehash this stuff all over again).

I say “foolishly” because, even though I was trying to help the commentary along by saying something about Cruikshank (which was dumb also because I’m hardly a legal expert), the post was about the statistics, and I was expecting a response about that, totally forgetting the “black and white” world in which most gun rights advocates live (based on my experience – probably goes for some gun control supporters also). Basically, the people who comment at the WP site (and mostly here also) on this topic care about absolutely nothing except their right to have any gun they want whenever they want.

Also in response to a comment, I said something along the lines of “don’t bother using these justifications the next time a cop is killed in the line of duty or a child is killed in a schoolyard by stray gunfire from drug dealers.”

And then what happened after that was “through the looking glass.”

One of the commenters must have entered a chat room and told his fellow travelers about the Wordpress post (probably something along the lines of “hey, this anti-gun nut just criticized us; let’s ‘rattle his cage’”) because I noticed that the site hit count skyrocketed (about 400 hits in one hour). I’d like to think that it rose because, spontaneously, huge amounts of people suddenly came to appreciate my brilliant prose, but I know better.

And before I knew it, I had at least 15 extensive comments citing everything from a study in Great Britain about supposed relaxed gun ownership that increased public safety, to Cruikshank again, to other legal minutiae that supposedly enshrined the Second Amendment in their favor (an army of John Lotts, springing up, if you will). There was no possible way I could properly respond to all of the comments (with the tone of them being pretty damn haughty along the lines of “you must not care about public safety,” “funny that you don’t know this,” etc.). And again, since none of them had a damn thing to do with the original post, I just gave up and deleted the post (prompting another round of ad hominem attacks, which I should note that, while also demeaning in their tone, were not actually filled with profanity, so that’s progress of a sort anyway).

(Also, I started getting particularly wingnutty comments to other WP posts, including one about Obama that mentioned his possible assassination. At that point, I shut off comments to all new posts over at WP; I think a “cooling off” period is wise at this point.)

Why exactly am I telling you all this?

Because I’m really fed up with posting on this topic and receiving virtually no support, that’s why.

Bob Herbert and the New York Times editorial board (as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News on occasion, truth be told) deserve credit for “beating the drum.” And PA State Representative Dwight Evans does also, as well as Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, for trying to enact sensible gun laws in this area (update: forgot to mention Governor Rendell also). I firmly believe that Pennsylvania should allow Philadelphia the right to regulate usage of firearms within its boundaries, as well as other municipalities in this commonwealth.

And as far as I’m concerned, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel should be leading the call for common-sense gun reforms, and, with the notable exception of Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham, all I hear on that end is the sound of crickets (any reason why Abraham, Evans and Nutter aren't arguing for more guns, if they thought that would ensure the safety of the citizens of Philadelphia, as well as the police to a greater extent than now?).

Also, forget the politicians on this, except Evans and Nutter. Just forget them. The only other person who has any guts at all on this is U.S. House Rep Carolyn Maloney McCarthy of New York, whose husband was killed by the Long Island gunman years ago (and oh yeah, I once came across an Op-Ed in the Inquirer from PA State Representative Senator Daylin Leach in favor of regulating guns from ’07, I think). And the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, of course.

And by the way, don’t even imagine that you’ll be able to leave a comment here supporting gun rights (“criminals don’t obey the law,” “judges should pass harsher sentences,” etc.). The purpose of this post is not to argue pros and cons. That's already occurred on numerous occasions here and at the WP site. I know how I feel and I know how the “pro gun” people feel. I’m not going to change their minds (maybe some discussion about stuff "in the margins" like the Tiahrt Amendment, but that's it), and they sure as hell aren’t going to change mine.

So the next time the media tells us about an incident of gun violence that accidentally takes the life of a promising young scholar or a young cop who is married with three kids and his whole life ahead of him also, just ignore it. There’s no point in shedding tears or feeling any sense of remorse.

It’s just the price tag for living in the United States of America.

Update 6/18/09: And I can hardly wait for John Lott's next Op-Ed in the Inquirer telling us that MORE Uzis would make us safer, in response to this (h/t Atrios).

Update 6/19/09: Progress of a sort anyway (here - registration req'd for this also)...

Update 6/6/11: Thanks for helping the terrorists, wingnuts (here).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Stuff

So Randall Teh-REE is apparently so upset over Judge Sonia Sotomayor that he can’t remember how to pronounce her name…awww, poor widdle thing; take your crying towel with you into the corner, and I’ll send milk and cookies over to you – I’d love to see the Repugs utterly ignore the wise counsel of Jonathan Alter that “demographics is destiny” (and it’s pretty bad when Poppy Bush has to enter the fray and tell everyone who will listen to play nice, but I guess that’s what this is all about)…

...and maybe we'll actually see that big yellow ball in the sky this weekend.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (6/12/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week (I don't have much this week, but here it is).


Family leave. Voting 258-154, the House passed a bill (HR 626) providing federal employees with additional benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The bill would entitle civil servants to four to eight weeks of paid leave to care for a newly born, adopted, or fostered child. Such leave is now available to civil servants without pay. The bill awaits Senate action.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), and Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
I guess the hope here is that states will follow the lead of the feds on this and allow the additional paid time also, but I wouldn’t count on that.

GOP leave plan. Voting 157-258, the House defeated a Republican amendment to strip HR 626 (above) of its new category of paid leave. Instead, federal workers could use accrued sick leave to care for new family members.

A yes vote backed the GOP plan.

Voting yes: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, and Pitts.

Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.

Transportation security. Voting 397-25, the House approved a two-year budget of $15.7 billion for the Transportation Security Administration. The bill (HR 2200) awaits Senate action.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Pitts, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.

Not voting: Adler and Fattah.


Federal tobacco regulation. Voting 84-11, the Senate agreed to take up a House-passed bill (HR 1256) that would begin federal regulation of tobacco products. Under the bill, the Food and Drug Administration would regulate cigarette ingredients; require public disclosure of those ingredients; restrain cigarette marketing to children; require health warnings to cover at least half of each side of a cigarette package; and require manufacturers to verify health claims.

A yes vote was to begin debate.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (D., Pa.).
And here is an update – look for this to be signed into law at long last (and never forget the 1994 sham perpetrated by these white-collar criminals seen below, claiming that cigarettes weren’t addictive when their own studies had been telling them that it was for at least the last 30 years!).

This week, the House debated foreign policy and special aid to Pakistan, while the Senate resumed (and concluded) debate on tobacco regulation. Both chambers were scheduled to vote on a $91.3 billion bill to fund war and foreign affairs through Sept. 30.

Some Friday Funnies (6/12/09)

  • Oh, is Christine Flowers a hoot today, everybody (from here)…

    I DIDN'T kill George Tiller.

    Neither did Bill O'Reilly, Randall Terry, Pope Benedict or the little old lady praying the rosary outside Planned Parenthood.

    So to all of the pro-choice advocates and their sympathizers in the media, drop the collective guilt trip, OK? Because the myth that the pro-life movement bears any responsibility for Tiller's death is on par with the fairy tale that most abortions are performed to protect a woman's health.
    I’ll give Flowers $20 to repeat those very words to workers and patients at a Planned Parenthood clinic of her choice (I live on a low budget – that’s the best I can do).

    And do you want to know the really amusing part? No comments were allowed for a response.


  • Today’s Washington Times (usually referred to as the “Moonie Times” because it’s owned by this guy) tells us this (along with some truly wretched anti-Clinton lies about 9/11, of course)…

    Osama bin Laden, you have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney, and if you cannot afford one, an attorney will be provided. Do you understand these rights?

    Well, we don't.

    During a visit to Afghanistan, Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, witnessed captured foreign fighters being read Miranda warnings. The Justice Department says this is done "to preserve the quality of evidence obtained." The practice began during the Bush years when congressional challenges to the administration's detainee policy required building criminal cases using "clean" evidence that could stand up in U.S. courts.
    OK, now for the reality-based point of view, we have this…

    Any random news article normally prompts wing-nuts to come out and start preaching their shock and outrage if it's something they can use as an attack against the opposing party. In comes the Weekly Standard report that claims that the Obama administration has secretly been mirandizing detainees in Afghanistan.

    Well General Petraeus quickly dismissed that report as false while giving his keynote speech this morning at the Center for a New American Security conference.

    “The real rumor yesterday is whether our forces were reading Miranda rights to detainees and the answer to that is no,” Petraeus said today.
    I guess this is typical for Rogers (pictured), a “closet teabagger,” as noted here (hat tip to the blog "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood").

  • The New York Times gave column space to Iran-Contra criminal and longtime neocon Elliott Abrams today (here), and he told us the following about the elections in Lebanon and Iran (this excerpt pertains to the former)…

    Hezbollah’s inability to win support outside its Shiite base, along with the poor showing of its Christian ally, Gen. Michel Aoun, leaves Sheik Nasrallah diminished and less able to drag Lebanon into another war with Israel. He will play hardball, no doubt, in the negotiations over the next Lebanese government, and he retains the ability to take over downtown Beirut as he did in May 2008. But such displays of power were apparently the exact kind of thing that turned off swing voters — mostly Christians — and Hezbollah now uses them at its political peril.

    We should not idealize Lebanon’s election, nor its politics.
    Gee, do you think that’s the case maybe because of this?

    And yes, I know you can’t really measure the impact of Obama’s speech, but Dubya’s “our way or the highway” rhetoric helped cement the support of Ahmadinejad in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories…just sayin’.

    I guess the part here that’s humorous is the fact that Abrams is considered to have enough foreign policy “cred” to write unbiased on anywhere in the world, particularly a region as full of strife as the one he’s opining on today.

  • And finally, here is an Op-Ed for the L.A. Times written by Bill Maher that I thought was pretty amusing (something legitimately funny…I think Obama is following through in mostly good ways, but Maher makes a point with some of the jibes).

    (And to be briefly serious, I’d like to suggest a “New Rule” for Maher; wingnuts who, by virtue of their written or spoken words as well as their actions, end up providing some flimsy – albeit utterly twisted – rationale for murder aimed at their objects of hate, don’t have any right to blame those with whom they disagree for the horrible, violent outcomes that inevitably ensue…Paul Krugman had a thing or two to say about that here today.)

  • Update: And by the way, do you want to know what else is funny? CNN actually considers the items I highlighted to be news.

    OK, maybe Poppy Bush's skydive is news after all - I'll give you that.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Thursday Stuff

    The festering human sore that is Rush Limbaugh, on display for all to see here, people (more here - and aren't you glad that liberals aren't called cowards or worse, according to Bill Safire?)...

    Update 6/12/09: This is actually better background material than the Haaretz story.

    ...and with all of the murderous nuttiness going on, I suppose it would be easy to overlook this great report by Rachel Maddow on what's also going on with the Iraq (remember the war?) Status of Forces Agreement (and another car bomb - God almighty)...

    ...and I need a bit of a laugh after the last day or so (yes, I know Keller makes a point about the Baghdad bureau, and yes, I respect news professionals, but if the "old gray lady" was dealing straight with us all the time, instead of maybe 75-80 percent, then people like your humble narrator would have to look for something else to do - nice job by Stewart to continue mocking "Morning Joe" over their Starbucks sellout)...

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    End Times
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Political HumorNewt Gingrich Unedited Interview

    ...and I think the video-audio synch is a bit off, but this is still cool.

    The AMA’s Health Care “Rx” – No Good For What Ails You

    This New York Times story tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON — As the health care debate heats up, the American Medical Association is letting Congress know that it will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan, which President Obama and many other Democrats see as an essential element of legislation to remake the health care system.

    The opposition, which comes as Mr. Obama prepares to address the powerful doctors’ group on Monday in Chicago, could be a major hurdle for advocates of a public insurance plan. The A.M.A., with about 250,000 members, is America’s largest physician organization.

    While committed to the goal of affordable health insurance for all, the association had said in a general statement of principles that health services should be “provided through private markets, as they are currently.” It is now reacting, for the first time, to specific legislative proposals being drafted by Congress.
    Anybody remember that old saying about “déjà vu all over again”?

    Because, as noted here…

    Health care would pop up from time to time throughout FDR’s administration, and as recently as 1944 he expressed confidence that it was inevitable, but it never seemed the right time. Moreover, any talk of reform drew furious political pressure from the American Medical Association. Recent improvements in medicine had also made the practice of it very profitable. Despite constant ameliorating language from the White House about the primacy of doctors in making medical decisions, the AMA was dead-set against any comprehensive national health care program. In short, they helped make it never be the right time for health care reform.

    Although (President Harry) Truman’s plan is still considered a “universal” health care plan, it was explicitly optional. By this time, some private insurance options, like the not-for-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield, were widely in use and popular. Similarly, the employer benefit system that we rely so heavily on today had sprouted up during World War II when price controls kept salaries below a certain cap and employers needed other goodies – health benefits – to competitively attract employees. So Truman’s proposal was the first historical precursor of the Obama line, “If you like your coverage, you can keep it.” But whoever wanted to could make a monthly payment into a national pool. The government would pay for medical care for each participant out of the pool and, in the event of lost waged due to illness or injury, would even give a cash payout to the individual.

    The AMA, which had started to throw its weight around in the 1930s, savaged Truman’s plan. In a wide-open fee-for-service market, doctors and specialists could charge what the market would bear. But if 1/3 or 1/2 or more were in the National Health Insurance plan, the program would be able to set standard costs and payments, and the private market would undoubtedly follow. The AMA’s campaign brought up, for the first time, the charge of “socialized medicine,” even though no Communist country had a system like this, and went so far as to declare that the White House was staffed with “followers of the Moscow party line.” Soon, the combination of the Korean War and fierce opposition pushed national health care to the back burner. Truman tried again when he won reelection, but facing an oppositional Congress and continued resistance from the AMA, the plan went nowhere.

    (President John F.) Kennedy’s push (for Medicare) from the bully pulpit of the White House gained momentum from sky high public opinion polls (as high as 69% in favor of Medicare in one Gallup poll) and grand public events like a massive rally and presidential address in May 1962, in front of 20,000 people in Madison Square Garden which was simultaneously broadcast to 20 million TV viewers.

    But private insurers, understandably, resisted the plan. A national benefit for all citizens above 65 meant no customers for them over 65, not to mention a competing model for their business practices. The AMA again rushed to the ramparts, bringing back their taunts of socialized medicine. Two days after JFK’s speech in Madison Square Garden, the president of the AMA also delivered an address rebutting the president’s proposal – and this one was watched by 30 million viewers. Although there was support in the House, there was insufficient support in the Senate, where the cloture vote to cut off debate failed, 52-48.
    The great article from Tim Foley tells us that Medicare and Medicaid eventually passed under LBJ (fought once more by the AMA and the conservative movement, led by their young, dashing matinee idol spokesman, Ronald Reagan). Also, universal coverage came up under Nixon, though his market-driven scheme died under the justifiable protests of labor unions and the emerging Watergate scandal (with nary an outcry from the AMA…surprised?). And the effort by the Clintons is covered as well.

    Basically, despite what the AMA says about single-payer, universal coverage, you can rest assured that they will never support it (too much of an insurance burden, doctors obligated for charges and patient selection, whatever other “boogeyman” you want to concoct – and oh yeah, let’s not forget “socialized medicine,” boys and girls).

    And as far as the supposed $2 trillion in cost savings proposed by the AMA and other industry groups (here)…

    Their vague, pie-in-the sky promise amounts to just a 1.5 percent reduction in the growth rate of health care spending.

    The groups did not spell out yesterday how they plan to reach such a target, and…they offer only a broad pledge, not an outright commitment….In addition, White House officials said, there is no mechanism to ensure that the groups live up to their offer, only the implicit threat of public embarrassment.
    “Public embarrassment” from some of the most shameless people on earth? It is to laugh, my fellow prisoners.

    And as Nate Silver tells us here that…

    You might think that the American Medical Association, which today came out in opposition to a "public option" on comprehensive health care reform, is just a bunch of doctors trying to do what's best for their patients, and that their opposition to the public option is a mere disagreement over details.

    And you'd be wrong. The AMA is not just a bunch of doctors, but among other things an extremely lucrative lobbying organization that has given more than $12 million in campaign contributions to federal candidates since 1998. And since 1998, according to the nonpartisan, some 64 percent of the AMA's donations to federal candidates have been to Republicans -- although 2008, in which the AMA gave 56 percent of its contributions to Democrats, was a notable exception.
    Yes, the AMA donations definitely trend towards the Democrats as of last year, but don’t kid yourself here…

    These aren't particularly moderate Republicans the AMA is donating to either. The leading Senate-side recipient of its campaign contributions since 1998 has been John Ensign of Nevada, to whom the AMA has given $30,000. Ensign is the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. And Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with $20,000 in donations, is in a tie with six other Republicans for second place. By contrast, the AMA has given just $3,000 to Ted Kennedy over this period, $4,000 to former Senator Hillary Clinton, and nothing to Majority Leader Harry Reid. Nor did President Obama or Vice President Biden receive any contributions from the AMA before departing for the White House. The AMA has, however, has given more generously to some other Democrats who are key players in health care reform, like Ron Wyden of Oregon ($12,800) and Max Baucus of Montana ($15,000; Baucus is the leading Senate Democratic recipient of AMA funds).
    But Nick Kristof of the New York Times reminds us here to “keep our eye on the ball,” telling us the story of a lady named Diane Tucker, an American lawyer who moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and ended up suffering a stroke (her only symptom was numbness in her right hand)…

    Scaremongers emphasize the waits for specialists in Canada, and there’s some truth to the stories. After the stroke, Ms. Tucker needed to make a routine appointment with a neurologist and an ophthalmologist to see if she should drive again.

    Initially, those appointments would have meant a two- or three-month wait, although in the end she managed to arrange them more quickly.

    Ms. Tucker underwent three months of rehabilitation, including physical therapy several times a week. Again there was no charge, no co-payment.

    Then, last year, Ms. Tucker fainted while on a visit to San Francisco, and an ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital. But this was in the United States, so the person meeting her at the emergency room door wasn’t a doctor.

    “The first person I saw was a lady with a computer,” she said, “asking me how I intended to pay the bill.” Ms. Tucker did, in fact, have insurance, but she was told she would have to pay herself and seek reimbursement.

    Nothing was seriously wrong, and the hospital discharged her after five hours. The bill came to $8,789.29.

    Ms. Tucker has since lost her job in the recession, but she says she’s stuck in Canada — because if she goes back to the United States, she will pay a fortune for private health insurance because of her history of a stroke. “I’m trying to find another job here,” she said. “I want to stay here because of medical insurance.”
    I cannot imagine a more urgent time than right now to pursue government health insurance including a public plan (and fortunately, by all accounts, President Obama does also). Though I’m sure it won’t work perfectly, it will force insurance companies to contain costs more than ever before (probably impacting doctor charges, but I don’t know how that tradeoff is avoidable given so many in need of coverage).

    And when, God willing, the day comes when Obama signs it into law, the AMA will, at long last, be forced to retire some of the arguments in opposition they have used since 1944.

    Update: Think Progress has more here.

    Update 6/12/09: Didn't see this at The Daily Kos from yesterday...

    Some Words From A "Boomer"

    (And I also posted here.)

    This may be the most self-absorbed post I’ve ever written, and I apologize in advance for doing so, but I feel I have to say something (I have something else I’ll try to finish up later – if nothing else, you can consider this my response in advance to the next column that J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times will surely write on this subject).

    The Murdoch Street Journal here tells us the following…

    In 1969, baby boomers took podiums at college graduations around the country and pledged to redefine the world in their image.

    Forty years later, they have, and now they are apologizing for it. Their collective advice for the class of 2009: Don't be like us.

    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 60 years old, told the graduating class of Butler University last month that boomers have been "self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often just plain selfish."

    New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, 55, told Grinnell College graduates in Iowa that his was "the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts."

    And Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, at 44 barely a boomer himself, told seniors at Colorado College that the national creed of one generation standing on the shoulders of the next was at risk "because our generation has not been faithful enough to our grandparents' example."
    For background purposes, I should tell you that I’m closer to Bennet that Friedman age-wise, so I definitely fall into the boomer demographic. However, I can definitely tell you that a Bush confidant (Daniels), a war-mongering hack columnist trying to reinvent himself as a friend of the earth (Friedman), and a senator from Colorado too chicken to admit his allegiance to the Democratic Party (Bennet – just try finding that information on his Senate web site) do NOT speak for me.

    Like many of you I’m sure, I did reasonably well in school growing up (probably could’ve done better with a subject or two, but there you are), and have thus far lived a pretty much run-of-the-mill life…married, working, helping to raise the young one, covering the bills, paying our taxes, trying to be good neighbors as well as citizens by voting and speaking out in a variety of public forums, to say nothing of political stuff while in college – you get the idea.

    And for whatever it’s worth, I’m holding down a job to the best of my ability while constantly modifying my skill set in line with the needs dictated to me by my employer, all with the threat of our wretched economy looming in the background (hopefully not the foreground). And oh yeah, engaging in whatever family and recreational pursuits that our means allow.

    I could probably be doing more of some things. But I could probably be doing less of other things also (mainly this, truth be told).

    But here is my question; exactly what the hell is it that I’m supposed to apologize for?

    Yes, I could probably be doing more in the way of service, but as far as I’m concerned, anyone who is a parent performs “a day of service” every day when they get out of bed. Yes, I could probably pursue alternatives to my daily commute in my car that could be more energy efficient, but since there’s no reliable mass transit alternative in sight, I don’t see any other choice.

    And yes, I could probably be more confrontational towards people who litter in an attempt to respect our environment, but honking my horn at someone who throws a cigarette butt out the window is as daring as I get (I don’t know who’s “packing” and who isn’t any more – and by the way, I should say once more that we spent a few days in midtown Manhattan towards the end of last month, and there were stretches of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue that we walked that were cleaner than a lot of the Yardley/Lower Makefield area of Bucks County, PA…it’s about taking pride in where you live, people).

    But I’m not the one who, for example, invented something called the “credit default swap” (I’ve read three different explanations of what exactly this thing is supposed to do, and I still don’t get it, which is more than a little scary when you realize that that and overvalued mortgage securities, as well as old-fashioned, pig-headed greed, supposedly rectified by massive shedding of payrolls all over this country, brought our economy to its metaphorical knees – obligatory disclaimer: I’m hardly a financial wizard).

    I’m not the one who said, “deficits don’t matter” on the way to spending this country into debt so severely that, for the last thirty years or so, we’ve had to grovel primarily to the Saudis and the Chinese to finance our government and, thus, our wars.

    I’m not the one who ignored the warnings about oil being a finite resource in the 1970s and failed to pursue alternative sources of energy and design more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    I’m not the one who, as a consequence, ignored global warming. I’m not the one who failed to invest in job-creating research into embryonic stem cells lines that could hold the key to curing diseases and mitigating other bodily afflictions.

    I’m not the one who actually thought it was sound for our economy to encourage the offshoring of our jobs and, thus, the severe degradation of the middle class that built the prosperity that too many of us have taken for granted.

    And I’m sure as hell not the one who thought invading Iraq was a logical response to the 9/11 attacks, which were, first and foremost, an intelligence failure (and I’m also not the one who thought it was a sound, efficient use of our lawmakers time and the taxpayers’ money to launch an inquisition into the affair of a president and an intern, at the expense of, among other things, devoting more resources to the emerging – and legitimate – fight against terrorists in Afghanistan trained by our government in the 1980s).

    Yes, maybe I should drive a few extra miles to shop at Costco instead of Target, but alas, I don’t (thus burning up more gas and contributing more than I might to the aforementioned global warming, which I never questioned after its existence was proved by our scientists).

    And I will grudgingly admit that I also feel that, perhaps for the first time in this country’s history, we are not going to be handing a better standing of living to the generation after us than we inherited.

    But I honestly don’t know what else I could have done to prevent that result.

    I didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush, even (voting for Dukakis was tough, but I did it). And I will admit that I was tricked into supporting Bill Clinton on “free” trade – once. And regarding his successor…well, if I didn’t vote for “41,” do I really need to tell you whether or not I voted for “43”?

    And given everything I just said, I have a message for Daniels, Friedman, and Bennet, and it is merely this.

    I’m a baby boomer also, and I’m not going to apologize for a damn thing.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    "Worst Persons" (Joseph Farah at World Nut Daily accuses K.O. "putting targets on the backs" of people he doesn't like, among other alleged misdeeds - that would be laughable under ordinary circumstances, but it's in particularly bad taste given the shooting at the Holocaust Museum today; and speaking of that tragedy, Flush Limbore mentions the supposed mystery of Obama's birth certificate - this is really old, people - and then, an hour later, the shooting takes place allegedly by a white supremacist who believed the same thing; but Michele Bachmann takes it for reasons that give me more of a headache than usual with her, so I'll just let Keith describe it..."economists," huh? I knew Paul Krugman was powerful, but not THAT powerful)...

    ...and this song fits more than usual today.

    Wednesday Mashup (6/10/09)

    Not a lot going on here, but just some stuff I wanted to highlight…

  • The drip, drip, drip from the bad Bushco days continues, as the New York Times tells us here…

    WASHINGTON — So far, President Obama has managed to curb Congressional calls for a national commission to investigate Bush administration detention policies. But Mr. Obama cannot control the courts, and lawsuits are turning out to be the force driving disclosures about brutal interrogations.

    In new responses to lawsuits, the C.I.A. has agreed to release information from two previously secret sources: statements by high-level members of Al Qaeda who say they have been mistreated, and a 2004 report by the agency’s inspector general questioning both the legality and the effectiveness of coercive interrogations.

    The Qaeda prisoners’ statements, made at tribunals at the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were previously excised from transcripts of the proceedings, but they will be at least partly disclosed by this Friday, according to a court filing. The report by the inspector general, whose secret findings in April 2004 led to a suspension of the C.I.A. interrogation program, will be released by June 19, the Justice Department said in a letter to a federal judge in New York.
    It’s silly for us to assume that we can control the pictures showing or words describing our past misdeeds on the Now And Forever You Godless Socialist Liburuul War On Terra! Terra! Terra!

    The trickle will turn into a flood. And anyone who doesn’t recognize that, including President Obama, is a fool.

  • And by the way, meet our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin’s next victim (here)…

    MOSCOW — The president of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, who has hung on by his fingernails through repeated periods of friction with the Kremlin, pushed his luck last week when he gave a scathing interview to a Moscow newspaper, charging that Russia’s political institutions were “embarrassing to look at” and that the country “is walking away from the process of democratization.”

    Murtaza G. Rakhimov, 75, who has led Bashkortostan, an energy-rich southwestern region, since 1990, complained in Friday’s edition of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that leaders in Moscow had recreated the top-down, one-party rule that had prevailed during the Soviet Union.

    “Right now, everything is decided from above,” Mr. Rakhimov told the newspaper. “The level of centralization is worse than it was in Soviet times. With respect to local people, they carry out a policy of distrust and disrespect.”

    He went on to attack United Russia, the governing party led by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, for trying to subjugate homegrown leaders. Mr. Rakhimov was one of United Russia’s founders, and remains a member of its executive council.

    “Excuse me, but the basis of a party should be formed from below,” he said. “The people trying to run this party have never commanded three chickens.”
    Anyone care to bet how long it takes before iodine turns up in his bloodstream, as if by some dark sorcery, or he “accidentally” falls out of a building?

  • Also, today marks the signoff of Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli; he will return to Cerebrus Capital Management, as noted here in a copy of his farewell letter.

    However, the following should be noted (from here)…

    Of course, Chrysler was damaged goods before Nardelli arrived. Still, it's hard to hear Nardelli say that, after bankruptcy, it is now the "appropriate time to let others take the lead in the transformation of Chrysler with Fiat." Apparently, he was good enough to drive the automaker into bankruptcy, but he can't tow it out.

    For market analysts, Nardelli's consecutive losing turns (Home Depot before Chrysler) could signal the end of an era where CEOs spend more time in front of a camera than behind closed doors.

    "When you look at CEOs, we've gotten to the point where they've become stars," Hinsdale's Nolte said. "If you go back 30 years and try to name a corporate CEO, you wouldn't have had a clue. They did a lot of other things behind the scenes that weren't noteworthy or pressworthy. They've become more PR people now, I think, than true managers."

    If analogies work best, Nardelli's journey isn't much unlike that of a sports manager or coach who gets recycled by several professional teams, yet doesn't have much success in the position. Think Wade Phillips, Dusty Baker, Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Rick Carlisle or Don Nelson.

    Just as football fans are worried which team will hire Herm Edwards now, should we dare ask who will see value in Nardelli next?

    "He's gone from diversified industrial to retail to autos. The only thing he hasn't touched is health care and technology," Nolte joked. "Maybe an airline."
    Actually, if Nardelli decides to walk away from Cerebrus, maybe he could get a job with Comcast’s customer service department, helping to “manage” the resolution of issues such as those noted here (and wouldn’t it be nice if he brought his “reverse Midas touch,” if you will, to an organization that truly deserves it?).

  • Finally, I give you Senate Repug Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who tells us here that…

    …reductions (to President Obama's NASA budget proposal), which total $650.6 million, were "destructive." The biggest proposed reduction made by the House Appropriations Committee is a $566.5 million cut from Obama's request for space exploration funding.

    …Hutchison said that waiting to fund the NASA program would lead to layoffs and hurt one of the country's advantages over other countries.

    "Having people in space is how we have come so far and have really been able to dominate space," she said.
    I don’t begrudge Hutchison standing up for NASA here in 2009, but I would merely like to note the following from 2006 (here)…

    We hope Sen. Hutchison has abandoned the proposition that puts national security at risk of inviting Chinese investment in our space program to offset part of budget tightening. Her misplaced priorities have forced belt tightening in the wrong place for NASA, Texas, and science on earth: cuts in the studying of what NASA learns in space has led to what experts dub "space tourism" and a change in the NASA mission statement to eliminate learning about the earth in which we live.

    Sen. Hutchison should acknowledge that, in her continued criticism of the federal government, she is Texas' senior representative in the federal government. She claims she has tremendous power on the appropriations committee. Yet, after 13 plus years and senate seniority from Texas, she's been unable to bring home government spending in fair proportion for Texas.
    Funny how unofficially running for governor tends to alter one’s perspective on these matters, doesn’t it?

  • Update 6/15/09: Not unofficial any more (here)...

    Some Remodeling Suggestions For Operation Rescue

    This story tells us the following…

    TOPEKA, Kan. — The group that tried for years to put slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller out of business is interested in buying his now-closed clinic in Wichita, its president said, but an attorney for the doctor rejected the idea as a publicity stunt.

    Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said that his group has discussed the idea of buying the tan, windowless clinic in east Wichita. He made the comment after the Tiller family announced Tuesday that the clinic would be closed permanently.

    "I would love to make an offer on that abortion clinic, and that's some of the discussion that we're having," Newman said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his group's headquarters in Wichita.
    Here are some suggestions that I believe Newman should pursue after he purchases what was formerly the clinic on behalf of Operation Rescue (and despite what Tiller family attorney Dan Monnat said in the story – and based on this also – I believe this is a lot more than a publicity stunt by Newman; it sounds like he has the means to actually do it, a pathetic commentary I know)…

  • Create a separate viewing area to watch Bill O’Reilly and his fellow miscreants at Fix Noise as they implore that such-and-such a doctor or nurse is a “baby killer” and accuses them of tactics used by Nazi Germany (or whatever the most popular type of defamation is at the moment).

  • Provide a shooting range (or, at the very least, a video game simulating this activity) that would properly train Newman’s supporters if they attempted to shoot a medical provider in that person’s house of worship so as not to accidentally kill other congregants in the process (yes, I know we’re referencing a legal matter in which Newman and his group claims innocence).

  • Stock something along the lines of a kindergarten playroom full of crayons and water color paints so all of Newman’s followers have all they need to make scary looking posters with all-capitalized letters saying “KILLER,” “ABORTION” and “MURDER” (maybe some of those more artistically inclined could conjure up images of dead babies).

  • Set aside a workspace full of PCs with Internet access so anyone who chooses to do so can send angry Emails and leave nasty blog comments to web sites that give sympathetic treatment to a woman’s right to choose (which, despite all of this, still remains the law of the land, let’s not forget).
  • I mean, hey, if you’re going to be a dangerous, hateful demagogue, then you should be given the “tools to succeed,” right?

    (I’m officially removing my tongue from my cheek now - and by the way, what Digby sez here.)

    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    And would you believe that the New York Times actually reviewed this idiot's act the other day (which I guess was a public service when you think about it)? He needs an intervention instead of an audience...

    ...and RIP, Kenny Rankin.

    Tuesday Mashup (6/9/09)

  • As a follow up to this post yesterday, I thought this was a great Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer today (here)…

    I strongly disagree with Michael Smerconish that adding video cameras in aircraft cockpits will provide more data than black boxes ("Flights need 21st century technology in cockpit," Sunday).

    I also disagree with his assertion that the video from the cameras can be streamed to airline home bases in real time. Simply because it is possible to stream video over cell phones does not mean it can be done with fast-moving airplanes without ticket prices going through the roof.

    The flight data recorder of modern aircraft like the Airbus A330 already records aircraft speed, engine speed, position of control surfaces, and many other critical parameters.

    In addition, the cockpit voice recorder provides the conversations of the pilots. While video may show the movements of the pilots, it will not provide any more aircraft performance parameters needed for accident investigations.

    If Smerconish wants to improve aircraft safety, he should write to his congressman and demand faster implementation of GPS tracking of aircraft.

    If this technology were in place, we would now know the location of Air France Flight 447, and would be working on locating the flight recorders.

    Gerry Harris
    Garnet Valley, (PA?)
    And in a related note, this post tells us about the confirmation hearing for FAA administrator-designate J. Randolph Babbitt and DOT deputy secretary-designate John Porcari on May 19th (interesting stuff, I thought).

  • This post from April described how important it is that a new Director of the Census be confirmed as expediently as possible.

    And if you guessed that that person was bound to be filibustered by “The Party of No,” well then, you get to go hunting with “Deadeye Dick” Cheney (I’d suggest full body armor).

    As noted here…

    WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans are blocking a vote on the nomination of Robert Groves to be the Census Bureau's director, leaving the agency without a leader less than a year before the 2010 nationwide head count.

    Dr. Groves, President Barack Obama's pick to lead the bureau, was approved easily by the Senate homeland-security committee in May, but Republicans blocked a confirmation vote last week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Republicans weren't yet in agreement on the nominee.

    It is unclear why Republicans are blocking the vote. A McConnell spokeswoman, Jennifer Morris, said she had no information on the delay.

    Dr. Groves, director of the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center and a former Census Bureau official, has raised concerns among mainly Republican lawmakers because he is an expert in sampling, the use of statistical adjustments to compensate for undercounted populations. Dr. Groves has said he won't use the practice for the 2010 count.
    You gotta love the Repugs, boys and girls – they’ll never take “Yes” for an answer (and by the way, here is more "fun" with Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao from today, and here is a prior slap-down of the speaker in question as noted by Think Progress).

    As noted in the April post, the Repugs favor the information-gathering method referred to as “straight enumeration,” which, as the post tells us, isn’t “straight” at all; it includes tricks such as double-counting families with two homes or college students with two residences, who trend Republican. The method Dr. Groves favored (which he has said he wouldn’t use), “used survey sampling techniques to validate not just the overall count but the individual demographic sub-groups that the census’s enumeration process would identify” (as noted in the April post, a hat tip goes out to Morley Winograd for this information – he conducted the 2000 census for Al Gore).

    The “sample supplemented census” used by Prof. Groves in 2000 thus would do a much better job of capturing population data among individuals who are more prone to “fall through the cracks,” and who, more often than not, vote Democratic (and it would also make the case more thoroughly than any pundit ever could that the incomes and overall standard of living for the majority of the people of this country has slipped substantially during this decade, under primarily Repug “governance”).

    Hence the cowardly Senate “hold” put on Dr. Groves’ nomination (and I thought “the world’s greatest deliberative body” got rid of such an adolescent procedure...more fool me, I guess).

  • This article in the New York Times magazine by pundit-in-psuedo-retirement Bill Safire (a related post is here - check the third item) tells us the following...

    Accepting the Democratic nomination in a huge football stadium way back in the presidential campaign of ’08, Senator Barack Obama displayed his oratorical talent by using one of his favorite tried-and-true devices in argument: “Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country!”

    Who was telling him that? To be sure, his opponents were claiming that a Republican administration would be stronger on defense, but nobody was telling him or the voters that Democrats preferred abject surrender.
    This is almost too easy, people.

    See, Bill, I used that Google thingie to track down some information that proves conclusively that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

    Democrats/liberals/progressives are routinely smeared and ridiculed in that vein. And here are just a few examples…

  • Turd Blossom himself tells us here that, “liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.”

  • Lead Petty Officer and Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of the book “Lone Survivor,” used the phrase, “a f--ing liberal, a half-assed, no-logic nitwit, all heart, no brain, and the judgment of a jackrabbit” (here – nice guy).

  • Pundit Ben Smith of Drudgico said here that that Fix Noise can "confirm to its viewers that Democrats are ... cowards" after the leading presidential party contenders at that time ducked one of their debates (oh, but it was tongue-in-cheek and no one would EVER take it seriously…riiiiight).
  • And Safire also comments on a “straw man” column that I rebutted earlier here, which leads me to believe that, based on this, he should automatically be disqualified from writing about this subject ever again.
  • Monday, June 08, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    "Still Bushed" (I swear, I don't think we'll ever stop having to deal with this crap one way or another...if you thought the contractor recordkeeping under Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History was utterly nonexistent...well, you're right, but think again anyway; and Ok, so we give our former pal Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan $7 bil to fight al Qaeda, and he uses a lot of the money to build weapons systems to threaten India - guess P.M. taught Dubya a thing or two about "bait and switch" here for a change; and Keith tells us the story of plaintiff in the Boumediene v. Bush case - somebody else who got rounded up for no good reason, by all accounts)...

    ...and I don't know how much of a parallel you can draw between K.O.'s clip and this vid, but all I know is that I like it because it rocks.

    Fly The Spying Skies On Smerky Airlines

    (And I also posted here.)

    In his column yesterday, intrepid Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Michael Smerconish leads off with the following…

    Drivers today don't make a move without receiving instruction from their GPS. Kids communicate face-to-face using iChat on their laptops. Nobody leaves home without a BlackBerry. We read books on the Kindle, watch movies in the car, and buy music from our cell phones.
    Smerky must live in the “high rent” district; I know plenty of people, including your humble narrator, who don’t own one of the latest doodads he just described (though I could download a ring tone to my cell phone, to be honest, but I’m not sure what the reaction would be if “Secret Agent Man,” for example, started playing in the event that I were to accidentally leave my cell on and receive a call while meeting a client).

    But the real point he’s trying to make here is that video cameras should be installed in the cockpits of planes, in the wake of the tragic Brazilian air liner crash in the Atlantic a few days ago.


    According to Arthur Wolk, the nation's preeminent aviation expert and lawyer, the technological capability is there, but the support of the union that represents U.S. pilots isn't.

    "The problem is the pilots unions have objected to that because they say that then the companies will be looking over the pilots' shoulders to make sure that they haven't exceeded any of the airplanes' capabilities," he said.

    "To me, it makes common sense that we need to get rid of those old bugaboos and we need to start having real-time transmission of both flight data and cockpit voice."

    The National Transportation Safety Board began advocating in earnest for cockpit video recordings in 1999, after the crash of EgyptAir 990. Traveling from New York to Cairo, Flight 990 crashed 60 miles south of Nantucket Island. The NTSB led the U.S. investigation and concluded in March 2002 that the crash occurred "as a result of the relief first officer's (RFO) flight control inputs." Experts consulting for the Egyptian effort, meanwhile, put forth a series of mechanical failures they believed had felled the aircraft.

    The plane's flight data recorder revealed that the autopilot was turned off - as were both engines - when the plane went down. The cockpit voice recorder, meanwhile, caught the RFO rhythmically repeating the phrase "I rely on God" almost a dozen times as the captain returned from a bathroom break demanding, "What's happening?" A video, the NTSB argued, would have gone a long way toward detailing exactly what occurred.
    Smerky, by the way, says something to the effect of the recovery crew in the Atlantic looking for a cassette tape “in the age of the iPod” – I would argue that the sophistication of the available technology is not the only issue here (and I really don’t understand what the video of a lunatic muttering “I rely on God” would have done to prevent the tragedy of Flight 990, when all video will do is allow you the utterly horrific experience of watching tragedy unfold without being able to prevent it).

    And given that we’re talking about Smerky and airline safety both in the same post, you just KNOW what’s coming next, don’t you?

    …we need look no further than the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to know how valuable cockpit image recordings could be when combined with the video and data recordings every plane already produces.

    The black boxes from American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175, which hit the twin towers, were never recovered. The voice recorder from American Flight 77, which pierced the Pentagon, was too damaged to yield any useful information.

    And while we've heard the audio recording of the moments leading up to United Flight 93's crash in Shanksville, nobody knows for sure what actually happened between 9:58 a.m., when the passengers launched their counterattack, and 10:03 a.m., when the plane hit the ground at more than 500 m.p.h.
    I have to tell you that, In a really twisted way, I’m actually glad Smerky brought this up, because it gives me an excuse to link to this typically thorough post from Len Hart on the subject of the 9/11 attacks (I’ve read through most of it and plan to again so I can digest it all).

    Here’s what I’m wondering about, though. Suppose, God forbid, someone plans to do something terrible on an aircraft. What’s to prevent them from storming the cockpit and shooting out the camera?

    And another thing: if you’re going to photograph what’s going on, photograph everything. This notion of “well, we won’t photograph the faces of the flight crew for privacy concerns” is a joke. Are you planning to scramble their voices for privacy concerns also?

    (Note: I’m not unsympathetic to privacy concerns. I’m just saying that it’s ridiculous to say you’ll do this and only go half way.)

    But here’s another factor Smerky didn’t tell us about (from here)…

    …one reason pilots oppose image recorders is that such promises were broken after they agreed to the introduction of cockpit voice recorders in the 1960s, the Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement submitted to the board.

    Pilots had been told the tapes would be used for accident investigations only and wouldn't be publicly disclosed. But in 1989, a 6 o'clock news program played the cockpit voice recorder from Delta Flight 1141, which crashed on takeoff in Dallas. The crew and passengers survived.

    Though laws were subsequently passed that limited the use of cockpit voice recordings, they are still used against pilots in criminal proceedings and disciplinary actions by employers, the statement said.

    Airlines are skeptical of the cameras. They want a cost-benefit analysis done first before they have to pay for the devices.
    So the airlines don’t want the cameras either (or, at least, they don’t want to pay for them)?

    I’ll tell you what – this New York Times article tells us about the horrifically low pay and brutal hours of personnel manning our commuter flights, written shortly after the crash of Flight 3047 outside Buffalo. It also tells us the following…

    The renewed worries over commuter planes come as passenger airlines, regional and mainline, have achieved unprecedented levels of safety. Passenger deaths per million flights are down by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years. The 49 people on board the Buffalo flight were the first in 30 months to die during a scheduled flight on a passenger carrier.

    But of the six scheduled passenger flights that have crashed since Sept. 11, 2001, only one has been from a major carrier. Four, including the one in Buffalo, were commuter flights; a total of 133 people died on those flights. (The fifth, a 50-year-old seaplane in Miami, was in neither category.)

    The Federal Aviation Administration, while it enforces one set of safety standards, says it does not know how the safety of the commuter airlines compares to the safety of the big carriers. It is working on that question because of…planned Senate hearings.
    And as far as those personnel charged with plane safety on the ground are concerned, this tells us the following…

    The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union that represents those who "move tin," says some facilities are critically understaffed, causing delays and increasing the possibility of mistakes by tired controllers working 10-hour days and six-day weeks.

    "Without a doubt, I would say this rubber band has been stretched as far as it's going to go and it's not a matter of whether it's going to break, but when it's going to break," said Hamid Ghaffari, president of the union's Pacific region.
    So it sounds to me as if the issue of plane safety, despite some wonderful numbers as a result of the hard work of dedicated professionals, is something we need to monitor carefully; if you’re going to pinch pennies, so to speak, don’t do it to the point where you’ll later regret it while at an altitude of 30,000 feet or higher.

    And by the way, when it comes to stressed-out individuals responsible for our lives as we travel here, there and everywhere, never forget the “contribution” of this guy to the whole mess, as noted here.