Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Mashup (11/22/10)

  • From the false equivalency file, I give you the following from John Harwood in the New York Times today, on the ascent of The Orange One to “the big chair” in the U.S. House (here, comparing a former House Speaker and one who is about to relinquish the role)…

    Mr. Gingrich’s deliberately provocative style and intellectual intensity made him a magnet for opposition attacks; so does Ms. Pelosi’s profile as a wealthy, stylish woman from the liberal bastion of San Francisco.
    Oh, please…

    I’ll tell you what, Harwood – let me know when Pelosi tries to spread the lie that Obama is a Muslim (and yes, I know that is already waay too old) here (part of Gingrich’s history of bigoted remarks here), or that spending on food stamps doesn’t stimulate the economy (here), or suggests that Elena Kagan withdraw from the Supreme Court because she supposedly opposed military recruiters at Harvard Law School, which happens to be an utter lie (mentioned here)...oh, and let’s not forget Gingrich’s call for a space-based air traffic control system here – let me know if Pelosi starts pulling stuff like this, OK?

    At least Harwood mentioned that Gingrich was responsible for the last government shutdown we experienced in 1995 (with possibly another on the way if this wretched incoming Congress makes good on its sickening boasts).

  • And speaking of this incoming bunch of miscreants, I give you more Courier Times stenography from Gary Weckselblatt here, lapping up whatever supposed pearls of wisdom are dispensed from Mikey Fitzpatrick.

    One of Mikey’s ideas is to “make existing tax rates permanent,” which is Republican-ese for keeping Dubya’s tax cuts in place for everyone including the “pay no price, bear no burden” investor class that has utterly had its way in this country for at least the last 10 years. Problem is, though, that, when polled, this country overwhelmingly rejects tax cuts for the rich, as noted here (and of course, Weckselblatt fails to try and get Fitzpatrick to explain how keeping Bush’s tax cuts in place lowers the deficit – it adds more red ink, of course).

    (And let’s be serious for a minute, OK? With all of the stinking tax cuts handed out over the last 10 years, if they had really produced the desired effect of job creation, wouldn’t we now have more jobs than we would know what to do with?)

    Also, Mikey wants to “roll back spending to 2008 pre-stimulus levels.” In that case, say goodbye to Pell grants, as noted here.

    Continuing, Fitzpatrick says that “he clearly want(s) to assist small businesses in the district,” which is interesting when you consider that he had the chance to support the Keystone Opportunity Industrial Zone (KOIZ) initiative and voted against it twice as a Bucks County Commissioner (here....and Mikey just loves those clean-energy jobs going to China, as noted here).

    And does Mikey support “tort reform” (I guess “liability reform” is the new, Frank Luntz-approved language)? You’d better believe it, even though, as noted here, "tort reforms have not led to health care cost savings for consumers" according to the December (’08) issue of Health Sciences Review….

    "It's had a really small effect, or else it doesn't seem to change defensive medicine," said Michael Morrisey, a professor of health economics and health insurance and the director of the (University of Alabama’s) Lister Hill Center for Health Policy.
    Fitzpatrick also rants as follows…

    "The bill contains 19 new taxes, fees and cuts to existing programs. Everything from medical devices to real estate sales to existing health plans are taxed to pay for this plan. This is a tax bill, not a health care bill. It does nothing to increase the quality of care."
    In the matter of medical devices, the following should be noted from here (from Medtronic, a company directly affected by the medical devices tax)…

    The excise tax on medical devices now included in the law was reduced from $60 billion to $20 billion over 10 years. It provides for a 2013 start date to coincide with coverage expansion; it will be a conventional excise tax with full deductibility; and it will cover all product classes with the exception of retail products like contact lenses and possibly many diabetes supplies, including continuous glucose monitors, which we manufacture. The impact of the tax, we estimate, will be roughly $150 to $200 million on Medtronic annually beginning in 2013. We have no immediate plans to eliminate jobs at Medtronic as a result of the device tax or health care reform. We accept our shared fiscal responsibility for coverage expansion, and are very appreciative of our constituent members of Congress from Minnesota and Indiana, in particular, for having significantly tempered the size, distribution and timing of the tax.

    In addition to the tax, the bill also includes some positive changes like uniform federal standards for disclosure transfers of value to physicians for product development and training, something Medtronic has long supported. Relationships between physicians and companies like ours help fuel innovation and advance patient care. Also, the new law calls for the creation of a national body to study and compare the clinical effectiveness of widely used medical therapies. This research is designed to help patients and health care practitioners better understand which therapies work best for which patients.

    We will stay engaged as the new law is implemented to ensure our ability to remain innovative and shape our business and our therapies to compete in this new environment.
    And as part of the discussion of what is generally favored versus what is opposed in the health care law, Ezra Klein tells us the following here; Fitzpatrick opposes the “individual mandate,” which I’ll admit is unpopular, but I think the following should be noted from here…

    Since only people who earn income above the filing limit and for whom health insurance premiums are less than 8% of income are covered by the penalty, I would expect that most of the people who might get hit by the penalty will be independent contractors and self-employed individuals—farmers, ranchers, lawyers, accountants, movie script writers, consultants, etc. Most of these people have complicated taxes and probably will 1.) want health insurance, and 2.) prefer to keep their heads down with the IRS. If you are filing a hundred-page tax return, the last thing you want to do is to throw up a red flag in the face of the IRS.

    This is, in fact, going to be a non-problem, and certainly is not a problem yet. A few tea party types will want to pick a fight with the IRS, and the IRS will ignore them, or catch them on something totally unrelated.
    (As of now, it looks like anyone not purchasing health insurance by 2014 is on the hook for a fine of either $695 or 2.5 percent of annual income, whichever is greater. And while that tends to get us ”bent out of shape” I’ll admit, I wonder how much of this wailing and gnashing of teeth a certain Willard Mitt Romney had to deal with when, as guv of Massachusetts, he implemented the same thing, as noted here).

    Mikey also says he would “(cancel) unspent stimulus funds,” which, as I noted here when Pat Toomey said the same thing, basically means a tax increase since most of what is unspent at this point is tax credits.

    When dealing with Mikey, it really is impossible to answer all of his evasions, half-truths and outright lies in a single blog post like this. However, what I’ve managed to do here is at least better than what Weckselblatt did, which was nothing.

    If this is what passes for an acceptable work of journalism fit for publication in the Courier Times, then Weckselblatt really should do the honorable thing and resign and apply for a job at Pottery Barn, where at least he could learn a somewhat marketable skill.

    Update: And by the way, Mikey pledged to limit himself to four terms in the article - I seemed to recall that this guy made a term-limit pledge too.

  • Update 11/23/10: OK, I really don’t feel like saying this many more times, so I’ll try to say this in as few words as possible:

    The Repugs will never care about the issues that matter. They don’t care about actual governance because they stink at it. They will always be trying to concoct “values” issues or some other diversion to get people to look the other way while they shower still more money and perks on their true base, the investor class, as noted here.

    And that goes for Mikey in spades; he talks jobs of course, but if legislation he supports actually creates a single job, it will be his first (his No vote here is typical...and of course, God forbid that Weckselblatt and the Courier Times would point that out).

  • I would like to conclude by noting that today of course marks the 47 anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX, in an event which, though timelessly horrific unfortunately, seems to have faded a bit in our collective memory (I'm going to "go meta" here a bit - consider yourself warned).

    It doesn’t make me happy to say that, and I’d be happy to see someone prove me wrong of course, but this thought came to my mind as I watched the young one play “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” which is brand new from Activision and (according to this review in the New York Times) shattered the one-day record of video game sales when it debuted a couple of weeks ago.

    The connection to President Kennedy is that this game takes place during the Cold War of the early 1960s, and there are game renderings of Fidel Castro and Robert McNamara, among others, as well as recurring characters from what I guess you would call the “Call of Duty” franchise.

    (OK, before I say another word, let me provide the obligatory mea culpa here. The “Call of Duty” games are extremely violent and profanity is thrown around liberally, you might say. They are rated “M” for a reason, which is sort of between “PG” and “R” when comparing them to movies for the uninitiated. We monitor the young one’s usage carefully here, but he is of an age where we believed that he could handle the gaming experience. And oh yes, all of his friends in the neighborhood play “Call of Duty” games also. We have said to him that there is a lot of interesting history to learn from that period, and I’m sure he’ll learn much of it one day, and we would be happy to help him with that. Aside from that, I don’t know what else there is to do but to trust him and make sure he doesn’t overdo it.)

    Finally (I know), allow me to make the exact connection; there is a game setting where, after you complete a certain level and execute the mission, you get the chance to kill zombie characters who have apparently invaded the Pentagon while assuming the role of either JFK, Richard Nixon, McNamara or Castro (in the JFK setting, the zombie-hunting character speaks with the clipped diction of our 35th president, dispatching the invaders while reciting game commands or variations on his most famous phrases).

    Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong here (and I’ll be honest – I should apply this standard to Nixon also, but somehow I don’t think his words moved a generation as those of Kennedy once did).

    This is partly why I’m afraid that the impact of not just JFK, but some of our other most famous figures in public life, have become immersed in some kind of pop-culture flotsam that may one day make them indistinguishable from, say, Ralph Nader, Bon Jovi, Ralph Lauren, Tiny Tim, or – God forbid – Sarah Palin!

    If you have a minute or two today, please take a minute and do some Googling on JFK to refresh your memory if you’re inclined to do so. Or, if you prefer to shut off the computer, give those Internet tubes a rest and, Heaven forefend, read a book about him, you will have my thanks.

  • Update 11/23/10: As usual, I struggle for the words, but they flow from Bob Herbert like poetry (here).

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