Friday, May 30, 2014

Enjoy History Of Science? Here's A Book For You

Forbes, Nancy; Mahon, Basil. Faraday, Maxwell and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics. New York: Prometheus Books, 2014.

You think the subject is old stuff. You think you know the subject pretty well. You studied the subject in physics class 1966-1968 and most of the seminal research took place in the 19th century.

You spot this book on the "New Books" shelf at the library. You yawn. You shrug and check it out anyway.

Then you read it and you're blown away...

Seriously: this is popular science writing at its best.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


(glock!), expletive, onomatopoeic — a sound made in the throat of an individual who realizes for the first time that his next-door apartment neighbor owns and plays with a loaded high-powered semiautomatic pistol capable of firing through walls, some furniture, and said neighbor, with possibly catastrophic consequences. Often spoken of young stark-raving lunatic California gun nuts who harbor veritable arsenals in their apartments. Sometimes spoken only once, or not at all, if neighbor is unlucky.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou (1928 — 2014)

Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, late 1950s
(photo Chuck Stewart via USA Today)
Poet and activist Maya Angelou died this morning. She was 86. I first became aware of her when she read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's inauguration, but her life encompassed far more than the works that made her famous.

Civil rights activist, actor and playwright, club entertainer, and occasionally author banned from library shelves (always a high honor in my opinion), Angelou had more to say than many of the rest of us, and said it so very, very finely. See the wiki.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

From ‘This Cannot Be So’ To ‘This Is How Our Army Treats Its Battle‑Damaged Troops’: The Fort Hood Testimonies

This article by Kevin Gosztola at FDL is so nearly unbelievable that I read it twice to make sure I understood as many of the particulars as I could. There is no "short version"; please read the whole thing, and whether or not you are a veteran of the US military; no matter how bad your "outrage fatigue" may be... if you are an American citizen, prepare to be outraged.

The only summary I can offer is this: many if not most of the promises made to our troops as they rotate through an unbelievable number of deployments in war zones are blatantly and willfully not fulfilled by their commanding officers, by the command hierarchy all the way up to the President, by the Department of Defense and by the VA (which, in fairness, does not have independent discretion). We may think of the era of the disposable soldier and of deplorable treatment of combat veterans as having begun with the era of Cheney, Rumsfeld et al, and indeed that is possible... but never forget that the most unconscionable, despicable practices, e.g., disciplining and discharging soldiers for their battle-induced disabilities, are systemic, and continue to this very day.

These findings and associated analysis (.pdf, 42pp) were extracted from the report issued by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Civilian-Soldier Alliance, and Under the Hood Cafe and Outreach Center, in Killeen, Texas. The Findings and Analysis section begins as follows:
The testimonies herein concern Fort Hood—as the country’s largest Army installation; as a place that experienced high deployment and redeployment rates throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; as a post with a notoriously under-resourced and over-taxed mental health care and service infrastructure; and as a community grappling with the effects of those shortfalls. But the Fort Hood testimonies also concern something much broader—the Army’s attempt to hold down combat and counterinsurgency operations in two theaters with volunteer forces over the course of a decade; the long legacy of multiple deployments; and the ongoing health care needs of a generation of veterans on whose labor and bodies these wars have depended.
This section is not a long document, but it is a difficult read... you may want to wait to read it until you are in a calm frame of mind.

There is no justification for this maltreatment of the men and women who volunteer to protect us and in doing so often sacrifice their health for the rest of their lives. And yet the maltreatment clearly represents the premeditated policies of two presidential administrations and of two political parties, led by people many of whom never served in the military. America needs to take a good, hard look at these policies, and Americans need to know enough about them to feel the justified outrage. On this day after Memorial Day, we can do no less for those who protect and defend us.

"War is hell," with or without such policies, and that probably cannot be changed. But our leaders have arranged things so that peace after war is also hell for our battle-damaged and administratively maltreated troops, and it is an obligation of the highest order to rectify that obscenity.

Claiming 'Freedom Of Speech,' Anti-Choice Zealots Continue To Intimidate, Threaten Patients, Medical Professionals, Staff At Women's Clinics

A great reminder... unfortunately
for Americans, she is in London
This has been going on for decades. And there are no signs I can see that the law enforcement and judicial systems are making even the least serious move to put a stop to the blatantly illegal activities of the fringe of the "pro-life" movement: they call themselves "pro-life" in much the same way Orwell wrote about a "Ministry of Truth." Please read what a practicing physician trying to provide health care to women, including poor women, has to say about the state of things.

A couple of memories from my own more active days in behalf of the local Planned Parenthood:

  • One day I went to the clinic to install the latest version of some software I developed for use by Planned Parenthood. The clinic stank something awful: someone had tossed a stink-bomb through the window the night before. The smell lingered several more days.

  • An incident with a local ABC TV "reporter" covering a clinic protest convinced me of how deeply dishonest the "pro-life" cabal can be: the clinic was surrounded by supporters linking arms to prevent protesters from crashing the clinic and disrupting medical services (which they had attempted before); the "reporter," himself Hispanic and I presume Catholic, rammed his camera crew straight through the protective circle, thereby letting the protesters into the building. "Reporter," my f^<kin' a$$!
I do not see any way this can end to the advantage of women and the benefit of their health. I DO see a large number of women dying as they are deprived of their one source of reproductive health care. The anti-choice zealots are the true murderers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Three Laws Of Something-Or-Other

David Swanson at FDL discusses The Three Laws of Pentagon Robotics:
   Actually, this one plays ping-pong...
The notion of a Pentagon-devised Three Laws of Robotics should be very disturbing, especially to the tech-minded among you. Asimov did not miss the point when he devised the traditional Three Laws.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Climate Change: The Ultimate WMD

Tom Engelhardt at (originally at TomDispatch) explains how all the efforts to avoid the world's major national powers' use of nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons in wars, wars which would unleash "nuclear winter" or worse, are in vain... if those same major nations extract and burn all the fossil fuels to which they (most certainly including the US) have access.

We are close enough to a tipping point that it may already be impossible to stave off significant global climate change in the coming century... but there seems to be insufficient political will to quite literally save the planet. 
The basics of global climate change
This is really fairly simple, outright do-or-die. And so far... we aren't doing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

"The Times They Aren't A-Changin'" — Wild Bill Bailout (Dave Lippman) Rides Again

The inimitable Dave Lippman updates a venerable Dylan song to suit our Times... the New York Times, that is. Go and appreciate this master of parody as he tells us The Times They Aren't A-Changin'. Ah, yes, there's no one like "Wild Bill Bailout"!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Democratic Primary Runoff

It's underway right now. Early voting today (5/22) and tomorrow (5/23); Election Day is 5/27. Harris County residents, schedules and early voting locations can be found here. Personal voting info is available at, including your Election Day polling place. NOTE: as of this morning, the search for my voter registration info by address failed... searching by voter certificate number shows I am registered. BE SURE TO BRING YOUR GODDAM VOTER ID MATERIAL (e.g., a Texas driver license) to the polls! And please vote for David Alameel, because his opponent is a Larouche "Democrat," i.e., a right-wing nutjob who among other things wants to impeach Obama.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

America: Land Of Opportunity? Maybe With Some Changes, Says Robert Reich; Right Now, Not So Much

Robert Reich's blog has four recent posts that are essential reading for anyone who considers him- or herself progressive:
If this man would run for president, I'd get out and walk blocks for him... even though walking, even a major grocery shopping run, is a challenge for me these days!

Monday, May 19, 2014

How Many Legs Does A Dog Have...

FCC's Net Neutrality
,,, if you call FCC's proposed new Section 706-based rules "net neutrality"? Well, surely not more than three. As Michael Weinberg, vice president of Public Knowledge, paraphrased by Juan Cole at Informed Comment, said (as best I can parse it), "The FCC’s proposal still falls well short of real net neutrality rules," and [b]ecause of its emphasis on Section 706, “[i]t would create a two-tier internet where ‘commercially reasonable’ discrimination is allowed on any connections that exceed an unknown 'minimum level of access' defined by the FCC. A two-tier internet is anathema to a truly open internet, and rules under section 706 authority are insufficient to prevent harmful paid prioritization."

For what it's worth, the Commission voted for this proposed rule 3-2 along party lines. I.e., for one rare time, I find myself siding with the Commission's Republicans, though I suspect they voted against the rule because Obama proposed it, and they are determined to oppose his every move from now until the end of his term. Still, there is no one on the Commission who truly backs the apparent public majority view, favoring genuine net neutrality. There is still a four-month public comment period, but in Obama's administration, as in Bush Junior's before him, one needn't hold one's breath hoping public comments will affect a damned thing.

In short: it was your internet; it isn't yours anymore. Bite deep into the shit and try to like it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

We Need Garfield To Teach Lily...

... about rocking chairs:

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Serious Congressional Effort To Reform The Surveillance State And Restore Constitutional Rights... Or Yet Another Cover‑up?

Shahid Buttar at FDL tells us about the proposed USA FREEDOM Act... and examines what more needs to be done to rein in the decade of secret surveillance of our citizens in which our government has engaged.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

DRMed To Hell: All Browsers, Including Firefox, Will Soon Include Digital Rights Management For Most Powerful Content Providers

Your web browser... no matter who provides it... will soon include sealed, proprietary code supporting display (playing) of Hollywood movies delivered in proprietary secret locked formats. The best explanation I've found is Danny O'Brien's article at EFF, Can This Web Be Saved? Mozilla Accepts DRM, and We All Lose, and following and reading just about all the links.

The browser vendors, most especially Mozilla, pretty much agree that a) integrated, proprietary DRM is contrary to the spirit of the Web to this point, and b) the pressure from the largest proprietary content providers (read: Hollywood and the sound recording industry) makes it inevitable that content will be delivered in formats that allow the content providers control over who has the right to view/play the digital content they own, and under what circumstances... and that web browsers will be cluttered with proprietary code for policing access to those formats. Even the stodgy W3C has yielded, specifying something called EME (Encrypted Media Extensions) that allow the addition of DRM modules to the emerging HTML5. Major browser vendors are reluctantly going along.

In short: "Everybody knows that the war is over; Everybody knows the good guys lost." (Hmm... that line is Leonard Cohen's; I wonder if I'm violating his publisher's digital rights...)

Expect browser upgrade installations to become your worst nightmare. Expect outright pitched battles with content providers over your right to view the digital movie you just purchased viewing rights to, when the rights management process goes awry. Expect more multimillion-dollar lawsuits from the movie and sound recording industries against 10-year-old kids. Oh, and expect one more thing. Expect successful copyright violations, some by those 10-year-olds, some by slightly older kids. DRM will be devastatingly disruptive... and ultimately ineffective.

What can you do?

Not much. My solution is to boycott the industries pushing this nightmare. (No doubt Stella will personally make up for my decrease in consumption of videos and sound. But even she checks out videos from the library a lot lately.) I haven't stolen a sound recording or video for well over 40 years, and since the DRM wars started, I have cut back my purchase of new videos to one or two a year... gifts for friends who expect them. In the old days it was not unusual for me to buy 100-200 CDs a year. Apparently the only thing the bastards understand is their lust for geld, so that's where I'll hit 'em. No, of course they won't notice.

You may notice, though, if the number of graphics I publish here decreases markedly. What can I say but "So it goes." Oh, wait; the estate of Kurt Vonnegut may sue me for that...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Pay-To-Play Internet: A Fable

In this fable, you are about to attend a conference. It is a medium-size conference, so that it fits in one hotel... all sessions are held in conference rooms of various sizes within the hotel; most of the attendees stay in rooms in the hotel, etc. The hotel is not overbooked: getting from your room to a session is not obstructed by, e.g., too many people crowding the halls. Some attendees may pay a bit more to strategize the location of their room to reduce distance to conference rooms or elevator wait time, but getting to and from any room and a given session is not in and of itself anticipated to be an issue. The cost of the conference rooms is paid as part of the conference fee, which is on a per-attendee basis: no differentiation is made among attendees.

On the morning of the opening session, everyone leaves his or her room, heading for the grand conference hall. To everyone's surprise, there are "Security" personnel stationed at every hall intersection and every elevator entrance. The security folks wear hats labeled "ATTComcastVerizon" and are also wearing a change belt like an old-fashioned bus driver. As you leave your room, the first of these "Security" officers approaches you and says, "That'll be five bucks, please!" She will not let you pass her station in the hall until you give her five dollars.

When you reach the elevator, there's another "Security" officer, who demands $10 to allow you onto the elevator. You protest; he responds, "Well, you could always pay ATTComcastVerizon $1000 a day for an all-day hall/elevator pass." You do not see right away what service these "Security" officers perform related to the conference, but you are expected at the opening session, so you pay your sawbuck and ride to the lobby. After another $5 to transit the hallway to the grand conference hall and another $5 to enter the grand hall, you finally hear the first session. There are a lot of justifiably angry people in the audience.

Over lunch you do a bit of phoning and texting to find out WTF is going on with these hallway/elevator fees. Despite a lot of close-mouthed people, you manage to learn that ATTComcastVerizon secretly negotiated a deal with the hotel to allow ATTComcastVerizon to collect these fees. All the big companies already knew about this, and prepaid their attendees' $1000 daily pass fees in advance; none of those attendees was ever unintentionally late for a session. On the other hand, you, and every other small-business attendee, are busily scrounging and stuffing your pockets with $5 and $10 bills, but even so, the lines at each of the Security stations on every hallway and at every elevator entry are so long that everyone is late to every session... except those who work for the big corp's; they breeze right through.

"This never happened before!" you blurt out to one of the Security officers. "That's how things are now, buddy; get used to it. The Federal Crapola Commission (FCC) ruled that we can do this, and do it we most certainly will."

Thus ends our fable... unless our very own FCC turns it into reality this week. You might want to scream bloody murder at a few FCC officials before the decision is made mere days from now...

'Unstoppable' Global Sea Level Rise Triggered By Fragmentation, Melting Of West Antarctica

Via Dahr Jamail at truthout (whose article is itself worth your time to read), from Justin Gillis and Kenneth Chang at NYT, we learn that part of the West Antarctica ice sheet is falling apart, and if findings and predictions are confirmed, its disintegration could cause a rise in sea level of 10 feet in the coming century. Gillis and Chang:
A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries.

Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said.

The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis.

“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”

Thwaites Ice Shelf, late 2013
(Photo: James Yungel, NASA)
So... if I had bought a house here in Houston, and if I had married and had kids, my heirs, perhaps my great-grandchildren, could have had beach‑front property...

Seriously: Al Gore told us all of this. He became our modern-day Cassandra, prophesying catastrophe only to be ignored by everyone in a position to do anything to prevent it. And now, pending confirmation, it looks as if it's too late.

Oh well, whatthehell, we won't live to see it, so whothefuck cares, right? <irony />

AFTERTHOUGHT: There is considerable disagreement over the timetable of the sea level rise... some say 100 or 200 years; some say 1000+ years. But practically no one not on the payroll of the oil companies thinks it won't happen. If you're worried about your great-grandkids but willing to see the inevitable suffering inflicted on your great4‑grandkids, you may be OK... aside from being a cold bastard for feeling that way.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bill Moyers On Net Neutrality

You may not have given any thought to all the warnings that the FCC is about to do away with "net neutrality." What does it have to do with you, anyway? and even if you knew, what could you do about it?

The answers are "a whole lot," and "more than you might think." If regulations are put in place which privilege the delivery of content provided by the big internet service providers themselves (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T... actually, the list is distressingly short) over the content provided by web sites put up by your church, your nonprofits on which you depend to inform you about the environment, global warming, international relations, the niche market served by your one-person business, your favorite political activists, your least favorite political activists (!) whom you want to keep an eye on, etc., you will soon find the internet resembles old-fashioned broadcast TV networks in, say, the 1950s, where the companies responsible for delivering things to you are also the companies that determine what is delivered to you (at an acceptable transfer rate)... and hence what you consume. As so often happens with very large corporations who find themselves in control of sources (of laundry soap or information or entertainment), the telecom's (telecommunications companies... see the partial list above) will use their de facto monopoly power to supply you with what they think you should want, serving their own interests and profitability, and ignoring your real needs.

When Microsoft was at its most dominant in the software industry, they had a slogan, "Where do you want to go today?" which I used to misquote intentionally as "Where does Microsoft want you to go today?" The self-serving behavior of the telecom's under faulty FCC regulations will be similar. You won't like it at all... unless you're CEO of Comcast, or someone similar.

Tom Wheeler: FCC Chair,
former Telecom CEO, etc.
Here's the main thing about the threatened loss of net neutrality: Obama's FCC chair and several other FCC officials are former telecom executives. And they're ready to do this thing right away, starting this month. Don't dither while you decide: contact your congresscritters right away and tell them to put legislation in place to preserve net neutrality. Bug the bejezus out of the FCC chair and other high FCC officials. And be sure to remind Obama that he promised to protect net neutrality in his first campaign for the presidency.

Moyers offers three segments of basic information, video here (summary) and here (full show), and text here (article about net neutrality). It's now or never, folks... put it on your calendar for this week!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Enemy Of My Enemy — Can A Left-Right Populist Alliance Overthrow The Parties And The Wall Street Establishment?

The Parties are over broken
Robert Reich thinks it's possible. In a post titled "The Six Principles of the New Populism (and the Establishment’s Nightmare)" Reich asserts that there are at least six items on which the Tea Party and the increasingly disempowered progressive wing of the Democratic Party can agree, items which might serve as a basis for an active populism that would save America from its ongoing and apparently never-ending economic recession. (When can we stop being polite and call it a depression, which seems a more accurate name to me?)

The six items are big enough (break up the big banks; resurrect Glass-Steagall; end corporate welfare; rein in the NSA; put brakes on America's overseas interventions; stop corporate-crafted trade agreements), and Reich offers evidence of support for them from left-wing populists and right-wing populists.

I would love to see this work. What a concept... a popular takeover of an aging, failing democracy! But of course I have some cautionary words:
  • Left populists and right populists share no goals, only means. Any such alliance would be temporary at best, and the aftermath of the breakup may be difficult to say the least.
  • Right populists cannot be trusted. Will they follow through on their promises? only as far as those freely made promises further their goals, which are not the same goals... see above.
  • Establishment parties and related institutions have ways of getting what they want in the face of all sorts of adversity. One of the main ways they have is money. In this respect, there is less difference than you might think between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The Dems have done absolutely nothing to support their left-leaning progressives, and the Tea Party appears to be supported primarily by obscenely wealthy individuals whose goals overlap those of the membership only as far as they serve the interests of the wealthy supporters.
In other words, it's a great idea, but how can it be pulled off for an extended enough period to make any real dent in establishment institutions and ambitions?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Supreme Court: A 5-4 Ruling Worse Than Bush v. Gore?

I guess it depends on what you think America needs protection from, and by whom. Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog:
Stopping just short of abandoning a historic barrier to religion in government activity, a deeply divided Supreme Court ruled on Monday that local governments may open their meetings with prayers that are explicitly religious and may turn out to be largely confined to expressing the beliefs of one faith.

Narrowly defining what is not allowed in such prayers, the Court said they may not be used to praise the virtues of one faith and may not cast other faiths or other believers in a sharply negative light. Courts have no role in judging whether individual prayers satisfy that test, but can only examine a “pattern of prayer” to see whether it crossed the forbidden constitutional line and became a form of “coercion.”

The majority clearly moved the “coercion” test to the forefront of analyzing when government and religion are too closely intertwined. The alternative test — whether government action “endorsed” a particular faith — was nearly cast aside as taking too little account of the role of religion in America’s history and civic traditions.

So... just how far did they go? Kennedy's opinion, treated as controlling because it bridged a gap between two conflicting opinions of the Court's majority, was described by Denniston as follows:
Treating the Kennedy opinion as controlling, because it spoke to a middle-ground approach between blocs of Justices who wanted to go further in one direction or the opposite, this is the constitutional prescription it provided for legislative prayers:
  • First: Such prayers are not confined to meetings of Congress or state legislatures, but may also be recited in the more intimate and familiar setting of local government meetings.
  • Second: The prayer portion of the meeting must be conducted only during a ceremonial part of the government body’s session, not mixed in with action on official policy.
  • Third: The body may invite anyone in the community to give a prayer and (if it has the money) could have a paid chaplain. The officials on the body may also lead the prayer.
  • Fourth: The body may not dictate what is in the prayers and what may not be in the prayers. A prayer may invoke the deity or deities of a given faith, and need not embrace the beliefs of multiple or all faiths.
  • Fifth: In allowing “sectarian” prayers, the body’s members may not “proselytize” — that is, promote one faith as the true faith — and may not require persons of different faith preferences, or of no faith, to take part, and may not criticize them if they do not take part.
  • Sixth: The “sectarian” prayers may not disparage or discriminate against a specific faith, but officials need not go to extra lengths to make sure that all faiths do get represented in the prayer sessions — even if that means one faith winds up as the dominant message.
  • Seventh: Such prayers are permissible when most, if not all, of the audience is made up of adults — thus raising the question whether the same outcome would apply if the audience were a group of children or youths, such as the Boy or Girl Scouts, appearing before a government agency or a government-sponsored group. (The Court did not abandon its view that, at public school graduations or at events sponsored by public schools, prayers are not allowed because they may tend to coerce young people in a religious way.)
  • Eighth: A court, in hearing a challenge to a prayer practice, is confined to examining “a pattern of prayers,” and does not have the authority to second-guess the content of individual prayer utterances. In judging such a pattern, the proper test is not whether it tends to put forth predominantly the beliefs of one faith, but whether it has the effect of coercing individuals who do not share that faith.
(Bolds mine. - SB)

Well, there goes the First Amendment, at least for public meetings of legislatures...

AFTERTHOUGHT: This is almost a "Catholics vs. Jews" ruling, with the exception of Sotomayor. I wonder if we will begin to see religious bloc voting in more rulings by this religiously extremely lopsided Court.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Here is the ruling (.pdf).

MORE PERSONAL AFTERTHOUGHT: A brief discussion with Stella shortly after I completed this post reminded me forcefully just how difficult it is for even the most broadminded of American Christians to perceive a problem with the constant presence of explicitly Christian prayer preceding a government event in a society that at least theoretically advocates genuine freedom of religion.

I am a UU... Unitarian Universalist... and the omnipresence of Christian prayer at nongovernmental events is starkly apparent to me. If Christian prayers begin also to precede Houston City Council meetings, HISD School Board meetings, various county government events, METROLift advisory committee meetings, etc., I am certain, justifiably or otherwise, that I will feel excluded. (ADDED: If you think UU is an obscure religion, please note that three or [arguably] four US presidents... John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and [arguably] Thomas Jefferson... were Unitarians. That's about 9 percent of America's presidents.)

Stella sees it as no big deal. I confess I was surprised, but I should not have been: people brought up Christian and still surrounded mostly by Christians are very likely to see "Christian" as "normal," and fail to react at the consistent omission of prayers by people of other religions. Let me re‑emphasize: Stella is about the least prejudiced Christian I know, which means her non‑reaction is even more to be expected from Christians less involved with people of other religions. If you are inclined to think non‑Christians need no explicit legal protection from the normalization of Christianity in the periphery of governmental events, I am here to tell you: we do, in fact, need such a shield. Until now, we assumed with good reason that the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment, provided that shield. Now I'm not so sure.

Krugman: Obamacare, For All Its Flaws, Meets The Constraints Any Healthcare System Must Meet


... Here’s the essential fact about health care policy, which in turn fundamentally shapes health care politics:
Obamacare looks the way it does because it has to.
Once again, for those who missed it: if you want to cover people with preexisting conditions, you must have community rating. If you want to have community rating without a death spiral — that is, if you want to keep an acceptable risk pool — you have to have an individual mandate. If you want to have an individual mandate, you have to have subsidies for lower-income Americans. And that’s Obamacare: a three-legged stool, with all three legs essential.

And there you have it, your stool sample for the day.

If politics is the art of the possible, health care politics is the art of the very nearly impossible... and so it is with Obamacare. Originally conceived by old-style Republicans a few decades ago, Obamacare is what is politically possible today. Now it is the intent of today's GOP to use this admittedly clumsy system to bludgeon Obama with a stick they, not he, chose.

Could FDR have compelled a better health care outcome? It's irrelevant; we don't have an FDR in the White House, and we don't have the Republican Party he faced as the opposition. Instead, we have a GOP which has no interest in governing, only in winning an endless series of gotcha games. Obamacare is probably literally the best healthcare system possible... possible in America in today's real world, not in an ideal world, not in a progressive European country, but here and now. GOPers seem incompetent to come up with a replacement, and will probably harm even themselves if they try to uproot the system Mr. Obama succeeded in instituting. Everybody, including GOPers, may as well get used to it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Senator Elizabeth Warren Has Something To Say

... on Kos. Need a dose of inspiration today? Here she is!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chance Juxtaposition?

I just visited Michael Moore's site. In a banner across the top is an ad for his autobiography (a delightful book, BTW), Here Comes Trouble.

Immediately below that is a larger ad: Hillary for President!

I'm not going to say anything...

Friday, May 2, 2014

State Voter ID Laws Begin To Fall, One By One

In January, it was Pennsylvania. In April, it was Wisconsin. Why? The NYT says of the Pennsylvania case:
Opponents contend that such fraud is rare — in Pennsylvania’s case, the state could not point to a single incident — and that the laws were intended to suppress Democratic turnout, since those who do not possess a state-approved photo ID are more likely to be in groups that tend to vote Democratic.
In Wisconsin, says the AP via TPM,
... [Judge] Adelman sided with opponents, who said it disproportionately excluded poor and minority voters because they're less likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them.
I have to agree with those who say voter ID laws are all about voter fraud: specifically, the GOP's attempt to render whole elections fraudulent by fraudulently eliminating voters who favor their opponents.

These rulings are a good beginning. Now if the courts would just get around to ruling on Texas...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Scalia's Opinion: Yesterday 'A Blunder', Today 'Unprecedented'

"My opinion was off by only THIS much!"
Scalia's dissent in the 6-2 ruling reaffirming the EPA's authority to regulate cross-state coal pollution was deemed a "blunder" by a number of well-respected experts in that area of law; today, his dissent has been downgraded to "unprecedented" in its deficiencies. And the ruling he cited in his dissent? it was one of Scalia's own opinions.

Maybe it's time for somebody to retire...

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