Bush admits Bulge was a bullet proof vest

11/04/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
The Hill mentions that Bush's bulge was a bullet proof vest.

I'm immediately wondering why the secret service decided that Bush needed one, and that Kerry did not.

So now we're fucked

11/04/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General

Well, in the words of a famous person, "So now we're fucked". There's an awful lot of naval examination going on right now, trying to figure out how such an incompetent person could have been re-elected to office, and just what that means about all of the people who put him back there.

The big buzzword that everybody's bandying about is 'values', which is a code word for faggots, as in "We don't want no faggots gittin' married where we can see or hear them." Even my mother says how she doesn't think it's right, using as justification that the bible says so. It's ok for them to have benefits, but not marriage, she says. But it's the benefits that are being argued. Does anybody care what the license is actually called?

There's no doubt in my mind that this is the result of fear mongering and intentional dehumanization. People who voted this way simply don't realize that they're denying decent people what they'd grant anybody they knew personally.

The same thing happens in war. First dehumanization, then bombing.

So there's a rather large reactionary backlash to this marriage thing which seems to have underscored and possibly even further defined this split.

I was reading a columnist who argued that the split was intentional, and even necessary. Dividing the nation and arguing about inconsequential things was the strategy used to get the incompetent man back into office.

I'm NOT convinced that there's a religious resurgence any more than I'm convinced that there's a huge swing to the right, however. It was just 4 years ago that the same electorate chose Bill Clinton by a landslide, two terms in a row. People don't go from Clinton-loving to Bible thumping in such a short time.

Regardless, now we're fucked. The loonies are at the controls. The Supreme court, war, and the environment hang in the balance.


Dr. Ellwood on quality and managed care in 1996

10/31/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Here's an Interview with Dr. Ellwood on the subject.

Until now, the major emphasis has been on cost. Where does quality fit in?

When I first proposed the HMO idea, it was my expectation that the emerging HMO industry would be required to make available to the public evidence that they were producing the best possible health outcomes. This would have been more difficult to accomplish within the conventional practice of fee-for-service medicine because of the short, compartmentalized transactions that take place in that context. It is easier to do in managed-care plans because they have an extended, comprehensive responsibility for their enrollees' function and well-being.

For a variety of reasons, the idea of holding health plans accountable for their impact on people's health has not been implemented. Health care is becoming increasingly like a commodity. Virtually all the competition between health plans is about price.

Managed Care, Dr. Ellwood's dream, and Kaiser Permanente

10/31/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
I remember reading the article about Dr. Paul Ellwood in the NY Times magazine as if I had read it yesterday. It was an article written by Lisa Belkin on Dec 8, 1996 about how Dr. Ellwood, the man who coined the phrase HMO was working towards the completion of his dream of managed care.

Just as the problem is still with us today, Ellwood realized that a system of healthcare that pays a fee for each service performed by health providers encourages more services regardless of whether those services actually improve the health of the patient. Costs skyrocket but health of the population doesn't.

Enter HMO's. The idea is that flat-rate fees will be paid regardless of the health of the population. In order to maximize profits, healthcare providers will then attempt to reduce costs by making sure that their patients remain healthy, and thus don't consume resources (and profits) as they would if they had gotten sick. Hence the name Health maintenance.

But something happened instead: with dollars limited, instead of healthcare organizations spending time on maintaining the health of their constituency, they simply spent time cutting every expense that they could. No more expensive education programs, no more visits to specialists regardless of the reason. It was a race to the bottom to reduce costs by reducing services.

The constituency rebelled. Laws were passed. Lawsuits were filed. No longer could the bean counters override the doctor's decisions on what was best for the patients.

In 1996, Dr. Ellwood was convening meetings in Jackson Hole to address this problem: there was no mechanism for maintaning the quality of the system and establishing a basic level of service, nor was there a mechanism for allowing those who wished a higher level of service to participate. The system had devolved into a slash-and-burn campaign to reduce costs without regard to any quality, and was failing as badly as the fee-for-service programs that it replaced.

Fast forward to 2004. In this article, we learn that 8 years after Ellwood was trying to figure out how to fix managed care, that one of the larges healthcare organizations, Kaiser Permanente is doing just that.

The irony is that they're doing it by adhering to the original spirit of the HMO: by spending resources on the Health maintenance of their members, Kaiser has managed to achieve spectacular results. For example, the death rate for Kaiser members due to heart disease is 30% lower than for the general population.

What cooks my chicken is why it took at least 8 years for HMO's to implement what seemed to be the obvious logic behind HMO's in the first place. When the boat's sinking, you can save the energy of bailing water by simply stopping bailing, but then you're going to have a sunk boat. If you spend the money to plug the leak, you get a floating boat and you don't have to bail either.

I'm puzzled why it took so long to figure this basic idea out.

THIS is who to vote for, Jeremy!

10/31/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
So as we approach this critical election of 2004, my advice, dear readers, is this: Vote for the candidate who embodies the ethos of George H. W. Bush - the old guy. Vote for the man who you think would have the same gut feel for nurturing allies and restoring bipartisanship to foreign policy as him. Vote for the man you think understands the importance of facing up to our fiscal responsibilities for the sake of our children. And vote for the man who has the best instincts for balancing realism and idealism and the man who understands the necessity of using energetic U.S. diplomacy to make Israel more secure - by helping to bring it peace with its Arab neighbors, not just more tours from American Christian fundamentalists.

Yes, next Tuesday, vote for the real political heir to George H. W. Bush. I'm sure you know who that is.



From here

American Exceptionalism

10/31/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Here's an article by Seymour Martin Lipset on American Exceptionalism

The revolutionary ideology which became the American Creed is liberalism in its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century meanings, as distinct from conservative Toryism, statist communitarianism, mercantilism, and noblesse oblige dominant in monarchical, state-church-formed cultures.

B. Kliban

10/31/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Ever since I first saw the Kliban cartoon books, I've been a fan. For some reason Kliban's comics have been on my mind. Kliban was the first in what is now a very long line of cartoonists whose books end up on the checkout counter displays of chain book stores. There's Matt Groening, Gary Larson, etc. But Kliban started it all. And it turns out he did so accidentally. The idea for his first book wasn't even his: he had had a job as a Playboy cartoonist for quite some time and it was his editor who suggested it.

I just got a copy of Cat that was at my parent's house, and it sent me looking on the web for more. Here's a site with some of his cartoons and a biography. What a fascinating person.

Quoth Mr. Bush

10/31/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Nov. 5, 2003: "In the debate about the rights of the unborn, we are asked to broaden the circle of our moral concern. ... We're asked by our convictions and tradition and compassion to build a culture of life, and make this a more just and welcoming society."



Quoth Mr. Kristoff:

Abortions declined in the U.S. in the Clinton years; the abortion rate dropped by 22 percent in the 1990's. But while data are incomplete, abortions appear to have increased sharply since Mr. Bush took office. Glen H. Stassen, a Christian pro-life theologian, estimates that 52,000 more abortions occurred in 2002 than would have been expected based on the previous trend. Professor Stassen attributes the rise in abortions in part to the troubled economy and concerns among pregnant women that they cannot afford to have babies.

Conscript versus Volunteer Religion

10/31/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Listening to the radio show The World on NPR. It's a topical show produced in conjunction with the BBC.

Last night there was an interview with Adrian Wooldridge, a rather conservative editor for the Economist. (Read his article on Michael Moore Conservatives here . He's written a book, The Right Nation which discusses America's turn to the right. This is another in a long line of newly published books labeled as the new DeTocqueville's in this Slate article, suggesting that the actions of America and its government have left much of the world scratching their heads wondering why.

Wooldridge is interested mostly in the causes and effects of religion in America. He suggests that until the 1980's, the theme of intellectualism in America was to emulate European values: addressing the inequalities of minorities and the poor, mostly through increased government involvement, and abolishing the death penalty among other items.

Then in in the 1980's something happened. Wooldridge refers to it as a re-establishment of American Exceptionalism, which is in itself a rather disputed idea: that America's activities and values are what makes it exceptional. It's been argued that, like the phrase Manifest Destiny, which was used to put a respectable face on ethnic cleansing, exceptionalism is an attempt to justify the activities of America based on the fact that it has been such an economic success in the world. "Don't criticise our activities because they've led us to the path of wealth and glory".

While he doesn't defend exceptionalism explicitly in the interview, Wooldridge suggests his acceptance through use of the phrase, and by expressing similar ideas such as, that Michael Moore should be taken to task for criticising GM. As good as GM might be for America, it may also be responsible for the things that Moore accuses it of. Is there no place for criticism in a conservative viewpoint? We know what the answer to that question is if the topic is our current president.

No matter. Wooldridge points out that, unlike Europe (with maybe the exception of Italy), religion has experienced a resurgence in America. In Europe, the percentages of people who say they are religious or who attend services regularly has plummeted. In America, the percentages of people who view themselves as actively religious is somewhere in the high 70's. Why? And why ask the question?

Somewhere in the past 25 to 30 years, the core of the religious right was formed -- and this has become one of the most siginificant voter blocks in America -- larger than the black and hispanic blocks combined. Wooldridge doesn't point out why -- he only suggests that prior to the 80's the majority of church leaders across America were non-partisan or loosely affiliated Democrats. So, then, the math is simple. Take a huge group of people, tie them together through religious conviction to a political movement, and you've got a force to be reckoned with.

He points out that classical sociological theory suggests that the more industrialized and well-off a society becomes, the less religious it becomes, which, obviously is not the case in America. America's religious constituency keeps re-inventing and re-constituting itself, as if fueled by a constant spring of energy.

I'm sure that not a few observers may have linked this with American optimism and positivism, as pointed out originally by DeTocqueville and written about by many, even Charles Dickens. Everybody wanted to know what was putting those stupid grins on American's faces, and they're still wondering today.

Wooldridge's idea is that the source of renewal may come from the fact that America's churches are unlinked to the state as they are in Europe -- that association with the government has formalized and hardened religion to the point where it's too rigid to be able to grow. His final suggestion is that the blurring of the line that separates church and state is a bad move on the part of the religious right, that the end result will be an ossification in religion, and a reduction rather than an increase in their reach and power. You could consider this a comparison between a conscript army and a volunteer one: the volunteer one has a much greater morale and stamina.

Me, I'm not too sure. It's true that churches were involved in the state, and that they have became somewhat corrupt (power corrupts, absolutely power corrupts absolutely -- was written about the Catholic Church), but the same could be said about the American Catholic church.

The real energy now in America are movements like the Pentacostalists which are taking the countryside by storm. Why is there no similar movement in Europe? Was it due to state proscriptions on new religions? Doesn't seem to be the case.

And that doesn't really answer the question of how these religions have become inextricably involved with the conservative political movement.

Something similar happened to the working class. What was formerly associated with unions, the Democratic party, and worker's rights is now all composed of Nascar Dads. Can we lay the entire blame for this at the feet of Nixon's Southern Strategy ( you know, where support of Democrats was subtly linked to support of blacks) ?

I keep coming back to the notion of people's social affiliations defining their politics. People first get socially affiliated with a group of people, and then adopt their politics at a later point. It doesn't explain the shift, during the 80's but it seems to me to be at the core.

I think it was Brooks who wrote an editorial suggesting that it may be people voting with the class they at they may one day wish to belong to. I'll think wealthy and vote wealthy with the hope (or delusion) that I'm part of that class. A sort of passing, except not between races, but between social classes.

Taking the idea further: as America as grown more wealthy and home ownership has increased, it's easier to see how groups of people, who are now not worried about being left as dustbowl refugees can more easily fit themselves into a framework of being not poor and not wanting to be associated with the party of poor.

It doesn't matter whether they are or not. It's very easy to invent a bogey man and then get a group to blame their troubles on that bogey man. That's why it's so important to the conservative movement to try and make Liberal such a pejorative, and to suggest that they are the cause of their own problems. If you weren't lazy, you wouldn't be poor. If you are poor, you must be lazy.

All this time, these are the same people who are struggling in $30,000 jobs with families, assuming that they're being held back by the claws of the poor: never stopping to look at the boot from above that's planted firmly on their necks.

Bush's daily devotional

10/29/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Robert Wright discusses the text that George Bush uses as a daily devotional reading. The text, My Utmost for the Highest, was written by Oswald Chambers who was a Scottish Protestant minister who lived in the late 19th / early 20th centuries.

He concludes with the ending of the text written by Chambers, who died in the midst of the 1st world war:

"If the war has made me reconcile myself with the fact that there is sin in human beings, I shall no longer go with my head in the clouds, or buried in the sand like an ostrich, but I shall be wishing to face facts as they are."


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