Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Health and finances

I just got my first bill of the year since chemo ended, and lemme tellya, it's unkind. I know I am extremely lucky to have any insurance these days (No thanks, Republicans!), so I won't carp too much, but let's just say I won't have any problem reaching my annual $2K maximum outlay for the next 5 years. The cost of my ongoing scans and doctor visits will use up that amount easily. I mentioned this to a co-worker yesterday, and he said, in effect, "Welcome to the world of the disabled! Not only do we have physical impediments to overcome, but financial ones as well. It simply costs more to live hurt or sick." Being the self-centered cretin I am, I had never even given a thought to that aspect of things, and I want to apologize to any I may have offended over the years for my ignorance. Again, I'm lucky--under my current PPO's plan, the most I'll ever pay out in any given year is going to be about $2500--I can only dread what someone with a higher maximum or those without insurance at all go through.
This also has another effect on those of us with insurance, especially when faced with ongoing illnesses or "conditions" (I'm at a loss, clearly, at what language to use in these matters; I hope that I'm not offending!)--we are most likely highly unlikely to be able to change occupations or jobs as easily as others might be, for fear of having to change/lose our insurance. Again, I am not making light of my good fortune in even having insurance, but I am simply one budget cut away from losing not only my job, but my healthcare, and that is truly scary.
Sometimes I read in some of the blogs I monitor, and hear of those in others, people commenting on how unfettered capitalism--or even more severely, the destruction of our present oil-based economy in total-- is the solution to all our problems. Gee, if only everybody quit using cars, we'd be free. Those arguing against this hyper-green/libertarian viewpoint rationally state that not everybody lives close enough to their work, can afford to move, etc. The hardcore greens show no mercy, stating that anyone not living close enough to bike or walk to work should have thought of that before taking that job, or moving to that house. The insane viciousness of that point-of-view, as obviously cutthroat as any espoused by crazy right-wingers hell-bent on reconfiguring our society backwards a few centuries, hits me in two ways: 1) It keeps me from moving any further left politically than I already am--if the far left is as loony as the far right, what's the point of that?; and 2) I feel even more personally the need for sanity from our governing bodies. Some sort of national health care is a necessity; if the federal government's responsibilities do not include the health of our citizenry--and they most certainly do; "promote the general welfare" clause, anyone? It's in the first sentence of our Constitution, you Republican freaks!--then what the heck are they? Anyone arguing against some sort of guaranteed health care is simply ignoring what our nation stands for, end of discussion.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An email response

To the question I received as to whether Smirky has done anything positive for our country, I replied:
I think I can safely say that Bush has done absolutely nothing positive for us. Let alone the fact that lying and causing war and death are immoral, his policies have done nothing but polarize this country and sell us down the river of debt, all for the enrichment of a few--"his base", most famously quoted from him. From almost definitely gaining office fraudulently and in full knowledge of the higher-ups in the Republican Party--if not their full complicity--to the retention of quite possibly the worst NSC director and Sec. of State (Rice) and Sec. of Defense (Rumsfeld) in history, Bush's regime has been one disaster after another, except for those who have gained wealth by his actions/inactions. His foreign policy has driven us to become the most hated and feared political body in the history of the world--hey, even Hitler had more allies than we do!--while his domestic fiscal policy will continue to harm generations to come due to the extraordinarily large budget and trade deficits we now face.
While the continued erosion of public and political civility can hardly be laid at his feet--just his political party and their media allies--he has only encouraged it through his divisive and duplicitous rhetoric and his disdain for comity. By bringing faith-based "reasoning" to the Oval Office, Bush has virtually made impervious any criticism of his thinking. As he stated so trenchantly and unAmericanly, "if you're not with [him], you're against him." That is not the language of a democracy, and it is in that realm that his entire being has caused the most salient damage--we are rapidly losing any semblance of democratic ideals as espoused in our Constitution and as sanctioned by over 210 years of our history. The Civil War was fought to establish our country as one where religion (among other things, obviously) would no longer control policy, since by eliminating slavery, we enabled the rise of a secular polity throughout the country. Slavery's moral support (and opposition, paradoxically enough) came mainly from religious grounds. By ridding the political sphere of slavery's divisive existence, the nation also stripped away the main reason religion had remained politically irritating, leaving us with the secular government the Founding Fathers intended us to have.
Bush's legacy will be one of rising classism, entrenching intolerance, and politicizing greed, if we are lucky enough to rebound from this era's excesses at all. His perversion and subversion of all this country believed prior to 2000 (even if after 1980 we weren't really acting on those beliefs) will be condemned by future historians as the nadir of our nation's history--previous low points did not entail the deaths of tens of thousands of foreign nationals, after all . . .

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Go Harry Go!

Harry Reid is doing a terrific job as Senate Minority Leader, given the givens. While he wasn't able to herd enough cats to filibuster either Supreme Court nominee, his PR moves have been uniformly excellent. In the wake of Smirky's message of the week--"I declassified stuff because I want the public to know the truth" (a baldfaced lie seeing as how, by all accounts, this has been the most secretive Administration in the history of our country)--Reid issued a broadside blast designed to pin Smirky and Dick to the wall.
Some of the more potent parts:
In regards to the declassifying in particular, Reid said, " . . .when presented with opportunities to publicly explain your actions, you and other Administration officials have either issued more misleading statements or hidden behind legalistic defenses." And a little later, "For example, at a recent press briefing, your spokesperson relied on the defense of 'ongoing legal proceedings' sixteen times to avoid responding to reporters questions about this matter. Misleading statements and legalistic jargon are hardly appropriate responses for the Commander in Chief, especially when the questions involve whether the Administration manipulated intelligence information relied on by Congress and the American people to decide the proper course for Iraq."
After asking some pointed questions that are highly unlikely to ever be answered by this group of shifty snake-oil salesmen, Reid then proceeded to disarm the predictable refutation of his statement as representing simple partisan politics by quoting Arlen Specter. "These and other questions are best addressed by following the advice of the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said that 'there has to be a detailed explanation precisely as to what Vice President Cheney did, what the President said to him, and an explanation from the President as to what he said so that it can be evaluated.'"
Reid's open letter makes it perfectly clear that at least some people, even in Congress, are fully aware of this massive dose of bullshit Smirky's trying to unload on us, and the time is right to call him on it. Pinning one of the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress to Bush's potential response was a brilliant stroke as well, because if Smirky refuses to call Harry's bet, Specter has to either join in the fray against him or be shown up for the tool he has been. Either way, Specter sacrifices much in the political sphere. Now if only all the other cats in this runaway herd would follow Reid's lead, we might finally get somewhere . . .

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

This is just ridiculous

Ok, ok, stop me if you've heard this one before: Get this--Smirky lied. No, no, I'm telling the truth! Really!
Um, yeah. It is absolutely amazing that these clowns are still in power, isn't it? I mean, now they are able to divert attention away from their misdeeds with other misdeeds!! We haven't even gotten to the vote on Feingold's motion to censure the President on the wiretapping scandal, but who cares about that now? Smirky says now that he declassified "parts" of the prewar intelligence report that were discussed with Scooter and Dick, thereby rendering legal the leaking of intelligence that led to the clearly (Ah! the drip, drip, drip of sarcasm!) inadvertent unmasking of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. That Plame was outed remains a crime, of course, but that's all on Libby. So Smirky, in essence, is throwing Scooter under the bus while protecting Dick and himself from potential treason (or at least Federal felony) charges.
Naturally, there is no earthly reason why we should believe anything Smirky says, but even if you take him at his word this reeks of falsehood. After all, when this whole story first broke, Smirky vowed, on the record in June 2004, that he would fire anyone found to have leaked the agent's name. (He didn't.) And even though last July he partially retracted that oath by making the commission of a crime the necessary act warranting dismissal, neither statement rings true with what Smirky is now claiming to be the facts. Why would even a serial liar make these two very public statements if he had already declassified the information leaked? If it was declassified info, there could be no crime in releasing that info to the press, as Dick did to Judith Miller. In fact, if Smirky did indeed declassify the intelligence, why have they been acting so secretive this whole time? The answer, of course, is that this new story is a retroactive coverup designed to neuter Scooter's upcoming testimony that Dick and Smirky gave him the go-ahead to leak both the details of this report and Plame's identity to the press.
Once again, Smirky appears either duplicitous (by lying about not knowing the identity of any leakers), or incompetent (by not realizing what was in the documents he supposedly declassified), but not legally culpable. Leaving aside the entire certainty that Smirky did not follow the proper procedures for the declassification of intelligence, the underlying seediness and vindictiveness remains clear: this Administration's highest officials had no qualms whatsoever in leaking Plame's name to the press in the cause of attempting to discredit the intelligence her husband presented to them. That they also had--and continue to have--no problem in selectively ignoring, classifying, and declassifying intelligence to fit their shifting agendas (or simply to cover as much and as many of their asses as they can) is obvious as well.
But that's ok--we don't even need "shiny objects over there" anymore; we can just wait until something else illegal is discovered/uncovered to blow this off the front pages.
P. S. Just for fun, look here to get a running calendar of the sickness that is the Bush Administration. (Ignore the opening paragraph and jump right into the day-by-day account of these felons' actions and inactions. It's astounding--there are probably close to 500 items!)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Opening Day

As is the custom, I attended opening day at Dodger Stadium yesterday. The game's contours were miserably familiar: the visiting team that I root for takes a big lead early and blows it late. Last year, the Giants took a 5-0 lead in the first inning and gradually lost it, step-by-step, until the Dodgers won the game in the 9th. Yesterday, the Braves scored 4 in the first and 4 more in the 5th to go up 8-1. I mean, the Braves have won something like 500 division titles in a row, right? They can't blow a 7 run lead, can they? Anyone who knows how I write, and everyone who knows my horrid history with the Dodgers already know the answer to those questions: of course they can.
The Braves gave back their 4 runs in the 5th, leaving the game as uncomfortably (and as familiarly) close as they found it at the top of the inning. They went on to score 2 more in the 7th and 1 more in the 8th to make it 11-5, but even that wasn't the end, was it? As an aside, the Braves thought it was a good strategy all game long to continue to pitch to Jeff Kent, one of the 2 actual players on the Dodgers roster. My friends and I were aghast as at-bat after at-bat, Kent would come to the plate with runners on, and instead of walking him (or, our preferred method, plunking him in the back or something, thereby saving 3 pitches), the idiot Braves would serve up some ridiculously decent pitch for him to prove his merit once again. Macho is one thing, but stupid is stupid. Especially since Olmedo Saenz, who batted after Kent, went 0-4 in his first 4 trips to the plate, with 3 strikeouts. There is no reason in the world to pitch to Kent. Ever. With this lineup, Kent should have ended the season with no official at-bats, having been walked 500 times or so.
To return to the narrative, the Dodgers scored 3 runs (naturally) in the 8th and blanked the Braves in the top of the 9th to make the game 11-8 going to the bottom of the inning. I couldn't take any more, so I left. As I was walking to the car, I kept hearing cheer after cheer, and heard somebody say that the game was tied. Well, of course it was, I thought--I'd seen this game repeatedly for about the last 20 years. I kept waiting for my buddy to call me to let me know in what retarded way the Braves had let the "losers in Blue" steal the game, but he never did. I got home to find out that the Dodgers had indeed fallen short, 11-10. You can go a whole season without seeing that many runs scored in a game again; that much bad pitching and brain damaged management, combined with the 3 or 4 fielding errors we saw, leads me to safely say that neither of these teams is going to be fighting for any pennants any time soon.
(Best moment of the game? Hands down, when the new Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt visited the mound to talk to his pitcher and give him some pearl of wisdom, who thereupon gave up a home run on the very next pitch. Way to pump him up, Rick!)