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March 28, 2007

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Don't argue with me unless you're a CPA or PhD in Economics

To my great relief, this excludes me.

"So, either the Sup Ct can legitimately decide that capital punishment is now c&u, or the "evolving standards" test is wrong (and the determination of c&u is based on 18th century standards), or the evolving standards test cannot go so far as to ban capital punishment because of the 5th amendment recognition of the possibility of capital punishment."

I believe that if we accept an evolving standards test, it could in theory ban capital punishment--but that there would have to be a real societal near-consensus on the issue. If 80% of the country believed that capital punishment was always wrong yet for some reason two or three states maintained it (perhaps they had 51% who thought it was ok in just those states) there would be a colorable argument for it. (Yes Anarch I still don't know where that phrase comes from).

In reality, the US opinion is at about 60% favoring the death penalty as an option. There is no societal consensus that the death penalty is "cruel and unusual". That is why the Marshall/Brennan concept of jurisprudence in this area seems so much like a blatant power grab--they don't have a leg to stand on in pure interpretation, and they aren't reflecting an actual societal consensus.

I'm not a lawyer or a Constitutional scholar. I write software, and I'm a freelance drummer. So, I am not in a position to discuss this stuff from a point of view of deep understanding of jurisprudence, ConLaw, or the like. I am therefore forced to discuss this stuff from the point of view of common sense, to the degree that I possess any.

The SCOTUS quite definitely got out in front of the then-prevailing societal consensus in the mid to late 20th century. It's actually a damned good thing they did, because on a number of issues -- civil rights notably -- the societal consensus was not a very good point of view.

In some cases -- again, notably in civil rights -- the court's leadership led to really notable improvements in the societal consensus. In other areas, for example the decision in Furman, the societal consensus did not follow their leadership. Whether that was a good or bad thing, I leave it to you to decide for yourself.

In my very humble opinion, judicial activism in the form of the courts leading, rather than simply responding to and reflecting, popular opinion is fine. Again IMVHO, the same is true of all other branches of government. I see nothing wrong with people in positions of public responsibility leading.

Others may disagree, the above are my two cents.

I don't see the activities of the Bush administration as being of a kind with those of the activist courts of the 20th century. For one thing, they lie and hide their activities from the public. For another, they break the law. For another, many of their activities are not directed at furthering any agenda but the aggrandisement of their own power. Judicial activists may have grabbed for power, but I don't see that as being their end. Not so for the Bushies.

Some may say that I'm simply less favorably disposed toward the power grabs of the Bushies because I disagree with their goals. That's a hat I'm perfectly happy to wear, because in fact I am, by an order of magnitude, less favorably disposed toward the goals of the Bush administration than I ever was toward those of the liberal courts.

In any case, Brennan's been dead for ten years. Burger, for twelve. Warren's been gone for thirty-three.

Today, here and now, Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Rove, and their buddies are doing their damndest to give the royal finger to any attempt to bring them to account, for any action or policy they have undertaken. When the sun rises tomorrow, while you're eating your breakfast, they will be diligently working as hard as they can to expand and consolidate their personal political power, and to thwart any attempt any of our representatives may make to call them to account for their decisions and actions.

So, the theories of jurisprudence discussed here are, sincerely, very interesting, and the historical parallels with current events very enjoyable to discuss, but as we speak, the nation is going to hell in a handbasket.

That pisses me off. It ought to do the same for you.

Thanks -

The gross national product of the USA is roughly $14 trillion a year. The net unfunded debt of Medicare is approximately $66 trillion. Other unfunded debts push the federal unbooked guarantees past $100 trillion. "Universal health care" is not going to happen, ever. There's no money for it. Eventually, certainly, Medicare is going to be sunsetted. If no action is taken, it will be sunsetted by hyperinflation.

End of discussion. Don't argue with me unless you're a CPA or PhD in Economics. What I just said isn't a political opinion -- it's an expert talking within his specialty.

Well, urban coyote, I happen to be a Ph.D. in Economics, so I know what I'm talking about when I say that the degree of uncertainty involved in infinite-time-horizon forecasts of "unfunded debt" or anyting else makes such numbers useless for policy-making purposes. Period.

"umm, that's not really how we conduct ourselves around here. also, comparing one year's GDP to the net present value of an obligation in perpetuity is, at best, grossly misleading and at worst is, well, flatly dishonest.

"for example, what's the net unfunded liability of the DOD? The military talks about needing 4-6% of GDP for the foreseeable future, yet we fund DOD expenses out of general revenues which are only good for one year! OMG! WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE SPEAKING FARSI!"

--Francis

This comes as close as possible to an admission of religious zeal (ie, I think we can restate this as "I know man is perfectable through his institutions and that the government should establish and maintain classes of citizenship --don't bother me with facts! I don't care how much it costs")

GDP = 14 trillion yet current net unfunded debt of Medicate = 66 trillion
Other unfunded debts > 35 trillion

Does the word "bankruptcy" mean anything to you? When I say "unsustainable" and "must be sunsetted," I am talking within my own specialty as an expert. Find me one CPA (out of about 300,000) who says otherwise. Good luck, Diogenes. You'll die trying to find somebody.

How do you accumulate $65 trillion to sink this debt when you only get $14 trillion a year in annual economic activity? "It can't be done." Even with an implied interest rate of zero percent, it's impossible. Either sunset it or accept resposibility when the inevitable hyperinflation occurs.

Jetek says:

"Well, urban coyote, I happen to be a Ph.D. in Economics, so I know what I'm talking about when I say that the degree of uncertainty involved in infinite-time-horizon forecasts of "unfunded debt" or anyting else makes such numbers useless for policy-making purposes. Period."

My reply: Nonsense. It's ALREADY bankrupt. It already takes larger and larger general funds every year to pay for it, and the trend is irreversable. As Alan Greenspan said when he retired, "The time for easy solutions is past." The federal government has promised a level of benefits that are unsustainable. Medicare is bankrupt. Period. No infinite time horizon or interest rate projections needed. The cupboard is bare no matter how rosy the economic scenerio or imputed interest rate. It's a Ponzi scheme, doctor.

I'm sure you're sincere in what you say (in your RELIGIOUS viewpoint). I'm sure you're mad at the revival tent politicians for winning in court in 2000 and winning outright in 2004. But the Dems had to pick a fellow civil religionist from Massachusetts rather than a moderate in 2004.

By the way, since I've established myself as an economic realist and public sector bean counter, what makes you think I support shoveling money into the Pentagon --especially for this outrageously poorly planned Iraqi occupation of indefinite time commitment? "What a gluttonous white elephant -- move everything into Kurdistan, support Kurdish nationhood, and let the Shi'ites maul the Sunnis." There is no "Iraq." No one will die for it, no one understands pleuralistic democracy there. Get out of the near East and let the Kurds and Israeli's irritate their neighbors into copying their successful examples through sheer, universal, human jealousy. Allah Akbar.

I'm a supporter of the death penalty. I don't see how someone convicted of murder by a jury of peers still maintains their own right to existance. The liberal argument here seems to me preposterous unless the murderer is re-habilitatable through a correctional institution, and that dream is demonstrably unworkable.

I'm also a supporter of abortion. That's right, I'm pro death penalty and pro abortion. I wish Roe vs. Wade was tied directly to the 9th amendment and to disallowing the establishment of a subordinate class of citizens, pregnant women, but the decision was worded poorly -- so poorly that the subject remains an issue.

I also think the 9th amendment leaves the states free to exclude the death penalty for themselves if they wish to do so.

Furthermore, I think POTUS and Veep committed an impeachable offense when they ordered Air Force jets to shoot down the civilian airliner in Pennsylvania. The Constitution does NOT give the President power to kill American civilians in peace time. A governor can order a national guard jet to shoot down that airliner (as the Governor of Ohio ordered the Ohio National Guard to open fire at Kent State in May, 1970), but the President doesn't have the right to do that. A crisis was averted only because the passengers themselves mutinied.

More than 98 "detainees" have died, unarmed, in our captivity. USC18 provides for penalties, up to and including death, for the death of prisoners. That means the highest official to authorize torture is a murderer, doesn't it? Again, I think the death penalty is appropriate, "pour encourager les autres."

"Urban coyote, you aren't really helping. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that may be intentional. ;)

--Sebastian Holsclaw

No, I'm not helping. I have no duty to help. I'm a realist an an anti-utopian. Not only am I repulsed by the liberal utopia and the modern "conversative" (theocratic?) utopia, but I have no duty to make a choice - I deny the utility of comparative shopping as a valid technique for dealing with politicians.

I have one other crowbar to toss on this issue. This started with Gonzales' outrageous conduct as A/G, which I have snottily touched on by noting the liberals mostly voted for Patriot Act I (which Gonzales wrote).

But I want to give all of you a little insight into the standard m.o. of the Department of Justice (DoJ). They are arrogant. They belittle and threaten their contractors. Their business manners are aweful. DoJ hands out federal grants and then harrasses and annoys and intrudes on the work of the auditors (who are hired as part of the grant language). I know CPA's who've been through this mill and refuse to deal with DoJ again for any reason at any cost. What I'm saying is that honest auditors FIRE THE CLIENT when it's DoJ. We tell each other horror stories about these turds --and-- this is a long-standing problem with this particular agency.

This ugly arrogance was true when Clinton was President -- true when Bush 41 was president... it appears to go back at least as far as Robert Kennedy in the early 1960's.

It's a rotten, arrogent, unprincipled agency that no one bothered to discipline. The zit popped under Gonzales. Couldn't have happened to a more appropriate person, though. Poetic justice is a beautiful thing.

The gross national product of the USA is roughly $14 trillion a year. The net unfunded debt of Medicare is approximately $66 trillion. Other unfunded debts push the federal unbooked guarantees past $100 trillion. "Universal health care" is not going to happen, ever. There's no money for it. Eventually, certainly, Medicare is going to be sunsetted. If no action is taken, it will be sunsetted by hyperinflation.

You are taking a problem with many variables and setting all of them constant except a couple. It's a lot easier to think that way, but the results are generally not very good.

Look for a moment at Social Security. They're in trouble in the long run, because they have a whole lot of government bonds that are unlikely to be paid. And it appears they are required by law to buy those bonds. Well, there's a solution right there! Don't require SS to buy US bonds. Let them sell the bonds they have on the open market for whatever they can get, and buy bonds from whoever they think is responsible and likely to actually pay their obligations. Buy british government bonds, german government bonds, italian government bonds, bonds put out by goldmining companies, anybody who's more trustworthy than the US government.

From there it's obvious that the problem isn't SS. The problem is the US government. And perhaps a deeper problem is the US economy which is unable to support the current profligacy of the US government.

If we were to actually deal with those two big problems, maybe the far smaller problems of medicare and universal health care would be automaticly solved as side issues.

But you are assuming we do nothing, and then we will run into great big problems that leave us unable to deal with little problems like healthcare.

You may be right. Maybe we'll all just line up like cattle in front of a slaughterhouse and nobody will take any initiative and it will all go completely predictably.

But that isn't certain.

By the way, since I've established myself as an economic realist and public sector bean counter

I want to point out that you have established nothing of the kind. You have made a claim that has so far been completely unsubstantiated. Your public analysis is badly flawed (though the results may still be reasonable predictions -- just because your logic is bad doesn't mean your conclusions are wrong). You have given us no reason to think that you're telling the truth about yourself beyond our natural tendency to assume that random anonymous people don't lie.

If you want to establish yourself as a public sector bean counter, then give us your real name and title etc, and perhaps suggest ways we can look that up. Preferably give us a trustworthy source that also includes an email address under your real name we can contact you through, so you can vouch for your current alias. If you don't care to do that it's OK, and it isn't evidence you're lying -- but your claim to expert status will still be unverified.

We can evaluate you as an economic realist from what you say here. I know an economic realist when I see one, being one myself.

Urban coyote, are you a lawyer? A theologian?

no one understands pleuralistic democracy there

Hmmm...I confess that "pleuralistic" confuses me. Are we talking about elected government run by a bunch of folks with breathing problems?

Probably not, I'm guessing, but I just couldn't stop myself, here.

Whatever U. C. is in real life, s/he isn't particularly good at mindreading. I, for instance, am a liberal, but I do not believe in human perfectibility. (Though I think that each of us has an obligation to perfect ourselves -- not others -- as much as possible. But that's like saying that we have an obligation to try to get a perfect score on an incredibly hard test.)

"Man is perfectable through his institutions" sounds an awful lot like something you might find in the Cliff Notes about Foucault... except that he (like pretty much everyone else I know) would've thought that was ludicrous on its face.

Urban Coyote, the numbers you keep tossing around (e.g., $66 billion unfunded liability for Medicare) are, as you should be aware if you really are an expert, infinite time horizon projections. They are not, as you are aware if you are really an expert, hard certain numbers, but very, very soft estimates, highly sensitive to the assumptions they incorporate. As such, they are useless for policy decisions. Any decision we make based on such uncertain numbers is virtually certain to be wrong.

For J. Thomas: Social Security will go broke eventually, too, probably in the 2040’s. The bonds aren’t backed by anything. You’re right, it’s really a US Government problem. Because there is still time to fix the problem (by cheating young people out of benefits) I didn’t say SS is bankrupt. It’s broke but not necessarily beyond repair.

This time frame for repair has slammed shut with respect to Medicare. It’s hopelessly broke now, and the only solution is to sunset the “entitlement.” Without that drastic action, hyperinflation will do the sunseting for us.

OK. No CPA I’ve ever known would sign an “opinion letter” about Medicare except to say one called an “adverse opinion” that the financial numbers are unsustainable and unreliable. In other words, Medicare is hopelessly bankrupt. Furthermore, a financial statement for the entire federal government used to be prepared each year and issued with one of these “adverse opinions” –think about that heroic accomplishment of honesty – yet this humble accomplishment petered out and stopped early in the administration of “W.” I emailed the office responsible to ask why the annual statement and opinion had ceased, but I never got an answer.

Dig this, J: Random, anonymous people are the LEAST LIKELY TO LIE. They lack motive for such action. It’s amazing. If people don’t know you, don’t care what you think of them and aren’t interested in ripping you off, they will almost certainly tell you the truth. My advice to you: “trust them anyway” until evidential matter accumulates that they are dishonest. It’s an old CPA trick. We could call it “auditor’s manners.”

My name is Edward Hussey Binns. I’m a retired CPA (Virginia certificate 15834). I was very active in the Greater Washington DC Society of CPA’s from 1991 through 2001. My master’s thesis (completed in 1978 when I was 26) was quoted 5 times by Dr. Stephen Zeff in his award-winning 2000 biography of American accounting pioneer Henry Rand Hatfield. I was quoted about my hobby (!), nature tracking and native American spirituality, in section D of the September 25, 2001, Washington Post.

Charley Carp asks if I am a lawyer or a theologian. I’m a CPA and an unholy terror at tax research, an expert, which has made me a fierce opponent of de jure classes of citizenship. But no, I’m not a lawyer. My father was an engineer who became a lawyer. I’m just a bean counter. As for being a theologian, for the last ten years I have been giving lectures to young adults about their ethical survival in this tricky modern world. I call this the “urban coyotes program,” analogous to the startling ability of coyotes to adapt and survive in urbanizing north America. They have extended their range spectacularly in the last century. I don’t think my seminars have made me a theologian, but I’m not sure.

My ethics seminars have received newspaper coverage that is posted on the internet (see www.mapsgroup.org/urban_coyotes.htm ). I have completed a book that describes how I learned these survival methods. Currently, my graduates are reviewing and editing this manuscript for me. My “theology” boils down to five short statements and a scientific conjecture. Email me if you want to consider it as a theology or dogma. I have some seminar graduates who can tell you, confidentially by email, whether they find me trustworthy or not.

Slartibartfast points out that I misspelled pluralistic. Maybe that’s Freudian (I used to suffer from occasional infectious bronchitis that required an antibiotic regimen).

Hilzoy himself says this: “Whatever U. C. is in real life, s/he isn't particularly good at mind-reading. I, for instance, am a liberal, but I do not believe in human perfectibility. (Though I think that each of us has an obligation to perfect ourselves -- not others -- as much as possible. But that's like saying that we have an obligation to try to get a perfect score on an incredibly hard test.)” My response is that I am chary about mind-reading those I’ve only known through written exchanges. Though I suspect Hilzoy is a closet centrist, possibly even a separation-of-powers anti-utopian.

Modern liberalism was greatly boosted through it’s increasing influence in the UK during the 19th century, where it practically began as prison reform movement and a belief that those incarcerated could be turned around to be constructive citizens; so there’s a lot of historical support for my contention here. However, I guarantee to Hilzoy that the teachers unions are the heart and soul at the center of the Democratic party, and that they believe in perfecting human beings through social institutions such as the schools. Nay, they believe this “socialization” process is the prime function of schooling. The last thing they want is a nation of engineers and geeks. Their group opposition to “no child left behind” rises to the level of religious hostility. Aside from my seminars, I am not a teacher. And I do want a nation of engineers, otherwise we’ll get stamped into the ground in the 21st century by engineer-producing nations like India and China.

I wish I’d been able to tease Hilzoy into his stated approval or disapproval of classes of citizenship.

Modern “conservatives” have their civil religion, too – worship of authority. This is horrifyingly, clearly depicted by Nixon jailbird John Dean in his brilliant recent book, “Conservatives without Conscience.” It also provides a cogent explanation of the GoP betrayal of small-government and financial resonsibility as defining elements of the party. See also Kevin Philips' "American Theocracy" on the dryrot that has wreckec the Republican party.

If any of you want to know more about me, write me or email me. I’m practically an open book. Except that I’m not going to fink on my professional colleagues and name names about who grew disgusted with DoJ after auditing their grants. The observations were made in confidence and remain so.

Edward Hussey Binns
Founder, Urban Coyotes
[email protected]
408 N 17th Street
Hot Springs, SD 57747

Dig this, J: Random, anonymous people are the LEAST LIKELY TO LIE. They lack motive for such action. It’s amazing.

With respect, you've never really been on the internet, have you?

And hilzoy's a she, btw.

Oh hey, I missed this:

However, I guarantee to Hilzoy that the teachers unions are the heart and soul at the center of the Democratic party...

I'm fairly sure that that's no longer true (if indeed it ever was). I'm not saying they're unimportant, mind, but that they're "the heart and soul at the center of the Democratic party" is hyperbole at best.

and that they believe in perfecting human beings through social institutions such as the schools.

Assuming you're using the standard definition of "perfecting", this is false. If you're using a non-standard definition, e.g. allowing people to realize their full potential through an increased awareness of said potential and the opportunities it affords them, you might be right... but then you're using the wrong language.

Nay, they believe this “socialization” process is the prime function of schooling.

I'll be generous: what definition of "socialization" are you using here?

The last thing they want is a nation of engineers and geeks.

Of solely engineers and geeks, probably not, and neither does anyone else. Of people who are intelligent, hard-working, creative, capable of rigorous thought, etc? [The cardinal virtues of geeks and engineers IME.] Damn skippy.

Their group opposition to “no child left behind” rises to the level of religious hostility.

Their opposition is incredibly hostile, yes, but have you actually checked as to why it's hostile? It's got nothing to do with misplaced religious zeal, it's that it's a bad program badly implemented, whose sole function seems to be the rape of public education in this country. I'm not averse to tests and standards and eliminating bad teachers and all that rot, but you can't use a blunt instrument like NCLB and hope to accomplish anything useful -- or, for that matter, anything constructive whatsoever. Educational testing is hard, and it's hard for the same reason that education is hard: people are individuals, they learn individually, and their learning (especially in youth) isn't amenable to a uniformized testing procedure until much higher levels.

In fact, there are enormous amounts of research being done into the social aspects of learning, the upshot of which seems -- at this juncture -- to indicate that the primary source of degradation to the American educational system isn't the schools, it's the fact that our society places so little actual premium on education. The vast majority of students "socialize" into various forms of anti-intellectualism, particularly in math -- if I had a nickel for every complacent sigh of "I was never any good at math" I've heard, I'd be a damn sight better off than I am now -- because that's what's considered socially appropriate for an American youth. Any progress that's going to be made on the problem has to be made at all levels of education and all levels of society; by the time people are dropping out of high school or failing freshman calc, it's too late.

[Also, does anyone remember the fairly thorough smackdown of the meme that America is lacking the number of engineers required to be competitive? I seem to recall someone posting it here but I could well be wrong.]

Also, does anyone remember the fairly thorough smackdown of the meme that America is lacking the number of engineers required to be competitive? I seem to recall someone posting it here but I could well be wrong.

I've seen it. Without looking, the synopsis: just doing an head-count, the US lags India and PRC badly in science and engineering. But we're not counting the same things: in the US, we count engineers and scientists having four-year degrees; in India and PRC the total includes 2-year degrees. When comparing like things, at a per capita rate, we come out looking quite a lot better.

Ok, now I've gone and dug it out, so enjoy, and feel free to note where my from-memory synopsis went face-down in its cereal.

As far as quality goes, who knows? I'd guess that in some sense, our engineers have a less broad education than those in Western Europe, and probably are educated less rigorously in math and the sciences. I've worked with engineers from France, Great Britain and Germany, and mostly they've been very, very good. Granted, those were the ones good enough (or, well, ok: bad enough. I mean, think of the penalties: for a Brit, bad beer, and then they have to go back to those ridiculous refrigerators) to be posted overseas, but I think it's something to consider.

Slarti: for a Brit, bad beer

Having just spent 10 days in Belgium, I'm more than happy to agree that generic British beer tends to be bad. But, having spent a fair amount of time in the US, I can definitely say that no one who was moving countries to get better beer would ever go to the US.

My name is Edward Hussey Binns. I’m a retired CPA (Virginia certificate 15834).

Thank you! It's rare I meet self-proclaimed experts who're willing to actually stand behind their claims.

Now I'm ready to suppose you aren't just a troll. You say that Medicare is bankrupt, and I'm ready to suppose you're likely right. Now I'd like to ask you about the bigger picture for medical care in the USA.

I am not a public accountant, and I have a story that makes sense to me. I want to see whether you substantially disagree.

There was a time when americans had a level of medical care we could mostly afford. Like, the doctor would make house calls in his buggy, and he was willing to be paid in chickens.

But our catastrophic medical care got more effective and more expensive, to the point that most citizens couldn't afford it. Communities would have drives to pay for medical care for children's cancer treatment or expensive surgery. We got catastrophic health insurance and the conviction that people couldn't get by without insurance. A catastrophic medical problem was too expensive for most citizens to handle on their own.

Insurance companies branched out from catastrophic health insurance to routine things. Routine care and medicines. How could they break even that way? Pay a fixed rate and small co-pay and you'll visit doctors more often, far more than you could pay for on your own. Well, but insurance companies have a lot of leverage about negotiating payment, and you don't. So I expect their prices for your routine care are far smaller than yours would be -- and prices for the uninsured go up to make up the difference. So now most citizens can't get by without insurance for routine care.

But what with one thing and another, insurance costs have gone up to the point that most individual people can't afford them. That isn't just the insurance companies ratcheting up prices on services that people believe they can't do without. It's also vastly-improved far-more-expensive medical care. Pharmaceutical companies claim they spend tremendous sums bringing new products to market -- not just for marketing and for scientific studies designed to prove their products are safe and effective, but also for the product development. That justifies the very high prices. And new surgical procedures are more and more advanced and more and more expensive. Etc etc.

We started with insurance that took steady money from their customers and paid it out in occasional big gulps. Then that turned into lottery-insurance that paid some people far more than they could ever pay in, and balanced it against healthy people who were willing to pay more in case they *might* need it. Now it's turned into insurance that on average pays out more than the individual customer could pay. How can that business model work?

Well, it can't. So businesses took up the slack. Corporate health insurance works better than individual health insurance. The company has more money than you do, and also the company has a lot more bargaining power than you do for insurance rates. Of course, with corporations bargaining for low insurance rates, individual rates rose in simple compensation so that individual insurance got even more unaffordable....

A lot of people didn't get covered by corporate health insurance. But more than that, a lot of businesses are having trouble picking up the tab. Health insurance for employees is getting to be a bigger and bigger burden. So they arrange deals that provide less, and they hire more temps and part-timers who don't get insurance, etc. As businesses get less and less able to pay the money that individuals can't afford, we get closer to universal health insurance of one sort or another -- because the government is bigger than most businesses and it has even more leverage.

Most of us want more medical care than we can pay for. And rather than settle for what we can afford we look for a way to get somebody else to pay it for us. The US government is the last round of that strategy, and it can't do it either. Medicaid should fold first because it's for poor and disabled people -- the voters who're least effective at complaining. Harder for Medicare to fold because old people have lots of time to lobby.

I say it isn't just Medicare. Our whole approach to health care is flawed. As a society we want more health care than we can afford, and all the schemes we've made to get it are ponzi schemes of one sort or another.

And politically it doesn't work to restrict people to the medicine they can afford. Like the old song goes,

"If health was a thing that money could buuuuuyyyyy.....

"The rich would live, and the poor would diiiieeeeee....."

OT: Does anyone know how to get in touch with "Anderson"? Please drop me a line.

Having just spent 10 days in Belgium, I'm more than happy to agree that generic British beer tends to be bad.

Westvleteren Abt 12. That is all I have to say.

Thanks -

Billions in DoJ grants were poorly closed out from 1997 to 2005 -- very incompetent -- precedes Gonzales and even this administration -- I think Gonzales climbed out on a rotten limb and danced to shake out the un-supine prosecutors, the branch broke, and when the bough broke, the cradle fell.

It's a rotten, favores-playing, mismanaged agency? OK? Has been for years! Following is a published newspaper report, 1/3/07, from USA Today:
=====
Audit questions costs, use of Justice grants

By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON Jan 3, 2007 — Thousands of Justice Department grants aimed at assisting police and local public-safety programs have been mismanaged, and auditors questioned $726 million in costs over eight years, according to an internal review released Wednesday by the department's inspector general.

Federal auditors found a backlog of more than 12,000 expired grants that had not been properly "closed out," meaning any legal, compliance or audit issues were not fully resolved. Money that could have been applied to other crime-fighting programs was left unused.

"If the grants had been closed out more timely, hundreds of millions of dollars in questioned costs could have been used to provide the Department of Justice with additional resources to fund other programs or returned to the federal government's general fund," the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General concluded in its report.

Federal auditors reviewed $25 billion in grants managed by the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) between 1997 and 2005, before concluding that Justice had "substantially failed" to ensure that grants were closed out appropriately.
The audit also found that more than $106 million was awarded to recipients that did not comply with federal grant rules, such as reporting how the grant money was being used.

A sample of these unidentified grant recipients revealed 37 were awarded 129 additional grants.

Justice officials in the three designated
agencies, the primary sources of grant funding to state, local and tribal governments, acknowledged delays in settling grant accounts.

In a written response, Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield said the department established a system in August to track the grant "close-out" process.

The department said the $290 million, which
the audit identified as "questioned costs," were appropriate reimbursements to grant recipients for costs incurred during the funding periods, Schofield said.
The COPS program, established under the Clinton administration to hire an additional 100,000 police officers, has been the target of past criticism for its grant management program.

COPS Director Carl Peed said in a written response that the office was conducting an agency-wide review of "all current close-out policies and practices."

"The inspector general's report states the grant-making components of the Department of Justice are doing a better job of working with grantees to make sure that grants are spent in a timely effective manner," Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.
In recent years, police agencies, dogged by recent increases in violent crime and thinning ranks, have called for a reinvigoration of the COPS hiring program, which is being phased out.

link: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-01-03-grantwaste_x.htm

'OT: Does anyone know how to get in touch with "Anderson"?'

His andersonblog seems not to exist any more.

I "saw" Anderson on TBogg yesterday, but I don't know where he's hanging out full-time any more. Maybe Unfogged?

Kinda">http://www.obsidianwings.blogs.com">Kinda funny. Probably a hog on slow machines.

It's a rotten, favores-playing, mismanaged agency? OK? Has been for years!

A very interesting observation, but that's not really the topic under discussion.

The question in the case of Gonzales is not whether he abused his office to do favors.

The question is whether US Attorneys were fired to prevent active investigations of Republicans from going forward.

The question is whether Gonzales and others lied to Congress when questioned about this.

The issue is not mismanagement, political deal-making, or petty corruption. At issue are impeachable offenses, and possible violations of law.

Thank you.

Russell,

Grow up. It's a rotten agency. It got worse under Clinton. Nobody said or did anything about it.

Then it got worse under "W." Then Gonzales became A/G and bam! It blew up on him. I'm sure the Nixonian thinking went through his head that he wasn't doing anything worse than the worst of his never-charged precedessors.

The only people who've been doing their homework have been the CPA's (auditing the grants) and the press. No one has been listening. And when that happens things snowball downhill.

A public that doesn't care about selective enforcement and doesn't care about equality under the law is the problem. Gonzales is just a predictable result of that.

Ya know, back around 1978 an ivy-league attorney was elected A/G for one of the states and, a couple of weeks after that election (but before he took office), his WIFE received $100,000 in skimmed futures trading profits from a large brokerage firm in that state. That A/G later became governor. His wife proved that she stays bought and stays quiet when given money. She's had a wonderful political future because of that.

Does that favoritism and slant regarding a prosecutor -- toward acquiesence -- with corruption -- bother you? It doesn't bother most Americans. It doesn't bother anyone in her party right now.

Now is the time to get the public to start caring about it. Make an example of Gonzales. Make an example of Bush. You can say they're only the worst in a line of bad guys, but they're the ones we have available right now to oppose. Get Gonzales and Bush in jail, and then we can look at reform, and at keeping the next guys straight.

What's the alternative? Should we decide that these particular bad guys aren't that much worse than the last bad guys so we'll do nothing?

UC: "It got worse under Clinton. Nobody said or did anything about it."

Perhaps the most bizarre sentences I've read this month.

UC: "It got worse under Clinton. Nobody said or did anything about it."

Perhaps the most bizarre sentences I've read this month.

He might be right. Maybe he was there watching it get worse, and he knew all about it, but he didn't say or do anything about it at all. So you didn't find out. Only now, after 6 years of Bush, does he dare reveal the truth.

Grow up.

Too late, pal, I already did. Thanks anyway.

Then Gonzales became A/G and bam! It blew up on him.

Gee, poor Alberto. Nothing but bad breaks for our boy.

His worst break will prove to be the day he hitched his wagon to Bush's star. My personal prediction is that we will see about another week to ten days of "the President stands behind Gonzales" before Bush throws him under the bus.

Ya know, back around 1978 an ivy-league attorney was elected A/G...

Oh yeah, Clinton again. Is he still President?

Pardon me while I yawn.

Thanks -

Urban Coyote is like Bob McManus without the honesty, passion, or genuine concern for others, as nearly as I can figure out.

Most of you are missing the forest for the trees. My contention is that most Americans do not want honest and ruthless prosecution.

Thomas E. Dewey was a great prosecutor and never won the Presidency. Nixon was a great interrogator, and I believe this cost him the election of 1960. John Kerry was a D.A., was he not? He lost even after winning three TV debates.

Robert Kennedy, A/G from 1961 to 1964, loved wiretaps. He lost the Oregon primary in 1968 because he was asked about them (by Bill Lawrence of ABC news). After his assasination, the DoJ headquarters building on Consistitution Avenue was named after him!

John Mitchell, a rich lawyer who brought Nixon into his firm after RMN lost the Calfiornia governor's race in 1962, managed Nixon's 1968 campaign and became his A/G. Mitchell was so crooked that, as happened to Iago in Shakespeare's Othello, his wife got fed up and told everyone the truth about him. Since my contention is that the public doesn't want competent prosecution, my question is "What honest reform came out of the Mitchell A/G fiasco?" N-o-n-e.

Campaigns are expensive -- the hacks and the fatcats pick the nominee nowadays. In the Democratic party, they panicked when Tsongas won the New Hampshire primary, asked themselves "who stays bought?" and put enough money behind Clinton to nominat him.

The Republicans panicked when McCain won in New Hampshire in 2000, asked themselves, "Who stays bought?" and flooded "W"'s campaign with money and resources.

Did the Democratic backers want a tough A/G? Did the careerists in the FBI and DoJ? They certainly hated Janet Reno and did everything to make her ineffective.

Did the Republican backers of "W" want a good attorney general?

What am I hinting at? "Read Prince of the City," a book about the federal prosecutors look into the NYPD special investiagitive unit. The cop who naievely tried to make things better was Robert Leuci. The federal prosecutor was Rudolph Guliani.

Read the book, it's better than a James Bond novel. It was made into a movie with Treat Williams, directed by Sidney Lumet. The movie premiered in New York and bombed. The critics hated it. Guliani went on to write the RICO statute for the Reagan administration. Then he ran for mayor and lost. That should have been the end of his career, but crime got worse, the winning mayor wasn't even filing his taxes, and Guliani won the second contest.

If I'm right, both parties will smear Guliani at supersonic speed over the next year. Noah Cross and the other fat cats that buy the White House for one party or another don't want this guy in charge.

Read Prince of the City and then tell me that "things are better now."

I've never worked with DoJ.
I've never been in the building.
I just know how to listen to people and say things that keep them talking.

THere are other feuding, rotten federal agencies... FEC (stripped of all money to do anything under Clinton)... Dept of Energy (which is really the classified research branch of DoD)... EPA (now "hopelessly politicized," as Dr. Michael Crighton has said) and others.

"W"s biggest contribution to corruption was the successful argument to the Supreme Court last year locking out and essentially ending government whistle-blowing. (I have much more on that --email me). I have to say that that anti-whistleblower caper, and Gonzales's naked favoritism, are simply copies of what "W" did as Governor of Texas, as the late Molly Ivins frequently pointed out.

The point man on all of this is ROVE, the chief bagman in Texas in the 90s. If the hearings don't get to Rove to spark further investigations, nothing important is going to get exposed.

UC: If I wanted to read the opinions of an "expert" who raved on about a variety of topics at length and bluntly told all non-experts, "Don't argue with me," I'd check your blog out, assuming you have one. Some people, I gather, love being told just what to think by some authoritarian git.

I don't.

Why are you here, instead of at your own blog, where you can insult your readers (if any) at will and not disturb the rest of us?

Dr. Ngo, his website is down. Tom Brown's tracker school vouches for him.

http://trackertrail.com/more/links/schools.html

He's trying to teach his special point of view, breaking down the irrational cultural responses by getting his followers to read things like Games People Play. From what I found about it so far, I tend to approve.

Looking charitably at what he writes here, his point seems to be that the status-quo-ante-Bush wasn't all that great either. I can sympathise with that, I just don't see how to use it.

Now that pretty much the whole country is fed up with Bush, it's getting easier and easier to oppose him. But once he's no longer a threat we don't have a good plan worked out -- and we can't, since the country is mostly unified in opposition, not *for* anything in particular.

Kind of like with WWII when a lot of the world agreed that the first thing was to get rid of Hitler and think about the aftermath later, and we wound up with the Cold War.

Binns might not have any alternative in mind. He might be focused only on how to survive independently without being loyal to any particular corruptible larger group. There's a place for that too. But of course the people who're ready to lead or follow would want him to get out of the way.

Dr. Ngo said, "Why are you here, instead of at your own blog, where you can insult your readers (if any) at will and not disturb the rest of us?"

Because I'm not passionate (an insult from a previous post which I accept as a high compliment).

The folks who comment here mean well but they are too passionate. The proof of that is that this old bookkeeper should arouse your boredom or scientific curiousity. If I make you angry (an intense form of passion), it is very likely that someone else conned you once upon a time. With a game.

What J Thomas has said is right, I "might be focused only on how to survive independently without being loyal to any particular corruptible larger group. There's a place for that too. But of course the people who're ready to lead or follow would want him to get out of the way."

But if you're passionate, you're vulnerable and not ready to lead or follow. This is an enemy that must be fought without emotion.

I'll give you a fighter who'se doing this stuff right -- another former prosecuter -- Senator Schumer of NY -- notice how he got Jim Webb to run in Virginia and how Mark Warner's political team ran the election to a hair's-breadth victory.

Nothing could be done --utterly nothing -- unless the Democrats won both houses of Congress in November of 2006. They won, not brecause of passion, but because of strategy. And because independent voters (like me) didn't split 50/50, as we did in 2004 and 2002. We are fed up with the kids dying in Iraq, beyond disgust with the torture, and burn with shame that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead under an horrificly misplanned colonial occupation.

Gonzales is a pawn in a gigantic struggle between the Titans and the Olympian gods. The fight will rage until January of 2009. The winner won't be the good guys or the passionate guys, it'll be the realists smart enough to make a deal with the Gorgons.

We need to keep very cool heads and speak with dull, blase tongues, as the English did in London during the blitz.

Listen to Murtha. Listen to Webb. If you can get her to talk, listen to Sandra Day O'Conner.

Your own passion can be your own enemy. Have you folks figured out yet that if you'd been unemotional and let Robert Bork on the court in 1987, none of this would have happened. None of it. Not a bit of it.

The folks who comment here mean well but they are too passionate. The proof of that is that this old bookkeeper should arouse your boredom or scientific curiousity. If I make you angry (an intense form of passion), it is very likely that someone else conned you once upon a time. With a game.

I think that tends to be true. But so what?

This is an enemy that must be fought without emotion.

Say you were talking about a baseball game, or a revolution, or whatever. You get a whole lot of people who show up partly for the chance to express their emotions. What should you do with them? Tell them to go home and watch it on TV? Tell them they're useless? If you're unemotional you'll find what use you can make of them, and also find what use you can make of th emotional people on the other side. To the extent that people who aren't thinking straight get to make the decisions we get random action that might be counterproductive. But you can't very well get rid of those people.

The fight will rage until January of 2009. The winner won't be the good guys or the passionate guys, it'll be the realists smart enough to make a deal with the Gorgons.

It won't be over in 2009 and there won't be any real winners. We're all bozos on this bus. We're all losers at this game. We might be able to reduce the damage somewhat, and delay the worst.

Your own passion can be your own enemy. Have you folks figured out yet that if you'd been unemotional and let Robert Bork on the court in 1987, none of this would have happened. None of it. Not a bit of it.

I strongly doubt you're right. It's easy to make claims about what things would be like if they were different, but very hard to validate them.

Sometimes you can pull out one thread from the tapestry and claim that's such an important one that the other threads don't matter much. I doubt that Bork is that important. Here's what I think is vitally important:

We're going to run out of oil. And I think some rich people looked at that, and they figured that they wouldn't be able to afford much of a middle class. Maybe they liked having a big middle class with giant freezers full of steaks and pleasure boats to zoom around on the lakes and such -- I don't know what they liked. But they saw they wouldn't be able to afford it and they started working to restructure us into a third-world economy with a third-world government. It's fine to have a bunch of fat and happy voters who get distracted about abortion and gay marriage and such, but they sure don't want a whole lot of angry poor people to have a decisive vote.

At the moment there's no real good alternative. Maybe we could throw the rich people out and live together in egalitarian poverty? Most of our institutions are designed for an energy-rich society with a large middle class. They won't survive the change, and it takes a lot of resources to build new institutions. And the rich control those resources.

If we had cheap alternative energy maybe everybody would agree to rebuild things more-or-less the old way. Or even build something better. But without that, entropy will take its course. Things will run downhill to their new equilibrium, and if we dam one route they'll take another.

The most important response I can see would be to get a president who would direct DOE etc to work toward cheap alternative energy. At the moment their first priority is that we don't reveal anything that might help other nations make nukes. Actually publishing data that might help with cheap energy is not a priority. If we were to accept that nonproliferation is already dead, and that we as a society need cheap energy as a very high priority, maybe somebody would be able to actually get the details together and make it work. And then we'd have an alternative available, and we could look at how we want our society to work. Without that all we patriotic americans can do is try to slow down the inevitable, and hope that somehow something fundamental changes so we don't have to lose.

Just a question:

"None" of what would have happened if we had been less passionate and let Robert Bork on the Court in 1987?

They won, not brecause of passion, but because of strategy.

These things are not mutually exclusive.

And because independent voters (like me) didn't split 50/50, as we did in 2004 and 2002

I'm an independent voter. I didn't split in '04 or '02. I didn't split because anyone with an eye to see could see our current circumstance coming a mile away.

So, welcome aboard, and thanks for your vote in '06, but what the hell took you so long?

Gonzales is a pawn in a gigantic struggle between the Titans and the Olympian gods

He knew the job was dangerous when he took it. He could have lived his life out as a prosperous Texas real estate lawyer, but he decided to play in a bigger league.

Gonzales is no innocent patsy.

If I make you angry (an intense form of passion), it is very likely that someone else conned you once upon a time

To the degree that you make folks here angry, I suspect it's because every statement you make is delivered in the form of a boorish, self-aggrandizing lecture.

A number of folks who post here are people of some accomplishment and insight. They have some experience of the world. They've done things, and their comments here give ample evidence of that. They don't need you to "open their eyes" or tell them "the way it really is". They can figure that out for themselves.

Your comments here have been interesting and thought-provoking, and that's great. But, speaking purely personally, I haven't seen anything in what you've written that is particularly original or illuminating.

If people are annoyed with you, maybe it's because you're acting in an annoying way.

If you're not winning folks over to your point of view, maybe it's because what you have to say isn't that convincing.

Thanks -

To the degree that you make folks here angry, I suspect it's because every statement you make is delivered in the form of a boorish, self-aggrandizing lecture.

No, I don't think so.

What do you do when you see that? Somebody comes in and says that all we need is a single-tax system and everything will straighten itself out, and hee's boorish and self-aggrandizing about it? Don't you just sort of shake your head and ignore him?

Some of the trolls get people angry because what they say is important. It's like "My big bully friend can beat you up and take your lunch money and there's nothing you can do about it, nyaaah nyaah!". And Bush really can have you beat up and he can siphon away your nest egg and all you can do is vote against him and watch your vote not get counted. Of *course* it makes people mad.

But when it's just some blowhard who clearly doesn't know what he's talking about, don't you just write him off?

If there are people getting angry about this guy, it isn't really him they're getting angry about. He must be reminding them of something that matters to them. On the other hand I haven't actually seen much anger here.

If you're not winning folks over to your point of view, maybe it's because what you have to say isn't that convincing.

Sure. on the other hand, that sort of interaction can leave both sides with a stronger sense of self. He can feel firmer in his opinions for being rejected by those who will not see. There can be more than one purpose for that sort of thing.

Hey J Thomas -

My issue with the urban coyote, to the degree I have one, has to do with his persona and tone, rather than with the content of anything he has said.

He can feel firmer in his opinions for being rejected by those who will not see.

You know, if that is what floats his boat, more power to him. More grist for his ethics seminars, if nothing else.

It's not my intent to be a wiseacre. I just think this line of argument is about played out. Or, at least, I doubt I have anything more to add.

Thanks -

If Bork were on the Supreme Court then the 2000 election would have been decided by the Florida Supreme Court not the US Supreme Court. If Bork were on the court, I simply cannot imagine that people would be in federal jails for years without trial, the Geneva Conventions would be thrown out, and the President could shoot down civilian airliners over US territory in peacetime.

A chapter in Bork's book "The Tempting of America" dealt with "Chief Justice Taney and Dred Scott: The Court Invites Civil War." This is a brilliant chapter. Taney's decision led to the great American bloodbath. More Americans died in the Civil War than all of America's other wars combined. Bork understands that the Supreme Court has more blood on its gavel than any other American institution. I find that understanding to be wise and respectable.

Bork was also Solicitor General when Nixon fired his Attorney General in 1974 (the last time DoJ completely melted down). So I respect Bork's firsthand knowledge of how bad the federal justice system can be.

I agree with the opinion that this administration has been grabbing power and is dangerous to all of us in the long run. The democrats have seriously gummed up that executive power plan by taking both houses of congress (mostly because independent voters are furious about Iraq and didn't vote 50/50 as they did in 2004, 2002 and 2000).

An independent voter myself, I never voted for "W." I voted 3rd party in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. My goal was to knock the winner under 50 percent and make him humble. I don't vote for people because they are likeable or fuzzy or appeal to me. I voted for that bad-tempered banty-rooster Ross Perot twice, even though I didn't like him -- he was right about budgeting. I wanted to vote for Paul Tsongas, but he wasn't nominated by the Democrats. There waws no way in hell I'd vote for the senior Bush, who'd started 3 (count 'em) wars of no strategic importance whatsoever.

The less said about 1996 (a drive in movie, "Elvis versus the Mummy") the better.

Voting in Virginia's 2000 primary, I pretended to be a Republican and voted for John McCain (then openly fighting Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson). Someone else was nominated ("W," who'se campaign was saved by running to a photo op with bigots like the students of Bob Jones University).

In 2004, I pretended to be a Democrat and voted for Wes Clark in the primary, but a hack who once smeared Bork to appeal to his base (John Kerry) was nominated instead, so I voted third party.

Why on earth bother to be annoyed or offended by me? I've said jurisprudence has been off kilter for decades, and you can see this for yourself by reading "Prince of the City." You will also see, through reading that, the coming smear against Guliani from both the left and right. If the book bores you, or if the smear doesn't develop, email me and demand an apology for wasting your time and being wrong. Even Russell will get an apology from me if he does this and is bored. But I don't think you'll be bored, you'll be riveted, sand-blasted, by it.

I get this feeling that it's the footnotes, the examples and the objective correlatives that are so annoying about me. Believe me, I can live with that.

Alberto Gonzales came to DC, got Potomac Fever, got greedy, and deserves everything that's coming to him. My contention is tangential, that "DoJ is a long-standing example of mismanagement and favoritism."

I agree that nuclear non-proliferation is a dead, moot policy. So the world is suddenly more dangerous.

Dept of Energy has squandered 30 years pretending to look for alternative energy while actually doing Defense research. I supported Ronald Reagan's efforts to burn it down as a complete waste of federal money.

The world is NOT running out of oil (there's about 900 billion barrels in shale in Colorado and about 1,800 billion barrels in tar sands in Alberta). The world is fast running out of CHEAP OIL, and demand keeps going up, especially from India and China.

I guess what we need are more American graduates in engineering and the hard sciences like physics. Stop federal grants for useless social science degrees and give interest free loans to science majors? Use this Iraq fiasco as a "Sputnik" to drive home that we develop new technology or else send our kids to die near oil fields.

The comment that we are not out of the woods in 2009 is probably correct.

I think this thread is about done. I've made some fresh enemies, but my central point --that DoJ has been a dangerous, arrogant, arbitrary, loose cannon for a long time -- has clearly not been defeated.

I think a lot of this will become clearer over the next couple of months as we watch an heroically able federal prosecutor -- Guliani -- slog through the political quicksands. There are some very powerful interests from both parties who don't want a competent, fair-minded prosecutor to rise to the top.

UC: "Why are you here, instead of at your own blog, where you can insult your readers (if any) at will and not disturb the rest of us?"

Because I'm not passionate (an insult from a previous post which I accept as a high compliment).

This makes no sense at all. Your lack of passion, whether praiseworthy nor not, does not entitle, much less oblige, you to wander over and insult others at random. If anything, I would think it would encourage you to keep to yourself - unless your (secret?) passion is deliberate rudeness, which I begin to think is the case. Were you feeling a lack of attention on your own?

I get this feeling that it's the footnotes, the examples and the objective correlatives that are so annoying about me. Believe me, I can live with that.

Believe me, it's NOT that. It's your bloody arrogance, pure and simple. ObWi's posting rules prevent me from expressing my opinion of you beyond that. (FWIW, I've written more footnotes in my life than you've had hot lunches.)

I've made some fresh enemies, but my central point --that DoJ has been a dangerous, arrogant, arbitrary, loose cannon for a long time -- has clearly not been defeated.

You haven't made "enemies" - merely a lengthening list of people who think that you are an arrogant boor. And your declaration that your point has "not been defeated" proves nothing, since many of us have simply not bothered to engage your so-called "point," on the grounds that any such activity would only encourage you. DNFTT.

If this is your idea of a victory, I'd like to see what an acknowledged debacle looks like.


OK, you like Bork and you like Giuliani.

I misspoke, cheap oil is the issue. Expensive oil does us no more good than expensive alternate energy -- we wind up with a third-world economy either way.

Training lots of engineers doesn't help us much unless we have jobs for them. Unemployed engineers don't help the economy any more than so many cabdrivers -- unless they also have the skills to create valuable products and start businesses.

You say that Medicare is bankrupt. I say that our whole medical care system is approaching bankruptcy. Am I wrong? What should be done? Who can do it?

You hold the Supreme Court responsible for the civil war. But surely Lincoln and the union army had something to do with it. And the legislature, they voted for war and they were the ones that got in a deadlock they couldn't find a way out of. And the abolitionists, and the slave-owners.... We could easily have had war without that SC decision. We were ripe for it.

I doubt you've particularly made enemies here. I doubt many people here care. You've presented some ideas rather clumsily.

You've voted for third parties when you knew they couldn't win. What would it take for us to get IRV, so you can vote for third parties and still have your vote count? I'm convinced that would be good for the country, but how could we get it past the duopoly parties?

=== following is a long post to clear up questions from J Thomas====

J Thomas: OK, you like Bork and you like Giuliani.

Not only that, smearing Bork was a mistake by liberals that “blew back” and hurt them later (in the sense of close Supreme Court decisions that would have gone the other way if Bork were on the court). Were Bork on the SC, he would have developed the essentially universal respect that, say, Sandra Day O’Conner developed. BTW, Bork was Solicitor General of the USA once, and O’Conner was an assistant D/A. O’Conner was the ONLY experienced prosecutor on the Court in the 90’s and zeros.

The Senate democrats “won” when smearing Bork at the confirmation hearings. But, I’ve noticed, not coincidentally, that no democrat has gotten 50% of the vote for President since then – twenty years ago. And the long arm of poetic justice has placed more and more conservative judges on the court anyway, none of them as brilliant. Dare I suggest a tactical victory and strategic defeat was engendered there?

I like Guiliani because he’s the best prosecutor in American history. And we need a tough guy like that, because crime is rampant in America, especially white collar crime, very especially crime involving politics. I also like Guiliani because he’s the Republican candidate without the awful baggage of the Christian right utopian civil religion. I feel strongly that with RG as President, and a probable Democratic house and Senate, the constituted divided government would be better than either the left or right utopian civil religions running the lawmaking, executive, and judge-picking. (You can talk me into the cis-trans isomer of this, a Democratic president with Republican congress, as we had in Clinton’s last six years in office, but I don’t see how the Democrats can lose Congress in 2008 –and I trust myself on this, since I called 33 of 33 Senate races correctly in 2006, which wasn’t easy).

J Thomas: I misspoke, cheap oil is the issue. Expensive oil does us no more good than expensive alternate energy -- we wind up with a third-world economy either way.

Yeah, and demand from emerging economies is going to push up energy prices. The Iraqi quagmire also pushes prices, particularly since demand is at 99% of worldwide refining capacity. The notion that the USA occupation of Iraq would lead to vast Iraqi production and export was a weird hallucination (by Cheney? That the Iraqis would accept Chalabi as their leader? That hasn’t happened and won’t happen while we are on the ground with our occupation).

J Thomas: Training lots of engineers doesn't help us much unless we have jobs for them. Unemployed engineers don't help the economy any more than so many cabdrivers -- unless they also have the skills to create valuable products and start businesses.

Yes. My guess as a MBA/CPA is that the future good jobs and businesses in America are going to be heavily skewed toward engineering, high value-added products and services, and a computer-savvy workforce. A lot of them don’t know it, but “software” itself is an engineering specialty. It’s easy for engineers to get jobs right now, but if they wind up in a tight market with high unemployment, these are our backup math and science teachers!

J Thomas: You say that Medicare is bankrupt.

It is my expert opinion as a CPA an experienced government auditor that Medicare is hopelessly insolvent. Plain English: it can’t be saved. You’ve got to sunset it or allow it to die suddenly and unpredictably as a result of hyperinflation (in which the benefits are adjusted annually but the costs go up 10% a day). As a baby boomer, I will receive benefits that cannot be continued to the next generation. I’m a privileged class of citizen because of when I was born. Since I’m not a liberal, “That’s not all right with me.” The Obsidian Wings blog wouldn’t let me post link after link after link supporting the insolvency of Medicare. I think it sees links as possible spam or corruption. I have saved posts like the Controller General of the USA saying the USA is itself bankrupt and that Medicare is the 800 pound gorilla. Concord Coalition says the same thing. Etc. Etc. There were repeated warnings from Greenspan, Chairman of the Fed from 1987-2005. If you want this stuff, email me.

J Thomas: What should be done? Who can do it?

We should sunset Medicare and kill the poison snake of prescription drug benefits. The hospital industry and equipment suppliers are helping, amazingly, with optical-scope procedures that greatly reduce hospital time, discomfort, and, especially, cost. The pharmaceutical industry is making amazing progress – a cheap, effective preventative for Alzheimers would be a financial godsend, but it wouldn’t solve the problem. There are some ingenious pharmaceutical treatments for cancer that are about ten years away, but again, they’ll help but not solve this.

I’ve read that the average old American sucks $150,000 in federal Medicare money into the grave with him in the last 90 days of life. I believe it. It would buy us a couple of years if we were to rewrite the PROBATE laws to state that after death, an estate owes back all the Social Security payments and then all the Medicare payments to appropriate lock-box funds of the federal banking system before any estate is destributed, with criminal penalties for any intentional impoverishment within, say, 15 years of death. Old people don’t vote, so politicians can rob their graves and pass this legislation (which, incidentally, would kill remaining multi-generation businesses as well as the “family farm.”) But Molloch must be fed somehow and worshipped.

It would also help to take away the right to vote for parasites. If you get a Social Security check or Medicare benefit, acceptance of the benefit cancels any right to make the decisions about it, you have to admit you’ve become a drone in the hive.

Another thing that can be done is to disallow expensive procedures, even if the patient dies without the technology. Of course, we already have to do this with respect to long-term care. So there’s another class of citizens, elderly orphans. Even the present crop of politicians realize that the country can’t afford to help these people – it’s too expensive and the political reward is paltry. Better to leave them to miserable conditions and under-inspection while posturing and pretending to care about it. This technique can be called “eastern European health care.”

The alternative is to “balance” Medicare by allowing hyperinflation, which is the solution of both major parties, though they are too cowardly and dishonest to say it. The problem with hyperinflation is that it represents the normal path to power of fascism (as was true in Argentina, Italy and Germany – the exception was Spain, where civil war was resolved on the side of the generalissimo backed by fascists). I can live with the historical lesson of FDR, Truman, Johnson, Nixon and “W” being the handmaidens of Fascism in America, if that’s how America decides to resolve the problem (by doing nothing until it runs away beyond control – which has been the m.o. for decades by the Social Security trustees and Medicare committee).

J Thomas: I say that our whole medical care system is approaching bankruptcy. Am I wrong?

My guess is that you’re right. For an expert opinion, don’t go to a CPA or to an economist, go to a “registered actuary” or actuarial firm like Mercer, DW Simpson or other actuarial consultants. Ask them if the federal pension guarantee corporation can absorb the miscalculations of corporate health plans. My guess is that the answer is “no,” by tens of trillions of dollars. Look at General Motors and see the future of bankrupt under-funded health care. Again, Medicare is orders-of-magnitude shakier than this, an observation that infuriates those who worship a particular civil religion.

J Thomas: You hold the Supreme Court responsible for the civil war. But surely Lincoln and the union army had something to do with it. And the legislature, they voted for war and they were the ones that got in a deadlock they couldn't find a way out of. And the abolitionists, and the slave-owners.... We could easily have had war without that SC decision. We were ripe for it.

I think the north and south were locked into a radar-assisted-collision for war after Dredd Scott. Lincoln was willing to follow the Constitution and allow the South to secede, but Congress forced him into war. The Confederate Congress – what a terrifying chimera that was! Unspeakable. When it was over, there was “Reconstruction,” almost as bad a horror as the current Iraqi colonial occupation. Wise heads did not prevail on either side. And the bloodiest hands were those of the Supreme Court judges in 1857 who forced free state police to return runaways to slave states (contrary to ECL and the rights of states to make and enforce their own laws, wrote Bork).

J Thomas: I doubt you've particularly made enemies here. I doubt many people here care. You've presented some ideas rather clumsily.

Guilty. I’m McCartney’s “Fool on the Hill.”

J Thomas: You've voted for third parties when you knew they couldn't win. What would it take for us to get IRV, so you can vote for third parties and still have your vote count? I'm convinced that would be good for the country, but how could we get it past the duopoly parties?

The parties won’t give up their duopoly unless they are tricked or bribed into it (as the South got out of Reconstruction when the democrats won the presidency but traded it away in 1876 for an end of their colonial status). There were 4 candidates and 4 parties in 1860, so multiple parties are also synonymous with sectionalism and a threat of schism. So instead of starting with IRV, let’s start with the “Nevada system” which is to include another selection on the ballot: “none of these candidates.” Ideally, this ought to apply to referenda and initiative, also – yes means adopt, no means reject, and “none of these” means unplug existing law without implementing the initiative… I want you to think about this…. There is a logical reason not to vote unless this “none of these candidates” is a standard option. The voter should be able to say “Mu” or “null” or “none of the choices are adequately competent.” I want to see that first, before IRV, and the duopoly absolutely hates it. If we go to IRV, there should be a potential for an “absolute” vote, meaning “I’m voting for this candidate first-last-and-always” and that “absolute” vote should be “open” to the “none of these” choice. Now, yes, finally, we got us a fair ballot, and there’s no logical excuse not to vote.

I have a bitchy comment to make about the statement, “You’ve voted for third parties when you knew they couldn’t win.” Whoa! Are you sure? I voted for Perot twice, with my usual lack of passion, of course. Perot said pure, brute force demographics of the baby boomers would cause a budget surplus on a cash basis in the late 1990’s (it was on his flip-charts). Well, it happened. Now dig this, pay attention. When the Congressional Budget Office caught these receipts, it notified the Speaker (Newt Gingrich) that the budget would have a small surplus that year. Gingrich immediately called the White House and asked for, and was granted, breakfast at the WH the next morning with Bill Clinton. They sat down and talked about how to ladle out that cash. Bill Clinton was elected with 43% of the vote in 1992 and 49.25% in 1996. Billy Jeff wanted 50 percent and never got it. Because of people like me. We Perotista found out about that surplus and that breakfast and howled like banshees. The surplus never got spent. Perfect –exactly what I wanted. By paying down the debt, we kept our credit rating, which has stayed up even during a trillion dollar non-strategic war. Interest rates haven’t skyrocketed yet. Medicare’s Ponzi scheme hasn’t hit with full force yet. Because within recent memory we’ve been paying down the national accounts. So I got the responsible agenda I voted for. My candidate didn’t win, no. But the country did.

It would buy us a couple of years if we were to rewrite the PROBATE laws to state that after death, an estate owes back all the Social Security payments and then all the Medicare payments to appropriate lock-box funds of the federal banking system before any estate is destributed, with criminal penalties for any intentional impoverishment within, say, 15 years of death.

You really can't make this stuff up. I just hope we don't have to waste too much of the money we save on all the posthumous criminal prosecutions of people who failed to die with enough money. Ideally, they'd have to forfeit their lands to the State, which could then parcel them out as political favors. Maybe in combination with a title of nobility, if that's not asking too much.

You really can't make this stuff up.

I'm fairly sure it's actually written by an automatic text generator. I call for a TIO thread to discuss this...

Okay, based upon his last comment we know that UC is anti-democracy, for keeping life-saving care away from patients, likes to make statements about historical events without backing them up, and admits to not being very coherent. So why is anyone bothering to reply to him?

It would also help to take away the right to vote for parasites. If you get a Social Security check or Medicare benefit, acceptance of the benefit cancels any right to make the decisions about it, you have to admit you’ve become a drone in the hive.

Ummm, okay, this is spoofery, right? Anyone who receives government benefits should have the franchise taken away from them? Or have I misunderstood?

So why is anyone bothering to reply to him?

Because there's like a gold mine of humor in there.

Steve, I guess there is that.

I call for a TIO thread to discuss this...

We live to serve

"We live to serve"

Hopefully, and hit a few volleys, as well. Otherwise, it makes for a dull spectator sport.

We live to serve

"Sorry, you are looking for something that isn't there."

We live to serve

LJ: Weird, but that new post doesn't come up on the main page. I can only get there via the link above. Just me maybe.

Ummm, okay, this is spoofery, right? Anyone who receives government benefits should have the franchise taken away from them? Or have I misunderstood?

If you accept his first claims, we're in a situation that's no-win or at least very hard to win. We simply don't have the money to fund medicare, and we can't expect to raise the taxes to fund it. What can we do? All our choices are bad. He chooses obviously-bad ones, but all the others are obviously bad too.

If I'm right then it's even worse than he says. He says we can't pay for medicare. I say we can't pay for our current level of healthcare for, well, anybody. We have employers paying for it now because they have more money than employees, and they're staggering under it. Maximising their part-time/temporary workers so they don't have to pay benefits. Getting health-care programs that look good on the surface but that disallow expensive life-saving treatment -- sometimes -- so you don't really know whether your catastrophic healthcare is covered or not.

We've had various proposals for national healthcare. It looks to me like those might remove enough inefficiency from the private insurance scheme that we could fund Medicare for awhile before the fundamental insolvency of the whole system brings down the whole shebang.

The central problem here is that in trying to have the best medical system in the world, we have more expensive healthcare as a nation than we can pay for as a nation. We can't afford what we're doing, and right down the line we've done scams to get somebody else to pay for it, and each time the scam gets bigger it has worse consequences when it fails.

This UC guy has crazy solutions because the problem is so big and bad that it's driven him crazy. There is no political solution. People will die without more government assistance than we can afford to give them, and meanwhile rich people can get treatment that most people can't. Deciding which voters live and which voters die has become a political issue. Anybody who faces the problem squarely will come up with an insane solution because there are no sane solutions.

I choose not to face the problem. I claim we can find a way to deliver quality healthcare much much cheaper. We can offer quality hospice services, and we can offer entirely voluntary assisted suicide. We can put more emphasis on public health and on keeping people well as opposed to giving them expensive treatment after they're sick. We can reduce contagion by infectious disease, and we can do large-scale studies to find out which lifestyle changes to encourage.

We can fix this without having to decide who to vote off the island. I strongly prefer my fantasy because if I looked at the problem face-on it would scare me sily.

"We live to serve"

I can't find it anywhere.

The central problem here is that in trying to have the best medical system in the world, we have more expensive healthcare as a nation than we can pay for as a nation.

And what you're getting for what you pay is the worst healthcare system in the developed world, and worse than some in the developing world.

There's a lesson there somewhere. If you're already accepting that you pay twice as much as anyone else in a developed nation and accept you have to get an inferior product, well, switch to one of the better methods, continue to invest twice as much, and you really might end up with the best health care system in the world.

I'm not sure, but I tend to think that if you happen to be a rich old man you can get the best health care in the world in the USA.

But if somebody else is paying for your healthcare then you take your chances.

This fits the american ideal that you ought to be able to have whatever you can pay for, and nobody else ought to take care of you unless they choose to do it out of the kindness of their hearts.

And in the 1980's some rich americans got the idea that molecular biology etc might someday let people live forever -- and it might be in their own lifetimes. Some of what the USA is doing makes sense if you assume it's primarily designed to allow a few rich people to live forever.

We have a whole lot of retail medical technology that was designed as if cost was no object -- and then everybody wants the best.

Ane we have an expensive insurance system that was designed as if the main point is to keep anybody in particular from being blamed when somebody doesn't get the health care they think they need. It isn't your doctor, it isn't your bank account, it isn't the government. It's some clerk on the twelfth floor of a windowless building in Chicago that disallowed your claim, and you can appeal, and then you can sue, and it isn't anybody's fault that you can't switch insurance companies at this point, and so on. It's an expensive system but it does a good job of diffusing the blame.

OK, we live to serve, but only after screwing up your dinner order. Will try and give you a comp dessert.

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