Friday, July 31, 2009

Cinzano ads from the 80s

Pay attention to the stewardess in the last ad; fans of the 2nd Star Trek TV show ought to recognize her, without needing to read my mind or nothin'.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why I mistrust Obamacare, pt 2

A reminder(above). This is from a speech Obama gave in Chicago in 2003. I guess that was then.

See also:

San Francisco Chronicle/AP, July 3rd:
"Under Senate health care plan, either way you pay"

John Dickerson, Slate, Tuesday, July 7, 2009:
"Going Public, Quietly: Why Obama wants to be as vague as possible about health care reform"

Michael Lind, Salon, July 21st: "Healthcare reform: More raw deal than New Deal"
We need universal, citizen-based healthcare. It doesn't look like Obama and Congress are ready to give it to us

Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report,Weds, 07/22/2009:
"Is the Obama Health Care Plan Really Better Than Nothing?"

(via Skookum)

Lambert at Corrente, 7/21:
'How the Dems and "progressives" are selling you the "bait and switch" of public option'

and finally, Wikepedia's US healthcare reform article, which keeps growing. More later.

cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday 25 July 09

Gawker's headline read:
"John Yoo Briefly Disturbed By Consequences of His Actions"

(via xymphora)

Salon commenter "mary_steyr" refers to that portal as
"the Parade Magazine of the Volvo and latte set"

not all lefty bloggers are bowled over by Obama's presumptive charm and agenda. Here's Avedon Carol:

people are starting to notice that Obama is just more of the same, only with better syntax. Maybe it's true that his ego made him think "bold" and decide to get a healthcare package this year, even if it's a crap package - but I doubt it. I think his desire to be seen as "respectable" by a bunch of right-wingers led him to shy away from presenting a plan that really works and making the case for it. He hasn't been bold at all - he's backed way off of single-payer, of ending the war, of transparency, of basically every promise he made or implied he was making. He knows perfectly well no one voted him in to give their money to Goldman Sachs and force them to buy crappy health insurance that still doesn't deliver healthcare. He's blown it because he didn't have the guts to do the business.

I wish I knew how to embed this very brief and very droll animation by Ann Telnaes.

Humana has an animation up as well, designed to explain health care reform, or to avoid explaining while seeming to, depending on your point of view. To be fair it's no worse than what various pols like Obama or Charles Grasley have been saying by way of explanations. It includes that by now familiar insinuation about how people who don't have insurance are primarily healthy people who just don't want to get insurance until they need it. The greedy uninsured, driving costs up for everyone. How many people actually believe this?

cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Consumer culture as a balm against reality, now in Hebrew

According to Noam at the Promised Land blog , the tagline of this Cellcom ad is “What do we all want? Some fun, that’s all”.

as Anya Achtenberg wrote in the comments there:

I wanted to find a shred of hope in this absurd commercial — the possibility of a communal game, Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Absurd. What is on the other side of the wall is meant to be hidden. Some sort of animals the IDF must keep in line. Playful at the moment. But still animals to be hidden, disappeared, kept behind a wall. A wall? A concrete monstrosity.

via Helena Cobban, who notes one commenter's view that the ad

"was most likely conceived and designed by high-ups in the advertising company-- and that they would have designed it to appeal to the broadest possible zeitgeist in (Jewish) Israeli society".

In other words, it wasn't calculated to shock Israelis, the presumption being most are OK with the wall. She also has a piece at the Boston Review on the decline of the Israeli peace movement, which she also discusses in her blog, in which she argues that in the past 10-15 years a lot of moderate to dovish Israelis have simply left Israel. She doesn't explicitly spell out the demographic consequence, nor does she see it as a principal cause(it was left out of the BR piece by the editors), but the meaning is clear.

How far has the peace movement fallen? One benchmark for comparison is the war that Sharon and former Prime Minister Menachem Begin launched against the PLO in Lebanon in 1982. In September of that year, Lebanese Falangists, operating (as Ari Folman’s brilliant film Waltz with Bashir reminds us) with extensive support from the Israeli military, undertook a two-day massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis—as much as 20 percent of the population at the time—took to the streets in outrage, forcing the government to establish the Kahan Commission, which recommended serious sanctions for Sharon.
By contrast, pollsters found that 94 percent of Jewish Israelis supported the recent war in Gaza. Veteran peace activist Daphna Golan, who teaches human rights law at Hebrew University, recalled the anguish and isolation she felt during the Gaza war, especially in the face of widespread pro-war activism among Hebrew University students. Golan said university authorities did not respond to her complaints about posters she described as “extremely racist” hung at the entrance of the Givat Ram campus.

N.B. For some reason I had difficulty accessing the BR article directly through the linked URL, as it seemed their server was rejecting the hyperlink. So I had to go to their homepage, where the article, "Peace Out" is currently listed, although you can probably use their in-site search window if need be. Anyway it's worth reading, and if you have difficulty like I did the URL is here:

cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My brilliant brain- Brit doc about Susan Polgar

My Brilliant Brain - Make Me A Genius - 46:58

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Why I mistrust Obamacare, pt 1

This is what I wrote in response to dday's "Whitling Down to Nothing" at Digby's Hullabaloo earlier this month.

First, I quoted another commenter, "pataphysician":

"I'm worried that a Health Care "reform" bill will be passed and signed that will include mandates, and taxing of Employer health benefits, with no public option and only subsidies for those who rank among the poor. Obama ran against many of these ideas, only to say now that he is Ok with them. That he says that now, makes me worried that they will happen. This would be much, much worse than our current system, as we will all be paying taxes essentially to private insurance companies for some of the crappiest care possible."

[incidentally, the comment thread led me to believe that Digby's commenters, by and large, seem to "get it" more than the people who write the blog. The bloggers are undoubtedly decent and well-meaning, but their perspective seems compromised by their apparent need to carry water for supposedly mainstream congressional democrats.-JV]

I wrote:

As Digby said earlier, if any sort of healthcare reform bill passes, the democrats will own it. Mandates and extra taxes will stoke class resentment while essentially helping nobody-- apart from the private insurance companies and people eager to paint democrats as being the stuff of the worst republican stereotypes: intrusive government(mandates), and more taxes for negligible benefits that only accrue to the very poor.

I am poor, and I don't want the democrat's plan. It's not because I'm stupid, but because it will likely cause me harm and make me poorer still. Consider: if a plan with mandates forcing employers to provide health insurance for their workers or for individuals to buy their own insurance passes, poor people like me will just have to hand over a certain portion of our very meager incomes to insurance companies for worthless insurance plans just so we can "stay legal."

Oh, but what about your employer? If your subsistence job as a cashier used to offer no benefits, now it will have to...

I doubt it. Far more likely I will lose my job and be reoffered the same job, only reclassified as an "independent contractor," doing the same work after agreeing to the new job(shh! employment contract) description in which I "voluntarily" surrender my benefits. Maybe my employer will even provide a handy toll-free number to call where I can have a call center rep offer me advice on how to score government benefits, or choose between private plans.

well, if that happens, you would get assistance paying for your insurance from the government...

I doubt this too. The 1st TNR article you quote says that subsidies presently taper off at around 88 thou for a family of four. How much do you want to bet this will be adjusted downward in the negotiation towards a final bill, and that if I get a job that pays as little as ten bucks an hour I will suddenly find myself making too much for the subsidy? (And besides, why should I be humbled into accepting a subsidy because I'm suddenly obligated to by insurance? Screw paternalistic politicians of all stripes, on both the left and the right, who want me to beg.)

Well, at least you'll have insurance...

Will I? Digby and dday, I invite you to go to some online price-comparison service that offers health insurance quotes. If you do go to such a site(they often have ads on Yahoo and other mass portals), you'll see that many of the larger insurance companies offer multiple insurance products, that range from over 500 bucks a month to less than 100/month.

If I'm making 10 or even 11 an hour, even if single and without dependents like me, the bells-and-whistles policies are essentially out of reach, and all I might hope to afford is a sub-100/month policy.

They usually have a 5,000/yr dollar deductible. I saw one company that also offered a max deductible of 7500/yr. Generally these policies only pay once you've met the deductible, period. No payment for a routine dr's visit, or even to go to the emergency room, and no prescription drug benefit.(I've also seen slightly more "expensive" plans that do offer prescription drug coverage, usually paying 50% of the cash cost, usually with a 500 or 1,000/yr limit.

So, if it plays out as I've suggested, and if I'm making 10 bucks an hour(I wish!)and don't qualify for a subsidy, maybe I'll have to shell out 600,700,800 or more bucks a year for phoney-baloney coverage, even though I'm poor, just so the government doesn't fine me and pays me my tax refund.(Money I could be otherwise spending, on say, actual healthcare, like when I need to fill a prescription.)

No thanks.

If this kind of twisted "health care reform" passes, it'll be worse than if nothing passes for the working poor.

In fact it will also make subsequent fixing of the bad law substantially harder, because the private insurance companies will fight like hell to hold on to the subsidy they gained under Obama in 2009.

cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ray McGovern in Denton

This past Friday Ray McGovern came here to Denton, about 35 miles north of Dallas, to give a lecture about torture and the politicization of the CIA. As you may already know he was in Dallas(Richardson) the day before, and discussed his planning on speaking there in Counterpunch last Thursday. McGovern is a retired CIA analyst who first came to wider prominence when he publicly confronted Donald Rumsfeld a few years ago about his inconsistent statements regarding the likelihood that Saddam had WMDs.

McGovern seems like a nice enough person, but implicit in his spiel, if I'm reading it right , is that Gitmo and Bush II should be regarded as aberrations. He also said that Obama was heroic for releasing the torture memos(!), and that he regarded McNamara as a tragic figure(!!). To his credit he did criticize Panetta for not being sufficiently forthcoming, and noted that the US hasn't stopped torturing post GWB. It may be that he was being diplomatic in praising Obama, per reading his audience on Friday night as party-line rank-and-file dems who couldn't otherwise be reached unless you avoid criticizing Obama. I don't know enough about McGovern to judge. There is no video of the speech he gave here in Denton, but it was very similar to the video of the full speech he gave in Seattle in March(about 56:00, link here) which is what the 7 minute excerpt above is drawn from. At around the 8 minute mark he says "on January 20th we got rid of the Nazis" which he didn't say in Denton but seems in keeping with the tenor of the speech I heard. A goodly portion of his speech, both in the 56 minute link and last week, was about fighting the good fight, etc, etc, and the importance of resistance irrespective of the likelihood of success.

To me, fighting the good fight irrespective of the odds of success in 2008 would've meant, at the very least, voting for a third party candidate like Cynthia McKinney or Nader in order to register discontent with the corrupt prevailing political order. But my sense, sitting in the small crowd of 30-35 or so people who attended, was I surrounded by democratic party faithful, most of whom would have a hard time doing that, even here in solidly red Texas.

My sense also was that McGovern wasn't about to suggest such a strategy to the gathered group. In the brief Q and A at the end of his talk, one lady asked, "what can we do, to show our friends and neighbors who are so preoccupied with religion and believe whatever their preachers tell them about republicans and the war, how they're misguided and show them the...more enlightened view?"

Mine is a very rough paraphrase and I don't know if I'm adequately capturing her sentiment. I wanted to say, "have you tried not voting for pro-war democrats?" but felt that since I was not a regular attendee and hadn't been to one of Peace/Action/Denton's events in several years that it would have been rude. Besides, strictly speaking I don't know how the crowd that was present voted, or even that voting actually matters. Like Ray McGovern I felt they were nice people, even if they may be part of the problem. And if they are, who am I to decide that, let alone tell them?

McNamara, on the other hand, I feel more comfortable rejecting as a "tragic figure". Stephen Walt recently wrote this about him:

Some commentators see McNamara as a tragic figure; a talented, driven, and dedicated public servant who mishandled a foolish war and spent the remainder of his life trying to atone for it. The obituary in today's New York Times takes this line, describing him as having "spent the rest of his life wrestling with the war's moral consequences," and as someone who "wore the expression of a haunted man."

I see his fate differently. Unlike the American soldiers who fought in Indochina, or the millions of Indochinese who died there, McNamara did not suffer significant hardship as a result of his decisions. He lived a long and comfortable life, and he remained a respected member of the foreign policy establishment. He had no trouble getting his ideas into print, or getting the media to pay attention to his pronouncements. Not much tragedy there.

But I agree with McGovern about what he calls the "fawning corporate media", and I note that he encouraged everyone gathered to read the torture memos now that they are available, so here is the address for the ACLU's downloadable PDF of those memos.

cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Forest Hill House, 1909 postcard

via Hugh Manatee(?) at Wikipedia

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Insecurity State

artist-Amanda Moeckel
artist: Amanda Moeckel

Steve Gimbel in Philosopher's Playground, a new blog(well, new to me), notes that the World Health Organization recently assessed the healthcare systems of most member countries and ranked the US 37th. Behind virtually all Western European countries, but also behind Costa Rica, behind Chile, even behind Morocco and war-torn Colombia.

From his essay:

...insecurity is the most important force in shaping American society. It manifests itself in two ways. In the middle class, it is class insecurity. There is the sense that our kids will not only fail to have more than we have, but that they may fall from being middle class. This is why schools are simultaneously turned into prisons providing environments that are not conducive to learning and overburdening our kids with too much homework. If they don't get into the right pre-school they won't get into the right college and then they might not end up with a good job. The kids are so risk averse that they refuse to think interesting thoughts. Just get the B, just don't screw up. It is there in the way we create gated communities both in terms of actual gates and in terms of infrastructure. We can't build public transportation because then the wrong kind would have easy access to our homes and our stuff. It's all fear of losing our stuff and our kids not being able to get it for themselves. Look at our drug laws, look at the way we pay for schools through property taxes, look at the discussions around affirmative action. The group of voters who went for Reagan and Clinton are governed by class insecurity and both of them knew it and played them like a fiddle.

The middle class doesn't want health care reform, not because they think ours is the best system in the world, but because it is good enough for them and they are afraid that helping someone else would be a zero sum game and thereby cost them. It works for me and mine so don't mess with it. Insecurity leads to malicious, selfish inaction.

I think there's a bit more to it than that, since this is, to an extent, one of those "people are so X because of Y" arguments, when in fact our society is increasingly less homogeneous and that argument, irrespective of the particulars you replace X and Y with, gets increasingly harder to make. Maybe, as a sort of corollary to Gimbel's thesis, it would be interesting to explore the ways that popular media reinforces our more reactionary traits and deliberately avoids discussing contrasting qualities we have.

Nevertheless his blog looks like a fascinating place to visit and the essay is worth reading in full. Go read the rest here, "Insecurity as an American Social Force"

(via Helmut at Phroneisisaical.)

cross-posted at Dead Horse.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

"Нехороший мальчик" Олег Ужинов

"Нехороший мальчик" Олег Ужинов

via "Pavlovich 74"

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Thursday, July 02, 2009


time for fun

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