Thursday, March 31, 2005

1938 - The Anschluss

Hitler absorbed Austria into the Third Reich. He apparently had some help:
"There is a higher ordering, and we are all nothing else than its agents. When on 9 March, Herr Schuschnigg broke his agreement, then, in that second, I felt that now the call of Providence had come to me. And that which then took place in three days was only conceivable as the fulfillment of the wish and will of Providence. I would now give thanks to Him who let me return to my homeland in order that I might now lead it into the German Reich! Tomorrow may every German recognize the hour and measure its import and bow in humility before the Almighty, who in a few weeks has wrought a miracle upon us."
As quoted in "Kingdom of Shadows" by Allen Furst.

Let me extract:
There is a higher ordering, and we are all nothing else than its agents.
I felt that now the call of Providence had come to me.
...only conceivable as the fulfillment of the wish and will of Providence.
I would now give thanks to Him...
...bow in humility before the Almighty, who in a few weeks has wrought a miracle upon us.
Doesn't this sound like someone you've heard recently?

I am sorry, I find this beyond scary.

I wonder if I could still get back in Ireland.


Yanking the Tube in Iraq

(no pun intended)

Iraq war is blamed for starvation
Rory Carroll in Baghdad
Thursday March 31, 2005
The Guardian

Acute malnutrition among Iraqi children aged under five nearly doubled last year because of chaos caused by the US-led occupation, a United Nations expert said yesterday.
Jean Ziegler, the UN Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food, said more than a quarter of Iraqi children do not have enough to eat and 7.7% are acutely malnourished - a jump from 4% recorded in the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion (emphais added) .......

Prof Ziegler based some of his analysis on a US study in October 2004 which estimated that up to 100,000 extra Iraqis, mostly women and children, had died since the invasion than would have been expected to before the war.

"Most died as a result of the violence, but many others died as a result of the increasingly difficult living conditions, reflected in increasing child mortality levels," he said.
24,001,816 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 41.1% (male 5,003,755; female 4,849,238)
15-64 years: 55.9% (male 6,794,265; female 6,624,662)
65 years and over: 3% (male 341,520; female 388,376) (2002 est.)

Let me get out my calculator again (hope numbers don't stun you):
Total population 0-14 years: 9,852,000; under five say 3,200,000

7.7% of this is: 250,000 children who are experiencing severe malnutrition.

Severe malnutrition can lead to death. Severe malnutrition frequently does lead to death (or permanent neurologic damage). Severe malnutrition is a painful way to die for a sentinent being.

To paraphrase Stalin, one death in Florida is a comedy; 250,000 children dying in Iraq is a statistic.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Bobby and Kids

The Gov is at it again. According to our local rag, The Star Democrat:
The future of Maryland's 12 regional child resource centers,..., is up in the air as state funding could be cut by $2 Million. ...
The 12 resource centers serve as the hub for child care services in different regions of Maryland...
Statewide funding was $3.8 Million a year in the past two years. Gov. Robert Ehrlich proposed $1.8 Million for fiscal year 2006...
...Ehrlich has proposed the resouces centers be switched from the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Resources to the Department of Education. Macsherry said services that go to young children are not social services or welfare services, but educational services.
In the current economic climate, most households have both Mom and Dad working; sometimes at two jobs. This is just to keep even. Agreed, we could live without a lot of "stuff" that we accumulate. But, if we did that, then the economy would really tank.

One of the things families need, then, is good day care. They frequently can't get it. Really good day care is over $100 a week. If you're working minimum wage, and the federal minimum wage for covered, nonexempt employees is $5.15 per hour, that means, hummm, subtract six and carry... alright, 19.4 hours to pay for day care for ONE child. If you have two children, 38.8 hours. That leaves 1.2 hours of salary, or $6.18 for food, transportation, housing, clothing, entertainment, and, ta ta, taxes!

While not day care itself, these resource centers make sure that the quality of those out there conforms to some kind of basic standard. In other words, they perform an important task.

One other thing, who out there thinks that day care is education? You can see where Ehrlich is going here. By doing that, he throws it back to the counties and the School Board. That saves more money for Bobby so he can pay off his fat cat supporters.

You wonder why we're going to hell in a hand basket.

Sent in by an alert reader

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Next Big Thing

I have contended for a long time that the next big crisis in the World will be the detonation of a nuclear weapon. It is inconceivable to me that States such as Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea and probably Iran would practice restraint if those in power were threatened with oblivion. And for a small State, oblivion for its leaders threatens all the time. Why would they practice restraint? If Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapon, he would have used it. What did he have to lose?

With these thoughts in mind, a correspondent referred me to this quote by General Mirza Aslam Beg - former Pakistan Chief of Army Staff:
"If India and Pakistan want to dissuade Iran from going nuclear, then "out-sourcing a nuclear strike" becomes essential. Iran has the missiles, which can reach Israel. Iran fears nuclear capable Israel, and by outsourcing our nuclear strike to Iran, a credible nuclear deterrence will be established in the Gulf Region, the West and South Asia."
These are heady words. Many of us remember the clock that the Union of Concerned Scientists used to have during the Cold War with the hands closer and closer to midnight. It wasn't the approach of the Rapture that they were warning of, but a non biblical Armageddon. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon and lets loose on Israel, this might happen pretty close to the actual valley (or mountain, I can never remember). On the other hand, the Israelites might not be very happy about the outcome since according to our 21st Century Evangelists:
Apocalypse, Armageddon, and End Times are popular terms for what is thought to be the End Of The World. Not so. True, most of mankind will be destroyed. The Bible tells that two-thirds of God's chosen people, the House of Israel, and about 90% of the Gentiles will perish. The best of times will follow the worst of times. The end of the world is after, and not before, the Millennium.
I remember back in high school, there was some kind of prophet that predicted the world was going to end on Thursday. We were pretty worried. Thurday came and went with no problem.

I think there is a lot more possibility of a nuclear nasty this time around.

A final thought, doesn't it stike you as peculiar that Bush is outsourcing jobs to India and Pakistan is outsourcing nuclear weapons to Iran?

Monday, March 28, 2005

BobbyGate Redux

Oh, it is heating up. The WaPo weighs in with an editorial, no less. Tidbits include:
AS HUNDREDS of pieces of legislation head into the crucial home stretch of the Maryland General Assembly's 2005 session, one might think Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) would be busy fighting for bills he likes and against those he doesn't. Instead, he is engaged in scandal damage control. That's the impression the governor gave when he suggested to reporters that he is the victim, first, of an "orchestrated" Democratic campaign to leak embarrassing material about his Republican administration, and, second, of a former aide who he says tried to "blackmail" him. His extraordinary remarks reinforced the impression of an administration that veers from one bizarre gambit to the next, without much attention to the major debates facing the state.
We described below how one of the whistle blowers on Ehrlich, Nurse Lane, felt that Ehrlich was engaged in a "whisper campaign" to get her fired from her present job in retaliation.
(Nurse Lane) tried without evident success to highlight problems in the state's foster care system
She threatened to let loose if he didn't let up. But, the plot thickens:
The governor's implication that Ms. Lane was part of a Democratic plot to leak embarrassing revelations about Mr. Steffen is strange; for one thing, she is a Republican who worked for Mr. Ehrlich both before and after he was elected governor.
As the WaPo points out, this was the same Gov who stood in front of the Legislature on opening day and castigated them for doing the Rodney Dangerfield to him. Just who is dissing who these days?

As the Chinese curse says, "May you live in Interesting Times."

Ah, so.

Up, Down, Sideways, Back again

I'm sorry, there is just nothing in the current political landscape that is what it says it is. Why, Alice in Wonderland was a frigging Reality Show compared to this:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has helped lead a congressional effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive, joined members of his own family nearly 17 years ago in allowing doctors not to take extraordinary measures to extend his father's life, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Badr Bader Bad

From here via Juan Cole:
Guerrillas killed 16 persons in Iraq on Sunday, including three members of the Badr Corps in a drive-by shooting at Baquba. The Badr Corps is the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shiite party that is one of two big winners in the recent parliamentary elections. Badr itself ran on the United Iraqi Alliance slate as a political party, the Badr Organization.
I wondered if the Badr Corps is related to the Bader-Meinhof gang? I Googled "Bader-Meinhof Gang" but couldn't get a good definition; just passing referrals such as:
The Marxist Bader Meinhof gang was terrorizing West German society in the 70's, and the right-wing law and order forces were cracking down hard on that gang and those considered sympathetic to them.
How can such prominence disappear so easily from History?

Sic Tempus Fugit

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Any news is good news in the modern media. People forget that someone is a mass murderer and would probably go to his franchised restaurant if they thought they could meet Jeffrey Dahmer (they might not eat there). With this in mind, the Maryland Republicans threw a sacrifical lamb onto the pyre trying to distract the press from BobbyGate. Our local State Senator (Dorchester County), Richard Colburn was outed by a former employee. Academically outed that is. Although Dicky Colburn is of a ripe old age, he still was trying to get a degree at a local college, for "personal enrichment." (I won"t delve into the irony of a politician trying to personally enrich themselves.)

This aide-de-camp has now come forward and confessed that he wrote Dicky's term papers for him. This included five for a sociology course (maybe Dicky was doing a case study in the abuse of power).
Dukes, 36, said he felt obligated to complete the papers to keep his job.

He also seemed to be indentured to the old codger:
Dukes said Colburn also asked him to do personal tasks such as help arrange the resale of the senator's Orioles season tickets and help move furniture in his home.

Dicky withdrew from the college, but has denied all. Denied all, I say.

Stay tuned.

Fallout, Backspin and the Strangeness of History

Who would have ever believed that Terri Schiavo would have become the fulcrum around which swung an entire country. If the Beatles claimed to be more famous than Jesus, surely this woman will glean at least a footnote when the annals are written (or blogged). Billmon got me to thinking this morning. He refers to Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" which was written in 1936, and Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia," which was written after the end of the Spanish Civil War (actually, it was published in 1952 after his death.) Both involved Communists, and, in both the Communists were the nasty players. Not because of what they believed in (and both Orwell and Steinbeck sympathized with the goals of their characters) but with their methods. While Steinbeck's is set in the US and involves machinations of a Communist organizer against the goons of corporate America (hard to pick a winner there), Orwell was describing the effect of blowback from the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union on the Communist factions in Spain. A particular gruesome experience, if I remember the book. (Allen Furst describes it as well in "Night Soldiers" ).

The point here is that History is written not by the victors, but by the survivors. Spain continued under the victors of the Spanish Civil War, the Falangists, until the death of Franco in 1975. Until that time, the Spanish people, I assume, labored under the Falangist's history of the Civil War. One can imagine how that was described. (For an interesting historical experience, go to this page and see how many of the links are no longer functioning. Is this not like what Winston Smith did in Orwell's 1984 (I had originally written George Winston)? By erasing links we may be changing History. Of course the blogs do not have the same "reality" as a written book, or oral history. Or do they?) However, even during the 1960's when my classmate was reading "Homage to Catalonia" (he was a liberal when we were all J. Edgar Hoover anti-communists), the real history of that civil War was known. Of course it was history that was interesting to us, maybe not the Spanish people. Maybe both sides exist now.

But back to this unfortunate drama in and out of a hospice in Florida. By seizing on this for political gain, a number of actors may find that they have rechanneled the flow of History into areas that they didn't really want to see watered (c.f. the Milagro Beanfield War, now that we are talking of Wars). In particular, it is quite possible that many Americans will begin to wake up and see just how disastrous this right wing juggernaut could be to their lives and livlihood. If the polls are any indication, George Bush is in deep trouble. And those poll numbers tanked when his chicanery in the Schaivo story became obvious. (As did the poll numbers of Congress, but then, as Mark Twain said, "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.").

The point here is that we have no idea how History will write itself. And trying to alter History by killing off the players, as Stalin did such a great job of in the 1930's, eventually comes out in the wash. Is it possible that there was one Russian in the early 1950's who could have imagined that Stalin would someday be known mainly as a butcher? He and Hitler and Mao were the sun that never sets whilst they were alive.

Is the country finally coming to its senses via the unusual situation of a dying woman? If it does, she should become one of our civil Saints. But for sure, we have absolutely no way of knowing how History will be written. On either side of the divide. I have said this before, no novelist could have concocted the drama that is playing out. The editor would have told them that the plot was just unbelievable. History has its zingers. Our day and age provides an abundance. Who would have known that Paul Wolfowitz wanted the job at the World Bank so he could be getting a little nookie.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Nurse, The Clone and the Prince of Darkness


You have to love Maryland. Not only do we have crabs, we have a crabby Gov, Bobby Ehrlich. (A friend of mine rates his totalitarian tendencies by how far up his sideburns go. At the moment, they are near the top of his ear. He hasn’t got much room to go.) Bob is involved in a scandal. From the State that brought you Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel, we now have BobbyGate. I will try and recapitulate this juicy tale, if I can.

First of all, we had a dramatic show and tell by Martin O’Malley, the mayor of Baltimore on 10 February:
“For months now "it" has hovered in the shadows of Baltimore politics, emerging occasionally on partisan radio shows or in questioning calls from constituents, a frustratingly persistent annoyance for supporters of Mayor Martin O'Malley and his staff.

Until yesterday morning, when the mayor, standing in front of City Hall before rows of reporters and some of those staff, finally denounced "it," the longstanding rumors that he had been unfaithful to his wife………..

The news had broken that a campaign operative of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. resigned his state job yesterday after admitting he had posted the rumors about O'Malley's marriage on a conservative Web site.”
This guy is named Joseph Steffen and , though denied by our Gov, was a close ally (see picture above). His major job was to slice out state employees who didn’t buss the behind of the Gov:
“A month and a half ago, one of Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s employees, nominally appointed to be the spokesman for the Maryland Insurance Administration, resigned after the discovery that he had been propagating rumors about the state of the marriage of Mayor Martin O’Malley, the front-runner in the race to unseat Ehrlich in the 2006 election. Joseph Steffen, who claimed that no lesser a personage than the governor himself dubbed him the “Prince Of Darkness,” moved seamlessly through the offices of state government, leaving behind a trail of pink slips.

Steffen was one of Ehrlich’s original political hires, having worked for the governor back when Ehrlich was one of the bright-eyed boys of Newt Gingrich’s so-called “Republican revolution” in 1994, when the GOP took control of the House of Representatives back from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years. This would make Steffen one of a very small number of people who know Ehrlich well, and vice versa. That Steffen e-mailed the governor’s wife for advice and counsel should he get into trouble is not that hard to conceive.”
This guy Steffen is reminiscent of the unsavory types that Richard Nixon employed to do his nasty work (and who wound up in jail). (Unfortunately, they are like vampires and seem to be able to come back from the dead, c.f. G. Gordon Liddy who is now a right wing code talker.)

The plot thickens and thickens. Now we have a nurse who was, at one time, the executive planning director at the Department of Human Resources, who who was fired in June, probably because she rocked the boat, coming forward with unsavory eMail’s from this slimy guy.
Lane wrote the governor that she would release more damaging messages between her and Steffen - the first few were the "tip of the iceberg," she said - if the governor and his staff did not stop trying to implicate her in how the Steffen story wound up in The Washington Post and later in other news outlets. She said she was the subject of a "whisper campaign."

Ehrlich doesn’t cut himself any breaks. He stonewalls and accuses people, like Lane, of blackmail. Just like Richard Nixon. I wonder if the Republicans are against stem cell research because they have already cloned Tricky Dick?

Molly Ivins frequently talks about the politics in Texas. I know that Tom Delay is from Texas, but I think that we have all the fixin’s for a big broughaha right here in Bay City.

Stay Tuned.

What would Jesus say?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday Crab Blogging

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bolton and the Bloggers

There is a strange assymetry when it comes to politics. On the one hand we can have John Bolton engage in tacky hijinks:

In 1995-96 Bolton served as president of the National Policy Forum (NPF), which, according to a congressional investigation, functioned as an intermediary organization to funnel foreign and corporate money to Republicans....

When John Bolton became NPF president in 1995, the forum began organizing “megaconferences” as a hook to raise money for the party. These conferences brought together Republican members of congress, lobbyists, and corporate executives to discuss matters that were frequently the object of pending legislation. An NPF memo laid out the funding strategy: “NPF will continue to recruit new donors through conference sponsorships. ... In order for the conferences to take place, they must pay for themselves or turn a profit. Industry and association leaders will be recruited to participate and sponsor those forums, starting at $25,000.”
This is so obviously against the spirit of the campaign finance laws as to be laughable. These are the same clowns who want to make sure that bloggers can no longer post freely on political issues:
The End of the Internets
I do think there are ways that some campaign finance law provisions can be reasonably extended to the internet, but what they're talking about now would essentially put an end to all political speech on the internet, with the exception of "established" media organizations.
You know, eventually the worm turns. Eventually all of this Bush, Negroponte, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz nightmare will be a thing of the past. The problem, as I see it, is what kind of country is going to come out the other end of the tube, and whether the change will be a revolution.

We are about due for a breakthrough scientific discovery. No one can predict what this will be anymore than someone in 1900 could have predicted antibiotics, atomic weapons or space travel (there were some glimmerings in the writings of Verne and Huxley). I guess I could imagine a breakthrough in fusion research or gravity.

What if any country, using some technology we can't imagine, could challange the United States and its hedgemony? In addition to chaos, we would be in for a bad time. Many people out there cannot forgive us for our arrogance. Its not just Al Qaeda that has it in for us.

And Bolton continues to throw things in the international face. He dislikes the UN, the International Criminal Court, and all the treaties that have produced so much of the real progress that our planet has made.

I think we are in for a few hard years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I say, could the answer be horse sock?

Sent in by S. from guess where

Monday, March 21, 2005

Who said politics wasn't theatre

Firstly, I feel a little sad about Terri Schiavo, but not much. As best one can tell, she's not feeling any pain or saddness.

Now the good part. The publicity and actions that this broughaha have excited will make it much easier for those of us who need government action on other, more complex cases.

Let me explain. A child who has a profound encephalopathy is being kept at home but only with the help of a part time nurse. If the nurse is not provided, then the child will have to be placed in an institution. This is the underlying justification for the nurse. This works for the family. It may work for the child at some level. Along comes a governor who wants to "save money." He cuts the funds that supply the nurse and the child winds up in an institution where his life span is very short. Probably weeks. (If there is even an institution that is available).

Now, at least, if we want to make an argument for some medically useful modality in these cases we can use Tom Delay as precedent.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Herd

Czech Republic,
El Salvador,
South Korea,
United Kingdom,
United States,
Ukraine, and the
Kingdom of Tonga.
Fiji is also present but under the United Nations banner.

Leaving the Herd
the Netherlands,
Bulgaria and
have announced plans to withdraw.

Candide Camera

The New Yorker for March 7 has an interesting piece on Voltaire, sort of an 18th century Abbey Hoffman*:
"Enligntened times will only enlighten a small number of honest men," he wrote. "The common people will always be fanatical." He coined his most famous phrase, Ecrasez l'infame-"Crush the Horror"...
The horror was the alliance of religious fanaticism with the instruments of the state, and the two combined for torture and official murder.
Sound familiar?

*Abbey Hoffman said something you couldn't get away with today in a New York Microsecond:
"Avoid all needle drugs. The only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon."

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Oh, Oh! Get the Lawyers

From Nur al-Cubicle we get the following:
The Hague. Dutch national on trial for complicity in genocide. Frans Van Anraat is accused of complicity in genocide for the sale of chemicals necessary for poison gas to Saddam Hussein. Van Anraat, a 62 year-old businessman, was arrested 7 December 2004 in Holland as he attempted to leave the country. His lawyers say he worked for AIVD, Dutch Intelligence. In addition to the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in Halabja, he is held responsible for the gassing of the Iranian city of Sardasht in 1987 and 1988. Dozens of Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian Kurds were present in the courtroom. The prosecution demands $10,000 euro indemnity payable to three survivors who were also present. The trial itself will begin in November 2005. Van Anraat testified that he did not know the use for which the chemicals were destined.
This means that Donald Rumsfeld and Bush I can be tried for genocide since there is absolutely no doubt that they were both privy to this same gassing.


She also finds:
Rumsfeld says number of US troops in Iraq may be gradually reduced, but will be again increased during the Iraqi elections in the fall.

The guy is a Major League switch hitter. Amazing.

Vee vill bomb them to Smithereens....

Just When You Started to Get Some Sleep

Pakistan Test-Fires Nuclear-Capable Missile
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan Saturday successfully test-fired a long-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile, the latest in a series of tests in one of the world's flashpoints.
"Today, we carried out a successful test-firing of the indigenously developed Shaheen II missile," a military official told Reuters.
The missile could travel up to 2,000 km (1,200 miles) and carry all kinds of warheads, he said.

Rice: N. Korea Must Stop Stalling on Nukes
SEOUL, South Korea - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said an international coalition remains committed to negotiating an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, but warned Saturday that North Korea cannot stall forever. (emphasis added)
Remember when Kinda Sleazy said this?
To those who say, we want more evidence that there's a real threat, the Administration says, we can't wait for a smoking gun to turn up. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN's Late Edition recently.

Nuclear Bunker Busters, Mini-Nukes, and the US Nuclear Stockpile
Congress is currently considering legislation that would authorize the US nuclear weapons laboratories to study new types of nuclear weapons: Earth-penetrating nuclear bunker busters designed to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets, and agent-defeat warheads intended to sterilize stockpiles of chemical or biological agents. In addition, the Bush administration has requested that Congress repeal a 1994 law, banning research that could lead to development of mini-nukes, low-yield nuclear warheads containing less than the power equivalent of a 5-kiloton chemical explosion, one-third that of the Hiroshima bomb. (emphasis added)
I don't know about you all, but I'm a firm believer in confluence of events.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Yes, You read it right:

Apparently the clear view of history is opening up the IraqGate (yes, that is IRAQGATE):
...former CIA officer Melissa Boyle Mahle, a Middle East expert, stated flatly in her new book, Denial and Deception, that in the mid-1980s, “the United States was already deeply involved in providing weapons and other military support to Iraq.”
You know, Josh Marshall was right, it is "up is downism." This arming of Iraq, along with Iran-Contra, was the work of Saint Reagan along with the vice-Saint, Daddy Bush. When will we wake up?

Friday Crab Blogging

Coalition of the Will.... - Oops

In the Senate:
...rebellious moderate Republicans joined Democrats in voting 52-48 to eliminate all $14 billion in Medicaid savings that chamber's budget had proposed. Senators also voted to roll back Bush's plans to cut billions of dollars from education, community development, water projects and other programs.

Ultimately, seven Republicans -- Smith, Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.), Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins (Maine), Norm Coleman (Minn.), Mike DeWine (Ohio), and Arlen Specter (Pa.) -- joined all 45 Senate Democrats to block the Medicaid cuts.

Unexpectedly, the Senate voted to almost double the budget's tax cuts to $134 billion over the next five years. That is even more than Bush and the more conservative House have sought.
Horsefeathers, thought we won one.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Big Bloggers

The Big Bloggers are all atwitter today about the difference between Democrat and Republican “framing.” [I confess to a certain fondness to the term “Big Bloggers.” It is sort of 1957ish and makes me think of Buddy Holly and the Night the Music Died.]

For openers, there is Digby. He writes very well and is always a pleasure to read. But he is referred to by South Knox Bubba who, I think, does a great job of putting the situation in perspective. [I am also partial to Tennesseans, having a bit of the blood in me myself.]

In brief, we Democrats are getting the shit kicked out of us because Republicans are more disciplined. They stay on target and they have a simple (I'd say stupid) message. Over and over again Karl Rove trots out the same talking points. All one has to do is read the comments of the trolls on any liberal blog. They are all the same. Not a great showing of Betz Cells.

In any case, go read SKB. He thinks "we get it right every now and then" but I'm not so sure. The worm will eventually turn in our favor, but it won't be because of anything we do. That's what is so ironic about politics.

I haven't posted a lot recently because I'm working on a big project involving health care costs. I'll post it when I'm through.

Wants to take the top ten floors off the World Bank Building

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Go to Jail; go directly to Jail; do NOT pass GO; and, for God's sake, do not collect $200

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Apparently Karen Hughes got tired of spending more time with her family and was called back as minister of propaganda:
Former White House counselor Karen P. Hughes will take over the Bush administration's troubled public diplomacy effort intended to burnish the U.S. image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world ...
She's going to have a tough time in Iraq. Here are some photos from a collection on the Web. Please notice the great respect we show people in the Muslim world. I didn't have the heart to print the captions on this photos.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Tale of Hubric Cities

From Geov Parrish for 10 March 1945:

During World War II, 300 U.S. B-29 bombers drop almost 2,000 tons of incendiaries on Tokyo, Japan, destroying large portions of the Japanese capital and killing 100,000 civilians. Early in the morning, the B-29s dropped their bombs of napalm and magnesium incendiaries over the packed residential districts along the Sumida River in eastern Tokyo. The conflagration quickly engulfed Tokyo's wooden residential structures, and the subsequent firestorm replaced oxygen with lethal gases, superheated the atmosphere, and caused hurricane-like winds that blew a wall of fire across the city. The majority of the 100,000 dead perished from carbon monoxide poisoning and the sudden lack of oxygen, but others died horrible deaths within the firestorm, such as those who attempted to find protection in the Sumida River, and were boiled alive, or those who were trampled to death in the rush to escape the burning city.

The Sack of Rome 410 A.D.
The sack, although short-lived, had a profound effect on Rome. There was no food in the city, and a chaotic situation prevailed. The Roman slave economy had also finally collapsed, because almost any slave could afford freedom in the glutted and depressed slave market. Roman population numbers, already reduced since the departure of the government apparatus with Constantine ninety years earlier, again fell precipitously as droves of Romans quickly dispersed into the hills and countryside. Additional waves of barbarians, interspersed with outbreaks of plague and wars, ensured that Rome's population would not again meet its highest imperial peak until the 20th century.

Mr. Tamborine Man

My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
And I am weary. I'm weary of War, and weary of all the lying. All I see stretching out ahead of my Country is more of the same. An endless War in Iraq, an hypocritical attack on Social Security, promises of cuts in Medicaid and other services for the poor, more accretion of money for the wealthy and stiff the middle and lower class, the insurance-pharmaceutical company juggernaut rolling over health care providers and patients, the environment in shambles, our foreign policy in shambles, and so many other screw-ups one can't begin to count them.

Many of us pledged ourselves to the Democratic Party in the last election. When Joe Biden votes for a credit card bill that benefits MBNA, we know what little difference the rank and file mean to the fat cats of both parties. Damn the proles; full speed ahead.

There is a story I heard recently that dates from WWII. Storm troopers are marching off a cliff because the command structure was so rigid they had to have a order to stop and that had gotten lost in the shuffle. The punch line was that the captain, who didn't have to march over the cliff, was still upset, because he didn't get a chance to say "goodby."

Sometimes I think that we are trapped in a long farewell.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Friday Crab Blogging. Daddy crab, mommy cr..., you know

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Delta's Credit Card

Oh, Oh. I wonder if Boy George is going to bail his friends out?
ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation's third-largest airline, said Thursday it expects to report a "substantial" loss this year and warned it may have to seek bankruptcy protection if its financial situation worsens. Its shares tumbled 9 percent.
I bet that they declare before the new bill goes into effect. I also bet that the executives get their bonuses this year.

Bobby Ehrlich

Well, in addition to screwing over the medical malpractice bill, our dear gov isn't doing so well in other areas:
At the mid-point of his term in office, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters gives Governor Robert Ehrlich an overall grade of D+ for his environmental actions to date.
Why does this not surprise me? He gets an F for "transportation." The infrastructure in our State is crumbling. The roads around here after a bad winter are full of potholes. We have traffic jams in a town of 8,000.

By the way, Maryland's corporate tax structure is such that a number of large companies don't pay any tax at all. I'll post on this later. Of course, they could always go to Delaware (Joe Biden Land) where MNBA Credit Cards are going to abolish the lower class. (They'll all die of starvation.)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

That's Ken Lay in the front

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Maryland Scam

So, instead of implementing the famous Medical Malpractice Savior Bill that we had to have a special session of the legislature to pass (in the week after Christmas 2004) and a veto by Bobby Ehrlich and an override by the leg, we now have to have an "implementation" bill before we get some financial relief.

I'm holding my breath.

But wait! There's more. Much ballyhooed in this legislation was an increase in Medicaid payments to physicians. I was all in favor of this until I realized who the physicians were.

Here's the language:
16 (ii) in fiscal year 2006:
17 1. $40,700,000 to the Rate Stabilization Account to subsidize
18 agreements for calendar year 2005; and
19 2. $39,300,000 to the Medical Assistance Program Account;

Well, who are the physicians in the Medical Assistance Program?
It includes obstetricians. This is o.k. In fact, this is great because they are experiencing the brunt of the malpractice crisis.

But, according to the "implementation" bill now before the legislature in Annapolis, the only other specialties that are going to get a payment boost are:
Orthopedic Surgeons
Emergency Medicine Physicians

The reason for this is that Orthopedic and Neurosurgeons won't take Medicaid patients because the reimbursement is so poor. In our area there is a monopoly of orthopedic surgeons and they can stonewall on Medicaid. (For a while, we had to send kids 50-60 miles away just to get a fracture set. This is not a good thing when I can spit out my door and hit the local orthopedic office.)

And orthopedic surgeons are very well compensated. One estimate of their annual salary is $354,495. This may be five times what a pediatrician or family practice doc makes.

But family practice and peds aren't going to get any relief because orthopedic surgeons are starving to death. Give me a break.

I am sorry, but "fixes" like this drive many of us up the wall. It used to be fun to practice medicine. It is rapidly becoming a job few people want (unless, of course, you are an orthopedic surgeon).

Everybody wants quality medical care. Pretty soon, only George Bush and Co. will be able to afford it.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

My Utility Bills; The Bush Revolution

The Hardline

Stirling Newberry gives us our marching orders:
What is the hardline?

The Republicans are always wrong, even if they are worried about the right thing. The Republicans have a perfect track record of being wrong. Remember all the jobs Bush predicted from the revenue reductions? Remember how global warming wasn't happening? Remember flowers in Iraq? The Republicans have only been right about one thing: how to borrow a lot of money and throw it at states they need to carry in elections.

Everything is the Republicans fault. The only crisis is that the Republicans are in charge. There are no other problems. Period.

It's that simple. The Republicans are wrong, and the Republicans are the problem. There is nothing wrong with this country we can't fix with our hands.
Alright, first fire all the consultants (including my old classmate Bob Shrum). Go for the jugular in the next election. Hammer away on jobs, the rich, and Alan Greenspan. Yes, Alan Greenspan, the world's greatest phoney.

What are the prospects the Dems will do this? I don't know. I want Howard Dean to comment on this hardline. I want him to say, "Yes. We finally got it."

From the Man who brought you WMD

Juan Cole reports:

In a development that many observers considered a surprise, it was announced Friday that Ahmad Chalabi, Shiite secularist and head of the Iraqi National Congress, met a few days ago with members of the Association of Muslim Scholars, who had boycotted the political process. He discussed with them "The possibility of beginning the stage of dialogue among those who desire to fight the Occupation." Chalabi said, "We had several meetings with the rebels, and there is a real desire to work and coordinate in order to end the foreign presence in Iraq, which will convince them that there is no necessity to fight." (emphasis added)

There is no novelist out there that could construct a story along the lines of Ahmad Chalabi's career and sell the book. It is just too unbelievable. This is a man who sat behind Laura Bush at the State of the Union address. Isn't a statement like this akin to treason? I thought Bush borrowed from The Boss: "No retreat, no surrender." (and no negotiations)

Friday, March 04, 2005


Yellow Robes, Once Again

As picked up by Pharyngula:
Amnesty International, the international human rights organization, noted that the Bush administration has turned over prisoners arrested in the battle against terrorism to the same countries it cites in the report for torturing prisoners.
As I have said, torture degrads us to the level of terrorists and we become the very people we despise.

Not Ken

Friday Crab Blogging

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Back in the Shire (click for link)

It is less of a stretch to envision a population of Homo erectus evolving into the Hobbits. After all, its brain has the strongest overall resemblance to that of Homo floresiensis. And Homo erectus have been in southeast Asia for at least 1.8 million years. Perhaps a few Homo erectus individuals were swept onto Flores hundreds of thousands of years ago and gradually evolved smaller brains.

Blimey, Gandalf, the little buggers are everywhere. Hide the textbooks.

A Maryland Perspective

George W. Bush wants to cut $60 Billion from Medicaid. This will amount to $623 Million that does not go to the the State of Maryland over 10 years.
$62 Million a year

Currently, the Cost of War calculator is set to reach $152 billion at the end of January 2005 and continue to advance at $6 billion per month..... The amount is based on the National Priorities Project analysis of what Congress has allocated for the Iraq War. $72,000 Million a year. Maryland has 1.9% of the population so this is:
$2,500 Million a year from Maryland for the War

Medical Mutual, the company that insures most of the physicians in Maryland, reports that:
In 2002, the total annual amount paid by MEDICAL MUTUAL on claims, including paid defense costs, was $56 million. This number soared to $93.2 million in 2003.
$56-93 Million

Let's see, let me get out my calculator:
The cost of the War That Will Never End is about 40 times the amount that docs pay out for malpractice claims which is equal to what Bush is going to cut from Medicaid.


For those you you who are not following Maryland politics, the governor called a special session of the Legislature to deal with the malpractice crisis in the week after Christmas. After finally hammering out a bill, the governor, Bob Ehrlich, vetoed it. The veto was overridden but, to date, they haven't changed a thing. (I just got my malpractice insurance bill and it is exactly the same as the one I got in December.)

The Lawsuit Against Donald Rumsfeld

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody, the ACLU and Human Rights First charged in the first federal court lawsuit to name a top U.S. official in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan that has tarnished America's reputation.

Let me once again state my unequivocal opposition to torture in any form. Torture does not extract useful information. Torture does more to harm the perpetrators. Torture is morally wrong. By adopting torture as an accepted practice, the United States has placed itself in the company of moral giants stretching from Pharoah's Egypt to Nazi Germany to the Khmer Rouge.

It is likely that some "information" used by George Bush and Colin Powell to assert that Iraq had WMD was extracted by torture from prisoners in Afghanistan and Cuba.

No matter what a human being has done to you, you are not justified to torture that person. This is, to me, part of being civilized. When one sinks to the same level as a terrorist, then one becomes a terrorist.

I feel the same way about the death penalty.

There is a cancer in our polity. It is deep and abiding. The only question is whether the means to remove and cure it might not lead to the death of the patient. Us.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Sez it All

Jesus, D-Nazareth

Thanks to

Dinner Time!

Of the Needy, by the Seedy, for the Greedy

There is nothing that points up the tragedy that is infecting our Country more than the current ballet (cancel that, substitute "slam dance") in our Capitol over "SS" (here you can substitute whatever you want for SS: Social Security, Smoke Screen, Same ole S---, whatever.) I prefer Smoke Screen. Josh Marshall has taken the lead online in reporting the Social Security fiasco.

While the AARP has come under laughably vile attack for resisting Georgie Boy's illogical rhetoric on privatizing Social Security, there is actually a much more vulnerable group that is under attack from the flank. These smelly vultures are going right after the throat of our most innocent population, children. Let me see if I can demonstrate that for you.

George Bush wants to "save" $60 Billion by cutting Medicaid. Get this straight, he wants to cut money from a program that is designed to help the old, the disabled and, most of all, children.

WASHINGTON Feb 28, 2005 President Bush promised on Monday to work with governors to restrain soaring Medicaid costs and revamp the health care program for the poor, but he also indicated he would keep trying to eliminate some federal aid. (emphasis added)

At the risk of boring you, let me briefly review some facts about Medicaid in the US and Maryland:

Medicaid is a very large program. I now quote from and Analysis from the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute:
Medicaid is a safety net program that provides health care services for certain low-income individuals. Approximately one in ten Marylanders receive their health care through this program.

Federal law requires that state Medicaid programs serve poor children (and parents if they qualify), pregnant women, and low income individuals who are aged, blind, or have a severe disability. More than 80 percent of the state's Medicaid spending provides health care for these groups.

The program also provides for a lot of nursing home care.

I know you hate statistics, but you have to go through these to see the perfidy.

FY2000 USA
Total Population- 281,421,906
Total Medicaid enrollment- 44,297,290
% Total Population- 15.7%
Enrollees through age 20- 24,187,576
% Population that age- 30.7%

Expenditures- $168,307,000,000

% Births paid for by Medicaid- 37.4%

Through age 5- 9,215,600
% Population that age- 40.3%

Infants <=1- 1,803,047
% Population that age- 47.5%

Enrollees >20- 20,109,714
Population >20- 202,635,013
% Population >20- 9.9%
Enrollees through age 20- 24,187,576
% Total Medicaid enrollment- 54.6%
% Total Expenditures- 22.9%
Per Enrollee Payment- $1,590

Enrollees >20- 45.2%
% Total Expenditures- 73.2%
Per Enrollee Payment- $6,153

Enrollees >64- 11.2%
% Total Expenditures- 29.6%
Per Enrollee Payment- $10,027

1. 16% of the population receives Medicaid. That's a disgrace. We are the richest Nation in the world and one out of every 6 of us is on the dole! Shame. And a lot of this is for the elderly; i.e. nursing home care. Not only does Bush want old people to starve by trashing Social Security, he wants to make them homeless.

But, wait a minute, maybe we are moving towards national insurance for the young and the old. I'd be for that. It works in Canada in spite of what your rich insurance company says.

2. Medicaid is clearly not a single program. There are two major chunks: children and not-children. Thus, while enrollees < 20 y.o. account for 54.6% of the total, they only account for 22.9% of the expenditures or ~$1,600 on average per year.

Compare this to the $10,027 for the over 64 y.o. enrollees that only account for 11.2% of all Medicaid receipients. The taxpayer is paying far more for nursing homes than it is for childhood healthcare. Lots more.

3. One out of three births are covered by Medicaid. That means that our young population is poor. Not a good omen.

4. 47% of children under the age of 1 y.o. are covered by Medicaid. Tell them Bush wants to cut them off from medical care. Go ahead, I dare you.

We have a President who doesn't blink at spending $200 Billion on a War That Has No End yet can't raise enough to provide health care for children.

I can guarantee that I am not happy about this. Why? Because implementing draconian cuts in Medicaid will be my responsibility. I will have to refuse to care for children who are sick because they can't pay.

Oh, my God, doctor. How can you do that?

Well, do you go into a grocery store and pick up a can of beanie weenies and not pay? What am I going to use to pay the rent (always going up), electricity (always going up like a rocket), phone, heat, salaries, vaccines, etc. etc. and etc. as Yul Brynner once said.

But, as I said, these are going to be "tough decisions" made in the legislature of the States and Congress and implemented on the backs of poor children. We're supposed to be impressed with governors like Ehrlich who make "tough decisions."

Finally, Medicaid has an overhead of 4%. United HealthCare has an overhead of 20-25%. Much of this goes to:
William W. McGuire
Chairman and CEO
United Health Group Inc.

In 2002, William W. McGuire raked in $37,888,157 in total compensation including stock option grants from United Health Group Inc..

And William W. McGuire has another $501,556,217 in unexercised stock options from previous years.