Commentary on whatever I am thinking about, usually written while watching baseball.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Seeing a lot of green.
As the Obama administration and Democrats wrangled over the timing, shape and cost of health care overhaul efforts during the first half of the year, more than half the $1.1 million in campaign contributions the Democratic Party's Blue Dog Coalition received came from the pharmaceutical, health care and health insurance industries, according to watchdog organizations.And we are supposed to believe that blue dogs are fighting the meaningful healthcare reform that so many Americans need so badly based on some selfless, genuine concern about costs. I guess the fact that they are protecting the interests and profits of health industries at the exact same time they are receiving piles of money from those industries is just a coincidence.
The amount outstrips contributions to other congressional political action committees during the same period, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit watchdog organization. The Blue Dogs, a group of fiscally conservative lawmakers, successfully delayed the vote on health care overhaul proposals until the fall.
"The business community realizes that (the Blue Dogs) are the linchpin and will become much more so as time goes on," former Mississippi congressman turned lobbyist Mike Parker told the organization's researchers.
On average, Blue Dog Democrats net $62,650 more from the health sector than other Democrats, while hospitals and nursing homes also favor them, giving, respectively, $5,680 and $5,550 more, according to the Center for Responsive Politics , a nonprofit organization that tracks the influence of money in politics.
The contributions came at a time when health care and pharmaceutical companies were mounting a campaign against a government-run public health insurance option, fearing cost controls and an impact on business. The Blue Dogs' windfall also came at a time when the 52-member coalition flexed its muscle with both the White House and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives as an increasingly influential bloc in the health care overhaul debate.
At the same time, many Blue Dogs were also rubbing shoulders with health care and insurance industry executives and their lobbyists at fundraising breakfasts and cocktail receptions that cost upward of $1,000 a plate, according to public information compiled by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, which advocates greater government transparency. Since 2008, more than half the Blue Dogs have either attended health care industry fundraising receptions or similar functions co-sponsored by lobbyists representing the health care and insurance industries.
In June, as Rep. Mike Ross, D- Ark., who heads the coalition's task force on health care, publicly expressed the Blue Dogs' misgivings about the Democratic leadership's efforts, the former pharmacy owner was feted at a series of health care industry receptions. Ross has received nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from the insurance and health care industries over his five-term career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Calls to Ross' office weren't returned.
It appears the only costs they are concerned about are the costs of their next campaign.
Politicians putting self-interest ahead of the national interest. Who'da thunk it?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Don't shit where you eat
Or this happens.
A federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday found the toxic substance in every fish tested at nearly 300 streams across the country, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.How much mercury do you consider safe to eat?
The study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the most comprehensive look to date at mercury in the nation's streams. From 1998 to 2005, scientists collected and tested more than a thousand fish from 291 streams nationwide. While all fish had traces of mercury contamination, only about a quarter had levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.
"This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation's waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.Clean coal: The gift that keeps on giving ... mercury poisoning.
Mercury can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methylmercury — a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish.
This is why I don't eat fish anymore, although I would like to. Some people say to me, "You can't worry about that, you have to live your life." But I find that the best way to live my life is to avoid eating poison. So I'd no sooner eat fish than I would drink from a thermometer.
H/t Mrs. S.
Friday, August 14, 2009
OK, I get it. Conservatives don't like paying taxes. And I'm sure that's not just because "taxes are bad" is the only Republican message that has gotten any real, sustained traction outside the party in years.
So if conservatives don't want to participate in a society in which everyone helps each other and contributes to the greater good, I say let them opt out. Let them put their precious money where their mouths are and march on down to City Hall or municipal building or whatever and sign a form stating that they no longer wish to pay taxes. Fine. Their names and addresses will be entered into a database so that they never again will be saddled with the crushing burden of paying taxes.
Of course, opting out also means that they no longer will be permitted to make use of anything that was built or is maintained with tax revenue. So they can start by handing over their driver's licenses, which they won't need anymore anyway because they no longer will be permitted to use the roads, not even as a passenger in someone else's vehicle. If someone on the opt-out list is found to be traveling on a road maintained by tax revenue, the vehicle is to be impounded immediately. By the way, no using public transit either.
Sure, their kids won't be able to get to school anymore, but if they go to public school, well, it's not their school anymore anyway. Opt Outers also can forget about going to any municipal park, playground or library, which doesn't matter because, being unable to use the roads, there's no way to get to them anyway.
Not being able to use the roads pretty much means that people who don't want to pay taxes will have to stay home. And I hope they don't own that home, because if the property tax isn't paid, well ... so get ready to sell that home and rent something. And I hope that rental isn't burglarized and doesn't catch fire, because police and fire protection are two more things Opt Outers can kiss goodbye. And I hope that rental property has a well, or nothing's going to come out of the faucets. And I hope it has a septic system, or they can forget about flushing the toilet. And have fun paying a private hauler to come to your rented home to collect your trash.
But even though you no longer pay taxes, you still are subject to the laws of the community you live parallel to (but not within since you aren't contributing financially to it's maintenance or well-being). If you break the law, you will be arrested and will have to appear in court.
But don't worry, that's all on the house. And isn't passing off the costs onto someone else what it was really all about?
What other kinds of services Opt Outers can forget about once they stop paying taxes?
On a related note, with all of their ignorant noise about smaller government and fewer taxes, I find it suprising how conservative the populations of condo associations are, given the added layer of rules, bureacracy and fees. I guess that even though they claim to hate big government and taxes, they will gladly live in a place that requires payment of association fees and special assessments, as well as compliance with association rules regarding minutiae such as what colors they are permitted to paint their shutters, if it means they get to infringe on the freedoms of their neighbors.