Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thoughts On Healthcare (Again), And Other Topics

Once again, another episode of random thoughts blogging, which always shows up when I haven't blogged in awhile for a variety of reasons, and end up with a more than a few blog posts in mind (but am too lazy to post multiple times).  So here goes:

Rancid Horse Anus:

Now, you may not know what the words "rancid horse anus" has to do with health care, but bear with me.  Currently, there is a kerfuffle du jour over the Affordable Care Act is over the fact that some health insurance plans were cancelled as a result of the new law.  Now, keep in mind these health care plans were substandard, and don't provide coverage for preventative care and prescription drugs, but some people actually liked their health care plans.

Additionally, people are upset because Obama told them last year that if they like the health care plan they have, they can keep it under this law.  But that assertion was based on a couple of assumptions, not least of which is that people wouldn't want to buy substandard health insurance if they didn't have to, just like people wouldn't want to buy rancid horse anus to eat if they don't have to.

Just as people are willing to eat rancid horse anus (because, I'm assuming, its a filling meal and has subtle barnyard aromas), some people are willing to buy crappy insurance.  But just because they are willing to do so, or even want to do so, preventing the purchase of such crappy insurance (or rancid horse anus*) is probably a good thing because in both cases, the purchaser will get very sick.

In the case of the crappy insurance buyer, one of two things will happen when said person gets sick - either the buyer is unable to afford health care, or the buyer will buy better insurance so that his new insurance coverage will cover him.  In either instance, we as a society are screwed.  If the crappy insurance buyer stiffs his doctors, they will proceed to raise their prices to get the money the buyer stiffed them from the rest of us.  If the buyer buys better insurance, that will raise the costs for the insurance company, which will lead to higher premiums.  And either way, we as a society, end up subsidizing the crappy insurance buyer.

So, by making sure that every insurance plan is not crappy, the hope is that we avoid things that raise medical costs or insurance rates.

*In case you were wondering, I came up with the term "rancid horse anus" from my descriptor of the Chargers' play during the Norv Turner years.  Actually, the term I used was rancid monkey anus, which I changed here because I'd assume that a monkey anus would be much smaller than a horse anus.

The Passing of Lou Reed:

Like a lot of people, I found myself somewhat shaken by the passing of Lou Reed this past Sunday. There has been a lot said about Lou Reed, that he was a bit of an asshole and a musical genius, and that is probably true (especially the musical genius part).  For me, "The Velvet Underground and Nico" album has been a part of my music collection since college.  They didn't, as Brian Eno once claimed, inspire me to form my own band, but that was because I formed a band well before I heard of them.  WOO! EDC!!!!

With that said, listening to the Velvet Underground was my entrance into rock as art.  Or put another way, everyone loves music and is into music.  But there are some people who's love of music is well beyond their friends, who take music very seriously.  And if those people are rock fans, they own a Velvet Underground album (or four).

But Lou Reed was more than just a rock star, he was the guy who sang about transvestites and doing heroin in explicit terms back in the 1960's.  Now, I don't use drugs outside of caffeine and alcohol, but "Heroin" is probably my favorite VU song.  Like Burroughs, Ginsberg, and the Beat Poets, Reed was a guide through worlds that my suburban, white, heterosexual ass will never know.   And that's a good thing, because hearing all voices is important. Neil Gaiman's obituary of Lou Reed is especially poignant on this point.  Go Read it.

Lastly, if you've never heard of Lou Reed or heard his music, go search it out.  Its really, really good.

On Other Passings:

I don't like really dwelling on personal things on this blog.  Its supposed to be about conversations, viewpoints, and the like, and not really about my personal life.  But I would be an asshole to not mention the passing of my last surviving grandparent.

Of all of my grandparents, she was the one I knew the most, and her funeral was an emotional one for me.  My grandmother was, as much as my mother is, a force of nature as much as she was a person.  She raised five children, four of which were her own, while working as a nurse at a time when women were not expected (or sometimes allowed) to work outside the home.  She was also a huge, huge partisan (a Republican!) who's force of will lead her husband to hide his Democratic leading tendencies (he was a Union guy) from the world.  And that's how I will remember her, not just as a person, but as a presence of will.  It is my hope that if I ever have a daughter, that she will have the same ferocity of spirit.

Goodbye Grandma.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Contemplating the Shutdown

In some ways, its funny how life operates.  Just as the government started its shutdown yesterday, so too did my firm shutter its doors.  Of course, my firm simply moved from our modernist digs Downtown (that were way, way, way too big for us*) to a Victorian house in Little Italy.**  Of course, we turned back on the phones, got the internet up and running, etc., and we are almost back in business (absent our paralegal, who's computer was dropped by the movers).  Sure we are still sorting a few things, but we are almost back to full operating capacity.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the federal government.  Its still closed(ish) and by all accounts, Congress isn't going to pass anything any time soon.  So I wonder, what gives?  Now yes, I am aware of gerrymandering creating a rump of Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen who come from districts where Obama lost by an average of 40 points (he won by 4 points nationwide), but gerrymandering has been part of American politics from the very beginning.  Heck, the term gerrymander came from a newspaper in 1812.  Now, is it more prevalent now than ever before? In some states, certainly.

Is it the egregious unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare)? It may be a contributing factor, but I don't think its the main factor.  I do think Republicans overstate its unpopularity because they don't take into account the fact that a number of Democrats oppose the law because it isn't single payer.  If you take a look at the poll I just linked to, you'll notice that the ACA does worse among self-described Democrats (58% approval) than it does among Democratic-leaning independents (68%). This shouldn't be a huge surprise, because after all, ACA was created by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. And its not the huge government run health care plan that most people assume it is - most people are going to have private insurance through their employer, just as they always have.

Additionally, there are lots of bills passed by previous Administrations that haven't been liked by Congress, and none of those ever resulted in a government shutdown. Instead, Congress quietly chipped away at those programs.

In the past 20 years there have been just two government shutdowns - in 1995 and today.  In both instances you have a Democratic President and a Republican House.  And here's where they also are similar - in both instances there were a large number of Republicans who did not recognize the legitimacy of the President.  Remember Clinton was elected in 1992 with a plurality of the vote - he got 43% to George H.W. Bush's 37% (and Perot's 19%).  Since Clinton didn't get a majority, and Republicans thought he was a slime ball (Slick Willy anyone), they didn't respect him.

With Obama, the same thing applies. There are Republicans that believe that armed rebellion may be necessary, that Obama has a secret plan to take away guns, and that Obama was born in Kenya.  These individuals, in their gerrymandered districts, go out and elect morons.  Or, as I like to say, the dipshit caucus.

But its more than that.  The whole right-wing infrastructure is based upon gullibility of Republican voters.  People watch right-wing television, and are flooded with commercials convincing them to buy gold at ridiculous prices. Or buy AK-47s and ammo, or any number of craziness.  It needs people like Michele Bachmann or Louie Gohmert to advocate any number of ridiculous things which charges up the electorate and gets them to spend money.  Notice that televangelism - so-called preachers on television getting people to give money they don't have so that the preacher could buy a cathedral - isn't all that big anymore? That's because televangelists all followed Pat Robertson to the much more lucrative game of conservative politics.

In that kind of charged environment, there is no room for compromise.  Obamacare is the worst thing ever, and there will be death panels, and abortions and unspeakable horrors that come from affordable health insurance.  There's no way to back down from that.  People who don't support the extremes are naturally enemies.  And those enemies get primaried.

Here's the last thing though - the rubes aren't the majority of the American people, or even the majority of Republicans, they are the plurality.  Most Republicans, even Congressional Republicans know that Obama is the legitimate President of the United States.  They want to move on, and would move on, except they are afraid of losing their seats (*cough*John Boehner*cough*).  Even long-time conservatives are amazed at the developments.

Now normally, this is where the Democrats would cave.  But I don't think that will happen.  For one, the 2010 elections, and the subsequent redistricting pretty much eliminated the conservative, Blue Dog Democrats, who would be the ones pushing for some kind of compromise.  By the way, the Democrats have already compromised by agreeing to the sequestration funding in the CIR.  For another, they see weakness on the Republican side.  And lastly, there is some ego involved - there's no way they are going to get rolled by the dipshit caucus, especially since Boehner has out and out said that the House Republicans are going to pull the same shit with the debt ceiling.

Sadly, I think we are in for a drawn-out constitutional crisis unless something major happens.  And by major, I mean 20 Republicans break from the House Leadership, and maybe form a new political party.

*We got a good deal moving in, and were renting around 4,000 sq. ft., and could have put a bocce ball court in the middle of the office and be affected in the slightest.

**I'm digging my new office - its seemingly more intimate and bigger than my old office.