Movies

The inevitable ‘Best Of The Decade’ lists are coming out these days. The London Times lists are always interesting – best movie ‘Cache’, best book ‘The Road’ (of the decade? Really?). But here was a vote for a movie that utterly surprised and delighted me. Not my number one, but a great nominee.
http://www.moviecitynews.com/columnists/forrest/2009/091109.html

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Politics/Health Care

I’m very much depressed and embarrassed by what a lukewarm bowl of milktoast our congresspeople still insist on referring to as ‘health care reform’. It’s all the Europeans can do to keep from laughing at us outright.

“We’ve got something worse than socialized medicine in this country,” said Alain Enthoven, a Stanford University economist known as the father of the Dutch system.
“We have doctors causing hospital infections by not washing their hands because the incentives don’t punish them for hospital infections, and we’ve got something that is financially destroying our economy. It’s a disaster.”

“Far from leading to poor quality and rationing, both countries (Switzerland and the Netherlands) and Germany, where government has a much larger role in health care, outperform the United States on many quality measures. These are not just broad measures such as life expectancy that could reflect higher U.S. poverty or obesity. Even Britain, much maligned by opponents of government-run health care in America, has made greater strides in preventive care.

“The data are pretty clear,” said Peter Hussey, a Rand Corp. analyst. “Everybody (in the United States) is at risk for poor-quality care.”

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/29/MN3U1AL75B.DTL

Politics/ Media

Y’know, Tina Brown mostly kinda bugs me. She knows a lot, she presents it, but you never feel like she’ll ever share it. But when she’s right, she’s right. From her comments on what’s-her-name’s new book:

“One of the problems with the Republican argument right now is that government red ink isn’t your No. 1 bugaboo when you’re wondering how you’re going to hang on to what’s left of what you thought was your life. Just as the GOP’s representatives in Congress don’t seem to recognize that a majority of their constituents want a public option in the health plan (despite poll numbers resoundingly telling them just that), they don’t seem to understand that the American public is willing to load the government with debt if doing so will pull this economy back from the brink.
It’s an index of the fog we’re in that Palin’s confrontational ignorance still feels refreshing to a lot of Americans.”

‘Confrontational ignorance’ – that’s the phrase. Those are the words. That’s genius. Thanks, Tina.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-16/sarah-palin-the-musical?cmpid=p_yahoo

Politics / Economics

All those guys that Paul Krugman, Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow keep warning us about (opportunistically or practically) are smelling blood in the water. The question now is whether Obama’s agenda is even his anymore, or whether his hands-off approach has completely obscured and emasculated any good ideas he may have originally had in mind. Last week it was Pelosi’s health care bill – next week it’ll be Harry Reid’s bill. Banking policy will become Dodd’s agenda, or Barney Frank’s fault. The ‘Pubs are dividing to conquer, and it seems to be working. Who’s minding the store – Rahm Emanuel? Biden? Valerie Jarrett?

Jamie Dimon, rapacious capitalist:

“Dimon argued against caps on banks’ size, saying increased scale can benefit customers, shareholders and the economy by permitting better products to be delivered fast and cheaply. (I think we know which ‘products’ Jamie has in mind here.)
“He advocated a regulatory system that would ensure that even the biggest banks could fail “in a way that does not put taxpayers or the broader economy at risk.” (As if Jamie Dimon has ever seen a regulation he thinks is a good idea. Are you kidding me?)
Dimon said regulators deserve authority to manage failures of large financial institutions, including the ability to replace management, sell assets, and wipe out shareholders and even unsecured creditors.
International cooperation is also necessary, he said, because of the global impact of a major failure. He pointed to the many multinational companies, not just in banking, that operate around the world.
The “too big to fail” idea is “politically, economically and ethically bankrupt,” Dimon wrote.”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091113/bs_nm/us_jpmorgan_ceo

Sheila Bair – FDIC chairman

“I think at the time it sounded like the right thing to do and, again, it was part of an international effort, but I just see all the problems it’s created,” Bair said during an interview with PBS NewsHour. “I think we would have tried to dissuade Treasury from making these capital investments.” (You and Brooksley Born. No good deed goes unpunished.)

“During the height of the financial crisis that had virtually frozen credit markets, the Treasury Department in October 2008 injected $125 billion into the nine largest U.S. banks.
“The capital investments were part of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was originally pitched to Congress as a way to absorb banks’ toxic assets but was switched to become largely a capital infusion plan to shore up banks’ balance sheets and encourage them to lend.
“Public outcry followed the investments, which largely came to be referenced as government bailouts. Lawmakers raced to attach more conditions, such as restrictions on compensation, to the capital injections.

“It’s had a terrible, terrible impact on public attitudes toward the financial system, toward the regulatory community,” Bair said. “It’s created all sorts of issues about government ownership of these institutions, what happens if they get in trouble again.”

Hey, Sheila, Jamie Dimon’s got some ideas there. Chat him up, babe.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091113/bs_nm/us_fdic_bair

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Il.), alleged moderate:

“Delivering the Republicans’ weekly radio and Internet address, Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois said health care costs could be lowered by “reining in lawsuits” and allowing consumers to buy coverage from across state lines. Kirk promoted several provisions in the House GOP health care bill, which was rejected a week ago when the House passed the Democratic plan. (That reigning-in-lawsuits idea is working out great for Halliburton and KBR – let’s spread the wealth and only allow malpractice victims non-binding arbitration! And ever wonder why 90% of credit card providers are based in Delaware? That’s the ‘Pubs (and Joe Biden’s) gracious gift to you, the consumer.)
“Unfortunately, all of these commonsense Republican reforms were rejected by Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi,” Kirk said in the address. “The Pelosi health care bill has no significant lawsuit reforms and does not guarantee your medical rights from government waiting lines or restrictions.” (There’s that ‘lines and rationing’ canard again – hey, as long as you keep falling for it, they’ll keep trotting it out.)
Kirk, who is in his fifth House term representing the suburbs north of Chicago, is a candidate for the Republican nomination to run for the Senate seat that was held by President Barack Obama. He called the House Democrats’ health plan “a new massive spending program, supported by heavy taxes and cuts to senior health care.” (Instead of a government program, let’s keep the insurance corporations in charge. Why even try to improve anything? Millions of Americans must stay miserable because we can’t spend any money or make any investment in the longer term. Wait for us to be back in charge – WE’LL raise your taxes and eviscerate senior care for all the right, patriotic Christian reasons.)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091114/ap_on_go_co/us_republicans_health_care

And while I’m ranting, I’d like to also mention that abortion is legal in this country – in most countries. Roe v. Wade hasn’t been overturned in 36 years. There’s a reason. Not only do I think the Stupak amendment is an illegal, unconstitutional restriction, but I’m still trying to figure out why the draconian Hyde Amendment isn’t an illegal, unconstitutional restriction.

Politics/Law Enforcement

Here’s a list of United States senators.

No, it’s not about health care. No, it’s not the economy. Not the environment. Not jobs. Afghanistan? Warmer.

This is a list of United States senators who voted against a bill “…to prohibit the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company, KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims.”

Corporations like this ‘arbitration, not lawsuits’ provision because it prevents minor incidents being blown out of proportion and costing businesses thousands in legal fees. It’s usually a good-faith effort to tone down the general litigiousness of Joe Blow trying to make a killing on frivolous lawsuits. I’m no lawyer (obviously), but I see where this might not be a bad idea, in theory.

In this particular case, the ‘certain claim’ being quashed is the gang-rape and imprisonment (they locked her up in a shipping container and posted armed guards to keep her there) of then twenty-year-old Jamie Leigh Jones by fellow Halliburton employees in Baghdad’s Green Zone. She was warned that

“…if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.
“Don’t plan on working back in Iraq. There won’t be a position here, and there won’t be a position in Houston,” Jones says she was told.
“Jones told ABCNews.com that an examination by Army doctors showed she had been raped “both vaginally and anally,” but that the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.”
“Over two years later, the Justice Department has brought no criminal charges in the matter. In fact, ABC News could not confirm any federal agency was investigating the case.”

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/Story?id=3977702&page=1
(This report is from two years ago).

And here are the senators that feel it’s more important to protect the corporations than to encourage any attempt whatsoever towards justice for Ms. Jones, or others like her:

Vote Date: October 6, 2009
NAYs —30
Alexander (R-TN), Barrasso (R-WY), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Gregg (R-NH), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE), Kyl (R-AZ), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), Wicker (R-MS).

Despite the efforts of these “statesmen”, the amendment passed.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/15/defence-contractors-rape-claim-block
Here’s SFGate’s Mark Morford’s original column alerting me:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/10/16/notes101609.DTL
Here’s the latest article I could find on the case. A Texas judge will allow the case to go to court, but KBR can stall this for years if they choose.
http://www.khou.com/news/local/66195617.html
Two other cases:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24036587/
And here’s the Jamie Leigh Foundation’s web site if you’re interested:
http://www.jamiesfoundation.org/

Politics

Moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava has withdrawn from the special election for the New York 23rd after hardcore conservatives poured millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of her fellow Republican candidate, Doug Hoffman, despite numerous accounts that he’s unfamiliar with many issues facing the district, and despite the fact that he doesn’t even live in the 23rd. It now seems apparent that, despite the support of her own Republican constituency in upstate New York, Scozzafava isn’t enough of a carnivorous evangelical Christian or Tea-Party sycophant to warrant real support from the national far right.

“Ms. Scozzafava had been under siege from conservative leaders because she supports gay rights and abortion rights and was considered too liberal on various fiscal issues.

“This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this: If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we’ll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama’s re-election,” said Mr. (Newt) Gingrich, who had endorsed Ms. Scozzafava.
“I felt very deeply that when you have all 11 county chairman voting for someone, that it wasn’t appropriate for me to come in and render my judgment,” he said. “I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices.”

“Ms. Scozzafava fit the model of candidate advocated by Republican leaders like Mr. Steele and Senator John Cornyn of Texas: one whose views might not be in keeping with much of the national party, but are more reflective of the district in question.

There’s a lot to dislike about Newt Gingrich, but you can’t fault him here. He’s absolutely right. And what a shocker that Michael Steele switches his loyalties with such alacrity.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/nyregion/01upstate.html?_r=1&hp