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A Fun Packed Medicare Fact – There Is No Crisis

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I’ll keep this one short and sweet.

Medicare cost the US 3.6% of its GDP in 2010. It’s forecast to go up to 5.5% of GDP by 2035. That’s a 1.9% increase over 25 years.

Or a rise of about $11.4 billion per year in 2010 dollars.

Clearly it’s a crisis (not).

Defense Spending cost the US 3.0% of GDP in 2000 and 4.7% of GDP in 2010, a increase of 1.7% in 10 years.

Or a rise of $25.5 billion per year in 2010 dollars.

That money bought us 2 strategically useless wars and not much else.

Now if we could just make up that pesky 0.2% of GDP or $30 billion…

I know.  We could repeal Obama’s extension of the Bush Tax cuts on the rich.

Problem solved.

Written by coolrebel

May 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Washington

There’s Fire In Her Belly – Palin’s Opportunity

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Things are getting a little desparate in the GOP presidential field when people are bemoaning the departure of Mitch Daniels from the running. Widely regarded as one of the most boring and technocratic faces in American politics, he joins Mike Huckabee as among the wise few who realize that pending some crushing blow Obama is pretty much unbeatable. Among the so-called sensible candidates, we’re left with Romney, a man who gives dripping insincerity a bad name, Newt, a man of wit, great intelligence and Tourette’s syndrome, Tim “Who”-Lenty, a man defined only by his crushing ordinariness, and the Silver Mormon Jon Huntsman, a relatively moderate voice in an otherwise rabid mob with a resume that includes working for that Muslim Kenyan guy.

Then there are the loons, like Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and that Pizza dude. And the late maybes like Jeb “Son of a” Bush, Chris “Fatboy” Christie, and Rick “Texas McMiracle” Perry.

Am I forgetting anyone?

Oh, yeah. Sarah Palin, formerly the star of 95% of all known news stories. She of the famous tweets, content-free bestsellers, reality shows, and Fox News contracts. Remember the days when her ridiculous “Death Panel” Facebook post defined the attack on “Obamacare” and very nearly sank the whole enchilada? She used to be quite a big deal. Could she be again?

Answer: You betcha. If she wants to be.

Palin is the only potential player in the GOP field with “serious” candidate credentials, who fits neatly into the “loon” category too. She can command a Tea Party crowd with a flash of her shiny red pumps, and with a little coaching could even be credible in these days of diminished credibility requirements. She knows better than anyone how to toss out the red meat and as Nate Silver showed the other day, she gets more hits on Google than all the other candidates combined. I wouldn’t fancy the chances or Bachmann, Santorum, or Paul – either alone or as a tag-team – in a catfight with Palin. She’ll maul them but good.

Palin also has the huge advantage of bottom-feeder expectations. We know she can gussy up the knuckledraggers, but if she strings a few words together that actually make sense she’ll be hailed as a genius, and although she’s not known for her bookwork, it’s at least possible that she’ll get a few hours of quality schooling in if the White House beckons. Lets face it, for an ego the size of Sarah’s nothing else will do.

These are utterly facile political times. Don Trump, a man who’s utter absurdity knows no bounds was doing pretty nicely in the Cracker poll-of-polls until he bowed out when he realized the reality of having to drop his reality show. To say that is a sad commentary on the state of our politics is a gross understatement. But it’s good news for Palin. She’s got the looks, she’s got the sass, she’s got some gal who writes her tweets and she’s got the star appeal. Heaven knows one needs little else these days.

And if she runs, she doesn’t need money. She’ll have free media coming out of her ears. Every time she coughs, someone will parse it. And then, of course, if she gets traction, the money will come, and the oh-so-amenable and preternaturally calm ads will follow. Big donors might start to think, hey we can run this gal. Maybe it won’t be so bad for the Street or the Chamber. Maybe she can even beat the big man. I mean, we’re probably going to get our lunch handed to us anyway. Why not do it with style? Doubts about the other boring farts will begin to gnaw at them. Heck, wackier things have happened in American politics, which is already way, way stranger than it’s ever been.

Sarah also has a problem. If she doesn’t run she’s finished. Her career is going nowhere but down if she doesn’t get the facetime that’s offered by the big show. She already knows the devastating nightmares that can happen to a celeb if they stay quiet. People stop giving a shit. So she needs to get in or essentially retire. Maybe she’ll take the latter path, but my gut says she loves the big time, and would rather swing and miss than not go up to the plate at all. If she doesn’t, she faces obscurity, which for Sarah Palin is probably a fate far worse than defeat in a Presidential election, which she’d no doubt suggest was just a ‘little fun to pass the time between memoirs’. That “fire in the belly” comment she made was pitch-perfect. I ain’t in. I ain’t out. But if I go for it, I go all out.

With Huckabee hanging them up, Palin has an opening in Iowa as a late-comer who fires up the State Fair. She can work the social conservatives, and play debt-diva on the side if the need calls for it. She’s 99% history in New Hampshire, but if she can put in a decent showing she wins anyhoo. The key for SP (and everyone else) is South Carolina. Even if she runs second in Iowa, she can stay very competitive going into Super Tuesday with a win in SC, where the more shameless and outrageous you are the better. Down there she also has a big ally. The SC Governor Nikki Haley owes Sarah her career. Maybe it’s payback time. State GOP footsoldiers might give Sadie the edge.

Palin’s dirty laundry is just about all public knowledge, so the nasty, campaign-ending discovery factor is low. Her name recognition is a non-issue too. She can hit the ground running, and she’s hired Mike Glassner as an early campaign manager, a guy who worked for Bob Dole for decades and knows a little about being, well, reasonable, which is worrying. That hire tells me she ain’t as dumb as she looks. She knows what she has to do. Play up to know-nothings in the primaries, then turn on a dime, and appear reasonable and moderate and inclusive for the General. People will laugh at me for saying this, but I genuinely believe that with the right svengali, she can do it. And as for whether the people will buy it, I only have this to say. If they buy Trump’s threadbare doormat of a hairdo, they’ll buy Sarah being a compassionate conservative.

Of course there’s still Barack to face in the big show if she makes it that far. But there hangs the problem. She’d play the girlish victim to a tee, lash out with sharp red nails when she can, and disarm the gentlemanly President with her oddly compelling charm. And if she learned to spout ‘moderation’ and mean it (which nobody but me thinks she could) people would soon forget that she’s a nutjob with a gun and a witchcraft problem. In short, the poor, dignified prez would always be on eggshells. She could really cramp his style, and mess up his latest Madison Avenue Masterplan. He might even – you know – make a mistake for the first time ever, which would be huge. And there’s this. When Barack was running against McCain it was legit to not even mention her name. But if she was the candidate, that stuff ain’t gonna fly no more. Finally, Obama would have to steer clear of the insidious racism inherent in the confrontation. How dare a black guy beat up on the little white gal? It’s total BS, but if he got medieval on her for one moment. Ouch.

Finally, Palin thrives on being hated. She eats it up. And it’s a great quality in a politician, which actually gives her a great deal of wiggle room with the GOP establishment. Unlike Newt, who buckled under to their insanity the first time he talked sense on the Ryan plan, Palin couldn’t give a rat’s ass what the grandees think. And history is on her side too. The GOP establishment hated McCain and he ran roughshod over them to win. They truly hate Palin too, and maybe, just maybe she has it in her to take them on.

Is she up for the fight?

Thereisnoplan says she’ll go for it.

Written by coolrebel

May 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

The Tet Offensive comes to Karachi. Impacts on US Foreign Policy.

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Dressed in black, a squad of six highly motivated Taliban insurgents broke into the heart of a Pakistani naval base and wreaked havoc. They killed twelve Pakistani personnel and held out for 17 hours before being killed or flushed out.  The Taliban called it revenge for the killing of Bin Laden, no doubt one of many examples of that revenge. But there’s more to it than that.

Combined with the attack a few years ago on the Pakistani military base at Rawalpindi, there’s a new rubric emerging. And it’s pretty simple. Whatever we in the US do, however much we pay, no matter how much we cajole, or use drones, or even kill the headline leaders of this movement, there’s one truth that flies in the face of our superpower status.

We will never win.

In 1968, Vietcong forces made a serious of daring and often suicidal attacks on US installations deep behind the so-called front lines of the Vietnam war. All these forces were roundly defeated and destroyed, but the point was made by the VC. Despite your reach, your numbers, your firepower, we can always attack. You don’t control the population.

You will never win.

And the lessons go deeper. For all its faults, Pakistan is a democracy, based on an adapted British model. It’s a system that the leaders of the “Arab Spring” dream of, and yet it’s irrelevant. Pakistan is one of the most corrupt, factionalized, tinderbox nations on Earth. In short, democracy is no guarantee of the stability we seek.

So what is a self-respecting superpower to do?

The answer is to focus on the first principle, which is simply this. What is the threat from within Pakistan that would most undermine US security? The answer is simple too. We need to stop Pakistani nuclear weapons from falling into militant hands. The attacks on Rawalpindi and Karachi, along with the lack of control over rogue elements of the ISI suggest that an inside job to take control of those weapons is not out of the realm of possibility.

All US resources in the region should be devoted to preventing that, whatever the cost. Nothing else is remotely important next to that threat. Our assaults on the militants are clearly fruitless. We should defend instead.

There are wider implications too.

America should be less involved in the Middle East in general. It’s another game we can’t win.

Our goals are straightforward. We simply need to make sure that the homeland is protected from existential threats (the occasional and unavoidable terror threat is not existential), that our trading relationships aren’t under threat, and that we’re reducing our oil habit so we can pressure the Saudis into changing their terror exporting ways.

None of these goals depends on our getting down and dirty in Middle East diplomacy.  Our only short-term interest should be making sure the only nuclear state in the region is our ally, Israel.  And we’ve been successful at that.  Iran has been stalled badly in its nuclear quest now the US/Israeli Stuxnet virus has done its work. Note  how little airtime is devoted to the Iranian nuclear situation. It’s off the boil.

America has more important issue at home to contend with.

If nuclear threats are off the table, the Middle East can handle itself.

Written by coolrebel

May 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

Posted in Washington

The Coming of the Nerd Nazis

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They want to map us, share us, track us, provide for us.  They want to be our digital deliverance, our screen-saviors, the pioneers of our future. And we dutifully share, and comment, and post, creating more page views that they can monetize as they continue to propogate and colonize every corner of the internet with their shiny startups promising revolutionary ideas about how to reshape the very core of humanity. They’ve invaded our homes, our workplaces, our memories, the way we communicate, befriend, even fall in love.

Gradually we’re losing touch with the way it was, throwing out the good with the bad, as we suckle at the teat of the new, willing dupes allowing our humanity to be digitized and categorized. We’re gently prodded towards the new spiritual and intellectual vacuum, not capable of resisting the mesmeric call of the profile, the avatar, the lists of basic information that populate a billion databases in a humming, ice-cool, and human-free data center.

And who are the new overseers?

They are the hirsuite, the prematurely balding, the stalk thin, the overweight, the pallid, pasty, shifty, sweaty, overcompensating, often be-spectacled, often poorly-dressed twenty-somethings of America, India, and China, among others nations. They are the silent, the noisy, the blurtingly bombastic, the socially stunted, the always amoral, mentally boundless, potentially mendacious, viciously competitive, vainglorious, profoundly meglamaniacal, and potentially Nazi nerds.

Why bother with the messy inefficiences of life, of government, of shopping, of relationships, when there’s an app that can redefine them? The nerd nazis deliver the public promise of good things masquerading as their private power, sitting with a coffee at a flat screen monitor, watching us. And to that purview will be added judgment, and to that judgment will be added sanction, and to that sanction will be added coopting, snitching, appropriation.

They have the power of Wall Street behind them, bamboozling the rest of us poor slobs with their IPOs and windfalls for the rich and institutional, feeding yet more financial gasoline into the furnace of their new, horrible, vacuous world. Financial power has been befriended by insidous power in the past, willing to aid in its rise, before being swallowed and podded into service of an even greater inhumanity than they thought they’d ever be party to.

And then there’s the rest of us. The little people. The ex-middle class. The squeezed and struggling.  We, the weak, the bloated, the lazy, the intellectually indolent, post-productive supplicants of the nation formerly known in hope and idea as America, we, who have hard-won reason and history and emancipation and pain, fast receding in our rear-view mirrors, will succumb, and be controlled, and live the detached, deluded existence that the nerd nazis export – as their gift – from their cold and incomplete minds to ours. It won’t be a nazism as overt and despiccable as the abomination from 1933-45. The apparatus of power will be less brutal but just as persuasive, less barbaric, but more insidious, and perhaps long lasting. It will seep into the soul, rather than occupy it. It could last a thousand years.

Police states are built on far less than the power the nerd nazis now wield, along with the collective hypnosis we in America now appear to be living in. Will it happen? Probably not, but is at any less of a threat to our way of life than Al Qaeda and its recently deceased porn king?

No.

Written by coolrebel

May 22, 2011 at 8:26 am

Posted in Business BS, Washington

Obama on the Middle East – Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing.

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Among Thespians quoting Macbeth is seen as tempting the fates, but I hope they hold off from bringing me bad luck, because there really is no better way of describing the quintessential Obama than to borrow from the Bard.

Obama clearly loves the idea of being an orator. He stands at the podium, poised, easy, modulated, with a careful cadence to match his apparently oracular wisdom. There really is nobody around that’s better than Barack at looking the part. But it’s a con job. He seems so good at soaring rhetoric, he fools most of us that he is actually that good.

He isn’t.

His speeches are grab bags of ideas guaranteed to address every angle of every situation, the pros the cons, the acceptable, and even, flirtingly, the unacceptable. They please everyone and no-one, are both bold and conservative. And the result is that when the speeches are all added up, nobody really knows what the man has said, and thus begins the – to quote one pundit’s apt response to the recent Middle East speech – talmudic parsing of every word.

In the current round of tea-leaf sorting that’s going on over Obama’s State Department speech, many people are under the mistaken impression that he signalled a sea-change in US Middle Eastern policy, drawing together the strands of US policy up until now haphazardly expressed in the so-called “Arab Spring”.  It’s not true. Nothing has changed about US policy. It’s still the same as it was in Condi Rice’s State Department, an unseemly, and ill-coordinated compote of neo-conservative wishful thinking on the one hand, with Bismarckian realpolitik on the other. And with these two being essentially exclusive in concept, and message, we’re in the same old hot mess we’ve been in for a decade.

Even putting aside the screaming insincerity of the differing US responses to the situations in Libya and Syria, to name one compartive example, The US response to the “Arab Spring” has been nothing less than shameful and hypocritical. In such a fluid situation – with so many dark counter-reactions possible in each of these flashpoints, dare one say, likely, the best possible policy for the US would be to take a wait and see attitude. But instead we blunder into fuller commitments to rebels and revolutionaries, of whom we know little, just because they say the right thing right now. ‘Democracy’ (or at least the brief appearance of it) is no closer to the Arab experience than it ever was. But what has changed is that the cohesion of repressive states has given way to the ‘decolonialization’ of the Arab world, into its factional, sectional, feudal, clannish and sectarian underpinnings.

American stock is so low on the ground in the “Arab world” there was no point speaking openly of a policy we can’t possibly uphold.  We should have kept quiet, while we work diplomacy behind the scenes.

But Obama is a talker. He loves the sound of his own voice.

And as for the so-called line in the sand that Obama has drawn in refining the US stance on Israel, it only reflects poorly on us. Netanyahu’s plucky rebuke of the President in the Oval Office made POTUS look chastened and now after his AIPAC reaffirmation, wilful. This is not great statecraft. And to make matters worse he said – well you’ve guessed it – little of note, so he’s getting little bang for his buck. Basing the final settlement of the Palestinian issue on the pre-’67 borders – with ‘landswaps’ really adds nothing to the discussion. Israelis hate the implication that East Jerusalem has to be handed over. Palestinians hate the land-swaps and suggestion of de-militarization of a future state.

Not only that, but nannying the new Palestine is a recipe for disaster. It excuses them when they attempt to abrogate Israeli sovereignty. Their response can easily be. “We were prevented from defending ourselves”. Better to let them run with the big dogs and ‘be responsible’.

It would have been wiser to avoid the temptation that all US Presidents fall into, of trying to publicly ‘do something’ about the Palestinian situation. Indeed we expect better of the professorial Obama. In this case, going public is utterly counter-productive.  But if Barack is nothing else, as he’s proved time and time again, the President is Mr. “Sound and Fury”, playing orator like kids play office.

I would challenge anyone to suggest that Obama’s speech was meaningful in any serious way.  It wasn’t decisive, it wasn’t profound, and it wasn’t easy to understand.  In short, it was a political failure, sewing more simmering problems, and adding to existing confusion. It will be forgotten, like all his other speeches, classic monuments to an excellent oratorical manner along with not much else.

Written by coolrebel

May 22, 2011 at 7:43 am

The Embarrassing Decline of the Liberal Democrats

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Do I still have permission to shine David’s shoes?

There’s a new verb in town.

“To Clegg, get Clegged or to do a Clegg” is to make a faustian and utterly destructive pact with a more powerful force. “After he got busted for spying on his mates he was totally clegged when the headmaster didn’t make him a prefect”.

Poor Nick Clegg.  There’s nothing like realizing you bought a bill of goods after agreeing to the most awful Faustian pact in British political history.  He seemed smug and happy with his own parking space outside Number 10 but he was fooling himself. Really all he was doing was keeping the conference table water glasses full as his Tory overseers slashed and burned the British public sector he had vowed only a few short months ago to protect, when suddenly the truth comes crashing in.

He’d been taken for a huge ride, and was thoroughly “Clegged”.  To make matters worse, he could have avoided getting on the bus, or could have got off at any time (which of course is part of the definition of Clegging). He went into business with a Conservative party that saw him as willing mark from the get-go. He shouldn’t have been surprised when they went after his AV caper with a vengeance. It was fair game.

The deal was that he would get his shot at a referendum. And that was it. But the very creation of that deal sealed its doom. Liberal Democrats weren’t numerous enough to make a difference for AV on the day, and in local elections were going to make the party pay for going from being the most progressive party in Britain to the willing, cap-doffing enablers of the most conservative. Labour, although not exactly certain what they want were out for revenge, and the old-school brigade trounced the more progressive AV wing of the party. By a whopping 69-31% margin, AV was unceremoniously disposed of. Clegg looks like a loser.

Cameron played a poor hand brilliantly, boldly predicting that the LD’s wanted power more than they despised his Thatcherism “with a smile” goals. He was right. Cameron played the Royal Wedding card, and diverted and distracted what little momentum a Yes vote on AV had. Now, it’s almost a point where he could conceivably go to the country, in the hope that he could cast off the husk of the LDs and go it alone. A weak and disorganized Labour Party could be sent reeling by a surprise attack.

Then there’s the question of how Vince Cable responds. Cable committed a firable offence a few months ago and was kept in the cabinet by Cameron, fearing that a furious and humiliated Cable  could bring down the coalition house of cards. Now Cable is furious that the LD’s he’d joined are sinking into the mire and he’s looking more and more like the willing dupe for heartless Tory policies. So does Cable make a move against Clegg for the LD leadership? Does he resign and bring down become a back bench force for ending the coalition? Does he make a secret deal with Milliband to return to Labour in return for one of the offices of State if Labour gets a majority? Whatever course he charts, he could be a major catalyst for top-flight political action.

There were numerous other implications of Thursday’s vote. Labour’s performance was half-hearted, the Tories made slim gains, and the Scots Nats astounding victory makes gloomy reading for Labour. They could be looking at a future without a dominant Scottish Labour contingent, and that’s a future that looks decidedly blue. Labour needs to act now to try and precipitate a new General Election so it can prevent Alex Salmond from establishning SNP power north of the border.

But staying with Clegg’s calamity, it gets worse. Not only has the party marginalized itself by cozying up to the Thatcherites now, but when they look back, they have to wince at opportunities lost. In 2005, when Charles Kennedy was leader, they had a huge chance to push over 100 seats and establish their power in a way that would have made their ability to negotiate true power on their terms that much stronger. Why? Because at the time, the UK public were up in arms about the War in Iraq, and the only party that had vowed to get British troops out was the Lib Dems. What they should have done was to have issued a manifesto of all the usual good Liberal stuff and then pounded the campaign turf with a single message. Only the LD’s will bring our boys home. They didn’t, and the results were a disappointing same-old, go-nowhere performance.

Since then, apart from a few months as the personal manservants of the new Thatcherite grandees, the party has lost everything.

As we say in America. They should’a seen it comin’.

Written by coolrebel

May 6, 2011 at 8:37 am

The Paul Ryan Express Heads Over A Cliff

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He looks like a funeral director. We thought Paul Ryan was going to bury America but it turns out he’s just cremating the GOP.

It’s beginning to look very possible that the high-water mark of the GOP resurgence was their Tea Party fueled victory in the 2010 Midterms. Because since then its supposedly sure-footed political machine is starting to look decidedly shaky. Unless something very dramatic happens, or Barackslider makes a mistake which he almost certainly won’t, the GOP is going to be handed its lunch in the Presidential contest, and could lose a big chunk of its house majority, and might even fail – in the most favorable of circumstances – to take the Senate back.

Their shopping list of problems is almost never ending. Firstly, the President has almost full control of the center, and after the Bin Laden moment, is appearing decisive and strong.  Secondly, the Tea Party continues to threaten to destroy the GOP from the inside out, it’s wilful libertarian naivite a millstone around GOP necks. Thirdly, the economy – at least on the surface – has stabilized, and fourthly, their potential candidate list for 2012 is topped by professional philanderer Newt Gingrich, professional loser Mitt Romney, professional loons, Ron Paul, Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum, and Don Trump, along with deeply unprofessional Sarah Palin. It’s a safe bet that most potential candidates are going to stay out, the GOP will choose a whipping-boy like Pawlenty to face the inevitable drubbing next November.

But the single most damaging moment for the GOP was their overreach on Medicare ‘Reform’.  They’ve handed the Democrats the ascendancy on domestic policy. Suddenly protecting Medicare will start to bathe the Obamacare in a warm light, undermine the bone-headed push towards obsessive and destructive debt reduction. Paul Ryan’s hare-brained budget strategy has gone down like a lead balloon among the “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare” Crackers.  After the shower of rhetorical rotten tomatoes, chastened GOP footsoldiers are running for the exits. So pathetic and hasty has been their retreat, that Dave Camp, chair of the House Ways and Means committee who’d have spearheaded the reform move basically said that he wouldn’t bother to introduce the Medicare reform because it could never pass. How sensible of him. Sadly, his motives are less than honorable, comng from a party that routinely introduces viciously calculated, time wasting, dead-on-arrival bills and riders of every shape and color to score discount-rate political points.

Unfortunately, all but a few of GOP stormtroopers voted for this hot mess of a budget bill, and will have to face the voters on it. Either they stand by their votes or they’re flip-floppers. Neither is a prospect any can relish.

Written by coolrebel

May 5, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Posted in GOP, Medicare, Washington