Magic Bird Flies

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I’m not much of a sports fanatic. I rarely read the sports section of the paper, couldn’t cite sports stats for the life of me, and always record events so I can fast-forward to the good parts (or at least through the slow parts). But there have been a few major sports stories that have fascinated me: in tennis, Roger Federer’s incredible run at majors, the Agassi-Sampras and Connors-McEnroe rivalries, the Williams sisters’ incredible success. And having lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, I became a dedicated Lakers fan. The peak of my interest in the team occurred in the mid-80s, when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, surrounded by the Show Time supporting cast, showed the world what fast-break basketball could be. Thanks to the sportscasters, who knew how to play up a good story, I was aware of Magic’s rivalry with Larry Bird, but having never followed college basketball, I didn’t understand the source or the depth of it. Now, having watched HBO’s impressive documentary on the subject, I do. And like every good sports story, it’s quite stirring, even if you’re not a basketball fan. The preview doesn’t really do the show justice-

Here’s a little personal anecdote about Magic Johnson. One day in the late-80s I was walking down a street near Radio City in New York (of all places) when I saw Magic across the street walking in the opposite direction. He must have seen me gawking at him (although I thought I was being cool); he flashed me that huge smile and waved. Now that’s how to treat a fan.

After The Signing, The Rising

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Shortly after the House passed the health insurance reform bill that, according to every Republican in Congress, will ruin the private health care sector of the economy, the stock market, recognizing the coming apocalypse… markedly rose? As Business Week reported-

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc. climbed at least 1.4 percent to help lead health-care companies higher after the House approved legislation that will ensure tens of millions of uninsured Americans will get medical coverage. Boeing Co. advanced 1.7 percent to help lead gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Citigroup Inc. jumped 3.6 percent as Richard X. Bove at Rochdale Securities LLC advised buying the shares. “The health-care legislation approval removes the uncertainty,” said Richard Sichel, chief investment officer at the Philadelphia Trust Co., which manages $1.4 billion.

Surely this was just a brief mistake, a mere blip. No doubt the market would recognize the coming disaster to the U.S. economy today, having had another 24 hours to consider the dire consequences of the cursed legislation that that Kenyan Usurper Anti-Christ Commie Muslim Terrorist Obama signed into law today-

Dow rises 100+ points as Obama signs health insurance reform

(By the way, I know you can’t tell much from daily fluctuations of the stock market, but in this case you can at least tell that the market does not think that health insurance reform poses any danger to the private health care system).

Health Insurance Reform Passes

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After Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election in January, I asked a simple question-

Will the House Democrats have the fortitude to hold their noses and vote for the Senate bill? Or will a year’s worth of work go down in huge bonfire flames, over which the Republicans can brew tea for at least the next three years?

The answer is finally clear: yes, they voted for the Senate bill, as well as a set of changes that the Senate has apparently pre-approved. They did it. Finally we have a framework for dealing with systemic health care problems in the future. Since I know of at least two self-employed folks who will benefit from this bill almost immediately, I have only one thing to say-

Yay.

Murray Hill Inc. For Congress

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As I recently posted, according to the Supreme Court, a corporation, being a person, has all of the free speech rights accorded to persons. To be logically consistent, should the Court also permit a corporation to run for office? Only if the corporate person in question is also a citizen of the USA, I suppose. And just who is a citizen of the USA? There are lots of court decisions on this issue, but given the current Supreme Court’s penchant for overturning precedents, Murray Hill Inc. clearly thinks that the time is right to test the legal waters-

I Got Mail!

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Since venturing with some trepidation into the Letters To The Editor section of our local newspaper, I’ve received two snail-mail responses. The first was from an ardent New Dealer expressing appreciation for my first letter to the editor about the “Impeach Obama” billboard. This gentleman sent me xeroxed copies of old newspaper photos of Truman and Johnson signing social legislation.

The second letter I received just yesterday in response to my follow-up letter to the editor. It has a slightly different tone-

As best I can tell, it reads as follows:

Why are all you people so in love with Obama. God said in the Bible before the world comes to an end I will give you floods, fires, and earthquakes and then I will send you Obama to finish you off – The End – Obama is the AntiChrist. Certainly people should be protesting against him, it’s they’re [sic] moral and religious duty and right. Obama wants to skip Socialism and go right to Communism. And we’re all going to need a Wheel Barrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread while he’s out flying around. Thank You.

Can’t argue with that!

Climate-Change Denial Crock Of The Week

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I discovered this Peter Sinclair video (and others in the series) over at Little Green Footballs, a blog run by Charles Johnson, a friend of mine from way-way-back. I haven’t always agreed with Charles’ political views, but his latest grand obsession is to highlight examples of critical thinking like this, and to rail against the increasingly loud voices of irrationality by exposing their deceptive tactics. Keep it up, old pal.

Billboard Progress

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I posted recently about an “Impeach Obama” billboard that had sprouted up along Highway 41 outside Oshkosh, and wrote a letter to the editor that was basically an edited version of that post (minus the last paragraph and the racist image of Obama). Much to my surprise, the billboard has changed its tune-

Here is my new letter to the editor, which I believe the Oshkosh Northwestern will publish in a day or two-

I was one of several Oshkosh residents who wrote letters to the editor criticizing the “Impeach Obama” billboard, which had a subtitle indicating displeasure over unidentified legislation affecting small business. I had two main concerns. First, the billboard writers admitted (through their lawyer) that they did not believe that President Obama had committed any impeachable offenses. So if insincerity and factual distortion are problems with the “Washington politics as usual” that their lawyer indicated they were upset about, they were guilty of these vices themselves. Secondly, they unfairly singled out Obama as being responsible for any legislation that might be harmful to small business, rather than focusing on Congress, which actually writes legislation. And finally, they did both of these things anonymously, indicating perhaps that on some level they recognized that their rhetorical tactics were nothing to be proud of.

I would now like to commend the billboard renters for recently changing its message. As The Northwestern reported 3/16/2010, it now reads: “Washington D.C. Is a Cesspool of Corruption and Liars. On November 2nd All Career Politicians Must Be Defeated”. While the charge may be over-the-top, and the prescription self-serving for the opposition party in a two-party system, I can easily believe that the renters are sincere, and the message does not unfairly single out any particular politician. I look forward to the next billboard these folks pay for, which I hope will read: “Campaign Finance Reform Now!”.

(By the way, I’m not holding my breath for that future billboard.)

UPDATE 3/18/10- The Northwestern published the letter today, under the slightly more rosy title: “New Billboard Message More Acceptable“. Curiously, they deleted the final sentence of the first paragraph, which they might have deemed less relevant than the rest and more personal than necessary. Given the way the letter fits on the page, they may have needed to shorten it by a sentence; if so, they deleted the right one.

Spring Forward, Etc.

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Don’t forget, lest you be an hour late… On the other hand, what a great excuse!

Apparently the jury is out on whether the shift to Daylight Savings Time is a net benefit or a net harm. Some folks think that it would be simpler to just shift work hours than to change clocks (especially since so many devices have clocks these days). But think about it… all those signs that would have to be changed, and you’d still have to remember to alter your schedule.

Anyway, you may have noticed I haven’t posted much in the last week or two, and this barely qualifies as a post… The temperature has been up in the 50s, and I’ve been dedicating what little free time I have these days to being outdoors after a long winter. Katie, our dog, has been getting lots of walks – we’ve been told she needs to lose five pounds (something she and I have in common). Posting will continue apace soon… if there is anything worth posting about (health insurance reform anyone?). Zen master say: Speak not, unless by speaking one improves upon the silence. Talk about a high bar…

Obamacare: The Critique From The Left

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When you read the poll numbers indicating that a majority of respondents disapprove of what can now safely be called “Obamacare” (since the President has finally made it clear what he thinks should be passed through reconciliation), it must be remembered that a large portion of that disapproval is coming from the left – from those who would prefer a single-payer, non-commercial health insurance system, often referred to as “Medicare for all”. One of the more articulate spokespersons for this view is Dr. Marcia Angell of the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard University Medical School. I happened to watch part of her latest interview on Bill Moyers’ show last night as I was channel surfing, and was impressed (and depressed) by her analysis of the bill presently being considered by Congress (roughly, the Senate bill plus President Obama’s recommended changes). I recommend that you watch the entire interview (about 15 minutes long), but here’s part of what she said:

BILL MOYERS: So, has President Obama been fighting as hard as you wished?

MARCIA ANGELL: Fighting for the wrong things and too little, too late. He gave away the store at the very beginning by compromising. Not just compromising, but caving in to the commercial insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. And then he stood back for months while the thing just fell apart. Now he’s fighting, but he’s fighting for something that shouldn’t pass. Won’t pass and shouldn’t pass.

What this bill does is not only permit the commercial insurance industry to remain in place, but it actually expands and cements their position as the lynchpin of health care reform. And these companies they profit by denying health care, not providing health care. And they will be able to charge whatever they like. So if they’re regulated in some way and it cuts into their profits, all they have to do is just raise their premiums. And they’ll do that.

Not only does it keep them in place, but it pours about 500 billion dollars of public money into these companies over 10 years. And it mandates that people buy these companies’ products for whatever they charge. Now that’s a recipe for the growth in health care costs, not only to continue, but to skyrocket, to grow even faster.

BILL MOYERS: But given that, why have the insurance companies, health insurance companies been fighting reform so hard?

MARCIA ANGELL: Oh, they haven’t fought it very hard, Bill. They really haven’t fought it very hard. What they’re fighting for is the individual mandate. And if they get that mandate, if everyone does have to buy their commercial products, then they’re going to be extremely happy with it.

The counterargument, of course, is that if you have the framework envisioned by the current bill in place, and costs indeed spiral out of control, then at least it is far easier to add a public option to the mix, and perhaps to eventually move to a single-payer system. Angell isn’t buying that scenario:

MARCIA ANGELL: I think the problem is this, Bill. If this plan is passed, and I think there’s real doubt as to whether it will be, and there’s even more doubt as to whether it would ever be fully implemented, but let’s say that it’s passed. It will begin to unravel almost immediately. And then what will people do? Well, they’ll say, “We tried health reform, and it didn’t work. Better not try that anymore.”

It’ll be like what happened after the Clinton plan failed. There’ll be another 16 years before anybody comes up with the courage to try that again. People say, “Too expensive. Just can’t have universal care. Tried that, did that, didn’t work, good-bye.” Whereas if the bill dies now, people can say, “This bill died because it was a bad bill.” And the problem is still on the front burner. And then one can hope that we get some version of Medicare for all. And that we don’t have to wait 16 years.

BILL MOYERS: What makes you think it would come back in 16 years or more? What makes you think it will ever be back on the table?

MARCIA ANGELL: Oh, I think it has to be. I mean, I think that this system is unraveling so fast, doing nothing or doing the Obama plan, so fast, that something will have to be done. Unless we want to, you know, explicitly be a third world country. So I don’t think it’s going to wait. But if we pass this plan, it’s going to delay.

Like I said: depressing.

First Birds Of Spring

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You hear ‘em before you see ‘em, but either one does tend to lift one’s mood after a long cold winter-

I know that we’re in for some lousy weather between now and True Spring, but I can’t help but celebrate the first teasing signs.