Archives: June 2006
Mon Jun 26, 2006
I Wanna Drink With James Howard Kunstler
June 26, 2006
The energy debate around the US has taken a definite turn this spring, since oil prices stepped back up to the $70 zone, but the thinking around these issues has only gotten worse. That's because there is only one idea dominating the public discussion: how to keep our cars running by other means, at all costs.
We're certainly hearing more about energy from government and business. President Bush made the "addicted to oil" confession in January. Chevron and British Petroleum (or Beyond Petroleum, as BP wishfully styles itself) have both run ad campaigns acknowledging the oil-and-gas crunch, and the mainstream media has joined the campaign to pimp for bio-fuels. But all the talk is driven by the assumption that we will keep running WalMart, Disney World, and the interstate highway system just like we do now, only with other "alternative" liquid fuels.
The more naive members of the environmental sector have been suckered into this line of thinking, too -- especially the college kids, who imagine we can just divert x-amount of acreage from Cheez Doodle production and re-direct it to crops devoted to making liquid fuels for Honda Elements. They need to get some alt.brains.
Nobody is talking about the much more likely prospect that we'll have to reduce motoring drastically, and make other arrangements for virtually every aspect of daily life, from how we get food, to how we do business, to how we inhabit the landscape. The more we resist thinking about the larger agenda for comprehensively changing daily life, beyond our obsession with cars, the more likely we will veer into hardship, political trouble, and violence.
The reason for this collective failure of imagination seems pretty obvious: the older generations are hopelessly vested and invested in the hard "assets" of suburbia, which they feel they cannot walk away from; and the younger generation is too demoralized by the fear that they will never be vested in any assets (while many seek refuge from thinking at all in the electronic sensory distractions of video games and Ipods, or else in irony and other forms of manufactured alienation).
If I was a kid now, I'd find a lot more to rebel against than what we faced in the 1960s: the draft and the insipid program of Levittown. I'd rebel against a generation of adults selling the future for obscene pay packages. I'd rebel against everything from the mendacious nonsense of Rem Koolhaas to the profligate stupidity of Nascar. I'd want to eat Donald Trump for lunch (and set free the wolverine that lives on his head.) I'd utterly reject the false commoditized reality and set out to discover the world. I'd get busy building a society with a plausible future (and be real excited about it).
Sometimes I wonder if we just enjoy lying to ourselves. Sometimes I think: if this nation could somehow harness the energy in all the smoke it blows up its own ass, we'd all be able to drive to heaven in Cadillac Escalades.
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Fri Jun 23, 2006
Medicare and "Why Conservatives Can't Govern" by Alan Wolfe
Anyway back to our regularly scheduled program. I've had a couple posts on Medicare - which has turned my fathers small business into a vertiable non-profit. He's making much less on each transaction - and the insurance and drug companies are making more. The conservatives in power left out the small business people in the new Medicare plan it seems. It's made a huge impact on his bottom line - to get the patients on new plans the work load becametwice what is was before.
Since January it has become less work to deal with the program, the biggest amount of work in dealing with the new plan is over. But even so, he says for each Medicare transaction he is making even less money than before. So little it doesn't even make sense.
The Wal Marts and the mega stores can absorb this - both the time and the money. I saw a sign in a big mega store with a pharmacy that college pharmacy interns would be available to help seniors choose a Drug plan. For a large store with a number of Pharmacists and technicians on staff, the extra work can be absorbed.. And the diminished return on the sale. But for a small store, with 2 or 3 employees, a great influx of time in dealing with this, and a decrease in profitability on each item, it hurts them so much worse..
And the ironic thing is that when the government imposes a more complicated system and limits the amount of money that can be made, it sounds like some kind of 'liberal' do-gooders imposed some regulatory bureacracy. But no, the complexity of the current system comes from the conservatives just letting the insurance companies write the new Medicare system.
The insurance companies and the drug companies make more.
The small town pharmacy makes less.
Pretty soon there will be no more small town drug stores, just giant Wal-Marts, and all the money you spend will not go back into the economy, destroyed small towns with their best chances of an economy are to pick up tourism dollar in recreating the glory of the American small town yesteryear.
Is this the laissez faire free market, or a new bureaucracy written by various big business lobbies in collusion with their so called 'family values' conservative who would just as soon see Wal-Marts and Dollar stores take over every small town?
In the following essay by Alan Wolfe in the Washington Monthly, "Why Conservatives Can't Govern", he argues that conservative have an inherent contradiction in governing and making public policy.
Anyway, it's a great read, and here's a quote from it about Medicare:
The question of whether Medicare reform will prove politically fruitful for Republicans is still open. But the question of whether it has proven to be an administrative nightmare is not. There were two paths open to Republicans if they had been interested in creating an administratively coherent system of paying for the prescription drugs of the elderly. One was to give the elderly nothing and insist that every person assume the full cost of his or her medication. The other was to have government assume responsibility for the costs of those drugs.
But Republicans were just as unwilling to design a sensible program as they were unable to eliminate the existing one. To prove their faith in the market, they gave people choices, when what they wanted was predictability. To pay off the pharmaceutical industry, they refused to allow government to negotiate drug prices downward, thereby vastly inflating the program's costs. To make sure government agencies didn't administer the benefit, they lured in insurance companies with massive subsidies and imposed almost no rules on what benefits they could and could not offer. The lack of rules led to a frustrating chaos of choices. And the extra costs had to be made up by carving out a so-called "doughnut hole" in which the elderly, after having their drug purchases subsidized up to a certain point, would suddenly find themselves without federal assistance at all, only to have their drugs subsidized once again at a later point. Caught between the market and the state, Republicans picked the worst features of each. No single human being could have designed a program as unwieldy as this one. It took the combined efforts of every faction in today's conservative movement to produce a public policy so removed from common sense.
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it's nice outside.
So, it's summer and I'm not posting here much anymore. I'll be back after it starts getting dark at 4pm.. It's dark at about 9:30 now..
Earlier this year I've played with the idea of creating a new, better Citizens of Upright Moral Character, based on the wonderfully elegant Wordpress blog but now I'm falling for Drupal/Civicspace - where writers will be able to have their own blog pages, and a cornocopia of functionality in running a full fledged CMS (thats Content Management System). There's a fully developed Constituent Relationship Manager (that's CRM, bub) in there too called CiviCRM, that is getting mature - many political advocacy grassroots groups are using this now to run their campaigns.
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Fri Jun 09, 2006
I don't really think too much lately about anything I read or see in the newspaper regarding Iraq, "war on terror" or any of that shit, minus the chance I get to talk to or spend time with actual soldier who have been there and hearing their accounts of what they've done, what they are up against; and Iraqis themselves.
The death of al-Zarqawi of course begs comment. I really couldn't put it better than my brother Ryan who wrote this and sent it to his local newspaper:
As the brother of Craig Amundson, who was killed on 9/11, I might be expected to rejoice over the death of the al-Qaida leader in Iraq. Instead, I am frustrated. al-Zarqawi’s death is not good enough.
The disruption of the network might prevent some terrorist operations from taking place. That is positive, but without changing the conditions that created al-Zarqawi’s role in the first place, somebody else will just take his position. Military officials say that a man known as Abu al-Masri may already be
filling the vacancy.
There is not only a long line of people waiting to join al-Qaida’s ranks, but that line gets longer each
day that our government continues its counterproductive program of merely killing terrorists and any innocents who get in the way. We can look ahead to a future of endless violence if we keep deluding ourselves with a naïve trust that war will somehow solve the complex problems of anti-Americanism, religious extremism, and the belief in terrorism itself (or as a believer would call it, “freedom fighting”).
The father of Nicolas Berg, believed to have been killed by al-Zarqawi, told the Associated Press, “[al-Zarqawi’s] death will incite a new wave of revenge. George Bush and al-Zarqawi are two men who believe in revenge.” Like Nick Berg’s father, I am supposed to be glad about al-Zarqawi’s death, perhaps even moving toward “closure.” But we as a nation are moving further away from any hope for a peaceful world. The cycle of violence continues…
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