Jesurgislac’s Journal

October 18, 2008

“I should have a choice about this”

Transcript below the fold.
(more…)

October 12, 2008

How can you elect a President when the electoral system is broken?

…and how come this kind of brokenness isn’t headline news across America.

…a Board of Electors cites “status as an expert on Sequoia voting machines” as a reason why Andrew Appel can’t be allowed to be present when poll workers are counting the votes supplied by the Sequoia voting machines.

…a Board of Electors say this election is “too important” to permit extra people in the polling place. (cite)

…this refusal is not headline news all over the nation everywhere Sequoia voting machines are in use by the next day. (In fact, discussion of how the 2008 election can be rigged is happening on the national news… in the UK.)

Here is how to hack a Sequoia voting machine.

Now tell me why electoral officials wouldn’t want an expert in that hacking present to observe the poll workers on election night?

Still think you’re going to have Obama in the White House next year, just because he looks like a cert to win the election? Well, you might: if instead of shifting the election from Obama to McCain, the focus on election-rigging, like the RNC money, has switched to getting a majority in the Senate. (If all Democratic Senators currently running for election this year lose, and all Republican Senators keep their seats, then I think – I’m open to correction – the Republicans have a majority by which they can impeach Obama just as soon as they make some reason up for it.) So if rigging can’t do more than make Obama’s victory narrow instead of landslide, rigging could ensure Obama spends his first and perhaps his only term fighting a supermajority Republican Senate.

Morat asked, in August last year: “What causes Rove, of all people, to bail on Bush now? He can’t be expecting a place on a GOP candidate’s payroll (well, maybe he can, but I doubt it).”

I answered, unhappily prescient: “Rove is leaving because he can see Bush/Cheney are heading for disaster, and he wants out of there. If this is the answer, Rove’s name will show up attached to your next President’s name in the 2008 campaigns.”

October 5, 2008

Lies About Health Care

Back in April 2004, I wrote (on Political Animal, comments now lost, but preserved on Respectful of Otters):

Practically speaking… at the moment the health system in the US, insofar as it exists, it set up on the basis that your employer will pay for your health insurance. If every employer in the US simply decided that from now on the money they paid to subsidize employee health insurance was to go to their shareholders instead, and people would only have health insurance if they could afford to buy an individual plan, then the US would suddenly face a health care crisis the like of which it’s never seen: not just 45 million people without health insurance, but probably more like 250 million. The whole health “system” would crumble into bankruptcy.
[…]
Wal Mart’s moral obligation to provide health insurance for all its employees arises from the fact that it makes its profits from a system which assumes that all major employers do so. If all major employees imitated its business model, the system would collapse and kill hundreds of thousands.

This was in response to a story Rivka had published earlier about Wal-Mart’s paying many of its employees so little they cannot afford Wal-Mart’s health insurance plan:

So imagine my surprise when someone came into my office today who has a full-time job. She works 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart. Like many of their employees, she can’t afford their health insurance plan. Even if she could, they wouldn’t cover her HIV care because it’s a pre-existing condition. It isn’t even about paying for the drugs, which are expensive – she qualifies for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which picks up all of her prescriptions for her. Wal-Mart won’t pay for office visits to an HIV specialist, and they won’t pay for the blood tests she needs to monitor her condition.

So you, the federal taxpayer, will be paying for her medical care. Today you also gave her $40 worth of food vouchers, because after she pays her rent (which eats more than half her wages, and she lives in a slum) there’s not a lot left over to buy food. I’m sure you’re glad to do it, right? You don’t want her to die.

And you don’t want Walmart’s $8 billion profits and 21.6% return on shareholder’s equity to drop, the way it probably would if the public weren’t picking up the cost of keeping Wal-Mart associates and their children alive. You wouldn’t want any members of the Walton family to drop off the list of the richest people in the world. (Imagine if only four of them were in the top ten.)

Now, four years on, McCain wants to use the Wal-Mart model of health care for all the 71% of Americans with health insurance () who are insured via their employers. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief policy adviser for McCain, calculates that over 10 years, the US government will get $3.6 trillion increased revenue from taxing employer-provided health insurance (cite).

To understand this, I use the UK model of national health insurance (figures in US dollars): Supposing you earn $2400 a month, and your employee contributions to health insurance are 11%. (That’s the UK’s national insurance rate, covering health and other benefits.) So you pay $264 a month for your health insurance.

Under the current US system, that $264 is not taxed: it gets taken off your pay before tax, and goes to the employer’s health insurance company whole and entire, along with whatever contribution your employer makes, which contribution is also not taxed: so assuming that your employer matches your contributions to your health insurance (also the rule in the UK system) your health insurance company gets $528 per month to cover you.

Under the system McCain proposes, that $264 will be taxed: $39.6 (federal tax at 15%, at least) will be deducted from it. Furthermore, your employer’s contribution to your health insurance will be also taxed. So unless your employer is willing to increase what they pay, you will need to find about $80 more each month to get the same level of health insurance as before, which is in theory going to be paid for by a tax credit at the end of the year. That’s fine if you have the kind of cash flow that can easily compensate for $80 less each month with a tax credit that will hopefully equate to everything you paid out before: $2500 tax credit voucher if you’re an individual, $5000 if you’ve got family. (And issues about which families will be recognised as entitled to the double tax credit voucher, in states that don’t recognise same-sex couples and their children as “family”?)

Joe Biden described this healthcare plan in the VP debate:

Now, with regard to the — to the health care plan, you know, it’s with one hand you giveth, the other you take it. You know how Barack Obama — excuse me, do you know how John McCain pays for his $5,000 tax credit you’re going to get, a family will get?

He taxes as income every one of you out there, every one of you listening who has a health care plan through your employer. That’s how he raises $3.6 trillion, on your — taxing your health care benefit to give you a $5,000 plan, which his Web site points out will go straight to the insurance company.

And then you’re going to have to replace a $12,000 — that’s the average cost of the plan you get through your employer — it costs $12,000. You’re going to have to pay — replace a $12,000 plan, because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of you will be dropped.

So you’re going to have to place — replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.

(I see I wildly underestimated the cost of US health insurance. In the UK we pay far less and get better health care, but that’s just how it is.)

Ace of Spaces reports this as (via): “Biden falsely said McCain will raise taxes on people’s health insurance coverage — they get a tax credit to offset any tax hike. Independent fact checkers have confirmed this attack is false.” (This is number 7 in a list of “14 Biden lies”.)

Well, it’s true, while John McCain’s advisor says explicitly that the tax hike on health care insurance payments will raise $3.6 trillion, John McCain’s website makes no mention of tax hikes, the McCain campaign has made clear in media interviews that the plan is to raise trillions by making what your employer pays for your health care a taxable benefit, not an untaxed benefit. I don’t know how Ace’s “independent fact checkers” could have missed the news stories about this back in April and May and June (via): I’d suggest Ace fire them and hire ones who actually know how to use google, but I gathered by googling that this list of “Biden lies” is not even original to Ace, though the funnysite I was looking at for current Republican lies linked to Ace as the originator.

The current American health care system is the worst in the developed world (WHO ranks it at 37*): it’s even worse than health care systems in some developing countries. And it’s more expensive than any other health care system in the world.

McCain’s plan is to make American health care worse than it already is – to throw more and more Americans out of the pool of people who receive health care via their employer’s insurance plans, while giving them a tax break for choosing their own personal insurance plan. Ezra Klein explains why this is not revenue neutral, while Publius at Obsidian Wings points out that this plan just assumes individuals have exactly the same bargaining power as corporations do.

It appears, judging by this much-memed list of “lies”, that the only way Republican wonks can now think of campaigning for McCain is to flatly lie about about what his policies actually are.

*International stats on health care systems below the cut
(more…)

October 2, 2008

Eight years before Florida 2000… and after

Reading the transcript of this VP debate from 1992, by the way, Admiral Stockdale doesn’t even mention that he was a POW for over 7 years.

Possibly because he felt he’d accomplished things in his life since such that the years he spent as a prisoner were not the largest accomplishment of his life.

I’ll update with a link to the Biden – Palin VP debate when a transcript is available.

Transcript from CNN.

(And, update: Saturday Night Live Vice Presidential Debate Transcript and non-US accessible video (comment 2). Also, discussion whether this successful satire makes Palin more lovable.)

PS: Why Florida 2000 Still Matters.

September 30, 2008

What kind of person still wants to vote for McCain?

McCain and Palin had a bad week, and it was entirely of their own making. (“I’m going to suspend my campaign and fly to Washington to fix the crisis!” said McCain. “Well, I think so -POIT- but where do you stick the feather and call it macaroni?” said Palin.)

The US is in the middle of a financial crisis. This guy (via) has Palin-level solutions (and shares Jerry Falwell’s notion of Christianity).

He thinks the problem is that the State of Maine isn’t sufficiently pro forced pregnancy: that taxpayers support family planning: that marriage isn’t defined in the state constitution and ought to be: that in Maine same-sex couples have some of the civil rights of marriage and ought to have none: and that Maine sets certain standards for education that discriminate against Christian parents who want their children taught only that God created the world in six days a little over six thousand years ago. Oh, and he thinks that “unleashing the private sector” would make Maine “energy independent”. Goodness knows how. Treadmills?

It seems, you see, that what this McCain voter objects to is Governor John E. Baldacci’s work to make Maine more energy-independent, less oil-dependent:

“From my earlier experiences and frustrations, we set up this Office of Energy Independence and Security when oil was $20 a barrel. At that time I knew the public wasn’t going to understand that this was an important measure, because there wasn’t anything dramatic going on with energy then, but I hoped it would give us an opportunity to become a laboratory for energy saving ideas. We started buying hybrid Priuses, and doing car and van pooling. We now use 100 percent renewable energy for state government’s electrical needs. By using biodiesel for State buildings, we save about 13,000 gallons of Number 2 heating oil every year. We started conservation methods in all departments. We’re doing things smarter by using the resources we had.”

So, in summary: a typical McCain voter believes that the country can be saved (and God will “crack a smile”) if more women are forced through pregnancy against their will, same-sex couples are denied basic civil rights, scientific education is rolled back to the 19th century, and there’s none of this nonsense about the state government offering programs that help people become more energy efficient.

“Right now, there is not a single voting system on the market or in use anywhere in the country that meets current federal voting standards, and very few people realize it.” – Douglas Kellner, co-chair of New York State’s election board

But I’m sure John McCain is among those few.

September 24, 2008

Traditional Values: How dare an uppity black woman think she can make her own rules!

The Traditional Values Coalition wants you to crash Oprah Winfrey’s e-mail server. (Thanks to Ben Wolfson at Unfogged for the heads-up.)

Oprah’s crime: she has set a rule that she’ll interview no candidates for President on her show (Barack Obama has appeared on her show twice, both times before he announced he’d be running for President: since then, though Oprah has made no secret of supporting Obama for President, he has not been interviewed on Oprah).

The Traditional Values Coalition (among those “traditional values” must be “being a whiny baby”) has written an e-mail for their supporters to send (they don’t permit their supporters any alterations except in the subject line of the e-mail). I did consider sending one with a subject line Oprah Rules, Sarah Drools! More Traditional Values Coalition Bullshit but then I thought, nah, the whole point is clearly to crash the system with sheer numbers, I won’t join in. They squeal that Oprah’s “honoring the accomplishments of all women” is an illusion, as is her belief in “fairness and impartiality”. The e-mail refers to an invented item on the Drudge Report that Oprah had refused to interview Sarah Palin, tp which Oprah responded:

The item in today’s Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this Presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over.

Apparently, making rules for who will and will not appear on the show means Oprah is not “the advocate for all women” – after all, Sarah Palin is just a career Republican hack hockey mom. Oprah’s uppity decision to publicly support a Presidential candidate and to set rules for her own show must, to these “traditional value” people “mean only one thing – you put Obama’s interests ahead of the interests of your viewers”. Yeah right.

Still, though I would not wish Oprah to reverse her decision not to interview any of the candidates on her show, I would very much like to watch Oprah push Sarah’s head through the wall. Metaphorically, of course, and I’m sure Oprah would do it ever so nicely; Sarah might not even know how badly she’d been beaten till she saw the reruns.

PS: Someone already did the analysis much better.

May 1, 2008

Using Up My Five Minutes of Blogging Time To Complain About Other Blogs

Once upon a time, the reason for reading American political blogs was that they were substantially different from American mainstream media.

This has not been true of many right-wing blogs for some time, which more and more simply seemed to chorus together whatever party line was coming out of the White House.

But it was still true of many blogs, some on the right, many on the left, lots which were neither typed as “right” or “left.

Sadly, it no longer seems to be the case. What the mainstream media is paying attention to is apparently what is deemed to be important, so what <I>is</I> the point of reading blogs rather than reading mainstream media?

This primary would have been a great opportunity to examine the real differences between Clinton and Obama: substantive reasons, rather than trivial ones, why someone might decide they preferred one over the other.

Instead, as one would expect, the mainstream media and the Republican campaigners had a long, happy time circulating nasty nonsense about either or both, and as I certainly didn’t expect, the left-wing blogosphere happily took up the lead the mainstream media and the Republican campaigners had given them and ran with it.

For large chunks of time, I won’t be able to be online in May. Once upon a time, political blogs would have been an excellent way to pick up in summary the recent and most important news. Now? Might as well switch on CNN 24.

Blog at WordPress.com.