Republicans Just Can’t Help It
September 27, 2007

Jim Ogonowski is running on the Republican side for the House seat in the Fifth Congressional District in Massachusetts.

His brother was John Ogonowski, pilot of the plane that first hit the World Trade Center. He says, in Joan Vennochi’s column in the Globe today that 9/11 “was a huge part of my decision to run.”

Fair enough. The Lion would hope he doesn’t bring that up too often, lest he become like Rudy Giuliani, trampling on the bones of the dead in an unseemly rush to gain political office.

Ogonowski is trying to present himself as a regular guy.

“I want to be endorsed by regular people. I don’t want my picture in the newspaper with a bunch of politicians, because I’m not a Washington insider,” he said.

Yeah, but apparently he’s desperate to become one, which is usually the case with people who say such things. And similarly for the regular guy remark – can’t wait to stop being regular and get his hands on all those Congressional pay raises and perks?

So what are the regular guys buying into these days?

On immigrants:

“I don’t see any reason…to reward criminal activity,” he said. Illegal immigration is no different than drug trafficking or stealing car [sic], in his view.

Actually, Jimbo, it is different. Most of the people who sneak into the country come here to work, to work hard and to do honest work. They’re not stealing cars, they’re not trafficking drugs. In fact most American crime is done by American citizens.

Addendum: From a story in Friday’s Globe on the debate in Andover Thursday night:

In the campaign, Ogonowski has railed against illegal immigration, calling it the number one issue for voters and stressing it as a matter of national security, economics, and fairness. He wants to deport undocumented immigrants and has warned that politicians are trying to ‘sneak benefits’ to them, instead of spending the money on veterans’ care or other programs.

Sure, Jimbo, and what’s your plan for deporting twelve million people? Lock ’em up in concentration camps while you do paperwork on them for a few years? Herd them en masse across the Mexican border? And you’ll do what about the economic dislocations your policy will cause in the United States?

And dude, nobody is trying to sneak benefits to anyone. Unless of course you’re talking about the Republicans in Congress who sneak provisions into bills in the middle of the night when no one’s looking, and after the bills have already been passed in final form. But otherwise what’s done with bills is out there in the open, published on the web, discussed in the blogosphere and the press.

Jimbo comes off as just another ignorant, dumbass paranoid Republican when he says stuff like this. We already have quite enough of those in Washington already, thank you.

On Bush and Iraq:

On Iraq, Ogonowski said, “The president made a big mistake going into Iraq. . . . Now I define victory in Iraq as when they can provide for their own safety and security. We need to leave that region stable.”

At least he claims to believe Iraq was a mistake. Now maybe he’ll get to the truth and announce that Bush lied the country into Iraq and that it wasn’t a mistake, but a deliberate crime. Baby steps, baby steps. Dude’s a Republican, after all. And of course he’s still parroting the ‘we’ll stand down when they stand up’ crap. And stability? Bush and the Republicans have made sure that generations will pass before the Middle East and Southwest Asia have a shot at stability. A lot of bodies are going to stack up like cordwood before that happens. Ogonowski would apparently like to help build the stack by going along with his deranged President and delusional Republican Party.

Near the end of Vennochi’s column there’s this bit:

During the farm tour, the candidate took care to drive his pick-up truck near Viskoth Kim, a Cambodian who has been farming on the Ogonowski land through a program he said his brother John started with Tufts University. The program reaches out to legal immigrants, Ogonowski said.

The farm, in Dracut, belonged to his brother.

So has anyone asked Viskoth Kim what kind of deal he has? How much does he make? How much does he pay? The deal might very well be honorable and honest, but we won’t know if nobody asks the question. So, Joannie, did you ask?

This Ogonowski puts The Lion in mind of another fellow who drove around the countryside seeking political office in a pickup truck. Fred Thompson traded in his Lincoln and his fancy lobbyist suits for a pickup and a pair of bluejeans and a flannel shirt to sell himself to the people of Tennessee, who bought into his charade and put him in the Senate. His big claim to fame has become that he was a spy for Nixon during the Watergate hearings.

We could do worse than to beware of Republicans driving pickups and claiming to be regular guys.

Massavegas: Governor Patrick Takes A Gamble, Proposes Casinoing Massachusetts
September 18, 2007

Today’s Globe headlines Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to create at least three casinos in three sections of the state. Bravo for him. He proposes the revenues go to repairing bridges and roads, and providing property tax relief for beleaguered homeowners.

Of course the naysayers are crawling out of the woodwork.

The moralists object on the grounds, usually, that their god says gaming is a no-no. That’s pretty much all they’ve got. But until they can get their various gods to sit down and present their own arguments, they haven’t got a leg to stand on. Really, who appointed them to speak for whatever god they represent? And do we want to take as foundations for public policy the word of people who talk with invisible supernaturals?

Then there’s the crime crowd. Gambling brings in a criminal element, they say. No. Money brings those guys. But if you know they’re coming and how they operate and you put in place solid regulatory and enforcement operations, they’re not going to be a problem. Drunks will be a bigger problem.

And finally there are those whose hearts bleed for the gambling addicts. Casinos create problem gamblers, they say, so we shouldn’t have casinos. Okay, alcohol creates alcohol addicts. Ban alcohol. Drugs create drug addicts. Ban drugs. Cigarettes create nicotine addicts. Ban cigarettes. Sex creates sex addicts. Ban sex. Those all worked out well, didn’t they?

If a person has an addiction, it’s up to the person and his family to deal with it. The state can offer counseling services, but if someone’s headed down the path of self-destruction, you can’t do more than hold out a hand. His choice to take it or not.

Now if the state would offer really good, solid services, that would seriously  mitigate the problem. But the state never does. It chronically underfunds social services. Why? Because we live in a culture that still doesn’t see the value in helping people, that still operates on a set of values inherited from cultures just coming out of the Stone Age or one of the Early Metal ages. Whatever. We still have a significant element in American society that essentially believes in stoning people to death for so-called sins. The modern stone is simply to withhold help from those fallen from grace.

Ah, and there is another group, those of the regressive taxation syndrome. All gambling is regressive taxation because it falls on those least able to pay.

Nonsense. It falls on everybody who wants to play poker or blackjack or roulette or craps or slots. Rich people. Poor people. The few people left in the middle. Nobody’s forcing anyone to gamble.

And these naysayers seem also to be the ones who don’t want the state to raise income taxes. And when they win that battle and sit smugly smiling over their victory, the rest of us have to bear increased property taxes, increased fees, and reduced services.

Where in hell do they think the money to run the state is going to come from? If they don’t want taxes to go up the money has to come from somewhere.

Many of these jokers would be happy for there to be no taxes. Okay. All those who don’t want to pay any taxes, including various government fees, which are a tax, are exempt. However, you cannot send your children to public schools. You cannot use the public roads. You cannot call on the police or fire departments to help you. You cannot collect government pensions or social security or qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. You cannot drive cars. You cannot buy gas or oil. You cannot use any government service. You get what you pay for.

It’s unfortunate that what taxpayers pay for in this country is of such poor quality. But then if you want all your taxes to go for a huge, bloated, ineffective military establishment; if you want to spend your money on an endless, useless war promulgated by, but not supported by, rich Republicans; if you want to have to pay for the taxes that the rich no longer contribute to society under the Republicans; if you want to pay for schools that do little better than teach your kids to takes tests; if all of that and similar failures are your idea of value in America, then you’re welcome to it.

So, casinos. Can’t run a state without money. Can’t pry it out of people if you call it taxes. But people will pay for entertainment and for a chance to make some money, so what the hell – bring on the casinos. And can we have some dancing girls too?

Massachusetts Health Reform: Pathetic, Sick, Ugly
September 17, 2007

From the Globe’s op-ed page today, a column by Dr. Steffie Woolhandler and Dr.David U. Himmelstein about the dumbass Mass healthcare bill, brought to us by Mitt Romney, with the aid of a legislature that can only be called corrupt or stupid or bought and paid for by the insurance industry.

Pertinent paragraphs:

And 244,000 of Massachusetts uninsured get zero assistance – just a stiff fine if they don’t buy coverage. A couple in their late 50s faces a minimum premium of $8,638 annually, for a policy with no drug coverage at all and a $2,000 deductible per person before insurance even kicks in. Such skimpy yet costly coverage is, in many cases, worse than no coverage at all. Illness will still bring crippling medical bills –  but the$8,638 annual premium will empty their bank accounts even before the bills start arriving. Little wonder that barely 2 percent of those required to buy such coverage have thus far signed up.

While the middle class sinks, the health reform law has buoyed our state’s wealthiest health institutions. Hospitals like Massachusetts General are reporting record profits and enjoying rate increases tucked into the reform package. Blue Cross and other insurers that lobbied hard for the law stand to gain billions from the reform, which shrinks their contribution to the state’s free care pool and will force hundreds of thousands to purchase their defective products. Meanwhile, new rules for the free care pool will drastically cut funding for the hundreds of thousands who remain uninsured, and for the safety-net hospitals and clinics that care for them.

Read the whole piece here.

Apparently Hilary Clinton is calling for everybody to get insurance when she’s President. And the Mitten is bitching at her that she’s for socialized medicine.

Two stupids in a pod. Romney’s a Republican. He wants everyone to get sick or go broke paying insurance.

Hilary’s a Democrat. I don’t know what in hell she’s thinking, but if her plan includes the insurance companies, she should quit the race.

But all the pols, except Kucinich if I recall correctly, want you to give your money to insurance companies and don’t want to provide reasonable health care for everyone.

We can’t have a reasonable health care system in this country until we get the insurance terrorists… companies… out of the mix. They don’t give a damn about your health, never did, never will. They want your money, money for nothing, so they can drive around in BMW and Mercedes cars.

But as long as they’re allowed to continue buying politicians, you are screwed. Get seriously sick and your life is destroyed. You lose your health, your money, your house, your car, your dignity, all so insurance company executives and managers and salesmen can run around in fancy cars to expensive restaurants, using expense accounts that you paid for.

They’re thieves and they’ll kill you for your money. Literally kill you.

Massachusetts Health Insurers Out Of Control, Again Raise Rates, Consider Limiting Access To Care
September 13, 2007

In a Globe story today, the front page lead, by Jeffrey Krasner, Massachusetts health insurance terrorists say they’re going to raise rates by about ten percent. Again.

They raise the rates every year.

And what are the bigwigs thinking about this:

“I see no end in sight to these increases,” said Stuart Altman, professor of national health policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham. “The only thing that’s going to stop this is a meltdown of our healthcare system.”

Altman said fundamental changes in the nation’s healthcare system – such as capping payments or limiting access to care – are needed to slow the spending escalation. But barring a crisis, he said, such as a drastic rise in the number of uninsured, significant reform measures are unlikely.

Read the code. ‘Limiting access to care.’ That means let’s throw the poor people out into the street to take the pressure off the system. ‘Capping payments’? That means pay less to doctors and hospitals to make sure they won’t take care of poor and economically disadvantaged people.

As for the crisis that Altman is waiting for? Dude, it’s already here. There’s forty-seven million people out there now who haven’t got and can’t afford health care. More join them everyday as prices of private insurance rise and rise and rise, and employers cut back and back and back on providing insurance plans.

Why do these stories always use sources who seem to live in a bubble totally divorced from the real world in which real people live?

Of course Massachusetts touts its new insurance tyranny law that forces people to buy health insurance, but does nothing to provide health care. Good plan, guys. Let’s slap middle-aged people on fixed incomes with a $600 a month cost for insurance so they can spend their retirements deciding whether to pay the fuel bill or pay the insurance bill, when they’re not spending their time fighting the insurance company to get them to pay out the benefits.

We won’t have good health care in this country until we get the insurance companies out of the way. And get rid of the politicians who support them.

Until then the United States will continue to have the most backward healthcare system in the developed world. Call it an anti-healthcare system.

And how about we start asking our newspapers to find sources that live and work in the real world instead of in ivory towers that sound a lot like they’re supported by the insurance industry.

End insurance terror. Create real health care. For everybody.

The Great Bottled Water Controversy
August 30, 2007

The environmentalists pointing out the problems with bottled water are generally right. Too much plastic, too much waste, and so on. Not really arguing with them on the basic principle.

But I live in Falmouth on Cape Cod. The public water supply reeks of chlorine and runs through some thirty-five miles of pipes that the town admits increase the risk of cancer. They claim they’ve taken steps to mitigate the risk, but hey, they’re local politicos and like politicos everywhere, they’d most likely rather cover their ass and lie or mislead the public than admit a mistake. So I neither trust them nor believe them. About anything frankly, but definitely about the water supply. And especially so since too many of them are business types. And business people running politics in a tourist economy should always be viewed with a jaundiced eye. Two jaundiced eyes. As many damned jaundiced eyes as possible.

They refuse to remove the carcinogenic pipes, and the chlorine still reeks at the tap.

So to hell with the environment. Bring on the plastic bottles. I’ll stick with my Poland Spring water in an attempt to keep the environment inside my skin safer.

Healthcare Reform In Massachusetts A Sick Joke. Insurance Companies, Pols, Bureaucrats, and Governor Deval Patrick Screw The Sick. Again.
August 30, 2007

Here’s some nice logic from the State of Massachusetts as it whores for the insurance companies.

The Deval Patrick administration wants to cut the Free Care Pool that catches sick people who fall through the cracks.

Why? Because the existence of the FCP, which is an effective safety net, is ‘incompatible’ with the state’s now-mandatory health insurance boondoggle.

That’s right. Unaffordable health insurance is better than providing health care to sick people.

Got to make sure those health insurance executives keep getting their outrageous salaries, no matter how many people have to get sick and die or lose their homes and life savings. Can’t do anything to keep the politicians from getting their whore money from the insurance companies. Gotta screw the poor folk and the working poor because it’s what we do and we don’t want to actually think realistically about the problem, and besides we got our health care, so screw those other people.

Next year the penalty for not having health insurance will run more than $1,000, per year. And even if you pay the fine, you still don’t have insurance. And that fine is larger than the fines for pretty much every criminal act in the lawbooks.

When are we going to put an end to health insurance terror and provide real health care in this country?

Read the full column in the Globe, by Benjamin Day.

Romney Flack Flacks Massachusetts Health Care Plan. Real OrwellSpeak Spoken Here.
August 27, 2007

In the Letters section of the Editorial page of the Globe today, Timothy Murphy, identified as the state secretary of health and human services in the Romney governorship, does George Orwell proud.

…the Globe dismisses the individual choices and free-market principles at the heart of the …healthcare law. Under the plan…state citizens are empowered to enter the private market and obtain their own health insurance. Personal responsibility is the defining principle.

Wow, Murph, did you forget that the Romney law forces people to buy insurance? Did you also forget to notice that the citizens could have gotten private health insurance any time we wanted? Except for the simple fact that most of us can’t afford a decent policy. And the most sensible of us don’t want health insurance – we want decent health care.

Forcing people to pay money for private insurance isn’t empowerment. It’s tyranny. But you Republicans are good at Orwellizing things.

And let’s not forget that the plans offered carry high deductibles. Citizens can easily spend several thousand dollars on premiums and get not one penny of support from the private insurance company until said citizen has spent another couple of thousand out of pocket. Gee, I feel so empowered to have Republican politicians sticking their hands in my pocket to pay the insurance companies that keep the pols in office. And let’s not forget the Democrats who went along with this travesty.

Here’s some more bullcrap from the Murph:

While some have painted these [reforms] as government intrusions into the market, they are actually government’s way of facilitating individual empowerment.

Who wrote this nonsense? Had to be some clown from Romney’s staff. Either that or the Murph is as big a fantasist as Romney.

And there’s this:

In a big government-run plan, those with lower-incomes would be forced to enroll in a government-designed one-size-fits-all insurance program.

Yeah. Listen, Murph, I hate to break it to you, but the Romney plan is a big government run program, but it’s a typical Republican half-assed program that feeds money to private companies instead of putting the money into programs that would actually deal with the problem.

And as for one size fits all, sick is sick. When you’re sick you want health care. Period. Size doesn’t matter. You don’t want to be wading through an insurance bureaucracy designed to deny you the coverage you paid for.

And this final arrogant little bit:

What we have done in Massachusetts is unleash the power of competition, not by putting government in the healthcare business, but by empowering individuals.

Or, in English:

What we have done is forced our failed ideological principles on the citizens of the state and forced them to waste money paying corporations for a service the corporations will fight against providing.

And back in the middle of the letter, Murph notes:

Romney as governor redirected nearly $1.3 billion spent reimbursing hospitals for providing free care to instead help individuals purchase health insurance that meets their needs.

Uh huh. You ripped away from hospitals over a billion dollars used to provide care to people who can’t afford healthcare, and you handed it to insurance companies who will pocket a healthy percentage of it in order to provide less service and less care to people who need it most.

Good show, Murph. Another pathetic Republican mind pulls the wool over anybody stupid enough to listen to him.

The Seeming of Mitt Romney
July 29, 2007

A long piece in today’s Globe tells how Romney is leading the pack of tiny-minded Republicans seeking a primary win in New Hampshire. The article doesn’t really break any new ground, but a telling comment from a voter occurs three-quarters of the way through:

“I was really impressed with him; he seemed very relaxed, very confident, and very knowledgeable,” said … an undeclared voter in her late 60s…”

Romney seemed knowledgeable.

That pretty much tells me she didn’t have a clue about the issues, or about whether the Mitten actually knew what he was talking about. But she’s willing to put together her ignorance and his confident manner and decide that he’s the guy to run the United States.

I’m sure part of the Mitten’s undoubtedly entertaining shtick involves boasting how well he did as Massachusetts’ governor.

Of course he won’t mention that he wasn’t in Massachusetts much of the time, but was out whoring in other states for primary votes by criticizing the state.

Perhaps that voter who places such great faith in seeming would be interested in a report in the Globe today by Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin, both of the Center for Market Studies at Northeastern University, about Romney’s tenure as Governor of the state he loved to bash. 

Our analysis reveals a weak comparative economic performance of the state over the Romney years, one of the worst in the country.

Some highlights:

  • Formal payroll employment: third lowest in the country
  • Manufacturing payroll declined by 14%, compared to 7% nationally
  • Two states experienced no growth in resident labor force, Massachusetts and Louisiana. Louisiana had Katrina.
  • 220,000 more people left the state than came to live here

Between 2002 and 2006, the median real (inflation  adjusted) weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers in Massachusetts is estimated to have fallen by $10 or nearly 2 percent.

Heckuva job, Mitten!

The authors also mention that Massachusetts was a national leader in home price increases between 2002 and 2005 – 95%, compared to 40% nationally.

Sum and McLaughlin generously add:

Real world experience has shown that a governor is limited in his power to influence the course of economic development in a state. A full-time governor who is deeply committed to the economic well-being of a state’s workers can, however, make some difference. The state unfortunately did not receive such leadership over most of the past four years.

No kidding. It’s the Republican way. Make your money off the backs of the working class and then kick the crap out them every chance you get.

As I recall, the Mitten, when sucking around for the governorship, flaunted his business success and promised he would boost Massachusetts’ stature and finances.

Seems like he blew that. But then what could you expect from a guy whose first act as governor of Massachusetts was to start running for President?

Makes me wonder what he’s going to run for if he wins the trophy of the Presidency? He’s already shown that he’s too ignorant and too psychologically challenged to be competent in the White House. Hell, he’ll probably make Michael Vick the Secretary of Defense on the grounds Vick understands how to fight subhumans. I’m sure the two of them will have a great time playing with their dogs in the basement pit of the White House. Or in Romney’s case perhaps on the roof.

MCAS A Success? Board of Education Really Confused
June 20, 2007

Peter Schworm writes in the Globe today:

First-year students at Massachusetts public colleges who scored well on the high school math and English MCAS exams earn higher grades and more course credits than students with lower scores, and they are more likely to stay in school, a new study by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has found.

And a little further on:

Patricia F. Plummer, higher education chancellor, said the strong correlation between MCAS scores and college performance showed the value of a demanding college-track curriculum and was a wake-up call to students who choose not to take math and English classes throughout high school.

But over where the smart people hang out, the real mathematicians and statisticians and people who actually paid attention in class, the word of the day is that correlation is not cause. Every day the sun comes up and every day a building catches fire. One hundred percent correlation. Does the sun cause the buildings to burn? Every day the sun comes up, and every day I have to pee. Is it the sun causing me to pee? I mean, hell, it’s a one hundred percent correlation, right?

Apparently Ms. Plummer wasn’t in class the day the prof warned against confusing correlation and cause. But I’ll bet she was there in the Public Relations class when they told her the public was too stupid to tell the difference.

When the MBHE comes out with a study showing that these high-ranked kids would not have done well without the tests, then the Board might have something to talk about. Right now they can’t show that these kids would have done worse without the high-stakes testing that has corrupted education. And if they can’t show that, then they haven’t got a case for bragging on the MCAS process.

Massachusetts Health Care Bites Its Own Hand
June 19, 2007

Massachusetts keeps crowing about its wonderful new healthcare program and how it’s going to insure everybody and be the best thing since, oh, I don’t know, toasted marshmallows.

What it really is is a giveaway to the insurance companies. It forces people to buy insurance instead of buying healthcare. Let’s see, how’s about a $300 monthly premium with a $2,000 deductible sound? Such a bargain! You’re out $5,600 bucks before insurance pays for anything. Wow! What a model plan for the nation.

Anyway, today in a Globe story Alice Dembner writes that the state is cutting by two-thirds a statewide program called CenterCare, which provides “a broad range of health education and support services at community health centers.” Which is to say it helps people understand and control their health problems, focusing on education, prevention, and mitigation, and thus keeping people from reaching the point where their illness requires expensive medical resources. Diabetes is the most obvious example. And the program has been quite successful.

So the state decides to cut funding for this program while it builds an expensive bureaucracy designed to cater to the insurance industry’s perverse ways of denying healthcare to people forced to buy its policies by the state.

How about instead the state either pays directly for healthcare, or builds a consortium of insurance companies that the state, not the doctors, not the patients, deals with? How about people go get healthcare instead of worrying how to pay exorbitant premiums to sociopathic insurance companies?

Oh, yeah, the likely reason the program is getting axed – it’s directed at poor people.

How about healthcare instead of health insurance terror?