Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 9:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/1

Green shoot (me): Delinquent balances underlying commercial mortgage-backed securities totaled $32.55 billion in October, up more than 500% from October 2008. They’re expected to top $65 billion by June, which would be a record 8.3% of the total.

Michele Bachmann, idiot: “Just over a year ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private.” Uh-huh. And just over a year ago, 100 percent of water was wet.

Jon Kyl, moron: The Arizona senator, who has repeatedly said President Obama needs to heed the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal for more troops in Afghanistan, says any kind of deadline for getting them out — an “exit strategy” — would be “exactly the wrong way to go.” Perhaps he should have run that position past McChrystal, who said in October: “Gentlemen, I am coming into this job with 12 months to show demonstrable progress here — and 24 months to have a decisive impact. That’s how long we have to convince the Taliban, the Afghan people and the American people that we’re going to be successful. … That’s not a choice. That’s a reality.”

Alberto Gonzalez, imbecile: The former attorney general and unindicted co-conspirator, unable to find a job in any law firm, anywhere, or teaching law at any law school, anywhere, tells a political-science course at Texas Tech to “dream big” and hang in there until your crony network elevates you to power.

Mike Huckabee, deluded: Dude, God is telling you to pardon the wrong people. Plural.

Jason Linkins, not an idiot, moron or imbecile OR deluded: “I’d describe Politico‘s brand of journalism as banality, added to Scientology, multiplied by the spasmodic frenzy of a tween who hasn’t learned to displace their unfulfilled erotic needs onto emo vampires.”

Ben Nelson, just dumb, but United States Senator dumb, meaning he’s in a position to cause actual trouble: We need to pay for the Afghanistan escalation, but we don’t want to increase the deficit and we don’t want a war tax because we fought WWII without one, so let’s sell war bonds! (I am now cleaning my own gray matter off the walls of my study.)

Whom would Jesus card?: The Houston Salvation Army is among seven charities checking the immigration status of poor families before giving toys to the kids.

Things we don’t talk about when we talk about military missions and government spending.

Needed to create jobs: More direct infrastructure investment, fewer tax credits. This imbalance hobbled Stimulus I, which was no more than half as big as it needed to be to begin with.

The return of common sense: Fafblog on the war in Afghanistan: “Let us never forget just what’s at stake in the war in Afghanistan: nothing less than the success of the war in Afghanistan.” Pretty much.

Related: As the number of troops in Afghanistan grows, so will the number of contractors. Because that worked out so well last time. Comments Clavis at TPMMuckraker: “I think it would be cheaper if we simply paid the Afghanis to shoot themselves.”

Plus, he sounds exactly like Rush Limbaugh. Also.: MSNBC talk-show host Ed Schultz ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He had this to say about the Obama state-dinner party crashers (whom, I promise, I will mention no more): “What if one of them were a ninja? Obama could have been killed.” On hearing this, my thoughts ran roughly in this order: 1) Ninjas? Cool! 2) Yeah, and he could have been killed even though they weren’t ninjas. Idiot. 3) Pirates v. ninjas! 4) Obama v. Ninjas! 5) Obama v. Ninjas: The Video Game! (c) 2009 Lex Alexander. I win.

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio David and Tamron, than are dreamt of in your philosophy: Of course they let bin Laden get away at Tora Bora on purpose. No other explanation comports with both the facts we have and Occam’s Razor.

And, finally …

Tiger Woods is changing careers: The Borowitz Report has the inside scoop.

UPDATE: I’m feeling generous, so here’s a bonus:

Write your own punch line: The COO of McDonald’s is retiring … for health reasons.

Must. Have.: Vodka. In a pill. (h/t: Maru)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:54 pm

Odds and ends for 10/27

Saturday, October 10, 2009 3:20 pm

Jon Kyl, lucky duckies* and the nature of the 21st-century recessions

One of the defining characteristics of the U.S.’s more recent recessions has been the length of time it has taken the employment rate to return to its pre-recession peak.

It’s going to be a long, long time before employment returns to the levels whence it plunged to the current 9.8% unemployment valley. And Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona doesn’t give a rat’s hind end:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tried to accelerate the usual lengthy process in order to take a quick vote on proposed bill H.R. 3548 to give federal unemployment benefits extension to all 50 states but Kyl halted his efforts, calling for more time to consider the bill and possibly add amendments to it. …

This means that the bill has no chance of a vote this week, as Senate Dems had indicated was likely, but rather the earliest can pass is next week. So for the thousands whose benefits will run out soon, let alone those whose benefits have already run out, you have Jon Kyl to thank for not getting this extension passed sooner.

This isn’t going to hurt just a few people:

As Congress debates the measure, 400,000 people ran out of benefits in September and another 208,000 are set to lose them this month, according to the National Employment Law Project. Some 1.4 million people will stop receiving checks by year’s end if Congress doesn’t act, according to the employment law project.

The chorus calling for a benefits extension grew louder after the government reported on Friday that unemployment hit a 26-year high of 9.8% in September. Employers shed a higher-than-expected 263,000 jobs last month.

If you’d like to tell Kyl’s minions what you think of his economic strategy, you can get info here. Remember: You don’t need to be loud to be firm.

Maybe this shows I have no aptitude for Congress, but if I were Harry Reid, I think I’d tell Kyl I didn’t give a rat’s hind end what he wanted and would just pass the damn extension before any senator would be allowed to go home for the weekend.

Because, although I seldom make political predictions, I won’t hesitate to predict that the outcomes in 2010 and 2012 will be based primarily on who is doing more, or who can make it look as if they’re doing more, to help those without jobs, directly, as in this case, and via job creation.

And because Obama has proclaimed it a virtue for an administration to be able to keep multiple balls in the air, I’d like for someone with talent to be looking into why the dips in employment are taking longer to go away, what we can do about that, and whether there’s anything we can do to stop it in the first place. But that’s just me.

*Go here if you don’t get the reference

Friday, June 19, 2009 8:20 pm

Teh Stoopid is making us sicker and poorer*

Last summer, I did a piece for the N&R that talked about how as much as a third of the $2.4 trillion or so Americans spend every year on health care goes toward drugs, devices or procedures for which there is insufficient, or even no, evidence of absolute or relative effectiveness.

So this year, HR 2502 was introduced to create a Comparative Effectiveness Institute that would research and report on how well drugs/devices/procedures, some of which generate huge amounts of revenue for health-care companies, work both in absolute terms and in comparison to one another. (As I noted in my article, a similar measure was introduced in the last Congress, but it didn’t get far.) Y0u would think that a rigorous program of checking the effectiveness of these things, given its potential to put a huge dent in health-care costs, would be a popular idea.

You would be wrong:

On Monday, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced the “Preserving Access to Targeted, Individualized, and Effective New Treatments and Services (PATIENTS) Act of 2009,” a new bill prohibiting Medicare or Medicaid from using “comparative effectiveness research to deny coverage.”

And why would Jon Kyl do this? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count:

Pharmaceutical representatives currently instructs doctors on the effectiveness of medications, and the industry opposes research that would lead the government to eschew coverage for ineffective or unnecessary treatments. Fewer prescriptions translate into lower profits and the industry lobbied hard to pare down the cost effectiveness language in the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill. In fact, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have donated $1,971,968 to Kyl’s career election efforts and ran ads on Kyl’s behalf in 2006. Moreover, according to recently released 2008 personal finance disclosures, Kyl invests heavily in pharmaceutical companies.

Substantively, opposition to this kind of research is awful public policy; politically, it shows breathtaking amounts of hypocrisy and chutzpah:

1. Politicians who rail against wasteful government spending are taking action to prevent the government from reining in … wasteful spending.

2. Politicians who warn that the burden of entitlements is killing the federal budget are stepping in to block … the single most painless route to reducing the growth of entitlements.

3. They’re doing it in the name of avoiding “rationing of health care” … but they’re specifically addressing taxpayer-funded care. If you want to go out and buy a medically useless treatment, Medicare won’t stop you.

4. These same politicians are, of course, opposed to efforts to expand coverage. In other words, it’s evil for government to “ration care” by only paying for things that work; it is, however, perfectly OK, indeed virtuous, to ration care by refusing to pay for any care at all.

It’s almost enough to make you wonder whether some people really want health-care reform.

*h/t to Shannon Brownlee for the title

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