GOP Still Has No Healthcare Ideas

HealthcareJonathan Chait makes a good point today, The Republican Health-Care Plan: Repeal and Cackle. He quite rightly notes that while the Republicans having much fun with their faux outrage about the Obamacare exchanges and the fact that some people are going to have to give up their terrible insurance plans for something that will work, their own healthcare reform ideas are far less popular.

Republicans, of course, do have healthcare reform ideas. I went over them in some detail recently. Pretty much all of them are things that they want to do anyway. Big on the list is always tort “reform,” which is just another way of setting up the law so individuals can’t get justice when the rich and powerful harm them. But Chait is right to focus on their really big idea of providing tax credit for people to buy health insurance while making employers pay taxes on the health insurance they provide to employees.

This would have the effect of throwing huge numbers of people off employer plans and onto the terrible private insurance system that we used to have (and still do to a large extent). He writes:

The single most salient fact about Obamacare to conservatives is that it is unpopular. This is true. What conservatives have never fully acknowledged is that its lack of popularity reflects not a broad agreement with the right’s ideological critique but a deep aversion to change.

So if people hate Obamacare because of the fairly modest changes it has made to their policies, the tens of millions with employer provided healthcare would be furious with the Republican plan.

Marketplace Magic: And Then a Miracle OccursOf course, we would never get a Republican plan. Obamacare is the conservative plan. When the Republicans decided their best strategy was to pretend it was a communist conspiracy shat from the decaying corps of Stalin, they effectively yielded the entire healthcare debate. They couldn’t get Social Security privatized, there is no way they would be able to pass a healthcare law that threw the whole system into chaos while simultaneously costing the poor and middle classes more than they were paying before.

So once again, we come to this point where the Republicans themselves don’t know what to do. In this way, they are lucky that Romney lost. If they were in power, what exactly would they have done? Repeal Obamacare, of course! But after that? Nothing would have been done. They might have passed a law or two that would stop parents from suing when some doctor killed their kid. But that’s about it. Because Republicans have no healthcare ideas. It’s all wish lists and magic thinking like in the cartoon above.

The Sad Reality of Duck Dynasty

Duck DynastyAs I’ve discussed before, there is very little “reality” in Reality TV. For example: Reality TV Not So Real. And: More Proof Reality Shows Are Fake. So I was quite interested to see a headline, “Duck Dynasty” Is “Fake”! Star Phil Robertson Confesses How TV Editors “Arrange The Scenes” & Rewrite His Reality.

Even under the best of circumstances, I would have filed the article under “No shit, Sherlock!” And indeed, it did talk about how the editors distort reality. But there’s a reason for that: reality is boring. What’s more: reality is long. How exactly do you condense a week’s worth of boring life into 22 minutes of proletarian-nip? But that wasn’t the reason why “patriarch” Phil Robertson went bitching to The Christian Post. He went there because Jesus told him!

You see, according to him, the editors were beeping out nonexistent expletives when the Robertson’s were talking. That might be. Or it might be that like most people who curse a lot, he has no idea just how foul mouthed he is. I don’t know nor do I care. I can well see the editors saying, “You know, this isn’t an interesting backwoods family; this is just yet another rich industrialist who inherited everything from daddy. How are we going to make these people interesting?”

But Robertson’s real reason for coming on was that he was angry that the show kept editing out “In Jesus’ name” from their prayers. As he said, “You gotta remember, it’s spiritual warfare.” So in addition to all the money that the head ducky gets paid and all the free advertising that his company gets, he wants to use the show to push his own pathetic idea of God on the nation. He also goes out of his way to vilify the editors as depraved heathens possessed by “the evil one.”

What is most interesting about this is there is no conflict on the show. The interview itself was clearly as real as the show. Robertson may play a backwoods idiot on television but in reality (the real one), he’s a millionaire owner of a multi-million dollar business. In other words, Robertson is a sophisticated guy who is every bit as worldly as those depraved editors. But it’s good for ratings. Think of Andy Kaufman’s Hollywood elite bad guy wrestling character, and his battles against the all-American good guy Jerry Lawler. That’s what’s going on here. Notice how the “editors” are to blame and not the “producers.” Of course, the editors do what the producers want. But if the producers were the godless heathens, why wouldn’t Robertson just quit to protect his family from the evil one? Since those editors are back in Hollywood, his family’s safe.

The real reality on Duck Dynasty and many other reality shows is that if you are already rich (pretty much always because of your daddy), there will be people begging to make you rich and famous. Eventually, people need to wake up about this. What Americans most admire is what is destroying them. But that’s not a reality that people want to watch on the television.

GOP Needs No Mother and Child Reunion

Charles PierceThis morning, Charlie Pierce wrote, The Reign Of Morons: Absurdity In The Senate. It is about a remarkable bit of political posturing in the Senate. The 27 Republican senators who voted to reopen the government and lift the Debt Ceiling just voted to repudiate the vote. In other words, “We voted to raise the Debt Ceiling, but we now disagree with that vote.” Except: not really.

At the last minute of the Reid-McConnell negotiations, the latter put into the bill some language requiring this subsequent vote. So from the very beginning, the the Republicans in the Senate were planning to repudiate their votes. In other words, “We voted to raise the Debt Ceiling, but we always disagreed with the vote.” I’m not exactly sure who they think they are fooling. Do they imagine that moderates are only going to look at the first vote and extremists are only going to look at the second?

Pierce notes that John Kerry was widely criticized “from hell to breakfast” for his comment about the Iraq War funding bill, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” That, of course, was typical conservative molehill mountainizing. Congress generally votes on major bills any number of times and that’s all that Kerry was talking about. Forced ignorance is a common conservative tactic, “I just don’t know what you’re talking about!” The situation with yesterday’s vote is entirely different. It is the Republicans’ attempt to have things both ways.

I think that Pierce gets it wrong when he talks about the need of the non-crazy Republicans to show some backbone and stand up against the extremists. I just don’t buy this narrative. Sure, the John McCain wing of the Republican Party wants to placate the crazies. But this is very much like a mother placating her overeager child. The mother is also excited about going to Disneyland. But it is a thousand miles away. It doesn’t matter how much mother and child would like to be on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride but there are reasons why it just is not possible right now.

The current state of the Republican Party is that the extremist mothers are trying to calm their overeager extremist children so they can all get to the extremist promised land. There is no need for a mother and child reunion. They are in union right now. And as he matures, even Ted Cruz will understand that. He and John McCain are separated by 35 years, but absolutely no ideology.

Tom Bodett Jokes

Tom BodettSince 1986, humorist Tom Bodett has been the spokesman for Motel 6. You have undoubtedly heard the commercials with Bodett’s unique midwestern drawl ending each one, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” He’s a very funny guy as you will hear if you listen to NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! And it’s got to be a good gig, so great for him.

In 1990, Accor bought Motel 6. It is a French company that owns hotel chains all over the world. (In 92 countries!) At that time, I heard a late night comic announce the news with something like the following. “French-based Accor has acquired Motel 6, but the company says that nothing will change except that Tom Bodett will now be known as Tom Bodette.” Funny stuff.

On Sunday, Paula Poundstone—who works with Bodett on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!—tweeted the following:

That just killed me.

This article has been another in a long series of attempts to provide enough information for people to get what are great but obscure jokes. You may now go back to your general ignorance about what is really funny. But please, do not tell me that I should really see The Hangover XVI. Unless, of course, it has a new Tom Bodett joke in it.

Fox News Exists Game Show

Fox Not NewsIt’s time for lying with graphs! In fact, it’s time for lying generally! That’s right, it’s time to play everyone’s favorite game show, Fox News Exists!

This episode is brought to you by the fine folks at Media Matters. They monitor Fox News so you don’t have to.

On Monday’s episode of Fox & Friends, the “news” channel presented the following graphic. It’s a comparison of the total number of people who work with the total number of people who are on “welfare.” Your task is to name everything that’s wrong with it:

Fox News Fake Jobs vs. Welfare Graph


I’m sorry, but our time is up. We were looking for:

  1. The numbers are almost identical, but Fox News graphed them to make it look like there are 5 times as many people on welfare as are working.
  2. The number of non-farm civilian employees is over 140 million people, so at least many of those people on “welfare” are also employed.
  3. They counted people being on welfare if they lived in a house where anyone received any welfare at all; but employment only applied to the individual; nice statistical consistency!

That’s all we have time for. See if you can find more Fox News errors at home. Until next time, so long from Fox News Exists!

The Difficult and Beautiful Ezra Pound

Ezra PoundOn this day in the 18th century, two very famous early Americans were born. The first was John Adams who was born in 1735. I loved him in 1776, but as an actual man, he wasn’t all that great. In particular, although he was against the British aristocracy having power in America, he really very much wanted a native aristocracy. And guess what? He got it.

Also born on this day was Martha Jefferson, Thomas’ wife. Again: she was great in 1776. But as far as I’m concerned, Betty Buckley in the original cast was far superior to the mousy Blythe Danner. Anyway, Martha was not the first lady Martha Jefferson—she died almost two decades before he became president. She is thought to have suffered from diabetes, which was not made better by having popped out six kids. All but two died in infancy. One of the remaining only made it to 25. The eldest, Martha, lived to the ripe old age of 64. She, and not her mother is who people referred to as the First Lady Martha Jefferson. Here is Buckley killing “He Plays the Violin”:

Normally, I’d just shuffle the following man off to “other birthdays,” but his story is too interesting. Georges Gilles de la Tourette was born in 1857. He is the first person to document what he called “maladie des tics” (You don’t need me to translate, right?) but what was eventually known as Tourette Syndrome. In 1893, one of his former female students shot him in the head, claiming that he had hypnotized her against her will. This is most clearly not possible and I figure that what she meant was that he seduced her. The wound did seem to turn Tourette into a manic-depressive and eventually killed him, but he still managed to live another 11 years—most of it quite productively.

One of the great talents behind the Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick is 74 today. Much of her solo work is very good. But I only mention her here to show this:

Henry Winkler is 68. I very much like his acting work, especially in Arrested Development. And my sister says he does great work for people with learning disabilities and he “writes” clever children’s books. That’s all great. Still, he will rot in hell for hocking reverse mortgages on every cable channel in the known universe. I accept it from Fred Thompson. He’s an asshole. But Winkler is supposed to be a good guy. Don’t get me wrong; if Winkler were in financial difficulties, I wouldn’t mind at all. Everyone’s got to pay the bills. But that clearly isn’t what he’s doing. So it is just completely unacceptable. Sit on it, asshole.

The comedian Kevin Pollak is 56. I like him very much as an actor and comedian. He is also a fine impressionist. But again, I have only one reason for listing him above the “other birthdays,” and that is Rob Pearlstein’s excellent short film, which he starred in, Our Time Is Up. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself:

Other birthdays: playwright Richard Sheridan (1751); English impressionist painter Alfred Sisley (1839); actor Ruth Gordon, who was a total honey when she was young (1896); musician Clifford Brown (1930); and actor Jessica Hynes (41).

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath. Ready? The day, however, belongs to one of the greatest poets of the 20th century Ezra Pound who was born on this day in 1885. He was a very interesting guy and I do love his work. If it weren’t for all that fascism, he would be just perfect. Look, I don’t want to harp on it. Go read about him if you must. He came by the belief honestly and he was an Italian style fascist, not a German style one. And people are allowed to be wrong. And difficult. Anyway, he is largely responsible for anyone knowing of a lot of the great 20th century poets, most importantly (for me, anyway), Charles Olson. And then there is his work, which was always wonderful—pretty much from his early days to his last. The Seven Lakes canto (Cantos #49) is reproduced after the fold. Wikipedia writes of it, “Canto XLIX is a poem of tranquil nature derived from a Chinese picture book that Pound’s parents brought with them when they retired to Rapallo.”

For the seven lakes, and by no man these verses:
Rain; empty river; a voyage,
Fire from frozen cloud, heavy rain in the twilight
Under the cabin roof was one lantern.
The reeds are heavy; bent;
and the bamboos speak as if weeping.

Autumn moon; hills rise about lakes
against sunset
Evening is like a curtain of cloud,
a blurr above ripples; and through it
sharp long spikes of the cinnamon,
a cold tune amid reeds.
Behind hill the monk’s bell
borne on the wind.
Sail passed here in April; may return in October
Boat fades in silver; slowly;
Sun blaze alone on the river.

Where wine flag catches the sunset
Sparse chimneys smoke in the cross light

Comes then snow scur on the river
And a world is covered with jade
Small boat floats like a lanthorn,
The flowing water closts as with cold. And at San Yin
they are a people of leisure.

Wild geese swoop to the sand-bar,
Clouds gather about the hole of the window
Broad water; geese line out with the autumn
Rooks clatter over the fishermen’s lanthorns,

A light moves on the north sky line;
where the young boys prod stones for shrimp.
In seventeen hundred came Tsing to these hill lakes.
A light moves on the South sky line.

State by creating riches shd. thereby get into debt?
Thsi is infamy; this is Geryon.
This canal goes still to TenShi
Though the old king built it for pleasure


Sun up; work
sundown; to rest
dig well and drink of the water
dig field; eat of the grain
Imperial power is? and to us what is it?

The fourth; the dimension of stillness.
And the power over wild beasts.

Happy birthday Ezra Pound!