Sarah Palin as Policy Wonk

<img src="http://www.thefutureschannel.com/img/pics/printingmoney/printing_money04.jpg" height="220" hspace="12" align="right">It would have probably been fair to say of Sarah Palin that until a few days ago 'policy wonk' would have been an unlikely description, love her or loathe her, of any facet of her complex relationship with American politics.

But now this:

<blockquote>
I’m deeply concerned about the Federal Reserve’s plans to buy up anywhere from $600 billion to as much as $1 trillion of government securities.  The technical term for it is “quantitative easing.” It means our government is pumping money into the banking system by buying up treasury bonds.  And where, you may ask, are we getting the money to pay for all this?  We’re printing it out of thin air.

Sarah Palin via Robert Costa- <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/252715/palin-bernanke-cease-and-desist-robert-costa"><i>Palin to Bernanke: ‘Cease and Desist’</i></a> National Review 7 Nov 10

</blockquote>

That's very interesting on a lot of levels.  The piece is coherent and sober and, more importantly, it is aimed directly at a weak point in the current administration's monetary policy and an electoral vulnerability in the allegiances of establishment Republicans in the newly constituted House of Representatives.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the champion of this recently announced second round of '<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_easing">quantitative easing</a>,' promised Congress on 3 June 2009 that the Federal Reserve would not '<a href="http://prudentinvestor.blogspot.com/2009/05/monetizing-debt-explanation-for-non.html">monetise the debt</a>' of the US government, in other words just print money "out of thin air."  But that seems to be exactly what we are now proposing to do and there are dissenting opinions within the Federal Reserve system itself:

<blockquote>
For the next eight months, the nation’s central bank will be monetizing the federal debt.

This is risky business. We know that history is littered with the economic carcasses of nations that incorporated this as a regular central bank practice.  So how can the ['quantitative easing'] decision made last Wednesday be justified?

Richard W Fischer - <a href="http://dallasfed.org/news/speeches/fisher/2010/fs101108.cfm"><i>Recent Decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee: A Bridge to Fiscal Sanity?</i></a> Federal Reserve of Dallas 8 Nov 10

</blockquote>

So which is it?  Well, that all depends on whose telling the story.  But it's already a done deal.

There's more...

Sarah Palin as Policy Wonk

It would have probably been fair to say of Sarah Palin that until a few days ago 'policy wonk' would have been an unlikely description, love her or loathe her, of any facet of her complex relationship with American politics. But now this:
I’m deeply concerned about the Federal Reserve’s plans to buy up anywhere from $600 billion to as much as $1 trillion of government securities. The technical term for it is “quantitative easing.” It means our government is pumping money into the banking system by buying up treasury bonds. And where, you may ask, are we getting the money to pay for all this? We’re printing it out of thin air. Sarah Palin via Robert Costa- Palin to Bernanke: ‘Cease and Desist’ National Review 7 Nov 10
That's very interesting on a lot of levels. The piece is coherent and sober and, more importantly, it is aimed directly at a weak point in the current administration's monetary policy and an electoral vulnerability in the allegiances of establishment Republicans in the newly constituted House of Representatives. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the champion of this recently announced second round of 'quantitative easing,' promised Congress on 3 June 2009 that the Federal Reserve would not 'monetise the debt' of the US government, in other words just print money "out of thin air." But that seems to be exactly what we are now proposing to do and there are dissenting opinions within the Federal Reserve system itself:
For the next eight months, the nation’s central bank will be monetizing the federal debt. This is risky business. We know that history is littered with the economic carcasses of nations that incorporated this as a regular central bank practice. So how can the ['quantitative easing'] decision made last Wednesday be justified? Richard W Fischer - Recent Decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee: A Bridge to Fiscal Sanity? Federal Reserve of Dallas 8 Nov 10
So which is it? Well, that all depends on whose telling the story. But it's already a done deal.

Judson Phillips: This Means War!

After calls to unseat MN Dem Keith Ellison at least partly for being Muslim and advancing the swell idea the Constitution be amended to restrict the vote  only to property owners, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips has declared war on the Methodist Church.

He claims the Methodist Church is Marxist and “little more than the ‘religious’ arm of socialism” for preaching its support of the DREAM act, health care, joining “the Socialists, Communists and Marxists for the ‘One Nation’ March”, and a host of other unpatriotic sins. Because of these radical ideas he says he, “left the Methodist church over 35 years ago [and has] never looked back.”

His screed is nothing new. He goes off on such things regularly. However, buried deep in his blog post (which, in a display of  his commitment to his own brave words, is open to the public only via subscription) he throws out a challenge that I’m more than happy to accept – “Say, where are the liberal complaints on the separation of church and state? I guess their outrage is selective.”

For the record, I’m an atheist, which in Phillips’ eyes probably makes me Joseph Stalin incarnate. More than 35 years ago I not only left the Methodists, but all religion, and have never looked back. So here’s my ‘selective outrage’ about the separation of church and state:

I agree with Phillips that religion and politics in America would be vastly better off without churches taking sides in secular political matters. I believe their preaching secular issues more often muddies the water than clarifies it and it sometimes dampens criticism of church hierarchy.  However, I don’t see how that is any different from Phillips’ support of churches that espouse his opinions about matters of state.

There’s a vast difference between churches – including those Phillips agrees with – preaching political values that align with their religion and trying to co-opt official non-religious matters of state. One is the freedom to practice religion as one likes. The other moves the positions out of the pulpit and into the secular public square. This is where the tipping point where separating church and state lies.

Churches violate that separation when, for example, religious members of school boards rewrite secular history books to conform to their religious vision. The same is true of many churches’ insistence the 10 Commandments be posted on every flat surface in America. Ditto for repealing health care, preventing gay marriage, and a host of other church-promoted secular issues.

As long as churches preach and don’t co-opt secular responsibilities there is separation.  To me this isn’t a separation issue, it’s the difference between a theocracy and a democracy.

Judson, I both support your freedom to belong to a religion or not belong to a religion or to agree or disagree with a church’s position. All I expect are the same liberties for those who disagree with you. All I expect from churches is to refrain from officially forcing their beliefs onto others.

My outrage isn’t selective, it’s quite consistent.

Which is more than I can say for yours.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

Weekly Pulse: End-of-Life Counseling Returns, But Death Panels Still Nonsense

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

A proposed program to cover counseling sessions for seniors on end-of-life care has risen from the ashes of health care reform and found a new life in Medicare regulations, Jason Hancock of the American Independent reports.

In August, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin started a rumor via her Facebook page that the the Obama administration was backing “death panels” that would vote on whether the elderly and infirm had a right to live. In reality, the goal was to have Medicare reimburse doctors for teaching patients how to set up their own advance directives that reflect their wishes on end-of-life care.

Patients can use their advance directives to stipulate their wishes for treatment in the event that they are too sick to make decisions for themselves. They can also use those directives to demand the most aggressive lifesaving interventions.

Waste not, want not

Though end-of-life counseling was ultimately gutted from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the legislation will eventually ensure health coverage for 32 million more Americans. However, Joanne Kenen in The American Prospect argues it will do comparatively less to curb the high costs of health care. The architects of the ACA had an opportunity to include serious cost-containment measures like a robust public health insurance option to compete with private insurers, but they declined to do so.

Kenen argues that the government should more aggressively target waste within the health care delivery system, especially Medicare and Medicaid. Unchecked and rising health care costs through Medicare and Medicaid are a significantly greater driver of the deficit than Social Security or discretionary spending:

“The waste is enormous,” says Harvard health care economist David Cutler. “You can easily convince yourself that there is 40 to 50 percent to be saved.” Squeezing out every single bit of that inefficient or unnecessary care may not be realistic. But it also isn’t necessary; eliminating even a small fraction of the current waste each year over the next decade would make a huge difference, he added. Health care would finally start acting like “a normal industry.” Productivity would grow, in the one area of the economy where it has not, and with productivity gains, prices could be expected to fall.

The new end-of-life counseling program will help reduce waste in the system, not by pressuring people to forgo treatments they want, but by giving them the tools to refuse treatments they don’t want.

Teen births down, but why?

The teen birth rate has dropped again, according to the latest CDC statistics. Births to women under the age of 20 declined by 6% in 2009 compared to 2008. One hypothesis is that the reduction is an unexpected consequence of the recession, an argument we pointed to in last week’s edition of the Pulse. John Tomasic of the Colorado Independent is skeptical of the recession hypothesis. He writes:

Emily Bridges, director of public information services at Advocates for Youth, agrees with other observers in pointing out that teens aren’t likely to include national economics as a significant factor in pondering whether or not to have unprotected sex. Peer pressure, badly mixed booze, general awkwardness, for example, are much more likely than the jobless recovery to play on the minds of horny high schoolers.

Some states with weak economies actually saw a rise in teen birth rates, Tomasic notes. However, this year’s sharp downturn in teen births parallels a drop in fertility for U.S. women of all ages, which seems best explained by economic uncertainty.

It’s true that prospective teen moms are less likely to have jobs in the first place, and so a bad job market might be less likely to sway their decisions. However, young women who aren’t working are unlikely to have significant resources of their own to draw on, which means that they are heavily dependent upon others for support. If their families and partners are already struggling to make ends meet, then the prospect of another mouth to feed may seem even less appealing than usual.

Abortion is the elephant in the room in this discussion. The CDC numbers only count live births. Logically, fewer live births must be the result of fewer conceptions and/or more terminations. Some skeptics doubt that economic factors have much to do with teens’ decisions about contraception. However, it seems plausible that decisions about abortion would be heavily influenced by the economic health of the whole extended family.

Last year’s decrease was notably sharp, but teen birth rates have been declining steadily for the last 20 years. The Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based non-profit that specializes in research on reproductive choice and health, suggests that successive generations of teens are simply getting savvier about contraception. Births to mothers between the ages of 15 and 17 are down 48% from 1991 levels, and births to mothers ages 18 to 19 are down 30%.

Stupid drug dealer tricks

Martha Rosenberg of AlterNet describes 15 classic dirty tricks deployed by Big Pharma to push drugs. These include phony grassroots patient groups organized by the drug companies to lobby for approval of dubious remedies. Another favorite money-making strategy is to overcharge Medicare and Medicaid. Pharmaceutical companies have paid nearly $15 billion in wrongdoing settlements related to Medicare and Medicaid chicanery over the last five years.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

My Conversation With Donald Trump

INTRIGUE AT THE WAFFLE HOUSE - My conversation with Donald Trump

OK, I admit it. I’m not a US citizen. I’ll never be President. I’ll be a permanent member of the no-fly list and my phone will be constantly bugged. Jan Brewer will kick me out of the country because I have no papers proving who I am or where I was born. I’m very disappointed to find I’m some sort of exotic, white “anchor baby“.

Note to self: Avoid Arizona.

Now I know what it’s like to be Barack Hussein Obama – if that is indeed his real name.

Family legend said I was born in Elkins, WV. But sorting through my personal papers I was unable to find a real birth certificate bearing the imprint of Orly Taitz‘s signet ring in wax. In fact, I don’t even have a pitiful “Certificate of Live Birth” like Obama’s. All I have is a scrap of paper looking as though it’s been ripped from a ship’s log. All it says is, “A kid was born just off the coast of Somalia during our last pirate takeover. Don’t know his name. Not sure of the date, but it wasn’t long ago. But this is all the proof he needs to show he was actually born. He’ll probably grow up to be a liberal communist anyway.” It was signed and Ensign Hikaru Hussein Sulu.

My Mom Was a Nigerian Official’s Wife
As I dug deeper, I learned I’d been abandoned to a Norfelia Lumbago, the wife of a Nigerian government official who couldn’t access his money held up in Banco Lagos until he came out of exile. Apparently, I had a very poor childhood. Mom never did get the money.

From Lagos, I went to a madrasa in Pakistan where I learned a useful trade making amateur Betamax videos for worldwide news distribution. It was a very prestigious career. I was even allowed to sleep on the softest rocks in our Tora Bora studio cave. I minored in bomb making.

I tell you all of that to tell you this, I – like every member of the Republican Party – want to run for President in 2012. I figured I’d be a shoo-in with a platform of rolling government back to its state in 1850 and by being the first Presidential candidate running with two part-time Vice Presidential candidates. Michele Bachmann, because she looks so scrumptious in a bikini and always tells the truth as relayed to her by God. And, Sarah Palin because she looks adorable with that naughty school marm vibe she has going on. Plus, she said she could only be Vice President for half a term. She needed to take time off for the salmon fishing and snowmobile racing seasons.

Just as I was ready to launch my pre-campaign to decide whether I was going to kick off my exploratory committee leading to my final decision to announce, at some time in the future, that I thought I might be running, but tell everyone, “I might be running or I might not be running. That’s for me to know and you to find out,” Donald Trump called.

A ‘Fabulous Opportunity’
Of course I met with The Donald™ – that’s what his friends call him. I believe I’m the third or fourth friend he has. I’m so honored. During the meeting he told me he had a fabulous opportunity for me. He said, “I have a fabulous opportunity for you.”

He said, “I’m richer than God and the smartest man in the world too. Of course, that goes without saying. I know I can talk to you like I’ll talk to Cesar Chavez and convince him to give us his oil for free. Nothing to it. It’s an exciting, fabulous, stupendous piece of cake. I’d offer him a casino or a missile up his butt and he’d be all over the deal. Fantastic. Smart man, that Chavez. No nose for business though. Not like me. I’m world-famous. I even have my own university for God’s sake.”

“Um Mr. Trump, I’m a little confused. Why did you invite me to this fabulous, high-end Waffle House to talk?”

Mr. Trump Loves the Waffles
“Well first, I love the waffles. But I really want to make you a deal, because you know, I know, you know what a fabulous businessman I am.”

“Here’s the deal. A really good deal. Fantastic actually. You show me your birth certificate – because we all know you’re lying about having one – and I’ll release my tax information. I gave the same deal to Obama, but the man is an imbecile. Turned me down. Shows why I’m rich and he’s not.”

“Of course everyone would read it and see just how rich I am. Mega-rich! Uber-rich! Richest man in the world, no matter what Forbes says! They always hated me for being so rich, but I’m going to buy their lying asses out. It’ll be a fabulous deal.”

“So when can we sign the papers? I’ll even let you keep the luxurious gold Bic embossed with the Trump logo if you want.”

That’s how I came to tell this story now. My campaign is in ruins. I told the truth about not being a citizen and Mr. Trump released his taxes. He was right, it caused quite a stir.

Mr. Trump offered me a lot of money, a fabulous amount actually, to go away. That’s how I’ve become a rich man like Mr. Trump. I have millions now and Mr. Trump found me a fabulous new job as Venezuelan oil minister. I get to do super deals and money is no object. I’m smarter now that I’m rich too. Cesar and I go to dinner all the time. We’re great friends because we’re both so rich and I still have that butt-missile Mr. Trump gave me wholesale (because multi-millionaires never pay retail). But I’m terribly sad about one thing … I really miss Sarah and Michele. We could really do some fancy clubbing down here. I even have a penthouse in the Trump Caracas Holiday Inn.

Fabulous! Just super-gargantuous really!

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

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