Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Winning" Florida

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton's campaign website blared that she had "won" in Florida, and she has publicly claimed victory, and also stated that she will work to seat the Florida (and Michigan) delegates at the Democratic national convention.

All of which turns my stomach.

When the Democratic National Committee decided to strip Michigan and Florida of their delegates to the convention, because they has scheduled their primaries earlier than allowed by DNC rules, all of the candidates (including Hillary) pledged not to campaign in those states. But Clinton's pledge came when she was leading in the polls.

Then she lost the Iowa caucuses to Barack Obama. Still, she insisted while campaigning in New Hampshire that Michigan and Florida were "meaningless."

Then Clinton "won" Michigan, with 55.4% of the vote. That sounds good, except that neither Obama nor John Edwards were on the ballot. In fact, the only other name on the ballot was Dennis Kucinich, who got 4% of the vote. Where did the other 40% of the votes go? To "Uncommitted," meaning "anyone but Hillary.

Then Clinton lost South Carolina. Badly. Obama out-polled her by two-to-one. Then, all of a sudden, Florida starts to look better to Clinton, and she starts talking about "listening" to Florida and using her delegates to seat delegates from Michigan (which she had already won) and Florida (where she was leading in the polls).

And then, just two days before the "meaningless" Florida primary, and nine days before "Super Tuesday," when hundreds of delegates will be at stake, Clinton takes the time to go to Florida, making stops in Sarasota and Miami. The events are "private," so she hasn't broken her pledge, but it gave her a chance to maintain her support among local political leaders, and put her name in the Florida newspapers.

Florida voters go to the polls, and Clinton gets a plurality of the vote, 49.7% to Obama's 33%. What does that mean? It means that a majority of Florida Democrats voted against Clinton. It also means that, in states in which Obama does not campaign, Clinton may be able to get more votes, if for no other reason than simple name recognition.

And then Clinton claimed victory, and stated again that she wanted Michigan and Florida delegates seated at the convention.

To call this "opportunistic" is perhaps an understatement. I think it is dishonorable. Clinton may have adhered to the letter of her pledge, but not it's spirit, and she seems to have no compunctions against using Obama's adherence to the pledge against him.

Fed Rates Redux

Fearing recession, the Federal Reserve Board has dramatically lowered interest rates in order to make it easier to borrow (and spend) money.

One of the causes of the feared recession is the bursting of the housing bubble, which was caused by low interest rates leading to excessive borrowing (and spending) on housing.

So the current problem is caused by too much borrowing, and the "solution" offered by the Fed is to encourage more borrowing?

Does anyone else see a possible problem here?

Friday, January 18, 2008


The real Bush legacy (not the one he imagines) can be summed up in one word: Squandered.

At the beginning of Bush's first term, the United States had a balanced budget, moderate debt, healthy and well-equipped armed forces, and a dominant leadership position in the world community. And, after the 9/11 attacks, there was unity within the United States and sympathy from abroad.

What did Bush do with all those assets? He squandered them.

Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy has driven up our national debt to record levels.

The invasion of Iraq and the resulting pressure on our armed forces (while also trying to fight a ground war in Afghanistan) has stretched our military to the breaking point and has depleted so much equipment and morale that it would take years to recover even if the war ended tomorrow.

Our continuing use of violence and threats of violence as a solution to all problems, both on an individual level (Guantanamo Bay, secret prisons, "extraordinary rendition," and the use of what the world considers torture) and a national level (Bush now talks openly of using military power against Iran) has completely negated whatever international goodwill that existed after 9/11, and has undermined our role as a moral and diplomatic world leader.

And, the unity that arose after 9/11 was effectively killed by the realization that we'd been manipulated at best (lied to at worst) in Bush's rush to invade Iraq.

Now we're facing real threats, both in a looming recession and continuing fall in the value of the dollar, and in the rise of the power of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we've got nothing to fall back on. Bush squandered the economic and military resources we should have kept for emergencies.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gouging the Uninsured

Every time I get a medical bill, I am shocked at the difference between the price of medical services and the cost of medical services.

I paid a bill this morning for a medical procedure and, according to the bill, the price of the procedure was $1,300. However, because I am insured, there was a $862 "adjustment," reducing the cost of the procedure to only $438.

This "adjustment" was not a payment by the insurance company, but reflected a price agreement negotiated between the insurance company and the doctors. The insurance company has said to the doctors, "You can quote whatever price you want, but we're only going to pay $438 for that procedure." And the doctors agreed.

What is most shocking is not just that doctors routinely bill prices that are 66% more than what they are really willing to accept as payment, but the implications of what this means for the 40% of our population that are uninsured. If you're uninsured, no one has negotiated a lower price for you, and no one will, and you're probably in no position to bargain, being in an emergency room with a serious medical problem and a poor credit history.

So if you're uninsured, you get gouged.

Remember that the next time you hear about some astronomically large medical bill that was run up by an uninsured person, or when you hear about the high cost of medical care, because what you may be hearing about is inflated prices.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The "Moment"

Several times on the news tonight, I saw "the moment," when Hillary Clinton talked about her deep-felt concerns for America, and appeared to choke up, and come close to tears.

I thought it was quite good. Viewed in the context of the question that was asked, it showed that she was capable of passion, and cared deeply about the issues in the campaign.

But viewed in the context of the campaign as a whole, it raises some awkward questions. For example, if Hillary was capable of passion, where was it up until now?

Initially, her campaign was about "inevitability," meaning that she had pulled the sword from the stone and was destined to be the Democratic candidate so the voters should stop worrying about it.

Then, she was the candidate of "experience."

Now, suddenly, the day before the New Hampshire primary, she discovers that she believes passionately about the welfare of Americans.

It's all too neat, and too convenient.

She has shown that she is capable of laughing on cue. Is she also capable of choking up with emotion on cue, when her advisers have told her that its a wining strategy? My guess is: yes.