Saturday, November 13, 2004

a series of unfortunate events

So Today, my fiancee and I decided to go to my parent's house to watch the Utes football game on the big screen. My Mom is out in CA visiting her sister on my Aunt's 60th birthday, so my Dad needed some looking after.

The game was supposed to start at 5pm on ABC. That's right national TV, with the 7th BCS ranked Utes. So we got there at 4:52 and helped him set up the food for some friends of his that were coming too. Then they showed a overtime game (Texas A&M) which is fine, go Aggies, it helps the Utes.

Then it got weird. Somehow the power was out in Wyoming, where the Utes (the name of a Native American groups) were playing the "Cowboys." So no lights, no game? On the day where number 5 Wisconsin (or was it 4) lost and number 6 Texas barely beat an average team Kansas? Coach Urban "I'm the hottest coach in college football" Meyer was pissed.

ABC doesn't know what to do, so they yap for about 30 minutes in a post-game show. Then the local sports anchor comes on and says they are going to show Access Hollywood (whose topic was 70s/early 80s TV shows). Then they start showing last year's National Championship. It scrolls across the screen that the game starts 6:50, nearly 2 hours late.

So ok whatever it took them two hours to get the lights on. Here's the kickoff...And there's snow...Apparently there is not enough power to work the equipment which got short circuited by the power outage. Back to last year's national championship under the local sports guy on ABC comes on and says Harry Potter until we get this working.

Meanwhile, we get no signal at my parents house for the AM radio of the Utes, and somehow pick up Wyoming radio. Later, I manage to find the internet stream of the Utes radio. My Dad's friends go home and call on their cell that their car radio picks up the signal just fine.

At halftime, I go home and listen on the radio. On the radio, the semi-senile Announcer Bill Marcroft, informs listeners that national ABC is now showing the game, but the local station decided to stick with Harry Potter. Then he proceeds to give out the station director's office phone number on the air. 2 minutes later the guy interrupts the commercial during Harry Potter to say it's not our fault and all of ABC is fissed out due the power outage.

Oh and the Utes scored 31-7 at half time (Wyoming's came on a freaky tipped ball). To me, this whole event reminds me of what happened to Apollo 13 in 1970, except instead of floating around in outer space between the Moon and the Earth, they are in the partial dark in the outer space of Laramie, Wyoming (you know, the place student Matthew Shepard was beaten to death for being gay in 1998).

Now it is 38-14. I wouldn't believe the whole set of events if I wasn't "there" myself.

Tort Reform and DNC chairmanship

After all those funny speaches Bush made on the campaign trail about reforming medical malpractice, I think it is time to set the record straight on what works and what doesn't in terms of reducing the number of lawsuits and malpractice insurance premiums.

AP Reporter Lindsy Tanner notes that "The hospitals in the University of Michigan Health System have been encouraging doctors since 2002 to apologize for mistakes. The system's annual attorney fees have since dropped from $3 million to $1 million, and malpractice lawsuits and notices of intent to sue have fallen from 262 filed in 2001 to about 130 per year..." That's why victim's rights groups have a whole program called "Sorry Works!" The idea for "Sorry Works" came from an honesty policy the Veterans Affairs hospital in Lexington, Ky., adopted in 1987 after two big malpractice cases cost the hospital over $1.5 million.

Another obvious way to avoid being sued is to reduce the number of medical errors. An Institute of Medicine report in 1999 said "mistakes kill as many as 98,000 hospitalized Americans each year." Too me, that sounds like a lot. My sister is a doctor (internal medicine) and she tells me how many near mistakes there are, like misreading Rx's and filling fatal drugs for patients, to misreading charts, to leaving sponges and scicors inside patents. Many of these errors, I believe could be cured by having doctors (especially young doctors) work less hours in a row so that they are fresher.

Every time my sister complains about how long her shifts were, I worried about her patients, as smart as she is.

And now without trasition, here is topic number 2: DNC chairmanship. Dean's name has recently cropped up (along with Vilsack of dung-- thanks for helping with Iowa buddy) as the blogosphere (or at least Deaniacs) choice for DNC. The two DLC bloggers point out that HoDean might not be such a good idea. As Ed Killgore notes:

I strongly suspect that DNC interest in Dean is not about his ideas, or his reformist credentials, or even his grassroots support. I doubt they look at this born-again liberal from the bluest of blue states and see the face that will launch an assault on the Red State Fortress the Republicans have been building. I betcha money they look at Howard Dean and see Green, as in Long Green. [$]

Now I doubt that's the legacy, or the mission, that the Governor wants to identify his movement with going forward. And even more generally, I can't imagine a less suitable vehicle for genuine reform than the DNC, at least as it's currently constituted.

He sneaks in a slam of Dean while still declaring a truce (calling the good Dr. a "born-again liberal" which is pretty true). He also has a nice quote for GOPers in the post-Goldwater era: "Party chairmanships are the fool's gold of American politics." Just ask my dad and he will agree with that one too.

As for Marshall Wittmann (aka BullMooseBlog), he creates a phony secret memo between a Democratic collaporator and Karl Rove, but it drives home the point nonetheless:

"Your next mission is to elect the new Chairman of the Democratic Party. I am looking for someone who is a scream - if you get my message. I need to be discreet here because this missive could get into the wrong hands (or hoofs). Make certain that I can easily caricature the new DNC Chair as a northeastern liberal dove who is out of touch with red state values. I think you get my drift. "

I think Ed's is a little more sensative way of putting it and the way I would tell my Deaniac friends why they shouldn't be so excited about Howard taking over. Marshall represents what the "Democratic Establishment" worries are with Dr. Dean are. Combine that with Stirling's case against NDN head Simon Rosenberg, and you've knocked down at least two (and three if you count my quick dispatch of Vilsack), so who's left?

Donna Brazille has said no. Harold Ickes, head of the 527 "The Media Fund" and Clintonista, is reportedly interested, but there might be built in oposition to any suggestion the Clinton's have, given how well Terry McAweful did in his 4 years (almost as bad as Bush!).

That leaves me with Al Gore. He has nothing better to do and I think it will both raise his profile again and keep him from running for President in 2008, two great things for the party. Plus, I think he would be good at it.

Friday, November 12, 2004

day off

today I had no classes for various reasons and tried my hardest to make something constructive out of it. I worked on long-term assignments, had lunch (Japanese) with my fiancee, and went to the library.

For some reason, I have trouble staying with articles in the New Yorker, but I love the cartoons. So finding a book of just their cartoons was great. Even better was looking at the old ones. I don't get some of them [caption: are you president Cooledge?] But it is really interesting to see social change though time (the period was 1925-75). Now I wish I could compare these to the '75-00 ones. Even better would be to compare the Nixon era cartoons with the Bush era ones.

Both somehow managed to fool the American people twice, and both used wedge issues and the vaunted Southern Strategy to keep their stranglehold on power. Both are in favor of massively increasing executive power, both got themselves intwined into a war based on a lie.

Maybe Bush can go to Palistine like Nixon went to China. Maybe Bush can do something good like Nixon did like banning smoking ads and the EPA. Of course, Nixon had a liberal Democratic congress to deal with, whereas Bush has a GOP congress that just might be more conservative than he is.

Now that's a scary thought. How about something funny, yet sad? Our Quote of the Day:

"Don't answer yes" pleaded British PM Tony Blair, after Bush was asked at today's joint press conference if he viewed Blair as his poodle

Thursday, November 11, 2004

And now for something completely different

Some have accused me of having overly (self) important topics on this blog with lots of weighty issues disussed in a few short paragrahs. So here is a fun game I came accross that has nothing to do with Social Security Reform, the next Attorney General, or Middle East Peace.

Remember "Full House?" Sure, you can pretend you never saw it, but let's face it, you did and you secretly liked it at times. Well, now you can play a libelous version of Pac-Man featuring all your favorite (or least favorite) characters from the show.

It's called "Crack-Man" which claims that Mary-Katen Olsen not only that she has an eating disorder but that she has had sex with over 2,000 men since turning 18 and does crack like no body's business (except the Columbian Drug Cartels).

I was never that good at the original version of the game, but all the snorting noises and diet pills, plus the ability to eat Uncle Joey got me to level 4. Beat that with a stick!

After Arafat

Sometime last night, Arafat officially died. I say officially because the second I heard he had been carted off to Paris, I thought I smelled a rat. To me, it seemed like is rivals, as few and as weak as they were, had finally caught him at a weak point. I wonder if he really was in a coma or if the PO folks where just bickering over who would take over while Arafat was brain dead.

His wife was another interesting angle to the story. She had been uninvolved in the struggle for at least a decade and living high off of Arafat's cleptocracy, only to swoop in and take advantage of French law that gave her all kinds of rights over her husband's care and body.

Hopefully, something good will come out of this. This a great chance for the PO to have a real election and have real reforms that will end the corruption and cronyism that has plagued the organization and the peace process. Hopefully, some Israelis will be invited to the funeral, maybe not Sharon but maybe Barak (Rabin would have, maybe his widow will be) and I hope some Israelis show up to pay their respects to a worthy foe.

This is a new beginning for Palestine and its people, they have a choice: more of the same disaster, or real compromises for peace. I hope they won't choose the way 51% of Americans did.

Hopefully as well, George W. Bush will stop making up excuses to deal with the Israel/Palestine problem, which he has essentially ignored for 4 years (with intermittent half efforts) Maybe this will keep Colin Powell on, but Alberto "Abu Graib" Gonzales makes it a tough sell.

Now that he is in there for another 4 years, I hope he will put aside his pro-Israel posturing and get something done. Because nothing will help Iraq more than peace in Israel and vice versa. No battle in the War on Terror will be as decisive as a victory at the negotiations table between the PO and Israelis.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Worse than Ashcroft

I didn't think he could do it, but Bush managed to find a nominee for the AG spot worse than John Ashcroft: WH legal counsel Alberto Gonzales.

Remember Alberto? He's the author of the torture memos which the supreme court unanimously disgreed with (and the American people too). This is a man who will prevert any law or interpretation of the law to further his boss' manicial hold on power. Maybe he will figure out a way so Bush can run in 2008. Just makes me sick.

At least I found another laugh today. One was the tired attempts over at BOP at making my former workplace, the DLC, into the Democratic Party's boogy man that can be blamed of all ills and tell everyone they want to move to the right. Please read the threads and my counter attack (I'm DaveB).

The second good laugh was this site, which wants to be the grassroots site for the centrist-GOP ticket of McCain-Schwarzenegger. Their motto: "We'll sort this sh*t out!" By that, I think they mean the constitutional problems of a foriegn citizen running for Vice President. I am all for changing that part, as is my home state senator Orin Hatch. He wants Arnold, I want MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But then again, we can have both.

SS reform and SS privatization

This meaty issue was supposedly on Bush's to-do list pre-9/11 but he never got around to pushing for it. Now that he has his "mandate," he's going to push for it.

When he talked about this in 2000, on its face it sounded like a good idea for young workers like myself who pay into the system but seriously doubt we will ever get any money in return. Of course his rate or return arguments aren't so simple: the rate of returns might go up when these funds are in the stock market, but assuredly the rest of the markets returns will go down (excess supply for the same demand), and worse case scenario is that when you need your SS money, the stock market tanks.

More importantly, that wasn't the point of social security. The idea was a social compact between workers of yesterday and today. You work hard now, and you pay into a fund that will pay for those who worked before you and fought wars to protect you/your country in the past. It is a way of paying homage to the elderly and ensuring that society won't let them fall through the cracks with they didn't pick their stock wisely or save for their retirement. You could make the valid responsibility argument that these folks should pay for their irresponsibility and society shouldn't have to pony up for them living the high life while their colleagues socked it away.

But right now, it isn't a fund for the "stupid" but for all workers regardless of income levels. That way, it doesn't feel so socialistic and more "fair." Personally, I don't know if the Bill Gates of the world should really be able to collect social security benefits when they retire, but Democrats lost this battle in the 1980s. Does this battle need to be fought again?

Bush points to the crisis that Social Security will be insolvent in a few decades and proposes we spend a trillion or so in transition costs to move my social security taxes over to the stock market. But the record points out that many times SS was on the brink of disaster and they made it solvent again with minimal changes.

And let's be honest with ourselves: eventually, we have to raise the retirement age (for the Baby Boomer Generation, not The Greatest Generation) and we might have to create income eligibility. Too many people are living longer than the program was designed to handle and many are living well enough to not need government handouts. And if the stock market is more attractive than social security we will still have the incentive to invest rather than depend on the government.

It is true that soon my parent's generation will retire and there will be less workers per retiree than ever before. But keep in mind we used to have a social security surplus, which Bush is currently spending on tax cuts for the rich and Star Wars II (among other things).

I like the compromise idea of giving the surplus and national debt over to the stock market (actually our debt is already in the bond market, never mind) and if it does well, great if not, we haven't lost anything for a couple decades. It creates a quasi -lock box (a la Al Gore, bless his pudgy soul) that free market GOPers and Poverty Advocate Democrats can both get behind. Bush can say he "reformed social security" without creating a give-away for the financial industry like he did for pharmaceuticals with the terrible Rx drug program they passed this spring.

Sure I wish I could opt out of paying those payroll taxes for selfish reasons, but I think it is in the interest of the general welfare of the US to continue this key part of the New Deal.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

2 down, more to (hopefully) go

John Ashcroft and Don Evans (Commerce Secretary) "resigned" in the dead of the night in DC. Thank goodness. Evans wasn't on my list, but only because I thought Bush prized his loyalty over his competency.

But Commerce is a plum job and whomever Bush thinks helped him get reelected the most (Mr. Diebold, Matt?) will most likely get it. The best part of being Commerce Secretary is after you step down anyway, where you command huge salaries for your connections.

Back to Ashcroft. In his letter, he praises Bush and himself with lots of phony statistics (in reality crime is actually up, and the prosecution of the War on Terror has been a unmitigated disaster) but here comes the kicker "Yet, I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration. I believe that my energies and talents should be directed toward other challenging horizons." What other challenging horizons are you talking about John?

Once upon a time, the Singing Senator who lost to a dead man and the dead man's wife thought he would use the AG spot to run for president in 2008. I think we can safely say that Ashcroft knows that ain't going to happen. Two words: PATRIOT ACT.

courtesy of

Hopefully, whomever heads the DOJ (which had a rather Orwellian tone to it under Ashcroft's administration) and DOC will be more moderate and less representative of the hyper-conservative religious and ueber-pro-business wings of the GOP. But I am not going to hold my breath.

Just another day in paradise

Greetings from Salt Lake City, where several of ski resorts (there are 6 in this area) 30 minutes from downtown have already opened up. Today it is raining in the valley and undoubtedly snowing up at the higher elevations. If only I could afford a lift pass ($25-30).

I have been having a tough time, as most non-Bush voters have, over the past week. Like many of you, I am burnt out, tired, and despondent. But reading BOPNews lately hasn't helped at all, in fact it is making my blood boil.

The whole point of the website, I thought, was to talk about the transformation in politics and news with the propigation of the internet and Webblogs. Instead, after Kerry lost, they have been reduced to an angry club of tin-hatters in denial. Rather than discuss what went wrong strategy wise like they did with Dean and Clark, the two internet Wunderkinder, BOPsters are collecting every far fetched theory out there as to how the election was stolen by Bush.

If Atrios isn't buying those theories, do you think anyone outside the ueber-liberal bloggosphere will?

BOPster Matt Stoller likes to talk about partisanship and calls me a partisansheep, a person who is too consilatory towards enemies that are fighting dirty. I am all for fighting fire with fire when appropriate but I think in the long term, we all suffer if both sides take the scorched earth approach. There are times when being equally nasty actually backfires and it is better to firmly associate conservatives with nasty tactics.

Voter suppression is a good example. Let the GOP try to scare away black people and let the Democrats point it out and ask for everyone to vote and every vote to be counted. Makes the Republicans look very bad and Democrats look very good. It only looked bad with Gore tried to pick which votes should be counted in 2000.

It is far more constructive at this point for liberals like Matt to figure out how Democrats lost, point out Bush's failures, and help craft a message and candidates that will get the Party back into power in 2006 and then fully in 2008. I would love to have a debate with him and others about which way the party should go: to the left like I suspect he will want, to the right which he thinks I/the DLC wants, or simply to repackage which is what I really want. All the rest is just a big waste of time.

Monday, November 08, 2004

BCS bullhonky

I just read that despite remaining undefeated, Utah actually slipped from number 6 to number 7 in the BCS rankings, meaning they are not guarunteed a BCS bowl spot. As angry as I am, it just reminds me why I think College Football is so dumb.

The whole thing is completely dominated by about 15 or so teams. The only mystery each year is which one will do well and which ones will stink. Everyone else isn't allowed to play in their country club bowls. Each bowl is too greedy and self-important to allow a playoff system, which not only would make them more money in the long run but also create universal excitement for the sport closer to that of their more professional rivals, the NFL.

A school from a less important division doesn't get the chance to play against the big teams and thus have a tougher schedule because the big boys don't want to play a Utah or a Louisville because they are afraid of losing to them. Better to beat up on San Jose State and then have a close match with Texas A&M than try to win against an upstart like Boise State. Part of the problem here is that they have less games than other sports so if you lose more than one game, you will never be in the championship game (even one loss could keep you out).

Utah played this year against teams that are mostly bad but soundly beat two teams that play with the big boys and made some noise: North Carolina beat Floria, and #21 Texas A&M was in it against number 2 Oklahoma until the very end. Utah could not lose a single game this season and still not be allowed to play in a BCS bowl. Shame on them.

I get the biggest laugh when school officials say a playoff system would be bad because these "student-atheletes" would miss too much school. Like they care if these kids learn anything. They get free tutors so they don't fail, their teachers are known to be easy and told not to be too hard on them. In some cases, teachers even took tests for the athletes. Just ask the football jocks who went to Ohio State.

One could rotate the bowls around so that each gets to be the championship game and opening round. The whole thing could be done in 3 weeks. I know having a playoff system would be bad for columnists, who love to argue who really is number 1 like last year or the one before that. If they want it to revolve around polls, then why not go all the way and have it be like gymnasitcs or figure skating were the experts judge each move?

While the football players get free tuition, privileges, health care, etc. I believe they should just end the charade and pay college atheletes. We all know many got money on the side and that they are quasi professionals anyway.

There is big big money in college sports. Schools get millions to appear in bowls. Conferences get billions to sign up their league onto a network. Coaches get millions in salaries and endorsements. Why shouldn't the players who actually play the games and put butts in the seats get a piece of the pie?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Fellowship of America

At church today, the sermon was about All Saints Day and the fellowship we all had as Christians. I view it as a broader fellowship in a sense. A fellowship between all Americans.

We all live in this country, as as sad and concerned I am about the election results, I am not going to kill myself at Ground Zero like a man from Georgia did or flee to Canada like others have joked about. There is too much to leave, too much to forsake for personal distaste. Too many fights to engage in.

As I quoted Bill Clinton yesterday, we are all in this together. We are all in the fellowship of America. Like the characters of the JRR Tolkien novel, we are united in cause and in values. It doesn't involve a ring or necessarily evil (as bad as I think Cheney is), but in propigating our shared values as Americans: Freedom, Democracy, Responsibility, Hard Work, and the Rule of Law over Rulers or Religion.

Whether you live in the Blue states or the Red States, like I do, we can all get behind these values. How we achieve them is how we differ.