Privatize the VA? Really?

Yep. Rubio, Bush and Paul all have suggested some kind of voucher system or other form of dumping the government’s responsibility for veterans’ healthcare into the private sector. Who’s pushing this? Why, the Koch Brothers in yet another of their myriad phony grassroots organizations, this one called Concerned Veterans for America. For the record, neither Charles nor David Koch ever served in the military. I conclude that they have little concern for veterans as such and more concern about destroying a big-government health care system, one which works very well for the vast majority of its patients.

You know what is really bizarre about this idea? Buried on page 49 of the Concerned Veterans for America “Fixing Veterans Health Care” report is a suggestion that the Veterans Health Administration be turned into a private corporation run in a similar fashion to AMTRAK. AMTRAK! The railroad that the Republican party has tried to defund forever! So the VHA would have to, every year, fight for funding in the annual Congressional budgeting exercise just as the train does. And the true believers in the Republican Congress would attempt to defund the VA every year just as they do AMTRAK.

If you know any vets, show them the video above.

¡Cuba Libré?

Headline: Obama to remove Cuba from terrorism support list

Talk about a relic! Cuba was put on that list back when it was supporting left-wing guerrilla governments and movements in South and Central America in the 1980s by the avid Cold Warriors in the Reagan Administration. I don’t say that Reagan and his boys supported the Contras in Nicaragua solely because Castro backed the Sandinistas, but I’ll bet that was enough goad to add to their reasons for doing so.

These days Cuba is acting as a peacemaker between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel movement. It’s been host and guarantor of talks since November 2012.

As I’m sure Obama has said to lots of people, it’s time to take Cuba off this list. It’s past time, really.


I managed to get Mom’s MacBook back running again today. I had to create an Apple ID on my machine, tap her Gmail, verify the address and confirm all the profile data before I could go back to hers to do the actual downloading, but it got done.

It took about an hour to download OS X Yosemite to her machine (wirelessly; maybe it would have taken less had she been directly connected to the router. Does anybody know?) and then another hour or so to install the bugger, but it’s a going concern again.

I hate stuff like this. Back when I was 35 it was interesting. Now it’s just a royal pain in the backside.


There oughtta be flashing lights and bells that go off before you download a new version of Safari onto your mother’s MacBook. What’s the big deal, you ask?

Well. For weeks every time Mom’s gone to her Gmail inbox she’s seen a message at the top of the page that reads “You’re using an old tired browser with rime-coated whiskers and creaky joints and no teeth. Please go here and get a new improved one.”* I decided to fix that. So I went looking for the newest and shiniest version of Safari I could find, which was something like version 7.x.x. I downloaded it and tried to start it up. Poof! An error message appeared which said “You are a flawed person, running capitalist dog. You are trying to initiate a version of Safari for which you must have Operating System 10.9, not the measly 5.6.1 you’ve got. Go ye forth and correct your error!”*

Well crap. Since the browser won’t work with the OS I’ve got, I can’t just download OS X. Mom has never had a need for an Apple ID, so we had to create one in order to try to get OS X from the Apple Store. We created a profile and Apple sent a verification email to Mom’s inbox. But because the only browser is incompatible with the OS, when I tried to click the “verify email” button in the mail Apple sent, I got an error message saying “No application found with which to do that, dingbat!”*

I think I found a workaround using my desktop in the back room, but we won’t know till tomorrow. What a frustrating several hours!

*Message not strictly verbatim.

Bobby Lee, hero; US Grant, reprobate

If you’ve ever lived in or near the South you’ll notice that reverence for Robert E. Lee and disdain for Ulysses S. Grant is pervasive. Even in the rest of the country Grant has not been highly regarded. How on earth did it happen that the winning general of the Civil War has been remembered so poorly by Americans while the losing general has countless monuments and parks and annual memorial days?

Easy. Blame a man named William Archibald Dunning, an early 20th-century historian and educator at Columbia University. Dunning felt that Reconstruction was a social experiment foisted on the South by radical northern Republicans using Federal forces to prop up new state and local governments made up of “carpetbaggers, scalawags and freedmen.” He believed that black men were incapable of independent thought or action and were necessarily led by unscrupulous white men (carpetbaggers and scalawags). He taught countless PhD students to believe the same way, to the point where his views became known as the Dunning School of thought. Its “graduates” were responsible in large part for the Jim Crow system of laws which enforced unofficial segregation for the first half of the 20th century.

There ought to be a campaign to raise President Grant’s reputation. If it diminishes Bobby Lee’s it won’t break my heart.

Taxation without representation, health care edition

Where do the beneficiaries of the ACA (Obamacare) live? That’s a question Carter Price and David Evans tried to answer at The Equitable Growth Blog. Using data from the Internal Revenue Service’s Statistics of Income and information from the Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts they’ve come up with three maps.

The first shows which states and counties have expanded Medicaid and the number of people helped (in the blue regions) or not helped (in the brown regions).

That’s pretty stark, isn’t it? States in the political hands of Republicans (the Deep South and the Farm Belt) are the least helped by the ACA’s Medicare expansion.

The second map at the link shows which regions benefit most from the subsidies the ACA provides to citizens over the 138% poverty level but under the 400% level.

It too shows that there are more people eligible for subsidies in the states held by Republicans, mostly in the old Confederacy.

The third map shows that if the latest challenge to Obamacare to hit the Roberts Supreme Court is decided in favor of the plaintiffs, the hardest hit will be in the South and the Midwest.

As Brad DeLong says,

The only way I can find to understand the pattern of Medicaid expansion nullification is a truly extraordinary unconcern on the part of Red State politicians with their poor–whether working or non-working–and substantial insulation as a result of the rise of right-wing billionaires from financial pressures put on them by the doctors who used to be the financial fund-raising bedrock base of the Republican Party. Plus remarkable unconcern with the the health of their state-level economies.


The lack of any sense on the part of the Red-State Republican political establishment that they are there to work for or in any sense represent the working classes of their states is astonishing.

Isn’t it? It’s as though that establishment assumes those votes are completely locked up for it thanks to gerrymandering and millionaires willing to funnel money to its candidates, and there’s no need whatsoever to help the actual people in those states. To the detriment of the poor and middle class residents of those counties and states, the establishment may be right.

Netanyahu and the Iran agreement

As we’ve all heard by now, Bibi Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, is convinced claims that the deal the P5+1 countries just negotiated with Iran is a horrible one, one which will undoubtedly allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and destroy Israel. That’s despite the assurances from all the negotiators that in fact inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be far more rigorous than those done in other countries who’ve signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. There are 191 countries who have.

At its core the Treaty has one central point: “the NPT non-nuclear-weapon states agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and the NPT nuclear-weapon states in exchange agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

Say, has Israel ever signed that treaty? No. No it has not.

On 18 September 2009 the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency called on Israel to open its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection and adhere to the non-proliferation treaty as part of a resolution on “Israeli nuclear capabilities,” which passed by a narrow margin of 49–45 with 16 abstentions. The chief Israeli delegate stated that “Israel will not co-operate in any matter with this resolution.”

Since it’s pretty common knowledge that Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons buried around its countryside, where then does Bibi Netanyahu get off demanding that Iran be denied any opportunity to develop what it insists are peaceful uses for nuclear power and further demanding that the UN Security Council (the P5) and Germany (the +1) back up its demands?

Juan Cole, longtime Middle East observer and Professor of History at the U of Michigan, has his own ideas why Netanyahu opposes the deal:

Netanyahu has showed his hand. He wants to use the USA and the Treasury Department to sanction Iran into penury, to keep its middle classes small and shrinking and to cut people’s income, education and health care. He wants a total war on Iran, including on Iranian women, children and non-combatants.

Well, maybe. It’s interesting that Zack Beauchamp of Vox agrees with Cole that Bibi’s goal is crippling sanctions, sanctions so tough that Iran will do anything to get out from under them.

I wonder why no one has suggested to Netanyahu that the Iranians have shown that without a deal they’ll keep trying to develop their nuclear capability, even under heavy sanctions. Does he really believe that old saw that “Beatings will continue until morale improves?” I’ve never seen that work, myself.

Christianity, Kansas-style

Governor Sam Brownback makes no bones about being a very devout Christian, as I recall from his time in the Senate. That’s fine, but he and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature might need some remedial study in just exactly what their God taught. Jesus was a compassionate man who fed people when they were hungry and succored them when they were ill. The so-called Christians in Kansas, not so much.

If you get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families support, surprise! You can’t get more than $25 in a single day from an ATM. You can’t use TANF for longer than 36 months. That’s not just consecutive; no siree Bob, that’s for your lifetime as a Kansas resident. What else? Well, don’t try to buy alcohol, cigarettes, concert tickets, psychic services or fortune tellers’ visions, theme park tickets or cruises with your food stamp money. Those things are all immoral, I guess.

Got two felony drug convictions? You’re done. Banned for life. Test positive for drugs? No food stamps for you!

The sanctimony of these clowns is astonishing. I suspect if their Lord Jesus sat in on that day-long debate last Wednesday he’d have started overturning desks and tables and forcing these oh-so-righteous men and women out of the building, possibly using a whip to do so.

Here’s the slimy little pursed-mouth Republican (who looks to be about 19) who was the principal author of this thing justifying it pridefully on Chris Hayes’s show this afternoon. (Link if the embedded video doesn’t work.)


Big day today. It’s Opening Day around Major League Baseball, with 14 games scheduled around the country. Then this evening the Wisconsin Badgers play the Duke Blue Devils for the national basketball championship, and if you had both these teams playing for the title in your bracket you should quit your day job and try making your living day-trading or in casinos.

I will be at the periodontist for a six-month checkup/fluoride treatment while the Dodgers are playing. What idiot scheduled that for this day?