Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Li'l miss Quitter

The blog Swing State Project notes that Sarah Palin has a history of quitting things mid-way through:

One other thought about Alaska that just about everyone in the tradmed seems to be missing. Sarah Palin did have a job in between being mayor of Wasilla and Alaska Governor: she was chair of Frank Murkowski's Oil and Gas Commission. How long was she on this Commission? Less than a year... until she quit in January 2004 with a big public huff (leaving the Commission in the lurch with only one member), saying "the experience was taking the 'oomph' out of her passion for government service and she decided to quit rather than becoming bitter."
To which the Daily Kos adds:
Don't forget that she also quit four different colleges en route to getting a degree in journalism. It seems that the one lesson Sarah Palin's learned her whole life is that quitters always win.

(Via Daily Kos)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Too Disingenuous for Words

Sarah Palin:

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said after Palin's resignation that she was "deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded."

Palin responded Monday by saying there's a double standard. She brought up the fact Murkowski left the Legislature when her father, then-governor Frank Murkowski, appointed her to the U.S. Senate seat he gave up to become governor.

"The double standard that's applied here is a bit perplexing. ... Didn't Lisa Murkowski leave office to go take her dad's seat? (Govs.) Huntsman left, Napolitano just left ... ," Palin said, referring to governors who took positions in President Obama's administration.

Palin said she is embarking on a "different, more effective path" than finishing her term. Asked how, she said she didn't know at this point, other than to campaign for political candidates who represent the values she supports.

There's no double standard here: there's a long, storied history of politicians cutting their terms short to take a government post with greater responsibilities. The people accept this, and vote for them knowing this might be true. You'll find very few constituents who enthusiastically voted for a governor and then became upset that said governor decided to make a presidential run mid-way through his term. But there is decidedly not a long storied history of politicians quitting their elected offices because they got their feelings hurt by a comedian, and remaining popular nonetheless.

We will suffer one who strives mightily but fails despite his best efforts (witness first Rocky movie) wee love the man who dies with his boots one (witness John Henry) but America has no taste for quitters. And that is exactly what Sarah Palin is.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

On This Peculiar Sarah Palin Thing.

What can be said about Sarah Palin and her inglorious exit from the political stage? Almost everyone on both sides of the political aisle is expressing puzzlement over her decision to resign the Alaska governorship a mere two years into her first term, and a full three and a half years before the 2012 presidential elections. Abandoning your state at the height of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression isn't exactly a sign of steadfast leadership. Indeed, among serious commentators, only Bill Kristol (if you can call him a serious commentator) is kind enough to consider the move an audacious gambit of improbable success.

Palin's speech and the reasons she is giving for her resignation bear that trademark, curious Sarah Palin combination of disingenuous and puzzling. In typical GOP fashion, Palin hypocritically blasts Barack Obama for the economic stimulus package:

I’ve taken the slings and arrows with that unpopular move because to veto [the economic stimulus funds] was the right thing to do because I know being right is better than being popular. — and it was an unpopular stand to take. Some of those dollars would harm Alaska and they harm America. I resisted those dollars because of the obscene national debt that we’re forcing our children to pay because of today’s big government spending. It is immoral and it doesn’t even make economic sense.
It's really rich for Palin to blast Obama's stimulus package as "immoral" when its merely a response to the severe economic crisis that eight years of GOP laissez-faire regulatory policies left for the President when he entered office. Let us not forget that the GOP was all too happy to double the national debt during the course of George W. Bush's presidency when there was no justifiable, pressing economic crisis to ameliorate. During the Bush years we saddled our children with debt for the sake of obscene tax breaks for the top 1%. Our current deficit spending regime is, at least, predicated upon preventing a terrible economic crisis from metamorphosing into a worldwide economic collapse. And thus far the President seems to be meeting with some success. Only six months ago economists were warning of the very real potential of a worldwide depression and 40% unemployment rates. Now few economists see much worse than a long, protracted and painful recession. Yes it's gloomy, but it's no longer "stock your basement with water and canned goods" gloomy.

Also curiously hypocritical is Palin's insistence that personal criticisms directed against her and her family have driven her from politics. This might be a genuine issue if she had proven herself to be an honorable straight shooter who never sinks to the murky depths of disingenuous personal attack. But her record during the McCain presidential campaign proves that she's just the opposite sort of campaigner:

Someone who dishonestly exploits the flimsiest of associations to attack her political opponents for "paling around with terrorists" has no business complaining about the way she is described by her political opponents. Palin gleefully adopted the role of attack dog during the last presidential campaign, going so far as to publicly criticize John McCain's handlers for not harping on Obama's ties to the reverend Jermiah Wright (who was himself a victim of a dishonest GOP smear machine as well as a cowardly and dishonest press establishment, IMHO). To complain that she herself is being unfairly treated is, again, the height of hypocrisy.

But maybe there's more to this resignation than meets the eye? Could it be that there are other motives behind Palin's abandonment of her gubernatorial duties? According to the site (via Stinque), Palin is being investigated by the FBI for embezzling funds during her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

The embezzlement scandal involves the massive, $12.5 million sports complex that Sarah Palin pushed through during her last term as Mayor in Wasilla. Federal investigators believe the price of the sports complex was inflated to provide free building materials and labor for the Palin home being constructed nearby.

The sports complex’s contractors and architect have strong links and ties to Palin. Spenard Building Supplies was one - they are the largest building supply company in Alaska - and they also supplied labor & materials for the Palin’s home being built at the same time on nearby Lake Lucille.

Spenard Building Supplies was also the supplier and contractor for ex-Senator Ted Stevens cabin. This one building supply company was in bed with Palin, Stevens, the Wasilla sports complex, and is also a major financial contributor to Palin.

If there is merit to the case, then Palin's peculiar train-wreck of a political career has surely come to a sad, pathetic end.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Now One From My Neck of the Woods

Staying classy, Joyce Thomann, the president of the Republican Women of Ann Arundel County posted an observation om the group's website that has some people talking:

Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common in my view. Obama and Hitler use the 'blitzkrieg' method to overwhelm their enemies. FAST, CARPET BOMBING intent on destruction. Hitler's blitzkrieg bombing destroyed many European cities - quickly and effectively. Obama is systematically destroying the American economy and with it AMERICA. First the banking/investment industry, next private enterprise (GM and Chrysler) and now HEALTH CARE. And he is working on grabbing more of the American economy with his environmental extremism!
Reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that even that group's members have stopped defending Thomann:

"I'm afraid that it very well may take a long time to undo this damage, if we can," [Vice President Carolyn] Middleton said. "If not, we will have to take down our charter and maybe have to regroup and start again."

Middleton said Thomann has a history of posting hateful material on the group's Web site, and that the group's leaders wish they had stopped her before it damaged the group's reputation.

Yeeeeah... maybe you could have started by not electing her your group's president?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Health Insurance Fraud

The New York Times has a piece on so-called "Limited Benefits" health insurance plans, which, judging from the article, are the health insurance equivalent of window dressing:

Too many other people already have coverage so meager that a medical crisis means financial calamity.

One of them is Lawrence Yurdin, a 64-year-old computer security specialist. Although the brochure on his Aetna policy seemed to indicate it covered up to $150,000 a year in hospital care, the fine print excluded nearly all of the treatment he received at an Austin, Tex., hospital.

He and the hospital say they were surprised to eventually learn that the $150,000 hospital coverage in the Aetna policy was mainly for room and board. Coverage was capped at $10,000 for “other hospital services,” which turned out to include nearly all routine hospital care — the expenses incurred in the operating room, for example, and the cost of any medication he received.

In other words, Aetna would have paid for Mr. Yurdin to stay in the hospital for more than five months — as long as he did not need an operation or any lab tests or drugs while he was there.
So what we have, in essence, is a plan that, on the surface, offers $150,000 of medical coverage, but once you dig deeper, really only cover $10,000 in care, as the additional coverage that it claims to offer is exceedingly unlikely ever to be needed. It would be like my selling you a $250,000 insurance policy on your house that covers only $10,000 for fire damage and up to $250,000 for a meteor strike.

Most interesting is the way that Mr. Yurdin's employer justified offering such plans:
Although Mr. Mann acknowledged that the plan Mr. Yurdin purchased excluded routine hospital care, he said he thought it still provided value to employees who wanted “peace of mind.”
In other words, it allows people the "peace of mind" of believing that they have health insurance when, in fact, they do not. That sounds suspiciously like fraud to me.

Elsewhere in the article it mentions that Mr. Yurdin's plan cost him $250 per month. So, in essence he's paying $3000 per year in premiums for $10,000 in potential coverage.

One of the shocking realities of the health care debate that is hardly acknowledged is that, even though the U.S. currently has 47 million uninsured people, a significant number of those who are insured have coverage under a so-called "limited benefits" plan. In other words, they are statistically counted under the "insured" column when, in fact, they should probably be labeled as "uninsured" given the disastrous financial consequences of a serious illness under such a plan.

Later in the article a representative from Aetna claims that these plans are necessitated by the fact that the U.S. does not have a "health care mandate" that helps spread the risk of coverage among health as well as infirm citizens. And Aetna is correct in that regard. Universal coverage is essential if we are to make health insurance broadly affordable. But this, of course, also points to the necessity of a government alternative plan to help keep the insurance companies "honest." If we're going to insist that all American buy coverage, we cannot just wrap them in a blanket and drop them at the doorsteps of the vultures in the insurance industry.

Of course, I feel that a government single-payer plan would be the simplest and most cost effective method for reforming our health care system and getting our ballooning debt under control. It is, alas, probably impossible given political realities.