Monday, June 28, 2004

Politics: You Can't Win if You Don't Play...

The other day in the car I heard a story on NPR about a "Medicare lottery" where 50,000 people would be chosen out of millions to have expensive (chemo, etc) treatment paid for by Medicare. I could hardly believe what I was hearing...and I meant to find out what the hell the deal was. Digby has the analysis (and a link)...

Here's the story (my emphasis added):
Posted on Fri, Jun. 25, 2004

Medicare drug lottery to help 50,000

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Medicare is planning a lottery later this year for people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and several other diseases. For the 50,000 winners, the government will start helping pay for their medicine, but more than 450,000 others must wait until 2006.

Congress wrote the program into last year's Medicare prescription drug law to give a head start to people who take oral cancer drugs that can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Treatments for MS, rheumatoid arthritis and six other illnesses that can be administered at home also will be covered, the Bush administration announced Thursday.

"This initiative will get these breakthrough oral medications into the hands of seniors fighting cancer so that they have the best opportunity possible to beat the disease," said Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, whose daughter died of cancer. She wrote the provision, along with Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

However, the law limits the new program to 50,000 people and $500 million, at least $200 million of which must be spent on cancer drugs. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Medicare recipients without prescription drug coverage are eligible.

"There'll be a lottery to be chosen as one of 50,000 lucky individuals," Thompson said.

Medicare will accept applications for the lottery from July 6 to Sept. 30, and will randomly select 25,000 cancer patients and 25,000 people with the other illnesses.

People who apply by Aug. 16 will be eligible for an early draw, with coverage beginning Sept. 1.


For more information and to sign up for the lottery, go to and click on "Medicare to Extend Access to Certain Drugs For Beneficiaries with Serious and Chronic Illnesses."

You can also call Medicare at (800) 633-4227 to speak to a representative.

How about calling your actual Representative, and telling them what a fucking travesty this is.

"50,000 winners" !?! Oooo. You with the life-threatening disease, you WIN! You might not die as quickly because the government might help pay for some of your medication! Don't worry, special provisions in the bill requested by the pharmacutecal industry mean you have to take unproven oral medication... As Secretary Thompson says, you sure are "lucky."

Can Michael Moore whip out another movie before November that covers the War this Administration is waging here at home on the vulnerable of our society? Un-fucking-believable.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Politics: Fahrenheit 9/11

Saw the movie. No real surprises, since I had read a lot about it, but damn, if everyone could see this, there's no way Bush doesn't get run out on a rail. See it. Make everyone you know see it. More to come...

Friday, June 25, 2004

Politics: Another All-Star team

Rolling Stone convenes an All-Star panel for a round-table discussion of the situation in Iraq. The panel includes many of my favorite Bush critics; Generals Zinni & Clark, Joe Biden, Rand Beers and my old post-9/11 buddy Fouad Ajami and others. The panel is not even close to balanced, but since the idea is to critique the war, that's fine by me. The play of the day is this quote from Biden:
Biden: I was in the Oval Office the other day, and the president asked me what I would do about resignations. I said, "Look, Mr. President, would I keep Rumsfeld? Absolutely not." And I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, "Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required." I turned back to the president and said, "Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President -- not just Abu Ghraib." They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me.

I'm surprised Cheney didn't unleash one of his patented f-bombs.

Politics: More than your sex life

Matthew Yglesias has a nice little post on the definition of "moral character" and expands that definition beyond the Right's:
But liberals care about character, too. We think that when a president submits budget after budget after budget based on deception, that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when the purpose of these budgets is to shift the tax burden off the wealthy of today to the poor of tomorrow that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when you promise a "Marshall Plan for Afghanistan" and don't deliver that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when you de-fund housing vouchers while spending tens of billions on subsidies for large pharmarceutical companies and agribusiness concerns that that demonstrates poor character. And we think that when you launch a war of choice and then grossly mismanage it that that demonstrates, well, poor character. It is immoral -- grossly immoral -- to pursue policies that have made the lives of billions of people around the world worse than they could have been.

Gee, applying a measure of character to actual performance in office as opposed to innuendo about a candidate/politician's personal life? What a novel concept.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


I'm excited to see a few comments showing up.

Quick request: If you want to make a comment, don't bother registering if you don't want to, but throw your name in at the end of your comment so I know who you are. Otherwise you're listed as "anonymous" and I'm left wondering...

Unless, of course, that's the way you like it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Baseball: All-Star Ballot

Just filled out my online ballot for the MLB All-Star Game.

American League:
1B - David Ortiz, Red Sox (write-in)
2B - Alfonso Soriano, Rangers
SS - Carlos Guillen, Tigers
3B - Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
C - Pudge Rodriguez, Tigers
OF - Carlos Beltran, Royals
OF - Vlad Guerrero, Angels
OF - Manny Ramirez, Red Sox

National League:
1B - Jim Thome, Phillies
2B - Jeff Kent, Astros
SS - Jack Wilson, Pirates
3B - Scott Rolen, Cardinals
C - Mike Piazza, Mets
OF - Barry Bonds, Giants
OF - Ken Griffey Jr, Reds
OF - Lance Berkman, Astros

I'll suggest some reserves and pitchers when we get a little closer.

Welcome back, Junior. I was roundly mocked when I drafted him this year for my fantasy squad, "Is it 1998?"

It is amazing that the Tigers have as many legit guys that should start in the All-Star Game as the Yankees or Red Sox. When the young pitching comes of age, this stands to be a pretty good team, ala the Mariners a few years back.

This is also the first time I am actively supporting a SS other than Nomar. Guillen or Michael Young deserve to start this year, and I'm sorry to say Nomar should be watching from home. If Boston fans are gonna stuff ballot boxes, they should be helping out David Ortiz rather than Nomar and Pokey Reese (both currently second at their positions).

There are too many Yankees leading the voting. You might expect to hear that from me every year, but this year it's particularly true. Nearly everybody on the team is having a down year so far. Giambi doesn't deserve to start ahead of Ortiz or Frank Thomas. I won't complain too much about Jeter. I mean, he is Derek Jeter, and with A-Rod at third, and Nomar coming off an injury, this isn't ridiculous, but both Young and Guillen are having better seasons.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Politics: See Dick Run (let's hope not)

Kevin Drum has yet another reason why Dick Gephardt shouldn't be the VP nominee. It's an especially compelling argument, because it presumes Kerry wins and then makes a good case why the Gephardt choice would loom as a bigger mistake down the road:
"It's true that it's hard for me to think of a recent case in which the vice presidential candidate actually affected the result of the election, and in that sense the VP pick is probably less important than people make it out to be.

But — 41% of modern veeps have eventually become president and another 25% have been their party's candidate for president. That's a mighty big "but."

All the political horse race stuff to the contrary, Kerry's choice probably won't really affect his chance of winning the election one way or the other. But if he does win in November, there's an excellent chance that his vice president will eventually become either president or a losing candidate for president — and that's a far more important consideration than whether someone will help him win a few extra votes in Missouri. If you get my drift.

I don't want Gep, because I think he's death on the ticket. But this is pretty compelling that he's a long-range strategy mistake as well.

Politics: You cannot make this stuff up...

This diary thread over at Daily Kos rapidly devolved into the funniest thing I've read in while (at least in the realm of normally un-funny lies from the Administration.)

Politics: Awful

Kos has good post up on the brutal decapitation of another civilian in the Middle East. It's a good take on how these tactics might backfire on al Qaida, but also how it underscores bush's failure in the War on Terror:
But al Qaida runs little risk of becoming accepted by the global anti-American community beyond the violent wingnut fundamentalist set. In fact, grotesque executions of innocent civilians may lose them the support of many who would be inclined to support them. I wonder whether such tactics truly help rally support in the Middle East, because worldwide, the beheadings are merely reminders of why al Qaida must be exterminated.

It's why Bush's War in Iraq is such a mortal sin. These al Qaida assholes were cornered in Afghanistan. We had them. They were ours. And Bush couldn't be bothered to finish the deal. His Iraq obsession and Rumsfeld's refusal to wage the Afghan war correctly (read: more boots on the ground) let these scum escape.

Yup. For all its bluster, the War on Terra as executed by George W. Bush is not accomplishing much. Al Quaida is rejuvenated, terrorism is on the increase, Iraq is a fiasco, the "homeland" is exactly as (in)secure as it was two years ago and we're supposed to believe switching Presidents would be a bad idea?

As a sidebar, the murder of the South Korean national today highlights the jingoistic "statement of sympathy" issued by the the President last week:
"The murder of Paul shows the evil nature of the enemy we face. These are barbaric people. There's no justification whatsoever for his murder, and yet they killed him in cold blood. And it should remind us that we must pursue these people, and bring them to justice before they hurt other Americans. See, they're trying to intimidate America. They're trying to shake our will; they're trying to get us to retreat from the world. America will not retreat. America will not be intimidated by these kinds of extremist thugs."

'Merrika, 'merrika... Idiot. you are supposed to be the Leader of the Free World. By your own designation, the Leader of a "Huge Coalition". Might you broaden your statements a bit? I know it won't serve your political goals and frighten folks at home as well, but I thought there were a whole lot of people on the line with us over there...

A transcript does no justice to how stammered that statement really was. But I remember when hearing it on NPR, how the "hurt other Americans" jumped out at me. It really bothered me that he had to phrase it like that. It is apparent that he only cares about "Americans" (if, in fact, he does), and it reminded me how it has long bothered me that the news always give special billing to American victims of tragedy. I always thought it was awkward when talking about a plane crash, earthquake or anything else, it was -- "All three hundred and fifty passengers, including three Americans, are believed to have perished..." As if the other passengers are mere footnotes in the story.

That's always kind of annoyed me. But, maybe it's just me.

Politics: Asscroft

Paul Krugman reiterates his claim that John Ashcroft is the worst A.G. ever.

No argument here.

Monday, June 21, 2004

War: We Can(t) Rebuild Him...

I'd love to kick this off with the picture from the article, but I don't know how to do that, nor do I want my first feedback on this blog to be from a NY Times lawyer...So you'll have to follow the link (which hopefully works) to see the picture. (UPDATE: A (free) subscription account is required to read the article.)

Monday's New York Times features a front-page article on the cutting-edge prosthetics work being done at Walter Reed for soldiers who have lost limbs. Much as the Times tries to apply a positive spin to this feature, it does nothing but piss me off.

How could an article about dismembered young men and women, literally torn apart physically and emotionally in the prime of their lives, be portrayed in a "positive" manner? Concentrating on the science and talking to the most upbeat amputees imaginable is a start. I really do have to give it up to some brave soldiers who are really handling their new lives in admirable fashion:

"Maybe not contact football," he said. "But flag football. I figure I've lost a couple of inches on my vertical leap, but I plan to play basketball again. I was always a point guard, so I should stay on the outside anyway. My dad was not so concerned about my losing a leg. He just wanted to know how I was going to be for elk season..."

...For routine tasks, like shaking hands and holding a glass, he snaps an artificial hand onto the end of the device. For other challenges, he removes the hand and snaps in the hook or the pliers-like grip - "It's great for changing an oil filter" - that he carries in his backpack. At home, he has snap-on kitchen devices, work tools and separate hands that help him write, play golf, shoot pool, even cast a fishing rod...

Then, generously sprinkle the article with plenty of examples of how these new limbs are as good as the originals. Wrap it up by talking about the future of thought-controlled prosthetics...and we're ready for Bush's next State of the Union address where he boasts not only about the new schools opening in Iraq, but how his little War did so much to advance limb-replacement.

It's certainly true that some amazing work is being done. And I don't doubt it's on the cutting-edge, and worth writing about. But this article leaves the impression that Walter Reed is getting ready to churn out a bunch of happy-go-lucky Steve Austins and Inspector Gadgets. There is no mention made of anyone having a hard time adjusting to life with less than four limbs or blind or otherwise scarred for life. It also fails to mention whether every soldier coming home "incomplete" will get this treatment. Much is made about the "spare no expenses" approach being employed in these cases, but that seems to be quite a departure form most coverage I've read about recent vets. And the Bush Administration (among others) has a pretty poor record when it comes to following this type of thing through over the long run. What happens when Pvt. Johnnie needs a new attachment for his $85,000 artificial hand?

The closest this article gets to somber is this 'graph (my emphasis added):
Now far removed from the front lines of military action, Sergeant Wilson and a growing number of other soldiers have shifted to the front lines of prosthetic medicine. By virtue of an unusually large population of young men and women in peak physical form who have suddenly lost a limb, in many cases more than one, Walter Reed has become one of the nation's leading hospitals in rebuilding bodies violently torn apart. Of 675 soldiers injured in Iraq since the war began last year, about 100 have been fitted with artificial arms and legs. In any given week, about 20 of them are at the hospital in some stage of rehabilitation.

Of 675 soldiers injured??!!! Where the f--k are they getting a number like that? Is that 675 soldiers that have lost limbs? Because there have been a hell of a lot more than 700 injuries. There have been at least twice that many medical evacuees! [UPDATE: The McLauchlin Group has an estimated 22,000! medical evacuees!]

Now I'm not saying the Times shouldn't update us on these soldiers. And I don't have a problem with a health / science-oriented article about prosthetics. I'm not even against a feel-good story per-se. But this article paints a bit too sunny of a picture, and seems to have some glaring ommissions, mistakes or misleading numbers as well.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Testing, testing, one, two, three...

Gee, and I thought Iwas just signing up to make comments at Steve Gilliard's site. Next thing you know, I've got a blog site...