Welcome back to James Call: Expert. For the record, I'm not really an expert in anything, just a cranky guy with the NY Times and a blog. Rock on!
Today In Health Care Reform
SUMMARY: The Baucus health care bill sucks and is a political loser.
Well, looks like Max Baucus moved the Senate bill out of the Finance Committee, so we know what it will look like.
It should cost less than $1 trillion, but it includes no public plan and no mandate for employers to purchase health insurance for their employees. It DOES, however, provide an individual mandate, so that you, the consumer, have to buy health insurance. And some, but not all, employers are required to offer subsidies to you to help you buy your health insurance: but only up to 300% of the poverty level, or $32,490.
In other words, if you're earning more than $32,490 a year, you won't get a dime to buy health insurance, oh, and by the way, there's no public plan, meaning no cheap alternative to the private plans floating around. So if you're like most people, earning around $50k a year, you now -have- to buy health insurance, but it's not going to be any cheaper than it is today.
Oh and hey, by the way, with the employer mandate not present but subsidies now offered, a lot of employers are going to drop their traditional insurance plans.
This bill sucks donkey dick, and is estimated to cover only 16 million uninsured.
Now throw the public option and employer mandate back in, and the total cost of the bill comes to about $1.024 trillion. However, it now covers 37 million uninsured. But of course, you're now over the mystical 1 trillion USD price point.
Funny how these "bipartisan" assholes didn't worry about the 1.3 trillion USD pricetag for the Bush tax cuts, which generated a miniscule amount of economic activity (about 30 cents to the dollar).
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer aren't getting the House plan out there this week. But when they do (next week?) they better damn well have a public plan and an employer mandate in there.
Dems are placing a losing bet on bipartisanship, given that the result of bipartisanship is something like the Baucus bill. Good ol' Nate Silver puts it pretty damn well:
** Just to underscore this point: when it scored a similar bill, the CBO estimated that 15 million people would lose their employer-provided coverage. Most of these people are likely to be lower-to-middle income persons with somewhat tenuous employment situations, a group that tends classically to be swing voters.
Now, how are those 15 million people going to feel about health care reform when they find out that:
a) Although the bill was supposed to guarantee access to health insurance, they've in fact lost theirs;
b) They're required to buy an expensive, private plan on their own, or to pay a fine;
c) They're probably not getting any government assistance;
d) They certainly don't have any Medicare-like alternative to fall back upon;
e) All of this cost the country about $1 trillion dollars.
You think those 15 million people are going to vote for the Democrats again, like, ever?
Today In the Taliban Kicking Our Ass
Here's why the Taliban is kicking our ass. From the NY Times front page. Emphasis mine.
"About four dozen landlords [from the Swat valley in Pakistan, scene of recent heavy fighting] were singled out over the past two years by [Taliban] militants in a strategy intended to foment a class struggle. In some areas, the Taliban rewarded the landless peasants with profits of the crops of the landlords. Some resentful peasants even signed up as the Taliban's shock troops."
Don't fight a land war AND a class war in Asia, folks.
Today in My Foot
There's something wrong with my foot. I think I may need a new pair of business shoes. It's all sore on one side. I sort of think I should soak my feet in warm water at night, except my mom used to do that and I think that would be kind of weird. I also had blisters up the wazoo this weekend, but then, I did a lot of walking.
Today in Last Night's Dreams
More violent nightmares, this time involving a snake that I had to capture. One of my ex-girlfriends was there. Other details hazy.
Today In Comic Books
To get the taste of Zero Hour out of my mouth, I went back and read some of the "Showcase Presents: The Metal Men" book which I still haven't finished, but which totally rocks.
Marvel and DC have published a lot of these "Essential" and "Showcase" volumes, affordable black and white reprints of comics from the Silver Age (the late 50s through the 60s) with more than 20 comics in one volume for less than $20. This is a great deal for completists and nerds.
It has to be said, the Marvel Essentials hold up a lot better over time. Some are completely pointless - don't waste your money on Essential Ms. Marvel; Ms. Marvel has always been boring and pointless - but many of them are actually borderline-essential for the comic book reader. Kirby's Fantastic Four, Ditko's Spider Man and Dr. Strange, and Claremont's X-Men spring to mind. Lots of other good ones, too.
DC's Showcase editions are far more ridiculous. Try reading the Showcase Superman, Green Lantern, or Flash. Try it. I dare you. That shit was just completely ridiculous. These characters have all been revamped to be "serious," but while you can take Spider Man vs. Doctor Octopus somewhat seriously, there is no way in hell you can take the Flash vs. Killer Cloud seriously. Or Superman flying around with a lion's head instead of a human head. Try it.
Of course, some of the fun is in the total absurdity of these early Silver Age comics, but I digress.
The Metal Men Showcase edition is a different deal. Metal Men isn't really a superhero comic. It's a sitcom starting a bunch of robots (the Metal Men) with faulty "responsometers" built by the sexist Dr. Will Magnus. They do fight bad guys, but the point of the comic is in the interaction between the characters, especially Platinum, aka Tina, and Dr. Magnus.
See, Tina has a faulty responsometer and thinks she's a real girl, and Dr. Magnus knows she's "just a crazy robot who thinks she's a woman!" But Tina is always cooking him dinner, and crying, and doing other traditional hypersensitive-woman stuff that just drives Dr. Magnus nuts. And Dr. Magnus (who smokes a pipe, like a Real Man) in turn talks to Tina like men of that era talked to women, i.e., in a meanspirited and demeaning manner. But sometimes he does slip up and call Tina a woman (not a robot) and despite his sexist and anti-robot attitude, he does have a tender spot for her, and always rebuilds her with a "faulty" responsometer whenever she melts down fighting a giant robot or creature made of living chemicals, etc. Needless to say: comedy ensues.
While those two are the star of the show, there's also plenty of yuks from the mercurial (ha ha ha) Mercury, who's convinced he's better than the other Metal Men, and the insecure Tin, who is, in classic corny Hollywood fashion, far braver than he acts.
The linework, by Ross Andru, is great - the Metal Men are very expressive, moreso, I'd say, than characters drawn by Gil Kane or Ditko or Kirby or any of the biggies. And since it's pretty damn hard to take the concept of the Metal Men seriously from the get-go, it's much easier to enjoy the whole shtick, whereas those other old superheroes are supposed to be noble, actual heroes, in some regard.
Definitely worth your $15, but impossible (and unnecessary) to read in one sitting, as there is no over-arching story arc, just a bunch of Tina trying to get Dr. Magnus to take her out on a date, and Mercury bitching about the other Metal Men. OH, and giant robots from other planets.
Today's Recommended Download
"Requiem for Adam" by Terry Riley. Scary stuff! But interesting to listen to.
UPDATE: Today in People Are Fucking Illiterates
Just read this. It's only 3 paragraphs long.