Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MAJOR SCANDAL (Or, a bit of snark for your enjoyment)

As you know, the President of the United States is suspected of engaging in horrendously egregious misconduct.

Noble Public Servant Gerald Walpin was fired - yes, *fired* - for daring to investigate one of Obama's supporters, leading to CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS with no charges filed, and the return of some federal funding because there's no proof it was spent properly due to sloppy accounting.

This is terrible, because Walpin, ,just like any other competent attorney doing the same job could have, found *SEVENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS OF WASTE AND FRAUD* in the Americorps plan, including the aforementioned Obama booster, Kevin Johnson whose organization was actually only asked to return a bit under half a mill; ignore that; the 75 million is more impressive and damaging sounding.

There is no other reason for firing Walpin. The only possible reason for firing Walpin was that he investigated an Obama supporter.

Look... some members of the so-called "reality based community" will say he made overstated claims that could not be supported by the subsequent investigation... but hey, he got some money returned, so what's the big deal that he claimed a lot more than could be proven?

And they'll harp on that tired old allegation that he withheld exculpatory evidence from the US Attorney's office. But come on; prosecuting attorneys just *love* surprises!

And, sure, he didn't bother to do an audit to determine how much money might have been mis-spent, but what's more important, a few facts, or making some loud, newsworthy accusations against a person who's running for political office?

And come on... we all know that talking to the media during the election about an investigation which later found no criminal wrongdoing is *not* unethical. Why should people be entitled to the presumption of innocence *during a political campaign*? What kind of pansy-ass liberal thinks that you shouldn't let an investigation run the risk of doing irreparable harm to the subject of the investigation?

And, yes, yes, Walpin pushed to have Johnson barred from receiving or dealing with federal funds - a rare sanction, invoked (per the IG's office) "If we find really egregious stuff and we want to stop the bleeding" - which could have barred him from carrying out his duties as mayor, and Walpin vociferously fought to keep that suspension in place despite the damage that could do to the city of Sacramento, CA, but after his clear objectivity and fairness in other parts of the investigation, why should this count against him?

Anyway, as you can see, this is clearly a purge, and a warning. Obama is saying to people working for the government that if you royally fuck up an investigation investigate one of his friends, you're out of here, if he has the power to fire you.

You know how we know that?

Because Obama had one of his people call Walpin up, ask him if he was going to resign, and told him he had *one hour* - ONE HOUR - to resign, or he'd be fired.

Clearly, this phone call was an attempt to get around a law that said that if Obama wants to fire an Inspector General, he has to send a letter to both houses of Congress, saying that he is firing the IG, and why.

Even more egregiously, although the law doesn't dictate what reasons Obama can give for firing an IG, *HE SAID HE WAS FIRING WALPIN BECAUSE HE NO LONGER HAD CONFIDENCE IN WALPIN*.

So, clearly, he was quite possibly violating that law, by sending that letter, saying Walpin was fired 30 days after the letter was sent. Oh, maybe not the *letter* of the law, since the law just says he has to send a letter, but the *spirit*. Because the law was intended to provide oversight, giving Congress 30 days to act! And, you see, Obama claiming he lost confidence in Walpin denies Congress the power to engage in oversight, because if it doesn't, *OBAMA WOULDN'T HAVE VIOLATED THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW*. And we know that's not possible.

In any case, calling Walpin up and asking him to resign must be a manner of dodging that oversight.

Because, you know, that call was a threatening one. Resign - or be *FIRED*.

*Quit your job* - or you'll lose it anyway.

I'm sorry; I know that's so threatening that some folks reading this are probably having palpitations, but I need to drive home the truth. Besides, can you imagine something more bullying?

I can't.

Oh, sure, some dirty stinking liberal who insists on giving Obama the "benefit of the doubt" will surely say that it's common courtesy to give a guy a chance to say he's decided to pursue other interests, rather than to say he's being fired. But how on earth are you supposed to believe that Barack Obama - a Chicago pol! - could have acted out of common courtesy?

Look, none of this proves anything... I'll be the first to admit that. But it bears watching. Because if we keep ignoring the atrocious acts of Walpin, and slant the story really heavily, we can make it sound like this makes Obama look really bad!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thoughts on insurance

I'm not that old, but I can tell you a story about how things used to be in the good old days.

Back in the day, here's how insurance would work.

An insurance company would expect to take in a lot of money - just to have a solid figure, let's say a billion dollars over the course of 20 years. And it would expect to pay out a billion dollars over the course of 20 years. And it would pay out its administrative expenses and such simply from the investment income from that billion dollars over those 20 years.

It's supposed to be a pretty dull business. You make careful, prudent investments to make absolutely sure that you have the money you need to pay out claims. You spend hours pouring over actuarial tables and calculating premiums to make sure that you offer good value for the customer's insurance dollar, while still covering the possibility of a large claim coming in.

But sometime a while back, folks decided that greed is good and free enterprise can do anything better than a bunch of boring accountants and actuaries trying to provide a valuable public service. Let's run insurance like a for-profit business, and the magic of the free market will make everything better!

And, since greed is good, it's good to try to keep every dollar in premium payments you can for as long as you can. It's good to find ways to cut the costs of claims (even if this means denying a claim for an excessive period of time). It becomes a great idea to find a reason to, say, drop an expensive patient-to-be from your health insurance rolls, if you can do so legally. Remember, you're not trying to provide a valuable public service, you're trying to maximize shareholder return!

Of course, if a small group of extremely wealthy investors wanted to run an insurance company along more traditional lines, they could. It would have to be a small group of very wealthy investors, though... if such a company was publicly traded, it would likely be the target of a buyout. You see, since it wasn't maximizing its profit, its stock value would be low; other companies would realize they could make more money from that customer base. They'd buy out the company (and thus, the insurance contracts), probably using a leveraged buyout - the kind of risky investment old-time insurance companies would consider imprudent - and bye-bye traditional company.

Right now, Congress is considering health care reform. One of the possibilities on the table is a "public option", which is to say, medicaid for anyone willing to pay for it. Let the government run a health care plan; it won't be for-profit, and it won't try to be flashy. It'll just try to balance out premiums paid with benefits paid. It'll be immune to leveraged buyouts, and while it won't attract the flashiest of the flashy investment gurus, it won't need to, because it doesn't need to make a bunch of shareholders happy with maximized profits... it'll just need to make stakeholders (that's "we the people of the United States") happy.

The insurance companies hate it; they're willing to take the good (a mandate that everyone has health insurance coverage), but they're not willing to take the bad (competition demanding that they be more efficient than a government agency). Which is strange, since we've been assured that the government can never be more efficient than a private company.

But what it really comes down to is this: in order to beat the government at the insurance game, they'll have to play the insurance game the old fashioned way, making more prudent investments, finding ways to serve customers and maximize the value of their policies, and otherwise engaging actual, honest competition that is intended to benefit the consumer first and foremost.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What is "context"?

Here's an example of "context".

First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable.

Note that the subject, a woman who has recently come to national attention, is talking about cases involving discrimination. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in gender discrimination cases. It certainly is not true that other folks are *incapable* of understanding the values.

But it took until 1972 for 9 white men to uphold a discrimination lawsuit involving a woman.

A wise latina would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion when discussing cases like those under consideration... those involving racism or sexism. Or, so she suggests, recognizing that a great many of those cases were decided less wisely, since sexism and racism were both upheld when the court was composed entirely of white men. But even there, she states, quite clearly, that "many are ... capable" of understanding the values and needs of other groups.

Why don't conservatives who want to attack Sotomayor bring this context up? Is it that they can't read her speech and recognize the context?

Or does the first part of the sentence say all that needs to be said? That too many conservatives just wish to attack Sotomayor, without regard for the truth?

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