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My apologies to all loyalists … June 27, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings.
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… who have been visiting and finding nothing much new. I am, quite literally, Lost for Words at the moment. Hated thing, writer’s block. A lot to say, maybe, but when the letters start to come together, ugliness and crapola begin to assemble like a bad sauce all over what would have been a good piece of fish. So you’re best advised to scrape it from the plate and just drink.

Somebody else somewhere in the ever-widening world surely has something to say, funny maybe, a touch of magic perhaps or freshness. A picture too. There’s a kid in Kansas that maybe you should go visit. She’s finding a voice — and it sings if you let it, sometimes with words, sometimes with a picture worth much more.

I’ll be back.

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Another hat tip today … June 19, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Environment, Justice, Politics.
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… goes to Gail Collins over at The New York Times for this column this morning.

You could call it Ruby Slippers governance because it depends on a kind of silly denial of reality that only works with Dusty Springfield singing “Wishin’ and Hopin'” in the background.

It’s like the repeat drunken driver who still thinks he can slip into the bar at quitting time to have just “a taste” before hitting the road. The law of averages assures he will be caught, maybe at a roadblock, maybe in a ditch, maybe in the emergency room when he comes to as the only survivor in a wreck that maybe wiped out a family.

But no judge, there is no need for an ignition interlock. It won’t happen again. No need for you to do anything to come as close as you can to making sure it can’t happen again.

Here’s a word of advice to all in Congress wishin’ and hopin’ — most of us out here expected that you already had done everything in your power to make sure it didn’t happen in the first place.

We were wrong — you and the people who work for you (and us) either figured wrong or just didn’t do their jobs. It happened — and it is still happening.

We are a forgiving bunch, all said and done. The odds were pretty long that this would not go down.

But it did. Now you know it can — and will again unless you figure out how the barn door got open, how to close it and how to make sure it doesn’t swing open again.

We can put a bunch of monkeys in there to jabber and bicker and scratch and whine — and do nothing.

Not an option.

Methinks this also June 19, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Greed, Justice, Obama, Politics.
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Sometimes it’s just better to let someone else say it, when they’ve said it about as well as you would have if you were paying better attention and were less lazy. So on the subject of  the FCC asking what people think about “net neutrality” options, I’m going to bow to Tony Bradley over at PC World.

The nut is here:

The bottom line is this: The FCC has a mission to fulfill and the court decision earlier this year in Comcast v. FCC challenges whether the FCC has the legal authority to effectively carry that mission out as it relates to broadband Internet. The FCC action on Thursday simply initiated a public discussion to review the pros and cons of various alternatives, and determine the best course of action. Businesses and commerce rely on the Internet. The FCC Notice of Inquiry offers an opportunity for all to participate in an open dialog and democratic process to determine what is best for the country as a whole.

Clearly, the big broadband signal providers don’t want that, and respond to a call for discussion with bluster, scare tactics and other sabre rattling. They know they are in monopoly control for the moment and anything that alters that in the name of the general good will be opposed tooth-and-nail.

But as I have said before, they are corporations acting as they are chartered to do to preserve every last ounce of benefit they can for that narrow group that owns a share of their soul. To expect less is living in denial. And I don’t advocate in any way altering that calculus.

But the discussion is not about that. It is what is best for you, me and simply millions of other businesses these six or seven could ruin, hamper or extort if the cop on the beat — the FCC — is not equipped with sufficient powers to preserve a “free” and “fair” market.

Not “taking over” the intersection, just coming up with enough rules so that the people with the Hummers aren’t the only ones who get through it alive.

This news brought a smile to my heart … June 17, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings, Tiger Woods.
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… early this morning — the thought that even with all the headlined hurt, the appalling betrayal and the continuing glare, these two people   seem to have decided to bow to love. Likely not for each other any longer, but for Sam, a little girl who may not know much for sure about any of it, except that she loves her daddy and wants a hug from him on her birthday. She maybe even have a tie for Tiger Woods on Sunday.

And Elin Nordegren has enough love to make this happen. That’s a powerful lesson in setting aside powerful, probably near-overwhelming emotions to do the right thing.

I thank Elin for this, even as I pray that somehow media around the world will stand down and let them have this moment to themselves.

Not part of the solution June 12, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Healthcare, Justice, Obama, Politics.
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The healthcare reform measures now are part of the laws of the land, although a great many of the details, rules and ramification offsets are yet to be devised. Part of that process has begun with the release of a draft set of regulations governing how some aspects of the new law will apply to the many, huge employer-provided self-insurance plans out there that operate outside the state insurance regulation system. These are set up under a federal law that goes by the shorthand ERISA and cover more than half of the workers in the country.

The new law “grandfathers” most of these existing plans from most of the new regulations — unless the plans are changed so radically from one year to the next that they effectively become “new” plans. The draft regulations put out for comment are designed to draw a whole bunch of lines to determine what’s a continuing plan with some legitimate annual revisions and what’s brand new.

Most people covered by such a plan — I am one — know that your “coverage” changes quite significantly just about every year, as employers struggle to cope with rapid escalation in the cost of care. Premium share, deductibles, co-pays, lifetime claim caps, insured procedures and many other aspects rarely are the same one year as they were the previous year.

Which is why this Associated Press story pushed my buttons this morning. The whole focus on whether this aspect of the law makes a liar out of President Obama, who pledged many times that the reform bill would not prevent people from “keeping the plan they have now.”

Most people understood that to mean the law would not force anyone to get coverage other than what was provided by their employer, or to choose a different plan among options offered by their employer — in other words, would not force them to get “government” insurance or go out and shop all on their own.

And the law keeps that “promise.”

But it does not guarantee that the plan offered next year by employers will be the “same” as the one offered this year, because most of that decision still rests 100% with the employer.  And there are certain mandates that the law enacted across the board for all plans that must be absorbed into all plans — like covering kids until age 26 and not rejecting for pre-existing conditions. And those things may add some cost, though not a lot because kids 18-26 are pretty healthy members of any self-insured risk pool and costs normally are adjusted based on that risk pool’s real-world spending on claims the prior year.

But none of that stopped the Republican leadership in Congress  and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the GOP’s “private-sector” mouthpiece — from jumping out and claiming this all makes Obama a liar and the reform bill a failure.

I say “mouthpiece” because the Chamber has become nothing more than a radical-Red slogan factory from the sidelines, exacerbating most public policy discussions with “same-old” unproductive crapola that just keeps us all from coming up with a workable solution. In this story, this role is clear: The Chamber spouts nonsense while the Business Roundtable, a hands-on group of business leaders, digs in and works to help create a set of regulations that will work to the greatest benefit of employers, employees and taxpayers.

Here’s a sampling of the all-politics whining from the GOP and chamber:

“What we are getting here is a clear indication that most plans will have to change,” said James Gelfand, health policy director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “From an employer’s point of view that’s a bad thing. These changes, whether or not they’re good for consumers, are most certainly accompanied by a cost.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said it showed that Obama’s assurance that Americans would be able to keep the plans they currently have was “a myth” all along.

“Since its passage, Republican arguments against the bill have been repeatedly vindicated, even as the administration’s many promises about the bill have been called into question again and again,” McConnell said. “So Democrats may have passed this bill, but the debate is far from over.”

Mr. Gelfand: You and I both know that every plan offered by employers is going to “change” Jan. 1 — with or without this new law. No one out there was going to offer “the same plan” with not a word, a clause, an iota altered. So just shut up and go away, because you, sir, are part of the problem.

Sen. McConnell: The only “myth” involved in what Obama said is the fairy tale version of  “keep your plan” spun up by you and the Redlegs in your tent — a first-class Straw Man set up so you can get up on the stage again and again and try to deflect a worthy debate about what should be done to improve health insurance and healthcare. All you want to do is win more seats in November and the White House in 2012 and that “winning” strategy is now your only moral compass. So you go away too.

President Obama did not lie then and he is not lying now.

You two, however, are doing your level best to mislead to advance your own personal positions.

Fixing this — and doing it right — is hard enough without fraud artists.

This news will be handy … June 12, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings.
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… to have under my belt the next time I plan to wander into a tropical jungle and am having trouble choosing my cologne. Based on this discovery, I’ll probably leave the Calvin Klein Obsession for Men in the stateroom, depending on my mood.  I rarely find myself yearning for the company of large predators when camping.
But I am wondering if it works on Piedmont cougars.

I don’t wanna go here … June 9, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Celebrities, Entertainment, Justice.
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… but it is time to discuss this.

Lindsay Lohan needs to go to jail when the next hearing occurs on July 6. She needs to lose her freedom for three DUIs. This needs to happen before she kills someone.

She needs to lose her freedom because she has demonstrated quite clearly that she is in contempt of the rest of us, our rules for sharing this Earth and, if truth be told, everyone and anyone who has done anything at all to help her conquor her demons.

She needs to sit by herself in a very small concrete block space with metal bars and consider her blessings —  and how she will value freedom once it is restored.

No enablers. No sympathizers. No hangers-on. She needs to hit bottom — and hard.

I can see absolutely no counter argument that would provide justice to you, me and millions who might seek to emulate her — or one day collide with her.

Getting close on reform June 9, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Greed, Wall Street.
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After a very long  journey, congressional conference appears to be nearing some sort of consensus on financial reform, although the details seem to be dribbling out in a somewhat disappointing manner. Things are a lot less open than Rep. Barney Frank promised months ago, which can only result in mischief.

I highly recommend the summary view Politico posted up in the last day or so providing the views of  Joseph Stiglitz, a 2001  Nobel Prize winner in  economics and experienced in the ways of Washington from a stint as chairman of Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

I’d pay particularly close attention to his comments on derivatives and the various aspects of the two bills that take differing approaches to regulation in this area — and his advice to adopt the Volcker Rule as well as the tough elements in the Senate bill put forth by Sen. Blanche Lincoln. And to provide authority to undo deals that bypass clearinghouse and other rules.

I also think he is right on the money when he says Congress must make its intent clear in each and every instance, so that the inevitable legal engagements have something to reference aside from the Dancing of the Legal Stars.

The full piece is here.  The time is now — so anyone who values their money should weigh in.