More AETNA Health Care Hijinks

August 19, 2016

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Let me tell you why I hate AETNA and believe that a dick move like this is totally in character for them.

I made a job change last year, and I ended up having a gap between the expiration of my coverage from my prior employer and the beginning of coverage from my new employer; the gap period was a month. And I blame my prior employer; when I’d done this in the past, a long time ago I’ll admit, my prior employer would pick up my coverage for that month plus the next month – the excuse I got was that I’d given notice before the 15th of the departing month, so by the end of that month I was on my own.

So I contacted the PA Exchange to inquire into coverage. And do you know what happened? I told the person at the exchange (the “navigator,” I think) what I was looking for in the way of coverage, who would be covered, the duration of coverage, etc. And the navigator connected me right away with AETNA, and I was told that a major medical plan would give me what I needed, and they gave me a quote. So the navigator connected me to someone from AETNA who got the process started.

Well, it took a few days to process. A few days turned into a week. And a few more days. And another week, with repeated calls from yours truly all the while to AETNA Customer Service; you would think that, as opposed to inquiring into the state of what year I would actually be receiving my insurance cards, I was asking about whether or not I could purchase the Hope Diamond at Walmart.

So, after about 2 ½ weeks (with my family and I on pins and needles over coverage and having to reschedule appointments like crazy while this was going on…and what about people with lousy or even NO coverage having to try and deal with this, I thought to myself), I called AETNA again and somehow landed with the billing department, which ended up being fortuitous. The very helpful person I spoke with said that all I needed was the Group Number, ID Number and RX Number (I’m pretty sure that was it), and I could make my own insurance and prescription cards to present to our pharmacy and health care providers. So that’s what I did, and everything ended up processing OK.

Oh, and I FINALLY received my AETNA insurance cards with about five days to go in the lapsed month where I needed coverage.

So, to sum up, the PA health care exchange worked like clockwork (for the benefit of you wingnuts out there tempted to yell, “See, that gol’ danged Obama and his big gumint health care takeover did it again!”). However, AETNA moved slower than shit through a straw.

In my experience with employer-based coverage, AETNA is absolutely fine. However, based on this, you’re absolutely hosed if you have to deal with them yourself.

And to me, that speaks volumes about how screwed up our health care is in this country and why letting bad corporate actors like AETNA pursue a merger to become nothing but a bigger and even worse corporate actor is the very last thing we should consider.

Update 8/21/16: Curiouser and curiouser (here)…


Donald Trump’s First Foreign Policy Briefing

August 18, 2016

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It is supposed to take place tomorrow, from what I hear – details were just leaked a few minutes ago.

Apparently, these are the priority talking points:

  • Lil’ Kim is the Secretary of State for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once signed Ivory Joe Hunter to Atlantic Records, a label run by Erdogan’s distant cousin, Ahmet Ertegun.
  • The U.S. recently supported the government of Yemen when it apprehended Black Lives Matter protestors at a Dow Chemical plant in that country; protestors alleged that the company carried out attacks against female insects of color in its gardening products, accusing Dow of “herbicide.”
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May is a very distant relative of former baseball player and Cincinnati Reds star Lee May, and she prefers to be reminded of that family connection at state functions.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was passed resoundingly by both houses of Congress in 2008 and proclaimed to be the law of the land by Secretary of the Interior Sarah Palin.
  • Argentina recently dedicated a statue of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for his support of leftist insurgencies in that country and across the globe.
  • A tribe of Kalahari Desert Bushmen recently fashioned an interstellar missile made out of a massive collection of Coke soda bottles and launched it into space where it presently orbits the Earth; scientists dubbed the craft “The Gods Must Be Crazy” rocket.
  • Former President George W. Bush is currently vacationing with his family on their yacht, dubbed “Mission Accomplished 2.0,” in the South China Sea.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story (smile).


Exuent “Dr. McLaughlin’s Gong Show”

August 17, 2016

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(The reference in the title comes from a quote by former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson, by the way.)

I suppose I should say something about the passage of this guy, not because I have anything particularly brilliant to add, but maybe just to vent ultimately (hey, if I can’t vent at my own blog, where can I do it, right?).

I wouldn’t say that I started to become politically aware thanks to his program – that’s a stretch, I’ll admit. For what it’s worth, I started to learn more and more about the con that was being played out as part of the ruinous conservative ascendancy in this country in the ‘80s under The Sainted Ronne R, and that is when I tried to consume more from newspapers, TV news casts and “opinion” programs (to go back even further, I suppose that the murder of John Lennon made me pay attention to the issue of gun control in a way that I never had before, though I admit that I should have before then).

I guess, in my naiveté, I sought out objective and responsible media as much as I could in response to what I believed was the wholesale abandonment of the middle class as a result of the flight of capital offshore, the craven and disastrously irresponsible codification of the thoroughly not proven mantra of perpetuating crony capitalism and the “ownership society” via something relatively new to that time called “trickle-down economics,” fanning the flames of hostility against unions, minorities, women, and working families overall (which, among other things, spawned the phrase “Reagan Democrat,” something that STILL requires me to suppress a gag reflex after all this time), and the demonization of anyone with a political opinion other than what passed for movement conservative thought.

And with all of that going on, I found myself watching “The McLaughlin Group” starting in the early ‘90s, and probably until later during that decade.

I know it seems quaint to admit now, but I watched that show with the hope of being informed on the issues that actually mattered. What I eventually came to realize, though, was that the intent of that show (intended as far as I’m concerned), first and foremost, was to elevate the “cult of personality” of the Beltway journos who appeared on the program.

Don’t get me wrong – there were some moments of actual substantive discussion. However, it became more and more clear that what mattered above all else was self-promotion.

Oh sure, there were moments when I actually learned a thing or two; I guess the main reason I kept tuning in was to watch Jack Germond, someone more professionally accomplished than everyone else on that panel put together. I give Eleanor Clift points for tolerance and endurance and frequently carrying the banner of the lefties/Democrats and, truth be told, the reality-based community. Morton Kondracke also had some worthwhile input on occasion, though it was obvious that he wanted to be part of the club, and that came through in almost everything he said. And Chris Matthews was pretty much the same thing you see now. And as far as Clarence Page goes, he became another reason to watch after Germond started drifting away from the show.

On the other side, it’s hard to describe how utterly loathsome Pat Buchanan was, again, then as now. Fred Barnes (again, then as now) was nothing but a lickspittle blathering whatever conservative talking points were handed to him before the cameras rolled. Mortimer Zuckerman occasionally crossed over into the realm of common sense, but that never lasted for too long. And I couldn’t keep track of the other assorted right-wing meat sacks who posed for the cameras, dutifully volleying back and forth with the host.

And as for McLaughlin himself, I got it that he realized he was the ringleader of all of this and occasionally had fun with it (which he was entitled to), but after watching that program, I found myself no more informed or educated in the way I thought I needed to be than I was before I started watching. And I guess this had the happily unintended consequence of making me seek out writers like Joe Conason, David Sirota, and in particular The Eternal Molly Ivins in order to find a proverbial clue.

So yeah, I suppose I should give McLaughlin a bit of credit in that he motivated me to seek out better media than what I was consuming at that time in order to learn more about the issues that impacted my life and the lives of those around me and what I should think, say and ultimately do in response. But I think he ended up blowing a golden opportunity, given his profile and that of his show, to practice actual quality journalism for the sake of perpetuating his own peculiar version of a carnival tent show that dovetailed nicely with the emergence of all-out-attack conservative media during the Bill Clinton years (and oh yeah, his show had enough of a profile to get parodied in the movie “Watchmen” as well as earning a nod in “Dave” and other topical films).

I guess there are worse legacies to be had. But I can think of a lot better ones too.

Update 8/18/16: Uh huh – not sure how I forgot about “dark Lord” Robert Novak, but somehow I did…facepalm.

Update 8/20/16: I also forgot about Bob Maynard who appeared on the “lefty” side; aside from being a true pro, I admired the fact that he never lost his cool despite all of the often-idiotic banter on that show.


The Repugs’ Deadly Game Of “Hidin’ Zika” (Updates)

August 4, 2016

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Huffpo tells us the following from here

WASHINGTON ― Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell delivered a letter to key lawmakers on Wednesday that explained exactly how their underfunded response to the Zika virus is screwing Americans over.

President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion in February to deal with the impending outbreak of Zika in the United States. Congress finally began working on the request in May, with the Senate passing a bipartisan compromise that was about $800 million short.

The bill got tanked in a partisan squabble last month after Republicans decided to add in contraception restrictions, a pro-Confederate flag provision, extra cuts to Obamacare, and a measure to exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, even though those pesticides don’t target Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

They then departed for a seven-week break while sending a sternly worded letter to Obama, saying he should take aggressive action to battle Zika using the $589 million the administration transferred from other programs, taken primarily from the ongoing Ebola response. GOP lawmakers have also complained recently that the money is not being spent quickly enough, with nearly two-thirds still available.

Wednesday, Burwell detailed how that money is being spent, and how key programs actually will run dry this month if Congress does not act.

“Now that the United States is in the height of mosquito season and with the progress in developing a Zika vaccine, the need for additional resources is critical,” she wrote to the top members of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate. “Without additional funding as requested in the President’s request for an emergency supplemental, our nation’s ability to effectively respond to Zika will be impaired.”

Yeah, I think that about says it. And because of political nonsense from the “party of Lincoln” (here)…

Another apparently locally grown Zika virus case has been added to the list in Florida, state health officials said Tuesday, raising the number to 15 — all of them in the Miami area.

“Active transmission” of the mosquito-borne virus, which causes microcephaly and other birth defects, is still going on in a 1-square-mile area of the Wynwood arts neighborhood north of downtown Miami, said health officials, who advised pregnant women to stay away.

Overall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 351 Zika cases in Florida, 336 of them involving people who traveled to the state from elsewhere, the state Health Department said.

“We’re not seeing the number of mosquitoes come down as rapidly as we would have liked,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told The Associated Press.

The difficulty controlling the mosquitoes is “a reflection of the fact that, in this country, we really dismantled the mosquito monitoring and control infrastructure over the past few decades,” Frieden said.

“We have blind spots where we don’t know where the mosquito populations are and what the susceptibility is to different insecticides,” he said.

And how exactly did we get to this point? I think this post from the American Mosquito Control Association (yes, there actually is such a group, luckily for us) from some years ago clarifies things a bit…

A recent (2013) AMCA nationwide survey found for 22 out of 25 (88%) state public health departments that responded that the current level of (Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grants from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD)) funding compared to peak funding several years ago is no longer adequate to support their state’s non-human arbovirus testing efforts in the lab, significantly jeopardizing their state’s ability to cope with arbovirus diseases. Furthermore, this funding shortfall cannot support arbovirus surveillance-and-monitoring activities in the field, where 100% of all respondents felt such information was critical for conducting mosquito control operations.

Any economic savings provided by eliminating this funding will be insignificant compared to the potential healthcare costs to be incurred and, more importantly, the loss of life – both human and animal – if populations of mosquitoes that spread WNV and other exotic diseases are not monitored and suppressed in a timely manner.

I would tend to agree (by the way, the post was written in response to the outbreak of West Nile Virus, though you can just as easily apply it to Zika also – basically, we’ve been behind the proverbial curve on this for a little while as far as I’m concerned).

This is part and parcel of underfunding the CDC by congressional Republicans, as noted here; their cheapskate approach to funding for disease prevention helped give rise to an Ebola crisis in West Africa, as well as “the serious emerging viral infections in the US like Enterovirus-D68, chikungunya and dengue, as well as overseas MERS and bird flus, and natural disasters,” as documented in the 2014 post.

To return to Zika, though, for a minute, I just want to emphasize that, for the sake of trying to rob money for women’s contraception through (wait for it…) Planned Parenthood, ignore a bipartisan resolution banning Confederate flrags at U.S. cemeteries, and exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, we are currently in a position where at least one area of this country has to be quarantined from a Zika outbreak, and more are likely to follow.

And by the way, I’ve wondered how all of the “pro-lifers” out there are reacting to Zika. With that in mind, Dana Milbank of the WaPo penned this recent column in which he told us the following (Florida Repug U.S. House Rep Vern Buchanan stands out as a commendable exception, though)…

..there’s quiet from the antiabortion lobby. Groups I checked with haven’t taken a position on the Zika response, other than a few that have said laws against abortion should not be loosened in Latin American countries because of the virus.

National Right to Life published an argument in March questioning whether Zika causes birth defects and citing a study that said only 1 percent of babies born to mothers with the infection have the brain condition called microcephaly. “Abortion advocates would have had us believe the risk of microcephaly was much higher,” it said.

Typical for those disgusting hypocrites (of course, as noted here, all the evidence they would need about that already existed “south of the border”)…

But Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Post editorial board meeting Tuesday that “I can almost guarantee you” that the rate of birth defects is higher than 1 percent; another study puts it as high as 29 percent.

You know what? I think it’s time for a little “shock therapy” for those NRL cretins; get a load of this (here)…

At least 12 babies in the United States have already been born with the heartbreaking brain damage caused by the Zika virus. And with that number expected to multiply, public health and pediatric specialists are scrambling as they have rarely done to prepare for the lifelong implications of each case.

For children born with the worst of the brain defects caused by Zika, there will never be any miracle stories. No “the doctors said she would never walk, but … ” scenarios. These children will never walk. Never talk. Never laugh. Never play with a toy. Never feed themselves. Never even know that they are loved. They will only cry, and never be comforted.

They heard ophthalmologist Camila Ventura of Brazil, the epicenter of Zika in the Americas, describe how extremely irritable, even inconsolable, the newborns with microcephaly are.

“The babies cannot stop crying,” she said.

The parents of these children face not only day after day after day of bleak despair, but also crushing financial burdens.

Many of Zika’s littlest victims, diagnosed with microcephaly and other serious birth defects that might not immediately be apparent, could require care estimated at more than $10 million through adulthood.

“National Right to Life,” huh? Whose “life,” I wonder?

At least one voice of sanity on this is here (kudos to Dem VP Nominee Tim Kaine).

And by the way, if this isn’t a reason to vote out the Republicans in Congress responsible for this funding mess, among others (and elect Democrats like this guy), then I don’t know what is.

Update: Do you think this is “yuge”? I do.

Update 1 8/5/16: This amplifies some of what I’ve pointed out, but it definitely bears repeating.

Update 2 8/5/16: And of course, Heaven forbid that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao would pull his thumb out and do something (here).

Update 8/6/16: And I had a feeling that this wasn’t helping one bit either.

Update 8/7/16: This garbage must play well in “the Sunshine State” because, last I checked, Rubio was still leading in the polls (more here).

Update 8/9/16: And I would say that this is the loudest voice yet.

Update 8/11/12: At least that “Kenyan Muslim Socialist” gets it (here – h/t Daily Kos).


Pat Toomey’s Greatest Hits

July 18, 2016

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Well well, it looks like PA’s U.S. senatorial mistake is running for re-election, for the benefit of anyone who didn’t know that.

What has he been up to over the last six years? Well, let’s consider the following:

  • Remember the deadly Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia in May of last year? Well, as noted here, Toomey…

    …has campaigned (for years) to delay a multibillion-dollar railroad safety technology, calling it an “exorbitantly expensive unfunded mandate.”

    But safety officials say the technology would have prevented last week’s deadly train crash in Philadelphia. And Democrats argue that the railroads were starved of the money necessary to finish it.

    Interviewed two days after the crash, Toomey abandoned some of his budget-cutting bombast of years past. He’s dropped his sponsorship of legislation that would postpone the safety system rollout for several more years. And he says the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority that he was trying to protect from unnecessary spending no longer needs a delay.

    Asked whether he thinks there should be any further delay in the positive train control system rollout, Toomey replied: “No.”

    Of course, 8 people were killed and over 200 people were injured (here), which, I suppose as far as Toomey is concerned, is a small price to pay to maintain his Teahadist bona fides.

  • Also, as noted from here

    After voting for sending our military to war in Iraq, Toomey voted against every – every – single Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations bill up to last December – as well as voting against the $21 billion standalone Veterans Health and Benefits Bill that would have helped at-risk veterans.

    Toomey voted against the standalone Veterans Jobs Act three years ago that would have helped returning Iraq and Afghanistan warriors find jobs at a time when their unemployment rate was higher than the unemployment rate of civilian Pennsylvanians. Toomey voted against the act even after it included a provision he requested for a jobs website.

    He has voted to defund Veterans Business Outreach Centers, which provide veterans with services that help them open businesses such as training, counseling, mentoring and referrals for eligible veterans who own a business or who want to start a small business. He’s voted against funding for the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which helps veterans go back to school so they can learn new skills and get jobs.

    But of course, that doesn’t prevent Toomey from saying the following on his web site (here)…

    Senator Toomey is proud of our men and women in uniform who are currently serving to protect the United States. The son of a former U.S. Marine and representing a state with one of the largest veteran populations in the country, he is also acutely aware of the nation’s commitment to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom. He understands how important it is that we continue to provide quality medical care and other benefits to veterans, both to those who served a generation ago, and to those just returning from fighting in the war against terrorism.

    What a dick.

  • In addition, I’m sure no one doubts that Toomey is allegedly “pro life,” but did you know that Toomey invested in Yorktown University, a for-profit college that “pushes an extreme, anti-woman ideology and preys on vulnerable students, including veterans”?

    As noted from here

    Yorktown has long been criticized for lacking appropriate accreditation, offering courses of questionable academic value, and preying on veterans who receive government tuition assistance. The revelation of Toomey’s involvement with the shady business venture comes as he throws his support behind Donald Trump, who is currently under investigation for defrauding students with his Trump University business scheme.

    “Sen. Toomey has voted to ban abortion and block access to basic health care for Pennsylvania families, so it’s unsurprising that he’s been secretly profiting from a school that teaches nostalgia for the Dark Ages,” said James Owens, states communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Sen. Toomey has fought against Pennsylvania families in Washington and now we learn he’s personally profiting from a Trump-style scam university that takes advantage of hardworking students. Sen. Toomey may be trying to hide his allegiance to Donald Trump, but it’s pretty apparent they both have no problem disrespecting women and the families they support while scamming hardworking Americans, including our veterans, who are just trying to get ahead.”

    Sen. Toomey has pushed legislation that would drive taxpayer dollars to disreputable educational institutions like this scam-university in which he is invested, despite findings that such institutions provide substandard academic quality while shackling students with debt. Yorktown University pushes a radical conservative agenda and describes pop music, modern art, and the modern discipline of psychology as “signs of serious cultural disturbance.” It pedaled a course that referred to the Enlightenment—the burst of discovery and knowledge that created the intellectual framework for the Declaration of Independence—as a “failed moral revolution.” Toomey’s investment in Yorktown has supported “professors” like Lawrence Roberge, who taught fanatical, anti-woman conspiracy theories such as the debunked claim that tetanus vaccines cause abortions. The revelations about Sen. Toomey’s shady educational deals comes amid the scandal surrounding Trump University, the scam university that Donald Trump is accused of using to defraud students.

    And oh yes, as long as we’re talking about the all-but-named Republican nominee for president, I should note how Toomey is trying to have it both ways; as noted here, Toomey felt that he had some kind of a right to lecture Trump on being a uniter, not a divider, or something (remember that one?), but when asked if he would support Trump for president, Toomey couldn’t even be bothered with mentioning the name of “Fergus Laing.”

  • Let’s see now…when it comes to filibustering President Obama’s nominees, Toomey opposed CIA director John Brennan (here – not going to shed tears much for that, though), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (the last 3 here – Murthy must’ve offended the NRA by calling for treating gun violence as a public health issue as well as for a ban on assault weapons), and Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland (here).
  • Continuing, the following should be noted from here (harking back somewhat to the Amtrak accident):

    Sen. Toomey Personally Introduced Budgets That Would Require “Massive New Cuts” to Transportation and Infrastructure Funding. CBPP reported that Toomey’s FY 2012 budget “cuts funding for nondefense discretionary programs by nearly $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years…In 2021, it would impose a 30 percent cut in this category – which includes transportation and infrastructure.” Toomey’s FY 2013 budget would “make massive new cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, which funds everything from veterans’ health care to medical and scientific research, highways.”[CBPP, 5/25/11, 5/09/12]

    Sen. Toomey Repeatedly Supported House Republican Budgets That Threatened “Severe Cuts” to Transportation Infrastructure. Between 2011 and 2013, Toomey voted for the House Republican budget proposals. CBPP reported that the FY 2014 and 2013 budgets would threaten “severe cuts” for road and bridge planning, construction and rehabilitation. CBPP stated, “Cutting federal support for these projects would shift costs to states and localities, which would have to choose between raising more revenue or reducing their transportation investments and absorbing the indirect cost to their economies and quality of life.” ThinkProgress reported that Ryan’s FY 2012 budget “would strip more than $1.4 trillion from public investments in education, infrastructure.” [CBPP, 3/27/13, 12/05/12; ThinkProgress, 4/17/11; SCR 8, Vote #46, 3/21/13; HCR 112, Vote #98, 5/16/12; HCR 34, Vote #77, 5/25/11]

    Just Last Year – Sen. Toomey Voted for “Big Cuts” to Transportation Infrastructure. In 2015, Toomey voted for the Senate Republican budget proposal. CBPP reported that the budget would cut transportation and infrastructure funding by $123 billion, or 22 percent, over 10 years. CBPP reported that the budget would “result in significantly smaller highway and transit programs at a time when many urge more investment in infrastructure.” [CBPP, 3/27/15; SCR 11, Vote #171, 5/05/15]

    As noted here, though, this is in line with budgetary practices by Toomey that were considered to be harsher than Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv in the U.S. House here.

  • Toomey also introduced an amendment which would increase the threshold for bank examinations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from $10 billion to $50 billion. Since most banks don’t meet that asset threshold, 99 percent of all banks in the nation would have no federal regulator ensuring that they followed consumer financial protection laws. Of course, this is typical for Toomey, who has done all he can to derail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as noted here.
  • Toomey abstained from voting for an amendment which would have reversed the $125 million cut in Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) funding to help retrain workers laid off by unfair foreign trade practices (S Amdt. 633 to HR 2832 – here).
  • Toomey also voted against the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution; the Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, according to the EPA (yes, I know the Supreme Court basically put all of this on hold, but that doesn’t change Toomey’s awful vote as far as I’m concerned – here).
  • Oh, and did I note that, according to an analysis from Buzzfeed News, Toomey missed 80 percent of Senate Budget Committee Hearings (to which Toomey belongs) since 2013 (here)?
  • And lest I forget, I should note that Toomey was one of 47 U.S. Senators who signed a letter telling Iran to ignore the nuclear deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry; speaking only for myself, I believe these 47 lowlifes are guilty of treason (here).
  • We have a golden opportunity to send Pat Toomey packing this year; let’s not waste it (to support Toomey’s Democratic opponent Katie McGinty, click here).


    Our Trip To London

    July 9, 2016

    Usually when the Doomsy clan is able to take a vacation, we retreat to our blue-state paradise up north. This year, though, we were able to take a hop across the pond, as it were, to London (this happened the week after the Brexit vote on June 23rd).

    Big Ben 2

    Churchill

    Winston Churchill, of course

    Kiosk

    To begin, I should point out how great a tourist city London is. There’s history, fine dining, shows (saw Les Miz at the Queen’s Theater…outstanding), walking, shopping, clean and affordable mass transit via train or the “tube,”…basically, you’d be hard pressed to go looking for something and not find it. Granted it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

    Also, there was great Wimbledon coverage on the BBC channels (focusing on Andy Murray in particular as well as other British players, which is to be expected) as well as Euro 2016 football; everyone was bummed that England had lost to Iceland, but Wales’s victory over Belgium was definitely a cause for celebration, even though the team subsequently lost to Portugal. Also, our visit was timed for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in World War I; the coverage was well-produced and truly touching to experience. And because of the way the British and EU markets responded to Brexit, the dollar was stronger against the pound, though not by as much as reported, really; what you could call a correction took place in a matter of days.

    Another thing – yours truly had a bit of a health issue come up, and I was seen at St. Thomas’s Hospital near our hotel, and they did a great job of handling my issue promptly and sending me over to a facility on Marsh Street near Waterloo Station for a follow-up. From there it was just a matter of spending about 8 pounds 6 at the Boots chemist for the med that I needed. So, as far as I’m concerned, no complaints about NHS.

    (Oh, and by the way, in case anyone is wondering how seriously the Brits handle the issue of climate change, just take a look at this sign at an office on Whitehall.)

    Climate Change

    The big question to me, though, was how the pro-Brexit campaign won out. And, if you can take into consideration what you might call the “cab driver point of view,” as The Moustache of Understanding could call it (here), then the pro-Brexit camp won on that front decisively. Every “black cab” driver we spoke with trotted out the same information about the UK contributing $350 million pounds a week to the EU (more here), as well as how Britain’s resources are straining under the weight of an influx of immigrants (of course, the benefits of open immigration were typically ignored by the pro-Brexit folks). Of course, these folks listen to similar conservative talk radio in their country as the type we’re inflicted with here, but I don’t say that to demean London’s cabbies; we “cabbed” it about 6 or 7 times at least, and each one of the drivers was polite, knowledgeable, and most of all, knew how to navigate their routes in expert fashion.

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    I also wondered how the pro-Brexit people could have won given the shocking murder of British MP Jo Cox, who of course favored remaining in the EU (on balance, London’s businesses wanted to stay to benefit from the free flow of labor, but the surrounding areas around the city wanted to leave).

    And to find the answer, I think you need to consider how truly ineffectual Jeremy Corbyn has been as head of the Labour Party in the British Parliament; he tried a maneuver to make Hillary Benn the fall guy for the Brexit vote, and the strategy failed, leading to resignations of Labour’s “shadow” cabinet (these are the folks who WOULD be in charge if the Labour party were running things – basically, despite David Cameron’s protestations, I think Corbyn is the best “friend” Cameron could ask for). I realize that the British media tends to be conservative as it is in this country, but still, Corbyn looks and acts like a political casualty at this point and is reported as such, which, as far as I’m concerned, is totally deserved.

    As I’ve tried to catch up on the coverage in this country over Brexit since we returned a few days ago, I haven’t seen an account in this country of how Tory MP Michael Gove utterly gutted Boris Johnson, Gove’s alleged “bud,” in the contest to succeed Cameron as PM. Believe me when I tell you that there was coverage of this all over the place in the British media (and by the way, when searching for a foreign language TV station in Britain, all I can say is that, if you can’t find one for your language and nationality, then your language and nationality doesn’t exist). One example of this is TV commentator Andrew Marr (who the Sunday morning talking heads could learn from when it comes to getting in people’s faces), who called Gove all kinds of names right to his face while Gove barely blinked an eye (though, if you’re truly looking for Brexit villains, I nominate this guy and this guy…naughty word appears if you click on second link).

    The supreme irony of all of this as far as I’m concerned, though, is that the next British PM is likely to be Tory (of course) Theresa May, who actually voted in favor of staying in the EU.

    A couple of final observations: 1) The teenaged one asked one of the armed police guards at Royal Whitehall Barracks what kind of weaponry the guards carry just out of curiosity (M7 rifles, I believe), and one of the guards gave some kind of an indication that our son might be some kind of a gun nut. He isn’t, and I’m not slamming the guard, but I’m only pointing out how, unfortunately, we’ve created this perception around the world that we’re nuts on this issue because of all of the mass shootings.

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    And 2) The Brits are not shy at all in pointing out their dislike of this guy.


    “Civility” For Thee, But Not For Me?

    March 15, 2016

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    We learn the following from today’s issue of the Bucks County Courier Times (here)…

    A Bucks County Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District came out vehemently against a rival’s call to sign a civility pledge for the duration of the campaign. Fellow GOP candidate Brian Fitzpatrick issued the pledge to campaigns on both sides last week, amid controversy over a parody website and accusations of Hatch Act violations.

    “It is one of the most insulting documents ever presented to me as a candidate,” said Andy Warren, a former county commissioner seeking the Republican nomination in the April 26 Pennsylvania primary. “I’ve never said one disparaging word about any candidates. I’ve been issue-oriented from the beginning.”

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    Oh, and speaking of Andy Warren (What is he this week? A Democrat? A Republican? Try flipping a coin.), as far as I’m concerned, you can’t say much about him without a nod to this legendary post on Warren from Above Average Jane, in which we learn (among many other things) the following…

    “It’s more difficult to build [roads] in Bucks because if Newtown says it’s Wednesday, Lower Makefield says, “No, it’s not. It’s the day before Thursday,” said Warren. “And you can substitute any two municipalities in Bucks for Newtown and Lower Makefield.” …. “You don’t have that in places like Lackawanna County,” Warren said.

    Yep, ol’ Andy is prone to what you might call the “incendiary quote” himself from time to time; he may be technically right about not insulting other candidates, but he’s not exactly acting in accordance with Emily Post here, either (you can Google it). And I never did find out what is behind his apparent preference for Lackawanna County.

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    Returning to the story…in typical fashion, the Courier Times mentions possible Hatch Act violations committed on Brian Fitzpatrick’s behalf, but fails to point out that the possible violations were carried out by none other than Brian’s brother, our departing wet noodle rep himself, “Mikey the Beloved” Fitzpatrick.

    Specifically, as noted here…

    Last year, long after GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick announced he would retire, the Philadelphia-area representative began calling Republicans in his district to pitch them on a perfect successor: his brother.

    But Brian Fitzpatrick, a FBI agent and Mike’s younger sibling, was still working as a federal law enforcement official when the calls began, according to two sources with knowledge of Mike Fitzpatrick’s efforts, one of whom received a call personally. That could prove a problem: The below-the-radar persuasion campaign may have violated a law that prohibits federal employees, or surrogates acting on their behalf, from running for partisan office or making preparations to do so.

    Only a couple weeks after his campaign launch, Brian Fitzpatrick drove another leading GOP contender out of the race. He secured the endorsement of the local Republican Party soon after, as the field cleared. But a campaign law expert says his brother’s legwork beforehand may have run afoul of the Hatch Act — specifically the part which forbids federal employees from even “preliminary activities regarding candidacy,” including preparation by proxies.

    So am I the only one out there who thinks this whole “civility” thing is nothing but a ruse to try and deflect attention from the Hatch Act issue?

    Oh, and for the record, the parody web site aimed at Brian Fitzpatrick and linked to the Steve Santarsiero campaign is small potatoes by comparison when you consider this that was perpetrated by Brian’s brother (or, at a minimum, Mikey’s NRCC supporters without a word of reprimand against them) in 2012.


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