I've lived in America my whole life and I have never understood our cultural obsession with apologies, and endless wrangling over how "genuine" a given apology is. A good tearful apology seems to rank higher than fixing whatever the hell you just broke (if possible), and certainly seems to matter more than any particular act of atonement made by or punishment meted out to the offender. I've seen the Nancy Graces of this world huff and sputter over whether or not death row inmates seemed "apologetic," because, you know, killing the bastard just isn't enough. We need that apology.
Which brings us to Joe Wilson and Serena Williams. (I didn't watch the Video Music Awards so I don't have an opinion on Kanye. Sorry.) Serena mouthed off to an official, got herself penalized and summarily eliminated from the US Open. It happens. They also fined her ten grand - and I don't care how rich you are, no one wants to get fined ten grand. That's it. End of story. Is she "sorry?" Who cares? She got eliminated from the US Open. What the hell else do you want? Why people keep on insisting she keep on apologizing is a mystery to me. If mouthing off to an official means you have to apologize until the end of time, then Lou Pinella might as well spend the rest of his life going around wearing sackcloth and ashes.
Similarly, I don't care if Joe Wilson apologizes to President Obama, or if he gets censured for that matter. The president is a big boy and I'm sure he's been called worse things in his day. If Wilson formally apologizes or gets censured by the House that makes the whole thing go away, and, frankly, I'd rather he explain precisely why he thought President Obama was lying than apologize. In that situation, there are no good options for Wilson, because he would have to admit that either he hasn't read any of the House bills up for consideration, has the reading comprehension skills of a tapir, or that he was engaging in a cheap political stunt. Which is it, Congressman? I'm much more interested in hearing your explanation than your apology.
Of course, I realize some of my remarks in this post may have offended some readers. If that's the case, then I offer my heartfelt apologies.
OK, that tech bubble thing didn't work out so well for us, and that housing bubble thing did even worse. Dammit, there must be some new bubble we can inlfate to make this economy look like it actually functions! Think, think, think ...
The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies
that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million
policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person.
Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon,
by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then
resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will
receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.
The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if
people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or
even lose money.
As they say on the Internets, go read the whole thing. The banks interested in inflating the death bubble are not fringe players - Creidt Suisse and Goldman Sachs, among others, are heavily involved with this. And with good reason: the authors of that New York Times article claim that securitized life insurance policies could be a $500 billion market.
I'm guessing that the old-fashioned way of investing - you know, find a company that is either performing well or is poised to start performing well, give them money, get money back - is just too dull or too slow for the modern investor. Besides, it's so much more fun to root for people to die:
In addition to fraud, there is another potential risk for investors: that some people could live far longer than expected.
is not just a hypothetical risk. That is what happened in the 1980s,
when new treatments prolonged the life of AIDS patients. Investors who
bought their policies on the expectation that the most victims would
die within two years ended up losing money.
In other words, these securitized life insurance policies function pretty much the same way a dead pool functions: a young starlet overdosing is worth more money than 92-year-old Walter Cronkite dying after a long illness.
With no end in sight to the current economic crisis - and don't let anyone fool you, it won't end until companies actually start hiring again - there should be no shortage of people willing to cash in their life insurance policies in order to eat, or to pay for the prescription drugs that are keeping them alive. Of course, by staying alive they lessen the value of their securitized life insurance policy, which hardly seems fair. If we're serious about turning this economy around we're going to have to nip this whole longevity thing in the bud.
That's why I'm suggesting that whatever health care reform bill we end up passing have actual death panels in it. Oh, sure, we all know the death panels were just something concocted by the wingnuts to fire up the base, but now that I see the big picture I think we could have a golden opportunity on our hands. Why, once investors get wind of actual death panels being formed the market for these life insurance policies will go through the roof. Presto! New economic bubble! Who doesn't love economic bubbles? The Republicans will, of course, bitch and moan about the death panels but once Goldman Sachs tells them to STFU they'll fall into line.
Think of it - health care reform AND an economic turnaround. I think we have a winner here.
I never had any illusions about President Obama being a "leftist." I knew going in this guy was going to be a centrist - the problem is that I had forgetten just how badly screwed up the political "center" of this country is!
I'm not sure how much credence I put in reports coming out of sites like Politico about Obama being ready to jettison a robust public option in order to look bi-partisan - at this point, I'm not sure he'd dare. But based on the outstanding blogging the crew at FireDogLake and Glenn Greenwald have been doing, I have no problem believing the White House started this process viewing the public option as a bargaining chip rather than a policy goal.
... that we have a predatory, profit-driven insurance system, conjoined
through non-competitive, profit-driven network provider relationships,
that have made it extremely lucrative to ration health care and keep
raising prices well above affordable levels, let alone levels defined
by some unattainable model of efficient competition.
If the left's insistence on a robust public option is causing the White House political headaches, well, all I can do is remind Obama of the late lamented Molly Ivins' political maxim: You've got to dance with them what brung you. We're inflexible and unwilling to negotiate because we have nothing left to give away. If this were a situation where we had to settle for a public option in lieu of a single payer plan then maybe Obama could have sold it, but that's not the case. Single payer was never even on the table to take off the table. We're supposed to negotiate away the public option for ... what, exactly?
Sun Tzu calls territory on which you have no choice but to fight "dying ground," and sadly, we're on dying ground before the fight has even begun. There is no wiggle room, because there is no decent alternative to a public option being presented. (Co-ops? Yeah, that's like saying CSAs are going to bring down Archer Daniels Midland.) But Chinese generals of the time also said of their soldiers: "Put them on dying ground, and then they will live."
Well, since we're here we might as well live a little. President Obama's address to Congress is next Wednesday - that gives us plenty of time to make some noise:
But what I can't figure out is what the hell The Today Show's producers were thinking. By the end of his term, George W. Bush was one of the least popular presidents in recorded history. While Jenna had nothing to do with formulating and implementing his disastrous policies (I hope), why would you want to have a daily reminder of a remarkably unpopular president right there in the middle of your morning news program? Strange. Maybe hardcore Republicans watch more TV than the rest of us?