Friday, March 6, 2015

Ceres rising.

Look ... they were bound to find out sooner or later, right? I mean ... you can't commandeer a whole planet ... even a dwarf planet ... without someone taking notice at some stage. Mitch? Mitch, are you still there? Hello?

Whoa. You're all steamed up, Mitch!Right, well ... I was just talking to our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee via Skype, and it seems he has a problem. And when Mitch has a problem, frankly, we all have a problem. That's the thing with mad scientists. One day they're inventing something dumb and innocuous, like Marvin (my personal robot assistant). The next they're assembling the elements of some plane-smashing behemoth or a diabolical extreme weather machine (though I think that last one has already been invented by the mad "scientists" we call America's Oil and Natural Gas Industry).

As you may recall, we've been wondering what Mitch has been up to for the last couple of years. Last we'd heard he'd gone on an extended mad science bender in Madagascar. (We'd been expecting the place to begin levitating or emitting deadly baritold rays at any time.) Turns out we'd been misinformed. Mitch had somehow relocated himself to the former asteroid, now dwarf planet Ceres, which orbits the sun at a respectable distance, in the deadly asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. (Yes, asteroid "belt". Imagine our solar system as a middle-aged American; Jupiter is his/her corn-syrup enhanced abdomen, poking out from just south of this so-called belt.)

Well, as you might imagine, Ceres is the kind of place where a mad scientist can pursue his passions undisturbed. Until today. Nasa's "Dawn" space probe (apparently underwritten by the people who make the detergent) has just achieved orbit around the dwarf planet. That's why I got the interplanetary Skype call - Mitch is livid! He obviously thought he had the whole place to himself, oversized golf ball that it is, but apparently NASA has been working on this "invasion," as Mitch calls it, for the last seven years. "Stupid Obama!" he shouted over Skype, and I nodded quietly to myself.

All right, well ... this may not end well. We'll keep you posted on what emerges from this encounter (assuming it isn't painfully obvious).

To care and care not.

The Affordable Care Act went before the Supreme Court again this week, subject to a suit by a Koch brothers-funded right wing organization. The point of contention this time is some wording in the bill that suggests, in isolation from the rest of the bill, that only States can establish exchanges, thereby calling into question federal subsidies for coverage obtained through the federal exchange. Of course, the bill was structured to allow for the States to opt for having the feds set up an exchange if they choose not to do so. Badly drafted? Perhaps. But any bill the size of the ACA is bound to be full of technical errors, contradictions, etc.

Will they crash the clown car? Time will tell.Now, technical issues like this have historically been corrected by an act of Congress. This was the case with many major pieces of legislation, such as Medicare. But because our Congress is ideologically driven and dysfunctional in the extreme, this is not even a remote possibility. So it is left to the courts, thanks to the determination of many on the right to hobble and destroy the ACA, as well as many thousands of families who depend upon it. It's manifestly obvious that disallowing subsidized coverage through the federal exchange will dramatically drive up the cost of health insurance in the affected States, crashing the system and throwing 9 million subscribers into chaos. Just as bad, it will initiate a death spiral of rising rates and canceled policies that will affect many millions more.

So what will it be? Will the Supreme Court knowingly throw the country into chaos? Remains to be seen. It just amazes me the extent to which the Republicans will undermine so quintessentially a conservative idea as the ACA - a market-based solution if ever there was one - just to get the better of this very middle-of-the-road president. They are willing to throw the economy under the bus at every turn. They could bury this problem with a very simple piece of legislation, but that will never happen. The ACA is a point of obsession for them, like Benghazi - it's a talisman for Obama, and as such, it must be whacked repeatedly.

Lord knows, I loathe defending the ACA. But it's the law of the land, duly passed and signed, and letting it implode will affect many, many lives.

Netanyahu. Just want to briefly acknowledge the utter stupidity of Netanyahu's address to Congress. Personally, I think he was more convincing with the cartoon bomb.

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