Monday, January 16, 2006

Heck of a job, Brownie

Can't you just feel it coming? That was Festus a day or two after New Orleans drowned complimenting the head of FEMA. No reason to think he won't say the same about his new Medicaid Prescription boondongle and throw in a medal while he's at it.

With tens of thousands of people unable to get medicines promised by Medicare, the Bush administration has told insurers that they must provide a 30-day supply of any drug that a beneficiary was previously taking, and it said that poor people must not be charged more than $5 for a covered drug, the New York Times reports. The actions came after several states declared public health emergencies, and many states announced that they would step in to pay for prescriptions that should have been covered by the federal Medicare program. Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, tells the Times that "several hundred thousand beneficiaries who switched plans" in December may have had difficulty filling prescriptions in the last two weeks. In California alone, officials estimate that 200,000 of the state's 1.1 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries had trouble getting their medications.

Republicans have joined Democrats in asserting that the federal government botched the beginning of the prescription drug program, which started on Jan. 1. People who had signed up for coverage found that they were not on the government's list of subscribers. Insurers said they had no way to identify poor people entitled to extra help with their drug costs. Pharmacists spent hours on the telephone trying to reach insurance companies that administer the drug benefit under contract to Medicare. Many of the problems involve low-income people entitled to both Medicare and Medicaid. In a directive sent to all Medicare drug plans over the weekend, the Bush administration said they "must take immediate steps" to ensure that low-income beneficiaries were not charged more than $2 for a generic drug and $5 for a brand-name drug. In addition, it said insurers must cover a 30-day emergency supply of drugs that beneficiaries were taking prior to the start of the new program.

This is really bad. It is a perfect example of K-Street legislation where the fine print is dictated by the phama lobbies and a bizarre free-market notion where anyone who wants to can offer a drug plan which can cherry pick expensive drugs they can omit from their plans.

Yogi economics

It's deja vue all over again.

Yesterday, in a conference call with reporters, White House officials estimated that this fiscal year's federal budget deficit would likely top a whopping $400 billion -- an estimate that was much higher than had been expected. According to the White House, the increase in the projected budget deficit was due in large part to Hurricane Katrina.

Today, various news outlets including Reuters, the New York Times and the Financial Times dutifully reported the projected numbers. Most of the reports focused on the Katrina angle. A few noted that the forecasts would increase pressure on Republican lawmakers to trim fat from the federal budget in the coming year. Only one reporter, however, came away from the session with something else -- specifically, an eerie sense of deja vu.

"This is the third straight year in which the White House has summoned reporters well ahead of the official budget release to project a higher-than-anticipated deficit," Jonathan Weisman reported today in the Washington Post. "In the past two years, when final deficit figures have come in at record or near-record levels, White House officials have boasted that they had made progress, since the final numbers were below estimates."

"This administration has a history of overestimating the deficit early in the year, lowering expectations, then taking credit when it comes in below forecast,"

And we fall for it every time. The setup is to justify squeezing liberal entitlement programs in favor of extending tax cuts and pork for congress. It's always the expense side of the ledger that Festus presents, seldom the tax collecting side. We can well afford a Tax Repatriation bill that actually creates no jobs at the expense of $30 billion so that in return we have to squeeze Medicaid and Medicare so seniors can't get dentures or children get fluroide treatments. . .

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Small potatoes

File this under Irony:(subhead)Wheels of Justice/Slow

The AJC has an initial feature story about Atlanta's former Mayor Bill Campbell who ran the city (into the ground) during the 90's. Campbell was the apex of Civil Rights era black politicians who ran for office on their history with the subtext of "get whitey". His City Hall was simply inefficient and inept but I remember him as the Mayor who single handedly shamed Atlanta by allowing the vendors to ruin Centennial Olympic Park during the Olympics in '96. It was also on his watch when a black owned politically connected Municipal bond brokerage house looted the City pension funds for millions.

The feature has a link to the federal indictments again Campbell and given the backdrop of K-Street and the Abramoff scandal it's almost laughably trivial.

Racketeering Acts 1-3: Campbell solicited more than $50,000 from computer contractors hoping for a deal to prepare the city's computers for Y2K.

Racketeering Acts 4&5: In 1996 while bidding for city contracts, Campbell gambling buddy Fred B.Prewitt arranged for a city construction contractor to fund the #9,581 installation of two heating and air-conditioning units at Campbell's Inman Park home and to pay Campbell $10,000 in cash.

How abolutely quaint.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Green eggs and ham?

Scientists in Taiwan say they have bred three pigs that glow in the dark. They claim that while other researchers have bred partly fluorescent pigs, theirs are the only pigs in the world which are green through and through. The pigs are transgenic, created by adding genetic material from jellyfish into a normal pig embryo. They are the only ones that are green from the inside out. Even their heart and internal organs are green, they say. In daylight the researchers say the pigs' eyes, teeth and trotters look green. Their skin has a greenish tinge. In the dark, shine a blue light on them and they glow torch-light bright. The scientists will use the transgenic pigs to study human disease. Because the pig's genetic material is green, it is easy to spot.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I duuno, this scares me. . .

USERS WILL will be able to install Microsoft Windows on their new MacInteltosh systems, but Apple will not offer a Mac running Windows.
According to Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, Job’s Mob will not sell or support Windows, however it has largely given up preventing people loading Windows onto the machines

Maybe it's good that WinTel users have no excuse now to try out a Mac and maybe it's testimoney to the Hacker community that Apple wouldn't waste time trying to stop them from running Windows on the Mac. Hopefully when users take the Pepsi Challenge, they'll see that the MacOS has so much less headaches. . .

Sunday, January 08, 2006

King Festus

I never knew this was a regular part of when the President signs a bill into law, but Festus has, of late, issued "signing statements" which seems to serve as a clarification as to how much he plans to be held by the bill he just signed. One such "signing statement" was offered attached to the Defense authorization bill signed Friday:

A number of provisions of the Act, including sections 905, 932, 1004, 1212, 1224, 1227, and 1304, call for the executive branch to furnish information to the Congress on various subjects. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.

Even a charitable reading of the above seems to suggest that Festus's will reserve the right to violate the provisions of the act he just signed. . .

Monday, January 02, 2006

Festus fatigue

Nothing surprises me anymore. Festus fights hard for the right to maintain an illegal surveillance program for several years when all he had to do to make the surveillance legal was to ask for it.

Festus speaks: This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America, and I repeat limited," Bush said before flying back to Washington after six days cloistered on his ranch in Crawford, Tex. "I think most Americans understand the need to find out what the enemy's thinking.
"If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."

The problem is that's all you'll know. Since the information is tainted it's unlikely permissible in court so you can't arrest the "terrorist."

Here we have a President with a fairly poor track record of competence who can't understand why we shouldn't just trust him to decide how far over the line of illegality the executive branch should wander. A failed Social Security reform, torture renditions, a failed Iraq reconstruction plus a level of Federal deficit that makes even Festus's own Treasury Secretary complain does not inspire me to trust that Festus's has any special claim that he knows what's best for domestic, foreign or economic policies.

The Pope is infallible, Festus, you're no Pope. . .