Where the Republican Budget Really Came From

I’m feeling cranky.  I’ll spare you the extended list.  If you’ve read a few of my more recent posts, you’ll remember that life in hospital land has been stressful.  It ain’t over yet, unfortunately.

Granted, the whole country is cranky.  And irritable or irritating, depending on your perspective.

Gail Collins, NY Times columnist, in her column today, makes a compelling case that the Republicans have become even more irritating than the French, a feat that would seem to defy the very laws of Nature herself:

While the G-20 was finishing its business, members of Congress were showing how they did theirs by passing a budget resolution. The spending plan was somewhat smaller than the president had requested. The Senate also added the Republican priority of reducing taxes on people who inherit estates of $7 million or more – a move that would increase the deficit while stimulating the economy approximately as much as eliminating a sales tax on square potato chips.

But even so, not a single Republican voted yes on the budget. In the House, the G.O.P. came up with an alternative that would cut more taxes for the wealthy while clamping down on nondefense spending. House Republicans think we invest way too much on these government programs and try to cut back on them every single year that their party is not actually in power.

In the Senate, Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire predicted that the budget plan “will absolutely put this country on an unsustainable path.” This would be the same Judd Gregg who agreed to join the Obama cabinet as commerce secretary before a last-minute discovery that the president is a Democrat.

Actually, it’s no contest when you think about it. The French aren’t even in the ballpark.

(I’ve made my irritation with the former Veep very clear in a previous post.)

The Republicans are really cranky, after that whole election thing.  And, when it comes to the financial crisis, the budget, trillions of dollars of deficits, and the fact they have to cover-up and evade the the fact their  policies are responsible for a humongous part of it, they are in a tizzy of biblical proportions.

So, to counter the budget they disdain, despise, and dysphagiate (figure it out), they have concocted their own version.  Ta-da!  For us mere mortals, they have released an 18 page summary of the absolute best, paramount, pinnacle of Republican fiscal theory and solutions.  I read it.  You can read it here: “Road to Recovery.”

At least look at it.  That way you’ll understand my following comments.

I give it very high marks for:

  1. Expansive use of white space in a policy document
  2. The incomprehensible use of bubble pictures connected by lines
  3. Text in a font and use of Italics (!!) popular at the time of Abraham Lincoln
  4. No numbers, well, sort of.  The ones that just happen to be included are for the most part those nasty Democratic ones
  5. Exhibiting a level of hubris and claiming a doctrine of infallibility that exceeds the wildest dreams of the Papacy.

I could stop there, but, in my crankiness I wrote a short piece a couple of weeks ago that I titled, “A Long Time Ago in a Beltway Far, Far Away.”  It tells the tale of where the ideas for the Republican budget really came from.

A word of forewarning. This piece is a very edgy satire and in a style in which I usually do not write.  You can access it here: “A Long Time Ago…” (I apologize in advance to George Lucas.)

Fiat and Chrysler Merge??!! Will NASCAR run the Mille Miglia?

Header Photo: 1960 Fiat 1100B.  Notice the “suicide” front door handles.
One May Love Beer and the Other Wine, But, Oh, Do They Love Their Automobiles!

Americans May Love Beer and the Italians Wine, But, Oh, Do We Love Our Automobiles!

Holy MOPAR, Batman!  Fix It Again Tony!  If I had been asked to guess which international automaker the Obama administration would instruct Chrysler to join forces with to survive, perhaps to one day again be profitable, I wouldn’t have guessed the legendary Italian carmaker, FIAT (I use caps here, because, it originally was an acronym of  Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino: Italian Automobile Factory of Turin).  Fiat has been around for a long time, being founded in 1899.  Fiat has been always been known for its small cars, even though it does have a major truck division, along with with major farm implements, etc., etc.

Over the years, Fiat has produced some fine cars of note, even if they were only known in Europe.  They withdrew from the American market in 1983.  Between 1967 and 2008, Fiat was awarded European Car of the Year thirteen times.

Of those cars, I find the 2006 Alfa Romeo (Fiat’s sport division) very attractive.  Small, but well styled:

Alfa Romea 156 Selespeed, 2006 European Car of the Year

Alfa Romea 156 Selespeed, 2006 European Car of the Year

Once word of a Chrysler/Fiat merger hit the international media, this announcement, of course, or should we say thank the Stig, did not escape the notice of the guys at Top Gear:

With operations throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, Fiat has vast resources and small car expertise. The Fiat 500 is one of the hottest cars in Europe, winning European Car of the Year for 2008, and the company wants to bring the car to our shores; initial reports indicate that Fiat plans to retool existing American Chrysler plants and sell it here. We say “non vediamo l’ora” and bring us the Abarth!

Fiat 500 Abarth 2008

Fiat 500 Abarth 2008

The Abarth is a performance model of Fiat 500. The 1.4L engine with IHI RHF3-P turbocharger is rated 135 PS (133 hp/99 kW) at 5500 rpm and 180 N·m (133 lb·ft) (206 N·m (152 lb·ft) in sport mode) torque at 3000 rpm. It includes 5-speed C510 transmission, low ride suspension, dualdrive electric power steering with SPORT setting, 6.5 x 16” aluminium alloy rim with 195/45 R16 tyres, 4-wheel disc brakes (front ventilated). Interior includes turbo pressure gauge, Gear Shift Indicator, aluminium foot pedals, Blue&Me MAP with Telemetry monitoring and GPS system.  Source: Wikipedia

Okay, I look forward as much as the next gear-head to the Stig (some say that he secretly keeps a ’70 Plymouth Superbird under a tarp in his garage and that he made Jeremy promise to never call it “rubbish.”) blasting around the Top Gear track in a hot set of wheels with a Five-Point star stamped into the valve covers of it’s 5-Litre motor putting out 600 brake horsepower getting 35 miles per gallon.  Let’s just hope it does not, and I mean DOES NOT look like the Fiat 500 Abarth.

Now, it’s disclosure time.  I owned a Fiat.  Yep, Lorette and I bought a brand-spankin’ new 1979 Fiat 131 Brava while we lived in Fort Worth, Texas, my last year in seminary.  Two liter, twin overhead cam engine, five speed, and a snappy clutch.  I loved that car, especially because it replaced a 1974 Ford Pinto station wagon with “country squire” fake wood vinyl siding.  When you shifted from fifth to third, and put your foot in it, something actually happened “accelerationwise” with that pretty Fiat exhaust putter that sang all the way up to the redline.

Fiat Brava 1979 Ad

Fiat Brava 1979 Ad

The ad above was a cleverly disguised code that only the likes of Ralph Nader and Joan Claybrook believed during the dark years of the 55 MPH national speed limit.  Relaxed?  In third gear, the engine wasn’t even breathing hard when it blasted through 55.  Fourth redlined something over 80.  Relaxed, my….

Yeah, baby.  Here’s what my Brava looked like, with the “champaign” paint job:

Fiat Brava 4D 1980

Fiat Brava 4D 1980

The only difference I can discern, between my ’79 and this 1980, is the wheels.  If I actually can dig out a picture of my Brava, I’ll replace this one.  It’ll be like old times.  Replacing part after part after part, like the time the distributor cap cracked in Tillamook, Oregon on a trip with several other ministers to check out a site for a church camp.  On a Friday afternoon…but that’s another story.

Anyway, in the real world, only time will tell if this is a match made in heaven or if our esteemed colleagues in the White House should have chosen BMW, Audi, or even, believe it or not, Hyundai.  I’d love to see Chrysler survive (not to diss Ford or Toyota, by any means).  I just hate to have to watch those snooty Chevy commercials every time one of their cars wins a NASCAR race.

By the way, 30 years later I still like cars with names that are acronyms:

Vorsprung durch Teknik  audi-rings-wet-copy


Amputating the Soul

This post has been redacted and censored to comply with my employer’s Social Media Policy as of Nov. 1, 2010.  All references to my place of work and the system it is part of, as well as photos have been removed.  This action appears to be only recourse I have to preserve my Constitutional rights to free speech and the free expression of my views on Extreme Thinkover.

A letter I sent to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and advocate for universal health care.  His health care plan is available by clicking on the header “Call to Action” above.

Dear Sen. Baucus,

This week the Clinical Pastoral Education Center at Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy fell victim to the economic recession.  CPE centers nationwide, accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) are the training sites for chaplains for hospitals, the military, prisons, hospices, and other institutions.  ACPE certification (which includes the Association of Professional Chaplains, National Association of Catholic Chaplains, National Association of Jewish Chaplains, as well) is almost universally required for employment for these important ministries.

ACPE accreditation is not easy to get.  In fact, the state of Montana does not have a certified CPE training site at this time.

I was part of the team beginning in 2001 that worked for over two years to get Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy accepted as a CPE training site.  We began our program six years ago.  The first two years we were on probation, but were then granted full accreditation in 2005.

Our center quickly became recognized as the new place to train.  The past two years we have been able to be selective, turning away more applicants than our program could handle (which is six students per unit), and even had international students work in the program.  We had applicants already applying for the 2010-2011 school year.

On Monday (March 9) our administration announced, along with other major cuts, that the CPE program would be eliminated.  As of now, our budgetary shortfall stands at $17-20 million for FY09.  Our uncompensated care last year (FY08) was $66 million.  We are over $1.4 million ahead of that pace as of the end of February.

Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy. County’s unemployment rate hit 12% this month (Monaco RV was one of our major industries).  South of us, Douglas County is reportedly pushing 16% unemployment.  Tens of thousands of newly unemployed people no longer have any health insurance.  Only a tiny fraction will have the resources to afford COBRA.

Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy in southwest Oregon south to the California border are making huge cuts in staff and programs. (Portland’s situation is somewhat better, but deteriorating, e.g. Oregon Health and Sciences University is making draconian cuts to survive).

Every day, hundreds of newly unemployed, now newly uninsured Oregonians face the frightening reality of trying to access America’s terminally ill health care “system.”  Just like Montana.  Just like, well, everywhere in America.

They’ll come to us.  We’ll treat them.  Everyone who comes through our door.  But what will our uncompensated care come to this year?  $80 million?  $100 million?

And as for CPE?  Well, Medicare classifies it as “overhead.”  That’s good news, in one respect, because Medicare reimburses the hospital for each Chaplain intern based on the percentage of Medicare patients we treat as in-patients, which in our case was about 40%.  But it wasn’t enough.  We are losing three staff members, as well as the six students that worked daily with us ministering to patients on their assigned medical units.

But, when hospitals face making the most painful cuts, programs like CPE are vulnerable.  The unintended consequences are placed on the furthest burner back.  We are at war.  One of our staff chaplains just went back on to active duty.  We not only cannot replace him, we cannot train someone who might replace him.  There is a tipping point here.  Here at Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy we just crossed it.  We aren’t the first hospital to face that, nor will we be the last.

Let me share something about what hospital chaplains do.  We don’t wander about the halls patting hands and saying little prayers.  We step into the shadows with our patients, those places of their darkest fears, the thin fabric of their lives, where the veil between life and death is almost transparent.  And when that veil tears, we stand in that darkness holding a light.  A light for the dying so they know they are not alone.  A light for the living to guide them on the new path they must walk.  That is spiritual care.

Calling.  Passion.  Training.  This is what chaplains are in the hospitals, the armed forces, the prisons, hospices.

And now there is one less place to train.

I remember learning in school that justice delayed is justice denied.  I now believe, too, the right to health care delayed or barred by preconditions is the right to health care denied.

Please, Senator.  We need your health care plan.  Now.

Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy
–CPE: Our Light Diminished.

This Photo is dedicated to all the staff and students who made Clinical Pastoral Education at Sacred Heart Medical Center the truest part of our mission of healing and compassionate care.  Our Light is diminished. May the Divine brighten yours!

This Photo is dedicated to all the staff and students who made Clinical Pastoral Education at Censored by Corporate Social Media Policy the truest part of our mission of healing and compassionate care. Our Light is diminished. May the Divine brighten yours!