Posted on 06-10-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

A couple of articles today discuss the healthcare albatross crippling Mitt Romney’s presidential dreams (See here and here).  This blog discussed this issue months ago (See here and here).  Republicans still wax eloquently on repealing “Obamacare” and replacing it with their plan that barely expands access to health care.  They also still talk about barring insurance companies from discriminating for pre-existing conditions but do not specify how they will address the freeloader problem.  No wonder that the man from the party of no ideas who wants to be speaker admits that he has no solutions to offer.

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Posted on 06-10-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

This summer a scandal broke in Bell, California where city officials were discovered paying themselves ridiculously inflated salaries.  The greedy bastards paid themselves while cutting benefits for everybody else.  A number of these officials have now been arrested for the misappropriation of public funds.  As the video below indicates the officials now face difficulty posting bail because their assets are all deemed tainted.  Then there is the question of pensions owed for these salaries, which burden spreads to other cities in the state according to California law.

Which begs the question why are inflated CEO salaries any different?  At least one columnist has noted the similarities to the Bell city officials now being pilloried.  CEO salaries have exploded in the past 20 years as cartels (called compensation committees) have skewed the market for compensation.  American CEOs earn far more than their counterparts abroad.  When their incompetence can no longer be masked, they depart with golden parachutes.  It begs the question, particularly in a time of rising income inequality, why has the open misappropriation of corporate assets (a cause of action in its own right) been essentially legitimized?

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Posted on 06-10-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs, History) by Rashtrakut

For a man who made a top 10 list of the wealthiest figures in history and was the third and critical member of the First Triumvirate, Marcus Licinius Crassus at times seems almost a historical footnote.  A talented politician and a competent general, Crassus had the misfortune to share the stage with some of the titans of antiquity – his two partners in the triumvirate Pompey and Julius Caesar, the self-important Cicero and to a lesser extent the inflexible defender of patrician republican virtue Cato the younger.  He shows up in popular culture only when another Spartacus TV series or movie is made.  He was the man who defeated Spartacus, but even there Pompey stole his thunder by claiming that his small mopping up action actually ended the Third Servile War.  His inglorious death against the Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae ended the Triumvirate and started the Roman Republic on its slow march to civil war and replacement by the Empire.  He was noted in his time and beyond for his avarice.  He was once acquitted of the capital offense of seducing a Vestal Virgin, because the judges believed his protestations that he was only interested in acquiring her property for a low price.  In death he would suffer the ultimate indignity, when the Parthians poured molten gold down his corpse’s throat to mock his greed.

I bring up Crassus, because he would have looked at this story from Tennessee with some regret as a lost business opportunity.  Rome did not have a public firefighting force until the reign of Augustus.  Crassus was notorious for appearing on the scene of a burning building and buying it and the surrounding buildings for a significantly reduced price.

Which brings us to the unfortunate Mr. Cranick.  Obion County, Tennessee does not have a fire department but has outsourced it out to the city of South Fulton.  Since he did not live within city limits Mr. Cranick was required to pay $75 if he wanted the service.  This he did not do and must have rued this lapse as he watched his home (along with 3 dogs and cat) burn down.  Since he had not paid the requisite fee the fire department declined to show up on the scene until the fire spread to the property of a neighbor who had paid the fee.

Conservative commentators have applauded the fire department for sticking to a policy and sending a lesson to free loaders.  Liberal ones have been furious at the seeming callous manner the fire department watched the house burn down.  This begs the question, why are such critical services offered ala carte in the year 2010?

A fire emergency hardly seems to be the time to check if a fire bill was paid.  I assume Firefighting 101 calls for containing or eliminating a fire before it does more harm.  By failing to extinguish the fire on Mr. Cranick’s property it was allowed to spread to a neighbors property and could have spread out of control as some western states have discovered.  While this county has outsourced fire fighting to only one provider, if other fire fighting entities become involved additional logistical and ethical issues could arise.  Also, would the county have held rigid to its policy if an individual (as opposed to pets who are treated as chattel under the law) was trapped in the burning house?

These issues could have been avoided with a simple solution.  If the county does not have the resources to field independent fire departments and the work can be done by the fire departments maintained in its cities, wouldn’t it make more sense to outsource the work and collect the surcharge to pay for such services from property taxes?  This would avoid the free loading scenario and make sure that all houses in rural areas are protected.   In this scenario the tax increase would have been a mere 0.13 cents for each household.  This case also highlights why the Affordable Health Care Act included a mandate to avoid freeloaders from seeking insurance after they fell sick.

South Fulton appears to have made its point against free loading.  A relative of Mr. Cranick appears to have made his displeasure felt with his fists.  Now it is time for the county to revise a flawed policy to prevent a recurrence of such tragedies.

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Posted on 06-10-2010
Filed Under (Sports) by Rashtrakut

College football fans who do not attend the University of Tennessee or the Louisiana State University should enjoy the comedy of errors that ended the game below.  In terms of sheer ineptitude, it easily surpasses the infamous play that ended Stanford-Cal game of 1982.  Heartbroken UT fans must be convinced that LSU coach Les Miles has sold his soul to the devil.  Weary LSU fans tired of coach Miles has giving them ulcers from his repeated mishandling of end of game situations have a team that is 5-0 and could win 9-10 games this year.  Their administration faces a tough decision whether to Solich the mad hatter.  Enjoy:

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