New Year’s Eve Eve–Adieu, Saddam & Giving the Devil His Due

Quite a few newsworthy items today.  I thought about beginning a blog on MSNBC, so I could blog about specific news events, but even if I did, I doubt I would post to it as often as I do in here.

The big news today is the execution of Saddam Hussein.  I am unconditionally opposed to the death penalty (for anyone), but I will go so far as to say the world is a better place without him in it.  I wonder what the U.S. will do without a boogeyman to blame everything from 9/11 to El Nino on.  I streamed some execution pictures from MSNBC’s Website this morning, and I’m sure other people were overjoyed to see it–and disappointed that they didn’t show him dropping through the trap door.

The headlines in the newspapers and online all week went something like this: “Saddam’s execution hours away,” “Saddam to be executed by Eid,” etc.  I was half expecting them to do the “Ten!  Nine!  Eight!  Seven!” bit, like they do on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, with the trap being sprung, instead of the ball dropping.

An interesting juxtaposition: One of the excerpts from upcoming news shows was an interview with David Kaczynski, younger brother of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who had to make the very tough decision to report his brother to the FBI (a good thing, too.  If David Kaczynski hadn’t come forward, those Keystone Kops we call the FBI would never have caught the Unabomber).  He was speaking of the injustice of executing a person so obviously mentally ill, and calling for a moratorium on the death penalty throughout the U.S.  He is truly deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize.  (The full interview with David Kaczynski airs later on this afternoon, and I’ll probably not be home, so I’m taping it.)

Here’s where the “Giving the Devil his due” heading applies.  There was an article in today’s Columbus Dispatch about legislation that soon-to-be-ex-Governor Taft signed while he is in his last days at the State House.  One was a parity bill for mental health coverage, to be kept on par with physical health insurance coverage.  Below is the article from today’s paper.  (The Dispatch says it is “Ohio’s Greatest Online Newspaper,” which is roughly the equivalent of being the best snowboarder in Honolulu.)

Taft signs mental-health parity bill
Controversial measure ‘disappointing blow’ to small businesses, critics say
Saturday, December 30, 2006

Over the objections of some small businesses, Gov. Bob Taft yesterday signed a bill requiring health plans to offer the same treatment for mental illnesses as they do for physical ailments.

The bill was among the more controversial pieces of legislation passed this month, many of which still await the outgoing governor’s signature or veto. Taft has not weighed in on bills dealing with the minimum wage, predatory lending, red-light cameras and liability for cleaning up lead paint.

Taft, who leaves office Jan. 8, must sign or veto a glut of legislation that moved through the General Assembly before it adjourned Dec. 20.

In addition to the mentalhealth measure, Taft yesterday also signed 17 noncontroversial bills dealing with civil-service regulations, preventing bullying and harassment in schools and prohibiting parole officers from using private cars on the job, among other topics.

The mental-health parity bill was the most controversial of the measures Taft signed into law. Taft had resisted similar legislation two years ago, bowing to concerns from businesses that complained it would saddle them with additional costs.

Taft said yesterday that he expects such costs to be “minimal” and outweighed by the benefits of providing mentalhealth treatment to people who might otherwise end up homeless, hungry or imprisoned.

Some businesses “shifted their position to realizing that this could be an overall cost savings to society,” Taft said.

Still, the National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio yesterday expressed disappointment that Taft would sign an “unfair mandate.”

“He has dealt a disappointing blow to small-business owners who are already struggling to provide any level of coverage and who will now face yet another hurdle in their efforts to provide basic health-care benefits to their employees,” the federation’s Ohio leader, Ty Pine, said in a statement after the signing.

Mental-health advocates noted that thousands of Ohioans are missing out on needed treatment because it was not covered by their insurance plans.

“That’s what this bill is about: It gives people who may be depressed the ability to laugh,” said Rep. Robert F. Spada, R-North Royalton, its sponsor. “It gives the ability to have good days with proper care and treatment.” 

I guess late is better than never.  I’m sure this is a relief to many–mental illness is an expensive hobby, even with coverage.

I’m taking Susie swimming at the (indoor) pool at the Thompson Recreation Center.  It’s not a bad deal for $ .50.


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