Monday, November 30, 2009

Paying for War

Bruce Barlett tolls the bell for honesty when accessing the cost of war.  He writes "In recent years, Republicans have been characterized by two principal positions: They like starting wars and don't like paying for them. George W. Bush initiated two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but adamantly refused to pay for either of them by cutting non-military spending or raising taxes. Indeed, at his behest, Congress actually cut taxes (during war time) and established a massive new entitlement program, Medicare Part D.

Bush's actions were unprecedented. During every previous major war in American history, presidents demanded sacrifices from rich and poor alike. As Robert Hormats explains in his 2007 book, The Price of Liberty: Paying for America's Wars, "During most of America's wars, parochial desires--such as tax breaks for favored groups or generous spending for influential constituencies--have been sacrificed to the greater good. The president and both parties in Congress have come together … to cut nonessential spending and increase taxes."
He adds, "Bush and his party, which controlled Congress from 2001 to 2006, never asked for sacrifices from anyone except those in our nation's military and their families. I think that's because the Republicans understood, implicitly, that the American people's support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has always been paper thin. Asking them to sacrifice through higher taxes, domestic spending cuts or reinstatement of the draft would surely have led to massive protests akin to those during the Vietnam era or to political defeat in 2004. George W. Bush knew well that when his father raised taxes in 1990 in part to pay for the first Gulf War, it played a major role in his 1992 electoral defeat."
After the break, read about a new approach proposed by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) which is amazingly simplistic and which would force each Congressperson  to declare how they would continue to fund the wars in an open way, and not increase the federal defecit by asking for sacrifice from the American people.

Thought of the Day

Regarding the infamous gatechrashers at last week's presidential state dinner at the White House: "In the end, the poet who came to Thanksgiving dinner said it best, as poets often do: 'We have reached the end of shame in our culture.' Whereas the possibility of being publicly humiliated went a long way to check people's bad impulses back in the day, now the more outlandish a person's behavior, the bigger celebrity he or she has the chance of becoming."

Narcissistic scumbags.  Their stunt proves that you can be multi-millionaires laden with debt coming out of your ass and still find your picture in the dictionary under morally bankrupt and broke, and socially inept.  Cause a few secret service agents who put their life on the line every day to lose their careers, did ya'?

The Case for Big Government

Jeff Madrick's The Case for Big Government takes a differing view than Ronald Reagan's 1981 assertion that "Government is the the solution to our problem; Government is the problem."  The book takes a long look at our governmental economic history.  He addresses one of the points we have been debating on this blog, that among rich nations there really haven't been any small governments for nearly a century.  For a little perspective  read the book review by Richard Parker in the New York Review of Books.
David Kuznet of The New York Times writes "As the political analysts Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril pointed out years ago, Americans tend to be “ideologically conservative and operationally liberal.” Many of the most informative and intellectually challenging sections of this book explore how public investments advanced the American dream of a self-reliant citizenry so effectively that most Americans are unaware of the accomplishments of activist government."

How did the wealthiest nation in history come to believe it is not wealthy?...

"America has no free and high-quality day care or pre-K institutions to nourish and comfort two-worker families.... College has become far more expensive and attendance is now bifurcated by class.... Transportation infrastructure has been notoriously neglected, is decaying, and has not been adequately modernized to meet energy-efficient standards or global competition. America has not responded to a new world of high energy costs and global warming in general. America has a health care system that is simply out of control, providing on balance inadequate quality at very high prices.... The financial system, progressively deregulated since the 1970s, broke free of government oversight entirely in the 1990s and early 2000s and speculation reminiscent of the 1800s was the result with potentially equal levels of damage.... These facts amount to about as conclusive a proof as history ever provides that the ideology applied in this generation has failed."
"The book's largest flaw is that it is not as careful and clear-eyed politically as it is economically. The Case for Big Government usefully takes aim at the ideological consensus that emerged among many academics, journalists, policy advisers, and politicians in both parties. But it devotes little attention to the rise of religious fundamentalism that coincided with America's industrial decline, and how the departure from the Democratic Party by millions of white Southern evangelicals and Northern, mostly Catholic, industrial workers—twin pillars of the New Deal—contributed to the world we face today. In many ways this shift may have been more consequential to the spread of "small government" ideology than the intellectual realignment of academics, journalists, policy advisers, and politicians."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Obama Tightens Federal Lobbyist Rules

Good news.
Huffington Post's Lobby Blog reports that President Obama's special counsel for ethics and government reform Norm Eisen announced that the administration no longer wanted federally-registered lobbyists appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions.

"These appointees to boards and commissions, which are made by agencies and not the President, advise the federal government on a variety of policy areas. Keeping these advisory boards free of individuals who currently are registered federal lobbyists represents a dramatic change in the way business is done in Washington.
As has been reported, the President has made a commitment to close the revolving door that has in the past allowed lobbyists and others to move to and from full-time federal government service. In furtherance of this commitment, the President issued Executive Order 13490, which bars anyone appointed by the President who has been a federally-registered lobbyist within the past two years from working on particular matters or in the specific areas in which they lobbied or from serving in agencies they had lobbied. The aspiration we are announcing today builds on this commitment. While the letter of the President's Executive Order on Ethics does not apply to federally-registered lobbyists appointed by agency or department heads, the spirit does and we have conveyed that to the agencies who are responsible for these appointments."
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the move "may turn out to be the most far-reaching lobbying rule change so far from President Obama," resulting in "hundreds, if not thousands, of lobbyists" being ejected from federal advisory panels.  Not surprisingly, lobby groups, corporations, and other K Street influencers are up in arms
Sixchair writes ""This action will severely undermine the utility of the advisory committee process," Haha. Bad for you good for US."
I think it's a step in the right direction.  One of his campagin promises was to lessen the influence of lobbyists in his administration.  He broke that promise with a couple of appointees at the beginning.  Some rules and usually following them is better than no rules to ever follow. 

Nurse, Can You Save us All?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Weaken the Filibuster Threshold to 55

Both parties do it equally? Ah, No.
Grayson Filibuster Petition: Change Threshold To 55: "Since the Democrats regained control of the Senate, Republicans have abused the filibuster rule like never before. Until 1970, no session of Congress had more than ten votes on cloture to end a filibuster. Until 2007, the record was 58. But since Democrats regained control of the Senate, filibusters have skyrocketed. The last session had a new record of 112.

The filibuster does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. If the Founding Fathers had wanted it, they would have included it. Instead, this undemocratic rule allows small-state Senators representing as little as 11 percent of the country to thwart the will of the other 89 percent. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes needed to end a filibuster from 67 to 60. Now, with the Party of No blocking majority rule on virtually everything the country needs, we need to do it again."

Shopping for Coconut

Shopping for the family Thanksgiving dinner at the local Shop-Rite I went.
Searching for the grated coconut I was.
Along came a lady.
She Acted Kind of Shady.
And all I could do was shake my head.

See, I told you I couldn't write poetry!

True story, I was perusing down the isle looking for coconut when this nice old lady starts talking to herself.  She was blabbering something about, Oh, the Humanity, It's tough in here.  I looked at her and said, "You know, you're right.  There's a lot of people shoving and pushing on this day before, don't feel bad, it's not only you."
She then said "It's all this socialist stuff...we're all turning socialist, you know what I mean?
I said "NO???"

A really sad and silly personal account at the local supermarket.  What has the media and right-wing conservatives done to this grand ole' country of ours?

Some Real Financial Reform Gaining Momentum?

Noam Scheiber at The New Republic writes
Something strange and a little disorienting is happening in the fight to reform Wall Street: It looks like the reformers are actually starting to win.

If you want to learn more about derivatives and how they work, read the article. 
Barney Frank just weeks ago, was having to weaken a reform bill tightening the loopholes in the derivatives market because of light political support.  Enter Obama appointed Chairman Gary Gensler of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who added support for making Franks "weakened reform bill", stronger.  He pointed out that polls show Americans are on the side for strong reform and producing a lesser bill to accomodate a broader range of Congressmen's votes could have consequences at the polls in selected districts.
Scheiber states there is agreement that when the bill comes to the floor of the House in mid-December, a strong version will pass.  So now, you think we have a win.  Got something done in Congress.  But wait, Don't forget the Senate:
"As with most legislation, the real fight now appears to be in the Senate. Throughout much of the summer and fall, the banks approached the House as though they were playing with, well, house money: A big exemption would almost certainly survive the Senate, but a tough bill could be softened up there. That logic may still apply. But the Senate calculus has recently been scrambled. Two weeks ago, Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd unveiled his own regulatory proposal, including a derivatives measure tougher than anything the House has discussed. Even Dodd himself doesn’t expect it to pass whole cloth. “He’s put his ideal bill out there,” says a Banking Committee staffer. But, if nothing else, it shifts the debate’s center of gravity further to the left and makes a tough reform package more likely."
Here's hoping we win one for the good guys (us) this time, over wall street greed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Preachers That Give Religion a Bad Name

One of the reasons I have for my distrust and sometimes disgust of some main stream American religions?  Too many devil preachers.  Those that celebrate the death penalty and hate the taliban and al qaeda, yet act like terrorists themselves.  It seems we have always had these kind of nutjobs from the religious preachers burning witches on the stake during the Salem Witch Trials, up to now.  But we don't have to like them and they should be exposed for what they are, or are not - spokesmen for Jesus.
Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., issued a press release Nov. 19 calling for an end to "imprecatory prayer" -- words of judgment from the Book of Psalms prayed back to God, directed toward Obama.
Drake attributed his change of heart to "spiritual counsel" of James David Manning, pastor at ATLAH World Missionary Church in New York, contained in a 16 1/2-minute video recorded Nov. 18.

"I have asked men everywhere please do you no harm," Manning said in remarks he addressed to "Barack Hussein the long-legged mack daddy Obama." According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, "mack daddy" is slang for a slick womanizer or conspicuously successful pimp.
"I do not want to see anyone attempt, dream about, think about or ever discuss assassinating you," Manning continued. "It is most important to you and to my savior Jesus that you live, and that you live a long life, but that you live that we might be able to bring you to trial. You see if someone does you harm, and you are not able to be brought to trial, then we lose the opportunity of proving our statements that you are not the president of the United States of America. You are not. You are an illegal alien, a usurper."
Manning preached a series of harsh sermons last year against then-candidate Obama that prompted Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to ask the IRS to investigate him for violating rules governing tax-exempt charities against electioneering. He says he was visited by officials from the Department of Homeland Security after a recent video message in which he advised people who strongly oppose Obama to "be ready to die."
Drake, who was second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006-2007, said he was also questioned in his home by the Secret Service after he said in a Fox News Radio interview June 2 with Alan Colmes that he was praying for Obama to die."

The Southern Baptist Convention, of which Rev. Wiley Drake was a very recent Vice-President is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the US.  with over 16 million members and over 42,000 churches.
Story at Associated Baptist Press

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mass Murder? An Epidemic in Today's Society

A few years ago, maybe 10, I don't know, I was living in Boston when I heard of a school shooting either inside or outside a jewish school where people were killed with a rifle.  I think Columbine had already happened.  I remember thinking "Wow, our country just goes from one tragedy to another, and nobody seems to blink."  The sense of shock was because growing up, we never had stories like this, or if we did, they were years and years apart.  Today, it seems as if every other day there is a madman who goes out and kills innocent people for one crazy cause, or another.  Nobody does anything about it.  Nobody reports the fact that these crimes are henious and unacceptable.  The fact is, our society has somehow been led to believe that these crimes are acceptable and just part of living in everyday society.
Lee Seigel has a piece in The Daily Beast:
"No prosperous country not riven by civil conflict has anything like our volume of mass killings. And yet for all of the fascination with mass murder in the media, in Hollywood—and among us—no politician will do more than pay lip service in condemning it. No journalist will crusade against it."
My response?  Politicians and journalists are publicity mongering WHORES.  I have low regard for the politicians who accept it and even lower regard for the main street media WHOREY WHORES who put all this shit on television for day after day without mentioning that it is wrong.  But in general, that is the problem with media, they take no sides in saying what is right and what is wrong, except for dare I say it, Fox News.

Nobody does a damn thing to try to stop it. Conservatives don’t want to make an issue of mass murder because then they would be confronted with the fact that nearly all of the massacres are committed by people using guns. Liberals don’t want to cry out about it because then they would have to address the fact that the violence of our entertainment—TV, movies, videogames, our proliferating apps—makes killing seem like just another strategy for coping with reality.
Our country is sick.  It needs health care.  How much will the insurance companies charge to cover an entire nation?

A Different Point of View

Roger Pilon

Vice President for Legal Affairs, Cato Institute :

"As Winston Churchill understood, democracy is messy (and, as in his case, sometimes ungrateful). Glenn Beck is no William F. Buckley Jr. But then, "Joe the Plumber" probably never read National Review, which like most other journals of "high opinion" was never self-sustaining. Liberals today, their noses in the air Obama style, look across America from the vantage of the famous New Yorker cover and see pitchfork brigades, forgetting that those who fill the brigades generally love America, which is more than can be said of some of the baggage that has surrounded Obama.
There is a problem in the Republican Party, to be sure. Nominally the party of limited constitutional government, it recently gave us two presidents from the same family -- one standing for a "kinder and gentler" government, the other for "compassionate conservatism" -- plus a career Senate nominee for president, none of whom ever really understood the party's core principles, much less nourished them as they must be nourished from generation to generation. As a result, the party has been hollowed out intellectually and spiritually, and into that vacuum, which nature abhors, has poured an assortment of people, most from outside the party.
The struggle in democracies between intellectual rigor and populism is as old as that between Socrates and the sophists. We all know the dangers of populist demagoguery. But there is also great danger in rule by élites, which are hardly immune from demagogy and outright fraud (witness the "accounting" in the current healthcare debate). Achieving that balance is often difficult and messy. But I for one am encouraged by this populist movement to reform the Republican Party. I know, for example, that at the Orlando rally The New York Times referenced this past Saturday, people passed out copies of the Cato Institute's pocket Constitution, which includes the Declaration of Independence and my preface relating the two documents with respect to their underlying principles. The people who attended the April 15 tea parties and the September 12 march on Washington were ordinary Americans who understand that something is fundamentally wrong, constitutionally, with the direction the country has taken over the past two decades, at least. They see the Republican Party, in our two-party system, as the more likely institution for changing that, but not as the party is presently constituted. Still, there are people within the party who give hope and are ready to take over. Populists working outside the party, together with those of us who do "politics" (broadly understood) for a living, may just be the spark that enables that to happen."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Religious Leaders Warn of Civil Disobedience

Fine, as well they should stand against what they feel is wrong.  But will they be consistent and decry and protest the ultimate anti-life act - the death penalty?
"Signers of the Declaration pledge to "...not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act,” nor will signers “bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships” or “treat them as marriages.” The list of backers reads like a who’s who of the pro-life movement, and the document essentially argues that supporters of the movement deserve conscience rights."
Read the Newsweek story.

Science in Pictures

Outerword Beauty!

Photo 1.  Cartwheel Galaxy
Photo 2.  A Galaxy Quintet
Photo 3.  Arp 118
Photo 4.  ESO 593-B

Photos courtsey of NASA

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cut Off Congressional Cheats

William Jefferson, Democratic Congressman from Louisiana, was found with $85,000 cold-hard cash in his freezer.  In an August trial the government charged him with bribery, and  was found guilty by a jury of his peers.  On November 13th he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, the longest stint ever for a Congressman who committed this crime.  The court also ordered him to repay the $470,000 he was estimated to have received in bribe money.  I'm glad he got the sentence and repay that he got, although I think that our elected officials should be held to a higher standard by fact that they control so much of taxpayers money, and that maybe he should have  another 5 years tacked on to his sentence just for good measure.
What is appalling is that under the rules Mr. Jefferson will still be allowed to collect his congressional pension and benefits, estimated to be about $60,000, after having served.  I suspect that these kinds of rules apply not only to national offices but to state and local governments as well.  It is shocking to think that we should continue to pay retirement for people who have violated the public trust, at any level.  It's just another example of wasteful government spending.
How hard would it be to change the laws to say that once convicted of a certain crime, our leaders should forfeit any further compensation?  What lawmakers would vote against a change in these rules?  A few, I suspect, for reasons that I cannot imagine.  I say, commit the crime, do the time, but don't expect anything more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sullivan Deconstructing Sarah

Andrew Sullivan on Palin's Going Rogue:
"In this, the book is emblematic of late degenerate Republicanism, which is based not on actual policies, but on slogans now so exhausted by over-use they retain no real meaning: free enterprise is great, God loves us all, America is fabulous, foreigners are suspect, we need to be tough, we can't dither, we must always cut taxes, government is bad, liberals are socialists, the media hates you, etc etc."
Yeah, that sounds about right.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Russell Bishop: What Do You Want Out Of Life, Really?

Russell Bishop writes - "One day, on a protest line, I wound up getting hit by a tear gas canister. As I picked it up and started to throw it back, I suddenly, and inexplicably, found myself looking back at myself, as though I were a spectator to my own activity. And then I heard myself screaming, 'why don't you a**holes love us?'
At that moment, life began changing in profound and meaningful ways. As wave after wave of awareness broke over me, I saw the contradiction of my life to that point: my message was love and peace, and my strategy was to yell, scream and throw things."

I think it would do us all good to reconsider what we really want out of life and what we truly care about, and the means by which we will use to get to that point. Lead by example and follow your TRUE convictions.  Here's hoping we all have that moment of clarity and self-awareness that Russell did.

Poem of the Day

John Lundberg: Newsweek Ed's Poem Skewers Lou Dobbs:
"So wily Lou has picked the locks
That kept him in his padded box
And tiptoed off, in just his socks.
Or should we say, weighed anchor?

So now we wonder where he docks
To whom he'll lead his rabid flocks:
The Pop that loves his famous Vox
And adores his rancor.

A network just for frat-boy jocks?
Where aliens are put in stocks
And viewers pelt them with big rocks
Before each half-time show?

Could it be UPN, or Cox?
They'd have to open up Fort Knox
We know Lou's crazy, like a Fox.
I'd really love to know."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Party on the Verge of Destruction

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.  After supporting a conservative third party candidate and helping the Democrats elect the first Congressman from the 23rd District in over 100 years in NY, they're at it again.  As a Republican, if you talk to, much less work with the Democrats, your seat may be ripe for a hostile take-over from the right.
Conservative Bob Bennett from Utah is the latest Senator to get the treatment from the ultra-conservatives in his party.  The Club for Growth, cites Bennett's extended time in Washington and criticize his willingness to work with Democrats on issues such as healthcare reform and the Wall Street rescue approved amid last year's financial crisis (as their reason for wanting him out).
"One side feels the Republican Party has lost its way and sacrificed its basic principles," said Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "The other thinks the party has moved too far right and become inflexible and intolerant."
I think they may implode on each other.  Which side will win, and which will lose?  Don't know.  Right now, moneys on the ultra conservs.
But like I said, It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shame on MSNBC

Ashleigh Banfield is joining ABC after waiting months for MSNBC to let her out.  Read the story.
"I'm a journalist and I like to be able to tell the story as I see it, and I hate it when someone tells me I'm one-sided. It's the worst I can hear. Fox has taken so many viewers away from CNN and MSNBC because of their agenda and because of their targeting the market of cable news viewership, that I'm afraid there's not a really big place in cable for news. Cable is for entertainment, as it's turning out, but not news.

I'm hoping that I will have a future in news in cable, but not the way some cable news operators wrap themselves in the American flag and patriotism and go after a certain target demographic, which is very lucrative. You can already see the effects, you can already see the big hires on other networks, right wing hires to chase after this effect, and you can already see that flag waving in the corners of those cable news stations where they have exciting American music to go along with their war coverage."

My Reply to a Dear Reader

Sorry to say, I think many good, regular Americans have been hood-winked by the right. I'm not debating the tea baggers here. I cannot imagine the outrage that middle-class Americans have over the health care issue, yet continue to think it's OK for the health care industry to get rich on their dime, denying people coverage, refusing treatment (real day death squads), and basically in my judgement, just shafting the middle class. You guys hear Glenn Beck talk about taxes, blah, blah, blah, and say "Yeah, I don't want my taxes to go for socialized medicine", yet still think it's OK for corporations to shaft you.

It's really evident in the banking/insurance crisis. WHERES THE OUTRAGE? Why don't the tea baggers protest bankers and insurance companies that are propped up with favorable laws and tax breaks? They don't, because they don't know, or don't understand. What they have done is no less than welfare for the banks. You want to cut welfare rolls? Start with the corportations that pay ZERO, NO, NADA TAXES. Where's the outrage?
It's all backwards. There should be an uprising in this country so strong that every middle-class American could support against what has happened to our money, yet nobody even thinks of this because we are led to believe that socialists like President Obama want to take their/our money to pay for health care for the poor. It's astounding. Remember the French Revolution. "Off with their heads", that is the kind of outrage that I think we should be going through.

The middle class is totally manipulated by the media. I don't mean just Fox, but the main stream media as well. About ten years back there was a book called "What's the matter with Kansas" in which the authors chronicled the middle-class and poor people of Kansas voting AGAINST their self interests time and again because of the religious right and the media.

These are things I truly believe.

I would urge anyone to read the book and consider what has happened in the last 30 years in this country.

Don't call me socialist. Don't call me unpatriotic because I don't support an idiot President's war, and don't call me unAmerican, because I love my country, and the constitution as much or more as anybody.

Kids Acting Like Adults?

Eric Cartman channeling Glenn Beck.  Funny! Funny!

Senator Dorgan Got It Right; Did We Listen?

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is a smart senator.  Ten years ago he predicted that making changes in the law to allow banks, insurance companies, and other financial instututions to compete with each other and play in the other's fields, would be a problem.  At that time, he said he was afraid that in ten years time we would come to regret this (the changes in the law).  Boy was he right. 
Today, look at AIG, Goldman Sachs, and the large financial institutions that got us into what some call "the worst recession since the depression", by blurring the line between banking, selling stocks and derivatives, and insurance.  Every grade-school child knows today's economy is a mess.
What's disturbing is that almost a year after the bail-out of these "too big to fail" corporations, the public has no confidence in what we did, not sure anything's working, and many think we should have just let those mega-corporations fail.  What's more, is that Senator Dorgan, one year ago this month, correctly questioned whether spending all that tax payer money was the right thing to do.
Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. - Winston Churchill 
I think we should listen to him next time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tea Baggers to Graham: Don't Talk to Dems

On Monday, the Charleston County Republican Party’s executive committee “took the unusual step” of officially censuring Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The local GOP committee admonished Graham for stepping across party lines to work with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) on a bipartisan clean energy bill and other pieces of legislation. The censure stated that Graham’s “bipartisanship continues to weaken the Republican brand and tarnish the ideals of freedom.”

For those who say the democrats don't work with republicans, remember the line above from South Carolina, but I believe from many, many in the Republican party in general:
BIPARTISANSHIP (with Democrats) continues to weaken the Republican brand and TARNISH THE IDEALS OF FREEDOM!
This is typical of one party saying that no matter what the other party says, no matter what the other does, we will not talk to you, we will not work with you ON ANYTHING! You hurt our brand.
The piece goes on further to say:
"Will Graham be able to stand up to the angry backlash being cultivated by far right voices and entrenched corporations interests? At a Graham town hall in Greenville last month, activist Harry Kimball of “RINO HUNT” protested by constructing a display that portrayed Graham, as well as other GOP moderates, being flushed down a toilet:KIMBALL: This is for every RINO who has failed to represent us. [...] [the toilet represents] flushing them, flushing them."
Lindsey Graham is a conservative Senator from South Carolina with a little conscience, who sometimes works with the other side to get things done. It cracks me up when they call him a RINO. He has proven his political hackery solidarity with his party. Remember, Graham was the lead Republican lawyer representing their side in the Senate in trying to bring the last Democratic President down in the impeachment hearings of President Clinton.

One readers comment on that piece: So now GRAHAM isn’t ‘Pure’ enough? Dear Lord. Is that Hell I hear freezing over? These people are truly insane. But hey, if they want to eat their own, who I’m I to stop them?

Please read the piece at Think Progress.

I believe the American people are best served by a robust, honest debate between two (or more) strong political parties.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Patriots vs Colts Sunday Night

According to ESPN, the Colts have been great in down-field, passing plays.  If you take away the Pat's victory against the Titans, their down field passing plays are not up to par.  The solution?  Run Randy Moss down-field  freeing up Tom Brady to make a lot of quick short 10 yard pick-ups.  (But isn't that they have already been doing?)
According to a poll "Who will win the Colts/Pats game this Sunday?", 30,000 on-line voters rated it a statistical dead-heat at 50%-50%.
It's gonna be a heck of a game.  My prediction?  Pats over Colts 27-23.
Oh yeah, here's one more thing the Pats need to do, borrowing a pic from a 9-9-04 game featuring Willie McGinest over Peyton Manning.  Sack the quarterback!

Time to Re-Think the Drug Battle

As a follow-up to my previous post regarding the legalization of marijuana, Johann Hari at the Huffington Post makes the best case I have ever read since my advocation for the legalization of drugs back in 1988; Face the Facts--And End the War on Drugs.
He points out that the drug war hands one of our biggest industries to armed criminal gangs; that under prohibition, drug use becomes more hardcore, and that the drug war doesn't reduce drug use.
His bottom line:
"So the drug war doesn’t achieve its goal of reducing addiction. All it does achieve is horrific gang violence – and in some cases the cartels gut whole countries like Mexico and Afghanistan. It does unwittingly press people into using harder and more dangerous drugs. And it does waste tens of billions of dollars that could really reduce drug addiction, by spending it on treatment for addicts.

The prohibitionists are therefore left a contradiction between their message and the facts. They can either change their message, or try to suppress the facts. Last week, the British government made its choice. But how long will this be tenable for them or the wider world? The prohibitionists are – from the best intentions and the highest motives – unleashing a catastrophe. Human beings have been finding ways to get stoned or high since we lived in caves. In our attempt to end this natural impulse, we have created a problem worse than drug use itself.
There is another way. Imagine a country with no drug dealers killing to protect their patch or terrorizing whole estates. Imagine a country where burglary fell by 60 percent. Imagine an America where we spent all these billions treating addicts as ill people who need our help, not hunting them down as criminals who need punishment. We can be that country. We just have to come down from chasing the dragon of a drug-free world – and start looking soberly at the facts."
Strongly recommended reading for anyone interested in the subject.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Members of Congress Won't Read the Health Care Bill or any other Bill

For those of you who wonder why members of congress don't read bills before they vote on them, and the way they are written.  An interesting post from Bruce Barlett,noted conservative economist who served Ronald Reagan, GHW Bush, and consulted with the Bush II White House on "Why Reading the Health Care Bill is a Waste."  (Click the link)

"...Reading an actual bill is a completely useless exercise for the vast majority of members of Congress and staff."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Legalize Weed? Breckenridge, CO Legalizes Marijuana

I'm a little late on this one, but better late than never.  I admit it, I think we should legalize pot.  I think if you want to smoke the dried, ground up buds of this weed, you should have the right.  If, after a hard day's work you decide that marijuana, not a martini is right for you, then go for it.  Like alcohol and tobacco, it should be manufactured, taxed, and regulated.  I think you should be able to buy it in a store similar to today's liquor or state stores.  Although people should be allowed to grow a few plants of their own, I think with legalization, most people would buy their weed in stores through a trusted purveyor where quality control, tHc level, even price, were known quantities.
When taking any drug, you should know you are making a choice.  Is it ever a good thing to introduce into your body a foreign substance that changes it phisiologically just for the reason of a heightened, or lowered sense of awareness?  I think not.  Is it a good thing that every once in a while you kick up your feet, socialize with friends, and smoke a joint?  I think so.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Further Thoughts on Medicare

From way back when, I proposed a "medicare for all" type program for health care reform. Many people have said that medicare spends too much money and the government-run agency is in the red.  How could I possibly advocate adding to the deficit and rewarding the bureacracy and high costs that medicare pays for services?  I often reply that private insurance costs and profits total about 30% and that medicare with all it's administrative costs total about 6-7%.

I read an article today entitled Congress often blocks Medicare changes that would cut costs McClatchy:
In it, they point out that it is often congress and the health care industry itself that seems to be averse to any money-saving ideas.
"Consider the case of a 1990s pilot project that earned the support of a president, several key legislators and successive Medicare leaders from BOTH PARTIES. A five-year test showed that lumping together payments for doctors and hospitals for some heart surgeries encouraged them to be more efficient and reduced Medicare's cost by 10 percent. The project ran into relentless opposition from doctors and hospitals, however. The result: Congress has never approved the change for widespread Medicare use, and Medicare continues to study the issue."

Medicare has conducted hundreds of tests, called pilots or demonstration projects, since the mid-1970s, but it can't apply them to the entire system without congressional approval. Lawmakers have made other important changes to Medicare, but pilot projects rarely have been the catalyst.

Still, in the overhaul legislation that's working its way through Congress, lawmakers have added provisions that they hope can improve the odds for implementing successful demonstrations. One measure seeks to circumvent the difficulties of getting congressional approval for changes. It would give the secretary of health and human services the authority to expand demonstrations that work; Congress' permission wouldn't be needed.

Another would create an "innovation center" that would allow Medicare to pursue promising ideas more quickly. Yet another would set up an independent commission to recommend savings that would be implemented if Congress didn't act.

In 1997, Congress instructed Medicare to test a plan under which suppliers of durable medical equipment — oxygen tanks, diabetes supplies and wheelchairs — would submit bids. Medicare would use the bids to generate a range of prices that it would pay and would require suppliers who wished to sell to its patients to meet those prices. After the demonstration showed a 20 percent savings, legislators in 2003 ordered Medicare officials to expand the program.

However, by 2008, medical supply companies, worried that they'd lose money, pressured lawmakers to reconsider details of the program. Congress came to share the suppliers' view that the bidding process was unfair to smaller companies and delayed the project until 2011.
Why wouldn't it make sense for companies that supply durable goods to which medicare often overpays, to bid on the process to lower our costs?  Why did President Bush refuse to allow us to negotiate with drug companies participating in the huge expansion of medicare part D that he signed?  Why would he not allow cheaper drugs from Canada to be imported?

These are all questions that must be asked.  The President, Congress, and medical service suppliers must be part of the solution, not the problem.  Please don't say "That will never happen."  I say, if a politician isn't on board, vote him out, Democrat or Republican.  If the medical suppliers won't negotiate, don't negotiate with them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Word on Health Care Costs

House Minority leader Boehner recently was quoted "Health care reform is not affordable...what this is going to do is bankrupt America."  Aaron E. Carroll gives these costs a little perspective:
  1. All of the healthcare reform bills coming through congress have been scored to be either revenue neutral or deficit reducing according to the non-partisan CBO.
  2. All of the bills come in at about $900 billion over the next decade, or about $90 billion a year.
  3. Tax cuts signed into law in 2001 & 2003 by George Bush came in at $1.35 trillion over 8 years, or about $169 billion per year.
  4. When the Republicans passed Medicare Part D (which was never, ever considered deficit reducing), I don’t remember hearing many concerns from them about the cost. And now, since the Republican party has become the “protectors of Medicare” and has positioned itself never to allow any cuts to Medicare, that could bankrupt America.
  5. Last month President Obama signed a defense appropriations bill for $680 billion for one year which DOES NOT include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Talk about bankrupting us.
  6. We spent about 1.5 trillion on health care through various taxes and tax-breaks in 2008. That kind of spending WILL eventually bankrupt us.
Opponents of health care reform say it's going to break the bank.  Health care reform won't break the bank.  But by doing nothing in favor of the status quo today, health care SPENDING might do just that, tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Health Care in Your Country

There was a sign on the house across the street that read "bank foreclosure auction, bid now."  I asked my Mother what that was all about.  She said "I think the wife got really sick and they (husband & wife) couldn't pay her bills.  It was very matter-of-factly and so I asked, "Didn't they have insurance?", her reply "yeah, I guess, just not enough."
This is a true story from literally across the street from where I was raised in a middle class town in New Jersey.  It is by no means an impoverished or blighted section of town.  Just regular.  My Mother said those words so matter of factly that I shook.  How is it that we, as an American people accept that our neighbors who we have known for 40 years LOSE THEIR HOMES because they cannot afford health care in this, the richest country in the world?
One other story.  My neighbor, became ill one week ago having trouble breathing with his heart rate racing.  His wife called the ambulance for help, and they stopped in front of our house, three doors down, after leaving his, before taking him to the hospital and worked on him for 15 minutes in front of our house, for fear that he would die before he got to the hospital.  They got him stabilized and took him.  I asked his wife later what happened.  She said "Oh, they gave him a pacemaker/defibrilator, really the Cadillac of them all,  and put it in his chest to make him better.  I said "Oh that's great, Medicare really took care of him."  She went on with some nonsense about AARP stop gap coverage and it was not medicare that paid for his heath care.  She didn't realize that it was a government run health care plan that saved her husbands life.
Just so happens that I need that same "Cadillac pacemaker/defibrilator put into my chest because of an irregular heartbeat and weak heart but they won't do it because I am not 65 years old and eligible for medicare and not quite dying enough for medicaide.  I lost my health insurance a year a half ago because my premiums skyrocketed in 7 years from $300 to $1000 per month and I could not afford the premiums.  He is 70 something, I am 40 something.
Is that personal enough for you?   Any wise words to to the contrary?