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Hope, Change, The Five Pillars?
Author: clintster    Date: 06/12/2009 10:51:53

Change. A beautiful little word that has caused a great deal of discussion in the past year or so. What is change? Is it the exclusive property of one party or political philosophy? Is it possible for change to come overnight? Is change even possible in other countries? Today we may find out.
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105 comments (Latest Comment: 06/13/2009 03:57:19 by Mondobubba)

Shocked? They STILL aren't.
Author: Raine    Date: 06/11/2009 12:38:51

Two Months ago everyone was up in arms because a DHS Report said that law enforcement in America needed to be more acutely aware of right wing extremism in America. Specifically, the report mentioned anti-semites, lone wolves, white supremacists, etc. The conservatives in America were apoplectic. What happened as a result? DHS aquiessed to the outrage. They apologized, and - on the outset - appeared to alter the leaked report.

That said - for the second time in 2 weeks we find that the damn report was correct. This time it was a white supremacist hate-filled racist who murdered Stephen Tyrone Johns, a security Guard at the Holocaust Museum.
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140 comments (Latest Comment: 06/12/2009 02:19:36 by clintster)

HELP is on the way...
Author: BobR    Date: 06/10/2009 12:30:29

For a long time now, healthcare has been a big problem in the United States. We are the only industrialized nation that still does not provide public coverage for its citizens. We tried back in 1993, but the attempt was bungled so badly that it has not been seriously considered since. Now that we once again have a Congress and White House in Democratic hands, it's time to try again, and - hopefully - get it right this time.

Yesterday, the House Democrats released the first draft of the Healthcare reform bill:
House Democratic leaders gave members their first glimpse of their version of President Obama’s healthcare overhaul on Tuesday, with liberals leaving the meeting happy and centrist Democrats walking away skeptical.

The outline put forth lacked many of the details that will decide the fate of the overhaul — notably, how the proposal would be paid for. But it made good on the commitment Obama and Democratic leaders made to include a government-run "public option."

A public option for healthcare insurance is essential for liberals in the caucus. Blue Dogs and New Democrats got less of what they wanted. Most notably, the plan ignores Blue Dogs' call for a government plan to be a "fallback option," if reform of private healthcare doesn’t work.

The article refers to it as the HELP bill, which shows that Dems are finally getting wise to the game of properly naming things. Then again - it may just be named that because it came from the HELP committee.

Naturally, the Republicans (and some conservative Democrats) are against it:
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) took to the House floor on Tuesday to question the public plan being advocated by Democrats.

"The forthcoming plan from Democratic leaders will make healthcare more expensive, limit treatments, ration care and put bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions rather than patients and doctors," he said. "That amounts to a government takeover of healthcare, and it will hurt, rather than help, middle-class families across our country."

Some Democrats also have reservations.

As noted in a first-person essay by a Canadian, these are the same myths that they propagate about the Canadian system, and are easily debunked, if people would simply pay attention.

  1. Expense: The biggest waste of money in the healthcare system today is the private insurance middleman. Bad investments, high CEO pay, and the need to maintain a profit add costs that would be removed with a government-run "insurance" program. It would also eliminate the need for the uninsured to use emergency rooms for routine healthcare.

  2. Limit treatments: I've never heard a clear explanation of how this would be the case. It would actually increase treatments, because you wouldn't have some private insurance bean-counter saying "no, we're not going to pay for that".

  3. Ration care: ditto.

  4. Put bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions rather than patients and doctors: This is the biggest joke of all for anyone who has medical insurance. Insurance companies put out lists of procedures that they will and won't cover, and how much (Chiropractic? not covered. Mental Health? 20 visits per year max). A properly created public option insurance coverage would remove those limits. You'd actually get the middleman OUT of the medical decision process, and put it back where it belongs - with the patients and the doctors.
(there are other debunked myths at the link...)

The one remaining sticking point is "how would it be paid for?", and the answer is the one no one wants to say out loud: raise taxes. However, this could be offset in two ways. First, people that choose the public option would no longer be paying for their share of public insurance out of their paychecks (does any company pay 100% of the premiums anymore?). Some companies may choose to remove medical insurance coverage from their benefits packages completely, and pass the savings on to their employees, which would also offset the tax increase.

The second option could be to offer a tax credit to those that don't want a "bureaucrat making their medical decisions", and would rather go with a private insurance option. To get the credit, they would have to provide proof of coverage with a private provider.

Of course - I am not a legislator, and there is no telling what we'll end up with once the Republicans and conservaDems get their stank all over the bill. I just hope it doesn't get compromised to the point that it's destined to fail upon implementation and make the doom-and-gloom prognosticator's warnings come true.

82 comments (Latest Comment: 06/11/2009 00:36:19 by Mondobubba)

Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 06/09/2009 10:52:30

Good Morning.

Today is our 2,247th day in Iraq.

We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of Antiwar.com:

American Deaths
Since war began (3/19/03): 4311 3455
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4172
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3850
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3452
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 83

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 700
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 474
Journalists - Iraq: 138
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,306

We find this morning's cost of war passing through:

$ 866, 221, 800, 000. 00


Remember "Stop-Loss"? It's the Pentagon's practice of recalling discharged service members back to active service for a second, third, or fourth tour of duty overseas. Essentially, it's a back-door draft for citizens that have already fulfilled their obligations to Uncle Sam.

A few years ago, there was a minor political uproar about it, and the practice was modified a bit. Eventually, the story faded out of the headlines.

This doesn't mean the practice has stopped.

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51 comments (Latest Comment: 06/10/2009 08:52:40 by Scoopster)

Date night outrage.
Author: Raine    Date: 06/08/2009 12:45:17

Another Monday, another round of scandal. FAUX News literally has been complaining about the President's trip to France. They have seemingly forgotten the speeches in Cairo, Buchenwald, and Omaha Beach -- all done to help repair our image to the rest of the world. Instead, they are complaining about the President and the night he spent with his wife on the tax payer dollar. How DARE he spend American Money? How dare he vacation? The nerve!
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62 comments (Latest Comment: 06/09/2009 02:57:20 by livingonli)

Ship of Fools
Author: velveeta jones    Date: 06/07/2009 13:37:30

"My mind it being much inclined to cross the raging main,
I left my tender parents in sorrow, grief and pain.
On board the "Fame" we then became all passengers to be,
To sail with Captain Thompson to the Land of Libertie".

La la la lalala la laaaaa.

Good morning dear readers! Oh, how excited am I to be packing for the cruise of the Century with Karl Rove, former U.N. hater John Bolton, prostitute toe-sucker Dick Morris and the cream of the crop - or, is that crop of the cream - from the overly conservative National Review — Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Lopez, Kate O’Beirne and others.
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14 comments (Latest Comment: 06/08/2009 06:00:45 by livingonli)

Greetings from Tralfamadore!
Author: TriSec    Date: 06/06/2009 11:26:31

Listen:
Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

With those words, one of the more interesting novels of the late 20th century begins. Poor Mr. Pilgrim....traveling back and forth through time, re-living bits of his life over and over whether he wants to or not.

At least he gets to settle down with a porn star. Lucky guy.

Of course, this is Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five". I read it once in the 80s, not very long after catching the movie of the same name on a local TV channel. I eventually forgot about it and lost the book in my cellar. So it goes.

I used to belong to the book of the month club. Every other month, they'd send me religious texts or crime novels, and every other month, I'd send them back. I finally got tired of playing this game and cancelled. The last book they sent me was a small volume featuring three by Mr Vonnegut; Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, and Breakfast of Champions.

I kept it.

Tralfamadorians have an interesting concept of time. We Humans have been accused by many different races throughout science fiction of being "so linear". There's no exception here. For all of us, we're born, we become aware, some of us marry and make copies of ourselves, but then we all get feeble and die.

I don't know when it's going to happen for me. I'm hoping to make it to the 100th anniversary of V-E day, September 1, 2045. I'll be 79 then....seems like a good age to me. The Tralfamadorians already know when I'm going to die. With my luck, I'll be hit by a bus riding my bike to work next week. So it goes.

One thing I took away from the novel was that nobody ever dies in this timeline. We all exist in a multitude of uncounted moments in time, and the savvy time-traveler can revisit them again and again. Two weeks ago, I was sitting on my mother's back porch and we were talking about grandpa. He stopped existing in this timeline 16 years ago this week (June, 1993). But we got a good chuckle...sitting and remembering his escapades with a couple of cherished family friends and Kane's Donuts. We all went back in time that afternoon, and grandpa was sitting right there laughing about it with us.

***

I'm betting some among you were expecting a blog about war today. At this hour, 65 years ago, Americans on the East Coast were waking up to the news that Europe had been invaded. Our President is standing on the beach again this morning, with a bunch of old men. We tell them they did heroic things, but only because we won. A long time ago, they were scared, seasick, and cold. Our guys went ashore and killed a bunch of the other guys that were also scared, hungry and cold. So it goes.

There's two other novels in the volume I'm reading. "Cat's Cradle" is an interesting little thing about a chemical that can turn all the water on earth into a solid. A dictator in the Caribbean commits suicide with it, then it falls into the sea. "Polywater" was all the rage in the 1960s; there was even a Star Trek episode about it before the theory was debunked.

But...as long as there are men, there are men searching for ways to destroy the planet. We have nukes today, but what will man have tomorrow? Of course, if we keep going on the way we're going, we'll destroy the world just fine without any more interesting weapons.

***

I've just started reading "Breakfast of Champions". A passage a few pages in grabbed my attention. "In some places people would actually try to eat mud or such on gravel while babies were being born just a few feet away..." I blinked, then I had to look up when the novel was written. (1973). I remember something I read about maybe six months ago. Half of a little island in the Caribbean is so poor, the people there are being forced to eat dirt just to stay alive. It's the western part of Hispanola.

One of the themes I've already found in this book is that Mr. Vonnegut seems obsessed with a certain disease. "Little corkscrews" that worm their way into the human body and eat your brain. You get them by having intercourse with questionable women. If you don't treat it, you go nuts. Maybe this is what happened to the entire Bush administration.

Poor President Bush. I hope he ends up unstuck in time like Billy Pilgrim. Then he can go back and forth and experience his sorry life over and over again. I wonder where he'd go? Would he go back to the day he went AWOL? Would he sit in a schoolroom and read "The Pet Goat" again and again and again while the world explodes?

Or would he go back to New Orleans and tell everyone that there's a lot of stuff here while doing nothing and listening to the birds asking him:

Poo-tee-weet?


10 comments (Latest Comment: 06/07/2009 04:21:55 by BobR)

Beware of the Dog
Author: BobR    Date: 06/05/2009 12:45:39

A cornered dog is a dangerous animal, so goes the common wisdom. When it seems the fight is lost is when the last gasp of violence comes out. When a dog is wounded it feels most vulnerable and will lash out in self-defense. These days, that dog is an elephant.

Ever since about 1994, with the rise of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, the Republicans have engaged in scorched earth politics and the politics of personal destruction. They didn't see politics as diplomacy, they saw it was war, and they were the General Shermans. They reveled in the blood-lust of power, sneering evil smiles as they relegated Democrats down to Storage Room B in the basement (literally!).

Losing that kind of power has been hard on them. Not only can they not get their way every time, they've had to see their agenda fail and be replaced. This has resulted in the aforementioned lashing out that seems to make everyone wonder if they'll ever return from the wilderness intact.

I've previously written about the pernicious attacks on Judge Sotomayor, including those by presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. Those attacks were mostly from Republicans formerly in power and their champions on the airwaves. A couple Republican lawmakers actually told them to sit down and shut up, which is certainly commendable. But not all Republican lawmakers are quite so pragmatic.

House Rep Mike Coffman (R-CO) called the CO Governor a "terrorist sympathizer" for not allowing a military base to expand into farmer's fields:
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman minced no words in a bizarre, Cheney-esque attack on Gov. Bill Ritter as a “terrorist sympathizer” for signing a new state law that stymies future expansion of the Army’s contentious Piñon Canyon training site proposal.

The accusation of Ritter’s treason can be found in full at Coffman’s congressional Web site:

"The Governor clearly has no concept about the training and readiness needs of our combat forces. By signing H.B. 1317, a bill that blocks the Army’s ability to expand training areas, the Governor has sent a very clear message that the men and women who serve our nation in uniform are not welcome here.

I think he would be more sympathetic if the U.S. Army were to declare itself a terrorist organization — since he is going out of his way to block the Army while at the same time laying out a welcome mat to house terrorists from Guantanamo Bay."

This is of course the same rhetoric we got from the Republicans in 2003-2006 for anyone who dared to oppose invading Iraq, or the way the conflict was being handled. This is a perfect example of personal assassination politics. After 15 years, you would hope that the electorate was sick of it. It seems, though, that it's the only thing some of these people know.

In another fine example of going over the top, House Rep Lamar Smith (R-TX) said that the greatest threat to Democracy is the "Liberal Media":
Yesterday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) launched the Media Fairness Caucus, made up of about a dozen House Republicans, aiming “to fight liberal media bias.” The group will “point out unfair stories, meet with members of the media, and write op-eds and letters to the editor to highlight media bias,” Newsmax reported. Appearing on Fox News today, Smith declared that “liberal media bias” is a bigger threat to the United States than the recession or terrorism — and Fox’s Bill Hemmer seemed to agree:

SMITH: Let me just say — this is going to sound radical, I don’t mean for it to be radical — but to me, the greatest threat to America is not necessarily a recession or even another terrorist attack. The greatest threat to America is a liberal media bias...

The irony of this being said on FOX News is obvious. Even more amusing is that he was saying this on the media and to a member of the media, and that member of the media agreed with him! That damn liberal bias!

Finally, our airwaves have been polluted lately with former veep Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz promoting their meme "It wasn't torture, and even if it was, it worked, so be grateful, dammit!" With the previously mentioned "liberal media" giving so much airtime to these two asking that memos be released, it was only a matter of time before the Republicans in power took matters into their own hands. Yesterday, they released info on intel received during secret briefings:
Republicans ignited a firestorm of controversy on Thursday by revealing some of what they had been told at a closed-door Intelligence Committee hearing on the interrogation of terrorism suspects.

Democrats immediately blasted the GOP lawmakers for publicly discussing classified information, while Republicans said Democrats are trying to hide the truth that enhanced interrogation of detainees is effective.

GOP members on the Intelligence Committee on Thursday told The Hill in on-the-record interviews that they were informed that the controversial methods have led to information that prevented terrorist attacks.

When told of the GOP claims, Democrats strongly criticized the members who revealed information that was provided at the closed House Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing. Democrats on the panel said they could not respond substantively, pointing out that the hearing was closed.

There is certainly more to come, what with Obama's speech yesterday. Liz Cheney was all over the airwaves yesterday, criticizing the speech, and today Dick Cheney will give the Republican Response to it. If past history is any indication, it will be packed with lies and vitriol. That this was tasked to a Republican no longer in power, rather than an active member of Congress (or governor) or a member of the Republican party leadership is very interesting. Apparently they wanted their nastiest snarliest dog to do their dirty work.

78 comments (Latest Comment: 06/06/2009 00:47:21 by livingonli)

Cairopology.
Author: Raine    Date: 06/04/2009 12:39:06

President Obama, a short time ago finished up a greatly anticipated Speech in Cairo, Egypt. The transcript is not yet up at the White house Website, but the White house did live blog the speech. Some excerpts:

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms. In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential

Whoever kills an innocent kills all people; whoever saves an innocent saves all people.

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71 comments (Latest Comment: 06/05/2009 09:19:28 by Scoopster)

You've Got (White) Male
Author: BobR    Date: 06/03/2009 12:43:14

Pity the poor White Male. He has been in power for most of recorded history. For the majority of that time, that position was a birth right, guaranteed to him if he wanted it. People of color and women were essentially property to do with as he wished. That's slowly been changing for the last 150 years or so, and they've been fighting it all the way. Disclaimer: Yes, I - the author - am a white male, but I do not subscribe to the notion that that accident of birth somehow makes me superior to others.

We are lucky to live in an age where racism and sexism are not normally overt. We do not see "black water fountains" or "white only" signs and are shocked when we see them at antique stores. Nightclubs no longer bar "unescorted ladies". Instead, the bigotry and sexism is generally more subtle, and not always apparent. Sometimes, though, it's right out there, usually accompanied by (or followed by - when they're called on it) denials that it was not meant that way.

It should be apparent, however, that the White Male is angry... Angry that they're losing power, angry that they are not automatically assumed to be the one in charge, angry that they can't turn the clock back or put the genie back in the bottle. Pandora opened her box (with the help of some enlightened white and black friends) and there is no closing it now. The White Male's days of the free ride are over and they are not going down without a fight. Over the last few years, that fight has gotten decidedly nasty.
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79 comments (Latest Comment: 06/04/2009 01:37:04 by Mondobubba)

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