Friday, July 31, 2009

Gone Fishing

Well, not really...but I'm putting the blog on hiatus at least for the month of August. Ruth's last post probably gave you some notice that there were going to be some changes, and this is it.

Although I'm a little burned out after 4+ years of daily blogging, that's not the main reason I've decided to take at the very least a long vacation. I've had a new health issue arise and I need to pare down some of the pressures in my life. I can't quit working or I'll lose the health insurance I need to deal with that health issue (a special "thank you" to the 111th Congress), so I'm cutting down on some of the smaller things that take up time and energy I need to focus elsewhere.

Will I turn the lights back on in this joint in September? I'm not sure. Probably, but the emphasis might be a little different. I just don't know.

Now for some housecleaning before I lock up:

First, and most important, Ruth, probably out of an overabundance of politeness, failed to let you know that she will continue blogging. You'll find her at The Seminal-Firedog Lake, where's she's been posting for nearly a year. At some point, I really hope she takes the plunge and opens her own shop. She's a gifted thinker, analyst, and writer, which a whole lot of you know. Please encourage her.

Next, thanks to a lot of other bloggers in our community who blog-rolled us, the Cab has grown in readership dramatically. Thanks to all of you for your support. A special thanks, however, goes to people like Mike at Crooks and Liars who linked to us a lot, skyrocketing our hit counts to what I considered unimaginable heights and who validated Ruth and my belief that it was possible to blog rationally, yet passionately, on all sorts of issues, even those pretty much ignored by everyone else.

The biggest thanks, however, goes to Avedon Carol, the Cab's Official Fairy Godmother, who not only linked to us when no one had any idea we existed, but continued to do so on a regular basis, even when she disagreed with what we had to say. I think that Avedon has done more for community building on-line and in meat-space than anyone I know.

So, me, I'm taking a month off from blogging, but I'm not taking a month off. Besides continuing to go to work so that the cats and I have food and a roof, I intend to start exploring life in the consensual real world. The 2010 elections are coming up, and I think it's time I do a little hard time working towards getting people elected who aren't (at least at this point) in the hip pockets of the monied interests. I'm going to start with the local pols, because, as the debacle of the California budget problems have showed, when it counts, politics are local.

I also am going to try to train myself to sleep beyond 3:00 AM Pacific Time so that I can have some kind of social life in which I deal with like-minded people who stay up after 7:00 PM Pacific Time.

But I still will show up on line, probably at Atrios's Crack Den, at least when the troll frenzy isn't too annoying, and certainly at those blogs I've enjoyed reading regularly.

So, it's time for lights out.

Take care, rational people.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


okay, I love sideways. but this is my last post here, and I want to tell you goodbye from our rational point of view, that sees what is worthwhile and discards the skewed perspective that would make it work against us.

Thanks, Diane.


Going Home

It looks like there just might be some real justice for one Guantanamo Bay detainee: Mohammed Jawad might be sent home to Afghanistan in three weeks, unless, of course, the Obama Justice Department operates the same way the Bush Justice Department did.

From McClatchy DC report:

The Obama administration on Wednesday said it plans to release a young Guantanamo detainee after military and civilian judges banned almost all evidence against him that they ruled was extracted through torture. ...

Government attorneys, however, reserved the right to file new charges in federal court against Mohammed Jawad if they find evidence against him before he's freed.

The Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle to grant them 22 days to release Jawad — seven days to notify Congress of the release plans, as current law requires, and then 15 days until a cooling off period mandated by law expires.

If no new charges are filed during that time, the government said it would promptly release Jawad. The Justice Department didn't specify where it would send him, but his lawyers say they expect he'd be returned to his native Afghanistan.

There are several significant points in the story. The first is that the judiciary did the job they are sworn to do. By ruling inadmissible evidence garnered through torture, Judge Huvelle and the military commission judges made clear that the rule of law trumps torture and that such unlawful behavior by the government will not be tolerated by the courts.

The second point is that the government didn't make its usual noises about an immediate appeal, which hopefully means that the Department of Justice may have just blinked when it comes to "win at all costs" prosecution.

The third point is a bit more troubling, however. The prosecution has reserved the right to refile the charges if it can find enough evidence that hasn't been tainted by torture to do so, and it wants the court to give them that 22 days to find that evidence by claiming that the law requires such a delay, something young Mr. Jawad's lawyers noted:

Jawad's lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union said that while they're hopeful that their client will be sent home soon, they think the government should move more quickly.

"We're cautiously optimistic that they appear closer to recognizing that Mr. Jawad needs to be sent home as soon as possible," said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with the ACLU's National Security Project. "We remain concerned by some of the arguments they make with regards to the court's power to order an immediate remedy."

Hopefully the judge will rule quickly on the requested delay so that even if the government's request is granted, the clock will start running.

It's time for the release of Mohammad Jawad. It's long past time for an end to this obscene display of a government's power run amok.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Clinton Did It

They're still out there, making up ways to blame the disasters produced by right wing ideology on US. Yes, we fought against them, voted against, and demonstrated less often than we should have against, the Eat the Poor policies that now your wingers want to blame on us.

From my comments on the post about abstinence-only education increasing pregnancies and disease;


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This old fake fact seems to work it's way around the web over and over. It's interesting that no one ever sites data sources unless it comes from Planned Parenthood which itself does not site any scientific facts either. And let us stop blaming Bush, the Abstinence only Sex Ed was a Clinton era program that also ran through the Bush administrations time. They did not start it Clinton did
2:34 PM
Blogger Ruth said...

SAdly it had to be the kids that took the brunt of the research conducted by the wingnuts, as shown in Dallas not long ago, and now nationally. We don't need to show the birth certificate in this one.
2:50 PM
Blogger Ruth said...

sorry, forgot to put in the info;
'Abstinence-only policies go back to the early years of Ronald Reagan and intensified while Bill Clinton was in office, when Republicans slipped a provision into welfare reform legislation. Bush began his crusade from the mid-Nineties when he was governor of Texas.'
2:55 PM

They're still out there, trying to keep the public interest from being represented, then blaming us when they defeat what would be best for everyone, including themselves.

Those of you who work, visit or live with the crazies know, the arguments are put out to right wing groups, and disaster results while the wingers keep on insisting that if only you give them their way everything will be ideal. The proof that they have procided that this just is totally wrong does not work on the crazies. Newest mantra, the H1N1 virus is made of baby juices and something from monkeys.

The only way to counter craziness is treatment. As you have heard from me if you've read these posts for awhile, treatment isn't always effective to do more than drive the crazies into hiding what they really think, as a close family member of mine shows me often. Those freeper posts and commenters, and callers to CSpan who inform sometimes educated and informed hosts that the Jews are running the country and hold secret ceremonies which include xtian blood, that the president was born in Kenya, that the Secretary of State is in a lesbian collusion against straight education and besides, President Clinton is responsible for 911 and the economy tanking - it goes on and on - are real and they walk among us.

The only way I know to counter them is to repeat, and publish, facts. By doing that here, I hope that I've helped you and thinking intelligent life forms somewhat. I will be posted on future afternoons, on Saturdays and Sundays, at where I hope that you will visit, as I will continue offering some help for us to perpetuate sane policies and thought.

And, yes, my glance does cause milk to spoil ... if you leave it out of the refrigerator long enough.

Labels: , ,

Just In Case You Weren't Sure ...

...California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his priorities abundantly clear when the legislature handed over the budget "fix" for him to sign yesterday. Oh, he signed it, but not without a little more tinkering.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today [July 28, 2009] signed a budget plan approved by lawmakers to close the state's monumental deficit, using his veto power to impose nearly $500 million in additional cuts.

The new reductions will affect child welfare and children's healthcare, the elderly, state parks, and AIDS treatment and prevention beyond the dramatic cuts that were part of the deal Schwarzenegger negotiated with legislative leaders. ...

The extra cuts he made today -- $489 million -- took nearly $80 million that pays for workers who help abused and neglected children; $50 million from Healthy Families, which provides healthcare to children in low-income families; $50 million from services for developmentally delayed children under age 3; $16 million from domestic-violence programs; $6.3 million from services for the elderly; and $6.2 million from parks. That reduction could result in the closure of 100, rather than 50, state parks.

And, because he's certainly no girly-man, he proceeded to crow about what he did:

..."This budget is kind of like the good, the bad and the ugly."

The good, Schwarzenegger said, was that the plan does not raise taxes ...

Well, there you have it: our governor, ever mindful of his Hollywood roots, has reduced the budget of a state with one of the largest economies in the world to the status of a spaghetti western. These extra cuts were made because the legislators decided that the original plan was a bit too draconian (look it up, Arnold) even for them. They could put up with plunging our education system into a third world status, but even they had a few qualms about the cuts to the health and welfare of the most vulnerable of our citizens, especially since those cuts would balloon state health care costs within the next two budget cycles (the first is less than a year away).

Hey! But it's all good. No taxes were raised in the making of this film.

Heckuva job, Arnold.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Olaf Glad and Big, with Feral Liberal, intent on the train display at NM State Fair last September.



Other Eyes on The Prize

While we're getting entertainment from the Birther spectacle in the press, in Iowa - where the 2012 campaign begins - the remnants of the former Republican party are trying to drum back up a winning proposition. Of course, having lost the entire state apparatus to sane types has given them a jolt.

Announcing for election is a large array of locally prominent right wing characters. Funny, no appearances yet by Sarah Palin. Maybe party planners are wising up to the fact that they need to get their nutcases off the screen in Iowa, to get back to respectability where they can win.

Looking over the wasteland represented by nutjobs like Pat Buchanan and recurring talkshow 'others', as well as the Wingnuits, must provide GOP planners with a sad retrospective. From the meeting that raises the majority of campaign funds for the right, held last week, come a few notes that the majority ought to listen to. There, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's replacement, Chet Culver, faces a crowded field of wingers, but there will be a mighty effort to unseat him and other public representatives in the legislature.

Most recently, prominent leaders of Iowa’s ideology-driven social conservative movement criticized state Republican leadership for not doing enough to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, saying 2010 could be “the year of the primary.”

Barbour, who this week assumed the chairmanship of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) following the resignation of scandal-tinged South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford from the organization’s top spot, was in Iowa to help raise money for the state Republican Party. He was also asked to come to the Hawkeye State because the RGA’s help will be essential for the party to defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in 2010.

But if Iowa’s GOP wants to have any chance of defeating an incumbent, it must stick together. The party should also strive to be inclusive, Barbour said, adding that the need to build coalitions and to attract voters means it is not the time to focus on “purity.”

“There are a lot more things that unite us than do divide us,” Barbour said. “Or as President Reagan used to say, remember that a fellow that agrees with you 80 percent of the time is your friend. He’s not some 20-percent traitor.”

Defeating Culver was a reoccurring theme of the evening, with RPI Chairman Matt Strawn pointing out there are “just 496 days until Iowans tell Chet Culver his services are no longer needed.”

Barbour called Iowa one of the best opportunities in the country for Republicans to knock off a Democratic governor, and pledged that his organization would “do all we can do to be an asset to the Republican governor who gets elected next November.”

“Polling indicates the incumbent is in trouble,” he said. “The party has enthusiasm. There is a lot of energy in the party, and there are a lot of good candidates interested in running.”

Strawn said Thursday’s event, called “Night of the Rising Stars” and billed as a celebration of the next generation of Republican leadership, is just one more sign that Iowa’s GOP is back.

“Thinking about where we were just about eight months ago, when people had written us off for dead, not only did we hit the ground running, we’re sprinting,” he said, later adding: “Let’s not be on our heels. Let’s go on offense. Don’t let them define us.” (Emphasis added.)

We are well aware of the tendency of the wingers to bring straying elements into the fold and keep them voting on even the most destructive measures. We saw the arm-twisting in its vilest form when Medicare Part D was passed through falsified estimates of future costs and threats against congresspeople's family members.

The 'purity' designation is being applied to the religious element, and it is well thought through. While most voters are not inclined to dictate to women how they should reproduce and how doctors ought to treat their patients, the fundies that do are vital to the wingers to turn out voters. They have to be brought along, integrated by pacification, and the right is hard at work now to achieve just that.

The telephone trees are still there, waiting for a chance. They are still convinced that your nutty Aunt Tillies are the silent majority and that that vengeful god is just funnin' them because they didn't send Him a soul He really wanted lately. A lot of craziness can be finding itself tamped down, for just long enough to get back into the saddle of power, with the promise that the government will be back on their side if they can just lie low long enough. Pssst, Aunt Tillie, ditch the 'birther' ruckus for a bit.

While the left is busily at work trying to get the economy back on track, get us out of atrocities abroad, get the public back again as the things our government protects, the nutjobs are working to convince its loyalists that doing good is evil.

Their successes in that field worked to divert taxpayers' funds into the trough they fed off of for too many years to ignore. The wingers are out in force in Iowa, where legalizing gay marriage has brought differences to a head. The right is sure they can begin boring holes there that will bring down the solid foundation our country needs, once again.

President Obama is hard at work bringing his own message about what's good for this country to public attention, but he's getting a lot of interference from those who should be working hard to do the same. Keeping our eyes on the prize works for those who are doing right, too.

Labels: , ,

The Twinkie Defense

Well, this sorta kinda explains things, at least a little. From today's NY Times:

On the agenda is the revamping of the American health care system, possibly the most complex legislation in modern history. But on the table, in a conference room where the bill is being hashed out by six senators, the snacks are anything but healthy.

Last week, there were chippers — chocolate-covered potato chips — described on a sign as “North Dakota Diet Food.” More often, there are Doritos, pretzels, Oreo cookies and beef jerky: fuel to get through hours of talks on topics like the actuarial values of private insurance plans or the cost-sharing provisions of Medicare.

The fate of the health care overhaul largely rests on the shoulders of six senators who since June 17 have gathered — often twice a day, and for many hours at a stretch — in a conference room with burnt sienna walls, in the office of the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana.

If these six senators were dealing with something less important than expanding health care access, this would be comedy gold. Unfortunately, they aren't and therefore it isn't. Instead, it serves as a bizarre metaphor for what we can expect if, as now seems likely, these six "centrists" have their way. To be fair, we know that at least Sen. Baucus eats better than this. He's even been sighted eating chicken cordon bleu with health care providers and insurance company executives at a fund raiser.

These six senators, three conservative Democrats and three moderate Republicans, have already given us a pretty clear picture of what will come out of that powerful committee:

Already, the group of six has tossed aside the idea of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers, which the president supports but Republicans said was a deal-breaker.

Instead, they are proposing a network of private, nonprofit cooperatives.

They have also dismissed the House Democratic plan to pay for the bill’s roughly $1 trillion, 10-year cost partly with an income surtax on high earners.

The three Republicans have insisted that any new taxes come from within the health care arena. As one option, Democrats have proposed taxing high-end insurance plans with values exceeding $25,000.
[Emphasis added]

But, hey! It's bipartisan, which is all that apparently matters. It's clear that what doesn't matter is that clearly most Americans want universal health care access at an affordable price, a desire that would best be addressed by a single payer plan modeled like Medicare with comparable cost constraints on providers. These yahoos won't even consider a public option which would at least give us non-millionaires a shot at decent health care.

Since this "gang of six" is so fond of junk food and insurance company money, I think we should show our true feelings about their efforts. I think we should bombard the office of Sen. Baucus with bags of pretzels to add to the committee snack pile. Here's the address:

Senator Max Baucus
511 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510

Do it. It might take some of the sting out.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 27, 2009

Abstaining From Education

That abstinence education works out really well if you are trying to keep our young people pregnant and sick. Seems that with its usual results, the wingnut community has produced another harmful program that our tax dollars are supposed to support.

As Avedon pointed out yesterday at The Sideshow, the wingers think your funds ought to be freed up to spend on their programs, that's the kind of freedoms they believe in.

For our youth who are victimized by the nutjob approach to their future, lots of damage is occurring. Dallas County has seen the results of disease on the increase from its abstinence-only policies, and corrected that practice. The country is learning the hard way, as well, and our youth are being used as the guinea pigs in demonstrating the wingnut ideology works against them.

Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush's evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US's major public health body.

In a report that will surprise few of Bush's critics on the issue, the Centres for Disease Control says years of falling rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease infections under previous administrations were reversed or stalled in the Bush years. According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but are up sharply in more than half of American states since 2005. The study also revealed that the number of teenage females with syphilis has risen by nearly half after a significant decrease while a two-decade fall in the gonorrhea infection rate is being reversed. The number of Aids cases in adolescent boys has nearly doubled.

The CDC says that southern states, where there is often the greatest emphasis on abstinence and religion, tend to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs.

In addition, about 16,000 pregnancies were reported among 10- to 14-year-old girls in 2004 and a similar number of young people in the age group reported having a sexually transmitted disease.

"It is disheartening that after years of improvement with respect to teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, we now see signs that progress is stalling and many of these trends are going in the wrong direction," said Janet Collins, a CDC director.

The results are in, the programs of the wingnuts have failed. We can't waste lives on any further indulgence of this nonsense.

Our schools are threatened by the onslaught of those who want their way, no matter how much harm it does. These rabid ideologists do not serve our kids, they serve a warped concept of religion. They should be required to learn by reading and contemplation, not experiments on our young people.

Labels: ,

Following the Money

Not unsurprising that Time magazine's comprehensive review of the big obstacles health care must get over starts with those costs that were not a problem for the atrocities of the worst administration in history. The economy is in the toilet because of wars and unconstitutional, deregulated executive branch policies. Now that toilet status is being foisted off as the biggest obstacle to the public interest.

Before considering the plan itself, the review reminds us that we have to pay through the nose on our way to decent health care.

A lot of different avenues for cost cutting have been explored, including preventing fraudulent claims in Medicare and Medicaid and cutting programs and services that aren't deemed cost-effective. But one of the most recently touted potential methods, creating an independent board to take away from Congress the job of overseeing the rates of Medicare payments, took a hit late last week when the CBO estimated it would only save $2 billion over ten years. The CBO did acknowledge that the savings could turn out to be higher in the long run, but that qualifier only highlighted one of the biggest problems for health care backers; so much of the potential cost savings of overhauling the entire health care system is unknown and impossible to predict with any accuracy. The CBO, for instance, has no real way to determine how much investments in prevention might save down the line.
Hard to believe, but money is actually only half the problem. The flip side of cutting costs is adding coverage for the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans. To that end both the House and Senate HELP bills include a public plan that would compete with existing private plans - a highly controversial idea that Republicans say is tantamount to the socialization of health care, but which many Democrats (including Obama) say is essential for any overhaul of the system. The Senate Finance Committee's bill takes a middle-of-the-road approach, including a coop plan, essentially a non-profit version of a government plan that some critics say couldn't possibly compete effectively the way a public option could. The legislation does include provisions for a public plan, but such an approach would only be triggered if the coop plan doesn't prove to work in certain states or locales - a backup model based off of President George W. Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. But many wonder if that will garner enough votes in the Senate, since it will likely lose votes from both ends of the spectrum. (Emphasis added.)

Of course, there are reasons in the review that I am not covering in the excerpt, but the main arguments are in it. The twists and turns of the opposition combine the expense - which never bothered them while they pitched the country into economic disarray - and the mantra that government is the enemy, especially when it comes between the public and insurance adjusters, contain most of the heat in this arena.

While those of us who have seen the country's dive into the mess of having health too expensive for the public are hardly ignorant of the savings of making it accessible to all, CBO is charged with convincing those who would rather kick those on lower economic levels into the emergency room than let them in the doctor's office. This is a negation of common decency, and distressingly inhumane.

That view of society is one that this generation of unembarrassedly empathetic bloggers needs to return to concepts about the public and our standards that rise above those of antisocial wingers. When we leave out our humanity, profit becomes the overriding concern.

The worst administration in history fought for corporate welfare, free market for wage earners, and brought us to disaster. We are better than that, and to rejoin the civilized world we need to return our government to the role of protecting public interests.

Labels: , ,


One of Barack Obama's earliest moves as president was to issue a promise that the prison camp at Guantanmo Bay would be closed by January 22, 2010. People of conscience in this country and around the world breathed a sigh of relief at the news. The news since then, however, hasn't been as promising. We've just learned that neither of the two commissions studying ways to make this happen, one of which is reviewing each detainee's record, didn't meet the July 22, 2009 deadline set by the President. Furthermore, the 111th Congress has been pushing back against the camp closure, introducing bills that would forbid such a move based on highly inflammatory and outright false claims.

An editorial in today's Los Angeles Times took on the issue:

Last week, the administration announced that two task forces convened by the president -- one examining the status of the remaining 240 Guantanamo detainees, the other studying interrogation policy -- wouldn’t meet their July 22 deadline for recommendations. Delay in the federal government isn't unusual, and Obama has been multi-tasking since the day he was inaugurated. Still, dilatory decision-making on Guantanamo threatens to give new meaning to the axiom that "justice delayed is justice denied."

Unlike Bush, Obama is committed to cooperating with Capitol Hill. But Congress isn't reciprocating. This week, Senate Democratic leaders sidelined the most serious threat to Obama's policy on Guantanamo, an amendment by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to a defense authorization bill that would have kept the facility open and prohibited the transfer of detainees to the United States. But House Democratic leaders continue to oppose providing funds for the closure that the administration is seeking.

In defending his amendment, Inhofe cited polls showing that "most Americans do not want to close Gitmo, and certainly do not want these terrorist detainees to be transferred to the United States." What he didn't say was that those apprehensions have been fed by nonsensical claims that Obama would free dangerous terrorists to run loose in the streets. In fact, prisoners not sent to other countries probably would be held in "supermax" institutions that already hold hundreds of convicted terrorists and from which no one has escaped.

President Obama has already backed down on the issue of relocating any of the prisoners to the US, no matter how innocent or how non-threatening they might be. The Uighers, who never had any ill will towards the US, were shipped thousands of miles away rather than released to the community of Uighers already in the US which was willing to take the prisoners in and to help them adjust to their freedom. Because the US won't take any prisoners in, many European countries, including our closest allies, won't even consider relocation to their soil.

If the President is really serious about closing Gitmo, he needs to get serious in its implementation. He has the bully pulpit, which he appears willing to use on other important issues like health care and the bailouts of huge corporations. He needs to use it now. He needs to speak out against the outrageous disinformation being thrown out by the Republicans . He needs to make it clear that closing Gitmo will result in greater US security, not less. He also needs to make it clear that the US will abide by national and international law with respect to the use of torture.

If he doesn't, if he allows Guantanamo Bay to remain open, then his promise, like several other promises he has defaulted on, will just be more dust in the wind.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Poetry: Ursula K. Le Guin

American Wars

Like the topaz in the toad's head
the comfort in the terrible histories
was up front, easy to find:
Once upon a time in a kingdom far away.
Even to the dreadful now of news
we listened comforted
by far timezones, languages we didn't speak,
the wide, forgetful oceans.
Today, no comfort but the jewel courage.
The war is ours, now, here, it is our republic
facing its own betraying terror.
And how we tell the story is forever after.

-- Ursula K. Le Guin

(Published at Poets Against the War.)

Things That Make You Go, "Say, What?"

You'd think after one disastrous war that military officials would take a long, hard look at what went wrong and determine not to make those mistakes again. You would, of course, be wrong. While Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has promised to get rid of at least some of the private contractors who performed badly and sloppily, causing unnecessary deaths to both Iraqi civilians and US soldiers, the Pentagon is now looking to expand the use of some of those same contractors in Afghanistan, at least according to Washington Post:

The U.S. military command is considering contracting a private firm to manage security on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, even as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that the Pentagon intends to cut back on the use of private security contractors.

On a Web site listing federal business opportunities, the Army this month published a notice soliciting information from prospective contractors who would develop a security plan for 50 or more forward operating bases and smaller command outposts across Afghanistan. ...

"The contractor shall be responsible for providing security services, developing, implementing, adequately staffing, and managing a security program," the notice said, adding that the contractor would have to be available "24 hours a day, seven days a week."

That's right: we're going to hire a private security force to protect our bases because apparently our soldiers can't do that. That's a fine kettle of mackerel, isn't it?

Now, just ten days ago, Sec. Gates seemed to imply that this kind of nonsense was going to stop:

At a town hall meeting at Fort Drum, N.Y., on July 16, Gates said that the military had let contracting "grow without the kind of controls that we should" have had. The purpose, he said, was "to try and free up as many soldiers for actual combat duty, rather than having them do things that civilian contractors could do."

Contractors, Gates noted, have done a variety of jobs, including running dining facilities and doing laundry, cleaning chores and security work. "So, we're kind of going back through all of these roles, at this point, to figure out where military ought to be doing these things and where civilian contractors can be," he said.
[Emphasis added]

I guess he's changed his mind. Either that, or he hasn't bothered to mention his plan to the Army officials who placed the "help wanted" ad on the government web site. Regardless, it appears that we will now have an army of mercenaries (Blackwater or "Xe" types) operating alongside the regular military. Parallel armies, parallel commanders? Probably.

Well, if we're going to do that, why not just go all the way? Bring the US military home, hire Xe (or whomever) and let them fight our wars for us. In fact, we really wouldn't need our own military at all, or a Pentagon, or a military industrial complex which sucks our budget dry. States could keep their National Guard troops for emergencies, but they could be kept at home. If we didn't have to send so many dollars to Washington, DC to float the Pentagon, states could afford to equip the Guard and to train them without straining the state budgets.

In fact, why even bother with a federal government at all? I mean, it does seem incapable of doing anything right, right?

Clean cups! Clean cups!

Labels: ,

Big, Bad Wolf Health Administrator

The bugaboo that government will stand between me and my doctor is probably the lamest argument that the wingnuts have come up with against bringing Health Care to the U.S. public. I watched Washington Journal this morning with Rep. Tom Price mightily declaring that this was greatly to be feared. A recipient of government health care, he warned about government running our health care, and even failed to correct a caller who claimed the U.S. government would kill old people to solve our economic disaster. At no point did he make any concession to the facts.

Congresspeople and government employees have an excellent health care system that is administered by the government. Social security recipients have the same. None of them have thrown off that yoke and demanded they be subject to the system that fails to care for the U.S. public at large. Only by blatantly lying do the right wing recipients of government health care insist that it will hurt the public to replace insurance interference with the care they get.

Watching the lies and misconduct that the wingers are so comfortable with has convinced most of the public that the government they are part of is not to be trusted. Several sources are claiming that President Obama is losing his standing. McClatchy newspapers, as usual, gets closer to the truth than the other media, by stating the public shows a distrust of government. I would state further that, after many years of being dunned by media that reports lies, and government officials that blithely spout them, the public has learned that much of what it hears is those lies.

As Blue Texan pointed out in her post earlier; " one really cares what Jim DeMint or John Boehner has to say about health care. Republicans are having absolutely zero impact on the debate."

If President Barack Obama got anything indisputably right at his news conference this week, it was this: The American people don't trust the federal government.

That's a major reason he's having such a hard time selling his plan to overhaul the nation's health care. Even if they like Obama himself, people just don't think that the government can handle anything big, let alone something as personal to them as their health care.

"I understand that people are feeling uncertain about this. They feel anxious, partly because we've just become so cynical about what government can accomplish that people's attitudes are, you know, even though I don't like this devil, at least I know it, and I like that more than the devil I don't know," the president said.

"So folks are skeptical. And that is entirely legitimate, because they haven't seen a lot of laws coming out of Washington lately that helped them."
Several analysts think that he should try for less than a complete overhaul that would extend coverage to 50 million uninsured and create a new government health insurance plan to compete with private insurers.

A more incremental approach, they said, would allow time for the economy to recover, perhaps permit trust in government to build, and then give Obama more room to seek more.

While we all would like to see single payer, and government kicking out the insurance interference with our providers, we may have to take a less desirable product for now. The reason; a sizable proportion of the country is uninformed, and will be swayed by the lies, while much of the media will report the lies as if they were the truth. That will give our undeserving elected officials - who will get more from the lobbies if they betray the public trust - a leg to stand on for voting against us.

Some of us have been joining hands and singing "We Shall Overcome" for a long time. It's in the works. All of us have to keep working at it. Too many are taking the frustration for an insurmountable obstacle. It's an obstacle to overcome, not to adopt as an end in itself.

The only solution to this failure of our system is to keep loudly telling the factual basis for progressive policies, and to fight back against ignorance and cupidity. Here, I try to do that and appreciate your support. Thanks, for your exercise of your intelligence and your principles.

Labels: , ,

The Big Day

It's finally here: the day of the Alaska Governor's Picnic at which the current governor (for a few more hours) passes the keys to the state government over to her Lieutenant Governor. Sarah Palin will have finally achieved the status of "former" governor. That the transfer will take place at a summer picnic is somehow fitting, although, for the life of me, I cannot actually articulate why. The only question remaining with respect to the turnover is its timing. Will it be before or after the three-legged race? During the children's search for pennies in the sawdust (wait -- this is Alaska, 2009, better make that quarters)?

At least that question will be answered today. There are other questions, however, which won't be answered, at least not for a while. The big one, of course, is why? Why is she leaving before the end of her first term? Speculation continues. Even her supporters aren't really certain. What is certain, however, is that Sarah Palin lost interest in governing Alaska after her fling at national politics as the Republican nominee for Vice President.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Supporters are struggling to improve on Palin's explanations: frustration over unfounded ethics complaints and a desire to "effect change" from outside government were among those she cited in her somewhat disjointed announcement -- along with the desire not to be a lame duck of dead fish. Critics see her early departure as a bid to marshal money and connections for a future run for higher office.

"I think it's 100% clear that the governor's interested in national politics," said Democratic state Rep. Les Gara. "Half the press releases she issued this year had to do with federal issues, not state issues, and I'm assuming if she thinks she has a chance to run for president, that's what she's hoping for." ...

"When she came back, she had a very limited interest in the day-to-day state problems we were all working on," Gara said. "Issues like healthcare, education reform that require you to roll up your sleeves and pay attention to details and aren't very sexy -- she never seemed very interested."

Legislators on both sides of the aisle were outraged when Palin threatened to veto about a third of the $900 million in federal stimulus money offered to Alaska. She wound up backing down, but declined $28.6 million offered for energy conservation and weatherization.

Palin said taking the money would require Alaskan communities that never have wanted building codes to adopt them. Republican state Rep. Mike Hawker countered that most mortgage lenders already required the kind of energy standard sought in the federal stimulus package.

"She was looking for something to save face with, and found something she could veto and at least lay a claim as to why she vetoed it," he said.

Sarah Palin has managed, in slightly less than a year, to become a caricature of the grasping politician, which is certainly no mean feat. I suppose part of her success in this regard is that she is from Alaska, a state a friend of mine who spent two years in Fairbanks described as "just like Texas, only bigger."

If she indeed has national aspirations, she has a couple of years to wipe out the image of "quitter." That's a long time when it comes to political memories. If she can raise the money, she believes she can be a contender, and she may very well be right. One thing we can count on: Sarah Palin is not riding off into the sunset, never to be heard from again. She'll be around, on the Sunday talking-head shows, as a commentator on Fox Cable News, on the early morning television shows touting her new book (as soon as it is written).

You betcha.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bonus Critter Blogging: Spikey, Prickly Lizard

(Photograph by Holger Braun and published at National Geographic.)

"The Americans and Their Dust"

On my weekly trek over to Watching America I came across this picture, appended to this opinion article in Iraq's al-Rafidayn. The picture is a marvelous display of what wonders the US has wrought in Baghdad and all of Iraq. The massive dust storm is a fitting introduction to the article, marked as it is by understandable bitterness.

We are in the prime years of our servitude to the U.S and their occupation and yet we “esteemed” citizens have received nothing from our American masters but ruin and fear … and dust! This dust, a hallmark of our bond to our beloved America, is one of the more prominent legacies of American policy in the region.

It began with the American caravans, caravans of solders and of doom that brought the black Baath regime to Iraq and tyranny to the region. It dried up the marshes and killed the people and eradicated the trees- pustules of a war grew throughout the land and American boots churned the ground and wrought destruction. Then came the violence, liberating the people from their lives, compounding the dryness of the land and the dustiness of the air.

This dust, which has sapped us of natural life for generations, reminds us what it is that the American administration truly deserves, culturally, legally, and according to the laws of the United States itself: a trial before the courts for its crimes against society!

The lament reminds us that the US was involved in Iraq long before 2003, just not so blatantly as it was after this second invasion. The devastation brought by the second invasion has quite literally ruined the earth: the fertility has been pounded out of it by bombs, tank treads, and boots.

The author of the article calls for a trial which would result in the US having to fix what it has broken in Iraq. He wants the US to bring rain, but also to bring clinics which will offer treatment for the respiratory illnesses brought on by the dust.

And then he wants US and its soldiers and tanks to leave. It isn't hard to understand those feelings. Not hard at all.

Labels: ,

Lead Us Into Temptation

Listening to the constant lying from the right wing makes a lot of us libruls - that get that Colbertian bias of the facts - pretty baffled. The congress these days is an object lesson in fiction as the wingnuts fight against the public interest. Existing U.S. health care, that 85% of the public wants restructured, can't be justified by any means but lying.

While I don't listen to much of it, the insistent canting a mantra that is blatantly wrong does grate in the bits and pieces I do hear. The victims of that campaign of lies are the wingnuts who follow and revere the opponents of public interest.

Last night, Bill Moyers' Journal took on the media blitz of haters that the right wing puts forth as its spokespeople. He focused on the Tennessee shooter , Jim David Adkisson, who killed members of a 'liberal church' in his attempt to save the country. That pathological shooter was sure that it was the liberals who are responsible for what he sees as a weakened country, where he can't get a job. How many jobless and frustrated people are following that spiel on the air by winger radio and television 'hosts' and learning the same directions? we have to wonder.

MICHAEL SAVAGE, THE MICHAEL SAVAGE SHOW: Liberalism is, in essence, the HIV virus, and it weakens the defense cells of a nation. What are the defense cells of a nation? Well, the church. They've attacked particularly the Catholic Church for 30 straight years. The police, attacked for the last 50 straight years by the ACLU viruses. And the military, attacked for the last 50 years by the Barbara Boxer viruses on our planet.
GLENN BECK:I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out of him. Is this wrong?

RICK KARR: Michael Reagan, son of the former president, suggested that people who claim that "9/11 was an inside job," a U.S. government conspiracy, deserve to die.

MICHAEL REAGAN, THE MICHAEL REAGAN SHOW: Take them out and shoot them. They are traitors to this country, and shoot them. But anybody who would do that doesn't deserve to live. You shoot them. You call them traitors, that's what they are, and you shoot them dead. I'll pay for the bullet.

RICK KARR: Neal Boortz went after victims of Hurricane Katrina.

NEAL BOORTZ, THE NEAL BOORTZ SHOW: That wasn't the cries of the downtrodden. That's the cries of the useless, the worthless. New Orleans was a welfare city, a city of parasites, a city of people who could not, and had no desire to fend for themselves. You have a hurricane descending on them and they sit on their fat asses and wait for somebody else to come rescue them.
REV. CHRIS BUICE: When you blame all your problems on some minority group, then everyone else is exonerated. We exonerate ourselves. We don't have to look at ourselves to see what sort of ways we contribute to the problems of the world. We don't have to examine ourselves, to see what we are doing that is helping to create the problems that we're so concerned about.

RICK KARR: In other words, Buice says, angry talk radio rhetoric simply sets up scapegoats for society's problems. And ever since Jim David Adkisson walked into his church and opened fire he can't help but wonder whether that might lead to more violence.

REV. CHRIS BUICE: I just think a lot of people are hurling insults from the safety of television studios, the safety of radio studios, the safety of cyberspace, which they would not throw if they had to stand right next to a person and look in their face and say the same thing. And so that's a void in our community, the chance to be in the same room and to have these exchanges and remember the humanity of the person on the other side

BILL MOYERS: That report aired on the Journal on September 12, 2008. Earlier this year, when Jim David Adkisson was sentenced to life behind bars, he released what he called a manifesto -- a four-page statement he wrote before his shooting spree. It was a manifesto, all right, spewing hate like fire and lava exploding from a volcano.

"This was a hate crime," he wrote. "I hate the damn left-wing Liberals [sic]. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state." Among the targets of his malice -- the Democratic National Committee, for "running such a radical leftist candidate, Osama Hussein Obama, yo mama. No experience. No brains, a joke. Dangerous to America."

"Liberals," Adkisson went on, are "evil termites. Millions of them. Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation." He longed to exterminate the traitors one by one. "Who I wanted to kill," he wrote, "was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldbergs [sic] book." --Full disclosure: I'm one of the hundred. "But," Adkisson lamented, "...these people were inaccesible [sic] to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickens**t liberals that vote in these traitorous people."

And that's how Adkisson decided on his victims -- he would go after the foot soldiers, the congregation in the church he described as "a den of un-American vipers." He had a patriotic imperative for anyone who read or heard his manifesto: "do [sic] something for your country before you go. Go Kill Liberals."

While you are sitting at your computer reading in a place you've learned to expect analysis and facts, in other places with other motivations hundreds of thousands are being persuaded that they need to do violence to folks like you who are on the other side. This mind-numbing ignorance has a vast audience, and elects the wingers who are trying to mobilize them to kill our government, our interests, and us.

Eliminating by the vote would be a really good way to start. Removing the liars who want their audience to believe that the government that administers their own health plan can't possibly be trusted to serve the public - the public it is supposed to represent over their worst efforts - there's a good beginning.

I don't listen to the Savages, the Limbaughs, the Obbs rants, but those who want to protest their spewed tirades might well do so at the networks that consider them worth public attention. Here are a few places you can place your remarks.

Glenn Beck;

Neal Boortz;

Michael Savage;

Rush Limbaugh; choose your closest station at;

(Posts also appear at )

Labels: , ,

She Said

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) has taken a lot of heat from the Republican Goon Squad for her complaints earlier this year that the intelligence services mislead the congressional "Gang of Eight" on the operation of the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). Apparently tired of the calumny, Rep. Harman responded with this op-ed article published in the Los Angeles Times which describes the meetings the CIA held with the eight congressional leaders.

Those briefings were conducted roughly quarterly at the White House -- either in the vice president's office or the Situation Room. Most of the ones I attended concerned a code-named program now known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Respectful of the double oath I signed to protect highly classified material, I did not take notes or speak to anyone about the meetings. However, comments by Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, that the Gang of Eight was "fully" briefed on the TSP prompt me to disclose, for the first time, what they were like.

In virtually every meeting, Hayden would present PowerPoint "slides," walking us through the operational details of the TSP. The program has since been described, in part, as one that intercepted communications to and from the U.S. in an effort to uncover terrorist networks and prevent or disrupt attacks. We were told that the program was the centerpiece of our counter-terrorism efforts, legal and yielding impressive results.

Often present were CIA officials (including then-Director George Tenet) and then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales. Missing was any Justice Department presence -- a tipoff, in retrospect, to the legal limbo under which the program operated.
[Emphasis added]

The Justice Department wasn't present because TSP wasn't operating in a "legal limbo," it was operating illegally, something that Mr. Hayden never bothered mentioning during his PowerPoint presentations.

It is now clear to me that we learned only what the briefers wanted to tell us -- even though they were required by law to keep us "fully and currently informed." Absent the ability to do any independent research, it did not occur to me then that the program was operated wholly outside of the framework Congress created as the exclusive means to conduct such surveillance: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

I suppose that the "Gang of Eight" can be faulted for assuming that the program had been deemed legal by the Justice Department, because assuming anything the Bush administration did was legal was foolish. That should have been clear long before 2008. The fact that no one asked whether TSP was operating in conformity with FISA is a bit puzzling. Still, had someone asked, I suspect that Mr. Hayden would have simply noted that that the program had passed legal muster, based on a brilliant memo written by John Yoo.

The question now is what is Congress going to do about it, besides complain and write op-ed pieces? Well, Rep. Harman and her colleagues have proposed a new bill which would end the practice of partial reporting. The current White House response is chilling:

The House and Senate intelligence authorization bills would require increased notification, including, in the House bill, information on lawfulness, cost, benefit and risk. The White House has issued a veto threat, citing constitutional concerns. ... [Emphasis added]

Apparently President Obama has bought into the Unitary Presidency theory.

Unsurprising, that.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Catblogging

Okay, I had a deaf cat, but am noting a site for adoptions of blind cats. This one I've nicknamed Cups, because I remember a blind man who used a cup and begged on the street when I was growing up.



Helping Blind Cats "See" a Future

Do you want to help an animal in need but can't adopt? Then sponsoring is for you! For as little as $1. per day, less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can help a blind cat. You will receive a certificate of sponsorhip with a photo of an animal you have helped and periodic updates.

Looking for the perfect birthday or holiday gift? A sponsorship certificate can be mailed out to the person of your choice!

Please visit all the cats and sponsor one, help us have the resources to help them. Visit our FAQ page if you would like more information. Your sponsorship donation is tax deductible. Click here to meet the cats!


Dysfunctional or Highly Effective

Watching the right wing in congress wield its powers to obstruct the health care restructuring that 85% of the public wants reveals the character of the wingers more than ever. Policy that public interest would dictate is anathema to what remains of the GOP. It's rather scary to see what they do want; war, debt, deregulation, repression of workers/salaries.

Today as the minimum wage rises for the first time since the last Democratic White House, it might be a good time to look at who benefits when the public is slammed.

The facts behind the wars that the previous war criminal administration waged have become clear; the war on Iraq had been determined long before 9/11 which was used to precipitate it. Many believe, and state, that it was a war for oil; I think that the outcome indicates it was a broader pattern. Not just the oil companies that the previous maladministration truckled to profited hugely. The war profiteers that include Cheney's Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater and associated military suppliers also had free reign which included being appointed oversight of their own activities. The wars that impoverished this country enriched the perpetrators of it, something a previous profiteer,, progenitor of the worst president in history, had been rebuked for by Congress after WWII.

There were other methods of impoverishing the country, a major one being the deregulation of financial houses that pushed debt so great onto the country that our households have lost an estimated one-third of total assets. Wages' falling - along with soaring prices of oil and transported goods - has required individuals and families to go deeper into debt than ever experienced before. The service jobs that predominated during eight years of winger policies forced multitudes of wage earners to take more than one job to support themselves and their families.

National debt rose to pay for the extravagance of the free market profiteers. National debt brings to mind a vision of the Treasury, whose bonds have been sold to various investors here and abroad. More than just the Treasury is involved in the transaction, though.

The sellers of those Treasury bonds are for the most part the very financial houses that handle other investments, and can be your bank, your financial manager, even your insurance agent. Few have, as I did, bought their bonds directly from the U.S. Treasury, and it offended my banker to find out that I had not gone through him when I did. The profit in each individual transaction is minimal, but in the multitudinous transactions of sales to get into the immense debt constitution some trillions of dollars huge profits accrued.

Once again, policies that made a mockery of the concept of government, that it serves the public, brought huge profits to the moneyed interest that the right wing serves.

While public office holders who take direct bribes from those they serve by betraying public interest are prosecuted, those who serve their own interests by allowing them to profit off of policies harmful to the public usually are ignored.

The highway robbery, that acquiring huge public debt has been. may not ever be prosecuted. Like the war, though, it has accumulated huge profits for those that committed this crime against the public.

In discussion of the wingnut attacks on health care for the public, more than one commenter I've been talking with has expressed amazement that we aren't taking to the streets and running them out of office. Quite probably, if the full truth of their thefts from the public were exposed, there would be even greater anger against the profiteers from war, debt and the health crisis.

I prefer accumulating anger and using it personally to work for a return to government of, by and for the people. In the sixties, I marched around the White House holding a candle, and against the Pentagon - though I went home before the soldiers advanced against civilians there. It's quite likely that I will be marching again, should the wingnuts succeed in robbing this country of its access to health care, along with the return on its productivity and its right to survive on that production.

Labels: , ,

Sicker And Dumber

Harold Meyerson had a very perceptive op-ed column in yesterday's Los Angeles Times regarding the sorry budget "deal" the State of California was delivered over the past few days. He places the blame fairly on the recalcitrant "No New Taxes" GOP, but he also points out the role a state constitutional flaw played in allowing the minority to steamroller the Democrats and California's overall health.

The provisions in California's Constitution that require a two-thirds vote to pass the state's budget and all tax increases were always something of a booby trap, and in the current crop of legislative Republicans -- a minority party with just over one-third representation in both houses -- it found its boobies. During the steep recessions of the early '70s and the early '90s, Republican Govs. Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson worked with their legislative colleagues in both parties to make up the major budget shortfalls through a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts. This generation of Republicans, however, decided to close a $26-billion shortfall entirely through gimmicks and cutbacks, and the state's Constitution gave them the power to game the situation to their advantage. [Emphasis added]

That's a pretty accurate historical reference: even Saint Ronnie of Reagan raised taxes during times of economic recession. Although most of those taxes were temporary, the tactic worked: the state got back on its feet. During those times, however (and Mr. Meyerson points this out), there were still such critters as "moderate" Republicans, those who believed in fiscal sanity more than they believed in ideological purity. Sadly, that is not the case anymore here in California and across the nation.

The result is a gimmick laden budget, one that robs the poor, elderly, and vulnerable and that stiffs cities and counties (and their school children) so that oil companies won't have to pay an extraction fee (a fee that exists in every other oil bearing state). What, like the oil companies would flee California oil fields? The consequences of this "kick the can down the road" budget have already been acknowledged by Governor Schwarzenegger, but here's a reiteration:

...Hundreds of thousands of children will lose their healthcare and tens of thousands of aged and disabled California will lose their in-home support services. Public K-12 schools will continue to lay off teachers and cut class offerings, and both the University of California and the state university system will have their state funding cut by roughly 20%. At a time when state business leaders are crying out for a better-educated workforce, the Republicans in the Legislature have pushed through policies that will make the state both sicker and dumber.

It's clear that the state needs fixing, and Mr. Meyerson suggest more than a temporary triage is needed:

First, Democrats in the Legislature should consider calling the GOP's bluff and voting against the budget deal -- but they can't make their case absent a public spokesman. It's time for Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom to rise to the challenge that Clinton did when he stood down Gingrich. And second, Californians need to amend their state Constitution, in convention if need be, to end the practice of minority rule. Democracy -- not to mention the future of the state -- depends on it. [Emphasis added]

From your lips, Mr. Meyerson. From your lips.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Birdblogging

Lyrebird, an Australian original

Tape of lyrebird calls here.

Really the Lyrebird is a very plain looking brown (chicken size) bird, except for long trailing tail feathers They are darkish brown on top of their body , and lighter below and they have markings on their throat normally with a red to brown colouring
They are magnificent mimicker of other birds and noises. Often in the morning you may think you are surrounded by a multitude of bird species, to find out you have been fooled by a lyrebird. Car noises, chainsaws, dogs and other noises are no problem for this excellent imitator The mimicry, though used in the mating courtship is heard all year round. It is said to be the way the male lyrebird tells others this is his territory, much like the Kookaburras "laugh"


Wingers Getting It Wrong For the Kids

Our founding fathers would be dismayed at many things that the wingers have done to their concept of independence, but teaching that God made them do it would not pass muster. These intellectuals who were dismissive of the fundamentalist teachings of colonial days were not about to carry water for any church. Now present day fundies - who want their church to tell you what your body ought to be required to do - are trying to teach your children their own version of history.

That the enemies of our country envy our freedoms is actually true among these screwy revisionists.

The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state's education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.

Members of a panel of experts appointed by the board to revise the state's history curriculum, who include a Christian fundamentalist preacher who says he is fighting a war for America's moral soul, want lessons to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue.

Opponents have decried the move as an attempt to insert religious teachings in to the classroom by stealth, similar to the Christian right's partially successful attempt to limit the teaching of evolution in biology lessons in Texas.

One of the panel, David Barton, founder of a Christian heritage group called WallBuilders, argues that the curriculum should reflect the fact that the US Constitution was written with God in mind including that "there is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature", that "there is a creator" and "government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual".

Barton says children should be taught that Christianity is the key to "American exceptionalism" because the structure of its democratic system is a recognition that human beings are fallible, and that religion is at the heart of being a virtuous citizen.

Another of the experts is Reverend Peter Marshall, who heads his own Christian ministry and preaches that Hurricane Katrina and defeat in the Vietnam war were God's punishment for sexual promiscuity and tolerance of homosexuals. Marshall recommended that children be taught about the "motivational role" of the Bible and Christianity in establishing the original colonies that later became the US.
Social studies teachers will meet shortly to consider the panel's views and make their own recommendations to the board of education which has the final say. The board is dominated by conservatives who appointed Barton and Marshall to the panel.

These revisionists ought to be given no say at all in school curriculum. It's doubtful that most churches would allow such drivel to be taught in their bible schools and most parents I know would snatch their children out of any school where such nonsense was taught.

The right wing has been working its way into posts of responsibility to spread their poison, and our negligence of our own citizenship has allowed it to happen by not being involved in our own government locally. I'm guilty, too, since I found out that wingnuts had sought and gotten positions in our city government several years back but thought they'd learn something which might be to everyone's good.

Nothing positive happens when the ignorant get into positions of authority. In Dallas, the Health Department has been allowed once again to distribute condoms - after prohibiting the practice resulted in increased occurrences of HIV, and unwanted pregnancies.

Our founding fathers were men of amazing intellect, and despoiling the great country we've been fortunate to inherit is not to be allowed. Separation of church and state may not be written into the constitution, but our freedoms are spelled out quite definitively, even when it did take many years to extend them to most of our citizens.

We need to protect this country from those who want to deprive us of our freedom. Our children are at risk once again, in Texas.

Labels: , , ,

Same Song, Different Singer

So much for the return to transparency in government promised by candidate Barack Obama. President Obama is having none of that, particularly when it comes to health care reform, as this Los Angeles Times story points out.

Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a letter to the Secret Service asking about visits from 18 executives representing health insurers, drug makers, doctors and other players in the debate. The group wants the material in order to gauge the influence of those executives in crafting a new healthcare policy.

The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege."

The presidential communications privilege? Shades of Dick Cheney! Remember those meetings on energy to which only oil company executives were invited? This sounds remarkably like the same scenario.

Now, it is entirely possible that insurance company executives and health care providers were called to the White House for a little old fashioned jawboning, but if that is the case, then the President should have no reason to keep such information secret. To invoke the excuses of the last administration does nothing more than add legitimacy to the concept of the Unitary President, a concept which was rejected in the last election because that concept upends the ideal of a government with three co-equal branches, and, even worse, it disenfranchises the electorate. That is intolerable, so intolerable that the country swept the Republicans out of office.

I am not really interested in knowing what the President is having for dinner, but I am interested in knowing who he is conferring with when it comes to dealing with such issues as health care access. I may be just a commoner, but I, along with several hundred million other Americans, hold the title to the White House. If Mr. Obama is unwilling to keep crucial campaign promises, then he is just another politician, one whom I will be happy to evict from his current address for failing to pay the rent when the opportunity arises.


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Your Media Running Far Away Fast From News

Over at After Downing, I happened on an excellent blog about our missing media. We now are very aware that when news occurs, it will be ignored except as it fits accepted tropes - and forget any digging for the truth if it's not a good reflection on villagers.

All the more need for the internet, and blogs like this one.

A week ago, I published a report on 1,200 photos of U.S. torture that I have examined but the public at large has not seen. I talked about the photos on a few progressive radio shows. I received calls from some advocacy groups that have been trying for years to get hold of these photos. But I received not one single inquiry from the corporate media. Even most good blogs ignored this story despite a handful of prominent blogs promoting it. This started me thinking and fantasizing: what would the world look like if we had major media outlets that were worth more than a warm bucket of spit?
Democratic (small d) media would be very different from Democratic or Republican or Bipartisan media. It would treat laws as mandatory, not subject to the whims of those in power. It would treat enforcement of laws against those in power as more important than their enforcement against everyone else. Such media would not cover resistance to a war without noting that the war was (if it was) illegal. Such media would not cover the prosecution of low-level soldiers for crimes they were ordered to commit, without investigating their superiors and asking why they had not been prosecuted. Such media would not quote nonsensical statements by those in power about possibly investigating whether crimes had been committed without noting (when it existed) the publicly available evidence that in fact crimes had almost certainly been committed. And if a former vice president appeared on a democratic show and brazenly confessed to felonies, the producers would invite the attorney general to view the tape on the air and respond to it.

The absence of the media has at least made an atmosphere that demands we on the blogs keep hacking away at the internet, making sure that the truth isn't drowned out by powers wielding money.

(H/T to Mike's Blog Roundup )

Labels: , ,

Where Have All The Dollars Gone?

While California leads the pack in suffering from the contracted economy, our increased production abroad has given impetus to businesses and governments outside the U.S. where the dollar increasingly migrates. Taxes paid abroad were a greater proportion of their layout for reporting U.S. business than taxes paid at home.

This makes ever more ridiculous the right wing's continuing complaint about the U.S. tax rate's being prohibitive, a complaint that ignores actual payments - which take advantage of multitudes of 'tax breaks' - that total far less than individuals' tax payments. While our infrastructure deteriorates, our business community blithely throws its dollars at economies and infrastructure outside the U.S. This is supposed to be sound policy for increasing profits. The fact that it ignores the source of those profits has escaped our brilliant business conceptualizers until now.

American multinationals have long tapped foreign markets to take advantage of lower labor costs, looser regulations, and simpler tax structures that can make doing business overseas more cost-efficient than in the U.S. But it's not just jobs migrating abroad -- it's now tax dollars too, a senior index analyst at Standard & Poor's says. [S&P, like BusinessWeek, is owned by The McGraw-Hill Companies.)

Last year marked the first time that American companies contributed more to the tax pools of foreign governments than they did domestically, according to analyst Howard Silverblatt's annual S&P 500 Global Sales report, released July 14. The study was based on income taxes paid and reported to the U.S. government by just over half the companies on the S&P 500. Companies are not obligated to provide such detailed breakdowns of foreign sales. In 2008 foreign income tax payouts accounted for more than 55 percent of their total income tax expenditures, up from 45 percent in 2007 -- an $11.5 billion increase. Federal income tax payouts declined 29 percent, or almost $44 billion, over the same period.

This trend has been occurring for some time. Over the past four years, U.S. companies have increasingly paid a higher percentage of their total income taxes to foreign governments, which accounted for 45 percent in 2007, up from 39 percent in 2005. But Silverblatt's findings represent another data point among many showing that the U.S. was hit harder than many foreign countries in 2008 as the global financial crisis picked up steam. While the U.S. economy contracted, emerging economies grew to take market share.

The attitude the business community has taken toward our own economy, that economy they depend on for sales, is enriching economies abroad while impoverishing the very consumers the businesses count on.

It's been noted by an increasing community of observers I communicate with on the internet, that our businesses that send their salaries abroad are cutting off their own sales objectives. The goose that laid the golden eggs - for sales in the U.S. - is the discretionary income. That's the amount we have to spend on non-essentials. That spending is where the deepest cuts occur in times when jobs and salaries disappear. Where is the genius in some Business School formulating a new lesson in how to keep sales by directing salaries and jobs to those consumers you sell to?

That scream you hear from domestic businesses is the echo of that death call of their source of golden eggs - it's a lesson business executives never seem to learn.

Emerging economies are a hopeful sign, but for the most part their governments harness resources to keep their own economies growing. Our right wing ideological tilt over the past maladministration did the opposite. As a result, we are in deep financial trouble. Shouldn't that lesson be obvious?

By directing their development efforts abroad, U.S. businesses are eating themselves. Those CEOs depending on cutting costs by paying salaries in third world economies are now selling into that salary level. They should themselves be getting accustomed to those third world salaries, as its their choice.

Labels: , ,

Tomorrow, And The Day After That

Although the California budget crisis is allegedly over with the new-and-improved deal announced by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislative leaders, there are already rumblings that the process isn't quite over. The Republicans got most of what they wanted, i.e., no new or increased taxes, but even they recognize that the proposed budget is nothing more than a shiny yellow Hello, Kitty bandaid on a deep and wide wound. Sooner or later the dressing will have to be changed and the blood will flow once again.

The budget deal did more than just "kick the can down the road" for the next governors and state legislatures to reckon with, it also kicked the can in the general direction of cities and counties which will now have to make some increasingly tough decisions of their own, as this Los Angeles Times editorial makes clear.

...The agreement also relies on swiping billions of dollars from those same cities and counties, sticking them with the hard choices -- whether to seek tax increases to prop up public safety, mental health, addiction, housing and job placement services, or to put up with more people in the jails, on the streets or lined up for scarcer assistance. Now, on top of the already deep and painful cuts in state programs such as Healthy Families, CalWorks and In-Home Supportive Services, county and city governments will have to identify millions of dollars more in cuts.

The smoke-and-mirror budget ultimately is nothing more than a series of accounting gimmicks which are intended to put some cash in the state "bank" so that some bills can be paid now. No problems were solved, just as payday loans don't solve financial problems for more than a few days. In fact, these gimmicks are guaranteed to make the problems worse when the next "payday" comes, say in about six months when the new budgetary process begins again, this time facing gargantuan interest payments in addition to the same problems that weren't addressed by this "deal."

The editorial's conclusion has it right, at least for the most part:

...No once-and-for-all resolution was available. Despite the fantasies of would-be reformers, government cannot be remade in a few weeks during the middle of an economic disaster, a fact proved by the kick-the-can budget just announced. The real work comes over a period of months and perhaps years, as Californians turn their attention -- as they must -- to remaking our tax structure and reinventing our government.

The fact is that there were a number of ways the budget could have been fairer and on more solid ground, all of them taken off the table by the GOP which had just enough strength to bar them because they involved taxes and fees. But the editorial does indirectly acknowledge what it will take in its final clause.

In the mean time, well, "Calibama, here we come..."

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Bliss

Finding eschatonia at Blissfest by following BarnDog signing was a cinch. Thanks to Feral Liberal for the photo.

Dragonfly searches for the 'aqua' in VA's aquatic t-shirt scene. (Look closely, it's perched on your left, midriff area, tail descends over heron.)

Van Riper; Mr V4VA, (Paul), and Feral Liberal threaten to jump if we don't let them have the roast beef for dinner.

Sunrise, U.P. pre-Blissfest.

Gathered around Barndog's camper, a standing Fokowi, Woody, Bob the coffee artist, and Edie the masseuse (artist, too).

Adam;s family; Vicki, Jen, Hamhock.

Okay, somewhat pre-Blissfest, Adam as a small hock.


Concept of Insurance Violated in Practice

The scandalous behavior of our major insurance businesses has become an accepted outrage. When we pay our premiums, we are no longer given the value we were sold with the policy. However, present legislation is being proposed to require that we buy insurance for the good of society. This is another instance of the public interest being stolen, for the profiteering that our business community has turned to.

When Massachusetts passed into law a requirement that everyone have insurance, the corruption of the industry was ignored. Reality-based health insurance legislation must require the actual activity of the insurer be regulated to require that a large proportion of that activity actually result in health care that the policy supposedly entails. In my opinion, that should be at least 80% of the amount received in premiums being devoted to actual health care.

The concept of insurance is that by pooling their funds, the insureds guarantee that they can manage those few outrageous costs that some of the insureds will encounter, usually through catastrophic health needs. As it is operated presently, that concept is the selling point for policies, but it is not the operating principle of the companies executing the policies.

The events chronicled in Sicko were revelatory to many in the audience, and included incidents of sick policy holders having their just claims refused by insurance moguls to promote profiteering. Hearings have recently established multitudes of instances that occurred when the medical needs of the insured were rejected by insurers because they reduced profits.

We have standards for charitable organizations that require them to give a certain amount of their funds to actual charitable work. All the more so, if the public is required to have insurance, should the work they contract for be a large proportion of what is actually financed.

In the case of charities, many oversight groups have formed because of outrages discovered in appeals to the public which represented fraudulent claims. There is obvious need to apply that same outrage reaction to companies that take in money on the pretense of a future commitment, then violate that commitment when a need for it actually arises.

This recent post about fraudulent fundraising strikes me as very relevant to the insurance debacle.

I get so angry when a nonprofit gets money that does not deserve it. For example, the Cancer Fund of America solicits donations across the U.S., including locally, through telemarketers, direct mail and online. The BBB found that more than 99 percent of all cash donations to the organization pay professional fundraising costs, salaries for charity officials, consultant fees and other expenses related to the charity’s operations. And they raised more than $8 million in 2007. Just how much of that came out of our community is unknown, but that is money that a good local charity did not see.

The BBB offers the following tips to persons receiving charitable solicitations:

•Before giving, ask for written information about a charity’s program, finances and tax status – especially if you are unfamiliar with the organization.

•Don’t bend to pressure to give money immediately, especially over the phone. A charity that wants your money today also will welcome it later.

When we use an insurance company, it would be much preferable if we could count on an oversight agency, like one operated by our government, to provide information about the amount of funds that actually are returned in satisfaction of the contract we make with that company.

From Charity Navigator, which gives recommendations about the amount of funds collected as charitable donations that actually goes to charitable work: Program Expenses less than 33.3% (Emphasis added.):
Our data shows that 7 out of 10 charities we've evaluated spend at least 75% of their budget on the programs and services they exist to provide. And 9 out of 10 spend at least 65%. We believe that those spending less than a third of their budget on program expenses are simply not living up to their missions.

Even more so should businesses that promise a service deliver that service. So when we pay out a required amount of a premium for insurance, it should return 80% of the basis for our premiums to the activity we pay for.

For public safety our government has required that in order to use a name like "organic" the company meet specifications it has established to assure us that the product meets standards of organic production and content. to be able to call itself an "Insurance Company", that company should be required to use a reasonable amount of its charges, for the insurance policies it sells, as actual insurance to policyholders.

There really is no reason except for fraudulent obtaining of funds for a company that is advertising its services to get paid without providing those services.

It is past time to stop accepting theft as everyday business operation.

Labels: , ,