Archive for March, 2010

LIFTING THE VEIL

March 28, 2010

 

The Unbearable Lightness of Reform by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship March 27, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

That wickedly satirical Ambrose Bierce described politics as “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

Bierce vanished to Mexico nearly a hundred years ago — to the relief of the American political class of his day, one assumes — but in an eerie way he was forecasting America’s political culture today. It seems like most efforts to reform a system that’s gone awry — to clean house and make a fresh start — end up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place.

Which is why Bierce, in his classic little book, The Devil’s Dictionary, defined reform as “a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation.”

Give the victors their due: the bill Obama signed expands coverage to many more people, stops some very ugly and immoral practices by the health insurance industry that should have been stopped long ago, and offers a framework for more change down the road, if there’s any heart or will left to fight for it.

But reformation? Hardly. For all their screaming and gnashing of teeth, the insurance companies still make out like bandits. Millions of new customers, under penalty of law, will be required to buy the companies’ policies, feeding the insatiable greed of their CEO’s and filling the campaign coffers of the politicians they wine and dine. Profits are secure; they don’t have to worry about competition from a public alternative to their cartel, and they can continue to scam us without fear of antitrust action.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/27-0

Earth ‘Entering New Age of Geological Time’ by Murray Wardrop March 27, 2010 by The Telegraph/UK

The Earth has entered a new age of geological time – the epoch of new man, scientists claim.

Humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes on the planet that we may be ushering in a new period of geological history.  It is feared that the damage mankind has inflicted will lead to the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history with thousands of plants and animals being wiped out.

The new epoch, called the Anthropocene – meaning new man – would be the first period of geological time shaped by the action of a single species.  Although the term has been in informal use among scientists for more than a decade, it is now under consideration as an official term.

A new working group of experts has now been established to gather all the evidence which would support recognising it as the successor to the current Holocene epoch. It will consider changes human activities have brought to Earth’s biodiversity and rock structure as well as the impact of factors including pollution and mineral extraction.

It is hoped that within three years, their case will be presented to the International Union of Geological Sciences, which would decide whether the transition to a new epoch has been made. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/03/27

Celebrating (Mourning) a Culture of Lies by Robert Freeman March 28, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Tomorrow, March 29th, marks the thirty-seventh anniversary of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam. You won’t hear it celebrated in any mainstream media, though it should be. Or more precisely, it should be mourned. Vietnam is the first war America ever lost.

It should be remembered so that we might learn the lessons of that loss. They are many, they are profound, and they could inform so many of our policy decisions today: that withdrawal from immoral wars doesn’t mean the end of civilization as we know it; that even America’s seemingly limitless resources are, in fact, limited; that masses of engaged, moral individuals can constrain the reckless, destructive folly of renegade elites.

Perhaps the most important lesson of Vietnam is that policies based on lies will ultimately fail, for in an open society it is the consent of the governed that is required to sustain major policy initiatives. A government can either earn that consent, or it must forfeit the essence of its democracy. If lying becomes its essential modus operandi, a nation ceases to be a democracy. Rather, it becomes a criminal conspiracy of self-interested insiders donning the trappings of democracy in order to gull the credulous.

It is time to grow out of our materialistic fetishes and begin cultivating the personal and civic maturity we like to fancy we possess, but which we don’t. It is time to grow up and accept the burdens of mature citizenship, among the most important of which are a capacity and a willingness to tell the truth, letting go the comforting but corrosive lies in the confidence that courage mustered now will yield not only greater self respect today but a more sane, a more decent, and a safer society in the future.

It is important that we commemorate Vietnam, both to mourn the objective horror of what it was, but also to redeem our capacity to tell the truth, to ourselves, about ourselves. Only in that way can we begin to reclaim the country and the people we want to imagine ourselves to be.

Robert Freeman writes on economics, history and education. His earlier piece, “Is Iraq Another Vietnam?” was also published on CommonDreams.  He can reached at robertfreeman10@yahoo.com. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/28-3

Related:  https://johnlegry.wordpress.com/politics-mostly/organized-irresponsibility/

The Rage Is Not About Health Care by Frank Rich March 28, 2010 by The New York Times

THERE were times when last Sunday’s great G.O.P. health care implosion threatened to bring the thrill back to reality television.  On ABC’s “This Week,” a frothing and filibustering Karl Rove all but lost it in a debate with the Obama strategist David Plouffe. A few hours later, the perennially copper-faced Republican leader John Boehner revved up his “Hell no, you can’t!” incantation in the House chamber – instant fodder for a new viral video remixing his rap with will.i.am’s “Yes, we can!” classic from the campaign. Boehner, having previously likened the health care bill to Armageddon, was now so apoplectic you had to wonder if he had just discovered one of its more obscure revenue-generating provisions, a tax on indoor tanning salons.

But the laughs evaporated soon enough. There’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. And as the week dragged on, and reports of death threats and vandalism stretched from Arizona to Kansas to upstate New York, the F.B.I. and the local police had to get into the act to protect members of Congress and their families.

How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, some responsible leaders in both parties spoke out to try to put a lid on the resistance and violence. The arch-segregationist Russell of Georgia, concerned about what might happen in his own backyard, declared flatly that the law is “now on the books.” Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric.

Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too. Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company.  Frank Rich is a regular columnist for The New York Times.  He is the author of many books, including The Great Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/28

INTRODUCING WORLD WAR III

Have a Nice World War, Folks by John Pilger March 28, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Here is news of the Third World War. The United States has invaded Africa. US troops have entered Somalia, extending their war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and now the Horn of Africa. In preparation for an attack on Iran, American missiles have been placed in four Persian Gulf states, and “bunker-buster” bombs are said to be arriving at the US base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

In Gaza, the sick and abandoned population, mostly children, is being entombed behind underground American-supplied walls in order to reinforce a criminal siege. In Latin America, the Obama administration has secured seven bases in Colombia, from which to wage a war of attrition against the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Meanwhile, the secretary of “defence” Robert Gates complains that “the general [European] public and the political class” are so opposed to war they are an “impediment” to peace. Remember this is the month of the March Hare.

According to an American general, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not so much a real war as a “war of perception”. Thus, the recent “liberation of the city of Marja” from the Taliban’s “command and control structure” was pure Hollywood. Marja is not a city; there was no Taliban command and control. The heroic liberators killed the usual civilians, poorest of the poor. Otherwise, it was fake. A war of perception is meant to provide fake news for the folks back home, to make a failed colonial adventure seem worthwhile and patriotic, as if The Hurt Locker were real and parades of flag-wrapped coffins through the Wiltshire town of Wooten Basset were not a cynical propaganda exercise.

Norman Mailer once said he believed the United States, in its endless pursuit of war and domination, had entered a “pre-fascist era”. Mailer seemed tentative, as if trying to warn about something even he could not quite define. “Fascism” is not right, for it invokes lazy historical precedents, conjuring yet again the iconography of German and Italian repression. On the other hand, American authoritarianism, as the cultural critic Henry Giroux pointed out recently, is “more nuance, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent.”

This is Americanism, the only predatory ideology to deny that it is an ideology. The rise of tentacular corporations that are dictatorships in their own right and of a military that is now a state with the state, set behind the façade of the best democracy 35,000 Washington lobbyists can buy, and a popular culture programmed to divert and stultify, is without precedent. More nuanced perhaps, but the results are both unambiguous and familiar. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, the senior United Nations officials in Iraq during the American and British-led blockade, are in no doubt they witnessed genocide. They saw no gas chambers. Insidious, undeclared, even presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, the Third World War and its genocide proceeded, human being by human being.

In the coming election campaign in Britain, the candidates will refer to this war only to laud “our boys”. The candidates are almost identical political mummies shrouded in the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. As Blair demonstrated a mite too eagerly, the British elite loves America because America allows it to barrack and bomb the natives and call itself a “partner”. We should interrupt their fun.

John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film-maker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s highest award, that of “Journalist of the Year,” for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/28-5 

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MEET THE BAD GUYS

March 26, 2010

REPUBLICAN FOLLIES

The Republicans are patently unable to accept either the truth or defeat.  Like hung over alcoholics, they stagger back to commit the same dumb acts over and over.  Persistence in a negative activity signifies mental disturbance.  The picture their intransigence paints is really stupid, mean-spirited and ugly.  Why anyone would want them as political party of choice eludes us.  Observe:

GOP Senator Blocks Jobless-Benefits Extension March 26, 2010 by the Associated Press by Andrew Taylor

Washington – As Congress raced to leave Washington for its Easter recess, a Republican senator blocked a stopgap bill to extend jobless benefits, saying its $9 billion cost should not be added to the national debt.

As a result, some people who have been out of work for more than six months will at least temporarily lose benefits. Newly jobless people won’t be eligible to sign up for generous health insurance subsidies.

At the center of the battle is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is insisting that the measure be “paid for” so as not to add to the nation’s $12.7 trillion debt.

“What we are doing is stealing future opportunity from our children,” Coburn said Thursday.

The practical effect of the lapse in benefits would be limited if they are awarded retroactively. But labor advocates say it produces bureaucratic nightmares for state labor departments, and that trying to restore the lapsed benefits is easier said than done.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/03/26-5

Hurting defenseless people is unconscionable.  Senator Coburn is obviously no friend of the people, at least the ones who need help.

Meanwhile, the nutsies over at the Tea Party are going dingo.

The Mad Tea Party and the Cloward-Piven Conspiracy Theory March 26, 2010 by The Nation by Richard Kim

Leftists like to say that another world is possible, but I was never quite sure of that until I started reading tea party websites. There, a government of leftists is not only possible, it’s on the cusp of seizing permanent power, having broken American capitalism and replaced it with a socialist state. Down that rabbit hole, Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel are communists, and “The Left”–which encompasses everyone from the Democratic Leadership Council to Maoist sectarians–is a disciplined and near omnipotent army marching in lockstep to a decades-old master plan for domination called the “Cloward-Piven strategy” or, as of January 20, 2009, “Cloward-Piven government.”

What is this plot? According to David Horowitz, who apparently coined the expression, Cloward-Piven is “the strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis.” Named after sociologists and antipoverty and voting rights activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, who first elucidated it in a May 2, 1966, article for The Nation called “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” the Cloward-Piven strategy, in Horowitz’s words, “seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.” Like a fun-house-mirror version of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine theory, the Cloward-Piven strategy dictates that the left will exploit that crisis to push through unpopular, socialist policies in a totalitarian manner.

Perhaps most critical, the Cloward-Piven conspiracy theory pushes the tea party’s kettle closer to a boil. In its obsession with voter fraud and the potential illegitimacy of the 2008 election–and the democratic process itself–the conspiracy suggests a tit-for-tat strategy for victory: if the left is going to cynically manipulate the system to produce tyranny, then so will we. How? To begin, there’s the tried-and-true tactic of suppressing the poor minority vote–which would next place Project Vote in the tea party’s cross hairs. But why stop there? Like every good conspiracy theory, this one too is a call to arms.   © 2010 The Nation.  Richard Kim is a senior editor at The Nation.   READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/26-3

There Will Be Blood Spilled If the Republicans Keep Matching Their Message with Violent Talk Frameshop By Jeffrey Feldman

Rather than recoil at violent language, GOP leadership seems to see it as a chance to turn out votes. The consequences could be deadly.

Words matter–and they matter even more when they are violent words. Apparently, GOP leadership agrees.

Despite the unwillingness of mainstream media to connect the dots, the base and leadership of the GOP are matching their rhetoric to the disturbing rise of violent talk at Tea Party rallies and amongst conservative anti-government groups. The conclusion: rather than recoil at violent language, GOP leadership seems to see it as a chance to turn out votes.

Palin via Twitter told her Republican followers to “reload” and “aim for” Democrats, directing GOP activists to her SarahPac website where they found a map of the country festooned with rifle scope cross-hairs over Congressional districts held by Democrats. Palin’s rifle scope map is the kind of image one might expect to see in an ad for a violent, first-person shooter video game.

RNC, Michael Steele, issued a recent call to Republicans to put Nancy Pelosi on the “firing line” because of the health insurance reform bill.

By using the phrase “firing line,” Steele encourages Republican activists to think of the next election as an execution of the opposition or a violent killing. The language Steele uses is not neutral. “Defeat” is defined as “kill.” “Voting” is linked to “shooting.” Winning the election is couched in an image of bloodletting.

In a similar violent vein, Sarah Palin via Twitter told her Republican followers to “reload” and “aim for” Democrats, directing GOP activists to her SarahPac website where they found a map of the country festooned with rifle scope cross-hairs over Congressional districts held by Democrats.

When Americans threaten to use firearms to enforce their political views, the violent threats carried by that language undermines the system of public debate on which our system depends. Healthy political debate can sustain a great deal of anger and passion, but it cannot sustain repeated threats of violence and calls for violent assault as a form of political engagement.

It is time to for right-wing political violence to stop before passions turn to bloodshed.  READ MORE: http://www.alternet.org/news/146178/there_will_be_blood_spilled_if_the_republicans_keep_matching_their_message_with_violent_talk?page=2

The Republicans are bought into the craziness at a very deep level.  They will not get better.  They will explode or fizzle out, but they will not get “well.”  These sick puppies prefer revolution and the overthrow of the United States government to honest political dialog and debate.  We really need to put these crazies into the booby hatch.

Fox News, Health Care, and the Right-Wing Nervous Breakdown Media Matters for America / By Eric Boehlert

How did health care go so terribly wrong for the Tea Party’s true believers? They made the mistake of believing their own hype — and Fox News.

Watching Fox News personalities recently come unglued as the realization set in that (surprise!) Democrats might actually have the votes to pass health care reform — and noting how extraordinarily loopy and dire both the attacks on the White House, and the proclamations for pending, apocalyptic doom were becoming — I was getting nervous that one of Fox News’ more unhinged hosts might finally just snap and pull a Rev. Jim Jones, beseeching viewers to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Honestly, unless you’ve been monitoring the ticking time bomb that is the far-right media in recent days, you probably don’t appreciate how frighteningly possible that cultish scenario has become, as the GOP Noise Machine, led by Fox News, publicly suffers a nervous breakdown. It’s a mental and emotional collapse that’s been advertised in recent days as cablers, radio talkers, and right-wing bloggers have reached for increasingly hysterical, often blood-curdling rhetoric to describe the irreversible atrocity — an incurable, metastasizing malignancy!! — that’s about to seize and destroy the United States in the form of a bill to expand health care coverage.

Yet last week, as its opposition to reform grew increasingly futile, the GOP Noise Machine dedicated lots of time and energy to mocking and attacking cancer-stricken patients, as well as a motherless 11-year-old boy who had the audacity to speak out in favor of health care reform.

Limbaugh’s immortal words to the boy: “Your mom would have still died, because Obamacare doesn’t kick in until 2014.”

To me, the attacks indicated a withering of the right-wing media’s shrinking moral compass, not to mention common sense. (Mocking the seriously ill is a winning political strategy?) It was another tell-tale sign of the unfolding, and unstoppable, nervous breakdown.

Because how else do you describe this kind of erratic, disturbed behavior? And it’s worth repeating: This wasn’t coming from minor, fringe players. It’s been coming from the supposed leading lights of the conservative media; leading lights who, blinded by paranoia, have suffered a collective collapse and can no longer make sense of their surroundings. READ MORE: http://www.alternet.org/media/146176/fox_news%2C_health_care%2C_and_the_right-wing_nervous_breakdown?page=3

Alan Greenspan is back to do us more dirt, not content with having supervised the systematic looting of the United States Treasury and creating the conditions for the collapse of the mortgage and banking sector.  He “apologized” for having done it, said he was wrong, sorry about that.  To show his benign good will to the American people, he now proposes to steal their Social Security for his masters, the Corporatist elite.

Alan Greenspan and the New York Times Are Gunning for Your Social Security AlterNet / By Zach Carter

The battle for Social Security is on — and the Times is fighting for the bad guys.

With health care reform finally signed into law, a new policy battle over Social Security is quietly but unquestionably building momentum. Make no mistake — Wall Street is now doing its best to gut Social Security, and as a front-page article in yesterday’s New York Times makes clear, the media is not ready to challenge them on it.

Like every other major institution in the public and private sectors, Social Security has taken a few licks from the current recession. But the problems are simply not very serious — the entitlement program’s trust fund currently stands at a massive $2.5 trillion — that’s trillion with a “t.” If the federal government makes absolutely no changes to Social Security whatsoever, the program is currently projected to remain fiscally fit through 2037. The effects of the recession are included in that projection — prior to the financial crash of 2008, Social Security was projected to remain solvent through 2041.

But pesky facts like that are not the focus of the story from Times reporter Mary Williams Walsh, who instead highlights a fundamentally meaningless statistic to needlessly frighten her readers:

“This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016.”

That’s a perspective shared by Wall Street billionaires like Peter Peterson, who has pledged a massive fortune to spreading the message: Save the bankers and brokers first — everyone else, including seniors, is expendable. Peterson and Greenspan have allies in the newspaper business and on cable television that are ready and willing to place this agenda at the forefront of the public debate. The Washington Post now even publishes Social Security hit pieces posing as news articles that are funded by Peterson, parading under the banner of the Fiscal Times. As we move into the midterm elections, and Republicans raise the specter of budget deficits and national debt that have increased thanks to their own predatory economic policies, we can expect more of this Social Security fear-mongering. But we shouldn’t take the bait. There is no Social Security crisis. READ MORE: http://www.alternet.org/economy/146175/alan_greenspan_and_the_new_york_times_are_gunning_for_your_social_security

It is clear who the bad guys are.  The Republicans are a big part of a criminal mob.  The entire cabal is not only treasonous, it exists through lies and innuendo, smear and violence – threatened and real.  It is no better than any other gangster crew extorting victims for more and more, insensible to law or decency.  The Republicans are aligned with the forces of disorder, chaos and fear.  They aim for the destruction of the society, our nation, the environment and, as a by-product, all living creation.  They have no rationale for their deeds save greed and stupidity.  Hypocrites all, they stand for the worst America has to offer and must be resisted at all cost, if we are to maintain our fair and free United States.

FASCIST AMERICA: ARE WE THERE YET? by Sara Robinson

This is the sign we were waiting for — the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America’s conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country’s legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America’s streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won’t do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It’s also our very last chance to stop it.  READ MORE: https://johnlegry.wordpress.com/politics-mostly/republican-insurance-nazis/

Sara Robinson, AlterNet: Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog. 

GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE!

March 24, 2010

It’s Waterloo All Right: Ours From the Right: David Frum March 22, 2010 by FrumForum

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/22-2 

“WISDOM” FROM THE OTHER SIDE

The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed by Chris Hedges March 22, 2010 by TruthDig.com

The claims made by the proponents of the bill are the usual deceptive corporate advertising. The bill will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014. Families who cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default, increasing the number of uninsured. Insurance companies can unilaterally raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut out competitors. The $1.055 trillion spent over the next decade will add new layers of bureaucratic red tape to what is an unmanageable and ultimately unsustainable system.

The mendacity of the Democratic leadership in the face of this reality is staggering. Howard Dean, who is a doctor, said recently: “This is a vote about one thing: Are you for the insurance companies or are you for the American people?” What is the point in supporting Democrats? How much more craven can they get? READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/22-1

NO CHANCE IN HELL

The Great Thing About the Health Care Law That Has Passed? It Will Save Republican Lives, Too An Open Letter to Republicans March 22, 2010 by CommonDreams.org by Michael Moore

To My Fellow Citizens, the Republicans:

Thanks to last night’s vote, that child of yours who has had asthma since birth will now be covered after suffering for her first nine years as an American child with a pre-existing condition.

Thanks to last night’s vote, that 23-year-old of yours who will be hit one day by a drunk driver and spend six months recovering in the hospital will now not go bankrupt because you will be able to keep him on your insurance policy.

Thanks to last night’s vote, after your cancer returns for the third time — racking up another $200,000 in costs to keep you alive — your insurance company will have to commit a criminal act if they even think of dropping you from their rolls.

Yes, my Republican friends, even though you have opposed this health care bill, we’ve made sure it is going to cover you, too, in your time of need.  So, when you find yourself suddenly broadsided by a life-threatening illness someday, perhaps you’ll thank those pinko-socialist, Canadian-loving Democrats and independents for what they did Sunday evening. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/22-0

CH-CH-CHANGES…

Signed, Sealed, but Not Delivered: Six Big Flaws Need Fixing to Make New Law Meaningful Health Care Reform by Jon Walker Monday, March 22, 2010 by FireDogLake.com

This health care reform bill passed late last night and soon to be signed into law is a seriously flawed piece of legislation, for it fails to achieve the goals of real health care reform. Now that it is essentially the law of the land, the country needs to work diligently at the federal and state levels to correct many of the most egregious problems with the legislation before the reform package fully goes into effect in 2014. The six main areas that need to be fixed are: cost control, enforcement, individual mandate, abortion, competition, and immigration.

1) Lack of Real Cost Control

This bill does not create real cost control and will not bring down premiums for most Americans.

2) Dangerously Weak Enforcement

There are some good new regulations, but regulations are only as good as the strength of the agency tasked to enforce them. This bill is dangerously lacking in this area.

3) Individual Mandate

The individual mandate, which uses the IRS to force people to buy a product from a poorly regulated, private industry, is an affront to the American people. People must be offered the choice of a public alternative, or the individual mandate must be repealed.

4) Abortion

This bill is a massive rollback of a woman’s right to choose. It would take away the abortion coverage of millions of Americans.

5) Lack of Health Insurance Competition

The bill will do almost nothing to address the problem of lack of competition in the health insurance market. Repealing the anti-trust exemption and adding a public option would be two big steps toward solving the problem.

6) Immigration

Under this almost-law, undocumented immigrants would not be allowed to buy insurance on the new exchanges, even if they are willing to pay the full cost of the insurance with their own money.

If the majority party wants to honestly deliver on these promises—not to mention if they want to remain in the majority—then a concerted and immediate effort is required to prove that this week’s legislation is truly the first step toward reform, and not the last.

© 2010 FireDogLake.com

Jon Walker is political writer and blogger for FireDogLake. He is an expert on health care policy and the politics of health care reform.

HEALTHCARE FIXES

“This Is What Change Looks Like”: Congress Passes Health-Care Reform

Once Rep. Bart Stupak announced he would vote for the Senate version of the health-care reform bill that came before the House, Democrats had their votes.

After the Senate version of the health-care reform bill passed, the House voted, 217-209, a package of “fixes” to the Senate bill, which strip out several special deals made with specific senators in order to win their votes — for example, a Medicaid windfall for the state of Nebraska — and add changes to various thresholds for subsidies and taxes. That package will require a vote in the Senate in order to pass into law, but, as a budget reconciliation measure, that vote will require only a simple majority. Still, Republicans are promising mischief in the upper chamber once that body takes up the reconciliation bill, so the fate of those fixes remains a bit dicey.  READ MORE: http://www.alternet.org/news/146117/%22this_is_what_change_looks_like%22%3A_congress_passes_health-care_reform

MY TWO-BITS

Suggestions for Progressives in Congress – both houses:

  • Adopt the Health Care Act fixes promptly.
  • Adopt a new rule that Republicans and other demagogues can use the same argument only three times in debate to limit time-wasting repetition and ideological obstruction.  Repetition is the tool of demagogues.  (Our Latin teacher in high school was a demagogue).  We assume (makes an ass of u and me) that elected representatives are able to remember an argument as part of the record, once given.  Three times is the charm, according to human learning capacity.  Our speech teacher said, “Tell ‘em where you’re going, go there, and then tell ‘em where you’ve been.”  Should be good enough for any argument to be fully expressed understood and assimilated.  Of course, the Republicans et al are stalling and inventing roadblocks, so they love repetition; added to it, their toolbox is very small so they have to say the same thing over and over anyway.  We’ve had enough of that.  Offenders should get a Timeout.
  • Put some hustle in the bustle – too much time is wasted on lies and the fallout from lies. Create a fine system for liars; charge the republicans for each offense – stiff fines, ones that will bring tears to their eyes so they will remember it; Pavlovian behavior modification works; check out the rats that ran to the bell and got some yummy cheese  – all receipts to go to Public Campaign Financing only.
  • Deliver the knockout punch.  The agitated resistance of the Teabag Party and for-hire goons is simple gangster-style intimidation by the hostile rich and their Fox, Republican and other demagogic tools.  The crooks know their selfish cause is on the ropes.  They are willing to fight to the grim death to preserve their ignorance, superstition, greed and terror, but they will be finished if the Progressives hold strong and stay on the offensive.  Old Chinese military proverb: “The time to be on your highest guard is immediately after the battle.”  Brace for counterattack.
  • Support Progressive candidates in every election.  What the People really want – in the significant majority – is to flush the bought-and-paid-for rascals out of our system.  Democracy is not an –ism.  Trying to run the country according to a script won’t work for people who don’t want to be in your lousy little play; people who prefer to deal with reality on a practical common sense basis.
  • Think outside the box.  We cannot long endure as a nation of over-consumers and garbage-makers.  We must find new ways of doing business, which are less invasive and destructive.  Arab philosopher al-Kindi, c.801-66 wrote:  “We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth from whatever source it come to us.  Even if it is brought to us by former generations and foreign peoples.  For him who seeks the truth there is nothing of higher value than the truth itself.” 

LAST WORDS:

Flattery can get you practically anywhere.  It’s staying there that gets tricky.

LIBERTY

March 7, 2010

Powerful and emotional vision of the future that looks uncannily like our present. A masterwork. Reproduction of public domain World War I Liberty Bond advertising poster.

OBAMA SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT:

It occurs to me – in a Homer Simpson “Doh!” moment – after a career in public process, facilitating, negotiating and mediating citizen concerns, that Obama is NOT “wimpy” or a “wuss.”  He’s a FACILITATOR, a COMMUNITY ORGANIZER. He took us completely through a model facilitation process on health care – in the model, the facilitator has no opinion and remains neutral (like a combination referee, coach), but guides the group toward a collective decision. Without describing a full process, it will:

  • Identify all potential stakeholders;
  • Allow time for getting acquainted;
  • “Storm” – settle personalities and emotions, and vent “noise” that impairs effective communication;
  • “Norm”-  get down to business (discuss and invent) – the process becomes “reality” rather than “ideologically” driven; and
  • Facilitate the decision.  Usually a vote – used when consent is not general – to adopt and implement the solution – majority rules. At this juncture, everyone (theoretically) who has taken ownership of the solution will support it.  Of course, there are always naysayers and a minority report, perhaps Republican, religionist, corporatist, and/or people in funny hats.

Obama hasn’t strayed from the model one jot, and if I’m right, he is one of the greatest facilitators I have ever seen in my life.  Hallelujah.

Tsun Tsu’s Art of War is about the strategy of indirection; one appears where the enemy is not, and so on. The best general is the one whose hand is unseen, who triumphs without a physical battle, who wins without destroying the enemy or the country, but wins the war conclusively.

Obama isn’t just sitting in that Whitehouse.

Per Tsun Tsu, Obama resisted the call for blood revenge on the retreating Republican Party of George W. Bush.  Per Tsun Tsu, he withdrew pressure from the troubled area, and got a breathing space to tackle more pressing matters of national survival.

As clever and worldly as that is, George W. Bush took down every single thing he ever touched: oil company, pro-football team; Texas (he cut taxes for the rich and bankrupted the state); and our national treasury.  He even ruined the Republican Party!  He’s not just a takedown artist, he’s a corporate raider and a sociopath akin to Ted Bundy, with a whole lot more blood on his hands.  Yet, he gets by with that little shuck and jive he does before he runs away.

“Georgie Porgie, puddin’ and pie,

kissed the girls and made them cry,

but when the boys came out to play,

Georgie Porgie ran away!”

Alan Greenspan used to run a lot too.  News clips show him, shoulders hunched, eyes furtive, out-running reporters and ducking into doorways. We must beware of stooped men burrowing into our government.  They know they’re up to mischief, they act guilty; they can also hardly believe we’re letting them do what they are doing, right in front of our eyes, right out in public! 

There oughta be a law, but the nation really needs a reckoning.

CONCLUSION LACKING:

While Obama led us through the process, there is yet to be a conclusion.  What are the results of the exercise?  The Pen – a global literary committee protecting free expression – has an  opinion worth considering.  Our facilitator may have led us to a foregone conclusion; one corporatist insurance CEOs wanted all along.  It happens that ardent faith in a cause makes one more easily manipulated by the unscrupulous.  Here’s an inside look.  Action links are included in the article, which is posted here verbatim:

Democratic Party’s Plan To THROW The Next Couple Elections.

Facing reality is a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. And we foretell for you the events of the future NOT because we want them to happen, but to get you to act to keep them from happening. But to do that you need an action page, so here it is.

Put The Public Option Up For A Vote: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum1038.php

And now we will explain why this action page is so critical. To understand the current political dynamic, first you must understand that the Democrats are PLANNING on losing the next couple election cycles. UNTIL you understand that, the events to unfold in the next couple years (unless you act to derail them) will make no sense to you.

You don’t have to believe us. Just listen to the way the Democrats themselves are talking. Nancy Pelosi concedes that they will likely suffer substantial losses in the House come November, though she still will not admit that they will lose their majority in the next round. Barack Obama says doesn’t “know” how his ever more determined push of the universally despised Senate health care scam will play politically. He doesn’t know??? Was the loss of the eternally Democratic senate seat in Massachusetts not enough of a wake up call?

Their original plan, which we told you about no later than last September (and we can point you to our published article at the time to prove it), was to lull the liberal/progressive base into thinking a “public option” was some kind of mumbling substitute for a single payer reform system (that would have represented REAL change), with the INTENTION of throwing even that option over the side before final passage. We saw it all coming, and we tried to warn you how important it was to keep speaking out to demand better.

For the corporate special interests controlling the whole legislative process (but only in the absence of your voices of course) this was a heads they win, tails the people lose, proposition. By getting the Democrats to squander their mandate and political capital for actual change, by getting them to meekly abandon their professed principles in favor of a bill that would benefit as a bottom line the insurance corporations only, the people en masse would justifiably conclude that the Democrats had completely betrayed them. And the Republicans, who by the tactic of enfeeblement of government in fact just empower the same ultimate corporate agenda, even as disliked as they are themselves, would be swept back into office in the next election. Net result … reform and change discredited, hopes dashed, defeatism rules, the corporations win again, one grand circular tag team.

That was the MASTER plan. But then it hit a bump in the road in Massachusetts. For you see, Scott Brown was not SUPPOSED to win. What he was supposed to do was to stir the pot of public anger as a prelude to November, to build a record of opposition, to fire a shot across the public bow of the Democrats, but he was not supposed to actually hit anything. It was strategically premature. Because having lost their shaky super majority, depending even as it was on regressive bad cops like Nelson and Lieberman, the Democrats could then no longer just waltz the fatally compromised health care bill through with a unilateral conference committee.

What to do? What were the corporate fascists to do? Now keep in mind that the EXCUSE the Democrats had been giving all along to their own base, as to why not only single payer, but in the end even a feeble public option, had to be taken off the table, was that they could not muster a full 60 votes for that in the Senate, that they could only manage something like 53-56. But now suddenly, the only way to force this destined to be hated bill through was have the Democrats in the House bend over for the worst case Senate bill as it was, and clench their noses long enough to pull some kind of corrective reconciliation shenanigans that would only require 51 votes. Why, the people would ask themselves, can’t we at least have a public option, since we were trying to get Congress to use reconciliation to make THAT happen all along?

And the inescapable answer is … that was not the plan. Suddenly people like Senator Rockefeller, who had PRETENDED to be for a public option before, dramatically reversed their position. Suddenly people like Senator Harkin, who declared himself to be at heart a “single payer guy” live on TV with Ed Shultz just the other day, would in the next breath not even ADMIT that he would support a public option IF a vote for it came up. Suddenly, people who were all for the public option when their vote did NOT count became equivocal, or against it, when they COULD possibly cast the deciding vote.

No, the plan was for the Democrats to pass a bill that would be so despised that they would be swept out of power again, that would cost them even their simple majorities. That was the PLAN. That was the plan of the corporations all along. There has never been any other plan. And that REMAINS the corporate plan with what can only be described as an obstinate and renewed determination.

Now, it would be one thing if Barack Obama and the Democratic party “leadership” were going to the wall for what the PEOPLE want. But they are not. They are bracing to go to the wall for what the corporations want. As perverse as George Bush was, at least he always had his most dedicated and delusional core base on his side when he thumbed his nose at the rest of us. The exact opposite is the case here. Barack Obama is standing in diametric opposition to his own base, and willfully so, displaying all the leadership qualities of a bull in a bull fight.

We can read from the last 25 messages function of our own action pages, just as you can. It breaks our heart to read people talking about how they worked so hard for Obama and now feel so betrayed. It breaks our heart to read independents write that they were willing to give the Democrats a chance, but will never vote for a Democrat again. It breaks our heart to read people declaring that they will never even turn out to vote again, for anyone. Because this is all nothing but surrender talk. But we fight on undeterred, even with our broken heart.

Put The Public Option Up For A Vote: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum1038.php

And we tell you now, that if this health care bill is rammed through without at least a semblance of a public option in it, the one we were promised at a MINIMUM, there will be massive hemorrhaging at the polls come November. The American people are out there right now asking themselves, “Was Massachusetts not enough … how big a 2×4 will we have to hit these mules in the head with before they finally get it?” The Republicans will not need to talk about any other issue to campaign on. They will get a total pass on a secret agenda that is, if anything, in every respect more hostile to the real public policy interests of the people whose anger they will arouse.

And if the Democrats DON’T lose their majorities in a single election, guess what? Same rallying war cry for 2012, “Got to vote out more Democrats so we can repeal the hated bill, including getting a getting a president who will sign the repeal bill.” Try to tell us you don’t hear it happening already. Even if the Democrats don’t lose their majorities in 2010, they will be so reduced that they will not be able to accomplish anything in the next two years, not that they have been able to accomplish anything with the majorities they had, meaning nothing to run on in 2012 either. Of course the latest promise never meant to be honored is that the Democrats will fight for a public option LATER. But if they can’t muster the votes to do it now, with the majorities they have now, only the most terminally gullible would believe they could do it with fewer votes in the future, even if they actually wanted to, which they do NOT!

And if there is a historic landslide in November and both houses of Congress go Republican, guess what the first bill from the new Congress will be … repeal the health care bill. And guess what happens if Obama tries to veto it, or the Democrats try to filibuster (after passing it on 51 votes in the first place)? In short, Obama becomes an instant lame duck, the people will be hell bent on getting rid of him too, and the entire Democratic party is just a dead man walking. Either way, pushing this bill now avails nothing, since it WILL be repealed before it ever goes into meaningful effect.

And when the repeal bill does become law there will be people celebrating and dancing in the streets, not even realizing that they are just dancing on their own graves. No pack of lemmings have ever hurtled so foolishly to their own demise as this Democratic Congress. No pod of whales have ever beached themselves so senselessly. We are talking about the biggest act of deliberate mass suicide in the history of the animal kingdom.

UNLESS, and we would concede that this is a big unless, we can somehow get enough people to speak out to DEMAND a vote on a public option, and not just the weak public option passed by the House, but instead the proposed Medicare expansion to 55 from December quashed putatively by Lieberman alone, and additionally for an option for ANYONE to buy in to Medicare, for the PURPOSE of calling the Democrats out, to at least demand something better. Democratic members of Congress are under corporate orders (including direct from the White House and being cajoled) to take a dive. The only thing that can countermand that order are your voices speaking out. Your voices … if you will use them while you still can. Please submit the action page now.

Put The Public Option Up For A Vote: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum1038.php .

Or folks can just keep lapping up the diminishingly persuasive happy face emails from the Obama never-ending campaign machine with ever more promises of ponies and rainbows, in which case all will transpire just as we have revealed it.

And here is the Facebook links for the action page further above.

[Facebook] Public Option Vote Action: http://apps.facebook.com/fb_voices/action.php?qnum=pnum1038

Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

Miss Liberty is blinded. Her arms are bound. She can no longer defend herself.  She is a captive of hate and shame.

America's Princess

“We the Corporations”

March 1, 2010
The contrast between Abraham Lincoln and the modern Republican Party is glaring.   Lincoln fought for democracy and union.  Modern Republicans fight for money and self-interest.  Lincoln was (by report) an unassuming and humble man; name one modern Republican who is not awash in arrogance and hubris.  Lincoln built the Transcontinental Railroad; the present crop created the second Great Republican Recession.

He worked for one nation indivisible.

 The merger of corporations with the state is Mussolini’s original definition of fascism.  Look it up.

IMPEACH THE SUPREME COURT FIVE!

“We the corporations”

On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.

We Move to Amend.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:

  • Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
  • Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.
  • Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate “preemption” actions by global, national, and state governments.

Signed by 66,763 and counting . . .  CONTACT: http://www.movetoamend.org/

Bust Up the Health Insurance Trusts February 25, 2010 by Robert Reich’s Blog by Robert Reich

Years ago I worked at an agency in Washington called the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC predates the New Deal. It was set up in 1914 during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, at a time when many of America’s industries had combined into giant trusts that had enormous market and political power. The FTC was designed to root out such unfair practices. It ought to take on the health insurance trusts. A few weeks back I mentioned that my health insurer here in California is Anthem Blue Cross. So far, my group policy hasn’t been affected by Anthem’s planned rate increase of as much as 39 percent for its customers with individual policies — but the trend worries me, as it should everyone. Rates are soaring all over the country. Insurers have been seeking to raise premiums 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon and a wallet-popping 56 percent in Michigan. How can insurers raise prices as much as they want without fear of losing customers?

Astonishingly, the health insurance industry is exempt from federal antitrust laws, which is why a handful of insurers have become so dominant in their markets that their customers simply have nowhere else to go. But that protection might soon end: President Obama on Tuesday announced his support of a House bill that would repeal health insurers’ antitrust exemption, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled that she would put it toward an immediate vote. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/02/25-3 

US Banks Veto ‘Socialist Pay’ in Secret Talks February 28, 2010 by the Independent/UK by Margareta Pagano

America’s top bankers quashed attempts by their British counterparts to persuade the industry to bring down salaries in response to public outrage after the world’s governments spent billions rescuing the system.

Chief executives from the world’s banks discussed the plans at a secret dinner held at Claridge’s, the London hotel, last October, at which several leading British bankers are said to have suggested that the sector should take greater responsibility for its part in the crash, and do more to reduce the vast bonuses paid to staff.

But the recommendations were met by stiff opposition from the US banks JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, according to one source. “Some of the US bankers were furious about attempts to reduce pay throughout the industry, arguing that any such move smacked of socialism and would be fiercely resisted,” the source said on Friday. “It’s not the way the Americans like to go about their business.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/28

GOP to the Unemployed: Drop Dead (You Bums) March 1, 2010 by Unsilent Generation by James Ridgeway

On Sunday, unemployment benefits officially ended for hundreds of thousands of Americans, thanks to maneuverings by Senate Republicans to prevent a vote that would have extended those benefits. Unless the extension is passed soon, some 1.1 million of the nation’s unemployed will see their unemployment expire in the coming month, and 5 million will lose benefits by June.

The House finally voted to extend benefits on Thursday, after several days of stalling and posturing. But in the Senate, the measure was blocked by Kentucky’s Jim Bunning. Politico reported that late into Thursday night, Bunning held out against repeated Democratic attempts to pass the extension by unanimous consent. In response to entreaties from colleagues across the aisle, other Republican senators rose to defend Bunning’s right to obstruct the vote, and Bunning himself was heard to utter, “Tough shit.” READ MORE:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/01-3

Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama March 1, 2010 by TruthDig.com by Chris Hedges

We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and progressives. 

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush. He promised us that the transfer of $12.8 trillion in taxpayer money to Wall Street would open up credit and lending to the average consumer. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), however, admitted last week that banks have reduced lending at the sharpest pace since 1942. As a senator, Obama promised he would filibuster amendments to the FISA Reform Act that retroactively made legal the wiretapping and monitoring of millions of American citizens without warrant; instead he supported passage of the loathsome legislation. He told us he would withdraw American troops from Iraq, close the detention facility at Guantánamo, end torture, restore civil liberties such as habeas corpus and create new jobs. None of this has happened. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/01-0

He wanted any bill that enriches a corporation to be subject to a vote of approval by the "We the People"! "The world is my country.  To do good is my religion."  Author of COMMON SENSE, arguably the single document that most inspired the American Revolution.

Thomas Paine - Author-Patriot, 1737-1809.