Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Presidents Terrifying “No Magic Wand” Speech

The economic policy promoted with infomercial urgency over the last seven years by Bush and the Republican congress has failed in a way that no one could have predicted. Under the veil of secret meetings and national security, we have seen an unabated rise in gas, food, energy and health care costs. Despite all the economic warnings to the contrary, ideology and a naive conservative trust in corporate responsibility prevailed and flourished, devastating the economic well being of this and other industrialized countries around the world.

It’s a problem the President of the United States should have seen coming four or five years ago. But President Bush, leader of the world’s economic powerhouse and not just a political Party, had the look of a deer in headlights. Senator Chuck Schumer summed it up this way, “He says he’s concerned with high gas prices and high food prices and student and home loan problems. But the truth is that the president has closed his eyes and put his hands over his ears as this crises have grown.”

Here are a few frightening observations and quotes from the New York Times story, “Bush Says Pain from Economy Defies Easy Fix.”

“President Bush delivered an unusually dark assessment of the economy, saying the nation was in ‘very difficult times, very difficult…There are no quick fixes, Mr. Bush said, to ease the pain Americans feel.”

“If there was a magic wand to wave, I’d be waving it, of course,” Mr. Bush said, referring specifically to gasoline prices, which have climbed $1.40 a gallon in 18 months. “But there is no magic wand to wave right now. It took us a while to get to this fix.”

Again, the President you would love to have a beer with said, “It took us a while to get to this fix.” I’m left breathless. And when a President includes in a statement meant to calm the rest of the world, the words “magic wand,” god help us.

“The economy is in a “rough patch…a new report found consumer confidence plummeting as home prices have collapsed more rapidly than at any time in 20 years. “I will tell you that these are very difficult times, very difficult.”

“Instead of embracing new proposals, Bush dusted off old ones…opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for petroleum and expanding nuclear power…Mr. Bush also said, “Those who worry about recession, slowdown, whatever you want to call it” ought to make his tax cuts permanent.”

How are congressional Republicans reacting to these dire economic times? It’s not their fault. For example; “The minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, noted that gasoline prices were $1.20 a gallon higher than when Democrats took control of Congress in January 2007.” That’s right; the Democrats are responsible for the increase in gasoline prices over the last year. Not the two former oil men in the White House or the rubber stamp Congress.

Which begs the question, does anyone else feel like screaming too?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Detainees Guilt will Help Elect Republicans

Has any political organization debased itself as more energetically than the Republican Party in recent memory? You should be utterly appalled at the neo-partisan parasitical officials who have spread like cancer in the body government. Winner takes all, win at all costs. Party politics has even replaced conservative policy. You know, wedge issues that negatively affect us directly, or from their unintended consequences. Laws passed to win elections.

The story I bring to you today, speaks pretty much for itself. In the New York Times article, “Ex-Prosecutor Tells of Push by Pentagon on Detainees,” I felt a sinking feeling in my gut and a deep sense of loss for this country.

“The former chief prosecutor Col. Morris D. Davis of the Air Force took the witness stand on behalf of a detainee and testified that top Pentagon officials had pressured him in deciding which cases to prosecute and what evidence to use. Pentagon officials had interfered with his work for political reasons and told him that charges against well-known detainees “could have real strategic political value” and that there could be no acquittals.”

“Colonel Davis was one of the Pentagon’s most vocal advocates of the Guantánamo military commissions, (and is now) one of the most visible critics of the system. Colonel Davis said Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann of the Air Force Reserve, directed him last year to push war crimes cases here quickly…trying to give the system legitimacy before a new president took office… and said, 'If we don’t get some cases going before the election, this thing’s going to implode.”

So what is the administrations real purpose here: a serious attempt to stop the next attack on U.S. soil, or get more Republicans elected? You know the answer.

These people are so inhuman.

Monday, April 28, 2008

McCain Stars in "National Treasure Trove of Cliches"

Critics are raging. Opening on the world stage, it’s ”National Treasure Trove of Cliches,” staring Senator John McCain in his wackiest role yet. John “my friends” McCain nails every unbelievable line as a Presidential candidate out of touch, and pretty much out of mind.

You’ll hear classics like, “he wants to empower families to make more medical decisions.” Apparently medical school is no longer a requirement.

Defying logic, Sen. McCain rejects a "big government" takeover of the health care system, saying "I've made it very clear that what I want is for families to make decisions about their health care, not government.”

Disappointed critics of “Trove of Cliches” point out that families already make their own decisions, which are often overridden by insurance company small print, written by CEO’s bent on saving money. The stiff dialog and large plot holes stretch the credulity of McCains character, especially in the scene where “he was ready to take on the ‘parochial interests’ in health care and challenged doctors, hospitals, drug manufactures and insurance providers to do a better job of holding down costs.” -AP

According to one reviewer, “Not one line is believable. In some parts it was unintentionally funny to think that the cast of doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and insurers would lower their prices and profits. I nearly choked on my popcorn.”

Critics heads buffeted from one disconnected scene to another. In one moment, McCain admits that health care was "too expensive" costing more than a staggering $2 trillion annually. He even admits these high prices “are a threat, as well to the ability of American workers to build a better life…squeezing wages that workers earn and consumed the budgets of their families."

Then out of nowhere, in a jaw dropping moment, McCain rejects a single-payer system to lower health care costs. “I donated good money to see this?” shouted one McCain supporter. Ignoring the 47 million uninsured in the country, the Senator reasons "real people pay a deeper cost through long waits for treatment or settling for care that does not take advantage of the latest medical science." One critic observed, “Right now, the uninsured don’t even have the chance to wait for treatment and don’t have any chance of getting at the latest medical science. I kept thinking, this is crazy, they’re not covered so it doesn’t matter. Who wrote this script?”

Crowd after crowd had the same kind of reaction and howled in disapproval when McCain promised to work to transform the health care system by putting "families in charge." I heard someone behind me ask, “Who’s he kidding? My family can’t do anything unless I get prior authorization from my insurance company. Wasn’t this McCain thing supposed to be based on a real story?”

The audience grew restless and weary, as the Senator sleepwalked his way through such dialog as "We must reform the health care system to make it responsive to the needs of American families -- not the government, not the insurance companies, not tort lawyers, not even the doctors and hospitals…(It)isn't a one-size-fits-all-big government takeover… Any solution that robs us of that essential sense of ourselves is a cure far worse than the affliction it is meant to treat." All that's missing from this spectacle were guest appearances by the White Rabbit and economist Mad Hatter.

Half way through, some were shrieking at the screen, others were simply exhausted from the unrelenting onslaught aptly titled, “Trove of Cliches.”

Republican Justices OK Voter ID Poll Tax

Whew! We can finally feel confidant that dead people, pets, students voting twice and bribed vagrants off the street will no longer game the election process like before. Now our vote will count like it never has before. Let’s take a look at the 6-3 Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana's law requiring voters to present a picture ID before they vote. The Associated Press listed these Justice’s comments on the pro side of a solution to a non existent problem:

“Justice John Paul Stevens, writing to uphold the law: "Indiana's own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago mayor — though perpetrated using absentee ballots and not in-person fraud — demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election."

I’m sorry, but Justice Stevens offered nothing in his argument for voter ID. He even said so. Am I hallucinating? ID’s are not required or even possible when using absentee ballots.

"The record says virtually nothing about the difficulties faced by either indigent voters or voters with religious objections to being photographed. ... In sum, we cannot conclude that the statute imposes 'excessively burdensome requirements' on any class of voters."

In the Justices opinion, there were too few voters who experienced problems with the law when they tried to vote.

"Petitioners have not demonstrated that the proper remedy — even assuming an unjustified burden on some voters — would be to invalidate the entire statute. In their briefs, petitioners stress the fact that all of the Republicans in the General Assembly voted in favor" of the law "and the Democrats were unanimous in opposing it. ... It is fair to infer that partisan considerations may have played a significant role in the decision to enact" the law and "if such considerations had provided the only justification for a photo identification requirement, we may assume" that the law "would suffer the same fate as the poll tax.”

“But if a nondiscriminatory law is supported by valid neutral justifications, those justifications should not be disregarded simply because partisan interests may have provided one motivation for the votes of individual legislators."

The key here is “valid neutral justification,” since again, voter fraud due to a lack of a picture ID has not been demonstrated to be a problem. What was obvious, mentioned by Justice Stevens, was the partisan nature of it. Are we expected to believe that politics was not an important element to voter ID legislation?

“Justice Antonin Scalia, concurring: "petitioners have not assembled evidence to show that the special burden is severe enough to warrant strict scrutiny…(the)petitioners' premise is irrelevant and that the burden at issue is minimal and justified."

Again, Justice Scalia actually believed that the harmful consequences of disenfranchised voters are not “severe” enough.

On the con side of this ideological solution to a fictional problem, Justice David Souter said in dissent: "Indiana's 'Voter, ID law' threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting right of tens of thousands of the state's citizens, and a significant percentage of those individuals are likely to be deterred from voting. ... A state may not burden the right to vote merely by invoking abstract interests, be they legitimate, or even compelling, but must make a particular, factual showing that threats to its interests outweigh the particular impediments it has imposed. The state has made no such justification here, and as to some aspects of its law, it has hardly even tried."

Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting: "I believe the statute is unconstitutional because it imposes a disproportionate burden upon those eligible voters who lack a driver's license or other statutorily valid form of photo ID."

The conservative stacking of the courts, long after the Republican Party has faded, is a legacy that will control Democratic legislation via challenges, for years to come.

The Chilling Effect of Fear and Lawlessness

I have often wondered how I would summarize this time in our history if my adult son were to ever ask. How freedom and liberty’s meaning changed in just eight short years. How fear motivated public policy then and now. How the Bush administration “chilled” our confidence in those constitutional rights we thought were undeniable. How government successfully fill that founding document with so many legal loopholes that the President would discount it in the most egregious way.

Back on December 14, 2005, reported this: “Doug Thompson, publisher of Capitol Hill Blue, says he’s talked to three people present when Republican Congressional leaders met with President Bush in the Oval Office to talk about renewing the Patriot Act. That act, passed by legislators who hadn’t read it, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 has of course been criticized as containing unconstitutional elements. All three GOP politicians quote their president as saying: “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

In a New York Times article "Lawyers Fear Monitoring in Cases on Terrorism," 'lawyers who represent suspects in terrorism-related investigations complain that their ability to do their jobs is being hindered by the suspicion that the government is listening in, using the eavesdropping authority it obtained — or granted itself — after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Justice Department does not deny that the government has monitored phone calls and e-mail exchanges between lawyers and their clients as part of its terrorism investigations in the United States and overseas. If there has been surveillance of lawyers involved in terrorism cases, it has been handled in strict accordance with federal law and with the Constitution’s promise of a criminal defendant’s right to counsel.”

I refuse to buy into that denial.

Take for instance this amazing governmental mistake illustrating how they are violating our constitutional rights. “In a terrorism-financing investigation centered on the offices of an Islamic charity in Oregon, the government mistakenly provided defense lawyers in August 2004 with what the lawyers say was a logbook of intercepted phone calls between the charity’s lawyers in Washington, D.C., and clients in Saudi Arabia…the logbook, which was stamped ‘top secret,’ appeared to reflect eavesdropping under the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. It ‘has been called unconstitutional by many legal scholars, lawmakers and civil liberties groups because it allowed the monitoring of the phone calls of Americans without a court’s permission.”

And if a lawyer decided to defend an accused terrorist, they would face “potential violations of their privacy, including monitoring of their communications with clients…required to undergo background checks that can include an F.B.I. review of their financial and medical records, including records of psychiatric care.” Are you beginning to feel the chill?

Not only that, the Bush administration is pushing Congress to make permanent the relaxed restrictions on domestic wiretapping. Should that make us nervous? Don’t be ridiculous.
“Two senior Justice Department officials said they understood that the intercepted conversations were not shared with front-line prosecutors in an effort to be certain that there was no violation of attorney-client privilege.”

Would it make you more comfortable to know the administration ended the warrantless wiretapping program? “Lawyers say they are concerned that the government has found another way of monitoring lawyer-client conversations, perhaps through the use of secret warrants obtained through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a special court used in national security cases. The earlier N.S.A. program bypassed the surveillance court.”

And that is the question. Our only hope is that the court would deny any attempt to listen in on defense lawyers and their clients. Perhaps it’s already too late.

The very idea that the government might be listening in may have already put in place the desired “chilling effect” it intended in the first place.

World Financial Crisis Not Enough for Mortgage Industry

After bringing the U.S. and global financial markets down to its knees, the mortgage industry is fighting tougher regulations because, if you can believe their audacity, of added paper work and greater exposure to lawsuits.

In another example of corporate socialism at work, the industry’s criticism has already bullied the Fed into possible loser standards than it thought necessary. Surely the public would be outraged at the unfair restrictions on an industry that profited from the destruction of so many lives and families now out on the street. Can’t you hear the protests now?

Over time, no one will remember the overly loose credit, abusive predatory loans, low interest rates and artificially high home values that pulled the rug out from under the American dream.

Gee, these unreasonable new rules would, according to an AP story, “force mortgage companies to show that customers can realistically afford their mortgages. It would require lenders to disclose the hidden fees often rolled into interest payments. And it would prohibit certain types of advertising considered misleading… unfairly deny mortgage brokers the right to earn certain fees…(and)lead to frivolous and expensive litigation."

Having been a real estate salesperson for seven long years, I was shocked to learn these new rules were not already the bottom line standard for the mortgage industry. And now they have the nerve to complain that these common sense regulations would over burden and keep them from “reaping enormous profits by providing millions of unsuitable and abusive loans to homeowners who often did not fully understand the terms or appreciate their risk.”

“As of January, a quarter of all sub-prime adjustable mortgages were delinquent and lenders began foreclosure proceedings on about 190,000 mortgages in the last three months of 2007.”

I think the Center for Responsible Lending said it best; “In the industry, there is a fair amount of denial. They just don’t get it. They don’t have a new script yet, so they rely on the old script, which is that regulation will raise costs. What we now see is that the unintended consequences of deregulation are worse.”

Can we finally put the “regulation will raise costs” myth to rest? Regulation instills trust, stability and consumer confidence in the market. “Regulation will raise costs” assumes the mortgage crisis didn’t already cost so many families, caught up in this mismanagement mess, everything they owned.

It’s the “invisible hand” of the market pushing us all off the cliff.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Guns, Death and Profits

The gun debate rages on, even as enraged citizens continue to use firearms to kill themselves and/or other people. It’s funny how “well regulated” is quietly forgotten in these discussions. The same old clichéd arguments are dredged up as if someone magically discovered a trove of hidden pro-gun meanings. Like guns don’t kill people, people kill people…a gun just sits there…

Perhaps I’m missing something. My guess is it would be my inabiltiy to get hopped up on testosterone to glean such truths.

A radio talk host in Madison Wisconsin recently interviewed the gun dealer who sold a few items to the Virginia Tech and NIU killers. These Second Amendmenteer’s stroked each others inadequacies, acting as if the neighborhood bully had stolen their only role of caps.

Any other responsible radio host would never have allowed themselves to be used as a promotional tool for the likes of a self serving dealer looking to make a sale over the dead bodies of his satisfied customers.

The Gun Guys offered up this insight: “A gun dealer in Green Bay Wisconsin…is currently engaged in a reprehensible publicity stunt. For two weeks, he announced to the media, he will sell guns at ‘cost’ to arm more people ‘to protect’ themselves. Eric Thompson is engaged in an ‘arm them all’ promotion.

We can’t read into Thompson’s mind, but we do know a little about public relations, and Thompson is broadcasting his “offer” to the media, which, of course, drives people to his gun websites. This is what is called free media as compared to paying for advertising.

So the gun dealer who sold shooting items to two mass murderers on campuses is now offering to arm people to “protect” themselves from the type of people he profited from in the first place from his gun business.

He is in the business of selling guns to both sides of our nation’s gun wars. There’s always a profit in that.”

How many more lives have to be spent at the gun shop?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Parents Know Best?

Do you know more than your doctor? How about your child’s teacher? Simple questions that may betray your political affiliation.

For lberals, the answer would be no to both questions. But if you answered yes, you may have bought into a simplistic concept advanced by the lock step Republicans. If you said yes, you’re wrong. Here's why I think it’s that simple.

The line we’ve heard till our ears were bleeding, at least mine were, is that "parents know what’s best" when it comes to education and medical decisions.

This allows Republicans to sell their snake oil privatization plans for school choice and health savings accounts. Don't even get me started on the divine wisdom of investment accounts replacing Social Security.

Being the father of a 5 and 9 year old, I’ve found that after more than 30 years past graduation, I’m pretty much out of the educational loop. And when it comes to medical care, I know that I’m one bad decision away from hurting my children or misdiagnosing myself. There is also the stupidity of putting off check ups to save a little money.

I can easily admit that I really don’t know more than my kids teachers and our family doctor. But that’s not an admission you'll hearing from the “ownership society” zealots. To them, these personal choices are "gambles" worth taking.

Up until now I haven’t been able to put forward the kind of example that would make my case unambiguously. No code words, no reading between the lines. But that has changed.

Take this recent story about the failure of the abstinence only programs. Thanks to Mic Check Radio for digging up the quote from Tenn. Rep. John Duncan, Republican.

“Rep. John Duncan, a Tennessee Republican, said that it seems “rather elitist” that people with academic degrees in health think they know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate."

The well educated are elitist, probably liberal elitists. Gee, you think people with academic degrees, specializing in the field of health, might have an edge on you or me about sex education?

Let’s be clear. The phrase “parents know best” quietly subverts the idea of an informed public by demeaning qualified educators, while at the same time appealing to the guilt parents feel about losing control. Nasty stuff. It’s as if the conservative agenda cares less about the real world consequences and more about their failed ideological system of government.

Ironically, it’s time for parents to take control again by working with “elitist people with academic degrees who think they know better.” We might all learn something.

Common Sense v Republicans

What is happening politically in north eastern Wisconsin easily mirrors the electoral process in every other state. The rhetoric never changes.

I hope to change the frame of these clichéd arguments, so Democrats can more easily win over the voter.

Take for instance the race in Green Bay between former Republican Alderman Chad Fradette and incumbent Democrat Sen. Dave Hansen.

Fradette said he wants to restore “common sense” to state government. That would require him to vote with the Democrats. Take for example a Democratic “common sense” proposal to increase the hospital tax.

“Common sense” would require state Republicans to lift their opposition to a hospital tax that even state hospitals and business organizations fully support. In fact, a poll of 400 likely voters found that 75 percent support a proposed hospital assessment. More than half of those who vote Republican supported the assessment”. That’s just “common sense” to the electorate.

Maybe challenger Fradette could explain the “common sense” approach the Republicans used to be in session only 27 days over the last 15 months, considering tax payers paid them full time salaries and benefits. That’s second from the bottom of any Assembly or state House in the country. Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch declared the two-year session a success. “Common sense” would tell me we’re getting ripped off.

Perhaps Fradette could use a little “common sense” explaining why Senate Democrats were wasting our time pushing universal health care reform, dramatically reducing our out of pocket spending on premiums. Only in the Republican mind, hell only in the U.S., would it be horrific to force people to have health care. “Common sense” would tell you otherwise.

Fradette even criticized the capital city, Madison, because it’s politically liberal. Someone made a big mistake voting it the best in the country numerous times. “Common sense” would tell us Green Bay should be so lucky.

Fradette criticized Democrats for voting "to increase corporate and oil taxes." Since around two thirds of the states major corporations don’t pay any taxes, “common sense” would anger enough taxpayers to say, “Hell yea, they should pay their fair share.”

And when it comes to promising college tuition benefits to injured veterans at state schools, Fradette should ask his fellow right wingers why they didn’t provide the state funding to back up their sentiment. “Common sense” would say that was pretty shameful.

Sen. Dave Hansen isn’t off the hook either. His response "We protected the environment, we've grown jobs … worked on improving health care … worked hard to help middle income families and seniors…we protected the taxpayers” are cereal box slogans.

“Common sense” is the frame Republicans can’t defend against. Use it, promote it, breath it, live it and say it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thank you John McCain, Another Myth Exposed

Many Republican truths have confused me over the years because of their surreal head scratching logic. The one I one I found fairly laughable had to do with the failed liberal social agenda. FDR’s New Deal and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society have pretty much crashed and burned.

What’s that? You didn't know the liberals were at fault? Republicans have known this for years, despite the fact that over time, both political parties have had control of the federal and state agendas. Like the Bush administration has said many times, “it’s complicated.”

So how can anyone blame liberals for the failure when conservatives have repealed and under fund social programs out of existence? They just can.

Recently, Sen. McCain visited Inez, Ky., the place President Johnson declared war on poverty.

McCain said "I wouldn't be back here today if government had fulfilled the promise that Lyndon Johnson made 44 years ago."

Thank god the Republicans have brought back their finely tuned sense of economic sanity. You can take some comfort in knowing that poverty is just a rough patch to wait out until things turn around.

You can wait can’t you?

Would Straight Shooting McCain Really Oppose equal pay For Women-You Bet

“When elected representatives serve their ideology, it matters little what government is in place.” John Peterson (me)

That’s where we are with Sen. John McCain, who opposes a Senate bill that seeks equal pay for women because, as he puts it, “would lead to more lawsuits.” That would be true if women were truly being taken advantage in the market place. But that doesn’t happen, does it? This is just another Democratic bone to throw to litigation hungry trial lawyers, the life blood of the Democratic Party.

You’re going to have to sit down after you hear the “straight talk” solution. To demonstrate just how out of touch McCain is on the issue of pay equity, he offered a better way to help women deal with below average wages.

McCain; “They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households.”

That’s right, McCain seems to be totally unaware of the highly educated work force of women we have now. Besides the uppity few who use the courts to hurt business, women are “mothers” who need “education and training.” Then, and only then, will mothers be able to justify a wage equal to the lowest paid man at the sought after position.

Look out Sen. McCain; you might be encouraging girls to seek other forms of liberation.

Then who’ll do the cooking?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Death by Ozone

The “National Academy of Sciences reported that short-term exposure to smog, or ozone, is clearly linked to premature deaths that should be taken into account when measuring the health benefits of reducing air pollution” AP

This should not be a surprising statement of fact, but for many years I have always said that the global warming argument has conveniently taken everyone’s eye off the obvious, the air we breathe. What I found startling was the party fighting against this science, White House officials. Are they kidding.

They maintain “that the connection between smog and premature death has not been shown sufficiently, and that the number of saved lives should not be calculated in determining clean air benefits.”

Our own countries leadership is saying that it would be wrong to assume people might be dying from inhaling “nitrogen oxide and organic compounds created by burning fossil fuels. Ozone exposure is a leading cause of respiratory illnesses and especially affects the elderly, those with respiratory problems and children.” They don't even care about the kids.

It’s incredible to think that instead of hedging their bets and playing it safe when it comes to the countries public health, hell my health, they would attempt to diminish the need to cutback air pollution.

There’s no disputing the romantic tapestry ozone unfolds before us. Ah, those colorful breathtaking sunsets. Literally.

Authoritarians Know Best

What is it about conservatives that makes them so unapologetic, and so easy to pick out of a countrys government? Liberals would colapse into the fetal position at the first signs of resistance. The party of small government somehow finds ways to justify expanded bureacracy by simply protecting us from evil. One such evil; artistic freedom that wastes tax payer money. This packaged threat has to be met with a defensive act against a the liberal party hell bent the obliteration of the moral and ethical foundations of the country.

Nothing demonstrates these contrasting political values more than C-10, a despotic attempt in Canada to control the film industry for the good of the nation.

Liberals see this as a blatant case of censorship. So let’s take a look at C-10, and how it changes Canada’s Income Tax Act. Keep in mind, the now surprised House of Commons MP’s passed the change because they never read the completed bill.

One provision, as described in a Canadian Broadcast Centre story, “would give the heritage minister the discretion to deny tax credits to any production that is deemed contrary to public policy.” The fear is that “it will be used to cut off tax benefits for productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other content the government finds offensive.”

As one liberal put it, "We are concerned that if Bill C-10 is allowed to pass in its current form, the way will be paved for the use of Canada's tax system as a de facto censor of film and video production in Canada."

The conservative response was one of shock and surprise. With child like innocense, “the Heritage Minister argued that the bill is not about censorship. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth, our government continues to passionately defend freedom of expression.”

Would it surprise anyone that the idea of C-10 was hatched by evangelist Charles McVety, who wants to cut tax subsities for “offensive films.”

It also didn’t help that the change was tucked into a “560-page bill of highly complex technical amendments, without mentioning it to anyone.”

To anyone outside government, the outrageous nature of the bill portends the direction of authoritarian conservative rule. Rick Jemmett wrote this post "It is in keeping with a tendency in North America toward diminished freedoms, an approach to governing, associated with right-wing governments, (see Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine) in which personal freedoms are either abolished in the blink of an eye or slowly chipped away at, under cover of issues which seem of greater import at the moment.”

The unrelenting subversive nature of the authoritarian conservative is almost impossible to protect against. What slips through will weaken democracy and pervert representative government. That is why a dramatic change in party rule is needed periodically to check and counter-balance the extremist nature introduced from either side.

Just to be clear, extremist tendencies from conservatives would destroy this country. Liberals tendencies would force everyone to carry a cloth grocery tote bag.

The Last Immoral Document from this President

President Bush said in the State of the Union address, "Our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society…comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency."

In my continuing series “the Moral Document,” Presidential budgets reveal the true nature of the man and his party’s vision for America. Well before the debates and compromises are hammered out, not much attention is paid to this personal look into a Presidents soul.

In the article “The budget's bottom line” by Yonce Shelton, the truth is laid out for all to see.

  • “Budgets are moral documents. They show us what we value in revealing where we invest now and for the future.”
  • “The president's 2007 budget cuts: eliminates more than 100 programs: cuts to low-income child care services would result in 400,000 fewer children receiving assistance: food stamps are slated for a cut that would eliminate support for 300,000 people. Medicaid cuts nearly $14 billion.”
  • “Its even stranger when you consider that more social cuts are proposed as poverty has risen in each of the past four years. According to the U.S. Census; food insecurity has risen in each of the last five years. The Food Research and Action Center reported 9.2 million working families are on the brink of poverty.”
This series requires little of my own commentary, thanks to stories like this, and because of the mean spirited naked truth revealed in this presidents sad leadership.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lundberg Survey Says Humanitarian To Wish World Consumption of More Petroleum Products

If there was ever a question about the conservative slant of our major news media, we can safely say that this forgotten conversation on July 11, 2007 with Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey should end that debate. If the name sounds familiar, the Lundberg Survey is quoted ad nauseum on CNN and other news outlets about pump prices around the country. What sent up red flags for me were the Lundberg Surveys predictions for higher prices in almost every report and interview, a kind of preemptive tactic to soften the coming shock at the pump. This consumer conditioning wasn’t an accident, as you’ll read in this CNN interview “Chatting with America's Gas Price Survey Maven.”

"Q: CNN-As far as conservation, what are the trends you are seeing?
A: I'm hoping that consumers will see through the rhetoric about consuming less, demanding less, as faulty. It is not a given that consuming less will be good for our economy or for our personal freedom. It is not even established for our environment that we [should] deprive ourselves of gasoline for our personal mobility as well our commerce. I think that there has been friendly as well as unfriendly brainwashing taking place. And when I say friendly and unfriendly, I'm talking about decades of extremist views that have now achieved mainstream acceptance. And the No. 1 item among those affecting current oil politics in Washington is the boogeyman, also known as global warming.”

Lundberg concludes with this jaw dropping statement:

“I don't accept it as established fact, nor do I accept that it would be caused by petroleum consumption, nor do I accept that the human species should not affect its environment. So even if it were someday to be shown to have some small effect on the environment, I see no crime. In fact, taking into account the many, many millions of people around the world that envy our way of life, it would seem more humanitarian to wish them the kind of plentiful petroleum products and vehicles ... that we enjoy ... to lift themselves out of [a] backward, poor way of life.”

Besides the fact that we should enjoy the consumption of gas and global warming, this begs the question: What does it take in the corporate news media for a source to lose all it’s credibility?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Pope Rat

ABC News had this story a few years back involving sexual abuse and the Vatican:

“A trusted ally of Pope John Paul II has been accused of sexually abusing boys a half-century ago at an elite seminary for the Catholic Church. The alleged victims say the Vatican knew of the allegations against Father Marcial Maciel and chose not to pursue them.

In fact, the pope has continued to praise 82-year-old Father as an effective leader of Catholic youth, despite detailed allegations sent to the Vatican… saying the man was also a long-time pedophile.

“Some of the men tried a last ditch effort, taking the unusual step of filing a lawsuit in the Vatican's secretive court…but it was another futile effort — an effort the men say was blocked by one of the most powerful cardinals in the Vatican.

The accusers say Vatican-based Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who heads the Vatican office to safeguard the faith and the morals of the church, quietly made the lawsuit go away and shelved it.

There was no investigation and the accusers weren't asked a single question or asked for a statement.

He was appointed by the pope to investigate the entire sex abuse scandal in the church. When approached by ABCNEWS in Rome…Ratzinger became visibly upset and actually slapped this reporter's hand.”

That was quite a few years ago. Some might say inexcusable, appalling, sick. Let’s check in the Pope Ratzinger today, from a Global News story:

“Pope Benedict XVI deftly confronted the U.S. Roman Catholic sex scandal and its 5,000 victims before his plane arrived in the United States yesterday, using words more powerful than any his predecessor ever uttered to condemn priestly child abuse. It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen. We are deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future."

He gets a pass in the main stream media?


Finally found the most important information tying our current Pope with the sex scandel.

The Observer Sunday August 17 2003

"The Vatican instructed Catholic bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse or risk being thrown out of the Church. The 1962 69-page Latin document bearing the seal of Pope John XXIII was sent to every bishop in the world. The instructions outline a policy of 'strictest' secrecy in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse and threatens those who speak out with excommunication.

They also call for the victim to take an oath of secrecy at the time of making a complaint to Church officials. It states that the instructions are to 'be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia [Vatican] as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.' The instructions also cover what it calls the 'worst crime', described as an obscene act perpetrated by a cleric with 'youths of either sex or with brute animals (bestiality)'.

Texan lawyer Daniel Shea uncovered the document as part of his work for victims of abuse from Catholic priests in the US. He has handed it over to US authorities, urging them to launch a federal investigation into the clergy's alleged cover-up of sexual abuse. The documents contridict the Catholic Church's claim that the issue of sexual abuse was a modern phenomenon.

Lawyers point to a letter the Vatican sent to bishops in May 2001 clearly stating the 1962 instruction was in force until then.

The letter is signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, the most powerful man in Rome beside the Pope and who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the office which ran the Inquisition in the Middle Ages."

"Lives are Being Lost...But Why?"

Thanks to for a moving story dealing with our perverted understanding of the Second Amendment.

Ron Holt is a police officer. On May 10th, 2007 his son Blair was shot and killed on a CTA bus while using his body to shield another girl. Blair Holt was only 16-years-old.

He wrote this comment for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence on April 7th, 2008.

May 10th was like any other day in the spring. My son Blair and I had talked that week – he wanted his mom, my ex-wife Annette, to have something nice for Mother’s Day.

I remember those days so well, since I saw something changing in Blair at that time – I used to tell him he was growing up fast. Even his voice was deeper. He was 16 years old.

That day I went into a novelty shop where I knew I could get a pendant that Blair could give to his mother. I saw one that I wanted, and then my phone was ringing. It was Annette, but I had never heard her speak in that tone before. She told me she just got a call from Blair’s friend.

Blair had been shot on a bus, on 103rd Street. Dead silence. The world had stopped.

I’ve been a police officer for 17 years, and cops helped me get through traffic. I arrived at Christ Advocate Hospital. Soon after that, I learned that Blair’s aorta was damaged. A lot of his vital organs were damaged.

This is just too much, I thought. And then he died.

I was numb. I don’t even think I cried until I caught up with Blair’s mom. I am standing there at the hospital thinking: “God just give me strength. My God, our only child.” We had so much hope for him, he had so much promise. He had just gotten his driver’s permit. All those things you do in your growing years came to a screeching halt. And then we learned that he was killed when he covered a classmate, shielding her from being shot.

It’s still new and fresh and overwhelming, and will always crush me. I am so angry and bitter about the ongoing gun violence on the streets.

We formed, Purpose Over Pain. Our goal is to educate the public about gun violence and provide peer support. We need to ask more questions.

In an airport, they want to know about the nature of your business. In gun shops, however, we can’t find out what we need to know to keep us all safer. Who is buying this weapon?

At this point, there should be a course taught on the impact of gun violence – it should be a part of health education in high schools, right next to CPR, Driver’s Ed, sex education classes. We also have to realize the importance of changing the mindset and behavior of young people who can’t find another approach to conflict resolution besides violence.

You know, no one is immune from being impacted by gun violence. It touches everyone. But people have the right to live without living in an environment of fear.

As for me, I still have the pendant I bought last May 10th. I never had a chance to give it to my son.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fiscal Liberalism A Winner

Madison has a national reputation for being a hot bed for liberalism. The county board and executive are scary liberals, progressives and greens. This political domination has been the butt of jokes by Republicans state and nation wide. This bastion of liberalism is surrounded by a more rural conservative population with strong legislative representation that has at times dominated our state house and governorship.

Having said that, an April 15, 2008 Wisconsin State Journal article reported “Dane County is one of only two counties in Wisconsin, and one of only a handful in the country that has a AAA bond rating. That’s the highest possible grade for fiscal management. The county has achieved the AAA bond rating from Moody’s Investment Service for 27 consecutive years.”

The County save $835,000 after it refinanced it’s long term debt. All without cutting taxes.

Why aren’t all those other Republican counties doing as good as or better than this liberal hell hole?

Dispels that old “fiscal conservative” myth we’ve heard ad nauseam, doesn’t it?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Global Economy without Global Responsibility

In the New York Times article “Housing Woes in U.S. Spread around Globe,” we are finally forced to face the frightening reality of the libertarian dream of unregulated free market capitalism.

The article points out for instance, “The collapse of the sub prime mortgage market and housing bubble in the United States is mutating into a global phenomenon, with real estate prices swooning from the Irish countryside and the Spanish coast to Baltic seaports and even parts of northern India. This synchronized global slowdown is hobbling economic growth worldwide, affecting not just homes but jobs as well.”

Should we be surprised? Since the U.S. is the driving economic force in the world, you would think it would be a no-brainer for the government economic guru’s to exercise some monetary caution. Instead, what we have is global economic policy without global responsibility.

The story reveals two more undeniable consequences; “When faulty American mortgages end up on the books of European banks, the problems of the United States aggravate the world’s problems. ‘The U.K. followed the U.S. into never-never land,’ said the managing editor of Property Finance Europe, a newsletter for investors.”

Never-never land! We’re talking about the ideological underpinnings of the U.S. economy.

Over the last seven years the Republicans have changed one of the most fundamental rules of discussion: opinion has the same weight as facts. Or as one administration official put, and I’m paraphrasing, “we create our own reality.” Yes it’s the “we should always consider both sides” argument, despite the irrevocable certainty of facts. It’s also known as relativism.

In a relative world, an opinion trump facts, and your first amendment right to say anything at all allows you to confuse the most simplistic solution. We’ve gone down the path of relativism and live in a never-never land of systemic chaos.

Bizarre unintended consequence note: "In Ireland, taxi drivers complain that their ranks are being swollen by laid-off home builders."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Getting "Expelled" and the Academic Bill of Rights

Variety Magazines Justin Chang reviewed "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” and highlighted a few issues you could almost predict with certainty. Besides the titles obvious double meaning, an easy shot at intelligent design proponents, Chang lists:

“The flimsy attempt to discredit Darwinist theory…film more interested in portraying its subjects as victims…defending what they have to say…sob stories and conspiracy theories…it's easier to critique evolution than to mount evidence for intelligent design…failure to offer even a working definition of the term leaves them open to the common charge that it's all unprovable, faith-based pseudo-science.”

And finally, “Even more offensive is the film's attempt to link Darwin's "survival of the fittest" ideas and Hitler's master-race ambitions.”

Yes, conservatives are outraged when liberals make such fact based comparisons to Nazi Germany, but doe eyed when someone questions their head scratching analogies.

Ben Stein, former White House speechwriter for Nixon deadpans, "Freedom is the essence of America,” expecting everyone to be shocked that science doesn’t somehow cover religion.

I watched the clips of Expelled, and if anyone had a concern about destroying the legitimacy of science, history and the difference between fact & fiction, you might want to distance yourself from this fool’s argument.

Along those same lines, we can’t forget the crazy proposal to protect only conservatives on college campuses. Have you ever listened to the long disconnected ravings of academic bill of rights crusader David Horowitz? To him our colleges are filled with liberal fascists unfairly treating conservatives like lepers. Those wacky progressives aren’t rejecting the “through the looking glass” mean spirited ideology so much as visualizing themselves as intellectually superior.

Especially in that hippie filled west coast college of Berkeley.

Not so fast.

The Associated Press turned out this little gem. “University of California-Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. took sharp exception to Professor John Yoo's legal analysis for the Bush administration's Justice Department. ‘Assuming one believes as I do that Professor Yoo offered bad ideas and even worse advice during his government service, that judgment alone would not warrant dismissal or even a potentially chilling inquiry. My sense is that the vast majority of legal academics with a view of the matter disagree with substantial portions of Professor Yoo's analyses, including a great many of his colleagues at Berkeley. If, however, this strong consensus were enough to fire or sanction someone, then academic freedom would be meaningless," he added.

“Edley said Yoo had allowed politics to triumph over law. ‘What troubles me substantively with the analyses in the memoranda is that they reduce the Rule of Law to the Reign of Politics.”

“In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Yoo declined to answer questions or comment specifically on Edley's memo. ‘I have always enjoyed the company of liberals, and while I cannot speak for them, I am sure they are not threatened by having a lonely conservative voice on the faculty."

Yoo is that one conservative victim on campus who can also make another notorious claim.

He used the U.S. Constitution for toilet paper.

UPDATE: April 28, 2008

I rarely take anything Ayn Rand fellows have to say seriously, but this time I'll make an exception.

Keith Lockitch, a resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute claimed the film "Expelled" is replete with distortions and half-truths. "Proponents of intelligent design(are portrayed)as the victims of a totalitarian regime," by including black-and-white footage of Soviet Union soldiers beating dissenters."

“Nothing more than a religiously motivated attack on evolution. To the extent intelligent-design advocates are facing obstacles in academia, it is because they are not doing real science--they haven't been expelled, they have flunked out of the scientific community, just as a faith healer would flunk out of medical school."

"The latest chapter in the evolution-versus-intelligent design debate comes a year after U.S. students were outperformed by 16 other industrialized nations in an international science exam."

Nuff Said.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Isn't It About Time We All Had Guns?

Apple pie, baseball and the neighborhood kids playing cops, cowboys and war heroes innocently in the nation’s perfectly mowed backyards. That’s America.

And how could a man ever forget his boyhood memories of a warm cap gun and the smell of freshly burned gun powder? He would never allow those years of care free play give in to the rage he feels over having less and less control over his life.

For those who can’t let go, there are real hand guns. They’re normally safe to have around, except when a child plays with one and it accidentally goes off, a family member resorts to suicide, an ex-employee wants to see his co-workers one last time, an abusive husband has had enough or maybe, just maybe you’re the surprise victim of road rage.

Take the L.A. teenage driver killed in a car-to-car shooting at a freeway off-ramp. One of several recent fatal roadway attacks in California. In this case, a car pulled up alongside hers and someone fired about five rounds from a medium-caliber gun.

Car-to-car shootings are not uncommon in southern California now. They have had a spate of shootings on major roadways; at least five other people have died in recent weeks. Among the victims were a 54-year-old chiropractor shot in the head; a 26-year-old man, two teenage boys and a freeway driver shot dead with his two children in the car. And they’re all unrelated.

It’s just a matter of time before we’re all forced, that’s right, forced to carry handguns. You just never know when you'll be blamed for driving to slow in the left lane.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Florida Says, Forget Your Daughter, Take Your Guns to Work

Florida lawmakers passed, what I like to think is our nations final few steps toward our chaotic destruction, the long awaited "take your guns to work" law.

Backed by the National Rifle Association, the disgruntled employee act would prohibit business owners from banning guns kept locked in motor vehicles on their private property. There are those who would try to confuse the gun issue with endless studies showing how again and again job sites where guns are permitted are more likely to suffer workplace homicides than those where guns are prohibited.

I hope you don’t mind if I use a favorite Republican cliché here by suggesting if “the employers don’t like it, they can move to another state.” For the NRA, it looks like the grand old party would even trample on the rights of property owners, a valued constancy at one time.

Who will have the right to bring guns to work? Employees, customers and anyone invited to stop by, as long as they have a permit to carry the weapon.

But if guns make us so much safer, why did the law exempt nuclear power plants, prisons, schools and… homeland security? Shouldn’t homeland security be armed and ready to protect us?

Let’s review why Florida is such a fun place to live. They allow concealed weapons; the “make my day” law gives you the right to shoot first even if you feel threatened by an unarmed loud mouth; and at last, the right to “take your guns to work.”

If you’re a gun toting freak of nature, Florida might truly be heaven on earth, or at least the quickest way to get there.

And if you always thought “old people went to Florida to die,” you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

GOP Nearly Out of Breath Fighting Wisconsin Smoking Ban

Madison gets it, by a 68 percent margin, the public health benefits of the current smoking ban. What many didn’t expect was a similar result state wide.

According to the Wausau Daily Herald the Mellman Group found that “69 percent of Wisconsinites said they favored statewide smoke-free laws, including bans in bars and restaurants.” The research group intentionally asked “more voters in state Assembly districts to assess how partisan the issue is.”

True to form, extremists were quick to complicate and redefine how the public really feels. Ryan Evans, who heads up the pro-cancer death group called Ban the Ban, “questioned how well the poll gauged sentiment in rural Wisconsin and whether the sample was big enough to project the findings onto the state as a whole”… blah, blah, blah.

Evans solution; put the issue up to voters through a referendum. Another words, they want to buy a no vote.

This “leave it up to the public” solution to everything has emerged as a highly successful political tactic. Instead of our elected representatives doing the peoples bidding, anti-health and anti-nanny state Republican lobbyists would prefer using lots of money to reflect the public's true feelings.

The whole issue is meant to be confusing. For example; Republicans love our current health care debacle and oppose change. They support instead a free market model of personal responsibility, blaming people for their bad lifestyle decisions and food choices. Yet at the same time, they support the incredibly reckless unhealthy lifestyle decision of inhaling smoke. Smoking has been proven to cause a painful list of expensive diseases that lead to death and raise health care costs for everyone, even Republicans.

Once the smoke clears, and the ban is in place, these tobacco pushing profiteers’ will have to find another health risk to support.

Anybody for a basket of fried pickled trans fat balls with your beer?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Conservative Myth: Strict Constructionist, Party of Law & Order

The Republican media machine claims it’s all true: they are the law and order party and unwavering strict constructionists of the Constitution.

Disputing these assertions is easy. Simply mention the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the disregard of international treaties, presidential signing statements claiming Congressional law as advisory, military force, warrentless wiretaps, , the politicization of the Justice department and the “unitary executive” -where a U.S. President in the exercise of his Constitutional war powers cannot be restrained by any law national or international. This is a partial list of course.

The few conservatives I know who advocate the passage of a concealed carry law in Wisconsin tote one around with them anyway for the simple reason they don’t agree with the current legal ban.

Bad laws can be ignored, especially if you assign blame those big government left wing liberals.

In combination with the concept of justifiable lawlessness, they have now done away with the moral and ethical arguments once advocated by such books as…oh, the Bible.

Just look at how Republican work their magic in political ads. They deceptively mislead the public through omission and ambiguous terminology. Conservatives are quick to point out they did nothing illegal, never mind the moral and ethical bankruptcy of their tactics.

One lawyer representing a few right wing advocacy groups responsible for the defeat of a liberal Wisconsin Supreme court Justice said, in “the vast majority of ads they could find nothing untrue-they just thought they were unfair. The thing they need to get into their heads is, life is unfair.” He’s got a point. It might be unfair to mislead the voters, but certainly on illegal. Get over it.

Just for fun, I’ve included some classic statements from the former stars of the Bush administration.

Pentagon Neocon and now a professor at Georgetown University Douglas Feith: “’The problem with moral authority, was ‘people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the a**holes, to put it crudely.”

Feith and his reason for the attack on Iraq, as written in his memoir, "War and Decision: "anticipatory self-defense."

Feith on whether the war in Iraq was the right decision; "I think the president made the right decision given what he knew. And given what we all knew. And to tell you the truth, even given what we've learned since." 60 Minutes

Karl Rove, formerly of the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, now political analyst and contributor for Fox News, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal, on his feelings about a confrontation with a college student objecting to how he shredded the constitution: “He had no question, he just wanted to accuse me of undermining the Constitution and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.” GQ Magazine

I rest my case.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cross-dressing Children Threaten Insecure Bible Stations

Reedsburg, Wisconsin’s Pineview Elementary school was having fun celebrating their annual school tradition called Wacky Week, where kids wore costumes and had fun. On Friday, they had the choice of dressing as a senior citizen or member of the opposite sex.

This wonderful local event turned on its ear when some disgruntled bigot decided to call Milwaukee’s bible thumping hate mongers at the Voice of Christian Youth America. Their nine state stations blasted the elementary school, under the guidance of God’s own gay bashing vigilante, program director Jim Schneider. Whipping the parents up into a fevered frenzy, they criticized the dress-up day, accusing the school of promoting alternative lifestyles. You know that dangerous gay lifestyle some think the bible condemns.

Despite the fact that public schools do not promote a specific religion, Jim Schneider thought otherwise. "Our station is one that promotes traditional family values. It concerns us when a school district strikes at the heart and core of the Biblical values.” Again, this was Wacky Week, with children dressing…wacky.

And on the subject of kids dressing like the opposite sex, Schneider couldn't help but force his own brand of discriminating religion on the innocent. “To promote this to elementary-school students is a great error. There are parents, taxpayers who do not appreciate the imposition of a particular lifestyle being portrayed as a normal lifestyle for the kids."

If that were the case, he might have a homophobic laced point. But since the intent of the event was clear, the school plainly notified the parents and no one voice a concern, the community standard had been met. Only one person complained, after the fact, because they felt a bit uncomfortable about Wacky Weeks supposed hidden agenda.

After the station whipped the locals into an anti-gay frenzy, the school and the Reedsburg School District office were flooded with complaints. Suddenly, out of no where, a problem cropped up in Reedsburg that took everyone by surprise. Is it possible the Voice of Christian Youth America may have suggested something dark and sinister in their broadcast?

Principal Tammy Hayes said Friday's dress-up day came from the students. "I feel awful for the kids. They did not mean anything by this day. They were trying to have fun and come up with a fun dress-up day."

About half of the students who did dress up came as granny and gramps, and the other half turned gay instantly.

As for Principal Hayes, "I can assure you we will not be having this day (again)."

The bible bullies use of the First Amendments free expression of religion guarantee to promote their narrow hate filled reading. It should not be forgotten. Dividing a community, turning neighbor against neighbor, and promoting sexual discrimination should be more than enough to challenge the license holder of these stations. Enough is enough.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Health Care Privateers' At Odds With Facts and Themselves

It’s sad and slightly pathetic reading the conservative justification for our current broken health care system. What they end up doing is stringing together a series of facts and statements mixed in with a convoluted inside out, up is down logic that should send red flags up immediately.

To illustrate my point, a recent Florida Times-Union editorial tried so hard to turn ideological fantasy into reality.

They start by quoting from the Mayo Clinic's National Symposium on Health Care Reform: “Costs (of health care) will bankrupt the country if they continue rising at current rates. Yet surprising numbers of people get inadequate care.” One of the group's recommendations; “Government should ensure universal coverage.”

Nothing gets the privateers’ angrier faster than the idea of government involvement in providing for its own well being, us, we the people.

After the anger has set in, the privateers swing from one contradiction to the next. For instance, they have argued that those who are wealthy or young don’t need health insurance. Yet they freely admit that “if healthy people get the wrong disease, they can go broke.”

Without missing a chance to contradict that contradiction, they offer up the Republican talking point, “It may be time to drop the state mandates and allow carriers to offer a smorgasbord of policies nationwide - some bare-boned and others quite extensive. Then let people buy health coverage the way they buy car insurance - pick the policy best suited for their own needs and budget.”

How can you pick the best policy suited to your needs and budget without the chance you still might get the “wrong disease,” one that’s not covered, and go broke?

The privateers’ aren’t done yet. They brilliantly point out a quote on the Mayo Web site from one of it’s members: "All Americans must be guaranteed their choice of doctors and hospitals."

The privateer’s answer: “that would put upward pressure on costs.”

Huh? They didn’t just say that choice raises prices?

“Let people pay extra, if they want that option. But for those amenable to selecting from a list, let them do that at lower cost.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the free market would demand just the opposite, giving people a choice, forcing doctors and hospitals to compete. I thought the limited list of choices were more in line with restrictive insurance company plans and pre-selected government mandates. Which is it?

Finally, the privateers’ take the ever reliable shot at Medicare. “The government has a disastrous health-care record. Medicare costs, for example, will more than triple as a percent of the gross domestic product in the next few decades. It would take an immediate 122 percent increase in the payroll tax (to 6.44 percent) or a 51 percent reduction in program outlays to bring Medicare into balance. Are medical costs too high and services too limited now? Wait until government fixes your health care like it fixed Medicare.”

It’s convenient here to ignore the fact that a single payer system would include retirees, spreading the cost of this higher risk group with healthy individuals. They still haven’t really explained why the government can’t negotiate lower drug prices either. The free market would allow governments the ability to buy huge quantities at bulk prices. All the other industrialized countries in the global marketplace get to negotiate, saving their tax payers billions of dollars, why can’t we? Perhaps we should prohibit Wal Mart from using its size to negotiate lower prices?

The fact that seniors are extremely happy with Medicare is another reason why privateers’ hate Medicare. It works.

Health Insurance Companies Victims of Their Own Unfettered Success

Wisconsin’s Democratic legislators have improved and fine tuned their bill Healthy Wisconsin, and may someday bring universal care to everyone, if they stay on message fighting fantasy with facts. Colorado Democrats are also doing the work of the electorate. The House there will push legislation, the Fair & Accountable Insurance (or FAIR) Act, to hold down the rising cost of health care insurance.

The insurance industry immediately had a tantrum, whining that they were made “an unfair scapegoat.”

According to the Denver Business Journal, “FAIR would allow the Colorado Division of Insurance to deny rate hikes based on myriad factors, including excess administrative costs, high reserves, profitability and denied claims.”

Is it any wonder; “Small employer premiums for a family of four increased 140 percent in metro Denver from 2000 to 2005. Despite one of the healthiest populations in the country, Colorado has the seventh-highest health insurance rates in the country. As a result of rising premiums, more employers are dropping coverage and leaving workers uninsured.”

These supposed “scapegoats” overestimate losses and then fail to adjust the rates later, resulting in inflated bottom lines. With higher costumer premiums, insurers act as though their huge profits are somehow not related.

Even though these sad middlemen in the health care formula are there to help you pay your bills, they chose to limit even that customer benefit by spending “$20 billion in software designed to help actuaries deny claims to those customers.”

A spokeswoman for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Colorado and Nevada was quick to blame physician and hospital costs, drugs, new technologies, an aging population, and consumer demand."

It would be crazy to blame the insurer’s high premiums and grotesque profits.

Oh yea, Anthem also said it “sets a bad precedent for government's increasing interference in business.”

What, interfere with business? When one third to one half of a family’s income goes to pay for health insurance, how could anyone complain?

We’re only talking about a business that threatens the economic well being of the nation and bankrupting people out of their homes.

Colorado’s FAIR legislation, like Healthy Wisconsin and other state proposals, is the only humane answer to a brutal, unsympathetic ideology of go it alone conservative elites who don’t walk the walk.

Here’s a list of Republicans who took control of their health care costs and decisions by dropping their taxpayer funded government plan for health savings accounts:

Are you kidding?

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Invisible Hand of the Market In Full View

Tearing down the New Deal, like the Berlin Wall, was another of President Ronald Reagan’s great legacies. The conservatives viewed the Reagan tax cuts and the shift to corporate deregulation as policy successes. But that was just the beginning.

In the ‘90’s we saw a Republican Congress usher in the Contract with America. It advanced a world view dominated by free markets and unregulated capitalism.

It is now 2008, and many of the 80,000 people who lost their jobs in March are asking, what has Reagan and the Contract with America brought us over the last two and a half decades?
If their not asking that, maybe they should be.

Again, the economy shed 80,000 jobs in March, the third consecutive month of rising unemployment. January and February saw employers shed 76,000 in each month. The national unemployment rate rose from 4.8 percent to 5.1 percent

The New York Times reported that “more than 80 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, the most since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking the question in the early 1990s. Eighty-one percent said`things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”

So Reagan and the GOP’s Contract with America have resulted in 80 percent dissatisfaction with the countries direction, up form 69 percent in 2007 and a mere 35 percent in 2002. Hey, in 2002, weren’t we doing cartwheels over our middle class tax cuts and rebate checks.

What really steamed me were the 4 percent that said they were better off. Wasn’t that the upper percentage of taxpayers who benefited most from the Bush tax cuts? A big thank you is in order guys.

The Times found that “typically, dissatisfaction rises in the months and years following an economic downturn, not at the beginning.” Wow! How did they do that?

With Congressional Democrats investigating the Wall Street meltdown, why haven’t they been talking about the total failure of appears to be a realization of a conservative system of government.

Senator Hillary Clinton came close; “After a year of denial and half-measures it is time for this administration to put ideology aside and get serious about stemming this crisis.”

The reason that won’t happen is because this code of belief already has a formulaic simple list of solutions, unrelated to the specific problems at hand. And when you’ve memorized the list, you start a think tank and do guest interviews in the media. Isn’t it time we re-categorize Milton Friedman and Adam Smith’s imagined “invisible hand” of the market writings to the fiction sections of your local used book store?

Democrats Fail the Easy Test of Political Courage

Elizabeth Edwards is on the offensive, pointing out that Sen. John McCain’s health care plan i.e. the Republican plan, would deny both of them insurance based on the fact that they had cancer.

Economist Paul Krugman recently described the marketplace approach to health care as the new version of voodoo economics. The idea that harnessing “the power of competition to produce greater coverage for Americans,’ reducing costs so that even people with pre-existing conditions could afford care …is sheer fantasy.”

Uwe Reinhardt wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that "It's a sad thing, but when I go to international conferences, there's no question the U.S. health system is the bogeyman everywhere.”

In a Dallas Morning News article on Feb 7, 2006 about the health care system in Switzerland, it quoted one married couple who feels lucky they don’t have the US system to worry about. "We are very grateful to have the Swiss system, even though it's expensive. We could not afford this in the United States."

In what can only be described as bizarre, while the US brags that it has the most privatized system, despite the highest health care costs in the world, it could lower the costs even more by removing market intrusive government programs like Medicare and the VA.

Such a radical approach raises few eye brows when pushed so relentlessly by conservative ideologues despite the success and cost savings of government provided health care systems in all the other industrialized countries.

With such irrefutable evidence at its disposal, one would think the Democrats would coalesce around a popular solution to a problem the public overwhelmingly supports.

Forget it. The political courage within the Democratic Party has been driven out and replaced with a desire to compromise their moral and ethical convictions just so they could reach consensus.

Elizabeth Edwards pointed this out when comparing Hillary Clinton’s plan with Barack Obama’s. Regardless of Obama’s liberal credentials, his approach is a watered down version of Clinton’s and Edwards solution and does little to lower costs. She even points out that Obama attacked their health plans “using conservative talking points about choice and the evil of having the government tells you what to do.”

All we are left to do is watch families spend everything they saved for retirement, burn through their kid’s college funds or lose everything they own due to a single health care emergency.
There is little or no chance we can save US citizens the inhumane suffering encouraged by our current health care system.

In health care terms, the heart of the Democratic Party is suffering from cardiac failure.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New GI Bill Too Good For Soldiers

“For Sen. Jim Webb, it's a question of fairness: Why don't veterans of today's armed services get the same benefits the GI Bill provided "the greatest generation" after World War II?” USA Today.

How bad could it be when you consider how those returning GI’s used those benefits to created the great middle class and realized the American dream?

According to the March 29th 2008 USA Today, “defense officials say raising education benefits too much would provide too much of an incentive for service members to leave the military for school at the end of their first tour.”

The grand old party that has made supporting the troops a test of ones patriotism, are bristling over coddling these war heroes with what amounts to another government hand out.

Imagine a soldier leaving the military for a college education, a decent paying job and a family living in an energy efficient house with a picket fence.

That’s way too easy. Next thing you know, they’ll want to start their own company, offer real innovation and perhaps someday compete with the big guys with a much better product.

They may even demand that more of the federal budget be spent in middle class areas all over the country, spending that might cut in to corporate welfare and influence, the life blood of the deserving wealthy elite.

Senator Jim Webb must really hate America and the proud soldiers who will go to war for less.

Rep. Issa on Another 9/11 Government Handout

You’ve heard it a thousand times from conservative think tanks and tough no nonsense Republicans, especially during the election season, that government is to big and that Democrats only want to make people dependent on it’s liberal handouts.

I have often thought how cruel, immoral and inhumane it would be if this country were to take Social Security and Medicare away from senior citizens. It’s been a target of conservatives for years, and for years we have become desensitized to the horrific reality of such a draconian move.

Today, we have a new measure of ruthlessness to add to the list. May I introduce to you, San Diego Republican Rep. Darrell Issa who recently suggested the federal government had already done enough to help New York after 9/11 with "a fire" that "simply was an aircraft" hitting the World Trade Center.

The USA Today reported that “during a hearing about legislation to extend victims' benefits, Issa, a Republican, described the attacks on the World Trade Center as ‘a fire that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it. It simply was an aircraft, residue of two aircraft and residue of the material used to build this building.’ Issa said that he could not vote for additional compensation money for New York ‘if I can't see why it would be appropriate to do this every single time a similar situation happens which, quite frankly, includes any urban terrorist.."

Yea, we’re always looking for a hand out; something free paid for by those hard working Republicans. It’s crazy to think that a common everyday terrorist attack would bring out the bleeding heart first responders looking for a government handout.

Even fellow extremist Rep. Pete King, was offended. "It showed such a cavalier dismissal of what happened to New York. It's wrong and inexcusable."

Sorry Rep. King, you’re wrong. Its part of a party platform that many of us are finally fed up with.

Issa, who never took back his comments, said in a press release "I continue to support federal assistance for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I have to ask ... why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration."

Did you ever get the idea that Issa just doesn’t get it?

President Ronald Reagan is famous for vilifying the government by saying, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Extrapolate that sentiment over many decades and you can see why Rep. Darrell Issa is merely carrying on Reagan’s callus legacy.

The next time a New York firefighter, with his family by his bedside praying he will somehow get better from a lung disease caused by inhaling toxic dust on 9/11, asks for our help paying his bills; mention those “nine most terrifying words.” He’ll get the message.

Republicans Break From Platform to Save US Economy

The right wing is in a constant state of reverse, backing away from typical conservative dogma to stave off a recession caused by deregulation and free market hyperbole.

The question every American should be asking is rarely brought up. In fact, nothing could be more obvious. Do Republicans have any right to declare themselves the party of fiscal responsibility?

You don't have to look any further than an April 3, 2008 article of the New York Times, where this observation was made; “The first hint that President Bush might be detached from the nation’s economic woes was in February 2008, when he conceded that he had not heard about predictions of $4-a-gallon gasoline.”

Do Republicans have the right to declare themselves the party of fiscal responsibility?

In that same article, Kenneth Duberstein, former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan said, “He’s over there ( Eastern Europe) arguing about who should get into NATO, and the American people are focused on what’s in their pocketbooks. For a man who came into office as the nation’s first M.B.A. president, Mr. Bush has sometimes seemed invisible during the housing and credit crunch.”

Do the Republicans have the right to declare themselves the party of fiscal responsibility?

Just two days before the Bush administration negotiated the Bear Stearns takeover (with the infusion of our hard earned taxpayer dollars), George W. warned against a “massive government intervention in the housing markets.” He reassured a wary country that we’re only going through “a rough patch.”

Do the Republicans have the right to declare themselves the party of fiscal responsibility?

John Feehery, a Republican strategist said “The good news for Bush is he’s got (Treasury Sec. Henry) Paulson, who’s got some real credibility on these issues. Paulson is doing a pretty good job of looking like he’s doing something.”

This is a fellow conservative saying our first MBA President apparently has no credibility and we should all feel better because Paulson ‘looks like he’s doing something.”

Do the Republicans have the right to declare themselves the party of fiscal responsibility?

No. And that answer is starting to creep in to the public conscientiousness. In a recent public survey, only 25 percent of those polled approved of Bush’s handling of the economy. And for a president who has been more party leader than someone in charge of a country, it says an awful lot about their failed political movement.