Monday, December 29, 2008

How Much More Research Do We Need Before We Have the Courage to Do Away with Zealot Wingers Abstinence Only Programs?

If President Barack Obama is looking to save budget money by doing away with ineffective programs, then make sure Abstinence Only is finally deep sixed immediately. This is an industry based on fantasy, faith and religion. It’s over, and the groups that have made a business of it need to go away forever. MSNBC reported it this way:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today by Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. The percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers. Rosenbaum said "It does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."

The study is the latest in a series that have raised questions about programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage, including those that specifically ask students to publicly declare their intention to remain virgins. This study again raises the issue of why the federal government is continuing to invest in abstinence-only programs," said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. James Wagoner of the advocacy group Advocates for Youth agreed: "The Democratic Congress needs to get its head out of the sand and get real about sex education in America."

Proponents of such programs, however, dismissed the study as flawed and argued that programs that focus on abstinence go much further than simply asking youths to make a one-time promise to remain virgins. "It is remarkable that an authorwho employs rigorous research methodology would then compromise those standards by making wild, ideologically tainted and inaccurate analysis regarding the content of abstinence education programs," said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association.

Prove it Valerie Huber. Examples? And not from some faith based studies.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New RNC Promises to Reach Out with Overt Racism. Does Away with Code Words.

While Barack Obama wants to reach across the isle, the Republicans are building walls and moving further right, backing deeper into their little corner. AP tells the rest of the story:

The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Saturday he was "shocked and appalled" that one of his potential successors had sent committee members a CD this Christmas featuring a 2007 parody song called "Barack the Magic Negro.""The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," Duncan said in a statement. "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."

In spite of RNC Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan's sharply negative reaction, former Tennessee GOP leader Chip Saltsman said that party leaders should stand up to criticism over distributing a CD with the song. He earlier defended the tune as one of several "lighthearted political parodies" that have aired on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. Saltsman, who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, is seeking the RNC chairmanship.

In a statement that followed Duncan's, Saltsman said: "Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn't utter a word about David Ehrenstein's irresponsible
column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they're shocked and appalled by its parody on the 'Rush Limbaugh Show.'

(Actually, Ehrenstein argued that voting for Obama helped white voters alleviate guilt over racial wrongs in the past.)

But I know that our party leaders should stand up against the media's double standards and refuse to pander to their desire for scandal," he said.

Keep thinking like that, and we won’t even know there is a Republican Party, except in the weird and bizarre news stories section.

Privatizing Government Hasn’t Worked, Yet Politicians Ready to Sell off Public Services and Infrastructure.

This Fox News story hits on all the high and low points of privatizing services and infrastructure. At the end of the report, the downside is enough to take your breath away. Below is an AP story on the national trend to privatize. It won’t be a tax increase, in name, but it will be a major fee increase you’ll pay to corporate CEO’s in foreign countries. A conservative dream come true.

Like families pawning the silver to get through a tight spot, states such as Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are thinking of selling or leasing toll roads, parks, lotteries and other assets to raise desperately needed cash. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is looking for cash to help close a $5.27 billion deficit without raising taxes. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering putting the Massachusetts Turnpike in private hands. That could bring in upfront money to help with a $1.4 billion deficit, while also saving on highway operating costs. (A few years back) Indiana … brought in $3.8 billion in 2006 by leasing the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years.

In New York, Democratic Gov. David Paterson … look into leasing state assets, including the Tappan Zee Bridge north of New York City, the lottery, golf courses, toll roads, parks and beaches.

Taxpayers … can lose out if the arrangements don't work — and sometimes even if they do, said Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pa. Higher tolls on privatized roads can push drivers onto state-operated roads, wearing them down faster and raising public costs over time.

"You're privatizing some profits in this process and socializing some losses," Price said. Selling or leasing public assets can produce an immediate infusion of cash for the state, while foisting the tough decisions, such as raising tolls, onto private operators instead of the politicians.

Where have you heard “socializing some losses” before? Wall Street. Politically speaking, selling off toll roads avoids raising tolls and angering voters. In privatized hands tolls are expected to double or triple, crippling family spending, and shifting blame to a company that could care less.

These increases are already spelled out in the terms of Indiana’s lease. It’s a formula you’ll see at airports, library’s and parks. These are all short term solutions long promoted by Republican think tanks and politicians.
"The downsides are often after they leave office," said Phineas Baxandall, a researcher with the consumer-oriented U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Boston.

Disaster capitalism at work.

"Shut Down" by the Republicans Not the Same Beach Boys Song

While Canadian Support Strong, U.S. Consumers Ready to Dump Auto Industry for Foreign Relicance on Wheels.

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. has romanticized the relationship between man and automobile. It was a teenage right of passage, an industry of street machines that spurred the imagination and a rock song genre of classics that could not have been written anywhere else in the world. In 2008, consumers were willing to give up that large piece of Americana to history and foreign manufacturers promising a few bucks of income and no job security.

This shortsightedness almost boggles the mind. But after years of conditioning, the Republican characteristic of short term planning with little concern for what happens long term, has destracted the public from a fiscal policy that strengthens Amercia’s global position while maintaining its traditions. Look to those citizens of the north in Canada, who have somehow recognized the importance of maintaining an entire industry. Even their conservative Prime Minister understands that future taxpayer outlays may still be essential. According to the CBC:
A majority of Canadians are comfortable with billions of dollars in government loans for the ailing auto industry, a new poll suggests.The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey found that 56 per cent of respondents supported the notion of "proportional, repayable loans," while 33 per cent were opposed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the public money is "obviously" at risk, and more government funding for the auto industry may still be needed.

Why don’t we in the U.S. get it? Just a few weeks ago:
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted in early December found 61% of those surveyed said there should be no such government aid.

Once President Bush and Dick Cheney lambasted the Republicans in Congress for inaction, they did the only responsible thing by lending the industry money. That move seemed to knock some sensibility into the publics thick skulls.
The Wire: According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, sixty-three percent of those surveyed say they support the decision to provide bridge loans to General Motors (GM) and Chrysler.

But again, with shortsighted conditioning from the conservative voices that dominate the media, many would still dump an industry that makes a product every family and business will have to purchase sometime in the future:
But 70 percent say that the companies should be allowed to enter bankruptcy if they require additional assistance. The survey also finds that 65 percent of the respondents would not be likely to buy a car from an auto company that has entered bankruptcy.
“Shut Down” by the Beach Boys has taken on new meaning.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Obama Still Not Cleared of Wrong Doing Filling Senate Seat? Republicans Say NO of Course.

Don't Republicans love it? Governor Rod Blagojevich still intends to drag some of the Obama team into court. So we can expect even more media speculation over Obama's vacated Senate seat. The featured Repubublican analyst, Cheri Jacobus, would still like to see the email transcripts the Obama team sent to the Illinois governor. But heck, Jacobus laments, Obama has the legal ability to keep those transcripts secret (Where was Jacobus when everyone wanted Bush's emails?). Jacobus has the feeling, something's not right. She's even wonders why Obama continues to use a "presidential seal" before the taking office. How uppidy. What a crook.

Aren't we all better off with the Cheri Jacobus' of the world keeping us safe?

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Green Bay Packers "Sarah Palin Moment"

I'm not much of an ESPN fan so I'll just leave you with the rare moment. This is where one of the announcers slipped in a political statement, taking aim at the inexperienced Sarah Palin VP nomination, and comparing it to the Packer organization going with back up quarterback turned, Aaron Rogers, instead of resigning Brett Favre. Kind of says it all.

5 Supposed Myths of the Bush Presidency, According to Brad Blakeman

MSNBC just loves Brad Blakeman, the former Dep. Asst. to Bush, because he's so clueless. It's actually fun watching him defend the Bush presidency despite his eight year record. David Shuster runs down the 5 supposed myths of the Bush debacle. Don't worry, Lawrence O'Donnell sets the record straight.

By the way, Shuster's sharp wit is a refreshing change of pace. His confrontational style and knowledge base is magical when he delivers the "follow-up question," a technique rarely used by other anchors, that leaves the guest sputtering incoherently. Blakeman is a great target (stooge).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Joke that Keeps on Lying: Jonah Goldberg. Conservative Projection on Steroids

Jonah Goldberg’s commentary is often so ridiculous I have rarely mentioned them here at Democurmudgeon. What Goldberg passes off as conservative intellectualism is pretty much recognized by many as self parodies already.

What might be most obvious are his attempts to project conservative qualities onto liberals, leaving Democrats holding the Republican bag of characteristics we hate so much. That would makes liberals the purveyors of greed, lust for power, “fascism” and self interest, all the while being socialist “spread the wealth” peaceniks, singing Kumbaya and supporting the downtrodden and needy. Nice trick if you can get away with it.

In “The oughts: Struggling to define a deadlocked decade,” Goldberg now tries to establish the entire a decade as one of liberal self-indulgence. Never mind that the Bush administration and Republican Congress named it the “self-indulgent” “Ownership Society” already. Get a load of this.. ah, load of s**t:
Does anyone know what we're supposed to call this decade? Personally, I always liked the "oughts," …. The best reason to call it the oughts is that one is left with the sense that this decade ought to have been about something, and yet it really doesn't feel that way. Bottled water is personal, inward-driven. And the iPod hastened a trend toward the personalization of music, and entertainment generally.

Goldberg apparently missed the “personalization of music” with the transistor radio and Walkman decades before, as well as the “best of” cassettes we all put together that “personalized our music.” I “personally” bought a turntable and played my “personalized” lp’s on it, along with stacks of CD’s from my own “personalized” collection. Goldberg continues:
Meanwhile, many of the most popular and defining TV shows of the last decade have been about me, myself and I. Survivor premiered in 2000, launching a parade of reality shows that rewarded will-to-power, ambition and self-centeredness. The Sopranos was nominally about the Mafia, but it was really a biting commentary on bourgeois life, centered on a narcissistic sociopath who nonetheless won our sympathy. Series such as Dexter, House and countless others have elevated egomania, self-absorption and narcissism to admirable character traits.

Simple question: Does egomania, self-absorption and narcissism describe conservative, pull up your boots straps, small government, ownership society members; or pro choice, gay marriage supporting, social safety net lovin,” “government can help” with our collective taxpayer dollars liberals? God, I’m stumped. Perhaps this next passage of wisdom will help clarify things.

Still, I do think society craves a theme, which is one reason why Barack Obama's airy rhetoric of unity appealed to so many people, particularly recent college grads, the wealthy, journalists and others most directly immersed in, and responsible for, the self-indulgence of recent years.

There you have it. It’s the appeal of unity to those “college grad” intellectuals (their so damn smart), the wealthy (not counting the Walton’s, corporate conservative CEO’s and Wall Streeter’s), journalists who tattle tale on wrong doing and all the other self-indulgent liberal categories.

Did you note how Goldberg mentions college grads as if it were something bad, elitist, and not something essential when having to compete with other global “eggheads,” and their emerging highly sophisticated technological economies.

Perhaps Goldberg is “Struggling to Define a Deadlocked Ideology?”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Privatization of Government Not the Answer

This short clip from Bill Moyers Journal says it all about the privatization efforts by Republicans to shrink government at any cost, especially when it's more expensive and unaccountable. Government isn't always the answer, but ravaging it for the sake of ideological argument is reckless.

Herbert Stands up for Labor, Even at the Risk of Republican Attacks

In “A Race to the Bottom” by BOB HERBERT, we are reminded of the importance of the hard working stiff just trying to make ends meet. It also draws attention to the vilification of union labor, and the American standard unions have set in wages and benefits for non-union workers in similar industries. As written in the N.Y. Times and shortened for impact:

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, was raising a cry against the demonizing of teachers and the widespread, uninformed tendency to cast wholesale blame on teachers for the myriad problems with American public schools. It reminded me of the way autoworkers have been vilified and blamed by so many for the problems plaguing the Big Three automakers.

It’s time we refocused our lens on American workers and tried to see them in a fairer, more appreciative light. We need some perspective here. It is becoming an article of faith in the discussions over an auto industry rescue, that unionized autoworkers should be taken off of their high horses and shoved into a deal in which they would not make significantly more in wages and benefits than comparable workers at Japanese carmakers like Toyota. That’s fine if it’s agreed to by the autoworkers themselves in the context of an industry bailout at a time when the country is in the midst of a financial emergency. But it stinks to high heaven as something we should be aspiring to.

The economic downturn, however severe, should not be used as an excuse to send American workers on a race to the bottom, where previously middle-class occupations take a sweatshop’s approach to pay and benefits.

The U.A.W. has been criticized because its retired workers have had generous pensions and health coverage. There’s a horror! I suppose it would have been better if, after 30 or 35 years on the assembly line, those retirees had been considerate enough to die prematurely in poverty, unable to pay for the medical services that could have saved them.

Teachers and autoworkers are two very different cornerstones of American society, but they are cornerstones nonetheless. Our attitudes toward them are a reflection of our attitudes toward working people in general. If we see teachers and autoworkers as our enemies, we are in serious need of an attitude adjustment.

I wish I had written that.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Conscience Rights" in Health Care Erase Separation of Church and State

The “conscience clause” is one of the most dangerous experiments in public health I have ever seen, and will continue to showcase its insane consequences even the casual observer can understand.

In this opinion by Marci Hamilton at, and the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Hamilton shows how the use of conscience is an insidious way to integrate religion into government law making. Without saying so, George W. Bush has taken down the wall of separation between church and state:

Most recently, the executive has expanded so-called "conscience rights," which are more accurately named "conscience privileges." In so doing, the Administration trespassed three constitutional boundaries at once: the one between the federal branches of government, another between the federal government and the states, and the third between church and state.

The Department of Health and Human Services expanded the ability of health care
providers to refuse to provide healthcare or information in circumstances involving medical care that is at odds with the provider's religious beliefs. Congress did not pass such a law, and so the Bush Administration took it upon itself to set social policy in this delicate arena. It also has usurped the states' power over standardsetting for professionals and the definition of good medical care.

Finally, the regulation crosses the boundary separating church and state. The executive is empowering the provider's religion to dictate the availability of medical treatment. Health is being determined by the religious status of the provider, rather than the neutral health needs of the patient. Doctors and pharmacists can now legally impose their religious worldviews on treatment plans, even if it means giving the patient less than what the medical universe has to contribute to their health.

This is a particularly insidious religious preference, because it ignores and suppresses the reality that there are two sets of religious beliefs in the treatment room, not just one. The regulation creates a preference for the religious beliefs of the healthcare provider over the beliefs of the patient. Yet, the medical treatment of the patient should be driven by the needs and religious beliefs of the patient, not
those of the provider.

For those medical providers who do not wish to put the patient first in circumstances involving abortion, contraception, or related issues, there are many specialties they can choose that do not involve questions related to conscience clauses. But for them, religion means never having to make a painful choice. The pain of the patient is beside the point in their universe.

Sadly, this is just another example of the Clinton-Bush era's aggressive push by religious entities to obtain "rights" to act without consideration of who is harmed in the process.

Universal Health Care Biggest Tax Cut and Stimulus For Nation

CBS printed this article from the Nation, written by Jacob Hacker, that is truly the best explanation yet as to why health care reform should be on top of the list of changes by the Obama administration to kick start the economy in the long term.

Medicine Is The Best Stimulus

As we move deeper into the recession, most economists are urging President-elect Obama to spend big money right away in order to stimulate and prop up the economy. The sticking point for a lot of people, however, is the long-term budget picture, especially given that Obama is planning to keep most of his predecessor's tax cuts. How are we going to drop huge sums of money on job creation and fiscal stimulus right now without continuing to suffer through yawning budget deficits years down the road? In fact, we have a magic bullet for short-term spending and long-term saving--health care reform.

During the campaign, skeptics complained that a health care overhaul would involve a lot of upfront costs and that the saving would only come later. But that's exactly what we need right now. Health care involves major spending in the near future, but, more than other initiatives, it will put a brake on federal outlays in the far future. All this argues for temporarily throwing fiscal caution to the wind when it comes to health care reform.
The idea of spiking the deficit now may seem frightening, but it's a lot better than the alternative--and it could actually make it easier to bring universal health care to America.

When talk turns to economic stimulus, health care usually gets short shrift. Perhaps that's because we are so used to thinking of health care as something we should spend less on; or perhaps it's because we assume that health care spending goes straight into doctors' pockets and hospitals' budgets. Yet, when done right, the biggest effect of broadening and upgrading coverage is to immediately help struggling families. The typical items on the stimulus menu--infrastructure spending, general aid to the states, benefits for the jobless, investments in new forms of energy--have a lot going for them. But they shouldn't blind us to the fact that government health spending is also an extraordinarily effective way to boost the economy.

After all, health care isn't a luxury good, like a flat-screen television--something you can put off when money is tight. People do economize on health care when times are tough, but only so much and with serious risks, both physical and financial. The better way to think about health care is like an upfront deduction from family income. If you make that deduction smaller, families have more to spend on other things, improving their own situation and the economy in general.

Read the rest here.....

Conservative Economics Breaking Bond Between Pets and Owners over Food and Care

Republicans have only dug their heels in deeper after being criticized for deregulation and creating a global crisis with trickle down ecconimics. They’re still sure they are right, and all that’s needed is a little tweeking.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are suffering through a Dickensian rebirth. This sad story appeared in the Canadian CBC News:

A growing number of Americans are giving up their dogs and cats to animal shelters as the emotional bonds between people and pets get tested by economic ones. For example, a man turned his two dogs over to help pay for his mother's cancer treatments.

Rising economic anxieties make it increasingly difficult for some pet owners to justify spending $1,000 a year or more on pet food, veterinary services and other costs. The faltering economy forces many people to relocate often to rental complexes that don't allow pets.

Meanwhile, the population growth at animal shelters in Connecticut, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and other states shows how the weak economy is also shrinking the pool of potential adopters. And it coincides with a drop-off in government funding and charitable donations. Adam Goldfarb, a Humane Society spokesman said, "One of our major goals is to develop and celebrate the bond between people and animals. It's so tragic when families reach a point when they can't afford to care for their pets."

"It's been devastating," said Amy McNally, a spokeswoman for the SPCA program. "For somebody to say, 'I can't afford to feed my dog' — it's a humbling time."

Conservatives have us right where they want us. Weak and without our best friends.

Dying Part of Republican Health Care Solution, Cost Containment

I thought I knew just how bad health care was in this country, but I was wrong. In fact, the following horrific detail is a shining example of compassion v cruelty, Democrat v Republican respectively. AP reveals a little known fact about Medicare, that kills people waiting for care so the government can save money. I’m not kidding.

Master toolmaker John McClain and bakery manager Shalonda Frederick … are unlucky enough to have gotten seriously ill in their most productive years. Theirs is a daily struggle against life-changing circumstances. After reviewing their cases, the government declared McClain and Frederick too sick to work and started issuing them monthly Social Security disability checks. Then they found out they'd have to wait two years to get health care through Medicare. Even though workers and their employers pay the payroll taxes that fund Medicare, federal law requires disabled workers to wait 24-months before they can begin receiving benefits.

Frederick needs an expensive injection to control her symptoms; McClain, a scan of a new, and potentially problematic, spot. Neither can afford it. Instead, they fend off creditors, sink deeper into debt and fume that a system they paid into all those
years isn't available when they need it.

McClain and Frederick are far from alone. An estimated 1.8 million disabled workers are languishing in Medicare limbo at any given time. And about one out of eight dies waiting. Many draw down their retirement savings to pay premiums through a previous employer's health plan. Others fall into poverty and are picked up by Medicaid. As many as one in three, like McClain and Frederick, wind up uninsured.

…Advocates for the disabled are hoping that repeal of the Medicare waiting period is finally at hand. "The current law is really indefensible," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. "There is no logic behind requiring people who are determined to be disabled to wait two years before they become eligible for Medicare." Bingaman introduced a bill to phase out the waiting period, and as a senator Obama co-sponsored it.

Here’s where the Republican ideology comes in, where everyone is inherently evil, and can’t be trusted, especially with health care.

It turns out there is a simple explanation for the waiting period: cost.

In 1972, Congress and President Richard Nixon agreed to expand Medicare to
cover not only seniors but the disabled. They created a waiting period to
minimize costs and discourage people from gaming the system.

When it comes to people dying of cancer, you can't help but be sympathetic," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. "But at a time when we have a big downturn in the economy, it may be questionable what can be done in a lot of these areas." Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate committee that oversees Medicare, said he hasn't made up his mind about a repeal of the waiting period.

According to Grassley, if you’ve got cancer there’s not a lot that can be done, questionable anyway, especially in an economic downturn. Sorry if you have to die without getting costly help, but times are tight you know.

When one out of eight die waiting for Medicare’s assistance, something is terribly wrong. When you care more about an unfeeling embryo and than the pain and suffering of a child or adult, there is also something terribly wrong.

American's deserve better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Banks to Taxpayers: We Don't Have to Tell You Anything. See Ya!

When it comes to worker wages and survival of the auto industry, lower is better, and a key to securing a LOAN by the government. But when it comes to bankers and Wall Street, no strings and no accountability are the order of the day. Ask any Republican how they can justify the double standard. According to AP:

The nation's largest banks are refusing to say how they're spending billions of dollars in taxpayer money. The Treasury Department has been dolling out cash to banks as part of the unprecedented financial bailout. But there's no system in place for monitoring what the banks are doing with the money. The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that have received at least $1 billion in taxpayer money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

Congress rushed the bailout into law so quickly, no public disclosure was required. Now, lawmakers say, they're going to try to go back and get some answers retroactively.

I haven’t heard a cry of outrage from the same Republican union busters so concerned with wasting taxpayer money. Guess we all know why.

Hey Southern Republicans, Maybe Toyota Should Lower its Worker Wages and Benefits to Match Mexico’s? Labor’s Such a Drain on Profits isn’t it?

For those who would deny, straight faced, the Republicans weren’t trying to break up the unions have been caught in a lie.

In demanding the big three auto makers lower labor costs to match the foreign car makers in the U.S. so they could compete, the Republican law makers have been exposed in their deception. Isn’t it strange that those foreign companies are having the same problems GM and Chrysler are having, even without the legacy costs and unions? N.Y. Times:
Analysts said Toyota’s downward revision, its second in
two months, showed that the worst financial crisis since the Depression was
threatening not just the Big Three but also even relatively healthy automakers
in Japan, South Korea and Europe. Many other companies will also soon be
reporting losses.

Toyota Motor, the Japanese auto giant, said that it expected its first operating loss in 70 years, underscoring how the economic crisis was spreading across the global auto industry. (It) would be the company’s first annual operating loss since 1938, a
year after the company was founded, and a huge reversal from the $28 billion in operating profit earned last year.

How can that be when they don’t have unions pushing the extreme liberal agenda?
(Toyota) would respond by suspending investment in new plants, including last week’s announced postponement in the start of a factory in Mississippi, and moving some production lines to single shifts. The company has even unplugged electric hand dryers at some offices in an effort to cut costs.

Democrats and Gay Rights Leaders Destroying Obama Inaugural Over Warren. Both are Still Their Own Worst Enemy.

Democrats are making me crazy. As much as I am outraged at the situation in California, and the closeted bigot’s promotion of second class citizen status of gay individuals, cut the crap already.
Holding Obama’s feet to the fire on equal and not separate issues is different than this rabid attempt at poisoning the incoming presidential administration.

Get a grip, and work to change public perception of gay marriage so the states can remove discriminatory amendments already in place.

Republicans took everyone’s eyes off the issues during the Clinton Administration with “Don’t ask don’t tell,” the gay wedge issue that lights up the party faithful. Take a deep breath, control yourself, and don’t let that happen this time around.

Take Cathy Lynn Grossman, the USA Today’s Faith & Reason columnist, whose column about and Steven Waldman interview with Rick Warren was rigorous and detailed. According to Grossman:

It's an interview laden with fascinating quotes -- Warren's support for civil unions, for example, includes quotes that got Richard Cizik, formerly a leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, shown the door. Then he turns and equates gay marriage with incest. See the Beliefnet interview video or read the transcript for yourself. Meanwhile, I still find no similar cloudbursts of criticism over the naming of a pro-gay rights pastor, civil rights icon Rev. Joseph Lowery, to give the benediction.

After watching the clip, I was more confused than angry about his position or his comparisons to gay marriage, which are often times pulled out of context on blogs and the major news networks.

Perhaps the real problem is based on a segment of our population hung up on the “definition” of marriage. Maybe this rigid definition, which has been defined differently over the centuries (Warren is wrong history), has been turned into something ugly and divisive.

Perhaps now is the time to develop a new category, one that challenges the elitist snobbery of “the one and only definition” of marriage, and put in place a more inclusive union under a name all groups can adopt as a show of independence.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How to Talk to Girls author Alec Greven is Really Cool

This is the cutest interview I've seen in a long time. Kyra Phillips does a great job talking to the 9 year old author, Alec Greven.

Vanity Fair's David Rose Disproves Torture Myth that it Works

Does torture really work, and has the Bush administration obtained important actionable information that has saved us from another terrorist attack? NO!

What, you're a Republican, and you want proof that directly contridicts Duncan Hunter rantings. Well, you can talk to Vanity Fair's contributing editor David Rose.

From Bad to Worse: Bush Gives Us "Volunteer" Health Care Services. Conscience Rule a Source of Possible Abuse? Are you Kidding?

I have been following this story for a long time, so I cannot not, and will not let go of it until it's overturned. Rachel Maddow had a great conversation with Rep. Diana Degette of Colorado about what can be done to save American lives before a national disaster occurs.

Thank you George, for making things even worse during your presidency.

Here's an interesting response from a Capital Times story on this subject:
Perhaps the objections to this final(?) Bush act would be clear to you in an example. You are seriously injured in an auto crash. When you arrive at the emergency room, the only one within 100 miles, the only doctor there has recently converted to Christian Science and refuses to provide you with modern medical treatment. And of course you know that he should not do so, because you understand that it would violate his right of conscience. But he does pray for you. Since he is providing you with the best treatment that is permitted by his religious values, you do not expect him to do otherwise, correct?

But he also has the right under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to keep his position in the emergency room. I mean if patients die as a result, well that is just part of the cost of protecting the conscience rights of all individuals in their pursuit of gainful employment. How could anyone object to that?

Goldman Sachs Off Shores, Only Pays 1 Percent Tax. Didn't We Just Bail Them Out?

What I like about Rachel Maddow is her ability to bottom line what's really going on. Things that really effect you, me and our country. Some call it analysis. Whatever you want to call it, it relevant information we need to make an informed decision about government, business and life. Oh, and taxes.

Here's Rachel with a possible new trend on Wall Street profit making; total off shoring their tax liability. Isn't it nice to know we'll be paying higher taxes in the future because our money bailed them out, while they pay no taxes? I didn't hear a...thank you?

Here's my favorite line, as reported by the N.Y. Times:

Goldman also benefited from a lower tax rate in 2008. The bank said it had an effective tax rate of 1 percent for the year and paid $14 million in taxes, down from 34.1 percent in 2007, when it paid $6 billion. Goldman said the decrease was “primarily due to an increase in permanent benefits as a percentage of lower earnings and changes in geographic earnings mix.”

Fox News And Tony Fratto Couldn't Imagine Flying Planes into Buildings. You've Got to Be Kidding?

Keith Olbermann, like everyone else in the reality based world, has had enough of the talking point: "No one could have imagined flying planes into buildings."

But strangely, in the conservative world of cliches, this one just sounded to good let go. Most of us remember endlessly correcting Condi Rice for saying the same thing, completely blowing whatever credibility she might have had. Here's the clip of White House Deputy Press Sec. Tony Fatto agreeing with the Fox News host about the "unimaginable," and Olbermann's response detailing proof we all knew and we're all tired of having to correct these numbskulls over and over again...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Birds Barbie-For the Girl Who Wants to be Afraid of Everything.

The Rachel Maddow Show featured this surreal moment in Barbies life.

I really thought it was a joke. Would Mattel actually sell this frightening horrific moment from Alfred Hitchcock's classic movie "The Birds?"

Selling between $35 and $50, I had to have one. Look at the darn thing.
Who would want to impose this lasting trauma of birds attacking an innocent woman dressed to the hilt? Mattel. How do you promote something so perverse:

"Based on the classic movie! Includes real fake birds! High-quality head looks scared and has awesome hair! This Barbie is for The Birds!"

"Will these plastic birds damage her delightful handbag or her carefully styled hair? We certainly hope not!

Be sure to let Barbie into your home and pray that the birds don't come in with her! Stands about 11 1/2-inches tall. "

What's next, Jaws Swimming Barbie, Goldfinger's Golden Girl Barbie, Burning Bed Barbie or Psycho Shower Barbie?

The Total Collapse of the an Already Disastrous Health Care System

For years the states have been fighting off many of the right wing fringe groups who were attempting to deny health services for “moral, ethical and religious” reasons.

The fight is over.

After destroying the U.S.’s credibility world wide and tanking the economies at home and abroad, President George W. Bush took aim at the nation’s health care system and made it voluntary for providers, allowing them any excuse they can find to turn down treatment.

The increased anxiety, on top of getting help at a time when we're most vulnerable, is inhumane. These people are sick sons of bitches. The graph above reflects public opinion in January 2000. The Washington Post lays it out perfectly:

The Bush administration yesterday granted sweeping new protections to health workers who refuse to provide care that violates their personal beliefs. The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. It was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.

It will be a major obstacle to providing many health services, including abortion, family planning, infertility treatment, and end-of-life care, as well as possibly a wide range of scientific research. Pharmacists have turned away women seeking birth control and morning-after emergency contraception pills. Fertility doctors have refused to help unmarried women and lesbians conceive by artificial insemination. Catholic hospitals refuse to provide the morning-after pill and to perform abortions and sterilizations. Experts predict the issue could escalate sharply if a broad array of therapies becomes available using embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are obtained by destroying very early embryos. Officials at hospitals and clinics predicted the regulation will cause widespread disruptions, forcing family planning centers and fertility clinics, for example, to hire employees even if they oppose abortions or in vitro fertilization procedures that can destroy embryos.

The final rule … affects a far broader array of services, protecting workers who do not wish to dispense birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraceptives and other forms of contraception they consider equivalent to abortion, or to inform patients where they might obtain such care. The rule could also protect workers who object to certain types of end-of-life care or to withdrawing care, or even perhaps providing care to unmarried people or gay men and lesbians. While primarily aimed at doctors and nurses, it offers protection to anyone with a "reasonable" connection to objectionable care -- including ultrasound technicians, nurses aides, secretaries and even janitors who might have to clean equipment used in procedures they deem objectionable.

"Doctors and other health-care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," said Mike Leavitt, secretary of the Department Health and Human Services, which issued the regulation.

I am reminded of the Republican comeback about people who don’t like what they do at work: Find another job. So what if it takes 10 years of training, you should have known going in what your job duties would have required of you.

Unbiased Conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate: "Conservatives vs Liberal Activism"

Upfront with Mike Gousha interviewed another strict Constitutional constructionist, conservative candidate Judge Randy Koschnick , for the upcoming Wisconsin Supreme Court election. So far, in the few media appearences he has made, he's repeatedly promised that will not legislate from the bench like most liberal judges. That's it. That is his claim of qualification. For example:

Koschnick: "You could have two judges who are not activist reach different decisions, but it doesn't happen as often between the conservatives and the "activists."

Uh, I think Koschnick should have said liberal, but intentionally said activist for "effect."

Koschnick continues: "That's why you see a lot of split decisions, and they normally break down along conservative v "liberalism"...liberal activism lines...."

The evil liberalism, not liberal philosophy, paired with "activism." This is a candidate for our Supreme court with an apparent axe to grind against the liberal idea of a living Constitution, a concept that historically has been debated since before the the ink was dry on the actual Constitution. Koschnick is apparently declaring his side the winner.

That's not all folks: Members of the Government Accountability Board say (conservative) Justice Annette Ziegler did not check with regulators before announcing her plan to create the trusts last year and then did not follow advice she was given. Also, Ziegler has not given the board copies of the trust documents or information about what assets she put in them (as required).-Wisconsin State Journal

And wouldn't you know it: Ziegler was reprimanded by her colleagues for violating ethics rules. She was the first sitting justice ever disciplined.

Frm. Gov. Bob Ehrlich Supports Labor, Just Not the Labor Movement or Unions

Help me understand. Please.

Does former Gov. Bob Ehrlich thinks he's fooling anyone, except for the twenty percent or so drinking the cool-aid, into thinking labor doesn't need its group power to provide a level playing field to take on corporate power?

Gov. Ehrlich calls labors call for card checks "an abomination" and un-American.
"If people want to organize, that's fine, but let's do it in an American way."

What the hell does that mean. Open balloting for unionization is "un-American?" If he says so I guess. Chris Matthews put Ehrlich on the spot with this question: "Do you support the labor movement generally?
Ehrlich: "Do I support the 'labor movement,' or do I support 'labor?' I support labor. Do I support union bosses who represent the left wing of the Democratic Party only? No."
If your liberal, and if you're a Democrat, you don't have a voice in America. A fair wage and benefits are unfair and un-American. Never mind the reverse could be true if Democrats took the same position against conservatives and the "right wing" of the Republican Party.

We have allowed one political party to get away with calling the other, un-American, without correction or argument for too long. And I'll be honest, I'm not sure at this point these attitudes are reversable.

If You're Against the War, You're Against the Troops and You Support Throwing Shoes

What is it about the simple minded? Conflating anti-war with backing our troops is crazy, nonsensical and a problem for conservatives. Why?

Neil Cavuto recently primed the nationalism pump with Gold Star Mom Debbie Lee, who's son Marc was killed in Iraq. She was outraged that anyone would throw a shoe at her leader and father figure George W. Bush. It just isn't right to insult a president who brought about such carnage and strife to those who are comfortably out of view of those who want to fight them over there.

According to Lee: " see them making a hero out of this man that insulted out president and insulted what our troops are doing over there...we have situations where we'll see it on the "main stream media" that promotes the anti-war protestors. It makes it sound like that's how all American feel, and it's not."

Actually, they do feel that way. The majority of American don't want us in Iraq anymore and are against war, not for war. Against, against and against war. Who the hell is for war? Lee is, because war and supporting our troops just go together.
The majority of Americans do support our troops.
That's true, unless of course they're liberal, and against war. Lee unflinchingly brings the two thoughts together. How does she and other conservatives do that?

Florida Voucher Money Scam is Another Republican Train Wreck Waiting to Happen

What looks, sounds and feels good to the public now about vouchers savings, is really a taxpayer scam, and nothing more. Why people don’t see the obvious manipulation of public opinion regarding voucher funding is still a mystery to me. It doesn’t take a genius to dissect the Republican scheme: Shift education to the private sector; advance a less educated and more easily manipulated electorate; all the while fulfilling their quest to cut taxes. Power, not public good, is the driving force in Florida. Sarasota’s Harold Tribune featured this simple explanation of the flawed thinking of voucher advocates.

A report … says a recently created school voucher program is saving the state millions. Logically, that means it could save more if the program is expanded.

I long ago called the corporate tax-credit voucher program a money-laundering scheme. Since it would be illegal to use tax money to fund private schools that don't have to meet anything even close to the state standards imposed on public school systems, this program dodges the law by using money that, technically, isn't tax money … The corporations get a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their state tax bill. That's the scammy part.

But those doing the study for the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability understand all that. Their report concludes that the voucher program still saved the state almost $40 million last year. Private schools got $3,750 per student as tuition and agree not to charge the students more. The public school's annual cost per student is about $7,000.

The state could save more if it told public schools they could act like private schools and not be required to hire teachers the state considers qualified, or hit any marks whatsoever in standardized test scores for reading, writing, math and science. Their students don't even take the FCATs, the tests that we are told are the measure of a school's success. The state's obsession with measuring performance disappears entirely for private schools, even when they take voucher money. Meanwhile, the public schools have to provide bus service to make sure all kids have a way to get to school. Private schools don't.

With the voucher foot now well in the door, supporters will no doubt try to increase them, year by year.

Yes, that would wipe out the savings, but those who love vouchers were never in it to save us money. They are in it to make taxpayers pay for private and church schools.
It’s the redistribution of education upward, with no questions asked by the gullible public. But this isn’t the only area of attack. Feel good results often obscure actual academic performance while demonstrating the real reasons students don’t perform well. According to the University of Arkansas:
Researchers with the School Choice Demonstration Project based at the University of Arkansas report that having a choice of where to send their children to school boosts their satisfaction with and involvement in schools in Washington, D.C..
That’s right, parents are more satisfied. Are kids more educated? Three quarters of the voucher parents don’t care. Is it a double standard for public schools over private? You bet.
“The greatest source of satisfaction reported by parents was simply in being able to choose their child’s school,” added Patrick Wolf, director of the School Choice Demonstration Project and holder of the Twenty-First Century Chair in School Choice in the department of education reform at the University of Arkansas. “Even D.C. parents whose children ended up returning to public schools tended to say that they were happy that they at least had a choice.” Some of the other findings: The factors these parents considered most important in making a choice included smaller class sizes, school safety, religious or values-based environment and rigorous academic curriculum; By the third year of focus groups, class size remained a crucial characteristic while school safety was less of an issue; Many parents placed greater emphasis on attitudes and behavior of their children, rather than test scores, as a basis for evaluating their progress. None of the parents polled considered standardized test scores to be the predominant measure when
assessing their children’s progress
I wonder where voucher parents got the idea that public schools were more unresponsive then their favored private couterparts?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foreign Countries Bailing Out Their Auto Makers, Universal Health Care Advantage. Hey GOP, Still Want to Be Like Japan?

Republicans seemed to be oblivious to the differences between foreign auto makers and U.S. car companies. The different obligations foreign companies have to their employees when compared with the American firms. Think about it: A half a century of benefit obligations are being compared to a relatively new foreign car industry in the U.S., and years of health care promises for American retirees.

Governor Jennifer Granholm has to remind Mitt Romney of the health care disparity and the less than level playing field for foreign car makers receiving huge taxpayer subsidies for setting up shop in the U.S.. Sen. Carl Levin brings up the fact that the other countries are bailing out their own companies for their own economic interest. Gee, you think we might value our own manufacturing capabilities and want to preserve that?

Gaffney on Troops Deaths in Iraq: "I Believe They Did Have To Die."

Hardball's Chris Matthews slices and dices one of the most vocal war mongers in American history, Frank Gaffney of the the Center for Security Policy, along with a little help from David Corn. Gaffney's line to remember: "It is regrettable that any American died. It is regrettable they had to die. But I BELIEVE THEY DID HAVE TO DIE."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O Tannenbaum tree of Humans, Christmas on Acid

This surreal Christmas picture from Bizarro World still sends a chill down my spine. More specifically, this is the Singing Christmas Tree Choir in Racine, Wisconsin and their rendition of "O Tannenbaum." Sure it's a unique idea, but what twisted mind came up with it?

Unjust Deserts and the Redistribution of Wealth

You've got to hear this clash between a "redistributor" and greedy right wing...I mean conservatives.

At, Joel S. Hirschhorn takes a look at Unjust Deserts, written by Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly. The book examines how history can show us how the "redistribution of wealth can benefit everyone. It also helps explode the myths created by free market think tanks and politicians. They start with the premise:

...that there is no reason any one person should be entitled to that inheritance.

According to this understanding, it is not so much about redistribution of wealth from the richest people to everyone else, it is more about the morally correct and necessary action to rectify the unjust and immoral ownership of wealth that a relatively small fraction of the population has improperly (though legally) attained.

Here's clip of Gar Alperovitz on a local public radio program, WHA in Madison, Wisconsin, taking calls from a few angry conservatives:

What Americans need to be told by politicians is that “ever-increasing knowledge, accumulating across the generations, is central to the creation of all wealth,” according to the authors. Therefore the proper role of government is to ensure that many more people get some of this wealth. And the practical way to do this is through higher taxation of the unjust deserts now enjoyed by the Upper Class.

Here's another audio clip of Alperovitz trying his best to answer the outraged Republican callers who don't seem to understand even the basic premise.

Looking at this another way: the economic decline of the middle class and the expansion of the working poor result from all these unjust deserts. All the unshared wealth that has resulted from inherited knowledge that a few people have managed to unfairly benefit from. This has produced rising economic inequality and increased economic suffering by so many Americans.

Wall Street Greed Continues, Jordan & Moyers List New Abuses of "Free Market" Socialism

Has Wall Street, banks and government overseers played us for suckers?

Of course they have. You want proof? Watch Georgetown Univ. Legal & Finance scholar Emma Coleman Jordan and Bill Moyers run through a list of new abuses and greed getting little or no press. A partial transcript is provided below. Keep in mind this detail from
After taxpayer outrage, Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the compensation of Wall Street execs. They even wrote in a provision intended to stop golden bailouts. Well, that was all good and well—until the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision that has ended up leaving a giant loophole for corporate executives.

EMMA COLEMAN JORDAN: Well, I think these large institutions think they're beyond accountability. It appears there were no management structures in place in the Treasury Department to keep track of exactly what these banks were doing with the money. The money was given. The top banks were given $25 billion each, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, banks that protested they didn't need the money. They were asked to take this money anyway It was expected that they would convert these capital infusions into lending.

BILL MOYERS: But they didn't. They got-


BILL MOYERS: -the money but they didn't lend it. Bank of America was not lending the money-
EMMA COLEMAN JORDAN: They weren't lending the money. They were busily making tactical acquisitions.

BILL MOYERS: The ideology is that trickle-down economics will work and that the market will eventually correct the excesses? Is that what you think that ideology is? That's the bubble they live in on Wall Street, right?

EMMA COLEMAN JORDAN: It's that confluence of belief, the Federal Reserve, the Department of the Treasury, and the White House, all believing that the markets would correct. So that in the year between August of 2007 and September of 2008, we had a natural experiment. And the natural experiment was the markets did not correct. They crashed and burned. And as a result, the government had to come in to rescue with the taxpayers' dollars.

Drill, Baby, Drill…But Only in a Crisis. Big Oil Now Waiting for Next Shortage, Not Trying to Prevent Shortage.

A little over a month ago, Republicans were shouting drill, baby drill, and pleading with Democrats to come back to Congress to pass legislation giving big oil everything they wanted to make America more energy independent.

Never mind.

As unbelievable as it may seem, the lower gas prices have stopped new exploration and drilling, with big oil basically saying the hell with energy independence until we can take advantage of another moment of “disaster capitalism.” We’ve got the leases now, see ya later.

I’m not making this up. Here are the details as reported in the N.Y. Times:

From the plains of North Dakota to the deep waters of Brazil, dozens of major oil and gas projects have been suspended or canceled in recent weeks as companies scramble to adjust to the collapse in energy markets. The project delays are likely to reduce future energy supplies — and analysts believe they may set the stage for another surge in oil prices once the global economy recovers.

Exploration spending, which had risen to a record this year, is being slashed.
Wells are being shut down across the United States … Investment in alternative energy sources like
biofuels could dry up … analysts said … Banks have become reluctant lenders, especially to renewable energy projects that may prove unprofitable.

In North Dakota, oil drillers are scaling back exploration of the Bakken Shale, a geological formation recently seen as promising, where production is more expensive than in conventional fields. Another domestic producer, Callon Petroleum, suspended a major deepwater project in the Gulf of Mexico, called Entrada, weeks before completion because of what it described as a “serious decline in project economics.”

According to research analysts at the brokerage firm Raymond James, domestic drilling could drop by 41 percent next year as companies scale back.

Analysts at Bernstein Research have calculated that oil production in North America could decline by 1.3 million barrels a day through 2010, or 17 percent, to 6.14 million barrels a day. This decline, “will be the catalyst needed for oil prices to rebound.”

According to the International Energy Agency, “If we cut back dramatically on investments, we could end up in a situation where supply growth goes flat when the economy starts to recover. The steeper the decline, the steeper the response.”

Let me get this right: We’ll start drilling when we’re hit with another energy crisis, and not before, to prevent a reoccurrence.

Now that’s capitalism.

Al Qaeda Kills Thousands in Iraq Due to U.S. Invasion. Bush Says, "So What."

ABC News' Martha Raddatz gets to the heart of shoe throwing and the Al Qaeda threat to Iraq. President Bush's "So What," in regards to the terrorist threat in Iraq caused by the U.S. invasion. This is a new high for Republican authoritarian arrogance.

Cheney Admits he Authorized Torture, and Lies About Iraq Again.

Are these guys psycho or what? As the Bush administration comes to a disastrous end, and as they close up shop, their now freely admitting everything they did wrong. Here Cheney admits to breaking the law concerning torture by saying he wasn't breaking the law, and proves how insane the Bush Doctrine is in the hands of neo conservative psychopaths. ABC News:

Vice President Dick Cheney issued an unapologetic defense of the Bush administration's anti-terror policies, including the use of waterboarding. Cheney told ABC News, "I think those who allege that we've been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don't know what they're talking about."

Cheney was also asked whether he authorized the tactics used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do," Cheney said. " And I supported it."

It appears both Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are lying, telling two different stories about the run up to invading Iraq:

The outgoing vice president also disputed former Bush adviser Karl Rove's recent comments about the decision to go to war in Iraq. While discussing Bush's legacy earlier this month, Rove said he did not believe the administration would have gone to war had intelligence revealed Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. "I disagree with that," Cheney said Monday. "As I look at the intelligence with respect to Iraq, what they got wrong was that there weren't any stockpiles."

"What they found was that Saddam Hussein still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the technology, he had the people, he had the basic feed stock." Cheney added that, given Saddam Hussein's capabilities, reputation and track record of brutality, "this was a bad actor and the country's better off, the world's better off with Saddam gone, and I think we made the right decision in spite of the fact that the original NIE was off in some of its major judgments."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quick Notes: GOP Image Down, Alienation Index UP, 60% Say Health Care Gov. Responsiblity

Polling in late November 2008, less than a month ago:

In a November 21, 2008 Gallup Poll: "The Republican Party's image has gone from bad to worse over the past month, as only 34 percent of Americans . . . say they have a favorable view of the party, down from 40 percent in mid-October. The 61 percent now holding an unfavorable view of the GOP is the highest Gallup has recorded for that party since the measure was established in 1992."

Harris Poll: More Americans are alienated now than at any time since 1999. "The level of alienation is one measure of how well a society is functioning. . . . The Harris Alienation Index is clearly measuring broader societal trends, not just attitudes about what happens in Washington."

Q: Do you think that President Obama will or will not be able to provide health care coverage to most Americans who don’t have it now?
Will be able to provide health care: 50%, Won’t be able to provide health care:
40%, Not sure: 10
Q: Do you think that it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure that everyone in the United States has adequate health care?
It’s the government’s responsibility: 60%, Not the government’s responsibility:
36%, Not sure: 4%

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fox News Pranks Viewers as Kristol and Williams Swap Talking Points?

Was Fox News Sunday trying to "trick" us? Was it a practical joke carried out to the extreme, unacknowledged, attempting to short circuit liberal perceptions of what is real and surreal? Should I have been tipped off when I found myself agreeing with William Kristol on the wrong headed Republican response to the auto loan legislation. What I didn't expect was the right wing response from Juan Williams as he, straight faced, repeated the Corker/Shelby talking points like they actually made sense.

My head is hurting...

Do each of them have twin opposites sitting in from time to time as a way of confusing the public?

A Quick Opinion on Vouchers, School Uniforms and Charter Schools

There are many who believe the solution to our public education deficiencies are those ideas offered up by conservative think tanks and politicians who have little interest in studying their effectiveness.

There are even more Americans who are beginning to believe, with justification, they’ve been the victims of snake oil salesmen promising a cure all without costs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Maureen Downey is an example of the media finally catching on:

All dressed up with no urge to learnIn one of the largest studies on the effects of school uniforms, sociologists David Brunsma and Kerry Rockquemore concluded that uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems or attendance and may actually hurt academic achievement.

In effect, the study found, uniforms are akin to throwing a new coat of paint on a crumbling building. The building may well look better, but it’s still falling apart.

In 2006, the Legislature fell victim to the 65 percent solution, enacting a law mandating that schools spend 65 percent of their revenue in the classroom. Trouble is, there’s no proof that such a rule makes a bit of difference.

“Student performance does not noticeably or consistently increase at 65 percent, or any other percentage spent on instruction,” concluded a Standard & Poor’s review of student achievement in nine states. “Interestingly, some of the highest-performing districts spend less than 65 percent, and some of the lowest-performing districts spend more than 65 percent.”

Last session (in Georgia), the magic bullet du jour was charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently of the central office under performance contracts.

A recent study out of Minnesota has discredited that now failed experiment.

This session, the snake oil salesmen of education will be peddling vouchers. Step right up to a private school, they’ll say, and see your child reach never-before-seen heights of excellence.
Again, experience tells a different story. Even viewed from the most positive angle, the results of voucher programs are mixed. Research shows that vouchers improve neither the academic performance of the students who use them nor the public schools they leave behind.

Just a note: I am not against new idea’s and experimental attempts to improve educating our children. I am against for profit and “nonprofit” businesses trying desperately to reach into taxpayer pockets, which we have seen over time, becomes a never ending source of unlimited amounts of money i.e. the defense department.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Keeping it Cool, with Barack Obama

It's so Rat Pack, so 50's retro and so Obama. Saturday Night Live gets the new administrations mood just right...

Jon Stewart Takes on Gay Marriage with Mike Huckabee

I know Jon Stewart would role his eyes, but in my opinion, this is the best debate on gay marriage I've seen in a long time. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee clearly and calmly states his case for opposing it, but never addresses many of Stewart's historical references.

Kevin Philips: "Well I think it's side and trickle down is gone for awhile.."

Bad Money author Kevin Philips declares trickle down economics dead, for now anyway, in a sit down with Bill Moyers. Philips makes sense, even for a conservative, and bluntly points out the wayward ways of the current Republican Party. If the party included people like Kevin Philips and John Dean, it would make for tough debates and a better country.

Right now, the party of (corporate) tax cuts is preaching to their 20 to 30 percent base of fringers. Sadly, news organizations still treat these people as credible sources of information and policy. Let's hope the contrast between Obama's common sense approach to government and the right wings extremist agenda is noticed by even the most casual observer.

Philips starts with his opinion on the dire warnings of Wall Street regarding the bailout money they so desperately said they needed.

Republicans Try to Destroy Unions. Disaster Capitalism Agenda

At last, someone from the major news networks gets it right: David Shuster actually came out said the obvious, "The end of an era, as we learn Senate Republicans are now willing to kill GM regardless of whether it's good for our country, in order to kill the union of GM's workers."

Shuster also waves a Senate Republican memo "action alert" with their message: This is the Democrats first opportunity to payoff organized labor after the election...Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor..."

Reacting to that and Dick Cheney's warnings to Senate Republicans are Jonathan Alter and Air America's Thom Hartmann. This video clip (edited for time) is all you'll ever need to calm your nerves, knowing the message got out there at least just once. A job well done by MSNBC.

The Republican Party Got us to This Point, Why Should They Be Allowed to Make Things Worse?

I found this amazing admission from Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, how his credibility and judgment, that should be the anecdotal story on the lips of every Democrat. The following examples are provided by AP:
Festering animosity between the United Auto Workers and Southern senators who torpedoed the auto industry bailout bill erupted into full-fledged name calling Friday as union officials accused the lawmakers of trying to break the union on behalf of foreign automakers. But lawmakers and their spokesmen said the criticism is off base. Jonathan Graffeo, Shelby's spokesman on the Senate Banking Committee, said the senator has consistently opposed taxpayer-funded bailouts.
Here’s the admission of incompetence I mentioned earlier:
"He opposed the Chrysler bailout in 1979 when there were no foreign auto manufacturers in Alabama, and he opposed the recent $700 billion bailout of the banking industry," Graffeo said.
That’s something to brag about? Shelby opposed the highly successful Chrysler bailout that employed thousands of workers, dealerships, part makers, the banking industry that provided loans, area businesses and taxes paid into the federal government over the last 30 years. What a disaster. Now we’re expected to think he’s making another informed decision? Shelby continues to show his ideology over intellect approach to lawmaking:
"Bailouts generally don't work, and this is a huge proposed bailout, and I fear it's just the down payment on more to come next year," Shelby said on the Senate floor.

If bailouts “generally” don’t work, give us a few examples. But when specifically applying it to the car companies, there are no examples. And according to economic projections, that $15 billion LOAN will cost the government that amount anyway, with or without the “bailout.” Would it hurt so much to err on the side of jobs and U.S. manufacturing? They say so. But Shelby isn’t alone when it comes to screwing things up, take Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.
(He) said the alternative he tried to develop would have provided federal money in exchange for … making the UAW more competitive in wages with workers at U.S. plants of Japanese competitors.
Corker apparently failed to connect the pay of the American union workers to the wages of the in-sourced car manufacturers work force. Minus benefits, the wages are nearly the same, and competitive.

Oh, and one more thing. For these free market Republicans, Shelby and Corker, the idea of big government telling companies how much their workers can make and forcing an artificial ceiling, is the height of hypocrisy.

To paraphrase these big government capitalist, "what does congress know about running a car company? Government can only make things worse."

Friday, December 12, 2008

A California Proposition to Ban Divorce and Protect Marriage? They Asked for It!

Tired of the religious right forcing their sectarian beliefs on us through government and legal intervention? It's not exactly what the Constitutional fathers had in mind, which brings me to the video featured here. We're learning that religious zealotry, which is now morphing to include Mormons and Catholics, can be used against itself. Or at least the language can come back to haunt them. Without revealing too much, watch this from .

Gov. Rod Blagojevich Hair Raising "Head"lines

I'm not a big fan of "sensationalized" news stories, like the one endlessly speculated on about Gov. Rod Blagojevich, because they distract the public so easily. But having said that, CNN's Jeanne Moos put together another fun report centered on Blagojevich's hair, the kind of coverage I can stomach.

What Goes Around Comes Around For Voucher Advocates

A funny thing happened to conservative groups advocating school voucher money for private sectarian schools. Keep in mind these groups have not only been trying to get legislation passed to fund private schools with taxpayer dollars, but they’ve also been persuing constitutional amendments cementing the privatization of our educational system with unaccountable vouchers. Now pro-voucher groups are finding out past generations made similar arguments, and it’s now effecting their efforts to do away with public schools. Ouch!

Here’s what the Philadelphia newspaper The Bulletin is reporting:

Arizona’s teachers’ union challenged the state’s two school-voucher programs in the Arizona Supreme Court this week, citing a law educational-choice supporters say was explicitly written to curb Catholic education. A lower court ruled against the programs in May on the basis that public money mustn’t go toward private or “sectarian” education under state law. But voucher advocates argue the provision forbidding such expenditures (Article IX, Section 10 of the Arizona Constitution), emerged from nationwide efforts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to preserve public schools’ Protestant character in response to heavy Catholic immigration.
Oops! It appears the unintended consequences of protecting one religious group from another, and writing it into the constitution, has come back to haunt sectarian schools of today from getting public funding. That doesn’t mean they won’t ignore the irony. Take for instance the beautifully marketed, conservatively titled “Institute for Justice,” who is making the case the language in the Arizona Constitution reflects religious bias. See if you can spot any such biased reference:

Article IX, Section 10 reads, “No tax shall be laid or appropriation of public money made in aid of any church, or private or sectarian school, or any public service corporation.” The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty contends the law is a “Blaine Amendment” born of religious bias … “sectarian” simply means “Catholic.” The federal amendment failed but about 35 states adopted their own versions.

I know, I failed to spot a religious preference in the Article’s language too. The teachers union’s director of public relations, John Hartsell, summed it up honestly and precisely this way in the article:

He said the constitutional provision against state aid to religious schools does not distinguish between faiths either in letter or in spirit. Hartsell however said vouchers frustrate state residents’ ability to ensure that their tax money is well

“We believe that private school vouchers essentially are
accountability waivers for public dollars.”


Republicans Gamble with Economic Meltdown to Bust Unions. They Want U.S. To Be Like Japan.

This is good stuff from Keith Olberman. His guest is Daniel Gross, Newsweeks Senior Editor, who brings up some interesting issues regarding the auto industry's inability to get Senate Republicans to help out. Can you say union busting? His story will be in the Monday edition of the magazine. But you can get the scoop here and now.