Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sure! Drill baby drill! New technologies! Safer! Cleaner! Even in environmentally sensitive areas!

Except for......Alaska oil spill now up to 100 gallons
Just last week, BP said the release involved an estimated 3 gallons of oil
By Associated Press

BP now estimates as much as 100 gallons of crude oil may have spilled in an area around a well house where a pipe broke in the Prudhoe Bay oil field, Alaska officials said Tuesday. BP's initial estimate was 3 gallons of oil.

The spill, discovered Dec. 21, came from a 6-inch line carrying a mixture of crude oil, water and natural gas, said spokesman Weld Royal of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. As of Tuesday, BP's updated estimate is that 300 to 700 gallons of liquid spilled, with as much as 100 gallons of that being crude oil. Last week, BP spokesman Steve Rinehart said the release involved an estimated 3 gallons of oil and 131 gallons of water.

Environmental Conservation officials acknowledge it's difficult to accurately assess spill volume where several liquids are involved, Royal said.

Royal said about six acres of snow-covered tundra, gravel pad and reserve pit have been affected. About 386 cubic yards of contaminated snow have been removed and stockpiled for transport to a temporary staging area.

The spill was discovered by a BP oil field operator doing a routine inspection. The break in the 6-inch line occurred where the production line left the well house.

* Continue Reading

Tom DeRuyter, the state's on-scene spill coordinator, said an investigation continues into why the line separated.

Cleanup workers will continue to remove contaminated snow near the well house using hand tools, Royal said. A skid loader will be used to clean a more heavily oiled area near the well house and reserve pit. Also, the well house will be removed to allow heavy equipment access to the more heavily contaminated area.

BP operates the Prudhoe Bay oil field -- North America's largest oil field.

Last month, one of the North Slope's biggest spills -- 46,000 gallons of oil, water and natural gas -- was reported at the Lisburne oil field, another BP-operated site. That spill occurred when an 18-inch line split on Nov. 29. The cause of that spill is believed to be ice buildup in the line.

Lois Epstein, an Anchorage consultant on pipeline safety, said the recent spills highlight a long-standing problem on the North Slope in certain pipelines that carry oil, gas and water. For decades those lines, unlike transit lines that carry oil after processing, have been unregulated by the federal government, she said. The flow lines were placed under state regulation only recently.

Friday, October 30, 2009

>What's truly stunning to me is that the ultra-conservative contingent of the republican party has endorsed Perry. The guy that made a huge show of declining bailout money but showed up at the back door with an application for funds when no one was looking.


Perry's Secret Jerusalem Trip Raises Questions

Reporting Bennett Cunningham

The city of Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and it has a new defender: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

In August, Perry was given the "Defender of Jerusalem" award. So Perry and his wife flew first class to Israel at more than $5,000 per ticket. The governor's security detail of four Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers was also along for the trip.

They all took the 7,000 mile journey to accept the award at a time when the governor was asking everyone else in state government to cut back on travel. During a speech in Houston, Perry directed state agencies to "curtail taxpayer funded travel."

According to state documents, the taxpayers' bill just to take Perry's security officers on the 5-day trip was more than $70,000. The breakdown includes $17,000 for rooms at the swanky King David Hotel, nearly $13,000 for food and more than 350 hours of overtime.

The specific price tag for the governor and his wife are secret. So when CBS 11 asked to see the governor's expense records for the trip, we received four pages and no specifics. Perry refused to do a formal interview with us and would only say, "Going to Israel or other countries is a wise investment for the state of Texas."

Keith Elkins is executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. Elkins and his organization fight for government transparency. Elkins says, "This Governor operates under the premise of 'believe what I say, not what I do.'" While Elkins suggests, "There is something else going on here," he doesn't know what that 'something' is.

Records obtained by CBS 11 show the governor's airfare and trip costs for he and his wife were paid for by Irwin Katsof, a financier for energy companies around the world. And the man who presented Perry with the Defender of Jerusalem award, Guma Aguiar, owns a company that made billions of dollars in the Texas natural gas industry. Aguiar also created the award given to Perry.

Just two weeks before Aguiar and Perry posed for pictures in Israel, Aguiar posed for a mug shot in Florida. He was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. Aguiar pleaded no contest.

Sheila Krumholz is the executive director of the Washington D.C. based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the effect of money on public policy. She says, "There is just too much of a potential for a conflict of interest with these trips particularly with privately sponsored trips." Krumholz also wonders, "Is this the real deal or a sleight of hand to provide political cover of those attending?"

CBS 11 obtained a list of people on the trip. The organizers describe those attending as "an elite cadre of 20 executives in, gas and oil, biotech, finance and technology." The list includes an out of state Congresswoman and Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo, whose agency regulates the oil and natural gas industry in Texas.

Carrillo says he paid his own way but refused to show CBS 11 any of his expenses. Also on the list of travelers: a host of energy executives, the governor's family -- which included his son's fiancée -- and a member of the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Juan Hinojosa of McAllen. Hinojosa told us the trip was not about energy. "I don't recall discussions about oil and gas with the business people there," he said.

The governor and others met with the President of Israel, the Prime Minster and Israeli soldiers. They toured the old city of Jerusalem and snapped photos of Aggie souvenirs (the governor is a graduate of Texas A&M). Perry even took time to do an interview with an Israeli TV station. Remember, the governor is doing all this while asking other state employees to "curtail travel."

Like the governor, State Senator Hinojosa's entire trip was paid for by Katsof, the financier. Hinojosa also received the Defender of Jerusalem Award. But unlike the governor's four pages of documents, Hinojosa gave us everything he had -- fully disclosing the nature of the trip.

Hinojosa maintains there was no conflict of interest by accepting the trip. "We as public officials have to make decision on public policy. Not who contributes money or pays for a trip," he explained. But Krumholz disagreed, saying, "This trip raises real concerns for the potential for a secret junket."

The trip also had its share of perks. CBS 11 obtained private emails and found the organizer, Katsof, asked attendees what kind of scotch they preferred for a "scotch and cigar bar" where they would admire "a starry Jerusalem." Krumholz says trips like this "can be a lucrative way to conduct business. You pay for vacation and in return you may get contracts or government brokered deals worth millions of dollars."

In late May a Texas appellate court ruled that all DPS expense reports for the governor's security detail were to be made public. A few days later, the state legislature passed a bill to get around that court ruling, allowing DPS to hide the expense reports of the governor's security detail from public view. The law took effect immediately.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

LIEBERMAN THE LYING WANKER


from Chattahbox.com

Lieberman’s 60th vote is needed to get the Senate bill to the floor and overcome a Republican filibuster. And once again, he is abandoning the Democratic Party when he is most needed. Despite his campaigning for Sen. McCain during the presidential election and speaking out in opposition to candidate Barack Obama during the RNC, Majority Leader Harry Reid still welcomed Lieberman back into the fold and allowed him to retain his committee assignments.

During Lieberman’s 2006 Senate run as an Independent, after losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, Lieberman campaigned heavily for single payer, universal health insurance for all:

“What I’m saying to the people of Connecticut, I can do more for you and your families to get something done to make health care affordable, to get universal health insurance,” Lieberman said during a July, 2006, debate.

Lieberman also supported a proposal called, “MediChoice,” which would “allow anybody in our country to buy into a national insurance pool like the health insurance pool that we federal employees and Members of Congress have.”

Lieberman also promised his health insurance plans would cover “95 percent of those who are not covered now, and it will reduce the pressure on rising costs for all the millions of others.”

Three years later apparently, Sen. Lieberman is now strongly opposed to even a watered down state opt-out public option. In recent days, Lieberman has puffed up his chest and taken his disingenuous “I’m against the public option” road show to Fox News band any other media outlet that would have him.

One day Lieberman claims he opposes the opt-out public option, because it would raise the deficit and increase the burden on taxpayers. The next day he makes a contradictory argument, claiming a public option would reduce rates paid to health care providers, which would result in higher costs to consumers.

JOE LIEBERMAN SUCKS
Howard Kurtz (WAPO) writes:

This from a senator who, as much as anyone, helped run up the national debt since 9/11 by pushing to raise the military budget to its highest level since World War II. It is a budget inflated by enormous expenditures on high-tech weaponry irrelevant to combating terror, such as the $2-billion-a-piece submarines -- produced in his home state of Connecticut -- that he claimed were needed to combat al-Qaida, a landlocked enemy holed up in caves. Lieberman is worried about the impact of a very limited public option on the debt the same week as he and others in Congress passed a $680-billion defense bill larded with pork of the sort the Connecticut senator has always supported. . . .

Maybe he can also take some time then to justify his strong support for the government bailout of troubled banking and insurance companies that has tripled the federal deficit this year to $1.4 trillion. Is AIG not now a 'government-run insurance company,' and doesn't the $185 billion of taxpayer money thrown at that sorry enterprise add up to more than twice the yearly cost of the health reform package?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good People Musings
I know a lot of good people. I mean, a lot of really good, thoughtful, kind, compassionate, dear people. This is not about them.
This is about a couple of people that I heard today that were such a resoundingly refreshing gust of crisp, cool and wonderful air that I feel the need to share.

Alan Grayson
You probably know him as the guy that said the republican health care plan is if you get sick, die quickly. Today I heard him in a committee meeting when he requested the opportunity to ask questions of Broun (Republican Rep from Georgia, I think) who has initiated legislation which, again, attempts to pull all funding from ACORN. He coolly asks if Broun knows what bills of attainer are. This is something specifically called out as unconstitutional as it attempts to spearhead legislation towards a particular entity in an effort to punish. Essentially, it is a way to bypass the judicial branch and the legal system. Grayson is repeatedly asked to relinquish his time to which he empathically says no - until he graciously cedes his time at 5 seconds. Broun squirms and fidgets whining about how this isn't that but it is blatantly obvious that this effort is exactly that and Grayson has the cohones to say so. Rock. Star.
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/

Next
Elizabeth Warren.
Yet another blissfully sensical, logical, graceful discussion regarding the financial institutions and how our government has enabled them to hijack the financial system. At one point she says that she teaches constitutional law at Harvard, yet she doesn't understand her credit card. She says that there is a perfectly legal line in every 30 to 45 page legal agreement attached to a credit card whereby it states that the credit card company can charge any amount, at any time for any reason and the holder is required by law to pay it. She said that every single item we touch, taste, feel, see is regulated to be safe and has basic standards to which it must adhere - i.e. toasters must be made in such a way that they don't blow up upon use, yet nothing like that exists for our financial system. Great. Woman.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/21/elizabeth-warren-speaks-w_n_329425.html

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Evil Public Option

(from the funpie weblog)

In the town where I grew up, there were a couple of mom and pop bookstores, one called Borders, and one called Barnes & Noble. These small businesses, the backbone of our economy, provided a wide array of reading material, music and games, along with coffee and scones. Each also provided a type of membership card. The one from Borders was free, and entitled holders to additional discounts on books and free desserts on their birthdays. The one from Barnes & Noble cost $25 and entitled holder to save at least $25 over the course of purchasing something like another $1000 worth of books. Both were a great deal, and these little mom and pop stores provided each other with a healthy competition in the spirit of the American Dream.

Then one day, a “public option” was forced upon my little town. This government-run public option – some called it a “library,” I called it a nazi-loving beauracratic nightmare – had the audacity to swoop down and start offering books to people for FREE! How in the hell could our little mom and pops ever hope to compete with that?!? This evil library also gave out membership cards, and anyone who had one could take home a whole STACK of books for up to a MONTH at a time!!! Sure, sometimes people had to wait a little bit for access to bestsellers, and since books had to be returned you couldn’t give them as gifts or keep them on your shelves to show people how well-read you were, but still. No one on the planet could possibly compete with this kind of undermining of the free market.

Soon after this public option library came to town, Borders and Barnes & Noble were forced to close up their small businesses, costing hard-working Americans their jobs, and bringing us one step closer to Stalinist Russia. That is why I will never again support a public option of any kind for anything. I love America too much. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the post-office, which means I have to drive all the way past the fire house, the public elementary school and the police station, so I’d better get going.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quick Musings
As anyone can tell you, I believe in close and firm monitoring of those entities involved in the financial system. Clear and present reform as well. But it appears that our tendency is to focus on the label rather than the content. There are swirlings of outrage regarding Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs was a huge company. Thousands of people worked for that entity. Thousands. Was each and every single person involved in that company tainted, a money grabber that threw our country into economic ruin? Was each and every employee at Enron corrupt? Judging by the outrage, the crying, the blank, bewildered looks by those carrying their belongings from the building in cardboard boxes the answer would have to be no. It is our way to sweepingly swipe at an entire entity - Iran (all of Iran), California, Wall Street, Conservatives, Liberals - and cast all out. Baby. Bath water. Let's show a little insight, a little maturity, and little bit of wisdom.

Healthcare
You can say socialism. You can say the 1/6th of our economy. You can say people helping themselves. But what this all boils down to is that our system is broken and pointing at the paint job, pointing at the low air in the wheels, griping about the sound system has nothing to do with fixing the engine. The engine is broken and we are fixing it. Eventually if we get our way, insurance companies will cease to exist. That is my hope. We have to get people well. Only those that have no exposure to the real world, only those that have not seen the devastating effects of pain, of fear, of chronic illness, the stress of the impending cost of getting oneself well say that reform is not needed. Only those that have not seen people destroyed by illness can wag their finger and talk about laziness and bootstraps. STFU. 99.9% of people do not want to be a burden. They want to do for themselves. They want to contribute. You are not the only human being in the world with tenacity and ambition and the drive to do well. What you feel is what we all feel. However when you are ill to the point that you cannot function at 20% let alone 100% no amount of ambition and gumption will change it. You can judge and mock and castigate but it changes nothing. Those unable to do for themselves MUST be helped by those that can. It is our obligation as a compassionate society. Isn't it funny, how we run to help those in other countries affected by famine, natural disaster or are victims of war but we look down our nose at those in our own country that just need a temporary hand up? I hurt my back and for 4 weeks I was in pain. During that short time, I felt my entire personality change. Pain is a personality killer. It is exhausting. It is physically and emotionally devastating. You cannot do what you need to do. You cannot emotionally or psychologically invest. You don't have it to invest. That was one month. What about those in pain for 6 months, a year, five years, ten?
Enough of the judging. We are a society by and for the people. We must care for those that need help. If it is indefinitely, then so be it. I don't mind. That is what I was put on this earth to do. Contribute, create, care. I was put here to do for others and for myself. It is not my job to judge those that come back twice, thrice or indefinitely for assistance. Something in their lives has made that a reality. It is not my place to judge.

Peggy Noonan / George Will
Can go to hell.

Faux News
Is the oasis for the fanatical rightwing and ultra conservatives. There is no other place for them where they get that agenda 24/7. The ratings are high because there is no dilution. MSNBC, CNN etc. have a centrist if not a left leaning view. There is much dilution. I can switch from 6 to 10 outlets and get a pretty good idea of what's going on. Turn to Faux News and I get one that is whack I can't even believe they aren't in hystericals on a regular basis.

Best Friends
There is nothing better than having a best friend. I am fortunate that outside my family (my mom, sister, my wonderful husband) I have Lori. Lori is the easiest, the most fun, the most compatible person to me that I have ever met. I don't need a bunch of people that I call friends. Just a couple close people. I am so blessed.

Paul
I missed Paul a lot this week. I feel his presence every day but I feel his spirit always. I miss his voice, his wit, his input.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beyond the Fringe Right Reaction

Here is a round-up of world reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Obama as reported by news agencies.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

We are entering an era of renewed multilateralism, a new era where the challenges facing humankind demand global common cause and uncommon global effort. President Obama embodies the new spirit of dialogue and engagement on the world's biggest problems: climate change, nuclear disarmament and a wide range of peace and security challenges.

FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY

It confirms, finally, America's return to the hearts of the people of the world... you can count on my resolute support and that of France.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR

In a short time he has established a new tone, creating a willingness for dialogue and I think we all should support him to make peace in this world possible. There is a lot do but a window of opportunity has been opened. His advocacy of a world free of nuclear arms is an aim we all need to make real in the next few years.

YUKIO HATOYAMA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER

I am really pleased. I want to congratulate him from my heart. I've seen the world changing since President Obama took office. It was outstanding when he made the speech in Prague calling for a nuclear-free world.

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN

President Obama has made extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.

He has also demonstrated his strong commitment to help build peace and defend fundamental human rights, including through the atlantic alliance. This honour is well deserved.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, HEAD OF THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY AND NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER

There is nobody today in my view who is more deserving of that peace prize than Barack Obama. In less than a year he brought a radical change in the way we look at ourselves, in the way we look at our world. He is restoring the basic core values that every one of us should live by - dialogue, respect, democracy, due process, human rights, a security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons. His dedication to these values rekindles hope that, finally, we could have a world at peace with itself.

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI

We have no objection if this prize is an incentive to reverse the warmongering and unilateral policies of the previous US administration and if this encourages a policy based on just peace.

The appropriate time for awarding such a prize is when foreign military forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan and when one stands by the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people.

SIAMAK HIRAI, SPOKESMAN FOR AFGHAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI

We congratulate Obama for winning the Nobel. His hard work and his new vision on global relations, his will and efforts for creating friendly and good relations at global level and global peace make him the appropriate recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

TALIBAN SPOKESMAN ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID

We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He has not taken a single step for peace in Afghanistan or to make this country stable.

We condemn the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for Obama. We condemn the institute's awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year's peace prize as unjust.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER

You have already inspired so many people around the world, and I know that this award also expresses the hope that your presidency will usher in a new era of peace and reconciliation. Nowhere is such a peace needed more than in the Middle East, a region that has been long marked by terror and bloodshed.

I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead to advance peace and to give hope to the peoples of our region who deserve to live in peace, security and dignity.

CHIEF PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY NEGOTIATOR SAEB EREKAT

We hope that he will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East and achieve Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders and establish an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

HAMAS LEADER ISMAIL HANIYEH

We are in need of actions, not sayings. If there is no fundamental and true change in American policies toward the acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people, I think this prize won't move us forward or backward.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER SOVIET LEADER AND NOBEL PRIZE WINNER

I am happy. What Obama did during his presidency is a big signal, he gave hope. In these hard times, people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, commitment and political will should be supported.

SOUTH AFRICAN ARCHBISHOP AND NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER DESMOND TUTU

He's not even finished a year in his first term of office of a relatively young president. It's an award that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our world a safer place for all.

FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT AND NOBEL PRIZE WINNER LECH WALESA

So soon? This is too soon. He has not yet made a real input. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act.

This is probably an encouragement for him to act. Let's see if he perseveres.

FORMER US PRESIDENT AND NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER JIMMY CARTER

It is a bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment to peace and harmony in international relations. It shows the hope his administration represents not only to our nation but to people around the world.

FORMER US VICE-PRESIDENT AND NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER AL GORE

I think it's extremely well deserved. I think it will take some time before people put together all the different moves that linked his speech at the UN on the abolishing of nuclear weapons, his shift on the missile defence programme in Eastern Europe and the movement of Russia to joining the international consensus that confronted Iran to abide by the non-proliferation treaty.

JODY WILLIAMS, FORMER NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER FOR CAMPAIGN TO BAN LANDMINES

I think that it is kind of foolish to think that the Nobel Prize isn't politicised - it's not a humanitarian prize, it's a prize in recognition of change in the world to contribute to peace, sometimes its a recognitions of visions for peace. He is facing huge contradictions as well - he is going to be sending 40,000 new American troops into Afghanistan just as he receives the Nobel Peace Prize? I think that is a contradiction that needs to be seriously looked at.

SOUHAYR BELHASSEN, PRESIDENT OF INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama is a way of encouraging him to not renege on the universal principles that he has championed.

We would have preferred a human rights defender like Oleg Orlov from Memorial in Russia or Natalia Estemirova [human rights activist murdered in Chechnya].

Monday, October 05, 2009

Yeah, yeah, SNL is funny. I find it amusing that the far right only finds the humor when they are scoring on Obama but whatev.
Here's a quick list of what Obama did in his first 100 days. But let's not forget, the mess that was left for him will take years to clean up. Expecting a new guy to come in and completely clean up all the graft, the sleeze, all the infiltration of outside influences, within a year is naive. It took well over 8 years to get to this point, it will take time to clean it up.


1. Health Care: The Obama White House cleared an important hurdle in the health care reform debate when it appropriated $19 billion in the stimulus package to help implement an electronic medical record system. The money is paltry compared to the hundreds of billions set aside for an overhaul of the health care system in the budget. But officials inside and out of the White House say its significance is hard to overstate.

"We need to have health IT so we have a better idea both of what works but also... so people can share information," Zeke Emanuel, Obama's health care adviser told the Huffington Post in mid-March. "We are on our way in a way that we have never committed ourselves before."

2. Communications: A presidential campaign built on innovative messaging and advanced technology has, naturally, become a White House defined by similar characteristics. As such, the reach of the administration's new media efforts - from hosting online question-and-answer sessions with the president to publishing the first White House blog - has been as expected as appreciated. It's unfortunate, said one tech savvy Democrat, because the new policies have had tangible impacts. "The White House streams every event with the president on its website, even press events," he said. "It's remarkable because, this Sunday they held a swine flu press conference that ordinary people [including many who may have been personally nervous about the topic] were able to watch online... Before you had to wait for a readout or hope that CSPAN would cover it. This is one of those things that people don't quite understand the significance of."

3. Transportation: Since the passage of the economic stimulus package in mid-February, the Obama Department of Transportation has approved 2,500 highway projects. The movement of stimulus money out the door has been as swift as it has been effective: $9.3 billion has been spent in all 50 states. Touting its impact, DOT officials say 260,000 jobs are expected from this investment. And with competition for contracts fierce, the department is set to approve even more projects than previously envisioned. "There will be more money for additional transportation projects," said the official.

4. Education: Maligned for its handling of the financial and banking crises, the Obama Treasury Department has nevertheless implemented policies with real qualitative and quantitative impact on debt-burdened families. Chief among those was a $2,500 tax credit to help offset the cost of tuition (among other expenses) for those seeking a college education. Nearly five million families are expected to save $9 billion, according to Treasury officials.

5. Cars: The automobile industry at the White House and Congress's behest has undergone seismic structural changes, managerial reorganization, and massive cuts in employment. But for all the tough love, the president has put in place the framework for an industry recovery. Perhaps the most significant of steps was to allocate $2 billion in stimulus cash for advanced batteries systems. One high-ranking Hill aide called battery technology "the next big frontier" in the automotive world, adding that if the U.S. could dominate this market it would reclaim its perch as the world's premier car manufacturer.

6. Pakistan: Cognizant of a destabilizing situation in Pakistan, the administration's diplomatic team, with a major assist from Japan, secured $5 billion in aid commitments "to bolster the country's economy and help it fight terror and Islamic radicalism" within the country. The money, as Pakistan observers -- notably Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry - note, will prove instrumental in bringing the nation away from the brink of failure and increased Taliban control.

7. Cities: More than any prior president, Obama has put a spotlight on America's struggling cities, even creating an office of Urban Policy in the White House. It is the Justice Department, however, that lays claim to one of the most consequential of urban affairs achievements. Through the Recovery Act, DOJ secured $2 billion for Byrne Grants, which funds anti-gang and anti-gun task forces. The money, cut during the Bush years, is expected to have massive ramifications on inner-city crime and violence.

8. Engaging the Muslim World: While certainly discussed, foreign affairs experts insist that Obama's engagement with the Muslim world has been at once remarkable and under-appreciated. From the first interview with Al Arabiya to his Nowruz address to the Iranian people, to his proclamation that "American is not at war with Islam" during an appearance in Turkey, seasoned observers have been routinely impressed. "Through these [statements and interviews]," said one Democratic foreign policy hand, "He has been able to dramatically change America's image in that region."

9. Forests: Since taking office, the White House has put under federal protection more than two million acres of wilderness, thousands of miles of river and a host of national trails and parks. The conservation effort - the largest in the last 15 years - came with the stroke of a pen when Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 in late March.

10. Tone: Leaving a meeting at the White House on Tuesday a progressive member of the House of Representatives commented to the Huffington Post just how impressed she was with the president's manner. "He is so calm," said the member, "and has a great ability to make you feel like you're being respected and listened to."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Mr Obama! Tear. Down. This. Wall!
Tear down the graft.
Tear away the facade.
Tear apart the greed.
Tear it down.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Tonight I had the example of what is wrong with my country, what I see as the flagrant cruelty inherent in the current system.

There is a company, a Texas company, that is extremely profitable and doing a booming business. This company has a strict code of conduct, policies and procedures by which an employee must abide. An employee, for example, must come to work sick. If that employee is too sick to come to work, he/she will not be allowed to return to work without a doctor's note. Regardless of severity, regardless of cause, this employee who might be suffering from a cold, experiencing a stomach virus, etc. must go to a doctor.
This from a company does not provide any health insurance to its employees.
That's right.
Not only does this employee that is earning just above poverty wages lose a day's pay, the employee has to pay top dollar, in the vicinity of $100, for a doctor's visit as well as any medication that might be prescribed.

This is what's wrong about our country.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

All this Tea Party and shouting about Healthcare Reform has no credibility to me.
Why?
Because supposedly it's about big government spending, spending money we don't have, adding to a deficit that our children's children will have to pay. But I didn't see one of these guys out during the bush years when we were thrown into horrendous debt with an unjustified war. Why has this become the issue du jour NOW? Why after 8 years of unprecedented spending, infringement on our civil liberties and flagrant disregard for law is this particular issue suddenly worth freakin' out about?


But to Healthcare.
This is what I want to know. Why do we have health insurance? Why are we hanging onto this industry that exists to take money from people, take a cut and then disperse the remainder to those that actually do the work?
Health insurance is a middle man.
It provides no service.
It obviously does not attempt to negotiate some stellar deal for its consumers.
It instead, takes money from people and then attempts to keep the people from which it takes money from the services they need.
It makes no sense.
It makes no sense that we cling to this system looking upon it as a life preserver in a sea awash with fear when in actuality it is an anchor to which we are clinging.
This non-service middleman not only takes our money, it determines who will get service and who will be denied.
It determines how long they will allow you to use this non-service middleman, which correlates directly with your health.
If you are healthy, you get it.
If you are not, you don't.
And this is the system to which we cleave?
And we wonder why people think we are ridiculous?
Why other countries who LIVE the healthcare systems they have adopted are stunned by our swallowing of the misinformation perpetuated by those with the most to lose should we actually decide to do the right thing and get a single payer system.
The insurance companies and those heavily invested in them.
I have experienced nationalized healthcare as a citizen and as a non-citizen. The service is exemplary, the efficiency is top notch, the cost more than reasonable.
But nothing, NOTHING, can begin to describe the sheer relief, the burden lifting exhale that comes from knowing that you will pay either nothing or an amount completely and totally affordable. The stress one experiences here following an injury or a bout of illness is difficult to fathom.
Every day, you await the bills.
The bill from the doctor, the hospital, the anesthesiologist, radiologist, the lab, etc.
Add this to the office visits, the medications, all the additional stuff depending on what it is that you are suffering from.
We put this burden on SICK/ILL people!
People who are no where near 100%, people suffering, hurting, missing work, unable to do daily activities, enduring any number of other things that life throws at them.

I listened in stunned silence as well people shouted at a wheelchair bound woman asking if this woman had more rights than them?
Wow.
Just wow.
I don't believe that we are like this. I believe that some people are like this. But I don't believe the majority of us are like this. If so, why do we step up so big time for those in crisis? Those in need?
No, I won't believe that people are like this now.
I think they are angry.
I get that.
I believe that they are angry that their party let them down.
That their party gave them no choices against Obama.
And that they were beaten.
And now bits and pieces of policy are twisted and morphed into scary images of government controlled everything with us wearing gray flannel accepting our lives of rationing and misery.
I listen to rush, hannity, savage, beck, etc.
And every single one of them is on the twist and shout bus.
Twist a story and shout it from your platform as much and as intensely as possible.
With each of these guys saying the same thing with their own particular spin, I can see how the average listener, with their anger and frustration at being marginalized and disregarded, begins to take this as gospel. I mean, if you hear one person say something, and then another but in a different way with a different perspective, and then another...you begin to believe it. You begin to believe that the country is on the verge of complete collapse. That your country has been hijacked. That the life that you have known will disappear. It is inevitable that people would begin to freak out.

I find it irresponsible. I am all for different perspectives being reflected in opinion. I don't want to just hear my point of view being regurgitated back at me. We are all different with different ideas. But there are certain things that we need to abide by. We need to abide by the truth. You cannot, for instance, say that Joe Wilson was right because Obama has a back room deal going on regarding amnesty for illegal immigrants which will allow the new citizens access to healthcare. That's the lamest justification I have heard. The guy screamed "You Lie" to the President of the United States.
No.
It's not the same as booing.
You can boo an idea.
But something so personalized, so pointed and so incorrect, does no deserve to be justified. You detract from your argument by justifying bad behavior. Especially since the guy apologized and then turned around and said that he wasn't sorry.

In my opinion, it is time to do away with health insurance.
We go to our doctor.
He/she sends the bill to the government.
Our taxes pay the bill.
Not charity.
Not complicated.
But deserved.
So very very deserved.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

If you haven't read the Rolling Stone article "Sick and Wrong" by Matt Taibbi, you need to stop reading this and go read that.
It is a seven page gut wrencher.
I want to believe that it being a slow news period that every single smidge of news is exaggerated and blown into a weird distortion all for ratings.
I want to believe that Obama is playing the cool card. The no drama, unruffle-able, calm leader of the free world.
I want to believe that the democrats will break from history and unite with purpose and strength with one objective - to get this done. And to get it done properly.

But every single word in that article rang true to me. Every penny in the coffer of the representatives and senators from the entities fighting reform was a nail in the coffin of its demise. I believe we will not only get squat, I believe we will see the destruction of a brilliant opportunity squandered. Squandered and sullied.
No other president has been given this kind of an opportunity. The opportunity to completely change peoples' lives. To alleviate the family destroying, financially collapsing, stress inspiring thing that is our current healthcare system. The system that systematically purges the sickest of the sick in order to balloon their profit margin.
We cannot, WE CANNOT expect a for profit entity to care about anything other than PROFIT. It is ridiculous.
It is pathetic.
It makes me so angry that our vote for change, our vote for sweeping reform and a shift of our citizens consciousness away from the egocentric and to the external - to those that need a hand up - that as a community we all benefit when we raise others up - is being denied. There is nothing idealistic or unrealistic about it.
We came together and we said we insist on a change.
We are done with business as usual.
Change it.
We voted them in, they didn't deliver and they were purged.
This can and will happen to you if you do not REPRESENT the people that placed you in this position.
Believe it.

Single payer was the only real chance we had at fixing our broken system.
And it was taken off the table before the fight even began.




Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering," President Franklin Roosevelt told an audience in Madison Square Garden in 1936. "They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."

As he told his audience in 1936, "It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The republicans are not even the least bit interested in bipartisanship. I understand Obama's need to have consensus but that is a dream that will not come true. At this time in history, this is all about not allowing the democrats to have success. I don't believe that it is all an astroturf effort. I have listened to rush et al and the craziness in is in full effect. What my hope is that they get so extreme that even their most ardent supporters start to scratch their heads and wrinkle their collective brows. But what is more likely to happen is an extremist attack against the administration.
The democrats need to ensure that all needs are met and to push this through. We need reform and once it is in place those gripped by the fear of socialism, death panels, forced circumcision, etc. will realize that the those stirring the pot had no basis for their fear mongering. Some might continue to support them but I believe the majority will feel betrayed and not just a bit silly.

I am tired of seeing unnecessary suffering in this country.
I am tired of those that happen to be blessed with wealth and comfort judging those that are not.
I am tired of people acting like health care is a privilege.
It is not.
It is a right.
It is a right in a free, wealthy and "Christian" society.

Push it through.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I hold my nose and read a godawful blog in the Houston Chronicle occassionally which I will not reference here as I do not want to promote this kind of crazy. But I did read a good comment that I thought was worth posting as it is concise and factual.

"Nazism is fascism, by the way, which is far right.
Socialism is an economic system, not a form of government.
Socialism provides greater individual freedom, not less.
Totalitarianism is not socialism.
Fascism is not socialism.
Big government is not socialism.
Our present oligarchy is not socialism.
Conservatives aren't freedom loving.
Conservatives by definition, don't want change.
That is why all government is conservative--the role of government is to protect--you can't protect what hasn't come yet.
That is why all politicians are conservative: you can't win voters who don't exist yet.
That is why popular movements bring the real changes in society, and laws, governments and other institutions catch up later.
And now, the time for change has come as our current economy has failed.
Obama can't stop the future, no matter how hard he tries, he is a mere mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave. The future will come, whether we fight it or welcome it, just as night becomes day, winners become losers, and so on. Even the Bible makes this observation."
Posted by: Jason at August 25, 2009 04:30 PM

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I am a huge, huge Whale Wars/Sea Shepherd supporter. My husband and I dVR it and watch, spellbound.

It's funny. I have changed a lot of practices, habits in my life based on my love for the dependents in this world. I am moved to tears AND to action by the blatant cruelty we inflict on those that cannot fight back. I have seen endless, countless videos of the most horrific examples of the daily torture we inflict on animals and on children.
I have seen it all.
Literally.

And I am also extremely aware of what happens when hunters hunt and kill their prey. I know. I have seen it.

But last night was still horrifying. The part that caught me and threw me around, emotionally, was seeing this glorious animal fighting for TWENTY FIVE MINUTES while the harpoon was still in his head, having been shot six or seven times, he fought with all his might. The blast of water from his blowhole was what made it unbearable. Knowing that this animal took 25 MINUTES to slowly choke and drown on its own blood, was soul destroying.

I am outraged.

I was fortunate in that I didn't have to sit in that helicopter and watch, powerless, as this incredible animal fought for his life, fought and twisted and flung himself desperate to disengage. Seeing him going all out - 17 knots - trying to get away from the harpoon ship - unable to get a good enough breath to dive - he was doomed. Seeing that harpoon blast out and pierce the whale was gutting.

I cannot reconcile the brutality.
The abject cruelty of human beings always stuns me.
I have seen it.
I have watched.
I have been a witness for the animals and cried out in primal pain knowing that the last image that these animals witness on this earth is pure evil.
Because that's what it is.
I don't know how you can explain it away.
Feeding the masses.
Entertainment.
Human advancement by testing.
Culture.
Tradition.
Clothing.
None of it justifies the terror, the indescribable pain, the horror of what these animals endure.
God! We are so much better than this!
25 minutes.
Go and punch a pillow for 25 minutes.
Or jump in place.
See how long it actually is.
See how long that animal suffered.
How long it struggled for breath.
How long it thrashed around causing the harpoon to inflict that much more damage and pain.

I sat in my chair sobbing.
Sobbing for the animal.
Sobbing for humankind.
Sobbing for the people who were out there trying desperately to stop this brutality and being rendered powerless.
Paul Watson has been the captain of the Sea Shepherd crew for 35 years without one whale killed during all that time.
And in one campaign, three.
Three precious animals, three majestic mammals of the ocean were mercilessly slaughtered for profit.

We can do better.
But at this moment, I honestly do not believe that we want to.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Why the shouting?

I think I know the answer, in fact I know that I know. But I wrestle with this. I understand the anger. I understand that feeling of not being heard, of the country that you love and live in careening recklessly, out of control towards impending doom.
I felt that way.
I empathize, deeply, I honestly do.
I remember the despair and outrage at being called a terrorist, unpatriotic (whatever that really is), an aider and abettor, a conspiracy theorist.
I get that.
I also understand how in all that darkness and disillusionment that spark of someone else, someone out there that heard me and felt as I did. How that voice speaking is like a life line, a buoy in a raging sea.
I get that.
But never did I think it was a good idea to go and shout at someone trying to explain something.
Regardless of their point of view.
Sure, I got angry with friends and family that kept on and on about how wrong I was. I was incensed. I couldn't understand how they didn't SEE it. No matter how rational, angry, crazy I got about it, they just didn't see how wrong going to war was, the ownership society, the corporations sweeping in and creating legislation.
But never did I think that going in and shouting and screaming and carrying swastikas was the most effective course of action.
But others did.
I get that as well.
I know that it got crazy there towards the end.

Why the screaming?
Where was the outrage when we were throwing billions upon billions at Iraq? When there was no reason to be there? Where we sent in mercenaries? Where we sent our guys into harm's way with defective body armour? Where we started something with no exit strategy?

This is what staggers me and makes me stand in complete awe at the incredible ability of those that want - for whatever reason - to manipulate people. Because that's what it is. Obama seems to have withdrawn with the expectation that people would understand that this legislation isn't even out of committee yet. That there is no bill to speak of. That everyone is putting in their two cents, different entities are bringing in different points of view. It's like wigging out about a house plan when only the structural drawing is done. No architectural no mechanical electrical or plumbing. Just the structural. And we have people screaming No! No waste of money on gold toilets (what gold toilets?)! No Waterford crystal chandeliers (what??)! It's ridiculous.

Honestly, I think these are normal, working class people (for the most part) that are in a mind set of - we have lost our country. A black, socialist, communist, Muslim, terrorist has taken over our country. Everything we have ever known and loved. Everything we have held dear. Everything we thought would be there forever, as it is now. Everything we have held as American....slowly being ripped from our hands.

And those with a vested interest, those with ulterior motives, those who have been feeding gluttonously at the trough of graft and greed, see an opportunity to mobilize these very real, very affected, deeply moral and principled people as the face of outrage and resistance. Hannity starts his program with a subtitle of "Conservative Underground" and "Conservatives in Exile".
The outsiders.
The forgotten.
The ignored.
And for hours upon hours, on weekdays on AM radio they say the same things over and over. Bureaucrats making decisions instead of your doctors.
Death counseling for seniors.
No protection for special needs or dependent beings.
Government funded abortion.
On and on. Some present with a sense of urgency. Some with indignation. Others with sarcasm. But they all say the same things. Over and over and over. I want my country back. Obama is a racist. Obama hates white people. Do you know that they are still bringing up Rev. Wright? Aires? All the nonsense that was thrown from the right - stuck on the radio dials.

Did you know that since he took office there has been a race/creed based shooting once per month? With references to Obama or the threat to country evidenced by every single one?

I have no issue with a debate. I think it is the only way to have a real democracy. I do not want one party to have their way unchecked.
But I cannot get behind the shouting.
Do you remember towards the end of the election? The people that swarmed to the Palin rallies? The monkeys? The caricatures? The adamant clutching onto the false "Muslim" "terrorist" labels?
That should have been our first clue.
There are plenty of people in this country that will never admit that they are racist. But they are. When you bring a sock puppet with a black man's name attached, you're a racist. When you think a place is too dark or decide not to enter a convenience store because there are only minorities, you're a racist. There are people that believe that Muslims are a threat. That brown people are scary.

And there are people who are clever enough to capture that sentiment, that fear, because that's what it is, fear, and use it to promote their agenda.

The MSM....you know...the one owned by conservative run corporate giants aka the liberal elite, have been ignoring middle America. So they are coming out and ensuring that they are heard.
By shouting at town hall meetings.
Or is it, that the MSM is only presenting the concerned citizens - you know the 85% that believe Obama isn't a real American - as crazed, irrational screaming fringe. But that's not exactly what is being conveyed is it? No. They are being presented as citizens who have been shut out of the process, desperate to be heard. Normal, every day Americans that don't want socialized medicine. And, keep your government hands off my medicare.

I think Obama expects us to be grown ups. To wait for the plan to be presented to our individual representatives for debate and negotiation and to see that the idea is to bring down costs, to encourage prevention, to reduce the stress that has been weighing so heavily on the most susceptible, the most vulnerable, those that believed they had coverage and found themselves with no recourse.
The plan is not to make life harder, but ease the burden - so that our seniors won't have to choose between a meal and medication.
This ridiculous exaggerated imagery of grey wool sacks in Soviet style hospitals, rationing is not the goal for anyone. Honestly, who wants that? Who doesn't have parents or know seniors? Who doesn't know a disabled person? Did anyone hear about the bill that is either passed or very close that will pay the college tuition of veterans? This is in line with the liberal agenda. Believe me. I've seen it.
Delayed surgeries, shortages of vaccines, doctors forced to live in ridiculous places because the doctor quota is filled in an area. That is not part of the plan.
I know. I know.
I'm godless.
I want babies to die.
I hate tradition.
I hate America.
I know.

The biggest problem with us is that we are so easily moved into chutes of complacency - absentmindedly moving into categories so that we are more easily able to define. Liberal? Gay loving, god hating, baby killing, anti-military, aider and abettor. Conservative? Neocon, profiteering, bigot, racist, war-mongering bullies.
The problem is that perhaps the tiniest fraction of people fit into these categories. Microscopic numbers really.
But they are the most vocal, the most present in this situation.
They have the ones with the megaphone and the audience.

So when the person that refuses to buckle or cave, who casts out fake conservatives, who repeats over and over again that he is the keeper of the beacon - the last stronghold of morals, virtues and decency says that the country is in peril, those that identify with him, those that have been left behind look for the light in the darkness.

But rush, hannity, savage, beck.
They are nothing but showmen.
Entertainers.
Perhaps they believe they are speaking for the people in some far recess of their minds. Perhaps they believe that they are doing the right thing. But I don't think that's the case. I believe that this is all about money. It is all about how many people they can influence. How many they can get to listen to them and to buy the products they spend most of their time selling in commercials between segments. It is all about getting these people so impassioned that they move would make anyone drunk with power. Can you imagine? Having millions of people not only listen to you but to go and do what you suggest? I cannot fathom that kind of rush. Doesn't matter if you invoke Nazi Germany, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Gulags to get them there, that's not what's important. Your sponsors, your bosses, your advertisers hear you speak and see the army rise.

It must be amazing.

But is it in the best interest of the country?
As soon as we can get past these ridiculous stereotypes, these pathetic excuses, these moronic caricatures of our fellow citizens, the better.

I don't know what Obama should do. That's why I'm not president and he is. Should he address this or continue his "No Drama" approach? Should he figure out a way to get his "fight the smear" website to other avenues of communication that varying segments of our society use?

All I know is that we need to ratchet down the hysteria. I have a deep dread that this is going to end badly because no one addressed it. We ignored or justified or played down the fringe element that seems to be getting more and more out of control every day. We thought - it's just a few, they don't speak for the majority.
But it takes just one.
Just one person that has had enough.
That sees no end.
No hope.
The minorities are taking over.
The Mexicans are taking jobs and our healthcare.
The Socialists and Communists are infiltrating the weak hearts of the limp wristed liberals.
The gays will be legitimized and will flaunt their lifestyle choice in the faces of our innocent children.
The freaks will be out in droves forcing their ways upon our society.
It will take one person.
One lone person to decided that he is willing to die for his country.
That he is ready to sacrifice his life to save the innocent babies doomed to death, the weakening of the beloved country, the demise of the Judea-Christian foundation that is the foundation of this country.

It will not be an external enemy that destroys this country.
It will be an internal split of the citizenry based on falsehoods and lies.
Unless we decide to be grown ups.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Obama wants to kill your grandma
Five right-wing myths about healthcare reform, and the facts
By Mike Madden

Turning America socialist apparently wasn't enough for him -- now President Obama is trying to make old people kill themselves, callously deny important medical procedures, funnel tax dollars to abortion clinics and wiggle the government's way into every doctor's office in America.
At least, that's the sense you might have about the healthcare reform proposals Congress is considering from listening to opponents describe them. Already, conservative activists have erupted against the plan, with protesters hanging Democratic lawmakers in effigy and disrupting town hall meetings.
As both the House and the Senate clear out of the Capitol for the month, expect the viral buzz -- and the TV battle -- about what's in the bills to grow louder and louder. The White House finally seems to have realized that the administration can't win the policy debate without addressing some of the attacks from the right. Aides recently released a video rebutting some of the claims about what healthcare reform would and wouldn't do. An administration official told Salon Wednesday that the White House will soon launch a Web site modeled on the "Fight the Smears" site Obama's campaign ran last fall, where voters can find -- and debunk -- some of the rumors about the reform proposals, and the White House is already collecting chain e-mails at "flag@whitehouse.gov," an address Obama aides set up to receive them.
But the administration might already be behind the curve. Over the last few weeks, opponents have managed to get out their spin on the bill through talk radio, blogs, chain e-mails and other channels. And their talking points depend on a notably elastic approach to the truth. Here's a fact check of some of the more alarming claims that the right is making about healthcare reform, claims that are already hardening into myth.
Myth 1: Democrats want to kill your grandmother. This claim seems too outlandish on its face to get much traction, but Republicans actually made some headway on it recently. Two House GOP leaders put out a statement warning that the healthcare reform bill "may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia." To hear opponents of reform talk about it, the legislation would force seniors to go in for sessions once every five years -- and more frequently if they're sick -- where doctors will encourage them to end their lives. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., summarized the scare tactic pretty well on the House floor last week, when she said the bill would "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government," and therefore, wouldn't be pro-life. The GOP has pushed this line especially hard with some of the conservative groups behind the government's intervention in the Terri Schiavo case a few years ago, hoping to get antiabortion allies on board fighting reform. "Can you imagine the response of the American people when they find this out?" one-time GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson asked about the alleged euthanasia scheme on his radio show last month. "They're going to counsel you on preparing you to die," Rush Limbaugh pronounced a few weeks ago. Proof of how far this attack has spread came last week, when a caller to an AARP forum asked Obama about it directly. (Probably unwisely, the president tried to make light of the question, saying there weren't enough government employees to go meet with old people to talk about end-of-life care.)
There is a kernel of truth at the root of this attack: The legislation would order Medicare to pay for consultations between patients and doctors on end-of-life decisions, which it currently doesn't cover. But the consultations wouldn't be mandatory; if your grandmother doesn't want to go talk to her doctor about end-of-life care, she won't have to. Because Medicare doesn't pay for this kind of planning now, only 40 percent of seniors who depend on the government insurance say they have an advance directive that tells healthcare providers what measures they do and don't want used to prolong their life, even though 75 percent say they think it's important. The lack of planning actually costs a lot of money. Medicare spends billions and billions of dollars annually on expensive treatment during the last year of a dying patient's life. Without allowing Medicare to pay for end-of-life consultations, it's hard to know whether patients even want to go to such expensive lengths.

Myth 2: The government -- i.e., you -- will have to pay for abortions. This is another way the GOP is stirring up antiabortion activists against healthcare reform -- by warning that your tax dollars will be used to pay for someone else's abortion. An ad by the Family Research Council dramatizes the issue about as creepily as possible. "To think that Planned Parenthood is included in the government-run healthcare plan and spending tax dollars on abortions," a distraught older man tells his wife, sitting at their kitchen table after opening a letter from the government. "They won't pay for my surgery, but we're forced to pay abortions." The narrator lays out what's going on: "Our greatest generation denied care, our future generations denied life." A House Republican aide says the GOP thinks this could be the most potent type of viral attack against reform, since antiabortion Democrats will have trouble voting for the legislation if it includes taxpayer funding for the procedure.
But only the most extreme antiabortion reading of the legislation would say it does that. The words "Planned Parenthood" and "abortion" don't appear anywhere in the text, despite conservative buzz that it would funnel millions of dollars to killing babies. (A proposal in the Senate version of the reform legislation would require insurance plans to cover preventive care and screening visits to community health providers, which could include Planned Parenthood.) Even an AP story that Matt Drudge was hyping on Wednesday as proof that the government would be funding abortions didn't go quite that far -- instead, the story detailed a fight over whether women who buy government-subsidized private insurance through a proposed exchange system should be able to have abortions covered by their plans. Pro-choice lawmakers are trying to craft a compromise that would require insurance companies to pay for abortions out of premiums paid by patients, not out of tax dollars. Pro-choice Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., amended the House version of the legislation to state that abortion is not part of an "essential benefits package" that all insurance plans must provide -- meaning someone could offer a special "pro-life health insurance" plan that doesn't cover abortions, even under the reforms.

Myth 3: Obama will ban all private health insurance. Allegedly, the House proposal for healthcare reform bans private insurance. This rumor comes complete with a citation: "Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal," the unflaggingly pro-business paper Investors Business Daily wrote in an editorial last month. Other right-wing blogs and news outlets picked up on the idea, as well. It fits in with a broader message Republicans have been using: The reform will lead to a total government takeover of healthcare.
The IBD line is literally true -- Section 102 of the House bill says insurance companies can't independently issue any new individual policies after the legislation takes effect (though existing policies are grandfathered in). But it misses the point. Private plans aren't banned, but rather shifted into the new health insurance exchange the legislation would set up. You can still get a private policy, but the way in which you buy it changes. If you wanted to buy your own insurance, you have to do it through the government-run insurance exchange. Your policy becomes part of broader risk pools, which makes the premiums cheaper and keeps insurance companies from dumping them once they get sick. PolitiFact looked into the claim and rated the IBD editorial "pants on fire," its lowest rating -- as in, "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

Myth 4: The government can't possibly run a healthcare program. Opponents of reform trot out comparisons to government services frequently when they try to argue against a public, government-funded healthcare plan. Republicans drew up a chart that purports to show how convoluted the bureaucracy involved in any government plan would be. This message doesn't make Obama the enemy, it makes government inefficiency the enemy. "If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they're run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and healthcare done by the government," conservative economist Arthur Laffer told CNN this week.
If that doesn't quite make sense, there's a reason -- Medicare and Medicaid are, of course, government-run healthcare programs. Medicare in particular is quite popular; polling shows some seniors are anxious that the reform will affect the care they already get from the government. (In fact, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says she frequently encounters voters who say they want to keep the government out of their Medicare.) The Department of Veterans Administration also runs a healthcare system that experts praise for its well-developed health information technology network, which lets doctors see results of tests and procedures any patient has had anywhere in the network -- eliminating the wasteful duplication that Obama says he wants to cut out of the larger healthcare world, as well.

Myth 5: Unlike private insurance, government bureaucrats will ration care. This line also makes government the enemy. "You may want healthcare that your doctor has prescribed for you," Peter Ferrara, of the anti-tax, anti-government Institute for Policy Innovation, wrote on the National Review last month. "But the rationing bureaucracy in Washington that doesn’t even know you, or your doctor, may decide that your doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or that you are too old for the government to pay for your hip replacement to stop the pain, or to get an expensive triple bypass or a pacemaker operation to save your life." Since the Obama administration keeps talking about encouraging doctors to shift to outcome-based pay scales and evidence-based guidelines for what treatments or procedures to use, opponents don't have much trouble painting a troubling picture of faceless government hacks denying the care you -- or your loved ones -- need.
Of course, there are already plenty of faceless hacks denying people care right now; they just work for private insurance companies, not the government, and they're denying care because that helps keep the insurers' profit margins up. At a recent House hearing, just three insurance companies testified that they had "rescinded" -- or dropped -- coverage for nearly 20,000 patients between 2003 and 2007, often after patients had submitted claims they thought would be covered. Even Republicans seem to know the insurance companies can be bad. "I would always rather the devil I know than the devil I don't know," House GOP boss John Boehner said last week, explaining why going after the government works even though private insurance companies would seem to be just as much of a villain.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Crucial, crucial article in a series that I will be following. It is still pertinent because it continues. Read it.


http://www.slate.com/id/2219224/

Friday, May 22, 2009

Josh will be gone mid-August. Gone to UT. He graduates on June 6th and then we are mere months from his departure. It's crazy. The images I have of that kid, the memories are fantastic. From the nights when I would have to lay in the crib to comfort him back to sleep when he was just a tiny guy to his crazy climbs to the top of just about anything from the age of 18 months to the look on his face when he got an Iphone to My God! There are too many strong, vivid colorful memories of a boy that was so ill fitting to this world - that felt out of step, felt inferior, and odd in comparison to his peers to a confident, funny, bold beauty. His easy going demeanor veils a driven, ambitious motivated kid that has found what he loves to do. At 17! What a gift. 
I adore him. I adore his humor. His empathy. His out of nowhere flash of kindness. I love who he has become. I love that others have found him and have brought him around to the realization that he has a lot to offer. He is braver socially than he used to be, and I attribute that to his friends accepting him for his quirky hilarious self. 
So I am mere months from my first child testing his wings and flying from the nest. My job to assist him to adulthood seems to be going as it should. I feel I have facilitated a little guy into independence and it's a really good feeling. 
I'm proud of him. 

Friday, May 08, 2009

Are you fucking kidding me?

The rightwing has gone off the deep end. Biden and Obama go out for a burger which I think is beyond belief that this is considered news. Regardless, they are in an absolute frenzy with Obama NOT having ketchup and having the audacity to request a spicy mustard which transforms into an elitist request for Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard. 
Are you getting this?
This is all they got?
I am continually stunned by what people will allow into their brains via their ears. 

I can only imagine what kind of national crisis it would cause if he requested a veggie burger. 
God forbid. 
I know. I know.
I shouldn't even listen.
When Rush is talking about the purity of the party damning the moderates, I have to say, it's like all my dreams coming true. Here they are literally opening the exit door and tossing people out because they aren't conservative enough. They don't even get that the democrats won because they were seen as the party of inclusion. Instead of catching that clue, they go FURTHER right, screeching about values and morals and the high road. Before you know it, my mom will be registering democrat.
What was truly pathetic was rush saying that moderates where those that just went where the power is. Fence sitters, middle of the roaders. 
W. O. W.
So if you aren't a zealot. If you aren't bashing people for not believing like you, get out! We don't need ya! We got our hard core 20% and that's all we need. 
It's fun to see your team win. It is. After a good competition. But it's not fun to watch the other team self destruct. I think having opposing parties is good for the country. I would like to see more parties coming in and taking a run for the end zone. And maybe that's how that happens. A big powerful party splinters into a bunch of truly viable parties. I thought that was going to happen with the dems but it would be a good thing for the republicans...at this point any way. 

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Believe Me, It’s Torture
What more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods, and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. The author undergoes the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist—not inflict—it.
by Christopher Hitchens August 2008
Here is the most chilling way I can find of stating the matter. Until recently, “waterboarding” was something that Americans did to other Americans. It was inflicted, and endured, by those members of the Special Forces who underwent the advanced form of training known as sere (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). In these harsh exercises, brave men and women were introduced to the sorts of barbarism that they might expect to meet at the hands of a lawless foe who disregarded the Geneva Conventions. But it was something that Americans were being trained to resist, not to inflict.
Exploring this narrow but deep distinction, on a gorgeous day last May I found myself deep in the hill country of western North Carolina, preparing to be surprised by a team of extremely hardened veterans who had confronted their country’s enemies in highly arduous terrain all over the world. They knew about everything from unarmed combat to enhanced interrogation and, in exchange for anonymity, were going to show me as nearly as possible what real waterboarding might be like.

View a video of Hitchens’s waterboarding experience.
It goes without saying that I knew I could stop the process at any time, and that when it was all over I would be released into happy daylight rather than returned to a darkened cell. But it’s been well said that cowards die many times before their deaths, and it was difficult for me to completely forget the clause in the contract of indemnification that I had signed. This document (written by one who knew) stated revealingly:
“Water boarding” is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.
As the agreement went on to say, there would be safeguards provided “during the ‘water boarding’ process, however, these measures may fail and even if they work properly they may not prevent Hitchens from experiencing serious injury or death.”
On the night before the encounter I got to sleep with what I thought was creditable ease, but woke early and knew at once that I wasn’t going back to any sort of doze or snooze. The first specialist I had approached with the scheme had asked my age on the telephone and when told what it was (I am 59) had laughed out loud and told me to forget it. Waterboarding is for Green Berets in training, or wiry young jihadists whose teeth can bite through the gristle of an old goat. It’s not for wheezing, paunchy scribblers. For my current “handlers” I had had to produce a doctor’s certificate assuring them that I did not have asthma, but I wondered whether I should tell them about the 15,000 cigarettes I had inhaled every year for the last several decades. I was feeling apprehensive, in other words, and beginning to wish I hadn’t given myself so long to think about it.
I have to be opaque about exactly where I was later that day, but there came a moment when, sitting on a porch outside a remote house at the end of a winding country road, I was very gently yet firmly grabbed from behind, pulled to my feet, pinioned by my wrists (which were then cuffed to a belt), and cut off from the sunlight by having a black hood pulled over my face. I was then turned around a few times, I presume to assist in disorienting me, and led over some crunchy gravel into a darkened room. Well, mainly darkened: there were some oddly spaced bright lights that came as pinpoints through my hood. And some weird music assaulted my ears. (I’m no judge of these things, but I wouldn’t have expected former Special Forces types to be so fond of New Age techno-disco.) The outside world seemed very suddenly very distant indeed.
Arms already lost to me, I wasn’t able to flail as I was pushed onto a sloping board and positioned with my head lower than my heart. (That’s the main point: the angle can be slight or steep.) Then my legs were lashed together so that the board and I were one single and trussed unit. Not to bore you with my phobias, but if I don’t have at least two pillows I wake up with acid reflux and mild sleep apnea, so even a merely supine position makes me uneasy. And, to tell you something I had been keeping from myself as well as from my new experimental friends, I do have a fear of drowning that comes from a bad childhood moment on the Isle of Wight, when I got out of my depth. As a boy reading the climactic torture scene of 1984, where what is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world, I realize that somewhere in my version of that hideous chamber comes the moment when the wave washes over me. Not that that makes me special: I don’t know anyone who likes the idea of drowning. As mammals we may have originated in the ocean, but water has many ways of reminding us that when we are in it we are out of our element. In brief, when it comes to breathing, give me good old air every time.
You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.
This is because I had read that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, invariably referred to as the “mastermind” of the atrocities of September 11, 2001, had impressed his interrogators by holding out for upwards of two minutes before cracking. (By the way, this story is not confirmed. My North Carolina friends jeered at it. “Hell,” said one, “from what I heard they only washed his damn face before he babbled.”) But, hell, I thought in my turn, no Hitchens is going to do worse than that. Well, O.K., I admit I didn’t outdo him. And so then I said, with slightly more bravado than was justified, that I’d like to try it one more time. There was a paramedic present who checked my racing pulse and warned me about adrenaline rush. An interval was ordered, and then I felt the mask come down again. Steeling myself to remember what it had been like last time, and to learn from the previous panic attack, I fought down the first, and some of the second, wave of nausea and terror but soon found that I was an abject prisoner of my gag reflex. The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it. Also, in case it’s of interest, I have since woken up trying to push the bedcovers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.

I am somewhat proud of my ability to “keep my head,” as the saying goes, and to maintain presence of mind under trying circumstances. I was completely convinced that, when the water pressure had become intolerable, I had firmly uttered the pre-determined code word that would cause it to cease. But my interrogator told me that, rather to his surprise, I had not spoken a word. I had activated the “dead man’s handle” that signaled the onset of unconsciousness. So now I have to wonder about the role of false memory and delusion. What I do recall clearly, though, is a hard finger feeling for my solar plexus as the water was being poured. What was that for? “That’s to find out if you are trying to cheat, and timing your breathing to the doses. If you try that, we can outsmart you. We have all kinds of enhancements.” I was briefly embarrassed that I hadn’t earned or warranted these refinements, but it hit me yet again that this is certainly the language of torture.
Maybe I am being premature in phrasing it thus. Among the veterans there are at least two views on all this, which means in practice that there are two opinions on whether or not “waterboarding” constitutes torture. I have had some extremely serious conversations on the topic, with two groups of highly decent and serious men, and I think that both cases have to be stated at their strongest.
The team who agreed to give me a hard time in the woods of North Carolina belong to a highly honorable group. This group regards itself as out on the front line in defense of a society that is too spoiled and too ungrateful to appreciate those solid, underpaid volunteers who guard us while we sleep. These heroes stay on the ramparts at all hours and in all weather, and if they make a mistake they may be arraigned in order to scratch some domestic political itch. Faced with appalling enemies who make horror videos of torture and beheadings, they feel that they are the ones who confront denunciation in our press, and possible prosecution. As they have just tried to demonstrate to me, a man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.
Against it, however, I call as my main witness Mr. Malcolm Nance. Mr. Nance is not what you call a bleeding heart. In fact, speaking of the coronary area, he has said that, in battlefield conditions, he “would personally cut bin Laden’s heart out with a plastic M.R.E. spoon.” He was to the fore on September 11, 2001, dealing with the burning nightmare in the debris of the Pentagon. He has been involved with the sere program since 1997. He speaks Arabic and has been on al-Qaeda’s tail since the early 1990s. His most recent book, The Terrorists of Iraq, is a highly potent analysis both of the jihadist threat in Mesopotamia and of the ways in which we have made its life easier. I passed one of the most dramatic evenings of my life listening to his cold but enraged denunciation of the adoption of waterboarding by the United States. The argument goes like this:
1. Waterboarding is a deliberate torture technique and has been prosecuted as such by our judicial arm when perpetrated by others.
2. If we allow it and justify it, we cannot complain if it is employed in the future by other regimes on captive U.S. citizens. It is a method of putting American prisoners in harm’s way.
3. It may be a means of extracting information, but it is also a means of extracting junk information. (Mr. Nance told me that he had heard of someone’s being compelled to confess that he was a hermaphrodite. I later had an awful twinge while wondering if I myself could have been “dunked” this far.) To put it briefly, even the C.I.A. sources for the Washington Post story on waterboarding conceded that the information they got out of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “not all of it reliable.” Just put a pencil line under that last phrase, or commit it to memory.
4. It opens a door that cannot be closed. Once you have posed the notorious “ticking bomb” question, and once you assume that you are in the right, what will you not do? Waterboarding not getting results fast enough? The terrorist’s clock still ticking? Well, then, bring on the thumbscrews and the pincers and the electrodes and the rack.
Masked by these arguments, there lurks another very penetrating point. Nance doubts very much that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted that long under the water treatment (and I am pathetically pleased to hear it). It’s also quite thinkable, if he did, that he was trying to attain martyrdom at our hands. But even if he endured so long, and since the United States has in any case bragged that in fact he did, one of our worst enemies has now become one of the founders of something that will someday disturb your sleep as well as mine. To quote Nance:
Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. Our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual sere school for terrorists.
Which returns us to my starting point, about the distinction between training for something and training to resist it. One used to be told—and surely with truth—that the lethal fanatics of al-Qaeda were schooled to lie, and instructed to claim that they had been tortured and maltreated whether they had been tortured and maltreated or not. Did we notice what a frontier we had crossed when we admitted and even proclaimed that their stories might in fact be true? I had only a very slight encounter on that frontier, but I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words “waterboard” and “American” could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath.