Thursday, February 25, 2010

Animals in Entertainment Musings

So, what is it going to take?
What has to happen in our society that turns this around and sends us in a different direction?
We had a woman, an innocent neighbor of a woman that decided she could keep a chimpanzee and treat it as a “child”...only it was locked in a cage and was several hundred pounds, that has her face removed . Ripped off her head.
An elephant goes on a crazy rampage.
Tigers attack the man that has spent his entire life training them causing irreparable damage.
And now, a trainer is killed by an Orca at one of these godforsaken, animal entertainment for profit while pretending to be a rehab.
What more has to happen?
How many animals have to be incarcerated, driven mad and act accordingly?
How many more animals are going to be kept in confinement, for a few moments of human entertainment before we strive for the next level of civility?

Animals are traumatically gathered in the wild and hauled into completely incomprehensible and unnatural environments, away from their families, away from all they know, into a world that makes no sense.
I am so over this.
Before, ignorance about the shocking abuse, horrendous living conditions of animals for entertainment, experimentation, fashion and food was the excuse. How could you know when there was no evidence? No documentation. But that is simply not the case anymore. With information literally at your fingertips with access to the internet, there is no excuse. Videos, undercover footage, documentation in every conceivable form. Just a click away.
There is no excuse any more.
For a supposedly civilized society, we do the most uncivilized things to those most dependent upon our civility.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Memo to Dick Cheney: Ssshhhh, Use Your Indoor Voice
Jeff Schweitzer. Marine Biologist and Former Clinton White House Science Advisor
Posted: February 19, 2010 12:46 PM

Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared before a fawning crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week to promote his efforts to create an alternative universe in which truths about terrorism becomes lies and lies become truth. His daughter Liz also served as surrogate mouth piece.

With daddy hanging on her shoulder, nodding approval, Liz had the following to say about the Christmas underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: "There's no polite way to put this, but that kind of incompetence gets people killed." Forgetting 9/11, she actually had the audacity to accuse the Obama administration of missing warnings from the intelligence community that an attack by Yemeni terrorists was imminent. In her haze of amnesia, she went on to decry the "incompetence, misjudgment and presidential neglect" and that, "There is no doubt that the daily intelligence briefings that the president receives contained much more information on the threat from Yemen."

Let us remind Liz of the damning memo sitting on the desk of Condy Rice and in her father's in-box one full month before the attacks of September 11, 2001. On August 6, 2001, the Presidential Daily Brief had the following title: "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." The intelligence briefing stated that the FBI had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings." More to the point the document expressed concern that al Qaeda had been "considering ways to hijack American planes" to use as weapons to fly into buildings. The President and Vice President were told that "Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike." In May 2001, an intelligence report noted that al Qaeda was attempting to send operatives into the United States to carry out an attack using explosives. To take Liz's own words, "there is no doubt that the daily intelligence briefings that the president receives contained much more information on the threat" from al Qaeda.

So yes, Liz, you are right, we do need to be deeply concerned about the "incompetence, misjudgment and presidential neglect" as you note, but you have the wrong president. The problem is Bush/Cheney, not Obama/Biden. We now know that Cheney and Bush ignored explicit and repeated warnings about al Qaeda attacks, including the use of hijacked airplanes. There is no polite way to put this, but we sadly know that this kind of incompetence gets people killed, as the grieving families of the 3000 lost in the World Trade Center attacks will attest. That blood is on Cheney's hand, and no amount of spinning and rewriting history will cleanse that stain.

In one of the oddest developments in our history, after the September attack voters and the media meekly accepted the bizarre idea that somehow Bush and Cheney were free of responsibility pre-9/11. That claim is ridiculous and deeply offensive to any thinking person. The notion that somehow Cheney is not guilty of neglect prior to 9/11 is nothing but another sick attempt to rewrite history with smoke and mirrors. September 11 happened on Cheney's watch, and he had plenty of intelligence to warn of the event. That is simply an undeniable fact. Neglect, mismanagement and the fog of arrogance allowed the plot to succeed. Cheney's attempt to divert attention from his misdeeds and incompetence by attacking Obama is disgusting. No matter how many times they repeat otherwise Cheney and Bush are fully and completely responsible for allowing the 9/11 attack to take place.

Cheney's assault on Obama is even more disingenuous given the incident with Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an airplane with his shoe bomb just a few months after 9/11. Bush and Cheney had clamped down hard, steamrolling over civil rights, and instituting new security measures, but that did not prevent a terrorist from walking onto a plane with a bomb on their watch. The incident spotlighted a gaping hole in homeland security even after Bush and Cheney could no longer use the nauseating "pre-9/11" as an excuse for gross incompetence.

Cheney views Obama as weak because Obama expects to act within the constraints of the Constitution he is sworn to uphold. Obama is weak because he believes in the vision put forth by our Founding Fathers by giving those arrested the rights others before us sacrificed so much to protect. (Forget that we have evidence that processing Umar through the civil courts has led to extensive cooperation that likely will prevent future attacks). In stark contrast, Cheney believes, incredibly, that "whatever the president does during war is legal." He actually uttered those fascist words and repeated them on national television. He means quite clearly that the president can, during an endless war on terror, authorize against American citizens such heinous crimes such as beatings, torture, murder, property confiscation, indefinite detention with no representation, and unlimited warrantless spying, if the president alone decides such actions advance the cause of war. Cheney believes and openly declared that the president's powers are unlimited. History has shown what unlimited power brings, and that is Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler. Yet Cheney went on Fox News and claimed that our president, the President of the United States of America, has the same unlimited powers as those monsters. Whatever the president does is legal. That is the most frightening declaration any public official in our history has ever made. Those views should marginalize Cheney to the backwaters of American history. Instead this is the guy attacking Obama in full glory with no hint of his extraordinary radicalism in his news coverage.

Cheney believes we must sacrifice our civil rights to protect them; that we have to burn the village to save it. He is wrong at the most fundamental, deepest levels. The war on terror is not the first existential threat we have faced. We have fought and prevailed in the past without sacrificing everything our founders created, and we will do so again. Sadly, Cheney just does not get that basic point. After many public denials, Cheney finally owned up to his role in authorizing torture, after years of denying any involvement. He did so without even a hint of concern that he blatantly lied to the American people for his entire term in office. He lied about Valerie Plame. He lied about wiretapping. He lied about Iraq. He hides his records and secret meetings by making the weird claim he is not part of the Executive Branch. He has no regard truth or the essence of our history.

So we have a man who willingly discards the basic principles embedded in our Constitution attacking the president for upholding the law of the land. We avert our eyes from that absurdity rather than confront Cheney's twisted assertions.

We have the double standard and awesome hypocrisy in Cheney's approach to Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Other than some feeble objections from John Stewart the lies go unchallenged.

We have the man most responsible for neglecting to prevent 9/11 attacking Obama for a foiled attack of much smaller magnitude. His claim is largely reported without pointing out the obvious conflict with historic fact.

Everything about Cheney perverts the truth. His views on national security are sick and paranoid. His dark apocalyptic vision of a United States led by a dictator with limitless power to protect us from an external evil by trampling civil liberties has no place in the bright American landscape. He needs to keep his voice down so that sane adults can have a conversation.

But I know that will not happen, so I again bow to reality. In a previous blog I urged Republicans to make Sarah Palin their candidate in 2012. I now have an additional wish: that Palin make Cheney her running mate. The election in 2012 should be a clear mandate from the voters on whether the United States is going to become a theocratic dictatorship or remain a sectarian democracy as originally conceived. A Palin-Cheney ticket perfectly represents the former, and so I can think of no better way to give the American voters the choice they deserve. We are at a fork in the road of our history, and we will choose one path or the other. There is no middle lane. We can no longer pretend that the two paths represent different approaches to the same goal and that they eventually meet somewhere down the line. They do not. The paths are forever divergent; a democratic society based on the rule of law cannot coexist with a police state driven by zealotry and religious passion. The two choices we face lead to radically different futures, each incompatible with the other, never to reconcile into a shared vision. So let's choose and give the American people exactly what want, whatever that turns out to be.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What to Say to Those Who Think Single Payer Advocates Are Wacko
Published on Monday, February 8, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

by Paul Hochfeld

What do we say to our more conservative friends, who genuinely think that the Single Payer solution to our health care crisis would be a disaster? Try what follows. In the end, you may simply agree to disagree. That’s O.K., but what follows may give them pause to think.

Already, 60% of all our health care dollars come directly or indirectly (because employers insurance premiums are tax deductible) from the taxpayer. The care of our oldest neighbors are financed by Medicare, i.e. the taxpayers. The care of our disabled neighbors is financed by Medicaid. Ditto the care of our poorest neighbors who, because health follows wealth, are also at greater risk of high expense. Fourteen hundred insurance companies, at significant expense, stratify the rest of the population by “risk”. Their top-secret formula results in them covering the employed people, small groups, and individuals who can prove that they are at low risk. What about the others? When those who can’t afford the premiums get sick, go bankrupt, and can’t pay their bills, “we” all pay for it in higher charges. Furthermore, employer-paid premiums are tax deductible which means insurance company profits are subsidized by the taxpayer.

As near as I can tell, this is a big taxpayer rip-off. Additionally, our non-system is fraught with numerous perverse incentives that result in more care, but not necessarily better care. Physicians must share a significant part of the blame here, but that’s a different, though important, discussion. Addressing these perversities is problematic because we don’t have a Health Care System we have For-Profit Sick Care Non-System that, to extent that it has any design at all, is designed to serve the for-profit insurance and the pharmaceutical industries. Perverse incentives work for those who profit from them. They don’t work for patients or those who pay the bills, i.e., taxpayers.

Single payer means one risk pool. You’ve heard the slogan. Everyone in. Nobody out. We gather all the money that employers and individuals are currently paying for health care. It’s not more money. It’s the same money, already being spent on health care, but by pooling it, we can save 20% right off the top. Providers won’t have negotiate fee schedules with all the different payers. Providers will only have to send bills, electronically, to one place. Furthermore, substantial savings accrue as the system matures. When an ER Doctor in Oregon sees a patient passing through town, he will access her electronic medical record in Iowa, resulting in, not just less expensive care, but better care. None of this is going to be accomplished until we have Public Health Authorities administering a health care system with the goal of health, financed publicly and delivered privately.

This isn’t pie in the sky. Check out what the other developed countries are doing, but please don’t respond with anecdotes. We have 45,000 new anecdotes every year that illuminate how real or perceived financial barriers to timely, appropriate care cause unnecessary death.

The real question is whose “system” produces the least number of unnecessary deaths and the least suffering for the dollars being spent? Yes, other countries are struggling because of limited resources, but they are dealing with the problems maturely, they are making difficult decisions, and, by recognizing that health is a human right, they are getting a healthier population for less cost.

Is access to appropriate health care a human right? If not, we can agree to disagree. If so, it is a legitimate function of our government to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks. Also, doesn’t the government have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure the taxpayer is getting value for its health care dollars? Insurance company CEO’s have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits even if it means investing large sums of money in manipulating public policy… and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. It’s unfathomable to me that some people distrust “The United States” more than United Health Care. That may be where we end up agreeing to disagree.

In any case, the taxpayer is being ripped off, big time.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Story That No One Will Tell
by Rep. Alan Grayson.
Congressman Alan Grayson represents Central Florida (FL-8).


The story that everyone wants to tell is that the Democratic Party is disheartened and disintegrating. Teabagger Republicans are juiced up and on top. Or so the media says, over and over again.

But the House candidate who raised the most money in the entire country during the last FEC reporting period -- $860,000 in three months -- is not a teabagger. He is not boosted relentlessly by Fox News. He's not even a Republican. He doesn't think that the Earth was created 6000 years ago, that President Obama was born in Kenya, or that global warming is a hoax.

This House candidate also, remarkably, had the largest number of contributors. Over 15,000 individuals contributed, many of whom have given time after time, whatever they could. The House candidate who raised the most money did so without French-kissing lobbyists, without flattering the idle rich, and without reaching into his own pocket.

The House candidate who raised the most money, from the most people, is an outspoken populist who tells it like it is on the war, on jobs, and on health care. His website is called CongressmanWithGuts.com. In the 100,000 e-mails that he has received this year, the most common refrain is, "You are saying what I've been thinking."

I know who he is. Because he's me.

But no one has reported that the House candidate who raised the most money, from the most people, is a proud Democratic populist. No one.

There are something like ten thousand political reporters in this country, maybe more. The information above is readily available. Anyone could have visited an official government website, www.fec.gov, any time this past week, and seen it for themselves. We did our part -- we sent out two news releases, both local and nationwide. But in lieu of any actual reporting in the media, there is instead what Simon & Garfunkel vividly described as the "Sounds of Silence":

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

The political reporters camped out in D.C. often act like a giant Xerox machine for the fib factory known as the national Republican Party. Recently, they saw fit to report (and repeat, and repeat) the Republican Party's crackpot claim that we are withholding a secret poll with bad news in it for us. (We aren't; there is no such poll, but the Republican Party is soooo good at manufacturing plausible lies.) Not one word from those reporters, though, about what would seem to be an irresistible "feel good" story -- that thanks to People Power, that brash, plain-spoken Democratic Congressman from Orlando is the Number One fundraiser in the country. Nothing about that.

The fact that an unapologetic progressive Democrat could amass such support, not by trading favors for money, but by striking a chord with so many ordinary people, refutes the pervasive meme of Democrats divided and despondent. Particularly when it's a Democrat who says that "you can't beat a Republican by being one." Particularly a Democrat who quotes Harry Truman and Howard Dean: "If you run a fake Republican against a real Republican, the real Republican will win every time."

Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson, number one in the country. The story that no one will tell. It doesn't fit their preconceptions. So you're just not going to hear about it.

Unless you happen to read the Huffington Post.