The pollution of American political discourse has unfortunately been reflected in the stagnation of this small puddle of the blogosphere. This is no coincidence.
As has happened across all media, rancor, accusation and insult have all but drowned out rational discussion of the extremely serious issues facing us as individuals, as a community, as a nation and as a planet. Just as the banking meltdown destroyed the illusion that capitalism can be self-regulating, the meltdown of our political process demonstrates the bankruptcy of the Reaganite philosophy that the individual pursuit of maximum material gain will result in the betterment of society as a whole.
Self-indulgence and aggrandizement threaten to trump any notions of the public good and public service.
Indeed, the very word “public” has become a pejorative.
Those who style themselves as defenders of American ideals actively cultivate distain for the entire process of American government - the very process that has made this country uniquely able to heal and regenerate, evolve and assimilate, inspire and build on the diversity of our people.
They fail to understand that this country has been great because of our government by the people, not in spite of it. Apparently, many of these folks would actually be relieved to abdicate their civic responsibility to a corporate dictatorship.
I will admit, with regret, that at times I have been unable to resist the bait and have even found a perverse satisfaction in participating in the destructive volleys of insults that have brought about this sad situation. I sincerely apologize for the tone of some of my comments, but taken in context, I stand by their substance.
I cannot leave without recognizing Mr. Al Neuhauser, who has been a model of decorum and at the same time a fierce defender of his conservative principles. He is a man of honor and intelligence, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading you, Al, and engaging you in thoughtful argument. My best to you and to your family. I know you are held in high esteem by all of us who have studied your writings. You are old-school, sir, in the very best sense of that expression and I salute you.
I also want to give the Journal-Sentinel due credit for establishing a program for citizens to take their rightful place in the media. They reached out and offered us this platform.
However, for what I can only assume are financial reasons, they have ceased to exercise their essential editorial role. At the same time, they revoked the ability of individual bloggers to carry out this function, and consequently these pages some time ago degenerated to the point that I believe they contribute to the anti-democratic forces that have paralyzed our government and are weakening our society.
Intellectually unable or ideologically unwilling to participate honestly in an arena where any citizen’s ideas can be presented, considered and debated by the community at large, these individuals seek to highjack this channel, putting it into service as another reflector in the right-wing echo chamber. Presentation of any and all issues here is met with endless repetitions of blatant misinformation accompanied by outrageous personal attacks, with no consequences paid for derailing the conversation and preventing legitimate arguments to emerge.
They strive to be perceived as courageous patriots whose blind love of country apparently renders them unable to distinguish facts from partisan talking points, personal attacks from political debate. (“Extremism in defense of liberty”, etc.) The fact is, they mistakenly construe these anti-democratic tactics as a viable political strategy for a return to power. They are the political equivalent of suicide bombers.
Just as the morally bankrupt and cynical leadership of this country saw opportunity to turn the greatest national security failure since Pearl Harbor into political gain by attacking Iraq - without any need for moral or legal justification, without a strategy for getting in or getting out, without sufficient resources, and with criminal disregard for the lives of the Iraqi people - these individuals consider terrorism and politics both to be zero-sum games where any individual that fails a “purity test” of conformity with their infantile ideology is to be met with “shock and awe”. Collateral damage to the democratic process be damned. In fact, at this point, they see everything to be gained by working against the national interests of the United States.
It does not surprise me at all that these folks who dance gleefully along the line of treason, who smirk when suggesting the dissolution of the union, who toss around comments about revolution and “bringing down” the President of the United States, are many of the same individuals who branded anti-war Americans as traitors for exercising their Constitutional right to express disagreement with a renegade policy of “preemptive” war.
This local infection of public dialog is exactly parallel to the rise of the so-called Tea parties whose ignorant and threatening voices can be heard shouting down all others at town hall meetings, who proudly wave signs dishonoring the victims of the Holocaust and those who died fighting Fascism, and whose bleating cries of “Give me my country back!” are transparently and disgustingly racist. These are people who desperately crave a government as base as themselves to provide an acceptable context for their own stunted sense of civic and social responsibility, and who regard those who value education, rationality and public service as “elitist”.
They strive to dominate all media channels, including these blogs. The media, fighting for viewers, are happy to have this free, sensational content regardless of its utter lack of redemptive value, and willfully overlook its corrosive effects on the democratic process.
Personally, I am ready to cede this particular swamp to the algae. Its oxygen is depleted and it will grow only more toxic as long as the effluent of personal intolerance and political ignorance is allowed to flow.
You just kinda wasted my precious time,
But don't think twice, it's all right.
I pay the bills in my family. Not that I earn all the money, I’m just the one who is responsible for making sure that everything gets paid on time.
Hey, I screwed up.
We have had an American Express card since 2002, and really don’t use it much. Visa gives us rebates for car repairs and service, which we find comes in quite handy when you have old cars that need a lot of repairs and service, so we put everything on the Visa card. Both cards get paid off monthly. Except if I screw up.
SO, last month, the American Express invoice got lost in the shuffle of less important mail – “OFFICIAL NOTICE of my selection to represent Republican voters in Wisconsin’s Fifth District” and such - and I neglected to schedule the AmEx payment. For the first time since 2002.
We owed them $16.95.
When this month’s bill arrived, I discovered my error. Borrowing that $16.95 for 45 days had cost me $6.43 in interest. After I smacked myself in the head, I sat down and sent them payment in full.
Yesterday, the folks at American Express let me know that they were very disappointed in me.
They sent me a letter that began; “Dear JEFFERY BLACKWELL:” (I knew I was in trouble. ALL CAPS! At least they didn't use my middle name. That's never good.)
It continued, paternalistically, “We have always wanted you to clearly understand both the benefits and the responsibilities of Cardmembership with American Express.” (I felt so ashamed.)
The letter goes on to say (in bold type) “Let us explain what this means:”
What it means, it was explained to me, is that paying $6.43 to borrow $16.95 cents for 45 days was a privilege I no longer deserved.
No, no, now they were forced to tell me that “Effective 12/15/2009 a penalty APR, or interest rate, will apply to all balances on your account. “ Although I have no balance on my account, this should be flat out illegal. How can they change the interest rate on money that someone has already borrowed? Why was the law ever written that gave them the right to do that?
American Express, apparently trying to gently guide me back onto the path of personal financial responsibility, is now going to increase my APR (oh, I remember – that means interest rate!) to the Prime Rate + 23.99%. Prime plus 24%!
(In bold) “Let us also explain your options:” (Oh, please DO!)
“You may opt out of the rate increase, however your account (bold AND underlined) will be closed. “ In case I didn’t understand what it means to close an account, they helpfully explained: “This means that you will no longer be able to make purchases or other transactions on your account.” (Really. huh? WHAT? Oh, NO!)
Of course, I had already decided to close my account by the end of the first line, so I continued to read the very, very specific instructions on how to go about closing my account, including “please have your card in hand when you call” because we don’t give a damn what your name is JEFFERY BLACKWELL, and remember, “Even if you opt out, if you do not make a minimum payment within 60 days of its due date we may (may!?) apply the penalty to your account.”
The letter closes warmly, “We hope that you will continue your relationship with us, so that we can continue to provide you with the rich benefits and superior service (excuse me while I vomit) that come with membership”.
“Sincerely, American Express Account Services.”
Reform of the nation’s dysfunctional health care system is now a certainty.
If you had any doubt, it became perfectly clear when the health insurance lobby dropped their guard and swung a wild punch last week. They were hoping to sucker-punch reformers and panic the cowardly Blue Dogs and Republicans. They missed by a mile, but it did serve clarify the issue for some people who were on the fence.
This transparent attempt at extorting even more outrageous profits has brought up talks of re-examining the exemption of anti-trust laws the industry now enjoys. It is time for federal regulation of the health insurance industry in order to let the market work nationally. As it stands, most states are served by three or fewer companies who are no doubt practicing informal collusion on rates.
Health Care Reform – in whatever version of the conflicting bills is negotiated – will be one of the major milestones in American social policy of the last 100 years and bring us closer to the kind of security from health-related catastrophes that citizens enjoy in every other advanced country.
The issue now is more narrow; Will there be an insurance plan from the government that will leverage the colossal buying power of the federal government to wring excess profits out of health care services and pharmaceuticals, available to all Americans, and to force a real reduction in health care costs by putting private insurers into a truly competitive situation?
There are numerous names and variations – some that “trigger” a public health insurance option if the private market refuses to provide reasonable rates to all patients, or refuses to actually contain costs as they have promised.
Why mess around? Let’s set up an OPTIONAL, single-payer plan – just like Medicare – for any American who wants it. If you don’t want to participate– fine!
Stay right where you are. No one is going to force you to switch. (Will your employer continue to provide you with insurance and help you pay for it? I don’t know? Will they? Fewer of them are every day.)
Let’s clear the air on this: NO ONE is proposing any kind of plan whereby the government would employ Doctors or provide ANY part of your health care. If you opted into the public plan, you would continue to receive your health care exactly as you do now. The only difference is that instead of your health insurance company paying the providers, the government would do it. (Know someone on Medicare? Ask them if they like it.)
At a savings of perhaps 30%.
That would be the 30% that health insurance companies pay for advertising, for “underwriting” (weeding out people who are sick or have a preexisting condition - like being born female,) administrative costs, and the billions put into the pockets of executives and shareholders.
Health Care Reform will be a major accomplishment for the country. With a public option, we can move a step closer to making health care a right for every American.
Polls consistently show that well over 60% of all Americans want a publically-funded health insurance option.
Call today and let your representatives know that you support health care reform that includes a public option.
Sen. Herb Kohl's Milwaukee office at (414) 297-4451
Sen. Russ Feingold's Milwaukee office at (414) 276-7282
Rep. F. Sensenbrenner's Brookfield office at (262) 784-1111
For months, the big health insurance companies sat around the table with all interested parties and pretended to be in agreement that the current means of providing health care to Americans is not working.
Some 50 million uninsured, catastrophic illnesses being the leading cause of personal bankruptcies, Americans dying from preventable diseases, and the costs of health care (insurance!) gutting personal, corporate, state and federal budgets.
Now we know that the representatives of the insurance companies were actually moles, monitoring the conversation so that they could plan a last minute attack on the nation’s efforts to finally – 100 years after it was proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt – implement a plan that covers all Americans – even those who actually need to make a claim.
The night before – the night before – the Senate Finance Committee was to vote the current bill out of committee, Big Insurance foists one of the most widely reviled pieces of pseudo-academic garbage seen in a long time, which is actually a lengthy extortion note to the America people. Essentially the “study” says ”OK, go ahead and pass your reform bill. It’s OK with us. Because the law still gives us the right to charge whatever we want, and you can bet we will do it.”
Yesterday President Obama took off the gloves.
“The insurance industry is rolling out the big guns and breaking open their massive war chest to marshal their forces for one last fight to save the status quo,” he said. “They’re filling the airwaves with deceptive and dishonest ads. They’re flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists and campaign contributions. And they’re funding studies designed to mislead the American people.”
He also attacked the media that long ago gave up their responsibility to fact-check corporate (and government) propaganda, and simply rewrite press releases or worse, sensationalize their threats for ratings. “Of course, like clockwork, we’ve seen folks on cable television who know better, waving these industry-funded studies in the air,” Obama said. “We’ve seen industry insiders — and their apologists — citing these studies as proof of claims that just aren’t true.”
Then he pulled out the stick. Repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson law that exempts health insurers from anti-trust exemption, [which would allow] the federal government, rather than the states, to regulate their business.
I am sure that kneejerk rightnuts will scream about the feds assuming more power, but that’s exactly what is needed to persuade the people who work in the health insurance industry to find a new line of work.
They can threaten and scream all they want, but the health insurers should remember; They serve no functional purpose in health care, except to suck up 35% of the dollars that flow between a patient and a doctor.
We can’t afford that anymore.
I have a story to tell, a very sad story and perhaps it can serve as a cautionary tale.
As we were leaving my daughter’s house yesterday morning, having smooched up our beautiful 7-month-old grandson and put him down for his morning nap, my daughter got a call from a co-worker. Both are Emergency Room nurses at a large hospital in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. The caller had some very distressing news.
The 9-month-old son of one of the ER docs was in Children’s Hospital in serious condition. In fact, he was on a ventilator. Several days ago, this young boy had come down with mild flu-like symptoms. Just to be cautious, his Dad – the doctor – had taken the boy into the hospital where they all work. There, they put the child on an IV and rehydrated him. He responded well, and his dad took him home. Within a day, the boy seemed his old self, and all symptoms had disappeared.
However, early yesterday morning, the child suddenly became listless. His parents took him immediately to Children’s Hospital. Within hours, the boy had become unresponsive. The cause could not be determined. He was tested for H1N1, but the test apparently takes ten days to show results.
With this weight on our hearts, my wife and I headed home down I-94. The lifeless gray sky and a foggy, wet snow mirrored our somber mood.
Between The Dells and Madison, my cell phone rang. My wife answered it, and I could hear my daughter’s voice. My wife began to wince with pain, and I knew that the call was about the boy. He was still not responding. They had performed some kind of scan. The scan showed no activity in his brain.
As I write this, everyone is simply waiting. Another scan will be performed later today. If there is still no brain activity, the ventilator will be removed.
You can imagine the anguish, the guilt and the fear that has spread like a virus among all of us touched by this boy’s illness. One of the ER docs has decided to send his own small child away to spend the winter at his grandma’s so that that the doctor won't infect him.
My daughter will not take such a drastic step, but is deeply aware of the risks of working in an environment where all kinds of diseases are intentionally brought in the front door.
While the cause of this boy’s infection is still not known, the H1N1 virus is spreading rapidly, and it is killing people, especially young people. I would simply ask you to stay informed and follow the steps recommended by public health officials, including getting vaccinations for you and your children as they are available. In fact, be sure that your children get all of the recommended vaccinations on schedule.
Do not let media-stoked fears of scientifically-proven preventative measures distract you. If you or your child get the H1N1 virus, chances are very good that you will recover quickly. But if it gets into your brain, there is simply no treatment.
And please have compassion for those who put their own lives and their families at risk by choosing to work in the professions that are dedicated to saving human lives.
I was shocked when I got the text message from the NYT. Obama gets the Peace Prize? Really?
I reflected for a few moments, asking myself who would be a more qualified choice? Really, in the last year, who has done more to raise international awareness of the necessity to move away from war as a tool of politics and toward a state of cooperation among nations?
Unless you don’t believe in that sort of thing. You know, peace.
When the rightwing zealots cast their stones upon Obama for offering to give a talk to students about personal responsibility and the value of a good education, I knew this country had entered some kind of a weird new phase in our culture.
Now, listen children, and we shall all learn how being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize can be best described as a shallow and meaningless event.
It’s still early, but my favorite negative spin from the rightnuts is that getting the Peace Prize will make Obama – too peaceful.
According to Fox News, “In particular, some foreign policy analysts say the prize announced Friday may complicate his efforts to wind down the war in Iraq and his decision on whether to ramp up the war in Afghanistan.
John Bolton, a U.N. ambassador in the Bush administration, told FOX News that the award will give leverage to Obama advisers opposed to sending more troops Afghanistan at the request of commanders.
“I think those who don't want a massive increase in troops will now be saying, 'But Mr. President, you just won the Nobel Peace Prize, how can you agree to 40,000 more troops on the ground,'" he said.”
What? As if winding down two wars without leaving religious maniacs in charge of failed states while struggling to keep Pakistan from falling rogue and North Korea from flipping out and Iran and Israel from blowing up the middle east - now he’s got to listen to John Bolton whining?
OMG, I guess that means he’ll be jetting off to Sweden or someplace again, wasting more of our tax dollars (which we could spend on ammo) and be applauded by a bunch of the brightest and most educated people in the world. Again.
But this time, he will bring home the prize.
Congratulations President Obama. Congratulations, America.
Unless you don't believe in that sort of thing.
While the military is calling for tens of thousands of more troops (as they always do), President Obama is considering other options besides sending more soldiers into Afghanistan. Let’s hope he’s seriously considering an immediate and complete withdrawal from that country.
The recent sham election shows clearly that there is no legitimate government in Afghanistan. It is worth remembering that there has never been a federal government in the territory we call Afghanistan.
While most Americans lustfully pursued war on Iraq and then eventually turned against it once their desire for revenge had been sated, the war on Afghanistan was always treated quite separately. This was our “good” war.
If, after all, Sadaam Hussein was unjustly accused of having been a conspirator in 9-11, if, after all, he had no weapons of mass destruction, well; at least we yanked his head off.
But, the Taliban! There’s the REAL enemy! There’s evil incarnate! We cannot leave Afghanistan as long as there is one Taliban left alive! They’re the ones responsible for all our pain!
Afghanistan has never been successfully occupied, nor ever had a central government. With a wide-open border and semi-official realtions with the Pakistan government and full cooperation with the Pakistan military, the Taliban will not be defeated, no matter how many troops we send or how long they stay. It is not only hopeless, but pointless and immoral to send another American soldier into this war. Like the war on Iraq, the war on Afghanistan should never have been started and the blame for both lies at the feet of George W. Bush and the American people.
President Obama should cut our losses and withdraw immediately. Will the Taliban continue to be murderous religious zealots? Yes, they will. Will innocent people die? Certainly. Will the people of Afghanistan ever rise up against Sharia law, and form a government based on Western law? It’s possible, I suppose. But it will likely not happen for decades.
Do we want to have American troops fighting and dying there until that time?
Will having an ongoing war in Afghanistan protect us from terrorists?
Inevitably, the election of an African American to the Presidency of the United States was an emotional event for Americans. Most of us – black and white - are deeply proud that our nation’s shameful history of racial enslavement, persecution and discrimination has faded to the point that such an event was possible.
What I didn’t expect is that so many of them would simply go nuts. What’s next?
Lynching Obama in effigy? Would that cross a line for anybody? I doubt it.
The so-called Tea Baggers are nothing more than the KKK without enough shame to hide under sheets.
The Republicans’ 1960s “Southern Strategy” continues on its inevitable trajectory. The only people left in the Republican Party are those who consider themselves pure, racially and otherwise. They call themselves the “Real Americans”. As opposed to the rest of us.
Let’s stop pretending this is about policy. Let’s stop pretending this is about ideology.
The so-called leaders of the Republican Party have made it clear that they are going to do whatever it takes to bring this country crashing down. They have no other plan, no other choice. They have to ride it out. Their only hope is that they can survive and can pick up the pieces of a formerly great nation, and jamb them in their pockets.
If it means stoking racial hatred and irrational fears, they will do it.
If it takes bringing back bigotry as a party platform, so be it.
Old-time bigots like Tom Delay and Dick Amory are experts at stoking racial fear and hatred, and Sarah Palin and Dick Wilson have shown us that it’s time for the bigots to come out of the closet and slither back onto the American stage.
If it means lynching the President of the United States?
President Obama reportedly receives more than 30 death threats every day.
I recently returned from spending a couple of weeks in Europe. While I was in England, I made a point of talking to people about their nationalized health care system, which is often cited as a model or a harbinger of what is proposed for the U.S., although, in fact, no one is actually proposing a fully nationalized system. I wish they were.
In my four days in London, I spoke with five people about their experiences and thoughts on their National Health Service. Unanimously… they praised it, and are baffled as to why anyone wouldn’t.
One gentleman, who offered that he was 80 years old, noticed that I was American, and wanted to show me his wristwatch, which featured a portrait of President Obama on its face. (“We wish we had him over here”, he said. “We’ve a terrible mess for a government.”)
After a short discussion of politics, I asked him what he thought of his national health care system. “Fantastic!” (Or maybe it was “Brilliant!”) He told me that he has had four operations for cancer and two surgeries on his heart. “I didn’t have to pay a pound!” (Maybe it was a shilling.) Anyway, if they are rationing health care for older people in Britain, my new friend certainly didn’t know anything about it.
Later, I visited Ireland, which has a private, “free-market “system, similar to what we have here.
Our Innkeeper, Les, was an expat from GB. A former “Themes River Guard”, later a regular London Bobbie (police officer). He went to the closet and got out his hat.
Les told me that he was nearly killed by an incompetent nurse in Ireland, who gave him an IV of an antibiotic which he was allergic to. Although he complained of a burning sensation in his arm within seconds after she inserted the IV, she brushed him off. “It’s just an antibiotic”, she said, “It can’t cause pain.” And she left the room.
Within a couple of minutes, Les pulled the IV from his arm and “stuck it in me orange juice”. His arm was bright red and swollen to about twice its normal size. This dose of a medicine which he was allergic to gave Les a case of Pancreatitis, which almost killed him.
Les has recovered from the Pancreatitis, but needs a knee replacement. He will not go to an Irish doctor. His good friend, who runs a pub in town (Dingle), had a knee replacement at the local hospital a couple of years back, and Les demonstrated for me how the man walks – like he has a peg leg.
Under the laws of the European Union (a step towards One World Government), Les is entitled to use the British national health care system – once he is “pensionable” – at age 65. Les is willing to walk on the bad knee for another three and a half years, so that he can have his surgery under the care of the British government doctors. For free.
I would that this country would join the advanced world and establish a national health care system, where doctors can be doctors and not small businesses, but apparently there are too many small minds with large mouths and too many drug reps with large bank accounts to allow that option.
In the meantime, we shall see whether this country is moral enough to provide health care to each of its citizens, or whether it will remain a privilege for those with means.
There's so much BS (and much worse) flying around from corporate lobbyists, dead-end Republicans (Sarah Palin, for God’s sake), Murdoch Media, and just plain nuts (including some who seem to think the 2nd Amendment gives them the right to threaten violence), that any sane person might assume that the Democrats must be stomping all over the health care lobbyists’ toes.
Not at all.
My biggest concern is not with the current Democratic plans (except that neither of them is single-payer, which is what the people of a first-world country deserve) but the under-the-radar negotiations between the players of Big Health and the Obama White House.
Yes, these health care fat cats - the ones who pocket hundreds of billions of dollars that is supposed to provide us health care - have agreed to forgo a few billions of those dollars to help us staunch the raging flow of money out of our veins. A band-aid, so to speak. Thanks, guys. Real humanitarians, you are.
In return for Obama not pressing for real (i.e., public) reform, they have agreed not spend hundreds of billions of dollars on advertising scaring and scamming gullible Americans away from a plan that is in their best interests.
Remember Harry and Louis? Why do you think they changed their minds about health care “reform”? Because with a coverage mandate, and without a competing public-funded plan, their sponsors’ profits are guaranteed to multiply exponentially. Their profits are coded right into the law, just as they were in the Medicare prescription bill. Doughnut hole, anyone?
Obama should never have held these negotiations, reminiscent of Cheney's "negotiations" with the oil tycoons. He should never have robbed the American people of their right to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies. And he should never have taken single-payer off the table.
The word from the administration is that this track was necessary to prevent health care reform from being flattened by these industries, who have enough money to not only buy a majority of Congress, but to convince a small percentage of weak-minded Americans that health care reform will rob them of their “freedom”. That’s the way they’ve played for 50 years.
SO, why are the big players willing to compromise now? Because the American people have seen through the ruse. Those with the ability to reason have observed that they are paying more and more for “health care”, and getting less and less healthy, while Big Health makes record profits. Why are they profiting on the illness of others? It’s a simple question.
But the Obama team doesn’t think it’s enough. They know that a certain percentage of the American people are not smart enough to see through the scam, and can be manipulated by Rupert Murdoch like brainless drones. And there are plenty who feel secure with their insurance, and don’t give a damn about anyone else. And who don’t have enough imagination to realize that their coverage can be yanked tomorrow if they lose their job or, heavens, get sick. That’s a lot of people. You line up the paranoids, the greedy, the racists, the xenophobes, and the plain not-too-bright, and you can get up a mob.
They’re angry that Obama won, and they’re willing to be race-baited, and they are willing to shout down anyone who attempts to reason with them. And the media loves to show video of these people melting down, sort of like the people who try out for talent shows and think they can actually sing. It’s sad and kind of scary, but you can’t turn away. You know the media is hoping for violence. You know they are.
The Obama team says it was necessary to submit to extortion by Big Health in order to get anywhere closer to health care reform. "Don't kill the good, holding out for the prefect," they say.
I say it's wrong, and it's undemocratic. It should never have happened, and I remind my representatives in Congress that you are in no way beholden to respect any such agreement, which the President has no authority to make. At this point, this has become more than a war for the health of the American people, for our children and our parents.
It's a war for democracy, and for control of our government. The health care reform bill that passes, and it will pass, will tell us who this government works for, and whether Obama can stand up to the corporations as he promised he would.
My pledge to President Obama, Sens. Feingold and Kohl; bottom line; If the public insurance option dies, so does my support for the Democratic Party.
So, the “conservative” line as echoed by our local node on the hive network, Amy Hemmer, is that the so-called “Cash for Clunkers" program is a dismal failure that demonstrates the incompetence of the Federal government (whatever happened to patriotism?) of carrying out a program to kick start the auto industry, and, at the same time, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and, at the same time reduce the pollution that we all have to breathe every day.
Amy wrote; “The "Cash for Clunkers" program is proving to be another example of how poorly government programs usually turn out. "Cash for Clunkers" is already out of money. Taxpayer dollars. This program was designed to run until November.”
Well, that’s wrong. The law passed by Congress says that the program will expire in November OR when the $1 billion dollars allocated by the Congress was given out to those Americans who traded in old gas guzzlers for new, more efficient cars. Which happened in a week.
Seems the people liked the idea. Seems they had been waiting to buy new cars. Seems that the Bush recession had shaken their confidence in this country. They came out.
And even though the Republicans had watered down the intended environmental impact of the program because well, they just love to screw with the environment, people actually are dumping their gas guzzlers for gas-sippers. On average, the new cars going out the door get nearly 10 MPG more than the clunkers that are getting scrapped.
Multiplied by the number of transactions, this will have a significant impact on emissions, our air quality, and on our consumption of oil.
Not to mention the jolt to local economies in nearly every community in the United States. Not to mention the auto workers who will have jobs (and health insurance.) Not to mention their second and third tier suppliers’ employees, who will have jobs.
This program directly addresses (however temporarily) the major issue that is facing our country; the lack of decent paying manufacturing jobs. Is the program perfect? Of course it isn't.
The Senate voted tonight to add two billion dollars more for “Cash for Clunkers”. Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans could have killed this bill. But they didn’t. Why? Because they know that Americans want jobs. They need health care. And they want to help out their fellow Americans.
(Disclosure: I own some Ford stock. My dad worked for Ford for 50 years and my brother hung bumpers on a few thousand Crown Vics and Town Cars at Wixom. I have numerous cousins, in-laws and friends who work (or used to work) for auto companies and their suppliers.)
The fact is that “free market” and health care are basically incompatible, at least on a moral basis.
Obeying the “laws” of the free market, health insurance companies have one objective, which is of course profit. Great. That’s what America is all about. Nothing wrong with that.
Profit is, of course, the amount that you can charge your customers less what it costs you to provide them a service. Cost is bad.
That “cost” is providing your health care.
The way to minimize cost, if you are in the health insurance business, is to avoid paying for people’s health care. In fact, it’s highly profitable to avoid business with anybody who ever has been, or may have a disposition to get ill. And you certainly don’t want to do insure someone who already is sick.
(Or can’t scrape up a few hundred dollars for a payment every month. Let the government take care of those people.)
So why are so many of us able to get insurance, and at “reasonable” rates? Because of our government.
Yes, most of us get our health insurance through our employers, and guess what? The cost to our employers of providing that insurance is subsidized through tax breaks from the government.
In order to qualify for this government money (in the form of tax breaks) insurance companies have to meet government regulations. Guess what these burdensome government regulations require the private insurance companies to do! Provide coverage to people who are sick!
It’s only because of government regulations that our health care system functions at all.
Anyone in your family ever have cancer? A heart attack? Any relatives with a chronic disease? Have you ever seen a therapist? Had acne? High blood pressure? If the government didn’t require them to, insurance companies wouldn’t insure you at any price.
Prior to the establishment of the publically-funded, single-payer, government-run Medicare program, more than 40% of elderly Americans could not get health insurance. Many of them died in destitution. That’s the free market at work, baby.
There is a massive ($1.4 million a day!) and deliberate attempt to paint any kind of public-funded health care as a Socialist idea, and if that doesn’t raise your ideological hackles, then let’s point out that it’s expensive (as opposed to what?) and if that doesn’t turn you off, then how about if the government wants to kill off babies and old people!
Some of the people mongering these fears are doing it for obvious political and economic reasons. I have to give those people credit for at least acting rationally.
Others are just idiots.
Why are Republican dead-enders trying to convince older people that President Obama wants to send them off into the woods to be eaten by wild animals?
Why are they trying to scare them into believing that health care reform means a “government take-over” where some guy who probably used to work in the IRS is going to come into their hospital room during the night and pull the plug on them to save electricity?
Why are they telling our parents that we just can't wait to euthanize them?
Top line is, of course, that they are protecting their own financial investments in the health insurance industry. Bottom line is, of course, is a strategy to make President Obama “fail”.
But, tactically, the Republicans are desperate to change the minds of the elderly because the elderly know that a government-run health care plan can work, and work very well. If they’re over 65, they’re on one. It’s called Medicare, and its clients are overwhelmingly happy with it.
They love not having to deal with health insurance companies. They appreciate that they are receiving first-class medical care. And as taxpayers, they know that the overhead for Medicare administration runs about 2%, as compared to 11% for private insurance companies.
They know the truth.
We don’t need health insurance.
We need health care.
Scaring the elderly is beyond the pale, really.
If I were Professor Henry Gates, I would not be sitting down to make nice with a police officer who violated my civil rights.
(Well, maybe if my old friend the President of the United States suggested it.)
The details of the two men’s encounter continue to emerge, and as expected, the facts in this case paint a clear picture of a racist police department.
This does not mean that Police Sgt. Crowley acted in a racially prejudiced manner. But he did act stupidly.
And, these fact show why Professor Gates had every reason to be indignant and defensive. His Constitutional right (4th Amendment) against unreasonable search was being blatantly violated. And apparently his First, as well.
Judge Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court Judge and now an analyst for FOX News Channel says it’s clear that Gates’ arrest was false. From FOX:
“As Crowley arrested Gates for causing a “public disturbance,” the action is improper on its face due to the fact that Gates was in his own home. Additionally, Napolitano said, it was illegal for the police to enter the house to begin with, as the source of the report did not pass legal muster to constitute probable cause.
Napolitano added that because of the violation of Gates’s constitutional rights, he would be eligible to pursue legal action against the police department.”
So, why did Crowley arrest and handcuff a frail old man who walks with a cane? Would he have done the same to a mouthy old white guy?
Now, also from the Boston Herald: 36-year-old Boston police officer Justin Barrett has been suspended and likely will be fired after sending an anonymous email that referred to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as a "jungle monkey."
I appreciate that the President regrets he ever commented on this case, and I appreciate that he is trying to diffuse this particular situation, and I appreciate that he feels an obligation to continually try to bridge the racial divide.
But if I were Gates, I’d sue for false arrest.
President Obama’s comment on the arrest of a black man by an officer of the Cambridge Police Department may have been fired by emotion, but it was not without justification. I wish he had been more thoughtful in his words, and so does he, but there it is.
Let’s give all credit to the officer, Sergeant James Crowley. Obviously Professor Gates was in a foul mood. You come home, can’t get the door opened. You are forced to break into your own house. Now the police show up.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say Mr. Gates got verbally abusive to the officer. I can certainly understand how emotions could escalate on both sides. A police officer must always consider the possibility that violence can occur.
But anyone who denies that law enforcement, in general, has a pattern of racial discrimination only has to look at the disproportionate number of arrests, convictions and length of sentences for black citizens handed down by our courts. Or talk to the families of Ernest Lacy, Daniel Bell or Frank Jude Jr.
Gates had plenty of cause to suspect the motives of the officer and, frankly, fear for his own safety. The fact that Gates ended up in handcuffs, and hauled to the station is stupid. Stupid on both men’s parts. I can say that. I’m not the President.
Talk of a "post-racial society" notwithstanding, this country has a huge problem of racial tension and animosity. Since it was generally accepted that racism is immoral – after the civil rights movement of the 1960s - white racists have gotten very good at veiling their conviction that black people are inferior human beings. They have developed language that they suppose disguises their racism, yet communicates it to fellow racists. They think the rest of us are stupid.
The very characteristics that distinguish African American culture are seen as the justification of racism by racists. In other words, the racist excuses their racism by thinking; I wouldn’t mind black people if they were just like me. This is obviously irrational, and I believe that most racists know this, but these are people who are not prone to introspection.
We see this in the so-called “birthers” – those who would delegitimize the Presidency of Barack Obama by claiming that he is a Kenyan citizen - who will protest that they are not racially motivated when it is clear to any thinking person that they are.
As I have said before, I think that racism is genetic in all humans. Most of us have a degree of apprehension when we are in the minority. There is a sensation of risk, which we try to avoid. I think that most of us have to work at not being racist. Exposure to other races can desensitize one’s natural racial barriers, but so can logic. In other words, racism itself is stupid.
"The Senate, by a vote of 58-40, approved an amendment proposed by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to strip $1.75 billion in funding for the F-22 fighter. Levin worked hand in hand to kill the F-22 money with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)." Huffington Post
The vote to kill this warplane is historic. The military-industrial complex, as decribed by former General and President Dwight Eisenhower, has been handed a rare defeat.
Personally, I would like to see every single weapons system reviewed, top to bottom, with an eye towards stopping production on all systems unless a DEFENSIVE need can be proven.
We waste hundreds of billions of dollars on devices to injure, maim and kill, and then ask "How can we afford to provide health care for everyone?"
The American people owe a huge debt of gratitude to President Obama, and Sens. McCain and Levin for the courage, judgement and guts it took to shoot this plane down before it dropped a bomb anywhere.
My sympathies to the workers who will lose their jobs working on this weapon.
I was driving home from the kid's place near The Cities - what a breath of fresh air The Cities are - was up in the boonies and the public stations were classical - I was trying to stay awake - seeking the stations - and I came across Rush. He was blubbering like a baby.
He was whining about Sotomeyer, he was whimpering about socialized medicine, and he was playing audip cips of Obama speeded up, so he sounded like a cartoon.
Who listens to this idiot?
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