Friday, December 28, 2007

ECONOMY - On Globalization

"Krugman's sensible response to globalization" from Prairie Weather

Paul Krugman worries about the results of "free trade" in one particular respect: what we need to do to protect American workers who suffer when we buy goods from countries with low wage workers.

...Am I arguing for protectionism? No. Those who think that globalization is always and everywhere a bad thing are wrong. On the contrary, keeping world markets relatively open is crucial to the hopes of billions of people.

Good. Because much protectionism is really about isolationism and that doesn't help anyone, least of all America, high wage and low wage alike.

But I am arguing for an end to the finger-wagging, the accusation either of not understanding economics or of kowtowing to special interests that tends to be the editorial response to politicians who express skepticism about the benefits of free-trade agreements.

It’s often claimed that limits on trade benefit only a small number of Americans, while hurting the vast majority. That’s still true of things like the import quota on sugar. But when it comes to manufactured goods, it’s at least arguable that the reverse is true. The highly educated workers who clearly benefit from growing trade with third-world economies are a minority, greatly outnumbered by those who probably lose.

As I said, I’m not a protectionist. For the sake of the world as a whole, I hope that we respond to the trouble with trade not by shutting trade down, but by doing things like strengthening the social safety net. But those who are worried about trade have a point, and deserve some respect.

"Social safety net" is anathema to those who enjoy having capitalism as a weapon. It's the hardline right which turns capitalism into a deadly weapon rather than something we can live with and love because it's under control. But we need a social safety net and it will have to include a much more flexible, well-designed, equal and expensive educational system, an educational system that is available to all Americans every day of their lives, no matter what age or condition.

Economic conditions are changing and "globalizing" so fast that no one educated in, say, the 1990's will have the skills necessary to continue making a healthy contribution to the economy for 50+ years. How we deal with that will determine whether or not we benefit from the expanding global economy.

IRAQ - The Show Goes On

More from an insider.....

"And the "Show" goes on..." by Layla Anwar, Arab Woman Blues

Conquer, divide, split and fragment. Pit one against the other and one against the same...

Yesterday’s foes are today’s friends, and today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies...

And the show goes on...

I have been reading extensively about the Sunni Awakening Council, the new Sunni- Kurdish rapprochement, the Sunni–Sunni tensions, the Shia–Shia conflicts...

I have also been reading the so-called analysis circulating.

A lot of them are bullshit, as usual...

They all seem to miss the essential crucial point, the core essence, the crux of the matter and you don’t have to be a wiz in sociology and politics to figure that one out.Namely, that:

  • in the absence of a functional representative State,
  • following the dismemberment of all political and civil institutions,
  • in the wake of over 5 years of a condensed, concentrated, violence that has totally DESTROYED the country,
  • with a massive exodus and a massive death rate,
  • with a continuous, debilitating, provoked poverty, and an unemployment rate of over 70% and over 50% of the population cannot afford to eat,
  • with over 100’000 in jails, and a X number of disappeared,
  • with the total destruction of all the infrastructural system – the DELIBERATE destruction.
  • when basics like water, electricity and fuel are still not available,
  • when hospitals are non functional, when universities are ransacked and closed, when corruption is contagiously rampant...

With all of the above – it is simply not possible to talk of a FAILED STATE, what you need to address is the real issue – a NON-EXISTENT STATE in a country with no boundaries and no more structures.

You need to address the real issue, that of the breaking up of the country and its fragmentation. And the more a country fragments the more you will see walls being erected. And the more you will see some sort of local governance on a community/neighborhood basis...

Surely those 600’000 Americans and their contractors and death squads did not come for a holiday. They had a mission...And that mission was exactly what I enumerated above. DESTROY.

So when all the conditions are created, provoked and grouped together they lead to one obvious socio-political reaction.

When the state disintegrates or is willfully destroyed, people fall back on religion and their sect, their neighborhood, their tribes. In other words, they hang on to the points of reference, the anchors they know best and they can trust.

It is called SURVIVAL. And Iraqis have been doing nothing and operating on nothing but SURVIVAL.

So those who pontificate and argue that the seeds of sectarianism/tribalism were already present in Iraq since the times of the British or those who hold the argument that in over 30 years, the Iraqi State had failed to form a national identity... And that after all, what is happening now is a natural consequence of those already existing divisions.

There's much more in the full article.

The real truth of Iraq is that Bush and his cohorts don't give a damn about Iraq and Iraqis. They only care about their self-image (Napoleonic), the Iraq oil, and their paymasters (Big Oil and the Defense Industry).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

POLITICS - What Bush Has Done to America

"The fear of torture" by Michael Ratner, Guardian Unlimited

As we all now know, the CIA has destroyed hundreds of hours of video tapes of the likely 2002 water torture of three men, allegedly involved with al-Qaida, by its agents. Although the CIA has not acknowledged that the videos are of water torture - often known euphemistically as "waterboarding" - a former CIA agent, John Kiriakou, has said that the waterboarding was authorised from the highest levels of the Bush administration.

Now we are seeing the usual Washington scrambling and casting of blame after another serious revelation of torture. Most of the official focus seems to be on who made the decision to approve the destruction and not on the underlying issue: the fact that the Bush administration, with the apparent consent of some of the congressional leadership, sanctioned torture.

This endorsement was criminal under both US law and international law - and that opens high level administration officials to prosecution, whether in the US or abroad.

This fear of prosecution for torture is the best explanation as to why these tapes were destroyed. They would have been vivid and compelling example of the violation of laws against torture - laws that in the US carry a life sentence or the death penalty if the victim is killed. Laws in most European countries make such violations of the convention against torture a universal crime, prosecutable no matter where the torture occurred or where the torturer resides.

Another explanation for the destruction might be the anger the footage could engender in the Muslim world if they were revealed publicly. However, the chances for public revelation were slim. Unlike the Abu Ghraib prison photos, these tapes were apparently only in the possession of the CIA. That explanation lets the CIA and the Bush administration off the hook much too easily and ignores evidence that fear of prosecution was likely critical in the destruction decision.

There's more in the full article.

And remember the Bush statements "we do not torture." That's because, in their warped logic, waterboarding is NOT torture. Of course, they are ignoring international definitions and the Geneva Conventions.

Result, we have become "America the Land of Torture," and hiding the tapes from the Muslim world is now moot. They know and American reputation is further damaged.

Monday, December 17, 2007

MIDDLE EAST - 'Round n 'Round It Goes, Where It Stops No-one Knows

"Peace talks back to square one" Checkpoint Jerusalem, McClatchy News 12/17/2007

One of those ever-ubiquitous "senior Israeli officials" held a briefing today for members of the international media and offered an interesting insider's view of the post-Annapolis/pre-Bush visit peace talks with the Palestinians:

"We are starting discussions now from scratch," he said.

According to this well-informed source who can't be named, Abbas and Olmert were making progress on a joint statement for Annapolis when, as always seems to happen in these kind of negotiations, things fell apart at the end.

When the two sides brought their four-person drafting team together to put on paper the agreements Olmert and Abbas reached in their informal talks, this official said, they found that they couldn't agree on what had been agreed upon.

Well that certainly helps explain why the first round of post-Annapolis talks last week got off to such an inauspicious start. And it probably means that there won't be any significant progress between now and the president's visit in early-January.

Bush is expected to arrive on Jan. 9th for a three-day working visit (his first as president) that is expected to take him to Jerusalem and Jericho.

Today, Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper put things succinctly -- and in context:

"The visit by US President George Bush is going to make the lives of many Jerusalem residents hell."

Plans to ferry the president around by helicopter have apparently been scuttled. Instead, Bush will travel by motorcade. The streets apparently have to be cleared so the whole of downtown Jerusalem could be paralyzed.

According to YA, the US has told the advance team to reserve between 800 and 1,000 rooms for the visit.

One has to wonder if "they" have heard of modern technology; like recording the Abbas/Olmert meetings, audio and video. Then again, the idea may be neither side really wants to be held to their promises. No recording = excuses not to implement anything.

POLITICS - Bill Moyers Talks With Keith Olbermann

Bill Moyers talks with MSNBC host Keith Olbermann
(in 3 parts)


Part 2

Part 3

IRAQ - What Iraq Was, History From the Inside

I have previously posted some articles by Layla Anwar from her An Arab Woman Blues blog.

I wanted to give my readers an inside view (aka non-American) of what is happening in Iraq for balance.

She has two posts that I suggest you read:

Iraq - Grandeur & Destruction. Part I

Iraq - Grandeur & Destruction. Part II

They are long, but worth the read if you are interested in VIEWS OUTSIDE Bush World, GOP Conservatism, and Cheney War Mongering.

POLITICS - Campaign 2008, Edwards Policy

"Edwards dares to talk about the middle class" by Chris-in-Paris 12/17/2007

I'm definitely listening and looking forward to hearing more. Edwards is spot on when he says that others are crazy to think we can just have a friendly chat with the special interests and find a workable solution for average Americans. When was the last time anyone saw Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, etc. negotiate with any moderation? I can't think of such a time either though I can easily think of the increasing costs to consumers along with the jumbo compensation plans across these industries. I can also think of the weakening benefits to average Americans during the same time as executive benefits have moved into the stratosphere. Discrepancies like this used to be limited to the US in 1900 or today in the developing world, but oh how times have changed.

Pumping more corporate welfare to Big Oil, as the GOP just did last week, is not helping average Americans. While it's great for Lee Raymond and Dick Cheney (who sees no problem with the ongoing high gas prices) the benefits to everyone else are nowhere to be seen. More after the jump...

Moving away from old energy sources are critical to America's future, not to mention our national security. If the US can somehow round up $1.5 trillion for war in Iraq, how is it possible that we can't locate money to promote alternative energies? Which option is better for normal Americans over the next few decades?

Much more needs to be discussed but at least Edwards is talking about the middle class. It would be nice if the other candidates could reach out and join the debate about what their plans are for the rest of us. Hillary and Obama are both in the Senate who just voted overwhelmingly to help out people caught up in the subprime fiasco. They also are in the same Senate that cowered in fear of Big Oil and did not manage to tax that free-loading bunch last week. It's great that they are focused on change for 2008, but what about now? Isn't that why they are sitting in the Senate today?

OK, since those handouts were so easy, what's in it for the middle class who received nothing other than an indirect request to fund others? That's what the Senate just did last week, regardless of how they spin it. If Hillary and Obama have any issues with either of those handouts, let's hear about it. If there are no issues, great, tell me what's in it for everyone else? Keep the gravy train rolling and give us all a big present. If neither Democrats or Republicans can show any financial responsibility, break the bank and give us more. It's not as though they're counting anyway.

It is nice to have someone talking about the Middle Class.

When following GOP actions, the Middle Class seem not to exist in their Conservative World; or at least they're not important enough to protect (aka they don't have enough money to buy into the "We-Care-Zone" of the GOP).

Now, the question is, will Edwards Policy make a difference if he becomes President? Will he enact this policy or is he just curring favor?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

ENVIRONMENT - And the Band Plays On

"Ominous Arctic melt worries experts" by Seth Borenstien, AP


An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.

"The Arctic is screaming," said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo.

Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions."

So scientists in recent days have been asking themselves these questions: Was the record melt seen all over the Arctic in 2007 a blip amid relentless and steady warming? Or has everything sped up to a new climate cycle that goes beyond the worst case scenarios presented by computer models?

"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming," said Zwally, who as a teenager hauled coal. "Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines."

What happens in the Arctic has implications for the rest of the world. Faster melting there means eventual sea level rise and more immediate changes in winter weather because of less sea ice.

More than 18 scientists told the AP that they were surprised by the level of ice melt this year.

"I don't pay much attention to one year ... but this year the change is so big, particularly in the Arctic sea ice, that you've got to stop and say, 'What is going on here?' You can't look away from what's happening here," said Waleed Abdalati, NASA's chief of cyrospheric sciences. "This is going to be a watershed year."

2007 shattered records for Arctic melt in the following ways:
  • 552 billion tons of ice melted this summer from the Greenland ice sheet, according to preliminary satellite data to be released by NASA Wednesday. That's 15 percent more than the annual average summer melt, beating 2005's record.

  • A record amount of surface ice was lost over Greenland this year, 12 percent more than the previous worst year, 2005, according to data the University of Colorado released Monday. That's nearly quadruple the amount that melted just 15 years ago. It's an amount of water that could cover Washington, D.C., a half-mile deep, researchers calculated.

  • The surface area of summer sea ice floating in the Arctic Ocean this summer was nearly 23 percent below the previous record. The dwindling sea ice already has affected wildlife, with 6,000 walruses coming ashore in northwest Alaska in October for the first time in recorded history. Another first: the Northwest Passage was open to navigation.

  • Still to be released is NASA data showing the remaining Arctic sea ice to be unusually thin, another record. That makes it more likely to melt in future summers. Combining the shrinking area covered by sea ice with the new thinness of the remaining ice, scientists calculate that the overall volume of ice is half of 2004's total.

  • Alaska's frozen permafrost is warming, not quite thawing yet. But temperature measurements 66 feet deep in the frozen soil rose nearly four-tenths of a degree from 2006 to 2007, according to measurements from the University of Alaska. While that may not sound like much, "it's very significant," said University of Alaska professor Vladimir Romanovsky.

  • Surface temperatures in the Arctic Ocean this summer were the highest in 77 years of record-keeping, with some places 8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, according to research to be released Wednesday by University of Washington's Michael Steele.

There is much more in the full article.

And the Bush Administration Band keeps playing the tune "Ain't For Real" with different lyrics. The facts just don't fit Bush World you see.

Friday, December 07, 2007

MEDIA AWARDS - And the Winner Is.....

Honoring reporters who just can't handle the truth!

Media Putz of the Week Award goes to: "Corporate Mainstream Media" 12/6/2007

For reporting that is an embarrassment to the profession of journalism, and for being beholden to corporate paymasters rather than the citizens of America.

We had to be convinced that the entire mainstream media (with some exceptions, such as the McClatchy Newspaper company) merits being named Media Putz of the Week. After all, BuzzFlash intended the "honor" to be bestowed on individuals.

However, BuzzFlash reader Carl Totton of Burbank, California, made such a compelling case, we had to agree with him.

Here is what Carl had to say:

"I love the Putz of the Week column. All of these are truly (un)deserving. I think that the caption called Honorees should more accurately be labeled (un)honorees, for these putzes surely have no sense of honor and only shame themselves to get big bucks.

"I would like to nominate the Mainstream National Media as a whole for the Media Putz of the Week. On a daily basis, the national media avoids serious inquiry, passes along White House and GOP talking points as gospel truth, and refuses to pursue through proper investigative journalism the real news and the malfeasance of the administration and their cronies.

"That is the only reason Bush and Cheney are still in office and have not been removed through investigation, impeachment, and imprisonment as the war criminals that they really are. Both would likely be on trial in The Hague by now if the national media were doing their job properly. If the national media were really doing their job, it is unlikely that the country would have let the Supreme Court install Bush and Cheney by stealing the election of 2000 in the first place. That was where the media first demonstrated that they were pawns of the corporate world and not willing to stand up for democracy and the rule of law.

"So, for all of these reasons and many more, the U.S. National News Media richly deserve the Media Putz of the Week distinction, if not of the decade. They are working on a lifetime achievement award for dissimulation and dishonesty. Shame on them, some Fourth Estate!"

In fact, the corporate mainstream media has set a frame for at least 20 years that generally mirrors the message points of the national Republican Party. Yes, media in the large urban areas may reflect so-called liberal social values, but they frame the political news in the terms that the GOP generally sets out.

That is because the mainstream media shares the Republican interest in corporate tax breaks, media deregulation, and the loosening of anti-trust enforcement, among other mutually beneficial economic interests.

Rarely does one find "the story behind the story" in the mainstream media. For example, when the NIE was released on Monday indicating that the Bush Administration had been duping us about Iran working on a nuclear bomb at this time, we could only find Seymour Hersh discussing why it had been held up for nearly a year -- and why it might have been suddenly released on Monday. If Cheney and Bush had suppressed the NIE findings for months -- which they did -- that would be quite a story wouldn't it? So where is it emphasized in the mainstream media?

Reporters in the corporate press know that they are on a short leash and not to dig too far, otherwise they might upset the White House -- and that would mean likely financial retribution against their corporate parents. It's just something that is wired into the corporate culture of the modern media.

So, BuzzFlash reader Carl Totton, we couldn't agree with you more. The December 6 BuzzFlash Media Putz of the Week Award goes to the entire corporate mainstream media, because big journalism is now just big business with a pencil and a stenographer's pad -- or make that a laptop that knows how to download White House news releases and print them out as the truth, without any effort to get the story behind the story.

IRAN - And the Lies March On

"Bush told in August that Iran nuke program 'may be suspended'" by Ed Henry, CNN 12/5/2007

President Bush was told in August that Iran's nuclear weapons program "may be suspended," the White House said Wednesday, which seemingly contradicts the account of the meeting given by Bush Tuesday.

Adm. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told Bush the new information might cause intelligence officials to change their assessment of the Iranian program, but said analysts needed to review the new data before making a final judgment, White House press secretary Dana Perino said late Wednesday.

"Director McConnell said that the new information might cause the intelligence community to change its assessment of Iran's covert nuclear program, but the intelligence community was not prepared to draw any conclusions at that point in time, and it wouldn't be right to speculate until they had time to examine and analyze the new data," Perino said in a statement issued by the White House.

The new account from Perino seems to contradict the president's version of his August conversation with McConnell and raised new questions about why Bush continued to warn the American public about a threat from Iran two months after being told a new assessment was in the works.

But Perino said there was no conflict between her statement and Bush's Tuesday account of the meeting, when he said McConnell "didn't tell me what the information was."

"The president wasn't given the specific details" of the revised intelligence estimate, which was released Monday, Perino said. Nor did Bush mislead Americans in October, when he warned of a third world war triggered by Iran's development of nuclear technology, she said.

"The president didn't say we're going to cause World War III," Perino said. "He was saying he wanted to avoid World War III."

In October, the president told reporters, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." The apparent gap between what U.S. intelligence officials knew in August and Bush's later warnings drew sharp criticism from Sen. Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democratic presidential candidate, who called Bush's explanation unbelievable.

"I refuse to believe that," Biden said Tuesday. "If that's true, he has the most incompetent staff in modern American history, and he's one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history."

But Perino said there was no need for Bush to pull back on any of his public statements after the August meeting, because McConnell stressed to the president that intelligence officials still had to do "due diligence" to make sure the new information was correct.

"The director advised that there were many streams of information that had the potential to be in conflict, and it would take more time to vet it all to determine validity, and that's why they were not able to meet the deadline," she said in the prepared statement.

Perino said her account came from a conversation that McConnell had Wednesday with another White House official. Earlier, Perino's deputy, Tony Fratto, had refused to provide reporters with further details about the August meeting between Bush and McConnell.

The Bush administration has spent years warning that Iran's development of nuclear power plants and enriched uranium masked an effort to produce an atomic bomb. But in a reversal of a 2005 report, the National Intelligence Estimate released Monday concluded that Iran suspended nuclear weapons work in late 2003 and was unlikely to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb until at least 2010.

Instead of focusing on that reversal, Bush has continued to stress that the report confirms long-standing suspicions that Iran had a nuclear weapons program in the first place. He said Wednesday that Tehran "has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions," including a weapons program "which the Iranian regime has yet to acknowledge."

But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the report was "a declaration of victory" for Iran in the face of international pressure to suspend his country's production of nuclear fuel.

"Iran is a peaceful nuclear country now, and they have all accepted Iran as a nuclear country and have announced they will stand a nuclear Iran," Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.

But Bush said Tuesday the report "doesn't do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world." And Perino called Ahmadinejad a "liar" Wednesday, because the new NIE shows that Tehran did have a clandestine nuclear weapons program at one time.

"If anyone wants to call the president a liar, they are misreading the situation for their own political purposes," Perino said. "The liar is Ahmadinejad, and he has a lot of explaining to do."

In the August meeting, the White House said, McConnell told Bush "that the intelligence community would not be able to meet a congressionally imposed deadline requiring a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran because new information had been obtained."

Perino said this information showed the White House was correct in believing that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, which it halted only because of Bush's policies.

"The international pressure -- and the president's approach -- has worked," she said.

"A Pattern of Deception" by Dan Froomkin, Washington Post

President Bush changed the way he talked about Iran in August: He stopped making explicit assertions about the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

On Monday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a new national intelligence estimate in which the nation's 16 intelligence agencies concluded that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program four years ago -- a dramatic rejection of an earlier set of findings.

Bush yesterday said he was only briefed about the new estimate last week.

But a close examination of his word choice over the past year suggests that he learned something around August that got him to stop making claims that were apparently no longer supported by American intelligence.

Instead of directly condemning Iranian leaders for pursuing nuclear weapons, he started more vaguely accusing them of seeking the knowledge necessary to make such a weapon.

Even as he did that, however, he and the vice president accelerated their rhetorical efforts to persuade the public that the nuclear threat posed by Iran was grave and urgent. Bush went so far in late August and October as to warn of the potential for a nuclear holocaust.

Indeed, a careful parsing of Bush's words indicates that, while not saying anything that could later prove to be demonstrably false, Bush left his listeners with what he likely knew was a fundamentally false impression. And he did so in the pursuit of a more muscular and possibly even military approach to a Middle Eastern country.

It's an oddly familiar pattern of deception.

In the rest of this 5 page article, Bush's Changing Words, is a chronological list of what Bush said and when.

Spin, obfuscation, and down-right lies about anything that does NOT fit The World According to Bush.

IRAQ - "Outstanding Job" DOD Management

Ah, yes. Another example of the "outstanding job" under Bush's Management Team.

"$1B In Military Equipment Missing In Iraq" by Laura Stirickler, CBS News

Tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, crates of machine guns and rocket propelled grenades are just a sampling of more than $1 billion in unaccounted for military equipment and services provided to the Iraqi security forces, according to a new report issued today by the Pentagon Inspector General and obtained exclusively by the CBS News investigative unit. Auditors for the Inspector General reviewed equipment contracts totaling $643 million but could only find an audit trail for $83 million.

The report details a massive failure in government procurement revealing little accountability for the billions of dollars spent purchasing military hardware for the Iraqi security forces. For example, according to the report, the military could not account for 12,712 out of 13,508 weapons, including pistols, assault rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and machine guns.

The report comes on the same day that Army procurement officials will face tough questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding their procurement policies. One official, Claude Bolton, assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology has already announced his resignation on the heels of sharp criticism of army contracting. Bolton’s resignation is effective Jan. 2, 2008. The Army has significantly expanded its fraud investigations in recent months.

Inspector General Report (PDF)

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Homeland Security For Sale
Says it all

Brought to you by Bush Empire Realestate Inc.
Sponsored by the GOP

MEDICARE - Case of the Fox Guarding the Henhouse

There is much turmoil about Medicare. Ordinary citizens are showing their concern over government policies in this area. We need to be reminded that the GOP have always been against Medicare and have fought against it, in various ways, since its inception.

"AFSCME Testimony to the U.S. House on Medicare Advantage and the Federal Budget"

Statement for the Record of the
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) on
Medicare Advantage and the Federal Budget before the
Budget Committee, U.S. House of Representatives
June 28, 2007

Excerpts from:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents 1.4 million employees who work for federal, state, and local governments, health care institutions and non-profit agencies, and an additional 230,000 retiree members. AFSCME and its members are proud of labor's historic role in the creation of Medicare and we remain strong defenders of the Medicare program from those who would undermine its foundations.

When President Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, he spoke of the profound promise of Medicare to our nation and its citizens:

“No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts.

And no longer will this Nation refuse the hand of justice to those who have given a lifetime of service and wisdom and labor to the progress of this progressive country.”

For today's 42 million Medicare beneficiaries and our nation, the need for Medicare to remain a sanctuary against financial ruin caused by the vicissitudes of illness and disability rings as true in 2007 as it did nearly 42 years ago.

Today, the financial security of Medicare is threatened by the drive to privatize the program. Overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans are causing a shift of beneficiaries out of the more efficient government-administered program into more costly private plans. Overpayments to these private plans may make them highly profitable, but they also have a deleterious impact on the federal budget, the Medicare program and the Medicare beneficiaries.

The following are the "bullets" in the full Statement for the Record:
  • Overpayments to Private Medicare Advantage Plans Threaten Medicare's Financial Solvency

  • Overpayments to Private Medicare Advantage Plans Are Increasing State Medicaid Costs

  • All Medicare Beneficiaries are Already Paying More

  • Medicare Disadvantage Plans

  • Congress Must Stop the Insurance Industry's Fleecing of Medicare

Of course, read the full article for details.

The GOP and conservatism to date has always been about money. Everything has a price limit, including your health and life. If it costs too much you should not get whatever. Of course the rich do not have to worry about their pocketbook limiting their healthcare nor much else. If the cost of a safety feature is too high for big business, fight against it, public safety be damn. If your drugs cost too much, don't have a government program that helps pay for it, legislate a program so the Pharmas can rape the public for profit.

The present GOP and conservative modus operandi puts the dollar before people always. They will always protect the people who already have enough money not to worry, at the expense of the middle and lower income class.

POLITICS - Lets Hear It for "Compassionate Conservatism"

Here's another fine example of what "Compassionate Conservatism" really means.

"Over 40 million in U.S. can't afford health care" by Maggie Fox, Reuters 12/3/2007

More than 40 million people in the United States say they cannot afford adequate heath care and go without drugs, eyeglasses or dental treatment, according to a federal report released on Monday.

The latest look at the state of U.S. health care also shows that while death rates from cancer and heart disease have dropped in recent years, just as many Americans are dying in car crashes.

"There has been important progress made in many areas of health such as increased life expectancy and decreases in deaths from leading killers such as heart disease and cancer," Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.

"But this report shows that access to health care is still an issue where we need improvement."

The report, available on the Internet at the CDC, has a special section on access to health care.

Health care has jumped to the forefront of the 2008 campaign for the White House with virtually every presidential candidate offering some plan to provide more Americans with health insurance.

"In 2005, more than 40 million adults did not receive 'needed services' because they could not afford them," the report said.

"Nearly 15 million adults did not obtain eyeglasses, 25 million did not get dental care, 19 million did not get needed prescribed medicine, and 15 million did not get needed medical care due to cost."

The report found about one third of all children living below the poverty level had not visited a dentist in 2005, compared with fewer than one-fifth of children from wealthier families.

"The United States spends more on health per capita than any other country, and health spending continues to increase," the report said.

"In 2005, national health care expenditures in the United States totaled $2 trillion, a 7 percent increase from 2004. Hospital spending, which accounts for 31 percent of national health expenditures, increased by 8 percent in 2005."

Private insurance plans paid for 36 percent of total personal health care expenditures in 2005, while the federal government paid 34 percent, state and local governments paid 11 percent, and patients paid for 15 percent out of pocket.

Prescription drugs accounted for 10 percent of national health expenditure in 2005.

There was some good news: life expectancy was up to 77.8 years for a baby born in 2004 -- three years more than in 1990. "Mortality from heart disease, stroke, and cancer has continued to decline in recent years," the report said.

But the death rate for motor vehicle-related injuries has remained stable since the early 1990s, with 15 deaths per 100,000 people per year, down from 18.5 per 100,000 in 1990.

Of course the GOP Conservatives will spin this as, "Look at the increase in our national health care expenditures! Look at our outstanding record on prescription coverage!"

We are supposed to overlook that the true beneficiaries of this are big private health insurance and drug companies. They want us to forget the "little people," the average American, and consider only on the well-to-do people which do not have to worry about health care issues.

Yap, "Compassionate Conservatism" at its best.

They really feel for you... NOT!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

ENVIRONMENT - More Evidence on Effects of Global Warming

"Sinking Islanders Seek Help at Bali" by Charles J. Hanley, AP


KILU, Papua New Guinea - Squealing pigs lit out for the bush and Filomena Taroa herded the grandkids to higher ground last week when the sea rolled in deeper than anyone had ever seen.

What was happening? "I don't know," the sturdy, barefoot grandmother told a visitor. "I'd never experienced it before."

As scientists warn of rising seas from global warming, more and more reports are coming in from villages like this one on Papua New Guinea's New Britain island of flooding from unprecedented high tides. It's happening not only to low-lying atolls, but to shorelines from Alaska to India.

This week, by boat, bus and jetliner, a handful of villagers are converging on Bali, Indonesia, to seek help from the more than 180 nations gathered at the U.N. climate conference. The coastal dwellers' plight -- once theoretical -- appears all too real in 2007, and is spreading and worsening.

Scientists project that seas expanding from warmth and from the runoff of melting land ice may displace millions of coastal inhabitants worldwide in this century if heat-trapping industrial emissions are not sharply curtailed.

Summarizing the islanders' plight, Ursula Rakova said: "We don't have vehicles, an airport. We're merely victims of what is happening with the industrialized nations emitting 'greenhouse gases.'"

The sands of Rakova's islands, the Carteret atoll northeast of Bougainville island, have been giving way to the sea for 20 years. The saltwater has ruined their taro gardens, a food staple, and has contaminated their wells and flooded homesteads. The remote islands now suffer from chronic hunger.

Of course there are still the nay-sayers, especially the money-worshiping GOP Conservatives, that will say that this has nothing to do with global warming. Or as they put it, "there is no evidence."

These Ostrich-people believe that 6,635,384,828 (and counting) World Population, don't have a meaningful impact on the environment.

They especially ignore the industrialized nations, which are the biggest consumers of resources and producers of pollution.

Friday, November 30, 2007

RELIGION - The Anti-Science Movement

Here is another example of religious zealots trying to impose their beliefs on the general public.

They DO HAVE the Constitutional protected right to believe as they do, but they do NOT have the right to impose their personal beliefs on others.

In this instance, it is UC Berkeley that set their admission standards. Including what is, or is not, science.

It is not Christian Schools International nor the Calvary Chapel Christian School that set UC Berkeley's standards.

"In the matter of Scripture v. scholarship" by By Cathy Cockrell, UC Berkeley News

The public debate over the relationship between religion and science in the classroom figures prominently in a lawsuit against the University of California filed recently on behalf of applicants for admission from Christian high schools. Filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Aug. 25, the complaint claims that UC violated the First Amendment rights (specifically those guaranteeing freedom of speech and religion) of some Christian schools and that it practiced "viewpoint discrimination" against their students by finding that some of the schools' courses do not meet UC requirements for college preparation.

The plaintiffs are the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, Calif., and six Calvary Chapel students (or their parents on their behalf). The defendants named in the lawsuit are Robert Dynes, as UC president and member of the Board of Regents; Roman Stearns, a special assistant to Dynes; Susan Wilber, system-wide director of undergraduate admissions; Dennis Galligani, associate vice president for student academic services; Michael Brown, chair of the system-wide Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS); and the UC Office of the President (UCOP).

At issue in the lawsuit are academic standards for admission to the university, specifically UC's process for assessing high-school courses to verify that they meet the system's college-preparatory course requirements (known as the a-g requirements). For a new or substantially revised course to be approved for the a-g list, a high school must submit a request, listing the course curriculum, textbook information, and supplemental materials, to UC for approval. Staff at UCOP review such applications to make sure that courses meet UC academic standards established by BOARS.

According to Ravi Poorsina, admissions media coordinator for UC's University Affairs division, more than four out of five course applications are approved; UCOP staff "can serve in a consultative role with the school if it wants to resubmit" courses that are initially rejected. The course-review process applies to all California high schools, be they public, private, or charter institutions. The University accepts courses from hundreds of schools affiliated with many religious faiths, and UC-bound students, after fulfilling UC admissions requirements, are free to take whatever additional courses they wish, including any religion courses their schools offer.

In a fact sheet on the lawsuit, UCOP reports that it has approved 43 Calvary Chapel courses, covering all disciplines including science, as a-g college-preparatory courses. However, the school's applications for a handful of courses in science, literature, and American government were not approved, for a variety of reasons.

Some of the rejected courses used textbooks published by two leading Christian-textbook publishers, Bob Jones University Press (BJU Press) and A Beka Books, as primary instructional materials. Although UC has approved courses that use other textbooks from these publishers, its review team concluded that the books in question did not meet UC guidelines for primary textbooks. For example, a course titled "Christianity and Morality in American Literature" was rejected because it used an anthology as its only textbook — whereas UC requires that students read assigned works in their entirety; anthologies may not be the only required texts in literature courses.

UC also disallows science courses that rely solely on BJU and A Beka Books textbooks. At issue, the fact sheet says, "is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide a comprehensive view of the relevant subject matter...." In the BJU Press and A Beka Books science textbooks, it goes on, "the publishers themselves acknowledge that the primary goal is to teach religious doctrine rather than the scholarship that is generally accepted in the relevant fields of study."

The introduction to Biology for Christian Schools (2nd Edition, BJU Press) clearly states, for instance, that students' conclusions must conform to the Bible and that scientific material and methods are secondary: "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second. To the best of the author's knowledge, the conclusions drawn from observable facts that are presented in this book agree with the Scriptures. If a mistake has been made (which is probable since this book was prepared by humans) and at any point God's Word is not put first, the author apologizes."

IRAQ - And the War Marches On

"Iraq Lacks Plan on the Return of Refugees, Military Says" by Michael R. Gordon & Stephen Farrell, New York Times


As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a plan to absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.

The Iraqi government lacks a mechanism to settle property disputes if former residents return to Baghdad only to find their homes occupied, the officials said. Nor has the Iraqi government come forward with a detailed plan to provide aid, shelter and other essential services to the thousands of Iraqis who might return. American commanders caution that if the return is not carefully managed, there is a risk of undermining the recent security gains.

“All these guys coming back are probably going to find somebody else living in their house,” said Col. William Rapp, a senior aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, speaking at a two-day military briefing on measuring military trends for a small group of American reporters in Baghdad.

“We have been asking, pleading with the government of Iraq, to come up with a policy so that it is not put upon our battalion commanders and the I.S.F. battalion commanders to figure it out on the ground,” he added, referring to the American and Iraqi security force commanders.

And our troops will spend another Christmas in-harm's-way, and dieing.

American's MAY be looking at a Korean-like commitment in Iraq. Do we really want this? Is America being in Iraq helping the "War on Terror" or helping Al-Qaeda?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

ON THE LITE SIDE - What's Funny Today

Fred 98

Joke of the Week

During a dinner party, the hosts’ two little children entered the dinning room totally nude and walked slowly around the table. The parents were so embarrassed that they pretended nothing was happening and kept he conversation going. The guests cooperated and also continued as if nothing extraordinary was happening.

After going all the way around the room, the children left, and there was a moment of silence at the table, during which one child was heard to say, “You see, it is vanishing cream!”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

POLITICS - More on the GOP Sinking Ship

"GOP Comeback Climb Is Increasingly Steep" by Chris Cillizza, Washington Post


Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott's resignation announcement on Monday was the latest in a wave of retirements to hit congressional Republicans, making an already difficult 2008 electoral landscape even more complicated for the minority party.

Party officials insist that the retirements -- 17 members of the House and six senators -- are simply the result of individual decisions and not indicative of a broader negative sentiment within the party. "I don't hear a drumbeat that 'We're not effective and I don't like it here anymore,' " said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.).

But with so many lawmakers -- including a large number from competitive states and districts -- heading for the exits, it's hard not to point to the GOP's new found minority status in Washington, the turnover in party leadership and the perilous political environment heading into 2008 to explain the exodus.

Hay! No kidding.

Happy days a' coming...

MILITARY - More on the "Cost" of the Iraq War

It is well documented in many ways how the Iraq War has put a strain on our military. Especially the Army and Marines. But there is also a long range danger that could "cost" American its security.

"Stepped-up Army recruiting enlists many with problems" by Bryan Bender, Boston Globe


Two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced the "good news" that the Army had met its recruiting goal for October, the first month in a five-year plan to add 65,000 new soldiers to the ranks by 2012.

But Pentagon statistics show the Army met that goal by accepting a higher percentage of enlistees with criminal records, drug or alcohol problems, or health conditions that would have ordinarily disqualified them from service.

In each fiscal year since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, statistics show, the Army has accepted a growing percentage of recruits who do not meet its own minimum fitness standards. The October statistics show that at least 1 of every 5 recruits required a waiver to join the service, leading military analysts to conclude that the Army is lowering standards more than it has in decades.

"The across-the-board lowering of the standards is buying problems in the future," said John D. Hutson, a retired rear admiral, dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, and a former judge advocate general of the Navy. "You are going to have more people getting in trouble, more people washing out" of the service before finishing their tour of duty.

The Army Recruiting Command, based in Fort Knox, Ky., insists that it carefully reviews each applicant. "We look at the recent history, such as employment, schooling, references, and signs of remorse and changed behavior since the incident occurred" on how recruits with criminal records are regarded, the command said in a statement to the Globe.

Bold emphasis mine

Do we really want to trust the future security of America to less than top-tear troops?

Do we really believe that the Army Recruiting Command can resist cutting investigations/evaluations short to make their recruiting goals? If the misbehavior of individual Recruiters (all military services) can be used as a guideline, the answer is no.

Especially worrisome, do we want to put high-power weapons in the hands of those with a criminal past? Even if they SEEM to have changed their stripes.

Then again, considering how well street gangs are armed, the point may be moot.

Monday, November 26, 2007

POLITICS - American Foreign Policy, Will We Ever Learn

"PAKISTAN: Media Under Siege" by Beena Sarwar, IPS (Inter Press Service)


From being the liberal President under whom Pakistan’s independent electronic media was born and flourished, Pervez Musharraf is now seen as the military general who imposed emergency rule on Nov 3 and suspended the Constitution and the independent judiciary.

Musharraf also blocked all independent television channels on the cable network. There were police raids on media organizations, printing presses and bureau offices and detentions of journalists.

For many, Musharraf’s ham-handed dealing with the media over the past year, and particularly the last couple of weeks, evokes bitter memories of the late Gen. Ziaul Haq’s martial law with its strict media censorship and ‘press advice’. Newspapers in protest published blank spaces where material had been censored. Dissenting journalists were arrested and some were even flogged.

Musharraf has been comparatively benign.But this is a very different era, where independent news and views and a continuous flow of information had become the norm. In Zia’s time, there were only a handful of independent newspapers, hardly a threat, given the abysmally low 30 per cent literacy rate. Musharraf has had to contend with the independent electronic media with a huge outreach. Until now, his claim that he gave the media more freedom than ever before was true to an extent, say journalists, but it is a freedom they have fought for, and it has come with a price.

"An explosion in the number of independent TV channels boosted pluralism and the quality of news," noted the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders in its annual report of 2007. Simultaneously, since Pakistan’s involvement as a frontline state against the ‘war on terror, "the security forces radicalized their methods of repression: a score of journalists were kidnapped and tortured by the military." Almost two dozen have been killed in different incidents since.

On Nov 3, PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) officials invaded the independent FM radio station Mast 103.6’s Karachi office with a heavy police contingent. They forced it to close transmission and confiscated its broadcast equipment, citing the station’s broadcast of its hourly news bulletins and current affairs programmes from BBC as the reason. In 2004 too, PEMRA had sealed the popular radio network’s Lahore and Karachi stations.

"Unless freedom of expression is ensured, there can be no democracy," said Shamimur Rehman, a senior reporter for daily ‘Dawn’ and president of the Karachi Union of Journalists sitting at the Karachi Press Club hunger-strike camp on Nov 11 under the watchful eye of armed police and rangers who have virtually laid siege to the club since Nov 3. Rehman was among the first journalists to be arrested on Nov 20.

What do I mean by my title? America has a long history of supporting foreign governments that are NOT REALLY DEMOCRATIC, and even are dictatorships. Prime example, our support of the Shah of Iran. Our support for the Shah lead directly to the Iran we have today.

Then, further back, there was Cuba. Will the American government ever learn that supporting any government for purely our own political reasons (anti-USSR in the past or "war on terror" today) that is not fully supported by the people of the country, in the long run, is a very bad idea.

For American Foreign Policy to work, our government needs people in charge who can take the long view and see the big picture. If nothing else, we need to act on our ideals of supporting truly democratic government and NOT to compromise this for expediency.

SCIENCE - NASA, Mars Doubles in Brightness

Article Link

During the past month, Mars has doubled in brightness and it is putting on a nice show for backyard stargazers.

"Mars is starting to look really nice through my 10-inch telescope," reports amateur astronomer Friedrich Deters of LaGrange, North Carolina, who took the picture above on Nov. 17th.

The blue polar swirl in these pictures is the "North Polar Hood"—a giant icy cloud that forms over the Martian north pole during winter. Why blue? That's the color of sunlight scattered from very tiny crystals of ice (smaller than the wavelength of light itself) floating in the cloud. The blue hood vs. Mars' red terrain appear in pleasing contrast through any mid-sized backyard telescope.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

IRAQ - The "Marlboro Marine"

The story behind the picture, "Two lives blurred together by a photo" by Luis Sinco, LA Times Staff Photographer

POLITICS - The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms

"SCOTUS to Hear Major Second Amendment Case" by Adam B, Daily Kos

The above article deals with the thorny issue of the Second Amendment and....

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The "pro-gun" side says it protects the people's right to "keep and bear Arms."

The opposing side says it only protects "A well regulated Militia" having Arms.

I read the wording and see it as the people's right, and I do not consider myself pro-gun. I cannot phantom how anyone could interpret the phrase any other way, like it or not.

But (there is always a but) you can read up on Militias in general and there is a small but valid reason for taking the stance that Militias are the ones who are protected.

Although Wikipedia is NOT the best authority on this issue, here are excerpts from their "Militia (United States)" page:

A major factor that made universal militia service during this period impossible was the drastic lack of guns. The vast majority of New England men in the late Eighteenth Century did not own a working firearm. A study of probate records from that time found only 7% of white males owned a working gun. The predominate source of meat for food was either by hunting by trapping, not guns, or the slaughter of domesticated pigs and cows. Additionally there was a serious problem mobilizing the militia prior to the Revolutionary war because so few men had any experience shooting a rifle, and so few blacksmith had any experience repairing guns. The predominate source of guns was Europe, a source cut off by the British embargo.

Just prior to the American Revolutionary War, October 26th, 1774, after observing the British military buildup, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress found their militia resources to be short, "...including the sick and absent, amounted to about seventeen thousand men...this was far short of the number wanted, that the council recommended an immediate application to the New England governments to make up the deficiency...", resolving to better organize the militia.

"...they recommended to the militia to form themselves into companies of minute-men, who should be equipped and prepared to march at the shortest notice. These minute-men were to consist of one quarter of the whole militia, to be enlisted under the direction of the field-officers, and divide into companies, consisting of at least fifty men each. The privates were to choose their captains and subalterns, and these officers were to form the companies into battalions, and chose the field-officers to command the same. Hence the minute-men became a body distinct from the rest of the militia, and, by being more devoted to military exercises, they acquired skill in the use of arms. More attention than formerly was likewise bestowed on the training and drilling of militia."

In 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation to provide for States militia. Militia were only allowed be activated upon ratification of 9 of the 13 States, severely restricting federal power. Article VI of the Articles of Confederation state:

"...every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of filed pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage."

Some militia units appeared without adequate arms, as evidenced in this letter from John Adams to his wife, dated August 26th, 1777:

"The militia are turning out with great alacrity both in Maryland and Pennsylvania. They are distressed for want of arms. Many have none, we shall rake and scrape enough to do Howe's business, by favor of the Heaven."

What we have historically is an argument that the state militias armed the troops, the could not arm themselves for the most part.

I agree the states had to train and drill their Militias, but does that really mean that the people did not have the right to "keep and bear Arms?" I think not, especially when the militias of the time consisted of all able-bodied men 16 to 60.

I expect the the Supreme Court will decide this case narrowly, applying to Washington DC only.

POLITICS - ... and On the Sinking Ship.....

"“Safer, But Not Yet Safe:” Symptoms Of A Larger Problem" by Windspike, Bring It On! 11/20/2007

Get a load of this statement from today’s press washing from the Sexy Dana Perino:
  • MS. PERINO: They’ve had conversation s over the past several months. Obviously none of us would have wanted Fran to leave service. I think all of us felt safe because of her work. Of course she always says we are safer, but not yet safe. She dedicated 110 percent of her time and effort to making sure that American citizens could live free from terror. She is an excellent manager. I will say she is also a very good colleague, very supportive, very helpful.

  • And so over the past several months as she’s struggled with this decision about whether to continue her over two decades of public service or to pursue some private sector options, she and the President would talk about it. He appreciates her service greatly. And in the statement he praises her for her wise counsel. And those of us who have had the pleasure of working with her can certainly repeat that it is wise and it is always helpful. She’s very thoughtful. And we’re going to miss her a lot, and we wish her luck.

Safer, but no yet safe? Sounds to me like the mantra of the whole of the W, Rove and Co - a means of manipulating the public… Dishing fear to make excuses for never accomplishing anything of value. “She’s very thoughtful?” WTF?

Really, the Press should have been asking, what the hell did Fran do that benefited the American people besides draw a public pay check… which isn’t really a benefit for any one but her, now is it? What exactly did she accomplish on the public dole?

Let’s see what our Cheerleader President has to say about Fran:

  • Over the past four and a half years, Fran Townsend has served my Administration with distinction as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Fran has always provided wise counsel on how to best protect the American people from the threat of terrorism. She has been a steady leader in the effort to prevent and disrupt attacks and to better respond to natural disasters.

  • Fran’s remarkable career as a public servant has spanned more than two decades. She has prosecuted violent crimes, narcotics offenses, mafia cases and white collar fraud as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. During her career, Fran worked to protect the American people as the Counsel to the Attorney General for Intelligence Policy, the Assistant Commandant for Intelligence at the U.S. Coast Guard and as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council.

  • With her extensive experience, intellect and candor, Fran has ably guided the Homeland Security Council. She has played an integral role in the formation of the key strategies and policies my Administration has used to combat terror and protect Americans. She has traveled the world to meet with allies in the Global War on Terror and has partnered extensively with first responders at the state and local level to enhance our preparedness. We are safer today because of her leadership.

  • Laura and I wish Fran, her husband John, and their two sons, James and Patrick, all the best.

Right, and if we are still living in the fear that the W, Rove and Co elicit every time they need a vote, what good did she do? If you ask me, this is an oft repeated story of another rat jumping the sinking W, Rove and Co ship. And, you might ask…what did Bush accomplish today?

Well, of course, he’s busy flogging the Thanksgiving holiday and holding up the Armed Services folk as a political chess piece to try and salvage any support he might have had for the Iraqi Freedom Spreading experiment he loves so dearly (and has cost us so dearly):

  • Today, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces are taking risks for our freedom. They’re fighting on the front lines of the war on terror, the war against extremists and radicals who would do us more harm. Many of them will spend Thanksgiving far from the comforts of home. And so we thank them for their service and sacrifice. We keep their families and loved ones in our prayers. We pray for the families who lost a loved one in this fight against the extremists and radicals, and we vow that their sacrifice will not be in vain. (Applause.)

Right, who’s “we” white man? And, when do we get to give thanks that not another one of our valued soldiers die in vain for W’s “noble” mission that has led so many to the slaughter?

Comments about Fran's performance and service are typical bureaucratic pablum, intended for GOP Dimwits.

ON THE LITE SIDE - On Deer Hunting

Friday, November 16, 2007

POLITICS - More on Our Lier 'n Chief

"Bush talks nonsense" Courier-Journal Opinion

Let's get this straight: President Bush, speaking Tuesday in New Albany, Ind., denounced "free-spending" Democrats in Congress who are going to push the nation toward tax increases?

Would this be the same president who in six years, from 2001 through 2006, signed more than 50 spending bills passed by the "free-spending" Republican majority in Congress that exceeded his budget requests and did not veto a single one?

Would this be the same president who led the United States into a pointless war in Iraq -- without the war tax that American presidents traditionally have demanded in order to pay for military conflicts -- that is rapidly (at the rate of about $200 million a day) approaching a price tag of $500 billion and is likely to reach $1 trillion?

And, is this the same president whose ill-advised tax cuts, skewed heavily to the wealthiest Americans, helped turn a promising federal surplus into an alarmingly high deficit?

The political calculations are obvious. Mr. Bush, whose speech coincided with his veto of a $606 billion bill to fund federal education, health and labor programs, wants voters to focus on the GOP characterization of Democrats as a "tax and spend" party, rather than on Republicans' better established "spend and borrow" record.

But there is a deeper issue: the frustration of many in the White House and in his party over the consistently sour mood of the American public about what the Republican national leadership views as a thriving economy.

The answer, as bipartisan studies by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts suggest, is that even in an economy growing in technical terms, only about a third of Americans now are upwardly mobile -- positioned to improve their overall economic standing relative to their parents'. The others are stuck where they are or even falling backward.

A consequence is a growing divide between an administration that frets about capital gains and the estate tax and a public that feels the burdens of job dislocations, spiraling health and tuition costs and oil prices nearing $100 a barrel.

Michael Gerson, author of Heroic Conservatism, wrote yesterday in The Washington Post about the Pew studies that "conservatism accepts inequality as an economic fact of life -- but it cannot accept the existence of a class-ridden society where inequality is hereditary and permanent."

But some contemporary conservatives do accept such inequality. The audience in New Albany heard from one.

What do you expect from today's GOP Conservatives? They just don't care about the lower and middle class Americans. They only care for their paymasters.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

POLITICS - On Waterboarding

Special Comment on Waterboarding
Keith Olbermann

POLITICS - The Caring Pharma Industry

Yap, here's another article pointing to just how $big-pharma$ really, really cares about the American consumer.

"Lobbying stalls generic drug legislation" by Frederic J. Frommer, AP


Legislation aimed at speeding the availability of cheaper generic drugs has stalled in Congress in the face of major lobbying by the drug industry.

The Senate bill would ban most settlements known as "reverse payments," in which a brand-name company pays a generic manufacturer to delay the introduction of the generic drug. The Federal Trade Commission, which has called on Congress to take action, says such settlements could cost American consumers billions of dollars.

An Associated Press review of lobbying reports, from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, found that $38.8 million was spent by at least a dozen generic and brand-name companies and their trade associations on issues including the Senate legislation. The lobbying reports do not specify how much of that money was directed at the reverse payment bill, and they are not required by law to do so.

More than half of those expenses were piled up by the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, which represents brand-name drug companies. PhRMA spent $19.5 million in the 12-month period ending June 30 on in-house lobbying expenses, an increase of about $3 million over the previous 12-month period.

"Lobbyists have a lot of influence in Washington," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Herb Kohl, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights. "If we can just get this to a vote, it will be pretty hard for people to vote against it. A vote against this is a vote against consumers."

Kohl, D-Wis., also chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, where he has pushed for generic drugs as a way for seniors to save money on their medications. Generic drugs are 30 to 80 percent cheaper than brand-name drugs, according to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

Kohl has offered the reverse payment legislation for the past two sessions of Congress. This year, House supporters introduced a similar bill, which remains in committee. Neither bill has come up for a vote, although the Senate bill did make it through the Judiciary Committee a few months ago.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has expressed concerns about Kohl's bill. Hatch issued a statement saying he voted to move the bill through committee this year "with the reservation that we find a balanced solution, one that bars anticompetitive settlements without jeopardizing the very kind of settlements that are critical to consumers and taxpayers."

Read "without jeopardizing the very kind of settlements that are critical to consumers and taxpayers." as "I want to protect the profits of big-pharma over the consumer because they are one of my paymasters."

The FTC has called on Congress to pass legislation to crack down on the reverse payment settlements, although it hasn't endorsed any specific bill.

"Such settlements restrict competition at the expense of consumers, whose access to lower-priced generic drugs is delayed, sometimes for many years," FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras said in testimony before a House task force in September.

Hummm... wonder whose side the Bush Administration is on, really? Then there's the lawyers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

REMINDER - Veteran's Day 11/12/2007

"Edwin Starr Was Wrong: War "Good" For Many" by Steve Young, Huffington Post

Singer Edwin Starr once asked and answered, "War, huh, good God, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!"

Besides Veteran's Day sales and kids getting the day off, my guess is that Mr. Starrand "War" lyricists, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong never expected the second Bush administration.

This week, as we mark Veteran's Day 2007, this White House continues its six year, hell-bent effort to make Starr's admonition, a disheartening whopper.

There have been the heady war dividends that have fallen to Haliburton, Blackwater, and right wing talk show hosts who use the war to split America and fill their personal war chests.

Politically speaking we need go no further than Karl Rove's caveat to GOP governors that the war would be a winner for the Republicans.

But it is the war veteran groups who have benefited the most and with the WWII members dying out, the surge of eligibles for dues-paying membership couldn't come a better time. And they don't have to look any further than the streets to find the new members.

According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, a new report shows the percentage of homeless veterans, numbered at 495,400, is more than twice that of the general adult population.

After using our young men and women as wedge issues and cannon fodder that this administration and their apologists prop up as treasures to hide behind only to be tossed away like second, third and fourth thoughts when they lose their political value.

Building their huge contracts on the backs of their "support" for the military, how much time do you think non-veterans O'Reilly, Limbaugh, and Beck will use their programs this week to admonish the White House for their utter disregard for the soldier they deploy - for three and four tours - in harm's way, let alone the veteran who's long since been forgotten?

Will they spend as much time berating the difficulty returning reservists have (according to Pentagon survey) in getting their old jobs back and (according to a Harvard Medical School study) the sin that nearly 2 million vets who lack health insurance as they do condemning Cindy Sheehan for attempting to end the war that killed her only child?

Oh, they'll feign tribute and patriotism and lay blame for the past six years at the doorstep of hate-America Americans. They'll slam Sheehan or Rosie O'Donnell or war veterans like Jimmy Carter and John Kerry, distracting their fans from seeing the true victims of the war: Our veterans. Whether they come home in boxes or have to live in them on the streets, once the veteran has been exploited for political purpose, the war-mongers will ignore the life-long harm they have wrought on these heroes they boisterously hurrayed into an unnecessary war.

Whether it be the debacle of an ignored Walter Reed, the attempted cuts in the Veteran's Administration budget, or slighting the veteran's homeless plight, the Lords of Loud blowhards will always take the side of the Bush-made war 'cept for a rare and anemic "mistakes are always madein war." Far more excuse than a condemnation.

The rabid Lords of Loud are famous for slamming the homeless for their unwillingness to pull themselves up by their boot strings, no matter their boots be the only remnants of their glorious service.

Actually, it's really quite brilliant. A kind of Bring the Boys Home-less Program. Follow us here? Any terrorist who takes a look at the bleak outlook for our vets once they get home will think twice about wanting to follow them here.

Starr, Whitfield and Strong's lyrical contribution was meant to send a passionate message in defense of the true victims of wars: the soldier fighting them. The contribution of this White House, and the unholy alliance of those who concede to this war's countless "one more chances," is an appalling legacy of an unrelenting influx of new veterans to be victimized. And if there's anything that dishonors the veteran, it is their victimization.

If we truly want to honor today's veteran, we do it by bringing them home and providing decent post-service care after they get there.

Leaving them homeless? Unforgivable.

The veterans' reward for their sacrifice? Absolutely nothing.

And in that, Starr, Whitfield, and Strong were right.

War! It ain't nothing but a heartbreaker
War! It's got one friend, that's the undertaker
War has shattered many a young mans dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much to precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can't give life, it can only take it away

War! Huh Good God y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again.

And for the sake of the veteran, never stop saying it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

IRAQ - Good Questions, From the Inside

"Is it really an independent country?" by Laith, McClatchy Blog

This question came to my mind when one of my friends wanted to go home to Falluja city west of Baghdad. He lives there but he works in Baghdad. He received a call from his brother telling him to come today to Falluja. My friend took his stuff and went quickly to the bus station. About half an hour later, he came back because he forgot the most important thing among his stuff, he forgot to take his Falluja ID.

He wouldn’t be allowed to go home without having this ID even if he is as famous as Tom Cruise. For those who like to know what is the Falluja ID, I would say its an ID issued by the US army only and specifically for the residents of Falluja city. I don’t want to know why the US army decided to issue these IDs but I only want to the answers of the following questions.

Is it something legal that the US army issue IDs for Iraqi people? Its very normal and legal to issue work IDs fro the Iraqis who work for example with the US army but its not acceptable at all to issue IDs for the residents of any Iraq by the US army or even the US government because this is Iraq, its not California. What makes me really sad that the Iraqi politicians keep repeating “Iraqi is a united independent country”. Is that true? Then why do the people of Falluja have two IDs, the Iraqi ID and the American issued ID?

So, what is the answer to her question. My personal answer is no, Iraq is not an independent country in Bush World. Emperor Bush wants Iraq to be a satellite-state of his empire so his pay-masters can rape Iraqis for their oil.

"Time" by Laith, McClatchy Blog

My trip to the U.S was like a whirl wind! It was short and to the point and I came home with a better understanding of what areas need to be covered for the regular American to better understand the situation in Iraq.

I was greatly surprised that most people didn't have an inkling of what Iraq is - was. I would have thought that as the U.S was at war in Iraq, the regular American would have some idea of what Iraq had, and thus would be better equipped to assess the loss that resulted from this war - but I found that not very many people - amongst those that I met, at least, had any clear Idea of the Iraqi society, and what the war has cost the country, in terms of how it affected our education system, our healthcare, services and infra structure. And although they were aware of the statistics of the casualties lost as a result of the collapse in the security system, the figures were so high as to become surreal - they acknowledged them in their minds but couldn't actually feel them in their hearts.

Each and every person I met was compassionate and supportive - so much so that I am at a loss - if people felt like that, why isn't there an outcry so loud that policy makers have no choice but to stop and listen?? Stop to reconsider and ask themselves the questions that need to be asked at this late stage: "What can we do to amend the mess we created?

"We cannot go back in time to save the hundreds of thousands who died senselessly - but how to save the rest?

"What can we do not only to stop but to mend the decomposition that has occurred in this stable society as a result of a war we chose to wage?

"How can we secure the borders after we decommissioned the former Iraqi Army? After all what's the use of going after al-Qaeda pockets inside the country - when the borders are open to them? Not only to them, but to any who wish to walk in and implement whatever agenda they have?"

And numerous, numerous questions that need to be asked - and answered.

Isn't it time?

Or must we lose more sons, more brothers, husbands and fathers and win nothing but heartbreak and a destroyed country?

What she does not understand is that Emperor Bush and his enablers (GPO Conservatives) DO NOT CARE about what anyone else says or believes.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

POLITICS - U.S. Economy in Bush World

"US debt tops $9 trillion for first time-Treasury" by Nancy Waitz, editing by Gary Crosse, Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday publicly held U.S. debt breached $9 trillion this week for the first time ever, just five weeks after Congress had raised the statutory borrowing limit.

At the end of September, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a measure to increase the debt limit ceiling to $9.815 trillion from $8.965 trillion, allowing the government to keep issuing debt.

The increase in the debt limit is the fifth since Bush took office in January 2001. The U.S. debt stood at about $5.6 trillion at the start of his presidency.

In approving the debt limit increase, Congressional lawmakers said the $850 billion increase should be large enough to allow the government to continue borrowing into 2009, well beyond next year's presidential and congressional elections.

The Bush administration estimated the U.S. federal budget deficit for fiscal 2007 would total $163 billion. The deficit for the year ended Sept. 30 narrowed by 34.3 percent from the $248 billion gap in fiscal 2006.

Yap, and lets flush even more money down the blackhole of the Iraq War.

POLITICS - Another Example of the Bush Administration "Supporting Our Troops"

"Study: 1 out of 4 homeless are veterans" by Kimberly Hefling, AP


Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

In Emperor Bush's administration "supporting our troops" = "supporting my Iraq war" (aka blackhole or money-pit) but not a dime to support our troops at home.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

POLITICS - Attention GOP, Example of the "Free Enterprise" You Worship

The GOP worships "free enterprise" aka no or little government regulation. The following article could be taken as an example.

"Chinese Chemicals Flow Unchecked to World Drug Market" by Walt Bogdanich, Jake Hooker & Andrew W. Lehren, New York Times


MILAN — In January, Honor International Pharmtech was accused of shipping counterfeit drugs into the United States. Even so, the Chinese chemical company — whose motto is “Thinking Much of Honor” — was openly marketing its products in October to thousands of buyers here at the world’s biggest trade show for pharmaceutical ingredients.

Other Chinese chemical companies made the journey to the annual show as well, including one manufacturer recently accused by American authorities of supplying steroids to illegal underground labs and another whose representative was arrested at the 2006 trade show for patent violations. Also attending were two exporters owned by China’s government that had sold poison mislabeled as a drug ingredient, which killed nearly 200 people and injured countless others in Haiti and in Panama.

Yet another chemical company, Orient Pacific International, reserved an exhibition booth in Milan, but its owner, Kevin Xu, could not attend. He was in a Houston jail on charges of selling counterfeit medicine for schizophrenia, prostate cancer, blood clots and Alzheimer’s disease, among other maladies.

While these companies hardly represent all of the nearly 500 Chinese exhibitors, more than from any other country, they do point to a deeper problem: Pharmaceutical ingredients exported from China are often made by chemical companies that are neither certified nor inspected by Chinese drug regulators, The New York Times has found.

Because the chemical companies are not required to meet even minimal drug-manufacturing standards, there is little to stop them from exporting unapproved, adulterated or counterfeit ingredients. The substandard formulations made from those ingredients often end up in pharmacies in developing countries and for sale on the Internet, where more Americans are turning for cheap medicine.

In Milan, The Times identified at least 82 Chinese chemical companies that said they made and exported pharmaceutical ingredients — yet not one was certified by the State Food and Drug Administration in China, records show. Nonetheless, the companies were negotiating deals at the pharmaceutical show, where suppliers wooed customers with live music, wine and vibrating chairs.

One of them was the Wuxi Hexia Chemical Company. When The Times showed Yan Jiangying, a top Chinese drug regulator, a list of 186 products being advertised by the company, including active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished drugs, Ms. Yan said, “This is definitely against the law.”

Yet in China, chemical manufacturers that sell drug ingredients fall into a regulatory hole. Pharmaceutical companies are regulated by the food and drug agency. Chemical companies that make products as varied as fertilizer and industrial solvents are overseen by other agencies. The problem arises when chemical companies cross over into drug ingredients. “We have never investigated a chemical company,” said Ms. Yan, deputy director of policy and regulation at the State Food and Drug Administration. “We don’t have jurisdiction.”

Well, according to the GOP belief system any government regulation of these fine outstanding companies interferes with "free enterprise." The companies and the market should be allowed go regulate themselves.

OPPS, I forget, these are Chinese companies. Government non-interference only applies to "fine outstanding" American companies who ALWAYS operate in the public good.... like tobacco.