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.