Friday, May 30, 2008

POLITICS - McClellan, You Be the Judge

POLITICS - The Truth About the GOP Label

"Poll: Is Our Message More Effective Without GOP Label?" by Josh Kahn, Next Right

A new poll by widely respected Public Opinion Strategies (POS) pollster Glen Bolger has some very interesting data on an important question: What do voters think of the Republic message when it isn’t attached to the GOP label? His data is a perfect way to test whether voters…

A. Like what we have to say but simply don’t trust us after Bush, Iraq, Katrina, overspending, the bridge to nowhere, endless scandals (need I go on?).


B. Don’t like us because they don’t agree with what we say we want to do for the country.

The poll was conducted with Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg for NPR, and Glen Bolger emailed it out to POS’s client list this week. I posted the poll up online here. The part I’m talking about starts on page 24. Be sure to read the poll before scrolling down if you want to look at the data without being biased by my or Glen’s analysis. For those who don't know POS is probably the most prominent GOP polling firm.

OK read it? Now here’s Glen’s takeaway in a scathing memo you can find here.

The news in the survey is NOT the terrible political environment – you already are aware of that, and if you are not, please retire. The news is NOT that John McCain has a slight deficit when matched against Barack Obama, despite stronger support for McCain from Republicans than Obama gets from Democrats (see my April memo for why that is a challenge for ALL Republican campaigns). NOR is the news that voters are angry about gas prices and think the Democrats are better able to handle the economy.

Instead, the news is the four match-ups between the Republican message and the Democrats’ message on the key issues of the economy, Iraq, trade, and taxes. The Democratic message consistently won out over the GOP message by eleven to 25 points.

Let’s take a deeper look into the data and see how our messages play when voters know where they’re from and when they don’t know which party is saying what. If you want the exact wording of both parties’ message and the full data, go back and take a second look at the poll.

Let’s start with the economy. When voters know what party each message comes from, we lose 37% to 58% and trail among independents by 18%. Ouch. However, when you read both messages without telling voters who they come from, the story gets worse.

Republican voters like the Democrat’s message more than their own party’s message by a large 14% margin when they don’t know which party it comes from. Just as disturbing, numbers among independents drop by another 10%... giving the Democrats a massive 28% advantage. Even our horrifically damaged image is better than our message on the economy. Independents and even Republicans simply like the Democrats’ plan more than ours.

Iraq and trade both follow the exact same pattern. We’re getting smashed on both issues on the partisan test, but when you look at the nonpartisan test where our damaged image isn’t a factor, the numbers get even worse among Independents and Republicans. A few Democrats (and in the case of trade a bunch of Democrats) move our way on the nonpartisan ballot, but Independents actually agree with our messages more when they know the messages came from Republicans.

On taxes, the picture gets more complex. On the partisan text, Independents like the Democrats’ message by significant 14% margin, but Republicans still like our message and give us a resounding 39% advantage. That changes drastically on the nonpartisan test.

When the party’s names are removed, Independents are almost evenly split, giving the Democrats’ message a small 5% advantage. However, Republican voters stampede away from the GOP message. Among Republicans, support for the GOP message on taxes drops by a gargantuan 53% when the party’s names are removed, leaving the Democrats with a 14% advantage. You read that right, on the nonpartisan test, Independents like the GOP message on taxes more than Republicans do and even Independents slightly favor the Democrats.

The takeaway? Our message right now is electoral poison and this isn’t all about “brand.”

There's a lot more to be said about these numbers, I’d love to hear everyone’s take on them in the comments section. I’ll close with some more advice from Glen Bolger’s memo:

Look at some of the language in the themes that the NPR survey tested from the Democrats. You might not feel comfortable with all of the examples below, but if you think Republicans can not use any of those, that’s simply too much Inside the Beltway thinking:

- “The economy has worked well for CEOs but not for the middle class, and we need a big change in direction.”

- “We should repeal the special tax breaks for companies moving jobs overseas and for the oil companies.”

- “We need to cut middle class taxes across the board, limit drug prices, and make health care more affordable.”

- “We should partner with business to invest in clean alternative energy to create the jobs of the future.”

- “We must strengthen America’s security by starting to reduce our troops in Iraq in a responsible way, force the Iraqi government to use its oil money to pay for reconstruction, and work with other nations to bring stability.”

- “With such financial pressures on families, we need to focus completely on middle class tax relief and making sure government works for them, not the special interests.”

I'll say it, GOP, it is YOU who are out-of-step with the American people.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

THE LITE SIDE - Spreading the Stupidity

Only in America drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Only in America people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.

Only in America banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.

Only in America we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.

Only in America we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.

Only in America we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: 'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'.

Only in America they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.


Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin ?

Why women can't put on mascara with their mouth closed?

Why don't you ever see the headline "Psychic Wins Lottery"?

Why is " abbreviated" such a long word?

Why is it that doctors call what they do "practice"?

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?

If flying is so safe, why "airport terminal?"

AMERICA - Love of Our Country

"Restoration Row" by Timothy Egan, New York Times

PAWHUSKA, Okla. – It is hard to love a land you don’t understand, and for most of my life I had no idea why anyone would ever live in the Great Plains – let alone love the place.

Flat, featureless, boring. Those were the words I heard growing up whenever someone would mention the plains. My view was informed by Dorothy’s Kansas, which looked scary and Gothic even before the twister took her house and Toto, too.

But then I spent some time here, mostly listening to people in the twilight of their lives tell about the land when it turned on them, during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. At the end of a long day of hearing stories, I would go for a run in the wind, and sometimes get a glimpse of the magic of the place — a pronghorn antelope in a sprint, a sky blushing pink, the quiet when the air finally settles.

There are people with us still who remember the Great Plains in its birthday suit, grass as far as the eye could see, what Walt Whitman called, “that delicate miracle, the ever-recurring grass.”

That land is gone to us, now. Once, the grassland in our midsection spanned at least 14 states, from Minnesota to Texas, the second biggest ecosystem in North America. It’s gone because the grass was overturned and the bison were chased off the land and the riot of biodiversity that evolved over 10,000 years was replaced by a few commodity crops to feed us.

It’s not worth arguing over whether this was a good or a bad thing, because most of the intentions were good, even if the excesses were bad. But it’s always worthwhile to wonder whether humans can fix what they screwed up.

And here, just north of this little town in Osage Indian country, I saw some evidence that the land can be healed. I saw shaggy-headed bison and their calves, several thousand of them, in a setting that was neither park nor zoo. I saw grass stretching almost to the horizon, flowering in parts, combed by the wind. I saw the sun dip behind the lilt of the Flint Hills, closing out a day with a burst of color.

This miracle of restoration is the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, nearly 40,000 acres run by the Nature Conservancy. It is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on earth, according the stewards of this land – cowboys with advanced botany degrees.

The conservancy bought this land in 1989 and then set out to bring it back. The two biggest missing elements – fire and bison – were returned. Both renew the grass, distribute seeds, and keep the carpet of big bluestem, wild rye and other species healthy.

The result is somewhat astonishing. Over 300 species of forbs, grasses and flowers are here. And while this preserve is just a patch, an anchored Noah’s Ark of what used to cover much of the continent, it says something about restoration. Bit by bit, maybe some of what we lost can be brought back.

I say this at a time when nearly all commercial salmon fishing has been halted on the West Coast. What used to be a rite of the season – a taste of the wild, spring Chinook returning to the Columbia River, the richest salmon on earth – is almost a memory this year.

But look also at bald eagles that fly in all 50 states, a byproduct of strong laws and far-sighted bird lovers. From my house in a metro area of nearly 3 million people, I can see a pair of nesting bald eagles.

We restore things to the wild, and in time, they return the favor. Think of Nick Adams, the psychically wounded veteran coming home to the nurturing water in Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River.”

So even with the sky here in Oklahoma rumbling and clacking, menaced by twisters rolling down Tornado Alley, there is just enough of the original plains at the Tallgrass Preserve to make flatland believers out of skeptics.

You can see in the remains of a day the reason why people who came here a hundred years ago were so lonely — and, also, why they fell in love with the place.

ECONOMY - Shades of the Past

"Welcome to the New Great Depression" by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain …

Like a broken record, President George Bush continues to assure us that his tax rebate checks will stimulate an economy that is merely in a “slowdown.” The new middle-class homeless in Santa Barbara can take comfort in that thought as they sleep safely in their cars in parking lots that are now designated for that purpose. Perhaps they can imagine all that they can spend the money on, as they eat fast food in styrofoam containers and stroke the dog or cat on their laps. It won’t pay for first and last month and security deposit on an apartment, but it might buy enough $4-a-gallon gas to go back and forth to work for a few weeks.

The parking facilities, the first in the nation, open at 7pm and close at 7am. They operate through a special program that circumvents California’s law against sleeping in cars. The director of that program told CNN recently that one cause of the spike in middle-class homelessness is that Santa Barbara has been hit hard by foreclosures.

“It saddens me when they live in their vehicles,” said Shaw Tolley, who works with the program. “It is not the ideal situation for senior citizens and families, but it is a reality.”

It’s a reality in an America where the dollar is worth little overseas and the price of energy is creeping up every day. An America where the millions of homeless who routinely sleep on our streets and under bridges and in parks are being joined by the folks who used to step over or around them every morning on the way to the rat race. Or call the cops on them.

Welcome to George Bush’s raped and plundered America, where his buddies in the oil industry reap unprecedented profits (Exxon alone made $11 billion in profit from $117 billion in earnings in the first quarter of the year), while the sons and daughters of the working- and middle-class die in the Middle East to secure that same energy source for the gas guzzling cars of their families and friends.

It’s a topsy-turvy world in which politicians debate bans on gay marriage, while more children go to school hungry than ever before in this country’s history and healthcare costs are driving millions of adults into a bankruptcy they can’t declare because of new laws that favor the corporations, not the little guy.

An America whose media continues to wax poetically about the war against terror, as if allowing healthcare and housing to be commodities out of reach of a growing number of Americans isn’t the real terrorism. A media that will never acknowledge that it will take more than a stimulus package to feed, house and care for America’s needy.

The new Great Depression will never be televised.

The Great Depression (circa 1929) is something I am failure with early on. My parents lived through it, and talked about their experience. Also, this was the subject of an American History term paper from my high school days, which I spent weeks researching in the public library with the help of my father.

THE LITE SIDE - From Humor Times

Humor Times

Joke of the Week

A doctor broke the bad news to a man, that his wife would have to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. “I’m afraid her mind’s completely gone,” he said.

“Makes sense,” mumbled the man. “She’s been giving me a piece of it every day for the last 15 years.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

POLITICS - Bush/GOP Non-Support of our Troops

"Mr. Bush and the G.I. Bill" New York Times Editorial

President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.

He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.

So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.

Thankfully, the new G.I. Bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The House passed it by a veto-proof margin this month, and last week the Senate followed suit, approving it as part of a military financing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.

There's more in the full article.

Oh, yes, support our troops = Bush/McCain & the GOP just want more cannon fodder.

REAL WORLD - Arctic Ice Cracks

Vast Cracks Appear in Arctic Ice

"Vast cracks appear in Arctic ice" by David Shukman, BBC News

Dramatic evidence of the break-up of the Arctic ice-cap has emerged from research during an expedition by the Canadian military.

Scientists travelling with the troops found major new fractures during an assessment of the state of giant ice shelves in Canada's far north.

There's more in the full article.

Friday, May 23, 2008

WORLD MARKET - What Goes Around, Comes Around

Upon reading the following article I couldn't help but think about lead-tainted toys from China in American stores. This is also a lesson on greed and why it's one of the Deadly Sins.

"Poor Construction Caused Unnecessary Deaths in Chinese Quake" by Dr. Peter Navarro, The Hill

Imagine that your government forced you to have only one child – under penalty of sterilization, beatings, and/or stiff fines. Imagine further that your one child is crushed to death during an earthquake because that same government allowed your child’s school to be built with shoddy building materials and in violation of numerous building codes.

For many grieving mothers and fathers in China, this stark imagining has become the harshest of realities. In fact, the real tragedy of the recent China earthquake is that a significant number of the deaths and injuries were not the result of a merciless Mother Nature but rather a lethal combination of government corruption and entrepreneurial greed.

The quake in question hit Sichuan province on May 12th and registered a highly destructive 7.9 on the Richter scale. While the official death toll has already risen to more than 20,000, when all of the bodies are eventually counted, that toll will likely exceed 50,000. The grim reality is that many of the dead and injured perished in poorly constructed schools and homes and other buildings that had no absolutely chance of withstanding the earthquake’s deadly force.

The problem of shoddy building materials is endemic in China, and it is a particularly severe problem with cement and steel. It’s not that the Chinese don’t know how to properly make these materials. Rather, inferior cement and steel creep into the construction process because as a common characteristic of the Chinese business culture and lax regulatory environment, entrepreneurs regularly skimp on product quality as a way of boosting profits.

A similar problem exists with ultra-lax building code enforcement. At least on paper, China has a set of building codes almost as tough as those of the United States or Japan. In practice, however, the central government’s codes are rarely enforced at the local level – particularly outside the confines of major cities like Beijing and Shanghai and particularly in poorer provinces such as Sichuan.

This problem of local autonomy goes far back into China’s history and its imperial times and is reflected in the ancient Chinese proverb “the mountains are high and the emperor is far away.” It is a problem that plagues China on everything from environmental protection and worker health and safety to the construction process.

On top of this, China’s extremely weak legal system makes it virtually impossible for victims to seek any proper redress. Not only are the laws unclear, but the judiciary is often pro-developer. Moreover, as a by-product of the repressive nature of the Chinese regime, would-be claimants are subject to beatings. The result is precisely the kind of shoddy construction that has claimed so many lives in the recent quake.

Given China’s incredibly dark earthquake history, there is absolutely no excuse for the government to allow any of this. In fact, in 1976, China suffered an earthquake that resulted in the highest number of quake-related casualties in the last four centuries. This earthquake occurred in the Tangshen area of China and damage reached as far as Beijing. While official statistics place the number of dead at 255,000, the actual number is more likely to be well above 600,000.

The only close competitor in modern times is the deadly Sumatra earthquake of 2004 which killed 228,000 – but many of those died not from the quake but the ensuing tsunami. And it must be noted that the only other quake topping 200,000 in casualties was also in China – the deadly 1920 Gansu earthquake. That’s why there is absolutely no excuse for government officials to condone the type of fly-by-night development process that exists.

There are important lessons in these frank observations for both a repressive Chinese government in desperate need of reform and a world increasingly reliant on Chinese manufacturers who are far too willing to cut corners on safety. Chinese government officials must come to understand that the brutal suppression of free speech and the lack of legal protection for Chinese citizens provide the ideal breeding ground for corruption and greed. At the same time, consumers in the West have yet another data point to illustrate the deadly hazards of relying on Chinese manufacturers to provide us with everything from car parts, food, and toys to pharmaceuticals and, yes, building materials.

POLITICS - New WWF Champion Tag Team!

"Neocon A-Team: Bush, Lieberman, McCain and Rove" by Brent Budwsky, The Hill

Now here comes Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who opposes the greater support for veterans offered by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and advocated by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), shamefully attacking Obama for not serving in the military.

Like Bush, like Lieberman, like Rove, McCain has chosen the way of the neoconservative policy and tactics. What makes a neocon a neocon is that their policies are doomed to fail because they are rigid, reactionary and extreme. What makes a neocon a neocon is that when their policies fail, they resort to name-calling and personal attacks against those who have been far wiser than they.

Whatever his many shortcomings, during his moments of greatness, such as negotiating with Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan was wise in rejecting the way of the neocon. On the great issue of nuclear arms control, Reagan was virtually the anti-neocon, which is why so many neoconservatives attacked Reagan so personally and aggressively for seeking major arms control with Mikhail Gorbachev.

The neocons and many leading conservatives called Reagan an appeaser; they called him Neville Chamberlain; they called him naive, like a child. From George Will to Jesse Helms, they lined up with the same demeaning attacks on Reagan they make against anyone opposing their rigid, reactionary, failed policies.

Reagan believed in building up arms to negotiate down arms. One can read the books by Lou Cannon, Richard Reeves and Paul Lettow and Reagan's now-public diaries to understand why he seized the moment with Gorbachev and how so many arch-rigid neoconservatives attacked him so personally for doing so.

George Bush is one of the great failed presidents in American history because he is not under the influence of neocons, he IS a neocon with the same rigidity, the same extremism, the same quasi-religious refusal to compromise, the same blindness to reality, and the same propensity to resort to personal attacks against opponents when his policies fail.

George Bush learns nothing from mistakes; Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John McCain learn nothing from mistakes. The speeches they give today are indistinguishable from the speeches they gave advocating the Iraq war when it was still avoidable. Their logic, their personal attacks, their demeaning of alternative views and their demeaning of opponents come from the same policies and the same instincts, with the same results.

Of course they resort to Karl Rove tactics; that is all they have left when they can no longer defend their policies. It is no coincidence that even the losing candidate for the Democratic nomination approvingly quotes Rove. At least Hillary realized her mistake in year five of the Iraq war. Late is better than never.

John McCain is no Reagan, he is a neocon instead, complete with their rigidity, their policy extremism, their inability to learn from mistakes, and their name-calling as their last refuge to try hide from their failures.

So: McCain says those who were far wiser than he about Iraq want to wave white flags of surrender. He says those who support diplomacy as Reagan did are appeasers, as Reagan's opponents on the right said about him. When others favor far greater support for veterans than McCain and Bush, he carries the torch of Rove, attacking them personally and using the argument that they never served in the military, the last refuge of McCain's bad policy in refusing to advocate greater support for vets.

Even after losing three major House elections in states that should have brought major victory for Republicans, neither his party nor McCain have learned anything from their failures.

This is the way of the neocon, and as John McCain becomes the leading torch-bearer for the neocon vision, he sows the seeds for his defeat because America wants to turn this terrible page and leave this past behind us.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

RESEARCH - Now They're Getting Personal!

"Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain" by Sara Reistad-Long, New York Times

When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.

Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

The studies are analyzed in a new edition of a neurology book, “Progress in Brain Research.”

Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful.

“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”

For example, in studies where subjects are asked to read passages that are interrupted with unexpected words or phrases, adults 60 and older work much more slowly than college students. Although the students plow through the texts at a consistent speed regardless of what the out-of-place words mean, older people slow down even more when the words are related to the topic at hand. That indicates that they are not just stumbling over the extra information, but are taking it in and processing it.

When both groups were later asked questions for which the out-of-place words might be answers, the older adults responded much better than the students.

“For the young people, it’s as if the distraction never happened,” said an author of the review, Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute. “But for older adults, because they’ve retained all this extra data, they’re now suddenly the better problem solvers. They can transfer the information they’ve soaked up from one situation to another.”

Such tendencies can yield big advantages in the real world, where it is not always clear what information is important, or will become important. A seemingly irrelevant point or suggestion in a memo can take on new meaning if the original plan changes. Or extra details that stole your attention, like others’ yawning and fidgeting, may help you assess the speaker’s real impact.

“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.”

In a 2003 study at Harvard, Dr. Carson and other researchers tested students’ ability to tune out irrelevant information when exposed to a barrage of stimuli. The more creative the students were thought to be, determined by a questionnaire on past achievements, the more trouble they had ignoring the unwanted data. A reduced ability to filter and set priorities, the scientists concluded, could contribute to original thinking.

This phenomenon, Dr. Carson said, is often linked to a decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. Studies have found that people who suffered an injury or disease that lowered activity in that region became more interested in creative pursuits.

Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the current research, said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom.

“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

POLITICS - GOP Fall Slogan

"LARRY KUDLOW PENS THE GOP FALL SLOGAN" by Ezra Klein, American Prospect

We can only hope that the nation's Republican candidates are reading Larry Kudlow this morning:

This idea of rewarding work instead of wealth is just insane.

As counter-evidence to my earlier post, the fact of Kudlow's continuing career is the best evidence I know of that conservatives are not only out of ideas, but in fact never had any, and are just experimenting with random sentences that include econo-jargon and references to the stock market.

Of course, this Fall Slogan is not new. It's one of the GOP Commandments.

POLITICS - The Right-wing, Those Who Will Not See

Olbermann's 'cold-hearted killers'

...and here's the original Special Comment that set them off....

POLITICS - Lets Hear It for the New Presumptive GOP Leader

McCain's YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare

Friday, May 16, 2008

THE VA - Just How Low Can VA Administration Sink?

Answer, lower than a worm.


Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and released an e-mail obtained from a Veterans Affairs (VA) employee directing VA staff to refrain from diagnosing soldiers and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

On March 20, 2008 a VA hospital’s PTSD program coordinator sent an e-mail to a number of VA employees, including psychologists, social workers, and a psychiatrist stating that due to an increased number of “compensation seeking veterans,” the staff should “refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out” and they should “R/O [rule out] PTSD” and consider a diagnosis of “Adjustment Disorder” instead. The e-mail is available at

This week, CREW sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the VA asking for all records pertaining to any guidance given regarding the diagnosis of PTSD.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today, “It is outrageous that the VA is calling on its employees to deliberately misdiagnose returning veterans in an effort to cut costs. Those who have risked their lives serving our country deserve far better. First and foremost, they have a right to expect that they receive diagnoses and treatment based on their symptoms and not on the VA’s budget. The VA should immediately reverse this and any other similar directives.”

Last month, the RAND Corporation released a report that found that approximately 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and only about half have sought treatment.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of, added, “This is an issue I take personally. I know of many people who received a diagnosis of ‘Adjustment Disorder,’ who strongly felt they had PTSD, many of whom confirmed that suspicion with an independent diagnosis. Many veterans believe that the government just doesn’t want to pay out the disability that comes along with a PTSD diagnosis, and this revelation will not allay their concerns. It is crucial that we quickly get to the bottom of this, and ensure that misdiagnosing veterans is not part of some cost-cutting policy.”

Yap. Another outstanding or Bush a administrator. Money before caring for our troops. Money before people. Of course, they are also exposing the VA to law suits from misdiagnosed vets or their families.

Friday, May 09, 2008

POLITICS - Nixon Wanna Be

"Olmert: I am not a crook" by Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy News 5/9/2008

It probably wasn't how most Israelis wanted to celebrate the 60 years since their nation's founding.

Despite the best effort of investigators to keep a lid on the unfolding investigation of Israeli PM Ehud Olmert so as not to spoil the case or ruin the celebratory mood, the facts blew Thursday night.

Olmert hastily called reporters to his Jerusalem residence to make a blunt statement: I am not a crook.

For the past week, Israeli papers have been filled with ominous, anonymous sources predicting that this case is the beginning of the end for Olmert. And Olmert's unusual decision to deliver the late night statement - televised live - suggests that he, too, sees this investigation as more serious than the others.

There more in the full article.

So, other nations can have the same political diseases. Could it be that there is a Nixon Virus?

ON THE LITE SIDE - Disney For Laughs

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Normally I don't advertise, but this is just for laughs.

ECONOMY - Exxon, Not-For-Profit

POLITICS - From Republican's School of Ethics

* = My favorites

  • *You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.

  • You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.

  • *You have to believe that AIDS victims deserve their disease, but smokers with lung cancer and overweight individuals with heart disease don't deserve theirs.

  • You have to appreciate the power rush that comes with sporting a gun.

  • You have to believe everything Rush Limbaugh says.

  • You have to believe that the agricultural, restaurant, housing and hotel industries can survive without immigrant labor.

  • *You have to believe God hates homosexuality, but loves the death penalty.

  • You have to believe society is color-blind and growing up black in America doesn't diminish your opportunities, but you still won't vote for Obama.

  • *You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a profit.

  • **You have to believe in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.

  • You have to believe Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde were really faithful husbands.

  • You have to believe speaking a few Spanish phrases makes you instantly popular in the barrio.

  • You have to believe that only your own teenagers are still virgins.

  • You have to be against government interference in business, until your oil company, corporation, or Savings and Loan is about to go broke and you beg for a government bail out.

  • *You love Jesus and Jesus loves you and, by the way, Jesus shares your hatred for AIDS victims, homosexuals, and President Clinton.

  • You have to believe government has nothing to do with providing police protection, national defense, and building roads.

  • You have to believe a poor, minority student with a disciplinary history and failing grades will be admitted into an elite private school with a $1,000 voucher.

  • You have to believe that Chinese communist missiles have killed more Americans than handguns, alcohol, and tobacco.

  • You have to believe that the ACLU is bad because they defend the Constitution, while the NRA is good because they defend the Constitution.

  • You have to believe that socialism hasn't worked anywhere, and that Europe doesn't exist.

  • You have to believe that a woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, but that large corporations should be free of all regulation and interference.

  • You have to believe that government should stay out of people's lives, yet you want government to regulate same-gender marriages, access to birth control, and what your official language should be.

  • You have to believe it is wise to keep condoms out of schools, because we all know if teenagers don't have condoms they won't have sex.

Side comment: As stated in my bio, I was a registered Republican in the past. But this was essentially by default, my parents were Republican even though they never voted party-line, but my choice was not by careful consideration. It was the election of Emperor Bush that made me really look closely at what the GOP stood for. That examination is what prompted me to become a Progressive (aka non-partisan).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

POLITICS - The So-Called "Liberal Media" Slant

While the "Liberal Media" plays and replays videos of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and implies that he actually reflects Barack Obama's stance, they ignore McCain's Pastor, Ron Parsley.

Here's just a taste of what they ignore:

HEALTHCARE - Lets Get Married!

"Welcome to the Age of the 'Insurance Card Marriage'" by Terrance Heath, Huffington Post

Opening paragraphs

Forget green cards. A growing number of Americans are getting hitched to get health insurance.

Some people marry for love, some for companionship, and others for status or money. Now comes another reason to get hitched: health insurance.

In a poll released today, 7% of Americans said they or someone in their household decided to marry in the last year so they could get healthcare benefits via their spouse.

"It's a small number but a powerful result, because it shows how paying for healthcare is reflected not only in family budgets but in life decisions," said Drew E. Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which commissioned the survey as part of its regular polling on healthcare.

...What surprised researchers was that such costs had become a factor in marriage decisions. "We should have asked about divorce," said Altman, joking.

MIDDLE EAST - Lebanon, Arab Woman's View

"The 'Hidden Imam' out of the Closet..." by Layla Anwar, Arab Woman Blues

As I said in my uncensored blog, I am tired and don't have much stamina for political exposés...

So you will get it straight from me tonight, like every night...

I am not pleased with what's happening in Lebanon. Not pleased at all. Hezbollah and Amal, two Shiite parties, are playing a deadly game.

I said it before and will reiterate again, Hezbollah-the militia and Hezbollah has all the characteristics of a militia, is dying to spark a civil war in Lebanon.

Not because Hezbollah stands for truth and justice. Ze General Aoun is after all, a right wing fascist, and he is associated with these thugs. So is Frangieh.

Anyone who has been following the Lebanese scene knows what both Aoun and Frangieh stand for.

I foresee some form of a "coup" happening in Lebanon. The whole thing orchestrated and directed by Iran. And Hezbollah is active as per the Iranian agenda. Its sole purpose and mission is to execute what Iran wants. Forget the rhetoric and the anti-Israel bullshit.

Hezbollah doesn't give a fig about the Palestinians. Its latest contributing role in the destruction of Nahr Al-Bared is proof enough.

Today I heard the news about the "airport camera" stolen by Hezbollah in 2007.
A camera that monitors one particular runway where private jets of "prominent Lebanese politicians" land.

The story goes on to say that the plan is - Hezbollah attacks these politicians and blames Al-Qaeda for it.

Wasn't Al-Qaeda's branch, by the name of Jund Al-Islam, also involved in Nahr Al-Bared ?
30'000 Palestinians were displaced for the 3rd time -- and Hezbollah watched on...

I don't like this. This stinks to high heavens.

Furthermore, the main trade union which Hezbollah was supposedly endorsing, didn't even gather the necessary mobilization today in Beirut.

This means that this "general strike" or what goes by the name of a general strike is nothing but a pretext by the so-called "opposition" (made of Hezbollah and Aoun and Frangieh) to instigate a "civil war" in Lebanon Iraq style...

Everything that is happening in Lebanon today, reminds me of the exact same "strategy" employed in Baghdad.

In particular the Sadrist strategy - positing itself as some patriotic anti-occupation force, playing both the political and military (as in armed) card. Infiltrating the so-called police, army and "state" apparatus - more like the failed state apparatus. And marketing itself as some "grassroot" popular movement. While it does nothing but engage in a blatant sectarianism, thus fulfilling its mission for the "Wilyat Al-Faqih", the ultimate state of affairs where the Imam, the hidden Mahdi will finally appear, conducting the whole gory and gruesome tragedy and it's not comical either...

Hezbollah is doing exactly the same thing in Lebanon. The parallels are too glaring to ignore.

The hand behind both - Muqtada and Hezbollah - is none but Iran. It is so clear and so obvious to anyone who really cares to carefully look beyond the rhetoric.

What I said concerning Muqtada Al-Sadr holds true for Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is not anti-Israel, it's simply pro-Iran. Just like Muqtada Al-Sadr is not anti-US, he's simply pro-Iran.

You need to think in nuances and degrees. Not in slogans.

And I will make a bet with you right now -- and this is my bet.

Israel is happy with a Hezbollah around. This latter serves Israel's purpose of dividing and destabilizing - and in this case, along sectarian lines.

Hezbollah is no real threat to Israel. I know, I know, you will tell me the Israeli aggression on Lebanon etc...

And I say to you, look at the end result. Look regionally. Look at Iraq and what follows...
Who benefited and who benefits today ?

Do you understand now ?

OK let's make a deal from today onwards, whatever slogans you hear and however pleasing they are to your ears, do me a favor, suspend them and look beyond...

Just see who's emerging out of the closet.

POLITICS - Another Republican in the Whitehouse?

John McCain IS Dr. Strangelove

Yes, most defiantly, put another Republican in the Whitehouse..... NOT!

Monday, May 05, 2008

POLITICS - PBS News Hour, Very Pertinent Comments

The following are excerpts from the News Hour Political Warp 5/2/2008 that I find very, very applicable to America at this time.

"Shields, Brooks Debate New Polls, Rev. Wright and Gas Tax" PBS News Hour transcript

DAVID BROOKS (Columnist, New York Times): This is stuff Reverend Wright's been saying for 20 years. I mean, the stuff he said was not new. I mean, I presume, when you go to a liberation theology church, you're going to get some liberation theology.

You're going to get what Wright offered, which is sort of an extreme version of separatism, whites and blacks clap differently to music, whites and blacks think differently, have different learning styles, a very separatist ideology.

And that was part of the church he went to. And that's part of the things we have to understand about Obama, that he sat in that church and he wasn't offended by all that.

Now, you take that as an element of Obama's character and the reasons he went to that church are something we can all speculate without really knowing.

But, nonetheless, if you look forward, and you look at Obama's whole character, who do you think is going to help reconcile the races more in this country than Barack Obama? Very few people.

So I think, as someone, you can say, "Obama went to this church." You wonder why he went to this church. What kind of statement was he making?

Nonetheless, if you take the totality of his life, this is a guy who's built it around reconciliation.

JUDY WOODRUFF (News Hour Anchor): So the timing here -- well, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS (Syndicated Columnist): And Barack Obama would not be the first person to have gone to a church and not heeded what was said in the pulpit. I mean, many of us do it every week. We are urged, exhorted for certain behavior, which we never do measure up to, whether it's different behavior from that.

But I do agree with David, that Barack Obama's life is so entirely different from the message of separatism. I mean, he has been the ultimate integrationist.

And that's what his candidacy does represent, really a repudiation of the sense of blacks as victims, that this is a society that has had grave faults and grave shortcomings and grave injustices, but has moved to remedy them and that he, in his career, is an example of that improvement.


Gas Tax Holiday

JUDY WOODRUFF: This argument they're having this week, David, on the gasoline tax. Hillary Clinton, in effect, on the side with John McCain, arguing this gas tax holiday is a good idea. Barack Obama, on the other hand, saying this is just pandering; it doesn't add up to anything.

Is this affecting what voters think about these candidates?

DAVID BROOKS: Maybe, and, in this case, Obama is absolutely right. I don't know any economists who don't think he's right. I'm sorry to say that McCain has joined Hillary in the axis of opportunism.

It's a sham issue. For McCain, it's horrific, because it's un-conservative in so many ways to give away this little gift, a tiny, little trivial gift, in the middle of the summer of $30 bucks, or whatever it would be a month, to really insult modern economics by assuming that, if you cut the prices, you know, you're going to have increased demand.

We're not going to produce more gasoline because of the refinery problem. It's not going to make a big difference in anybody's pocketbook at the end of the day. It's a sham.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Could it have an effect in Indiana and North Carolina?

MARK SHIELDS: It could, if Obama phrased it differently. Obama has made the argument that David did, which is very thoughtful, logical, cerebral argument.

What Obama ought to do is say: This is the worst of Washington politics. This is what it is. This is bait-and-switch. This is Washington politics at its cheapest. They really think you're dumb. They think you're so dumb that they can buy you off.

We're a country -- everybody who drives a car knows that the roads in this country are in disrepair, that the bridges are in disrepair. What we're going to do is take 300,000 jobs out for this little gimmick of people working because that's where the gas tax goes, to rebuild the highways of this country and to maintain the bridges of this country.

And he ought to do it just on the basis and tie it -- this is the same kind of politics that had a "Mission Accomplished" sign up five years ago, that said there were weapons of mass destruction. That's what's wrong.

Of course, there is much more in the full transcript.