Monday, November 30, 2009

A Purity Test for Democrats?

The GOP goose steppers have a purity test to which they are giving tremendous lip service, even though most of them could not pass it.  So some enterprising folks have come up with a purity test for Democrats.

Dino ...Still, the purity test does provide a convenient check list. You too can be accepted as a Republican if you promise to hate gays, poor people, immigrants, and the environment (which, come to think of it, has been the Republican standard for decades). Out of pure bullet-point envy, I propose that Democrats must also have their own list. Ten litmus tests which every potential Democratic candidate should  be able to ace before they ever hope to put (D) after their names. In fact, I'll go so far as to be more pure than the Republicans. If you can't pass every one of these tests, don't bother to sign on.

(1) We support the rights extended to Americans extended under the Constitution. All the rights. For all Americans.

(2) We support thoughtful, pragmatic solutions that protect American lives, American standards, and American pocketbooks. This includes finding solutions that don't require bombing anyone.

(3) We support an America that has diversity in race, thought, background, and religion not out of some hazy idealism, but because it is our nation's greatest strength.

(4) We oppose torture in any form, in any place, at any time, for any reason.

(5) We support American business, and recognize that an unregulated market is an unfair market, an unstable market, and a market doomed to failure.

(6) We support American workers, and know that when workers are allowed to organize they make their jobs, their companies, and their nation stronger.

(7) We believe that the reputation of our nation is valuable and must be zealously guarded against those who place expediency ahead of law.

(8) We believe in spreading democracy and human rights to the rest of the world by vigorously upholding those ideals here at home.

(9) We believe that access to our government is not for sale. Not in the courthouse, not in the White House, and not in the legislature.

(10) We believe that the health of our planet is not a zero-sum game, not a game of "you go first," and not a game.

Not a particularly detailed set of positions, I know. But then it's not supposed to be. Unlike the GOP, we aren't short of ideas, and unlike Newt, we don't have to dream up a batch of legislation with cute names. We already have real legislation out there that meet these goals. Bills like the Employee Free Choice Act, the Clean Water Protection Act, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the Affordable Health Care for America Act and many others...

Inserted from <Daily Kos>

Now Traitor Joe LIEberman would pass all these points except for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.  So I guess he shouldn’t be allowed to caucus with Democrats and head a committee.  Do you think we should have a purity test for Democrats?  How would your Democratic Representative and Senators would do on this one?

Krugman: The Jobs Imperative

While Congress continues to bail out Wall Street, Main Street continues to suffer.  We need jobs!

employment If you’re looking for a job right now, your prospects are terrible. There are six times as many Americans seeking work as there are job openings, and the average duration of unemployment — the time the average job-seeker has spent looking for work — is more than six months, the highest level since the 1930s.

You might think, then, that doing something about the employment situation would be a top policy priority. But now that total financial collapse has been averted, all the urgency seems to have vanished from policy discussion, replaced by a strange passivity. There’s a pervasive sense in Washington that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economic recovery to trickle down to workers.

This is wrong and unacceptable.

Yes, the recession is probably over in a technical sense, but that doesn’t mean that full employment is just around the corner. Historically, financial crises have typically been followed not just by severe recessions but by anemic recoveries; it’s usually years before unemployment declines to anything like normal levels. And all indications are that the aftermath of the latest financial crisis is following the usual script. The Federal Reserve, for example, expects unemployment, currently 10.2 percent, to stay above 8 percent — a number that would have been considered disastrous not long ago — until sometime in 2012.

And the damage from sustained high unemployment will last much longer. The long-term unemployed can lose their skills, and even when the economy recovers they tend to have difficulty finding a job, because they’re regarded as poor risks by potential employers. Meanwhile, students who graduate into a poor labor market start their careers at a huge disadvantage — and pay a price in lower earnings for their whole working lives. Failure to act on unemployment isn’t just cruel, it’s short-sighted.

So it’s time for an emergency jobs program.

How is a jobs program different from a second stimulus? It’s a matter of priorities. The 2009 Obama stimulus bill was focused on restoring economic growth. It was, in effect, based on the belief that if you build G.D.P., the jobs will come. That strategy might have worked if the stimulus had been big enough — but it wasn’t. And as a matter of political reality, it’s hard to see how the administration could pass a second stimulus big enough to make up for the original shortfall.

So our best hope now is for a somewhat cheaper program that generates more jobs for the buck. Such a program should shy away from measures, like general tax cuts, that at best lead only indirectly to job creation, with many possible disconnects along the way. Instead, it should consist of measures that more or less directly save or add jobs.

One such measure would be another round of aid to beleaguered state and local governments, which have seen their tax receipts plunge and which, unlike the federal government, can’t borrow to cover a temporary shortfall. More aid would help avoid both a drastic worsening of public services (especially education) and the elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Meanwhile, the federal government could provide jobs by ... providing jobs. It’s time for at least a small-scale version of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, one that would offer relatively low-paying (but much better than nothing) public-service employment. There would be accusations that the government was creating make-work jobs, but the W.P.A. left many solid achievements in its wake. And the key point is that direct public employment can create a lot of jobs at relatively low cost. In a proposal to be released today, the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, argues that spending $40 billion a year for three years on public-service employment would create a million jobs, which sounds about right.

Finally, we can offer businesses direct incentives for employment... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

I have little to add.  We’ve been waiting for wealth to trickle down since 1980.  It hasn’t.  It won’t.  It gushed up and will continue to so so until we correct the insane injustice that the bottom 40% of Americans own only 0.2% of the wealth.  Therefore, to pay for Krugman’s jobs programs we need to restore the progressive income tax structure gutted by Reagan, Bush I, Crawford Caligula, and the GOP.

Inhofe Calls the Kettle Black

Few Republicans are bigger attention hounds than James Inhofe.  Therefore this level of hypocrisy would be amusing were the subject not so critical.

wingnut In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn articulated a national security argument for passing clean energy legislation. “Continued over reliance on fossil fuels, or small, incremental steps, simply will not create the kind of future security and prosperity that the American people and our great Nation deserve,” McGinn warned.

In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate environment committee, argued that McGinn and other generals who are advocating for clean energy reform (like Wesley Clark, Stephen Cheney, Brent Scowcroft, etc) are simply doing so because they crave “the limelight”:

NYT: Senator Boxer is chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee,on which you are the ranking Republican. She and her fellow Democrats have lately suggested that global warming could be a threat to national security by destabilizing developing countries.

INHOFE: That’s the most ludicrous thing. They looked around and they found, I think, five generals to testify before the committee. Well, that’s 5 generals out of 4,000 retired generals that say that. There are a lot of generals who don’t like to be out of the limelight. They’d like to get back in.

Despite Inhofe’s desire to trash the motivations of military generals who have a different view than he does about the impending climate crisis, the national security implications of climate change cannot be so easily dismissed. For at least the past two years, “military and intelligence experts have been issuing studies warning that climate change could put American military personnel and national security at risk. Increasingly violent storms, pandemics, drought and large-scale refugee problems, they say, will destabilize regions and encourage terrorism. And American dependence on foreign energy sources will only exacerbate the threats and increase the likelihood of military action.”

It’s not just military generals who are making this argument. Inhofe’s former colleague, John Warner (who Inhofe acknowledged has had “a long and distinguished career in the military”), also understands the security implications of global warming:

WARNER: Leading military, intelligence, and security experts have publically spoken out that if left unchecked, global warming could increase instability and lead to conflict in already fragile regions of the world. If we ignore these facts, we do so at the peril of our national security and increase the risk to those in uniform who serve our nation. It is for this reason that I firmly believe the U.S. must take a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

I wonder if Inhofe has considered just how big a fool he will make of himself while preaching his pseudo-science at Copenhagen to grab attention.

The article did miss another key point about national security.  How much has it cost the US in precious lives, valuable treasure, and priceless reputation to pursue wars of aggression for oil?  And if we had invested sufficient effort into developing green technology that we did not need to rely on imported oil,would not we be far more secure?

Open Thread – 11/30/2009

I enjoyed my day off watching football, and I don’t expect to get any blog visiting done today, because I have to take my router into my computer store , so I can print and connect wirelessly again.  That’s a couple hours each way by bus.  Please bear with me.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:24.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

OGIM!!  How will you survive?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Family (C Street) Proposes to Execute HIV+ Men

We’ve all been aware of the domestic activities of the C-Street members covering up GOP scandals and failing to practice what they preach, but outside the US, their conduct is beyond despicable.

Family The African nation of Uganda is weighing a bill that would impose the death penalty on HIV positive men who have committed what it calls "aggravated homosexuality."

As if that were not shocking enough, a U.S. author is claiming that a secretive group of American politicians appear to be a driving force in seeing the proposal become law.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, heavily supported by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, was first read in October, triggering a wave of condemnation. According to the gay blog Queerty, Joann Lockard, public affairs officer at the Kampala, Uganda embassy, said the law would "constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda."

She added: "We urge states to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention."

protectmejesus While that condemnation by a U.S. official would seem reflexive, others in U.S. political circles are providing financial and political support for the bill's sponsors, according to author Jeff Sharlet.

Sharlet's book "The Family" is an investigative look at a secretive group of fundamentalist Christian lawmakers in Washington, D.C. In a recent interview with NPR's Terry Gross, he broke the news that The Family's influence in Uganda is rife.

"[The] legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family," he said. "He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda."

And how did Sharlet discover the connection? "You follow [the] money," he said. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It's not so invisible anymore. So that's how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family's work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni's kind of right-hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family's National Prayer Breakfast. And here's a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda's executive office and has been very vocal about what he's doing, in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family."

Under current Ugandan law, homosexuality is a crime punishable by life in prison. The proposed law would not just condemn HIV positive gay men and "repeat offenders" to death, it would also jail for three years anyone who knows a gay man but refuses to report them to authorities. Further, anyone who defends in public the rights of gays and lesbians would be subjected to a seven year prison term.

In his NPR interview, Sharlet said the bill would "very likely" pass and become Ugandan law. He added that the nation's president, whom he called a "dictator," has long been in The Family's fold.

"The Family identified [Museveni] back in 1986 as a key man for Africa," he said. "They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They've since promoted Uganda as this bright spot - as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting - strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009."... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Raw Story>

I was actually shocked to learn this, and I asked myself, “Why aren’t they trying to do the same thing here in the US?”  The only answer I could imagine is that they do not have the power… yet.  One thing is clear.  People who would act in such a manner anywhere in the world have absolutely no business in the United States House or Senate, regardless of political party.  Here is a list from Wikipedia.

Sam Brownback

Sen. (R-KS)

Chair of Senate Values Action Team

James Inhofe

Sen. (R-OK)


Jim DeMint

Sen. (R-SC)

Chairman of Steering Committee

Chuck Grassley

Sen. (R-IA)

Former Chairman of Finance Committee

John Ensign

Sen. (R-NV)

Involved in sex scandal

Tom Coburn

Sen. (R-OK)


Mark Pryor

Sen. (D-AR)


Bill Nelson

Sen. (D-FL)


John Thune

Sen. (R-SD)


Mike Enzi

Sen. (R-WY)


Joe Pitts

Rep. (R-PA)

Chair of House Values Action Team; Member Committees on Energy & Commerce, Sec. & Coop in Europe

Todd Tiahrt

Rep. (R-KS)


Frank Wolf

Rep. (R-VA)

Member of House Appropriations Panel

Zach Wamp

Rep. (R-TN)


Mike McIntyre



Bart Stupak

Rep. (D-MI)

Author of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment for the Affordable Health Care for America Act that would ban federal funding for abortions.

Michael F. Doyle

Rep. (D-PA)


Heath Shuler



Jerry Moran

Rep. (R-KS)


They need to be eliminated, and lest I be confused with the teabaggers and Faux Noise pundits, I am speaking politically only.  I am NOT calling for violence against them, and I oppose any such call.  That’s how they work.  We’re better than that.  May the next time they stand for reelection be the last.

The Assassin That Might Have Been

On many occasions you have heard me rail against teabaggers, rabid right pundits and GOP leaders for their hate speech and threats of violence.  I have said that, although to them it may be only political rhetoric, there are deranged folks out there hanging on every word they say, who are likely to translate their speech into action.  Here is an example of one such person:

teapartysign Following a pipe bomb explosion Monday night, police and federal law enforcement officials are trying to figure why a Center Avenue man turned his apartment into a bomb factory.

Police said no charges have been filed against Mark Campano, 56. Police found 30 completed pipe bombs in his apartment along with components to make more, plus 17 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Campano is in an Akron hospital with injuries received when one of the bombs exploded.

As police and federal authorities puzzle over Campano's past and what he planned to do with the bombs, a former neighbor said Campano often railed against the government.

Barbara Vachon lived next door to Campano at the Center Park Place Apartments for several years and said he was a big reason she moved.

"He was always trying to get me and another neighbor to listen to anti-government tapes and watch anti-government videos," said Vachon. "I would never watch them. He was some kind of radical, and he didn't believe in the government."

She said there were other warnings.

"There were a few times I heard minor explosions from outside the apartment building, and he would scream that he had hurt himself," she said. "I never knew what he was up to."

Vachon said Campano seemed to be most active at night.

"There was a steady stream of creepy visitors going in and out of his apartment," she said.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms is also investigating the case.

"We don't know what his intention was, but what he had in that apartment could cause real damage," said Cuyahoga Falls Sgt. Gary Merton Jr. "We expected to find a meth lab after we heard about the explosion, but our guys were surprised at what they found."… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <>

Now, I’m not saying that this fellow is a Republican.  Nor am I saying that he is a teabagger, although he does seem to share their values.  I am saying only that he is a nut-case, and that when people like him hear the kind of rhetoric the GOP Reich with their Faux Noise and teabagger minions have been spewing, they do thinks like making pipe bombs.  Fortunately, this one shared not only teabagger values, but also teabagger IQ, and consequently, he blew himself up before he could have put whatever plot he might have had into action.

Open Thread – 11/29/2009

Yesterday I managed to get quite a bit of visiting in.  Today I won’t, because it’s football day.  It was a slow day for news.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 5:31.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Obama Failing on Honduras

The US has a long ugly history of supporting corrupt dictatorships in Latin America, a practice that has resulted in strong anti-American feelings in many of those nations.  Early in his Presidency, I was proud of Obama’s behavior toward that region, but lately he has taken a more Republican stance.

honduras_coup is a relatively obscure backwater, Honduras, that has provided the Obama administration with its first test in Latin America.

The ouster of Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran populist president, five months ago propelled the deeply impoverished country onto President Obama’s packed agenda. The question now is whether his administration’s support for the presidential election being held there on Sunday will be seen as a stamp of approval for a coup or, as senior administration members maintain, the beginning of the end of the crisis.

Most countries in the region see it as the former. Haunted by ghosts of authoritarian governments not long in the grave, countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile have argued that an election held by an illegal government is, by definition, illegal.

They worry that if Mr. Obama appears to set aside that principle in Honduras, where the United States has long been a power broker, what would Washington do if democracy were threatened in a more powerful country where it wields less influence?

Last week, Marco Aurélio García, a senior adviser to the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said his country “continues to have great hopes” for good relations with the United States. But, he added, “the truth is so far we have a strong sense of disappointment.”

While there have been other issues — new United States bases planned for Colombia and a slow movement toward engagement with Cuba — much of the disappointment stems from the administration’s handling of the crisis that began June 28 when Honduran troops detained Mr. Zelaya and forced him into exile.

Mr. Obama was one of the first to condemn the coup and call for Mr. Zelaya to be restored. Rather than impose a strategy for handling the crisis, the White House collaborated with the rest of the region in support of negotiations between Mr. Zelaya and the conservative leaders of Honduras’s de facto government.

Since then, the United States policy toward Honduras has been marked by mixed signals and vague objectives. The State Department was pulled in one direction by Democrats, who supported Mr. Zelaya, and another by Republicans, who sought to weaken the administration’s resolve to reinstate him.

The administration suspended some $30 million in assistance to Honduras, but continued the bulk of its aid — worth hundreds of millions of dollars — saying it did not want to punish the majority of Hondurans living in poverty.

The United States was slow to criticize human rights abuses by the de facto government, but swift to scold Mr. Zelaya for political stunts that culminated with his sneaking back into Honduras, where he remains camped inside the Brazilian Embassy.

The move that seems to have most undermined Mr. Obama’s clout came last month when the administration reversed course by signaling that it would accept the outcome of Sunday’s elections whether or not Mr. Zelaya was restored to power.

Latin American governments accused the administration of putting pragmatism over principle and of siding with Honduran military officers and business interests whose goal was to use the elections to legitimize the coup… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

The opponents of the coup are right.  An election by an illegal government is by definition illegal.  The sad fact is that the only thing that will matter in tomorrow’s election is who counts the votes, so the outcome is a foregone conclusion, just as it was in the election of Hamid Karzai.  I would not support a military intervention on Zelaya’s behalf.  We have no troops that are not deployed or slated for deployment.  I would, however, support the immediate suspension of all aid to Honduras until the rightful government is restored.  I would also support a boycott of all trade with Honduras to prevent US corporations from profiting from the coup.  When all the facts are in, and we can follow the money, I believe we will learn that without US corporate financing, the coup could not have taken place.

If you have a few minutes, please look at the other three articles for today.  Any one of them could have been the lead article.

Oracle of 2010 Disaster

President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have frustrated progressive activists through their failure to live up to campaign promises and their tendency to court the right, while ignoring the people responsible for their election by opening out hearts, our bank accounts, and our labor to them.  I had thought that the frustration was limited to activists who follow political developments closely, but the problem is worse than I imagined.

apathy ...But a bigger indicator of peril comes from a new survey question added the DK tracking poll for the first time this week. The poll now includes a rather simple indicator of baseline voter enthusiasm for the year 2010. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting

Republican Voters: 81/14

Independent Voters: 65/23


Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will "definitely not vote" in 2010 than are Republicans… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Daily Kos>

If Democrats do not turn out in high numbers, the GOP will make significant gains in 2010.  Change in America is a two step process.  First, we need to get rid of the alligators (Republican).  Then we need to drain the swamp (DINOs).  As frustrated as I am, there can be zero chance for progress if the alligators are reestablished.  There is time to turn this trend around but only if Obama and the Democrats stop acting like Republicans, so we need to hold their feet to the fire.  Our one saving grace here is that the Republicans are marginalizing themselves to such a great extent, that they’re likely to drive most independents away.

GOP in a Snit Over ACORN Reprieve

DOJ has repeatedly used the “preexisting contract” argument to foil stripping taxpayer-funded bonuses from GOP crony executives to my great frustration.  However, at least they are being consistent in the application of that argument.

Voter Fraud Probe The saga of the embattled anti-poverty group ACORN has taken a new twist, with the disclosure of a Justice Department opinion that a vote by Congress to cut off all federal funding to the group should not affect contracts signed before it was passed.

A spokesman for the Republicans in Congress has already blasted the decision as "shameful."

According to The New York Times, soon after Congress voted in September, a lawyer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development asked the Justice Department how it should handle pre-existing contracts with ACORN. Much of the money which ACORN receives from the federal government is in the form of HUD grants involving the provision of affordable housing.

In an October 23 memorandum (pdf), which has just been released, Acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron replied that the language of the bill was ambiguous but his opinion was that those contracts could not be breached "where doing so would give rise to contractual liability."…

Inserted from <Raw Story>

The GOP Regime has their panties in such a tight bunch over this that they are almost sure to challenge the DOJ in court.  Frankly, I’ll be surprised of the DOJ argument stands, but that’s OK.  In the cross complaint ACORN will raise that the bill, whereby Congress cut off their funding, is a bill of attainder, forbidden by the Constitution, and therefore void.  In the meantime, ACORN may continue many of their valued services.

On the Health Care Front

Two stories caught my attention.  In the first, a new Urban institute report sheds new light on a triggered public option.

trigger A new report from the Urban Institute argues that a “strong” public option — one that is triggered in the event that overall growth in national health spending exceeds a pre-determined target — may do more to control health care spending than the public option proposals offered in existing legislation:

In the absence of enough political support to pass a strong public option at this time, a “trigger” for a strong public option should be considered for inclusion in health reform legislation whether or not a weak public option is included as a political compromise. Even the threat of such a plan being triggered offers the potential to affect market dynamics between insurers and providers.

The report says that the Senate and House’s public option provisions (which require the public plan to independently negotiate rates with providers) hold little hope of lowering costs in areas of the country with high provider concentration. In areas where hospitals have “too strong a market presence to be excluded from insurer networks,” hospitals could dictate prices, stripping the public plan of its ability to negotiate cheaper rates, the report warns. According to a 2006 study, 86% “of large metropolitan areas were considered to have highly concentrated hospital markets.”

Policymakers can overcome the political challenges of enacting a strong public option — one which compels Medicare providers to participate and establishes Medicare-like reimbursement rates — by placing the plan behind a trigger mechanism which “would allow private insurers the opportunity to show that they can provide affordable coverage under the new health reform rules.”

The report recognizes that “many proponents of a strong public option oppose a compromise relying on triggers because they believe that triggers would never be pulled” and suggests that structuring the trigger around overall growth in national health spending — rather than affordability — would make it more likely that a public plan would be established in the absence of meaningful cost containment… [emphasis original] [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

It might not be a bad way to go if the trigger pulls itself automatically with no further Congressional input, if its provisions are stronger that the emasculated versions in the House and Senate bills, and if it would be implemented no later than the 2014 date set for the puny versions in the House and Senate bills.  Of course one of the big obstacles to reform is Traitor Joe LIEberman, which brings us to the second story.

asshole_Lieberman Former DNC Chair Howard Dean called on Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) to resign as chair of Senate Homeland Security Committee if he can't bring himself to oppose a Republican filibuster of health care reform legislation.

Appearing on "The Joe Scarborough Show" on WABC, Dean stressed that he had no problem with Lieberman opposing the bill on its philosophical merits, or lack thereof. But he insisted that it was irresponsible and unprincipled to not allow the legislation to come to an up-or-down vote.

"I think that [Lieberman] is a very complicated guy," said Dean. "He does [confuse me] because he says he's a principled guy but there's nothing principled about holding up a bill... If he was a principled guy he'd resign his chairmanship."

"If you are with a caucus you don't owe the leader any vote on any substance," Dean added. "I have no problem with him voting against the public option... You owe it to Harry Reid to allow him to run the Senate. And if you're not willing to do that the proper thing to do is to step aside."

Dean's remarks, which come after Lieberman renewed his pledge to filibuster health care reform that includes a public option, reflect an intense frustration among progressives over the ability of moderates to water down or stall legislation. They also suggest a growing demand for leadership to enforce institutional discipline...

Inserted from <Huffington Post>

If he does not resign, he should be stripped of his chairmanship, a point I have made many times,

Open Thread – 11/28/2009

Yesterday, I had a really rough day coughing.  Nevertheless, I got a lot of visiting in and hope to do so again today.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:08.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

What’s up for they weekend?

Friday, November 27, 2009

After the Thanksgiving Feast


Score One for Obama!

I’ve been critical of him of late, and I don’t apologize for calling them as I see them, but this time he got one right.

Happy Rich Businessman Hundreds, if not thousands, of lobbyists are likely to be ejected from federal advisory panels as part of a little-noticed initiative by the Obama administration to curb K Street's influence in Washington, according to White House officials and lobbying experts.

The new policy -- issued with little fanfare this fall by the White House ethics counsel -- may turn out to be the most far-reaching lobbying rule change so far from President Obama, who also has sought to restrict the ability of lobbyists to get jobs in his administration and to negotiate over stimulus contracts.

The initiative is aimed at a system of advisory committees so vast that federal officials don't have exact numbers for its size; the most recent estimates tally nearly 1,000 panels with total membership exceeding 60,000 people.

Under the policy, which is being phased in over the coming months, none of the more than 13,000 lobbyists in Washington would be able to hold seats on the committees, which advise agencies on trade rules, troop levels, environmental regulations, consumer protections and thousands of other government policies.

"Some folks have developed a comfortable Beltway perch sitting on these boards while at the same time working as lobbyists to influence the government," said White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen, who disclosed the policy in a September blog posting on the White House Web site. "That is just the kind of special interest access that the president objects to." … [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

Plenty more needs to be done to extricate our government from the greedy clutches of crony plutocrats, but at least this is a start in the right direction.  Kudos!

Obama’s Thanksgiving Address

If you missed it, here it is.

Open Thread – 11/27/2009

Yesterday I only visited the blogs of first time visitors here.  Thanksgiving dinner was excellent.  I did not get to see the Broncos play last night, because I don’t get the NFL Network, but I was delighted with the outcome:


Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:31.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving_cat This is a special holiday, and I find myself thankful for much.  I’m thankful that I’m back online.  I’m thankful that I won my SSDI appeal.  I’m thankful that I’ll have health coverage in five days.  I’m thankful that I get to pig out today. Most of all I’m thankful that John McConJob is not President and Snake Oil Sarah Mooseolini is not VP.  Here’s a bit of Thanksgiving history.

Thanksgiving: the day America sets aside for family, for remembrance. It’s a day of Pilgrims, Native Americans, turkey and pumpkin pie but if it wasn’t for a persistent female magazine editor, we may not have the day to celebrate today. It was Sarah Josepha Hale who really pushed hard for a permanent national Thanksgiving celebration. But her involvement was far down the road from the first Thanksgiving.

The first Thanksgiving celebration held in America occurred in 1619. On December fourth of that year, thirty-eight English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. Part of their original charter stated that they would set aside that day every year and observe it as a day of Thanksgiving. Due to the hardships of those early times and various other factors, the celebration turned out to be a short-lived occurrence.

The next recorded celebration is also the most famous. Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1621. The first winter the Pilgrims had in the ‘New World’ was a brutal one (nearly half of those who came over on the Mayflower died). Times did eventually grow easier on them though, the following harvest season was so bountiful in fact that the Pilgrims decided to hold a feast for celebration and thanksgiving. This ‘festival’, which lasted three days, included the participation of nearly one hundred Native Americans. Governor William Bradford had invited the natives to show them appreciation, for helping his colony survive through the harsh weather conditions.

The next ‘thanksgiving’ celebration did not occur until 1623. This year the Pilgrims were again hit with a great natural hardship, a draught. In the hope of bringing much needed rain, they gathered together in a prayer service. The next morning it started to rain and it rained long and hard for the next several days. When it became apparent that the crops (and the colonists) would survive, Governor Bradford declared that they would hold another day of thanksgiving (the Indians were again invited). As other settlers came to the country, they held their own thanksgiving celebrations, but each celebration was independent of the next.

In 1668 the Plymouth General Court tried to bring some order to the celebration by declaring November 25th to be Thanksgiving. It was a proclamation that only lasted within the colony for five years.

How Thanksgiving came to be held on a Thursday is not widely know. A very logical belief is that the first Thanksgivings were held on Thursday (and in some cases Wednesday) so as to not interfere with the Sabbath. During these times, the Sabbath was an extremely important day; Saturday was a day of preparation and Monday was out to give the Sabbath it’s proper respect so with these ‘restrictions’ Thursday becomes an easy choice.

The first national celebration of Thanksgiving occurred in 1777. This one-time only event occurred at this time also as a way to celebrate the American defeat of the British at Saratoga.

The day worked it’s way on and off local calendars until 1789 when George Washington made the first Presidential proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national event. The first Thanksgiving held under this proclamation occurred on November 26 of that year. The pattern was set.

When he was named as the Second President of the United States, John Adams, in an effort to be different, declared a day of Thanksgiving but moved it from Thursday to the Wednesday previous. Finding it brought more resistance than he felt it was worth, Adams relented and changed the day back.

When it was Thomas Jefferson’s turn as President, he decided against the idea of Thanksgiving. At this time, many were against the idea of taking a day to honor the hard times of a few pilgrims. And so it went for nearly sixty years, until Sarah Josepha Hale came to bat.

A magazine editor, Hale wrote strong editorials in many of the popular magazines of the time (including Boston Ladies’ Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book), she also wrote letters to anyone and everyone (including Presidents, Governors, Congress members and others) who might help her cause. She was concerned with her belief that the country needed to set aside a day to give thanks ‘unto him from who all blessings flow’.

Finally she struck the right chord with Abraham Lincoln and in 1863, Hale saw her dream realized as the President declared the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving...

Inserted from <>

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving in the sincere hope that you have much for which to be thankful.  Enjoy the day.

Now to discuss today’s key political issue…

What’s for dinner?

I’m having turkey, yams, stuffing, steamed veggies, cranberry sauce and cranberry cookies.

Action Alert: What Was 9/11?

A few days ago, I reported that President Obama has appointed Dana Perino to the Broadcasting Board of Governors.  Yesterday she demonstrated her gratitude and loyalty.


Earth to Dana the Dingbat!!  Hello?!!?  What was 9/11?!!?

Seriously, I don’t believe for a moment that Dana does not know not only that 9/11 was a terrorist attack, but also that it could have been easily avoided were it not for the total incompetence (at best) of Bush and his GOP minions.  Perino lied to discredit Obama.  Sean Hannity, Faux Noise propagandist and operator of Hannidate, a site where closeted GOP hypocrites go to find their very own wide-stance lovers, just sat there and did not correct her.

The White House phone number is (202) 456-1111.  Will you join me in challenging Barack Obama to rescind her appointment?

Public Option Perils

This morning I read an argument against the public option that I consider too important not to share.

Insurance greed 2 In the current battle over health reform, progressives may have set themselves up for trouble by pinning all their hopes on the creation of a government-run insurance plan. A public plan is not a bad idea -- indeed, it could be a critical element in successful reform -- but it could also easily turn out to serve the opposite purposes from the ones progressives intend.

All the proposals receiving serious consideration in Congress allow employers to continue to insure their workers and dependents directly. They also call for new "insurance exchanges" as an alternative means for individuals and employee groups to purchase coverage. If there is a new government-run plan, it would be one of the options in those exchanges.

The great danger is that the public plan could end up with a high-cost population in a system that fails to compensate adequately for those risks. Private insurers make money today in large part by avoiding people with high medical costs, and in a reformed system they'd love a public plan where they could dump the sick. Although the proposals before Congress aim to limit insurers' incentives to skim off the best risks, the measures are unlikely to eliminate those incentives entirely.

Entry into the public plan for the eligible employed would be a two-stage process. First, employers would choose between paying into the exchange and buying insurance directly to cover their workers. Unless the exchange is such a good deal that nearly all employers take it, firms with a young, healthy work force would tend to buy insurance on their own, while those with higher-cost employees would go into the exchange's pool. As a result, the pool would suffer "adverse selection" -- it would get stuck with a higher-risk population.

Second, within the exchange, the government-run plan would compete against private insurers, yet it would likely abstain from the marketing strategies used by private plans to avoid high-risk enrollees. This double jeopardy of adverse selection could then more than nullify the advantage the public plan derives from its lower overhead (as a result of less money going for salaries, profits, and marketing).

How should a public plan work? According to one model, the public plan would resemble traditional Medicare and have lower costs than private insurers by dint of its lower overhead and greater purchasing leverage, which would enable it to pay doctors and hospitals less. On that basis, it could underprice private plans and attract an immense enrollment (131 million people, according to one estimate).

Some supporters favor this approach because they see it as a step toward single-payer, which is exactly what the opponents fear. Squeezed by the public plan, providers might raise prices for patients insured by private plans, sending those plans into a death spiral.

But a Congress that is not about to adopt single-payer is unlikely to adopt a Trojan horse for single-payer. Some compromise proposals -- such as Sen. Charles Schumer's -- offer a second model, calling for a "level playing field" between private insurers and the public plan, including limits on the latter's ability to flex its purchasing muscle. But tight controls on its bargaining power might doom it entirely if it faces severe adverse selection.

Here's the delicate political problem: Depending on the rules, the entire system could tip one way or the other. Unconstrained, the public plan could drive private insurers out of business, setting off a political backlash not just from the industry but from much of the public. Over-constrained, the public plan could go into a death spiral itself as it becomes a dumping ground for high-risk enrollees, its rates rise, and it loses its appeal to the public at large. Creating a fair system of public-private competition -- giving the public plan just enough power to offset its likely higher risks -- wouldn't be easy even if it were up to neutral experts, which it isn't.

In any event, the success of a reformed insurance system is going to depend more on general features of its design, such as the rules that apply to all insurers and in particular whether premiums will be risk-adjusted (providing a bonus to plans with higher-risk enrollees and imposing a tax on other plans). A key question is whether the exchanges will serve nearly all employers, creating broadly shared risk, or remain on the margins as limited, high-risk pools… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The American Prospect>

I hate to admit it, but he does have a point.  The public option could be fixed with a few key amendments.  First, tie it to Medicare rates, not negotiated rates, adjusted for rural inequity in the cost of service provision.  Second, make it available to anyone who wants it, such as people dissatisfied with their employers’ plans.  If we cannot get a public option worth having, we may be better off to pass the insurance regulation and the subsidies, but not the individual mandate.  If we celebrate a bad bill, the GOP wins.  Until we pass single payer, our work is not done.

Obama Sets Emissions Goals

In case any teabaggers are reading this, we’re referring to greenhouse gas emissions, not nocturnal ones.

climate The White House announced Wednesday that President Obama will attend U.N.-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen next month and commit the United States to specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The administration's decision to identify a series of goals, including cutting emissions over the next decade "in the range of" 17 percent below 2005 levels, is a calculated risk, given that Congress has never set mandatory limits on greenhouse gases.

The figure amounts to a 5.5 percent cut below the 1990 levels that most countries use as a reference point, much less than what most other nations have called for. It is also less than what President Bill Clinton endorsed in the Kyoto talks in 1997 and well below the 25 to 40 percent cut that the European Union has asked of industrialized countries.

However, the target will be contingent on passage of domestic legislation, and that figure reflects the current U.S. political reality. The House already passed such a target, and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who is working on a bipartisan bill, said in an interview that the short-term target is "a strong and good place to be."

Obama has come under intense pressure from world leaders and his domestic supporters to take the lead in forging a global pact to slow climate change… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

Obama has a problem here.  For him to commit to anything at all is risky, because the Republican Reich would love nothing more than to embarrass Obama on the international front by blocking all climate change reform, and enough DINOs have their pockets so full of Big Energy cash, that we cannot depend on them not to betray us.  On the other hand, green technology is the economic wave of the future, and unless the US takes the lead, our economy will lag behind the nations that do.  Here is another reason to change the Senate rules to require only 55 votes for cloture.

Open Thread – 11/26/2009

After my volunteer work, helping in a therapy group for former prisoners yesterday, I attended their Thanksgiving party.  Then I had some last minute shopping to do for tonight’s dinner.  By the time I returned, I was exhausted.  I won’t do much visiting, if any, today, because I invited a gal in the building who is too disabled to cook for herself to have dinner with me..  I have a lot of cooking to do.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 3:50.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

Enjoy your turkey.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When I'm Wrong, I Say So

I learned this morning that the death of William E. Sparkman, Jr. was a suicide, to my great surprise.
census A Census Bureau worker in Kentucky who was found dead in September with "FED" written on his chest killed himself and staged his death to look like a homicide, state and federal law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
William E. Sparkman Jr. was found with his hands, feet and mouth loosely bound with duct tape, a rope loosely tied around his neck. Passersby spotted his body Sept. 12 in a remote area of the Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky.
The condition in which Sparkman's body was found led to speculation about whether he was a victim of anti-government violence. Area residents, however, surmised he had stumbled upon a backwoods drug lab.
But investigators concluded that Sparkman wrote the word on his own chest from the bottom up. He died of asphyxiation, an autopsy showed.
Witnesses told investigators that Sparkman had discussed ending his life. He had also discussed recent federal investigations of Kentucky public officials and the negative perceptions of federal agencies expressed by some residents of Clay County, Ky., where he lived, investigators said. Before his death, Sparkman also secured two life insurance policies, totaling $600,000, that would not pay out for suicide.
Sparkman was a substitute teacher and one of 5,900 part-time Census Bureau fieldworkers who conduct the annual American Community Survey and dozens of other government surveys each year. Normal census operations will resume in Clay County next month, Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said.
"The death of our co-worker, William Sparkman, was a tragedy and remains a loss for the Census Bureau family," Buckner said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."…
Inserted from <Washington Post>
On September 26, I incorrectly concluded that his death was a murder, brought on by GOP hate speech.  This is an excerpt of what I said:
…Michelle Bachmann and Glen Beck, you have done it.  You have stirred peoples fears until some poor ignorant fool acted on your foul lies and deranged Census Bureau conspiracy theories, and now a man is dead for nothing more than doing his job…
Inserted from <Politics Plus>

I was wrong.  And when I’m wrong, I say so.  You didn’t find it buried under a bunch of other posts.  It’s right on top, the day’s lead article.  I assumed facts that seemed undeniably apparent at the time, but were not true, and therefore I apologize to my readers.  You depend on me for accurate analysis, and I let you down.  I promise to take more care in the future.

To Michelle Bachmann and Glen Beck, I offer no such apology.  Everything I said about the likelihood of their hate speech to stir violence still stands.  This time, I was wrong, but if they and their fellow goose steppers continue in this vein, I’ll be reporting an authentic victim of their rabble rousing far too soon to suit me.