Wednesday, September 30, 2009

All The President's Values

Huffpo: Drew Westen
Psychologist and neuroscientist; Emory University Professor


I'm starting to gain new respect for President Bush. Wow, that's a scary thought.
Sure, he was an impulsive, narcissistic little man of at-best average intellect, who acted on his "gut" even when it was as empty as his head. Sure, he had a Manichean world-view and split the world into those who are "with us" or "against us." Sure, he pursued an economic philosophy (if you can call three or four words strung together at a time, usually with improper syntax, the rudiments of a philosophy) that led to the Great Recession and a trillion dollar deficit to support a massive redistribution of income from the middle class to the super-rich. Sure, he loved cowboys so much he bought a ranch as a prop for his first presidential campaign and confused world leadership with a John Wayne movie. And sure, when he listened to his psychopathic sidekick, Karl Rove, he did some pretty shady things -- which was a lot of the time.
OK, so W. had his flaws.
But even when he was lying through his teeth, lying through somebody else's teeth (like Colin Powell's at the United Nations), or bombing the wrong country, you knew where he stood. He had beliefs. He had principles. He had values.
Mind you, I didn't agree with any of those beliefs, principles, or values. But once Bush took off the "compassionate conservative" Halloween costume he wore for the 2000 election, he generally told us what he believed in and pursued it as vigorously as he asserted it.
For example, Bush thought gay people like his vice president's daughter were a threat to civilization (okay, maybe he had a point about Liz Cheney), so he tried to sell a Constitutional amendment to make them the official lepers of the United States (since both he and Jeb still needed Hispanics, and we already had a national flower).
He believed abortion was murder and that premarital sex was a sin (once he was no longer premarital, of course), so he used the big stick of both U.S. aid abroad and the federal government at home to prevent everyone he could from getting an abortion, a condom, or accurate information about birth control.
He thought everyone should be able to carry an AK-47 into church, so he opened an office of faith-based initiatives and let the ban on assault weapons sunset.
And he believed that monopolies constitute a free market and that profits are good no matter how you get them, so he gave taxpayer subsidies to oil companies while gas was at $4.00 a gallon and handed the national car keys to Wall Street traders along with a fifth of Jack Daniels and a race track.
Okay, so he wasn't among, say, our top 43 presidents.
But I wouldn't mind hearing about values from our current president. And more importantly, I wouldn't mind seeing him act on them, whatever they are.
No, compromise doesn't count as a value. And personally, I'm over "let me talk about personal responsibility in front of a black audience because everybody likes that." It was inspiring the first couple of times, but it's starting to reinforce white people's stereotypes that all black people need a talking-to about personal responsibility.
Speaking of personal responsibility, let's set aside for a moment the fact that Obama brought on the fellas who crashed the economy to fix it and hasn't fired or investigated anyone who caused the Great Recession or who continues to suck bonuses from the blood of our 401(k)s. That would be looking backward, and we're supposed to look forward. And forget about the wiretapping, the extraordinary renditions, all that civil liberties stuff. That would be looking forward, and we're supposed to be looking away. No one really knows why he's taken the positions he has on those issues because the reasons are all either classified or locked up in some jail cell in some country far away with duct tape over its mouth.
Let's just stick with one issue, health care. The president is right: we can all agree on about 80 percent. Insurance companies should have to reimburse doctors for the KY if they're going to allow prostate exams during men's yearly physicals. That's preventive care, and we're all for that. Nor should they be able to exclude people for coverage who have pre-existing conditions, cut people off on a pretext when they're in the middle of a costly illness, or impose annual or lifetime caps on medical expenses, especially when they're going to get 46 million new customers. And pharmaceutical companies should be able to set their own prices without negotiation if they agree not to oppose health care reform the way they did in 1994, continue giving millions to members of Congressional committees that deal with health care, and run $150 million in ads for the president's plan produced by the firms that ran his campaign so they have some cash to tide them over until 2012. Well, maybe we don't all agree on that last one.
But then there's the other 20 percent. Let's set aside for a moment how we're going to keep costs down if we don't ask anything much of the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, or the upper 1 percent of Americans, for whom tax increases somehow got off the table. (The answer: tax the health care benefits of middle class Americans and cut the waste from Medicare and hope you don't accidentally cut essential benefits to seniors.)
No one seems to notice that the president who believes social issues are so "90's," "retro," and "distracting" that he can just avoid them until the "real" issues have been settled (by which point he will likely have lost his super-majorities in one or both houses of Congress) has actually been steadily reinforcing the conservative position on every one of them.
Never mind that he threw gays under the bus on health care long ago (while his Justice Department likened them to practitioners of bestiality and his Defense Department continues to toss them out of the military), reinforcing the conservative position that gay relationships aren't real relationships, so gay couples don't deserve health insurance.
There was, of course, an alternative. The president could have used this as a "teachable moment" to move the political center, with a values statement as simple as, "When you sign up for health benefits, it's none of the government's, your employer's, or anyone else's damned business who you your husband, wife, or partner is." That's as much a libertarian message as a liberal one.
Obama's assumption of the conservative position on abortion seems to have gone equally unnoticed as he "reassured" Americans in his speech to the joint session of Congress that abortion wouldn't be covered, followed up by a categorical statement by his Secretary of Health and Human Services the following Sunday morning in case anyone missed it. If he's going to take the conservative position, he should be consistent and take it all the way: health insurance shouldn't cover birth control, either, because the Pope doesn't like it and nor do a lot of fundamentalist Christians. You certainly can't have taxpayer money going to block procreation. And perhaps we should mandate separate emergency rooms for men and women, at least on the Sabbath, because some women might be menstruating, and if government is going to enforce one group's religious preferences on the rest of us, it should enforce them all. (Well, maybe not the Book of Mormon, which had to change a little when Utah wanted to become a state. Anyway, multiple wives would be too expensive for the health insurance industry -- those are really big families.)
But Obama didn't need to take the position of the right to "avoid controversy." He might instead have stated a clear, values-based position -- "that government is not going to be in the business of deciding when or whether a woman or couple should or shouldn't start their family" -- and simply reiterated what is both the law and the mainstream view in this country, that in America, we don't force one person to live by another person's religious faith. That's a progressive message, but it's hardly "far left." If anything, it's "far middle."
Then there's the immigration attack on health care reform. Following Joe Wilson's rousing tea-party rendition of "Hail to the Chief" ("You lie!") in response to the president's joint-session "reassurance" that "illegals" with appendicitis will get a one-way bus-ticket to Mexico instead of (North) American health care, the president, who had just promised to "call out" those who used issues just like this one to try to obstruct health care reform, instead rewarded Wilson for his incivility. Following Wilson's outburst, the White House "toughened up" the president's proposal to prevent illegal immigrants from even buying their own insurance in the health exchange that will come online after the next presidential election -- in time for a Republican candidate to re-litigate the whole health care debate and derail it if he wins the election, claiming (and perhaps legitimately) a mandate for doing so.
President Obama could, of course, have responded differently, for example, by saying, "I have no intention of letting politicians who want to score political points hold the health care of our own citizens hostage to the immigration problem. We need common sense solutions to immigration that respect both our borders and our values, like increasing the number of border guards, cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and requiring those who are here already to earn citizenship by obeying our laws, paying taxes, learning English, and paying for their health care like everybody else. But with all the partisan bickering, immigration reform isn't going to happen overnight, and Americans want leadership on health care reform, and they want it now." I happen to know he would have gotten the better of Wilson and his ilk by double digits with that response because we polled it last year against a tough anti-immigrant attack on health care.
What makes the president's actions and "reassurances" during the health care debate so disturbing is their common thread: If this president has values, he doesn't want to talk about them, except in vague generalities, and when push comes to shove, it's hard to find many that he isn't willing to give up to avoid a confrontation.
Does he believe gay people should be second-class citizens the same way black people were when he was born? Don't watch the rabbit, watch the hands. We've heard him lecture black audiences on the virtues of reading to their children -- something he is uniquely positioned to do as a black president, and an important message to convey -- but have we heard him lecture black clergy about their bigotry toward their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters? Have we heard him remind them that white people made precisely the same arguments they have been making from the pulpit about gay unions 40 years ago about the "mixing of the races," based on the same biblical references?
On abortion and family planning, does he believe government should impose a vocal minority's religious beliefs on the majority in the most important decision people can make, about when to have a child? Or does he believe women and couples should decide for themselves, based on their own values and beliefs, when to start their families, whether to abort a rapist's baby, or whether they really want to bring a child into the world with a disease that will kill her before she ever turns 18? He and Kathleen Sebelius have "reassured" Americans that they need not fear the specter of government-funded abortions if health care reform passes. So what about health care plans that include it now? Watch the hand, not the rabbit.
And does the president really want to see the kind of comprehensive immigration reform he so eloquently spoke of during the campaign? Or does he prefer to continue stepping up Bush-era raids and promising Joe Wilson that illegal immigrants will die before they get health care in the U.S. of A., and that they will be denied care even if their husbands, wives, or children are American citizens (or if they are likely to infect American citizens with diseases for which they or their children are not immunized or treated)?
The reality is that there are competing value systems in "post-partisan" America, which are reflected broadly by the two parties, and both should be articulated clearly so voters can make educated choices.
The president and his team believe they can sidestep values and sell voters specific policies, with one "carve-out" after another for people on the other side who have strongly held value commitments and aren't afraid to voice them. But perhaps they should stop carving their values out of their policies and learn something from those people on the other side: If you offer the American people a compelling vision of the future, they just might follow you there. That's what leadership is all about.
Drew Westen, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies, and author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.


Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-westen/all-the-presidents-values_b_304087.html

NPR Poll: Congress NOT listening to "We the People"

September 30, 2009

NPR Morning Edition:

Perhaps no other issue Congress deals with touches every American as intimately as health care. Yet a new poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that, so far, the public feels profoundly shut out of the current health overhaul debate.

"Most people don't feel that they personally have a voice in this debate," said Mollyann Brodie, director of public opinion and survey research for the Kaiser Family Foundation. "In fact, 71 percent told us that Congress was paying too little attention to what people like them were saying."

Nancy Turtenwald is one of those people. The tourist from Milwaukee was walking around the sparkling new visitor center at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday. She was quick to agree with poll findings that the lawmakers debating the massive health overhaul bill just a few blocks away weren't much interested in problems like hers.

"I don't think they are people like us, you know?" she said. She thinks Congressional lawmakers know very little about the daily lives of the average American — and the health care costs they face. "How often do they go and buy gas and bread and stuff to see what it's really like for the people like us?"

So who does Turtenwald think Congress is listening to? "Lobbyists, and people who will get them reelected."

Still, according to the poll, the public is nearly evenly split about whether interest groups are a good or bad thing when it comes to health care.

Just over half — 51 percent — agree with the poll question "health care interest groups will play an important role in carrying out changes to the health care system, so it's important to have them on board with the legislation."

A somewhat smaller, but still substantial group (39 percent) agree, however, that "Congress should design the best health care legislation it can and not worry if health care interest groups support it or not."

And who does the public trust when it comes to health care interest groups?

Nurses got the highest vote of confidence, with 79 percent of those polled saying they have at least a fair amount of confidence that groups representing nurses would "recommend the right thing for the country when it comes to health care." Groups representing patients, doctors and seniors were next on the list.

Groups trusted the least were those representing insurance companies, drugmakers and large corporations.

Insurance companies and drugmakers were also among those respondents said were most responsible for the current problems facing health care. But so was the federal government.

That presents no small obstacle for lawmakers. "Half the public says that the federal government bears a lot of the responsibility for the problems that we face in our health care system," said Mollyann Brodie of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "So you know, certainly there is a challenge as the federal government is trying to address these problems, as they are also seen as one of the pieces of the challenge to start with."

Another challenge, says Bob Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health, is who the public does not blame — doctors, hospitals and patients themselves. Many experts say those are the groups most guilty of overusing the health care system. Thus, they are also the groups whose behavior is most targeted for change in the pending health care bills.

Yet "people are not focused on, 'Is something wrong with the delivery system?'" Blendon said. According to the poll, the public is focused on the insurance and pharmaceutical industry. And they very much think government is part of the problem

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Insurance Companies in Control

On 9/27/2009 we saw what happens when the primary concern of decision makers is corporate profits. Insurance companies are the only beneficiaries of the actions of the Senate Finance Committee.
This just highlights the problem of the current debate, one that we set out to change three weeks ago: the focus should be on providing medical care to keep everyone healthy, not how to expand insurance schemes.
FIGHT BACK: RALLY IN DC & LA
Join us tomorrow (Sep. 30th) in California or Washington for two major events
Washington:
• 3pm at McPherson Square (15th St NW and K Street)
• 4pm at Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House
Los Angeles:
• 6pm-8pm at the NW corner of Hollywood & Highland
More details at: https://madashelldoctorstour.com/Home_Page.html
We may not have another opportunity like this in our lifetime.
We must replace our current pay-or-die system and with a comprehensive, publicly financed, privately delivered, Single Payer system that puts people first.
Our moment to take a stand for Single Payer is NOW.
Get Mad, Stay Mad, Make History,
The Doctors

Brooks in Perfect Focus: The Next Culture War

nyt September 29, 2009
By DAVID BROOKS, OP-ED COLUMNIST

Centuries ago, historians came up with a classic theory to explain the rise and decline of nations. The theory was that great nations start out tough-minded and energetic. Toughness and energy lead to wealth and power. Wealth and power lead to affluence and luxury. Affluence and luxury lead to decadence, corruption and decline.

“Human nature, in no form of it, could ever bear prosperity,” John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, warning against the coming corruption of his country.

Yet despite its amazing wealth, the United States has generally remained immune to this cycle. American living standards surpassed European living standards as early as 1740. But in the U.S., affluence did not lead to indulgence and decline.

That’s because despite the country’s notorious materialism, there has always been a countervailing stream of sound economic values. The early settlers believed in Calvinist restraint. The pioneers volunteered for brutal hardship during their treks out west. Waves of immigrant parents worked hard and practiced self-denial so their children could succeed. Government was limited and did not protect people from the consequences of their actions, thus enforcing discipline and restraint.

When economic values did erode, the ruling establishment tried to restore balance. After the Gilded Age, Theodore Roosevelt (who ventured west to counteract the softness of his upbringing) led a crackdown on financial self-indulgence. The Protestant establishment had many failings, but it was not decadent. The old WASPs were notoriously cheap, sent their children to Spartan boarding schools, and insisted on financial sobriety.

Over the past few years, however, there clearly has been an erosion in the country’s financial values. This erosion has happened at a time when the country’s cultural monitors were busy with other things. They were off fighting a culture war about prayer in schools, “Piss Christ” and the theory of evolution. They were arguing about sex and the separation of church and state, oblivious to the large erosion of economic values happening under their feet.

Evidence of this shift in values is all around. Some of the signs are seemingly innocuous. States around the country began sponsoring lotteries: government-approved gambling that extracts its largest toll from the poor. Executives and hedge fund managers began bragging about compensation packages that would have been considered shameful a few decades before. Chain restaurants went into supersize mode, offering gigantic portions that would have been considered socially unacceptable to an earlier generation.

Other signs are bigger. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, in the three decades between 1950 and 1980, personal consumption was remarkably stable, amounting to about 62 percent of G.D.P. In the next three decades, it shot upward, reaching 70 percent of G.D.P. in 2008.

During this period, debt exploded. In 1960, Americans’ personal debt amounted to about 55 percent of national income. By 2007, Americans’ personal debt had surged to 133 percent of national income.

Over the past few months, those debt levels have begun to come down. But that doesn’t mean we’ve re-established standards of personal restraint. We’ve simply shifted from private debt to public debt. By 2019, federal debt will amount to an amazing 83 percent of G.D.P. (before counting the costs of health reform and everything else). By that year, interest payments alone on the federal debt will cost $803 billion.

These may seem like dry numbers, mostly of concern to budget wonks. But these numbers are the outward sign of a values shift. If there is to be a correction, it will require a moral and cultural movement.

Our current cultural politics are organized by the obsolete culture war, which has put secular liberals on one side and religious conservatives on the other. But the slide in economic morality afflicted Red and Blue America equally.

If there is to be a movement to restore economic values, it will have to cut across the current taxonomies. Its goal will be to make the U.S. again a producer economy, not a consumer economy. It will champion a return to financial self-restraint, large and small.

It will have to take on what you might call the lobbyist ethos — the righteous conviction held by everybody from AARP to the agribusinesses that their groups are entitled to every possible appropriation, regardless of the larger public cost. It will have to take on the self-indulgent popular demand for low taxes and high spending.

A crusade for economic self-restraint would have to rearrange the current alliances and embrace policies like energy taxes and spending cuts that are now deemed politically impossible. But this sort of moral revival is what the country actually needs.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Get Informed. Then take action. Baucus sold out.

We need your support for a new campaign of non-violent, civil disobedience targeting the private health insurance industry.

Go here for information: http://www.mobilizeforhealthcare.org/

This past spring, 13 brave individuals were arrested for disrupting Senate Finance hearings on health reform, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus. They were disgusted with witness panels, filled with private insurance execs and their cronies, that did NOT include even one single-payer expert.

Since Baucus only listened to the interests of millionaire CEOs and their lobbyists, it should be no surprise that a former CIGNA exec. called the Senate Finance Committee’s recently released bill, “a gift to the private health insurance industry that should be renamed the ‘Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.’”

We can’t stand for this disaster. The Mobilization for Health Care for All is launching a campaign of nonviolent sit-ins at insurance company offices so we can stand up to end a system that profits by denying people care and puts insurance company bureaucrats between doctors and patients. Time for Medicare for all, a single-payer, national healthcare system.

Healthcare-NOW! has decided to support this effort, and to encourage local coalitions in our network that are ready and willing to participate.

The PHIMG (Private Health Insurance Must Go) coalition in NYC will begin this campaign on September 29th. Other local groups are planning subsequent actions.

Actions may vary, but the central idea is to target major private insurance companies because they must not, and can not, be part of any solution to our healthcare crisis.

We need your help. Let us know if you’d like to participate in, or organize, a civil disobedience action near you. Sign up to sit in and join the nonviolent resistance today! Go here: http://www.mobilizeforhealthcare.org/

Cassandras of Climate

NYT
September 28, 2009
OP-ED COLUMNIST
Cassandras of Climate

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it’s growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon dioxide locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.

The result of all this is that climate scientists have, en masse, become Cassandras — gifted with the ability to prophesy future disasters, but cursed with the inability to get anyone to believe them.

And we’re not just talking about disasters in the distant future, either. The really big rise in global temperature probably won’t take place until the second half of this century, but there will be plenty of damage long before then.

For example, one 2007 paper in the journal Science is titled “Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America” — yes, “imminent” — and reports “a broad consensus among climate models” that a permanent drought, bringing Dust Bowl-type conditions, “will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.”

So if you live in, say, Los Angeles, and liked those pictures of red skies and choking dust in Sydney, Australia, last week, no need to travel. They’ll be coming your way in the not-too-distant future.

Now, at this point I have to make the obligatory disclaimer that no individual weather event can be attributed to global warming. The point, however, is that climate change will make events like that Australian dust storm much more common.

In a rational world, then, the looming climate disaster would be our dominant political and policy concern. But it manifestly isn’t. Why not?

Part of the answer is that it’s hard to keep peoples’ attention focused. Weather fluctuates — New Yorkers may recall the heat wave that pushed the thermometer above 90 in April — and even at a global level, this is enough to cause substantial year-to-year wobbles in average temperature. As a result, any year with record heat is normally followed by a number of cooler years: According to Britain’s Met Office, 1998 was the hottest year so far, although NASA — which arguably has better data — says it was 2005. And it’s all too easy to reach the false conclusion that the danger is past.

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It’s also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.

So here we are, with the greatest challenge facing mankind on the back burner, at best, as a policy issue. I’m not, by the way, saying that the Obama administration was wrong to push health care first. It was necessary to show voters a tangible achievement before next November. But climate change legislation had better be next.

And as I pointed out in my last column, we can afford to do this. Even as climate modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the threat is worse than we realized, economic modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the costs of emission control are lower than many feared.

So the time for action is now. O.K., strictly speaking it’s long past. But better late than never.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The New Sputnik

I can still hear the beeping of that first Sputnik as it passed overhead, broadcasting on our AM radio. Friedman gets it correct in his article. Hugs from the Heart, R

September 27, 2009
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
NYT OP-ED COLUMNIST

Most people would assume that 20 years from now when historians look back at 2008-09, they will conclude that the most important thing to happen in this period was the Great Recession. I’d hold off on that. If we can continue stumbling out of this economic crisis, I believe future historians may well conclude that the most important thing to happen in the last 18 months was that Red China decided to become Green China.

Yes, China’s leaders have decided to go green — out of necessity because too many of their people can’t breathe, can’t swim, can’t fish, can’t farm and can’t drink thanks to pollution from its coal- and oil-based manufacturing growth engine. And, therefore, unless China powers its development with cleaner energy systems, and more knowledge-intensive businesses without smokestacks, China will die of its own development.

What do we know about necessity? It is the mother of invention. And when China decides it has to go green out of necessity, watch out. You will not just be buying your toys from China. You will buy your next electric car, solar panels, batteries and energy-efficiency software from China.

I believe this Chinese decision to go green is the 21st-century equivalent of the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik — the world’s first Earth-orbiting satellite. That launch stunned us, convinced President Eisenhower that the U.S. was falling behind in missile technology and spurred America to make massive investments in science, education, infrastructure and networking — one eventual byproduct of which was the Internet.

Well, folks. Sputnik just went up again: China’s going clean-tech. The view of China in the U.S. Congress — that China is going to try to leapfrog us by out-polluting us — is out of date. It’s going to try to out-green us. Right now, China is focused on low-cost manufacturing of solar, wind and batteries and building the world’s biggest market for these products. It still badly lags U.S. innovation. But research will follow the market. America’s premier solar equipment maker, Applied Materials, is about to open the world’s largest privately funded solar research facility — in Xian, China.

“If they invest in 21st-century technologies and we invest in 20th-century technologies, they’ll win,” says David Sandalow, the assistant secretary of energy for policy. “If we both invest in 21st-century technologies, challenging each other, we all win.”

Unfortunately, we’re still not racing. It’s like Sputnik went up and we think it’s just a shooting star. Instead of a strategic response, too many of our politicians are still trapped in their own dumb-as-we-wanna-be bubble, where we’re always No. 1, and where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, having sold its soul to the old coal and oil industries, uses its influence to prevent Congress from passing legislation to really spur renewables. Hat’s off to the courageous chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric, Peter Darbee, who last week announced that his huge California power company was quitting the chamber because of its “obstructionist tactics.” All shareholders in America should ask their C.E.O.’s why they still belong to the chamber.

China’s leaders, mostly engineers, wasted little time debating global warming. They know the Tibetan glaciers that feed their major rivers are melting. But they also know that even if climate change were a hoax, the demand for clean, renewable power is going to soar as we add an estimated 2.5 billion people to the planet by 2050, many of whom will want to live high-energy lifestyles. In that world, E.T. — or energy technology — will be as big as I.T., and China intends to be a big E.T. player.

“For the last three years, the U.S. has led the world in new wind generation,” said the ecologist Lester Brown, author of “Plan B 4.0.” “By the end of this year, China will bypass us on new wind generation so fast we won’t even see it go by.”

I met this week with Shi Zhengrong, the founder of Suntech, already the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. Shi recalled how, shortly after he started his company in Wuxi, nearby Lake Tai, China’s third-largest freshwater lake, choked to death from pollution.

“After this disaster,” explained Shi, “the party secretary of Wuxi city came to me and said, ‘I want to support you to grow this solar business into a $15 billion industry, so then we can shut down as many polluting and energy consuming companies in the region as soon as possible.’ He is one of a group of young Chinese leaders, very innovative and very revolutionary, on this issue. Something has changed. China realized it has no capacity to absorb all this waste. We have to grow without pollution.”

Of course, China will continue to grow with cheap, dirty coal, to arrest over-eager environmentalists and to strip African forests for wood and minerals. Have no doubt about that. But have no doubt either that, without declaring it, China is embarking on a new, parallel path of clean power deployment and innovation. It is the Sputnik of our day. We ignore it at our peril.

Friday, September 25, 2009

C'mon Barack, we need FDR moments from you. Get it?

Bill Maher from Huffpo:

New Rule: If America can't get its act together, it must lose the bald eagle as our symbol and replace it with the YouTube video of the puppy that can't get up. As long as we're pathetic, we might as well act like it's cute. I don't care about the president's birth certificate, I do want to know what happened to "Yes we can."

Can we get out of Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. Fix health care? No. Close Gitmo? No. Cap-and-trade carbon emissions? No. The Obamas have been in Washington for ten months and it seems like the only thing they've gotten is a dog.

Well, I hate to be a nudge, but why has America become a nation that can't make anything bad end, like wars, farm subsidies, our oil addiction, the drug war, useless weapons programs - oh, and there's still 60,000 troops in Germany - and can't make anything good start, like health care reform, immigration reform, rebuilding infrastructure.

Even when we address something, the plan can never start until years down the road. Congress's climate change bill mandates a 17% cut in greenhouse gas emissions... by 2020! Fellas, slow down, where's the fire? Oh yeah, it's where I live, engulfing the entire western part of the United States!

We might pass new mileage standards, but even if we do, they wouldn't start until 2016. In that year, our cars of the future will glide along at a breathtaking 35 miles-per-gallon. My goodness, is that even humanly possible? Cars that get 35 miles-per-gallon in just six years? Get your head out of the clouds, you socialist dreamer! "What do we want!? A small improvement! When do we want it!? 2016!"

When it's something for us personally, like a laxative, it has to start working now. My TV remote has a button on it now called "On Demand". You get your ass on my TV screen right now, Jon Cryer, and make me laugh. Now! But when it's something for the survival of the species as a whole, we phase that in slowly.

Folks, we don't need more efficient cars. We need something to replace cars. That's what's wrong with these piddly, too-little-too-late half-measures that pass for "reform" these days. They're not reform, they're just putting off actually solving anything to a later day, when we might by some miracle have, a) leaders with balls, and b) a general populace who can think again. Barack Obama has said, "If we were starting from scratch, then a single-payer system would probably make sense." So let's start from scratch.

Even if they pass the shitty Max Baucus health care bill, it doesn't kick in for 4 years, during which time 175,000 people will die because they're not covered, and about three million will go bankrupt from hospital bills. We have a pretty good idea of the Republican plan for the next three years: Don't let Obama do anything. What kills me is that that's the Democrats' plan, too.

We weren't always like this. Inert. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law and 11 months later seniors were receiving benefits. During World War II, virtually overnight FDR had auto companies making tanks and planes only. In one eight year period, America went from JFK's ridiculous dream of landing a man on the moon, to actually landing a man on the moon.

This generation has had eight years to build something at Ground Zero. An office building, a museum, an outlet mall, I don't care anymore. I'm tempted to say that, symbolically, all America can do lately is keep digging a hole, but Ground Zero doesn't represent a hole. It is a hole. America: Home of the Freedom Pit. Ironically, it's spitting distance from Wall Street, where they knock down buildings a different way - through foreclosure.

That's the ultimate sign of our lethargy: millions thrown out of their homes, tossed out of work, lost their life savings, retirements postponed - and they just take it. 30% interest on credit cards? It's a good thing the Supreme Court legalized sodomy a few years ago.
Why can't we get off our back? Is it something in the food? Actually, yes. I found out something interesting researching last week's editorial on how we should be taxing the unhealthy things Americans put into their bodies, like sodas and junk foods and gerbils.

Did you know that we eat the same high-fat, high-carb, sugar-laden shit that's served in prisons and in religious cults to keep the subjects in a zombie-like state of lethargic compliance? Why haven't Americans arisen en masse to demand a strong public option? Because "The Bachelor" is on. We're tired and our brain stems hurt from washing down French fries with McDonald's orange drink.

The research is in: high-fat diets makes you lazy and stupid. Rats on an American diet weren't motivated to navigate their maze and once in the maze they made more mistakes. And, instead of exercising on their wheel, they just used it to hang clothes on. Of course we can't ban assault rifles - we're the first generation too lazy to make its own coffee. We're the generation that invented the soft chocolate chip cookie: like a cookie, only not so exhausting to chew. I ask you, if the food we're eating in America isn't making us stupid, how come the people in Carl's Jr. ads never think to put a napkin over their pants?

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/new-rule-if-america-cant_b_299383.html

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Death Panels? Yes, The Insurance Companies

I got a phone call from my oldest friend yesterday. We've been friends since nursery school, stayed best friends in grade school, high school, college and beyond. We were the kind of friends that had hundreds of "in jokes" and we passed notes and talked on the phone more than we should have, and drove our parents crazy.

We survived Mrs. Nemchek's geometry class together. We liked the same music. Neither of us were the "popular" girls, but we didn't want to be. We marched to our own drummer. We had each other, and we made each other laugh and we were always there for each other without reservation. We got a kick out of the fact that people would routinely ask us if we were sisters, when we looked absolutely nothing alike.

So, it wasn't unusual to get a call from her. There are times when we talk every other day. Sometimes we seem to go for weeks without a call, but we're always there in spirit.
"I need to tell you something," she said. I wasn't sure whether this was going to be good or bad, but "I need to tell you something" is always important. "I went to the doctor, and there's something wrong with my heart."
I wasn't expecting that one.

My friend has had a series of health problems -- a bad car accident resulting in two painful spinal surgeries, asthma, a breast cancer scare, but this was different. Her matter-of-fact tone quickly dissolved into tears of fear and vulnerability. "I can't believe this. I'm only 43!" This wasn't supposed to happen.

After her breast cancer scare, the doctor recommended a preventative regimen of tamoxifen, a drug which would help ward off the risk of cancer that her condition indicated might be a problem. But before they started her on the potent drug, they wanted to make sure she had a good healthy heart. A family history of heart disease put her in a high risk group, so the cardiologist insisted on a stress test.

She's been living through multiple problems with her insurance provider, Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield, so she wasn't surprised when they refused to pay for the test. She was surprised when the doctor decided to call the insurance company himself. He explained why it was important, and that he felt very strongly and in no uncertain terms that it needed to be done. They still refused to pay for the test. And then the cardiologist did an amazing thing. Outraged at the insurance company, he said that he would pay for the test himself, out of his own pocket. It was important, too important to cow to the insurance company representative whose job it was to deny claims just to increase the profits for the company.

My friend wasn't even able to complete the stress test. After a few minutes on the treadmill, they stopped it and wouldn't allow her to continue. Shortness of breath. Chest pain. She'd been experiencing these symptoms lately. She was mowing the lawn this week, and had to stop half way through because she couldn't catch her breath. She chalked it off to asthma. But it was, in fact, a coronary blockage that was keeping one of the chambers of her heart from getting enough oxygen.

So, instead of starting a regimen of tamoxifen next week, she will be getting a stent in her heart tomorrow. She's home right now, trying to "do nothing," and trying not to get too stressed out by the thought that she'll be in surgery in just a few hours, and never even knew anything was wrong.

If her insurance company had gotten its way, she would never have had that test. The next time she was out mowing the lawn, it could have killed her. "He saved my life," she said, just as I was thinking the same thing. Yes, doctors are in the business of saving lives from disease, and illness and injury, but they shouldn't have to be in the business of saving lives from business. "He saved my life from the insurance company, she continued. "The insurance company... there's your Death Panel."

I didn't even ask her his name, but I'm grateful to that cardiologist in the kind of way it's difficult to express in words. He saved a wonderful, beautiful life. But how many people are not so lucky? A recent study found out that 45,000 people every year die because they are uninsured. And each one of those 45,000 has a story, too. They are someone's husband, or wife, or parent, or best friend since nursery school.

But my friend has health insurance. She pays $600 every month for it, and yet her coverage denied a test that saved her life. How many fully-insured Americans die every year because we allow the insurance industry to be a for-profit enterprise, making money off of people's lives? How many die because our current system says that the money made for salaries and bonuses for insurance company executives is more important than they are? More important than your mother. More important than your son. More important than my friend. How long will we accept the harsh reality that the insurance company looks at human beings and sees nothing but a spreadsheet?
"We need a revolution in the health care industry," my friend agreed. "We should not allow them to profit from our own illness."

Until then, if you have insurance, get in line. Because whatever you are paying them, it's only a matter of time before your number is up, and it's you or someone you love that gets to stand in front of the Death Panel and plead your case. And guess what? They'd much rather pay politicians than pay to save your life.

It's cheaper.


Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/akmuckraker/welcome-to-the-death-pane_b_292859.html

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Afghanis-nam

Interesting perspective by Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle blower for the Vietnam fiasco. He sees clear parallels and encourages those now on the inside not to wait to tell what they know. It's worth a reflective listen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where Are We Going? How Fast? (Something fun)

Edwin Hubbell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Hubble) was poking around in the corners of the cosmic closet and discovered he couldn’t quite reach the corners & then discovered he wouldn’t - ever. The continuously expanding closet; it was a game changer.

Next, a quick grade school astronomy review. We know the earth is spinning away on its polar axis. We know the moon doesn’t spin in that way, but is on a just-right-orbit around earth to give us those beautiful full moons every 28 days. We also know this earth-moon duo dances around our sun once a year. OK; we’re starting to get a lot of things in motion here.

Add to that, we know our little solar system has a handful of other solar orbiters and the whole lot is part of our galaxy, the Milky Way. And of course, thanks to Edwin, we know it’s all headed away from everything else out there, including the starting gate.
But wait! Turns out the earth, our solar system, our galaxy (Milky Way) and our Local Group; whoa! Local Group? (Thank you again Edwin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Group). In his poking around, Edwin discovered that the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies are the main players in our Local Group and each have a series of smaller satellite galaxies. Don’t forget! Everything’s moving. Hmmmm; the synapses aren’t firing quite fast enough to keep up the mental model. Neo, where are you?

How fast is fast? Well for the earth’s solar orbit: it turns out that we’re travelling around the sun at a mere 66,700 miles per hour. So at the end of a day we’ve trotted about 1,600,800 miles. Keep up your electrolytes! And for the year: 584,292,000 miles.

But wait, everything else is moving too. How fast? Well turns little speck earth & companions are going about 600Km/s or 372.823 miles in one second. Ummm, that’s 16,369.38 miles per minute and 982,162.8 miles in one hour. Look out Jackie Joyner!

Holy cow! That means the mileage for 24 hours = 23,211,907.2 miles; and that extrapolates to an annual rate of 8,603,746,128 miles. Toyota, we need a different odometer and the Gatorade truck doesn’t seem to be keeping up.

Now for the where part; the spot, place, location we were just in when you started to read this, well, we were never there before and never will be again. It’s always new and changing. Never have to visit the boring places twice. Ever! So long before Scotty, Kirk, Spock et al showed up, we’d been doing this “places never gone before” thing, a long, long time. And never going back. Talk about "The Wanderer". It's the peripatetic earth.

And contrary to things appearing to be the same, they’re always changing. Everything. Always.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Here's What We're Supporting in Afghanistan

The Rule of the Rapists

WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN AFGHANISTAN
The Effects of the Afghan Government and the War on Women

A recent report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Silence is Violence, disclosed that rape is not even a crime under the laws of Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

However, a woman who reports a rape to the authorities will find that sex outside of
marriage is a crime, and she will probably be convicted of that crime unless she can
produce four male witnesses that corroborate her claim that the sexual intercourse was not consensual. If imprisoned, she may find herself at the mercy of detention facility officials who “are said to have forced female detainees into prostitution...”

If she manages to avoid punishment from the legal system, cultural mores (not Taliban
decrees) often dictate acceptable resolutions of the conflict between her family and that of her assailants, including:
• killing both the victim and the rapist,
• forcing the victim to marry the rapist, or
• giving girl(s) from the rapist’s family to the victim’s family as compensation for lost honor (UNAMA).

Readers might recall the international outcry in response to the passage of a law by the Afghan national government enshrining a husband’s legal right to demand sex from his wife four times a week–essentially, legally protecting rape. Under intense pressure, the law was changed. Now, rather than legalizing outright rape, the law makes it legal for husbands to starve their wives until they submit to sexual intercourse (Vogt).

Worse, powerful government officials and their cohorts frequently sexually assault women with impunity: “In the northern region for example, 39 percent of the cases analyzed by UNAMA Human Rights, found that perpetrators were directly linked to
power brokers who are, effectively, above the law and enjoy immunity from arrest as well as immunity from social condemnation” (UNAMA).

This toxic atmosphere for women’s sexual rights under the Kabul regime led local women’s rights groups to coin a new phrase for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: “The Rule of the Rapists” (Rawi).

War erodes the rights of women and girls. Supporters of the war in Afghanistan often
cite the Taliban’s assault on women’s rights as a justification for continued military action.

However, the behavior of the Afghan government and the effects of war on women in general falsify this justification.

War’s Effects on Women From UNICEF.org: “‘…[G]ender-based inequity is usually exacerbated during situations of extreme violence such as armed conflict.’ ...Examples...include: • violence...including rape and sexual slavery; • hunger and exploitation in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons, when men take
control of food distribution; • malnutrition, when food aid neglects [their] special nutritional requirements; and • culturally inappropriate and/or inadequate access to health services, including...reproductive health services. “…Health services for women, girls and the children in their charge break down in wartime…Often health services available in emergency situations are dominated by men, so many women and girls, for cultural or religious reasons, underutilize these services despite
their need of them.

“The population movements and breakdown of social controls engendered by armed conflict encourage, in their turn, rape and prostitution as well as sexual slavery
to serve combatants. Unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases...are the collateral physical effects of this human degradation.”

Kabul’s (Lack of) Response to Threats Against Women Women in Afghan public life often face threats--in many cases from inside the Afghan government. The government
frequently fails to respond when such threats are reported and often becomes
complicit in shutting women out of the public discourse. By failing to act on reports
of threats against women because they are women, the government reinforces the
perception that regressive actors can target women with impunity.

According to the U.N. report, “Chauvinist attitudes, conservative religious viewpoints and the domination of Parliament by MPs with a history of warlordism, means that women [in government] are silenced; they actually face attacks – both verbal and physical – if they speak their minds.

“…Afghan women have repeatedly reported that they have lost faith in the law enforcement and judicial institutions that they consider ineffective, incompetent, dysfunctional and corrupt...Ultimately,
authorities are not willing or are not in a position to provide women at risk with any form of protection to ensure their safety. “For instance, the...head of a district office of a department of women’s affairs told UNAMA that following threats from the Taliban over a period of several months in 2008, her request for security guards for her office was turned down, including by the provincial governor, who she reported had told her: ‘if you are under threat, just go home’” (UNAMA).

Learn more about the effect of the war in Afghanistan on women at http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog/?p=604.
Prepared by Derrick Crowe, Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal.

Sources
Machel, Gra├ža. “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: War hits home when it hits women and
girls.” UNICEF, 1996. http://www.unicef.org/graca/women.htm. Last accessed August 27, 2009.
Rawi, Mariam. “Rule of the Rapists.” The Guardian / UK, February 12, 2004. http://
www.commondreams.org/views04/0212-10.htm. Last accessed August 27, 2009.

“SILENCE IS VIOLENCE: End the Abuse of Women in Afghanistan.” Human Rights, United
Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan / Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, July 8, 2009. http://bit.ly/IYgH3. Last accessed August 27, 2009. Vogt, Heidi. “Marital law is still bad, Afghan activists say.” Associated Press. July 14, 2009. http://www.philly.com/inquirer/world_us/
20090714_Marital_law_still_bad__Afghan_activists_say.html. Last accessed August 27, 2009.

Learn more about the effect of the war in Afghanistan on women at http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog/?p=604.
Prepared by Derrick Crowe, Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal.

Fascinating Video Message From Canada

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Health Care Deceit

It is the War in Afghanistan Obama Declared a "Necessity," Not Health Care

The Health Care Deceit

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

The current health care “debate” shows how far gone representative government is in the United States. Members of Congress represent the powerful interest groups that fill their campaign coffers, not the people who vote for them.

The health care bill is not about health care. It is about protecting and increasing the profits of the insurance companies. The main feature of the health care bill is the “individual mandate,” which requires everyone in America to buy health insurance. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont), a recipient of millions in contributions over his career from the insurance industry, proposes to impose up to a $3,800 fine on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance.

The determination of “our” elected representatives to serve the insurance industry is so compelling that Congress is incapable of recognizing the absurdity of these proposals.

The reason there is a health care crisis in the US is that the cumulative loss of jobs and benefits has swollen the uninsured to approximately 50 million Americans. They cannot afford health insurance any more than employers can afford to provide it.

It is absurd to mandate that people purchase what they cannot afford and to fine them for failing to do so. A person who cannot pay a health insurance premium cannot pay the fine.

These proposals are like solving the homeless problem by requiring the homeless to purchase a house.

In his speech Obama said “we’ll provide tax credits” for “those individuals and small businesses who still can’t afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange” and he said low-cost coverage will be offered to those with preexisting medical conditions. A tax credit is useless to those without income unless the credit is refundable, and subsidized coverage doesn’t do much for those millions of Americans with no jobs.

Baucus masquerades as a defender of the health impaired with his proposal to require insurers to provide coverage to all comers as if the problem of health care can be reduced to preexisting conditions and cancelled policies. It was left to Rep. Dennis Kucinich to point out that the health care bill ponies up 30 million more customers for the private insurance companies.

The private sector is no longer the answer, because the income levels of the vast majority of Americans are insufficient to bear the cost of health insurance today. To provide some perspective, the monthly premium for a 60-year old female for a group policy (employer-provided) with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Florida is about $1,200. That comes to $14,400 per year. Only employees in high productivity jobs that can provide both a livable salary and health care can expect to have employer-provided coverage. If a 60-year old female has to buy a non-group policy as an individual, the premium would be even higher. How, for example, is a Wal-Mart shelf stocker or check out clerk going to be able to pay a private insurance premium?

Even the present public option--Medicare--is very expensive to those covered. Basic Medicare is insufficient coverage. Part B has been added, for which about $100 per month is deducted from the covered person’s Social Security check. If the person is still earning or has other retirement income, an “income-related monthly adjustment” is also deducted as part of the Part B premium. And if the person is still working, his earnings are subject to the 2.9 percent Medicare tax.

Even with Part B, Medicare coverage is still insufficient except for the healthy. For many people, additional coverage from private supplementary policies, such as the ones sold by AARP, is necessary. These premiums can be as much as $277 per month. Deductibles remain and prescriptions are only 50% covered. If the drug prescription policy is chosen, the premium is higher.

This leaves a retired person on Medicare who has no other retirement income of significance paying as much as $4,500 per year in premiums in order to create coverage under Medicare that still leaves half of his prescription medicines out-of-pocket. Considering the cost of some prescription medicines, a Medicare-covered person with Part B and a supplementary policy can still face bankruptcy.

Therefore, everyone should take note that a “public option” can leave people with large out-of-pocket costs. I know a professional who has chosen to continue working beyond retirement age. His Medicare coverage with supplemental coverage, Medicare tax, and income-related monthly adjustment comes to $16,400 per year. Those people who want to deny Medicare to the rich will cost the system a lot of money.

What the US needs is a single-payer not-for-profit health system that pays doctors and nurses sufficiently that they will undertake the arduous training and accept the stress and risks of dealing with illness and diseases.

A private health care system worked in the days before expensive medical technology, malpractice suits, high costs of bureaucracy associated with third-party payers and heavy investment in combating fraud, and pressure on insurance companies from Wall Street to improve “shareholder returns.”

Despite the rise in premiums, payments to health care providers, such as doctors, appear to be falling along with coverage to policy holders. The system is no longer functional and no longer makes sense. Health care has become an incidental rather than primary purpose of the health care system. Health care plays second fiddle to insurance company profits and salaries to bureaucrats engaged in fraud prevention and discovery. There is no point in denying coverage to one-sixth of the population in the name of saving a nonexistent private free market health care system.

The only way to reduce the cost of health care is to take the profit and paperwork out of health care.

Nothing humans design will be perfect. However, Congress is making it clear to the public that the wrong issues are front and center, such as the belief of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and others that illegal aliens and abortions will be covered if government pays the bill.

Debate focuses on subsidiary issues, because Congress no longer writes the bills it passes. As Theodore Lowi made clear in his book, The End of Liberalism, the New Deal transferred law-making from the legislative to the executive branch. Executive branch agencies and departments write bills that they want and hand them off to sponsors in the House and Senate. Powerful interest groups took up the same practice.
The interest groups that finance political campaigns expect their bills to be sponsored and passed.

Thus: a health care reform bill based on forcing people to purchase private health insurance and fining them if they do not.

When bills become mired in ideological conflict, as has happened to the health care bill, something usually passes nevertheless. The president, his PR team, and members of Congress want a health care bill on their resume and to be able to claim that they passed a health care bill, regardless of whether it provides any health care.

The cost of adding public expenditures for health care to a budget drowning in red ink from wars, bank bailouts, and stimulus packages means that the most likely outcome of a health care bill will benefit insurance companies and use mandated private coverage to save public money by curtailing Medicare and Medicaid.

The public’s interest is not considered to be the important determinant. The politicians have to please the insurance companies and reduce health care expenditures in order to save money for another decade or two of war in the Middle East.

The telltale part of Obama’s speech was the applause in response to his pledge that “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits.” Yet, Obama and his fellow politicians have no hesitation to add trillions of dollars to the deficit in order to fund wars.

The profits of military/security companies are partly recycled into campaign contributions. To cut war spending in order to finance a public health care system would cost politicians campaign contributions from both the insurance industry and the military/security industry.

Politicians are not going to allow that to happen.

It was the war in Afghanistan, not health care, that President Obama declared to be a “necessity.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. His new book, War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost, will be published next month by AK Press/CounterPunch. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Afghanistan Abyss

OP-ED COLUMNIST
The Afghanistan Abyss, By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, Published: September 6, 2009
Sending more American troops into ethnic Pashtun areas in the Afghan south may only galvanize local people to back the Taliban. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/opinion/06kristof.html

This is sounding so familiar; the military trying so earnestly & valiantly to fulfill a flawed & mis-handled mission given it given it by Idiot - Bush. The opportunity for modest success disappeared when The Idiot went to Iraq.

It's time for more AP photos that show the true costs of this mis-handled mission. In large part it was the photo journalists' work in Vietnam that let us measure cost/sacrifice/benefit ratios. Lt. Calley was convicted for the murder of civilians; we saw the images. Once again, we need to see pics of the children, women & men; maimed and killed by our air strikes, when whole Afghan villages are leveled. Ask questions. Require answers. Hold accountable.

Remember the Vietnamese girl running toward the photographer, mouth wide open in a scream? I do; can't forget.

Read this piece by Thomas Friedman: OP-ED COLUMNIST
From Baby-Sitting to Adoption, By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, Published: September 6, 2009
After eight years of work in Afghanistan, we still do not have a reliable Afghan partner to hand off to. It’s time to discuss if nation building is still worth doing and at what cost: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/opinion/06friedman.html.

Then google Malalai Joya and read some of her bio and her speeches. Watch the dvd "View From a Grain of Sand". And then speak out and act.

I remember Vietnam. I lived then. Echoes of that past return.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Slogan ideas:


My Other Car is a Health Insurance Payment
My Car Has Better Insurance Than I Do
My Death Panel is an HMO
Underinsured Baby on Board
Hate Socialism? Repeal Medicare!!
Sanctity of Life should not end at Birth! Support Healthcare Reform!
WWJD: Who Would Jesus Deny? (Healthcare Reform Now!)
My single prayer is single payer
The Public GOPtion: Don't Get Sick
GOP: Rest Uninsured America
Your Health Care Comes Off your Insurance Company’s Bottom Line
It’s OK..Congress Has GREAT Insurance
I’d Rather Have a Public Option Than Be Dead Right
GOP: We won't let your health come between your insurer & his profits!
Democrat: A Republican with a Pre-existing Condition
Before Jesus healed the leper...did He check his insurance coverage?
Public Option: Putting People Before Profit
Democrat: A Republican Who Lost His Health Insurance
What's Wrong With Expanding Medicare for Those UNDER 65?
ONLY Industrialized Nation without Universal Healthcare? USA Spends More Than ANY other Nation on Healthcare? USA WE'RE NUMBER ONE!!
We Can't Fix the Economy Until We Fix Health Care!
Healthcare Reform...Your Life Depends On It!
Jesus didn’t ask for a co-pay
All I Wanted Was Real Health Care Reform, and All I Got Was This Lousy Bumper Sticker
GOP: Cancer Happens!
Coming to a Hospital Near You: Attack of the Wingnuts Socialized Health Scare
Put health back in healthcare
Life is a pre-existing condition
What value does the insurance company add?
Doctors prescribe healthcare, insurance companies proscribe healthcare.
USA: Third World Country. No Universal Healthcare.
Health Insurance Profits Up 400%
Kill Healthcare! 30,000 Lobbyists Can’t Be Wrong!
Universal Health Care Is a Family Value
GOP: Defending Your Right to Higher Dedutibles
America’s Healthcare Is Like Shopping for an Ambulance
Government run military = #1 Private Health Care = #37
Support the Health Care Bill - Or We'll Focus on Passing Strict Gun Control"
"Pass Healthcare - Or the Terrorists Win"
Public option not public optional.
POTUS+60 Senators+80seat House majority No public option in health care means there is NO PUBLIC OPTION IN DEMOCRACY!
1.4 Million Bucks A Day - Keeps Healthcare Away
"Letting Americans Die For Profit?"
"For Profit Healthcare Makes Me Sick"
Health Insurance Premiums: its where 7 of your last 10 raises went
Take My High Premiums From My Cold, Dead Hands
Have You Teabagged For Your Insurance Agent Today
You Die, They Profit, and GOP gets Paid. Reform Healthcare Now!
One Nation, Underinsured.
Republican Healthcare Reform: Be Rich or Die
My Boss Bussed Me to the Town Hall, and I Didn't Even Get on You Tube
Health care should be a right...not a privilege
Single Payer Is Pro-Life
Guns Don't Kill People. Spreadsheets Do. Support Healthcare Reform.
Take My High Premiums from my Cold Dead Hands.
Health Care - Not just for the rich anymore.
I've got mine, and you've got yours!
Health Care is a Human Right
Public Health Care will succeed where Private Health Care has failed
Put Public Health before Private Profits
Cure Health Care from Profititis
Having insurance today does not mean you're covered.
Support the Public Option, our lives depend on it.