Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ayotte, Lamontagne both lead Hodes ...

Here is the latest ARG poll: ["Ayotte/Hodes. Hodes/Lamontagne, 2010 US Senate Ballots"].
Still huge undecideds. But look at all those Dems going to the Republicans: 13 percent. This is like all those Democrats in Florida voting for Bush instead of Gore in 2000. Wow.
Even Lamontagne - a right-wing Republican if ever there was one - is leading Hodes in a head-to-head match up. Double-wow.
Remember, this was a guy who got shellacked by Jeanne Shaheen in 1996 in the gubernatorial race that year, when the state was a lot more conservative than it is now. Triple-wow? Maybe. But, it's still early.
Frankly, this is a bit worrisome for the Democrats. I wonder, is it time for someone else to wade a toe in the water? Should the Dems start thinking about a different candidate in the primary? Like maybe, a moderate woman, a Marcy Kaptur-type who isn't totally in the tank with the corporatists and is good on personal liberties and common sense? Do those Democrats exist any more or are they just totally in the tank now?
Why should the Democrats worry? Well, this latest poll shows that Hodes is not holding a good chunk of his base: 30 percent of Dems are either voting for Ayotte or are undecided; vs. Lamontagne, it's 39 percent. This even more surprising since Lamontagne is a lot more conservative than Ayotte.

Sidebar: The shift of 9 percent of Dems from Hodes to undecided when matched against Lamontagne could be because these folks are new to the state and don't know who the guy is. Unless these Democrats are McCainiacs, they should be solidly in the Hodes camp. Lamontagne is that conservative. St. A's Jennifer Donhue was quoted on Politico saying, "There won’t be anyone to the right of him in the race among the potential candidates." That pretty much says it all.

It is way too early to tell but it would seem that the only thing that would save Hodes in November is a strong, well-financed Libertarian candidate who might shave off enough votes from the presumed GOP nominee to have Hodes squeak to victory. Two or 3 percent is all that would be needed probably as it gets down to the wire.
Republican businessmen Jim Bender and William Binnie are also running but are not included in the poll, for whatever reason. There are rumors that Tom Alciere, a Ron Paul Republican and former state representative, is also considering a run. It will be interesting to see if any of them can get any traction in the race which is bound to be an enjoyable bloodfest.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More proof of a divided nation?

Via Political Wire
Check out the best selling political books from the NYT for the last few weeks: ["Poli-Books Best-Seller List"]. It would be interesting to see the best sellers list from the entire year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday reading list 2009

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
This is the golden age of muckraking books and documentaries but some of them may have escaped your attention because reviews and promotions cannot keep up with the sheer volume of material.

Here are my recommendations for your Holiday and later reading time:

1. "Achieving the Impossible," by Lois Marie Gibbs; Published by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice ( is an inspiring collection of short stories about how ordinary people have risen to meet the challenges of toxic pollution confronting their families and communities. The author herself rose from the Love Canal controversy in Niagara Falls, New York to lead a grand national grass roots organization.

2. "Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope In An Insecure Age," by Stephen Hill (University of California Press, 2010). His thesis is that Western Europe treats its people better in many ways than the United States does its people, and not just in social insurance and services. Read, wonder and galvanize!

3. "Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in A Two-Party Tyranny," by Theresa Amato (New Press, 2009.) My former campaign manager weighs in with an indictment of the two-party barriers to a competitive electoral system, candidate ballot access and voter choice. Partly personal memoir of her battles in 2000 and 2004, part history about the decades long ago when third parties could get on the ballot easier and make a difference and part a series of reforms that only an outraged public can make happen.

4. "Priceless Money: Banking Time for Changing Times," by Edgar S. Cahn is a revolutionary elevation of traditional assets in how time can become a currency—a means of exchange that is beyond price—that does not allow market price to define value. It is a limited edition booklet you’ll never forget, free. Send two first class stamps to TimeBanksUSA, 5500 39th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20015.

5. "Empire of Illusion," by Chris Hedges (Nation Books, 2009). The Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent turned prolific author and lecturer, Mr. Hedges goes to the core of a culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. He “exposes the mechanisms used to divert us from confronting the economic, political and moral collapse around us.” In gripping, memorable concrete prose that resonates the moment we let ourselves think.

6. "The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis," by Josh Kosman (Portfolio Hardcover, 2009). Think it is all about the brand names of a corrupt, reckless Wall Street? Try the entirely unregulated private equity firms that acquire and strip mine them under the guise of saving them, then leave behind debt time bombs and mass layoffs as the value of these leveraged buyouts is sucked out by the corporate bunccaneers. Kosman predicts a coming private equity-caused big bubble crisis.

7. "Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary: The Story of Ed and Joyce Koupal and the Initiative Process," by Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober. This husband-wife team “just ordinary people,” in their words, started out powerless and in over a decade, largely in the seventies, built Initiative power to qualify reforms on the California ballot for the popular vote. A story for the ages that strips away excuses steeped in a sense of powerlessness. This small but invigorating paperback can be obtained from The People’s Lobby ( for $15, including shipping. California St., Unit 201, San Francisco, CA 94109.

8. "Getting Away With Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law," by Christopher H. Pyle (Potomac Books, 2009). A former captain in army intelligence and Congressional staffer, now teaching constitutional law at Mount Holyoke College, Mr. Pyle shatters our belief in the rule of law before the unconstitutional government of Bush and Cheney in waging war crimes and torture, while seeking Congressional amnesty to those responsible for implementing their rogue, secret regime. Veteran constitutional law specialist, Louis Fisher asserts these practices have “left American weaker politically, economically, morally, and legally.”

9. "It Takes A Pillage," by Nomi Prins (Wiley, 2009). A former managing director of Goldman Sachs, who quit Wall Street, and now is dedicated to educating and mobilizing the American people so that they press for reforms to prevent myopic greed from bringing down our economy again and to hold the speculators and crooks accountable. She “gets inside how the banks looted the Treasury, stole the bailout, and continued with business as usual,” in the words of one reviewer.

10. "Censored 2010: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-09," edited by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff with Project Censored (Seven Stories Press, 2009). This book contains investigative pieces on important topics too often neglected by the mainstream news organizations. Read this book, it will make you angry and then it will energize you to take on a significant societal problem in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stupid, sucker Americans ...

While I have been busy with freelance projects and local stuff going on in Concord, Politizine has been a bit slow. Sorry about that. I'll get back to it after the holidays (Happy Christmas everyone, BTW).
But, I did want to note two pretty huge things, especially while the health care debate is going on.
First, there is this overview of why the plan should be rejected: ["10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Bill"].
So many reasons, so little time ...
And then this, from Political Wire this morning: ["Obama Got What He Wanted"].
In other words, all of you who voted for this clown and voted for these spineless Democrats and are now upset, have only yourselves to blame. The lesser of two evils is still evil. When are you all going to realize this? What good are Democrats if they are just going to cave to the worst, craven interests controlling D.C.? It's disgraceful. It really is.

Agent of Change

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (535-475 BC) said that “character is destiny.” He might have added that “personality is decisive.” Where is Barack Obama in this framework?

The venerable historian, James MacGregor Burns, in his book “Transforming Leadership,” drew an important distinction between “transforming and transactional leadership,” and calling Franklin Delano Roosevelt a reflection of the former genre.

Given all the burgeoning crises in the United States and the world, the only global military and economic superpower (albeit in serious deficit straits) needs a transforming leader, when, at best, it has a transactional leader in the White House.

I say “at best,” because President Obama displays an uncanny inability to deal. He is not even anywhere near Lyndon Baines Johnson in that regard. This lack is due more to his personality than to his character.

His is a concessionary demeanor, an aversion to conflict and to taking on entrenched power, a devotee of harmony ideology not because he doesn’t believe in necessary re-directions, but because he does not project the strength of his beliefs and willingness to draw the line—here and no further—as did Ronald Reagan or FDR.

In the shark tank known as the federal Washington, D.C. Obama’s personality projects weakness as someone who does not take a stand and fight, as someone inclined to rely on his rhetoric to explain his withdrawals, retreats and reversals. Some examples follow.

First, the President has been openly for single payer health insurance (full Medicare for all with free choice of physician and hospital) since before he became a politician. His friends included single payer leaders such as the stalwart Dr. Quentin Young in Chicago.

So, instead of starting with “single payer,” he descends to vague policy declarations, asks Congress to come up with a specific bill, while cutting private deals in meetings in the White House with drug industry and health insurance executives.

Now months later, with Blue Dog Democrats emboldened, with his progressive wing angry and starting to rebel, a hoked up insurance bill is having many provisions eviscerated. Once the Republicans smelled his lack of resolve, his wavering on one amendment after another, they became ravenous in their demands and obstructions.

Second, Barack Obama, before he came to Washington, was also a supporter of Palestinian rights. Between election and inauguration, he proceeded to categorically back the illegal blockade and invasion of Gaza by Israel and did not object to the slaughter of 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, young and old. Apparently, the impoverished, pummeled people of a half-destroyed Gaza, whose many newly elected members of the Palestinian parliament were kidnapped and jailed by the Israelis two years earlier, had no right to feebly defend themselves against constant border raids and missiles by the fifth most powerful army in the world.

Third, Mr. Obama’s tough talk about a reckless and greedy Wall Street is not paralleled with tough regulatory proposals. He allowed, without working his will, the banks and Banking Committee Chairman, Barney Frank to produce a weakened regulatory bill that passed the House of Representatives.

For example, regulatory provisions on the rating agencies (such as Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s) and derivatives were mere taps on the wrists, ridiculed by former Chairs of the Securities and Exchange Commission from both parties.

Fourth, on labor and NAFTA, his campaign speeches were about the need for reform. He has started nothing there and says nothing about this promise to revisit the U.S. participation in NAFTA. He believes in the card check version of labor law reform but has not used his political capital to advance this modest reform at all.

Fifth, on climate change, where so much of the world looks for him to be a transforming leader, Mr. Obama has bought into the cap and trade morass instead of a simpler, more enforceable carbon tax. His words on this subject are often well-spoken but his rhetoric is undermined by his inaction. His opponents in Congress and the corporate sector are strengthened as a consequence.

Mr. Obama leaves Copenhagen without a deal after outlining three steps—mitigation of greenhouse gases, openness of each country’s progress or lack thereof, and a very modest financial commitment from the world’s biggest polluter to help the more beleaguered countries with climate change (poor countries that are recipients of the Western countries emissions.) He hardly set an example for a government whose ownership and control of GM and Chrysler could transform automotive technology.

He cannot transform his hope and change slogan into meaningful policies if he signals that he can be had on one issue after another by being desperate to get any legislation so long as he can give it the right public relations label.

Most importantly, The President cannot be a transforming leader if he turns his back on the liberal and progressive constituency that elected him because he thinks they have nowhere to go.

He must give visibility to their expectations of him, including access to many cabinet secretaries and regulatory agency heads who have been reluctant even to meet with civic leaders, unlike the open doors regularly available to the corporatists and their lobbyists.

“Personality,” “character,” pretty soon they become indistinguishable and very resistant to both “hope and change.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

High schoolers needed at the State House

From the inbox:
The N.H. House of Representatives has launched a volunteer page program for high school students at least 15-years-old.
A page serves during a House session and, among other duties, delivers messages to members of the House of Representatives. The program provides an excellent opportunity for high school students to see the legislative process up close.
Information about the program has been sent to all public high schools in New Hampshire, but it is open to all 15-year-old students. Sessions begin on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Those interested in participating may contact the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at 603-271-3315.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New income tax on small biz will cripple NH's recovery

Guest perspective by Andy Sanborn
With more than 55,000 people unemployed and hundreds of thousands underemployed, the current leaders of our state are trying to institute a new, personal income tax on 30,000 small business owners in New Hampshire. At a time when even the ultra spending President Obama is suggesting creating small business incentives to spur job growth, our current state government is trying to institute new taxes in an all out assault against an economic recovery. If passed, these new tax rules will be the most crushing in decades.
Our state is based on small business. It is who we are and how we live, grow and feed our families.
At issue is an attack on New Hampshire small business owners, which, if approved, will send our great state to the back of the pack in its ability to come out of the recession by creating jobs and economic opportunities. The state is now enforcing legislation that allows the Department of Revenue Administration to come into any New Hampshire business and determine whether the owner is making too much money. If so, they will enact additional taxation, that will result in a new 13.5 percent tax to their personal income. It is the DRA's sole discretion to determine how much is too much.
The state is trying to impose this new 13.5 percent tax (through a 5 percent “dividends" tax combined with a 8.5 percent "business profit’s" tax) on all individuals who own LLCs and Partnerships in New Hampshire. LLCs or Limited Liability Corporations, the foundation of New Hampshire small businesses, are small neighborhood operations that have some legal liability protections similar to “real” corporations, while being taxed as individual operators. Think of your local convenience store, roofer, car mechanic or restaurant. The “net profit” of LLCs and partnerships are actually the personal incomes of these operators, and already taxed through the K1 portion of the federal tax return. It is the state’s intent to “claim” business owners are making too much money and impose taxing the personal income of the estimated 30,000 New Hampshire residents operating these small businesses around our state.
In addition, the state is trying to impose a 5 percent personal income tax on the owners of LLCs or Partnerships that borrow money to grow or expand their business. How will that act help to encourage economic growth and adding employees? As a business owner, if I borrow money or remortgage my property to start a new operation or expand my business, the State feels that it is now entitled to 5 percent of that mortgage as a tax, claiming that it is actually income and not an investment in my company.
This new tax isn’t closing a loophole; it’s squeezing the remaining blood from the stone. Our current state legislators fail to understand that money does not grow on trees. Like a teen with an open hand to their parents’ wallet, they obviously have no understanding where money comes from. They are in fact trying to take the money that should be being used to stop layoffs and to provide raises, health insurance and other benefits.
The federal government is not going to pull us out of the recession. We are. Our ability to kick start the New Hampshire economy will come directly from small businesses in New Hampshire who create opportunities that will lead to job growth. Now, more than ever, the State should be doing all in its power to encourage economic growth and job creation, not inhibit it.
If you are concerned about getting a job, or keeping the one you have, please contact your legislator, the Governor or better yet, show up to the public hearing on Dec. 16 in Concord.
Andy Sanborn is the owner of The Draft Bar & Grill in Concord.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Will it be 1994 all over again?

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
President Obama, the Afghan war escalator, received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, and proceeded to deliver his acceptance speech outlining the three criteria for a “just war” which he himself is violating.

The criteria are in this words: “If it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.”

After 9/11, warmonger George W. Bush could have used the international law doctrine of hot pursuit with a multilateral force of commandoes, linguists and bribers to pursue the backers of the attackers. Instead, he blew the country of Afghanistan apart and started occupying it, joined forces with a rump regime and launched a divide-and-rule tribal strategy that set the stage for a low-tiered civil war.

Eight years later, Obama is expanding the war within a graft-ridden government in Kabul, fraudulent elections, an Afghan army of northern tribesmen loathed by the southern and south-eastern tribes of 40 million Pashtuns, an impoverished economy whose largest crop by far is a narcotic, and a devastated population embittered by foreign occupiers and non-existent government services.

President Obama’s national security adviser, former Marine General James Jones, said two months ago: “The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.”

Since Mr. Obama repeats George W. Bush’s reason for going into Afghanistan—to destroy al-Qaeda—why is he sending 30,000 soldiers plus an even greater number of corporate contractors there in the near future at a cost stated by the White House of one million dollars per solider per year? Is this “proportional force”?

Always small in number, al-Qaeda has moved over the border into Pakistan and anywhere its supporters can in the world—east Africa, north Africa, Indonesia. The gang is a migrant traveler.

Is Obama pouring soldiers into Afghanistan so that they and our inaccurate, civilian-destroying drones can start fighting across the border in Pakistan, as indicated by The New York Times? Beyond the violations of international law and absence of constitutional authorization involved, this could so roil Pakistanis as to make the U.S. experience next door look like a modest struggle.

Obama has emphasized weakening the Taliban as the other objective of our military buildup with its horrible consequence in casualties and other costs. Who are the Taliban? They include people with different causes, such as protecting their valleys, drug trafficking to live on, fighters against foreign occupiers or, being mostly Pashtuns, protecting their tribal turf against the northern Tajiks and Uzbecks.

How many Taliban fighters are there? The Pentagon estimates around 25,000. Their methods make them unpopular with the villagers. They have no air force, navy, artillery, tanks, missiles, no bases, no central command. They have rifles, grenade launchers, bombs and suiciders. Unlike al-Qaeda, they have only domestic ambitions counteracted by their adversarial tribesmen who make up most of the Afghan army.

Robert Baer, former CIA officer with experience in that part of Asia, asserted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.”

To say as Obama inferred in his Oslo speech that the greater plunge into Afghanistan is self-defense, with proportional force and sparing civilians from violence is a scale of self-delusion or political cowardliness that is dejecting his liberal base.

For as President Eisenhower stated so eloquently in his 1953 “cross of iron” speech, every dollar spent on munitions and saber-rattling takes away from building schools, clinics, roads and other necessities of the American people.

The Afghan War and the Iraq war-occupation—already directly costing a trillion dollars—are costing the American people every time Washington says there is not enough money for neonatal care, occupational disease prevention, cleaner drinking water systems, safer hospitals, prosecution of corporate criminals, cleaner air or upgrading and repairing key public facilities.

Even the hardiest and earliest supporters of his presidential campaign in 2008 are speaking out. Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, such as John Conyers (D-MI) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) have recently criticized the President for not doing enough to help African-Americans weather the hard times.

In a stinging ironic rebuke to the first African-American President, Rep. Waters declared “We can no longer afford for our public policy to be defined by the worldview of Wall Street.”

According to Congressman Conyers, an upset Barack Obama called to ask why the Michigan lawmaker was “demeaning” him. Conyers has been increasingly turned off by the President’s policies—among them health care reform, the war in Afghanistan, slippage on Guantanamo and the extension of the Patriot Act’s invasive provisions.

The 80-year old Congressman spent most weekends in 2007 and 2008 tirelessly on the campaign trail trying to get Obama elected.

White House aides are not troubled by the rumblings from the moderate Left. They said they have all of 2010 to bring them back into the fold by the November Congressional elections. Besides, where else are they going to go?

Well, they could stay home. Remember 1994 and the Gingrich takeover.

Post-special election bias?

I received the link to this report in the mail from, which analyzes some of the newspaper and television reporting in the wake of Mass. Senate special election primaries on Tuesday:

Very nice job finding the clips and putting this together. Unlike blogs or political gossip sites, these are news organizations. Coakley hasn't been elected in the final, even though the safe bet says she will be. The fact that they are acting as if she has won the final is pretty sloppy ... and sad.

On another front, Dan Kennedy has some thoughts about indie Joe Kennedy and what role, if any, he will play in the election and whether he should even be covered: ["What to do about the other Joe Kennedy"].
I make some points here too, as do others. It's an interesting conversation, to say the least.

Update: I missed Jon Keller's post election blog post which is pretty good: ["Reading the Tea Leaves"].
It just goes to show you that I should by watching my Twitter feed more closely. I love this line from Election Night though:

"Jack E. Robinson - with all due respect, time to find another hobby."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tightening Senate race in Mass.

The polls are getting interesting in Mass., as noted on the Phoenix's David Bernstein's blog recently: ["Confirmation Of Contradiction"].
Personally, I think the easy money is on Coakley to win. I think the gender thing is going to be big this time around, with even moderates saying, You know, Massachusetts should really have a woman in there after all these years ...
But as I told Samantha Clemens yesterday and mentioned elsewhere online, I don't think it will be a 40-plus percent blowout for Coakley. The other three didn't land any real blows against why Coakley can't or shouldn't be the Senator. The final result is probably going to be between 20 and 30 percent for all the candidates (of course, what do I know, I predicted that Stephen Lynch would be the new Senator from Massachusetts months ago ...).
The other thing is this: Had the race been longer or had Sen. Kennedy stepped down earlier before he passed on, allowing for a special election to be held in November instead of December, I think Alan Khazei would win. It is clear that he has the vision thing going on, a pretty good ground organization, and an interesting story to tell about his life. Had he just had a bit more time ...
If Coakley wins the primary, she wins the final. Republican Scott Brown just doesn't bring enough to the table. Coakley can also reverse the left-wing course and talk about how she has been tough on crime and corruption. If one of the other three wins the primary, Brown has a slim shot, especially if he tones down the conservatism and goes moderate. The Democrats have painted themselves in such a corner to win the primary that many voters will be turned off by them in the final. It's important to remember that while liberals tend to win the most statewide in Massachusetts, the bulk of the voters are moderate to conservative. The GOP controls about 14 percent of the state. When combined with the 52 percent of voters who are unenrolled - the great majority of them moderate to conservative (the liberals are already involved in the Democrat Party) - there are votes there to be harvested for Brown. This coalition is how Romney, Cellucci, and Weld were able to win the corner office. It's why Gov. Deval Patrick's poll numbers are in the basement.
However, whoever wins the primary, the wild card will be how many votes independent (very libertarian) Joe Kennedy squeaks out - due to his name. Will little old ladies get confused and pull a lever for Joe Kennedy?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Talking Mass. Senate race

On Saturday morning, I'll be doing a bit of radio with Samantha Clemens talking about the U.S. Senate special election race. David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix will be in the first segment; I'll be on the second one. We may talk about Afghanistan too.
The Samantha Clemens Show is heard on 1510 AM in the Boston area or online at The show airs from 10 to 11 a.m. WWZN's signal says it runs from Manch to Providence in a big circle around 495. Tune in and check it out.

It's time to get out of Afghanistan

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Misusing professional cadets at West Point as a political prop, President Barack Obama delivered his speech on the Afghanistan war forcefully but with fearful undertones. He chose to escalate this undeclared war with at least 30,000 more soldiers plus an even larger number of corporate contractors.

He chose the path the military-industrial complex wanted. The “military” planners, whatever their earlier doubts about the quagmire, once in, want to prevail. The “industrial” barons because their sales and profits rise with larger military budgets.

A majority of Americans are opposed or skeptical about getting deeper into a bloody, costly fight in the mountains of central Asia while facing recession, unemployment, foreclosures, debt and deficits at home. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), after hearing Mr. Obama’s speech said, “Why is it that war is a priority but the basic needs of people in this country are not?”

Let’s say needs like waking up to do something about 60,000 fatalities a year in our country related to workplace diseases and trauma. Or 250 fatalities a day due to hospital induced infections, or 100,000 fatalities a year due to hospital malpractice, or 45,000 fatalities a year due to the absence of health insurance to pay for treatment, or, or, or, even before we get into the economic poverty and deprivation. Any Obama national speeches on these casualties?

Back to the West Point teleprompter speech. If this is the product of a robust internal Administration debate, the result was the same cookie-cutter, Vietnam approach of throwing more soldiers at a poorly analyzed situation. In September, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen told an American Legion Convention, “I’ve seen the public opinion polls saying that a majority of Americans don’t support the effort at all. I say, good. Let’s have the debate, let’s have that discussion.”

Where? Not in Congress. There were only rubberstamps and grumbles; certainly nothing like the Fulbright Senate hearings on the Vietnam War.

Where else? Not in the influential commercial media. Forget jingoistic television and radio other than the satire of Jon Stewart plus an occasional non-commercial Bill Moyers show or rare public radio commentary. Not in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post.

A FAIR study published in the organization’s monthly newsletter EXTRA reports that of all opinion columns in The New York Times and the Washington Post over the first 10 months of 2009, thirty-six out of forty-three columns on the Afghanistan War in the Times supported the war while sixty-one of the sixty-seven Post columns supported a continued war.

So what would a rigorous public and internal administration debate have highlighted? First, the more occupation forces there are, the more they fuel the insurgency against the occupation, especially since so many more civilians than fighters lose their lives. Witness the wedding parties, villagers, and innocent bystanders blown up by the U.S. military’s superior weaponry.

Second, there was a remarkable absence in Obama’s speech about the tribal conflicts and the diversity of motivations of those he lumped under the name of “Taliban.” Some are protecting their valleys, others are in the drug trade, others want to drive out the occupiers, others are struggling for supremacy between the Pashtuns on one side and the Tajiks and Uzbeks on the other (roughly the south against the north). The latter has been the substance of a continuing civil war for many years.

Third, how can Obama’s plan begin to work, requiring a stable, functioning Afghan government—which now is largely a collection of illicit businesses milking the graft, which grows larger in proportion to what the American taxpayers have to spend there—and the disorganized, untrained Afghan army—mainly composed of Tajiks and Uzbeks loathed by the Pashtuns.

Fourth, destroying or capturing al Qaeda attackers in Afghanistan ignores Obama’s own intelligence estimates. Many observers believe al Qaeda has gone to Pakistan or elsewhere. The New York Times reports that “quietly, Mr. Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan as well—if only he can get a weak, divided, suspicious Pakistani government to agree to the terms.”

Hello! Congress did not authorize a war in Pakistan, so does Obama, like Bush, just decree what the Constitution requires to be authorized by the legislative branch? Can we expect another speech at the Air Force Academy on the Pakistan war?

Fifth, as is known, al Qaeda is a transnational movement. Highly mobile, when it is squeezed. As Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the former CIA officer operating in Pakistan, said: “There is no direct impact on stopping terrorists around the world because we are or are not in Afghanistan.” He argues that safe havens can be moved to different countries, as has indeed happened since 9/11.

Sixth, the audacity of hope in Obama’s speech was illustrated by his unconvincing date of mid-2011 for beginning the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan. The tendered exit strategy, tied to unspecified conditions, was a bone he tossed to his shaky liberal base.

The White House recently said it costs $1 million a year to keep each single soldier in Afghanistan. Take one fifth of that sum and connect with the tribal chiefs to build public facilities in transportation, agriculture, schools, clinics, public health, and safe drinking water.

Thus strengthened, these tribal leaders know how to establish order. This is partly what Ashraf Ghani, the former respected Afghan finance minister and former American anthropology professor, called concrete “justice” as the way to undermine insurgency.

Withdraw the occupation, which now is pouring gasoline on the fire. Bring back the saved four-fifths of that million dollars per soldier to America and provide these and other soldiers with tuition for their education and training.

The principal authority in Afghanistan is tribal. Provide the assistance, based on stage-by-stage performance, and the tribal leaders obtain a stake in stability. Blown apart by so many foreign invaders—British, Soviet, American—and internally riven, the people in the countryside look to tribal security as the best hope for a nation that has not known unity for decades.

Lifting the fog of war allows other wiser policies urged by experienced people to be considered for peace and security.

Rather than expanding a boomeranging war, this alternative has some probability of modest success unlike the sure, mounting loss of American and Afghani lives and resources.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday thoughts ...

Two quick things about Black Friday: First, I almost always work on Black Friday. I always have. Today is no different. And, I'm assuming, when I get to work, I'll probably be the only one there. Which is nice. No offense to my co-workers, but I get so much more done in the office when they aren't there (they probably say the same about me not being there). Second, I never shop on Black Friday. I avoid the insanity completely. But, after looking at the circs on Wednesday and Thursday, my wife and I half joked that we should go out at midnight and get our son a new scooter for virtually nothing (shhh, don't tell him that's what Santa's bringing him). A couple of other special things are on sale at deep discounts too. So, as I'm up early working on a freelance project, I'm half thinking I might venture out into the insanity today for the first time. Crazy, I know. Anyone else have any thoughts about all this madness?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obama's sad, strange trip to China

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
There was something both sad and strange about President Obama’s weak presence in China last week.

Sad because he arrived with no seeming goals and left empty handed just after visiting the ancient Great Wall, which he said gave him a perspective on time.

Strange because he allowed the Chinese rulers to quarantine his stops from the Chinese people—whether in person or on television. His main public meeting was with young Communist League students who came with scripted questions.

All the outward signs were that Mr. Obama had no cards to play. The U.S. is by far the world’s biggest debtor. It was hard to challenge his Chinese hosts who made crisp mention of our government’s deep deficits and deficit spending. They did not have to describe our weakened economy, its declining dollar and the huge indebtedness that the U.S. has with its Chinese creditors. Everybody knows how rickety America’s global financial situation is.

Of course we do not know what went on in the private discussions between Mr. Obama and his Chinese counterparts. Suffice it to say that the President could not have gotten very far on the undervaluation of the Yuan, the gross inequities in the trading rules and practices between China and its biggest customer on the other side of the Pacific.

Had Mr. Obama raised the major trade, investment, military and security issues of conflict with China depicted in the just-released 2009 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the chilly reception that China’s leaders accorded him in public would have turned decidedly frosty. (For the full report, visit

David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, praised the U.S.-China joint statement as being “filled with multiple tangible areas of cooperation.” The statement, however, is mere words without any binding details.

On the minus side, Mr. Shambaugh was unsparing. He said:

The failures lay in how the president spent his time in China. Not interacting with Chinese people, not giving an uncensored nationally televised speech, not visiting any civic organizations or businesses, not visiting a wind farm or clean-energy firm, not meeting human rights lawyers or activists, and not meeting with the American business or scholarly community must all be counted as failures. He did not send positive signals in these areas—but the Chinese government did not permit it and the American side did not insist on it.

This first trip to China by Mr. Obama was a lost opportunity in three ways that cannot be excused, no matter the absence of proactive status and power.

First, the U.S. is China’s biggest consumer and it has not been treated well. Contaminated fish, dangerous ingredients in medicines, defective tires and lead-contaminated products are some of the continuing problems that have cost American lives and health.

Mr. Obama should have concluded a consumer protection treaty with China requiring access to their laboratories, factories and exporters for product inspection and certification. Such a treaty should include safeguards against importation of counterfeit goods and subject Chinese companies who want to do business in our country to our laws of tort and contract in our courts.

Second, there should be a bilateral agreement focused on the enormous rush of air pollution coming from China over the Pacific carried by the prevailing winds. China is opening two large electricity-generating coal plants every week and Korea, Japan, and North America are suffering the effects, along with the effects of emissions from huge belching factories. This agreement would be helpful, now that the Copenhagen Conference has been consigned to rhetoric and exhortation, in paving the way for greater cooperation on acid rain, acidification of the ocean and, of course, climate change.

China is worried about our deficits. We should be worrying about their emissions.

Third, a long-overdue pact regarding infectious diseases is needed. Many Americans over the decades have lost their lives from influenza sourced out of China. The virus is passed from pigs to farmers, who live in very close proximity, to the rest of the world.

China learned from the SARS epidemic of 2003 how economically damaging secrecy can be. But it still needs to be more cooperative with international early alert systems. The government needs to allow more American infectious disease specialists to work with their Chinese counterparts full time in China.

A major expansion of cooperative facilities, detection and data analysis, tests and other anti-epidemic initiatives, that together can save millions of lives in the future, both in China and the U.S., is an urgent priority.

Maybe Mr. Obama spoke privately about these matters. But that is a sign of weakness. He owed the American people some public energy and leadership in Beijing to protect them – as consumers – from these fallouts of corporate globalization, since he clearly did not move to protect them as workers.

National Grid's funky climate change figures

I saw an interesting commercial on Thursday evening which included a Web site called [The site didn't work but it will have you click here:]. The commercial suggests that people reduce their energy usage by 3 percent each year over the next 10 years, in order to curb climate change.
On the site, there is an interactive map showing a polar bear on an iceberg. You are then prompted to answer questions about what your energy use is like - what kind of heat you use, how long you leave your computer on, etc.

Then the chart offers ways to reduce your carbon footprint. You can grab an item from one side of the chart and put them into the bin and your footprint is lowered.
Interestingly, or not so, the items are all consumption items - meat, soda, water bottles, airline trips, driving, etc. - and makes broad assumptions about the lowering of the footprint.
For example, if you click on "buy more clothing made in the USA" and drag it over, your daily carbon footprint drops 1 lb. per day. The T-shirt then says, "forgo one purchase of clothing manufactured overseas per month." There is a difference between buying American made goods and not buying clothing manufactured overseas. What would it be, for example, if you didn't buy the clothing at all? It doesn't say. And, it doesn't say what it would be if the foreign clothing is still made and shipped here but sits on a rack somewhere. It also doesn't note that finding any clothing made in America is virtually impossible these days.
Technically, you may feel less guilty having not consumed something, but it doesn't actually mean you have lower carbon emissions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Palin power?

Yeah. Thousands of people waiting in the freezing cold to get a book signed. Wow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is climate change a fraud?

For the last few days, I've been seeing some rumors about this situation in England where hackers broke into a climate change institute and found that scientists have been rigging the numbers. Well, it looks like the story is true: ["Hackers leak e-mails, stoke climate debate"].
Like a lot of things, this stuff has been on my mind. I think about energy and the conservation issue every time I get in the car and drive 63 miles one way to my job.
But, another reason that this has been on my mind is this video, by two EPA officials telling people that cap and trade won't work:

Their experiences come from working in California, which apparently has an extensive cap and trade program in existence. The rumor going around the United States is that these two officials were told to edit parts of the video, because the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats already have cap and trade legislation in place, whether it will work or not.

For years, I have suspected that cap and trade wouldn't work. It's the same reason that corporate welfare and subsidies don't work. It's one of the reasons Kyoto wouldn't work either.
Ideally, society needs to make the leap from point A to point S or T, and not B, technology-wise, and that just isn't happening and won't happen with massive amounts of investments from the taxpayers. We're simply, as a society, not going to go back to the dark ages where we read by oil lap, warm ourselves with woodstoves, and cook on the top of the stoves. Cutting our carbon footprints 80 percent over the next 40 years is simply impossible without a massive restructuring of the entire society that few people want to actually do and even fewer people want to pay for. And, unfortunately, a good bulk of the money the government does have is busy being spent blowing people up in foreign lands. That money, real money, should be put into making every house and business energy efficient and on a self-sustaining model instead of trying to get us to all go back to the dark ages.
I personally like the idea of a carbon fees for the same reasons I like tariffs. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I would advocate the replacement of income and sales taxes with carbon, tariff, and Wall Street transaction taxes, in order to place the burden of taxes and government on those things that harm and need more regulation [Author Roy Morrison from Warner has written extensively about these issues and his argument are compelling]. But I wonder if the rebate program will work. It will create an unneeded bureaucracy of more government employees acting like the IRS, keeping tabs on everyone and everything, along with people having to file for the rebates each month. If it is implemented wrongly, it could create a bigger depression than we are already in now. Folks have quickly forgotten that everything was going along OK until gas started edging up in 2007 which took tens of billions of dollars out of people's pocket when they needed it most. At the same time, the Fed raised interest rates, squeezing the debt economy and sending up ARMs and credit card rates higher, draining more money out of the retail economy [which is 70 percent of economic growth in the U.S.]. These two things sent more people into foreclosure and bankruptcy than anything else, and set us on the course we're on now. Most folks I know who were having problems were just fine until the gas prices went up.
The focus of energy conservation and climate change needs to have a slow approach, with more tax rebates and other targeted things, as well as subsidies for solar panels, windmills, etc., dealing with energy.
I have also been an advocate of building more desalination plants around the world to curb the effects of rising sea tides and bringing food production to different nations on a micro level, to cut down on transportation pollution. This needs to be done immediately. At the same time, the individual has to make those changes because it isn't going to be done by governments or business. Lots of us are already doing things without subsidies and handouts. It's all very interesting and complex and this just adds to the mix.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A letter to Barack Obama

From Ralph Nader

November 18, 2009

Dear President Obama,

You are nearing the day of decision as to whether you order the dispatch of more soldiers to Afghanistan.

Some of your advisors have urged up to 50,000 more soldiers, including several thousand called trainers of the Afghan army.

Other advisors have urged more caution, notably the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and former general, Karl W. Eikenberry, who opposes more soldiers so long as the Afghan government remains grossly dysfunctional.

Beside your own military and civilian advisors, you are receiving disparate counsel from an anemic Congress and your allies abroad.

But are you soliciting advise from stateside civic groups of experience and repute that represent many Americans? Or from genuine experts on that country such as Ashraf Ghani—a former American professor and later respected member of the Karzai government before his departure to other positions in that country?

George W. Bush, in the duplicitous run-up to the invasion of Iraq, insulated himself, closed his mind and refused to meet with civic associations in his own land. Like an autocrat bent on plunging a country into war and occupation, knowingly on false pretenses, he deliberately deprived himself of the information that might have restrained his disastrous, messianic militarism. Disastrous, not to him and Dick Cheney, but to our country, soldiers, and economy, and to the devastated Iraqi people and their ravaged nation.

In the months before the March 20, 2003, undeclared criminal war of aggression that violated our Constitution, statutes, and treaties, a dozen organizations each formally requested a meeting with him.

These organizations represented tens of millions of Americans. They came from the clergy, labor, environmentalists, businesses, students, peace groups, womens’ groups, city councils, consumer, veteran, teachers groups, and international security experts. Many also came with first hand experience in Iraq and the Middle East.

They wanted to meet with their president. He never even answered their letters. The letters are available at

Who would have thought last year that on assuming the presidency, that you would consider plunging deeper in to this quagmire without an exit strategy? The deeper you plunge, the greater your rejection of the history of occupations fueling insurgencies in that region. The more you insulate yourself from contrary judgments to those you have been receiving from your inner councils. Our country, its people and innocent Afghan people will pay the price.

A recent resignation by Matthew P. Hoh, a former marine combat captain in Iraq and highly regarded foreign service officer in Afghanistan, provides an independent analysis of the grievances afflicting the 42 million Pashtuns. In his words:

The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The U.S. and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified. In both RC East and South, I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.

The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency. In a like manner our backing of the Afghan government in its current form continues to distance the government from the people. The Afghan government’s failings, particularly when weighed against the sacrifice of American lives and collars, appear legion and metastatic.

Mr. Hoh proceeds to list these persistent failings and adds his articulate doubts about the strategic purposes of your Administration’s military presence in Afghanistan. He ask, “Why and to what end?” His letter of conscience and protest concludes by noting the limitless effects on our foreign and military policy, and on our country and its economy.

Your staff estimates each U.S. soldier is costing $1 million a year, in addition to the horrific toll on these soldiers and the Afghan people. You owe the American people an un-Bush-like explanation. Why are you not receiving these groups of American from varied backgrounds and experience at the White House on this pending Afghan decision?

They may wonder, by contrast, why you have so many White House meetings with major corporate CEOs from Wall Street, from the health insurance companies and the drug companies. Is not the White House the peoples’ House? Along with many other citizens in our country, I look forward to your response.


Ralph Nader

Monday, November 16, 2009

Down right creepy?

Or maybe not: The first lady of South Carolina recently sought to have her name trademarked after it was revealed that her husband was having an affair with a woman in South America. The July 2, filing of the trademark was intended for items to be sold by an online retailer. She has a book due out next year.
I guess one could say, Why not cash in instead of slink away like most scorned wives? In addition, if you have a book coming out, you want your name protected.
But, on another level, this just feels creepy. It's not quite the same as John Wayne Bobbit or something, you know, cashing in on something tragic, but that is the first thing that came to mind when I read this headline.
Via Political Wire

Friday, November 13, 2009

A quick kudos to President Obama ...

assuming the following is true: ["After spending binge, White House says it will focus on deficits"].
Since I'm always criticizing the president for the clueless and inept things he does, let me be a bit positive here. This is a great idea. In fact, I'll go one step further: Mr. President, have government agencies propose three budgets - a spending freeze, 5 percent cut, and 10 percent cut. I mean, imagine, if you cut the Defense Department budget by 10 percent, you're talking $70 billion right there! That's 10 percent of the TARP money! That's a lot of cash. And the country will be just as safe as it is now. Trust me. This is just the start. Taming the federal government beast will not be easy but it has to be done.
In addition, I would add, that now may be the time for some creative revenue enhancements to pay down the debt. For example, I and others have consistently stated that there should be a very tiny tax on Wall Street transactions. When I say tiny, I mean like a fraction of a penny or even a penny. This will raise hundreds of billions of dollars and will never be seen by 90 percent of the American public. Just do it already. Use that money to end the deficit and pay down the debt and big done with it. Sure, the Republicans will go apeshit and attack you or the Democrats for raising this tax. But I can tell you that I and others will watch your back if you do this. Someone really needs to stick it to the Wall Street man already.
I'm also glad to read the "cap and trade" may be delayed. This is a good idea, I think. Despite what everyone says, cap and trade isn't needed. We are already doing a lot to address climate change. And there are many other ways to address the issue without taxing the people or putting manufacturing at risk. Here are just a few:
First, all the climate change activists need to stop globe-trotting all over the world, lecturing people, and spewing pollution into the atmosphere. Every time I see all those folks in Davos, flown there on their private jets, lecturing me about my electricity use, I want to scream. Stop traveling. Use all the great technology we have to do remote lectures about climate change.
Another is to plant more trees. This is something simple and easy we can all do. It is something Al Gore recently recommended as a way to significantly reduce carbon dioxide. Trees devour carbon dioxide. If for every tree that was cut down, another two were planted, we would be well on our way. In addition, at the same time we're all trying to cut down on energy use, if we all planted new trees each year, it would make a difference. It's true. As the Arbor Day Foundation states, "Plant a tree for your tomorrow ..."
There are enough tax credits now for alternative energy, although there should be more work on this front. There is a market for alternative energy but the key is cost. Very few people right now can afford solar panels even with the credits. More should be done to subsidize this maybe with another 10 percent cut in the defense department budget or something. We wouldn't have to fight wars for oil or natural gas pipelines now would we?
We also need to rid the world of the concept of "free trade" which is a lie and pits workers in one part of the world against workers in other parts of the world, creating unrest, economic hardship, and chaos. The prime global economic concept should be micro-economies, where each country produces goods and services for itself and trades anything that is leftover. This will limit the pollution of transportation of goods AND raise incomes and economies up to the first world level. Right now, we're in a race to the bottom instead of raising the boats up. This will stabilize the world and reduce pollution on a massive scale.
And lastly, desalination plants must be built everywhere, starting in areas in need of clean drinking water, in an effort to turn potentially rising sea levels due to ice caps melting. The fresh water can then be piped into areas that need it. It would be no different than the efforts to bring wired phone lines and Internet to different parts of the world. This is a total no-brainer and yet the greatest minds of the climate change movement haven't thought of it - they are too busy lecturing us about our computer use while blowing through all kinds of energy themselves. Imagine for a second if the world spent less money on military weapons and more money on this effort. Hey, GE will get the money either way, since they are the main company building desalination facilities and also building military items. Fresh water piped into areas that never get it could be used to grow food in regions that have never had farms, further lowering pollution caused by the shipment of food products from one part of the world to the other.
It must be done and must be done now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Uh-oh ... NY-23 not settled ...

Via Political Wire.
It looks like final counts are not actually final in NY-23 where the Conservative candidate apparently lost to the Democrat. Eh, well, maybe not so fast: ["Recanvassing shows NY-23 race tightens even as Rep. Bill Owens is sworn into House seat"].
Three thousand votes with more than 10,000 absentee ballots to count ... that's not a win just yet.
Interestingly, as the article states, because the Conservative candidate conceded, the Dem was sworn in and assisted in getting that terrible health care reform bill passed. The lone Republican who voted for it is now having voter's remorse, it seems. And if Hoffman does win, things might get a bit hairy.
Question for my readers: Do you think all the same folks who went crazy over "count every vote" in Florida in 2000 will say the same thing now, even if it means the Conservative could potentially win? Or, will they want things sealed and not counted, you know, cause their guy already "won"?

Democrats failing the people; Republicans acting worst than third-graders

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The House of Representatives debate on the health insurance “reform” is over with the Democrats failing the people and the Republicans disgracing themselves as having left their minds back in the third grade (with apologies to third graders).

House Democrats were determined to pass any bill with a nice sounding name, such as “The Affordable Health Care for America Act”. Single payer, full Medicare for all was never on the table even though a majority of citizens, physicians and nurses support that far more efficient, free choice of health care professionals, system.

There are no effective cost containment or prevention measures in the bill. The public option is so weak it will be a receptacle for the sickest of patients among the meager number of people who qualify for its coverage. There are no provisions to reduce the number of people (100,000) who die annually from medical malpractice in hospitals.

Nor is there a major program to reduce the tens of billions of dollars that is stolen yearly out of Medicare from criminals inside and outside the medical profession.

The cover story in the November issue of the AARP Bulletin is on the elaborate but detectable schemes to swindle Medicare with phantom services, phony rentals of equipment, stolen Medicare numbers and the like. The author, Jay Weaver, writes: “So lucrative, and so low-risk, the FBI reports, that a number of cocaine dealers in Florida and California have switched from illicit drugs to Medicare fraud.”

Although more money is finally going for prosecutions, there is nowhere near enough for this corporate crime wave. Medicare’s office of Inspector General asserts that every dollar of law enforcement will save $17 of theft.

Computerized billing fraud and abuse takes anywhere from $250 billion to double that estimate by the General Accounting Office. (The GAO said ten percent of health care expenditures are going down the drain.) The reason why the estimates cover such a broad range, according to Professor Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University, is that there are inadequate resources to document the huge hemorrhaging of the nation’s health care budget and come up with better data.

Apart from the impoverishment of the debate, there is the actual doing of harm. The bill, if enacted, doesn’t take effect until after the presidential elections in 2013, mostly to let the drug and health insurance industries adjust, though they can scarcely believe their good fortune at being delivered all those profitable customers paid for by taxpayers with scarcely any price restraints.

The Journal of Public Health has just published a peer-reviewed study by Harvard physicians-researchers that estimates 45,000 Americans lose their lives yearly because they cannot afford health insurance to receive diagnosis and treatment. Strange how cool the House is to giving these fatalities a four year pass.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a leading single payer advocate, voted against this legislation for many reasons, most notably the Obama-driven omission of his amendment to clear the way legally for states to pass their own single payer laws. Several states, such as Pennsylvania, are in the process of moving legislation in this direction, but are concerned that the health insurers will claim federal pre-emption.

The victims of medical malpractice – estimated by the Institute of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health to be about 100,000 deaths a year – escaped having to overcome more hurdles before they have their full day in court. Helping to beat back the Republicans, who define “medical malpractice reform” as letting the negligent perpetrators get away with their lethal consequences, was Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA).

Rising on the House floor he delivered a factual plea for patient safety. Hardly had he started to speak with Republicans started shouting “trial lawyer, trial lawyer” referring to his previous profession of representing wrongfully injured people before local juries in Iowa. This rare display of shouting by opponents was punctuated by one of their unleashed members rushing down the aisle shouting “You’ll pay for this.”

During this overall debate on the bill, Republicans stood up one by one, as prevaricatory dittoheads, to often scream and howl (like coyotes) that this is “a government takeover of one sixth of the economy,” “would destroy the economy,” “put 5.5 million people out of work,” “destroy the doctor-patient relationship,” “be a steamroller of socialism,” “force millions of seniors to lose their current health coverage” (meaning, Medicare?) and, in a passionate appeal to the Almighty, Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) declared “God help us as the government takes over your day-to-day life.”

Never mind that this bill is just an expansion, however misdirected, of government health insurance designed to increase corporate profits and increase the corporate grip over the day-to-day decisions regarding who, when and how people get their health care or get their bills paid.

To top off the madness, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an ever maturing political hermaphrodite, reneged on his assurance to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and imperiously announced on Fox News Sunday that “if the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote.”

For media-centric Joe, his motto seems to be “L’Senat c’est moi.”

Hilarious political ad

This is funny and so true: ["Pass Medicare for All or Pass Nothing"].

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dobbs out

This is a bit weird:

I wonder what this is about. Speaking tours? New jobs? Presidential campaign? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Healthcare insurance isn't auto insurance

A quick break from my work duties to share this diddy from our clueless president via ABC News: ["Interview with the President: Jail Time for Those without Health Care Insurance?"].

On the issue of jail time for people who don't comply and buy federal government approved health insurance, President Obama reportedly said:
“What I think is appropriate is that in the same way that everybody has to get auto insurance and if you don't, you're subject to some penalty, that in this situation, if you have the ability to buy insurance, it's affordable and you choose not to do so, forcing you and me and everybody else to subsidize you, you know, there's a thousand dollar hidden tax that families all across America are -- are burdened by because of the fact that people don't have health insurance, you know, there's nothing wrong with a penalty.”
OK first, we can put to bed the accusations that criminal penalties are a rightwing conspiracy. Criminal penalties do exist in the bill. And the president thinks it is a good idea.
Second, I don't know about any of you but health insurance is by no means compares to auto insurance. It is a stretch to compare car insurance to health care insurance.
Here is a personal example: We have two cars in my household, excellent driving records, and extensive coverage. Our bill? Less than $100 per month for two relatively new but granted, inexpensive cars. It's about $1,000 a year.
Now, let's compare that to health insurance.
Right now, I pay $5,200 per year to cover my family via an OK plan through my employer which also has $25 co-pays and $3,000 deductibles. So, technically, it costs us much more than $5k a year to cover our health expenses. It's better than nothing, for sure.
But I, not unlike a lot of folks, was in a different situation not that long ago which makes this supposed health care reform bill intolerable.
In 2007, when I was unemployed and restarted my job at my current employer (but didn't have benefits), I had a very bad Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. For three of us, it was $900 per month, with $5,000 deductible. I kept it up as long as I could. But unemployment payments couldn't keep up with everything else. So, I dropped my insurance, got my old job back, and hoped for the best until my work plan kicked in.
According to this health care proposal, I would have been brought up on criminal charges for doing this because of no fault of my own. I just couldn't afford to cover the costs and we made too much money to qualify for anything. There were millions of people like me at that time in my life. There are millions now. And even with a federal subsidy, it still doesn't bring the costs down enough to make it realistic. And yet, the Congress, in its infinite wisdom, rammed this through. It's just plain wrong.
A bit more to get the point across: If you are self employed or have a shitty job without benefits in New Hampshire, the shitty Anthem plan your cheapest choice. I know, I looked into it extensively. So, if you were a family of three two years ago, that's nearly $11,000 AFTER taxes. If you are self-employed, you can deduct some of this expense. But if you aren't, you're out of luck.
Stay with me for a minute: Imagine you are a family of three bringing home $50k, which is realistic and, actually, above average in New Hampshire. Can you afford to take $10k-plus and pay for health care out of pocket? No, you can't.
First, about $10k is taken out in various taxes. If you rent a two- or three-bedroom apartment, or pay property taxes on a modest home, that's another $10k to $12k, or maybe more. Car payments, car insurance, food, electric, Internet/cable, telephone, and that's another $15k, easy. Tack on the shitty Anthem plan, and you're left with about $2 a week for gas, tolls, clothing, school supplies, cellphone, holidays ... what else am I forgetting?
In other words, even if you are earning a decent clip, private health insurance bought out of pocket is just not realistic in modern times. Look at the costs this bill is suggesting. They are pretty close to the shitty Anthem plan! In other words, it can't be done!
Give yourself an education. Sit down and do the math and you will realize that you too could be living in a similar situation as some of us do or have. And that makes this bill all the more intolerable and this president all the more clueless to the realities of working folks.

The time is now for single-payer
Simply put, the time is now for single-payer. It's the only answer to the problem. Bernie Sanders's bill S. 702 will cover everyone with a simple 3 percent payroll tax. This move will lower municipal government expenses which means we'll have more money for our roads, schools, and even employees to do the jobs we need done in our cities and towns. It will free up billions of dollars in capital from for-profit companies currently offering health care benefits. They can take this money out of the benefit plans and put it back into hiring people, buying new equipment, etc. It is a win-win-win. It really is the only way to go. More about this later.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Political passage of the week?

Yeah, most definitely. From this article: ["Deeds memo damning in hindsight"].
This pretense is more reassuring to the candidates paying for the advice than what is often the reality: voters are fickle, the factors that motivate them are ephemeral, political operatives are often winging it, and even the shrewdest advice often can’t compensate for a weak candidate running in a harsh environment.
Damn right. I can tell you this from being a consultant, volunteer, activist, and candidate. Voters are extremely fickle. They are fickle in primaries, since they often care more about voting for the winner than what the candidates stand for. If they are indie voters in finals, they can also be all over the map too. It doesn't matter where they live or what is going on. You can't predict what they will do.
It also doesn't help that the media is obsessed with horse race nonsense and personalities instead of the issues that voters supposedly care about. It comes back to my arguments about directing the news. There are good political reporters out there. But, they often get caught up in the "gotcha" moment instead of doing the thorough writing and analysis about issues. Please reporters, leave the gotcha moments for bloggers. Do what you're supposed to do.
In many ways, it's better for candidates not to have these consultants at all. If you don't know what you stand for as a candidate, there is a problem. Simply put, you shouldn't be a candidate. Do campaigns need employees? Yeah, ideally. A candidate can always use a scheduler and a media person. Not everyone can handle the technical stuff, like putting together the campaign Web site. Nowadays, you even need someone to Twitter for you! But, figuring out what to say? Knowing what to think? Polling months before an election and have that be your strategy? Studying voters on who you should and shouldn't put in your campaign advertisements? No, it's not needed. Go out, be yourself, talk to people, learn what they want, tell them your ideas, and live with the consequences. It really is that simple.

The Afghanistan quagmire

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Matthew P. Hoh, a former U.S. combat marine captain and Department of Defense civilian in Iraq starting in 2004 and until September a political officer in the Foreign Service stationed in Afghanistan is giving some consternation to President Obama’s advisors as the Commander in Chief considers sending more soldiers to that war-torn country next to Pakistan.

Mr. Hoh wrote a letter of resignation to the State Department in September. His four page letter frames his doubts about what he said is the “why and to what end” behind “the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. He notes that like the Soviets’ nine year occupation, “we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people.”

Mr. Hoh focuses on the giant Pashtun society composed of 42 million people and moves to his conclusions. Read his words:

“The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The U.S. and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified. In both RC East and South, I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.

“The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency. In a like manner our backing of the Afghan government in its current form continues to distance the government from the people. The Afghan government’s failings, particularly when weighed against the sacrifice of American lives and dollars, appear legion and metastatic:

• Glaring corruption and unabashed graft;
• A President whose confidants and chief advisers comprise drug lords and war crimes villains, who mock our own rule of law and counternarcotics efforts;
• A system of provincial and district leaders constituted of local power brokers, opportunists and strongmen allied to the United States solely for, and limited by, the value of our USAID and CERP contracts and whose own political and economic interests stand nothing to gain from any positive or genuine attempts at reconciliation; and
• The recent election process dominated by fraud and discredited by low voter turnout, which has created an enormous victory for our enemy who now claims a popular boycott and will call into question worldwide our government’s military, economic and diplomatic support for an invalid and illegitimate Afghan government.

“Our support for this kind of government, coupled with a misunderstanding of the insurgency’s true nature, reminds me horribly of our involvement with South Vietnam; an unpopular and corrupt government we backed at the expense of our Nation’s own internal peace, against an insurgency whose nationalism we arrogantly and ignorantly mistook as a rival to our own Cold War ideology.

“I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan. If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc. Our presence in Afghanistan has only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons. However, again, to follow the logic of our stated goals we should garrison Pakistan, not Afghanistan. More so, the September 11th attacks, as well as the Madrid and London bombings, were primarily planned and organized in Western Europe; a point that highlights the threat is not one tied to traditional geographic or political boundaries. Finally, if our concern is for a failed state crippled by corruption and poverty and under assault from criminal and drug lords, then if we bear our military and financial contributions to Afghanistan, we must reevaluate and increase our commitment to and involvement in Mexico.

“Eight years into war, no nation has ever known a more dedicated, well trained, experienced and disciplined military as the U.S. Armed Forces. I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the U.S. military has received in Afghanistan. …

“’We are spending ourselves into oblivion’ a very talented and intelligent commander, one of America’s best, briefs every visitor, staff delegation and senior officer. We are mortgaging our Nation’s economy on a war, which, even with increased commitment, will remain a draw for years to come. Success and victory, whatever they may be, will be realized not in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury for such success and victory. …

“Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical and mental wounds, some that will never heal or will only worsen with time. The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can anymore be made. As such, I submit my resignation.”

Will Mr. Hoh’s highly regarded experience, sensitivity and judgment reach the attention of millions of Americans? That will depend on whether President Obama meets with him, whether Congressional committees will provide a hearing for him and others of similar persuasion, and whether the mass media will suspend their dittoheading and trivia long enough to report these views, so that we the people can deliberate better about avoiding a devastating, worsening quagmire replete with serial tragedies over there and boomerangs back here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

House passes supposed "health care" reform ...

The vote was 220 to 215, with one Republican voting for the bill.
A provision remains in the bill that has a criminal penalty of prison time for not purchasing an insurance policy. They also took out abortion funding in order to secure the votes (to secure the votes of other Democrats, you know, the ones that are always supposedly pro-choice, wow ...).
One of the women on my Twitter feed wrote: "Can't have your abortions and have the government (aka other people) pay for it, too." Interesting point but at the same time, some folks need them in emergencies.
Another person wrote: "I'd just like the point out that if you don't want the government telling you what to do, don't ask them to foot the bill." That's another problem with all of this too which is a bigger issue to discuss than in a blog post.
But, this monstrosity is so, so wrong.
The Democrats have voted to approve a "health care reform" bill that is nearly 2,000 pages that no one has read, doesn't cover abortion funding (meaning only those who can afford an abortion will be able to get one), doesn't regulate costs in any real form, and forces people to buy insurance whether they want to or not.
This isn't "health care reform" ... this is corporate welfare and guaranteed profits for insurance companies with the Congress forcing us to pay it all ... In other words, Congress is doing what they always do - screwing us and lining the pockets of their friends, under the guise of helping others.

47 years ago today ...

Richard Nixon held a press conference in which he railed against the press, since he wasn't given fair coverage in a gubernatorial race against Pat Brown in 1962. Nixon stated the classic line, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore." Six years later, he won the presidency. Via Political Wire:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Menino pulls away

Menino is pulling away from Flaherty, by 13,500 votes with 92 percent counted. Wow. An unprecedented fifth term.

Election 2009: Tight race in Boston

The Menino-Flaherty battle is going down to the wire. With 24 percent counted, less than 200 votes separates the two. Wow.
In Manch, Republican Ted Gatsas wins easily ... so does the tax cap.
In Concord, incumbent at-large city councilor Dan St. Hilaire has easily won reelection, with more than 2,400 votes.
One-year school board candidate Bill Glahn, a former board member, was also elected over Tom Croteau, by a few hundred votes.
Republican Lynne Blackenbeker won a slim victory over former state Rep. and Republican turned Democrat Jim MacKay, by about 20 votes, in Wards 4, 8, 9, and 10, in the race to replace Tara Reardon.
The results for second at-large councilor is leaning Michael DelloIacono's way over Jim Baer by less than 100 votes, according to sources.
There are no results being reported for the Ward 7 race.
In Virginia, the Republican trounced the Democrat.
In New Jersey, Corzine is going down to defeat even though there was a conservative independent who was expected to siphon votes from the Republican.
The gay marriage repeal is leading in Maine.

Al Gore: Looking good

Former Vice President Al Gore has a new book coming out. I stumbled across this clip from CBS via Political Wire:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Since I'm always commenting on how female pols look, let me look beyond the book promotion and get right to the heart of the matter: I have to admit that Gore looks pretty good for an old guy. He's lost weight (remember when he was in that chubby phase?). Look at all his gray hair! I think I still have more grays than he does but it is nice to see him letting the hair go natural. And check out those leather boots. You're a rock star, dude! I wonder what the carbon footprint on creating those was.
I'm not going to comment on the book or the information in the book. I do wonder, however, how much CO2 emissions were released in creating this book. Why couldn't he just give it away, via PDF, and save all those trees? How about the energy for all the lights on this Webcast? Conservation for thee but not for me. Sigh.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great Frontline show ...

called "The Warning," about how officials in the Clinton Administration refused to allow derivatives to be regulated and how two of the three people who stopped this are now working in the Obama Administration. What a hero Brooksley Born is. And now, the Democrats are refusing to regulate derivatives again, even though they are the main cause of the financial collapse. For whatever reason, the embed code isn't working.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thoughts on the first (and only?) Mass. special election Senate debate

I was able to listen to most of the Democratic U.S. Special Election Senate debate via WBZ 1030 tonight and then, later, switched to NECN online, which I realized it was webstreaming [I would later try to pick up WBZ-TV's webstream but it wasn't working for me at work, for whatever reason].
First, all the candidates seemed pretty similar as far as views go.
Rep. Mike Capuano danced a bit on the driver's licenses for illegal aliens and Alan Khazei was the only one to express support for single-payer health care. Otherwise, they are always exactly alike.
Capuano seemed angry, often raising his voice, and not in the good way - showing populist sentiments - but in a bad way, seemingly talking down to people.
If I had a $1 for every time Steve Pagliuca said, "I agree with Mike ..." I could be a co-owner of the Celtics with him. He didn't do anything to hurt his cause but he didn't do anything to help it either.
Khazei was articulate and had a grasp of many of the issues. Some will say he needs to not dominate the debates by talking too much but I don't know.
Martha Coakley seemed relatively solid but stammered on a few issues. She was also the only candidate to acknowledge, during the Afghanistan discussion, that a Mass. soldier had died in the country today. That was a nice touch. While discussing public policy, you know, there are real human beings getting blown away [interestingly, or not so, all four were against more troops being sent to Afghanistan the same night that their future colleague in the Senate, John Kerry, was actually arguing for more troops]. It seems like it is Coakley's to lose.
One of the things that was annoying is the shortness of the debate, about an hour, which limited the question times on the major public policy issues of the day to a few seconds. This was just unacceptable. In addition, the moderator, Peter Meade, the former program director at WBZ radio, constantly interrupted the candidates when they should have been at least allowed a few seconds warning to wrap it up.
The big losers were the voters because the rumor is that this will be the only televised debate. There should be more of them maybe even, as Khazei challenged, one a week until Election Day.
After the debate, Jim Braude had a roundtable of guests discussing the results of the debate. Included in the mix was Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral for Khazei, a spokesman for Pagliuca, Republican Ralph Martin II backing Coakley (a Dem), and Marjorie Clapprood backing, of all people, Capuano, the same person she faced off with in the bloody 8th primary of 1998. Maybe she is hoping for another special election for the 8th so she can jump into that one again from her home in Sharon (which is still outside the district).
It was actually shocking to hear Clapprood spout off that the gender of the Senate candidate didn't matter. This from a woman who has used this as a crutch to gain (or attempt to gain) higher office, again and again. She has guilted people into voting for a woman when that woman didn't even live in the district and had no business being in the Congressional race in the first place. But I'm a woman, she roared back in 1998, there are no women from Massachusetts in the Congress. Blah, blah blah as she helped to derail the campaign of Sue Tracy, a competent, smart woman who actually lived in the district.
So, those are some thoughts.

Other reaction: Here is some of the other reactions from a few political reporters.
Jon Keller on WBZ-TV said Khazei came across best, with Coakley doing what she needed to do. He was slightly critical of both Capuano and Pagliuca. Keller was also on Dan Rea's show for a few minutes and was Tweeting with people and reading their comments in a Webcast.
Over on 7, Hiller said Coakley was the big winner and Capuano was the big loser.
David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix has a long post up here: ["Senate Debate, First Impressions"]. "Clear winner in the debate: Scott Brown," he wrote in the opening lines.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Change presidents, but some things never change

A good word out to Political Reporter Mark Matthews of ABC 7 in San Francisco for asking Leon Panetta some tough questions after his appearance at the Commonwealth Club, basically admitting that the CIA was continuing to assassination people overseas:

And, it was nice that Matthews went to talk to another expert too, to get a bit more balance after Panetta's sleight of hand gobblygook. You can read some more commentary here by David Swanson: ["Leon Panetta Questioned on Drone Use, Calls Secret Service on Questioner"].

Note that even though Panetta is a Democrat, installed by President Barack Obama, the supposed "change" agent, he is continuing the Bush-Cheney policy in this regard. He continues to parrot the "war on Al-Qaida" nonsense. I don't recall the Congress issuing a declaration of war against Al-Qaida. Do you? As I have stated before, it has been more than eight years and the supposed mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, Usama bin Ladin, is still at large. So, when is the United States government going to stop murdering innocent people, like the Moroccan waiter, and start trying to find the mastermind of 9-11? Or, was that never the purpose of this so-called "war" in the first place?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nov. 2009 Top 30 Chart

Nov. 2009 Top 30 Chart

1. Passion Pit – Manners
2. Drug Rug – Paint the Fence Invisible
3. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
4. Mission of Burma – The Sound The Speed The Light
5. Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women – Your Secrets Are Mine Now
6. Mean Creek – The Sky (Or The Underground)
7. Hallelujah the Hills – Colonial Drones
8. Sidewalk Driver – For all the Boys and Girls
9. Cassavettes – Shake Down the Sun
10. The David Wax Museum – Carpenter Bird
11. The Lights Out – Color Machine
12. Magic Magic – Magic Magic
13. The Beatings – Late Season Kids
14. Doomriders – Darkness Comes Alive
15. The Points North – I Saw Across the Sound
16. Choo Choo La Rouge – I’ll Be Out All Night
17. Dead Cats Dead Rats – Dead Cats Dead Rats
18. Doom Buggies – Doom Music for Dining
19. The Everyday Visuals – The Everyday Visuals
20. The New Collisions – The New Collisions
21. The Peppermint Patties – This Ain't No Shitstorm
22. Tony the Bookie – The Tony the Bookie Orchestra
23. Wheat – White Ink, Black Ink
24. Apple Betty – Streakin’ Cross the Sky
25. The Bynars – Back From Outer Space
26. Dead Friends – “On the Run”
27. The New Alibis - Hard Promises
28. Joe Pernice – It Feels So Good When I Stop
29. The Acro-brats – “Hey Medusa”
30. The Steamy Bohemians – Technicolor Radio

Monday, October 19, 2009

This looks good

["The Fourth Kind"].

Hooksett Banner to publish weekly

There is some seemingly good news on the local media front: The Hooksett Banner, one of the Neighborhood News newspapers serving the suburban Manchester region, will return to publishing as a weekly, according to a notice on the front page of the Oct. 15 edition.
The Banner and the Goffstown News moved to bi-weekly publication in April, a few months after the company, which is owned by the Union Leader parent corporation, merged the News and the Bow Times into one publication. The newspaper noted that due to a drop in advertising, the paper would be making the change.
Back in April, the Banner was 20 pages; last week, it was 24 pages on Oct. 15. So, one could assume that revenue has picked up again, enough to go back to a weekly publication. Newspapers tend to favor a 50-50 ad to content ratio split in its print editions not including circulars or inserts in between the main books. An increase in size from 20 to 24 pages, for example, could possibly mean that the edition had two more pages in advertising for that edition, assuming that Neighborhood News uses the 50-50 ratio split.
At the time I wrote that bedroom communities with no retail base are very difficult markets for newspapers, especially free ones with no subscription base. Subscriptions usually cover the bulk of the expense, since there is limited advertising locally. Even though advertisers outside of a community want to pitch their products to affluent readers, that isn't enough these days to sustain the physical product. If there is nothing to pay for the physical newspaper, it can't be sustained, unfortunately. At the same time, I wondered if the Monitor increased its Bow news, would it gain more subscriptions? It doesn't seem to have done that. The Times operation, which had always been mailed to homes for free in Bow, didn't seem to think that a paid edition mailed to homes would work either.
No one yet on whether the News will go back to being a weekly or not but this is clearly positive news in an otherwise dark time for newspapers.

Also, in the Sunday Concord Monitor, there was an interesting overview of the state of newspapers in Claremont: ["Newspaper War"]. The story featured the Monitor's sister newspaper, the Valley News, prominently, including a picture of Mark Travis and did offer a disclaimer in the story. One could presume it is pretty good times for a small city when its daily newspaper files for bankruptcy, other entities come in to cover the news, and then, the bankrupt newspaper is revived after another company buys it, meaning there are even more news and marketing options for readers.