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.