Wednesday, September 30, 2009

personal note

With reference to "self-diagnosis" post below: For now I've opted for "snap out of it!" - resolving to post at least once per day.
I figure the doing - whether inspired or not - will eventually lead to inspired, brilliant commentary! (Well - at least as brilliant and inspired as usual...)

The down side: readers are likely to notice slightly more desultory posts. I've NOT resolved to post brilliant analyses, only to post!!!

making the point better than I

The Audacity of Option
Kevin Maley
The United States stands alone among advanced nations that do not guarantee basic health care for its citizens. We spend half a trillion dollars a year on our military, and accept this on the premise that the government should protect the lives of its citizens. In most other countries, this logic extends to health care; every citizen has basic health insurance, paid for by the government. Everyone is insured. But in the United States, over 47 million Americans are not insured, mainly because we live in a system where you have insurance if you can afford it; if not, you are screwed. We are a country, to paraphrase Senator Kennedy, where the state of an individual's health depends on the size of a individual's wealth.

the next big hurdle...

I note that regulation of the financial sector is beginning to make news again.

Brilliant advice for those favoring increased regulation: Anticipate the crap the loyal opposition will be spewing.

... I'm betting the crap will start with paeans to the magic of the market - and how anything threatening to interfere with the magic of the market is a socialist evil!

Point 1: Laugh out loud whenever anyone mentions the magic of the market!!!
Point 2: Repeat point 1.

Point 3: Okay - regulation is socialism. So what? Socialism protects you and me and the rest of We the People from the predations of unbridled capitalists!

Recall: pure, unbridled capitalism - the unregulated financial sector - brought about the current economic & financial crisis... abetted by the demi-god of free-market efficiency, Alan Greenspan.
[It wouldn't hurt to recall that the Crash of '29 and the ensuing Great Depression was likewise brought on by pure, unbridled capitalism - an unregulated financial sector... and that St. Reagan's dismantling of Depression-era financial-sector regulation is more than just a little to blame for the current mess!]

... It's time we resurrected late 19th-century images of Capitalists as Agents of Evil!

so how come?...

Not that long ago, Republicans of all stripes - Congressional leaders and non-elected Republican talking heads - were peddling "Obamacare" as "death panels".
The media, though taking note of these false claims, seldom made it clear that the claims were FALSE, and never chastised the Prominent Republican Spokesperson for making the FALSE CLAIMS.

Now a Democratic Congressman has dared to declare that Republicans want to "die quickly" if they get sick.
The airwaves are full of media condemnation. "Wholly inappropriate"!

Joe Wilson's outburst ("You lie!") during Presidential address to Joint Session is mildly, even humorously, chastised.

Tell me again: where's that "liberal media bias" I keep hearing about???

Just a reminder: Eric Cantor (R-VA) suggests woman with tumors - but no health insurance - find an existing govt program or rely on charity.
Did major media report this?
No! - Progressive blogs did!

Republicans & Blue Dogs don't care about We the People!
They DO want to protect insurance company profits!

Stop the madness!!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Posting recently has been light.
Letter-writing - both personal & political - is pretty much non-existent.

I'm depressed. Entering year 8 of 'living with cancer' - wife with terminal cancer... she's feeling treatment is worse than the disease, and has started talking about purely palliative care.
I'm sole care-giver with few outlets.

One of the outlets used to be this blog - but recently I've had a hard time getting excited about the continuing depressing daily news.

Three options seem available:
1) snap out of it
2) seek professional help
3) continue to fall into the deep dark

Sunday, September 27, 2009

eBay currency index

The dollar is rebounding!
eBay item listed at 499.99 GBP today shows $$$ equivalence = $797.21! - Just a few days ago it was $819.

Not that facts matter, but...

CBO Estimates Show Public Plan With Higher Savings Rate

The article reveals that CBO figures do not represent published research, but oral communication from CBO to Speaker Pelosi.

Sure would be nice to see CBO numbers in official format.

In case you missed it

The 150th anniversary of Darwin's On the Origin of Species fast approaches: 24 Nov 2009.
Seems former child-actor Kirk Cameron wants to use the event to creatively publicize his Xianist perspective.
I'll not post the original.
This send-up stands on its own:

Note: if this doesn't play well, try the original YouTube link:
Origin of Stupidity:

Oh, good: I'm not alone

Long ago I noted that I finally managed to discourage calls & mail from DSCC & DCCC by writing 'em checks for $2.71 & $2.29, respectively... the intent being to make administrative costs of processing the donations exceed nominal value. (Note: 2, 29, 71, 229, and 271 are all prime... and the sum is a convenient-to-track $5.00)

Seems I'm not the only one who's fed up. From C&L commentary on this article:
The reporter doesn't mention that the netroots community (aka the Democratic ATM) has stopped donating to the DCCC and the DSCC, and instead donate directly to candidates - mostly because we're so disgusted with the Blue Dogs Rahm Emanuel and Co. have recruited.
There are decent Dem incumbents. There are also some real stinkers. Simple cost/benefit analysis suggests it's cheaper & more effective to support the folks you like directly - by-passing DCCC & DSCC.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

it's been a while...

... since I last posted.

I'm still reading the news, but haven't been able to get ginned up about it.

Meanwhile: here's a nice article on my high school friend's tea-party experience:
The DC 9/12 Rally: A Lone Protester Stands Up for the Public Option
He also posted a diary on DailyKos:
My walk through the Tea Party
FYI: the sign is home-made, using only standard office equipment, some poster-making software, and clear contact paper... a bunch of 8.5"x11" sheets painstakingly assembled.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

back in NM

i mentioned to a few folks that bit about visiting the Capitol & walking around the Mall being inspirational.
No one was surprised.

The folks to whom I mentioned this have all been in DC for at least a couple of decades, and all have worked at some time or other for the Fed Govt.
Each related a story to the effect that, "Yeah, when I used to take the Metro across the Potomac every morning, seeing the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol all lined up was just a fabulous way to start the day!"
... apparently the 'inspirational' thing isn't limited to the tourists.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

a note from our nation's capital

Corny as it may sound, it was truly inspirational and delightful to visit the Capitol and walk the National Mall!... I think I was smiling pretty much continuously - and I got a lot of smiles back!

A scheduled tour conflicted with a scheduled meeting with my Representative... I opted for the tour. (I'm not very good 1:1, and really didn't have anything to tell him that I can't get off my chest via email or snailmail.) I did have a chance to speak with one of his young staffers - a fellow I knew from last fall's campaign.

Senate Gallery: saw a roll-call vote on an amendment to some bill. Bingaman & Udall both in attendance.
House Gallery: watched part of a debate on an energy bill. Republican speaker, "this will kill U.S. industry." Democratic speaker, "this will enable U.S. industry."...
... walked away from this feeling very happy that there are people willing to serve in Congress so that I don't have to!

Weather: fairly pleasant - mild temp, overcast... but the humidity is a killer for someone - like me - accustomed to NM dry.

Monday, September 14, 2009

to tell the truth...

... I honestly can't say that healthcare reform was - or is - one of my top priorities for the new Administration...

... BUT: I'd sure like to see Dems show some spine for a change, and if the current hot issue is healthcare reform, then I'm a rabid advocate of true REFORM, and expect my Dem Representative and Senators to back true REFORM 100%.

As I've stated many times before, I'm really sick of headlines that start with, "Dems cave..."

an afterthought re: W's economic legacy

I sure hope folks at DNC, DCCC, and DSCC are paying attention!
My free advice (worth every penny)?
... yep, even in 2010.

We already knew this...

... but it's nice to have latest data.
Closing The Book On The Bush Legacy
Sep 11 2009,
by Ronald Brownstein
The Atlantic
Thursday's annual Census Bureau report on income, poverty and access to health care-the Bureau's principal report card on the well-being of average Americans-closes the books on the economic record of George W. Bush.

It's not a record many Republicans are likely to point to with pride.
It's probably time I update this graph:
I note that Republicans can claim they were right! - The tax-cuts, which predominantly benefitted upper-income Americans - worked like a charm! While median-income households lost earning power, the upper 5% GAINED 1.4% from 2007 to 2008 - not huge, but better than negative!

Recall, as recently as last spring, the Republican solution to economic malaise continues to be , "TAX CUTS"!... for the wealthy, of course. (... or, in Republican parlance, the "job creators"... tho' one might ask, "So how come we gave 'em tax cuts and they're still shedding jobs?")

Just a fun (humorous) quotation

In the beginning there was nothing. God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.
- Ellen DeGeneres

Only a week late!

More from One Fly:
Labor Day - The Reason For It And The Innocent Men Who Went to their Death
It's a good read.

Meanwhile, OneFly clues us in...

What this really means

Off to DC Tuesday

Occasion for trip: a Gilbert & Sullivan exhibit at Smithsonian's Dibner Library.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A high school friend in action

A high school friend writes:
I took a sign that said "Public Option, Now" to the Tea Party yesterday.
The Post put a picture of it on page A-13.
Somebody took a video and posted it on YouTube.

[here's the original YouTube link... I'm not very good at embedding videos]

[I'll be staying with this fellow on upcoming trip to DC.]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Obama keeps us safer than W!

As of this morning, 11 Sep 2009, the United States has not been attacked by terrorists.

Obama is keeping us safer than W!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What might have been

President Bush: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Democratic Congressman: "YOU LIE!"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

from a very different perspective

Current New York Review of Books includes a review of Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism by Paul A. Boghossian - an epistimological treatise.

I can't honestly claim to understand much of the review, or of the arguments of the "constructivists" and "relativists" the book itself critiques.

But... there is a passage from the review that seems relevant to modern American political discourse:
"It is much easier to refute a bad argument than to refute a truly dreadful argument. A bad argument has enough structure that you can point out its badness. But with a truly dreadful argument, you have to try to reconstruct it so that it is clear enough that you can state a refutation."
... and in the case of modern American political discourse, simply trying to reconstruct the truly dreadful arguments gives them legitimacy!

I didn't watch...

Nope: no deep philosophical objections to watching the speech - I was at choir practice.

I don't suppose he used my brilliant "We the People" suggestions?

apropos of nothing in particular

Long ago I suggested that some bright young attorney take up the challenge to slowly, brick-by-brick, dismantle the so-called "state secrets privilege".
The State Secrets Privilege is an evidentiary rule created by United States legal precedent. The court is asked to exclude evidence from a legal case based solely on an affidavit submitted by the government stating court proceedings might disclose sensitive information which might endanger national security, and military secrets in particular as in the case of United States v. Reynolds, the first case that saw formal recognition of the privilege.
[Wikipedia entry, State Secrets Privilege; emphasis added]
I note in passing that Obama's DoJ has continued to assert the privilege.

As it happens, the accident report at the center of the state secrets privilege in U.S. v. Reynolds was declassified in 2000.
Lo! and Behold: the report confirms that poor maintenance contributed to the crash, but contains nothing bearing on "national security"! The privilege was invoked to conceal government incompetence!

My suspicion (and so long as this evidentiary rule is in place, this suspicion can be neither confirmed nor refuted) is that more often than not, the privilege is invoked to protect not "national security", but government incompetence, ineptitude, and malfeasance.

Acknowledging that the Declaration of Independence has no legal standing, I nevertheless invoke its central premise:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
[emphasis added]
I note that in modern legal theory, "consent" is taken to imply "informed consent".

How can We the People give our informed consent to our government when that government hides behind the cloak of the state secrets privilege?

My personal opinion is that the continued recognition of this privilege is an indication that government of, by, and for the people has already perished from the earth.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

eBay currency index

That 499.99 GBP item?
Today going for $817.28 - well off the record high of $848.21...
... but still up from initial equivalence of ~ $695.

That European vacation still looks pricey!

if true, not good!

A year after financial crisis, the consumer economy is dead

Recall, U.S. economy has been driven by consumer spending: 70% of GDP!!!

If the 'consumer economy' is dead, this augurs not well for economic recovery.

Monday, September 7, 2009

just for fun

Lost world of fanged frogs and giant rats discovered in Papua New Guinea
Robert Booth The Guardian, Monday 7 September 2009
A lost world populated by fanged frogs, grunting fish and tiny bear-like creatures has been discovered in a remote volcanic crater on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.

Yeah - whenever politics gets me down (frequently), it's fun to contemplate nature.
I can spend hours on the back porch watching birds - we even have a Cooper's hawk that visits on occasion.
(Sad to say - with 5 cats, our house is not exactly a bird paradise... Just today my wife rescued a bird from inside our house; this is a regular occurence.)

Gazing at the night sky is always inspiring. - even from the city!

While I appreciate that man-made global-warming is destroying eco-systems, I also appreciate that whatever comes after us will be equally inspiring - to whatever sentient creatures there might be to be inspired!
"Save the planet" is an absurd motto.
The planet will survive.
We won't.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I'm thinkin' there's a bigger story here...

... With all the turmoil of the financial crisis, you may have forgotten about the book-cooking that went on at Fannie Mae. Government inquiries found that between 1998 and 2004, senior executives at Fannie manipulated its results to hit earnings targets and generate $115 million in bonus compensation. Fannie had to restate its financial results by $6.3 billion.
[They Left Fannie Mae, but We Got the Legal Bills, 5 Sep 2009, NYT]

Me? I keep thinkin' the Enron collapse is the model to keep in mind, and that fraud at Fannie & Freddie ain't the end of the story.

Has anyone suggested serious fraud investigations of the Big Banks and other Wall Street giants? Citi, Wells Fargo, Goldman/Sachs???

Tho' I don't feel like looking for the source right now, a recent article - somewhere - detailed the cozy relationship between the Wizards of Wall Street & rating agencies. For large $$$ fees, the rating agencies would rate various investment instruments as AAA - based solely on information provided by the clients! ... a neat little scheme repeated over and over.

Enron, WorldCom, & Tyco - these oughta be the relatively easy-to-understand models our supposed "regulators" study... and they - our supposed "regulators" - really oughta start asking, "Is there fraud?"

It's an easy question to ask.

"Winning hearts & mind": now we're pissing off our NATO allies!

US-German rift emerges over Afghan deaths case
6 Sep 2009
KABUL – An airstrike by U.S. fighter jets that appears to have killed Afghan civilians could turn into a major dispute for NATO allies Germany and the United States, as tensions began rising between them Sunday over Germany's role in ordering the attack.

The story is very convoluted.
German commanders apparently requested & authorized the air-strike:
... German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said the Taliban's possession of the two tankers "posed an acute threat to our soldiers." German officials have said the tankers might have been used as suicide bombs.

"If there were civilian casualties or injuries, of course we deeply regret that. At the same time, it was clear that our soldiers were in danger," Jung said in comments to German broadcasters. "Consequently, I stand clearly behind our commander's decision" to order the air strike.
Now U.S. & German officials are pointing fingers at each other for the carnage.

Air power is a very blunt instrument.
Air power cannot occupy territory or control populations.

IF we want to "succeed" in Afghanistan we need a HUGE occupation force - to occupy territory & control populations.
(Here I'm assuming a definition of "success" that I've nowhere seen articulated!)

President Hamid Karzai takes 100% of votes in opposition stronghold
From The Sunday Times
September 6, 2009
Jerome Starkey in Kabul and Jon Swain
In the southern Afghan district of Shorabak, the tribesmen gathered shortly before last month’s presidential election to discuss which candidate they would back. After a debate they chose to endorse Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s leading opponent.

The tribal leaders prepared to deliver a landslide for Abdullah – but it never happened. They claim Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother and leader of the Kandahar provincial council, detained the local governor and closed all the district’s 46 polling sites on election day.

The ballot boxes were taken back to the district headquarters where, tribal leaders allege, they were stuffed with ballots by local policemen. A total of 23,900 ballots were finally sent off to Kabul, the capital – every one of them a vote for Karzai.
Ah, yes. Democracy at work!

Recall: this is NOT Iran. This is Afghanistan - our very poorly-controlled puppet state.

Tell me again why we're there???

Stop the madness!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's about time!

In several posts (e.g., here), I've suggested Dems go on the offensive.

A recent DNC ad campaign suggests that either
1. I'm psychic
2. DNC staffers are reading this blog
3. Someone at DNC has a brain.
I'm betting on #3.

Anyway, here's the DNC ad:

Not a bad start... but let's hope it is JUST a start!

Dream ticket!

I used to salivate over the prospect of a Limbaugh/Palin 2012 ticket.

I've set my sites higher!
Bachmann: Dems attack me because they're worried I'll become president
I'd be tickled with either Bachmann/Palin or Palin/Bachmann!

Time to start raising $$$ today!

Another "thanks" to Federal Courts!

The notable push-backs against W's destruction of our Constitution have all come from Federal Court system. Thanks!
Court Allows Lawsuit Against Ashcroft
Former Official's Bid for Immunity In Ex-Detainee's Case Is Rejected
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 5, 2009
A Muslim man who was detained for weeks as a material witness in a terrorism case can sue former attorney general John D. Ashcroft, a federal appeals court in California ruled Friday as it rejected a bid for absolute legal immunity by the onetime Cabinet official.
The opinion bemoaned that some "confidently assert that the government has the power to arrest and detain or restrict American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions . . . because the government wishes to investigate them for possible wrongdoing or to prevent them from having contact with others in the outside world. We find this to be repugnant."

[empahsis added]
We should all find this to be repugnant!

Thank you, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit!!!

A very good article...

... written by someone much more knowledgeable than I, and with a lot more writing ability:
5 Myths About Health Care Around the World
By T.R. Reid
Sunday, August 23, 2009
As Americans search for the cure to what ails our health-care system, we've overlooked an invaluable source of ideas and solutions: the rest of the world. All the other industrialized democracies have faced problems like ours, yet they've found ways to cover everybody -- and still spend far less than we do.
Read the entire article!

meanwhile, we just keep winning hearts and minds...

Over there:
NATO jets bomb fuel tankers; Afghans say 70 killed
By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Writer
4 Sep 2009
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan – A U.S. jet dropped 500-pound bombs on two tanker trucks hijacked by the Taliban before dawn Friday, triggering a huge explosion that Afghan officials said killed more than 70 people, including insurgents and some civilians who had swarmed around the vehicles to siphon off fuel.
This is an initial report, so of course it says that at least some of those killed were 'insurgents'.
Me - I'm not betting against vast majority of casualties being civilians who just wanted to get some gas.

Air power is a very blunt instrument.
Air power cannot control territory or populations.
Air power will not will the war.

The U.S. Defense Department is addicted to air power.


Stop the madness!

more free advice for Obama's speech-writers

It might be fun to tweak the 'loyal opposition'.
As all of you know, I prefer to find bipartisan solutions to the serious problems our country faces. Some members of my own party have accused me of pursuing bipartisanship at the expense of good policy. I don't believe that, but I recognize that bipartisanship is a means, not and end - and that achieving the goal successfully is what really matters.

To achieve bipartisan solutions, both sides at the table must negotiate in good faith, with the goal of achieving meaningful legislation that will "promote the general Welfare" of "We the People".

When I hear senior members of the loyal opposition describe a provision in the House version of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, a provision that provides coverage for end-of-life counseling, a provision inserted into the bill by a Republican Congressman, a provision identical in scope and spirit to one in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 for which these same Republicans happily voted...
When I hear senior members of the loyal opposition assert that this provision establishes "death panels" and that I want to kill Grandma...
Well... when I hear this, then I start to wonder to what extent the loyal opposition is negotiating in good faith.

When I hear that Republican members of the so-called Gang of Six - members of the Senate Finance Committee tasked with working out a meaningful Senate compromise on the current bill...
When I hear that Republican members of the Gang of Six are issuing fund-raising letters to kill "Obama-care", and stating flatly that they will never vote for anything but a bill so watered-down it does nothing to "promote the general Welfare" of "We the People"...
When I hear these things, I begin to question the possibility of a bipartisan solution when the folks on the other side of the table just want to keep playing the same old partisan politics with America's future.

This is not "Obama-care" - this isn't about me.
This is about providing timely, affordable access to high-quality health care for all American citizens. If that doesn't count as promoting the general welfare of We the People, what does?

You know, I suspect that if the Democrats in Congress somehow managed to figure out how to provide universal healthcare coverage to all Americans, based solely on private insurers, at one-tenth the cost to consumers, but tripling the profits of insurance companies...
I suspect that because it was a Democratic proposal, the loyal opposition would be against it, too!

In this fight I look back to the example of one of my predecessors in this office: Lyndon Baines Johnson.
I'm pretty sure if LBJ had insisted on a bipartisan compromise on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965... well, there's a good chance I wouldn't be your President today.
Lyndon knew how to win a fight.
I intend to learn from his example.
Of course, I'm not one of Obama's speech-writers, and I doubt they read this blog!

this guy was almost our DEMOCRATIC VP!

Lieberman: Without public option, health reform would pass
By Devon Lash
Posted: 09/02/2009
Greenwich Time
STAMFORD -- U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman made it clear Wednesday that he would not vote for a health care bill that included a government-run option, but said that without it, he and most of Congress would support comprehensive health care reform.

Maybe if his name were Joe Goodfellow and he were a good Southern Baptist, we would have had 8 years of Gore - not 8 years of W.

... 'course - he's not Joe Goodfellow, he's Joe Lieberman - So Gore lost and we got W and Darth Vader Cheney.

... then again, if he were the good Southern Baptist Joe Goodfellow, maybe he would have heard Jesus's admonition:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,and with all thy soul and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Maybe as good Southern Baptist Joe Goodfellow, Independent Lieberman wouldn't be sabotaging health care reform!
Glad to have ya in the Dem caucus, Joe!

Will he at least vote for cloture?

History lives!

In high school I went on a student-group tour of Europe which included a few days in France.
One of my few memories from this is spray-painted grafitti:
"Vive le Roi!"
Even as a youth of 16, this suggested to me that the Revolution of 1789 was still relevant.

Recent posts on progressive blogs have noted that the "Birther" movement is strongest in the South; that the South is most opposed to healthcare reform (while suffering from the lowest rate of healthcare coverage in the country), and otherwise seems somewhat outside the mainstream of American politics.

Why is this?
The American South today is pretty much as cosmopolitan as the rest of the country. Damn foreigners, Mexicans, blacks, and every other minority are well-represented.
The only explanation seems to be The American Civil War: Sherman's March to the Sea still resonates.
Nixon's so-called "southern strategy" took advantage of this resonance.
Pat Buchanan still supports himself - somehow - based on this.

Modern anti-Semitism - in an age when religion, for most of us, is worn lightly - seems an anachronism.
That is not to say it is not real.

The Right's use of the "Socialist" epithet depends for its effectiveness on long-forgotten perceived threats to the American Way of Life - back when Bolshevism and Stalin did, in fact, seem to challenge American capitalism for control of the world.
Somehow, the charge of 'socialism' still has appeal as a legitimate reason to oppose "Obama-care".

Modern American Christians - particularly the various flavors of conservative evangelicals & fundamentalists - have resurrected most of the 'heresies' denounced by the Church Fathers.

George Santayana remarked:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
He was wrong.

Even those who can remember the past are condemned to repeat it!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

email from loyal reader

The email heading was "Question for smart guy", which is probably doing me more justice than I deserve... but it's a good question: "How do West Europeans do it?"
When I was assigned to The NATO School as an instructor in the mid-1990s, I was amazed at how much better the quality of life was for West Europeans compared to us Americans (e.g., vacation days, work hours, salaries, even stress levels).

Some Americans said that they (West Europeans) could not keep it up . . . globalization would force them into the same declining quality of life as most Americans experience.

Well, it's over a decade later and the quality of life gap seems to continue widening in West Europeans' favor. How come?

It's understandable that America cannot compete against countries that pay their workers one tenth of what Americans get paid. So there's a race for the bottom.

How do the West Europeans do it?
I'll add my 2-cents worth of observation: on trips to Germany to visit wife's family, we've been simply amazed by 'social safety net' available - mandatory vacations, pretty much free medical care.

So... yes, how do they do it?
(and... more to the point: why can't we???)

Do Obama's speech-writers need help?

Here's some, free of charge (worth every penny!)
When our Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Framers of that remarkable document made it abundantly clear just what they hoped it would accomplish. All of us have had to memorize the Preamble at some point in our lives:
We the People of United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to... promote the general Welfare... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Now, when I think of "We the People", I have in mind the citizens of the United States. Those who voted for me, and those who didn't.
I have in mind the bus-boys, waiters, and waitresses we meet every day. I have in mind the teachers who gave me an education, the policemen who keep my community safe, the repairmen who keep my appliances running, and the mechanics who service my car.
I have in mind the soldiers who risk their lives in defense of this, the greatest country on earth.

When I think of "We the people", I have in mind the 9.7% of my fellow Americans who are out of work, and of the 5 million who have been unemployed for more than half a year. They've lost their jobs and their health coverage.

When I think of "We the People", I have in mind Marian Robinson - my mother-in-law - who raised the most wonderful woman on earth!

... and I ask, if timely access to affordable, high-quality health care doesn't count as the "general welfare" of "We the People", what does?

The Framers of our great Constitution went further.
They provided in Article I that
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States...
Again that phrase: the general welfare.

I note in passing that Article I - the very first thing the Framers established - was the Congress. Not the Executive Branch, not the Judicial Branch... but the Legislative Branch of our government.

And in the very first sentence detailing Legislative powers, our Constitution states,
The Congress shall have the power to... provide for the... general welfare of the United States.
The general welfare. The welfare of the "We the People"... Not the welfare of big corporations, or the welfare of the bottom-line of insurance companies, but the general welfare.

And again I ask: if timely access to affordable, high-quality healthcare doesn't count as "the general welfare" of "We the People", what does?
Okay - free advice is over.
You can take it from here.

... and then there's this

Eric Joyce, UK Defense Official, Quits Over Afghan War
LONDON — Britain's military will stay in Afghanistan until it can look after its own security, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday, dismissing a call from one of his government's defense aides to begin planning a pullout from the country.

In a major speech on Afghanistan intended to shore up flagging support for the war there and answer critics of his defense policy, Brown was due to tell Britons that "we cannot walk away."

[emphasis added]
Sadly, I believe this is President Obama's view, also.

Committing the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan until it can look after its own security seems stupid. That'll be a very long commitment!
"We can't just walk away." - Why not?

Just for fun, let me quote W:
“... when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.”

Do we really need Afghanistan's permission to leave? - And isn't predicating our departure on Afghan readiness just another way of asking permission?

Yes - all hell is likely to break loose. The Taliban may well re-take the country. We stood idly by when this happened with the Soviet departure. We need not stand idly by this time.
Heck - it may even give us a shot at getting Mullah Omar!

It'll take a long time to clean up after W, but the sooner we start, the sooner we'll be finished. Disengaging from Afghanistan is a step in the right direction.

... of course, "Change we can believe in" Obama seems unwilling to actually do anything differently! Fun quote:
Unless things change, they are likely to remain the same.

I think I'm in trouble...

... I almost agree with George Will!

One Way Or Another, Leaving Iraq
By George F. Will
Friday, September 4, 2009Since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq's cities, two months have passed, and so has the illusion that Iraq is smoothly transitioning to a normality free of sectarian violence.
If there is a worse use of the U.S. military than "nation-building," it is adult supervision and behavior modification of other peoples' politicians.
Up to 50,000 can remain as "advisers" to an Iraqi government that is ostentatious about its belief that the presence of U.S. forces is superfluous and obnoxious.

The advisers are to leave by the end of 2011, by which time the final two years of the U.S. military presence will have achieved . . . what?

[emphasis added]
Yes - just exactly what are we aiming to achieve with our continued military presence in Iraq?

W's vision of the bright beacon of democracy in the mid-East died long ago... pretty much as soon as Rummy responded to the rioting following the fall of Baghdad with, "Stuff happens."

It's a few years too late, but, hey! - better late than never.

... and I said above I almost agree with George Will.
Me - I'd say we should get out now, today!
As George asks, staying in Iraq for another year will achieve... what?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If "life" were a Venn diagram

... "life", "religion", & "politics" are NOT co-extensive.

"Life" is the big box.

"religion" and "politics" are perhaps intersecting circles within this big box.

I am reminded of this - again - following "The Music Man".

Me - I'm a radical progessive.
... I also sing in a Lutheran choir... (tho' I characterize myself as "agnostic": for me the proposition, "God exists" is undecideable)

But - I know for sure that at least one of my cast-mates is a Baptist Sunday-school teacher... who's also a "G-Obama" Democrat.
And - one of my cast-mates included in the programme bio:
"Initium sapientiae timor domini." ("The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.")

Did we fight endlessly? Were we at odds constantly?
Was the show a horrible experience for having to confront one another???


Life, politics, and religion are NOT coextensive!
This is a good thing.

Just for fun

Note: if this doesn't play well, try the original YouTube link:
76 Trombones:
Ambassadors of Harmony, Barbershop chorus - "76 Trombones".

Robert J. Elisberg, over at HuffPost wrote of this performance:
And the thing is, as much pleasure as viewers might get from this, what's perhaps most impressive is the deep pleasure that the performers themselves are clearly getting from it. And in the end, perhaps that might be the secret to most excellence. Doing something because you simply love it. Doing something because if you don't, you feel you will burst.
Yeah - that pretty much captures it!

A truly depressing headline

Dems hope September alters health care debate


Truth to tell, I believe the headline, as written.

Note to Dems: "September" is a month - an artifact, an arbitrary division of time. "September" hath no power to alter anything!
"September" has no will, no consciousness.

If you want the health care debate altered: DO IT YOURSELVES!!!

The minority party is eating you alive.
This has nothing to do with calendar month - IT'S YOUR FAULT.

Take the initiative! - It's not that hard.
Problem statement: The U.S. - the richest country in the world - spends more on health care than any other country in the world - but gets at best only fair-to-middlin' results.

The U.S. is the only developed country in the world without some form of universal health care coverage.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a popular definition of insanity.

Solution: IT'S TIME TO REFORM OUR SYSTEM!!! - With meaningful (single-payer?) public option and serious regulation of private insurers!
That wasn't hard, now, was it?

Again - I'm more than willing to believe that Dems hope "September" will assert its will (his will? her will?)...
BUT - I'd much rather hear that Dems decide to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.

Stop the madness!

Why are W's shills still on TV?

... okay, I sort of get Cheney on Fox with Chris Wallace.

But why is Tom Ridge on Rachel Maddow? ... disavowing the 'politicization' of terror alerts - which his recent book asserted.

A note to producers & programmers: the current administration is Obama's - with a Dem House & Senate.
W had his moment of glory, such as it was.

My hope...

... is that folks at DNC, DSCC, and DCCC are writing down and videotaping every word that Republicans are saying about health care reform - to be used in targeted campaign ads next year.

From today:
Rep. Lynn Jenkins Laughs at Uninsured Single Mother, Son
When asked by a single mother who cannot afford health care and doesn't qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP what her alternatives were:
Jenkins' response? A hardy laugh and the words "go be a grown up."
Just run the clip, followed by boilerplate, "Republicans don't care about you. They don't care about the general welfare our Constitution was established to promote. They only care about the rich insurance companies who pocket your premiums (if you're lucky enough to afford 'em) then deny you coverage when you need it!"

It should be pretty simple, really.

(Gee: I sure hope folks at DNC, DSCC, & DCCC are reading this blog!)