Tuesday, December 22, 2009

With no public option, analysts raise health insurers price targets as "reform" moves through Congress

First we had the "wealth transfer" bills, over $1.5 trillion, in the wall street and other bailouts - and now we have another "take from the middle class and give to corporations" plan in the, now completely debilitated, "health care reform" legislation.

Health insurers surge after key vote - The Associated Press

Credit Suisse Ups Targets on 7 Health Insurance Stocks - StreetInsider.com

Yes, our health care system in the U.S. sucks - that's a fact - and our health insurance system is terrible - but unfortunately this legislation, as it has been watered down, will not help. Well, at least it won't help anyone except the insurance companies (and presumably the crooked politicians who push it through).

This is just another form of corporate bailout, and for an industry that isn't even in trouble this time - they're just extra greedy - health insurers.

It's not about "socialism" or "big government" - it's that this bill has been thrashed and warped by corporate influences and no longer has anything for the people in it. It must be squashed. It looks like the U.S. will not be able to do what the rest of the industrialized world has done.

Those evil, socialized countries manage to pro­vide universal health care to their populations with better ­quality outcomes than ours and at about half the cost! So what do all of these countries have in com­mon? They all prohibit health­ insurance companies from being for-profit.

It sounds impossible here in the U.S. But it's not - at least in theory. Switzerland was the last of the developed countries to make that transition, which it did about 25 years ago. Their example shows that it is possible to develop a transition system in which the investors of for-prof­it health insurance companies don't get screwed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We make war too easy, distant, clinical

Bob Herbert, NYT A Fearful Price:

"If voters had to choose right now between instituting a draft or exiting Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two countries in a heartbeat."

So true.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dennis Kucinich To Congress

I don't always agree with Congressman Kucinich, but I agree with the following comments he made to Congress:

"America is in the fight of its life and that fight is not in Afghanistan - it's here. We are deeply in debt. Our GDP is down. Our manufacturing is down. Our savings are down. Our trade deficit is up. Business failures are up. Bankruptcies are up."

"The war is a threat to our National Security. We'll spend over $100 billion next year to bomb a nation of poor people while we reenergize the Taliban, destabilize Pakistan, deplete our army and put more of our soldiers' lives on the line. Meanwhile, back here is the USA, 15 million people are out of work. People are losing their jobs, their health care, their savings, their investments, and their retirement security. Trillions in bailouts for Wall Street, trillions for war; when are we going to start taking care of things here at home?"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mr. Obama, undo the Bush-era Constitutional wrongs

In 2007, the American Freedom Agenda Act (H.R. 3835) failed (never made it out of committee).

President Obama, will you commit to restoring the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses that we gave up under the Bush administration? Any future president can use them again, unless we correct these wrongs.

Specifically:

  • Fully restore the right to challenge the legality of one's detention, or habeas corpus, and the right of detained suspects to be charged and brought to trial.
  • Prohibit torture and all cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
  • Prohibit the use of secret evidence.
  • Prohibit the detention of anyone, including U.S. citizens, as an "enemy combatant" outside the battlefield, and on the President's say-so alone.
  • Prohibit the government from secretly breaking and entering our homes, tapping our phones or email, or seizing our computers without a court order, on the President's say-so alone.
  • Prohibit the President from "disappearing" anyone and holding them in secret detention.
  • Prohibit the executive from claiming "state secrets" to deny justice to victims of government misdeeds, and from claiming "executive privilege" to obstruct Congressional oversight and an open government.
  • Prohibit the abuse of signing statements, where the President seeks to disregard duly enacted provisions of bills.
  • Use the federal courts, or courts-martial, to charge and prosecute terrorism suspects, and close Guantanamo down.
  • Reaffirm that the Espionage Act does not prohibit journalists from reporting on classified national security matters without fear of prosecution.

Mr. Obama, fill the leadership vacuum

We're ready. Take our hand. Lead us. Ruffle some feathers. Rattle some cages. Take names and kick ass if you have to, but for god's sake, do it already.

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd in Less Spocky, More Rocky - September 8, 2009:

In the absence of more vivid presidential leadership, the Democrats have reverted to their old DNA — self-destructive scrapping and spending. And the Republicans are sticking to theirs — being mean-spirited and shameless, attacking big government spending while taking no blame for their own.

The longer this vacuum goes unfilled, the more it will be occupied by the crazies and nutjobs.

Come on Mr. President, the country is ready and willing to be led - hungry for leadership, even. Make hay while the sun shines.

Republicans exercise childish behavior at their own peril

The Republicans appear to have taken a page from the second grade school yard playbook. Their deep hatred for Obama and anger over losing the Congressional majority has taken their head out of the game. It's no longer about the message, but the messenger. Even when Obama recasts a G.O.P proposal, the Republicans still refuse to support it. As NY Times columnist Bob Herbert recently said "The entire Republican Party has decided that it is in favor of absolutely nothing." If Obama proposed "Sunshine in the morning, Harry Reid couldn’t persuade a single Senate Republican to vote yes."

But this childish approach is going to backfire. Democrats will eventually be forced to say "if you want to pout in the corner, so be it" and they will move on without Republican involvement. It's the self-fulfilling prophecy the Republicans were afraid of before the election - now they're going to get it, if they don't get over themselves and start participating again.

And it's not just hurting the Republicans themselves. It's hurting all of us:

  1. Democrats will have to load bills with old-school pork to get enough votes without the G.O.P.
  2. The end result will be even greater division in the country
Come on Republicans, buck up and get back in the game - the country needs you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Van Jones isn’t nearly as nutty or “anti-American” as most of the folks asking for his head

The Jones appointment is being criticized on the left as dubious and poorly vetted but hardly a threat to the nation. On the right it’s being treated with a hysteria that is as crazy as the craziest of the 9/11 “truthers.” “Truthers” are a fringe among liberals. But among the right, utterly crackpot, dishonest and insanely demagogic ranters have become legion, promoted, widely praised and even granted leadership roles.

Jones is not high on my radar – he’s a better appointment – not as crazy and likely more competent – than a couple of dozen aides to Bush. The hyper-platitudinous, Twilight Zone-inhabiting Christian Right was handed thousands of square feet of executive office space by Rove. As were disastrous cronies and hacks like Harriet Meiers, Al Gonzales and the notorious “Brownie.”

It’s okay in conservative circles to argue that FDR deliberately let Pearl Harbor get hit. It’s okay in conservative circles to argue that FDR deliberately sold out Eastern Europe to Stalin at the behest of his Red State Department. It’s okay, among the pundit class, to become a one-man “1939 Truth Commission” like Pat Buchanan, arguing that Hitler had no designs on greater Europe until he was provoked by…uh…Churchill, or something. It’s okay in right-blogosphere circles and on pundit lists to call for rounding up Americans on the basis of their ethnicity, like Michelle Malkin. But a guy who is assigned to develop strategies for Green Energy can’t ever have questioned whether Bush let 9/11 happen. It's a damned shame.

I’m inclined to defend Jones just because the people who are calling for his head are such outrageous, despicable scum. Reason enough. These creeps want an all-out partisan war. Fine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I AM AN AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE SHITHEEL

http://www.alteredhaste.com/acs.html

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Healthcare reform questions

This will probably degenerate into a flame war, but I hope it doesn't. (This one time) stirring the pot is not my intention. :)

I've read through the bills and analyses and I must say, my biggest question is "What problem are we trying to solve?" I know healthcare is "broken" but we all seem to have different definitions of what "broken" means.

It appears that a big goal of the proposed healthcare reform is to reduce the number of uninsured. Is that right? And, if so, will the reform actually achieve that goal? The Whitehouse.gov site says: "Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans" But what does "affordable" mean? I mean if I spend my money on Xbox games, then I can't afford health insurance. So how do we define "affordable" and what makes it not "affordable" today? Will the new plans really be more "affordable"? Why? How? In what way?

My take is that this reform is too much of a compromise and will end up not doing a whole lot, with a lot of potential for unintended consequences. It seems to be more of a health insurance consumer protection act than healthcare reform. As I read it, it sounds like it may help the uninsured at the expense of the rest of us.

Obama has promised, and the proposal states, that if you are satisfied with your current plan, you can keep it. However, your current plan must be a "qualified plan". The New York Times article A Primer on the Details of Health Care Reform quotes Dallas L. Salisbury, president of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a supposedly nonpartisan group:

“The president and Democrats in Congress are saying what they would like [that people can keep their current insurance]. Their promises may not be literally true because your health plan may change, and your doctor may no longer accept your insurance.”


Regarding all the scare tactics from right-wing crazies about euthanasia and "death panels", even the AARP says “The rumors out there are flat-out lies.” So don't even go there, please.

I am concerned about one of the issues raised by the right-wing (and others): the potential impact to Medicare. Proposed cuts to Medicare account for nearly 40 percent of the bills’ cost (that's a lot of how the reform is so-called "deficit-neutral"). Obama says these cuts will not reduce Medicare benefits, but if you're taking $150 billion out of the system (over 10 years), one has to believe some things will change, that some doctors and hospitals might stop treating medicare patients on the new payment terms, etc.

But again, back to my original question: Can someone tell me what specifically this proposed reform is trying to fix (as opposed to in the general statements from the Whitehouse.gov website like "Improve patient safety and quality of care")?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ed "warrantless wiretap" Whitacre to chair "new" GM

This can be filed in the truly absurd department, or as Snagglepuss might say "unbelievable, even."

If not for FISA "reform" that gave the telcos retroactive immunity, Edward E. Whitacre Jr. would be in jail - you see, back when Ed's AT&T performed the "warrantless surveillance" for the Bush Administration, it was a felony.

Instead, the Obama administration is awarding him with the General Motors Chairmanship - say what?

When he was running AT&T, he said he didn't use computers or text messaging. Yesterday, he told the press in an interview after his appointment: “I don’t know anything about cars.” It figures. Just what GM and the US auto industry needs.

Ed "Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?" Whitacre is also the same guy that lobbied so heavily against net neutrality, something Obama told us he supported.

Whitacre, it turns out, is just another in the long line of executives running GM who knows next to nothing about cars, going back to Roger Smith, who destroyed the company's pride and global competitiveness in the 1980's - and it's been downhill ever since.

It's a damned shame. I was never a huge GM guy, but one had to respect them, and the cars they made. The American auto industry was a benchmark for the world and the American automobile was a symbol of our culture and the envy of the rest of the world. Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillac were all incredible brands with passionately loyal customers. Now, most people are embarrassed to admit they own one of these cars.

The choice of Whitacre for GM is a black eye for the Obama administration and a clear indicator that politics in Washington have not changed. "We the people" are screwed, as usual.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq Calls for Accountability for War Crimes

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez, is now calling for an investigation of Bush-era policies. According to PR-Newswire:

General Sanchez, the former top coalition commander in Iraq, called for a Truth Commission so we might fully understand the failure of the military and civilian command to honor the pledge of our constitution.

Sanchez, the first General to go on record to call for a Truth Commission, stressed that the outcome must embrace a variety of solutions, including prosecution.

Last week also brought to light two under-reported stories: 1) Cheney personally led secret Congressional briefings on torture methods, and 2) as early as 2004, the Red Cross privately expressed concerns to Colin Powell that U.S. detention and interrogation methods violated international law.

I think one of the reasons we're not seeing more pressure on these charges from Democrats is because it is not a purely Red-state or Bush-Cheney problem, and that politicians on all sides, Republicans and Democrats, will be implicated.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Former Interrogator Rebukes Cheney for Torture Speech

Dick Cheney's claim that torturing detainees has saved American lives is patently false. Watch as Matthew Alexander, the senior military interrogator for the task force that tracked down Al Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, explains how Cheney's torture policy was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of American servicemen and women.



Read rest of article at http://www.bravenewfoundation.org/

Why regulating Wall Street isn’t enough



From Byron DeLear, author, lecturer, former US Congressional Candidate in Missouri and co-founder of Friends of Article V Convention.


Our Founding Fathers were all about preventing tyranny as they were throwing off the yoke of the British Empire; the despotism of Crown and Church, they could see it a million miles away and designed our government to prevent it.

Their remedy? Checks-and-balances, compartments of government self-regulated through inter-agency skepticism and scrutiny.

Given the recent Wall Street bailouts in the amount of trillions upon trillions, deficit spending and skyrocketing debt, it seems as if an important protection to help Washington be more accountable is missing from the Founder’s design. But it isn’t. It just hasn’t been used.

A consensus has emerged on how to fix the rules in our broken financial system - Regulation. This response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression sees the deregulation that had occurred in the banking and mortgage industry - combined with good ol’ fashioned greed - as the primary cause of the collapse. It follows then, that by restoring key corporate oversight, a future economic meltdown will be averted. Only regulating Wall Street won’t be enough.

Wall Street had a silent partner in creating this mess: Washington, DC. Without the collusion between Wall Street and Washington, this debacle wouldn’t have been possible. The lobbyist driven repeal of important protections such as the Glass Steagall Act in 1999 or the unregulated mania of corporations like AIG, Bear Stearns or Lehman would never have occurred without a complicit Congress, essentially bribed to be asleep at the switch. We have witnessed, quite literally, the ‘Enron-nization’ of the American economy.

In our nation’s history, the Federal government has offered top-down guidance to the States. Sometimes in the form of a moral check-and-balance as in the case of women’s voting rights or guaranteeing African-Americans entry into schools in the South. America became stronger through these interventions. But the reverse, a restraining check-and-balance to an excessive Federal government, is also necessary. When Washington has grown beyond its means, overreaching and incapable of self-correction, the people must intervene.

This was the purpose of the convention clause of Article V of the US Constitution, to give the people an opportunity to offer solutions to a recalcitrant Congress unwilling or unable to act. When corruption has become institutionalized into the Federal government, the States can petition for a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution, a process occurring outside of Washington, bypassing the entrenched corruption. Before becoming law, amendments would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the States, eliminating any extreme or radical proposals.

But ideas like a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would help to root out abuse and cronyism inherent in the system today, could be introduced and seriously debated through our nation’s first Article V Convention. Delegates would assemble, C-SPAN would cover it, we would all get educated a little more and our representative democracy reinvigorated. There is a critical reason why the convention clause exists, and the Framer’s put it there not to be ignored, but to provide a “peaceful alternative to a violent revolt” during times of strong popular frustration with the Federal government.

Constitutional scholars believe we have been denied our right to a convention. To date, there have been 754 valid applications from all 50 States for an Article V Convention that have hit the doorstep of Congress, far surpassing the two-thirds threshold needed (34). The research documenting these applications was completed last year by an intrepid non-partisan group of legal experts, a retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice and impassioned citizens from every State. The Friends of Article V Convention (FOAVC.org) assert that Congress has not only failed in its non-discretionary duty to issue the call, but is purposefully quashing the convention as a perceived (and real) threat to its power.

Aside from the partisan polemics surrounding the recent Tea Parties, it’s clear that millions of Americans of all political stripes are voicing deep concerns for the future of our country. They see the massive influence of lobbying power, industries writing their own laws, shameless earmark abuse and trillion dollar bailouts as the symptoms of a broken system.

President Eisenhower once remarked about Article V,

“Through their state legislatures and without regard to the federal government, the people can demand a convention to propose amendments that can and will reverse any trends they see as fatal to true representative government.”

It may be time to finally heed the original design our Founding Fathers built into the law of the land for just such an occasion - they did have a couple things right after all.

Byron can be reached at: ByronDeLear@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Iraq 'Smoking Gun' Witness Found Dead

From: IndictBushNow.org

The prisoner Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who apparently under conditions of extreme torture, agreed to say that al-Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein, and whose testimony became a key source to justify the invasion of Iraq, has been found dead.

Several weeks ago, Human Rights Watch investigators discovered the missing inmate and talked to him. He had been secretly transferred by the administration to a prison in Libya after having been held by the CIA both in secret “black hole prisons” and in Egypt.


After recanting his testimony and revealing that he was forced to make false statements about Iraq under torture, Libi suddenly turns up dead.

A Libyan “newspaper source” says that his death is an apparent suicide. Many disagree, and want a full scale investigation:

This is not a political choice. It is a legal imperative. Mr. Libi’s death must be the first business of the investigation. When other prisoners who had been kept at secret sites were sent to Guantanamo, the Bush administration and the CIA intentionally kept Mr. Libi from being part of that transfer. Mr. Libi was publicly stating that the Iraq-al-Qaeda links attributed to him from his torture sessions were not true.


He was Exhibit A in the indictment that alleges that tortured confessions and the contrived legal justifications of torture set up by Justice Department lawyers in July/August 2002 were central to the launch of the war against Iraq.


His testimony would support the case that torture was ineffective, that it did not, as Cheney proclaims, “protect the country from terrorist attack.” But, rather, that torture was used for the personal political goals of Bush and Cheney.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlen Spector a watershed moment or just politics?

With Arlen Spector, one of the last moderate Republicans, leaving the Republican party, it makes one wonder where the party is headed. In defining what constitutes being Republican, Ronald Reagan, said it is:

"our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.”


I'm not a Reagan fan, but other than the idea that "lower taxes solve all problems" I pretty much support the above positions. So why am I not a Republican? It's because, with a few exceptions, these words are not backed up by the deeds of the party.

Republicans have been responsible for the most massive increases in government spending in our country's history, first under Reagan, and then under W. Their deficit spending may prove to be the end for America - at the very least it is certainly inconsistent with their purported "small government" stance. Far from it - Republicans have become the party of big government.

Likewise, individual liberty appears to have no place in the Republican agenda (other than mock self-serving support for the second amendment). It was Republicans who wire-tapped and otherwise spied on hippies in the 60's and, heaven knows who, under GW Bush - before 9/11. It's Republicans who are as guilty of attacking the constitution as Democrats, if not more so. Consider the Bush administration's extravagant claims to presidential power. Nixon considered declaring martial law and he would have done so, until he realized there were 50 million armed law-abiding citizens standing in the way (Nixon's Justice Department had a list, called the ADEX file, of thousands of known dissidents who were to be picked up immediately). Detaining Americans without legal or constitutional recourse. Warrantless searches on Americans. The list goes on. It's Republicans who want to tell us all how to live, who to marry, who to sleep with, what to do with our bodies, and what god we should pray to. The Republicans can make no valid claim to being the party for individual liberty.

So if you believe in the ideals expressed by the party's hero, then it would appear you're no longer welcome in this Republican party. In an NY Times OP-ed piece, moderate Olympia Snowe says it well:

There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party.


So are these things factors in Spector's decision to change from Republican to Democrat? Who knows. Cynics say it is simple politics, that the move is needed in order for the senator to win the next election. Even if that is true, it says something about the party. It says his constituency of Pennsylvania voters have already forsaken the Republicans.

On the other hand, much like Europeans, the Democrats don't appear to stand for anything in particular. This leaves them wide open to attacks as "tax and spend" or "socialist".

Both these parties need a reboot.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Right-wing supports 3G

No longer able to compete on substance, the republicans are falling back to their old stand by: Guns, God, and Gays.

When all else fails, do your best to tap into base fears and paranoia. Cheney is everywhere lately telling anybody who will listen that we are "less safe" (why does anyone still believe a single word out this man's mouth?).

The Vermont Equal Rights Decision appears to be a rallying cry for right-wing extremists.

What is this, 2004? The republicans have officially run out of ideas.

Entrepreneurs are the way out of this mess

Instead of dropping money into the sink hole of Wall Street, we should be creating a landscape where startups can flourish. We have the resources we need to get out of this mess - and it is the collective brain-power and ingenuity of our people, young and old alike.

The Internet created an environment with low barriers of entry for new ideas to take flight, basically a much more level playing field, where those with limited resources could compete, on merit with larger established companies. If the government is going to throw money at the economic mess, throw it in this direction, in the form of incentives for startups and entrepreneurs, even capital, etc.

VC's have shown you don't even need to be all that selective. You could almost have a lottery system without wasting a lot of time and money reviewing ideas because there are enough smart people with drive and good ideas, if you throw money at the wall, it will stick. Literally throw the money out there to anybody with an idea - a lot of them will go on to create jobs, if not entire new industries.

The economic recovery starts at the bottom. People have to spend money. It starts with people having jobs. An ecosystem that enables thriving new businesses creates jobs. Forget these old-world Wall Street bafoons - they are not our saviour. We should put our recovery (and some money) in the hands of our smart entrepreneurial pool - that will produce results.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Too big to fail" is a too big problem

Even if you argue that AIG and others are "too-big-to-fail" so they need a bailout, we must NOT LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN.

We let smaller corporations merge into these mega-corporations that are inefficient, unable to adapt, or innovate, and ultimately non-competitive - because they don't have to compete - they have the implicit guarantee of a "too big to fail" bailout.

I still question whether the consequences of letting them "fail" will really end the world as we know it, as Bernanke (and may others) say. It's not like propping them up is really working all that great anyway.

If they fail, won't their assets be scooped up by smaller competitive firms and so the system will resume?

Obama not the defender of Individual Rights after all

During the campaign, Mr. Obama told us:

"As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne."

He was responding to the landmark Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms—not a collective one. Until this case, the Supreme Court never ruled, one way or the other on the matter, and now they have.

Then, after winning, Obama selected outspoken gun control advocate Eric Holder to serve as his attorney general. Throughout his career, Holder has argued in favor of the collective rights interpretation of the Second Amendment. During his confirmation hearings, when asked about this and his support for sweeping and restrictive gun control measures, he reluctantly said "the Supreme Court has spoken" - with a huge smirk on his face.

Such arrogance is bad news. This guy is the law now and clearly intends to ignore the Supreme Court and leading liberal legal scholars on the matter of the Second Amendment as an individual right and continue with his own interpretation of the Bill of Rights in general. Great. Didn't we have enough of such arrogance for the last eight years?