Thursday, December 30, 2010

Question for Christians

The use of drone strikes in Pakistan and around the world has been attacked as counterproductive and ineffective but the question of whether such strikes are legal is less frequently raised. When and where does a drone strike contravene international law, and what are the implications of their illegal use for the hoped-for spread of the rule of law to the present battlegrounds of 'the war on terror'?

Collateral damage in the use of such sophisticated machines is one of their main constraints, even when their employment is formally consistent with international humanitarian law. Several reports have revealed a 1:50 casualties rate (for each targeted individual, there are 50 collateral casualties, not to speak of loss of property). Daniel Byman argued in Foreign Affairs that Predator attacks force the enemy to concentrate on defence (sic) rather than offense.

The extension of the battlefield beyond the effective zone of operations, implying a right to kill without warning the enemies of a state anywhere seems. to the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions unjustified.

The tactic of seeking out enemies, away from the battlefield, appears to be effective but illegal according to the rules of war. But beyond that we have the question of morality

Conservatives like to call the USA a Christian nation and have been outraged by Obama’s assertion that we are not a Christian nation but have Christian values. They ignore the fact of the separation of Church and State in the Constitution, the fact that thousands of Jews and other non-Christians died in WWII, and the fact that many of the framers of the Constitution were Deists.

How Christian is the practice of killing innocent people in the defense of other innocent people. What is a Christian’s acceptable rate? How many innocents can we kill to save one innocent? What would Jesus say?

Shipping jobs overseas is unAmerican and shouldn't be awarded with tax breaks

Thom's blog
Stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship American jobs overseas....
President Obama may have another massive tax cut in the works - this one for America's giant corporations. The White House may be considering cutting the 35% corporate tax rate next year. The rate is the highest in the world - but with so many loopholes in the law - most companies don't pay nearly 35%. Also - as most businesses divert their profits into the hands of individuals who play some of the lowest income taxes in the world - many corporate profits go completely untaxed. Last year - Exxon Mobile - the most profitable corporation in the history of the world - and General Electric paid no corporate taxes. In fact - 85% of all corporate tax revenue comes from only one half of one percent of companies - about 10,000 businesses in all. This may actually be a good idea though - if President Obama does indeed close some of the loopholes that plague our corporate tax structure. The best way to do that - stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship American jobs overseas. Not only will the federal government raise more revenue to offset the lowering of the corporate tax rate - it will encourage business to stay in the United States. It's time for meaningful tax reform - not giveaways to companies who can hire the most lobbyists.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christian Capitalist - an oxymoron?

Capitalism is based on greed. It is the epitome of survival of the fittest. The objective of any business is to make a profit. A "satisfied customer" is NOT the objective of the business, it is the means to make a profit. A strategy in making a profit is destroying your competition. Once your business is the sole provider, the "satisfied customer" no longer is as important. He has no choice. Greed is the motor that powers capitalism. Adam Smith understood this when he wrote the Free Marketers bible, The Wealth of Nations; "the self-interest of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker benefit the rest of us." But Adam smith recognized the need to bridle corporate greed with anti-monopoly polices in order for the free market's invisible hand to work.

The sole reason for society, and particularly Christians to tolerate capitalism is that, so far, it has worked. In 1929, it stopped working and it's very likely, unless government steps in again, it will stop working again. Even when it is working, its very nature lets many people slip through the cracks and the preamble to the Constitution declares that it is a responsibility of government "to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity." If this doesn't mean helping the needy, I don't know what it means.

It is also the responsibility of Christians to help those who "slip between the cracks" of the capitalist system. Jesus Christ eschewed greed and capitalism and private property were not the systems of choice in the New Testament.

Christians are in a bit of a conundrum when they support unbridled capitalism and oppose welfare as most do.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What liberal media?

Thom's blog
Mainstream media has been taken over by Conservative ideology
You need to know this. The mainstream media has been taken over by Conservative ideology. A new Pew Research Center Survey studied the media exposure of politicians during the recent midterm elections. What they found was - out of the ten most covered candidates during the election season - the top 3 were all Republicans. And most surprising - Sarah Palin - who essentially has no job and was not running for one - received three times more coverage to spew her talking points than the sitting Vice President Joe Biden. Also - conservative commentators like Glenn Beck received considerably more media coverage than their more liberal counterparts like Keith Olbermann. These findings from the Pew Research Center are similar to a study by MediaMatters back in 2006 that found that Republican talking heads appeared on Sunday morning news shows 58% of the time compared to Democratic commentators appearing only 42% of the time. And finally - reporter Sebastian Jones - with "The Nation" magazine - uncovered at least 75 corporate lobbyists or PR officials that now appear on television political talk shows with no disclosure of what business interests they actually work for. Their job? To do the bidding of their corporate overlords under the disguise of "expert political commentary". So now can we finally put an end to the myth that there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media? And hopefully now start recognizing we need to create new media outlets that aren't beholden to corporate interests or the talking points of their billionaire owners like Rupert Murdoch. Maybe then American will again hear the news they need to know.


Government is not for sale to highest bidder, it's already sold.

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in it's essence, is fascism---ownership of government by an individual, by a group
___Franklin D. Roosevelt

During the George W. Bush administration, more than 100 lobbyists gave up their high salaries to take government jobs for a few years to become actual regulators of the very firms for whom they used to lobby. Examples are rife: Steven Griles, for example, moved from a $585,000 per year salary to become the number 2 person in the Department of Interior, accepting a salary of $150,000. His department then opened 8 million acres of western lands for oil and gas exploration and gave $2 million in no-bid contracts to one of Griles' former clients while he continued to receive a four-year $284,000-per year bonus form his former employer.This is not an exceptional example. The Bush White House became a virtual swinging door for lobbyists and CEO's of international corporations.

Either government has to regulate business or business will regulate government. Beginning with Reagan and continuing through the Bush Administration, business has taken over. The efficiency of the market in providing goods and services depends on the absence of monopolies, according to Adam Smith, the man free markets proponents cite as their authority. Of course, those who cite him never read him. When you own the government you don't really need reason on your side. Just ask Hitler.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Keeping government out of war!

On September 16, 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater  were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded, including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts substantiate that the attack included the use of firearms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to Blackwater.
There are also concerns about the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic - in particular, their use of lethal force. The Nisoor Square incident was neither the first of its kind, nor the first involving Blackwater.
According to a Congressional report on the behavior of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts, which provided that the company could engage in defensive use of force only, the company reported that in over 80 percent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.
In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities. In May 2007, another incident reportedly occurred in which guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.
On October 9, 2007 in central Baghdad, the shooting of employees of the PMSC Unity Resources Group (URG), who were protecting a convoy, killed two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis, when their car came too close to a protected convoy. Antranick's family was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.
URG was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection that was being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10 AM.
Two US-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services were contracted by the US government and were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.
Seventy-two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq have sued L-3 and Adel Nakhla, a former L-3 employee who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. The plaintiffs allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and maintain that the defendants should be held liable in damages for their actions. They assert 20 causes of action, including: torture; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; assault and battery; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Arbitrary detention
A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), such as the arbitrary detention of and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan , CIA rendition flights, and joint covert operations. Employees of PMSCs would have been involved in transporting detainees in rendition flights from "pick-up points" (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) to drop-off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA "black sites."
Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., a subsidiary company of Boeing, on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA and disappeared into US secret services prisons overseas. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention.

Who killed the American Dream? Short answer, Reagan and Deregulation.

Long answer, Reagan and deregulation or the man who invented derivatives.

Who Killed the Disneyland Dream?

Barry Blitt

OF the many notable Americans we lost in 2010, three leap out as paragons of a certain optimistic American spirit that we also seemed to lose this year. Two you know: Theodore Sorensen, the speechwriter present at the creation of J.F.K.’s clarion call to “ask what you can do for your country,” and Richard Holbrooke, the diplomat who brought peace to the killing fields of Bosnia in the 1990s. Holbrooke, who was my friend, came of age in the Kennedy years and exemplified its can-do idealism. He gave his life to the proposition that there was nothing an American couldn’t accomplish if he marshaled his energy and talents. His premature death — while heroically bearing the crushing burdens of Afghanistan and Pakistan — is tragic in more ways than many Americans yet realize.
Damon Winter/The New York Times
Frank Rich

Readers' Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
But a third representative American optimist who died this year, at age 91, is a Connecticut man who was not a player in great events and whom I’d never heard of until I read his Times obituary: Robbins Barstow, an amateur filmmaker who for decades recorded his family’s doings in home movies of such novelty and quality that one of them, the 30-minute “Disneyland Dream,” was admitted to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress two years ago. That rare honor elevates Barstow’s filmmaking to a pantheon otherwise restricted mostly to Hollywood classics, from “Citizen Kane” to “Star Wars.”
“Disneyland Dream” was made in the summer of 1956, shortly before the dawn of the Kennedy era. You can watch it on line at or on YouTube. Its narrative is simple. The young Barstow family of Wethersfield, Conn. — Robbins; his wife, Meg; and their three children aged 4 to 11 — enter a nationwide contest to win a free trip to Disneyland, then just a year old. The contest was sponsored by 3M, which asked contestants to submit imaginative encomiums to the wonders of its signature product. Danny, the 4-year-old, comes up with the winning testimonial, emblazoned on poster board: “I like ‘Scotch’ brand cellophane tape because when some things tear then I can just use it.”
Soon enough, the entire neighborhood is cheering the Barstows as they embark on their first visit to the golden land of Anaheim, Calif. As narrated by Robbins Barstow (he added his voiceover soundtrack to the silent Kodachrome film in 1995), every aspect of this pilgrimage is a joy, from the “giant TWA Super Constellation” propeller plane (seating 64) that crosses the country in a single day (with a refueling stop in St. Louis) to the home-made Davy Crockett jackets the family wears en route.
To watch “Disneyland Dream” now as a boomer inevitably sets off pangs of longing for a vanished childhood fantasyland: not just Walt Disney’s then-novel theme park but all the sunny idylls of 1950s pop culture. As it happens, Disney’s Davy Crockett, the actor Fess Parker, also died this year. So did Barbara Billingsley, matriarch of the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” whose fictional family, the Cleavers, first appeared in 1957 and could have lived next door to the Barstows. But the real power of this film is more subtle and pertinent than nostalgia.
When the Barstows finally arrive at the gates of Disneyland itself and enter its replica of Main Street, U.S.A. — “reconstructed as it might have been half a century earlier,” as the narration says — we realize that the America of “Disneyland Dream” is as many years distant from us as that picture-postcard Main Street was from this Connecticut family. The almost laughably low-tech primitivism of the original Disneyland, the futuristic Tomorrowland included, looks as antique in 2010 as Main Street’s horse-drawn buggies and penny-candy emporium looked to the Barstows.
Many of America’s more sweeping changes since 1956 are for the better. You can’t spot a nonwhite face among the family’s neighbors back home or at Disneyland. Indeed, according to Neal Gabler’s epic biography of Disney, civil rights activists were still pressuring the park to hire black employees as late as 1963, the same year that Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington and Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” started upending the Wonder Bread homogeneity that suffuses the America of “Disneyland Dream.”
But, for all those inequities, economic equality seemed within reach in 1956, at least for the vast middle class. (Michael Harrington’s exposé of American poverty, “The Other America,” would not rock this complacency until 1962.) The sense that the American promise of social and economic mobility was attainable to anyone who sought it permeates “Disneyland Dream” from start to finish.
The Barstows exemplified that postwar middle class. Robbins Barstow’s day job was as a director of professional development for a state teachers’ union. His family wanted for nothing, but finances were tight. Once in California they cheerfully stretch their limited expense money ($300 for the week) by favoring picnics over restaurants. As they dive into the pool at the old Huntington Sheraton, the grand Pasadena hotel where they’re bivouacked, they marvel at its reminders of “bygone days of more leisurely and gentle upper-class style and elegance.”
The key word in that sentence is “bygone.” The Barstows accept as a birthright an egalitarian American capitalism where everyone has a crack at “upper class” luxury if they strive for it (or are clever enough to win it). It’s an America where great corporations like 3M can be counted upon to make innovative products, sustain an American work force, and reward their customers with a Cracker Jack prize now and then. The Barstows are delighted to discover that the restrooms in Fantasyland are marked “Prince” and “Princess.” In America, anyone can be royalty, even in the john.
“Disneyland Dream” is an irony-free zone. “For our particular family at that particular time, we agreed with Walt Disney that this was the happiest place on earth,” Barstow concludes at the film’s end, from his vantage point of 1995. He sees himself as part of “one of the most fortunate families in the world to have this marvelous dream actually come true” and is “forever grateful to Scotch brand cellophane tape for making all this possible for us.”
Only 15 months after the Barstows returned home, America’s faith in its own unbounded future, so palpable in “Disneyland Dream,” would be shaken by the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting satellite. Could it be that America, for all its might, entrepreneurship and brainpower, was falling behind its cold war antagonist in the race to the future? It was in that shadow that John F. Kennedy promised a New Frontier that would reclaim America’s heroic destiny, and do so with shared sacrifice and a renewed commitment to the lower-case democratic values central to both the American and Disneyland dreams of families like the Barstows.
This month our own neo-Kennedy president — handed the torch by J.F.K.’s last brotherand soon to face the first Congress without a Kennedy since 1947 — identified a new “Sputnik moment” for America. This time the jolt was provided by the mediocre performance of American high school students, who underperformed not just the Chinese but dozens of other countries in standardized tests of science, math and reading. In his speech on the subject, President Obama called for more spending on research and infrastructure, more educational reform and more clean energy technology. (All while reducing the deficit, mind you.) Worthy goals, but if you watch “Disneyland Dream,” you realize something more fundamental is missing from America now: the bedrock faith in the American way that J.F.K. could tap into during his era’s Sputnik moment.
How many middle-class Americans now believe that the sky is the limit if they work hard enough? How many trust capitalism to give them a fair shake? Middle-class income started to flatten in the 1970s and has stagnated ever since. While 3M has continued to prosper, many other companies that actually make things (and at times innovative things) have been devalued, looted or destroyed by a financial industry whose biggest innovation in 20 years, in the verdict of the former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, has been the cash machine.
It’s a measure of how rapidly our economic order has shifted that nearly a quarter of the 400 wealthiest people in America on this year’s Forbes list make their fortunes from financial services, more than three times as many as in the first Forbes 400 in 1982. Many of America’s best young minds now invent derivatives, not Disneylands, because that’s where the action has been, and still is, two years after the crash. In 2010, our system incentivizes high-stakes gambling — “this business of securitizing things that didn’t even exist in the first place,” as Calvin Trillin memorably wrote last year — rather than the rebooting and rebuilding of America.
In last week’s exultant preholiday press conference, Obama called for a “thriving, booming middle class, where everybody’s got a shot at the American dream.” But it will take much more than rhetorical Scotch tape to bring that back. The Barstows of 1956 could not have fathomed the outrageous gap between this country’s upper class and the rest of us. America can’t move forward until we once again believe, as they did, that everyone can enter Frontierland if they try hard enough, and that no one will be denied a dream because a private party has rented out Tomorrowland.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The next time you buy a cheap shirt at Wal-Mart, ask why it's cheap!

Wal-Mart: Cheap Prices, Cheap Labor

by Kathryn Reid
January 2003

In Honduras young women are working in Wal-Mart Sweatshops. "Young women enter these factories at 14, 15, 16 and 17 years old. They become a mechanism of production, working 9 hours a day plus two, three or four hours overtime, performing on the exact same piece of operation over and over, day after day. A woman in the pressing department is required to iron 1,200 shirts a day, standing on her feet, her hands and fingers swell up from the hot iron. These young workers rarely last more than six years in the maquila, when they leave exhausted. They leave without having learned any useful skills or developed intellectually. These young workers entered the maquila with a sixth grade education, with no understanding of the maquila, the companies whose clothing they sew or the forces shaping where they fit into the global economy. They soon feel impotent, seeing that the Ministry of Labor does nothing, or almost nothing, to help defend their rights."

"Going into these factories is like entering prison, where you leave your life outside. The factory owners do not let--and don't want--the young workers to think for themselves. They want them to be stupid. The workers need permission to use the bathroom, and they are told when they can and cannot go.

"The women sit on hard wooden benches, without back rests, in long production lines of 60 or more sewers, for 12 hours a day or more, in a hot, windowless, dusty factory." Occasionally they have to work twenty-four hour shifts, working right through the night. It's not a choice. They are forced to do so. If they cannot work the required overtime then they are suspended without pay and sometimes they are even laid off.

These women work for so long and get so little in return. They receive 43 cents an hour, which is almost nothing. "The minimum wage [in Honduras] is considered insufficient to provide for a decent standard of living for a worker and family." It's not even enough to by milk, juice, meat, fruit, cereals, or even vitamins for their children, let alone purchase new clothing to wear. It's no surprise that Christmas is just like every other day for these families. "There is no money for a special meal or even the cheapest of toys to give as gifts to their children."

These women are required to work so long and hard. It's there only way to make some money and what they earn is hardly enough to by food and clothing. Day after day they work in these sweatshops to get paid next to nothing.

Sources Used:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Milo Minderbinder, Dick Cheney and ever lasting war.

"The American people, it seems, are bored with war. Like a reality show that's gone on too long, it ceases to shock, shame or even interest. In September, when pollsters asked what the most important problems facing the country are, just 3 percent mentioned Afghanistan. Even when combined with Iraq it has not reached double digits for several months. In a CBS poll in early October it did not register at all. A Pew poll the same month found that just 23 percent said they were following the situation closely. And they do not like what they see. Polls show that 60 percent of Americans believe Afghanistan is a lost cause, and roughly half compare it to Vietnam and favor a timetable for withdrawal."

The war profiteers have done it. With the help of two administration, they have converted an act of mass murder into an endless war attracting very little public concern.  The rich folks' kids are not involved, there is no draft, the voters were distracted with an extension of a deficit bulging tax cut and we are borrowing from a communist nation to pay for it. What's not to like, at least until some future group of voters are forced to pay for it....somehow. And the profits just keep rolling in. As Milo Minderbinder, the war profiteer extraordinaire of Heller's Catch 22,  said, 

"In a democracy, the government is the people, Milo explained. "We're the people, aren't we? So we might as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I'k like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry."

Halliburton Chevron, ExxonMobil, Blackwater and many others, with the swinging door between the Bush White House and the corporate world, has made this a virtual fait accompli! America has become, or maybe I should say has been for some time, the most war-like country in history, only now the corporations are in charge.

How has this happened? The first war of my life time, WWII was a totally different affair. We had been at peace for more than 20 years when the "Japs" bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, "a day that will live in infamy." I was 12 years old, chopping kindling in our backyard in Fontana, California, when I got the news. At first, I didn't understand...where was Pearl Harbor and why did we care?  As my family found a radio and began getting news, the gravity sunk in.

This would change many lives forever. Even as a boy, I realized that something bad was happening in Europe and Asia, something sinister and dangerous. In the back of my carefree adolescent mind, there was already a persistent disquieting fear of Nazi, Germany; the fear that our way of life, our freedom, was in danger. I shortly learned the relationship of the attack and the fear that we all held. 

America was transformed overnight; even quicker. We were, at once, angry, embarrassed, fearful and formidably determined. We all knew we would win but most of us had no idea how long it would take or how deadly it would be. On December 8th, lines to recruiting offices in some areas were blocks long. The small operations were swamped with volunteers. On 9/11, patriots assiduously avoided recruiting stations but retailers ran out of American Flags.

For the first time in American history, many Americans were subjected to income taxes being withheld from their pay checks. This was made more palatable because millions before this had no pay checks. What questions anyone had was answered with the consistent and effective explanantion, "There's a war on!" One half of the cost of the war was financed by the voluntary purchase of War Bonds/Freedom Bonds?Victory Bonds which were treasury notes with interest running from 1/12 to 3% depending on maturity. Provisions were made for deduction from pay checks. Compare and contrast with the $Trillion tax cut given taxpayers to take their minds off the Iraq War.

Americans were nearly 100% in support of the war and the sacrifices they were asked to make. No one complained about rationing. Gasoline, meat, butter, tires; nearly all consumer products were scare and were rationed. 

It was an all out war effort. Schools conducted paper and aluminium collections. Times were tough but no one complained because "there was a war on." The BIG sacrifice, the one people dreaded but were willing to make was the human loss. Nearly half a million Americans lost their lives in the war. I remember as a youth in high school, walking to school and seeing the blue star which honored a member in the family who was in the service change to gold which meant that they had been killed. It happened a lot and was devastating. Nobody was untouched by the heart breaking cold telegrams that families too often received. The incredible heroism exhibited by our military is inspiring. 

The remarkable thing for me was the unity, the patriotism, true patriotism, not the easy demonstrations but actual sacrificial patriotism - the willingness to give part of yourself to your country and what is represents. I was sixteen when the war ended and my emotions were ambivalent - part of me, most of me, was ecstatic that it was over, the killing would stop, that my brothers, uncles and cousins would be coming home; alive, but part of me was disappointed  because I never got the opportunity to fight. 

Five years later, when I was 21, had a job, a girl friend and for the first time in my life, a little money, I got my chance when the N. Koreans invaded S. Korea, but by this time, I was more interested in enjoying adulthood and enjoying being out of poverty than in fighting in a war. Particularly a war of dubious purpose and need. Never-the-less, over my objection, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the start of a new kind of war: was it a war or was it a police action?

I served ably and proudly in the 82nd Airborne. I did two years of active duty and an additional four years in the ready reserve.  I noticed a distinct difference as a serviceman in how I was treated and how the heroes of WWII were treated; certainly not badly but aloof. Nobody cared. This didn't bother me because I didn't care either. I just wanted to resume my life. What I didn't realize, or think about really, was that war has changed. The korean War, "The Forgotten War" was not really an ideological war, it was a political war; the first of too many by the United States. 

I, personally, was through with war, or hope and thought I was. I believe most Americans felt the same way.

Then along came Viet Nam, a totally political and needless war. I think that, for the most part, our government was honorable in it's first. It became more and more political, more and more deadly and more and more needless. It ended tragically and we lost. We were no longer undefeated. 

Again, many of us were through with war and hoped that the USA was too. Wrong again. There are just too many people of power who benefit or think they would benefit by war. I won't go into those people and their reason now but they learned a LOT from Viet Nam; to the extent possible, isolate the public from the war. The Neocons made sure the military was all volunteer...avoid the war awareness that democratic participation produces! Avoid public awareness of the true cost in human life and fiscal cost by privatization. Who cares that a private contractor, a mercenary, is killed? Avoid contemporary awareness of the fiscal cost by borrowing. Who cares about the war if we are not taxed and are not required to make ANY sacrifice.

9/11 provided a fortuitous opportunity for making war. Of course, we made war with the wrong country and with tragic consequences but a profitable war all the same; and that's the important thing to Milo Minderbinder and the Dick Cheneys of the world. Now we are fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are occupying North Korea, Iraq, and in a sense, Germany and Japan. We will stay in these countries indefinitely relieving their governments of the expense of a military, and who knows how long we will stay in a shooting war in Afghanistan, particularly now that nobody really cares and of which fewer and fewer will be aware

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

So where is the government take over?

Yesterday, I went to a med center for some lab analysis of my blood.  I was referred by my doctor, a private practitioner. I was treated at a private medical center staffed by private citizens. My blood was drawn and will be analyzed by private technicians. A private company coordinates payment. Medicare will pay for it. I will not.

If this is government takeover, let them take over.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fox News viewers start out dumb and are dumbed down by Fox. Dohh!

To perhaps nobody's surprise, a study released this week finds that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of any news consumers.
The University of Maryland study, called "Misinformation and the 2010 Election," looked at "variations in misinformation by exposure to news sources," among other things, and specifically newspapers and news magazines (in print and online), network TV news broadcasts, NPR and PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.
The study found that daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were "significantly" more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe that:
  • Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
  • Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
  • The economy is getting worse (26 points)
  • Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
  • The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
  • Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
  • The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
  • When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
  • And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)
The study also found that as exposure to Fox News increased, so did the misinformation.
But Fox News wasn't the only offender:
Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates. Daily watchers of network TV news broadcasts were 12 points higher in believing that TARP was signed into law by President Obama, and 11 points higher in believing that most Republicans oppose TARP.
The difference in Fox followeres and those of MSNBC or public broadcasting is this:
It is probably true about The US Chamber of Commerce and foreign money. It just wasn't proven.
The elements of Fox viewers misinformation are know facts. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Patriotism is good and should not be used as a weapon

The paradox of the American flag lapel pin

 What I remember most about the American flag lapel pin was that you could always spot a John Birch Society Member by it. I remember that in the 60’s when I was a Cop in Anaheim, the John Birch Society was into everything…including many Orange County police departments. I don’t know this for a fact but the rumor was that the JBS even had a hand in promotions in some departments - not mine. Many of the officers wore them and the patrol cars in some departments had American flag bumper stickers. My Chief rejected the idea because our department was municipal, not federal

In those days, the Anti-Communists were even more militant and even more misinformed than the anti-Muslims are today. You were either with the red baiters or a pinko, so many super patriots or those who feared being thought of as less than a super patriot, wore the badge as a statement of loyalty or, in many cases, as a caution of being thought less than a super patriot.

President Eisenhower, encouraged by Edward R. Murrow and comedian Mort Sahl, put a stop to Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism and the flag lapel pin, like the JBS and super patriotism lost its popularity. It really was a bit of a nuisance changing the pin from one jacket to another.

Today, it is making a comeback; as is the JBS; not so much in embodiment as in tactics and animus. The JBS spirit and its early members live. Again, the faux patriotism is back. Again, it is being used as a tool. This time by forces that represent a real threat to American freedom and sovereignty, in juxtaposition to the imagined Communist scare of the Cold War years. The fodder for this animosity is multi-faceted; Islam, Liberals, an African America president and just plain fear, as it has been installed in the corporate financed and inspired Teaparty. The two things that all of these malcontents have in common is hatred and fear.

The movement is not an accident. It has been masterfully orchestrated, as a puppet master moves the puppets by American led international corporations. They know that the only thing standing in the way of their total takeover of the American government and by default control of the world is the last bastion of hope for a Free America, the Progressive movement. And that opposition has been mortally wounded by the Citizens United Decision which essentially, if not somehow rebuffed, opens the American government up to the highest bidder. And we know where the money is.

It is sad and ironic that one of the emotions being used in this insidious threat to the welfare and future of American citizens is an appeal to patriotism. The Neo-republicans, Republicorps, as it were, are using the backdrop of a war against terror and the fabricated internal threat of socialism or “government takeover” as fear mongering tool to discredit those who seek the truth. Ironically, the American flag lapel pin is being used as a substitute for real patriotism.

Medicare coverage gap....Remember who opposed this!!!

The Affordable Care Act made important improvements to the Medicare Part D program that will make prescription drugs more affordable for people with Medicare who enter the coverage gap, or “doughnut hole,” in their prescription drug coverage.

These changes are popular among Medicare beneficiaries, and for good reason.  Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, people with Medicare who reached the doughnut hole were required to cover 100 percent of the cost of their prescription medications until they reached the catastrophic coverage limit. This put a significant and undue financial burden on many seniors and people with disabilities.

Over time, the Affordable Care Act will bring much-needed economic relief to millions of Medicare beneficiaries. Families USA created the following tools to help advocates and people with Medicare navigate the new Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program:
Advocate’s Guide to the Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program is a troubleshooting guide for advocates who are assisting beneficiaries as they navigate the new Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program.
Help in the Doughnut Hole: The Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program is a companion fact sheet—written especially for Medicare consumers—that explains the coverage gap and the different features of the Coverage Gap Discount Program, including answers to commonly asked questions.
The Medicare Drug Benefit: How Much Will You Pay? is a group of tables that are designed to help Medicare beneficiaries estimate what they’ll pay for prescription drugs under the new drug benefit.
Welcome to the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit for 2011 is an updated illustration that reflects improvements made by the Affordable Care Act that will reduce the amount enrollees will pay when they fall into the "doughnut hole."
The Affordable Care Act and the implementation of the Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program will relieve the financial burden that Medicare beneficiaries experience each year as they enter the doughnut hole. We hope these materials help you understand these new provisions and support your public education efforts in your communities.


Jessica Larochelle
Field Director
Families USA

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This isn’t the America I grew up in!

America doesn’t make things anymore. We just finance those foreigners who do and swap money around. We have become a country of money changers. As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, manufacturing has fallen from a 28% in 1945 to 12% last year. For someone my age, you don’t need statistics to know this. In the 50 years since our middle class reached a peak in the 60s, our work force has changed from blue collar to white collar. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with this; it’s a symptom not a cause of our employment problems.

Looking back at the days when I was a young married man, most everyone I knew either worked in the building trades or in factories; mostly small family owned factories but some worked in large corporate factories. There were a few bookkeepers and accountants and sales people. I had some friends who taught school and some who ran their own small businesses. We were the new middle class produced by the social legislation of the New Deal and educational opportunities provided by the GI bill.

Low cost real estate loans not only provided affordable housing for millions of Americans, it provided well-paying jobs for construction workers.  Housing developments sprang up all over the country. What was nice about our country then was that most of us knew our boss. The furniture, clothing, cars, and most everything we spent our money on was made in America.

But something happened on the way to Utopia: Ronald Reagan and his supply side economists were not satisfied with enough and had no stomach for sharing. They resented the limitations that the New Deal had placed on them. They wanted to return to the unfettered financial manipulation of the 1920’s the kind of wheeling and dealing that caused the Great Depression. Thanks to Reagan, the bush’s and with some help from Clinton, they got their way.

One of the barriers to getting more of the pie was organized labor. Reagan’s amnesty brought in hundreds of thousands of union busting laborers. That took care of the jobs that couldn’t be exported and the free trade agreements enabled the burgeoning world of multi-national firms to export the jobs to countries where virtual slave labor was abundant.  Wal-Mart whose sales exceed the GDP of hundreds of nations, including Sweden, Austria, Norway, Denmark and Saudi Arabia, is the epitome of the misery free trade has wrought and is invisible when you buy a shirt from them; a shirt we could still afford if it were made in the USA by workers earning enough money to buy a shirt.
What we are seeing today, with this economic crisis is the fruit of the 30 years of Reagan’s supply side or trickle-down economics. Until we reverse it and return the jobs back home through the Alexander Hamilton protectionist trade policies, most of us will be standing at the door of the elevator waiting for the driver to return and take us back up to an upper floor with 10% unemployment being the norm.

PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care'

By Bill AdairAngie Drobnic Holan
Published on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 11:30 p.m.

In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a "government takeover."

"Takeovers are like coups," Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. "They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom."

The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the "public option" concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn't let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.

Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times' independent fact-checking website,also chose it as the year's most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann's claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)

By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill:  "The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.' "

An inaccurate claim
"Government takeover" conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:

• Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up "exchanges" where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.

• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It's true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.

Republicans who maintain the Democratic plan is a government takeover say that characterization is justified because the plan increases federal regulation and will require Americans to buy health insurance.

But while those provisions are real, the majority of Americans will continue to get coverage from private insurers. And it will bring new business for the insurance industry: People who don"t currently have coverage will get it, for the most part, from private insurance companies.

Consider some analogies about strict government regulation. The Federal Aviation Administration imposes detailed rules on airlines. State laws require drivers to have car insurance. Regulators tell electric utilities what they can charge. Yet that heavy regulation is not described as a government takeover.

This year, PolitiFact analyzed five claims of a "government takeover of health care." Three were rated Pants on Fire, two were rated False.

'Can't do it in four words'

Other news organizations have also said the claim is false.

Slate said "the proposed health care reform does not take over the system in any sense.' In aNew York Times economics blog, Princeton University professor Uwe Reinhardt, an expert in health care economics, said, "Yes, there would be a substantial government-mandated reorganization of this relatively small corner of the private health insurance market (that serves people who have been buying individual policies). But that hardly constitutes a government takeover of American health care.", an independent fact-checking group run by the University of Pennsylvania, has debunked it several times, calling it one of the "whoppers" about health care and saying the reform plan is neither "government-run" nor a "government takeover."

We asked incoming House Speaker John Boehner's office why Republican leaders repeat the phrase when it has repeatedly been shown to be incorrect. Michael Steel, Boehner's spokesman, replied, "We believe that the job-killing ObamaCare law will result in a government takeover of health care. That's why we have pledged to repeal it, and replace it with common-sense reforms that actually lower costs.”

Analysts say health care reform is such a complicated topic that it often cannot be summarized in snappy talking points.

"If you're going to tell the truth about something as complicated as health care and health care reform, you probably need at least four sentences," said Maggie Mahar, author of Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much. "You can"t do it in four words."

Mahar said the GOP simplification distorted the truth about the plan. "Doctors will not be working for the government. Hospitals will not be owned by the government," she said. "That's what a government takeover of health care would mean, and that's not at all what we"re doing."

How the line was used

If you followed the health care debate or the midterm election – even casually – it's likely you heard "government takeover" many times.

PolitiFact sought to count how often the phrase was used in 2010 but found an accurate tally was unfeasible because it had been repeated so frequently in so many places. It was used hundreds of times during the debate over the bill and then revived during the fall campaign. A few numbers:

• The phrase appears more than 90 times on Boehner's website,

• It was mentioned eight times in the 48-page Republican campaign platform "A Pledge to America" as part of their plan to "repeal and replace the government takeover of health care."

• The Republican National Committee's website mentions a government takeover of health care more than 200 times.

Conservative groups and tea party organizations joined the chorus. It was used by FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

The phrase proliferated in the media even after Democrats dropped the public option. In 2010 alone, "government takeover” was mentioned 28 times in the Washington Post, 77 times in Politicoand 79 times on CNN. A review of TV transcripts showed "government takeover" was primarily used as a catchy sound bite, not for discussions of policy details.

In most transcripts we examined, Republican leaders used the phrase without being challenged by interviewers. For example, during Boehner's Jan. 31 appearance on Meet the Press, Boehner said it five times. But not once was he challenged about it.

In rare cases when the point was questioned, the GOP leader would recite various regulations found in the bill and insist that they constituted a takeover. But such followups were rare.

An effective phrase

Politicians and officials in the health care industry have been warning about a "government takeover" for decades.

The phrase became widely used in the early 1990s when President Bill Clinton was trying to pass health care legislation.  Then, as today, Democrats tried to debunk the popular Republican refrain.

When Obama proposed his health plan in the spring of 2009, Luntz, a Republican strategist famous for his research on effective phrases, met with focus groups to determine which messages would work best for the Republicans. He did not respond to calls and e-mails from PolitiFact asking him to discuss the phrase.

The 28-page memo he wrote after those sessions, "The Language of Healthcare 2009," provides a rare glimpse into the art of finding words and phrases that strike a responsive chord with voters.

The memo begins with "The 10 Rules for Stopping the 'Washington Takeover' of Healthcare.”  Rule No. 4 says people "are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care – so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It's not an economic issue. It's a bureaucratic issue."

The memo is about salesmanship, not substance. It doesn't address whether the lines are accurate. It just says they are effective and that Republicans should use them. Indeed, facing a Democratic plan that actually relied on the free market to try to bring down costs, Luntz recommended sidestepping that inconvenient fact:

"The arguments against the Democrats' healthcare plan must center around politicians, bureaucrats and Washington ... not the free market, tax incentives or competition."

Democrats tried to combat the barrage of charges about a government takeover. The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly put out statements, but they were drowned out by a disciplined GOP that used the phrase over and over.

Democrats could never agree on their own phrases and were all over the map in their responses, said Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee.

"It was uncoordinated. Everyone had their own idea," Dean said in an interview with PolitiFact.

"The Democrats are atrocious at messaging," he said. "They've gotten worse since I left, not better. It's just appalling. First of all, you don"t play defense when you"re doing messaging, you play offense. The Republicans have learned this well."

Dean grudgingly admires the Republican wordsmith. "Frank Luntz has it right, he just works for the wrong side. You give very simple catch phrases that encapsulate the philosophy of the bill."

A responsive chord

By March of this year, when Obama signed the bill into law, 53 percent of respondents in a Bloomberg poll said they agreed that "the current proposal to overhaul health care amounts to a government takeover.”

Exit polls showed the economy was the top issue for voters in the November election, but analysts said the drumbeat about the "government takeover" during the campaign helped cement the advantage for the Republicans.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat whose provision for Medicare end-of-life care was distorted into the charge of "death panels" (last year's Lie of the Year), said the Republicans' success with the phrase was a matter of repetition.

"There was a uniformity of Republican messaging that was disconnected from facts," Blumenauer said. "The sheer discipline . . . was breathtaking."

Read more coverage of PolitiFact's Lie of the Year, including complete results from our readers' poll,reader comments and extended excerpts of PolitiFact's interview with Howard Dean.