Friday, March 31, 2006

Connubial Bliss?

Sounds like the parents of the HHS Secretary may be, oh my gawd, same sex? (I've never met a male Dixie)
Not even the senior parents of Washington's top health official are immune from headaches caused by the new Medicare drug plan.

Dixie and Anne Leavitt - parents of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt - recently were forced to change Medicare plans after learning that the one they chose imperiled their retiree medical coverage. (emphasis added)
And do they live in Utah? Oh, outrage.

(Not to speak, of course, of the Medicare drug plan screw up.)

Bonus Crab

Highly Recommended

I recommend a post over at Glen Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory today:

What would the Founders say?
GUEST POST - By Hume's Ghost

If you can read this without getting that feeling in your chest associated with deep emotion, then I will resign in favor of the crabs.

Update: Apparently Feingold referenced this posting in the Senate today.

Apple Corp vs Apple, well, Core

It takes a lot of apples to make a pie. Now two of the holiest icons of the world are deep in the lawyers grasp:
The Beatles' record label, has filed a breach of contract suit against Apple Computer over their iPod and iTunes products.
(no, the picture is not backward, those guys drive on the left, the better to joust their lances with...)

(Feel better?)

A bit of history first: Apple Corps. sued Apple Computer, shortly after their formation, over use of the name "Apple". The parties settled and as a result, Apple Computer promised that the name would not be used for anything relating to music. A few years later The Beatles sued Apple again for breach of trademark over the use of music synthesizer hardware in their computers—and won, Apple having paid an estimated $50 million as a result.

Apple Corp.'s lawyers feel that the current Apple thrust into the world of music via the iPod, iTunes, and the iTunes Music Store are more blatant violations than the subject of any suit in the past. The suit, filed in London's High Court of Justice, was served on Apple Computers sometime earlier this week.
Jeez, Louise, we can't cut a break, can we?

Friday Crab Blogging

Friday Spring Blogging

And yes, Spring is finally here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Smoking Gun

It has now come out that George W. Bush and his National Security advisor who is now our Secretary of State flat out lied in order to insure the re-election of Bush. This is pretty despicable, don't you think? Everyone knows about Bush's lying but Rice's is just as blatant:
Aboard Air Force One, en route to Entebbe, Uganda [in July 2003], then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave a background briefing for reporters. A reporter pointed out that when Secretary Powell had addressed the United Nations on February 5, 2003, he -- unlike others in the Bush administration -- had noted that some in the U.S. government did not believe that Iraq's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for nuclear weapons.

Responding, Rice said: "I'm saying that when we put [Powell's speech] together ... the secretary decided that he would caveat the aluminum tubes, which he did.... The secretary also has an intelligence arm that happened to hold that view." Rice added, "Now, if there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or me."
But that is just not true:
In fact, contrary to Rice's statement, the president was indeed informed of such doubts when he received the October 2002 President's Summary of the NIE. Both Cheney and Rice also got copies of the summary, as well as a number of other intelligence reports about the State and Energy departments' doubts that the tubes were meant for a nuclear weapons program.

Murray Waas documents this in the National Journal:
Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews. (emphasis added)
So, Bush stole the Election in 2000 and in 2004.

So, if Bush lied, that would not be news. But that he lied in order to alter the electoral process, why that, my friends, is news.

What do you think about them potatoes?

The Beginning of the End of Nuclear Weapons

The news today is that the Security Council in no uncertain terms has indicated that Iran is to stop its weapon program.
Iran Defiantly Rejects New U.N. Demands
Tehran envoy defiantly rejected a U.N. call to reimpose a freeze on uranium enrichment.
The meeting follows agreement Wednesday by the 15-member Security Council to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to report back in 30 days on Iran's compliance with demands to stop enriching uranium.
On the other hand, Israel most certainly possess a large number of weapons:
Israel is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refuses to officially confirm or deny having a nuclear arsenal, or to having developed nuclear weapons, or even to having a nuclear weapons program.... It is believed to possess nuclear weapons by the International Atomic Energy Agency. ....According to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Federation of American Scientists, they may possess 300-400 weapons.... (emphasis added)
So, does this not pose a problem? How can we go on for years with a situation where one state in a region, with a population of 6 million (many of them Arab), can possess 300-400 nuclear weapons while another, much more populated state (Iran has a population of 68 million), is forbidden to have them.

The only answer to this quandry is to strip ALL states of nuclear weapons, starting with the midEast. Rice and her cronies have backed the World into a corner. The only alternative at this time is a War where nuclear weapons are used. I know that Cheney and Bush in their bunker salivate for this like Peter Sellers.

Sorry, Israel, the safety of the world demands it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hey, where's the chains?

Abramoff Gets Almost 6 Years in Prison

And, Don't Pass Go!

Bush Wind

Is George W. Bush the wind behind our sails? I ask this in all honesty because it will pose a problem for many of us when George is gone. He's the guy we love to hate. He is such a perfect antagonist. At the current time, he cannot open his mouth without saying something stupid. Why the Republicans haven't engineered it so that he is conveniently taken aside, I don't know. (The scenario for this is that Cheney resigns because of "health," someone like Rice or Frist is appointed vice president (easily confirmed by the Senate; better do it before November), and then George "resigns." We have a precedent in Nixon resigning, so it isn't too difficult. We even have a precedent in the Vice President making room for a more suitable occupant (Jerry Ford for Agnew).

Don't go, George. We need you. You have energized the Democrats and should receive a prize.

(There are lots of Bush things out there: Bush League, Bush Medicine, Bush Coffee (in Botswana), etc.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Health Care

This is the flat, unadorned reality of 2006 America:
PRINCETON, NJ -- Two-thirds of Americans say they personally worry "a great deal" about the availability and affordability of healthcare, according to the latest Gallup Poll, making that issue the most worrisome among a dozen included in the poll.
I see it every day. I hear it every day. It permeates my profession. (see my post below about the United HealthCare ripoff on Sat. March 11, 2006).

Fixing health care in America is a multi-step process.

1. Step one is to recapture the House of Representatives with a comfortable majority of Democrats. The ethos of the Republican majority is diametrically opposed to health care reform. Or, I should say, their idea of health care reform is more profits for the insurance company CEO's. Control of the Senate would be a plus, but there are probably enough Republican Senators that would do the right thing when nip comes to tuck.

2. Step two, which should commence in the Spring of 2007, would be the crafting of iron clad Health Care reform legislation, legislation that is veto proof. There is no reason for there to be private management of health care. The experience that Krugman and Wells describe of the debacle when Medicare was turned over to HMO's indicates that we are better of with government administration, in spite of the cries of the capitalists. Compare 2-3% overhead for non HMO Medicare (and non HMO Medicaid) with 25-30% overhead for United HealthCare as I pointed out.

3. Conversion of the Health Care industry to a single payer, government administered program. It is the only way. Conversion to a single payer pharmacy program that could bargain with the drug industry. (c.f. the experience with the Veterns Administration and with, of course, Canada.)

This, of course, is a rational plan. It is not, under any circumstances what will happen. Why? because we are in the mortal grip of those who have too much money, and want much, much more.

Its as simple as that

Not that Bolton

Let the games begin:
Bolten to Replace Card As Chief of Staff
AP - 1 hour, 14 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - White House chief of staff Andy Card has resigned and will be replaced by budget director Joshua Bolten, President Bush announced Tuesday amid growing calls for a White House shakeup and Republican concern about Bush's tumbling poll ratings.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Downing Street Redux

There is a new Downing Street Memo that describes a meeting of George Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq. While loaded with goodies, it is going to be pretty hard for Mr. Bush to explain to all those dead soldier's families the following:
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Crisis Time

I knew that there had been rumblings that Bush was insisting that he was above the law. But, I had thought that it would be in the abstract that this particular issue was going to be threshed out in Congress. Maybe even getting the Feingold resolution passed. Now, via FireDoglake and Glenn Grenwald we have this statement by the Department of Justice:
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statutes inconsistent with the Constitution must yield. The basic principle of our system of government means that no President, merely by assenting to a piece of legislation, can diminish the scope of the President’s constitutional power. . . .

Just as one President may not, through signing legislation, eliminate the Executive Branch’s inherent constitutional powers, Congress may not renounce inherent presidential authority. The Constitution grants the President the inherent power to protect the nation from foreign attack, and Congress may not impede the President’s ability to perform his constitutional duty.“ (citations omitted).
I guess I'm like a lot of Americans, I can't believe this is happening. We all thought that when Bush took the oath of office (twice) he was agreeing to obey the law. If the above holds true, what was he swearing that he would uphold? Just the Constitution as he interprets it?

I guess I also thought that the Courts interpreted the Constitution. Now we have this dishonest (c.f. testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee) minion of an idiot (Gonzales) telling us that the President is above the Law and that he determines the law. L'etat c'est moi. Pshaw!

If the above statement remains unchallanged by Congress and the Supreme Court, we are no longer a democracy.


I provide medical care to a wide range of people who are probably immigrants and who may not be here legally. I don't really care. So, it is with some concern that I finally checked up on this new immigration bill and read this at Kos:
The "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005" (H.R. 4437) is a Republican piece of legislation which would not only makes felons out of the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States, but it would also make it a crime to provide any assistance to those immigrants, if you know they are undocumented. (emphasis added)
I have no intention of checking whether a patient who comes to see me is a legal or illegal alien. If they don't look like E.T., we don't ask. So, Mr. Gonzales, if you are reading and filtering this through your NSA filter for subversives, I dare you to come around and arrest me for delivering medical care. You'd better wear your Kevlar ear armor. People can get pretty testy under the circumstances and you might get a snoot full.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Crab Blogging

Crab Attack!

Friday Spring Blogging

In children there is hope.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why are these people in Iraq?

This morning we have:
Three Christian Activists Rescued in Iraq
The other day I linked to:
Aghan Faces Death Penalty for Converting to Christianity
According to the Bush theory of Iraq, it is now a democracy and, according to the tenets of a democracy, the majority, which is Shiite and fundamental Islamic, will decide the government of Iraq.

The tenets of Islamic government are contained in Shariah. Shariah addresses conversion of a Muslim to another religion:
Apostasy in Islam
In most interpretations of an Islamic state, conversion by Muslims to other religions is forbidden and is termed apostasy. Muslim theology equals apostasy to treason, and in most interpretations of shariah, the Penalty for apostasy is death.
So, under the previous regimen at least there was putative freedom of religion (in addition to Shiites and Sunnis there are Christians, Zoroasters, and a variety of other sects but, I suspect, no Jews in Iraq.)

So, why are Christian missionaries in Iraq? They are simply setting the people up for further disaster.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Most Logical Blog

There is one blog that has arisen in the past few months that so outstrips so many others in its writing, relevence and logic that I am ashamed to continue my own. That blog is Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald . Currently, he is giving us a running commentary on the Feingold Resolution. Here is one of the many gems from today:
Under FISA, it is a criminal offense to eavesdrop on Americans without the oversight and approval of the FISA court. Section 1809 of FISA expressly provides that "[a] person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally - (1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute. . . ." And Section 2511(2)(f) provides that FISA "shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted." Thus, a person has broken the law if -- as the President admits he did -- he orders eavesdropping on Americans without complying with the warrant requirements of the statute. Period. (with appropriate links in the original)
Mr. Grenwald continues to provide insight into what is shaping up as the most serious crisis in American Government since its founding.

Visit him and participate.

Greed, Greedier and the Greediest

Billmon had a post a few days ago about the baloney pasted out by the Secretary of the Treasury, John Snow. As always, Billmon is worth reading and, recently, doesn't post half enough.

This corporate greed thing just drives me bananas, particularly when they justify it on Social Darwinian grounds (makes scientists look bad; Social Darwinism is bad science).

Today we have the announcement that Delphi is going to get bailed out by GM (I am so sure that the US Treasury will be involved in this that I won't even bother to look).
DETROIT - Auto supplier Delphi Corp. said Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers to buy out thousands of hourly workers.

The plan, which is subject to approval by a bankruptcy court, allows up to 5,000 workers to return to GM, Delphi's former parent company. Up to 13,000 U.S. hourly workers also will be eligible for a lump sum payment of up to $35,000 to retire.
Well, I could do with $35,000, but it sure as hell isn't going to get you very far in retirement, particularly if you only have Social Security as your main source of income. You are going to starve, buddy.

Now what about Delphi? Is the CEO taking a hit? I don't think so. The CEO is a goon named Brattenberg. And this jerk makes a lot of money:
J T. Battenberg
Chairman & CEO
Delphi Corporation

In 2004, J T. Battenberg raked in $6,287,384 in total compensation including stock option grants from Delphi Corporation.

And J T. Battenberg has another $566,400 in unexercised stock options from previous years. (emphasis added)
Now how does $6,287,384 stack up against $35,000? About 180 employees.

Like Billmon, I don't see where this guy gets off making six million plus change when his goddamn company is going bankrupt! Survival of the fittest? Nay, Bushinomics.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dr. Seuss from WW II

(Click graphic to enlarge)

And then there is this (courtesy of PhotoShop):

(Click graphic to enlarge)

Monday, March 20, 2006


One should always be open to correcting mistakes. In a posting below (Thursday, March 16, 2006 The Mind Set of Intolerance) I argued that Islam was being wrongly presented. Suffice it to say, when I was directed here by, I changed my mind:
Aghan Faces Death Penalty for Converting to Christianity
Judge Says He Could Escape Punishment If He's Ruled Insane


KABUL, Afghanistan, March 20, 2006 — Despite the overthrow of the fundamentalist Taliban government and the presence of 22,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a man who converted to Christianity is being prosecuted in Kabul, and a judge said Sunday that if convicted, he faces the death penalty.
Clearly, I was wrong. It seems like both sides have their Pat Robertsons and Judge Alitos.

Wrong and Wrong in Iraq

First we have this:
President Bush asserted Sunday night the United States is winning the war in Iraq but acknowledged setbacks and the doubts of some "that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day."

He pleaded with Americans to ignore "defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right." (emphasis added)

And there is this:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Suspected insurgents killed least seven policemen with roadside bombs Monday on the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and authorities reported finding 10 more bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the capital. One was that of a 13-year-old girl. (emphasis added)
We have created monsters that execute a 13 year old girl?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Godwin Mulligan

(Every blogger gets a Godwin Mulligan once a month.)

TBogg gives us the NYT editorial that says:
...the generals in the field were overruled by directives from Washington, where military decisions were being made by men who were guided not by reality, but by their own beloved myths about what Iraq was like and how the war was going to be won.
Does this not sound faintly reminiscent of Hitler's screw up in the Battle of Moscow?
In the following weeks, there ensued a series of meetings and the issuance of further directives the results of which were to confirm the initial instructions. Hitler would not back down in the face of military opposition to his plans. The German generals had lost their first battle for Moscow.

But I could not resist the following. I just saw a musical at the local school, Seussical. It is a compilation of Dr. Seuss stuff including excerpts from his The Butter Battle Book:
A cautionary Cold War tale (first told by Dr. Seuss back in 1984), The Butter Battle Book still has a lot to teach about intolerance and how tit-for-tat violence can quickly get out of hand. Explaining the very serious differences between the Zooks and the Yooks, a Zook grandpa tells his grandchild the unspeakable truth: "It's high time that you knew of the terribly horrible thing that Zooks do. In every Zook house and every Zook town every Zook eats his bread with the butter side down!" He then recalls his days with the Zook-Watching Border Patrol, as he gave any Zook who dared come close "a twitch with my tough-tufted prickley Snick-Berry Switch." But when the Zooks fought back, the switches gave way to Triple-Sling Jiggers, then Jigger-Rock Snatchems--even a Kick-a-Poo Kid that was "loaded with powerful Poo-a-Doo Powder and ants' eggs and bees' legs and dried-fried clam chowder."
And IED's.

Things come full circle. Here is Dr. Seuss on Hitler's excursion into Russia. (not allowing me to post pics; will do it when I can)

I Don't Care What You Say At this Point

Too many people have died.

On the third anniversary (sounds almost marital rather than martial) of the unjustified invasion of Iraq, people are still dying in droves. From Kos to Lambert to Krane the numbers range. Here is a hard statistic from Krane though, as Lambert points out, he ignores it:
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Three years into the war, one grim measure of its impact on Iraqis can be seen at Baghdad's morgue: There, the staff has photographed and catalogued more than 24,000 bodies from the Baghdad area alone since 2003, almost all killed in violence.

Baghdad may have 1/4 of the population of Iraq. You do the numbers. And fat pundits, please don't continue to laugh at the well known study by the Lancet (Britain's premier medical journal) that predicted 100,000 excess deaths to the invasion, and that was 18 months ago.

It does not say how many were children. The Lancet article just referenced asserts:
Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1-419) than in the period before the war. (emphasis added)
Over half of Iraq's population is children so you might expect that there have been substantial numbers.

We go to great lengths to preserve the life of children in the United States. The first thing we should do when we invade a country is provide the children there with the same level of care. We have failed miserably.

We have failed

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Our Shame

(Click Image to Enlarge)

We do not know how many children have been maimed in Iraq. We do not know how many children have died in Iraq. It is most certainly a large number. Is it 10,000? Is it 50,000? As one of our generals has said, “We don’t do body counts.” There is an answer to the question, “Why have these children died?” The answer is “unavoidable collateral damage.” Many have also died at the hands of the insurgents; terrorists, if you will. But those dead from “collateral damage” are ours. Think about that for a minute. If you were a parent and an Iraqi general said to you “your child died from unavoidable collateral damage.” How would you feel? We cannot escape this. It is the same situation that we experienced after Vietnam where over a million Vietnamese civilians died. This is collective guilt.

Yet we do not change our direction. We continue to escalate the conflict now bringing in awesome gunships and airpower against insurgents who filter through the civilian population. It will mean more collateral damage. It will mean the death of more children.

The time is long past for the American people to demand an end to this infanticide. We have not brought peace and democracy to Iraq; we have brought death and destruction. We do not support a culture of life. We support a culture of death.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Mind Set of Intolerance

There are approximately one billion Muslims in the world. While not as numerous as Christians, Muslims certainly come in second in terms of numbers. In comparison, there are 12 million Jews in the world (1.2% of the Muslims.)

For the last five years, we have been subjected to a constant barrage of negative press about Islam. The latest is a reaffirmation of a blatantly intolerant stand by Franklin Graham, the son of the famous Billy Graham.
The Rev. Franklin Graham, who outraged Muslims in 2001 when he said that Islam "is a very evil and wicked religion," told an interviewer for Wednesday's edition of ABC News "Nightline" that he hasn't changed his mind about the faith.


The younger Graham angered Muslims following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when he told NBC News: "We're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion."
One has to wonder where exactly Mr. Graham gets his inside knowledge about a Deity that has remained silent for at least the last millenium (unless you accept the Book of Mormon). In my reading, most recently of Karen Armstrongs short book on Islam (see below), it seems that Islam considers Christians and Jews both to be "People of the Book." As for being evil, Mr. Graham sounds like he escaped from a 12th century Crusader's bad dream.

Mind you, we in the West have been so politicized over the past few years that even I succumbed at first to The End of Faith by Sam Harris. This diatribe against all religion, which has its points, reserved its real venom for Islam, absolving the Jews. Why the world has turned into a hotbed of sectarian conflict at the beginning of the 21st century some historian is going to have to sort out. It makes no sense to me now.

I really do think that there needs to be some reality testing. Again, I would recommend Karen Armstrong's Islam: A Short History:
The picture of Islam as a violent, backward, and insular tradition should be laid to rest, says Karen Armstrong, bestselling author of Muhammad and A History of God. Delving deep into Islamic history, Armstrong sketches the arc of a story that begins with the stirring of revelation in an Arab businessman named Muhammad. His concern with the poor who were being left behind in the blush of his society's new prosperity sets the tone for the tale of a culture that values community as a manifestation of God. Muhammad's ideas catch fire, quickly blossoming into a political empire. As the empire expands and the once fractured Arabs subdue and overtake the vast Persian domain, the story of a community becomes a panoramic drama. With great dexterity, Armstrong narrates the Sunni-Shi'ite schism, the rise of Persian influence, the clashes with Western crusaders and Mongolian conquerors, and the spiritual explorations that traced the route to God. Armstrong brings us through the debacle of European colonialism right up to the present day, putting Islamic fundamentalism into context as part of a worldwide phenomenon.
Mr. Graham has not done us a service.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ben and Tommy (not the ice cream)

I called up both of my senators yesterday (Mikulski and Sarbanes) to ask them to to vote for Feingold's resolution of censure. They both waffled and the person who answered the phone said that "they were looking at it (or something to the same effect)." This made me wonder what would have happened if the same thing had occurred back in 1776 (there is no small irony that the King was named George III):

G. Hello? Hello, Ben? Is that Ben Franklin there?

B. Yes, it is.

G. Ben, this is your Monarch calling. You know, George the third. I want to talk to you about this Declaration of Independence thing. I don’t think its such a good idea.

B. He that lieth down with Dogs shall rise up with Fleas.

G. Well, the part that sort of talks about me being a tyrant. You know, where it says “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

B. Little strokes fell great oaks. The king's cheese is half wasted in parings; but no matter, 'tis made of the people's milk.
And….. I’m still thinking about it.

G. Well think pretty hard. My buddies over there might just hook you up to a lightning rod. (hangs up).


G. Hello? Hello, Tommy Boy? Is that Tom Jefferson there?

T. Yes, it is.

G. I understand you have been writing a little something about me called a Declaration of Independence?

T. Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.

G. Did you say about me “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good?”
“He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.”
“He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.”
“He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”
“For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”
“For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:”

T. Well, the will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.

G. Tommy, you had better shred that parchment.

T. No government ought to be without censors & where the press is free, no one ever will. (except in 2006).
And….I’m still thinking about it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Senator Russ Feingold

A true national hero. Please support his motion to censure President George W. Bush for violating our rights under the Constitution.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Here's to You....


A Blast from the Past

I got this quote from AMERICAblog (which got it from the subscription NYT) and took the liberty of substituting a few words (in italics):
Inside the White House, the staff is exhausted and the mood is defiant. Republicans are clamoring for a new chief of staff, the West Wing just cut its losses on a deal that would turn over the tapes of Nixon's Oval Office conversations, and President Nixon's approval rating is at a record low.

But senior staff members insist that Mr. Nixon is in good spirits, that calls from his party to inject new blood into the White House make him ever more stubborn to keep the old, and that he has become so inured to outside criticism that he increasingly tunes it out. There is no sense of crisis, they say, even over rebellious Republicans in Congress, because the White House has been in almost constant crisis since June 17, 1972, and Mr. Nixon has never had much regard for Congress anyway.
As always, the second time as farce.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dear Leader on Health Care

I'm sorry, but this is something I know something about. And, as usual, out the the mouth of Dear Leader comes baloney:

Our Dear Leader:
Secondly, the health care is an inefficient industry -- when you really think about what information technology has done to your business, providing better productivity increases, as well as interesting challenges, by the way. The same productivity increases haven't happened in health care. I mean, you've got a guy writing down prescriptions by hand, and/or files being written by hand, and doctors don't write so good anyway, which leads to medical error, and inefficiencies. (emphasis added)
No, Dear Leader, the "inefficiencies" don't reside on my doorstep. I've got me an EMR*! I also do scripts on a printer. The inefficiencies in the Health Care system are the result of greed. (*Electronic Medical Record)

If you really want to know where health care should go, read the excellent article by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells in the New York Review of Books.

The system is broken. In my opinion, it is broken because of the system. Sounds like a tautology. It is. But it is not MD's that are most to blame. We want a system that works. The insurance companies want one that satisfies their greed.

Here are two graphs that hopefully summarize the situation. The first is a pie graph of where the American Health Care dollar goes:

(Click graphic to enlarge)

First of all, 7% for administration is a misleading number. As Krugman and Wells point out, already almost 50% of our health care is financed through the government: Medicare, Medicaid, VA, etc. The administrative costs for traditional medicare are low. It was only when the Insurance Industry persuaded the Government to put Medicare recipients into HMO's (i.e. where the insurance Company does the administrating and profit taking) that things got out of hand:
Other disturbing evidence from privatization is the rise in bureaucracy. The latest HCFA data show that administrative costs for beneficiaries in HMOs have skyrocketed to 9.1% while traditional Medicare's administrative costs are 2%.
Another misleading slice of the above pie is the "other costs." Contained therein is the bete noir of the American Health Industry, the outrageous profits being reaped by Insurance Companies. Not doctors, Insurance Companies.

The largest company in Maryland is now United Health Care that bought up many smaller companies including MAMSI (which had been ripping us off for years). Here is a graph of UHC's recent revenues (before they bought MAMSI):

(Click graphic to enlarge)

They will say that "pardonez moi, but our earnings are only 11% of our revenues. Higher than other industries, but still not outlandish." This is horse poop. Encased in that "other expenses" are a variety of things. For instance, the CEO's salary ($32 MILLION!!!) is not included in "earnings." The reality is, as is shown in the graph, the total rake off for this company is close to 30% of revenues.

They do this by the fact that they are a partial monopoly. They do this by screwing doctors on their fees (current fee for a UHC office visit is only 75% of the Medicare fee; most physicians charge 120-150% of Medicare for routine services, it is that low.)

Dear Leader,

Once again you have gotten it all wrong. Health Savings accounts (as Krugman and Wells so elegantly explain) are the answer for no one but your rich buddies. I wish that you could live in the shoes of an average American for one day. What an eye opener that would be.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Scenario II (pessimistic)

It is not very difficult to imagine this one, though it is pretty discouraging. With all apologies to Goodwin, one has to wonder what went through the minds of the Germans after the terrible Winter in Russia. Many must have read the tea leaves and realized that, eventually, they were doomed. Yet the Propaganda machine kept functioning almost up to the very end. Two winters later the Germans still felt they had a chance and subjected the allies and their own armies to the useless slaughter of the Battle of the Bulge.

As many commentators have done recently, this is an explicit referral to Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (there are many Republicans who still feel that we need not have "lost" the Vietnam War; that it was all the peaceniks who deprived them of victory. Stupidity dies a slow death.)

So, here goes:
1. Bush and Cheney remain in office until their term expires in January, 2009.
2. The Republicans remain in control of the Senate and the House.
3. There is no change in the Supreme Court which continues to hear triviality (Anna Nicole Smith) and ignores Bush's breach of the Fourth Amendment, Torture, etc. etc.
4. Bush goes to the UN get a carte blanche to attack Iran. He launches multiple missile strikes against Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Iran goes batshit as does the rest of the Islamic world.
5. Iran attacks American forces in eastern Iraq.
6. Terrorists launch multiple attacks using shoulder launched missiles against commercial airlines. All airlines are indefinitely grounded.
7. There are revolutions in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Fundamentalists take over. The flow of oil from the mid East to the West is permanently damaged.
8. The economies of the West go into a tailspin.
9. China calls in her debts on the United States Treasury. Since we don't have the money to pay this, China extracts a promise of non interference on repossesion of Taiwan and confrontation with India.
10. Because India is threatened, it attacks Pakistan.
11. Many commentators have projected the danger of the nuclear tipped Israel sitting in the middle of a sea of Islam. The possibility that Israel will not use nuclear weapons is remote. It may be the beginning of the end.
12. On the home front Bush pardons Libby, Kenny Boy, Abramoff and DeLay. They all resume their previous posts and do as much damage to their enemies as possible (Patrick Fitzgerald flees to Ireland.)

Christ, I can't do it any more.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Mike "Coathanger" Rounds

the Devil in the Details

Last week, our President concluded a nuclear deal with India. There are many reasons to object to this, including the fact that it rewards India for thumbing its nose at non-Proliferation. (India and Pakistan have also refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty, as has the US). There is some resistance to this treaty in Congress, but with the Republican majority in the Senate, it will probably go through.
"The deal is a disaster for the nuclear non-proliferation regime on the planet," agreed Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, a leading proliferation specialist in the U.S. Congress, who is expected to spearhead efforts to defeat the accord as signed.
Just like the Port deal with the UAE, this is a business deal. It opens up India for big corporations both in the nuclear, non nuclear and defense industries. They are salivating.

But, the devil is in the details. There is a coda to the cited article:
Not only will the deal enable India to accelerate its development of nuclear weapons, but it may also contribute to an increase in tensions between India and China, which, according to Circincione, is already reported to be considering a similar accord with Pakistan -- another nuclear power that has defied the NPT.
Now if this isn't just the cat's meow. We'll have two surrogates nuking it out on mainland Asia. Of course, the sponsers can still hurl them across the Pacfic.

Dig your bunkers.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Reading the Tea Leaves

Creating Scenarios.
Underlying facts:
1. Bush is president until January, 2009. Cheney is vice president until January, 2009.
2. The Republicans have control of Congress until January, 2007.
3. The Republicans have control of the Supreme Court for the next 20 years.
4. There are 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq.
5. Iraq is in turmoil and close to Civil War.
6. America is in many respects insolvent and only survives financially by borrowing money from China. Eventually this debt will have to be paid off.
7. Health care is in disarray and close to the breaking point.
8. The economy is unstable.
9. New Orleans is in ruins.
10. The NSA is spying on Americans without a warrant.
11. Most of the World is anti American, not just anti Bush.
12. Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea have nuclear weapons.
13. Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons.
14. Iraq never did have nuclear weapons, or large stores of nerve gas, or large stores of anthrax.
15. The American people are discouraged.

So, what are the scenarios that can be constructed from the current situation?
Scenario I (optimistic):
Republicans sense that the country is turning against Bush and therefore do not support his more outlandish proposals such as: privatized social security, medical savings accounts, war with Iran, overturning Roe vs Wade. In spite of this, the Republicans are still beaten soundly at the polls in November, 2006. A Democratic Congress and Senate is sworn in in January, 2007. Immediately, the chairmanships of the committees are changed and the composition of the committees is weighed in favor of the Democrats. Investigations of the Bush administration are begun to include the use of pre War intelligence (Downing Street Memos), torture (Abu Gharib, secret CIA centers in eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Guantanamo), use of the NSA to spy on Americans, lobbying reform, and other items. Impeachment proceedings of President Bush and Vice President Cheney are begun. Nancy Pelosi is elected House Majority leader and is in line to become President of the United States of America if Bush and Cheney are impeached.

President Pelosi negotiates with the United Nations to establish a multinational force without American involvement to serve as peace keepers in Iraq. President Pelosi negotiates with Iran and Russia to provide nuclear fuel for Iran's reactors and Iran stops any further work on nuclear weapons. President Pelosi supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the Senate and it is passed by a wide margin. North Korea is persuaded to give up its nuclear weapons following the example of South Africa. Pakistan and India give up their nuclear weapons. All States are vigorously monitored for nuclear activity. Nuclear weapon labs in the US are shut down. We decrease the number of weapons the a bare minimum.

President Pelosi begins trade negotiations with the European Union, South America and Asia to stablize currencies and rationalize trade. Negotiations are brought into the United Nations.

President Pelosi recognizes Cuba and reestablishes good relationships with Venezuela.

House and Senate Democratic leaders led by Ben Cardin, newly elected Senator from Maryland, introduce legislation establishing a national health plan based on Medicare. While vigorously fought by the pharmacy and insurance industries, this passes and the reorganization of medicine is begun. Tax breaks are reversed and we begin to pay back the deficit.

Legislation is introduced to curb predatory business practices such as outsourcing, off shore corporations, excessive profits in the oil, pharmacy and health care businesses. The flow of capitol out of the US is halted and, because of an increased standard of living, businesses begin to thrive.

I could go on.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bill Frist (and the rest of us) at the Edge

Glenn Greenwald, that new blogger who is so extraordinary, has a very prescient piece up about Bill Frist threatening to restructure the Intelligence Committee in order to block it from doing its job. That is, block it from looking into use of the NSA (I originally say NSF, for National Science Foundation; bad me) to spy on Americans.

First, it is not clear that we are all going to survive the next three years. If the demonstrations in India and Pakistan are any indication, the animosity of the World against the United States is growing exponentially. At some point the scales will tip. What will happen then is anybody's guess.

I am going to blog in the coming week about Arthur Silber, another amazing writer. His stuff is truly out there at the most provacative. He does refer to one scenario that has been around for some time: If Iraq goes to full scale Civil War, or if the U.S. attempts to "take out" Iran's nuclear industry, this could precipitate a massive crisis in the mid-East. At some point, Israel might use one of her many nuclear weapons. At this juncture, there will probably be a coup d'etat in Pakistan with hard line Muslims taking over. They will do everything in their power to use Pakistan's nuclear weapons against Israel (and the US, Britain, etc.). India might see this as a chance to attack Pakistan with nukes. And, my friends, we are in for a conflagration.

Where we went wrong is not enforcing the non-Proliferation treaty on Israel, Pakistan and India. There are just too many nuclear weapons out there for one not to be used in a general conflagration.

Radiation sickness is a pretty lousy way to die.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Crab Elephant Blogging

And a bonus, a first time football player complete with helmet:

Special extra bonus: A Square Rainbow


Bush Rewards Ally Pakistan With Visit
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - President Bush rewarded this anti-terror ally Friday, minimizing U.S. concerns about democracy's pace and anti-American sentiment in favor of a high-profile visit to boost Pakistan's global standing.
A visit from Bush is a reward?



Thursday, March 02, 2006

I know, I know, you're tired of hearing it

Over at FireDogLake, ReddHedd has a pithy piece on Murray Waas' exceptionally good article What Bush Was Told About Iraq. I am so weary of protesting and screaming and writing that I just won't comment on this. I'll just post ReddHedd's statement:
I've wracked my brain this afternoon to come up with another alternative -- but no matter how I twist it around in my brain, it comes back to "he knew and lied" or "he doesn't bother doing his job."
Its now like a bad marriage where all the love is gone. We got to stick together for the next three years "because of the kids," but I'll be damned if you get one jot of respect from me.

Torquemada on the hot seat

After a dull 5 years, the Senate hots up:
Gonzales forcefully repeated the administration's defense of its wartime powers, and expressed a willingness to listen to the ideas of Congress but otherwise refused to acknowledge that any change to the 1978 law was necessary.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, responded that Gonzales was advancing a "radical legal theory" that means "the president's power to defend the nation is unchecked by law."

Feinstein also asked if the president had used these powers to bypass other laws.

Replied Gonzales: "Senator, the president has not authorized any conduct, that I'm aware of, that is in contravention of law."
But, Senator, don't you know that there is NO law that Bush can't bypass using the War Powers act? He's the war president, for chrissakes.

This classifies as "out of control" in my book. But, then, we knew this already.

Leahy, Senator from Vermont, said it best:
"Under our Constitution . . . we make the laws," Leahy said. "If you believe you need new laws then come and tell us. If Congress agrees, we'll amend the law. If you do not even attempt to persuade Congress to amend the law, then you're required to follow the law as it's written. That is as true of the president as it's true of me and you and every American. That's the rule of law."

(And Torquemada wasn't even under oath, damn.)

New Orleans Redux

Or, Lessez le merde rollez.

I posted on New Orleans on 31 August 2005:

I was put on to this story (from Editor and Publisher, no longer available online) by a friend. Here are some pertinent quotes:

.....When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."
(emphasis added)
Now we learn that Bush actually knew exactly what was going to happen, but he did this instead:

He's not even playing a real chord. Phoney President. Phoney Musician. Phoney Soldier.