Friday, September 25, 2009

The Profit Mandate: a Futuristic View of the Health Care Debacle

With everyone running around, either screaming in the town hall meetings or about them, displaying either what looked an awful lot like racism or an outrage against it and leveling the cry of "socialism" or trying to refute it, the duopoly labored tirelessly out of public view and under the watchful eye of special interests.  Having won an astonishing majority in the House and Senate, the Democrats then inexplicably reached across the aisle to include Republicans in a spirit of bipartisanship.  It seemed obvious from the outset that the Republicans were not interested in cooperating, yet the Democrats continued to be their proverbial lapdog.  Concession after concession yielded one Republican "maybe" (Olympia Snow) and a rising cadre of "Nay" threats from within the Democratic Party itself.  Though the word "socialism" had widely been circulated by opponents of health care reform, the resulting "Baucus Bill" made the scourge of socialized medicine look tame: mandatory insurance, complete with penalties against those who couldn't afford coverage.  At last, the way was cleared to raise insurance profits from bloated to corpulent.

If only Barack Obama was a secret muslim; if only he had been born on foreign soil; if only the death panels were real and the Democrats really intended to force poor, white, Christian mothers to have abortions and take away insurance coverage from Republicans to give it to illegal aliens.  Of course, none of it was true.  It was so preposterous that we were left scraping our jaws up off the floor.  When polls showed that there were people who actually believed such nonsense, a lot of us (myself included) looked away from Washington at the spectacle on television, radio and Internet.  We castigated the ignorant as well as the purveyors of this bilge and while we were distracted, the duopoly wrapped up their gift to insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations and medical groups, decorating it with a glistening bow.

Discussion?  There would be no further discussion.  The Democrats could point back to the disorderly town hall meetings--Code Pink and the Tea Baggers had performed brilliantly--and remind us that no one seemed willing to debate when they had the chance, they just wanted to disrupt the process.  Meanwhile, Fox News and MSNBC would continue as they had before, Fox News inciting the right whenever necessary and MSNBC inciting the left, as circumstances required subterfuge for legislation that would make every man, woman and child a slave to the Medical Triad.  Even liberal Hollywood played along.  Of course, the Republicans would condemn it at every step; not that they had a problem with mandated profits: they, like the Democrats, were always for sale.  Looking back, the political theater leading up to the passage of the Baucus Law, given the overwhelming Democratic majority, was as poorly choreographed as a fight scene from Walker, Texas Ranger.

Since Ross Perot's campaign in 1992, there had been a rising independent and third-party movement afoot that might threaten business as usual in Washington.  The outside parties tended to limit their focus on specific issues, whereas the duopoly factions had long held a two-sizes-fit-all approach to the American public: pro-business, anti-abortion and pro-death penalty, among other issues, defined Republicans, who claimed to be to the right on the political spectrum; pro-labor, pro-abortion and welfare, to name only a few, defined the Democrats, who were assigned the left pole.  Not surprisingly, due to the broadness of the issues that defined each of the factions, few people were full adherants to either one: pro-choice fiscal conservatives abounded in the Republican Party, as did gun-toting, anti-abortion labor advocates among the Democrats.  Two sizes, did not in fact, fit all, one size did, and that size took on one of two names every few years.  Still, it was impossible to ignore that the duopoly factions had more in common with one another than at odds.  Both factions were seduced by the military and prison-industrial complexes, both received large campaign contributions from monied interests and both supported a corporate welfare system that essentially rendered the tax debate moot.

The purpose for a display of contrast between the duopoly factions became clear after the election of 2000.  The election, determined not by voters but by the Supreme Court of the United States, had left Americans all too aware that the distinctions between the two candidates were virutally nill.  In 2004, John Kerry (D-MA) literally appeared to throw the presidential race as George W. Bush (R-TX) managed to hold on for another term.  Conveniently, details that seemed obvious to the public following 9/11 began trickling out in the press during Bush's final term: disproven claims of WMD in Iraq, Powell's misleading presentation of anthrax at the UN, unwarranted wiretaps against the citizenry and torture of Guantanimo detainees.  Given that Nixon was forced to resign over a cover-up of political cheating and Clinton was impeached for lying about sex, one might expect such charges to result in, at the very least an investigation, if not a debate in the House Judiciary Committee over impeachment.  Oddly, even in 2007, the then House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), went so far as to publicly oppose impeachment.  It did, however, provide the needed contrast between the duopoly factions.  It was hardly necessary for John McCain (R-AZ) to "go after the base" by picking Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) as his running mate, but it nonetheless, gave the swing vote an ultimatum: vote duopoly (again) or risk having your worst fears realized.  For progressives and the educated, this was the superstitious, gay-bashing and intellectually undisciplined Sarah Palin, who would push the button just to make sure Armageddon happened; for Christians and conservatives, the pro-abortion, commy-nazi, Barack Obama, was going to turn us all into socialists and he was probably the Antichrist: he was awfully good at speaking, after all.  Whether it was the boorishness of Palin (McCain's graciousness, notwithstanding) or the cool, articulate excitement invoked by Obama, the duopoly got its way.

Barack Obama was indeed  looking ahead when he let Bush and Cheney off the hook for violations to the UN Civil Rights Charter, not to mention violations of U.S. Law: two national elections lie ahead--one of them presidential--and his completion of the transfer of public wealth into private coffers begun under Bush, had left progressives and conservatives alike scratching their heads.  As an immensely talented jurist, Mr. Obama was, no doubt, aware of Principles III and IV of the Nuremberg Principles, adopted by the UN in 1950, and hence, knew that the Bush administration and the CIA operatives who tortured the detainees, had all violated international law.  Their economic ideology an abyssmal failure, the moral bankruptcy of its imperialist philosophy laid bare before the world, reason and conscience dictated that the Republican Party would go the way of the Whigs and the Federalists.

Within the first year of his term, President Obama had an unparalleled fall in his approval rating, signed the Baucus Bill into law with no bipartisan support and ensured the survival of the Republican Party, and with it, the duopoly.  The Afghan War continues.  The Taliban forces, so easily defeated in the months following 9/11, continue to mount astonishingly successful attacks against our troops, as disaffected tribesmen, avenging their families and villages destroyed in the drone attacks, pour in to counter the growing number of NATO and U.S. forces.  With morale sagging from multiple tours of duty and stop-loss, the military has been unable to keep pace with the need for more soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen through recruitment alone. Selective Services has begun the process of conscription, even as the caskets of our men and women are offloaded from cargo planes like cord wood.  Widows and widowers of the fallen struggle to pay their insurance premiums to keep from being fined or having their children taken from them by the state.

With the elevation of insurance corporations to the level of "health landlords"--still unregulated--we dare not complain about the quality of coverage we do have.  The class consciousness that arose following the market collapse in 2008 is forgotten by all but a few.  Financial corporations once again display their largess conspicously.  Their hubris is hardly unwarranted: a bill, expected to pass in both the House and the Senate later in the year, will place 1% of the earnings from every working resident of the United States into a mandatory 401K . . .

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Letter to David Brooks, NYT

Mr. Brooks,

I read your column regularly and enjoy it. I am writing because I wish to express disagreement with you about your article, "No, it's Not About Race." We most certainly should be reluctant to invoke the specter of racism, which is why Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck throwing the word around frivolously and irresponsibly has required a response from knowledgeable people like Jimmy Carter. You may dismiss him as a bad President, but given his unique perspective, having watched the American South grow from unashamedly segregationist to the point where the Ku Klux Klan had been relegated to isolated pockets in the deep south, his authority on the subject is without peer. You tie Jackson to Jefferson in your article, without also conceding that both men unapologetically held slaves. Finally, you make a salient point at the end of your article:

"One could argue that this country is on the verge of a crisis of legitimacy," the economic blogger Arnold Kling writes. "The progressive elite is starting to dismiss rural WHITE America as illegitimate, and vice versa."

You can't have it both ways, Mr. Brooks. Whether rural or urban, the qualifier, "white" makes this unequivocally about race.

Perhaps what you saw during your run was evidence that we hadn't quite jumped over the precipice, but we are most assuredly standing on it--surely you can see this. You are a man of integrity: why would you prostrate yourself before the alter of demagogues, the likes of Limbaugh and Beck? You are one of the last rational voices on the right. Use it to pull us back into the bosom of reason.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The "Martyrdom" of Van Jones

The left has been all a twitter about the tragically fallen Van Jones.  Not knowing much about the man, I have only this to say:  He's a quitter, just like Sarah Palin.  No, there's not a difference.  The right was no worse to him than the left was to her, and even if they had been, only wimps let themselves get punked out.  No amount of whitewashing or finger pointing or historical revision can turn the vacancy left by coward into the mutilated body of a martyr to symbolize the opposition's savagery.

Save your tears for the fallen in Iraq, in Afghanistan and soon, the streets of America; for the brothers, Bill and John, will shed each other's blood again over a false dichotomy, too long in the politically fossilized vendetta of binary and too brief in the dawning light of possibility and cohesion.  And after Kansas bleeds and Mississippi burns, will they have the wisdom to see the liars who divided this American House through the veil of distraction and sensationalism?  Will these grapes of wrath at last be vinted out to those, who, drunk on disharmony and agitation, destroyed the sacred bond of brotherhood?

The veil is rising and providence awaits the guilty


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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Silver Lining: John McCain is a Real Maverick

Following Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) outburst at President Obama's address--the one where he shouted "YOU LIE!" in response to the President's contention that illegal aliens would not be covered under the pending health care bill--John McCain did what we've always been able to count on him to do: be himself. Referring to Wilson's outburst, McCain said it was, "totally disrespectful," and urged the Congressman to apologize. It is worth mentioning that a quick reference into the text of HR 3200 revealed that the liar wasn't Obama:


Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

Senator McCain can't help himself: graceful in defeat, honorable in battle, his breeding is a welcome relief in an age when even a Southern man like Wilson has none. How strange to live in a time when a person of honor and decency is a Maverick for (if nothing else) merely having these traits.

(Hint for the GOP: independents are impressed by one of two types, and it's NOT Joe Wilson; manners matter)

Update: I decided that since 'ol "Tell 'em like it ain't" Joe likes calling people liars, even when they're not, he deserves a taste of his own medicine. I tried to write his Dishonor an email, but in true pussy fashion, he ran and hid:

For all his bad-ass bluster, he's not only a liar, but a coward.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Glenn Beck and the Alleged Rape that Went Viral

The parody on everyone's keyboard today is, did Glenn Beck rape and murder a girl in 1990?

Relax, Glenn Beck's hypnotized army: I'm not here to accuse your messiah, but the fact that there are so many blogs out there running this parody is, in itself a freaking huge story. So far, none of the sites that I have read have actually claimed that the Fox News talking head was guilty of rape or even murder. The general wording seemed to be along the lines of, "This site exists to investigate rumors," etc.

The story has been widely published on Internet Weblogs, with one site acting as a central linking station to all of the others. The site's host, nom de plume Name Withheld, points to the origin of this story: a question on FARK that apparently sent bloggers sniffing for evidence. A scanned image of a document purported to be a Tampa, FL police report has emerged, with Glenn Beck listed as the suspect. The alleged report, however, lists two offenses: rape (listed as both rape and forcible rape) and larceny. I can find no entry on the alleged report for murder, nor any indication that the victim was killed during commission of the alleged crime. The alleged report would appear to be counterfeit, merely an extension of the satire being run at Beck's expense

In general, respondents as well as hosts on the sites have (sarcastically) called for Beck and Fox News to respond the the charges:

Why haven’t we had an official response to the rumor that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990? (According to Hoss)

I just want Glenn Beck to come clean about what he was up to in 1990? Why has he remained silent in the face of these serious accusations. (How Good is That: Free Thinking--Secular Humanism).

In short, they're giving Beck a taste of his own medicine, and all that I have read so far, have stated clearly that this was a satire or a parody. Beck, who's kept the birther controversy alive (even when provided with Barack Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate) by saying much the same thing, has done so hiding behind the first Amendment. Armed with attorneys, Beck and Fox are threatening suit to force the shutdown of the official website of the controversy. We should be surprised? This is the same guy who has said that anyone who says there was a 9-11 conspiracy belongs in jail.

While I think that anyone who believes in a 9-11 conspiracy is stupid, I support their right to ask questions about it. Some people will never be satisfied, of course (e.g., the birthers), but once reasonable evidence is put forth, the media, as a responsible body, should let it drop.

I will be surprised if anyone--even Keith Olbermann--risks their credibility by running with this story, which is frankly a shame. Glenn Beck deserves this. Not because I hate him (full disclosure: I hate Glenn Beck), but because I can't stand anyone who dishes it out with impunity and then whines when it's time for a dose of their own medicine.

Glenn Beck probably isn't a rapist and even the alleged--likely fake--police report doesn't say he's a murderer. He probably didn't have gay sex on a boat--though this is purported to give him an alibi at the time of the alleged rape. But I am concerned that Glenn Beck might be a pussy, first because he hid behind the first amendment to spread lies he knew weren't true, and now, hiding behind Fox News and their lawyers because he's afraid to speak for himself.

I think Mr. Beck should prove that he's not a pussy and agree to address this on his show.