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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where did "empathy" go wrong?

Question: Since when did empathy become a bad thing?

Answer: Since the Republican Party went into meltdown and irrelevance, circa 2009

From Wikipedia:

"Empathy is the capability to share your feelings and understand another's emotion and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes," or in some way experience what the other person is feeling. Empathy does not necessarily imply compassion, sympathy, or empathic concern because this capacity can be present in context of compassionate or cruel behavior.

Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry:em·pa·thy
Pronunciation:\ˈem-pə-thē\
Function:noun
Etymology:Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathēs emotional, from em- + pathos feelings, emotion — more at pathos
Date:1850
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner ; also : the capacity for this

See? You can tell, right here, above, what the Republicans would be so totally against, when it comes to empathy and President Obama's thought that empathy would be good in a new Supreme Court Justice.

"Understanding".

"Being sensitive to...", "expressing feelings, thought, and experience of another..."

This is all WAY too "touchy-feely" for Republicans.

WAY too feminine.

Shoot, for that matter, way too intelligent.

Republicans will have none of that.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A "Twilight Zone" someone should make

A "Twilight Zone" episode I'd like to see because it would be fun and provocative and, hopefully, educational for all of us is one where the director/producer assume, to begin, that the universe is huge (as it is, of course) and that there is life out there.

In fact, there's life on multiple planets. Different life forms on each.

And guess what?

They're all advanced.

And they all know each other.

And they communicate with each other and have incredible transportation between one another's planets that we can only dream of.

And they have all their energy and production and pollution (there isn't any) and all other "problems" worked out and all of them live in what we'd consider to be Nirvana ("heaven" for the Americans out there reading this).

They all live in these perfect worlds. They're perfect unto themselves and each one works completely.

And the reason is because on each planet and in the rest of the universe, so the movie goes, they've all learned to cooperate with one another.

Everyone on every living system is educated (as educated as they need and/or want to be) and healthy (they have universal health care in all situations because they accept it should be a right instead of a privilege) and they share all land and resources--everything.

And the thing is, they've been aware of our little green planet earth for millenia.

And guess what?

To all of them--all the "perfect worlds" and perfect being out there--we are the "white trash" of the universe.

Think about it.

We view each other with only suspicion--individually and collectively.

All we do is fight each other. Heck, there are whole races that have spent hundreds and thousands of years just fighting and killing each other (e.g., Jews/Gentiles/Islamists, Catholics/Protestants, Catholics and everyone else, Muslims and virtually everyone else, etc., etc.).

We don't share anything. We pollute everything. We don't work together on enough things AT ALL.

Heck, all the "big religions" have fought and died and killed each other for thousands of years over what they all perceive to be the "holy ground".

We let people create artificial entities (read: corporations) just so those same entities can exploit people--both their own workers and their "clients" or customers. We let those same corporations kill other people so they can get natural resources like oil or whatever (e.g., Nigeria right now, etc.).

We let certain people and groups become obscenely wealthy (in terms of money and goods) (e.g., the Cote du Zur in Southern France and too many other wealthy enclaves around the world), but we let many more millions starve or die from disease or just be killed for one insane reason or another, rather than help them.

And we're okay with this system.

So in the movie, we see all these planets and beings and civilizations and societies getting along and existing and having a beautiful, big old time--but they merely observe and avoid us, here on planet Earth, until such time as we realize we're all in this together and that we could feed, clothe, house and nurse each other if we would but choose to cooperate, share and help one another.

Instead we exploit the planet and each other, as much and frequently as possible.

And we think we're civilized and intelligent.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You can't say it any better than this

As an exception, I'm printing something from Truthdig.com here because, as I said, I can't improve on this.

Stuff the Bankers, Starve the Kids

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090526_robert_scheer_may_27_column/

Posted on May 26, 2009
By Robert Scheer

All sorts of startling conclusions are being drawn about the failure of California’s ballot funding initiatives last week. Newt Gingrich hailed it as another Boston Tea Party, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman insisted that it condemns California, one of the world’s largest economies, to banana republic status. But if it was such a big deal, how come the voter turnout was so low?

Maybe because the statewide ballot initiatives were a bit of a political practical joke played by a Republican governor and leading Democrats pretending to be dealing on a statewide basis with the consequences of a national economic crisis that can be solved only through massive federal intervention. There is no way that the people of any state will vote to increase their taxes in the midst of a deep recession, and certainly not when the funding demands seem to have little to do with solving the problem at hand. As a subheading in the ever-sober Economist magazine put it, “Voters reject a ballot they could not comprehend.”

I tried, and after reading the opposing argument in the literature supplied at my nearly empty polling station I voted for the ballot propositions that our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had requested. I assumed that this would help our vastly underfunded inner-city schools. Later, my son Chris, who teaches in one of those schools, told me that I might have been wrong and that the convoluted paragraphs of the all too typically obtuse California propositions could not improve matters much at all.

So, filled with doubt and guilt, I took solace in the fact that in terms of the money involved it wasn’t that big a deal, and that surely the feds, to whom we Californians send more in revenue than any other state, would bail us out as they have the banks. Heck, the entire projected California budget shortfall comes to only $21 billion, a tiny fraction of the banking bailout. Yes, only—what is $21 billion in federal loan guarantees for California to skirt bankruptcy compared with the $45 billion given to Citigroup, along with $300 billion more in guarantees for that company’s toxic paper? Or how about the $185 billion doled out to AIG? If Citigroup is too big to fail, isn’t the state of California? Does anyone seriously believe that the national economy can snap back to health if California is in the dump?

The cause of California’s, and almost every other state’s, predicament is an economy ruined by deregulation policies that were secured by the lobbying efforts of Wall Street, led most prominently by Citigroup. So, I expected a federal government that has spent trillions salvaging the banks that got us into this mess to find the relatively minor sums needed to bail out California and other states that have been the victims of Wall Street’s dangerous games.

But I didn’t count on the tough-love steeliness of President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, who told Californians that “there’s a limit to what the government can do” when it comes to bailing out our state (as opposed to the banks). Or of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “Obviously, the state has to make some very tough fiscal decisions … [given] the budgetary constraints that they have.”

Tough for whom? Not the politicians of either party. The results of such decisions are tough for the poor of America, two-thirds of whom are kids, left to the tender mercy of the states, thanks to the sweeping “welfare reform” and other programs put into place by the Clinton White House in one of that Democratic administration’s signature triangulation ploys.

The Los Angeles Times summarized the direction of those difficult choices in a story headlined “Poor would be hard hit by proposed California budget cuts,” which stated that Schwarzenegger “is considering a plan to slash California’s safety net for the poor by eliminating the state’s main welfare program, health insurance for low-income families and cash grants to college students.”

Bail out the banks, but not the 500,000 poor families with children served by the CalWorks program, which will be dismantled, or the 928,000 children covered by the Healthy Families program, slated for oblivion.

At a time when the feds are spending with such abandon in an effort to stimulate the economy, why is it tolerable to leave states in a position where they are forced to fire teachers? As the Los Angeles Times reported: “Schwarzenegger has proposed slashing state spending on education by $3 billion to help close the budget gap, and the state would pay dearly for canceling classes, firing instructors, cutting class days and shortening the school year, experts said.” How can there be federal funds readily available for banker bonuses but not to keep teachers in the classroom with their students? It must have been the kids who caused the meltdown.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

US Health Care

While everyone else, on both sides of the aisle, rant and rave, one way or another about Sonia Sotomayor as the next Justice on the Supreme Court, I'm going to let them and go on to something different, if not more important.

And that is, as you see above, health care in America.

I've said for a long time, the way we need to fix health care in the US is to take the gross, ridiculous profits out of it, the way the rest of virtually all of the world has so it's more a right instead of a privilege.

We're the only people on the planet that do it this way, ours is the most expensive, we don't have the highest mortality rates and yet Americans have been convinced ours is the only and best system to distribute health care.

Insane. Insanity. Fools.

Anyway, as I write this, I saw, a few days ago, some writing by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship that asks the question: "How can we expect an industry that profits from disease and sickness to police itself?"

Followed by this note: "The health care industry has spent $134 million on lobbying this year to keep its profits high and public health in the shadows."

And it is crazy.

Why would we even expect them to be involved in the conversation? They're only going to have one answer, again and again, and that is to either NOT CHANGE anything about the current system or, at worst, to change it as little as posssible from its current form.

They'll be thrashing about all over, saying how horrible it will be to change virtually anything about our health care system.

They'll say the same things they always do--

--"We have the finest and best health care system in the world" (we don't)

--"In Canada and Europe, you have to wait for hours or days to see a doctor" (you don't)

--"In the rest of the world, you can't see the doctor you want" (yes, you can and in the US, for lots of us, we can't--and we know it)

And more.

But it's all just rubbish.

We have the MOST EXPENSIVE health care system IN THE WORLD;

We are not the healthiest group of people on the planet;

Millions of us in this country are going WITHOUT health care, because it's so expensive;

The numbers of us that are going without health care in the US is growing--the situation is getting worse;

The doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, insurance company executives, pharmaceutical companies and their executives are all GETTING RICH, on the backs of the working people of this country, just so we can have health care--and that's an insane, unsupportable, unsustainable outrage.

We need to change the health care system in America.

We need to change it radically.

We will need to fight the health care, insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital corporations and lobbyists TOOTH AND NAIL, so to speak, to get a good, smart, workable system for us all, instead of for them.

They shouldn't even be let into the conversation, frankly.

There needs to be an organized riot, of sorts, by us, regarding health care in America.

We need to be strong. We need to be forceful. We need to push to make this happen.

Frankly and sadly, I don't think the American people have the stomach for it.

I don't even think the average American on the street knows we have a problem.

I salute Bill Moyers and Michael Winship for trying to educate us.

Link to story:
http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/140226/bill_moyers%3A_how_can_we_expect_an_industry_that_profits_from_disease_and_sickness_to_police_itself/

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Big week coming up

To begin, North Korea gave me quite an unappreciated birthday present, apparently, with the annonuncement that they detonated an underground nuclear blast in a test yesterday.

Yikes.

Then, today, two more missile tests.

It will be a big week regarding North Korea, then, and how the West is to respond to them.

Locally, we hope to find out the status of the Mayor Mark Funkhouser recall. Reputedly, 7,000 more signatures were turned in yesterday, on top of a vefified 13,000 earlier turned in and we only need 17,000 to get the vote going, hopefully this Fall.

Stay tuned.

California's courts are to respond to the Constitutionality of Prop. 8 today, I believe. Prop 8 was their legislation against same-sex marriages in the state, of course.

And finally--at least for this report--President Obama is said to be ready to announce his selection for the Supreme Court vacancy. That should be worth a great deal of talking and writing this week, once that's told.

So hang on to your seats. It's going to be a bumpy night.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More financial travesties

You no doubt read about the large bank failing this past week and the many more millions (billions?) of dollars it's going to cost the American taxpayer (read: you and me).

Don't look now but 2 more failed last evening, in Illinois.

Less evident is the fact that, after you and I, via the government, pick up the tab for these extremely badly run banks, other bankers are asked to buy these assets (the good stuff of the bank) at bargain prices. So the other, 2nd banks, pick up a magnificent bargain, folks, and you and I paid for it.

It just keeps going on.

But wait! There's more!

In today's New York Times, 2 tiny little paragraphs in the 2nd, "Business Day" section told, first, of yet another multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme--this one out of California that came to and cost #200 million, almost unbelievably--that the SEC didn't prevent or catch, while it was going on.

Thanks again, SEC! (What have you been doing for the last 8 years?).

Secondly, the Times told of a former scumbag President of that true den of inequity, theft and lies that was Countrywide Financial, one Stanley Kurland, is not only in jail serving time for crimes committed, actually, besides being free and uncharged for crimes, he's also filing through a new company (PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust) for an IPO.

Seems he hasn't cheated enough people in his first incarnation at Countrywide or made enough money so he's coming back 'round for more.

The foxes are still in charge of the hen houses.

On that first one, I have to ask questions again, that I asked earlier, of the SEC and those are:

1) Is this the last big Ponzi scheme that's out there?

2) How did this happen?

3) What were you--the SEC--doing while this was taking place?

4) Have new regulations and provisions been put in place to make certain this doesn't happen again/any more?

I'll probably write more soon, about Blackrock, a company that also fleeced the public for millions of dollars but is not only still in charge of the country's financial system, they're making new rules with this Administration, for others to follow, while the "help clean up this current mess", making more money, all the while.

It's incestuous and ugly.

Are you paying attention?

Links to original stories here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/23/business/23bizbriefs-FIRMLEDBYEXH_BRF.html?_r=1&sq=&st=nyt&adxnnl=1&scp=1&adxnnlx=1243098626-JXmKz0MRm1gYG99zxMVyfw

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/23/business/23bizbriefs-3ACCUSEDOF20_BRF.html?scp=1&sq=3%20accused%20of%20%24200%20million%20&st=cse

Friday, May 22, 2009

Still wrong. Grossly wrong

I agree with the President and his decision to not release additional pictures of tortures over in Iraq, going against his earlier declaration that he would, in fact, release them.

He's right this time--putting out more pictures now would only further stir up more animosity and anger and who knows what. It would be of no benefit.

I also think the President is correct in shutting down the Guantanamo Prison. There are only approximately 240 prisoners there and Montana alone has publicly announced they would take 100 of those prisoners. That would leave 2.85 prisoners, left to be distributed to the other 49 states.

And we can't handle that, as a country?

Nonsense. Of course we can.

Where I don't agree with President Obama is that he has declared there are some prisoners at Guantanamo right now who we will simply continue to hold indefinitely without any charges filed and without any trial.

And that's just wrong.

That is not what the United States is about or has ever been about.

That makes us no better than the old Soviet Union or China, even today.

We have always acted with our Constitution and laws and said that you cannot be held without charges being filed, without trial and without facing your accusers.

Are we not, any longer, any better than some South American "banana republic"?

We always used to think we were.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Repugnant Republicans

Did you hear about the latest dirty tricks from the Republicans in Washington?

It seems the American people were sick and tired of the Republican's best friends--Big Business, specifically the banking lobby--taking advantage of them on their credit cards and accounts so the Democrats were, finally, going to do something about it. That "something" was the new credit card legislation that's coming out of Washington this week.

Well, the Repubs realized this was going to happen with or without them so they figured "Okay, if this legislation is going to go through anyway, let's tag something on it with an amendment that our other friends will want."

So what did they do?

They added an amendment to this banking bill--that's WAY overdue, mind you, but that's another story--that allows concealed weapons in our National Parks.

Obviously, concealed weapons in our National Parks and wildlife areas has nothing whatever to do with banking legislation but with the Democrats being the soft-headed, spineless bunch they are, the Repubs knew they'd get this one gift for the NRA, even if they couldn't do anything for their good friends in the banking lobby, by killing it.

And the Democrats, true to form, are rolling over for it because they're so afraid of the gun lobby, the NRA and the gun-nuts.

It's just bloody shameful.

When was the last time ANYONE heard of any problems in the National Parks, for God's sake, that required they have a concealed weapon?

This is what the problem is with, again, the gun lobby, the NRA and the gun-nuts: they want all guns, all the time, everywhere and forever, amen.

And if yer agin' 'em?

You're unpatriotic.

You don't love your country.

You're a soft-hearted, weak-kneed, pointy-headed liberal.

So off they go again, the Republicans and the gun people. They win.

America loses.

That's why we call them Repuglicans.

Link to story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/us/politics/21cards.html?th&emc=th

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

They just don't get it

Listening to NPR on KCUR briefly today, I heard Richard Viguerie, the longtime Conservative and Republican leader from the party's past.

He was talking about the Republicans and Democrats, of course, and where they've been in the recent past, where they are now and where they're going,

At one point, Mr. Viguerie said that we liberals and Democrats, in the last 2 years before this last Presidential election, totally ran our campaigns against anything and everything concerning George W. Bush. It was his thought that we really didn't have a platform--it was purely all against "W".

Holy cow.

With that kind of thinking--and I hope the Republicans keep it--the Republicans will just stay out of favor with voters. This is why we threw all the Repuglicans out of office, for pity's sake.

What they don't understand, thank goodness, is that we voted against W's government being against us--against the "common man"--the working class man, the man on the street.

It was George W. Bush's Republican government that pitted itself against us, the workers and voters.

When it came to big corporations vs. the little guy--Big Business always won, and there was never any question otherwise.

When it came to the environment--Big Business won out.

When it came to big government or the common man? Big government won again.

The list goes on and on.

So, as I wrote yesterday, by coincidence, we now have government more protecting the environment with higher gas mileage requirements for car manufacturers. Now, we have an EPA that is again trying to clear our air, water and soil of pollution, chemicals and poison.

Are they perfect, these Democrats?

No, decidedly not. But they're working for the man on the street and not just for the corporations and Big Business.

So, yeah, Mr. Viguerie, go on thinking we were just anti-George W. Bush and nothing else.

As long as you and all the other leftover Republicans--however few of you there are--go on thinking like that, you'll stay in the tiny minority in the country.

What government is for

We got two examples in the last 24 hours of exactly what government is for.

It was announced that President Obama is toughening rules on automobile emissions and mileage, which is nothing but good for the country se we use less oil and pollute less and put less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which would contribute more to climate change.

Then, an overhaul of rules for companies extending credit via their credit cards so they couldn't and wouldn't change their own lending rates to clients at will, to the detriment of those same clients.

This government is no longer working against us--against the "little guy", the "man on the street."

This administration is working for us.

And we need much more from our government, too, like a working health care system, for one. One that isn't based on big profits for corporations.

It's been years.

It's been at least 8 years.

And that's why the Republicans are in trouble, finally, thank goodness.

Links to stories:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/business/19emissions.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/business/19credit.html?th&emc=th

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

8th-grader planned school shooting

An 8 year old boy takes a gun--apparently from home--to school, shoots in a classroom, then goes to the bathroom and shoots himself in the head.

But by all means, lets have more guns.

Right?

Guns in America.

Lunacy.

Link to original story:
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20090518/4a10dd40_3426_13350200905181740188550

Monday, May 18, 2009

Agreed. Lets go get 'em

There was a pretty fascinating one-half page advertisement in The New York Times today, in the very important first section by the Catholic group, the Knights of Columbus.

Now, normally, the last thing I'm going to do is even mention any Catholic group, let alone agree with them but I think they got it right this time.

Under the title "Now is the Time for Change", in big, bold letters, they write that "The United States is suffering an economic crisis, a leadership crisis and a moral crisis."

They go on:

We must do something...Now."

Most Americans would have long ago agreed with this.

They write that their "polling shows more than three-quarters of our country believes the corporate world's moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction. Moreover, a majority of Americans, and two-thirds of executives, gave a grade of D or F in ethical matters to the financial and investment industry."

They say that "We have lived with this lack of business values too long. It is a problem that cannot be legislated or regulated away."

Okay.

Agreed.

And way overdue.

But the thing is, what they're saying needs to be taken to its logical, harsh, complete truth and that is that CAPITALISM HAD FAILED US.

Captialism has failed us and the corporations of America are eating us alive.

Corporations are chewing up their employees and workers, using them and spitting them out, at the end of their work-cycles as desperate, poor, unsupported people who have no resources--because it all went to the CEOs and the corporation itself--and no health care coverage.

All this in the name of "unfettered Capitalism" and progress.

We need to stand up and force our government to stand up for us.

We need to take power back from corporate America.

So the Knights of the Columbus is on the right track on these issues but at the end of the advertisement, they merely ask for us to "join us in creating a Culture of Volunteerism..."

Volunteering to help one another is not enough. Volunteering won't get this done.

Getting lobbying, lobbyists and corporate lobby money out of our election system--now, that will start to get something done.

Then we'll start to get our corporations to stop completely exploiting all of us.

Link to ad here:

Friday, May 15, 2009

We can't do this anymore

I just heard on NPR this morning how Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar want to give 7.5 billion dollars to Pakistan, to build them up for security in the area.

First, let me say, I respect Senator Kerry and have no reason not to respect Senator Lugar.

That said, I think it has to be pointed out that the time has long since come and gone when the United States can throw money at problems, at other countries or whatever, in an effort to improve the situations in the world.

We're broke, folks.

We are busted.

We don't have any money.

We're borrowing boodles just to function now. And that's just to cover our own inner workings.

We're in debt. Big time.

We have to stop operating on the now old notion that we have money--plenty of money--to fix things this way.

We can't do it. Not any longer.

We can't afford all the banks that are going broke right now. We can't afford our own problems, let alone fixing those of countries 'round the world.

It's over.

Let's recognize our reality and operate from there instead of fooling ourselves into thinking it's still 1962.

It ain't.

Link to original atory:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104154389

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do we really realize how big a change this is?

Just now, I'm sitting here, watching "The News Hour with Jim Lehr" on our local PBS channel, KCPT and Gwen Ifill is shown interviewing the top law enforcement chief and Attorney General Eric Holder at the National Press Club and it hit me immediately.

Here was an African-American female reporter of some skills, notoriety and import, interviewing another African-American of some incredible power in this Presidcent's administration, and he also, of course, happens to be African-American.

To an extent, we take this all for granted but we really shouldn't--we really can't.

It is a huge, watershed movement in our country and our country's history and we need to recognize the importance of all this change and advancement.

At the same time, there were two articles in The New York Times today, pointing out how far we still have to go, too. Here were the Headlines:

"The Supreme Court's Hostility to the Voting Rights Act" and

"Homeownership-Losses Are Greatest Among Minorities, Report Finds"

As always, as Stevie Wonder said, "Them that has, gets."

And them that doesn't have, gets screwed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stunning proposal out of Jeff City today

This afternoon, on Missouri Representative Jolie Justice's Facebook page, she reported that "Senate debating gun bill. Would force businesses to allow concealed weapons in parking lots. Changes conceal-n-carry from 23 to 21-yr-olds."

OHMYGOD.

I was stunned.

Read that again.

The Senate was actually debating a gun bill that would require businesses to allow concealed weapons in parking lots.

Yougottabekiddingme.

It's just as Dr. Bob Minor wrote in the comments: "Let's just get rid of all the gun laws so we can shoot anywhere, anytime, anyone just for the heck of it. I say we change the state name to the OK Coral."

That seems to be what they're going for here.

While the right-wingers, gun-nuts and NRA scream that we're trying to ultimately take away all the guns in the entire country when we even hint at curbing virtually any facet of gun laws, here, this time, they're going for a rather wild and unexpected opening of more access to guns.

Whatever happened to conservative government from these people, anyway?

What is conservative about forcing "businesses to allow concealed weapons in parking lots"?

What about that "less government", "less interference", type government idea? But here they go, pushing more government, when it's for more guns--or whatever it is they want at that moment.

The thing is, the bill died, sure, but it's just, to repeat, stunning that it even came up.

The answer, for these people, to the problem of too many guns is--wait for it--more guns!

All I can say is 1) I hope this idea is permanently dead (but I fear it won't be) and 2) I hope these people don't come up with another wacky, insane, "out of left field" idea for spreading more guns as the solution to our problems.

May the stars help us.

Hear that sound?

It's the sound of our chances of getting good, single-payer health care with a workable system for all Americans being sucked out of reach.

Have you heard about this yet?

The Obama Administration is doing the right thing--to an extent--in going along with the health care community's promis to cut 1 trillion dollars from their costs.

Actually, what happened is that the health care community--hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical and insurance companies--all got together when they realized the kind of clout President Obama has right now, due to his election and goodwill with the American public and said we'll cut our costs that much.

They are threatened.

They also know our health care system doesn't work and that President Obama was going to do something about it. They knew he had the backing of the American public to do something about it.

So instead of letting him do something, they pre-empted him and offered this "1 trillion dollar cost cut."

All well and good, sure.

But it's 2009.

What's to keep them from reneging on this deal?

Nothing.

What penalties are being set, to make sure they come through for us all?

None.

This buys all of them--the hospitals, the doctors, the pharmaceutical and insurance companies, all of them--time. They get time until this popularity and power the current President has blows away--as they know it will. It's inevitable.

Right now, President Obama is at the height of his popularity and power and they know it.

This gives them the ability to delay any meaningful cuts in our health care costs, all with the idea and promise that they'll do just that, until he's dragged down by W's war for oil and the financial mess the US and the world is in and everything else that's on our national plate.

But they won't follow through on this completely and effectively and this will all come to nothing.

If not forced--and right now, no one's talking force--nothing will happen. They'll hold down their cost increases for a while and then later go back to business as usual and we won't get the health care solutions we need.

Health care will continue to just be for the wealthier of us and it will grow worse.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Insane imbalances

I've been convinced that some of the worst things humankind ever did involved creating the nuclear bomb--of course--the automobile and the television, not necessarily in that order.

These things have created a great deal of our problems--the nuclear blast, pollution, I can't even think of what TV has done to us but it hasn't been good.

But I recently came across what I think is one of the number one things humankind has created that has caused so many problems and unfairness and inequality over time.

Ironically, I learned of the formal name for it on my first ocean cruise, last March. While on this cruise, I read a bit of a book about Central America and what had happened to it. It was then and there I learned the term and siituation.

Mankind's "downfall", if we can call it that here, is is "the monopolization of land."

It's the monopolization of land that inflicts the huge, gross inequality between "have" and "have not" people and groups.

Think of it.

Abotiginal groups--be it in Australia or in the United States with the indigenous, native Americans (that term doesn't seem appropriate, frankly), all functioned as one people, all utilizing what they had and all of virtually equal material status.

Very natural. Very fair. Very equal.

Then, the white, "New world" people came in to whatever area they were occupying, be it Australia or some portion of America or wherever, and divided areas up into "yours" vs. "mine".

Instead of all sharing all the resources, it was divided up into people's individual interests, resulting in some with a great deal of resources and wealth and others with less, little or not much at all.

Later, then, this could and did feed into the corporation and its ability to own items and people and productivity, distorting wealth even further.

This is the way you create people with outrageous amounts of wealth (google images of the Cote d'Azur) vs. poverty, starvation and other degradations of imbalance and unfairness.

It has been happening down through humankind's time. It's happening now in Nigeria, with their new discoveries of oil, for instance.

Most people, sadly, won't understand what I'm even saying here.

The land and earth should be and should have been for all of us--not just some small, self-selected few, be they some "royalty" or oil firm or what- or whomever.

Food, clothing, healthcare and a good, basic, healthy way of living should be for all of us, not just some small few.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The 2009 Republican Party Platform

Things you can't really explain

I saw a mature man yesterday in a bright pink t-shirt yesterday and I realized there a some things that have developed I just totally can't explain.

The t-shirt was one of them, obviously.

Besides being bright pink--no doubt just for attention-getting--said "END THE FED".

You can bet he has strong feelings about this subject.

I've read into this at different times. There's a whole group of people out there with this same thought about the Federal Reserve, that it is this subversive, negative, controlling apparatus in the country and it goes against everything Americans are about.

I don't get it.

What's so controlling and ugly and negative about the Fed?

I saw a local PBS program about our local Federal Reserve office and both it and the main Fed's development.

Geez, it was just created to smooth our the too-frequently recurring panics that took place in the ocuntry, over the years. It controls the money flow so there's enough around when we need it. You know how irrational and emotional people can get about money. They make sure runs on banks don't happen, among other things.

I just don't get it.

The other thing I don't get is the recent development of people creating these clearly temporary tributes to a lost loved-one along the sides of our streets and highways.

They can take all kinds of forms.

One, near my office, is of a white spray-painted bicycle which the family or friend has chained to a street sign, including flowers and a sign.

We all see the flowers, crosses and signs along the roads in differnt places.

One, I saw yesterday, was a big picture poster of the person killed, with their name and date of death.

Wierd, to me.

Another way of doing this is soaping the person's name and their life dates on the back window of the car the family member or friend is driving. I've also seen these with vinyl letters on the backs of cars lately, taking it a little further.

We just can't let people go, it seems.

Funerals and tributes in the newspapers aren't enough, clearly, to these people.

Religions are, for the most part, in my opinion and others, big denials of death, what with their heavens and hells, nirvanas, and people with wings but what are all these roadside and car tribute about? Further denial, it seems.

There must be major resentment that so-and-so is gone, for whatever reason and the people have the leisure time and money--however much or little--to create these things.

I think we need to get over it and just accept we're all going to die.

Anybody tell these people that?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Check it out. Please.

http://www.instantkarma.org/InstantKarma.html

Buy good music. Do good.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai

 
Okay, sure, it may well be tradition and another culture but I can't help but feel that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has some kind of monumental ego, what with the flowing robes all the time.

I'm just sayin'.


Have a good weekend, y'all.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Continuing "W's" policies?

I just saw this headline, online:

US sticks with Bush-era polar bear rule

And Anytime I see a note where President Obama is continuing a George W. Bush policy, it gives me pause, at least.

The way I see it, continuing virtually anything that came out of that administration is likely a bad idea, with the exception of leaving Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his position. He does seem to both know what he's doing and is going in a new direction, with this new administration.

While President Bush's environmental policies were dismal for the environment, at best, they aren't the bigger issue here, for me. With this headline, it seems a good time to briefly discuss what we're doing as a country.

First, let's get the article out of the way.

The first paragraph tells the following: "The Obama administration on Friday let stand a Bush-era regulation that limits protection of the polar bear from global warming, saying that a U.S. law protecting endangered species should not be used to take on the much broader issue of climate change."

See? Right there it makes me think that following the Bush Administration's policies on this smaller issue is not a good idea and shouldn't be continued.

The bigger question for me here is, is the Obama Administration getting in bed with corporate America too much?

I fear the answer is likely yes and don't like it. They didn't vote him in and we don't want Corporate America screwing up the country and the world any further than they already have. We don't want them in charge. That's not the change we voted for.

The second, much larger concern for me that seems to be a continuation of W's policies is the whole stimulus package/spending bills President Obama is pursuing.

Sure, we have to "save the economy" and do what we can and have to, to make sure we don't go to heck but the question keeps coming up--do we REALLY need to spend all this money?

And isn't a lot of it going to be wasted anyway?

Timothy Geithner came from the very industry he's supposed to be saving. That doesn't seem good.

And we're throwing all the money at the banks and investment houses?

Didn't we find out during the Clinton Administration that was a bad idea?

Besides seemingly throwing large amounts of money at the very wealthy, which is blatantly so wrong and quite likely wasteful, another bad outgrowth of this boondoggle solution is that Republicans and everyone else can and will paint President Obama as a "Liberal, tax-and-spend left-winger", who doesn't really have solutions after all.

Never mind that it was Republican George W. Bush's administration that came up with the idea of the $700 billion safety fund. They'll just ignore that and blame this new, Democratic administration as though it was fully the new guy's idea, period.

Blowing all this money may well be a bad idea to begin with since 1) we have to throw it at the banks and the wealthy 2) we have to borrow it 3) it will likely be wasted, at least in large parts 4) it gives people opposing the President "ammunition" to paint him as this "tax-and-spender" 4) we're putting huge debt on future generations and 5) there is a good chance--high likelihood--that all this debt will give us rampant inflation later.

I don't know what the solutions to our financial system are and neither do a lot of people but I would suggest listening to the likes of the Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, for starters. He seems to have answers and information and above all, IT'S NOTHING GEORGE W. BUSH WOULD HAVE PROPOSED.


Link to orginal story:
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20090508/4a03ae40_3426_1335020090508356824549

Here's another one, too:
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090505_taking_a_page_from_the_bush_playbook/?ln

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rare, terrific writing

Some of the best writing on television ever is probably agreed to have been the old, original "Twilight Zone" with and by Rod Serling.

It was fresh and unique--you never knew, from show to show, quite what you were going to see and usually the reward for seeing it was great.

And that kind of thing is going on right now, honestly, with "Lost", the television show about the people marooned first on an island and now in time.

Only because it's an hour long show each week and because it's covering 6 years--and for a lot of other reasons, it is, in my view--and, I think, in a great deal of other writers and viewers--quite likely some of the best, if not the best tv writing ever.

If you've watched it from the start, you know what I mean.

If you aren't a regular "Lost" viewer, I recommend getting the first season and watching it through. It's extremely well worth it.

You won't believe what you see. It just doesn't compare to anything you've ever seen on television or in movies or anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good news/bad news

The good news?

There is a thought/feeling/belief spreading that maybe we've seen the worst of the recession and that, maybe, we're pulling back out of it.

The bad?

Look where the price of gasoline and oil is--and is headed.

Yesterday we hit $54.57 per barrel and it's likely headed higher.

It's as I said earlier here, with so many people having lost money, one way or another, in the last year or so, a whole lotta' people are going to try to hedge their bets with the "sure thing" of higher prices for oil when the economy comes back. They'll be buying oil stocks like no one's business.

Yesterday? Gas was $1.84 a gallon near my office so I made sure I filled up.

Today?

$1.94/gallon.

And Congress and the White House are too busy with everything else to put limits on oil speculation back in our government that were taken out in 2000, which caused the $147.00 per barrel cost last year.

To quote Margo Channing: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Senator Claire does it again!

Word out today shows our own former-auditor, now-Senator Claire McCaskill wrote a letter, along with another Senator, Susan Collins (R, Maine) saying "the Pentagon has done little to collect at least $100 million in overcharges paid in deals arranged by corrupt former officials of Kellogg Brown & Root, the defense contractor, even though the officials admitted much of the wrongdoing years ago, two senators have complained in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates."

It went on: "The letter also said that the Army had almost completely failed to move away from the monopolistic nature of the logistics contract that has paid the contractor, now called KBR, $31.3 billion for logistics operations in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Yow. You go, Senator! Stand up for us. Get that money.

And while this is terrific, what's particularly disturbing is that this seems to point out that our government has not only turned too much over to "the military-industrial complex", as President Eisenhower warned us, all those decades ago, but it's far worse than that: "Their letter is likely to revive allegations that the Pentagon has become so close to KBR, and relies so heavily on it, that there is little inclination or incentive to discipline the company, in response to either Congress or critics outside the government."

So our government, through the Pentagon, is so closely tied to KBR and private corporations that the people representing us don't stand up for us against outright wrongdoing on the part of the companies.

God help us.

These Senators are also pressing for the DoD and the Pentagon to competitively bid more work, in order to both save money and get the most for our finances.

It only makes sense but they aren't cooperating.

"To the irritation of KBR’s critics, the Army has generally upheld the bills the company has submitted to the military, even when the Pentagon’s own auditors have questioned the amounts."

The situation is as bad as has been suggested and suspected. The cynics are proven right.

At least we have Senators McCaskill and Collins to push for the right thing.

It looks as though we need to elect more auditors to Congress. Between this letter and her refusal to create wasteful, expensive "earmarks", she sure seems to be doing the right things.

Link to story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/04/world/americas/04contract.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

Wanna see what the "newspaper" of the future looks like?

It's already here.

Two examples:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

http://www.nytimes.com/

What the newspaper of the future decidedly does NOT look like:

The Kansas City Star

http://www.kansascity.com

If you go to The New York Times site, not only does it look like the actual 3-dimensional paper in style and type, but you can search the paper each day for its own headline or a name or virtually anything from one of their stories and you will instantly go to the story you're looking for.

Try searching for one of the Star's headlines one day, on its own site.

Impossible.

And The Huffington Post? Other than being more national in scope, it's the nearly perfect place to find all kinds of socio-political (admittedly, mostly political) information and even humor. It's very relevant and up to date. It's becoming a "must-read", to keep up with what's going on. It will surely succeed.

In further sharp contrast to The Kansas City Star.

Sad. Really sad.

Someone needs to step in and fill the local void in local reporting for the Kansas City regional and metropolitan area.

So far, it's Tony's KC Blog (http://tonyskansascity.com) and Hearne Christopher's (at http://www.kcconfidential.com/).

I love good satire

There's a whole lotta' truth in that satire.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What lots of guns are getting us in Kansas City and the United States

Watching the local news this morning, the newscasters told of either 8 or 9 Kansas Citians being shot at 2 local nightclubs last evening.

And it's the beginning of May.

It's not even hot yet and too many people are getting shot in numbers too large.

And this is exactly what lots of guns in Kansas City--and the United States--is getting us.

With rising unemployment, personal shortages of money and the possibility of fewer police on the streets this summer due to cuts in city budgets, what does this likely spell for us here in Kansas City and, again, in the United States?

A few weeks ago, someone asked, hypothetically, "where do you think the distrubances this summer are going to break out?" and "where will they start?"

I don't like the questions but more than that, I don't like that anyone here in Kansas City and the US has to ask these questions, naturally, and that they apply to us.

The point is, it's getting uglier out there and more and more guns are part of the equation.

Frankly, I'm not hopeful or optimistic about the coming summer and what this all portends for our city and country.


Associated side note: Don't go to the Kansas City Star website to find any articles about this just this moment. I don't know if it happened too late for them to cover or if they just don't have enough staff to cover it but it's not there. It's not on a few of the local TV stations web pages, either. I assume these stories will be covered eventually on these media sites later today but there is a dearth of information about them right this minute. There is one exception listed below and even it only covers one of the two shootings.

Link to story here:
http://www.nbcactionnews.com/news/local/story/5-Shot-in-River-Market-Westport/P7lGFjxM8k6gbcQAPm3fAQ.cspx
___________________________________________

Sunday afternoon update: Now, looking at today's Kansas City Star, I see some pastors from area churches ironically and coincidentally had gotten together Saturday morning for a breakfast to organize "a citywide rally" to " send churhgoers knocking on their neighbors doors" in an effort to quell violence in the city. Murders are up 25% this year, too.

They'd better organize something, before it's too late. And it needs to involve educating people on not turning to guns to solve what they view as problems, at least in part.

Link to story:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/story/1175594.html

Friday, May 1, 2009

We don't know our history

If you know anything of history--our history, anyone's history, really, the history of humans and humankind (I'm going to be "pc" here, live with it), you have to know that mankind has been built on the rich and wealthy--the very wealthy, frequently--taking advantage of and living on and because of, the poor and, frequently, the very poor.

If you study humankind's history, you will learn this.

Think of it--history as far back as we can go.

Go back to Egypt, Egyptians and the pyramids. Who do you think built those? We all know who did. The poor; slaves, likely.

If you've watched "The Tudors" on Showtime lately, you can see the wealthy--"Royalty"--living on and because of the poor, what we call "serfs". It still goes on today, as we all know.

Watch the series "We Shall Remain" on PBS and see if you don't see the materially and financially poor aborigines--Indigenous Americans--exploited and beaten down, killed, by people with more money and material goods.

If you've seen this other series, "Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People", you've seen how the poor were horribly expoited, again and again by corporations and the wealthy, frequently absentee owners.

Think of the Aborigines of Australia. It was the same situation. The financially poor, used, abused and thrown away by the newer, material society.

And we call that "success".

And yet we don't learn anything from this, either. We don't hold back the corporations; we don't keep the coal companies from their mountaintop removal; we don't conserve nature; we don't protect our waterways.

We don't learn that we don't need to have the wealthy continue to exploit all the rest of us, pollution or no pollution.

We don't learn.

I'll tell you, we'd better start. We'll all benefit from it.

Links:
http://www.wholeearth.com/issue/1120/book-review/270/night.comes.to.the.cumberlands
http://appalachiafilm.org/
http://www.sho.com/site/tudors/home.do