Friday, January 30, 2009

The Woman Who Had 14 Children

Some woman this week gave birth to 8 babies. Which was pretty amazing. Then somehow the media decided to pry into her personal life, and found out she already 6 children. So now all the media is "debating" the issue of whether this woman should have had an additional 8 babies, why would a doctor have given her fertility treatments (if they did), and what do we all think about this.

Here's what I think: IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

There is a phrase called "A Woman's Right To Choose." It means lots of things. The big picture is that women are entitled to make decisions about their lives. Society needs to stop treating women like children or slaves, picking apart and debating every single thing a woman does. Whether to have children, or not, and how many. Nobody's business. It's her body, her decision.

I see no difference between this media swarm and public dissection of this poor woman and her family, and the Taliban throwing acid in women's faces in Afghanistan because somebody didn't like the cut of her Burka, or didn't like the way she was walking, or didn't think she should have been outside at all. It's the same thing. Stop treating women like property and slaves. It's disgusting and shows something horrible about this society and its male dominance.

I was just in a local grocery store and saw a man, thin, pale, grey-haired, probably 70 years old, holding the hand of a woman maybe in her 30s, dragging her throughout the store like a possession or a prize. He was Anglo, she was Asian -- I'll say Chinese, could have been Vietnamese. She had a young man with her that could have been a brother or son, unclear.

Lately I've been hearing about men, around 60 and 70, suddenly going on-line to find women from other countries, convinced that those women will be slaves and would worship these men. And maybe they would in exchange for a ticket out of their country. I know one man who reportedly went to Guatemala to buy himself a wife -- he's 70, she's 30.

I guess I should not be surprised when privileged white men continue abusing their privileges right to the grave. With viagra available, we now have 70 year old men who get to act like studs and want young women to tell them how manly they are. Because the women their own age are more likely to tell them to grow up. I'm thinking of the privileged Chinese men who were buried with terra cotta soldiers surrounding their coffins. For these privileged American men, I think we should surround their coffins with boxes of Viagra. Or maybe dildos. And money. To show what they worshipped, what mattered to them.

I remember when I was younger and I heard people warn that drugs are terrible, they destroy families. Who knew they were talking viagra?

I guess under Bush, under the general Republican influence in this country, I have seen things go terribly wrong. That includes the resurgence with a vengeance of sexism. It's nobody's business whether a woman has one or none or 15 children.

And for all you old men with money and a cooperative doctor giving you sex drugs: you're still old, those women are only willing to put up with you for the money, you're old enough to be her grandfather, and you're still going to die. Dream on that one.

"Health Care Now": Paul Krugman, New York Times

The title of Paul Krugman's op-ed piece in the New York Times today is "Health Care Now." He discusses many reasons why creating a national healthcare system should be one of the first tasks of the new Obama administration, rather than being put aside and disregarded because we're having tough economic times. His article is very persuasive. Link is at the bottom of this post.

Mr. Krugman notes that as millions of Americans are thrown out of work, they also lose their healthcare. Even when people are employed they often are not given health insurance by their employers, and find it impossible to obtain private health insurance that is affordable. But when people are unemployed, it becomes particularly unlikely they will be able to afford to buy health insurance for themselves and their families.

Mr. Krugman makes the point that the stimulus package being proposed by Obama includes an enormous amount for tax cuts being demanded by the Republicans, although he does not specifically say whether he opposes further tax cuts. I figure we've had 8 years of Republican tax cuts, and it's gotten us to where we are today: flat broke and busted. We don't need no stinkin' tax cuts.

There's also the question of the billions of dollars Bush gave to Wall Street which Wall Street now refuses to tell us where they put that money. My theory is they invested in manufacturing facilities in China, car plants in Brazil, and otherwise continued the raping and looting of the citizens of the U.S. for the benefit of the few. But here's the question: why does Congress vote to give billions of dollars to Wall Street, but they refuse to do anything to help the citizens of this country?

Exxon-Mobil just announced another record-breaking profit of $42 billion: that's money stolen from the American public by price gouging, all done of course with the willing cooperation of the Bush Regime. We should simply take that $42 billion in "profit" (I call it theft) and use that to pay half the healthcare for all Americans.

I also think we need a rule saying that any money given by any company or employee of Wall Street or any financial cartel or any company in the same field as anyone receiving a bailout should automatically go into a special healthcare fund. In other words, our politicians in Congress keep voting to give billions of dollars in taxpayer money to the wealthiest people in this country, and those rich people kick back a huge percentage to the politicians and to their political parties. See the problem here?

Congress steals money from the citizens, gives it to Wall Street, Wall Street kicks backs millions to Congress. Then Congress turns around and tells the citizens that we're broke. Let's stop the kick-backs, the bribes, the corruption. Everyone wants to talk about Illinois, nobody wants to talk about the same exact type of bribery and corruption in Congress. So let's take all the "contributions" from any distressed industry, or employees of that industry, and put it into a special fund to pay for healthcare.

Doesn't anyone else think it's absurd that our Congressional people, Senators and Representatives, right at this moment, are taking millions of dollars in bribes from doctors' groups, health insurance companies, and hospitals, to bribe the politicians to make sure they will not support any kind of national healthcare program for the citizens of this country. How can we really compete when we don't have money to pay the bribes? The only way to stop this corruption is to take all that money as well -- every penny paid to any politician from any doctor, doctors' groups, hospital groups, drug companies or their employees -- it all goes straight into a fund to pay for national healcare.

The sad truth is that the citizens of this country do not have a national healthcare system because our politicians have taken millions of dollars in bribes to vote against it. Bribes paid from the same industries that are raping the people, charging unconscionable fees for delivering what is often shoddy medical care.

Krugman also says: "But I also agree with Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who argues that — as a matter of political necessity as well as social justice — [bailout money] has to be linked to a strengthening of the social safety net, so that Americans can see that the government is ready to help everyone, not just the rich and powerful. The bottom line, then, is that this is no time to let campaign promises of guaranteed health care be quietly forgotten. It is, instead, a time to put the push for universal care front and center. Health care now! "

I would just add that the 350 billion in bailout money given to Wall Street late last year by Congress should have had conditions attached at the time. I mean come on. Do they really think we're so stupid? The reason Congress did not attach conditions to the money is because they wanted a kick-back, and they could only get that if there were no strings attached to the money. We can't just blame Bush for this. As I recall, every single photo-op of politicians putting money in wheelbarrows and dragging it over to Wall Street showed George W. Bush flanked by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Steny Hoyer. The Democrats wanted to make sure that Wall Street would pay the kick-backs to them directly.

If we really want Congress to do anything for the citizens, we need to demand that they stop taking bribes and kick-backs from the same industries and corporations that are destroying the citizens of this country. When you think about it, most of the bribes probably came from money stolen from the American public. Blood money. We cannot afford jobs and corruption, healthcare and bribes, peace now and kick-backs. We need to end corruption in order to create a decent country. You cannot create anything good out of the sespool of corruption that is our Congress.

See for a comprehensive description of money given to our politicians by these various industries.

For example, in 2008, here are just a few examples of money money paid by different parts of the healthcare industry to our politicians to make sure our politicians will never support a national healthcare program to help the citizens:

$27.0 million Drug companies. Why do you really think Congress passed laws making it illegal for Americans to take a bus across the border and buy their drugs in Canada? The exact same drugs, exact same manufacturer, but about 1/3 the cost? Because the drug companies bribed Congress to pass these laws. Because the drug companies are gouging Americans by obscene prices. Which means many Americans simply die because they can't afford the drugs. But the drug companies don't care. And neither does Congress which, at the same time, passed laws saying it was okay for the supermarkets to import poisoned food from China and sell it to Americans. See the contradictions there? The citizens always lose. Whoever pays the most bribes wins.

$43.0 million Insurance companies (of course that's not just health, but health is included)

$87.0 million Health "Professionals" (doctors). Why do doctors need to bribe Congress? What is it they are buying? Just for one thing, they want laws to make it impossible for any victim to sue a doctor for malpractice. So if your car mechanic messes up your brakes and you are seriously damaged, you can sue. But if a doctor messes up your surgery, they bribe Congress to pass laws to make it very difficult for victims to sue or to receive compensation for their injuries. But mostly, doctors want to make sure they can continue to charge obscene amounts for their services. And that means no national healthcare and a captive consumer group which has nowhere else to go.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Study Finds Stem Cells Reverse Paralysis in Rats

If this turns out to be true, and can be applied to humans, then we need to make sure that every moron in the U.S. that has worked to ban stem cell research is on a Moron List. Nobody on the Moron List can ever receive any medical assistance that has resulted from the study of stem cells.

And please, don't talk about the difference between adult and embryonic stem cells. If your child was paralyzed and medical research held out the hope of regaining use of their body, nobody would want to debate whether the stem cells came from a test tube or a human being. What difference would it make? None to the person helped by the procedure.

"Transplanted adult stem cells have been found to reverse paralysis associated with spinal cord injuries in lab rats, a new study finds.

The study, headed up by Miodrag Stojkovic, deputy director and head of the Cellular Reprogramming Laboratory at Centro de Investigacion Principe Felipe in Spain, involved transplanting so-called progenitor stem cells
from the lining of rats' spinal cords into rodents with serious spinal cord injuries.

The rats recovered significant motor activity one week after injury, Stojkovic and his co-authors wrote in the Jan. 27 early online edition of the journal Stem Cells.

Spinal cord injury, for which no therapy currently exists to undo the damage, is a major cause of paralysis.
Up to 400,000 people in the United States are estimated to live with these injuries, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Most spinal cord injuries are caused by vehicle crashes and falls, and most of those injured are males.

The researchers say the new rat results "open a new window on spinal cord regenerative strategies.

Human potential

The presence of these stem cells in the adult human spinal cords suggests that stem cell-associated mechanisms might be exploited to repair human spinal cord injuries.

Given the serious social and health problems presented by diseases and accidents that destroy neuronal function, there is an ever-increasing interest in determining whether adult stem cells might be utilized as a basis of regenerative therapies."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Victor Jara - A Desalambrar

It's hard to write about Victor Jara because there is too much to say, and words cannot convey who he was. He always reminds me of Bobby Kennedy -- murdered by a corrupt militaristic government, seen by the poor as one of "theirs," remembered throughout the country, his picture placed on small alters inside many homes.

Victora Jara was a Chilean poet, singer, songwriter, social justice activist. Community organizer. Theater director. He was committed to an embrace of the original Andean influence and instruments in Chilean music, but with political lyrics that spoke of the desperate needs of the poor and greed and brutality of the rich. He was instrumental in the movement known as Nueva Cancion -- "new song" that became so popular among young musicians in Chile.

Victor Jara was hated by the rich and powerful, of course, because he stood up for the rights of the poor. The U.S. set up a coup in Chile on 9/11 (1973) which led to the murder of the democratically-elected Salvador Allende and the installation of the brutal military dictatorship of Pinochet, under the direction of Henry the Hatchet Kissinger, and with the eager cooperation of Milton Friedman, creator of misery throughout the world and God of the neocons. Thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured, murdered, to spread terror across the country. Thousands more simply disappeared -- picked up by the police on the street, murdered, their bodies thrown in ditches.

On the first day of the coup, 9/11, Victor Jara was one of thousands taken to the stadium in Santiago. The story was that first the military cut out his tongue and said "You'll never sing again." Then they broke his hands and said "You'll never play the guitar again." Then they tortured him more and eventually killed him.

He was an amazing songwriter, poet, performer. He is a well-known and beloved man who is remembered and honored throughout much of the world for his struggles for human rights.

The reason I thought of Victor Jara today is that I keep hearing the insiders, the connected, the upper-class Democrats saying that there is no easy cure, no quick fix, and I keep thinking that if Victor Jara was here he would disagree. It's really simple. A relatively small section of our country (maybe 15%) has stolen most of the wealth and resources of this country and of the world. We need to take it back. Have a wealth tax. Just take it from them. This is our country, we make the laws.

Think of it this way. Let's say the second grade teacher brings 25 chocolate valentine candies to school, puts them in a bowl on her desk for the 25 students in her class. But she goes on a break and when she comes back she finds 15 of the students did not get a candy, 9 got one each. And there is fat selfish Albert who is basically a sociopath who gets along with no one, never learned to share or to play well with others, and his pockets are bulging because he took way more than his fair share. What would the teacher do? What should she do? Take all but 1 away from Albert. Then make him spend the day in Time Out. And distribute the rest evenly among the other students.

It's our country. We're in charge and we are responsible. A few people in this country have stolen money from us and from others. Poor Iceland is broke, their money stolen by some whore-loving coked-up hedge fund scum living in a penthouse and laughing at all of us. We need to go take away his money and his penthouse and his whore. Send him to time out (prison) and redistribute that money.

The song "A Desalambrar" was written by Victor Jara. "Desalambrar" is interpreted differently in different places. Some say it means to "deconstruct." Others interpret it as cutting the wire (as in cut the wires of the fences that keep the people off of the land). I could not find an English translation online, so here's a very rough one: I ask everyone here, has it ever occurred to you that this land belongs to us, not just to the people who have the most wealth. I ask whether, in this land, there are not those who have thought this: if they are our hands [that do the work], then the things that our hands make should belong to us. Then the chorus: A Desalambrar (let's take it apart, or tear down the fences), because this land is ours, yours and mine, it belongs to Pedro, Maria, Juan and Jose. Last verse: If somebody does not like my song, or does not want to hear it, you can be sure that person is either a gringo (white folks) or a dueno (rich man/landowner) of Chile.

A Desalambrar
by Víctor Jara
Yo pregunto a los presentes
si no se han puesto a pensar
que esta tierra es de nosotros
y no del que tenga más.

Yo pregunto si en la tierra
nunca habrá pensado usted
que si las manos son nuestras
es nuestro lo que nos den.

A desalambrar, a desalambrar!
que la tierra es nuestra, tuya y de aquel,
de Pedro, María, de Juan y José.

Si molesto con mi canto
a alguien que no quiera oír
le aseguro que es un gringo
o un dueño de este país.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Babies Know

Somebody sent this to me by e-mail with the caption "Babies Know." We sure hope so.

A Tale Of Two Governors

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . ." (From A Tale Of Two Cities, Dickens).

Is it just me? Or are the contradictions beginning to overwhelm our corrupt political system. Didn't I just see the entire political upper class condemning the Illinois Governor because he told his aides, in personal conversations that for all we know were illegally taped by Bush's illegal wiretaps, that he wanted to get money or otherwise get benefits from his ability to select the senator to take Obama's Illinois Senate seat?

Didn't we have the boyscout prosecutor on the Chicago townhall steps, uniform and boy scout salute, flag behind him, fireworks at the ready, announcing to the world that the Illinois Governor must be taken down. What a travesty, what a terrible person, that he would try to obtain money or political advantage because he was legally entitled to choose who would take Obama's seat. Isn't that what we've been hearing? [Silly me, I thought all politicians used their office and power to get support, money, and advantage].

So now go east, young man. New York. Caroline Kennedy, heiress to a great Democratic family tradition of commitment to the poor, to minorities, to working people, steps up and says yes, she would like to be considered for the seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. (Who we should note had zero experience before carpetbagging her way into Bloomingdales for a tea party to share with a few million-dollar girlfriends how hurt she was when Bill betrayed her -- which was the primary basis for her campaign, given that she wasn't from New York, didn't live there, and had never held elected office in her life).

But now Hillary, bored after a few short years as a Senator, perhaps exhausted from all her work in getting a law passed to punish anyone who burns a flag, perhaps bored with all the wars she supported, had been moved on up to a new position of Secretary of State for reasons never explained. Is Hillary Clinton the best qualified? Or was she chosen because of political advantages to the president? Come on.

And what happens next? Well we all know the Clintons were angry with the Kennedys (Ted and Caroline) for supporting Obama. Right on cue, those same cultists who have slavishly been sucking at Hillary's toes for years suddenly came out full force against Caroline Kennedy. And the next thing we know, the staff of the governor of New York begin launching personal attacks against Caroline, trashing her, trying to humiliate her into withdrawing. Did they have a special phone installed in the governor's office -- a hotline to Page 6?

Caroline Kennedy had a tax problem? I believe the new Secretary of the Department of Goldman Sachs (formerly the Treasury Department) has what appears to be either tax fraud or such incredibly stupid filings that in either event he should not be in government, but the Democrats just loved him into office.

Then the New York Governor, almost out of nowhere, after his staff has humiliated Caroline Kennedy, passes over other qualified and well-known candidates to instead pick a Clinton insider for the Senate seat, some woman who worked for Bill Clinton's administration, worked on Hillary's senate campaign, a Clinton loyalist who nobody ever heard of. She got the seat. A gun-lover from upstate? That's the best he could do?

So here's the question: what did the New York Governor get, if anything? How about a promise of Clinton fundraising assistance when the governor's seat is up for election? How about the magic of both Clintons escorting the current governor from one upper east side room full of Clinton cultist multi-millionaires to the next? How about some of Chuck Schumer's bff ties to Wall Street as a little something extra? Why did Paterson pick a Clintonista? And when can we expect the boy scout prosecutor to be holding a press conference about this choice? Didn't Bush have wiretaps on this guy?

I am not suggesting the New York Governor did anything corrupt or illegal, as an aside. That's because there is nothing illegal about using power to advance one's own political ambitions. Most of our national politicians solicit bribes and sell their votes every single day. (They call it fundraising, but same difference). That's corruption. If the boy scout prosecutor really wants corruption, he should go to Congress. But a state-level politician negotiating a benefit for himself in exchange for someone being considered (or excluded) for an appointment is just politics as usual. And that's why the whole public hysteria about the Illinois Governor is so absurd. Maybe he is a crook. But using the power of appointment for his benefit doesn't rise to the level that's been suggested.

I'm sorry. If people want to pretend these two things aren't exactly the same, go ahead. But when it comes to corrupting the Democratic party, the governor of Illinois is a small-town nobody, while the Clintons are the Leaders of the Pack. Bill Clinton pushed to deregulate (get rid of laws that govern) the financial cartels and let them loose to loot the entire country. He also pushed through corporate trade agreements which encouraged businesses to send U.S. jobs to third world countries and throw Americans out of work. Look at the result. Our country is in crisis, our people have lost everything: jobs, homes, pensions, savings accounts, healthcare. Since leaving office Bill Clinton has done nothing more than collect hundreds of millions of dollars from rich people who want to buy access and influence. His wife supports the corporate trade and wall street looting, and neither of them have ever done a thing to help American working people.

Unlike, for example, the Kennedys, who understood that being a Democrat means being a representative of the working people, not an agent for Wall Street.

So maybe the real reason they went after Caroline is because the Clintons demand that the Democratic Party continue to be the Party of Business, the biggest recipient of bribes from Wall Street, drug companies, the healthcare CEOs, and everyone else who is destroying this country. The influence of the Kennedys in their commitment to helping the working people of the U.S. might just be too threatening to the Clintonistas and all their multi-billion dollar empires. For the working people, again, we lose. Thanks a lot Governor.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Torre to A-Rod: Yer Out!!

(I wonder what Torre was thinking as he walked with A-Rod? "Are you kidding me, now I've got to wet-nurse this whining prima donna?" Notice how A-Rod's left hand is arched, so he's just barely touching Torre with his fingertips, pretending like he's being friendly. Kind of like he always pretended he was batting in post-season.)

The New York Post (do they really write with crayons or does it just read like that) is reporting that Joe Torre's book about his years with the Yankees slams Brian Cashman and A-Rod. I don't care about Cashman, although I always thought he was highly overrated. But I really detest A-Rod, so will buy the book and relish each nuggett.

The Post reports that Torre slammed A-Rod for being emotionally needy, essentially self-centered and not a team player. Reportedly team members thought A-Rod had a kind of "Fatal Attraction" obsession with Derek Jeter. Who can blame him? Does there live a man cuter, nicer, more talented than Derek Jeter? Did A-Rod really think he could take the crown from that young prince? No chance.

I love Joe Torre. I used to be a fanatical Yankees fan, but when the Yankees let Torre go, I thought: Go Dodgers. How could the Yankees be so stupid?

I have to give credit to A-Rod for at least one thing. When he had completed his two thousandeth Yankee post-season appearance (or so it seemed) without getting a hit, or maybe more than a single, essentially showing up with a wilting bat and a bad case of the knee-shakes, somebody named him K-Rod. And that gave a big laugh to Yankee fans. For years. No matter how long A-Rod plays or how well he might do, he'll always be remembered by some as "K-Rod."

Just think about it. K-Rod is being defended by Rupert Murdoch! Ick! Doesn't that say it all?

I knew from the time he came there that he was bad news. You could just tell. He is the bad apple, the one that spoils the team no matter where he goes. What did he do for Seattle other than make a lot of other players really angry? What did he do for Texas? And what has he done for the Yankees? I honestly attribute the failure of the Yankees since he got there to win the World Series to Pretty Boy himself, Alex Rodriguez.

And come on: Madonna?

Support Rep. John Conyers' Universal Healthcare

Rep. John Conyers is again introducing a bill, H.R. 676, to establish a national healthcare system by which every American will receive healthcare free of charge. Where do we get the money? Why not ask the Wall Street Criminals to pay back the money they stole from us? Or end these horrible wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, shut down that horrendous Fort Bush Palace built in Baghdad, shut down wasteful U.S. military bases throughout the world which apparently exist mostly to help the Pentagon and Defense Contractors keep bloated budgets. Increase capital gains taxes from the maximum 15% which rich people now pay instead of paying income tax. Re-instate the estate taxes so that rich people who steal millions during their lifetimes don't get to pass all that money on to their useless children tax-free when they finally die. Use our tax dollars to help the people of this country instead of the corporations.

Below is just one section of the proposed bill. Everybody gets healthcare. It includes dental which is critical.

I just got a notice that my health insurance premiums are going up 13% in March. You know where that money will go? To the insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals, all of whom are making millions of dollars off of selling citizens unaffordable and often inadequate healthcare.

Take the profits out of healthcare. Pay these people a reasonable salary, but stop the gouging of the public. The doctors, hospitals and insurance companies have shown themselves to be as greedy, deceitful and unconscionable as the scummiest hedge fund criminal on Wall Street, and the only way to stop them is to create a national healthcare program. Then the doctors and hospitals can either work for the amount allotted or go do something else -- maybe work on wall street.


United States National Health Insurance Act (or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act) (Introduced in House)


(a) In General- All individuals residing in the United States (including any territory of the United States) are covered under the USNHI Program entitling them to a universal, best quality standard of care. Each such individual shall receive a card with a unique number in the mail. An individual's social security number shall not be used for purposes of registration under this section. NOTE: IN MY OPINION, THIS SHOULD BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE COVERAGE ONLY FOR INDIVIDUALS "LAWFULLY" RESIDING IN THE U.S. OTHERWISE SOMEBODY COULD GET A PLANE TICKET OVER FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, "RESIDE" HERE FOR A FEW WEEKS, THEN GET FREE HEALTHCARE SUCH AS MAJOR HEART SURGERY. THE CITIZENS OF THE U.S. AND LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENTS SHOULD BE COVERED. FOR NON-CITIZENS, OR PEOPLE NOT LAWFULLY IN THE COUNTRY, MEDICAL SHOULD BE AVAILABLE ON AN EMERGENCY BASIS BUT NOT OTHERWISE.

(b) Registration- Individuals and families shall receive a United States National Health Insurance Card in the mail, after filling out a United States National Health Insurance application form at a health care provider. Such application form shall be no more than 2 pages long.

(c) Presumption- Individuals who present themselves for covered services from a participating provider shall be presumed to be eligible for benefits under this Act, but shall complete an application for benefits in order to receive a United States National Health Insurance Card and have payment made for such benefits.


(a) In General- The health insurance benefits under this Act cover all medically necessary services, including at least the following:

(1) Primary care and prevention.
(2) Inpatient care.
(3) Outpatient care.
(4) Emergency care.
(5) Prescription drugs.
(6) Durable medical equipment.
(7) Long term care.
(8) Mental health services.
(9) The full scope of dental services (other than cosmetic dentistry).
(10) Substance abuse treatment services.
(11) Chiropractic services.
(12) Basic vision care and vision correction (other than laser vision correction for cosmetic purposes).
(13) Hearing services, including coverage of hearing aids.

(b) Portability- Such benefits are available through any licensed health care clinician anywhere in the United States that is legally qualified to provide the benefits.

(c) No Cost-Sharing- No deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, or other cost-sharing shall be imposed with respect to covered benefits.


(a) Requirement To Be Public or Non-Profit-

(1) IN GENERAL- No institution may be a participating provider unless it is a public or not-for-profit institution.

(2) CONVERSION OF INVESTOR-OWNED PROVIDERS- Investor-owned providers of care opting to participate shall be required to convert to not-for-profit status.

(3) COMPENSATION FOR CONVERSION- The owners of such investor-owned providers shall be compensated for the actual appraised value of converted facilities used in the delivery of care.

(4) FUNDING- There are authorized to be appropriated from the Treasury such sums as are necessary to compensate investor-owned providers as provided for under paragraph (3).

(5) REQUIREMENTS- The conversion to a not-for-profit health care system shall take place over a 15-year period, through the sale of U.S. Treasury Bonds. Payment for conversions under paragraph (3) shall not be made for loss of business profits, but may be made only for costs associated with the conversion of real property and equipment.

(b) Quality Standards-

(1) IN GENERAL- Health care delivery facilities must meet regional and State quality and licensing guidelines as a condition of participation under such program, including guidelines regarding safe staffing and quality of care.

(2) LICENSURE REQUIREMENTS- Participating clinicians must be licensed in their State of practice and meet the quality standards for their area of care. No clinician whose license is under suspension or who is under disciplinary action in any State may be a participating provider.

(c) Participation of Health Maintenance Organizations-

(1) IN GENERAL- Non-profit health maintenance organizations that actually deliver care in their own facilities and employ clinicians on a salaried basis may participate in the program and receive global budgets or capitation payments as specified in section 202.

(2) EXCLUSION OF CERTAIN HEALTH MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATIONS- Other health maintenance organizations, including those which principally contract to pay for services delivered by non-employees, shall be classified as insurance plans. Such organizations shall not be participating providers, and are subject to the regulations promulgated by reason of section 104(a) (relating to prohibition against duplicating coverage).

(d) Freedom of Choice- Patients shall have free choice of participating physicians and other clinicians, hospitals, and inpatient care facilities.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What To Say To A Whining Republican

Have you noticed all the whining Republicans wandering the streets of our towns this week, muttering to themselves, weeping big tears? Here's how to take care of them in short order.

Whining Republican: "Well, George W. Bush kept us safe for over 7 years."

Response: "He was supposed to keep us safe for 8 years."

Thanks to the very clever Mike Malloy (Nova M. Radio)

Don't Cut Payroll Taxes.

Both the Obama stimulus plan and the absurd response from the Republicans include a large cut in payroll taxes as a means to stimulate the economy. Bad idea. What should happen is that the cap on payroll taxes should be increased to include the first $250,000 of income. Or maybe all income should be subject to payroll taxes. But in any event, cuts in payroll taxes are a terrible idea. Cuts only help the Republicans and neocon/neoliberal goal of "privatizing" (and therefore eliminating) social security and medicare. [Payroll taxes theoretically can include employer-withheld federal or state income taxes, but I'm using the term only to refer to taxes withheld to pay a contribution to social security and medicare].

One of the goals of the Republicans is to entirely eliminate any government services to the citizens. In their view, the people should be taxed, but all the money should be used for defense and for corporate give-aways.

For example, they would like to completely eliminate public education and force all people to pay to send their children to private (often religious) schools. They would also like to privatize the police and fire departments, so that people in a neighborhood or community could enter into private contracts, pay-as-you-go, with private mercenaries (like Blackwater) to patrol their neighborhoods and apprehend "suspicious" people. Same for fire departments. They would like to eliminate public funding, and force individuals to privately contract with a private service to be on call in the event of a fire. By eliminating all social services, we essentially end up with a failed state in which the rich and powerful, and well-armed do as they please, but everyone else just hopes to survive.

Bush wanted to privatize social security. That means that, to begin, all the social security money would be allocated to each worker, and each worker would have to go to wall street (or a local broker) and pay someone to invest their money. Of course if the money is stolen, as has been true for half the value of Dow in recent months, half the value of Nasdaq a few years ago, then people are just out of luck. And the brokers charge so much in fees that the principal gets eaten up in any event. If Bush had succeeded in having social security privatized, seniors today would get nothing, and future generations certainly would vote to eliminate a fund that would end paying them nothing.

When 9/11 happened, one of the first things Bush did was to announce that payroll taxes would be refunded to every business in the affected area for the past two years. Why? The only reason to do that was to suck more money out of the social security and medicare fund. There was simply no relationship between payroll (social security and medicare) taxes contributed on behalf of employees two years before, on the one hand, and the 9/11 attacks, on the other hand. Of course this is a man who, when the U.S. was attacked by Saudi Arabia, decided to invade Iraq. so his logic has always been a bizarre and unfathomable issue.

Many businesses pay no income taxes at all, since they have so many scams and loopholes. Everytime some CEO announces that he "only" takes $1.00 per year in income, you should understand that he takes millions in stock options and other consideration which will be taxed at much lower rates. By claiming he only takes a dollar, he's really thumbing his nose at the public, most of whom do not understand these insider deals. But no matter how many scams and cons, businesses always have to pay the payroll tax, their share of the social security and medicare tax paid on behalf of all employees. That's why businesses and Republicans are always pushing to cut or eliminate payroll taxes.

Social security and medicare taxes are disproportionately assessed against modest income workers. All income up to about $100,000 is subject to the tax, which is approximately 15%: 1/2 of that (7.5%) is taken out of the employee's check, and 1/2 of it (7.5%) is paid by the employer. It's a matching fund. If the employee's share of taxes was cut to 5%, for example, the employers' share would also be cut to 5%. But any cut in payroll taxes is a terrible idea, because the taxes fund our only national healthcare system (medicare) which we need to strengthen and expand, not bankrupt by cutting its funding. And the payroll taxes fund social security, which we also need to strengthen.

A person earning $50,000/year would have their entire income subject to the payroll tax for social security and medicare. But a person earning $200,000 would only have one-half of their income subject to those taxes, since there is currently a cap of about $100,000: anything over that is not subject to payroll taxes. So the bigger earner is only, in fact, paying 3.75% of their total income in payroll taxes.

The current cap of $100,000 is arbitrary. There is no rational basis for it. It should be lifted and a new cap established of, at a minimum, $250,000. There is an excellent argument that there should be no cap. As additional support for this position, the extreme right-wing goes into tremors everytime anyone mentions increasing (or eliminating) the cap on income for social security and medicare taxes. (See The Heritage Foundation for a long series of hysterical screeds opposing the idea). That's because eliminating the cap would only hurt rich people, and would help to strengthen two of the most important social service institutions in our country: social security and medicare. Increasing the cap would not directly affect most Americans, since it would only apply to people who earn over $100,000/year.

As an additional matter, all capital gains should be taxed for social security and medicare. Capital gains are considered different than ordinary income. Someone goes to work, gets a paycheck (like 95% of the citizens), that's considered income. But rich people don't go to work. They sit in their penthouses and buy and sell things -- real estate, countries, businesses -- and when they make their money buying and selling things, it's considered a "gain," a "capital gain," and not income. And capital gains are taxed at lower rates than ordinary income.

There's a good argument to be made that capital gains should be taxed at a higher rate than is ordinary income, since it's a lot harder for most people to go to work at a job 50 weeks a year than it is for rich people to tell their brokers to buy and sell stuff, then off to the country club for the rest of the day. I'd rather spend my days playing golf than digging ditches. And I hate golf.

Capital gains currently have a maximum tax rate of 15%. Some working person earning $50,000/year will pay 25-30% in income taxes. But a millionaire who gets $1.0 million in "gain" in capital gains during the same year will only pay 15%. Why is that true? Because rich people bribe the politicians in Congress to set up these special low tax rates for them. They save so much on the deal that they are more than willing to kick back millions to the politicians to thank them for passing laws that help the rich get richer while everyone else gets poorer.

The rationale advanced for a special low rate for capital gains is this: if there isn't a special low rate, people would not invest their money. They would just put it in the bank. Well first, that's nonsense. And second, that would be good: let them put money in the banks, and leave it sitting there, and the banks can loan it to normal Americans to use to buy houses or start their own businesses. The Republicans and some of their Democratic supporters have actually proposed eliminating capital gains taxes altogether so rich people would simply never pay taxes. A few Democrats tried to get a bill through last year to make the hedge fund scum pay taxes as ordinary income, because they claimed everything as a capital gains. These are people who, in some instances, were making over $100 million per year, only paying 15% in taxes. Chuck Schumer opposed the bill, and worked with the Republicans to defeat it. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, but also a large recipient of money from hedge funds.

"June [2007] was a busy month for Senator Charles E. Schumer. On the phone, at large parties and small gatherings around the nation, he raised more than $1 million from the booming private equity and hedge fund industries for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, of which he is chairman."

"But there is another way Mr. Schumer has been busy with hedge fund and private equity managers, an important part of his constituency in New York. He has been reassuring them that he will resist an effort led by members of his own party to single out the industry with a plan that would more than double the taxes on the enormous profits reaped by its executives."

Chuck Schumer also lobbied to get a special capital gains maximum 15% tax rate on art. Do you know how many Wall Street criminals have been buying, selling, transferring art as part of their empire-building, as a place to hide all the money they've stolen from everyone else? Lots of them.

This is not meant to suggest Chuck Schumer is alone in soliciting and receiving millions of dollars from the Wall Street criminals, and the hedge fund and private equity con men. He unfortunately is just one of many in Congress. I think a huge amount of Obama's campaign was funded by Wall Street. Bringing a little light to the fact that they're all on the take might make it harder for them to continue to sell out the public. Such as by supporting proposals to cut payroll taxes.

If capital gains continue to have this extremely favorable tax rate (which I oppose) then at a minimum they should be fully assessed with social security and medicare taxes, to let the rich people contribute a little bit to our society. God knows they cause enough suffering. Make them kick in a little money to help everyone else.

Caroline Kennedy Will Not Be The New Senator

I've never seen such a coordinated assault on any person like the one waged against Caroline Kennedy.

No, come to think of it, that's not true. I saw the same level of vindictive petty assaults on Obama by the rich New York Hillary Cultists who refused to accept the fact that the majority of the Democrats did not want the Clintons back in control of this country. We've had enough of the Clintons to last a lifetime. I'm so sorry to see Obama select Hillary as Secretary of State. But now that the choice is made, I hope she carries out Obama's policies and I hope her husband stops taking money (hundreds of millions of dollars to date) from foreign countries. Despite the nonsense we've heard, of course that is a conflict of interest and makes it impossible for her to be, or to appear to the world to be, unbiased in carrying out her responsibilities.

Back to Caroline Kennedy. Many of the attacks against Caroline Kennedy are obviously the result of sexist hostility and thinly-veiled violent attitudes against women who seek to take a position at the table right alongside the men. The same type of attacks that led the mass gang-rape of Sarah Palin by much of the media. I don't like Palin or anything she stands for, but she's a lot smarter than Bush was. But when George Bush opened his mouth and made clearly idiotic comments, the "boys" on the bus all let it pass, laughed with him, because Bush was a white privileged male. Palin, on the other hand, became the national kickball for all the boys to ridicule and demean because, as the boys like to think, women are stupid.

Caroline Kennedy is a traditional democrat who supports labor, women's rights, and civil rights. She has not been blinded by the glare of the Clinton smoke and mirrors, and never signed on to Bill Clinton's allegiance to the Republican party and his cooperation in destroying working people in this country. (Bill Clinton: Let's end welfare; let's cut food stamps to poor women; let's eliminate all laws for the financial cartels as long as they give me hundreds of thousands of dollars; let's pass Corporate Trade Laws to send work to India, then Bill and Hill can invest there!! Cool!!)

The people who opposed Caroline include the same Hillary Cultists who opposed Obama. The same folks who appeared publicly at Rupert Murdoch's whore house for the rabid and insane, attacking Obama on ludicrous and demented claims invented by Rupert Murdoch's hos. These cultists love the Clintons because Bill Clinton has hustled hundreds of millions of dollars since he left office, taking money from every scummy government and rich gang in the world, selling influence and access apparently based on the assumption his wife would be president. People who like that type of betrayal and lack of ethics don't like Caroline Kennedy. Caroline didn't get the position in part because the Clintons' groupies are nasty and vindictive above all else, with an enemies' list that rivals Nixon's.

It's a shame, too. We need traditional democrats, not the slick wealthy Clinton-type Republican-Crats who favor Corporate Labor laws to send jobs out of this country, favor deregulation to allow financial cartels to steal all the money from working people, who favor the wealthy and crush the poor.

One last thing: the only people allowed in the Senate are millionaires, often multi-millionaires. They all buy their seats. They have rich friends who agree to give money to the Dem/Repub party, and that's how they buy the seat. They keep their seat by soliciting bribes every single day and selling their votes. So those who criticize Caroline Kennedy on the grounds she comes from a wealthy family are absurd. You want bus drivers in the Senate? I support that. Let's kick out all the wealthy scum who buy a lifetime seat and spend their days as bag men for the party elders. But until that happens, this feigned objection to Caroline based on family money is patently absurd.

Update: Oh boy, Gov. Paterson picked an upstate barrel-sucker from a Republican district. Kirsten Gillibrand. But more important, he picked a Clintonista, someone who worked on Hillary's campaign in 2000. I see the heavy and dirty hands of the Clintons in forcing Caroline Kennedy out and giving the position to a right-wing DLC Clinton-loyalist who loves guns. So typical of the Clintons: reward their friends, screw the public.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unemployed Americans

If you want to get really depressed, spend some time over at the United States Department of Labor web-site, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They've got a News release dated January 9, 2009, that provides amazing detail about the astonishing wreck of American workers' lives which has been caused by the Republicans under the Bush Regime.


Have you noticed that it's hard to get a straight story out of the government? Little bits and pieces float out, but they don't put it altogether for us. They tell us that another 500,000 people lost their jobs, but how many is that altogether? When they say unemployment is 5%, or 7%, we have to ask: "Of what?"

I don't assume the government releases accurate information. But based on their news release, I can discern the following:

There are about 305 million Americans, of whom 154 million are considered to be a part of the labor force. As of December of 2008, 7.2% of Americans were unemployed. Kind of.

135 million were employed. 11.1 million were unemployed. Except they forgot to include in the 11.1 million the 8 million Americans who have been forced into part-time work, but want full-time work. And they also failed to include the 2 million unemployed Americans who would like to think of themselves as being a part of the labor force, except that the government decided to exclude them to make their numbers look better, and these 2 million Americans "don't count" because they did not look for work within a 4 week period.

So let's add in the 8 million part-time workers, and the 2 million arbitrarily excluded by the government to cook the books and make their numbers look better. OH MY GOD, THAT DOUBLES THE NUMBER. Instead of just having 11.1 million unemployed, we add in the 8 million forced into part-time (or temp) work and the 2 million excluded for no good reason, and we now have at least 21.1 unemployed Americans. Out of the government's "official" number of a total 154 million in the labor force. That means the unemployment rate is actually 14%.

But wait. It gets better. I woke up this morning to hear a long recitation on the radio about the number of businesses that have announced they will be throwing millions more Americans out of work. Now I have a theory about that: jump on the bandwagon. This is a great opportunity for businesses to cut staff, terrorize those who remain, and force everyone to do 2 jobs for the price of one. But there's another theory: get in on the goody-bag giveaways from Congress by throwing Americans out of work and demanding a "bailout."

When I hear, for example, that Microsoft will be throwing Americans out of work, I can't help but think of all the trade agreements begun under Bill Clinton and continued under George W. Bush,. which have encouraged American businesses to throw Americans out of work and move their business operations to such places as India. Microsoft already brings in h1b visa workers from other countries to take American jobs at $14,000/year less than they would pay an American. So either take away their right to operate at all in this country or tell them to get out. But let's not play this game that their decision to lay off workers is a surprise. It's their business plan and model to take most of their jobs out of this country. Ask Bill Clinton: he set the whole thing up.

Of course there's always the possibility that when Wall Street and CEO insiders stripped their companies bare paying themselves hundreds of millions of dollars, that they were actually stripping our entire economy bare, making it inevitable that business after business would fail because all of their money was stolen by a few insiders, and even the slightest economic downturn would sink them. Unemployed Americans are out of work for a reason: the insiders stole the money and ran up debt.

Here's an idea: end the wars now, bring the troops home and bring the money home. Radically slash the military budget in recognition of the fact that Americans are not "safer" patrolling the world with bunker-busters, but with no jobs back at home. No homes, no ability to feed ourselves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now And Then, There's A Fool Such As I

This is such a joyful day. I find myself feeling sheepish at the uncontained elation I feel at saying the words: President Barack Obama. My President. Our President.

Oh Joy, Rapture, the Wicked Witch is Dead!

Bush and Cheney are gone, fled the capital, maybe fled the country. Of course they left us with a disaster of a nation, wars, a devastated economy, but I don't care as long as they are gone. (Until we arrest and try them, throw them in prison for international war crimes.)

It isn't just that President Barack Obama is black, although that is undeniably a part of the celebration. But it's more than that. It is as if by him becoming president, beating the odds, prevailing over the white men and white connected woman who ran against him, he stood for everyone who is not a part of the wealthy elite in this country, all the people who are excluded, the outsiders, those who toil without voice or recognition.

When I see Michelle Obama, this athletic woman, not just a decoration, healthy instead of skeletal or anorexic as is the fashion of the wives of the powerful, a proudly strong woman holding up her family as one of the pillars, I could sing. Herself a Harvard Law graduate, an attorney.

And when they introduced Vice President (Joe) and Doctor (Jill) Biden I almost danced. Doctor Biden. Yes, a woman accomplished in her own right, someone who will speak about more than fashion and decoration. It makes me think so well of these two men that they chose such obviously strong and intelligent women to share their lives.

There are thousands of men and women in this country who gained entrance to graduate and professional schools about 30 years ago as the result of a series of lawsuits and the dedication of thousands of citizens who pushed for access. But the fact is that once the women and the non-whites leave school, even if they leave top of their class, they still find the doors to opportunity largely shut in their faces. The university professors remain mostly white male. Committees of white males "evaluate" candidates and choose other white males to join the teaching staff. Women and minorities are oddly found lacking, even if their credentials and qualifications are better.

The same is true in business, law, medicine. You name it. And outside the professions, women continue to be excluded from the better paying jobs. Regardless of education or experience, women continue to be paid only 70 cents for every dollar paid to men. Ask men how well they would be doing if someone took 30% of their earnings for their entire working life. It needs to change. For blacks, of course, it's even worse. As long as white men keep a lock on the power and money, that will never change.

So President Obama stands for something more than just racial progress. He stands for human progress. He makes me think of a country that may be capable of moving towards real inclusion of everyone. So I'm overwhelmed with emotion, elation, joy. And feel foolish at the same time knowing that tomorrow we will all wake up to the same troubles.

I keep thinking of the lyrics to an old song: "Pardon me if I'm sentimental .... Now and then, there's a fool such as I." Once in awhile, we should all abandon our caution and just take joy in the occasional moments when we got it right. Today is one of them. Anything is possible. Good may triumph after all.

"Now and then there's a fool such as I"

Pardon me, if I’m sentimental
When we say goodbye
Don't be angry with me should I cry
When you're gone, yet I’ll dream
A little dream as years go by
Now and then there's a fool such as I

Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you
You taught me how to love
And now you say that we are through
I'm a fool, but I’ll love you dear
Until the day I die

Now and then there's a fool such as I
Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you
You taught me how to love
And now you say that we are through

I'm a fool, but I’ll love you dear
Until the day I die
Now and then there's a fool such as I
Now and then there's a fool such as I
Now and then there's a fool such as I

Text of Barack Obama's Inaugural Speech 1-20-09

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Monday, January 19, 2009

1-20-09: A Great Day To Be An American.

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.
Eleanor Roosevelt

It's a great day to be an American. We've had few of those in recent years, instead carrying our shame like Oedipus in exile, blinding ourselves to avoid looking at the sins of our leaders and the depths to which we have sunk, unable to provide a response to the questioning eyes of the world who used to like us, but now were sickened by our appearance or name.

I have made more friends for American culture than the State Department. Certainly I have made fewer enemies, but that isn't very difficult.
Arthur Miller

But since November 4, 2008, the world is cheering us once again. Now we need to earn it.

Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.
John Steinbeck

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Ernest Hemingway

It's a great day to be an American. For the first time in our history, a black man has been elected president and he, and his wife and children, will live in the White House. It does not end racism. But it's what you'd call a really good start.

I do not weep at the world -- I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.
Zora Neale Hurston

The U.S. used to be the coolest country in the world. Everybody wanted to come here because we got to choose our own government: no kings, no royal families, no churches selected who would sit at the head of our nation. We chose. We the people. And sometimes we chose poor men who came from nothing but who offered our nation a vision, an intelligence, a direction to move us all forward.
Millions of people left everything, all their family, what they knew, what they had, to travel steerage across rough and sometimes deadly seas in the hopes of arriving on our shores to participate in this great experiment called America. We became known as the country that belonged to the poor, belonged to the working people, not to the privileged or elite. Of course Bush and Cheney have done everything in their power to strip our nation's treasury bare and give everything we own to the privileged and the elite, so we will have to work hard to regain our promise.

Just imagine for a moment what life in this country might have been if women had been properly represented in Congress. Would a Congress where women in all their diversity were represented tolerate the countless laws now on the books that discriminate against women in all phases of their lives? Would a Congress with adequate representation of women have allowed this country to reach the 1970s without a national health care system? Would it have permitted this country to rank fourteenth in infant mortality among the developed nations of the world? Would it have allowed the situation we now have in which thousands of kids grow up without decent care because their working mothers have no place to leave them? ... Would it consent to the perverted sense of priorities that has dominated our government for decades, where billions have been appropriated for war while our human needs as a people have been neglected?
Bella Abzug

"The New Colossus" (Emma Lazarus, 1883)
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I am always talking about the human condition and about American society in particular: what it is like to be human, what makes us weep, what makes us fall and stumble and somehow rise and go on from darkness into darkness and that darkness carpeted.
Maya Angelou

So put out your flags today and dress in red, white, and blue, because today we are all Yankee Doodle Dandys.

George M. Cohan, born July 3, 1878 in Providence, Rhode Island, died November 1942. Great American songwriter and performer of Irish descent, who began his theatre life performing with his entire family. He was known for closing his performances with the following: "Ladies and gentlemen, my mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and, I assure you, I thank you."

"Yankee Doodle Dandy" by George M. Cohan (partial lyrics)
(followed by "Give My Regards To Broadway," both performed by the multi-talented and quite amazing Jimmy Cagney)

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam's.
Born on the Fourth of July.
I've got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,
She's my Yankee Doodle joy.
Yankee Doodle came to London,Just to ride the ponies,
I'm a Yankee Doodle boy.

One Day More: Our Long National Nightmare Is Almost Over.

One Day More. Can we make it? The air is filled with excitement and anticipation. Never have more Americans been so enthralled with the changing of the guard. I don't know if it's the politics, or it's just the desire to feel civilized again. With the Obamas in D.C., the country once again will be able to hold our heads up. We can throw off our burkas! Say good-bye to the ignorant crackers who have been running things for the past 8 years. Our long national nightmare is almost over.