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      From the useful Elija Mangnier, 1 – Adherence to Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment and everything related to this science at all costs. Nuclear enrichment is a sword Iran can hold in the face of the West, which wants to take it from Tehran. It is Iran’s card to obstruct any US intention of “obliterating” […]
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#Menendez and CORRUPTION: Just Sayin’

I’m no fan of corruption and we should all be repulsed by the idea that someone who gives you money should be allowed to influence policy.

So, what are we to make of the unlimited amounts of cash streaming into the coffers of just about every elected official from companies who have suddenly discovered that money equals free speech, courtesy of the Citizens United ruling (thank you, John Roberts). Then these companies pay lobbyists to write legislation for them. That lobbyist written legislation gets passed to the pre-paid congressmen and senators who then sponsor the bills and then vote on them.

Think of how many corrupt politicians could be cleaned out if Obama’s justice department went after them all. He’d be doing us a favor.

Why stop with New Jersey?

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Seizures and Frolics

Wayyyy too close for comfort

The title was inspired by one of Katiebird’s text messages.  One of my neighbors smelled burning rubber and called the fire department.  It could have been just a fascinating but horrific thing to watch, except that all of our houses are connected.  A fire broke out in a row of townhouses in the next development over and took out eight units.  So not cool.

Anyway, I went out to take pictures to document the event and didn’t smell anything but apples and cinnamon from her unit.  She has elementary school aged kids and I’m assuming they eat a lot of Mott’s.  No fire.  No smoke.  She must be having a seizure.  I hear you can get funny smells just before one.

Doesn’t John Roberts suffer from seizures?  I think I remember reading that somewhere.  He was on vacation and had one.  Odd, I thought, but probably happens to everyone at least once in a lifetime.  This was not the case with Roberts, if I remember correctly.  He has had more than one.  Anyway, probably no big deal.  I’ve never heard of seizures turning a conservative into a liberal.  But maybe it made him a bit more sympathetic to the people with pre-existing conditions who can’t get insurance.  If Roberts didn’t have a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, he might very well be uninsurable due to his infrequent seizure history.

But then I started thinking about the pre-existing condition crowd and the Walker strategy in Wisconsin.  My mind went on one of its unchaperoned frolics again.  Wasn’t it Pelosi who said that the ACA was very carefully constructed?  One of the questions put before the court was whether the ACA was severable.  Could you strike down the individual mandate without affecting the young adult on parent’s insurance, anti-rescission and pre-existing conditions sections?  I’m guessing that you really can’t because without the individual mandate, there is no mechanism for paying for the other provisions.  So, striking down the mandate while leaving the other provisions intact, or striking the ACA down altogether, would have been pretty bad optics during the election year, especially for the Republicans.  So, maybe the Democrats, with the helpful advice of the health insurance industry, have crafted a sort of divide and conquer strategy.  In this case, the pre-existing condition crowd is coercing us to get onboard.  We’ve been divided into two groups and the fate of one hinges on the other.

I can’t say I blame the pre-existing, anti-rescission crowd for desperately wanting the ACA to stand. The problem is that they seem to be incredibly happy to force the rest of us into extremely high premium plans without cost controls or competition.  And because they are content and because their individual stories stir our sympathies, any attempt to change the ACA in the future may be very hard to do without a congressional hearing featuring an epileptic giving a gut wrenching story about how lowering the costs for millions of Americans would negatively impact their healthcare needs. It doesn’t even have to be true.  The health insurance industry will use it as a fear tactic to keep rates high for all of us.  Make one false move and the grand mal cases get it first.  That’s how propaganda and manipulation has worked for politicians in the past.  They’re good at this stuff.  But in this case, I think the Democrats who constructed this policy were in on it too.  They will use the vulnerable to force the rest of us into high cost private insurance.  There will not be an affordable alternative with cost controls and competition until this crop of Democrats are gone.

I’m glad that people who weren’t previously covered now have what they need.  But I fear that they took whatever they could get and what happened to the rest of us really didn’t matter.  That strategy has been successful so expect the same thing to happen to Social Security as well.

The fallout of this law won’t hit us for awhile but it’s coming.  There’s only so much blood you can extract from Americans before there is nothing left to tap.  We are losing our standard of living, some of us sharply, in the past decade.  Everything costs too much, not because of inflation so much but because we just don’t have money anymore.  Housing isn’t really getting any cheaper, gas prices stay stuck on “high”, home heating and cooling- ridiculous.  Fees for everything are skyrocketing.  Everytime you turn around, some private entity or public utility has their hands out for more. Student loans are burdensome. And now, everyone will be forced to buy private health insurance like we are forced to buy auto insurance.  We’ll be made to feel irresponsible if we don’t forgo every other responsibility in our lives to make our payments on time.  How much can we afford to cut back on food, clothing, education, etc, before it just isn’t sustainable anymore?  Did the Democrats give any thought to this while the industry lobbyists and professional orgs were lining their pockets and whispering sweet nothings in their ears?

BTW, the silver lining in all of this is that the price of prescription drugs is probably going to fall quite a bit because new drugs aren’t getting approved, leaving us with more and more cheaper generics.  So, whatever you think of big pharma, they’re not going to make out all that well under the ACA unless they produce the generics themselves and keep the prices artificially higher than they might have otherwise been.

The whole scenario reminds me of an article I saw in Forbes or one of those financey type journals recently about how you know when a company is on its way out.  Unfortunately, I neglected to instapaper it.  But I do remember the general idea.  At some point, the irrational exuberance that went to the heads of the owners after they have a couple of lucky breaks starts to hit reality.  Scoring a big one and growing larger without thinking down the road about sustainability leads to desperate measures to shore up profits, eventually leading to the company eating its own and going under. By the time they realize their mistakes from two steps back, it’s generally too late to do anything to correct course. That’s what’s happening to Pfizer right now and the pharma industry in general.  But I could see it happening to the Democrats as well.  They thought they scored the big kahuna when they got Obama elected and they let it go to their head with the ACA.   But they haven’t put the work into fixing the underlying problems with healthcare in this country and there is only so much money that can be extracted from Americans before impoverishing us reaches its limits. There is a finite amount of money and we are hitting it. That puts us in an even tighter spot in the future when employers can no longer afford to offer benefits, more people get hired on as contractors, wages refuse to rise, more money gets siphoned off to big insurance companies, the rest of the economy struggles because no one can afford to buy anything but the bare necessities and the cycle continues to have an impact on business.

There’s going to be a reckoning for failing to tackle the big interests that stand in the way of lower cost health care for everyone.  You can’t delay the inevitable forever.  And some of us voters are getting sick of being invisible to the politicians who are not giving us their best efforts and taking the political risks that are necessary to make the system less exploitative. If you are a politician and you went into it to be a good public servant, part of that commitment means you may have to fall on your sword to do the right thing.  Do it or get out.

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Re: The Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs

Will the Republicans and Libertarians finally see the light in Colorado Springs? Will the prayer of thousands of religious conservatives prevent destruction followed by looting?  Probably not but maybe hiring more police and firemen might. Hey, where are all those brave vigilantes when you need them?

Back to you, Libertarians…

More on the unfolding disaster there:

The Gazette in Colorado Springs (H/T Atrios)

Charles Pierce on foolish consistencies

Background material from This American Life.  The residents should have seen this coming but cause and effect is not the religious conservative, libertarian’s strong suit.

Oh, well.  Maybe they can all retreat to their churches and ride it out.  But do these churches have an obligation to help everyone?  What about gay couples who are burned out and their families?  What about Muslims?  Do they have to put up with a sermon, bow their heads and pray before eating, agree to be saved?  Just curious.  Inquiring minds want to know.

Quoth one:

“In this community that has seen so much division through the years, there’s a strong sense of unity that ‘we’re all in this together,'” Ridings said in an e-mail newsletter to EPA members. “From what I’m hearing, Christians in town are doing a wonderful job of living out Matthew 5:16, letting their lights so shine that others would see their good works – gifts of money and food, homes and churches as shelters – and glorifying God.”

Oh, please, gag me with a spoon.  Is he saying that they wouldn’t be doing all of these things without God holding a stick over their heads?  What does glorifying god have to do with anything?  Presumably (wait for it), God will be credited for visiting his wrath on Colorado Springs for some offense after this is all over.  What kind of psychopath is this god anyway?

BTW, I just love the bumperstickers that say, “Focus on your own damn family”

When all of this is over and Coloradans petition FEMA for emergency relief, it would teach them a lesson if we gave them a really hard time about it and held up some bill they were hoping for in order to get it or made all of the parishioners at New Life Church pee in a cup. Or made them sit in their own filth for days waiting for the national guard in a convention center or prevented them from traveling to Denver to stay with relatives. But that would be wrong.  It would be wrong not because we are Christians but because we are AMERICANS and we are all in this together.

I doubt this lesson will sink into to the pious, self-righteous, hardass, stingy, snobs who live in Colorado Springs.  Fortunately for them, fellow Americans who are in distress are not subject to intelligence or character tests.

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My “frolic” for today is to finish up the zillion projects I have going at one time.  I will be busy.  I’ve promised myself a dip in the pool later if I’m good.  And then, I might take on this crazy idea: faking a Beni Ourain rug with a cheap wooly bully base layer from Lowes and some fabric dye.  I must be nuts but I really like the look and I can’t afford to buy one for $6000.  This solution is much more in my price range. This is what it will look like (Or something like it):

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One more thing: I rarely feature ads because they drive me crazy but this one has been popping up on my youtube subscriptions and I like it so much, I thought I’d share it.  If you’ve ever been a parent of a driven kid, not necessarily an athletic one but one who trains themselves to do something with such an intensity that they are completely oblivious to the mess they are making, you’ll love this ad.  Some of the kids in this commercial are amazing.  But the setting is so ordinary.  Just typical suburban living rooms, kitchens and hallways.  The message is that spilled milk (or tuna wiggle, fruit compote and duck fries) is ok when it comes to your kids chasing their dreams.  I agree.  Anyway, kudos to Bounty.  Great job.  Now, if only your papertowels were a little less expensive…

Epiphanies: My Dawning Realizations about Barack Obama

Dawning realization

Epiphany: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment

Yesterday, Riverdaughter suggested that we make this “Epiphany Weekend” at TC. The idea is to look back over the past couple of years and recall the epiphanies that we had early on that made us so highly skeptical about Barack Obama as a candidate for President.

For me, the very first wake-up call I had about Obama was this diary at Dailykos way back in September 2005. In the diary, then Senator Obama lectured the Kos community about “tone, truth, and the Democratic Party,” which defending Democratic Senators who had voted to confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court. In the diary Obama strongly criticized people at Dailykos and other liberal blogs who wanted Congressional Democrats to stand up for Democratic principles and stop rolling over for Bush on every issue. (I have used bold type to highlight a couple of sections.)

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists – a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog – we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in “appeasing” the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda….

I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don’t think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don’t think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don’t think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.

It’s this non-ideological lens through which much of the country viewed Judge Roberts’ confirmation hearings. A majority of folks, including a number of Democrats and Independents, don’t think that John Roberts is an ideologue bent on overturning every vestige of civil rights and civil liberties protections in our possession. Instead, they have good reason to believe he is a conservative judge who is (like it or not) within the mainstream of American jurisprudence…

In the rest of the diary, Obama attempted to make a case for the kind of “consensus-building” we have been watching since he moved into the White House–the kind where the Democrats compromise their values ahead of time and continue to compromise them in the face of Republican (and Blue Dog) objections.

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more “centrist”…. Too often, the “centrist” label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don’t think Democrats have been bold enough. But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don’t work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of “framing,” although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It’s a matter of actually having faith in the American people’s ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.

Of course Obama never made clear what “core values” he would be willing to stand up for.

Reading this diary was my first wake-up call–it gave me my first real clues to who Obama really was. Before that, my only impressions of him were based on the speech he had given at the 2004 Democratic. He had come across to me as really smooth and slick, but nothing he said in the speech was really earth-shaking and none of it was memorable enough to stick with me. Still, I think I my overall impression was positive. But after reading Obama’s Kos diary, I my impression of him started to turn more negative. Continue reading

John Adams: TV Worth Watching

Ladies and Gents, I am about to head out to the BFF’s house. I have neglected the poor man recently so he is going to cook me dinner tonight. And since he is such a good cook and good company, I cannot resist. I hope he has the TiVO set for the first part of the John Adams miniseries tonight on HBO so we can watch it together. Here is a trailer:

The movie is based on the book by David McCullough. (Highly recommended. I bought it for the BFF for Christmas several years ago but *I* read it first.) John Adams was a motivating force in the separation from England and writing the Declaration of Independence. Oddly enough, he wasn’t heavily involved in writing the constitution, at least, not as involved as James Madison and others. Adams was off in France during much of that period of time, serving as our Secretary of State of sorts. So, much of what the Constitution is based on is the Federalist Papers. It might be a good time to revisit those papers because if I recall my poli sci 101 correctly, the Constitution was written in part to protect the rights of property owners from the effects of mob rule. Yes, our founding fathers were liberals, up to a point.

In any case, we will be discussing some of the outcomes of Federalism and its effects in modern politics in the days ahead. Expect “Federalist” to make a repeat appearance in our posts. But does that word mean what people like Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts think it means? And what does Barack Obama have to do with Federalists?

Stay tuned….