Thursday, December 31, 2009

More Changes For The Democratic Party?

I just about fell out of my chair laughing when I read this story, and then it just made me angry. What a crock. I am sure you can spot what was particularly offensive in this article by Chris Ciliza:
Democratic Commission Recommends Elimination Of Superdelegates

Eighteen months removed from a protracted presidential primary fight, a Democratic group convened to examine the nominating process has recommended that so-called superdelegates be eliminated.

The Democratic Change Commission, which was formed last August by President Barack Obama, plans to recommend that superdelegates -- also known as unpledged delegates -- will be required to vote in accordance with the electoral performance of the state from which they represent.

"We need to show deference to what the party members in our state have done," said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the co-chairs of the commission.

The elimination of free-agent superdelegates comes in response to the outcry from many within the party during the 2008 primary fight when then Sen. Hillary Clinton made the argument to unpledged delegates that it was their responsibility to not vote as their state had voted but rather cast their votes for the candidate they thought would be the best person to represent the party.

Obama allies insisted this was an attempt to suborn the will of the people. Clinton loyalists shot back that the creation of superdelegates was for just such a purpose -- a close race in which the will of the people is very closely divided.

Excuse me, Mr. Ciliza, you seem to have transposed the names here. Perhaps a little trip down Memory Lane is in order. Just a suggestion:
The creation of superdelegates -- members of the Democratic National Committee, House Members and Senators and former party leaders -- in the early 1980s was designed to give the establishment of the Democratic party more say in the identity of the nominee. Since their creation, superdelegates had never been a serious factor in a presidential race until the 2008 contest.

The Commission included several Obama loyalists including Jeff Berman, who spearheaded the delegate operation for the campaign, and David Plouffe who managed the then Illinois Senator's candidacy.

North Carolina state Sen. Dan Blue, a member of the Commission, offered a dissenting voice on a call announcing the proposed changes. "There is no escape when something unforeseen occurs," said Blue of the potential consequences of eliminating unpledged delegates.

The Change Commission recommendations will now go before the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Uh huh. Sure, it was ALL Clinton wanting superdelegates to "suborn" the will of the people. That would explain Massachusetts, for example. Oh, no, wait - she WON Massachusetts by a good bit, and BOTH Kennedy and Kerry went for, who,e xactly? That's right - OBAMA. How about West Virginia? Yep, she won it in a LANDSLIDE, and for whom did Byrd and Rockefeller go? Was it the one with the overwhelming win? No, they went to OBAMA, who tanked in WVA. And there would be California, another state Clinton won. One of her superdelegates switched to Obama after she won the state. And how about Speaker Pelosi - who did she favor? Clearly, Obama, even though Californians went for Clinton. Can't forget New Jersey, a state Clinton won, and the list goes on and on.

Don't even get me started on what happened at the Democratic National Convention and how the pledged delegates voted.

No doubt, the will of the people was "suborned" alright, but it sure as hell wasn't by Hillary Clinton. I think it is obvious who DID suborn the will of the people, though.

To believe that the DNC is capable of self-policing itself on this matter after this past election would be laughable, if it wasn't so damn hypocritical...

UPDATE: There are now 13 States Attorneys General questioning the legality of the Health "Care" Bill. You may recall that just a couple of days ago it was 10, including SC AG McMaster, who used the term, "corruption" in his description. This could get mighty interesting!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"A Less Than Honest Policy"

I'll say. Oh, wait - I have been saying that. This is not good for Obama when many of the columnists who sold their souls, um, I mean, supported him wholeheartedly with little good reason are now taking a step back. Well, some of them don't flat out say anything negative about Obama per se, just his horrible policies, or the way in which policies are crafted that might look bad for Obama. Same difference, right? I imagine, though, that they can invoke plausible deniability should things actually turn around for Obama (presuming the entire nation loses its collective mind)...

Anyway, the most recent to start pulling his head out of the, uh, sand, is Bob Herbert, a columnist I had previously enjoyed up until about 2 years ago or so. He is weighing in on a policy near and dear to all of our hearts, and that would be this horrendous health "care" policy that made it through the Senate,A Less Than Honest Policy .

And how, for oh-so-many-reasons, but here are some of Herbert's reasons:
There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate’s version of President Obama’s effort to reform health care.

The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.

Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do.

The tax would kick in on plans exceeding $23,000 annually for family coverage and $8,500 for individuals, starting in 2013. In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the U.S., more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold each year.

Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy.

No, they can't be considered wealthy, and this is exactly what those of us who actually are paying attention have been saying time and time again - this is going to BREAK a number of people in this country. And just how is this going to be carried out? I think you know already:
Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there’s a catch. It’s not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services. On the other hand, people with very serious illnesses will be saddled with much higher out-of-pocket costs. And a reluctance to seek treatment for something that might seem relatively minor at first could well have terrible (and terribly expensive) consequences in the long run.

If even the plan’s proponents do not expect policyholders to pay the tax, how will it raise $150 billion in a decade? Great question.

Yep, taxes. But the other issues raised are very important - people will have lesser coverage, and seek medical assistance less early on, thus spending out more later, and the "more" isn't just money, but HEALTH itself. What a great plan, eh?? Yeah. Right. No wonder they are having to buy people off to go along with this plan. Because it is absurd:
We all remember learning in school about the suspension of disbelief. This part of the Senate’s health benefits taxation scheme requires a monumental suspension of disbelief. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 18 percent of the revenue will come from the tax itself. The rest of the $150 billion, more than 82 percent of it, will come from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans.

Can you believe it?

I asked Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., about this. (Labor unions are outraged at the very thought of a health benefits tax.) I had to wait for him to stop laughing to get his answer. “If you believe that,” he said, “I have some oceanfront property in southwestern Pennsylvania that I will sell you at a great price.”

A survey of business executives by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, found that only 16 percent of respondents said they would convert the savings from a reduction in health benefits into higher wages for employees. Yet proponents of the tax are holding steadfast to the belief that nearly all would do so.

“In the real world, companies cut costs and they pocket the money,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and a leader of the opposition to the tax. “Executives tell the shareholders: ‘Hey, higher profits without any revenue growth. Great!’ ”

The tax on health benefits is being sold to the public dishonestly as something that will affect only the rich, and it makes a mockery of President Obama’s repeated pledge that if you like the health coverage you have now, you can keep it.

Those who believe this is a good idea should at least have the courage to be straight about it with the American people.

Mr. Herbert, glad to see you are starting to come out of your Kool Aide induced haze. Nice to have you back in the reality-based world.

This may as well be entitled the, "Penny-wise, Pound Foolish" Health Care bill, because that is exactly what it is. Once again, the middle class will be carrying the burden, and not just by shelling out more money, but by being FORCED to carry inferior insurance.

Tell me again why we are supposed to be happy about this? About being forced into government health care that will be worse in just about every manner possible? What is the REAL point of this? I have my suspicions, but I'd like to hear yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Medicaid Deal Could Represent "Corruption"

That's not news to many of us - I think that's EXACTLY what many of us think of the Nebraska deal struck by the Senate. But most of us are not in positions of power. South Carolina Attorney General Henry Mcmaster, however, is. And that was his word: corruption.

And how. Here is the SC AG this morning explaining why this giveaway to Nebraska is likely unConstitutional:

Did you catch that? There are already TEN state Attorneys General looking into the Constitutionality of the Medicaid giveaway. That is significant, if you ask me.

Oh - I suppose I should give you the written version, too, in case you can't understand Attorney General Henry McMaster's melodious Southern accent (ahem). This one comes from The Hill, and the headline says it all:
S.C. aAtorney General: Medicaid Deal Could 'Represent Corruption', South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster on Monday stressed that Senate Democrats' move to cover Nebraska's new Medicaid patients in full could represent "corruption."

In an interview with Fox News this morning, McMaster said Democrats in
cluded the provision in the chamber's healthcare bill purely to buy Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) much-needed vote. It is ultimately unconstitutional, McMaster added, as it places a disproportionate burden on the 49 other states to cover Nebraska's Medicaid costs.

"As far as we know, the only distinction made for Nebraska with Sen. Nelson was to buy his vote," said McMaster, who announced he would probe the constitutionality of that deal last week.

"We think that represents corruption, a culture of corruption, [and] we're very concerned about it," he said. "It's going to cost 49 states money to have to pay Nebraska's share, and we think that is unconstitutional."

McMaster is one of 10 Republican attorneys general who have banded together in opposition to Nebraska's Medicaid deal, at the beckoning of South Carolina Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint.

Hell, I don't care if one of the 10 is a Whig or a Tory, as long as SOMEONE is actually looking out for the Constitution in this process, because it sure as hell does not appear to be the Congressional Democrats:
Together, they argue the provision -- referred to in some GOP circles as the "Cornhusker Kickback" -- defies longstanding constitutional precedents on taxes and fees. According to them, the government must levy those excises uniformly to prevent lawmakers from "ganging up" on one state, which means Congress should avoid distributing the fees of a program -- in this case, Medicaid -- to every state but one.

But there's also an implicit economic argument motivating states' legal action against Democrats' healthcare reforms. All told, states faced billions in budget gaps they had to close before the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year, and many resorted to spending cuts and tax increases in order to stay out of the red. Many governors thus argued that a Medicaid expansion during a national budget crisis could further hamstring their finances, but only one state -- Nebraska -- was able to avoid the mandate.

McMaster hinted at that objection during his interview on Monday, dismissing suggestions that his investigation was a political stunt. He then chided Democrats for failing to even rationalize the Medicaid deal in the days leading up to their passage of healthcare legislation.

"This is the first time we've had a situation where no one has even attempted to give a reason other than it is to buy a particular senator's vote in order to move the bill forward," McMaster said. "That's not the kind of reason the Constitution allows."

"The political stunts are going on in Washington; this is a matter of law for the states' attorneys general," McMasster added.

I hope, while they are at it, that they look into some of the kickbacks provided to other states like, say Louisiana, and the New Louisiana Purchase to buy Landrieu's vote.

AG McMaster hit the nail on the head right here:
"This is the first time we've had a situation where no one has even attempted to give a reason other than it is to buy a particular senator's vote in order to move the bill forward," McMaster said. "That's not the kind of reason the Constitution allows."

I would certainly hope not. Hard to believe they even tried these buyoffs, this more "transparent" Congress. Ha. More like this Congress that refuses to heed the will of the people. I guess it isn't so hard to believe after all, but I sure hope SOMEONE puts a stop to it, and soon. I hope more States Attorneys General band together to stand up against this unConstituional vote buying that places an undue burden on all the other states.

And I really hope that we will, some day soon, have representatives in Washington who actually represent US, not their own self-interests.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This Is The "System" Working?

You have got to be kidding me that Janet Napolitano thinks the system WORKED after the failed terrorist attempt! I couldn't believe it when I saw she said this. She really must put down the "Hopium" pipe:

I just can't get away from this - just what worked, exactly? That someone who was exposed as a potential terrorist - by his FATHER* - was allowed to fly into the United States, and only failed in blowing up the damn plane because he mishandled the trigger, and that is the system WORKING?? Everything that worked was AFTER the fact. Thank heavens for some of the brave passengers and flight attendants on that flight who thwarted this terrorist attempt, especially Jasper Schuringa, who literally took matters into his own hands to put out the explosive materials.

I can't believe I am saying this, but Senator Lieberman is Spot On. If it wasn't for quick action on the part of a few on the plane, especially Schuringa, there is no telling what could have happened in Detroit.

*And yes, the father went to the US Embassy to inform the US of his concerns about his son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab:

And YET, Napolitano claims the system worked. Right. Clearly, we have different definitions of what "work" is. Here's a hint, Napolitano - when someone's FATHER, a widely respected, high level man in his country, goes to the US Embassy and claims his son is a DANGER to the United States, how about the son doesn't get anywhere NEAR the country?? By any means, be it plane, boat, hot air balloon, or whatever it is. Seems to me, that would have placed him way up at the top of the "Do Not Fly" list, but that's just me.

Oh no wait, there are a half a million people on the "persons of interest" list, and we couldn't POSSIBLY take the time or make the effort to subject those people to a little extra scrutiny before they board a metal tube with hundreds of other people to go fly 30,000 feet above our country. We have no experience whatsoever with how well THAT can turn out ...

"The system worked." Wow, if this is the system WORKING, I'd sure hate to see what happened if it FAILED...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How The Afghanistan Surge Affects The Troops

I saw this piece the other day on an aspect of the increase in troops to Afghanistan I had not fully considered,
The Afghanistan Surge: A Logistical Challenge with a Cast of Thousands
. I cannot even begin to imagine how complicated this must be to move that number of people and equipment. Evidently, it is fairly complex:
Troops are jamming two dozen at a time into eight-man Arctic tents hastily erected beside the runways at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, as the first of the 30,000-plus reinforcements ordered by President Obama arrive for the expanding war.

It's simple enough for the commander in chief to order the additional troops into the fight at "the fastest possible pace,'' as Obama did in his West Point speech Dec. 1. Getting it done, safely and on time, will be barely short of miraculous, given the risks and vulnerabilities involved.

Heavy-lift cargo planes jammed with troops or armored vehicles are lumbering over the rocky peaks that ring Bagram Air Field and into airspace already crowded with jet fighters, unmanned drones, bombers, helicopters and small cargo and passenger jets. Just maneuvering along taxiways overcrowded with parked aircraft and support trucks is a nightmare, pilots say.

Most (80 percent) of the military cargo headed into Afghanistan goes by land, squeezing through one of five major bridges or mountain passes and along roads made treacherous by winter storms, insurgents' attacks, and bandit hijackings.
An incident -- a downed planeload of soldiers, a crucial bridge blown, an insurgent rocket attack that leaves burning cargo planes blocking a single runway -- could derail the entire sequencing of the surge.

"We could lose everything . . . there are a lot of things that could come down,'' said the man at the center of it all, Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb. He heads the U.S. Transportation Command and is responsible for all movement of military people and equipment worldwide, by air and sea. Right now, his focus is on Afghanistan and what he worries about is "a catastrophic failure.''

Holy cow. Thank heavens that is not the case currently:
So far, McNabb told reporters earlier this month, things are flowing okay. "But I basically would like to have at least double the capacity that we need. Now we don't have all of that in place, but that's kind of where I'd like to be.''

Part of the problem is the flow itself. U.S. military facilities, from air bases to remote Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), were tight a year ago, before Obama took office, when there were only some 30,000 American troops in Afghanistan. By next summer there will be three times that many. But already, the primitive country is starting to resemble a crowded department store where shoppers are getting off of escalators faster than the aisles can absorb them, creating angry bottlenecks.
Engineering crews are working at Bagram and across Afghanistan to expand runways, aircraft parking areas, cargo yards, and to build new FOBs, air strips, and logistics bases. But much of the problem is at Bagram, the former Soviet air base that now serves as the United States' main operating hub in Afghanistan.

There, the heated tents going up beside the runway are only one sign of growing strain. Already, Bagram is handling up to 2,000 inbound and outbound troops a day, and just recently loaded 925 tons of cargo in one day, up from about 400 tons a day last summer.

"Every square inch of this air base is utilized,'' Air Force Maj. Jack Elston told me by phone. "Bed spaces are coveted. When your replacement gets here, he gets your bed and you've got to go someplace else.''

Elston is operations officer for an expeditionary civil engineering squadron at Bagram, responsible for building space for airplanes, cargo and people. Even before the surge gets fully underway, "we are at max capacity,'' he said. "We're trying to bring in new airplanes and there's no place to put 'em.''

The sheer logistics of this must be mind-boggling. So, what DO you do with airplanes for which there is not space? And in an area that is, simply put, dangerous:
Bagram's vast acres of concrete look accommodating, but can hold only so many aircraft. That limit is known as the Maximum on Ground, or MOG. Once it's reached, a red flag goes up on computer screens at the Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. " Bagram's mogged out,'' an operator will announce, and inbound flights start getting diverted like passenger jets from an O'Hare snowstorm.

Afghanistan is a big and mostly empty place. But simply expanding out into the desert is not an easy option. "Before you use any land, it has to be de-mined,'' Elston said, cleared of the land mines buried by Russians and warlords and insurgents over at least three decades of war. De-mining is mostly done by Afghans hired to gently probe the ground with sticks. I've also seen it done at Bagram by brute force, with a huge armored bulldozer just plowing up the dirt and taking an occasional clanging hit.

Good grief - that must be a daunting task, even with an armored bulldozer:
Other frustrations: Afghans hired for construction work often quit because the risks of working with Americans outweigh steady wages, Elston said. Getting construction material delivered is difficult because trucks can get hijacked and containers stolen or pirated, he said.

One project at Bagram is installing relocatable buildings, basically steel shipping containers that are stacked and welded and hooked up to power and ventilation and used as offices and living quarters. The buildings require land to be cleared and foundations to be built, and the effort is six months behind.

"Part of our mission is to help the Afghans learn construction, so projects take a lot more guidance and take a lot of attempts before they get finished,'' Elston said. "It's frustrating because we need these facilities right away.''
Getting the stuff into Afghanistan remains the larger problem. McNabb's staff is working on four innovations to help ease the strain:

-- They have begun using Boeing's huge 747-400 freightliners to airlift M-ATVs, the new armored vehicles built for Afghanistan directly from Charleston S.C., where the vehicles are finished, nonstop right into Afghanistan. Each 747 carries five M-ATVs. That's more expensive than shipping them by sea, but an enormous saving of time.

-- Instead of flying the normal route from Charleston Air Force Base to Germany and on into Bagram, what about flying over the North Pole and south across Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan right into Bagram, a much shorter distance? McNabb has already held two demo flights over Russia and discussions are underway to make a regular polar route possible. One problem: that's the same trajectory that intercontinental ballistic missiles would take in a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia.

-- Increasing air drops. Some of the cargo, rigged to parachutes, can be shoved out the back of C-130 cargo planes, as I wrote about last summer. That takes the load off hubs like Bagram, and means fewer truck convoys on the roads.

-- Most intriguing, McNabb's team is experimenting with unmanned cargo aircraft that could pick up and deliver small but valuable cargo. Unmanned aircraft would remove air cargo crews from the risks of flying into ongoing firefights, as they sometimes do now. No word on whether the experimental craft will be ready in time to serve in the surge.

A number of logistical issues indeed when bringing in so many people into a hostile area. To be able to figure out where to put all of these moving pieces is just amazing.

One thing is for sure. We have some mighty talented people in our military. They are faced with so much many of us, myself included, cannot fathom. To deal with these kinds of logistics in a hostile land is hard enough. Add to that fatigue, being so far away from family and friends, and the day-to-day grind, and what they do is nothing short of amazing.

To honor them, those who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, a young songwriter, Matt Hodge, recently penned the following song at the request of his professor. She wanted him to write a song that would speak to them in the manner of, "I'll be home for Christmas," when her father was fighting in World War II. And so, for those who are serving abroad during this holiday season, and for their families, this is for you:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Now That Is Some Kind Of Generous Gift

Just in time for the holidays, Emperor Obama gave a gift the length and breadth of which would warm the cockles of your heart - if you happened to be one of the recipients. Because what he gave is something most people cannot afford in this economy for themselves, but guess what? You were kind enough to do this for others!

Thanks to faithful No Quarter reader, French Nail, who alerted me to this article detailing the vast generosity of Obama - with your money. Oh, how I wish I was not making this us: Obama’s Holiday Bribes; PRO-OBAMA JOURNALISTS GET PAID WITH TAXPAYER MONEY, TO SURROUND OBAMA DURING HOLIDAY IN HAWAII. Yes he did, and yes we are:
Obama will enjoy a 13 day Hawaiian Holiday repleat with a corps of jouralists (sic), payed for with your tax-dollars.

Obama will enjoy a 13 day Hawaiian Holiday repleat(sic) with a corps of jouralists (sic), payed (sic)for with your tax-dollars.

(Dec. 11, 2009) — Just after the aftermath of yet another insult to our allies via the refusal to participate to the traditional events surrounding the award of the Nobel Prize including a dinner with the King, on the pretenses that the recipient was a very busy, sitting “President,” responsible for not one, but two, wars and facing the worst economic crisis “EVAHHH!”, the White House is quietly organizing yet another vacation-time for the Obamas.

They would have you believe that nothing has been decided yet, when in fact the logistics of booking their 13 day vacations in Hawaii, from December 23 to January 3, are in full swing!

And the invitations for the entourage are out!

Joy! Obama has found a way to keep the media in his back pocket. No doubt, he felt them begin to pull away, and like suitors, lavished them with an expensive gift. Except the cheapo didn't pay for it himself. Nope - you did. Merry Christmas to them!!!

Naturally, it wasn't the American press that reported this:
Yesterday, December 10, Laurence Haim, the only French-Press-accredited, White House correspondent — but for the AFP — revealed that she had received an email inviting her and a guest to stay for the duration of Obama’s trip to Hawaii, at a Hotel next to the Obamas’ vacations spot. Her revelations were aired on the French TV leading evening news program.

To listen to the program in French, go to the 20:00 mark in the broad cast at–regarder-gratuitement.html

(UPDATE – 12/13/09: 10:10 PM — The audio file has now been archived, and moved to a new url: )

According to Haim, the entire corps of White House correspondents, domestic and international has been invited (with a guest of their choice), to follow the Obamas under the sun at the American taxpayer expense.

In times when the American people are facing a bleak and sobering Christmas, when millions have lost their jobs and homes, the Obama Court is relocating to a Hawaiian paradise on the public dime. And to insure the cooperative silence of the Main Stream Media, it is bribing the lackeys of the press, with lavishing and outrageous favors.

This would be cause enough to raise eyebrows, but since when is 13 day vacation outside of the mainland U.S.A. accpetable (sic) the “President” of a nation at war?

I guess Christmas at home in Chicago or New Year at Camp David does not fit the standards of the Grandiose Obamas (emphasis mine).

Probably not Historic enough!

I love the snark, but I bet it sounded better in French (what doesn't? Bear in mind that it was written in French and translated.). But no doubt - it wouldn't have been "historic" enough. I had been wondering the same, too, why they didn't go back to Chicago or to Camp David. But no doubt, the writer got it just right.

Isn't it refreshing to see SOME in the media finally waking up to Obama and who he really is? About time. Though I don't expect those reporters plus one in Hawaii at a luxury hotel on OUR DIME are going to look too deeply anytime soon.

You know what would make me happy in the New Year? For this kind of bribery to stop with these politicians, be they the president, senators or representatives. If they or their plans cannot stand on their merits, then they deserve to fail. I am way, way past over it. How about you?

Friday, December 25, 2009

All I Want For Christmas...

Is a Merry Christmas for everyone who celebrates Christmas, and for a lovely day for those who do not. It's a magical time of year no matter one's religious beliefs, I think (and even atheism is a belief). Maybe it's the shorter days and the lights on the tree, recreating ancient memories..

Certainly one aspect of this season that makes it even more magical to me is the music. I love it. I love the old hymns, the tunes with their basis in Gregorian chant, or even more ancient melodies. They stir something deep within me. The variation from calm and quiet to exuberance is the tale of human existence. Thus the magic is made.

And I love Celtic music, too. One group that does both is Celtic Woman. I love their voices, and the energy they bring to music. They make it so alive, it is a delight to see. I would like to share with you some Christmas pieces by them, as well as some newer pieces by contemporary artists, one I absolutely cannot resist..

The first carol was new to me until I received the Celtic Woman"A Christmas Celebration" cd. I might add, that is saying something. My father was the choirmaster and organist at every (Episcopal) church to which we belonged, and I started singing in choir at the age of 5. But I was unfamiliar with this one, "The Wexford Carol." It is lovely, and sets the tone for this day:

This one, also by Celtic Woman, is "Christmas Pipes." Make sure you watch their fiddler, Mairead. I swear, gravity has absolutely no effect on her:

One last one for today from Celtic Woman, which features Mairead first, then the rest of the group:

I absolutely cannot resist this song by Mariah Carey. It never fails to bring a smile to my face. Her frolicking in the video below is just adorable:

But what Christmas would be complete without an ornament like this, from my friend, Larry, the former CIA agent, and founder of No Quarter:

In case you can't read his note, it says, "Nothing says Christmas like a spook on a reindeer."

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not include a holiday piece to honor our service personnel abroad. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to spend the holidays apart from your family and friends. So, this is for you, with my thoughts and prayers going out to you, especially for your safety and swift return:

Merry Christmas to you and yours, friends! May you all be safe. May you not be alone. May this holiday season be filled with love, laughter, and peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And A Very Merry Christmas And Happy New Year...

To the Health Care Industry, Big Pharma, and a few select states. Yes, in the wee hours of the morning (okay, 7:00 a.m.), the Senate voted to pass the Health Care-less-what-the-people-and-physicians-say Bill. Oh, yes - what a banner day. The Senate rammed through a bill so fraught with problems it would be laughable if it didn't have the potential to affect so many in this country.

But, one person who is very happy about this early morning vote was Barack Obama. Now he can do what he does best - vacation. Yep, he was waiting to make sure this backroom, strong-arm, possibly unConstitutional bill to pass the Senate before going to Hawaii for the holidays. I am sure he is all plumb tuckered from his trip to Norway and Copenhagen in such a short amount of time, and his constant tv appearances. Poor baby, I am sure he is EXHAUSTED.

Obama got what he wanted thus far - oh, no - not any of the things on which he campaigned, mind you. No, he got a Health Care Bill with his name on it to pad his record, assuming that we aren't smart enough to actually care what the hell is IN it. All he cares about is being able to brag that it happened, not what it will do to the country. Next step, the House of Representatives to jive the two bills together just in time for the State of the Union?

Not if this Representative has anything to say about it, though. And this one is actually a Democrat. I am not referring to Stupak, but to Louise Slaughter (D/NY). I know, I was surprised, too, when I saw this article from CNN, A Democrat's View From he House: Senate Bill Isn't Health Reform. Dang, she better be careful of any presents left at her door by Rahm and Harry. Ahem. I have to say, it is mighty courageous of her to speak out like this, and isn't that a sad commentary, that it would require courage? We've seen what happens if a Democrat doesn't toe the line ("We're keeping score, brother," - Obama). No doubt. That's the Chicago-way.

But Slaughter isn't from Chicago. She's from New York:
CNN Editor's note: Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat, represents the 28th Congressional District of New York. Slaughter is the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee and the only microbiologist in Congress.

The Senate health care bill is not worthy of the historic vote that the House took a month ago.

Even though the House version is far from perfect, it at least represents a step toward our goal of giving 36 million Americans decent health coverage.

But under the Senate plan, millions of Americans will be forced into private insurance company plans, which will be subsidized by taxpayers. That alternative will do almost nothing to reform health care but will be a windfall for insurance companies. Is it any surprise that stock prices for some of those insurers are up recently?

I do not want to subsidize the private insurance market; the whole point of creating a government option is to bring prices down. Insisting on a government mandate to have insurance without a better alternative to the status quo is not true reform.

Amen, sister. Right there with ya. Oh, and that whole taxation thing? That will happen immediately even though this program isn't set to start until 2014. I gotta tell you, considering how much we already pay (including how much MORE we have to pay since we can't be married, about $2,500 a year), I don't really care to be shelling out more money to pay for OTHER people's private health insurance. BUt that's just me. Oh, and maybe Slaughter:
By eliminating the public option, the government program that could spark competition within the health insurance industry, the Senate has ended up with a bill that isn't worthy of its support.

The public option is the part of our reform effort that will lower costs, improve the delivery of health care services and force insurance companies to offer rates and services that are reasonable.

Although the art of legislating involves compromise, I believe the Senate went off the rails when it agreed with the Obama Administration to water down the reform bill and no longer include the public option.

But that's not the only thing wrong with the Senate's version of the health care bill.

Under that plan, insurance companies can punish older people, charging them much higher rates than the House bill would allow.

In the House, we fought hard to repeal McCarran-Ferguson, the antitrust exemption that insurance companies have enjoyed for years. We did that because we believed firmly that those Fortune 500 corporations should not enjoy special treatment.

Yet the Senate bill does not include that provision -- despite assurances from some members that they will seek to add it. By ending that protection, we will be able to go after insurance companies with federal penalties for misleading advertising or dishonest business practices.

The House bill would cover 96 percent of legal residents, while the Senate covers 94 percent. Compared with the House bill, the Senate's bill makes it much easier for employers to avoid the responsibility of providing insurance for their workers.

And of course, the Senate bill did not remove the onerous choice language intended to appeal to anti-abortion forces.

Now don't get me wrong; the current House and Senate bills are a significant improvement over the status quo. Given the hard path to reform and the political realities of next year, there is a sizable group within Congress that wants to simply cut any deal that works and call it a success. Many previous efforts have failed, and the path to reform is littered with unsuccessful efforts championed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton.

Supporters of the weak Senate bill say "just pass it -- any bill is better than no bill."

I strongly disagree -- a conference report is unlikely to sufficiently bridge the gap between these two very different bills.

It's time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board. The American people deserve at least that.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Louise Slaughter.

I disagree, too. Do it right the first time. DO it so that physicians all across the country don't give up their practices. Do it so that the middle class won't be carrying the burden. Do it so that Medicare isn't cut. Do it so that it truly benefits the people of this country, not just to get it done to get it done. It's too important to be shoved through like this.

How about taking back this present to the Health Care industry and Big Pharma, and go back to the Drawing Board in the New Year? That would work for me, and the majority of my fellow Americans.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Well, SOMEONE Is Having A Good Year

And that would be lobbyists. Yes, the group singled out repeatedly by President Obama when he was Candidate Obama is having one of their best years EVER. Apparently, the agenda of the Democrats is really helping them out. Oh, yay!

Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Yeah, me, too. Here Obama is in his own words. I found the shortest one I could (you're welcome):

That was then, this is now. You're damn right, Obama, we DO care about "special interest dominated politics in Washington," and we are seeing plenty of that in YOUR Administration.

In a a follow-up to a post on Senator Lindsey Graham's ire over the Health "Care "Bill, this article from Politico tells the tale about what a great year this is for the K Street Crowd:
Lobbyists On Pace For Record Year

Main Street has had a tough year, losing jobs and seeing little evidence of the economic revival that experts say has already begun.

But K Street is raking it in
(emphasis mine).

Washington’s influence industry is on track to shatter last year’s record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government — and that’s with a down economy and about 1,500 fewer registered lobbyists in town, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Many lobbying firms have escaped the worst of the corporate belt-tightening, thanks, in large part, to the ambitious agenda set out by President Barack Obama — who, ironically, came to Washington with a pledge to break what he considered the undue influence of special-interest lobbyists.

Plenty of sectors have scaled back their K Street spending, including traditional big spenders like real estate and telecommunications. But Obama’s push for legislation on health reform, financial reform and climate change has compensated for the grim economic times.

And that’s after Obama kicked off the year with a massive economic stimulus package — and every major business sector tried to get a piece of the action.

“Lobbyists love it ... when you’ve got an activist agenda like this, and you’ve got serious problems like this, and people want to do something about it,” said James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.

“It is the most active time that I have ever seen in the advocacy business — from 1973 on,” Thurber added.

“We’ve never had as good a year,” said one lobbyist whose shop deals mostly with financial services and health care issues. “It’s been a tremendously busy year, and it’s going to keep getting that way,” the lobbyist said, noting that both health care and financial reform will remain active as congressional action moves from drafting legislation to implementation to the inevitable fixes.

Oh, yippie ki yay - they are all SO happy to be rolling in the dough to get bills like the Health Care Bill passed, a piece of legislation with "Lobbyist" written all over it.

One more lie from Obama. What a surprise. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you. Ahem.

There's more:
The year-end lobbying expenditure figures don’t come out until late January, but Thurber and others predict that the top line number will exceed the $3.3 billion spent in 2008. Groups spent $2.5 billion during the first three quarters of 2009, which is a slightly faster quarterly pace than 2008, according to CRP.

And the fourth quarter has been a particularly busy time on Capitol Hill, with the House passing health care and financial reform bills and the Senate digging in on health care, too.

Health care has provided a particular jolt to the lobbying business, insiders say, since the scope of the legislation outstrips any health efforts in recent history.

“This was the biggest, most broad attempt at passing legislation that we’ve seen. This is even bigger or more broad than ’93,” said Bill Pierce, senior vice president and health care guru at APCO Worldwide, referring to President Bill Clinton’s attempt at health care reform. “It touches all the various parts of the entire health care environment. ... Everybody has some dog in the fight.”

And the lobbying expenditure figures don’t include the heaps of cash interest groups are throwing at advertising, coalition-building, grass-roots and Astroturf outreach — all of which don’t get reported in the figures. Advocacy groups have spent almost $200 million on ads on the health care issue so far this year, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group.

"Astroturfing"? Isn't that what Pelosi accused regular people of doing when they stood up to the way she and others are ruining our country? Huh. I guess she was wrong about that - no, I know she was wrong at the time. Just more smoke-screening from those who care less about what the people say despite their job being to represent us. Who knew all those Tea Party people should have been getting PAID? Ahem.

Of course, lobbyists aren't on just one side:
The legislation’s reach has drawn in an almost-encyclopedic expanse of interest and corporate groups — from activists on both sides of the abortion debate, to and FreedomWorks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to health insurance companies.

“That doesn’t happen every day. When it does happen, you get this great deal of money being pumped into the political system on the lobbying end because all of these folks feel like they need to be a participant, and that if they don’t participate, they do so at their own peril,” said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for CRP, a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group. Nearly $400 million has been spent on health care lobbying during the first nine months of 2009, according to CRP’s data.

A closer look at some of the health care lobbying expenditures shows just how high the stakes are. PhRMA, a top trade group for drug makers, spent as much as it did in all of 2008 — $20.2 million — during the first nine months of 2009. America’s Health Insurance Plans is also on pace to outspend its 2008 lobbying budget, spending $6.3 million during the first nine months of this year.

The Obama administration’s determination to revamp the nation’s financial rules and regulatory structure has fueled a somewhat less broad but no less intense advocacy business.

Lobbyists for the industry describe working nonstop since last August, when the financial system started to crumble, through the fight for the $700 billion bailout last fall. This year, they’ve battled several attempts by Democrats to pass so-called cramdown legislation allowing bankruptcy judges to modify troubled mortgages and fought — ultimately unsuccessfully — against strict new credit card rules, among other policy battles.

All this while the industry must keep up with the larger financial reform bill, which is moving through Congress. “If it weren’t for the crisis, that bill could have easily taken four years, minimum,” observed one exhausted financial lobbyist of the bill that the House passed Dec. 11.

Aren't you just so worried on their behalf? At how "taxed" they must be as they're rolling in the dough? Didn't think so:
The Credit Union National Association has already spent about $650,000 more than it did during the same period last year and is on track to spend “considerably more” lobbying than it did in 2008, said John Magill, the trade association’s senior vice president of legislative affairs.

“It’s been such a frantic pace this year. The Congress has churned out so many things,” he said, ticking off a list that includes financial reform, credit card legislation, new bank overdraft rules and credit unions’ ongoing battle to raise the amount they can lend to small businesses.

Magill said that the lobbying expenditures CUNA reports to Congress don’t take into account its extensive grass-roots efforts, such as the 5,000 members that “hiked the Hill” last spring or the approximately 650 who flew into town the week the House debated the financial reform bill on the floor.

Magill credits that grass-roots lobbying for the defeat of a House bill on a cramdown amendment, which came after the House passed a similar measure earlier in the year.

While times may be good for lobbyists, there’s a more dismal lesson to be learned from the relentless upward trend of lobbying spending that appears undaunted by even a massive recession: Lobbying is seen as an issue of political and economic survival in this town.

“If lobbying the federal government did not work, people wouldn’t spend money doing it,” Levinthal said.

That about says it all, doesn't it? And work it has. We are about to be saddled with a Lobbyists' Dream that will constitute One-Sixth of our entire economy. That is all thanks to their "tireless" efforts on behalf of their clients, who, by the way, are not us. No matter how much we oppose it, no matter how much we decry their unethical conduct, no matter how much we rage over the buying of votes, Congress continues to sell off legislation to the highest bidder rather than working for us.

And that cannot stand. Vote these people out. Let's reclaim our country for US, the people, not for the lobbyists.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Senator Lindsey Graham Has A Few Choice Words On The Health Care Bill

My senator, Lindsey Graham, has been hot under the collar about this Health "Care" bill, and the manner in which Ben Nelson was bought off by Harry Reid at OUR expense this past weekend. He likened it to "Chicago-style politics." I'd be inclined to agree. Here is Senator Graham explaining his assertion:

You tell 'em, Senator Graham!! I admit, even when I was a far lefty Democrat (now Independent), I couldn't help but be impressed by Senator Graham. I may not agree with him on everything, but I sure as hell agree with his interpretation above. I also agree with his call for a Constitutional review by the SC Attorney General regarding the Nebraska Buy-off:

This article found in my local newspaper provides a more comprehensive explanation of Graham's request:
Graham Wants Investigation

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that he wants South Carolina's top prosecutor to investigate a deal that helped secure the 60th vote needed to pass a Democratic health care bill through the Senate.

Blasting Senate Democrats for what he called "backroom deals that amount to bribes," Graham found much to complain about in their health care bill. He was particularly irked that the senator who provided that final vote to head off a Republican filibuster, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, cut a deal in which the federal government pays his state's share of the cost for new Medicaid recipients.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, called on state Attorney General Henry McMaster to review the constitutionality of the deal, and a McMaster spokesman said he looks forward to meeting with Graham to discuss it.

"There is one state in the union where new enrollees for Medicaid will be signed up and it won't cost anybody in that state money," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"A lot of people, Republicans and Democrats, are upset by this," Graham said. "Is it constitutional? I want the attorney general of South Carolina to look at this."

Nelson, who skirted the issue in a news conference Saturday, confirmed the deal in a CNN interview Sunday. But he said he didn't ask for special favors...

Click HERE if you wish to read the rest of the article.

Senator Graham is by no means alone in his disgust for the way this Health "Care" bill has come about, and its resemblance to "Chicago-style politics." This article by the Chicago Tribune (!) certainly supports that supposition: How Health Lobbyists Influenced Reform Bill; Former staffers of lawmakers from Harry Reid to Mitch McConnell push clients' agenda. Uh huh. What a big ol' surprise - that this bill being shoved down our throats was crafted by LOBBYISTS:
David Nexon had a big problem. An early version of national health care legislation contained a $40 billion tax aimed squarely at members of the medical device trade association he represents.

Nexon, a former adviser to the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, went to work. He marshaled 14 people like himself -- lobbyists who were once congressional aides, many of them from staffs of congressional leaders or committees that had a hand in crafting the health care overhaul.

When Senate Democrats unveiled their bill in mid-November, Nexon's handiwork was evident. The tax on device-makers was still large -- $20 billion -- but only half what it might have been without the efforts of Nexon and his fellow lobbyists.

Nexon's team is an illustration of how deeply the health care industry has embedded itself on Capitol Hill, using former aides of lawmakers and ex-lawmakers themselves.

An analysis of public documents by Northwestern University's Medill News Service in partnership with the Tribune Newspapers Washington Bureau and the Center for Responsive Politics found a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation.

At least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in shaping health overhaul legislation -- along with at least 13 former lawmakers -- registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of last year, according to the analysis.

Their health care clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, the study shows.

The total of insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying on health issues are added in, the analysis found.

My blood is boiling now; how about yours? Better take your high blood pressure medication, then:
Part of the lobbying pressure on current members of Congress and staffers comes from the powerful lure of post-congressional job possibilities.

"There's always a worry they may be thinking about their future employment opportunities when dealing with these issues, particularly with health care, because the stakes are so high and the breadth of the issues -- pharmacies, hospitals, doctors," said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.

Lobbyists' earnings can dwarf congressional salaries, which currently top out at $174,000 annually for lawmakers and $156,000 for aides, though committee staff members can earn slightly more.

In the health care showdown, insider lobbying influence has magnified the clout of corporate interests and helped steer the debate away from a public insurance option, despite many polls indicating majority support from Americans, according to Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker.

"It imposes a kind of conservative bias on the discussion," said Baker, himself a former Senate staffer.

The lineup of insiders working for clients with health care interests includes at least 14 former aides to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and at least 13 former aides to Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee and a key overseer of the health care overhaul.

This is just shocking on its face, isn't it? I gues I shouldn't be at all surprised that a bunch of these people worked for the same ones trying to ram this through before anyone has had a chance to read the damn thing in its entirety:
Nexon, who is now senior executive vice president of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, is among at least a half-dozen former Kennedy aides lobbying on health care.

Nexon acknowledged the value of congressional connections, "but in the end, it's not who I know, it's what I know."

It makes sense to hire former staffers for the health care showdown because they tend to be "more generalists, dealing with a broad range of issues," something that is in demand for legislation that sprawls across at least a half-dozen federal agencies and encompasses issues ranging from tax policy to hospital reimbursement rates, according to Nexon. But specific issues also get specialized help. Earlier this year, the Christian Science Church hired a former Kennedy staffer, Carolyn Osolinik, and three of her colleagues at the Mayer Brown law firm, all veterans of Capitol Hill. The firm has been paid at least $110,000 so far to push a provision requiring insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments.

Phil Davis, a senior official of the church, said the church wanted access to decision makers. "The noise level goes sky high. It's hard to get in to talk to people," he said.

The largest insider lobbying cadre belongs to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, which employs at least 26 former congressional members and staffers, according to Medill/CRP research.

Two other drug interests, biotech firm Amgen Inc. and the Biotechnology Industry Organization trade group, with at least 24 and 16 insiders respectively, ranked second and fourth among reported hiring over the past two years of lawmakers' former staffers and members of committees considered in the analysis.

"The numbers shouldn't surprise anyone," said Ken Johnson, a PhRMA senior vice president. "Former staffers have a unique understanding of how the legislative process works. And when you are trying to advocate on behalf of smart public policies, you want smart people on your team."

But Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group, had a harsher assessment, blaming "a toxic cocktail of insiders and money" for short-circuiting a government-run plan that would have competed with private insurers.

"We'll get a bill. And the president will sign it. But it'll be less than the country deserves," said Edgar, a former six-term member of the House.

Health care lobbyists increase their effectiveness by strategically targeting their campaign contributions or the donations of the interests they represent, Edgar said.

But, but, but - I thought lobbyists were going to have no part in an Obama Administration!! Ahahahahaha - and if anyone actually bought THAT line of crapola from Obama, I have some waterfront property in Wyoming to sell you because there is more:
Health industry contributions to congressional candidates have more than doubled so far this decade, rising to $127 million in the 2008 election cycle from $56 million in the 2000 election, with disproportionate sums going to the party in power and to members of committees that oversee health care, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But lobbyist and former Kennedy staffer Andrew Rosenberg said political conditions, not big money or the predispositions of lobbyists sidelined a public option.

"You could see this coming from a long way off. The Democratic Party is now the big tent party. They have to get to 60 votes. That is the reality," Rosenberg said. "It was going to have to be something that appeals to moderates" opposed to expanding government-run health insurance. (Tribune Newspapers' Tom Hamburger and Joe Markman contributed to this report.)

So now you know - Senator Lindsey Graham has it exactly right - this policy was not crafted with US in mind. It was crafted by and for the health care insurers and those who are connected to them. They wrote this thing that the Democrats are hell-bent on getting through this year. They, and the Democrats who are getting money from them, are the ones who will most definitely benefit most. Because from everything I have heard and read, WE will be the ones who lose the most while paying the most.

And if all of these shenanigans to buy votes aren't unConstitutional, they are most definitely unethical. Seems like the only change that has come to Washington is bolder cheating. Yep, sounds like "Chicago-style politics" to me!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice

As we embrace this shortest day of the year, I found this very interesting piece about the Winter Solstice in Newgrange, Ireland. Our ancestors designed this incredible place there to honor this day, this countdown to the year to come:

As we celebrate the Solstice, we remember that growth takes place in the darkness, to be brought forth in the Spring. It is a time for reflection, for peace, for gathering with loved ones, and for magical moments, like those at Newgrange, as reflected in this piece by Clannad:

Ah, always a transformative moment, listening to (and watching) Clannad. By the way, if the members of Clannad look somewhat familiar to you, it is because they are Enya's family. What an amazing family!

In any event, I hope this is a day of calm, a day of joy, of peace, and of one filled with love. I wish you all the same for the rest of the season, and for the New Year to come. And now, dear friends, I leave you with this lovely piece. Please sit back, relax, and be still:

Merry meet, merry part, merry meet again! Blessed be...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

How Did This Tank Get Cut From The Defense Bill?

One major bit of news that went largely unnoticed this weekend was the passage of this rather significant bill,Defense Appropriations Bill Passes Senate 88-10, Clears Way For Health Bill. Yes, this pesky little bill needed to be take care of before the Democrats could begin to ram the Health "Care" bill (and its attendant expenses) up our, well, you know. Hence, it received very little in the way of discussion.

So, just what was in this bill:
The Senate passed a defense appropriations bill Saturday as the chamber’s Democrats cleared the decks for its healthcare reform legislation.

The $636 billion Pentagon budget and added unrelated amendments including extension of unemployment benefits for fiscal year 2010 passed the Senate overwhelmingly with a vote of 88-10. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) was joined by nine Republican senators in opposing the bill.

The vote came after a contentious cloture motion on the defense spending bill passed early Friday as Democrats accused Republicans of slowing the defense bill’s progress in order to impede their healthcare reform package. Only three Republicans voted to move forward with the defense bill then, which helped beat back a GOP-engineered filibuster.

Despite the legislation funding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tune of $128 billion, much of the debate on the defense bill has centered around the Democrats’ reform push for the healthcare reform legislation instead. In an effort to finish the healthcare bill before the end of the year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been keeping the Senate in session late at night and through the weekend. GOP senators, in turn, have said that Democrats are pushing the bill too quickly before it can be properly considered.

Well, yeah - I don't think one has to be a Republican to speculate as to WHY the Democrats are in such a hurry that they cannot take more time for, I dunno, READING THE DAMN THING first, or forming committees to study the long range impact, particularly cost, etc. But hey, that may just be too reasonable for them:
“The majority knows that the more time the public has with the bill, the more they know about it, the less they will like it,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on the Senate floor Saturday before the defense vote. “This is a rush.”

Democrats countered by saying their colleagues across the aisle have concentrated on delaying their bill and have not come up with their own plan to change the healthcare system for the better.

“That is what they have to offer to the American people. Not ideas, not solutions, but delay,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) in response. He then went through a variety of reforms the Senate healthcare bill would achieve.

The successful passage of the defense bill in the Senate now clears the way for Democrats to finish their work on the healthcare reform bill. The House had already easily passed the defense bill on Wednesday with a 395-34 vote.

Oh, Dick (Durbin, that is), why play the blame game in an attempt to not be held accountable for your role in this unwanted, short-sighted, payout to insurance companies and Big Pharma?

Well, I imagine we'll be debating this for some time to come, this whole Health Care issue, and how it will REALLY affect us. Once they have it all written down, that is.

But even an article on the Defense Appropriations bill is more about the so-called Health "care" bill than Defense. There is a reason for that I think (SATIRE ALERT).

Believe it or not, there is one thing Obama WON'T sign in the Defense Appropriations Bill. Frankly, I don't understand it one bit. This, to me, looks like one of the all-time coolest, most awesomest, niftiest defensive creations EVER. Oh, if only the following was from a real news organization as opposed to The Onion:

Am I right, or am I right? Totally wicked awesome, isn't it? Too bad they had to take out the pool, though. Ah, but it is not to be, sadly. One damn thing Obama won't spend our money on. Oh, he'll fly back and forth to Copenhagen for a CLIMATE summit after just having flown to Europe a week or so before - talk about your carbon footprint (remember, it isn't just Air Force One that goes on these trips), but will e allow the Dragon Tank? Noooooooo. Sheesh!

Hopefully, this attempt at levity has brought a bit of a smile to your face, and given you a break, if just for a moment, from the other bullshit which, sadly, is all too real. There will be time enough to discuss it again, but I, for one, on this Solstice Eve, could use a bit of humor. Hope you enjoyed the respite, too!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do You Smell Something In The Air? Hugo Chavez Does In Copenhagen

Oh, what a turn of events, and so quickly, too. Remember when Hugo Chavez called Bush "the devil" at another UN meeting? Many of us thought that was hilarious. Here's the clip as a reminder:

Yes, yes, that was mighty funny. Finally, someone was saying what so many of us lefties thought.

Then, at the end of this past September, Chavez turned his, um, aromatic rhetoric on Obama, who came out smelling like a rose:

Oh, blech. Anyone smell any hope up in here? Yeah, me neither.

Well, that was then. Now, Chavez's olfactory senses are being assaulted again, this time by Obama:

See, I told you Obama was like Bush (and not just because of Chavez)! Oh, this is just too, too rich. I bet Obama didn't see THAT one coming!

Now I have no particular love lost for Chavez, though I do appreciate that his country sent a whole bunch of heating oil up to New England during Bush's presidency. Regardless how you feel about him, this is funny.

But it isn't just Chavez who is turning on Obama. It seems many in the World Community are seing the "Citizen of the World" for who he is. The more Obama traipses around talking, taling, talking, the more they get it. Yes, this headline from the Guardian (UK) pretty much says it all, Barack Obama's Speech Disappoints And Fuels Frustration At Copenhagen,US president offers no further commitment on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries.

Oh dear. That doesn't bode well for Obama from the get-go:
Barack Obama stepped into the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen summit today saying he was convinced the world could act "boldly and decisively" on climate change.

But his speech offered no indication America was ready to embrace bold measures, after world leaders had been working desperately against the clock to try to paper over an agreement to prevent two years of wasted effort — and a 10-day meeting — from ending in total collapse.

Obama, who had been skittish about coming to Copenhagen at all unless it could be cast as a foreign policy success, looked visibly frustrated as he appeared before world leaders.

He offered no further commitments on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries beyond Hillary Clinton's announcement yesterday that America would support a $100bn global fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

He did not even press the Senate to move ahead on climate change legislation, which environmental organisations have been urging for months.

Nope. Of course he didn't. He's too busy pushing this "Health Care" policy that the majority of Americans do not want, apparently to feed his own ego. He sure isn't going to push them on something for which he cannot claim sole credit. C'mon already!

As for what Obama said in Copenhagen:
The president's speech followed the publication of draft text, obtained by the Guardian this morning, that reveals the enormous progress needed from world leaders in the final hours of the Copenhagen climate change summit to achieve a strong deal. The draft says countries "ought" to limit global warming to 2C, but crucially does not bind them to do so. The text, drafted by a select group of 28 leaders – including UK prime minister, Gordon Brown – in the early hours of this morning, also proposes extending negotiations for another year until the next scheduled UN meeting on climate change in Mexico City in December 2010.

In his address, Obama did say America would follow through on his administration's clean energy agenda, and that it would live up to its pledges to the international community.

"We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say," Obama said.

But in the absence of any evidence of that commitment the words rang hollow and there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the audience.

Instead, he warned African states and low island nations who have been resisting what they see as a weak agreement that the later alternative — no agreement — was far worse.

"We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," he said.

"Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible."

Well, I guess he chose delay, because there is nothing concrete about the "deal" that came out of all of this. But Obama wasn't done:
He also took a dig at China, drawing attention to its status as the world's biggest emitter and reinforcing America's hardline on the issue of accountability for greenhouse gas emissions.

The lacklustre speech proved a huge frustration to a summit that had been looking to Obama to use his stature on the world stage – and his special following among African leaders – to try to come to an ambitious deal.

The president was drawn into the chaos within minutes of his arrival at Copenhagen, ditching his schedule to take part in a meeting of major industrialised and rapidly emerging economies.

Responding to Obama's speech, a British official said: "Gordon Brown is committed to doing all he can and will stay until the very last minute to secure a deal... but others also need to show the same level of commitment. The prospects of a deal are not great."

I believe he was talking to Obama, don't you? I love Obama lecturing China, too. That is rich. He might want to be a tad careful before they call in all of their chits. We'd be bumming if that happened.

People abroad are opening their eyes on this "Citizen of the World":
Many reactions were strongly critical of Obama. Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, described Obama's speech as "ridiculous" and the US's initial offer of a $10bn fund for poor countries in the draft text as "a joke".

Tim Jones, a spokesman for the World Development Movement, said: "The president said he came to act, but showed little evidence of doing so. He showed no awareness of the inequality and injustice of climate change. If America has really made its choice, it is a choice that condemns hundreds of millions of people to climate change disaster."

Friends of the Earth said in a statement, "Obama has deeply disappointed not only those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world."

The World Wildlife Fund said Obama had let down the international community by failing to commit to pushing for action in Congress: "The only way the world can be sure the US is standing behind its commitments is for the president to clearly state that climate change will be his next top legislative priority."

The extent of crisis in the talks has taken leaders by surprise. The Brazilian leader, Lula da Silva, told the conference that the all-night negotiating sessions took him back to his days as a trade union leader negotiating with his bosses.

There's that Chavez again exposing Obama's lack of real action. Not to mention an organization we have supported for many, many years now, the World Wildlife Fund. I think the "Friends of the Earth" sum it up nicely: "...he has disappointed the whole world." Surely now the "whole world" realizes he hoodwinked them, too, with his "lofty" (empty) rhetoric. All talk, no action, just like we have been saying.

Ah, well - I guess they have learned their lesson, too, like some in the States are now. Maybe next time, they, along with those in this country, won't be taken in by a charlatan. That doesn't help for the moment, but maybe we will all be wiser next time around (that's a collective "we," not us specifically, as I posted recently). Our country depends upon it. And the world just might, too.

Breaking News - Ben Nelson CAVES

Senator Ben Nelson has now agreed to vote for cloture on the Health Care Bill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has released a health overhaul compromise that has won the support of the lone Democratic holdout.

The compromise puts new limits on insurance company profits and apparently resolve a standoff over limits on abortion coverage.

Reid, D-Nev., introduced the latest version early Saturday as the Senate pressed for a final vote by Christmas.

Democratic officials say Sen. Ben Nelson intends to support health care legislation backed by President Obama, giving the measure a 60th and decisive vote.

These officials say the conservative Nebraska Democrat will make an announcement later Saturday. Marathon negotiations with the White House and Senate Democratic leaders produced fresh concessions that will mean additional abortion restrictions in the legislation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Are Hillary Clinton Supporters Murmuring, I Told You So?"

Hell no, we haven't been "murmuring." We've been yelling it from the damn rooftops for months and months now! Oh, um, yeah, let me take a step back. So there's this article by Marc Rubin entitled, you guessed it, "Are Hillary Supporters Murmuring I Told You So?".

Welcome to the party, Marc:
With a new NBC/Wall Street journal poll showing Obama hitting his lowest rating in that poll, and the poll showing that people are getting fed up with Obama, the Democrats and how both have handled health care, ( how they handled it, not rejecting things like the public option) those who supported Hillary Clinton for president in the Democratic primaries are starting to say "I told you so".

Obama's had the biggest approval ratings drop of any first year president in history. He has disappointed most of his supporters on the left. And he has accomplished little to nothing in his first year that has showed any concrete results in spite of him giving himself a B+.

What he has done is make more speeches and had more prime time press conferences in his first year than any president has had in their first term.

And play golf - Rubin forgot to add that Obama has played more golf in his short time in office than Bush did in three years. So glad he's working so hard, aren't you? Well, it shows:
On healthcare reform most of his supportes (sic) are complaining that he sold out and was two faced in his capitulation. Which he was. But these are traits he exhibited not only during his entire 12 years of elected office, but were on glaring display during the Democratic primaries.

Now everyone is angry with him for showing a lack of principle, commitment, experience and expertise and a willingness to sacrifice a principle on a dime but that's who Obama has always been and he showed it repeatedly during the primaries, whether he was willing to sell out the voters of Florida and Michigan to help himself get elected, or reversing himself on a pledge to use public financing.

Now as Obama's approval ratings continue to hit record lows for a first term president, and he is bringing the Democratic party down with him, as people are getting fed up with his handling of a propositon (sic) -- the public option and health care reform -- that 72% supported back in June, many Hillary Clinton supporters are starting to say "we told you so".

More and more of Obama's staunchest supporters, the same people who turned a blind eye to Obama's deep character flaws, lack of experience, and brazen political dishonesty, and deceit, are now complaining that he's not what they thought he was, that this isnt change they can believe in. But it never was in the first place. It was clear to anyone who paid attention that was nothing but a slogan.

Uh, yep - it surely was. Maybe that's why his supporters were so mean and hateful to those of us in the reality-based world - because they KNEW Obama was nothing more than smoke and mirrors. By that point, they were already in too deep to admit they were wrong:
Ed Schultz, Arianna Huffington, the people at The Nation, Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone, are just a few of Obama flag wavers now wavering in their support and scratching their heads saying "what happened"?

The answer is nothing happened. Obama is just being the same Obama he always was, the same Obama that was apparent during the Democratic primaries, the same Obama that a 18 months ago after listening to a couple of speeches, write that he was a snake oil salesman and the most underhanded, deceitful politician since Richard Nixon. But the press. who was in Obama's pocket, refused to see it.

For those who saw through the phoniness, Obama has been exactly what the majority of Democratic primary voters thought he was. Remember that Hillary Clinton actually received more votes than he did and went into the Democratic convention having won the popular vote.

During the primaries Clinton supporters mocked Obama supporters and their beliefs as people who were "drinking the Kool-Aid". Obama supporters accused Clinton supporters, and anyone who opposed Obama's candidacy of being racist. This, from the candidate who ran on the fiction that he had the ability to unite people and bring people together. He ran on the fiction that he had some great ability to unite Democrats and Republicans. Which is why every Republican is voting against the health care bill and hasnt been able to unite any disparate group on anything.

Oh, right, how could I forget? Yes, we were all racists for expecting a presidential candidate to actually have some freakin' qualifications to BE president. Yes, rather than admit they were wrrrooonnnggg, they pulled out the last "refuge of the liberal scoundrel," as Charles Krauthammer said. They made an attack so vile, there was no way to defend oneself without the accuser acting smug and arrogant claiming we were nothing but liars about our racism. Oh, good times, good times, NOT.

So, now the veil is lifting for those who were too blind to see for over two years:
In a recent article in Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi writes, "Obama pulled a bait-and-switch on us. If it were any other politician, we wouldn't be surprised. Maybe it's our fault, for thinking he was different."

Yes it was your fault for not seeing what was right in front of everyone, and the fact that he pulled a bait and switch shouldnt leave anyone surprised. That was the snake oil Obama was selling during the primaries and a lot of people bought and are now finding out it was all just sugar water.

Why people are feeling more stung by Obama is that he did hold himself up to be a different kind of politician, someone above the petty politics and back room deals. And people bought it. What also makes it particularly insidious is when a snake oil salesman goes into a community that is hurting from disease and tells everyone he has the cure and its right in this here bottle when all along he knows its nothing but sugar water. That's called a con. And now a lot of people who should have known better are realizing it.

It was clear during the primaries when Obama constantly reneged on promises and pledges and resorted to serial lying both when it came to Jeremiah Wright, and the incident in Ohio when a document was leaked that caught Obama red handed, lying to the people of Ohio about his position on NAFTA. He told the people in Ohio who were hurting economically precisely because of things in NAFTA that if they elected him he;d (sic) get rid of NAFTA. At the same time he caught telling the Candians (sic)to ignore what he said in Ohio, that he had no intention of getting rid of NAFTA that it was just for politics. If a politician is willing to get that low, nothing should surprise anyone. But at the time it was exposed, the same people who are complaining now about Obama betraying them didn't care and turned a blind eye. If Clinton had been caught doing the same thing the press would have demanded she drop out and would have called her unworthy of being president, that she couldnt (sic) be trusted.

And so it was, the blind leading the blind. Did people REALLY believe that someone who chose Chicago for its style of politics, and who was completely enmeshed with those Chicago politicians, was truly ABOVE those politics? Really? Deep down inside?? If so, that's just a bit delusional, especially considering what so many of us knew:
The fact that Obama was clearly the least qualified candidate for the Democratic nomination, didnt (sic) seem to matter to his supporters either. And while he claimed he was the person who knew how to bring people together the Democratic presidential primaries were the most divisive in the history of the party. He campaigned saying "voices must be heard" but he did everything in is power to keep the voices of voters in Florida and Michigan from being heard because he was landslided there by Clinton. Instead of fighting for the right to have their votes count on principle, he was quite content to have them silenced in favor of his own ambitions. So why are people surprised now, feeling that he sold them out on healthcare reform?

The other big issue that seemed to matter to Obama's supporters was that he was black. So they took everything Martin Luther King stood for and threw out the window, which was that a person should be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin and decided the color of his skin mattered more.

But while this will come as a shock to them, Obama is not the first black president. He is the first mixed race president, half black and half white. He is no more the country's first black president than Derek Jeter was the Yankees first black shortstop. In all of Jeter's hall of fame career no one ever referred to him that way. But his genetic make up is the same as Obama's. The difference is the random shuffling of genetic material which resulted in Jeter having more Caucasian features and a caramel complexion while Obama's features and complexion were more black. Maybe now that they feel betrayed by Obama,those who supported him because they wanted a black president will admit Martin Luther King was right the first time.

Oh, if only. People wanted to see what they wanted to see, and decided, for their own, dare I say it, racist reasons, that Obama's candidacy was MORE historic than the first WOMAN. We've had plenty of men, some better than others, but never, ever a woman of ANY ethnicity, yet only Obama's was historic. What a crock of shit. (And I appreciate being able to work my Derek Jeter into this conversation!)

So were all of Obama's promises:
During the primaries, Obama's selling out his promises were rampant. He promised to use public financing if he was the nominee then reneged as soon as became the nominee. He promised to filibuster and vote against the FISA bill if it gave telecoms retroactive immunity then reneged, didnt filibuster and voted for it. And lied, until he couldn't lie any longer about his relationship with Jeremiah Wright and on sending on his economic advisors to the Canadian embassy to tell them to ignore everything he was saying publicly about NAFTA.

This is the person that liberals and Democrats who supported him are now surprised has sold them out when it was apparent that Obama was probably the most underhanded politician since Richard Nixon. The difference between the two is that Nixon used deceit to get even. Obama used it to get ahead. It all goes to character and how that influences decisions. As well as having a vision and sticking up for a principle, something he has thrown overboard on healthcare.

So perhaps Hillary Clinton supporters can be excused if they are now saying " We told you so". Because they did.

Still are, and will be until this sham of a president is out of office, this man who cares more about appearing in COMMERCIALS than actually doing the work of the most important politician in the world. This man who seems constitutionally incapable of speaking the truth, or even taking a good long look at himself in the mirror. This man who will put his wife down on national tv in YET another appearance, because NO ONE is capable of doing ANYTHING better than he is. At least in his mind, and he doesn't give a damn who he throws under the bus to make that point clear, including the mother of his two children.

Yep - we've been saying it for over two years. Obama was never qualified to be president, all the words he proclaimed notwithstanding. So yeah, those of us who supported the person who very likely would have been the greatest president in our lifetime have said this until we are hoarse: WE. TOLD. YOU. SO.