Wednesday, March 31, 2010

For Our Jewish Friends

I have been thinking of my Jewish friends during this time of Passover. I hope that this has been, and continues to be, a good time for you and your families (blood and chosen).

I found this cute song that explains what the symbols are in the Passover Seder. I hope you enjoy it:

Women's History Month Comes To An End

But before it does, I have another video for you celebrating women from around the world:

Now, I admit, there were some women in there about whom I knew absolutely nothing. Some other names were familiar, but I could not remember why. So, I did a little digging, and wanted to share with you what I learned.

The first woman I looked up was:
Asma Khader, lawyer and human rights activist, is general coordinator of the Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan (SIGI/J) and secretary-general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Asma has spent her career campaigning to combat violence against women and raise their awareness of their legal rights.

Asma was elected to the Permanent Arab Court as counsel on violence against women in 1996, and has served on judicial bodies and human rights fact-finding missions. Inspired by a client whose pregnant 15-year-old daughter was raped and killed by her father to preserve family honor, she says: "I realized I couldn't be an effective lawyer if I did not do my best to change laws that cover up and even sanction crimes against women. This woman challenged me to address a problem that I could not ignore - crimes of honor." Khader has subsequently become a leading campaigner to end honor crimes.

What an amazing, brave woman she is! But she is not the only one. Next is Malalai Kakar, the first woman police officer in Afghanistan, continuing the family tradition to serve. Her career was ended by the Taliban:
Taleban gunmen shot dead Afghanistan's most high-profile policewoman yesterday as her teenage son prepared to drive her to work.

Malalai Kakar, the head of the city of Kandahar's department for crimes against women, had been the subject of numerous media reports and was famous for her bravery throughout Afghanistan. She had survived several assassination attempts.

A spokesman for the Taleban said that the assassination was carried out by its gunmen. “We killed Malalai Kakar,” said Yousuf Ahmadi. “She was our target, and we successfully eliminated our target.”

Her death came as reports emerged of a Saudi-brokered initiative to negotiate between the Afghan Government and the Taleban.

How tragic that her life was cut short as a result of who she was, and the work she did. What a threat this one woman was to the misogynistic Taliban, the same one with whom Obama is thinking of playing nice. Words fail.

The next woman whose name was familiar, but whose story was forgotten to me is Jeanette Rankin:
a Representative from Montana; born near Missoula, Missoula County, Mont., June 11, 1880; attended the public schools, and was graduated from the University of Montana at Missoula in 1902; student at the School of Philanthropy, New York City in 1908 and 1909; social worker in Seattle, Wash., in 1909; engaged in promoting the cause of woman suffrage in the State of Washington in 1910, in California in 1911, and in Montana 1912-1914; visited New Zealand in 1915 and worked as a seamstress in order to gain personal knowledge of social conditions; elected as a Republican to the Sixty-fifth Congress (March 4, 1917-March 3, 1919); was the first woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives; did not seek renomination in 1918, but was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for Senator; was also an unsuccessful candidate on an independent ticket for election to the United States Senate; engaged in social work; elected to the Seventy-seventh Congress (January 3, 1941-January 3, 1943); was not a candidate for renomination in 1942 to the Seventy-eighth Congress; resumed lecturing and ranching; member, National Consumers League; field worker, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; member, National Council for Prevention of War; remained leader and lobbyist for peace and women’s rights until her death in Carmel, Calif., May 18, 1973; cremated; ashes scattered on ocean, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

What a wonderful forerunner for women in Congress. Her work on behalf of women's rights is sorely needed in today's Congress, too.

In the field of education, we have Martha Carey Thomas:
Thomas is perhaps best known for having facilitated the admission of women to the John Hopkins Medical School. With the help of four of her friends, a total of $500,000 was raised to aid the Medical School in its financial struggle. The funds raised were used as a leverage to get the University to accept women. Thus, thanks largely to the efforts of these five women, women were to be admitted on precisely the same basis as men. There were three women among the first class to enter the John Hopkins Medical School in 1893.

Thomas became president of Bryn Mawr College in 1894, serving until 1922.

What incredible tenacity and drive Ms. Thomas had, not to mention intelligence. She is definitely a woman to whom women in the medical field are indebted.

Another woman who fought for the rights of women was Mary Astell:
She is remembered now for her ability to debate freely with both contemporary men and women, and particularly her groundbreaking methods of negotiating the position of women in society by engaging in philosophical debate (Descartes was a particular influence) rather than basing her arguments in historical evidence as had previously been attempted. Descartes' theory of dualism, a separate mind and body, allowed Astell to promote the idea that women as well as men were blessed with reason, and subsequently they should not be treated so poorly: "If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?" (Emphasis mine.)

Indeed. I'd like to know the answer to that question myself since too many people still believe that to be the case.

Another modern day women's rights activist is:
Parvin Ardalan, born 1967 in Tehran, is a leading Iranian women's rights activist, writer and journalist.[1] She was awarded the Olof Palme Prize in 2007 for her struggle for equal rights for men and women in Iran.[2] In the 1990s Ardalan, along with e.g. Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani, established the Women's Cultural Centre (Markaz-e Farhangi-ye Zanan), which since then has been a center for forming opinions, analyzing and documenting the women's issues in Iran.[3] Since 2005 the organization has published Iran's first online magazine on women's rights, Zanestan, with Ardalan as its editor. In its constant struggle against censorship – the magazine comes back with a new name all the time – the newspaper has dealt with marriage, prostitution, education, AIDS, and violence against women.

Ardalan is one of the founding members of the One Million Signatures Campaign[4], attempting to collect a million signatures for women's equal rights. As a part of the campaign she has taken part in protests that have been violently silenced. In 2007 she, together with Nooshing Ahmadi, was sentenced to three years in prison for "threatening the national security" with his struggle for women's rights. Four more women's rights activists later received the same sentence.

Again, how threatened are these people that these women intimidate them so? We certainly saw our share of this kind of reaction during the 2008 Primaries and Election. While the actions of the intimidated were not quite so extreme as to imprison anyone, it was but a matter of degrees in the result of silencing so many women. That is to say, this sort of thing doesn't just happen in other countries. Sadly.

Next on the list is a woman who was one of the original Americans:
Born the daughter of Chief Winnemucca of the Paiutes, a tribe in Nevada and California, Sarah Winnemucca lost family members in the Paiute War of 1860. She tried to operate as a peacemaker, using her language skills learned in convent school to work as an interpreter in an Army camp. She went with her tribe to the Malheur reservation in 1872, and when the Bannock War broke out in 1878 she offered her services to the Army. She volunteered to enter Bannock territory when she learned that her father and other tribesmen had been taken hostage by the Bannocks. She freed her father and other captives and served as an army scout in the war against the Bannocks. She spoke out, describing the plight of her people, exiled from their homelands, and the treachery of dishonest Indian agents. She drew much attention, and was able to speak with President Rutherford Hayes and Interior Secretary Carl Schurz; promises to return her tribe to the Malheur Reservation were never honored. She wrote Life Among the Piutes[sic]: Their Wrongs and Claims, published in 1883. Despite passage of Congressional legislation enabling the return of the Paiute land, the legislation was never enacted.

I wish I could say I was surprised by that outcome, or rather the lack thereof. But that does not minimize the work of Sarah Winnemuca.

Last, but most definitely not least, is:
Chien-Shiung Wu, a pioneering physicist, radically altered modern physical theory and changed our accepted view of the structure of the universe.

Wu's experiments led physicists to discard the concept that parity was conserved. In recognition of her contributions to atomic research and the understanding of beta decay and the weak interactions, Wu became the first woman to receive the prestigious Research Corporation Award and the Comstock Prize from the National Academy of Sciences. The Comstock Prize is given only once every five years.

Wu's distinguished career in the nation's leading universities as a teacher and researcher in nuclear physics has been characterized by a string of firsts. She was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate of science from Princeton University, to be elected president of the American Physical Society, and to receive the Wolf Prize from the State of Israel. She was also the first living scientist to have an asteroid named after her.

In 1972, Wu was appointed to an endowed professorship as the Pupin Professor of Physics at Columbia University.

Incredible. What an incredible history we have, past and present. How lucky we are to have such incredible role models to whom we can look. This is by far not close to exhaustive, but merely a small representation of women who have achieved greatness through sheer hard work, determination, and passion.

And while she is not in the above video, Roxana Saberi, the American journalist captured in Iran, discussed her experience this morning:

Wow. What an amazing woman.

Please feel free to share other women who inspire you, whose history has informed your own, a woman who is your hero.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Under The Radar

So Mr. Transparency and his Pelosi-led crew have been mighty busy over the past couple of weeks. Okay, okay, his entire presidency thus far. But the past couple of weeks have been particularly bad. First there was the whole health care bill rammed down our throats.

But also inside that Health Care bill was a massive change to Student Loans. I am all for student loans - I used them for graduate school myself. But what the heck do Student Loans have to do with Health Care? Just another budgetary trick by the "Transparency" Party. And today, President Obama will be signing THIS piece into law:

Then there are Obama's recess appointments. Now, all presidents do this, that we know. But there was one person in particular who was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans. The following sets the stage:

Oh, yes. This Becker guy, friend to the SEIU is JUST who we need in a Labor position, isn't he? Well, you know what's coming. Obama appointed him despte all of the opposition:

So Student Loan overhaul was used to "balance" the Health Care costs (and we know it really didn't, given the double dipping shell games used in that procedure), but another victim of the budget is a benefit. It applies to the spouses of those serving in the Armed Services:

I hope the Pentagon is able to figure out a way to restore this benefit. It is an important benefit to those who serve the country, too, by supporting their spouses in the military.

Obama will be meeting today with French President Sarkozy. Unlike other allies who have visited the White House recently, Sarkozy will actually have a dinner in his honor. Why, you might ask? What makes him more important than, say, Netanyahu? Because Obama wants to ask him to send more troops o Afghanistan. I mean, really, after the way he has treated the British, he can't exactly go with hat in hand to them, can he? No, to our friends he is arrogant; to our enemies, he is solicitous. Go figure.

Oh, and one last thing, also a direct result of Obama's "Transparent" Health Care Law. Rep. Henry Waxman is a bit miffed that all of these big corporations are coming out saying how much this law is going to cost them, thus cost new jobs, and put more people into government run programs (which I contend was Obama's intent all along). He is demanding that they come to the Hill and testify April 21st. And they better bring all of their paperwork showing how they came to these conclusions:
Waxman's demands for documents are far-reaching. "To assist the Committee with its preparation for the hearing," he wrote to Stephenson, "we request that you provide the following documents from January 1, 2009, through the present:

(1) any analyses related to the projected impact of health care reform on AT&T; and (2) any documents, including e-mail messages, sent to or prepared or reviewed by senior company officials related to the projected impact of health care reform on AT&T. We also request an explanation of the accounting methods used by AT&T since 2003 to estimate the financial impact on your company of the 28 percent subsidy for retiree drug coverage and its deductibility or nondeductibility, including the accounting methods used in preparing the cost impact statement released by AT&T this week.

Waxman's request could prove particularly troubling for the companies. The executives will undoubtedly view such documents as confidential, but if they fail to give Waxman everything he wants, they run the risk of subpoenas and threats from the chairman. And all as punishment for making a business decision in light of a new tax situation.

The particular problem for the companies involves the prescription drug coverage they offer retired workers. In 2003, when President Bush and the Republican Congress passed the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, they offered a tax break to companies that continued to provide drug coverage for their retirees, rather than forcing them into the Medicare system. The new national health care bill ends that tax break, making it more expensive for the companies to continue offering the coverage. Ultimately, some analysts believe, the companies will stop covering the retirees, pushing them into the government system.

It's ironic, isn't it? Waxman, because these companies are harshing Obama's buzz from getting this thing passed is demanding something from these corporations that WE didn't get from Congress. Yes, the irony, the irony.

Not to mention some validation - I knew the government was trying to force more people into the government run system. Yeppers - just another piece of the Obama pie. I am sure more will be coming out about this issue in the intervening time before the Trial On The Hill.

So - what else is flying under the radar today? Let's hear it!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Is The U.K. Breaking Up WIth US?

After the recent mistreatment of Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the White House, and his being totally dissed by President Obama, this article caught my eye, It’s Over: MPs Say The Special Relationship With US Is Dead.

Let's see - how long have we had a relationship with the U.K.? Um, how about forever? Admittedly, in the early days, it was a bit rocky (ahem), but not only have they been one of our staunchest allies, they have also been one of our closest friends. Those days seem to be over now:
BRITAIN’S special relationship with the US — forged by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war — no longer exists, says a committee of influential MPs.

Instead, America’s relationship with Britain is no more special than with its other main allies, according to a report by the Commons foreign affairs committee published today.

The report also warns that the perception of the UK after the Iraq war as America’s “subservient poodle” has been highly damaging to Britain’s reputation and interests around the world. The MPs conclude that British prime ministers have to learn to be less deferential to US presidents and be “willing to say no” to America.

The report, entitled Global Security: UK-US Relations, says Britain’s relationship with America is “extremely close and valuable” in a number of areas, particularly intelligence co-operation. However, it adds that the use of the phrase special relationship, in its historical sense, “is potentially misleading and we recommend that its use should be avoided”.

Yikes. Sounds like they're telling us they're just not that into us anymore:
It does not reflect the “ever-evolving” relationship between the two countries and raises unrealistic expectations, the MPs say.

“Over the longer term, the UK is unlikely to be able to influence the US to the extent it has in the past,” the committee adds.

In an apparent rebuke to Tony Blair and his relationship with President George W Bush, the report says there are “many lessons” to be learnt from Britain’s political approach towards the US over Iraq.

“The perception that the British government was a subservient poodle to the US administration is widespread both among the British public and overseas,” the MPs say. “This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the UK.”

While the relationship between the American president and the British prime minister was an important part of dealings between the two countries, the cabinet and parliament also had a role to play. “The UK needs to be less deferential and more willing to say no to the US on those issues where the two countries’ interests and values diverge,” the MPs say.

They are also critical of the US use of extraordinary rendition and torture. The report calls for a comprehensive review of the use by the CIA of British bases, such as that on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to carry out extraordinary rendition.

“The issues relating to rendition through Diego Garcia to which we have previously drawn attention raise disturbing questions about the uses to which US bases on British territory are put”, the MPs say.

They express regret at “considerable restraints” on the ability of both the government and parliament to scrutinise US activities carried out on British territory.

Hold the phone - I thought Obama was going to end all of that. Hmmm. Is it possible he lied to us. Impossible, right? Oh, yeah, sure:
“We recommend that the government should establish a comprehensive review of the current arrangements governing US military use of facilities within the UK and in British overseas territories.” The review should “identify shortcomings in the current system of scrutiny and oversight ... and report to parliament on proposals to remedy these”.

The report also demands a statement from the government on the implications of the Court of Appeal judgment regarding the alleged collusion of MI5 in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident.

Last month the court ordered the government to release evidence from American intelligence reports which showed that MI5 was aware of the torture.

Senior US officials subsequently suggested that releasing such evidence might prevent the US from sharing some intelligence with Britain.

Ah yes, the Obama "tit for tat." THAT should have been his campaign slogan, if you ask me. I thought Bush was bad about payback. Who knew it was going to be worse with Obama? Well, most of us, really, because we could tell he was an arrogant, petulant, immature, power hungry egotist.

Check out a sampling of some of the Comments following this article:
John Higgins wrote: As an American, I stand by Britain. Despite the idiot in the White House, and despite what a bunch of MPs say, we share a common history, have stood shoulder to shoulder on the field of battle; there is no other country to which America is more indebted, there are no other people which Americans could love more.

Emanuel Goldstein wrote: Special relationship - it takes two to tango. Mr Obama has mocked the UK, and our Royalty, whilst fraternising with tinpot dictators such as Chavez and Gaddaffi.

William Brown wrote: The UK needs must be wary of an America whose leadership stands in awe of Venezuela's Mr. Chavez and is likely to side with Argentina should occasion arise.

And this is one is along the same lines of Obama's treatment of Netanyahu. That would be his treatment of PM Gordon Brown:

adam jackson
wrote:you brits should have called it off when our president gave brown a box of dvds he couldnt watch, and her majesty an ipod full of his own ramblings.

Yeah. That would be a reference to those tasteless, classless, CHEAP ass gifts the Obamas gave to the Browns on their first official visit. Beside the dvd's Brown couldn't watch, not just because he is going blind, but because they were not suitable for viewing in Europe, there were the cheap helicopters from the White House Gift Shop Michelle gave to the Brown's two boys. These would be cheap-ass gifts for anyone on their economic level, much less as the President of the United States. There was no thought, no care, no graciousness in those gifts at all. State Gifts, I might add, that are required by law. Pathetic.

Heck, they couldn't even be bothered to have a State Dinner for them. Oh, no. They can throw parties regularly to have the stars they want, and on our dime, even let that sexist pig JayZ into the Situation Room, but handle official duties with class and grace? Hah!

Then there was Obama giving back the bust of Churchill pretty much as soon as he got into the Oval Office. Yeah, that carried a bit of a sting for our friends across the Pond.

No wonder the U.K. is breaking up with us after all these years. Who could blame them?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"The Heat Is On..."

In light of the recent Health Care vote, the Tea Party marches, and the current sentiment in the country, I found this article by Peggy Noonan to be particularly timely:
The Heat Is On. We May Get Burned. Political rage is a national problem, not a partisan one.

So where are we? In a dangerous place, actually.

Politics is a rough arena, and understandably so, for our politicians tell us more and more how to order our lives. Naturally there will be resistance, and strong opposition. We have a long history of hurly-burly debate, and we all know examples the past 200 years of terrible things said and done. Capitol tour guides enjoy showing the stain on the marble steps supposedly left by the blood of Sen. Charles Sumner, beaten half to death on the floor of the senate in 1856 by Rep. Preston Brooks, who wielded a thick gold-tipped cane. So we've had our moments.

But it's a mistake not to see something new, something raw and bitter and dangerous, in the particular moment we're in.

Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, this week announced that 10 congressional Democrats have recently been menaced and threatened with violence, and that they found it necessary to meet with the FBI and Capitol Police. A congressman apparently said a casket had been left near his home; a congresswoman reportedly said she was worried for the safety of her children.

This is all completely believable.

Democratic officials are right to call attention to what they believe is a growing threat. It is a truly terrible thing. But it would be deeply unhelpful for the Democrats to use this story as a mere political opportunity, as a way to undermine opposition to ObamaCare by painting opponents as dangerous and unhinged. That would only inflame the country, and in any case is not true. The truth is this sickness works both ways.

Indeed. It is unacceptable that a member of Congress has to fear for the safety of her children. That just should not happen. But the casket was not left on the lawn of a Congressman:
The coffin, in fact, was used as a prop at a prayer vigil on Mar. 21 to symbolize the “loss of freedom and the loss of lives due to government medical rationing,” said the activists.

Back to Noonan:
There probably isn't a Republican leader who has not the past few years been menaced, and in exactly the same ways as the Democrats. Thursday I asked a staffer for a congressman who is a significant and respected opponent of the health-care bill if he had ever been threatened. Yes indeed. "Over the years and as recently as yesterday," both the congressman and his staff "have received countless threats—both threats of violence and of death. These come in the form of letters, faxes, emails, phone calls, and voice-mail messages. We've had the front window smashed in at one of our district offices. Rather than call TV crews or the Washington Post, we report threats to the proper authorities, and move on. We'd take issue with the recent narrative that conservatives are disproportionately hostile, prone to violence or whatever message the left is pushing these days. They have anecdotes, we have anecdotes."

Even columnists and pundits have anecdotes. Just about everyone in public life on whatever level gets threats now.

Here's the tenor and tone of the moment:

Under the news story on Mr. Hoyer's statement on the Yahoo! news site on Thursday, there was a lengthy comment thread, with more than 800 people offering their thoughts. "An American Hitler might be in the making who would purge the leftists," said one, who of course didn't use his or her name. "Republicans are criminals and terrorists," said another. "Republicans . . . are thugs, scoundrels and rascals." And: "What did they expect when they . . . went against the American people and are FORCING this bill on us." "It's what happens before the revolution . . . people are frustrated over not being heard . . . let the battle begin."

Here, edited for a family newspaper, are some of the recorded telephone messages left on the answering machine of Rep. Bart Stupak. These are messages left by individuals who appear to be pro-life activists—that is, people who have put themselves on the line to support generous and compassionate treatment of the unborn.

"I hope you bleed out your ___, get cancer and die." "You will rue the day. . . . I hope you're haunted the rest of your living day. . . . We think you're a devil. . . . The country loathes you." "You are one big piece of human ____. There are people across the country who wish you ill, and all of those thoughts projected on you will materialize into something that's not very good for you. Go to hell, you piece of ____."

These are people whose professed mission it is to save children. Whatever else these particular individuals are, they are people whose nerves have been rubbed raw.

There is no excuse for that kind of behavior, to be sure. It does not further dialogue, it does not engender good will, and it sure doesn't help to prove one's point. But Noonan is right - people's nerves are frayed, and too close to the surface:
Responsible leaders on all levels of American life ought to stop, breathe in, and see the level of anger and agitation that's rippling through the country. Both sides should try to cool it, or something bad is going to happen. In fact I am struck now by how, when I worry aloud about this and say to a conservative or a liberal, a Republican or a Democrat, that I fear something bad is going to happen, no one disagrees. No one says, "Don't worry, it's nothing." They say—again, left, right and center: "I'm afraid of that too."

What I keep thinking of is a beehive. A modern, high tech, highly politicized democracy is a busy beehive, and sometimes the bees are angry, and sometimes someone comes by and sticks a big sharp stick in the hive. The biggest thing Washington should do right now is stop it, stop poking the stick.

The beehive was already angry about a million things a year ago, and most of those things, obviously, were not the fault of the administration. People are angry at their economic vulnerability. They are angry at the deterioration of our culture, angry at our nation's deteriorating position in the world, at our debts and deficits, our spending and taxing, our threatened security in a world of weapons of mass destruction. Their anger is stoked by cynical politicians and radio ranters and people who come home at night, have a few drinks, and spew out their rage on the comment thread. It's a world full of people always cocking the gun and ready to say, if things turn bad, "But I didn't tell anyone to shoot!"

And yes, this mood, this anger, has only been made worse by this yearlong, enervating, exhausting, enraging fight over health care. The administration is full of people who are so bright, and led by one who is very bright, and yet they have a signal failure: They do not know what time it is. They cannot see how high the temperature is. They cannot for the life of them understand that they raise it.

Okay, I could so say something right now about how BRIGHT Obama and his Administration people are alleged to be, but for this once, I'll bite my tongue:
What we need now in our leaders is the knowledge that there is so much that is tearing us apart as a nation and that the great project now is to keep us together, to hold us together as much as possible, because future trends will be to come apart, and for many reasons. To come apart because we're no longer held close and firmly by the old glue of appreciation for a common heritage, history and culture; to come apart because we're a country that increasingly feels there are people in the cart and people pulling the cart, and the latter are increasingly overwhelmed and fearful; coming apart because we're now in at least our second generation of young, lost, unguided children with no fully functioning parent in their lives, kids being raised by a microwave and a TV set. All of these things weigh and grate.

They are all, of course, too big and complicated to be adequately dealt with in a year or even a decade. But one immediate thing can be done right now, and that is: lower the temperature. Any way you can, and everybody. Just lower it.

I cannot disagree with Ms. Noonan. I, for one, would love to see some civility in political (and other) discourse, a cessation of demonizing the other side to make ourselves feel superior. Even worse, to taunt and belittle the other side, as we have seen so much of these past few years.

But articles like this one, "In The Faces Of Tea Party Shouters, Images of Hate And History," by Colbert I. King. I won't include it all here, but this should give you an idea:
The angry faces at Tea Party rallies are eerily familiar. They resemble faces of protesters lining the street at the University of Alabama in 1956 as Autherine Lucy, the school's first black student, bravely tried to walk to class.

Those same jeering faces could be seen gathered around the Arkansas National Guard troopers who blocked nine black children from entering Little Rock's Central High School in 1957.

"They moved closer and closer," recalled Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine. "Somebody started yelling, 'Lynch her! Lynch her!' I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd -- someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me."

Those were the faces I saw at a David Duke rally in Metairie, La., in 1991: sullen with resentment, wallowing in victimhood, then exploding with yells of excitement as the ex-Klansman and Republican gubernatorial candidate spewed vitriolic white-power rhetoric.

People like that old woman in Little Rock, the Alabama mob that hounded Autherine Lucy, the embracers of Duke's demagoguery in Louisiana, never go away.

It gets worse from there:
Hence, an explanation for the familiarity of faces: today's Tea Party adherents are George Wallace legacies.

They, like Wallace's followers, smolder with anger. They fear they are being driven from their rightful place in America.

Holy cow. Talk about stoking the fires of hatred and division. I do not consider myself a Tea Party member or anything, but I find this article to be exceedingly offensive. Never mind that the majority of Tea Party members are women, but to equate them with such a painful time in our history, without founding, is obscene. I don't think Mr. King is going to be one of the ones turning down the heat, if this article is any indication.

Neither will this man. The problem with him, though, is he isn't just a columnist for a newspaper. He's the President of the United States:

Well, when you have that kind of rhetoric coming from Obama, it is hard to expect any of his followers to tone it down, either.

Of course I am not saying it is only those on the left who need to ratchet it back, but I do find it interesting that Tea Party members are depicted as racist, homophobic lunatics because they feel government has gotten too large (and it has under Obama, as well as spending way too much money on TARP, programs, and even the increase of federal employees making six-figure incomes during this economic downturn). They have good reasons for their discontent. Calling them names and depicting them as horrible people for their use of Constitutional rights is extremely harmful.

And while the Tea Party members are being belittled by the other side, people raging against the war, or marching for Gay Rights, or against the World Bank, etc., are depicted as perfectly sane, as Jonah Goldberg pointed out recently. I guess it's all a matter of spin, and right now, the message being put out is that ANYONE who opposes Obama for any reason whatsoever is a racist, homophobic, nutjob. While that may entertain Obama's followers, it demonizes half of the country, and does a grave disservice by attempting to silence their speech.

That, as Peggy Noonan pointed out, doesn't help. It doesn't foster understanding, respect for differing opinions, or civility in discourse or action, as the egging of a Tea Party bus this weekend exemplifies. It needs to stop. The media needs to stop depicting people who think differently from them as a bunch of hillbilly yahoos, and OBAMA needs to stop depicting people who don't support his policies, be they Republicans, Independents, or true Democrats, in such an "Us v. THEM" way, fanning the flames of intolerance and division. I agree with Noonan - this needs to stop, and it needs to stop before the anger spills over in ways we don't want to see, by both sides and the middle. And it can happen none too soon...

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Or is it? Much has been made of late about the national office of ACORN shutting down, on April 1st, no less. Yes, that is a bit telling in and of itself. Hence this article, ACORN SWAP?. That pretty much sets the tone:
ACORN, the embattled community activist group, says it is disbanding.

The group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, claims it will close its affiliates and field offices by April 1st. But some of its critics think the move is really an April fool's switch. They claim ACORN actually isn't going anywhere, just rebranding under different local organizations with new names but with the same mission.

ACORN has faced a variety of allegations over the past two years, from voter registration fraud to Republican charges that it uses public funds for liberal political purposes. ACORN workers have gone to jail, and undercover tapes of ACORN workers seemingly giving advice on how to skirt the law especially made the group a lightning rod for criticism.

ACORN has denied the charges, pointing to its own commissioned investigation that found allegations against it baseless.

"ACORN has faced a series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded right wing attacks that are unprecedented since the McCarthy era," claims ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. In a statement she said in part, "Our effective work empowering African-Americans and low-income voters made us a target."

You know, I am so tired of being called a racist for calling people on their actions, and this is no exception. It has NOTHING to do with who ACORN helps, but HOW it helps them:
But critics say ACORN's undoing is entirely its own fault.

"I don't think we are done with this," Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King, a noted ACORN critic, told Fox News. "This is a big step in the right direction because I believe they are a corrupt, criminal enterprise."

King calls the move "a downsize of ACORN," but believes its operations will be shifted to state organizations that "may well grow." He says “tigers don’t change their stripes and neither to people who are operating in a corrupt fashion.”

Critics point to a variety of new local organizations that are springing up to apparently take ACORN's place. In Brooklyn, New York the ACORN office now has a new sign: "New York Communities for Change," and in Massachusetts the president of the new group, "New England United for Justice" is listed as Maude Hurd, the president of ACORN, in its articles of Organization.

There are a growing number of such local groups replacing ACORN, according to Matthew Vadum, of the Capital Research Center. He says ACORN Housing has changed its name to Affordable Housing Centers of America, Inc., and that other ACORN connected groups include: Arkansas Community Organizations, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, and Missourians Organizing for Reform Empowerment.

"This is a trick, a public relations trick," says Vadum, calling the move an attempt "to dupe Congress and the American people to think they have gone away and they have not." He says "the same people are running the new chapters that have sprung up and in some cases, out of the same offices."

Yep, that's pretty much what I think, too, that this is more smoke and mirrors from the group for whom our Smoke and Mirrors President did his internship.

As a reminder of why ACORN's funds were cut:
The moves in Congress to cut ACORN's funding came after the shocking undercover video-tapes made by conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles who posed as a pimp and a prostitute trying to secure ACORN's help to open a supposed brothel using underage girls. A federal Judge has since declared the Congressional move unconstitutional, but the financial damage may have been done. Several federal agencies have cut their ACORN funding and ACORN even tried to use the example of the tapes for fundraising purposes.

Giles has not returned a request for comment on ACORN's announcement, and O'Keefe told me he cannot comment because of the on-going investigation of another of his video projects. He and three others have been charged with trying to "manipulate" the phone system of Democratic Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. O'Keefe says he was engaged in a journalistic endeavor, going undercover to try and show that there was no problem with the Senator's phone system during the run-up to the health care vote.

Another article goes into a little more detail from ACORN's perspective:

ACORN to Shut Down in Wake of Scandal

The once mighty community activist group ACORN announced Monday it is folding amid falling revenues -- six months after video footage emerged showing some of its workers giving tax tips to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute.

"It's really declining revenue in the face of a series of attacks from partisan operatives and right-wing activists that have taken away our ability to raise the resources we need," ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said.

Again, it apparently has NOTHING to do with this organization engaging in voter registration fraud, voter fraud, and counseling in ways to subvert the tax system, among other issues. Yeah, it's all "partisan." Way to take any accountability there. What else is new??

But are they really disbanding? Like I said, I don't think so. An ACORN by any other name is still ACORN:
Several of its largest affiliates, including ACORN New York and ACORN California, broke away this year and changed their names in a bid to ditch the tarnished image of their parent organization and restore revenue that ran dry in the wake of the video scandal.

ACORN's financial situation and reputation went into free fall within days of the videos' release in September. Congress reacted by yanking ACORN's federal funding, private donors held back cash and scores of ACORN offices closed.

Earlier this month, a U.S. judge reiterated an earlier ruling that the federal law blacklisting ACORN and groups allied with it was unconstitutional because it singled them out. But that didn't mean any money would be automatically be restored.

Bertha Lewis, the CEO of ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, alluded to financial hardships in a weekend statement as the group's board prepared to deliberate by phone.

"ACORN has faced a series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded right wing attacks that are unprecedented since the McCarthy era," she said. "The videos were a manufactured, sensational story that led to rush to judgment and an unconstitutional act by Congress."

ACORN's board decided to close remaining state affiliates and field offices by April 1 because of falling revenues, with some national operations will continue operating for at least several weeks before shutting for good, Whelan said Monday.

For years, ACORN could draw on 400,000 members to lobby for liberal causes, such as raising the minimum wage or adopting universal health care. ACORN was arguably most successful at registering hundreds of thousands of low-income voters, though that mission was dogged by fraud allegations, including that some workers submitted forms signed by 'Mickey Mouse' or other cartoon characters.

Yes, Mickey Mouse was but one fictional character "signed up" by ACORN workers. As I have noted about a GAZILLION times, they have been under investigation in up to 14 states, including Florida, Nevada, and Louisiana, for submitting THOUSANDS of false voter registrations. Recently, a conviction for voter fraud was returned in Pennsylvania for an ACORN worker.

So, enough with the "poor me" victim crapola. ACORN brought this on themselves with their underhanded, illegal dealings. Having to disband because their funding is cut is just what happens when organizations operate in unlawful ways.

But is ACORN really running out of money? Not if Peter Orzag has anything to say about it, and he does. That would explain the name changes, and the April 1st date:
While America is distracted by Democrats’ attempts to unconstitutionally ram government-run healthcare down the throats of the American people, the Obama administration began preparing to resume funding to President Obama’s favorite community organizing group.

The fiscal floodgates are opening for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the president’s former employer and legal client, despite a congressional ban on funding the activist group that has long been a practitioner of election fraud.

In a March 16 memo Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Peter Orszag quietly ordered federal agencies to resume funding the group whose employees were caught on hidden camera videos last year condoning a variety of crimes including child prostitution and tax evasion.

Well, I'll be darned. Someone inside Obama's office is making sure ACORN gets its funds restored, all while we are focused on the Healthcare Legislation. The ol' "Look over there!" trick. Well, that sleight of hand almost worked. But now we know Obama's buddy is looking out for his his buddies. Seems ACORN, or whatever it's calling itself these days, is here to stay, if Obama has his way...

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Are You Threatening Me??"

If you mean the White House and some unions, the answer would be a resounding, YES! W.H., Labor To Vote-Switchers: We Won't Forget. You may recall that I wrote about this very real possibility recently in, "Toddler in Chief Throws A Temper Tantrum," based on a story from The Telegraph (U.K.).

Now, it seems, not only is the White House threatening Democrats who didn't toe the Party Line, but a number of unions, including SEIU, are threatening, too:
Senior White House and organized labor officials are warning the handful of House Democrats who supported health care legislation last year only to oppose the final measure on Sunday that they shouldn’t expect assistance for their reelection campaigns this fall.

The five who switched from yes to no — Reps. Michael Arcuri of New York, Marion Berry of Arkansas, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Zack Space of Ohio — have so annoyed top Democrats that there is also open talk of finding opponents to ensure they pay a steep political price for changing their vote.

“We’re looking at candidates we can trust to run against them, either through a primary or in the general election,” said Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, noting that recruitment conversations were already under way.

Of the five who switched, Burger said flatly, “They should not expect help from us.”

Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, said local union members were deeply disappointed in the vote-switchers — and that the locals will determine whether to endorse the incumbents.

“There are no guarantees, and they have a lot of work to do to attempt to repair that relationship. It may be repaired or it may not be repaired,” Ackerman said.

Top aides to President Barack Obama also made clear that they’ll prioritize their political time and resources this year with an eye on those who did or did not stand with them on the toughest vote of the election cycle.

“There is not a whole lot of Barack Obama and Joe Biden to spare on a good day,” said one senior White House official. “We’re going to have to focus on our friends.”

Another top Obama aide, asked about the group of five, responded simply: “We appreciate the people who hung with us.”

Yikes. Yep, those sound like threats to me. And that's not all:
In the West Wing, where aides spent hours pleading with the members to stick to their original votes, there is a feeling that the group unnecessarily imperiled passage of the bill for reasons that defy political logic.

White House officials and other party leaders say that, having already supported health care once, the members will still be attacked by Republicans for the original vote and will now face additional anger from their own political base for opposing the final version of the historic bill that is now law.

“They have the vote, but now they lack the accomplishment,” said a senior Obama aide, adding that the group’s members have endangered their own prospects at the polls because the so-called “surge voters” who came out to back the president in 2008 will be tougher to motivate.

“The prescription for winning tough races is to generate turnout from many of the folks that came out in 2008,” the aide said. “I would think this would make it harder to do that.”

Another White House official made the case that “the public is not going to make the distinction [between the two votes], and they’re going to get hammered.”

On Capitol Hill, there is a sense of puzzlement mixed with frustration among colleagues of the five.

One senior Democratic House member was withering: “They were without backbone.”

I'm sorry, WHO was "without backbone"?? The people who were bought by the White House? The ones who bucked the will of their constituents? Or the ones who did as their constituents wanted? Perhaps this is the problem with many in DC - they do not understand basic English. Maybe they just don't know what the term means. That might explain it. There's more:
And, this member said, the group made an already difficult election cycle for House Democrats that much more difficult.

“That group that said ‘yes’ and then ‘no’ are the most challenging members now for us [to defend in November],” the member said.

Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, didn’t defend the political calculus of those in the group but said that his focus was solely on keeping the seats in Democratic hands and that he’d stand by the incumbents.

“We will help all our guys,” said Van Hollen. “If others want to pick and choose, that’s up to them. Our job is to make sure that we remain in the majority.”

Of the five, Berry, who is retiring after this term, is the only one who will definitely not be on the ballot in November — and seemingly the one with the least to lose by staying in the “yea” column.

But the strong suspicion among top Democrats is that Berry switched his vote as a favor to his chief of staff, Chad Causey, who is running to succeed him and has indicated that he would have opposed the legislation.

Yeah, okay, that makes sense - not.

Now the unions start weighing in:
Alan Hughes, president of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, said his organization was “highly disappointed in [Berry’s] vote” and noted that Causey and the other Democrats running for the seat Berry is vacating would be sitting for interviews at the state federation’s convention this weekend in Hot Springs.

“We’re going to drill the hell out of them,” Hughes said, alluding to their positions on health care and other issues important to labor.

Arcuri and Space, both second-term members from districts previously held by Republicans, are widely viewed as having switched for the most purely political reasons.

“Fear in politics is a very powerful thing, and these guys were just fearful of losing their seats,” a top White House aide said.

In New York, liberals have already begun wooing one of Arcuri’s former primary opponents to run against him.

Les Roberts, a Columbia University professor, has said that he’s considering running in the Democratic primary as well as on the Working Families Party ballot line.

In the run-up to the vote, Arcuri said he was unhappy that Medicare was still not allowed to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and had worries that taxes on medical devices may have an adverse impact on his district.

Well, those sound like good reasons to me. Taxes ARE going to go up, as are insurance premiums, and drug prices. All thanks to Obama pandering to Big Pharma. But hey - why let some facts interfere with threats, right? Right:
In Ohio, local chapters of SEIU and UFCW announced Monday that they would no longer support Space, who already faced a difficult reelection in his rural eastern-Ohio-based district after he supported the energy bill last year.

Space indicated he was concerned that the final version of the bill might tax the health care benefits of his middle-class constituents.

Lipinski and Lynch are the most puzzling switchers in the group — both hail from heavily Democratic, big-city districts.

Lipinski cited concerns about abortion, but his position was undercut when Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and other anti-abortion Democrats still voted for final passage of the bill after Obama issued an executive order reiterating the ban on federal money being used on the procedure.

What angers Democrats about Lipinski is that he suffers from diabetes, and it has long been thought in Chicago political circles that he is in Congress in part to have access to a gold-plated congressional health care plan.

The view among party officials is that Lipinski’s father, a conservative-leaning Democrat who previously held his son’s seat and engineered the succession, thought it would be good politics to oppose the bill.

“He could not articulate to us why he was doing this,” a senior White House official said of Lipinski.

While the Illinois primary has already taken place, an independent could still file to run against Lipinski this fall.

As for Lynch, Democrats believe he’s still bitter over the lack of support he received when he considered running in the special Senate race for the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and thought that, by changing his vote, he could separate himself from other 2012 primary hopefuls vying for the seat now held by GOP Sen. Scott Brown.

But it’s difficult to see how such a position could be advantageous in a Democratic primary in a state such as Massachusetts.

“John Kerry tried to disabuse him of that notion but could not,” said a senior White House official, referring to the Bay State’s senior senator.

“Everyone I talk to is baffled by Lynch’s votes,” said the AFL-CIO’s Ackerman, noting that the congressman, a former ironworker, comes out of the labor movement.

Lynch, for his part, said he opposed the bill because it didn’t do enough to crack down on insurance companies.

But progressives in Massachusetts are already courting a potential primary opponent, Harmony Wu, to run against Lynch.

Well, considering by some estimations premiums are going to go UP $2,100 not DOWN $2,500, as Obama claimed they would, I can see why these representatives are concerned. Heck, taxes ARE going to go UP to, exposing another Obama lie. There is GREAT concern about the cost of this bill for New York City, for example. Why? Because NYC will have to pay $6.5 BILLION a year to DC in taxes as a result of this bill:

That figure is JUST for the city, not including the rest of the state. Holy moley. That's a big chunk of change. $200,000, as Megyn Kelly pointed out, is NOT a lot in the city. No kidding. Oh, what a great bill this is.

So, yes, these folks are indeed being threatened. By their own party members, I might add. Just more of the Obama Hope-y, Change-y Unicorn Rainbow - Chicago style. I can't wait to see what's next...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Lie To Me..."

Yes, that could be the new anthem for the Democrats in this country. Now that the dust is settling a bit, we are finding out just how much they DID lie to us, and continue to lie to us, about what is in this bill, the timing of implementations, and the COST of it all. It is the latter that Amity Shlaes describes in thisarticle, Health-Care Cost Lies Make Us Sing the Blues. And how. We are just beginning to plumb the depths of how much this bill is really going to cost us. And we may as well have been singing this:
“So lie to me, lie to me, I’d rather have it that way.”

Every historic moment has its soundtrack, and passing U.S. health-care legislation is no exception. The song for this bill is “Lie to Me,” recorded by blues singer Brook Benton in 1962.

Benton’s song is a plea to the woman who cheated on him to lie to him about it and instead say everything’s fine. The tune came to mind while watching some voters applaud Democratic leaders as they promise that the new law will reduce budget deficits by $1 trillion.

“Just lie, lie, lie.”

Everyone knows the bill will widen deficits over time. Entitlement and mandate expansions always do. And everyone knows that health-care reform isn’t about fiscal rectitude. As Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote last summer, the point of the proposal “was never to generate savings over the next decade.” It was to insure the uninsured. There’s a kind of masochistic consolation in the very improbability of the Democratic promise of savings.

“Because the truth would only hurt me

And that price is just too big to pay.”

The question is how can lawmakers get away with their misrepresentation? One answer lies in the structure of the Congressional Budget Office, the government’s official accountant. Its job is to establish an honest price: to tell legislators and voters what a policy will cost in the short, medium and long terms. That CBO work is important because Americans rightly sense that the politicians’ math is rigged.

“Nobody told me you were cheating.

Aww, it’s just a feeling I had.”

Many of us didn't just have a feeling, we could do the math ourselves and tell there were massive flaws in how the bill did its "fuzzy" math. We KNOW that you cannot use the same pot of money and claim it will pay for several different programs. Unfortunately, too many people utilized:
Flawed Assumptions

The CBO’s rules make it hard for the group to fulfill its own mandate. You’d think, for example, that the CBO would use its own parameters when it crunches numbers. Instead, the CBO must use the same mathematical assumptions supplied by the very lawmakers who wrote the bill the group is evaluating. No matter how improbable those formulas are.

Former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, writing in the New York Times, described the group’s process as “fantasy in, fantasy out.”

CBO rules often preclude common sense. Its forecasters can’t take into account any other legislation when studying the price tag of a proposed bill. That enabled the forecasters costing out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill to overlook this fact: Medicare spending increases will force tax increases, which in turn will hurt growth.

Political Salesmen

This dynamic is permitted because the answers the CBO supplies make it easier for politicians to sell their bills. They’re happy. And so, for the moment, are voters who are painfully aware that the U.S. federal budget can’t cover new entitlements, yet accept such legislation as a balm for that pain.

“So if I’m right, you got to lie to me

Then I won’t feel so bad.”

The CBO’s structural failure benefits the Democrats this week. Indeed, Pelosi is teaching Republicans something: the bigger the misrepresentation, the greater the credibility with voters. Croon to them a tune about entitlement, and they forget that you’re clearing a path for a tripling of the tax on dividends.

And what the HELL does that say about Americans?? Are we really that gullible? Dare I say it, that DUMB?? Are we so taken that our politicians would throw a huge whopper of a lie at us that we are impressed by their hubris and give them a pass? What is wrong with us? Staggering.

I contend that we knew this, but our Representatives and Senators seemed to be taken in by it. What does that say about THEM? Yeah, we already know. Here's more:
The CBO’s rules are bipartisan -- they hold for whatever legislation lands in its in box. Congressman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, recently put forward a new blueprint for the federal budget. Ryan’s plan is less questionable than Pelosi’s because it’s relatively honest about costs. Ryan points out that the current unfunded part of the Medicare liability is in the trillions.

No Traction

The tax cuts Ryan proposes allow for more possibility of growth than Pelosi’s health-care bill. When CBO studied Ryan’s plan using Ryan’s assumptions, however, it placed a question mark over the plan that wasn’t there before. Everyone knew the numbers came out the way Ryan wanted them to. His proposal, therefore, is having a hard time gaining traction.

How did the CBO get to play this role in the first place? Its start in the early 1970s was hopeful -- who can dislike a new bipartisan accountant?

Still, the group’s role in the budget process proved problematic early on. Democrats and Republicans spent the 1990s mired in a tedious quarrel about whether the office should use so-called static analysis -- the kind that assumes growth stays the same when you lower tax rates -- or dynamic analysis, which presumes that rate cuts generate extra growth. Time that could have been spent reforming Social Security or Medicare was instead spent fighting over who got confirmed as CBO director.

In terms of Paul Ryan's bill, perhaps Rep. Nancy Slaughter knew it was a far superior plan, hence why she was so rude to him when he tried to explain it (video below). In the process of this bill, there were so many:
Wrong Turns

Every adult concerned about the future has pinpointed that moment in the past, when, he believes, the country took its fatal wrong turn. Some blame the introduction of Windows 95 and the dawn of the Internet age. Others trace it all to the launch of Fox News. Still others pick CBO’s creation. That’s because the accountants at CBO, unintentionally to be sure, have made obscene budgets look decent by garbing them in the sober costume of fiscal responsibility.

Of course, the CBO laws or rules can be rewritten at any point. But they won’t be, even if voters tire of the “Lie to Me” dynamic. That’s because lawmakers won’t give up the game. They would rather have it that way.

(Amity Shlaes, senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own...To contact the writer of this column: Amity Shlaes at )

Isn't that the damn truth - they do not want to change the rules of the game as they stand now, because they can lie with impunity, and change the very face of how we operate in this country. That is a scary thought. No, that's an infuriating thought.

Here is Rep. Paul Ryan discussing the true costs of the Healthcare Bill:

And now we know he was accurate in his numbers, and in terms of the scope of this bill. His figures were shocking. And yet, the Democrats voted for it to "save Obama's Presidency." Wow. When did the Democrats become like this, or have they ALWAYS been like this, and I just did not want to believe it?

While Brooks Benton's song isn't available on video, this one by Johnny Lang is. Close enough. Maybe this should have been Obama's followers theme song during the campaign, because it sure as hell is during his presidency:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"This Is What Change Looks Like" And AsG File Suit

I had planned on writing something totally different today (ACORN - I promise, I'll get to it. "Tomorrow's another day," and all that.). But then I received this courtesy of my buddy, Logistics Monster:

That really says it all, doesn't it?

Uh yeah. And it is just that kind of callous disregard for the Constitution of the United States that has prompted the Attorney General of my state, SC, Henry McMaster, along with 12 other states (VA is filing separately), to file suit in federal court claiming the Health Care Law as it stands is un-Constitutional:
[snip] S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, who also is running for governor, said the lawsuit was necessary to protect his state's sovereignty.

"A legal challenge by the states appears to be the only hope of protecting the American people from this unprecedented attack on our system of government," he said.

The lawsuit, filed in Pensacola, asks a judge to declare the bill unconstitutional because "the Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage."

Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, said the effort isn't going anywhere. "This is pure, pure political posturing and they have to know it," he said.

Bruce Jacob, a constitutional law professor at Stetson University in Florida, said the suit seems like a political ploy and is unlikely to succeed.

"The federal government certainly can compel people to pay taxes, can compel people to join the Army,"he said.

Some states are considering separate lawsuits -- Virginia filed its own Tuesday -- and others, including Missouri, may join the multistate suit. Still others are looking at other ways to avoid participating, like passing legislation to block requirements in the bill.

McCollum predicted his suit would eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Covering the politics of the Lowcountry, South Carolina and the Nation.

The health care bill "is not lawful," he said. "It may have passed Congress, but there are three branches of government."

The lawsuit claims the bill violates the 10th Amendment, which states that the federal government has no authority beyond the powers granted to it under the Constitution, by forcing the states to carry out its provisions but not reimbursing them for the costs.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts. These 14 states are not the only ones considering filing suit. There are many more states (24)preparing legislation related to the Law, too. I assume that the following quote from Senator Dingell might just give some ammunition to these State Attorneys General (h/t to HARP at NQ) in their pursuits on our behalf:

Holy smokes - did he just say "control the people"??? Gosh, I don't think of Americans as the kind of people who like for their government to "control" them. I would think the Attorneys General might just find that kind of philosophy of our Congresspeople helpful in proving their case.

Rep. Steve King from Iowa nails it in the video below when he calls attention to the "dependency class" this law will create, as well as highlighting that there is no Constitutional authority for this law:

Americans ARE unique people, and many of us believe in the continuing to reach even greater heights. Consequently, the majority of us will not stand for the "Legislative theft of personal liberty and economic freedom" that this law will necessarily entail. Rep. King said it, "Give people their liberty." Amen to that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Inside The Pelosi Sausage Factory"

At this point, many of us have seen how our Congress "crafts" bills, and the machinations through which they go to accomplish them. The following article, Inside the Pelosi Sausage Factory; Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak sold his anti-abortion soul for a toothless executive order, does a great job of exploring the ins and outs of the recent "Health Care Bill." Oh, yes, this is some "sausage":
Last week Republican Rep. Mike Pence posted on his Facebook site that famous Schoolhouse Rock video titled "How a Bill Becomes a Law." It's clearly time for a remake.

Never before has the average American been treated to such a live-action view of the sordid politics necessary to push a deeply flawed bill to completion. It was dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy that pulled ObamaCare to this point, and yesterday the same machinations pushed it across the finish line.

You could see it all coming a week ago, when New York Rep. Louise Slaughter let leak a breathtaking strategy whereby the House would not actually vote on the unpopular Senate bill. The House would instead vote on a "reconciliation" fix to that bill, and in the process "deem" the underlying legislation—with its Cornhusker kickbacks and Louisiana purchases—passed.

The Slaughter Solution was both blunt admission and warning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not have 216 votes to pass the Senate bill, there never was going to be majority "support" for it, but they'd pass it anyway. The final days were a simple death watch, to see how the votes would be bought, bribed or bullied, and how many congressional rules gamed, to get the win.

President Obama flew to Pennsylvania (home to five wavering House Democrats), Missouri (three wavering), Ohio (eight), and Virginia (four) to hold rallies with small, supportive crowds. In four days, Mr. Obama held 64 meetings or calls with congressmen. The goal was to let undecideds know that the president had them in his crosshairs, that he still had pull with the base, and he'd use it against them. By Saturday the tactic had yielded yes votes from at least half the previously undecided members of those states.

Because, as I keep saying, this bill is ALL about Obama. And, what others can get out of him, apparently:
As for those who needed more persuasion: California Rep. Jim Costa bragged publicly that during his meeting in the Oval Office, he'd demanded the administration increase water to his Central Valley district. On Tuesday, Interior pushed up its announcement, giving the Central Valley farmers 25% of water supplies, rather than the expected 5% allocation. Mr. Costa, who denies there was a quid pro quo, on Saturday said he'd flip to a yes.

Florida Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (whose district is home to the Kennedy Space Center) admitted that in her own Thursday meeting with the president, she'd brought up the need for more NASA funding. On Friday she flipped to a yes. So watch the NASA budget.

Democrats inserted a new provision providing $100 million in extra Medicaid money for Tennessee. Retiring Tennessee Rep. Bart Gordon flipped to a yes vote on Thursday.

Outside heavies were enlisted to warn potential no votes that unions and other Democrats would run them out of Congress. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee liberal challenging Blue Dog Florida Rep. Allen Boyd in a primary, made Mr. Boyd's previous no vote the centerpiece of his criticism. The SEIU threatened to yank financial support for New York's Michael McMahon. The liberal Working Families Party said it would deny him a ballot line. Obama deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand vowed to challenge South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin if she voted no. New York's Scott Murphy was targeted as a part of a $1.3 million union-financed ad campaign to pressure him to flip. Moveon.Org spent another $36,000 on ads in his district and promised a primary. Messrs. Boyd and Murphy caved on Friday.

Ah, yes - one such union threatening representatives is the SEIU. I know, big surprise. They have formerly exposed their bullying tactics. Don't forget, SEIU was created by the same man who created ACORN. Makes more sense now, right? Uh, yeah. But they aren't the only ones coercing and threatening people:
All the while Mrs. Pelosi was desperately working to provide cover with a Congressional Budget Office score that would claim the bill "saved" money. To do it, Democrats threw in a further $66 billion in Medicare cuts and another $50 billion in taxes. Huzzah! In the day following the CBO score, about a half-dozen Democrats who had spent the past months complaining the bill already had too many taxes and Medicare cuts now said they were voting to reduce the deficit.

Even with all this, by Friday Mrs. Pelosi was dealing with a new problem: The rule changes and deals winning her votes were losing her votes, too. The public backlash against "deem and pass" gave several wary Democrats—such as Massachusetts's Stephen Lynch and California's Dennis Cardoza—a new excuse to vote no.

Mrs. Pelosi jettisoned deem and pass. Once-solid Democrat yes votes wanted their own concessions. Oregon's Pete DeFazio threatened to lead a revolt unless changes were made to Medicare payments to benefit his state. On Saturday Mrs. Pelosi cut a deal to give 17 states additional Medicare money.

By the weekend, all the pressure and threats and bribes had left the speaker three to five votes short. Her remaining roadblock was those pro-life members who'd boxed themselves in on abortion, saying they would vote against the Senate bill unless it barred public funding of abortion. Mrs. Pelosi's first instinct was to go around this bloc, getting the votes elsewhere. She couldn't.

Into Saturday night, Michigan's Bart Stupak and Mrs. Pelosi wrangled over options. The stalemate? Any change that gave Mr. Stupak what he wanted in law would lose votes from pro-choice members. The solution? Remove it from Congress altogether, having the president instead sign a meaningless executive order affirming that no public money should go to pay for abortions.

The order won't change the Senate legal language—as pro-choice Democrats publicly crowed within minutes of the Stupak deal. Executive orders can be changed or eliminated on a whim. Pro-life groups condemned the order as the vote-getting ruse it was. Nevertheless, Mr. Stupak and several of his colleagues voted yes, paving the way to Mrs. Pelosi's final vote tally of 219.

The worthless piece of paper promised by Obama was enough to sway Stupak, whom I have seen on tv more than just about anyone as he touted his "principles." Right. One meaningless piece of paper with Obama's signature was enough to sway this man - I think that speaks volumes about Stupak.

But the Democrats were not alone in creative interpretations of the rules:
Even in these waning minutes, Senate Democrats were playing their own games. Republicans announced they had found language in the House reconciliation bill that could doom this entire "fix" in the Senate. Since many House Democrats only agreed to vote for the Senate bill on promises that the sidecar reconciliation would pass, this was potentially a last-minute killer.

Senate Democrats handled it by deliberately refusing to meet with Republicans and the Senate parliamentarian to get a ruling, lest it be unfavorable and lose House votes. The dodge was a clear dereliction of duty, but Democrats figure the Senate parliamentarian won't dare derail this process after ObamaCare passes. They are probably right.

So there you have it, folks: "How a Bill Becomes a Law," at least in Obama-Pelosi land. Perhaps the most remarkable Democratic accomplishment this week was to make the process of passing ObamaCare as politically toxic as the bill itself.

President Obama was elected by millions of Americans attracted to his promise to change Washington politics. These were voters furious with earmarks, insider deals and a lack of transparency. They were the many Americans who, even before this week, held Congress in historic low esteem. They'll remember this spectacle come November.
(Ms. Strassel writes the Journal's weekly Potomac Watch column from Washington.)

Indeed. Not only are there plenty of earmarks, deals, etc., but Obama's level of "transparency" is more of a joke than Bush's. Obama's White House has refused more FOIA requests than Bush did. Perhaps Obama is unclear on the definition of "transparency." Sure.

Let's return to the earmarks in the Health Care Bill. Given what we know about this bill (law?) and all of the payoffs, bribes, and threats used to get it passed, imagine my surprise when I heard Rep. Van Hollen's claims below:

Can you believe this guy?? Clearly, he is one of the representatives who didn't bother to read this bill. Now that's some hubris there - get on national TeeVee and deny aspects of this bill that have been widely reported. Wow...

And in developing news, ACORN claims it will be closing its doors on April 1st this year. But not so fast - it may just be more smoke and mirrors where the local offices are concerned (big surprise). A name change might be all they are doing. Stay tuned...

Monday, March 22, 2010

We Are Screwed (Myths and Facts About the Bill)

I got the following email from an old friend last night, "Maxine on Health Care." I think this pretty much says it all, don't you?

Let me get this straight......we're trying to pass a health care plan written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it but exempts themselves from it, to be signed by a president that also hasn't read it and who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke.

What could possibly go wrong????

(Disclaimer - I do not know the origins of this email, nor if permission was given by the artist who created "Maxine.")

Uh, yeah - except they DID pass it. Legislation that will affect fully 1/6th of our economy on a purely partisan vote, one that benefits exactly TWO industries the most. Wanna guess which ones? I'll tell you - Big Pharmaceutical companies who will be able to keep pushing their expensive name-brand drugs for 12 more years before they have to allow generics, pushing the generic drugs on the back burner, and insurance companies, for whom it was ruled that insurance rates CANNOT be fixed by the government. Add to that the shell games with money, and you see how screwed we are.

But these two industries are only the beginning of the story of what is a ruse, and what is real, in this bill. A big H/t to regular NQ reader, FrenchNail, for this informative, infuriating article:
Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill

The Firedoglake health care team has been covering the debate in congress since it began last year. The health care bill will come up for a vote in the House on Sunday, and as Nancy Pelosi works to wrangle votes, we've been running a detailed whip count on where every member of Congress stands, updated throughout the day.

We've also taken a detailed look at the bill, and have come up with 18 often stated myths about this health care reform bill.

Real health care reform is the thing we've fought for from the start. It is desperately needed. But this bill falls short on many levels, and hurts many people more than it helps them.

While details are limited, there is apparently a "Plan B" alternative that the White House was considering as recently as two weeks ago, which would evidently expand existing programs -- Medicaid and SCHIP. It would cover half the people at a quarter of the price, but it would not force an unbearable financial burden to those who are already struggling to get by.

Congress may be too far down the road with this bill to change course. But before Democrats cast this vote which could turn "ban the mandate" into "gay marriage" for the GOP in 2010, they should consider the first rule of patient safety: first, do no harm.

Myth 1: This is a universal health care bill.

Fact: The bill is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office:

* Total uninsured in 2019 with no bill: 54 million

* Total uninsured in 2019 with Senate bill: 24 million

Myth 2: Insurance companies hate this bill.

Fact: This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the insurance company trade association, in 2009.
The original Senate Finance Committee bill was authored by a former Wellpoint vice president. Since Congress released the first of its health care bills on October 30, 2009, health care stocks have risen 28.35%.

Myth 3: The bill will significantly bring down insurance premiums for most Americans.

Fact: The bill will not bring down premiums significantly, and certainly not the $2,500/year that President Obama promised during his campaign.

Annual premiums in 2016: status quo / with bill:
Small group market, single: $7,800 / $7,800
Small group market, family: $19,3oo / $19,200
Large Group market, single: $7,400 / $7,300
Large group market, family: $21,100 / $21,300
Individual market, single: $5,500 / $5,800
Individual market, family: $13,100 / $15,200

(The cost of premiums in the individual market goes up somewhat due to subsidies and mandates of better coverage. The CBO assumes that cost of individual policies goes down 7-10%, and that people will buy more generous policies.)

Myth 4: The bill will make health care affordable for middle class Americans.

Fact: The bill will impose a financial hardship on middle class Americans who will be forced to buy a product that they can't afford to use.

A family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $5,243 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income -- out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible.

Myth 5: This plan is similar to the Massachusetts plan, which makes health care affordable.

Fact: Many Massachusetts residents forgo health care because they can't afford it. A 2009 study by the state of Massachusetts found that:

* 21% of residents forgo medical treatment because they can't afford it, including 12% of children

* 18% have health insurance but can't afford to use it

Myth 6: This bill provides health care to 31 million people who are currently uninsured.

Fact: This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. Some will be assisted with government subsidies.

Myth 7: You can keep the insurance you have if you like it.

Fact: The excise tax will result in employers switching to plans with higher co-pays and fewer covered services.
Older, less healthy employees with employer-based health care will be forced to pay much more in out-of-pocket expenses than they do now.

So, how sick are you feeling NOW? Yeah, me, too. But wait, there's more:
Myth 8: The "excise tax" will encourage employers to reduce the scope of health care benefits, and they will pass the savings on to employees in the form of higher wages.

Fact: There is insufficient evidence that employers pass savings from reduced benefits on to employees.

Myth 9: This bill employs nearly every cost control idea available to bring down costs.

Fact: This bill does not bring down costs and leaves out nearly every key cost control measure, including:

* Public Option ($25-$110 billion)

* Medicare buy-in

* Drug re-importation ($19 billion)

* Medicare drug price negotiation ($300 billion)

* Shorter pathway to generic biologics ($71 billion)

Myth 10: The bill will require big companies like Wal-Mart to provide insurance for their employees.

Fact: The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage.

Myth 11: The bill "bends the cost curve" on health care.

Fact: "Bends the cost curve" is a misleading and trivial claim, as the U.S. would still spend far more for care than other advanced countries.

* In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP.

* Annual cost of health care in 2019, status quo: $4,670.6 billion (20.8% of GDP)

* Annual cost of health care in 2019, Senate bill: $4,693.5 billion (20.9% of GDP)

Myth 12: The bill will provide immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition.

Fact: Access to the "high risk pool" is limited and the pool is underfunded. Only those who have been uninsured for more than six months will qualify for the high-risk pool. Only 0.7% of those without insurance now will get coverage, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report estimates it will run out of funding by 2011 or 2012.

Myth 13: The bill prohibits dropping people in individual plans from coverage when they get sick.

Fact: The bill does not empower a regulatory body to keep people from being dropped when they're sick. There are already many states that have laws on the books prohibiting people from being dropped when they're sick, but without an enforcement mechanism, there is little to hold the insurance companies in check.

How's THAT for some good news?? Aren't you SO proud of the Democratic leadership, under Nancy Pelosi's iron glove, for passing this last night? Right. Still more:
Myth 14: The bill ensures consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to challenge new insurance plan decisions.

Fact: The "internal appeals process" is in the hands of the insurance companies themselves, and the "external" one is up to each state.

Ensuring that consumers have access to "internal appeals" simply means the insurance companies have to review their own decisions. And it is the responsibility of each state to provide an "external appeals process," as there is neither funding nor a regulatory mechanism for enforcement at the federal level.

Myth 15: This bill will stop insurance companies from hiking rates 30%-40% per year.

Fact: This bill does not limit insurance company rate hikes. Private insurers continue to be exempt from anti-trust laws, and are free to raise rates without fear of competition in many areas of the country.

Myth 16: When the bill passes, people will begin receiving benefits under this bill immediately

Fact: Most provisions in this bill, such as an end to the ban on pre-existing conditions for adults, do not take effect until 2014.

Six months from the date of passage, children could not be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, though insurance companies could charge more to cover them. Children would also be allowed to stay on their parents' plans until age 26. There will be an elimination of lifetime coverage limits, a high risk pool for those who have been uninsured for more than 6 months, and community health centers will start receiving money.

Myth 17: The bill creates a pathway for single payer.

Fact: Bernie Sanders' provision in the Senate bill does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, so no, it doesn't create a pathway for single payer.

Obama told Dennis Kucinich that the Ohio Representative's amendment is similar to Bernie Sanders' provision in the Senate bill, and creates a pathway to single payer. Since the waiver does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, it is nearly impossible to see how it gets around the ERISA laws that stand in the way of any practical state single payer system.

Myth 18: The bill will end medical bankruptcy and provide all Americans with peace of mind.

Fact: Most people with medical bankruptcies already have insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses will continue to be a burden on the middle class.

* In 2009, 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy

* Of those, 62% were medically related

* Three-quarters of those had health insurance

* The Obama bill leaves 24 million without insurance

* The maximum yearly out-of-pocket limit for a family will be $11,900 (PDF) on top of premiums

* A family with serious medical problems that last for a few years could easily be financially crushed by medical costs

Wow. And the Democrats and Obama were so high on this bill, WHY, exactly?? Jon Kraushar has the answer to that:
"Obama to America -- I Win, You Lose."

With his health care holy war, President Obama is sending America at least 10 messages since taking office:

1. I win; you lose.
2. My will; not the will of the people.
3. Government of Obama, by Obama, for Obama; not government of the people, by the people, for the people.
4. Corrupt House rules and autocracy; not play by the rules and democracy.
5. “I’ll tread on you” now steps on “Don’t tread on me.”
6. “I, the president”; not “We, the People.”
7. “All men are created equal” but I am more equal than others.
8. “The dissent of the president” overrules “the consent of the governed.”
9. “Give me tyranny and give me debt” replaces “Give me liberty or give me death.”
10. “That government is best which governs most” supersedes “That government is best which governs least.”

Can't say as I disagree with the man, especially after this horrible bill rammed down our throats.

How about you? Are you, like me, hoping that Nancy Pelosi joins the ranks of the unemployed come January, or at the very least, losing her position as Speaker of the House? I hasten to add, ordinarily, I abhor the thought of more people going losing their jobs, but for some of these Democrats, especially Pelosi and Clyburn, I would be all too happy for them to have to go back home. Heck, I'm about ready to pull out my check book and send money to a bunch of challengers (like the one challenger to Jim Clyburn), people who actually care about the will of the people, and the Constitution. Because Obama and Pelosi most certainly do not.

Okay, you Attorneys General in 38 States lining up against this bill claiming it is un-Constitutional - better get busy!!