Sunday, December 31, 2006
My hope for 2007 is that we can share our wealth and ingenuity with those who need it most. If everyone could just stop for a moment. How about for one day we try to feed someone who is hungry, comfort someone who is sick, give someone shelter to someone, put our weapons down, try to understand those we disagree with? Perhaps for one day we could do this. If we could do it for one day, we can do it for another. I know that is too much to ask. So let's try it for just one day. It would be a start.
Do you know what percentage of our gross domestic product that is spent on health care? 16%.
Do you know how much of that amount is spent on administration (essentially billing)? 33%.
Do you know how many Americans are uninsured? The answer is 29%. 15.7% are totally uninsured and 12.9% are on Medicaid. So, really only 45.8 million are totally uninsured.
We spend 16% of the largest GDP in the world to not insure 45 million of our population. This is not really astounding unless you compare it to another country. So let’s do that.
Do you know what percent of Sweden’s GDP is spent on health care? 7%. They insure their entire population and no one is arguing that their health care is not good. In fact, it is very good.
I know, you are thinking the same thing I was. We are spending almost the same percentage of our GDP on administration as Sweden spends on their entire health care system.
But let’s look at the bright side. We manage to not insure 45 million people for that extra 9% of our GDP that we spend. So we have that going for us.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Many people have been skeptical of how well the current Interior Department is protecting our public lands. I do not want to begrudge former administration officials a decent job after public service but... it does give at least the appearance of a conflict of interest when the former head of the Interior Department takes a job with an oil company soon after leaving.
The other part of the equation is many of the government appointees at Interior are from the industries that the department is supposed to regulate.
I guess the analogy would be, if an umpire for a football game was hired from one of the teams, served as an umpire and then went back to that same team upon after the game. Do you think it would be at least reasonable for the opposing team to ask the question "gee whiz, I wonder if that umpire is being fair in making the calls?"
This is just one example, of many, that underscores credibility gap this Administration faces.
1. Dick Cheney - Bllionaire (from Halliburton stock).
2. George Bush - Multi-millionaire (from selling a bankrupt company to his father's friends for a few million and then taking a 10% stake in the Texas Rangers and somehow selling it for significantly more than 10% of the ending value of the team when they sold it. Humm, why would the coowners accept less of their share and award more to the 10% owner?).
3. Bill Frist - Multi-millionaire (his family -including Bill- own a very large hospital chain.
4. I could go on, but you get my point.
When the media talks of these people they say "former CEO of Halliburton, former Governor of Texas, and physician." They never refer to their riches. Why don't they say of John Edwards, "former attorney and Senator"? Just a little food for thought.
I have always chafed at the term "liberal media." It is most often used when the media reports a fact that the Right does not like or digs beneath the veneer of political spin. Since it is hard to debunk facts, they tend to blame the messenger as biased, thus avoiding having to talk about the facts. In effect this changes the topic and sends the hounds chasing a different fox. The media then has to justify doing their job with integrity. In effect I feel "liberal media" is a low blow.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
A couple of months ago the Republicans passed a bill, in the middle of the night, that no one had a chance to read. Literally! It was passed out of Conference Committee and the members of the House and Senate passed it without seeing what the Conference Committee had done to the bills that each body had submitted.
It turns out that committee did away with the Iraq Inspector General. Who, you say? The position of Iraq Inspector General was created to make sure that our tax dollars were not being squandered on dubious activity in Iraq. They have saved us millions, if not billions of dollars. Thanks to the fine Senator from Wisconsin, Russ Finegold, the position has now been extended. You can read more about it here: http://www.firedoglake.com/
From Glenn Greenwald:
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The Bush administration's provocations towards Iran
(updated below)By Glenn Greenwald - Over the past several days, there have been reports of increasing U.S. military activity in the Persian Gulf aimed at Iran, and today The New York Times confirms that "the United States and Britain will begin moving additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf region in a display of military resolve toward Iran." The buildup includes "a second aircraft carrier and its supporting ships to be stationed within quick sailing distance of Iran by early next year."
To read the rest click here: Unclaimed Territory
At first I was torn between a Zoom H4 digital recorder and an Edirol R-09. I decided on the Zoom as I could plug in two microphones for interviews. When I got to the store they were out of the Zoom. The sales person listened to what I wanted to do and told me about a Tascam package that included everything I needed and cost a little less. I bought it.
Getting the drivers loaded was a pain. I ended up going to the Tascam web site and downloading updated drivers there. I did manage to get the thing to record a file on my computer. For those of us that are not recording engineers or musicians, this process is not exactly intuitive.
Now I just need to figure out how to post one on this blog. Oh yes, I need to do some interviews. All my friends are laying low. None of them want to be my first subject.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said today after a two-day trip to Iraq that he would not support an increase in the number of soldiers in Baghdad.
He said he would "stand against" any effort to send a surge of more troops to Baghdad unless there's a clear vision that it will help end sectarian violence in the city.
"I think it would create more targets. I think we would put more life at risk," he said in a phone call with reporters from Bahrain. Coleman visited Baghdad, Fallujah, Taqaddum and Talil.
Brady Averill • firstname.lastname@example.org
©2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.
I guess the lap dog found that the Pres' lap was not comfy enough. He is looking for a new place to curl up.
I would have more respect for Senator Colman if he had done anything this past four years as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Oh yes, I forgot, he investigated the UN. The Constitution of the United States is falling down around his ears and he is concerned with the UN; a body his party is trying to destroy/ignore.
I am incredulous that EJ Dion has left the impression that holes in the President’s credibility only began to appear recently. Remember what the President ran on in 2000; “I’m a uniter not a divider,” and “I will return high morale to our military” and “we need to return honesty to government,” etc.
In six years I, a center left Democrat, have not been thrown a single bone. How can you be a “uniter” if you don’t throw the center at least one policy bone? How can you maintain morale in the military when you fire any general that disagrees with your policy; or over-commit your military in unwinnable wars? General Shinseki happened to be testifying before Congress at the time and could hardly lie. He was quickly fired for his honor. Honesty to government, you must be kidding? I could go on and on.
I am brought to this conclusion. President Bush, at times, sounded almost rational today. I have heard it all before. Saying it is easy, doing it takes character. President Bush has had ample opportunity to demonstrate that he suffers from severe lack of character. He will say anything and then do what he wants, confident in the assumption that no one will notice. I have had enough of this crap over the past six years. I no longer care what the President says.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
You see, here is the problem, if you are the President of the United States, under our laws, you cannot attack a sovereign country unless they present a Clear and Present Danger(CPD) to the U.S.
No reasonable person or entity, including any of our intelligence agencies, felt that Iraq was a clear and present danger to the U. S. Thus, the administration needed to "stove pipe" intelligence that might lead a rational person to think Iraq was a CPD to us. That is, they had to manufacture/manipulate intelligence to go to war.
No one can argue that Iraq was not a wonderful strategic target. Iraq sits between Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. If you own it you divide these three problems and put your army on their doorstep. Iraq controls much of the fresh water in the Mideast(a very nice thing to control in a land of deserts). It also happens to have tons of oil.
So, assuming you can control Iraq, you gain a huge strategic advantage. Herein lies the big Presidential sticking point; no CPD but a great strategic trove for all my military contractor and oil buddies.
What is a boy from Texas to do. Aw heck! no one will notice that massive stove pipe at CIA and WMDs are a slam dunk (even if they are comprised of fifteen year old nerve gas, that they bought from Rummy, to use against the Kurds and Iranians) . Congress will keep it quiet as long as my boys Tommy D. and Denny H. are in charge. Hell, we have school prayer and gay marriage to concern America with. If those issues lose their luster we can tar and feather all those dirty Mexicans taking the high paying farm and roofing jobs from needy middle class Americans.
What could possibly go wrong?
- Iraq becoming an all too predictable debacle.
- The Republican's loss of Congress
- Etc., Etc.
Oh yes, and this:
Monday, December 18, 2006
* You may wonder about this reference to Washington D. C. When statistics started coming out about civilian deaths in Iraq, Republicans tried to down-play them by telling the media that the homicide statistics in various U. S. cities were just as bad. Here is an example of that strategy:
They used horribly bad statistical comparisons to make their point and the comparisons were quickly corrected by various legitimate organizations. Fox etc. , however, never retracted the reports and they still stick in the minds of some.
From My DD:
While Bush Refuses to Make Changes in Iraq, Elsewhere Conflict Simmers
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 06:48:44 PM EST
Back in June I noted the warnings that Somalia was getting closer and closer to domination by an Al Qaeda ally, the Islamic Courts Union, a propect that could threaten world stability at least as much as Taliban control over Afghanistan did. Now, as Karen DeYoung reports for The Washington Post, just that situation appears to be emerging and the potential consequences are no less dire.
Six months ago, the Bush administration launched a new policy in war-torn Somalia, putting the State Department in charge after secret CIA efforts failed to prevent Islamic fundamentalists from seizing power in Mogadishu. It hoped that diplomacy would draw the Islamists into partnership with more palatable, U.S.-backed Somali leaders.
Today, that goal seems more distant than ever. Since coming to power in June, the Islamists have expanded their hold on the south. A largely powerless, U.S.-backed rump government remains divided and isolated in the southern town of Baidoa. U.S.-sponsored talks, and a separate Arab League effort, seem to be going nowhere.
Al-Qaeda, long hovering in the shadows, has established itself as a presence in the Somali capital, say U.S. officials, who see a growing risk that Somalia will become a new haven for terrorists to launch attacks beyond its borders.
Click "Read More" for the rest... Permalink :: Read More :: 2 Comments, 2 new Tags: Somalia, National Security (all tags)
So now, what are we to do?
John McCain has an idea, one he has had since the outset of the war. Add more troops. Senator McCain would like us to add 30,000 troops temporarily to get things under control.
Let me lay out some premises that lead to a conclusion that people may not like.
Premise #1: We have half the troops (140,000) in Iraq that we need (300,000) to control the country. I arrive at this by way of General Shinseki who made the 300,000 number clear while testifying before Congress three years ago. He was responding to the question “what do you need for troop levels in Iraq?” Since this assessment flew in the face of what the administration and the defense secretary had said publicly, General Shinseki was retired/fired post haste.
Premise #2: Congress has just changed hands to the Democrats. They are unlikely to quietly go along with higher troop levels.
Premise #3: The minority party in Congress might still be in the majority, were it not for the debacle of Iraq. They do not want to become and even more minor minority by endorsing higher troop levels.
Premise #4: The American People turned off NASCAR long enough, to cut through the smokescreen FOX News had been throwing out, and made their predilections known. They want this neo-con adventure over with.
Premise #5: The military cannot deliver the troops in a timely manner.
Analysis: So let me get this straight. John McCain wants to nominally increase troop levels, by 1/10th of what he knows is needed to do the job. He wants to do this even though it appears that both his party and the new controlling party will not go along. He wants to do this even though the American People do not want to be in Iraq anymore. He has staked out this position even though the military itself says they cannot produce this troop level for at least three months, and they are already stretched too thin. That is, it will not happen in the short term and will be a major problem in the long term. Why would John McCain take this position?
Conclusion: Senator McCain knows that troop levels will not be increased. He suspects that the situation in Iraq is so totally screwed up it cannot help but get much worse between now and the Presidential election. He wants to be able to say “if you had listened to me and increased troop levels, you would not have these ongoing problems.” You see John McCain wants to be off the hook for the mess his party has created. He cannot get off the hook if they do what he says, and things still go wrong. He must get off the hook by proposing something they will not do, so he can say “ I told you so” and run away, albatross free. Nice political solution John, but again, poor policy.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Soon the President will be at home on his ranch. He will surround himself with people who will tell him he has done a wonderful job. That is what men who are not curious do. Until he was President he had not been to a foreign country, other than Mexico, probably on Spring break. Why go to other places? Isn't America the best place in the world? What could he learn from other places other than they are not as good as America?
Perhaps next time we elect a President we should find someone who is not just an average "Joe." We should find someone smart and curious. Someone who uses big words and can understand complex concepts and issues. We should look for an extremely smart and talented man or woman. We may not always understand what they are saying but we might find we can trust what they are doing. After all I want the doctor of my kids to know more than me, use bigger words, think bigger thoughts. If I want this for my kids, why would I not want it for my country?
Here is a power point presentation that even the President might understand.
I think it is time to make some bread. We had this bread last night. It is easy, robust and will work for sandwiches or toast. We even enjoyed it with a wonderful seafood dish.
Here it is:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1. In large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 5/8 cup of water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temp.
2. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic and let rest for 15 minutes.
3. Shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; put dough, seam side down, on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for 2 hr.
4. Heat oven to 450. Have your heavy 6-8 quart pot in the oven as it heats. Place dough in pot, seam side up. Shake once of twice to settle it evenly in pot. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes.
Remove lid and bake 15 to 30 min. until brown. Cool on rack
Saturday, December 16, 2006
How are we doing on hearts and minds?
Here is a post from Daily Kos which gave me pause:
Guantanamo Bay's Freed Detainees
Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 06:03:45 AM PST
It was just last September that George W. Bush said of the many enemy combatants we've detained since September 11th changed everything:
"It's important for Americans and others across the world to understand the kind of people held at Guantanamo. These aren't common criminals, or bystanders accidentally swept up on the battlefield -- we have in place a rigorous process to ensure those held at Guantanamo Bay belong at Guantanamo. Those held at Guantanamo include suspected bomb makers, terrorist trainers, recruiters and facilitators, and potential suicide bombers. They are in our custody so they cannot murder our people. One detainee held at Guantanamo told a questioner questioning him -- he said this: 'I'll never forget your face. I will kill you, your brothers, your mother, and sisters.' "
And today we learn the results of an AP investigation into what happened to the 360 or so former detainees who were returned to their home countries. For example:
"Once the detainees arrived in other countries, 205 of the 245 were either freed without being charged or were cleared of charges related to their detention at Guantanamo. Forty either stand charged with crimes or continue to be detained.
The Afghan government has freed every one of the more than 83 Afghans sent home. Lawmaker Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, said many were innocent and wound up at Guantanamo because of tribal or personal rivalries.
At least 67 of 70 repatriated Pakistanis are free after spending a year in Adiala Jail. A senior Pakistani Interior Ministry official said investigators determined that most had been "sold" for bounties to U.S. forces by Afghan warlords who invented links between the men and al-Qaida.
All 29 detainees who were repatriated to Britain, Spain, Germany, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Bahrain and the Maldives were freed, some within hours after being sent home for "continued detention."
One can only assume that the rigorous process Bush spoke of was the same one used to judge pre-war intelligence. Said one man who was held for three years at Guantanamo Bay:
I can't wash the three long years of pain, trouble and humiliation from my memory. It is like a cancer in my mind that makes me disturbed every time I think of those terrible days.
If they didn't want to kill our brothers, mothers and sisters before, they probably do now. "
This is just one of many examples of poor execution in our “war on terrorism.” With so many battles lost for hearts and minds I fear we have been digging a very big hole. With every new administration initiative we dig deeper. It will take many years and much effort to turn this around. The true long term costs of this “war” has yet to be added to the balance sheet. Save your money, it is going to be expensive for many years.
For those of you who are more visually inclined, here is a video. Consider the sailboat as our administration's unhinged fantasy in the battle for hearts and minds. Consider the ferry the cold fist of reality striking their fantasy.
Friday, December 15, 2006
- We are a representative democracy. That is, we elect leaders to represent us.
- In a representative democracy we depend on the electorate to make good choices about who represents their interests.
- The electorate making good choices depends on the electorate having good information.
- Ergo: restricting accurate/good information is a detriment to our representative democracy.
EXCLUSIVE: White House Forbids Publication Of Op-Ed On Iran By Former Bush Official »
Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett, who served under President Bush on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation, revealed today that the White House has been blocking the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. The column is critical of the administration’s refusal to engage Iran.
Leverett’s op-ed has already been cleared by the CIA, where he was a senior analyst. Leverett explained, “I’ve been doing this for three and a half years since leaving government, and I’ve never had to go to the White House to get clearance for something that I was publishing as long as the CIA said, ‘Yeah, you’re not putting classified information.’”
According to Leverett the op-ed was “all based on stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Armitage have talked about publicly. It’s been extensively reported in the media.” Leverett says the incident shows “just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.”
Listen to Leverett’s remarks at a panel today at the Center for American Progress:
CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO
As he talked he became more passionate. He told of carrying an AK 47 in Somalia when he was only seven years old. He added that he had never killed a man, so far. Despite his advanced stage of inebriation he spoke English well. He clutched me as our car arrived, telling me his name, Jamal. He wanted me to know that he had graduated from college with a degree in engineering.
Everyone who witnessed this discussion, between Jamal and I, was very uncomfortable. Perhaps I should have been also. But, as I stood face to face with this man all I could feel was compassion, not fear.
We have a wealth of talent coming to our shores. These people come with baggage, sure. Jamal probably suffers from traumatic stress disorder. Carrying an AK 47 in childhood does not lead me to believe he had a good one. I could see his frustration at being an engineer and a Muslim, yet being drunk and alone on the street of a big city.
There must be a better way for America to take advantage of the wealth of talent coming here. Would some psychological help have turned Jamal into a productive citizen? How many talented, educated people do we have driving taxies? How many of the best people from other countries are experiencing the worst of ours? Some people see the newest Americans as a threat. I see a missed opportunity. For lack of a little care and institutional compassion, I see a waste of precious humanity that saddens me.
Things that make you go humm.. Why did Fed Chairman Bernanky back away from his charge that China was keeping the Yuan artificially low at the expense of the American worker? Let’s see. China has massive currency reserves, that if they decided to sell would cause the dollar to plummet. Usually the U.S. could defend its currency by buying up these dumped dollars and thus insulate us from a big currency drop. But, with the U. S. running record budget deficits, as a result of poor tax policy and profligate spending (think earmarks and Iraq) we are in no position to defend our currency. Thus, because of poor economic policy we are at the mercy of China. How is that for this administration "keeping America safe?"
As we digest the stories of immigration raids in the Swift plants this week I, again, think about our immigration policy. Are these raids helping us to improve anything at all?
Did the raids benefit anyone?
Did they benefit the towns where they were conducted?
Did they benefit the Swift company?
Did they benefit the workers?
Did they benefit the “rule of law?”
Did they benefit or promote effective immigration policy?
Did they benefit the Bush Administration.?
I suspect that these raids only benefit the Bush Administration by improving their status with the right wing of their party. As we have seen over and over, the administration has made a decision pandering to a narrow political constituency, but these raids are very poor public policy. Most importantly they are not effective beginning to solve the immigration "problem." Politics over policy is a recurrent theme with this crowd. All the interested parties are hurt in their effort to solidify power. They play while we pay.
I could find no rule that touches on a members ability to carry out his or her duty. Anyone who has watched the Senate, or the House for that matter, is painfully aware that there are no rules against incompetence, be it medical, intellectual, or moral.
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
As Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) recovers after brain surgery, the Republican blogs are all abuzz. As you know, the Senate is closely divided. A switch of one seat would throw it to the Republicans. There is much talk about whether the South Dakota Governor, Mike Rounds, will be able to appoint his replacement. The speculation is that Senator Johnson will be unable to perform his Senatorial duties. I feel such discussion is a bit premature, especially from a party that celebrated Strom Thurmond in the later years of his career.
At career end Senator Thurmond clearly was not very coherent. It was obvious that he was given wide latitude in how he carried out his duties. Often Senator Thurmond was brought into the Senate chambers and told how to vote by his staff. At that time the Senate was also evenly split. I never heard a Democrat question how effectively Senator Thurmond was carrying out his duties, or asking about his capacity to represent his state.
I now expect the Republican Caucus, and the right wing blogs, to accord Senator Johnson the same respect. To do any less would not only be hypocritical but phenomenally mean spirited. After all a Democrat did win the election in South Dakota. Deal with it.
I was inspired by many of the successful blogs I read daily. My hope is to begin to post audio eventually. I do not believe that my opinion is necessarily an important one but I do believe that any discussion here could be fruitful.