Archive for September, 2009

Whaddya, Whaddya?

September 30, 2009

Whaddya mean that our Congress is made up of astute members looking out for the real needs of our people?  Whaddya mean that they are the prime examples of our democratic, free and just government?  Whaddya mean that they aren’t in the pockets of our great and glorious corporate interests?  Just whaddya mean??????

Our Senate should be renamed “The House of Lords”, as in maintaining their elitist position which must always be above that of the common masses, as in “My Liege” to whom we must bow down to after their appropriation of our hard-earned dollars, as in “lording” over the rest of us their elected positions which apparently affords them status over and above what we, the people, have, as if they are “on velvet” once they get elected.

Our chivalrous Senators on the Senate Finance Committee, in all of their infinite wisdom, voted down the public option yesterday.  Many pundits remain adamant that despite this vote, we will nevertheless wind up with a public option.  Either I am more stupid than a rock or this semantic goobledygock is total bull doody.  I am understanding of the, often convoluted and obstructionist, checks and balances within our system of government.  However, it will be a total waste of time to allow “process” to have dominance over “substance”.  For example, many Republicans and Democrats are speaking out and saying yes, indeedy, they are in favor of the public option.  They want the “trigger”, as if a public option and the trigger are of one and the same thing.  Not true.  The “trigger” is a delaying tactic to allow the insurance companies five more years of runaway profits at the cost of huge premium increases and policy cancellations to their subscribers.  That bastion of legislative genius, Senator Max Baucus, came out today and said yes, he is in favor of the public option (could’ve fooled me!) but not at the expense of securing sixty Senate votes.  There you go: process over substance.  Whaddya, whaddya?

Moreover, it is inconceivable to me that Senator Baucus , who heads the Senate Finance Committee, has accepted over $3.5 million in campaign contributions from our health care industries and yet leads this august committee in setting  health care policy.  Tainted?  Why was it not acceptable for Tom Daschle to be our Secretary of Health and Human Services because he had accepted funds from players in the health care field and yet Max Baucus is the go-to man for establishing a national health policy?  Whaddya, whaddya?

Another example of our lawmakers anointing themselves as our Lordships: what with all the truly serious issues in front of them, such as banking regulations, unemployment, health care reform, global environmental issues, these Lords and Ladies managed to clog up all the paths to decisions on these matters.  No legislative decisions have been enacted on any of these problems.  Except one.  The ONLY action they could agree on  was to make all televisions newfangled as of this past June.  So now all of my regular, network channels break up into beautiful little pixels.  Sure beats the hell out of hallucinogens.  To rectify this, I would have to subscribe to cable TV, pay them over $150 per month and turn over my life to them when waiting for a home service visit.  Thank you, my Lords.  By the way, I would love to see the PAC contributions to the campaign chests of my lieges in order to be informed on just how much it took our Lordships to sell out to the cable industry.  Whaddya, whaddya?

I am still hopeful of securing a public option in health care coverage, mainly because I am an optimistic idiot, a naive nincompoop, who tries to believe that my cup is half full, not half empty.  Hah!  Who am I fooling?  My inherent malignancy and evil bent about my fellow man, especially my Lords in the House, rules.  These self-anointed royals are so much more interested in getting re-elected than sticking to any policy, whether beneficial or detrimental.  So what are we worried about?  With 70 per cent of Americans in favor of the public option, the deal is practically done.

Whaddya, whaddya?

Shame on America

September 29, 2009

Shame on America, the richest nation in the world.  We remain the only industrialized country in the world without universal, affordable health care.  Shame on the Senate Finance Committee for kowtowing to the interests of the insurance industry.  Shame on our legislators for ignoring what their constituents need in order to live any decent kind of life.  And even though it is still too early, allow me to jump the gun and say “Shame on you, President Obama”.  The time is now to put your money where your mouth is.  I do not care how you do it, either by a veto or by reconciliation (51 Senate votes without any Republican support), you must get this public option passed.  The hell with what your colleagues and public think of you; make fairness and justice for all a reality.  Get over it and do the right thing.

Without some sort of public option, even though laws will be enacted to make health coverage mandatory, the costs of such insurance will still be out of reach of too many Americans.  These insurance companies are bottom feeders, bloodsuckers of the worst kind.  They have no qualms about denying coverage to those subscribers who,  despite the fact that they have been paying their monthly premiums religiously,  have been diagnosed with serious, expensive illnesses.  They will drop you like a hotcake.  Furthermore, the public option was our only chance of promoting  competition in the hopes of keeping costs affordable.  Today, the Senate Finance Committee threw that option right out the window.  There is no way the insurance industry is going to voluntarily keep coverage affordable when they have no financial impetus to rein in monthly premiums.  Haven’t the last three decades proved that?  Additionally, having a “trigger” that would fall into place in five years if the insurance industry does not comply with these new mandates is simply a delaying tactic, an excuse to carry on as usual.  The “trigger” is merely being used to give the insurance companies five more years of unfettered, corrupt profits.

As for me, I will be enrolled in Medicare in seven years.  But what about my twenty/thirty-year-old children?  What will be made available to them?  Probably some basic health insurance plan that will cover catastrophic care but not preventative, non-emergent care.  Without the public option to force competition, this insufficient coverage will be the only plan these kids can afford.  You call that mandatory insurance?  It is as discriminatory as “separate but equal.”

Shame, shame on America.

War: Wuss or Wise Man?

September 28, 2009

Following President Obama’s appearances at the U.N. and the G-20 summit, various talking heads have labeled him, based clearly on their political preferences,  either to be a wuss or a wise diplomat in his foray into public foreign policy.  The right wingers, historically the proponents of “bomb ’em off the face of the earth”, have declared his speeches  a prelude to the dissolution of the free world, rife with all the accoutrements of caving in to terrorism.   For  Heaven’s sake, they have practically crucified our President for merely talking with Iran.  Do they actually think that rushing into that country with military strategies and armaments is more effective and less costly than verbal negotiations?  On the other side of the aisle, Democrats and Progressives have, although very tenuously, tagged him as a leader who needs to mull over all the options before he will take action, resulting in active policies that will be 100 per cent correct.  (See Frank Rich: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/opinion/27rich.html?_r=1)

All of this talk is semantic silliness.  As I have said many times before, traditional warfare is obsolete, useless and just downright destructive.  Let me use our current situation in Afghanistan as an example.  Keep in mind that the old USSR spent ten years fighting in Afghanistan.  Due to that country’s decentralized tribal structure, rough terrain and poverty, the USSR did have to pull out not even close to being triumphant.  The cost of that ten year battle helped bring about the demise of the USSR. 

So why is the U.S. following that same foolhardy pattern?  We had our chance to nab Osama bin Laden in the year or two after 9/11.  We blew it.  There are two paths we can take in Afghanistan.  First is an insurgency.  Typical military strategy holds that by increasing the number of troops, we will experience victory.  Always remember that without troops and wars, there would not be any military to speak of.  Insurgencies validate the existence of the military.  Tell me something, my friends: have we been successful in any post-World War II war by the sheer strength of our bullets and bombs?  Certainly our presence in Korea, Viet Nam and Iraq was  total failures.  The “good guys” never won, the native population was decimated and the physical structure of the countries destroyed.  At best, we had to settle for a partitioning of the aggrieved countries and at worst, we had our cojones handed to us on a silver platter, with thousands upon thousands of our troops dead.

The second option for dealing with Afghanistan is trying to reach and alter the hearts and minds of the people.  By providing them with the basic needs of housing, jobs and education, we might be able to change the overall outlook.  One fact that has come to my attention this week is that Afghanistan has a 90% rate of illiteracy.  NINETY PER CENT!!!  That is absolutely astounding.  No wonder the extremists have the upper hand.  The people can react only to the verbal promises and brute force of these terrorists because they cannot read more reasonable proposals.  So the rebel rhetoric and guns are all they can consider as a means of help for them.

Furthermore, regarding this tack of reaching the hearts and minds of the people in Afghanistan, in all truthfulness, how can America provide the basic needs for Afghanistan when we are in pretty shaky shape right here on our own turf, what with inadequate funding for proper housing, education, health care and a dearth of job opportunities?  Protectionism is not the answer, yet neither is the outlaying the funds for nation building half way around the globe.  Somehow, these countries must find a way to discern who would be their best leaders, elect them (of course, a free and fair election must be a requisite) and work with those leaders to help themselves.  It might appear to be a simple solution, yet we have witnessed in countries around the world that this type of government is so hard to create and activate.

These ideological divisions are artificial constructs and have no usefulness in effecting change for the betterment of the human race.  It is immaterial whether or not President Obama is a wuss or wise man  in his international policies.  For the life of me, I do not understand the opposition’s constant criticism of him for gathering all the pertinent information before taking action, considering all the options before letting the bullets and bombs fly, and weighing the pros and cons before subjecting our troops to death sentences. 

Our notion of war is outdated and ineffectual.  We now have a thinking man in the White House.  What a waste it would be for us not to allow him the time to use those abilities to do the right thing.  Even after given that luxury of cool, contemplative thought, these are such complicated and tricky issues that there is a fairly good chance that the decisions still might not be the absolute correct ones.

Wuss or wise man?  Either way, Barack Obama is just a human being.  Even the comparisons to JFK are ridiculous: JFK was no genius when it came to foreign policy.  Yes, his ultimatum to the USSR during the Cuban missile crisis was successful in the dismantling of the warheads, but certainly his involvement in the Bay of Pigs was disastrous and his  policy (or more specifically, his LACK of a real policy) in Viet Nam was the prelude to an even more dire outcome.

President Obama is no JFK and we should be glad for that.  He is who he is, trying his damn best to do the right thing for our country and the world community.  To label him as either a wuss or a wise man is a detriment to progress.

Weekend Assignment: Empathy

September 26, 2009

In my previous post I mentioned that empathy was a very important factor in passing effective health care reform and  absolutely essential for the functioning of a fair, effective and just government, i.e. a democracy.  I also wrote that empathy is what is missing from the GOP platform.  The Republicans have never embodied or legislated one iota of empathy for those Americans who have less.  Yet, the GOP is currently pursuing support from exactly that working class that they historically have had nothing but disdain for.  Go figure.

Diane Rehm, on her show on NPR on 9/22/09, had an interview with Frans de Waal.  He is a well-known and respected zoologist whose new book, “The Age of Empathy”, makes the case for a kinder, less greedy society.  Unfortunately, I do not know how to download the podcast, but if you go to the NPR website, you can listen to the show.  De Waal’s ideas are so relevant to the problems we are faced with today.  To give you a taste of the content of that podcast (and to motivate you to listen to it) here is a brief review of his book from “The Economist”:

http://www.economist.com/books/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14361802

And some additional follow-up questions and answers from the Rehm broadcast:

http://wamu.org/programs/dr/extra/frans_de_waal/

Empathy is a necessity for justice and understanding.  Even in the animal kingdom, creatures show empathy toward each other.  De Waal also makes the case that in European government and society, people are much more understanding of the state’s contributions in caring for its subjects, lest one day even the wealthiest person might need those services.  Here in America, the GOP is critical of “government interference”, yet enjoy their own personal benefits of being government employees.

In response to my entry of 9/25/09 (“Who Needs Government — Besides the Politicians?”), my friends at DailyKOS have offered some comments as straightforward and blunt as possible.  “Rogneid” quipped:

If something happened to their (the Republicans’) wealth, believe me, they’d be screaming for “government interference”.  They remind me of a kid in Kindergarten with a plate of cookies that hasn’t been taught to share.

“Aniamo” wrote:

Isn’t the GOP always FOR government interference when it helps them?

The concept of sharing is precisely what is missing from our “democracy”, our capitalism, our “free” market economy and our overwhelming loyalty to the mighty buck.  Michael Moore’s new movie, “Capitalism: A Love Story”, also addresses the shortcomings of American beholdingness to money above all else.  What happened to moderation?  To where did our willingness to share disappear?  Do we have no sympathy, or at least understanding, for others who are different from us?  Where is our sense of social responsibility?

President Obama nearly got his head bitten off by Conservatives when, in the process of choosing a new Supreme Court Justice, he emphasized that he was looking for someone with empathy.  The right wingers took that word and ran with it, attaching all sorts of derogatory, racist connotations to it.  Yet they felt justified in sticking to their beliefs that a minority candidate would have more empathy toward minority issues, and that it was a very bad thing indeed.  However, their yardstick for legal decision making and justice was the status quo, i.e. the while, male.  To me, that standard is an artifice if I ever saw one.

This weekend in Washington, D. C. the National Book Festival is taking place.  Many authors are making appearances.  The children’s writer, Judy Blume, is one of those speaking there.  The Washington Post, in their “Names and Faces” column, reported today:

Judy Blume recited a letter critical of her writing, sent to her by a 10-year-old boy from Florida: “I’m too young to hear about girls’ underwear.  My Dad says you must be a Democrat.”

Preconceptions underscored by inflammatory accusations have no place in our world.  Not any more.  We are in such dire straits, economically, socially and almost any other way you could imagine, that this nonsense is just plain destructive.  Every single person needs to put themselves in another person’s shoes, even if only for a moment.

Empathy, offered or accepted, is the overriding factor in the continuation of the human race and the quality of life on this planet.  Empathy is a behavioral mechanism without which there is no social justice.  With no social justice, would you want to live on this planet?

Who Needs Government — Besides the Politicians?

September 25, 2009

It has come to my attention that many Republicans are calling for a hiatus of government interference across the board on issues ranging from financial practices to health care.  People such as Sarah Palin and Eric Cantor are adamant that government has no place in providing financial oversight and scrutiny to the forces that rule our economy nor a safety net of social services to the people for such basic needs as health care.

The supposed leaders are not only stupid theoreticians with no foothold in providing actual help to a needy population, but are also demonstrating their desire to participate in a government that offers THEM the exact benefits they would deny everyone else.  Furthermore, while they want the government totally out of actually helping people, they want just enough government in place to support their jobs running a country with the least amount of government as possible.  How about having a government that works for the people instead of the elected officials?  My take on their stance is similar to Shakespeare’s quip about “First thing we do is kill all the lawyers”.  I say that we should get rid of these blood-sucking politicians who want no government for the people but indeed want just enough government to maintain their cushy, benefit-laden jobs IN the government.

Just look at our Sarah: still the poster child for stupidity, gallivanting around the globe and speaking about how government interference is the death (not ANOTHER death panel?) of freedom.  Sure.  Easy for her to say —- at a purported quarter of a million dollars a pop in speaking fees.  Yet she hounds her audience that for the government to step in and make financial policies and transactions safer and more ethical for everyone is the end of all of our freedoms.  That may be true in terms of HER financial goals of totally free enterprise and capitalistic laissez-faire, but certainly not true regarding the majority of Americans who are just trying to keep a job, or invest safely or just keep their heads above water.  I might be convinced of her stridency about removing government interference if only I could witness ONE poor person in favor of this capitalistic musing.  Do you happen to know just one?

And Representative Eric Cantor from (oh dear!) Virginia is even more insistent in his beliefs that government has no place to help those that the government was designed to, well ….. help.  His anti-government,  main thrust now is health care reform.  Just the other day, a woman in his listening audience came up to the microphone and told Cantor about a dire situation in which one of her relatives found herself.  She asked for Cantor’s advice.  Here is the video clip:

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/09/22/cantor-uninsured-option/

Can you believe that Cantor told this woman to find some charity to take care of her relative’s cancer situation?  Right then and there, the woman should have asked Cantor if HE would kick in a couple of thousand dollars to help cover the cost of this immediately needed, life-saving surgery.   How can Cantor justify his incredible health benefits through his job yet in the same breath, deny someone else’s rights just because they lost their job?  By the time this patient goes through the red tape of a charitable organization or existing government program, she will be dead.

Health care comes down to EMPATHY, fairness, equity of freedom and immediate access to medical care.  Eric Cantor does not need to wait weeks or months to get a medical problem tended to.  Why should ANY American not be able to walk into any health facility and get the same care?  Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has it right: there must be a public option.  Period. Finito.

So these Republicans who preach against government interference for everyone else have no right to do so because they are speaking from a position of strength.  Let them give up their salaries, lose their hard-earned savings due to corrupt and criminal financial practices, and sacrifice their health care benefits so that they too, just like the general public, have no access to or coverage for medical care.  Then, maybe just THEN, they might call FOR government “interference” just a wee bit to cover their own asses.

As I told you yesterday, I am back.  With a vengeance!

I’m Baaa-aack!!!!!

September 24, 2009

I am back from  the Maine woods and truly, I did not have media contact.  Heaven.

Happy New Year to all of my Semitic friends.  Health, happiness and many belly laughs:

Seeing Red

September 22, 2009

Red has always been my very favorite color.  Red is the new black.  Here are some Maine visions in red.

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073

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And, of course, NEVER give up.

And, of course, NEVER give up.

The Baucus Bill: Starting Point or Sham?

September 18, 2009

With Max Baucus’s health care reform proposal in the public arena now, there are options we must consider.  Paul Krugman, in his Op-Ed in the New York Times today, points out that Baucus’s plan is a starting point.  At least something is now on the table.  Overall, Krugman believes that this specific plan is nowhere near what we really need, but it does offer a substantive place where bargaining can begin:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/opinion/18krugman.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

On the other hand, Robert Reich has written a piece on his website that begs Olympia Snowe to vote against the Baucus plan.  I tend toward support of Reich’s ideas:

http://robertreich.blogspot.com/2009/09/why-olympia-snowe-should-vote-against.html

Reich’s premise that “Max Baucus’s plan — which is favored by the medical-industrial complex because it dramatically increases their customer base without a public option that squeezes their profits” says it all.  I do understand that we cannot jump from an absolutely private insurance scenario directly to universal, single payer plan.  In terms of costs and fear of government takeover, it just is not possible —- yet.  That is why it is so important to offer a public option at this time, as it would serve as the intermediate step between totally privately covered health care and a single payer system.   Certainly, Baucus’s proposal changes nothing in terms of fostering real competition regarding care and costs, and is definitely a cave-in to the private insurance industry.  With no consideration given to lowering premiums, I daresay that if the Baucus plan should come into being, we will see a swell of the Medicaid roles like we have never seen before.  Mainly, because there are no mechanisms for controlling the profits of the insurance companies, many middle class people and thirty-somethings will have to fall into the ranks of those covered by Medicaid.  Baucus’s plan does not address the issues at hand.  What difference will it make if the Baucus plan makes insurance mandatory if the majority of the people still cannot afford it?  That is the fly in the ointment.  Semantics versus reality.

Olympia Snowe should remember her constituency in Maine and their needs and vote a big, fat “NO” on the Baucus bill.  Maybe these photos will remind her of where she is from and what her people need:

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Lupine in Fall

Lupine in Fall

Septmber's Light

Septmber's Light

Ferns at my Door

Ferns at my Door

If democracy boils down to “process”, actually getting a bill out there so that compromise and bargaining can commence, very good for the Baucus bill.  However, if democracy is about “results”, i.e. responding to the true needs of the people  and not to the needs of our politicians and corporate interests, this bill is practically useless.  Is the Baucus bill just raucous attempt at placating our needy population by guaranteeing them the benefits they so desparately need, or is it a cover-up, offering these benefits at a cost that the majority still can not afford?  Silly, asinine lawmakers: keep your words and give us life-sustaining benefits at a cost that we can afford.

Hail Mary

September 17, 2009

Too many deaths lately.  Today I pay homage to Mary Travers, our “Mary” of Peter, Paul and Mary.  I grew up on her music and so did my children.  Her crystal clear voice, forceful yet gentle, combined with those tosses of her head and her hair freely flying was an overall magical thing to see and hear.

Music has the power to reach out to people and ideas.  The composing/performing trio of Dylan, Denver and Travers was powerful and beautiful.  Mary Travers got the message across, time after time.

And of course, the magical song on which so many children were raised and taught the virtues of gentleness:

And my all-time favorite, for my Maribel:  (Please take the time to download this MP3.  It will just take a few seconds.)

http://www.filestube.com/97781564193d4ed403ea/details.html

Personally, I cannot envision bringing up children without Mary’s music.  Mary knew it just like I know it: its about the children.  Thank you, Mary Travers, for singing your heart out for all of us.  RIP.

For my Chuck and everyone else as well:

Pavement Picasso

September 16, 2009
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NEW CHALK ART FROM JULIAN BEEVER


He just keeps getting better.
Julian Beever-  Pavement Picasso

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Julian Beever is an English artist who’s famous for his anamorphic art
on the pavements of  England ,  France ,
Germany,  USA ,  Australia and  Belgium
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Beever gives an amazing illusion to his drawings, so that the objects appear to be three dimensional
rather than flat as they actually are.
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Hard to believe that the little boy is standing flat on the pavement!

Julian admits that some people see his work as graffiti, and don’t feel it has a place on public streets.
Happily, he says, he mostly receives a positive reaction and people like and enjoy his art.
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Did you spot tiny Julian Beever on the Top of the Bottle?

The 3D aspect to his work came much later while he was working in  Brussels .
“I decided to get into 3D after seeing the effect of tiles being removed from the street
and later trying to recreate the sense of depth in a drawing.”

PEOPLE AVOID THE HOLE

PEOPLE AVOID THE HOLE

EVERYTHING IS FAKE, EVEN THE HOSE AND WATER

EVERYTHING IS FAKE, EVEN THE HOSE AND WATER

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THERE IS NO HOLE IN THIS PAVEMENT

THERE IS NO HOLE IN THIS PAVEMENT

“Today I’m drawing Felix the Cat gate-crashing the Chinese New Year of the dog.
He’s popping put of the ground in a Chinese dragon costume.”

CHINESE DRAGON WITH FELIX THE CAT

CHINESE DRAGON WITH FELIX THE CAT

POLITICIANS GET SUCKED INTO A PIT

POLITICIANS GET SUCKED INTO A PIT

BABY FOOD

BABY FOOD

BABY FOOD VIEWED FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE

BABY FOOD VIEWED FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE


“Once I realised you could make things go down, I realised you could make them appear to go up
and I began experimenting.”

"MAKE POVERTY HISTORY" --- SIDE VIEW --- 40 FT. LONG

"MAKE POVERTY HISTORY" --- SIDE VIEW --- 40 FT. LONG

FRONT VIEW

FRONT VIEW

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Art for the people.
“My art is for anybody, it’s for people who wouldn’t go into an art gallery. It’s art for the people.”
“Art shouldn’t be locked away in galleries and libraries and books. Art should be for everybody
and not just art buffs, historians and so-called experts.”
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Julian works in chalk, so his art, which takes up to
3 days to complete, is there only as long as the elements allow.
“If it rains it means I’ve done a lot of hard work for nothing, but I usually manage to avoid that.”

VISIT WITH SANTA

VISIT WITH SANTA

The important thing for me is to get a photo of it at
the end. For me, I’m working towards building a photograph as my end result,
and if I get that I’m happy.”
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“The secret is to set up a camera on a tripod and
keep it in one spot and check every mark you make.  It’s really just playing with perspective to make it
appear different to what it really is.”

JULIAN BEEVER --- SELF-PORTRAIT

JULIAN BEEVER --- SELF-PORTRAIT


I am headed back up to Maine.  You know the drill: not much Internet, the television stays off for most of the time and I try my darnedest to let go of politics.  I don’t know if I will be successful in that endeavor, but check back because I am planning a photo essay or two.