Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Its not the Profit Motive, its greed

I have watched with growing dismay the whole health care debate.

Single Payer wasn't even on the table. It was impossible to think about taking the profit motive out of health care.

The public option was opposed, frequently by people who had taken huge sums in campaign contributions from medical insurance or pharma companies, because it would be unfair to expect private companies to compete with a government chartered non-profit.

Why is it that some seem soo determined to protect the profits of the insurance companies?

Is it because they are motivated by profit to become more responsive and efficient to their customers? Not even close. Motivated by profit they now spend more than 25% of their income on overhead, including huge salaries for top executives and huge staffs who are devoted, not to providing better care, but to denying care, to canceling insurance, to ensure that they only insure those who are very healthy.

Is it because the Insurance industry is doing ANYTHING to constrain costs?? Not even close. Health Insurance rates continue to go up 10% a year when inflation in the rest of the economy is less than 3%.

I have no objection to the profit margin. I have always worked for companies that wanted to make a profit. I have profited my self because they were able to hire me.

But is that what we have here?

Not really

Most insurance markets in this country are dominated by no more than 2 huge companies. And without competition they don't really have to compete. And they don't. So overhead costs to up and executive salaries go up and stock prices go up and the amount of money they actually spends on patient care goes down.

This isn't the profit margin

Its greed, pure and simple.

Its the same level of greed that led major banks to take ridiculous risks with our money. And when they failed horribly and brought the entire country to the brink of disaster, many of them still insisted that they deserved million dollar bonuses.

40 years ago, the average CEO made 40 times as much as their average worker. Now they make 400 times as much.

Wealth and income are now as concentrated in fewer hands than any time since the great depression. Thats not profit motive, thats just greed. When the top 1% of wage earners make more collectively than the bottom 50%, we have left the simple profit motive behind and moved into naked avarice.

The health care reform debate has been an argument between people who want to bring this great country into the company of every other industrialized nation in offering health care to EVERY CITIZEN and those who seem determined to protect the greed, pure naked greed, of the health care and pharmaceutical industries.

Its not about profit, its about greed.

And greed is winning.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let them all expire

At the end of 2010, the disastorous tax cuts proposed by President George Walker Bush are scheduled to expire.

Let them

All of them

Not just the ones affecting people who make more than $250,000.

All of them

No one likes tax increases and I am sure that there would be a huge outcry from many, mostly conservatives, at any hint of a tax increase. But the simple fact is that we need to raise taxes. Though I expect that President Obama will actually continue work of the type that happened under the Clinton administration where the size of government actually shrank, unlike under the President in between. I take the president at his word that he will only propose new spending if he could also propose ways to pay for that spending. Pay as you go is something Democrats got pretty good at under Clinton and can do again.

A return to the tax rates in place during the strongest and most prolonged expansion since the Great Depression seems like it might even lay the foundation for another period of sustained broadly shared growth, unlike the narrowly focused growth in the Bush years that literally only benefited the rich.

Let them all expire.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Arise Liberals Arise

I am a Liberal
And I want others who feel like me to be proud of being a LIBERAL!!!
I look at what LIBERALS have done for this country and I am proud of LIBERALS accomplishments.
Somehow conservatives have made LIBERAL into almost a curse word
Yet its LIBERALS who have made this country what it is.
If you want to measure us in Red State, Blue State terms then do
Blue States have higher rates of High School Graduation, lower Teen Pregnancy rates, Higher percentages of College Graduates, lower Crime Rates, lower infant mortality rates, and Higher incomes.
LIBERALS live better
The states with the most uninsured - almost all Red States
The states that get more in Federal spending states than they pay in taxes - mostly Red States. The states the get less in Federal Spending than they pay in taxes - mostly Blue States
Since WWII, the economy has consistently performed better under Democratic Administrations than under Republicans
Same for the Stock Market

Arise Liberals

Take on Conservatives

Ask them what Conservatism has done for America

Ask them how Conservatives have made America better. They won't have an answer. They will only have attacks on Liberals and Democrats

Arise Liberals

Proclaim your politics
Be proud of what Liberals have done for this country

Challenge Conservatives. Ask them to show anything they have led on other than opposing things that this country needs

Ask them when was the last time Conservatives were right about anything

Arise Liberals

Be proud of what LIBERALS have done for this country

This country is a better country because of what LIBERALS have done.

Can conservatives say that. Can they tell you about all the great things they have done for this country??? No!!

Arise Liberals

Be Proud of the traditions and heritage you are inheriting

Continue to be those things that have made this country better


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Intolerance and Bigotry win again

The voters in Maine have spoken.
Gays are just not quite as good as the rest of us.
They don't deserve the things the rest of us can count on.
Not because of what they do, but because of who they love.

Its a shame that people of "faith" see fit to demand that we all accept their world view. Based on their beliefs.

They will tell you, without any basis except their beliefs, that allowing gays to marry will destroy the social or moral fabic of our country. They can't point to any new or accelerated social or moral decay in any of the countryies that have accepted gay marriage, but they believe it so it must be true.

Some, more on the fringe, will try to claim some link between homosexuality and pedophilia, again without a shred of evidence, but that is their belief and we all ahve to live by their beliefs.

This is an issue of civil rights. Pure and Simple. People are being denied access to the civil contract purely and simply because of who they love. And no one who supports this discrimination can come up with one defendable reason for their discrimination. All they have is their beliefs that homosexuality is some how bad or gross or an abomination. And they demand the right to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

I would be outraged if I wasn't so depressed by it all.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Good War?

The President has been involved in protracted deliberations over the strategy needed in Afghanistan. Amazingly, former Vice President Cheney has chosen to criticize the President for being deliberate in his decisions. Amazing criticism from a man who encouraged his President into making a huge string of strategic mistakes, from the conduct of the war in Afghanistan during the Bush Administration, to invading Iraq, to the general tenor of our foreign policy to idiotic and disastrous domestic policies to participating in the outing of a covert CIA officer.

That rant aside, the President has an incredibly tough decision to make.

Like much of what he inherited, President is faced with a range of shitty options, none of whom hold great promise.

Withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the Afghanistani's to their own devices would be terribly difficult to sell politically even if he wasn't already in the middle of two other very important political debates.

Keep with the current force levels and strategy. Probably the one choice no one is advocating.

Bulk up our forces by 40,000 or more troops to expand the current strategy of take, hold, and build that was the concept behind his first troop increase in March. Basically doubling down on his earlier strategy.

Shift the focus from anti-insurgency and nation building implicit in take, hold, and build to a focused anti-terrorist strategy that utilizes special forces and targeted munitions to target Al Queda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and essentially withdraw from the Afghani civil war.

There may be other options, these are the ones I have heard of.

And they are all terrible options.

Any strategy that is focused on building the institutions and military structure of the Afghani government in Kabul runs headlong into the debilitating corruption of the Karzi government. And there is no real evidence that his opponent in the upcoming runoff will be any less corrupt. And this is why any strategy built on nation building in Afghanistan begins to look and feel more and more like Vietnam. And that image scares me.

I don't know how different a strategic picture we would be seeing in Afghanistan if the Bush Administration had not screwed the pooch so completely, but we may now be at the point where the Taliban cannot be defeated. They have used money and what almost looks like effective governance to establish a very strong position in much of the country. And they can easily present us as invaders and occupiers and history shows that Afghanistan is not kind to invaders and occupiers. And what passes for a central government in Kabul is riddled with corruption and ineptitude. How can we try to build a nation based on that central government? Though it would be easy to criticize President Bush for picking Karzai, I don't know of any other Afghani leader who could have been effective at creating a national government in a nation that has never really had one. If there is a leader who would not be corrupt himself and who could create a government largely free of corruption, I have not heard his name.

Take, hold, and build might possibly work if we could bring in enough troops and keep them there long enough, but the more troops we bring in, the more we look like occupiers. The longer we stay, the more we look like occupiers. The more we support a corrupt central government the more we look like occupiers.

I supported President Obama in the election and I supported his decision to increase our force level in Afghanistan early in his Presidency. Now I am not so sure.

Increasingly I believe it’s time for us to accept that we cannot enforce our will on Afghanistan. Maybe we never could have. Maybe even if the Bush Administration had focused on Afghanistan from the beginning it would still look the same, I don't know.

But I don't see any good outcome here. We will continue to lose good men and women fighting a war trying to build a stable nation in Afghanistan and I don't see any realistic way for us to succeed. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan doesn't really have any history of central governance. It has always been a tribal society where people are far more faithful their faith and their tribe than to their nation. Can come together and stop fighting each other when the need to deal with invaders and occupiers, but they don't see themselves as a nation. Afghanistan is, after all, a nation created by western colonial powers drawing lines on a map that had little or nothing to do with reality on the ground.

We have screwed up here. We gleefully helped the Afghani people defeat the Soviets. The Soviets pulled out and the first Bush Administration patted itself on the back and walked away from a country we helped break. Maybe if we had stayed then, maybe if we had worked with the Pakistani's and the Afghani's to build civil structures and build infrastructure that would give people other options than growing poppies, maybe it might have worked then. My natural inclination is that since we broke it, we have to fix it. I just don't think we can.

We need to be finding a way out. Sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What has conservativism done for you??

Conservatives gave us record deficits and an illegal invasion of a country that wasn't a threat to us and the deepest recession in 70 years and maniacs shooting doctors.

So what have conservatives done in the past 40 years to make the lives of anyone who isn't rich better?

The opposed the Clean Air Act and The Clean Water Act and the EPA and Medicare and Clinton's tax increases (which only set the stage for the greatest expansion in a century or more). They deregulated banks which led directly to the current recession. They have lied about climate change/global warming for at least 15 years and stopped us from taking on the most important challenge this world faces right now. They insisted that the federal government should intervene in private medical decisions made by a grieving husband in Florida after illegally disenfranchising thousands of (mostly minority) voters just before the 2000 election. They have spent the past 6 month lying about health care reform, especially the public option.

They have opposed every increase in the minimum wage despite all the evidence that it actually benefits people and doens't actually lead to job losses.

Proposition 13 in California lowered people's property taxes and eviserated public education in that state.

So really, what positive thing for the majorit of American's have conservatives accomplished in the past 30 or 40 years??


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Religious Conservatives

I was on my standard 600 mile drive yesterday and surfing the radio (CD player is broken). I came upon the President speaking to some enthusiastic crowd so I stopped surfing and listened.

Our President was addressing a rally on the mall for Gay Rights. And the President was telling these Americans that he supported some of their causes. That he supported the Repeal of DOMA. That he supported the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The crowd was going nuts.

It sounded like a really good speech.

After it ended, some guy named John came on. He was absolutely horrified that President Obama had ended his speech to a group of Americans with "God Bless America!". How dare the President support people who were gay!!!!

John then went on to talk about how Homosexuality was an abomination and a sin and a really nasty thing. And then he opened the phone lines and caller after caller came on to say that this was a horrible thing.

And in the middle of this there was an ad.

The ad was for some group supporting Christians in some country who are being persecuted by Muslims simply because they are Christians and the Muslims are trying to impose Shiara Law.

And I thought, how much the same those Religious Conservatives were.

They both cherry pick from their holy books to support their beliefs that other people are evil or sick or depraved or just infidels.

And they both want to make their vision of right and wrong into the law.

They pick and choose from their holy books what they want to read and ignore the rest and then claim some sort of moral high ground because they are just doing what their holy book tells them to do. At least the part of their holy book that they choose to emphasize.

And in many Muslim countries, the conservatives are winning and women are being forced under the veil and Christians are presecuted and harrassed.

And here, in the Land of the Free, there is a powerful push to repeal the law in New Hampshire to ban Same Sex Marriage. Not because there is any evidence that Gay Marriage is bad for anybody. Not because there is any evidence that allowing lesbian couples the same benefits as straight couples does society any harm. There isn't any evidence because allowing two people who love each other to marry turns out to be a good thing for society. But they oppose it because the parts of the bible they choose to read tell them its an abomination.

And they think their opinion should be law.

What, really, is the difference between these two groups of religious conservatives?

President Obama, Nobel Laurete

Just Amazing
I personally think its too soon. I suspect that he would have eventually won the Peace Prize. In many ways this is because he has approached the world in such fundamentally different ways than his predecessor. And that, by itself, may be sufficient justification for this honor. Our President, the President of the most powerful country in the world, has let the world know that we are no longer the nation of our way or the highway. Taht we recognize that are a force for good in the world, but that we are occasionally a force for evil as well, that we stand a far better chance of achieving our goals with we approach the rest of the world with respect, not derision.
Just Amazing

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The President Spoke

I just hope the people listened
And got past the constant din of lies told by Insurance Company lackeys, in Congress and out.

He laid out as clearly as he could what he wants and made it clear that he will not accept a plan the doesn't include some form of competition in the insurance market.

And he made it clear that he will call a lie a lie

It won't stop the lies, some Republican's can't seem to control themselves, but it will put clearly for those who will listen the truth about what is being proposed.

I loved it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Public Discourse

As a life long liberal the on-going debate about health care has been frustrating.
Anyone who knows me know I love a good debate.
And I try to be straight with my facts.

And I find it incredibly frustrating when the people I am debating don't seem to care about facts or truth.

As an pundit inside the beltway will tell you, support for health care reform and for a public option has dropped.
And it has. But why??
Not because the opponents have many facts, but because the insist on lying and then when their first lie is disproven moving on to a new lie.

Death Panels
The VA manual that supposedly supports suicide or euthanasia
Now Rush is claiming that the new bill mandates circumscision
And it will ration health care
And the public option will put all the private insurance companies out of business
And health care reform will strip so much money away from Medicare that seniors will be denied care

And those are just the ones that come to mind now.

But real debate is being drowned out by lies
By lies shouted out by angry people in town halls who more interested in being disruptive and angry than in actually asking real questions and getting real answers.

There are lots of things in Health Care reform to debate
Tort Reform?
Philosophically, SHOULD the government compete with private industry?
Will a public option really help to constrain costs?
Will effectiveness studies really help to constrain costs and improve care?
Can we really significantly reduce the fraud and waste in the Medicare system?
Should small and mid-sized employers be required to provide Health Insurance for all their employees
Should we require all citizens and legal residents to have health insurance?

There are real issues to debate.

But the opponents of Health Care Reform don't really seem interested in debate.
They feel more comfortable in lies and shouting and disruption.

I find it all so frustrating

Friday, July 17, 2009

Learning the Wrong Lesson

I was listening to Morning Joe as they were going on and on about how horrible it was for the CIA that, yet again, they violated the law. This time by not informing Congress of a on-going program.
According to reports based on leaks and anonymous sources, the CIA had a program in place to insert assassination squads into different places to go after senior Al Queda operatives that we could not get other ways or that we could get by bombing but only at the cost of lost of civilian casualties as collateral damage.
Correct me if I am wrong here, but sending somebody out to put a bullet in Osama Bin Laden's head strikes me as a good idea. I don't know that anyone of the 8 members of Congress that the CIA is supposed to notify about this program would have had any objections to hunting down and killing senior Al Queda personnel if we didn't think we could capture them or kill them by other means.
I think it s good idea.
So we had this program though, according to the reports, we never actually sent a team anywhere to carry out these target killing/assassinations. Not because we didn't want to, but it just never came together well enough to risk the assets.
But instead of notifying Congress, as they are required to do by law, the previous administration decided to ignore law and never informed Congress.
Both Democrats and Republicans have stated, without acknowledging the content of the published reports, that Congress should have been notified.
So Bush/Cheney/the CIA collectively broke the law.
And that violation of the law now appears to have been exposed.
And what do we hear from Conservatives all over the place??
Exposing this operation and talking about investigations into potential violations of the law is bad for morale at the CIA.
Is that really the lesson here??
The Attorney General is considering appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate if some CIA Operatives or their Contractors didn't exceed the written guidance that they had for the treatment of prisoners in our custody.
He is not investigating if the CIA followed the rules laid down in the noxious torture memos, he is considering and investigation into whether or not even those rules were violated.
And again we are supposed to pity the CIA???
In all the noise about the assassination program, I have heard few voices say this is a bad thing. We already kill them from the air with 500 pound bombs or Hellfire missiles, this is different only in that shooting a terrorist is far more personal than dropping high explosives on their ass. But the terrorists are still dead.
What the CIA and the Bush Administration did is break the law by not informing Congress.
The lesson here is not that we will destroy the effectiveness of the CIA by exposing their crimes, its that WE DON'T WANT THE CIA TO BREAK OUR LAWS.
We are after all, a nation of laws.
Why should I feel sorry for the CIA when they get caught breaking the law???
Can anybody explain this?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Single Payer and Poster Children

In the past week or so Senator Mitch McConnel has been telling the story of a Canadian woman who ended up getting treatment (at her own cost) at a facility here in the United States because she would have had to wait months to see the needed specialists in Canada under their Single Payer system
Senator McConnel is using this woman's story as a cautionary tale about the failures of Single Payer and why we cannot possibly adopt anything close to that here.
I won't pretend to understand what happened in this woman's case that caused the delays.
What I do know is that this failure in the Canadian system is relatively rare.
A good friend of mine is Canadian. Her mother was ill with a serious disease and a shortage of the appropriate specialist resulted in her recieving treatment in the US - paid for by the Canadian Single Payer system.
The Canadian Single Payer model is not perfect.
But Senator Mitch McConnell has a good Poster Child for his case.
I have 47 million.
What ever the weaknesses in the Canadian system, the Canadian system covers EVERYONE IN CANADA. No one in Canada has to rely solely on the Emergency Room for their only medical care, and then only when they are really sick. No one in Canada has to go into Bankruptcy because of their medical bills.
Senator McConnell and the Republicans point out that the Canadian system is not perfect.
What a newsflash. The Canadians don't have a perfect system.
But for far less money per person than we spend, the Canadians have longer life spans, lower rates of infant mortality, and universal coverage.
He has his poster child
I have 47 million uninsured poster children.

Shared Resources

My Sister and I talk about a lot of stuff and agree about a little. I love the conversations because she not only knows what she believes, as most of us do, but she is able to describe why, which many on both sides seem incapable of.
I don't know how but we ended up talking about water policy. She lives along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, which is actually quite arid. Her water supply is almost completely dependent on the Spring snow melt. So if they get lots of snow in the mountains, their reservoirs fill up and if the snow fall is low the reservoirs don't fill up. Colorado recently went through a drought that lasted about 5 years, during which many of the reservoirs got quite low.
At some point during this drought, the water department instituted restrictions on water usage including limitations on watering the yard and using a running hose to wash your car. In talking about that period, she noted that some of her neighbors ignored the water restrictions and watered their yard anyway.
Later in the drought, the water department abandoned the restrictions and went to a tiered cost structure so people who used lots of water payed a significantly higher rate/gallon than those who only used a small amount of water.
To my sister, that was the right way to resolve the problem of water usage during a drought. If you can afford the higher bills, then use all the water you want in any way you want. I guess you could call it a market based solution as opposed to a regulatory solution.
I thought about that conversation alot. It seems to me to be an almost perfect metafor for one of the core differences between Republicans/Conservatives and Democrats/Liberals.
We all have to share the same environment.
And just because you can afford the gasoline/natural gas/electric bill/water doesn't mean that profligate use of those shared resources is actually good for society as a whole.
Now my sister personally recycles virtually everything she can. She has been known to wash and reuse ziplock bags. They have converted a large chunk of their yard to lower water demand plants and have a sprinkler system that makes more efficient use of the water they do use. She doesn't use the dry cycle on her diswasher, saving about 40% of the energy the system would otherwise use. She has a compost heap. All in all, she leads a pretty green lifestyle. As is her choice.
But she has no problem with those that are willing to waste our shared resources.
If they can afford what they use, then thats up to them.
Which is pretty much the Republican position on things like the environment.
If you can afford an Escalade or a 4.5L V-8 pickup, then have at it, the environment will take care of itself. Interfering in the market by Cap and Trade on Carbon emissions, or raising the CAFE standards, or making the CAFE standards apply to pickup trucks, or requiring that a growing percentage of the cars/power plants/factories produce less or even zero carbon emissions is usually defined as a bad idea gaurenteed to make America less competitive in the world and lose jobs.
The problem with their arguments is that everytime they have made similar arguments (against the Clean Air Act, or the Clean Water Act, or against the original CAFE Standards, they have been wrong. The world didn't end, the economy didn't collapse.
But because of their resistance to such things, we now have giant dead zones in the ocean and in the Chesapeake Bay where run off from non-point sources is killing entire water ecosystems. We have human accelerated global warming that literally theartens the lives of millions of people world wide.
And we are facing water crises. Much of California gets its water from snow melt, like Colorado. And snow fall in California has been decreasing and will likely continue to decrease as the climate warms up. The agricultural miracle that is California's Central Valley cannot exist without huge water projects bringing water from the mountains of Northern California. California's population continues to grow and the pressure on the limited water resources of the Sierra is growing as snow fall appears to be decreasing.
As a Liberal/Democrat, I think it is not only a good idea for the government to interfere in the water and carbon markets, I think it is absolutely necessary for our continued health and prosperity.
Left to their own devices, the markets won't solve these problems, despite what Conservatives/Republican try to tell us.
Just because you can afford to use lots of a shared resource, doesn't mean you should, nor does it mean you should be allowed to waste just because you can afford it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Is this really news?

When so much is happening in the world, why is it breathlessly awaited breaking news that Michael Jackson's will has been filed with the courts.
Its not like that is a suprise or unusual or even really interesting
I know there is a 24 hour news cycle now, but is the sad passing of such a sad character really the most important thing that has happened this past week.
He was an amazingly talented and equally flawed man who let his life get away from him.
But is this really headline news?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gays in the Military, the Insanity Continues

If there is a poster child for the utter insanity of Don't Ask Don't Tell, it's Lt Dan Choi. A decorated veteran of Iraq who recently came out of the closet. A military panel has recommended that he be discharged from the National Guard despite NO EVIDENCE THAT HIS SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS PREJUDICIAL TO GOOD ORDER AND DISCIPLINE. And, Oh By The Way, he is an Arab linguist, somehting the military has a distinct sortage of. So we continue to pursue a utterly mindless policy based on old prejudices that most members of the military no longer care about and that have cost us the patriotic services of more than 12,000 patriotic Americans who wanted to do the PATRIOTIC thing and serve their country in the military. This is insanity beyond description. Don't Ask, Don't Tell IS HARMING OUR NATIONAL SECURITY.

Gays in the Military, This Insanity has to stop

If there is a poster child for the utter insanity of Don't Ask Don't Tell, its Lt Dan Choi.

A decorated veteran of Iraq who recently came out of the closet.

A military panel has recommended that he be discharged from the National Guard despite NO EVIDENCE THAT HIS SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS PREJUDICIAL TO GOOD ORDER AND DISCIPLINE.

And, Oh By The Way, he is an Arab linguist, something the military has a distinct shortage of.

So we continue to pursue a utterly mindless policy based on old prejudices that most members of the military no longer care about and that have cost us the patriotic services of more than 12,000 patriotic Americans who wanted to do the PATRIOTIC thing and serve their country in the military.

This is insanity beyond description.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Public Option might be TOOOO successful??

Listening to the Sunday Talkies its clear, one of the biggest concerns that Republicans talk about when voicing opposition to having a public option is that IT WILL WORK TOO WELL. That so many people will chose this option that it will hurt the insurance industry.
Some refer to it as the nose under the tent flap for Single Payer.

That's right!!! They oppose a public option, not because it won't work. Not because it will cost too much. Not because the government cannot possibly efficiently deliver health insurance.


They oppose it BECAUSE IT MIGHT WORK!!!

And, oh by the way, it might actually work to hold down health care costs across the board.

How horrible would it be if the government offered its citizens something that they want and that works and that helps to reduce costs???

Whose side are they on??

Clearly not on the side of all those people they think might chose the public option.

They are on the Insurance Company's side.

We have a health care crisis in this country and the Republicans demand is that we protect the profits of the insurance companies.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


There is a huge debate underway in the halls of Congress over the future of the American Health care system.
And despite large majorities in both Houses of Congress, the Democrats are loosing.
Sometimes I despair for my party.
Though it is clear to me that some form of Single Payer is far and away the best answer for this nation, that is an option that is not even being considered.
The battle in Congress is largely over two issues. Including a public option and how to pay the $100 - $160B/year that this program will cost us.
Despite several polls showing very widespread public acceptance for a Public Option and a strong majority who are willing to pay more taxes in order to finance this system, some Democrats (including the the Blue Dogs) are blocking a public option. Listening to the debate I hear Republicans (and some Democrats) mouthing the same old tired attacks on a public option.
They ask if Americans want a bureaucrat standing between them and their doctors. The sad fact is that for most Americans there already is a bureaucrat standing between them and their doctors. The current bureaucrat works for an Insurance Company and that bureaucrats job is to protect the profits of the Insurance Company. I some how do not see that as any better than a bureaucrat who works for the US Government in the same role. In fact, since the Federal bureaucrat isn't focused on protecting any Insurance Company's profits, they might be more responsive to the needs of the patient and the decisions of the doctors.
For years Republicans have stated as if it were a fact that private industry can always do things better than a government entity. Yet now they are publicly worried that many people might leave private insurance for the government run insurance program. Why would they do that if the private insurers could do a better job?? Just look at how well Medicare is managed and what its administrative overhead costs are compared to the inefficiencies and bloated salaries and administrative overhead costs of private insurers. There are some things governments can do well and this looks like it might be one of them.
One of the elements of President Obama's proposal is a structure that studies medical methods and outcomes and costs and looks for ways to maximize positive outcomes while reducing costs. Though no one has proposed imposing the results of these studies on anybody, Republicans have twisted this into a government plan to ration care in some way. Its a lie but Republicans do seem to like their lies.
One thing that is lost in the current rhetoric is that the current system is financially unsustainable. Its not just that Medicare will grow to consume the entire federal budget, its that private citizens and employers will no longer be able to afford to provide quality care. There is tremendous waste and duplication and conflict of interest in the current system. Administrative overhead consumes about 30% of every health care dollar. (as an aside, overhead in Medicare is far far lower at about 5%). We have well over 1000 insurance companies along with hundreds of thousands of providers of medical services. Yet with all that supposed competition duplication and waste and inefficiency and costs continue to rise far faster than inflation. Without at least a public option, it may not be possible to get control of costs and without getting control of costs the question of who pays the bills is almost meaningless.
The current health care system in this country is a national disgrace. We have the best, most advanced, most successful health care in the world, if you can afford it. But we pay way too much for what we get. We pay 20%/person more than the second most expensive country and 50% more than the 3rd most expensive country and yet we have a shorter life expectancy that most industrialized nations, we have higher rates of infant mortality that any other industrialized nation, and we still have 50 million people in this country that do not have any health insurance at all. 62% of all Bankruptcies are partially or completely the result of medical bills and 2/3rds of those medical related bankruptcies involve people WHO HAVE health insurance. No other industrialized nation on earth would tolerate such an outrage.
And Republicans (with some Democrats) don't seem to really want to change anything.
We are facing a crisis.
And it doesn't look like we are going in the right direction.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Reagan Legacy

I was amused to watch the unveiling of Ronald Reagan's statue in the Capitol Rotunda.
Republicans, in particular, were almost worshipful of President Reagan
I thought that was a perfect illustration of where the Republican party is now.
Reagan changed politics in America in fundamental ways, none of them good.
He brought the concept that tax cuts by them selves were good into the public stage and Republicans have embraced that idiocy ever since. Tax Cuts unmatched by spending cuts DO NOT stimulate the economy long term. They have a clear short term stimulative affect, the same as increasing domestic spending (President Obama's stimulus package is a clear example). The problem with tax cuts it they tend to be permanent while spending increases tend to be temporary.
Shrub got a supposedly temporary tax cut passed and then immediately started campaigning to make it permanent. Those tax cuts never paid for themselves. Reagan's tax cuts never paid for them selves. At least Reagan (and Bush 41) acknowledged that and put forward huge tax increases to keep the budget from going completely out of control. Shrub never got the idea that huge deficits are fundamentally bad for the economy long term.
President Reagan famously said that government wasn't the solution, it was the problem. Another idiocy that has been enthusiastically embraced by the Republican party. That led to deregulating the S&L industry and the resulting S&L bailout. That led to the breakdown of barriers between commercial and investment banks and was a major contributor to the current near depression. Regulation is neither inherently good or bad. Its a tool. History has repeatedly demonstrated that unconstrained capitalism is destructive of society, the cycles of boom and bust hurt far more than they help. But, following Reagan, Republicans still believe in this silly mantra of deregulate, deregulate, deregulate. Without thought or balance, just deregulate.
President Reagan gave us Star Wars, a hole into which we have dumped hundreds of billions of wasted dollars that might succeed in protecting us from North Korea or Iran, but would be utterly useless in protecting us from a nation with more than 10 or 15 weapons. And would be completely useless in protecting us from the stolen nuc smuggled into this country in a shipping container.
And that doesn't even get into Iran-Contra
I know Republicans (and some Democrats) worship at Reagan's feet.
But its time to stop
Time for a rational reexamination of the Reagan legacy for the disaster it was.
I do not believe that History will be kind to Reagan
Nor should it be.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gays in the Military

It's time to acknowledge the obvious.
We already have gay people in the military. We always have.
And despite that I have never heard of one report of some sort of gay related wave of sexual harassment or inappropriate interest.
What I hear is that the troops might not like it.
There's lots of talk about good order and discipline and unit cohesiveness.
And some talk about troops in some communal shower being worried that a fellow soldier/sailor is checking out their ass.
It's like they have no memory.
In 1947 President Truman ignored similar advice and ordered the Armed Forces to become racially integrated. And they did. It wasn't perfectly done. Racism exists in society so it exists in the military. But by all accounts, the Armed Forces did a pretty good job of forcing those whites in the service who didn't want serve with blacks as equals to either accept it or get out.
And it worked.
I remember growing up as an Air Force brat seeing people living together is something approaching harmony. It was clear that, no matter what a person might think, active overt racism was not acceptable any more. I was a kid, I am sure that there were things that happened that I didn't hear about. But by the time I joined the Navy, race was much less a factor in the Armed Services than in the population at large. We weren't that far from a black man as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
When I joined the Navy (1976) we were going through much of the same thing as women were more fully integrated into the Armed Services. They were serving on other than hospital ships in almost every speciality. They were flying fighter aircraft. Many similar arguments were made about integrating women then as they are making about integrating gays now. There were concerns that men and women would form relationships and those relationships were interfere with good order and discipline. That debate goes on since we still don't have women serving in infantry units, but almost all the disasters predicted by those opposed to what integration we have achieved didn't happen. There were incidents like Tailhook, where some people failed to recognize that the world had changed. But over a fairly short period of time, those problems mostly disappeared.
And now we are discussing acknowledging what is already true and contemplating stopping the insanity of punishing people purely for being gay. The utter stupidity of telling honorable patriotic Americans that they are not good enough to serve in the Armed Forces of this country simply because of who they love.
We hear much the same arguments we heard about blacks and about women and those arguments then were wrong and the arguments now will also be wrong.
How/Why is it defendable to allow some people's prejudice to determine that some other Americans aren't good enough to serve?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The world is full of Irony

"Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere... I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture."-- George W. Bush, June 2003

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Rest of the Story on Torture

I was delighted that President Obama backed away from his statement that there would be no torture related prosections by deferring to the professional prosecutors in the Department of Justice.
The good guys won one today.
And then we here from a report from the Senate Armed Services Committee what almost seems like the real reason for the harsh interrogations and torture.
The Bush Administration, according to this report, was intent on proving a link between Al Queda and Saddam Hussein.
Is this why we waterboarded one man 183 times in 4 months? To prove what wasn't true. What we knew wasn't true before we invaded Iraq.
Bybee should be impeached and there are people who should go to jail.
I don't know if even teh Bybee memo should shield people who waterboarded 1 prisoner 183 times in 4 months.
All in an attempt to prove a lie
Utterly depressing

Friday, April 17, 2009

Open Letter to the President of the United States

Dear Mr. President,
I was relieved that your Department of Justice chose to release the memos written under the Bush Administration that authorized and justified torture.
I am also very happy that you have issued an Executive Order that requires that the CIA follow the Army Field Manual strictures on interrogation of suspected terrorists.
That being said, I find that I must disagree with you in the strongest of terms, when you and the Attorney General have granted effective immunity to the CIA case officers and the contractors working for them that, in the name of the United States, tortured prisoners in our custody.
As you are well aware, torture is prohibited by both US Law and treaties that the US has signed.
You do not have the authority under our Constitution, to decide not to allow prosecution of people that might have broken both US and International law. We, as a nation, share responsibility for these crimes, but we cannot use our collective guilt to shield the individual guilt of those who justified torture, or those who authorized torture, or those who actually tortured prisoners in our custody.
I call upon you to direct the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel, similar to the special counsel appointed to investigate the disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity, to investigate and prosecute as necessary the allegations that representatives of the United States Government justified, authorized, or actually committed acts of torture on prisoners in our custody, either in acknowledged locations like Abu Grahib or Guantanamo Bay or the "Black" prisons reportedly operated by the CIA.
We are a nation of laws. It is important, even critical, for us as a people and a nation to acknowledge the crimes that were committed in our name and to prosecute those who are involved.
Personally I would suspect that most juries would acquit the actual torturers because of the thin film of cover provided by the Justice Department decisions, and would (hopefully) convict those who justified and authorized actions that, despite the Justice Department decisions, were so clearly violations of US and International Law
I supported you because I hoped/thought/prayed that you really were different, that you really would take on the hard things. There is no doubt this is a hard thing.
But it is necessary that we acknowledge our mistakes and prosecute those responsible for committing acts of torture. It is necessary for us to restore our moral standing in the world to admit our mistakes and correct them.
I remain excited about almost all of what you are doing.
On this though, I beg you to reconsider your position, hard as I know that to be, and enforce the law. Let the chips fall where they may.
Thank you
Walt Stoelting

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Republicans and Democrats

I just got spanked. This was a lousy post, making claims I can't adequately support. Sorry

I will leave it up with this apology for a while then just take the whole thing down

Universal Health Care

Preview of Coming Attractions in Washington DC.The debate over health care.The President has pointed out (correctly) that the most important step that his administration can take to reign in long term government spending is to control the cost of health care. Far more than Social Security (which may or may not have liquidity problems long term depending on who you ask), Medicare, with health care costs in general, is growing at a pace that is clearly unsustainable.There are two Frontline articles that I recommend to everyone.Sick in America ( examines the weaknesses and inefficiencies in our current system of paying for health care that rely in large part of for profit insurance companies. Sick Around the World ( how 5 different capitalist countries addressed the issue of universal care. Of note, none of those systems allow for profit health insurance companies in their basic care programs.
Somewhat lost in the debate about how to achieve universal health care is the issue of cost. If we cannot find a way to reign in the growth in health care costs, who pays for health care will really be a moot issue, no one will be able to afford it.To his credit, President Obama has recognized that critical fact and is trying to make it a central part of the move towards universal care.
It is a national embarrassment that the Richest and Most Powerful nation in the world has 50 million people without health insurance (I am currently one of them).
Finding ways to control costs and ensure that everyone has access to the full range of health care (not just the emergency room) is perhaps the most important thing we can do for our future financial success.
Let the debating begin.

Universal Health Care

Preview of Coming Attractions in Washington DC.

The debate over health care.

The President has pointed out (correctly) that the most important step that his administration can take to reign in long term government spending is to control the cost of health care. Far more than Social Security (which may or may not have liquidity problems long term depending on who you ask), Medicare, with health care costs in general, is growning at a pace that is clearly unsustaninable.

There are two Frontline articles that I recommend to everyone.

Sick in America ( examines the weaknesses and inefficiences in our current system of paying for health care that rely in large part of for profit insureance companies

Sick Around the World ( how 5 different capitalist countries addressed the issue of universal care. Of note, none of those systems allow for profit health insurance companies in their basic care programs.

Somewhat lost in the debate about how to acheive universal health care is the issue of cost. If we cannot find a way to reign in the growth in health care costs, who pays for health care will really be a moot issue, no one will be able to afford it.

To his credit, President Obama has recognized that critical fact and is trying to make it a central part of the move towards universal care.

It is a national embarrasement that the Richest and Most Powerful nation in the world has 50 million people without health insurance (Until recently, I was one of them)

Sad and Pathetic

Is a measure of how clueless the Republican Party is that they continue to use the courts to delay the certification of Al Franken as the duly elected Senator from Minnesota.
Its clear from the statements made by the Senate Republican leadership that they are encouraging the endless delays purely to prevent the Democrats from seating their 59th Senator.
The initial returns on election day gave Norm Coleman a slight lead. He immediately called on Al Franken to concede and respect the will of the people. Now that the required recount is complete and Franken has a small lead, Coleman and his supporters have turned to the courts to try to claim some sort of malfeasance. At each stage of their appeals, Al Franken has actually gained votes. They have already promised to take their case to the state Supreme Court and are openly talking about taking their case to the Federal Courts as some sort of civil rights case.
This is all the Republican's seem to have left.
This and their silly Tea Parties
Sad kind of
I like it though. Another sign that they have no leader, no real vision, no unifying purpose (other than obstructing the President's agenda)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The beginning of the End for Discrimination in Marriage

Two milestones occurred that probably mark the beginning of the end for the laws that deny gays equal protection under our laws.
The Vermont legislature passed a law allowing any two adults to marry, regardless of their gender. They then had to override the Governor's veto.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the law that denied gays access to the civil contract called marriage was unconstitutional. And they did so unanimously.

The laws denying gays the equal protection of the law have never made any logical sense. Every time I have this discussion with people who oppose gay marriage the only real substantive reason they have is because they disapprove of homosexuality. They no longer try to show how society will be harmed in any real way, they just know in their heart of hearts that homosexuality is wrong and gay marriage should not be allowed.

I think we have reached a tipping point. This is like the Battle of Midway in World War II. We haven't won the war yet, but the opponents of gay rights are on the defensive now and they will eventually lose.

Its a great day to be an American, Gay or Straight.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Silly Lies

You have to love this.

Governor Jindall, in his response to the President's address to the nation, told this cute/funny story about some mindless bureaucrat trying to stop boats from coming into New Orleans to help rescue people off of roof tops because they didn't have registration.

He told it like he was there.

Turns out he wasn't.

After 8 years of a President who frequently said things that were not true, that he should have known were not true, now we have the official spokesman of the Republican Party making up a story for his national address.

The number and frequency with which Republicans have said things about the Stimulus package that were simply and clearly untrue is quite breathtaking.

Thank god for sites like FactCheck.Org and

These are serious times and there are real disagreements between the parties. For reasons passing understanding it seems like Republicans can't talk about the issues and simply tell the truth.

Throwing President Bush under the Bus

Its been fun in a sick way to watch how the Republican Party has thrown President Bush completely under the bus then made sure it ran over him a couple of times.
Bobby Jindall's Republican response to the President's address was only part of it.
You hear current Republican Congressmen and Senators talk like none of the excesses and stupidities of the Bush years have anything to do with them.
All of a sudden they have discovered fiscal responsibility.
Some how they were the party in power when the FEMA so completely botched its response to Hurricane Katrina.
Now that he is no longer a candidate for President of the US, Senator McCain is saying the war in Afghanistan is lost
After 8 years of Earmarks run amok, all of a sudden earmarks are evil and have to be opposed at every turn.
Fortunately, it doesn't seem that the public is buying it. Despite their lackluster performance, public approval for the Democrats in Congress is up, almost to 50% whild approval for Republicans is still in the 20's.
And President Obama's approval is in the 60's
After 8 years of defending and supporting George Walker Bush, the entire Republican establishment has thrown the man under the bus.
Its funny.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I love Bobby Jindall

I watched the President's address to Congress last night and then watched Governor Jindall's response.

I really hope that this man is the future of the Republican party. To say his speech, especially following the President's speech, was uninspiring is a vast understatement. And that's only style points.

Governor Jindall decided to remind the country of the Federal Governments horribly failed response to Hurricane Katrina.

He distorted the requirements attached to the Unemployment Insurance monies in the Stimulus Bill.

He chose to remind us of the incredible growth in spending under a Republican President and (for 6 of 8 years) a Republican congress and then claimed that Republicans have the solution to solving the financial crisis they largely created.

Being a Republican, he stated that the economic policies he and the Republican party support consist of cutting taxes. Completely deaf to the realization that President Bush's tax cuts didn't give us vibrant growth and literally doubled the national debt in 8 years. 8 years of tepid growth in GDP and 8 years where job growth didn't even keep up with population growth.

8 years of record deficits

And his solution - Cut Taxes

I love this guy!!!

He complains that the US Government is going to spend $300Million buying new more efficient vehicles which provides jobs to auto workers, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and helps to reduce green house gas emissions.

I love this guy!!!

He complains about the Democrats spending money we do not have on things we do not need. Coming from a Republican after what they did the past 8 years, that is the very picture of irony. and he doesn't even see it!

He seems to thing that the Republican package of pure tax cuts wouldn't amount to spending money we don't have. He seems to think that cutting taxes won't ballon the debt. Clueless is the word I am looking for.

I love this guy!!!!

Then there was his disconnect on energy policy. Some of the programs Republicans have been complaining about (like buying fuel efficient vehicles and building high speed rail lines) are directly aimed reducing our dependence on foreign oil and cleaning up our environment. Then he goes on to say that we must increase use of alternative energy supplies and become more efficient. He does add increased domestic drilling and an expansion of nuclear power to the list of things that our President is already pushing for.

That's clearly going to be a winning strategy for the Republican Party.

On to Health Care.

He states that the goal of the Republican party is to ensure that no one has to worry about losing their health care. Then adds that Republicans don't want government bureaucrats interfering in the decisions made by doctors and their patients. He seems quite content to allow insurance companies interfere all they want. Problem is that President Obama hasn't advocated a government take over of health care. He advocates universal health care through access to private insurance or allowing Americans to join the same health plan used by members of Congress. Republicans love straw men and this is one of them. Obama has not proposed a government take over of health care, so Republicans find themselves warning against something the President isn't proposing.

If this really is the best the Republicans have, they are in more trouble than I thought!!

I love this guy!!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Keeping President Obama Honest

I encourage everyone to check out

It's a site that is tracking President Obama's performance against 510 promises that they have identified that he made since beginning his campaign for the Presidency.

The current count is:

Promises Kept: 9
Promises Broken: 2
Compromises: 3
In the works:21
Not Started: 475

Whatever you think of our President, he asked to be held accountable to his promises and that is what this site does.

It also confirms or debunks many of the statements being made by people on both sides of the aisle.

If you hear some claims, good or bad, about the President and his efforts, this is a great place to check (along with and to find if the claims are true or not.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Legalize Marijuana

I was struck by the idiocy of the furor around the picture of Michael Phelps taking a hit from a bong.

This kid is clearly one of the most incredible athletes in the world right now and he was forced to do the mea culpa circuit for smoking pot.

Utterly insane.

The original laws against Marijuana were racist in nature, specifically targeting Hispanics. The arguments used against pot were complete fabrications about how Hispanics and Blacks who smoked became crazed beasts who might even look at a White Woman.

I remember a great propaganda film called Reefer Madness that I saw when I was in college. It portrayed pot users as wild beasts, capable of murder and rape. I went to college in the 70's. Most everyone I knew smoked from time to time. None of them were murders or rapists.

And now, any attempt to legalize pot run into a hailstorm of illogic and outright lies.

The biggest lie is the "gateway drug" lie. The only reason pot is a gateway to more serious drug use is that its illegal. Once you have crossed the line into illegal drug use, there are fewer barriers to cross before you graduate to seriously harmful drugs.

Marijuana is not physically addictive (unlike both alcohol and tobacco).
Marijuana is much less physically harmful than alcohol.
Marijuana is not a gateway to other crimes of violence like alcohol is.

Alcohol leads directly to the deaths of around 200,000 Americans a year. Tobacco leads to the death of perhaps 400,000 every year.

Show me a study that links any deaths to Marijuana.

I have no doubt that people high on pot have done stupid things like drive and ended up dead or killing other people. Nothing close to the number killed in the same way by Alcohol. But I am sure it happens.

Marijuana use probably leads to lung cancer. Pulling smoke into your lungs and holding it there is not actually going to be good for you. But since most smokers that I know smoke maybe a joint a day, I doubt it has the same impact as a pack of cigarettes.

Its another testament to Republicans and their fondness for belief based laws that marijuana is still illegal.

My poison of choice is alcohol. Despite all the drugs I could have tried in college, I never did for no reason other than I just didn't care to. But I should have the choice. The same way I can choose to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I screwed up

Can you believe it, a President who admits to mistakes, doesn't try to blame anybody else and commits to doing better next time!!

President Obama last night on NBC News

"I'm here on television saying I screwed up, and that's part of the era of responsibility. It's not never making mistakes; it's owning up to them and trying to make sure you never repeat them and that's what we intend to do."

Now that is a Change.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Wrong Again

I am wondering if Republicans ever tire of being wrong, seriously mind-numbingly wrong??

In 1993, President Bill Clinton inherited record Budget Deficits and a faltering economy. He pushed through an Economic Plan that included raising taxes. It got not a single vote in the House. Republicans predicted economic doom and disaster. What we got was the 8 years of strong economic growth, 21 million new jobs, and a Budget Surplus.

In 2001, President Bush inherits a Budget Surplus and a faltering economy. He pushed through massive tax cuts, only by limiting them to 10 years because of their huge cost, promising strong economic growth. Instead what we got was 8 years of anemic job growth, growing income disparities, a sputtering Stock Market and obscene deficits. By the time President Bush and the Republicans were through, we had an economic collapse to rival the Great Depression, Trillion Dollar Deficits, more than doubling of the National Debt, a banking system that won't lend, a diminished prestige in the world and two wars, one of which should never have been fought, the other should never have been ignored. Oh, and a ruined city.

Now its 2009, President Obama has inherited more challenges than perhaps any President in history with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. And now, a badly needed stimulus package has passed the House without a single Republican vote. Sound familiar.

Do they ever get tired of being wrong

About the Economy
About regulation
About Global Warming
About Invading Iraq
About the importance of Competence
About Torture

I almost looks like they like being wrong.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Marginalization of the Republican Party

The house passed its version of President Obama's stimulus bill this week. Without a single Republican vote.

Republicans complained that it was too much spending and not enough tax cuts.

They even proposed an alternative program. It was composed completely of tax cuts.

There are a number of studies out there that show that direct spending on things like unemployment insurance extensions and infrastructure projects are far more effective at spurring economic growth and creating jobs than tax cuts.

There are also studies that show that tax cuts not accompanied by spending cuts do little to spur short term economic growth, never pay for themselves, and because of the impact of the long term debt they create, do not spur long term economic growth.

Yet the Republican Caucus, despite its constant complaints about Bi-Partisanship, proposed a bill composed entirely of tax cuts.

They have no ideas and little influence. All they have left is to be obstructionist, to try and get in the way of progress.

It is gratifying to me to see them implode like this. They are rapidly becoming a small regional party. Their famous Southern Strategy has come full circle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Investigate, Prosecute, Convict

One of the issues that our new President has to face is the call to investigate and possibly prosecute members of the Administration of George W Bush for a myriad of crimes, most importantly torture.

President Obama has made it clear he would prefer not to go there. He understands, as most do, that prosecuting members of the previous administration would be a major distraction from what he is trying to accomplish, would damage his efforts to move forward on issues in a Bipartisan fashion, and might, in the end, only yield minor convictions of peripheral characters.

He should do it anyway.

I have no interest in seeing Congress doing the investigating. It would be immediately politicized, Congress would give immunity to people we should be investigating or even prosecuting, and they have more important things to do.

Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint a Special Prosecutor. Perhaps Patrick Fitzgerald after he is done with Blogovich. Or a career prosecutor that was hired by the Bush Justice Department, or another holdover US Attorney.

There is little doubt that employees of the United States Government tortured people held in their custody. The Convening Authority for the Military Tribunals has already dismissed all charges against one of the prisoners held at GITMO specifically that person had been tortured by military interrogators. President Bush admitted to and defended water boarding of prisoners. At the end of WWII we prosecuted Japanese Officers for Water boarding our prisoners. How can we argue that we are above the law, that its OK for us to torture?

The Bush Administration argued exactly that. They were wrong. Torture is immoral and illegal.

It is also clear that the Bush Administration monitored the phone calls, some of them purely domestic phone calls, without a warrant. A clear and unequivocal violation of the Constitution ever Military Officer and every President swears to protect.

One of the ways that we can and should recover our standing in the world is by showing that we don't' hold ourselves to be above our own laws, let alone international laws.

As an aside, were the tables reversed, I have no doubt that a Republican Administration, and/or a Republican controlled congress would pursue those investigations with vigor.

We must pursue the investigations, in as non-partisan and transparent was as possible to remind ourselves and prove to the rest of the world that we are a Nation of Laws.

Despite the cost, despite the distraction, its something we must do.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nicotine, Evolution, Global Warming and the Politics of Faith

As I watched the swearing in of our new President and listened to his inauguration speech, I was struck by one line in particular.

"We will restore science to its rightful place"

One of the hallmarks of the administration of George W Bush and many Republicans is a willingness to deny science in deference to beliefs, often irrational beliefs.

For years through the 60's and 70's and in some cases into the 80's many conservatives denied the clear science that demonstrated that cigarettes were both addictive and deadly. Their beliefs were supported by scientists paid for by the cigarette companies. Somehow they succeeded in making science, not a matter for debate over the facts, but a political issue, a debate between liberal and conservative.

Those who would deny the addictiveness and lethality of cigarettes were wrong. Science was right.

The theory of evolution, the concept that natural selection, is the dominate mechanism for species to change and for the creation of new species, is only a theory. But its a theory that best explains the available data. That's what science is, evaluating the data and creating or refining a theory that best explains the data. That is what we should be teaching, science. There are those, mostly conservative Christians, who don't believe in evolution. They reject evolution as a valid theory, not because they have a theory that better explains the data, but because its not a perfect explanation and because they believe that the Biblical story of creation and the theory of evolution are incompatible. They reject science not because their theory better explains the facts, but because they chose to reject the facts.

And now, incredibly, there are those who deny that the average surface temperature of this planet is increasing, they deny that its increasing at a dangerously fast pace, they deny that human activity is driving the pace of increase in temperatures globally.

They look at a study that looked at over 900 studies of changes in global climate and found not a single study that contradicts the theory that human activity is causing/accelerating this increase in temperature. And they reject it.

I have been told that mankind could not possibly be the source of the increase in temperature. Expressed emphatically. A belief. No science to support the belief.

I have been told that using tree ring studies and ice core studies don't yield good data because these studies are imperfect. No acknowledgement that tree ring studies are not used by them selves. Ice Core Studies are not used by themselves. These tools are used in concert with written histories. They are used in concert with the geologic record. But since these studies are imperfect, the deniers reject them, not because they have better theories, but because they have their beliefs.

I have been asked how we know what the temperature was 1000 years ago because the thermometer hadn't been invented yet. They deny sciences estimates of temperatures not because they have better theories, but because they have their beliefs.

I have been told that we don't know what the temperature was 100 years ago because thermometers were not as accurate as they are now. As if old thermometers were not just less accurate but just plain wrong. Either reading high or low all across the world. Not science, just belief.

So they deny that human activity is causing global warming. They don't put forward a competing theory to explain the data. The closest they get is solar cycles, which could well be a factor in the current warming, but isn't significant enough to be causing it, which doesn't explain the clear relationship between atmospheric concentrations of Methane and CO2 and increases in temperature, and which doesn't explain the long term trend in temperatures since the 1850's.

It comes down to belief.

They don't like the theories, they don't have better theories to explain the facts, so they just deny the theory or even deny the facts. Based on belief.

And now our President promises to ". . .restore science to its rightful place." It can't happen too soon.

Those who denied the addictiveness and lethality of cigarettes were free to keep smoking and they get to die sooner as a result.

Those who reject the theory of evolution can believe what they want as long as they don't try to teach their beliefs as science.

But those who deny that human activity is driving global warming are harming more than just themselves. Their denial of science and their opposition to the measures necessary to address the problem have made addressing the causes of Global Warming even harder and more urgent.

Based on their beliefs.

I look forward to a return to science as a basis for policy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Waterboarding is Torture

Perhaps nothing that we have heard in any of the confirmation hearings so far expresses the differences between the tragedy of the last 8 years and the coming administration that has promised CHANGE.

Eric Holder, Attorney General designee, was asked very simply, Is Waterboarding Torture.

His answer was equally simple.

Yes, waterboarding is torture.

Michael Mukasey, Alberto Gonzales' successor and our current Attorney General, pretended not to know what waterboarding was, so he never answered the question. Alberto Gonzales, while proclaiming that the US did not torture, was never willing to state clearly that we would not waterboard. The President himself has admitted that the United States did use waterboard in interrogations of our prisoners.

The difference is clear and stark and heartening.

We, through our government, are finally admitting that we, through our government, tortured our prisoners.

And Barack Obama has promised that we will not torture, we will not waterboard.

It can't happen soon enough