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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

THE PARTY OF WALL STREET

"Wall Street people learn nothing and forget everything."
- Benjamin Graham -

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) led his party in the Senate by blocking debate on the proposed bill to regulate Wall Street yesterday. In doing so, he pretty much proved what everyone knows anyway: the Republican Party is the party of Wall Street. While posturing as though he was a populist on the side of the average American by saying his opposition to the proposed Democratic regulation was based on its supposedly allowing "endless taxpayer-funded bailouts for big Wall Street banks." Well, now, that is just a lie, and McConnell knows it. The bill in question has NO provision for a government bailout of any kind, and instead spells out very specifically that next time a big bank is on the verge of collapse, it will be allowed to do so. Even further, the cost of its collapse and funeral will be covered not by taxpayers, but by a pool of funds contributed to beforehand by all the big banks.

More evidence that McConnell is lying and talking out of both sides of his mouth comes from the fact that, a mere two weeks ago, both he and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who is also chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (a GOP fundraising arm) went jointly to meet with Wall Street bankers to raise money. They met privately with hedge fund investors and KKR, a major private equity firm in New York. It should also be noted that according to Open Secrets.org, between 2005-2010, the huge Wall Street bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. was Cornyn's second largest campaign contributor. So now we are supposed to believe that McConnell and Cornyn are really looking out for the best interests of working and middle America and want to come down hard on Wall Street? How gullible do these guys think we are?

It was also interesting to note that Nebraska's pseudo-Democratic Senator Ben Nelson voted with the solid McConnell-led Republican bloc to kill debate on the bill and keep it from coming up to the floor. Just another of a long line of Republicanesque anti-progressive votes by Nelson, and it should serve as a lesson to all liberals and progressives: do NOT stay home from the primaries or elections this fall out of disgust. Your non-vote could end up aiding the election of conservative Republicans like McConnell or Cornyn, or mushy, Republican-Lite Democrats like Nelson.

The Democrats will not be stopped by this latest conservative Republican effort to lie about, distort, and obstruct the passage of this much-needed legislation. According to a very recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 61% of Americans believe that it is "a good idea for the government to more strictly regulate the way major financial companies do business." Obviously, big bankers, the Chamber of Commerce crowd, financial lobbyists, and the Republican Party (the party of Wall Street) all disagree and will oppose any attempt to more strongly regulate an out-of-control Wall Street. The Chamber of Commerce, in particular, has opposed any effort by the government to tilt the economic balance in favor of poor, working, and middle class Americans for as long as I can remember. They have consistently sided with and promoted now-discredited, failed free-market, conservative Republican notions of deregulation, export ofAmerican jobs overseas, and tax breaks for big business and the wealthy. But they are wrong - dead wrong - and this time I believe financial regulation will prevail. The 61% majority of Americans who strongly favor action on behalf on Main Street will trump the wishes of the big Wall Street banks, the Chamber of Commerce, and its beloved Republican Party, the party of Wall Street.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

BIG U.S. BUSINESS FLUNKS ETHICS AND MORALITY

"I know of no other country where love of money has such a grip on men's hearts or where stronger scorn is expressed for the theory of permanent equality of property."
- Alexis de Tocqueville -

"Every evil, harm and suffering in this life comes from the love of riches."
- Catherine of Siena -



Tell me something new, you say. It's no secret. Big American business flunks ethics and morality. It is obsessed with short-term profit and will engage in any practice to obtain or maintain it. One man's (or corporation's) pursuit of happiness is, more often than not, his (its) workers' and even community's end result of misery. Examples of this abound: the recent minimg disaster at Massey Energy Co. in West Virginia which claimed 29 lives, and in which the company had been fined more than $382,000 last year for numerous repeated safety violations; the way our health insurers exclude millions from coverage and routinely remove others from their rolls at will, (even lying to the public to prevent any real competition from weakening their stranglehold on the market), and the way thousands of other companies have systematically moved millions of good-paying American jobs to cheap, overseas slave labor markets. American corporations repeatedly pollute our air and water, often fighting any attempt to prevent or clean up such pollution. It has been going on for years, so why stop now?

We like to think of ourselves as an educated and civilized people. Our common mythology professes that the reason we have become such a strong and prosperous nation is that we had unparalleled freedom to pursue our economic goals and are a nation built on individuality and entrepreneurial zeal. You may note that a moment ago I used the word mythology. This word is entirely accurate, because many of our common assumptions concerning our economic growth are in fact based on misconceptions. Many free market zealots today conveniently overlook the fact that, in the late 1500s when settlers first arrived here from Europe, they landed on a huge territory of virtually untapped resources. Our forgetful free marketers also never mention the fact that these early settlers eventually butchered entire nations of indigenous Native American peoples, stealing their land and resources in the process. As for our vaunted individuality, this country was not built by a population of individual supermen or through big business action. This nation was built COLLECTIVELY, by groups of individual citizens banding TOGETHER, in COMMUNAL effort, to develop land, and build barns, churches, homes, and businesses. None of that individualistic every-man-for-himself stuff. People shared meager resources as well as family and community joys and sorrows. Free market enthusiasts want little or no government regulation in the marketplace. They claim that the market itself will correct itself and not go out of control. But that has not been the case. The small businessperson, the average worker, and the poor all need government to protect them from the invariable excesses foisted on them by big business and concentrated capital. Yet free market advocates still defend and support an unhindered marketplace, regardless of the large numbers of unnecessary victims it can and does create.

Today, much of that prior communal togetherness and camaraderie no longer exists here. Our people are, by and large, fairly well educated and have had a rich and varied array of past experiences to learn from regarding economics and foreign affairs. I asked myself, "how then is it that we are again having market speculators make many of the same kinds of mistakes which led to the Great Depression? How, after the debacle of the 1920s and the failure of repeated tax cuts for the rich to create prosperity across the board, do we continue to pursue such ridiculous policies?" The answer, of course, is that we have become addicted to individuality and individual profit. In the process of being swallowed by this addiction, we have created a tiny, vastly wealthy economic elite, and the widest disparity of income in the history of the world. I asked myself, "ARE we as educated as we seem to think we are?" How can we be continuaslly producing yuppies and businesspersons whose actions are self-serving and basically harm our society? Why are we producing droves of corporatists and CEOs with no thought about society's well being? I went looking for answers.


I Googled "Top 10 American business schools." I wanted to find out what business majors were actually learning at our supposedly best business schools. Harvard was ranked # 1 in a newly-released listing by U.S. News and World Report. I looked at their curiculum. I saw all the expected courses for an MBA seeker: Accounting, Business Management, Business Law, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Marketing, etc., etc. But I saw only ONE course dealing with ethics, which was titled "The Moral Leader." There were a couple other courses which seemed to hint at social responsibility by business, but with titles like "The Strategic Value of Corporate Social Responsibility" and "Business at the Base of the Pyramid", it certainly appeared that these were of more an exploitative rather than corrective or ethical bent.


My next stop was the # 2 school, Stanford. I saw more of the same here, plus an emphasis on Global Marketing. There was also a limited, ELECTIVE section called "Public Management" which included a course on "Strategic Issues in Philanthropy" and "Environmental Science for Managers and Policy Makers." Very little else that I could see in the area of corporate good citizenship or social responsibility, though.


# 3 on the list was MIT (Sloan). Try as I might, I could locate very little on curriculum specifics online, and nothing at all in the area of social responsibility or business morality.


Having drawn basically a blank so far, I skipped down to #8, the Columbia Business School. Call me stupid, but I was unable to find specific course offerings for their MBA program that had anything even remotely related to ethics and such. I was very disappointed to find only very limited attention paid toward developing a responsible corporate conscience in 4 of our nation's top 10 business schools!

Given the all-out war that big banks and corporate America are now waging on our country's workers and poor, it is shameful to see our top learning institutions failing to instill a moral consciousness and some degree of social responsibility in our future leaders of business and finance. Perhaps ethics and morality courses are featured more in undergraduate programs, but in the graduate degree MBA programs they are all but nonexistent. The economic status quo we have today is immoral and unjust. The transferring of wealth from the shrinking middle class and the poor to the very richest is unsustainable and must stop. But this won't happen until more of our businesspersons develop some clear and fairer thinking and stop being stamped out of our schools as corporate stooges.

I urgently call on all of our business schools and colleges to begin developing some humane and ethical thinking in their students. Failure to do so will ensure that big U.S. business will always flunk ethics and morality. And that cannot be allowed to happen!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A TIME FOR 'MENAISSANCE'?


I saw a curious segment on CNN a few days back which described how maleness and masculinity is purportedly making a comeback after having lain dormant for a number of years. The presentation described how it is now the female who is outnumbering the male in terms of college diplomas and how many women are now earning more money than their husbands or significant others. In reaction to this, supposedly, society seems to be calling for males to step forward, reassert themselves, and become more masculine or "manly" than they have been in recent times. New "retro" masculine clothing lines for men just put forth by Banana Republic, and a few universities now offering courses in "Male Studies" are supposedly heralding this new focus on restoring the masculinity of men; a new "menaissance," if you will. Well, now, I just don't know what to think or say about that.

In the days of my childhood and before, it was always the male who was the breadwinner, ruler and decision-maker of the house, and handyman fixer-upper. Women were to maintain the home, cook, clean and wash, and bear and nurture the children. The Ward and June Cleaver stereotype was considered the norm. In popular culture and media ads, it was always the MAN who was smart, resourceful, and had all the answers. He was the protector of the family unit, who saw to its safety and who also spoke on its behalf. Being the wage earner, it was he who controlled the family finances. Women were to be silent, complacent, and supportive. A man's role was to show strength, but never emotion. Men who cried were thought to be weak little sissies, possibly even homosexual. A woman's role was to be charming, soft-spoken, to behave at all times like a "lady", and to never speak up or contradict her man publicly. She was to be weaker than and dependent upon her man. That was the unwritten and unchallenged code of the times. But, as we all know today, this was utter nonsense and far too self-limiting for both genders, and so this unrealistic, Cleaver-esque scenario had to come to an end.

The changing nature of our marketplace, with the waning influence of unions and the rise of corporate greed and power, plus the fully-warranted social upheaval that resulted from the Women's Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, brought profound change to both our economy and society. Rather than remaining sheltered and TRAPPED as stay-at-home moms, women in droves began entering the workplace and many even launched their own individual careers. They desired and got a broader perspective of the world as a result. They became more assertive and less docile. At the same time, a growing introspection and self-awareness among both sexes, coupled with a strong antiwar peace movement, led men in particular to become more sensitive and aware of their sisters, girlfriends, and wives. In this sense, their perspective on the world was widened. These were all poisitive developments.

Somewhere along the way, though, the roles of each gender became less clearly defined. Once considered a gentlemanly act, the gesture of a man opening a door for a woman became taboo; it was suddenly an infringement on a woman's independence, as perceived by some women. As women entered the workforce and begain earning their own money, they naturally began to resent a man trying to control all of the finbances. Many women adopted an attitude that men weren't all that necessary in their lives. They became angry with men who never lifted a finger to help with housework or child-related duties that women were expected to continue even though they, too, were now working long hours away from the house. In many families, the end result of this upheaval was divorce. Beyond that, a number of males began to feel threatened by female competitors on the job and by their newfound assertiveness. They became less civil and less communicative toward females in general. Some, now believing they were somehow absolved of all former protective responsibility at home due to their mate's newly-acquired equality, began taking a hands-free approach toward child-rearing and refused to take part in household chores. They found immense enjoyment in constantly going out with the boys, or in immersing themselves in endless hours of TV sitcoms and televised sporting events, delivering a punishing withdrawal from and silence toward their mate. To be sure, bility, and that was wrong. On the flip side of the coin, many women, flush with financial independence from men, have come to view males as irresponsible oafs who know next to nothing and are in need of constant gratification. This underlying attitude is subtly presented in and reinforced by current TV ads portraying women as more knowledgeable and more responsible than men. We are now presented with an assertive woman as the one who can tell us all about the properties of oil, for example, or who can explain all the benefits and mechanical advantages of the latest SUV or truck. We see her showing stupid, unknowing males all the ins and outs of a wide number of products. I believe such portrayals damage relations between the sexes and create fictitious stereotypes. For the actual truth of what modern males and females are really made up of lies somewhere between the errant stereotypes of both yesterday and today.


So do I think we need a resurgence of "mascu- line" males? I can't say - I would hardly call most American males of today "effeminate." I myself am in tune with both my male and female characteristics, and I know and readily admit I have both influences. I do not feel threatened by females in the workplace, and I certainly don't worry that they will someday be dominant. I do not view myself as being less-than-masculine for being attentive and sensitive to the needs of others. I am simply not an insecure person, and I don't see the world through specific-gender-colored eyeglasses. I don't like overly-assertive or aggressive females OR males. I try to be understanding of and respectful to those of each gender, race or creed. I strongly believe both genders should receive exactly the same pay for the exact same work. I believe promotrions should be based on education, experience, and merit, not gender, and that nobody should be barred from a management or CEO position simply due to their being a female. I am not concerned with our gender differences on the job or in society. I seek teamwork and accomplishment, not conflict and foolish rivalry. In my view, the sexes complement each other and need one another. Men are men and women are women. Viva la difference, right? So determining whether or not we need more masculine males today is not really a concern of mine. How about you, readers?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

50 BITS OF MINNESOTA TRIVIA

For this post, I thought I'd take a rare leave from politics and current events to feature something different. My cousin Nancy Thoraldson recently sent me these tidbits about our state of residence, Minnesota. As you will see, we Minnesotans have contributed far more to the nation, and things of far greater relevance, substance, and value, than Jesse Ventura or Michele Bachmann (who is actually a Minnesota anamoly). I hope you'll enjoy this uncharacteristic trip through trivialand with us!


1. The late Minnesota baseball commentator Halsey Hall was the creator of the phrase "holy cow."


2. The Mall of America in Bloomington is the size of 78 football fields or a total of 9.5 million square feet.
3. Products invented in Minnesota include: masking tape, Scotch tape, Wheaties, Bisquick, the Bundt pan, HMOs, Aveda beauty products, and Green Giant vegetables!

4. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 allowing oceangoing ships to reach Duluth, now an international port. Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin are ranked the 3rd and 4th largest ports in the world. If counted together they would be the world's largest port.

5. Minneapolis is home to the oldest continuously running theater (Old Log Theater) and the largest dinner theater (Chanhassan Dinner Theater) in the country.
6. The original name of the settlement that became St. Paul was "Pig's Eye," named for a French‐Canadian whiskey trader, Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant, who had led squatters to the settlement.
7. The world's largest pelican stands at the base of Mill Pond dam on the Pelican River in downtown Pelican Rapids. The 15 1/2 foot tall concrete statue was built in 1957.
8. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.
9. The Guthrie Theater is the largest regional playhouse in the
country.


10. Minneapolis' famed skyway system connects 52 blocks (nearly five miles) downtown, making it possible to live, eat, work and shop without going outside.
11. Minneapolis has more golfers per capita than any other city in the country.
12. The climate‐controlled Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is the only facility in the country to have hosted a Super Bowl, a World Series, and an NCAA Final Four basketball championship.
13. Minnesota, due to its more than 10,000 lakes, has 90,000 miles of shoreline, which is more than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined!
14. The nation's first Better Business Bureau was founded in Minneapolis in 1912.
15. The first open heart surgery and first bone marrow transplant in the United States were both done at the University of Minnesota.
16. Bloomington and Minneapolis are the two northernmost ciNes to host a World Series game.
17. Madison, MN is the "lutefisk capitol" of the United States.
18. Rochester is home to the world famous Mayo Clinic. The clinic is a major teaching and working facility known worldwide for its doctors' expertise and the latest methods of cancer treatments.
19. The Bergquist cabin, built in 1870 by John Bergquist, a Swedish immigrant, is the oldest house in Moorhead still on its original site.
20. For many years, the world's largest twine ball has sat in
Darwin. It weighs 17,400 pounds, is twelve feet in diameter, and
was the creation of Francis A. Johnson.
21. The stapler was invented in Spring Valley.
22. In 1956, Southdale, in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina (pronounced "ee-DIE-nuh") , was the first enclosed climate-controlled shopping mall.
23. Private Milburn Henke of Hutchinson was the first enlisted man to land with the first American expediNonary force in Europe in WWII on January 26, 1942.
24. Water skis were invented in 1922 by Ralph W. Samuelson, who steam‐bent 2 eight‐foot‐long pine boards into skis. He took his first ride behind a motorboat on Lake Pepin in Lake City.
25. Since 1973, in Olivia, a single, half‐husked corn cob towers over a
roadside gazebo. It is 25 feet tall, made of fiberglass.
26. The first children's department in a library was established
at the Minneapolis Public Library. They separated children's
books from the rest of their collecNon in 1889.

27. The first automatic pop‐up toaster was marketed in 1926 by McGraw Electric Company of Minneapolis under the name "Toastmaster." The retail price was $13.50.
28. On September 2, 1952, a five‐year‐old girl was the first patient to undergo a heart operation in which the "deep freezing" technique was employed. Her body temperature, except for her head, was reduced to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Floyd Lewis at the Medical School of the University of Minnesota performed the operation.
29. The first aerial ferry was put into operation in 1905 over the ship canal between Duluth and Minnesota Point. It had room enough to accommodate six automobiles, and the roundtrip took 10 minutes.

30. Rollerblades were the first commercially successful in‐line roller skates. Minnesota students Scott and Brennan Olson invented them in 1980, when they were looking for a way to practice hockey during the off‐season. Their design was an ice hockey boot with 3 inline wheels instead of a blade.
31. The first intercollegiate basketball game was played in Minnesota on February 9, 1895.
32. In 1919 a Minneapolis factory turned out the nation's first armored cars.
33. Tonka Trucks were developed and manufactured in Minnetonka.
34. The Hormel Company of Austin, MN marketed the first canned ham in 1926 and introduced Spam in 1937.
35. Introduced in 1963, the Control Data 6600, designed by Control Data CorporaNon, was the first "super" computer. It was used by the military to simulate nuclear explosions and break Soviet codes as well as to model complex phenomena such as hurricanes and galaxies.

36. Candy maker Frank C. Mars of Minnesota introduced the Milky Way candy bar in 1923. Mars marketed the Snickers bar in 1930 and introduced the Three Musketeers bar, which contained three bars in one wrapper, each with a different flavor nougat, in 1937. Mars is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
37. A Jehovah's Witness was the first patient to receive a transfusion of artificial blood in 1979 at the University of Minnesota Hospital. He had refused a transfusion of real blood because of his religious beliefs.
38. Minnesota has one recreational boat per every six people, more than any other state.
39. There are 201 lakes named Mud Lake, 154 named Long Lake, and 123 named Rice Lake in Minnesota.

40. The Hull‐Rust mine in Hibbing is the largest open‐pit mine in the world.
41. Minnesota's waters flow outward in three direcNons: north to Hudson Bay in Canada, east to the Atlantic Ocean and south to the Gulf of Mexico. A triple continental divide.
42. At the confluence of the Big Fork and Rainy Rivers on the Canadian border near InternaNonal Falls stands the largest Indian burial mound in the upper midwest, known as the Grand Mound historic site.
43. Author Laura Ingalls Wilder lived on Plum Creek near Walnut Grove.
44. Akeley is birthplace and home of the world's largest Paul Bunyan statue. The kneeling Paul Bunyan is 20 feet tall. He would be 33 feet tall if standing up.
45. Hibbing is the birthplace of the American bus industry. It sprang from the business acumen of Carl Wickman and Andrew Anderson ‐ who opened the first bus line (with one bus) between the towns of Hibbing and Alice in 1914. The bus line later grew to become Greyhound.
46. The first official regular season home run in the brand-new Target Field baseball stadium in Minneapolis was hit by the Minnesota Twins' own Jason Kubel in a 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on April 12, 2010.
47. Polaris Industries of Roseau invented the snowmobile.
48. Twin Cities‐based Northwest Airlines was the first major airline to ban smoking on internaNonal flights.
49. Alexander Anderson of Red Wing discovered the processes to puff wheat and rice giving us rice cakes.


50. The largest Dala horse (a Swedish art form) in North America is in Mora.




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So much for Minnesota trivia, folks. Hope you found it interesting. I know that, while I've been away here briefly, the conservative Republicans have been acting up again. So I'll be back calling them on the carpet for their misdeeds very SOON!

Monday, April 12, 2010

AN INSIDER'S VIEW OF OUR BROKEN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

I got a very nice email recently from a former classmate, now a nurse, who has followed my blog and its various posts on our pathetically profit-driven and chronically broken health care system. She provides some behind-the-scenes insights on the day-to-day frustrations and horror stories now being faced by many of our nurses and hospital workers in this increasingly greedy and corrupted system. My own comments follow her email in bold, at bottom below.
-----------------------------------------------------
Jack,

I still love your blog, it makes me think way too hard, so I have to always plan some time to read it. Your information and thoughts take time to read, consider, and always learn. You should join the bloggers that make an income blogging. Though finding sponsors may be a bit difficult with your views on caring for and improving the lives of the people of our country.

I was a little, well very worried about your April 1, 2010 blog until I got to the end. GREAT READ.

Here are some thoughts for you to think about:

As you may know the big hospital industry in Minneapolis is trying to negotiate the MNA (nurses union) contract. According to the Mpls Startribune the hospital CEO salaries in the metro run from $957,300 (David Cress at North Memorial) to $1,738,300 (Richard Petingill-Allina). The hospitals cite the need to make changes because of declining reimbursement, increased uninsured patients and anticipated changes of reimbursement due to the national health care program.

The hospitals have some "great" ideas of how to cut their costs by changing the way patients are cared for by delivering the care in a more efficient way. Efficiency includes redefining the care provided to each patient and taking away reimbursement to the nurse in terms of pension. Nurses do not have the luxury of profit sharing, stock options and bonuses given for meeting corporate cost saving quotas like many professionals.

Key issues during the MNA (Minnesota Nurses' Association, the nurses' union-Ed.) negotiations include nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and the hospitals’ desire to slash the nurses’ long-standing pension plan benefits. The hospitals also want the ability to change nurses' daily assignment to fill in at the site and unit most in need for that shift. I for one do not want to be called 90 minutes before a shift and told to go over to United and work in the OR. A patient or a surgeon does not want to see me show up at that site and pretend to know what I am doing.

As a nurse I can cite many daily examples of wasted time or resources. I can testify to the consequences of working short staff. As a mother of an uninsured 25 year old son I worry about any injury or illness he may have that requires medial care. Medical bills cause a large amount of bankruptcies and that is not good for society. I also have a child with a serious and persistent mental illness. The mentally ill are truly neglected by our society. Day to day living is a challenge at best for them. As an abandoned wife of a director at United Health Care, I see the huge corporate profits and the excessive compensation executives make by negotiating health care payment, determining what health-care procedures are going to be paid depending on the diagnoses and finding legal loopholes to continue to make excessive profits at the expense of the ill. As I watch my 47 year old brother die from cancer, I grieve for all the terminally ill people stuck in such system that seems more concerned about profit than patient care.

Is there a nursing shortage? Ask the RN graduates of 2010 or 2009 or 2008, how many recruiters are banging on their doors begging them to work at their health care corporation. I know a few 2010 graduates, and none of them have been recruited, they are are all aggressively looking for a job-any RN job. The nursing shortage? Yes. The average age of nurses is high and someday they will retire. Others will go into another career. My unit had 2 nurse managers return to staff positions. The important nurse manager job is left to a "rotating charge nurse" situation which is a band-aid for a shift but provides no one able to see the needs of the patient or the unit in a consistent manner. No one advocates for the patients or unit. Last week, we temporarily closed one of the small units because of vacancies, secondary to MDs being on vacation. Four to six staff were told to stay home each shift. Last summer almost every shift experienced the need to reduce staff, sometimes the staff voluntarily took the shift off and took a vacation day or no pay, sometimes they were mandated to stay home. Try to pay your bills when your vacation is all used up and you are mandated to take the shift off. Try to plan a vacation-we bid vacations in Feb but if all your vacation time is used up by leaves you do not get the vacation time.

Other shifts we are truly short a nurse. The number of patients on the unit require so many nurses and one calls in sick or there are admissions causing the number of nurses to be less than ideal. Admissions are always happening, causing nurses to take on more patients. The hospitals staff for the number of patients in the unit. The patient number determines the number of nurses. There are no accommodations made for acuity or anticipated admissions. Getting 4-5 admissions on a shift is a nightmare for the staff.

The schools offering nursing programs are doing well. They have several applicants for every open spot. They have a cash cow, expanding their nursing program staff to add more student spots and make more money. I have met many nontraditional students going into health care because of the perceived guarantee of a job. I question if the purpose of this career change is for financial gain or perceived job security. Some males want to be a director (of something) and going into a traditionally female profession gives men an advantage. Real nurses are nurturing healers who want to take care of those needing help or dying. Fortunately, the "old" traditional nurses are just that.

Health care is in crisis, but don't blame sick or mentally ill, handicapped, or nurses. In our society capitalism has created corporate greed. Health insurance companies divvying out health care treatment at the expense of the sick while making huge corporate profit. Politicians create laws which give incentives to hospitals and MDs provide only the minimum amt of care, or not offering some care or treatments, just to increase profits. If an insurance company pays a predetermined amount for a procedure or admission diagnoses, the hospital tries to "get the job done" for the least expense. My daughter broke her jaw and needed 2 surgeries. and the insurance company determined she did not need anesthesia. Where did the actuary or the writers of that plan get their MD degree? I had brain surgery, access to my brain was through nose and upper jaw. This killed my two upper front teeth, causing them to yellow and brown. The insurance company would not pay for the required reconstructive surgery. They explained to me breast reconstruction is required by law but they are not legally required to fix my teeth. Somehow the insurance company never got my 3 requests and my physician's explanation of the need for the surgery.

One MD on MPR reported that 1/4 (or some significant amount) of every health-care dollar does not go to health-care. Is this the time I am paid to triple document education and pathways? This takes time away form patient care. Then one of my managers audits charts to make sure all documentation is entered. Then insurance companies or Medicare audits the documentation. I understand that if all required documentation is not entered the claims may be not paid or medicare or the state or someone can fine the hospital. The outside auditors-medicare need to be paid I believe my taxes pay them. I would prefer my taxes go to caring for the sick or homeless, or working poor paying way too much for a small apartment for their families leaving little for food, a car and no health insurance.

I hope you and Nick Coleman pay attention to what is happening to our negotiations. Nurses are not the problem in the health-care crisis. I love being a nurse and cannot think of anything I would rather do except to be at home taking care of my high school age daughter and my grandchildren. Some shifts I actually get to spend quality time with one of my patients.

Take care.
P
.

HERE IS THE TEXT OF THE MNA's MAR. 16 PRESS RELEASE:

ST. PAUL (March 16, 2010) – Saying their 12,000 members are committed to standing united in the coming months, Minnesota nurses formally began labor contract negotiations with six Twin Cities hospital systems on Tuesday.

“The safety and quality of care for our patients is on the line,” said Minnesota Nurses Association President Linda Hamilton, who works as a registered nurse in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. “Nurses always have and always will be an outspoken advocate for the men, women and children of Minnesota who are put under our care. These negotiations are all about the bottom line. For nurses, that bottom line remains the same – patients before profits.”

The current labor contract between 12,000 Minnesota Nurses and six Twin Cities hospital systems (North Memorial, HealthEast, Allina, Methodist, Children’s and Fairview) expires on May 31, 2010. After several weeks of bargaining, nurses will vote on May 19 to either ratify the new contract or authorize a strike. The last time there was a large-scale RN strike in Minnesota was 1984, when 6,000 nurses walked off the job for 35 days. It remains the largest RN strike in U.S. history.

At the forefront of 2010 talks are two issues – RN staffing levels and the nurses’ pension fund, which has been in place since 1962.

“More than 72,000 people in this country needlessly die every year because hospitals don’t have enough nurses on staff,” Hamilton said, referencing a 2005Medical Care Journal study. “The numbers don’t lie. If you don’t have enough nurses working, people are going to die when they don’t need to. So we’ll keep saying it until we’re blue in the face: Safe staffing saves lives.”

Pension bargaining between nurses and the hospital systems began during early March, and the hospitals have made it clear they want to cut the nurses’ pension funding by a third.

“First of all, our pension funding equals about one percent of these hospital systems’ annual revenue,” Hamilton said. “It’s a minimal expense. These hospitals aren’t going to be closing their doors in order to pay nurses the retirement benefits we’ve been earning for nearly five decades.”

The hospitals’ current proposal would put the nurses’ pension benefits back to 1968 levels, according to Hamilton.

“Gas cost 34 cents a gallon in 1968,” Hamilton said. “A new house cost around $15,000. To ask us to retire and support our families on a standard of living like that would require a time machine to pull off.

“Nurses are not greedy people. It’s not in our nature,” she continued. “We sign up to do what we do because we put the well-being of others ahead of ourselves. At the same time, we need to advocate for our families the same way we advocate for our patients. We need a livable pension plan to ensure that we can retire when we’re ready and that our spouses and children have the support they need from us.”

Minnesota nurses will hold a large rally for patient safety on March 27 at Hopkins High School as part of their united stance on the labor contract’s key issue.

“When it comes to the people of this great state, Minnesota nurses want everyone to know that we care,” Hamilton said. “We care for each and every patient we see. And we’ll keep fighting to ensure we’re allowed to do that to the very best of our ability and that your experience with us is as safe and comfortable as possible.”



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This attempt by Twin Cities hospitals to shake down their nurses is an outrage I'm sure a number of you were never aware of or ever thought about. It's the same old story, though: wealthy corporate CEOs are trying to further increase profits and line their pockets at the public's AND THEIR OWN WORKERS' EXPENSE! In this case, their greed is not only cheapening the "product" their institutions provide, but directly and negatively impacting the care sick and dying people will be receiving. "Free market" economy advocates: this is a perfect example of "free market" economiucs gone astray, and why there MUST be government oversight in the marketplace. If these greedy CEOs are to succeed in rolling back employee pensions and further cutting back staff, they will be the ONLY beneficiaries. The patients certainly won't benefit, nor will the nurses. Should a handful of self-centered individuals be empowered with the ability to negatively impact health care solely to protect and maintain their own already opulent lifestyles? I ask you, everybody: IS THIS NECESSARY? Why should hospital CEOs and directors receive exorbitant salaries when they are doing virtually nothing themselves to heal or comfort their customers, the patients? Why are they attempting to cut employee pensions at a time when the insolvency of Social Security is looming? Why are they, in effect, STEALING from their employees, the very people who ARE healing and comforting their customers? Shouldn't the priority here be the maximization of patient comfort and quality of care rather than the maximization of hospital profit and/or CEO and stockholder earnings and benefits?

This is not an isolated incident. Corporations all across this country have been chipping away at employee pay and benefits for far too long, and the time for a reversal of this is long overdue. It is my sincere hope that, if these purported actions against nurses are taken by Minneapolis-St. Paul hospitals, the Minnesota Nurses Association will respond more vigorously in their negotiations than they ever have before. Enough is enough. When the greed of a handful of piggish individuals begins to hurt patient health care, these piggish individuals have gone WAY too far! They will - if not directly, strongly, and successfully challenged - effectively be instituting their own PRIVATE "death panels" which will be REAL, unlike the fictitious government ones Sarah Palin has lied about. These CEOs are classic examples of how badly broken our existing for-maximum-profit health care system is, and they are walking billboards for a fully government-run, single-payer system like every other civilized country in the world has!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

LOWERING THE BAR

The two most goofball women in American political history, conservative Republican Representative Michele Bachmann and former (half-term) conservative Republican Alaskan governor Sarah Palin shared the stage today in downtown Minneapolis, MN at a rally for Bachmann's reelection bid to the U.S. House. I wasn't (wouldn't be caught dead) there, but from all accounts, it was a typical outing full of hyperbole, inuendo, and outright falsehood for the both of them.

You know, these two could be clones: they both lie; they both exaggerate; they both have immature and overly-animated personas; they are both shallow and border on naive; they both shoot from the hip and speak before they think; and both have excitable and near-hysterical modes of speaking that drive this thinking and measured man, who values truth and accuracy above all else, completely up the wall. Neither knows enough about history, geography, economics, or government to pass the second grade. Both crave attention and adore the spotlight. Both love glamour and money - LOTS of it, and neither has any time for any government effort to aid the poor, or struggling working Americans (who are all around them, (but not in THEIR district or immediate locale).

11,000 tickets were given out for the event which was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. There were obviously a good number of non-natives in attendance: this is far from teabagger country, and, while there are a farly large number of Republicans residing here, most are quite a bit more moderate and sensible than the ultra-conservative, far-right Palin and Bachmann, or teabagger type.

Republican snake-in-the-grass Governor Tim Pawlenty pulled himself away from his constantly-outside-the-state activity of laying the groundwork for a 2012 presidential bid to come back just long enough to kick-off the proceedings. "We now live in a country where Wall Street gets a bail out, the poor get a handout, and everybody else gets their wallet out," were his warm words of don't-care-about-anybody-but-yourself Republican wisdom. To hell with the poor and the unemployed---just only think of YOUR wallet.

Yep. Now THAT'S original. Of course, he didn't say anything about free-market conservative Republicans creating this Great Recession we're in, or that he, his party, and both Palin and Bachmann all oppose tighter government regulation of Wall Street. No, he had to single out those nasty, expensive poor people. Pretty presidential, huh?

Bachmann began her flatulence with alarmist nonsense in the form of a sharp criticism of President Obama's new scaled-back nuclear arms policy. Said she: "so if in fact there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time...if they fire against the United States, a biological weapon, a chemical weapon, or maybe a cyber attack, then we aren't going to be firing back with nuclear weapons. Doesn't that make us all feel safe?"

Of course, this silly little alarmist didn't stop to think that we a have a far wider array of non-nuclear, high tech weaponry than any potential enemy. And to suggest using nukes on a nation that launches a non-lethal cyber attack on us? I feel sorry for the poor fool who ever hacks into Bachmann's computer, or accidentally drives over her lawn---I'm sure she'd advocate an immediate guillotining of him. What an utter idiot!

She talked about repealing the health care reform bill, speaking of the "infamous monstrosity of a vote to nationalize effectively health care in the United States of America."

Yuh, right, Michele baby. There was no "nationalization" whatsoever. The last time I checked, the government had NOT completely taken over health care, was NOT putting all doctors, nurses, technicians, and medical support staff on regulated salaries on the public payroll, and Bachmann's precious private sector of insurance company pirates were still profiting handsomely and holding the overwhelming majority of our population at knifepoint, pricewise. WHAT planet are you on, Bachmann?

Palin was every bit as bad. She chortlked, "What's wrong with being the party of no when you consider what Obama, Pelosi and Reid are trying to do to our country? So be it!" She added, "Not when it violates our Constitution!"

I would argue that Palin herself knows very little about our Constitution. She has certainly evidenced very little knowledge of the constitutional roles our branches of government play. Not only that, but with her insanely inaccurate "death panels" remarks about the health care reform bill, it makes me wonder if this silly, self-centered little prima donna knows much about anything, anywhere.


At a time when this country sorely needs great, visionary leadership and statespersons to guide us into an uncertain and possibly forboding future, public figures like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin should be RAISING the bar of public discourse and political action, not continually lowering it and crawling beneath it. And that self-serving Tim Pawlenty ought to just go crawl off by himself somewhere else. ANYWHERE but the White House!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

TIM PAWLENTY AND THE HOMELESS




Happy Easter, everybody. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a nice full dinner with all the trimmings today, let each and every one of us count our blessings. For there are many in this country, due to this Great Recession, mental or physical infirmity, or the uncaring and unproductive attitudes and actions of cold-hearted, greedy corporate executives or self-centered politicians, who will be having a horrible day today, filled with absolutely needless hunger, frustration, and insecurity.


This is the second week in a row I am featuring a timely and relevant OpEd piece by the Minneapolis Star Tribune's fabulous writer Nick Coleman. He makes a sensible argument on behalf of our nation's growing number of homeless for ambitious self-serving politicians like Tim Pawlenty to stay at home and do their job instead of running around the country attempting to further their careers. The piece speaks for itself, but at its end, below, I will add some additional thoughts in bold.
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NICK COLEMAN: AN ARGUMENT ON BEHALF OF THE HOMELESS
Their ranks are growing -- and it's not because of choices they've made.

Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 4, 2010
Whenever I write about homelessness, I get avalanches of comments blaming the homeless for their situation. The homeless, I hear, "have made bad choices."

Although research shows that most of the problem is due to such things as lack of medical care, untreated mental illness and joblessness, it is true that some very bad choices have been made. But not by the poor. By the rich, by the powerful, and by the politicians whose policies, heartless budget-cutting and blind eye to the effects of their decisions have sent the numbers of needy people soaring.

Gov. AbsenTee-PAW, Tim Pawlenty, has been out of the state 41 percent of the time (it may be more) since the Legislature opened, according to a story last week from Minnesota Public Radio. The governor argues that he doesn't have to hang around because he has finished his chores while the stupid Legislature is still yammering. But there is more to being governor than babysitting 201 lawmakers, and Minnesota needs someone who will stay in the cockpit.

Trying to stem the growing tide of homelessness is just one of many worthy obligations that might merit the full attention of our state's wandering leader.

Back in the flush economy of his early years in the governor's office, Pawlenty seemed to be a passionate advocate for the homeless. In 2004, the second year of his first term, he even unveiled an ambitious plan to "end" long-term homelessness in the state by 2010. It hasn't worked. He isn't even trying anymore.

Pawlenty blames the recession, but the recession didn't start until the end of 2008. The number of homeless in Minnesota had stagnated at between 7,000 and 8,000 for years, but last year, it surged by 22 percent, to 9,500.

The governor's crusade to end homelessness has withered in proportion to the expansion of his national ambitions. With severe cuts to social services and welfare, billions in unallotments and his torpedoing of the General Assistance Medical Care program (forcing a rescue by DFLers who settled for an inferior replacement program), Pawlenty has worsened many of the problems that lead to homelessness.

And if it weren't for millions in stimulus money from the Obama administration (which Pawlenty has derided) to keep more people from becoming homeless as they lose their jobs and their homes, the problem would be far worse. Tim Pawlenty owes Barack Obama a thank-you note, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

On Thursday, the first day of April, the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul was crowded. That was a bad sign, because the first day of the month is normally quiet at social-service centers, a day when Social Security and other assistance payments arrive and the poor temporarily have money in their pockets. But there are no "quiet" days anymore. The center is constantly jammed, with 250 people a night sleeping on floor mats and 500 meals being served a day.

Over in a corner that is called "the 'hood" by some of the clients who sit and chat while waiting for medical assistance or help trying to find housing, a guy named Randy Winn marveled at his fate. Winn, 44, worked in a butcher shop until it closed in December and eventually lost his apartment.

"This is totally brand-new to me," he said, looking around the bustling shelter. "I've looked for work at a lot of places, but they all tell me they're sizing down, not hiring. I'm very versatile at work, but there is nothing for me and, every day, it seems like this place fills up more and more. Wow, what a change of life!"

Life is changing for all of the homeless. For the worse.

More are children (3,200, according to the Wilder Foundation); fewer have jobs of any kind (only one out of five; half as many as a decade ago); four out of 10 were evicted from their last home. Almost half suffer from mental illness; half have chronic (and often untreated) health problems; 62 percent are minorities.

You may be able to ignore this if you are traipsing around the country running for president. But it's harder if you live here.

Growing homelessness, says Becky Lentz, communications director for Catholic Charities, is just one troubling symptom of larger problems: A lack of jobs that pay a living wage; a lack of accessible and affordable health care; a lack of affordable housing convenient to public transit; the persistent effects of racism, poverty and neglect.

"Homelessness is not going away," Lentz says. "It's not getting better. These are people who we've failed as a society."

So. Do you want to blame homelessness on bad choices? Be my guest: There have been a lot of bad choices. But be fair: Let's start at the top.

Nick Coleman is a senior fellow at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement at the College of St. Benedict/St. John's University. He can be reached at nickcoleman@gmail.com.
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In light of the gigantically huge amount of wealth held by the abysmally small number of people in this country, there is no excuse for ANYBODY who is a citizen of this nation to be homeless, hungry, or without health insurance. And yet, those numbers continue to rise. That is indefensible.

We look in horror and wonderment at the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. We express amazement that so many German citizens could have stood by idly, allowing Adolf Hitler and his followers to selectively round up, confine, and murder millions of innocent Jews and political opponents. We question how a civilized people could allow such a thing.

I would suggest that homelessness and poverty is the new concentration camp of millions of OUR OWN citizens, right here and right now, TODAY! True, we have no modern-day Gestapo rounding people up and throwing them onto the streets to die. But we do have millions of innocent citizens who are languishing in substandard conditions due to foreclosure, unemployment, and lack of proper health care. They have been pushed onto our streets by the greed of irresponsible Wall Street bankers and speculators, as well as wealthy corporate CEOs, who have taken billions in TARP bailouts and then turned around and forgot all about, or basically said "go to hell", to all the millions of victims they themselves have created.


ARE WE THAT MUCH MORE CIVILIZED OR HUMANE THAN THE NAZIS, TO ACCEPT AND TOLERATE THIS KIND OF NONSENSE? Think about it, people!

And we have plenty of $174,000-a-year conservative Republican and Blue Dog Democratic congresspersons turning a blind eye and a hostile mouth toward new and needed financial regulation and extended unemployment benefits for many millions of the yet-unemployed. And we have plenty of full-bellied and insensitive conservative Republican and Tea-Party types who support these buffoons. And, of course, we have conservative Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty galavanting across the country trying to become the next President, instead of staying back home and responsibly doing his job and earning his paycheck, taking care of those in his state who desperately need some help.

It would be unfathomable in any country and time except here and now.

Friday, April 2, 2010

GROWING PAINS: A LOOK AT OUR VANISHING FAMILY FARMS (Part I)

"The farmer is the only businessman in our economy who has to buy everything at retail, sell everything at wholesale, and pay freight both ways."
- President John F. Kennedy -

"Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field."
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower -

Less than 20% of the American labor force is employed in the field of agriculture, and that number keeps shrinking. The number of family farms in our country has decreased every decade since the 1930s, from a peak of 6 million in 1935 to less than 2 million today. Population-wise, roughly 25% of the country lived on family farms or in the countryside in the 1930s, but only 2% do today. in fact, with the exception of Willie Nelson or John Mellencamp holding their periodic Farm Aid concerts, most of us never even hear about farmers, the difficulties they face, or what the nature of their work is. Here in urban or suburban America, most of us never even give farmers a thought. We simply take for granted that our groceries and supermarkets will be always filled with milk, meat, bread, cereal, and poultry. Because of this, and because I have a friend who has actually been a farmer for the past 35 years, I thought I would devote a few posts to pointing out how today's family farmers, just like many of us, are being squeezed by that monster I love to rail about most, the greedy and malignant American corporation.

Getting tired of high and ever-rising food prices? Don't blame the poor, beleaguered American family farmer - he is not the profiteering culprit. Huge agribusiness corporate middlemen like Cargill, together with large food processors, grain and livestock speculators, and even huge chemical companies like Monsanto as well, are the ones with their fingers firmly in your pocketbook. What JFK said at top 50 years ago is as true today as it was then. Actually, the power and influence of companies like Cargill is even more pronounced today than in 1960. Kennedy went on to explain why farmers are so powerless as to effect the shaping of their own economic well being: "...they're not able to control their market very well," he said. "They bring their crops in or their livestock in, many of them about the same time. They have only a few purchasers that buy their milk or their hogs - a few large companies in many cases - and therefore the farmer is not in a position to bargain very effectively in the market place. I think the experience of the twenties has shown what a free market could do to agriculture. And if the agricultural economy collapses, then the economy of the rest of the United States sooner or later will collapse." JFK, of course, was arguing for increased government price supports and subsidies for farmers as a means of shoring up their income in the face of price pressure from huge middlemen.

Consider this: on average, for every dollar we spend on food, the farmer gets only about 20 cents. In cases of processed foods, that percentage drops dramatically. For example, of that 18 oz. box of breakfast cereal you pay $4.49 for, the farmer receives only 9 CENTS. For your $2.99 1 pound loaf of bread, the farmer gets a mere 12 CENTS. These examples are provided courtesy data supplied by Farm Policy Facts.org, a non-profit organization created to educate government and population alike about agriculture.


A little background on my friend: his farm has been in his family for more than 130 years. It covers 250 acres, and on this acreage, he grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and oats, and raises 120 dairy replacement heifers as well. (Replacement heigers are cattle bred as replacement stock for aging or deceased cows found on huge dairy farms, to which he sells). Aided by $120,000 in equipment (among which include a planter, combine, cultivator, chisel plow, seed drill, burrow, forage chopper, baler, rake, crop dryer, stalk chopper, windrower, bobcat, grain truck, and several tractors, hay wagons, and forage wagons), all of which are more than 20 years old and fully paid for, he farms his land almost entirely by himself, employing only one other very part-time farm hand. As such, he is both owner and laborer in his business, as are all other family farmers.

Farming as he does, with both grain and livestock, is a year-round job, 365 days per year. In both April and mid-October to mid-November or so, he routinely puts in 12 hour days, roughly 8 AM-8 PM. These are the planting and harvesting months, and he also must feed and water his cattle. From about May to mid-October, he cultivates and periodically harvests his alfalfa and oats and also tends to his livestock. During this period, he puts in 8-9 hour days, from approximately 8 AM-4 or 5 PM (except Sundays, when all he does usually is feed the cattle). In the winter, after harvest (about mid-November through March), he cuts back to roughly 2 hour days, in which he feeds his cattle and tends to basic equipment maintenance. So you see, the life of a family farmer is no gravy train. I asked him what it was about farming that was so appealing, even in the face of declining profits, high risk, and long hours. "The independence it gives me, and the freedom from the stresseas of daily urban living," was his reply. That made sense to me.
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HAPPY EASTER, everybody! As you are enjoying your delicious dinner of ham, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, corn, beets, rolls with butter, milk, cranberries, and whatever else, remember your family farmers, as they undoubtedly had a hand in filling your table with tasty treats! Not only that, but they have actually toiled and PRODUCED something of great value for you, truly EARNING their income. The same CANNOT be said for many corporate CEOs, parasitical Wall Street bankers or hedge fund managers, and obstructionist conservative Republican congresspersons!

In an upcoming installment, I will get into more of the economics of family farming: why and how the family farmer is so squeezed by corporate America, and why and how he has so little control over his prices and profit. I will spotlight the detrimental effect foreign competition is playing on him as well as the effect corporate America and huge factory farms are playing as well. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

TIME FOR A CHANGE!

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, folks. Talking to some old friends this past week, it finally dawned on me: I've been holding on to some flawed assumptions and bad ideas for a long time now. What I present here today may come as a bit of a shock to you, because it's different from what I have been presenting for some time. It may seem as a sudden and abrupt change, because most of my posts are prepared a number of weeks in advance, but this one is a "fresh" one. So here goes...


Let's be honest here. Our country is still in terrible shape, more than a year after Barack Obama took office with a large Democratic majority. So far, very little has been accomplished, other than a pledge to close Guantanamo which hasn't been met, and the passage of a health care bill that I now realize will benefit huge insurance companies more than any of us. Main Street has not benefitted from any of the government's initiatives this past year. Only Wall Street has. The President and his party have saddled us and future generations with debt, overtaxed businesses don't have the money to upgrade or hire new people, federal regulation actually is crippling small business, and millions of our countrymen are imprisoned by unemployment, with no real relief in sight. With Barack Obama, we didn't really get change - only hyperliberalism that has done nothing for anybody EXCEPT WALL STREET. It is time for a change. No, I have not developed a brain tumor or lost my mind, but I have now reached some new conclusions. Please hear me out about this: the Republicans may actually have a valid point in some of their arguments. Please read on - you'll better understand where I'm coming from as we go along...

I have been restlessly channel-surfing of late, and I have discovered that many of the beliefs I once held no longer apply. Having done extensive research into the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as to the true nature of radical Islamic fundamentalism, I now understand that the pre-emptive military action we took was absolutely right. I mean, WE WERE ATTACKED, people! Such an attack must never happen again, and we should do everything in our power to make sure one never does. I never thought I'd ever say it, but I now feel terrible about having called George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld war criminals. They were actually patriotic American heroes to respond to 9/11 as quickly and thoroughly as they did!

Laugh if you will, but I have been watching a lot of Fox News lately, particularly Glenn Beck. I was so impressed by one recent segment that I actually phoned Fox News and was lucky enough to get to speak with him DIRECTLY! I explained that I was a (formerly) left-leaning blogger who had now seen the light, and I complimented him on his vision and deep concern for the well-being of our country, as well as the extensive research and deep thought he puts into what he presents on his show. He mentioned he was familiar with my blog (imagine THAT!), and that he was delighted at my change of heart and outlook. HE EVEN INVITED ME TO APPEAR ON HIS SHOW and that segment will air MAY 3! I am no longer a Glenn Beck skeptic, and I know beyond all doubt he genuinely loves this country, and that his tears of concern for it are real.

During the taping for the May 3 Glenn Beck show, I actually got to meet Sarah Palin! She amazed me with her friendliness and charm. She explained how the mainstream media has mistaken portrayed her as a mindless buffoon, and she amazed me with the wide amount of historical, geographical, and political knowledge she really DOES have...I even learned things from HER! I now know I was mistaken about her, too, and I realize she is very much the concerned-for-her-family-and-loves-America person she has always claimed to be. I co-taped a brief segment with her, too, and I am uncertain as to when that will air, but air it will and I'll keep you posted!


I also had the chance to actually meet Rush Limbaugh recently, too. We were on the same plane and conversed nonstop for nearly two hours. The man is fascinating! He tends to get excitable and spout off from time to time, but deep down inside, he is a very warm and caring man. He also has a tremendous sense of humor. I'm sure if any of you had the chance to meet him, you would like him a great deal, as I now do. Poor Rush. He is suffering so much from his chronic back condition, that it, along with irresponsible spending by the President and Congress, causes him to constantly grimace and seem like a mean-spirited sort. But he really and truly is a very nice guy. MAN ALIVE---have I been wrong about a lot of stuff and people for the past few years!!!Please scroll down and you'll see documentation on what I've been saying here so far...
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APRIL FOOLS'! You have been punked, my friends! Not one word of what I have written up to here for this post is true: In fact, while writing this, it's all I could do to keep from alternately howling with laughter and vomiting. I do NOT prepare my posts weeks in advance: 99% of them are written fresh on the day they're posted. I am still convinced beyond all doubt that conservative Republicans ruined our economy and that their obstructionism has greatly slowed our recovery. I still firmly and correctly believe Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are indeed war criminals and should be tried for their crimes; I NEVER met Beck, Palin, or Limbaugh, and I hope I never do! BLECCCHHH!!! This post, just like Fox "News" and statements made by conservative Republican congresspersons and talk-show jockeys, has been composed of one lie after another! So lower your blood pressure, my friends---I remain opposed to conservative Republicanism, and I steadfastly support the progressive cause, as I have always done! I still support a universal, single-payer health care system and increasing taxes on the top 2 or 3 tiers of our income-earners while reducing them for everybody else! I still champion environmentalism and MUCH more oversight on Wall Street and huge corporations!

Hope you've had a good spoof, my friends, and will remember THIS April Fools' Day for years to come! HAPPY EASTER, EVERYBODY, AND NOW LET'S KEEP WORKING TO ENSURE A GIGANTIC TEABAGGER/REPUBLICAN DISAPPOINTMENT THIS FALL! :-) :-) :-)!


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UP NEXT (TOMORROW): "GROWING PAINS: A LOOK AT OUR VANISHING FAMILY FARMS (Part I)"