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Monday, May 24, 2010

ON TEMPORARY LEAVE

Hi everybody. I am on leave for a week to ten days or so. My terminally ill mother is literally in her last days and I am tending to that for the time being. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WAVES OF ANTI-INCUMBENCY

There were some upsets in last night's 2010 primary elections, to be sure. Voters on the left and right, and everywhere in-between, seem disgusted with the behavior and non-performance exhibited by their representatives and senators in Washington, D.C. Ultra-conservative Tea Party activists and candidates spout poorly-defined slogans about "taking our country back" (back to the 18th century?) and Republicans are foaming at the mouth as they hungrily contemplate retaking the House this fall (dream on, idiots). But voter anger cannot be dismissed, as it is a very real force, and last night, that anger manifested itself in a number of curious ways.

What CAN be dismissed are media and conservative Republican pundits' assertions that the Democrats are in big trouble and will be surrendering the House and/or Senate to the Republicans this fall.

In what was supposed to be a perfect Republican coup, Democrat Mark Critz soundly defeated his Republican opponent in a special election held in Pennsylvania's 12 th District (the deceased Jack Murtha's old seat). Republicans were licking their chops thinking they would pick up this swing-district seat, thereby "proving" that the nation is firmly opposed to President Obama's and the Democrats' spending policies and would send Obama and his party a big, loud message. Well, Republicans, that's what you get for thinkin', and for assuming the rest of the country thinks as narrowly as you do!


Progressive Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak scored an important primary victory over his Republican-conveniently-turned-Democrat incumbent opponent in the Senate race for that state. More evidence that voters haven't abandoned Democratic or progressive causes.

Arlen Specter went down to defeat as voters expressed their distrust in him and their displeasure with his self-serving political maneuvering. How foolhardy can Specter be? Did he really think a guy who had strongly supported much of George W. Bush's agenda, and who had voted to confirm both Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court would be overwhelming accepted and embraced by Pennsylvia's Democratic Party? Obviously, he thought his new party was as slack on principles as was he!

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was thoroughly rebuked by his Kentucky Republican constituency last night. While trying to play kingpin in the state GOP, his efforts blew up in his face when his hand-picked candidate for Senate, Trey Grayson, was trounced by Tea Party independent Rand Paul. McConnell shouldn't be surprised, though. Voters are fed-up with obstruction and petty partisan politics, activities McConnell has heavily engaged in for many years. This also brings into question McConnell's legitimacy as the leader of his party in the Senate. We can only hope that we are seeing the beginning of the end of Mitch McConnell!


Arkansas conservative Democrat Blanche Lincoln, the "Senator from Wal Mart" and corporate shill for the health insurance insurance industry, was forced into a runoff election because she failed to attain at least 50% of the vote against her strong primary challenger Bill Halter. Sizable numbers of Arkansas voters have become fed up with her sellout to corporate America, especially in the area of health care reform. She may well retain her seat in the end, but growing numbers of people are beginning to agree with the more progressive Halter's line of thinking.


So much for John Boehner's hopes of becoming Sppeaker of the House next fall. There is absolutely no way voters will endorse his and his party's attempts at obstruction and non-governance, nor will voters easily forget that it was conservative Republicans who so badly mismanaged our economy so as to nearly bring about a new Great Depression two years ago!

Voters nationwide are justifiably angry with their Congress. It is full of corporate shills and self-serving egomaniacs whose main interest is in power and petty partisan politics rather than sound public policy. But we as a people must honestly recognize that we, as well as the unresponsive and irresponsible politicians we see in Washington, are to blame for the unrepresentative type of governance we are experiencing. We keep electing and then re-electing bozos like Boehner, McConnell, Specter, Lincoln, and Michele Bachmann. These people are not salt of the earth types, or average workers. By and large, as I proved in my piece on the makeup of Congress early last year, they come by and large from elite or monied backgrounds and are beholden to big monied interests. Not only that, but once they get into office, few outside of the media or the blogging community ever bother to keep tabs on them or monitor their performance. Almost nobody emails them, calls their office, writes them letters, or goes to meet with them face to face at public gatherings. So think about this, America: next time you are caught up in a huge wave of anti-incumbency, remember who it was who put these people in power and has allowed them to stay there and performed unchecked and unchallenged: it was YOU!

Monday, May 17, 2010

UNCHANGED SINCE COLONIAL DAYS

MANY thanks to Howie Klein for this brilliant piece which appeared Saturday in his outstanding blog Down With Tyranny! (http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/)

Saturday, May 15, 2010
You Say You Want A Revolution? Conservatives Haven't Changed Since Colonial Days
Blanche Lincoln & Samuel Seabury, conservatives with ideas antithetical to American values

When reviewing-- at great length and over the course of several months-- Mike Lux's spectacular book, The Progressive Revolution: How The Best In America Came To Be, we often pointed out how conservatives were inevitably on the wrong side of history, starting with their opposition to the Declaration of Independence, to the American Revolution itself-- and did they ever hate the tea partiers-- and, of course, to the Constitution which granted suffrage to non-landowners and to "common" people. At the time of the American Revolution, almost half a million conservatives remained loyal to the British crown and many fought on the side of the Brits against the founding of a new independent republic. That was about 20% of the population at the time. After the war, over 60,000 white conservatives-- including many of the wealthiest landowners like the DeLancy, DePester Walton and Cruger families of the Hudson Valley and the Penn, Allen, Chew, and Shippen families of Pennsylvania-- left America for Britain or other British territories, like Canada and the Bahamas. Many of the richest southern conservatives took their slaves and fled to the West Indies. In his spectacular book, Conservatism in Early American History, Leonard Woods Larabee identified the traits that predicted anti-American attitudes among conservatives. It's still worth looking at those traits today when examining anti-American attitudes among today's conservatives. Needless to say, the top traits were greed and selfishness, the root motivators among most conservatives down through the ages.

In his book Threshold Thom Hartmann emphasizes that "[d]uring the Revolutionary War, virtually every person of great wealth left the United States... As the Constitution was being framed, one of the biggest issues was the debate over the best ways to keep in check the power of wealth." Unfortunately, corporate shills like Alexander Hamilton (think of him as the representative of Wall Street, a kind of combination of John McCain, Chuck Schumer and Joe Lieberman), Tench Coxe and Samuel Seabury and reactionary southerners-- yep; back then too-- worked hard, and effectively, to thwart that strain of revolutionary thought. Which is why, for example, we wound up with a Senate (modeled on the House of Lords), with slavery, with no voting rights for women and no guarantees of the individual liberties that were later addressed-- also to the hysterical opposition of conservatives-- by the Bill of Rights.

Today this same strain of conservatism completely dominates one political party, the Republicans, and had immense power inside the Democratic party (though the corporately-financed DLC and Blue Dog Caucus). Yesterday Bill Halter debated one of the most conservative-- and, as though it were a corollary, corrupt-- members of the Senate, Blanche Lincoln. He argued for giving the middle class a hand. She advocated for low estate tax rates for the few dozen families in Arkansas-- all her political contributors-- with estates worth over $10,000,000.

Tuesday Arkansas voters will decide between the middle class-oriented Halter and the sleazy corporate shill Lincoln. It should surprise no one that the Democratic Party Establishment, stinking in nearly as much corruption as the Republiucan Party Establishment, backs Lincoln. Wherever there's a contested primary Tuesday, the DCCC, the DSCC and the Democratic insider establishment is backing the more conservative candidate and the one most likely to suck up to Big Money corporate interests. In the U.K. last week, voters gave no party a mandate. The "winners," The Conservatives, walked off with an unimpressive 36% of the vote. 64% of the electorate rejected them. But the Labour Party, like the U.S. Democratic Party, has, in many cases, become too putrid and too beholden to corporate interests to bother with.

Aside from Arkansas, there are a number of crucial races pitting conservatives against non-conservatives. Pennsylvania Democrats will decide between a Republican calling himself a Democrat for convenience sake, Arlen Specter, and an actual Democrat, Joe Sestak. And in Kentucky, Democrats get to choose between Dan Mongiardo, an anti-Choice, anti-gay, anti-healthcare conservative tool, and Attorney General Jack Conway, who, like Halter, stands for solidly middle class values and aspirations. All three races are too close to call, although momentum is clearly against the three conservatives. You know which ones Blue America are backing, right?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

NO LONGER THE PARTY OF LINCOLN!

[Republicans] “are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar.”
- Abraham Lincoln -



For many years, Republicans have loved to call themselves "the party of Lincoln" because he was the first Republican President. They revel in the fact that one of the most widely acclaimed and revered Presidents of all time was a member of their party. I always laugh and shake my head in disapproval when I hear members of today's GOP crowing about that. For if he were alive and seeking office today, Lincoln would be rejected outright by the ultra-conservatives and teabagger types who now control the modern Republican Party.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860. The 1860 version of the Republican Party was far, far different than the one we see today. A look at their 1860 party platform, the one Lincoln ran on, shows this very clearly. One of their planks expresses strong support for the working man, as evidenced below:


"12. That, while providing revenue for the support of the General Government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an adjustment of these imposts as to encourage the development of the industrial interest of the whole country; and we commend that policy of national exchanges which secures to the working men liberal wages, to agriculture renumerative prices, to mechanics and manufactures an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence." This plank is amazing in that it calls for "liberal" (higher, fairer) wages for working people, but also advocates the federal government taxing imports so as to protect American workers' jobs. This flies right in the face of today's ultra-conservative, pro-business and anti-labor GOP, fully stocked as it is with "free trade" advocates who oppose nearly all taxes and who constantly push for unregulated export of American jobs and importation of foreign-made goods! I wonder how many of today's Republicans, including the tax-and-regulation-hating Grover Norquist, have ever read or understood that initial historic platform?

Months before his nomination as the Republican candidate for President, Lincoln wrote, "I was an old Henry Clay-Tariff-Whig. In old times I made more speeches on that subject than any other. I have not since changed my views." Such an advocacy for taxes and protectionism would be violently opposed by today's GOP and by their teabagger allies. In fact, Lincoln signed the bills creating the very first income tax and the IRS!

A look at the third plank on the 1860 Republican Party platform shows how completely off-base modern-day ultra-conservative Republican heretics like Rick Perry and various teabaggers are when they make threats about secession due to their displeasure with current Federal Government policies:

"3. That to the Union of the States this nation owes its unprecedented increase in population, its surprising development of material resources, its rapid augmentation of wealth, its happiness at home and its honor abroad; and we hold in abhorrence all schemes for Disunion, come from whatever source they may: And we congratulate the country that no Republican member of Congress has uttered or countenanced the threats of Disunion so often made by [southern] Democratic members without rebuke and with applause from their political associates; and we denounce those threats of Disunion, in case of a popular overthrow of their ascendency, as denying the vital principles of a free government, and as an avowal of contemplated treason, which it is the imperative duty of an indignant People sternly to rebuke and forever silence."

The rigidly ideological religious right would have little time for Abraham Lincoln today, either. "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term," wrote longtime friend David Davis, whom Lincoln appointed to the Supreme Court. Lincoln's former law partner John Todd Stuart even wrote, "He was an avowed and open infidel and sometimes bordered on atheism...went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and principles than any man I ever heard, he shocked me...Lincoln always denied that Jesus was the Christ of God - denied that Jesus was the son of God as understood and maintained by the Christian church." Speaking of Supreme Court Justices, today's far-right Republicans would have a fit were Lincoln to appoint some of those he appointed during his 4+ years in office: Samuel Freeman Miller was a liberal Unitarian; David Davis (apart from his comment above) played a big hand in the Ex Patre Milligan decision, which rendered unconstitutional an attempt to imprison a civilian charged with insurrection by a military tribunal as opposed to a civil court; Stephen Johnson Field, a Democrat; and Salmon P. Chase, who wrote the platform for the 1848-1852 Free Soil Party, a group which challenged the then-existing status quo through its advocacy of forbidding slavery in the western territories. Given the intense scrutiny and vocal opposition today's Republicans gave President Obama's recent nomination of moderately-left Sonia Sotomayor, and that which they are starting to give Elena Kagan, I wonder how many of them would filibuster or oppose Lincoln's Court appointees?

Today's Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln. With some of its members talking secession, its abandonment of support for "liberal wages" or job protection for American workers, its complete and utter capitulaion to big banks and big business, and its extremely social conservative views regarding religious belief and personal behavior, the party now more closely resembles the conservative Democratic secessionists of the old Confederacy, who were, of course, diametrically opposed to the more liberal 1860 party of Lincoln. And, as a result, just like the old Confederacy, it has become a party of only a small number of fanatical and geographically-limited adherents.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

BROKEN HEALTH CARE HITS HOME!


Our broken health "care" system has hit home. I am sad to say that my elderly mother, who will turn 86 in less than 3 weeks, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. We are all saddened by this news and I, in particular, am extremely disappointed in, and angry about, the way her case was initially handled.

No, I am not accusing anyone of malpractice or trying to build a malpractice suit. And no, she has not been booted off her insurance policy or had Medicare slam the door on her - at least not yet. But I clearly believe she has been victimized by the dybamics of economics in our current, very broken system, which is definitely placing cost-saving measures well in front of patient needs and comforts.

My mother had a full hysterectomy done at the time she was diagnosed with uterine cancer back in 1988. Because the cancer had broken through the wall of her uterus, her surgeon wisely decided to follow up with radiation therapy and a brief cesium implant to kill any stray cancer cells which may have escaped the immediate area. His decision kept her alive and cancer-free for more than 20 more years. But he also warned that this radiation treatment would result in radiation proctitis, which is a kind of burning damage to nearby tissues which results in scar tissue. He further mentioned that this form of proctitis also results in colon cancer.

Long story short, this may or may not have brought on her current cancer, which is called adenocarcinoma. Rather than appearing or originating in her colon (large intestine), it appears that this cancer originated in either her stomach or in the glandular bile ducts in her pancreas. From its origin, it has migrated throughout her abdomen and resulted in a partial blockage of her small intestine, the aftereffects of which led us to hospitalize her.

For more than six months, my mother had been suffering from irregular bowel function: nauseous, sometimes constipated, sometimes having diarrhea. Her appetite fell off markedly in the new year, and she was vomiting with steady diarrhea in mid-February. We were concerned she was becoming dehydrated, and she was incredibly weak, so we brought her to the hospital on February 17. They put her on an IV and a liquid-only diet, and she was given a CAT Scan. The determination of ulcerative colitis was made (inflammation of the colon) and she was discharged to a rehab center (nursing home) a few days later, after she was able to hold down solid food again. She was advised to rest and eat several small meals each day rather than 2 or 3 large ones. She was sent home after a week or so there, and seemed to be doing better for a time. Her stomach and bowels seemed to be functioning better. But by the end of March, she was again feeling queasy and weak, and her appetite dwindled. By mid-April, she was again vomiting, with regular diarrhea, so we brought her back to the hospital. Here they again put her on a liquid diet and took an inconclusive x-ray of her abdomen, which was now becoming distended and hard to the touch. It was obvious something was radically wrong. And it was here that I became aware of a relatively new entity in health care: the "Hospitalist."

In the good old days of not-that-long ago, your own family physician, the doctor who knew you and your personal case best, would spend part of his or her day prowling the halls of nearby hospitals to check in on his or her patients who may have been admitted there. He or she would consult with staff doctors and other on-site medical personnel and prescribe a treatment and medicine regimen. Nowadays, though, in many hospitals, your personal physician no longer pays a visit and has been replaced instead by a "Hospitalist."

A Hospitalist is a doctor of internal medicine who has been hired by and works for the hospital directly, ostensibly to relieve the burden of and free up time for your primary care physician (family doctor). But, given the experience my mother had with her Hospitalist, I would suggest that his main task was to be a company man and boot patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible. This, of course, makes both insurance companies AND hospitals happier, as it reduces both of their costs and indirectly creates more profitability for them.

From the second day after her readmittance, until we finally requested he no longer be her Hospitalist, this son of a bitch was obviously repeatedly trying to get my mother discharged! Here was a frail, elderly woman who could not keep food or liquid down, had chronic diarrhea, who had just been in the very same hospital for the very same symptoms two months prior, and this cold, uncaring moron was telling her she couldn't stay there indefinitely, and that she had better soon choose a rehab center to go to! When she told him she didn't feel she was well enough to go elsewhere yet, and that she thought doing so would inevitably bring her right back to the Emergency Room for a third admittance, he cooly told her, "You know, I think you're just getting attached to this place." He still pressured her to agree to a discharge, even though she was still weak and unable to keep down solid food. UNBELIEVABLE!!!

We filed an immediate appeal with Medicare against this decision to discharge and she was granted an automatic 48 hour reprieve pending review. That night she again vomited and the next day a different Hospitalist ordered a CAT Scan. It revealed what appeared to be a partial obstruction in her small intestine. A surgeon was called in and he examined her and then decided that exploratory surgery would be the advisable option. Upon opening her up, he discovered the scattered nodules of adenocarcinoma and a larger tumor which was responsible for her blockage and its resultant nausea, vomitingm and diarrhea. He proceede to clamp off the diseased portion of bowel and created a bypass so her undigested food could again flow for whatever time she has left. Then he sewed her up and gave us the bad news.

I remain furious with that first Hospitalist, whose priorities were obviously in herding patients along like anonymously numbered calves from one pen to another, just because it seemed the most cost-efficient thing to do. In the process, I believe he made an incomplete and inaccurate diagnosis of my mother's condition. He represents our broken health care system personnified. He was effectively acting as a one-man "death panel" and proves how far off base Sarah Palin's lying misrepresentation of government-run health care was. He was acting on behalf of a private system, overly concerned with money and profit and under-concerned with patients' needs. This complete and utter nonsense must change!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

WHAT IF...?

"Many great ideas go unexecuted, and many great executioners are without ideas. One without the other is worthless."
- Tim Blixseth -

"God is not looking for alms. God is looking for action."
- Bono -

"Well done is better than well said."
- Benjamin Franklin -



We are often a nation of complacent and sometimes cowardly people. Many times we look the other way or say or do nothing as others around us engage in actions or practices harmful, or not beneficial to, the common good. We allow our elected officials to legislate, and our business community to forge ahead unchallenged against our best interests, and many times we simply take it, without so much as a whimper. Have you ever stopped to consider the cost of such complacency? Or thought about what would have happened had other courageous and visionary -people before us had been as complacent as we are today? Have you ever thought, for example...

What if Rosa Parks had meekly submitted to that irate Alabama bus driver's demand that she move to the rear of the bus to make room for white passengers up front? You know the answer: blacks and all other persons of color would still ne regarded and treated as second-class citizens, and would never be afforded the simple dignity every human being is entitled to.

What if Thomas Jefferson and our other Founding Fathers had complacently stayed on their plantations or in their shops and businesses instead of meeting to plan for independence by crafting its unprecedented declaration? The action they took was at great personal risk and could have cost them their lives. The United States would still be a colony, and the most democratic form of government ever devised, with its emphasis on individual freedoms, would never have come into being.

What if President Lyndon B. Johnson had not pushed for civil rights legislation or for expanded social programs like the War on Poverty or Medicare? He knew as he pressed for these things that doing so would cost his Democratic Party votes for years to come, especially in the South. To his credit, though, he rejected political expediency and fought for and got these passed anyway. The result? Institutionalized racism was overturned; millions of poor were lifted out of poverty; and millions of elderly were able to lead less worrisome and more comfortable lives.

What if Ralph Nader had simply graduated law school, kept quiet, and opted to become another play-it-safe corporate lawyer? From 1959, when he published "The Safe Car You Can't Get" in The Nation, through his well-known 1965 study called "Unsafe At Any Speed," to numerous other industry and environmental exposes over the decades, this man acted as a whistle-blower on negligent American industry for our safety and benefit. Alkong the way, he has become stigmatized by corporate America as a kook and opportunist, when in actuality, he has spotlighted negligent businesses and polluters and caused them to produce safer and cleaner products. Though I still blame him for George W. Bush becoming President, I nonetheless admire his guts and conscientiousness in looking out for consumers.

What if Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy had merely golfed their termns away instead of developing NASA and channeling our science and industry toward space exploration and a manned moon landing ahead of the Russians? Both gambled with possible failure and risked political criticism for making huge expenditures on untried projects without any guarantee of success. But the positive end results of their actions benefitted us in numerous ways: we eventually won the Cold War, there was rapid growth of computer technology, vast improvements in electronics and communications technologies, new discoveries in medicine and even agriculture were all spawned due to their efforts.

What if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had let polio defeat him? Or had become the benign, unadventurous President many in his upper class background had preferred he become? The answer to this is way too easy: there would be no time-and-a-half overtime pay, no unemployment compensation, no labor unions, perhaps no middle class (or a far more microscopic one), no Social Security for retirement, no protection for your bank (and therefore none for your deposits), and no regulation of the stock market.
The many good benefits FDR pushed for and attained for this nation are so vast and important to our quality of life that living without them would be incomprehensible!

What if the 1860 Republican Party and President Abraham Lincoln had just played it politically safe and had struck another in a series of meaningless compromises on slavery with southern politicians just as his predecessors had done? Yes, his life would have undoubtedly been spared, and yes, there would have been no Civil War, but slavery would still exist and the universal freedom and dignity of persons of color would never have been achieved in this country. The courage and justice practiced by Lincoln and his party helped make this nation truly legally become a "land of the free".

What if President Theodore Roosevelt had taken the easy way out and let the huge trusts and corporate bankers of his day have their way completely unchallenged as they had for many years? Simple: the concept of government taking a regulatory role over big business to protect small business and average people from the excesses of concentrated capital would never have come into being. Roosevelt instituted the federal government as a protective buffer between big business and everyone else. He also helped establish regulation over food and drug products to ensure public safety. Our National Parks and provisions against pollution were direct results of Roosevelt's influence, and the beneficial results of his activism remain to this day.
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In contrast to many of today's visionless, play-it-safe conservative Republicans and Blue Dog conservative Democrats, the persons featured above were not lazy defenders of the status quo. They refused to accept unjust or backward-looking conditions as they were and strode to change them by taking individual action. They did so at great risk politically, physically, and economically. They acted toward fulfilling a more just and improved society for all. The same cannot, and will not, ever be said of mediocre, corrupted, and self-centered politicians like Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, or Ben Nelson, or of egomanaical demagogues like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.

We see the positive results of the actions of those pioneers pictured above all around us, every day. We know the "what if" of had they never acted. Ours would be a far bleaker and uncomfortable world had they not shown the courage to move as they did. This should serve as inspiration and impetus for all of us to leave our comfort zones once every so often to make a courageous stand for the benefit of others on occasion!