What Next for Democrats?

The first thing Democrats need to do is stop feeling sorry for themselves and stop issuing idiotic statements like the one they issued today that they cannot “mathematically” do anything. They still control the Presidency and have large majorities in the Congress. With a bozo who won the Presidency with a minority of votes and thin majorities in Congress, the Republicans in 2001-6 still aggressively pushed their agenda. “Mathematics” didn’t stop the Republicans and there is no reason for the Democrats to act impotent and paralyzed now.
What could they do to turn momentum in their favor?
1. Pass the House’s $154 billion job creation bill. Find more TARP money to add to the House bill. Talk about job creation every day.
2. Pass Obama’s proposed bank tax. Talk every day about excessive bonuses, how the banking industry failed America and how Republican economics collapsed the economy and transformed a $250 billion federal surplus in 2000 into a $1.3 trillion deficit in 2008.
3. Order the Department of Justice to investigate the financial manipulations and inept regulation which led to the financial collapse for possible criminal violations. The conflicts-of-interest were rampant; surely, there must be criminal violations somewhere in this gigantic mess of profiteering and greed.
4. Publicize the hearings and findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and develop legislative proposals to rein in Wall Street and prevent their gambling with our money. Point fingers and assign blame and if some of the blame touches Clinton, Summers and Geithner, be honest about it. The public sees too little honesty from politicians. Use the findings to dump Summers and Geithner.
5. Make the federal foreclosure agency work to reform mortgages [it has been close to dysfunctional for nearly a year]. It is estimated that between 20-25% of all mortgages now exceed the value of the properties. There are tens of millions of homeowners who need help and most of them vote.
6. Pass the Consumer Protection Agency and blame every politician who opposes protecting consumers for being tools of banks. Get Elizabeth Warren on TV every day. Have her make the State of the Union speech. 🙂
7. Fire Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. Replace them with Joe Stiglitz and Elizabeth Warren. Withdraw Ben Bernanke’s nomination for the Chair of the Federal Reserve and replace him with Paul Volcker.
8. Pass healthcare reform with a public option and the surtax on the wealthy and no excise tax through reconciliation. Bend the reconciliation rules as much as necessary and let the Republicans howl. There is no judicial review and the public doesn’t give a shit about the nuances of Senate procedures, they just want to see action. Accuse the Republicans of being pawns of the insurance companies.
9. Announce that the Democratic Party will stop accepting donations from the banking and insurance industries and demand that the Republican Party do the same. They won’t, of course, which would provide many opportunities to accuse the Republicans of being the party of the banks and insurance companies — the message would be, “If you want to empower banks and insurance companies, vote Republican.” Whatever money the Democrats give up by this gesture would be more than made up by a surge of small donations, a surge in integrity and a surge in credibility.
I’m sure I am missing many other good ideas, but this list would keep the Democrats busy for at least a few months.

The United States of eBay

We all know what America’s biggest problem is, right? You thought it might be healthcare, climate change, the economy, financial regulation, immigration reform? Well you were wrong! Corporations don’t have enough influence on government. They don’t have a strong-enough voice. Those 57,642 paid corporate lobbyists in Washington DC spending $140 million every day lobbying Congress just aren’t getting their messages across strongly enough. And then there are those messy elections where voters think they have the right to exercise some control and even donate money to candidates.
So, today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have unlimited free speech rights under the Constitution and can put unlimited amounts of money [money which originates from you, of course] behind the candidates and issues they support. So much for citizen-based democracy, but maybe that’s a good thing.
But why just let corporations buy off the President and Congress with campaign donations and corporate-funded campaigns? Why not let them BE the President? I mean, why not just cut out the middle men?
And if corporations can name every stadium in America, why not let them just buy the country? We could be the Petco United States. Or the United States of eBay. I mean, Meg Whitman is running for Governor of California in an attempt to make California the California of eBay. Why stop there?

Are Dogs Worse than SUVs?

As a dog owner, I read with interest Time to Eat the Dog, a book by Robert and Brenda Vale. The book argues that the carbon impact of a dog is double that of an SUV, that a typical dog eats 360 pounds of meat and 200 pounds of cereal a year and that it takes two acres to grow the food for just one dog. Dogs also attack wild animals, so, according to the book, the best pet is a chicken, which serves a dual purpose because chickens lay eggs, or rabbits “provided you eat them.” Of course, if you eat your dog, you get a dual purpose, which I guess explains the book’s title.
There really is no need to forsake dogs and the solution to the carbon dog footprint problem problem is obvious: environmentalists need to give up their big dogs and turn to small dogs to save the planet. Take me, for example. I own a 3-pound toy poodle. I guarantee that a 3-pound dog leaves very small footprints, carbon or otherwise, yet provides the companionship of bigger dogs. And, to date, my 3-pounder, Moxie, has not brought down any deer, elk or bears, although the coyotes in my neighborhood are terrified whenever Moxie walks onto the porch. In short, the time is at-hand to begin cross-breeding dogs for smallness.
But why stop with dogs? If we encouraged large humans to cross-breed with dwarfs and midgets, and if we got a little help from genetic engineers, I think we are capable of producing a race of 60 pound humans. Just think of the advantages: 60 pound people would consume a quarter of the food of typical obese Americans; cars could be half the size and 2-lane highways could immediately become 4-lanes; planes could carry twice as many people; two small people could share one coach seat; two small people could share one bag of pretzels. The upside is almost unlimited.
In fact, let’s start the cross-breeding with the authors of the book, Time to Eat the Dog. We already know their brains are only half the size of normal brains.

Too Many Unanswered Questions – Review of the Bible

See review here on Amazon.
I would like to be charitable and generous in my evaluation—even Christian, if you know what I mean—but I can’t give this book anything more than ONE STAR because there are just too many unanswered questions in it. As examples:
1. Leviticus 25.44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided that they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Why can’t I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21.7. In this bad economy, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. The Bible teaches that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her menstrual period, but how can I tell? Whenever I ask women I meet if they are menstruating, they take offense.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor to the Lord [Lev. 1.9]. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35.2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination [Lev. 11.10], it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. Are there different degrees of abomination?
7. Leviticus 21.20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19.27. How should they die?
9. I know from Leviticus 11.6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes people unclean. Does this mean that Tim Tebow must stop throwing footballs, or that football should be abolished?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19.19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread [cotton and polyester blend]. He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary to get the whole community together to stone them [Lev. 24.10-16]? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family ceremony, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws [Lev. 20.14]?
If the author of this book can clear up these issues, I’ll consider raising my one-star rating.

What’s Bad for Tiger Ain’t Bad for the Rest of Us

The golf industry is in total shock — its number 1 meal-ticket is now in self-imposed exile. TV viewership is set to fall 50 percent or more, sponsors are going to be bailing out, prize money will be headed down-hill, endorsements are going to dry up. We’re not just talking industry recession here, the golf industry is heading to its own Armageddon. They’ll be going back to wooden shafts any day now.
But hold on. Tiger’s demise is not bad for golfers. Golfers are doing just fine. We’re doing better than fine. In fact, I’ve never done better in my life. I mean who were all these skanky, hot women fucking? Not Tom Brady, not Derek Jeter, not LeBron James. They were fucking a fucking golfer! Who woulda thunk it?
I now carry my golf bag everywhere I go. I take it to work, I take it to bars, I take it to my spinning class and when I’m driving, my golf bag sits prominently on the back seat of my Porsche so everyone can see it. I have a new bumper sticker on my car: “Real Golfer Inside.” I want women to know I play golf. I want them to know I know how to use my putter. I want them to inspect my long shaft. I want them to dream about getting into bed with a guy wearing spikes.
Hey, in the last two weeks I’ve had so many women hitting on me I’ve had to set an artificial limit: No women under 20. I mean, I’m 66-years-old and it just doesn’t look right having a 19-year-old hottie groping for my putter.
I even have Tiger to thank for a potential new career in film. I have just been recruited to play a caddy in the new film about Tiger: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cocktail Waitress. I’m the guy who is supposed to get drinks for Tiger and his hot ladies and then clean up the mess afterwards.
Plus Tiger leaving the Tour means there’s one more opening on the PGA Tour. One of us is going to get it.
These are tough times for Tiger — and my heart goes out to the poor schmuck — but these are boom times for the rest of us golfers. All you got to know is how to swing your shaft. I mean, this is our time!
And next time you see Elin, let her know I’m available. But she’ll have to get in line.

Obama Blows the Olympics

Losing the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro just shows that Dick Cheney, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans have been right all along. Relying on reasoning, discussion and goodwill is just bullshit. What did the Obamas think the Olympic Committee was, the fucking United Nations General Assembly, or something? And what are we, some whiny little country like Brazil? Hell no! We’re the Hegemon. Instead of sending Michelle and Barack to reason with those Socialist and Commie bastards on the Olympic Committee, we should have sent those 40,000 troops slated to go to Afghanistan to Copenhagen instead. You can bet that if the Olympic Committee members had needed to ask permission from our troops to get out of their hotel rooms or use the bathroom, they would have thought twice before rejecting Chicago as the 2016 Olympic site. And if our troops had just kicked down a few hotel room doors as examples of our nation’s commitment to Olympic values, it would have been no contest.
If we had sent our troops to Copenhagen, they’d already be halfway to Afghanistan. A twofer.
Any country can be awarded the Olympics, but We Are the Hegemons. We don’t need to rely on reason and goodwill, we could have taken the Olympics.
The United States had a great opportunity to demonstrate our Dominance to the world. The chronically weak Democrats blew it.
Dick Cheney in 2012. He’ll take back the Olympics for all of us.

The Only Good Option For Health Care is a Public Option

The United States has the most expensive, least efficient and, in many ways, most ineffective healthcare system in the world. But you wouldn’t know it if you listened to Republicans talk about the private health care insurance system or Democratic Blue Dogs whine about costs of reform and complain about how unfair it would be to have private health insurance companies compete with a public health care option.
Despite being the most expensive health care system in the world, in terms of medical outcomes, the private U.S. health care system is the most ineffective. In fact, the World Health Organization ranks health care systems based on objective measures of medical outcomes and the United States’ health care system currently ranks 37th in the world, behind Colombia and Portugal [which both spend far less on health care than the U.S. The United States ranks 44th in the world in infant mortality, behind many impoverished Latin American countries. While infant mortality in the United States is skewed toward poor people, who have rates double the wealthy, the top quintile of the U.S. population has infant mortality rates higher than Canadians in the lowest quintile of wealth.
Not only are 47 million Americans uninsured (approximately 18.5 percent of the insurable market), 41 percent of Americans with incomes of $20,000 to $40,000 did not have health insurance for at least part of 2007, up from 28 percent in 2001; 53 percent with incomes under $20,000 lack health insurance.
There are additional costs to the haphazard U.S. health care system: More than 50 percent of the U.S. population has medical debt problems; between 1981 and 2001, medical-related bankruptcies increased an astounding 2,200 percent and 55 percent of personal bankruptcies are now caused by illness or medical debts, despite the fact that over 75 percent of the bankrupts had health insurance at the onset of bankruptcy and illness.
Contrary to popular conceptions, the average medical bankrupt was a 41-year old woman with children, some college education; over half owned homes and over 80 percent were in the middle or working classes.
The number of people without health insurance rose 18 percent from 2001 to 2007; average health insurance premiums for a family of four are more than $13,000, which exceeds the annual gross income of a full-time, minimum-wage worker. Lack of insurance causes 18,000 excess deaths a year; people without health insurance have 25 percent higher mortality rates; and, 59 percent of uninsured people with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes skip medicine or go without care — and get sicker.
Out of 30 developed nations, life expectancy in the United States ranks 21st: Life expectancy in the United States is 4.6 years less than Japan, 2.1 years less than France and 2.6 years less than Canada. The United States has fewer physicians, nurses and hospital beds than most developed nations. In the United States, 28 percent say it is “difficult to get care”; in most European countries, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, 15 percent say that. In terms of continuity of care (i.e., five-plus years with the same doctor), the United States is the worst of all developed nations.
By every objective measure, the United States has a second-rate health care system.

The Truth About Healthcare Costs

Even including the 47 million uninsured, the bloated, inefficient U.S. healthcare system costs more than double per capita what single-payer healthcare systems in Europe, Japan and Canada cost.
In the United States, healthcare costs were $6,001 per person in 2007. By contrast, in Japan, with life expectancy 4.6 years more than the United States (presumably a cost-increasing factor), healthcare costs were $2,139 per person; in the United Kingdom, $2,232; Sweden (the ultimate “welfare state”), $2,520; France, $2,903; and, Canada, $3,001.
And, this is not just an individual problem; this is a national problem. Health care system costs in the United States are 17 percent of GNP (and currently increasing 12 percent per year). No other country in the world has healthcare costs which exceed 11 percent of GNP and the average among developed nations is 9 percent. These high costs are making the U.S. uncompetitive in many areas. For example, U.S. car-makers spend $1,500 per car on health care—-more than the cost of the steel in cars — and are competing against European and Japanese car makers who spend nothing for health care.
Administrative costs of the U.S. private health care system consume $300 billion; profits and advertising consume another $300 billion [the CEO of Cigma insurance company made $23 million last year]. Compare those numbers to the $100 billion Republicans and Democratic Blue Dogs complain is too high a cost to reform the system and deliver care to 47 million uninsured. And compare the high overhead costs of the private health care insurance system to the 3 percent overhead of Medicare and single-payer health care systems in Europe, Canada and Japan.
Two years ago, one of my adult sons went to a medical office for testing. On completing the tests, he was handed a bill. The bill had two prices: One was the insurance price, $969.25, the second was the “cash pay price,” $678.00 — exactly 30 percent less than the insurance price. What more do you need to know about the excessive cost and inefficiency of the American private health insurance system than that it costs 30 percent more than the underlying medical services are worth?
This is the costly, inefficient system — and the profits — that Republicans and Democratic Blue Dogs [bought off by health insurance money] are seeking to protect.
In America’s for-profit private insurance health care system, medical technicians must contend with hundreds of different forms, billing procedures, regulations and requirements from hundreds of insurance companies; U.S. health care companies spend money for advertising and marketing; and, the U.S. health care system is based on profit. Since 1970, the number of medical doctors in the United States has increased 40 percent, while the number of medical administrators has increased almost 3,000 percent.
Currently, we are drowning in a massive, inefficient private health insurance bureaucracy. The increasing cost of prescription drugs also is increasing the health care bill, and U.S. drug costs are the highest in the world. Americans pay 30 percent to 80 percent more for prescription drugs than citizens of any other country largely because Republican legislation enacted under George W. Bush prohibits Medicare and private insurance companies from negotiating lower drug prices from Canadian and European suppliers, even of American pharmaceuticals. So American patients pay double and triple the cost of the same drugs, in the same bottles, made by the same companies in the same plants as Canadian patients. Profit in the present U.S. system has been exalted over good care, health and cost considerations.
You might think that this excess money goes into developing new drugs, but you would be wrong: Only 13 percent of drug costs go to research and development, and little of that goes for pioneering new drugs to deal with life-threatening conditions; 51 percent goes to marketing, administration and profits.
And when considering costs of health care, remember that the U.S. taxpayer already pays for more than 60 percent of the American health care bill. It does this by allowing businesses to deduct the cost of health care for employees as a business expense, thus reducing taxes on businesses, which puts a greater burden on individual taxpayers, as well as paying for government supported health care such as Medicare and the Veteran’s Administration health programs. Being the payer of 60+ percent of existing health care costs, you would think the U.S. government would have a right to demand a more efficient system [President Obama thinks it does], but not if you listen to Republicans and Democratic Blue Dogs complain about change [i.e., less profits for their insurance company donors].
The Public Option
The most logical correction to the costly inefficiencies of the American private health insurance system would be a single-payer system — such as Medicare, a popular and successful single-payer system. But single-payer has proven to be too radical a change for Congress even to consider this time around, so we are left with the possibility of a “public option,” which would allow individuals and employer plans to buy into a public system modeled on Medicare. While this “public option” may not be the perfect solution, the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Moreover, if the public option is robust, over time it would out-compete the costly, inefficient private health insurance system and you would find not only individuals choosing the public option, but also employer health plans concerned about costs. And precisely because the private insurance companies fear competition from a more efficient public health care system, it is using every weapon in its arsenal to spread fears of “a government takeover” of health care, distort the debate and, of course, buy off members of Congress [Republican and Democratic Blue Dog members of the Senate Finance Committee, for example, have received an average of more than $2 million each in donations from private health insurers].
While single-payer will not be legislated this time, what would be unacceptable would be for health care legislation not to include a robust public option, or to so weaken the public option that it could not compete effectively with private insurers, such as prohibiting use of Medicare rates for medical services, prohibiting negotiation with drug companies for lower prices and/or breaking up the public plan into regional, state or local “coops” which would be too small to compete against national insurance companies. This is the current fault-line in Congress and is why the public option is being attacked by conservatives as “socialized medicine.” Of course, neither the public option or even single-payer systems are socialized medicine.
Medicare is a single-payer system and single-payer systems such as Medicare do not employ any doctors or own any hospitals or medical facilities, let alone create bureaucracies like the bloated, inefficient bureaucracy the private insurance model has created in America. The Veterans Administration health system is a socialized system, as is the military health system, as they both employ doctors and provide hospital facilities, but ironically none of the opponents of the public option ever mention the VA system or the military.
Rather than hundreds of payers (insurance companies) and thousands of different forms, regulations and procedures, a public option would have one payer and one set of forms and procedures. A public health care option, like Medicare, also would offer more choice of medical providers; unlike the current private insurance system, where patients are limited to panels of providers, a public plan would permit patients go to any doctor they want, submit a national health insurance card and the government would pay — just like Medicare. It is the simplest, most efficient plan of all.
There are many ironies in the debate about the need for a public option and one of them is that in one breath conservatives argue that the government is inherently inefficient and can’t run anything, and in the next breath argue that it would be fundamentally unfair to make private insurance companies compete against a public health care plan. Of course, the truth is that the inefficient private system probably can’t compete effectively, but why should we protect inefficiency in health care? We don’t run police and fire services privately or the Army, Navy and Air Force, so why should private for-profit insurance companies hold a virtual monopoly on health care, especially when the evidence is overwhelming that they don’t do a very good job at it?
Congress will be in summer recess next week. This is the time your Congress member and Senators need to hear loudly, clearly and repeatedly by email, phone and letters that you support a robust public health care option, one modeled on Medicare.

Pat Buchanan Attacks Affirmative Action And Sonia Sotomayor

Yesterday, on MSNBC, Pat Buchanan attacked Sonia Sotomayor specifically, and affirmative action in general. Included in his attack were such claims as “this has been a country built basically by white folks,” that Sonia Sotomayor was purely an affirmative action candidate who lacks real credentials and his suggestion that we need more white-male Supreme Court nominees—-like Robert Bork—-despite the fact that 108 of the 110 United Supreme Court Justices in our nation’s history have been white.
What opponents of affirmative action like Pat Buchanan fail to grapple with is that this country was built on affirmative action—-for white males—-and you don’t have to go back to the Founding Fathers to see this in action. If you go back to the 1950s, which Buchanan apparently wants to do, and look at the major private universities, you would find that 20-30% of the admissions were “legacies,” people who got there not on merit but because they were the sons of alumni and donors. George Bush, of course, is the poster-child for this generation of affirmative action babies. I’d like to see Buchanan, or any conservative, defend his admission to Yale on the basis of merit. And I’d like to stack his credentials up next to Sonia Sotomayor ‘s and ask which one was more deserving of admission to a major university, or the bench, or the Presidency, or anything.
The white-male affirmative action which bozos like George Bush benefited from and want to protect was a monopoly of opportunities; monopolies work to undermine healthy competition and produce bad results. The affirmative action which emerged from the 1960s civil rights movement was an effort not only to promote diversity of people and opportunities, but to democratize opportunities so that white-male hierarchies did not automatically get all the perks. This has been healthy for America, not only because society has become more diverse, but also because it now is less likely that the truly unqualified, the frat boys like GWB with no academic credentials and problems with excessive alcohol consumption [but a connected family] are not automatically passed on to graduate schools, and then on to unsuccessful business careers, not to mention catastrophic political careers.
I prosecuted employment discrimination class actions for 25 years, in the process forcing many major corporations to hire and promote women, minorities, older people and the disabled. In every single case I had, when the case was over and the workforce was integrated, no matter how bitter the litigation had been, the companies would confide in me that their workforces after “affirmative action” were stronger, more competitive, more productive. Affirmative action has been good for American business and good for America. Indeed, corporate America, which has seen the benefits of fair employment practices first-hand, long ago abandoned opposition to it. Too bad racists like Buchanan have failed to pay attention to what really has happened in the American workforce over the past 40 years.

Responding to a Cheerleader for the Afghan War

Liberal hawk Peter Bergen fails to address core questions about the occupation, such as why the US is fighting the Taliban in the first place.

Ed. Note: Recently, Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation had an op-ed published by the Washington Monthly entitled “Winning The Good War.” It has been widely and approvingly linked by Democrat interventionists as a bolster to their support for Obama’s staying Bush’s course in Afghanistan. Co-Founder of the National Security/Foreign Policy New Ideas Fund and civil rights lawyerGuy Sapersteinhas written a letter in response to Bergen’s column (this letter first appeared on News Hoggers):

Liberal Hawks like Peter Bergen are not merely ascendant, they have become dominant, so it is important to look at their arguments and see if they make any sense.
While I am impressed with Bergen’s knowledge of Afghanistan, in a long article he fails to address the core questions about Afghanistan: Why are we fighting the Taliban? There are crucial differences between the goals of al Qaeda and the Taliban, so why are we treating them the same? Why do we have 70,000 combat troops, plus private mercenaries there? How many more will be needed? What are the metrics of success or failure? How long will we be there? What will it ultimately cost? What is the exit strategy? Are there alternatives to the military model? And what are the real strategic threats to America and is spending hundreds of millions more in Afghanistan getting in the way of dealing with more important national security issues?