June 5, 2009 archive

Liberal Media Bias: The Greatest Threat To Our Democracy Today?

Texas Representative Lamar Smith has announced the formation of the Media Fairness Caucus in the House of Representatives. This would be a pretty funny venture if only because he asserts that the mission of his caucus is for…

“…the American people to get the facts and then be allowed to make up their own minds, not be told what to think. When you have network news programs and front pages of national newspapers reading like an editorial page or sounding like an oral editorial, then the American people aren’t getting the facts, they’re not getting the objective news. They’re getting opinion. And if all they do is hear is one side, that does have an impact over time.”

It sounds like Smith is launching a war against Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. But that can’t be, can it?

Effiency expert weighs in on healthcare

The New England Journal of Medicine article at this link http://content.nejm.org/cgi/co… discusses more fully the points listed below.

I believe these stipulations have been generally agreed to by those who post health care essays. I have beat the drums for universal single payer but that conflicts with item 2 which keeps the employer in the system. That seems like a good idea as the employer can declare no smoking zones (give me a break smokers, I been there and done that), provide incentives such as paying for sick days not taken, etc.

Before I get accused of over copying, let me admit it. The way I see it now is not the time for niceties. I don’t think there is a penalty for copying a copy so cut and paste anything you find useful. Comments, corrections and additions welcome.  

Four at Four

  1. The CS Monitor reports Another tough summer for Arctic sea ice is likely. According to the June 1 readings posted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year’s annual melt-back of Arctic Ocean sea ice may break the 2007 record. “NSIDC researchers say they expect 2009 to be another year when the amount of sea ice left at summer’s end will fall short of the 1979-2000 average.”

    And according to a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters, Winter Northern Hemisphere weather patterns remember summer Arctic sea-ice extent (pdf). So, the loss of Arctic ice in the summer means much less fall and winter rain and snow in Norther Europe, Alaska, and the parched Western U.S.

    Meanwhile back in Washington, D.C., American industry lobbies Congress for permission to pollute more, according to the Washington Post. U.S. oil refiners are seeking special cap-and-trade allowances that could be worth millions of dollars.

    Led by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), oil refiners amended the pending climate change legislation to “give petroleum refiners valuable rights to emit carbon dioxide when it otherwise might not have been allowed. Refiners could get the extra allowances in return for cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent at a single point of a vast refinery complex instead of slashing emissions by 50 percent for the entire facility.”

    In addition, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) had inserted a change that “would give the auto industry $1.4 billion worth of extra allowances”. Coal industry lobbyists are also working to weaken then bill. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) “led the effort to protect coal-fired utilities and mining firms.” 35 percent of the allowances are going to the coal power industry.

Four at Four continues with enriching the rich by eliminating jobs in America, an update from Pakistan, the “most serious threat to American wildlife in the past century”, and a better levee system for New Orleans found in the Netherlands.

Crisis at the VA as Benefits Claims Backlog Nearly Tops One Million

Crisis at the VA as Benefits Claims Backlog Nearly Tops One Million

by Jason Leopold, June 5, 2009

   During the past four months, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) backlog of unfinished disability claims grew by more than 100,000, adding to an already mountainous backlog that is now close to topping one million.

   The VA’s claims backlog, which includes all benefits claims and all appeals at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Board of Veterans Appeals at VA, was 803,000 on January 5, 2009. The backlog hit 915,000 on May 4, 2009, a staggering 14 percent increase in four months.

   The issue has become so dire that veterans now wait an average of six months to receive disability benefits and as long as four years for their appeals to be heard in cases where their benefits were denied.

   Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minnesota), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said during a hearing in March that the VA is “almost criminally behind in processing claims.”

   Overhauling the VA represents one of the most daunting challenges facing the Obama administration after years of mismanagement and neglect by the Bush administration, which stacked the agency with political cronies and kept the agency underfunded, wrapped in bureaucratic red tape and placed the interests of veterans last on a list of priorities.

   Indeed, one of the VA’s biggest failures during the Bush administration’s tenure was its inability to fully implement critical components of the Mental Health Strategic Plan (MHSP) at regional offices throughout the country.

   The MHSP, unveiled in 2004, would have provided veterans who show signs of being at risk of suicide or are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with immediate mental health care and eliminated the waiting period for receiving treatment.

   But according to a November 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), spending for the program was substantially less than what the VA had proposed – leaving untreated tens of thousands of veterans who were at risk of suicide.

Why We Can’t Have ‘Change’

Simulposted at Daily Kos

I will make two statements to begin this piece.

One: Obama does want true Progressive change. He is not, as his critics on the Left suspect, a “stealth Corporate Imperialist.”

Two: There is plain and simple, just not much he can do to bring Change about.

There is not…yet…much he can do to bring Change about for one basic reason. One basic reason, which then blooms into a thousand flowers all smelling like DC bullshit in the spring.

The one card Obama has to play in the DC Realpolitik Poker Game is….us. The Power of the People. A steady 65% approval rating, and that is a HARD 65%. The People who support him REALLY support him. And his many and varied opponents know it. He has that, and the limited (even post-Bush) power of the Executive Branch.

He brings that to the table. But sitting across from him, arrayed around the table far outnumbering him….is the entire structure of the United States Government.

A government which has been bought.

From the bowels of the bureaucracy to the hallowed Halls of Congress, a government which was once hailed as being Of The People, Buy The People and most importantly For The People….no longer even bears a passing resemblance to that shining vision.

In the BEST case scenario….there is a battle for our government between the industries and Corporations, who represent America’s Ruling Class that benefit immensely from legislation or favorable regulation by the government…..and The People.

Guess who is winning that battle?

The Ruling Class owns the economy. They own the banks, they own the insurance/health care companies, they own the energy/pollution industries, they own the Military Industrial Complex. They have lobbyists that have intimate access to the Legislators and Regulators, hell in many case they used to BE the Legislators and Regulators. But most importantly, they have The Money. The Money that the Legislators and Regulators absolutely need to keep their jobs.

A Viral Conspiracy Theory of ‘Oops’

To ‘oops’ or not to ‘oops’ – that is the question! To concoct nefarious plots in dark basement labs and smoke-filled back rooms, or accept that accidents do happen and arm ourselves with some knowledge of the processes. And to hear what’s actually being said by the ‘officials’ who so love to hoard whole classes of information We the People simply don’t need to know. Usually, if anyone’s keeping track, it’s more about ‘oopses’ that make ’em look careless than about actual nefarious plots or deeds.

The CT that got me banned at the Orange Rind made a specific charge on this question based on the announcement in late April of a flu outbreak in Mexico City, official releases specific to the nature of that virus, the actual technology used by researchers in the US and elsewhere in the world toward development of influenza vaccines, and the possibilities for an ‘oops’ (or worse) to occur at any of those facilities. All set against the MI-2 plot line harkening back to ancient Greek mythology, Bellerophon vs. Chimera.

I mentioned in that diary that genetic engineering is routinely used to craft varieties of influenza with enough mixed genetic specificities to allow a vaccine to be effective against more than one likely mutation of whatever strain is going around this year. That’s the truth. Though it turns out, according to the ‘experts’ who quickly weighed in to squash any speculations about an ‘oops’, that influenza viruses like to exchange whole genes and elements from entirely different strains in infected animals or in their water troughs at will and so promiscuously that it’s a complete wonder that we humans can even come up with actual strain varieties or vector titles at all!

Worldview No Universe view

It offers a way out of the Matrix, yes, that sci-fi movie series.  It happened in the year 2006 and even though I have come to much the same conclusions stemming from life changing events this fills in and ads lots of humor to the mix.  It is long and in three parts but well worth it.

First Amendment Friday 7 – New York Times v Sullivan

Happy Friday and welcome to the 6th in the Dog’s First Amendment Friday series. This series is following the syllabus for the class called The First Amendment and taught at Yale Law School by Professor Jack M. Balkin. As with the Friday Constitutional series this is a layman’s look at the Law, specifically the Supreme Court opinions which have shaped the boundaries of our 1st Amendment Protections. If you are interested in the previous installments you can find them at the links below

Originally posted at Squarestate.net

Wild Wild Left Radio #22 From Violence to Peace

Join Gottlieb, Ed Encho, and I tonight at 6pm EDT on Wild Wild Left Radio, via BlogtalkRadio.

Tonight we will be discussing the murder of Dr. Tiller, the arrest of Hal Turner and Obama’s speech in Egypt… all under the broader umbrella of whether the promotion of Peace can ever surpass the promotion of violence that the entrenched moneyed power uses for its own interests against us.

Please call with any questions you may have, or respectful commentary.

The call in number is 646-929-1264

Listen to The Wild Wild Left on internet talk radio

The live chat link will be added around 5:15.

In Their Boots: Vets For Hire, Episode 3

After serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, three veterans discover the value of their service as they search for employment in the midst of a troubled economy.

In Their Boots Website for the two previous of this year and links to last years online productions, as well as the other important site links.

One of those being Their Resources Page for Military/Veterans and Their Families.

Docudharma Times Friday June 5

Rush Limbaugh Falls

Further Down The Abyss

Of Hate    

Friday’s Headlines:

Healthcare overhaul effort moves forward without Kennedy

Anti-immigrant right win 15% of Dutch vote in European elections

The unhappy bedfellows of Arnhem bridge

We wanted a world leader. We saw only a US president

Iran: 20 years after Ayatollah Khomeini

Pakistan arrests senior Islamists

N.Korea silent on fate of US journalists

South Africa: Zapiro – ‘Zapping’ for Democracy

11 bodies found inside abandoned car in Mexico

Ailing, Banks Still Field Strong Lobby at Capitol



Published: June 4, 2009

WASHINGTON – As he often does, President Obama took the opportunity in a bill-signing ceremony last month to remind Congress “to do what we were actually sent here to do – and that is to stand up to the special interests, and stand up for the American people.”

But Mr. Obama did not mention that the measure he was signing, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, was missing its centerpiece: a change in bankruptcy law he once championed that would have given judges the power to lower the amount owed on a home loan.

It had been stripped out three weeks earlier in a showdown between Senate Democrats and the nation’s banks, including many that are getting big government bailouts.

Sri Lanka doctors ‘to be tried’

A group of doctors who worked in Sri Lanka’s rebel-held war zone are being held on suspicion of collaborating with Tamil rebels, the government says.

The doctors could be in detention for a year or more before being tried.

With journalists banned from the conflict zone, they became an important source of news about the fighting during the final bloody months of war.

There has been no word from the doctors, whose work was praised by the US and UN, since they were detained.

Last month the Sri Lankan government defeated Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland.

Government infuriated

During the final phase of the war, the group of doctors treated wounded and ill patients admitted to the makeshift health posts in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-held zone encircled by government forces.

Two of them were senior local health directors and the United States has said they “helped save many lives” while the UN called them “heroic”.


Using New Language, President Shows Understanding for Both Sides in Middle East


By Glenn Kessler and Jacqueline L. Salmon

Washington Post Staff Writers

Friday, June 5, 2009

There was no mention of “terrorists” or “terrorism,” just “violent extremists.” There was the suggestion that Israeli settlements are illegitimate and the assertion that the Palestinians “have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.” There were frequent references to the “Holy Koran” and echoes of Muslim phrases.

President Obama, who aides say spent many hours “holed up” in the past week revising his Cairo speech, clearly believes in the power of his oratory to win people to his point of view. In many ways, he used his address to promote American values, but his efforts to use new language to recast old grievances have already prompted debate and consternation in some quarters.

At the same time, he avoided specific complaints about the lack of freedoms in the Muslim world. Instead, he spoke of the need to obtain concrete political goals, such as the fair administration of justice. He made no mention of his host, President Hosni Mubarak, a snub surely noticed by Egypt’s autocratic ruler of nearly three decades.

Obama Willing to Consider Tax on Employer-Paid Health Benefits

President Obama, in a pivot from some of his harshest campaign rhetoric, told Democratic senators yesterday that he is willing to consider taxing employer-sponsored health benefits to help pay for a broad expansion of coverage.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Obama expressed a willingness to consider changing the existing tax exclusion. The decision would probably anger liberal supporters such as labor unions, but such a tax change would raise enormous sums of money as Congress and the White House are struggling to find the estimated $1.2 trillion needed to pay for health-care reform over the next decade.

“Yeah, it’s something that he might consider,” Baucus told reporters after the meeting between Obama and Democratic lawmakers. “That was discussed. It’s on the table.” Obama had summoned about two dozen senators to the White House to keep up the pressure to enact a comprehensive health-care overhaul this year. –snip–

What is it that Baucus and his cronies just don’t get?  

Load more