January 28, 2010 archive

Jump start that Engine, Help Small Business to Hire

Obama: Small Business Key for Recovery

Kent Bernhard, Jr. — Jan 27, 2010

The president proposed eliminating all capital-gains taxes on small-business investment, creating tax incentives for small businesses to hire new workers and raise the wages of those they already employ, and steering $30 billion in money from the Wall Street bailout to community banks to lend to small businesses.

“Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America’s businesses. But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers,” Obama said. “We should start where most new jobs do–in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides its time she became her own boss.”


OK, how will Small Business, get the help they need, to put Americans back on the Road to Recovery?

Pelosi Takes Public Option Off Our Table

The day after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech to Congress, the conservaDems intent on bailing out the health insurance industry are happy to hear that House Speaker Pelosi say that:

“I think that the President’s, not only his appeal to pass it but his explanation to the American people as to what the possibilities were was a very powerful statement that will be helpful to us,” Pelosi said.


“You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll poll vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people.”

– from Greg Sargent’s Plumline


Pelosi and her House are allegedly attempting to do a run around of the “60 vote Senate supermajority needed to block a filibuster” problem, by passing a House version of “side car reconciliation” to the bill first before signing off on the Senate’s version of a “health insurance reform” bill.  There is no timetable, other than they have a year to contemplate how to do this before the proto legislation already passed, expires.  

Mr. President, there IS a better approach.

But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.

There is a better approach, Mr. President. It’s called Medicare for All, and it lets anyone under 65 buy into Medicare who wants to.

Want to bring down premiums?  Medicare for All is the way to go, because you can create a vast insurance buying pool administered by an entity that only takes 3% off the top for expenses (for profit health insurers take 20%). The massive buying power of that pool, combined with huge administrative cost savings, is virtually guaranteed to cut premiums for everyone.

Want to bring down the deficit?  I’ll tell you what. How about we get Medicare out of the red permanently by letting customers under 65 buy in?   That way, the Federal Government isn’t stuck paying out of pocket for the most costly elderly patients while it lets private insurers capture all the revenues from everybody else.  

Want to cover the uninsured?  Let the millions of folks with preexisting conditions sign up for the more affordable insurance coverage that Medicare for All will provide.  Subsidize those who are unable to pay.

Want to strengthen Medicare for seniors?  Let people under 65 buy in to create a funding source of younger, healthier people that offsets costs from the more expensive senior pool. That way, instead of worrying about more cuts, seniors would actually see improvements to their benefits plans.  As an added bonus Mr. President, you’ve just solved one of the top priorities of your new Fiscal Commission.

Want to stop insurance company abuses?  There is no better regulator than competition. Give everyone a Medicare buy in option that competes with private insurers in an open exchange.  Because a government-sponsored alternative gives customers a place to go if they don’t like the way they are being treated, private health insurers will be forced to straighten up and fly right if they want to stay in business.

Mr. President, the answer is obvious: the only approach to America’s health care crisis that satisfies all of your criteria is Medicare for All.  Nothing else even comes close.

(also @ Big O)

The New System

Actually quite a bit more traumatic and time consuming than I expected.

Of course most of that is my fault, since I’m very obsessive about backups and notes.

And I shifted my installation paradigm for this one, sticking with the Microsoft defaults for as long as I could stand them, which is now.

XP Pro, Service Pack 3, all the updates including IE 8 and MP 11.  The only thing proprietary is the network drivers and firewall included with my Asus A8N-E motherboard.

The good news is that it’s looking more and more like a virus or malware since IE was behaving just as badly as my Firefox.  Hopefully by this evening I’ll have a system I recognize and can be productive for you with.

General tirades about computers accepted below.

Afternoon Edition

Our senior news editor is experiencing technical difficulties. So, here LIVE from warm, sunny Port au Prince, Haiti is your afternoon news

This is also an Open Thread

Aid missing many in a city of want

MSF Haiti 28/01/10

PORT-AU-PRINCE – When aid groups and soldiers venture out of the heavily secured refugee camps to deliver food to the starving at hundreds of smaller sites scattered everywhere throughout this capital city, they question whether they will be providing succour to the most needy, or exactly the opposite.

“When we deliver to women and children, we have to know whether they will get it or will they get killed for it,” said Adam Klyczek, a medic with the 82nd U.S. Airborne squadron of 400 soldiers based at the PĂ©tionville Golf and Country Club, now home to about 40,000 refugees. “Is it a violent area, will we create a riot, will we start looting?”

Welcome to Idiot America

Where the biggest problem we have is that Democrats are too partisan.

Where the fight to reform health care is not a pressing concern:

“Somewhere along the line, the White House lost its way,” said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Instead of focusing on solutions to help America’s families wade through the wreckage of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, Washington has wasted valuable time wrestling with partisan politics in an effort to rush through drastic reforms that do not directly address our most immediate needs.”

Gee I don’t know about you, but it sure is more important to me that our Congresspeople are nice to each other than whether or not I will have a major medical problem and be out of a job and as a result hopelessly bankrupt for the rest of my life.

Yes, Congressman Skelton, the problem isn that Democrats have been “too partisan”.  

It’s not as if the Democrats have given away the store to the Republicans while the Republicans have openly vowed to frustrate every iota of the stated Democratic Agenda, and still got nothing for their efforts.


American Idiot

Obama’s Awakening?

Crossposted at Daily Kos

No Drama Obama came out fighting last night! For him.

In a stunning and dramatic (for him) change of course, Obama actually said mean (for him) things about the Dems, the Republicans, and the SCOTUS, as well as the pundits and press. He was (for him) downright feisty and condemning.

Which is what happens when you realize that your “process” isn’t working, your “style” is ineffective, your “tone” is weak, and your post-partisan peacemaking has run into a brick wall of cowardice, obstructionism and just plain incompetence.


It’s the capitalist system, s.: a rhetoric

In light of recent discussion of national economic issues, I would like to revisit Bill Clinton’s 1992 slogan, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  Here I will look at the rhetorical clout offered in various promises, against the background of economic and political history, while arguing that it’s the entire capitalist system which needs to be revisited.

(Crossposted at Orange)

J. D. Salinger R.I.P.

J. D. Salinger, author of “Catcher in the Rye” has passed away of natural causes according to his son. Now I will have to read the book. Blessed Be

J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose “The Catcher in the Rye” shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91.

Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author’s son said in a statement from Salinger’s literary representative. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.

“The Catcher in the Rye,” with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951, a time of anxious, Cold War conformity and the dawn of modern adolescence. The Book-of-the-Month Club, which made “Catcher” a featured selection, advised that for “anyone who has ever brought up a son” the novel will be “a source of wonder and delight – and concern.”

h/t TPM

Open Amazement


Reform Often Depends on Individual Choice, Not Collective Demand

A friend of mine recently visited, and while she was here, she shared an interesting story. For many years, beginning in childhood, she was sure that her chosen career path was that of an engineer. So, of course, when she started undergrad, she majored in engineering, quickly finding that she was the only female currently enrolled in the department. This reality didn’t really surprise her, since she had always felt comfortable in male-dominated spaces and in many ways considered herself one of the boys. Her passions had always been those where female attendance had been sparse, so she’d long ago accepted the reality without complaining, or in honestly feeling as though she had much need or desire to question the status quo as it always had been.

However, with time she recognized that engineering was not for her.  This had nothing to do with gender disparities and everything to do with the fact that she found her course of study ponderous and uninspiring. In the meantime, she had taken a few anthropology courses as electives and had fallen in love with the subject.  After giving the matter much thought, roughly halfway through attaining her degree, she made plans to switch majors.  Even though it delayed her graduation date and required her to take more hours, she was prepared to make a sacrifice. Still, her heart had led her away from what she had assumed would be her life’s passion and as a result she was more than willing to do the extra work necessary to move in a vastly different direction.

The decision didn’t sit well with one of her engineering professors, who was the sole, if not one of a very few female instructors in the field.  My friend was informed that, whether she recognized it or not, the very fact that since she was the only matriculating female enrolled in that course of study, this meant that she was a trail-blazer; if she left, the whole hopes and dreams of those who wished to establish gender equality within the engineering department, to say nothing of the work world, would be utterly dashed.  My friend took quite a bit of liberty with this statement and shortly thereafter left for Anthropology, just as she had originally planned.  In so doing, she didn’t discount what the professor said, but simply stated that she was unwilling to be unhappy in a subject she had come to dislike, especially when she knew inside herself that she might find true success and certainly true contentment elsewhere.

As much as we might like to see complete gender, racial, and sexual orientation parity across the board (and I certainly do, too) I think we have to take into account that our collective dreams sometimes take a secondary role to an individual’s desire to pursue his or her own.  When we hang the entire hopes of a movement upon the shoulders of one person, no matter how strong and broad we think they might be, for any reason at all, this places an inordinate and disproportionate amount of expectation upon a flawed and very human being.  To some extent, every minority in a majority setting lives in a fishbowl and has his or her actions minutely scrutinized.  None of this is especially fair, but when so much of our own identity depends on how we define ourselves as unlike others, rather than focusing on similarities between us and others, then it might be understandable, though not necessarily justified, why we fall prey to this kind of thinking.    

To expound upon that which I am saying, I am not attempting to let anyone off easy.  It is true that for all of the post-racial talk, Barack Obama is the first Black President.  We all knew that going in and we always will.  In the beginning, which seems like a least a decade or so ago, I was willing to concede to him the benefit of the doubt, but now I like so many have become openly critical and impatient with his leadership abilities.  That he continues to poll highly with African-American voters and not necessarily with Caucasian voters is, I think, a very complex dynamic that can’t be reduced to merely a matter of race and racial identity.  Any minority which historically has had its concerns placed at a lower priority to that of the majority is bound to believe that even a candidate with flaws is at least is testament to the fact that a major hurdle has been crossed; that it finally one of its own reached that which is still the most powerful position on the face of the Earth.  I have no doubt that when a female becomes President or an openly gay candidate reaches the highest office in the land, there will be this same unshakable sense of loyalty and devotion among those of a similar persuasion and identity, no matter what the larger political climate either for or against this person may be.      

Still, excusing bad policy decision and being a constant apologist for any elective official at any time, for any reason, is not the best of strategies.  For the most part, aside from a few true believers, we have not fallen prey to this trap in our age.  But what we have done is assumed at times that one African-American lawmaker can wipe away centuries worth of racial strife and tension.  The Obama Effect is, to my reckoning, largely minimal and perhaps more a product of wishful thinking than much in the way of substance.  Likewise, the first female to be referred to as Ms. President will likely encourage the media and others to ponder whether her election portends greater gender equality or perhaps even leads women to embrace occupations or spaces long designated for and peopled by men.  Likewise, the first gay Chief Executive will encourage many to hope that perhaps homophobic attitudes might be finally be waning and will simultaneously foster a thousand human interest stories of LGBT young adults who followed the example of the President and decided to come out and live openly.  

In writing this post, I don’t seek to tongue-lash or to chastise those who rightly strive for a fairer state of affairs.  This is what we are all seeking to one degree or another.  Rather, I think perhaps the problem is when we assume that one single woman, man, or minority with a singular talent can by himself or herself crack the glass ceiling, end a history of racial inequality, or sound an end to homophobia.  Even when this person, whomever it may be, makes makes significant strides, we become disillusioned when he or she she alone can’t quite bust through, failing to recognize that a collective effort is the only means by which any adequate reform movement has ever been accomplished.  I firmly believe that the entire process starts with one woman, one man, and/or one minority, bold enough to step into unfamiliar and sometimes unwelcoming spaces.  Yet, and this cannot be stressed overmuch, without those courageous enough to both correctly emulate their example and in so doing follow their lead, the ultimate objectives espoused will often remain unrealized.  

I recognize that it is easy to become impatient with the slow progress of reform.  But we oughtn’t let our sense of desperation and desire supersede any individual’s freedom of choice.  It is a constant temptation to search for ammunition in every corner to hurl at one’s enemy, but I believe that this impulse must be kept firmly in check.  There may not be any such thing as a fair fight, but alienating allies or potential allies is not the best of strategies.  When the world seems full of roadblocks and detours, we all can lose our heads and let hostility and spite guide us in directions we will probably later regret.  Anger may have a function, but anger rarely stays on course, instead it gives no quarter to anyone for any reason, and thus it has been the undoing of many a worthy endeavor.

Returning to the anecdote upon which I began this post, perhaps soon the disappointed female professor will find another woman in the department upon which to set precedent and and in so doing encourage others to participate and take a seat at the table.  Though my friend might be relatively unusual, she is far from the only woman not intimidated by being outnumbered and not especially uncomfortable in a boy’s club or a man’s world.  And, as I conclude, I have always been able to see far enough into the future to know that lasting gender, racial, and marriage equality is within our grasp, though its progress rarely presses forward at a fast enough clip for our or anyone’s satisfaction.  In the meantime, we continue to fight the good fight and advocate for that which we know we need.  I hope we always do.  

Zinn on Pressuring Obama and the Democrats

I originally posted this interview with Howard Zinn back in April 2009 following the then recent revelations of President Obama’s DOJ under Eric Holder betraying Obama’s campaign promises to instead embrace the Bush administrations claims for immunity and “states secrets” in the case of clear FISA violations and illegal wiretapping.

So much more has gone down since then, including his troop increases in Afghanistan, his expansion of drone strikes, his coddling and enriching of Wall Street investment bankers at your expense, and his effective sellout of the American people to the health insurance industry.

And Obama has turned his back on so many of his campaign pledges to make his administrations policy decisions so far essentially a direct extension of the policies of the the Bush/Cheney years, with most of the bigger points outlined in Paul Street’s recent article The Dawning Age of Obama as a Potentially Teach-able Moment for The Left that I thought that in light of Obama’s SOTU speech that this might be a good time time for revisiting what Zinn had to say in this interview.

I also suspect that Zinn would be honored to have us honor his ideas more than himself.

RIP Mr. Zinn. We’ll do our best.

In part three of what was a series of interviews, historian, political scientist, social critic, activist, author and playwright Professor Howard Zinn talks here with Real News CEO Paul Jay about why so many people seem to be convinced that Obama is anything more than what he appears to be given his actions and policies implemented since inauguration, and about how to create a mass popular movement to pressure Obama for progressive results in a supportive way, and concludes that social turmoil is not only not bad but necessary if it leads to something good in the sense of creating real change.

Real News Network – April 10, 2009

Send a message to Obama

Howard Zinn: Social turmoil is not bad if it leads to something good

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