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Free Rusty1776 & dharmasyd

Wise and kind souls:

I understand that I/P essays aren’t banned, but having to get them approved is almost as bad.  I’m sure Buhdy doesn’t want to be in the position of having to approve or reject essay content, and I don’t think any posters here like the idea of having to submit an essay for approval.

The Israel/Palestine crisis isn’t going to go away, it’s going to get worse, which is all the more reason why Docudharma should be providing multiple perspectives and views.  That can be done through essay commentary.

who deserve far better treatment…

Quotes from Jewish Voice for Peace letter asking that we take a stand


We ask you to heed the words of Elie Wiesel who said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”


   Sign our open letter to the leaders of the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center- Foxman, Harris and Hier:

   You must speak out.

   Because they have the ear of Israeli leaders, speaking out against Israel’s anti-democratic actions can make a difference.

You can find the letter at the Jewish Voice for Peace website if you care to look.  

than they have received.

Obama dines with the Getty’s as Gulf dies

President Obama is scheduled to make a visit to the Gulf on Friday.  First things first though:

Scoop du jour: Forget politics. What inquiring, food-centric minds really want to know is, exactly what did President Barack Obama dine upon Tuesday night at the home of philanthropists Ann and Gordon Getty, where Sen. Barbara Boxer held a $17,600-a-plate dinner in support of her re-election campaign?

Who is Gordon Getty? Oh, nobody in particular:

[T]he fourth child of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty…. When his father died in 1976, Gordon assumed control of Getty’s US$2 billion trust. According to the Forbes 400, as of September 2008 his net worth is $2.5 billion, making him number 163 on the list of the richest Americans.

Of course, I’m sure there’s absolutely no connection whatsoever with the crisis in the Gulf and the timing of Obama’s fundraising dinner with a rich oil magnate.

Besides, the meal sounds positively scrumptious!

With gourmet Getty chef Jennifer Johnson at the stoves, you can be sure the 100 or so supporters who were expected got their money’s worth.

So Tuesday night, the plan was passed hors d’oeuvres, including quail egg with caviar and salmon ceviche with jicama and avocado on a tortilla chip.

Johnson’s first course featured a spring onion-asparagus tartlet with Meyer lemon vinaigrette-dressed frisee salad.

A main course of braised Kobe beef short ribs with potato puree and a salsa verde-topped spring vegetable ragout was followed by buckwheat crepes with roasted cherries and almond ice cream.

Rumor has it the quail eggs appetizer was a last minute substitute, because good Gulf shrimp is just too hard to find nowadays.  

Life on Planet Obama

On Planet Obama, the White House responds to the hemorrhaging of millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico by ordering 1200 National Guard troops to the Arizona desert.

On Planet Obama, the EPA, citing the emergency in the Gulf, approves without delay or debate the unprecedented use of massive quantities of highly toxic chemical dispersant Corexit.

On Planet Obama, the EPA fails to approve for more than a month Louisiana’s request to build sand berms to protect the state’s fragile coastline from the impending inundation of crude oil.

On Planet Obama, the reason the EPA gives for failing to approve the protective berms is that it wants more time to study their environmental impact.

On Planet Obama, the EPA can’t rescind approval of Corexit because BP won’t let it.

On Planet Obama, the US Coast Guard takes its sailing orders from BP.

On Planet Obama, the White House declares a moratorium on new offshore drilling permits but continues to issue permits anyway.

On Planet Obama, the EPA denies that fumes from crude oil slicks are harmful.

On Planet Obama, BP hires 40 vessels for spill mitigation work and keeps them in port while the slick coats the shoreline around the boats.

On Planet Obama, BP can order journalists away from beaches where the oil has come ashore.

On Planet Obama, the Federal government  

Smells like Tasman Spirit

On July 27, 2003, the oil tanker Tasman Spirit ran aground at the entrance to the port city of Karachi.  Laden with sweet crude, the vessel lay beached for two weeks before eventually breaking up and spilling 35,000 tons (10,780,000 gallons) of her cargo into the bay, from which an estimated 11,000 metric tons of toxic gasses known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) evaporated into the air.

Fumes from the volatile organic compounds and mist containing hydrocarbons, accompanied by a strong smell, dispersed into the residential area, the researchers and others said. Local hospitals reported many cases of headaches, nausea and dizziness and seventeen schools in the vicinity were closed for about a week. Local media showed pictures of piles of dead fish and turtles on the oiled beach.

The tragic incident so close to a large city provided a chance to test the effects of oil spill VOCs on densely populated areas. Immediately following the spill, researchers began to study the health impact of the noxious fumes on the city’s approximately 700,000 affected residents.  

‘Gag-inducing’ fuel smell wafting over New Orleans (updated)

New Orleans residents are understandably annoyed over their city being enveloped by the smell of fuel. Mandie Landry, an attorney who works in the city’s Central Business District, told Yahoo! News that “it smells like it’d smell if a bus was in front of you blowing out exhaust fumes right in your face.”

Another local resident, Tulane University employee Laura Mogg, told us that she caught wind of the “terrible” and “gag-inducing” smell from her office building on the school’s sprawling uptown campus. “I smelled it the second I opened the door,” she said. “Really, it’s that strong.”

How many weeks/months will people in Louisiana and other states be forced to breathe these poisonous fumes as wave upon wave of toxic sludge hits their shores?  

What kinds short and long term health problems can these millions of people expect as a result?

We have yet to even remotely grasp the ecological, human and economic damage this disaster will cause.  Indeed, the more I read the more I fear that when the final butcher’s bill is taken, Deepwater Horizon could very well rival Chernobyl on the all time list of man-made disasters.  

And the most horrible part of all?  Nobody can do a damn thing to stop it.  

President Placeholder?

Following up on Michael Gass’ One Term President.



How temporary must a Chief Executive feel when he doesn’t even want to replace the last guy’s office furnishings?

President Obama has not, as yet, changed the Oval Office dramatically. Three subtle changes are the addition of a hand-carved wooden sculpture obtained by him on a 2006 trip to his ancestral home of Kenya. The figurine shows an egg placed gently into a human hand, symbolizing the fragility of power [1]. He has also replaced the Laura Bush-inspired floral decorations with a bowl of wax apples and has replaced the decorative plates on the oval office bookshelves with books. It has been confirmed that some changes will happen to the Oval Office decor; during a meeting with military officials during the first week of the Presidency, Obama surveyed his new environs with a critical eye. “He looked around,” said one of his guests, retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, “and said, ‘I’ve got to do something about these plates. I’m not really a plates kind of guy.’

He also added a bust of MLK.

There may be no better metaphor for Obama’s Presidency so far.

His ‘big’ changes from the Bush era are:

– getting rid of Bush’s tacky plates.

– replacing live flowers with phony fruit.

– adding a bust of the man whose peace loving philosophies he internationally repudiated and another statue that reminds him of his own insecurity.

And that’s all.

A Champion for Change? The guy won’t even order new curtains.

It’s not as if there’s some Presidential decorating convention that says Obama can’t make significant renovations to the Oval Office decor.

Quite the opposite in fact.  

Of all the sitting Presidents since the oval office was rebuilt in 1934, only Eisenhower and Carter did NOT change the decor to suit their own personal styles.

Clinton (“Candy Striper”)

Bush I (“Colonel Kurtz” aka “George of the Jungle”)

Reagan (“Iran-Cointreau”)

Ford/Carter (“Unpardonable”)

Nixon (“Sound Studio”)

LBJ (“Easy Green”)

Kennedy (“Red Menace”)

Truman/Ike (“Fallout”)

FDR (“The Toy Room”)

I don’t know if he wants another term or not, but judging from his studied lack of interest in making the Oval Office his own, the President may very well be anticipating NOT taking a second lap.

After all, there’s no great reason for Obama to invest emotional capitol in creating his own personal White House legacy if he already knows he’s one termer.

Far easier simply to borrow Dubya’s for the duration.

Breaking: Rahm Emanuel Resigns!


WASHINGTON — The White House has announced the resignation of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.  In a brief statement Thursday, Administration officials praised Emanuel for his service and said he was leaving for personal reasons.

The stunning move comes one day after President Obama both signed legislation aimed at reforming America’s health care system and also announced plans to open up large portions of the US coast to oil drilling exploration.

Emanuel, who could not be reached for comment, was a former Clinton Administration official and four term Congressman from Illinois before his appointment as Obama’s Chief of Staff in November 2009.  

A controversial figure with a reputation for bare knuckle politics and salty language, the centrist Democrat repeatedly clashed with more liberal members of his party over the direction of Administration policy.

An unconfirmed report by an anonymous White House official states that Obama and Emanuel became engaged in a heated discussion after Wednesday’s press conference, with the President expressing particular disappointment that his vaunted health care initiative has not been better received by the public.

(x-post: Big O)

President Romney

Mr. President, if I had wanted to see the corporate-friendly policies of Mitt Romney enacted, I would have voted for the guy.

“When you actually look at the bill itself, it incorporates all sorts of Republican ideas. I mean a lot of commentators have said this is sort of similar to the bill that Mitt Romney, the Republican Governor and now presidential candidate, passed in Massachusetts.

   “A lot of the ideas in terms of the exchange, just being able to pool and improve the purchasing power of individuals in the insurance market, that originated from the Heritage Foundation…”

And judging from the tepid polling (PDF) response the new HIR law has received, it appears I’m not alone.

16. Which of the following statements best describes your views about the health care bill that Congress passed this week: (ROTATE) Mar. 25-28 2010

15% You approve of the bill becoming law and have no reservations about it

27% You approve of the bill becoming law but you think it did not go far enough

31% You disapprove of the bill becoming law but you support a few of its proposals

25% You disapprove of the bill becoming law and oppose all of its proposals

  1% No opinion

A lot of rationalizing tealeaf reading over at Big O right now about what these less than stellar polling results actually mean.  After all, when your party finally manages to pass health care legislation after decades of futility, you would hope that considerably more than a measly 15% of the public would be wholeheartedly cheering your historic achievement.

mcjoan cites the 27% ‘did not go far enough’ number to argue that Dems need to start making fixes to the bill if they want to close the ‘intensity gap’.

One way that Dems could keep closing that intensity gap among voters would be to try to deliver more. They could keep taking on the insurance companies, on providing coverage to sick kids, on the anti-trust exemption, etc.–the elements even Republicans had a hard time arguing against.

mcjoan’s basically right of course; those changes would probably have some marginally positive effect on the Dem base’s enthusiasm. (She might have also mentioned that the easiest way to move the HIR poll numbers in a positive direction would be to turf the mandate, but unfortunately over at GOS that’s still considered crazytalk).

Yet whatever added Dem enthusiasm might be generated by tweaks to HIR before November (don’t get your hopes up), these fixes can’t possibly make up for the wet blanket President Obama throws over his base every time he brags about how Republicans wrote his healthcare plan

But at its core, if you look at the basic proposal that we’ve put forward: it has an exchange so that businesses and the self-employed can buy into a pool and can get bargaining power the same way big companies do; the insurance reforms that I’ve already discussed, making sure that there’s choice and competition for those who don’t have health insurance. The component parts of this thing are pretty similar to what Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Tom Daschle proposed at the beginning of this debate last year.

The President must be quite impressed with his own powers of persuasion if he thinks he can convince his base between now and November that Bob Dole, Howard Baker and Mitt Romney are actually liberal Democratic icons.

Somehow, though, I doubt anything short of free Viagra will get too many on the left very excited about voting for Democrats who continually crow about passing Republican healthcare plans.  

State AGs sue over Federal Mandate

No one could have ever predicted

Minutes after health-care legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama yesterday, Virginia made good on its promise to sue the federal government over it, joining at least 13 other states that are legally challenging the health-system overhaul.

Virginia is challenging the constitutionality of the new law, primarily based on the argument that the “commerce clause” of the U.S. Constitution cannot be used by Congress to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“It has never been held that the ‘commerce clause,’ even when aided by the ‘necessary and proper clause,’ can be used to require citizens to buy goods and services,”
Cuccinelli asserts in the seven-page complaint.

The federal law is unconstitutional because “the individual mandate exceeds the enumerated powers conferred upon Congress,” the complaint states.

Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution to regulate Interstate Commerce, that is, Commerce between and among the individual states. However, the AGs argue that Commerce Clause does not extend that Congressional authority to health insurance transactions that occur solely within a single state (intrastate), and so an Act authorizing a Federal mandate which forces individuals residing in those states to buy private health insurance within that state is unconstitutional.

If the Federal Mandate is ruled unconstitutional, the question then becomes whether the Mandate is severable from the rest of the Act.  If the Mandate is found to be non-severable so that removal would change the fundamental nature of the Act itself, the President’s entire health care initiative could very well be struck down as unconstitutional.

Yet it’s not just Obamacare that is at issue in this case, the entire relationship of our Federal government to the states and citizenry is also at stake.

The complaint asserts that Virginia’s own recently enacted law — which prohibits residents from being required to purchase insurance or from being subject to fines for failure to do so — is valid over federal law. Idaho recently enacted a similar law, called the Idaho Healthcare Freedom Act, to prevent its residents from being compelled to purchase health insurance.

The ghost of Andrew Jackson just fell off his horse.  

Selling Snake Oil

Ezra Klein, BiT (Broderite-in-Training) does his best to comfort a single mother about her Health Care prospects.

A reader writes in:


I do not understand how this bill will affect my family and me. I am a self-employed single mother. I cannot afford health care for myself and my children. I made $38,000 last year and I expect to make less than $35,000 this year. What does this health care reform mean for me? Will I be able to get coverage for my children and myself in this first year?

Not in the first year, necessarily. But when the bill goes into effect in 2014, your situation will change dramatically. Using the Kaiser Family Foundation’s premium calculator and a slightly stylized version of your situation (the calculator is not terribly flexible), here’s what I can say:

First, you’ll be buying insurance on the exchanges. That means no discrimination based on preexisting conditions, insurers who are being watched and regulated, lots of choices, and the buying power that comes from being part of a large risk pool rather than being on your own.

More specifically, your income would make you eligible for substantial subsidies. About $11,571 worth, to be precise (this is keyed to a family of four, I should say). The cap on your premium payments as a percentage of your income would be 4.4 percent. You’d be paying about $1,540 a year.

So for the next four years, this single working mother of at least two will be stuck waiting for the privilege to pay an extra $1500 she doesn’t have (not including copays and deductibles) for a bare bones health insurance policy that won’t even cover her if she becomes pregnant again accidentally.  And the best part?  If she doesn’t pay her mandated tithe to a for-profit insurer, the IRS will fine her even more money she doesn’t have.

Quite a sell job Obama & Co. has created for itself, don’t you think?  

After all of the teabagging hoopla, the breathless media coverage, and the Presidential hopenotics that have intentionally raised outsized expectations about what Obamacare actually does, the Dems are now forced to defend this deeply flawed and regressive legislation for the next two election cycles before most of the alleged ‘benefits’ (such as they are) even begin to kick in.

So get used to four more years of pandering Ezra Klein posts chock full of platitudes about ‘choice’ and ‘buying power’ (neither of which actually exists under this legislation) and specious arguments that if we all just stay patient, keep Smoking the Hopium*, and vote for the Democrats, our Brave New Healthcare Order awaits.

That is, of course, assuming there are any Democrats left in four years.

*h/t TheMomCat

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