Saturday, August 25, 2012

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

I just finished reading "The Brethern" by John Grisham.  If you have read it you know that it's about one powerful man in government using the advantages of his position to manipulate the election and get his man elected president of the United States.   Can this really happen?   Well look what I found in Alter Net this morning.  If this doesn't scare you then nothing will.  

This is an interview by Amy Goodman.  She is interviewing Craig Unger, author of  Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove's Secret Kingdom of Power.  (The book will be out in September).

 Don't be fooled by Karl Rove's chubby innocent looking face.  (Doesn't he look like Porky Pig?)  Behind that deceiving smile is a very cunning mind determined to make the U.S. a Republican country and he will do whatever it takes to achieve his nefarious end; even if he has to resort to illegal activities.   Think that's hyperbole?  Then be sure to read the article.

The entire article is well worth reading, but I have tried to abbreviate it  knowing that not everybody has the time to read a long article.   I didn't remove much; just a few unnecessary words.  I found the article to be fascinating in a scary way.  Most of the stuff has been published before, but it's easy to forget and we sometimes need a refresher course.


Look Who's Covertly Controlling the GOP: Karl Rove, Scheming Election Theft and Raising a Fortune for Vicious Attack Ads

The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! interview with Craig Unger on Karl Rove's comeback. 
Our guest  Craig Unger, --  writes, "Undeniably, he’s back," (talking about Karl Rove). "He has re-invented himself. He is not merely Bush’s Brain; he’s the man who swallowed the Republican Party. As the maestro orchestrating the various super-pacs, he has inspired the wealthiest people on the right to pony up what could amount to $1 billion and has created an unelected position for himself of real enduring power
the 1980s. -- Rove  created political action committees, and he took an issue that seemed obscure at the time, known as tort reform.  -- he went to Philip Morris, who put him on his payroll, and to big pharmaceutical companies and so forth and said, "Look, you guys risk billions and billions of dollars in product liability. Give a few million to my candidates, and we will take over the Texas Supreme Court, we’ll take over the Texas legislature, we’ll put George W. Bush in as governor, and we will save you billions of dollars." And he did precisely that. And he flipped the Texas Supreme Court .  It became completely Republican. And he ended up with some very loyal campaign contributors,   that’s really the first phase.
The key moment then came in 2010, -- the Republican Party was in crisis, as it appears to be again today. -- in early 2010, there was an episode where Republican donors were being entertained at a lesbian bondage-themed strip club. -- And partly as a result of that and other things, big money people just refused to give anything to the Republican Party.
AMY GOODMAN: And this was a time when the Republican—when the RNC was broke.
CRAIG UNGER:  It was also just after a landmark Supreme Court decision, Citizens United. And this opened the gateways for people to give unlimited contributions to super PACs.   Karl Rove had a luncheon at his home and he came away with millions and millions of dollars, and this represented the birth of the super PAC of American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and so forth.
AMY GOODMAN:(Re: Ohio 2004)
CRAIG UNGER: Rove did a lot of things that were sort of under the radar and that I think have enduring consequences, and they represent real threats to democracy. One of them was the U.S. attorneys scandal, and I think it was widely misunderstood.  this became best known when eight United States attorneys were fired for not toeing the Republican Party line.  - the real question is not what happened in the unjust firing of those eight people; it’s what about the other U.S. attorneys who were appointed by the Bush administration and were toeing the party line? What were they doing?  -- they were prosecuting Democrats. --  in Alabama,  the case of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, who in early September, will face going to jail for eight years. And I think this is one of the most egregious, unjust acts we’ve seen from the Justice Department.       (Me:  Alberto Gonzales, Republican, was the Attorney General then.)
NERMEEN SHAIKH: --former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who was found guilty in a 2006 corruption case. Critics say Siegelman was the target of a political witch hunt, in part orchestrated by former Bush administration deputy Karl Rove. Democracy Now! spoke to Siegelman  about his case in early 2009. We asked if he believed Karl Rove was involved in his prosecution. Let’s just go to his response.
DON SIEGELMAN: I was brought to trial one month before the Democratic primary by Karl Rove’s best friend’s wife, who was the U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Alabama, on charges that the New York Times said have never been a crime in America. Grant Woods, who’s the Republican—was the Republican attorney general from Arizona, said that they couldn’t beat Siegelman fair and square, so they targeted him with this prosecution. We have sworn testimony from a Republican political operative, Jill Simpson, who said that she was on a conversation with my prosecutor’s husband, who said that he had talked to Karl Rove, and Rove had spoken to the Department of Justice, and everything was wired in for them to—for the Department of Justice to pursue me.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That’s former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman speaking to Democracy Now! in 2006. Siegelman is now appealing his prison sentence three weeks before he’s scheduled to report to federal prison to complete a more than six-year sentence.
CRAIG UNGER: -- it’s sort of standard operating procedure that sometimes campaign contributors get political appointments. And in Siegelman’s case, Siegelman personally got zero dollars. He appointed a contributor to a non-paying state-appointed position. And if he’s to go to jail—George W. Bush gave appointments to over a hundred campaign contributors and was not prosecuted on any one of those. - it really has been standard operating procedure. Hundreds of ambassadors throughout the years, in one administration after another, have been campaign contributors.
(What) happened—and this is really under Rove’s aegis—is selective prosecution. And I think there’s nothing more damaging democracy than when laws are applied only to one group. And as I began to research this, I saw that,  a mayor of Alabama was indicted or investigated, a mayor of Honolulu was investigated just before an election, mayor of Miami, mayor of San Francisco. And all in all, I found mayors of 12 major cities. There’s Cleveland; Detroit; Portland, Oregon; New Orleans; Chicago; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Memphis and Dallas. What do they all have in common? They are Democrats. They are governors and lieutenant governors from five states—Alabama, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey and Maryland—and on and on, over 200 politicians, and 85 percent of them are Democrats. And I think there’s no data suggests that the Democratic Party is seven times more corrupt than the Republicans.
AMY GOODMAN: But how do you tie this all to Karl Rove?
CRAIG UNGER: Well, there is the testimony, of a former Republican operative named Jill Simpson, and she testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Rove in GQ magazine said she didn’t dare mention his name.  I went back to the testimony. In fact, his name is in it at least 50 times, and it’s—and she explicitly makes it clear that he was involved. What happened with the Siegelman prosecution is a colleague of Rove’s named Bill Canary was sort of the Karl Rove out of Alabama. He was handling the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Republican senatorial candidates and so forth. And who was appointed U.S. attorney in Alabama but Canary’s wife. --When he was running a campaign, his wife would simply indict the Democratic opponent. And that’s exactly what happened.
AMY GOODMAN: So now let’s go back to Ohio, in fact, Ohio and SMARTech. This is the one chance you ever had to question Karl Rove about that.
CRAIG UNGER: And I met Karl Rove in Alabama, and I asked him. And he said, "SMARTech? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it."
Well, SMARTech is a high-tech company in Chattanooga. And what you see with Rove’s  is he manages to have things happen in his benefit, and there are no fingerprints. But I traced the ownership of SMARTech and its precursors, and the original company —its precursor, rather, was funded by two Republicans named Bill DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds. Mercer Reynolds was finance chairman of the Republican Party. In ’04, he raised about a quarter of a billion dollars for the Bush-Cheney campaign. And in the ’80s, they had bailed out George W. Bush in his oil ventures, DeWitt and Reynolds had. So they were very, very close to him.
And this company it had become very much a political operation. So, this was a highly, highly partisan Republican high-tech company. It hosted—its biggest clients included the Bush-Cheney campaign, it included Jeb Bush, it included the Republican National Committee. It streamed live the convention, the Republican convention.
And somehow or other, in 2004, in the state of Ohio, which was the single most crucial state in the electoral college, when it came to the actual voting, the secretary of state of Ohio, a guy named Ken Blackwell—and the secretary of state’s job is to ensure fair, nonpartisan elections—happened to be co-chair of the Bush campaign. Now, there’s no conflict there. And he gave a contract to host the fail oversight —rather, for the votes in 2004, to none other than SMARTech. And this is where things went a little crazy.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how was that allowed to happen?
CRAIG UNGER:  I think it is a huge conflict of interest on the face of it for the secretary of state of a party to be affiliated with one campaign or the other. And of  we saw it, in Florida in 2000 with Katherine Harris.
AMY GOODMAN: --2004, election night, tell us the story.
CRAIG UNGER:  Well, about at 11:14 p.m., things started to happen . And as the votes came in, it was clear it was going to be an all-nighter in terms of the results. And around 11:00, Florida was called for Bush, and that meant the entire fate of the election hinged on Ohio. So, suddenly the servers for the secretary of state’s computers were flooded with queries.
AMY GOODMAN: Ohio secretary of state.
CRAIG UNGER: Exactly. And they needed to lock into the fail oversight in Chattanooga with SMARTech. And this is where the results went a little crazy. And suddenly, an enormous number of irregular returns came in, and the votes shifted. The exit polls had shown Kerry winning Ohio, and therefore the election. And it looked like he had won the presidential election. I remember that day vividly because I was getting reports from the exit polls, and I went around telling people it looked like Kerry had won. But there was a 6.7 percent difference between the exit polls and the actual results. And as a result, the election ended up going to Bush. And that was the entire story.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: --you say about Rove is that a case can be made that for the last three decades he’s been putting a systematic attempt to game the American electoral system by whatever means necessary. What kind of vision does Karl Rove have for the Republican Party and for American politics?
CRAIG UNGER: I don’t think he’s an ideologue. I think he’s about winning. And he’s often been compared to a guy named Mark Hanna, who more than a century ago was the political mind behind President William McKinley. He was a senator from Ohio, but he was also a political operative who put McKinley in the White House and forged a realignment. There’s always been this talk of a permanent Republican majority that Rove is trying to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Republican.
He faces, and the Republican Party faces, an extraordinary challenge in the—with the Hispanic boom. There are now 50 million Hispanics in the United States. In 2020, at the current rate of growth, there will be 70 million. If they start to vote, they tend to lean heavily Democratic, and you will start to see states like Texas and Arizona flip from red to blue. And Rove is trying to stop that.  a campaign fighting voter fraud. —voter fraud is itself a fraud. And there have only been 10 documented cases of people voting under false names in the first decade of this century. --there are campaigns in more than 30 states to require voter IDs . This will inhibit voting from new immigrants, from minorities, from the elderly and so forth, who, again, lean heavily Democratic.
AMY GOODMAN: back to Ohio,  Michael Connell, who he was, and what his death meant?
CRAIG UNGER: -- he was known as Rove’s sort of cyber-guru, and he had a company called New Media that was—hosted all its work at SMARTech, —the company I mentioned earlier. -- again, a highly partisan Republican operative who gets involved in what are supposed to be nonpartisan activities. And there were a number of things going on there. What first struck my attention is he got contracts to host the House Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, a lot of government committees, which included emails and so forth of Democrats. And I thought back to Watergate, of course, when the Republicans broke in to get one file from the Watergate office. Here, they presumably had access to thousands and thousands of files for many, many years. Whether they used that or not, I don’t really know.
one of the things that’s very interesting is how evidence disappeared again and again and again in this case. And what you saw is that in all of these scandals—in the U.S. attorneys scandal and the Valerie Plame scandal—Rove’s emails were subpoenaed, and they were hosted at SMARTech. And, oops, millions of emails mysteriously disappeared. Now, these were supposedly under the—protected by the Presidential Preservation Records Act [Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act], and the destruction of government documents is a very, very serious crime. But every attempt to investigate turns up naught. And Mike Connell became increasingly an important witness in this case. He was subpoenaed once. There was a case investigating the 2004 election. He was supposed to testify again. And finally, before he could testify again, he died in a plane crash, in a solo private plane.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to ask you about Stephen Spoonamore,  a highly successful expert of the detection of computer fraud. In 2008, he named Mike Connell and his company, GovTech Solutions, as having played a crucial role in the electronic subversion of the vote in Ohio in 2004.-- 2008 interview Democracy Now! with  Mark Crispin Miller  shortly after Mike Connell died in a plane crash. -- Miller says Connell asked Spoonamore how one would go about destroying White House emails.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Stephen Spoonamore is a conservative Republican, a former McCain supporter and a very prominent expert at the detection of computer fraud. He’s the star witness in the Ohio lawsuit, right, in which Connell was involved. He has done extensive work of this kind, involving computer security, and had therefore worked with Connell, knew Connell personally and knew a lot of the people who were involved in the sort of cyber-security end of the Bush operation.
Despite his conservatism—or I suppose some would say because of it—he’s a man of principle—I mean, believes in the Constitution. He believes elections should be honest. He’s the one who came forward and named Connell.
And I have seen his notes of a conversation in which Connell asked Spoonamore how one would go about destroying White House emails. To this, Spoonamore said, "This conversation is over. You’re asking me to do something illegal." But clearly, clearly—this is the important point—Mike Connell was up past his eyeballs in the most sensitive and explosive aspects of this crime family that, you know, has been masquerading as a political party.
NERMEEN SHAIKH:Do you think Ohio 2004 was stolen, and do you think it’s possible that something like that could happen in the 2012 election?
CRAIG UNGER: -- there was no question there was massive fraud. If you want to actually count the votes, unfortunately it’s impossible because so much evidence was destroyed. And then that’s why Mike Connell was such an important witness, and his death meant that— I quoted—I talked to Mike Connell’s sister, who said either—there are only two possibilities, really, that Connell was murdered—and I don’t see any evidence of that—or that he was in an accident, in which case Karl Rove is the luckiest man alive.
Could this happen again? I think—you know, I think electronic voting is very, very dangerous, and it’s very easy to manipulate. But I also found evidence in Ohio of extraordinary kinds of fraud that could happen with punchcard ballots, as well, through very elaborate and byzantine means of—known as cross-voting. And I think a lot of people don’t realize, when you go into a voting booth and you see another voting booth nearby, if you voted the same way in the adjoining booth, in the wrong booth, or if your punchcard is counted by the different computer, it would register to a different vote.
AMY GOODMAN: I don’t understand.
CRAIG UNGER: , in Ohio, they have what is known as a rotation of ballot. -whoever’s at the top of the ballot has roughly a 2 percent advantage over the candidate below him. So, to compensate for that, they actually rotate the ballot sequence from one precinct to another, which makes a certain amount of sense. But the voter doesn’t know that.
AMY GOODMAN: So you might have Romney on top in one ballot, Obama on top on another ballot.
CRAIG UNGER: Exactly. So precinct one has Romney on top. If it’s counted by precinct two, however, the vote goes to the wrong person. And we saw a lot of that in Ohio. And the giveaway was in an African-American precinct, where there were third-party people on the ballot there, including a white supremacist—someone linked to a white supremacist party. And suddenly in this African-American precinct, this—and African Americans tend to be very, very disciplined Democratic voters. They’ve been 95 percent Democratic in the past. And suddenly, this man who is linked to a white supremacist got 40 percent of the vote. And you could see exactly what had happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Karl Rove barely escaped indictment and rose to be the biggest powerhouse, political powerhouse, in America today.
AMY GOODMAN:  another scandal involving Karl Rove, the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. The Bush administration outed her in retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson’s accusations that President Bush lied about Iraq’s alleged efforts to purchase uranium form Niger before the Iraq war. It was the whole deceit around weapons of mass destruction. Let’s begin by playing the famous comment of Joe Wilson in 2003.
JOSEPH WILSON: At the end of the day, it’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frogmarched out of the White House in handcuffs.
AMY GOODMAN:  what Karl Rove had to do about—with it and why he was almost indicted.
CRAIG UNGER: Joe Wilson was sent to check out allegations that the Republic of Niger had sold or was trying to sell yellowcake uranium to Saddam Hussein. This became part of the 16 words in President Bush’s State of the Union address that called for war against and launched the war against Iraq. And the allegations, of course, were not just false, but they were based on forged documents. And worse than that, the forged documents had been revealed as forgeries, I found at least 14 times, within the administration before Bush’s speech, but they still got in it, and the war went ahead with it.
Wilson wrote a very famous column, (Reveling the fraud), in retaliation, they outed his wife,wife, Valerie Plame,  this showed that they would stop at nothing to maintain their narrative. And this was potentially a crime, so this started the whole Valerie Plame investigation.
 Bush said he would fire anyone who was responsible for this leak. —Scooter Libby was later indicted and convicted—Rove played a very, very key role in this. And he did leak Valerie Plame’s name—rather, her identity, that she was a wife. At one point he said, "I didn’t say her name." Well, he said this is Joe — "Joe Wilson’s wife is a CIA agent. She set up everything." And he told that toTime magazine reporter Matt Cooper. So, and Rove went on to lie about it again and again.
what is important here, in some way, is the press’s complicity with this. What you see is, when Karl Rove is your source, you are beholden to him.  Bob Novak’s memoirs  first printed Valerie Plame’s name. And he says, rather tellingly, that "Karl Rove was my A-plus source for many, many years." "But when that happens, of course, you never write a critical word about him." And a lot of the press was like that.AMY GOODMAN: How did Rove escape indictment? I mean, Scooter Libby went down, Judith Miller.
CRAIG UNGER: Well, I think it was by a sheer stroke of luck. And there was a woman reporter at Time magazine named Viveca Novak—no relation to Bob Novak. And she would have drinks occasionally with Rove’s lawyer, Bob Luskin. And occasionally, they—during one conversation, Rove’s lawyer said, "Well, Karl is in danger from Matt Cooper at Time." And she let it slip that, yes, he was. And this was—so, suddenly, Rove was being called before the grand jury, I think a total of five times. He had said again and again that he had not leaked it to anyone. He said that he didn’t recall any conversation with Matt Cooper. This turned out to be a lie, frankly. He had told this to Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary. He had told it to President Bush. This had been his story again and again. And he was finally caught in a lie, and now his attorney realized it. So Rove willingly asked to go back to the grand jury and correct the information. And on that basis alone, I believe he escaped a perjury indictment.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Rove’s relationship to the judiciary. You say that no other political strategist in history has ever been so deeply indebted to the U.S. Supreme Court, and you talk about a couple of key decisions that went along with what Rove was lobbying for.
CRAIG UNGER:  there are two United States Supreme Court decisions that are among the two most controversial in history. And one, of course, is in 2000, Bush v. Gore, and the Supreme Court, by a five-to-four margin, effectively appointed Rove’s candidate president of the United States. And again in 2010, also by a five-to-four majority, the Citizens United decision opened the gateway for the super PACs and for the billion dollars Rove controls today.
And Rove has always --In Texas in—back in the '80s, he started taking over the Texas Supreme Court, and he flipped it from heavily Democratic to heavily Republican. He did the same in Alabama. A lot of people don't realize he had a real power base in Alabama. And he played a key role in the appointment of U.S. attorneys. And it’s also—one of his clients was John Ashcroft of Missouri, and Rove made—got him appointed attorney general of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: And he was one of the names being mentioned if Akin were to pull out.
AMY GOODMAN:What do you think it’s most important to understand about this man who has now become perhaps the most powerful political operative in America?
CRAIG UNGER: the enduring aspect of the changes. --Siegelman is just one example out of dozens and dozens. You have  real threats to democracy that have a lasting power, and with things like the voter suppression drive,  these issues are real threats to democracy.
Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are the Machiavellis  of our time.  Or perhaps they can be compared to Rasputin.  It's  terrifying to realize how one man can change the course of history.  These devious men know  how easily the public can be influenced.  This is especially true in hard economic times. - just look at Nazi Germany.  
Will we become like ancient Greece and other countries that once had a democratic form of government but failed to keep it?  Right now we are slipping into a Plutocracy.  Thanks to an active right wing Supreme Court and "Citizen's United" this is entirely possible.  There is a lot more at stake than a single election, but this is one we must win to help stop the Oligarchs from taking over.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Geroge Carlin and the Romney/Ryan Lies On Medicare

Use "Cntr and plus" sign to enlarge
How I miss this irreverent comedian.  There was no one like George Carlin to get to the heart of the matter in plain, and sometimes offensive shocking, language.  

I wish George were alive to take on the lies being told by the two R's about Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.  I'm sure he would have something pithy to say about that.   

Since he is no longer among us I will have to copy from another source to straighten the record out.  An editorial published in the NYT a few days ago contained the following statements.   For the full editorial click on the link. 
NYT Editorial

Republican attacks on President Obama’s plans for Medicare are growing more heated and inaccurate by the day. Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan made statements last week implying that the Affordable Care Act would eviscerate Medicare when in fact the law should shore up the program’s finances.
 Last week, both insisted that they would save Medicare by pumping a huge amount of money into the program, a bizarre turnaround for supposed fiscal conservatives out to rein in federal spending. 
 THE ALLEGED “RAID ON MEDICARE” A Republican attack ad says that the reform law has “cut” $716 billion from Medicare, with the money used to expand coverage to low-
income people who are currently uninsured. 
 the budget resolutions crafted by Paul Ryan  retained virtually the same cut in Medicare.
the $716 billion is not a “cut” in benefits but rather the savings in costs that the Congressional Budget Office projects over the next decade from wholly reasonable provisions in the reform law.
 money will be saved by reducing unjustifiably high subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans that enroll many beneficiaries at a higher average cost than traditional Medicare. Another will come from reducing the annual increases in federal reimbursements to health care providers — like hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies — to force the notoriously inefficient system to find ways to improve productivity.
And a further chunk will come from fees or taxes imposed on drug makers, device makers and insurers — fees that they can surely afford since expanded coverage for the uninsured will increase their markets and their revenues. 

NO HARM TO SENIORS The Republicans imply that the $716 billion in cuts will harm older Americans, but almost none of the savings come from reducing the benefits available for people already on Medicare. But if Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan were able to repeal the reform law, as they have pledged to do, that would drive up costs for many seniors — namely those with high prescription drug costs, who are already receiving subsidies under the reform law, and those who are receiving preventive services, like colonoscopies, mammograms and immunizations, with no cost sharing.
Mr. Romney argued that the $716 billion in cuts will harm beneficiaries --
If he thinks that will be a major problem, Mr. Romney should leave the reform law in place: it has many provisions designed to make the delivery of health care more efficient and cheaper, 
NO BANKRUPTCY LOOMING The Republicans also argue that the reform law will weaken Medicare and that by preventing the cuts and ultimately turning to vouchers they will enhance the program’s solvency. But Medicare is not in danger of going “bankrupt”; the issue is whether the trust fund that pays hospital bills will run out of money in 2024, as now projected, and require the program to live on the annual payroll tax revenues it receives.
The Affordable Care Act helped push back the insolvency date by eight years, so repealing the act would actually bring the trust fund closer to insolvency, perhaps in 2016. 
 The Congressional Budget Office concluded that repealing the law would raise the deficit by $109 billion over 10 years. 

THE DANGER IN MEDICARE VOUCHERS The reform law would help working-age people on modest incomes buy private policies with government subsidies on new insurance exchanges, starting in 2014. Federal oversight will ensure a reasonably comprehensive benefit package, and competition among the insurers could help keep costs down.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan would allow beneficiaries to use vouchers to buy a version of traditional Medicare instead of a private plan,  it would be wise to see how well premium support worked in the new exchanges.

The reform law is starting pilot programs to test ways to reduce Medicare costs without cutting benefits.
It is much less likely that the Republicans, who have long wanted to privatize Medicare, can achieve these goals.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Conservative Beliefs

I read lots of op-ed pieces and usually read the comments.  I have noticed recurring themes among the remarks of the Conservative  posts and I decided to try to dissect them.   I find that most of them use the same words and are just repeats of the statements they have heard on Fox TV and from liars like Rush Limbaugh.  

I will list the ones that I see most frequently and see if I can properly analyze them.
  • Obama is a Socialist -  This is ludicrous.  Obama has been such a Centrist that he has dismayed his progressive followers.  
  • Spending on all those safety net programs for the poor is bankrupting the country.  - Actually, all of the safety net programs combined such as head start, food stamps, unemployment compensation, etc. total only 12% of the budget.   If you eliminate all of them it will reduce the deficit very little.   
If you eliminate the safety net programs (like Paul Ryan and presumably Mittens Romney) would like to do, you have to look ahead at the consequences of such action.  The poor (usually through no fault of their own) would then have to resort to other means to survive.   The crime wave would obviously go up requiring more government spending.  More people would be forced to live on the streets.  Our reputation as a country would further plummet.   Do we really want our poor to be scavenging in city dumps?   Or poor children going to bed hungry? 

By the way, the one glutton of  government spending is the Industrial/ Military complex.  Most of you know that Eisenhower warned us.   24% of government spending goes to Defense.  Maybe it's time to stop buying those obscenely costly toys that don't work close those bases in Germany and Japan, etc.  The Cold War ended a long time ago.  And please, no more futile un-winnable wars.

If the Ryan budget cuts in education are enacted we would end up by further downgrading our country's progress.  Our graduates could not compete with those of other countries.   Only 3% of the Federal Budget is spent on eduction and we are already behind other countries. Compared to 34 countries we rank 14th in reading, 17th in science, and  shameful 25th in math.  It should not take an Einstein to see the looming disaster for our country if we continue this downward spiral by failing to fully fund a good school system.   The conservative answer to that has always been 'privatize the schools'   With a few exceptions it turns out that isn't working too well, either.  Privatization results in more money for the corporations and less funding per pupil and the results are no better than our public schools.  (Some are even worse because there is no oversight.)
  •  The wealthy shouldn't have to pay any more in taxes.  It's their money and they earned it.  -  Ah yes, the Ayn Rand worshipers.  You did know that Paul Ryan has based his financial beliefs on "Atlas Shrugged", "The Fountainhead" and the other Rand books didn't you?  Ayn is his goddess  - the woman who hated Social Security and Medicare until she started collecting it.   
 Lets look at the belief that the wealthy earned their money all by themselves.   The conservatives had a field day with Obama's statement that no business was developed alone.  Obama was right, of course.   Most businesses started with a government loan.  (Including Bain Capital).   Without good infrastructure industry could not move it's goods.  Without a good labor force, one man would be unable to start and run a business.  Without a government provided education (Romney excepted) how could the business man have the know-how to become successful?  And on and on.
  •  Government is the problem (thank you, R. Regan for that really inaccurate and misleading statement).  -  Again, this is patently nonsense.  Without government we would have anarchy.  Without government we would have no courts, no transportation, no safe water to drink or safe food to eat, etc., etc.  Of course what he and the wealthy elite really mean by this is that they only want government money to be spent on their priorities and forget the rest of us.   They have no problem taking government loans or other government subsidiess that aid their interests.
  • Obamacare must be repealed.   I won't go into the many reasons why repealing it would be a disaster.  The problem I have with the conservative view is that the alternative is so much worse that it makes me furious when I read or hear such statements and I cannot coherently  talk or write about it.   The next statement is part of why I get so angry.
  • We need to privatize (Pick a program).   And how has that worked for everyone except Wall Street?   Look at our dysfunctional health care system where we spend more than any other country and get poorer results due to privatization.  The bloated pharmaceutical and health insurance industries have steadily increased the cost of health care until the government and it's citizens can no longer afford it.  Our current system is costing the government 22% of our budget and thousands are uninsured.

The reason for the high cost and poor results is twofold.   A private (for profit) system is in business for one reason only and that's to make money.  So when you privatize everything (think how much it will cost to mail a letter if they privatize the postal service) it is logical that it has to cost more  with poorer results.   After all, the stockholders must be kept happy.

The second way that our health care system is so bad is that it's a fractured one with different standards and care from one state and insurance company to another.  There is no consistency in the system.   This holds true for any private service. 

Our health care, highways, postal service, education system, communication are things that government can, and should, supply with less cost and better service.
  • The Rich are job creators.  This one really sucks.   Yes, they create jobs in India, Indonesia, China, etc.   They only time they create jobs here is when there is a demand.  This is the simple fact behind the stimulus.  Without customers consumers the big corporations are investing their money instead of expanding and how does this create a single job?   Since the big Corporations have more money now than they have ever had, where are the jobs?
  • Government oversight, regulations and rules stifle business -  While I imagine there are some regulations that might be unnecessary the bulk of them are for the protection of the public.   We  don't have to look very far to see the results of the Clinton administration repealing the Glass/Steagall act.  If it had not been repealed the banks could not have gotten us in the financial mess our country is in.  Corporations must not be allowed to run roughshod over the 99% the way they did in the 1920's.  (A Republican administration then, too.)
If there is a conservative reading this I would like his/her answers to why, in spite of history, they still believe in the economic policies of  the Republican administrations that have gone before?  None have had a balanced budget. Even Ronald Reagan had to raise taxes in spite of his Irish blather that he would not do so.

It really boggles my mind when I wonder why the average Republican can't see what works and what doesn't by learning from from the past.   Why they continue to repeat the same ideological economic ideas  in spite of the evidence that their policies have repeatedly failed is puzzling.  They keep on using the same tactics and hope for different results.  

And why the average Republicans always vote against their own best interest is a mystery.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Veep? Please say no.

Well, Romney just announced it.  Paul Ryan, the Tea Party darling, is Mittens choice for Veep.  The Ryan budget is so unfair and so tilted toward the rich and powerful that even the most inattentive voter should be able to see the disaster to our country if he attains the  power to enact it.

(For you who read this post earlier:  You will notice that I deleted a paragraph.  I apologize and realized that I had made a big mistake.  I suddenly remembered that it was Issa that used McCarthey tactics and not Ryan.  Mea Culpa.)

So here we are folks.  Finally the Republican party has gone completely bonkers and half of the public don't even realize it.  God help us.
An update:  First, thanks to all of you who were kind enough to show concern and notify me that I had been hacked.  I even got a call from and old and dear friend from Wisconsin and one from my sister.  I really know how to create excitement.  From men in black to hidden men in Bangladesh.  Life is never dull at my house.

 I tried to change my e-mail address on both Yahoo and Gmail yesterday after the debacle of my careless click of the mouse resulting in the phishing letter most of you received.   While I was able to get a new account, Yahoo only accepted it as a security back-up and I assume Google did the same and neither account is activated.   You may continue to use my e-mail address; at least until I have another problem.

I did change my passwords and that seems to be all that is necessary.  I do hope that is the case.

I wonder what trouble I can get into today.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Men In Black


I am 87 years old.
I live alone.
I sleep alone.
My doors are locked.
I have a medical alarm button on a cord around my neck.
I read in bed.
I have a cochlear implant and remove it when I sleep, leaving me profoundly deaf.

Keep these background facts in your mind as you read about my middle-of-the -night adventure. 

 Several weeks ago I was deep in the arms of Morpheus having wonderful dreams.  Or so I assume, because I can’t remember them.  It was a very hot night and I didn’t even have a sheet covering me.  My short nightie was probably not covering much either.   (No one sees me so comfort comes before modesty.)  I had fallen asleep reading a hard cover book and the bedside light was still on.

I was awakened by someone shaking my ankle.  It’s truly amazing how rapidly the thoughts flash through your mind
at a time like that.  It's like a fast forward movie .  In a matter of one second I thought ‘This is not a dream, someone is really shaking your ankle and you are alone.  It can’t be.  Maybe Gail and Mark returned.’

By the time those rapid thoughts sped through my semi-conscious mind my eyes opened I saw a man in black smiling at me.  My vision further cleared to see 3 more young men in black standing behind him at the foot of my bed.  I said, “Oh my God.”  as I quickly
sat up

The man who had been responsible for my waking  said something and I pointed to my ear and said I can’t hear.   I asked him if I had inadvertently pressed my medical alarm button.  He said (I read his lips) “I don’t know.”  I said "let me get my CI processor" and he shook his head, motioned for me to go back to sleep.  One young man made the circle with his fingers letting me know that everything was all right and they turned in unison and marched out the door. 

By this time I was fully aware that I had had  a middle of the night visit from four very handsome young paramedics.  I think I probably pressed the medical alarm button with the corner of the book while sleeping.   When that happens a voice at the other end asks if you need help.   Without my CI processor attached to my head I was unable to hear that.   The person then calls the number of a neighbor to check on you.   My neighbor was not happy to be wakened at 1:30 in the morning and told them she no longer had my key or the combination ot my lock box.  (That's another story for another time.)  When all else fails, the medical alert operator calls 911.

I never had time to be frightened or embarrassed until after they left.  Then I became aware of my dishabille and it makes me hope they never have to return to my house again.     It would be hard to see them and guess what they must be thinking after viewing my sleeping body.  (Not a pretty sight.)  Needless to say, I did not go back to bed after they left.  

I have quite a record of getting handsome young firemen to come to my house.

The first time I had the medics at my bedside was when I slipped and fell getting in bed.  I had a nightgown on.  I had two broken ribs that time.  The ambulance ride was not fun when they hit a bump.

The second time I had the paramedics at my house I was in a long nightgown and robe; suitably attired for a visitor.  I had been having severe abdominal pains.  The EM’s (handsome kids) gave me an EKG and they were sure I was having a heart attack.  My neighbors were there and they all convinced me I should be transported to the emergency room.  (No heart attack, but it had been caused by gallstones that were later diagnosed by a different ER team)

The third time I had a visit from the EM’s was when I broke my hip.  Again, I had gotten ready for bed prior to falling and was in a nightgown and robe.

The fourth time I had the men in black at my house was when I fell going in my front door.  They only had to transport me to a chair that time.  And, 
for a change, I was fully dressed.
The fifth time was not a medical emergency, but was extremely embarrassing.  I was replacing the door knob to my bathroom and when I took the last screw out both knobs fell off and the inner working was in a locked position.  I tried mightily to remove it, but I am not handy with repairs and had to call for help again.  I was in the one room in the house where I could not reach the telephone so I had to press my panic button.   My trusty young firemen came to the rescue again.

There were two other times that I had my heroes to my rescue.  Once when my scooter tipped over in the middle of the street on a very hot day and again when I fell taking out my trash.

I wonder what kind of reputation I have at the firehouse.  I can just hear them groaning when they get my address for another visit to me.  I am sure they are wondering what that clumsy old hen has done this time.  I do know what my reputation is in the neighborhood.   'Darlene will go to any lengths to get handsome young men to come see her and is usually in sleeping attire.' 

I am quite masterful and ingenious at finding ways to get attention and create excitement.   At least, it must appear to be that way.    Oy Vey!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Second Amendment

You can't open a blog, newspaper or magazine without reading about the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.  I had decided that there was more then enough coverage without any input from me.  I did not intend to write about it until I decided to read up on the Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment.  

I remembered that many years ago I read an article written by a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on the subject.  He was retired and, therefore, free to speak out.  His theory impressed me because my thinking was along the same lines.  (I have tried in vain to find out which Justice wrote the article.  I thought it was Justice Thurgood Marshall, but was unable to find conformation of that.)

The Justice had come to the conclusion that the Second Amendment was written at a time when the country did not have a standing army and a 'well regulated militia' was needed should we be invaded.  Thus, it made citizen soldiers of every able bodied man in times of crisis.  (It further kept the cost of providing for an army by making the  citizens buy their own muskets.   My theory)   The Justice came to the conclusion that the operative part of the amendment is the one ignored by the NRA, "A well regulated militia."  Because the National Guard is the equivalent of the militia now, they are the ones protected by the Second Amendment.   It does not mean that every Dick or Jane can own as many weapons as they can afford.

The founding fathers could not have foreseen the  terrible weapons of today and would probably be horrified to know the carnage carried out now and made possible by the amendment.

Be that as it may, the Supreme Court has, in several decisions, decided that the amendment guarantying the right to bear arms is settled law.   The Courts have taken the position that the first words must be taken literally.  

While I revere our Constitution I believe that the "right to bear arms" does not guarantee that they can't be controlled.  And most legal scholars agree with me on that point.  The first amendment guarantying freedom of speech does not give an individual the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater.

The NRA have successfully perverted the right to bear arms to mean that anybody can be armed with the most dangerous weapons and with as many as they wish to buy, with as few checks as possible.

The NRA doesn't give crap about the individual's right.  It's all about making the weapon manufacturers happy and drumming up as much business as possible for them.   When will the public say "Enough killing" and demand that the ban on automatic guns be reinstated?

This is another glaring example of the way Democracy is being distorted and weakened.   It makes me angry and sad. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I am sick of the Republican lies and distortion about ACA (Affordable Care Act) so I went to an article on Alter Net that explains what ACA will do. You may want to bookmark this page if you need to refer back to the facts as stated in the editorial.  Every time someone makes a false claim you will be able to disprove it.

Ironically, Fox talking heads and the Republicans (including the wanna-be-president Romney) have done a very good job of misinforming the public about the act, as poll after poll shows.  But when those same people who are against the act are asked about the provisions in it they are all for them.  How stupid is that?   
Most people do not have a clue as to what is in the act so I decided to clarify some of the misinformation being spread around like manure.

(You may have to type it in your browser if you want to read the entire article.  The link doesn't seem to work.  Or go to Alter Net for a copy.)
I have edited it and have left in the salient facts.  
So here, in no particular order, are 10 things you may not know about the Affordable Care Act.
1.The law will look a lot less tyrannical when people start getting checks in the mail to help pay for their insurance.
Folks making up to four times the federal poverty line will be eligible for subsidies. In 2012, that would mean a family of four making up to $92,200 (it's a bit higher in Alaska) would see some cash.
Those who don't pay enough in federal income taxes will get a check in the mail from the IRS.
2. The Richest Americans Are Going to Pay More Taxes
Wealthy investors are outraged, but most people probably don't know that a 3.8% surcharge on investment income – dividends and capital gains -- kicks in this January for everyone with an adjusted gross income of over $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers).
3. Insurers' Overhead – and Profit Margins -- Are Limited
For the past 18 months or so, insurers have been required to spend 85 percent of the premiums they collect on healthcare (80 percent for individual and small-group plans). If they spend less than that, they have to send their customers a rebate to cover the difference.

4. Much Ado About the Mandate
most people probably don't know just how modest the impact of the mandate really is. According to the Congressional Budget Office, just 1 percent of the population will pay the penalty, which maxes out at 1 percent of one's income.
'In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.'" They can only dock future tax refunds.
5. The Employer Mandate
Starting in 2014, companies with 50 or more full-time workers (two part-timers count as one full-timer for this purpose) will have to pay penalties if they don't cover their employees' health insurance.  A majority of Americans – and a third of Democrats – think the healthcare law will increase the deficit. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, the law will reduce the projected deficit by $210 billion over the next decade.
7. Beginning in 2014, insurers won't be able to charge women higher premiums than men.
Also coming in 2014: a ban on insurers placing annual limits on healthcare (lifetime coverage limits were already banned in 2010).
The Kaiser poll found that few people were aware of another popular new insurance regulation: since 2010, insurance companies can no longer charge co-pays or hold you to a deductible for preventive health services.
The healthcare law also allocates $11 billion over a five-year period to build new CHCs and upgrade existing infrastructure. Most of the dollars will end up in poorer communities.
A lot of under served people live in rural America, and the law also provides money to train and place 16,000 primary caregivers in rural communities over a five-year period.
9. Essential Benefits
Starting in 2014, in order for insurers to sell coverage through state-based exchanges – a place where a lot of the newly insured will likely end up – they will be required to cover a package of “essential benefits,” including maternity care, mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment, pediatric care, ambulance rides and hospitalization.
They don't have to if they don't want to participate in the exchanges, yet this measure is, according to many, at the heart of the supposed “government takeover” of our healthcare system.
10. It's Not So Easy to Repeal
Unless the Republicans were to win both the White House and a huge number of senate seats, they “can do little more than weaken Obamacare’s regulations and defund some of its provisions.” They also have nothing to replace it with, and would own our screwed up healthcare system for a generation. And they'd lose an issue that fires up the conservative base. They will, however, do their best to gum up the works as the law is implemented. 
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.
© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
VAndiew this story online at:
Republican politicians across the country claim that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the widely popular program which makes health insurance available for lower-income Americans, will increase costs for states. Ten Republican governors have pledged not to accept the Medicaid expansion funds and 22 other governors are considering turning down the money.
Directly disproving Republican claims, an extensive study reveals that the Affordable Care Act significantly benefits states by reducing their uncompensated care costs. In the months preceding the passage of the ACA, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors released a report on the impact of the bill on state budgets. Though the bill hadn’t yet passed when the report was written, the Council studied the Medicaid expansion which has since become law. The Council looked at the uncompensated care spending of 16 states demographically and geographically representative of the country (AR, CA, FL, ID, IN, IA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NE, NC, OR, PA, VT, WY).
The report reveals that states are currently spending billions each year providing coverage to the uninsured in three ways. Obamacare addresses each source to reduce state health insurance costs.
1. Under Obamacare, states no longer have to finance health insurance for people above 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
2. Under Obamacare, states pay billions less to cover people below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. For the first three years of the expanded Medicaid program, the federal government will cover 100 percent of Medicaid costs. The surveyed states will save $4.2 billion (100 percent of their uncompensated care costs) annually for the first three years, and $3.0 billion annually starting in 2019.
3. By making health insurance universally available, Obamacare slashes the “hidden tax” states pay in health insurance premiums. States pay a “hidden tax” in the form of higher insurance premiums to account for the cost of covering the uninsured. “By greatly reducing uncompensated care,” the Council explains, Obamacare works to “reduce this hidden tax.”
This study blows a hole in Republican claims that 
Obamacare has ill economic effects. In reality, Obamacare saves states money while improving the overall economy. Republicans who care more about fiscal responsibility than political gamesmanship would do well to embrace it.
This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sad news

This has been  a sad week for me.  My son, Mark, returned home from work last Thursday evening and found his wife, Karen, lying dead on the floor.  My daughter, Gail,  is with him now, but must return home tonight to go to her part time job tomorrow.  Her new boss was understanding and that was a blessing because she has only been on the job for two weeks.  I am not going to California where Mark lives because he has a lot of support and I would just be in the way.  

I am a native of Colorado Springs and I doubt that there is a single person who has not heard about the terrible fires raging in my home town.  I have been trying to place exactly where the fires are, but I think they must be near the Garden of the Gods and I grew up very close to that area.  It is such a devastating disaster that it is difficult to comprehend.   I have a dear friend from childhood living in the West side and her partner has emphysema.  I can only imagine how the smoke is affecting him.  He is on oxygen all the time and this must make breathing the air very dangerous for him and for others with breathing problems.  I will try calling my friend tomorrow to get more on the spot details.

My oldest daughter was sent a series of pictures and they tell a story of a massive tragedy.   Click to enlarge.

I hope the President is speedy with disaster aid for those poor people who have lost everything.