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Archive for March 28th, 2011

Would You Be a Hero?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:47 am by HL

Would You Be a Hero?
Houston Chronicle: When danger finds us, we have three choices: We can freeze. We can run. Or we can fight. The sacrifices of citizen heroes, who risk and sometimes lose their lives for people they?ve never met, always give us pause. What is it that compels ordinary people to lift a burning car, wrestle a gunman to the ground, or take a gunshot for a stranger?



Early Morning Swim

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:46 am by HL

Early Morning Swim


Smells Like Regime Change

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:45 am by HL

Smells Like Regime Change
Coalition jets appear to have given the Libyan rebels a big assist by bombing the birthplace of Moammar Gadhafi, a city called Sirte that is located about halfway between Benghazi and Tripoli. Not to tell NATO its business, but how exactly does clearing a path for the rebels advancing toward Libya’s capital fit the U.N. mandate to protect civilians?  —PZS BBC: Coalition air raids have hit Muammar Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte, a key target for westward-advancing rebels. A Libyan government spokesman said three Libyan civilians had been killed in the city’s port. Unconfirmed rumours that rebels had taken Sirte sparked celebratory gunfire overnight in their stronghold Benghazi. Read more

Coalition jets appear to have given the Libyan rebels a big assist by bombing the birthplace of Moammar Gadhafi, a city called Sirte that is located about halfway between Benghazi and Tripoli. Not to tell NATO its business, but how exactly does clearing a path for the rebels advancing toward Libya’s capital fit the U.N. mandate to protect civilians?? —PZS

BBC:

Coalition air raids have hit Muammar Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte, a key target for westward-advancing rebels.

A Libyan government spokesman said three Libyan civilians had been killed in the city’s port.

Unconfirmed rumours that rebels had taken Sirte sparked celebratory gunfire overnight in their stronghold Benghazi.

Read more

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Sen. Bernie Sanders: End Tax Breaks for Profitable Corporations

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:44 am by HL

Sen. Bernie Sanders: End Tax Breaks for Profitable Corporations
Before Congress cuts funding for Head Start, Social Security, and financial aid for college, we have got to make sure that large, profitable corporations are paying their fair share of taxes.

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Brit Hume Resurrects Myths About Health Care Reform’s Passage

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:43 am by HL

Brit Hume Resurrects Myths About Health Care Reform’s Passage

While discussing the first anniversary of the passage of the health care reform law, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume claimed that the legislation had been “rammed through” by the Democrats and did not incorporate “Republican ideas.” In reality, Congress debated health care reform for more than a year and included numerous Republican proposals.

Hume: Health Care Reform Was “Rammed Through”

From the March 27 edition of Fox News’ Fox News Sunday:

HUME: I actually in my life have never seen anything like this. I’ve never seen a bill with this much consequence rammed through by one party alone. And it raised questions about the legitimacy of the measure from the start, and those questions persist today. [Fox News Sunday, Fox News, 3/27/11]

USA Today: Health Care Reform Debate In Congress Began In Spring 2009. A USA Today timeline of the health care debate notes that the Obama administration placed reform at the top of its legislative agenda in a February 24, 2009 address to Congress. This was followed by a summit between Obama, members of Congress, and representatives from the health care industry on March 5, 2009. [USA Today, abortion rights within their party to reiterate in an executive order that federal money provided by the bill could not be used for abortions, securing for Democrats the final handful of votes they needed to assure passage.

Winding up the debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “After a year of debate and hearing the calls of millions of Americans, we have come to this historic moment. Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans that is a right and not a privilege.” [The New York Times, 3/21/10]

Hume: Health Care Legislation Did Not Incorporate “Republican Ideas”

From the March 27 edition of Fox News’ Fox News Sunday:

HUME: What I would about this is, think how different this would be now had the president and the Democrats in Congress been willing to incorporate some Republican ideas. A serious attempt at tort reform, for example. He would have gotten, I think, not only much of what he, the president, wanted, Republicans would have gotten some of what they wanted, a bunch of them would have voted for it, this notion that it is a partisan bill would be gone, the whole picture right now would look different from the way it does. [Fox News Sunday, Fox News, 3/27/11]

In Fact, The Bill Included Several GOP Ideas And Amendments

Obama: “[W]hen You Say I Ought To Be Willing To Accept Republican Ideas On Health Care, Let’s Be Clear: I Have.” From remarks made by the President at his January 29, 2010 meeting with the House GOP:

This is a big problem, and all of us are called on to solve it. And that’s why, from the start, I sought out and supported ideas from Republicans.  I even talked about an issue that has been a holy grail for a lot of you, which was tort reform, and said that I’d be willing to work together as part of a comprehensive package to deal with it. I just didn’t get a lot of nibbles.

Creating a high-risk pool for uninsured folks with preexisting conditions, that wasn’t my idea, it was Senator McCain’s. And I supported it, and it got incorporated into our approach. Allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines to add choice and competition and bring down costs for businesses and consumers — that’s an idea that some of you I suspect included in this better solutions; that’s an idea that was incorporated into our package. And I support it, provided that we do it hand in hand with broader reforms that protect benefits and protect patients and protect the American people.

A number of you have suggested creating pools where self-employed and small businesses could buy insurance.  That was a good idea. I embraced it. Some of you supported efforts to provide insurance to children and let kids remain covered on their parents’ insurance until they’re 25 or 26. I supported that. That’s part of our package.  I supported a number of other ideas, from incentivizing wellness to creating an affordable catastrophic insurance option for young people that came from Republicans like Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe in the Senate, and I’m sure from some of you as well. So when you say I ought to be willing to accept Republican ideas on health care, let’s be clear:  I have. [WhiteHouse.gov, 1/29/10]

Republicans And Conservatives Were For The Individual Mandates Before They Were Against It.

  • In 1993, Republican Sen. Don Nickles (OH) introduced the Consumer Choice Health Security Act of 1993 with 24 Republican co-sponsors (more than half the Republican caucus). In his introductory remarks on the bill, Nickles said that under his bill, “[e]veryone will be required to carry at least catastrophic health insurance for their protection and to stop cost shifting.” [Congressional Record, Page S16728, retrieved via thomas.loc.gov, 11/20/93]
  • Also in 1993, Republican Sen. John Chafee (RI) introduced a bill that required “each citizen or lawful permanent resident to be covered under a qualified health plan or equivalent health care program by January 1, 2005.” The bill had 18 Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors. [S.1770, 11/23/93]
  • In 2003, Heritage Foundation vice president Stuart Butler argued in congressional testimony in favor or an individual mandate requiring “individuals to enroll themselves and their dependents in at least a basic health plan.” He added: “The obligations on individuals does not have to be a “hard” mandate, in the sense that failure to obtain coverage would be illegal. It could be a “soft” mandate, meaning that failure to obtain coverage could result in the loss of tax benefits and other government entitlements.” [Heritage Foundation, 3/10/03]
  • In 2007, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill stating: “Each adult individual shall have the responsibility to enroll in a [Healthy Americans Private Insurance] plan offered through the HHA of the adult individual’s State of residence unless they had insurance through another system or were “opposed to health plan coverage for religious reasons.” The bill had 10 Republican co-sponsors. [S.334, 1/18/07]
  • Wyden also introduced a version of the bill in 2009, the year Congress began working on the health care proposal that became law. Like the 2007 version, the bill stated: “”Each adult individual shall have the responsibility to enroll in a [Healthy Americans Private Insurance] plan offered through the HHA of the adult individual’s State of residence unless they had insurance through another system or were “opposed to health plan coverage for religious reasons.” The bill had five Republican co-sponsors. [S.391 2/5/09]

Washington Post’s Klein: “I Don’t Think It’s Well Understood How Many Of The GOP’s Central Health-Care Policy Ideas” Are In Senate Bill. From a February 8, 2010, blog post on the website of The Washington Post:

At this point, I don’t think it’s well understood how many of the GOP’s central health-care policy ideas have already been included as compromises in the health-care bill. But one good way is to look at the GOP’s “Solutions for America” homepage, which lays out its health-care plan in some detail. It has four planks. All of them — yes, you read that right — are in the Senate health-care bill.

(1) “Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.” This is a long-running debate between liberals and conservatives. Currently, states regulate insurers. Liberals feel that’s too weak and allows for too much variation, and they want federal regulation of insurers. Conservatives feel that states over-regulate insurers, and they want insurers to be able to cluster in the state with the least regulation and offer policies nationwide, much as credit card companies do today.

To the surprise and dismay of many liberals, the Senate health-care bill included a compromise with the conservative vision for insurance regulation. The relevant policy is in Section 1333, which allows the formation of interstate compacts. Under this provision, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho (for instance) could agree to allow insurers based in any of those states to sell plans in all of them. This prevents a race to the bottom, as Idaho has to be comfortable with Arizona’s regulations, and the policies have to have a minimum level of benefits (something that even Rep. Paul Ryan believes), but it’s a lot closer to the conservative ideal.

(2) “Allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do.” This is the very purpose of the exchanges, as defined in Section 1312. Insurers are required to pool the risk of all the small businesses and individuals in the new markets rather than treating them as small, single units. That gives the newly pooled consumers bargaining power akin to that of a massive corporation or labor union, just as conservatives want. It also gives insurers reason to compete aggressively for their business, which is key to the conservative vision. Finally, empowering the exchanges to use prudential purchasing maximizes the power and leverage that consumers will now enjoy.

(3) “Give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs.” Section 1302 of the Senate bill does this directly. The provision is entitled “the Waiver for State Innovation,” and it gives states the power to junk the whole of the health-care plan — that means the individual mandate, the Medicaid expansion, all of it — if they can do it better and cheaper.

(4) “End junk lawsuits.” It’s not entirely clear what this means, as most malpractice lawsuits actually aren’t junk lawsuits. The evidence on this is pretty clear: The malpractice problem is on operating tables, not in court rooms. Which isn’t to deny that our current system is broken for patients and doctors alike. The Senate bill proposes to deal with this in Section 6801, which encourages states to develop new malpractice systems and suggests that Congress fund the most promising experiments. This compromise makes a lot of sense given the GOP’s already-expressed preference for letting states “create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs,” but since what the Republicans actually want is a national system capping damages, I can see how this compromise wouldn’t be to their liking.

(5) To stop there, however, does the conservative vision a disservice. The solutions the GOP has on its Web site are not solutions at all, because Republicans don’t want to be in the position of offering an alternative bill. But when Republicans are feeling bolder — as they were in Bush’s 2007 State of the Union, or John McCain’s plan — they generally take aim at one of the worst distortions in the health-care market: The tax break for employer-sponsored insurance. Bush capped it. McCain repealed it altogether. Democrats usually reject, and attack, both approaches.

Not this year, though. Senate Democrats initially attempted to cap the exclusion, which is what Bush proposed in 2007. There was no Republican support for the move, and Democrats backed off from the proposal. They quickly replaced it, however, with the excise tax, which does virtually the same thing. The excise tax only applies to employer-sponsored insurance above a certain price point, and it essentially erases the preferential tax treatment for every dollar above its threshold.

(6) And finally, we shouldn’t forget the compromises that have been the most painful for Democrats, and the most substantive. This is a private-market plan. Not only is single-payer off the table, but at this point, so too is the public option. The thing that liberals want most in the world has been compromised away. [Voices.WashingtonPost.com, 2/8/10]


Stossel: No Group Has Had More Gov’t Help Than American Indians (VIDEO)

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:42 am by HL

Stossel: No Group Has Had More Gov’t Help Than American Indians (VIDEO)
Quick, which group has the U.S. government helped out the most? Wall Street, maybe? Or the unemployed? Oh, how about all those defense contractors? Wrong, says Fox News contributor John Stossel. As far as Stossel is concerned, it’s Native Americans….


Watchdogs To House Ethics Committee: What’s Up With That Maxine Waters Case?
A coalition of reform groups are calling on the House Ethics Committee to resume its work on the investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). The ethics watchdogs said in a letter to House Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) that they want the committee to let the public know more about the status of the case.

‘Creationist Theme Park’ Group Prez Accused Of ‘Ungodly’ Remarks
As TPM reported in December, the group behind Kentucky’s Creation Museum is looking to expand into the theme park business. But the company’s president is now in some hot water over what his critics are calling “ungodly and mean-spirited remarks.”…


The penny wise pound foolish budget

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:40 am by HL

The penny wise pound foolish budget
One of the guys who does volunteer work for the Marina (del Rey) Tenants Association (MTA) asked this columnist if we could help him in his private cause of trying to restore the level of karate instructions his daughter was receiving at the Sun Valley Park Recreation Center in Los Angeles County. There had […]


Gibbs to Facebook?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:39 am by HL

Gibbs to Facebook?
Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that Facebook is trying to court former Obama aide Robert Gibbs to a senior communications role as the social media giant tries to repair its public image and prepare for its planned initial public offering.

Though no formal offer has been made, sources said that “Mr. Gibbs, who left the White House in February after two years on the job, had been planning to help establish President Obama’s re-election campaign before taking a private sector job … Facebook, however, is pressing Mr. Gibbs to consider the job more quickly, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversations were supposed to remain confidential.”

“A job for Mr. Gibbs at Facebook could be worth millions of dollars. While details of his potential compensation package have yet to be discussed, people briefed on the talks said that he would receive a cash salary as well as shares ahead of the initial offering. Facebook is being valued by some investors at more than $60 billion and could be the largest offering in history.”

Huntsman Campaign Gears Up
Mike Allen reports that Horizon PAC, “run by people preparing a presidential campaign-in-waiting for Jon Huntsman, U.S. ambassador to China, has grown to 12 people, plus five outside firms, and plans to ramp up its activity in the coming month, even before Huntsman’s resignation takes effect on April 30. The PAC plans donations to local and statewide candidates, plus personnel announcements in early primary and caucus states. At Lowe’s Hotel in New Orleans two weekends ago, 18 Huntsman allies met for two days to sharpen their message and divvy up assignments – finance, research, field, communications and new media.”

“The campaign-in-waiting is being masterminded from Texas by John Weaver, who helped make Sen. John McCain a household name, and is a strategist known for winning outside the conventional playbook.”

The AP notes the campaign “is revved and ready, a turn-key operation if there ever was one, with high-powered political strategists and big-time fundraisers who are more than eager to make a splash in the 2012 Republican presidential race as early as mid-May.”

No Second Chance for Giuliani
Former New Hampshire GOP chair Fergus Cullen warns potential presidential candidates that Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign four years ago is “a lesson to all future candidates in what not to do.”

“In the course of the last campaign, during which I was state Republican Party chairman, I must have met Rudy Giuliani a half-dozen times. But for Giuliani, it was always the first time; he gave no indication of recognizing me. Getting to know individual voters was unimportant.”

“Most of us know the experience of having had a bad first date. Usually both participants recognize it didn’t work out, but sometimes the guy doesn’t get the message, calls again, and needs to be told bluntly: Sorry, Rudy. You had your chance, and much as we respect your resume, we’re just not interested in going out again.”

Gingrich Says Nation Becoming Godless
Newt Gingrich “warned that America is headed toward becoming a godless society unless voters take a stand against President Obama and liberal-minded college professors and likeminded media pushing his agenda,” the San Antonio News-Express reports.

He also “called for a return to historic, Christian roots he said were critical to protecting the nation’s freedoms.”

Said Gingrich: “There’s a desperation with which our elites are trying to create amnesia so that we literally have generations who have no idea what it means to be an American.”


The Libyan Rebels Deserve Outside Military Help

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:38 am by HL

The Libyan Rebels Deserve Outside Military Help
There are many good reasons to be cautious about outside international intervention (especially American) on behalf of the Libyan rebels. For that matter, there are always good reasons to pause before getting involved in a violent conflict. In the current…

US-Japan Friendship Dolls Then & How to Help Today
In a heart-moving gesture a few years after the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 in Japan, American children made 12,000 blue-eyed dolls and sent them to Japanese children. After that, 58 highly ornate, beautifully crafted Japanese “Friendship Dolls” were sent…


Safety On The Cheap
Can we please agree that in the real world corporations exist for one purpose, and one purpose only — to make as much money as possible, which means cutting costs as much as possible?…



London: Half A Million In The Streets To Protest Massive Government Cuts

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 28th, 2011 4:37 am by HL

London: Half A Million In The Streets To Protest Massive Government Cuts

Our guest blogger is Erica Sagrans, a US-based freelance writer who has spent the last six weeks in the UK. You can follow her for more London protest updates on Twitter at @EricaS.

Fueled by anger at drastic government cuts, 500,000 protesters took to the streets of London yesterday in the largest protest since the city’s 2003 march against the Iraq war.

Few parts of British life will remain untouched by the massive $130 billion in cuts to public services now being rolled out by the coalition government. Local budgets are being slashed by up to 30 percent, leading to cuts in child care, public safety, programs for retirees, and library closures — and an increasing privatization of the popular, publicly-funded National Health Services.

“Women, parents, carers, disabled people, teenagers and elderly people” are likely to be hardest hit, reported the Guardian in a study of the cuts’ devastating impact. On top of services, the job losses are expected to be enormous. Amidst the UK’s current record 17-year unemployment high, the cuts will mean a loss of 490,000 public sector jobs.

The crowd at yesterday’s protest — the major march organized by the Trades Union Congress — was as diverse as the cuts people came out to rally against. On the streets, I stood next to firefighters wearing ‘Cuts cost lives’ shirts, a ‘book block’ of 20-somethings wielding large pink cardboard books as shields, kids on parents’ shoulders, and loads of homemade signs: ‘Give me back my future,’ ‘Stop teabagging the public sector,’ and ‘Hands off — the NHS is ours’ were just a few.

UK Uncut, the distributed effort that calls attention to corporate tax avoidance by taking over stores, used the march as a jumping off point for occupations throughout London’s major shopping areas. The spin-off group US Uncut also spent the day targeting more than 40 Bank of America branches across the United States.

UK Uncut peacefully took over London’s upscale Fortnum and Mason department store, whose owners they say have dodged more than 40 million pounds in taxes. Others climbed onto the store’s second-story roof, where they strung up tape saying ‘Closed by UK Uncut’ and sprinkled glitter on the crowd. Later in the evening protesters danced in Trafalgar Square when they were surrounded by riot police, who prevented them from leaving by using the harsh ‘kettling’ technique that was introduced during this winter’s UK student protests.

While the line that played out in the media focused on a small minority of protesters throwing paint and smashing windows, the vast majority were parents, students, health care workers, and union members there to voice their anger about the cuts. The real power of the day came from its dual nature: both the smaller groups ready to take more direct action combined with the strength in the numbers and stories of ordinary people standing up to say ‘no more.’ Their half-a-million strong presence in London’s streets yesterday gave rise to the feeling amongst many that this is just the beginning of something much larger.