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Feed the world

Wishing everyone the best in the Holiday Season. While 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” certainly strikes a strange chord asking if starving Ethiopian children knew it was Christmas, Geldorf and company’s hearts were in the right place, sending millions of pounds (£ not lb.) to aid the stricken country.

LB_Rule

As the year winds down, many are like me in that they take stock of their year and even of their lives.

For example, I wonder why people lose any roundness in their asses as they age. What evolutionary imperative was there to tie flat butts to age? It can’t be related to natural selection because this occurs after the typical child creating period. I’m stumped, although some would say it’s Sarcopenia.

As a boomer I also wonder why it would take a staff of 4 working full-time to keep my ears and nose free of stray hair. Shouldn’t I just be losing hair? Is that too personal?

I think of the Outkast song “Happy Valentine’s Day” with Andre 3000 singing:

Happy Valentine’s Day
Every day the 14th!
Now I know your hearts have grown cold
And that bothers me
Now I understand ’cause I use to be a bad boy in my day
I know you’re trying to protect your lil’ feelings
but you can’t run away

Ya’ won’t believe in me, but you would fancy..
(Hey! Don’t you supposed to be some kind of player or something?)

And I think, hey, every day is NOT Valentine’s Day (hell no) and was I supposed to be some kind of player or something?

I think about groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose response to losing mainstream sponsors through public pressure is to double down on their willingness to work to provide happy endings to predatory greed-heads, most recently trying to push legislation to tax those who have solar power and sell it back to utilities. They portray them not as entrepreneurial individualists but as “free loaders.” Are the American people really so brain-dead that they cannot see the corruption and immorality of this kind of group? (Just can’t leave politics out of a post.)

I think about T, as in Low-T not Mr. T, and wonder if after a lifetime of surrendering your own self-interests to the interest of bosses and significant others that it isn’t shocking to find that one is able to produce any T at all? Is man the only animal that gets fat and compliant by self-castrating? Do you wish you’d skipped this paragraph?

I think about the many, many bloggers (and essayists) with small audiences like myself who write because they can, they want to, and they get satisfaction. As the New Testament (should have) said, “Bless the unread for they will be comforted.”

I think about those I have lost that have left me as the oldest generation in my family. I miss them at the holidays, I see the road that leads me to them, and I acknowledge the slow inevitability of the course of a life, hoping mine will be viewed as well-lived in the end.

Lastly, I think about forcing myself to look at each day and minute as a gift and remembering that the complex texture of life doesn’t detract from my happiness nearly as much as it adds to my interest and participation.

Best wishes to all,

Lefty

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Spring is in the air and a (not so) young man’s thoughts turn to Obamacare

(Excerpted from Nature’s Way by Randy California, Spirit, The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus, 1970)

It’s nature’s way of telling you soon we’ll freeze
It’s nature’s way of telling you dyin’ trees
It’s nature’s way of receiving you, it’s nature’s way of retrieving you
It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong

The “soon we’ll freeze” line changed to summer breeze as the group, and others, moved away from the claims of the major media of the time that we were headed toward a period of cooling. Climate change skeptics often cite the “1970’s scientists expected an ice age” pseudo-fact as proof scientists don’t know what they are talking about. But a review of the era suggests that 7 peer-review journal articles supported cooling and 42 suggested warming. There’s more about this debate here. However the media picked up on the “next ice age” threat and pushed that concept out into the public consciousness.

In the America of the 1970s most people were open to the idea that we were poisoning the planet, the environmental movement blossomed and change was forced by law. Aerosol sourced CFCs were banned in the late 1970s in response to measured decreases in ozone in the atmosphere. Ozone is responsible for most of the absorption of UVB radiation making sunlight (a little) safer to skin. The EPA was established in 1970 under Republican President Nixon’s watch. EPA’s first press release noted that they had “…a broad responsibility for research, standard-setting, monitoring and enforcement with regard to five environmental hazards; air and water pollution, solid waste disposal, radiation, and pesticides.” In fact, Nixon (no wide-eyed liberal, btw) said, “the 1970s absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its water, and its living environment.”

So how did the EPA become the arch-enemy of the modern conservative movement? It’s pretty simple, the businesses that are affected by EPA rules think that their profits come first, over health and environmental concerns, and they prefer to spend their money on PR and politicians. In late 2009 and 2010, for example, the energy sector spent over 1/2 billion dollars to defeat the The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. That bill would have required electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020 and while mandating that power plants clean up their carbon emissions it included subsidies to do so and protections for consumers (so that it wouldn’t have been used as an excuse to hike rates sky-high). It passed the House (that was before the 112th do-nothingest-ever Congress) but didn’t find the needed 60 votes in the Senate.

And that leads us to my segue to the week’s Supreme Court hearing of the constitutionality of the mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (The common theme–ding ding ding– is business pumping millions to affect public opinion and political votes.) The commercial healthcare industry (including insurance, MD groups, hospital groups, etc.) has spent $4.9 billion in lobbying between 1998 and 2011. In the run-up to passage of the ACA bill, the Center for Responsive Politics research showed that $1.06 billion was spent in 2009 and 2010 on lobbying. The lobbying came from 1,251 organizations and 3,154 individual lobbyists. The passed version of the bill shows they got what they paid for–a bill that is essentially a sweetheart deal for insurance companies stripped of a public option and many surtaxes. So why do they continue to fight it? The answer is easy, they want to fill the Congress with anti-Obamacare politicians who can then proceed to strip out the consumer protections leaving only the new and presumably healthier customers intact.

Is the bill reform? Some characteristics of reform:

  • Defeating the insurers worst traits: seeking higher profits by cherry-picking the insured base and excluding those with pre-existing conditions, denying claims, using annual and lifetime limits to ration care and limit costs.
  • Shifting focus to less expensive preventive care.
  • Creating a mechanism where market forces can lead to lower prices.
  • Improved access to healthcare or to insurance for healthcare, more Americans covered and able to affordably seek primary and specialty medical care.
  • Move Medicare and Medicaid “pay for procedures” toward “pay for outcomes” reducing the incentives for high utilization and high costs.

The ACA’s provisions for the first bullet included policy ideas referred to as community rating and guaranteed issue. The bill established state-run health insurance exchanges where individual policies will be sold that prohibit insurers from charging differential premiums based on health status (known as community rating) and require them to offer coverage to all people wishing to purchase it (known as guaranteed issue). This is pretty much what employer-based insurance offers today so it only affects the 20% of the market on individual policies.

Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75% of the nation’s health spending. And, they are often preventable. So the ACA has provisions wherein depending on age and gender, Medicare or private insurance must offer at no cost:

  • Blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests
  • Many cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies
  • Counseling on such topics as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthfully, treating depression, and reducing alcohol use
  • Routine vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio, or meningitis
  • Flu and pneumonia shots
  • Counseling, screening, and vaccines to ensure healthy pregnancies
  • Regular well-baby and well-child visits, from birth to age 21

Costs were to be controlled through the strategic applications of government healthcare spending as discovered by HHS reporting. The health insurance exchanges are intended to offer 3 levels of plans that will be differentiated only by physician and hospital network and cost. The keystone was the debated and debatable individual mandate. In a guaranteed issue world many people would only seek insurance when they got sick, shifting the costs of their care onto others in the risk pool. By forcing everyone in, from young and healthy to boomers not yet on Medicare, the distribution of those costs would be much wider having much less impact.

The individual mandate, with a penalty of just $625 per year (1/4 of the cost of a pack per day cigarette habit), can’t be extricated from the community rating and guarantee issue laws without it forcing prices up.

Should health insurance be for-profit at all? Considering that we pay twice as much per capita as any other developed country and still have 50 million uninsured, I’d say that it doesn’t make sense to have 30% of the spending go to marketing and advertising, underwriting, claims litigation, investor rewards, and insane CEO compensation (commonly $10 to $20 million per year.)

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Ex-Cigna executive and today’s health insurance whistleblower Wendell Potter  has said, “The higher up that ladder I climbed the more I could see what these companies do to meet Wall Street’s profit expectations. And most of the big insurance companies are now for-profit companies. They cancel people’s health insurance when they get sick. They refuse to sell coverage to people who need coverage. They price policies so high that small businesses can no longer afford care. They are spending less and less of our premium dollars on our health care and more and more to reward shareholders and senior executives.”

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From a David Axelrod fundraising email:

P.S. — Can you imagine if the opposition called Social Security “Roosevelt Security”? Or if Medicare was “LBJ-Care”? Seriously, have these guys ever heard of the long view?

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Last Laff:

He miss-stepped in two ways. First, if he would have said he was wrong instead of that his choice of words was wrong he could have moved past it, even without suspensions like Ed Schultz and Don Imus got. His “contrition” didn’t come until advertisers began bailing. Second, he thought it was still 2009 when Michael Steele called him an “entertainer” with an “incendiary” talk show and had to fall over himself with an apology and acknowledge him as a “national conservative leader.”

Then, the “entertainer” label raised his ire, now it’s the main excuse for his behavior.

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Who Are Republican Candidates Talking To?

I know conservatives. My father was a Reagan Democrat. Every holiday party I attend the Fox faithful lament the state of Obama’s America. I know boomers who in every way are loving and compassionate people but they are all too willing to believe the perpetuated myth of the welfare rich and the takeover of American healthcare. They don’t get the whole story, they believe what they think everyone believes and are genuinely surprised to see push-back on the basic falsehoods pressed as facts in the right wing bubble.

It’s striking to me how the candidates are climbing all over themselves to appeal to the FoxNews-educated (uneducated?) masses in an effort to be Tea Party worthy. (Like sponge-worthy but without the dinner and drinks.) They just double-down over and again on religion, birth control, guns, elitism, oil drilling, birth certificates, welfare queens, and the idle moochers sucking the life out of the “producers.” Ironically, many of the “producers” are seniors receiving government benefits and those with low intelligence and/or education.

“President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college,” Rick Santorum said at an Americans for Prosperity rally. “What a snob!” Like all the candidates, he runs against the fictional Obama, the real Obama had promoted education at all levels in the State of the Union address, including the need for community colleges and other venues to help to educate workers for the advanced blue collar jobs that America needs today and in the future. So the Tea Party, (those most likely to be at an Americans for Prosperity rally, the astroturf group used by the Koch Brothers to rally the misled to their pro-business anti-human strain of politics) is ready to cheer a candidate who minimizes the value of a college education.

Americans for Prosperity has a candidates pledge that tax money won’t be used to curb greenhouse gas emissions because the science of climate change is not acceptable to those whose companies might lose a sliver of profit in avoiding CO2 emissions. The GOP stakes out the anti-science territory with gusto. Considering the needs of an information society, this might be short-sighted. Ya think?

In 2008 speaking to a Catholic university crowd, Santorum declared “This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war at all. This is a spiritual war.  And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies, Satan, would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?”

Anti-education, anti-science, and with a Good vs. Evil worldview straight out of a Stephen King novel and he still can get applause? Santorum truly is “A Candidate for the New Dark Ages®”, a slogan I will gladly license to him.

Candidate Romney is bashed for the Massachusetts universal health insurance and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). So he has to apologize for getting the people of the state he governed covered by health insurance in an affordable way and for a program that has brought hundreds of millions in economic activity to Massachusetts and is successfully reducing CO2 emissions in the northeast.

Newt Gingrich, at an event in Bowling Green, focused on his own plan to return the price of gasoline to $2.50 a gallon by increasing domestic production and approving the Keystone XL pipeline. For a guy who supposed to be smart he should be more aware of the fact that this might knock pennies off the price but it won’t take $1.70 off a gallon. He knows this of course, but he’s speaking to people who are willfully ignorant of the Drill Baby Drill big lie.

Gingrich, speaking of the Occupy movement, said “go get a job right after you take a bath.” OMG I just flashed back to 1969 when the establishment was telling the dirty hippies to cut their hair and take a bath. Does this kind of rhetoric still have legs 43 years later? Ever on the attack, because he is basically, you know, an asshole, he’s launched a Website called http://www.romneytaxes.com to call attention to the way Romney closed a budget deficit in Massachusetts by increasing fees including, drum roll, on Gun Licenses! So the right wing is so out of touch with the benefit of closing a billion plus budget shortfall that they will get stuck on the immaterial tidbit that gun owners were affected by a tax.

It goes on an on. Thirty-plus years of shrilly using social issues as a wedge has resulted in social issue stances that need to pass a litmus test of right wing loonery. The GOP turned it up, turned it up, turned it up with their Limbaughs, Becks, Hannitys, Coulters, and Thomases and now they have to make a deal with the devil to be heard by the hyperbole-deafened true believers.

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Come Celebrate With Us!

The jobs news for the past 2 months certainly is a cause for optimism that the sluggish recovery is seeing improvement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that January’s job numbers were +243,000 jobs. This adds to December’s gains of +203,000 jobs. This is the sixteenth consecutive month of job gains for a total of a one and a half percent drop in the unemployment rate. Americans should cautiously celebrate that the economy is getting back on track.

Some Americans aren’t celebrating. Mitt Romney coolly “welcomed” the news but suggested that the president deserved no credit for the gains. Eric Cantor thought we should have done better and that the success is related to the president’s recognition of GOP ideals. John Boehner used the term welcome as well, but added that the good news wasn’t good enough. Lukewarm responses at best.

Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said that the jobless rate reported is “corrupt as it can be.” Attacking the professional statisticians at the non-partisan Bureau of Labor Statistics reeks of desperate denial. FoxNews headlined that “Lawmakers were Divided on Jobs Report” and touted the “bad news behind the good numbers.” If “lawmakers were divided” does that mean that some were unhappy about this good news?

So I wonder, what keeps Republican politicians and media figures from being happy that more Americans are working? Why haven’t they chosen a path of enthusiasm for the country’s resilience that would boost confidence, lower uncertainty, and pay dividends with increased economic momentum?

Read more about the January jobs numbers here:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/03/us-usa-economy-idUSTRE7BM0AB20120203

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Quiet Coup d’Etat

Is the claim of Republican obstructionism accurate? Consider this: The vote for cloture is intended to stop a filibuster, the parliamentary procedure the Senate uses to stop a simple majority from passing a bill. The 110th Congress (2007 – 2008) was the record-holder for cloture votes: 112. The 111th Congress (2008 – 2009) saw 39 cloture votes in 2009, 2 by February, 2010. The 39 cloture votes in 2009 were 9 more than the combined total for 1949-1970. In addition to filibuster, over 200 of Obama’s appointments are being held up by Republicans in the Senate (as of early 2010).

So yes, obstructionist sounds about right. All citizens should be outraged over the power exerted by the minority party through these tactics. This follows 8 years where the Bush administration gutted regulatory agencies like the SEC, turned others over to corporate insiders (resulting in the Bureau of Land Management promoting mountain-top removal mining and wilderness drilling) and appointed Supreme Court justices that are conservative activists (resulting in the establishment of 1st amendment rights to corporations in January 2010).

It’s like a quiet coup d’etat with the electoral losers still running things from the shadows. The voters who clearly signalled they wanted a change in national direction are SOL. Even if you agree with the politics of stopping progressive measures and doing the same tired crap that drove the economy off a cliff in 2008, the ends cannot justify the means, or we will all hate what we’ve become.

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Framing Democratic Disillusionment

The Republican Party suffered a significant defeat in the November, 2008 elections.  Democrats picked up eight seats in the Senate, twenty-one seats in the House, and of course, won the White House with a 365 to 173 electoral vote margin. This rejection of Republican ideology should have created some type of re-evaluation of the policies that brought us tax cuts that disproportionately benefitted those making over $311,000 per year and those with significant investment earnings; the war in Iraq that was sold to the nation with false information; the transformation of a criminal act into a political War on Terror that opened the door for mistreatment , even torture, of foreign detainees;  new capabilities to spy on American citizens; and economic policy that failed to address the housing bubble, subprime mortgage lending, and the crisis caused by a collateral debt obligation market. This re-evaluation has not taken place and instead the GOP has gone on the attack with psychological and semantic techniques designed to devalue progressive initiatives.

The main technique is called framing. This is the use of language that spins a given phrase in an intended direction. An example of framing is the way that the Bush White House referred to tax relief, which led us to believe that taxes were only an affliction that needed to be relieved instead of a necessary sharing of the costs and benefits of a society. Masters at framing include the GOP’s Grover Norquist and Frank Luntz.

We’ve seen the health care reform proposals get derailed by framing that led many to believe that measures aimed at giving all Americans access to health care when they need it was in reality a socialist technique to control us. A memo surfaced from Frank Luntz regarding healthcare reform.  He suggested that opponents use “one size does not fit all” as a catch-phrase, focus on waste, fraud and abuse in government, and use references to “politicians,” “bureaucrats,” and “Washington” avoiding words like competition and free market. These suggestions had great resonance with some grass roots groups who didn’t understand they were objecting to a characterization created by a consultant rather than the actual situation at hand.

Many believe that there is no consensus among climate scientists that global warming is the result of our carbon emissions even though respected scientific groups and numerous studies support the theory. The argument has been framed as nature’s cycles, as Al Gore’s deception, as a way to pick the consumer’s pockets. The reframing from the left is that it’s a stewardship, children’s future kind of thing. The debate continues.

The current effort to derail the President’s efforts is the portrayal of dissatisfaction among his supporters. Some dissatisfaction certainly exists as the hope was that the President would more actively address important issues like trade, punish those responsible for leading us down the dark path of torture and secret prisons, and to remove American soldiers from harm’s way. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be convinced that nothing good has happened or that the President is acting in any way other than as a pragmatic politician.

There is actually a significant record of accomplishment. First and foremost is the economy’s turnaround from a deep recession thanks to the ARRA bill and other measures that left investors confident in the financial system. The drop in employment this past year was less than in 2008. The 4,000 point loss in the Dow index in 2008 was followed by a 2,000 point gain in 2009. The approach to Afghanistan is much more than just a surge, it’s a move toward establishing security for the Afghans in the countryside, accompanied by more money for training and development, a stronger emphasis on coordinating with Pakistan, and the clearly signaled intent to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans within the next few years. On other fronts, mortgage relief and credit card regulation were addressed, the SCHIP program was renewed and expanded, the administration passed a bill to reduce the number of no-bid defense contracts  and cost overruns, acted to improve public lands management with the largest improvement in public lands management in 25 years, and passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Policy-wise, there has been a focused effort by Senate and House Republicans to obstruct all progressive legislation. This can be characterized by Senator Jim DeMint’s vow to make healthcare reform “Obama’s Waterloo.” The response to 2008’s political shift was not to return to conservative ideals and values and convince us of their value, but rather to discredit anything done by the Democratic opposition. It’s the American people who lose in this kind of political theater. We elect politicians and not saints, but we need to expect them to follow ideals, respect truth, and serve the nation first.

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Christian Nation

We hear over and over that the U.S. is a Christian nation.  The Declaration of Independence says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s likely that the premise of the U.S. being a Christian nation is a pretty big distortion of what the founder’s intended. 

The founder’s use of Nature’s God, Creator etc. refers to the deist philosophy that developed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Deists rejected organized religion but recognized a creative hand in the Universe.  We know that Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, Adams and Madison accepted this philosophy over traditional theist religion.

Deists believed that the evidence of God was found in nature and life itself.  I imagine that the awe of watching sunsets, oceans, mountains, etc. would trigger these feelings. 

“In God we Trust” was added to by the Mint in 1865. “One Nation under God” didn’t make it into the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.  The sentiments can still be considered Deist although in usage it seems to be co-opted by Christians.

Jefferson authored the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom (written in 1779, passed in 1786) which is a statute enacted into state law by Virginia’s General Assembly that includes the statement “That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

Jefferson was a proponent of the Constitution’s first 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights and Virginia’s statute informs the first amendment’s clause on religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

In his autobiography, Jefferson wrote of the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, “Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it would read ‘A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;’ the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”  My emphasis is intended to point out that acceptance of non-Christian religions, specifically Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. We can only smile at the curiously worded inclusion of “infidels of all denominations”.

Another example of the early American thought regarding religion is found in a document called the Treaty of Tripoli, first signed in 1796. The Treaty was a diplomatic transaction intended to protect U.S. shipping vessels from attacks by the privateers (government-sanctioned pirates) of the Barbary Coast.  The Barbary nations–Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis–considered themselves to be at war with any nation that had not negotiated a “peace treaty” with them for a sum of money.

The text of Article 11 of the treaty states:  “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

This is the text that was read and ratified before Congress but some controversy exists regarding whether it was in the original Arabic document. Regardless of that controversy, the document does demonstrate acceptance of the premise that the U.S. was not Christian in an official way in the first generation after its founding.

We see from these examples that the founders did not intend Christianity to have any State role, that is, to serve as a source of law or decision-making. Today’s religious right is a Christian movement that hopes to influence law and governance.  However, it has no place in the political realm of this nation whose founders had seen religious intolerance and the subjugation of minorities by the majority and wanted to create a firewall between governance and religion.

More on the topic:

Little-Known U.S. Document Signed by President Adams Proclaims American’s Government is Secular by Jim Walker.

The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom.

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Fixing up the old house

It seems like America has lost its sense that problems should be fixed. It is like an old house with a leaky roof and paint peeling. Half the people say, “leave it as it is.” Another quarter or so say, “what if we make a mistake picking out the paint?” or whatever.

The reason we are like this is that our government made a wrong turn after 9/11. Instead of treating it like a law enforcement issue–as in the first WTC bombing–the response was turned into a “War on Terror.” Since there is no country called “Terror” it turned out to be a War on Something We’re Not Quite Sure of But We Have Strong Feelings Anyway. It fanned hatred of an entire religion, allowed us to accept anything from the government, and scared us into laying low.

Now some people think we can’t try the criminals involved. What’s that about? Do we stand by our system of justice or not? Do we trust that everything humanly possible will be done to keep NYC safe ? Isn’t it just the perfect statement about being a nation of laws?

The new administration is pushing through a healthcare bill. Imagine that everyone will be able to just go to the doctor when they need to–well, not exactly, that’s single payer… but something close to that. You can go to the doctor for the copay. If you can’t afford health insurance, there’s help. Medicaid will be increased by 50%. We show the kind of compassion and care that we always thought we could.

And CO2 emissions will be managed. Instead of polluting without care (to benefit the energy companies) we use a market solution to provide incentives for companies to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the dangers of climate change.

Then there were the more immediate benefits of the new administration–like ending torture and passing the fair pay act. Of course, I would have liked to see a turnaround in the use of contractors in the armed forces and a more creative approach to the Afghanistan morass but it all doesn’t have to happen at once.

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Going out on a limb: The world will not end in 2012

As my first real post to this blog, I thought I would make a wild prediction. The world will not end in 2012. Oh sure, everybody thinks it is ending then, but I’ve just got to be different.

Why do people think this way? It begins with the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, or Mayan Long Count calendar, which begins with August 11, 3114 BCE (in the Gregorian calendar) and ends with December 21 or 23, 2012.

Then, there is a widely circulated correlation to a supposed Sumerian story. Author Zecharia Sitchin writes fiction about the ancient Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer and has claimed in several books (e.g., The Twelfth Planet, published in 1976) that he has found and translated Sumerian documents that identify a planet called Nibiru that is orbiting the Sun every 3600 years. Sadly, Nibiru is said to be on a collision course with Earth! This information is reinforced by the predictions of self-described psychic Nancy Lieder.

In addition to these items, it is also believed that NASA has identified a planet headed towards Earth, which is said to support the Nibiru theory.

So with this in mind, why doubt the coming end of the world? First, the end of a calendar does not signal the end of time or my wall calendar would be predicting December 31, 2009 as the end of days. The Mayans believed in a cycle of time that described an age. There were ages before the current one, and there is no reason to think that there wouldn’t be ages afterwards. Many cosmologies describe a cycle of time and it is related to the cycles seen in nature including the apparent movements of the Sun and the Moon and the death and growth associated with agricultural seasons. While one Mayan artifact has a reference to something happening at that time the inscription is too damaged to read completely. Other Mayan sources show predictions further in the future; negating the idea of the end of time and supporting the idea of the end of the calendar.

There is no astronomical support for the Nibiru theory, and the author Sitchin does not propose that his interpretations should be used in the doomsday scenario as described by psychic Nancy Lieder. Lieder is a Wisconsin woman who says that as a girl she was contacted by gray extraterrestrials called Zetas, who implanted a communication device in her brain. Lieder has adjusted her end-date before, after her May 2003 prediction for the end passed without incident.

NASA has not identified a planet headed towards a collision with Earth, and has quite a few articles debunking the theories related to magnetic pole shifts, crust-core rotation shifts, planetary alignment, and solar storms. I invite the reader to pursue sources like this instead of pseudo-science books and Websites or television programs designed to create controversy.

The fears we may feel, having just gone through a major economic shock and a change in direction for US policy, may provide fertile ground for doomsday theories, especially in the light of Christian fundamentalists assigning poor President Obama with the role of antichrist. We should know that fear is not a good way to live our lives. The world will not end in 2012.

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What did they expect was going to happen?

For years American’s wages have been increasing at a rate around the reported annual inflation rate of 2 to 3%. But like the unemployment rate, this number is the product of trickery. Inflation is derived from the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The measurement of the CPI excludes volatile items like food and energy. So as prices have climbed beyond the inflation rate, our spending power has diminished.

70% of what America produces is consumed by Americans. If they don’t have the money to purchase as much as they have in the past, then the economy suffers.

Trickle-down economics is a myth. If you put money into the upper end of the food chain (rich people or rich companies) it sticks there. Voodoo trickle-down has starved the consumer, the consumer drives the economy, the economy has been weakened.

In support of the Voodoo POV, as of 2007 the number of Millionaire households had grown for the fifth consecutive year. While growth rates have slowed, the number of millionaires has nearly doubled in these 5 years. While the rich got richer, the majority have held their ground or slipped behind.

Then, the war in Iraq has had a double effect. First, 2% of the world’s oil supply was disrupted and lower supply led to higher prices. (In June of 2008 it was announced that Iraq’s oil exports, most of which come from southern oil fields around Basra, had risen above 2 million barrels a day for the first time since the invasion in 2003. The peak production from Iraq during the 1980s was closer to 3.5 million barrels per day.) Then, $10 to $11 billion a month of unfunded spending has been supporting the war. That, in addition to the rest of the $250 billion budget deficit, weakens our dollar. The result is that imports, including oil, cost more.

Department of Defense spending, for the military and the War on Terror®, has ballooned to between $600 and $700 billion per year–well over half of the government’s discretionary funding. It’s time to rethink the idea that military solutions best serve the nation and start cutting the DoD budget. We can also stimulate the economy with the development of new industries like alternative energy and green living and spend well-deserved dollars on infrastructure improvements. By spending tax money more wisely, we can direct government spending into areas that benefit the consumer thus benefitting the economy.

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