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Kucinich Helps Consumers (Or WTF Are Arbitration Clauses?)

Posted by libhom Thursday, December 31, 2009 6 comments

Kucinich speaking at a rally

Here's a 12/13/09 Press Release from Rep. Dennis Kucinich's office that is encouraging and educational. (I know it's a bit old, but it is important enough to mention even now.)

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) released the following statement:

“This holiday shopping season, consumers have the choice of using credit cards that don’t take away their legal rights. Until now, all major banks have required their customers – through provisions hidden in the fine print of credit card agreements -- to give up their constitutional right to their day in court. Those agreements have required customers to settle their disputes through a process called arbitration. In July, the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee, of which I am the Chairman, held a hearing in which we showed that mandatory arbitration is arbitrary, and that results depend more on the arbitrator to whom the case is assigned than on the facts or the law that applies.

“Since that hearing, my staff has been communicating with all the major banks, and today I can announce that six of those banks will not have arbitration clauses in their new credit card agreements. Those banks are JPMorganChase, CapitalOne, PNC Bank, TD Bank, Bank of America and Regions Bank. I want to congratulate those banks for their decisions.

“I particularly want to congratulate JPMorganChase and CapitalOne. Those two banks will be issuing new credit card agreements that also allow their customers the right to a jury trial and the right to participate in a class action. I strongly encourage the other banks to follow their lead.

“For the first time in years, you can choose what credit card to use by considering all its terms—interest rate, minimum payment, fees, rewards, and whether it requires you to give up your right to use the courts that our state and federal Constitutions have created for you.”

WTF Are Arbitration Clauses and Why Should I Care?
Arbitration clauses, which are part of most credit card agreements, force you to go to arbitration instead of going to court if you have a dispute with the bank that has your credit card. Arbitration is different than mediation. In mediation, someone without enforcement powers tries to come up with an agreement that both sides can live with. If it doesn't work, the dispute can be settled in court.

Arbitrators, in the kind of binding arbitration in the credit card clauses, can try to mediate at first. However, if the parties don't reach an agreement, arbitrators also have the power and responsibility to enforce a resolution that cannot be appealed in court except under extraordinary circumstances. Binding arbitration is weighted heavily in favor of the credit card holders for a couple of reasons.

1) The banks deal with arbitration and arbitrators all the time. The individual consumer doesn't. That means they can use their knowledge and experience to select arbitrators who are more favorable to them.

2) Arbitrators know about item 1. So, if they want much business, they have to be favorable to the corporations.

These kinds of binding arbitration clauses are not limited to credit card agreements. HMOs and health insurers often use them to their advantage too.

Arbitration clauses sound boring and harmless, but their impacts can be anything but.

 

The Iraq War Is Still Going

Posted by libhom Monday, December 28, 2009 4 comments

Our troops in Iraq are still being forced to kill the Iraqis because Big Oil, the mercenary corporations, and the arms merchants are making so much money off of it. Speaking of mercenaries, we still have over 100,000 mercenaries in that country.

With healthcare, Global Warming, the Great Recession, and the War in Afghanistan, it is easy for people to be overwhelmed and overlook the Iraq War, coverage of which is largely censored by corporate media these days. Yet, the occupation and war against the Iraqi people are making all of those problems worse, while unleashing terror, devastation, and death in that country.

CODEPINK has done some great protests over the years against this insane war. I thought running some of the photos from their actions would be a good way to catch your eyes. (All photos are used with permission.)

protest photo with banners that says Get U.S. Out of Iraq
Photo Page

protester holding pink sign that says lead us out of Iraq now
Photo Page

sign that says I'm Not Disturbing the Peace. I'm disturbing the war.
Photo Page

In case you forgot why we are in Iraq:
Satirical image showing John McCain holding money on top of straight talk express bus decorated by corporate logos
Photo Page

The Iraqi people are depending on us to not forget them and to keep trying to stop the war.

 

Griffith Switch Is Wonderful News for Democrats

Posted by libhom Saturday, December 26, 2009 3 comments

flushing toiletThe decision of far right Alabama Congressmember Parker Griffith to admit to the fact that he is a Republican, not a Democrat, is being hailed as a victory for the GOP, typical of the far right bias that permeates corporate media outlets.

Some Democrats are upset, but I'm delighted. When batshit crazy Republicans like Griffith lie and say they are Democrats, they end up diverting money, volunteer time, and votes that should be going to Real Democrats. When they push the congressional agenda towards their hard GOP line, they alienate Democratic voters and Democratic leaning independents. Having nutjobs like Griffith in the Democratic caucus has the overall effect of costing the Democratic Party more seats overall and making the party largely irrelevant to middle class and poor Americans.

I hope this hateful jerk will take corrupt nutjobs like Lieberbush, Nelson, and Baucus with him. This country needs two distinct political parties, not two tentacles of the same Gopper beast.

Photo: Nemo's great uncle

 

FAIR Gives Out Their "2009 P.U.-Litzer Awards"

Posted by libhom Friday, December 25, 2009 3 comments

skunk
Photo: Mat Honan

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) is a fabulous organization that challenges one of my blog's biggest pet peeves, rightist bias in the corporate media. They do wonderful work, and I encourage you to follow their work and support it.

It's the end of the year, and people are giving out awards, so FAIR is giving out the 2009 P.U.-Litzer Awards, acknowledging the crappy reporting that discourages intelligent people from buying newspapers and news magazines and causes people to avoid cable "news" networks. Here's the contents of their 12/22/09 press release announcing these not prestigious awards.

For 17 years our colleagues Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon have worked with FAIR to present the P.U.-Litzers, a year-end review of some of the stinkiest examples of corporate media malfeasance, spin and just plain outrageousness.

Starting this year, FAIR has the somewhat dubious honor of reviewing the nominees and selecting the winners. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. So, without further ado, we present the 2009 P.U.-Litzers.

--The Remembering Reagan Award
WINNER: Joe Klein, Time


Time columnist Joe Klein (12/3/09), not altogether impressed by Obama's announcement of a troop escalation in Afghanistan, wrote that a president "must lead the charge--passionately and, yes, with a touch of anger."

He described the better way to do this:

Ronald Reagan would have done it differently. He would have told a story. It might not have been a true story, but it would have had resonance. He might have found, or created, a grieving spouse--a young investment banker whose wife had died in the World Trade Center--who enlisted immediately after the attacks...and then gave his life, heroically, defending a school for girls in Kandahar. Reagan would have inspired tears, outrage, passion, a rush to recruiting centers across the nation.

Ah, Reagan--now there was a president who could inspire people to fight and die based on lies.

--The Cheney 2012 Award
WINNER: Jon Meacham, Newsweek


Newsweek editor Jon Meacham declared (12/7/09) that Dick Cheney running for president in 2012 would be "good for the Republicans and good for the country." He explained that "Cheney is a man of conviction, has a record on which he can be judged, and whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people.... A campaign would also give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way."

While the 2008 election might have seemed a sufficient judgment of the Bush years, it's worth pointing out that at beginning of the year (1/19/09), Meacham was adamantly opposed to re-hashing Cheney's record, calling it "the rough equivalent of pornography--briefly engaging, perhaps, but utterly predictable and finally repetitive." The difference? That was in response to the idea that Cheney should be held accountable for lawbreaking. Apparently a few months later, the same record is grounds for a White House run.

--The Them Not Us Award
WINNER: Martin Fackler, New York Times


The New York Times (11/21/09) describes the severe problems with Japan's elite media--a horror show where "reporters from major news media outlets are stationed inside government offices and enjoy close, constant access to officials. The system has long been criticized as antidemocratic by both foreign and Japanese analysts, who charge that it has produced a relatively spineless press that feels more accountable to its official sources than to the public. In their apparent reluctance to criticize the government, the critics say, the news media fail to serve as an effective check on authority."

The mind reels.

--Thin-Skinned Pundits Award
WINNER: Dana Milbank, Washington Post


Washington Post reporters Dana Milbank and Chris Cilizza got into trouble when, in an episode of their "Mouthpiece Theater" web video series, they suggested brands of beer that would be appropriate for various politicians. What would Hillary Clinton drink? Apparently something called "Mad Bitch." The video, unsurprisingly, was roundly criticized, and was pulled from the Post site. So what lesson was learned? Milbank complained (8/6/09) that "it's a brutal world out there in the blogosphere.... I'm often surprised by the ferocity out there, but I probably shouldn't be."

Yes, the problem with calling someone a "bitch" is the "ferocity" of your critics.

--The Sheer O'Reillyness Award
WINNER: Bill O'Reilly, Fox News Channel--TWICE!


1) Asked by a Canadian viewer, "Has anyone noticed that life expectancy in Canada under our health system is higher than the USA?," Fox's O'Reilly (7/27/09) responded: "Well, that's to be expected, Peter, because we have 10 times as many people as you do. That translates to 10 times as many accidents, crimes, down the line."

2) Drumming up fear of Democrats' tax plans: "Nancy Pelosi and her far-left crew want to raise the top federal tax rate to 45 percent. That's not capitalism. That's Fidel Castro stuff, confiscating wages that people honestly earn."

Perhaps Castro was president of the United States in 1982-86, when the top rate was 50 percent. Or maybe all of the 1970s, when it was 70 percent. Or from 1950-63, when it was 91 percent.

--The Less Talk, More Bombs Award
WINNER: David Broder, Washington Post


Post columnist Broder expressed the conventional wisdom on Barack Obama's deliberations on the Afghanistan War, writing under the headline "Enough Afghan Debate" (11/15/09):

It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision--whether or not it is right.

--The Racism Is Dead Award
WINNER: Richard Cohen, Washington Post


Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote (5/5/09): "The justification for affirmative action gets weaker and weaker. Maybe once it was possible to argue that some innocent people had to suffer in the name of progress, but a glance at the White House strongly suggests that things have changed. For most Americans, race has become supremely irrelevant. Everyone knows this. Every poll shows this."

For the record, "every poll" does not actually show this; the vast majority of Americans continues to recognize that racism is still a problem. Cohen went on to write months later--still presumably living in his racism-free world--that he did not believe Iran's claims about its nuclear program, because "these Persians lie like a rug."

--The When in Doubt, Talk to the Boss Award
WINNER: Matt Lauer, NBC News


Today show host Lauer announced a special guest on April 15: "If you really want to know how the economy is affecting the average American, he's the guy to talk to." Who was Lauer talking about? Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke. The ensuing interview touched on the Employee Free Choice Act, which Lauer noted was supported by many unions but opposed by some large corporations--leading him to ask Duke, "What's the truth?" Yes, look for "the truth" about a proposed pro-labor bill from the new CEO of an adamantly anti-labor corporation.

--The Socialist Menace Award
WINNER: Michael Freedman, Newsweek


Newsweek's "We Are All Socialists Now" cover (2/16/09) certainly turned heads, but one of the stories inside explained in more detail the real threat. As senior editor Michael Freedman asked: "Have you noticed that Barack Obama sounds more like the president of France every day?"

The real problem, though, is what that's going to do to us Americans, says Freedman: "If job numbers continue to look dismal, or get even worse, an ever-greater number of people will start looking to the government for support.... It's very easy to imagine a chorus of former American individualists demanding cushy French-style pensions and free British-style healthcare if their private stock funds fail to recover and unemployment inches upward toward 10 percent and remains there."

Pensions and healthcare for all--this is worse than we thought!

--The Iraq All Over Again Award
WINNER: Too Many to Name


After the invasion of Iraq, countless journalists who had treated allegations about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as facts were embarrassed when there were no such weapons to be found. So you'd think they'd be more careful about thinly sourced claims that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. But in 2009, many journalists are still willing to treat such allegations as facts.
-NBC's Chris Matthews (10/4/09): "As if Afghanistan were not enough, now there's Iran's move to get nuclear weapons."
-NBC's David Gregory (10/4/09). "Iran--will talks push that country to give up its nuclear weapons program?"


-Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (9/25/09): "All hell breaking loose as a new nuclear weapons facility is discovered in Iran, proving the mullahs have been lying for years.... Iran's nuclear weapons program has now reached critical mass. And worldwide conflict is very possible. Friday, President Obama, British Prime Minister Brown and French President Sarkozy revealed a secret nuclear weapons facility located inside Iran."

Some even went further, turning allegations of a nuclear weapons program into the discovery of actual nuclear weapons:

-ABC's Good Morning America host Bill Weir (9/26/09): "President Obama and a united front of world leaders charge Iran with secretly building nuclear weapons."

--The Talking Like a Terrorist Award
WINNER: Thomas Friedman, New York Times


In a January 14 column, New York Times superstar pundit Tom Friedman explained Israel's war on Lebanon as an attempt to "educate" the enemy by killing civilians: The Israeli strategy was to "inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical." Friedman added, "The only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians--the families and employers of the militants--to restrain Hezbollah in the future." That strategy of targeting civilians to advance a political agenda is usually known as terrorism; Osama bin Laden couldn't have explained it much better.

--The It Only Bothers Us Now Award
WINNER: Wall Street Journal editorial page


When Barack Obama only called on journalists from a list during a press conference, the Wall Street Journal did not like the new protocol (2/12/09):"We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors."

Actually, Bush was famous for calling only on reporters on an approved list; as he joked at a press conference on the eve of the Iraq War (3/6/03), "This is scripted."

--The No Comment Award
WINNERS: MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and Rush Limbaugh


When asked by Politico (10/16/09) to name her favorite guest, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski named arch-conservative Pat Buchanan "because he says what we are all thinking."

Rush Limbaugh on Obama (Fox News Channel, 1/21/09): "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles...because his father was black."

The last award strongly suggests that Limbaugh really, really needs to get laid. I don't volunteer to help him.

 

Sign the Petition to Kill the Senate Wealthcare Bill

Posted by libhom Wednesday, December 23, 2009 3 comments

Firedog Lake Action is calling for the Senate wealthcare bill to be killed. The HMOs and health insurers have pulled out every bit of meaningful reform from the alleged "healthcare reform" bill, leaving a cesspool of GOP style corruption in its place.

Their Action Alert talks about some of the things the legislation would actually do.

1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations -- whether you want to or not.
2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you'll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS.
3. After being forced to pay thousands in premiums for junk insurance, you can still be on the hook for up to $11,900 a year in out-of-pocket medical expenses.
4. Massive restriction on a woman's right to choose, designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.
6. Many of the taxes to pay for the bill start now, but most Americans won't see any benefits -- like an end to discrimination against those with preexisting conditions -- until 2014 when the program begins.
7. Allows insurance companies to charge people who are older 300% more than others.
8. Grants monopolies to drug companies that will keep generic versions of expensive biotech drugs from ever coming to market.
9. No reimportation of prescription drugs, which would save consumers $100 billion over 10 years.
10. The cost of medical care will continue to rise, and insurance premiums for a family of four will rise an average of $1000 a year -- meaning in 10 years, you family's insurance premium will be $10,000 more annually than it is right now.

I also have pointed out that the mandates and fines in the bill will lead to astronomical increases in health insurance premiums and HMO fees which will go beyond even those discussed in point #10.

Republican opposition to this bill is as fake as anything on the WWE. The only reason they keep trying to filibuster it is to give rightist Phonycrats like Max Baucus, Joe Lieberbush, and Ben Nelson the leverage they need to force any trace of reform out of the bill.

Please Take Action to Stop This Monstrous Legislation!

fist clenching cash
Photo: Muffett

From Democracy Now! 12/22/09:

Health Insurance Stocks Soar in Value

Wall Street has reacted favorably to the Senate bill. Stock prices of health insurance companies have been soaring since October 27, when independent Senator Joe Lieberman announced that he would filibuster any healthcare reform bill that included a public option. Since then, the stock value of CIGNA has jumped 29 percent; Aetna, 27 percent; UnitedHealth, over 20 percent; and Humana, almost 14 percent. During that same period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen by just over two percent.

This is Wall St.'s verdict on whose interests are being served by this legislation, and it sure ain't yours and mine.

 

Healthcare Mandates Will Cause Premiums to Skyrocket

Posted by libhom Monday, December 21, 2009 8 comments

One of the aspects of healthcare "reform" that is particularly dangerous is the existence of "mandates." In plain English, this will result in huge fines for people who can't afford astronomical health insurance premiums or HMO fees.

I lived in California when a state law was passed mandating auto insurance. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it had a terrible result: enormous increases in car insurance premiums. Now, it was sold to the public as something which would cut premiums by getting uninsured drivers on the rolls, but rates went up anyway. Why?

Auto insurance premiums are not related much to costs at all. Insurance companies could cut them drastically and still provide the crappy coverage they give, while making a fair profit. What really sets the rates is what the market will bear. When it was illegal to drive without insurance, people couldn't walk away, and the insurance companies hiked their rates.

The same thing will happen with health insurance and HMO mandates. It already costs the HMOs and health insurers a whole lot less money to provide the services they do. If you make it mandatory to be one of their customers, they will jack up the rates big time. In California, the health insurers manufactured a phony "insurance crisis" to cover their tracks. It wouldn't be at all surprising if they did the same thing on a national scale with healthcare reform.

In the real world, nothing will ever reform the bahavior of the corporations opposing the public option. The only real solution to the healthcare problem is to get rid of the HMOs and health insurers. The public option is a good first step, and that's why corrupt politicians who are bought and paid for by those deadly corporations are fighting it so hard. Any healthcare bill that doesn't include at least the option for public health insurance is not a reform bill. It is a dangerous step backwards.

Ultimately, we need single payer. Any politician that opposes single payer is saying that she or he couldn't care less whether or not you live or die.

 

Time to Rethink Two Holiday Traditions

Posted by libhom Sunday, December 20, 2009 0 comments

man standing in front of cement mixer covered with Christmas lights
Photo: trrpngirl

Yes, that really is a cement mixer covered with Xmas lights.

Global Warming should be changing behavior more than it is. One example is they way certain pagan traditions are being applied to the pagan holiday of Christmas. The idea of cutting down trees when we need as many trees as possible to fight climate change is crazy.

Then, there is the whole problem of Xmas lights. Who knows how much CO2 goes into our atmosphere because people not only use these things, but many people light them as much as a month or more. You get entire neighborhoods where suburbanites compete on how much energy they can waste in ostentatious and ghastly displays.

Should we put entire countries like the Maldives under water just for Xmas lights? Do we really want to put part of NYC underwater for Xmas lights?

I know this will be tough for some people, but it really is time for decorations that don't use energy, and cutting down trees gratuitously is insane.

 

It Only Takes 51 Votes in the Senate to Pass Healthcare Reform

Posted by libhom Saturday, December 19, 2009 2 comments

I am so sick of Harry Reid and the so called "Democrats" lying to us and saying that they need 60 votes to pass healthcare reform when they could easily use budget reconciliation and only need a simple majority. This obviously insults the intelligence of grassroots Democrats, and it hides some sinister agendas.

With only a simple majority, there wouldn't be any need to put in misogynistic and racist restrictions on abortion in order to pander to drooling knucklewalkers like Ben Nelson and Bob KKKasey. Part of the reason that Harry Reid is going the regular legislative route instead of doing budget reconciliation is that he is part of a sexist, racist, and heterosexist hate group, the Mormon Church, and is abusing his position as Majority Leader in order to promote his church's vicious and bigoted political agenda.

Then, there is the whole issue of the public option. By avoiding budget reconciliation, Reid can use other far right "Democrats" and Joe Lieberbush as the front people for killing real healthcare reform while pretending he supports it.

Is the bill worth passing without a strong public option and full funding for abortion?

Absolutely not!

Let's look at what this scandalous legislation actually does.

1) Medicare: This bill makes draconian cuts in Medicare for two reasons. First, they want to take healthcare money away from middle class and poor seniors so they can give it to big corporations. Second, they want to destroy Medicare so nobody will want Medicare for All.

2) Fining the Poor and the Shrinking Middle Class: Another big aspect of this bill is to enact fines for people who don't make enough money to pay for astronomically expensive private health insurance. This is what they are calling "expanding coverage."

3) Abortion: Under a "compromise" pushed by Nelson, KKKasey, and Reid, this bill would make it more difficult for insurance to cover abortion.

4) More Money to the HMOs and Health Insurers: For what those fuckers are getting now, a single payer healthcare program for everyone could be enacted and there still would be money left over. These greedy bastards already get way too much of our nation's GDP, and the "Democrats" want to shovel more money at them.

What about "reforms" like getting rid of preexisting conditions?

None of these will ever be enforced. Just look at the track record. For decades HMO executives and their counterparts in health insurance companies have run massive campaigns of fraud in order to deny life saving medical care to people who have "coverage." Instead of admitting that people need the care and just saying they won't cover it, they pressure doctors into lying and saying the care isn't medically necessary. This isn't just fraud. It's premeditated murder across interstate lines too.

Has even one HMO or health insurance executive ever been prosecuted for fraud or murder because of this? Think about it.

The only way we can save people from this deadly criminality is to give them a chance for public healthcare, which has proven cheaper and better in every developed country that has tried it. The Democrats should have been pushing for single payer from the beginning (and for criminal prosecutions of the guilty too). Yet, these bought politicians won't even give people the option to save their lives from the HMOs and insurance companies.

Do these "Democrats" really think they will get a decent turnout of Democratic voters in 2010 if they pass a Republican wealthcare bill like this instead of a Democratic healthcare bill? How is Obama possibly going to win in 2012 if he signs a wealthcare bill like this instead of signing a healthcare reform bill, which is what he promised the voters in 2008?

 

Tell Susan G. Komen for the Cure to Fire Hadassah Lieberman

Posted by libhom Wednesday, December 16, 2009 5 comments

It isn't just what Hadassah Lieberman's evil husband, Joe is doing. She's really awful too. Christopher at From the Left has made a passionate argument for her firing.

The Firedog Lake Action Alert I received in via email and which From the Left cited includes this brief and damaging summary.

Donations to find a cure for cancer should not be used to pay the salary of Hadassah Lieberman, former employee of the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbying complex and wife of Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who is pledging to kill health care reform while millions go untreated.

We're calling on Susan G. Komen for the cure and celebrity donors like Ellen DeGeneres and Christie Brinkley to be mindful of where their money is going.

Sign our letter to Susan G. Komen for the cure:
"I call for Susan G. Komen for the cure to ask Hadassah Lieberman to step down as a compensated "Global Ambassador" for the organization in light of the inherent conflict of interest her continued presence brings."

My personal message that was included as part of the Action Alert was brief and to the point.
If you keep this former lobbyist for the same corporations that are murdering middle class and poor women with breast cancer, you are sending the message that you only care about rich women's health.

Please Participate in This Important Action!

Jane Hamsher, founder of FiredogLake has been tireless in fighting corruption in DC. It's too bad we can't clone her. Ms. Hamsher also is a breast cancer survivor.



 

The 5 Democrats Most Deserving of Primary Challenges in 2010

Posted by libhom Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2 comments

cake with WTF written on itRemember when the Democrats told us that things would change if they got the magic 60 votes? It sounds like a cruel joke now.

Core Democratic constituencies like queers, women, people of color, unions, environmentalists, seniors, the middle class and the poor have been repeatedly ignored and betrayed while wealthy donors have been given blank checks made out of government funds. The culture of corruption in the Senate and the House goes way beyond politicians who admit to being Republicans.

What do we do about it? 2010 needs to be the year of primary challenges. Here are my current top candidates for them. (Note: a lot of really shitty Phonycrats aren't running in 2010.)

1) Harry Reid
Why hasn't Reid taken away Lieberbush's committee chair? Why hasn't Reid pushed through the public option via budget reconciliation? The answer is quite simple. Reid opposes the public option because he is bought and paid for by the HMOs and health insurers, yet he knows that openly pushing that agenda would get him the wrath of real Democrats who are sick and tired of being screwed over by corrupt politicians. So, he insists on going the regular legislative route which can be filibustered by 41 votes. He knows there aren't 60 votes for the public option, but there easily are 51.

Reid is just as much of a Gopper as any other Gopper in the Senate. It is disgraceful that this right wing extremist is allowed to be leader of the Senate Democrats. Nevada voters should primary his corrupt ass right out of office.

2) Evan Bayh
Bayh is, was, and always will be a sleazebag. He is a leader in the so called Democratic Leadership Council, which should really be called the Democratic Liquidation Council. The DLC has worked tirelessly to pressure Democrats into acting like racist, sexist, heterosexist, corrupt, war mongering Republicans.

Bayh has voted for unconscionable restrictions on government funding for abortions and has cast a reprehensible vote against late term abortions. He just joined other Phonycrats in trying to make it illegal for insurance to cover abortion. This Gopper in disguise has worked to block the public option when he really should be fighting for single payer healthcare. He has done nothing to fight climate change or to support any other issue Democrats care about. He needs to be turned out of office.

3) Blanche Lincoln
Tell me again why she says she's a Democrat. I can't figure it out. She has done nothing to support the Democratic Party's agenda in the Senate. She spends all her time trying to out Republican the Republicans. Bah!

4) Byron Dorgan
This bought politician wants to weaken already horribly weak climate change legislation in the Senate. To make things even worse, he wants to use climate change in order to shovel government money at Big Coal. Dorgan has refused to support the Public Option and has supported draconian abortion restrictions pushed by ultra misogynist "Democrat" Ben Nelson.

5) Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand "represents" one of the most liberal states in the country, yet she has provided absolutely no leadership on liberal concerns or any other matters. In fact, on lgbt issues, she has been downright vicious. She pushed for a temporary moratorium on the military ban, which may sound nice. But, look at the history. The elected Bush administration temporarily suspended most enforcement of the ban during the first US/Iraq War, only to kick out the queers who fought in the war after it was over. The Gillibrand approach is another cannon fodder approach to queers in the military. Aside from that, she mostly has been sitting on the sidelines and collecting a hefty paycheck.

But, what would you expect from Gillibrand, who is part of the same corrupt GOP political machine as Al D'Amato and convicted criminal Joe Bruno. New York deserves way, way better than this.

On Primary Challenges and Democracy
In a fully functioning democracy, every primary in every party would be contested. We are far from there, but the least we can do is to promote primary challenges against the worst of the DINOs.

Photo: SanFranAnnie

 

Let's face it. Every argument in denial of human made Global Warming originates from a person or organization paid for by Big Oil and/or Big Coal. The ideas might be spread across the rightist noise machine (which includes all the cable networks, the nightly news, and the major daily papers), but we know where it all comes from.

I must say I'm astonished by the latest talking point. The game is to point to celebrities who supposedly are hypocritical about their own behavior and say look, "That means Global Warming is a hoax." Setting aside questions about carbon offsets and the need for public figures to have security in a society which is psychotically obsessed with celebrity, there is one question any sensible person should be asking?

Why would anyone answer a scientific question based on the behavior of celebrities?

The whole scam is such an obvious appeal to emotions it isn't even funny. Meanwhile, our Arctic ice sheets are getting thinner, brush fires in Mediterranean climates get worse, and drought becomes a bigger and bigger problem for farmers.

The Maldives is an island nation that will be underwater if the world doesn't stop putting so much carbon into the air. On 12/8/09, Democracy Now! had an interview with with fifteen-year-old Maldives climate ambassador, Mohamed Axam Maumoon, whose behavior is far more mature than that of so many adults in the world. Here's a quote with real information on how our choices affect others.

First of all, I would like to tell everybody what’s wrong. I mean, why are we worried? We are worried because, as you said, Maldives isn’t higher than seven meters—seven feet, sorry, and, well, most of the places are just only one meter above sea level, which is only 3.5 feet, I believe. And we are a small island country. Most of the islands average one kilometer in diameter. And we have got 1,197 islands, and only 200 of them are suitable to be inhabited. And we are living at the very edge, as everybody is now talking about, because our country is so—so fragile, in the sense that we are only protected by the natural barriers, such as the coral reefs and the white sandy beaches. But other than that, we haven’t got the necessary need and necessary finance to actually build, let’s say, barriers, artificial barriers around the island. So we are completely subjected to climate change and global warming and the third factor, which is sea level rise.

Climate change also affects the weather, and it brings out weather anomalies such as the frequency of storms are increasing, and the force also increases. So, even though that naturally our country, our people has survived for 2,500 years on that small island state, we are still under threat right now, because our barriers have been destroyed by our mistakes, because of CO2 emissions from everywhere, to be general.

Read the whole interview or view video of Democracy Now! coverage of the climate summit.



 

My One Sentence Summary of the State of America Today

Posted by libhom Friday, December 11, 2009 8 comments

We live in a society where we are expected to base our self worth on how much cheap plastic crap from China we buy on credit from Wal-Mart (for less) before we die without healthcare.

man with sign that says bust the bankstersIn comments on a post on Progressive Eruptions, I finally bothered to write a concise explanation of the predatory loan crisis. I thought I would repeat it here, edited a bit for clarity.

"Subprime loans" is a euphemism for predatory loans. The loans that sparked the crisis were designed not to be paid back. The banksters deliberately designed them with huge interest rate escalations which were much, much higher than those in traditional ARMs.

The scam was to force people out of their homes in order for the banks to make money after selling them in foreclosure. What went wrong for the banksters? They got too greedy. They issued far too many of these mortgages which all failed within a relatively short period of time. That caused housing prices to plummet, and the mortgage paper which was based on these predatory mortgages went bad.

You won't read points of view like this in the New York Times.

Photo: dorkula (Carrie Sloan)

 

 

Illustration of hand giving someone the fingerFiredog Lake Has an Action Alert (Hat Tip Ten Percent) demanding that Obama fight to put the public option back into healthcare legislation in the Senate. Obama has been largely AWOL from the process, and he has listened more to bought politicians like Joe Lieberbush than he has to liberal Democrats who defeated Hillary Clinton in the primary. Little did we know that Obama would be almost as terrible as Ms. Clinton.

Here's what I wrote, for what it's worth.

This is a Republican wealthcare plan, not a Democratic healthcare plan. Why should I vote for Democrats if I get this kind of crap thrown at me? The Green Party looks better every day.

While you were wasting time planning an escalation of a war against the same Taliban you are negotiating with, the HMOs took over the process in the Senate and middle class Americans got screwed. I'm so sick of you acting like the only people that matter are the super rich. You are so much like Bush it isn't even funny.

I also emailed the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee with this little message:
Subject: No Public Option, No Money, No Votes
Body: That goes for you and every Democratic Senator.

You can email those fuckers too: info@dscc.org

You know that the Democratic Party is a joke when grassroot Democrats have to spend more time pressuring Democratic politicians than Republican ones.

Illustration: ddogbreath

 

Year End Giving

Posted by libhom Wednesday, December 09, 2009 1 comments

It's time for me to catch up on my charitable giving and political donations before the year is up. Like I did last year, I figured it would be a good idea to amplify the impact of my giving by mentioning the recipients on my blog in hopes that others will support these worthwhile organizations.

amFAR:
amFAR combines support with medical research with aggressive public policy advocacy in dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis. This organization has the sense of urgency that so many seem to lack these days.

Doctors Without Borders:
The multitude of wars and other human rights violations around the world are creating far more need for medical services than most of us would even like to think about. Supporting this organization is a way to help ease the damage while we try to stop and prevent the wars that are causing it.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):
FAIR does an excellent job of exposing the far right bias of the corporate media without allowing itself to become beholden to any politician or party. If you don't like the constant flow of bullshit from so many media outlets, supporting FAIR is something you can do about it.

Freedom From Religion Foundation:
One thing that sets FFRF apart from other groups in this area is that they are not shy about taking state/church separation cases from plaintiffs who are atheists. I also like the actions they have taken to make freethinkers visible. As assaults on the Establishment Clause continue or even escalate in the Obama era, a strong organization fighting for the civil rights of atheists and agnostics is even more important than before.

Gay Men's Health Crisis:
This was one of the pioneering AIDS service providers and still provides important services here in NYC. Please support a local AIDS charity in your area. The need is even greater now that we are in a recession and funding is tight.

Manhattan's LGBT Center:
LGBT centers play a vital role in the queer community. They provide social services. They also provide safe meeting spaces for a variety of health, cultural, political, and recreational activities provided by other organizations. Finding a place for an lgbt group can be a major challenge in a city without one. Please support your local center.

Medical Students for Choice:
The campaigns of harassment and outright terror against doctors who perform abortions have had a chilling effect on the availability of abortion. We need to find ways to support the courageous and honorable medical students who choose this vital area of care as part of their future practices.

Pride @ Work:
Here's a way to support organized labor and queer civil rights issues at the same time. This lgbt labor group does important activism in both areas.

picture of a coat hanger with a no symbol over itIn case you haven't heard, Sen. Ben Nelson, Sen. Bob KKKasey, and the Republicans in the Senate are off on another sexist and racist jihad. (NPR 12/7/09)

Monday afternoon, Democratic Senator of Nebraska Ben Nelson, introduced an amendment that would prevent private insurers who participate in the new insurance marketplaces called "exchanges" from offering abortion coverage to women who get public subsides. The wording of the amendment looks similar to the one offered by Democratic Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, and accepted into the House version of the bill. It caused major rifts among Democrats.

The Nelson amendment is sponsored by just one other Democrat, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, plus seven Republicans.

The kind of venomous hatred and bigotry in this amendment should have absolutely no place in American politics. Abortion is a basic human right of women that only the most fanatical of knucklewalkers oppose. Let's not forget that bigots like Nelson and KKKasey are also motivated by the Christian Right's desire to force white women to have more white babies. These two Phonycrats are poster children for everything that is miserable, corrupt, and hateful in American politics. They also are strong arguments in favor of the Green Party.

The National Partnership for Women and Families has an Action Alert fighting this sickening act of bigotry. Here's text from the email they sent me.

Dear Thomas,

We’re now one step closer to securing the meaningful health care reform you need and deserve with passage of Senator Barbara Mikulski’s amendment to improve coverage and affordability of women’s preventive health services.

But the threat to abortion rights is as real as ever. And we need your help.

Today, we expect Senators Nelson (D-NE) and Hatch (R-UT) to offer an outrageous amendment paralleling the House Stupak language which would ban abortion coverage in public and private insurance plans that receive federal funds. But the underlying bill already contains significant compromise language that precludes federal funds from being used for abortion services.

This attack on abortion rights is unprecedented — and threatens to take away coverage most women currently have today.

Make your voice heard — right now!

The kind of rhetoric spewed by bigots like KKKasey and Nelson has terrible consequences. Dr. Tiller, a great American hero, was murdered by a terrorist who was motivated by the lies told by the anti choice religious extremists. Opponents need to be held accountable for the consequences of their irresponsible and dishonest propaganda.

I should also point out that there is no secular, factual basis for opposing abortion. The facts of the argument are all in favor of that perfectly legitimate procedure. Laws against abortion are efforts to use the power of the state to shove religious beliefs down the throats of people who don't share them. Laws against abortion are unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and are blatantly discriminatory against atheists.

Please Take Action to Stop this Sinister Amendment!

Photo: Leo Reynolds

 

Obama looking sillyThose of us who were following the Obama transition last year in order to read the proverbial tea leaves on his administration were really worried. There were way too many Clinton administration retreads and a particularly embarrassing Bush regime retread. Our worries turned out to have been justified, with Obama running a failed, Clintonian Republican administration so far. President Obama needs to clean house. Here are some high powered appointees that desperately need to go.

Chief of Staff: Rahm Emanuel
When an administration is adrift and flailing in terms of both message and policy, there has to be a serious problem at this position. An inept Clinton administration retread, Emanuel first came to national prominence by abusing his position at the DCCC to divert campaign contributions from anti Iraq War contributors to corrupt, pro Iraq war Phonycrats. He also diverted a lot of money to misogynist extremists who don't even recognize the inalienable right of women to choose on abortion.

Emanuel has pursued his Phonycrat agenda in the White House as well. He has favored the banksters over the middle class, HMOs over patients, and bigots over targets of their bigotry. He has absolutely nothing positive to offer and needs to go immediately.

Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates
This corrupt Bush regime official never should have been kept on in the first place. His efforts to drag on the Iraq War indefinitely are what we should expect from someone completely beholden to Big Oil, the mercenary corporations, and the arms merchants. He represents everything that is corrupt and reprehensible about the neoconservative cabal that has way too much power in DC.

Robert Gates hates American values as much as the Christian Coalition and Al Qaeda. He is a dangerous enemy of this country, and he needs to be fired ASAP.

Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton
Ms. Clinton is one of the least diplomatic people outside of the World Wrestling Federation and rightist talk radio. At best, she has been ham fisted. At worst, she has continued the campaign she started in 2007 to try to get us into a war with Iran, and she has deliberately stirred the pot in Palestine by showing favoritism to the apartheid Israeli government.

This is precisely what we would expect from a militant, Christian fundamentalist like Ms. Clinton, but it is reprehensible that an Obama administration has this bellicose blowhard as Secretary of State. Clinton's good words on the human rights of women have been rendered meaningless by her endless Crusades to slaughter women who aren't Christian and who aren't white. Obama should cut her loose show she can cash in by writing her bitter and self absorbed autobiography.

Director of the National Economic Council: Lawrence Summers
If you need any clue on why Summers was such a terrible hire in the first place, this quote from the Wikipedia article on him should clarify things quickly.

Upon the death of libertarian economist Milton Friedman, Summers wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times entitled "The Great Liberator" arguing that "any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites." Summers wrote that while Friedman made real contributions to monetary policy, his real contribution was "in convincing people of the importance of allowing free markets to operate."

This was a flat out lie. No Democrat is a Friedmanite. Only Phonycrat frauds are Friedmanites.

Lionizing Milton Friedman, one of the most murderous kleptocrats in world history, should be enough to have kept Obama from hiring a monster like Summers. Yet, Summers' record in the Clinton Administration was even more reprehensible and dangerous. Summers efforts to push through financial deregulation and corrupt trade deals like NAFTA and the GATT agreement that created the World Trade organization make Summers one of the people most responsible for causing the Crash of 2008.

In his current position, Summers has been a stone wall blocking real Wall St. reform. He is so corrupt that he doesn't even support undoing all of financial deregulation that he supported before, much less an additional crackdown on the banksters and brokesters that is desperately needed to protect the long term stability of our economy. He has steered bailout money to the rich while screwing over the middle class and the poor. He has pushed the involvement of wasteful, corrupt, and deadly HMOs in healthcare "reform" instead of supporting the more humane and cost effective single payer alternative.

If Obama doesn't want another crash to destroy his presidency, he needs to fire Summers and reverse that monster's extreme right economic policies.

Photo: jurvetson

 

Good News on State/Church Separation

Posted by libhom Friday, December 04, 2009 1 comments

sign that says: Equal Rights for All. Keep your church out of my state.
Photo: carbonnyc

Today's press release from Americans United for Separation of Church and State brings welcome news.

A federal appeals court made the right call today by striking down religious presentations given at mandatory meetings at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. ran afoul of the law by inviting the Fellowship of the Christian Centurions, a group that seeks to evangelize law-enforcement officers in its religious doctrines, to give proselytizing talks at meetings that deputy sheriffs were required to attend.

Americans United Executive Director the Rev. Barry W. Lynn welcomed the decision, which he called “a strong reaffirmation of religious liberty.”

Said Lynn, “Sheriff Clarke is free to engage in whatever religious activities he wants in his personal time, but he has no right to use official channels to impose religion on his staff.”

Americans United filed an amicus brief in the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff’s Association v. Clarke case, siding with two deputies who objected to the religious presentations.

It seems like an distant ideal to live in a country where people aren't always trying to shove their religion down the throats of people who don't want it.

Also, the issue of separation of church and state isn't getting anywhere near the attention it deserves. This is primarily due to the corporate media's methodical pandering to militant, Christian fundamentalists. That's why people who support the First Amendment need to be the media.

So far, President Obama has had a mixed record on state/church separation. In his speeches, Obama brings religion into politics in wildly inappropriate ways that remind me of Bush. Obama also has expanded Bush's hate based initiatives to shift federal funding away from inclusive charities and give it to religious charities instead. It also is important to remember that the whole Rick Warren debacle was truly shameful.

While his rhetoric and his policy positions have violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (and the civil rights of atheists in the process), his judicial appointments seem better. From what I've managed to read so far, it looks like the judges President Obama appoints will be more inclined to uphold and defend the First Amendment than Obama or most politicians in either party.

 

Take Action on World AIDS Day

Posted by libhom Tuesday, December 01, 2009 1 comments

World AIDS Day was never meant to be a passive acknowledgment of HIV and AIDS. It is a call to action. Here are three things you can do:

Join AMFAR in Calling for an End to the Syringe Exchange Funding Ban
From their Action Alert:

One quarter of all reported AIDS cases in the United States are attributed to injection drug use, which is a major driver of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Eight federally commissioned reports have found that syringe exchange programs are effective public health interventions that dramatically reduce rates of HIV infection without increasing drug use. Syringe exchange programs also provide critical health care services including HIV testing, counseling, education, and referral to drug addiction treatment centers.

Despite the effectiveness of syringe exchange programs, current programs can only meet a fraction of the need due to the federal funding ban. Help amfAR lift this ban and ensure that these important, effective programs are available to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS!

The NAACP supports this effort as well.

Please Sign the Petition!

 

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