Friday, February 27, 2009

For all the gun lovers out there

Well, I'm glad it's possible that this arrest was made in good old Tulsa:

Prosecutors filed felony child-neglect charges Thursday against the parents of a mentally-disabled boy who died in an accidental shooting.

Tulsa police said Douglas Allen and Amber Jordan were at home when their 6-year-old son, Jeffery Allen, shot himself in the face Jan. 21. He died the next day.

Jeffery, who had Down syndrome, was playing with the handgun before it discharged, the family told police.

His three siblings were taken from the home in the 800 block of North Troost Avenue and put in protective custody, police said.

My heart just breaks for that little boy.


Here's what's wrong with the insurance model when it comes to health care:

I listened to ABC News tell the story about a McDonalds employee in Arkansas who came to the defense of a female customer being attacked in the restaurant by another man. The abuser shot the McDonalds employee in the chest. And now the McDonalds workers comp insurance company has decided that the employee's medical bills of more than $300,000 should not be covered because the employee was not acting during the normal scope of employment. Huh? Apparently, McDonalds thinks employees who see crimes being committed should first remember that flipping burgers and salting fries are their duties, not defending customers.

Absolutely appalling. Beyond appalling.

When are are we going to "get it" that insurance companies make money by denying coverage?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why Republicans hate the stimulus bill

Here's something I found on Democratic Underground. It's by McCamy Taylor:

Red States pride themselves on keeping their taxes low. They suppress state and local taxes in order to encourage companies and rich folks to relocate to their states. They keep an unhealthy supply of low wage, under educated, uninsured (often undocumented) workers so that there are plenty of maids, nannies, lawn care workers. This also allows the businesses to keep costs down so CEOs have lots of cash to bribe state officials . The side effect is rampant poverty, lack of health insurance, reduced tax base which leads to poor performing schools and other social ills that accompany wealth disparity. They deal with the inevitable consequences of their broken business model, by taking more than their share from the federal government coffers.

That’s right. These self styled, conservative, pull themselves up by their boot strap, we don’t believe in big federal government Republicans rake in more federal dollars than they give back in taxes. They fine tune their social safety net to keep just enough people alive and breathing to fill their federally funded prisons and dig their federally funded roads and pad the payroll on any other pork they can bring home to help deal with the poverty problem that they have deliberately engineered---because there is money to be made in the misfortune of others.

Well, no wonder they are objecting so strenuously to the Stimulus Bill that is going to give some extra federal funds to the other states in this time of recession/Depression. The Red states have worked hard to socially engineer misery so that they can make profit off of it. They do not want to share their good thing with some Johnny-Come-Latelys who just accidentally developed a problem with rising unemployment and poverty.

What's the matter? Didn't their mothers teach them how important it is to share when they were little kids?

Some current health care realities

Folks, this is happening right now:

As economic conditions continue to worsen, the public is increasingly worried about the affordability and availability of care, with many postponing or skipping treatments due to cost in the past year and a notable minority forced into serious financial straits due to medical bills, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s first health care tracking poll of 2009.

In the face of the country’s current economic challenges, the public’s support for health reform remains strong and their trust in President Obama to do the right thing in health care reform is high.

Slightly more than half (53%) of Americans say their household cut back on health care due to cost concerns in the past 12 months. The most common actions reported are relying on home remedies and over-the-counter drugs rather than visiting a doctor (35%) or skipping dental care (34%). Roughly one in four report putting off health care they needed (27%), one in five say they have not filled a prescription (21%), and one in six (15%) say they cut pills in half or skipped doses to make their prescription last longer.

This is from a Kaiser poll and you can read more about it right here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sheer meanness

This simply boggles my mind:

Democrats were outraged Wednesday morning when Republican state Sen. Dave Schultheis said he planned to vote against a bill to require HIV tests for pregnant women because the disease “stems from sexual promiscuity” and he didn’t think the Legislature should “remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior.” The Colorado Springs lawmaker then proceeded to cast the lone vote against SB 179, which passed 32-1 and moves on to the House.

“HIV does not just come from sexual promiscuity, it comes from many other things — contaminated blood, for one,” fired back one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lois Tochtrop, after Schultheis spoke on the Senate floor.

“What this bill will do and why it’s so important to test the woman when she is pregnant — if she is HIV positive, treatment is started immediately to protect the baby, the unborn baby,” the Thornton Democrat, who is also a nurse, said.

So even if it did only come from sexual promiscuity, does that mean we punish the baby?

Also, suppose a woman was a virgin when she got married but her husband had picked up HIV while "sowing his wild oats" before marriage. Do we punish both the mother and the baby for what the father once did and (let's presume) now regrets?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More about "false economy"

I really want you to take a look at an article published in Common Dreams called "Beyond Scarcity: Re-Inventing Wealth in a Progressive World". Here's a point made by the writer that has bothered me for some time now:

While conservatives lavish young talent with communal supports and lucrative careers, we refuse to invest in our own. Progressive foundations are only willing to fund projects that are “accountable” and “cost effective” - understood as “accountable to higher authorities” (the funders) and “minimizing waste” by treating workers as an expendable resource. These ideas should sound familiar. They are foundational concepts in the conservative attack on government and the governing philosophy that dominates the corporate world.

This is no accident.

I’ve often heard George Lakoff speak of the divergent philanthropic strategies of conservatives and progressives. He recounts the tale of a few wealthy conservatives - the same families who funded the vast network of think tanks and media outlets that dominate our culture today - advising progressive philanthropists to apply cost-benefit analysis to their grant offering programs. The covert goal of this suggestion was to undermine efforts to build a progressive infrastructure.

This advice was taken. Progressive foundations today typically offer small grants, with lots of strings attached, and the absolute minimum of resources to hire people to do the work. This ensures that “costs” (aka investing in people) are minimized. It also ensures that no money is available for long-term “big picture” work to advance the movement as a whole.
Conservative organizations pay salaries comparable to the private sector to attract talent that might otherwise go the corporate route. Billions have been spent in a multi-decade strategy to create a conservative infrastructure in the form of a network of think tanks that keep conservative talent comfy as people shift from think tank to political office back to think tank.

You know, plenty of people have pointed this out over the past few years. Why aren't progressives getting it?

The weight of the office

Image found here.

About the airline industry

This is very, very troubling:

Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who has been heralded as a hero for successfully landing a crippled US Airways flight in the Hudson River, told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that the state of the airline industry is in disarray.

"Americans have experienced huge economic difficulties in recent months, but airline employees have been experiencing those challenges and more for eight years," Sullenberger said. "We've been hit by an economic tsunami, September 11, bankruptcies, fluctuating fuel prices, mergers, loss of pensions, and revolving door management teams who have used airline employees as an ATM."
Sullenberger expressed concern that the economic decline has hit the airline industry so hard that "the airline piloting profession will not be able to continue to attract the best and the brightest."

"I do not know a single professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps," he said.

You know, I was just a little kid when I first heard the expression "false economy" and it made perfect sense to me back then.

Okay. So we get mediocre pilots from now on who are willing to fly for smaller salaries and benefits than have been traditional in this business. And then what will happen when there's an incident like the one in which Captain Sullenberger saved the day?

I never used to be nervous about flying. But now I'm starting to be.

This breaks my heart!

Okay, folks. Get on out there and adopt a homeless dog. You'll be glad you did.

It'll give you GREAT karma. Trust me, I know these things! :-)

Monday, February 23, 2009

I don't think we can boast

I completely agree:

When it shall be said in any country in the world, my people are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive..., when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.

Thomas Paine is, undoubtedly, my favorite of the Founding Fathers. I do wish his wisdom were more valued today.

Something to think about seriously

UPDATE: Here's a comment I found to the above video:

Actually it's a simple case of economics.. if there is no one with jobs, there is no one to buy products and it doesn't matter ONE BIT how much money you save outsourcing to make your product cheaper if there is no one there to BUY IT (ask anyone in consumer products who outsources and ask them how X-Mas went for them this year). If we stop outsourcing it would cost us the same to make products now as it did in 2000.

You know, this is so OBVIOUS. What's so hard to see about it?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Here's Bernice

She's a sweet, dear black lab mix --- probably has some pit bull in her. And she's VERY energetic. The cats of the household are none too pleased but I'm sure everyone will adjust in due course.

Poor girl. Some horrible person dumped her on the turnpike with her half-grown female puppy. The two could have so easily been killed outright or (worse) injured only to die a lingering, painful death. Fortunately, an obviously well brought up young man stopped and rescued the dogs. The above picture was taken at his mother's house.

I'm sure it will not surprise you to learn that I'm simply thrilled to have her!

This is so true

Rejoice with me, people. I have a new dog! Her name is Bernice. I'll show you a picture later. For now, just think about this:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday cat blogging!

Sorry for neglecting yesterday's cat blogging! This is to make up for it. :-)

What are we DOING?

I remember as a child in the 50s believing (as I think most of us did) that "the future" would be a time of vastly increased leisure. I also remember people talking about that as if it would be a good thing!

What has happened to that dream, that aspiration?

Here's something I found today that reminds me of those earlier expectations:

Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.

-- Bertrand Russell

Quote of the week

This is from an article entitled "Obama's 'Seven Days in May' Moment" over on Common Dreams:

"You know, I am an eternal optimist," Obama told a group of columnists about his rebuffed outreach to Republicans. "That doesn't mean I'm a sap."

I'm glad he looks at it that way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This speaks to our situation, doesn't it?

What an exquisite little poem. Technically speaking, it's a true gem:

Fair and Unfair

The beautiful is fair. The just is fair.
Yet one is commonplace and one is rare,
One everywhere, one scarcely anywhere.

So fair unfair a world. Had we the wit
To use the surplus for the deficit,
We'd make a fairer fairer world of it.

-- Robert Francis

The problem with what's happening to newspapers

Please run, don't walk, over to Common Dreams and read the Salon article entitled "The Death of The News". I've been very concerned about this for some time and this article makes me more so. Here are a few snippets:

Journalism as we know it is in crisis. Daily newspapers are going out of business at an unprecedented rate, and the survivors are slashing their budgets. Thousands of reporters and editors have lost their jobs. No print publication is immune, including the mighty New York Times. As analyst Allan Mutter noted, 2008 was the worst year in history for newspaper publishers, with shares dropping a stunning 83 percent on average. Newspapers lost $64.5 billion in market value in 12 months.
If newspapers die, so does reporting. That's because the majority of reporting originates at newspapers. Online journalism is essentially parasitic. Like most TV news, it derives or follows up on stories that first appeared in print. Former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll has estimated that 80 percent of all online news originates in print. As a longtime editor of an online journal who has taken part in hundreds of editorial meetings in which story ideas are generated from pieces that appeared in print, that figure strikes me as low.
There is no substitute for field reporting, in which a real live human being observes an event while it is happening and talks to other real, live human beings.
If field reporting dies out, the world will become a less known place. Vast areas will simply not be covered, and those that are will not be covered from multiple perspectives. Precisely because reporters are imperfect, because they by necessity capture only a fragment of reality, it is essential that numerous firsthand accounts exist.

I really can't do this piece justice with a few excerpts. Do go read the whole thing.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The coming extinction of humanity

A number of people have thought of this and, really, it seems to be the only way to explain the lack of evidence for other civilizations throughout the universe:

Our failure to detect intelligent extraterrestrials may indicate not so much how rarely these have evolved, but rather how rapidly they have destroyed themselves after developing technological civilizations.

-- John Leslie

Is it really inevitable? You'd think someone in power would be making solving this the very, very top priority.

John Leslie is author of The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction.

Don't be timid, Mr. President

Go on over and read Frank Rich's New York Times opinion piece entitled "That Was in Fact a Huge Win for Obama Last Week". He says this:

Obama mowed down the GOP with a stimulus bill victory last week. The biggest mistake he can make now is to be too timid.

Yep. I definitely agree.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

One of the best quotes on love I've ever come across:

What most people need to learn in life is how to love people and use things instead of using people and loving things.

-- Anonymous

Friday, February 13, 2009

10 things

Details right here.

Friday cat blogging!

An open letter to the president

Frank Shaeffer is a former right winger who has "seen the light". Here's part of a letter he has written to President Obama:

As someone who appeared numerous times on the 700 Club with Pat Robertson, as someone for whom Jerry Falwell used to send his private jet to bring me to speak at his college, as an author who had James Dobson giveaway 150,000 copies of one of my fundamentalist "books" allow me to explain something: the Republican Party is controlled by two ideological groups. First, is the Religious Right. Second, are the neoconservatives. Both groups share one thing in common: they are driven by fear and paranoia. Between them there is no Republican "center" for you to appeal to, just two versions of hate-filled extremes.

The Religious Right supply the kind of people who at McCain and Palin rallies were yelling things such as "kill him" about you. That's the constituency to which your hand was extended when looking for compromise on your financial bailout bill.

There's only one thing that makes sense for you now. Mr. President, you need to forget a bipartisan approach and get on with the business of governing by winning each battle. You will never be able to work with the Republicans because they hate you. Believe me, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are the norm not the exception. James Dobson and the rest are praying for you to fail.

Sadly, I think Schaeffer is undoubtedly right.

The president is obviously an open, generous, gracious human being. These days I'd rather he would be a bit more suspicious and cynical.

Oh, dear God

This is just dreadful:

The crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 about seven miles shy of Buffalo Niagara International Airport killed all 49 people aboard and one person in a house.

The plane, which officials said was on a landing approach, was headed away from the airport but may have been simply making a turn, Tatro said.

I suppose most people already know about this but today is my day off and I'm just now checking the news.

May all the dead rest in peace and may those who mourn be comforted.

And may the investigators find out what went wrong.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln's 200th birthday

Some of my favorite Lincoln quotations:

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.
Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.
Die when I may, I want it said by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.
I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.

He was not a saint, although some have tried to make him so. Nor was he a villain - although some have considered him to be one. Yes, he made some racist remarks along the way as many recently have pointed out; he was, after all, a man of his times. But he also said this (and it speaks to his integrity as much as anything he ever said): "I'm a slow walker, but I never walk back."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just because I like it

For all you math geeks (and those who appreciate them!)

Road fatalities

Here's something I just discovered. I suppose you could call this trivia but I think it is worth reflecting on in terms of what it says about human nature:

In Traffic, his recent book on the psychology of driving, Tom Vanderbilt writes that "[i]n 1720, traffic fatalities from 'furiously driven' carts and coaches were named the leading cause of death in London. . . . [I]n the New York of 1867, horses were killing an average of four pedestrians a week." And Maxwell Lay, in his Ways of the World, notes that cars are safer than horses were on an accidents-per-distance-traveled basis.

I found this on "The Straight Dope".

The "law-of-war"

A Slate article I want to recommend is entitled "Lincoln's Laws of War: How he built the code that Bush attempted to destroy". Here are a couple of paragraphs:

One of Abraham Lincoln's little-noted accomplishments has become his most unlikely legacy. He helped create the modern international rules that protect civilians, prevent torture, and limit the horrors of combat, the body of law known as the laws of war. Indeed, he was probably our most important law-of-war president, having crafted the very rules that George W. Bush and his Justice Department tried to destroy.
The code reduced the international laws of war into a simple pamphlet for wide distribution to the amateur soldiers of the Union army. It prohibited torture, poisons, wanton destruction, and cruelty. It protected prisoners and forbade assassinations. It announced a sharp distinction between soldiers and noncombatants. And it forbade attacks motivated by revenge and the infliction of suffering for its own sake. Most significantly, the code sought to protect channels of communication between warring armies. And it elevated the truce flag to a level of sacred honor.

Go read the rest of it. It's very illuminating.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Krugman nails it

Why is it that, when the Republicans are in power, they play to their base (even the lunatic fringe) and when the Democrats are in power, they play to the center? It really depresses me sometimes. Paul Krugman puts it this way: "Call Yourself a "Centrist" and Magically Get Away with Selling out the American People". Here's a sample:

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.
All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.

But how did this happen? I blame President Obama’s belief that he can transcend the partisan divide — a belief that warped his economic strategy.

I really recommend that you read the whole article. I'm sad to say that it's discouraging. What gives me hope, however, is that I have no doubt that President Obama reads Krugman's columns (unlike our former president who boasted that he never read newspapers).

UPDATE: Just found another article that speaks to this issue by Arianna Huffington entitled Bipartisanship Fetishism vs. What's Best for America: Obama Needs to Choose. I guess Obama is more idealistic than I had earlier discerned. I'm afraid he's in for a big disillusionment.

UPDATE2: Here's a comment to the Huffington article that is VERY encouraging if, in fact, it represents what's really happening:

I may be wrong, but in thinking over how things have gone the past two weeks, I think you people may be missing something. As you know, Obama made a very public, sincere overture to the Republicans. He had pieces of the bill removed that they complained about. The House Republicans then stabbed him in the back. They got all giggly-excited that they'd won some sort of political points (what ones aren't clear), and then proceeded to make things difficult in the Senate as well. I thought at the time that they looked like real heels, and now the polls are reflecting that. The public is even more behind Obama than before, and the Republicans keep losing ground. The Republicans are going to realize sooner or later than their obstructionist tack is not working--right about the time the universal health bill needs to be voted on. Meanwhile, the centrist Senators took out THE most popular parts of the stimulus bill--the ones there will be the most hue and cry about resurrecting, either in the compromise bill or in a separate bill. I think they did it on purpose--to achieve just that. This may all come out to Obama's and the nation's advantage in the end.

The person's screen name who wrote this is midwesthousewife.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Saturday, February 07, 2009

One of my pet peeves!

The arts matter

I want to steer you over to an opinion piece by Robin Bronk at The Huffington Post called "Stimulate the Arts and Keep America Strong". Here's part of what she says:

The version of the [stimulus] bill passed by the House of Representatives contains $50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides critical support for America's not-for-profit arts institutions. This provision has been attacked as "pork" by some, while the Senate bill currently provides nothing for the NEA. To make matters worse, this week Senators stripped out a provision intended to provide the same job creating benefits for the film industry as the bill provides for other industries.

Why is it so hard for some to realize that jobs in the arts support millions of Americans and are no less worthy than any other job that puts food on the table? Economic studies indicate that 2.98 million Americans are employed in the arts or in arts-centric businesses. Each dollar allocated to the arts not only supports those individuals; the benefits flow outward to their communities and to other businesses.

We need to recall the wonderful art produced when FDR put artists to work during the Great Depression. Do we really want a society in which we let our best talent just go to waste?

Now here's a bumper sticker!

I really like this slogan:

Don’t get furious, get curious

It would really help us all understand each other a bit better if we tried to live by it.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The edge of catastrophe

Yeah, me too:

Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next.

It's time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation's future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.

-- Paul Krugman

It's from an article entitled "On The Edge".

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The whole BIPARTISAN thing

Someone over on Democratic Underground published a little rant that included the following:

I have had it up to here with the whole BIPARTISAN thing. Give me a f*****g break. Do the Dems remember how they and their brethren were treated when we were the minority? How in the hell can they not remember? We all remember. These asshole Republicans will not stop being obstructionists, or give one f*** about what Dems or the American people think. They have absolutely no reason to change their behavior. Hell, why would they? It's been one big ass gravy train up to this point. Nothing less than hearings and prosecutions will make them change their ways. How damn hard is that to understand?

Obama campaigned on change. If he tries too hard to appease the Republicans, change won't really happened, a lot of people will be disappointed and he'll be voted out of office in 2012. IMHO, that is.

The comments to this are varied and interesting. You might want to click through and check them out.

This is actually admirable

I found this over on Common Dreams. It's part of somebody's comment:

A modest but important note to the refreshingly frank assessment by President Obama in the Tom Daschle fiasco that, "I screwed up." Obama didn't say, "Mistakes were made," the favorite dodge of errant leaders who hope the passive verb somehow thrusts the burden of the crime to an amorphous, distant other. He said, "I screwed up."

-- Abby Zimet

That's right. He used the active, not the passive voice and he put it in first person.

Refreshing, isn't it?

Monday, February 02, 2009

A good question

I found this right here on Crooks and Liars:

Why hasn't President Obama used his huge email list for message control before the stimulus debate started?

Seems kind of obvious, doesn't it?

More on the bailout

This makes so much sense:

They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses... What planet are these people on?

-- Sen. Claire McCaskill

Senator McCaskill also suggested that we cap executive pay (for companies getting bailout money) at $400,000 --- the salary of the United States president. And that makes a lot of sense too.