Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh, dear, oh dear, oh dear.

I suppose this cartoon is not very nice at all but I think it's really funny! AND a good antidote to all the idol worship going on right now....

Tragedy of modern war

I so agree with this:

The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other -- instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.

-- Edward Abbey

Of course, many die-hard conservatives would consider it treasonous. So sad.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The truth about war

This is painful:

When the smoke was over, the dead buried, and the cost of the war came back to the people...it suddenly dawned on us that the cause of the Spanish-American war was the price of sugar...that the lives, blood, and money of the American people were used to protect the interest of the American capitalists.

--Mark Twain

Fun slogan I just found

Take a look:

Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D.

If, of course, the Democrats don't sell those of us who supported them down the river.

Just sayin'.

The best hate mail of all time

This is just too funny. You're going to have to go over to Daily Kos and read it because I'm not about to sully my blog with such foul language.

Some folks aren't sure whether it's real or a parody. I rather think it's real because of the appalling spelling. I'm also not even sure a true liberal trying to parody this kind of hate mail could even think of some of this stuff. Just go look. Right here.

Oh, and be sure and take the poll. My favorite part was about Guatemala being in the middle east! (I'm cracking up all over again even as I write this.)

Oh, that double standard

I found this comment over on Dependable Renegade:

But when Bill Clinton gets a blow job, that's a huge blot on the Democratic party and our "secular" culture. Got it.

Now, why was Sanford, a millionaire, hitting up the state for funds to visit his mistress while trying to deny unemployment benefits to unemployed Carolinians?

Very nicely put.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


What can I say?

Just watch it:

The license

This is rich. My friend Paul posted it over on his blog and I just nicked it!

Friday, June 26, 2009

What a surprise! (Not.)

Even though I already knew this, it disgusts me:

Health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical bills that the insurers themselves should have paid, according to a report released [Wednesday] by the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee.
At a committee hearing yesterday, three health-care specialists testified that insurers go to great lengths to avoid responsibility for sick people, use deliberately incomprehensible documents to mislead consumers about their benefits, and sell "junk" policies that do not cover needed care. Rockefeller said he was exploring "why consumers get such a raw deal from their insurance companies."

The star witness at the hearing was a former public relations executive for major health insurers whose testimony boiled down to this: Don't trust the insurers.

"The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent and accountable -- publicly accountable -- health-care option," said Wendell Potter, who until early last year was vice president for corporate communications at the big insurer Cigna.

Yes, I've had claims denied that most definitely were supposed to be covered under the plan I was on. I'll bet that's happened to a lot of you who are reading this.

Our ridiculous culture

Yep. This pretty much captures the reporting of the last 24 hours or so:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Energy, landfills and that sort of thing

As I write, I just got home for lunch. On the way, I stopped and picked up three aluminum can and two plastic bottles that had been thrown on the side of the streets. Then I put them in my recyling bin in my garage upon arriving at my house. Did you know that:

-- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours -- or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.

-- An aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now!

-- Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.

-- Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60-watt light bulb for up to six hours.

I also carry along a canvas bag and pick cans and bottles when I'm out walking my dog. It's easy and I'm paying for curbside recycling pick-up anyway.

I have trained myself that when I spot an aluminum can on the street, what I really "see" is three hours of TV and when I spot that plastic bottle, what I really "see" is six hours of light. That really helps motivates me to go to the trouble to pick them up.

Please consider adopting this really simple practice that will help save the earth as well as cut down on the unsightly litter that is thrown around by the careless and thoughtless citizens among us!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh, that party of family values

Yeah, I know Democrats cheat on their wives too. But Democrats, as a party, don't set themselves up as self-righteous arbiters of everybody else's morals. This is from CNN:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, just back from a secret trip to Argentina unknown to his staff or his wife, admitted Wednesday he has carried on an extramarital affair with a woman in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The South Carolina governor had not been seen in public since June 18. When questioned, Sanford's staff told media outlets Sanford was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. But Sanford was spotted Wednesday in Atlanta, Georgia's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
[T]he Republican leader in the South Carolina Senate questioned Sanford's abdication of responsibility for leaving without notice last week.

"I'm deeply disturbed that no one knew where Gov. Sanford was over the last five days," state Sen. Harvey Peeler said in a statement, adding: "We cannot let the governor's personal life overshadow his public responsibility, or in this case, his negligence of gubernatorial authority."

It's not the sex; it's the hypocrisy.

(Just sayin'.)

The problem with that "public option" option

Here's part of a reader's comment I found over on OpEdNews underneath an article entitled "The Simple Answer to America's Health Care Crisis: Medicare for All":

A public option that would "compete" with private insurance would be doomed to fail unless private insurance companies were compelled to accept all applicants regardless of pre-existing conditions. Good luck getting that to happen. Because private insurers would continue to cherry pick only the healthy to insure, the public option would be the only entity insuring those with pre-existing conditions and would require massive subsidies.

The primary reason single payer could take on the 50 million or so people who have no insurance in this country without raising the overall cost of health care in the U.S. is because single payer, like Medicare, has only a 3% overhead compared to 25-35% in private insurance. That extra 22-32% goes to marketing, lobbying, investor return, CEO pay, etc, all items that have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH PROVIDING HEALTH CARE.

That's why even if private insurance companies were compelled to accept all applicants regardless of pre-existing conditions, the whole system would continue to have these huge cost inefficiencies, because the insured are not a single group, but instead are split into thousands of small groups with no financial leverage.

Why isn't the "cherry-picking" inevitability not being talked about among the mainstream pundits? Why isn't the outrageous level of CEO salary being talked about? Would we even enjoy a sporting event if there were a different set of rules for each side? Of course not! Competition is not the real thing if there's not a reasonably level playing field.

Monday, June 22, 2009

That election

Just in case you've forgotten or weren't really paying attention in 2000, read this.

Too many people are forgetting this

Or maybe some of them never knew it. The article I'm calling to your attention is entitled "Iran Had a Democracy Before We Took It Away" by Chris Hedges and I give you just the first paragraph:

Iranians do not need or want us to teach them about liberty and representative government. They have long embodied this struggle. It is we who need to be taught. It was Washington that orchestrated the 1953 coup to topple Iran’s democratically elected government, the first in the Middle East, and install the compliant shah in power. It was Washington that forced Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, a man who cared as much for his country as he did for the rule of law and democracy, to spend the rest of his life under house arrest. We gave to the Iranian people the corrupt regime of the shah and his savage secret police and the primitive clerics that rose out of the swamp of the dictator’s Iran. Iranians know they once had a democracy until we took it away.

When will we learn? When will we ever learn?

Quotes of the day

From Sojourners:

"Years ago, there's no way we could do this. It brings to mind Big Brother, George Orwell, and '1984.'"
-- Keith Sadler, police chief

"No one has the right to know who goes in and out my front door. That's my business. That's not what America is about."
-- David Mowrer, a local laborer

Both commenting on the 165 closed-circuit TV cameras that “will provide live, round-the-clock scrutiny of nearly every street, park and other public space” in Lancaster, PA.
This is very, very, very disturbing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oh noes!!!

Just a couple of obvious comments:

Health care is already rationed - by profit motivated insurance companies.

Bureaucrats already get between patients and their doctors - they work for insurance companies.

The other day I read about a young woman in her 20s who died of untreated gall stones. She had a job and was insured but her co-pay for the necessary surgery was $5,000. Can you believe that? $5,000. She could not get anyone to do the surgery because she didn't have the co-pay. And she died. Justify that, Republicans. I just dare you. Justify that.

Happy Father's Day!

From the article entitled "Obama's 'national conversation' on fatherhood":

President Obama, who barely knew his own father, devoted his afternoon Friday to promoting the importance of being a good dad, saying he wanted to start a "national conversation" on the subject.
He spoke in deeply personal terms of "the hole in a child's heart" left by an absent father and of the powerful influence his Kenyan father exerted during the only visit the senior Obama made after he and the president's mother had divorced. Obama noted that during that visit -- when he was 10 -- his father gave him his first basketball and took him to his first jazz concert, stirring lifelong interests.

"Fathers are our first teachers and coaches, they're our mentors and role models, they set an example of success and push us to succeed," Obama said at the White House. "When fathers are absent, when they abandon their responsibility to their children, we know the damage that does to our families."

No further comment necessary.


Don't miss it!

This is so touching:

In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year... Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.

~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ah. But it's not in two weeks. It's today! Don't miss it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sustenance and encouragement

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the lack of posting the past few days. As you can imagine, I have been grieving the loss of my position with the Diocese of Oklahoma and experiencing a lot of pain from the sense of rejection that has gone along with it.

I want to share with you a couple of quotations I found today that are very encouraging:

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." ~ Japanese Proverb

"If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again." ~ Flavia Weedn

Now let me tell you what has been going through my mind a lot this week:

I grew up on this song. Even though he was a tenor, my father loved to sing this and he sang it wonderfully. I absolutely love Frank Sinatra's interpretation. Riveting.

I also grew up on the Mississippi River. The "Mighty Mississippi". Paradoxically ever-changing and always very much and very reliably there.

And so the song has sustained me. May it also sustain you, whatever your life challenges may be at the moment.
UPDATE: And another truly great performance is the one by Judy Garland.

UPDATE 2: Yes, I know (before anybody hollers!) that Paul Robeson is the singer who put this song on the map. And nobody can touch him. But Frank Sinatra reminds me of my Daddy (they even looked a lot alike) and Judy.... well, Judy Garland paid her dues in suffering and she had a RIGHT to sing this - no question.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the day

I found this in the comment section of an article on Alternet. It's really hard to argue with:

The remedy to a broken healthcare system is universal, single-payer healthcare. The "public option" will be set up to fail, as adverse selection will direct those who propose the greatest risk into the public plan while the healthiest will remain in the private sector. When the costs for the public plan become too high, we'll be told once again that government is wasteful, doesn't work, and can't compare to the sacred and almight private sector. Obama seems to be leaning toward taxing employer-provider health benefits to pay for the public plan, creating taxpayer resentment against the public plan before it even starts. And since many will remain with their employer-plan, they'll be paying taxes to help subsidize the public plan, handing conservatives a hot-button issue for the next round of the politics of resentment.

As you all know (if you've read the post directly below this one) this issue is now affecting me personally.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A current challenge I'm facing

Dear Readers,

Here's an email I sent out to a number of friends and family members last Friday:

Dear friends and loved ones,

This morning I received a certified letter from the bishop of Oklahoma informing me that, for financial reasons, my position with the diocese is being eliminated and that my employment will be discontinued effective December 31, 2009.

I had already begun the process of petitioning for early retirement and was hoping to qualify for medical retirement. That effort now seems to have been preempted unless there is some legal loophole I don't know about.

I'm confident that I can raise enough money to live on through my work at the Center (St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation here in Tulsa). My big concern, of course, is health care coverage. The law gives me 18 months of extended group coverage if I pay what it costs my previous employer. As of today that cost is $611 a month. After that I am essentially uninsurable privately because of my medical history. I will need to come up with some plan to provide medical coverage for myself until I'm eligible for Medicare when I'm 65. (I turn 60 next month, by the way.)

Well, that's the news, folks! Do keep me in your thoughts and prayers and if anybody has any ideas regarding my predicament, I'll be glad to hear them!

Every blessing to you all,

Of course, there's more to this story. The "official" reason the Diocese is giving has to do with budgetary concerns. However the reality is that the new bishop has disliked me from the get go -- for reasons that continue to escape me. It's all very sad.

I will probably say more about this later. For now, this will have to do.

For some reason, I just love this!

Sent to me by Paul Rogers. Thanks, Paul!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday art blogging

Artist: Edouard Manet
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Back in the "old days" (!) when I lived in the Greater Washington, D.C. area I actually spent many hours gazing upon this painting in the National Gallery of Art. It is quite stunning. This photograph doesn't begin to do justice to the transparency of the little girl's blue shash.

It was my habit back then to visit the Gallery on snow days. It was easy to get into the city center because the metro trains were working just fine and the museums were usually almost deserted. Those were times of quite lovely and peaceful study and contemplation for me.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quote of the day

I found this in the comment section over on Alternet after an article called "Four Reasons Why the Public Health Care Option is Irrefutable":

The US has the most expensive and worst health care system of all modern countries. It is suited to benefit corporations of the health industry, not patients. The US is a corporate dictatorship in democratic disguise, and lobbying is institutionalised corruption.

I so agree.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Snark for the day

Well, well. He's definitely off to a good start:

President Obama's in the news, of course. He's put health care back in the news. Yup. President Obama says he wants to create a national health care plan that's both affordable and easy to use. Yup. Yeah, good. Yeah, and the insurance industry says they'll fight the plan with congressmen who are both affordable and easy to use.

-- Conan O'Brien

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote of the day

From an email sent out by Sojourners:

Compared to any other time in the last 30 or 40 years, there's a better chance of success than ever before. But this is going to be like an Indiana Jones movie, where we kind of slip through a lot of narrow escapes.

-- Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, on the prospects for health care reform.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Health care realities

It's really hard to understand how we, as a society, have allowed these things to happen:

Let's be clear. Our health care system is disintegrating. Today, 46 million people have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. At a time when 60 million people, including many with insurance, do not have access to a medical home, more than 18,000 Americans die every year from preventable illnesses because they do not get to the doctor when they should. This is six times the number who died at the tragedy of 9/11 – but this occurs every year.

In the midst of this horrendous lack of coverage, the U.S. spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation – and health care costs continue to soar. At $2.4 trillion dollars, and 18 percent of our GDP, the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country is unsustainable both from a personal and macro-economic perspective.
In recent years, while we have experienced an
acute shortage of primary health care doctors as well as nurses and dentists, we are paying for a huge increase in health care bureaucrats and bill collectors. Over the last three decades, the number of administrative personnel has grown by 25 times the numbers of physicians. Not surprisingly, while health care costs are soaring, so are the profits of private health insurance companies. From 2003 to 2007, the combined profits of the nation's major health insurance companies increased by 170 percent. And, while more and more Americans are losing their jobs and health insurance, the top executives in the industry are receiving lavish compensation packages.

I found this article on the OpEdNews website. The writer is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Quote of the day

From Sojourners:

Our society has deteriorated to the point where people will take the battle right into the church. People see it as a soft target rather than see it as a place of reverence anymore.

-- Jeffrey Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network, a national organization focused on helping churches plan for emergencies.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday art blogging

"At the Window"
Artist: Leonid Pasternak

In honor of the day :-)

Well, as all you church people out there know, today is Trinity Sunday and I just had to share the following with you!

Not to be blasphemous, but I wonder if even the Holy Trinity understands the American tax code.

-- Maurice Carroll

Too funny!

Something really needs to be done about this

The main thing that needs to be done is that applicants for police work need to be screened for sadistic tendencies and anger management problems:

This is from the CNN website:

Surveillance video shows a Passaic, New Jersey, police officer beating a 49-year-old man standing idly on a street corner.

Surveillance tape from Lawrence's Grill and Bar in Passaic on May 29 shows a police car pull up to Ronnie Holloway, who is standing still on the curb outside the restaurant. After a few moments Holloway zips up his sweatshirt -- because the female officer in the car instructed him to do so, Holloway said.

At that point, the other officer in the vehicle, Joseph R. Rios III, exits the car, grabs Holloway and slams him onto the hood of the police car. He then pummels Holloway with his fist and baton.

Holloway said he had exchanged no words with the officer before he pounced on him.

After the incident, police locked Holloway in a holding cell for the night and did not provide treatment for his injuries, according to Holloway's attorney, Nancy Lucianna. Those injuries included a torn cornea and extensive bruising to the left side of his body, she said.

Holloway is schizophrenic, according to his mother, Betty, with whom he has lived for more than 20 years. But Holloway's attorney says that is not the full extent of his mental disabilities and that her client was "mentally challenged on multiple levels."

At the time of the incident, Holloway told CNN, he was in the midst of a walk around the neighborhood. His attorney described such walks as his chief pastime.

Some information has come to me about another police officer who likes to beat up people for fun. (I'm not at liberty to discuss details here.) To say that this is appalling is to put it mildly. For our society to tolerate it says something very unsavory about our society.

An oldie but goodie

Just in case you've forgotten this one:

The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

-- Cicero, 55 BC

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What despair does to people

I want to recommend that you read an article I found today entitled "Economic Fallout Has Spurred an Epidemic of Murder and Suicide That Has Gone Largely Unnoticed". Here's a little bit of what it says:

Last summer, in the pages of the Nation magazine, Barbara Ehrenreich called attention to people turning to "the suicide solution" in response to the burgeoning financial crisis. Months later, major news outlets started to examine the same phenomenon. Last fall, a TomDispatch report on suicides and a range of other extreme acts -- including self-inflicted injury, murder, arson, and armed self-defense -- in response to foreclosures, evictions, bankruptcies, and layoffs, was followed, months later, by mainstream media attention to the notion of "econo-cide" -- prompted, in large part, by a spate of familicides (murder/suicides in which both parents and their children die).

While it's impossible to know the myriad factors, including deeply personal ones, that contribute to people resorting to drastic measures, violent or otherwise, many press reports suggest that the global economic crisis has played no small part in a range of extreme acts.

An analysis by TomDispatch of national, regional, and local news reports in 2008 and early 2009 indicates that a silent, nationwide epidemic of drastic measures may be underway. News of such acts linked to economic woes -- from armed robberies to pay the rent to financially-motivated suicides -- has filtered out of cities and towns in no less than 30 states, many of which have seen multiple incidents. And since only a fraction of such acts ever receives media coverage, what is being reported, even if mostly in local newspapers, qualifies as startling.

Tell me again how great capitalism is supposed to be????

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The weak point of our defenses

We have had such extraordinary prophets in our national life. Pity we rarely listen to them:

Whenever the government of the United States shall break up, it will probably be in consequence of a false direction having been given to publick opinion. This is the weak point of our defenses, and the part to which the enemies of the system will direct all their attacks. Opinion can be so perverted as to cause the false to seem the true; the enemy, a friend, and the friend, an enemy; the best interests of the nation to appear insignificant, and trifles of moment; in a word, the right the wrong, and the wrong the right.

-- James Fenimore Cooper

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Voice of the Day

This is from a Sojourners email:

The choice we face is broader than politics, deeper than charity. It is whether we see the world chiefly as property to be controlled, defined by walls and fences that must be built ever higher, ever thicker, ever tougher; or made up chiefly of an open weave of compassion and connection.

- Rabbi Arthur Waskow

I so agree. It grieves me that a "you're on your own" attitude has come to prevail in our society. It's a component of that politization of empathy that I reported on yesterday.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The politics of empathy

Oh, my. George Lakoff does it again. PLEASE go read his excellent article entitled "Conservatives Are Waging a War on Empathy -- We Can't Let Them Win"

Take a look:

The Sotomayor nomination has given radical conservatives new life. They have launched an attack that is nominally aimed at Judge Sotomayor. But it is really a coordinated stealth attack -- on President Obama's central vision, on progressive thought itself, and on Republicans who might stray from the conservative hard line.

There are several fronts: Empathy, feelings, racism, activist judges. Each one has a hidden dimension. And if progressives think conservative attacks are just about Sotomayor, they may wind up helping conservatives regroup.

Conservatives believe that Sotomayor will be confirmed, and so their attacks may seem irrational to Democrats, a last gasp, a grasping at straws, a sign that the party is breaking up.Actually, something sneakier and possibly dangerous is going on.

Let's start with the attack on empathy. Why empathy? Isn't empathy a good thing?

Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others -- not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one's countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species.
Progressives care about others as well as themselves.
But the target is not empathy as it really exists. Instead, the conservatives are reframing empathy to make it attackable. Their "empathy" is idiosyncratic, personal feeling for an individual, presumably the defendant in a legal case. With "empathy" reframed in this way, Charles Krauthammer can say, echoing Karl Rove, "Justice is not about empathy."

Please read the rest of the article. I just can't do it justice with a few excerpts here.

You know, I've always been taught that a lack of empathy is a serious symptom of psychological pathology:

The absence of empathy - for instance in the Narcissistic and Antisocial personality disorders - predisposes people to exploit and abuse others. Empathy is the bedrock of our sense of morality. Arguably, aggressive behavior is as inhibited by empathy at least as much as it is by anticipated punishment.

But the existence of empathy in a person is also a sign of self-awareness, a healthy identity, a well-regulated sense of self-worth, and self-love (in the positive sense). Its absence denotes emotional and cognitive immaturity, an inability to love, to truly relate to others, to respect their boundaries and accept their needs, feelings, hopes, fears, choices, and preferences as autonomous entities.

That's from an article I found here.