26 September 2012

Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair

I couldn't sit with someone who justified the invasion of Iraq with a lie
The Observer,
Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu: pulled out of a seminar which Tony Blair was scheduled to attend.
Photograph: Str/REUTERS

The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.

If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth? Days before George W Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, I called the White House and spoke to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, to urge that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to confirm or deny the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Should they be able to confirm finding such weapons, I argued, dismantling the threat would have the support of virtually the entire world. Ms Rice demurred, saying there was too much risk and the president would not postpone any longer.

On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its by-all-accounts despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.

On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.

But even greater costs have been exacted beyond the killing fields, in the hardened hearts and minds of members of the human family across the world.

Has the potential for terrorist attacks decreased? To what extent have we succeeded in bringing the so-called Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds closer together, in sowing the seeds of understanding and hope?

Leadership and morality are indivisible. Good leaders are the custodians of morality. The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.

If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?

My appeal to Mr Blair is not to talk about leadership, but to demonstrate it. You are a member of our family, God's family. You are made for goodness, for honesty, for morality, for love; so are our brothers and sisters in Iraq, in the US, in Syria, in Israel and Iran.

I did not deem it appropriate to have this discussion at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last week. As the date drew nearer, I felt an increasingly profound sense of discomfort about attending a summit on "leadership" with Mr Blair. I extend my humblest and sincerest apologies to Discovery, the summit organisers, the speakers and delegates for the lateness of my decision not to attend.

Jonathan Kay on America’s cruel healthcare system, and the GOP’s cynical efforts to preserve it

Jonathan Kay | Sep 6, 2012 2:08 PM ET | Last Updated: Sep 6, 2012 3:50 PM ET

As the National Post reported Thursday, a conservative American advocacy group is seeking to cast doubt on Obamacare by linking it to the failures of Canada’s single-payer health system. The star of the group’s $6.3-million ad campaign is Waterdown, Ont. resident Shona Holmes, who received neurological treatment in the United States for conditions that, she flatly claims, might have rendered her blind or dead had she waited for treatment here in Canada.

The real facts of her case turn out to be more complicated. As the media has reported, some Canadian specialists who have studied her case say Ms. Holmes’ condition actually was a benign cyst, which did not qualify, in her context, as a medical emergency. These experts also say that in cases where a patient is believed to have serious neurological problems, the Canadian health system responds “immediately.”

I have no special insight into the medical details of Ms. Holmes’ case. But as an everyday consumer of the Canadian health system, her story rings odd. Our system is hardly perfect (see below), but it springs to life with shocking speed as soon as any patient is in genuinely urgent distress. The hospital in my neighbourhood once made me wait 12 hours for treatment for my mildly infected arm. But when I brought my 6-month-old daughter in with breathing problems, the very same health system suddenly presented itself like a scene out of ER.

Isolated tragedies notwithstanding, lifespans in Canada are actually longer, and our rates of childhood mortality lower, than those in the United States. By turning Ms. Holmes into a propaganda figurine, conservative U.S. lobbyists are giving Americans a skewed, overly negative image of Canada’s universal health system.

Where the Canadian health system is sluggish and riddled with delays is in the area of elective surgery, including orthopedic procedures; as well as radiological imaging, which sometimes involves multi-month waiting lists. When a condition does not present as life-threatening at the primary-care level, just getting an appointment with a Canadian specialist can take months. That part of Ms. Holmes’ narrative rings true.

One of my family members who lives in the Toronto area, for instance, suffers from acute osteoarthritis; and recently found herself in need of a knee replacement. Her local Canadian doctor told her she could get one — for free, of course — but that it would take more than a year. Unwilling to spend 12 months on crutches and pain killers, she called up a hospital near her retirement community in Naples, Florida. They said she could get the replacement done within two weeks — but at a cost of $60,000.

And therein lies the real difference between the two systems. While both do a good job when a patient’s life is on the line, the American one also gives the wealthy and well-insured gold-plated service in the elective domain, not to mention an all-you-can-scan buffet of high-tech diagnostics. I had a taste of this when I lived in the United States as a university student, enjoying an all-inclusive health plan that made me feel like I was back in Canada, minus the waiting lists.

This, at root, is why there is so much opposition to Obamacare: Most middle-class, middle-aged Americans typically already have solid health care plans — as do elderly Americans, who have been covered by “Canadian-style” medicare for generations. They see Obamacare as a form of socialist meddling whose benefits will be felt primarily by people who are on average poorer (and blacker) than themselves. And there is some truth to that.

Yet the needs of those poor patients are real, and it is a scandal that this extraordinarily rich country contains almost 50-million people who lack any form of health insurance. According to one advocacy group, 26,000 Americans die every year due to a lack of health insurance.

Perhaps instead of focusing on dubious Canadian medical tales such as that of Ms. Holmes, Americans should focus on curing this ongoing moral disgrace — a project that Mitt Romney took on in Massachusetts, to his great credit, and now has abandoned for the sake of indulging his party’s free-market dogma, to his great shame.

Every year, I drive through Massachusetts — and New Hampshire, and New York, and Vermont — en route from my home in Toronto to our family’s traditional summer vacation spot in Ogunquit, Maine. And every year, I make a habit of taking secondary country roads, to enjoy the region’s beautiful small-town landscapes.

But on the bulletin boards at gas stations and general stores, you often can see the names of the forgotten victims of America’s health system traced out in ballpoint pen: notices seeking donations so this or that poor local family can buy cancer care for their child, or diabetes treatment for an uncle. You will sometimes see collection jars on the counter at diners, or yard sales, with homemade labels soliciting donations for a stroke victim, or a crippled senior. These ballpoint-pen people are America’s answer to Shona Holmes.

It is a stain on the United States that they are so legion. And a stain on the Republican Party that they have resisted efforts to bring them the universal health coverage that is available in every other developed country on earth — including, thankfully, Canada.

20 September 2012

The New Civil War, Part 2

Monday, September 17, 2012 at 10:48am
D wrote:

Yup, feeding the poor and loving those less fortunate is close to the heart of what Jesus was preaching while he was on Earth. I am certainly in favor of that, but its really HOW it is done that bothers me.

If I give money to my church, I know that over 90 cents of every dollar I give goes straight to the mission that our church sets forth. That to me is just awesome. There is NO way that our secular, corrupt government can promise the same.

And that's my problem with the ACA. I can't say my church is going to provide medical assistance for the poor, but listen to this story.

In 2008, my church took a special offering and told us the money was going to go straight into a fund to hire a career services person who would be free to the community of Columbus and work full time to find employment for anyone who wanted to find work. In one weekend, my church family gave over $600,000. In the last four years, only a third of that money was spent and well over 300 people have found jobs (with health insurance) and are paying taxes, feeding their families, and hopefully tithing their money back to Vineyard Church. That is how it works best brother, in my opinion!

Less government, lower taxes, promote growth of small businesses, create jobs and give good tax paying, God worshipping Americans an opportunity to set examples and give back to their communities and help their neighbors.

Let me close with this, when I give my time or money to help someone, I end up getting blessed just by how great it feels to help someone else. When the government takes the money I would normally give freely to my neighbors, and tells me they are going to give it to the poor, what happens? I'm robbed of the choice to give and that feeling of being blessed KNOWING that I really helped someone. When you get your paycheck and see how much the Fed and state takes out of your paycheck, do you get that warm fuzzy feeling that your tax dollars are really going to help your neighbor?

Thursday, September 19, 2012 at 1:55am
K wrote:

That's actually a truly great story about your church. But think on this, that's happening all around the country. AND, and this is a big and, the government invests a billion dollars in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That's in addition to tax expenditures like the earned income credit and mortgage relief, education grants and housing programs in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in private donations like those from your church.

Yet still we have the highest numbers of people enrolled in the SNAP program, Medicaid, and receiving unemployment than we have had in years, maybe in that combination ever.

What do you suppose would be happening in this country without the public programs?

Poverty in this country has hit crisis levels yet neither Pres Obama or Mr. Romney have mentioned it, except for Mitt to mention that he doesn't care about the poor.

The system you are describing is one of sheer and brute force, which is what we basically already have. That's what got us here. Foreclosures are at an all time high. Income inequality, the education gap between the wealthy and the poor, and lack of social mobility have never been this high in this country. Mr. Romney is not going to change that. Pres. Obama won't either. He's had four years to do so and hasn't done much. But the Romney/Ryan free-market-capitalism-rules-yee-ha ticket are certain to exacerbate the problem simply because their capitalism is all about capitalizing on someone else's loss. The people with capital, i.e. money, capitalize on the losses of the lower classes. The best system in their minds is one in which the wealthy gain more. Then they toss the scraps to the peasants and that's how we grow richer, too. Voodoo.

Just the cuts to Medicaid that Ryan's Path to (his) Prosperity alone stipulate could lead to a pandemic in our already struggling cities never before witnessed here.

But that's not all; then Ryan proposes to put all of those funds into boosting the already burgeoning military budget because, according to Ryan, our defense is our number one priority. Really? I somehow remember a little clause in the Constitution about the welfare of the people being the responsibility of the government. But I must be thinking of the constitution of Norway.

Private donations are incredibly important but they're not enough. They just aren't. And this idea that god-fearing religious folks can save the poor as examples for the rest of of us is kind of a scam too. Mitt tithes. That's part of Mormonism. And I get that. It's in the Old Testament - one tenth. But not all Americans go to church. And not all Americans are Christians, my friend. A growing number of people are proud to claim no religious affiliation. That may scare you but it is a principle our country was founded on - freedom of religion.

But back to god, GW Bush talked to god on a daily basis and he got responses. If I told you I was hearing someone talk to me you'd toss me in the loony bin.

Truthfully, I'm all for smaller government.

Let's shrink the whole thing but let's start with the military.

End the fruitless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and the creation of a terrorist network of remotely-controlled flying robot bombing raids (soon to be in your backyard).

End the idiotic and wasteful drug wars.

Then let's address the salaries of our elected officials along with their benefits packages.  Reduce all of it.  No elected official should be tempted to make it a career.

After that let's address tax expenditures the government doles out to the wealthy such as investment loss deductions, capital gains, and breaks for multinationals.

Then legalize marijuana, prostitution, and any other high priced drugs and tax the hell out of them. Consumption taxes ought to be much higher in general but there's no way you can tell me that ganja is any worse than booze.

Legalizing ganja gets a bunch of dudes out of federal prison, saving millions. Get them jobs in dispensaries, guarding hookers, or making crack. They're working, paying taxes, and spreading good will.

Now that would be a free country.

Then we can address health care. Nationalize the whole damn system. Steal the model from our Canadian friends. But make improvements. Look to Taiwan for a more cohesive system focused on preventive care, less on treatments and procedures.

Now that's a plan I can deal with. Keep god out of it. That's way too relative. The relationship between you and your god are personal. Mine is too. Let's keep it that way.

The New Civil War: Religion in America

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 11:42pm
K wrote:

I just have to ask this since I saw it on yours and J's pages because I just can't stop thinking about it. Why do you support the Romney/Ryan ticket?

Have you read Path to Prosperity? It's brutal on the poor and disabled - cuts to Medicaid amount to a third of the program, $750B, over ten years. All that money is used to pay for increased funding to the military budget. It's pretty sick.

And Mitt, he can talk about jobs and fixing the economy until he's blue - this guy has an elevator for his cars. He has an elevator for his cars. That's out of touch, isn't it?

I'd really like to hear your reasoning for liking a guy like P Ryan if you were willing to share. Ryan is a classic example of a career politician who's grown very wealthy at it over the last 14 years. You could say he's found a niche. And in all of his big talk about fiscal conservatism he never once stops to suggest a cut to his own salary or his benefits package - not that any politicians do - but they're not all preaching cuts like he is - cuts that will hurt the people who need the most help.

I noticed that you wrote that people who vote for Obama are morons. Why do you think that?

If you don't want to discuss it, just let me know. And I won't bring it up again. Promise.

Otherwise, I hope all is well. I think about you guys all the time and wish we could get the whole family together once in a while. I also think we should all be able to talk these issues or just agree not to talk about it so we can at least see each other. We're family for goodness sake.

Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 6:24am
D wrote:

What's happening Cuz? Thank you for the note. I really do think about you and your family all the time as well and I really do want to get together! Its ridiculous to let this much time go by and not spend some of it together.

On my political comment, I don't think liking or even voting for Barack is moronic. Worshipping him and the party is. Some people can't even admit that he isn't really changing anything. I have some strong feelings about Obamacare and Barack's view of taxing the rich even more before balancing the budget now. As far as my vote for Mitt and Paul, I want free trade, lower income taxes (or at least no increases), I work hard for the right to choose which doctor I'd like to see and I think its simply wrong to take that away from the middle class. Free health care WILL take that away from the middle class.

Lastly, I fully believe that I can choose and DO choose to give money and support to the poor much more effectively than our government ever could. Barack asks us to put our faith in the government and to trust them to take more of our money and to give it to the people who need it most. I'm sorry but I just don't trust "them" that much. I don't like to discuss my giving, but I give quite a bit of money to my church and I serve my community with my time. My church is awesome and i DO trust them to use this money to serve others and i have physical evidence that it does! That is how I believe charity is supposed to work...not by increasing taxes and trusting gov folks to do the job and not to waste much of it.

Love you a lot K and I hope we can keep talking and get our whole family together soon...how about Christmas??? Thanksgiving?

Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:48am
K wrote:

Yeah, you know we're busy here with three little boys. But they're good kids and J's able to stay home with them. That's been effective in raising them. We've got to find a way to get together.

You know, I understand your sentiment. I think it's dangerous to become so utterly ingrained in an ideology that it becomes impossible to discern when something in that ideology is wrong or misleading.

In many ways, for progressives, Obama has been disappointing. For GW Bush fans, Obama has continued many of the same policies especially in foreign policy just with a little less bravado, so he ought to be looked upon as successful by Bush supporters.

And although some Dems, like B Sanders and the lady from Ohio, pushed to end the Bush tax cuts, Pres Obama did not push for that. Instead he sought compromise in order to pass health care reform that was in fact a Republican created reform package introduced in the 90s by the Heritage Foundation as a counter proposal to a single payer system that H Clinton was pushing for.

After that, then Gov. Romney went on to pass the same legislation in Massachusetts. Those are facts.

Overall that sounds like a pretty centrist president we've had in Obama.

Taxes are tough to talk about. No one wants to pay more yet we have to if we want to pay off our debt. Cuts and taxes and tax reform are the only way to solve this massive debt problem initiated by the Republicans and continued by the current administration. The Romney/Ryan ticket offers no solution, by the way, just more debt.

During WWII, there were all kinds of posters about how Americans needed to share in the sacrifice. For the next 30 years the upper class paid 60, 70% in taxes. And the country grew. Millionaires still became multimillionaires and there was still inequality - H Humphrey railed against it - but it was nothing like we've seen over the last 40 years. Reagan cut taxes then raised them. GW cut taxes and we fell into a great recession. Now Romney/Ryan want to cut taxes and Medicaid funding. Then in order to "incentivize" Medicare, they'll introduce a "premium support" plan. In other words they'll turn Medicare into a voucher program.

They want to increase funding to the war machine while decreasing funding to education. They want to privatize just about everything. It's devoted sickness. As Emerson once wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

AS it is right now your insurance company and your employer dictate who your doctor is and can be. A friend and colleague of mine has been seeing a doctor for years but our employer provided insurance doesn't cover 1 iota of his bills because his dr is out of the plan.

Another colleague busted his knee up playing soccer. However we were in the process of changing insurers. Our new insurance treated his busted knee as a preexisting condition and wasn't going to cover any of it. When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, our insurers had no choice. He had surgery earlier this year to repair MCL and ACL tears.

There are plenty of beneficial aspects of the ACA (there is no such thing as Obamacare and it makes no sense to call it that). Prior to the passage of the ACA, pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition - good luck trying to get insurance. That's not true today.

While the ACA is not perfect, it does enforce an insurance company to spend 85% of premiums collected on health care. Our mechanic, who owns his own business, employs about ten people, received a $5000 refund from UHC as a direct result of the ACA legislation.

I don't think the ACA dictates which doctor you can see. Your insurance company does that. The idea that the ACA tells you which doctor to see is simple, basic fear mongering from the right.

I understand that you don't trust the government. But then I ask you, do you trust corporations more?

The government may be a "necessary evil" but it is one that was created not to turn a profit but for the welfare of the people, by the people. Corporations and businesses are created to earn money. That's it. The corporate Bottom Line is profit. The government's bottom line is the welfare of its people.

Of course it's fantastic that you donate your time and money when you can. It's rewarding, benevolent, and contributes to a just society in which we are all partners. It is a noble endeavor to try to provide for the less fortunate. But there are anywhere between 17 and 30 million people in this country who are short of food. You can't help them all. But our government can reach them. What we need is funding. Funding for non-profits like the Hunger Task Force that delivers food to folks who can't pick it up, like meals on wheels that delivers food to elderly across the country. While I admire your commitment, we need more. And in the time when we need more, Mitt Romney built an elevator for his cars. Paul Ryan became a millionaire and the Republicans have fought against any tax increases and all issues of equality - most recently for immigrants and gays and lesbians.

Unfortunately there aren't enough people like you. Surprisingly as people get more, avarice disables charity. That's evident in the startling disparity we are witnessing in this country today.

You mentioned freedom. Romney/Ryan don't want you to have freedom unless it follows their mandates. If you happen to be in love with a man and in a committed relationship, they won't let you marry. So when you get sick, your partner has no legal right to visitation. No legal right to inquire about your health without your consent. And if you're in a comma, well your partner is SOL. And you cannot receive a marriage tax break. That's not freedom, that's oppression.

Ron Paul at least is consistent. He doesn't want nationalized health care and wants to legalize just about everything. He'd get my vote before Romney and Ryan would.

There's a lot of information out there to read through. It's senseless to listen to talking heads because we all just get caught up in the same minutiae and indoctrination. But if you read through the literature and proposals carefully you can make up your own mind.

Now I've totally glossed over all of the disappointments of the last 4 years and the worries I have for the next 4 because I've already written an essay. But I think I've tried to make a case why the Romney/Ryan ticket would be bad for the country.

My two main points (and this is just for starter) about Romney and Ryan:
1) They want to repeal the ACA and replace it but they have nothing to replace it with. So we'll return to what there was before if Republicans can get enough seats in the House and Senate as well as the presidency. Above, I've tried to show 3 ways the ACA helps the average American.

2) They want to cut Medicaid and SNAP in order to fund increased military spending over the already largest budget for a standing military in the history of humankind because they are driven by fear. Fear of Iran, Russia, China, N Korea, Terrorist, Socialists, gays, abortionist, sexuality, women, and so on.

To summarize, the Romney/Ryan ticket want to fund more wars while cutting programs for the poor so the poor will eventually enlist and be shipped off to the fight in some god forsaken war. That's not just scare tactics. That's their future vision. And it's a bit sick. And maybe just a tad moronic.

One last note: After the conventions, and all the talk about the charity that Romney has provided, and the good works the Ryan has completed, they remind me of the guy who prays in public for everyone to hear. I think that guy was referred to as a hypocrite.

That's just what I think.

Friday, September 7, 2012 at 4:26pm
D wrote:

Thanks for the reply cuz. I can't address every issue or even respond to every one in just one reply email, but I'm happy to share what I can in this one.

The ACA was passed by a Democratic Senate and Democratic House, and it wasn't passed easily. I forget how many thousands of pages it really is but it took months of hand wringing, bargaining, coercing, and bribing to get enough Dems to agree. Did you know Senator Bob Nelson (I believe) was promised 100 million dollars for a new hospital in his state, in exchange for his vote? there are many more stories like this. And did you know, not one congressmen who voted for it will ever have to abide by its limited benefits? and did you know that MANY unions and large corporations have been "determined" to be exempt from the ACA? Why? Because the government is full of hypocrits and the ACA entertwined with amnesty for illegal immigrants is a much easier way to buy votes. I hate to be so blunt, but the practical effect of this enormous expenditure is compelling. I am sincerely happy for your friend, but I have to believe he could have found a doctor in his covered plan and under the covered policy to perform this surgery, maybe not the best doc, but a covered one. The ACA is detrimental to the healthcare industry. It is an industry because good doctors want to be paid more and the demand exists. Do you really believe a good doctor is going to work just as hard to diagnose and treat you when his paycheck is cut in half and hours are doubled? Extreme example, but my point is, no he is going to go where the money is. There will always be a separate tier of good doctors making great money, but the ACA is going to make it MUCH more expensive for your and I, to be treated by one.

I don't believe Ryan is getting rid of Medicare, just paying for it differently. Obama wants to protect his own set of special interests because that's what he believes in and who helped get him elected. I actually want to see a version of the ACA, maybe two or three versions of it, in the U.S. But for the taxpaying American citizen, we should be funding our tier of ACA and there should be some benefit to becoming an American citizen and to get a job, earn a paycheck and pay income taxes. Just giving the ACA to anyone who crosses our borders is completely unsustainable.

On the homosexual issue, I am ordered by the God Almighty, whom I love and serve to love others, regardless of their sexual orientation, and I really try to. I think they should be treated with kindness and respect and that as a Christian, they should look at me and say wow, he doesn't hate me. But when marriage is no longer about a man and woman and two gay people can just decide that they are together and deserve those benefits, what is point of even having a marriage tax deduction or a marriage license? Its all void/moot. If marriage can be between two people of any sex, then it is a novel and antiquated institution of the past. I just disagree that it is. The Bible sets out some real serious rules for marriage and this country was founded upon it. That is why its important to me.

Sorry, I have to run but I am really grateful for the opportunity to talk about some important issues with you cuz. Let's get the fam back together and catch up on each other's lives. Miss you, your brothers, parents and the rest of our family very much. Would absolutely love to get some family time scheduled soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:48am
K wrote:
The ACA was passed after some real compromises were made by some Democrats who wanted to pass a single payer option. Republicans made no concessions and after over a year of finagling, including passing the Bush tax cuts for the rich, the Democrats forced the vote.

I won't argue that Democrats aren't corrupt. In essence the entire system is hosed up. At this point it's endemic. But Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are symbolic of some of the worst problems and practices in our capitalist society. Romney got rich by basically screwing people. And paying 13% or less in taxes. That's probably less than you and he makes a crap load more than you. Obama got rich by signing a book deal, and selling three books that were each on the NY Times best seller list. Ryan inherited a lot of money from his wife's family. Again, I'm not a defender of Obama. But a centrist is better for the US than an extremist from the right.

The ACA may not be the fix we need but it's a start. It won't control health costs so your docs can still make a ton of money prescribing tests that we don't really need. And pharmaceuticals can steal our cash for drugs we don't really need. That's not changing anytime soon. AS for insurance companies, there's no need to worry about them, they've just picked up an additional 40 million policies. I doubt they are feeling any pain. That's the point of the individual mandate.

The leaders of the big six insurers are raking in millions of bucks a year (see http://sickforprofit.com/ceos/). Drs make a-plenty, especially specialists. What we need more of are drs willing to take care of their patients. HMOs and Insurance plans mean drs are obligated to see more patients for less time. That means less thorough examinations and more reliance on pill popping.

Our family doc used to practice on her own. Our appts were always 45 minutes long. Then she joined an HMO. We're lucky if we get to see her for 15 minutes. Insurance co's rule the roost right now. The ACA is an attempt to right the ship. Any dr who practices without the ropes of insurance companies will be able to spend more time with his/her patients and hopefully provide better care - at least more comprehensive care.

Paying taxes is part of our civil duty. The Constitution gives the federal government the ability to wage taxes. Even our founding fathers would argue that a progressive tax is the most appropriate and effective. For much of the boom after WWII, tax rates for the top earners was two to three times higher than it is today. The middle class grew. The country saw unprecedented growth. There's no doubt in my mind that capitalism is the best system for cooperative growth if the objective is for all of the people to better their way of living. IF the objective of a society is to satisfy the avarice of a few, then our system today is perfect and Mitt is our man.

But real growth is dependent on a prosperous and growing middle class. Over the last forty years, the US has been witness to the largest growth of inequality it has ever seen and the middle class is shrinking. It has got so terrible here that Norway and Sweden, two much more socialist countries, have greater social mobility than the US; that Canadians per capita earn more than Americans.

The US has become a plutocracy. It is a country run by the wealthy. We are paralyzed by the amount of propaganda money buys. Politicians are paralyzed by the amount of money in the system. To me, Romney's the epitome of this broken system. Granted Obama is not the anecdote - this administration has not become more transparent, still practices terrorism at home and abroad, and refuses to cut ties to its wealthy backers, but Romney may that much worse. Just think about the frightening rhetoric he spouted during the primary cycle. He's backed away from a lot of it now. Voters shouldn't let him get away with it. And he's a belligerent warmonger to boot.

If that ticket wins, the draconian cuts they've proposed to Medicaid will be devastating. Just check out Ryan's Path to Prosperity; it's a barn burner.

About marriage: How would you feel if you were totally committed to a woman and utterly in love with her but the law dictated that you could not marry her simply because she is a woman and you are a man? It's the same coin flipped. Why is god so uptight about two men or two women committing their lives to each other? What's god got against love?

The idea that one man and one woman is part of the definition of marriage is actually a relatively recent creation. Romney's ancestors were probably polygamists. And some Mormons still are. Don't forget that comes from biblical teaching. Solomon had a harem. Monogamy is a very recent invention, cuz.

It's interesting to me too that so many Republicans seem to be so filled with hate. They hate immigrants and minorities and gays and abortionists and pot smokers and peaceniks and Muslims and Sikhs, and yet they claim to be evangelicals. That's not the Jesus I remember reading about and studying. I think he'd probably be ashamed that they associate their beliefs with his. He hung out with the vagrants, the destitute, and the sick. Kind of like the people Lady Liberty used to welcome to our shores.

Remember the parable of the rich man and the eye of a needle. Romney fits that bill.


Ten key moments in the history of marriage 
By Lauren Everitt

Romney’s War Mongering Speech in Israel
The US can't afford Romney 
Ahmed Moor  

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital
Matt Taibbi

Coontz, Stephanie. Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

17 September 2012

Where Are the Candidates on Medicaid?

Since the selection of Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the 2012 Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, there has been an increasing focus on how each party would tackle health care reform under their Administration. Maybe this is because prior to being tapped as the GOP VP candidate, Ryan served as the House Budget Committee Chairman and in that capacity proposed drastic cuts to entitlement programs including Medicare and Medicaid. Or perhaps it is because the Supreme Court recently upheld most of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Quite possibly, it could be because in 2006, then-Governor Romney signed a health care reform law in Massachusetts that many cite as the blueprint for the ACA. Whatever the case may be, it's apparent that there is clear and growing interest in where the candidates stand on health care.

For the most part, the coverage has been focused on the candidates' positions on Medicare, which is not surprising knowing that both parties want to appeal to the elderly, who are known to be the most consistent voting demographic. However, little to no attention has been given to the candidates' positions on Medicaid, even though the elderly who may reside in nursing homes, or otherwise need long-term health care account for a significant portion of Medicaid expenditures. More importantly, children, who make up over half of the Medicaid beneficiaries, but effectively no voting power, and the remaining beneficiaries (the poor and disabled) tend to be among those least likely to be engaged in the election process. The outcome of the November elections will significantly impact the future of the Medicaid program and the coverage provided to current and prospective beneficiaries and therefore it's important to understand where the candidates stand on this critical safety net program.

The passage of the ACA in 2010 and the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization the year prior provided President Obama the opportunity to make a defining statement about his vision for providing health care coverage to poor children and their families as well as other vulnerable populations, the disabled and the elderly, that tend to be Medicaid beneficiaries. Under these reforms Medicaid coverage has been expanded, strengthened, and protected for the future years. Additionally, under ACA and CHIP the number of uninsured has decreased and former foster youth are now eligible for Medicaid coverage until the age of 26. In his most recent budget proposal, President Obama highlighted his Administration's opposition to House Republican efforts to turn Medicaid into a block grant, which would cap funding to what is currently an open-ended entitlement. As a child welfare advocate, I also strongly oppose a Medicaid block grant because setting a cap on funding could potentially lead to enrollment caps, reduced services, and out of pocket expenses for children and families who are enrolled in Medicaid on the basis of not being able to afford health care coverage in the private market. Instead of a block grant, the Obama Administration has proposed a blended match to replace the current patchwork of formulas that states currently receive.

In 2006, when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, he signed a health care insurance reform law which expanded the state's Medicaid program (MassHealth) to tens of thousands of children in families in the commonwealth. While Mr. Romney has offered very little specifics around his Medicaid proposal, he has made one thing clear: as President he would repeal the ACA, thereby jeopardizing coverage for current beneficiaries but also eliminating coverage for the tens of millions of Americans expected to gain access to Medicaid under the ACA. According to his website, Mr. Romney has endorsed his running mate's plan to block grant Medicaid and offer more flexibility to states as they run their respective programs. He also supports placing limits on federal standards and requirements for Medicaid coverage, thereby restricting the federal government's ability to determine what services states must provide under their Medicaid programs.

In Wisconsin, the result could very likely be the drastic cuts that Governor Walker and Dennis Smith had earlier sought but were denied by the federal government.

Ultimately, the decision will be up to the American voters as they head to the polls in November. In the coming weeks, I want you to ponder a particularly important and poignant question: what vision for America's most vulnerable are you going to support?

One that ensures vulnerable children and families, the disabled, and the most needy have a strong safety net that meets their most pressing needs.

Or one that makes deep cuts to safety net programs for the sake of reducing the deficit, despite the fact that those who rely on these very programs are increasingly in need.

Visit Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health for more information.

14 September 2012

Remarks on Religious Tolerance by Secretary of State Clinton at Reception Marking Eid ul-Fitr following Protests and Inflammatory Film

Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton at Reception Marking Eid ul-Fitr
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
September 13, 2012
Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--September 13, 2012.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Good evening, and although I am many weeks overdue in saying it: Eid Mubarak. No matter how belated we are honoring Eid and the end of Ramadan, this is a cherished tradition here at the State Department. And I would like to thank all of you for being here, including the many members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Tonight, our gathering is more somber than any of us would like. This comes during sad and difficult days for the State Department family. We lost four Americans. They were good and brave men. They were committed to the cause of building a brighter future for the people of Libya. And we condemn the violence in the strongest terms, the violence against our posts in Benghazi, in Egypt, and now in Yemen.

The Libyan ambassador is with us tonight, and I want to take a moment to thank him for the support that his government and the Libyan people have shown to the United States in this tragedy, particularly the outpouring of feelings of grief and loss because of the killing of our ambassador.
Ambassador Aujali, would you mind saying a few words?

AMBASSADOR AUJALI: Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. Standing beside you here in the Department of State, it shows the world how much the Americans are standing by the Libyans and the Libya revolution. You do support us during the war, but you have to support us during the peace. We are going through a very difficult time, and we need the help of friends.

It is a very sad day for me, since I learned of the death of my dear friend and colleague, Ambassador Chris Stevens. I knew Chris for the last six years. We play tennis together, we drive in one car, and we had some traditional Libyan food in my house. I must tell you, Madam Secretary, and tell the American people, that Chris is a hero. He is a real hero. He’s the man who believes in the Libyans and the Libyan ability that they will achieve democracy after 42 years of the dictatorship.

Now we are facing a serious problem, and we have to maintain and we have to – we need security and stability in our country. The government, unfortunately, faces a serious problem, personnel and equipment. And the support of you and the friends who support us during the war is very important.

I want to show you and to show the American people how much it was – we were shocked by the death of four American diplomats. It is a very sad story to tell. But I am sure that it is our responsibility, and the responsibility of the Libyan people, that we have to protect our people, we have to protect the Americans in the first place and have to protect all the diplomatic missions who are serving in our country. I am sure that without the help, we will not be able to do it.

I hope that this sad incident which happened, this terrorist attack which took place against the American consulate in Libya, it will tell us how much we have to work closely. Our religion, our culture, never tells us that this is the way to express your view. It is – in fact (inaudible) a terrorist act. This is condemned by all the world and by all the Libyans at the top level of the Libyan authority.

Please, Madam Secretary, accept our apology and accept our condolence for the loss of the four Americans, innocent people. They lost their lives in the Libyan territory. Chris, he loves Benghazi, he loves the people, he talks to them, he eats with them, and he committed -- and unfortunately lost his life because of this commitment.

Madam Secretary, thank you very much indeed. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you very much, Ambassador. I know that that was a very personal loss for you, as it was for me. I’m the one who sent Chris to Benghazi during the revolution to show support and be able to advise our government about what we could do to bring freedom and democracy and opportunity to the people of Libya.

Religious freedom and religious tolerance are essential to the stability of any nation, any people. Hatred and violence in the name of religion only poison the well. All people of faith and good will know that the actions of a small and savage group in Benghazi do not honor religion or God in any way. Nor do they speak for the more than one billion Muslims around the world, many of whom have shown an outpouring of support during this time.

Unfortunately, however, over the last 24 hours, we have also seen violence spread elsewhere. Some seek to justify this behavior as a response to inflammatory, despicable material posted on the internet. As I said earlier today, the United States rejects both the content and the message of that video. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. At our meeting earlier today, my colleague, the foreign minister of Morocco, said that all prophets should be respected because they are all symbols of our humanity, for all humanity.

But both of us were crystal clear in this paramount message: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind. And we look to leaders around the world to stand up and speak out against violence, and to take steps to protect diplomatic missions from attack.

Think about it. When Christians are subject to insults to their faith, and that certainly happens, we expect them not to resort to violence. When Hindus or Buddhists are subjected to insults to their faiths, and that also certainly happens, we expect them not to resort to violence. The same goes for all faiths, including Islam.
When all of us who are people of faith – and I am one – feel the pain of insults, of misunderstanding, of denigration to what we cherish, we must expect ourselves and others not to resort to violence. That is a universal standard and expectation, and it is everyone’s obligation to meet that, so that we make no differences, we expect no less of ourselves than we expect of others. You cannot respond to offensive speech with violence without begetting more violence.

And I so strongly believe that the great religions of the world are stronger than any insults. They have withstood offense for centuries. Refraining from violence, then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is absolutely the opposite, a sign that one’s faith is unshakable.

So tonight, we must come together and recommit ourselves to working toward a future marked by understanding and acceptance rather than distrust, hatred, and fear. We can pledge that whenever one person speaks out in ignorance and bigotry, ten voices will answer. They will answer resoundingly against the offense and the insult, answering ignorance with enlightenment, answering hatred with understanding, answering darkness with light; that if one person commits a violent act in the name of religion, millions will stand up and condemn it out of strength.

In times like these, it can be easy to despair that some differences are irreconcilable, some mountains too steep to climb; we will therefore never reach the level of understanding and peacefulness that we seek, and which I believe the great religions of the world call us to pursue. But that’s not what I believe, and I don’t think it’s what you believe either here tonight. Part of what makes our country so special is we keep trying. We keep working. We keep investing in our future. We keep supporting the next generation, believing that young people can keep us moving forward in a positive direction.

So tonight I think it’s important that we talk not just about that better tomorrow that we all seek, but also about some of the things – the real, practical, tangible things – that young people are doing to help shape that better future.

Two years ago in this room, at our Eid reception, we launched a program called Generation Change to lead a grassroots agenda of positive engagement with Muslim communities. And I asked the young Muslim leaders in the audience that night to be our unofficial ambassadors, to help build personal connections, seek out partners in other countries. And I can report to you tonight they did not disappoint. In a few minutes, you’re going to meet some of these young leaders, each with a powerful story to tell.

The Generation Change network that started in this room now circles the globe. We are building an international alliance of young people who want to drive change in their own communities. They act as mentors, spark respectful debates, simply offer words of encouragement when needed. But most importantly, they inspire others to keep expanding the circle of mutual understanding and respect, one person at a time.

Even as we work to spread tolerance more broadly, we also are working to deepen our appreciation for the experiences of others. Our 2012 Hours Against Hate initiative encourages young people to put themselves in another person’s shoes through service projects. So far, young people from all over the world have pledged thousands of volunteer hours to help people from a different background, to see them as a fellow human being, not a stereotype, not a caricature, but another real live person – people who don’t look like you, live like you, pray like you, but with whom we will share this planet. And therefore, we have work to do.

People of faith and conscience are called to be the leaders of tolerance. In my tradition, like all traditions, we are expected to love one another. And together, we have to translate that into better understanding and cooperation. I’m particularly pleased that the young people you will hear from tonight are really setting an example, not only for young people elsewhere in the world but, frankly, for us who are older as well.
Let me now call to the stage someone who has been a tremendous assistance to me in these efforts. Farah Pandith is the Department’s first Special Representative to Muslim Communities. And from the beginning, she has made reaching out to young people and civil society her top priority. Farah will introduce you to three young leaders who I am very proud of.

Source: state.gov