Cosmic Rats Multiply

Multiply Blog Archive 4
Multiply Mar. 15 2009 through Sept. 23 2009

NUTS IN THE NEWS Jul 22, '09
The ACLU is the reason we have Constitutional rights in America. Jul 12, '09
The Iranian Tweetolution Jun 15, '09
The Anti-abortion Terrorists Jun 8, '09
THE SPEECH Jun 5, '09
The Afghan Stand May 7, '09
A CROSS OF IRONY Apr 12, '09
Fear and Loathing in Financial Land Mar 29, '09
American Jewish Opinion Mar 23, '09
AIG IN OUR FACE Mar 20, '09


The high volume and extreme language to which we have been subjected on health care reform has confused many while masking the soft sound of cash raining down on Congressional campaign fund accounts, lavishly being spent on TV ads, and financing organizers to feed lies and foment hate among many ordinary people, all with one goal: to preserve the high profitability of medical insurance corporations and their co-conspirators among medical providers.

The flaw in representative democracy is that those we elect and entrust to reflect our interests can often be bought out from under us.  Running for office costs lots of money.  It shouldn't, but it does, because we have not yet devised a system for candidates to be heard by voters without buying expensive media time and space.

That doesn't mean that every Senator or Representative who accepts corporate donations will vote for the corporate interest, but public records reveal that, too often, that is exactly what happens.  Right now the focus is health care, but we will see it happening with financial industry regulation and environmental legislation in the near future.

The following figures are from  and
Senator                 2008 Health     Career Health      2008 Insurance    Career Insurance 
MAX BAUCUS (D-MT)     $1,148,775.00     $2,797,381.00     $285,850.00     $1,170,313.00
J. ROCKEFELLER(D-WV)     $515,150.00     $1,674,229.00     $107,874.00     $394,074.00
KENT CONRAD (D-ND)     $117,350.00     $1,331,363.00     $56,650.00     $821,187.00
JEFF BINGAMAN (D-NM)     $14,151.00     $861,841.00     $1,500.00     $160,875.00
JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA)     $289,430.00     $8,145,141.00     $90,250.00     $1,397,367.00
BLANCHE LINCOLN (D-AR)     $226,753.00     $1,281,608.00     $49,500.00     $440,033.00
RON WYDEN (D-OR) .......    $96,925.00     $1,161,488.00     $45,999.00     $229,173.00
CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY)     $10,000.00     $1,402,358.00     $3,000.00     $946,400.00
DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI)     $239,018.00     $1,188,186.00     $40,800.00     $246,750.00
MARIA CANTWELL (D-WA)     $48,951.00     $573,076.00     $12,300.00     $80,850.00
BILL NELSON (D-FL)  ......   $60,015.00     $1,163,210.00     $22,500.00     $520,016.00
ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ)     $81,650.00     $1,216,476.00     $67,450.00     $458,679.00
THOMAS CARPER (D-DE)     $15,450.00     $452,000.00     $28,700.00     $447,984.00

Senator         2008 Health    Career Health     2008 Insurance    Career Insurance 
CHUCK GRASSLEY (IA)     $334,237.00     $1,876,479.00     $72,200.00     $858,224.00
ORRIN G. HATCH (UT)     $122,300.00     $2,311,744.00     $24,880.00     $659,307.00
OLYMPIA SNOWE (ME)     $6,000.00     $744,640.00     $5,000.00     $408,490.00
JON KYL (AZ) ...  ....  $68,550.00     $1,971,968.00     $2,000.00     $533,044.00
JIM BUNNING (KY)     $40,450.00     $1,045,687.00     $45,100.00     $769,016.00
MIKE CRAPO (ID)   ..  $92,000.00     $549,192.00     $63,750.00     $360,932.00
PAT ROBERTS (KS)     $657,749.00     $903,337.00     $157,900.00     $296,342.00
JOHN ENSIGN (NV)     $16,550.00     $1,795,899.00     $19,150.00     $580,690.00
MIKE ENZI (WY) ....    $287,549.00     $612,715.00     $84,250.00     $240,953.00
JOHN CORNYN (TX)     $950,669.00     $1,994,353.00     $289,069.00     $568,253.00
Senator Baucus is a key player.  When a Democrat presents a watered-down version of reform that most people see as worthless, you have to wonder why. Here is a visual rendering:

Your mileage may vary.  Priced as marked.

Of course, it's not enough just to buy a piece of Congress-- you have to convince a portion of the public that their elected officials haven't really sold them out.  That's where the ad campaigns and the astroturfing comes in.

Astroturfing, is especially insidious, because it exploits real people with real feelings and redirect them in ways that suit the corporations.  Many Americans, affected by or seeing the results of the economic recession, are insecure and often angry.  Recessions make no sense, yet they won't just go away immediately.  Millions of people, looking for simple answers, will fall for the Republican and teabagger-organizer deceptions.  

So, as most of us watch incredulously, we see the amazing phenomenon of people protesting against their own interests and in favor of the very entities that have been victimizing them for years.

In America, we have free speech.  But if you have enough money, you can speak very, very LOUDLY.


Today I received a forwarded email titled  "100% FAILURE RATE".  It was designed to convince the unaware that the government can't do anything right, and therefore shouldn't "take over" health care (never mind that taking over is not part of the plan at all).  Here is my reply:   

                                   As often occurs with negative tracts like this, it is full of misleading information.  I cannot in good conscience allow it to go unchallenged and unrefuted.                           

                                  'The U.S. Post Service was established in 1775 - they've had 234 years    to get it right... '

As a matter fact the US Post Office, now the USPS, has a long history of getting it right and overcoming extreme difficulties in doing so.

Employing 656,000 workers and 260,000 vehicles, it is the second-largest civilian employer in the United States (after Wal-Mart) and the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world. The USPS is obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality.

Note the obligation there.  No one would fulfill that if the USPS didn't exist.  It is a necessary service; email can't do everything.  Fedex/UPS could not come close to competing in first class mail.  Calling it "broke" is misleading.  It is subsidized when necessary to provide needed service at affordable rates.

'Social Security was established in 1935 - they've had 74 years to get it right;...' And Social Security HAS gotten it right. It is not 'broke'.  At some point in the future it will need additional funding, not because of any fault, but because our parents enthusiastically procreated after WW II, producing a surge of new retirees starting right about now.    Simply removing the tax break for high incomes may be enough to cover that.

'Fannie Mae was established in 1938 -  Freddie Mac was established in 1970...' These GSE's (Government Sponsored Enterprises) were extremely successful in their purpose of enabling more Americans to own their own homes.  They were also making a profit until the recent financial crash, which was caused by under-regulated private high-risk activity,including private predatory lending.

                                ' The War on Poverty was started in 1964 - they've had 45 years to get  it right; $1 trillion of our hard earned money is confiscated each   year and transferred to "the poor"; it hasn't worked.'

Wrong again.  The War On Poverty (which does not simply give money to the poor) resulted in reducing the poverty rate from 19% to about 11%.  Most affected were children (23% in 1964 to 16.3% today) and the elderly (28.5% in 1966 to 10.1% today). Programs included such beneficial efforts as Head Start and the Job Corps, which help disadvantaged young people to complete their education and get job training.  The purpose is to reduce the causes of poverty and help people help themselves.  These are very effective ways to reduce both poverty and crime.  

' Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965 - they've had 44 years  to get it right; they are both broke; and now our government dares to  mention them as models for all US health care.'

Even those who foolishly (or are paid to) speak against health care reform want Medicare to stay just as it is, because it IS successful.  The increasing costs come from private providers and insurance companies.

'AMTRAK was established in 1970 - they've had 39 years to get it right;  last year they bailed it out as it continues to run at a loss!'

Were the private railroad companies making a profit on passenger service?  No.  They were going to discontinue it, which is the reason for Amtrak.  People drive; people fly.  Times change.  But we still want trains, so we subsidize them.

'...The Economic Stimulus..'  Whether you can 'see' it working or not, be glad we have it.  The cost of NOT having it would be far higher, and last much longer.

'Cash for Clunkers...' Was successful, and was not intended to continue long-term.  Because it worked well, it was extended for an additional period.  It stimulated auto sales and put more efficient cars on the road. 

' So with a perfect 100% failure rate...' No, not a single item on this list was a true failure, and several were and are extremely successful in fulfilling their objectives.

I would simply have ignored this diatribe, but misrepresentations of the truth anger me when they are intended to deny Americans fair and reasonable access to health care.

In many respects we are living in a great nation.  In health care, however, we come in about 37th in the world.  We pay more and get less.  Except for the very wealthy, our health care decisions, and whether or not we get any at all, are not ours, nor our doctors', but are made for us by insurance companies for motives of profit alone.

To protect those profits, a record number of lobbyists and dollars are being used to spread outright lies and misleading information.  Paid-off Senators and Representatives are repeating those lies to us.

The nefarious abuses of customers by health insurance companies must be stopped.  The waste and gouging inherent in the current non-system must be controlled to reduce overall costs and make insurance affordable.

Nobody is proposing to 'take over' anything.  Insurance companies will continue to insure, as long as they follow fair rules for consumer protection.  They will gain a large number of customers. READ THE HEALTH CARE BILL YOURSELF:

Health care reform does not harm capitalism.  It will help prevent much of the harm done by the perversion of capitalism that now exists in the health care industry.

'Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.'

--Thomas Jefferson


I WROTE MY SENATOR Aug 21, '09 4:12 PM

Recently I emailed Senator Kyl, one of my home state Arizona Senators.  Needless to say, the results were disappointing.  Here is his response, with my comments in [brackets].

Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform.  I appreciate the opportunity to respond.  

The U.S. health care system is the best in the world, spurring advancements in new medical treatments and technologies.  Such innovation helps physicians treat and prevent diseases better than ever before, eradicates once fatal epidemics, and helps Americans lead longer, healthier lives. 

[Notice the bald-faced lie he begins with.  Even if you could call our non-system a system, it is about 37th in the world, not best.  But he is not even talking about health care at all--he is talking about medical research.  And our lives are neither longer nor healthier than those in many other countries.]

Despite these advances, millions of Americans struggle to find affordable health insurance options.  From 1999 to 2008, the average cost of a family health plan increased by 119 percent from $5,791 to $12,680.  Meanwhile, workers' wages increased 34 percent during the same nine-year period.  Ensuring access to quality, affordable health care is a laudable goal.  I support targeted solutions that lower health care costs and improve health care by building upon, not completely dismantling, our health care system. 

[Finally he speaks some truth, until he gets to the last sentence.  The health care plan being considered DOES build on the current insurance provider system and DOES NOT dismantle anything.  Sen. Kyl supports NO  change.]

Unfortunately, many of the proposals being considered in the U.S. Senate will make health insurance more expensive, [WRONG!] jeopardize Arizonans' current coverage [WRONG!], and expand the government's control over health care. [It will control COSTS and insurance company ABUSE, not CARE]  While you will not find the words "ration," "withhold coverage," or "delay access to care" in the pending plans, that is what will result from the web of federally-dictated insurance reforms, new legal obligations, and provider reimbursement schemes that are part of them.  Such policies centralize the power of medical decisions with politicians and bureaucrats, not patients and doctors, and they will result in the delay or denial of care. [The opposite is true.  Now insurance companies make decisions contrary to doctors and their patients, and often deny care to increase their own profits. That must stop.]

There are three main problems with the Majority party's proposals: the implementation of a government-run insurance plan, the use of comparative effectiveness research, and spending. 

Government-Run Insurance Plan:

First, the Majority's proposals would create a new, government-run health insurance plan to compete against private insurance plans.  The argument is that a government-run plan would give consumers a better range of choices and make the health care market more competitive -- "keep the insurance companies honest," as the President put it.  However, well-respected, independent analysis provides evidence to the contrary. [We see who that is later]   For one thing, a government-run plan would be subsidized by the taxpayers, giving the government plan a huge advantage over competitors.  Yet, even government resources are not unlimited.  To save money after tens of millions of people are added to the public plan, the government would cut reimbursement to doctors and hospitals, exacerbating the difficulty Arizonans' already encounter in trying to schedule doctor appointments.  To make up for low government reimbursements to providers, insurance companies would have to charge more for private insurance, making it less attractive than the government plan.

[Here he tries to make two opposite arguments.  First, he misrepresents the government plan.  It is designed NOT to unfairly compete.  The government subsidy is to make insurance affordable for lower income people, and not just for the public option.

Insurance companies are competing now, yet this does not result in lower prices.  Why not?  Because they don't want it to.  And they are profiting very well, even in these lean times.  Any competing they do is limited to who can be more clever at reducing payouts by keeping sick people off their rolls by denying them insurance, denying expensive treatment, or finding excuses to cancel their policies.]

Over time, there will only be room for the group government plan according to the respected Lewin Group, [HA! The Lewin Group is owned by United Health Group.  Who are they respected by?  Health insurance companies and right-wing politicians, of course.]

 as 119 million Americans would lose their current coverage. [Even if this figure is based on any more than a wild guess, it is misleading.  How many would have to change coverage no matter what, due to changing jobs, an employer changing providers, or losing a job?  These changes result from the fact that most health insurance is employment-based, there is a recession, and few people stay at the same job for life in today's changing labor market.]

 Remember, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were designed as independent "government-sponsored enterprises" to complement the private mortgage market.  Now, Fannie and Freddie account for a combined share of 73 percent of mortgage originations in the second half of 2008.  The two "government-sponsored enterprises" are now effectively owned and run by the federal government, after having sustained losses of over $100 billion last year alone.  A Washington-run health care plan will do to the health care market what Fannie and Freddie did to the housing market. [This is absurd comparison of entirely different entities with entirely different economic factors at work.]

Comparative Effectiveness Research  Second, the Majority's plan would create a new research entity to conduct so-called comparative effectiveness research (CER).  CER is a mechanism used by medical professionals to provide information on the relative strengths and weaknesses of various procedures and treatments.  In the hands of doctors, medical researchers, and other health professionals, CER can help patients and their own doctors make informed health care decisions.  However, in the hands of government, CER can become a tool to delay or deny care.  For example, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Effectiveness in Britain uses "cost-effectiveness research" to make health care decisions.  By basing treatment decisions on cost rather than need, Britain prescribes fewer cancer drugs than any of the other big five European nations; its patients therefore have the lowest survival rate according to a May edition of National Review.[Note the source!]    The UK's system provides only half of the care for end-stage renal disease patients that we do in the United States.  Obviously, such rationing of care is not something we should replicate in the United States.

 [First, the UK's system is not what is proposed in the US.  Second, in a comparison of 6 countries, the UK was rated best, and the US was rated 6th (last) ]   

It is telling that none of the Majority's proposals in Congress would bar the federal government from using CER to deny access to care.

[No sane person would want to disregard valid research conclusions showing what treatments and tests are effective, and which do not help, but only run up high costs  Kyl is inventing a myth here.  CER is designed to improve care as well as reduce waste.]

 In fact, when I offered an amendment in April to explicitly bar the use of CER to ration care, it was defeated on a near party-line vote.  I have now introduced a free standing bill to ensure that any information obtained through CER cannot be used to deny access to care.  The Preserving Access to Targeted, Individualized, and Effective New Treatments and Service (PATIENTS) Act of 2009 [Does this remind you of the PATRIOT Act?]  (S. 1259) will protect the doctor-patient relationship and ensure access [For who, the very rich?] to the highest quality medical care.  I will fight at every opportunity to ensure that any health care reform plan the Senate considers later this year protects patients' access to care.   

[What he is fighting for is to block any system at all through deception and obstructive tactics]         

Cost    Finally, the Majority's plans would cost between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, [over 10 years, he fails to mention] according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.  But even that may understate the true cost.  Consider that Massachusetts enacted near universal health insurance in 2006, and costs have exploded, doubling from $630 million in 2007 to an estimated $1.3 billion just two years later.  To deal with those costs, the state has decided to slow enrollment of beneficiaries and eliminate dental coverage for its poorest residents.  A special commission, which was established by the state legislature, has now recommended limiting coverage to those health care services that government deems to be cost-effective -- just like government-run health systems in other nations such as Canada and Great Britain do. [More comparison of apples and oranges]

Furthermore, the plans would be financed by a combination of new taxes and cuts in Medicare spending, hurting seniors' access to care. [WRONG!] The Medicare Trust Fund is expected to reach bankruptcy by 2017.  Taking money from one program with urgent solvency problems, such as Medicare, to fund a huge expansion of health care benefits for others is not sensible. [This is not what is proposed. Medicare benefits will not be cut, and reducing medical costs by increasing efficiency will help the Medicare budget.]   

  I believe in the right of every American to choose the doctor, hospital, and insurance plan of his or her choice. [That will not change for those who have that right now--millions of uninsured DO NOT have access, let alone rights to choose.  That is what needs to change!]  No Washington bureaucrat should interfere with that right or substitute the government's judgment for that of a physician. [The plan is not trying to do that.  Insurance companies are doing that now, for profit] Any health reform proposal should adhere to these principles.

I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this important issue.  Please stay in touch.   Sincerely, JON KYL United States Senator

  P.S. If you wish to share additional comments about this or any other matter, please visit my website at  Do not reply to this email.  [It may not help, but feel free to try, everyone!] My conclusion is, Senator kyl needs to be replaced.  



The right-wing extremists don't want you to read it.  

They would much rather tell lies about what it says.  That's what they do.  Truth and rational thinking are their enemy.  Lying works on those who willfully remain ignorant, or do so out of laziness.  About 15 percent of Americans can't read.  The lies probably work on them, too, unless someone is kind enough to read them the truth.

The right wing knows how well lying worked for Bush and Cheney  But this time, the lies are about something written in black and white and available for all to read.  So, if you've heard those lies and are concerned, read the bill.

Yes, it is a little over 1000 pages, but it's not that hard to read and understand.  Why so long?  The authors have gone to exhaustive lengths to make sure the intent is clear, and that nothing is overlooked or left out.

If you read it you will see that those who try to distort the health care plan are doing it on purpose, not by any inability to understand.

The most outrageous and absurd lie is that the bill is a plot to kill off old and/or sick people.If that's what we wanted to do, we'd just not reform health care at all.  The insurance companies would continue killing people as they always have, just by denying care, capping payments, canceling policies, and refusing to insure, all for the motive of higher profits.

I watched and listened to insurance executives admitting they did that when testifying before a Congressional committee.  They were each asked whether they'd voluntarily STOP doing that.  Each of them said "no".

Those who are against health care reform, the small but loud minority, are of various sorts.  Some are against anything that Democrats do, or anything  that the black President does.  Then there are those astro-turf organizers working for the health insurance industry, while pretending not to.  The rest are those who believed the lies.

Read the bill

.--cosmic rat 8/13/2009

NUTS IN THE NEWS Jul 22, '09 2:52 AM

It's no secret that there are a lot of nuts out there.  Some of the most colorful ones involve aliens.  There's David Icke, the Scientologists, and the Mormons whose beliefs involve various sorts of extraterrestrial aliens.

That is not to say that there are no extraterrestrials, but I'd bet none of the above ever met one.

Another alien-based hoax is politically motivated: the one that accuses the President of being one-- not from outside the Earth, but outside the US.  Normally such delusional ideas, denying clearly established facts, would simply be ignored, but Republicans are increasingly desperate for anything they can use, and for many years they have not much cared whether their propaganda is true or not.

So Congressmen Bill Posey and John Campbell have decided to use the accusation, which began as one of many attempted campaign smears, to draw attention to themselves.  So has Lou Dobbs, who is notorious for picking up on anything he can present as an expose'.  CNN seems to keep Dobbs around for comic relief.

The accusation that the President is not a citizen implies that the State of Hawaii, which issued his birth certificate, is lying.  It also implies that the Hawaii newspaper which published his birth announcement was also lying at the time of his birth there in 1961.

Republicans, who have little credibility left anyway, their entire message seeming to be calling anyone to the left of them a socialist, their "family values" issue looking especially ridiculous in the wake of revealed affairs and escapades, their responsibility for the biggest recession in many decades, their defense of criminal wrongdoing in the previous administration, their bigoted attacks on the Supreme Court nominee, the denial by some of them that global warming is a problem...and the list may go on, risk what little they might have left by embracing this hoax too.

Essentially what drives the 'birther' nuts is their incredulity that anyone who is not racially and ethnically white could be President.  They think of themselves as the real white Americans (who of course forcibly took the land from the real natives), and having a non-white President threatens their image of America as a country run by white people.

They can't actually admit that attitude without sounding like the racists they are, so they substitute the absurd birther theory.

It is not necessarily the same sort of racism that spews hate, discrimination, and segregationism, but it is racism nonetheless.  They may recognize it in themselves, or they may not.  It is time they began dealing with reality, though.

The ACLU is the reason we have Constitutional rights in America. Jul 12, '09 7:10 AM

You may immediately think "But the Bill of Rights established those in 1789."  Yes, it did, but unfortunately, George W. Bush was not the first or only one to consider the Constitution "just a piece of paper". 

Our rights as we know them today had to be fought for and won in many years of court cases.  Since 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union has been the most important defender of liberty.

Roger Nash Baldwin co-founded the organization in 1920 and led it for 30 years.  It has been mentioned by some that he was a communist at the time, with the implication that he had other motives besides securing freedom for Americans.  What they purposely fail to mention is that then the Communist party seemed to promise greater freedom as well as economic equality.  But when Russia under Stalin turned out quite the opposite, Baldwin quit the Communist party and remained very suspicious of it thereafter.

In the 1920's freedom of speech, press, and association were under constant attack by rabid anti-communists. Hundreds of people had been jailed for opposition to US involvement in the war. US Attorney General Palmer conducted raids based on "unorthodox opinions".  Racial discrimination and violence against blacks were "routine".  Trade union organizers were attacked and prevented from meeting. 

The ACLU took on many cases.  They were not always successful, but developed an excellent reputation for fighting blatant violations of Constitutional rights.

In the famous 1925 trial it was the ACLU attorney Clarence Darrow who defended the freedom of speech of John T Scopes, who was charged with teaching the theory of evolution.

Also in 1925, in a free speech case, Gitlow v. New York, although the ACLU did not get the conviction overturned, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the 14th Amendment incorporates the First Amendment.  This was the beginning of freedom of speech for citizens of all states!

It is worth noting that when people speak of "states rights", they are not speaking of the rights of citizens.  In fact the two concepts are usually quite in opposition.  Thanks to the 14th Amendment and the ACLU, all Americans have Constitutional rights today.  It was not always so.

In Whitney v. California in 1927,  though the Supreme Court did not reverse a conviction for membership in an organization that advocated overthrowing the government, the court established the test for banning free expression: "clear and present danger".  

In the 1930's, the ACLU won a decision that extended the right to due process and a fair trial to the states, won the right to peacefully assemble in public places, and the right to travel from one state to another even if poor.

The ACLU defended Jehovah's Witnesses in two cases, one involving the right to distribute literature, the other, the right not to salute the flag.

It defended the right to peacefully assemble of the American Nazi Party in Skokie Illinois

Since the beginning the ACLU has fought for women's rights, more than any other organization,  as well as those of minorities, free speech, press, religion, rights to fair and equal justice-- some landmark decisions, some of incremental importance, and thousands that no one ever heard of, because rights get violated time after time and someone must set them right.

So it is important to remember, if you like the liberties we enjoy as Americans, and the equal system of justice that protects the innocent as well as punishing the guilty, that, yes, you should thank the Founding Fathers, but you should thank the ACLU just as much.  

--cosmicrat  July 12, 2009


No matter how carefully we progressives define our position on American political issues, the cement-brained right-wingers are going to call us socialists.  They see the world as either/or, not both/and.  You're either one of them or the complete opposite.

In the interest of being precise, we often attempt to explain that, no, here's the socialist position, here is ours, and they are not the same.  It's not actually being defensive, but it sounds a bit that way.  And it allows the right wing to continue labeling socialism as a bad thing.

It is not a bad thing.  It isn't even all ONE thing.  In general it is a lot of ideas from many different thinkers whose purpose is to address the harmful effects of capitalism and the greed that drives it.  Many of those ideas have proved valuable and effective in many nations around the world.

Any time an economic theory becomes an ideology with rigid, religious-like adherents, problems result.  It becomes too difficult to change what doesn't work and try new ideas.  This is a problem with capitalists today, and has been a problem with socialism as well.

Most democratic governments are comprised of several political parties, of which socialists are one or two.  The result is usually a compromise that employs the most useful features of capitalism and socialism without too much concern over labeling them.  But in arriving at a balance it is important to start with the views of both ends of the political spectrum.

We don't have that in the US the socialist label is avoided.  It is the victim of over a hundred years of propaganda that associated socialism with communism of the totalitarian variety that resulted in the Russian Revolution, resulting in generations of unreasoning fear.  Witch hunts and inquisitions ruined many lives over no more than unfounded accusations.

Just as we've made progress in reducing racism, sexism, and many other prejudices, we need to learn to speak and think calmly and rationally about politics and economics, and stop putting shock values on labels.

To do that, we on the progressive side, a growing majority of Americans, need to stop being afraid of being called socialist.  The right-wingers are going to call us that anyway, so we might as well learn to like it.  Embrace it.  We may not be ideological socialists, but I'd bet we all approve of Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, the Minimum Wage, all ideas begun by socialists.

And now, years late, after millions of Americans have needlessly suffered and died because they could not afford health care, could not afford health insurance, or couldn't get insured at any price, all due to the insane non-system that allows insurance companies, drug companies, and medical providers make obscene profits by bleeding the sick of every dime they can.

A large majority of Americans want universal health care, and still there is a struggle with lobbyist-corrupted Congressmen and a highly funded lie and distortion campaign.

Yes, national health care is also a socialist idea, one so basic and vital that every other developed nation in the world has adopted it in various form, and is much better off and healthier because of it.

So, if someone calls you a socialist, smile and say "thank you".  If a socialist calls you a capitalist, that's all right too.  Today, July 4th, declare independence from labels.


PREYING ON THE SICK Jun 17, '09 6:04 AM

Some people pray for the sick.  Others prey on the sick.  They are called INSURANCE COMPANIES! Some testimony in a Congressional committee I watched on CSPAN tonight made that very clear.

Private health insurance ABSOLUTELY CANNOT be relied on to provide health care in an honest or humane manner.

It is obvious from the testimony of both patients and the insurance company CEO's themselves that these companies are driven by greed alone, and are ruthless when they see any opportunity to cut a sick patient off with no way to pay for needed care.

RECISION:  a retroactive cancellation of a policy.  If an insured patient gets a serious disease that will be expensive to treat, the first thing the insurance company does is go over the original application with a fine-tooth comb for the slightest innacuracy that they can use to accuse the patient of fraud.

No matter how slight the omission or whether it had anything at all to do with the serious illness at hand, they can use it to avoid paying.  And recision means that they can DENY ALL PRIOR CLAIMS as well as future ones.

Patients who have had cancer are considered uninsureable for the rest of their lives.

Once a policy has been rescinded by one company, the person is blackballed by most companies forever.

These practices are especially used against individually insured purchasers, more so than those in group plans.

Patients who get canceled when they need care then must go through a lengthy appeal, which may or may not work, or try to find a way to pay for treatment.  Meanwhile, of course, they go untreated and usually get worse, or die.

One company, Wellpoint, actually paid employees bonuses based on how much money they could save the company by rescinding policies after a claim.  The CEO said there were other factors in these bonuses, but didn't say what they were.

This insurance company trick means that the insured person may pay premiums for years, and only after their first major claim do they find that they have paid for nothing.

This cold and inhuman treatment results from the fact that insurance companies will not insure anyone who has a "pre-existing condition".

The applications people are required to fill out for insurance are so complicated and full of medical terminology that, when asked, the CEO's of the insurance companies couldn't define the terms, nor could the Congressman reading it.

No one should be uninsureable, but many are, even if they are fortunate enough to be able to pay high premiums for a policy.  Some might then decide to hide their prior  condition, and this is considered fraud, even though it is perfectly justifiable.

Insurance companies are so intent on not being tricked that they make sure they are the trickers instead.  When asked by a Congressman if they would be willing to cease those reprehensible practices, none of the CEO's would agree to do so.

Anyone who believes that medical insurers can be trusted to do anything but bleed sick people dry has not been paying attention.

These companies should be entirely left out of the equation, replaced by a single-payer system.  That has proved to be the most efficient system in other major countries.

If that is not the plan we get, then at least there needs to be one government insurer in the midst of the private ones to serve as a standard of fairness and humanity. 

Then the private predators will have meet those standards to compete, or simply fade away.

~~the cosmic rat

The Iranian Tweetolution Jun 15, '09 3:31 AM

It appears that the results of the Iranian election were indeed faked, and not very convincingly at that.

 Unlike the Republican party in the 2000 and 2004 US elections, they didn't just tweak the results enough to squeak by, but announced a fabricated landslide that was unnaturally uniform in all areas of the country, announced and "confirmed" much too quickly for a complete count to have been done.

It was an insulting slap in the face to Iranian voters, about 85% of whom turned out.  With cries of "Where's my vote?" they took to the streets by the thousands.  The government had already cut off cellphone texting to impair communication by Mousavi supporters the day of the election.  As the announcement was made and the protests began, nearly all communication was shut down both within and to outside of Iran.  But some internet access remained, and resourceful Iranians documented their cause and their protests to the world with Twitter and photos and videos uploaded to Youtube and other sites.  The revolutionaries became their own journalists. Massive-censorship

Actually, we don't know if this will be a revolution exactly, but it is a phenomenon.  Twitter has a silly name, and at first glance it looks like a toy with no serious purpose.  It invites one to announce what one is doing "right now", to which most of us would answer "who cares?"  But already many people have been using it as a fast-paced political discussion and information source using the simple tools the site provides.  For fast, brief (140 characters) messages, it's ideal.

Here are some examples.  Note the most recent is at the top.  Words starting with # are filters.  I edited out tweet-names.

June 14 2009   1. No longer about overturning vote, is full out war Mullah moderates led by Rafsanjani v Ahmadi. #iranelection 4:08 PM from TweetDeck 

2.  Rafsanjani can't say 'Oh well let wait for next election.' This is not abt the ppl it is battle for power. #iranelection 4:07 PM from TwitterFon  

3.  Media not getting it; this will not stop. It can't w Ahdadinejad accusing top mullahs of corruption. #iranelection 4:07 PM from TwitterFon  

4.  Ahmadinejad's Useful Idiot: Stephen Hayes tackles Flynt Leverett. #iranelection 4:06 PM from TweetDeck  

5.  No longer about overturning vote, is full out war Mullah moderates led by Rafsanjani v Ahmadi. No going back ...4:06 PM from TweetDeck  

6. CNN can't leave Iran alone now - oh the power of Twitter. #iranelection #iranelections 4:05 PM from TwitterFon   

8.  Best coverage at the moment from HuffPost; also try Al jazeera 4:05 PM from mobile web    

10.  basij apparently picking up students they identified as organising the demo tomorrow. God help them #iranelection 4:04 PM from TwitterFon 

11. They are trying to shut things down tonight so that the demo does not take place Monday #iranelection #iranelections 4:04 PM from TwitterFon 

12 Iran election protester details encounter with riot police, militiamen: link  #iranelection 4:04 PM from TwitterFon 

13.  What's happening in Iran -- THAT's real grassroots uprising against REAL dictatorship. #tcot #p2 #iran 4:02 PM from mobile web 

14. EU Presidency concerned about alledged irregularities & post-electional violence link 4:02 PM from TweetDeck 

15. The translation of Ahmadi reply to Amanpour seams to indicate someone has 'fined' Mousavi #iranelection 4:02 PM from TwitterFon 

16.Cell net is off. Dorms are under massive attack. So many students injured. All officials have left the complex. #iranelection 4:01 PM from TweetDeck 

17. cannot go out at all. militia everywhere on motorbikes. #Iranelection 3:58 PM from TweetDeck 

18. Iranian Election Riots 2009 [Raw Video] link 3:57 PM from TweetDeck 

19. about 150 students are arrested in U of T dorms (S: 23khordad) #iranelection 3:56 PM from TweetDeck 

20. I translated the letter of Mousavi to the brazilian portuguese. link Please, RT.3:55 PM from TweetDeck 

21. sources: "tear gas in the dorm. Un-uniformed police and riot guards. at least 100 students arrested." #iranelection 3:54 PM from TweetDeck 

22. sources: "pepper gas in the dorm. They shoot students with air guns & break windows." #iranelection 3:53 PM from TweetDeck

That was about 15 minutes worth Dozens of followers of the story have colored their twitter avatars green in solidarity with the Iranian opposition.  Because of this event, and because of the unique communication, we have gotten to know Iranian people online and identify with them in a way that hasn't happened before.  It may be hard for Iranian authorities, or the anti-Iran hawks, to put that genie back in the proverbial bottle.

 It is evident that this election fraud was not planned very long ago.  It's obviousness has the look of a hasty act.  The Ayatolla must have originally expected Amadinajad to win on his own.

 Joe Scarborough  speculates that the reason for the voter shift to the moderate Mousavi was Obama's Cairo speech.  Maybe so, maybe not.  It might be unwise to assume it was all about Iran's relations with the US. 

Still, the election-rigging and the reaction calls for a cautious reaction.  The first instinct is to refuse to accept the results and side with the protesters, but it will be wiser to wait to see how it plays out.  Whatever the outcome, we need to be able to negotiate with the government of Iran, and backing the non-prevailing side would not help in that more important end.  In addition, international respect means not meddling in internal affairs.

Republican primary loser Mitt Romney made the unintelligent remark that Obama's Cairo speech, in which he spoke apologetically about past American bad policies "didn't help".  Not only is he wrong about that, but he neglected to mention that the right thing to do when one has made a mistake, whether you are an individual or a nation, is to apologize.  The RIGHT thing to do.  Why is it that the right wing so seldom wants to do the right thing?

It would appear that the probable outcome will be the suppression of the opposition and the re-installation of the incumbent.   The Ayatolla has spoken.  Could he  be influenced to change his mind? 

It has been said that Iran's Election Commission has rejected the results, and that one member has resigned from that job in protest that the results were validated anyway,  but he has another position on the board of "Experts" who SELECT THE AYATOLLA.  One might wonder if the case is quite as closed as it might appear.

Although obviously the government was not prepared for the mass protests over the election they rigged, they will probably make up for it.  What happens then will depend on how large the numbers of the committed opposition are, and what they are willing to do.

As one Iranian said, "If the government wants to choose the president, then do it-- but don't make fools of us!"

The Anti-abortion Terrorists Jun 8, '09 6:52 AM

Rebirth of Anti-Abortion Terrorism

Rachel Maddow: Right-Wing Terrorism Must Be Stopped

Anti-Abortion Terrorism Threatens All Americans

The Army of God

Violence and harassmentat U.S. abortion clinics

THERE IS NO DOUBT That the US has a domestic terrorist problem. 

Very similar to Islamic fundamentalism that led to extremist terrorism, Christian fundamentalists share the illusion that God is directing their actions.  Thus they think the normal prohibitions of murder do not apply to them.

The anti-abortionist terrorists are especially dangerous because they have gotten right-wing radio and TV commentators to spread their hate message for them.  Bill O'Reilly seems to be the worst of this lot.

As one inclined to support the right to free speech in almost any form, I also recognize the boundary beyond which speech is no longer protected.  There is the category of criminal libel, and it would seem that calling someone a murderer or baby-killer repeatedly when that is clearly NOT true according to the law, would be defined as libelous speech.

 Beyond that, though, is incitement to violence, which is exactly the intention.Making a false statement repeatedly about an individual, on a public broadcast media, that is intended to convince the listener that the target deserves to be killed for the "crimes", even if a direct order to kill is not given, seems to me to be incitement to commit homicide.

Yet there is another twist:  the terrorist organizations may actually want investigators to make that connection and ignore the non-public communication with assassains and clinic bombers, and the funneling of funds to their stable of 'lone killers'.

I suspect that the FBI is not so easily fooled, however.  I think that they will uncover all the evidence they need, and they will do it without torturing suspects.

--the cosmic rat  June 8, 2009

THE SPEECH Jun 5, '09 12:30 PM

Unless Barack Obama somehow tops the speech he made in Cairo, from now on we can just call it "The Speech" and almost everyone will know what we mean. Yes, of course a speech is just words, and does not equal the actions it calls for and promises.  But good communication leads to good understanding. It has been mentioned by nearly everyone that Obama is a good speaker, and indeed he is, but not because of any charismatic, hypnotic style that fills crowds with emotion.  His style is clear and straighforward.  When he speaks, what is important is what he says.

Here is Rachael Maddow and her analysis of the most important points of the speech, followed by Z. Brezinski's comments. Maddow points out 8 subjects covered in the speech that normally American politicians are afraid to talk about.  Obama brought up each one of them and told the truth.  No beating around the bush. The fact that there is plenty of common ground between different religions and cultures-- that was important to say, but we knew that.  What is needed to arrive at that common ground is trust. The most important message is that the President of the United States is a man who tells the truth.

That was not the case before January 20th. And before The Speech, the rest of the world may not have realized anything was different.  Now, they know. Of the specific issues mentioned, the Israel-Palestine situation is most central, and the settlement problem is the main key to that.  Making that truth absolutely clear before the world was a bold and brilliant move. What must be understood is the settlements are primarily a tactic intended to prevent or complicate returning the occupied land.Israelis are aware of this, of course, and a recent poll showed that two thirds consider them a liability, and favor dismantling them. Obama has set the stage like no one before him for Israel and Palestine to move forward to a peaceful solution, the most important next step for increased harmony  among the nations and religions and cultures of the world.

~~the cosmic rat


Does anyone still doubt the threat OF DOMESTIC TERRORISTS after today's church assassination of the doctor in Wichita?

So far the anti-abortion extremists' crimes have been less spectacular than the Muslim variety, but this is because their terrorism is aimed not at an entire nation but specifically at doctors and other health care workers who provide abortions for women who choose them. They hope to frighten others into abandoning their principles and giving in to the extremist demands.  No one wants to live in fear of being stalked by a religion-crazed killer, though most dedicated health care professionals will courageously continue,  no doubt with precautions.

The use of a lone assassin makes it harder to determine whether there is an organized group involved.  It is worthy of note that immediately after the murder was reported, some people were expressing approval for the crime.  At the very least there seems to be a number of anti-abortionists who are inciting others to carry out their deadly intentions.

Anti-abortionists like to call themselves "pro-life"  That is deceptive.  They are NOT pro-life.  Obviously, what they are FOR is imposing on everyone their own extremist belief that a fetus is the same as a human being.  What they are AGAINST is the concept that a woman is a fully equal human being with human rights that include the right to control her own body and decide for herself whether to reproduce.

It is this theocratic authoritarianism for which they are willing to kill in an attempt to force it upon the rest of us. I sincerely hope that there is a thorough nationwide investigation designed to root out all who advocate, incite, or plot murders like that committed today, Sunday, March 31, 2009.



We need to move the Guantanamo prisoners to s US secure federal prison NOW so the Republicans can shut up about it. Call them POW's if you can't try them or release them.  Treat them humanely, offer them rehabilitation and counseling, and when they qualify, parole them. Guantanamo represents a sordid chapter in our history.  Even though torture is no longer going on there, it is a worldwide symbol of a totalitarian-style abberation of our principles of liberty, democracy, and humanitarianism.


It is no surprise that Congress was lied to about torture by the Bush adminstration.  They lied about Iraq, and violated Federal law and the Constitution.  Of course the CIA lied as they were ordered to do.  They have done far worse things, "just following orders". Cheney has publicly confessed to ordering illegal torture.  He denies it was torture, though the law clearly states that it is.

His confession is corroborated by other testimony.  If there is more information to be discovered, it should be sought, but it can only add to what we know already. We should proceed with his indictment and trial as soon as possible.  Evidence obtained from that trial and from other sources should be used to charge any others, including George W. Bush, who were also responsible.

In addition to convicting the guilty, thorough investigations will help shed light on the faulty safeguards against illegal wars, illegal tactics, and unconstitutional actions by those in power.  Unnecessary secrecy must be eliminated.  Much better oversight must be instituted over the CIA, FBI, NSA, and any other agency with the potential to be misused.

ISRAEL, PALESTINE, AND IRAN Netanyahu needs to shut up about Iran and start cooperating in his part of the peace process.  Exaggeration of the danger of Iran is not helpful, and distracts from the real problem. What is needed is a fair and just 2-state settlement of the conflict.  Part of achieving that will require resolving the problem of Israeli outposts on Palestinian land.

Iran's focus toward Israel is not simply it's existence, but the injustice that has resulted from the conflict, which, to Iran, seems not to be properly addressed by Israel or by the US.  It is important to understand the Iranian point of view, rather than to demonize it. Genuine progress toward justice is the best way to affect the attitude of Iran and of the militant Palestinians.


There is no valid argument for keeping the status quo regarding health care in the US.  Those opposing a national health care plan are representing those who are reaping huge profits from inequitable dispensation of medical care.  Their arguments are based on myths and outright lies. The actual facts are clear and have been available for many years.  Not only are we, as a nation, paying much more for less health care, but the quality of health care is dependent primarily on the level of income. Examples of effective, fair, and efficient systems are present in several major countries.  Since we are behind most of the world on this issue, we do have the advantage of learning from the successes of other nations.

The Afghan Stand May 7, '09 8:05 AM

I noticed in a Congressional committee discussion on CSPAN, that a new term is being used:  AQ-Com.  Though it was never defined,  I'm sure it refers to Al Quaeda Command.  This is useful, first because I can seldom remember how to spell "Quaeda", assuming there is a correct way, and second, since we don't know whether Bin Laden is still in charge, or dead, it avoids having to decide that question every time we talk about it.

It is refreshing to hear the focus of foreign military activity being narrowed to neutralizing AQ itself and those groups which actively support attacks on non-military Western targets.  Obviously the only legitimate purpose of risking American lives and using force on anyone is to remove a real threat and bring justice to actual wrongdoers.

It was pointed out that we must not include as part of such a mission the reform of other nations' social institutions, no matter how much we may think that is needed.  Such changes need to come about by peaceful means, and they are not the legitimate purpose of military force. The questions remains, in the pursuit of our stated goal, can we have a beneficial, or at least non-harmful effect on Afghanistan and Pakistan?  More specifically, can we be, and be seen as, an ally, and avoid Afghanistan being just another economically-driven invasion-- just another war for American control of the world?

There are other questions.  Can we expect to have a lasting effect on the existence of violent and organized capable of large-scale murderous attacks on civilians, by hunting them down?  Will they simply be replaced by others?   What ingredients are added to the base of economic exploitation and cultural humiliation to twist a religious faith into a justification of ruthless but ultimately suicidal vendetta against the power of entire nations?

By conducting our economic and political affairs peacefully and justly toward all, can we avoid such phenomena in the future?

I listened to  Hamid Karzai speak last night, and I was quite impressed.  I liked what he had to say, and I hope he is sincere about it as well. He quoted the Beatles:  "Money can't buy you love", followed by "and force won't bring you obedience." I wish him well in the coming election in Afghanistan.


[1] A word to the NWO fans The New World Order conspiracy "theory" is getting annoying.  I just saw a video that used the audio from a JFK speech and tried to spin it to support their theories with a succession of images.  Kennedy believed in telling the people the truth, and I resent the use of his words to spread misinformation.  

One real problem with these all-inclusive theories is that they bring discredit on all conspiracy investigations including the legitimate ones, such as the possible complicity of the Bush-Cheney administration in enabling the Sept. 11 attacks.

Why did some paranoid grab on to the phrase "new world order", used in the context of political speeches from time to time?  What is ominous about that?  The world order changes and evolves all the time.  The end of the "Cold War" and the USSR was a major change.  The economic growth of China is another, more gradual one.  Recognizing such changes and adapting policy to them is a good thing.

In another sense of the word, the world is not very orderly at all, and it is natural to look for ways to make international relations less chaotic and more regular.  What might be considered the logical end purpose, a world government, seems to be what bothers some people.  In fact, for many decades the greatest of statesmen and thinkers have advocated just that, from Eisenhower to Einstein.  But acheiving that is still many years, probably decades away.

Meanwhile, desperately looking for a "who" to pin this nebulous theory on, the NWOCTs point at nearly every group they don't understand.  The Council on Foreign Relations. the Bilderbergers, the Freemasons, the Ancient Bavarian Society of Illuminati, and the Jews, to name a few. I can't speak for the rest of the groups, but if the Jews are secretly running the world we must be doing an awfully bad job of it, if all we have is a tiny nation in a hostile area, and we can't seem to even run that right. Regarding the Illuminati, I found Robert Anton Wilson's novels very enjoyable, full of humor and interesting ideas, but it should be known that they are fiction, not meant to be taken literally.

[2] Fixing the American economy

Some people underestimate the difficulty and misinterpret the process of rebuilding the financial system whose self-destruction was set in motion by Reaganism and accelerated by greed and criminal mismanagement.  Part of the problem is that  the greedy bloodsucking capitalists are still represented by the Republican party, which attempts to interfere at every turn with the recovery.

 In addition they deliberately try to erode the confidence of the people in the prospects of a Democratic-led restoration of the economy.  When Limbaugh said "I hope he fails", it seemed outrageous, but he meant it, and so do many who didn't actually say that.  That would be surprising only if you believe that they actually care about the welfare of the people.  They don't even like the WORD "welfare".

What seems confusing is why the Obama administration seems to be trying so hard to save the banks and other financial institutions that caused the meltdown in the first place.  Some may have the impression that they have given in to the big money players.  I don't believe that is the case.  Unfortunately we need banks.  If we could simply create new government banks to replace the failed private ones, it would be ideal, but it would probably take too long to start from scratch.  We have to fix the ones we have.  In the long run, though, while we can and must heavily regulate private banks, we need to build public alternatives, so that we need not give the private banks the power of being the only controllers of wealth.

[3]  For those who would deny

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113C CHAPTER 113C—TORTURE § 2340. Definitions

As used in this chapter— (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control; (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from— (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (C) the threat of imminent death; or (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and (3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

 2340A. Torture

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life. (b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if— (1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or (2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender. (c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

§ 2340B. Exclusive remedies

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as precluding the application of State or local laws on the same subject, nor shall anything in this chapter be construed as creating any substantive or procedural right enforceable by law by any party in any civil proceeding.

A CROSS OF IRONY Apr 12, '09 4:28 PM

In the past, in America, those of the Christian persuasion who were biased against Jews, denying them membership in their clubs and discriminating against them in employment and business, making snide comments based on stereotypes, often gave as their rationale:  'They killed Christ.' Of course this accusation ignores the fact that, according to the biblical accounts, the crucifixion was a planned suicide, and that according to Christian theology Jesus was a divine immortal being who walked out of his tomb after 3 days of playing dead.

Nevertheless, this same fuzzy thinking that had been used elsewhere to excuse inquisitions and pogroms and even mass exterminations, still continued in some circles.  In those days we were less likely than most to kill anyone, and more likely to be victims ourselves, even in relatively safe parts of the world.

But now that Jews have a nation of our own (whether or not we all agree with the way it behaves), and now that the government of that nation has killed a considerable number of Arab Muslims, not always justifiably, we seem to have become popular with many of those same redneck fundamentalist Christians who hated us before.

Yes, the self-professed followers of that Jewish leader of a peace movement, who was alleged to have preached that we should love not only our neighbors but our enemies as well, that the peacemakers are blessed...seem to like us better when some of us kill people.

Isn't it funny how that works?

If that's what it takes to get respect, then I for one don't want any.  I liked it much better when there was no such thing as a Jewish right wing, when we were better known as advocates for peace and social justice and rights for all minorities.

Happy Easter, y'all.

Fear and Loathing in Financial Land Mar 29, '09 11:15 PM

CHICKEN OR OMELET? Listening to a debate on NPR over who is most at fault for the financial crisis, Washington or Wall Street, I heard valid arguments for both sides, though it began to sound like a chicken-or-egg question. It isn't either-or, it's both-and. We know that regulation was inadequate. Much of that was due to the Reaganesque stone-age economic ideology that claims that capitalism fixes itself. Some of it was due to Congressional corruption by money from Wall Street. But an important factor in this is not bribery but INTIMIDATION. The money people induce fear by threatening economic harm to the country if they don't get their way. They do this both directly and through their pocket-sized alter-egos, otherwise known as Republicans.

At one point before the crisis, in response to regulation proposals, bankers and investment companies were threatening to move their operations to London if Congress tried to restrict them. Since such institutions usually have offices in London and other major world cities, their threats were credible.

Most of the threats now are less drastic but still effective. They will claim that it will harm the economic recovery or make it worse, and since banks, Wall Street, and corporations are in positions to make such effects appear to be happening, Congress and the President may tend to hesitate before making the needed changes, though there is increasing realization that the best course is to get tough. Right now Europe and other G-20 nations are emphasizing better regulation. Some of them, like Canada and Poland were already better regulated and were affected less by the economic crash. Others, like the UK, had gone along with the US in too-loose oversight and learned from that mistake.

Republicans, on behalf of their money-people, predict dire consequences for even the tiny 3 percent high-income tax increase. They fail to mention that the economy ran just fine for years when the top tax was over 70 percent. With the increase it will still be less than 40 percent, which is probably still too low for the long term. For the system to restore and maintain a large middle class of consumers who can afford the products and services of the business sector, sufficiently graduated income tax is necessary to prevent too much wealth flowing to the wealthiest and away from the rest of us.

The other needed means to that end is stronger capability of labor to organize and collectively bargain. A strong labor movement increases wages for all workers, not just the ones who are actually unionized. Unions came under devastating attack by Reagan and placed at a disadvantage, with the result that average pay has not increased, but expenses have gone up dramatically. Here again we hear right-wing threats that employers will go bankrupt if they become unionized, as they fear will happen as a result of the Employee Free Choice Act. They talk of protecting the "secret ballot" for unionization votes. Although unions once thought secret ballots important, it turns out that company owners have developed strategies to delay and inhibit unionization by manipulating the prescribed procedures. The proposed law only attempts to level the playing field. Employers have the advantage of being able to "campaign" against unionization on their premises during work hours, while unions must present their side off premises. The "card check" method serves to reduce the delay before a formal unionization ballot, reducing the opportunity for employers to intimidate workers.

It should be remembered that companies both large and small who are treating their workers fairly and paying them acceptable wages need not fear unionization. But those who are seeking to take advantage of rising unemployment by paying as little as possible or requiring long hours under poor conditions should not be able to stifle union organizing as easily as they can now.

AIG is the biggest single example of the big-money vs. government standoffs. As President Obama pointed out, they were intending to hold the country hostage, comparing them to a terrorist with a bomb with a thumb on the detonate button. Would those overpaid, over-bonused so-called financial wizards actually push the button? It seems that Congress, with the support of millions of angry Americans, has called their bluff. Whether or not AIG can or should be saved is another question, which remains to be seen.

Republicans need to pull their heads out of the corporate asses and use them to think for a change. That law-and-order attitude they have toward ordinary street crime needs to be applied to the crooks in expensive suits. The harm done by white-collar criminals, including those whose crimes aren't even illegal yet, is many, many times greater than the other kind.

And we all need to remember when we hear the money-people whine, that when they "create jobs", loan us money, and make money from nothing with their financial tricks, outrageous usury, and high-stakes gambling, they aren't doing it for us! They're doing it for THEMSELVES, and will continue to do the useful parts after we ban the dangerously unsafe practices. They will continue making profits even when they have to pay workers fairly, and when they have to pay a fairer share of taxes.

They already collect most of the golden eggs; we don't need to give them the whole goose. Unless they bend over.

--Cosmic Rat  March 29, 2009

American Jewish Opinion Mar 23, '09 8:17 PM

It is important to know, for the Obama administration, Congress, and everyone else, that American Jews are not represented by right-wing Israeli lobbyists and those who promote a rigid one-sided view of the conflict.

Here are the results of a recent poll conducted by J Street: "Regardless of what some on the political right may say, when it comes to Israel, American Jews: Support President Obama's Middle East agenda, Want strong US leadership to bring about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, Understand that difficult compromises will have to made by both sides in order to achieve lasting peace and security in the region.

American Jews remain remarkably supportive of assertive American efforts to achieve Middle East peace. The poll finds an extraordinarily strong base of 69 percent of American Jews firmly supporting active American engagement in bringing about Middle East peace, even if it means publicly disagreeing with or exerting pressure on both Arabs and Israelis, compared to 66 percent eight months ago;

69 percent also support the U.S. working with a unified Hamas-Fatah Palestinian Authority government to achieve a peace agreement with Israel, even when informed that the U.S. does not recognize Hamas due to its status as a terrorist organization and its refusal to recognize Israel.  Interestingly, a March poll conducted by the Truman Institute at Hebrew University reported that 69 percent of Israelis also think Israel should negotiate with a joint Hamas-Fatah government;

By 76-24 percent, American Jews support a two-state, final status deal between Israel and the Palestinians along the lines of the agreement nearly reached eight years ago during the Camp David and Taba talks; On Avigdor Lieberman: When told about Lieberman's campaign platform requiring Arab citizens of Israel to sign loyalty oaths, as well as his threats against Arab Members of Knesset, American Jews opposed these positions by a 69 to 31 margin. One in three believe their own connection to Israel will be diminished if Lieberman assumes a senior position in the Israeli cabinet. On Gaza: While Jews rallied behind Israel and approved of Israel's military action by a 3 to 1 margin, 59 percent still felt that the military action had no impact on Israel's security (41 percent) or made Israel less secure (18 percent), while only 41 percent felt it made Israel more secure." Follow the link above to J Street's website which shows graphic representations of the results, more analysis, and information about the poll itself.

Those who may claim to represent American Jews, it is clear, only represent a minority of them, and are really advocating for the short-sighted hardliners in the Israeli government.  The effects, such as sabotaging the nomination of Chas Freeman, an experienced and highly intelligent foreign policy expert, as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, are counterproductive to the cause of peace, and entirely unjustified.

The extremists on either side are only a minority, but because their voices are loudest, they continue to add to the problem, and stand in the way of a peaceful solution.

AIG IN OUR FACE Mar 20, '09 8:50 AM

Almost everyone is upset about the outrageous bonuses.  It's even sort of bipartisan, except of course for Republicans wanting to blame the Democrats.

But maybe we're missing something here.  When Congress told the CEO's of the big 3 automakers it was wasteful to fly corporate jets, they stopped.  Other executives have recognized that it looks bad to appear too greedy.  So where do those bonus babies at AIG get the nerve, the unmitigated gall, the brass balls, to go ahead and demand the money anyway? This is not so much about the money.  It's about power.  As President Obama said, they've got a bomb strapped to themselves with their thumb on the detonate button.

We have a rare opportunity to see the raw, ruthless snarl of corporate power at its worst when it is challenged by the government. Such challenges don't happen often. So where did this huge, too-big-to-fail insurance company come from, and what is it up to?  The company was started in 1919 in Shanghai as American Asiatic Underwriters by Cornelius Starr.  It expanded into many countries, including the US, buying up smaller insurance companies.  Then came Hank (Maurice) Greenberg in 1962, hired by Starr to run the US operation, who knew he could make more by insuring money than insuring people.  Greenberg also had friends in high places, including Henry Kissinger.

 Greenberg once said, "All I ever wanted was an unfair advantage,"

The story is long and complex, and even contains hints of involvement in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

With a view to AIG’s activities and Greenberg’s closeness to government in China, he has been characterized as pursuing "amoral insurance interests” (William Safire) and it has been surmised that he would sell his own country for money. Maurice Greenberg is a big political campaign financer for both established parties. His personal views are Republican; but the Philadelphia Inquirer (1996, by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele; mentions that he benefits from a deep change of U.S. society into a two class society, one class of those who govern and one class of those who are governed, and that there is no question on which side Maurice Greenberg sees himself.

Maurice Greenberg is said to be a driving force behind the February 1986 downfall of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos (Spotlight, June 16, 1997,, writes:

Greenberg was more than an "intellectual asset” for the Philippines coup plotters. A former high ranking CIA official in the Reagan administration named Hank Greenberg as being intimately involved in the overthrow of Marcos. Greenberg, according to the source, called upon his good friend, William Casey, to add his weight to the plot, and the CIA boss obliged. Greenberg’s zeal to dump Marcos was largely a matter of "business.” As the owner of the major insurance company in the Philippines, Philippine-American Life Insurance, Greenberg was the underwriter for all of the banks in the Philippines. And Marcos was increasingly finding himself at odds with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other agencies representing the world’s big private financing syndicates.

Marcos was resisting the demands of the big international underwriters to impose harsh austerity measures, higher taxes, and to open up the Philippines to unbridled "free trade” looting. The conclusion: Marcos had to go. And, reportedly, Greenberg was the man with all the connections – including to Moscow and Peking – to make it happen.“

WALL STREET TERRORIST THROWS TOWEL Maurice „Hank“ Greenberg, AIG and theBurning Down of the Madhouse By: Dr. Stefan G. E. Grossmann, Warren Buffet+Henry Kissinger + AIG { Mitre Corporation} It begins to appear that there is more than just bad big money management to the AIG story.    FROM THE 911 REVIEW Is there a connection?  I don't know, but the coincidences are interesting, and so are some of the relationships.

--cosmic rat


IMMIGRANTS DETAINED without bail for months?  Surely not in America, the land of the free!  We're not talking about terror suspects here, or even people accused of a crime.  Read the story for yet another infuriating and embarrassing revelation of how our beacon of democracy has been projecting a dim light indeed to the rest of the world.