Lugar: Killing Afghans More Important Than Saving Americans

Sen.  Richard Lugar of Indiana says we should stop reforming health care so we can concentrate on killing Afghans.  This is how monstrous the right wing mindset has become:  killing is a higher priority than healing.  We can borrow to wage war but we cannot borrow to provide access to medical care to our own citizens.

When Ronald Reagan was elected our national debt was about $900 billion.  After almost thirty years of mostly Republican rule it stands at around $12 trillion.  The sudden conversion by the GOP for fiscal restraint is admirable but their priorities are all screwed up.  You use debt for economic recovery not for wars of choice.  We should tax the people supporting the war and we should draft their kids to fight it.  That’ll end this charade quickly.

News & Notes

Who thought Tiger Woods would have an accident in a Cadillac?  Aren’t Buicks good enough for him?

The couple who crashed the state dinner last week have had their fifteen minutes of fame.  You can go away now.

If you’d like to attend this Friday’s event in Allentown with President Obama simply explain to the Secret Service that you’re there to dine with him.  They’ll let you right in, probably with that AR-15 you’re carrying.

Barack Obama will go to Copenhagen for the world climate talks.  I predict nothing but more hot air as a result.  No one is going to do anything significant until more coastal cities are lost.

Speaking of which why do we continue spending millions replacing sand on barrier islands?  We’ll never stop the relentless encroachment by the sea because we refuse to stop driving our SUV’s and going green.  Stop bailing out the rich (again) and let them build elsewhere.

Here’s a simple idea to screw the bankers who have been screwing us:  use cash.  Start carrying actual money and use that for your purchases.  This will deny greedy bankers of tons of our money.  There’s nothing as satisfying as fighting back!

Tomorrow is the first day of hunting season in PA.  Deer hunters will flood the woods and some will do nothing more than shoot another hunter.  I’ll refrain from kayaking for a couple weeks because too many of these lamebrains think drinking alcohol will keep them warm then they shoot anything that moves.

A friend and regular blog reader left us last week.  Kim Kline, tireless campaign volunteer and someone who deeply cared about this country decided to end his life Wednesday.  We’ll all miss you buddy.  I picked up the newspaper Friday, saw his obituary and have been somewhat out of sorts since.  Kim lived near me for years and we ran into each other regularly.  He often called about blog articles or to alert me to interesting news.

We had a nice, quiet Thanksgiving.  Breakfast was at the new house and dinner at a niece’s home.  I didn’t watch a single football game all day and didn’t miss it.  Of course I bought the paper Friday primarily to see who won.  As soon as the leftovers are gone maybe I’ll begin thinking about Christmas.  I can’t believe another year has come and gone and I’m getting too close to being 60 years old.  How did that happen?

I’m dog sitting again for my friends Jim and Cynthia while they’re in New Mexico.  I’m jealous and every bad driver cutting me off and every rude clerk who refuses to thank me for my business make me yearn to be in Santa Fe.  The scenery ain’t bad either.

If you haven’t signed up for the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit what are you waiting for?  Sponsored by Keystone Progress and other progressive organizations it is coming in January.  Click on the ad on our left sidebar for more information.

The next Democratic State Committee meeting will be in early February, the week after the Summit.  Candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor and Senator will be vying for the official Party endorsements and there will be much to cover politically.  Read all about it right here.

President Obama announces his plan for Afghanistan Tuesday.  The escalation of the war makes this HIS war now.  I hear echoes of Vietnam regularly.  We either learn from history or we’re doomed to repeat it.  I hate to watch us repeat the mistakes of Vietnam.  The generals always think more troops are the answer.

FDL Action Health Care Update: Friday (11/27/09)

Here are the FDL Action health care reform highlights for “Black Friday” (November 27).

1. On Wednesday, Jane Hamsher asked, “Why is HCAN Defending Blanche Lincoln From A Primary Challenge?”  The answer: “[HCAN] will continue to operate as part of the Democratic party infrastructure, try to kill primary challengers and move to protect their ‘own.’  And that means Blanche Lincoln.  If health care reform happens in the meantime, well, what a happy coincidence.” Or “unhappy,” as the case may be.

2. Yesterday, Jane Hamsher wrote about “The PR Push That Helped PhRMA Buy the Government.” Included in “Government” are “the 42 members of Congress who helpfully inserted lobbyist language into the Congressional Record in favor of endless patents on biologic drugs on behalf of the prescription drug industry.” So nice of those 42 members of Congress, huh?

3. Jane Hamsher wonders, “How is Newt Gingrich Not a Lobbyist?”, and concludes that the “definition of ‘lobbyist’ seems a bit too flexible to prohibit the biggest of the professional influence peddlers from getting their claws in.” Not that we’d ever think Newt Gingrich had claws or anything. Heh.

4. Jon Walker provides “13 very specific proven solutions” for OMB Director Peter Orszag, who had “defended the Senate health care reform bill’s minor cost-control measure” by suggesting that critics had no ideas of their own for controlling costs. Among the 13 ideas Walker presents: “Turn all health insurances companies into non-profits;” “Allow Medicare to directly negotiate lower drug prices;” “create a much stronger risk adjustment mechanism [on the new exchanges];” and “Create a robust public option that can use Medicare rates and Medicare’s provider network.” I believe the ball is now in your court, Mr. Orszag! :)

The Turkey Awards

It’s been a few years since I awarded my Thanksgiving Turkey Awards.  It’s time for a new round of giving.

A special one goes to George W. Bush for finally leaving office.  We’re all very, very thankful for that.

Dick Cheney gets one for refusing to go away.

Barack Obama gets a Turkey for refusing to be the liberal his supporters and opponents thought he was.  He gets the award for leading them on that he was liberal.

Joe Biden gets a Turkey for not thinking before opening his mouth.

Ed Rendell gets a Turkey for being a Lame Duck.

Jack Wagner and Dan Onorato get Turkeys for not supporting women’s right to choose.

Tom Knox gets one for being a predatory lender.

Jim Gerlach gets a Turkey for thinking he could beat Tom Corbett.

Corbett gets one for refusing to resign as AG while running for Governor.

Sam Rohrer IS a Turkey.

Joe Sestak gets a Turkey for being penny wise and pound foolish.

Arlen Specter gets a Turkey for…well, isn’t he just the personification of a Turkey?

Joe Pitts gets a Turkey because every woman in America would love to shove one up his…

Tim Holden gets a Turkey for being an elephant in a donkey costume.

Charlie Dent gets an award for voting against the working people of the Lehigh Valley year after year.

Jason Altmire gets a Turkey so he can be an uninsured patient in one of those hospitals where he used to work.  Let’s see how good your care is once you aren’t covered Congressman.

The remainder of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation gets Turkeys until they renounce their health coverage until every Pennsylvanian is covered by the same medical care.

Dwight Evans gets a special Turkey for intimidating good people into choosing not to run again for the State House.  Being a legislative bully makes you a Turkey.  Using the tactic to try and kill healthcare for all means you should also be buried under the mashed potatoes and gravy.

Any other nominations?

A Dearth of Courage

Courage has been saved.  America lacked Courage and it gravely harmed us as a nation for eight years.  Now that President Barack Obama is in the White House Courage has been saved.  Here is proof:

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  On behalf of Sasha and Malia and myself, we’re thrilled to see you.  I want to thank Walter Pelletier, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Joel Brandenberger, its president, for donating this year’s turkey.  His name is “Courage,” and he traveled here from Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he was raised under Walter’s own precious care.

    (Turkey gobbles.)

    THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.  (Laughter.)

Now, the National Turkey Federation has been bringing its finest turkeys to the White House for more than 50 years.  I’m told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys.  You can’t fault them for that; that’s a good-looking bird.  (Laughter.)  President Kennedy was even given a turkey with a sign around its neck that said, “Good Eatin’, Mr. President.”  But he showed mercy and he said, “Let’s keep him going.”  And 20 years ago this Thanksgiving, the first President Bush issued the first official presidential pardon for a turkey.

Today, I am pleased to announce that thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha — because I was planning to eat this sucker — (laughter) — “Courage” will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate.  Later today, he’ll head to Disneyland, where he’ll be grand marshal of tomorrow’s parade.  And just in case “Courage” can’t fulfill his responsibilities, Walter brought along another turkey, “Carolina,” as an alternate, the stand-in.

Now, later this afternoon, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will take two of their less fortunate brethren to Martha’s Table, an organization that does extraordinary work to help folks here in D.C. who need it the most.  And I want to thank Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, for donating those dressed birds for dinner.  So today, all told, I believe it’s fair to say that we have saved or created four turkeys.  (Laughter.)

You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office.  And then there are moments like this — (laughter) — where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.  (Laughter.)  But every single day, I am thankful for the extraordinary responsibility that the American people have placed in me.  I am humbled by the privilege that it is to serve them, and the tremendous honor it is to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military in the world — and I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to every service member at home or in harm’s way.  We’re proud of you and we are thinking of you and we’re praying for you.

When my family and I sit around the table tomorrow, just like millions of other families across America, we’ll take time to give our thanks for many blessings.  But we’ll also remember this is a time when so many members of our American family are hurting.  There’s no question this has been a tough year for America.  We’re at war.  Our economy is emerging from an extraordinary recession into recovery.  But there’s a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

In more tranquil times, it’s easy to notice our many blessings.  It’s even easier to take them for granted.  But in times like these, they resonate a bit more powerfully.  When President Lincoln set aside the National Day of Thanksgiving for the first time — to celebrate America’s “fruitful fields,” “healthful skies,” and the “strength and vigor” of the American people — it was in the midst of the Civil War, just when the future of our very union was most in doubt.  So think about that.  When times were darkest, President Lincoln understood that our American blessings shined brighter than ever.

This is an era of new perils and new hardships.  But we are, as ever, a people of endless compassion, boundless ingenuity, limitless strength.  We’re the heirs to a hard-earned history and stewards of a land of God-given beauty.  We are Americans.  And for all this, we give our humble thanks — to our predecessors, to one another, and to God.

So on this quintessentially American holiday, as we give thanks for what we’ve got, let’s also give back to those who are less fortunate.  As we give thanks for our loved ones, let us remember those who can’t be with us.  And as we give thanks for our security, let’s in turn thank those who’ve sacrificed to make it possible, wherever they may be.

Now, before this turkey gets too nervous that Bo will escape and screw up this pardon — (laughter) — or before I change my mind, I hereby pardon “Courage” so that he can live out the rest of his days in peace and tranquility in Disneyland.

And to every American, I want to wish you, on behalf of myself, Malia, Sasha, and Michelle, the happiest of Thanksgivings.  Thank you very much, everybody.

Health Insurance Reform Slogs Onward

As I learn more and more about the health insurance bills working through the House and Senate the less I like them.  I’m beginning to think they’ve been bastardized to such an extent to be more harmful than beneficial.  With little or no cost controls they have the potential, because they are so misguided in purpose, to cause skyrocketing costs to continue while forcing all of us to buy insurance at these unsustainable levels.  At that point Democrats will be blamed for the bad bill rather than the Republicans who forced the bad policy.  Democrats are walking into a major trap.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of single payer.  I also realize votes don’t exist, as yet, to pass such a bill.  These proposals are bad however and would set reform back for a long period of time (just what the insurance industry wants).  Forcing Americans to do business with firms which have a sordid history of screwing us is bad policy.  The only way such a bill can work is with a robust public option, something which won’t get passed.

Meanwhile Pennsylvanians continue getting hurt by the broken system.  

Under reform in Pennsylvania:

   * 1.3 million residents who do not currently have insurance and 683,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange.

   * 904,000 residents could qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.

   * 2.2 million seniors would receive free preventive services.

   * 393,000 seniors would have their brand-name drug costs in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” halved.

   * 151,000 small businesses could be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable.

I’m amused by all the commercials on TV fighting this battle, especially the ones using scare tactics against seniors.  Medicare is NOT being cut.  Medicare Advantage, the privatized insurance industry plans developed by Republicans under George W. Bush to further enrich their industry benefactors, is being cut.  It’s being cut because it is 9% more expensive.  Your tax dollars shouldn’t be used to enrich private health insurers.

I’m also curious about the attack ad scaring people about “hundreds of billions in new spending.” There is no new spending on health insurance.  The proposals are about redistributing what is currently being spent and spending it in smarter, wiser, more effective ways.  Fear mongering by spinning is reprehensible.

The solutions are twofold.  Amend the House and Senate bills so they control costs and provide everyone access to a robust public option.  The other solution is allowing the states to pass their own health care reforms including single payer.  If states can opt out of the public option they should be able to form their own solutions to the crisis.

The debate begins and upcoming votes will be difficult because industry owns too many of our legislators.  The solution to that lies at the ballot box next year.  If your Member of Congress or Senator isn’t with you on this issue don’t give them money, don’t give to the DCCC or DSCC or run against them.

Stimulus Working For Economy

In spite of GOP claims to the contrary the stimulus plan passed last spring is having a beneficial effect on the economy.  Last quarter’s revised GNP figure of 2.8% is the first sign of growth in over a year.  Programs such as Cash For Clunkers and the home buyer tax credit worked and gave the economy a shot in the arm.  The two year roll out of projects continues and is boosting jobs and preventing losses.  

The New York Times did an analysis from numerous economists and all said the bill is working.  Interestingly some Republican Congressmen are taking credit when the jobs come to their Districts even though every one of them voted against the bill.  Also interesting is the reaction of the lunatic right fringe protesting federal spending.  They’ll support next week’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan although it, again, will be financed with borrowed money.  They’ll support war even while protesting “death panels.”

Deficit spending, in my and other’s opinions, is essential for two major purposes:  rescuing the economy from recession or to finance a major war after the nation is attacked by another major power.  This is why I’ve always opposed balanced budget amendments.  There are times when such spending is necessary.  When the private sector contracts substantially, as now, it is incumbent on the government to step in and fill the economic void.  Utter and complete economic collapse is the alternative.

Meanwhile the White House has announced the financing of two new projects in Pennsylvania to build the new smart grid for energy transmission.  

The state projects include new battery technology through a grant to East Penn Manufacturing near me in Lyons and a project in Pittsburgh between 44 Tech and CMU for new battery storage technology.

FDL Action Health Care Update: Tuesday (11/24/09)

Here are the FDL Action health care reform highlights for Tuesday, November 24.

1. Jon Walker explains “the difference between really trying and pretending to try” by Majority Leader Harry Reid on the public option. Walker quotes Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal, who writes, “Maybe Mr. Reid plans to push as far as he can with a bill including a public option, to show his party he has done all humanly possible, before yanking the public option just before the whole effort goes off a cliff.”  The problem for Reid, though, is that such a maneuver is not likely to fool anyone. Or, as Walker puts it, “his party’s base will not buy it.” So much for that idea.

2. Jon Walker has the second part of his series on what the Senate health care bill does better: “the Cantwell basic health program,” which Walker argues “is much closer to how sensible countries have designed their regulated health insurance marketplace or exchange.” Wait, we’re gonna start being “sensible” now? Ha.

3. David Dayen predicts that immigration could become a new sticking point for health care reform legislation, with “Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a key ally of Barack Obama’s from Illinois, [saying] today that he would find it ‘extremely difficult if not impossible’ to vote for a health care bill that included the restrictive and discriminatory measure on undocumented immigrants that appears in the Senate’s version and has the White House’s support.” If it’s not one thing, it’s another…

4. Scarecrow explains why there needs to be a viable public option, arguing that “[w]ithout it, health insurance reform will be just a very bad, very foolish, and very expensive experiment – and clearly not the platform Democrats should want in 2010.”

5. Jon Walker asks, “Is PhRMA Afraid Of The Progressive Block?” The question is prompted by the fact that PhRMA is running ads in Connecticut urging Joe Lieberman to support the current Senate bill. Verrrry interesting.

6. Michael Whitney points to a powerful new video contrasting Blanche Lincoln vowing on the Senate floor to oppose a public option with thousands of uninsured Arkansans in Little Rock for a free health care clinic. It’s powerful stuff, and if you’d like to help us run the ads, please click here. Thanks.

7. Finally, Jon Walker compares the Senate filibuster to a game of “Shoots and Ladders” with “made up rules.” Walker concludes that “Senate Democrats have to decide if keeping their fun, made up rules is more important to them than helping millions of Americans in need.” Why does something tell me they’re going to go with the “fun, made up rules?”  Sigh.

Library Part II

You may recall that I wrote a short article about our library officials getting ambushed by Senator O’Pake and a gaggle of Lutheran ministers.

I wanted to follow up on that little article.

Here is what I heard from my source on that matter:

“The young library worker at the SE Branch has not heard from the Senator nor has the President of the Board of Trustees concerning his ambush nor the belittling of library work.  I have had some report that he spoke with a confused staff member who had no knowledge of the incident at the time.

Of note is that there is some small progress in putting together funding to perhaps provide funds to open on a reduced schedule the branch libraries–no thanks to any input from either the Senator or the Lutheran Pastors.”

(Other sources tell me that the City of Reading came through with some money for the library.)

So much for the implication that calls would be made to try to clear up any misunderstanding.

You know it actually bothers me to write this article because Mike has done some good things for Reading and Berks. I don’t understand what was going on here but clearly there is some agenda at play.

As for the Lutheran leaders I have no idea what they are playing at but my feelings on organized religion are well known so perhaps I’ll just stand back with a look of concerned confusion on my face and let that be my only statement on their part in this odd charade.

The War Tax

( – promoted by John Morgan)

President Obama has made his decision: he is going to escalate the invasion of Afghanistan. This is a decision from whose weight falls on the backs of the soldiers forced to do multi-tours into the region. Half of the American troops suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Who knows how much consideration was truly taken of the families torn apart by the continual drafting of these brave, young men and women in the Armed Forces. What about the level of suicides that happen among these groups

or traumatic injury that many face that change their lives forever? Congress has proposed a ‘war tax’ for the American people to share some of the sacrifice that the troops have to face when an elected official makes a decision to send then into harm’s way for questionable reason. It’s been 8 years that we have been in the quagmire that is the occupation of Afghanistan. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have drained our resources and contributed to our devastating recession. Will the tax pull us out?