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tpsbmam's Journal - Archives
Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Mon Nov 07th 2011, 08:20 PM
We’ve been at war for decades now -- not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but right here at home. Domestically, it’s been a war against the poor, but if you hadn’t noticed, that’s not surprising. You wouldn’t often have found the casualty figures from this particular conflict in your local newspaper or on the nightly TV news. Devastating as it’s been, the war against the poor has gone largely unnoticed -- until now.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has already made the concentration of wealth at the top of this society a central issue in American politics. Now, it promises to do something similar when it comes to the realities of poverty in this country.

By making Wall Street its symbolic target, and branding itself as a movement of the 99%, OWS has redirected public attention to the issue of extreme inequality, which it has recast as, essentially, a moral problem. Only a short time ago, the “morals” issue in politics meant the propriety of sexual preferences, reproductive behavior, or the personal behavior of presidents. Economic policy, including tax cuts for the rich, subsidies and government protection for insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and financial deregulation, was shrouded in clouds of propaganda or simply considered too complex for ordinary Americans to grasp.

Now, in what seems like no time at all, the fog has lifted and the topic on the table everywhere seems to be the morality of contemporary financial capitalism. The protestors have accomplished this mainly through the symbolic power of their actions: by naming Wall Street, the heartland of financial capitalism, as the enemy, and by welcoming the homeless and the down-and-out to their occupation sites. And of course, the slogan “We are the 99%” reiterated the message that almost all of us are suffering from the reckless profiteering of a tiny handful. (In fact, they aren’t far off: the increase in income of the top 1% over the past three decades about equals the losses of the bottom 80%.)

Read the rest at Mother Jones.


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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Tue Nov 01st 2011, 09:54 PM
Last night Occupy Oakland's General Assembly did something that is likely to catch on with occupations across the country.

They voted to encourage the occupation of foreclosed properties across their city. After all, the bursting of the property bubble is part of why they're on the streets right now.

There is a movement similar to this under the overall Occupy umbrella, It's called Occupy Vacant Properties, and it has been most visible in San Francisco, where families are even reclaiming their old homes post-foreclosures.


Via FDL: The Looming Occupy Foreclosures Movement & Mike Konczal: Occupying Foreclosures Catching On:

The rush to foreclose has left blighted properties all over the bubble states, serving no productive purpose. The banks have neglected these properties and allowed them to drift into disrepair, sometimes drawing fines from communities like Los Angeles, which passed a blight resolution last year. In fact, some banks are dealing with the problem by demolishing the properties, despite the clear human need for shelter. So if the Occupy movement extends to vacant homes, it creates a living space for people and saves the properties from demolition. What’s more, the dirty secret is that the banks cannot prove ownership on these properties, making it difficult for them to evict the squatters without some chicanery.

The Occupy Vacant Properties movement has been slow going, but has expanded. In California, groups like the Home Defenders League are becoming more aggressive on this front, as in San Francisco, where a family will re-enter and re-claim their home, asserting that they were wrongfully evicted. One story describes a home on Quesada Avenue in the Bayview section of the city that the family built and owned since 1962. Here’s a statement from the homeowner:

My family has been in this neighborhood for 50 years, and since I’ve been evicted, the place has been vacant, like so many homes in the Bayview. Families have been ripped off by banks, scammed by brokers and nothing’s done to them. It’s time for the families and the community to stand up and take back what’s theirs.



Malcolm at Springfield (MA) No One Leaves as quoted by FDL:

I think that (the Occupy Foreclosures movement) exemplifies the importance of two things: community mobilization around eviction defense is a powerful grounds on which we can fight the banks, where our demands with concrete solutions to keep homes occupied comes directly in contrast to banks insistence on vacating homes and destabilizing neighborhoods. Funneling the incredible energy of resistance into existing or new efforts to mobilize eviction defense, demanding to pay rent or principal reduction, not only brings concrete demands to the forefront of that energy, but also mobilizes new leaders for our movements. It’s encouraging to see these two growing and powerful movements supporting and building together.


The movement evolves.






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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Wed Sep 21st 2011, 04:54 PM
but so angry it's still unaffordable for so many, including my friend who remains uninsured and uninsurable. For that reason, I feel selfish celebrating my newfound insurance, but celebrate I must for giving me a chance to beat cancer.

The insurance I will have starting 10/1 thanks to him is truly like the public option most Americans supported. It's more expensive at this point because there are none of the subsidies that will purportedly kick in in 2014 (barring ReTHUG killing the Affordable Care Act). Once the huge deductible has been met, it has none of the niggling aspects of most private insurance policies -- no copays, etc etc. On top of that, it covers specialty drugs (I have 3 very expensive ones) up to $100,000/year! Most private insurance policies don't come close to that. In short, it's an excellent policy compared to many these days and what I envisioned a public option to look like.

I have multiple preexisting conditions precluding me from getting any individual health insurance policy. Two of them, multiple sclerosis & chronic kidney failure/disease, doom me from the outset, as do the rest of them. I've been excluded from Medicare via an unsurmountable loophole (and yes, I've consulted 3 different attorneys....a couple of assholes on DU called me a "fool" because of this.....thanks so much, assholes.....you know who you are).

And now I add to that my recent diagnosis of ovarian cancer, the kind that killed my mother just 7 years ago. Oh joy!

Two things led to me being a newly insured person as of October 1. One was the cancer diagnosis and two was NC finally joining the federal high risk pool.

I've been living incredibly frugally on my savings -- my IRA and some other savings that were barely enough to keep me going into old age. Well, as of a cancer diagnosis, everything changed and I'm cashing in my chips now, so to speak. I'm taking monies I had allocated to get me through my 70s and beyond and spending it now at age 55, buying myself an insurance policy I'd otherwise not be able to afford rather than save it for some chimera of a future when I'm 85!

And, thanks to Obama, I got a new insurance policy {i]with diagnoses of MS, CKD & cancer and others. As a matter of fact, the requirements for the policy were being turned down for health insurance (they actually accepted me without that.....BCBS did turn me down, but only after I'd been accepted in the federal plan) & having preexisting condition(s). I have a massive deductible but after that, everything will be covered 100%! And adding in the cancer diagnosis didn't change the monthly fee one iota, remarkably enough. The NC state high risk policy was truly unaffordable, even now, and precluded preexisting conditions for 6 months after taking the policy. I'd have been doomed. But, with the federal high risk policy, I'm covered. My surgery is scheduled for 10/5 and I'll be able to undergo chemo afterward.

I have personally written to Obama to thank him. It is thanks to him that I can get treated at all -- without this, I'd have to lie down and die with this diagnosis. I don't have to do that now, and for that I offer him a huge THANK YOU!


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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Sun Aug 21st 2011, 09:37 PM
I've spent part of the afternoon reading economist Michael Hudson's articles and my hair is definitely standing on end!

I urge you to go to the various links and read the entire articles and more of his at his website.

So let me start with snippets of the first article I read, which led me to reading more:

EU: Politics Financialized, Economies Privatized


At issue from Europe’s vantage point – at least that of its bankers – is a broad principle: Governments should run their economies on behalf of banks and bondholders. They should bail out at least the senior creditors of banks that fail (that is, the big institutional investors and gamblers) and pay these debts and public debts by selling off enterprises, shifting the tax burden onto labor. To balance their budgets they are to cut back spending programs, lower public employment and wages, and charge more for public services, from medical care to education.

<snip>

Financial power is to achieve what military conquest had done in times past. Pretending to make subject economies more “competitive,” the aim is more short-run: to squeeze out enough payments so that bondholders (and indeed, voters) will not be obliged to confront the reality that many debts are unpayable except at the price of making the economy too debt-ridden, too regressively tax-ridden and too burdened with rising privatized infrastructure charges to be competitive. Spending cutbacks and a regressive tax shift dry up capital investment and productivity in the long run. Such economies are run like companies taken over by debt-leveraged raiders on credit, who downsize and outsource their labor force so as to squeeze out enough revenue to pay their own creditors – who take what they can and run. The tactic attack of this financial attack is no longer overt military force as in days of yore, but something less costly because its victims submit more voluntarily.

But the intended victims of predatory finance are fighting back. And instead of the attacker losing their armies and manpower, it is their balance sheets that are threatened – and hence their own webs of solvency. When Greek labor unions (especially in the public enterprises being privatized), the ruling Socialist Party and leading minority parties rejected such sacrifices, Eurozone officials demanded that financial planning be placed above party politics, and demanded “cross-party agreement on any overhaul of the bail-out.” Greece should respond to its wave of labor strikes and popular protest by suspending party politics and economic democracy. “The government and the opposition should declare jointly that they commit to the reform agreements with the EU,” Mr. Juncker explained to Der Spiegel.

Criticizing Prime Minister George Papandreou’s delay at even to start selling state assets, European financial leaders proposed a national privatization agency to act as an intermediary to transfer revenue from these assets to foreign creditors and retire public debt – and to pledge its public assets as collateral to be forfeited in case of default in payments to government bondholders. Suggesting that the government “set up an agency to privatize state assets” along the lines of the German Treuhandanstalt that sold off East German enterprises in the 1990s,” Mr. Juncker thought that “Greece could gain more from privatizations than the €50 billion ($71 billion) it has estimated.”<3>

In a simplistic nutshell, the banksters are trying to take over the world, reap all of the profits and turn us all into their low-paid serfs (I say closer to slaves).


On to the next article I read. I'll just start you off with the first 4 paragraphs of this article:

Rolling Back the Progressive Era: How Bankers are using the Debt Crisis to welcome in the Financial Road to Serfdom

Financial strategists do not intend to let today’s debt crisis go to waste. Foreclosure time has arrived. That means revolution – or more accurately, a counter-revolution to roll back the 20th century’s gains made by social democracy: pensions and social security, public health care and other infrastructure providing essential services at subsidized prices or for free. The basic model follows the former Soviet Union’s post-1991 neoliberal reforms: privatization of public enterprises, a high flat tax on labor but only nominal taxes on real estate and finance, and deregulation of the economy’s prices, working conditions and credit terms.

What is to be reversed is the “modern” agenda. The aim a century ago was to mobilize the Industrial Revolution’s soaring productivity and technology to raise living standards and use progressive taxation, public regulation, central banking and financial reform to distribute wealth fairly and make societies more equal. Today’s financial aim is the opposite: to concentrate wealth at the top of the economic pyramid and lower labor’s returns. High finance loves low wages.

The political lever to achieve this program is financial. The European Union (EU) constitution prevents central banks from financing government deficits, leaving this role to commercial banks, paying interest to them for creating credit that central banks monetize for governments in Britain and the United States. Governments are to go into debt to bail out banks for loans gone bad – as do more and more loans as finance impoverishes the economy, stifling its ability to pay. Yet as long as we live in democracies, voters must agree to pay. Governments are sovereign and debt is ultimately a creature of the law and courts.

But first, voters need to understand what is happening. From the bankers’ perspective, the economic surplus is what they themselves end up with. Rising consumption standards and even public investment in infrastructure are seen as deadweight. Bankers and bondholders aim to increase the surplus not so much by tangible capital investment increasing the overall surplus, but by more predatory means, headed by rolling back labor’s gains and stiffening working conditions while gaining public subsidy. Banks “create wealth” by providing more credit (that is, debt leverage) to bid up asset prices for real estate and enterprises already in place – assets that either are being foreclosed on or sold off under debt pressure by private owners or governments. One commentator recently characterized the latter strategy of privatization as “tantamount to selling the family silver only to have to rent it back in order to eat dinner.”<1>


Okay, I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought IMMEDIATELY here of Obama's suggestion that the rich should buy up properties and rent them back to the have-nots. Of course, that's not the way the administration worded it, but that's sure how I read it and it instantly smacked of feudalism to me. I get queasy when I read it again in the context of Michael Hudson's article above.

And then there was this article. I don't even know where to start with this article -- I'll just offer up 4 paragraphs and urge you to go read the whole article:

How Financial Oligarchy Replaces Democracy

The role of the ECB, IMF and other financial oversight agencies has been to make sure that bankers got paid. As the past decade of fiscal laxity and deceptive accounting came to light, bankers and speculators made fortunes jacking up the interest rate that Greece had to pay for its increasing risk of default. To make sure they did not lose, bankers shifted the risk onto the European “troika” empowered to demand payment from Greek taxpayers.

Banks that lent to the public sector (at above-market interest rates reflecting the risk), were to be bailed out at public expense.<2> Demanding that Greece not impose a “haircut” on creditors, the ECB and related EU bureaucracy demanded a better deal for European bondholders than creditors received from the Brady bonds that resolved Latin American and Third World debts in the 1980s. In an interview with the Financial Times, ECB executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi insisted that: (at link)

<snip>

A creditor-oriented economy is not really a market-based, of course. The banks destroyed the market by their own central financial planning — using debt leverage to leave Greece with a bare choice: Either it would permit EU officials to come in and carve up its economy, selling its major tourist sites and monopolistic rent-extracting opportunities to foreign creditors in a gigantic national foreclosure movement, or it could bite the bullet and withdraw from the Eurozone. That was the deal Bini Smaghi offered: “if there are sufficient privatizations, and so forth – then the IMF can disburse and the Europeans will do their share. But the key lies in Athens, not elsewhere. The key element for the return of Greece to the market is to stop discussions about restructuring.”

One way or another, Greece would lose, he explained: “default or restructuring would not help solve the problems of the Greek economy, problems that can be solved only by adopting the kind of structural reforms and fiscal adjustment measures included in the program. On the contrary it would push Greece into a major economic and social depression.” This leverage demanding to be paid or destroying the economy’s savings and monetary system is what central bankers call a “rescue,” or “restoring market forces.” Bankers claim that austerity will revive growth. But to accept austerity as a realistic democratic alternative would be self-immolation.


And, finally, I'll again leave you with the first 4 paragraphs and urge you to read the rest:

Debt Ceiling Set For Progressive Repealing: Mr. Obama’s scare tactics to get Democrats to vote for his Republican Wall Street plan

You know that the debt kerfuffle is as melodramatically staged as a World Wrestling Federation exhibition when Mr. Obama makes the blatantly empty threat that if Congress does not “tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform,” there won’t be money to pay Social Security checks next month. In his debt speech last night (July 25), he threatened that if “we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills – bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses.”

This is not remotely true. But it has become the scare theme for over a week now, ever since the President used almost the same words in his interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley.

Of course the government will have enough money to pay the monthly Social Security checks. The Social Security administration has its own savings – in Treasury bills. I realize that lawyers (such as Mr. Obama and indeed most American presidents) rarely understand economics. But this is a legal issue. Mr. Obama certainly must know that Social Security is solvent, with liquid securities to pay for many decades to come. Yet Mr. Obama has put Social Security at the very top of his hit list!

The most reasonable explanation for his empty threat is that he is trying to panic the elderly into hoping that somehow the budget deal he seems to have up his sleeve can save them. The reality, of course, is that they are being led to economic slaughter. (And not a word of correction reminding the President of financial reality from Rubinomics Treasury SecrePrivatizing Will Make Life Worsetary Geithner, neoliberal Fed Chairman Bernanke or anyone else in the Wall Street Democrat administration, formerly known as the Democratic Leadership Council.)


Some more articles by Michael Hudson:

Privatizing Will Make Life Worse (a NY Times article/op-ed he wrote in 1989)

Debt Deal – Economy Sacrificed for Military Bias (Democracy Now interview)

How a $13 Trillion Cover Story was Written: Free money creation to bail out America’s elite financial speculators, but not for Social Security or Medicare

A little info on Michael Hudson can be found on his "about" page.

Much of this is what many of us at DU have been saying for a long time. Still, it was striking reading all of these powerful articles at once this afternoon, particularly on the heels of reading about the SEC corruption. On that note, I think I'll start heading to bed. After a very, very stiff drink!




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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Wed Aug 17th 2011, 02:36 PM
Federal legislators have cushy deals thanks to taxpayers.

About that automatic COLA for legislators' salaries. Yes, I know you've voted not to take the automatic raise in the past couple of years, though I note that prior to that your salary raises were substantial:

Between 2001 and 2009, Congressional salaries increased from $145,100 to $174,000 thanks to an automatic Cola increase. As Social Security recipients have not received a cost of living adjustment since 2008, Congressional Cola increases cost taxpayers $2.2 million and $2.5 million in 2008 and 09 respectively. In 2010, Congress voted to not accept a 2011 COLA increase. On January 7, 2011, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az) introduced a bill to cut Congressional salaries by 5%.


While you've been getting those nice increases in salary, you've been busy kowtowing to your corporate overlords and have found all sorts of ways to let manufacturing and other business leave the country and regular Americans' median income has gone DOWN during the same period.

SUGGESTED SACRIFICE: Scale legislators salaries back to the 2001 figure of $145,100. After all, it's the policies that you enacted that caused the rest of us to lose -- why should you be any different, moreover reward yourselves for jobs poorly done?

Now, about your pensions. Congress (both houses) has been very, very generous to itself. They pay less into their pensions and get a sweet match from taxpayers.

They enjoy, "pension benefits that are two to three times more generous than those offered in the private sector for similarly-salaried executives. Taxpayers directly cover at least 80 percent of this costly plan."

Not only are the pensions more generous than private sector pensions, they're more generous than even executive branch pensions and certainly regular federal employees.

For example, Members of Congress under CSRS have a generous accrual rate of 2.5 percent for all years served, while most workers in the Executive Branch get a sliding rate of between 1.5 and 2.0 percent. For FERS, Members get a 1.7 percent initial rate, versus 1.1 percent or 1.0 percent for most rank-and-file federal employees. Also, lawmakers with longer careers in Congress can generally collect pension benefits at a far earlier age than their counterparts with similar service elsewhere in the government. Plus, the Congressional benefit is protected with Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), a feature that only about 1 in 10 private plans offer.

According to the Congressional Research Service, a lawmaker with 20 years of service under FERS could expect to receive a pension equivalent to 34.0 percent of his or her highest three years’ salary average. For other federal employees in the Executive Branch, the “replacement rate” would be just 20.0 percent. For CSRS participants, the gap between a Member of Congress and an Executive Branch employee is 50.0 percent versus 36.5 percent.


And that ain't all:

Furthermore, lawmakers enrolled in both Congressional pension plans (CSRS and FERS) can participate in the federal Thrift Savings Plan, a defined contribution arrangement that works like a 401 (k) retirement system. However, only lawmakers enrolled in the newer pension plan, FERS, can also obtain a generous government “match” of their salary contributions (up to 5 percent). This can add considerably to the total retirement package.


SUGGESTED SACRIFICE: Scale back legislators' pensions to more closely resemble the pensions of all other federal employees. Congresspersons and senators increase their contributions substantially so that taxpayers are contributing no more than 30% of the pensions for legislators.

Legislators currently become vested in the pension system after 5 years of service. They can retire at age 62 and, if only serving 5 years at that point, are eligible for a pension based on their 3 highest salaried years. A fifty-year-old who's served 20 years can retire at age 50. They can retire at any age after serving 25 years. Add in the "Golden Goose of Congressional Pensions known as an annual guaranteed cost-of-living-adjustment" and those retirement benefits, courtesy of us, look even better!

SUGGESTED SACRIFICE: You want to raise the SS age? Okay, this taxpayer suggests you make your own sacrifice. Members are vested in retirement after 8 years of service, not five. And retirement with full pension must follow the same guidelines you set out for Social Security. No more free rides at the expense of the taxpayer. You want to serve in Congress for 20 years and retire when you're 56? Fine. Your pension doesn't kick in until you hit whatever age you set for SS. No exceptions. And you get a COLA only when Social Security recipients get a COLA. No exceptions.

Health insurance: taxpayers currently pay approximately 3/4 of the health insurance costs for legislators and their families.

SUGGESTED SACRIFICE: Increase the percentage legislators pay for their health insurance, with taxpayers paying no more than 20% of health insurance costs for legislators and legislators assuming the full cost of family members' health insurance. This seems fair since so many legislators are fine with millions of Americans having no health insurance at all.

Life insurance: taxpayers currently pay approximately 1/3 of members' life insurance plans.

SUGGESTED SACRIFICE: Life insurance has become a luxury these days for regular Americans hit by job cutbacks, losses, high costs of most items needed for everyday living. I suggest members pay for 100% of their life insurance since American taxpayers increasingly can't afford to have it at all.

Health club costs: Members currently pay a nominal fee to use the health club in the Capitol. Taxpayers pick up the rest of the cost.

SUGGESTED SACRIFICE: Pay for your own damn gym. Talk about luxuries these days! The most exercise some of your constituents are able to get is standing in lines: unemployment, food banks, and more. When your constituents are hurting so badly, why the hell are we putting one penny of tax dollars toward an exclusive gym open only to you and your staffs?

SOME OTHER SUGGESTED SACRIFICES: Fly coach. You want pampering? Pay for the upgrade out of your own damn pocket. And pay for your own parking at the airport! You get free premium parking -- the rest of us have to pay big bucks for that. Tighten those franking privileges, too -- taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for what amounts to your brag-mail that's essentially campaigning on taxpayer dollars!

We currently have 55 members of Congress who are worth $10 million and above. This taxpayer suggests that any Congressperson worth $10 million or more forgo his or her salary and pay $100% of their health insurance costs and that of their family's. Why the hell should we pay to enrich you more? You've likely taken some of your own money to buy your election, so do the right thing and save the taxpayers from forking over money for a salary you don't need and health insurance you can bloody well afford to pay for yourself!




SO, WHERE'S YOUR DAMNED SHARED SACRIFICE, HMMMM?

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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Tue Jul 26th 2011, 02:11 PM
House Republicans have lost sight of the country’s welfare. It’s hard to conclude anything else from their latest actions, including the House speaker’s dismissal of President Obama’s plea for compromise Monday night. They have largely succeeded in their campaign to ransom America’s economy for the biggest spending cuts in a generation. They have warped an exercise in paying off current debt into an argument about future spending. Yet, when they win another concession, they walk away.

This increasingly reckless game has pushed the nation to the brink of ruinous default. The Republicans have dimmed the futures of millions of jobless Americans, whose hopes for work grow more out of reach as government job programs are cut and interest rates begin to rise. They have made the federal government a laughingstock around the globe.

In a scathing prime-time television address Monday night, President Obama stepped off the sidelines to tell Americans the House Republicans were threatening a “deep economic crisis” that could send interest rates skyrocketing and hold up Social Security and veterans’ checks. By insisting on a single-minded approach and refusing to negotiate, he said, Republicans were violating the country’s founding principle of compromise.

<snip>

We agreed strongly when Mr. Obama said Americans should be “offended” by this display and that they “may have voted for divided government but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.” It’s hard not to conclude now that dysfunction is the Republicans’ goal — even if the cost is unthinkable.

More at the NY Times.



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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Thu Jul 21st 2011, 11:12 AM
THIS is what Americans want, you corrupt good for nothing Washington corporatist sell-outs!




The poll also shows that reducing tax incentives for the legacy oil and gas industries is one of the top-five most popular options for helping reduce the deficit, with 59% of Americans saying they supported the option. Eliminating certain tax subsidies for the mature oil and gas industries could bring in about $45 billion over the next ten years. By comparison, the top five oil companies brought in over $76 billion in profits in 2010 alone.

In response to the calls for reducing oil and gas tax subsidies to help close the budget gap, the American Energy Alliance funded a study showing that such a move would have a net-negative budget impact of $53 billion. However, the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, and the Congressional Research Service all separately found that the move would bring in billions of dollars in revenue.


From Think Progress

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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Sun Jul 10th 2011, 07:36 PM
Digging Fat Pharma Dividends... That's part of the title of the Forbes blog piece below, dated July 8, 2011.

So far in 2011, it’s been a fat time for stock investors.

<snip>

In terms of sectors, the S&P Health Care SPDR (XLV) leads the pack with a sector-best 15.2% advance year-to-date through July 7. Not far behind is S&P Energy SPDR (XLE), clocking a 14.4% gain. Consumer discretionary stocks in the XLY rose 12%

<snip>

So how should the sector performance so far this year influence what to buy for the second half? Check out the Market Blaster video below for details, but overall it seems smart to respect the strength in health care and keep holding it or add exposure.

<snip>

The huge pharmaceutical, insurance and medical services stocks that make up the XLV ETF have proven their resilience and ability to grow through any kind of economic or political adversity. Plus the top holdings like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck and Abbot Labs offer lean valuations and meaty dividends.


(The video analyzes investing in healthcare.)




From a 2009 LA Times article titled "Executives at health insurance giants cash in as firms plan fee hikes" (hikes as high as 39%) :

Aetna's net income jumped more than 40% in the second quarter of 2010 compared with a year earlier. Indianapolis-based WellPoint recorded a 51% increase in its profit in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2009.

At the same time, the companies have sought major premium hikes. In Rhode Island, UnitedHealth of Minnetonka, Minn., this spring sought increases of up to 15.5%. In Utah, some customers of Humana of Louisville, Ky., reported increases of 29%.


___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________








Tracy Pierce, age 37, developed kidney cancer, married father of a young son

When Flink talked to Tracy Pierce, his cancer was attacking his body. Despite being fully insured, every treatment his doctors sought for him was denied by his insurance provider. First-Health Coventry deemed the treatments were either not a medical necessity or experimental.

"I don't know what else to do but just wait," Tracy Pierce said last May.

As he waited, his doctors appealed again and again, including a 27-page appeal spelling out that Tracy Pierce would die without care. Coventry dismissed each request.

"It's purely economical. You never see an insurance company try to block an inexpensive test," said William Soper.



Tracy died -- his family calls it "death by denial" and his wife, Julie, rightly says that he was murdered by their insurance company.



______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________





Deamonte Driver, 12-years-old, "died because his family could not afford private dental treatment."

He developed a tooth abscess that spread to his brain.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.


_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



Marcelas Owens, an 11-year-old from Seattle, headlined a press conference with Senate Democratic leadership on Thursday, telling a packed room of reporters that he wanted the president and Congress to come together and pass health insurance reform.

"I am here because of my mom," said Owens. "My mom was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in 2006. She missed so much work she lost her job. And when my mom lost her job, she lost her health care. And losing her health care ended up costing her her life."


_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________




Kimberly Young was a previously healthy 2008 graduate of Miami University of Ohio. She was diagnosed with swine flu and pneumonia. However, she was reluctant to seek treatment because she had no insurance. Brent Mowery, her friend and former roommate said:

"That’s the most tragic part about it. If she had insurance, she would have gone to the doctor."

On Sept. 22, Kimberly Young’s condition suddenly worsened, and her roommate drove her to McCullough Hyde Memorial Hospital in Oxford. She was then flown in critical condition to University Hospital in Cincinnati, where she died.

Ironically, Young is a constituent of John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Minority Leader. Last week on "Meet the Press," he dismissing the public option as “big government” while defending a watered-down health reform plan.


_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



Nicki White

Nikki was a slim and athletic college graduate who had health insurance, had worked in health care and knew the system. But she had systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic inflammatory disease that was diagnosed when she was 21 and gradually left her too sick to work. And once she lost her job, she lost her health insurance.

In any other rich country, Nikki probably would have been fine, notes T.R. Reid in his important and powerful new book, “The Healing of America.” Some 80 percent of lupus patients in the United States live a normal life span. Under a doctor’s care, lupus should be manageable. Indeed, if Nikki had been a felon, the problem could have been averted, because courts have ruled that prisoners are entitled to medical care.

As Reid recounts, Nikki tried everything to get medical care, but no insurance company would accept someone with her pre-existing condition. She spent months painfully writing letters to anyone she thought might be able to help. She fought tenaciously for her life.

Finally, Nikki collapsed at her home in Tennessee and was rushed to a hospital emergency room, which was then required to treat her without payment until her condition stabilized. Since money was no longer an issue, the hospital performed 25 emergency surgeries on Nikki, and she spent six months in critical care.


Nikki was 32 when she died.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


And the millions more who've died, been bankrupted, lost everything due to overwhelming medical bills, have been refused care due to no insurance or insurance company refusals to cover needed care....

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2008 Salary Survey

Ron Williams, Aetna CEO: Total Compensation: $24,300,112
H. Edward Hanway - CIGNA CEO Total Compensation $12,236,740
Angela Braly - WellPoint CEO: Total Compensation: $9,844,212
Dale Wolf - Coventry Health Care CEO: Total Compensation: $9,047,469
Michael Neidorff - Centene CEO: Total Compensation: $8,774,483
James Carlson - AMERIGROUP CEO: Total Compensation: $5,292,546
Michael McCallister - Humana CEO: Total Compensation: $4,764,309
Jay Gellert - Health Net CEO: Total Compensation: $4,425,355
Richard Barasch - Universal American CEO: Total Compensation: $3,503,702

H. Edward Hanway, former CEO of Cigna, retirement package: $110.9 million in 2008.


What a vile country this has become.





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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Sun Jul 10th 2011, 12:32 PM


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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Fri Jul 08th 2011, 09:59 PM
This is something he's repeatedly denied. Surprise, surprise -- another ReTHUG caught lying. From The Nation:

In the summer of 2004, Andrew Ramirez, who was just about to enter his senior year of high school, worked up the nerve to tell his family he was gay. His mother took the news in stride, but his stepfather, a conservative Christian, was outraged. “He said it was wrong, an abomination, that it was something he would not tolerate in his house,” Ramirez recalls. A few weeks later, his parents marched him into the office of Bachmann & Associates, a Christian counseling center in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, which is owned by Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus. From the outset, Ramirez says, his therapist—one of roughly twenty employed at the Lake Elmo clinic—made it clear that renouncing his sexual orientation was the only moral choice. “He basically said being gay was not an acceptable lifestyle in God’s eyes,” Ramirez recalls. According to Ramirez, his therapist then set about trying to “cure” him. Among other things, he urged Ramirez to pray and read the Bible, particularly verses that cast homosexuality as an abomination, and referred him to a local church for people who had given up the “gay lifestyle.” He even offered to set Ramirez up with an ex-lesbian mentor.


Fortunately, Ramirez was strong -- he didn't return after his second session, saying he was okay with who he was. I hate to think about those who end up in this clinic who are more vulnerable.

<snip>

As Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann has surged in the polls, the spotlight has turned on her husband and main political adviser, Marcus Bachmann, who has a PhD in clinical psychology and owns two Christian counseling centers in Minnesota. There has been a great deal of speculation that his clinics, which have received $161,000 in state and federal funding, try to cure homosexuality—and the chatter has only grown louder since his comments likening gays to “barbarians” who “need to be educated” and “disciplined” surfaced in the blogosphere last week. Marcus Bachmann has denied these allegations. “That’s a false statement,” he replied when the Minneapolis City Pages asked if his clinic tried to cure gays. And until now there was no firm evidence to back these allegations up. But information obtained by The Nation suggests that Bachmann & Associates therapists do, in fact, try to change sexual orientation. It also sheds new light on the Bachmanns’ embrace of the controversial ex-gay movement and related psychological approaches, which portray homosexuality as a disease to be rooted out.

Some of the most potent material was provided by Truth Wins Out, a gay-rights group that opposes the ex-gay movement. In late June, a Truth Wins Out activist named John Becker donned two hidden cameras—one embedded in a wristwatch—and attended five treatment sessions at Bachmann’s Lake Elmo clinic. Becker, who is openly gay, presented himself as a committed Christian who was struggling with homosexuality. The video he collected seems to confirm Ramirez’s allegations that staff members at Bachmann & Associates try to change sexual orientation. Becker’s therapist (another of Marcus Bachmann’s employees) repeatedly assured him that homosexuality could be overcome. “At the core value…in terms of how God created us, we’re all heterosexual,” he explained, according to the footage. “God has created you for heterosexuality.” The therapist also mined Becker’s personal history for traumatic experiences that might have turned him gay. To curb Becker’s gay impulses, the therapist urged him to pray and read Scripture and suggested Becker “develop” his masculinity. He also encouraged him to find a “heterosexual guy” to act as act as an AA-type sponsor. Later, he referred Becker to Outpost Ministries, a church that helps “the sexually and relationally broken”—in other words, homosexuals—“find healing and restoration through relationship with Jesus Christ.”

<snip>

Most professional psychologists view reparative therapy skeptically, to say the least. In 2007 the American Psychological Association assembled a task force to study the effectiveness of this approach. After spending two years sifting through the available research—it evaluated eighty-three studies dating back to 1960—the group concluded that there was scant evidence that sexual orientation could be changed. What’s more, it found that attempting to do so could cause depression and suicidal tendencies among patients. Based on these findings, in 2009 the APA voted to repudiate reparative therapy by a margin of 125 to 4.


Ah, another ReTHUG caught in another lie. It horrifies me that this piece of shit (1) has a clinical psych Ph.D. and (2) has 2 clinics -- that's a whole lot of opportunity to do a whole lot of damage.

(Emphases mine.)



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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Thu Jun 09th 2011, 11:54 AM
While SWAT is busy invading the home of and roughing (the wrong) people up over a student loan default, the Department of Homeland Security has bowed to political pressure to the degree that they no longer monitor domestic terrorism.

In an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, former DHS domestic terrorism expert Daryl Johnson describes the response to the DHS report, "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,"

But DHS ultimately reacted to criticism from conservative columnists and groups like the American Legion by withdrawing the report. (Ironically, given the criticism of his report, Johnson describes himself as a registered Republican who "personifies conservativism.") In the months following the leak, Johnson says in the interview below, DHS gutted its domestic terrorism analysis unit.


What was your mission at DHS?
DHS's mission was identified in the 2002 Homeland Security Act. Part of the department's responsibilities includes identifying and assessing possible terrorist threats to the homeland and notifying law enforcement officers of those threats. We looked at extremist groups who had histories of violent activities, but who might not necessarily be doing anything right now. We also studied radicalization: the process of adopting an extremist belief system and showing a willingness to use or facilitate violence to change the world. We wanted to know how a law-abiding person becomes radicalized to the point of being willing to hurt people. No one else was doing this work from a uniquely domestic, non-Islamic perspective.

What ultimately happened?
Napolitano eventually told Congress that DHS was going to remove the report from its websites. Some of the people in the media assumed they were recalling the report. That never happened. There is actually a formal process involved when you want to rescind a report. The only reason you do so is if there was something erroneous in the document. Napolitano also told Congress that DHS was going to pull this report back and refashion it into a much more usable format. It never happened.

What happened to your DHS unit?
When the right-wing report was leaked and people politicized it, my management got scared and thought DHS would be scaled back. It created an environment where my analysts and I couldn't get our work done. DHS stopped all of our work and instituted restrictive policies. Eventually, they ended up gutting my unit. All of this happened within six to nine months after the furor over the report. Analysts then began leaving DHS. One analyst went to ICE , another to the FBI, a third went to the U.S. Marshals, and so on. There is just one person there today who is still a "domestic terrorism" analyst.

Since our report was leaked, DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism—whether it's anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, "sovereign citizens," eco-terrorists, the whole gamut.



So there you have it, in cold clear terms. Because of Republican whining in response to an accurate report, DHS/the Obama administration, totally caved and, as Johnson opines later in the interview, has left us more vulnerable and will likely embolden domestic terrorists. And this at a time when the US has seen a resurgence in hate groups and hate group activity, as documented in the SPLC 2009 report (PDF): TERROR FROM THE RIGHT: 75 PLOTS, CONSPIRACIES AND RACIST RAMPAGES SINCE OKLAHOMA CITY.

The SPLC reported this resurgence in 2009, saying:

As the first months of the Obama Administration unfold, a growing consensus is emerging that a resurgence of right-wing hate groups and radical ideas is spreading across the United States. Law enforcement officials, civil rights groups, and many others have all expressed worries about this troubling trend.

This February, in the last issue of the Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported on the continued growth of hate groups, whose numbers have risen by more than 50% since 2000. It attributed that growth mainly to fears about non-white immigration, but pointed out that the rise of a black man to the White House also appears to have contributed. And it said the ongoing economic meltdown, which some have already blamed on racial minorities and undocumented Latino immigrants, could well add to a worsening situation.

Two months later, a Department of Homeland Security report, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," was leaked to the press. Dated April 7, the report mirrored many of the conclusions of the SPLC and added that "rightwing extremists attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans." (The Report has written extensively about the problem of extremists in the military.)

Already, there is evidence of the violence that an expansion of the radical right may portend. Some of it is chilling.


There is much more at all of the links. The SPLC has urged DHS to rethink their moronic, gutless policy (except they did it diplomatically).

So there we have it. The only terrorists are Islamic terrorists, at least in terms of our totally spineless DHS under Napolitano and the Obama administration who have, once again, buckled under the weight of Republican pressure. In this case, they've done it in a way that really does leave all of us more vulnerable.



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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Wed Apr 13th 2011, 06:21 PM
Washington hypocrisy runs thick, and it ain't just on the Rethuglican side.

U.S. Will Hold New Ivory Coast President Accountable

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 12:05PM

U.S. President Barack Obama told current Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara that the U.S. will hold his government to the promise of an international investigation into alleged human right violations since the county’s elections, said William Fitzgerald, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs.

“There is no impunity,” Fitzgerald said during a hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on Wednesday. “And I was pleased to see President Ouattara say that as well. The age of impunity in Cote D’Ivoire is over.”


This is after telling Indonesians in 2010 they "must" investigate their president's abuses, saying

"We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards..."


Oh really, Mr. President -- we can't go forward without looking backward. Really? What, that only applies to Indonesia and not the U.S.?

And after his envoy to the U.N. insisted on the same regarding Israeli alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip:

"We expect Israel will meet its international obligations to investigate and we also call upon all members of the international community to refrain from politicizing these important issues," Ambassador Susan Rice said in her debut speech before the UN Security Council.

"The International Criminal Court, which has started its first trial this week, looks to become an important and credible instrument for trying to hold accountable the senior leadership responsible for atrocities committed in the Congo, Uganda and Darfur," Rice said.


And the Obama administration throwing United States weight behind investigating Burmese war crimes:

The administration of US President Barack Obama has decided to throw its crucial support behind moves to establish a special UN commission to investigate alleged war crimes perpetrated by the military rulers of Burma.


I'm fucking fed up with all of the hypocrisy in Washington, including the President's supercilious pronouncements about other countries and their human & civil rights abuses and his insistence that they investigate their country's war crimes.

How about ending the age of American impunity!!!

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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Tue Apr 12th 2011, 04:14 PM
The Economic Bill of Rights, aka Second Bill of Rights, was embedded in his January 11, 1944 State of the Union speech. The entire SOTU speech is below, with my emphases added. His Economic Bill of Rights can also be heard in his 1-11-44 Fireside Chat.

The passages I've emphasized brought tears to my eyes because of their relevance today and because we then had leadership that backed its grand eloquence with bold action that transformed ideals to realities, realities that led to the greater equalization and economic rights Roosevelt laid out in this SOTU. I thought it important to share the SOTU in its entirety to put it in its rightful WWII context, which when you read Roosevelt's observations about war profiteering and more, are so very germane in today's USA.

This Nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the world's greatest war against human slavery.

We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves in a world that has been gravely threatened with gangster rule.

But I do not think that any of us Americans can be content with mere survival. Sacrifices that we and our allies are making impose upon us all a sacred obligation to see to it that out of this war we and our children will gain something better than mere survival.

We are united in determination that this war shall not be followed by another interim which leads to new disaster- that we shall not repeat the tragic errors of ostrich isolationism—that we shall not repeat the excesses of the wild twenties when this Nation went for a joy ride on a roller coaster which ended in a tragic crash.

When Mr. Hull went to Moscow in October, and when I went to Cairo and Teheran in November, we knew that we were in agreement with our allies in our common determination to fight and win this war. But there were many vital questions concerning the future peace, and they were discussed in an atmosphere of complete candor and harmony.

In the last war such discussions, such meetings, did not even begin until the shooting had stopped and the delegates began to assemble at the peace table. There had been no previous opportunities for man-to-man discussions which lead to meetings of minds. The result was a peace which was not a peace.
That was a mistake which we are not repeating in this war.

And right here I want to address a word or two to some suspicious souls who are fearful that Mr. Hull or I have made "commitments" for the future which might pledge this Nation to secret treaties, or to enacting the role of Santa Claus.

To such suspicious souls—using a polite terminology—I wish to say that Mr. Churchill, and Marshal Stalin, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek are all thoroughly conversant with the provisions of our Constitution. And so is Mr. Hull. And so am I.

Of course we made some commitments. We most certainly committed ourselves to very large and very specific military plans which require the use of all Allied forces to bring about the defeat of our enemies at the earliest possible time.

But there were no secret treaties or political or financial commitments.

The one supreme objective for the future, which we discussed for each Nation individually, and for all the United Nations, can be summed up in one word: Security.

And that means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security, moral security—in a family of Nations.

In the plain down-to-earth talks that I had with the Generalissimo and Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill, it was abundantly clear that they are all most deeply interested in the resumption of peaceful progress by their own peoples—progress toward a better life. All our allies want freedom to develop their lands and resources, to build up industry, to increase education and individual opportunity, and to raise standards of living.

All our allies have learned by bitter experience that real development will not be possible if they are to be diverted from their purpose by repeated wars—or even threats of war.

China and Russia are truly united with Britain and America in recognition of this essential fact:

The best interests of each Nation, large and small, demand that all freedom-loving Nations shall join together in a just and durable system of peace. In the present world situation, evidenced by the actions of Germany, Italy, and Japan, unquestioned military control over disturbers of the peace is as necessary among Nations as it is among citizens in a community. And an equally basic essential to peace is a decent standard of living for all individual men and women and children in all Nations. Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want.

There are people who burrow through our Nation like unseeing moles, and attempt to spread the suspicion that if other Nations are encouraged to raise their standards of living, our own American standard of living must of necessity be depressed.

The fact is the very contrary. It has been shown time and again that if the standard of living of any country goes up, so does its purchasing power- and that such a rise encourages a better standard of living in neighboring countries with whom it trades. That is just plain common sense—and it is the kind of plain common sense that provided the basis for our discussions at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran.

Returning from my journeyings, I must confess to a sense of "let-down" when I found many evidences of faulty perspective here in Washington. The faulty perspective consists in overemphasizing lesser problems and thereby underemphasizing the first and greatest problem.

The overwhelming majority of our people have met the demands of this war with magnificent courage and understanding. They have accepted inconveniences; they have accepted hardships; they have accepted tragic sacrifices. And they are ready and eager to make whatever further contributions are needed to win the war as quickly as possible- if only they are given the chance to know what is required of them.

However, while the majority goes on about its great work without complaint, a noisy minority maintains an uproar of demands for special favors for special groups. There are pests who swarm through the lobbies of the Congress and the cocktail bars of Washington, representing these special groups as opposed to the basic interests of the Nation as a whole. They have come to look upon the war primarily as a chance to make profits for themselves at the expense of their neighbors- profits in money or in terms of political or social preferment.

Such selfish agitation can be highly dangerous in wartime. It creates confusion. It damages morale. It hampers our national effort. It muddies the waters and therefore prolongs the war.


If we analyze American history impartially, we cannot escape the fact that in our past we have not always forgotten individual and selfish and partisan interests in time of war—we have not always been united in purpose and direction. We cannot overlook the serious dissensions and the lack of unity in our war of the Revolution, in our War of 1812, or in our War Between the States, when the survival of the Union itself was at stake.

In the first World War we came closer to national unity than in any previous war. But that war lasted only a year and a half, and increasing signs of disunity began to appear during the final months of the conflict.

In this war, we have been compelled to learn how interdependent upon each other are all groups and sections of the population of America.

Increased food costs, for example, will bring new demands for wage increases from all war workers, which will in turn raise all prices of all things including those things which the farmers themselves have to buy. Increased wages or prices will each in turn produce the same results. They all have a particularly disastrous result on all fixed income groups.

And I hope you will remember that all of us in this Government represent the fixed income group just as much as we represent business owners, workers, and farmers. This group of fixed income people includes: teachers, clergy, policemen, firemen, widows and minors on fixed incomes, wives and dependents of our soldiers and sailors, and old-age pensioners. They and their families add up to one-quarter of our one hundred and thirty million people. They have few or no high pressure representatives at the Capitol. In a period of gross inflation they would be the worst sufferers.

If ever there was a time to subordinate individual or group selfishness to the national good, that time is now. Disunity at home—bickerings, self-seeking partisanship, stoppages of work, inflation, business as usual, politics as usual, luxury as usual these are the influences which can undermine the morale of the brave men ready to die at the front for us here.


Those who are doing most of the complaining are not deliberately striving to sabotage the national war effort. They are laboring under the delusion that the time is past when we must make prodigious sacrifices- that the war is already won and we can begin to slacken off. But the dangerous folly of that point of view can be measured by the distance that separates our troops from their ultimate objectives in Berlin and Tokyo—and by the sum of all the perils that lie along the way.

Overconfidence and complacency are among our deadliest enemies. Last spring—after notable victories at Stalingrad and in Tunisia and against the U-boats on the high seas—overconfidence became so pronounced that war production fell off. In two months, June and July, 1943, more than a thousand airplanes that could have been made and should have been made were not made. Those who failed to make them were not on strike. They were merely saying, "The war's in the bag- so let's relax."

That attitude on the part of anyone—Government or management or labor—can lengthen this war. It can kill American boys.

Let us remember the lessons of 1918. In the summer of that year the tide turned in favor of the allies. But this Government did not relax. In fact, our national effort was stepped up. In August, 1918, the draft age limits were broadened from 21-31 to 18-45. The President called for "force to the utmost," and his call was heeded. And in November, only three months later, Germany surrendered.

That is the way to fight and win a war—all out—and not with half-an-eye on the battlefronts abroad and the other eye-and-a-half on personal, selfish, or political interests here at home.

Therefore, in order to concentrate all our energies and resources on winning the war, and to maintain a fair and stable economy at home, I recommend that the Congress adopt:

(1) A realistic tax law—which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate, and reduce the ultimate cost of the war to our sons and daughters. The tax bill now under consideration by the Congress does not begin to meet this test.

(2) A continuation of the law for the renegotiation of war contracts—which will prevent exorbitant profits and assure fair prices to the Government. For two long years I have pleaded with the Congress to take undue profits out of war.

(3) A cost of food law—which will enable the Government (a) to place a reasonable floor under the prices the farmer may expect for his production; and (b) to place a ceiling on the prices a consumer will have to pay for the food he buys. This should apply to necessities only; and will require public funds to carry out. It will cost in appropriations about one percent of the present annual cost of the war.


(4) Early reenactment of. the stabilization statute of October, 1942. This expires June 30, 1944, and if it is not extended well in advance, the country might just as well expect price chaos by summer.

We cannot have stabilization by wishful thinking. We must take positive action to maintain the integrity of the American dollar.

(5) A national service law- which, for the duration of the war, will prevent strikes, and, with certain appropriate exceptions, will make available for war production or for any other essential services every able-bodied adult in this Nation.

These five measures together form a just and equitable whole. I would not recommend a national service law unless the other laws were passed to keep down the cost of living, to share equitably the burdens of taxation, to hold the stabilization line, and to prevent undue profits.

The Federal Government already has the basic power to draft capital and property of all kinds for war purposes on a basis of just compensation.

As you know, I have for three years hesitated to recommend a national service act. Today, however, I am convinced of its necessity. Although I believe that we and our allies can win the war without such a measure, I am certain that nothing less than total mobilization of all our resources of manpower and capital will guarantee an earlier victory, and reduce the toll of suffering and sorrow and blood.

I have received a joint recommendation for this law from the heads of the War Department, the Navy Department, and the Maritime Commission. These are the men who bear responsibility for the procurement of the necessary arms and equipment, and for the successful prosecution of the war in the field. They say:

"When the very life of the Nation is in peril the responsibility for service is common to all men and women. In such a time there can be no discrimination between the men and women who are assigned by the Government to its defense at the battlefront and the men and women assigned to producing the vital materials essential to successful military operations. A prompt enactment of a National Service Law would be merely an expression of the universality of this responsibility."

I believe the country will agree that those statements are the solemn truth.

National service is the most democratic way to wage a war. Like selective service for the armed forces, it rests on the obligation of each citizen to serve his Nation to his utmost where he is best qualified.

It does not mean reduction in wages. It does not mean loss of retirement and seniority rights and benefits. It does not mean that any substantial numbers of war workers will be disturbed in their present jobs. Let these facts be wholly clear.

Experience in other democratic Nations at war—Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand- has shown that the very existence of national service makes unnecessary the widespread use of compulsory power. National service has proven to be a unifying moral force based on an equal and comprehensive legal obligation of all people in a Nation at war.


There are millions of American men and women who are not in this war at all. It is not because they do not want to be in it. But they want to know where they can best do their share. National service provides that direction. It will be a means by which every man and woman can find that inner satisfaction which comes from making the fullest possible contribution to victory.

I know that all civilian war workers will be glad to be able to say many years hence to their grandchildren: "Yes, I, too, was in service in the great war. I was on duty in an airplane factory, and I helped make hundreds of fighting planes. The Government told me that in doing that I was performing my most useful work in the service of my country."

It is argued that we have passed the stage in the war where national service is necessary. But our soldiers and sailors know that this is not true. We are going forward on a long, rough road- and, in all journeys, the last miles are the hardest. And it is for that final effort—for the total defeat of our enemies-that we must mobilize our total resources. The national war program calls for the employment of more people in 1944 than in 1943.

It is my conviction that the American people will welcome this win-the-war measure which is based on the eternally just principle of "fair for one, fair for all."

It will give our people at home the assurance that they are standing four-square behind our soldiers and sailors. And it will give our enemies demoralizing assurance that we mean business -that we, 130,000,000 Americans, are on the march to Rome, Berlin, and Tokyo.

I hope that the Congress will recognize that, although this is a political year, national service is an issue which transcends politics. Great power must be used for great purposes.

As to the machinery for this measure, the Congress itself should determine its nature—but it should be wholly nonpartisan in its make-up.

Our armed forces are valiantly fulfilling their responsibilities to our country and our people. Now the Congress faces the responsibility for taking those measures which are essential to national security in this the most decisive phase of the Nation's greatest war.

Several alleged reasons have prevented the enactment of legislation which would preserve for our soldiers and sailors and marines the fundamental prerogative of citizenship—the right to vote. No amount of legalistic argument can becloud this issue in the eyes of these ten million American citizens. Surely the signers of the Constitution did not intend a document which, even in wartime, would be construed to take away the franchise of any of those who are fighting to preserve the Constitution itself.

Our soldiers and sailors and marines know that the overwhelming majority of them will be deprived of the opportunity to vote, if the voting machinery is left exclusively to the States under existing State laws—and that there is no likelihood of these laws being changed in time to enable them to vote at the next election. The Army and Navy have reported that it will be impossible effectively to administer forty-eight different soldier voting laws. It is the duty of the Congress to remove this unjustifiable discrimination against the men and women in our armed forces- and to do it as quickly as possible.

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made
.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of "rightist reaction" in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of the 1920's—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.

I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact.

Our fighting men abroad- and their families at home- expect such a program and have the right to insist upon it. It is to their demands that this Government should pay heed rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying.

The foreign policy that we have been following—the policy that guided us at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran—is based on the common sense principle which was best expressed by Benjamin Franklin on July 4, 1776: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

I have often said that there are no two fronts for America in this war. There is only one front. There is one line of unity which extends from the hearts of the people at home to the men of our attacking forces in our farthest outposts. When we speak of our total effort, we speak of the factory and the field, and the mine as well as of the battleground -- we speak of the soldier and the civilian, the citizen and his Government.

Each and every one of us has a solemn obligation under God to serve this Nation in its most critical hour—to keep this Nation great -- to make this Nation greater in a better world.


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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Sat Apr 09th 2011, 03:24 PM
Democrats following Republicans into field of undisclosed donors

Democrats putting together new independent political organizations for the 2012 campaign are embracing a model that will allow them to conceal their donors — the very tactic for which they criticized Republicans in 2010.

Majority PAC, a new group aimed at electing Democrats to the Senate, and American Bridge 21st Century, which will serve as a research hub, are being organized as so-called super political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money from contributors whose donations are reported to the Federal Election Commission. But both are also affiliated with nonprofit 501(c)(4) social welfare groups that can raise money from undisclosed donors and give money directly to super PACs.

The same dual structure is being considered by Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, two former White House aides who are likely to launch their own independent expenditure effort in support of President Obama's reelection, according to people familiar with the plans.

As a spokesman for Obama, Burton repeatedly hammered Republican groups for their lack of transparency in 2010. He declined to comment.


Much more at the link (LA Times)

I realize the Democrats have to play the game or be wiped out. So where the hell does that leave all of us? With politicians bought and paid for by anonymous god-knows-who sinking billions into our elections and our politicians, we're fucked for generations is this is allowed to continue.

But how to stop it? Do third party challengers really stand a chance in hell in this kind of environment?

Our politicians, with some rare, wonderful exceptions (thank you, Bernie, Anthony W., and a few others) don't listen to us now. We are truly fucked when we have both sides acting as the public puppets of wealthy interests from got-knows-where getting god-knows-what promises for their big bucks.

Onward Wisconsin. We HAVE to learn from the bold and fabulous Wisconsin revolution and stop this crap or we're doomed! I tell you, this shit scares me to death!

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Posted by tpsbmam in General Discussion
Thu Apr 07th 2011, 09:45 AM
The report was released this morning and I've downloaded the PDF and read just a little. I actually jumped right to the "Putting Education First By Enacting Smart and Safe Reforms" section. And here's why I did that.

The coterie behind the study, in addition to the NAACP, is a group not to be trusted at all. Some of them are represented below, which is a list of speakers at the news conference announcing the study.

  • Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush
  • Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform
  • David Keene, former Chairman of the American Conservative Union and “of counsel” with The Carmen Group, a Washington-based governmental affairs firm
  • Pat Nolan, of Prison Fellowship, who worked with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich to establish the conservative Right On Crime coalition
  • Mike Jimenez, a member of the executive committee of Corrections USA, which represents 80,000 corrections officers nationwide, as well as president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association
  • Mitchell Kapor, philanthropist and founder of Lotus 1-2-3;
  • Lindsay McCluskey, President of the United States Student Association


Thom Hartmann opined that Ben Jealous "sold his soul to the devil" when he joined up with the likes of Norquist, Paige & Keene on this project.

I agree and I disagree. Thom hadn't read the report yet and I've only read a portion. Here's where I think Thom is dead on, 100% right.

The motivations of the neocon cabal who never gave a rat's ass about this country's young before are now clear to me, made obvious by this simple paragraph from the press release:

The NAACP announced an upcoming report that examines escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and our nation’s children. “Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Incarcerate” uncovers a disturbing connection between high incarceration rates and poorly performing schools.


And, indeed, the scant reports on the news conference did take that message away and placed it in their headlines:

From the Jackson Mississippi Clarion Ledger: "High prison rates, low-performing schools linked"


From My Fox Memphis, a predictable "Report Links Jail Time to Bad Schools"


Yep, message delivered -- bad union teachers ---> high incarceration rates.

So, shuffle some away from prisons to a privatized school system. Gotcha. Spread the wealth, further the goal of ridding the country of teacher's unions, and sit smugly back while you further fuck up our country.

But I also disagree with Thom. The report is right in that too much money has been shifted from education into incarceration of kids and the report does urge reversing that trend. There are some good things in the report and some good reform suggestions. Here is a small sampling:

1) Changing sentencing and reforming drug laws
Of the 2.3 million people in prison in this country, half a million are in prison because they were convicted of a non-violent drug offense. Many people convicted of drug offenses were subject to a mandatory minimum sentence—a long, mandatory prison term that, in most cases, no court can change, regardless of the circumstances of the crime or the costs of that prison term to taxpayers.

2) Diverting people with drug addictions from prison to treatment
According to surveys of prisoners, half of all inmates in state and federal prisons were abused or were dependent on drugs before they were imprisoned, and between 15 and 20 percent said they committed their crime to obtain money to buy drugs.90 Finding ways to divert people with drug problems from prison to treatment can help break the cycle of crime and addiction, and cut incarceration costs.

3) Using shortened prison terms as an incentive for prisoners to complete schooling and treatment One way to cut prison costs is to shorten sentences for people who complete schooling or treatment programs while they are imprisoned. These incentives achieve two goals: prisoners can demonstrate that they are motivated to put the past behind them, and these programs may help address the issues of joblessness, lack of schooling, and addiction that may have led the individuals to crime and prison in the first place.

4) Increasing the number of people who get paroled and improving their chances of success
People who have served some time in prison, depending on the state they live in, may be eligible for parole: They can return to the community as long as they complete a set of conditions, which can include obtaining and maintaining a job, remaining drug-free and sober, and paying restitution for the crime. In the past four decades, many states have restricted who can be paroled and slowed the process of release. But when done right, parole reforms can both help former prisoners plan for their eventual return to the community and allow the criminal justice system to break the cycle of crime by helping people returning home to get a job, get housing, find treatment, and get more schooling.


So, it looks like a mixed bag to me. I'll never trust the above neocon cabal and will remain skeptical about the whole endeavor because of their involvement and the "findings" of the report. I have yet to delve into the report but I suspect they're going to follow the same pattern we've seen: blame the schools and the teachers without taking into account (or sufficiently into account) the many other variables contributing to educational problems. I'll eat my words if I'm wrong, but from the focus of the press conference, I don't think I am.

Just don't throw the baby out with the bath water as Thom sort of did without reading the report. There are some good ideas in there that, given the neocon force behind the study, may actually stand a chance of getting a few cents thrown at promising programs....or, of course, they could well go in the privatization direction and create a whole new "reform" industry.

ETA link to the PDF report at the NAACP: http://www.naacp.org/pages/misplaced-prior...




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