Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Annoy A Conservative

From the gallery of the Swamp Rat.

A Good "Thought For The Day"

Over at his own blog, Badtux the Snarky Penguin had an excellent and very true "thought for the day". It was so good that I wanted all my readers to hear it. Here is what that smart penguin had to say:

"Medicare single-payer 'socialist' healthcare for old people has been around for 40 years now. Funny, I haven't noticed that Medicare has made me any less free."

It's short, sweet and very incisive. Is anyone less free because Medicare came into existence forty years ago? Why would extending that single-payer Medicare system to everyone interfere with anyone's freedom (except the freedom of private insurers to rip off their consumers)?

Republicans and insurance lobbyists are very busy trying to scare the American people. Don't let them do it! A public health insurance option is not about freedom. It is about making decent health care available to everyone and saving lives. It's just that simple.

Republican Family Values

Political Cartoon is by Cameron (Cam) Cardow in The Ottawa Citizen.

Madoff Gets Exorbitant Sentence

Yesterday, Bernie Madoff was sentenced for running a huge Ponzi scheme and stealing billions of dollars from over a thousand victims. His attorney asked for a 12 year sentence for the 71 year-old criminal. The prosecutor asked for 150 years, saying the number of victims and the amount he stole justifies that sentence. The judge agreed with the prosecutor and gave Madoff 150 years in prison.

I'm having a bit of a problem believing the sentence was justified. Being sentenced to 150 years is the same as being sentenced to life without parole -- for theft, a non-violent crime. Many murderers, rapists, kidnappers and child molesters aren't sentenced that harshly.

The moral of this story is that stealing from the rich is obviously the most serious crime a person can commit in our capitalist country. If he had stolen from poor or working class folks, even hundreds of them, he would have been sentenced to 10 or 12 years and been eligible for parole after serving half of it (and probably gotten that parole).

Personally, I believe the person who steals from poor or working folks commits the greater crime. That criminal is probably stealing money that is needed for food, rent, car payment or a child's medical care or education.

Madoff refused to take less than a million dollars, and these fools begged him to take their money. They were greedy. They believed his stories of huge returns, and took their money out of safe investments so they could make a killing. This wasn't their food or rent money. It was investment capital, and none of them will go hungry without it.

I've always believed the old adage that says if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These people knew that adage, but they still let their greed get the best of them. And now they're mad. They're mad because he made them look like the fools they really are.

I'm not saying Madoff shouldn't be punished. He's a criminal and should pay the price for that. But is 150 years fair? Should his non-violent crime be punished more harshly than the sentences received by violent criminals?

Lady Justice is supposed to be blind, but this case shows us that is not true. In America, it is far more serious to commit a crime against the rich, than to commit a crime against working folks.

We'll Have To Carry On

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Strident Negativity

Found at the excellent web site of the Friendly Atheist.

Coup Ousts Honduran President

Manuel Zelaya (pictured) has been the president of Honduras since 2006, but that ended this last weekend in a political coup. The Honduran congress voted to oust him, and just before dawn on Sunday, the military took him into custody and flew him to Costa Rica.

The congress said they had removed him because of "repeated violations of the constitution and the law and disregard of orders and judgments of the institutions". However the timing of the ouster makes that a bit suspicious. He was removed by the military just hours before a constitutional election was scheduled to be held.

The election would have authorized constitutional reforms, and could have given Zelaya the right to extend his presidency (his four year term was to end in January 2010). Zelaya says he was ousted by "a plot by a very voracious elite, an elite which wants only to keep this country isolated, in an extreme level of poverty".

The timing of the ouster lends credence to Zelaya's accusations. Why not wait a couple of days and see how the constitutional election came out? Could it be that the power elite knew how it would come out? Did they know the people supported Zelaya and the reforms he was trying to bring -- reforms that the rich and powerful feared?

The United States and most of Latin America are condemning the coup. President Obama has called for Honduras to "respect the rule of law." The U.S. State Department says the U.S. recognizes Manuel Zelaya as the duly elected president of Honduras.

I applaud the action of President Obama and others in opposing the coup. South and Central America has many new democracies, and these democracies must be supported to give the people of these countries a voice in their government.

The coup signals a troubling return to the past, when the rich elite of these countries used military coups to keep their wealth and power, and to deny any change that might empower the poor. These people fear the ballot box and anything approaching a real democracy.

The congress says the new "president" will only rule until elections can be held. But what if the people elect someone else the political elite doesn't like? Will there be another coup? Is this the end of any real democracy in Honduras?

Walk It Off

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in The Columbia Daily Tribune.

A Very Special Panhandle Birthday

The Texas Panhandle will be celebrating a very special birthday this coming weekend. Palo Duro Canyon State Park will turn 75 years-old. Although the 120 mile-long canyon itself is a million years old (it took that long for the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River to carve it out), the state park is only a relatively young 75 years-old.

In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads into the canyon and other amenities. This opened the canyon to the general public, and the next year marked the creation of the state park. The park opened with 15,000 acres, and currently has over 30,000 acres. It is still growing, and added over 2,000 acres just in the last year. It is the second largest state park in Texas (behind Big Bend Ranch State Park) and the second largest canyon in America (behind the Grand Canyon).

The park has over 300,000 visitors each year, and is one of the very few state parks that actually pays for itself. Last year, it took in over $1.2 million in entry fees, camping fees and concession franchise fees. That's $400,000 more than it takes to run the park.

To celebrate its 75 years in existence, the park is planning a special July 4th weekend. On the fourth, there will be a production of the musical "Texas", a concert of patriotic music and a large fireworks show. On the fifth, the jazz-rock musician Boz Scaggs will be performing in the canyon.

Happy 75th birthday Paol Duro Canyon State Park!

Politician Sex

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Pamphlet

Found at the great website of The Atheist Missionary.

Energy Bill Goes To The Senate

It was a lot closer than I expected, but the energy bill has finally passed the House of Representatives. It was passed on Friday by a vote of 219 to 212. Republicans were solidly opposed to the bill, but since there are only 178 Republicans in the House, that means quite a few Democrats voted against the bill also.

According to CNN News, "The bill would reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 through a so-called 'cap-and-trade' program under which companies would buy and sell emissions credits. Among other things, the bill would also require utilities to generate an increasing amount of power from renewable sources."

The reason the vote was so close was that the energy industry lobbyists pulled out all the stops. The energy industry does not want this bill to become law. If it does, it's going to cost them some money to control their release to the environment of pollutants like carbon dioxide. They will also have to move much quicker than they want to cleaner and renewable sources of energy.

They have tried to attack the bill on two fronts. They say it will cause the price of energy to rise, and that it will also be a job-killer. It's hard to argue the first point. The price of energy will rise, but it will probably also spur the invention of more efficient ways to use that energy. The second is more debatable. Many believe that new green jobs will simply replace any jobs lost, and that is probably true.

But we really don't have a lot of choice. Whether Republicans and power company magnates want to admit it or not, global climactic change is already becoming a serious problem. We must take drastic action to stop it before we reach the point of no return. History tells us we cannot trust the power companies and energy suppliers to do the right thing. If they have their way, they'll go right on burning fossil fuels until it's too late.

Now the future of the bill rests with the Senate. The lobbyists are not going to let up, and it would take just a few "blue dog" Democrats to wimp out to kill the bill, or disastrously alter it. The bill needs to pass as close as possible to its present form, but so far, the Democrats haven't exactly shown a lot of political courage.

I wish I had more faith in the majority leader, but I really expect Reid to blow this great opportunity to install a sane energy policy and protect the environment.


Political Cartoon is by John Trever in The Albuquerque Journal.

Time For Sanford To Resign

It looks like it is time for Governor Mark Sanford to resign. After his disappearance for several days to Argentina for a tete-a-tete with his mistress "Maria", the calls for his resignation are starting to grow louder. It looks like even his wife thinks his tenuous position is not worth defending.

Mrs. Sanford told reporters, "His career is not a concern of mine. He's going to have to worry about that. I'm worried about my family and the character of my children." I really can't blame her for feeling that way. He not only publically embarrassed her and their children, but he broke the solemn oath he made to her on their wedding day.

Almost as bad, were the hypocritical lies Sanford seemed comfortable telling the American people. He was in the forefront of the "family values" clique of right-wing Republicans and a big wheel in the Promise Keepers organization. As a representative of both, he was quick to tell Americans how they should live -- and all the while he was violating his own words for at least the last year. He is the very definition of a hypocrite.

But the most important reason he should resign is his violation of his oath of office to the people of the state of South Carolina. He disappeared for nearly a week without telling anyone where he was going, not even his own staff (and to cover their ignorance, they cooked up a story about him hiking the Appalachian Trail). South Carolina citizens had a right to expect their governor to always be where he can be reached in case of an emergency.

Sanford has violated the trust of too many people. It is time for him to resign his governorship.

Ayatollah GOP

Political Cartoon is by Mike Lane at caglecartoons.com.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

An Opinion We Don't Need

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Am I The Only One ?

On Thursday afternoon, Michael Jackson died. Since then, the world seems to have gone crazy. I watched Good Morning America yesterday morning, and the only thing they talked about was his death. Usually when they cover a major story, they take a small break to tell about the other news happening in the world. But they didn't even do that. The only story they covered was Jackson's death.

In fact, listening to major media would make one think that Jackson was universally loved and respected. I seem to be the only person who disagrees. Although I own scores of CDs and like all kinds of music, I have never owned a Michael Jackson record or CD nor have I ever had a desire to own one.

I guess he had a certain amount of talent, but I can think of hundreds of singers and songwriters that I think were more talented. Just a couple of weeks ago the great blues singer, Koko Taylor (pictured), died and the news media ignored it. Was Jackson so much more deserving?

I also think Jackson was a child molester, who was able to use his enormous wealth to avoid being convicted of it. All in all, I just didn't consider him hero material.

Am I the only one thinking like this? What do you think?

Denying History

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

China Doesn't Want The Hummer !

As most Americans know, General Motors (GM) has been having a bit of trouble. In fact, if it wasn't for a government bailout, they would have already gone belly-up. One of the things GM is doing to save the company is to sell off or discontinue some of their car lines. Pontiac has been discontinued, and Saturn has been sold.

GM thought they had another of their product divisions sold -- Hummer. A Chinese company, Sichuan Tengzhong, had bid on the Hummer franchise and it seemed as though the deal would go through. But everyone may have assumed too much too soon. While the Chinese company wants to buy Hummer, it looks like the Chinese government doesn't like the deal.

Chinese state radio is broadcasting that the Chinese government will not allow the deal to go through (and they have the final say in the matter). State radio is saying there are two reasons why the deal will not be approved.

First, Sichuan Tengzhong is a construction equipment maker, and has no expertise in automobile manufacturing. The second reason is the environmental impact. A Hummer gets 15 miles to a gallon or less. This is not in line with the desire of the Chinese government to cut pollution from all manufacturers.

The company responded to the radio broadcast by saying, "The fact that it is from an article from a state media organisation does not mean it is government policy." I think they know they are wrong about that. Government radio is not known for its speculating. The company probably hopes they can change some minds before the government makes an official ruling.

Looks like GM better start looking for another buyer for Hummer, although that may be easier said than done. Gas hogs like the Hummer have no place in the future of transportation.

Another One

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at msnbc.com.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Political Cartoon is by Bill Day in The Las Vegas Review Journal.

Texas Supports Gay/Lesbian Unions

State government has been run by right-wing Republicans for years here in Texas. The general consensus among most people is that Texas is a bastion of conservative thought and values. But is that really true? A new poll by Texas Lyceum shows Texas may be more liberal than normally thought to be -- especially on the topic of homosexual unions or marriages.

I have to admit that this poll surprises me. I thought a majority of Texans probably opposed gay and/or lesbian civil unions or marriages. I'm happy to be wrong though. According to the Texas Lyceum poll conducted this month, about 57% of Texans support either civil unions or marriage for homosexuals (32% support civil unions and 25% support marriage). Only 36% of Texans are opposed to both.

Even more surprising is the fact that this support crosses party lines. While 65% of Democrats and 56% of Independents supported either civil unions or marriage, a majority of Republicans (51%) also supported one or the other. Here are the numbers when broken down by party:

Civil Unions...............29%

Civil Unions...............37%

Civil Unions...............31%

Could Texas actually be ready to enter the 21st century with everyone else?

More Flies To Swat

Political Cartoon is by Walt Handelsman in Newsday.

How Does This Still Happen ?

What the hell is wrong with people? I don't understand how some people think, or maybe it's because they don't think. You don't have to live in Texas to know how hot it gets here in the summertime. It usually gets near or at 100 degrees in June and doesn't let up until sometime in October.

So how is it that people will still leave babies or young children locked in their automobile, while they go shopping in a nice air-conditioned store. It makes me wonder if they care at all for those little kids. You don't have to be a rocket-scientist to know the "greenhouse effect" causes the temperature to quickly rise to very dangerous levels in an automobile sitting in the Texas sun.

But it has happened again. About 5:15 pm last Tuesday, a passerby noticed a baby locked in a car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The temperature at the time was about 98 degrees. The good samaritan broke the car window, got the baby out and called 9-1-1. That was exactly the right thing to do. You can never know how long the child has been in that dangerous heat, or how much longer they have before succumbing to it.

The baby was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that it was OK. Meanwhile, the mother (pictured above) was arrested as she returned to her car. She said she thought her mother had taken the baby, and anyway, she was only in the store for about 10 minutes.

Those are some pitiful excuses! Didn't you go into the store with your mother? Couldn't you see she wasn't carrying a baby? Don't you know that even 10 or 15 minutes can be deadly to a baby in that kind of heat? We can only hope that the courts will get this young woman's attention.

Sadly, that won't be the last time this happens this summer. I imagine at least three or four (or even more) instances of this will happen this summer here in Texas. It always does. Just what the hell is wrong with these people?

Competition Is Socialism ?

Political Cartoon is by Matt Davies in The Journal News.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Playing God

Cartoon is by Bill Mutranowski at cagle.msnbc.com.

Can Private Insurance Compete ?

Conservative Republicans have been talking out of both sides of their mouths when discussing health insurance and health care in the United States. First they will tell you that thanks to competition in the marketplace, private insurance can do a better job of holding down health care costs and delivering health insurance that will be better than what the government could do.

But then they turn around and whine that a government-run health insurance program would run them out of business. How can that possibly be, if they can do it better than the government can? Wouldn't the people want the best product -- the one that delivers the most for the least cost? If the private companies can really do it better, wouldn't consumers flock to that better product?

President Obama put it well in his speech the other night, when he said, "Why would it drive private insurers out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality healthcare, if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government -- which they say can't run anything -- suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical."

He's right. It's not logical. Unless the Republicans and the insurance companies have been lying to us. And that's exactly what they've been doing. The private companies really can't compete because they are one of the major causes of the inflated cost of health care.

There are two reasons why they can't compete. The first is overhead. The private companies are notoriously inefficient, with overhead costs running 15-40% of premiums. By comparison, Medicare overhead is only about 2% of premiums (and there is no reason why another government-run program can't perform just as efficiently as Medicare). The famous market competition certainly hasn't helped the private companies to hold down costs.

The second reason is company profits. Private insurance companies aren't in business to provide exceptional health care to its consumers. They are in business to make a profit -- the larger the better. And the sad fact is that the less they pay out for health care, the larger their profits will be. Meanwhile, a government-run health insurance system doesn't have to show even a penny of profit. Except for the 2% overhead, ALL of the premiums paid to a public insurance system will go to pay for consumer health care.

If the private companies can compete, let them do it. If they can't, then they should go out of business because they are not providing the best health care for the dollars spent.

The truth is that the Republicans aren't opposed to a government-run system because the private companies can do it better and cheaper -- they can't. They oppose the public insurance choice because they want to protect the egregious and exorbitant profits of their rich buddies -- the owners of private insurance companies.

Our health care system in the United States is a broken mess. Countless millions of people have no insurance coverage at all. Many more are driven into bankruptcy by medical bills (even though most of them had private insurance). Millions are praying they don't lose their jobs, because if they do they'll lose what little insurance coverage they have. And millions more are losing their insurance because their bills have gotten too high (even though they've paid their premiums).

Forcing everyone to buy private insurance will not solve these problems. It will just give the huge insurance companies their biggest payday, and they can go on abusing their consumers to make ever larger profits.

This is not the time to assure the insurance companies of maximum profits. This is the time to give American citizens health insurance at a decent price, that cannot be cancelled, and provides them with their choice of doctor and hospital. Private companies cannot or will not do that. A government-run insurance system will do it.

The only real fix for our health care mess is public insurance.

Don't Want It !

Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller in The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

U.S. Stuns The Futbol World !

The Spanish futbol team (that's soccer team to us Americans) is the reigning European champion. They are also the number one rated team in the entire world. They had an unbeaten streak of 35 games in a row, and one more win would set a new world record. They had easily won all three of their group games to make it to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup, and most people expected them to raise the cup in victory after it was all over.

The United States team was ranked 14th in the world, but they started the competition playing like an even lesser team. They lost their first two games, and needed a lot of help just to make it to the semi-finals. Now they were matched against Spain, and nobody expected them to win. Even us homers were mainly hoping they would just play well and not get beat too badly.

But sports miracles do happen sometimes. It happened to the United States Olympic hockey team in 1980, and yesterday, it happened to the United States men's soccer team.

In the 27th minute of the game, Jozy Altidore kicked a goal for the Americans, and that was the way the first half ended -- 1-0 for the U.S. In the second half, the Americans played some great defense, and in the 74th minute, Clint Dempsey doubled Spain's misery by kicking another U.S. goal. In the 87th minute, America's Michael Bradley received a red card, and the U.S. had to play the last 6 minutes short-handed (including 3 minutes of added time).

In the end, it was the underdog United States team shocking the futbol world by beating Spain 2-0. Now they get to play in the finals on Sunday (against either Brazil or South Africa). No matter what happens on Sunday, this has been a wonderful accomplishment for the U.S. team.

Wall Street Regulators

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Medical Lobby Picnic

Political Cartoon is by Mike Lane at caglecartoons.com.

Tech Wants Drug Hotline For Pregnant Women

When I heard that Texas Tech wants to establish a drug hotline for pregnant women, my first thought was of a hotline for women with drug problems. I wondered if another drug hotline was really needed. But it turns out that this is a different kind of drug hotline.

This would be a hotline that pregnant women or nursing mothers could call to find out if the drugs they are required to take might have a harmful effect on their unborn or nursing child. At the present time, there is only one hotline like this, and it is located in Canada.

Texas Tech officials believe there is a need for this in the United States. According to the Amarillo Globe News, "Every year, roughly 4.3 million women get pregnant, and 95 percent take some form of medication while pregnant. An estimated 77 percent will leave the hospital breast feeding."

Many of these women worry about whether the drugs they are required to take will affect their child. Richard Jordan, dean of Texas Tech's School of Medicine in Amarillo, says, "Many times breast feeding is discontinued because a woman is on a medication and she or her provider incorrectly think they can't breast feed."

Assistant Dean Tom Hale is heading up the creation of the call center. He says there's a need for it, and the school has the information needed. All he needs now is the money to establish the hotline and keep it running. The call center would be in Amarillo.

Hale estimates he'll need $200,000 to renovate a campus building for the 15-man call center, and $300,000 a year to keep it running. He hopes he can get the annual operating costs by "charging pharmaceutical companies for data the center will collect from callers." That is because the FDA will soon require "drug companies to create registries to track pregnant women on drugs they market and to compile data on the medication's impact." The information collected by the hotline could be very valuable in compiling this data.

I think this hotline is a great idea, and I hope Tech is able to get it going. It would not only be a great resource for the Panhandle and the state of Texas, but for the entire country. The Canadian hotline generates 100,000 calls a year. With the population of the United States, Tech's Amarillo hotline would probably generate many more calls than that.

Ghost Of The Shah

Political Cartoon is by Scott Stantis in The Birmingham News.

Panhandle Sheriff To Be Investigated

It looks like there's another Texas Panhandle sheriff in trouble. It's only been a year since Potter County Sheriff Michael Shumate was convicted of accepting bribes to award the jail commissary contract. He was sentenced to six months in jail and eight years of probation (which he is currently serving). Now it looks like the sheriff of neighboring Armstrong County may be in trouble.

Armstrong County is a thinly populated county located about 30 miles south and east of Amarillo. There are only about 2,148 people according to the 2000 census (about 2 people per square mile). The county seat is Claude (population 1,313).

The sheriff of Armstrong County for the last eight years has been J.R. Walker. Sometime in the last two weeks, he had an altercation with one of his deputies and wound up firing the deputy. The deputy says Sheriff Walker assaulted him during the altercation, and reported the assault to 47th District Attorney Randall Sims.

Since Sims prosecuting area includes Armstrong County, and asked 47th District Court Judge Hal Miner to appoint a special prosecutor. The special prosecutor is asking the Texas Rangers to investigate the charge.

An interesting sidelight to this is the fact that the convicted Potter County sheriff, Michael Shumate, served his jail time in Armstrong County.

A Dream Of Liberty

Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If Janitors Were Like CEO's

Found at the excellent blog of Yellowdog Granny.

10 Commandments For Atheists

Now this is a 10 commandments I would have no objection to putting up at any courthouse. Found it over at Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist blog.

  1. Have no gods.
  2. Don’t worship stuff.
  3. Be polite.
  4. Take a day off once in a while.
  5. Be nice to folks.
  6. Don’t kill people.
  7. Don’t cheat on your significant other.
  8. Don’t steal stuff.
  9. Don’t lie about stuff.
  10. Don’t be greedy.

Supporting Fraud

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Baptist Preacher Prays For Obama's Death

At my rather advanced age, I've heard a lot of right-wing hate speech -- so much that most of it doesn't shock me anymore. But I have to admit that it still surprises me when I hear it from an ordained christian minister. Consider the case of Wiley Drake.

Mr. Drake is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, and currently serves as the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, California. He is also a past officer of the Southern Baptist Convention, having served for a year as second vice-president of the SBC.

So this is no outlaw preacher or self-appointed religious nutjob like Fred Phelps. Drake is a respected member of the Southern Baptist community. That makes his statements on the Alan Colmes radio show all the more shocking.

After telling Colmes he had prayed for the death of Dr. Tiller in Wichita, Colmes asked Drake if he had prayed for anyone else's death. Drake answered, "The usurper that is in the White House is one, B. Hussein Obama."

To make sure he heard him right, Colmes asked, "So you're praying for the death of the president of the United States?" Drake answered, "Yes."

Colmes then asked if he was afraid he might be put on a Secret Service or FBI watch list, and Drake replied, "What I am doing is repeating what God is saying, and if that puts me on somebody's list, then I'll just have to be on their list."

Colmes asked once more, "You would like for the president of the United States to die?"

Drake answered, "If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death, that's correct."

That doesn't sound very christian to me. Even worse is that he puts his own hatred back on his God. He says he is just doing what God told him to do. I have to wonder, is God unhappy because Barack Obama is a Democrat, or because he is African-American?

The truth is that the Obama presidency is not anti-Biblical, and if there is a God, I doubt he cares who is the President of the United States (or any other country). This sick man is not praying for Obama's death because of any christian principles or beliefs. He is just acting on the disappointments and insecurities contained in his own tiny black heart.

What do you think? Is this man really a christian?

Public Insurance Saves Money

Found at the excellent website of What Would Jack Do?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Change ?

Found at the gallery of Destonio.

What's Wrong With Democrats ?

America has a badly broken health care system. There are 40-50 million people without any health care insurance at all. Many millions more are in danger of losing their health insurance if they lose their job, or if their health care bills become too large. Nearly two-thirds of the bankruptcies in the country are due to medical costs the insurance companies refuse to pay.

It has become obvious to most Americans that the private insurance companies either will not or cannot solve the problem on their own. They are far too concerned with maximizing their profits to be worried about the health care of ordinary Americans.

One reason the voters put Democrats back into office in huge numbers last year, was to do something about the broken health care system. And the public has not changed their minds since then. Consider the results of a new NY Times / CBS News poll. It clearly shows the people want sweeping reforms to the health care system, and one of the changes they want is the creation of a public health insurance option. Here are the poll numbers:

Do you favor a government-run health insurance program?

Breakdown by party of those favoring a government-run program.

Would you be willing to pay higher taxes so all Americans can have health insurance they can't lose no matter what?

Do you think government would do a better or worse job than private companies in providing medical coverage?
NO OPINION..........14%

With numbers like these, I would think Democrats would be eager to pass sweeping changes to American health care, including creating a public government-run health care option -- something similar to Medicare for all ages. With the American people showing this kind of support, it wouldn't even take any political courage (something the Democrats seem to be short of).

And yet, with each passing day we seem to be getting further and further from real health insurance reform. Some Democrats are now talking about not doing a public option at all, but instead creating insurance co-ops and forcing all Americans to buy private insurance. Instead of fixing the current problems, this would do nothing but give the giant private insurances a huge payday.

Even as solid a Democrat as Diane Feinstein (D-California) believes the president may not have enough votes for a sweeping overhaul of the system. Worse yet, she is even threatening to vote against the president herself!

I am left to wonder just what the hell is wrong with Congressional Democrats? How can they fail to see the crises in the current health care system? We know the Republicans have been bought and paid for by the insurance lobbies. Have they also now bought enough Democrats to kill reform?

With 72% of the people supporting reform with a government-run option, if the Democrats cannot act now, when will they?

The Scope

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Bell Accused Of Patent Theft

Is the French government trying to give Eurocopter an advantage over their main rival, America's Bell Helicopter, by interfering with Bell's ability to do business during the prestigious Paris Air Show? It certainly looks like that could be the case.

Bell Helicopter and Eurocopter are the two largest helicopter manufacturers in the world, and major rivals. Bell has recently introduced a new civilian helicopter for sale (the model 429 pictured above). They were featuring the new aircraft at their booth at the Paris Air Show.

But a year ago, Eurocopter filed a lawsuit in Canada claiming that the landing skids on the new Bell copter looked like a patented design of Eurocopter. Bell denied the charge, saying the design was developed at their Fort Worth plant.

Last week, a French bailiff showed up at the Bell booth at the Paris Air Show. He had a subpoena, and demanded documents and access to Bell's display of the model 429. This tied up the Bell exhibit for most of the day, because they had to partially dismantle the 429 display to allow lawyers to examine and photograph the landing skids. Bell was also unable to offer demonstration flights on the model they had on hand.

Bell spokesman Joe LaMarca said, "They significantly impeded our ability to conduct business, which is why we’re here. They could have asked to photograph the skids at a time that was less disruptive to our customers."

It looks like LaMarca has a point. The air show lasted for several days. Why couldn't they have done the inspection and taken pictures at night, or some other time? Why did they feel it necessary to do it during business hours? Were they intentionally trying to give Eurocopter an advantage by interfering with Bell's sales?

There is no evidence that Eurocopter requested the French interference, but it certainly looks suspicious.

The Power Of Tweet

Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies in The Record (New Jersey).

Obama On Fatherhood

The following quotes from Barack Obama about fatherhood are taken from msnbc.com.

Father's Day 2007: "Let's admit to ourselves that there are a lot of men out there that need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise a child."

Father's Day 2008: "Any fool can have a child. That doesn't make you a father. It's the courage to raise a child that makes you a father."

Father's Day 2009: "We need to step out of our own heads and tune in. We need to turn off the television and start talking with our kids, and listening to them, and understanding what's going on in their lives."

The Flowering

Political Cartoon is by Patrick Chapatte in The International Tribune.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Obama & DOMA

"Deep Throat" And The FBI

In 1972, a porno movie called Deep Throat was released in the United States. It wasn't a very good movie. Like most pornos, it had a lot of explicit sex scenes with only a glimmer of a plot and a lot of bad acting. It only cost $25,000 to make, but would up making hundreds of millions of dollars. Nearly 40 years later, it is still the most famous porno movie ever made.

Why did a run-of-the-mill porno movie acheive such fame and extreme profitably? The authorities of that time can take credit for that. Authorities at every level (local, state and federal) all across the nation, picked this movie to demonize as the worst of the pornos. They wanted to ban this movie, and use it to ban pornos in general. They failed miserably.

All they did was make the movie famous (or infamous). And as usual, when authorities try to ban a book or movie, it just makes people want to read or see it. People who normally wouldn't have considered going to see a porno movie all of a sudden just had to see this movie. Everyone wanted to see what the authorities were making such a big fuss about.

One of the police agencies that tried to stop the movie was the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but I don't think most people realized the extent of the FBI's involvement. According to documents released to the Associated Press recently, the FBI had a 5,800 page file on the movie's director.

Memo's showed the involvement reached from nearly every FBI field office to the highest levels of the FBI. According to the AP, "Agents seized copies of the movie, had negatives analyzed in labs and interviewed everyone from actors and producers to messengers who delivered reels to theaters."

Today, it would be unimaginable for the FBI to waste this much time and resources on investigating a porno movie, but 1972 was a different time. At that time, the FBI considered itself not only a policing agency, but also the guardian of America's culture and morals. Mark Weiner, a law professor at Rutgers, says, "The story of 'Deep Throat' is the story of the last gasp of the forces lined up against the cultural and sexual revolution and it is the advent of the entry of pornography into the mainstream."

One of the most ironic things about the investigation was that the FBI's second-in-command, W. Mark Felt, was one of those who received copies of all the investigative memos. A few years later, he would be nicknamed "Deep Throat" because of his revelations about White House wrongdoings to reporter Bob Woodward.

Congress And Health Care

Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

More Red-Light Cameras For Amarillo

Some cities, like Lubbock, have done away with their red-light cameras, and there was a move in the last Texas legislative session to outlaw the red-light cameras. But that doesn't represent the view here in Amarillo.

While some people continue to run red lights and rear-end collisions have climbed somewhat, the city leaders in Amarillo believe the program has generally been a success. In fact, the city's traffic engineer, Taylor Withrow, says he will probably recommend "the commission approve installing cameras at the intersections of Georgia Street and Interstate 40, Paramount Boulevard and I-40, Grand Street and Northeast 24th Avenue, and at Ross Street and 10th Avenue."

I think this is a good idea. All four of those intersections are very dangerous. They have a high volume of traffic, and a lot of red-light violators. Installing cameras at these intersections should save lives.

A couple of notes on the rise in rear-end collisions. These are generally far less life-endangering than the higher-speed side collisions caused by red-light runners. And they will decrease once most people get used to the cameras (and to actually stopping at red lights).

Running a red light is one of the most dangerous things a city driver can do. Let's give the cameras a chance to help control this violent criminal act.