Tuesday, January 31, 2006

$500

My company offers a pre-tax savings account, where we can set aside a certain amount of money per year to help pay for medical expenses.

I did a check of my finances, and that's the amount I can set aside this year.

$500.

Now, here's the thing: To use that $500, I have to first pay the health-care provider, THEN submit the bill for reimbursement.

So that's $1,000 out of my pocket--at least temporarily--to get that money.

Oh--and I can't touch any of it until next year. So if I need to spend five hundred on something THIS year...well, as a friend of mine used to say: TS, eliot.


Nice racket, eh?

I mention this, because The Worst President Ever wishes to take this policy nationwide. In lieu of actually providing affordable health care for all, he wants us to start savings accounts for our healthcare.

Yes, on the heels of his wildly successful (for the drug companies) Medicaid reform, TWPE is expected to say tonight that Americans should take ownership of their health care by putting money aside specifically for future health issues, and then have high-deductable health policies for all. At the same time, he's also expected to call for changes in malpractice lawsuits that would restrict damages to hospitals.

Put in another way, he wants us to save money we don't have to save to pay for health care problems we don't have yet, and if the hospital screws up, we won't be able to do much about it.

And we don't have the money, folks. Not just debt-ridden li'l ol' me. We are all spending more than we make. Which is not surprising since most companies give a 3% COLA to their employees, while the actual Cost Of Living rose something like 3.25%.

So here's what we're going to be asked to accept from TWPE: A plan that will likely increase the number of uninsured and increase health care costs, all while costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

Aren't you glad this guy got to choose our Supreme Court?

Yeharr

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Alito 48

Democrats.com is running an on-line update on the number of Senators willing to support a filibuster of Samuel Alito. If you haven't already called your Senators, why not?

Did you know that the Federalist Society was created 24 years ago specifically to get the Supreme Court to move to a far-right position? New York Times has an article. They posted it today. I wonder how long they sat on it.

We are living in interesting times. We are reaching tipping points in environment, in civil rights, womens rights, and so many other issues. The Wingnuts have been working on this coup for a quarter-century. We may not win any of these fights, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try

Yeharr
Link

Friday, January 27, 2006

Human Shields

I'm discovering a trend in the Bushie playbook: Use the womenfolk as shields and/or collateral.

The first sign of this was on January 11, when Martha-Ann Alito broke down in tears while her husband was being questioned by the Judiciary Committee, which led to the inevitable characterization of the Democrats on the Committee as being 'vicious.'

Eleven days later, a letter from the father of payola specialist Jack Abramoff appears in a newspaper. He says that George Clooney's remarks about Abramoff made his 12-year-old granddaughter cry.

And now, we find out that the US Army has been arresting the wives of suspected terrorists. They were using them as 'leverage,' in order to get the men to come forth.

This is wrong on so many levels.

Yeharr

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Someone Want to Explain What's Happening?


George With Paper Cuts From The Constitution?

Paper cuts? Razor burn? Falling down drunk?

Can't remember a commander in chief who looked so often like he should have all the sharp objects in his room removed for safety reasons.

Why doesn't anyone ever ask question about it? Does it mean you're anti-war and therefore pro-anti Bush if you ask why he needs so many band aids?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I have a bad case of levee envy.

My good friend Gerry sent me a link to Common Dreams which showed how sophisticated other countries levees are, and how they manage to keep their heads above water. The first two pictures are how the British and Dutch do it.
The third picture is a great example of our Yankee Ingenuity.





If you ask me, our crack Army Corp of Engineers have some 'splainin' to do...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Your tax dollars at work. AKA The Money Pit.

I saw two articles recently that I thought were compelling.
The first one reports that we’re about to run out of reconstruction money for Iraq.

The $18.6 billion approved by Congress in 2003 will be spent by the end of this year, officials here say. Foreign governments have given only a fraction of the billions they pledged two years ago. With the country still a shambles, U.S. officials are promoting a tough-love vision of reconstruction that puts the burden on the Iraqi people. ''The world is a competitive place,'' Tom Delare, economics counselor at the U.S. Embassy, said this month during a news briefing. ''You have to convince the investor that it is worth his while to put his money in your community.''

Of course! What could be more attractive to a potential investor than persistent car bombings? Kidnappings and murder? An impoverished population? Raging insurgency and certain civil war? I'm ready to close out my IRA and invest. Aren't you?

Embassy and reconstruction officials propose fiscal belt-tightening by the new Iraqi government as the long-term solution to the country's woes, even if that causes short-term suffering for Iraq's people.
''No pain, no gain,'' Andy Wylegala, whose job at the embassy is to help Americans do business in Iraq, said at the same briefing. ''It's very difficult procedure to pass through. But when I look from my side, I see it as a long-term, very favorable development.''

Tough-love. Short term suffering. Favorable development? For whom, exactly? The people who are trying to survive in a shambles that we created?

''If they say they have spent money, where is it?'' asked Salah Qaragholi, 30, a barber in Zafraniya, a poor neighborhood. ''Where are the projects? The electricity is only four hours a day.''
Baghdad's roads are an obstacle course of barriers, potholes and debris. Many government and office buildings are either still gutted or strung with webs of electrical wire connecting to generators that run 12 hours on good days. A brown haze fouls the air and pools of sewage overflow dot the streets.



The other article was in the Wall St. Journal regarding how some billions of Iraq rebuilding funds have vanished - poof-abracadabra-presto-chango - into thin air.



Earlier audits by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction -- a post Congress created in late 2004 -- found that oversight of contractors by the Authority was so lax that widespread abuse was likely. An audit in April 2005, for example, found "significant deficiencies in contract administration," which meant that "there was no assurance that fraud, waste, and abuse did not occur in the management and administration of contracts" the U.S. awarded with Iraqi oil money administered by the United Nations.


Interestingly, as we run out of reconstruction money, there has been no real effort to trace what happened to those billions or make those recipients pay it back…

The inspector general's office said it doesn't plan to ask the Justice Department to file lawsuits or to conduct widespread audits of individual contracts to look for fraud.


Gee, I wonder why? Who might this Special Inspector General be? Well, Bush appointed him – he’s Stuart Bowen, who had been the Authority’s own Inspector General. So Bush doesn’t call in an independent person. He appoints someone who was associated with the group that was part of the problem. Say it with me: You’re doing a heckuva job, there Stuey!

Some in Congress are trying to use the False Claims act that was passed during the Civil war to recover the money.

Under that act, the Justice Department's civil division has the authority to sue contractors that defraud the government, and to seek treble damages. But Justice hasn't initiated any such suits involving Iraq-related work, a spokesman said. The civil division also hasn't joined any suits filed by private-sector whistle-blowers who claim they know of fraud or abuse, although lawyers familiar with such suits estimate that at least two dozen are pending.




And to add insult to injury…

A series of 2004 audits by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Pentagon's contract-auditing arm, found expenses of $1.48 billion unsupported by adequate documentation on KBR's two largest contracts, which were valued at a total of $9.5 billion. In a recently disclosed letter, the audit agency said it has passed on findings about Halliburton to the Justice Department, to consider whether a criminal investigation is warranted. But the audit agency's calls to withhold some payments from Halliburton have been resisted by Pentagon units that awarded the contracts. The Army Corps of Engineers disclosed in November 2005 that it was going ahead with a $1.5 billion payment to Halliburton for work on Iraqi oil fields, including $124 million for costs the defense-department auditors had challenged as questionable. It also paid Halliburton nearly $38 million in bonuses allowed under a contract formula for good performance.


So, to sum up the two stories in all of their irony. We go into a country illegally. Bomb the living beejeesus out of it killing tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and over 2,000 of our soldiers. Create such an unstable environment in that country that professionals and doctors and professors are not safe and they’re falling all over themselves to get the Hell out of there. We run out of reconstruction money (taxpayer dollars, remember), with so little to show for it, telling the Iraqi citizens – you’re on your own now. And we can’t be bothered to find the billions (more tax payer dollars) that went missing or into the pockets of Haliburton cronies.

Before I go take a Valium and have a nice lie down, I'd just like to sum up this administration in a few choice words. Lying. Torturing. Corrupt. Illegal. Incompetent. Propogandistic. Dictatorship. Scum-sucking. Bastards.

Friday, January 13, 2006

In a Nutshell

From Greg Saunders at The Talent Show:

"On the one hand, we're supposed to believe that Alito is a top-notch intellectual giant, but he's so uninformed about the most controversial issues of our time that he can't be bothered to form an opinion. Alito's a neutral "referee" who's willing to listen to both sides before making up his mind, but he's so weak-willed that taking any stand at all would limit his ability to be even-handed in future cases. I don't know which is worse : Republicans insulting our intelligence by playing dumb, or taking them at their word that and accepting the notion that their best pick for the high court is a habitual liar who's too stupid to remember things he did and said 20 years ago."

Yeharr
Link

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not One Democrat Took Abramoff Money

Let's be clear on that. It's a Republican scandal.

The NRC is freaked out and determined to blow memos down every toilet hole they have into every pundit's talking point box, but the fact is - as Governor Dean pointed out when he blasted Wolf Blitzer:

"There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff," Dean answered. "Not one. Not one single Democrat. ... There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money and we've looked through all those FEC [Federal Election Commission] reports to make sure that's true."
More analysis proves the statement true:
He's right, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which keeps track of such things. Their analysis of election commission records shows that Democrats received about a third of the $4.2 million donated between 1998 and 2005 by tribes that had hired Abramoff to represent them in Washington, but none from Abramoff's own wallet.
Link

Old Saturday Night Lived Sketch?

Senate-Prayer-3

No, two anti-abortion activists praying and "anointing the doors" to the Senate hearing room where the Alito confirmation hearings were to take place.

What's alarming, points out BagNewsNotes, is that:

"One should not be fooled, however, that this is a simple or innocent action when the prearranged participation of the press and at least the tacit cooperation of Capitol security was required. (Otherwise, these guys would be out on the sidewalk, fighting for attention just like everybody else.)

The other point here (although not a new one, of course) is the way the religious right shamelessly exploits religious symbolism for political gain.

The play here is a psychological one exploiting a reflexive tendency to associate religious garments, objects, and physical language and gesture with noble, even pious intention. As well, the simple visage of the minister already comes more than pre-packaged with the connotation of authority. "
These dudes weren't priests or ministers, merely impersonating them. Where are the moral values associated with pretending to be a church official for political, emotional gain or media time? The Right still doesn't get that breaking any rule to win is not winning.



Link

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Don't You Just Want Nixon Back?

For those of you who can remember him, or have learned of him since his resignation and saluting in shame as he left the White House lawn, you may have come to despise his abuse of power, hateful list of enemies he retaliated against, spitefull actions and attacks on his perceived detractors, and foul mouth bigoted rantings in the Oval Office as revealed in several books published way after he left office.

He was the poster child for everything wrong with the GOP, power hungry, paranoid, untrusting of Congress, trusting of only a select few and endlessly circling his wagons for most of his White House stay. He decried dissenters as traitors, assualted civil liberties, was a secretive war-monger -

And don't you just want him back?

Nixon also created the EPA, opened trading talks with China, signed federal affirmative action into law. Nixon may have been crooked, had no moral compass, and tried to achieve an usurpassed level of control and authority in the executive branch -

- but I really miss him.

Because Nixon was an amateur when you compare him to Boy George.

George is now taking the TerrorPalooza road show across the country, insisting that his admitted crime of signing an executive order allowing the NSA to issue infinite unwarranted wire-taps domestically, is crucial to the safety of America.

This despite the fact that it is illegal, as in against the law, a constitutional officer taking away anyone's civil liberty at any moment.

This given the fact that the FISA court currently allows instant and immediate taps on anyone deemed a threat, with 72 hours to follow up the paper work and create the warrrant neccessary.

So pundit point (1) that immediate taps were unavailable to intelligence/justice agents is a lie. But it makes it harder for their side to stay in power if it's revealed they're trashing civil liberty.

And George now says any criticism of the war (by Democrats) is anti-american, supports the other side, alerts the enemy to what we're doing, kills troop moral, helps us lose the war, is standard Rove playbook. Whoring the Iraq war is what these guys have done from the third week in - using it as the catre blanche excuse to kill dissent, support increased executive power, try to push through the Alaskan oil pipline for God's sake, whatever legislation they could.

But the war is being run incompetently and has from when it started. Repeated calls for more troops have been ignored (now Bremer admits in his new book he asked for twice as many troops as supplied). Armor available since 2003 is still not shipped overseas. 80% of fatalities could have been prevented with adequate armor, a Pentagon report has recently concluded. Tracking the terrorists has proven impossible for our intelligence community for the last three years, perhaps the bad guys realize they shouldn't use cell phones and talk openly?

So pundit point (2) that dissent hurts the war on terror, or hurts our chances of winning the war is a lie. It just hurts their side's chances of staying in power if dissent happens.

And the backlog of taped recordings by the NSA must be overwhelming. They already didn't have enough translators to begin with, and now they're creating an impossible backlog of material to go through as they listen in on 500, 1000, 10,000 calls a day? They're data-mining, not tracking, they say they're looking for any clues at all that could lead to any terrorists at all, anywhere (because they have not a clue).

Cheney piped in that if this were in place pre-9/11, 9/11 might not have happened.

But Cheney pundit point (3) is a lie too! Because they had a memo delivered to the President that said "Osama Bin Laden planningn to strike at U.S. using airplanes". And that was filed behind a cable bill or something, and it wasn't deemed important. That's how this administration hums along on all pistons.

But 10,000 NSA recorded phone calls on dating, cooking, arabic school carpet cleaning, ad nauseum could all be diciphered and coded and filtered to catch one bad guy? Don't think so. Another lie. To stay in power.

Part of the terror road show.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. That's how they like you. To cook you until you're over done right about election time.

Because that pretty much lets them do anything. Like NSA wiretaps on whomever they so decree, whenever, where ever. Think of all the good they can do!

Like - listening to the political opposition maybe? Like Nixon tried to do by bugging Democratic Headquarters at the Water Gate Hotel? That would be a good way to stay in power, wouldn't it?

Don't you think that's what all this is really about? Watch that come out next. Because that's all Bush and Rove cares about. Power, getting itand keeping it. Not governing. That's an unfortunate inconvenience that comes along with the job.

Or am I being too paranoid?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fury

...towards the people responsible for this decision:

American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

That's right. GI Joes went Commando on a sleeping family. Fired three bullets into the room. Fired three bullets into the room where a three year old and a seven-month-old were sleeping. Rolled daddy onto the floor, told him to shut up, tied him up, hooded and hauled him away.

Dr Fadhil (the Iraqi journalist) is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.

A few days ago, the director of the film had informed "US Authorities" about the investigation, and had asked them for an interview.

And this was the response.

I'm sure Cranky will correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that the troops had more than one way to accomplish this mission. I'm assumining that the tools that the US troops had--scopes, heat sensors, night vision goggles, et c.-- could give them a pretty good idea of the threat level inside this room where a three-year-old girl and a seven-month-old boy were sleeping with their parents. I imagine that if they wanted to, this could have been handled in a far more gentle way and still maintain a level of personal security for the troops.

Yet, they decided to go in with guns blazing.

They knew what they were doing. They knew the threat level in this house was far lower than the threat level they would have getting this guy back to whatever black bag room they took him to.

This was shock and awe.

Because this reporter was uncovering painful truths.

They released him a few hours later, but they still have his tapes.

And we will be greeted as liberators.

Yeharr
Link

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pat Robertson. The Holy Conduit of God.

Praise be to Pat Robertson. He is such a good Christian that he can interpret what God intends.

Like when he figured out that God was punishing New York with 9/11 because the Supreme Court had legislated Him out of schools. Clearly:
“God Almighty is lifting his protection from us.”

Then Robertson blamed Hurricane Katrina on the fact that the Academy of Arts and Sciences chose Ellen Degeneres to host the Emmys (I kid you not.)
“By choosing an avowed lesbian for this national event, these Hollywood elites have clearly invited God’s wrath. Is it any surprise that the Almighty chose to strike at Miss Degeneres’ hometown?!!!”

Now, Robertson, in his infinite wisdom, has decided that Ariel Sharon’s stroke was God's punishment because He was royally pissed off that Sharon was offering some of His land to the Palestinians.

Never mind that Sharon was enormously overweight. Or had a hole in his heart. And had a minor stroke just a week ago. Nah, that had nothing to do with Sharon being on life support today.

Obviously, this stroke had God’s handwriting all over it. In much the same way that God is torching most of Texas and Oklahoma. I mean - my God - they must have done something really awful to have all those small towns go up in smoke. What are they?
Pro-gay?

And what about that time God sent Bush's ass flying over his handlebars? Or when He crammed that peanut down George W.’s throat and caused him to black out and hit his head on the coffee table? Were those just accidents? I don’t think so! Clearly God was trying to warn us. We need to pay more attention, people!

Is it any wonder New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles haven’t just melted off the face of the earth and all of its citizens turned to pillars of salt? I’m expecting that to happen any day now. Aren’t you?

I'd just like to leave you with a final, insane, absurdist Robertson quote. It refers to Degeneres hosting the Emmys. And honestly, you can't make this shit up.

“God already allows one awards show to promote the homosexual agenda,” Robertson declared. “But clearly He will not tolerate such sinful behavior to spread beyond the Tonys.”

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Biased is as Biased Does

I didn't see O'Reilly on Letterman, but I've seen the ripple effect it's had on the internet.

What surprised me the most is the spin being placed on it by both sides.

One side claims jubilantly that Letterman kicked O'Reilly's ass. The other side crows about how O'Reilly stuck it to Letterman.

Yeah, I thought Letterman was pretty generous when he left the 'crap' level of O'Reilly's spew at a mere 60%.

But he could have done more research, and actually watched some O'Reilly before having him on.

When I post about comments made by a commentator when commenting about another commentator, it's a sure sign of the end of civilization.

Comments?

Yeharr
Link

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Who's in Control at the DoJ?

The Abramoff plea agreement only talks about "Representitive #1" and "Staffer A." I'm hoping that this means his lawyer managed to have him take the hit on only one of the alleged many fraudulent acts he has committed, and will start naming names forthwith and post-haste.

What I'm hoping this doesn't mean is that the political movers in the Department of Justice have managed to limit the scope of the investigation so as to only corral a relatively small player (Rep. Bob Ney) in the power deals that are going on in DC right now.

I'm also curious to see how much of a deal the wingnut bloggers will make when the first Democrat is implicated in this fiasco.

As for me, I don't care if the pocket-liners are Democratic or Republican. Let's shine a light on them and get them out of there.

Yeharr

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A short guide to comparative religion

I've seen this various places. My neighbor Jack even had it on a T-shirt.
I just thought that since it's the New Year, it's a time of reflection, and we all want to understand life better - this might just help.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Taoism - Shit happens.
Buddhism - If shit happens, it's not really shit.
Islam - If shit happens, it's the will of Allah.
Protestantism - Shit happens because you don't work hard enough.
Judaism - Why does this shit always happen to us?
Hinduism - This shit happened before.
Catholicism - Shit happens because you're bad.
Hare Krishna - Shit happens...rama rama.
TV Evangelism - Send more shit.
Atheism - No shit.
Jehovah's Witness - Knock-knock, shit happens.
Hedonism - There's nothing like a good shit happening.
Christian Science - Shit happens in your mind.
Agnosticism - Maybe shit happens, maybe it doesn't.
Existentialism - What is shit anyway?
Stoicism - This shit doesn't bother me.
Rastafarianism - LET'S SMOKE THIS SHIT!!!

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