Saturday, August 29, 2009

75-80 or Fight

August is almost over and the summer doldrums which brought us "death panels,

chaotic town yells, and charges of Nazi sympathies" are about to give way to a flurry of

activity when Congress returns to work. On September 4th, the "gang of six" in the Senate,

(3 Democrats/3 Republicans) will hold a conference call to continue negotiating over the

size and scope of legislation to reform the healthcare system. Among them is Senator Charles

Grassley of Iowa and Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming. Grassley has already promised he

won't vote for "anything" opposed by the Republican Party; and now Enzi says he won't

vote for anything that isn't bipartisan enough to garner 75-80 votes in the Senate. (Jesus

could return and not get 75-80 votes in the Senate commending his work.)

In other words, whatever legislation is crafted will not get a single Republican

vote when all is said and done. Senator Max Baucus and some other weak-kneed,

jello-spined Democrats could drop every public option, institute medical savings accounts,

give tax breaks to the wealthy, and put a white flag over the Capitol; and Republicans

still would not vote for the final bill. This is not an opinion, but rather a statement of

fact. (The Republicans are on the record saying this very thing.)

The Democrats have faced this situation before. In 1993, President Clinton

proposed raising taxes on the richest 1% of taxpayers. Republican senators screamed

bloody murder. They and their proxies in the corporate media predicted a disaster. If

Clinton got his way, unemployment would go through the roof, small businesses would

close by the thousands, corporations would leave the United States for more tax-friendly

lands, and the economy would be destroyed. Not a single Republican senator voted for

the increase. Vice President Gore cast the deciding 51st vote to break a tie. History

records the next eight years were some of the most prosperous in our nation's history

with President Clinton leaving President Bush a surplus.

Newsweek columnist Joe Klein writes bipartisanship is no longer possible

because there are no moderates left in the Republican Party. There is no one left to

forge a compromise on the Republican side. even so-called moderates, like Olympia

Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, are on the record opposed to any reform containing

a public option. The goal of a bill supported by both parties is a noble one, but it is time

to face a new reality. Nothing the Democrats propose will get Republican support

because they want to use the failure of healthcare reform to gain political points in the

2010 midterm elections.

So, it's time to pass a bill in the House and Senate. Send the bill to a conference

committee (exclude Republicans from the Senate conference committee since none will

have voted for the bill) and return the bill for an up or down vote in both houses. It should

contain provisions that prohibit denying insurance for pre-existing conditions. Healthcare

should be portable; so you don't lose it if you lose or change jobs. There needs to be

catastrophic illness protection so Americans don't go bankrupt or lose their homes

because of illness. The government should be able to negotiate with big Pharma to bring

down the price of drugs. There has to be a public option to compete against private

insurance companies to keep them honest. There must be new procedures to reduce

wasteful spending, needless procedures, and new technology to reduce cost. This bill

will pass in the House. In the Senate, Democrats need only 50 votes to pass such a bill

under a parliamentary procedure called"reconciliation". Thus, the Republicans would

be prevented from filibustering. At the end of the day, such a bill would enjoy wide-

spread support because each one of the provisions I cited (pre-existing conditions,

portability, public option) are overwhelmingly supported. A recent poll shows 77% of

Americans support a public option.

Senator Enzi says any bill that cannot get 75 to 80 votes in the Senate will break

the institution and hurt the nation. Senator Enzi says using reconciliation is betraying

the Senate. (He had no objection when President Bush used it to get 51 votes for a tax cut

for the rich that destroyed the budget surplus.) Senator Enzi forgets that whether it was

Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, or even the Emancipation Proclamation,

none of these controversial bills passed by more than a few votes. All caused great

outrage and debate. All resulted in predictions of doom and gloom by opponents; and

yet I defy Senator Enzi, or any Republican, to propose repealing any of them.

It is time to pass a bill and let the American people decide in 2010 who was

right, the Regressives for trying to stop it or the Progressives who finally got it passed.

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Morale vs. Moral

A federal judge in New York has ordered the government to release a report

by the CIA's Inspector General. The report summarizes an investigation the Inspector

General conducted in 2003. It was completed in 2004; but is only being released now

because the ACLU (God bless 'em) sued under the Freedom of Information Act. The

Inspector General investigated charges that CIA operatives exceeded legal limits when

interrogating and torturing prisoners held in secret prisons located in Eastern Europe

and other locales. (Interestingly, no one seems very exercised about the existence of

secret prisons set up to be outside the reach of American law.)

Bits and pieces of this report have been reported over the years, but now more

information is coming out including threatening a prisoner with a gun and a power drill,

staging mock executions, and many other techniques that go beyond the legal torture

Bush signed off on. These guys weren't content to try and drown prisoners, psychologically

and physically devastating them through sleep deprivation and sound bombardment;

they were encouraged to do whatever it took to get information. This report is so

disturbing that when Attorney General Eric Holder read it, he said it made him sick;

and he has now appointed an independent prosecutor to investigate these allegations.

The weeping and gnashing of teeth over the appointment of such a prosecutor

is being heard all over Washington, but most prominently from Regressives who argue

that such an investigation will hurt the morale of loyal American agents who simply did

what their country asked them to do. We are going to punish them for being loyal

Americans. One Senator says we are sending CIA agents the message to be timid; and

the resulting lack of aggressiveness will hurt our ability to gather vital intelligence in

a timely manner.

I just want to be clear. We should not investigate what the CIA did in our name

because they won't torture with enthusiasm the next time they are asked. If we investigate

and prosecute CIA agents for breaking the law and engaging in immoral conduct, they

might not follow such an illegal order in the future. We don't want to hurt anyone's

feelings for the inhuman and inhumane ways they treated prisoners because they were

following orders and that is their duty. Do I understand this correctly?

While I realize I run the risk of beating a long-time dead horse, I just have to

remind you we settled this question at Nuremberg. In both Germany and Japan, the

United States executed German and Japanese officials convicted of crimes against

humanity. We repudiated their claims they were just following orders. In fact, we went

a step further and stated it is a soldier's or anyone's duty to disobey an illegal or immoral

order; and if they do not, they will be held accountable.

Just recently, former Army Lt. William Calley spoke to a small group and

apologized for his role in the massacre of over 200 men, women, and children in the

Vietnamese village of My Lai. Calley stated he never should have obeyed the order to

kill them. He is right of course; however, it is worth noting no one giving him that order

was ever prosecuted. It is further worth noting no one ordering the atrocities conducted

at Abu Ghraib prison has ever been prosecuted, even though those orders came directly

from the Bush Administration and the Pentagon. One point does seem clear. Individual

agents have to be held responsible, but those who issued the orders must be held to that

same standard. If an agent is indicted, the person or persons who gave the order, approved

the policy or oversaw the implementation must be indicted as well.

Former Vice President Cheney defends the torture of prisoners, creating a secret

gulag of prisons, illegally spying on Americans, and eviscerating the Fourth Amendment

by claiming all of the illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional actions saved thousands of

American lives and kept America safe. The end justifies the means. He makes this claim

despite no evidence to corroborate it. FBI Director Robert Mueller has testified he knows

of no instance where information acquired through torture prevented an attack and saved

any lives. Experts in the field of torture and interrogation say torture rarely produces

actionable intelligence. However, the real response to Cheney is that settled upon at

Nuremberg. The end does not justify the means and no one is above the rule of law.

In the recent past, the World Criminal Court has put Serbian strongman

Slobodan Milosevic on trial for crimes against humanity including the torture of

prisoners. A world-wide manhunt eventually led to the arrest of Rhadavan Karadich

on similar charges. Just recently an arrest warrant was issued for Sudanese President

Omar al-Bashir for his role in the massacre of millions. Yet American officials continue

to argue that following orders gives one immunity from prosecution.

Maybe prosecution isn't either possible or desirable. However, finding the

truth is. Who did the torturing? Who ordered them to torture? Who approved a policy

of torture? Who authorized the secret prisons? Who knew about all of this? Did

Congressional leaders sign off on all of this? Did the President and Vice President

participate in these discussions and decisions? The only way to avoid this in the future

is to understand how and why it happened.

I am far less concerned about the morale of a CIA agent than the possibility of

immoral actions taken in the name of the United States of America. How about you?

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

They Found Gambling? I'm Shocked! Shocked!

Former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge,

has a new book coming out in which he claims the Bush Administration was playing politics

with the issue of terrorism. Specifically, Ridge charges then Attorney General John Ashcroft

and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to get him to raise the terrorism threat

level condition (you remember orange, yellow, green, puce, etc.) four days before the 2004

Presidential election! Ridge says the only reason to elevate the threat level would be to help

Bush get re-elected by scaring the American people. He claims there was no support in

his department for raising the threat level, and he had to "talk Ashcroft and Rumsfeld

back from the ledge". They did not raise the level ultimately.

This revelation comes on the heels of recent information released by the House

Judiciary Committee stating that the Bush Administration played politics in the firing of

a number of U.S. Attorneys who weren't willing to use the power of their office to investigate

and indict Congressional Democrats in the hopes of defeating them in the next election.

The information shows the White House political advisor Karl Rove acted as the point man

for political complaints against U.S. attorneys who are supposed to be unbiased in applying

the law.

Pardon me if I suppress a yawn. The Bush Administration used the issue of

terrorism to boost it's political fortunes. Really? I'm shocked! It's as if we have discovered

that Dick Cheney blew the cover of a covert CIA agent involved in tracking the proliferation

of weapons of mass destruction, in order to punish her husband for telling the truth about

Administration lies regarding Saddam Hussein's pursuit of such weapons. Would an

American politician put a CIA operative's life in danger to settle a political debt?

I'm shocked!!! Shocked!!!

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill wrote a book in which he says at the

first cabinet meeting of the new Bush Administration, the dominant subject was Iraq and

how to bring Saddam down. (Can anyone say The Project for a New American Century?)

O'Neill goes on to say one of the differences between the Ford Administration, during

which he worked, and the Bushies was Ford was interested in security and intelligence

and military policy; while the Bush gang was only interested in politics.

O'Neill is not alone in his observations. The former head of Bush's Office of

Faith-Based Initiatives, John Delulio, wrote an article for Esquire in which he was

shocked to discover every decision made in the White House passed through a political

filter. Whether they funded a particular church program or food bank was predicated

on it's political impact. Even God had to serve Rove's political ends or She would end up

being fired too.

That the media is making a big deal about Ridge's accusations says a great deal

about this issue. The corporate media worked hand-in-hand with Bush and Cheney in

scaring the American people and allowing the Bushies to make political hay out of the

issue of terrorism. Does anyone remember Judith Miller's and the New York Times'

breathless stories of nuclear and biological weapons programs in Iraq? Do you remember

Paul Wolfowitz, in an interview in Vanity Fair, admitting the only way they could sell

a war with Iraq was by pushing the issue of weapons of mass destruction? Have we so

quickly forgotten Cheney and Rice talking about how we couldn't wait for a "smoking gun"

because the smoke might be coming from midtown Manhattan when al Qaeda gets a

nuclear weapon from Saddam?

The "Downing Street Memos" (a record of a meeting between Tony Blair and

his top security chiefs in July of 2002) tells us Bush had decided to go to war with Iraq

almost a year before he attacked. The British head of MI6 reported to Blair that Bush's

people told him they would "...have to cook the books" in order to get the American

public to accept going to war.

In January, 2002, less than four months after the attacks on New York and

Washington, Karl Rove met with the Republican Governor's Association and told them

the events of September 11th would be a political bonanza for the Republican Party.

President Bush scheduled the vote authorizing the Iraq war a week before the 2002

midterm elections. Right after the Democratic National Convention in 2004, the Bush

Administration raised the terrorism threat level allegedly because information had been

discovered that al Qaeda had been conducting surveillance in New York City. It later

came out that the information was over three years old, but the damage had been done

politically. The message had been if you elect a Democratic president, the country will

be less safe and the terrorists will be thrilled.

So now we are to be shocked, shocked I say, to discover the Bushies were playing

politics with the issue of terrorism. What should truly shock you is that Tom Ridge only

discovered this after couple of years working for Bush. He wants to sell a book. So now

he tells us he quit because he didn't want to play politics with an issue as important as

Homeland Security. Did Ridge say anything at the time? No. Did Paul O'Neill say anything

at the time? No. Did Colin Powell say anything at the time when he found out the CIA and

the Pentagon had lied to him about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? No. What about

former CIA director George Tenet? Did he tell anyone about Cheney's frequent visits to

Langley to pressure analysts to "cook the books"? (a CIA analyst's words, not mine) No.

Even though everyone in the Bush Administration knew and helped them politicize the

issue of terrorism; no one spoke up until they were out of the game, and for many, not

until they decided to make money by writing a book. In fact, one of the few people to tell

the truth was Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who told the truth about Saddam and Niger;

and because he committed truth, Cheney blew his wife's cover, caused a CIA front

organization to shut down, put his family's life in danger, seriously compromised an

important CIA asset, and did serious damage to the agency's ability to track the trafficking

of weapons of mass destruction by our enemies.

What is equally shocking is everything I have chronicled here was known by

the corporate media. It was common knowledge that Bush and Cheney were politicizing

the issue of terrorism. Karl Rove leaked the name of Valerie Plame to recently deceased

columnist Robert Novak. Novak was frequently used by the Bushies to leak damaging

information on opponents. Did CNN report that? No. The corporate media was afraid

of Bush and Cheney. They refused to press them on how they were politicizing terrorism

and war. Almost 5,000 Americans are dead, 50-100,000 are wounded, as many as one

million Iraqis are dead, and al Qaeda is stronger now than it was prior to September 11th

(not my conclusion, rather the CIA's). All of this carnage was used to advance the political

fortunes of the Bush Administration.

Now some Bushies are pushing back saying Ridge doesn't know what he is talking

about. Things didn't happen the way he says. He didn't have to talk Ashcroft and Rumsfeld

back off the ledge. There is only one way to find out the truth. Once again, there has

to be an investigation. This is the most serious charge yet against Bush, et. al. Lives

were lost, families devastated, a nation wrecked. We have to know the truth. Put Ridge

and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld under oath. Add Rove, Bush, and Cheney to that list. Include

Rice, Wolfowitz, Pearl, Feith, and Libby on the subpoena list. It is time. Obama and

Congressional leaders can't continue to try to avoid this. The American people have a

right to know. Maybe you can't prosecute any of these people, but we are about to get

books from Bush and Cheney and Rice and Powell all telling and lying about their side

of the story. Isn't it time the American people got to know the truth?

The healthcare debate shows there is no bipartisan spirit in Washington. The

Republican Regressives have publicly disclosed that killing healthcare reform will kill

Obama. In the past, Obama has stated opening up investigations would poison the well

of bipartisanship and make progress difficult on his agenda. Maybe now it is time to do

what's right and let the chips fall where they may. If that occurs, I will be shocked!!!

Shocked!!! What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send

them to

...With Passion

One of my favorite debates over the years has been with those who try to claim

the United States is a Christian nation founded upon Christian principles and those

principles motivate or should motivate how we conduct ourselves as a nation. No better

example of the nature of this debate occurred recently with he decision by Scotland to

release the man convicted of engineering the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie,

Scotland. In all, 270 people were killed in this heinous act of terrorism against innocent

men, women, and children. The man convicted of being the mastermind, Ali Mohmed al-

Megrahi, was an intelligence officer for the Libyan government at the time of the bombing.

He is dying of prostate cancer and has less than three months to live. The Minister of

Justice in Scotland decided to let him go home and die in Libya among his family. He

called it a "compassionate release".

The dictionary defines compassion as an emotion in which one has sympathy

or empathy for someone else or someone else's circumstances. The Scotch have built

compassion into their justice system. They are now being excoriated for that supposed

lack of judgement.

Upon announcement of al-Megrahi's release, the response was quick and

predictable. Regressives attacked the outrage of his release. The corporate media

punditocracy expressed disdain and disgust that such a person, a murderer and a

terrorist, could be treated with compassion. The families of the victims were beyond

consolation that this man will get to say goodbye to his family, when he did not grant

such an opportunity to any of his victims.

Al-Megrahi was given a hero's welcome when he returned to Tripoli. A large

crowd greeted him with cheers. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi greeted him with a

hug. Al-Megrahi's reception kicked the outrage into high gear. President Obama

condemned the decision to release him, as did Secretary of State Clinton. The head of

the FBI, Robert Mueller, sent a letter to the Scottish Justice Ministry expressing his

complete outrage at their decision. All in all, it is safe to say that the vast majority of

Americans disagree with his compassionate release. In Britain and Scotland, the reaction

was less strident. A British commission, tasked with looking into the Lockerbie bombing,

came to the conclusion that al-Megrahi may not have been responsible; or at least there

were a lot of questions that have never been answered. Many of the public believe he was

the wrong man or doubt the real story has ever come out. There was far less outrage,

although Tony Blair made sure everyone knew he was aghast at the decision. (He wanted

to show al-Megrhi the same compassion he showed the million or so Iraqi's killed in a war

he supported and perpetrated, I suppose.)

The gist of the anger over Mr. al-Megrahi's release seems to be that as a terrorist

and a murderer he did not care about his innocent victims nor their families. He did not

show them any compassion. He did not grant them any mercy. His was an action of total

evil in which he showed utter disdain for the victims of his actions. Therefore, no mercy,

empathy, sympathy, or compassion should be directed his way. He should die a miserable

death in prison, and his family denied any chance to be with him in his final days. I don't

believe I have overstated the position of those opposed to his release. Do you? The

delicious irony lost in this outrage is that they want to treat al-Megrahi exactly the way

he treated his victims. They want to emulate him and his emotionless evil action by

treating him with the same contempt and lack of compassion he showed to the passengers

of that Pan Am flight.

This brings us back to one of my favorite debates. I am willing to wager that

the majority, if not 90% of those who have flooded radio and television with emails and

tweets and messages of anger and outrage, consider themselves to be card-carrying,

gum-chewing Christians. I have no doubt. High percentages of the most angry go to

church and read scriptures and believe that this country was founded upon and should be

proselytizing these virtues to the entire world, particularly the Muslim world. They are

the ones who refuse to believe Islam is a religion of peace because how could anyone who

follows a religion of peace commit so many horrific actions against other human beings?

I spoke with Sister Helen Prejean once ( the subject of the movie Dead Man

Walking). She is an opponent of the death penalty because it robs the victim's family of

any closure or reconciliation. She says the families that are able to forgive can also

experience reconciliation and move on with their lives. The family members who want

to "pull the switch or drop the pellet" are left with nothing but hatred for the rest of

their lives, and many are ruined by it.

A priest friend of mine told me that forgiveness is the key to reconciliation,

even when the "offended" is not ready to forgive the person. Hatred and vengeance

do not belong in our Christian vocabulary; and the Gospel is a Gospel of love and

forgiveness which eventually leads to reconciliation-healing the broken, the fractured,

the disenfranchised, the poor, the outcast. He says it is about SHALOM in the larger

sense of the word, to bring everything back into harmony with God.

So, I am puzzled. The anger at allowing al-Megrahi to go home, the vitriol

being directed at the Scottish Minister of Justice, the demand that this man suffer an

ignoble death separated from his family and loved ones; where in scripture, where in

Jesus's words, where did he tell us to return evil with evil, anger with anger, hatred with

hatred? Is there a fifth Gospel that I missed?

Gilbert K. Chesterson is supposed to have said, "...the problem with Christianity

isn't that it was tried and found wanting, but rather that it has never been tried at all".

My grandmother once said, "...the proof of the pudding is in the tasting". So let

me ask you, which is it? All of those Christians screaming for "an eye for an eye". What

part of Jesus's message are they hearing? If the man who proclaimed the end of an eye

for an eye, who said the greatest commandment is to love, who called on his followers

to turn the other cheek, forgive an infinite number of times, and to love their neighbors

as themselves; if this man was asked about the release of al-Megrahi, what do you think

he would say? Do you think he would feel compassion? No one has to be a Christian;

but if you call yourself one, what do you do when you totally repudiate the man you say

you follow? ... a Christian nation? What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to

Monday, August 24, 2009

What About Jughead?

If you are looking for trenchant, biting political commentary, you should stop

reading. This is about comic books. It's not just about comic books; it's about sweet comic

books. It has no significant social commentary to make. Rather, it is inspired by the fact

that I read these sweet comics as a kid and enjoyed them. As summer winds down, and you've

heard enough about "death panels" to last you a lifetime; I pose this question. Who should

Archie marry, Veronica or Betty?

This moral dilemma arises because the latest version of Archie has a futuristic

scenario in which Archie envisions marriage, and he asks Veronica Lodge to be his wife.

This has so upset Archie fans that one, a comic collector, sold his mint condition Archie

#1 edition at an auction. (He received over $38,000 for the edition, so his sacrifice is

less than martyrdom, but still...) This man was outraged that Archie picked Ronnie. He

is a Betty fan. Betty winds his watch. Betty is cute and Betty is small-town America, and

Betty is nicer and Archie should have picked Betty. He's pissed and he is not going to take

this lying down. Yes, he is $38,000 richer; but it is the thought that counts. He loved

that first edition, but Betty is worth the fight.

I understand that were I to send this reflection to any of my children, they would

look at me with that blank stare that children reserve for their parents when they are so

out of touch as to be not believed. Archie who? Betty and Veronica, are they in the real

world cabo? What videos have they been in? Do they tweet? How many friends and

followers do they have? OMG, we don't know where you get this stuff, Dad. OK, you have

to be of a certain age to know, let alone care, or even have an opinion. I understand.

However, those among us who have debated in the past whether they liked Mary Ann or

Ginger better on Gilligan's Island, Cagney or Lacey, Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan, or

Judy Jetson or Ann Margrock (from the Flintstones), will have an opinion on this weighty


I personally never understood Archie's appeal. Betty and Veronica were both

cute and both wanted him. I was always a Jughead fan. He was much more interesting

and complex. I pictured him as an early stoner or member of the counterculture. Archie,

Betty, and Veronica always struck me as more status quo, middle of the road types who

would vote Republican more often than not. All that having been said, he has to pick one;

and apparently it is Veronica. I think he made the right decision.

Veronica Lodge is uber rich. Let's face it, Archie is not exactly a rocket scientist.

He isn't going into law or medicine. He probably ends up selling insurance or managing

a Dairy Queen if left to his own devices. Marrying Veronica insures that he gets the

American dream. The newlyweds will move into a huge house that Mr. Lodge buys for

them. (Mr. Lodge had a lot invested in Goldman-Sachs; and now that they have been

bailed out by Washington, he is back in the chips again.) He will give Archie a job in one

of his companies so that Archie can pull himself up by his Gucci bootstraps to become

the all-American success story. Veronica will stay at home and raise the kids with the

help of a nanny and a housekeeper, while working out and getting any necessary work

done so that she remains "cute" for years to come.

Betty, while just as cute as Ronnie (although I have a preference for brunettes),

is a much more problematic choice. As far as we know, she has no discernable skills

except for her love of Archie. She isn't rich. She can't help Archie network. She would

certainly be supportive of him and encourage whatever career he chooses; but she isn't

going to give him much of a boost. Granted, she might be more stable. She would not

be able to afford to dump Archie as easily as Veronica could, should he eventually succumb

to male pattern baldness and middle age spread.

By now, the Betty boosters are crying "foul"! She isn't a spoiled brat like

Veronica. She will be faithful to Archie. For Veronica, Archie is a trophy; but Betty

really loves him. Veronica is cotton candy, while Betty is cute and has staying power.

She will be better for him in the long run.

This is not a matter of earth-shaking proportions; nor is it going to change the

course of any historic events. However, ask your significant other or friends what they

think. (Don't embarrass yourself and ask your children.) I guarantee that every person

you ask will have an opinion. For those of you without a significant other, this would be

a great opening gambit in a social situation. You can learn a lot about someone by how

they answer. (Style over substance, etc.)

For at least one person, Archie's decision outraged him enough to part with

something very valuable to protest this miscarriage of justice. (I am so angry my mother

threw out all my old comic books.)

I moved on from the sweet and light of Archie to the darker, more brooding

worlds of Spiderman, X-Men, Ironman, and the Fantastic Four. They worked and

struggled and were filled with existential angst that would have mystified the kids from

Riverdale. However, I still care about them and want them to be as we are: happy,

doubt-filled, and wondering about what life has to hold. What do you think? I welcome

your comments. Please send them to

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sesame St. Is Brought to You by the Word CoOp

A question was raised recently by a Washington Post columnist as to whether

America is no longer capable of dealing with big problems. Is it possible that the disastrous

response to Hurricane Katrina was not an aberration, but rather a symptom of a nation

incapable of solving its' most pressing issues?

In the 20th century, this nation busted monopolies, created a national park system,

fought two world wars, passed social security, improved wages and working conditions; as

well as built an interstate highway system, rebuilt Europe, expanded healthcare for seniors,

and paid for college tuition for an entire generation. Could any of that be accomplished

in the 21st century?

The healthcare system in this nation is broken. It's not just in need of tinkering;

it is in need of a total makeover. Americans pay twice as much per capita for healthcare

than do people in any other Western nations. Americans get half the benefits for twice

the cost compared to citizens from Canada to Britain to Belgium. Your healthcare premiums

are going up at extraordinary speed. Healthcare costs threaten the economic security

(thus our national security) far more than al Qaeda, the Taliban, or any other terrorist

threat. What is even worse, is that for all that money, Americans are not more healthy.

In fact it's the reverse. A citizen of Canada, Sweden, France, or Ireland pays half of what

you do and is healthier. They live longer, their babies are healthier, their quality of life

is better, and they don't have to fear losing health coverage nor going bankrupt because

of a catastrophic illness.

The central villains of this tale are well known. Health insurance companies are

responsible for every ill and problem I have cited. Health insurance companies have been

doubling premiums every two to three years. They have refused to cover people who have

been sick before. They force doctors to give you sub-par service by threatening them if

they ask for too many tests or keep you too long in the hospital. They siphon off as much

as 30% of the healthcare dollar for overhead and administration costs. Their CEO's are

multi-millionaires; and there is no end in sight for how much they will charge you. Forty-

eight million Americans don't have any insurance and the number is growing by the millions

each year. Since January, health industries have contributed $14 million to members of

Congress to stop healthcare reform. In particular, they have to stop the government from

offering you an alternative to their immoral and corrupt system. They understand that if

the public is given a chance, they are screwed. They have poured money into front groups

to disrupt meetings. They have issued propaganda that would make Goering proud (death

panels being my favorite). They don't care about pre-existing conditions and they don't

care about any reform except one. They will do anything to prevent competition. They

know that being pro-choice will mean freedom for Americans who can choose to leave

them for another plan. They are utterly opposed to capitalism. They run a rigged game

now; and if they have to compete for customers, they know the game is over. They know

one more important fact. All regressives will vote to keep things as they are. The

insurance companies know that the same people who fought Social Security and Medicare,

the eight hour work day and child labor laws, the EPA and the Clean Water and Clean

Air Acts; will fight any change in our healthcare system. They only have to worry about

the Democrats. Can they frighten, buy, or intimidate enough Democrats to prevent a

public option from passing? The answer appears to be yes.

Over the past few days, members of the Obama Administration stated that a public

option was not essential to healthcare reform. The most prominent of these quislings

was Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She says at the end of

the day, competition and choice are all that matters; but a public option is not essential

to achieving that outcome. Huh? Choice and competition are essential, but the very

vehicle to bring that about is not essential? Opponents of healthcare reform jumped

all over those words as proof that Obama has blinked. He is capitulating. He is surrendering

and knows he is licked. There is great joy on K Street because mighty Obama has struck

out. On news show after news show, the regressives were overjoyed. Sarah Palin was

being given credit for knocking off Obama. Healthcare reform is as good as dead. Oh sure,

the health insurance companies will agree not to exclude anyone with pre-existing

conditions. They will promise to hold down costs. The drug companies will assure us

that their costs will be reasonable. Doctors won't face pressure not to treat you anymore.

We will be good boys and girls from now on. They will promise anything because they

know there will be no way to enforce the promises. Watch!!! Over the next few weeks,

the Regressives and their insurance company allies will promise the moon. They will toss

in everything but the kitchen sink. Insurance will be more affordable and millions will

have access who didn't have it before. Employer's costs will go down. However, if anyone

in the corporate media has the testicular fortitude to ask how these promises will be

enforced; they will hear the sounds of silence. Without a competitive marketplace,

Congress cannot force the insurance companies to keep one promise.

The one word you are going to hear, which will be offered to solve this dilemma,

will be CoOps. Healthcare CoOps will be trotted out by bought-and-paid-for Democrats.

Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Max Baucus of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and

Mary Landrieu of Louisiana will all champion and support healthcare CoOps. There is

only one problem. (Actually, there are hundreds.) No one will be able to tell you what

a CoOp is. Is it like a credit union? Is it like a local water district or is it like a volunteer

fire department? No one knows. There is no example in this nation of a thriving CoOp

competing against the insurance companies. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia

says they would never be able to compete with the wealth and size of the insurance

industry. They would be dead on arrival. But you are going to hear about them. They

will be sold as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Don't worry! CoOps will force the

insurance industry to keep its' word. (The insurance industry may even oppose them

for awhile to make it look like they are scared.)

Cokie Roberts, one of my least favorite pundits and a card-carrying Regressive,

said on NPR that in the end Democrats will vote for whatever is produced because they

don't want to hurt Obama. Her comments are half wishful thinking and half history.

Democrats have been unable to stand for much over the last thirty years. They couldn't

stop NAFTA and GATT. They couldn't stop Alito or Roberts. They supported the wars

in Iraq and Afghanistan; and looked the other way while the government illegally tapped

our phones and monitored our email and computer activity. When asked by President

Bush, they even granted the Telecom companies immunity for illegally allowing the

government to spy on us; and did I forget a little thing called the Patriot Act which

essentially eliminated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution? Cokie Roberts says

the same Democrats will fold like a house of cards again this time.

In the end it doesn't matter. If Democrats reject healthcare bill, the Regressives

and insurance companies win. If the Democrats vote for CoOps, the Regressives and

insurance companies win. The only possible victory is if Democrats force the administration

to accept a public option. They have to tell Conrad and Baucus that they lose their

chairmanships if they persist. They have to tell Harry Reid he is no longer Majority

Leader if he gives in to this CoOp idea. They have to fight.

The spine that Democrats will need to fight will only come from you. Just as

the Regressives stirred their base, it's now time for you. Over 60% of Americans still

want a public option. The same grassroots that put Obama in the White House have to

give Democrats in the Senate a spine. If you have not emailed or called your senators,

do it. If there are town hall meetings, go to them. Write letters to the editor. Email

every news show from CNN to Fox to MSNBC. Inundate them with your outrage. Let

the White House know that Obama has no legacy or well of support if he capitulates on

the first big fight of his administration. It's in your hands now. Either you win and

America shows it can handle tough societal problems or we continue an inexorable slide

in t0 mediocrity and disaster as a nation. The next big hurricane is coming. Can we

handle it? What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send

them to

will be CoOps.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So Far So Good

One of my favorite movies is the "Magnificent Seven". At one point Steve McQueen

and Yul Brenner are assessing their chances (seven against fifty). McQueen tells the story of

a man falling off the roof of a building; and as he passes each floor, people hear him saying

" far so good". He then turns to Brenner and says "So far so good".

In the middle of the August congressional recess, the opponents of healthcare reform

have to be saying "So far so good". Their goal of derailing any major restructuring of the

healthcare system is paying big dividends so far. The strategy has a number of components.

The first step was to delay. When it looked like Obama and the Democrats had some

momentum, a Republican operative (and CNN pundit) wrote a memo about how to slow

them down. He advised no direct attacks on the idea of healthcare reform (who could be

against that?); but rather suggested asking "What's the rush? This is too big a subject to

tackle quickly. Why is the President in such a hurry?" Within days, GOP Chair Michael

Steele gave a speech questioning the speed that reform was moving at and calling on

Regressives to slow things down. Then Republicans began leaking any provision from

any proposal that they felt would inflame their base. In the Senate, without Ted Kennedy,

Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Finance Committee, took the lead role and along with

his BFF, Chuck Grassley, made it look like there was a bi-partisan effort to craft a bill.

Baucus didn't seem to care that Grassley had already promised to oppose whatever

emerges, nor that Grassley's participation was part of the strategy to slow things down

so no bill is produced before the August recess. He has played the role of the cuckold

well so far. ("So far so good")

The second piece of the strategy was to ratchet up the rhetoric and the heat on

the idea during the August recess. Knowing that members of Congress would go home

and conduct meetings about healthcare, and knowing that August is an extremely slow

news time; their corporate allies (insurance companies, drug companies, hospital companies)

ponied up millions of dollars to organize ersatz grassroots protests and protesters to

disrupt and dispute discussions in these meetings. They understood that the corporate

media would eat these protests up. In the doldrums of August they provided combat video,

personality clashes, reality TV for the reality generation. (Even better, they made sure

to put videos up on You-Tube, so the corporate media didn't even have to spend any money

on reporters and camera crews.) The result is breathless coverage night after night of

a nation torn apart and divided by an overly ambitious President whose reach exceeds

his grasp. Contrast the corporate media coverage of the town hall meetings with their

coverage of the demonstrations before the start of the Iraq War. Millions of Americans

took to the streets along with millions throughout the world and yet, if you watched the

corporate media, you would have thought it was a small group of ex-hippies or just

disgruntled students or anti-government liberals. Of course, these demonstrations

occurred in March, not August. The opponents of healthcare reform know that video

which shows anger and conflict will play on all networks. They know that if supporters

of healthcare reform show up to confront the protesters, that video will also play on all

news programs and the corporate punditocracy will pompously declare that Obama's

attempt to change healthcare is sewing seeds of divisiveness throughout the country.

The opponents also know that no network or news program is interested in video from

town hall meetings where the dialogue and disagreements are civil. In August, civil

discourse will not play. ("So far so good")

When Congress returns in September, the House and Senate will report out

a bill. It will pass the House. In the Senate, the Republicans will try to filibuster the

healthcare bill. If all the Democrats stay united, the filibuster will fail. The two bills

will go to a Conference Committee, which is what Obama has been waiting for. The real

work will go on there. The bill reported out will pass the House; and once again the

Republicans will try to filibuster it. The Democrats will pass it, if necessary, with 51

votes; the exact same way Bush passed his huge tax cut for the rich which destroyed

the budget surplus. In the end, real healthcare reform will pass if Democrats stick together.

However, any bill, without a public option should be defeated. Without it, all they will

have accomplished is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

All the plans of the corporate opponents and the Republicans will go up in smoke

if the Democrat's feet are held to the fire. That's your job to keep them honest. You have

to call and write and e-mail and fax your Senators especially. In California, that means

Diane Feinstein. She has to feel the heat. You should also inundate Senator Harry Reid

with comments and support reminding him about the political consequences of failing

to push real reform. It's you vs. the corporate interests. So far so good. What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

"...Therefore What?"

Recently on CNN, Campbell Brown was interviewing a man who was organizing

protests at Congressional town hall meetings. He was bringing in people to protest

the President's attempt to reform healthcare. He happily admitted his group is supported

by corporate funding including the health insurance industry, and made a plea for more

funding to continue the protests. That the protests are corporate-fueled is not news.

The former Tom DeLay hitman, Dick Armey, heads one of the main groups organizing

the "grassroots" protesters. What was new about the interview as Brown's final question.

She told the organizer she understood what he was against; but now wanted to know what

he was for. What kind of healthcare reform did he want Congress to pass? You could

hear the crickets chirping in the background, the silence was so pervasive. The man

literally had nothing to say.

One of my favorite questions to ask when debating an issue is "...therefore what?"

You know these kinds of discussions; each side stridently makes its points. The rhetoric

is heated. The language is incendiary. Feelings are brought to bear and decibel levels

increase. After an adversary finishes making their points, or takes a breath or concludes

a harangue; I will ask "...therefore what?" I now know what you oppose, but what do you

propose? It is the $64,000 question and it has the ability to create deafening silence.

Brown asked the protest organizer her version of "...therefore what?" You stop

Obama. You block a public option for healthcare. You prevent any legislation of this

kind from passing Congress. Now what? The protest organizer had no answer because

his only job was to stir up opposition. He had no answer because he wasn't seeking one.

He was silent because his job is not to find an answer to the healthcare problem; just

stop anything from passing by creating the illusion of a popular uprising against anything

currently being debated.

The opponents of healthcare reform are unable to answer "...therefore what?" because

they want to preserve the status quo. They are funded by the insurance industry, the

hospital industry, big Pharma, and by the Regressives because they want to beat back

reform once again as they have since 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt made the first attempt

to increase access to healthcare for more Americans. The Republicans in the House and

the Senate have adopted a strategy of delay and obfuscation. They wish to distort and

oppose "anything" that changes how healthcare is funded. They understand, as do their

corporate backers, that Americans pay twice as much per year for healthcare than do

citizens in any other industrialized nation. They know Americans get half the benefits

than citizens of other nations; and that those citizens live longer, have lower infant

mortality rates, and better quality of life for less money. They know that if the system

is "reformed" there will be less money, insurance companies will face competition for

the first time (a novel notion in a capitalistic society); which means they will have less

money to pour into Congressional coffers. Healthcare reform would dry up one of the

biggest revenue pools that Republicans use to fund their political campaigns. (Democrats

are not off the hook here either. The so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats are receiving

millions of dollars of contributions from healthcare industries committed to killing

reform.) Neither Republican leader in the House or Senate has offered an alternative

proposal to reform the system, increase access, and reduce the cost. A few have trotted

out medical savings accounts as an alternative; but know that that does nothing to address

the underlying structural problems in the system.

We go back to Brown's interview and the amazing image of a man looking like a deer

caught in the headlights when asked what he is for, rather than what he is against. It was

a great TV moment. If every interviewer would ask every opponent of healthcare reform

the $64,000 question "...therefore what?", the ensuing silence would say more than the

President can about the nature of this debate. This is not a debate. This is not about two

competing ideas on how to fix a broken system. This is a campaign, well funded and well

organized, to kill reform and have things stay as they are.

Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa is one of two Republicans supposedly trying to

negotiate a middle ground and produce a more moderate proposal. He is on record as

opposing any public option. He is also on record having promised Senate Republican

leader Mitch McConnell that he would not vote for any bill the majority of Republican

Senators oppose. So what is he negotiating? How would Senator Grassley answer when

asked "...therefore what?"

Try it in any debate you engage in with political foes: You don't like the President's

economic stimulus package, therefore what do you propose? You don't want to change

energy policy in this country: "...therefore what?" You didn't like President Clinton going

to North Korea to bring home the captured American journalists: "...therefore what?"

It is easy to bluster and bloviate, argue and attack, criticize and kvetch, but it is much

harder to answer: "...therefore what?" What do you think? I welcome your comments

and rebuttals. Please send them to

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First They Came for the Women

Lubna Hussein is a Sudanese journalist who is on trial for wearing pants. As absurd

as that may sound, if she is found guilty she will be whipped 40 times tearing her skin into

a bloody pulp. She was arrested in July when the Public Order Police (I swear that is their

title) raided a cafe in Khartoum and arrested her and twelve other women for violating

the nation's indecency law. Ten of the women have been convicted and whipped already,

but Hussein and another woman decided to fight the law in court. Hussein would receive

40 lashes, but says she will take 40,000 if necessary to abolish the law.

Other than protecting the lives of my wife and family, I can't think of anything else

so precious to my principles for which I would allow myself to be tortured like this. My

admiration of her courage knows no bounds.

There are a number of reasons why the plight of Ms. Hussein is important. First, if

we want to identify societies that represent a possible threat to our national security; we

need to look at those who have a terrible human rights record, and in particular, oppress

and degrade women and refuse to grant women equal rights. If we look at Pakistan or

Turkey, we see nations with large Muslim majorities, but also nations that have recognized

the rights of women (yes they could be better, but so could we).

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, bells and whistles should have gone off in

Washington, D.C. They immediately imposed Shariah Law and women were treated as

third class citizens. It was only a matter of time before we would have to confront them.

How women are treated is like the canary in the coal mine. It's an early warning device.

Despite this, the role of women in many of these countries is rarely at the top of our

priority list when dealing with them. When President Omar al-Bashir took over the Sudan

in 1989, and imposed Shariah Law and a crackdown on women; it should have drawn

immediate condemnation from the West. It did not. Since Bashir assumed power in a

coup, he has given aid and comfort to al Qaeda (including accusations of protecting Osama

bin Laden); and is now under indictment by the World Criminal Court in the Hague for

his role in the genocide against members of the Tutsi tribe, in which as many as two million

people were massacred. Why is it that oppression of women so rarely stirs us to act and

then usually too late?

Ms. Hussein says the indecency law is not supported by the Quran. She challenges

any government official or cleric to show her a verse in the Quran that speaks of whipping

women because of a dress code. This brings up the second reason this story is important.

It once again raises the specter of religious fundamentalism. If how a nation treats women

is a sure indicator of a future clash with our values, fundamentalism comes in a close second.

It doesn't matter if it is Islamic, Jewish, or Christian fundamentalism. Religious

fundamentalism and the denigration of women's rights go hand in hand. Religious

fundamentalism is antithetical to intellectual rigor, pluralism,, and democracy. Religious

fundamentalism tolerates no dissent and allows for no market place of ideas to compete

against each other. One of the worst decisions of the Bush administration (and it's tough

to single out just one) was to write a constitution for Iraq which allows Shariah courts

to have the last word on all laws passed by the Parliament. This will eventually lead to

a clash between fundamentalist and secular forces which could easily tear fragile alliances

apart and return wholesale violence to the nation. If Iraq begins to oppress women again,

what will the response of the United States be?

We face our own fundamentalism in this country. They want to impose their view

of morality on the rest of us. These fundamentalists have fought a rear guard action

against the expansion of women's rights for more than forty years. They would be

comfortable with American indecency laws; and they would be happy to control what

we read, movies we see, television we watch, and conversations we engage in. They are

a direct threat to the freedom we enjoy under the Bill of Rights.

Whether you read Hebrew scriptures, Christian scriptures, or the Quran; it is clear

that ethical behavior, kindness, love, and care for others are themes that run through

all these. Oppression, intolerance, prejudice, injustice are themes that run consistently

through fundamentalism. We have to be willing to stand up for great traditions and

reject those who would use God or Allah or Yahweh to push their own perverted agendas.

A woman in the Sudan is willing to put her body on the line to challenge radical

fundamentalism, and this country should be doing everything it can to support her. This

is not the time for diplomatic niceties. This is the time to realize that a nation that will

whip a woman for wearing pants is a nation we will eventually have to confront in the same

way. Lets start now. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

They Don't Like Me...They Really Don't Like Me

A theme is emerging from the corporate media concerning the Obama presidency.

His push for energy reform and healthcare reform have made his poll numbers go down

and fewer Americans like him now than when he was elected ten months ago. The corporate

flacks and pundits then opine that Obama is putting his entire presidency at risk; and that

he should back off, retrench, retreat, or go find Dick Cheney's undisclosed secret bunker and

hang out there. The corporate media shills go so far as to proclaim that he is risking the

Democrat's chances in 2010 in the mid-term elections; and some seem to indicate he could

be costing himself his own re-election in 2012. These corporate Cassandras weep and gnash

their teeth at the President's "plummeting" poll numbers. Doesn't the President know

that people disagree with him? Doesn't the President know he is staking his career on

these proposals? Doesn't the President know he is less popular today? The honeymoon

is over. The bloom is off the rose. He isn't the darling he once was. Oh the humanity of

it all!!

I wonder how President Truman would have faired in this corporate media world.

After fighting a world war against them, President Truman proposed a plan to economically

rebuild Europe, particularly Germany. The Marshall Plan would cost hundreds of billions

of dollars in today's money at a time when the nation is reeling from war. Truman had

already angered lots of Americans by desegregating the military. His national popularity

at the time was reported to be at about 30%. (Can you imagine a President's ratings so low?

Oh yes, George Bush.) What would "Hanbaugh" have to say about spending billions to

rebuild Germany? Can you imagine what paroxysms of rage would spew forth out of the

regressive echo machine? O'Reilly would go nuts. Faux News would declare Truman a

closet Nazi. Will, Krauthammer, Barone, Crystal, and Barnes would be tearing their hair

out excoriating a proposal to benefit our "enemies" while the economy at home is barely

recovering. Dobbs would wonder if Truman were really an American or a fifth columnist

in disguise. They would all declare him politically a dead man walking.

This is actually a fun game you can play with your friends. Pick an issue that is

progressive: social security, medicare, voting rights act, civil rights act, G.I. bill, FHA

loans to buy your homes, Clean Water or Clean Air Acts or the creation of the Environmental

Protection Agency (Oh, can you imagine what "Hanbaugh" et al would do with a government

agency to protect the environment? How much more commie/socialist can you get?)

Then see who can come up with the best outrage, headline, tag-line or slogan. We could

turn it into a party game. Instead of playing "Pictionary", you could invite your friends

over to play "Reactionary".

The President's popularity is down from the heady days of January 20th. The President

is encountering stiff resistance to his ideas. The President isn't selling his ideas well enough.

The President needs to be more involved. The President needs to be less involved. The

President has proposed too much. He isn't focused. He is too focused. Oh! Oh! Oh!

Does anyone remember that Obama promised to do all this when he was running

for President? The same man who steam-rolled John McCain and expanded the Democrats

control of Congress, promised to reform healthcare, change our energy policy, improve

education, improve our foreign policy image, rebuild our economy, and create new jobs

in new technologies. Americans voted for him to change things. Not all voted for him.

More than 40% of the country said they didn't want him or his ideas. Tens of millions

of Americans rejected him. Yet, opposition to change has brought out the black crepe

hangers warning of doom and gloom for him and the nation.

Fact: Every poll taken shows a majority of Americans want healthcare reform.

Fact: Over 60% are in favor of a public option. Fact: Americans don't want pre-existing

conditions to prevent them from getting coverage and they want the cost of healthcare

reduced. Fact: Americans want a new energy policy in this nation which makes us less

dependent on foreign oil and addresses the problem of climate change. (A majority of

Americans believe global warming is real.) Fact: The President's personal popularity

is still very strong and the popularity of his opponents is still in the dumper (latest polls

show Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's popularity is at 18% and House

Republican leader John Boehner's popularity is at 13%). Americans trust the Democrats

on the economy and healthcare and energy more than the Republicans; and as of today,

the Republicans have not offered a single new proposal to counter anything Obama has

suggested. In fact, South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint says that killing

healthcare reform "...could kill Obama's Presidency"; and he is all in favor of that.

The President knew he would take hits because no one likes change at first. He knew

the polls would go down. So what? He knows something else too. If he can get a bill into

a conference committee, he can shape it as he wishes. If he can get a healthcare reform

bill, an energy reform bill, an economic stimulus package, and more money for community

colleges through this Congress this year; he will have kept his promises and will ride a tide

of positive feeling into the mid-term elections and beyond. By doing nothing but opposing

the President, the Republicans guarantee themselves permanent minority status in this


Don't let the "nattering nabobs of negativism" in the corporate media get you down.

Call your Senators and Congress people. Demand they support the President. In particular,

call Senator Diane Feinstein and tell her that she won't get re-elected if she opposes the

President on healthcare reform or energy legislation. Inundate her office with feedback

so there is no doubt left about the consequences for her if she fails to be a loyal Democrat.

Then sit back and watch. This is going to be good theater for a few more months.

Oh, copies of the new game "Reactionary" will be in toy stores just in time for the

Holiday rush (Oh, I'm sorry, Christmas rush, O'Reilly will have a field day with that one).

Be sure to get your order in early. What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wall Street vs. Main Street

It was reported this week that an oil trader at Citigroup will receive a bonus check

for $98 million this quarter. This is not the repeat of a story from two years ago. He will

get this bonus in the summer of 2009. Citigroup only exists today because of billions of

taxpayer dollars used to bail it out. The markets that this trader used were propped up by

billions of taxpayer dollars. Wall Street exists in its present form because of billions of

taxpayer dollars. Yet, when the Obama administration introduces a plan to tighten

restrictions on financial markets, create a new consumer protection agency to oversee

the financial markets, increase transparency in financial trading, and prevent Wall Street

from rewarding people who take disastrous risks for short term gains (like a $98 million

bonus); Wall Street is spending millions to defeat or water down these proposals. It's

actually worse than you imagine. The disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street is

totally perverse and not in a good way.

Recently, the stock market is back over the 9000 mark and enjoying the best

performance since Obama became President. Is this investor optimism based on better

earnings reports from U.S. companies? No. Could the credit for this market run-up go

to the reports that housing starts are increasing or that home prices have bottomed out?

No. Maybe Wall Street is reacting to a downturn in the rise in unemployment for the first

time in sixteen months, or maybe they are buoyed by auto makers reporting a growth in

sales over this time last year? No. It appears that the financial world has renewed optimism

because the Obama administration's attempts to protect you, clean up the financial markets,

re-regulate an out-of-control system to prevent future economic disasters has failed

miserably so far. When asked if President Obama should get credit for the good economic

news, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said "No". He said the economy is "healing itself"

because they slowed Obama down.

Alex Merk is an analyst at Merk Investments, and he is quoted as crediting the

upswing in markets to the failure of the Obama administration to meet it's agenda ("...the

stalled agenda in Congress has also helped the Dow"). Brian Gardener is an analyst at

Keefe, Bruyette, and Woods. When markets cratered in March, investors worried that the

Obama administration would nationalize the banks (to protect your savings), impose

punitive rules on credit card issuers (who were charging over 30% interest, changing your

rates without telling you, raising late fees without telling you, and canceling credit cards

even if your balance was current), and allow judges to lower the principal and interest

payments on mortgages (to prevent you from losing your home, driving the price of a home

into the ground, and allow you to stay in your home, and keep millions of homes from going

onto bank balance sheets). Gardener goes on "...since then, the bankruptcy bill has fizzled

and bank nationalization talk has died out...President Obama did sign a credit card bill,

but it's provisions were weaker than we feared (we dodged that bullet...), healthcare reform

has slowed, while a climate change bill that would have imposed taxes on businesses that

emit pollutants has stalled in the Senate".

Mr. Gardener, Mr. Merk, and Wall Street are thrilled that anything attempted

on your behalf, anything proposed to protect your money, or ideas offered to reign in the

practices that produced the greatest economic meltdown since 1929, were defeated.

Legislation to begin to deal with climate change, so that we leave our children a better

environment than we found, has been blocked in the Senate; and corporate shills are

disrupting town hall meetings across the nation to defeat healthcare reform, and the result

is that Wall Street is thrilled.

It is pretty clear that you are going to have to pick sides. Are you rooting for Wall

Street or Main Street? I used to think you could do both, but I am less and less sure about

that stance. I see nothing that Citigroup, AIG, Goldman Sachs, and the financial world in

general do that has benefitted me. Do they improve the quality of your life as they trade

and sell risky investment vehicles or push paper? They make nothing. They cause nothing

to be made. While the financial markets boomed, American industry was taken offshore

and millions of jobs lost. In fact, practically any time a corporation announced layoffs

(that's people being fired, not downsized), the stock for that company would rise. Wall

Street loves massive firings. Wall Street was ecstatic when corporation after corporation

went into bankruptcy court (something Congress made more difficult for you or me to do

at the urging of Wall Street); and abandoned their employees pensions and healthcare

obligations, leaving millions of people on Main Street without retirement income or


When I worked in Congress and me boss wanted to know about a bill, the first

thing I would check was which side the Chamber of Commerce was on. If they were for it,

it couldn't be good for the average American. It proved to be a valuable litmus test. As you

listen to the debate on energy legislation, financial re-regulation, healthcare reform, and

the rest of the Obama agenda; ask yourself a simple question. Is Wall Street for or against

what the President is proposing. If they are against it, you can bet your last taxpayer

bailout dollar that it will benefit you on Main Street; and that is the last thing they want

to happen. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send

them to