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Saturday, November 07, 2009

GOP Health Care Bill Denies Election Lessons

The Republican version of the House Health Care bill that Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) announced this past week, demonstrates that even with the trouncing the GOP has taken in the last two Congressional election cycles, the "Party of No" has learned nothing about the political will of the American people.

With its generous offerings to insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the Republican bill is the same kind of charade that they put forth under the previous administration. In exchange for transparent promises of feigned altruism from corporate special interests, GOP lawmakers continue to insist that this vital financial engine of their political base will make it better for everyone, if only we give them billions of taxpayer dollars. They did it in 2003, with an energy bill that gave tax breaks to oil, gas and electrical corporations, and the did it in 2003 with billions to pharmaceutical companies to bring down prescription drug prices to seniors.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering Ted Kennedy

"Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him." — Statement from the Kennedy family

The Associated Press has a list of highlights from remembrances of Sen. Kennedy from public figures.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On burying my father

My dear, sweet father...

I'm grateful, even briefly, to have ridden the wake of his spirit's breeze.

His spirit was always larger than his true presence, which easily overtook - but could not function without - his mortal soul. Swimming in the infinite flow was the way he showed me, without words... with just kavanah, sacred intention, and action.

If he were not my father, I might have given myself over to him as my guru, my rebbbe, but for the crashing together of the worlds of fathers and sons, a generation and oceans of time apart.

Yet, even in the clash, those lessons too often penetrated slowly, and more than wanted, too late. So, in that, my friends, I advise you thus:

- Should your good fortune include a parent's old wisdom, imported to you anew, relish it. Step out of your relationship with them as a parent and just be with it;
- In your relationships to your own children, remember that who you are is more important than what you say. To paraphrase someone much greater than I, be the person you want your children to be...

for our own individual evolution is a byproduct of our existence, but what holy Humanity strives for never changes:
Love, Peace, and the ability to melt back into creation (whatever that is to you).

Now, having lost my father, and my brother, Mark - perhaps my father's greatest and most humble protoge - I find myself alone, in a space I never knew existed... the space where one person stands between me and life's fulfillment - me. I stand between the place where I am, and the man I strive to be.

I love you all,

Monday, March 09, 2009

Georgia thumbs its nose at Obama stem cell decision

From my page:

"SB 169 would recognize all human embryos as having the legal right to life and legal protection under the laws of the state of Georgia." - Georgia Right to Life

The State Senate of Georgia took a bill they had conceived to regulate in-vitro fertilization - in the wake of California's "octo-mom" controversy - and made it an anti-embryonic stem cell research bill.

The move goes farther than just negating President Obama's lifting of the Bush era federal funding ban. The bill, which moved out of the 13 member Senate Health and Human Services Committee with a 7 to 6 vote, decrees that a fertilized embryo is a person, and thus subject to the full protection of a person under the law.

"A living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity," says the bill, SB169, entitled the Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act.

The bill goes on to say, "The in vitro human embryo shall not be intentionally destroyed for any purpose by any person or entity or through the actions of such person or entity."

To insure that the fertilized embryos are only used for reproductive applications, the bill includes language that would keep the embryos out of the hands of pure research scientists:

"A person who engages in the creation of in vitro human embryos shall be qualified as a medical doctor licensed to practice medicine in this state and shall possess specialized training and skill in artificial reproductive technology."

This is bad news for some of Georgia's colleges and universities, where researches were looking forward to the opportunity to “push their research toward the most promising technologies rather than the most politically expedient technologies,” Aaron Levine, a Georgia Tech public policy professor, said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution prior to the Monday's news from Georgia's capitol.

Emory University, in Atlanta, also expressed some excitement about how Obama's move could impact cancer research.

SB 169 could come to the floor as soon as Thursday for a vote.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Moving the pile - capitalism, socialism and liberation

A commentary from my page:

I have a pile of small, white stones that have washed down the walkway beside my house and now cover, quite completely, the drain we installed to carry the rainwater under the yard and out to the creek.

Mr. Obama, move these stones! (PBG)

One day, I'll have to move that pile and liberate the square grid of black plastic that filters the water into the drain. Only then will the water flow where it's supposed to, instead of gurgling over the stones and turning the backyard into a swamp.

Barack Obama is doing to the government what I need to do to that pile of stones. He is pushing against the pile, trying to get the money flowing again. For him, the task is sisyphean, because the harder he tries to move the mountain of stones, the higher the bulwark of dirt the special interests and lobbyists throw against the pile to try to keep it just where it is.

"Industries from health care to agribusiness to mining that stand to lose under President Barack Obama's policy agenda are ramping up lobbying campaigns to derail or modify his plans," wrote the Wall Street Journal, Thursday.

The WSJ article goes on to cite several groups that are gearing up to lobby Congress to their way of seeing things (boldface type is mine):

"...the former chief executive of HCA Inc. [Hospital Corporation of America] unveiled a $20 million campaign to pressure Democrats to enact health-care legislation based on free-market principles."

" 'We were surprised President Obama included farm payments in his speech [Tuesday],' said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "But it is Congress where the rubber meets the road.' "

" alliance of electric utilities, coal and mining companies said it will spend as much as $40 million to make sure Congress approves a global-warming plan with funding for technology to reduce emissions that includes carbon capture and storage at coal-fired plants."

"The Aerospace Industries Association of America has spent $2 million so far on an ad campaign urging that defense spending shouldn't be slashed to offset shortfalls in other areas."

In his Saturday radio address, however, President Obama said he was up to the challenge. He said that the budget he submitted to Congress "is the change the American people voted for in November."

He also was assertive in his defense of ending subsidies and tax breaks for farmers, the energy industry and the medical insurance companies:

"I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I."

The president knows that the pile of stones is no pushover. "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," he said, adding, "but I don’t."

What he has to do, what he finds necessary to do, is to start skimming off the top layers of the pile in order for the water that was not reaching the stones on the bottom through trickle-down, to saturate them directly. Only then, he believes, will the water flow through the system properly.

"...that is the change I’ll be fighting for in the weeks ahead," the president concluded, "change that will grow our economy, expand our middle-class, and keep the American Dream alive for all those men and women who have believed in this journey from the day it began."

To me, it seems clear that those who defend the status quo as capitalism are the same people who condemn the president's vow of "change" as socialism. They want to keep the pile of rocks tall and top heavy. They see letting anything flow to the middle and former middle class as entitlements and socialism.

What they may not realize is that they ought to be grateful President Obama is taking this on for them, because otherwise, our decades of apathy will turn into anarchy, and then there will be no one left to pick up the pieces.

By the way, if you're looking for me next week, I'll be out in my backyard moving rocks.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Too big to fail: feudalism, socialism and other demons of capitalism

(From my column)

There is a lot of talk these days about how the $700 billion bank bailout that passed in 2008 was a step toward socialism, that we were effectively nationalizing the banks. The "big bad" government would own our savings and our mortgages.

In fact, at the end of last year, according to Fox News, RNC Vice Chairman James Bopp, Jr., tried to get Republicans to sign on to a resolution that said, in part, that bailouts and other federally funded stimuli are:

"...moving our free-market based economy another dangerous step closer toward socialism."

(The GOP continues to find endorsers of the pending resolution. It is scheduled to be voted on next week by party delegates attending the RNC Winter Meetings in Washington, DC.)

But to move toward socialism in this country would take a lot more than having some ownership in banks and automobile companies. It seems to me that it is easier to view last year's final money grab by the outgoing administration as a slide back to feudalism, rather than a leap ahead to socialism.

Here's why I say that.

When, in the course of human events, our forebears revolted and evolved the radically progressive democratic republic we call home, they only sidestepped the troubling system of King George and the lords who supported and served him. Rather than allow a ruler to disseminate what was his will, the United States of America was to be a nation that was run according to the will of the people. To insure that no one branch of government superseded the other, the Founding Fathers intelligently installed a system of checks and balances.

We do not work to serve the king. We do not work to serve the lord of the manor. We work to better our own lives and the lives of our neighbors.

Let me take you back to that time, though, when the king counted on his loyal lords to give tributes and defend his lands. In return, the king ensured that those who supported him were all in alliance. If one of the fiefdoms chose to no longer support the king, His Royal Highness could entreat neighboring lords to subdue the free lance, in exchange for treasures and more land to call their own.

Likewise, if the kingdom was losing land to an invader, and his own lords were failing in their common defense, he would send the King's Army out to help them. If the fight was really desperate, the king would send an emissary to another kingdom, to ask for their help with men and money. In this way, wars were fought in feudal Europe for hundreds of years.

The patronage period of the Renaissance was only a different form of the same thing. The merchant republics that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance were little more than oligarchies, an early, quite undemocratic, form of capitalism. Someone with money made your life possible, but it was still a class society where nobility got ahead and the peasants suffered.

Indeed, according to Wikipedia's entry for Renaissance/Historiography, "many historians now point out that most of the negative social factors popularly associated with the 'medieval' period – poverty, warfare, religious and political persecution, for example – seem to have worsened in [the Renaissance] era."

The royal courts of Europe in the closing centuries of the last millennium were just an extension of that oligarchy. The royalty of the time was so puffed up about the Renaissance that their ancestors created, that they did not notice the seething peasantry they were crushing under their pointy shoes. They told them to "eat cake."

Even today, there are those who argue that in order to get Americans working, you have to make sure the companies that employ them get all kinds of breaks, like offshore tax shelters, like not having to pay them their employees a living wage. The trickle-downers basically echo that old capitalist chestnut, "What's good for GM is good for America."

Companies that are "too big to fail" are just modern day fiefdoms. Giving them our tax dollars, and the money we have gone to China to borrow, is just a new way for the king to save his realm. It is not socialism. It's just a perpetuation of the status quo.