Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Long Con Continues: Eric Cantor and Mitt Romney’s Shameful Lies about the Vote to Repeal

by Nomad
Following the news that the Supreme Court had declared the health care reforms, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican congressman from Virginia, announced that the House Republicans would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act on July 11. According to CBS report:
Cantor said that the continued debate over the health care law is "all about this election and whether this law is going to go forward or not... Mitt Romney will be the one that will, frankly, get the health care that most people want back on track."
Attempting to transform what would normally be considered a humiliating defeat into campaign rhetoric for the Republican challenger is an understandable, even bold, maneuver but it does sound strangely detached from reality. Obamacare was actually based on the plan that Romney as governor enacted in Massachusetts. This puts him in the rather idiotic position of calling for a repeal of a healthcare plan he once supported and hailed as his victory when he was governor.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mainstream Media Misreports Supreme Court ACA Decision

by Nomad
Finally, Americans got some good news today. (At least, Obama did.)
Against expectations, the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate- a key component of the Affordable Care Act- is after all constitutional. It was really a 50-50 call because with the recent decisions by the court, even the most preposterous result was quite possible.
Of course if you were a devoted viewer of CNN and Fox News, you might have never known what the Supreme Court ruled. Here are screen shots (courtesy of ThinkProgress) of what those so-called news organization reported.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Apple Stores: More Discrimination. Not So Thinly Disguised

Apple Stores in Georgia Won’t Sell iPads to People Speaking Farsi
WSB-TV in Alpharetta, Georgia has interviews with two people who were denied iPads and iPhones at two different Apple Stores after employees learned they were from Iran.

Sahar Sabet, 19 and a U.S. citizen, says it all started when an employee asked her what language she was speaking with her uncle.

“When we said ‘Farsi, I’m from Iran,’ he said, ‘I just can’t sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations,’” Sabet said.

“I would say if you’re trying to buy an iPhone, don’t tell them anything about Iran. That would be your best bet,” Zack Jafarzadeh, who had a similar experience at a nearby Apple Store told WSB-TV.

On Tuesday, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on Apple to change its policy after learning about WSB-TV’s report.

“Apple must revise its policies to ensure that customers do not face discriminatory treatment based on their religion, ethnicity or national origin,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “If the actions of these Apple employees reflected company policy, that policy must be changed and all employees retrained.”
Clearly this policy was intended for international export and not domestic individual sales. Whether it was a failure to explain the company policy effectively to its store managers or whether store managers simply took it upon themselves to interpret the policy in this way is unclear. Inter-company memos will no doubt show what went wrong.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Health Care Reform Debate: Shame of a Superpower

by Nomad
It’s often asked how people can vote against their own best interests. As a social phenomena, this strange, pathetic quirk of democracy is being played out before our eyes in the healthcare debate. 
For a nation that once prided itself in being a leader among nations, with a system of governance to be admired and imitated, the whole thing has been one embarrassment after another.

First the good news.
According to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, health insurers that covered large groups were required to spend at least 85 cents out of every dollar on medical care or “activities that improve health care quality.”

This provision became effective last year and its implementation is now producing real results. Insurers who spend more than allowed on expenses other than patient care will be required to compensate policy holders. Meaning, policyholders can expect to see a rebate check in the mail before August 1 2012. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

When the Supreme Court Struck Back at Roosevelt 2/2

English: NRA (National Recovery Administration...
NRA (National Recovery Administration) member: We Do Our Part (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Nomad
In the PART ONE, we examined the attempts by Franklin Roosevelt to develop a series of far-reaching social programs to get the American economy back on its feet. One of his many programs was the National Recovery Act, which attempted to restart and reform the industrial sector. Roosevelt sought to standardize manufacturing and labor by drafting a uniform code for all industries. It was a bold initiative.

The Case of Sick Chicken
Under the blanket codes of National Recovery Act (NRA), Brooklyn-based Schechter Poultry was found in violation of the industry codes for the poultry industry. The sixty charges against the retailer were later to be reduced to eighteen, and among those eighteen charges were "the sale to a butcher of an unfit chicken" and the sale of two un-inspected chickens.

The poultry industry in the 1930s had long been corrupted by gangsters and the Schetchers had struggled hard to evade “the rackets.” When the NRA was introduced, Joe Schechter joined in and displayed the blue eagle in his window. He had little interest in following the codes and it wasn’t long before inspectors found him out.

Friday, June 22, 2012

When the Supreme Court Struck Back at Roosevelt 1/2

by Nomad
In the past I have written about Roosevelt’s forgotten battle with the Supreme Court in 1933 but I’d like to return to this lost bit of history for a closer look. It isn’t all about our grandfather’s history because at this time, in these days prior to the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare reform program, the parallels, I think, are striking. 
It isn’t the first time the executive and the judicial branches have been at loggerheads and perhaps lessons can be learned from history.

Action Now
The 1932 presidential election was not even close. President Herbert Hoover’s failed policies and his apparent detachment from the trials of his own people during the Great Depression won his few votes. At no time in American history had the conditions been quite as unforgiving as this and yet Hoover seemed out of touch with the average Americans. 

Like most economists of his age, Hoover on the other hand had warned against "mindless experimentation" in established government policy. He felt that the best policy was to wait things out, the national economy would recover on its own. It always had before.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Taken For Granted: Comparing a Week of Food Around the World

As our great-grandmothers used to tell us, "Waste not, want not." It's an idea that has vanished with the pocket watch and the Victrola. It's worth noting how much we in the West take for granted when it comes to food.

Too often we in the developed countries of the world forget how lucky actually are. Many of us cannot begin to imagine what it is like not to live in a land of plenty. It's easy to do if you have never been hungry.
And because we tend to take things for granted, we become part of the problem. 
Take food and how we waste it.

According to a 2013 report by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American tosses about 25 percent of food and beverages purchased. For a family of four, the money wasted could total from $1,365 to $2,275. Food spending as a percentage of the overall budget has decreased dramatically over the last few decades, but it’s still the third-largest expense for a household.

The organization also points out that feeding the U.S. population requires an enormous amount of land and resources. When the resources to grow that food are considered, this amounts to approximately 25 percent of all freshwater, 4 percent of the oil we consume, and more than $165 billion dollars all dedicated to producing food that never gets eaten.
Cover of "Hungry Planet: What the World E...

Clearly as population in developing countries continue to grow, there will be a limit to how much can be produced 

The photos below are from the book "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, a photographic study of families from around the world, revealing what people eat during the course of one week.

Each family's profile includes a detailed description and how much was spend every week. It's a truly eye-opening examination of human life on Earth, isn't it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The March of the Bonus Army- Washington, June 1932

by Nomad

The story of the Bonus March on Washington in the summer of 1932 isn't as famous as it should be. Here's a post about the protests and how they were ended by brute force.

Where the March Began

The 1932 march of the Bonus Army has largely been forgotten by the public. The reason for this collective amnesia is perhaps easy to understand. Details about why it started and how it ended do not fit in well with how we Americans think of themselves and our country. Moreover, a few of the people of we think of as heroes today played less than heroic roles in the affair.

The origins of the march began much earlier than 1932. They can be traced back to the days after the Armistice of the First World War. Returning veterans came home and were dismayed to learn of the differences between their wages compared to those in the civilian branch of the selective service. State-side draftees made quite a bit more than those that had actually fought and risked their lives. The war veterans demanded that some kind of compensations be paid for their lost income. During those boom years, Congress tended to agree.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Madwoman of Chaillot: Truth Never Goes Out of Fashion

By Nomad
Don't you think it's time to take a small sanity break? I know I need a moment to breathe. And Sunday is a good day for reflection. So, I wanted to share with you a bit of thoughtful entertainment. It might bring you  a bit of solace, perspective and perhaps even a smile.

The Madwoman of Chaillot was written by the French playwright, Jean Giraudoux, in 1943 but you'd never know it. (Sadly Giraudoux died before the play was performed on stage.)
The message of the play really hasn't aged a bit. Perhaps it is even more suitable today than it in the time it was written.
The French charm is definitely there and nobody handles this kind of satire comedy quite in the same way as the French.

The plot is pretty simple. One day at a Parisian cafe, a group of strangers meet. These are not ordinary men by any measure. They represent- in various ways- the embodiment of modern evil in the human form of bankers, industrialists, militarists etc. (Chief baddie in the film version was effortlessly played by none-other then Yul Brynner.)
They have come to form a new corporation, though they haven't a name or even a product. To aid them in this a prospector arrives who convinces them that under Paris there are vast oil reserves. It is, he tells them, there for the taking. There's only the small matter of destroying a city to get to it.

Enter Countess Aurelia, the madwoman of Chaillot- a local slightly eccentric neighborhood character. By accident, at the same cafe, she uncovers the plot, She hatches her own brilliant scheme to set the world back on its proper course. Her practical solution? Round up and exterminate of all of the evil people of the world. 

Although there are so many great lines in the play, I have taken two selections from the film version made in 1969, starring Katherine Hepburn in the title role. The film version is unfortunately flawed, in desperate need of editing, I'm afraid. Nevertheless, it is worth watching if you find the film and the time to watch it. 

In one scene, the Countess is made aware of the problem- that the world is not happy. When the Countess learns about the cabal and their plans, she is not impressed. "What a wretched world they live in. So unlike ours."

The people of the neighborhood agree that time has come to reveal to the madwoman the truth, that things are in a right mess and the world has been taken over by people like the group in the cafe. 

It begins with the line "Countess if only you knew... Shall we tell her?"

Incidentally the role of The Rag picker is played by Danny Kaye. A surprisingly good performance, I thought.
In the second scene, the Countess has been informed by one of her equally mad friends, Countess Josephine, played by Dame Edith Evans, that you can't go around exterminating people willy-nilly. ("They'll be missed and we'll all be fined. They fine you for the least little thing nowadays.") 

Countess Josephine- who represents the Justice system with all its flaws and solemn nonsense- tells the Countess that her idea of removing all of the evil people in the world is indeed practical.. providing they've all had a trial.
Countess: A trial?
Josephine: Certainly. You can't kill anybody without a trial. That's elementary. "No man shall be deprived of his life, liberty and property without due process of law."
(Given the state of things at the moment with Gitmo, midnight "renditions," the abolition of habeus corpus and drone strikes based on kill-lists, those are painful lines.)

Despite the apparent rigidity of the law, you can get around most obstacles through inane loopholes. By the use of several of these conveniences, Josephine and the Countess come up with a solution. 
Josephine advises:
"You can summon the defendants three times- mentally, if you like- and if they don't appear, the court may designate an attorney to represent them."
When the Countess tells her that she doesn't know any lawyers, Josephine dismisses her concerns by explaining to her:
"A defense is like baptism. Absolutely indispensable but you don't have to know anything to do it. You can get anybody off the street."
(Josephine, acting at the judge in the ad hoc court, does object to the first suggestion of having the deaf-mute as the defense for all of the evil in the world, however.)

In this way, the pair agree to have a trial in the damp and dark recesses of her basement, and the local refuse-collector/rag-picker will act as their defense. He knows them "to the bottom of their souls." After all, he goes through their trash every day. What does he find in their rubbish? Mostly flowers. 

If you haven't seen the film, I'd advise you to rush over to YouTube and search for it. It probably won't be there long since for obvious reasons. (Some executive will realize that he is losing money every time somebody shares something for free. 

If I had my way, this play would be performed every year in every town in America. What about you, do you have any favorite plays that you would like to see performed?
Here's a clip from the film: You can find other clips HERE.


If you enjoyed this post, be sure to link it at other comment sections in other sites where relevant. Sharing is a pleasure and it's really what the Net is all about.
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Liar: UK Prime Minister Exposes Rupert Murdoch in Leveson Inquiry

News Corp Rupert Murdochby Nomad
Rupert Murdoch, head of the media empire News Corporation, has come under fire in the UK. His newspapers are accused of hacking into private phones in the name of journalism. Questions are now being asked about how much influence did Murdoch actually have in the political process and what was the effect.

The UK media ethics investigation and phone-hacking scandal which threatens to bring down Rupert Murdoch’s vast media empire, News International, has taken a dramatic turn.

A former prime minister has charged that Rupert Murdoch  lied under oath to the Parliamentary inquiry committee investigating allegations of excessive media influence in the political process. 

The Leveson Inquiry
Prime Minister David Cameron took the courageous step of creating a Parliamentary investigatory panel, led by Lord Justice Leveson. The Leveson Inquiry was charged with looking into the claims of illegal phone hacking at Murdoch-owned newspapers, with illicit pay-offs to the police for inside information. Additionally, the inquiry was to look into the wider of issue of British media ethics. (What they could scavenge anyway).

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Businessman Rick Scott - 2/2

Rick Scott
by Nomad

IPart One of this two-part series we took a close look at the rise of Rick Scott who, through its aggressive business tactics built the largest for-profit healthcare provider network.
Before the scandal which was to rock the company to its foundations, the corporation had grown to more than 340 hospitals, 135 surgery centers and 550 home health locations in 37 states and two foreign countries. 
And then, in a matter of months, it was out of Scott's hands.

Scott's Sudden Fall 
Scott's prestigious empire all came a-tumbling down when, on March 19, 1997, FBI agents, in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service, the Health and Human Services (which oversees Medicare), and the Defense Department's Criminal Investigation Service raided Columbia/HCA facilities in El Paso, Texas. Eventually the seizure of documents regarding the case would expand across the country. At issue were allegations that Columbia/HCA had knowingly bilked Medicare and Medicaid.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Businessman Rick Scott 1/2

Businessman Rick Scott, 
the Face of 
Corporate Healthcare
by Nomad
The story of Rick Scott's career before entering politics is a fascinating one. How a person with such a background would even consider the public scrutiny of a campaign show something about the audacity of the man.

When businessman Rick Lynn Scott decided to throw himself into the Florida governor’s race, he had one significant problem to deal with. 

As a candidate with absolutely no prior political experience, his sole qualification for being the Sunshine State’s governor was his shady history in business. 

A Very Aggressive Corporation
Before he lost his empire, Rick Scott had much to be proud of. At the young age of 34, he co-founded what was to become the largest private for-profit health care company in the US, Columbia Hospital Corporation

According to his supporters, Columbia was a wonderful example of how the free market system could be applied to health care, an idea that conservatives have gushed about for decades. Columbia, like Bain Capital, became known for its aggressive business tactics and since its founding had embarked on one of the most aggressive and successful buying and takeover sprees ever seen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

People Power to the Rescue

by Nomad

I saw this video clip the other day. I don't have much information on it. It appears to have come from Brazil but that could be incorrect. The information only reads:
About 30 Dolphins stranded and saved by local people at Arraial do Cabo (Brazil) in the morning at 8:00 AM on March 5th 2012.

Besides, it really doesn't matter where it came from. I'd like to believe it could happen on any day and on any beach.
I hope you feel as inspired as I did by this understated example of people power.

Related articles

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dr. Dodd and His Warning about Hidden Fascism in America

by Nomad

William Dodd Ambassador
"Fascism is on the march today in America. Millionaires are marching to the tune. It will come in this country unless a strong defense is set up by all liberal and progressive forces. ..."

These words, apt as they are today, were actually said by Franklin Roosevelt’s ambassador to Nazi Germany, William E. Dodd, in an interview upon his return from Europe on January 7, 1938. 
Having seen first-hand the threat of fascism, he believed, with all of the connections between the industrialists and bankers, that time was running out for liberty in the United States. 

Soft-Spoken Historian from the Carolinas

Dodd had not been Roosevelt’s first pick for the ambassador post. The other candidates for that position understood the challenges and realized what kind of political equilibrium would be required to make everybody happy. With varied excuses, each had politely bowed out of the running. Finally, in June of 1933, Roosevelt offered the post to Dodd and he accepted.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fascism's First Steps: Heywood Broun's Warning From the Past

by Nomad

Heywood Broun

The name Heywood Broun has largely been forgotten by most people today. That's a real pity too.

As a newspaper writer, he was a forerunner of the great journalists like Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. Sadly it seems as though the era of the great reporters has come to an ignoble end and we’ll probably not see a new Broun or Murrow anytime soon.

So I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to Mr. Broun.

Born in Brooklyn in 1889, Heywood Campbell Broun was a child of fairly well-off circumstances, and with his father’s wealth from business, was privately educated at the Horace Mann School. In 1906, he entered Harvard University but never finished his studies there because, the story goes, he failed to pass an elementary French course.

As a columnist, Broun worked for a number of different papers, including the New York Tribune and the New York World. His career also took him abroad as a foreign war correspondent with General John J. Pershing in Paris during World War I.

He was certainly a character and many stories were told about him. One story revolves around his acknowledged sloppiness.The magazine article made this observation about his appearance
In the country, he affects a proletarian costume, consisting of a sweatshirt and pair of frayed trousers, offset by a considerable expanse of unrelieved Broun in the middle. He wears shoes cracks with age and socks that look as though they might be a continuation of long winter underwear.
His appearance was such that when he first met General Pershing in Paris, the General asked him in all seriousness, "Have you fallen down, Mr. Broun?"

Friday, June 8, 2012

Render Unto Ceasar: Was Jesus a Secularist?

by Nomad

Jesus, the founder of the Christian Church, never precisely stated his opinions on mixing religion with government. However, one passage from the New Testament supports the theory that when it came to religious affairs and government, Jesus thought they were separate things altogether.

Christians are familiar- or they ought to be familiar- with this story from the life of Jesus, in which, he outsmarts a shifty lawyer. 
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.
“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
That’s probably a familiar passage even to people who are not all that devoted to the Christian faith. Besides showing that Jesus could argue as well as any lawyer of his time, or that his audience was not merely gullible village folk- it also demonstrates something else. Jesus himself believed that the realm of the government and the realm of religion were not to be intermixed. 

In his time, the powers of Caesar was not merely the head of government but, as a emperor of the known world, he was the government. His obscure whims required absolute obedience. 
Judea was little more than an occupied colony of Rome and dissent- even in its mildest form- was not tolerated. It was a case of "you are either with us or against us."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Deconstructing the Meme: “The Worst President Since Carter”

President Carterby Nomad

If you are unlucky enough to encounter a die-hard neo-conservative or tea-party member, you are quite likely to hear them use this phrase to castigate President Obama.
"Obama? He’s the worst president since Carter.”
Its use has all of the hallmarks of Rovian propaganda. As a phrase, it is mindlessly repeated without any clarification, and dropped into a discussion like a finely-rolled ball of manure as if these twin statements were facts beyond question or debate.

According to its own logic, Obama is a terrible president just like Jimmy Carter was a terrible president. They rarely elaborate or feel the need to, since it is, they seem to think, a matter of common knowledge.
Lately even Candidate Romney has been attempting to put this comparison into use. Recently Romney said. “Who would’ve guessed we’d look back at the Carter years as the good ol’ days, you know?” To some, that kind of talk smacks of desperation.
Given the disastrous interval between the years 2000 and 2008, I thought the phrase "the worst president" deserved a closer look. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Admit It, America

Earlier this year, an interviewer asked Mitt Romney to clarify a remark about public resentment regarding Wall Street conduct and inequality. He had said that such talk was driven by “envy.” He had also stated that a public debate about inequitable wealth distribution in this country was not necessary.

The interviewer asked him:
I’m curious about the word envy. Did you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious? Is it about jealousy, or fairness?
His arrogant response was off-the-cuff and, as with so many things Romney says without long consultations with his handlers, he revealed his real mentality and put his foot in it.
You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.
Given the weak state of the economy and the candidate's extreme wealth (a personal fortune reportedly around $250 million) it was a strange thing for any person running for office to say.

According to one source, over the last 20 years, America has had the highest or nearly highest poverty rates for individual adults, families and children among 31 developed countries. Meanwhile, the super-rich get just getting richer. According to the Aug. 23, 2010 New Yorker reported that between 2002 and 2007, the top one percent of rich Americans have seen their share of the national income double. 
In the decades after World War II, the wealthiest Americans were heavily taxed, with marginal rates over 90 percent on income above $400,000 (Bennett, 2010). Massive government investments in infrastructure, education, technology, and knowledge-based enterprises spread those tax dollars around, redistributing the nation’s wealth and creating “social value” (Alperovitz, 2009, p. 88) that was available to all citizens.
All that changed when Reagan became president and began a series of tax cuts which largely benefited the wealthiest Americans. One effect of these cuts has been a dwindling flow of revenue to spend on the infrastructure and for social investment.
(S)ince the late 1970s, wages have lost ground for the average worker while executive compensation has soared (Noblet, 2006). In 1979, the top one percent of Americans earned 33.1 times what the bottom 20 percent earned, but by 2000, this multiplier had more than doubled to 88.5 (Hogan, 2005).
Wealth distribution is even more skewed, with the top 20 percent of Americans owning 84 percent of all national wealth, while the bottom 20 percent own a mere 0.1 percent (Bennett, 2010). The United States has not seen this level of wealth inequality since the Roaring Twenties (Noblet, 2006; Tyson, 2004).
Had there been any one area of the economy that the conservative Republicans could point to and claim success, then an argument could be made. However, by following these policies, (and by launching two poorly conducted wars and allowing Wall Street to become an unregulated casino) these kind of wealth distribution has brought to nation to the brink of financial ruin.

And yet, according to Romney, nothing is amiss except the imagined jealousy of the 99%.

Related articles

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Seattle Shooting: Compassion and a Homeless Man

by Nomad
On Wednesday of this week, Seattle was the scene of another inexplicable random act of violence. A mentally-disturbed man armed   with two .45-caliber handguns,   walked into a corner coffee house and started shooting the patrons, leaving five people dead.

After stealing the hat from one of the victims, the attacker marched away and killed another person, and stole her car. Later turning the gun on himself, the man, Ian Stawicki, ended the murderous drama in the usual way. 

(This particular incident was somewhat marginalized by the horrific cannibalistic attack on a homeless man in Florida.)
It seems like these incidents have become so common these days, the coverage hardly makes any lasting impression on the public conscience. It's amazing how quickly society moves on.

Anyway, I found a story  related to this shooting that caught my attention. I thought I would share it. 

Police credit homeless felon for helping at tragic shooting

I agree that the article is a moving story, but I am not sure the reason why. Could it be because so many people think that homeless people have no feelings? 
Isn't it ironic that people could think that the homeless would lack a sense of empathy and compassion for a stranger in need?