Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Sozadee Has Become a Challenged Site of Late
Something has afflicted my site in the last two to three weeks. My staff of writers has deserted. Do they feel responsible? Will My readers be next? What has caused this calamity? Please don't tell me it's my content or my ponderous writing?
I'm asking for help among sympathetic readers. Not having a clue, I need a few.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Cherry-Picking Among Presidential Pearls Cast Among Swine
Joe Wilson (and company) spurned Barrack Obama’s casting about for bipartisan support; I trust they were in the minority.
I could not be happier if I agreed 100% on all issues with my President. I don't. But, I am a quantum-bunch happier with Prez Obama than I was his predecessor. BHO, after all, can deliver a rousing good speech, even a moving speech, and for that reason alone his art is worth viewing or reading (preferred!). And that's before you even consider its substance. I expect general agreement among my readers on this point. I would ask any dissenters how often they took the trouble to TIVO any presidential speeches during the first eight years of the 21st century.
As I write this, I am recalling how rigorously I parsed George Bush's 2nd address to a joint session of Congress. That came nine days after the 9-11 attacks. That speech marked the beginning of my disillusionment with George Bush. I mention this because there could have been a similar disenchantment with Obama's speech last night. That fear was dispelled today when I was able to read Barack Obama's words in my own voice. He's still my main man.
Even so, I'm only being an equal opportunity critic if I spotlight Obama's best moments. I do so below and I also presume to nudge some corrections in his text. If an unreasonably long column results, I would say in its defense that what follows is only 22% of the length of the original text.
Here, then, are the pearls I enjoyed from last night's speech, along with indicated caveats:
.....I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. (Applause.) It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way....
Our collective failure to meet this challenge -- year after year, decade after decade -- has led us to the breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or too expensive to cover.
We are the only democracy -- the only advanced democracy on Earth -- the only wealthy nation -- that allows such hardship for millions of its people …..
… the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem for the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care …..
…. there's the problem of rising cost. We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It's why so many employers -- especially small businesses -- are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally -- like our automakers -- are at a huge disadvantage …..
Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close. Nothing else. (Applause.)
….. There are those
..... Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. (Applause.) Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas
My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. That's how the market works. (Applause.) Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly -- by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.
Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people; they do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill, they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations."
Now, I have no
..... And here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. (Applause.) I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. These cuts will come from drastic cuts in our occupational forces in Iraq and our expeditionary forces in Afghanistan. (Applause.) Now, part of the reason I faced a trillion-dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for -- from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. (Applause.) I will not make that same mistake with health care.
..... Now, add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years -- less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. (Applause.) Now, most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent -- but spent badly -- in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit materially. The middle class will realize greater security, not higher taxes.
..... But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. (Applause.) I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out. (Applause.) And I will not -- and I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
There you have it. The last portions of President Obama's speech were suitably moving, and don't require mirroring here. Readers are encouraged to read the original.
As I said above, the 44th President of the United Sates does not have me in his pocket, but he does have me in his corner.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Do Not Throw Van Jones Under My Bus
Anthony "Van" Jones is an environmental advocate, civil rights activist, attorney, and author who served from March 16 to September 5, 2009 as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the United States.
Why was his term so brief?
Well, it turns out he has offended Republican sensibilities. The GOP alleges that
- he is a self-admitted ex-communist
- he is a truther
- he called them out by using a common expletive which references posterior anatomy.
In 1992, while still a 24 year-old law student at Yale, Jones participated as a volunteer legal monitor for a protest of the Rodney King verdict in San Francisco. He and many other participants in the protest were arrested. The district attorney later dropped the charges against Jones. It was during these tumultous post-Rodney King jail-time days that Jones said,
I met all these young radical people of color -- I mean really radical, communists and anarchists. And it was, like, 'This is what I need to be a part of.' .... I spent the next ten years of my life working with a lot of those people I met in jail, trying to be a revolutionary ... I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th ... By August, I was a communist.Well, big freaking deal. 24 years old, Jones was one year away from completing his law degree. I was a not-nearly-as-young white guy living and working in Los Angeles county during those same days of the Rodney King aftermath. Those were crazy days and I was crazy then, too. Bought and carried loaded guns wherever I went. Also, by the mid-1990's, Marxism-Leninism was as about as relevant as any other political cult. Try Ayn Rand?
Charge number two is that Jones' signature appeared on a 'truther' petition. Jones, a long with other signers attest that the statement they signed was different than the one which eventually was published.
I can see that. Not everyone understands that there's a big difference between arguing on the one hand that Bush and Cheney deliberately allowed the 9-11 attacks happen so that they could attack Iraq and Iran and - OTOH - arguing that the 9-11 attacks occurred out of the sheer incompetence/negligence of George Bush. The most plausible explanation for the first eight years of the 21st century is moronic and incompetent complicity on the part of the GOP.
Besides I have never put much credence in conspiracy theories spawned by the question of cui bono. That goes for the grassy knoll theorists as well as the truthers. Classify them all as fruitcakes and let God sort them out. As Bill Maher says,
Bottom line, Van Jones believes, as I do, that George Bush just wasn't bright enough to be a successful conspirator.
Finally, the is the GOP charge that Van Jones was impolitic:
I post not to praise Jones, nor to excuse him. I post this to exonerate him.
Van Jones is a fighting Progressive of varsity potential. I can't wait until he gets suited up and back in the arena.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Step Back from Mission Creep in Afganistan - Part III
A principal aide to Britain's defense minister resigned on yesterday, attacking Prime Minister Gordon Brown's stay-the-course counter insurgency (COIN) policies on Afghanistan and accusing European allies of not pulling their weight.
Eric Joyce knows what he's talking about.
He is not some Labor Party hack who worked his way up through union ranks. Joyce, a decorated Army Major, is one of the few Labour MPs with military experience.
In his letter of resignation addressed to the Prime Minister, Major Joyce said,
As you may know, I told Bob Ainsworth some weeks ago that I intended to step down as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Defence Secretary before the start of the new parliamentary term.What is the significance of Major Joyce's departure?
.... I ... now feel that I can make my best contribution to the Labour effort in parliament by concentrating on helping, as a regular back-bencher, to show that Labour remains sound on matters of Defence.
.... Our continuing success in helping people from all parts of society become more prosperous, while helping the least well-off most, is built upon that .....
We are now, I think, once again at a critical time for Labour and Defence.
The Conservatives, of course opportunistically, think they can convince the public that we have lost our empathy with the Defence community. We must not allow this to happen.
I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets.
Nor do I think we can continue with the present level of uncertainty about the future of our deployment in Afghanistan.
I think we must be much more direct about the reality that we do punch a long way above our weight, that many of our allies do far too little, and that leaving the field to the United States would mean the end of NATO as a meaningful proposition.
The British people have a proud history of facing such realities. They understand the importance of the allied effort in Afghanistan/Pakistan and I think they would appreciate more direct approach by politicians. We also need to make it clear that our commitment in Afghanistan is high but time limited.
It should be possible now to say that we will move off our present war-footing and reduce our forces there substantially during our next term in government.
We also need a greater geopolitical return from the United States for our efforts.
For many, Britain fights; Germany pays, France calculates; Italy avoids. If the United States values each of these approaches equally, they will end up shouldering the burden by themselves.
I believe the next election is ours to win, thanks greatly to your personal great economic success. But we cannot win unless we grip defence....
First and foremost it registers on the Richter scale declining British public support for the U.K.'s boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Their casualties are intolerably high. and their treasury is intolerably low.
Secondly, it registers concern for the future of NATO unity. NATO, is after all, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Its original purpose was to counter balance of the Soviet Union. A somewhat weaker, but strident and autocratic police state under Putin is currently ascendent. Are we to risk the Atlantic Alliance to founder in a war of choice among the remote desert mountains in Afghanistan?
As I've said before, our British cousins always hear the barking dogs in the middle of the night before my more insulated fellow Americans do.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Step Back from Mission Creep in Afganistan - Part I
The citizens of our democracy have a fundamental right to debate and even doubt the wisdom of a president's policies. And the citizens of our democracy have a sacred obligation to sound the alarm and shed light on the policies of an Administration that is leading this country to a perilous place.Virtually no one who I can think of among Republican Senators has offered equally constructive criticism of President Obama's policies in Afghanistan.
I believe that this Administration is indeed leading this country to a perilous place.
Last Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Progressive Senator Russ Feingold stepped into the role of the loyal opposition left vacant by the entire Republican Party. His article was entitled, The Road Home From Afghanistan: Why a flexible timetable to withdraw U.S. troops will best advance our national security interests. He said, in part,
After nearly eight long years, we seem to be no closer to the end of the war in Afghanistan ….Like Teddy Kennedy, Russ Feingold calls for an open debate of critical foreign policy issue facing America.
We went into Afghanistan with a clear mission: to destroy those who helped to perpetrate the horrific 9/11 attacks. I voted to authorize sending our forces there because it was vital to our national security, and I strongly criticized the previous administration for shortchanging that mission in favor of a misguided war in Iraq.
…. But I cannot support an open-ended commitment to an escalating war in Afghanistan when the al Qaeda operatives we sought have largely been captured or killed or crossed the border to Pakistan.
Ending al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan is a top national security priority. Yet our operations in Afghanistan will not do so, and they could actually contribute to further destabilization of Pakistan. Meanwhile, we've become embroiled in a nation-building experiment that may distract us from combating al Qaeda and its affiliates, not just in Pakistan, but in Yemen, the Horn of Africa and other terrorist sanctuaries.
….. We also ignore the lessons of history by pursuing a drawn-out military mission in Afghanistan. The experiences of the Soviets and the British make it painfully clear just how elusive a military victory in Afghanistan can be. That alone should give us reason to rethink an open-ended military presence in Afghanistan.
….. Announcing a flexible timetable for when our massive military presence will end would be one of the best things we could do to advance our national security interests in Afghanistan. By doing so, we would undercut the misperception of the U.S. as an occupying force that has propped up a weak, corrupt and unpopular government, while at the same time removing a tremendous strain on our troops and our economy.
While we have many important goals in Afghanistan, we must be realistic about our limited ability to quickly change the fundamental political realities on the ground. The recent presidential election shows there will be no easy solution to the sectarianism, corruption and warlordism that plague that country. We should seriously question putting so many American lives at risk to expand, through military force, the reach of a government that has failed to win the support of its own people.
Instead of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, we should start talking about a flexible timetable to begin drawing those levels down. It is time to ask the hard questions—and accept the candid answers—about how our military presence in Afghanistan may be undermining our national security.
The Party of Loyal Opposition, Republican Party, is bereft of constructive ideas and incapable of offering plausible alternatives. It always falls to Progressives, who understand history, to correct the wayward course of our ship of state.
Monday, August 31, 2009
The Reich-Wing's Unwritten Constitution
I think this mythology is dangerous in an armed society.
Exhibit No. 1 is this carefully rehearsed exchange.
This is bigger than just John Voight.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The Torture Game
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Kennedy Healthcare Reform Bill Explained
Call it whatever you want to:
- Public Health Insurance
- Government-Run Insurance
- Socialized Medicine
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Lt. William "Rusty" Calley: One of Our Own War Criminals
But, because contrition itself is rare, it should be noteworthy.
On 16 March 1968, U.S. soldiers gunned down hundreds of civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. The Army at first denied, then downplayed the event, saying most of the dead were Vietcong. But in November 1969, journalist Seymour Hersh revealed what really happened and Calley was court martialed and convicted of murder.
The My Lai Massacre was one of the darkest moments in the Vietnam War. 2nd Lt. William “Rusty” Calley had ordered his platoon to kill everyone in the South Vietnamese hamlets of My Lai and My Khe. Initially 26 American soldiers were charged, but only Calley was convicted. He admitted on the witness stand that he personally executed civilians and received a life sentence for the murders of 22 people.
Calley always claimed that he was acting on direct orders from his company commander, and many Americans believed that he was scapegoated for the massacre. His sentence was later reduced by President Richard Nixon and he served three years under house arrest.
Despite many invitations from national news media, Calley had never before spoken publicly about it until last Wednesday, when he was invited to speak before the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus (GA).
His remarks would not have been on my radar, except that blogger Dick McMichael was in attendance and narrated it on his Dick's World site.
McMichael says that Lt. Calley made only a brief statement, but agreed to take questions from the audience. At one point with his voice breaking, Lt. Calley said,
There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai ... I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.During the Q&A, McMichael asked Lt. Calley for his reaction to the notion that a soldier does not have to obey an unlawful order, that in fact, to obey an unlawful order is to be unlawful yourself.
The ex soldier replied,
I believe that is true. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them - foolishly, I guess.I should add (as I recall), beginning when the U.S. Military command first questioned Lt. Calley, he has never denied his part in the massacre.
I post Lieutenant Calley's statement as an object lesson in integrity; there are a number of them to be extracted.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Who Let Abdel Baset al Megrahi Go?
Abdel Baset al Megrahi is a former Libyan intelligence officer.
On 31 January 2001, he was convicted, by a panel of Scottish Judges sitting in a special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, of 270 counts of murder for his part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988. Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment. Suffering from terminal prostate cancer, with less than three months to live, he was allowed to walk yesterday.
He returned as a hero to Tripoli to an enthusiastic crowd waving Scottish flags(lower right).
Who, then, are the Scots who let this mass killer walk?
They are Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, and Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice minister.
On 18-August, Salmond pre-endorsed MacAskill's decision, promising the Justice minister would
... take a decision shortly in the interests of justice ... I’m absolutely confident that if there’s one person in Scotland I trust to take the right decision for the right reasons it’s Kenny MacAskill .... The most important thing for all of us...is that the person taking that decision will do so on the basis of evidence he’s received and advice he’s received.Announcing the release, Justice Secretary MacAskill said the country’s justice system was based on both judgement and compassion. In a 20-minute statement explaining his decision, Mr MacAskill claimed releasing Megrahi was an expression of unique Scottish “values":
In Scotland we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people.That's crap.
The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.
Let me explain myself.
In my book of justice, (as I have said), in an open and democratic society,
- There is no place for the death penalty.
- Absent the death penalty, there is no place for mercy and compassion for political assassins. Before last week, I thought that was self-evidently obvious for convicted terrorists.
In the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie and all 259 passengers and crew members were killed. Megrahi's original sentence was only 27 years. That's one year for every ten people he killed. When he walked, he had served eight years? One year for every 33 he killed?
Terrorists and political assassins should be sentenced to rot to death in prison. And that's what Abdel Baset al Megrahi was doing when he was released.