31 August 2009

UPDATED: Remembering Poland

Updated links to: the ongoing war of words with Russia over Stalin's role, today's commemorative ceremonies in Poland and elsewhere, and ongoing efforts to rehabilitate Stalin.

Seventy years ago, 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland at 0445 on three fronts and by naval bombardment. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, and the battle for Europe was joined. Culturally rich Poland however, was sacrificed on the altar of delay and prevarication, and less than one year later, Norway and Denmark followed. Preceding the start of combat, Germany threatened all Jews, her neighbors, and took over a relatively complacent Austria. She took these actions one step further by hobbling Russian and Italy through a non-aggression pact and peace treaty respectively.

In 1943, Poland's agony culminated with the Warsaw ghetto uprising and deportation and slaughter of her remaining Jews. The end of the war brought no peace to Poland, which was promptly folded into the USSR after the Soviet Union invaded western Poland (eastern Poland was invaded following the non-aggression pact). Poland did not become her own nation again until 1989 when Lech Walesa, supported spiritually and politically by the Pope and
President Reagan, led the Polish arm of the Velvet Revolution.

Remember Poland.

30 August 2009

What a Charmer!

The opinion pages of the Las Vegas Review Journal bring us this little gem:
'On Wednesday, before he addressed a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Reid joined the chamber's board members for a meet-'n'-greet and a photo. One of the last in line was the Review-Journal's director of advertising, Bob Brown, a hard-working Nevadan who toils every day on behalf of advertisers. He has nothing to do with news coverage or the opinion pages of the Review-Journal.

Yet, as Bob shook hands with our senior U.S. senator in what should have been nothing but a gracious business setting, Reid said: "I hope you go out of business."

Later, in his public speech, Reid said he wanted to let everyone know that he wants the Review-Journal to continue selling advertising because the Las Vegas Sun is delivered inside the Review-Journal.'

How collegial and senatorial of the Senate's Majority Leader.

Glen Thrush of Politico wonders (hopes) if Reid was engaging in some obscure dry humor, while The Washington Examiner wonders if the pressure of a tight election & falling poll numbers are getting to him. A separate paper, the Las Vegas Sun is privately and locally owned, and shares a joint distribution arrangement with the Las Vegas Review Journal. Wikepedia reports that the current and former editors are personal and political associates of the Clintons, both both papers appear to be publishing poor poll numbers and doubtful editorials about Sen. Reid, so the animosity is puzzling.

For whatever reason, Harry Reid seems to be straying further and further from the calm, even-tempered leader he projected (and that contrasted so directly with Nancy Pelosi). Perhaps this is Reid's real problem.

Nevada Senate - Lowden vs. Reid

Polling Data

PollDateSampleLowden (R)Reid (D)Spread
Mason-Dixon8/17 - 8/18400 RV4540Lowden +5

29 August 2009

Debt, Deficit and the Health Care Debate

(I apologize for the extended posting delay - multiple ill family members (including myself) kept me away from the laptop along with frantic dissertation work. On to the topic at hand):

I'm refraining from posting anything about Sen. Kennedy. There is more than enough material out there, and it seems more fitting to leave his memory to those who knew him. Instead, we return to a familiar topic at The ModCon, deficit and the national debt, and in particular, their impacts on the health insurance/health care (depending on the week) debate. This post begins a series of discussions between BMG and a more liberal friend who will be posting counter-point (or at least, alternative ideas).

A recent article by David Gergen at the CNN AC360-blog site, was entitled "Deficits: Why they might threaten health reform - and what Obama might do." The implied question - "Can the President win the health reform debate given the dramatically increasing deficit and debt burden?' - is an excellent one. Putting aside the merits of particular aspects to the five bills circulating through the two houses of Congress, the very fact that the deficit and total national debt have grown so dramatically in the last eight months, is a large factor in much of the opposition to the proposals. The heart of Gergen's musings are laid out in four paragraphs:
'Yet even the Bernanke story cannot fully deflect attention from the other economic story engulfing the administration today: its official announcement of new economic projections – in particular, its acknowledgment that deficits over the coming decade will be even higher than it said only three months ago. Now, the administration is predicting that instead of $7 trillion in new deficits, the country will rack up a staggering $9 trillion in new deficits for the 2010-2019 period. (The Congressional Budget Office has published its own numbers today that are largely parallel.). Deficits of that magnitude would be extraordinarily dangerous and irresponsible for the country. They would double the national debt, risk much higher inflation, saddle future taxpayers with annual interest payments of over $900 billion, make us even more reliant upon China as a creditor, and over time would weaken us as a great nation. Talk about trend lines that are unsustainable! ... In view of all this, President Obama has a choice. He can push forward with health reform efforts, giving short shrift to these deficit concerns. If so – if he continues to insist that Washington is just too “wee-weed up” — he will find that some of his strongest allies will become more reluctant on a big health reform bill this year. Or he can come to grips with these grim forecasts and present to the nation a credible, comprehensive plan for reining in long-term deficits before Congress acts on health reform. The second path demands more courage – and is also the one of real leadership.'

The CBO's economic projections for the next decade were grim to begin with, and have been revised further downward over the last month. Spending $1 trillion on overhauling 1/6 of the economy, when the debt has been revised upward to $9 trillion (and the deficit to $1.6 trillion) and within months of TARP 2, the stimulus package and the largest budget in US history, is going to be a tough sell even to supporters.

Many of the Congressional leadership, and in the Administration, seems completely unwilling or incapable of accepting that much of the anger expressed in the Town Hall meetings is not about racism, gasping conservatism, or even plain contrariness, but rather a deep, abiding dislike of governmental creep and stratospheric debt. Dan Gerstein, a former adviser to Sen. Lieberman, recently published a telling article in Forbes.

'In the best-case scenario, the cumulative toll of all this spending and intervening would test most voters' tolerance for another major government expansion on health care. But for many already anxious Americans, it has rapidly resuscitated their skepticism about government and its competence in managing one-sixth of the economy. The fact that so much of what has come out of Congress is every bit as partisan and one-sided as the last eight years is only compounding those doubts--particularly for swing voters.'
The concept that the President and Congress are trying to sell, that one will lower the long-term deficit and debt by increasing government involvement and spending, is ludicrous to most voters. They're well-aware that increasing spending, and increased involvement leads to increasing debt, and therefore the increased need to pay for that debt. There are only two ways to pay the bill: increase taxes, decrease spending. The latter is the principle reason there is so much concern over rationing and a loss of Medicare benefits. The former is already being floated by multiple Administration officials. The more sordid aspects (cronyism and favoritism in particular) of pushing a bill this large are not helping sweeten voter temperaments. Neither is the 'tone-deaf' aspect of the sales pitch coming from the President. Until 'listening' to these real concerns becomes important to the Administration and Congress, the people are going to continue to push back. They desperately need a new tact and fresh ideas; in fact, they should scrap all the current bills under discussion and begin anew. I doubt they have the sense, guts or humility enough to try.

19 August 2009

What's Good for the Goose Should be Good for the Gander

Congressman John Fleming (R, LA) is a physician who is a co-sponsor of the 'Empowering Patients First Act,' and of House Resolution 615, a measure to ensure that Congress is required to participate in any health reform plan passed in Congress. You can click on a link (included below) to send a request to your own members of Congress, asking that they agree to House Resolution 615. The website also allows one to view a summary of his health care reform proposal. I encourage you to read the summary of the act, and to send the request to each member of Congress for your state.

From the congressman's website:

THE LATEST UPDATES:

Empowering Patients First Act

We need to bring about changes that make health care affordable, accessible and available to the millions of Americans that want health care insurance, but either can’t afford it or are denied for reasons such as a pre-existing condition.

To address these and other fundamental reforms that are necessary to improve our health care system, Congressman Fleming is proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Empowering Patients First Act.

This bill preserves the important decisions made between an individual physician and the patient and improves the quality of care offered across the country.

This bill contains all the essential elements of good health care reform including expanding private insurance to all Americans who want it, removing pre-existing illnesses, portability, subsidies to the working poor, access to excellent primary and specialty care and lawsuit reform. All of this is accomplished without a government takeover, gutting Medicare, long lines, bureaucrats interfering in the sacred doctor-patient relationship, and it is budget neutral.

Keeping the Truth From the Public

Opponents of a government run take over of health care have put together an organizational chart of what this plan would look like. House Democrats DO NOT want the American people to see this and even constructed roadblocks in approving communication between Republican congressman and their constituents. To view what House Democrats don't want you to see, click here.

There are "Seven Dirty Words" the House Democrats don't want you see when it comes to their health care plan. To view the list, click here.

House Resolution 615

Over the past few weeks, members of Congress and the American people have come to know the details of the Administration's proposed health care plan. Call it whatever you like, I believe this proposal is nothing more than government-run health care. As a physician, I am amazed at the number of bureaucrats in this House who are quick to claim a government-run health care plan is the reform this country needs. In response to this, I have offered a resolution that will offer members of Congress an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, and urge their colleagues who vote for legislation creating a government-run health care plan to lead by example and enroll themselves in the same public plan.

Under the current draft of the Democrat healthcare legislation, members of Congress are curiously exempt from the government-run health care option, keeping their existing health plans and services on Capitol Hill. If Members of Congress believe so strongly that government-run health care is the best solution for hard working American families, I think it only fitting that Americans see them lead the way. Public servants should always be accountable and responsible for what they are advocating.

Together we will work to ensure that any plan that is good enough for American families is good enough for every member of Congress.

If you would like to download a letter and ask your representative to consider supporting House Resolution 615, click here.

To see a list of Representatives who currently support H. Res 615, please click here.


17 August 2009

No More Fishy Emails?

Poli-Gazette reports that the White House is suspending the 'fishy emails' reporting site. Their article was in turn linked to a Politico report on the suspension of the email reporting site and program. Apparently being attacked by both the right and left (as personified by the ACLU) was more than the Administration could handle right now. Nonetheless, the White House still has a reporting system in place:
'E-mails to that address now bounce back with the message: “The e-mail address you just sent a message to is no longer in service. We are now accepting your feedback about health insurance reform via http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck."'
A quick perusal of the site shows a series of cute videos that address various 'myths' about 'health insurance reform.' There is a share ability the allows the reader to 'give others a healthy dose of reality.'

Cute no?

16 August 2009

Molon labe

Strangely enough, this was in today's Washington Post. It's more than worth a read.
'"Any man in combat who lacks comrades who will die for him, or for whom he is willing to die," William Manchester wrote of his time as a Marine in World War II, "is not a man at all. He is truly damned." A century earlier, Robert E. Lee famously remarked that it was good that war "is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it." Neither was glorifying war -- they hated its carnage. They were, rather, paying homage to the unique bonds forged in war, especially the one that enables so many to risk their lives, not only for friends but also for those they might have just met or have nothing in common with back home. ... Being effectively ruthless and genuinely caring are each manifestations of courage. The ability to effect their integration and foster the bond between leader and led can spell the difference between defeat and victory, because wars -- fought with weapons -- are won by people. Your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers. We are honored to lead them'

13 August 2009

Cross-Posting on Iran

Cross-posting from Revolutionary Road:
  • News from Evin : more than 20 prisoners were released
Since yesterday about 20 prisoners has been released but there are no details about the names .The only released prisoners we know his name is Hamid Choubineh former member of Islamic association of Tehran university who got freed on bail and his lawyer confirmed his freedom.
But there are some news stating that half of freed people are female.
  • News from Evin : Maziar Bahari visited his family
Maziar Bahari journalist of News week magazine in Iran and documentary maker after 52 days being in jail , yesterday morning visited his mother and his brother in law in Evin prison.
Saleh Nikbakht ,his lawyer refering to the above news said after phone negotiation with some authorities and requesting from Tehran prosecutor ,they let his family to have a meeting with him and his mother has said he was fine and in a good mental situation . Nikbakht added : I have not been able to visit Maziar and read his file yet .
  • Security and severe pressure on Kianoush Asa's family
Kamran Asa ,Kianoush's brother by referring to strengthening of pressures on their family since the 40th day ceremony for Kianoush on last Thursday said the whole family have been in security police office for the last three days .
Kamran has been summoned to revolution court of Kermanshah on Tuesday to commit that they won't cause any riots and there were some rumors since Wednesday morning stating that Kamran has been arrested which has not been confirmed yet.
  • Bus company union and velvet coup
Tehran and country side Bus Company Union by publishing a statement criticized the subjects in the first hearing court indictment which had mentioned bus company union as an executive arm of velvet coup .
All these happening while bus company union's president and vice president Mansour Ossanlou and Ebrahim Madadi are in jail since first of May and they have been charged by act against nation security which is kind of being happened to all civil activists in the recent years .
In this statement also has indicated that if deputy of prosecutor condemned us to have relation to foreign countries and getting paid for participating in velvet coup and have evidence for that why they did not refer to that and did not clearly mention it in the incident.
This union is an independent union and doesn't lean on any group, party ,employers and government .And if any kind of injustice happens to a labor organization in any part of the world ,world unions support each other.
  • Mesbah Yazdi : obey the President is as obedience to God
Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi one of the main supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad and one of the conservative clerics in Qom in the group of Basiji Artists has mentioned that as Supreme leader has beam of absent Imam-Mahdi- lights and also people accept him as Imam's replacement so they know that it's necessary to obey him as obedience to the absent Imam.
He added : When president received the supreme leader's edict , obey him is as obedience to God.
  • Ban Ki Moon sent a Congratulation message to Ahmadinejad
Reuters quoted from UN spokesman : Congratulations letter of UN General-Secretary has been sent on Monday.
But Marie Okabe , one of Ban Ki Moon's spoke-man said the letter was not the congratulations letter to Ahmadinejad and it has been sent as a tradition and it doesn't mean that we confirmed the election in Iran.
And in response to journalists where they wanted to see the letter ,she said that those kind of letters are confidential and non of them to no country has been revealed and seen by journalists.
  • Russian newspaper: Ahmadinejad is not viable , do not put eggs in his basket
This Russian newspaper has criticized authorities of Russia :why they have done somethings that Iranians know Russia as a pro-Ahmadinejad country and chanting slogan against Russia .Political journalist of this newspaper wanted authorities to review their policies before Iran while 2 months have passed from the election and change their position and accept that People in Iran doesn't like and want Ahmadinejad as their president and he's not popular as he was before.So now before it is too late they have to change their policies .
All these happening while there are some documents referring that velvet coup project has been designed by Russian authorities to remove opposition party in Iran and all are because Iran being important in region.
  • Letters of a group of Tehran judges to Hashemi Shahroudi : the ruins of Mr. Yazdi have become «land of dead people»
While only a few days to end of Hashemi Shahroudi responsibility course have remained in the Judiciary, a group of justice judges in Tehran province sent a criticizing letter to him about «show- similarly court » and «putting on trial tones of citizens», which they said «It's a shame to many of the judges of this land» and demanded a clear and transparent position of Head of the Judiciary in condemnation of these actions .
  • List of 100-person prohibited to be on IRIB
Despite of elite's advises about putting two party's problems and differences aside , IRIB directly and indirectly announced names of 100 artists and singer and actors who are prohibited to be on radio and TV.
  • Reports of today situation of Tehran grand bazzar
Today Wednesday ,Tehran grand bazzar was full of militia forces and some shops were closed but there was no gathering , all these happened because of some announcement referring to some gatherings in bazaar which did not happened and the only thing was shopkeepers were not happy because of the militia space in bazaar and it made customers be worried and ask :what's happening and why all these forces are here , is it going to be a gathering here ?
  • Workers strike in Haft-tappeh sugar-cane factory
Hafte-tappeh workers sat in the yard of factory on Friday 6 August and went on strike . When representatives of council wanted to interfere in this matter , workers did not let them and said no one have voted for you and you are not our representatives.
  • Workers demands in the protests are as follows :
1)Running the plan of jobs classified and increase of wages and rights
2)Solving the overtime issues
3)Using the card swip machine issue . As workers just have been working in Fridays(last day of week as Sundays in western calender) till 10 am in non-harvest season but now and with the technology of these machines they have to remain in the factory until the end of working hours regardless of being in harvest season or not.and the only time they have had to be with their families practically not existed any more.
4)Avoiding dismissal of temporary workers whom were supposed to get permanent positions but now have been threatened to get fired by higher authorities orders.
  • Execution of a religious activist in Central Prison of Sanandaj city
Shouresh Mehdikhani a religious activist from Sanandaj city whom on charges of membership in Jihadi(Sunni ) and Salafi groups had been sentenced to death,at 5 am Saturday 8 Mordad (Farsi calender) has been executed in the Central Prison of Sanandaj city.
  • Kianoush Asa's brother has not been arrested
Kamran Asa was not arrested and the news about him being detained is incorrect .Other brother of him Daneshvar Asa been summoned to intelligence office of sanadaj and being asked about his lecture in 40th day ceremony for Kianoush .
  • Kashan governor : Workers of Spinning and Weaving Company of Kashan city have not being paid for 22 months
Hosseiali Haji said: we are concern about oppressed workers of spinning and weaving company of Kashan and how they have to deal with their family's costs with only (appr USD 55)55000 Toomans per week. Some of them have more than 17 years experience and have been working here in the company and Kashan governor is people's representative and responsible for this delay but lack of access to Board and CEO of the company don't let us to response workers .
  • Similarly court of deprived prisoners from attorney and rights
Reporters Without Borders again condemns holding similarly courts for protesters to the violations and fraud in re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .

Reporters Without Borders announces "defendants always have been deprived from their basic rights in revolution courts but today not only they do not have to meet their lawyers but also court doesn't accept their defense attorneys . Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi has determined attorneys for them , himself.

Daily Presidential Tracking Poll of Likely Voters

Ouch!

From today's Rasmussen:
'The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 29% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-seven percent (37%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -8 (see trends). Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is feeling the heat of the health care debate. He now trails Republican Pat Toomey by double digits in an early look at the potential 2010 race. Two months ago, Specter led by double digits. Most Pennsylvania voters oppose the Congressional health care reform effort. Also, Specter’s lead is shrinking in his Democratic Primary match-up with Congressman Joe Sestak. The Presidential Approval Index is calculated by subtracting the number who Strongly Disapprove from the number who Strongly Approve. It is updated daily at 9:30 a.m. Eastern (sign up for free daily e-mail update). Updates also available on Twitter. Overall, 47% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. That’s the lowest level of total approval yet recorded. The President’s ratings first fell below 50% just a few weeks ago on July 25. Fifty-two percent (52%) now disapprove. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Republicans disapprove along with 65% of those not affiliated with either party. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Democrats offer their approval. Most women (51%) offer their approval while most men (56%) disapprove. For more measures of the President's performance, see Obama By the Numbers and recent demographic highlights from the tracking polls.'

11 August 2009

Raising the Debt-Ceiling Will Impress Our Lenders?1

On August 5th, I wrote about the three possibilities for Congress to deal with ballooning expenditures and debt: '... there are only three options available to he and to the Congress: cut spending (not going to happen with all the continued spending proposals), allow the debt to balloon to the point where we create long-term stagflation (which will kill any possibility of a second term), or increase income in the form of taxes.' In that same post I also discussed Treasury Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers floating the idea of raising taxes on all but the poor. Now Geithner wants Congress to pick door-number two, requesting that it raise the debt-ceiling from $12.1 trillion (where it was set to accomodate the stimulus package) to an as yet undetermined amount. The annual deficit expanded to $1.3 trillion in the first six months of the year, and is expected to hit $1.8 trillion by October when we also are expected to reach the current debt ceiling.

Geithner's argument? '"It is critically important that Congress act before the limit is reached so that citizens and investors here and around the world can remain confident that the United States will always meet its obligations," Mr. Geithner said in the letter.' This request is already raising a debate about the effectiveness of the debt ceiling and the message we send to our lenders:

'"It's a clear that we've got a sign that we've got a federal government that is out of control from the fiscal standpoint," said Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), who leads the conservative Republican Study Committee in the House. "I don't see how anyone can vote in favor of an increase in the debt ceiling and say they're doing it is a responsible way." Robert Bixby, executive director of budget watchdog the Concord Coalition, said the debt ceiling has little practical application in curtailing government spending. "You can't not raise it, because if you do, the Treasury in effect would be defaulting on the debt, which would be crazy," Mr. Bixby said. "It doesn't really provide a whole lot of restraint."'

Continuing down this road of out-of-control deficit-spending may very well force us through both increased taxes and the type of debt cycling we experienced in the late 1970s and 1980s. During that period, deficit loads increased dramatically enough that the nation was forced to print money, devaluing the currency and helping to create stagflation. What a legacy that would be. Further, there is no particular reason why increasing the debt-ceiling while failing to reign in spending will reassure our lenders (particularly China which has expressed increasing concern over our current fiscal policy). Congress and the Obama Administration may be collectively pushing us into a situation from which there is no clear or easy return.

05 August 2009

The CBO Continues to Deep-Six Obama Proposals

From the failure of the current 'cap and trade' proposals to do much to either help the environment or limit cost over-runs, to the current health-reform proposals (with analysis sent by request to members of Congress here), to the long-term effects of various budget proposals, the CBO has continued to throw cold-water on Congressional and Administration claims that the stimulus, annual budget, and spending proposals will do much if anything to help the economy. Much of their analyses point to a further increase of both annual deficits as well as the national debt, and to an increase in costs. And yet, Congress and the Administration continue to hawk their proposals as benefiting the overall economy, decreasing the debt and deficit and improving the prospects of middle-America.

Now it seems that there is a serious debate within the Administration about the raising of taxes on the middle class. Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, both of whom were heavily involved in the current economic meltdown prior to entering the Administration, have floated the idea as a necessity to reduce the deficit. While President Obama certainly doesn't want to look like he's backing out on his version of the 'read my lips pledge,' there are only three options available to he and to the Congress: cut spending (not going to happen with all the continued spending proposals), allow the debt to balloon to the point where we create long-term stagflation (which will kill any possibility of a second term), or increase income in the form of taxes. Given the ambitions and preferences of both the Congressional leadership and the President, it's pretty clear that continued tax hikes for most income levels are in store. Some increases may be hidden (as in the cap and trade package), and some may be open (after all, taxes are our 'patriotic duty' according to VP Biden, who also has declared that the stimulus is a success), but they're going to happen. Another clue: 'Everyone must sacrifice' according to President Obama.

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