Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Republicans spout "feel good" nonsense until reality intervenes.

Obama, Christie laud 'working relationship' on storm
David Jackson, USA TODAY

President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie view hurricane damage, trade compliments in a meeting with local residents, and speak with reporters.

If America were an opera, the single most frequent refrain would be: "Turn it over to the private sector!" 

The sentiment is soooo American. So manly. So lofty. So self-reliant.

But then, when push comes to shove -- awhen The Common Good is really at stake -- the private sector (as marvelous as it can be in its own domain) just doesn't get Big Jobs done. 

The federal government is a unique (and essential) depository of "large scale, nationally deployable resources and expertise." 

Here is the choice...

America can have one large federally-operated FEMA that stays busy with "sequential" disasters. Or, America can have 50 state-based FEMA-lettes, all of them needlessly (and wastefully) duplicating services provided by all other states, yet not one of those states comes  anywhere close to the awesome power and coordinated ability of the federal government.  

Yes, "government" has its problems. But government is not The Problem - as nation-destroying Ronald Reagan would have us believe. 

The Problem - an, tragically, it is a needless problem - is that some people who oppose and obstruct government, preventing it from discharging proper duties on behalf of "The General Welfare." (These same people, mistaking license for liberty, seem to oppose self-government as well. See Bill McKibben's fine essay, "The Christian Paradox: How a Christian Nation Gets Jesus Wrong" -

There is more to life than cockstrutting ideology although talk radio chest thumpers are as opaque to this truth as they are to others.

When push-comes-to-shove, vacuous ideology, operating in a vaccum, is seen for what it is - a will o the wisp.

Until push comes to shove, the rhinestone cowboys wear big boots, huff a lot and yodel "home on the range." 

I am reminded of the old saw: 

"How can you tell a "political cowboy" from a real one? 
With a real cowboy, the shit's on the outside of the boots.

Hurricane Sandy sealed Mitt Romney's fate, sweeping the pragmatic poseur out to sea.

Maybe one of those "private sector" rescue ships will pick him up.


The irony in all this is that American conservatives heartily approve public investment is in defense spending, a domain in which they never advocate private sector takeover. I wonder... Do these so-called "conservatives" ever ask why "the private sector" is unable to discharge the one-and-only publicly-financed service they consistently applaud?


6:30PM EDT October 31. 2012 - President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- the newest political odd couple -- pledged Wednesday to work together to repair the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy along the Jersey shore.
The Democratic president praised the Republican governor -- and backer of White House challenger Mitt Romney -- for his "responsive and aggressiveness" in launching efforts to restore power, clean up streets and cities, and produce clean drinking water.
"I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership," Obama told reporters after spending more than three hours in damaged parts of the New Jersey. The president also promised federal help to local officials and residents throughout the northeast who suffered major storm damages.
Christie, normally an outspoken critic of Obama's policies, praised his leadership during Hurricane Sandy, saying the president "sprang into action immediately," and has exhibited "concern and compassion" for the residents of New Jersey and the northeast.
"It's been a great working relationship," Christie said.
Obama and Christie spoke after a helicopter tour that included sights of charred houses, sand-packed and water-logged streets, and busted bridges and boardwalks.

At least one Jersey resident showed some puckish political humor; on the sand at Point Pleasant Beach, someone wrote ROMNEY in large letters.
Obama and Christie also traded compliments during a meeting with local residents. "I want to let you know that your governor is working overtime" to help repair the damage, Obama said.
"The entire country has been watching what's been happening -- everybody knows how hard Jersey has been hit," Obama said, adding that his "top priority" is to get power restored.
"The country comes to help because you never know when someone is going to get hit by a disaster," Obama said.
Christie told his constituents, "it's really important to have the president of the United States here."
The governor, wearing a blue polar fleece, slacks, and white sneakers, greeted Obama earlier in the afternoon at the airport in Atlantic City. The president wore khaki pants, a blue windbreaker and brown hiking boots.
The two men and Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, boarded Marine One helicopter for their tour. Obama and Christie also planned to speak with local officials about rescue and recovery efforts.
While the Atlantic City boardwalk appeared to be intact, observers saw mountains of sand covering city streets up and down the Jersey coast. Pools and pools of standing water also dotted the landscape.

In Beach Haven, on Long Beach Island, entire streets were underwater. Buildings were boarded up or bore broken windows.
Some of the worst damage occurred at Seaside Heights, where roads were covered by either water or sand. Both the boardwalk and a nearby carnival got smashed by Hurricane Sandy, leaving wood fragments everywhere. A fire that burned down at least eight houses still smolders. Other homes lost their decks to the storm's fury. Abandoned cars remained on a bridge knocked down at one end.
Earlier in the day, Obama visited FEMA headquarters in Washington for another briefing on recovery plans.
The president also called the New York University-Langone Medical Center to thank doctors and nurses for evacuating more than 200 patients as the storm approached, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
One topic Carney would not address: What impact, if any, will the storm have on Obama's fortunes on Election Day next Tuesday. Carney said the president is dealing with governors, mayors and other local officials "regardless" of political party.
"This is a time to focus on what was a devastating storm and the terrible aftermath of that storm," Carney said. "This is not a time for politics."

Predictably, Romney's Flops On FEMA. No Principles, No Shame

Mitt Romney Disaster Relief Position Faces Scrutiny

By ANDREW TAYLOR 10/31/12 

WASHINGTON — There's nothing like a natural disaster to test the depth of politicians' preference for small government.

And so it turns out that after Superstorm Sandy battered the East Coast, Mitt Romney is far more supportive of the government agency in charge of coordinating disaster relief. Only last year, as Romney hewed to the right while battling for the GOP nomination, he seemed to downplay the federal government's role in disaster response.
"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," Romney said at a debate last June. "And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."
Asked by moderator John King of CNN whether that would include disaster relief, Romney said: "We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids."
Now, a week before Election Day, after of a massive disaster, Romney's campaign is reassuring voters that his administration wouldn't leave disaster victims in the lurch. The public's attention is locked on the devastation caused by Sandy at a time when Romney and President Barack Obama are locked in a close presidential campaign. With Obama heavily involved in getting federal funds to those in trouble, the Romney campaign moved quickly to reassure the public it supports a strong program of storm relief.
"I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters," Romney said in a statement supplied by his campaign Wednesday. "As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters."
Wednesday's statement came after the candidate ducked a spate of opportunities Tuesday to personally clarify his position and the statement essentially endorsed the current disaster aid system.
But what the campaign wouldn't do is say whether a President Romney would insist that help for disaster victims be funded by cutting other programs in the federal budget, as many conservative Republicans insist.
Running mate Paul Ryan is squarely on the side of cutting other spending to pay for disasters. Earlier this year, he tried but failed to scrap a new system, established in the 2011 debt ceiling-deficit cuts deal, that boosts disaster spending and budgets help for victims of hurricanes, tornadoes and floods before they occur. House leaders rebuffed him, siding with Appropriations Committee members of both parties who like the new system.
What Ryan proposed is that when disaster strikes, lawmakers first scour the rest of the budget for savings to pay for rebuilding homes, roads and schools and helping small businesses.
That's easier said than done, especially since it can mean delays in getting aid out the door. Disasters like Hurricane Katrina – and perhaps Sandy – can prove so costly that it's difficult to find cuts in other programs big enough to pay for the aid.
As has been shown time after time – especially as tornadoes and hurricanes rip through politically conservative states – even the sturdiest tea party supporters become fans of government when it's doling out money to storm victims for motel rooms and other temporary housing or helping with house repairs.
That role fell Tuesday to New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, who was effusive in his praise for Obama and the federal government's initial response.
"The president has been outstanding in this and so have the folks at FEMA," Christie said on NBC's "Today."
It'll take several weeks to come up with damage cost estimates to determine whether FEMA's main disaster account will need more money.
FEMA has enough cash available to deal with immediate disaster relief, almost $8 billion, thanks to a six-month government funding bill passed in September and the new disaster financing system.
Politicians React To Sandy
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Eating oily fish every week reduces stroke risk modestly

Eating oily fish every week wards off stroke risk

Eating 2 portions of oily fish per week can help ward off stroke risk (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

The Times of India
 Oct 31, 2012
An international team of researchers including one of an Indian origin has found that eating at least two servings of oily fish a week is moderately but significantly associated with a reduced risk of stroke.

But taking fish oil supplements doesn't seem to have the same effect, said the researchers.

Regular consumption of fish and long chain omega 3 fatty acids has been linked with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and current guidelines recommend eating at least two portions of fish a week, preferably oily fish like mackerel and sardines. But evidence supporting a similar benefit for stroke remains unclear.

The team led by Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury at Cambridge University and Professor Oscar H. Francoat Erasmus MC Rotterdam, analysed the results of 38 studies to help clarify the association between fish consumption and risk of stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack or TIA). Collectively, these conditions are known as cerebrovascular disease.

The 38 studies involved nearly 800,000 individuals in 15 countries and included patients with established cardiovascular disease (secondary prevention studies) as well as lower risk people without the disease (primary prevention studies). Differences in study quality were taken into account to identify and minimise bias.

Fish and long chain omega 3 fatty acid consumption was assessed using dietary questionnaires, identifying markers of omega 3 fats in the blood, and recording use of fish oil supplements. A total of 34,817 cerebrovascular events were recorded during the studies.

After adjusting for several risk factors, participants eating two to four servings a week had a moderate but significant 6 percent lower risk of cerebrovascular disease compared with those eating one or fewer servings of fish a week, while participants eating five or more servings a week had a 12 per cent lower risk.

An increment of two servings per week of any fish was associated with a 4 percent reduced risk of cerebrovascular disease. In contrast, levels of omega 3 fats in the blood and fish oil supplements were not significantly associated with a reduced risk.

Several reasons could explain the beneficial impact of eating fish on vascular health, said the researchers. For example, it may be due to interactions between a wide range of nutrients, like vitamins and essential amino acids, commonly found in fish.

Alternatively, eating more fish may lead to a reduction in other foods, like red meat, that are detrimental to vascular health. Or higher fish intake may simply be an indicator of a generally healthier diet or higher socioeconomic status, both associated with better vascular health.

The differences seen between white and oily fish may be explained by the way they are typically cooked (white fish is generally battered and deep fried, adding potentially damaging fats).

Although there's a possibility that some other unmeasured (confounding) factor may explain their results, the researchers concluded "they reinforce a potentially modest beneficial role of fish intake in the cause of cerebrovascular disease."

In addition, they said that their findings are in line with current dietary guidelines that encourage fish consumption for all; and intake of fish oils to people with pre-existing or at high risk of heart disease.

They also support the view that future nutritional guidelines should be principally "food based."

The results were published on

Founding Fathers and Slaveholders

George Washington Mount Vernon

George Washington, shown here in an 1853 lithograph, oversees his slaves at Mount Vernon.
The Granger Collection, NYC

  • By Stephen E. Ambrose
  • Smithsonian magazine, November 2002

To what degree do the attitudes of Washington and Jefferson toward slavery diminish their achievements?

Americans in great numbers are rediscovering their founding fathers in such best-selling books as Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers, David McCullough’s John Adams and my own Undaunted Courage, about Lewis and Clark. There are others who believe that some of these men are unworthy of our attention because they owned slaves, Washington, Jefferson, Clark among them, but not Adams. They failed to rise above their time and place, though Washington (but not Jefferson) freed his slaves. But history abounds with ironies. These men, the founding fathers and brothers, established a system of government that, after much struggle, and the terrible violence of the Civil War, and the civil rights movement led by black Americans, did lead to legal freedom for all Americans and movement toward equality.
Let’s begin with Thomas Jefferson, because it is he who wrote the words that inspired subsequent generations to make the heroic sacrifices that transformed the words "All men are created equal" into reality.
In 1996 I was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin. The History Club there asked me to participate in a panel discussion on "Political Correctness and the University." The professor seated next to me taught American political thought. I remarked to her that when I began teaching I had required students to read five or six books each semester, but I had cut that back to three or four or else the students would drop my course. She said she had the same problem. She had dropped Thomas Jefferson’s writings from the required reading list.
"You are in Madison, being paid by the citizens of Wisconsin to teach their children American political thought, and you leave out Tom Jefferson?"
"Yes," she replied. "He was a slaveholder." More than half the large audience applauded.
Jefferson owned slaves. He did not believe that all were created equal. He was a racist, incapable of rising above the thought of his time and place, and willing to profit from slave labor.
Few of us entirely escape our times and places. Thomas Jefferson did not achieve greatness in his personal life. He had a slave as mistress. He lied about it. He once tried to bribe a hostile reporter. His war record was not good. He spent much of his life in intellectual pursuits in which he excelled and not enough in leading his fellow Americans toward great goals by example. Jefferson surely knew slavery was wrong, but he didn’t have the courage to lead the way to emancipation. If you hate slavery and the terrible things it did to human beings, it is difficult to regard Jefferson as great. He was a spendthrift, always deeply in debt. He never freed his slaves. Thus the sting in Dr. Samuel Johnson’s mortifying question, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?"
Jefferson knew slavery was wrong and that he was wrong in profiting from the institution, but apparently could see no way to relinquish it in his lifetime. He thought abolition of slavery might be accomplished by the young men of the next generation. They were qualified to bring the American Revolution to its idealistic conclusion because, he said, these young Virginians had "sucked in the principles of liberty as if it were their mother’s milk."
Of all the contradictions in Jefferson’s contradictory life, none is greater. Of all the contradictions in America’s history, none surpasses its toleration first of slavery and then of segregation. Jefferson hoped and expected that Virginians of Meriwether Lewis’ and William Clark’s generation would abolish slavery. His writing showed that he had a great mind and a limited character.
Jefferson, like all slaveholders and many other white members of American society, regarded Negroes as inferior, childlike, untrustworthy and, of course, as property. Jefferson, the genius of politics, could see no way for African-Americans to live in society as free people. He embraced the worst forms of racism to justify slavery.

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Welfare Queens

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Republican Prayer

Tax dollars subsidize every WalMart store $420,000.00 a year

Michelle Bachman. Ignorant? Stupid? Or both?

Washington's slaveholding:
(In this account of Washington's slaveholding, it is not pointed out that Martha freed her slaves prior to her death because "word got out" that George, who predeceased Martha, willed freedom to Mount Vernon slaves upon Martha's death. Duh.)

Republicans are epistemophobes.

Ronald Reagan, Deadly Drug Pusher

The deadliest drug by far.

Bartender Mike Boone, 47%er

Sarah Palin, Socialist Super Star.
Don't think so?


Trouble In Mitt Romney's Socialist Hospital Paradise

Romney Health Care
Washington bartender Mike Boone looks over one of the hospital bills he received after suffering multiple stab wounds fighting off a mugger.
WASHINGTON -- In the early hours of May 1, D.C. bartender Mike Boone came to the aid of a young woman who was being mugged.
Boone had offered to walk her home from the bar, Trusty's on Capitol Hill, since the immediate neighborhood is not known for having the safest streets at night. A man jumped from behind some bushes and grabbed the woman's purse. Boone also grabbed it, and the two men started fighting.
"We were punching each other pretty hard," Boone recalled. It wasn't until blood gushed from his body and the woman screamed that the bartender realized what had really happened.
"He was punching me with a knife," Boone said.
Boone passed out on the sidewalk. He woke up the next day in a hospital bed, recovering from eight stab wounds and a collapsed lung.
Like nearly 50 million other Americans, Boone lacked health insurance. A pre-existing condition -- in his case, a broken back he suffered in 1993 -- prevented him from obtaining affordable coverage. President Barack Obama's health care law prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, but that reform doesn't go into effect for adults until 2014.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal the health care law entirely if he's elected. In America, Romney has said, we don't let people die in the street simply because they lack health insurance: Hospitals are there to care for the uninsured.
Indeed, the health care system did not let Boone bleed to death on the sidewalk. But it did bury him in life-altering debt. After four days in the hospital and two surgeries, the 39-year-old -- hailed as a hero on Capitol Hill and beyond for his actions -- is staring at $60,000 in medical bills so far. And they haven't stopped rolling in."We don't have a setting across this country where if you don't have insurance, we just say to you, 'Tough luck, you're going to die when you have your heart attack,'" Romney said in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch on Oct. 11. "No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it's paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital."
Well-wishers, moved by media reports of his story, have donated $17,000 to help Boone cover his expenses, and he's hoping a public fund for crime victims could defray as much as $25,000 more. But Boone, who said he expects to earn only about $15,000 this year, figures he'll still be looking at nearly $20,000 in debt, all for risking his life for a fellow human being.
His story is one that plays out with troubling regularity in the bar-and-restaurant business, where a high quotient of workers go without health coverage. Post-tragedy fundraisers are common in the industry. The events serve as vivid examples of the private sector's safety net in action.
These fundraisers can defray some of the costs of emergency care, as they have done for Boone, but often they don't provide nearly enough. Paying for health care isn't as efficient or just as Romney suggests. Instead, much of the cost is borne by health care providers and insurers and, ultimately, the insured. We all pay.
"At first, I was like, man, this is really great, this could take care of it," Boone said of the charity he has received. "And then the big bills started coming."
Douglas Zehner is the senior vice president and chief financial officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in northwest Washington, where Boone was treated. He said Medstar gave $22.1 million worth of care to uninsured or underinsured patients and forgave $85.1 million in debt last year. But that charity isn't free. The only way the hospital can recoup its losses, Zehner said, is by negotiating with private insurance providers for higher prices, a process known as "cost-shifting."
"I have to price my services with insurance carriers because that’s the only group I'm even in the room talking to about how much they're going to pay me for my services," Zehner said. "So the way the cost-shifting works is you basically back into how much [money] you need to run that service [for all patients] and apply it to the expected number of people that are coming in that have insurance to get that service."
The fewer people who have insurance, the greater the burden on those who do have coverage. In order to cover the costs of treating the uninsured, premiums go up. The American Hospital Association estimated that U.S. hospitals performed $39.3 billion worth of uncompensated care in 2010, the most recent year for which numbers are available. That's 5.8 percent of total expenses.
This is a problem that Obama's health care law seeks to address and one that Romney himself has acknowledged in the past, before he began pursuing the Republican presidential nomination.
"Look, it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way," he said in 2010.
In 2007, he used even starker language: "When [uninsured people] show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that's not a form of socialism, I don't know what is."
Boone, who considers himself relatively apolitical, said he "absolutely" looks forward to the full implementation of Obamacare. "I'm so excited that this is happening," he said.
Given his pre-existing condition, Boone said, the cost of purchasing individual health insurance was astronomical. If an insurer even made him an offer, he said, he was seeing quotes of $1,000 per month -- far beyond what he could afford. Under Obamacare, Boone should be able to find an affordable plan on the new health care "exchanges" being established in 2014.
It's not a done deal, however. Although it's unlikely that Congress will have the Republican majorities required to approve a full repeal, a Romney presidency would have ways to hobble the law's implementation, jeopardizing coverage for people like Boone.
Romney has provided few details about what he would put in place of Obamacare, other than suggesting during one debate that he would protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing health insurance. His plan would do nothing for the uninsured. But Romney has repeated his line that hospitals will be there to treat those people.
"Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance," he said in an interview with "60 Minutes" in September. "If someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance and take them to the hospital and give them care."
Romney has not explained his contradictory statements about the value of giving emergency room care to the uninsured, and his campaign did not respond to a request for additional information.
But it turns out emergency room care for the uninsured is a less-than-ideal form of socialism.
The way that health care plays out in the restaurant industry shows the limits of charity in defraying the cost of hospital visits.
According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry employs nearly 10 percent of the U.S. workforce and has outperformed the broader economy during the past decade. While precise data on health insurance for service industry workers are hard to come by, surveys by the Restaurant Opportunities Center, an advocacy group for restaurant workers, have found that 90 percent of workers don't receive health coverage through their employer.
"It's absolutely the industry standard" for bars not to cover their employees, said Mark Menard, who co-owns Trusty's, where Boone works, and three other Washington bars.
Menard said it would be prohibitively expensive to insure all of his workers, and he estimated that one-third to one-half of his employees buy their own insurance on the individual market.
Bar patrons in Washington and other cities have repeatedly come out in support of industry employees who have been in car crashes or attacked after closing and don't have adequate health coverage. Because these employees often work without the benefit of sick leave or workers' compensation, they suffer lost wages on top of crushing medical debt.
On Oct. 14, for instance, Penn Social, a downtown D.C. bar, held a fundraiser for two uninsured staffers who were horrifically injured when a drunk driver in a Jeep Cherokee smashed into their Honda Civic while they were waiting at a red light. The collision was so severe that the Civic's gas tank ruptured, causing a fire.
"The men in the Civic remain hospitalized with myriad internal injuries and burns,"The Washington Post reported. "The driver, from Virginia, suffered bleeding from the brain, broken ribs, a punctured lung, damage to his spleen and kidneys, and third-degree burns over 17 percent of his body. His passenger, a cousin, has third-degree burns over nearly 40 percent of his body."
Friends of the two men have started a recovery fund.
Employees and patrons of the Argonaut bar in Washington hosted a fundraiser in 2006 for a bartender who was shot in the head after leaving work. The bartender survived but lost an eye.
Boone's medical bills have wiped out his personal savings. He's already receiving letters from collection agencies, and he said his credit has been ruined.

"Buying a sailboat -- that was the plan," Boone said recently from behind the bar, holding up the tip jar he once considered his boat fund. "I was ready to go buy the sailboat. Then I got stabbed."
Now he's hoping to buy a boat and live in it, he said, "so I can rent a slip and have cheaper rent."
He missed nearly three months of work before returning to his job near the end of July. Along with that tip jar, he now has letters of support and a stack of hospital bills at the bar.
Given that he'd risked his life to help a patron, Boone was a particularly good candidate for a community fundraiser. Days after he left the hospital, a charity night at Trusty's and a PayPal account pulled in $17,000 to go toward his medical bills. A line stretched down the block, as people who'd never been to the bar before showed up to meet him.
It was a moving show of support, and Boone said he found himself stepping outside throughout the night to smoke and calm himself. He tried to enjoy it all, but he'd rather not have to rely on the generosity of others to make ends meet.
"It sucked," he said. "I cried."
The charitable contributions helped cover his rent and food while he missed work, Boone said. He's still waiting to find out exactly how much he owes the hospital. He doesn't know whether he arrived at the emergency room by ambulance or helicopter. He figures the bill will tell him.