For a year there was anger among liberals about the failure of the Democrat led legislative and executive branches to pass health care legislation. President Obama had made the issue a central component of his platform. The only argument the Democratic candidates had during the run-up to the 2008 elections was whether there would be a “public option” component in the reform. Barrack Obama won, so why was it taking so long?
And then there was the insanity spewing forth from the right. The legislation is going to ensure a quick demise of granny. The country is going to turn overnight into a communist dictatorship. Abortions are going to be government subsidized in an orgy of fetus killing once the bill passes. The climate was, and remains, toxic. Take for interest the beliefs of the Republicans. Sixty seven percent believe Obama is a socialist (I’m still waiting for the public option from the socialist). Fifty seven percent believe he is a Muslim (I guess they forgot the whole Reverend Wright “scandal”), sixty one percent believe Obama wants to take away American’s guns (just ask the gun shop owners who are raking in the dough from the delusional masses), thirty eight percent believe Obama is doing many of the things Hitler did (as a matter of fact, however, so do I. Surely Hitler had to eat, sleep and pee standing up). Welcome to the wing-nut world of Tea Party politics.
Of course, lost in the vitriol was the things the Health Care bill actually does. It prevents insurance companies from dropping people with pre-existing conditions, prevents insurance companies from placing lifetime caps on the insured, and will insure 31 million people that don’t currently have health insurance. These are not run by the government, merely regulated by the government. Regulation. Something the government has done very little of recently (see economic meltdown).
Anti-abortion activists are up in arms about the bill even though President Obama signed an executive order preventing the government from subsidizing abortions in the new bill and ensuring the current language does not change. Despite this, anti-abortion Democrat Stupak was demonized for signing the bill (even though he was central in ensuring Obama signed the executive order). No one on the right has ever given recognition to the fact that 31 million people, many near the edge of poverty, will now get health care. This means that a potential mother, faced with the burden of debt incurred by child birth in a hospital will no longer have to decide between an abortion or an expensive hospital procedure. Instead, she will be covered.
So where are the right wingers who sit in Church everyday and pray to a God whose holy book expounds on the ideal of social justice? Do not the 31 million people on the fringes deserve health care? Or do you leave the church thinking, I got mine. No society as fortunate as ours deserves to leave out the least of us. Give that some thought while you celebrate the death and resurrection of the Lord of social justice.
admin @ March 27, 2010
In the past month, Yemen has burst on the media scene after disenfranchised Nigerian, Umar Abdulmutallab, attempted to blow up a Christmas Day flight from the Netherlands to Detroit by enclosing explosives in his skivvies. Abdulmutallab was trained and financed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a splinter group that has found refuge in Yemen’s rugged geography and absence of an effective central government.
Yemen teeters on economic and political collapse in the aftermath of two decades of regional turmoil. In 1990, the Yemen government chose to sympathize with Saddam Hussein’s Kuwaiti incursion. An angry Saudi Arabia pulled funding from Yemen and expelled Yemeni workers from the kingdom which resulted in widespread unemployment in a country largely devoid of jobs.The Yemen currency, the rial, went into freefall. Prior to 1990, the rial exchanged at a rate of 10 rials to the dollar. Today the rial trades at 205 which has resulted in disastrous inflation. As the Saudis turned off the aid spicket, Arab teachers from Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Jordan among others, that formed the backbone of Yemen’s education system, went home. Yemen’s fledgling school system has never recovered.
Like in many Middle Eastern countries, corruption is rampant. At every level, from huge internal infrastructure projects down to the students who wish to miss a day of school to help their family in the fields, baksheesh (a bribe) is the mechanism for its implementation.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, the President of Yemen, has been in power since the 1970s and he aims to install his son, Ahmed, as his successor. Succession wears many hats in modern Yemen history. Under the Yemen Imam, the successor had to be a Sayyid, or a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. These Zaydi leaders (a branch of the Shia sect) ruled Yemen for generations and were chosen from Yemen’s northern tribal lands. The last three Imams departed from the selection process in determining their successor and chose their sons as heirs. This upset many among their traditional supporters. The civil war that raged in Yemen throughout most of the 1960s was supposed to change all that. A republic emerged and the old ways of the Imamate were abandoned. Saleh, a Zaydi but not a Sayyid, has dominated contemporary Yemen but his power base has shrunk throughout his reign.
Yemeni oil reserves, which were not large by the region’s standards to begin with, have largely dried up. The country currently wages a war against a traditionalist Zaydi group in the north known as the Houthis. Southern Yemen has increasingly called for succession; South Yemen was annexed in 1994 by a stronger and more populous North Yemen. Since 2001, Al Qaida has gained ground in Yemen. Osama Bin Laden’s family originated in Yemen in the southern province of Hadramout in the village of Wadi Doan. It is in this region along with the eastern reaches of Yemen where AQAP resides.
Besides being the poorest nation on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen faces many other challenges. The country is ravaged by the chewing of qat, a mild stimulant that saps not only the drive of the population but also its water supply. Much of the water used for irrigation is filtered to moisten the roots of the qat fields. Some analysts project the capital of Yemen, Sana’a, could exhaust its water supply within the next ten years. Yemeni farmers make more off of qat than they could off of other staple crops but qat is not exported and thus the nation loses out on hard currency that could be obtained through the growing of foodstuffs. This further exacerbates the dwindling value of the rial. Yemen once was a thriving coffee exporter. In fact the word mocha derives from the Yemen port of Mokha from which large amounts of coffee were exported during the Imamate era. These days, Yemen exports only the labor of its young men.
Finally, the one attraction that Yemen has to offer is also in jeopardy in the post-9/11 world: tourism. Yemen, with its “skyscrapers” of earth, its welcoming people and a culture tied so closely to its ancient heritage, radiates an aura of the exotic unlike any place on the earth. But as western tourism associates Yemen more with the dangerous rather than as an alluring destination, the nation loses out once again on the wealth that can assist in rectifying its problems.
The plane that carried the potential suicide bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab, was headed for Detroit. This should not be lost on those who know about Arab demographics. The largest population of Yemen-Americans lives in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan. If Abdulmutallab would have succeeded on Christmas Day, he could have easily killed Yemeni Americans that day.
admin @ January 17, 2010
admin @ August 10, 2009
The Obama Administration has insisted that Israel freeze settlement activity in the West Bank. A significant Israeli diplomat dared to speak out on how Israel’s failure to implement a settlement freeze is hurting their relationship with their most important ally. He was recalled. Let’s keep an eye on what happens to Mr. Tamir.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz, August 9, 2009
The Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned for consultation a senior Israeli diplomat who in a confidential memo criticized the government for harming ties with the U.S. last week.
A ministry statement said that Israel’s consul-general in Boston, Nadav Tamir, would arrive in Jerusalem next week to give a clarification to the ministry’s director-general.
The memo, which was addressed to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, stressed that the public spat with the U.S. over the issue of a settlements freeze has alienated a significant number of American Jewish supporters.
Tamir, a veteran well respected diplomat, wrote the memo under the heading “melancholy thoughts on Israel-U.S. relations.”
Tamir’s missive is considered unusual given the blunt, pointed nature of the criticism against the premier’s policies.
“The manner in which we are conducting relations with the American administration is causing strategic damage to Israel,” Tamir wrote. “The distance between us and the U.S. administration has clear consequences for Israeli deterrence.”
“There are American and Israeli political elements who oppose [U.S. President Barack] Obama on an ideological basis and who are ready to sacrifice the special relationship between the two countries for the sake of their own political agendas,” the consul general in Boston wrote.
“There has always been a discrepancy in the approaches of both states [on the issue of settlements], but there was always a level of coordination between the governments,” Tamir wrote. “Nowadays, there is a sense in the United States that Obama is forced to deal with the obduracy of the governments in Iran, North Korea, and Israel.”
“The administration is making an effort to lower the profile of the disagreements, and yet it is [Israel] that is the source which is highlighting the differences,” Tamir wrote.
Tamir accused Netanyahu of endangering American Jewish backing for Israel by publicly sparring with the Obama administration over construction of Jewish housing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
A spokesperson for Netanyahu issued a statement to Channel 10 which accused Tamir of violating protocol by expressing “political views” against the premier.
Tamir refused a Haaretz request for comment. The Israeli consulate in Boston said the memorandum is an internal Foreign Ministry document that was not for the media’s consumption.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the Associated Press late Thursday, “We don’t comment on leaked reports.”
In a bid to jumpstart the moribund Middle East peace process, the Obama administration has repeated its demand that Israel cease construction in West Bank settlements. The policy is a sharp departure from the tone and substance of Israel-U.S. relations during the presidency of George W. Bush.
admin @ August 9, 2009
The “Cash for Clunkers” program may be the most creative policy initiative we have seen come from government in a long time. The effect is dynamic and the implementation is simple. For there to be opposition to this bill is mind boggling. In 2003 we saw Bush and his Republican allies pass a tax break (between $75,000 and $100,000) for businesses who purchased a vehicle that weighed 6000 pounds or more. I’m sure a lot of these vehicles are being traded in for the current “Cash for Clunkers” program. The two mindsets are diametrically in opposition and represent the backward thinking of conservatives and the forward imagination of liberals. This 2003 bill encouraged American automobile manufacturers (or at least reinforced their misguided production strategies) to crank out big gas guzzling vehicles. The collusion between the two ended up being a Faustian bargain that would ultimately cripple the American automobile sector.
America’s addiction to foreign oil is unpatriotic. Think of the nations in the world who have oil as the centerpiece of their economy. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran and Russia are just some of these petroleum dominated authoritarian states. As the price of oil has risen these nations have become less democratic. The money derived from the production of oil has made the governments of these states less dependent on taxation from its citizens. If a government does not have to rely on public excises to run its nation, it is less likely to grant its citizenry representation. This is happening across the board in these states. And these countries interests are becoming more in opposition to our own.
The United States makes up about 3% of the world’s population but we use 25% of the world’s energy. We are a bloated energy hog. The fact that we use such a significant amount of fuel creates a dilemma as South and East Asia emerge from their slumber. It makes it harder for the US to restrain the energy needs of India and China when all they are doing is attempting to become us.
Sending a signal to those outside our country is just a byproduct of this program. The car initiative does so many things at the same time. It brings gas guzzlers off the road and replaces them with energy efficient cars. This not only reduces the amount of gas we use but also reduces our carbon footprint. It also serves two purposes in regard to the automobile industry. It obviously boosts sales but it also helps validate the need of these companies to produce cars that get better gas mileage. But perhaps the greatest thing the “Cash for Clunkers” does that isn’t talked about is the psychological dimension. Everyone is aware of the rationale for the program and clear thinking Americans are seeing that the nation is moving away from large cars. It is rare when government positively alters the imagination of the nation and rarer still when government comes up with a program that does so much for a relatively small amount of money.
Top 10 New Vehicles Purchased
1. Toyota Corolla
2. Ford Focus FWD
3. Honda Civic
4. Toyota Prius
5. Toyota Camry
6. Hyundai Elantra
7. Ford Escape FWD
8. Dodge Caliber
9. Honda Fit
10. Chevrolet Cobalt
Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles
1. Ford Explorer 4WD
2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
4. Jeep Cherokee 4WD
5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD
6. Ford Explorer 2WD
7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD
8. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD
9. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD
10. Ford Windstar FWD Van
admin @ August 7, 2009
The reform of health care in this country has become a causus belli (cause of war). Circling in news reports or on the internet are videos showing lunatics shouting at politicians during town hall meetings as if their visceral reaction is a template for how the rest of America is feeling about the reform. It isn’t. If any of these crazies would take the time to turn their TV off of Fox News and do a little research they would find changing health care coverage is in the best interest of most people in this country.
The first issue someone needs to understand is why would the free market be the best instrument to run health care? Is it good to have a company determine the future of your continuing health care needs? Is there an insurance company out there who really gives a damn about you, especially if you become a profit liability? In other words, should profitability be a component of health? Finally, what recourse does anyone have if an insurance company refuses to cover them?
Many who are opposed to reforming health care and the single payer system cite the fact the US has the best health care in the world. The reality is we don’t have the best care in the world, we have the best medical technology in the world. With much of this technology being developed in universities, this aspect of our health care system will not change if the system itself changes.
According to the World Health Organization the US ranks 37th in overall health, right behind the likes of Morocco, Chile and Costa Rica even though the United States ranks first in health expenditure per capita. As for life expectancy, the US ranks 24th. Why does the US spend upwards of 7% more on GDP for health care than those who have socialized medicine yet get less in return for our investment? The answer has a lot to do with the profit margin. Should we live in a nation where capitalism is the driving force behind the health of our citizens? If we trust the military to protect us (and it is a government institution) then what is wrong with the government protecting us through a single payer health care service that runs parallel to the private one; that acts as a competitor to the current private insurance oligopoly?
The people that are screaming at congressmen in these town hall meetings are not doing a service to anyone, especially the middle class. Shouting down those who represent them is no substitute for open dialogue. Take a lesson from Charlie Rose and not from Bill O’Reilly. There are many of us out there who are waiting for the United States to catch up to the other 26 countries (most of them socialist) whose level of health care is better than ours.
admin @ August 4, 2009
The region’s only democracy Israel’s proponents decry. Is this the type of democracy we want to support? It is time to cut loose this alliance.
admin @ August 2, 2009
The great progressive writer Randolph Bourne once said, “Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which states seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of arts, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war.” The foundations for the Obama foreign policy are beginning to take shape. President Obama’s speech in Cairo last month had an amazing ripple effect. There is little doubt the internal strife in Iran that ensued was impacted by the speech indirectly. The conservative government in Iran could not successfully paint the uprising as the implicit work of the US following the sham election of Ahmedinejad. If you recall, the Iranian government tried to point the finger at Britain in a throwback move of a long dead age. With no true “Satan” nation to blame, the fire of the opposition continues to smolder.
Last week, George Mitchell visited Damascus in a bid to revive the Mideast peace process by greasing the wheels of the stubborn. Though no ground breaking discussions were involved, a new dialogue has begun with the Arab state. The US has imposed sanctions on Syria for their continued support of terrorists groups, primarily those residing in Lebanon. Syria has long been seen as a pariah in the region but will be a significant player if there is ever to be peace in the region. Mitchell’s visit is the Obama administration’s effort to reach out to nations that previously were seen as rogues in an effort to move them toward dialogue and moderation.
Israel is also being forced to react. The Obama position on stopping settlements in the occupied territories is causing tensions within the Jewish state. 1,500 right wing protestors marched in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to show their opposition to any proposed halt to settlements. Contact and pressure from Washington, being applied at the same time, is starting to move the rusted gears of Mideast peace. The new game of diplomacy is being played out with tact and resolve. Don’t expect grandiose results, however. The region has never evolved that way.
In the meantime Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently finished her tour of South Asia. Though not covered in great detail by the US media, the Clinton visit was seen as extremely constructive. The US would very much like India to be a strong ally in combating terrorism and preventing nuclear proliferation. Throughout the post WW II period India had carried out a cautious relationship with the US. Only in the last two decades has the relationship between the US and India turned a corner. To cement the strong ties that now bind the two countries, Obama has invited Prime Minister Singh to be the first leader to be his state guest later in 2009. The US is also selling space technology and fighter jets to India as well as allowing US companies to assist in the construction of two nuclear power plants. There is a peace process that needs to be resolved in South Asia as well. India and Pakistan have drifted farther apart in recent months after the Mumbai terror attacks were proven to have their roots in Pakistan.
Though the US is currently engaged in two wars, on the periphery the American government is initiating a sweeping diplomatic blanket that is changing not only how the US operates but also the image that is projected in much of Asia. These calculated maneuvers are allowing the momentum in the region to move away from extremism and calming the waters for the advances we all hope will blossom in the coming years.
admin @ July 28, 2009
What does the right wing stand for these days? Can anyone get a handle on the Republican party lately? Government can’t solve our problems, they say? So who is to realign the private banking sector? The Republicans say health care needs to be reformed. So who is supposed to lead the charge? Obviously government doesn’t have the answer. And now from the belly of those who are "fair and balanced" comes an assault on volunteerism. That font of rationale, Glenn Beck, makes a mockery of those who give their time to help the less fortunate. It really needs to be seen to be believed. In an homage to National Socialism, it is presumed, Beck takes aim at the Americorps creed. The Americorps, after all, is a government institution that enables primarily the youth of this country to make a difference in their communities and the nation as a whole. It is a domestic form of the Peace Corps. Now, conservatives are making an association of fascism and volunteerism? It just goes to show how shallow and self absorbed the party of Lincoln has become. Don’t tax the rich and by all means don’t join a government organization whose creed is fascistic.
Or is it liberals who are willing to get their hands dirty doing the work that Conservatives find beneath them?
admin @ July 24, 2009
Recently fifty four Israeli soldiers were interviewed by an Israeli organization known as Breaking the Silence. These soldiers told of their orders and activities while invading Gaza. Their tactics in many cases were nothing a moral army should be proud of. Using white phosphorous, utilizing Palestinian civilians as forced scouts and even using the locals as human shields were just some of the testimony that came out of these interviews. What makes these accounts controversial is they were done anonymously to protect the Israeli soldiers from prosecution within Israel. A very balanced look at this report was written by Josh Mitnick of the Christian Science Monitor. Specifics of the treatment of Gazans at the hands of the Israelis leaked out of the Strip during what the Israelis dubbed Operation Cast Lead despite Israel’s media lock down during the offensive. The “Breaking the Silence” report was published Wednesday and just one day later a US Jewish group contested the accounts of the Gaza War with their own web site. The web site is sponsored by a pro-Israel lobby group Stand With Us International. Shouldn’t a counter to this report come from Israel and not from the US? This just goes to show how thick we are in the morass of Israeli domestic policy, never mind foreign policy. Though these assertions made by Israeli soldiers are not flattering (indeed in most western armies they would be criminal), at least they are revealed for the world to dissect. The transparency of nations is something all countries should aspire to become. Unfortunately for Israel their behavior in recent decades during armed conflict has been less than chivalrous. The Breaking the Silence report can be read in its entirety here.
admin @ July 18, 2009