Health Care: Dividing and Conquering The Barbarians At The Gates

Barbarian Peanut by CHS.

What has struck me forcefully about the so-called "health care debate" is how little actual issues debate there has been.  And how much orchestrated noise from paid operatives has been ginned up to distract the public from the real prize: real reforms.

Bill Moyers has a profile up on Dick Armey’s Freedomworks astroturf extravaganza that needs viewing far and wide.

It illustrates a fundamental political operative truth: sowing dissent, even based on outright falsehoods, is a means to an end in a public divide and conquer strategy.  Something folks like Armey use to their moneyed clients’ advantage whenever possible because it is the way they earn their multi-million dollar Beltway living.

How so?

Think about the interests involved and their objectives for a moment: maintaining the status quo in health care means that the people making the money continue to rake it in, which means they can continue to dole it out on the Hill. People like Armey bring access on the Hill to the halls of power and that translates into valuable legislative inroads, for which moneyed interests pay handsomely.

In exchange for said donor largesse, keeping the angry public — who are clearly well and truly tired of feeling screwed these days — on the fringes of the discussion had to be a strategic priority.

The best means of doing that? Sow dissent that keeps the public’s eyes off the real ball, thereby throwing any chance at unity of purpose among the public out the window.

Why?  Because a unified public pushing for reform is what drives any substantive change this country ever sees.  It’s what gave FDR the ability to push through New Deal legislation and Wall Street regulations.  It’s what eventually forced an end to the Vietnam War.  It’s the engine that has driven major changes through our entire history.

And the forces of the status quo know that, fear it, and undermine it at every turn. 

Status quo means profit.  Change means instability which makes things tough to control or outright loss of profit, and that is not acceptable, now is it? (more…)

Gitmo Lawyer Says Detainee Treatment Mirrored Own Torture Training; Harsh Treatment Tears “Fabric of Who We Are”

PBS Now recently interviewed Lt. Col. Stuart Couch on our treatment of detainees and the dangers of the slippery slope of torture. Couch is incredibly honest and open in the interview, and it makes for some compelling viewing.

As Couch Says:

We cannot compromise our respect for the dignity of every human being. And that goes to somebody that is alleged to have committed heinous crimes against citizens of this country. That doesn’t change the immutable characteristic that they’re still a human being, and it’s a slippery slope that in the name of national security we decide to compromise that. If we compromise that, then al-Qaeda has been able to affect much more of an impact on this country than they have by driving a couple of planes into the World Trade Center or crashing one into the Pentagon. Because they’ve torn at the very fabric of who we are as Americans.

I’ve been saying this for a long time: if we sacrifice the rule of law for a false sense of security, then we have cravenly given up our souls to pretend we are safe. Which means we hand Osama Bin Laden the victory he was seeking by our own hands. (more…)

Tortured Logic: Dangers Of The Slippery Slope

PBS Now recently interviewed Lt. Col. Stuart Couch on our treatment of detainees and the dangers of the slippery slope of torture. Couch is incredibly honest and open in the interview, and it makes for some compelling viewing.

As Couch Says:

We cannot compromise our respect for the dignity of every human being. And that goes to somebody that is alleged to have committed heinous crimes against citizens of this country. That doesn’t change the immutable characteristic that they’re still a human being, and it’s a slippery slope that in the name of national security we decide to compromise that. If we compromise that, then al-Qaeda has been able to affect much more of an impact on this country than they have by driving a couple of planes into the World Trade Center or crashing one into the Pentagon. Because they’ve torn at the very fabric of who we are as Americans.

I’ve been saying this for a long time: if we sacrifice the rule of law for a false sense of security, then we have cravenly given up our souls to pretend we are safe. Which means we hand Osama Bin Laden the victory he was seeking by our own hands.

As Philippe Sands says in his part of the full show:

The U.S. has a unique position around the world. There is no country that is more closely associated with the rule of law. That has given the United States, for good and for bad, a tremendous moral authority around the world. If the U.S. loses that moral authority, it will become that much more difficult for the United States…to protect itself.

In an era where we have yet to fully own up to what has been done in our name, and where the Obama administration is currently fighting to keep some of the evidence of this misconduct hidden from public scrutiny, there will always be questions about what was done and by whose orders.

It is an ugly truth that whatever has been done will eventually come out, and the damage from those illegal actions will be enormous. But if we try to hold it in and cover it up? That will only allow that damage to fester and speculation to run even more rampant — which means when it does come out much later, things will be far worse.

Behold the America that Dick Cheney wrought by making decisions forged in fear and not in law. No matter how many changes we make in our current policies, the ghosts of illegal decisions past haunt us still.

Much more from ProPublica.

Has Anyone Asked Alice?

Every single time the name Alice Fisher appears in a potential DOJ corruption story? My spidey sense goes off.

In this particular case, with the intersection of Alice Fisher, Jack Abramoff, Robert Coughlin and the DOJ’s vaunted criminal division?  That’s where it starts getting interesting:

In a filing (PDF) Sunday, the government said Robert Coughlin II, the only Justice Department official to face charges in the Abramoff probe, would not be called as a witness at trial. Coughlin is a former lawyer in the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison and was deputy chief of staff in the Criminal Division under then-AAG Alice Fisher.

He was also Ring’s prized contact in Main Justice, helping the lobbyist with the Choctaw matter, among others, in return for free concert tickets, luxury seats at sporting events, meals and golf outings. Coughlin pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge.

But Coughlin told prosecutors during a mock cross-examination last week that he was unfairly targeted for prosecution and that “the things of value Mr. Ring gave him did not influence his official actions,” according to a government letter to Ring’s lawyers.

Now, I have no way of knowing whether Coughlin is trying to sandbag the DOJ’s case against Ring.

But it’s awfully odd for a former deputy chief of staff at DOJ’s Criminal Division to disregard the contents of his criminal plea so blatantly (PDF): (more…)

Sesame Street: Tackling Tough Economic Times Together

Sesame Street has always been out in front of issues that kids want and need to talk about, but that parents might think are above their heads.

I can recall watching the show as a kid and picking up cues about racial tolerance and how bigotry can hurt someone’s feelings. Or giving to others instead of being greedy. What loss feels like after a loved one passes away (YouTube).

Or how it is our differences which make each of us the special person we are…even little furry monsters.

After Katrina, there was an episode where Big Bird lost his nest in a hurricane.  The Sesame Street community came together to help him rebuild. 

For parents and educators? There was a whole curriculum program put together to help teach children to cope with weathering a fierce storm in their own lives.  It was brilliantly done.

So, when I heard that the Children’s Television Workshop had a special in the works on the economy and its impact on families, I had to find a copy to view.  (more…)

Saturday Potluck

There is something about the quiet calm of the people in the foreground and the curious winding road in the background that drew me to this photo.

The composition is beautiful, and the colors are stunning.

But it is the Razor’s Edge searching feel to the seated person in the picture that truly draws me in and makes me want to stay there.

Beautiful.

So, what’s catching your eye today?

Pull Up A Chair…

‘Tis the season.

No, not that one.  The bowl full o’ jelly man isn’t due for a few more months.

It’s apple season.  That joyous time of year when I start craving spiced cider and apple crisps and spending time with my family at a u-pick-em orchard.

Funny how with each change of the seasons, some expectation or anticipation shifts inside us.  Suddenly, the mornings are ever so slightly crisper here, and that means we’re on that downhill slide toward actual Fall.

With it?  Comes warm soups and crusty bread.  Or pumpkin pie with just the right amount of ginger balanced against the spicy kick of ground cloves.  

And that sugar maple several blocks up the street?  It’s going to burst into flame-colored leaves that will last for weeks on end if we are lucky and get a little more rain this week.  Not to mention football season.

Ahhhhh…gotta love it.

Anyone else getting an apple crisp craving right about now?  Pull up a chair… (more…)

Pull Up A Chair…

‘Tis the season.

No, not that one.  The bowl full o’ jelly man isn’t due for a few more months.

It’s apple season.  That joyous time of year when I start craving spiced cider and apple crisps and spending time with my family at a u-pick-em orchard.

Funny how with each change of the seasons, some expectation or anticipation shifts inside us.  Suddenly, the mornings are ever so slightly crisper here, and that means we’re on that downhill slide toward actual Fall.

With it?  Comes warm soups and crusty bread.  Or pumpkin pie with just the right amount of ginger balanced against the spicy kick of ground cloves.  

And that sugar maple several blocks up the street?  It’s going to burst into flame-colored leaves that will last for weeks on end if we are lucky and get a little more rain this week.  Not to mention football season.

Ahhhhh…gotta love it.

Anyone else getting an apple crisp craving right about now?  Pull up a chair… (more…)

Sesame Street: Tackling Tough Economic Times Together

Sesame Street has always been out in front of issues that kids want and need to talk about, but that parents might think are above their heads.

I can recall watching the show as a kid and picking up cues about racial tolerance and how bigotry can hurt someone’s feelings. Or giving to others instead of being greedy. What loss feels like after a loved one passes away (YouTube).

Or how it is our differences which make each of us the special person we are…even little furry monsters.

After Katrina, there was an episode where Big Bird lost his nest in a hurricane.  The Sesame Street community came together to help him rebuild. 

For parents and educators? There was a whole curriculum program put together to help teach children to cope with weathering a fierce storm in their own lives.  It was brilliantly done.

So, when I heard that the Children’s Television Workshop had a special in the works on the economy and its impact on families, I had to find a copy to view. 

Above is a promo clip for "Families Stand Together," which aired on most PBS stations nationally on September 9th. If you missed it, you can view the whole episode here.

And you should, because it is wonderful.

As they move from table to table and story to story, Roker and Roberts ask how each family is coping and celebrate their ability to put togetherness before material things. Even so, the series of mini-docs will make an adult viewer swallow hard more than once. Jobs have been lost, and homes, families that were planned on the foundation of a solid-seeming career now teeter, mothers wipe away tears and proud parents find themselves having to ask for help — financial, psychological — from family and local agencies.

Although the emphasis is kept firmly on the importance of love and careful planning, "Families Stand Together" makes it clear that there is no magic wand, no fairy-tale ending in sight. These hard times are real and must be endured, sacrifice is required, and comfort comes not from a sudden windfall but from knowing that many have, and are, going through the same sort of thing.

This is the way to convey not only a sense of compassion and caring, but also to foster a sense of community that is sorely needed as so many folks struggle to get by.

dday recently examined the new census data, and it is absolutely devastating:

The U.S. Census Bureau has just announced that the poverty rate for 2008 was 13.2%. This means the number of people in poverty has increased by about 2.5 million, to 39.8 million. To give you some perspective, 2.5 million is more than the number of people who live in Detroit and San Francisco combined.

The only way that any of this gets better is if we all pull together and help each other through it. Poverty is an issue that needs broader discussion, especially as more and more families with children are forced to tighten their belts even further. (more…)