Sunday, January 28, 2007

Here's the elephant in the room: we need healthcare NOT insurance.

Nobody will acknowledge that there's something ghoulish about making a profit from illness and that healthcare should be the right of every American, even though providing it would solve the biggest economic problem of the middle and working classes, and wipe out more than half of the country's bankruptcies.

In the 1940s Henry J. Kaiser offered healthcare coverage to attract workers because we were at war and needed to build ships. It worked. Sixty years later the world has changed and tying healthcare to one's job no longer works. It's time for the federal government to step up to the plate and solve the problem by expanding Medicare. The administrative savings alone would likely yield sufficient revenues to provide comprehensive healthcare services including vision, dental, and prescription drugs to everybody in the country.

But, you argue, The market place is the best provider of such services - except that flies in the face of the obvious: if that were true, it would already have happened. The fact is, "market forces" can't handle the job. Administrative costs for Medicare are less than 2% while the insurance industry causes up to 1/3 of revenues to be spent on same.

Compare: The Austrian government spends 9.6% of its GDP on healthcare and everybody in the country is covered. We spend 15% of our GDP on healthcare and 47 million of us have NO healthcare. I am convinced that by expanding Medicare to cover everybody the cost of healthcare in the U.S. could be provided for about 10% of our GDP.

The pols and corporate community still don't get it - or they just don't have the guts to do what's right. Talk truth to power: a) Remind the insurance industry that causing 1/3 of revenues to be spent on administrative costs has priced them out of the market, b) Acknowledge that single payer healthcare is NOT socialized medicine.

With single payer healthcare every American would still choose their favorite doctor, hospital, dentist and drugstore - each of whom would continue to operate independently. The only difference? They would receive payment from one source rather than from 50 (or more) sources. The cost savings would be HUGE.

The time has come. America needs single payer healthcare and there no longer exists any logical argument against it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Well, well, well. It seems that Iraq has begun diplomatic talks with Iran against the wishes of the U.S. And they're sending their Foreign Minister to Syria for diplomatic talks. It would seem that Iraq's new Govt. knows more about diplomacy than the Bush administration.

The LA Times is reporting today that the Iraqi Govt. is demanding the U.S. release five Iranis they captured in Irbil saying that they (Iraq) have been working to designate the Irbil location as a consulate. Apparently Kurdistan depends on Irani tourists to support its economy. The U.S. insists that the Iranis are from the Revolutionary Guard and have been importing bomb parts for use in attacking American troops.

It appears that Iran's Revolutionary Guard controls the border between Iraq & Iran and anyone wanting to do business with Iran has to deal with them. Further, "Iraq's Kurds share a storied history with the Revolutionary Guard, fighting side by side against former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War." says the article in the LA Times. They further report Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad saying, "There cannot be and there should not be relations with security institutions of neighboring states that work against the interests of this new Iraq."

So the U.S. has gotten on the wrong side of Iraq because of its paranoid fear of anything Irani, and because when it says that Iraq is running the show and we're supporting them, it really means that the U.S. is running the show and Iraq had better step in line. Or, to put the best possible face on it, Iraq's interests are different from the U.S.'s.

I guess it proves one should be careful what they ask for, they might get it: A democratic, independent Iraq.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I've been stewing ever since the Prez spoke to the American people Wednesday night. He seemed tentative, sad, defeated - definitely not in a frame of mind to be insisting that "the way forward" is to add 21,500 more troops to the mix.

I suspect he finally realizes he's painted himself (and us) into a corner. He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't escalate. Democrats, and increasingly greater numbers of Republicans, condemn him for putting even more American troops in harms way while the 30% of Americans who still support him believe that redeploying our troops would be an admission of defeat, and uacceptable.

Here are some questions it has raised in my mind. Is he saying:
a) To Maliki, Get your act together by November because if you don't we're out of here,
b) To us, Don't look behind the curtain (at Iraq), look over here at Iran where I just might invade,
c) To himself, I've got to find a way to salvage this mess so I'll give Iraq one last chance and then I can say that I've tried everything and the Iraqis hate each other more than they want 'freedom,'
d) All of the above.

Whatever the answer, it appears that the administration is turning to some of the skeptics who left Iraq in 2003 disillusioned by the direction the "reconstruction" was taking. The Washington Post is reporting, today, that Timothy Carney, a retired American Ambassador, has received a call from David Satterfield, the State Dept's Iraq coordinator asking whether he'd be willing to go back to Baghdad as the overall coordinator of the U.S. reconstruction effort.

It "represents a fundamental shift in the Bush administration's approach to stabilizing the country" says the article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran . Ryan Crocker (Ambassador designate) and David Petraeus, widely acknowledged to be one of the best military minds America has today, were skeptics, as well. Yet Crocker is returning to Iraq from his posting in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus is taking over command of "all coalition forces in Iraq" at a time when our backs are to the wall and there are no good choices.

Carney, Crocker & Petraeus may make as strong a team as this administration could put together at this stage. But will it be too little, too late?

It strikes me that the "surge" is not just a Hail Mary pass but the President's last best effort to save his legacy. I hope he's right.

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's official: conservatives are deserting the sinking ship like rats. In fact all six NY Times columnists (both liberals and conservatives) now agree "it's over." This may be a first: Brooks, Krugman, Friedman, Dowd, Kristof, and Rich are all against escalation of the war in Iraq. Plus, George Will, in today's Washington Post says that a surge is too little too late. But even richer, Oliver North opposed the idea in his syndicated column on Friday (I know, who knew he had one?).

It makes Nancy Pelosi's appearance on Face the Nation, yesterday, even more powerful. Madam Speaker laid out the NEW rules: If the President wants to escalate the war he will have to justify it to Congress. No more blank checks. You can watch her interview at

But check out George Will's column at He says that a surge recalls the Vietnam policy of Robert MacNamara and Gen. Westmoreland and recommends Bush move toward Mel Laird and Creighton Abrams' strategy: phased withdrawal of U.S. troops along with economic aid and increased numbers of advisers. Frankly I'm not sure that even that will save Iraq.

An aggressive economic reconstruction project should have been launched immediately after Baghdad was taken in April 2003. It might have forestalled the sectarian violence providing we had resisted the urge to debathify the country as well.

But there may not be anything, at this stage, that can turn this sow's ear into a silk purse. Still I'll keep my fingers crossed that W has an epiphany and comes to Jesus - sorry I just couldn't resist the religious reference given Bush's mesianic approach to the Presidency.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Today is historic: Nancy Pelosi will become the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. I plan to watch the entire day of festivities on television.

I confess I am a fan of hers: have enthusiastically voted for her at every opportunity and in 1991, when my son was in Iraq with Desert Storm, I'm proud to say, I volunteered in Speaker (to be) Pelosi's district office here in San Francisco. I worked on constituent issues and found her staff to be every bit as caring as she.

Don't mistake the Speaker's well publicized ventures to be stumbles or mistakes. She is very bright and seldom does anything that hasn't been thoroughly thought out, eg,

a) She knew that Jack Murtha couldn't win the party leadership post he coveted but she wanted to support a loyal colleague while making a statement. Murtha is known for his outspoken call for redeployment of our troops out of Iraq and Nancy agrees with him. Her support for his candidacy simply highlighted that support and signaled that getting us out of Iraq is at the top of her agenda. Nancy Pelosi didn't get where she is without being able to count votes.

b) Her decision not to enact full bipartisan processes before the six in '06 are enacted makes sense: until the House has re-established civility it wouldn't be productive to open every piece of legislation to full participation. Her edict that the House will work a five day week is intended to restore civility while giving the American voters their money's worth. She envisions a House like the one we had under Tip O'Neill; when members lived in Washington, socialized together, became friends, and recognized their commonalities as well as their differences.

Don't let the MSM lead you around by the nose. Pay attention to events as they unfold and interpret them through your own filters. You'll be better for it - have a fuller understanding of events and avoid the heartburn that can result from listening to the chattering class.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gerald Ford was a thoroughly decent man; perhaps the last of the REAL Republican Presidents. My favority Jerry Ford quote: "There can be no justice without mercy, no peace without forgiveness." It explained his decision to pardon Richard Nixon.

Too bad the citizens of Iraq can't/won't internalize and live the sentiment. Unfortunately "we" have so thoroughly f***ed them up that the Shiites can only see revenge and the Sunis still think they're the majority.

Somebody do something before W sends more troops over there to be killed. It feels like it did before Nixon went into Cambodia and I don't know whether we can survive the loss of tens of thousands more of our men & women to a small man's ego. Use your telephone, email, or snail mail and demand that your Congressmembers stop him!

The myth of Free Trade is a disaster for the American economy and its workers. Unless we enact Fair Trade regulations promptly, American jobs will continue to move offshore and formerly middle class workers will continue to slip beneath the poverty line.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D) Ohio, offers a reasonable comparison of "Free" and "Fair" Trade in his book, "Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed." Published by The New Press in 2004 and updated in 2006, Publishers Weekly says, "Brown's fact-filled argument is a cogent critique of American trade policies in a punchy left-populist style that is rarely heard in Washington these days." I recommend it.
Unless Congress increases the minimum wage, repeals the President's disastrous tax breaks for the rich, and finds a way to provide healthcare services for minimum wage workers, I fear the deficit will continue to rise while worker's real wages and the middle class continue to shrink.

Small businesses and the American worker are the backbone of our economy and it's long past time we paid attention to their needs. A real leader wouldn't be afraid to tell small business owners they shouldn't fear an increased minimum wage, and s/he would help them grow and prosper by expanding Medicare to cover their minimum wage workers.

Remember, America's workers must be able to purchase consumer items if we are to avoid further erosion of the middle class and slipping into 2nd world status.