Friday, October 02, 2009

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"And now I am one more soul walking free in a white skin, wearing some thread of stolen goods: cotton or diamonds, freedom at the very least, prosperity. Some of us know how we came by our fortune, and some of us don't, but we wear it all the same. There's only one question worth asking now: How do we aim to live with it?"
Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible

Thursday, October 01, 2009

It's Not Dark Yet

Others have voiced their concerns, including me. But Tom Friedman is the first with sufficient clout to be heard, loud and clear. And his column of yesterday is still #1 on the Most Popular list at the NY Times.

Friedman writes of the time in Israel just before Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. "I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did."

Friedman is reminded of this because of what's happening in America now. Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination."

One implication is clear, and it's the one that got bantered about on TV yesterday: that the Rabid Right and White Supremacist Party virulence is dangerously inciting an assassination attempt on President Obama. But Friedman is making two further points:

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

That is, the virulence is so extreme that it makes dealing with our common problems impossible, as well as fracturing any national identity as presented to the rest of the world, which is not a position of strength. The second further point is of even greater concern around here:

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest."

I would add to "national interest," the interest of humanity and the planet. If we can't seriously address the obvious problems with health care in America, how can we seriously address the even more complex issues and factors involved in the even higher stakes Climate Crisis?

When we as a species should be rising to the occasion, fulfilling our potential at last, we are falling, and failing---at least here in the U.S., and given our power and position in the world, that could be more widely fatal. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

Healthcare: From the Front

A significant new player enters the healthcare reform fight: the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumers Report, known among other things for being above influence by commercial interests. In an ad: " We are in the business of providing information and advice that helps consumers. We don't make campaign contributions. We don't endorse candidates. And we don't care who gets the credit for fixing the problems with health care -- we just need them fixed. Doing nothing about health care is not a solution."

But being beyond influence is hard to find in the health care fight--with eight insurance lobbyists for every member of Congress and millions in campaign contributions, the Guardian says.

The new hero for health care reform is Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, who said that the Republican healthcare plan is: don't get sick, and if you do, die quickly. When Republicans, unused to hearing such indelicate talk, called for an apology, Grayson apologized instead to the people who have died because they were uninsured or shafted by insurance company greed.

Columnist E.J. Dionne makes the case for the public option. After the Finance Committee voting down the public option in their bill, support for the option appears to be growing. The House seems solid, and with new polls showing overwhelming support--up to 2/3 of the public--support may be growing in the Senate as well. Still a long way to go.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take A Breath

and take a break from all the haters, fulminators, pocket-liners, hypocrites, numbskulls and Internet mobs...
...and lift yourselves up. President Obama with his niece Savita. Official White House photos.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"The only thing required of artists is that they not be weak."
--Jacques Maritain, as recalled by his friend Gino Severini.
Collage by Gino Severini 1913.

Documenting the Conspiracy

Why are right wingers such avid conspiracy theorists? Well, maybe because they're part of ongoing conspiracies. Rolling Stone has documented what earlier stories partially revealed and what many observers suspected: the mob violence unleashed at town hall meetings etc. was organized from the top by Rovian political operatives, and financed by the huge health insurance companies out to either kill reform or, more likely, get the dream deal for themselves:

Far from representing a spontaneous upwelling of populist rage, the protests were tightly orchestrated from the top down by corporate-funded front groups as well as top lobbyists for the health care industry. Call it the return of the Karl Rove playbook: The effort to mobilize the angriest fringe of the Republican base was guided by a conservative dream team that included the same GOP henchmen who Swift-boated John Kerry in 2004, smeared John McCain in 2000, wrote the script for Republican obstructionism on global warming, and harpooned the health care reform effort led by Hillary Clinton in 1993.

"The insurance industry is up to the same dirty tricks, using the same devious PR practices it has used for many years, to kill reform," says Wendell Potter, who stepped down last year as chief of corporate communications for health insurance giant CIGNA. "I'm certain that people showing up at these town halls feel that they're there on their own — but they don't realize they're being incited, ultimately, by the insurance industry and the other special interests."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Green China

Tom Friedman's column follows up on China's dramatic announcement of efforts to combat the Climate Crisis, with more details about China's commitments for green energy.

China is still a command economy. They are so big that change may come slowly, but the government sets the direction, and things happen.

Absent the real American commitment President Obama wants, this is the 21st century American economic nightmare. Friedman, with his talent for phrasemaking, likens Red China becoming Green China to the impact of Sputnik.

Here's the money quote: “If they invest in 21st-century technologies and we invest in 20th-century technologies, they’ll win,” says David Sandalow, the assistant secretary of energy for policy. “If we both invest in 21st-century technologies, challenging each other, we all win.”

Options, Mandates

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with the right wing madman Senator Jim Bunning, but the idea of forcing people to buy the product of a profit-making corporation does strike me as UnAmerican and possibly unconstitutional.

That's another reason why the option to buy health insurance from a public plan--the public option--is essential in health care reform.

This was the subject of one of my increasingly rare diaries on Kos, which made the Rec list a few weeks ago. It followed a Paul Krugman column on the issue, linked from the diary. Here's another more recent diary on the subject.

Some point out what a potent issue this could be for the right if people are forced to buy insurance, especially if it all goes south. Sure enough, Republicans on the state level are agitating to ban the individual mandate in "more than a dozen" states. Their "point" is much different from mine, though. They couch this as a government takeover vs. private enterprise, when in fact it is a huge gift to private enterprise: it's the government holding a gun to your head, forcing you to buy insurance company products. A lot of other kinds of companies would be very jealous of this: the ultimate in effective marketing

Apart from the politics, I'm just as concerned about the idea of it, and the precedent. The car insurance precedent is imperfect: people aren't forced to own a car or drive one. But as long as we have bodies, we're subject to the "individual mandate" (except presumably those eligible for Medicare.)

The government forcing people to buy a product is bad precedent, and the only way it makes sense is if people have the choice of a plan from the government itself. Then it's like paying taxes, a legitimate mandate.

So in the healthcare reform argot, I am really opposed to the individual mandate without a public option.

Update: Here's another shock: American public opinion agrees with me:"voters oppose a mandate to purchase private insurance by 64% to 34% but support a mandate with a choice of private or public insurance by 60% to 37%...

Red Peril

One of two dust storms that turned the air red in Sydney, Australia last week--this is the famous Opera House. Australia has had a decade of drought, and Sydney the worst air pollution in 70 years. Writes the Guardian: "It followed major dust storms this year in northern China, Iraq and Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, east Africa, Arizona and other arid areas. Most of the storms are also linked to droughts, but are believed to have been exacerbated by deforestation, overgrazing of pastures and climate change."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

The oppressors' specific methods and identities continue to mystify Doc to some degree...but he divines their overarching goal: to close the frontiers of consciousness forever by rendering life in the shadows impossible and opening the soul itself to view, or at least criminalizing its excursions into deeply subjective, hidden realms. The age of the private eyes is over, that is, and with it the age of privacy itself. And what's left? The sleepless, all-seeing, unblinking public eye."

Walter Kirn, reviewing Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
New York Times Book Review 8/23/2009