Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You Have To "Go Through Fire" To Reform Health Care


When it comes to health care reform, we have a lot to learn from our neighbors to the north. In Saskatchewan, many decades ago, they went through much the same kind of wrenching, dirty, name-calling, scar-i-fying political fight over health care reform.

So how did it turn out? Listen for yourself to this podcast from an interview broadcast today on the radio program, The World.

Light on News

Can't understand why home deliveries of the Pensacola News Journal are down. Maybe it has something to do with this:

We are assuming the Pensacola News Journal was light on news again, today, since the brisk morning breeze seems to have whisked the paper out of the receptacle attached to our mailbox and blown it all away. This is happening more and more frequently.

Today, we found only one pathetic page, trapped beneath the tire of a parked car a quarter block away. We know it was ours because we are now the only daily newspaper subscriber in our neighborhood. The only one.

If the publisher of a dying newspaper insists on saving money by shorting the news pages every few days, the least he could do is give what little remains some added heft by attaching something heavy to it -- like a lead fishing weight, maybe, or a leftover toy from the McDonald's kid's meals they'll be serving at the next Gannett Publishing Co. annual banquet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How to Save $85 Billion

Want to save $85 billion in health care costs? Enact a public option as part of health care reform. So says the CBO:
The public plan saves money because it pushes down premium prices. Lower premium prices across the country would mean the government would have to pay less in subsidies to low-income people who buy insurance through the exchange, according to CBO. Medicare rates are typically lower than those paid by private insurers, so using that formula would allow the public plan to charge considerably lower premiums to stay solvent. If the government has to negotiate the same way insurance companies do, public plan premiums likely won't be as low -- hence less savings.
Economist Duncan Black sticks his tongue in cheek and says, "I look forward to the Villagers pressing the fiscally responsible 'centrists' on why they'd rather waste money."

If he's waiting for the dead tree press and D.C. establishment, he'll wait a long time. The fact that a public option is cheaper than paying 40 percent more to pharmaceutical and health care corporations does not fit into their predetermined narrative, so it will be ignored.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Plan for Afghanistan

A message received from a friend, edited to remove the profanity and add the graphic:
The White House is "exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan." A "wholesale reconsideration" of strategy is involved. Ideas are being sought.

I have one. If the main idea is to win hearts and minds and thereby destroy the Taliban, why not employ the same strategy Corporate America uses to dumb-down the American public, drive them into credit card debt and re-make the nation into a land of passive, self-absorbed sheep? Take all those billions of dollars and give it to McDonald's, Walmart, Best Buy, Blockbuster, Disney, and a bunch of condo developers! Flood Afghanistan with fast food restaurants, cheap but flashy clothes, amusement parks, electronics stores, video shops and fancy-looking condos.

In no time at all, we will have sucked the intelligence and political energy right out of everyone in Afghanistan, just as Corporate America did to us here. The sheepherders will be too busy shopping to worry over politics or religion or individual rights. The Taliban will be trading in their weapons for big screen TVs and heaping plates of french fries. Peace will reign supreme.

And though the price be high, it's likely to cost far less than the precious lives of our young and the three trillion dollars we blew in Iraq.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

G.O.P. BACKS 'PUBLIC OPTION' ....

... Not for health insurance, you understand, but for property insurance. Or, as Firedog Lake puts it, "for property, not people."

They're talking, as Pensacola Beach residents should remember better than most, about FEMA -- a federal government program, by the way, for those of you on Medicare who oppose 'socialized medicine' -- and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) (another government program). But that was then, when Republicans wanted substantial help from federal programs for themselves. This is now.

But the snarky FDL post does remind us that the budgetary and policy issues presented by hurricane disasters and human health needs are in some respects astonishingly similar. As we said, lo', four years ago when Pensacola Beach still looked like a war zone following Hurricane Ivan, in a contest over property insurance policy between ideologues and rationalists, the real question should be, "which approach is more likely to work for the betterment of the national community and society as a whole? The answer is not a matter of faith or didactics, but facts."

Likewise, when it comes to health care reform, the overriding question should be does the "public option" offer health insurance for all while saving the public money, or can we ever rely on private health insurance companies to do the right thing?

The answer, quite clearly, is yes for the public option and no for the private health corporations with near-monopoly power -- just as Senator Ron Wyden (D-Or) explains:

Cheap at the Price

The ACLU has agreed to accept about half of the attorney's fees they are entitled to for defending the U.S. Constitution and pressuring Pace High School to end its decades-long religious instruction in that public high school. $195,000 is cheap at the price.

Doubt it? The school's defense attorneys have billed the district more.
As of June, the [school] district had been billed by its own attorneys about $200,000 in legal fees. That included $21,739 to the district's attorney, Paul R. Green, $148,435 to the Sniffen law firm of Tallahassee; and $29,280 to the Carr Allison firm of Tallahassee.

Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said Tuesday... he did not yet know how much more money the district will owe its attorneys. [italics added]
These numbers may numb the mind of many locals who live from paycheck to paycheck. And everyone, the ACLU included, would rather have seen the money spent more directly in the classroom -- say, for books or teachers.

But don't blame the ACLU. They aren't the ones who for years used the school's audio system to pump presbyterian prayers daily into Pace High classrooms at the beginning of every school day. They aren't the ones who took U.W.F. college teaching students on their practicums and exposed them to routine religious proselytizing in the classroom.

If, as threatened, one of the low-paid office secretaries at Pace is cajoled by the "Christian Educators Association International" into authorizing the filing of a new lawsuit or into appealing the old judgment, look for the lawyers on both sides to make even more money. They won't like it any more than we do.

Over the years, we've come to know a lot of lawyers in a lot of states who practice constitutional law. More than most folk, the smart ones on both sides of cases like the Pace High School fiasco know the vital importance of secular public education to America. Privately, as citizens, most we have met say they'd rather see the money spent in the classrooms, too.

But this is America, where any crank is free to go to court in a losing cause and, like anyone in business, the lawyers are free to charge them for their efforts.

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

Sept. 18: Late Editorial Update ("Homo Neanderthalensis")
Sept. 17: Pictures of a Pep Rally
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 31: Principal Lay Has a 'Come to Jesus' Moment
May 27: Laying Down the Puritan Law
May 15: Southern Hos-Pee-Tility

Conserva-Dems Against You

Mike Ross (Blue Dog-Ark) sold out to Big Pharma for big bucks, as Rachel Maddow reveals below. Now he opposes giving Americans the only effective, real choice in health care insurance -- the "public option."

Which raises the question, how many other Blue Dogs are opposed to giving Americans the "public option" alternative because they, too, have sold out to medical and drug corporations? Does it explain the curiously ambivalent statements of our own Blue Dog Senator, Bill Nelson?

Expect answers soon.....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Book By Its Cover.....

How do you like the cover of your popular urology-and-sex books about the "history of the penis?" In your face or "refined and evasive?" How about "demure and euphemistic?"

Macy Halford, writing in the New Yorker, has come across evidence that marketers believe it all depends on where you live. Or, maybe not.

'Gulf Coast Treasures' Airs Wednesday

PNJ reporter Kimberly Blair yesterday reminded everyone:
On Wednesday, Pensacola residents will be able to get a sneak peek of the National Seashore documentary before it airs throughout the Southeast on Oct. 4.

The sneak peek is part of a special live televised presentation about [Ken] Burns at WSRE's Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio called "The National Parks Celebration from Central Park" in advance of its national debut on Sunday.

The "celebration" program will feature musical performances by Alison Krauss, Carole King and Chris Botti.
PBS is previewing the entire Burns national parks documentary series here. Although the shorter, locally-produced Gulf Islands film will air only in Northwest Florida, everyone can see a preview of it on the WSRE-TV web site here or below, right here:

Monday, September 21, 2009

The NEW New York Post

The New York Post seems to have changed hands over the weekend. It's no longer a print version of wing-nut TeeVee. Get a look at today's special issue. It's hot!!

Or, have The Yes Men struck again? We remark, you declaim.

Early this morning, nearly a million New Yorkers were stunned by the appearance of a "special edition" New York Post blaring headlines that their city could face deadly heat waves, extreme flooding, and other lethal effects of global warming within the next few decades. The most alarming thing about it: the news came from an official City report.

Distributed by over 2000 volunteers throughout New York City, the paper has been created by The Yes Men and a coalition of activists as a wake-up call to action on climate change. It appears one day before a UN summit where Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will push 100 world leaders to make serious commitments to reduce carbon emissions in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate conference in December. Ban has said that the world has "less than 10 years to halt (the) global rise in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences for people and the planet," adding that Copenhagen is a "once-in-a-generation opportunity."

Although the 32-page New York Post is a fake, everything in it is 100% true, with all facts carefully checked by a team of editors and climate change experts.

"This could be, and should be, a real New York Post," said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men. "Climate change is the biggest threat civilization has ever faced, and it should be in the headlines of every paper, every day until we solve the problem."
* * *
The paper includes original investigative reporting as well. One article ("Carbon counter counts New Yorkers as fools") reveals that Deutsche Bank - which erected a seven-story "carbon counter" in central Manhattan - not only invests heavily in coal-mining companies worldwide, but has recently entered the business of coal trading itself.

The paper has the world's gloomiest weather page, covering the next 70 years rather than just 7 days.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Coming "Great Gulf Coast Zoo Kill"

The fight to save the Northwest Florida Zoo isn't over, writes PNJ reporter Louis Cooper. There's a petition on line to try to convince our county and city leaders to reverse their earlier refusal to fund the Northwest Florida Zoo for "a second year."

As it is, reporter Cooper laments, a couple of valuable Orangutans already have been shipped off to one creditor. And zoos that previously loaned other animals to the Northwest Florida Zoo "have been asked to pick them up, " according to Bob Zwitzer, an owner of the Zoo land the animals inhabit. Adds Switzer:
"We are in the process right now of getting bids for all of the animals," he said. "We're also talking to people who might want to buy all of the animals at one time, as a collection. Then we're talking to a third group of people who want to keep the zoo here."
The one thing Cooper's report doesn't mention is what happens if no one wants all the animals, birds, reptiles, and fish? There are thousands of them out there. While a few may be sufficiently unique to attract the interest of other zoos, our sources say the vast majority of zoo animals are not likely to attract any bids -- and it may not even be possible to give them away -- unless someone buys the entire zoo as a package deal.

Chances of that happening are very slim and they plummet from there. Knowledgeable zoo officials we know are talking about the most likely scenario yet to come, but only in hushed tones.
As far as they can see, unless county commissioners reverse themselves or someone steps up to buy the whole zoo, the only realistic alternative is to kill all the animals that can't be sold individually.

Remember the Great Goose Kill at a local golf course a couple of years ago? It became the "story that would not die," attracting attention from all over the world. And, it wasn't an attractive story.

The Great Goose Kill will look like a small family squabble compared with what's in store for tens of hundreds of animals at the Gulf Breeze Zoo if someone doesn't step up soon and save the place.

Citizens can sign the petition to save the Zoo here. But the people who really should be signing it are Gulf Coast tourism promoters and local politicians who expect to run for reelection.

Dept. of Dead Links, Revived

After reporter Cooper's article of today disappears behind Gannett's thoroughly useless pay-to-see- what-we-wrote-last- week screen in seven days, you can still read a lengthy excerpt of it at the Chimpanzee Info Blog.


minor edit
9-20 pm

Friday, September 18, 2009

Late Editorial Update

by H.L. Mencken
(July 29, 1925)
I

Such obscenities as the the forthcoming trial of the Tennessee evolutionist Pace, Florida, High School principal and athletic director, if they serve no other purpose, at least call attention dramatically to the fact that enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed. It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone -- that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and of some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized -- though I should not like to be put to giving names -- but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history. They are ignorant, they are dishonest, they are cowardly, they are ignoble. They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge.

Such immortal vermin, true enough, get their share of the fruits of human progress, and so they may be said, in a way, to have their part in it. The most ignorant man, when he is ill, may enjoy whatever boons and usufructs modern medicine may offer -- that is, provided he is too poor to choose his own doctor. He is free, if he wants to, to take a bath. The literature of the world is at his disposal in public libraries. He may look at works of art. He may hear good music. He has at hand a thousand devices for making life less wearisome and more tolerable: the telephone, railroads, bichloride tablets, newspapers, sewers, correspondence schools, delicatessen. But he had no more to do with bringing these things into the world than the horned cattle in the fields, and he does no more to increase them today than the birds of the air.

On the contrary, he is generally against them, and sometimes with immense violence. Every step in human progress, from the first feeble stirrings in the abyss of time, has been opposed by the great majority of men. Every valuable thing that has been added to the store of man's possessions has been derided by them when it was new, and destroyed by them when they had the power. They have fought every new truth ever heard of, and they have killed every truth-seeker who got into their hands.

II

The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution for prayer in the schools are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does, and so gets more out of life. Certainly it cannot have gone unnoticed that their membership is recruited, in the overwhelming main, from the lower orders -- that no man of any education or other human dignity belongs to them. What they propose to do, at bottom and in brief, is to make the superior man infamous -- by mere abuse if it is sufficient, and if it is not, then by law.

Such organizations, of course, must have leaders; there must be men in them whose ignorance and imbecility are measurably less abject than the ignorance and imbecility of the average. These super-Chandala often attain to a considerable power, especially in democratic states. Their followers trust them and look up to them; sometimes, when the pack is on the loose, it is necessary to conciliate them. But their puissance cannot conceal their incurable inferiority. They belong to the mob as surely as their dupes, and the thing that animates them is precisely the mob's hatred of superiority. Whatever lies above the level of their comprehension is of the devil. A glass of wine delights civilized men; they themselves, drinking it, would get drunk. Ergo, wine must be prohibited. The hypothesis of evolution is credited by all men of education; they themselves can't understand it. Ergo, its teaching must be put down.

This simple fact explains such phenomena as the Tennessee Pace High School buffoonery. Nothing else can. We must think of human progress, not as of something going on in the race in general, but as of something going on in a small minority, perpetually beleaguered in a few walled towns. Now and then the horde of barbarians outside breaks through, and we have an armed effort to halt the process. That is, we have a Reformation, a French Revolution, a war for democracy, a Great Awakening. The minority is decimated and driven to cover. But a few survive -- and a few are enough to carry on.

III

The inferior man's reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex -- because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts. All superstitions are such short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious. So on what seem to be higher levels. No man who has not had a long and arduous education can understand even the most elementary concepts of modern pathology. But even a hind at the plow can grasp the theory of chiropractic in two lessons. Hence the vast popularity of chiropractic among the submerged -- and of osteopathy, Christian Science and other such quackeries with it. They are idiotic, but they are simple -- and every man prefers what he can understand to what puzzles and dismays him.

The popularity of Fundamentalism among the inferior orders of men is explicable in exactly the same way. The cosmogonies that educated men toy with are all inordinately complex. To comprehend their veriest outlines requires an immense stock of knowledge, and a habit of thought. It would be as vain to try to teach to peasants or to the city proletariat as it would be to try to teach them to streptococci. But the cosmogony of Genesis is so simple that even a yokel can grasp it. It is set forth in a few phrases. It offers, to an ignorant man, the irresistible reasonableness of the nonsensical. So he accepts it with loud hosannas, and has one more excuse for hating his betters.

Politics and the fine arts repeat the story. The issues that the former throw up are often so complex that, in the present state of human knowledge, they must remain impenetrable, even to the most enlightened men. How much easier to follow a mountebank with a shibboleth -- a Coolidge, a Wilson or a Roosevelt! Bush, a Cheney, or a Palin! The arts, like the sciences, demand special training, often very difficult. But in jazz there are simple rhythms, comprehensible even to savages.

IV

What all this amounts to is that the human race is divided into two sharply differentiated and mutually antagonistic classes, almost two genera -- a small minority that plays with ideas and is capable of taking them in, and a vast majority that finds them painful, and is thus arrayed against them, and against all who have traffic with them. The intellectual heritage of the race belongs to the minority, and to the minority only. The majority has no more to do with it than it has to do with ecclesiastic politics on Mars. In so far as that heritage is apprehended, it is viewed with enmity. But in the main it is not apprehended at all.

That is why Beethoven survives. Of the 110,000,000 307 million so-called human beings who now live in the United States, flogged and crazed by Coolidge, Rotary, the Ku Klux and the newspapers Bush, the Republican Party, Freedomworks, and Fox Cable News, it is probable that at least 306 million have never heard of him at all. To these immortals, made in God's image, one of the greatest artists the human race has ever produced is not even a name. So far as they are concerned he might as well have died at birth. The gorgeous and incomparable beauties that he created are nothing to them. They get no value out of the fact that he existed. They are completely unaware of what he did in the world, and would not be interested if they were told.

The fact saves good Ludwig's bacon. His music survives because it lies outside the plane of the popular apprehension, like the colors beyond violet or the concept of honor. If it could be brought within range, it would at once arouse hostility. Its complexity would challenge; its lace of moral purpose would affright. Soon there would be a movement to put it down, and Baptist clergymen would range the land denouncing it, and in the end some poor musician, taken in the un-American act of playing it, would be put on trial before a jury of Ku Kluxers, teabaggers and railroaded to the calaboose.

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

Sept. 17: Lay, Freeman Beat the Rap with the 'I'm Stupid' Defense
Sept. 17: Pictures of a Pep Rally
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 31: Principal Lay Has a 'Come to Jesus' Moment
May 27: Laying Down the Puritan Law
May 15: Southern Hos-Pee-Tility

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lay, Freeman Beat the Rap with the 'I'm Stupid' Defense

Pace High School principal Frank Lay and his athletic director, Robert Freeman, were acquitted early this evening by the same federal judge who earlier had charged them with criminal contempt of her judicial order. The judge found that while the defendants in fact had violated the court's order, their actions were not intentionally contemptuous.

"It was just out of reflex," Freeman testified about his own actions in offering a prayer during a school event, according to Pensacola News Journal reporter Kris Wernowsky. As for Lay, U.S. assistant attorney Randy Hensel repeatedly hammered home the principal's earlier out-of-court admission, "I asked Robert to say grace. I didn’t think about it."

In other words, Judge Casey Rodgers concluded neither the Pace High School principal nor the head athletics teacher was thinking. This is known in criminal defense circles as the "Dumb as a Post Defense."

It might be bad for educators but, when believed, it works wonders for people charged with crimes. The dumber the defendants seem to the ultimate fact-finder, the more believable the defense.

The thing is, it's a one-time pass. If either of these birds do it again, they'd better have a toothbrush packed, because theyll be staring at a very long stretch in the pokey.

Meanwhile, the federal consent order entered back in January continues in force. Santa Rosa schools, including Pace High School, for the first time in that locality's history are enjoined to cease all religious proselytizing in the schools.

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

Sept. 18: Late Editorial Update ("Homo Neanderthalensis")
Sept. 17: Pictures of a Pep Rally
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 31: Principal Lay Has a 'Come to Jesus' Moment
May 27: Laying Down the Puritan Law
May 15: Southern Hos-Pee-Tility

Pictures of a Pep Rally

The criminal contempt trial for Pace High School principal Frank Lay and athletic director Robert Freeman is well underway today in the Pensacola federal courthouse. Observers hoping to see the one and only faith vindicated began lining up outside the building at 3:00 a.m.

By nine o'clock, when we arrived, a couple of hundred protesters were getting drenched by a driving rain. They filled the boulevard median, restricted by local police and federal agents to stand no closer than fifty yards from the entrance to the courthouse.


Occasional, sketchy reports from inside the courthouse agreed that the Government's first witness, a Santa Rosa County school board member, took the better part of the first two hours on the witness stand. At that pace, if you will forgive the pun, it would be surprising if presentation of all evidence wraps up before five o'clock this evening.

Meanwhile, outside the atmosphere was rather like a pep rally at Dumbbell High. Some couldn't distinguish between free speech and religious indoctrination.


Others apparently missed the fact that today's criminal contempt hearing is precisely about whether Lay and Freeman contemptuously disrespected the authority of a federal judge.


The crowd was about evenly divided between perky, young, naive high school girls wearing matching T-shirts and older, rather used-looking men and women wearily propping up signs with various anti-ACLU and pro-prayer-in-the-school messages:

The big attraction was a four-member, avowedly "Christian" motorcycle gang that repeatedly circled the courthouse block, each time drawing cheers from the crowd as they idled by with prominently-displayed, mildly pornographic arm tattoos, crudely lettered "Christian" messages, and over-sized American flags. One couldn't help wondering how those in the crowd would have felt if these same toughs had come roaring down the driveway to their own homes.

Later, the motorcycle gang led a clutch of protesters in a spontaneous group prayer along the sidewalk. No one in the crowd could tell us who the gang members were or if they had the sort of character one would hope for from someone giving religious instruction. "They're praying out loud," one woman said to us. "That's enough for me."


As sometimes happens in such circumstances, it was a passing dog who had the most trenchant comment to make about the event, although his owner may not have understood the double entendre:

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

Sept. 18: Late Editorial Update ("Homo Neanderthalensis")
Sept. 17: Lay, Freeman Beat the Rap with the 'I'm Stupid' Defense
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 31: Principal Lay Has a 'Come to Jesus' Moment
May 27: Laying Down the Puritan Law
May 15: Southern Hos-Pee-Tility

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pensacola Beach Storm Story

After Hurricane Ivan hit the Florida panhandle, there were hundreds of individual storm stories circulating in newspapers, magazines, on the Tee Vee and, later, even in film. One enterprising local community theater group even knitted many of the stories together into a stage play, a year or two after Ivan hit.

There is one story we know, however, that has never been made public. Not until today. We heard it almost five years ago, just a few weeks after the storm. It was told to us by the very man who claimed to be at the center of the saga.

"Bill," we'll call him. Bill said he was still nervous about being arrested if the events he was about to relate to us ever became known. So, he asked us not to repeat the story or disclose his real name until the coast was clear.

If there is a crime buried somewhere in Bill's storm story, we're fairly sure the statute of limitations must have expired by now. So, we're going to share Bill's story with you now, for fear that if we don't it may be lost forever to posterity.

There are no hyperlinks in this story, offering you proof of its veracity. There will be no documenting footnotes, either. For that matter, we can't verify the story ourselves. While the events Bill described were going on, we were still on evacuation, closeted in a cramped motel room sixty miles away with a wife and two giant dogs. For all we know, Bill's story is not even true, although as we listened to him relate his tale, we thought we detected the distinct ring of truth. No one could possibly have made this up.

Bill is a reasonably good-looking, average sort of man in his mid-to late-sixties. Average height, average weight, thinning brown hair, glasses. A retired Navy officer, he spoke quietly in a way that somehow conveyed both an easy authority and an endearing degree of humility.

"I have a rental property on the beach," he began, "although my wife and I live year 'round in Gulf Breeze. We decided to ride out the storm at home, not far from the golf course but fairly high above the flood plane. As it happened, we did fairly well. The storm took some shingles, of course, and we had some minor leakage, but on the whole we were very lucky. We came out okay.

"That Friday, after the last of the storm had passed, you'll remember the day turned beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky. My wife and I ate a late breakfast together. Then I decided to ride my bicycle down to the Sound to see if I could tell how the beach had fared.

"By the time I reached the water's edge, visibility was good, but I still couldn't see much detail across the water -- just a few houses and a lot of white sand. As I stared across the Sound, I found myself thinking, 'Well, hey! It really doesn't look that far. I could probably swim across and get a better look.' So, I stripped down, tied my clothes in a bundle around my neck, hid my bike as well as I could in some bushes, and started swimming toward the island.

"It wasn't that far -- a mile, mile and a half, that's all. I'm in pretty good shape, so it wasn't long before I was pulling myself out of the water and onto the beach. My clothes were wet, but I threw on my pants and started down a little side street toward our rental.

"And that's when the patrol car pulled up. A deputy sheriff jumped out and came running toward me.

"Dammit, I thought. I knew I had been caught. You'll remember, for quite a long time after the storm people were banned from going back to Pensacola Beach. It was all over the radio, how it was against the law and trespassers would be arrested. The officials assumed anyone trying to enter Pensacola Beach was a thief. I thought for sure I was about to be arrested.

"'Oh my god, you're alive!' the deputy shouted. 'And, look at you. You're all wet! Man, you're a lucky guy. Do you know? You're the first survivor we've found alive! Here, let me help you.'

"Before I could say a word, the deputy wrapped me in a blanket and hustled me into his patrol car.

"'We've got to get you to the command center,' he said as he gunned the engine. 'They'll want to talk to you.'

"By now, I realized the deputy thought I had ridden the storm out on the island. He was very happy to have found me. But what would his reaction be if I told him I had just swum over from Gulf Breeze? He'd arrest me, for sure. I didn't know what to do, so I just sat there and let him continue shouting for joy over rescuing me.

"Turns out, the command center he was taking me to was the Dome Home. You know, that circular cement thing they built a few years ago? The one that was going to be storm-proof. Well, apparently, it works. I don't know when, but some time after the storm the emergency rescue people had turned it into their headquarters on the beach.

"So, we pull up in the patrol car and the deputy hustles me in. Inside that dome home, there were more deputies, and feds, and reporters, and all kinds of other people wandering around. Now, I was really in a fix. I couldn't see any way out. They had me surrounded. The deputy shouted out that he'd found a survivor. Everyone crowded around me, shouting and clapping me on the back and stuff. It was chaos, believe me. Then this guy from a TV network -- NBC, I think it was -- grabs me. He says he wants an interview, and so he needs to know my name -- and by the way, am I married and what's my wife's name and where is she?

"I tell him, 'Well, she's safe at home over in Gulf Breeze, where we live.'

"The reporter had this satellite phone with him. Somehow he finds out my phone number, I guess, and he rings her up. And I hear him saying, 'Hey, Missus. We have your husband here. That's right, Bill! He survived the storm! He's alive and safe, right now. He's awful wet, of course, and hungry, too. Wanna talk to him?'

"Then he hands me the phone and I hear my wife saying, 'You say Bill's hungry? How can that be? We just finished a huge breakfast right here, not an hour ago.'

"It was just sheer luck the NBC guy didn't hear her. I turned my back and tried to whisper into phone. 'Be quiet! I'll be home soon.' But it was no use. She was rattling on and on, saying how whoever it was they thought they had rescued, it sure as heck wasn't her husband. He had ridden the storm out, warm and dry thank you very much, right next to her all night long. Her husband wasn't starving. He'd just stuffed himself right there at her kitchen table with pancakes and eggs and...

"I hit the disconnect button. Just as I was about to hand the phone back to the NBC guy, someone shouts, 'The governor! The governor!'

"A limo had just pulled up in front and Jeb Bush was inside. Everybody ran to the door and peered out the windows to get a look at him. All kinds of officials and reporters began to scramble down the stairs to greet him.

"'I'm gonna get a sound bite from the governor,' the NBC guy tells me. 'I'll be right back. Then we'll do your interview.'

"He rounded up his camera crew and they all took off for the limo, too. For the first time since I'd crawled out of the water and saw that patrol car coming for me, I had time to think things through. It dawned on me that I had only two choices: continue letting everybody think I was a storm survivor and play along as the whole thing spins out of control and goes on national TV; or confess the truth and hope I don't get more than a month or two in jail.

"I didn't like either option. So, I decided to make a run for it. In all the confusion of the governor arriving, I just went outside and slipped away. I walked a few blocks, then caught a ride back to Gulf Breeze with a truck driver. He never asked me what I was doing on the island. I suppose he just assumed I had come there to inspect things.

"Which, of course, was true. But I couldn't have said that to the deputy sheriff."

Some Dirty Pigeon Stooled on Lou Dobbs...

... and it's about time!

DropDobbs.com: "When advertisers sponsor Lou Dobbs, this is what they are paying for:"
* Dobbs advanced racially charged conspiracy theories about Obama’s birth certificate.
* Dobbs has close ties to “hate group” FAIR.
* Dobbs said Sotomayor nomination was “absolute pandering to the Hispanics.”
* Dobbs declared “Mexico has become our enemy.”
* Dobbs smeared U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as “interested in the export of American capital and production to Mexico, and Mexico’s export of drugs and illegal aliens.”
* Dobbs fearmongered about Mexican “reconquista” plot.
* Dobbs aired hate group graphic to illustrate “the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour.”
* Dobbs spread leprosy falsehood in claiming “invasion of illegal aliens” threatening Americans’ “health.”
* Dobbs asked if Obama is “pandering to ethnocentric special interests again” by accepting Richardson’s endorsement.
* Dobbs praised Philadelphia English-only sign ruling as “a defeat for ethnocentric special interests.”
This is why we have joined together to launch the DropDobbs campaign — to let companies know that their continued financial support of his show makes them complicit in the hate speech that he promotes.

For more, read Dobbs vs. the Facts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Health Insurance Self-Exam

Courtesy of the House Committee on Education & Labor, the same committee that approved H.R. 3200, the only health reform bill so far to make it out of committee:


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Explosive Beach Tax Story

They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard: and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.

Pensacola Beach resident Bill Post, author of the explosive Deceit Beach, has a new article in the Independent News. This time, he's exposing the sweetheart deal reached between Santa Rosa County commissioners and the leaseholders of Summerwinds condominium on Navarre Beach:
The County is giving lease fee refunds or credits to leaseholders at Summerwinds Condos on Navarre Beach for the purpose of offsetting the newly imposed ad valorem tax.
Post's article is a must-read for everyone who owns, or contemplates buying, anything on Navarre Beach or Pensacola Beach. For everyone, the question you should ask is, "Can I trust local government?"

Essentially, Santa Rosa County commissioners are relying on a legal opinion by county attorney Tom Dannheisser that sounds exactly like the arguments beach residents and businesses made in trying to resist earlier efforts by the two counties to impose ad valorem taxes. Call it the Joe Wilson response: "You lie!"
Hey! You promised not to tax us back when you couldn't get anyone to live or work on this mosquito-infested sand pile. We took you at your word. And, now that we're here and, as agreed, we're paying lease fees in lieu of taxes, you want to tax us, too?
The only difference is the commissioners overseeing Navarre Beach have decided to exempt only one condominium (so far) -- one of the latest to be built, in fact -- from the county's newly imposed taxes. But, in Hamlet's words, the move could hoist them by their own petard.

County government simply cannot, constitutionally, pick and choose which citizens it will excuse from suffering from the government's broken promises and which it will not. If Summerwinds can claim the government cannot break its promise of lease-fees- in-lieu of taxes, why not the Portofino complex on Pensacola Beach? The Hilton? Flounders?

And, if those commercial darlings of Escambia County's political establishment are protected from county deceit, why not individual residents? There i$ only one an$wer to that, of cour$e.

Read Bill Post's entire article. It's a humdinger.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yesterday's Most Important Health-Reform News

All the newspaper ink and TeeVee bloviating today is focusing on President Obama's speech and South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson's desperate need for anger management counseling -- not to mention brains.

But the most important health reform news of yesterday is the elevation of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to the chairmanship of the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). That's the same committee once headed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Differences between any health reform bill that passes both the Senate and the House of Representatives will have to be reconciled by negotiators. And under Senate rules, the chairman of the Senate's HELP Committee will have "a key role" in that reconciliation process.

As recently as last week, Senator Harkin was telling his home state newspaper that he thinks a "new public insurance plan" is essential to effective health reform. That's the public option.

We've followed Harkin's career for many years. It's a certainty that on the public option, he won't go down without a fight. At a minimum, it's as sure as anything can be right now that Tom Harkin will insist on a roll call vote for the public option.

Good speeches are nice, of course. Bad speech can have good, even if unintended, consequences, too, or so it appears. But in a matter as vitally important to the welfare of the nation as health care reform, when crunch time comes it's good to know at least one honest, intelligent, Senator who hasn't been bought off will be in the thick of things.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Unhealthy Speech

About President Obama's health reform speech last night, CNN is reporting both the good and the bad news.

The good news:
Sixty-seven percent of people questioned in the survey say the support Obama's health care reform proposals that the president outlined in his address, with 29 percent opposed.

The bad news:
Those figures are almost identical to a poll conducted immediately after Bill Clinton's health care speech before Congress in September, 1993.
Natch, Democrats are saying the speech was a "game changer." That's very doubtful. Even a great speech by a president on a single night -- and this was at the least a very good one -- can't compete with the boatloads of lobbyist cash being shoveled day and night into the pockets of greedy (and well-insured) congressmen and senators. The real game remains where it always has been: in the Hall of Mirrors that is our dysfunctional Congress, so widely corrupted, as it is, by corporate money.

Natch, too, Republicans are trashing Obama's speech. It's what they do these days. Trash. Just ask North Carolina congressman Joe Wilson.

"You lie!" he shouted at the president from the floor when Obama pointed out illegal immigrants would not be covered by any health reform bill pending in Congress. Anyone who has been paying attention knows Wilson is flat wrong. So wrong that even Time Magazine was roused to point out that Wilson was not only rude, he's the liar:
The President's seemingly simple statement, that "the reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally," is not hard to check. In the Senate Finance Committee working framework for a health plan, which Obama's speech seemed most to mimic, there is the line: "No illegal immigrants will benefit from the health care tax credits." Similarly, the major health care reform bill to pass out of committee in the House, H.R. 3200, contains a Section 246, which is called, "NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS."
But Republicans aren't the only ones who weren't impressed by the speech. Popular blogger and attorney "fflambeau" has a detailed, line-by-line critique of Obama's speech from a rigidly liberal perspective. His central disagreement is that what Obama has described isn't "health reform," it's "insurance reform."

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) goes further. Love him or loathe him, what Kucinich has to say is always well-informed, thought-provoking, and never... never... calibrated to please corporate campaign contributors and lobbyists.

With the compromises being forced by conservative Blue Dog Democrats as well as Republicans, Kucinich says:
This system is a bailout for insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. * * * There might be some short term benefit when it starts, but inevitably you're looking at a decline here. And, we'll be here again. Mark my words. Y'know, a year or two after this program starts we'll be back at the problem where people are having trouble paying through their health insurance; they're having trouble with their co-pays and deductibles.

The system that we have now is wrong. There's an underlying fault with this for-profit system. And as long as we have this system that is now getting fed more money and profits will be further fueled, we're looking at an inevitable demise of the public interest.
Nevertheless, when asked if he could envision voting against a bill of the sort Obama outlined, the normally candid and forthright congressman finessed:
As we learned from a few months ago, there's no telling what [kind of bill] is going to come to us. I'm not very optimistic at this point, based on what I heard tonight. I'm, y'know... and I'm not saying 'It's my way or the highway.' Yes, I'm the co-author of the bill for single-payer. And it would be good if we made progress in the direction of trying, trying to help people survive in this economy. I think a bill that gives broad subsidies to insurance and pharmaceutical interests is a problem.
Some pundits are suggesting that Wilson's outburst, more than anything Obama said, may be the glue that will hold the disparate Democratic coalition of liberals and Blue Dogs together long enough to pass meaningful reform with a public option. We're skeptical about that. But, how delicious it would be if, in the end, the nation has an insolent, misinformed, right-wing congressman from South Carolina to thank for achieving, at long last, "Medicare for all."

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Reich: Last Chance for The Public Option

Please spare two minutes, thirty-nine seconds and find out what you can do for meaningful health reform, courtesy of economics professor and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:

Lunchtime for Timorous Thomas

Take a gander at the lunch menu (left) that Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas claimed was too important to interrupt for an inspirational message from President Barack Obama. Them there peaches must be really somethin', Malcolm!

Then (with apologies to Dan Gutman), if you have more courage than Timorous Thomas, watch the speech:

video

Public Option or Bust

We won't know for sure until Wednesday night's presidential address, but Duncan Black has it nailed for now:
[Democrats] seem to have lost track of the fact -- a fact Republicans understand and have been quite open about for decades -- that passing a popular health care bill will make voters love Democrats and passing an unpopular one, or perhaps none at all, will make voters hate them. The Republicans were always going to oppose whatever the Democrats came up with, I just didn't know the Dems would let them do that while also letting them work to make sure anything they came up with is really unpopular.
Partisanship is hardly the most important perspective from which to analyze this health care debate, but it does drive many in Congress. So, it's worth noting that, strictly from a partisan perspective of the Democratic Party, it should be nothing less than "public option or bust."

Without a public option, health care reform will look, at best, like the Baucus "compromise" plan -- an incremental improvement here and there, but more obviously a massive giveaway to the corporate health care industry, with little or no improvement in the quality of medical care for the rest of us. In which case, Republicans will get their wish; the Obama administration will be toast.

Which means, in the next election the "blue dog" Democrats in conservative states and districts will be the first to be thrown out of office. And, wouldn't that be ironic! A lack of personal courage and failure of vision leads to the defeat of incumbent politicians.

Crazy People and School Administrators

Here's the speech crazy people -- and Northwest Florida school superintendents -- don't want school kids to hear:

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event
Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.
=========================
How to Watch
  • For school districts hoping to access the satellite feed, it will be available beginning at 11:00 AM (EDT) using the following coordinates:
Galaxy 28/Transponder 17, Slot C (9 MHz)
Uplink Frequency 14344.5 Horizontal
Downlink Frequency 12044.5 Vertical

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Crossword

Labor Day Crossword.
(click to see and print)

Answers
(no fair cheating)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Learning Lunacy in Pensacola

Sunday's Pensacola News Journal predictably gives the heaviest headline ink today to local crazies who are objecting to President Obama's inspirational speech to school children. Not a word is mentioned by the reporter, or the censorious lunatics Rebekah Allen quotes, about George H. W. Bush's 1991 address to school children, or whether local school superintendents similarly embargoed that inspirational address to school students.

To her credit, Allen's report does quote a number of local citizens who strongly object to the lunacy of closeting an encouraging educational message for students from the President of the United States. And, her report advances the story a bit by illuminating the extreme contortions Escambia County school superintendent Malcolm Thomas is going through to explain why encouraging remarks to "study hard" and "stay in school" will not be shown to students who are enrolled in one of the nation's worst school systems, where too few students study and too many drop out.

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas -- who is, after all, required by the county's demented educational system to be just another politician -- told the PNJ reporter, as she paraphrases it, "Logistically, it does not make sense to stop students who may be at lunch, recess, or in an unrelated class to watch a video that is not time-sensitive."

Lunch! Recess! Of course! Eat first, drop out later.

A Plea to Obama: "We Need a Fighter"

"Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him.

No one's ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying "pretty please" to the guys trying to cut your throat."
----------------
Bill Moyers, a real journalist who has seen more of America, and who knows more about it, than nearly anyone in the media today pleads with the President: "Show us America is more than a circus or a market."

Text:

September 4, 2009

BILL MOYERS: The editors of The Economist magazine say ["Keep It Honest"] America's health care debate has become a touch delirious, with people accusing each other of being evil-mongers, dealers in death, and un-American.

Well, that's charitable.

I would say it's more deranged than delirious, and definitely not un-American.

Those crackpots on the right praying for Obama to die and be sent to hell — they're the warp and woof of home-grown nuttiness. So is the creature from the Second Amendment who showed up at the President's rally armed to the teeth. He's certainly one of us. Red, white, and blue kooks are as American as apple pie and conspiracy theories.

Bill Maher asked me on his show last week if America is still a great nation. I should have said it's the greatest show on earth. Forget what you learned in civics about the Founding Fathers — we're the children of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak show was the forerunner of today's talk radio.

Speaking of which: we've posted on our website an essay by the media scholar Henry Giroux. ["Living in a Culture of Cruelty: Democracy as Spectacle"] He describes the growing domination of hate radio as one of the crucial elements in a "culture of cruelty" increasingly marked by overt racism, hostility and disdain for others, coupled with a simmering threat of mob violence toward any political figure who believes health care reform is the most vital of safety nets, especially now that the central issue of life and politics is no longer about working to get ahead, but struggling simply to survive.

So here we are, wallowing in our dysfunction. Governed — if you listen to the rabble rousers — by a black nationalist from Kenya smuggled into the United States to kill Sarah Palin's baby. And yes, I could almost buy their belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, only I think he shipped them to Washington, where they've been recycled as lobbyists and trained in the alchemy of money laundering, which turns an old-fashioned bribe into a First Amendment right.

Only in a fantasy capital like Washington could Sunday morning talk shows become the high church of conventional wisdom, with partisan shills treated as holy men whose gospel of prosperity always seems to boil down to lower taxes for the rich.

Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him.

No one's ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying "pretty please" to the guys trying to cut your throat.

Let's get on with it, Mr. President. We're up the proverbial creek with spaghetti as our paddle. This health care thing could have been the crossing of the Delaware, the turning point in the next American Revolution — the moment we put the mercenaries to rout, as General Washington did the Hessians at Trenton. We could have stamped our victory "Made in the USA." We could have said to the world, "Look what we did!" And we could have turned to each other and said, "Thank you."

As it is, we're about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

As we speak, Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, has been fined a record $2.3 billion dollars as a civil and criminal — yes, that's criminal, as in fraud — penalty for promoting prescription drugs with the subtlety of the Russian mafia. It's the fourth time in a decade Pfizer's been called on the carpet. And these are the people into whose tender mercies Congress and the White House would deliver us?

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company's share price and profits.

Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website talkingpointsmemo.com. He's a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He's offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you're 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.

That's it for the Journal. I'm Bill Moyers. See you next time.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Expect Less from Local School Superintendents

Reginald Dogan comes down hard today on Malcolm Thomas and Tim Wyrosdick:
As superintendents of schools in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties respectively, they should lead by example, not by their conservative Republican political partisanship.They shouldn't allow parental pressure or party politics to prevent students from hearing President Obama's national address on Tuesday to school children across the nation.
* * *
Unrealistic skepticism and unfounded fear separated from reason is paranoia. It undermines the rational foundations upon which democratic self-government depends.

We expect more reason and less hysteria from our school leaders.
No, actually, we don't expect more rationality. Or, at least we shouldn't. Remember, under the demented Florida "local option" system, school districts are organized by counties; and each county has the option of requiring its school superintendent to be popularly elected, rather than appointed.

Truly, the lunatics run the asylum around here; or, more precisely, the stupid elect the schoolmasters. All three counties in this poorly-educated corner of Northwest Florida elect the school superintendents. And it shows. Overall, Florida panhandle schools are nearly the worst of the worst.

To be sure, there are isolated bright spots here and there. The best schools are at Pensacola Beach Elementary (a nonsectarian charter school) and all Gulf Breeze schools. (It's probably no accident that the best schools around here also happen to be the farthest from the school district superintendent offices).

Overall, however, Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa county schools rank among the worst in the state -- and Florida is a state which ranks "48th nationally in student scores on the college-prep ACT test," as today's PNJ editorial page points out while taking a more oblique swipe at the craven Thomas and Wyrosdick.

Electing school superintendents is a guaranteed formula for rotten schools. It ensures they will be run by pusillanimous pandering pols who always will have their own political fortunes uppermost in mind, not the education of their students.