Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's the weekend






Time for a good meander

142 comments:

  1. Interesting picture, av. Makes me think of that African salt lake where flamingos come to nest every year.

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  2. Yes, isn't that amazing? It's Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

    I'm a huge flamingo and other large tropical bird fan and have always wanted to see them in the Southeast. That's a life goal for sure.

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  3. I would have never guessed the Yukon. I take those to be ice sheets then.

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  4. Yes, here's what it says:

    Alaska. Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge NWR. Oxbow and lakes on the Yukon River. Aerial winter

    From the refuge's website:

    The international importance of the Yukon Flats to migratory waterfowl wasn’t fully recognized until after World War II. During the late 1950s, a major hydroelectric project was proposed for the Yukon River at Rampart Canyon. That dam, if constructed, would have flooded the entire Yukon Flats and created a lake larger than Lake Erie. Environmental organizations, hunters, Alaska Native groups, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took a firm stand against this proposed project, and eventually it died. Official protection by the federal government began in 1978

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  5. I just read that the administration is backing away from the public option. I guess I'm a little too old to be disillusioned, but I still am.

    I thought this article was illuminating from a historical perspective:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/03/opinion/03smith.html

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  6. That should read backing away _even more_ from the public option. Seems like they've been creeping away from it for weeks now.

    I can't believe how disheartened and jaded this all makes me feel. I always knew Obama was a moderate when it came to most economic issues and health care, and a downright hawk when it came to Afghanistan, but I still had some of that hope he talked about. As a historian I should know better, right?

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  7. I'm disappointed but not surprised. I'm so disgusted by all the stupid talk on the right about this. If nothing else, the fact that we are spending so much for private health insurance, enriching top executives and shareholders, should be enough to convince so-called conservatives into supporting single payer, or at least the public option. I'm so disgusted. I've been spit on in facebook for my views on this. These people are clueless.

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  8. In all fairness to my facebook friends, I've received a lot of support as well about this. Some of the naysayers are from my home town on the Jersey shore.

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  9. Yes, I'm very discouraged by it all.

    The analogy that I thought insightful was to higher education, where there are both public and private options.

    I can't imagine how that threatens anyone, but there are some crazy people out there who don't want anything to do with an African-American president. They don't even want him to speak to their children about taking responsibility for their own learning.

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  10. There has been talk for weeks that the Obama administration is backing away from the public option, but the administration has not said one way or the other on the matter. In the end, this is a bill that has to be brokered in Congress and if Congressional Dems insist on the public option they can get it through if they bring their fellow Blue Dogs and the Independents along with them. They have the numbers.

    What appears to have hurt them most is the loss of Ted Kennedy, who was perhaps the biggest advocate of the health care bill in the Senate, although his role had been severely diminished for some time. Public support has also weakened, which has a strong effect on vacillating Senators. I think there isn't as strong a drive for the public option in the Senate as there is in the House, where concessions are all too easily made.

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  11. So it's the press that's saying that Obama is backing away and not the Obama administration itself?

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  12. I've more or less stopped watching television for fear I'll see yet another white person complaining about the President's upcoming speech to school children. One of the saddest things I've ever witnessed. Insurance company executives are probably worn out from all the high-fives and knuckle knocks.

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  13. Now they have Van Jones to kick around for another week, so expect the health care bill to continue to be backstory.

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  14. The strategy has become all too obvious, rather than engage in any kind of meaningful health care debate where alternatives to the Democratic bill are proposed, right-wing tabloids will continue to feed the mainstream media red meat stories which the mainstream media simply can't resist to pass up. Television news has become a form of insipid "reality show."

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  15. I've pretty much given up on news for the time being because I find this so disheartening.

    When Bush was president I felt anger and fear (and I protested often) but there was also a sort grudging acceptance of this is the way the country is right now. I kept reminding myself that they hadn't canceled any elections (although remember they talked about it?).

    Now I just feel sadness that the small window of opportunity the country had is being squandered. I feel even more disenfranchised than before. I'm not even sure I'll listen to the speech on Wednesday.

    I still have a glimmer of hope he'll surprise us all -- like his speech in Philadelphia -- but from all the signals Gibbs and Axelrod were sending on Sunday, it's not looking good. As someone who has been denied insurance along with my daughter, and couldn't afford it now if I could get it, regulation of the industry alone is not in and of itself reform.

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  16. As for the personal attacks on the President speaking to school children.... what a country.

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  17. I had never heard of Van Jones before all of this and didn't know about the "green jobs" czar, but it sounds like he was someone out there getting things done.

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  18. On a happier note, Happy Labor Day everyone.

    There was a time in this country when people worked for social justice -- and actually made a difference.

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  19. I don't see what there is to be disheartened about. It is just so much "Sound and Fury" by the Republicans. Despite all the inane protests, Obama has accomplished a great deal in his first 8 months in office. I think the stimulus bill is starting to have an effect. Tax credits is spurring eco-driven products. Business seems to be ready to rebound. Sotomayor was approved over the "dead body" of the Republicans. I think we will see a health care bill ratified. And, if we start to see a slow recovery in the months ahead, as economists forecast, then it will be the death knell for the Republican party in the midterms. This is what the Republican rank and file are rebelling against, because midterm victories by the Dems will send the Repugs into a long hibernation.

    Cheer up, av!

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  20. There's definitely much to celebrate, Gintaras. I don't disagree with you on that. And I'm still a huge fan of the president.

    I think with this initiative in particular we're seeing behind the corporate curtain and there's not much we can do about it.

    Obama has the ability to lead on this issue and really dominate public opinion, but he doesn't seem to have the inclination to do so.

    BUT.... I'll wait for the postmortem on Wednesday just in case.

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  21. Although I still have not listened to his Labor Day speech, Obama actually defended the public option. I've got to read the entire content.

    I hadn't heard much about Van Jones before either and I still don't see anything wrong with his political views, including the one he supposedly had about 9/11. It's just the Glenn Becks of the country stirring up the hate pot. I'm sorry that the White House threw VJ out. It just empowers Glenn Beck and his ilk.

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  22. Van Jones resigned. I imagine out of deference to Obama. He was in an advisor role anyway, so no big deal. Apparently one of Jones' political advocacy groups, Color of Change, was behind the advertising boycott of the Glenn Beck Show, which was why Beck took aim at him.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2009/08/glenn-beck-ignores-ad-boycott.html

    I knew nothing about Jones either, but to read his wiki page he was quite influential in the world of eco-commerce, and probably an opinion that Obama valued.

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  23. I hope a public option could at least cover people under a certain (fairly low) annual income and the self-employed. Maybe making it selective like that would make it less than public.

    Did you hear Laura Bush defending the Obamas?

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  24. I hope it covers me so I don't have to be a student until I'm 65!

    The White House is sure sending mixed messages right now. I guess we just have to wait to hear what he says on Wednesday to be sure what he thinks and, more importantly, what he's willing to fight for.

    If Baucus is the key to all of this, I don't have much hope. But I'll keep my spirits and hope up until Wednesday.

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  25. I'm hoping Obama will do what he did so successfully on the campaign trail: make the case for the public option as a kind of moral imperative. He hasn't been nearly as inspirational in the White House as he was prior to moving in. But it's still early.

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  26. Here's a weird question that came up reading Brinkley the other night:

    I am a big fan of Frank Norris' The Octopus. I have always thought the Octopus was the railroad in the book, sort of sending its tentacles out across the California landscape, but Brinkley says it's agriculture (which is sort of the foundational theme of Norris' work as I recall). Do I need to go back and re-read Norris or does Brinkley have it all backwards?

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  27. I would say Brinkley has it wrong. Purely from a metaphorical standpoint, the railroad lines correspond to the tentacles of an octopus.

    A case can be made for the idea that the big farmers, who are swallowing up so much land, are not much better than the big railroads, since both are in it solely for the money. But I think Norris would have needed a different metaphor for that.

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  28. Thanks, Rick. I thought I was on the right track as it were, but the way he stated it made me have second thoughts.

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  29. Good speech. I would hope Republicans will be ashamed for kicking up such a ridiculous fuss over it, as it was about as straightforward as you can get, stay in school, respect yourself, respect your teachers and work hard!

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  30. Republicans have no shame. It isn't compatible with their ideology which can be summed up thusly: "We're always right." Although I haven't checked, I would bet that some will now argue that Obama changed his speech in light of their well grounded objections, which was all they ever wanted him to do.

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  31. No wonder the Republicans were upset. That's supposed to be the conservatives' message.

    What they should really be upset about is the attack dogs they've unleashed to get people to believe it's in their best interest to deny health care to millions of their neighbors, friends, and relatives. If nothing else, they should realize we need a healthy and productive work force if they are going to get their social security and medicare.

    I'm trying to stay positive and hopeful but what a country.....

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  32. But avrds, they have to be against stuff like health care reform. To admit that the health care system is rigged in favor of the haves and the insurance companies and for that reason needs fixing would be to deny a number of their most cherished ideological premises. I just don't understand why they can't stick to their premises without all the excessive fear-mongering and ugly accusations.

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  33. I know. It's depressing......

    "Paddle your own canoe" as one libertarian candidate here once campaigned.

    I just read about the health care meeting today at the White House. One House Democrat has stated publicly he will not vote for any bill that includes a public _option._ This is the part I don't understand.

    If the free market is so good at beating out inefficiencies and making products more competitive (insert whatever emoticon comes to mind here -- maybe the guy with the green face?), then it would seem they'd want more options in the marketplace, not less.

    But gosh, I guess I don't think like a Republican. Or like that House Democrat either.

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  34. I have no doubt that Van Jones' resignation was forced upon him. The way the right was talking about him, the WH didn't want him there any more because it was considered as politically damaging. Always trying to please the opposition. But I didn't know about what certain republicans and the right-wing media were doing until after he resigned, because I don't listen to those right wingnuts. Erik Prinz was involved in funding the campaign against Van Jones.

    http://tinyurl.com/klvl82

    M.

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  35. I'm with you Marti. I read the Times story about Van Jones and didn't see anything objectionable in his views. Outside the mainstream for sure, but sounds like his heart, motives, and actions are all pointed in the right direction.

    Obama should remember the accepted rule of hostage taking -- you never give in to terrorists because it only encourages them to do it again for even bigger targets. Beck et al. will no doubt move on to someone else now.

    (Funny though how they don't seem to object to people who order torture, invade and occupy countries without provocation, steal millions from old-age pensioners, etc., etc. )

    Interesting news source, Marti -- haven't heard of Rebel Reports before.

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  36. And in the spirit of keeping optimistic at least until tomorrow, I'm off to watch Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann.

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  37. Well, according to Chuck Todd, who is hardly on the left, it sounds like the public option will only be an option if the insurance companies don't straighten up.

    I personally would like an option, but I guess the Democrats and Republicans don't want to let me have one. I keep writing to my Senators regularly but I guess they don't care what I think.

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  38. avrds -- "If the free market is so good at beating out inefficiencies" then health care wouldn't be more expensive here than it is anywhere else in the world. Or so it would seem. And I don't buy the line, favored by insurers, that health care is so high because we, the American public, demand so much in the way of coverage.

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  39. Rick I think your spot on about the Obama speech today.But I think it's the right wing radio nuts who will try and take credit for "making him tone down his message" and the minions will beleive Rush and the others saved their kids from being indoctrinated by the Obama cult of personality.

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  40. This is as good a review of the health care bill as I have read yet, albeit a bit cynical,

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29988909/sick_and_wrong

    The RS article notes that the major stumbling block now is getting the bill through the Senate Finance Committee, where it appears that Olympia Snowe of Maine is the only Republican left willing to deal, but she is not a big fan of the public option, prefering a failsafe provision for the public option if private companies don't bring down the cost of insurance. Seems the greatest anxiety is that the public option would have an unfair advantage of private insurance said it would essentially provide insurance at cost, eliminating the profit motive.

    Anyway, read the article, it gives one a greater insight into the process.

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  41. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2008/industries/223/index.html

    The link above gives you a pretty good idea of the health care industry's financial health. If I'm not mistaken, 2008 was not exactly a banner year for the US economy.

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  42. Rick, when the word first came out on giving up on the public option, all the insurance stocks shot up in a day that the market broadly lost big. It just shows you where they assume we are headed.

    Gintaras, thanks for the Taibi article. He was interviewed on Rachel Maddow's show about it awhile back, but I never got around to reading it. I'll see if I can stomach it. (I'm trying to keep my spirits/hopes up until this evening!)

    And yes, I heard last night on the news that Obama changed his back to school speech. They showed a clip of Campbell Brown asking the head of the Florida Republican party if he had seen the _first_ speech, and he said he hadn't, but he was still confident that Obama gave a different speech because of pressure from him and others not to socialize their kids or some such.

    The hoops these Southern white guys jump through to avoid being called the obvious -- racist -- is amazing.

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  43. Neither speech (released nor spoken) carried with it a "socialist message." It was very carefully delivered to ruffle as few feathers as possible, but that was about it. However, if the Republicans want to crow that they altered Obama's "trajectory," there isn't much anyone can say to tell them otherwise, because they are so full of themselves right now that they think they ruling government from the street.

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  44. In my effort to be more optimistic, I can say at least they are no longer in power!

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  45. On second thought, maybe in some weird, revenge-on-the-electorate way they still are:

    "President Obama will talk about the advantages of a public-insurance option in his nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress on health insurance reform Wednesday night, but he will not insist on it, the White House said on Wednesday afternoon."

    This was an issue Obama could have taken a lead on. My guess is he'll lose huge support from his base -- people like me who actually volunteer and have been willing to work for him.

    In the jaded world of politics, the White House knows, as Lawrence O'Donnell said the other night, that the democrats have no where else to go when it comes to voting. But what they don't realize is that a huge group of hard-core supporters simply won't be there for him when he needs us.

    O'Donnell also predicted that Pelosi will cave when the time comes and said she tried her best and urge the House to follow suit.

    So instead of universal access to health care and choice of how we want to be covered, we will continue to sink more and more into the long-term occupation of Afghanistan. What a lost opportunity for leadership.

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  46. If it is any consolation, I wrote an Op/Ed piece for the Atlanta Journal Constitution a couple weeks ago in which I made the connection between our idiotic and costly "war" efforts and how there's only so much money to go around. The editorial board has not seen fit to run my piece. It seems foreign policy decisions are off limits. And yet the paper has run other pieces that argue against reform and make either passing or explicit connections between the public option and socialized medicine. I dunno.

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  47. Hmmmm... Sorry to hear that, Rick. Nice to know I'm not the only one thinking about that, though.

    Parts of the speech are available online now, and it's clear there will be some improvement for some of us, particularly in the areas of preventative care which I've never understood insurance companies' aversion to since it saves them money, but it appears that the only ones who will really do well by this are those same insurance companies. Oh, well. We tried!

    I may picket Baucus' office at some point. What a loser they chose to take the lead on this.

    I was going to a movie tonight and see something really cynical (In the Loop) so I wouldn't have to watch the speech, but it's not showing tonight for some reason. Life in America. What a country.

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  48. Unfortunately, the Dems had no choice in the matter. Baucus is head of the Senate Finance Committee, which appears to have the ultimate control over the bill. The worst of it was that he wasted all that time with Grassley. In the Taibbi article, he is unmerciful on Baucus and the "Gang of Six." Personally, I think Snowe can be nudged to sign on. The way the "public option" is being presented is that it would be phased into the system, similar to the "trigger option" which she and more willing Republicans and Blue Dogs are willing to concede. It would be made available to a limited number of persons (those who currently are not able to afford health insurance) and eventually be able to be purchased by those who want it. The aim being to nudge the private insurers into offering lower premiums by better evaluating their services. Very American.

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  49. A very sad and shameful display by the gentleman Republican from South Carolina tonight heckling the President during his speech.The right wing has gone way beyond acceptable behavior and tonight showed it.Also the right wing Calif assembly person caught on tape bragging to others how he had an affair with a lobbyist is more fuel for the fire.The best part was other so called family value right wingers who listened to his exploits acting all innocent when asked about it.

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  50. BTW, has anyone read the book, "Nudge," which supposedly influenced Obama during his campaign,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/books/review/Friedman-t.html

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  51. Well, I have to admit that it was quite the speech. I only caught the last half, but he does have a way with words. The final bit about Kennedy was just like what I remember from his speech to the Democratic convention all those many years ago.

    I do understand what he's trying to do -- it just seems like he's not willing to fight hard enough to make it work. But maybe that will change now. We'll see.

    The public option as he described it has been reduced to a place to dump those who can't get insurance elsewhere. And yet, he says it will be self-sufficient and run on premiums alone. Can't imagine the size of those premiums if it only covers those with, say, catastrophic illness. So it's an odd bone to throw to all the public option proponents.

    Still, I promised to stay optimistic, and am going to try. We'll see what they can get through.

    As for Baucus, bah, humbug. The guy is an idiot (and I know, I've met him).

    Nudge looks interesting, Gintaras. Had never heard of it, but it makes sense.

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  52. Av, Obama was referring to the exchange program that will allow persons to opt out of their current plan and buy into the public option. This is where the Dems hope to recover some of their costs. According to the CBO report last June, of the approx. 39 million persons this plan will cover, 23 million will buy into. Approx 16 million uninsured persons will receive credits, depending on their income, allowing them to take part in the public option at a reduced cost. I think this is part of the compromise being forged to keep Blue Dogs and Independents in the caucus so that it carries the Senate. It also aims at the uninsured first, and then allows others to opt into the program at a later date, which apparently is what Snowe and other leaning Republicans want, giving private health insurance companies the opportunity to reduce their rates. Every bill is a work of compromise. It needs 60 votes. So, one Republican has to vote for it. We'll see how it turns out.

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  53. Thanks, Gintaras. I guess I'm a little confused then -- not the first time to be sure.

    I was just reading a market-related story in the Seattle paper and they cite (albeit for different reasons) my major concern:

    "The key concern, he said, is uncertainty over the public option. Without it, the requirement for all Americans to have health insurance could be a boon of up to $700 billion in new revenue for health insurers. But until Democrats pull it out the industry will likely remain uncertain over the potential impact of health care reform.
    The prospect of a public plan is receiving too much attention, according to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Tom Carroll said. "I don't know anybody who thinks the public plan is viable," he said. A bill currently proposed by the Senate Finance Committee does not include the option. Likewise, Wachovia analyst Matt Perry said in a Wednesday research note he believes the public plan will eventually be dropped from the reform push."

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  54. The public option makes sense to me. A reduced rate insurance plan that allows more people to be covered. It also introduced a health care plan into the mix that will force the private insurers to reassess their rates. I suppose the government could provide "credits" or "vouchers" for uninsured persons, depending on their income, to buy into private plans, but there wouldn't be much incentive to reduce private rates. I imagine this is what the Repugs would prefer.

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  55. Makes sense to me too but sounds like Obama isn't committed one way or the other, which is the hard part for me.

    I certainly agree with his goals, but it sounds too much like a gift to the insurance companies now if there isn't a public option available to opt into. I certainly would if it were available.

    I know that politics is the art of the possible, but reading about TR who found ways to make things happen (if Brinkley is to be believed - a big IF), it seems like Obama has at least that much potential to lead. Great speech, but he left himself lots of wiggle room.

    Gibbs said the other day that the goal is to get a bill -- any bill -- to sign, and they weren't so worried about its content. So we'll see. I'm keeping an open mind -- or trying to!

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  56. Here's some interesting data:

    The number of Americans without health insurance rose to 46.3 million last year as people began losing jobs and coverage in the current recession. The poverty rate hit 13.2 percent, an 11-year high.....

    Divided by region, the uninsured were mostly likely to be found in the West (17.4 percent) and the South (18.2 percent). That is in contrast to 11.6 percent for the Northeast and the Midwest.

    [And yet the West and South tend to be those regions that support the republicans and their free markets -- how do they get away with it?]

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  57. Following the nudge theory, maybe they need to put health care for all Americans down at eye level.

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  58. "Divided by region, the uninsured were mostly likely to be found in the West (17.4 percent) and the South (18.2 percent)."

    It doesn't make much sense. I suppose a lot of them consider the emergency room their health insurance plan.

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  59. Here in the south many people work for small companies that do not provide benefits. At best, the employee might have an opportunity to "buy" benefits. For the majority of low wage workers that's a luxory they can't afford.

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  60. I think that's the case here as well. My daughter only has had insurance once through an employer, and they cut it once she cut her hours -- most people here can't afford it on their own, and she certainly can't. Plus, there are lots of agricultural workers and, like me, marginally self employeds. It's tough out there.

    I have a friend who has a small bakery and she's terrified about being required to provide insurance for herself and her one employee.

    There will sadly need to be some shaking out but hopefully in the end it will all work out. I'd happily pay 50 cents more for a loaf of bread so that they can have access to health care.

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  61. Those numbers are from last year by the way. The story said they are probably much higher now that the recession is in full force.

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  62. I was buoyed by the speech, except for the parts about the 4-year gap before taking effect and the downplaying of the numbers/percentage of those expected to opt for the public option. A funny part to me was the way mention of medical malpractice was greeted--the wording was such that there was not much more than utterance of the words (did they signify "tort reform" to those cheering, perhaps?)

    Overall, I was heartened by the show of determination as much as anything. It was necessary and well done.

    JAbel: re this "The right wing has gone way beyond acceptable behavior" you may want to be on the lookout for a book I heard about today called "Republican Gomorrah" by Max Blumenthal, (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1568583982/npr-5-20 ) who writes about "the extremist ideology that passes for 'conservatism' in America today."

    You can hear what I heard on NPR here http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112683449&ft=1&f=13

    I don't know if it's because I'm reading "Ghost Wars" about the rise to power elsewhere of religious fundamentalists but some of what was described by Blumenthal sure seemed similar to the right-wing extremism in movements to purge Islam of secular/Western influence (and/or how such affects power in places where religion and politics are not separate).

    Anyway, something to consider. I'd love to be able to dismiss the wingnuts, but maybe there be dangers in so doing.

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  63. This health care bill has come to dominate public opinion the way the waning weeks of the election did. For better or worse, it has become a referendum on the Obama administration.

    Seems the 4-year delay, or "trigger effect" is a concession to Republicans like Olympia Snowe. She felt the private insurers should be given the chance to reform before facing the prospect of actually competing against a cheaper public health insurance plan.

    What makes me laugh are the Republicans claiming the federal government couldn't administer the program, forgetting, it seems, that the operating budget of Medicare and Medicaid is about $600 bil per year, and here they were protecting it like it was the holy grail for seniors. The annual operating budget for the health care bill would be around $100 bil, give or take a few bil anyone year for the next ten years.

    I suppose today there will be all kinds of 911 commemorations. If it wasn't so close to Labor Day, I'm sure there would be a push in Congress to make it into a national day of mourning.

    Interesting book references, NYT. But, I think it is a bit too early to deliver a post-mortum on the Republicans. The interesting thing is to read how they got to where they are today and I thought Perlstein's book Nixonland did a pretty good job of describing the turbulent 60s.

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  64. NY, be sure to post something about Coll -- I never read that book but was fascinated by it when it came out. And read some excerpts in, I think, the New Yorker. The US is being sucked into a permanent occupation that only serves to fuel terrorism in my opinion.

    I should add that's the opinion of Robert Pape who studies these things. His terrorism research is based at the University of Chicago so Obama should know better.

    Well, Obama should know better anyway since he said he was against "dumb wars."

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  65. Just got an email from Robert. It's hard for him to type and reading isn't easy either, from what he said in brief note. He's had a stroke. He did ask me to tell others. I don't know if he's reading all of this blog page -- perhaps he is. If anyone needs his mailing address, email me, marti.lewis@gmail.com. I found it in White Pages online.

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  66. THANKS, Marti! I'm so sorry to hear that -- I wonder if there's anything we can do for him?

    Books on tape, maybe? I have a bunch of them.

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  67. I just sent you an email, Marti. Even if he can't respond, maybe we can at least all flood him with emails so he knows we're thinking about him....

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  68. I really don't like the 4-yr. delay trigger idea one bit. I'm unemployed and buying Cobra with big help from government, thanks to the stimulus bill that went into effect in March. I pay 35%, fed. gov't. pays 65%. It would have been $455 a month (without dental and vision plans I had while working). I pay $156. This is still a lot compared with what I paid through employer when I was working.

    I may find a real job within a few months. There are a lot of people in my position who did same kind of work I did -- legal secretarial and word processing. Most of the few openings are temp to perm. I may be temping soon, but of course no benefits there.

    I didn't expect to be out this long. The layoff was in January, so it's 8 months now. I'm collecting unemployment and drawing from savings as needed, which hasn't been every month, but more as time goes by. I'm lucky compared to anyone who lost a job that was taking them from paycheck to paycheck. I have no debt.

    If we get a public option, I wonder what the monthly premium would be. If there is a delay to appease Repubs who won't vote for any healthcare bill anyway, I'll be 62 before it would kick in.

    Don't want to sound like a whiner, but I worked 34 years straight and, in all honesty, think that at my age (58), Social Security and Medicare should be made available to me.

    Since the Reagan '80s, the IRS taxes state unemployment benefits. The states can't afford to raise the weekly rates accordingly. I'm not having it withheld and so will be smacked with the bill next April. So, that poor tax robs both the states and the unemployed.

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  69. I agree with you, Marti. If it's any consolation, you're not alone.

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  70. I am so sorry to hear that Robert had a stroke. When he stopped checking in here I feared something was wrong.

    As I get older I find news like this more and more distressing, no doubt because I immediately remind myself that the same thing could happen to me.

    Marti, please let Robert know that I am thinking about him, and that I wish him a speedy and full recovery. After all, the fate of American history is at stake!

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  71. This just in:
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/09/11/michigan.shooting/index.html

    Open season on doctors who perform legal abortions as well as peaceful abortion protesters. At times like these I feel that I have lived too long, and I'm only 55. Why are we becoming so unhinged?

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  72. I passed on your comment to Robert, Rick. He wrote that his mind is clear, so hopefully he can get his physical strength back and join us.

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  73. Please add my very best wishes to Robert, too, and thanks so much for persisting in your efforts.

    I suppose it would not be appropriate to ask if he's seen "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (if I were a good enough friend instead of just a co-participant in forums, I'd recommend it) but if he's reading during his convalescence, he might be interested in the book "Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" by Jill Bolte Taylor, a doctor who knew what was happening when she had a stroke--pretty amazing story, actually, from what I heard in an interview.

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  74. avrds: I will try to post about "Ghost Wars" anon if I find a place that seems appropriate...or maybe I'll just ignore protocol and barge in somewhere. I read Coll's eye-opening "The Bin Ladens" last year (can't recall if there was a forum discussion somewhere) so am doing a reverse of those who read his work in publication order, dunno if that skews things somehow.

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  75. I second the thank you to Marti. I think of myself as pretty good at finding people, but I wouldn't have known how to find an email address. I sure hope he finds himself on a path to a full recovery. I miss his keeping my excesses in check!

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  76. NY, I hope you will post something -- that's what these meanders are for.

    I listened to an interview with a husband/wife film making/writing team who have been in Afghanistan and some of what they had to say was total news to me.

    For example, they maintain that the Taliban is a relatively new political force, backed by the secret service in Pakistan, to bring about a more sympathetic government in their fight against India. Makes sense -- the US does that all the time -- but I had never heard that before.

    So I'll be curious to read what you think about Coll, who I think is one of the best reporters out there from the little I've read.

    Plus, I'm deeply concerned about the sinking of more resources and lives into a long-term occupation of a country where we can never "win" -- whatever that means.

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  77. I've had Bob's aol address for a while -- we were in touch at some point when he gave it to me to replace the previous one.

    I saw the Diving Bell on dvd. Good film. I bought the book but haven't read it yet.

    I'm assuming that Bob is doing better than the man in the film did.

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  78. My laptop computer mouse died tonight. It was a good one while it was working. I'm using the touch pad and don't like it.

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  79. Well I posted but it doesn't seem to have taken.I hope Robert is doing well and will be able to post here again.Robert made the NYTimes American History forum and I for one would love to see Robert's book collection!

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  80. We would _all_ like to see Robert's book collection. A real library in the truest sense of the word I'm sure.

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  81. Here's a good, short intro to the public option to pass around to friends. I love Robert Reich (he's why I voted for Clinton the first time):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXFHXqrrJ6g

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  82. Gintaras, re this
    "the 4-year delay, or "trigger effect" is a concession to Republicans like Olympia Snowe. She felt the private insurers should be given the chance to reform before facing the prospect of actually competing against a cheaper public health insurance plan."

    the cynic in me says the 4 years would be ones in which private insurers/health care corporate entities would complete as much raiding as possible, just as financial institutions did in the free-for-all years after deregulation, leaving gov't to pick up the pieces thereafter.

    avrds, I'm also a Reich fan, thanks for the link.

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  83. It is understood in the above post that "health care corporate entities" includes Big Pharma.

    Hmmm, maybe I do need to read "Zeitoun" or the Solnits book, but yes, I will finish "Ghost Wars," the early parts of which are bringing back the feeling I've had before when reading about such places/subjects, that we Americans really have no idea what we're messing with a good deal of the time...

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  84. "...we Americans really have no idea what we're messing with a good deal of the time..."

    We don't, and yet there's something about the American psyche that thinks it has the right to impose its will and power wherever and whenever it chooses. Brinkley doesn't want to talk about that when it comes to Roosevelt, but he was certainly one of the big ones in this regard. Look forward to your comments.

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  85. Very sorry to hear about robert. Please send him my best wishes as well. I have an e-mail address for him which he had responded to when setting up this forum, so will write him again.

    Health care is indeed a very personal issue, and no plan is going to cover everyone to his or her satisfaction. I think what most people worry about is having to adjust themselves to a new plan after having figured out the plan they have. No one likes to change unless what they have simply doesn't work anymore.

    However, the more vociferous attacks against "Obamacare" are coming from persons who wouldn't really have a stake in this plan, but are using it as a way to incite fears and unrest, which they hope they can channel into the midterm elections.

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  86. From the outset I think this was an attempt to undermine Obama, not undermine choice in health insurance although I don't think the Republicans on the right really care about health care access either.

    I read some of the quotes from the anti-tax march on Washington and Dick Army seems to have been successful in mobilizing people's reasonable fear of government and deficits, but also their anger at someone getting something they might not be getting.

    It seems to be a strange mixture of anger, envy, greed, and racism to me.

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  87. It's that old "welfare queen" argument recycled once again. I would think people would pretty much be wise to it by now, but apparently not.

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  88. The Reagan story was exactly what I thought of, too. It's morning in America all over again.

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  89. These protests have been all about politics and the next election from day one. The Republicans are incredibly transparent all the time.

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  90. Dowd has it right on about Wilson, too:

    "But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!"

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/opinion/13dowd.html

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  91. Arvds the Dowd piece was well done on Sunday.There was another article in Sunday Styles I think about children and going to school.I found the it interesting that in 1969 41% of kids walked or rode their bikes to school and last year it was 13%.The story mentioned a ten year old boy in a suburb who walked to soccer practice and like three folks called 911.The police showed up and drove him to practice then reprimanded his Mom telling her that if he had been kidnapped she would be responsible for child neglect or some such nonsense.

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  92. I liked the way one pundit joked during the fever pitch of the general election, to Republicans all Democrats are Black, or words to that effect. He was noting how Whites have historically voted against Democratic Presidential candidates ever since LBJ. Adding substance to Toni Morrison's quip in 1992, the Bill Clinton was America's first Black President, since by carrying the minority vote in a big way he won the election.

    Seems the Repugs haven't done a very good job of studying the demographics of the country. While they can probably hold onto many Southern and Western Congressional seats with this sort of racial rhetoric, they will find themselves at a loss thoughout the country, including Texas and Arizona, where I imagine there will be a big fallout over their grandstanding effort against Ms. Sotomayor. I was really stunned to see Texas and Arizona senators line up against Sotomayor, but then maybe they figured their districts were gerrymandered in such a way as to insure their re-election.

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  93. Much of what the Republicans are doing is tied to fundraising. Wilson in South Carolina has reaped huge financial benefit from his unseemly outburst last week. But it has motivated many reactive/non-thinking voters to send him gobs of money because they believe he is one of them. The sheer stupidity of many voters is enough to make you wonder if universal suffrage is a good idea.

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  94. Like you, I have the feeling his outburst wasn't spontaneous. However, I'd like to think the Democrats could use that comment against him in his district. Looking at his numbers in wikipedia, his support has deteriorated sharply in this deeply "red" district, to the point he could only muster 54% of the vote last time around. He ran virtually unopposed (no Democratic challenger) back in 2002 and won 84% of the vote.

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  95. I actually think it _was_ spontaneous because the news folks said he rushed from the House, appearing even a little shaken (of course that's in the mind of the beholder).

    But by the responses we're seeing, he appears to have spoken the collective minds of a lot of our fellow citizens. That's why I thought the Dowd piece was right on. There are people -- and some even in power -- who don't want to sit there and be lectured by an educated and articulate black man, particularly in their halls of power.

    The good news is that Wilson's opponent is apparently getting LOTS of donations. I've been hit up twice already.

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  96. I'm not convinced the spontaneity (or not) is the point. It was disrespectful in the extreme, and issuing from the mouth of a white male from South Carolina, a state with a long and fairly sordid racist past, its intent was obvious, at least to me. There is a not so subtle difference between accusing Obama of playing fast and loose with the facts (and who in politics isn't guilty of that) and accusing him of being a liar. Words matter.

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  97. People like Wilson know that they can get away with almost anything as long as they apologize quickly. That appears to be part of the new dispensation.

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  98. But did you notice he said he wouldn't apologize to his colleagues? I think he likes his new found notoriety. What a country!

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  99. The "POST A COMMENT" box has returned. Did it disappear for anyone else or am I the victim of some nefarious plot?

    I can hear Wilson now, "My constituents love me! They really love me!"

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  100. 73% of doctors support a public (63%) or single-payer option (10%). We need to get that word out!

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  101. Rachel Maddow had a clip of the Billionaires for Wealthcare at the September 12 "protests" on her show tonight. They are my kind of people. I think we need to organize a Montana chapter:

    It is difficult for many of us to admit publicly that we are extremely wealthy. It can make us feel vulnerable — worried that people will approach us to ask for money, or scorn us because we have more than they do, or merely subject us to undue scrutiny. Nonetheless, Billionaires for Wealthcare must make public appearances — as Billionaires — if we want to maintain the right to profit on illness. Billionaires should always come dressed appropriately. Wearing suitable attire is a fundamental element of how we communicate.

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  102. Are you saying you are a "billionaire?"

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  103. ABSOLUTELY!

    "Billionaires for Wealthcare is a grassroots network of health insurance CEOs, industry lobbyists, talk-show hosts, and others profiting off of our broken health care system. We are not a political, religious or even particularly well-organized group. We're simple folk, thrilled profiteers pouring out of our corner offices to dance on the grave of "Change." We'll do whatever it takes to ensure another decade where your pain is our gain. After all, when it comes to healthcare, if we ain't broke, why fix it?"

    http://www.billionairesforwealthcare.com/

    Check out the videos -- these are my people!

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  104. Sounds like something from "Atlas Shrugged." From now on I will think of you as Daphne Taggart. Is this why so many billionaires have migrated to Montana?

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  105. Actually, other than me, I don't think we have any billionaires in Montana. But Max Baucus is looking out for all of us nonetheless.

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  106. I thought Ted Turner had a "ranch" up there, entertaining all sorts of guests.

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  107. Yes, Ted has a ranch, but we don't consider him one of us. Anyway, he's from Atlanta. A couple of those Microsoft guys hang out here too. Oh, yeah, and there's what's his name from NBC news.

    But none of them vote here. If they are satisfied with their billionaire care, they can contact their own Senators and say thanks.

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  108. Don't be so hard on Ted Turner. After all, he studied the classics at Brown and credits his humanities professors with teaching him how to think. Even if you're not wild about the way he thinks, you've got to admit it's refreshing to hear that a billionaire studied the classics.

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  109. Actually, I like Ted Turner. Anyone who can rewrite the Ten Commandments to be environmentally sound is okay with me. He's just not a Montanan.

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  110. "The sheer stupidity of many voters is enough to make you wonder if universal suffrage is a good idea."

    This is the conclusion my father reached in his latter years, maintaining that there should be citizenship qualifications for voting like IQ levels, gainful employment for X number of years, having raised children etc. I didn't have the heart to point out that his reprobate youth would likely have disqualified him in spite of his prized intelligence.

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  111. Well, Baucus seems to have come up with a health care bill no one is going to like. I think at this point the Dems would be wise to take the previous bill and ram it through Congress using the "reconcilation" procedure. Kind of like an enema for Republicans. They should enjoy that!

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  112. I am so disappointed and disgusted I don't even know what to say. As someone who is self employed and who could really use the public option, I now see myself as a student until I'm 65. I was thinking of a law degree next, but maybe something in wildlife biology.....

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  113. We have photos! Nice.

    Here's a little something my friend sent this p.m.:

    http://www.news9.com/global/story.asp?s=11141949

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  114. Rachel Maddow tonight just had some interesting numbers on high teenage pregnancy rates, low birth rates, etc. which correlate with those states (i.e., in the South) where they are fighting hardest against health care. They have 20% uninsured in those states -- I guess they like to keep their constituents barefoot and pregnant?

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  115. Unfortunately a segment of Southern voters will support anything as long as it isn't supported by Democrats, even if to do so is against those voters' best interests. Not surprisingly, that voting block was galvanized by the election of Barack Obama. You could see it coming during the latter stages of last year's presidential campaign. I was not surprised a Southern House Rep decided to insult Obama publicly. Many Southerners are still dyed-in-the-wool racists. They'd like you to believe that their politics are driven by something else, but they aren't.

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  116. "As someone who is self employed and who could really use the public option"

    Someone who seemed to be in a similar situation called into an NPR call-in show I heard today and was told there would be coverage available if his income were under a certain level (variable by state, I imagine). Sorry I don't have more details, hope you can rally your considerable resources to get what you need.

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  117. As for the h.s. students who didn't know the first president, I'd wonder how many students in the survey were gaming the pollsters...I know the adolescent me certainly would have.

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  118. Speaking of dyed-in-the-wool deny-ers . . .

    "Courting renewed international criticism, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran on Friday called the Holocaust a myth as his country marked an annual pro-Palestinian demonstration amid reports of clashes between his supporters and opposition protesters."

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  119. Thanks, NY. Actually, I have great inexpensive insurance coverage at the moment -- I'm a student! The trick is to figure out how to be a student until I'm 65.

    But even with insurance, when you have a medical situation it can wipe you out. That's what I'm facing now -- the prospect of having to take a regular job after 20 plus years because I can't afford my co-pays etc.

    I actually support single payer insurance, but if we have to compromise at least the public option will provide people with affordable options (other than having to go to school all their lives!).

    For many Montanans, taking 13% of their income off the top means going without heat in the winter. I think we need to pull the plug on Congressional subsidized insurance and get them out looking for insurance on their own dime.

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  120. I hope the test givers are smart enough to figure out how to design and administer a test that produces legitimate results. (They said they got similar results in Arizona.) Otherwise, the nation's educational system really is in crisis!

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  121. avrds, No reflection on the smarts of the pollsters or the state of OK (or AZ, since adolescence is a state unto itself), it's just that I belong to some kind of eccentric minority that hates polls, questionnaires, etc., though since reaching adulthood I merely decline to answer/participate instead of making up absurd answers my teen self might have considered highly amusing. It is peculiar since my credibility is sterling in most areas of life, I just feel no obligation to speak truth to pollsters (or people who phone me soliciting for causes however worthy or show up on my doorstep trying to save my soul like the Jehovah's Witnesses). Just a quirk, pay no mind.

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  122. As dear Olympia Snowe tried to say a couple weeks back, this shouldn't be a partisan issue, but that is exactly what it has become. In a September Gallup Poll, 39% of Americans would instruct their Congresspersons to vote against the bill (I assume these are mostly Republicans). Yet, in another poll 82% of Americans felt the health care system needed to be overhauled. This means at least half of thes Republicans admit the health care system isn't up to snuff. I assume as many Republicans are without health insurance as Democrats, and as many struggle to cover their insurance payments from month to month. So, why not sit down at the table and work this health care plan out so that all of us could enjoy a bit of peace in mind.

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  123. NY, I totally understand what you are saying about polls and pollsters (although I tend to cooperate so that my far out perspective is given voice)!

    But I assumed that this was one of many tests we put students through these days to assess the state of their knowledge. If true, the state of their knowledge is not where I think we want it to be as a democracy -- although Washington's name isn't necessarily the most important thing they need to know, to be sure.

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  124. Gintaras, I agree with you too. I don't understand how Republicans can get away with just saying no to improving access to health care. When it comes down to it, who wouldn't want that for the country?

    On second thought....

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  125. It's obviously all about (1) not letting the other party accomplish anything that it can take credit for and (2) the next election.

    But wouldn't a bi-partisan effort allow both parties to take credit for accomplishing something? It would. However, that amounts to political apostasy as far as the Republican wingnuts (a/k/a base) are concerned. Government programs like Social Security and Medicare belie that old Republican chestnut that the government is always the problem and never part of the solution.

    Unless, of course, you want the government to bomb the hell out Iraqis. Then it's part of the solution because there are bodies, or body parts, on the ground. Tangible results. Verifiable outcomes. (Even if the seven hundred billion dollars we have spent in Iraq, or soon will, havn't shown much in the way of results.) They'd rather spend money on the Middle East than spend it on Middle America because at least that way no one can say they compromised with Democrats and their dreams of socialism.

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  126. Ain't it the truth. So much for the so-called "culture of life" they were talking about this week at their Carrie Prejean take-back-America conference.

    I heard an interesting statistic from a Harvard report yesterday - 45,000 die each year for lack of insurance/access to health care. That's one person every 12 minutes. More every day than from murder and drunk driving combined. Where are the MADDs when we need them?

    From the Republican perspective they should at least be concerned about the lack of productivity that represents. But then they openly admitted they could bring Obama down on this issue, so I guess they don't care about even that.

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  127. The Republicans made such blatant asses of themselves over the Sotomayor vote and here they are again defying health care for no other apparent reason than their perceived political position. If the Sotomayor vote cost them the valuable Latino vote, their position on health care will pretty much make their party a "whites only" club. Add to that Joe Wilson's outburst. Is this the way you want to project yourself in this day and age?

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  128. It looks like another rainy night in Georgia. I'm not sure how much has fallen today, but this makes about a week or ten days straight with heavy rains. Trees with shallow root systems have begun to topple over, which is always a nice surprise.

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  129. Interesting about the weather -- I'm heading to California where they are warning of record (high) temperatures for the week. I guess it's all a crap shoot now when it comes to weather patterns. Hope you haven't lost any trees.

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  130. Apparently it's not just trees being lost. I just read six people have died -- when people start abandoning cars on the freeway to wade through the water, that gets scary.

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  131. It's serious. This much rain in a short period of time causes all kinds of problems. Atlanta has thousands of creeks. Some of them have turned into temporary rivers.

    One heartbreaking story was of a man who had his two year old child swept from his arms by rushing water. The child did not survive.

    The small lake in the woods across the street has risen about 12 feet. I've never seen it anywhere near this high and I've lived in the neighborhood since 1997. The swollen streams feeding the lake are moving incredibly fast; the sound of the rushing water is so loud it's hard to believe.

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  132. "I'm heading to California where they are warning of record (high) temperatures for the week."

    Yea, verily, they are, avrds, where in CA will you be?

    Sure wish we drought-stricken places could have some of that precip -- hope it abates there soon, Rick.

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  133. I'm off to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Huntington Beach. Seems as good a reason to celebrate as anything!

    But will be up in your part of the state at some point. I need to do some work in the Bancroft and Yosemite if I can figure out how to arrange it.

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  134. And for something totally different, I love how they got this reversed..... although I'm the first to admit those birds can be vicious.

    "Police say a man using a BB gun to protect his cats from birds led to an elementary school lockdown in Pennsylvania.

    York schools Superintendent Sharon Miller said Tuesday that a report of a gun-wielding man outside Alexander Goode Elementary School came in at 8 a.m.

    Officers surrounded the building with about a dozen vehicles. Some students cried as they left school, while parents who had heard rumors waited anxiously.

    York Police Capt. Wes Kahley (KAY'-lee) says the man was shooting at cats that were attacking pigeons he raises for a living.

    Kahley says the man did not commit a crime, but exercised bad judgment."

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  135. Honestly now, when was the last time you saw a news article where they gave the pronunciation of a name? Did they just do that because it was about an elementary school? ;-)

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  136. Hey, avrds, don't we need a new Meander?

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