Monday, December 31, 2007

Ring Out The Old

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Thursday, December 27, 2007

RIP Benazir Bhutto

The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to restore stability and democracy in a turbulent, nuclear-armed Islamic nation .

In the Washington Post, Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani reporter, (and long-time Musharraf critic) seriously doubts Musharraf's involvement, pointing out that the government is in utter despair over the assasination - presumably because Bhutto was their last chance to stave off disaster. Crooks and Liars has more on this particular matter which amounts to nothing more than a massive blunder on the parts of many.

Out of respect for the dead, there will be no words posted here on the speculation of who will run in Benazir's place. That will be left for another time.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Best Gift

"Blessed is the season
which engages the whole world
in a conspiracy of love."

~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

"As long as we know in our hearts
what Christmas ought to be,
Christmas is."

~ Eric Sevareid

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The price of no insurance, or of Scrooge-like insurance companies:DEATH

A report has come out using data gathered by the American Cancer Society showing that lack of insurance is directly correlated with an increased number of deaths in cancer patients.

Not that this is surprising, as the lack of health insurance influences everything from the decision of people to seek treatment or get screenings that they may have a hard time paying for, to the decisions by hospitals and healthcare providers not to provide more than the minimum amount of care they can knowing they may not get paid for it.

ATLANTA: Uninsured cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage, according to the first national study of its kind and one that sheds light on troubling medical care obstacles.

People without insurance are less likely to get recommended cancer screening tests, the study found, confirming earlier research. And when these patients finally do get diagnosed, their cancer is likely to have spread.

The new research, analyzing information from 1,500 U.S. hospitals that provide cancer care, is being published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

It is true that only about four percent of cancer deaths actually occur in patients who lack health insurance (whereas the overall percentage of Americans without health insurance is around sixteen percent and rising) but that figure is misleading since the vast majority of fatal cancers occur in people over 65, all of whom are covered by medicare.

Of course, as we tragically saw in the case last week of Natalie Sarkisyan*, a seventeen year old who died needing a liver transplant even though one was available because her HMO, Cigna health, refused to authorize payment until the case hit the national media and by then it was too late, even having health insurance may not save you if the insurance company simply decides that they'd rather have you dead than cut the check.

Now, there are those who will continue to advocate that we should have the system we have now, where people can 'choose' to buy (or not to buy) health insurance. They conveniently ignore the fact that most people who don't have health insurance are not without it because they don't want it, but because they can't afford it. It is still true that for those who can afford it, there are more high tech, specialized treatments available in America than elsewhere. For those who can't, it might as well be a trip to the moon. The truth is, we have no real options available for the uninsured to get adequate treatment, other than don't get the treatment, or go far into debt to pay for it (so far that most hospitals, when they see that a patient is uninsured, will automatically 'fast-track' them out of the hospital with the minimum treatment they can, knowing that the large majority of them won't be able to pay.)

However, you may be one of those who will defend to the hilt the present system and say that the choice not to buy insurance, for whatever it's drawbacks are, outweighs all other alternatives.

Fine. But be advised that we now have hard data, in the form of this cancer study, indicating that one of those drawbacks is the increased numbers of deaths in Americans without insurance. If the death of other Americans is an acceptable price for maintaining the system we have now, then go ahead and advocate for it. But don't pretend that it is a benign system, or is something that it is not.

*-- On a personal note, I might add that I am an organ donor, should that ever occur. But the circumstances surrounding the Sarkisyan case cause me to wonder whether I should be, or how I should discuss organ donation with my kids. I've always felt that if I (or one of my kids, one of whom has said she would be willing to be a donor) were ever in a position in which my organs could save a life, then to do so. But I feel uncomfortable now, given what happened in this case, knowing that my organs could simply become available, not based on need but based on who is insured and whether their insurance company would pay. That would be one criterion I would absolutely NOT want used to determine who received my liver or other organs, or those of my family members.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Winter Solstice

and Yule Blessings from Night Bird's Fountain!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Building containing Dick Cheney's office is on fire

The Eisenhower Executive Building, which houses the Vice President's office is on fire. Hopefully no one is injured, but here are some explanations for how it might have happened:

1. With the clock running down on the Bush administration, they were going to build a bonfire to burn all those documents on Cheney's energy committee hearings, but with his penchant for secrecy he suggested that they hold it indoors.

2. After all those years of the CIA trying to get him with those exploding cigars, Fidel Castro finally got his revenge. He sent a box of them to Cheney, and Cheney, not knowing who they were from, lit one.

3. We now know where the 'secret, undisclosed underground location' is, and it's a hell of a long way down under the Eisenhower building, and quite hot down there.

4. Speaking of the devil, Dick Cheney forgot to extinguish himself this morning when he entered his office.

5. The ghost of Ike is sending a message that he doesn't like what Cheney and his crew have done to the military, the country and the Republican party.

6. With Congress withholding funding for Iraq, the Bush administration took out one of those risky subprime mortgages on the building and now they are also trying to collect the insurance money.

7. It is sort of cramped in there, so it was inevitable that they'd waterboard somebody too close to an electrical outlet.

8. We will find out who started the fire, because Scooter Libby will tell Bob Novak.

9. They just made the building non-smoking, so it started with Cheney sneaking a smoke in the bathroom. He accidentally caught the toilet paper on fire.

10. They experienced a short circuit in an electrical cattle prod during an interrogation session. After it melted one set of testicles, the fire really took off.

11. Dick Cheney is known to sometimes be a volcanic hothead. So this morning his temper got the better of him and the fire started in the room he was in due to spontaneous combustion.

12. The Vice President's answer to global warming: burn documents that were left in the office by the previous occupant.

13. On April 10, 2003 Dick Cheney said that the rioters who were burning all those government buildings in Baghdad were just 'blowing off steam.' So with tension rising in the Vice President's office, maybe he thought it was time to do the same.

14. With Congress passing the new energy bill, oilman Dick Cheney is doing his own research to try and develop a cleaner burning fuel.

15. While duck hunting in his office, Dick Cheney misfired with his shotgun and shot an electrical outlet.

16. The Vice President started a couch on fire with his rhetoric.

17. Congress and the Justice Department are looking into those destroyed CIA tapes. So they need to destroy the tapes of them destroying the tapes.

18. The Vice President had a meeting this morning with some space aliens from Altair-7, and the staff forgot to fireproof the room first.

19. Realizing that he was going to be leaving the office next year, Cheney wanted to make it clear which furniture was his. So remembering his old cattle ranching days he heated up the branding iron and tried to brand the sofa.

20. Never an advocate for civil liberties, Cheney was amusing himslf by burning a copy of the Constitution.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kisses and Hugs


endorses THE HUGGER

And the media is saying they are shocked! Shocked, I tell ya!

Boy, are they asleep at the switch, or maybe they want to be shocked.

Because the truth is, you could take the difference between Joe Lieberman and John McCain and put it on a butter knife and spread it thin on a cracker. An oyster cracker.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007


Well not for eternity, but it is really important that everyone go to FireDogLake and voice their concerns.

The latest word from the Dodd camp regarding what will happen on the FISA bill is that tomorrow, Dodd will take the floor and not yield.

He can take "questions" from other senators during the filibuster, which can be no more than 20 minutes. We understand that Kennedy and Feingold so far have agreed to do this.

They're asking for people to express their thoughts on the subject and leave them in the comments below. Dodd is going to have plenty of time to read, so if you'd like to have your feelings on the matter read on the Senate floor you can leave your them in the comments below.

UPDATE: Surveillance bill delayed until 2008

That Papua New Guinea Smackdown

Photo by: Spiegel On Line

Two weeks of international climate talks marked by bitter disagreements and angry accusations culminated Saturday in a last-minute U.S. compromise and an agreement to adopt a blueprint for fighting global warming by 2009.

India sought to amend the document to strengthen requirements for richer nations to help poorer with technology to limit emissions and adapt to climate change's impacts.

The head of the U.S. delegation, Undersecretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky objected, setting off loud, long boos in the hall.

Next, delegate after delegate took aim at the United States, with South Africa saying Dobriansky's intervention was "most unwelcome and without any basis," and Uganda saying "We would like to beg them" to relent.

Then the delegate from Papua New Guinea leaned into his microphone.

"We seek your leadership," Kevin Conrad told the Americans. "But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way."

The U.N. climate conference exploded with applause, the U.S. delegation backed down, and the way was cleared Saturday for adoption of the "Bali Roadmap."

Friday, December 14, 2007

UN Raises $420 Million. US Gives $0

UN emergency fund raises $420 million

Associated Press

The United Nations emergency fund collected $420 million Thursday in voluntary pledges for 2008 relief programs, led by aid from Europe and developing nations.

The Central Emergency Response Fund has distributed $595 million in food, water and medical assistance since it was established in March 2006 to assist victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters, U.N. officials said.

Britain topped the list of about 70 nations and non-governmental contributors with a pledge of more than $80 million. The Netherlands, Sweden and Norway each promised more than $55 million, while Canada said it would give about $40 million. More than half the pledges came from developing nations.

The fund received no pledges from the United States or Russia.


The U.S., which remains the world's biggest contributor to U.N. humanitarian aid programs, donated $10 million to the fund in 2006, but did not contribute for 2007.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

That Drug Use Comment

TPM has the story and RaymondA does make a valid point in the comments section: have written as if Shaheen were some free-lancer. He is the official vice chair of the campaign, a major NH powerbroker, and a proud "get" by the Hillary campaign.

Unless and until he's fired, Obama has every right to attribute Shaheen's remarks to the campaign itself. Shaheen is not David Geffen, some individual contributor shooting off his mouth. He is her selecetd chairperson and NH spokesperson. So drop the sarcasm about Obama and call for his firing.

UPDATE: Shaheen resigns, Hillary apologizes to Obama

Dems show strength?

Ummmm.....I will leave that determination up to you but Glenn Greenwald says:
For Congressional Democrats, the "victory" they are touting is that they are only giving Bush $70 billion for the war now, and they won't give him the other $130 billion he is demanding until they return in a few weeks. They really showed him.
And El Cid does make an important point:

The Democratic leadership's Beltway peers, the pundits they appreciate, and the consultancy class see it as a victory whenever the Democrats defy their own base to support some hawkish initiative.

It's these opinions they care about, and those people only make fun of the Democratic leadership when they give in to their dirty fringe crazy unsophisticated 'base'.

The Lava in the Flow

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Humanitarian Crises

U.N. seeks $3.8 billion for humanitarian crises

The United Nations is seeking $3.8 billion to cope with humanitarian emergencies next year in 24 countries, including Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the Palestinian Territories.

Sudan is the biggest focus of the U.N. appeal, issued to governments on Monday. It wants $930 million for humanitarian work in 2008 in the country where violence and upheaval continues in the Darfur region.

The U.N. request for funds includes Sudan's neighbor Chad as well as Uganda, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic and Ivory Coast. The U.N. and its aid partners are also seeking funds for the West African region under the appeal.

Do They Know It's Christmas?
(Band Aid Christmas Song - 1985)
M. Ure and Bob Geldof

It's Christmastime, there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime
But say a prayer to pray for the other ones

At Christmastime
It's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears

And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom
Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you
And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life

Oh, where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Here's to you, raise a glass for ev'ryone
Here's to them, underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

Saturday, December 08, 2007

John Lennon Remembered

In 1972, the first year 18-year-olds had been given the right to vote in the U.S., and Lennon wanted to help persuade young people to register to vote and to vote against the war — which meant voting against Nixon. Thus, the planned tour was to combine rock music with anti-war organising and voter registration.

The Nixon Administration found out about Lennon's plans from an unlikely source: Republican Senator Strom Thurmond, who suggested in a February 1972 memo that "deportation would be a strategic counter-measure." The next month the Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings against Lennon, arguing that his 1968 misdemeanour conviction for cannabis possession in London had made him ineligible for admission to the U.S. Lennon spent the next two years in and out of deportation hearings and constantly under a 60-day order to leave the country, which his attorney managed to get extended repeatedly.

The 1972 Concert tour never happened.

Torture Tapes

Larry Johnson at TPM Cafe = A must read.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

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