No losers with health care act

Today DemWit welcomes guest writer Barbara O’Brien, web outreach coordinator for the Mesothelioma Asbestos Awareness Center. Barbara authors the progressive blog THE MAHABLOG, writes for a number of progressive sites, including Crooks & Liars and Alternet, and has appeared on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody

by Barbara O’Brien

Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.

And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.

Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.

For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers. Another is a blood screening test developed by mesothelioma doctors like thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.

The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not.

An orator silenced

There will be a million words written across the Web today about Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Seven years ago he rose to the floor of the U.S. Senate and gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. So, I will let him speak to his legacy in his own words:

The Emperor Has No Clothes

by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Remarks
October 17, 2003

In 1837, Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, wrote a wonderful fairy tale which he titled The Emperor's New Clothes. It may be the very first example of the power of political correctness. It is the story of the Ruler of a distant land who was so enamored of his appearance and his clothing that he had a different suit for every hour of the day.

One day two rogues arrived in town, claiming to be gifted weavers. They convinced the Emperor that they could weave the most wonderful cloth, which had a magical property. The clothes were only visible to those who were completely pure in heart and spirit.

The Emperor was impressed and ordered the weavers to begin work immediately. The rogues, who had a deep understanding of human nature, began to feign work on empty looms.

Minister after minister went to view the new clothes and all came back exhorting the beauty of the cloth on the looms even though none of them could see a thing.

Finally, a grand procession was planned for the Emperor to display his new finery. The Emperor went to view his clothes and was shocked to see absolutely nothing, but he pretended to admire the fabulous cloth, inspect the clothes with awe, and, after disrobing, go through the motions of carefully putting on a suit of the new garments.

Under a royal canopy the Emperor appeared to the admiring throng of his people - all of whom cheered and clapped because they all knew the rogue weavers' tale and did not want to be seen as less than pure of heart.

But, the bubble burst when an innocent child loudly exclaimed, for the whole kingdom to hear, that the Emperor had nothing on at all. He had no clothes.

That tale seems to me very like the way this nation was led to war.

We were told that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they have not been seen.

We were told that the throngs of Iraqi's would welcome our troops with flowers, but no throngs or flowers appeared.

We were led to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but no evidence has ever been produced.

We were told in 16 words that Saddam Hussein tried to buy "yellow cake" from Africa for production of nuclear weapons, but the story has turned into empty air.

We were frightened with visions of mushroom clouds, but they turned out to be only vapors of the mind.

We were told that major combat was over but 101 [as of October 17] Americans have died in combat since that proclamation from the deck of an aircraft carrier by our very own Emperor in his new clothes.

Our emperor says that we are not occupiers, yet we show no inclination to relinquish the country of Iraq to its people.

Those who have dared to expose the nakedness of the Administration's policies in Iraq have been subjected to scorn. Those who have noticed the elephant in the room - that is, the fact that this war was based on falsehoods - have had our patriotism questioned. Those who have spoken aloud the thought shared by hundreds of thousands of military families across this country, that our troops should return quickly and safely from the dangers half a world away, have been accused of cowardice. We have then seen the untruths, the dissembling, the fabrication, the misleading inferences surrounding this rush to war in Iraq wrapped quickly in the flag.

The right to ask questions, debate and dissent is under attack. The drums of war are beaten ever louder in an attempt to drown out those who speak of our predicament in stark terms.

Even in the Senate, our history and tradition of being the world's greatest deliberative body is being snubbed. This huge spending bill has been rushed through this chamber in just one month. There were just three open hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee on $87 billion, without a single outside witness called to challenge the Administration's line.

Ambassador Bremer went so far as to refuse to return to the Appropriations Committee to answer additional questions because, and I quote: "I don't have time. I'm completely booked, and I have to get back to Baghdad to my duties."

Despite this callous stiff-arm of the Senate and its duties to ask questions in order to represent the American people, few dared to voice their opposition to rushing this bill through these halls of Congress. Perhaps they were intimidated by the false claims that our troops are in immediate need of more funds.

But, the time has come for the sheep-like political correctness which has cowed members of this Senate to come to an end.

The Emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods.

Taking the nation to war based on misleading rhetoric and hyped intelligence is a travesty and a tragedy. It is the most cynical of all cynical acts. It is dangerous to manipulate the truth. It is dangerous because once having lied, it is difficult to ever be believed again. Having misled the American people and stampeded them to war, this Administration must now attempt to sustain a policy predicated on falsehoods. The president asks for billions from those same citizens who know that they were misled about the need to go to war. We misinformed and insulted our friends and allies, and now this Administration is having more than a little trouble getting help from the international community. It is perilous to mislead.

The single-minded obsession of this Administration to now make sense of the chaos in Iraq, and the continuing propaganda which emanates from the White House painting Iraq as the geographical center of terrorism is distracting our attention from Afghanistan and the 60 other countries in the world where terrorists hide. It is sapping resources which could be used to make us safer from terrorists on our own shores. The body armor for our own citizens still has many, many chinks. Have we forgotten that the most horrific terror attacks in history occurred right here at home! Yet, this Administration turns back money for homeland security, while the president pours billions into security for Iraq. I am powerless to understand or explain such a policy.

I have tried mightily to improve this bill. I twice tried to separate the reconstruction money in this bill, so that those dollars could be considered separately from the military spending. I offered an amendment to force the Administration to craft a plan to get other nations to assist the troops and formulate a plan to get the U.N. in, and the U.S. out, of Iraq. Twice I tried to rid the bill of expansive, flexible authorities that turn this $87 billion into a blank check. The American people should understand that we provide more foreign aid for Iraq in this bill, $20.3 billion, than we provide for the rest of the entire world! I attempted to remove from this bill billions in wasteful programs and divert those funds to better use. But, at every turn, my efforts were thwarted by the vapid argument that we must all support the requests of the Commander in Chief.

I cannot stand by and continue to watch our grandchildren become increasingly burdened by the billions that fly out of the Treasury for a war and a policy based largely on propaganda and prevarication. We are borrowing $87 billion to finance this adventure in Iraq. The president is asking this Senate to pay for this war with increased debt, a debt that will have to be paid by our children and by those same troops that are currently fighting this war. I cannot support outlandish tax cuts that plunge our country into potentially disastrous debt while our troops are fighting and dying in a war that the White House chose to begin.

I cannot support the continuation of a policy that unwisely ties down 150,000 American troops for the foreseeable future, with no end in sight.

I cannot support a president who refuses to authorize the reasonable change in course that would bring traditional allies to our side in Iraq.

I cannot support the politics of zeal and "might makes right" that created the new American arrogance and unilateralism which passes for foreign policy in this Administration.

I cannot support this foolish manifestation of the dangerous and destabilizing doctrine of pre-emption that changes the image of America into that of a reckless bully.

The emperor has no clothes. And, our former allies around the world were the first to loudly observe it.

I shall vote against this bill because I cannot support a policy based on prevarication. I cannot support doling out 87 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars when I have so many doubts about the wisdom of its use.

I began my remarks with a fairy tale. I shall close my remarks with a horror story, in the form of a quote from the book Nuremberg Diaries, written by G.M. Gilbert, in which the author interviews Hermann Goering.

"We got around to the subject of war again, and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

". . . But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."


Mr. Byrd of West Virginia always carried a little book in his coat pocket – a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America. In this speech he strongly upheld the authority it gave him. God rest his soul.


Busting Fox News' BP propaganda

Those wonderful, tireless folks at Media Matters for America have done it again. They have identified the MYTHS Fox News would have you believe about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and just hammered that self-aggrandizing bunch of scoundrels with FACTS.

I can picture a sleep-deprived MMFA staff on a 48-hour, non-stop researchathon, chewing on Styrofoam cups of coffee, in zealous determination to defend truth.

I can picture it because I’ve been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.

They have produced an easy-to-read listing of myths, claims, realities and facts, which is 17 pages in length in a 12-point bold font. I have added subheads in all caps to guide the reader readily through their research and have placed the article in The Reading Room.

Treat this one like a good book: you have my word you won’t find it boring! And, boy, will you learn a few things!

To my family and friends in Gulf Coast states directly affected by this environmental and economic disaster, to all Americans, isn’t it time for Fox News to feel some shame for spreading lies on matters as dire and diverse as war and natural and manmade disasters?

Isn’t it time to recognize Fox News is in it for Rupert Murdoch’s bottom line and makes fools of its fans?

If the folks at MMFA can bust their butts busting media lies, distortions, half-truths and misinformation, can’t you take the time to examine their findings and prepare yourself to pass the facts along the next time you hear someone on Fox News say something like this:

"The (Obama) administration's response can be summed up as follows: demonize BP, seize its assets, raise taxes on energy and, therefore, raise prices, pile on regulation, appoint a commission, all to gloss over the failure to deal promptly with the oil spill. And then give us pipe dreams about a green future."

Well, can’t you?

Step into The Reading Room.


Step back in time to the problem

If you are old enough, you remember those red, white and blue posters with the pointed finger and the challenge, “Uncle Sam wants you.”

I have just finished reading the transcript of President Obama’s address to the nation last night. In the wake of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, this president is pointing his finger at YOU: he wants you to help him to help America break its “addiction to fossil fuels.”

Isn’t it time?

When all the blame goes around, it ultimately comes back to YOU – for you are a citizen of a nation which consumes 20 percent of the world’s oil supply while possessing less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.

YOU are further to blame for not demanding accountability in the wake of years of Reppublican deregulation of this industry.

LET US step back in time to the problem.

On Thursday, 25 May 2006, I noted in my Daily Journal:

BREAKING NEWS: Awaiting a verdict in the 53-day trial of Enron’s founder and CEO Ken Lay (charged with six counts of securities fraud and conspiracy) and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling (charged with 28 counts of the same). The jury has deliberated six days. These men allegedly bilked employees and stockholders out of life savings when the company went belly up. They are accused of reporting the company was doing great when, in fact, it was failing. Stocks plummeted from $90 a share to zero. As an MSNBC reporter stated: “Enron has come to symbolize corporate greed.” This is the biggest case of corporate fraud to date – and there have been some big ones!

Noon. Ken Lay GULTY ON ALL COUNTS! Jeff Skilling GUILTY on 19 of 28 counts! Also, Reuters is reporting a judge has found Ken Lay GUILTY in a separate case of bank fraud.

Bush’s good buddy Lay came out to the microphone to proclaim his innocence and invoke the name of the Lord. Not once has this hypocrite admitted any guilt in bilking so many out of their life’s savings.

NOW, step into DemWit’s time machine and travel back to the year 2003 when I first wrote “The Enron Connection” - an article I have subsequently updated.

I present the crux of that article here to show how closely aligned the Bush administration – which forumulated our energy policies – was to those regulated by them.

From “The Enron Connection” by B.J. Trotter:

RALPH REED - Former head of the Christian Coalition and GOP strategist. Reed was hired by Enron for $10,000 a month in 1997 on the recommendation of Bush political adviser Karl Rove as a way to keep Reed loyal to Bush and close enough not to disrupt the campaign's "compassionate conservative" spin.

DON EVANS - First, Bush's chief campaign fund-raiser, then Secretary of Commerce. Evans accepted Enron Chairman Ken Lay's campaign contributions and fielded Lay's phone calls.

KEEP READING, it gets better.

ALBERTO GONZALES - Gonzales is a White House counsel who worked at Vinson and Elkins, a Houston law firm which represented Enron and signed off on Enron's questionable accounting schemes.

PATRICK H. WOOD III - Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Wood was Ken Lay's personal choice to replace Curtis Herbert, Jr., who was forced out of office by Bush after disagreeing with Lay on regulatory policies.

SPENCER ABRAHAM - After being appointed Secretary of Energy by Bush, Abraham called Ken Lay to talk about Enron's financial difficulties and their effect on energy markets. As a senator, Abraham received substantial Enron contributions.

ROBERT ZOELLICK - U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick, who served on Enron's advisory council, provided another key source of access for Enron officials.

MARC F. RACICOT - Former Montana governor Racicot was Enron's Washington lobbyist. He dropped his client after being named Republican National Chairman.

WENDY GRAMM - As Commodities Futures Trading Commission Chairman, Gramm, wife of then Senator Phil Gramm (R. - TEXAS), pushed through a measure exempting Enron from federal oversight. She serves on Enron's audit committee.

SENATOR PHIL GRAMM - Then Senator Gramm pushed through legislation shielding Enron from government scrutiny and later decided not to seek re-election in 2002.. Thus ended a dedicated Senate career for Gramm, who, in the mid-80s, co-authored the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act with the intent of balancing the nation's budget and cutting federal deficits.

THOMAS E. WHITE - White, a 10-year Enron executive involved in market manipulation and price gouging, sold off $12 million in Enron stock after Bush appointed him Secretary of the Army. Citizen advocacy groups pushed for his resignation, and he resigned in April 2003.

KARL ROVE - Rove, chief White House political adviser, was a major Enron stockholder when he met with Ken Lay to discuss Enron's problems with federal regulators.

JOHN ASHCROFT - U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft had to recuse himself from the Justice Department's Enron investigation after revealing the company donated $61,000 to his failed 2000 Senate campaign.

OTHER BUSH POLITICAL ASSOCIATES WHO HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED BY ENRON - Former Commerce Secretary and Texas oilman Robert Mosbacher, Secretary of State James Baker, former White House economics guru Lawrence B. Lindsey, campaign adviser Ed Gillespie. Department of Commerce General Counsel Theodore W. Kassinger and Maritime Administrator William G. Schubert.

DICK CHENEY - As head of the Bush administration energy task force, which, if I recall, met behind closed doors, Vice President Cheney gave Ken Lay and other Enron executives major influence over the creation of the nation's energy policy.

KEN LAY - Enron Chairman Lay, a longtime personal friend of George W. Bush, made the company Bush's biggest campaign contributor and used his resulting influence to shape public energy policy in Enron's favor.

GEORGE W. BUSH - President Bush rewarded Enron's massive campaign contribution by refusing to intervene when the company's profiteering sparked California's energy crisis - a crisis for which California Governor Gray Davis paid the ultimate price, a recall from office by groups which succeeded in putting the responsibility of the state's energy and budget crisis on his shoulders.

I CONCLUDED the article:

The tangled web of Enron is far-reaching and under-reported. Television news is too busy covering the "flavor-of-the-day" stories - from Michael Jackson's dangling baby to the Laci Peterson murder case to the touting of Ann Coulter's new book, which hails Sen. Joe McCarthy as a great American hero - to report on REAL news. The days of great investigative journalism, when the "Fourth Estate" served a "checks and balances" function, are seemingly in the past.

And, Enron is just the tip of the iceberg. The web of corporate entanglement by the current administration clearly marks a CONFLICT OF INTEREST, a charge which in the past would have had every newspaper and TV news source in this country howling for investigation.

Halliburton, Harkin, Bechtel, Westar. All involved in a political quid pro quo resulting in massive government contracts. Halliburton, where Dick Cheney served as chairman and CEO, and its affiliates have been given the very lucrative job of rebuilding Iraq.

There is no need for an independent counsel here. No one need dig up the facts. These are the facts, reported by a few brave news outlets, citizen advocacy groups, corporate watchdogs and Internet news sites across this nation. The problem with newspapers is their reader base is localized and not as far-reaching as cable TV's CNN, MSNBC and Fox News or the major network anchor desks. These TV news outlets, all owned by major corporations, have remained eerily silent on this issue of conflict of interest.

The ultimate responsibility for righting this wrong lies in the power of the American citizen's sole possession, which cannot be bought or sold - the vote.

Questioning why nothing is being done about this issue is fair.

SOURCES OF NAMES: Common Cause and “Big Lies: The Right Wing Political Machine and How It Distorts the Truth” by Joe Conason.

TRAVELING BACK to the late 1960s:

I worked in public relations at St. Regis Paper Company’s Ferguson Mill in Monticello, Miss. – at the time the world’s largest paper mill. I know the standards in place at that time to protect the environment and ensure workplace safety. I even remember a home office memo explaining the term “ecology.” Somewhere along the way those standards have been eroded.


There is a lesson to be learned here. Will America seize this opportunity and accept the presidnt’s challenge?

Not if the Republican Party can help it.



Have you, dear reader, ever experienced a confluence of seemingly unrelated events or facts which absolutely blew your mind?

I cannot go wrong when my longtime friend and avid bookworm Annelle Poole recommends a good read. Thanks to her I’ve devoured mystery series by James Lee Burke, Nevada Barr, Ann B. Ross and Janet Evanovich. Recently, she reminded me to try prolific British mystery writer Anne Perry’s “Detective William Monk” series, one of many bestselling series by the author. I’m into the third book of the Monk series, and all I can say is Perry delivers!

In 1994, LOTR director Peter Jackson made “Heavenly Creatures,” a fascinating and amazingly crafted film based on a 1950s murder in Christchurch, New Zealand. Two schoolgirls, the beautiful and extroverted Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) and sulky and introverted Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) formed a bond of adolescent love and fantasy which led to their murder of Parker’s mother. The crime was horrific, the mother bludgeoned to death with a brick tied in a stocking. The girls served five years in prison and upon release were ordered never to see each other again.

It took my friend Bill Sumrall, who has never forgotten any detail he’s heard or read, to remind me of something I had filed away in some dormant grey cell.

Apparently the two girls never saw each other again, although they both eventurally ended up in Scotland. Pauline Parker ran a girls riding school and now lives on the remote Orkney Isles. She has never granted an interview about the murder. Juliet Hulme moved to England to live with her mother and assumed her stepfather’s name. She became the very successful writer of murder mysteries Anne Perry.


'You know how he is'

Carly Fiorina, who will challenge California Democratic Sea. Barbara Boxer in the November election, failed to heed the advice, “Treat every microphone as a live microphone.”

Innocuous enough, while waiting for a broadcast interview, were her quotes of a friend making fun of Sen. Boxer’s hair style.

My favorite moment of the chit-chat was Carly’s assessment of Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Questioning why Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman would choose to appear on Hannity’s show, the mike caught this critique:

"It's really surprising that on the first day of the general [election], Meg Whitman is going on Sean Hannity, I think it's bizarre…I think it's a very bad choice actually. You know how he is."

Yes, Carly, we know how he is: a pouty-faced, ineffectual whiner whose personal emotions and rude interruptions override truth.

A spokesperson for Carly told CNN’s Political Ticker the Republican candidate for Boxer’s seat was just making “early morning small talk.”

And, for prime time small talk, there’s always Fox News.


A brief post follows.

Update on Warren Jeffs

Arizona has dropped charges against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs at the behest of prosecutors and victims who want him to face the more serious felony charge, in Texas, of sexual assault of a child. Jeffs is a "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). ARTICLE

I recommend anything written by Jon Krakauer, but, in this case, his “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith” is one of the best resources for a history of the Mormons and a revealing investigation of the offshoot FLDS sect Jeffs has lead.


Beck's bibliography

The combination of someone named to Time’s “100 Most Influential Persons in the World” and someone hell-bent on revising American history is lethal.

I’m guessing most DemWit readers don’t tune in to Glenn Beck’s history lessons via radio and Fox News.

But, plenty of people do, and the history Beck is dishing out is based on a bibliography boasting a crackpot anti-Semitic and Hitler sympathizer, a John Birch Society fanatic and even opponents of the civil rights movement.

To hell with historians who have laboriously documented their works, Beck’s sources, he claims, reveal the true history of this country - which progressives seek to erase.

The scariest enemy he can conjure for the gullible is “the intellectual elite.”

Beck even evoked imagery of the civil rights movement telling his listeners “dogs and fire hoses” might one day be turned on them. Fear, you see, is the first step in brainwashing.

Yesterday’s PROGRESS REPORT, Center for American Progress, has an eye-popping exposé of just exactly what Beck is teaching his followers.

Recommended: “Radical Right: Glenn Beck’s Revisionist History”


A kick-ass morning!

I don’t take lightly this opportunity to learn and inform. Yesterday DemWit chose to feature a column by Frank Rich of The New York Times’ op-ed page.

I’m betting an astute staff member made sure that column got into the hands of the president.

Happy to read in these early morning hours that Obama is looking for some “ass to kick” in the disaster that is ruining our Gulf and its ecosystems.

Obama’s comments in this CNN article - taken from an interview to air this morning - might well have been left on Mr. Rich’s column, because they sure address the challenge.

Get up and get your coffee and tune in to the Today show this morning to hear Obama’s bold remarks!


Can Obama wield a big stick?

In a letter written in 1900, a year before he became president, Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “I have always been fond of the West African proverb: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.’” He repeated what he called this "homely old adage" in a speech as president in Chicago in 1903, and twice again in his writings. Every time, it was "Speak softly." – Source: askville.amazon.com


Perhaps the so-called stars of the Republican Party are doing President Obama a favor – masking with their ridiculous rhetoric the very real problems which could damage his leadership and derail his presidency.

Just when it seems Sarah Palin and Rand Paul are trying to out-stupid each other, when John McCain vows the opposition in the U.S. Senate will never support him, when RNC chair Michael Steele calls for an independent investigation into the (gasp!) corruption in his administration and Newt Gingrich pens a book about him so absurd in its thesis as to be laughable, someone with sense comes along and delivers a genuine criticism of the president.

President Obama gets a wake-up call from the powerful op-ed page of the New York Times: Frank Rich’s “Don’t Get Mad, Mr. President, Get Even.”

The irascible Mr. Rich begins by speaking softly:

“It turns out there is something harder to find than a fix for BP’s leak: Barack Obama’s boiling point.

“The frantic and fruitless nationwide search for the president’s temper is now our sole dependable comic relief from the tragedy in the gulf. Only The Onion could have imagined the White House briefing last week where a CBS News correspondent asked the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, if he had ’really seen rage from the president’ and to ‘describe it.’ Gibbs came up with Obama’s ‘clenched jaw’ and his order to ‘plug the damn hole.’ (Thank God he hadn’t settled for ‘darn.’) This evidence did not persuade anyone, least of all Spike Lee, who could be found on CNN the next night begging the president, ‘One time, go off!’”

Lest you think this is leading to a cry for Obama to fight back in the face of critical fools, it is not.

Rich turns to some very valid weaknesses in Obama’s, shall we say, style, then offers the president some very good advice. And, he does so with some rather startling facts.

“This all adds up,” Rich concludes, “to a Teddy Roosevelt pivot-point for Obama, who shares many of that president’s moral and intellectual convictions. But, Obama can’t embrace his inner T.R. as long as he’s too in thrall to the supposed wisdom of the nation’s meritocracy, too willing to settle for incremental pragmatism as a goal, and too inhibited by the fine points of Washington policy debates to embrace bold words and bold action. If he is to wield the big stick of reform against BP and the other powerful interests that have ripped us off, he will have to tell the big story with no holds barred.”

This is a DemWit must-read: LINK


The immeasurable cost of war

Andersonville was a Confederate prison. Located in Georgia, it was nothing more than a stockade for corralling and killing the human spirit.

Although masterfully written, I would not recommend MacKinlay Kantor’s 1955 novel “Andersonville” for every reader.

In all, 12,913 of the approximately 45,000 Union prisoners held in the prison died there from starvation, malnutrition, diarrhea and disease.

Kantor brings the suffering to the human level with his beautifully crafted characterizations. Before he makes you experience the horror, he allows you to experience the human, and it is pretty hard to take.

The musings of prisoner Nathan Dreyfuss on the cost of the Civil War stopped me cold. I replayed the passage again and again. Why had I not thought before of this immeasurable cost of war? Liken it to undiscovered “miracle cures” lost in the destruction of a rain forest.

What then of a loss of humanity? Nathan’s words:

“The great lamentation of the future will be concerned only with the fact that, by and large, the most energetic and high-minded youths of all these states involved were the ones who perished. And, most of them were too young to leave their seed behind them. It will be a long weakness for the united nation of the future.

“The soul which might have written the compelling opera went winging at Manassas Junction. The hand which might have sculptured a shape fairer than Moses was shot off on the Chickahominy. The brain which could have managed the richest agronomy of all time was drilled by a conoidal at Stones River.

“The hearts which might have beat with the rhythm of philanthropist and priest and educator; oh, wicked Gettysburg; oh, doleful Vicksburg; oh, thrice-lewd Fredericksburg.”


“Will ever I know the future? Oh, sad, maimed future! Where is your prime inventor? The ocean covered him with barnacles when the Monitor went down. Where is the saint whose scalpel or microscope was intended to still the scream of cancer? We Federals spattered his skull at Missionary Ridge.

"Oh, long, discordant future drowned in tears as now my soul is drowning. Where is the president whose power and nobility might have led a healed nation to world-enfolding glory? The fever took him at Rock Island, in Arkansas, in Libby Prison, at Fort Delaware.

“He wore blue; he wore butternut; he drew a lanyard; he tore paper of a cartridge with his teeth. He galloped behind John Morgan; he rode to meet the lead on that last charge of Farnsworth’s in a Pennsylvania glen.

“Minister and explorer, balloonist and poet, botanist and judge, geologist and astronomer, and man with songs to sing.

“They are clavicles under leaves at Perryville, ribs and phalanges in the soil of Iuka, They are a bone at Seven Pines, a bone at Antietam. Bones in battles yet to be sweated. They are in a soil instead of walking. The moss has them.”


SCOTUS and Miranda

“Let me get this straight: To preserve your right to remain silent, you have to talk?”

So queried one of tnlib’s readers on Parsley’s Pics yesterday.

After four decades of hearing it on our favorite TV shows, we all know the Miranda warning:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

On Tuesday the Supreme Court of the United States made a decision that will weaken a suspect’s rights. The menatality of the Court’s five assenting justices seems to be “Guilty until proven innocent.”

Before Tuesday, HERE, clearly spelled out, were YOUR rights, everyone’s rights who suddenly found themselves suspect in a crime.

Read Parsley’s Pics’s “So goes the Supreme Court” for a clear and concise report on Tuesday’s decision and how it will affect Miranda.

And, be good.


The weight of her crown

Elizabeth II has had her share of problems. One year it got so bad she referred to it as her “Annus Horribilis.” The most recent incident with Fergie is the last in a series of, shall we say, family problems.

I’ve always liked Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, for the same reason Prince Andrew did: she’s fun. So, I was saddened by the mess she got herself into, particularly since her two daughters, Beatrice, 22, and Eugenie, 20, are currently fifth and sixth in the line of succession to the British throne.

Despite it all, Elizabeth II has reigned - but not ruled - with unwavering dedication to the job she swore to do more than half a century ago.

Today she celebrates the anniversary of her coronation.

Should the queen still reign on 12 May 2011, at the age of 85, her reign would surpass that of George III, and on 10 September 2015, at the age of 89, she would surpass Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

Curiosity piqued, I decided to take a look at the line of succession, and, amazingly, there are 100 persons with legitimate succession claims to Great Britain’s throne!

The LIST is fascinating. The first 15 heirs are, of course, direct descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.

Beyond the royal family, the list includes persons born in the 1920s and the youngest, ranked #26, is Leopold Windsor, age one.

Quite a few have been excluded by British law because they either became Roman Catholic or married a Roman Catholic. None have been excluded for having been born out of wedlock.

Believe it or not, the list includes members of the royal families of Norway, Romania and Yugoslavia. The king of Romania has been excluded for marrying a Roman Catholic, but his descendants remain in the line of succession.

The list is a work in progress, constantly changing with births and deaths. Prince William’s children will bump Prince Harry down the list and so forth.

I regret that Princess Diana did not live to see her son become king. Given the longevity of the royal bloodline, I might not, either. Seems that Prince Charles, born in 1948, will be past his prime if he lives to ascend the throne.

We got our first TV when I was 11. After adjusting the outside antenna, the first snowy black-and-white images to appear on the screen were of film footage from Elizabeth II’s coronation. June 2, 1953. Some guys were going with her under a tent to anoint her naked breasts with oil. I was hooked! I would reconnect my cable TV to experience another British coronation!


Read the New York Times account of Elizabeth II’s coronation and marvel at how much her kingdom has changed!