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Aug. 4th, 2009

Healthcare discussion and the Heartland Institute

I received the following recently from my insurance agent:

Valued clients,

I have chosen you randomly, from my book of business, to help me in an upcoming speech I am committed to give late next week in Chicago. With the impending Health Care Reform debate raging on in Washington, the Heartland Institute has been bringing the dialog and conversation to different cities to try and make sense of it all. Obviously, I favor a free-market approach to the problem and they (the Heartland Institute) want to hear about what I do and, more importantly, about you…my clients.

I am asking you to take a few minutes and answer the following five questions and reply back as soon as possible:

1. What is the deductible on your high deductible health plan (HDHP)?
2. Roughly, what is the balance in your HSA?
3. Do you regularly use HSA dollars to buy healthcare?
4. Besides rate hikes, do you like your HSA (policy and account)?
5. Do you think you have saved quite a bit of money through the years by going to this model (HSA)?


Here was my reply:


  1. $5,000

  2. $9,600

  3. Not regularly.

  4. I think my HSA performs as I would expect. To me, that’s much like asking an AIDS patient if he likes his drugs; yes, they are working as expected, but I would prefer not to need this solution.

  5. Again, given the options that I had available in the US, I think using an HSA probably has saved me money; but I am one of the people in the privileged group who has been able to take advantage to do so. As I just found when I tried to switch insurance and was denied by another carrier because my doctor prescribed Vitamin B pills for me for a month, it is very easy to slip from privileged status to no healthcare status at all.



As for the Heartland institute, I’ve seen some of their ‘discussions’ and if you’ll forgive me, they are not interested in anything but finding new ways to support their free market mythologies so they can continue to get paid by businesses to help them keep gouging consumers for ridiculous profits. I mean, how can anyone take them seriously; these are people that are still desperately working day by day to come up with excuses to deny climate change. If it was thirty years ago, they’d be in the front lines assuring consumers that cigarettes had no proven health risks and were an important part of the American spirit. The only thing “Heartland” about their institute is where most of their victims are.

But hey, maybe they are different now, so I went to their site to see what “information” they were going to provide to the public. Needless to say, their new ad campaign is the same tired lies that they tried to use for the last several decades:

  • "The doctor won't see you now. . .maybe next month" – The most ridiculous lies about how the evil government is going to start rationing care once the good and kind private insurance companies have been driven from the land. Nothing showing a hint of fact. No discussion about the current rationing of care by private insurance companies. No facts or figures about how Canada or Britain is ‘rationing’ healthcare or how these poor government controlled patients manage to still have far, far better medical outcomes than US patients.

  • "Meet your new doctor (clown)" – And on to the next secret conspiracy myth: Once your ‘protectors’, companies like Kaizer Permanente, have been swept aside, the government will follow through on their next super-double-secret plan to “replace your doctor with a government employee…take over hospitals and private medical practices,” which apparently means that the wonderful people at Heartland feel our soldiers, intelligence agents, mail carriers and other public servants are best characterized as clowns. Disgusting.

  • Single Payer – Here of course, they really don’t have any wiggle room to fudge statistics or frame the debate, so the Heartland Institute just out and out lies: “The problems with single-payer health systems are many. They violate the freedom of consumers to choose doctors and treatments. They fuel unnecessary health care spending and price inflation, which can be stopped only with rationing by waiting. They create massive new government bureaucracies and increase administrative costs, waste, and fraud. And their costs destroy millions of jobs.” When you look at the facts, (like with global climate change) there really is no debate, which is why they can’t even come close to telling the truth.


    • Single payer offers more freedom to choose doctors and treatments than patients currently have with HMOs, PPOs and even HSA plans, all of which limit choices of doctors and hospitals.

    • Health care costs have grown astronomically in the US under private insurers, while costs have been maintained under single payer plans around the world.

    • Patients every day in the US are kept from treatment while their doctors go through complicated claims procedures, in some cases, fatally. Where are the stories of patients from other countries that died because their healthcare system didn’t approve their treatment, or forced the patient to be shipped to another hospital for treatment, or because they had to wait due to emergency rooms clogged with the uninsured? I could list you a hundred from this country inside of an hour.

    • The consolidation of medical insurance to a single payer who uses a single, consistent method of claims would reduce the current bureaucracy that almost every US citizen has experienced, reduce administrative costs by billions of dollars and reduce waste and fraud now conducted by those working in the chaos between the dizzying array of plans and procedures. Not only patient rights groups, nurses and doctors are claiming this, but the GAO studies themselves in black and white.

    • Taking the crushing costs of healthcare off of employers backs will create jobs in every sector in this country, particularly for small businesses who statistically employ more workers in better jobs and have to pay far larger costs for healthcare. Not only would a single payer system benefit companies domestically, but it would make our corporations more competitive in the world market, where universal healthcare is a standard.




I wonder, with 60% of the country being in favor of a single payer, 'Medicare for all' type system, including a majority of dcctors; will the Heartland Institute have a proponent of it there to help them have an honest and open discussion of healthcare options?

Jun. 15th, 2009

Open letter to Hewlett Packard's President Hurd

Dear Mr. Hurd,

I have found your Pavillion dv9700 series laptop overall to be well made and to meet my needs as a small businessman very well. The one minor exception has been the USB ports, which should be a minor inconvenience, but due to the consistent difficulties I have experienced with your support (chat and phone), this has become a seriously troubling issue.

Three times now I have tried to use your support to fix my issue. Each time I was left with no solutions, no ability to escalate the issue to someone with more expertise, and it appears that the agent simply disconnected when I asked to escalate (though it could have been a fault in the chat client).

Each time the agent seemed to have little understanding of my issue, of the hardware, of the operating system or of the English language. As a professional who sets up service desks for a living, the appearance I have been given is of an outsourced help desk run by inexperienced ESL agents who are giving directions from decision tree software.

While this can be functional for basic issues, customers like myself with more complex issues are left very frustrated when they are told there is no ability to escalate to a more knowledgeable agent. It doesn't help either to be presented with directions like this: "Kelly, Please uninstall the drivers from device manager which drivers are not installed in the device." Not only is this barely comprehensible, but it shows a complete lack of understanding of the issue, which is that Vista is not finding or installing drivers for my USB devices. (This was followed by having me try to use Recovery Manager to re-install drivers for the external device, again showing a lack of understanding of the issue.)

In summary, after a total of several hours of using your support options, both self-service, phone and chat, I am left with no solutions, a great deal of frustration and the impression that your help desk has no function beyond walking customers through the website support data. I have had respect for Hewlett Packard for several decades of using your products, from printers to servers, and I hope this will letter will help fix what I see as a serious deficiency in the support of those products.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Kelly Logan

Apr. 17th, 2009

Mercenary - what American isn't these days?

I just finished watching the third season of MI-5 recently, and one episode ("Frequently Asked Questions") started with a definition of a mercenary. It was similar to this from the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_Mercenary_Convention>UN definition</a>: "...Is motivated to take part therein essentially by the desire for significant private gain and is prompted by the promise or payment of material compensation..." That got me thinking; how many people do I hear that from? "I'm just doing it for the money." "It's a paycheck." "It puts food on the table." "Got to pay my bills." . . .etc. As a kid, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and when I said "a doctor" or "a lawyer" they would tell me why I would good be at that job, ask what kind of people I would help, talk about how that would make me happy; I don't remember anyone saying how much money those jobs would make me. It seems like there used to be a sense of pride that motivated people to do their jobs well, an understanding of how they were contributing to the well-being of their family, their friends, their community and their country. What happened to that? It's as if our sense of community itself was another resource that private industry mined and exploited for profit, and now it's all but tapped out. Wasn't it considered the mark of an outcast to have no ties, no duties to something greater than yourself? When did we start making that a goal instead? Mercenaries can be tried as criminals and executed, not because their actions are different from soldiers' but because they are motivated by greed instead of pride and love of their community. I think this reflects that the basic understanding that greed is inherently destructive and corrosive. So how do we get that back for everyone? If you have a sense of pride and contribution in your job, what are the aspects of it that give that to you? How can we apply that in other jobs? If you don't, what do you think would give you a feeling of respect for your work? How could your job mean more for your community?

Jan. 13th, 2009

Thoughts on Israel and 'terrorism'

A friend recently noted to me that he thought I was blaming Israel for Hamas' actions, and that this was like blaming Western countries for Al Qaeda's actions. I found this to be a very apt comparison and expanded on it:

Pointing out that Israel's actions fostered the creation of Hamas is paralleled by pointing out that the USA's actions fostered Al Qaeda. The kind of radical and militant actions that are generally lumped into "terrorism" can only be supported in an atmosphere of crushing abuses and destruction of people and culture.

Israel's decades-long occupation of others' land, their theft and/or destruction of their homes and assets, their pushing of millions into refugee camps like Gaza or into other countries, the theft of resources necessary for survival like water, the constant enforced grind of starvation, homelessness and need are war crimes. Add to this the constantly belligerent Israeli military that uses brutal blockades, collective punishment, assassination, kidnapping, and torture to enforce Israeli government policies and you create an unstoppable need for change and redress in the abused society.

Where that need is directed is also in control of the Israeli government.

If Israel had addressed their responsibilities as an occupying force, the need would have been addressed before being created by supporting basic human rights.

If Israel had submitted to international laws and agreements after committing its crimes, made recompense and taken on its responsibilities after the fact, the need would have been addressed by supporting and submitting to the rule of law.

If Israel had recognized that decades of occupation had not succeeded and changed its policies to accept the 1967 borders and other compromises offered it year after year, the need would have been addressed by supporting diplomacy and negotiation.

By not doing any of these things, Israel creates a constantly growing need that Israel demonstrates they will not address and that they will not allow to be addressed legally or diplomatically.

That need, if given no other outlets, will turn to the radical elements that are present in all societies and become radical militants. When Israel demonstrates that there are no lines it is not willing to cross to meet its goals, it fosters the same actions in those who try to oppose it.

For example, when Israel started kidnapping Palestinians, holding them without charge and torturing them, Palestinians and human rights groups called for legal redress, for the detainees to be charged or released. Israel refused. Radical militants similarly kidnapped military and other enforcement personnel, and used them to negotiate the return; this was successful, proving that Israel would respond only to these types of actions.

Year after year that Israel eroded the rule of law and basic human rights, they made radical militantism more and more attractive to an abused and desperate people.

Now - What does this mean? Is Israel directly responsible for the actions of Hamas? This to me is similar to a landlord illegally throwing all of his tenants in a desperately poor, let's say, Polish ghetto onto the street, which one tenant responds to by holding up a local store to get enough money to move his family to a new home. This robbery, and the squatting and people on the streets in the area, lowers the value of the landlord's property along with the rest of the neighborhood.

So, who is responsible for the robbery? The Polish robber is. If the robber brutalized the store owner, then the robber should be held to account for that.

But in focusing only on the robber's actions, one is unable to understand why the robber acted, and has little information on how to prevent similar actions in the future. If the landlord is protected from rightful prosecution and continues to illegally throw Polish tenants onto the street, then an uninformed observer will conclude that Polish people are given to crime, based on the actions of the few radicals among them.

By being willing to look at the larger picture, one can see how to stop the cycle of violence and destruction, just as so many have seen throughout history, by creating an objective system of equal rights and justice, a rule of law that addresses the primary needs of all before they fester and grow into radicalism. That's why the UN was created. That's why the Nuremberg trials were run. Thats why an international court was created. To show that there was another way to address abuses and crimes other than becoming a criminal.

Jan. 5th, 2009

Debate on Israeli military action in Gaza

Democracy Now! has devoted today's show to the situation in Gaza. Leading off there was an excellent debate:

A Debate on Israel’s Invasion of Gaza: UNRWA’s Christopher Gunness v. Israel Project’s Meagan Buren

On the tenth day of Israel’s continued assault on the Gaza Strip and in spite of mounting international protests, Israeli ground troops pushed deeper into Gaza. The death toll has risen to 531 Palestinians and five Israelis. Nearly 2,500 Palestinians have been wounded since the bombing began last week. Forty-nine Israeli soldiers have been wounded since the ground invasion began Saturday. [includes rush transcript]

Guests:

Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), on the line from Gaza.

Meagan Buren, Senior Adviser to the Israel Project, a pro-Israeli group in Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem.


For a while I've wanted to go through and simply summarize and detail the claims in one of these debates to look through them more clinically. Here's my first attempt. Let me know what you think!

Here are the claims:

  • There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza - challenged by UN and humanitarian group reports and analysis.

  • One million people are without power and will continue to be unless Israel opens the Nahal Oz industrial crossing point - unchallenged.

  • At least two hundred and fifty thousand people are without running water - unchallenged.

  • UN food stocks will run out in the next forty-eight hours and significant numbers of people in northern Gaza will face a serious threat of hunger unless Israel opens the main conveyor belt at the Karni crossing to allow wheat grain in - unchallenged at the moment, characterized as a "difficult situation" (see below for a revisit of this topic).

  • 9,000 rockets have been fired at Israeli civilians (time span unknown) - unchallenged.

  • Israeli people have been living in bomb shelters for years and must plan their day in fifteen second increments (presumably the time between an alarm siren and a rocket hit) - unchallenged.

  • Rocket attacks from Gaza should be considered terrorist actions and are not lawful - unchallenged.

  • The Israeli military action is not a proportional response to the actions of those in Gaza - challenged by claiming that over eight years of rocket attacks (= 9,000 rockets?) on Israel must be considered as justification.

  • The Israeli military action may stop rocket attacks in the short term, but is reducing the chances of peace and security for Israelis in the long-term by fostering radicalism - challenged by the next claim regarding Hamas and negotiation.

  • Hamas will never negotiate with Israel - challenged by claiming the Cairo talks resulted in a ceasefire.

  • The Israelis in Sderot (a town close to the border of the conflict) recognized the success of the Cairo talks between Israel and Hamas and of the relative calm that resulted - agreed.

  • The rocket attacks on Israel, though unjustified, are a response to Israeli occupation - challenged by claiming Israel is not occupying Gaza - challenged by claiming that under international law, control of land, air and sea borders constitutes occupation (detailed in a report by Gisha, "Disengaged Occupiers", quick executive summary here).

  • Israel left Gaza and used "economic diplomacy" as a peaceful means to stop Hamas rockets - challenged by claiming that the "economic diplomacy" was forcing the "most stringent trade embargo in the history of trade relations" on an occupied people - unchallenged.

  • The blockade (economic diplomacy, trade embargo) on food and medical supplies is causing a humanitarian crisis - challenged first by incorrectly claiming that Hamas made this determination instead of the UN, challenged second by claiming that thousands of tons of food and supplies are being sent into Gaza from Israel presumably meaning that this was sufficient to prevent any crisis, and challenged third by Hamas was preventing its people from receiving the food sent in - The first was admitted wrong, the second was not challenged, the third was challenged by a lack of evidence to support it.
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Dec. 19th, 2008

Letters on - Israel

A friend recently asked what I was doing politically, and I thought that it would be interesting to share some of the letters I send to our representatives. Here's a recent letter I received from ANSWER and the message I sent to my representatives.

From ANSWER:
The humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinian people in Gaza has reached an especially grave level. The deprivation of food and water is the deliberate purpose of the U.S.-backed Israeli government's decision to close border crossings into Gaza.

All crossings for goods coming into the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, are closed. The Palestinians are completed blockaded. A United Nations report issued today states that the blockade and siege of Gaza, which began 18 months ago after the democratic election of the Hamas government, has now resulted in a 49% unemployment rate for the citizens of Gaza. Gaza City residents are without electricity for up to 16 hours a day and half the city's residents receive water only once a week for a few hours. The UN report added that 80% of Palestinians living in Gaza are obliged to drink polluted water.

The United National Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been forced to suspend food distribution for both emergency and regular programs. The Agency has run out of flour and has now suspended food deliveries to 750,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israeli Occupation Forces have escalated their military attacks on the people in Gaza. Civilians have been killed and Palestinian houses and other civilian premises have been targeted for destruction. This is a deliberate policy to starve and strangle a whole people by depriving them of food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

The U.S. government is bankrolling the Israeli government and its criminal actions. Israel receives $15 million dollars a day and is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the world. The U.S. Military Industrial Complex and the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties support Israel because they view the Israeli government as a extension of U.S. power in the Middle East. The Palestinian people deserve the support and solidarity of people around the world. They deserve our support not only in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but in their struggle for self-determination including the right to return to their homes from which they were evicted by the forces of colonial occupation.


And here is what I sent:
We have long held ourselves as defenders of freedom; where is the freedom for the people of Gaza? This country was pledged to fight terrorism and tyranny in 2001 - Who is more terrorized than the people of Gaza, families who never know when Israeli missiles will strike? Who don't know where there next meal may be coming from due to the Israeli blockade of food? Who don't know if their family members who lived despite their injuries from the last Iraqi missile attack will survive, due to the Israeli blockade of medical supplies?

I join with people all over the world in condemning Israel's deliberate starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza. The U.S. government sends $15 million each day to Israel. In addition to the military attacks against the people of Gaza, Gaza City residents are without electricity for up to 16 hours a day and half the city's residents receive water only once a week for a few hours. These are war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Our laws specifically state that our money and our weapons are not to be used for aggression and occupation.

In accordance of our countries laws, the Geneva conventions that we wrote and signed, and for the greatest good of this country, I demand that the United States end all funding for Israel.


It is hardly a surprise that during this time of enormous suffering in Gaza, Israel is working its hardest to prevent anyone from reporting on it. Journalists have been ejected and thrown in jail for trying to report on the conditions there. Israel is now so well protected by the United States and their own arrogance that they can detain and throw out UN inspectors without consequence (or even mention in US corporate news).

What's your opinion? No, don't write it here, write it here! You may disagree with me and with ANSWER (Act Now To Stop War And End Racism), but that's okay - make your voice heard!!! The real problem right now is that so many people are afraid to speak up, are told to simply sit back and let 'top men' take care of the problems. Maybe getting people to take control of their representatives and get more involved with their communities will not create exactly the USA that I want, but it will make us a better country, of that I am sure.

So here's your chance - Do you think that we should be giving $15 million dollars a day to Israel? Do you think that the UN should be allowed to send food to starving children in Gaza? Write your representatives and tell them!

And then if you have the time, paste a copy of it here afterwards. :^)

Dec. 12th, 2008

GM/Chrysler loan - Email I sent this morning to 89x

I meant to do a post on this earlier, but I was motivated by a discussion this morning on 89x to help fill in the blanks where questions were left unanswered. If I have time later, I'll polish this up a bit, or ask me some questions on this and we'll fill it out together. :^)

Just to put some numbers on it, the latest study (NPR story yesterday: Expert Examines Impact Of Big Three's Collapse) of the effects of the loan versus two companies going into bankruptcy found that the cost of a $15 billion loan, even if it is only paid back halfway pales in comparison to the over $60 billion that it will cost taxpayers if two companies go into bankruptcy in lost taxes, welfare, pension coverage and other direct costs, not to mention the rest of the fallout that will occur from having millions on the street with no healthcare.

What it seems that many people do not realize is that all auto companies use the same suppliers, and if the the big three go under, auto supplies will effectively lock up for months. That will push out the rest of the companies as well - where will the jobs be then?

You and your callers hit it on the head though - this is all about killing the UAW. It's not my favorite union, but they are one of the last groups still strong enough to stand up for workers' rights. Ask people this question - when the unions are gone, who is going to keep fighting for a five-day work week, for living wages, for medical and retirement benefits, for a safe and functional working environment? These companies have no problem paying kids to work 60 hour weeks in toxic factories in other countries, why would they care about bringing back the 20's right here in the USA?

Another perspective question - what did auto executives do that every other executive in companies of the same size did not do? Is there any industry of the same size where you couldn't point to greed and bad decisions? This is typical tactics by the Republicans - find some rich person and find something to attack about them so you can blame everyone else, and then if someone brings up the workers, make up some complete lie about how they 'rich' so they can be targetted as well.

Republican leaders don't care about how much it destroys the country as long as they get what they want. Speaking of which, rich Republican voters in Michigan are not regretting a thing; I can tell you about several I know personally that have moved their money and businesses off-shore so that the country can go into the toilet without hurting their bottom line. As you heard last hour, the non-rich (or dupes) are so caught up in this mythology of blaming auto executives and 'rich workers' that regular news networks are peddling that you can't even talk to them rationally.

The bottom line is that not giving a loan to the auto companies will cost US taxpayers at least four times more money, will make it harder for the other auto companies to do business in this country, will hit smaller businesses related to the industry hardest, and will be used as an excuse to take away worker's pay, benefits, retirement and any other corporate responsibility they can get to to push the national standards down even further.


Full disclosure: I have friends and family directly related to auto industries, though I am not, unless an occasional contract for companies like Murray's Parts counts. :^)

Nov. 24th, 2008

Bush admin. gets it right on religion!

Since 1999, a resolution has been submitted every year that defines the term "defamation of religion" under the topic of racism, and seeks to create an internationally legal structure to allow countries to punish those who speak out against religions that they favor.

I think it's worth pointing out that the Bush administration has voted against this resolution every year, and I support them for doing so.

As the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty noted in their analysis of these resolutions and their relation to current laws and internationally recognized rights (principally the "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Articles 19 and 20):
The right to disagree and to express dissent peacefully is a fundamental aspect of the freedom of thought. In his report in March 2008, Amyebi Ligabo, the Special Rapporteur
on the protection of freedom of expression, stated that limitations of Article 19 of the ICCPR “are not intended to suppress the expression of critical views, controversial opinions or politically incorrect statements.”

Further, there is no basis in international or regulatory law for the concept of protection of religious ideas or collective rights of a sometimes disparate group of people within a larger faith tradition.19 “Defamation of religions” as a concept undermines the very foundations of the human rights system, which is based on a concept of individual rights.

The grounding of human rights in the protection of individuals instead of in the protection of ideas or of group identities is well established in treaty and custom, in general principles, and academia. Attempts to change this paradigm have met with extreme argument and dissent and thus do not have the force of established international law norms.


Now I bring this up because of two events, one so surreal that the mainstream media has probably covered it, and one so real that they have probably not.

The surreal event is that Saudi Arabia is leading U.N. talks on religious tolerance, which is primarily focused on preventing people from doing anything that their religion will not tolerate.

The real event is that two US representatives have moved to support the Bush administration's U.N. vote by putting forward HR 6146 to help prevent other countries' laws from reducing the freedom of religious (and non-religious) expression here in the USA. I hope you can take a few minutes and let your congresspeople know that you support this bill.

Oct. 26th, 2008

Waxman kicking butt on Oversight - Federal Regulation

Old post (saved as draft) that I didn't get a chance to finish.

House Oversight Cmte. Hearing on the Role of Federal Regulators (October 23, 2008)

Some parts of note:

Waxman's opening statement:

Today is our fourth hearing into the ongoing financial crisis.

Our previous three hearings focused on the private sector. Our first hearing examined the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. We learned that this investment bank failed after it made highly leveraged investments that plummeted in value.

Our second hearing examined the fall of AIG. We learned that this huge insurance company was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by speculation in unregulated derivatives called credit default swaps.

Our third hearing, which we held yesterday, examined the role of credit rating agencies. We learned that these firms sacrificed their rating standards — and their credibility — for short-term gains in sales volumes.

Each of these case studies is different. But they share common themes. In each case, corporate excess and greed enriched company executives at enormous cost to shareholders and our economy.

And in each case, these abuses could have been prevented if federal regulators had paid more attention and intervened with responsible regulations.

This brings us to today’s hearing. Our focus today is the actions — and inaction — of federal regulators.

For too long, the prevailing attitude in Washington has been that the market always knows best. The Federal Reserve had the authority to stop the irresponsible lending practices that fueled the subprime mortgage market. But its long-time Chairman, Alan Greenspan, rejected pleas that he intervene.

The SEC had the authority to insist on tighter standards for credit rating agencies. But it did nothing despite urgings from Congress.

The Treasury Department could have led the charge for responsible oversight of financial derivatives. Instead, it joined the opposition.

The list of regulatory mistakes and misjudgments is long, and the cost to taxpayers and our economy is staggering. The SEC relaxed leverage standards on Wall Street. The Offices of Thrift Supervision and the Comptroller of the Currency preempted state efforts to protect homebuyers from predatory lending. And the Justice Department slashed its efforts to prosecute white collar fraud.

Congress is not exempt from responsibility. We passed legislation in 2000 that exempted financial derivatives from regulation. And we took too long — until earlier this year — to pass legislation strengthening oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Over and over again, ideology trumped governance. Our regulators became enablers rather than enforcers. Their trust in the wisdom of the markets was infinite. The mantra became: government regulation is wrong and the market is infallible.

Our focus today is financial regulation. But this deregulatory philosophy spread across government. It explains why lead got into our children’s toys and why evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were housed in trailers filled with formaldehyde.

Today we will ask our witnesses hard questions about the regulatory decisions they made and failed to make. But I want them to know that I value their public service and their cooperation with the Committee.

Our Committee has stayed busy in recent weeks as we have held hearing after hearing on the financial crisis. I want all members to know how much I appreciate their involvement in these hearings. It is not easy to travel to Washington when Congress is out of session, especially with an election looming. But the issues we are examining are of immense importance to our nation. I am proud of the work we are doing and especially the contributions of the members of this Committee.

Oct. 16th, 2008

The WHITE elephant in the room. . .

Why is it that so many people are so scared to talk about race in this country?

Statistically speaking, it's one of the top four factors that affect income, education level, infant mortality rate and other critical quality (and quantity) of life issues.

There is this myth of equality that I keep hearing from 'good Americans' who "are proud to be in America, where at least (they) know (they're) free." It's an accepted, unassailable part of the deep, structural and blinding prejudice that makes up our society. And it's presence is even more starkly shown by the intense denial mechanisms so many have had to create to allow it to survive.

A group of white high school students, when forced to allow blacks to sit under 'their' tree, responded by hanging nooses from it. If a bunch of skinheads hung a "Wilkommen zu Auschwitz" sign on a tree that they were told Jews would be allowed to sit under, would you tell those Jewish students that it was "just a joke" and to just get over it?

Consider the strategies of Republican operatives to portray Sen. Obama as an Arab and a Muslim. If they did not believe that bigotry and hatred ran rampant through our country, why would they bother? McCain himself felt this when he ran against Bush and was accused of being a white man with a black child. In response to these claims, who said; so what? Or, how is that relevant?

Media stories on the Obama and McCain smears focussed on the whether these smears were true or not, but never examined the more important issue of how they could be smears in the first place in the 21st century. Imagine for a moment that Democratic operatives launched an aggressive campaign that duped voters into believing that McCain was Spanish and a Methodist. After pointing out the obvious facts that he is neither, wouldn't you want a news story to tell you why they would do this? Wouldn't you expect the story itself to be questioning the sanity of the operatives, rather than their facts or morality?

When a older white man thought it was the funniest thing in the world to make an Obama monkey doll and call him "Little Hussein" at a McCain rally, did anyone not get it? Did anyone think, that's weird, why would he do that?

What if an older black man went to an Obama rally with a doll in a white hood and robes with McCain printed on it? What if he danced it around as the crowd around him smiled and laughed approvingly on camera? Would you demand that Obama denounce these kinds of actions?

What if there was a nationally broadcast Democratic pundit radio host that said that Republicans were engaged for the last thirty years in a movement, a religion of hate, hate, hate for this country and its liberal policies, that it was a US Council for World Freedom, anti-constitutional, anti-American educational movement, and that McCain, Hagee and GOP lawyers were right up to their distended jowls in it? Would you demand that Obama denounce this kind of hate-based support? What if instead Obama sent Sen. Biden to appear on this show where Biden also attacked those GOP lawyers?

What if after all of these actions people were shouting out at Obama rallys that McCain and Palin were secessionists, para-military fanatics, and that they should be killed? What if, when directly accused of racism at his rallies and of fostering it, Obama just said those claims weren't true and didn't denounce the racists themselves or state that racism had no place in a political campaign?

Again, my point here is not to discuss the presidential campaign, but to take this opportunity to examine the story that corporate media and the general public won't or can't talk about, the enormous white elephant in the room of our society.

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