Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blog # 112: Republicans Take Slumdog Approach to Health Care

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The “Slumdog” children at the Academy Awards. – “Slumdog Millionaire,” its director, Danny Boyle, and a producer, Christian Colson, helped establish trusts and find new homes for Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 11, and Rubina Ali Qureshi, 10, who played the young incarnations of two of the film’s lead characters. But Noshir Dadrawala, who helps administer the fund, said Azharuddin was showing up at school 37 percent of the time, and Rubina had a 27 percent attendance rate. The trust decided that the children must raise their attendance above 70 percent or forfeit their monthly stipends of about $120. • Story and Photo – The N. Y. Times

Polls Show Public Supports a Public Option

From the latest polls we learn that a majority of Americans finally understands Einstein’s reigning equation on the health care situation: (chalk at the ready) “NO public option = NO reform”. PERIOD! You would think that message should be clear enough for even the more dense among the Senate’s Blue Dog Democrats to comprehend, providing the din of the Insurance companies’ money hasn’t clouded their hearing beyond repair. We Democrats are just too damn independent for our own good. It’s a damned shame that we can’t herd Democrats like the Republicans seem to be able to herd Repugnicants. “Hop to, little dogies, over here you go; just direct your feet to the people’s side of the street.”

However it is the Turncoat Democrat who seems the least receptive to the message being given by the American People. Our very special favorite Turncoat, cuddly old Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, has gone so far as to threaten to join Republicans in a filibuster if the Public Option is in the Senate Bill. He announced his intention quite proudly, in the face of a Poll showing 65% of the citizens of Connecticut support a public option. Of course, many of those insurance companies that are fighting tooth and nail to retain their obscenely high profits, and therefore are dead set against competition from a public option, also live in Connecticut. Good ole’ Senator Joe, he just keeps plugging away for his business homeys.§

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To Care or Not to Care?

As the health care fight keys up Republicans and other fiscal conservatives, and even an independent here and there, are beginning to get paranoid about America’s ever rising national debt, and the threat of Democratic spending to increase it. One wonders where their concern was during all of those dreadful free-spending Bush/Cheney years.

First thing out of that Supreme Court facilitated gate Bush/Cheney gave our most wealthy citizens a free ticket to pass go by way of their taxes. And then they went on to start not one but two corporate intensive wars, also not paid for by taxes, but financed on the dole, on the nation’s credit card as it were. Furthermore conservatives didn’t seem to give much of a damn back when B/C went on to rob many State National Guards of both their troops and their equipment.

Then the Bushies proved beyond a shadow of a doubt their complete indifference to the well being of the American people. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina they left hundreds of bodies of drowned American citizens rotting in the streets of New Orleans, a situation nightly witnessed by the American people on their television screens, and which showed a level of callousness towards the well being of our citizens unmatched in the history of American presidents. One can only smile at the thought of the reincarnation of Bush 43 hitting the lecture circuit as a “motivational” speaker. Motivating his audiences towards what? Incompetency? Bankruptcy?

Wouldn’t you just know, after 8 years plus of silence at that kind of financial abuse the fiscal conservatives have finally found their voice. And the ironic part of it is that, sure the Obama Administration is increasing our debt, but rather than throwing any more money than is necessary into conflicts, and conducting a saber-rattling foreign policy which spawns more conflict, the administration is endeavoring to promote peaceful solutions to the world’s problems so that it can invest money in the American people for a change.

The Obama guys are attempting to cure, or at least apply a band-aid to our completely out of whack health care system, and at the same time it is also funding initiatives which will help create jobs, etc. It is even attempting to curb corporate greed in the financial industry, at least among the executives of those companies on the public dole. But of course, there lies the Republican gripe. They don’t want a dime of tax money spent in the interests of you and I. They want every tax dollar to be spent enriching the wealthy and the big corporations. That’s who they work for.

And so the Republicans, to a man and woman, resist everything the Democrats propose. If the Democrats had pulled this kind of nonsense on the Republicans during those dreadful Bush/Cheney years, we wonder how much lighter our national debt would be now. BUT NOOOO! Democrats labor under the quaint delusion that they are working for the American people, and so held their noses as they dutifully played ball with the Republicans. This spirit is obviously not reciprocated by the GOP, as they turn every Democratic initiative into a political battle, indicating they answer not to the American people, but to their political masters.

However an angry voting populace finally resisted the GOP’s lies and malfeasance by voting their real interests which in turn returned Democrats to power. And now that they are back in power it looks like once again on matters that stand to benefit the American people the Democrats will have to stand alone. Want the latest odious example? Republicans are criticizing the Democrats for being slow in the deliverance of the H1N1 vaccine. But you know what, to a man they voted against funding the vaccine in the first place. Pathetic, what?

Republicans react in feigned horror at the thought of a public option run by the federal government, as if a bumbling, incompetent Fed was sure to bring the entire health care industry crashing down. The problem with that thinking is that Republicans are projecting their own leadership into the picture. When you have little or no respect for the federal government, when you actually have animosity towards it and staff it with incompetents, it is any wonder you look askance at the federal government running anything?

However, that is strictly a Republican fantasy. Bill Clinton was the last Democratic president to prove that a president could not only effect efficient rule, but he could do so without drumming up a war, and by being fiscally responsible, so much so that he ended his presidency with surpluses, not deficits. When has a Republican president been able to come anywhere near that record? Certainly not in your or my lifetime.

And if Republicans really have so little faith in a government run program, we would suggest they cancel their own government health care program and exchange it for one of these for-profit insurance programs which allow you to pay into the system as long as you are healthy, but which at the first sign of an illness cancels you. I’m sure the for-profit boys would love to have a bunch of dissident GOP Congressmen and Senators on their rolls, merrily contributing to their bottom lines until those infamous “pre-existing conditions” kick in.

In short, to hard-of-thinking Republicans we would say this: all the American people are asking is that they get the same kind of health care deal that members of Congress and the Senate have given themselves. No more, no less.

No wonder the Republican party is currently suffering the lowest ratings it has had in its entire history, with only 20% of the voting population, one in five, claiming GOP membership. Instead of serving the American people (which is what they claimed when they first sought election) they have abandoned our interests to solely focus on opposing the Obama administration at every turn. We are happy to see that the American people aren’t stupid, that they eventually understood when they had been incessantly lied to and had repeatedly gotten the shaft. ‘Tis sweet indeed that the American voter is no longer driven by fear-tinged Republican fantasy, but has learned to vote according to his real interests.§

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Liz Cheney Squawks about Obama’s Dover Coverage

On the heels of our former president of vice Dick Cheney’s accusation of Obama “dithering” on Afghanistan, Cheney daughter Liz squawks about the media coverage of Obama’s trip to Dover to honor our fallen. George W. wouldn’t do that, she said. Of course he wouldn’t do that, Bush banned cameras from Dover and avoided it like the plague. He wanted to take America’s minds off of war casualties. Now if we could only find something to take our minds off of the Cheneys.§

O’Donnell Answers Liz and Dad

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Bits and Pieces . . .

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Thanks to the Independent Sources website, we bring you the following mucked up urls:

1. A site called ‘Who Represents‘ where you can find the name of the agent that represents a celebrity. Their domain name… check this out… is:

2. Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at:

3. Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at:

4. Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at: However female users should show great caution when using this url.

Anyway, you get the idea. There’s even more of this madness, which you can find it by pointing your cursor and clicking here

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In all seriousness Google has a new tool which should greatly aid images seekers. It is called Similar Images. You can try it out by clicking on "Find similar images" below the most popular images in Google’s search results. For example, if you search for jaguar, you can use the "Find similar images" link to find more pictures of either the car or the animal.

So, let's say you want to find images of Ancient Egypt. Google Images will provide you with a rich variety of results, including pyramids, maps, relics, drawings and other types of images. You could narrow down your results to show you only the Great Sphinx of Giza. As below:§

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Three cheers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the online legal entity which is ever looking out for our digital rights. They have started a new project called their Hall of Shame, where they are doling out Shame honors to companies and organizations which attempt to curb free speech by causing YouTube and other media outlets to pull material for bogus copyright claims.

”Free speech in the 21st century often depends on incorporating video clips and other content from various sources," explained EFF Senior Staff Attorney and Kahle Promise Fellow Corynne McSherry. "It's what The Daily Show with Jon Stewart does every night. This is 'fair use' of copyrighted or trademarked material and protected under U.S. law. But that hasn't stopped thin-skinned corporations and others from abusing the legal system to get these new works removed from the Internet. We wanted to document this censorship for all to see."§

Good for you EFF. For more of the story go here

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From the Borowitz Report: BULLETIN!

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) - Trying to make the best of what could be a public relations disaster, Northwest Airlines today unveiled a new corporate slogan, "We'll Get You Within 150 Miles of There."

According to Carol Foyler, a Northwest spokesperson, the new slogan "reflects our dedication to getting our passengers as close as possible to their intended destination."

UPDATE: MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) - The mystery surrounding the Northwest Airlines flight that strayed 150 miles from its intended destination was resolved today as Northwest reported that the two pilots for the flight were never in the cockpit to begin with.

"We found them safe at home, hiding in a box," said Northwest spokesperson Carol Foyler. "We're just glad that this story had a happy ending."

To sign up to have the Borowitz Report sent to your very own email box, go here

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Welcome to My Last Hurrah!

After last week’s admission of my gigantic url misspelling, I decided it was time to do a little housecleaning around the old blog. And the next area of improvement has to be my bio, which sits to the right of the copy, just below the archive. I have rewritten it, which you are invited the check out forthwith. Not a basic change, I still managed to keep that smart ass attitude I originally created it with. Just added more of what I had done back when I was a productive member of society, which not surprisingly added dreadfully few lines.§

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Housecleaning Time on Our Blog

While browbeating my youngest son into reading my blog, I called it “my last hurrah!” Which actually it is. All of my life I have tried this and that, and when each little enterprise didn’t go quite the way I would like, I would pull back, do a 33 percent course change, and motor off in a different direction. As a result I have landed here in the Twilight Zone of my life with very little to show for it. And so as a matter of desperation I created my blog.

What is it supposed to be? Well, to me it is like that radio program I dreamed of doing back in the days when radio programs ruled. Of course you would have to call it radio for the deaf, Paul Simon’s sounds of silence rules these parts, as our blog consists of merely printed words, and even those are not printed on paper, of course, but exist as bytes on a computer screen. No trees felled for our ego, my friends, although let’s not talk about the carbon footprint we share with all other Google customers, which uses heavens knows how much energy to fire up their gigantic server complexes which they use to serve their corner of the internet. Not to mention what the one or two of you out there who seek us out use.§

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Should The Borg Change its Leadership?

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From John Gruber’s Daring Fireball:

“If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” — Legal Adage

The danger I see is in conflating cause and effect. Is the App Store popular because the iPhone is great? Or is the iPhone great because the App Store is popular? There’s a big difference between those two arguments. The latter is the argument Microsoft has long made regarding the advantage of Windows: Windows is great because Windows has the most software and most developers.

The iPhone has turned that around, and it’s driving Microsoft executives batty. The situation is so at odds with Microsoft’s view of the computing universe that Steve Ballmer came up with this cockamamie explanation: “The Internet was designed for the PC. The Internet is not designed for the iPhone. That’s why they’ve got 75,000 applications — they’re all trying to make the Internet look decent on the iPhone.” Pound the table, indeed.

In your experience, have you ever seen a chief executive of a major technology company (he would probably say THE major technology company) who has been so consistently wrong about a competitor’s product as has the Steve of Redmond & Microsoft about Apple and its iPhone? Rather than irritate the real Steve Jobs, I imagine it just makes the iPhone’s remarkable success that much sweeter for him. Balmy Ballmer. We won’t bore you with a history of his most grievous errors, but he recently made the above comment, and when TechFlash, which is a Seattle based aggregator of tech news, published that statement a reader calling himself Grand_Poobah commented that it was time for the Microsoft CEO to find another job. He wrote:

"Seriously, the iPhone is the first phone that made surfing the internet on a portable device EASY. I can pinch the screen, tilt, zoom in, zoom out, scroll with the touch screen ... it's just so easy. This is denial and he needs to be replaced badly. Microsoft can do so much better."

Well, whether the tech Goliath that fake Steve calls the Borg can do any better with a different leader is a topic for debate. But it sure would have a hard time doing any worse. Pound the table, indeed.

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And From our Fairness to the Borg Dept. Comes

The Bing Dance

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Peeling Back the Curtain on Children’s Camps

As ye olde bio alongside says, many of the best summers of my life were spent in three of the most outstanding children’s camp in New England. In fact, in those days I lived the life of the birds. By which I mean, I spent the cold months, the falls, winters and springs in the relative warmth of Houston, Texas, while spending summers working at the fore mentioned camps. In many of those years I made the trip by railroad train, specifically the historic train called The Southerner, taking the 3 day trip in the relative comfort of the Pullman Car. Eating my meals in the dining car, and catching up on my reading or my people watching in the coach car. It made a wonderful transition from what I had been doing to what I would be doing.

Why did I enjoy working in children’s camps, you might ask? Well, it was like a microcosm of the outside world, but one which was small, and one in which you had a chance to watch the budding human child as it develops. In the 1950’s a terribly depressing book about children living alone in the wild, Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, painted what was to me a terribly depressing picture of the human male child when left to his own devices. Working in the camps provided an excellent opportunity to test out the book’s theories in the field. Of course, the children in camp weren’t left totally alone as in the novel. But there were plenty of instances where you could let children lead and study their reactions. And the many years working in the camps proved for me the complete fallacy of the presuppositions of Golding’s book.

Of course there were many other reasons to spend the summers in New England. The weather was almost always pleasant, very few of those wiltingly hot days Houston experiences end on end. The living was mostly in the outdoors, rather than in the artificially cooled atmosphere of the indoors. And of course there were the lakes and ponds, the mountain streams and pools, and in the case of Blueberry Cove, the Atlantic ocean. Not to mention the activities. And there is one thing about working with children. No matter how overwhelming your own problems might seem, they evaporate completely the minute a group of children bursts into your life. That’s just the way it is, it comes with the territory.

I’m hesitant to say it, since both Killooleet and BBC were superbly run institutions, but my favorite parts of camp were the trips away from camp. It was an opportunity to get get a small group of children away from the rest, usually in a challenging situation. At Blueberry Cove I grew to love the mountain climbing trips. For one thing, I got a chance to confront one of my own personal demons, acrophobia, the fear of heights. However when you have a group of children to take care of your own fears get shoved far back into your unconscious.

I actually had my first real experience with a mountain while I was still at Killooleet in Vermont. I took a group of older campers on a hiking expedition to (if memory serves me), Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. There was a hiking trail up the mountain, the views were spectacular along the way, and when we got to the top there was a lodge, which served meals, although we didn’t eat there. We backpacked up our own food. Still it was rather of a shock to arrive at the summit of this mountain, only to find a lodge complete with comfy chairs, cozy fireplaces, and a working kitchen.

Getting to the top had been a compelling experience for me, for at one point we were climbing a rocky part that exposed our height and vulnerability, and just as my knees started to buckle and my body started to shake, one of the campers was having a similar moment, and suddenly my own fears took flight as I had to concentrate on talking him up that particular part. The entire experience turned out to be an exciting one and it hooked me into wanting more. After six years at Killooleet I began to hanker for a change, mainly I wanted more trips. There were only two trips per summer at Killooleet, and so I switched to Blueberry Cove Camp in Tenants Harbor, Maine.

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There was a little mountain near Camden, Maine which we at BBC called Ragged Mountain. It was near to the camp, and we made it a day trip. You could drive up the rear of the mountain, there was a road, but of course there was no fun in that. There was a lot more challenge in climbing up the face. It was steep, and all rock. There was no set trail going up, you made your own, which was very useful as it forced you to think as you climbed, to plan ahead. The angle was considerately less than 90º, and it wasn’t really dangerous, but our campers learned to climb it with care, carefully considering their options as they proceeded up the face.

And acrophobia types like me got a chance to challenge our fears by helping the campers in their climb up. As I learned early on, of course, the real trick for a successful climb was to not look down. Take your mind off of your own uneasiness by concentrating on helping your campers.

The climb took maybe a couple of hours going up, we would take day packs along with our lunch in them, and eat and have a rest hour at the top. It wasn’t a tall mountain, but on a clear day you could see the ocean off in the distance. After lunch and rest it was time to carefully make our way back down the face.

A Canyon with Moon, Not Ragged Mountain

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The next step in my own personal mountain climbing regime was called Tumbledown Mountain. It isn’t on the internet’s list of Maine mountains, and so I guess it wasn’t high enough to make the cut, but it is named Tumbledown on the U. S. Geographical Survey map of the area, so I guess the name Tumbledown wasn’t merely a camp name, but an official one. Tumbledown was a mid range mountain in height, although it couldn’t compare to a man-sized mountain like Mt. Katahdin, which sits boldly to the north and forms the northern termination point of the Appalachian Trail.

Tumbledown offered a taste of a real mountain experience. It was far enough away from camp that a trip there would have to be a 2 night – 3 day affair. Much of the early part of the walk was in a tree covered path, which made for a very pleasant walk because you were in the shade, and because of the altitude the air was cool and crisp. There was a challenging rocky face to climb after you left the tree line.

As a general rule we stopped and rested for 10 minutes each hour. Whenever possible we would stop at a place affording a good view. The real fun of the climb began as we reached the end of the tree line. The trail up was clearly marked, and was well traveled. We mostly climbed an area which after a rain would be covered with flowing water. This water had long since dried up, but it had removed most of the organic matter which mother nature might have originally put there. When we approached an area which might have been a problem for some campers I would go to the front of the line, so that I could supervise their climb.

I found that most of our campers were inventive with their climbing, and didn’t need much in the way of guidance or direction. Of course, every now and again you had a camper who suddenly became aware of our altitude or the starkness of their position, and you had to do some fast talking to take their mind off of their fears, and get them scrambling to a point of safety. Once again, having to talk them out of their fears worked like a charm in taming my own irrational fears, shoving them deep back in my own subconscious.

Once we were above the face, we usually spent of few minutes of well earned rest taking in the view of the countryside, surveying where we had come from and thinking about the challenge that we had all just faced and conquered. The summit was high enough to afford good views of the surrounding countryside. And near the top was a large size pond which made for some excellent swimming, a fitting reward for those making the climb on a hot day.

After completing our climb we would have a period of free time, where the adventurous could explore the mountain’s peak and other points of interest, while the rest explored the beautiful pond, which was a bit lower than the peak, and which lay as a sparkling invitation to cool off after your sweaty climb up. If there were no others around most of the kids would go in skinny, which was the camping world’s rather quaint way of saying swimming a la bare.

And if you took a certain way back down the mountain a lovely brook paralleled your walk, a stream from which you could refill your canteen (with the coldest, best tasting water I have ever tasted), and which made for a grade A skinny dipping experience if your group was hot and sweaty and so inclined.

An aside here. Throughout mankind’s history canvas replications of the nude human body, particularly that of the female, were considered the pinnacle in artistic expression. For some strange reason much of our society today seems to look upon the unclothed human form as somehow obscene, or what is worse, pornographic. But fortunately for us, most of our camp’s parents seemed to have a more liberated view of bare humanity, and as for skinny dipping, the children themselves usually indulged in it with enthusiasm, and without hesitation. And this went not only for trips which were same sex, but also those of mixed trips as most BBC trips were. We counselors never tried to talk a child into shedding his or her clothes, that was always a very personal decision on the part of the child, and we felt their decision should come freely from them. Some of us counselors had been known to lead by example, however.

And to my mind the reward the child got if and when he or she indulged in skinny dipping was two-fold. First off they got that wonderful feeling your skin only gets when you have nothing between it and the sweet coolness of the water. Also in my mind being bare and relaxed in the company of others equally bare, serves to help prepare those who participate for whatever relations they might have with members of the opposite sex when they get older, as some of the mystery about the body of the opposite sex has been cleared away.

There were numerous other fine parts of away trips like Tumbledown also, two of which were in the preparation and the eating of meals around an open fire, and sleeping in the outdoors. Of course the food preparation for cooking on an open fire was relatively limited. But the reward was in the eating. Food cooked in the outdoors tastes unbelievably good, and if it comes at the end of a day which had been devoted to climbing a mountain, you are beastly hungry for it. And as anyone who has ever cooked and eaten in the outdoors over an open fire can testify, food has never tasted better.

The other high point in taking a trip away from camp was in the sleeping experience. Even if you lacked very much of nature’s built-in cushioning, as did I, still the outdoors became an ideal place to sleep. Some like the privacy of a tent, but I always preferred sleeping under an open tarpaulin, which let the night in with its soothing sounds and gentle aromas. Armies of crickets were inevitably serenading for a mate, and their collective symphony beats even the best of those modern sound sleep aids built into our digital alarm clocks. Rain during the night was rare, but in the case of rain the tarp usually kept you high and dry.§

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With memories of serenading crickets drowning out the artificially produced sounds of crickets on my digital alarm clock, so we bring to a close this week’s blog. We spend the week commenting quirkily on this and that, and in addition each week we try to bring to life some aspect of our days working at children’s camps.

We hereby offer a digitally engraved invitation to come back next week for more of the same. We write during the week, and post the results Saturday morning between 7 and 8 o’clock CDT. If you happen to recommend us to a friend or two, don’t forget to make note of our grammatically challenged url, which spells “little” with an extra “l”. As in: Easiest thing is to highlight the entire url, copy it to the clipboard, then paste it into an email or text message, or whatever, to friend and foe alike. Anyway. enough with this shameless self promotion. Have a good week, keep your eye on the prize, and as Pete Seeger used to sing with feeling, take it easy, but take it.

The Real Little Eddy §

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