Saturday, December 26, 2009

Blog #120: Why Republicans Lock Step Against Health Care Reform

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Count My Vote!

Sen. Robert Byrd of W. Virginia – The supposed subject of Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma’s prayers for a Democrat to miss the vote on Health Care, Sen. Byrd high-fives the world after casting his vote. Down below we tell of the memo which explains the reasons for the Republican unswerving opposition to health care reform.

Obstructionism You Can Believe In?

The Democrats managed to pull off that first Health Care vote, 60 to 40. So far so good. The Republicans are praying for one Democratic defection, or a misfortune which could cause a Senator to miss the vote. But so far nothing doing.

Washington is a complete mess these days. Republicans, although they won’t admit it, are voting en masse against Obama not on the relative merits of the legislation, but because they think defeating Obama sponsored legislation will improve their own political chances in 2010 and especially 2012. It seems they can’t stand being out of power, although the way they governed during the preceding eight years should keep them in exile for a lifetime.

Will it? Who knows, public support shifts like the tides. Obama’s 57% approval ratings of a couple of months ago has now slipped below 50%. However if you compare this to other presidents with a similar time in office, Obama probably still ranks above most if not all of them.

If there is one thing you thought you could count on Republicans supporting, it is the nation’s armed forces. Their support for America’s wars, and particularly ones they started, stands there right next to God and the Constitution. And yet, the GOP is so focused on delaying the Obama Health Care Reform initiative, if not killing it outright, that they attempted to sidetrack funding for the Pentagon’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, forcing the Democrats to call forth their 60-40 majority to prevent filibustering against a bill funding of the war. It truly is anything to delay Health Care.

The reasoning behind the Republican’s lock step “NO” voting came out of obscurity in Eric Alterman’s incisive piece published Christmas morning in The Daily Beast which you can read in its entirety here! The piece points to a 4 page 1993 memo written by a then unknown political consultant named William Kristol, warning Republican leaders of the dangers of letting a Democratic president reform the nation’s health care system.

The thrust of the memo’s argument was clear and unapologetic: Republicans must resist health-care reform lest its success be allowed to “revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining the growth of government.” Today’s GOP’ers are obviously swallowing that line hook, line and sinker.

As Republicans scream and holler at the exploding national debt they make no apologies for the programs that were passed but unfunded on their watch, the two wars, the seniors prescription drug program, etc.. Six years ago, “it was standard practice not to pay for things,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question.” His 2003 vote has been vindicated, Hatch said, because the prescription drug benefit “has done a lot of good.” As for the CBO report that the Senate’s Health Care Reform bill will pay for itself in the long run, GOPer’s just don’t believe it.

What does our personal crystal ball say the future will hold for this GOP policy of delay and disruption? We freely admit that the crystal our ball is made of is fatally flawed with a future not seen through a prism of information and knowledge but through one of dreams and wishful thinking. And so we turn to the predictions of experts like Nobel Economics Prize Winner Paul Krugman, whose N.Y. Times’ predictions are anchored in scholarship and knowledge.

Krugman has predicted that if the economy continues on the turnaround it seems to be beginning, and if Health Care Reform, if finally turned into law, begins to show some signs of curbing the Insurance Companies’ raising of their rates and dropping payees for “pre-existing conditions,” the Democrats should do alright in their quest for reelection in 2010, and ditto for the President’s reelection in 2012. A lot will depend on the employment rate. If it is dropping by a comfortable margin for Democrats all will be well.

What about the forces on the Democratic left (like former Democratic Party Chairman and physician, Howard Dean, who wrote in an Op Ed piece calling for Democrats to scrap the legislation altogether and start from scratch, in hopes of getting it right?) Cooler heads have pointed out that the Democrats have come closer to passing Health Care Reform than ever before in history, after noting that every Democratic President since Harry Truman and more than one Republican has tried to get health care and failed.

They also remind us that correcting omissions in the future would be far easier than starting over from scratch, and that killing the present bill is exactly what the Republicans are so desperately advocating. And fortunately for the American people, the Democratic Senators have held the line, rather than following Dean’s advice. One in the hand is worth two . . ., well, you get the idea.

And what about those Tea Party types who are noisily trying to dominate the landscape these days? They represent all kinds of deviates, some of whom you might quietly approve of, others you wouldn’t want to touch with the proverbial ten foot pole. But most all Tea Party types are screaming “NO!” at the top of their libertarian lungs, and they seem to be directing their messages to both Democrats and Republicans alike. Their message, “A pox on both your houses!” So much for fringe benefits.

No matter what comes along by way of distractions, our thoughts return to that 1993 William Kristol memo urging Republicans to resist Health Care Reform at all costs. Isn’t it interesting how little some things change, the difference between what Clinton faced in 1993 and Obama these days is that wafer thin Democrat 60-40 majority in the Senate which gives Obama a real chance to accomplish what Bill Clinton could not? It is instructive to realize the reasoning behind the passionate GOP wish for Health Care Reform to fail. In the interests of the tax payers of this country, we repeat our hopes for its continued success.§

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The Borowitz Report

NORTH POLE (The Borowitz Report) - The Central Intelligence Agency confirmed reports today that an unmanned predator drone accidentally hit Santa Claus' sleigh on Christmas Eve, killing Santa Claus and injuring an undetermined number of reindeer.

The CIA drone, which was intended to kill an al-Qaeda operative located in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, went off course and targeted Claus instead.

A CIA spokesperson said the agency was still trying to sort out what, exactly, sent the predator off course, but offered one theory: "It's conceivable that it was thrown off by the beard."

(To sign up to have the Borowitz Report delivered to your very own email box, go here!)§

Inspirational Picture of the Week!

A Father and Son Reunion

David Goldman and son Sean – finally reunited

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An Apple Tablet in Our Future?

On Christmas Eve morning the Tech World was awash with articles speculating about Apple’s rumored Tablet computer. No less than four stories led up news aggregating service TechMeMe’s coverage on the day. Rumors of an impending Tablet have been circulating for years, but the crescendo has been rising markedly lately, climaxing with the announcement that Apple will be hosting an event in January. In a blog post David Gelles reports:

Apple has something big up its sleeve for next month. The company has rented a stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco for several days in late January, according to people familiar with the plans.

Apple is expected to use the venue to make a major product announcement on Tuesday, January 26th. Both YBCA and Apple declined to comment. The company most recently used the YBCA stage in September, when chief executive Steve Jobs made his first public appearance after a medical leave and showed off new iPods.

Another story from AppleInsider website reports on a recent Apple patent on a tactile keyboard:

Apple's forthcoming tablet could employ a dynamic surface that gives users tactile feedback when typing in order to identify individual keys, according to a new patent application revealed this week.

Using an "articulating frame," the surface of such a device would create physical bumps or dots for the user to feel when it is in keyboard mode. Those surface features would retract and disappear when the device is not being used to type. It is detailed in an application entitled "Keystroke Tactility Arrangement on a Smooth Touch Surface." It is similar to an application first filed back in 2007.

Could this be the Apple Tablet? Probably not!

The Bits column of the New York Times calls 2010 “The Year of the Tablet, pointing out that two major magazines have designed issues to be made available digitally, with a primary source being a tablet computer, again with Apple’s entry into the field being highlighted.

Publishers made 2009 the year of the concept newspaper and magazine. Time Inc. teamed up with a design company, the Wonder Factory, to create a fun concept video of the Sports Illustrated of the future. Then there was another concept video from the Bonnier Group, a Swedish media company, which went a step further and moved the words and images off a screen and onto a table, allowing you to flick, drag and scroll in thin air.

There is, however, one problem with all of these wonderful and creative mock-ups: After you watch the videos and imagine what a device like this might offer, you are left with nothing more than a memory of a fancy concept. Yes, they are beautifully presented, but they are mostly pie-in-the-sky ideas. Until someone actually creates the hardware to run these experiences, concepts like that in the Bonnier Group video are about as realistic as those in a video about time travel or flying cars.

A lot of the concept videos and mock-ups floating around the Web can be likened to publishers sounding a mating call to Apple. They want a device. And although laptop and mobile manufacturers like Dell, Sony and Hewlett-Packard have long known about the consumer yearnings for such a product, they seem to be waiting for Apple to innovate and change the way we read magazines, newspapers, blogs and books.

Like almost all the people covering technology, I have no doubt that Apple will release a tabletlike device in 2010; there are too many signs that point in this direction. Let’s put all the rumors aside for a moment and look at the facts. There’s the endless chain of patents, as Brad Stone reported in The New York Times in late September on the rehiring of Michael Tchao, who worked on the Apple Newton. I’ve had many discussions with publishers and content creators that sustain my suspicions.

And finally Jessica Mintz of the Associated Press reports that Apple CEO Steve Jobs took his usual $1 a year salary this year. “Jobs does not get a bonus or reimbursement for perks many other CEOs accept, such as personal security, according to a regulatory filing made Wednesday. Apple said it reimbursed Jobs $4,000 for company travel on his $90 million Gulfstream V jet, which he received as a bonus in 1999. Jobs, 54, holds 5.5 million shares of Apple's stock. He has not sold any shares since he rejoined the company in 1997, nor has he been awarded any new equity since 2003. Thanks to the sale of his movie animation studio Pixar Jobs is also the largest individual shareholder of The Walt Disney Co. His 7.4 percent stake is currently worth about $4.5 billion.”

All of that, plus his winning of CEO of the decade as awarded by Fortune Magazine, and probably best of all, his receipt of a new liver, certainly seems to put Jobs on track for a most Happy New Year. And along with Jobs, might we wish all of you out there a belated Merry Christmas, and the Happiest of New Years.§

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A Perfect Storm of a Scam?

How is this for a Scam?

In Friday’s mail I get a letter from one Susan Cromwell, 457-118 West Pender St., Vancouver, BC V 6R 2H4. It contained a letter from the International Jewish Lawyers association and a Cashier’s Check from the Conway National Bank of South Carolina. The check was for $3,975.00.

The letter informed me that I was entered in the annual GLOBAL DRAW, sponsored by MasterCard, Visa, Interac, American Express, and the American Bankers Association. The letter informs me that my ticket #26840-57 drew the lucky numbers 65-43-89-19-35 and had won a prize of $250,069.00. The letter further explains that the check mentioned above is part of my winnings and has been sent to me from our affiliate sponsor to cover International Federal taxes on my funds.

The letter ends by saying (in bold type) You are hereby required to contact assigned attorneys from the International Jewish Lawyers Association : Arthur Herrington, Michael Adams or Barbara Finch at Toll free 1-778-318-5120 or 1-604-715-6892 to activate your claim before you deposit your check in the bank, this is important.

It ends with: Congratulations, and we look forward to hearing from you.

I entered no such contest. My son Joel advised me to Google all of the entities involved, to see if any indication of a scam came up. I did. I Googled Conway National Bank, Google reports: A 5-Star Rated South Carolina Bank. Locally owned and managed institution providing banking and financial services to individuals and small businesses.

Next came The International Jewish Lawyers association: Google said: IAJLJ - The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists A democratic organization dedicated to the precepts of Judaism and the rule of law.

Of Arthur Herrington lawyer, Google had nothing. Michael Adams – a lot of names came up after Googling, nothing to indicate which one is the one referenced in the letter. Barbara Finch, the same, several names came up, but nothing to indicate which one is the one referred to in the letter.

I faxed a copy of the letter and check to my lawyer in Louisiana, Tom Acosta, and he told me to forget it. He said the International Jewish Lawyers Association must have joined the Liberian Scammers Association.

And so, whoever you might be: If you are legitimate send me the money poste haste! If not, shame on you, trying to scam an old man, and probably drain what’s left of his bank account dry. The letter and check look authentic as hell. Tell me, fellas, if I had called and given you my banking information would you have drained my account dry?

We aired this dirty laundry here in the blog in the fond hope that if any of you out there get caught up in this kind of scam, that you might think long and hard before you take any action they might suggest, and if you have a lawyer, consult him. And above all, don’t call the people listed in the letter except on your lawyer’s advice. Following our advice just might save what’s left in your bank account.§

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More Weekly Camp Memories

Each week in one corner of this blog I recall memories of my many years working in children’s camps in New England. Primarily my memories revolve around two Children’s Camps, Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont, and Blueberry Cove Camp, at Tenants Harbor, Maine. Killooleet is still active, and is being run by Kate Seeger, the daughter of John and Eleanor Seeger, the Dalton teachers who bought the camp from the original founder, Dalton teacher Margaret Bartlett.

The Seegers of Killooleet: John Seeger (left), Kate Seeger, and Tony Seeger

Eleanor Seeger died in 2003, and a website noting that event shows many of the people who have been associated with the camp over the years. In addition to John Seeger (left pictured above), these days aged 95, are his children, Kate Seeger and Tony Seeger.

Below them are photographs of counselors who have been at the camp for many years. Three of them, Pete DalNegro, George Ward, and Tom Perera I remember as counselors when I worked there. George is shown playing his guitar, which he did with proficiency and enthusiasm back when I was a counselor. Pete DalNegro was one of the most level headed counselors I knew and shared a bunk of campers with. You know how they say some people have it and some do not. Well, Pete had it in spades. And I ended up learning a lot working with Pete.

Tom Perera, who as best I remember attended camp first as a camper, and then as a counselor, has been one of the most loyal supporters of the camp over the years, including his sponsorship of the website which honors Ellie Seeger’s memory.

From my years there I remember the youthful Tom Perera as having been a gun enthusiast, who used to hone his rifle bourn skills by shooting at rats at the Hancock, Vt. garbage dump. He and another camper would flush out the rats from a distance by turning a bright light on them, and then firing wherever they saw dark motion.

The most memorable co-counselor I remember from Killooleet was named Val (I can’t remember his last name). Val was the exact opposite of me, he was an actual football player from Columbia University (I didn’t realize Columbia even had a football program, I thought it was mired in academia.) I don’t remember what position Val played on the Columbia team. But he was a true enthusiast of the sport, and used to frequently try and promote early evening games with the fourteen 14 year olds in our cabin. One evening we gave in and took him up on his suggestion of a game. To get two teams we split the cabin down the middle, with Val playing on one side, and me, a most unlikely football player, on the other.

Val truly loved the sport, and I’ll never forget that time he talked us into that early evening game. His team had the ball, there was this gibberish of random numbers counting followed by the word “hike.” I looked up and there was Val, ball tucked underneath his arm like an Anne Boleyn come to life, charging our line like an out of control runaway railroad engine.

The look on his face was priceless, he was snorting like you would imagine a charging bull snorting. Needless to say those of us defending our front line were understandably intimidated. We exchanged looks of surprise, perhaps “shock” would be a more appropriate choice of a word, then as a person we gracefully and spontaneously melted to one side or the other, offering Val an unimpeded pathway to his imaginary goal line.

I believe that was the last football game we played, as the team was obviously unbalanced, and none of us, least of all me, had any desire to try and stop Val’s dedicated race to the goal line. It would have been like a person of my decidedly unprofessional abilities being matched with a Chess Champion with the skill of Garry Kasparov.

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Barefoot Trekking to the Lake

One Step at a Time

One of our favorite after dark activities at Killooleet was skinnydiping. This would take place several nights a week. The boys in our cabin would make our way along a wooded path to a clearing by the lake where we would strip, then dive in. Then it was about an hour of cold, wet, bare fun as just as good old mother nature had intended.

For some unexplained reason I thought it would be a challenge to make the trek through the pitch black woods without benefit of a flashlight. I took a light with me, but didn’t turn it on until we made it to the clearing at the lake. Since it was dark and the path led through a section of woods, sight was out of the question.

I would further spice up the trip by going barefoot, while keeping my flashlight off. Walking barefoot required that I think with my feet, absolutely necessary to keep from stubbing a toe or otherwise damaging one or both of my feet. The boys joined me in enthusiasm for the adventure, and our entire group would carefully plod our way along the pitch black path through the woods. No one ever got hurt doing this because each of us had to take it slow, one step at a time. It required that you carefully test each foot before putting your weight on it, undoubtedly forcing each of us to think carefully about each step we took.

When I told John Seeger about it later he was less than enthusiastic. Always the conscientious camp director he saw such an activity primarily as a sure way to injure a camper or counselor. However, the fact that our group used this technique many times during that summer without anyone getting injured would seem to uphold my opinion that taking such a walk barefoot and in pitch blackness meant that we each had to take it slow and deliberately, and that meant thinking carefully about what would have otherwise been something not requiring a great deal of thought.

Attending a Camp Convention

One year when I was working for Folkways Records I was paid to represent the company at a Children’s Camp Convention in Washington, D.C. I had two Folkways Records relating to camp life out at the time, Songs of Camp and Sounds of Camp and Moe Asch wanted to test the waters and see if there was any interest in them in the children’s camp community.

Attending that convention was a real revelation. Talking with several camp directors I realized that the camps they were describing were much more traditional than the two I worked for. Their songs were more in the tradition of Bicycle Built for Two and Stephen Foster type songs. And their activities seemed to me far less imaginative.

Thinking back after talking with those camp leaders I suddenly realized how I had lucked out, having the chance to work for not one, but two of the finest camps in New England. Camps that had traditions, but weren’t mired in them. Camps that were centered in the guidance of the campers, but in a creative way which allowed for natural development, rather than emulation.

Of course, nature itself can be a deal breaker, as some natural phenomenon or other might take out your lake, or in some other way damage one or more of your buildings. Life is a challenge, no matter what. But campers who went through both camps still return many years later to camp reunions. And some still keep in touch with other campers and counselors.

It seems to me children and counselors have a more intense experience at sleep away camps than at day camps. The experience allows camper and counselor alike to share rich experiences and establish close relationships. As a child in Houston, I never had a chance for such an experience. Once in Junior High School I was recruited by my gym teacher for a basketball camp he ran, but for whatever reason my parents passed on it.

I was glad that my own sons got a taste of camp life. They were too young to be actual campers at Blueberry Cove, but they got to go on certain trips, and I’m sure they have memories which they retain till this day. And as you can tell if you read this blog, my own camp memories keep rolling along.§

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Finally, Santa’s Perfect Gift for the Office

From Seattle’s Tech Flash: We've been intrigued this year with the ChefStack, the $3,500 automatic pancake machine. We even named nominated the Seattle startup for The Flashies in "Craziest Tech Idea of the Year" category, where it is currently leading in votes.

But what's the device really like? WhatCounts -- a Seattle e-mail marketing company led by David Geller – recently found out when it installed the system at its offices. You can see the device in all its glory in this video.

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Maybe Santa will bring your office a pancake machine like that. In any case our Christmas week blog has run out of steam. We’ll try pumping it up again next week, with maybe a memory or two from good old 2009 thrown in.

Can you believe another year has rolled around? I have decided that’s the real secret of age. When you’re young time just drags on. When you’re old each week seems to rush faster than the one before.

Ah, well, enough of this two-bit philosophizing. We’ll be back next week, and we promise not to overindulge. Well, not too much maybe. So if you get a chance, surf your way back, same old URL, any day of the week. Until then don’t take any wooden Republicans. Be sure to let sleeping Republicans lie, and lying Republicans sleep. Bye now.§

The Real Little Eddy §

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