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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, May 9, 2006


There will be no Note from a Madman tomorrow, May 10, 2006 due to an illness in the family. -NG


 

A "Rummy" Quote in the Lead

“The intelligence turned out to be wrong. It is hard to be right all the time.”
-Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary, 5/9/06 press conference


-Forwarded by Casey Sweet

How about being right just once, Rummy? -NG



Creatively Ripping Us Off

They can call it a tax cut all they want, but when the ultra-rich Bush "base" of "haves and have-mores" pay less while the deficit goes up, there is one, and only one place that the lost revenue can come from... the American middle class.

When less financial help "trickles down" from the Bushies because their buddies and cronies are getting more tax cuts, states have to make up the difference, and they do so by either raising taxes themselves or reducing services. Right now, we see things like: Higher real estate taxes; less trash pick-ups and snow removal (for those of us in the northern states); the loss of full-day kindergarten; the loss of "courtesy" busing; the loss of college tuition assistance while college tuitions grow at hundreds of times the rate of inflation; and much, much more.

And more galling that that is the fact that 62 percent of all corporations who make their money in the US don't pay any taxes in here. They claim "double-taxation". Their argument sounds something like this: "Because we manufacture overseas, we pay taxes overseas. If we have to pay taxes here as well as overseas, then we'll have to raise our prices."

And many Americans buy this argument! Amazing.

These crooks in empty suits manufacture overseas because it costs pennies to dollars to do so; they manufacture overseas because they can get away with more pollution and less regulation, helping them snare larger profit margins; they manufacture overseas because they crave the near-slave labor that third-world nations provide them.

And let's remember that the "taxes" that these companies pay to their overseas governments are mere fractions of what they would pay here. As far as I'm concerned, their goods are tax-free because we dolt see a dime from them. They pay no corporate taxes and the individual taxes that are supposed to be paid by the corporate big-wigs are either thrown to off-shore bank accounts or taken in stock options that are taxed at a fraction of the rate that yours and my salary are taxed.. There are many service oriented companies here in the US that earn a pretty good dollar while still managing to pay their fair share of taxes to Uncle Sam.

It is GREED, nothing more, that help these Bush-Buddies buy golden toilets and platinum umbrella stands. And it is GREED that makes the cronies of Bush help their Bush-Buddies get their way. Look at the Jack Abramoff scandal and how many of the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party faithful he, and it, have touched, It's scandalous; it's embarrassing; and its criminal.

Today, the GOP Congress said that they will keep up the 15 percent capital gains tax rate for their contributors. Their reason, they say, is because the economy is so strong. American families are working three and four jobs just to make ends meet while over 60 percent of them have inadequate or no health care coverage at all. In the same bill, the alternative minimum tax was suspended to help upper middle class families avoid paying too much in taxes.

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) was a way to make sure the ultra rich paid their fair share. The reason it has to be suspended now is because the Bush administration don't want their "base haves and have-mores" to pay anything. It's true that the AMT now hits individuals who make as little as $75,000 per year, but that's because the president hasn't raised it to keep up with either real wages or inflation. In this matter, President Bush and his "base" felt that they could get rid of it. This alone will cost Americans billions of dollars that the vanishing middle class will have to make up.

"This is a responsible bill that protects families and small business owners from tax increases, while also providing investors with a bigger window of certainty — critical to continued economic growth,"
-Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee

That's a crock of crap! Extending the reduced capital gains tax rate and eliminating the AMT instead of adjusting it so that it would effect only the real people it was designed for (the Bush "base") only benefits the ultra rich class while leaving the rest of us working harder just to keep our heads above water.

"Under budget rules, only $70 billion in cuts can be advanced under fast-track rules that would prevent a possible filibuster by Senate Democrats."
-Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press

ONLY $70 billion. We now use the word ONLY when talking about tens of billions of dollars. It's like saying the Bush "base" if "Haves and Have-Mores" are only getting the lion's share of $70 billion. By the way, $70 billion is what it costs us to keep up Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for only ten months. And the GOP isn't done yet. They plan more tax breaks for the rich at our expense.

Did you ever wonder if these guys and gals ever took a walk into their constituents' neighborhoods, towns or downtown areas? Have you ever seen one of these guys or gals in your supermarket or your doctor's office? Of course not. They have "people" who do their shopping  for them at our expense; they get "special" doctor's hours and house calls so they don't have to wait with us ordinary folk. They don't have to fight with the insurance company over a bill that was given the wrong code by the doctor's billing office. They don't have to cut out coupons to make ends meet.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is going to push for more huge tax cuts for the ultra rich, and he's going to offer up crumbs for us small folk while giving cake to his corporate contributor lobbyist buddies.

"They include a popular education tuition tax deduction, a tax break for teachers who buy their own school supplies and a research and development tax credit for businesses. That measure would also preserve tax deductions for state and local sales taxes."
-Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press

Taking advantage of a tuition tax deduction only counts if you can afford to send your child to college in the first place. The ones who will make the most use of this will be the rich folk. Most small businesses are more concerned with current customer satisfaction and how they can keep their share of the market. The guy who has a lawn cutting service or the gal who makes her living as a Real Estate agent don't do much R & D these days. Rich people with big businesses do.

 

And giving a "tax break" to teachers who buy their own school supplies is almost as good an idea as actually buying the things teachers need to teach the youth of America in the first place! Charles Grassley is another one of the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party members who needs to take a walk in downtown Des Moines.

A real break for Americans would be to eliminate all taxes on the first $20,000 of earned income for individuals and the first $40,000 for all families. That really would be a novel and economic idea to stimulate the nation. And who can we get to make up the difference...Hmm... Let me think... I Know! The Bush "base".

Everything this congress and president have done has been in the spirit of economic instability. They give pennies with their left hand and take dollars with their "Right". President Bush and the Republican-led congress have their own agenda in mind. We're only included in the "loss" column.

-Noah Greenberg



You Don't Have to Be Jewish. . .

Ohhh...now I am going to do my Jewish rant (in favor of). What these so-called Christians are in super-denial about is that Jesus Christ was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died as a Jew. He never intended on being anything BUT a Jew. So every so-called Christian is a kind of Jew. And so many of the values that they like to call Christian came from the Jews! It's exactly like your rabbi and your dad said--it's about being a mensch (good person, for those readers who don't know Yiddish). I could go on and on and on about this because this fundamentalist Christian stuff drives me crazy!

And all that Christ-killer baloney is so ridiculous. It's as stupid and hypocritical as the WMD argument. First, it was the Romans who crucified Jesus. Second, it was the Romans who created at atmosphere of fear that created the worries of the Sanhedren. Third, it was the Romans who forced a ridculous choice on the crowd--who wouldn't choose a revolutionary who promised action now rather than "pie in the sky when you die"?

And, here's where my argument takes it to the next level. For the sake of discussion, WHAT IF some Jews had killed Jesus? So what? What do those Jews have to do with any Jews around today? Who cares? I sure don't. I don't believe in blaming people for what their ancestors did or people of the same nationality, religion, or race did. I refuse to link any individual German with the Nazis. I refuse to identify any individual white with slavery. For that matter, I am partially Sicilian, I will NOT link any of my ancestors with killing Christ. And I will not link any Jew with killing Palestinians and I will not link any Palestinian with killing Jews. And so on with everybody else. Each of us is an individual with a separate karma. We are responsible for our own karma and for trying to make the world a better place. We cannot and should not inherit or any other way take on the sins of others.

As Rabbi Schlomo Carlebach once said, there are may roads to G-d and they are all valid. He said that the Jews were a chosen people because it meant that they had a special mission. Unfortunately because of the jealousy of the rest of the world, it seems like the Jews were "chosen" to suffer the brunt of other people's meanness. And it's terrible! It should not be because we get so much enrichment from Jews.

What's not to like about Jews anyway? Everywhere there are Jews, things are better. Everything is more cultured and better quality. I, for one love, that scholarship and asking questions is part and parcel of one's religious duty--instead of blind and ignorant faith. I love the mitzvahs. I love the idea of giving back to the community. And everywhere there were progressive movements around, Jews were right there in the front of the line, fighting not only for themselves but for every "underdog soldier in the night."

Who is the greatest singer-songwriter of all time? Bob Dylan (nee Zimmerman).

And what religion DOESN'T proselytize?

And, for the record, no, I am not Jewish....Everybody thinks I am and I think it's such a nice compliment. I'm an ex-Catholic with my own set of eclectic beliefs. But, I have had a lifelong love and admiration for all things Jewish. I agree with Rabbi Carlebach, about the many roads being valid. The important thing is the goodness and compassion we express to each other every day in our lives. And I would rather be sincerely wrong about that then to adhere to some ridiculous and cruel fundamentalism that harms so many people.

And with that, I bid everyone a Shalom Aleichem and L'Chaim. And Tikkun...

-Billie M. Spaight



Dumbya, You Lose

The Democrats along with support from some Republicans blocked an attempt to cap medical malpractice lawsuits.

"Unwilling to take on their trial-lawyer supporters, the Democrats led this effort to block these much-needed reforms,"
-GW

So Dumbya, how about your health care provider supporters? Why is your supporters more right than the Democratic supporters? According to the CBO, malpractice insurance accounts for less than 1% of health care costs. Ultimately, we are talking about health care provider profits and not measures that alleviate health care costs.

Dumbya ... quack, quack, quack. By the way, he is now at 31% approval ratings.


-Robert Scardapane



LAST THROES

If you haven’t heard, Cheney thinks his comment about us being in the last throes of the war is still accurate. That is as of 5/8/06 in an interview on Hardball. I would hate to see what would be happening in Iraq if it wasn’t in the last throes!!!

Cheney was asked about his ratings being in the teens and he says he does not pay attention to them, he is not looking for popularity. I heard a political pundit over the weekend say it would be better if Cheney did aspire to run for president because then he would care more about his ratings. The rationale was that low ratings for him do not help the overall cause for republican re-election or bring people out to vote. LET’S HOPE.

Let’s hope this imbalance of power in congress is in its last throes!!!


UNHEALTH CARE AS FRIST KNOWS IT
(excerpt from TomPaine.com “Legislative Malpractice” by Joanne Doro Show on 5/8/06)

With health care in such crisis, the U.S. Senate might be commended for declaring this week as “Health Week.” In fact, one might hope such a declaration would lead to serious consideration of legislation to actually address the public health emergency in which we find ourselves. But then again.

Senate leadership has announced that a key element of “Health Week” will be scheduling votes on two bills that would take away the legal rights of patients injured or killed by medical malpractices. One bill is so broad it would even cover seniors abused and neglected in nursing homes. The other bill would cruelly limit the rights only of pregnant women and babies. Both contain severe “caps,” or limits on the ability of patients injured by gross negligence to be compensated.

Since 2003, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has forced votes on similar bills three times, each time resulting in stunning defeat. In no case has there been a single hearing, mark up, committee debate or anything close to careful consideration. In fact, Sen. Frist has bypassed the committee process entirely every time, introducing the bills with little notice before senators were asked to vote. The same is true this year.

Ironically, this effort comes at a time when medical malpractice claims are down and insurance premiums for doctors have leveled off. Claims and premiums amount to only about 1 percent of total health care costs. Meanwhile, up to 98,000 people are dying each year due to malpractice in hospitals. About 5 percent of doctors are causing most of this harm, but little is done to sanction them. What’s more, repeated research shows that such bills will do nothing to help doctors with their insurance problems—let alone patients with theirs. Only directly addressing the economic practices of the insurance industry will do that.

These bills are DOA and one can only speculate about Frist’s political motives for continuing to resuscitate them. Clearly, the insurance and healthcare industries are pushing hard—and they are major political contributors, with elections are just around the corner. Not to be forgotten is Senator Frist’s personal connection to this story. His family’s fortunes are closely tied to the largest for-profit hospital chain in America, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), and the insurance company it owns, HCI. Both would benefit tremendously from these bills.

As of 6 p.m. the Senate voted against cloture on both bills fulfilling the DOA promised in this article. Let’s see if Frist can come up with something that is really meaningful on “health week.” I found it particularly revealing to see Sen. Santorum supporting the low limits on liability coverage when, if my memory serves me, it has been reported that his wife sued a Dr. (ob/gyn I believe) and received $1 million. When someone confronted him on this in the past he said that was his wife’s business. Hmmm, this makes me think of the saying – what’s good for the goose is good for gander – and makes me think that what was good for this goose and gander is too good for others and must be limited.

-Casey Sweet

SANTORUM MALPRACTICE SUIT
 

Above, I pointed out that Santorum – a fervent advocate of low caps on medical lawsuits - was actually the beneficiary of one himself as a result of a suit by his wife. I tracked the report down and it reveals he clearly didn’t mind that his wives lawsuit basically compensated her $330,000 for pain and suffering and inconvenience. Apparently, he testified that she suffered humiliation from weight gain and lost confidence. Yes, this is Sen. Rick Santorum! At the very least it is pretty hypocritical of him to “support” his wife in her pursuit of damages and then push to deprive others of the same right. There are much worse medical malpractices than a misaligned back that result in much more pain, suffering, and inconvenience and deserve more than $330,000 for a lifetime of suffering. Guess he didn’t look beyond his own back yard. All I can say is that he and his wife are lucky that the jury was not as politically ruthless as him.

From ABC News original report
Nov. 10, 2005 — In recent years many doctors and politicians have complained that frivolous malpractice lawsuits and disproportionate jury awards are a problem in need of reform.

But when "Primetime" did some investigating, it turned out that at least some of the people in favor of reform — even some of its loudest proponents — have themselves benefited from the current laws.

The Senator's Wife
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., says that the No. 1 health care crisis in his state is medical lawsuit abuse and in the past he's called for a $250,000 cap on non-economic damage awards or awards for pain and suffering. "We need to do something now to fix the medical liability problem in this country," he declared at a rally in Washington D.C., this past spring.

But Santorum's wife sued a doctor for $500,000 in 1999. She claimed that a botched spinal manipulation by her chiropractor led to back surgery, pain and suffering, and sued for twice the amount of a cap Santorum has supported.

Santorum declined a request for an interview, so "Primetime" caught up with him at the signing of his new book in Pennsylvania this August to ask if he thinks his stance and history are in conflict.

"I guess I could answer that in two ways," he said. "Number one is that I've supported caps. I've been very clear that I am not wedded at all to a $250,000 cap and I've said publicly repeatedly, and I think probably that is somewhat low, and that we need to look at what I think is a cap that is a little bit higher than that."


'Of Course I'm Going to Support My Wife'
But the fact is that Santorum has sponsored or co-sponsored a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages two times — even though he testified in his wife's case against the doctor.

"Of course I'm going to support my wife in her endeavors," he said. "That doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with everything that she does."

But Santorum agreed enough to tell the jury that he had to carry the laundry upstairs for his wife and that, because she suffered humiliation from weight gain, she no longer had the confidence to help him on the campaign trail. The jury was so moved it voted to award Karen Santorum $350,000.

"That's where again you're misled is that a lot of, there was cumulative damages," he said. "The medical bills, lost income, all those other things that were out there."

Those medical bills totaled $18,800, yet she sued for $500,000. And lost income? The judge made no mention of that when he slashed the jury's award in half, saying it was excessive.

The judge noted that the remaining damages "awarded amounted to something in the neighborhood of $330,000 or so for injuries sustained and the effect upon Mrs. Santorum's health, her past and future pain and suffering and inconvenience."

-Casey Sweet



In response to "When did my freedom to choose my religion turn into their freedom to force their religion upon me?" Dorothy Schwartz writes:

I recently read a book that everyone else seems to have read 20 years ago -- and if so I recommend you reread it. Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale. How incredibly prescient was the author in her book about a U.S. ruled by what is essentially a Christian Taliban government . The truly creepy part is that it really feels as if it could happen.



In response to "And what of Laura Bush? A descendant of President Franklin Pierce " Pat Thompson writes:

No, not Laura. Barbara Bush, the wife of George H. W. Bush, President #41, and mother of George W. Bush #43 is the descendant of President Franklin Pierce.

I stand corrected. -NG



In response to "Patrick (Kennedy) should follow his father's lead sooner rather than later. In admitting a problem, he might be taking that good, real first step," Pat Thompson writes:

Patrick admitted to taking a popular sleeping pill, AMBIEN which has been approved by the FDA for general use. When my mother was hospitalized 5 years ago, she was given that same pill, and in two weeks became badly addicted to it -- needed it to sleep -- til the day she died two years later. Now there are stories in the news about people who take Ambien, go to bed, and find the next day that they ate everything in the refrigerator during the night, or went out driving to a restaurant. The drug causes "sleep walking, sleep driving, sleep eating". My point is that originally it was approved for very short term sleeping problems. Now, it is advertised on TV and it's "take it for as long as you want". Good for drug company profits; may have lots of side affects, which definitely include addiction, and can also include nighttime activities that aren't remembered.


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-Noah Greenberg