Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, February 28, 2005



Health Care


"We want Medicaid to work," Mr. Bush told the National Governors Association at the White House. "We also recognize that the system needs to be reformed, and we want to work with you to do so."

-President "G"lobal "W"arming Bush to the Nation's Governors, Febraury 28, 2005


The Governors, Republican and Democrat alike fear for their political lives because they're going to have no choice but to raise taxes to make up for the Bush Administration's shortfall in the Medicaid and Medicare System. Voters will not be happy and neither will the sick, old or infirmed.


Over the next 10 years, $60 billion dollars will be cut from the program which about 50 million Americans rely upon. And, as we all know, health insurance costs don't decrease. There is little else that rises as fast and as unpredictably as health care costs in the United States, except maybe oil and gasoline prices.


GW  offered no details. Sounds just like his Social Security piratization plans, doesn't it?


-Noah Greenberg


There is only one fix to the health care mess in this country - Single Payer Universal Health Care (SPUHC). Such a system would supplant Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.  All it takes is the political will to do it. Doctors would still work for themselves while the government  becomes the insurer.  Canada has implemented such a system. They implemented it from the "ground up" going province by province. Connecticut and Massachusetts have SPUHC initiatives.  Perhaps, it's time for New Jersey to do the same.

Robert Scardapane

Economic Geniuses


I am a bit annoyed at Robert Reich ( He persists on the free trader point of view that there are no standards in globalization and attempts to shift the bulk of the blame to consumers. Yet, lack of labor and environmental standards as a condition for international trade is exactly the problem. The losers are the people overseas who are exploited, the world's environment and workers in developed nations whose jobs are outsourced.


Sure, consumers have been blind to the abuses because of low prices. Now, your choices are so limited it's hard to do anything about it. But, I recall a time when people were outraged at Kathy Lee Gifford and her relationship with Nike - a company that employed overseas sweat shop labor. All of a sudden, it's as if Americans discarded their moral values in favor of the value on a price tag.


In the case of Wal-Mart, they deserve to be boycotted not just for their support of international trade abuse but their track record with their own employees. This company forces employees to work off the clock, employs child labor and discriminates. Claiming they are merely meeting the pressures of delivering the lowest price is no excuse.


To Mr. Robert Reich - get another argument, this one won't wash with me!


-Robert Scardapane


I met Robert Reich while he was still in the Clinton White House, in a small coffee shop in Truro (Cape Cod), MA. Although he seemed annoyed at my approaching him, we did chat for a few moments, mostly about NAFTA. As  a jobber (I bought, enhanced and re-sold) of buttons, I took pride in the fact that I supplied buttons made in the USA to my customers about 99 percent of the time. I spoke to Secretary Reich for a few minutes when it dawned on me, "Here is another academic who never had to meet a payroll, just like Dr. N. Gregory Mankiw (I rail against him frequently), who is leaving as President Bush's Chairman of Economic Advisors.


I made payroll for 10 years in the fierce New York City Garment Trade. I had offices and employees throughout the United States. Wouldn't it make sense if our economic and labor leaders had to do something like that before they call themselves economic and labor leaders? Books make you smart. Experience makes you smarter.


-Noah Greenberg

Darfur and the Views of One Christian


A short while ago, I received one of those “action alert!” e-mails from someone whom I respect.  It was about the continuing genocide in the Darfur area of the Sudan.  This is an issue which has distressed me for some time, the more so because I felt I had absolutely no personal way to respond to this monstrous evil.  

This e-mail forwarded a letter from “Africa Action”, an organization of which I had never heard.  The first thing they proposed was “Send a Letter to President Bush demanding he seek a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a multinational force to intervene in Darfur, with a mandate to protect civilians!”

That’s a problem for me.  I am a serious pacifist in the Christian tradition.  Under no circumstances can I support a military solution to any problem.  I know there are grace-filled solutions in every situation, and I know there are non-violent approaches to ending the genocide.  I also know that the national/international infrastructures to effect a non-violent intervention do not exist.  

This is the classic pacifist quandary.  It’s easy to say we will not resist when threatened personally, even cheaper  to say we will accept martyrdom in the spirit of the saints, Christian or otherwise.  But that is usually theoretical, and we all deeply pray that it will stay theoretical.  The painful, ethical dilemma comes when faced with the questions like, “OK, pacifist, what do YOU propose we do about the ongoing genocide in the Darfur?”  

It IS a painful question, it hurts my soul and my conscience.  I’ve been wrestling with it for a while, now.  I have few enough obligations; I could cash in and go to the Sudan, block the road until some militiaman killed me.  And all I would accomplish would be contributing to the revenues of some transportation companies.  A cheap excuse to avoid  a spectacularly  phony vainglorious fantasy.  And I am no closer to assuaging the hurt in my conscience.

If you walk across 31st Street in Manhattan, from the Hudson River to the East River, you will pass a hundred or more homeless people.  Many of them will ask for help.  Too many! Too many!  I am overwhelmed!  I can’t help them all, so almost every time, I help none of them.  I have cheap excuses for that, too.  But for every one that I pass, I feel guilty.  Even if my excuses were legitimate, I would feel guilty.  There is a reason for that:  We are SUPPOSED to feel guilty when we fail to help the poor, the oppressed, the whole list of the works of mercy.

31st Street and the Darfur are really the same kind of problem for the serious Christian.  What do we do in the face of unspeakable evil?  

Well, the first thing, is to trust God a little more. My lack of imagination does not equate to a lack of a moral solution.  Recently, I got my weekly e-zine from Sojourners, and they had a link to an article on Darfur, which I am  attaching (see for attachments and events).  John Prendergast, who is interviewed in the article, proposes some ways to deal with the crisis.  I am not sure just how grace-filled they are, but the suggestions are non-violent, appear to be just, and appear to be practical.  That will work for me.  There ARE moral answers, always.  

We are NEVER required to choose evil.  The “lesser of two evils” is always evil.  There is ALWAYS a choice that is, at least, good.  Otherwise the moral order of the universe is a joke.

Meanwhile, I am still troubled by the other problem.  Avoiding 31st Street is NOT a grace-filled solution.

Please pray for me.  God’s peace to you!

-Stephen J Spiro

Then and Now, a Hypocrite is still a Hypocrite


A number right-wing Washington, D.C. politicians have headed back to their states as newly-elected governors. And their behavior, once they leave Beltway fantasyland for the real world, shows just how out of touch today's conservative ideology is with solving real problems. For instance, as a congressman, Ernie Fletcher was a reliable vote for Bush administration cuts to health care and Medicaid. Now, as governor of Kentucky, Fletcher told Fox News in January that he's "very concerned about any cuts" to Medicaid proposed by the President. Similarly, as a congressman, Bob Riley was a reliable vote for Bush-backed tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of the country. But as governor of Alabama, Riley pushed a statewide initiative to raise taxes on the rich and wealthy corporations.

But perhaps the biggest hypocrite of all is Mitch Daniels. As President Bush's Budget Director, Daniels was a top point man in ramming massive tax cuts for the wealthy through Congress, and gutting spending for critical programs. Now, as governor of Indiana, he is facing the ramifications of his actions in Washington - and proposing exactly what he railed against. See for yourself:

"It's especially risky to talk about let alone a jack up today's level of taxation."
- White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 2/5/02

"Gov. Mitch Daniels called for a one percent income tax increase to help balance Indiana's budget."
- Indianapolis Star, 2/20/05

"[Mitch Daniels] is truly committed to cutting back the size of government."
- Cato Institute fellow Stephen Moore on Daniels efforts to gut spending on safety net programs, 1/20/03

"Instead of immediately shrinking state government [upon becoming governor, Daniels] expanded it, creating a Department of Child Services."
- NY Times, 2/20/05

In some ways, it is laudable that Daniels and other right-wingers are embracing more progressive positions. But the sincerity of their ideological conversion is dubious - they are merely up against budgetary reality, and desperate for solutions.

And that is exactly why what they are doing is so dangerous to conservative hacks like Grover Norquist. The actions of Daniels and his fellow converts, motivated by a need to address reality rather than push ideology, provides proof that the progressive agenda can better address America's real-world challenges.

-Robert Scardapane

Wal-Mart, eh?


A Quebec, Canada court ordered Wal-Mart  to stop intimidating employees attempting to make their lives better and earn a better-than-meager living than Wal-Mart is used to paying. It took only three cashiers to bring the giant back to Earth. Earlier in February, Wal-Mart Canada announced that it would close a store in Jonquiére, Quebec because workers unionized and wanted to have a collective bargaining agreement.


This is just one of many times that Wal-Mart has been accused of employee intimidation. When will we all realize that Wal-Mart  is not good for America, Canada or anywhere else on the Planet Earth.


Here's an interesting thought: General Motors is the largest supplier of Health Care to its employees, but Wal-Mart  by far, has the MOST employees.


You all can't tell me that there isn't any other place you can shop. Stop shopping at Wal-Mart . Make them see it our way. It's our money. We're not just holding it for them.


-Noah Greenberg

Book Burning


During the past several years, after the election of 2000, and especially during 2004, I bought every book that was written on the Bush crime family. From Kitty Kelly's book, to House of Saud, House of Bush to Bush on the Couch, and the Lies of George Bush, Bushwhacked by Maureen Dowd, the Rise of the Vulcans, etc. etc. I have at least 30 books that I can't put on my shelves with books about Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. I pile them in corners, and mutter and curse about them. I needed to know every evil fact about the Bush family, the rise of the neo-cons. But now what?


My daughter suggested I have a book burning party. I guess she hopes I'll move on from the November 2 disaster. Maybe it's because it's year five of hearing me bash Bush at every opportunity, blaming him for everything from the cloudy sky, air pollution, 9/11 and the Tsunami. So, first I'll offer this library of vileness to other members of the group. If there's anything left, I'll invite you all to a bon fire.

-Pat Thompson

Stupid Quotes of the Day


"I know what I don't know and to this day, I don't know about technology and I don't know about finance and accounting,"

-Bernie Ebbers, former CEO of WorldCom at his criminal trial in Federal District Court.


The New York Times put it best by calling this the Sergeant Schultz Defense. "I know nothing. I see nothing." Put these bastards in jail for long periods of time. Maybe, just maybe, it will stop one of these bastards from screwing some little old lady out of her life's savings.


-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg