Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Company You Keep

That's the slogan of New York Life, a company that offers life insurance, investment accounts, etc.

My late husband had a small IRA with New York Life. For two months I've been battling with them to get the funds. I need them to pay his debts - notably to pay for his cremation.

What's taking so long? Well, for starters, lousy customer service. New York Life probably assigns an actual human to big dollar accounts, but for the smaller ones, you get to speak to a different person every time. I've sent in the paperwork they asked for, to receive a letter 2 weeks later, informing me that they only got one of the forms (even though both were in the envelope.) Then the paperwork was filled out incorrectly. The woman I spoke with was quite annoyed that I didn't do what they'd told me to do, after all they made it quite CLEAR. Perhaps if this is the kind of thing you do all the time, it is clear. No one has been willing to help talk me through this - or give instructions that might actually BE helpful.

I'm on the 4th round of "you haven't sent us the correct information." The final paragraph reads: "When we receive these requirements, we will be able to consider the claim, or advise you if additional information is needed." That tells me that they have every intention of continuing to jerk me around.

If New York Life is the company YOU keep, you're in bad company. Their brand of customer service is so poor, I'm embarrassed for them.


It seems I finally found a customer service person who was interested in providing actual customer service! The check is reported to be in the mail. If that is so, I'll be showering accolades upon her.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Karl Rove granted divorce in Texas

Karl Rove granted divorce in Texas - -

Karl dumps his second wife - just in time for the holidays. Those GOP family values sure do shine!

I'm sure the payoff guarantees no tell-all book, but one can hope...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Faux Reform

I ran into an old friend of my father’s recently, and as always, the discussion turned to politics. We’re polar opposites on the political spectrum. He said that he pays a lot of money for health insurance, and so should everyone else. That’s personal responsibility, in GOPspeak. We didn’t continue down that thorny path, but I’m certain that tort reform and blaming people for their health problems were waiting to leap into the conversation at any moment. I’m also certain that CEO bonuses, monopolies, and administrative costs were not fated to be part of the discussion, because apparently conservatives don’t mind those things.

That’s why I’m surprised that the Republicans aren’t tap dancing all over Washington, DC with delight over what is incorrectly called the health care reform bill. If there were truth in advertising, it would be called the Taxpayer Funded Giveaway to Insurance Companies. The GOP has never been shy about using our money to fund corporate America. We shovel plenty to defense contractors, to private mercenaries like Blackwater, and let us not forget that TARP originated with the Bush administration. A few years ago, the GOP desperately wanted to turn Social Security over to their corporate buddies on Wall St. One would think that a bill that forks over to Big Insurance under the phony guise of reform would be right up their alley, but one would be wrong. The GOP, and their angry toady Lieberman are so intent on thwarting Obama that they are missing this chance to pay back their campaign donors.

Let’s make no mistake; this alleged reform bill is nothing of the kind. An insurance reform bill would do something about containing costs. This bill does not. A reform bill would bust up the insurance monopolies. The market is controlled by a small number of big companies that have been allowed to become so large by continual mergers. No competition. The costs are just driven higher and higher, along with the CEO bonuses. In many states there are 2 companies that control the entire insurance market. NH is one of those states. Anthem Blue Cross (Wellpoint) and Cigna control 75% of the NH health insurance market.

In 2008, CIGNA’s CEO, Edward Hanaway took a hit. His salary increased to over $1.1 million, but he lost big on other forms of compensation. The poor man’s performance bonus decreased by 63 percent from the previous year. Hanaway had to make do with only $6.7 million. It just makes you want to cry for the poor fella, doesn’t it? WellPoint’s CEO, Angela Braley earns the same salary, but earned less of a performance bonus – but then, she’s a woman, so that is to be expected. Yep, these are the people who the GOP doesn’t want to help out, with taxpayer money. I confess, I’m shocked. It goes to show how divisive our politics have become, when Corporate America isn’t being rewarded by its most loyal fans – the GOP.

The numbers of uninsured folks and families is on the increase. More and more jobs are being lost, despite the rosy unemployment figures that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out. They only count those who are filing for or collecting unemployment benefits. The numbers of unemployed who were ineligible for, or have run out of benefits are not counted. People who work 4 hours a week are counted as employed. The 10 percent number we hear bandied about is a lie – a lie aimed at keeping us from knowing how bad the situation really is. The real unemployment number is somewhere between 17 and 22 percent. Many of these folks have lost their health insurance, too. Luckily we do have a permanent state of undeclared war to provide employment opportunities for our youth.

So, instead of a real reform bill that would actually help working folks be able to afford insurance, we have a bill that would force working folks to buy expensive private insurance from the monopolies. Those who need help would get government subsidies. There is no mechanism in place to hold those costs down. The insurance monopolies could just hold us up for ever-increasing subsidies – and they will. The Obama administration made a deal with Big Pharma that essentially means that the drug companies can continue to gouge us without fear of regulation. An amendment allowing reimportation of drugs from other countries was shot down. The idea of having to buy our own drugs back (cheaper!) from other countries is bizarre if you stop to actually think about it. We’re told we can’t regulate the drug business, because that would stifle their innovation. I think they could innovate plenty if they stopped advertising penis pills on television every five minutes.

The really sad thing about this whole reform charade is this – we the people do not matter. Our health and well being is not a factor at all. From the very first meeting at the White House, the deck was stacked, by very obviously excluding advocates of a single payer system. If the system is to be fixed, everyone ought to be at the table. Obama said he wanted a bill by the end of the year. He didn’t say anything about it being a GOOD bill. It’s become increasingly obvious that we have government by the corporations, for the corporations, and the party in the driver’s seat matters only in mostly cosmetic terms.

The GOP will continue to wail and gnash its collective teeth about the unborn, while doing nothing to aid the born, unless they were born sucking on a silver spoon. The Democrats will continue to fail to provide any kind of leadership, and will allow the GOP to dominate the national political dialogue with fear and lies. In short, the only change we’re going to see is for the worse.

"Democracy as we know it will be lost if we continue to allow government to become one bought by the highest bidder, for the highest bidder. Candidates will simply become bit players and pawns in a campaign managed and manipulated by paid consultants and hired guns." - Sen. Wendell Ford

printed as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun, on December 18, 2009

© s.bruce 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009


The barter economy is not suffering during the recession. In times of economic downturn, barter can help a family or a business stay afloat. Barter can be really helpful to small business owners. Finding ways to barter for advertising or other services can be invaluable when money is tight. A CNN story takes a look at a business bartering trade show and organization:

Ted Rahaim, owner of DBK Family Jewelers in Plainville, Conn., said that bartering has been a great way for him to get things for his small business that he wouldn't be able to afford if he had to shell out the cash -- like advertising.
He came to the show expecting to barter $30,000 to $40,000 worth of jewelry. He didn't know what he'd be trading for, but he did pick up one case of meat. In the past he's bartered for business needs, including business cards and plumbing and heating services for his stores.
"It opens up a lot of doors for me," he said.

People are also using barter to get medical or dental care for their families. A recent story in the Sky Valley Chronicle from Washington State provides an example:
A recent Washington Post article reported Craigslist had an 80 percent increase in activity in its bartering section this year. Some of these posts – as well as posts on other sites that specialize in barter - are for people seeking to trade something for health and dental care.

Ramona Heath, whose story is contained in a recent broadcast radio report, had been out of work for over a year. Her husband lost his job also in the recession. Essentially homeless after the unemployment for so long, Ramona went on the Internet and found a dentist who would fix her daughter’s long neglected teeth in exchange for her skills and labor in housekeeping.

Now her 8-year old daughter can smile without covering her mouth. In the past whenever she would smile she would cover her mouth, embarrassed about the bad shape her teeth were in.

A family in Ohio is using barter as a way to buy Christmas presents:
Gina and Richard Lavelle are determined to give their four children a Christmas this year despite losing their income and their home. To do so, Gina turned to Craigslist where her ad joined dozens of other ads from people wanting to barter services or other items for Christmas presents.

Planet Green has some suggestions on barter websites, and of course, there is always craigslist.

Most of us have things around the house that we'd like to get rid of, but we don't want to throw away. A great solution to that problem is Freecycle. Someone who wants your unwanted object will actually come and take it away! Freecycle can also help you find things you might need. Freecycle's mission statement:

Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.

There are Freecycle networks in all 50 states and 85 countries - and best of all, it's free.

Cross posted at Main Street a project of Working America.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Changing Face of Homelessness

The US Conference of Mayors has released their 2009 survey on Hunger and Homelessness. The report is based on a survey of 27 mayors from around the country who are members of the Conference of Mayors task force on Homelessness and Hunger.

The study shows about a 26% increase in requests for emergency food assistance. The numbers of homeless families have also risen sharply:

76 % of the cities reported an increase in family homelessness, while homelessness among individuals decreased or stayed the same for 16 of the 23 cities. The report notes that most of the cities that experienced drops in individual homelessness attributed the decline to a policy strategy by federal, state and local governments of adopting 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness among single adults. The recession and a lack of affordable housing were cited as the top causes of family homelessness in the surveyed cities.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan
who chairs the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, said that one of the most tragic consequences of our housing and economic crisis are those who fall into homelessness as a result – whether through foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, or other financial problems. The Secretary noted that with increases in rural and suburban family homelessness, the issue is not an urban problem, but one every community struggles with. He said, “As diverse as our homeless population is, there is one thing that everyone who is homeless shares: a lack of housing they can afford. And as this study finds, high housing costs often lead families to cut back on necessities like food.”

Homeless shelters all over the country are full, and in some cases, turning people away. The Denver Post ran a story earlier in the week that showed an absence of beds for homeless women in Denver:

On Monday night, when the temperature dropped to 5 degrees in metro Denver, as many as 35 solo homeless women were turned away from city shelters.
Although the number of unaccompanied homeless women in the metro area has tripled since 2007 — to 1,606 from 552, according to the 2009 Metro Denver Homeless Initiative's point-in-time survey — there are only 241 shelter beds for solo women available in Denver.
Emergency-shelter beds "are extremely limited for women," said Geoff Bennett, director of the Samaritan House. "There are many more men's beds than there are beds for women."
When the beds fill up, some of the women may receive motel vouchers, but they must meet certain criteria. And if they don't,
they must fend for themselves.

The lack of shelter beds for women seems to be a problem of stereotyping. For decades, the single, alcoholic male has been the image of homelessness. As a result, in some places the stereotype continued to dominate, while the homeless population changed:
Leslie Foster, director of The Gathering Place, believes part of the problem is systemic.
"In the mid to late '80s, when a lot of services were started for men, homeless women were only 10 percent of that population," she said. "Now, women are 42 percent of the homeless population, and 27 percent of (the homeless population) are children under 18. That's nearly half the homeless population, and the services have not kept up."

It's everywhere. Homeless shelters are full in Fargo. In New York City the Legal Aid Society is taking the city to court for violating a 1981 agreement wherein the city agrees to provide clean and safe shelter for men and women who seek it:

New York City shelters are so full that homeless men and women have been left to sleep on benches, floors and dining room tables over the last three months, violating a landmark 1981 agreement, Legal Aid lawyers charged in court papers on Wednesday.
The motion by the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless also alleges that homeless women have been transported on buses after midnight to a shelter in East New York, Brooklyn, where they have been allowed to sleep for less than five hours before being required to leave again in the morning

Bottom line - there just aren't enough shelter beds to fill the increasing demands. New York City also has an increasing number of homeless veterans to contend with.

There are nearly 10,000 homeless veterans in New York City, on Long Island and in northern New Jersey, according to estimates in a new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which also found that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are falling into homelessness earlier than those who served in Vietnam.

This isn't just an urban problem. The suburbs are also seeing a sharp increase in homelessness, and as this story in the Chicago Tribune demonstrates, adding additional capacity is a real struggle in the suburbs:

PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) uses rotating faith-based sites and an army of volunteers to provide nightly refuge. Most operate from October to April. Although churches consider it part of their mission to tend to the needy, housing the homeless can evoke concern among neighbors and parishioners.

Last year for example, a plan to open a PADS shelter in Park Ridge was abandoned after residents objected to the use of two church sites. Getting enough volunteers for a new shelter also can be difficult. "For every site, there's four to six support congregations," said Carol Simler, executive director of DuPage PADS. "We work with over 4,000 volunteers and more than 130 congregations to provide this interim housing."

PADS sites are constantly recruiting volunteers just to maintain the current level of service. Responding quickly to increased demand is beyond their means

This is particularly alarming:
But surveys don't capture the grim truth on the streets and at shelters -- emergency beds are scarce. From Chicago Heights to Waukegan, demand has outstripped supply, with shelters resorting to lotteries and free bus passes out of town to handle the overflow.

Just ship those pesky homeless people out of town - and make them someone else's problem.

There is a lack of affordable housing and rental property across the country. We've been focused on building single family homes and McMansions for the last decade. As a result, during a severe recession, the face of homelessness in the US has changed. Today's homeless are likely to be working families.

cross posted at Main St - a project of Working America

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Real Unemployment Numbers

The REAL unemployment rate.
The U.S. unemployment numbers are out today, and most headlines will show that the U.S. unemployment rate in November was 10.0 percent, down from 10.2 percent in October. That number is depressingly large, but even that under-counts the true number of unemployed. For instance, it doesn’t count those people who don’t have a job and have given up looking for one, or those who have found marginal part-time work but still can’t make ends meet and are still looking for a full-time job.

To explain who counts as unemployed and who does not, the folks at created this video:

This is helpful - I've just learned I'm not really unemployed!

The Layoff List says:
The “Real” unemployment rate in the US is now 22%

One thing is for sure, the statistics compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics leave a lot of people out. The real numbers of unemployed are much higher, and likely to continue to continue to grow.

cross posted at

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Terrorist thwarting hero turns out to be a liar

AirTran ‘hero' wasn't on plane, airline says  |

Posted using ShareThis

It's a little easier to understand why a Houston man who claimed to have thwarted a potential terrorist attack on a flight leaving Atlanta has not answered repeated requests to tell his story.

He was not on the plane, AirTran Airways says.

The story of how this brave fellow saved a plane from 11 Muslims was picked up by every crazy righwingnut website -including Glenn Beck's 9/12 site.

The airline debunked the whole story point by point.

So, bummer, dude. Instead of 11 Muslim terrorists, it was a Spanish speaking guy who didn't understand the instructions the flight attendant gave about shutting off cell phones. And the liar wasn't even on the plane.

I hope Glenn Beck cried while he admitted the story was a fake....if he ever did.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Cord Wood

After decades of discussion, the issue of the Carroll County Nursing home seems to have been solved, at least for now. We’ve all been aware for well over a decade that the building had problems. Decades of GOP control in the legislature ensured inadequate funding for plenty of things in the state, including the county nursing home.

The ugliness of the debate has been surprising even to me, and I always expect the worst. I do know, however, that elderly people vote, and so I would have expected some of the Republicans to at least pretend to have some concern and compassion for others. They let their masks slip, and we all saw what lurks beneath. It wasn’t pretty.

Some of the antics around this debate have been comedic. The alleged emails from Umberger and Chandler were good for a laugh. Clearly Representative Umberger knows how to use a computer, but we all learned at the 2006 candidate debate that Representative Chandler does not know how to use email. If any emails came from him, he had some help. Some have been tragic – State Senator Jeb Bradley saying he didn’t try to influence legislators, while Last Minute Zimmerman carried around a letter on Bradley’s own letterhead proving otherwise. Bradley, a multimillionaire, will never have to worry about paying for the best possible care for his own mother. Other people’s mothers and fathers are a different story, unless of course, they’re wealthy GOP donors. I’m sure he’d muster up some concern then. Same for Last-Minute Zimmerman, a Tuftonboro businessman whose business is in Wolfeboro. Like Jeb Bradley. No connection there, I’m sure. Zimmerman is another wealthy man who doesn’t want to have to spend a dime on those less fortunate. Damn these old people! They should have planned better; they should have pulled up their bootstraps and not gotten old!

The ugliness was not confined to the county legislative delegation. Nearly every week, we were treated to a diatribe from Ray Shakir, a NY transplant, who writes in the style of the hyperactive fifth grade playground bully he once was. The tele-talk column about the nursing home was another eye opener. There was a lengthy response from a fellow who claimed to be 72 years old. He felt that since he is part of a large family with a shared bathroom, that nursing home residents should endure the same. That these folks in the nursing home aren’t related didn’t seem to factor into his thinking. He was opposed to residents having dieticians and social activities. According to that tele-talk column, he said, “When you get to a place in your life where you’re completely helpless and unable to care for yourself then it’s time to begin to think of other alternatives.” Sounds like death panels to me. Does Sarah Palin know about this guy?

Thanks to Last-Minute Zimmerman, who never had a plan, just a whole lot of last minute criticism for a project he never involved himself in, the folks at Mountain View got to live in fear for a while longer. A guy who has two homes of his own was able to slow down the process long enough to frighten seniors even more about what might become of them. Somewhere, his wealthy pals are patting him on the back for his efforts. One can only hope that a spin from the Great Wheel of Karma may give these guys a taste of their own medicine. Let them be startled by what kind of nursing home their kids put them in.

The way this whole debate unfolded reflects everything that is wrong with us as a community and a society. The folks who live in the county nursing home are folks of limited means, who need care. They cannot afford the expensive, for-profit homes. These are people who worked their whole lives. Some were veterans. They are mothers, fathers, and neighbors. They are members of our communities. Now they live in a cramped, old building, in rooms that aren’t big enough to swing a cat in, and they have to share them with another person. These people have no privacy at all, and no room for their belongings. Is this really how we think people should be forced to live at the end of their lives? Do we think that because they are elderly, they don’t care about privacy and dignity, or have any right to it? If the old adage is true, “A society is judged by the way it treats its weakest members” we are in big trouble. In other words, we are in big trouble.

The people who would love to stack up seniors on bunks like cordwood, and haul ‘em into a group shower are the same ones who have never met a defense budget or a military appropriations bill they wouldn’t cheerlead. They begrudge every cent spent on taking care of US citizens, but applaud every trillion spent killing foreigners or lining the pockets of defense contractors. Our priorities are deeply skewed.

It’s unfortunate that this became a political football. Thankfully, some folks managed to resist that temptation. Harry Merrow of Ossipee wrote a great letter to the editor, where he said, “I consider myself a conservative Republican and I can be as cheap as the next person, but sticking it to the old people is not the way to cut costs.” Thanks for giving them hell, Harry.
At least this matter has been resolved, and we can get on with building a nursing home worthy of our seniors – a place where folks can spend their last years in comfortable surroundings, with dignity and respect.

In a country well-governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Confucious

© sbruce 2009 Published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun on December 4, 2009

the picture is not of the Mountain View nursing home - it's an old photo of a poor house.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Food Insecurity on the Rise

Food Insecurity is defined by the USDA is defined as: inadequate or unsure access to enough food for active, healthy living. The USDA has been doing a study each December since 1995. The latest USDA results are from 2008. From the study:
The number of food-insecure U.S. households rose from 13.0 million (11.1 percent of all households) in 2007 to 17.1 million (14.6 percent) in 2008. The additional food-insecure households were nearly evenly split between households with and without children, about 2 million in each group. However, the increase was proportionally larger for households with children. Among these households, the prevalence of food insecurity rose from 15.8 percent in 2007 to 21.0 percent in 2008. The corresponding increase for households without children was from 8.7 to 11.3 percent.

It seems reasonable to assume that food insecurity continued to increase in 2009, and that it is likely to worsen in 2010 as food prices continue to rise.From the NY Times:
The Agriculture Department is forecasting that food prices will increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent in 2009, compared with an estimated 5 to 6 percent increase by the end of this year.

Some economists project even steeper increases next year. For instance, Bill Lapp, principal at Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, said he expected food prices to jump 7 to 9 percent next year.

These price increases are tied to the high prices for commodities such as grain, wheat, and corn earlier in the year. The commodity prices are coming down, but food costs haven't caught up yet. Meat and poultry producers say they will have to significantly increase their prices.

As a result, more people are using the available food safety nets than ever before. According to the NY Times more than 36 million people in the US are using food stamps.
From the ailing resorts of the Florida Keys to Alaskan villages along the Bering Sea, the program is now expanding at a pace of about 20,000 people a day.

The program, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) would like to do more:
“I think the response of the program has been tremendous,” said Kevin Concannon, an under secretary of agriculture, “but we’re mindful that there are another 15, 16 million who could benefit.”

Nationwide, food stamps reach about two-thirds of those eligible, with rates ranging from an estimated 50 percent in California to 98 percent in Missouri. Mr. Concannon urged lagging states to do more to enroll the needy, citing a recent government report that found a sharp rise in Americans with inconsistent access to adequate food.

“This is the most urgent time for our feeding programs in our lifetime, with the exception of the Depression,” he said. “It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”

SNAP issues plastic cards - like debit cards. Mercifully the day of the big, fake, food stamp dollars, and the stigma that accompanied them is over.

cross posted at working america blog

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Al Franken fallout has GOP fuming

Al Franken fallout has GOP fuming - Manu Raju -

Pity the poor Republicans. They're all mad because they feel that Al Franken accused them of being rape defenders, when they voted against his amendment.

Maybe if they STOPPED DEFENDING RAPE they wouldn't have a problem.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

from Talking Points Memo

As Obama Sends More Troops, Giant Shadow Army of Contractors Set to Grow in Afghanistan

While contractors allow the U.S. to fight wars with fewer American troops -- which may be good or bad, depending on who you ask -- they also present serious transparency and security concerns. That includes goodwill-draining episodes like the May shooting of two Afghan civilians in Kabul by contractors working for Xe, formerly Blackwater. Experts are also concerned about an attack by enemies who might slip through security as a contractor at an American facility.

It's impossible to say how much taxpayer money is going to private contracts because various government entities either don't know, or don't agree on, just how many contractors are currently in Afghanistan.

That fact "permits and invites waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money and undermines the achievement of US mission objectives," Michael Thibault, co-chair of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting, complained at a hearing last month. At that hearing, military witnesses couldn't come up with a precise count of contractors, prompting former GOP congressman Chris Shays to remark, "I kind of want to scream."

Regular readers will remember the story of Jamie Leigh Jones who was raped by military contractors. I'm with Chris Shays. This whole thing makes me want to scream.

Obama pays back donors

The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation

Some are calling the president's plan to ratchet up the war a betrayal of the Democratic base, which overwhelmingly opposes sending more troops. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that 60% of Democrats want the president to begin reducing troop levels in Afghanistan.

But while the president may be showing disloyalty to his political base, he's remaining faithful to the defense industry interests that so generously funded his campaign.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics' database, the top recipient of defense industry money in the 2008 election cycle was Barack Obama, whose haul of $1,029,997 far surpassed Republican contender Sen. John McCain's $696,948.

So much for hope.

It's Obama's War Now

On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. I was part of a panel that night on a local cable TV station, where we were talking about the imminent war, and talking about peace. As soon as we were off the air, someone came in to tell us that President Bush had just announced the invasion. Irony stuck her head in the oven that night.

I feel much the same way tonight. President Obama is going to announce an escalation of the war in Afghanistan. This comes as no surprise to anyone who actually listened to him during the campaign. He said he intended to do this. Obama is a canvas that a lot of people painted pretty progressive hopes upon. Listening to him, and looking at his voting record showed he was no progressive - just another triangulating Clintonesque centrist. I'm not disappointed - I had very low expectations of him.

I had hoped that given the incredibly high numbers of people unemployed in this country, that he might think twice about spending trillions more of our tax dollars on war, while the social safety nets in this country continue to break. The official numbers are 10% unemployed, but I believe it's more like 20%. No one counts the people that have been out of work so long they can't collect unemployment benefits, or the folks who weren't eligible for them to begin with. I guess that's the new jobs plan: join the military, so we can continue to fight endless undeclared wars.

That is the future, unless we take radical action. Endless undeclared wars, that make big money for defense and weapons contractors. The corporate military industrial complex is running our country, make no mistake. We have over 1000 military bases around the world - not including the secret ones where we take people to torture them. We spend at least 54% of the discretionary budget (plus all of the special war funding bills) on defense. We spend more than every other nation on the world combined, on defense, and we can't win these wars? We aren't supposed to. If we weren't always at war, we might start thinking about spending that money on something else. We might start thinking about making the Pentagon pass an audit, and account for the nearly $3 trillion that it cannot account for.

One solution, of course, is to reinstitute the draft. If more families were involved, involuntarily, and on the receiving end of the "collateral damage", there would be loud, focused, antiwar protesting. If the sons of the GOP Congresscritters (notorious chickenhawks) were in line to get their asses shot off, we'd see some changes made.

It's disheartening to see so many people who were against the war when it belonged to Bush suddenly embrace it because they like the salesman. This will haunt them in 2010 and 2012. The GOP will rightly claim hypocrisy. This action seals Obama's fate as a one termer - and may well be the undoing of the Democratic Party.

The US needs to rethink foreign policy. We cannot support this kind of unnecessary military spending. We're borrowing the money to fight these wars, a legacy that our grandchildren will bear. We hear all manner of whimpering and accusation about the deficit - yet not a one of the big outspoken deficit hawks opposes military spending. Our very own Senator Judd Gregg is supporting this escalation - Judd Gregg who failed to be concerned about the deficit when he voted for every military spending bill that Bush suggested.

According to what I heard on NHPR yesterday, Senator Jeanne Shaheen is also supporting Obama's war. I'm sorry, Senator - I won't be voting for you next time. I won't vote for any incumbent or candidate who supports this war - or any other. I'm all finished supporting folks just because they have a D next to their name. I'm not going to waste another minute of my time on a candidate (on any level) who is not a progressive. No more centrists. No more NH tax pledge supporters. No more holding my nose and voting for the lesser of two evils. Doing that is what keeps the cycle going. As long as we support any old Democrat, no matter how right leaning, we'll continue to be told by the party that that's what we must do, that only centrist/right candidates can win in NH.

It's time for a third party. Obama is a huge disappointment to progressives. The Democratic majority we've all been waiting for can't even pass a useful health care plan - the best they can come up with is a valentine for insurance and drug companies. Now more than ever we need bold, creative leadership - and all we've got is a guy who is too afraid of upsetting the GOP and his bipartisan legacy to actually do anything.

It's time. I'm leaving the Democratic Party. It's time for a whole new direction.

War Resisters Pie Chart and budget info for 2009

© 2009 sbruce

Medicare Part D Open Enrollment Period

The annual enrollment and re-enrollment period for Medicare Part D drug insurance opened on November 15, and will remain open until December 31. Medicare Part D is not part of Medicare (despite the misleading name). It is a private drug insurance program that Medicare recipients must participate in (unless they have a comparable employer benefit), or pay a penalty that will remain in place for the duration of the recipient's time on Medicare, and may even escalate in cost.

This period gives new Medicare recipients a chance to sign up for a Part D plan, and gives those already enrolled a chance to change plans. The enrollee pays monthly premium paid for this insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
The average monthly PDP premium in 2010 (weighted by 2009 enrollment, assuming beneficiaries remain in their current plan) will be $38.94. This is an 11 percent increase from the weighted
average monthly premium of $35.09 in 2009, and a 50 percent increase from $25.93 in 2006, the first year of the Medicare Part D drug benefit.

The cost of Part D plans vary across the country. The drugs covered by plans also vary considerably, and the plan can change the drugs they cover at any point in the year. The enrollee can only opt out during the open enrollment period at the end of the year. Each state offers over 40 different plans.

There is a significant coverage gap built into the plan, known as the "donut hole." On average, in addition to the monthly premium, there is a $310 deductible. After that, the plan pays for 75% of the drug costs, and the enrollee pays the other 25%.
When the enrollee reaches $3,610 in costs, they hit the donut hole, and must pay 100% of the cost of their prescriptions until they reach $6,440 in total drug costs. After that threshold is crossed, the enrollee pays 5% of their prescription drug costs, the plan pays for 15%, and Medicare pays the remaining 80%. This is known as Catastrophic Coverage. The Health Insurance Reform bill being discussed in Congress contains provisions for closing the coverage gap by 2019.

Since the plan began in 2006, the cost of the plans have steadily increased, as have the deductibles, as well as the size of the donut hole. Medicare Part D was a controversial piece of legislation, because it strictly forbids Medicare from negotiating prices with drug companies. A study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that seniors find the plans confusing, feel too many are offered, and on average, did not choose the lowest cost options for themselves. Insurance companies exert a lot of pressure on seniors to choose "brand name" plans.

To see how it works, I went to the site, to shop for a plan in my area. I found my state, and even my county. There were 43 plans for me to choose from in Carroll County, NH. We have a population of 47,408. That does seem excessive. site is very helpful, and will give you a breakdown by state and county of what plans are available, and how those plans have been rated by past enrollees. Most senior centers have folks on hand to help folks who aren't computer savvy negotiate through this overly complicated process.

cross posted at

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Randian Story of Thanksgiving

The REAL Story of Thanksgiving

Did you know that the first [Plymouth Colony Pilgrim's] Thanksgiving was a celebration of the triumph of private property and individual initiative?

oh, really? Tell that to the Indians who bailed out these nitwits.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving memories

and my favorite - the legendary WKRP turkey episode:

Happy Thanksgiving - WKRP Turkey Drop - kewego Happy Thanksgiving from! This is a blast from the past, WKRP in Cincinnati Famous Turkey Drop. Sharkhost does not own any copyright to this material. Web host, web design, marketing and promotion.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Uninsured Patients Twice as Likely to Die in the ER

We're often told by those who oppose health insurance reform that "everyone has access to health care." By this, they mean that everyone must be treated in the emergency room. Of course, by the time someone goes to the ER, it's an EMERGENCY, and often one that might have been prevented with routine care. It's also going to be an enormous bill for treatment.

As for the outcome, a new study shows that uninsured patients in the ER are twice as likely to die:

Uninsured patients with traumatic injuries, such as car crashes, falls and gunshot wounds, were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital as similarly injured patients with health insurance, according to a troubling new study.

The findings by Harvard University researchers surprised doctors and health experts who have believed emergency room care was equitable.

That this study shocked doctors and researchers should tell us something. People who don't have insurance do not get quality health care, even in the event of an emergency:

"I'm really surprised," said Dr. Eric Lavonas of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a doctor at Denver Health Medical Center. "It's well known that people without health insurance don't get the same quality of health care in this country, but I would have thought that this group of patients would be the least vulnerable."

The study was unable to pinpoint why the uninsured are twice as likely to die in the ER, just that this frightening discrepancy exists.

In the study, the overall death rate was 4.7 percent, so most emergency room patients survived their injuries. The commercially insured patients had a death rate of 3.3 percent. The uninsured patients' death rate was 5.7 percent.

cross posted at workingamericablog

Judd Gregg tries/fails

Judd Gregg press release

in part:
"Senator Gregg stated, “As we near the celebration of the Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic for a new life in the Americas, tonight, the Senate Democrats have ironically put our country on a backward course towards a European-style, government-run health care system. Regardless of opinion polls, the will of their constituents, or just plain common sense, my Democratic colleagues are fully committed to the government controlling your health care and charging your children and your grandchildren trillions for it. This is not the reform Americans want, and it puts our country’s future prosperity on a leaky ship back to Europe."

As an analogy, this fails - mostly because Europeans are healthier than we are! We're the ones in the leaky boat. We're #37!

I must say though, it is interesting to see Judd Gregg defend a boat full of illegal immigrants.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grok Fail

Since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the voices of intolerance and bigotry have gotten increasingly louder. The Fox News sanctioned/organized Tea Party movement always seems to have a contingent carrying racist signs. There was the California mayor who sent out an email with a picture of the White House lawn covered with watermelons. In April, after the special election that turned former Congressman Jeb Bradley into a state senator, NH GOP Chairman John Sununu told the Union Leader that Bradley could be counted on to sustain a veto by the Governor of the marriage equality and transgender protection bills, “if he finds the strength to veto that garbage.” Today’s GOP seems to be pandering to the lowest common denominator within the party: the far racist and bigoted right.

The results of that were audible this past Saturday, on the “Meet the Press” radio show, which is broadcast from WEMJ in Gilford, and streamed live on the internet. Host Doug Lambert looked right into the webcam at the end of the show, and began a diatribe about NHDP Chair Raymond Buckley. He said (in part): “Yeah you Faggot. That's right I said it and I meant it. You are reprobate. How the people, the Democrats, I think of some of the gray haired ladies and older people from the old party would stand behind you is beyond me. You are a disgrace to yourself to humanity to mankind and to your party.” Meanwhile, host Skip Murphy sat beside him and giggled.

Republicans in NH don’t understand that the media has changed. Most of the traditional media in our state is still dominated by the traditional Republican mindset, but the new media, the online media is not. Bloggers are becoming increasingly powerful. Doug and Skip should have been more aware of that – their blog, granitegrok, was the leading conservative blog in the state. Doug had a column at the Laconia Daily Sun for years. They parlayed their success into the radio show – on the day of this particular show State Senator Jeb Bradley and US Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne were guests. The tradmed in NH generally gives Republicans a pass (save for Ray Burton), and as a result they seem to think they’re invincible.

Doug and Skip certainly thought so. They’ve been getting away with all kinds of bigotry on their blog for years. After Wanda Sykes appeared at the last White House correspondent’s dinner, Doug expressed his hope that Ms. Sykes would choke on a chicken bone or a watermelon rind. Ms. Sykes is African American.

Doug and Skip learned quickly that they aren’t bulletproof. James Pindell posted about the rant on his blog, NH Political Report, and from there it spread like wildfire. Suddenly NH Republicans couldn’t put enough distance between themselves and their former pals at granitegrok. Ovide Lamontagne and Jeb Bradley were amongst the first to make statements condemning the language Lambert used. Congressional candidate Frank Guinta issued a statement as well, informing us that Lambert had resigned as a county co-captain of his campaign. Skip Murphy gets to stay on. Apparently giggling and enabling isn’t the same thing as actually verbalizing. Lambert himself issued an apology of sorts, albeit one that was rather self-serving. He wrote (in part) “To be blunt, what I said is something that never should have been said in any kind of a public setting, or, quite frankly, in a private one either. Being human, and an honest person that is used to freely speaking my mind, my passion got the best of me.”

Skip Murphy’s blog commentary also fell neatly into the self-serving-sorry we got caught –zone, “Doug is a passionate guy and sometimes often pushes the envelope - mostly on strictly political grounds. He skates to the edge - this time, he went over that edge.” Murphy then went on to blame liberals for creating an overtly politically correct society, and further to blame Democrats for not accepting Lambert’s half -hearted apology. One might wonder about all this passion, and conclude that perhaps passion doesn’t mean what they think it means. It looks like plain old bigotry to me.

The Laconia Sun announced that Lambert’s column was no longer welcome in the paper. WEMJ cancelled their radio show. On Monday, Lambert announced that he would be leaving the blog as well. He issued a second apology that ended, “Let this be a lesson to those who harbor such hatred as I have demonstrated—think about it. We must love EVERYBODY as we do ourselves. And all the world is a camera. There is no hiding anymore. I engaged in a WHOLE lot of free speech around here. With that, comes responsibility. Use it wisely.” The second apology seemed to actually be one. As regular readers are aware, I frequently lament the fact that the GOP calls itself the “party of personal responsibility” while never actually taking any. Here we see Doug Lambert taking responsibility.

On Wednesday, after the “Where’s Sununu” stories were appearing all over the blogosphere, the NH GOP Chair finally weighed in on this episode. “Mr. Lambert’s comments were disgusting, inappropriate, and offensive. That is why I, as Chairman, asked for an immediate condemnation from our State Party - and that was done. I am encouraged that so many Granite Staters of all political persuasions denounced this vicious personal attack. We are all in agreement that what Mr. Lambert said is completely reprehensible and doesn’t belong in our public dialogue.” This is the same man who called the marriage equality bill “garbage.” My, what an interesting fence these folks are straddling.

Many of the people who issued horrified statements are the same people who are already working to repeal NH’s marriage equality law. They’re the same folks who can’t wait to get their hands on all that out of state hate money. Skip Murphy was not censured for being a giggling accomplice. Their readers are giving them high fives. Mostly, they’re all just sorry that Lambert got caught, and that NH bloggers turned this into a big story.

“It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It's like disapproving of rain.” Francis Maude

© sbruce 2009 This was published as an editorial in the Conway Daily Sun on November 20, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Drug Prices on the Rise

Earlier in the year, as part of the health insurance reform bill, the White House agreed to a deal with the pharmaceutical companies. According to a NY Times story in August:

Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.

Big Pharma agreed to go along with President Obama’s health insurance reform bill, in exchange for this deal.
As it turns out, the drug companies are going to
be just fine.

In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation’s drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992.

So much for $80 billion in savings.

A Harvard health economist, Joseph P. Newhouse, said he found a similar pattern of unusual price increases after Congress added drug benefits to Medicare a few years ago, giving tens of millions of older Americans federally subsidized drug insurance. Just as the program was taking effect in 2006, the drug industry raised prices by the widest margin in a half-dozen years.

“They try to maximize their profits,” Mr. Newhouse said.

But drug companies say they are having to raise prices to maintain the profits necessary to invest in research and development of new drugs as the patents on many of their most popular drugs are set to expire over the next few years.

Given that research and development is heavily subsidized already by US taxpayers, it’s hard to feel sorry for Big Pharma. They’d have a lot more cash available for R&D if they stopped bombarding us with ads for Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra every ten minutes.

© sbruce 2009 cross posted at Main Street/Working America blog

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NH GOP - a constant source of pride

I'm not going to link to their site, but Skip and Doug at GraniteGrok do a live radio show, where today they had special birthday wishes for NHDP Chair Ray Buckley.

NH Political Report has the story:

After his radio show "Meet the New Press" ended today, co-founder Doug Lambert looked into a live web-streaming camera, mockingly wished state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley a Happy Birthday and then called Buckley a "faggot" before basically wishing him dead.
Buckley is the only openly gay chair of a state party in the country. He is also the first openly gay male vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Read the whole story.

I wish I thought that some of their fans would criticize them for this - but after a few visits to their site, it's apparent that it's not a place for thinking Republicans - it's a place for knee jerk reactionaries, who spout the party line as regurgitated to them by Rush Limbaugh. If I liked them at all, I'd be embarrassed for them. They look a little too old for this kind of frat boy hijinks. Adult men who are confident in their sexuality are not threatened by homosexuality.

Yet another look at today's GOP - spewing hatred for anyone not a white heterosexual (at least in public) male.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moving Closer to Theocracy

The peculiar and secretive religious cult known as "The Family" has a number of members who are Congressmen living in a house on C Street in Washington, DC. Both Stupak and Pitts of the woman hating Stupak/Pitts amendment to the House health insurance reform bill live at this residence.

The Stupak/Pitts amendment seeks to rob women of insurance plans that cover abortion. No word on when insurance will be asked to stop covering penis pumps, penis implants, and penis pills. Of course, a silly girlie like me ought to understand that God loves penises, but wimmin are expendable.

Get out your copy of "The Handmaid's Tale. We may be living there before long.

Swine on Wall St.

The virus known as H1N1 (or swine flu) has been found in nearly every country now. President Obama declared it a national emergency on October 23. This declaration allows HHS Secretary Sebelius to waive certain requirements under Medicare and Medicaid, privacy rules and other regulations.

"The H1N1 is moving rapidly, as expected," White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said Saturday. "By the time regions or health-care systems recognize they are becoming overburdened, they need to implement disaster plans quickly."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday that the flu was spreading widely in at least 46 states and had already caused the hospitalization of at least 20,000 Americans. More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus and more than 2,400 additional deaths were probably associated with it, officials said.

According to the CDC website
These groups should receive H1N1 virus first:
These target groups include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

With those guidelines in mind, the fact that Wall St. firms (the same ones bailed out by US taxpayers, the same ones who gave themselves huge bonuses as they were failing) have been given H1N1 vaccine is creating some outrage.

"Frankly, it is astonishing that in the face of widespread shortages, the CDC has seen fit to approve distribution of the H1N1 vaccine to Wall Street firms not known to be populated by those in the highest risk categories," CREW Director Melanie Sloan wrote to Sebelius on Nov. 5.


"Although CREW has been unable to uncover the demographic makeup of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, surely it is safe to assume the vast majority of their employees are not pregnant women, infants and children, young adults up to 24 years old, and healthcare workers," Sloan added.

The most ethical company in the bunch appears to be:

Morgan Stanley -- which also has returned the $10 billion it got from the bailout -- received 1,000 doses of the vaccine for its New York and suburban offices, but turned over its entire supply to local hospitals when it learned it received shipments before some area hospitals, spokeswoman Jeanmarie McFadden said.

These companies already have huge PR problems, and this is certainly not going to help. You know you’re in trouble when SNL gives you the treatment:

cross posted at

Friday, November 06, 2009

teh stoopid - it bernz

This picture was taken at Michelle Bachman's (Congresswoman from Minnesota, with what could at best be described as a tenuous grip on reality) tea party rally in DC yesterday.

Yep, they're comparing health insurance reform to Dachau. Lots of people died at Dachau. People die every day in this country because they can't afford health care. Are these people so DIM that they can't make that connection?

Fox News: making people stupider, and angrier, every day.

The Sanctity of Marriage is Saved!

In May 2009, the Maine legislature passed a marriage equality bill. Governor Baldacci signed the bill - ensuring that Maine gays would have the same rights as Maine heterosexuals into law. Sadly for everyone, Maine has a process known as “the People’s Veto” which means that any Maine voter may propose a veto referendum to be placed on a statewide ballot, in order to reject a law recently passed by the Maine state legislature. The “People’s Veto” may have once seemed like a swell idea in a democracy, a way to give folks at the grassroots level a voice. In terms of social issues, a referendum question on a ballot means that tons of special interest money will pour in from out of state, to influence, and (in Maine’s case) determine the outcome.

This week, Maine voters vetoed the marriage equality law. Was it because Mainers feel differently from the very people they elect to represent them? I don’t think so. For months, Maine has been subjected to ominous TV and radio ads, telling them that if they didn’t vote yes, “Homosexual marriage would be taught in the schools.” This was a message that scared people, especially in the rural (more traditional) areas of the state. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, we all have a lot of concerns about what is and isn’t being taught in schools. These ads were a constant drone in the background of the lives of folks who ordinarily might have been inclined to live and let live. Maine school curricula were not suddenly going to feature classes in “Homosexual Indoctrination 101” – but the dishonest ads certainly gave that impression.

Where did the money come from for all this advertising? The group known as Stand for Maine Marriage raised approx. half a million dollars. Over 87% of that came from religious groups, and 72% of that was from out of state religious groups. The bulk of the money funneled to Stand for Maine Marriage came from four sources: The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Knights of Columbus, Focus on the Family, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Or, to put it more succinctly: Catholics, Evangelicals, and Mormons.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland had special second collections in September, to raise money to fight marriage equality. Those collections raised $86,000. At a time when Maine has an 8.5% unemployment rate, where homelessness is on the rise, and soup kitchens and food pantries are serving record numbers of people – the Roman Catholic Diocese chose to dun their parishioners (with a second collection!) for funds to fight gay people getting married.

No one has ever been able to explain how it is that gay folks getting married will affect heterosexual marriages. If gay people can get married, will straight guys (who may have occasionally looked dreamily at pictures of gay men) suddenly abandon their wives, and run out to buy leather chaps to wear in Gay Pride parades? That seems unlikely, though there are those closet leatherboys who may long to. The reality is that nothing will change, other than more folks will be getting married. It won’t mean diddly to your heterosexual marriage. Losing jobs and homes are a lot more likely to have an impact on Maine families.

Churches all over the state had “Vote Yes” signs on their lawns – in flagrant violation of their tax-exempt status. If the Roman Catholic Diocese wants to play politics (and it seems they do), they should start paying taxes, and that goes for the evangelicals and the Mormons, too. NOM is believed to be a front for the LDS. They’re very careful to keep their donors a secret, so that no one will know where their money comes from. Maine election laws stipulate that groups raising over $5.000 have to file forms and disclose their donors. NOM is suing the state of Maine because they claim this is a violation of free speech, and all that paperwork is just too onerous. The marriage equality groups didn’t seem to have any trouble meeting the requirements. Of course, they didn’t have anything to hide.

It was an odd election. Maine voters voted down TABOR, again. The so-called taxpayer bill of rights keeps cropping up in referendum states, no matter how many times the voters kill it. TABOR has been a huge failure in Colorado, and Maine voters are wise to keep cutting that particular hydra off at the knees.

Even more interesting was the vote on medical marijuana. Less than a week after the NH legislature failed to override Governor Lynch’s veto of a medical marijuana bill that passed the House and Senate earlier in the year. Maine passed a medical marijuana bill in 1999. The sky didn’t fall, and the chronically and terminally ill were not selling pot at schoolyards. A decade later, Maine voters voted in favor of expanding their medical marijuana statute to include more heath conditions, and to set up distribution centers for medical marijuana patients. Mainers very clearly have compassion for the chronically and terminally ill people in their state, and a live and let live philosophy about the whole thing.

That kind of live and let live philosophy is part of Maine tradition, which makes the veto of the marriage equality so strange. It seems likely that once this all settles down, and the good people of our neighboring state realize how religious groups from out of state manipulated them, they will be ready. Marriage equality will be passed by the legislature again, and it will be challenged again, but next time, Maine voters will know better.

“They are preserving the sanctity of marriage so that two gay men who’ve been together for 25 years can’t get married, but a guy can still get drunk in Vegas and marry a hooker at the Elvis chapel! The sanctity of marriage is saved!"
Lea DeLaria

© sbruce 2009 This appeared as an op-ed in the November 6, 2009 Conway Daily Sun

h/t to Feministing for the picture

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

subtle, they ain't

Viagra celebrates a birthday! Viagra is, of course, covered by most health insurance plans, even though some of those same plans do not cover birth control pills.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mainers: Vote NO on 1

Tell your Maine friends and family to vote for love and families, and against hate and bigotry.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Poland Spring flyers contain wrong polling hours |

Poland Spring flyers contain wrong polling hours |

WELLS — The town scrambled Oct. 27 to inform residents of the correct polling hours for the Nov. 3 vote, after two Poland Spring mailers gave the wrong time.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Wells High School, according to town officials

Poland Spring/NESTLE are advocating that the town pass and ordinance that would enact regulations on large scale water withdrawal.

The Poland Spring mailer advocated that residents pass an ordinance that would enact regulations on large-scale water extraction operations.

It stated the polls opened earlier and closed earlier than the correct time frame.

Opponents of the ordinance claim, if enacted, the change would open the town to large-scale water withdrawal operations like that of Poland Spring.

Poland Spring/NESTLE is, of course, saying it was an honest mistake.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Medical Marijuana Bill Veto Override Fails in NH Senate - Medical marijuana veto override fails in Senate - Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009

Posted using ShareThis

"The Legislature failed today to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a bill that would have allowed seriously and terminally ill patients legal access to marijuana. It takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override a veto."

During the legislative session, Governor Lynch refused to meet with chronically and terminally ill patients who were lobbying on behalf of this bill. Yep - he refused to meet with these constituents. He fobbed them off on some "advisors." I know - I was there. My husband (who died in August) had multiple myeloma. I was the public face of David's support for the medical marijuana bill, since he couldn't travel. I'm certain Lynch would have given an insurance company lobbyist a private audience, but he refused these people.

These are not people who are going to sell drugs to schoolchildren. These are people who use marijuana to relieve pain, anxiety, and for appetite stimulation.

I won't be supporting or voting for Lynch again. This is not the only reason why, but call it the twig (seed, bud, bong) that broke this camel's back.

My state Senator, John Gallus, whom I seldom agree with, was a co-sponsor of the medical marijuana bill. Thank you Senator Gallus.

Senator Betsi DeVries was the only Democrat who voted against the bill initially, and then the sole Dem to vote against the override. I sure hope she never has to watch someone she loves die of a long, lingering, painful, and debilitating disease. The kind where you would do anything, anything to stop them from suffering. It will be a terrible way for her to learn compassion.

Friday, October 23, 2009

AHIP Pollster Interrupted By Singing Troupe Of Protesters

AHIP Pollster Interrupted By Singing Troupe Of Protesters

Posted using ShareThis

From Sam Stein at Huffington Post:

Republican pollster Bill McInturff was the keynote speaker on the final day of the America's Health Insurance Plans's state issues conference on Friday morning.
But his speech on how the health care reform debate was playing among the public was interrupted before it even began. A group of protesters began aggressively cheering McInturff for the work he has done for AHIP (he's a hired pollster for the private insurance lobby and, most infamously, was the force behind the 'Harry and Louise' ads in 1994)

Then they start to sing. This is brilliant! This is just the kind of clever protesting we need to be doing:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pants on Fire

Ah, New Hampshire. This year we had a long, cold, wet spring; a cold, wet summer, and a glorious fall with spectacular foliage. It was a rancorous year in the NH legislature, with the budget being a particular thorny issue. Mel Thomson and William Loeb still dictate our tax policy from the grave, and Judd Gregg voted in favor of rape. It was a year blissfully free of electoral politics for most of us, but the end of the year is drawing near. Next year we’ll be voting for 2 Congresscritters, one US Senator, the entire NH legislature, the Executive Council, and the Governor.

The NH GOP is unhappy about losing their divine right to run our state. Despite steady losses in the last 4 years, they have not been able to come up with a new message. They’re still saying “no taxes and cut spending.” It was a great message in 1910. In 2010 the reality is somewhat different. Things cost more, an elementary concept that the NH GOP is unable to embrace. Sure, there are ways to spend less money. At a time when many states are eliminating the costly death penalty as a way to save millions, NH is the only state looking to begin executions. The budget for lead paint testing has been cut recently, but we’ll be building a death row and an execution chamber.

Meanwhile, the NH GOP is trying out some new messaging, akin to throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks. In September, former NH GOP Chairman Wayne Semprini wrote a letter to the Portsmouth Herald, accusing Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter of being a hypocrite for criticizing disruptors at town hall meetings. Semprini claimed that in 2005, at a Bradley town hall meeting he moderated, that Shea-Porter and her supporters wore waffle hats and continually disrupted the meeting.

The GOP lost both Congressional seats in 2006, but they took the loss of the CD 1 seat much harder. They’ve never gotten over losing that seat (which had been comfortably occupied by multimillionaire do-nothing Jeb Bradley) to an upstart, grassroots candidates. That the upstart is a woman is the angry frosting on their cake of rage.

Semprini tried. He thought he’d get the party faithful all wound up, and soon the villagers would be out with pitchforks and torches, yelling “kill the witch.” Poor Semprini, it didn’t work out the way he’d planned. The trouble with telling lies in the Internet era is that anyone can look up stuff in newspaper archives. A story about that particular town hall meeting, published by the Portsmouth Herald in 2005 was quickly unearthed. There was even a picture – a picture that showed a hatless Shea-Porter. The newspaper told a different story of the events than the one Semprini was attempting to tell.

That’s another problem with lying in the digital age. News travels fast, and immediately the recollections of folks who were at that town hall meeting began to contradict Semprini. I was one of the contradictors. In 2005, I was working for a non-profit that was fighting Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. Former Congressman Jeb Bradley had run for office saying he was against privatization, but after BushCo began twisting his arm, his once strong stand was turning to Jell-O. I was there with a group of folks who were pressuring Bradley to stop waffling – hence the hats. I made those hats. Our theme was “Leggo my Social Security.”

Carol Shea-Porter was not part of my group. I met her for the first time a few weeks later. She was not there with a group of supporters – she didn’t decide to run for office for another 8 months. She was present, as a citizen, asking questions, as she did a number of times. I was at the same meetings. Carol was always friendly and polite to the Congressman, even as she asked hard questions and wouldn’t let him off the hook for the answers. My waffle crew was not disruptive. We did not want rudeness to be the story – we wanted Bradley’s waffling on Social Security to be the story. We were not at all like the tea party disruptors at town hall meetings in 2009. Wayne Semprini has never apologized to Congresswoman Shea-Porter for his accusations, which tells me that this wasn’t a memory lapse. Maybe he’s still putting the fire in his pants out.

That try at a GOP message got thrown out, contradicted quickly, and didn’t stick. This week, a story at suggests that Shea-Porter has “gone native,” and become a “Washington insider.” Nashua Telegraph reporter Kevin Landrigan was quoted as writing, “The irony is, of course, that Shea-Porter used to be a ‘tea-bagger’ on the left.” The real irony is that Kevin Landrigan used to be a decent reporter. Now he’s just another right wing mouthpiece, spouting this silly, debunked meme. The Politico story tries to muster up all kinds of outrage about a grassroots activist turned insider. Jeb Bradley is quoted as saying, “I think she’s gone to Washington and forgotten that she’s New Hampshire’s representative in Washington.” This comes from a guy who was fired by the voters from his job as Congressman, failed to get re-elected, and was reduced to the NH State Senate, where he earns $100 a year. He would do ANYTHING to get back inside Washington. The real prize goes to GOP stenographer Jennifer Donahue, of the NH Institute for Politics, who said: “She’s not really viewed by most people as an activist or an outsider. “She’s part of the establishment, and I think she faces more scrutiny than before.” Carol Shea-Porter got elected and went to Washington to do her job – oh, the horror!

The desperation of the NH GOP is palpable. One would think that in the face of the changes in the political climate in our state, and the failure of their party in the last 2 election cycles, that they might do some navel gazing. One would be wrong. The strategy seems to be to continue to keep selling the same, failed message they’ve used for the past 100 years – and to keep telling lies, hoping something will stick.

“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.” Mark Twain

This was published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun on October 23, 2009

© sbruce 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

cause and effect - a lesson never learned by the GOP

Local GOP county committee member Maynard Thomson has been writing letters to the editor for years, and has finally been rewarded with columnist status. As a result, he gets to bore us all at even greater length.

This week, Mr. Thomson chose to entertain us with a piece on political discord, and just how sad it is that we all can't get along. I trust the irony of the writer's political affiliation won't escape you. Instead of reflecting honestly on the racism and bigotry inherent in today's GOP, Thomson chose to present himself as a world weary, superior individual, who is above all of this silliness.
In fact, he went as far as to say this:
"Meantime, I’ve written two local critics, suggesting our insult swaps needn’t preclude friendly relations. Regrettably, both responded churlishly. This bespeaks a lack of confidence, or a destructive conflating of personal and political."

I confess. I'm one of those churls. Mr. Thomson did send a missive to me in the spring. This was my reply:
May 29, 2009

Dear Maynard Thomson,

Thank you so much for your very entertaining letter. I can’t think when I last received a missive that insulted my intelligence, threatened me with a lawsuit, and then invited me out for coffee with an offer of friendship. I don’t believe I’ve had anything comparable since my last stalker, and that was over a decade ago. Your comedic timing (intentional or otherwise) is amazing.

Over the years you’ve called me stupid, accused me of lying, and in once memorable instance, berated me for not having traveled sufficiently. In fact, your constant droning responses to my columns over the year have shown that you possess a lack of basic reading comprehension skills, snobbery, elitism, and an overweening ego.

I urge you, Maynard, to make good on your rather thinly veiled threat of a lawsuit. Please – sue me for defamation in my May 8 column. You could give me no greater gift than to make your claims public. You would be revealed as the thin-skinned buffoon that you are, attempting to threaten me into silence, on a bogus claim. I would enjoy every minute of this action, so please, I implore you - go forth and sue.

I’m not apologizing for anything, Maynard. You might go back and reread my May 8 column. I’d be interested to hear where it was I mentioned your views on abortion or marriage equality, seeing as how I didn’t. I referenced the views of your political party, and if you weren’t such a reactionary dolt, looking to take offense at the flimsiest pretext, you might have figured that out. Years of your letters to the editor, however, have shown your utter inability to comprehend what you read.

Sadly, I am certain you’ll be surprised that I have no interest in meeting you. I don’t willingly meet up with those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder – there are too many chances to meet them randomly.

With the utmost sincerity,

Susan Bruce

Lack of confidence? Destructive conflating of the personal and political?
Nah. I just don't voluntarily associate with assholes.

Military Rape Awareness Week Starts At Times Square Recruiting Station; Recruiters Shut Out Retired Officer |

Military Rape Awareness Week Starts At Times Square Recruiting Station; Recruiters Shut Out Retired Officer |

One in three women in the military in Iraq is raped. We need to say this over and over and over again until it sinks in. Over half of the federal discretionary budget goes to defense. Our tax dollars are paying for rape and the covering up of the crime. None of our elected officials are strong enough to stand up against this, and force the military to change. It's up to us.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Judd Gregg's Family Values

Jamie Leigh Jones went to Iraq in 2005, to work for Halliburton’s then subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown, and Root. When she signed the contract, she was shown pictures of a small trailer where she would live with other women. The reality was quite different. She found herself assigned to a huge barracks full of men. She complained to the company. Nothing happened. Four days after her arrival, she was socializing with some coworkers. One of the male firefighters handed her a drink, while making a comment about “roofies.” Ms. Jones was 21, and believed that she was working with people who were all on the same side. She thought he was joking. She remembers taking a few sips. After that, she has no memory.

Ms. Jones woke up naked and in pain. She’d been gang raped and sodomized. One of the men was still there, passed out. He wasn’t worried about the repercussions, you see. The men had learned that there would be no repercussions. She reported the attack to the company. A doctor examined her, and a rape kit was done. It was turned over to KBR officials, and has never been seen since. Jamie Leigh Jones was locked in a shipping container with no food or water. She was told that she needed to “get over it.” She eventually convinced one of the guards to allow her to use his cell phone. She called her father, who called their Congressman, and she was rescued, and brought back to the US. She had to have reconstructive surgery on her breasts.
Halliburton/KBR took no action against her attackers. The military, and the US Dept. of Justice did not prosecute. The contract she’d signed forced her into mandatory, binding, arbitration with the company. Halliburton would hire the arbitrator, the proceeds would be secret, and Jamie Leigh Jones would have no right to appeal if she lost. Halliburton had only lost 3 arbitration cases.

Ms. Jones realized, 5 months into the arbitration process that she wasn’t going to get anywhere. She went to court to fight the arbitration agreement, saying that the gang rape was not related to her employment, and should not be covered by the agreement. Two years later, the US 5th Circuit of appeals ruled in her favor.

There have been 38 similar claims made by women who were employed by Halliburton/KBR. Sexual assaults, rape, discrimination and groping were all charges made – and ignored by the company. If women complained, they were fired.

These contracting companies, hired by the DoD to work in Iraq and Afghanistan are not bound by military law. They are not subject to the laws of the countries they are working in, and they don’t seem to be subject to US law, either. Instead, these contractors live in some kind of a lawless empire, where women have no legal rights, and the men are free to rape and assault them without fear of prosecution or any repercussions.

These contracting companies are paid by US taxpayer dollars. Next time you’re watching Glenn Beck or Lou Dobbs work himself into a lather about ACORN, think about what else your taxpayer dollars are subsidizing. Next time you listen to some GOP Congresscritter get wound up about the way women are treated by the Taliban – remember, your tax dollars are subsidizing rapists and criminals.

Halliburton and KBR have been unrepentantly bilking the US taxpayers for years now. Halliburton overcharged the Pentagon for fuel delivery. In 2004, the GAO estimated that over $1 billion US taxpayer dollars had been wasted on overcharging by contractors. Nothing happened. KBR’s shoddy construction caused soldiers to be electrocuted in the showers. KBR served contaminated water to troops, and made them sick. Nothing happened. Both Halliburton and KBR are still working for the Pentagon. These contractors make ACORN look like boy scouts – but oddly, they’ve never been on the receiving end of the same operatic media scrutiny that ACORN gets.

Three years after being drugged, gang-raped, mutilated, and locked in a storage container, Jamie Leigh King has finally reached the place where she’ll be able to sue the company that protected the men who assaulted her. It will be years before she ever gets any kind of justice, but finally, she is on her way.

This week, the US Senate is working on the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota introduced an amendment that would withhold defense contracts from companies “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery, and discrimination cases to court.” It’s unfortunate that this is even an issue, but surely, we the people don’t want our country to be represented around the world by rapists and criminals.

Apparently, this is not so. Senator Franken’s amendment passed, 68-30. There are thirty members of the US Senate who are just fine with rape. In fact, Senator Jeff Sessions spoke against the bill, calling it a “political attack directed at Halliburton.” All 30 Senators who voted against the amendment are Republicans, all who run on the issue of “family values.” David “likes to be spanked by hookers while wearing a diaper” Vitter voted against the amendment. So did Mitch McConnell, John Kyl, John Cornyn – from the state of Texas, where Jamie Leigh Jones is from – Jim DeMint, and of course our very own NH Senator, Judd Gregg. These men all decided that lawless military contractors are no big deal. The gang rape and mutilation that Jamie Leigh Jones experienced was not even worthy of consideration to them. Think about that, the next time you hear one of them nattering on about family values. What they really mean is that if it affects their family it’s an issue. If your daughter is raped, well, too bad. War profiteering is more important.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen voted in favor of the Franken amendment. Only Judd Gregg voted in favor of protecting these contractors. If it were up to Senator Gregg, the contractors hired by the Pentagon, and paid for by you and me, would be allowed to conceal their crimes, rape women with impunity, and continue to overcharge us. I have never been more ashamed.

h/t to LA Progressive for the "Dollar Soldier"

© sbruce 209 Published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun on October 9, 2009