Thursday, July 23, 2009

This October: Take it Back to Washington!

by Al Falafel

It's been quite some time since we had a good old fashioned National March on Washington for LGBT-Q Rights. Momentum is starting to build for a massive gathering on the Mall in October. Cleve Jones is recognized as the driving force behind this one dubbed "EQUALITY ACROSS AMERICA."

Jones was the originator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt twenty years ago. At its first national appearance the AIDS Quilt literally blanketed more than half the Mall for our last big March in 1988. It was overwhelming then to walk among the thousands of panels, each one created for a person lost to AIDS.

By 1992, for the National March for AIDS Awareness it had grown to be too big to lay out on the Mall and we only got to see part of it.

Now the sad fact is that the quilt could probably drape the moon :(!

It's always been too much for me to get anywhere near without having a total emotional breakdown.

WILL YOU BE THERE? Sign up at the website for news, updates, and developing information.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies, and... Statistics?

In his Autobiography, Mark Twain famously wrote " There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

This phrase came up recently on BBC Radio's coverage of the American debates on health care reform. BBC commentators often ridicule our overwrought fears in the US of socialized medicine and universal health care, which they take for granted. And feel very protective of. As do most of the industrialized countries in the world. It is hard for most people on the planet to conceive of a situation where free access to health care is not considered a basic right.

And they are not afraid to call it what it is: Socialized Medicine. It seems that the only people on the planet who let any form of the word "socialism" stall needed health care reform efforts are easily manipulated citizens of a country that professes a natural right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

When it comes to health care you can always count on scaring Americans into voting against their own self interest if you frighten them with the "specter of Communism," as Karl Marx called it.

Even Repugnican proponents of the status quo that is our profit-driven, insurance-company-controlled system acknowledge ours as the most expensive health care system in the world. But since high cost to consumers means high profits to corporate shareholders Repugnicans take this as a positive thing! No matter how it is framed, however, the rest of the world sees right through this disingenuous point and laughs at us for allowing shameless Repugnicans to get away with it. They marvel at how ignorant and gullible we Americans are to buy into such baloney, especially when they hear that 40 million of us have no health care coverage at all!

It was in reference to our glaring inadequacy and the often suppressed statistics which embarrassingly point up the inferiority of the US health care system - our relatively high infant mortality rate and short life expectancy - that the BBC commentator made the observation that Repugnicans "have long engaged in lies, damn lies and statistics... but now they don't even bother with the statistics!"

Infant mortality rate - number of deaths/live births per thousand & number of deaths-by-age-5/thousand live births - coupled with average life expectancy is a common sense and widely accepted measure of health care effectiveness. In both cases the US ranks behind all the European countries, including those that provide socialized medicine. We barely outrank Croatia, Malta, Martinique and Poland: our nearest competitors in infant mortality. New Caledonia, Cyprus and Brunei slightly beat us on this measure. That's the company we keep though. And it's no better in the area of life expectancy where we do a little better here than they do in Albania and Kuwait. But one area where we consistently outrank every other country in the world is in health care SPENDING! According to statistics, spending on health care in the US is 53% higher than all other countries! USA! USA! USA! We're number 1!

Speaking of damn liars, the Repugnican ogre we know as Pat Buchanan reared his ugly head again this week and had it neatly handed to him by the wonderfully unflappable Rachel Maddow. On her nightly MSNBC program Maddow graciously provided Buchanan an opportunity to show his true colors, which are, of course, white, whiter and whitest. Never one to back down from any chance to assert his racist ideology, Pat gave a spirited defense of his heart-felt belief in the superiority of "his people" (whites) and their exclusive entitlement to the best of everything that exists. He summed it all up in his statement that "White men wrote the Constitution and it was White men who built this country!"

When it comes to recalling how this country was founded and built, of course, Buchanan ignores certain embarrassing historical facts while selectively affirming others, like all damn liars do. He would undoubtedly agree that those white men of the 18th Century who wrote the Constitution and before it the Declaration of Independence, relied heavily on the then revolutionary principles that came out of Western Philosophy's Age of Enlightenment.

Sounds so nice, doesn't it? Enlightenment!

At that time however, the onset of the Industrial Revolution had not yet hit the North America shores. So through most of the 18th and 19th centuries the bulk of work that it took to build this nation's agriculture-based economy was done primarily by our indispensable reliance on slave labor.

Remember slavery and slave ownership?

Especially in the Southern States where Buchanan, native to Washington DC, has his strongest following today, the indisputable fact is that mostly African slave labor provided the means of production that built this country. It was the introduction of internal combustion machinery and electrification of our farms and cities that made slavery obsolete. American-owned slaves, who comprised less than a tenth of the total Southern population in 1680, grew to a third by 1790. According to Economic History Services: , "Nearly 4 million slaves with a market value of close to $4 billion lived in the U.S. just before the Civil War."

Who did you say built this country, Pat?


Old fogies like Buchanan and his Repugnican ilk would have us ignore the historical record of these last couple of centuries if it works against their political agenda. When working their "strict constructionist, original intent" theories of interpreting Constitutional law, they resent outright any mention of this country's and our founders' greatest shame: an accommodation of slavery.

They argue that the War Between the States and the Emancipation of Slaves in the 19th Century negated all that ugliness so why does it ever have to come up again?

Of course, when arguing against such things as women's equality, reproductive rights and especially same-sex marriage they feel it is wholly appropriate and legitimate to rely on intentional misinterpretations of not just centuries but millennia of history to falsely justify continuing ignorance and legal discrimination in the 21st Century.

Rachel Maddow told Buchanan he was "dating" himself by spouting such racist, sexist and homophobic arguments.

She is right, of course. And the same applies to all those crude and despicable Repugnican Senators who had the gall to suggest that Justice Sotomayor is a racist like themselves. They ineloquently twisted her powerful and inspiring words into something vile that supposedly needs to be defended. They demean her obvious wisdom while addressing her, a sitting Federal Judge, with little more than thinly veiled contempt. All of this as the glare of TV lights and cameras captured every malicious crack in their ultimately impotent attempts to quash her All-American aspirations for a seat on what they would preserve as a whites-only bench in the ultimate old boys' club.

Viewers were spared an even uglier spectacle than what could have come during the televised Senate confirmation hearings -- thanks only to the Repugnicans' considerable restraint of their true feelings toward Puerto Ricans and African Americans such as our President who nominated Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice.

The Repugnican Party is rightfully concerned about alienating what's left of their inexplicable but dwindling voter support among immigrant and minority populations. After being beaten by an honest-to-God black candidate topping the Democratic ticket, Repugnicans have failed to stop the hemorrhaging of their minority membership. Nor have they fooled many minorities by reacting to the outcome of the last election: propping up an unknown and ineffective token, Michael Steel to confuse them (black faces do not all look alike to people who aren't totally racist). And their cynical embrace of that back water blow-up doll named Sarah Palin as a potential party leader on the national level continues to blow up in their faces.

So concerned are they for their survival as a Party that their behind-the-scenes leadership, for the benefit of the viewing audience, obviously enforced a muzzle on their rabid bitches who hold seats on the Judiciary Committee: Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Orin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, Charles Grassley, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn. Each of them a white male, barely able to hide his snarling frustration at being a member of the dominant race that is soon to reach statistical minority status in the United States.

On Rachel Maddow's show Pat Buchanan pathetically decries what he sees as rampant discrimination against white males everywhere. With minority populations growing fast, long suffering white Repugnican men seem to be in practice under Big Daddy Buchanan's tutelage. Is he teaching them how to cry "discrimination!" in preparation for an ever nearer future when they will finally lose their last ostensibly credible claim to privilege and entitlement as part of some majority that no longer exists?

It is correct to say that by their attitudes they date themselves.

It is perhaps more correct to say that they have outlived their usefulness to their party, their country and humanity itself. Isn't it time the Repugnicans, as a national political Party go the way of the Whigs?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Judge Sotomayor SHOULD have said?

What Judge Sotomayor now famously said in that speech at the University of California in October, 2001 was this...

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Given the desperate lengths that Repugnican blowhards have gone to read some evidence of "reverse racism" into this expression of Sotomayor's "hope" (not stated as a belief), we can assume that the remark would have been better received among the GOP if she had just worded it a little differently.

I can imagine that, if she had just put it another way, she may have been nominated earlier by Bush and would have breezed through the confirmation process when the Repugnicans were in charge. We could already have her as Chief Justice on the Court if she had just tweaked her wording to read something like this...

"I would hope that any white male would more often than not reach a better conclusion than the wisest Latina woman whose wretched life experiences could obviously never measure up to those of her white male superiors."

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Wendell Potter recently stepped down as Head of Corporate Communications for Philadelphia based CIGNA Corporation, one of the largest "managed-care" health insurance companies in the world. In that job he served as the top commander in the industry's propaganda war against real health care reform in the US. His charge was to protect and advance the exorbitant profits of his employer and its investors -- at all costs.

Potter now admits to making full use of scare tactics, lies, disinformation and well-funded efforts to discredit any attempt to make the American public aware of the truth behind our corrupt, greed-driven HMO system.

In May he defected from the dark force army of Corporate Health Insurance and joined up with the Center for Media and Democracy where he has assumed the title and role of Senior Fellow on Health Care. Potter has newly committed himself to exposing those "No holds barred/Take no prisoners" tactics he previously employed to keep Americans ignorant and in debt to CIGNA and other profit-gouging companies, no matter what the expense to our health and even our lives.

His courageous turnaround at this moment in history is an act of true patriotism as a heavily-lobbied Congress grapples with reforming the American Health Care system. The industry, on the other hand, only continues to defraud the people. And, by its on-going profiteering and buy-outs of our representatives in Congress, they have played a mostly stealth role in the wrecking of the global economy. They have not yet found a rationale for trying to bilk the government for a bail out like other industries have .

You can follow Potter's blog on CMD's website at

One of the health industry's major targets in the propaganda war Potter managed was the 2007 documentary "SICKO" and its director Michael Moore. The depths to which CIGNA stooped to discredit Moore and his movie's comparison of our pathetic for-profit health care system to the state-run systems in other countries is downright astounding. This weekend PBS stations across the country are airing an episode of Bill Moyer's Journal where Potter reveals in an interview how his job was to stop the movie from reaching a wide audience (and, more importantly, from having the widespread political impact the industry feared "Sicko" would have).

Potter tells Moyer that "Sicko," in fact, "hit the nail on the head" and told the real truth about how much better people in other countries have it when it comes to their health care.

See the clip below and check your local listings...

See also ABC News Report:Health Insurance Insider: 'They Dump the Sick'
Retired Health Insurance Executive Blows the Whistle on His Former Industry

And, "In the Belly of The Beast: Interview with Wendell Potter" at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Pitch for PDA

Is there a single progressive-minded person out there who regrets the election of Barack Obama over John McCain?

Ousting right-wing Repugnicans from the White House was THE major victory that progressives of every stripe fought for and achieved as a united and determined force.

Yet it is a maddening reality that the Obama administration has embraced a number of offensive and unacceptable policies--from serious backtracks on civil liberties to massive corporate-friendly bank bailouts to the escalation of war in Afghanistan.

Progressive principles don’t take a holiday when a Democrat is in the Oval Office. In no way do we side those brainless anti-American bigots who "want Obama to fail." But we must continue to work for such core agendas as defense of the Bill of Rights, economic justice, environmental protection, clean elections and guaranteed health care (not merely insurance policies) for all.

And--no matter how many people are opting for silence in the midst of what Martin Luther King Jr. described as “the madness of militarism”--true progressives WILL continue to work for peace.

Among the many organizations that were formed over the course of the bygone regressive Bush/Cheney years, the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) is one that has effectively fought for progressive principles. They continue to do so without compromise.

PDA does not chase popularity. But it is significant that every year since PDA was born half a decade ago, they have grown stronger nationwide.

Progressive Democrats of America is a grassroots PAC that works both inside the Democratic Party and outside in movements for peace and justice. Our goal in 2009: Expand progressive influence in Congress as we build on our 2008 electoral successes. PDA's advisory board includes seven members of Congress and activist leaders such as Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Thom Hartmann, Jim Hightower, and Lila Garrett.

Some folks seem to believe that integrity requires self-marginalization, perhaps with wooden rhetoric thrown in. Others have become so obsessed with winning that they’ve forgotten the ideals that made political work compelling in the first place.

PDA’s mission isn’t about such false choices. It’s about educating, organizing--and agitating. As PDA board member Jim Hightower observed many years ago: “What’s wrong with being an agitator? In a washer, the agitator gets the dirt out.”

In celebration of their fifth anniversary PDA has set a goal of signing up 500 new supporting partners who will strengthen our common efforts. Their program, "Change Makes Change" provides an easy way to join and help sustain this vital organization. I urge you to consider joining me in this program and help keep our elected leaders' feet to the fire in the face of the right-wing regressive backlash that has only just begun.

For more information about Progressive Democrats of America go to:

Thanks for all you do.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day in Alaska

The citizens of one state have a big extra reason to celebrate Independence Day this weekend.

The announcement of Sarah Palin's abrupt resignation as governor frees Alaskans, at long last, from the embarrassing public perception of them as a pathetic people who think they can see the other side of the world from their bathroom window. Not to mention the much -ballyhooed neo-conservative, ethically-challenged, backward political stranglehold she has held them under.

Congratulations to the good people of our 49th state! Happy Independence Day! A very happy nation celebrates with you!

Obviously, there is much more to Palin's decision to quit all of a sudden than she is letting on about. For any aspiring contender to the Presidency or other political office, this is the stupidest move a sitting governor can make. Especially since her most stinging, sneering criticism of Barack Obama is that he had little prior experience in any executive position. Now she has shown that she cannot even complete a single term in the executive office of the country's least populous state!

If she is doing this to help seal her credentials as some new kind of mavericky politician, she must think Americans have no memory at all and/or are even stupider than she is.

Speculation about what her real motives may be is rampant across the internet and in the mainstream news.

I'm just wondering how long it may be until we learn the name of the person who, all this time, held back the indisputable proof that Palin is not the mother of Bristol's unfortunate little Trig - as she swears to be.

I know. I know! We are not supposed to talk about this. Ever since it first came up during the campaign - with so much credible supporting evidence - the idea is so distasteful on every level I must say I dutifully feel dirty just mentioning it here.

But what else could it be? After all the scandals, gaffs, ethics probes, in-fighting with her own party that thrust her into our consciousness less than a year ago (thanks for nothing, McCain!)... and after her recent desperate grabs for media attention through totally fake outrages directed at the press and at the likes of David Letterman, it seems that it would take a real and irrefutable expose of her deepest shameful secret to get her to give up the national spotlight.

We don't really need to know what her deeply guarded secrets are. Since she has opted to step off the national stage, largely as she says due to how she and her family have been treated in the media, let's hope that the media finally gives her what she wants. Let her fade away now - back into the blessed comfort of obscurity forever.

Speaking of unspeakable scandals - why is the media ignoring the definitive DNA evidence that proves the real father of Michael Jackson's children is none other than Chaz Bono?

I'm just asking...

In Their Boots