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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Students refer to material on this blog

All chapters and support material is now posted and ready for my courses to access on this blog. Use the right hand corner. If something is missing, please let me know.

Additional units and notes will be posted each week from now to the end of the term, but the foundation is all there as of today.

I encourage continued contributions to this blog, discussion in class and submission of materials in advance for review, to help maximize your final grade for the term.

Thank you for sticking it out this far. Hope your Spring Break went well.

Yes We Can

For the first time in our nation's history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.

Consider the staggering scope of what you have just accomplished:
Every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.

Every American will be covered under the toughest patient protections in history. Arbitrary premium hikes, insurance cancellations, and discrimination against pre-existing conditions will now be gone forever.

And we'll finally start reducing the cost of care -- creating millions of jobs, preventing families and businesses from plunging into bankruptcy, and removing over a trillion dollars of debt from the backs of our children.

But the victory that matters most tonight goes beyond the laws and far past the numbers.

It is the peace of mind enjoyed by every American, no longer one injury or illness away from catastrophe.

It is the workers and entrepreneurs who are now freed to pursue their slice of the American dream without fear of losing coverage or facing a crippling bill.

And it is the immeasurable joy of families in every part of this great nation, living happier, healthier lives together because they can finally receive the vital care they need.

This is what change looks like.

My gratitude tonight is profound. I am thankful for those in past generations whose heroic efforts brought this great goal within reach for our times. I am thankful for the members of Congress whose months of effort and brave votes made it possible to take this final step.

This day is not the end of this journey. Much hard work remains, and we have a solemn responsibility to do it right. But we can face that work together with the confidence of those who have moved mountains.

Our journey began three years ago, driven by a shared belief that fundamental change is indeed still possible. We have worked hard together every day since to deliver on that belief.

We have shared moments of tremendous hope, and we've faced setbacks and doubt. We have all been forced to ask if our politics had simply become too polarized and too short-sighted to meet the pressing challenges of our time. This struggle became a test of whether the American people could still rally together when the cause was right -- and actually create the change we believe in.

Tonight the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Sunday Morning News and Views

Condemn the sin not the sinner
Pope Benedict is urging Catholics to be intransigent toward sin but not to judge the sinner. Set against the sex scandals, his address this morning in St Peter’s Square was more general, with a feeling that people are persecuting others for perceived sins and forgetting that judgment is the Lord’s, not theirs. Fight sin, but forgive and help the sinner.

America society is getting worse. With the health care bill up for an up or down vote today Tea Party activist protested through the night. Reports that they spat on congressional democrats and hurled racial comments at African America and other minorities represented within the Democratic members of the house. When did hate, bad behavior, attack become the norms. Perhaps we all should listen to the Pope and take it a step farther, remembering that only he who is without sin should toss the first stone.

The interesting thing about new coverage of the Pope’s message is that they attacked him for not mentioning the pedophile incident in Ireland and apologizing, when in fact he did refer to is in the religiously appropriate way by talking about the sin vs. the sinner and forgiveness and healing as a part of basic faith.

News of the day
Northern Iowa upset number one Kansas in the NCAA tournament, making national news and continuing the tournament of the upsets, with many top teams biting the dust. Powerful Villanova lost to tiny St Mary’s. Number 3 New Mexico is out. Georgetown is out. Ohio University is out.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is debating whether to expand the annual basketball playoff tournament from 64 to 96 teams. Critics’ say that this would water down the championship and that the best teams, the strongest games may give way to lopsided victories. The NCAA and college presidents are looking at television revenue and national publicity for schools usually cut out of the big dance. Meanwhile the National Invitational (NIT) would lose some of its powerhouse draws, teams that for various reasons did not qualify for the NCAA tournament but that put in a good game or have name appeal and draw.

The India Premier League of Cricket is now the wealthiest single league in the world, worth more than the NFL or NBA. The reasons are a “faster” versions of the game that young people around the world are starting to flock to. Remember that sport is top in India, the most populous nation in the world, and in most of the former British Empire. The US is not the center of the world. This is not to be considered the same as the wealthiest sport, which remains football (soccer) in world wide investment, or on a per participant level, polo.

Word this morning is that women’s hockey will be out of the next winter Olympics due to lopsided play favoring the US and Canada, and a lack of international television draw. The final decision will not be made until early next year.

The race in Iraq is so close that the president of that country agrees a recount is needed, even though his party won the seats he needed. The High Electoral Commission has rejected the president, and candidates’ request for a recount. The vote is neck and neck as to who will be the new prime minister and what the government will be like. Neither candidate in the tight race will capture enough votes to form a government without some precarious allegiances with smaller religious based political parties.

Iraq war fought by one half of one percent of the population. 4,400 Americans died in Iraq, yet the impact was barely felt by most Americans who went about their lives without having to make sacrifices, worry about a draft or take any action other than their normal day to day functions and to deal with issues closer to home. If war remains this distant, will we ever have a reason to abandon an unjust or overly costly campaign or fully commit to a war ever again?

Volcanic eruptions shot gas and even lava high into the air in Iceland last night. Because of that island nation’s history of dealing with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, damage was minimal. Global warming may have helped minimize damage, as there were no large ice blocks, usually found in the area this time of year, minimizing the damage those blocks cause as they slide toward the sea.

Namibia is celebrating its 20th anniversary as an independent country, succeeding from South Africa during the waning days of Apartheid. It is also inauguration day for their president’s second five-year term.

Meanwhile in South Africa today is the 50th Anniversary of the Sharpsville Massacre, in which 59 civilians were massacred. The event is credited with sparking the active advance toward ending apartheid and toward a fully democratic government for South Africa.

It’s a “Day of Wrath” in Russia, where protesters are in the streets, saying Putin and their government has been using economic policies to limit their freedom and their voice in the government.

On this date, March 21, 1952 Rock and Roll proved it was here to stay. Cleveland Teenagers went to the Moondale Carnation Ball, the first large rock concert, hosted by radio personality Alan Freed. The Movie “American Hot Wax” highlights that concert and the later radio payola scandals that followed. Freed died of liver failure at the age of 45 in 1960. In 1986 Alan Freed was in the original founding inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located in Cleveland, where it all began.

China and Iran

China is labeling Google a “puppet” of the US, interfering and eroding with Chinese culture, language and core beliefs. They are implying Google and other American companies are Trojan horses through which interference with the East is at a level to rival the historic East India Company of the 19th century. China does not see freedom of information flow in the way we do, believing that people need to be protected and guided, and that some information can be damaging and erode their very society. They believe that the government is the caretakers of the people and the culture.

This is part of an overall positioning of China as the superpower of this century, and US as a part of the imperial past. China has openly criticized the US as blocking the growth and independence of not just their country, but also the third world. China is investing heavily in Asia and Africa, as well as buying up US debt to leverage the US against any potential attack on their sovernty. In a modern version of building fleets and the Great Wall, China is openly overlooking high level hacking and spying by citizens of China from within China on the US and International business and military interests using computers and international banking. The US has accused China of working against world interests in the areas of climate change, international monetary standards (China is creating a trade imbalance by keeping the value of their currency low) and with one hand inviting US investment and corporations as partners while undermining the US economy.

Iran has defeated the enemy with “vigilance, smartness, perseverance and unique resistance” according to the supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Kamenei.
The speech is part of a 12 day Persian New Year celebration.

Health Care
4,925 lobbyists have been working congress on the health care issue. That’s 8 full time lobbyists for every member of congress. 2,800 special interests alleged grass roots organizations are working against the bill, with over 7,000 paid employees.

Each time health care reform has come to the American forefront, special interests groups with large budgets have lined up, using fear and hatred as weapons, to defeat president’s health care reform, regardless of the political party or political leanings of whoever is president.

The battle for health care reform begins with Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, who campaigned for reelection in 1912 on health care for all. One hundred years ago, in 1910, he introduced legislation that failed at the gate, but the self-proclaimed progressive believed in it enough to make it the cornerstone of his campaign. As a direct result, the big money went to his opponent.

Franklin Roosevelt found that universal health care could not get through a divided congress. He did win many battles in his almost socialistic measures to life America out of the Great Depression, but health care for all proved to have too many opponents on the other side of the isle, and special interests to change and water down the bills he proposed until they died from being too weak to support.

Harry Truman believed that national health insurance was the most important thing for America. The number of groups that lined up against it, and the public relations drive in the media, kept the proposal form getting out of committee.

John F Kennedy has listed health care for all as a goal of his second term, a term he never lived to serve.

Lyndon Johnson, as part of his Great Societ, expanded a form of universal health care to the poor and elderly. His efforts for universal health care failed, even in a congress dominated by his own party, some say under the weight of the war in Viet Nam and conservative Democrats fears of a growing liberal movement in the streets.

Republican President Richard Nixon came up with a national health care system using competitive mechanisms, a bill that could pass today. Republicans in Congress blocked their own president’s proposals, with financial support from the insurance and medical industry interests.

President Bill Clinton campaigned on health care, won and came the closest of any president, but Congress tossed out the Clinton pan and went back to square one, as Republicans propose today, effectively killing any health care reform for the next 18 years.

Despite the history Republicans still call health care reform as a Democrat scream to undermine our world class system, they still maintain that going back to square one, a move that effectively killed any reform under four of the presidents listed above, will not end health care reform. Apparently history means nothing and does not provide lessons to learn from.

It is interesting that the same bullet points, same slogans, same fears that are being used to defeat the reform bills now have been used in every one of the presidential attempts over the past 100 years. The playbook does not change.

What has changed is that health care costs are rising at three times the rate of inflation, with the poor and middle class hit the hardest. The single highest cost in our military defense budget is health insurance and care for our troops, and the percentage of the non-war related budget keeps in going up at five times the rate of inflation.

Today emergency rooms are overflowing with uninsured and underinsured Americans, driving up the cost for everyone. Health care has grown from under ten percent of the average American budget to over 30%.  More than half of Americans are underinsured due to restrictions in their policies or non-portability.

The Center for disease control released a study on the true cost of health care. Due to research methods, the most recent reliable data is from 2007.
*Health care is costing you more, with a $7,400 increase per year in health cost per person between 2006 and 2007 alone.
*45% of the cost of health care is already paid through public funds, primarily Medicare and Medicaid.
*36% is paid through private health care, which leaves about 14% for even insured individuals paid from their own pocket.
*17% of those under 65 are not covered by health insurance, of almost one in five Americans.
*9% of children and those fewer than 18 years of age are not covered by health insurance, or about one in ten.
*The cost of medical care and insurance will more than double as percentage of population 75 and older nearly doubles. Additional inflation of costs comes from immigration, as decreases previously thought under control or conquered resurrect. The Center for Disease control report also projects that as prices climb mortality will increase, overall health decline and an ever increasing percentage of the population will find themselves unable to pay for health care.

On the other side of the table upper middle class and wealthy Americans may see costs go up under any health care “reform.” This is being presented as “taxing” citizens, while increased in fees at national and state levels for those who can least afford them, supported by Republicans. are seen as something other than taxation.

While panic is being presented by lobbyist, neither the congressional budget office projections nor the projections of opponents can be said to be true. The truth, according to the CDS is that costs may go up in any event, presenting a clear and present health danger and potential emergency.

IF the bill passes children will no longer be excluded for pre-existing conditions for life. The truth is that the rest of us have to wait until 2014 for the same protection. This is not government taking over your health insurance; it is insurance companies getting what they wanted to compensate for taking on additional risks and liabilities.

Starting in 2014, there will be millions more in Medicaid and subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance. Lower middle class, poor and indigents will have coverage.

Doctors may face a reduction in pay per patient and procedure. Premiums for healthy people may sore. But the cost overall will go down (or at least the pace of inflation in medical costs will slow down), as the costly uninsured and underinsured become part of the mainstream system.

Business News
Continental announced today that they will end free food in coach on most domestic flights, regardless of length.

US Business Editor for The Economist, Matthew Bishop, says that the recession is not over and will return unless we make major changes that are not occurring. Flat growth or even declines in the economy will occur. He believes in better regulation of capitalism. He sees government intervention on the national and international level as needed, not as an option or as an evil. Polite but true to her politics Maria Bartiromo on the Wall Street Journal report kept adding positives to his honest views. He says the health care reform in Washington is not attacking the real problem, rising costs and the impact on workers ability to be consumers in other areas of the economy. Regulation alone is never a solution.

The co-chairs of the president’s bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility and reform, former Wyoming Republican US Senator Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. Simpson admitted that the task ahead for the commission could be a suicide mission or a blood bath, but if you have people of will who are not there to posture or do five second sound bites, solutions can be found. He says that the current economy is unsustainable. Simpson says that on December first when they give their report the American people will know more than ever before. We have to get through the emotion, the ear, the babble, the people who make money by panicking people about social security and ‘entailments’. Politics and mail attacking plans to revamp the system comes from special interests groups. If you use flash words you get paralyzed. “Amnesty”, “taxes”, “benefits” are words that cause smoke and mirrors. “You cannot worship to the great god reelection!”

Bowles says that the path will not get easier, only harder. We have to make sacrifices that the people, and the special interests and political spin masters Simpson talked about, will not allow to be made. But they must be done or we would devastate our economy and the future of our nation.

Simpson says there is a great myth out there. Ronald Reagan, his friend, never talked about no taxes. He used taxes. He was a moderate not a fiscal conservative.

Michael Lewis, author of  “The Big Shot”, spoke with Maria about how key investors saw the financial crisis coming, bet on it and came out way ahead at the expense of everyone else. Nearly two trillion dollars was lost when the subprime bubble bursts. Lewis’s previous book was about the 1980’s and Wall Street, “Liars Poker”. He says a small group of investors dedicated themselves in shorting the subprime mortgage market. The investors started in late 2004 in making their decisions and investing. By the end of 2007 there was no way to avoid the crash. He says the government has had to stand up and deal with the symptoms of the crash before they can deal with the problem itself. He is in favor of health reform as one method that will start, make a small start, to deal with the actual problem. Maria changed the topics. He is working on the sequel to another of his books, “Moneyball”, the story of the business of baseball.

Fess Parker died Thursday at the age of 85. He was a minor actor when Walt Disney personally picked Parker to play Davy Crocket for a two-episode mini-series on the Disneyland Show in 1954. In the 1960s’ Parker returned to Disney as Daniel Boone. Baby boomers coonskin caps or the memories of them help to keep Parker’s legend alive. He remained an actor his entire life, but spent most of his time from 1970 on as a real estate developer and vineyard wine master- owner. His last television appearance was on USA network’s “Psych”.

Peter Graves died Tuesday at 83, playing Mr. Phelps beginning in 1967 on “Mission Impossible.” In 1980 he played a bumbling pilot pedophile in “Airplane”, despite his misgivings about the latter part of the character description.

Abe Lincoln, Vampire Killer
Abraham Lincoln was a fan of gothic literature, an Edgar Alan Poe fan, and often looked at things form the dark side. So a new book “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer” takes real life people and fictionalizes a secrete war against the evil of Vampires, in which Abe Lincoln uses his prowess with an ax to its fullest potential. The story is about a younger Lincoln, slavery and the political forces that led up to the civil war, using historical record but adding vampire lore. Much of the book is from actual writings, events and social undercurrents.