Thursday, July 30, 2009

Both Sides Now

These amazing electric blue clouds are technically called noctilucent clouds. You know how some beautiful sunsets are caused by pollution in the air, but they're beautiful anyway, in a profoundly sad way? Same with these. They naturally occur in the Arctic, but this photo was taken in Spokane, WA (by Brian-Chilcoat, posted at Image Shack.) Writing as FishOutofWater at Daily Kos, he explains the physics and atmospheric science involved, but it comes down to this: "One reason for the recent spread of noctilucent clouds might be global warming...While greenhouse gases warm Earth's surface, they actually lower temperatures in the high atmosphere ...Arctic clouds appearing in the midlatitudes are a beautiful sign of climate change."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stand With The President

There's a new little box over there in the left column. It says Stand with the President on Health Care, and below the symbol it says Declare Your Support. If you click on that, it takes you to BarackObama.com and the page about health care, where you can learn a bit more, see a short video and sign up to support the President.

President Obama needs your support, especially right now. The well-paid sharks are out to destroy health care reform once again. They're pouring money into the pockets of conservative Democrats as well as GOPers. The noise machine seems to be having an effect on poll numbers, which only emboldens them to get louder. So right now not only health care but the climate and energy bill and the rest of the agenda crucial for the future are imperiled.

But it's also not a time to give up hope. Mike Madden's summary and analysis at Salon is still sanguine on success, including the public option. President Obama responded to one Senate committee's proposal with another strong endorsement of the public option. "So you could still choose a private insurer, but we’d also have a public plan that you could choose from that would be non-for-profit, wouldn’t have, hopefully, some of the same high administrative costs, and would be potentially more responsive to your needs at a lower cost. I think that helps keep the insurance companies honest because now they have somebody to compete with."

He also confronted the noise machine's deliberate confusions, though with humor: "And I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, I don’t want government-run health care, I don’t want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare. (Laughter.) And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that’s what Medicare is, is it’s a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with. But I think that we’ve been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can’t sort out the myth from the reality."

That noise is obscuring very important reasons to support health care reform, as in this essay by a doctor who treats the disabled. The economics of it all come in sharper and more realistic focus in, for example, this article in Bloomberg that comes up with yet more numbers suggesting the cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of even the most expensive proposed reform plan.

Health care reform means not only more affordable insurance, and reforms to all insurance that allow portability and stop denial for preexisting conditions. It means lower costs for health care itself, more emphasis on preventive care and health rather than expensive medical practices. It's a big program for the same reason that the recovery act was big: it attacks not just present problems, but it makes positive structural changes and investments to start creating a better future.

People who oppose this include a pretty hefty proportion who are more interested in defeating President Obama and crippling his presidency than they are about opposing a health care bill. (After all, Congress gets great public health care, and the executives, lobbyists and media stars can afford the best insurance and care.) But in this they are right: if health care reform is defeated, it will be much harder to get other crucial legislation passed, like climate and energy.

So debating the details is useful, but in the end, standing with this President is of the greatest importance.

Consuming Hate

Haters and racists, loud and proud, crazed and relentless, are enabled and empowered by politicians--mostly from the White Supremacist Party (formerly known as Republicans) desperate for money from a dwindling base of now mostly haters and racists--and enabled and empowered by media, willing and even eager to amplify their hatred and racist swill, well beyond the point of the haters and racists advocating violence.

I repeat: it isn't just that these people are out there. It's that no one is restraining them, not even with disapproval or even feigned shock. All the media conglomerates care about is money--advertising money based on ratings. For that they are willing to allow and encourage the Limbaughs and the Becks and (if it's possible) worse to essentially advocate the violent overthrow of the elected government.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, check out this rundown on recent commentary by TMP. At Daily Kos, Meteor Blades asks the key question: " I wonder just how far they will let Beck go. Or spur him to. Will they give him a pass the day that he, like the Rwandan radio provocateurs of 15 years ago, starts calling Obama and his supporters "cockroaches" to be stamped out?"

He refers to the historical fact that the genocide in Rwanda was fueled by hate talk radio, in real time, as it was going on.

If something like that happened here--or something that seems to me to grow increasingly probable, an assassination attempt on the President--then we'll see the crocodile tears, and the anguished anchor consciences, and the rest of the sincere hypocrisy, and like the piles of guns that get turned in after an assassination, eventually it will be business as usual. Not until we learn that money is not an excuse for anything and everything, that encouraging ignorance is societally self-annihilating, and that society has to have some shared consciousness and conscience to survive.

But this time we can't afford to learn it the hard way. Unfortunately I believe Bruce Sterling is right when he wonders where the source of "hope" is, except Obama. It's true, there is no other hope.

Unfortunately I don't know what to do. Except pray for the Secret Service.

Update: There's an effort to organize a protest and/or boycott of corporate sponsors enabling Glenn Beck.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grow Your Own

Our strawberry crop is sub-par so far, but the potatoes are tremendous.

Sunday Reading

Newsweek articles on the economy, especially the lead one by Daniel Gross--why the Great Recession may technically be over but only because the Obama Recovery Act and other federal measures prevented it from getting far worse. Why the stimulus takes awhile to generate jobs and why recovery on the ground may be slow, but once recovery gets going, is designed to be sustainable for the future:

The Obama administration's strategy rests on what some might call industrial policy or excessive government intervention—or even creeping socialism. I call it "the smart economy." It means eschewing the blunt economic instruments we've always used and focusing resources and rhetoric on strategic sectors: renewable energy/green technology, infrastructure, broadband, and health care. It means making investments to run vital systems more intelligently and efficiently, thus creating a new infrastructure on which the private sector can work its magic.

I don't always endorse the views of Bill Maher but this column on Huffington Post is an almost perfect combination of wit and sense, which is to say, he agrees with my analysis. It begins:

How about this for a New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit. It used to be that there were some services and institutions so vital to our nation that they were exempt from market pressures. Some things we just didn't do for money. The United States always defined capitalism, but it didn't used to define us. But now it's becoming all that we are.

And in tracing the trend since Reagan for privatization etc. ("Did you know, for example, that there was a time when being called a "war profiteer" was a bad thing? But now our war zones are dominated by private contractors and mercenaries who work for corporations.") he takes on the ugly destructive spectre of health care for profit. To which I add:La salute non si paga! Health is not for sale!

Along the way, Maher comments on the hypocritical elegies about how Walter Cronkite was the end of an era, which never mention that one major reason for better reporting in the Cronkite era (though it was seldom probing, it was serious): in the Cronkite era the network news division wasn't supposed to make a profit, it was a public service to report serious information that Americans needed to know to intelligently govern themselves. ( "In Uncle Walter's time, the news division was a loss leader. Making money was the job of The Beverly Hillbillies. And now that we have reporters moving to Alaska to hang out with the Palin family, the news is The Beverly Hillbillies. ")

Cronkite and the news are also the subject of Frank Rich's Sunday column in the New York Times: "Watching many of the empty Cronkite tributes in his own medium over the past week, you had to wonder if his industry was sticking to mawkish clich├ęs just to avoid unflattering comparisons. If he was the most trusted man in America, it wasn’t because he was a nice guy with an authoritative voice and a lived-in face. It wasn’t because he “loved a good story” or that he removed his glasses when a president died. It was because at a time of epic corruption in the most powerful precincts in Washington, Cronkite was not at the salons and not in the tank."

Update: A Paul Krugman column lays out the economic reasons why markets alone can't cure heathcare. His conclusion:

"There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn’t work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence."

So let me repeat: La salute non si paga: health is not for sale!