Thursday, May 07, 2009

Why are special interests opposing health care reform?

Single payer is not socialized medicine, it's how Medicare works. Do you know the facts? Medicare runs with between 2-3% overhead - that compares very favorably to private insurance, where overhead by most estimates is over 30% of the cost.

Why don't the big insurance companies want to let everybody have a choice to get affordable coverage? Who has so much influence over Democratic Senators like Max Baucus of Montana that they oppose a choice, as suggested by President Obama? Follow the money.

73% of voters want a choice of a private or public health insurance plan. Have you told your U.S. Representative and/or Senator? It's not about party, folks; this idea has phenomenally broad support, and it's totally congruent with what President Obama and his administration are trying to achieve. It provides coverage to the tens of millions of uninsured Americans without forcing anybody who likes their current system to change.

Broken down by party affiliation, it's:

77% of Democrats
79% of Independents
63% of Republicans

Tell your U.S. Senators and the Congressional Representative from your district what the Chief Economist of the World Bank says:
People who work hard for their money deserve to have a voice in how it's spent. The insurance industry and their lobbyists have been writing rules that boost their profits not protect Americans, and tax-payers are tired of bailing them out while worrying if we'll even have jobs. We need our leaders to take control and look out for our interests, not special interests.

Miss California Nude Photo Scandal Due To Conservative Views


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In a short time, Miss California, Carrie Prejean has made herself into a household name first by "outing herself" stating that she believed marriage was between a man and a woman, then by going out and talking about it, then posing with Michael Phelps. But now and I think because of her views, Miss California is going to have her crown taken away.

The cover for this is the discovery of a semi-nude photo of her posing for a lingerie company when she was 17 years old. Personally, my 74-year-old Mom doesn't care about the issue, so why should I? My feeling is yes, she did reportedly sign a disclosure agreement and claimed she didn't do what she was found to have done, but the way all of this came about seems to be based on her views and not on the action itself. Take the way "The Dirty" reported their discovery of the nude photos, using terms like "self proclaimed bible thumper", etc. The point is there's a concerted effort to discredit Prejean because of her conservative views.

I frankly think that's terrible and I'm liberal. But I'm totally tired of these attempts to make someone who has a different point of view "the other" and a bad person. It has to stop. If Carrie wants to make her pointof view known here, why not. I do have concerns with the issue of discriminating against one's civil rights however and I think Prejean should think about what she's doing, but she has the right to say it.

What about the moral issue of the lie about the photos? Look, yes, she lied, but I don't think she should lose her crown over it. She won. OK. I have an issue with her not telling the truth, but it happens in the context of this effort to demonize her so I just can't embrace the view that she should be de-throwned.

Sorry, I can't. Not under the circumstances.

Ecuador Mess: 118 Amazon Oil Spills


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At first I wasn't going to weigh in on the Ecuador issue for a bit, especially considering the recent and on balance really interesting 60 minutes segment that aired Sunday of this week. But then I ran across a paragraph that popped up in an Internet search for oil spills and Ecuador that reported this:

In 2006 to date, the country has reported 117 oil spills, which have jointly cost the company more than 27 million U.S. dollars in environmental compensation.

The "country" is Ecuador and the "company" is not Chevron, for who we in America have been almost programmed to think is responsible for all of the oil spills in that country, but Petroecuador, the state-run oil company. Now, from my reading Petroecuador's mentioned by Chevron but the blame for oil spills in the Amazon region doesn't stop there.

The simple sad fact is the government of the country of Ecuador has maintained a cozy relationships with multinational oil companies over the years. For example, in 2003 Ecuador embarked on a plan to expand oil production in the Amazon by constructing a then-new pipeline, the "Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados" or OCP and to the ire of AmazonWatch, which reported:

Set to go online in October 2003, the pipeline will transport heavy crude from the country's Amazon rainforest region to the Pacific Coast, placing fragile ecosystems and dozens of communities along the 300-mile route in jeopardy.

The damaging impacts of the new pipeline will be felt far beyond the immediate pipeline route. To fill the OCP, Ecuador must double current oil production by embarking on an unprecedented wave of new oil exploitation in vast areas of Amazon frontier forest. Plans are already underway for dozens of new oil wells, roads, flow lines, and associated processing plants that will litter some of the country's last remaining old growth rainforests and territories of isolated indigenous peoples.

And the country is trying to gain more oil revenues, called "petrodollars" by eliminating foreign country oil producers like Occidental Petroleum in 2007 and Chevron in 1992, and even the state-run organization in Brazil late last year, and in Canada, and move all production activities toward Petroecuador. And that all companies, not just Chevron and Petroecuador, have been responsible for oil spills and Chevron has not produced oil their since 1992, but again, the spills have been many since their departure.

Ecaudor's grab for money

The problem is the Ecaudor and Petroecuador lack the annual revenues to maintain oil facility production and performance, and so have embarked on a massive campaign to gain such monies by "user fees", the revenue from the new-to-Ecuador petrodollar sources, and the Chevron lawsuit.

There's no indication Ecuador intends to start environmental cleanup actions in the Amazon beyond what Petroecuador has done already. But Petroecuador's work and the large number of oil spills lead me to ask if the oil we saw on the waters in the Amazon shown on 60 Minutes was actually caused by one of these 117 oil spills? It's said that oil spills are almost a way of life in the Amazon today and it has been that way for some time and in the country in general.

For example, In 2001, 144,000 gallons of diesel and "bunker" fuel were spilled near the Galapagos Islands and then made its way to shore. And that same year in the Amazon itself Petroecuador failed to contain oil spilled from "an abandoned exploratory well." And in this year 2009, February, 14,000 gallons of oil were spilled by Petroecuador as the country's second largest pipeline ruptured, causing oil to ooze out onto the banks of the Santa Rosa river. “The river was completely covered with oil from bank to bank,” according to a Reuters' update.

Not all oil production activity in Ecuador has been by American companies. World environmentalists have waged war against a Canadian oil firm called EnCana. In a presentation of a documentary film called Between Midnight and The Rooster’s Crow it was reported that..

The Aguarico and the Napo rivers, which have sustained the native tribes—the Cofan, the Secoya, and the Siona—for thousands of years, have been systematically contaminated since intense oil extraction began in the 1970s. Drost documents crude oil leaking into the now noxious rivers, and interviews locals swearing that eating river fish tastes like eating pure crude. It appears as though while the oil companies have reaped their record profits, skyrocketing cancer, broken promises, miscarriage, and skin disease have been the dividends paid to the local populace...When the Amazonian locals decide to take direct action to ensure that their interests are not overlooked, the military and police step in with an excessive amount of force to ensure that nothing stops corporate profit (oil) from flowing. Drost—giving the viewer a candid glimpse at the seedy underbelly of corporate globalization—interviews a man who, while peacefully protesting at a roadblock with a group of locals who were demanding clean water, sewage, electricity, and jobs, was shot by Ecuadorian soldiers. Given that the soldiers who shot him were flown into EnCana’s private airport, picked up by EnCana trucks who were driven by EnCana drivers, one must wonder how Gwyn Morgan (President and CEO of EnCana—and before that President and CEO of AEC since 1994) keeps a straight face when he comments, at the end of the film: “People fail to understand how little influence companies have on government.”

That was by first-time Canadian filmmaker Nadja Drost who created the movie in 2003, and over ten long years after Chevron's presence in the Amazon region was replaced by Petroecuador, and shows the real truth: with so many companies both foreign and domestic involved in oil production in the region since 1992, the real cost of environmental damage is impossible to pin to just one company. Ecuador itself and many oil companies from various countries from the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Ecuador itself are responsible for the environmental damage caused by oil spills, and which continues through today.

Oh, and considering the level of interest in this by so-called activists, for the record, I'm not paid by Royal Dutch Shell, Occidental Petroleum, Chevron, or their affliates for this post. What bothers me here is the constant insistence that oil production problems here and in the Third World are the fault of rich, White American firms working against the poor people of color in those areas. If one tells the complex truth, where the assignment of blame is more complicated, they're demonized and told to shut up.

{VIDEO} First Full Face Transplant Recipient Speaks

Closing tax loopholes is "robbing Peter to pay Paul"? Hardly!

If paying taxes to support our military, the interstate highway system, the FAA, satellites, and a Medicare system that insures senior citizens can afford health coverage, etc., offends your sense of fair play, you’re living in the wrong country. You want tax havens? Move to Somalia, my friend, while real patriots pay their fair share in the USA!

Closing loopholes that reward wealth instead of work is fine with me. I've had enough of special interests inserting ways to keep big business from paying taxes. Any tax incentives ought to discourage outsourcing, not promote it!

On the other hand, if you like the constitution, and want the government to "provide for the common defense" then a system that makes the rich and the mega corporations contribute their fair share is just basic old-fashioned patriotitism.

I guess that's parallel to what puzzles me about talk of Texas seceding. They wanted the benefits - so, if they go can we bill them for their interstates and the big ol' wall?

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