Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From Media Matters:

Jason Mattera falsely claims health care bill contained "$7 billion to fund jungle gyms"

Jason Mattera, a conservative media activist,  confronted Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) last weekend and posted the following video of the incident on YouTube:

Mattera: "Why is that the job of the federal government to create an army of monkey bars?" In a March 29 blog post on BigGovernment.com, Mattera posted a video in which he confronted Sen. Al Franken and asked him about the health care bill. From the video:

MATTERA: Which portions of the health care bill lower costs? Is it the provision giving $7 billion to fund jungle gyms or the provision mandating that employers provide time off for breastfeeding?

FRANKEN: Uh, Give me --

MATTERA: You should know.

FRANKEN: Give me the jungle gyms.

MATTERA: Right here, the jungle gyms --


MATTERA: -- is on 1184.

FRANKEN: Yeah, show it to me right now.

MATTERA: Okay, 1184, to provide physical activity opportunities to promote healthy lifestyles. So why is that the job of the federal government?

FRANKEN: Okay, now. Let me --

MATTERA: Why is that the job of the federal government --

FRAKEN: If you won't let me answer --

MATTERA: -- to create an army of monkey bars? Go ahead, answer it.
In fact, there is no provision "giving $7 billion to fund jungle gyms"

The provision Mattera himself reads refers to giving grants to "provide physical activity opportunities" in order to reduce chronic disease. After falsely claiming that the bill contains a provision "giving $7 billion to fund jungle gyms," Mattera reads the provision he's referring to, which contains no mentions of "jungle gyms."

In the "Creating Healthier Communities" portion of the Senate version of the bill, under the section "Community Transformation Grants," entities receiving grants may use them toward activities such as "creating healthier school environments, including increasing healthy food options, physical activity opportunities, promotion of healthy lifestyle, emotional wellness, and prevention curricula, and activities to prevent chronic diseases." From the bill [emphasis added]:

To read other false claims of Mattera click here.

From The Washington Post:

The Hutaree militia and the rising risk of far-right violence
By Eugene Robinson Tuesday, March 30, 2010 

The arrests of members of a Michigan-based "Christian" militia group should convince doubters that there is good reason to worry about right-wing, anti-government extremism -- and potential violence -- in the Age of Obama.

I put the word Christian in quotes because anyone who plots to assassinate law enforcement officers, as a federal indictment alleges members of the Hutaree militia did, is no follower of Christ. According to federal prosecutors, the Hutaree -- the word's not in my dictionary, but its Web site claims it means "Christian warrior" -- are convinced that their enemies include "state and local law enforcement, who are deemed 'foot soldiers' of the federal government, federal law enforcement agencies and employees, participants in the 'New World Order,' and anyone who does not share in the Hutaree's beliefs."

According to the indictment, the group had been plotting for two years to assassinate federal, state or local police officers. "Possible such acts which were discussed," the indictment says, "included killing a member of law enforcement after a traffic stop, killing a member of law enforcement and his or her family at home, ambushing a member of law enforcement in rural communities, luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her, and killing a member of law enforcement and then attacking the funeral procession motorcade" with homemade bombs.

Nine members of the Hutaree were named in the indictment. Eight were arrested during weekend FBI raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana; one suspect remains at large. The group's Web site shows members in camouflage outfits traipsing through woods in "training" exercises. They could be out for an afternoon of paintball, except for the loony rhetoric about "sword and flame" and the page, labeled "Gear," that links to several gun dealers. Along with numerous weapons offenses, the Hutaree are charged with sedition.

The episode highlights the obvious: For decades now, the most serious threat of domestic terrorism has come from the growing ranks of paranoid, anti-government hate groups that draw their inspiration, vocabulary and anger from the far right.

It is disingenuous for mainstream purveyors of incendiary far-right rhetoric to dismiss groups such as the Hutaree by saying that there are "crazies on both sides." This simply is not true.

There was a time when the far left was a spawning ground for political violence. The first big story I covered was the San Francisco trial of heiress Patricia Hearst, who had been kidnapped and eventually co-opted by the Symbionese Liberation Army -- a far-left group whose philosophy was as apocalyptic and incoherent as that of the Hutaree. There are aging radicals in Cuba today who got to Havana by hijacking airplanes in the 1970s. Left-wing radicals caused mayhem and took innocent lives.

But for the most part, far-left violence in this country has gone the way of the leisure suit and the AMC Gremlin. An anti-globalization movement, including a few window-smashing anarchists, was gaining traction at one point, but it quickly diminished after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. An environmental group and an animal-rights group have been linked with incidents of arson. Beyond those particulars, it is hard to identify any kind of leftist threat.

By contrast, there has been explosive growth among far-right, militia-type groups that identify themselves as white supremacists, "constitutionalists," tax protesters and religious soldiers determined to kill people to uphold "Christian" values. Most of the groups that posed a real danger, as the Hutaree allegedly did, have been infiltrated and dismantled by authorities before they could do any damage. But we should never forget that the worst act of domestic terrorism ever committed in this country was authored by a member of the government-hating right wing: Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

It is dishonest for right-wing commentators to insist on an equivalence that does not exist. The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction -- the right, not the left. The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day -- and, quite regularly, at Tea Party rallies -- is calibrated not to inform but to incite.

Demagogues scream at people that their government is illegitimate, that their country has been "taken away," that their elected officials are "traitors" and that their freedom is at risk. They have a right to free speech, which I will always defend. But they shouldn't be surprised if some listeners take them literally.

From Rachal Maddow Show:

Will Michael Steele Survive "Nake Lady Place" Scandal

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dee's Thought For Today (Verse)

Whether we descend too fast or ascend too slow,
Experience has taught me that we rarely
Ever arrive where we intend to go,
And yet, somehow, wind up where we should be.

Friday, March 26, 2010

From David Frum's Website


AEI Says Goodbye

March 26th, 2010 at 9:45 am by David Frum | 449 Comments |

I have been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute since 2003. At lunch today, AEI President Arthur Brooks and I came to a termination of that relationship.
Below is the text of my letter of resignation.
Dear Arthur,
This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today. Effective immediately, my position as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is terminated. I appreciate the consideration that delays my emptying of my office until after my return from travel next week. Premises will be vacated no later than April 9.
I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute, and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.
Very truly yours,

David Frum

From MaddowBlog

Maddow takes full-page ad in Boston to say she's still not running

An ad slated for the Boston Globe. (Click for full jpg or pdf.)

People in Massachusetts picking up their morning papers today may spot an open letter from Rachel Maddow. The full-page ad explains that she's not running against Republican Sen. Scott Brown in 2012. Brown sent a fundraising letter suggesting that he'd be facing the "liberal MSNBC anchor" and needed donations to fend her off. "I'm sure she's a nice person -- I just don't think America can afford her liberal politics," he wrote.

Today in the Boston Globe, Maddow writes:
Do you remember when Mitt Romney ran for President after being our Governor and he went around the country insulting Massachusetts, talking about what an awful state we are? To have our new Senator raising money around the country by saying how terrible one of his Massachusetts constituents is, kind of feels the same way to me.
She adds that Brown still refuses to appear on her show and writes: "Maybe he'll change his mind -- I hope he does."
Full text of the ad, after the jump. On the show last night: "Rachel Maddow, not running or not running?"

"Hi, I'm Rachel Maddow. I host a TV show on MSNBC. I also live in Western Massachusetts, in the beautiful hilltowns of Hampshire County.

"This week, our new U.S. Senator, Scott Brown, sent a fundraising letter that says I'm running against him for Senate when he's up for re-election in 2012.

"I'm not running against Scott Brown. I never said I was running against Scott Brown. The Massachusetts Democratic Party never asked me to run against Scott Brown. It's just not true. Honestly. I swear. No, really.

"Senator Brown never even tried to find out if it was true, before using the made-up threat of me running against him, to try to scare donors into giving him more money. He sent the letter all around the country, to the out-of-state conservative activists who provided so much of the funding for his successful Senate campaign.

"Do you remember when Mitt Romney ran for President after being our Governor and he went around the country insulting Massachusetts, talking about what an awful state we are? To have our new Senator raising money around the country by saying how terrible one of his Massachusetts constituents is, kind of feels the same way to me.

"It's standard now for conservatives to invent scary fake threats to run against -- things like the made-up 'death panels' in health reform, or the fake controversy about the president's birth certificate. Senator Scott Brown's only been in DC seven weeks, but he already seems to be fitting right in with how conservatives operate there.

"I'm running this ad not because I'm running against Scott Brown -- I'm not, he made that up -- but because he's the Senator for all of us, and maybe this will make him think twice the next time he wants to smear one of his constituents to raise money out-of-state.

"My show airs at 9PM Eastern in Massachusetts on MSNBC. So far, Scott Brown refuses to come on. Maybe he'll change his mind -- I hope he does.


"Rachel Maddow"

From Tribe of Heart

TOH News Banner
News from

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home wins
Grand Jury Prize at Canada International Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival at Yale selects the film to screen in April

Kate with Award
Canada FF Award
Yale Fest Logo
laurel laurel laurel Laurel laurel laurel laurel

Dear friends,
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home made its international debut last Sunday at the Canada International Film Festival in Vancouver, generating a truly inspiring response. The festival's eight person jury gave the film its top award in all categories, the Maple Leaf Grand Jury Prize! Having screened in nine film festivals since last Fall, this is the third award for Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, which also won Best Documentary awards at the Peace on Earth Film Festival in Chicago and the Moondance International Film Festival in Boulder, Colorado.
Monica & KateWe were unable to attend the Canada International Film Festival, but Tribe of Heart was represented by two very capable and talented volunteers, Monica Towle (left) and Kate Sharadin (right). Monica did a phenomenal job publicizing the film throughout Vancouver the week before the festival. She reached out to numerous influential people in the media and the local food scene, and personally distributed hundreds of fliers to area businesses. Her tireless dedication to getting the word out, and her passion for supporting this film and its message, were nothing short of awe-inspiring! We also owe a debt of gratitude to Monica's husband Cal, who leant his graphical talents to the effort, and took photos at the event.Q&A
Along with Monica, Kate Sharadin also worked hard to publicize the screening, and conducted a superb Q&A session afterwards. With her sensitivity, experience, and in-depth knowledge of the issues explored in the film, she skillfully answered the many thoughtful questions that were posed by audience members.
The written comments from viewers were touching and heartfelt. "As a former 4H kid," wrote one, "that was hard…it brought me shame of things I've done (things I still do), things that were accepted, but never felt right. This gives credibility to the feeling and makes me feel that there is a community out there that believes this too."
Another viewer wrote: "This film broke my heart in the best possible way. I love that the film is so compassionate not just to the animals but also to the farmers. Their journey is our journey, everyone who has gone from using animals to embracing non-violence. I want to show this film to everyone I know."
We were truly honored to have Kate and Monica accept the Grand Jury Maple Leaf Award on behalf of Tribe of Heart. At the awards ceremony, Kate said: "Thank you for this on behalf of Jenny Stein and James LaVeck and Tribe of Heart. We produce documentaries about hope, love, compassion, peaceful transformation and the reverence for life, all life, human and non-human. Thank you."
Tony LevinThis moment was all the more special because Vancouver is the home town of Tony Levin, one of the three people in whose memory the film is dedicated. Tony was a young activist whose life was cut short by a tragic accident in 2007. At the screening, one of Tony’s friends told the audience that Tony would have been overwhelmed, and overjoyed, by Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. As we bring the film to ever larger audiences, we aspire to do so with the same dedication and sincerity that Tony brought to his work on behalf the vulnerable beings of this world.
For the many people who have contributed in some way to this wonderful moment coming to pass, we offer our humble thanks, and our invitation to join us in carrying forward the positive momentum. Coming up in the next two weeks, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home will be screening at two exciting events, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital, and the Environmental Film Festival at Yale. Please help spread the word by sending out e-vites and Facebook invitations (see links in right column). If you live near Washington, DC, or New Haven, CT, we hope you will be able to join us and bring your friends and family to the screenings. And if you can, consider donating to help us complete the DVD and educational resources needed to take this project's launch process to the next stage.
Working together, we can and will change the world!

Warm wishes,
James LaVeck & Jenny Stein
Co-founders, Tribe of HeartJenny Stein and James LaVeck
Tribe of Heart needs your support now, more than ever, to keep the momentum moving and to develop the resources and support needed to launch the DVD. Please help us bring this powerful tool to people who are eager to put it to use in communities around the world!
Donations can be made online or mailed to:
Tribe of Heart, PO Box 149, Ithaca, NY 14851

PK: The Journey Home screening at 2 environmental film fests in the next 2 weeks!

environmental film fest
Join us in Washington, DC
Sat., March 27 at 12:15 PM

Environmental Film Festival
in the Nation's Capital

Carnegie Institution, 1530 P St. NW
followed by Q&A with filmmakers
Jenny Stein & James LaVeck
and film subject Harold Brown

FREE Event
Carnegie Institution The 18th annual Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital is being held March 16-28, showing 130 films at more than 50 venues around Washington, DC. The vital connections between food and the environment is a special theme of this year's festival.
Click here for an e-vite with complete details that can also be shared with your friends in the DC area.
facebookIf you are on Facebook and plan to attend, let us know, and invite your Facebook friends, too!

Yale Film Fest
Join us in New Haven, CT
Friday, April 9 at 7 PM

Environmental Film Festival at Yale
Whitney Humanities Center
53 Wall Street, New Haven

FREE Event
Whitney at Yale The Environmental Film Festival at Yale, sponsored by the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, showcases incisive, cutting edge films that raise awareness of environmental and related social issues. This year's festival will be held April 6-11 at Yale University, in New Haven, CT.
Click here for an e-vite with complete details that can also be shared with your friends in Vancouver.
facebookIf you are on Facebook and plan to attend, let us know, and invite your Facebook friends, too!

calf running

Watch a Preview of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
World Premiere Video Watch video highlights from the World Premiere screening.
PK at POEFF Watch video highlights from the Chicago Premiere screening.
For instant news updates and breaking information about Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, follow Tribe of Heart on Facebook and Twitter:
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Tribe of Heart logo Tribe of Heart is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that produces award-winning, life-changing films about the journey of awakening conscience and the ethics of the human-animal relationship. As a small organization with a big vision, we depend on the power of our community to make our programs come to life. Thank you for the many ways you help Tribe of Heart encourage positive, peaceful transformation.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

From Running With the Tao (The Final Entry)

Tao 47/Day 284 
“Without looking out your window, you can see the essence of the Tao.”

March 20, 2010 by gregwebb

“Without looking out your window, you can see the essence of the Tao.” I’ve reached my final entry in this exploration of inner fitness. It comes on the heels of another week-long layoff. My left knee is gimpy and my chest is again congested, but springtime and afternoon sunshine more than compensate for these hurdles, and soon I’m out the door…What is the essence of the Tao? Just because the Tao te Ching says I can see it without looking out my window doesn’t mean I can articulate what it is that I see when I see it. Indeed, the best answers to this question may be akin to those given in response to notions of beauty (“It’s in the eye of the beholder”) or even pornography (“I can’t tell you what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it.”). Stories are about the closest that language comes to conveying the sense of such things, and as I run today in sacred silence – save for the sound of my breath – a series of images arises in my mind’s eye that grace-fully carry me all the way around the magic path once more.

These images are actually memories of a story ESPN did of a young man who decided he would walk every eighteen-hole round of every tournament of the 2008 Professional Golfers Association tour. Not that big of a deal, you might think – except that this thirty year old was born with Cerebral Palsy, and was told by doctors that he would never walk a single step in his entire life.

Enduring multiple surgeries to break and reset his legs before he even entered first grade, this embodiment of the Tao, progressing from walker to crutches to finally just a single cane, developed a love of golf as he grew to adulthood – a love that his parents enthusiastically supported Bracing himself with his cane, his one-handed swing is now good enough to consistently score around 105 for eighteen holes.

One image in particular stays before me as I run. It is one the cameras caught from behind of this hero where he’s simply walking down a beautiful fairway. And falling. And getting back up to resume his quest. My lungs and knee don’t bother me at all as long as I see him in front of me. I fly around the magic path, light as a feather, but even though his gait is halting and arduous, he remains out in front of me, uncatchable, unstoppable.

The thing that inspires me the most about this guy is his humility. The image in my mind’s eye that keeps me going today is the same one that embarrasses him as his story starts drawing more and more media attention. He’s not ashamed of who he is or how he is; “It just feels embarrassing sometimes” is all he’ll say, through tears. – And my own rush up to meet his…The essence of the Tao carries within it the seed of transformation. Once we find that seed, we can use it any way we want. Once we become aware of that essence, we naturally want to use it to allow and embody and demonstrate the perfection that is present in every moment and every circumstance we encounter, regardless of outward appearances and challenges. I cannot say ‘what’ it is, only ‘that’ it is – because I have seen it. – And sometimes I have seen it not because of anything I have done, but because it has been shown to me by someone who never had any intention of doing anything other enjoying a round of golf. – I finish this, my final round, in a state of amazement – as good a phrase as any to describe the indescribable.

From The Narrows (Photos)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From The Speaker's Blog:

What’s In The Health Reform Bill For You Right Away?

March 23rd, 2010 by Karina 

Under the legislative package the House passed on Sunday (the Senate-passed health bill as amended by the reconciliation bill) many key provisions take effect this year - here are some of them: 

SMALL BUSINESS TAX CREDITS—Offers tax credits to small businesses to make employee coverage more affordable. Tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums will be immediately available. Effective beginning for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2014, small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.)
BEGINS TO CLOSE THE MEDICARE PART D DONUT HOLE—Provides a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the donut hole in 2010. Effective for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2011, institutes a 50% discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole; also completely closes the donut hole by 2020.)
FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER MEDICARE—Eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program. Effective beginning January 1, 2011.
HELP FOR EARLY RETIREES—Creates a temporary re-insurance program (until the Exchanges are available) to help offset the costs of expensive health claims for employers that provide health benefits for retirees age 55-64. Effective 90 days after enactment.
NO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST CHILDREN WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS—Prohibits health plans from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, this prohibition would apply to adults as well.)
NO RESCISSIONS—Bans health plans from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Effective 6 months after enactment.
NO LIFETIME LIMITS ON COVERAGE—Prohibits health plans from placing lifetime caps on coverage. Effective 6 months after enactment.
NO RESTRICTIVE ANNUAL LIMITS ON COVERAGE—Tightly restricts new plans’ use of annual limits to ensure access to needed care. These tight restrictions will be defined by HHS. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, the use of any annual limits would be prohibited for all plans.)
FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER NEW PLANS—Requires new private plans to cover preventive services with no co-payments and with preventive services being exempt from deductibles. Effective 6 months after enactment.
NEW, INDEPENDENT APPEALS PROCESS FOR NEW PLANS—Ensures consumers in new plans have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal decisions. Effective 6 months after enactment.
MORE FOR YOUR PREMIUM DOLLAR—Requires plans to put more of your premiums into your care, and less into profits, CEO pay, etc. This medical loss ratio requires plans in the individual and small group market to spend 80 percent of premiums on medical services, and plans in the large group market to spend 85 percent. Insurers that don’t meet these thresholds must provide rebates to policyholders. Effective on January 1, 2011.
NO DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SALARY—Prohibits new group health plans from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that have the effect of discriminating in favor of higher wage employees. Effective 6 months after enactment.
IMMEDIATE HELP FOR THE UNINSURED WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS (INTERIM HIGH-RISK POOL)—Provides immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition - through a temporary high-risk pool – until the Exchanges up and running in 2014. Effective 90 days after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, health plans are banned from discriminating against all people with pre-existing conditions, so high-risk pools would phase out).
EXTENDING COVERAGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE UP TO 26TH BIRTHDAY THROUGH PARENTS’ INSURANCE – Requires health plans to allow young people up to their 26th birthday to remain on their parents’ insurance policy, at the parents’ choice. Effective 6 months after enactment.
COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS—Increases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for nearly doubling the number of patients served over the next 5 years. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.
MORE PRIMARY CARE DOCTORS—Provides new investment in training programs to increase the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.
HEALTH INSURANCE CONSUMER ASSISTANCE—Provides aid to states to establish offices of health insurance consumer assistance to help consumers file complaints and appeals. Effective beginning in FY 2010.
A NEW, VOLUNTARY, PUBLIC LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE PROGRAM—Creates a long-term care insurance program to be financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become functionally disabled. Effective on January 1, 2011.
And in 2014, once the exchanges have formed, more insurance reforms go into effect, including:
CAP ON OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES for private health plans
Learn more by reading the implementation timeline»
Watch "W" Wipe His Hand on Former President Clinton After Shaking Hands with Haitians

David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times:

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago . . .

Nearly every major aspect of the health bill pushes in the other direction. This fact helps explain why Mr. Obama was willing to spend so much political capital on the issue, even though it did not appear to be his top priority as a presidential candidate. Beyond the health reform’s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan.

Speaking to an ebullient audience of Democratic legislators and White House aides at the bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, Mr. Obama claimed that health reform would “mark a new season in America.” He added, “We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”

From WRMEA (A Must Read)

US Aid to Israel: The Lifeblood of Occupation

Israel usually receives roughly one third of the entire [U.S.] foreign aid budget, despite the fact that Israel comprises less than .001 of the world's population and already has one of the world's higher per capita incomes.

By Matt Bowles

Israel has maintained an illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Palestinian territories) for 35 years, entrenching an apartheid regime that looks remarkably like the former South African regime.

Palestinians into small, noncontiguous bantustans, imposing closures and curfews to control where they go and when, while maintaining control over the natural resources, exploiting Palestinian labor, and prohibiting indigenous economic development.

The Israeli military (IDF)—the third or forth most powerful army in the world—routinely uses tanks, Apache helicopter gunships, and F-16 fighter jets (all subsidized by the U.S.) against a population that has no military and none of the protective institutions of a modern state.

All of this, Israel tells its citizens and the international community, is for "Israeli security." The reality, not surprisingly, is that these policies have resulted in a drastic increase in attacks on Israel. These attacks are then used as a pretext for further Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas and more violations of Palestinian human rights which makes Israeli civilians more secure; all of which further entrenches Israel's colonial apartheid regime. Most Americans do not realize the extent to which this is all funded by U.S. aid, nor do they understand the specific economic relationship the U.S. has with Israel and how that differs from other countries.

The aid pipeline

There are at least three ways in which aid to Israel is different from that of any other country. First, since 1982, U.S. aid to Israel has been transferred in one lump sum at the beginning of each fiscal year, which immediately begins to collect interest in U.S. banks. Aid that goes to other countries is disbursed throughout the year in quarterly installments.

Second, Israel is not required to account for specific purchases. Most countries receive aid for very specific purposes and must account for how it is spent. Israel is allowed to place US aid into its general fund, effectively eliminating any distinctions between types of aid. Therefore, U.S. tax-payers are helping to fund an illegal occupation, the expansion of colonial-settlement projects, and gross human rights violations against the Palestinian civilian population.

A third difference is the sheer amount of aid the U.S. gives to Israel, unparalleled in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Israel usually receives roughly one third of the entire foreign aid budget, despite the fact that Israel comprises less than .001 of the world's population and already has one of the world's higher per capita incomes. In other words, Israel, a country of approximately 6 million people, is currently receiving more U.S. aid than all of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined when you take out Egypt and Colombia.

This year, the U.S. Congress approved $2.76 billion in its annual aid package for Israel. The total amount of direct U.S. aid to Israel has been constant, at around $3 billion (usually 60% military and 40% economic) per year for the last quarter century. A new plan was recently implemented to phase out all economic aid and provide corresponding increases in military aid by 2008. This year Israel is receiving $2.04 billion in military aid and $720 million in economic aid there is only military aid.

In addition to nearly $3 billion in direct aid, Israel usually gets another $3 billion or so in indirect aid: military support from the defense budget, forgiven loans, and special grants. While some of the indirect aid is difficult to measure precisely, it is safe to say that Israelÿs total aid (direct and indirect) amounts to at least five billion dollars annually.

On top of all of this aid, a team from Israelÿs finance ministry is slated to meet with U.S. government officials this month about an additional $800 million aid package which the Clinton administration promised Israel (and the Bush administration later froze) as compensation for the costs of its withdrawal from Lebanon. The U.S. also managed to find another $28 million in the 2001 Pentagon budget to give Israel to purchase "counter terrorism equipment."

According to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), from 1949-2001 the U.S. has given Israel a total of $94,966,300,000. The direct and indirect aid from this year should put the total U.S. aid to Israel since 1949 at over one hundred billion dollars. What is not widely known, however, is that most of this aid violates American laws. The Arms Export Control Act stipulates that US-supplied weapons be used only for "legitimate self-defense."

Moreover, the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act prohibits military assistance to any country "which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." The Proxmire amendment bans military assistance to any government that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities, which Israel refuses to do. To understand why the U.S. spends this much money funding the brutal repression of a colonized people, it is necessary to examine the benefits for weapons manufacturers and, particularly, the role that Israel plays in the expansion and maintenance of U.S. imperialism.

A very special relationship

In the fall of 1993, when many were supporting what they hoped would become a viable peace process, 78 senators wrote to former President Bill Clinton insisting that aid to Israel remain at current levels. Their reasons were the "massive procurement of sophisticated arms by Arab states." Yet the letter neglected to mention that 80 percent of those arms to Arab countries came from the U.S. itself.

Stephen Zunes has argued that the Aerospace Industry Association (AIA), which promotes these massive arms shipments, is even more influential in determining U.S. policy towards Israel than the notorious AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) lobby. AIA has given two times more money to campaigns than all of the pro-Israel groups combined. Zunes asserts that the general thrust of U.S. policy would be pretty much the same even if AIPAC didn't exist: "We didn't need a pro-Indonesia lobby to support Indonesia in its savage repression of East Timor all these years."

The "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel must be understood within the overall American imperialist project and the quest for global hegemony, beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For example, 99% of all U.S. aid to Israel came after 1967, despite the fact that Israel was relatively more vulnerable in earlier years (from 1948-1967). Not coincidentally, it was in 1967 that Israel won the Six Day War against several Arab countries, establishing itself as a regional superpower. Also, in the late 1960s and particularly in the early 1970s (this was around the time of the Nixon Doctrine), the U.S. was looking to establish "spheres of influence"-regional superpowers in each significant area of the world to help the U.S. police them.

The primary U.S. interest in the Middle East is, and has always been, to maintain control of the oil in the region, primarily because this is the source of energy that supplies the industrial economies of Europe and Japan. The U.S. goal has been to insure that there is no indigenous threat to their domination of these energy resources. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the U.S. made the strategic decision to ally itself with Israel and Iran, which were referred to as "our two eyes in the middle east" and the "guardians of the gulf." It was at this point that aid increased drastically, from $24 million in 1967 (before the war), to $634 million in 1971, to a staggering $2.6 billion in 1974, where it has remained relatively consistent ever since.

Israel was to be a military stronghold, a client state, and a proxy army, protecting U.S. interests in the Middle East and throughout the world. Subsidized by the CIA, Israel served U.S. interests well beyond the immediate region, setting up dependable client regimes (usually military-based dictatorships) to control local societies. Noam Chomsky has documented this extensively: Israel was the main force that established the Mobutu dictatorship in Zaire, for example. They also supported Idi Amin in Uganda, early on, as well as Haile Selasse in Ethopia, and Emperor Bokassa in the Central African Republic.

Israel became especially useful when the U.S. came under popular human rights pressure in the 1970s to stop supporting death squads and dictatorships in Latin America. The U.S. began to use Israel as a surrogate to continue its support. Chomsky documents how Israel established close relations with the neo-Nazi and military regimes of Argentina and Chile. Israel also supported genocidal attacks on the indigenous population of Guatemala, and sent arms to El Salvador and Honduras to support the contras. This was all a secondary role, however.

The primary role for Israel was to be the Sparta of the Middle East. During the Cold War, the U.S. especially needed Israel as a proxy army because direct intervention in the region was too dangerous, as the Soviets were allied with neighboring states. Over the last thirty years, the U.S. has pursued a two-track approach to dominating the region and its resources: It has turned Israel into a military outpost (now probably the most militarized society in the world) that is economically dependent on the U.S. while propping up corrupt Arab dictatorships such as those in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. These regimes are afraid of their own people and, thus, are very insecure. Therefore, they are inclined to collaborate with the U.S. at any cost.

Prospects for activism

Since the end of the Cold War, the nuclear threat associated with direct intervention in the Middle East has disappeared and the U.S. has started a gradual and direct militarization of the region. This began with the Gulf War—putting U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia (the primary source of oil), among other places—and has continued through the current ‘war on terrorism.’

Although U.S. aid has not decreased yet, there have been other observable shifts. The first obvious one is the mainstream media reporting on the conflict. Although there is still, of course, an anti-Palestinian bias, the coverage has shifted significantly in comparison to ten years ago. This has been noticeable in both journalistic accounts of Israeli human rights abuses and the publication of pro-Palestinian op-eds in major papers such as the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

There are also some stirrings in the U.S. Congress. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) requested that President Bush investigate whether Israel's use of American F-16s is violating the Arms Export Control Act. Further, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) recently complained about giving aid without conditions: "There are no strings on the money. There is no requirement that the bloodshed abate before the funding is released." Other elected representatives are slowly starting to open up to the issue as well, but there is a long way to go on Capital Hill.

The most important development, however, has been the rising tide of concern and activism around the Palestinian issue in the US left. The desperate plight of the Palestinians is gaining increasing prominence in the movement against Bush's "war on terrorism," and it is gradually entering into the movement against corporate globalization.

For years the Palestinian cause was marginalized by the left in America. Since this intifada broke out 17 months ago, that began to shift significantly and has moved even further since September 11. With the new "anti-war" movement, there has come a deeper understanding of U.S. policy in the Middle East and how the question of Palestine fits into progressive organizing.

In Durban, South Africa last September, at the UN Global Conference Against Racism, one of the most pressing issues on the global agenda was the Palestinian struggle against Israelÿs racist policies. 30,000 people from South Africa and around the world demonstrated against Zionism, branding it as a form of apartheid no different than the system that blacks suffered through in South Africa. Shortly after, the U.S. and Israel stormed out of the conference.

In Europe and America, a range of organizations have risen in opposition to Israeli apartheid and in support of Palestinian human rights and self-determination. Just over the last year or two, organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine, based at the University of California at

Berkeley, have begun organizing a divestment campaign, modeled after the campaign that helped bring down South African apartheid. SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now!) chapters in a number of cities have focused their efforts on stopping U.S. aid to Israel, which is the lifeblood of Israeli occupation and continued abuses of Palestinian rights.

Many Jewish organizations have emerged as well, such as Not in My Name, which counters the popular media assertion that all Jewish people blindly support the policies of the state of Israel. Jews Against the Occupation is another organization, which has taken a stand not only against the occupation, but also in support of the right of Palestinian refugees to return. These movements, and particularly their newfound connection with the larger anti-war, anti-imperialist, and anti-corporate globalization movements, are where the possibilities lie to advance the Palestinian struggle.

The hope for Palestine is in the internationalization of the struggle. The building of a massive, international movement against Israeli apartheid seems to be the most effective and promising form of resistance at this time. The demands must be that Israel comply with international law and implement the relevant UN resolutions. Specifically, it must recognize that all Palestinian refugees have the right to return, immediately end the occupation, and give all citizens of Israel equal treatment under the law.

We must demand that all U.S. aid to Israel be stopped until Israel complies with these demands. Only when the Palestinians are afforded their rights under international law, and are respected as human beings, can a genuine process of conflict resolution and healing begin. For all the hype over peace camps and dialogue initiatives, until the structural inequalities are dealt with, there will be no justice for Palestinians and, thus, no peace for Israel.

Matt Bowles is a member of SUSTAIN—Stop US Tax Funded Aid to Israel Now.

The above article was originally published in the March/April issue of Left Turn magazine.

From YouTube

Giden Levy

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From The Narrows (Photos)

From YouTube

Bob Dylan - It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

From The White House

President Obama Signs Historic Health Care Reform Legislation

From The White House

The White House, Washington

Good afternoon,
Since the House of Representatives voted to pass health reform legislation on Sunday night, the legislative process and its political impact have been the focus of all the newspapers and cable TV pundits.
Outside of DC, however, many Americans are trying to cut through the chatter and get to the substance of reform with a simple question: "What does health insurance reform actually mean for me?" To help, we've put together some of the key benefits from health insurance reform.
Let's start with how health insurance reform will expand and strengthen coverage:
  • This year, children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage. Once the new health insurance exchanges begin in the coming years, pre-existing condition discrimination will become a thing of the past for everyone.
  • This year, health care plans will allow young people to remain on their parents' insurance policy up until their 26th birthday.
  • This year, insurance companies will be banned from dropping people from coverage when they get sick, and they will be banned from implementing lifetime caps on coverage. This year, restrictive annual limits on coverage will be banned for certain plans. Under health insurance reform, Americans will be ensured access to the care they need.
  • This year, adults who are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions will have access to affordable insurance through a temporary subsidized high-risk pool.
  • In the next fiscal year, the bill increases funding for community health centers, so they can treat nearly double the number of patients over the next five years.
  • This year, we'll also establish an independent commission to advise on how best to build the health care workforce and increase the number of nurses, doctors and other professionals to meet our country's needs.  Going forward, we will provide $1.5 billion in funding to support the next generation of doctors, nurses and other primary care practitioners -- on top of a $500 million investment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Health insurance reform will also curb some of the worst insurance industry practices and strengthen consumer protections:
  • This year, this bill creates a new, independent appeals process that ensures consumers in new private plans have access to an effective process to appeal decisions made by their insurer.
  • This year, discrimination based on salary will be outlawed. New group health plans will be prohibited from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that discriminate in favor of higher-wage employees.
  • Beginning this fiscal year, this bill provides funding to states to help establish offices of health insurance consumer assistance in order to help individuals in the process of filing complaints or appeals against insurance companies.
  • Starting January 1, 2011, insurers in the individual and small group market will be required to spend 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical services. Insurers in the large group market will be required to spend 85 percent of their premium dollars on medical services. Any insurers who don't meet those thresholds will be required to provide rebates to their policyholders.
  • Starting in 2011, this bill helps states require insurance companies to submit justification for requested premium increases. Any company with excessive or unjustified premium increases may not be able to participate in the new health insurance exchanges.
Reform immediately begins to lower health care costs for American families and small businesses:
  • This year, small businesses that choose to offer coverage will begin to receive tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums to help make employee coverage more affordable.
  • This year, new private plans will be required to provide free preventive care: no co-payments and no deductibles for preventive services. And beginning January 1, 2011, Medicare will do the same.
  • This year, this bill will provide help for early retirees by creating a temporary re-insurance program to help offset the costs of expensive premiums for employers and retirees age 55-64.
  • This year, this bill starts to close the Medicare Part D 'donut hole' by providing a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the gap in prescription drug coverage. And beginning in 2011, the bill institutes a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the 'donut hole.'
Thank you,
Nancy-Ann DeParle
Director, White House Office of Health Reform
Visit WhiteHouse.gov

Monday, March 22, 2010

From Keith Olbermann

Special Comments On Health Care Reform

From Rachel Maddow Show

GOP Has Vowed To Take Health Care Away From Americans

Government Is For Fixing Problems

What Republicans Aggressively Fought To Prevent

Here are just 10 of the immediate health care benefits that Republicans fought tooth and nail to prevent and that their leadership has vowed to repeal:

* Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans

* Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool

* Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans

* Lower seniors' prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole

* Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage

* Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans

* Require plans to cover an enrollee's dependent children until age 26

* Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing

* Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions

* Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs

A Letter From The President


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:

Because of you, 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. But most of all, I am thankful for you.

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, thanks to your mighty efforts, the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

From The White House

President Obama On the Passage of Health Reform

President Obama speaks moments after the historic passage by the House of Representatives of the Senate's health reform legislation.

And, Thank You – Mr. President!

Remember folks, we're not done yet. The fight for true universal health care (a single-payer system) goes on. 

Support Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich in their effort to bring us Medicare for all!