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Guest Commentary (4756)


I was among those raving about the passage of the financial reform bill. And now I am just raving.

“Unbelievable,” said one advocate who hoped for the best but expected the worst.  He was amazed it even passed.  The wise men in the media immediately began making comparisons with the New Deal. The pundits praised the President and the fact that a handful of Republicans did not just say no this time.

Somehow, even the most hard-headed among us realized that something had to be done to bring Wall Street in line if only because the mood in the country on this issue is practically insurrectionary.

You would think as this big 1500-page “reform” went through -- anyone want to bet if its strongest provisions will survive the reconciliation process? -- the banks would be quaking in their boots. After all, they funded what President Obama called “swarms” of lobbyists to kill it at birth. They denounced it with doomsday language with their rhetoric helping to drive the market down. Oh the fear! Oh, the consequences!

But then, what happened? Were bankers jumping out of windows like their predecessors had when the market crashed in ’29?  No way.


The best news the Democrats have gotten all year long has little to do with early primary results, or regenerating their spine with health care reform. The best news the Democrats have gotten all year is the chair of the Republican National Committee is going to keep his job. He’s been a disaster on the order of Michael Cimino directing Howard the Duck Meets Pluto Nash on Planet Ishtar. Democrats have a secret weapon this November and his name is Michael Steele.

Steele is not just the center post in the GOP big tent movement, he’s the post, the flaps, the stakes, the ties and the canvas; and party leaders would rather stick a fist full of paper cuts in a vat of Tabasco Sauce than write off their first African- American chairman during an election year. These days, the GOP Black Caucus could hold its convention in a phone booth, and they don’t make phone booths anymore, and the analogy still holds.


           To the degree that Americans are paying attention to the environmental plight of marine wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, they may focus most upon dolphins and whales.  However, the U.S. public is much less familiar with another marine mammal, the manatee, which could also be placed in jeopardy as a result of the BP oil spill.  One of the most outlandish creatures on the planet, the shy and retiring manatee, which gets its name from an American Indian word meaning “Lady of the Water,” is one of my favorite animals.  

            First described as a cross between a seal and hippo, the manatee has a wonderfully round body, mostly black skin the texture of vinyl, a bright pink belly, a diamond-shaped tail and a cleft lip.  Manatees belong to the biological order Sirenia which includes dugongs and Steller’s Sea Cow, the latter hunted to extinction in the Bering Sea during the 1700s.


The Tea Party is actually desecrating the flag rather than honoring it by using it as a tool of hatred. It's no different than the way the Ku Klux Klan used the flag to try to define themselves as the "Real Americans" when their message is that the rest of us are not as real of Americans as they are. They walk around in their costumes waiving their flags and their crosses and wearing their guns and spouting racist rhetoric calling everyone who disagrees with them Communists and Nazis. Their message is meant to inspire violence and is phony and dishonest.

America is a land of many cultures. We are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants from all parts of the world. This is not a nation of just white people. When someone uses the flag to send a message of hate and exclusion they are dishonoring everything America stands for. It takes more than just waiving a flag to be an American. When the flag becomes a lie about your patriotism and you use it as a tool of anger you might as well just set it on fire because your message is not the message that this country was founded upon.


There's a story about a member of the British House of Commons who was stopped in the halls of Parliament by a constituent, an elderly pensioner. The little old man had a specific concern about his fellow senior citizens that he hoped the politician could solve.

He made his case clearly and intelligently and when he was finished, the Member of Parliament promised to see what might be done. As the MP turned to leave, the old man hauled off and kicked him in the backside as hard as he could.

The astonished politician turned; the old man waggled a finger and cheerily said, "Now don't forget!"


"This is the point where GOP politicos and right-wing talkers find common ground with the Morrison sisters.  They participate in an absurd charade that nobody involved believes in order to accomplish an obvious goal that everyone knows, yet denies."

I was watching the Andy Griffith show the other night when it occurred to me that the episode I was watching was a perfect explanation of how the new Arizona immigration law will be enforced.   The episode in question is from season 1 of the Andy Griffith Show and it's titled "Alcohol and Old Lace."  In the episode in question, Barney and Andy have been on a tear smashing up stills and battling the illegal liquor business.  Much to Barney's dismay, no matter how many stills they smash, the town drunk Otis still shows up blitzed every couple of days and refusing to reveal the source of his illicit hooch. ("It's a matter of ethics - us town drunks have a code we live by").  


The Obama Administration’s move to the right is about to give conservatives a victory they could not have anticipated, even under Bush. HUD, under Obama, submitted legislation called PETRA to Congress that would result in the privatization of all public housing in America.

The new owners would charge ten percent above market rates to impoverished tenants, money that would be mostly paid by the US government (you and me, the taxpayers). To maintain the property, the new owners would take out a mortgage for building repair and maintenance (like a home equity loan), with no cap on interest rates.

With rents set above market rates, the mortgage risk would be attractive to banks. Either they make a huge profit on the mortgages paid for by the government. Or if the government lowers what it will pay for rents, the property goes into foreclosure. The banks get it and can sell it off to developers.


"We need to be holding their hand and whispering in their ear, 'Neurontin for pain, Neurontin for monotherapy, Neurontin for bipolar, Neurontin for everything,'" sales reps at Park-Davis, now Pfizer, were told in 1996 by senior executive John Ford. "I don’t want to hear that safety crap either."

Eight years later a judgment against Pfizer under the False Claims Act  -- Neurontin could only be legally promoted for seizures and post-shingles nerve pain -- awarded $430 million to the nation's Attorneys General who earmarked $21 million for development of educational products to immunize prescribers against future Neurontin-style promotional misdeeds.

Last week representatives from 23 medical centers, medical boards, accrediting agencies, the AMA, FDA, VA, the American Medical Student Association, nurse and pharmacist organizations and Attorney General offices pooled their educational initiatives, some already institutionalized into medical schools, at a Critical Prescribing Skills conference in Chicago, hosted by the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC).

Extraordinary for a medical meeting, Crestor and Vytorin tote bags were absent and the conflicts of interest sheet the 150 participants received on arrival showed 40 of 42 speakers had none.

Thursday, 20 May 2010 02:37

The Learning Curve of Peace


“Why are we violent, but not illiterate?”

This question, originally posed by writer Colman McCarthy, was asked at the Midwest Regional Department of Peace conference, which was held last weekend outside Detroit. It cuts to the core of our troubles. The answer is agonizingly obvious: “We’re taught to read!” Could it be we also need to be taught, let us say, calmness, breath and impulse control, practical applications of the Golden Rule? But until we know enough to ask these questions, violence, like ignorance, is just a fact of life.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 23:53

The Newt of Gingrich Slogs On


Newt Gingrich Plans to Save America from ‘Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine’

Always on the cutting edge of political theorizing and dumb commentary, the disgraced former House Speaker has a new book and an old message. 


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