Thursday, October 29, 2009

Strike One Against the Military-Industrial Complex: F-22 Raptor Finally Eliminated

The F-22 Raptor is a virtually useless paperweight of a fighter jet that can't communicate with any other American aircraft and melts in the rain. Oh yeah, they also cost $356 million EACH, and are made in 44 different states in an effort to make it program too big to fail to politicians worried about losing jobs in their districts.

Well, it took a fight, but the Raptor is no more. The program is defunded, and the Pentagon will buy no more of these useless aircraft. The story of the Raptor is an excellent example of the Military-Industrial Complex gone horribly awry. Take a look at this marvelous Rachel Maddow Show segment that highlights this scary taxpayer ripoff that has finally been ended -- sort of.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maddow Show Does Great Riff Against Lieberman -- the Wanker

Sen. Joe Lieberman (Whatever-CT) has announced his plans to join Republicans in filibustering a public option -- and a weak ass one at that -- in the Senate Democratic health insurance reform bill. Way to go, Joe, for showing everyone what a wanker you really are. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) let Lieberman keep his chairmanship and caucus with the Democrats because he "trusted Joe." Just another mistake in a series of whoppers by the Majority Wuss, um, Leader. Why didn't you get a commitment from Lieberman that he would stick with the party on procedural votes? You know, the party that provides the chairmanship he so adores -- and is now using to undermine a Democratic president? Hello??

Lieberman makes me crazy. He really does. This is the first time in history that a member of one party is crossing party lines to break a 60 vote majority. And Lieberman's move just gives cover to other conservative Senate Democrats -- and Blue Dog House members where we are now hearing that there are not enough votes for the public option -- to wuss out despite the public's wish for a public option. You know, 34 Senate Democrats signed a letter saying that a health care reform bill without the public option is not acceptable. That number, 34, is more than enough to take away Joe's chairmanship. If it were me, I'd throw him out of the caucus too. Next he'll be campaigning against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

As a devotee of The Rachel Maddow Show, I was delighted to see her do this fabulous riff on Joe. You said it, Sister.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chubby Infant Denied Healthcare Insurance: His 'Obesity' is a Pre-existing Condition

By all accounts, little Alex Lange is a healthy and happy 4-month-old baby boy. He's in the 99th percentile for height and weight for infants his age, and growing faster than a weed. This last bit is a key point because, you see, health insurers won't cover babies above the 95th percentile -- no matter how healthy they might seem. The sad truth is that in the impersonal actuarial tables of profit-driven health insurance companies, little Alex is fat. That's why he's been turned down for health insurance by Rocky Mountain Health Plans -- for the preexisting condition of 'obesity.'

"I could understand if we could control what he's eating. But he's 4 months old. He's breast-feeding. We can't put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill," joked his frustrated father, Bernie Lange, a part-time news anchor in Grand Junction, CO. "There is just something absurd about denying an infant."

The Langes tried to get new family health insurance when their current plan raised their rates 40 percent. They figured it wouldn't be a problem because their family is young and healthy. But health insurance is not rational or compassionate. Instead of the acceptance they'd anticipated, the Langes received news that shocked them -- and pretty much everyone else whose heard it since.

Little Alex was too fat, and this pre-existing condition -- at four months old -- makes him too much of a financial risk for Rocky Mountain Health Plans. That's the cold, harsh reality of today's health insurance market: companies can turn down people with pre-existing conditions who aren't already covered in a group plan. Thankfully, some health insurance reform bills currently pending before Congress would prohibit such denials -- but not in time for little Alex.

Alex's doctor had never expressed any concerns about the baby the Lange's call their "happy little chunky monkey." Alex weighed a normal 8 pounds when he was born. Eating only breast milk, he has more than doubled his birth weight to 17 pounds and grown to 25 inches long.

"I'm not going to withhold food to get him down below that number of 95," Kelli Lange said. "I'm not going to have him screaming because he's hungry." Alex's 2-year-old brother had been a colicky baby who had trouble gaining weight, so the Lange's were reassured by Alex's appetite and are now understandably puzzled and confused by the health insurance company's policy. They plan to appeal Rocky Mountain's decision to deny Alex health insurance and if that doesn't work, they'll take their case to the Colorado Division of Insurance. Good for them -- and may the sheer absurdity of their situation make some politicians sit up and take notice. Are you listening, Mr. Baucus? Ms. Snowe?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Newest Progressive Superstar in Congress: Rep. Alan Grayson Tells it Like It Is on Healthcare

Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) made waves a week or so ago by characterizing the Republicans health care plan as the "hope you die quickly" plan. House Republicans demanded that he apologize, and not only did he not cave in, Rep. Grayson has picked up the gauntlet and smacked the Republicans upside the head. Just Thursday, Rep. Grayson, now also an Internet sensation, made another floor statement and put forward some hard truths to both Democrats and Republicans. Bravo to the distinguished gentleman from Florida. Take a look.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Call to Action from the Newest Nobel Peace Prize Winner

A message from President Barack Obama:

Friend --

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

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Senate Republicans Block Extension of Unemployment Benefits

On Thursday, on the Senate floor, Republicans blocked millions of Americans from continuing to receive unemployment benefits. With states experiencing record unemployment numbers, slowing down unemployment benefits when Americans need it most is inexcusable.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), on behalf of Republicans, objected to Extending Unemployment Benefits. Kyl said, “I have no doubt that at the appropriate time we’ll be able to work out some kind of agreement. But our side is going to need some time to look at it. We’ll need some republican ideas or amendments as well and need a CBO score. So at this time I’ll have to – on behalf of members on our side – impose an objection.” [Senate Floor, 10/8/09]

Bill Extends Unemployment Assistance Up to 14 Weeks. By the end of this year, nearly 2 million Americans will see their unemployment benefits expire. The comprehensive legislation to extend unemployment insurance would give those jobless Americans up to fourteen more weeks of unemployment benefits. [Senate Finance Committee, 10/8/09]

Unemployment Extension is “Fully Paid For.” The proposal is fully paid for by extending the Federal Unemployment Tax through June 30, 2011. [Senate Finance Committee, 10/8/09]

Unemployment is at Record Highs. Currently, US unemployment is at a “26-year high of 9.8 percent.” [AFP, 10/8/09]

In the Past Two Years, Number of Unemployed Americans Has Nearly Doubled.
“Since the start of the recession nearly two years ago, the number of unemployed has increased by 7.6 million to 15.1 million.” [AFP, 10/8/09]

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The US Senate: Where All Good Bills Go To Die

Much attention has been paid to the House and its accomplishments, and its historic first-ever woman Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). But to my mind, the House is in generally good shape -- except for some pesky Blue Dogs,of course. For those of you looking for more progressive changes -- health insurance reform, energy bills, immigration reform, improving No Child Left Behind, pay equity advances -- keep your eyes on the real legislative prize: the Senate. And, more specifically -- the number 60.

Here's the scoop. Right now, the Senate is split -- 58 Democrats, 40 Republicans, and 2 Independents (Sens. Bernie Sanders [VT] and Joe Lieberman [CT]) who caucus with the Democrats. Now, on the surface that might seem golden -- for all intents and purposes, there are 60 votes in the Democratic column. But, remember, this is Washington, DC -- where alternate realities often rule. Just ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) how easy its been trying to herd these 60 cats. Getting a simple majority of 51 votes is a minor miracle!

But in the Senate, it's typically not about a simple majority -- if only that were the case! It's all about cloture -- it's all about 60. That's because the Senate is a body of continuous debate -- and made up of 100 very, very important people who like to talk. A lot. Constantly. Even if the room is empty. Even better if there are balloons, cameras and small children.

In order to move to a final vote, the Senate literally must agree to shut up -- to stop talking. This is called a cloture vote, and to be successful it must win a super majority of 60 votes -- it's such a big deal to get senators to agree to stop talking, a simple majority won't do. That means anytime the Democrats want to do anything, they all need to agree. With Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) in poor health, Sen. Joe Lieberman being his usual pain-in-the-ass self, and conservative Blue-Dog-ish Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) -- to name a few -- getting to 60 is not only not guaranteed, it's damn near impossible. As a result, the Democratic "Majority" tend to need a few Republicans. It's why Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are now the homecoming queens at everyone's football game. The Republicans are busy keeping them in line -- when before they kinda ignored and ostracized them, calling them RINOs (Republicans in name only). Meanwhile, the Democrats are busy courting them -- and often giving in to their sometimes ridiculous demands (witness the extraordinary power Collins had over the ARRA/recovery bill, and the sway Snowe has had over healthcare reform).

The Senate has not been able to get to 60 on a lot of things that matter. Cloture is a longstanding part of procedure, and not likely to go anywhere. Oh, and technically, when a cloture vote fails, that issue is now being filibustered -- they might not roll in cots and read from the Betty Crocker Cookbook on the Senate floor, it won't look like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but in function it's a filibuster -- the issue is blocked. This is why the Senate has become obstruction central -- the great black hole where all good bills go to die.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Attorney General Holder: My Goals for The Department of Justice

Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli discuss the mission and history of The Department of Justice. They have a tough task ahead of them to clean up the mess the Bush Administration left behind, and restore the nation's faith in the Department of Justice.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Why There's Still A Wage Gap (With Apologies To Peggy Olson)

Blog reposted in part, with permission from author Doree Shafrir. Originally posted on Jezebel.

A couple weeks ago on Mad Men, Peggy got recruited to go to another, much larger ad agency. Instead of saying yes right away, she went into Don Draper's office to see if she could get a raise.

She's a copywriter, but she gets paid much less than the other copywriters, all of whom happen to be male. And so she invokes the recently passed Equal Pay Act. "It's a law now," she says. "Equal pay for equal work." Don looks at her as though she's speaking another language. "Peggy, it's not a good time," he tells her. Then he asks her if she wants a drink.

When Peggy confronts Don, it's 1963, and the median annual income for women was around 60 percent of men's. Today, it's around 77 percent—a gain, to be sure, but hardly anything to be thrilled about. While some of the so-called gender gap can be explained by the fact that women tend to work in lower-paying fields—such as education and child care (I'm going to bracket the debate about whether these deserve to be lower-paying fields at all)—there's still a five percent wage gap for male and female college graduates, even after controlling for things like age, race and ethnicity, region, marital status, children, occupation, industry, and hours worked, according to testimony given in April to the United States Joint Economic Committee. The conclusion? "It is reasonable to assume that this difference is the product of discrimination."

But it's slightly more complicated, I think, and it raises uncomfortable questions about the differences between men and women—whether they're socially determined or not. A couple years ago, there was another study that focused on men vs. women in negotiations; men, it showed, will take the initiative and ask for things like more money or a promotion, while women will wait to be asked.

It's hard not to look at these studies and think about anecdotal evidence from my own life. At my first job out of college, I was offered just that salary: $25,000 a year. I didn't even think about negotiating. Sure, you could argue that I wasn't exactly coming from a position of strength, as a 22-year-old college graduate with little experience who was desperate for a job. But over the years, I saw how certain people—and nearly all of them were men—were able to ask for things that I wouldn't even have thought of to ask for: Extra vacation days. Bonuses. When I was in graduate school, better teaching schedules (and better professor assignments). A few years later, I was offered another job at what I now considered a laughable salary, $35,000 a year. I countered at $65,000. We settled on $57,000, with a guaranteed raise to $60,000 after three months. And I came up with a new motto: "You don't ask, you don't get."

Read the full blog and comments here.

It's time to update the Equal Pay Act, untouched since its passage in 1963. Go here for more information and to write a letter to your Senator -- The Paycheck Fairness Act has passed the House, but is stuck in the Senate and needs your voice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen

The Boss is 60. Can you believe it? And to celebrate there is a fab new exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. That's cool. More jarring is the AARP cover featuring Springsteen, but hey -- he's a baby boomer too.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Mr. Springsteen. Long may you rock.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.