A collection of newsworthy information as reported from newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

“I think what we have in Washington right now working on Medicare are a bunch of clowns”

After 10 days of trying to sell constituents on their plan to overhaul Medicare, House Republicans in multiple districts appear to be increasingly on the defensive, facing worried and angry questions from voters and a barrage of new attacks from Democrats and their allies.

Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed a 2012 budget that would reduce Medicare spending sharply over the coming decades by switching to a system in which seniors would receive vouchers for buying insurance coverage, rather than having their care paid for directly by the government.  Rather than change Medicare to a voucher program, Mr. Obama proposes broad reforms that he says would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 12 years and more than $1 trillion in the following decade. The health care law that Mr. Obama helped push through Congress contains a laundry list of pilot projects and other efforts mean to rein in spending.

Here’s how Medicaid currently works: Washington sets minimum requirements for who can enroll and what services must be covered, and pays half of the bill in the richest states and three-quarters of the bill in the poorest state. If people are poor enough to qualify and a medical service recommended by their doctors is covered, the state and federal governments will pick up the tab, with minimal co-payments by the beneficiaries. That is a big plus for enrollees’ health, and a healthy population is good for everyone. But the costs are undeniably high.

Enter the House Republicans’ budget proposal. Instead of a commitment to insure as many people as meet the criteria, it would substitute a set amount per state. Starting in 2013, the grant would probably equal what the state would have received anyway through federal matching funds, although that is not spelled out. After that, the block grant would rise each year only at the national rate of inflation, with adjustments for population growth.

There are several problems with that, starting with that inflation-pegged rate of growth, which could not possibly keep pace with the rising cost of medical care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal payments would be 35 percent lower in 2022 than currently projected and 49 percent lower in 2030.  To make up the difference, states would probably have to cut payments to doctors, hospitals or nursing homes; curtail eligibility; reduce benefits; or increase their own payments for Medicaid. The problems do not end there. If a bad economy led to a sharp jump in unemployment, a state’s grant would remain the same. Nor would the block grant grow fast enough to accommodate expensive advances in medicine, rising demand for long-term care, or unexpected health care needs in the wake of epidemics or natural disasters. This would put an ever-tightening squeeze on states, forcing them to drop enrollees, cut services or pump up their own contributions.

This is not the way to go. The real problem is not Medicaid. Contrary to most perceptions, it is a relatively efficient program — with low administrative costs, a high reliance on managed care and much lower payments to providers than other public and private insurance.

The real problem is soaring medical costs. The Ryan plan does little to address that. The health care law, which Republicans have vowed to repeal, seeks to reform the entire system to deliver quality care at lower cost.  To encourage that process, President Obama recently proposed a simplified matching rate for Medicaid, which would reward states for efficiencies and automatically increase federal payments if a recession drives up enrollments and state costs. The president’s approach is better for low-income Americans and for state budgets as well.

Source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01sun1.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

White racism was thought to have been slain on November 4, 2008.

In an era of racism without racists, the Tea Party GOP Birther brigands provide one more lesson in the permanence of the social evil known as White privilege.  To point: Imagine if Sarah Palin, a person who wallows in mediocrity and wears failure as a virtue, were any race other than White. Would a black (or Latino or Asian or Hispanic) woman with Palin's credentials have gotten a tenth as far? Let's entertain another counter-factual: If the Tea Party and their supporters were a group of black or brown folk, who showed up with guns at events attended by the President, threatening nullification and secession, and engaging in treasonous talk, how many seconds would pass before they were locked up and taken out by the F.B.I. as threats to the security of the State?

Ten Ways That the Birthers Are an Object Lesson in White Privilege 

1. Just as Pat Buchanan did with Justice Sotomayor, the Birthers have sullied President Obama as being an unqualified, "affirmative action" candidate. His academic and professional accomplishments are irrelevant. The fact that he won an open and honest election are unimportant. We should know at this point that the life successes of people of color (and to a lesser degree some women) are always questionable and suspect when viewed through the gaze of Whiteness (and sexism). White men are never burdened with the question or doubt of being qualified for any job, at any time, or any place. Their greatness and ability is a fact not a question, never is it to be interrogated. This self-delusion exists despite the fact that white men have historically been the greatest beneficiaries of unearned privilege in the history of the United States. Their mediocrity has been rewarded at every turn.

2. Naturally, the President should be White. Of course, the leaders of trade and industry should be White. The natural order of things equates being White and male with having natural authority and ability--a set of traits which exist without question or doubt regardless of competence or ability. Whiteness deems the inverse for people of color. As President Obama has learned, by mere fact of his birth, and coincidence of the color of his skin, his legitimacy will always be in doubt.

3. Whiteness equals authority. Thus, any White person, at any time, can question the accomplishments of a person of color. The most mediocre of White people, the sum total of whose life has amounted to 1/100th of President Obama's successes (or that of other people of color) can feel legitimate in questioning how the latter came to find their "unnatural" position in the social hierarchy. Whiteness is an advantage in the marathon of life. Through this unearned head-start a psychic wage is paid, one that allows any White person, anywhere, to question how a black or brown person came to be ahead in life for such a thing can never happen in a "just" world. Whiteness allows white folks to not feel embarrassed or ashamed in asking such impolitic and rude questions.

4. Whiteness is a get-out-of-jail-free card. Whiteness is also the freedom to be utterly unreflective regarding the foolishness and madness of one's deeds and statements as long as the target of such madness is the Other. The Birthers, Buchanan, Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Limbaugh, Breibart and Beck engage in routine crazy talk. But Whiteness allows them to be taken seriously (at least at first) for White privilege allows the luxury of being utterly unreflective in most things.

5. White privilege is freedom from accountability. Donald Trump, Pat Buchanan, and the rank and file Birther brigands will not face any consequences for their ill deeds in slandering the President of the United States, or for openly fomenting sedition and rebellion against the government of the United States.

6. The Obama birth certificate debacle has exposed how to be truly American a person must be White. This is one of the central unspoken (and widely accepted) truths of race in America. For example, Sarah Palin channels The Blood Countess Erzebet Bathory and bathes in this bigotry with all of her "real America" talk. Although it is a lie in the face of history, because America is a mulatto culture where the majority of black folks (and of course our Native American brothers and sisters) were in the U.S. many decades (if not at least a century) before the great unwashed masses of white ethnics arrived here, Whiteness still imagines African Americans and other people of color as semi-permanent outsiders. In total, to be American is to be Black. The Birthers in their racial heliocentrism--where to be White is to be the center of the world--are repulsed by this fact.

7. White privilege is the ability to be "normal" and "invisible." Whiteness is never interrogated. Consequently, the White nationalism of the Tea Party GOP and its embrace of the Birthers has been long able to deflect the charge that they are racist or tinged by yearnings for a return to "the good old days" when "those people" knew their place. Because Whiteness is invisibility it works like chaff to obscure the obvious fact that much of the opposition to President Obama has always been about his race and not about policy. The signs at the Tea Parties are ignored or explained away, the racist emails laughed at and/or minimized as trite and silly, and bigoted White folks who display their bonafides whenever given the opportunity are labeled as outliers. There is slippage in naming the White racism of the Birthers as such because so many are invested in denying the semi-permanency of White supremacy in America, a sentiment that still lingers decades after the end of Jim and Jane Crow.

8. Whiteness is the default position for viewing the world. It is a cognitive map and means of processing reality. The election of Barack Obama upsets this world view. Many of those drunken on Whiteness and invested in the version of events that are offered by the White Racial Frame really do think they are operating as a "principled" opposition or that they are "colorblind," when in reality race, and fears of the racial Other, are driving their behavior. Here, Whiteness and white privilege work as pathologies that make a person immune to the real motivations driving their anti-Obama derangement syndrome.

9. Whiteness is the ability and power to reframe reality. Despite whatever documents or evidence that President Obama may offer to silence the growly, rabid hostility of the Birthers and the White Conservative Soul, the terrain for debate will be continually shifted. This is a function of ideology plus partisanship mixed together and combined in the Right-wing echo chamber. This reframing of reality is also born of the narcissism that is Whiteness, for the world is what they/he/she says it is.

10. White privilege is also surprising. Many black and brown folks (as well as others) have been saying from day one that the opposition to President Obama, and the silliness suggested by the conspiranoid Birthers in particular, have been motivated by racism. Those voices were often silenced and attacked as being too sensitive and wedded to some outmoded notion of political correctness. The pundit classes have finally seen the obvious: race is the driving force behind Trump and the Tea Party GOP's obsession with Obama's birth certificate. When those not White said as much they were dismissed. Lesson for us all: Despite our protests and the evidence that black and brown folks may bring to the table, racism does not exist until good White folks say that it does.

Source:  Chauncey DeVega -

Thursday, April 28, 2011

When They Tell You "It's Not Racial" Don't Believe Them

"Show me your papers!"

Major Blackard, then just 19 years old, dug into his trousers in search of his wallet. He padded his jacket, but could not find his billfold.  "Sir, I done left my wallet..." Blackard said. Before he could finish his sentence, the young man was posted against the brick wall, cuffed and taken to the St. Louis city jail. Unable to prove his identity, he would spend the next 21 days in a cramped, musty cell. That's where his older brother Matt found him, beaten and bloodied. Matt returned with Major's employer later that day, wallet and identification card in hand, to post bond.  The year was 1899. Major Blackard was my great, great grandfather.

The real crime, as Pulitzer Prize winning author Doug Blackmon points on in his seminal work Slavery by Any Other Name, was that my grandfather was a colored man in America.

This morning, as White House staffers released copies of the president's long form birth certificate, I couldn't shake the feeling that something very ugly was going on. For the first time in recorded history, a sitting president of the United States found it necessary to produce his original birth certificate for public inspection. Not once, in 235 years, have we ever demanded proof that our president was born on American soil.

In a stunning display of unchecked ego, Donald Trump quickly hosted a news conference, during which he took credit for forcing President Obama's hand. The sometime real estate developer, socialite, author and television personality went on to caution onlookers to let "experts" examine the document. Lest the president continue perpetrating was Trump has called potentially the "biggest fraud in American history."  For weeks, the thrice married, comb-over construction magnate has enthralled news reporters with his apocalyptic ranting. Trump openly questioned whether President Obama belonged in the White House, a boardroom, or even an Ivy League lecture hall.

And we let him.

We used all manner of excuses to justify giving Trump as much oxygen as he could suck up. Rarely, if ever, did we press him to produce a shard of evidence to substantiate his wild claims. We smiled gingerly as he all but called us stupid sycophants who were in cahoots with an illegitimate president. We allowed him to hold court on issues on which he clearly has no knowledge and no credibility, beyond the limo ride briefings he apparently receives from his merry band of "yes men."

Trump didn't just want the birth record. He wants the president to release his college transcripts. "How did such a bad student get into Harvard?," Trump keeps asking. The implication is the Barack Obama was the beneficiary of affirmative action and took the place of a more qualified white student. Apparently, graduating magna cum laude from the nation's most prestigious law school and being named editor of the Harvard Law Review -- the institution's highest student honor -- is not enough for him.

It never is for people like Trump.

"If he gets off the phone, or gets off his basketball court or whatever he's doing at the time," Trump said. "I mean he should be focused on OPEC and getting those prices down." 

When they tell you this isn't racial, don't believe them. This controversy was constructed solely as a way to de-legitimize the presidency of a black man. Those who question the location of Barack Obama's birth are the very same people who would pack up and move out of the neighborhood if someone like me moved in next door.

When they say they want to take their country back, they mean from us.

According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey, a stunning 51 percent of Republicans believe the president wasn't born in the United States. In Mississippi, nearly half of all Republicans believe interracial marriage should be illegal. If they had their way, not only would Obama not be president, he never would have been born.  That's how far we have not come.

Some 112 years after my grandfather was snatched from a street corner in the central west end section of St. Louis, it seems we still need to prove our right to be here.  I thought we were better than this.

Source:  By Goldie Taylor - http://www.thegrio.com/politics/why-obama-shouldnt-have-had-to-show-his-papers.php?page=2

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Will "Birther Questions" Be Put To Rest?

The White House on Wednesday morning released the president's long form birth certificate (pdf) in an attempt to put "birther" questions to rest.

"The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn't good for the country. It may have been good politics and good T.V., but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.  The president had released his certificate of live birth in 2008, but many "birthers" said the absence of a long form birth certificate prompted questions about Obama's birthplace of Hawaii. In recent weeks potential GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has brought birther questions into the forefront of the media. 
"At a time of great consequence for this country--when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue," Pfeiffer said. "The President's hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country."

Obama admitted at a White House press conference following the document's release Wednesday morning that he's been both amused and puzzled by the degree to which his place of birth has become an issue.  The president echoed Pfeiffer's statements saying that Americans and their representatives need to come together to solve issues such as how to "invest in our future" while tackling the federal deficit and federal debt: 
But we're not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We're not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We're not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.  Though the president didn't mention Trump by name, Obama noted that when he announced his deficit plan this month, his birth certificate, not our country's economic future, dominated the news that week.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Trump Is A Liar

Donald Trump is proving himself to be a scam artist.  I have one question - Can Donald Trump be sued for defamation of character?  Or, can he be sued for anything?  Trump attracts media attention because he's suppose to be a man of character/business man.  As Trump rants about President's Obama citizentry, he's proving himself to be a shrewd manipulative liar.     http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/04/25/birthers.obama.hawaii/index.html?hpt=C1