Archive for November, 2009



We can still afford to act like America – Leonard Pitts Jr. – MiamiHerald.com

That feeling is arguably the most significant casualty of Sept. 11. On that day, we elevated a mob of stateless criminals, a mafia in cleric’s clothing, to the exalted level of rogue nation. But they were never that, never a threat to our national existence, lacked the forces to take even one square inch of American soil. What they could threaten — and take — was our sense of ourselves as a brave, reasonable and civilized people, inhabiting a nation of laws. They beckoned us into the mud with them, and we leapt.
It’s not the first time. Periodically, we have shed the burden of bravery, reason, civilization, laws. Always, it happens in moments of national stress, moments of overwhelming confusion, anger or fear, moments that make us prey to demons of expedience and moral compromise. Moments when we wonder if we can still afford to act like America.
But we face a band of bloodthirsty hoodlums whose dearest wish is to make us just like them. So maybe the better question is this:
Can we afford not to?

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Can We Save Social Security Parade.com

Any Social Security reform package is likely to contain some or all of these ideas. And it had better happen soon. Experts agree that the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to solve the system’s financial ills. David M. Certner of the AARP believes that talk of a Social Security crisis is overblown. Still, he agrees that changes to the system are inevitable and says they should come sooner rather than later. “The sooner you make them,” he says, “the more modest the changes that are needed.”


Fighting Terrorism With Schools Parade.com

Young women are the developing world’s greatest agents of progress. Just one year of schooling will dramatically raise a girl’s later economic prospects, and where girls get to fifth grade, birth rates and infant mortality plunge. Teaching girls to read and write reduces the ignorance and poverty that fuel religious extremism and lays a groundwork for prosperity and peace. In military parlance, educating girls is a “force multiplier.” Thus, the flame that burns at the center of my work, the heat around which I cup my hands, are the stories of girls whose lives have been changed by education.


China’s Holdings of U.S. Securities:Implications for the U.S – SusanThur – Open Salon

Given its relatively low savings rate, the U.S. economy depends heavily on foreign capital
inflows from countries with high savings rates (such as China) to help promote growth and to
fund the federal budget deficit. China has intervened heavily in currency markets to limit the
appreciation of its currency, especially against the dollar. As a result, China has become the
world’s largest and fastest growing holder of foreign exchange reserves (FER). China has
invested a large share of its FER in U.S. securities, which, as of June 2008, totaled $1.2 trillion,
making China the second largest foreign holder of U.S. securities (after Japan). These securities
include long-term (LT) Treasury debt, LT U.S. agency debt, LT U.S. corporate debt, LT U.S.
equities, and short-term debt. It is likely that China became the largest foreign holder of U.S.
securities by the end of 2008. From June 2002 to June 2008, China’s holdings of U.S. securities
increased by over $1 trillion—far more than that of any other nation.
U.S. Treasury securities are issued to finance the federal budget deficit. Of the public debt that is
privately held, a little more than half is held by foreigners. As of May 2009, China’s Treasury
securities holdings were $802 billion, accounting for 24.3% of total foreign ownership of U.S.
Treasury securities, making it the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasuries (it replaced Japan as
the largest foreign holder in September 2008).
The current global financial crisis has raised considerable conce


House health bill includes Medicaid relief for states – washingtonpost.com
Wedged in the House health-care bill is $23.5 billion that looks a lot more like new federal stimulus spending than anything to do with national health-care reform.
The barely debated pot of money would allow Congress to continue pumping billions in new short-term aid to states to cover Medicaid costs that have increased with rising unemployment in the past year.
The potential impact of the new spending became clear last week when giddy state budget officials in capitals from Annapolis to Sacramento penciled in the revenue, hoping that if health-care legislation survives in the Senate, the states’ bonus might squeak through.


Obama: Aim is to put U.S. on path to end Afghan war – USATODAY.com

BEIJING (AP) — President Obama said Wednesday his upcoming strategy in Afghanistan will “put us on a path towards ending the war” and that his goal is not to pass the conflict on to the next president.
Obama also declined to say he trusted Afghan President Hamid Karzai, offering praise to Karzai for holding his country together but saying: “He has some strengths, but he has some weaknesses.”
“I’m less concerned about any individual than I am with a government as a whole that is having difficulty providing basic services to its people,” Obama said in his latest blunt assessment of the Karzai government, whose competence is an essential part of a U.S. war effort now in its ninth year.
Obama is expected soon to announce a revamping of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is likely to send thousands more troops into Afghanistan to stabilize the deteriorating security there.


The Republican National Committee‘s health insurance plan covers elective abortions for its employees, an option Republicans strongly oppose in health overhaul legislation that Democrats are trying to push through Congress.
Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele learned of the policy’s abortion coverage Thursday through a news report and immediately instructed staff to inform the insurance carrier that the RNC wanted to opt out of elective abortion coverage, RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said.
“Money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose,” Steele said in a statement. “I don’t know why this policy existed in the past, but it will not exist under my administration. Consider this issue settled.”
Gitcho said the policy has been in effect since 1991.
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Increasing Medicare Tax on High-Wage Earners Could Help Pay for Health Reform and Strengthen Medicare’s Finances — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Increasing the Medicare payroll tax on high-wage earners would represent a sound and well-targeted way of paying for health reform. It would also improve the solvency of Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund and thereby strengthen this critical program, which provides health coverage for 46 million seniors and persons with disabilities.
Hospital Insurance benefits in Medicare are funded primarily by payroll taxes on wages and self-employment income. Workers and employers each pay a flat 1.45 percent of wages, for a total of 2.9 percent. Unlike Social Security taxes, which are not imposed on earnings above a set level, Medicare taxes are collected on workers’ entire earnings. Although half of the tax is nominally paid by employers, most economists believe that employees ultimately pay the employer share as well through lower wages than they otherwise would receive. Self-employed workers pay the entire 2.9 percent tax but are allowed to deduct half of this amount for income tax purposes.


We need a history lesson about Nazis – Leonard Pitts on Obama – MiamiHerald.com

See, we’ll be talking about Nazis, something many of us are doing lately. Indeed, just this week a fellow named Joseph emailed me about a caller he heard on a radio show. The man, vexed over health care reform, likened President Obama to Adolf Hitler. Asked why, he said, “Hitler took over the car companies, then health care and then he killed the Jews.”
Said Joseph: “I almost swerved my vehicle off the road when I heard that.”
But the caller is hardly unique. Google “Obama + Nazis” and you get almost 7 million hits. Nor is the phenomenon new. Substitute President Bush’s name and you get nearly 2.8 million.


Clergy issues call for civility – NOLA.com

Thursday, November 12, 2009 By Bruce NolanStaff writerIt’s gotten ugly out there in the pubic square — on television, at public meetings, on the Internet. Whether it’s health care reform specifically or politics generally, people seem to demonize each other, shout each other down and gleefully circulate vicious e-mail messages distorting the other side.
So much so that in East Jefferson, Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy recently have found common ground about one, clear thing. They’ve decided to give their congregations a message:
Get hold of yourself!


American Atheists Pre Christian Christmas Stories with Other Gods


The Paranoid Style in American Politics 1964 Hofstadter – SusanThur – Open Salon


Wounded Warrior fellowships help give injured vets a working hand in Congress – washingtonpost.com

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