Monday, October 31, 2005

Voting is now closed

It’s Monday, which must mean that it’s time for a new poll and also time to garner the results of the previous weeks voting.

I will get to that, but first; you probably noticed that we have moved the polling question up to the top of the page… all for your voting pleasure and ease of use.

We are also using a new polling service, so the look is streamlined, the results are quicker, and it cuts down on the possibility of fraud. (Being that we both reside outside of Cook County where the slogan is "vote early, vote often" it just makes sense to prevent voter fraud.... sorry to interrupt folks, Scott)

As for last weeks poll, we asked you: If the election were held today, who would you vote for?

It’s clear that the majority of you would vote for a woman… whether it be the Democratic nominee of Hillary Clinton or the Republican nominee of Condi Rice.

Last week’s results:

So… it is clear that the majority of you would vote for Senator Clinton.. a whopping 46%. That number does not surprise us, seeing as who our target demographic for this site is. The number that DOES surprise is the unexpected 23% that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice drew from a site that, shall we say, caters to the more left-leaning sort.

John Kerry picked up a worrisome 14% (why worrisome? If he runs again, it will stall the democrats and will easily provide a victory for whomever the GOP runs… so let’s not encourage him, ok)

Scott and I picked up a surprising 11%, and we appreciate your support. (But truth be told, I have a couple of years to go before I am legally of age to become President. Scott on the other hand is of age… and then some… sorry Scott, couldn’t resist)

Perenial Presidential candidate and humorous Pat Paulsen picked up 6%… an incredible feat considering he passed away in 1997.

And last, and certainly least, is Newt…who picked up… nothing (Nelson Muntz-esque 'Haw haw') No votes whatsoever for the former House Speaker… that’s a shame, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Those are the results for this week. The new question is above, so feel free to vote now for this weeks question.

By the way, do you agree or disagree with the numbers? Let us know in the comments section. Selected comments will be run in a future entry.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Political Backpedaling (The Weekly Rewind)

As we promised, it’s time once again to look back at the week just ended, run across the political landscape and point out things that should be applauded or heckled.

APPLAUD: to Rosa Parks, Civil Rights pioneer who died this week at the age of 92. A woman whose life should be an inspiration to people of all races.

HECKLE: to President Bush for once again failing to publicly acknowledge the mounting death toll of U.S. Troops in Iraq, or having a clear plan for victory in Iraq. This week the 2,000 American soldier died in Iraq, a sad milestone.

APPLAUD: to Congress, for acting quickly and putting aside partisanship to approve a resolution allowing Rosa Parks to lie in honor for public viewing in the Capitol Rotunda. This honor has only been granted 29 times since 1852, and only seems fitting for Ms. Parks.

HECKLE: to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on his indictment for one count of Obstruction of Justice, two counts of making False Statements and two counts of Perjury. (Also for having the name “Scooter” on the indictment)

HECKLE: to the Department of Defense for holding back 824 new armored Humvees from being sent to Iraq until January when the 4th division is sent to replace 3rd division units currently serving in Iraq. (The Marines only have 6 to 7 percent of the total armormed humvees in Iraq. There is no reason that every available piece of modern and armormed equipment should always be available to every one of our troops.)

APPLAUD: to DNC Chair Howard Dean for a clear and concise statement on the Libby indictment. “This is not only and abuse of power, it is an un-American abuse of the public trust. As Americans, we must hold ourselves and our leaders to a higher standard. We cannot fear dissent. We cannot fear the truth. And we cannot tolerate those who do.”

HECKLE: to the U.S. House Resource Committee for approving a plan to allow oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in order to raise $2.4 billion in lease revenues.

APPLAUD: to former Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards. He currently presides over a new Poverty Center at the University of North Carolina and is traveling the country rallying college students to the cause of fighting poverty in the U.S., and possibly laying the groundwork for a renewed bid for the White House in 2008.

HECKLE: to The White House for failing to unwaveringly support its SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers, who this week ‘voluntarily‘ (yeah like we believe that) withdrew her nomination. No matter the end result of the Senate confirmation hearings the President needs to learn to stand up with his nominees, and if he cannot do it with those he nominates currently, then he needs to find more qualified people to nominate.
(Obviously the conservatives can’t get behind what they can’t control…. Also we can‘t help but wonder how much of the ‘orchestrated‘ withdrawl was damage control for the CIA leak indictments)

HECKLE: to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) for referring to any possible indictments in the ‘Plamegate‘ investigation to be not for any real crimes but for ‘Some perjury technicality“. (Our thought is that if you choose which laws to enforce, you start down the road to enforcing none.)

APPLAUD: to Democrats for their “50 State Strategy” of national/local support and organization for the upcoming elections. It’s great to see the party working together as a team.

HECKLE: to the Bush Administration for first suspending and then reversing the rules requiring that companies receiving federal contracts for hurricane reconstruction and relief efforts pay workers the local prevailing wage. The heckle is for both the suspension and reversal as the reversal would not have been necessary if the suspension had not occurred to begin with.

APPLAUD: to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for his thorough and unbiased investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame’s name as a undercover CIA operative.

HECKLE: to President Bush on general principle alone.

HECKLE: to U.S. House Republicans who voted to cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and aid to firms hurt by unfair trade practices as part of a strategy to piece together $50 billion in budget cuts.

HECKLE: to Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX) for acknowledging that he failed to comply with U.S. House requirements that he disclose all contributions to a legal defense fund that pays his legal bills. (I wonder what else he has forgotten that will now be conveniently acknowledged with the increased legal scrutiny?)

APPLAUD: to Democrat Tim Kaine for his strong polling in a tight race for Governor in Virgina, he is in a dead heat with the Republican challenger in an contest to be decided in the November 8th election.

HECKLE: to Karl Rove, who when asked for a comment concerning his thoughts on the indictment of ’Scooter’ Libby, advised reporters that he was not going to think about it, that he was going to have a nice weekend and suggested that the media should do the same. (What a tool..)

HECKLE: to The White House for going after “The Onion“ for displaying the presidential seal on its website next to a weekly parody of the Presidents weekly radio address. (I guess they don‘t have anything more important to worry about…)

HECKLE: to Pat Buchanan (always a candidate, never electable..) for speaking out that the President’s next nominee for the SCOTUS had better be along the lines of what he had promised when running for office (meaning that they should be a bible thumping conservative who will make it a priority to overturn Roe V Wade) or the nominee will be hammered from the right again, as was done with Harriet Miers. What a tool!

Noticing more heckles than applauds again this week – welcome once again to George Bush’s America…


Saturday, October 29, 2005

'Scooter'ing off to prison?

Vice-President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (I'm sorry... was that G. Gordon Liddy? No... my mistake) was indicted (you can read the actual indictment here in a PDF file from the DOJ) Friday on five (yes, you read that right... five) counts:

  • 2 counts of perjury - on March 5 & March 24, 2004
  • 1 count of obstruction of justice - in the spring of 2003
  • 2 counts of making false statements - October 14 & September 27, 2003

(Told ya; 2 + 1 + 2 = 5. I guess that Master’s degree is finally paying off)

Oh yeah, and he gave his resignation to Puppet-in-Chief (for those of you who do not read this site enough: {read it more darn you}, that's our little 'pet' name for "President" Bush) and the Puppet-in-Chief's Puppeteer (you know; Cheney).

Some of you are asking; 'Kemp, what do these charges mean?'

Well, let me tell you.

The long and short of it is that 'Scooter' Libby endangered national security. (Confidential shout-out to Libby: if you go to jail, I'd lose the Scooter nickname... but that's just me)

The investigation will continue, but it will continue with a brand-spanking new grand jury as the term of the current grand jury ended on Friday and can not be extended.

Why would Fitzgerald be convening a new grand jury to continue the investigation?

Who does he have in the crosshairs?

Well, Karl Rove is a safe bet, but we'll get to that in a minute.

The question on the public's mind now is who is this "Official" (or Mr. X as we'll call them now) that the indictment touches on? It never mentions a name, only 'official.'

Is it Cheney? Rove? Bush?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Seems that that perpetually slippery ‘bastage’ Karl Rove will escape indictment... for today at least. But he is remaining under investigation. In fact, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has told Rove's attorney that he still has not decided whether or not to charge Rove.

The long and short of it (how many times can I use that tired cliché in one entry? Let's find out) is that it appears ''Scooter” will be the sacrificial lamb after two years of this criminal investigation.

Is Scooter really the mastermind behind this sordid plot?

Possibly... and by possibly I mean; Scooter could be the mastermind, but I sincerely doubt that he is (and most others agree with me). Odds are he is taking the fall for bigger fish... bigger fish like Cheney, or maybe even Bush, or a combination of the two or maybe even other high ranking officials.

Now, the question on everyone's lips is to what extent we are coming up on a Great Repudiation, even though we may already be in it.

Getting back to Rove. Whether or not he is ever charged with anything is less important than simply finding out the truth about what happened in the White House to lead multiple senior officials, Rove and Libby apparently foremost among them, on a press binge that "outed" an agent to some journalists.

With the indictment of Libby today and the announcement of a new Grand Jury being formed, we're a tad closer to knowing what happened today; in that we now know that Libby was one of those figures and that he lied about it to investigators and to the grand jury. ('No, no Scooter. Bad boy.')

When hearing and reading about all of this, why does my mind immediately flash back to Watergate? I mean, what's the difference between Watergate and this?

Besides the fact we comprehend the magnitude of Watergate as a precedent now...

Friday, October 28, 2005


Plamegate…or as it could also be called Humpty-Dumpty: Bush Style (All of Bush’s Horses and all of Bush’s men, couldn’t put his administration together again.)

After weeks of investigation by the Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, all of Washington is awaiting word on who in the Bush administration will be handed indictments in relation to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

It is a given that I. Lewis ‘Scooter” Libby will be receiving one. However there is wide speculation that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney (aka: Bush’s Left and Right Brain) could also be handed these ‘golden tickets’. (I would like to see an Indictment song and dance number by some oompaloompas!)

What does this mean for the Bush administration?

Well, first you have to remember that the President himself has said that this was a serious investigation and that anyone found to be guilty of involvement would be subject to serious consequences. Well, we will soon get to see what happens when the ‘rubber meets the road’ so to speak.

Already the republican party faithful are trying to put a spin on what is sure to be some serious public backlash, as well as basically trying to also turn Fitzgerald into this administrations version of Ken Starr. The party faithful are appearing on Sunday morning talk shows to explain that no real crimes were committed, just a teensy weensy bit of perjury, actually the quote was “Some perjury technicality”. Who made the ‘teensy weensy’ statement and where? It was Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson in an appearance on ‘Meet the Press’.

This is the same Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson who during the congressional investigation into the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal made the following statement as reported in the February 13, 1999 Dallas Morning News:
'The principle of the rule of law-- equality under the law and a clear standard for perjury and obstruction of justice-- was the overriding issue in this impeachment.'

Sen. Hutchison also voted 'guilty' on both counts against then President Clinton.

How ironic that the mighty have fallen hard and fast. As stated in the Washington Post, "The party that said they won the last election because of their stand on moral issues doesn't have a leg to stand on. Nothing shows how out of touch Republicans now are with the values of the American people."

So knowing that ‘Scooter’ will be indicted by weeks end, what is his background? Does his wife call him ‘Scooter-Pie’? (That last one we are not even going to delve into…) Here are the basics-

Aug 22, 1950

1972- Yale University, BA
1975- Columbia University, JD

Prior to coming to work in the White House, ‘Scooter’ was a managing partner at the Washington office of the international law firm of Dechert, Price & Rhoads. Prior to that he had held a variety of positions at both the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense.

So given his education, background and length of experience you would think that ‘Scooter’ would know not to repeat privileged or secret information, and the consequences for failing to heed the rules. Only an indictment or clearance by the grand jury will tell us which has happened.

Now the current grand jury’s term is set to expire this Friday, October 28th, this leaves little time for Fitzgerald to complete his work. It may be that he has focused on, and will ask for, one indictment out of this current grand jury and will pursue further indictments with the next jury seating.

Ok, for all of you who have not followed this issue as closely as you wish you would have, lets see what all the ‘fuss’ is about. To do that we go back to 2003. (Time travel fade…)

January - With a U.S. invasion of Iraq looming in the not to distant future, President Bush tells the nation in his State of the Union address that, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

July 6- Almost 3 months after the invasion of Iraq and the fall of Baghdad, Joseph Wilson (a former U.S. Ambassador) writes in the New York Times that he had investigated the Niger uranium report for the CIA in 2002 and he had found it ‘highly doubtful’ that such a transaction could have occurred.

July 11 - After finding no WMD in Iraq and with increasing questions about the so-called ‘intelligence’ that the administration cited during the debate over the war, CIA Director George Tenet says that the claim of uranium should not have been included in the State of the Union address. He also takes responsibility for the mistake.

July 14 - Robert Novak, syndicated columnist, writes in his column that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, is an operative with the CIA and she had suggested sending him to Niger. The column cites ‘two senior administration officials’ for the report.

September- The Justice Department launches a criminal probe into the leak at the request of the CIA. A 1982 law makes knowingly disclosing the identity of a covert agent a felony that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Novak says that he won’t reveal his sources. President Bush tells reporters that he welcomes the investigation and that ‘If there’s a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.”

December - Then Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from the leak probe, due to possible conflict of interest. The U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald is named as Special Prosecutor to take over the investigation.

That ends 2003.

Over the next almost 2 years, Fitzgerald moves forward with his investigation. During this time Fitzgerald or his top aides question /subpoena various figures in connection with the leak. Among these are staffers at Time Magazine, Vice President Cheney, President Bush, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, Karl Rove and ‘Scooter’ Libby. Judith Miller of the New York Times refuses to testify before the grand jury regarding sources in a story that she had published and is jailed for contempt of court.

As a result of the investigation, it is revealed that Libby was Miller’s source. It is also reported through others that Rove and the Vice President himself may have also had a hand in the dissemination of Plames CIA affiliation.

Ok, now we are up to present day and you have the ‘cliff notes’ version of the whole issue. Try and keep up on your own, don’t worry, if you can’t we will be here to help clarify.

So, it appears that Fitzgerald has been doing a thorough job and should be commended for his steadfastness in getting to the truth of the matter and keeping a lid on any leaks coming out of his office. Any leaks that have emerged were most likely let out by lawyers close to those being investigated. (Probably as a way to gauge the potential public outcry and damage to the White House that indictments would surely elicit.) This lack of leaks is in stark contrast to some of his predecessors.

Also, no one has even tried to suggest that Fitzgerald would ruin his reputation by going after so-called ‘technicalities’ as opposed to ‘real crimes‘. He takes his duties seriously and will see this investigation to an honest conclusion irregardless of which way the political pendulum swings as a result of his findings. This man has integrity! (Wow, what a concept in Washington)

Now, we wait and wonder, will it be 1, 2 or 3 indictments? We should know by Friday, meanwhile 'Scooter' should get a letter of resignation ready to go.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, what does this mean for the Bush administration? Plenty! Libby has been a very active force behind the scenes of this White House and an indictment would be a huge blow to the inner workings of the administrations core planners.

1000 and still a newcomer

I just wanted to quickly dovetail on Kemp's thank you. We do enjoy being able to do this and hope that you find our posts informative as well as sometimes humerous .

I also wanted to point out that this afternoon, in a little over a month of being in existence, we have hit the 1000 visitor mark and are climbing.

So once again, thank you from both Kemp and myself. You have remained faithful to us and we will do our best not to dissapoint.

A Thank-you from TBWA

First of all, Scott and I would like to say a big thank-you for taking the time to read our blog. We know that there are a lot of other political blogs/websites that you can read and we sincerely thank you for taking the time to read ours.

We are getting a lot of hits and a lot of readers, so why not drop us a line and leave a commment, whether you agree with us or not, and let us know your thoughts on the subject at hand.

If you do like what you see here (and I know we have already asked this of you, but what-the-hell, we can ask again... right?) tell your friends, families and neighbors. Even tell folks that you may not see eye to eye with from a political or basic common sense stand point (because as I've said before... let's practice tolerance for those that disagree with us)

Alsi, if you do like the job we are doing, visit or and rate and/or review the job we are doing.

Again, we both thank you for your support and hope that you continue coming to TBWA for all your humorous liberal-political needs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A New Sheriff in Town (Part 2)

There was big news from Washington on Monday (and no, it had nothing to do with “President” Bush finally figuring out that day’s Blues Clues…though that would be big news, wouldn’t it?) On Monday it was announced that Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan will retire, as planned, in January and will be replaced (pending Senate confirmation) with Ben Bernanke.

Now, as I wrote yesterday, there are a plethora of reasons to like Mr. Bernanke: he's qualified (eminently so) for the post, he is, after all, a former Fed governor (the Federal Reserve is a system of regional banks headed by Fed governors). He is also chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and a noted economist who has taught at Princeton.

Now, I’m not naïve and I know that, obviously, there are some politics involved with this choice (but not much cronyism it would seem. Wow, who would have ‘thunk’ it… Bush is still President, isn’t he?) but it seems that, for the most part, Bernanke is likely to continue Mr. Greenspan's steady guidance on U.S. economic policy.

Bernanke (or ‘Bernie’ as I am sure ‘Dubya’ calls him) will have his work cut out for him as several unfriendly forces threaten the U.S. economy in the coming years, some even forming as I write this blog:

  1. An overextended housing market that's dependent on uncertain loans. The larger concern here is consumers' expectations that their houses will yield high investment returns and, thus, protract their current levels of consumption. If their home equity loans can't keep up, the economy and the markets might suffer.
  2. Gas prices so high that they can threaten consumption in other areas of the economy. Think about this: a family of 4 has a choice. Fill up their cars/minivan/SUV or purchase groceries… or go to a movie… or (more drastically) pay a bill. This will probably be the highest hurdle Bernanke will face… and the one that will define his chairmanship.
  3. Inflation. We know inflation is neither a sustainable nor a good trend any way you look at it. A general increase in prices stops somewhere, with someone getting the short end of the stick. Who will it be in the coming years… time will tell.
  4. The troublesome current deficits in both our national budget and our foreign trade. The deficits might lead to higher interest rates if they persist long-term and, as I’m sure we all know interest rates have become the Federal Reserve’s bread and butter in recent years.
  5. A new bankruptcy law. While this isn’t necessarily Bernanke’s problem (since he is not able to change the law) he does have to maintain a particular view or the new law could push already stretched consumers deeper into debt. Think about it…the very consumers hampered by current debt levels are those experiencing the greatest suppleness in purchasing habits. If this continues and the new bankruptcy law exacerbates it… something will have to give.

Finally… a shout out to Mr. Greenspan, thank you for a (relatively) calm 18 years at the helm. You've done a remarkable job, and we hope you'll find retirement tranquil and pleasurable. If you don't, let me know.

Mr. Bernanke; congratulations and welcome to the party, though you have inherited what may be the toughest second act since Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as Darrin Stephens in Bewitched (the 60's TV show - not the recent movie bomb)

No pressure though...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Political Contemplation of the Day

"Being `embedded' is part of [Judy Miller's] problem. Being embedded with the administration, being embedded with the Alpha unit she was [with] in Iraq. That is part and parcel of the problem. What happened to objective journalism? It has to be the bloggers---Huffington Post, Kos and the others---who have to bring the objectivity and the truth-telling that is missing from the mainstream media."

--Arianna Huffington on Real Time with Bill Maher

A New Sheriff in Town

Is it possible?

Could it be?

Did President George ‘Cronies-R-Us’ Bush actually name someone to a Federal post that…gasp…. actually has the qualifications to fill the post???

Nah…couldn’t be…

…could it?

It seems as though he did just that. (It’s amazing what incredibly low approval ratings can do to a president’s thought-process, isn’t it?) I mean think about it, this is a president that has, in his past appointments, habitually favored political cronyism, loyalty, and personal relationships over qualifications and integrity (and let’s be honest – in Brownie’s case; intelligence. ‘FEMA had no idea what was happening in Louisiana’ my ass)

Not only is it (apparently) Bush’s first non-crony choice, it’s also being called the “least controversial appointment” of his (staggeringly) convoluted presidency (Which, after the Harriet Miers debacle is probably the exact thing the President wanted… nay… NEEDED)

Tell us Kemp, are you ever going to get around to telling us whom Bush selected?

Certainly, in fact, I’ll do that now.

Bush has named Ben Bernanke as his nomination to replace the celebrated (and legendary?) Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (Wow, talk about a hard act to follow). Bernanke’s latest responsibility has been as a top White House economic adviser. More of his background can be seen below.

Granted, Ben Bernanke is a Republican and has succeeded in keeping himself out of the president's doghouse (I would assume by keeping his mouth shut and not rocking the boat – ya hear that Cheney?)

The thing I am excited about is that Bernanke's decades of academic writings and his speeches during the three years he spent as a member of the Federal Reserve Board show that he will be the type of chairman that identifies much more closely with the institution he runs rather than with the administration that appointed him (much like Greenspan did –all of which will mean a Federal Reserve that will continue its current stance of keeping inflation in check as its number one priority)

That having been said, there are still many ‘X’ factors to keep in consideration when looking at his selection and (I am sure soon-to-be) senate confirmation.

Alan Greenspan kept a fairly high profile during his successive terms as Chairman, will Bernanke be like this, or will he be more ‘low-key’? Also, will Bemanke be as … adroit (I have my thesaurus next to me) as Greenspan was at being able to persuade others to support his views on interest-rates and other economic factors? And will he be able to forestall market crises as proficiently as Greenspan did?

Only time will tell.

Meanwhile though, it seems painfully clear that credibility and experience have (finally) won out over cronyism and politics in the Bush administration.

Tomorrow: Factors that will threaten the U.S. economy under Bernanke’s watch

Profile on: Ben Bernanke
-Born December 13, 1953 in Augusta, Georgia
-Married with two children.
-Raised primarily in South Carolina
-Earned B.A. in economics at Harvard University in 1975. While there he won the award for best
undergraduate economics thesis and the prize for outstanding Economic Department senior
-Received his Ph.D. in economics in 1979 from MIT
-Started teaching at Stanford. Left there in 1985 and spent the next 20 years as a Professor of
Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton. He also has served as a visiting faculty member at other institutions, including MIT
-Joined the Federal Reserve in 2002 and then served as a governor of the Federal
- Currently is Chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers (which provides the president with analysis and advice on economic issues)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday = New Poll

Good Monday lucky pollsters!

Scott and I promised you a weekly poll, and since it's Monday it's time not only for a new poll, but to give you the results of last weeks poll.You can find this week’s poll question at the bottom of this page. Please take a moment to vote and let us know your thoughts. (Yes, we really do want to know. Remember what I always say…practice tolerance for those that disagree with you)

As for last weeks poll, we asked what you thought of the recent indictment of Tom “Smile-for-the-birdie” Delay

Last weeks results:

  • It’s about time… 70.6%
  • It’s all politically motivated… 17.6%
  • What indictment… 11.8%
  • Need more info… 0%

So, it’s clear that most of our readers think it is about time that Delay was indicted.

Last week the man behind the smile (see the pic below) got booked (fingerprinted, mug shot, etc) and went on the defensive, dispatching his spin doctors to every part of the country (and especially in his home state of Texas) to get his message out that this is all politically motivated (a small percentage of you believe that is indeed the case) and he is innocent.

We’ll see…

Who votes for this guy?

Suit- $1,200
Haircut- $30
Smarmy Attitude- Free
Knowing that you have swindled the average american out of hard earned money, have broken campaign finance laws, committed numerous House ethics violations, had your hand in the Enron cookie jar and dozens of other questionable legal and ethical issues- Priceless

For everything else, there's political cronies and contributions...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Can we discuss facts for a change?

The Presidency and Roe Vs Wade
The Vice-Presidency and Roe vs. Wade
The Supreme Court and Roe vs. Wade
Congress and Roe vs. Wade

What’s next….. Director of Streets and Sanitation and Roe vs. Wade?

An article dated October 18th in U.S. News and World Report discussed rumors that in the wake of the CIA spy-link investigation the Vice President might step aside and the President would then elevate Condoleeza Rice to the position of Vice President.

Now, the premise of a high ranking administration official stepping aside and being replaced by another high ranking or high profile administration official in order to divert attention from very real unseemly issues is nothing new to this Presidency. However one quote that jumped out at me from the article was the following: “Isn't she pro-choice?" asked a key Senate Republican aide.”

Isn’t she pro-choice??? What kind of statement is that??

Now maybe I missed something somewhere, but since when did the issue of Roe V Wade become the basis for questioning or supporting every political appointment no matter what the office or position?

What happened to the candidates educational background, work experience or even the thoughts and opinions of co-workers and personal references?

If the subject of pro-life / pro-choice has so permeated and grabbed hold of the parties that it has become the main issue above all else, then by all means we should have nothing but women serving in both houses of Congress, as the only members of the Supreme Court and occupying the White House.

Are the republicans so afraid of losing debates based on the facts that they purposely bring the Roe V Wade question into each and every topic and issue so as to infuse each with a hot button/litmus test?

Hey, I have a novel idea, let's take Roe out of every single issue that comes before the congress and american public and stick to the facts. ....I can dream can't I....
(Now even though I am pro-choice, I am not insensitive to the truly honest heart felt 'personal', (NOT uneducated, narrow ieadologic) feelings of those on each side of the issue however, Roe WAS previously decided IN court and has now been a long standing LAW....)

But what would happen to the conservatives if Roe V Wade was to never be discussed again? What's next? I can see a group of conservative think tank members tossing around ideas..... "oh we have a cosmetic surgery epidemic we need a pro-lift / pro-sag debate to deflect from the real issues at hand......."

or am I simplifying this too much.....

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Political Backpedaling (The Weekly Rewind)

Political Backpedaling (The Weekly Rewind…)

New feature being added to the “best political blog on the Internet today”…at least according to my mom…

In trying to keep up with the current administration (in terms of doing things that look good but really serve no purpose in life) Scott and I have decided that we will be adding a new weekly feature that will appear every Friday.

It’s called (as you can see in the title) “Political Backpedaling,” where every week we’ll run across the political landscape and point out things that should be applauded or heckled. Who will decide what should be applauded and what should be heckled? Well, it’s our blog so, we will. If you don’t like it…tough noogies.

APPLAUD: to possible 2008 democratic presidential hopeful john Edwards for starting his Poverty awareness Tour. What is it? We have no idea, but it’s good spin and its for a democrat, so we’re throwing it out there.

HECKLE: to Virginia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore for allowing his campaign handlers to create an ad that suggests his democratic opponent is so adamantly against the death penalty, he would have spared Adolf Hitler. Nice…even more examples of compassionate conservatism…an oxymoron if ever there was one.

APPLAUD: to Bryan Lentz, an Iraqi War veteran who is running (as a Democrat) for a seat in the Pennsylvania 7th Congressional District. (A district, by the way, that is very important in the upcoming midterms if the Democrats have ANY hope of gaining control of the House). Lentz joins a handful of other Iraqi War vets who are also running as Democrats for House Seats in the Virginia 2nd (David Ashe) or the Pennsylvania 8th (Patrick Murphy) or running for an Ohio Senate seat (Paul Hackett). Go get ‘em guys.

HECKLE: to Tom Delay…just on general principles alone.

APPLAUD: to Hillary Clinton for stocking her preside— (sorry) her senate campaign warchest with close to $14 million.

HECKLE: to Newt Gingrich and George Pataki for announcing their plans to “maybe” run for president in 2008. (They’re the devil everyone, run fast, run far.)

APPLAUD: to a Texas court that issued a warrant Wednesday for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking where he was fingerprinted and photographed. And rather than give a stock-mug shot look, the congressman gave a huge smile…which makes him look even more like the jackass that he is (as if that were possible)

HECKLE: to Congress for bowing down to the gun lobby by passing a bill that protects the firearms industry from massive crime-victim lawsuits.

APPLAUD: to Republican (I know, I know) Senator John McCain, who said Tuesday that he would press for the transition to “higher quality digital television signals” by the end 2006 or early 2007 instead of (the proposed) April 2009. I know it’s an unimportant thing in light of other things going on in this country and the world, but let’s remember it’s the small things that allow us to continue on in this life despite everything else.

HECKLE: to the U.S. Supreme Court for handing tobacco companies and cigarette makers a victory in rejecting a Justice Department appeal aimed at allowing a potential $280 billion penalty in the government's landmark racketeering case against the industry. Brilliant…absolutely brilliant.

APPLAUD: to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for taking aim at (yet) another Bush-cronie. The next target? The usually untouchable Dick Cheney who is considering resignation because of the investigation. Good news indeed, but with some troubling attachments to it that moves us along to…

HECKLE: to President Bush for suggesting he would elevate Condoleezza Rice to be VP in the event that Cheney resigns. (Scary…but still better than Michael Brown. Well, maybe not)

APPLAUD: to Detroit Mayoral candidate Kwame Kilpatrick who stopped wearing his ‘trademark’ diamond earring, saying it “gave off a bad spirit of rebellion.” (Is this even news? Does anyone care? Although Scott said he will not stop wearing his...)

HECKLE: to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen…just because we can. (what a pretentious, uninformed weasel he is)

APPLAUD: to the epiphanies that some Republican’s have had regarding Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Some of the RNC’s biggest moneymen are deserting the one-time re-elected-shoo-in, making his re-election seem less and less likely with each passing day.

HECKLE: to Ms. Rice again. While testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee she stated that the U.S. could use military force against Iran and Syria. I’m sorry; can’t we get out of Iraq first before we start throwing our weight around again? Apparently not, because in that same line of testimony Rice refused to rule out that the U.S. could still have a massive troop presence in Iraq in 10 years. Son of a bit—

APPLAUD: to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for calling SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers’ responses to their questionnaire, ‘inadequate’ and ‘insufficient’ and making her do them again…and again…and again…until she gets them right.

HECKLE: to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff for telling lawmakers on Wednesday that he relied on FEMA’s experts to respond properly to Hurricane Katrina. That explains a lot.

HECKLE: to President Bush for calling all the problems in the U.S. (you know – like all the White House leak problems, the Katrina response problems, the disastrous Harriet Miers nomination) as ‘background noise.’ What a tool.

HECKLE: to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for using his nationality and ethnicity as a means to get Hispanics (which I am) to back Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers…what a cabrón.

Noticing more heckles than applauds this week – welcome to George Bush’s America…

That's a wrap

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

An Example of Government Censorship

This should be filed in “Give me a friggin’ break file.”

The United States Department of Commerce has issued a blanket media policy to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), requiring that all requests for contact from national media be first approved by the Department

I’m sorry, what was that?

Purportedly, there was en email sent out to NOAA staff (that includes all employees of the National Weather Service as well) around Sept. 29 that states employees must collect information from reporters and forward it to the Department.

I’m sorry can you repeat that?

The new policy says that employees must obtain the following before speaking with someone from the Fourth Estate

-The name of the reporter and their affiliation-Their deadline and contact phone number-The name of the individual being requested to give the interview-The purpose of the interview-The expertise of the requested interviewee on this subject.

(Now, I’m reading this article the other day and thinking to myself that this has NOTHING to do with the media’s reaction to the government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, right? Nah…couldn’t be [wink wink nudge nudge])

Before this rather bizarre policy change, if an individual or media organization called ANY NWS or NOAA office and wanted an interview, the people at NOAA would do their best to accommodate them quickly.

The new policy (which is the old policy if you listen to NOAA, but we’ll get to that in a moment) requires that local weather offices forward media requests to the NWS press office, which in turn would forward the request to the Commerce Department’s public relations office. The Department would then have the onus of whether a comment should be granted or not, as would the decision as to whom would speak for the agency.

While no explanation as to why this policy was issued has been given, individuals within NOAA state that it does appear the aim of this policy is to curb the stream of weather information to the national media.

The Regional Public Affairs Director of the NWS, Jim Teet (who incidentally is the one who sent the policy email memo AND provided support in 1999 for Bush-sycophant extraordinaire Karen Hughes and her defense of then Governor George W. Bush’s National Guard record, remember that, she is the one that claimed that training constituted “active duty.” Yeah, sure. Ask anyone who has seen combat if they consider that active duty…I can almost guarantee their response) stated the latest policy is merely a way to coordinate the message.

NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John asserts the media policy is not a mandatory directive and is not a new policy. It was simply “updated.” Rather, St. John states it is a set of guidelines to make sure that when a weather service employee speaks to a reporter, that it’s reported back to him ASAP. (But it’s not mandatory…)

(Interesting sidebar...Scott and I were having a debate as to what has more destructive force; a hurricane or my 3-year old twins. He called the NWS for a statement on the destructive force of all the recent Hurricanes compared to 3 year old twins and they said that they would take a message, run it up through 10 departments in 3 different agencies and, if the question was deemed to be important to the benefit of the nation or specifically the region, they would have someone get back to him.)

According to the website, some National Weather Service staff stated that they had never seen the original media policy before, and find the timing of the “reminder” email to be suspect given the recent political impact of hurricane Katrina. (Ah ha! I knew it! I guess I am smarter than I give myself credit for). Some employees are also curious as to why they were never told of the original policy and, perhaps more importantly, they wonder why Commerce has to approve weather media requests in the first place.

The answer is simple…it’s George W. Bush’s America…

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A vote for Common Sense!

Ok, we are going to toot our own horn.

We know that there are a lot of sites that you can read and we thank you for reading ours. A lot of you have told us that you enjoy our site and the job that we are doing. So why not tell your friends, your family, your neighbors. While you're at it why not tell the folks that you may not see eye to eye with from a political or basic common sense stand point. You know those narrow minded conservatives who could benefit from exposure to our commentary.

Also, if you like what we are doing you can let others know by visiting and rating what we are doing.

Kemp and I thank you for your support. We enjoy what we do and are glad that we can open a dialoge with so many of you.


Monday, October 17, 2005

If it's Monday, it's time for a new Poll.

Hey there poll fans!

We promised you a weekly poll, and since it's Monday it's time not only for a new poll, but to give the you the reults of last weeks poll.

You can find the current poll question at the bottom of this page. Please take a moment to vote and let us know your thoughts. (Yes, we really want to know)

As for last weeks poll, we asked you about how well you understood the upcoming Medicare Prescription Drug benefit that goes into effect on January 1, 2006.

Last weeks poll question and the results:

How well do you understand the new Medicare Drug Benefit plan?

  • Drug Plan? What Drug plan? - 50%
  • No clue, but I get a card right? - 28%
  • Fully Understand - 11%
  • I could use some clarification - 11%
Clearly 78 % of respondents do not have any idea at all about the pending Medicare Prescription Drug benefit. The amount of genuine lack of knowledge on this major overhaul to the Medicare system is scary.

Ok, with any new government program there is bound to be a bit of confusion about how it may work. But this is a big deal, not only for those on Medicare but for anyone who has parents or other family members who are on Medicare.

There will be a 'window' for people to sign up for a benefit plan with any one of the dozens and dozens of private carriers who will administer this new program. If this window is missed and you sign up later, you will pay a penalty in the form of higher premiums for the rest of your life.

Not only that but the plans are numerous and the various benefits and premium levels are confusing. This confusion will only add to the daunting task of being pressed into chosing a plan within the sign-up 'window'.

If you are or have family that will be affected by this new benefit, do yourself and them a favor. get whatever information you can and read it. Then take an aspirin and read it again, you'll definitely need to.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Political Ads we'd like to see

I get a kick out of the current run of ads for Tangueray. Tony Sinclair himself is quite a character and makes the ads work. Now if we took those ads and mixed them with a sadly factual political message.....

Picture Tony with a backdrop of the president looking at a flood ravaged area on one of his many photo opportunites (aka: trips) to New Orleans. Tony looks at the camera with an expression that conveys that the president still just doesn't get it and says-

"It seems that the President doesn't know his arse from a gaping hole in a levee....
Hi I'm Tony Sinclair....anyone for a Tangueray?"

Yes Tony I think we could all use one about now.....

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Madam President?

Ok. I am officially worried about the Apocalypse.

Why? Well, besides the fact that a Chicago baseball team is in the playoffs, you add the fact that Fox canceled The Simple Life (though I think that shows there may yet be hope for humanity after all), that Mayor Bloomberg has expanded his lead for re-election, and the fact that Rick Moranis (yes, that Rick Moranis from SCTV, Little Shop of Horrors, etc) has released a country music album. [shudder]

d those together with this article my brother Al found in the Chicago Sun-Times the other day and you know that the Apocalypse is a comin’. (The link to the whole article is here:

It seems that there are some individuals in the Conservative media who believe that the new Geena Davis drama “Commander in Chief” is a ‘sinister scheme….to hype Hillary Clinton for the White House.’

I’ll pause a moment for some of you to regain your composure.

Some of you may be asking what the show is about. Well, it’s a TV show where the president dies, and then the vice president (played by Geena Davis) succeeds him in the Oval Office. Geena Davis is, as is her character, a woman. (Oh…my…God…)

J.B. Williams, a writer for the National Ledger website (which is a conservative site) states in this article that the show, in “'Keeping with the modern liberal tradition of subliminal socialist indoctrination [through U.S. television], ‘Commander in Chief’ seeks to accomplish more than prime-time entertainment.” (Personally, I think the phrase ‘subliminal socialist indoctrination’ is what makes this article art)

A blogger by the name of Colossus pronounced the show as “'a nefarious plot to advance the notion of a Hillary Clinton presidency.'"

And a Condi Rice presidency would be what? Not nefarious? I find that very hard to believe. (I personally don’t think a Hillary Clinton run for the White House is going to happen – but I could be wrong, and even if she did, I honestly don’t know how I would feel and how I would vote. I know I would need more information before I could make an educated choice – wow, is that a strange concept or what?)

Are you actually telling me that there are (supposedly) intelligent, knowledgeable people out there who believe that this show ‘is a sinister scheme by Hollywood lefties to hype’ a Hillary run for the White House?

I’m amazed that there is this much stupidity in this world. Not surprised mind you, but amazed.

But, being an intelligent and knowledgeable person, I will practice tolerance for those that disagree with me and shall delve into this quagmire of whether ''Commander in Chief'' (which is one of the most-watched new shows of the season) could really be a weekly infomercial for Hillary Clinton (I know the answer – hell, anyone with a fourth grade education would know the answer –but let’s look into it anyway…)

Let’s first look at the similarities.

They’re both women.

I think that’s it.

Now, the article by J.B. Williams points out some other things that he considers parallels. I think they’re a bit of a stretch, but here they are:

*(Geena Davis’ character) ''Mac'' is a U.S. congresswoman-turned-university official. On the other hand, Hillary is a former first lady who is a U.S. senator. (Ok, I'm still waiting for a similarity. I mean, by using that type of logic, any woman who has ever been a senator or congresswoman would be similar to Geena Davis' character...even , a Republican, and they would then, in turn, be like Hillary.)

*Mac's road to the White House began as a vice presidential candidate chosen to boost the women's vote for her Republican running mate, who then, after just two years in office, obligingly expired. (Yeah, I can’t see that happening in real life, but that’s just me…)

*Mac is idealized and perfect – Boston Herald columnist Virginia Buckingham wrote: ''If I were Hillary Clinton, I'd be running scared. Perfect is not the bar she ought to want set for her.'' (Not perfect, but, at the least, better and smarter than the current administration, which shouldn’t be THAT hard)

The parallels are scary aren’t they?

What's the the best parallel? This one from James Dobson, sent in a “CitizenLink” email from his Focus on the Family [snicker] organization. '”The name of the lead character, 'Mackenzie Allen,' sounds remarkably, poetically like 'Hillary Clinton.’”

Sure it does Mr. Dobson, and your name sounds remarkably, poetically, like 'Dumb-ass.'

If this is an infomercial for Hillary, then the election is already over and the next empty shirt (or empty head - is there another Bush in the wings?) the GOP finds will be the next President. Hillary’s campaign will be nothing like this fictionalized Washington that is so far from the truth, it even makes the current season of the West Wing seem like a documentary.

I think best-selling feminist author Naomi Wolf described it best when she applauded it in the Guardian. She hailed ''Commander in Chief'' as not only ‘well-timed’ for Clinton's widely anticipated 2008 run, but also as ‘truly addictive, political pornography.’

Well, no wonder it has a Clinton’s name attached to it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The cronies are coming, the cronies are coming...

Main Entry: cro·ny·ism
Pronunciation: cro-nE-"i-z&m, noun - partiality to cronies, especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications. See also George W. Bush, 42nd President of the United States
- from Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Last month, President Bush said he would "lead an investigation" into why the federal response to Hurricane Katrina was so lacking. I have an idea (well, ok, it’s not totally my idea, other people have suggested it also), but, in order to guarantee "we can respond properly," maybe Bush should stop putting political cronies in key positions.

Wow, that’s a concept.

(Why did this topic suddenly pop up on this blog – well, I’ll get to that later, but here’s a hint: it has to do with Bush’s new supreme court nominee…) My personal feeling (and that of other informed and intelligent people) is that, ultimately, the federal response to Katrina was so poor because (hold on to your hats, you may be surprised by this statement) the people in charge had absolutely no exerience in that type of role.

Shocked and appalled, aren’t ya?

You want examples? Ok, here’s one Michael Brown, (Some of you may know him better by his presidential-given nickname “Brownie”) the former FEMA director. Previous experience? Well, he led the Arabian-Horse Association…that’s exactly like creating an emergency management plan, right?

Last year, when Brownie threw millions of dollars to Florida, some Republicans began to say that Brown could be a successor to, then Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. (all together now: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Run for the hills!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) But alas, Katrina was (way, way, way) too much for Brown to handle and he and his top two deputies at FEMA lacked emergency management.So, don’t you think that Bush would learn his lesson.

Qualified people + Disaster = better response to disasters (Am I oversimplifying this, it’s a pretty simple concept isn’t it? Or am I using too much logic? That must be it)However, we all have learned that this president is stubborn as a mule.

Of course, when it comes to homeland security or disaster management, you'd think Bush might not want to be stubborn, lest he be faced with additional political embarrassments.

Not so.

Bush nominated Julie Myers to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Homeland Security agency that is charged with hunting down money launderers, sanctions busters and human traffickers and is the sole enforcer of U.S. immigration laws. The agency,with 20,000 employees, is the second-largest investigative agency in the federal government.

I know what you’re saying. You’re saying ‘that that is quite a job and someone better have some strong qualifications.’ By the way Kemp, what are Myers’ qualifications?’

I’m glad you asked.Myers' top qualifications? She's a former chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff when he was at the Justice Department, she recently got married to Chertoff's current chief of staff John Wood, and she is the niece of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers. Many on the beltway in DC have speculated that Bush nominated Myers as a political favor to Chertoff, a Bush-sycophant in the highest order.

‘That’s impressive Kemp, but what are her professional qualifications?’

Professional qualifications? Uh, I’m not sure. Let me research that…


…yeah, she doesn’t have any. At least she doesn’t have any when it comes to immigration and custom’s enforcement.

In fact, during her confirmation hearing her resume was found lacking.

Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich stated; “I'm really concerned about your management experience. I think that we ought to have a meeting with Mike Chertoff to ask him why he thinks you're qualified for the job. Because based on your resume, I don't think you are.”

Now, placing political allies in ambassadorships and undersecretary positions is one thing, and something that has been done throughout history. The problem with this one is that Myers, like ‘Brownie’ before and Ellen Sauerbrey (nominatied to head the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration which is a key agency for responding to foreign disasters – like the Asian Tsunami) later could make decisions that could save or cost lives.

(Sauerbrey, by the way, is a former member of the Republican National Committee who was Bush's Maryland state campaign chairwoman in 2000 and has been a conservative activist for decades. Did I mention that she has no experience mobilizing responses to humanitarian emergencies? I didn’t? Well, consider yourslef notified)

That's far away from the decisions made by the ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia (thank you West Wing) or Freedonia (thank you Marx Brothers)

No, you know that someone with common sense would learn not to give vital posts like this to individuals who have no experience in that field. It’s just to bad that our current president has no common sense, or at the least, he’s ignoring it. No matter what the consequences might be.

Now, I am not naïve, I know that appointing political allies to government jobs is a tradition in Washington, but, having said that; the refugee bureau is a complex agency with a very broad range of responsibilities and past administrations, (Republican and Democrat), have generally turned to someone with, you know, some technical expertise and knowledge to head it.

Which brings us to the nomination of Harriet Miers as the next justice on the Supreme Court…

But that’s for another day…

Sunday, October 09, 2005

New Site Feature

For all you first time visitors, welcome we hope you will enjoy our site.

For all you loyal readers, first we thank you for your continued visits and comments. Second we have a new feature on the site, a weekly poll.

Each week we will post a new poll topic and give you the chance to let us know your thoughts on various subjects. This week we are asking for your thoughts on how well you understand the new Medicare Part 'D' prescription drug program that will go into effect on January 1, 2006.

Come back each week for a new topic and let us know how you feel on the subject at hand. Each week when a new question is posed we will post the results for the prior weeks poll.

Sure it's unscientific, but remember your thought counts and we want to hear it.

Thanks for your continued support.

Scott and Kemp

Friday, October 07, 2005

Political Contemplation of the Day

"Three years ago today, President George W. Bush said in a speech that 'only the removal of Saddam Hussein from power would end the U.S. confrontation with Iraq'.

How ironic that, today, only the removal of George W. Bush from power will end the U.S. confrontation with Iraq."

- The Daily KOS (

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Medicare Overhaul + Bush Administration = Screwed over Elderly: The Finale

Episode 3 – Revenge of the Bush(League)

The last two days I have been informing you about the dangers of the new Medicare program. (The program is not good) Today, the third and final installment, I offer a brief recap and some information about the marketing of Medicare.

Yes, it offers some modest benefits. But it is designed to confuse and bewilder seniors. The ongoing war Mr. Bush is waging against our most vulnerable citizens enters a new phase (the second phase, social security reform, has been put on the back burner due to the turmoil in the Bush Administration AND the Republican party - sorry, I just have to laugh.)

I am not looking out for myself, but rather my parents, my in-laws, and my aunts and uncles who are getting up there in age. They can talk to me (or my Dad who was in the insurance field for close to 30 years), but a lot of seniors don't have relatives to help them figure out this morass. As I mentioned yesterday, some of them are being forced to hire outside people to get assistance – that is not good.

What will they do? And what mistakes will they make? I suspect they'll turn to Medicare for assistance or pay attention to the marketing that is occurring for the new Medicare program.

My esteemed colleague, Scott, thinks that "the promotion and marketing is intimidating by design. The administration was pushed into creating this and are going to market this to either make the insurance companies lots of money, or be able to point at the failure of the program and say 'we created this beacuse you all said you wanted it, but no one is using it...' "

I couldn't have said it any better myself Scott.

Thinking about what he said, I was reminded of an ad I saw the other day that was touting the benefits of the prescription drug benefit that stars Carol Burnett. When they have to roll out an actor or actress from the 50s and 60s to lure seniors to enroll, you know we are in trouble. Who’s next? Well, they would probably use Barbara Bush if she hadn’t stuck her foot in her mouth about the hurricane. Nancy Reagan can’t be far behind.

In fact, PacifiCare Health Systems is using a famous couple from the 50’s to market their Medicare program. Fred and Ethel Mertz, the constantly quarreling couple from the 1950’s I Love Lucy TV show, are being used to promote the company’s new stand-alone Medicare prescription plan, which will be available nationwide.

"Through the magic of Hollywood, famously tightfisted Fred (William Frawley) and his irascible wife, Ethel (Vivian Vance), are brought back to life in a series of entertaining vignettes," the California-based insurer, who has dubbed its huge Medicare marketing campaign “Choice is swell.” said in a release about its new television advertising campaign. (And you thought Bing Crosby dancing with a vacuum cleaner or John Wayne hawking beer were bad…)

Using body doubles, voice impersonators and computer-generated imagery, the national TV ads that are going to premiere in mid-October will enable the two long-dead actors to "speak" once more.

And, oddly enough, instead of talking about how they have come back to life, they will instead be talking about PacifiCare's new drug plan. Technology – gotta love it.

Viewers who remember the real Fred and Ethel might wonder if transforming them into spokespeople for private Medicare plans is such a “swell” idea.

What's next? Ricky selling cigars? Lucy shilling for cemetery plans? How about little Ricky pushing which nursing home to send his mother?

Make no mistake about it, the prescription drug benefit was designed to intimidate and the marketing is designed to pander to their sense of the ‘good ol’ days’. The prescription drug benefit was formulated with only one beneficiary in mind and that was the pharmaceutical industry.

Medicare (which Mr. Bush is trying to destroy or privatize or whatever he and the GOP wants to call it) was created on the idea that we as a society have a moral obligation to be responsible for the health care needs of the elderly. This was one of the crowning achievements of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society legislation.

So there you have it, Dubya is trying to destroy one President’s lasting and giving legacy, in order to create one for himself.

It’s just sad…

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Medicare Overhaul + Bush Administration = Screwed over Elderly: The Sequel

Episode 2: Attack of the (Drug) Clones

Today, we will examine the new Medicare benefit in simplistic, even-Bush-could-understand-them, terms.

Why? As I mentioned in yesterday’s entry, the Medicare prescription drug disaster is upon us as enrollment begins November 15th.

What it does: Provides coverage for prescription drugs.

Participation: Solely voluntary. (But you know the Bush administration. If you don’t join the party, they’ll come and get you.)

Who is eligible: All of Medicare's 42 million members (and counting…)

When it starts: For people who sign up by December, the benefit starts Jan. 1. For those who join later, benefits begin the first day of the month after sign-up.

Initial enrollment: Consumers can sign up between Nov. 15, and May 15.Penalty: Most people who don't sign up during this initial enrollment period will pay a penalty of 1 percent of the plan's premium for each month that enrollment is delayed. (Nice)

Running the program: unlike traditional Medicare, private companies such as Cigna Corp, UnitedHealth Group, Humana Inc. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will administer plans. (Eep. I have worked for two of those, and know people who work(ed) for the other two – and I can only say, I hope the companies do a better job with this than they do with their customer service, otherwise…watch out!)

Drugs covered: Each plan will have a list of drugs for which it will pay. All plans are required to cover at least two drugs in 209 categories. (You read that right, 209 categories. My first question, is there really that many categories of prescription drugs? And if there are, why? My second question, why only two drugs from over 209 categories. I mean, if there are 209 categories, wouldn’t you think that there are a LOT of drugs? Think about this. If there are, for arguments sake, 10 drugs per category, that’s 2,090 drugs. Only 2% of them would be covered. The remaining percent would have to be covered by the individual, watch out)

Now we get to the fun part. The pricing. Hold on to you chair, this could get a little rocky…

Standard drug plan costs for consumers:

Avg. monthly premium: $32

Deductible: $250 (before any benefits are received)

Expenses: $250--$2,250

Consumers pay: 25% cost of drugs up to $500

Expenses: $2,250--$5,100

Consumers pay: 100% cost of drugs up to $2,850

Expenses: Above $5,100

Consumers pay: 5% of the cost

Simple, right? (How about people that can’t afford that, are they just automatically forgotten about? Well, it IS the Bush Administration, but they say that they did come up with a financial assistance program, and, since it was conceived by people with a lot of money, I’m sure it is kind to those that don’t have a lot of money. After all, the Republicans are a party of inclusion.)

Financial assistance: People with low incomes will qualify for a program known as Extra Help. To qualify, a single person must have an annual income of less than $14,355 and a married couple's income must be less than $19,245. Those who qualify are not responsible for paying premiums, deductibles or co-payments.

Retiree coverage: Employers will be sending out letters this fall telling seniors if their retiree plans' drug benefits are at least as good as Medicare's. To understand the full consequences of making a switch to a Medicare drug plan, people should consult the retiree health plan administrator.

Supplemental Medicare coverage: Seniors with Medigap policies that cover drugs can retain these policies, but no new policies will be sold. Seniors who want to switch to a Medicare drug plan will want to analyze the impact on their supplemental Medicare coverage before doing so. (And I mean A-N-A-L-Y-Z-E, check everything and then recheck it.)

Medicaid and Medicare members: Some very poor people belong to both Medicaid and Medicare and will be automatically assigned to a Medicare drug plan this fall unless they choose a plan on their own. The Medicare plans may put more restrictions on covered medications and pharmacies where drugs can be purchased. Medicaid drug coverage will lapse for this group, including 218,000 Illinois residents, at year's end. Medicaid will still cover these individuals for other health-care services though.

Now, while I was writing this blog and doing my research, I discovered some things that were troubling. For example:

  1. The complexity of the drug benefit is forcing many seniors to retain outside experts to assist them in making overwhelming choices. Some, who have the financial means to do so, are hiring lawyers. That’s not good.
  2. It seems without doubt, the "benefit" was designed to confuse, intimidate and bewilder even the smartest person.
  3. Will the government herd seniors who contact Medicare for advice into prescription drug programs, which will restrict them to a handful of drugs that may or may not be appropriate? (I’m sure they won’t, I’m sure the government assistance will be truthful and straightforward – you have to imagine that statement was said just oozing sarcasm)

    One of the great lessons of Hurricane Katrina was that we have a government that does not believe in assisting the most vulnerable of its citizens; add to that the fact that we now have the presence of these same people presiding over what this administration is calling the greatest expansion of a federally run entitlement in half a century.

    Tomorrow: How the government and private companies are getting the word out, or
    Episode 3 – Revenge of the Bush(League)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Medicare Overhaul + Bush Administration = Screwed over Elderly

Episode 1: The Phantom Benefit

One of President Bush’s largest and most important domestic policy initiatives launches this week, namely Medicare’s new program for prescription drugs. The cost is enormous--an estimated $720 billion over the next 10 years. Will it work? (Well, my knee-jerk reaction is to say no because it was conceived by the Bush Administration. But, being a smart person who tries to show respect and practice tolerance for those that disagree with me – even if they are off kilter by a million feet. I will not jump to any conclusions).

So to that end, I present to you a Medicare primer. Take a read and then you too will realize that President Bush is bent on destroying Medicare…(along with social security, but we’ll get to that one at a later date)

The true test of Medicare's new program to pay for prescription drugs rolls out this week, as drug plans start marketing to consumers and senior citizens start evaluating their product offerings. Because of this, now, for the first time ever, seniors will get specific answers to basic questions they have. Questions such as,

“Will my medications be covered?"

"Can I buy them at my local pharmacy?" and

"What will it cost?"

How good a success this new government program will be is going to rely on how the average (and not so average) consumer reacts and responds to it. If seniors decide that the drug plans will save them money and provide valuable insurance protection, experts (I want names people! Exact names and contact information for these so-called experts) predict that enrollment could soar as high as 30 million people.

But, if people decide the plans are too expensive or limited in their coverage, results could be disappointing. (I, personally, having a good knowledge about the insurance industry, think this is more likely to happen. Most people will decide that the coverage would cost them WAY too much money. Also, the information these people are going to get are excruciatingly hard to read.) In Illinois, as many as 16 private companies are expected to release a flood of sales pitches aimed at 1.6 million Medicare members in the weeks and months ahead. This will be through the mail, over the phone and through television, radio and print ads. Oddly enough, the internet is not going to be used as a major marketing avenue so individuals who surf the internet and are on Medicare will just have to go back to reading the ads for free sex and cheap Viagra.

In the decision-making process, getting unbiased information (and by that I mean information that is NOT coming from one of the private companies offering the plan) will be important, since drug plans will have an interest in promoting their products, not providing objective analysis. If you want information about where to find unadulterated assistance is available through local departments on aging, state senior health insurance counseling programs, Medicare and other sources.

Some 42 million people get health care through Medicare, including 36 million seniors and 6 million people with disabilities, but most medications aren't covered. Instead, many people in Medicare have typically had to pay for drugs on their own, while a minority have had drug coverage through retiree health plans, supplemental insurance or other government sources.

Besides being a difficult subject to understand, the changes are also an extraordinary shift in how Medicare operates. For the first time EVER, a new benefit will be paid for by the federal government, yet administered entirely by private companies.

Because it is a difficult concept to figure out, there are multitudes of community groups and state and federal agencies that have trained thousands of volunteers to help people understand the new benefit.

Enrollment in the new plans starts Nov. 15 and lasts through May 15. Coverage begins in January 2006, or the month following enrollment, whichever is later. Most consumers who sign up after this initial enrollment period will pay a penalty of 1 percent of the plan's premium for every month they waited.

There are notable exceptions though. For instance, in my home state of Illinois, more than 218,000 residents qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare because they are old, disabled, sick and impoverished. This group will have to enroll in a new Medicare drug plan by the end 2005 because their Medicaid drug coverage ends on Jan. 1, 2006. (Isn’t that special? – way to be humanitarians there guys)

To further complicate matters (as if this new system needs more complications) there will be standard drug plans and non-standard drug plans. The Medicare drug benefit's standard structure calls for consumers to pay a $250 deductible before the government starts paying for drugs. From $250 to $2,250, consumers will pay 25 percent of drug expenses, up to $500. Between $2,250 and $5,100 there is a gap known as the "donut hole" and consumers are responsible for all of those bills, up to $2,850. After $5,100, a consumer will pay 5 percent of drug charges. (Everyone got that? Everybody understand? Good. Wait a minute, you in the corner, yeah you, in the t-shirt and jeans…no, not you, the one in the back, way back there in Nebraska…do you got that? You do? Ok, you just looked really confused. Are you a conservative? No? You’re a member of the green party you say, oh, well that explains it…)

Another thing worth noting is that the Medicare drug plans can change the medications they'll pay for with 60 days notice. (So, one month your Prozac is covered, but, bam! 2 months later it isn’t and you have to resort to making your own version of Prozac – from what I have gathered that includes a LOT of alcohol)

Additionally, adults and advocates are also asking (how’s that for alliteration?) what the effect will be on Medicaid. These consumers – many of them mentally ill, cognitively impaired, severely disabled or in nursing homes – may have trouble understanding how the new Medicare drug plans work, especially restrictions on medications and participating pharmacies. Help from family members will be critical for this group to ensure that the individuals have an idea of what is going on and also what will be happening to their benefits.

Tomorrow: The new benefit in simplistic, even-Bush-could-understand-them, terms, or
Episode 2: Attack of the (Drug) Clones

Monday, October 03, 2005

A new week, a new grand jury and a new indictment

I had planned to write today about the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, but stop the presses, Tom DeLay was handed another indictment by a Travis County grand jury.

Now this is a new grand jury that was only sworn in at noon today. The charter for the previous grand jury expired last week. However District Attorney, Ronnie Earle was able to convince this new grand jury to issue a 2 count indictment against the former majority leader just ours after they were sworn in. The two counts are conspiring to launder money and money laundering.

In his own defense, DeLay has characterized Earle of being "an unabashed partisan zealot” who targets Republicans for prosecution, Earle of course is a Democrat.

In Earle’s defense, his record includes successful prosecutions of many Democrats, both large and small in political standing. Included in this record is the prosecution of the Texas State Treasurer (a democrat) in 1982, as well as prosecuting himself in 1983 for tardy campaign finance disclosure fillings for which he pled guilty and fined himself $212.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) has been calling for DeLay’s resignation. (When folks in your own camp start calling publicly for you to resign, it’s time for the rest of us to take a little closer look below the surface.)

It will be interesting to see what else will come out about Tom DeLay in the upcoming weeks. Years of ethics abuses and hand slapping by the House ethics committee may finally be catching up with him, and he only has himself to blame.

Let see what happens when the ‘hammer’ meets the ‘anvil’..