Abe Lincoln’s Warning

Iconic black and white photograph of Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of
corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the
country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the
prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands
and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than
ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may
prove groundless.”
– Abraham Lincoln

Andrew Jackson on corporate power

“In this point of the case the question is distinctly presented
whether the people of the United States are to govern through
representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money
and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence
their judgment and control their decisions.”

– Andrew Jackson

Obama Taps New Off-Shore Oil Fields

JERRY REMMERS, Columnist in At TMV posts on the Obama announcement opening up new off-shore oil and gas leases on the Eastern seaboard, eastern gulf and northern Alaska. Remmers says

As outlined, Obama’s plan is the best common-sense approach towards energy independence from foreign oil cartels in generations while at the same time preserving environmental safeguards. It provides a bridge until our country is released from relying so strongly on fossil fuels from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Yeah, right. The idea was never sound, but rallied the GOP base. The problems?

1 – oil companies aren’t exploring 45 million acres of their current leases
2 – they have made no commitment to drill new leases (Remmers admits this “However, exploration by oil companies set on drilling these waters will depend whether it is economically worth their trouble.”)
3 – even if they do it will take a decade to produce any oil from them
4 – we lack the refining capacity for more
5 – oil companies aren’t interested in building new refineries here
6 – the oil companies have never pledged to sell American oil to Americans
7 – only a fraction of current Alaska production goes to the USA. Most goes to Asia
8 – we have very little, a drop in the ocean, in terms of global resource
9 – no one predicts it will reduce prices or free us from dependence

Take a look at the real situation here.

The federal government has offered 229 million acres of public and private land in 12 western states for oil and gas drilling, an area greater than the combined size of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona

Despite access to more than 200 million acres of public land over the past 15 years (1989-2003), the oil and gas industry has produced enough energy from this land to satisfy only 53 days of U.S. oil consumption… This rate of production amounts to an
average of 3.6 days per year of oil…

Get it? In 15 years of access to a HUGE chunk of America to drill, they’ve produced 53 days of oil for us. Oh yeah. Remmers also admits that opening up these leases will INCREASE oil prices, not decrease them.

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Medicare and the Health Care Debate

We’re in the heat of battle, so to speak, on health care reform, and the rhetoric is flying. Lots of untruths are flying too, many intentional (see “propaganda”). Here are some facts, with links, to help clarify this critical care issue.

Specifics of the cost / benefit comparison. The data is from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a Congressional research service set up under GW Bush as a part of Medicare modernization. This data below is from their March and June 2008 reports to Congress, available (pdf) from MedPAC

Medicare pays doctors 19% less than private insurers, yet 97% of doctors (and nearly all hospitals, which are paid 25% less) accept new Medicare patients, virtually the same percent (no statistically significant difference) that accept private PPO patients. That is solid, numerical proof of concept.

Thus it is possible for a big payer to negotiate lower prices, which has to be a part of  “cost containment” in health care, and our government has done better than any other (domestic) source. Plus, they have succeeded with the highest risk patient population in the business, the elderly. A common response from public health care opponents is that providers shift costs to private payers, but no one has offered proof. As disproof, my Medicare-accepting doctor is not allowed to charge private insurers any more than my Medicare-denying doctor friend. If private insurers are picking up the tab for Medicare patients, that’s their problem. They’re unable to negotiate a price that meets what our government can.

Another common talking point is that if we don’t pay too much, we’ll strangle “innovation” in health care. With respect to insurance, insurance company “innovation” such as “new products” does nothing to improve health care. With respect to big pharma, they have not felt the heat nearly enough to lower costs. They lie constantly about how they need big profits to drive innovation, but the truths are: first, they need government to drive innovation, and second, they are no more innovative than their European and Asian rivals, who now dominate the pharma market (4 of the top 5). On the first point, look at taxol, one of our newest chemotherapy agents. Discovered by government grants to an academic researcher, the development was funded by NIH, yet Bristol Meyers Squibb got the patent and then wants top dollar from the very people, “we the people” who gave them the drug in the first place.

Then opponents veer off into the Friedmanite mantra “privatize, deregulate” saying if we just give insurers more slack (less regulation) they’ll compete by lowering prices and becoming more efficient. The “free market” argument is propaganda.

Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.  LINK

For those who think government can’t run an insurance program, take a look at the national flood insurance program. Insuring people in flood plains is just too risky for private insurance, so the government has to do it, and does it well. Same thing with Medicare. The expensive risk pool of over 65 Americans is too risky for private insurance, yet the government runs the program at MUCH lower cost than private insurance manages with the easier risk pool. Plus, private insurers take advantage of and use the work of millions of staff hours of federal work (like their diagnosis system) and still private insurers and their adherents pretend that the free market is so efficient and the government so inept.

Malpractice is another boogey man of the right. If only patients harmed by negligence, corruption or incompetence couldn’t sue, the cost of health care would plummet, they contend. So tort reform over the objections of “trial lawyers” (another boogeyman to the right) would save the day.

Reality chack: Malpractice is actually a tiny part of health care cost, around 2%, and doctors who are crooked or incompetent deserve judgments against them. Malpractice *insurance* is costly, but that’s the same insurance industry that is responsible for other out of control costs. A Dartmouth College study destroyed the idea that insurers raised malpractice rates to cover lawsuit costs. In fact, they were covering losses due to their bad investments.

Researchers found that payments grew an average of 4 percent annually during the years covered by the study, or 52 percent overall since 1991, but only 1.6 percent a year since 2000. The increases are roughly equivalent to the overall rise in healthcare costs, said Amitabh Chandra, lead author and an assistant professor of economics at the New Hampshire college…

Meanwhile, malpractice insurance premiums for internists, general surgeons, and obstetricians have skyrocketed since 2000, jumping 20 to 25 percent in 2002 alone…

It has been proven repeatedly that “caps” and other “tort reforms” do not work. States that have enacted so-called “tort reform” have only seen their insurance rates continue to shoot up after passing severe liability limits. ” In all states with severe caps “insurers have continued to increase insurance rates.”

Another common talking point is that a government run program will be a horror story because “big government” is so bad and evil, run by “heartless bureaucrats” and will be worse than private. That’s a scare tactic. Government already covers almost half of health care in the US, so it’s not a speculative exercise of how bad they could do. There is fully as much data on government paid health care as there is for privately paid health care. Medicare wins hands down. Not sure? Name a single other insurance policy, outside of a government one, that has these features:

no eligibility requirements or physical
no exclusion of pre-existing conditions
no cancellation for excess use of services
no penalty for moving or changing jobs
no re-applying for coverage if moving or changing jobs
a stable, mature program known to both physicians and patients
no marketing cost
no sales cost
no commissions
no bloated executive salaries
no palatial executive suites
no corporate jets or limos

Climate Change Case

Temperature and CO2 have always correlated closely, for at least 400,000 years. Here’s a graph of that correlation:
Most climate scientists believe the reason is the “greenhouse effect,” that is, heat is retained more by air with higher levels of greenhouse gasses. CO2 can be absorbed both by land (plants, mostly) and oceans (direct air to water transfer). However, though the oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the carbon we put in the air, “
There is no hope that this process will take place fast enough to help control the build-up of CO2.” says Michael McElroy, Harvard’s Butler professor of environmental science.

There is no doubt that we have increased the CO2 content of the atmosphere. The carbon in Oil and coal deep underground are permanently sequestered. They only enter the atmosphere if we bring them up and burn them. All combustion of carbon-based fuels releases carbon into the atmosphere. This is indisputable. Every carbon atom burned (oxidized) creates a molecule of CO2. (Burning wood also releases CO2, so clearing of forests also contributes.)

Here’s how atmospheric CO2 levels have increased. Note the rapid rise since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

http://oceanlink.island.net/ONews/ONews7/images/co2%20variations%20-%20RRohde.jpg

“Today, CO2 levels are higher than at any time in at least the past 650,000 years because of increased fossil fuel burning.” Thomas Marchitto, University of Colorado

. Here’s a view of the last 1,000 years:

Carbon dioxide record

Here’s a chart of the rising CO2 since 1958:

Recent carbon dioxide record
How do we know we’re responsible for that rise, other than the correlation with our use of fossil fuels? That’s explained HERE. 1) Historical records and calculation of carbon released by our burning of fuel.

The roughly 500 billion metric tons of carbon we have produced is enough to have raised the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to nearly 500 ppm. The concentrations have not reached that level because the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere have the capacity to absorb some of the CO2 we produce.* However, it is the fact that we produce CO2 faster than the ocean and biosphere can absorb it that explains the observed increase.

Independent of that analysis, we can tell how much we have contributed by measuring isotopes. Since carbon isotopes decay very slowly(that’s how carbon dating works), we can determine how much CO2 in the atmosphere was from plants (last year’s CO2) and how much from dead dinosaurs (millions of years of decay). All the calculations are available at the LINK.

Here’s the rising methane level, an even more potent greenhouse gas:

Methane Record

Great Americans Speak Out on Corporatism


Presidents and Others Comment on Corporations
And their involvement in politics

fas-cism (fâsh’iz’em) n. A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism. [Ital. fascio, group.] -fas’cist n. -fas-cis’tic (fa-shis’tik) adj.
– The American Heritage Dictionary ©1983 Houghton Mifflin Company

“There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by … corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.”
– James Madison

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
– Thomas Jefferson

“In this point of the case the question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions.”

– Andrew Jackson

“I am more than ever convinced of the dangers to which the free and unbiased exercise of political opinion – the only sure foundation and safeguard of republican government – would be exposed by any further increase of the already overgrown influence of corporate authorities.”
– Martin Van Buren

“It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.

“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”
– Grover Cleveland

“The first thing to understand is the difference between the natural person and the fictitious person called a corporation. They differ in the purpose for which they are created, in the strength which they possess, and in the restraints under which they act.

“Man is the handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to carry out a Divine purpose; the corporation is the handiwork of man and created to carry out a money-making policy.

“There is comparatively little difference in the strength of men; a corporation may be one hundred, one thousand, or even one million times stronger than the average man. Man acts under the restraints of conscience, and is influenced also by a belief in a future life. A corporation has no soul and cares nothing about the hereafter. …

“A corporation has no rights except those given it by law. It can exercise no power except that conferred upon it by the people through legislation, and the people should be as free to withhold as to give, public interest and not private advantage being the end in view.”
– Secretary of State and 3-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan

“I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party.… Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

“The fortunes amassed through corporate organization are now so large, and vest such power in those that wield them, as to make it a matter of necessity to give to the sovereign – that is, to the Government, which represents the people as a whole – some effective power of supervision over their corporate use. In order to insure a healthy social and industrial life, every big corporation should be held responsible by, and be accountable to, some sovereign strong enough to control its conduct.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
–Theodore Roosevelt, 19-Apr-06

“We are a business people. The tillers of the soil, the wage workers, the business men – these are the three big and vitally important divisions of our population. The welfare of each. division is vitally necessary to the welfare of the people as a whole.

“The great mass of business is of course done by men whose business is either small or of moderate size. The middle sized business men form an element of strength which is of literally incalculable value to the nation. Taken as a class, they are among our best citizens. They have not been seekers after enormous fortunes; they have been moderately and justly prosperous, by reason of dealing fairly with their customers, competitors, and employees. They are satisfied with a legitimate profit that will pay their expenses of living and lay by something for those who come after, and the additional amount necessary for the betterment and improvement of their plant. The average business man of this type is, as a rule, a leading citizen of his community, foremost in everything that tells for its betterment, a man whom his neighbors look up to and respect; he is in no sense dangerous to his community, just because he is an integral part of his community, bone of its bone and flesh of its flesh. His life fibers are intertwined with the life fibers of his fellow citizens…

“So much for the small business man and the middle-sized business man. Now for big business. …

“It is imperative to exercise over big business a control and supervision which is unnecessary as regards small business. All business must be conducted under the law, and all business men, big or little, must act justly. But a wicked big interest is necessarily more dangerous to the community than a wicked little interest. ‘Big business’ in the past has been responsible for much of the special privilege which must be unsparingly cut out of our national life.

“I do not believe in making mere size of and by itself criminal. The mere fact of size, however, does unquestionably carry the potentiality of such grave wrongdoing that there should be by law provision made for the strict supervision and regulation of these great industrial concerns doing an interstate business, much as we now regulate the transportation agencies which are engaged in interstate business. The antitrust law does good in so far as it can be invoked against combinations which really are monopolies or which restrict production or which artificially raise prices. …

“The important thing is this: that, under such government recognition as we may give to that which is beneficent and wholesome in large business organizations, we shall be most vigilant never to allow them to crystallize into a condition which shall make private initiative difficult. It is of the utmost importance that in the future we shall keep the broad path of opportunity just as open and easy for our children as it was for our fathers during the period which has been the glory of America’s industrial history — that it shall be not only possible but easy for an ambitious men, whose character has so impressed itself upon his neighbors that they are willing to give him capital and credit, to start in business for himself, and, if his superior efficiency deserves it, to triumph over the biggest organization that may happen to exist in his particular field. Whatever practices upon the part of large combinations may threaten to discourage such a man, or deny to him that which in the judgment of the community is a square deal, should be specifically defined by the statutes as crimes. And in every case the individual corporation officer responsible for such unfair dealing should be punished. …

“We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows. We have only praise for the business man whose business success comes as an incident to doing good work for his fellows. But we should so shape conditions that a fortune shall be obtained only in honorable fashion, in such fashion that its gaining represents benefit to the community. …

“We stand for the rights of property, but we stand even more for the rights of man. … We will protect the rights of the wealthy man, but we maintain that he holds his wealth subject to the general right of the community to regulate its business use as the public welfare requires.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

“That very word freedom, in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power. In 1776 we sought freedom from the tyranny of a political autocracy – from the eighteenth-century royalists who held special privileges from the crown. It was to perpetuate their privilege that they governed without the consent of the governed; that they denied the right of free assembly and free speech; that they restricted the worship of God; that they put the average man’s property and the average man’s life in pawn to the mercenaries of dynastic power; that they regimented the people.

“And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his own government. Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

“Since that struggle, however, man’s inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution – all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.

“For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital – all undreamed of by the Fathers – the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

“There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small-businessmen and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

“It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

“The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor – these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age – other people’s money – these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

“Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

“Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

“An old English judge once said: ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ Liberty requires opportunity to make a living – a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

“For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor – other people’s lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

“Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people’s mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

“The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody’s business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

“Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

“The brave and clear platform adopted by this convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.

“But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.

“For more than three years we have fought for them. This convention, in every word and deed, has pledged that the fight will go on.

“The defeats and victories of these years have given to us as a people a new understanding of our government and of ourselves. Never since the early days of the New England town meeting have the affairs of government been so widely discussed and so clearly appreciated. It has been brought home to us that the only effective guide for the safety of this most worldly of worlds, the greatest guide of all, is moral principle.

“We do not see faith, hope, and charity as unattainable ideals, but we use them as stout supports of a nation fighting the fight for freedom in a modern civilization.

“Faith – in the soundness of democracy in the midst of dictatorships.

“Hope – renewed because we know so well the progress we have made.

“Charity – in the true spirit of that grand old word. For charity literally translated from the original means love, the love that understands, that does not merely share the wealth of the giver, but in true sympathy and wisdom helps men to help themselves.

“We seek not merely to make government a mechanical implement, but to give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity.

“We are poor indeed if this nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude.

“In the place of the palace of privilege we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity.

“It is a sobering thing, my friends, to be a servant of this great cause. We try in our daily work to remember that the cause belongs not to us, but to the people. The standard is not in the hands of you and me alone. It is carried by America. We seek daily to profit from experience, to learn to do better as our task proceeds.

“Governments can err, presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted on different scales.

“Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

“There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.

“In this world of ours in other lands, there are some people, who, in times past, have lived and fought for freedom, and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. They have sold their heritage of freedom for the illusion of a living. They have yielded their democracy.

“I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope. They begin to know that here in America we are waging a great and successful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.

“I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Democracy maintains that government is established for the benefit of the individual, and is charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the individual and his freedom in the exercise of his abilities. Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice.”
–Harry Truman

“Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower