Moonhowlings: Al Alborn Part 3

U.S. Army veteran Alan P. Alborn expands upon his thoughts found on the Coffee Party USA YouTube channel:

Coffee Party USA

You might remember the two videos featuring me that Moon Howler posted on the anti-BVBL website earlier this week. I was approached by Annabel Park ant Eric Byler for the past couple of weeks asking to discuss my view of the world. There was no “set-up”, no “prompting”, no “feeling me out to see how I felt about the world”… frankly, they just wanted to learn what “an old white guy” thought about the state of our Government. I qualify. They conducted a straight and professional interview. It’s my opinion that they did a “fair and balanced” piece that accurately captured my thoughts about a variety of subjects. The first video is now all over the internet… so I’ve gotten my fifteen minutes of fame. I was humbled by the product.

To my surprise (because of the subject, not the Producers), they created a couple of pretty good videos and posted them on their youtube website http://www.youtube.com/user/coffeepartyusaand Facebook. That was followed by a get together with a Washington Post reporter who just watched us in action and an article in the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/25/AR2010022505517.html After the article in the Washington Post appeared, something interesting happened… people started establishing local chapters and signing up on Facebook to learn more. The last time I checked http://www.facebook.com/coffeeparty?ref=ss , the number of people signed up was approaching 18,000 with chapters in well over half of the states (and growing by the minute).

So, here’s my question. Do you think we should start a Coffee Party here in Prince William County? I’m an “old soldier” who thought I had fought my last battle; however, I’m beginning to think that perhaps I have one more battle in me. This battle would be to try to go against the forces of the status quo, the Neocons from the last century, the groups who would like to turn personal religious beliefs into public policy, the people who don’t recognize the value of a multicultural society and the fact that America isn’t lily white any more (and that’s ok), and any other group who hasn’t quite made it across Midnight, 1 January 2001 to step into the twenty-first Century.

Any group is the sum of its parts. The Coffee Party is growing quickly and absorbing a variety of views and opinions. The one thing we all agree on is that Government has to change… and we would like it to change for the better instead of rolling back to the last Century. I would appreciate your thoughts. I’m not hiding behind an alias; however, I respect your privacy and will engage in any respectful conversation.

If I get a lot of positive response, I would propose that those of us interested get together and throw our first Coffee Party to decide what’s next. Ask your friends and tell them about this site. I am not happy with the way America is going and don’t plan to sit this one out. I think I’ll find the energy for one more battle… this could be the big one.

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Urban Institute Overviews The Public Option

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post has called this the “best overview of the public option” he has read so far, and I concur:

Getting to a Public Option that Contains Costs: Negotiations, Opt-Outs and Triggers

The debate over a public option has essentially become a debate over the size and role of government in the health care system. The central argument, as we see it, should be one of fiscal conservatism—that a public option should play a role in addressing the very serious problem of health care cost containment. The current debate between the left and the right on this issue is obscuring the fact that consolidation in both the insurance and provider markets is propelling a higher rate of growth in health care costs. The consolidation of power, particularly in provider markets, makes it extremely difficult for insurers to negotiate rates for their services and contributes to rapid growth in health care costs. A strong public option is one that ties provider rates in some way to Medicare rates (though set at likely higher levels), and that is open to any individual or firm regardless of firm size. It would thus provide countervailing power to providers and help control cost growth.

We argue that a strong version is necessary because there is little else in health reform that can be counted on to contribute significantly to cost containment in the short term. Capping tax-exempt employer contributions to health insurance has great support among many analysts (including us), but it faces considerable political opposition. Proposals such as comparative effectiveness research, new payment approaches, medical homes and accountable care organizations, all offer promise but could take years to provide savings. Thus, the use of a strong public option to reduce government subsidy costs and as a cost containment device should be an essential part of the health reform debate.

We recognize that there is opposition to a strong public option. Both the House and Senate proposals are considering relatively weak versions to make the public option more acceptable. Both proposals would have the public option negotiate rates with physicians and hospitals. We see two problems with this. One is that negotiating rates is not simple and it raises difficult implementation issues; for example, with whom would the government negotiate? Further, negotiations are most likely to be unsuccessful with providers who have substantial market power. Since this is at the heart of the cost problem, a strategy of negotiations seems unlikely to be effective, as has been affirmed by cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate has proposed a public option with an opt-out provision. This has the advantage of recognizing regional diversity in political philosophy by allowing states to pass legislation to keep it from being offered in their states. A disadvantage of this proposal is that it would exclude many who would potentially benefit from a public option. The states likely to opt out are likely to be those with high shares of low-income people and many uninsured.

The other alternative is to establish a strong public option but not implement it unless a triggering event occurred. The goal would be to allow the private insurance system to prove that it can control costs with a new set of insurance rules and state exchanges. The triggering events could be the level of premiums exceeding a certain percentage of family incomes or the growth in health care spending exceeding certain benchmarks. Since the public option would only be triggered because of excessive costs, however measured, we assume that a relatively strong version of a public option would come into play.

We recognize that taking a strong public option off the table may be necessary to enact reform legislation. But this will mean, at a minimum, higher government subsidy costs by not permitting a payer with substantial market power to bring cost containment pressure on the system. The outcome is likely to be that costs will continue to spiral upward. In effect, the nation would be relying on the range of promising pilot approaches to cost containment that would take some time to be successful. If they are not, we may be left with increasingly regulatory approaches, such as rate setting or utilization controls that apply to all payers. This would mean much more government involvement than giving people a choice of a low-cost public option that would be required to compete with private insurers.

(Read entire paper in PDF)

The Sotomayor Hearings: Day One

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Following is the prepared text of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, as released by the White House:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for that kind introduction.

In recent weeks, I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting eighty-nine gracious Senators, including all the members of this Committee. I thank you for the time you have spent with me. Our meetings have given me an illuminating tour of the fifty states and invaluable insights into the American people.

There are countless family members, friends, mentors, colleagues, and clerks who have done so much over the years to make this day possible. I am deeply appreciative for their love and support. I want to make one special note of thanks to my mom. I am here today because of her aspirations and sacrifices for both my brother Juan and me. Mom, I love that we are sharing this together. I am very grateful to the President and humbled to be here today as a nominee to the United States Supreme Court.

The progression of my life has been uniquely American. My parents left Puerto Rico during World War II. I grew up in modest circumstances in a Bronx housing project. My father, a factory worker with a third grade education, passed away when I was nine years old.

On her own, my mother raised my brother and me. She taught us that the key to success in America is a good education. And she set the example, studying alongside my brother and me at our kitchen table so that she could become a registered nurse. We worked hard. I poured myself into my studies at Cardinal Spellman High School, earning scholarships to Princeton University and then Yale Law School, while my brother went to medical school. Our achievements are due to the values that we learned as children, and they have continued to guide my life’s endeavors. I try to pass on this legacy by serving as a mentor and friend to my many godchildren and students of all backgrounds.

Over the past three decades, I have seen our judicial system from a number of different perspectives – as a big-city prosecutor, a corporate litigator, a trial judge and an appellate judge. My first job after law school was as an assistant District Attorney in New York. There, I saw children exploited and abused. I felt the suffering of victims’ families torn apart by a loved one’s needless death. And I learned the tough job law enforcement has protecting the public safety. In my next legal job, I focused on commercial, instead of criminal, matters. I litigated issues on behalf of national and international businesses and advised them on matters ranging from contracts to trademarks.

My career as an advocate ended—and my career as a judge began—when I was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. As a trial judge, I decided over four hundred and fifty cases, and presided over dozens of trials, with perhaps my best known case involving the Major League Baseball strike in 1995.

After six extraordinary years on the district court, I was appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On that Court, I have enjoyed the benefit of sharing ideas and perspectives with wonderful colleagues as we have worked together to resolve the issues before us. I have now served as an appellate judge for over a decade, deciding a wide range of Constitutional, statutory, and other legal questions.

Throughout my seventeen years on the bench, I have witnessed the human consequences of my decisions. Those decisions have been made not to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice.

In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law – it is to apply the law. And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms; interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress’s intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court. In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand.

The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged. That is why I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected. That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system. My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case.

Since President Obama announced my nomination in May, I have received letters from people all over this country. Many tell a unique story of hope in spite of struggles. Each letter has deeply touched me. Each reflects a belief in the dream that led my parents to come to New York all those years ago. It is our Constitution that makes that Dream possible, and I now seek the honor of upholding the Constitution as a Justice on the Supreme Court.

I look forward in the next few days to answering your questions, to having the American people learn more about me, and to being part of a process that reflects the greatness of our Constitution and of our nation. Thank you.

***

The Washington Post has coverage of the live blogging from the hearings themselves.

Tobacco Taxes

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I only think one thing about the issue of Tobacco Taxation:

Alcohol Taxation
.

I only think one thing about the issue of Tobacco Company Regulation:

Drug Company Regulation.

—–

Alcohol Taxation:

If the drug being taxed was alcohol instead of tobacco the public outcry would tear down the establishment in days, if not hours.

I’m not even against a “Sin Tax.

I just think that smokers have become the latest minority to persecute at the benefit of the masses. That’s all.

Drug Company Regulation:

Double-blind studies on all FDA approved pharmaceuticals and removing all conflicts of interest between FDA regulators and drug companies are far more important matters for the FDA to address than clamping down on the Nicotine-Addiction Industry.

Once again I’m not directly opposed to the new federal regulations placed on the Tobacco Industry.

I only think that this wastes time and uses yet another federal agency in a futile misdirection of vital government resources.

Obstructionist Republican Agenda

New RNC Chair, Michael Steele, claims to stand against obstructionists in his first speech then condones the stagnation of the Obama Stimulus bill in the House by Republicans shortly thereafter. I am sorry but that is shameless hypocrisy that reminds me of the previous tactics of Republicans that have done nothing but twist politics into a double-pretzel.

When interviewed about abortion and gay marriage, he explained that certain issues comprised his core beliefs and could not be compromised. In an earlier comment he expressed that he sought to avoid those who simply talked a lot and wanted no resolutions done.

Steele fails to understand that the Democratic Party is easily equal to the Republican Party in terms of members who do not back down on core ideals and core beliefs.

One such core belief is that legislation should pass without a partisan standard of approval in both the House and Senate.

It is obvious that it is nothing more than a partisan agenda of Congressional Republicans to keep the Stimulus package under a Democratic President from passage due to the fact that the last Stimulus and the equally large Bailout under Republican President Bush received quick and dual-party support, without any major concessions from the Democratic Party included therein.

The fact that not even one Republican voted for this bill, even after the requested tax cuts and concessions were included, proves beyond all anecdotal commentary on the exact specifics of the package that the opposition is simply against all policy with no need for explanation or discussion.

These actions prove that the current agenda within the RNC is simply to reject all policy proposed or supported by President Obama in a dangerous game of raw politics.

It is the responsibility of Michael Steele to encourage the Congress to come to a constructive level of progress in this time of great economic instability.

I do not, thus far, share in any level of elation that some have expressed within the Democratic Party with this new chairmanship of the RNC. There is no more time for these word games and the extremely familiar partisan stalemating in America today.

The game-clock has run out and there is nothing but lasting damage done by such an obvious favoritism for Republican sponsored bills and this obstructionist reaction to a Democratic sponsored bill.

To be fair, no Chair can be expected to be able to effect a great many votes in the Congress just after receiving the such a position.

I am simply stating that if the situation reversed, I would chastise the DNC Chair for taking such a narrow view of policy. Steele was in a unique position to help put an end to Republican obstructionism in modern-American government.

Instead he chose instead to be vague in his declaration against such a serious matter.

I would have hoped that the broad declarations against Americans and the vague comments eluding to items of a serious nature that often amount to slander would come to a close within the RNC and its members with the losses of 2008, but it appears that the tactics of distraction are not dying out as hoped.

Another unsettling element is that he speaks as if the Republican Party is not in great need of reconnecting its core foundations with its message and representatives after such a serious national defeat.

It is unfortunate that the need for keeping up appearances is keeping what I tend to believe to a genuine and honest man in his convictions from telling the simple truth that he has a lot work ahead of him if he wants to keep conservatism within the American dialect of politics in years to come.

I would like to attempt to dispel this term ’common sense’ from politics that Steele is so found of.

Basic knowledge about civics gives a person both personal political perspective and helps with a debate on policy. Common sense is to not running with scissors and taking good care of your health or things like not swearing in a church and being polite to others.

I see plenty of basic and advanced knowledge in the RNC but very little common sense. This has not changed in any fashion, in my view.

Lastly, the former-Congressman David Duke expressed that he saw Steele’s election as a dark day in Republican history. I think that is simply absurd and that Duke is a racist.

It is simply more of the same from the past eight, in what I see so far. I find it difficult to find excitement and relief at this time.

Eric Lightborn
February 3rd 2009

The Greatest Failing of the Liberal Movement

“Why would a liberal blogger ever talk about this? Has he lost his mind?”

Upon review of my postings, I have been exceedingly focused on the conservative movements and often harsh. I take nothing back.

It is past time I took a moment to address the very real short-comings within the popularity and success of many liberal movements. I’ll refrain myself to speaking generally.

The case of the ‘liberal snob’ or the ‘egghead liberal’ is the center of the problem. I cannot speak for others but I cannot address real issues without getting verbose and sometimes over-technical.

‘Joe Biden long-windedness’ is modern term getting thrown around for those like myself in their political discourse.

Or rather I can remove myself from the endless sentiment, but I must be allowed to let raw passion and at times foul language into the dialect of political discussion.

Far too many popular liberals in both press and in office maintain what some people see as a ‘know-it-all’ attitude that I am guilty of myself and attempt to train myself out of the habit in both my writing and personal conduct.

Book-smarts is great, as is higher education, but only a certain number of people eat the material up like I do. And I test far worse than I comprehend in most subjects.

So I am far from an academic at this time, and qualify as a hobbyist at best.

People should have every chance to look over the same press releases a little longer or to think on the perspective they hold as much as they wish. A person who says they are not too sure about something in politics, is really thinking about politics.

Which is nothing but good, no matter where in the aisle you find yourself.

This is tied into our fundamental Right to Vote. We require a full compliment of modern perspective in our political media and a high-credibility, non-partisan, factual press corp.

Only the so-called ‘fringe’ liberal groups support extreme journalistic integrity reform and numerous conservative groups have labeled themselves as ‘media integrity-advocates’ when in fact the majority of them support fact suppression and disinformation.

Not to mention the fact that the Fairness Doctrine has entered the political discourse of Democrats and I personally view it as macaroni-legislation in which we adopt failed policies of the past and switch the pieces around hoping for some wild new picture. The Fairness Doctrine has not caught any major steam, however, perhaps due to the paranoia of many conservative hosts on radio broadcasting mediums.

The greatest failing of the liberal movement is simply that all liberals, myself included, want everyone to pick up various materials and sources then ration through all the reports looking for the facts. A person asking this is any form is often perceived as snubbing their nose at light readers.

This is not just unappealing and offensive to many, it is a downright ridiculous proposition.

Both liberals and conservatives along with the ‘third’ parties all have a great many members who find it a laughable concept to start watching or listening to the alternative perspective in their daily media consumption.

The conservative agenda seeks to pin this blame on the idea of Politically Correct Language (PC) but I think the source of blame is a three-letter acronym: FCC.

PC attitudes are another topic, but it safe to say I am not a strong advocate for them in all situations. I do want to state that I see cultural sensitivity and political correctness as two separate issues and the common-conservative argument against PC culture also includes a negative view of cultural sensitivity and religious sensitivity that I do not share.

The Federal Communications Committee is the true beating heart of the matter, and remains a taboo topic even in this age of worldwide-electronic communications.

Just as the ‘scream heard around the world’ by Howard Dean was received as if he was mentality unstable or the nature of how the New Year‘s Eve comments of Kathy Griffin were handled, the constant vanilla-nature of all our major communications has given the lasting impression to many that if you express anything but highbrow editorials you will be shamed in public if not removed immediately.

As I see it, the yolk of the FCC bending to the will of a highly sensitive primarily religious minority has squelched the liberal movement more than any other when speaking of American politics and media over the past twenty to thirty years.

The damage is universal, not isolated. The smaller political movements and even the under-funded branches of the conservative movement have suffered under this scenario.

There is a need for laws and rules, of course. But we need not rampantly censor all dialogue and squelch the very intention of Freedom of Speech in the process.

To put it another way:

The young liberals of America are more than ready to verbally tear Rush Limbaugh’s head off, and start making a paycheck off that, except most of us have a “HBO Rated” and “TV/Radio Rated” manner of conducting ourselves. We don’t need Obama to pay any attention to the windbag if he would relax the arcane FCC regulations on the independent minds of America.

Eric Lightborn
https://ericlightborn.wordpress.com
February 3rd 2009

American Partisanship? Guilty On All Counts

Everyone has a little partisanship in them. Or at least if they have any political convictions they do. The true difference between a hard-line partisan and a person who uses passion and exaggeration in arguments is extremely simple: A blinded partisan will always work to squelch the ideas that are contrary to their own.

A close examination of modern media shows that partisanship is within all formats and all sources in different fashions and forms. The strongest vein of partisanship is without a doubt found within the conservative and pro-Republican news talk radio programs. Using dismissive attitudes and literally speaking over the words of others is not just commonplace but the entirety of certain shows.

My ire is raised the most when a person guilty of partisanship disguises themselves as one who is not. A host that asks their audience to suspend the fact that they make their living on the success or failure of the media is fit to inform and critique the media, is both absurd and insulting. A host that labels their shows and commentary as non-biased and pure policy when in fact the agenda is exclusively conservative is harmful to political understanding and hopeful future compromises.

Each group must come to fully understand one another before there can be resolution within the truth that each faction is invested in the same goal but wishes to employ very different strategies in government. The nature of all partisanship truly comes from keeping this message out of the major media sources and the popular formats.

I have no way to prove my sincerity but I have no desire to stomp out the conservative viewpoint or keep the majority of Americans from hearing opinions that are completely different from my own. I can only say that I am against the Fairness Doctrine or any legislation that works to alter the Fair and Equal Rule.

The issue should be laid at the feet of the networks, who could easily solicit a wider range of opinion.

Eric Lightborn
January 31st 2009