America’s Day of Reckoning Has Arrived

February 25, 2009

The State of Our Economy is a Concern that Rises Above All Others

U.S. Presidents usually give a major speech before a joint session of Congress when they have served for a year. President Barack Obama could not wait that long. He spoke on Tuesday night because America needed a stopper. He accomplished that, and provided an outline for the future.

President Obama delivered a serious, ambitious speech. It was realistic, pointing out past mistakes and emphasizing responsibility and accountability. It was holistic, calling for new energy, health care and education initiatives to address our cultural and economic deficiencies and foster sustainable prosperity.

The President did what a new leader needs to do in a complex, deteriorating situation – he bought some time. He gave us the big picture; now we need the details. It is crucial that a solid plan for the banking system be forthcoming.

Republican Response Recycles Vaporware

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal gave the opposition party’s response. It was, in a word, weak. Gov. Jindal offered little guidance and less vision, essentially saying to Americans: Folks, we’ll lower your taxes and you’re on your own. Evidently, the Republican plan is no plan.

Read the full text of President Obama’s speech at the Washington Post.

Steve Sikora blogs at Art of Angles.


Minutes of February Meeting of W PA Progressives

February 19, 2009

A meeting of the Western PA Progressives was held on 2/11/09 at Rudy’s Restaurant in Grove City

Don Christoph and Mark Prokay of the Mercer County Organization for Obama reported on the next steps to ensure that Mercer County doesn’t get left out of the stimulus plan.  They will identify Mercer County shovel ready projects and potential green jobs.

Marcia Lehman of the Beaver County Peace Links updated the group on the ongoing Peace Vigil at the Beaver County Court House.  The group has been at the court house from 1-2 PM every Saturday since 2002. The 6th anniversary of the Iraq War will be observed March 19 and 20; more details to follow. 

Carl Davidson of United for Peace and Justice. Currently, they are urging the State Representatives and Senators to Bring the PA National Guard back to PA, to be available to do the work they joined to do.  We are all urged to contact our State Representative and Senator about state legislation.  On April 4 in New York City, there will be a gathering at Riverside Church and a march to Wall St. linking war to racism.

Randy Shannon 4th CD chapter Progressive Democrats of America spoke about HR 676, the National Single Payer Health Plan.  Obama has stated that he is personally in favor of the resolution but needs mandate (That means us!!!).  They have been successful in passing local resolutions endorsing HR 676, including Beaver County and Ambridge Borough. They are encouraging lobbing Jason Altmire with a phone lobbying campaign; details to follow when organized.

Lou Hancherick of the Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Health Care spoke about the win-win campaign.  Allegheny county executive Dan Onorato (who opposed endorsing HR 676 in the past) became highly interested when informed of the potential savings for Allegheny County.  He is presently reviewing the potential impact.

Joe Talarico of the Physicians for a National Health Plan gave a short presentation on HR 676.  He gave the entire presentation to the Progressive Democrats of Lawrence County in January.

The consensus of the group was to continue with a grass roots drive to promote the plan.  This includes calls and letters to representatives and senators, contacting the President through his web site, Http:// , and his new site, Http:// .  Congresspersons can be contacted through their web sites:

·      Jason Altmire

·      Kathy Dahlkemper

·      Bob Casey

·      Arlen Specter (good luck!)

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.  The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 11 at a site to be determined in Cranberry Township

Disclaimer:  The above minutes were compiled by Joe Talarico.  Their accuracy is limited by Joe’s poor notes, poorer memory, and inherent biases.  Anyone who was at the meeting and has a differing recollection of the events is urged to make appropriate corrections and additions.  Joe’s intellectual deficiencies, in addition to rendering these minutes of questionable accuracy, also limit his ability to take offense to any corrections.

No more free lunch

February 15, 2009

jump-fuckers1I knew it would only be a matter of time before all Americans as well as the Congress would come to the same conclusion. The conclusion they have all come to is we are fighting for our economic survival. Just about every market around the world, be it equities or commodities, are down over 50% from their highs and 332 US banks have failed since late 2006 (, 2006). The current situation has become so severe that republicans are now talking about nationalizing banks!


“This idea of nationalizing banks is not comfortable,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “But I think we’ve got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community, throughout the world, that we’re going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago, no one likes. To me, banking and housing are the root cause of this problem. I’m very much afraid any program to salvage the bank is going to require the government… I would not take off the idea of nationalizing the banks.”

Personally, I don’t think the republicans care very much about the banking systems but what they do care about is getting campaign contributions or it could be giving their friends a free lunch. You ask, what do I mean by a free lunch? According to the NYT, when the FDIC takes over a failed bank they also take on the bad loans. When a loans go bad the FDIC must decide if they want to take over the business, reorganize the loans principle and monthly payments, or sell then for pennies on the dollar.

It is the sale of these assets for pennies on the dollar that I believe elected officials will pass along to their donors who have the cash to exploit these financial opportunities. It’s time to start a national investigation net root force!



The Iraq Occupation: Decoding the Misinformation

February 11, 2009

 Tuesday afternoon at the University of Pittsburgh Greensburg Campus, we were fortunate enough to have Raed Jarrar, the Iraq Consultant for the American Friends Service Committee speak to us about the occupation of Iraq through the eyes of an Iraqi, now U.S. citizen. Raed Jarrar, for those who are not familiar with his background, was born and raised in Iraq and is of both Sunni and Shiite descent. He has a degree in architecture from the University of Jordan, is a Red Cross Volunteer, and a Human Rights activist. He first came to the public attention with his blog entitled “Where is Raed?” created with the help of his friend Salam Pax. He is probably even better known due to an August 2006 incident with JetBlue at JFK International Airport, where he was stopped for wearing a shirt that read “We will not be silent” in both English and Arabic. The shirt was produced by an anti-war group and inspired by the German translation, “Wir schweigen nicht.” It was the slogan of the German antifascist group called The White Rose. He was eventually permitted to board the aircraft, but was forced change his shirt and sit in the back of the plane under the watchful eyes of a flight attendant. In his description of the account yesterday, he described how, after he was permitted to board and the flight was in progress, he watched Fox News on the television on the seatback. He described how Fox News painted a horrible picture of Muslims, and how he believed that the impression he had of America as the land of opportunity and equality became tarnished. He now believed he had moved to a country that hated Muslims, and that he was the enemy of the United States. Following this incident, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on his behalf against JetBlue for illegal discrimination. Last month, he was awarded a settlement of $240,000. Today, he spoke mainly about the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The first point he wished to address was a Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA. He spoke of how the Iraqi government went through the necessary steps to pass the agreement, but in the United States, the former administration tried to bypass it with an “Executive Agreement,” which would not make the agreement constitutionally binding the way that ratification in the Senate would. This agreement, if passed, has withdrawal guidelines, ending the occupation completely by December 31, 2011. The Obama Administration has an alternative plan. According to Jarrar, this would withdraw combat troops in 16 months, possibly 23 months, a plan that I myself discovered through Yahoo news last week. However, combat troops only make up half of the people currently occupying Iraq. The government tries to justify this “presence” as necessary in protecting the United States Embassy in Iraq, training Iraqi soldiers, and for counter-terrorism attacks. These are tens of thousands of people left behind when the armed forces leave. Iraqis still see this as occupation. To them, the troop levels do not matter. One person remaining would still be an occupation to the people of Iraq. Based on this 16 month plan, the American Friends Service Committee has started the website as part of it’s Wage Peace Campaign. On the 20th of every month, the AFSC sends Obama a notification that another month has elapsed, and that he has one less to end the occupation. This was just part of the 90 minute presentation. He also discussed how the United States was led into a war based on lies. The conflict started 18 years ago and not much of the policies in Iraq have changed. It is a war based on misconceptions, even on the part of top government officials. Colin Powell actually believed there were weapons of mass destruction, and when it was discovered that the United States was wrong, he admitted it. As Jarrar said “Colin Powell was tricked into saying these things. He actually believed these things.” Jarrar believes, as do I, that the U.S. government knew there were no weapons, and that they invaded because they knew that. This is an attempt to take over Iraq’s oil, which is the second biggest oil reserve in the world. Had there actually been weapons, the government would not have dared to invade. This is how the Iraqi people see it. They do not believe that the United States is their liberator. The U.S. did not invade because they were protecting them from genocide or because they were degraded. The last administration claimed that Iraq would fail if the occupation ended too soon. Jarrar does not believe this to be true. In the last 1246 years, Baghdad has been occupied twenty different times. Not once after the foreign rule ended did the country collapse into ruin. There are also misconceptions of the Iraqi culture. In the U.S. it is believed that the violence that occurs is because of religious differences. In reality, it is not as simple as Sunni versus Shiite. As I said before, Jarrar is both. It is Sunni versus Sunni, Shiite versus Shiite, and yes, some of it is Sunni versus Shiite, but it cannot be narrowed down to a religious conflict. It is really more political and economical. Unfortunately, the American people do not see this. They see suicide bombers blowing up buses on crowded streets. To conclude the presentation, Jarrar argued that the best way to help the Iraqi people is to get out, end the occupation, and let them run their own lives. With this said, most Iraqis know the difference between the United States government and the United States citizens. They do not blame the American citizens for this occupation, knowing fully well that most are opposed to the war. The election of Barack Obama has begun the process of repairing our reputation with Iraq and the rest of the world. The information that I have produced is the content of the presentation of The Iraq Occupation: Decoding the Misconceptions, which I attended this afternoon. This is the argument of Raed Jarrar. Unfortunately, it is only as good as the notes I took, which probably are not that great because I am a really slow writer.

From Quitting Your Dentist to Waging a Quiet Revolution

February 11, 2009

Don’t Let Fox News Ruin Your Pizza!

Some people might think that firing your dentist over the choice of news channel on the waiting room television is a bit over the edge. Kevin Lynn would think otherwise. From the LA Progressive:

The other day I walked into a near by California Pizza Kitchen, pulled up to the counter, ordered a pepperoni pizza and then sat back to sip my iced tea. I then noticed when I looked up from the counter it was Fox News being beamed on every television in the place. […]

Something stuck in my craw and I had what can be considered a moment of clarity. I asked my server to send over the manager when things slowed down. The manager came over and I told him I had a request and the request was to show any channel but Fox. I said I understood if he couldn’t comply cause he may not have the latitude to make decisions like that. He smiled and said he would change channels right away. He changed the station on each TV. […]

Feeling embolden I came up with an idea. It is an idea for a silent revolution. From now on when I go into an establishment and Fox News is playing I will ask them to change the station. If they care not to oblige me, I will simply inform them that I will at this moment and hence forward take my business elsewhere.

On Tuesday afternoon, Kevin’s post was voted-up to the front page of the news aggregation site, Reddit. Today, it ranks in the top 425 – not too bad competing against breaking news.

When will this story end? That’s up to you.

Steve Sikora blogs at Art of Angles.

Must See… Lewis Black’s Solution to the Crisis

February 10, 2009

I saw this at least two years ago and it made sense when the answer to everything was a tax cut.  It makes even more sense now.


Letter to jason Altmire on Single Payer Health Plan

February 9, 2009

As we discussed at our December meeting, I (finally) wrote to Jason Altmire urging support for HR 676.  The letter ensues:

February 9, 2009


Rep. Jason Altmire

332 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Mr. Altmire:


I am writing on behalf of the Western Pennsylvania Progressives, a new political action group composed of progressives in Butler, Mercer, Lawrence, Beaver, and Allegheny Counties, regarding HR 676, the Physicians National Health Plan.  A number of our members have discussed this issue with you in the past, and, while to date you have not committed to support this legislation, we believe that the recent collapse of the economy has made single-payer, cradle to grave, first dollar coverage more essential than ever.  The rising ranks of unemployed, underemployed, uninsured, and underinsured is nothing short of a national emergency.  If this occurred in a concentrated area, as happens in a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the federal government would have declared it an emergency, and decisive action would have been undertaken at a national level (provided Bush wasn’t still President).  The lack of spectacular headlines does nothing to diminish the effect on the victims of this travesty.


Recently, President Obama, in response to the Republican attempts to gut his stimulus plan and replace it with more tax cuts, derided their plan as a return to the failed policies of the past.  Unfortunately, every other plan to reform health care recently proposed, including the President’s own plan, relies on our current system of health care finance, effectively returning to the failed policies of the past.


Inadequate health care is essentially a disease of the working class, the class that makes up the clear majority of your constituents.  All of us have been affected by this national epidemic, either personally or through a family member or close friend.  While there has been only minimal interest in HR 676 in Congress, public support has grown rapidly.  A clear majority believe that a single-payer (government managed) health plan would best serve our citizens.  The American College of Physicians, the second largest physician group in the country has supported the plan.  For the first time, a survey published by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 62% of physicians support a national single-payer health plan.  In our own Congressional district, after the Beaver County Commissioners discovered the county would realize $6.83 million annually, they passed a resolution endorsing HR 676.  Other municipalities nation-wide are doing the same.


I will not belabor the myriad of benefits of the plan, as I believe you are well versed in the details of the plan.  The Western Pennsylvania Progressives, on behalf of the working people of the 4th Congressional District, urge you to take the lead and endorse HR 676.