Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Archive for December 2009

2010 Open Thread



Just want to wish all Moose (and Moose lurkers) a Happy New Year. I hope that 2010 brings you and yours health and happiness, love and and laughter…lots of laughter. Let us know your favorite memories from 2009…and the things from the past year that you will not be sad to leave behind. What are your family traditions? Resolutions or no? This is an Open Thread…the last of 2009! (and the first of 2010!)

New Year’s Moose Before:


Before Obama Signs the Health Care Bill…

By: Inoljt,

Dear Mr. President:

Congratulations – two days ago the Senate passed a comprehensive health care bill, achieving a long-sought liberal initiative regarding a system that badly needs reform. Unless something extremely unexpected occurs, it will soon be on your desk, for you to sign into law or veto.

I highly doubt that you will ever read this post and the advice it offers, and I’m fairly sure you’ve made your mind up to sign the bill a long time ago. Nevertheless, I will deign to offer you some thoughts.

Before signing health care reform into law, I urge you to carefully review the bill one final time – to consider the immense consequences of this action. Take a long hard look at the proposal: Will the market exchanges really work? Will the bill really succeed in bending the cost curve? Health care reform will impact the nation on a vast scale, affecting millions of citizens and the financial health of the United States. It may constitute the defining issue of the Obama presidency.

More below.

Cooking – Bean Soup – from simple to superb

The subject of food has come up on this blog a few times. A couple of regular Moosers have suggested writing diaries about cooking. It didn’t take much persuading to get me to write one, since, like most people with a passion, I love to talk about it.

Many people think of cooking as a chore. They are only too happy to outsource it. I’m not in that group. I fell in love with cooking as a child. I still love it. What’s not to love? Cooking is a creative process. It can be viewed as both a craft and an art. It also serves an essential purpose. There can be a great deal of satisfaction in putting a good meal in front of hungry people. We have to eat every day. Why not make it as enjoyable as possible?

The recipes below came from tonight’s dinner menu. We had a ham for Christmas dinner and I needed a way to use up some of the leftovers and the ham bone. Making bean soup seemed like a good way to do that. The meal is simple, fairly healthy, and filling. It makes a great cold weather meal.  

Torture the Crotch Bomber

Pat Buchanan and others on the political right are suggesting that the Crotch Bomber should be denied pain medication to extract information from him. Bush-era Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge is suggesting that holding him in prison and trying him in federal courts – as the Bush administration did with the like-minded Shoe Bomber – is a travesty, apparently believing he should be somewhere else where we can use (sic) “more effective means” of extracting information from him.

That’s not the American Way, guys, recent evidence to the contrary.  It’s the Way of other folks – the ones we traditionally fight against.

Paying for Health Care

One of the most important health care reforms would be to get rid an inefficient, outdated tax exemption that is still a fundamental part of U.S. policy.

This is how it works. If a company provides health insurance to its employees, the federal government does not tax the health benefits that are being provided. Say you have an insurance policy worth $5,000. Said company deducts a part of the employee’s salary – say, $1,000 – for “health insurance.”  But the majority of the cost – the other $4,000 – is hidden, because the company negotiates with health providers itself. This is an enormous tax exemption, amounting to the biggest the federal government gives.

On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. Who wouldn’t want to encourage a companies to provide health insurance?

The problem lies in the unintended consequences of this tax exemption.

More below.

Dear America, Chill Out!

Some say the goal of terrorists is to kill people…I say if that’s true, they’d be called mass murderers or homicidal manaics and not terrorists. Their goal is to terrorize people, whether by killing a large number of people, or by attempting to, and one wonders; when we start arresting people because they had an onset of diarreah on an airplane or we start banning people from going to the bathroom on a …plane an hour before landing, are they kicking our ass at it?

For Poor Households in Rwanda, One Cow Makes A Difference

This is the final in a four-part series on my visit to Heifer International projects in Gicumbi District in Rwanda. Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute Nourishing the Planet blog.

DSCN1075Leonard Birahira has been connected to Heifer International in Gicumbi District for the last seven years, but only recently as a beneficiary of their projects. He’s been using his carpentry skills to help build stalls for farmers to keep their animals, a requirement for all Heifer beneficiaries, and just last month received his own dairy cow as part of Heifer’s projects  in Rwanda. Dr. Dennis Karamuzi, the Director of Programs for Heifer Rwanda, told me that he’s looking forward to seeing this family in two years. Right now they live in a mud house, without electricity or running water, things the other Heifer beneficiaries we visited were able to get after they began raising cows and selling milk.

And Heifer’s work is now being recognized-and supported-by the Rwandan government. In 2008 the government instituted the One Cow Per Poor Household Program, which aims to give the 257,000 of the poorest households in the country training and support to raise milk for home consumption.  But Heifer, says, Dr. Karamuzi, is also building an exit strategy by connecting farmers to cooperatives, which can organize and train farmers themselves.

For more on Heifer International’s work in Rwanda, please see the following links: Rwanda Sustainable Dairy Enterprise Development Project and Miracle Cows in Rwanda.

They Still Don't Get It

One thought that kept running through my head during last year’s financial meltdown was that it was a good thing they didn’t manage to privatize Social Security. Thoughts like those should be reserved for nightmares.

Despite what the last administration says about the “longest sustained period of growth in history”, the economy was pretty much stagnant for a lot of people over the last eight years. Then we fell off the cliff. The whole world took the plunge with us. Those were scary times. I’m not ashamed to say I was afraid of what might happen.

A little over a year later and things look a bit better. We aren’t out of the woods yet. Paul Krugman has a piece out today saying we shouldn’t be surprised if the economy contracts next year. Despite cautions of problems yet to come, I don’t feel quite as afraid as I did when it all started.

Blacks Need Not Apply: Modern-day Segregation, Greek Organizations, and the University of Alabama

By: Inoljt,

College is often described as a wonderful institution, a place in which many people have the best experiences of their lives. Students like me forge lasting friendships, take a leap into independence, and even sometimes learn.

College is also a place to make lifelong connections. If you’re destined to be a future Wall Street businessman and your roommate an important politician – good things can happen.

Greek fraternities and sororities are particularly good at this. Take the University of Alabama. Its Greek organizations run The Machine, a secretive organization which effectively controls campus politics.

Since student government was initiated in 1915, the Machine’s choice for the SGA Presidency has lost a grand total of seven times – the last of which occurred in 1986. That’s a century of unchallenged Greek dominance.

Machine candidates often go on to have shining political careers. In 2000, The New Republic reported that:

When the Machine’s members leave Tuscaloosa, they typically go on to Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery, and join Machine alums in Alabama’s political and business elite. Machine members work in Alabama’s most prestigious law firms and businesses; they have been state legislators, state party chairmen, congressmen, presidents of the state bar, members of the Public Service Commission, and federal judges. For most of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators, Lister Hill and John Sparkman, were Machine alums. Alabama’s current governor, Don Siegelman, was the Machine-backed SGA president in 1968; Senator Richard Shelby is also said to have been a member of the Machine (although his office has denied this). As one former member of a Machine-affiliated sorority explained to the student newspaper The Crimson White, “The goal is to run campus politics, but the real reason they want to run campus politics is so they themselves can run politics in Alabama.”

The meat of The New Republic article, however, does not dwell upon University of Alabama politics – but instead on a rather different theme. It tells the story of one Melody Twilley, a sophomore student at the University of Alabama attempting to join a Greek sorority. Like many of her fellow students, Ms. Twilley “blended right in to the roiling mix of social ambition and social privilege.” Compared to her peers, however, Ms. Twilley was unique in two interesting ways:

For one thing, unlike the vast majority of rushees, who are admitted into sororities as freshmen, this wasn’t Twilley’s first time through. She had tried-and failed-to join a sorority the year before. Which may have had something to do with the other thing that set Melody Twilley apart: She is black.

…Indeed, when Melody Twilley stood in front of the Delta Zeta house last September, it was believed that no white fraternity or sorority at the University of Alabama had ever offered membership to a black student.

More below.