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Unvarnished views from Philadelphia

Mark Mardell | 15:36 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

For the president, it's the first in the latest series of quick forays out of the White House into the cities of America. Pres Obama yet again is hitting the road to sell healthcare reform.

Pres Obama left the White House for Philadelphia.jpg

It is scarcely the first time but we are reaching a crux. If Mr Obama cannot get healthcare reform done, his authority will be damaged. After all, he has asked the question himself: "If we can't do this, what can we do?"

I have almost accepted that he is genuine when he says he would rather be a one-term president with a solid achievement than cling to office. He seems to be taking no regard of the fact that at the moment he hasn't got the votes even for a simple majority.

Politics is in flux. And as ever, the voters are even more unpredictable than the politicians.

Before Pres Obama's speech, I met with John Sutherland a few miles up the road. He's a small businessman, a picture framer. A 180-degree panorama of Philly's 30th St station hangs high on one wall, a series of soulful portraits of round-faced musicians by a Malaysian artist living in New York are on the work surface. I'm particularly taken with three photographs of fading painted wooden doors and a neo-gothic miniature menorah. Still, I tear my self away.

I'm here to meet him because he voted for Pres Obama and has written an article for the local paper arguing that without reform, small business will be crippled.

When we were arranging the interview, he told us that the plan is so badly flawed that it is time to start from scratch.

But when we start chatting, he tells me that since we've talked, he's been thinking things over and he's changed his mind. He thinks they should go for a majority vote, after all, not abandon the project. To be honest, as a reporter it is one of those moments one's heart sinks and you think: "How can I salvage this?".

Well, in this case, the answer is that sometimes unvarnished splintered reality tells you more than glossing over the awkward.

It is an illustration of just how fluid opinion is at the moment. John doesn't like the fact that the current bills offer subsidies to the insurance industries, he doesn't like the fact that it will take four years to take effect and he thinks the whole process has been "ugly".

But he says small business desperately needs change. The economy won't get better until this is sorted out. He says his own premiums have risen dramatically in the last year, and many of his friends and contacts say they will have to stop their healthcare plans altogether because of the cost.

He thinks a majority vote is the only way. He says after he wrote his article he had many e-mails in support. But some attacked him for saying insurance companies should be made to cover those with pre existing illness. His critics said that if they did, the companies would not be making the maximum amount of money.

He shrugs and says: "If people think that way, what can you do?".
He's right in that there is a philosophical gulf between the two sides.

But Pres Obama is trying to rally people like John and persuade them the gulf is so wide that a majority vote is the only way forward and it's worth one last push.

Comments

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  • 1. At 4:04pm on 08 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    MM reports : "he thinks a majority vote is the only way."


    And what he, and you, think this majority is going to be come November?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

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  • 2. At 4:16pm on 08 Mar 2010, csgators wrote:

    "He shrugs and says: "If people think that way, what can you do?".
    He's right in that there is a philosophical gulf between the two sides."

    How would he feel if the government told him he had to sell his frames to everyone no matter if they could pay full price or not. That he had to replace all broken frames regardless of whether the buyer set the frame on fire or not. It's just profit after all.

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  • 3. At 4:39pm on 08 Mar 2010, RobC wrote:

    "And as ever, the voters are even more unpredictable than the politicians."

    Not really. For a lot of voters it is simple and predictable: if the politician does what he says he will do, they'll vote for him again. For a lot of politicians it is simple and predictable: they say the right things, but then do what their corporate masters tell them.

    Pres Obama wanted a watered-down health bill from the beginning, so he pretended to seek consensus from a party which has never wanted a health bill. By going on the road, he's trying to look like he's working for reform... but he ain't.

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  • 4. At 4:50pm on 08 Mar 2010, U14374938 wrote:

    "But he says small business desperately needs change. The economy won't get better until this is sorted out. He says his own premiums have risen dramatically in the last year, and many of his friends and contacts say they will have to stop their healthcare plans altogether because of the cost"

    Surely this can't be true?
    We have been told repetitively that the economy is more important than the health care bill.
    That jobs and debt are not helped by concentrating on lowering the highest cost to most households, most businesses.
    "Today" reports that Government workers "earn more " than others when the benefits are taken into account.
    Benefits would cost a lot less in a nationalised health care system.
    Companies would not have to be able to afford Cadilac plans to tempt employees.
    Manufacturers could be on an equal footing with their competitors in other nations that don't have all that worry.


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  • 5. At 5:18pm on 08 Mar 2010, starFloridian wrote:

    We have not seen any forecast as to how many more government jobs this bill would create. The administration claims jobs are being created, but fails to mention that it's government jobs that are the only sector in which there is an increase. And who really knows what is in this gargantuan bill that will take four years to implement. The bottom line is that forcing this bill through with political chicanery is to completely ignore the will of the people.

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  • 6. At 5:23pm on 08 Mar 2010, carolinalady wrote:

    Of COURSE it's worth one last push! And one after that! There are people dying here...and as Mr. Sutherland points out, some thoughtful small businessmen (and women) who are beginning to see beyond the Chamber of Commerce's propaganda to what they need to stay in business. I've postponed starting my own business for just this reason...how can I offer a living wage and decent benefits to the two or three people I can rescue from the enormous pool of the unemployed if we DON'T reform healthcare?

    Now, I'd like to hear from Philly-Mom, who is about as smart and unvarnished as they come.

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  • 7. At 5:40pm on 08 Mar 2010, MagicKirin wrote:

    Marc:

    Why did you not also meet with a small business owner who did not vote for Obama to get both perspectives?

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  • 8. At 5:44pm on 08 Mar 2010, GH1618 wrote:

    "Politics is in flux." (from Mardell)

    Isn't it always?

    "And as ever, the voters are even more unpredictable than the politicians."

    Yes, but it is fallacious reasoning to generalize from individual cases.

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  • 9. At 5:50pm on 08 Mar 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    About your visit with “John”. John wrote an article for the local paper arguing that without reform, small business will be crippled.
    John was right...till he changed his mind.
    John says small business desperately needs change. Right again, but not the kind Obamacare is offering.
    What John may also be wrong about is the “philosophical gulf” between the two sides. I say this because I don’t believe that the average American knows enough about Obamacare to know where s/he truly stands and why. That's the true gulf; it's a knowledge gulf.
    I would ask the Johns of this world – small business owners – to consider this:
    Obamacare penalizes firms that don't provide a level of insurance coverage comparable to the government’s "minimum essential coverage"; in other words, if tax dollars must pay for the insurance of even one employee and the firm doesn't provide the minimum coverage, it will face substantial fines.
    The idea, of course, is to force firms to provide the minimum coverage at Governmental level.
    The consequence is more likely to be: firms will not hire employees who are likely to need subsidies to cover their insurance costs because that will mean the firm has to spend more on providing insurance to those employees.
    Who are those employees likely to be?
    Lower-income folks and especially those who need more expensive family policies. In fact, the penalties are higher if the subsidized worker has a family. I would predict that more single moms will find themselves out of work, and as for the disabled or those with pre-existing conditions...
    Obamacare intervention will produce results opposite to its intentions; it will harm the most vulnerable, increase unemployment and God knows what else.

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  • 10. At 6:10pm on 08 Mar 2010, SaintDominick wrote:

    President Obama has made several tactical mistakes since Inauguration. The most serious involves taking on the controversial issues of healthcare and energy reform, pushing for major changes to the current system instead of addressing its most offensive facets and letting future administrations pursue incremental improvements, allowing Congress to take the lead on such a critical issue, and letting the legislative process drag too long to the point that it not only gave the opposition time to organize and consolidate their position but allowed them to influence public opinion with predictable results including mass defections by members of his own party.

    Even the challenges presented by the opposition, and later by moderate Democrats, were handled haphazardly and ineffectively. What is evident now is that the President is the only senior Democratic politician still pushing for healthcare reform, energy reform is in limbo, and most Dems are running for cover while members of the opposition present a unified and well coordinated front.

    The fact that President Obama is desperately trying to save the centerpiece of his agenda is not surprising, but I am afraid it is too little too late. Not only are minor changes to the current system in doubt, the future of the Democratic party hangs on the balance. I expect most of the Democrats that backed healthcare reform to lose their seats in November, and even those that sided with Republicans will be found guilty by association and booted out of office.

    A few Democrats in solid Democratic districts will probably be re-elected, including Nancy Pelosi, but if the Dems lose their majority in the House she will have to step aside and let Boehner take over.

    As incredible as it may seem, the party responsible for some of the most egregious abuses of power in modern history, blatant acts of deceit, reckless economic and fiscal decisions, and total disregard of the Constitution and international law may very well find itself back in power in just a few months.

    As a Democrat a deplore what is happening, but the Dems have nobody to blame for this debacle but themselves. Hopefully they will learn from this painful experience and be more pragmatic and cautious when the pendulim swings in the opposite direction again in one of two decades.

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  • 11. At 6:21pm on 08 Mar 2010, Philly-Mom wrote:

    Welcome to Philly. We are unvarnished. We are conflicted.
    And we don't know whether to hold 'em or fold 'em.
    (No one likes to gamble with their health or their livelihood.)

    The economy, the job market, and medical insurance are tangled variables:

    A while back I had a small business employer for whom I had to contribute $800/mo for medical insurance... which was 1/3 of my pay. Then, $900 went to rent and the rest to childcare & groceries.
    -- If consumer spending boosts the economy... what are we supposed to be spending?

    A relative of mine put off his hernia operation for a few years - until he turned 65. Was the operation more complicated, expensive and risky because he waited? probably. Unfortunately, his part time job cleaning tables at Chick-Fillet doesn't offer medical insurance.

    Meanwhile, my 20-something coder friend took an offer from a Design Agency. They have a 9 month IT contract with an area university. She does the work. The agency keeps 40% of the contract amount. But, she's eligible for medical insurance in 90 days! ...at a premium, of course.

    I'm as conflicted as Mr.Sutherland.

    How do you fix an industry that affects over 300 million people and every employer doing business here?

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  • 12. At 7:03pm on 08 Mar 2010, Philly-Mom wrote:

    Gator Honey (#2),

    I was 7 months pregnant (11 yrs ago) when a major regional HMO provider told area hospitals that it would lower the rates they paid for services. The Hospitals didn't like it, so they played hardball... and dropped the HMOs.

    People like me desperately switched to the more expensive PPOs.
    (This, of course, brought more $$$ to Hospitals and Providers alike.)
    Eventually, there was some kind of compromise.
    Meanwhile all costs increased.
    Rates then increased for the employers... and then to the employees.

    I, the pregnant woman, was merely a pawn during a rate war.
    And, I went back to work 6 weeks after giving birth so that I could continue the privilege of paying ridiculous insurance rates.

    IMHO - insurance rates have been erroneously inflating for a very long time.

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  • 13. At 7:10pm on 08 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re # 7: "Marc:
    Why did you not also meet with a small business owner who did not vote for Obama to get both perspectives?"




    Now, now, MagicKirin, please cease and desist.

    What have you expected: a balanced reporting? PHHHLEEEEASE!

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  • 14. At 7:17pm on 08 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #9

    BluesBerry,

    What is this Obamascare you keep writing about?

    I, for one, am nor scared of Mr. Obama. Nor do I care for him.

    No, not particularly. ["As time goes by"]

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  • 15. At 7:37pm on 08 Mar 2010, GH1618 wrote:

    SaintDominick (#10) "... the future of the Democratic party hangs on the balance. I expect most of the Democrats that backed healthcare reform to lose their seats in November, and even those that sided with Republicans will be found guilty by association and booted out of office."

    This is a rather pessimistic prognosis (from a Democratic point of view). You've been taking Republican propaganda too seriously, I think. It's too early to call, but most polls project that the Democrats will lose seats in Congress (typical for a mid-year election) but retain a majority in both houses.

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  • 16. At 7:59pm on 08 Mar 2010, MagicKirin wrote:

    ref #10
    A few Democrats in solid Democratic districts will probably be re-elected, including Nancy Pelosi, but if the Dems lose their majority in the House she will have to step aside and let Boehner take over.
    _______________-

    Its very easy for Pelosi to tell wavering Dems in toss up states for them to sacrfice their careers. I wonder what would happen if there was a major demograhic change in her district.

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  • 17. At 7:59pm on 08 Mar 2010, frayedcat wrote:

    One way we can reduce the confusion is to acknowledge history (not revisionist history). In 1974 Nixon "proposed a major health insurance program to the Congress, seeking to guarantee adequate financing of health care on a nationwide basis. That proposal generated widespread discussion and useful debate. But no legislation reached my desk." That is where we are...don't call it 'Obamacare' - this has been on the table for decades.

    http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2009/September/03/nixon-proposal.aspx

    Since then every industrialized nation....except us....has developed a national comprehensive health care program. We are the victims of profit motivated lobbiests.

    Oh and #2 csgators..what u talkin bout man -- assuming picture frames were in any way comparable to health care in terms of the general national public welfare, than the man would have his industry taken over by the government and no private frames at all, unless (A) he catered to the very wealthy who chose to buy his frames rather than gov't issue, or (B) he obtained a government job making frames - with great benefits and hours.

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  • 18. At 8:01pm on 08 Mar 2010, csgators wrote:

    12. At 7:03pm on 08 Mar 2010, Philly-Mom wrote:

    "IMHO - insurance rates have been erroneously inflating for a very long time."

    I agree, much of that inflation comes from government intervention. Some of it comes from people who do not understand what insurance is for. Why should insurance be required to cover physicals and regular check ups? You don't file an insurance claim to maintain your car? Insurance should be for unforeseen events. People think every hangnail should be covered and scream foul until politicians decide to make insurance companies cover it, making insurance more expensive. Be carful what you ask for. There are other reasons of course but it is a major factor.

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  • 19. At 8:02pm on 08 Mar 2010, csgators wrote:

    13. At 7:10pm on 08 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:
    "Re # 7: "Marc:
    Why did you not also meet with a small business owner who did not vote for Obama to get both perspectives?"




    Now, now, MagicKirin, please cease and desist.

    What have you expected: a balanced reporting? PHHHLEEEEASE!"

    In fairness to Mr. Mardell he did try to find an Obama voter who switched.

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  • 20. At 8:03pm on 08 Mar 2010, vagueofgodalming wrote:

    The story here is that he's balancing the merits of the thing. I think that's great: if the effect of all the noise is to make voters pay attention to the actual contents of the bill, rather than random noises about death panels, it shows America is not lost after all, despite what most of us in the civilised world were coming to think.

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  • 21. At 8:19pm on 08 Mar 2010, Philly-Mom wrote:

    10. SaintDominick,
    So - will the slow moderate position fly?
    Or is the whole matter in a tail-spin?


    Sweet Caroline (#6) - aw shucks, honey! Thanks! ...I just wish I had a sage solution to the whole murky matter.


    Magic (#7) - were there any? ;-)

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  • 22. At 8:19pm on 08 Mar 2010, SaintDominick wrote:

    Ref 12, Philly Mom

    "IMHO - insurance rates have been erroneously inflating for a very long time."

    And all for acting as middlemen between the service providers and the patients. Personally, I don't have a problem with doctors making an outstanding salary, and hospitals and labs making a profit, my beef is with the clerical flunkies that are destroying the system.

    What is even more incredible is that there are people, such as those that wrote to John's contact that are genuinely concerned that any changes, even eliminating the pre-existing condition clause, would affect the insurance companies bottom line! Can you imagine how terrible it would be if Blue Cross/Blue Shield had only posted a $4B Vs $4.7B profit?

    The rationale for some of the opinions, and some of the explanations given to oppose reform, are so bizarre that the only choices are to either laugh or cry. I reckon this is why so many astute people throughout history learned and practiced the art of misinformation.

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  • 23. At 9:06pm on 08 Mar 2010, GH1618 wrote:

    MK (#16) "I wonder what would happen if there was a major demographic change in her (Pelosi's) district.

    The only way that could happen is if a massive earthquake were to toss all of San Francisco into the Pacific Ocean.

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  • 24. At 9:06pm on 08 Mar 2010, timohio wrote:

    re. 18. csgators:

    Why should insurance be required to cover physicals and regular check ups? You don't file an insurance claim to maintain your car? Insurance should be for unforeseen events.

    Actually the insurance companies want that because catching a condition or disease early makes it cheaper to treat than to wait until the policy holder is on the edge of disaster. Take heart disease. It's cheaper to check someone's weight and cholesterol level during a physical and put them on a diet and exercise plan than to do quadruple bypass surgery after treating them for a major heart attack.

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  • 25. At 9:12pm on 08 Mar 2010, csgators wrote:

    17. At 7:59pm on 08 Mar 2010, frayedcat wrote:

    "than the man would have his industry taken over by the government and no private frames at all"

    That's not what this bill does. This bill is a train wreck. If a proposal was in congress to provide a national health service of some kind there is very good chance I would support it.

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  • 26. At 9:23pm on 08 Mar 2010, timohio wrote:

    re. 13. powermeerkat:

    Why did you not also meet with a small business owner who did not vote for Obama to get both perspectives?

    19. csgators:

    What have you expected: a balanced reporting? PHHHLEEEEASE!

    Guys, you might want to avert your virginal eyes from this post, but that's not how journalism is done these days. Journalists under a story deadline develop the story line, then look for quotes to fill out the page. My wife, who is an academic, gets interviewed by reporters all the time and this is always the pattern they follow. They always try to lead with phrases like, "well, couldn't you say that..." That's why Mark wrote, "How can I salvage this?" He had his story but this guy was screwing things up. To his credit, he rewrote his story. Newspapers or broadcast media aren't polling organizations or researchers, doing statistically correct surveying. Perhaps once upon a time when newsrooms were adequately staffed, reporters had the luxury of following stories and digging for sources, but no longer.

    And you can easily get a press release published verbatim if you know how to write them. It fills the page for them and they don't have to write it themselves. If you can send it as a pdf file, all the better because they can cut and paste. It's like presenting the right bait to a fish.

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  • 27. At 9:42pm on 08 Mar 2010, csgators wrote:

    @ tim

    If that is the case than the insurance policy should require you to get regular checkups, not the government. The government has a ton of idiotic requirements, many on state levels but you cannot buy outside your state. Another regulatory problem. The profits in this industry are hardly large, the list I saw had them as #35 most profitable industry at 2.2%.

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  • 28. At 9:48pm on 08 Mar 2010, csgators wrote:

    @tim

    I guess I qouted to much but my comment was at the bottom.

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  • 29. At 10:16pm on 08 Mar 2010, timohio wrote:

    re. 27. csgators:

    If that is the case than the insurance policy should require you to get regular checkups, not the government.

    The government isn't requiring you to get a checkup and, for that matter, neither is the insurance company. The insurance company is encouraging you to get checkups by including them in your coverage. Most people understand that regular checkups are a good thing and, if they are covered by the insurer, will get them.

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  • 30. At 11:01pm on 08 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    #24 Tim wrote:

    "And you can easily get a press release published verbatim if you know how to write them."



    Tim, say no more. [I've been around the block couple of times].

    The saddest thing is many people believe those releases.

    Just the other day a poster refered me, in all seriousness, to an official press release issued by the New York Times as a part of a damage control operation by the paper deeply embarrassed by Walter Duranty Pulitzer scandal, which wouldn't quietly fade away. [Obviously not knowing the background story.]

    Now, I'm sure this person was well-meaning and he honestly believes in anything which is promulgated by his favorite media outfits.

    But believing blindly in veracity of official press releases issued, on top of that, pro domo sua? Impossible, wouldn't you say?

    Well, guess again.


    "Cut and paste"?

    Tim, that's the least of it.

    I'm sure you're familiar with a story of NYT's Jayson Blair?

    Or a drug-addicted child simply INVENTED by a Washington Post reporter?

    [Yep, she and WP got a Pulitzer for it, all right. :)]

    Recall Newsweek's phoney story about copies of Quran allegedly being provocatively flushed down the toilet by Gitmo guards?

    Remember Dan Rather of CBS News fame and GWB's forged military records?

    That's not "just facts, M'am"; it's "Pulp Fiction".

    And the saddest thing is: it's not being done only to sell more copies/adds.



    P.S. I won't even go into an art of speaking in soundbites you want quoted. :)

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  • 31. At 11:48pm on 08 Mar 2010, Interestedforeigner wrote:

    17. At 7:59pm on 08 Mar 2010, frayedcat wrote:

    In 1974 Nixon "proposed a major health insurance program to the Congress, ...

    Since then every industrialized nation....except us....has developed a national comprehensive health care program. We are the victims of profit motivated lobbiests.
    __________

    Not true.
    It wasn't "Since then".
    Mostly it was "Before then".

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  • 32. At 00:16am on 09 Mar 2010, SaintDominick wrote:

    Ref 21, Philly-Mom

    "So - will the slow moderate position fly?
    Or is the whole matter in a tail-spin?"

    In my opinion, healthcare reform is dead, for the same reasons it was defeated in the Clinton days and every time it was attempted during the past 6 or 7 decades.

    The reason there is no movement in Congress is because they don't have the votes for a simple majority in the House. I suspect the President is well aware of that and is trying to change the minds of reluctant Democrats by rallying the troops in areas where he knows he and healthcare reform are still popular. It is not going to work. Democrats from states like Texas, Arkansas, Florida or Arizona are not going to change their minds because a group of loyal supporters are cheering the President in Philadelphia.

    The best thing the President could do at this point is throw in the towel and focus on the economy and unemployment. If he does not, he risks losing both the House and the Senate in November, and his re-election chances will be up in the air.

    I believe his re-election chances depend more on who the GOP nominates than on Obama's performance during the rest of his first term. If they nominate Sarah or Huckabee he has a chance, but if they nominate an experienced pragmatist I am afraid BHO will be a one term President.

    Right or wrong, the electorate expects immediate results on the economy and unemployment, and if he can not deliver they'll choose someone else. At this point, they don't care who caused the problem, they want it fixed and they want it done now.





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  • 33. At 03:23am on 09 Mar 2010, shiveringofforgottenenemies wrote:

    Obama still thinks he's a "community organizer", that all you have to do is get the folks together and demand services and some one will provide. He's running his usual traveling salvation show, telling us we can HOPE, we must have the audactity to HOPE that this rotten plan will work! We can HOPE that 36 million people who can't afford insurance now will suddenly be able to afford insurance. We can hope that forcing insurance companies to insure people they KNOW are going to have major health problems will not affect premiums, we can HOPE that this plan will be "affordable" and not CRUSH every small business in American and overburden the sole proprietors. We can hope the unions will roll over and give up their cadillac full coverage total family insurance plans. We can HOPE that the same LOUSY Senators and Congressmen who have given us bad leadership for the last 50 years have come up with a MIRACLE!

    The fact is Americans don't have hope. Obama has stripped them of hope and now he intends to fleece them of their earnings. If he can't get this SUGAR COATED LIE past the American public, how indeed will he get the BIG LIES, like the Green Economy, carbon capture, and his takeover of the energy sector past the public.

    So yes, Obama is out there wasting MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars pushing his program, pushing for programs that will create unimaginably large government bureaucracies. Pushing for programs that will force the US to adopt VAT and consumption taxes. Pushing for programs that will create and even bigger divide between the ruling elite and the common people.

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  • 34. At 04:44am on 09 Mar 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    Lets see, the U.S. spends more money per-capita on health care than any other industrialized country and yet ranks well down the list in health results. Yet some people claim we have the best health care system in the world. I guess it depends on what you mean my best.

    Some people keep complaining about the government taking away their freedom. Just which freedoms are they concerned about loosing? The freedom to not get health care for themselves? or the freedom to ignore other peoples health care needs?

    I know of a number of people who have had insurance companies refuse to cover standard cancer treatments. In one case the family member has just chosen to die because it was impossible to get the the insurance company to pay for treatment and her family doesn't have the resources to pay or to fight the insurance company. In another case, there is a treatment shown to be effective, available at a Texas institute that the insurance company refuses to pay for, apparently hoping the customer will die soon enough to limit their liability. Just the kind of freedom we want to be sure to protect.

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  • 35. At 07:07am on 09 Mar 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    MagicKirin wrote:

    "Marc:Why did you not also meet with a small business owner who did not vote for Obama to get both perspectives?"

    Because his primary reason for being here in America, along with the rest of the left biased BBC, is to try and influence and change America's policies, foreign and domestic. It's the reason why I believe such a foreign government funded media and news organization should never be allowed to operate in America.

    Can you imagine American journalists and media, on the right and on the left, covering British domestic policies in the arrogant, disrespectful, and especially interfering, manner that they are covered by outfits like the BBC? You can't, because it doesn't happen.

    These are issues that have zero to do with Britons and yet many of them, mostly those on the left, persist in acting like disenfranchised Americans thinking they should actually have a say in how Americans run their own country. That of course includes the BBC.

    All you have to do is read on how the health care issue in America is reported. Their position and intentions are quite clear. As clear as they are in their obsessive coverage of the global warming issue.

    They will also use incorrect figures, such as the often thrown around 45 million, or 15% of Americans are uninsured, in their reporting while conveniently never breaking down what those numbers really mean.

    Like, according to the US Census Bureau report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005 at least 10 million of that number are not even Americans but illegal immigrants. And another 17 million can afford health insurance but choose not to purchase it.

    Even putting aside their obvious interference in American domestic policies why are important details like that left out of the reporting of a news and media organization that likes to pride itself on being one of the best and most professional in the world?

    Why ask him such a question when the answer is clear?

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  • 36. At 07:16am on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #31 Interested Foreigner: "Since then every industrialized nation....except us....has developed a national comprehensive health care program. We are the victims of profit motivated lobbiests."



    With all due respect IF. The key question should be: How do those 'national comprehensive health care programs" work in practice?

    For example if the Canadian one works so well, home come we are seeing Canadians crossing the border

    [that's Canada's southern border, to be sure; I don't know 'bout the northern one]

    to get a simple PET scan, MRI or a multiple by-pass surgery they cannot obtain within a realistic timeframe in their own country?

    And I don't see Americans or Europeans traveling to Cuba to take advantage of its "superior" health care system?

    [and no, that's not an info I obtained from FOX News, which I don't even watch]

    BTW. I have a friend in Germany [in a former WEST German territory: Hanover] who told me what's required for her to see a badly needed specialist
    and how long is a wait. Scary, absolutely scary.

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  • 37. At 07:30am on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #32, Saint Dominick.

    I have to agree with you so many times it's scary.

    BTW. I've already encouraged the blog's author several times to travel outside of the North-Eastern Board if he hope to ever find out what really makes real Americans tick.

    So far - to no avail. Perhaps its just a beat or money issue?

    [These are tough times for the Beeb, and there are plenty of BBC correspondents in Washington, D.C. who love to roam the States themselves.
    MF, for example.]

    P.S. I understand that BHO has time basically only till March 18th.

    After that... That's why, I suspect, he sounds more&more shrill.

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  • 38. At 07:38am on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #33
    "We can HOPE that the same LOUSY Senators and Congressmen who have given us bad leadership for the last 50 years have come up with a MIRACLE!"




    A naive question: if a proposed almost a TRILLION dollar plan is so great,
    how come our illustrious elected officials, including our Chief Executive and his direct family - don't want to sign in for it themselves?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

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  • 39. At 07:40am on 09 Mar 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    HungeryWalleye wrote:

    "Lets see, the U.S. spends more money per-capita on health care than any other industrialized country and yet ranks well down the list in health results."

    You say "well down" and I say prove it! Don't forget to include unbiased sources and things like differences in culture and diet.

    Can you also break down those costs, specifically how much goes towards discovering and developing most of the medical breakthroughs in the world today?

    "Some people keep complaining about the government taking away their freedom. Just which freedoms are they concerned about loosing? The freedom to not get health care for themselves? or the freedom to ignore other peoples health care needs?"

    Putting aside those Americans (and not including illegals!) that need health care for truly valid reasons such as old age, handicaps or mental illness, which most Americans would have no problem expanding care for, why do you feel Americans should also pay for other peoples health care??

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  • 40. At 07:50am on 09 Mar 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    powermeerkat wrote:

    "BTW. I've already encouraged the blog's author several times to travel outside of the North-Eastern Board if he hope to ever find out what really makes real Americans tick."

    They don't "really" want to know what makes us tick, they simply want us to think and do like them.

    That's my take on the author of this blog, the organization he works for and many of the Britons on this site.

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  • 41. At 07:51am on 09 Mar 2010, squirrelist wrote:

    35. At 07:07am on 09 Mar 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    "his primary reason for being here in America, along with the rest of the left biased BBC, is to try and influence and change America's policies, foreign and domestic. It's the reason why I believe such a foreign government funded media and news organization should never be allowed to operate in America."

    a) How many times do we have to repeat this? The BBC is not 'foreign government funded media", it's funded by every Brit who has a telly through a licence fee.

    b) If the Beeb really does have that amount of influence, and you are right, then how come this wretched health bill of yours didn't get passed by acclamation six months ago?

    "Can you imagine American journalists and media, on the right and on the left, covering British domestic policies in the arrogant, disrespectful, and especially interfering, manner that they are covered by outfits like the BBC? You can't, because it doesn't happen."

    No?

    "They will also use incorrect figures, such as the often thrown around 45 million, or 15% of Americans are uninsured, in their reporting while conveniently never breaking down what those numbers really mean.

    "Like, according to the US Census Bureau report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005 at least 10 million of that number are not even Americans but illegal immigrants. And another 17 million can afford health insurance but choose not to purchase it."

    No. Look again. The US Census Bureau does not give either of those figures.

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  • 42. At 08:36am on 09 Mar 2010, _marko wrote:

    To AllenT2 #40

    "They don't "really" want to know what makes us tick"

    To help people understand what makes you tick would you care to respond:

    "The US government is too incompetent to affect meaningful change and is a morally corrupt system. It is incapable of operating at the same level of efficiency as those of other developed nations."

    1) In the past you avoided confirming whether this comment in quotes was anti-American, unpatriotic, disrespectful or not. Are you still unable to make a judgement and if you can what's the rationale behind it?

    2) How do you distinguish between "constructive criticism" and "America bashing"?

    3) Would you be able to assess the validity of the critical comments without knowing the source (whether the person was American or non-American)?

    4) Can you confirm that you believe that the percentage of foreigners wishing to harm Americans is greater than the percentage of Americans wishing to harm Americans?

    Thanks in advance for you consideration.

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  • 43. At 08:53am on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Allen – It appears (as Squirrel pointed out) if the BBC is running propaganda it has failed with you, either that or your literacy is really, really below par. You have been told that the BBC is not a government agency, if you go to the relevant parts of this website you will be able to read exactly how the BBC is funded.

    As per normal we have someone who cries out about his right of freedom of speech, then says that if he ruled the US then foreign media would be banned (or at least monitored, controlled and limited), yet doesn’t seem to see the conflict. I find it strange that those people that complain most about freedom of speech are the ones who want to put the biggest limitations on it, complain about bias. Surely if we allow freedom of speech then we allow bias? Or is it that these people want the freedom to say what they want without consequence, freedom of speech for them individually not universally. A bit like a spoilt teenager, ‘you can’t tell me what to do, I’ve got rights!’ Followed by a sullen ‘shut up, I’m not taking out the trash, that’s unfair etc.’

    Actually that raised an interesting question all these freedoms that some people demand, the sacrosanct right to do what they want, what do you actually use them for? If you have these freedoms, yet don’t use them productively aren’t they just a waste?

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  • 44. At 09:15am on 09 Mar 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    squirrelist wrote:


    "How many times do we have to repeat this? The BBC is not 'foreign government funded media", it's funded by every Brit who has a telly through a licence fee."

    Oh, really, so they have a choice? Who mandates that the "licence fee," or more precisely, that the tax be paid?

    And it most certainly is "foreign" in relation to America.

    "If the Beeb really does have that amount of influence, and you are right, then how come this wretched health bill of yours didn't get passed by acclamation six months ago?"

    I didn't make any remarks that determined its level of influence. Read again what I wrote.

    "No?"

    No, you don't see that here. Americans would see your domestic policies that don't affect them as none of their business, and rightly so.

    "No. Look again. The US Census Bureau does not give either of those figures."

    I don't need to "look again," I know what is there. You obviously have not read it. And why should you have? It has absolutely nothing to do with you as a non-American in a foreign country.

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  • 45. At 09:41am on 09 Mar 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    _marko wrote:


    "To help people understand what makes you tick would you care to respond:"

    Read my posts. I make it quite clear how I feel about foreigners acting like disenfranchised Americans.

    In the end I don't care what foreigners think about me, or my fellow Americans, especially in regards to our domestic policies that have nothing to do with them.

    We also don't have to go over our health care system or try and justify it to a bunch of hostile and interfering foreigners.

    "In the past you avoided confirming whether this comment in quotes was anti-American, unpatriotic, disrespectful or not. Are you still unable to make a judgement and if you can what's the rationale behind it?"

    I avoid nonsense that has nothing to do with what I have responded to in the past.

    "How do you distinguish between "constructive criticism" and "America bashing"?"

    Constructive criticism is respectful and acknowledges the fact that issues such as these ultimately have nothing to do with non-Americans.

    "Would you be able to assess the validity of the critical comments without knowing the source (whether the person was American or non-American)?"

    What makes you think that as a norm I would "assess the validity of the critical comments" of foreigners on issues of purely American domestic policy?

    You just don't get it, do you? You are so desperate to have a say in America's domestic policies, assuming you are non-American, or if you are American then you are desperate to get foreign input, even if it involves deception of your origin, or their origin, just so you can somehow affect an issue that either has nothing to do with you, or them.

    Don't you find that even a bit bizarre?

    "Can you confirm that you believe that the percentage of foreigners wishing to harm Americans is greater than the percentage of Americans wishing to harm Americans?"

    The same sentiments above apply.

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  • 46. At 09:44am on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Allen – TV licensing in the UK is a trade mark used by various companies under contract with the BBC. These are:

    Capita Business Services Ltd, Revenue Management Services Ltd, PayPoint Plc & the AMV Consortium (Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO Ltd, Fishburn Hedges Boys Williams Ltd, PHD Media Ltd & Proxima London Ltd) as you will not all of these, including the consortium members finish with either Ltd or Plc meaning that they are private companies, registered with Companies House in the UK. Government bodies are not registered at Companies House, as they are not companies.

    For reference Capita Business Services Ltd, is in charge of TV licensing administration and enforcement, part of Capita an LSE (London Stock Exchange) listed company.

    British websites which are government owned have the domain name .gov.uk, while companies have .co.uk (I point you once again to the website you are using www.bbc.CO.uk).

    Not that this has any thing to do with you as you are a non-Brit living in a foreign country (to paraphrase your rude and potentially incorrect statement, as a Brit I may have need to check American census information for work)!

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  • 47. At 09:56am on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Allen – By the way the BBC is a public authority, a definition that includes both private companies and charities (which both would include parts of the BBC). From checking the House of Lords definitions of public authorities in relation to the HRA (Human Rights Act) the BBC would appear to fall into the second definition, a functional public authority – parts of it functions fall into the realm of public service.

    I forgot to state my sources in my last posting, these were:

    The TV licensing website, the Capita website and the LSE website.

    For this post I have referred to the HoL publication regarding definitions of public authorities in relation to the HRA (published 2003).

    Obviously if you can supply alternative and legitimate sources, I will review these.

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  • 48. At 10:06am on 09 Mar 2010, AllenT2 wrote:

    David Murrell wrote:

    "Allen – It appears (as Squirrel pointed out) if the BBC is running propaganda it has failed with you, either that or your literacy is really, really below par. You have been told that the BBC is not a government agency, if you go to the relevant parts of this website you will be able to read exactly how the BBC is funded."

    It is government funded because the tax it imposes on Britons is mandated by the government. There is no way out of that one, try as you will.

    "As per normal we have someone who cries out about his right of freedom of speech, then says that if he ruled the US then foreign media would be banned (or at least monitored, controlled and limited), yet doesn’t seem to see the conflict."

    There is a "conflict" only if you believe a foreign government funded media and news organization, that also shows obvious bias against the host country, should be allowed to do business in said country. Just for national security purposes something like that should never be allowed, and usually isn't, or wasn't.

    There is a "conflict" only if you feel the sentiment and intention of my "freedom of speech, as it relates to domestic policies issues that have nothing to do with non-Americans, should also apply to those same non-Americans.

    "I find it strange that those people that complain most about freedom of speech are the ones who want to put the biggest limitations on it, complain about bias."

    Where have I complained about "freedom of speech?" I haven't even brought it up. You have.

    The BBC can say whatever it likes, but that doesn't mean it should be allowed to do business in America as 1, a foreign government funded media and news organization, and 2, an obviously biased one against America.

    "Surely if we allow freedom of speech then we allow bias? Or is it that these people want the freedom to say what they want without consequence, freedom of speech for them individually not universally. A bit like a spoilt teenager, ‘you can’t tell me what to do, I’ve got rights!’ Followed by a sullen ‘shut up, I’m not taking out the trash, that’s unfair etc.’"

    So you are defending and endorsing "bias" in a news organization that claims that it is professionally above such things?

    "Actually that raised an interesting question all these freedoms that some people demand, the sacrosanct right to do what they want, what do you actually use them for? If you have these freedoms, yet don’t use them productively aren’t they just a waste?"

    So if you, as a foreigner, have determined that Americans "don't use them productively" when it comes to their domestic policies that have nothing to do with you, again, as a foreigner, you actually feel it is your place to tell them so as they go about running their own country?

    You don't see the arrogance, the disrespect and the interference in such a remark?

    Unbelievable.

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  • 49. At 10:22am on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Allen – “A person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples.” Do you recognise this as at least partially accurate description of how you feel about foreigners posting on this board about America? Obviously not fearful, because as a ‘real’ American* you don’t know the meaning of the word fear.

    * as apposed to all those non-real Americans, the ones that actually seem to really exist, rather than as a machismo stereotype.

    Source the American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition (2009)

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  • 50. At 10:58am on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Allen – I will give you a slight benefit of doubt since you may well have written this prior to reading some of my posts.
    As pointed out the licence fee maybe regarded as some as a tax, but it isn’t. Firstly the fee is not mandated by the British government, it is administrated by a sub-division of Capita which is a private company. Secondly as a Briton you only need to pay this fee if you are accessing television channels, through a television (for instance if you watch them via iplayer you don’t currently need to pay the licence). I have friends who own and use televisions yet do not pay the licence fee, because they use the TV to watch DVDs, which is perfectly acceptable.
    So to recap this is not a tax and not administrated by the government, so not doing well so far are we Allen.

    So you agree, at least partially, since the BBC is not a government funded media and news organisation that there is no basis for conflict; unless you can prove the BBC is government funded and controlled, since I have supplied my evidence. I am not sure how national security gets involved, it’s not like the BBC has changed sanctions on the US allowing social networking and messaging services in the hope that they will be used by political opponents. No, that would be the US government yesterday, changing sanctions for Cuba, Iran and the Sudan, for American (note they have not changed the sanctions for non-American) information technology and communication companies. Suggesting that the US government wants US media companies (such as Google) to manipulating domestic affairs in foreign countries.

    As I have pointed out domestic policy issues do have something to do with non-Americans, I for one have to review a number of countries, including their regulatory controls, Rule of Law etc, when considering whether my company will deal with potential counterparties.
    As for freedom of speech, if this was the only time people have had to try and educate you, you would have a point, the fact is that you have criticised my definition of free speech stating it was too limiting, so my raising to point is relevant.

    Bias is unavoidable, you show bias (you know against us foreign pig dogs) I show biased, all humans show bias. Fox News has a conservative bias, apparently the LA Times has a liberal bias (according to Powermeerkat) are you suggesting that because having a bias is unprofessional these news outlets should be punished or banned from commenting? Possibly you would prefer the news to be written by a robot?


    “So if you, as a foreigner, have determined that Americans "don't use them productively" when it comes to their domestic policies that have nothing to do with you, again, as a foreigner, you actually feel it is your place to tell them so as they go about running their own country? “
    No Allen I asked two questions, which I did not answer myself so voiced no opinion. If you must know I was indirectly referring to questions raised by an ethics expert. Whilst I offered no opinion, it appears your prejudice answered the questions on my behalf. So when you ask: “You don't see the arrogance, the disrespect and the interference in such a remark?” I am forced to say yes, Allen I do. Now mayhap instead of giving the answer you think I might give, could you possibly give your own answer to the questions?

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  • 51. At 11:42am on 09 Mar 2010, hms_shannon wrote:

    Dear Mr Allen,to take what you say to its conclusion,we British are not allowed to talk or pass comment on the workings of the way Americans do & see things,on our own blogg whose subject is America the working of & the way they see things.

    You do not see the arrogance,the disrespect and interference of such blinkered atitude

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  • 52. At 11:52am on 09 Mar 2010, hms_shannon wrote:

    I keep doing that,posting comment before ready.I think your main beef is that the BBC is left leaning & nothing else,what you are arguing does not
    hold water,in either of our Country's traditions....

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  • 53. At 12:09pm on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    UkWales – I think Allen may have done one of his disappearing acts again. You never know he may even be looking up some evidence to back up his claims, if that is the case he may be some time!

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  • 54. At 1:39pm on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #40 Allen T2 (refering to Meerkat's post) observed: "They [British BBC journalists] don't "really" want to know what makes us tick, they simply want us to think and do like them."



    I guess some people simply cannot comprehend that the United States have been created (after Boston Tea Party) simply because the former colonials wanted to be anything BUT Europeans from the Old Country they loathed.

    And that therefore U.S. will not become like Old Europe (Insh Allah) not because it can't and not because Americans don't know what's really good for them, but simply because they've already rejected most, if not all (Judeo-Christian tradition aside )Europe stood and still stands for.

    [Not that Old Europe is willing to uphold its Judeo-Christian heritage]

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  • 55. At 1:57pm on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    " apparently the LA Times has a liberal bias (according to Powermeerkat)"




    To "mad dogs and Englishmen" (to quote certain notorious Jamaica resident)

    Have you ever actualy RED Los Angeles Times?

    On the regular basis?

    I don't think so.

    Pro domo sua,: I'haven't read the Guardian on the regular basis, either.

    Or the "Morning Star" for that matter.

    Just occasionally. When I am informed the 'fellow travellers' have embarrassed themselves more than usual.

    [I wouldn't say 'shot themselves in the foot' , 'cause they have not leg to stand on]

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  • 56. At 2:01pm on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    The phrase: "I'm going out, I may be some time" has not been uttered by an American or even by the Norwegian.

    But by a member of certain failed, ill-prepared British expedition.

    [if memory serves]

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  • 57. At 2:28pm on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Powermeerkat – Really when was democracy part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, trial by jury, the English language, the French language etc? Shocking as it may seem to some these are all part of the European tradition before and after the Revolution.

    Dollar from Low German daler, or in German taler, short for Joachimshaler coin minted in Bohemia, term first used 1545-55.

    Cent Middle English (1325-75) from the Latin centesimus meaning one hundredth (by shortening).

    Star Spangled banner, uses a British drinking song (the Anacreteonic Song) tune, made national anthem 1931, prior to that one of the tunes used as the anthem was My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, the melody of which is derived from the British National Anthem.

    Yep complete rejection of the Old Country traditions!

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  • 58. At 3:04pm on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Powermeerkat – Ah Power you have me I have never coloured any newspaper, well not since I stopped doing art in school. If I had read the paper I would have said the bias I believe it had, rather than basing it on your comment yesterday where you commented on an alleged headline about Arnold and his homeland wryly saying it was a case of racism being okay in certain instances in the liberal media. I say alleged, because despite at least two posters looking for this headline the only source is you (twice, you repeated yourself from October 2009), even though I checked the LA Times archive.

    Since YOU said that the LA Times was liberal, I think I am correct in stating that according to you the LA Times is liberal. Unless of course you have changed your mind, if so you should really have let people know. Flip. Flop.

    Why is Noel Coward so notorious? Not because he was a confirmed bachelor surely!?!

    As for the Guardian, I have read it once or twice, I have never read the Morning Star, I refused to buy it the last time it was offered to me. Not sure the relevance of either while the Guardian is definitely liberal in leaning, my impression of the Morning Star is that it isn’t really, they are rather old school and conservative as far as I am aware.

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  • 59. At 3:07pm on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Powermeerkat – Indeed the phrase ‘I may be sometime’ was uttered by a British person, indeed this time it was written by an Englishman. I see Allen is still silent, maybe he is doing his research, maybe you two could make an outing of it. A link to your LA Times headline would be interesting.

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  • 60. At 4:15pm on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re British democratic tradition:

    "Introducing some Sharia laws in U.K. would increase social harmony"

    (current Archbishop of Canterbury)

    "Jesus is a slave of Allah!" (signs at London Muslim demonstration)

    "Philby, Burgess and McLean" (as the old English poem goes)



    Re anthem: no, binge drinking by keg and throwing up in the streets of Central London by both men AND women can hardly be blamed on Americans.


    P.S. Hole in the heart can be legitimately blamed on nature.

    Hole in the brain cannot. [yes, size of grey matter matters]

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  • 61. At 4:50pm on 09 Mar 2010, GH1618 wrote:

    "The BBC can say whatever it likes, but that doesn't mean it should be allowed to do business in America as 1, a foreign government funded media and news organization, and 2, an obviously biased one against America." (from AllenT2 at #48)

    Reading this from an American is pretty strange, because he advocates a totalitarian policy. Evidently, he does not approve of the First Amendment to our Constitution, which protects the rights of a free press. Press agencies from all over the world operate freely in the United States, as they do in almost all countries of the world. There is no requirement that press agencies be free of bias -- in a free society, the consumer of news chooses, not the government.

    Allen ought to know that the Voice of America, which is funded by the government, has press bureaus in the UK and around the world.

    I can assure readers here that AllenT2's xenophobic and totalitarian views are not shared by a significant number of Americans.

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  • 62. At 4:50pm on 09 Mar 2010, nalindsay wrote:

    What most people fail to understand is the present senate version shits the Medicare savings to the states in the form of Medicade which the states share in the costs. This means when many states are in dire fanicial state they will be burdened with billions more in Medicade costs. Very few states can afford the increase.

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  • 63. At 4:51pm on 09 Mar 2010, U14374829 wrote:

    Allen it is not americans that get banned (thought they maybe but you refuse to accept them as americans ) so it is not americans that get banned.

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  • 64. At 5:34pm on 09 Mar 2010, David Murrell wrote:

    Powermeerkat – I am sorry (and I suggest you think carefully before you answer) what is ‘P.S. hole in the heart can be legitimately blamed on nature. Hole in the brain cannot’, meant to mean exactly?

    I assume that the hole in the heart is a reference to my congenital heart defect, which actually went slightly further than just a hole in the heart, so I am guessing that the you are suggesting a hole in the brain on my part as well?

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  • 65. At 6:02pm on 09 Mar 2010, hms_shannon wrote:

    Post 60 Powermeercat

    "Re anthem: no, binge drinking by keg and throwing up in the streets of Central London by both men AND women can hardly be blamed on Americans".

    In the UK we have an awful problem with drinking alcohol & unruly behavior after shut tap.Our wonderful powers of government decided to opt for longer gentle southern Mediterranean type hours that suit civilized Latins just fine,forgetting that most of the British are descended from the vikings.We as a Nation are rough around the edges & some times in the center to boot.Any one introducing sharia law will have his work cut out,
    it will most probably drive them to drink...

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  • 66. At 6:16pm on 09 Mar 2010, timohio wrote:

    re. 30. powermeerkat:

    The news media and politicians are in a symbiotic relationship. The press looks for sound bites to fill column inches or seconds on a broadcast, so politicians obligingly speak that way because they know it will get them in print or on TV. And it all goes on because the newspaper readers and TV watchers and voters let it go on. I stopped watching new broadcasts on the commercial networks and cable years ago and I stopped the newspaper because there was very little of interest in it. I get my news from PBS, which doesn't rely on 15 second stories and actually allows substantive civil discussions from opposing sides of a question. I watch the BBC and look at their website because I appreciate the point of view of reporters from another country.

    But I suspect that most of my countrymen and -women either don't care or don't have the intellectual skills or are simply too lazy to do the same. I have a good education and I've been taught how to evaluate sources and make up my own mind. Unfortunately, in this country you don't get that kind of education and training until you are in graduate school. It's not that it's too hard for most people, it just isn't taught. For too long the educational system in this country has focused on teaching facts that can be regurgitated on standardized tests. Never mind that facts can change and be proven wrong. That's why people have such a hard time with practically any scientific concept or with an historical appraisal that differs from what they learned in grade school. This educational system exists because certain conservative politicians put it there as a "reform." It's a system that is designed to produce technically proficient sheep. But it has now come around to bite us all in the butt. People don't know how to deal with new and conflicting information. Whether you are liberal or conservative, you have to admit that our public discourse on topics of importance to all of us is carried on at a pretty low level--more like name-calling than discussion. This is going to continue until our educational system produces citizens who can evaluate new ideas--even uncomfortable ones--rationally and come to realistic conclusions on matters of public policy.

    So we shouldn't entirely blame the news media or the politicians. A lot of the blame should fall on us.

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  • 67. At 8:12pm on 09 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #66 re meerkat's #30 Tim wrote:

    It's a system that is designed to produce technically proficient sheep.




    Mostly agree but not with that particular claim.

    Too many times I'd write a set equations with patently obvious errors (such as growing infinities), introduced them as work of reputable mathematicians/physicists and see potential staffers accept it.

    [Not that some of our British cousins would fare much better, judging my utter nonsense some of them copy&paste here from Wikipedia [sic!] for example re nuclear weapons.]


    This country (U.S) desperately needs a major reform as far as elementary and secondary public education is concerned. [forget state colleges]

    Particularly re science.

    It won't happen though, as long as Teachers Union's members have their semi-illiterate way. Protecting their sorry behinds.

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  • 68. At 10:25pm on 09 Mar 2010, timohio wrote:

    re. 67. powermeerkat:

    You are better able than I am to judge about the state of science education, but I wouldn't say that reform is particularly needed there. My area of expertise is in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. Trust me, we need reform there, too.

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  • 69. At 11:09pm on 09 Mar 2010, sammy_sam wrote:

    re. 68 Could you provide an example of those equations that have patently obvious errors? It would be useful to see the kind of errors that seem to escape your potential staffers. Is it due to a lack in understanding of basic math (please specify what you consider to be basic) or is it due to a blind acceptance of any vaguely authoritative sounding source? Thanks...
    PS: Sorry for requesting a tangential piece of information- (68) just piqued my curiosity.

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  • 70. At 11:44pm on 09 Mar 2010, Brad wrote:

    Mark,

    Welcome to the Philly area, I hope that you had fun.

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  • 71. At 01:40am on 10 Mar 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    AllenT2 -- What do you suggest? Would you have us go to dictatorship of the Corporation (something we are close to now that they can speed unlimited amounts on political campaigns crowding out other voices that don't have the same financial recourses), or perhaps you favor anarchy. Either way takes some ego to think your views represent "American Views" or that you represent what makes America tick.

    I for one enjoy the BBC coverage (not that I agree with everything they write). Gives a different perspective than the domestic media.

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  • 72. At 10:57am on 10 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #68

    Tim, there's a shortge in the U.S. of good mathematicians and physisists.

    And even chemists.

    Most of the Nobel prizes in science (the only legitimate ones) have been awarded (so far) to people who graduated from high school in 1940s and 50s.

    Personally I am deeply concerned about qualifications of people who atttendeded those schools (and state colleges) in 1970s and '80s.

    P.S. Ability of recognizing United States on a contour map of the world should not require major skills. And yet...

    P.P.S. The fact that roughly 50% of potential French students wanted (according to the recent polls) to become psychologists is not much of a consolation.

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  • 73. At 11:51am on 10 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #69 You cannot write equations here any more than to include quotes in foreign languages. Which has already been pointed out to me. Sorry.

    But basically my opinion is this:

    If you are unable or are unwilling to challenge work of recognized authorities (even without any tricks introduced), than you have no future as a top scientist. Although you can succeed as a 'yes man'.

    I won't quote an obvious example: sheepish acceptance of erroneous 'scientific' claims re "man-made global warming".


    But how about this, much less known example?


    For many decades everybody accepted the official value of the speed of sound.

    Until somebody has decided to double-check it.

    And guess what? It was wrong.


    But nobody was willing to waste their time on double-checking it, particularly because a fellow who had made the original measurements was a very reputable scientist/engineer.

    With many very real, tangible accomplishments to his name.


    Now, the error was minute and of no practical consequence in everyday life.

    [btw. incorrect Newtonian physics still works in that life as well]

    But in scientific experiments (e.g. in echo chamber) it does matter.

    At the end of his life, Max Planck, who, by attitude, was a conservative rather than revolutionary and rejected status quo only after if became patently obvious to him that something no longer worked, famously observed that it it's not so that people eventually accept a new theory/concept.

    But rather than its oppponents eventually simply die out, and the new generation accepts the 'revolutionary theory' as something patently obvious.

    BTW. None other that Albert Einstein had never fully accepted consequences of Heisenberg's quantum mechanics (particularly of it 'uncertainty principle')and reconciled himself to them, although he most certainly understood H.'s theory and recognized its soundness.

    Although IMHO that was not the main reason E. failed in his attempts to create a unified grand theory. Many others after him have failed as well.

    [It was simply too early, accumulated data was insufficient and only now
    we are beginnig to see the light at the of the tunnel.

    Although it still may be simply headlights of an incoming express train]


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  • 74. At 12:01pm on 10 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #65
    U.S.
    Not that binge beer drinking (by the keg) is unpopular among many American students. :(

    And, alas, we don't have an equivalent of certain Archbishop of Canterbury, to suggest an introduction of at least some Sharia laws in the U.S. in order 'to increase social harmony'. ;-(


    [actually our Episcopalians may even go go their own, separate way]

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  • 75. At 5:34pm on 10 Mar 2010, timohio wrote:

    re. 72. powermeerkat:

    Mathematicians and scientists talk about the need for better math and science training as though that was all that was needed to build a better and brighter future. I don't dispute that math and science skills in the US are low and should be improved, but I'm more concerned about the inability of the average US citizen to deal with historical events, historical concepts, basic logic and reasoning, foreign languages, and ethnic and cultural differences--all the skills necessary to have an informed electorate and a functioning democracy. If Americans were better educated in these areas they would not be such sitting ducks for corporate and political disinformation campaigns or for talk radio hosts and TV personalities who pull opinions out of their butts without a shred of evidence to support them.

    Look at the nonsense that's been put out over the last year about health care. There is plenty of room for reasonable people to disagree about what the US should do in its present situation, but to brand a national health care plan as socialism was bizarre and showed a complete lack of knowledge about what happens in other countries. That's just one example, there are plenty of others.

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  • 76. At 7:17pm on 10 Mar 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Tim,

    Logics is an intrinsic part of mathematics.

    [and by no means only a binary one. Fuzzy logics becoming more&more important]

    Yes, good general education is essential.


    However, and I've been pointing it out for the last 30 years, if you don't produce enough of your own top scientists and engineers pretty soon you 'll lose your national security.

    Sapienti sat.

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  • 77. At 04:50am on 11 Mar 2010, DJRUSA wrote:

    The framer you are using as an example is not typical. An article in the WSJ today by a pollister(Rassmussin) said that the percentage of Americans strongly opposed to the Senate or House bill are double the percentage that are strongly for it, and this has not changed for some time.

    The big problem with healthcare in the US is cost not access. Americans know that, foriegner reporters always get it wrong, taking examples at face value and never asking "what ever happened to the patent." In every case they eventually got treatment, including examples given by Pres. Obama himself such as the "woman who was denied treatment because she had acme."

    The total profit from insurance companies is less than 1% of the aggregate cost of healthcare in the US. Addressing the additional cost of trial lawyers would dwarf these costs.

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  • 78. At 11:26am on 11 Mar 2010, RomeStu wrote:

    DJRUSA 77 wrote
    "The total profit from insurance companies is less than 1% of the aggregate cost of healthcare in the US. Addressing the additional cost of trial lawyers would dwarf these costs."


    And above and beyond these 2 factors why not ask about the actual cost of the treatments and why they are so high....

    google "uk private hospital cost of MRI scan"
    and you get results showing costs of £200 - £500 depending on which bit of you is scanned.

    source http://www.privatehealth.co.uk/private-healthcare-services/diagnostic-imaging/mri-scans/mri-scan-prices/


    then google US cost of MRI
    and you will get info showing costs of $400 to $3500 - with an average of around $2000.

    source http://www.comparemricost.com/


    Shouldn't Americans be asking themselves why the same treatment costs 3 or 4 times as much in one of your hospitals ....?

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  • 79. At 5:45pm on 12 Mar 2010, U14380026 wrote:

    77

    "The total profit from insurance companies is less than 1% of the aggregate cost of healthcare in the US. Addressing the additional cost of trial lawyers would dwarf these costs"

    Sorry You seem to be confused on your numbers.
    Could you explain.
    What lawyers?

    Are you raising the red malpractice cost argument or some other point?

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  • 80. At 5:49pm on 12 Mar 2010, U14380026 wrote:

    78 They should be asking themselves that but most are too busy complaining that it is unAmerican to lower costs.

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