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Welcome to Red State/Blue State, a feature presented by The Anniston Star of Anniston, Ala., and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the December 2001 edition of the Atlantic, David Brooks wrote an essay titled "One Nation, Slightly Divisible," in which he suggested that America is divided largely into two political cultures, one "red" and one "blue." His idea is based on those electoral maps in 2000 that colored majority-Republican states in red and majority-Democratic states in blue. Brooks' witty essay pictures the red-state voter as trending rural, a salt-of-the-earth type, concerned with individual liberty and family values, whereas the "blue" voter trends urban, more of a book-reader, a Beltway-savvy intellectual, the environmentally conscious soccer mom or dad.

Cliches? Maybe. But Brooks does have his finger on two very strong currents in the American votership. It's not that Pennsylvania is a "blue state" or Alabama is a "red state." It's that our two political cultures don't talk to each other much, or even know much about each other. To bridge that gap, we've brought together two "red" voters - John Franklin and Cynthia Sneed - and two "blue" voters, Terri Falbo and Timothy Horner. Each week, they'll ponder and debate the issues arising in the election campaign. The hope is that they'll model an intelligent discussion, a great big conference room where red and blue sit down together.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Terri Falbo, Blue Stater 

Question Number Eight: President Bush and Sen. Kerry have unveiled their health care plans. How would you structure a health-care plan? Would it be universal, or only for indigents? Would you feature privatized health-related savings accounts? What would you do about malpractice lawsuits?

My health-care plan would be along the lines of that proposed by Physicians for a National Healthcare Program (see Details have been written into House Resolution 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act, introduced before Congress by Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.). This is a universal, single-payer system, with most health-care delivery remaining private.

Who and what would be covered? All residents in the United States and U.S. territories would receive care by simply walking into a doctor's office, hospital, clinic, or other facility of your choice and presenting your card. No money would change hands. Premiums, deductibles and co-payments are eliminated. No one would receive a bill from a doctor, hospital, pharmacy, or insurance company. All necessary medial expenses would be covered, including dental, vision, mental health, and long-term care. The rationing that currently takes place in our system is unnecessary.

Not covered would be over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin; luxury, long-term care surroundings; and cosmetic surgery or other purely elective procedures. These could be paid out of pocket or through private insurance companies.

Who would run and manage the health-care system? Medical decisions would be in the hands of the patient and doctor. Most hospitals, clinics, and health-care delivery systems could remain private. Cost containment measures would be publicly managed at the state level by an elected body that represents the people of that state. This body would plan and effect the distribution of expensive technology; create a budget; and negotiate payments. Gone would be the decision-making of private medical insurance companies, except for elective procedures.

Would we have to raise taxes? With a universal, single-payer system, at least 95 percent of people would end up paying less for health care than we do now. Any necessary tax increases would be more than offset for most people in what they would save in premiums, co-pays, and deductibles; most of these would disappear or be much less. This is because there is tremendous waste in our current system. Compared to other advanced countries that have health coverage for everyone, we pay much more for health care both as a percentage of GDP and per capita (each and every man, woman and child - whether covered by health insurance or not) - yet not everyone is covered. As much as 30 cents of every premium dollar is squandered on enormous CEO salaries, shareholder profits, advertising and administration due to a plethora of insurance companies creating mountains of paperwork.

Insurance companies probably would let many workers go. What of them? We should use money saved through increased efficiency to help such employees make the transition into different careers. There must be enough money for education, retraining, and relocation to the sites of other jobs paying at least as much as the lost job.

What about medical malpractice lawsuits? The main force driving up med-mal rates is not the amount and frequency of outrageous jury awards. Rather, we should look at the enormous salaries of insurance company CEOs, and the way that a few physicians with large numbers of lawsuits drive up the rates for all other physicians. Each state should offer public malpractice insurance for doctors, which should help stabilize rates.

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Monday, September 13, 2004

Terri Falbo, Blue Stater 

Question Seven: John Kerry is telling audiences that U.S. involvement in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. President Bush has continued to describe the war and subsequent occupation as a central front in the war on terrorism. Is war in Iraq connected to a war against terrorism?

More than 1,000 U. S. soldiers and many more Iraqi civilians have lost their lives since the inception of the war in Iraq. We would all like to believe that the loss of lives can be justified as serving a good cause, such as helping make us safer. However, if we put what we'd like to believe, and instead critically view the facts, it becomes clear that this war has nothing to do with combating terrorism or keeping the American people safe. Instead, it has diverted resources away from keeping us safe and away from a real fight against terrorism. As James Fallows, national correspondent for Atlantic magazine, writes in the October issue, "It's hard to find a counterterrorism specialist who thinks that the Iraq War has reduced rather than increased the threat to the United States.

The Bush administration operates under the adage that if a lie is repeated often enough, many people will believe it. So they just keep repeating that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and 9/11 - even though several films, including Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, have captured the President on video admitting that there was no connection. Early on, the administration displayed videos of supposed al-Qaeda training camps . . . until it turned out these camps were not in Iraq. Recently they haven’t even tried to offer any evidence.

Here are the important facts:

* None of the Sept. 11 hijackers was from Iraq. Fifteen were from Saudi Arabia. The rest were from Pakistan and Egypt.

* There is no evidence of a pre-9/11 link between the Islamic fundamentalist al-Qaeda and the secular regime of Saddam Hussein. Because the war is widely seen in the Islamic world as unjust and as evidence of U.S. imperial aims, many more recruits have recently been added to al-Qaeda and to the anti-American cause in general. The war has served to unite various sectors of the Islamic and Arab world that previously had been antagonistic toward each other.

* There is next to no credible evidence of any involvement, financial or otherwise, by Iraq in any terrorist plans against the United States before the Iraq war. Suicide bombings and other terrorist acts committed since the Iraq war began are a result of that war - not evidence of some prior connection.

Sen. Bob Graham (D., Fla.) was chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee during the aftermath of Sept. 11. In his new book, Intelligence Matters, he argues that the Iraq campaign has caused a continual diversion of resources away from the real fight against terrorism. Several key witnesses testified to the 9/11 committee that President Bush insisted that his aides dig up "information" implicating Iraq, and that he was not interested in contrary indicators. Graham asserts that he was told by Gen. Tommy Franks that as early as February 2002, important resources were being diverted away from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and quietly redeployed to Iraq. Graham also says that the administration blocked attempts to interview a Saudi national who had given extensive assistance to two of the hijackers when they lived in San Diego just before 9/11. Then, the White House insisted on keeping classified 27 pages of a report issued by a House-Senate intelligence panel detailing Saudi links to Sept. 11.

So far, more than $150 Billion has been spent for the war. Yet the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) remains a shoestring operation, with most of its $40 billion budget being not new money, but a consolidation of budgets of the various agencies under the umbrella. Little new money has been added to make our planes, trains, ports, chemical facilities, and urban centers safer. For what we spend in 10 days in Iraq, we could equip all U.S. airports with machines that screen baggage for explosives. Yet the Bush budget allocates only 32 hours' worth of money for the purpose! The President likes to be photographed with his arms around firefighters, yet such first responders remain drastically underpaid and ill equipped. Many first responders still lack radios that work on the same frequencies! The allocation to help firefighters prepare for terrorist attacks is less than 1.5 percent of what is needed. And the DHS has a hard time attracting intelligence analysts, partly because the agency cannot receive classified information on its computers because they are not yet secure!

A terrorist release of chemicals could potentially kill tens of thousands of people at one time. Recognizing that New Jersey has nine of the top 111 most vulnerable chemical plants, Sen. Jon Corzine (D., N.J.) introduced the Chemical Safety Act. This would have increased security for chemical production, storage, and transportation, as well as developed a plan to move away from use of the most noxious chemicals wherever possible. The bill died after intense lobbying by the petrochemical industry.

So what is the Iraq war really about? I remember back in the spring of 2001 being somewhat alarmed when I looked up the Web site for the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). This organization was formed in 1997 to promote U.S. dominance of the world. Major players include Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard Cheney. In 1998 they sent a letter to President Clinton advocating war in Iraq. One of their documents stated that their goal of hegemony would take a very long time to reach unless there was some catastrophic event along the lines of a Pearl Harbor. The implication is that such an event could achieve the goals much more quickly. Well, they got their event!

The instrumental people in the Bush administration all have heavy connections to large oil companies and weapons manufacturing. They have an interest in keeping our whole economy addicted to oil and in making sure that they have control over the major oil producing regions of the world. They probably figured Iraq would be the easiest place to start firming up their foothold in the area.

Here's what we should be doing to fight terrorism:

1. Stop supporting repressive, antidemocratic movements and leaders around the world. All our talk of liberation, freedom, and democracy rings hollow and hypocritical at best when people know that U.S. dollars and weapons are being used to kill those who are trying to improve wages, working conditions, and environmental laws that could cut into super-profits of U.S. corporations. The continuance of such foreign policy will only likely increase the number of people worldwide who would come to see some form of terrorism as their only possible method of resistance.

2. Increase resources for more security here at home. There will probably always be some people who will turn to terrorist tactics. Timothy McVeigh and the Atlanta Olympics bomber are examples. Securing our nation’s airports, trains, ports, mail, chemical facilities, and urban centers, and providing sufficient resources to first responders, must be priorities - not put on the back burner, as with the policies of the current administration.

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Joe Franklin, Red Stater 

Question Seven: John Kerry is telling audiences that U.S. involvement in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. President Bush has continued to describe the war and subsequent occupation as a central front in the war on terrorism. Is the war in Iraq connected to a war against terrorism?

Certainly the war in Iraq is related to the war against terrorism. Remember, this terrorism started during or shortly after the liberation of Kuwait. That is when Osama bin Laden decided the American infidels were trespassing in holy places on the Arabian peninsula. Subsequently he ordered that Americans around the world be killed.

I recall that shortly after 9/11, the President stated that U.S. forces would go after nations supporting terrorists. I can see Iraq as well as a half a dozen other countries in the area supporting terrorist activities. Just last week, it was reported that one of Osama bin Laden's henchmen, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was present in Iraq. On Thursday, four al-Qaeda suspects were arrested in Iraq.

Other connections between al-Qaeda and Iraq include a meeting between bin Laden and Iraq's head of intelligence in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1994. William Cohen, former Secretary of Defense, revealed in the 9/11 hearings that a top lieutenant of bin Laden’s met in Baghdad with Iraq's top nerve gas expert. Osama bin Laden does not care for Saddam Hussein, but yet there were these connections as well as others. What was the purpose of these meetings? Tea and crumpets?

To be sure, in searching for connections between the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism, I found numerous instances of reports that were later discredited. Yet some have been corroborated, yet the media seem to be downplaying them. It does take a rocket scientist to see that Sadam and his sons, Udai and Qusay, ran a terrorist regime.

On many of the talk shows one hears these sissies saying that the United States had no basis or reason for invading Iraq, that Iraq had not attacked us. The war often is described as "Bush's war" or "Cheney's war." Well, Germany never attacked the United States. Should we then call World War Two "Roosevelt's War"?

Certainly there is a connection between the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism. Haven't you heard the old adage, "birds of a feather flock together"?

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Cynthia Sneed, Red Stater 

Question Number Seven: John Kerry is telling audiences that U.S. involvement in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. President Bush has continued to describe the war and subsequent occupation as a central front in the war on terrorism. Is war in Iraq connected to a war against terrorism?

President Bush has been tricked by Clinton acolytes. Democrats, knowing all along that Iraq is harmless, convinced neophyte Bush that Hussein was a serious threat. I weep when I think that our planet has been deprived of Saddam Hussein and his Renaissance sons, Mean and Meaner.

The 1997 plan is the brainchild of Susan Estrich, James Carville and Paul Begala. Prescient liberals, relying on Nancy Reagan's astrologer and pseudo-Kabbalist movie stars, divined that George W. Bush would be the Republican candidate for 2000 and that, alas, the father of the Internet (and protagonist of Love Story) would win the election only to have it stolen by Supreme Court justices appointed by Republicans.

The actors: John Kerry, President Clinton, Al Gore, Sandy Berger and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The proof is below. I am expecting a call from Michael Moore any day!

Nov. 12, 1997: "Where's the backbone of Russia? Where's the backbone of France? Where are they in expressing their condemnation of [international terrorism]? But in a sense, they're now climbing into a box, and they will have enormous difficulty not following up on this if there is not compliance by Iraq." - John Kerry on MSNBC's Crossfire

Feb. 23, 1998: "Saddam . . . is a threat to the stability of the Middle East. It is a threat with respect to the potential of terrorist activities on a global basis. It is a threat even to regions near but not exactly in the Middle East." - John Kerry

Oct. 9, 1998: "We urge you . . . . to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." - Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others

Oct. 10, 1998: "We know from our largely unsuccessful attempts to enlist the cooperation of other nations, especially industrialized trading nations, in efforts to impose and enforce somewhat more ambitious standards on nations such as Iran, China, Burma and Syria, that the willingness of most other nations - including a number who are joined in the sanctions to isolate Iraq." (Translation: The French, Germans, Russians and Chinese ain't never going to help us). - John Kerry, Senate floor speech

Jan. 23, 2003: "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real ... " - John Kerry

Sept. 8, 2004: " 'The only legitimate reason was the weapons of mass destruction question,' he explained yesterday. 'But after you have built the international coalition, exhausted the [United Nations] inspections and you have no other choice.' " - John Kerry (Is this the same international coalition he said on Oct. 10, 1998 could not be built?).

Sept. 1, 2004: "We were misled into the war by President Bush." - John Kerry (Compare this with his statement on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews from Oct. 13, 2003: "So did I get misled? No, I didn't get misled.")

Enter President Clinton:

Feb. 4, 1998: "One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." - President Bill Clinton

Feb. 17, 1998: "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." - President Bill Clinton

Enter Sandy Berger, national security adviser for President Clinton:

Feb.18, 1998: "He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983."

Here comes Al Gore:

Sept. 23, 2002: "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

And Sen. Hilary Rodham CLinton (D., N.Y.), who cannot be president since she was not in the Vietnam war:

Oct. 10, 2002: "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock. . . . He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."

So, is the Iraq war connected to the global war on terror? Given the above statements by Democrats, obviously so. Now, doesn't everyone feel better?

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Bloggers from
Blue State (Pa.)

Terri Falbo

Born and raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Terri Falbo is a union organizer who has lived in Philadelphia for almost 30 years. She graduated from Temple University and previously worked as a construction worker for 17 years.

Tim Horner

Tim Horner grew up in Iowa, but has lived out significant chunks of his adult life in Chicago, IL and Oxford, England. He is married and has four children (14, 12, 10 and 7). Having grown up as an Evangelical in the Midwest and still a practicing Christian, he is concerned with how religion and politics mix. Because of a combination of circumstance and apathy, he has never voted in a presidential election. He currently teaches Humanities at Villanova University.
Bloggers from
Red State (Ala.)

Joe Franklin

Alabama native Joe Franklin, 58, was born in Pike County and grew up on a farm in Crenshaw County. He graduated from Troy State University in 1967. After working for 28 years with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles as a parole and probation officer, retired to Crenshaw County, which is just south of Montgomery, where he spends his days working on the farm.

Cynthia Sneed

Gadsden resident and local college professor Cynthia Smith Sneed has a doctorate in Accounting from the University of Alabama. Her fields of academic research are in state pension and employee benefit issues. She has been published in numerous academic accounting journals and has done research for the Alabama Policy Institute. She is a member of the American Accounting Association, Governmental Finance Officers Association as well as being active in the Republican Party.

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