Tuesday, September 29, 2009

American Health Care, a "Market Driven" Perspective

I generally try not to be emotional or terribly emotive on this blog. I feel like my arguments falter when I get that way. But I have to admit that I am just done. This whole health insurance debate has been an utter joke, and in many respects, a waste of time. The GOP is not interested in actual reform, and conservative Democrats are lackeys for the industries that are essentially jacking the American populace.

Why not just go for the gusto, and do real death panels for the people not lucky, smart or savvy enough to be upper middle class in this nation? Let them be at the mercy of the market. Let them die for failing to be successful enough to garner proper health care. Of course, the market has all of the answers, and the government, in all instances, is bad, evil and, dare I say, socialistic in its aims.

I am tired of the faux debate, as well as the faux concern about the ability of Americans to make their own health care decisions (I remember almost having to change doctors when health insurance bureaucrats decided that my doctor did not deserve to be paid what he once was paid, but the its the government, and government only, that has a bureaucracy, right?).

Why not just submit legislation to abolish all government related health care programs? The market has the answer, and I am sure that tax cuts will be a true Godsend to all of us poor unfortunate souls who were too stupid to get the types of jobs that would provide us with proper health insurance. I want to see all of the whiners from the summer deal with the reality of no Medicare. I want to see poor people in this country deal with the reality of no Medicaid or SCHIP. After all, government run health care is inherently bad for us. It contributes to American laziness. It undermines the American work ethic.

It makes sense for us now to let the unfortunate "eat cake." After all, their circumstances are reflective of their poor choices in life. Far be it for the American government to provide some assistance. It would only undermine those people.

It's not too late to include amendments that repeal all of the government run health care that exists right now. We could save millions by giving the private health insurance industry subsidies that will help their bottom lines. That is what the United States is about, so let's hop to it. We need to stop wasting money on government health insurance ASAP.

UPDATE I only just read about Rep. Alan Grayson on Matt Taibbi's blog at True/Slant, but considering the rant that I put here, I know when I have been beaten.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And, What Rachel Maddow Said

I think that Rachel Maddow's two segments on the organization ACORN are extremely important in providing doses of rationalism and reality in the wild eyed coverage on this "threat" to America.

I am a fan of Jeremy Scahill's line of thinking, and he is right on the money. Absolutely nothing will happen to a single defense contractor, in spite of the obvious evidence. Meanwhile, those who are utterly convinced of the horrors of ACORN (helping those damned poor people/criminals) probably don't care about anything that Rachel or Jeremy raised, because they're "lib'ruls" who are thus incapable of understanding the concerns of "real America": ACORN, socialism and taking the country back.

What Howard Dean Said

While watching "Countdown" tonight, I was reminded of something during Lawrence O'Donnell's interview with former Governor Howard Dean. In the most recent poll taken, 65% of Americans (see the last question under "Health Care") want some form of a public option in health insurance. Four of the five committees in Congress have included a public option in their proposed legislation, however, one committee, just one committee, is debating whether or not to include, with an inclination it seems not to go there. Check out this clip from the show.

Dean is correct in noting that the country voted in a Democratic majority to help Obama do what he promised to do. And the Democrats should pay dearly for ignoring the will of the people. I think that progressive groups are right to hit on Senator Baucus, and the commercial that is going to show in Montana indeed asks the right question: "Whose side are you on?"

Even Helen Keller told all that she saw and heard about the pure obstruction coming from the GOP, so this idea of bi-partisanship is as realistic as a black, openly gay Republican getting the GOP nomination in 2012. The Democrats in the Finance Committee needs to get a massive wake up call from all who supported Obama's agenda to reform health insurance, in order to make them do what the majority of Americans want.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Celebrating U. S. National Parks

I am really looking forward to Ken Burns' latest documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." Conservation and historic preservation will be given a platform worthy of those issues, and Burns again will remind us of both the importance and the complexity of American history.

I've only been to a few of our nearly 400 national park units, and I really hope to increase that number substantially as I grow older. Our nation has such a multiplicity of interesting stories, and each of those stories, for good or for ill, is a part of our collective history; they should remind each of us of our contributions to this great nation.

Here are the some of the national park units I've visited so far:
Presidio of San Francisco (CA)
Anacostia Park (DC)
Capitol Hill Parks (DC)
Carter G. Woodson Home (DC)
Constitution Gardens (DC)
Frederick Douglass Home (DC)
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House (DC)
Sewall-Belmont House (DC)
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site (GA)
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (LA)
Boston African American National Historic Site (MA)
Lower East Side Tenement Museum (NY)
Cape Hatteras National Seashore (NC)
Colonial National Historical Park (VA)
Maggie L. Walker House (VA)

I hope that everyone who reads this post will check out Burns' latest documentary, and I hope that a visit to one of our national parks will be added to your "to do" list in the very near future.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Pray the Gay Away?"

Yesterday, my cousin sent me a note asking if I'd watched a recent episode of "The Tyra Banks Show." Since, I don't really watch much television, the quick answer was no, but I wanted to why she asked. Tyra featured a young man, "Jeffrey" who had his alleged homosexual demons "exorcised." My cousin though his story would make a great play for her theater class.

I had to see this show. Thankfully, Rod McCullom at Rod 2.0 posted about this show earlier (and included the clip), so take a look.

For all of the hosannas that organized religion receives, I remain convinced that the institution can be devastatingly damaging to members of the GLBT community (not including groups like the Metropolitan Community Church or other affirming churches, of course).

Looking at that young man, who wants so desperately to be something I just don't think he will ever be, breaks my heart. I could have been him, if my world had been different. And I feel that the "prophet" and "overseer" have not been helpful to him in the least. They are setting that young man up to join the ranks of those on the DL, that pitiful group of folks who operate in deceit, confusion and shame.

"Jeffrey" deserves better than that. So, instead of these mad attempts to "pray the gay away," I hope he finds a path from "exorcism" to the man of his dreams. Maybe that's the play my cousin can submit to her theater professor: "Jeffrey's Salvation."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summer Thinking on Health Care Reform VII: an Autumnal Postscript

I came across a post at Think Progress that made me smile. People who are actually interested in having a discussion on health insurance reform (I no longer think that it's appropriate to call it health care reform), as opposed to the folks we saw screaming, whining and crying throughout August, are asking GOP members of Congress real questions. I liked that someone asked Rep. Eric Cantor if there was any real GOP health insurance proposal beyond the four page document that was waved during Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress. The easy answer is a big fat no, but Cantor couldn't say that.

Cantor did manage to suggest that another constituent, a family member of Patricia Churchill, should look to a government program (or perhaps a charity) to help meet her pressing health care needs. Interestingly, GOP Senator Tom Coburn made a similar suggestion (offering his staff to help) back in August to an Oklahoma constituent with a husband in similar need. CNN's Rick Sanchez was right to call Coburn out on this. It's amazing how quickly government solutions to health care emergencies come to mind for some in the GOP, considering the horror of government run health care. It was also fun watching this clip from a Kansas GOP Rep. Todd Tiahrt's town hall meeting posted on Huffington Post by Mark Nellis; the crowd hits back on Tiahrt's lies.

The latest GOP tactic has been to attack Democrats, because Democrats have called out the health insurance company Humana, Inc. (big supporter of its Senator Mitch McConnell) for potentially misleading recipients of Medicare Advantage through a letter sent to those recipients suggesting that Democratic health insurance reforms will cut directly into the recipients benefits. Cut into Humana's big profits is more like it.

Obviously, the easiest thing that the GOP members of Congress could do right now is to develop a legitimate plan(s) of their own, and show those Democrats how health insurance reform really should be done. The only problem is that they have no interest in doing anything of the kind. Senator DeMint of South Carolina let the cat out of the bag on the GOP strategy months ago.

Please note, the strategy is not to develop a health insurance reform plan of their own. The strategy is not to help constituents who really need the reforms. The strategy is not to sort out ways to provide costs savings in a part of the economy that is going to be a massive problem in the very near future. No, the strategy is to make Obama look bad. That is health insurance reform to the GOP, and I am embarrassed for the people who are happy to cheer them on.

Meanwhile the supporters of this "strategy" should have to answer directly to their neighbors or even relatives who continue to suffer the health insurance industry's and the GOP's shenanigans. They should have to explain why it's more important to deny Obama a victory on health insurance reform, than it is to provide fellow Americans with help that will alleviate costs and potentially save more lives. Even if you disagree with everything that the Democrats are trying to do, I would challenge you to suggest that the Democrats haven't been trying. Can the same be said of the GOP?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal Dreams 2009

Two years ago, I wrote the first "Autumnal Dreams," and I am happy to report that my feelings haven't changed an iota.

I cannot wait to join my family on the annual pilgrimage to the Outer Banks of North Carolina late next month. Out of the twenty years the family has gone down, I've only been with them 5 times. For me, it's a week of reflection, reverence and rejuvenation.

It's difficult to put into words the peace of mind that comes to me as I watch, from our deck, the waves of the Atlantic crash on the shore, or the sun rise. It's also difficult explaining the intoxicating the smell of salt in the air. I love the quiet beauty of the Bodie Island Lighthouse, and the majesty of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. But when I put all of those things together with the chilly late October air, I really am at a loss for words.

I know that the other three seasons have their fans, but my heart will always rest with autumn.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Killing a Gay Man in DC Apparently Gets You 180 Days in Jail

I will keep this short and simple. I cannot understand how a person can be killed, and the killer is given a plea deal for simple assault (after originally being charged with manslaughter). Tony Hunter, from P.G. County, MD, was attacked by a group of kids while he was on his way to a Shaw area gay spot here in DC. Hunter died as a result of his injuries from the attack. The killer apparently used the "gay panic" defense, and the prosecution seems to have bought it hook, line and sinker. Hunter's killer accepted a plea deal for simple assault, and he is out on bond on his own recognizance. The maximum sentence in this case: 180 days.

I am gobsmacked at how a miscarriage of justice of this magnitude could happen. 180 days for killing a gay man in the District of Columbia. That makes no damn sense.

UPDATE (10.16.09): Having read more reports, I better understand how something like this sentence could happen, and I think one of the comments suggested how it could work. It looks like it was determined that the victim died from the injuries he sustained from hitting his head on the ground, not directly from the hit from the defendant, which apparently changes the legal outcome, as we know. I need my attorney friends to help out here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

If I Hear "Because I Oppose the Policies of Obama, Then I Must Be a Racist" One More Time....

The statement in my post title is a textbook example of sophistry (you can add the smug and disdainful look on your own). What a way to dismiss summarily even the possibility that some of the criticism directed at Obama could be race based. This is nothing more than an argument tactic, especially when the point is conceded (and often it is) that there is in fact a possibility that race informs some of the negative opinions of Obama and his policies.

I've disagreed with some of the policy decisions of Obama, and I have posted about them on this blog. Does that make me a racist too?

There are plenty of things that Obama supports for which conservatives should disagree. Yet, there has been an effort by some powerful voices on the right to foment racial resentment, animosities and fears within the context of Obama's policy positions, and they have been doing this knowing that those things will resonate with some members of their audience. I agree with calling those folks out for doing wrong.

Demonizing the whole for the actions of a few is always wrong, and reasonable voices have not been demonizing the whole. If you pay attention to the specific claims of where race seems to be entering the discussion negatively (and not go all dismissive), then you should be able to see at least some of what folks are talking about.

And remember, no one can make you something that you aren't.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Tea and (Little) Sympathy III: Questions

I was reading through the comments for the post "On Tea and (Little) Sympathy II," and I was struck by something that I couldn't quite put my finger on at the time. It's amazing what sleep can do for the brain. I realized that I've never had a good discussion with my conservative friends about what it is that seems to unite the nation's racial, ethnic and sexual minorities against political conservatism, and concomitantly, the GOP.

Obviously, this is not universal rejection, because there certainly are racial, ethnic and sexual minorities who are quite politically conservative. But, what is it about the philosophy that seems not to attract significant minority support? How is it that we have come to see the world so differently that the GOP has almost become the party of white folks, and the Democratic party multicultural?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Tea and (Little) Sympathy II

I am watching the C-Span coverage of the "Taxpayer March on Washington," and what is most shocking to see is the lack of racial diversity in the crowd. Note that I did not say "most surprising." Having been a part of that massive friendly crowd of people inauguration weekend was shocking in a completely different way: it felt like everyone was there. Every type of American seemed to make his or her way to Washington that weekend in January.

I can say with all honesty that I do not understand these folks' anger. I do not understand their fear. I do not understand why people think that someone is trying to wrest the country away from them.

I think that many of these people see the country they want that would make "Pleasantville" seem cosmopolitan. I would also guess that they are looking amongst themselves and seeing "real" Americans. And those of us who were in my town in January weren't "real" Americans?

(here is my first "On Tea and (Little) Sympathy" post)

Summer Thinking on Health Care Reform VI: Conclusions (For Now)

After weeks of listening to the inanities of the "town hall" meetings, I was glad to hear Obama lay out specific goals for a health care plan that he would prefer to see come to his desk. I was one of those who felt that he could have done this months ago (without the speech to the joint session) in order to set an agenda for the Congress, but I understand the importance of honoring Congress as a co-equal branch of government. And, we got to see all kinds of crazy in the process.

I agree with Obama that one should not be barred from acquiring health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. I also agree that health insurers should not be allowed to drop people once they actually become sick. I do believe that some form of a public option, preferably structured like a normal health insurance company, would help to bring down the prices offered by private insurers. I also agree that tort reform needs to be included in this process, and I would appreciate more specifics on this issue from those on the right (though I don't think that it is the magic bullet that so many profess it to be).

I was beyond glad to see Obama challenge the most maddening of crazy charges that came from the right, particularly the notion of "death panels." He did that clearly and forcefully, and Obama was correct in doing so. Now, I was not too sold on how this will be paid for. Then again, I am that strange one willing to pay more in taxes for proper and comprehensive health care reform, if that's what it took. Unfortunately, I live in a country where the notion of helping your fellow man is now seen as nothing more than helping someone who doesn't deserve it. So, it will be interesting to see how this process of paying for all of this plays out.

Overall, I don't think that we've really had a debate on health care. It seemed to me that the loudest of the protesters were among the least in need of health care assistance. There were lots of medicare and veterans beneficiaries among those crowds, and that's fine. But it seems the height of selfishness to protest in favor of others not having an opportunity to gain what they have: comprehensive health care.

Few on the right helped to advance anything close to a debate. I've not seen that level of demagoguery and misinformation since Sarah Palin rallies during the 2008 campaign. Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst was simply the cherry on top. Few congressional Republicans are interested in health care reform, and they certainly have no desire to see Obama get his way. So the protestations that they gave throughout this time, that they have not been heard, that their ideas have not been considered, have been mostly disingenuous. They simply aren't interested.

Sadly, few on the Hill and/or in the media have bothered to try to bring forth those most adversely affected by this health care/health insurance crisis. Where were the voices of those who need this help the most? Where were the voices of those whose lives have been destroyed by their dealings with the health insurance industry? Our attention was drawn to "blue dog" Democrats, a "gang of six," and obfuscating Republican, not to the Americans who need their help with regard to health care.

Ultimately, I think that Obama and the Democrats will pass something. And therein rests the problem. Whatever is passed will likely prove not to be enough. I seriously doubt that Obama will be the last POTUS to deal with health care reform. Too few people who matter on this issue (members of Congress) want true reform. And there are those of us out here who still long for a genuine debate to determine what true reform, within an American context, could be.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Oh No He Di'in't" II

The last time I used that title, I came down on Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. for his outrageous comments about then candidate Barack Obama. Now, a Republican member of Congress, a five-term Congressman no less, had the unmitigated gall to call the President a liar in the middle of the President's joint address. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina has embarrassed himself in a spectacular fashion. I mean it's one thing to think the man is a liar; it's a whole new ballgame to call him one in the middle of his speech, which is being watched the world over.

I am so sure that Wilson was one of those Republicans who challenged the patriotism of Democrats who disagreed with the policies of President Bush; that was standard practice following 9/11 from the right. But no one from the Democratic party dared to interrupt President Bush when he addressed a joint session of Congress. Oddly enough, those members had enough respect for the office of the President to contain themselves.

I am glad that many in the GOP, with John McCain leading the charge, have criticized Wilson's actions. That certainly helped influence the timing of his apology, which he issued fairly quickly by Washington standards. But the fact that our civil (if you can call it that) discourse has reached this new "town hall" level low says so much about who we have become as a people.

I wonder if Wilson is a "birther" too?

Fines for the Broke, Struggling and Needy, Really?

A typical morning for me usually consists of listening to either NPR or C-Span's "Washington Journal." Well this morning I woke up just in time to hear Steve Scully on "Washington Journal" mention that the media adored "gang of six" health care proposal from Sen. Max Baucus plans to include fines for individuals and families that do not purchase private health insurance, while simultaneously excising the notion of a public option (which is supposed to help drive down the overall costs of health insurance premiums).

As I've said in the past, I work for myself as a consultant. I am just starting out as my own boss, and I do not make enough yet to afford health insurance, especially insurance like I had a year ago (I won't even talk about the costs of COBRA; I laughed when I saw that bill). The very notion that this character wants to charge fines to the very people who are having difficulty affording health insurance from the off is friggin' insulting. This post over at "The Political Carnival" captures some of my feelings on this as well.

It is beyond offensive that people who have nothing to worry about in this health care debate (beyond campaign contributions), members of Congress, appear to be among the least sensitive or realistic in this discussion. Further, some within that "Greatest generation" have been painfully selfish in this debate as well. I wonder how many town hall protesters are recipients of governmental health care largess, whether it's medicare, social security or veteran's benefits?

I just hope that BHO can make something worthwhile happen after this speech tonight, because this whole debate has moved completely into the realm of the absurd.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Oh Man, Van II

This is a first. I am going to fall on my sword partially. I'd not considered fully the problem of the 9/11 conspiracy theory support that Jones appears to have provided via petition. And I agree with both comments from Scott and Clancy that this indeed is a problem.

I'd rather admit being wrong with a hasty post, than to attempt to offer support to someone who, as Clancy noted, "couldn't provide an adequate answer to very real questions...." That is an excellent point. Jones' remaining would have been a complete distraction to the Obama administration at this critical juncture in the health care madness.

I still think that we are moving toward a place where left wing activism is coming to be seen as unpatriotic and right wing activism patriotic, thus leaving those on the left open to greater scrutiny when they attempt to move into government service. That is a problem, because I think that both sides believe that what they do is for the benefit of the country they want to see come to fruition. And to suggest that the left is particularly problematic is completely out of bounds.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting take on Jones (and Glenn Beck) by Arianna Huffington.

Oh Man, Van

I'd only just begun to focus any of my attention on Van Jones, and then suddenly he was at the center of an effort by Glenn Beck and his lot to achieve his ouster. Clearly, that effort won out, and Jones resigned his position as the "Green Jobs Czar" this weekend.

Now, let's put aside the fact that Jones was a co-founder of the group Color of Change, which has successfully persuaded more than 50 advertisers to end their associations with Beck's show (for calling Obama a "racist" and a person with a "deep hatred for white culture"), because that couldn't have been Beck's motivation to save the nation from Jones. Perhaps, it was Jones association with Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM) that really peaked Beck's interest (and maybe the fact that Jones called the GOP "assholes" in explaining how the party achieves its ends).

After reading about the ideas of STORM, I have to admit that it's not my cup of tea. But, if I recall properly, Jones left those politics behind. What I am missing is what this has to do directly with the job that Jones left, the development of green jobs. Have we returned to the mid-20th century, when the very idea of "Communist sympathies" was enough to ruin a career, whether real or imagined? Is that a Beck-ian goal, an effort to return to the "traditional" values of the last century?

I am also missing how the activities of those who flirted with, or even joined the Communist Party, are being held to standards that are reserved for say white supremacist groups or radical Islamic groups. I'll even go so far to say that the actions of Bill Ayers and Senator Robert Byrd (a repentant Klan member, but a former Klan member nonetheless) were by far more egregious and wrong than what I've read about the activities of Van Jones.

I am beginning to wonder if people who have participated in truly left wing organizations are going to be "banned" from participating in government in the very near future, wondering if that is the actual goal of some on the right. David Sirota suggests that we seem to be heading in that direction in this post that he did on the Jones situation on "Huffington Post."

If we elect to use similar standards across the political spectrum, then there might be a fair few on the right who should be worried about their past associations. At this point, if one thing in Washington is clear, tit for tat is the rule of the game. If we are lucky, then maybe Beck will be submitting a resignation soon too.

UPDATE: I was just reminded of something from the first comment (thanks Scott). What I did not add in this post is the fact that I think that the notion that the U.S. government had anything to do with orchestration of the events of 9/11 is STUPID from the off. It is the one area where I think that Jones' political past was in fact a problem. With that said, I still think that a larger question remains with regard to how political activity on the left will be viewed with regard to public service vis a vis political activity on the right. There seems to remain a presumption that all things left are inherently bad for the nation, and all things right are patriotism personified. That is a problem.

The Wizarding Skills of Obama

When word came that people were seriously bothered by the prospect of President Obama addressing American children on their first day of school, I laughed harder than I'd laughed in a long while. Then it hit me. Is this what we have come to? For all of the disdain that I had for President Bush (George W.) politically, I never felt concerned about him speaking to students (beyond using poor grammar, and a questionable public speaking style); he was POTUS.

Avoiding the easy "Obama is a scary black man" line of reasoning for this fear some on the right are showing with regard to this speech, I wondered what the source of the problem really could be.

Perhaps people see Obama the way Frodo and crew saw Saruman. One of the strongest powers that Saruman possessed was his voice. He could use his voice to persuade most to do his bidding. Maybe those fearful parents think that while adults will hear typical start of school pablum, their children will hear this:

Then again, perhaps those fearful parents are concerned that Obama will perform the Imperious curse on their children, and influence them to support his nefarious agenda. I think Professor Moody provides an excellent example as to what happens when one is under the influence of the Imperious curse:

Regardless, I am sure that those fearful parents are on to something. Obama is a dangerous man. Knowing that Obama is in power must be akin to having the Cruciatus curse cast on them daily. And of course, with regard to health care, the Avada Kedavra curse will be used on all of those deemed unworthy to continue living by Obama and his minions.

Now that I have this sorted, I've come to a conclusion: Barack Obama is a wizard who, through his speech, will use his powers to influence American children. Now whether Obama's powers are of Tolkien or Rowling origin, we will have to wait until tomorrow to see.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Summer Thinking on Health Care Reform V: Interregenum

I was going to do a final installment of the summer health care reform series, but then Obama decided that he wanted to speak to the nation this week, so I am going to wait to hear what he has to say before I conclude.

For the moment, I can say that there really has been a great deal of posturing and very little debating. Congress has shown exactly why it has horrible poll numbers, and why it is not seen in any real regard within the country. Our political discourse has reached new depths, and we are far from reaching the true depths.