Nothing silly about it

March 31, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Native Texan farmer on relief. Goodliet, Hardeman County, Texas. "Tractored out" in late 1937. Now living in town, and on the verge of relief. Wife and two children. "Well, I know I've got to make a move but I don't know where to. I can stay off relief until the first of the year. After that I don't know. I've eat up two cows and a pair of horses this past year. Neither drink nor gamble, so I must have eat'n 'em up. I've got left two horses and two cows and some farm tools. Owe a grocery bill. If had gradutated land tax on big farms, that would put the little man back again. "One man had six renters last year. Kept one. Of the five, one went to Oklahoma, one got a farm south of town and three got no place. They're on WPA (Works Progress Administration). Another man put fifteen families off this year. Amother had twenty-eight renters and now has two. In the Progressive Farmer it said that relief had spoiled the renters so they had to get tractors. But them men that's doing the talking for the community is the big landowners. They got money to go to Washington. That's what keeps us from writing. A letter I would write would sound silly up there." 1938 June. Dorothea Lange, photographer. (Library of CongressO

You have to read this.


Understanding the health care reform mandate

March 31, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Posted in health, politics straight up | Leave a comment
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Ohio : WPA Art Program, 1940. (Library of Congress)

Andrew Sabl, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at UCLA’s School of Public Affairs, explains the health care reform mandate in an easily digestible nugget:

“If you or your family aren’t getting health insurance through your job, the government will pay to get you private insurance coverage, just as an employer would. You’ll have to contribute something—but the law guarantees, with specific numbers, that it will be no more than you can afford. It’ll be less than three percent of your paycheck if your family makes $33,000 a year, less than ten percent if you make as much as $88,000. Pre-existing conditions won’t matter. The government will still pay for your insurance, with the same affordable contribution from you.”

Someone should invite this guy to a Sunday political chat show.

P.S.: Sabl wrote a paper in 2008 titled Democratic Sportsmanship – Contested Games and Political Ethics (PDF). Perhaps someone should forward it to the RNC.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

March 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Posted in politics straight up | Leave a comment
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Resuming his testimony before the House Committee investigating Un-American activities today, Dr. J.B. Matthews, former communist organizer, charged that communist strategy in America calls for the destruction of the Democratic Party as a prelude to the establishment of a "Soviet America." He also told the committee that immediate objectives of President Roosevelt's administration are identical to those of the Communist Party. Washington, D.C., 1938 August 22. (Library of Congress)

Oscar Wilde would have been a Democrat. He understood that life is complicated, there are no simple answers for anything, much less everything.

Why do individual Democrats struggle in their bids for election against Republicans? Republicans insist that there are simple answers — “Small government! Lower taxes! Freedom!”

Walk into a room with wall-to-wall carpet with an area rug in one corner and you find yourself drawn to the area rug, you likely won’t even notice the carpet. That wall-to-wall carpet is the Democratic Party.

Republicans are the area rug. They operate as a solid block with a very simple message – “Small government! Lower taxes! Freedom!”   Democrats can support or oppose any part of their party’s principles, none of which can be boiled down into a simple phrase. Equal rights? Sometimes. For some people.

It is certainly a wonderful thing to have a wide debate, to consider all our options, but at the end of the day, despite majorities in the House and Senate the Democrats were just barely able to scrape together the votes needed to pass the bill.  As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the soup, or create a soup which is easy to criticize.

How can a party succeed in convincing the public of the benefits of its platform if so many members run against the party when seeking election? It should not be enough that simply putting a D after your name makes you a Democrat. People like Bart Stupak and Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson should either join the Republicans or run as independents if they want to serve in Congress.

The Republican tent may be too small to hold very many ideas, but it is easily recognized and understood —  Plus they have the added bonus of providing scapegoats for blame.

You won’t find Republicans talking about real-world solutions to real-world problems. Inconvenient truths about what we need the government to do in order for the country to not devolve into anarchy are ridiculed by Republicans. They believe corporations should take care of everything, including the military. In an incredibly complex world, this simple presentation is very attractive to people. It requires no thinking. One simple answer for everything.

The health care debate stands as another a good example of successful simple messaging by Republicans. “Health care reform is socialism.” Democrats were unable to boil down the essence of the bill in that way, they required too much air time that they didn’t have to explain what was in the bill and why. Republicans are now running on repeal of the HCR bill. Although they acknowledge there are some “the good parts,” their argument is the non-bipartisan Many voters think this is terrific, having been convinced that the Democrats are trying to steal their freedom with complicated legislation. The truth is, though, that without the mandate the pool of money is not large enough to cover the good parts — elimination of rescission due to pre-existing conditions, caps on coverage, co-pays for preventive care, etc. But it’s difficult to succeed against a sound bite — “the Democrats are stealing your freedom.”

One of the next big topics Congressional Democrats look to tackle is climate change. Again, Republicans have simple answers, Democrats complicated solutions. Republicans argue that “a robust economy will be
essential to dealing with the risk of climate change
.” Basically, “don’t worry, things will take care of themselves.” Democrats argue for “stronger international institutions.” In other words, “this is something we have to work hard at.”

The Republican trump card is their “culture war.” A large piece of that is abortion. Democrats are entrapped by their complicated argument — “The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of ability to pay.” But the Republicans boil it down to “defense of life” and the Constitution: Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. While the Democrats argue for the rights of adult women, Republicans argue that Democrats want to kill babies.

The simple, emotionally-charged argument wins every time.

The Democratic Party has to decide what it stands for in simple terms. To adopt the view that government is necessary and performs useful functions requires people to think hard about many complicated things, instead of relying on a few pat answers. But that does not mean that the Democratic message itself need be complicated. In fact, in order to be successful, it needs to be simple. By making that message simple, the tent will certainly become somewhat smaller, but that smaller tent will also be more manageable and more understandable to the average person. As it stands now, the Democratic Party tent has continually enlarged to accommodate all those who have been expelled from the Republican tent.

It’s a difficult situation that I don’t see a way out of. But it seems to me a place to start is to replace congresscritters whose positions conflict with the party platform.

Representative Alan Grayson (FL-8)

March 28, 2010 at 2:51 am | Posted in elections, politics straight up | Leave a comment
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(Mother Jones) … Grayson doesn’t do chastened—even when it might be politically advantageous for a first-term congressman in a district that twice went for George W. Bush. “I recognize that I’m in a very competitive district,” Grayson says. “But I really want to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there to say what’s on people’s minds, whether this experience goes on for me or not.”

On March 9, 2010 Grayson introduced, along with 80 co-sponsors, the Public Option Act or the Medicare You Can Buy Into Act, which would amend the Medicare section of the Social Security Act to authorize an option for any citizen or permanent resident of the United States to buy into Medicare.

Alan Grayson was first elected to Congress for Florida’s 8th District in November 2008. It would be a shame for all Americans, not just Floridians in the 8th District, to lose Grayson. This is an example of why we need him:

He’s currently looking for campaign contributions for his re-election bid.

Something I did not know — On January 13, 2010 Grayson sponsored a bill “to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a 500 percent excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns.”

A shame it ain’t going anywhere.

Kill The Pigs!

March 28, 2010 at 1:58 am | Posted in health, terrorism | 1 Comment
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Apparently Ted Nugent is under the mis-impression that the Affordable Care Act creates universal, single-payer health care.

And yeah, I can’t imagine how anyone would be upset by a discussion of killing pigs with a bullet through the head and declaring that the president, members of the House and Senate and his fellow Americans are pigs and should be taken out and shot. Oh, yeah, no, that was definitely satire.

Personally, I think Nugent’s speech and that of his fellow travelers (I’m looking at you, Sarah Palin — wink, wink) is terrorism:

Terrorism (noun)

  1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
  2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
  3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Back in June 2009 Canada was considering a law allowing victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators of the attacks and their supporters. I can’t imagine there would be a prohibition against suing terrorists here in the United States. I hope Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, John McCain and a large number of leading Republicans are putting money aside to pay judgments against them when the time comes.

Thanks to Crooks & Liars for the video.

War: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

March 27, 2010 at 3:23 am | Posted in environment, Foreign Affairs, Historical, Obama!, politics straight up, senate | Leave a comment
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President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have agreed to sign a new nuclear arms treaty on April 8 in Prague, Czech Republic. Great news, right?

Well, it should be, except that it requires ratification by 67 out of 100 United States senators. It can take some time.

(NYT) According to the White House, the agreement would require both Russia and the United States to reduce their long-range warheads to 1,500. This is 74% lower that the START number in 1991 and 30% lower than the limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.

START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) I was signed by President George H. W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin on July 31, 1991.  The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on October 1, 1992.  START II took a bit longer.  Signed by Bush and Yeltsin on January 3, 1993, it was not ratified until January 26, 1996. In other words, let’s not get our panties in a twist if the new treaty is not ratified this year.

That being said, there are very good reasons why the United States should embrace this treaty and renew its commitment to reducing its nuclear weapons arsenal. Here is a short film to demonstrate how absurdly overstocked we are with weapons that benefit no one.

A Real American

March 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Historical, Reality Bites | Leave a comment
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The forces of evil are silencing Skoalrebel, a real American. Thank God for Fox News and Sean Hannity!

Sign the petition to Congress to rip the duct tape off Skoalrebel’s mouth.

Thanks to Shorts and Pants for alerting us to this unAmerican injustice.


March 24, 2010 at 1:48 am | Posted in Historical, journalism | Leave a comment
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" The New York Times. Easter. The model of decent and dignified journalism." c1896. (Library of Congress)

Well, it would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

It’s not quite over yet

March 22, 2010 at 11:23 am | Posted in health, politics straight up, senate | Leave a comment
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The mammoth spectacular production, Sporting life written by Cecil Raleigh & Seymour Hicks. Cincinnati ; New York : U.S. Printing Co., c1900. (Library of Congress)

It’s like Christmas, New Year’s and Easter all rolled into one.  The Health Care Reform bill passed the House last night by a vote of 219 to 212.  Though not a single Republican voted for the bill, they will make a big deal of decrying the partisan nature of the final vote, it contained 161 Republican amendments.

Today is one day I wish I had a television so I could see unedited by the intertoobs how the news programs are reporting this morning and who they’re interviewing.

According to what I was told by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s office. the Senate is expected to vote on the reconciliation bill later this week.  But it’s not going to be easy.  Republicans plan to do everything they can to prevent Americans from having the protection of law from the depredations of the for-profit health care industry.

If there was ever a time to call your senators, it’s now.  Call and let them know you want them to do the right thing — get the reconciliation bill to the floor for a final vote and then vote aye.

Waiting for the health care vote

March 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Posted in health, politics straight up | Leave a comment
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UPDATE (11:00 p.m.): Congratulations, America — you might not have universal health care but you now have reforms enacted into law which will make it slightly less likely you will die an early death on a street corner. Here’s the vote.

* * *

Children awaiting health clinic doctor on recreation pier, N.Y.C., probably around 1908. (Library of Congress)

It’s 12:30 p.m. as I sit down to write this. The final vote is expected to start at 6 p.m. Will Americans finally begin to get health care reform?

Rightfully, it should be called health care insurance reform, which is not really the same as true health care reform, but it’s the closest we have come in over 100 years to providing Americans with Life, Liberty and the ability to pursue Happiness.

Our Founders understood “general welfare” to mean “health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being.”

Every other advanced country but ours has some form of universal health care, whether through a publicly-funded system, like Canada, or a program of national health insurance, like Germany. There is ample proof available of which systems work better.

In 1960 health care spending in the United States was 5.2 percent of GDP. Today it is over 16 percent. Canada, which has single-payer health care, spends 10 percent of GDP.

Doctor treats patient's eye (a minor burn) at the clinic at the FSA (Farm Security Administration) labor camp. Caldwell, Idaho. The doctor holds clinic twice a week, a nurse lives at the camp and is always available. 1941 June. Russell Lee, photographer (Library of Congress)

Why? Because we have not treated health care as a basic human right, like clean water, sewers and education.

One of the complaints I have heard far too often is that there will be a shortage of doctors if everyone has access to health care.

Are they serious? Do they not understand what they are saying? People who make this complaint are essentially advocating for a rationing of care based on ability to pay. In other words, if you do not have an extra $10,000 or more a year, you do not deserve to live, much less pursue happiness unless you give up your liberty and receive medical care in prison.

In addition to reorganizing the way health care is paid for, the cost of training doctors and nurses must also be addressed. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average educational debt of indebted graduates of the class of 2009 is $156,456. The high cost of a medical education means we don’t have as many doctors as we could have or need. It precludes many otherwise qualified people and creates a disincentive for those who do become doctors to practice primary-care instead of a specialist in a more financially lucrative area.

Calipatria, Imperial Valley. Visiting public health doctor conducts well-baby clinic in local school building adjacent to pea harvest. Many migratory mothers attend. 1939 Februray (Library of Congress)

Hospitals are laying off staff and closing because they are treating so many people who cannot pay and do not have insurance.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter attempted health care reform. He recognized that ever increasing health costs were going to be an ever increasing problem and proposed “[phasing] in a workable program of national health insurance.” Unfortunately, he told the truth, that “the cost of any national health insurance program the Administration and the Congress will develop will double in just five years,” and Congress got cold feet.

But as we know, Americans spend literally twice as much today, as a percentage of the GDP, on health care than we did in 1977.

It is enormously disappointing to find I live in a country where so many people feel that their fellow citizens are not deserving of what our Founders thought their countrymen universally deserving.

UPDATE: Watch live-stream on C-Span.

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