Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Short Takes
I'm still blogging. But many days, it's over at Blue Commonwealth. In addition to BC, soon I'll also continue to writing here. Meanwhile, here are some articles:

Peggy Frank to Challenge Dave Nutter
Peggy Frank announced her candidacy for Delegate (7th House District). Read more here.

More About the Frank race here.

Democrats Gained a Senator Today
Arlen Specter joined forces with the Dems today.

Also from KathyinBlacksburg
--Here's an article here.

--And another.

--And another.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Week in Health: Health Care Hypocrisy (Time to Call Your Favorite Blue Dogs)

(Cross-posted at Blue Commonwealth).

Congress is at “work” on the budget for FY beginning in October. At least some members in Congress are at work trying to bring Americans the health care insurance they want and deserve. Some have dug their ideological heels in. Meanwhile, as do many economists, President Barack Obama sees health care reform as critical to our economy, and as essential to the budget this year. With health care costs skyrocketing along with the ranks of the uninsured, we have no choice.

Yet, on cue, the whiners and obstructionists are out in force, trying to prevent anything from being done. Ourfuture.org today presented a number of quotes from Whiners, Inc. You know the guys who have health insurance but don’t want you to. You’ll want to take a look at the absurdity of many of them.

You’ll want to take a look at the absurdity of many of them. As OurFuture.org notes:

Whiner-in-chief Sen. Judd Gregg R-NH copmplained “that would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through….You’re talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You’re talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them into the Chicago River.”


But, really. it’s not a laughing matter. I think we should ask the Repubs --and the Blue Dogs too--what’s wrong with Americans having the a choice of selecting the same plan Congress has? We pay for theirs, but they wont return the favor. If they won’t get off their duffs and give Americans universal health care insurance (including a public option), I think we should try to figure out how to take their insurance away (and maybe their pensions too--since they don’t care if we have those either). I’ll write more on pension reform tomorrow. The votes are there in the House. But in the Senate, as we all know, obstructionists have made new meaning of the 60 votes to end cloture. That leaves the reconciliation process as perhaps the only avenue. And as I have written before, any protest by Republicans about using reconciliation never includes an honest reflection on the times they used it themselves.

The Republicans (and some Dems) are the folks who want to hand you a small check and send you out on your own to buy health insurance in the “marketplace,” where many a family pays between $1600 and 2,000 or more a month. They voucher program they propose won't come close to doing what it needs to. But if everyone were in the system and risk was spread out among the entire population, premiums could be a lot less. But a voucher system is unsustainable because:

• Currently, the uninsured can cost the system more than the insured, especially when they use the ER for routine health issues.
• The already sick won’t be able to buy insurance at an affordable price.
• Those with pre-existing conditions would still have problems getting coverage.
• Over-zealous insurance claim denial (which sometimes amounts to fraud against those who have paid for coverage (would continue). This guarantees that the sick, and even the dying, must spend their time fighting with insurance to get the coverage they paid for.
• The GOP proposals offer no group-negotiated price.
• Negotiating for group pricing for either services or medication in Republican plan.
• The GOP and Blue Dog versions strip away a nationalized option.
• The Republicans don’t want to stop over-subsidizing Medicare “Advantage” plans; and neither the Blue Dogs nor the Republicans want there to be a public option (such as buying into the plan Congress has, or into Medicare.
• Worse, for those under 55, Republicans want to end admittance to Medicare (when they are 65) and put everyone into on-your-ownership

When you hear Republicans using mythic talking points, such as, “We can’t afford Cadillac coverage,” you know you are being snowed. Only the elite and execs have “Cadillac or concierge medical care. And they don’t want us to intrude into their hospital luxury suites. Yes, there is such a thing. We just don’t get to use them. It’s not that I am asking that we can, mind you. But the availability of such a two-tiered system renders the suite-sters unfit to lecture us about health care costs. No worry, their employers pick up the tab, but these same coddled elites don't want our employers to supply coverage.

Meanwhile Blue Dogs still threaten to undo everything. I’m too miffed with Evan Bayh to even get started on “that one.” The Nay-saying Republicans won’t ante up and give the American people what they want. And the whole thing threatens to make this an ugly week. That's where you come in. You can keep things from going south on health care. It’s really time to head to Washington. But until you do, please:

• Call Sen. Mark Warner: (202) 224-2023

• Or write: http://warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact

I am not sure we should label Jim Webb a “Blue Dog.” Surely, he’s more of a populist than most in Congress. But for good measure, please call or write him too.

• Call Sen. Jim Webb: (202) 224-4024

• Or write: http://webb.senate.gov/contact/

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

GOP Gasbags Run Out of Gas

Listen to the foolishness of the usual suspects when they condemn the Obama administration's dealing with the hostage crisis (kidnapping by pirates). PST, guys, he was successful!!!!! And I love the send-in-the-marines alternative measure. The marines do a great job, but, seriously, was this a job for a massive invasion? Talk about overkill! One would think that these talking heads only have one way of reacting --going to war when it isn't necessary. Why do I think they'll be calling for Blackwater (oops, I mean Xe) to set up an even bigger presence there than they already have?


Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Spring Regenerative Gift for Us All: Their Time, and Even a Slice of Their Lives

[Cross-posted at BlueCommonwealth.com]

Shades of gray pencil window-shade upon ceiling, lines almost beckoning us out into the afternoon's light. This beautiful spring week, some among us celebrate rebirth and others gather in traditional Seder. In churches, synagogues, meeting halls, and homes we gather. In faith, renewal and forgiveness, we bring various faith-gifts to each other, and to our communities. And then we reflect the newness of the earth, red bud brand new, billowy decorative pear, and the slightly arching daffodils.

In this most earnest opening of spiritual spring, it is not sacrilegious, I think, to write of the challenge of transforming our yearning for renewal into a living testament, the stuff of more, or mere, mortal concern. How best do we of so many faiths transform a state and national agenda into something meaningful for all? How do we go about honoring the many, but not losing the few? Life and death issues surround us, seeming surreal some times, real-life dilemmas, such as unemployment, bridging health insurance, feeding more of our hungry-even saving lives. In many ways, it is spiritual work. But it is done in the secular world. And questions arise. Is it the spiritual thing, the stuff that religious mores are built upon, for example, to decline Virginia's share of the "stimulus bill" just to make a statement (or at least mostly to). Is that justifiable in any faith? Surely in the out years, after all, solutions could be found to cover the need when federal funding stops, or, hopefully, the recession's need does at the same time.

We are lucky here in Virginia to have three men (no women this time) who, in their run for governor, think Virginia can do much better than that --that being the way the House of Delegates, or rather its partisan leaders, managed to put the needs of the poor and unemployed squarely last. No hint of rebirth or renewal there. More than one faith celebrates this week the importance of forgiveness. How to forgive such willful neglect?

Can we build it by seeing misguided people for the humans that they are? We can do this while not excusing such neglect. Is that enough? Or is more, much more demanded of us? Those who spend time in political action see it as the most earnest translation of their ideals. And in such action, we have a way. Again, I mean no sacrilege to say that government sunlight, open votes, transparency (instead of no roll call when it's convenient) would bring renewal to our Capitol. It would be a perfect gift for such a season.

As I said, on our side of the aisle, there are three very different men with their earnest and passionate supporters. I've been thinking about the fact that each of them brings to the public arena such a profound gift. And so I have to ask: Is it fitting that we quibble with or challenge their earnestness? Would we wish ourselves to be so challenged? Most of us probably know whom we will vote for. And yet I think we'll all be well served if we focus on all the candidates' collective gifts to each of us. In addition to the obvious (time, money, sacrifice), they also have their unique voices, experiences, and even positions (some of those may not always seem like gifts :-). But they are usually formed by a lot of individual wrestling with pros and cons, and with the views of constituents not far behind. We may become unhappy with one or the other of them in coming weeks or months. I hope we can forgive their differences of opinion or even their human failings. There are people to be served, helped, and restored, after all. Our mission of reaching outside ourselves to build a more caring commonwealth is more important than any personal disappointment.

I plan to honor the gifts of each of these men (as well as those by the men and woman among the AG and LG candidates) to us, not by asking no questions. Failing to determine where they stand isn't the answer. Indeed, we owe our fellow citizens as much. Rather, I'd like to thank each of them for:

• running;
• their sacrifice;
• their energy;
• their intellects;
• their resumes of public service;
• their unique experiences and perspectives;
• discussing the role of governor of our great Commonwealth,
• for challenging a misguided, regressive notion of government that must be challenged;
• and for advancing progressive ideals.

The citizens of Virginia are depending on them--and us. And the clear light of spring invites us all to begin.

Rescue At Sea

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Countdown Takes On Obama/Holder Dubious Claim of Sovereign Immunity, Even When the US Acts Illegally by Spying against Americans.

Yesterday Countdown took on Obama/Holder dubious claim of sovereign immunity, even when the US acts illegally by spying against Americans without cause. Take a look.

Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration not only supported Bush on state secrets in US v Jewell, but advanced a more expansive argument that the US has sovereign immunity. In other words, no one can sue the US government even when the US government acts illegally. The Electronic Frontier Foundation ‘s Kevin Bankston, litigator on behalf of the EFF in the case, discusses the case with Keith Olbermann. Take a look [here http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/#30116228].


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman Discuss Celebrity Journalism

During the aftermath of the outing of Valerie Plame, Tim Russert admitted that he presumptively considered all of his conversations with insiders confidential. It is astounding that Russert was considered the model of tough journalism, when in fact he was was essentially embedded within the highest reaches of power and acting every day to protect it.