Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Untied, We Fall

While I could not stomach the man sufficiently to watch Bush's State of the Union address live, I would like to direct any interested parties to a video resource the people at have put together: an annotated State of the Union.

There one can watch the sickening affair in its entirety, or skip to sections of the speech by selecting from the scroll of facts and rebuttals offered below the inset screen.

Probably not the best topic for me to touch on while trying to wind down, but I did want to point it out, especially with him not only pushing more disaster in Iraq as thousands more are being thrown into the meat grinder in an attempt to salvage Dubya's legacy, but in coming up with supposedly helpful health initiatives that flatly ignore the realities of acquiring health insurance for people who already have health issues.

The insurance industry must be kissing photos of the shrub today as they contemplate the soaking they'll give the US public as millions potentially line up, one by one with no leverage, to see what inadequate health coverage they can negotiate for themselves. This is a sham and a national shame. A responsible government, a government in touch with the reality of its citizens, would easily see the merits of a single-payer system in which the federal government takes the role currently set on the business-owner and uses the awesome leverage so many millions of people represent to negotiate the best plans for every citizen. Health care should not be some job perk.

Those who insist that this would mean the government administering our health care are, to be kind, grossly ignorant and apparently highly open to suggestion by lousy media outlets and the talking points of some big money interests. They would be no more administering our healthcare than our current employers are, and unlike our current employers the federal government would have and immensely longer and more powerful lever with which to secure for us the best deals. Instead, Bush offers almost meaningless tax cuts and a plan that will leave each of us isolated.

A push towards Health Savings Accounts, much like the attempts to scuttle Social Security and replace it with by your own bootstraps individual retirement plans*, is the rhetoric of the healthy and the wealthy and those who've bought into this as a false point of pride. Please, don't be tricked into seeing these things as matters of personal worth, as if we're talking about "hand-outs." That message is originating with the people who have the most to lose, both directly in wealth and indirectly in status.

It's frustrating. It's aggravating. It's appalling.

...and it's not the way I'm going to settle myself in for a scant few more hours (at best) of sleep before getting up again to get the kids off to school and myself to work.

*I'm not dismissing the value of individual retirement accounts to help secure a brighter future -- I'm in a retirement plan myself, with money being withheld from every paycheck -- but the promise of Social Security should not be systematically marginalized until it, a withered husk of what it once was, is buried by the powerful minority who never had much use for it.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Single-Payer Healthcare

Here's one overview of the Single-Payer proposal, including point by point refutation of the myths most often brought up by those who oppose it.

Also, here is a Single-Payer FAQ from Physicians For A National Health Program.

No further comment at this time, just something I wanted to make note of and something to perhaps be referenced when writing your representatives in Washington.

The every man for himself approach seen in the United States is a national disgrace.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Following the Money, Tracing the Policies

I'm pleased to see that there are some who will be focusing on where the money went in the Iraq War, etc., and re-forming the subcommittee on oversight and investigations as a first step.

As the piece notes, it will be important that forward-looking, positive legislation on other matters be going on at the same time, but there's no reason some people can't set about uncovering the details of what's been going on while the Bush administration was given a rubber stamp for policy decisions, a fat checkbook and nothing more than softball questions to follow it up.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

A little more about Robert Gates

Just something to consider.

Soon after Robert Gates was nominated as the replacement for Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, I know that most of the immediate buzz I was catching about him was harking back to the Iran-Contra affair and hearings -- though some of it was actually positive, noting that he came off more in a positive light than a negative one in some respects, and at least demonstrated the capacity for contrition -- but this morning I read about another connection, one that worries me more.

A little story about an odd little company called VoteHere.

Nothing more to add to the Gates connection at the moment, just some information to put in the pot. How important this is depends upon how much one believes the voting system was hacked, especially in '02 and 04, and if so how complicit Gates would have to have been.

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Thoughts forward

In part I've been too busy to go looking around at the political bloggers, and in part I've wanted to take in what has and hasn't changed with this week's developments, organizing some of it in my own mind before looking for what others have been thinking.

So, with an extremely busy workday ahead for me, this is a relatively quick outline post for me to come back to and consider later.

With Pelosi becoming the Speaker of the House of Representatives in January, the largest number of female representatives ever in the House and, I believe, the same for the Senate, with 16 women set to be present among the one hundred there, I'm sure there are things being written about what this might mean to the direction of government. Hopefully people are having more sense than to dust off the "The Year of the Woman" sign, something that always ends up backfiring and which is entirely too limited and trophy-like. Please, ladies and feminists of all genders (someone will be offended if I write "both"), let's leave the trophy mentality to the old boy's club and on the shelf of things that make us go "ow."

The new Democratic majority is sweeping in as a reformist wave, so the future is now theirs to lose much as was the case with the GOP wave 12 years ago. While I wouldn't suggest directly resurrecting the structure of the Contract With America, coming in with a bullet list agenda, prospective committees being formed now, is highly adviseable. Let's hope this batch of Democrats, riding in against a "culture of corruption" much as the GOP reps and senators did in '94, manage to stay cleaner longer than those across the aisle did in the 90's. Part of that is our job. We elected our representatives, it's up to us to establish connections to them and monitor their actions. If you just sit back and wait for change, or for them to fail, then when things go wrong you share part of the blame. Throwing your hands up and walking away isn't an answer, though if the people you voted for didn't get elected, well, then I understand. I had the likes of Rick Santorum "representing" me for years, and there was no bridge to span that gulf.

The War in Iraq (and let's not forget the situation in Afghanistan) is going to be a huge matter, and one that GOP strategists are (somewhat ironically) counting on to leave a bad taste in the mouth of voters with respect to the Democrats over the next two years. It's a mess, and the idea of "victory" is something that will simply have to be re-crafted. The invasion and occupation of Iraq was a huge mistake, undertaken for a raft of wrong reasons - whether one chooses to see them as lies (the view I hold) or honest mistakes. Stating and restating that frequently will be key. Approaching it as a mess to be cleaned up, pinning those responsible with the gimlet stare of an accusatory eye each time a particularly messy spot situation is being handled. The big trick with The War will be in finding the most artful way of removing ourselves from the chaos done in our name, leaving behind the most stable political and economic situation we can.

Since the confirmation of John Bolton is happily dead, the person they do confirm will be key, as shifting matters to more international oversight has to be part of the solution.

While moving ahead on important, forward-looking issues, the Democrats cannot simply let what's happened go by the boards without action. Nancy Pelosi has already all but sworn that impeachment of Bush isn't "on the table," and while that rankles part of me I understand the rationale behind it. The GOP's relentless witchhunt of the Clintons through the 90s wasted not only many millions of dollars but priceless time and opportunity to deal with vitally important issues. It would be a mistake to squander the coming two years that way. However, it is essential that at least one hungry committee be formed to follow the money that's been flowing into the black hole of Iraq, and have an accounting made of what disappeared to the billions that may as well have been handed out in checks signed out to "Cash", seeing who had control of it last before it vanished, and in finding out just what our troops and the citizens of the countries we invaded and occupied have actually gotten for our dollars from the civilian contractors (ie war profiteers) who've prospered so mightily from this misadventure. Follow the money and we might not only get some of it back (though, yes, that'll be a more symbolic victory than a real one because the procedure will take money) but that's a worthwhile path to be on if we're interested in finding and prosecuting those who lied to us and stole from us not simply money but priceless time and irreplaceable lives.

Items such as reinstating the Inheritance Tax, pulling the shunts out of the Social Security tank (which have been siphoning momentary surpluses out of what should be a sacred pool of public trust and misspending them on other items) so that its promise can be restored, should also be quickly on the table.

Taking some significant steps towards the healthcare crisis in this country is vitally important, starting with using the power of millions of people that the federal government is supposed to represent to negotiate (and they can get as much into gunboat diplomacy as possible as far as I'm concerned) lower prices for prescription drugs for US citizens. If this means a trade-off in caps on damage claims when something goes wrong with a drug's usage then so be it; no one said this would be a path strewn with rose petals. Any step we can take towards providing an HMO style healthcare program for every U.S. citizen - much the same system as many of us get via our employers, but with the federal government becoming the one paying the management organization instead of it coming directly from our employers - is better than one away from it. If we can blow billions upon billions of dollars on a place we shouldn't be where we're losing lives, then we damn well can spend them over here saving and improving lives. We have to bring as many positive things as we can out of this Iraq mess, and I'm hard pressed to think of a better one than this.

Don't let the naysayers win this time. If they say it won't work, point out that while they have their limitations HMOs have been working reasonablly well for millions of people for years now (My wife and I have had two children and a great deal of medical care via them over the past 16 years.) If people have fallen for the propaganda that "some government bureaucrat" will be deciding whether or not we can have a given medical procedure remind them that under the current system some insurance company bureaucrat's been making that call. It we set it up so that instead of hundreds of thousands of separate employers are having to deal with insurance companies we have the power of the federal government behind it, better terms can be negotiated, the options should only increase and become less expensive, and the growing degree economic slavery many such as myself find ourselves in -- if you have dependents with pre-existing medical conditions the prospect of changing jobs takes on a horrible new dimension -- will be shattered. Yes, it will be absolutely vital that we not allow the federal department in charge of this bloat into a self-serving, money-sucking bureaucracy, but that's part of what management is all about. As citizens in a democratic republic we have to stop blaming everyone else while throwing our hands up like Pilate's, fresh from the basin, and at least try to manage the people we've hired to make things work.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Snapshot Update or Whiplash Update?

A new graphic from shortly after 5pm today, showing the small, but substantial changes from about 12 hours earlier.

But now... we're getting a confusing report from the AP: Democrats take control of Senate... and I have to admit I was a little confused. Had they suddenly counted both of the Independent seats as Democrats? Apparently so, based on reports that the independents caucused with the Democrats.

Montana's senate seat was ceded to the Democrats, but despite the headline the Virginia election could still be going for the long haul, and good for them. It's important to be sure that all the votes are counted, and I have no idea what the absentee ballot situation is there. We have plenty of time to be sure about the result.

The election still has me a little off-balance, so I'm happy we have some time to look into the rising players on the political front. I've barely gotten anywhere with it, though the attention on Nancy Pelosi is proving an interesting start.

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A Win In Progress?
(Quick, pre-work, nary the time for links, almost post-election post)

Seeing where the remaining seats fall (VA and MT still awaiting Senate decisions and 13 House seats going down to tiny margins) will tell part of the tale (check here for updates to the map), though even if both Senate seats were to go to the Democrats there are sizeable flies in the ointment.

The biggest of the flies is Benedict Lieberman, who would then be a position of great power as an "independent" vote potentially deciding the balance.

Aside from that, many of the Democrats who won spots are self-described conservative to moderate Democrats, and they'll have to be weeded through one by one to see what's actually meant by that. Having read pseudo-Dem Ford's stances months ago I wasn't terribly shaken by his failure to win in Tennessee, though the practical matter of a Senate with a Democratic Speaker, too, would have had substantial advantages even if he wasn't wholly on our team.

The House under Democratic control provides the party the opportunity to take a stand and choose directions. Dubya's veto pen is more likely to get a workout over the remaining two years. I'm still far more worried about the reality-altering power of his signing statements.

The GOP will (doubtless, they're already writing the copy, leaving key elements open as their own form of Mad Libs game) take every opportunity to claim the Democrats have no plan and try to undercut them as nothing more than obstructionists and detractors. It will largely lie to the new House to set the direction, since the Democrats in the Senate will still, ultimately, almost certainly remain under a GOP thumb.

I might not be a big fan of the tune, but I do like the theme. A little music for thought for many in the new congress set to be sworn in come January, perhaps?

Sure, it'll still be a battle, but given the nonsense Congress was tied up with in persecuting Bill Clinton with in the '90s this path should be a no-brainer -- certainly more of one than waterboarding, Dick.

Here in PA, most of the voting went my way, with Santorum and Weldon ousted by Casey and Sestak, respectively. You can depend upon me to be prodding each of them now that I believe I have representatives who actually come close to representing me.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Day

Well, it's election day, and as I look at the latest aggregate polls and see so many races down to a few percent either way I am once more haunted by thoughts of election fraud (see previous post) and what GOP puppeteer Karl Rove said about having "THE math" with respect to who would win today. I can't help but wonder how much of his math are figures already typed into machine code, waiting to be entered (or just as likely already entered, awaiting only a trigger) into key electronic voting machines.

My wife and I will be voting this afternoon, after I take a family member to a doctor's appointment, doing our part to change the imbalance of power in the House and Senate.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Is the fix already in? Again?

Despite the polls indicating that Democrats will be handily retaking the House of Representatives and are teetering around the tipping point in the Senate (though traitorous Joe Lieberman is likely to take a win and is no one to be counted on by Democrats), too many races are going to teeter on a 3% or so margin, something that could be (again) easily stolen by True Believers with their finger on code hacks (quaintly referred to here as "glitches") in electronic voting systems.

That the GOP and spinmeisters tried to make so much hash out of Kerry's botched joke was a positive point for me, as it demonstrated how desperate they were to find something other than their own actions on display.

Presumably, today and tomorrow we're supposed to be too busy dancing in the streets because Saddam's been sentenced to hang, and how - depending upon how quickly the nine-judge appeals panel works through their deliberations, which could be as long as the appellate judges wish - he could be executed within days. Once they make their decision, whenever and whatever that will be, the results have to be implemented within 30 days. That none of this is of any real importance to what's happening over here is largely a matter of perception; those who have been duped otherwise, well, it'll be important to them.

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