Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health reform and the realistic limits of our capacity for change...

It sounds crazy as I type this, but I believe that the health reform bill that will pass will not go nearly far enough and I think it was the right decision for the White House to urge the Senate to appease the moderates and counsel restraint. The public option might be the right way to go, but it isn't the only way to get there. And this idea of expanding Medicare to 55-64 with a buy in as an alternative to the public option is like getting turned down for $50 and then asking for $50,000.

The bill that passes will do a number of really important things.

1. It creates a mandate that all people have health insurance (like the auto insurance mandate) that meets a certain minimum level of coverage. This will most likely be catastrophic coverage.
a. The penalty for not having coverage will be either a 2.5% tax on adjusted annual income (House Bill) or $750/person up to a family of four (Senate Bill)

2. It will create a payroll tax for businesses that don't provide some level of coverage to employees to help offset the cost of those employees buying coverage and help cover the cost of subsidies for people who are below a certain income threshold.

3. It will regulate insurance companies.
a. They will no longer be able to turn away people for pre-existing conditions or arbitrarily cut peoples coverage when they get sick.
b. They will only be allowed to charge one rate for insurance that is not based on health status (huge for people with HIV, Hep-C, Diabetes, etc.).
c. They will not be allowed to create annual maximum coverage levels (many cut off at $100K or $1 million) or maximum coverage levels for the life of the policy (not annual, but overall)

4. It will expand Medicaid to cover all individuals up to either 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (House) or 150% of FPL (Senate)

5. It will remove anti-trust exemptions for health and malpractice insurers (interstate competition)

6. It will limit medical loss ratios to 85% (the amount of revenues from health insurance premiums that is spent to pay for the medical services covered by the plan.)

7. It will create health insurance exchanges (like in the Mass reform from 2006) This will:
a. Improve competition
b. Allow states also to create & regulate exchanges
c. Create Co-ops (like Kaiser, GroupHealth of Puget Sound and the Mayo Clinic to name a few)

8. It will address affordability
a. Sliding scale for families up to 400% of FPL
b. Small employer tax credit

9. It will create a health savings account system for pharmaceutical coverage

They are looking at ways to pay for this. One idea is a 5.4% tax on adjusted income for those making over $500,000 per year.

The Senate bill was scored by the Congressional Budget Office as being deficit neutral (i.e. cost savings will balance new costs).

So there I have painted a very rosey picture for you. That certainly isn't the totality of this bill. It doesn't do enough to control the cost of health care in this country, the regulation doesn't go far enough (in my opinion). A medical loss ratio of 85% is a joke (considering that the VA is like 98% and Medicare is 95%). There are many short comings.

My personal belief is that we should look at the Dutch health reform from a couple years ago as a model. It is a highly regulated private sector system.

Here's a link

But if this is all that passes, and I think it will pass, it will be a huge step forward for health care in this country. That doesn't mean that the game is done. As with all public policy issues, you drink a beer, celebrate the victory and wake up the next day and begin anew (also true for climate change at COP15 and the Cap and Trade legislation).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is COP15 the problem or the solution? And, freedom of speech vs. freedom of participation

I have been tracking the “goings on” of the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen. In the process, one of the blogs I have been following is called: Liz to Copenhagen.


Today she wrote:


“There are a series of high-level meetings taking place this Friday with 115 heads of state, and I guess they don’t want us riffraff getting in their way. So, the UN has set up a system.

  • 7000 NGOs are allowed in tomorrow. This is 7000 out of the 35 000 who have applied for accreditation.
  • 1000 are allowed in on Thursday.
  • 90 are allowed in on Friday during the head-of-state meetings.


“I wholeheartedly disapprove! This is contrary to the principles of the UN and the UNFCCC as a transparent forum for staging events, networking, expressing grievances, and trying to urge our leaders to take civil society into account as they make decisions.


“A system of double badges will be put into place in addition to the usual badge check and security line. The secondary badges will be distributed to 33% of the NGO delegation in question. The other 2/3 just do without. What this means for the youth constituency, and SustainUS specifically, is that (in addition to destroying our sole line of wireless communication) we each receive a number each day, which we must strategically divide among our extended delegation of 99. This means we go in pre-scheduled shifts, and youth must shift our headquarters to outside the Bella Center. The worst part is that they didn’t even give SustainUS 33%–they gave us 24 badges.


“The youth movement has been working diligently throughout the last several years to gain recognition as a serious stakeholder in this process. It has all been eradicated with the stroke of a pen. We are most displeased. This is exactly the sort of thing the UN needs not to be doing at this point.


“No surprise, but–when you consider that the youth have been called the moral voice of the UN, I guess this shows what role morality plays in the real world.”


I have two responses to this post. First, I praise her energy and enthusiasm. Second, as I wrote in a comment on her blog:


“I was just saying on my Facebook: ‘There is a misconception in this country that freedom of speech = freedom to be listened to. I have a right to ignore what you are saying!’ Allowing 7000 NGOs in seems very reasonable, to me. There is a lot of redundancy in that 35,000.”


In a second comment, I wrote:


“What number should be allowed in on Friday when the heads of state meet? 30,000? 10,000? 7000? 500? Does that seem reasonable? Does it seem like any more than 90 would facilitate a productive session?


“I must admit, it seems to me that the “youth movement’s” exclusion on Friday only eradicates their efforts if you choose to see it that way. Perhaps part of that effort was electing one Presidential candidate or another. Perhaps it has placed a spotlight on this effort.


“I am a firm believer in open government and consensus making and allowing citizen input, but at some point in our “republic” (and that is what we are, not a pure democracy) we elect people to be in the room and see us across the finish line. If they fail to do that, we can choose to hold them accountable. We can choose to trust them or not, that is an individual choice. With this President, and the political reality in the United States such as it is, I choose to trust that he will get us the best deal that he can. It won’t go far enough for me, but it never was going to go far enough for me. Other countries would see to that, even if my country did not.”


My question is; what is the alternative? The day after Copenhagen we start anew to keep the ball rolling forward.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Political Science?

Here is an interesting article from nytimes.com. Definitely food for thought.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/books/20poli.html?_r=1

I have often thought that political science outside the public policy process is generally an exercise in intellectualism. Not that there isn't a place for the straight up study of political theory. For goodness sake, pure political philosophy got us Rousseau, Voltaire, Locke, Marx, and many, many more, but we should not pretend that there is direct or easy applicability. That said, I think that the biggest failing of the study of public policy, public administration, and/or public affairs is that it often neglects political science, which risks making the process of public policy formulation irrelevant and esoteric. The two disciplines need one another. No one need Tom Coburn, though. What a blowhard! He is such a budget hawk that it blinds him to everything else. That type of single mindedness is really simple mindedness.


Another thought... it could be that the reason politicians like Coburn don't find direct applicability in political science is because they fail to comprehend the research and are unable to think abstractly and draw the lessons out of the research. I think many elected officials want to be presented with an orange and then be told that it is an orange and that means... XYZ. Do some critical thinking, people!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kirk Caldwell for Mayor of Honolulu!!!

As you know, in politics, perception is everything.

My old boss, former Hawaii State House Majority Leader and current Managing Director for the City and County of Honolulu Kirk Caldwell has announced that he will run for Mayor.

Please go on the KHON website, scroll down till you see the poll in the center and vote for Kirk Caldwell for mayor.

Mahalo!

http://www.khon2.com/

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This is why I work for government...

From Obama's speech last night on health reform:

"You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter - that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

"What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road - to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

"But that's not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test."

Damn right!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reason number 39 why I hate Republicans!

‘The Cause of My Life’
Inside the fight for universal health care.

Edward M. Kennedy

NEWSWEEK

From the magazine issue dated Jul 27, 2009

In 1964, I was flying with several companions to the Massachusetts Democratic Convention when our small plane crashed and burned short of the runway. My friend and colleague in the Senate, Birch Bayh, risked his life to pull me from the wreckage. Our pilot, Edwin Zimny, and my administrative assistant, Ed Moss, didn't survive. With crushed vertebrae, broken ribs, and a collapsed lung, I spent months in New England Baptist Hospital in Boston. To prevent paralysis, I was strapped into a special bed that immobilizes a patient between two canvas slings. Nurses would regularly turn me over so my lungs didn't fill with fluid. I knew the care was expensive, but I didn't have to worry about that. I needed the care and I got it.

Now I face another medical challenge. Last year, I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Surgeons at Duke University Medical Center removed part of the tumor, and I had proton-beam radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital. I've undergone many rounds of chemotherapy and continue to receive treatment. Again, I have enjoyed the best medical care money (and a good insurance policy) can buy.

But quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.

This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, "that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege." For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.

Nothing I'm enduring now can compare to hearing that my children were seriously ill. In 1973, when I was first fighting in the Senate for universal coverage, we learned that my 12-year-old son Teddy had bone cancer. He had to have his right leg amputated above the knee. Even then, the pathology report showed that some of the cancer cells were very aggressive. There were only a few long-shot options to stop it from spreading further. I decided his best chance for survival was a clinical trial involving massive doses of chemotherapy. Every three weeks, at Children's Hospital Boston, he had to lie still for six hours while the fluid dripped into his arm. I remember watching and praying for him, all the while knowing how sick he would be for days afterward.

During those many hours at the hospital, I came to know other parents whose children had been stricken with the same deadly disease. We all hoped that our child's life would be saved by this experimental treatment. Because we were part of a clinical trial, none of us paid for it. Then the trial was declared a success and terminated before some patients had completed their treatments. That meant families had to have insurance to cover the rest or pay for them out of pocket. Our family had the necessary resources as well as excellent insurance coverage. But other heartbroken parents pleaded with the doctors: What chance does my child have if I can only afford half of the prescribed treatments? Or two thirds? I've sold everything. I've mortgaged as much as possible. No parent should suffer that torment. Not in this country. Not in the richest country in the world.

That experience with Teddy made it clear to me, as never before, that health care must be affordable and available for every mother or father who hears a sick child cry in the night and worries about the deductibles and copays if they go to the doctor. But that was just one medical crisis. My family, like every other, has faced many—at every stage of life. I think of my parents and the medical care they needed after their strokes. I think of my son Patrick, who suffered serious asthma as a child and sometimes had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment. (For this reason, we had no dogs in the house when Patrick was young.) I think of my daughter, Kara, diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002. Few doctors were willing to try an operation. One did—and after that surgery and arduous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, she's alive and healthy today. My family has had the care it needed. Other families have not, simply because they could not afford it.

I have seen letters and e-mails from many of these less fortunate Americans. In their pleas, there's always dignity, but too often desperation. "Our school is closing in June of 2010, which means that I will be losing my job and my health insurance," writes Mary Dunn, a 58-year-old schoolteacher in Eden, S.D. "I am a Type I diabetic, and I had heart bypass surgery in 2005. My husband is also a teacher [here], so we will both be losing insurance. I am exploring options and have been told that I cannot stay on our group policy or transfer to another policy after our jobs cease because of my medical condition. What am I to do after 39 years of teaching to acquire adequate health coverage?" Dunn also serves as mayor of Eden, for which she is paid $45 a month with no health benefits.

How will we, as a nation, answer her? I've heard countless such stories, including one from the family of Cassandra Wilson, a 14-year-old who once was a competitive ice skater. She's uninsured because she has petit mal seizures, often 200 times a day. Her parents have run up $30,000 on their credit cards. They've sold her skating equipment on eBay to pay for her care.
These two cases represent only those patients who lack coverage. We also need to find answers for the increasing number of Americans whose insurance costs too much, covers too little, and can be too easily revoked when they face the most serious illnesses.

Our response to these challenges will define our character as a country. But the challenges themselves—and the demands for reform—are not new. In 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt ran for a third term as president, the platform of his newly created Progressive Party called for national health insurance. Harry Truman proposed it again more than 30 years after Roosevelt was defeated. The plan was attacked, not for the last time, as "socialized medicine," and members of Truman's White House staff were branded "followers of the Moscow party line."
For the next generation, no one ventured to tread where T.R. and Truman fell short. But in the early 1960s, a new young president was determined to take a first step—to free the elderly from the threat of medical poverty. John Kennedy called Medicare "one of the most important measures I have advocated." He understood the pain of injury and illness: as a senator, he had almost died after surgery to repair a back injury sustained during World War II, an injury that would plague him all of his life. I was in college as he recuperated and learned to walk without crutches at my parents' winter home in Florida. I visited often, and we spent afternoons painting landscapes and seascapes. (It was a competition: at dinner after we finished, we would ask family members to decide whose painting was better.) I saw how the pain would periodically hit him as we were painting; he'd have to put down his brush for a while. And I saw, too, how hard he fought as president to pass Medicare. It was a battle he didn't have the opportunity to finish. But I was in the Senate to vote for the Medicare bill before Lyndon Johnson signed it into law—with Harry Truman at his side. In the Senate, I viewed Medicare as a great achievement, but only a beginning. In 1966, I visited the Columbia Point Neighborhood Health Center in Boston; it was a pilot project providing health services to low-income families in the two-floor office of an apartment building. I saw mothers in rocking chairs, tending their children in a warm and welcoming setting. They told me this was the first time they could get basic care without spending hours on public transportation and in hospital waiting rooms. I authored legislation, which passed a few months later, establishing the network of community health centers that are all around America today.

Some years later, I decided the time was right to renew the quest for universal and affordable coverage. When I first introduced the bill in 1970, I didn't expect an easy victory (although I never suspected that it would take this long). I eventually came to believe that we'd have to give up on the ideal of a government-run, single-payer system if we wanted to get universal care. Some of my allies called me a sellout because I was willing to compromise. Even so, we almost had a plan that President Richard Nixon was willing to sign in 1974—but that chance was lost as the Watergate storm swept Washington and the country, and swept Nixon out of the White House. I tried to negotiate an agreement with President Carter but became frustrated when he decided that he'd rather take a piecemeal approach. I ran against Carter, a sitting president from my own party, in large part because of this disagreement. Health reform became central to my 1980 presidential campaign: I argued then that the issue wasn't just coverage but also out-of-control costs that would ultimately break both family and federal budgets, and increasingly burden the national economy. I even predicted, optimistically, that the business community, largely opposed to reform, would come around to supporting it.

That didn't happen as soon as I thought it would. When Bill Clinton returned to the issue in the first years of his presidency, I fought the battle in Congress. We lost to a virtually united front of corporations, insurance companies, and other interest groups. The Clinton proposal never even came to a vote. But we didn't just walk away and do nothing—even though Republicans were again in control of Congress. We returned to a step-by-step approach. With Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum of Kansas, the daughter of the 1936 Republican presidential nominee, I crafted a law to make health insurance more portable for those who change or lose jobs. It didn't do enough to fully guarantee that, but we made progress. I worked with my friend Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the Republican chair of our committee, to enact CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program; today it covers more than 7 million children from low-income families, although too many of them could soon lose coverage as impoverished state governments cut their contributions.

Incremental measures won't suffice anymore. We need to succeed where Teddy Roosevelt and all others since have failed. The conditions now are better than ever. In Barack Obama, we have a president who's announced that he's determined to sign a bill into law this fall. And much of the business community, which has suffered the economic cost of inaction, is helping to shape change, not lobbying against it. I know this because I've spent the past year, along with my staff, negotiating with business leaders, hospital administrators, and doctors. As soon as I left the hospital last summer, I was on the phone, and I've kept at it. Since the inauguration, the administration has been deeply involved in the process. So have my Senate colleagues—in particular Max Baucus, the chair of the Finance Committee, and my friend and partner in this mission, Chris Dodd. Even those most ardently opposed to reform in the past have been willing to make constructive gestures now.

To help finance a bill, the pharmaceutical industry has agreed to lower prices for seniors, not only saving them money for prescriptions but also saving the government tens of billions in Medicare payments over the next decade. Senator Baucus has agreed with hospitals on more than $100 billion in savings. We're working with Republicans to make this a bipartisan effort. Everyone won't be satisfied—and no one will get everything they want. But we need to come together, just as we've done in other great struggles—in World War II and the Cold War, in passing the great civil-rights laws of the 1960s, and in daring to send a man to the moon. If we don't get every provision right, we can adjust and improve the program next year or in the years to come. What we can't afford is to wait another generation.

I long ago learned that you have to be a realist as you pursue your ideals. But whatever the compromises, there are several elements that are essential to any health-reform plan worthy of the name.

First, we have to cover the uninsured. When President Clinton proposed his plan, 33 million Americans had no health insurance. Today the official number has reached 47 million, but the economic crisis will certainly push the total higher. Unless we act now, within a few years, 55 million Americans could be left without coverage even as the economy recovers.

All Americans should be required to have insurance. For those who can't afford the premiums, we can provide subsidies. We'll make it illegal to deny coverage due to preexisting conditions. We'll also prohibit the practice of charging women higher premiums than men, and the elderly far higher premiums than anyone else. The bill drafted by the Senate health committee will let children be covered by their parents' policy until the age of 26, since first jobs after high school or college often don't offer health benefits.

To accomplish all of this, we have to cut the costs of health care. For families who've seen health-insurance premiums more than double—from an average of less than $6,000 a year to nearly $13,000 since 1999—one of the most controversial features of reform is one of the most vital. It's been called the "public plan." Despite what its detractors allege, it's not "socialism." It could take a number of different forms. Our bill favors a "community health-insurance option." In short, this means that the federal government would negotiate rates—in keeping with local economic conditions—for a plan that would be offered alongside private insurance options. This will foster competition in pricing and services. It will be a safety net, giving Americans a place to go when they can't find or afford private insurance, and it's critical to holding costs down for everyone.

We also need to move from a system that rewards doctors for the sheer volume of tests and treatments they prescribe to one that rewards quality and positive outcomes. For example, in Medicare today, 18 percent of patients discharged from a hospital are readmitted within 30 days—at a cost of more than $15 billion in 2005. Most of these readmissions are unnecessary, but we don't reward hospitals and doctors for preventing them. By changing that, we'll save billions of dollars while improving the quality of care for patients.

Social justice is often the best economics. We can help disabled Americans who want to live in their homes instead of a nursing home. Simple things can make all the difference, like having the money to install handrails or have someone stop by and help every day. It's more humane and less costly—for the government and for families—than paying for institutionalized care. That's why we should give all Americans a tax deduction to set aside a small portion of their earnings each month to provide for long-term care.

Another cardinal principle of reform: we have to make certain that people can keep the coverage they already have. Millions of employers already provide health insurance for their employees. We shouldn't do anything to disturb this. On the contrary, we need to mandate employer responsibility: except for small businesses with fewer than 25 employees, every company should have to cover its workers or pay into a system that will.

We need to prevent disease and not just cure it. (Today 80 percent of health spending pays for care for the 20 percent of Americans with chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.) Too many people get to the doctor too seldom or too late—or know too little about how to stay healthy. No one knows better than I do that when it comes to advanced, highly specialized treatments, America can boast the best health care in the world—at least for those who can afford it. But we still have to modernize a system that doesn't always provide the basics.

I've heard the critics complain about the costs of change. I'm confident that at the end of the process, the change will be paid for—fairly, responsibly, and without adding to the federal deficit. It doesn't make sense to negotiate in the pages of NEWSWEEK, but I will say that I'm open to many options, including a surtax on the wealthy, as long as it meets the principle laid down by President Obama: that there will be no tax increases on anyone making less than $250,000 a year. What I haven't heard the critics discuss is the cost of inaction. If we don't reform the system, if we leave things as they are, health-care inflation will cost far more over the next decade than health-care reform. We will pay far more for far less—with millions more Americans uninsured or underinsured.

This would threaten not just the health of Americans but also the strength of the American economy. Health-care spending already accounts for 17 percent of our entire domestic product. In other advanced nations, where the figure is around 10 percent, everyone has insurance and health outcomes that are equal or better than ours. This disparity undermines our ability to compete and succeed in the global economy. General Motors spends more per vehicle on health care than on steel.

We will bring health-care reform to the Senate and House floors soon, and there will be a vote. A century-long struggle will reach its climax. We're almost there. In the meantime, I will continue what I've been doing—making calls, urging progress. I've had dinner twice recently at my home in Hyannis Port with Senator Dodd, and when President Obama called me during his Rome trip after meeting with the Pope, much of our discussion was about health care. I believe the bill will pass, and we will end the disgrace of America as the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn't guarantee health care for all of its people.

At another Democratic convention, in arguing for this cause, I spoke of the insurance coverage senators and members of Congress provide for themselves. That was 1980. In the last year, I've often relied on that Congressional insurance. My wife, Vicki, and I have worried about many things, but not whether we could afford my care and treatment. Each time I've made a phone call or held a meeting about the health bill—or even when I've had the opportunity to get out for a sail along the Massachusetts coast—I've thought in an even more powerful way than before about what this will mean to others. And I am resolved to see to it this year that we create a system to ensure that someday, when there is a cure for the disease I now have, no American who needs it will be denied it.

This story was written with Robert Shrum, Senator Kennedy’s friend and longtime speechwriter.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not sure how I feel about this...

What's Right Is Right...

A friend forwarded me this e-mail today:


Did you know that the military is still discharging soldiers for being openly gay?

One of these soldiers is California's own Lt. Dan Choi, who is also an Arabic linguist. Lt. Choi is fighting the discharge and fighting the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and needs your help.

Lt. Choi goes on trial on Tuesday. I just signed a letter of support via the Courage Campaign for Lt. Choi, which he will bring with him to his trial.

Will you join me in signing and urge your friends to do the same before Tuesday's trial?:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/SupportDan


My first response was: What part of "don't ask, don't tell" do you not understand? Openly gay...


As I considered bigotry, I considered the difference between homophobia and racism. It really isn't an“apples to apples” comparison. Lt. Choi is young enough that he joined the Army know of their "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. He signed paperwork upon entering West Point and upon being commissioned an officer in the United States Army knowing that to be openly gay was to violate Army policy and procedures.


Do I think it is the dumbest rule in the history of the world? Yes, certainly one of them. Do I think that homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military? Yes, I do. But he knowing violated rules and signed enlistment papers under false pretenses. I don't know why he decided to be open about his lifestyle, it really isn't any of my business, but he did.


I think it is sad that someone can be patriotically moved to want to fight for this country and be told because of their sexual orientation. Pretty pathetic, really.

I condone no type of discrimination and I think the rule should be changed. I also think that unjust rules should be broken on principle. This form of political thought is called transcendentalism. It is a school of thought that started in New England in the 19th century with folks like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, among others.


Emerson wrote: "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds ... A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."


He also said:


“So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth? and of the affections, — What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will. ... Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.”


In the end, however, the transcendentalists believed that this living by their own moral compass would lead them into conflict with the state. They held that laws that we feel are unjust should be broken, but that we should be willing to pay the price for violating those laws as part of our statement of injustice.

My wanting the world to be different only does so much, John. I am not a militant revolutionary and I will not overthrow my government to ensure that homosexuals can serve in the military. Like the transcendentalists, I am an incrementalist. I believe that change is always happening.

10 years ago an effort was under-taken to ban same sex marriage. At that time, the ballot initiative prevailed by a huge margin. In 2008, after the California Supreme Court had struck down the previous effort, the vote was far, far closer. This is a generational issue. Old people are stupid as fuck and ignorant. But eventually they will die.


I am saddened that this is an ongoing debate, but I believe that it is not a matter of if full equal writes for homosexuals will occur, it is when. I do not believe in civil unions for same sex partners. I believe in full equality. Nothing less. Anything less would be to indicate that I believe they are somehow less than. My advocacy takes the form of voting, and calling out injustice when I see it.


I signed the petition, by the way, while I believe that Lt. Choi knowing violated the rules, I also believe he should never have to hide who he is to make someone ignorant feel comfortable.


God bless Lt. Choi and those who serve a nation that doesn’t recognize them as equals.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A bad thing for liberals.

I have not been posting lately, but this came via e-mail recently and it is a pretty good summary of the implosion of one of our major parties. I have never voted for a Republican, I have never encountered one worth voting for. I must admit that I am considering voting in the Republican Primary next year so I can vote for Kay Bailey Hutchison. But that is not because I like her, but rather because the Hairdo from Dallas must be blocked at all cost.

All that aside, the implosion of the Republican Party is a really bad thing for the United States and a really bad thing for the Democratic Party. Yes, a bad thing. The problem is that we need more political parties, not fewer and as the GOP eats itself and slides off the "flat Earth" they so love they leave the Democrats in a position that they do not handle well. Unbridled power. It will be good for liberal public policy, but I know the Dems will mess it up. They won't be able to help themselves.

Corruption, over-reaching and alienating the vast moderate middle. They will put up with liberal public policy like environmental policy and health reform, but many will balk at liberal activism. A question for y'all; what is the difference between liberal public policy and liberal activism? Where is the line?

Time will tell.

Long story short, we need a sane and grounded conservative counter-weight to keep the Democratic Party honest and even-keeled.

-----

Angry GOP divorced from reality

By Bill Maher
April 28, 2009

If conservatives don't want to be seen as bitter people who cling to their guns
and religion and anti-immigrant sentiments, they should stop being bitter and
clinging to their guns, religion and anti-immigrant sentiments.

I still don't know what those "tea bag" protests were about. I saw signs
protesting abortion, illegal immigrants, the bank bailout and that gay guy
who's going to win American Idol. But it wasn't tax day that made them crazy;
it was Election Day. Because that's when Republicans became what they fear
most: a minority.

The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because ... well,
nobody knows. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.
Even though they're not quite sure what "it" is. But they know they're fed up
with "it," and that "it" has got to stop.

Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the
environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.

And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Barack Obama took
office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter
too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate
gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with
Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.

Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?

It's sad what's happened to the Republicans. They used to be the party of the
big tent; now they're the party of the sideshow attraction, a socially awkward
group of mostly white people who speak a language only they understand. Like
Trekkies, but paranoid.

The GOP base is convinced that Mr. Obama is going to raise their taxes, which
he just lowered. But, you say, "Bill, that's just the fringe of the Republican
Party." No, it's not. The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is not afraid to say
publicly that thinking out loud about Texas seceding from the Union is
appropriate considering that ... Mr. Obama wants to raise taxes 3 percent on 5
percent of the people? I'm not sure exactly what Mr. Perry's independent nation
would look like, but I'm pretty sure it would be free of taxes and Planned
Parenthood. And I would have to totally rethink my position on a border fence.

I know. It's not about what Mr. Obama's done. It's what he's planning. But you
can't be sick and tired of something someone might do.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota recently said she fears that Mr.
Obama will build re-education camps to indoctrinate young people. But Mr. Obama
hasn't made any moves toward taking anyone's guns, and with money as tight as
it is, the last thing the president wants to do is run a camp where he has to
shelter and feed a bunch of fat, angry white people.

Look, I get it, "real America." After a long run of controlling the White
House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling
like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front
lawn, or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn.
You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you
want to call it a whore and key its car.

That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -
obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love
it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will. But it's been
almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found
somebody new. And it's a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the
memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.

And if today's conservatives are insulted by this, because they feel they're
better than the people who have the microphone in their party, then I say to
them what I would say to moderate Muslims: Denounce your radicals. To
paraphrase George W. Bush, either you're with them or you're embarrassed by
them.

The thing that you people out of power have to remember is that the people in
power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already
beat you in public.

Friday, May 15, 2009

An Oldie But A Goodie!

There is a new Sheriff in Town!

The Waxman-Markey Bill, now dubbed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 is winding its way through the halls of power as we speak. The compromise announced in the last couple days allows for 35% of 4.7 Billion allowances will be given for free to local distribution companies that provide electrical service to protect rate payers; 15% will be given to “trade-intensive” industries such as steelmakers, glass, aluminum, and paper for free starting in 2014, phasing out by 2 percent per year. Auto makers initially would receive 3% of the allowances free. Members are also still working on a free allowances figure for petroleum refiners, believed to be between 1 percent and 5 percent.

That sounds soft to me!

Climate change experts seem to have found consensus around the fact that we are rapidly running out of time. I wonder if we can really afford to play loose and fast with the allocation of the tradable credits so that our dirtiest industries get their credits for free for a while. I think we should give credits for free to clean industries so they can sell them to the dirtier industries and use the profit to build and expand and create jobs. That would enable the shift to occur more quickly.

But what do I know, I just read about the stuff til my eyes bleed. It's not like I'm an expert or anything. If I was an expert, I'd obviously be working for a coal or oil company...

Here is EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson from the Daily Show last night.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Lisa P. Jackson
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Busy or lazy?

This blog is being severely neglected. For any readers that are still there, I apologize. I have lot of opinions, but the fact that the Texas legislature is in session is taking too much of my time.

I am on Twitter. Tweeting is ADHD blogging. I can be found at: http://www.twitter.com/Freak_Politics

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Centrists 1 - Obama 0

Sorry to say it, but Obama was very unimpressive in dealing with the Stimulus bill. He allowed the moderate Dems and Republicans in the Senate to establish the tone of the debate. As a result, the hard work that the House put into a fiscal spending approach was aborted.

Hey Liberals, you allow Joe Lieberman to eat your lunch... again!

Hey Bambi, why is fiscal policy important to replace the decline in private sector spending? The Stimulus was always going to be too small, but the White House allowed the mushy middle to turn it into a big fat $800 billion nothing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Praise song for the day

The following is a transcript of the inaugural poem recited by Elizabeth Alexander, as provided by CQ transcriptions.


Praise song for the day.


Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.


Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.


A woman and her son wait for the bus.


A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."


We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.


We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."


We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.


Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.


Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.


Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."


Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.


What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.


In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.


On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

You had me at hello, Mr. President, you had me at hello...

What a speech.  I don't even know what to say.  I need to watch it a couple more times before I write any more on it.  Here are some lines that stick out...

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."

---

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end."

---

"So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: 'Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].'


"America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."