Archive for March, 2010

Incoming!

March 30, 2010

They say that Spring is upon us.  I’m not so sure what with the chilly temps and the biggest electric bill I have ever received.  Nevertheless, here’s a celebration to Spring.

Daffies galore.

Maribel's forsythias.

My first nod to Spring.

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The Fall of the Economy and the Rise of Hatred

March 28, 2010

A few journalists have hit the nail right on the head when they attribute the rancor and violence over our new health care bill to much more than just an opposing opinion on this legislation.  A person need not go much deeper than the surface to witness the real cause of the anger: a deep-seated repulsion, a backlash, to minority members holding our highest offices.

Charles Blow and Frank Rich both writing for the New York Times, address the underlying rationale for our current rage:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/opinion/27blow.html?src=me&ref=homepage

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/opinion/28rich.html?hp

Unfortunately, it does not take much to bring our bases instincts to the surface.  Historically, all it has taken is negative economic factors.  It’s always the economy, stupid.  When people lose their jobs and their lives take a nosedive that actually threatens their well-being, they naturally lash out at the government.  However, too often, they support rather negative political replacements in the hopes of rectifying their own situations.  A major part of these reactions is that the replacements typically focus on a specific group, usually it is a minority group, as the enemy who caused this economic havoc.  And the people fall for it, hook, line and sinker.

This is exactly what happened in Germany that enabled Hitler to come to power.  Germany was in dire financial straits.  Too many people were out of work.  The blame had to be directed at someone, and how convenient it was to place that onus at the feet of non-Aryans?  Furthermore, the fear and hatred generated was also a means for Hitler to amass and build his own power base.  Worse than Hitler’s motives and behavior though, was  the acceptance of his actions by the population.  So many Germans knew about the slaughter of the Jews, as did  international leaders.  For the sake of “peace” and “politeness”, they stood by and watched the murder and mayhem.  The goal of “not making a scene” was more important than saving innocent lives.

In our country today, we are witnessing a similar phenomenon.  Many people are unemployed and lash out at our government as the culprit who caused this mess.  Part and parcel of their retaliation is the need to attack people who formerly were deemed less-than-full citizens, i.e. minorities, women and gay people.  That tact seems to provide some release for the angry ones.

The Tea Party has come into being due to our hard economic factors.  But their not-so-subtle use of their underlying prejudices is what is fueling the fires of discontent:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/us/politics/28teaparty.html?scp=2&sq=tea%20party&st=cse

This is our Tea Party.  Keep in mind that they justify government involvement in such benefits as Social Security and Medicare, just not in anything else that does not directly affect them.  Such conservative politicians who are allying themselves with the Tea Party are courting their own downfall.  For those Republicans to use the Tea Party for their own political aims is a losing, destructive policy.  Just as these prejudiced people have turned against all government, they too will turn against those Republicans who consider them their friends.  Just this morning some Tea Party activists voiced their venom at John McCain, blaming him for all that has transpired because he lost the Presidential election.  Can you believe that he is now using Sarah Palin, currently the honey of the Tea Party (this will end soon as well) in his desperate efforts to get reelected?  Didn’t he learn anything the first time around?

But I digress.  There is nothing productive or healing about this Tea Party.  Their goals are purely disruptive and include such ugly strategies as racial and sexual hatred.  We have yet to hear any positive fixes for what ails us from this party.  Their mission is to divide, not to unify.  Sure enough, their venom is causing their members to turn against even themselves.  In their escalating outrage, there are no limits to the destruction, and that encompasses even their own.

In a similar vein, I feel sorry for all of those Catholic children who were abused by their clergy.  Once again, as if those sins weren’t bad enough, the cover-up and refusal of the Church and its leadership never to have taken corrective steps to stop that abuse makes these abusive practices even more appalling.   Sin heaped upon ever greater sin.

We all need to heed the words of Edmund Burke:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The New Adventures of the Old Toyota: Subaru

March 26, 2010

Subaru is the new Toyota.  The cache, quality and position as the industry leader is now up for grabs.  Nothing like reaching the pinnacle of commercial success and industry leadership only to be caught fudging safety issues and lying about it.  My choice for Toyota’s replacement as the number one selling car in America is Subaru.  Their products are ever-so-reliable, veritable workhorses.  Further, even though their degree of “luxury” is growing, the real luxury of owning a Subaru is its dependability coupled with a decent safety (i.e. and honesty) rating and history.   Time will tell if this is another tale of “too good to be true”, if it is an instance of producing a good product and not taking shortcuts to maximize the bottom line once the attainment of industry leader has been reached.

I love the following Subaru commercials, which feature dogs.  Very innovative to use our beloved pets as the baseline for Subaru’s reputation as a maker of solid, no-nonsense vehicles:

Will Subaru build on its hard-earned esteem or go the route of Toyota and louse up all that they have worked for?  Let’s see if Subaru can maintain its quality, good name, and up-and-coming prominence in the years ahead.  If they choose not to follow in Toyota’s dishonest footsteps, Subaru will be the new gold standard of the automobile industry: the new reincarnation of the old Toyota.

That Damn Tanning Tax

March 25, 2010

Finally, finally, the GOP leadership has publicly spoken out against the violence perpetrated against those lawmakers who voted their support for the new health bill.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/25/republicans-condemn-viole_n_513211.html

Sorry, the Republican’s leadership response is too little, too late.  Let me explain why this is so.

Do not tell me that John Boehner’s outburst right before the vote stating that this bill will be “our Armageddon” did not instigate and give his stamp of approval to such conservative anger, vicious actions and malignant malice that has followed the enactment of this bill.  The irony of his remark is that without this bill, millions of Americans, children and adults alike, would have no health coverage or medical care.  That is the real Armageddon.  Perhaps Boehner’s anger is really in response to the 10% tax, as dictated by HCR, on tanning salon sessions.  Why else would our Tan Man, The Prince of Orange, be so irate, addled and furious at this bill’s passage?  Something is out of whack.

Similarly, John McCain has demonstrated the same vitriol at this bill’s enactment.  McCain was always a bitter man, but something about his latest behavior smacks of contentiousness, almost as if his sanity was in question.  Could this be the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, often making its first appearance as belligerence?  For McCain to say that he will no longer work and fulfill his Senatorial duties until the election in November, is basically saying “F*** you” to all of the Americans who pay his salary and benefits.  For the GOP  to pledge in unity not to work past 2 P.M., as specified in some vague procedural rule, is also an abrogation of their sworn oaths of office:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/24/gop-senators-refusing-to_n_511639.html

This poisonous behavior on the part of the GOP, plus their acceptance of violence to their opponents, is indicative of much more than just “sour grapes” over their loss on health care.  For heaven’s sake, a bill is just a bill.  One side “wins” and the other side “loses”.  Then everyone comes together to make it good for everyone.  Even in past presidents’ darkest moments, when the wrath of their opposition was the greatest, the party’s leadership stood up and said enough.  Acceptable as it was to criticize the man who held the Presidency, it was not acceptable to disrespect the office of the Presidency.  When the public’s venom was directed to Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky mess and George Bush over Iran, the anger was kept in check.  Alas, we see none of that now.  Why is this so?

The answer is pure racism, tinged with more than a dab of anti-intellectualism,wrapped up in a feeling of hopeless stupidity and sprinkled with a goal of revenge.   The GOP cannot stomach the fact that we have an African-American as President of the United States, especially one that is intellectually heads and heels above 99% of all Congressmen.  They despise his cool, calm demeanor and when he wins a major legislative battle such as HCR, they derogatorily call it due to his “Chicago tactics”.  There is no respect for either the man or the office from our minority leaders.  Thus, the GOP is giving tacit approval to the like actions of such rabble-rousers as the Tea Party and brick throwers.

As an aside, in line with the GOP’s racism is their sexism.   The GOP’s call for the firing of Nancy Pelosi is purely sexist in nature.  I said it before and I will say it again: she wielded more control and power in getting this bill passed than any other lawmaker.  In addition, her loyalty to her President was unfailing.  She was sedate and polite, yet she stayed on task and got the job done.  That is the key here: Pelosi got her job done.  Her tactical ploy of threatening to use “deem and pass” was brilliant in getting the public’s acceptance of simple reconciliation.  How threatening was that mere fact to the opposition, who lost?  What permanent damage to their testosterone levels was done?

This beating down of the Republicans’ testosterone levels opened up their floodgates of anger and violence.  They view Pelosi’s victory as a virtual castration.  Wait a minute: I thought it was the gentler sex, the women, who were supposed to be subject to hormonal variations,  ruled by emotion.  Imagine that a woman fulfilled her job description despite this innate weakness.  No wonder the contempt of the Congressional GOP: it is they who are looking to be the weak ones.  Just like the tanning salons aid in one’s appearance, this power-seeking of the GOP is an all-out effort to keeping up appearances. Unfortunately, that is the driving force in the survival of today’s empty Republican Party.

I tried to stay positive and generous for as long as I could after the vote.  I really did.  However, when our lawmakers’ behaviors lead to harming people rather than protecting them, something has got to give.  Shame on the Party of No.  They cannot accept defeat graciously, much less at all.  Their nod of acceptance to the ensuing violence is shameful and the very antithesis of the definition of leadership.

And to think all of this combative behavior resulted from a 10% tax on tanning sessions.  My, oh my!

POSTSCRIPT:

This just came over the wires.  The GOP, in their anger and lashing out at utter defeat, are now eating their own, almost assuredly guaranteeing their own self destruction:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/25/david-frum-aei-split-cons_n_513544.html

And always remember:

The Case For Professional Reform

March 24, 2010

I TOLD you over and over again that we must have tort reform as part of our national health care overhaul.  NOW do you believe me?????

Likewise, we have bankers to pick up where the lawyers, although infrequently, leave off:

Thank you, Thank You Very Much

March 23, 2010

My parents always taught me the ultimate importance of saying “Thank you”.  I am most grateful for the game-changing legislation on health care.  Within the greater scheme of things, it makes me appreciative that our country has taken the proper path necessary for our continuation.  Personally, it affords me the peace of mind that I will always have medical coverage with no annual or lifetime caps and that, should I get sick, my coverage cannot be rescinded by my insurance carrier.  For an old bag pushing 60 years old, those are soothing thoughts.

This is my personal thank you to those who consistently forged ahead, against all odds, in securing this landmark bill.  First and foremost, I offer profuse thanks to Howard Dean.  His 50-state agenda was the beginning of changing the fundamental principles of caring for our populace.  Dean set the stage for our new era of hope and change, not only ideologically but also mechanically, by using the Internet as a major tool in reaching out to Americans.  This innovation of ideas coupled with a new means of getting his message out allowed actual policies to be born.  Dean’s influence on today’s America cannot be overestimated.  He set the groundwork and made a huge difference in the direction of this country.

Next in line for my thanks is President Obama.  With his incredible intellect, stamina, creativity to think outside the box, common sense, core values and his calm, even-tempered disposition, he has set the bar high for the proper, yet daring, behavior that behooves us all.  His civility and self-control is inspiring, although honestly, sometimes infuriating.  I am so proud to call him my President and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of his potential accomplishments.  Let’s stick with him.

My admiration and respect is endless for Nancy Pelosi.  This legislation would have never gotten anywhere without her strength of purpose, her quiet but powerful mien and her loyalty to her President.  That huge gavel she carried into the House before the final vote was extraneous: she did not need that gavel to signify her resolve and leadership.  She already embodied those characteristics within herself.  The gavel was just a symbol.  Make no mistake about it: the GOP is so furious at Pelosi because she brought this bill to fruition.  She played the game with the best of them —– and won.  She did what they could not do.

I also offer thanks to Bart Stupak.  Without getting into the pros and cons of the abortion issue, I think his philosophical stance was sincere and realistic.  I hate abortion, but I firmly support a woman’s right of choice.  However, this new legislation was not the time or the place to change our existing policy on federal funding for abortion.  The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prohibits federal funding for this procedure.  Stupak’s insistence that this HCR bill not alter the already existing legislation was reasonable.  President Obama’s executive order reaffirming the precedence of the Hyde Amendment in relation to our new health bill was entirely in order.  We proponents of choice lost nothing.  Of course, neither did we gain anything.  But that was not the point of this legislation.  Stupak was civil and earnest in his bid to keep the status quo.

When our founding fathers wrote the Constitution as the groundwork for our new nation, they too had to deal with an incendiary issue, that of slavery.  Slavery was just as ugly as abortion is to many people.  Nevertheless, the founders ultimately had to push aside that issue in order to get their goal consummated and thus, the United States of America was born.  Sure: the issue of slavery never went away and a hundred years later, we fought a bloody, civil war over that issue.  But at the time of the signing of the Constitution, slavery had to be shelved so that the larger accomplishment could be attained.  Likewise, I am sure we are not “done” with the abortion issue and the question of federal funding.  We will deal with it, but we must do so in a separate forum at another time.  Real change takes time, but even truer, each issue deserves its own focus and attention.

There were many other players in the game to get this historic bill passed.  I thank all of them.  Sometimes, a zero-hour situation brings out the best in people.  Other times, the worst is the result.  I think we all know who demonstrated their best behavior and who showed off their worst side.

My parents taught me well.  I thank those who put their best foot forward, who demonstrated their best demeanor.  It was the proper, respectful way to enact such a monumental, yet long overdue, piece of legislation.  Howard Dean, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Bart Stupak all were instrumental in providing us with decent health care alternatives, and they did it in a professional, exemplary way.  Thanks to our new law and the lawmakers who saw it through, maybe now our designation as a developed, civilized society can ring truer than it did before.

No Kidding Around

March 22, 2010

LET FREEDOM RING

And here is a tribute to our new health care reform bill in the form of a musical classic.  Note that I have used the doo-wop, more sedate version, because really, only time will tell if this bill is truly a cause for flat-out, riotous congratulations or a jumping-off ground for more litigious, sore-loser behavior from them opposition:

In the words of Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO: “Imperfect progress now is better than perfect progress never.”

Above all, this historic legislation was necessary for our children.  Without the proper feeding and watering, the committment to honest to goodness care, of our nation’s children, no fight is worth a whit.  No nation, no society can survive without a healthy younger generation.  This is the overwhelming victory of last night’s vote.  The United States now is legally bound to put their money where their mouth is and materially support the growth of our younger generation so that they may ultimately lead and exemplify productive lives.

Not surprisingly, there is much talk of the attorney generals in as many as twenty states who are revving up a battle to repeal this landmark law.  They claim it unconstitutional for any state to be directed to spend billions of their dollars on federal mandates.  Underscoring that position, they also hold that the new law of the land, that every American  must buy health insurance, is likewise unconstitutional.  What these astute lawyers are refusing to acknowledge is that the bedrock of our nation’s philosophy, democratic structure and principles of equality is the plain fact that those with more are going to have to help those with less.  Period.  Thus, our graduated income tax model.  This health reform bill does entail an increase in taxes, but not an unreasonable, debilitating burden.  Yes, the capital gains tax will rise from 15% to around 18%, but come on, that’s the least we can do for the greater good.  Get over it.

The true issue, the constant irritant to the GOP, is the fact that the rich are going to have to pay more to help out the poor.  This is an anathema to them.  So they couch this health issue in poisonous language and try to scare the hell out of the American people, citing such inflammatory isms as socialism, communism, nazism and just plain old Armageddon.  How disingenuous is it to speak of decent and affordable health care for all Americans, especially our children, while out of the other side of one’s mouth comes the zero-tolerance for actually paying for those benefits?

The Republicans  were able to present a united front against health care legislation because their party is so narrow-minded in their view of what is best for the majority of Americans.  Similarly, the Democratic party was a literal mess in accumulating the necessary votes for passage because of their openness to all sides of the issue.  In the end, it came down to the reality that the Democrats were willing to lose some elections in November as a trade-off for getting the necessary legislation through.  Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo said it beautifully:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2010/03/make_it_count.php#more?ref=fpblg

In order to win decisively and deliver the goods to those who need them, the risk must be taken.  The Democrats took that risk and, win or lose in the next round of elections, they won the more important victory of “doing the right thing.”

A few footnotes to this vote.  Some visual images stand out remarkably for me.  When the Tea Party people were massed outside the Capital and flung racist and other poisonous epithets at such freedom-dedicated representatives as John Lewis and Barney Frank, the situation became as ugly as could be.  At best, this behavior was a result of the heat of the moment and at worst, it could be a much more dangerous path that uncovers the base prejudice and toxicity of our population.  Nevertheless, later in the day, when Nancy Pelosi and colleagues Steny Hoyer, John Lewis and John Larson entered the Congress, they presented an image of solidarity not only in support of health care reform, but also in repudiation of the base antics of the protesters outside.  It isn’t often that we see men holding hands with men, so this picture proved very meaningful:

http://theneweditor.com/index.php?/archives/11111-Mission-Accomplished.html

Another memento I will have from the proceedings last night was the women, i.e. the female Congressional representatives, in their simple, yet loyal stance to help our children.  Regardless of their religion, their political position on abortion, they so beautifully voiced their concern for bettering the lives of our children.  The men also spoke about this issue, but, and it may very well be due to some prejudice within me, it was the women who made all of their statements believable and quite moving.

Remember this: it is about the children.  It is always about the children.  Our past, present and future are our children.  Once our raison d’etre for governing ignores our kids, we may as well kiss the United States of America goodby.  That includes our founding principles as well as our current efforts to govern fairly and effectively.  Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Ted Kennedy, said that his father’s “heart and soul are in this bill.”  Absolutely.  Inclusive in this legislation is not only Ted Kennedy’s heart and soul, but the heart and soul of every single child in our country.  If this bill had not passed, I am not sure that our children would have hearts and souls any longer.

I know I have cited this music before, on Election night, probably on Inauguration Day also.  But this song, written and performed by my daughter, Maribel, really does say it all about what is most important.  And that my friends, you guessed it,are the children:

Congratulations to President Obama for his vision, his perseverance in translating his ideas into reality and to his inborn competitive character.  He blended all of his gifts and talents wonderfully.  Yes, he did.  Nancy Pelosi is deserving of equal praise for her almost impossible feat to deliver the votes.  And she did.  And we all did because, in the end, yes, we can!

Prologue to Progress

March 21, 2010

This post is double-edged.  Both parts needed to be published before the vote on HCR, scheduled for later this afternoon.  Part One is a comment on the pathetic state of our national government.  Part Two is a similar condemnation of my home state of Virginia.  Yet, the big picture is for a more optimistic outlook, and the upcoming vote on health care reform will be the decisive first step.

PROLOGUE TO THE VOTE

The GOP’s last stand against decent and affordable health coverage for all Americans is this: the final vote will be taken on Sunday, March 21st.  On the Sabbath!  A travesty!  A sin that shakes the very foundation of our Christian country.  Just in case the Republicans have not yet absorbed that fact that not all Americans mark Sunday as their Sabbath, our country is also not a Christian society across the board.  Ever heard of separation of church and state, not to mention freedom of religion?  For Heavens sake —- we devout Americans accept sacrilege in our lives every single Sunday: the majority of stores are open on Sundays, certainly casinos do a brisk business on Sunday and what is a Sunday without sports events ranging from Little League games to the Superbowl?  Nevertheless, the GOP has short memories.  The Congressional vote regarding the continuation of life-sustaining procedures for Terry Schiavo was conducted on a Sunday, and it was Palm Sunday to boot.  What won’t the GOP invoke as a means to stop health care reform?

Pathetic, desperate sore losers.  The “period” to all of this nonsense is that it is not the GOP who will potentially bring down HCR: it is our very own Democrats.  The Republicans cannot be influential even in a losing battle.

On with the vote.

THE STATE OF MY STATE

These days, I am somewhat ashamed to hail from the great Commonwealth of Virginia.  Our Governor, his Attorney General and my Congressional representative are all giving me agita.

A few weeks ago, the AG Ken Cuccinelli sent a letter to all of Virginia’s state universities advising them to delete from their policies the prohibition of discriminating against sexual preference.  This was a blatant effort to exclude gay people from anti-discrimination laws.  There was an uproar on college campuses and finally, Governor McDonnell stepped in to “clarify” the situation and calm down the youngins.  He said that of course there will be no such institutional prejudice against gay people in the Commonwealth’s universities or state offices. It seems that even though only the State Assembly can enact laws affecting discriminatory practice in the public arena, our two former governors, Warner and Kaine, instituted a policy of non-discrimination for gays only hours after taking the oath of office.  Not so our current Governor, and thus, our AG took off on some policy-making of his own.

When McDonnell stepped forward and said that no one is going to discriminate against Virginians based on sexual identity, the rancor quieted down.  All well and good.  Was it McDonnell’s intention to quell any unrest, was it just a stab at shutting down our top legal eagle or was his action an honest effort to correct a policy of discrimination?

Two weeks later, Cuccinelli regaled us with the procedure for suing President Obama because his birth certificate, in Cuccinelli’s mind, is not valid.  When questioned, Cuccinelli said his verbal thesis was only hypothetical.  Quite a treatise, in length and detail, for an exercise in “just pretending”.

This Cuccinelli is very dangerous.  After the first round of flak regarding the state’s discriminatory policies, I thought that Cuccinelli was just a loose cannon, and that McDonnell’s sobering response was an attempt to rein in our loud-mouthed AG.  McDonnell won the gubernatorial race based on his “moderation”, a “reasonable” Republican who avoided the far right-wing.  Was this merely a ruse to get him into office?  In my unbelievable naiveté, I first thought that Cuccinelli and McDonnell were using a “good cop, bad cop” strategy, and that McDonnell really was a moderate Republican who now had to keep a lid on his Attorney General’s flapping mouth.

Rachel Maddow has injected grave doubt in this generous theory of mine.  She covered this dynamic duo in her commentary this week and placed the responsibility for such remarks squarely at the ultra-conservative, ideological feet of the Governor.  McDonnell might go along with the rantings of Cuccinelli, but sooner or later, Cuccinelli will take McDonnell down along with his self-righteous self.  McDonnell is in error to use Cuccinelli as his frontman for radical conservatism.  Virginia is not a red or a blue state; it is more of a purple state, and the political balance is always up for grabs.

Additionally, Cuccinelli appeared on some televised interview program on Saturday, offering his commentary on the health care bill.  Virginia and Idaho are the only states in the Union that already have laws on the books refuting HCR’s rule number one that all Americans must carry health coverage.  Typically, if these states-versus-federal-government suits wind up in state and national Supreme Courts, the federal law has precedence over the state laws.  Cuccinelli went on and on, in great detail, about how the great state of Virginia will fight tooth and nail to repeal HCR, which is supposedly unconstitutional.  He ranted about the validity of state’s rights.  Do tell: when has the concept of state’s right been invoked to GIVE people rights?  It seems to me that the concept of state’s rights has always been used to DENY rights, e.g. slavery, voting rights for Blacks, education for Blacks (first in the denial of any education at all, then in the disguise of “separate but equal”), abortion rights, gender rights such as equal pay for equal work and now in the fight for equality for gays.  This Cuccinelli is loving the spotlight and has definite plans to advance his career on a national level.  If stomping over human rights, personal freedoms and equal justice is the method needed to attain that notoriety, he is game.  Cuccinelli is an instigator of those principles that are limiting to our freedoms.  He is a toxic politician, fulfilling only his narrow interpretation of the Constitution.  Last I checked, no one made him a Supreme.

The third person who I am ashamed of is my very own Congressman, Gerry Connolly.  He comes from my county of Fairfax and served as head of the Board of Supervisors.  He has been a dedicated Democrat.  Big whoop.  This past Wednesday, Connolly was interviewed by MSNBC because he, as yet, has not decided how he will vote on HCR.  Jeezy Wheezy: what politician will not usurp and extend his fifteen minutes?  This health care bill is incomplete even for the most positive of people.  We know that.  But for a diehard Democrat not to support his President in this vote is just idiocy and grandstanding.  I might have voted for Connolly in the past, but it will be very easy for me to vote against him in November if he does not support this bill and his President.  This President, who led a huge rally in support of HCR at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA yesterday, who looked absolutely exhausted, who made this ultimate effort in Connolly’s backyard, just as he successfully did in Dennis Kucinich’s home turf, deserves the solid backing of his fellow Democrats on this bill that will decide the future efficacy of his Presidency.

And so, I am still proud to be a Virginian, albeit a little less than I was before the last election.  Not only did we get a Republican administration for the next four years, but we also got a lunatic Attorney General.  Our Governor is allowing Cuccinelli to raise the tone of the rhetoric, and only comes to the rescue when possible civil disobedience or revolt threatens.  And even our Democrats (Hello Senator Webb and Warner: where is your loyalty to, your vocal support of, your President on the topic of HCR?) such as Connolly are delaying their HCR votes to see if there is anything in it for them personally before they commit.

As we speak, a divisive, exclusionary emphasis on the lowest common denominator of freedoms are gaining favor in the great Commonwealth.  Right now, there is nothing “common” or “wealthy” about my state of Virginia.

Maine: Not Quite Spring

March 20, 2010

My puppy’s namesake, Castine.

Hanging the laundry out to dry in Stonington.

Stonington Harbor.

Stonington: A monopoly on "quaint".

Ditto on "picturesque".

Buck's Harbor: Yummy.

Winter weathering.

Cape Rosier.

Sun's going down on Cape Rosier.

On the Verge

March 19, 2010

So while the cat’s away, the mice will play.  Monumental events seem happen while I have vacated the family abode to seek adventure and peace at some other location.  This time, it appears as if the United States of America will finally get health care reform enacted by their dysfunctional Congress.  Don’t tell me that miracles never happen.

This bill is far from perfect.  At best, it can be considered a “template” for a future fleshing out of a truly universal health care system.  But the drama and anxiety of the last fourteen months in trying to design and implement a program of decent and affordable health care has been trying.  This is because of the overwhelming partisanship of our government and political parties.  The forest got lost from the trees in an effort of each political bloc to zap the other.  The overriding goal has not been to help the American people.  Rather, the aim has been to destroy the current administration and set the stage for the opposition to regain power in November.  Although HCR will finally become a reality, the battle has been misguided, distorted and above all, dragged down by ideology that encompasses way too broad a platform of issues.

For example, this bill has been used to present a solution to our culture wars, i.e. abortion.  The abortion issue will rage on, but it is a mistake to use HCR as the instrument to confirm or repeal the Hyde Amendment.  Even though this amendment was passed 34 years ago, it must be renewed every year.  As much as Bart Stupak is trying to railroad any health care bill, his efforts to tie its passage to certain prohibitory abortion language is consistent.  The Hyde Amendment disallows the use of federal funds for abortions.  Our current attempts to pass HCR should not be used to overturn the Hyde ruling.  That should be done separately in a concerted effort of new legislation.  Of course the directives of HCR will get distorted and twisted if they are tied to other inflammatory agendas.  HCR is not a mechanism for overruling the Hyde Amendment and its passage will become difficult the more it is connected, or made dependent, on, the abortion issue.

Similarly, another subterfuge in passing HCR is the illegal immigration issue.  Even after HCR is enacted, there still will be 20 million people without medical coverage.  These people will still show up at emergency rooms and cause our hospitals and agencies to cover the cost of their illnesses.  Almost all of these 20 million people are illegal immigrants.  The problem lies not in the ultimate practice of treating these people, but in allowing them access to our country in the first place.  The fact that our borders are so open to illegal entry is the underlying problem.  Once they are here, we have the humanitarian obligation to treat them for their illnesses.  So the illegal immigration issue is the culprit also for sandbagging our health reform.

This HCR is not a salvo for all that ails us.  Certainly it cannot and will not finalize a policy on abortion or illegal immigration.  Furthermore, the fact that our private insurance companies are legally a monopolistic industry (the only other legal monopoly in the United States is major league baseball.) is a disgrace and should be overturned so that we can have real competition to foster cost savings and quality of care.  These are issues that must be taken up in our halls of Congress separately from HCR.  But they are hot-button issues, so many politicians have used them, “attached” them, to criticize and block the path for HCR.  I am not falling for that.  Abortion and illegal immigration are huge issues by and of themselves and must be dealt with responsibly and fully based on their own importance.

As Nancy Pelosi said, this HCR has been fourteen months of “heavy lifting”.  Each and every step towards its passage has been rife with ancillary, although relevant, sidebars.  Focus is not the strongest attribute of our lawmakers, as they use the legislative process to muddy the waters in an effort to customize the proposed legislation for their own personal and career-building ends.

In this regard of focus, President Obama has been the mainstay of health reform, especially and finally during this last month.  I stand by my President in his tunnel vision for this reform, and offer thanks to Nancy Pelosi for delivering the votes.

Hopefully, we will have wonderful news on Sunday.  This initial round of HCR will not be perfect.  In fact, it will be far from it.  But it will be a start.  Many more areas are also in need of “heavy lifting“, such as abortion rights, illegal immigration and the antitrust status of our insurance industry.  However, these items must be tackled in the same laborious way that HCR was.  Governing is not easy, but can be streamlined a bit by addressing each issue separately.  Otherwise, as we have almost witnessed, every major piece of legislation has the great potential of going down the drain.  Thus, our government will get nothing done and our nation and its people will be forever stuck in a no-man’s land of non-action and legislative paralysis.

Agenda by agenda, item by item, step by step.  If HCR passes, it will truly be a monumental victory of the greater good over individual wants.  We are on the cusp, the verge, of something so overdue and necessary for the well-being of our nation and our people.  HCR just might be the prime example of not allowing the side issues to derail a major piece of legislation.  I do not realistically believe, although I can still hope, that the enactment of HCR will open a floodgate of new legislation.  Each and every proposal has to be fought on its own merits and encompass tons of hard work.  Nothing is easy.  Not the GOP’s use of fear nor some Democrat’s strict adherence to purity of principle will ultimately block passage of this bill.  While the focus often became diverted, the guts of the reform remained intact.

Life is hard, oftentimes a bitter pill to swallow.  Nevertheless, we must persevere and stay on course.  The significance of a HCR bill is not only rewarding for all the hard work that has gone into it, but also deeply meaningful in its  implications for future legislation.   Bon Jovi says it best:

Can this optimistic event, the passage of health care reform, actually happen?  I think we are only one or two votes away from saying “Yes”: the GOP is out of diversionary tactics, the Democratic purists are seeing the light, and the financial markets are 80% sure that this bill will pass.  If this unprecedented positive event takes place when I am on vacation, as did so many negative ones during my prior trips, I may never go home again.  I am holding my breath until Sunday.  Let the mice play.