Archive for the ‘Politics’ Tag

An Open Letter to the GOP Leadership in Congress

Starting this past Thursday, and for the first time in nearly 15 years, I have health insurance.  It’s not great, but it’s basic coverage that I can afford.

Prior to the ACA (or Obamacare, if you prefer), the only insurance I was eligible for was both obscenely expensive–about a third of my pay–and covered damn near nothing until I was already five to ten thousand dollars out of pocket, which was money I wouldn’t have been able to save considering the third-of-my-paycheck price tag in the first place.

My coverage is not perfect, and it is not complete, but it means that this fiftysomething will be able to see a doctor for basic and preventative care for the first time in fifteen years, and will not have to rely on luck, optimism, and the emergency room.

What I want to know is this: before you start trying to dismantle the ACA, what program will you have in place to provide the same or better coverage at the same or lower cost?  What is your plan for my health coverage, other than hoping that I die before I qualify for Medicare and you can’t block me anymore?

Because I am not giving up my card without a fight.  If the new Congress defunds the ACA, then I challenge John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to take my card from me personally and explain to me why full-time working, tax-paying, law-abiding me doesn’t deserve basic medical coverage.  I want them to look me in the eye and tell me that.

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do if they defund the ACA and I lose my coverage.  I will be submitting my medical bills directly to their offices.  If they’re not going to let me buy my own insurance, then my health care is their responsibility to cover.

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There exists one Republican with a sense of honor.

While there is no defending Elizabeth Lauten’s comments about Sasha and Malia Obama, she has had the decency to do the proper thing: she has apologized for her remarks and resigned her position, and I applaud her for being the first Republican I can think of in the last 15 years to have acted honorably upon making a gross and offensive error in judgment, rather than try to make like it’s nothing or even okay — or that calling her on it is “intolerant”.  I think I’m mostly shocked that a Republican has actually apologized; I’m pretty sure that gets her thrown out of the party.

Now if only all the other Republicans who’ve said deliberately racist, deliberately dishonest, and/or deliberately hateful things about the Obamas would do the same.  One suspects that would leave the Congress without a quorum in either house…

Out of touch much?

Oh, well done.  While fucking Utah has marriage equality; I live under the jurisdiction of the only court that thinks institutionalized bigotry is just fine and dandy.  By a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the existing equal marriage bans in Ohio, as well as Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

And if Judge Daughtry is right in her blistering dissent (starting at p 43 of the decision),

Because the correct result is so obvious, one is tempted to speculate that the majority has purposefully taken the contrary position to create the circuit split regarding the legality of same-sex marriage that could prompt a grant of certiorari by the Supreme Court and an end to the uncertainty of status and the interstate chaos that the current discrepancy in state laws threatens.

…or in regular English, that the majority is deliberately trying to force the Supreme Court to get involved, that is no comfort.  As has been said in many other contexts, justice delayed is justice denied.

My regional appeals court just told me that my state has the Constitutional right to discriminate against me for no reason other than the simple fact that I am gay.  Not because I have committed a crime, not because I have been found mentally incompetent, but simply and only because I am gay.

My regional appeals court — or 2/3 of it, anyway — can go fuck itself.

On Net Neutrality

Comments are now open at the FCC on Docket 14-28 and 10-127 on net neutrality.

Here’s what I sent them.

————————————————————————————————-

I would like to first remind the Commission that the Internet is not a creation of the broadband carriers, but was created out of a collaboration between the US military, educational and research institutions, and some few early technology firms, and then given its modern face by the invention of the World Wide Web at CERN in Europe. To paraphrase a soundbite from the last election cycle, they didn’t build that.

Even so, broadband carriers are effectively claiming control over something that is not theirs, by deciding what they will carry. Their function is that of delivery of data, not of gatekeeping content.

The Internet only works when communications is free, fair, and unhampered. The reason it is a billion-dollar business is *because* of net neutrality, not in spite of it.

I for one remember connecting to the Internet before the development of flashy graphical clients and certainly before the coming of broadband internet service. I would not have my service be effectively reduced to that again in the name of private profiteering off of what must now be considered a public utility, and broadband providers must now be considered common carriers. My utility company isn’t permitted to degrade my electrical service or limit the amount of natural gas I may use if I switch providers from the main ones in the area; the same must apply to broadband carriers.

Furthermore, because of the interconnectedness that makes the Internet work, the actions of a broadband carrier go well beyond affecting only their clients. Messages are routed through many networks to get from one point to another; one carrier in between myself and someone I wish to communicate with can affect our communications, without either of us being a client of that carrier.

Lastly, there are a number of public initiatives that are put at risk by the loss of net neutrality. NASA’s Kepler project relies on citizen science — volunteers around the world — to be able to process the vast amount of data it has generated, and it has paid off in the thousands of new exoplanets discovered. There are hundreds of other citizen science projects out there, ranging from abstruse ones like longstanding number theory problems to very real-world ones on protein folding and cancer research. Few of these would survive if a carrier demanded higher rates for their data traffic; the appallingly low rate of scientific funding means almost all are running on a shoestring already.

The shadow cast by Comcast’s action is a long one, and the damage that privatizing the Internet is incalculable. The effects are beyond higher connectivity costs for users and content providers.

The Internet is no longer the plaything of nerds and technophiles; millions of people rely on it daily for far more than mere entertainment–it’s vital to our work and our lives now. Allowing broadband carriers to effectively privatize it will do nothing to enhance Internet service for anyone, and will degrade it for millions.

The FCC *must* stand in favor of net neutrality.

The Civil Sacrament

All around the world, there are places where to go to vote is to literally take your life in your hands.

Imagine what they must think of those of us who, out of indifference or laziness, can’t be bothered to cast a ballot in perfect safety.

Voting is our civil sacrament, the polling place is the cathedral of civilization, and election day is our social holy day of obligation.

Go out tomorrow and partake of it.

One more sign the Republicans will ignore at their peril

Funny, for a program Boehner & co. claim nobody wants, the Affordable Care Act website was clobbered with applicants trying to sign up for it. I’m still waiting to get a login page.

I’m also still waiting for Boehner to explain how the Republican plan of doing nothing is superior to having government-assisted insurance through the ACA. I’m not going to accept any theoretical arguments about what the size and scope of the federal government should be — my ongoing health and well-being is frankly a lot more important to me. I’m almost half convinced the Republican plan is to hope that people like me are dead before we qualify for Medicare and Social Security. They’re certainly acting that way.

Funny how their obsession with life ends at birth. They sure don’t give a shit about people after they’re born.

Of course, we know the real reason Boehner’s taking a hardline position is because he’s got a bunch of extremist backbenchers ready to throw him out of the speakership if he dares to behave like a responsible adult rather than a whiny selfish brat, and he’d rather be the hood ornament on the Toonerville Trolley than safely seatbelted into the passenger seat of a sensible sedan obeying the speed limit.

I wish I could live to be 150. I would love to see what historians of the future have to say about this era — beyond the obvious “what the hell was *wrong* with them?”

Gearing up for Obamacare

Some pundits fling the phrase around like it’s supposed to be an insult; sure, go ahead. Time will show them they’re wrong.

All I know is that in January, for the first time in nearly 13 years, I will have health insurance. If I plump for the base-level coverage, my premium is estimated at less than $400. A year. If I want the mid-level coverage, my premium will be around $100 a month. As opposed to the $100 a paycheck — nearly a full third of my pay — for coverage that wouldn’t kick in until I was already $5000 out of pocket and even then only covers part of the expenses.

Oh yeah, that’s a really bad thing. I’m being terribly abused by the government. Whatever will I do?

Oh, that’s right. Feel secure for the first time in a decade. I really have no idea what to expect when I have my first full physical — everyone says that regular medical checkups in your 40s are critical, and I have had zero because this country considers health care to be a privilege, rather than a human right. In some ways, I’m genuinely lucky to be getting ready to turn 50 in more or less good health, since it hasn’t been due to regular checkups and professional preventative care.

This goes quite a ways towards that goal of the right to basic health care. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

And considering John Boehner’s alternative is that I should rely on wishful thinking (since I can’t afford insurance without Obamacare–what do you reckon I do without, John: housing or food?), well, that’s not really an alternative, is it?

On “the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I wonder how many people (especially the whiny sore losers posting petitions to secede) appreciate just how magnificent a document our Constitution is.  The First Amendment is a particular gem:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is with the ‘petition the Government for a redress of grievances’ I want to get into here.  The White House website has a petition website for precisely that purpose.  They range from the sensible to the inane to the insane, but that’s the nature of the public commons.

Anyway, they recommend that the title complete this sentence: “We Petition the Obama Administration To…” so I did:


Take further steps against voter suppression

Since 2000, there has been a rise in voter suppression tactics across the nation.

Caging lists are used to purge legitimate voters from the system, often only on the basis of a single piece of returned mail. These lists frequently target districts that are minority, or have a history of favoring one party over the other.

Voter ID laws are being passed across the country, ostensibly to prevent voter fraud. However, a recent study has determined that in-person voter fraud is an essentially non-existent problem, with only ten cases since 2000 out of approximately 600,000,000 votes cast across the country.

The negative effects of voter ID laws are expected to fall disproportionately heavily on minority voters, especially if there is a fee to receive the ID card. Since this constitutes a fee in order to vote, this is unconstitutional under the 24th Amendment.

We the undersigned ask the government to do the following:

  1. Constitutionally challenge voter ID laws which levy any fee of any kind
  2. Vigorously enforce the anti-caging provisions of the National Voter Registration Act
  3. Explore setting minimum national standards for voting with regard to ballot types, accessibility, and especially with regard to certification of voting machines
  4. Require that the software on voting machines used in federal elections be open source, so that the process is wholly transparent and less open to manipulation
  5. Mandate that paper ballots should be available upon voter request
  6. Designate Election Day a federal holiday, or commit to a Constitutional amendment moving Election Day to a Saturday or Sunday, perhaps the first Saturday after the first Monday in November, which would retain the current range of Nov. 2-8. No one should have to choose between their job and their right to vote.

We believe that the problems with democracy can only be solved by more democracy.


This was the full version I wrote up — there is, however, an 800 character limit so the actual text was abbreviated.  I have posted my petition here; whether it reaches 25,000 in the time frame given, I don’t know.  I can but hope.

The lessons the GOP should learn from this election… but won’t

1. Losing ground in an election that was theirs to win is not a mandate.

John Boehner claimed a Republican mandate; considering his party failed to capture the White House, lost ground in the Senate, and at best will only manage to hold the line in the House, that’s among the more ludicrous things said by any politician and indicates self delusion matched only by Baghdad Bob.  If the American public issued a mandate, it was that it’s time to grow up and go to work, and that a Republican policy position of “NO!” is no longer tenable.  Since most of the victims have been freshman teabaggers, you’d think that would be an easy lesson to learn, but Republican knee-jerk obstructionism goes deep, and American patience has its limits.  The only Republican who came out well from all this is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

 

2. Demographics change

Even if they get away with their policy of “NO!”, time is going to cut their base out from under them.  They’ve been living on borrowed time on Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which relied on white anger against the Civil Rights movement to turn the Solid South for the Democrats into the Solid South for the Republicans.  The old South is changing, though, and the last generations that were born and raised in the segregated South are not going to be around that much longer.  Look at the broad swathe of blue through the South in the county results; Dixie is fractured right up the middle, and with the growth of a minority-majority America, that crack is only going to become a fissure, and then a canyon, into which all GOP electoral hopes will fall.  Virginia’s a full-blown swing state now, and North Carolina’s on the edge.  Considering the GOP’s substantial voter gap with Hispanic Americans, it won’t be long before Florida is reliably blue and Texas is a swing state.  If the GOP doesn’t reach out past tokenism, and doesn’t change track from its elitism, it’s going to be reduced to a minority party of the mountain states and high plains.

 

3. We are electing politicians, not priests.

The Republicans’ reliance on the laissez-faire economic Libertarians taking advantage of Talebangelical right-wing “christians” is on shaky ground.  The free marketeers have been dealt a major setback with Romney’s defeat, which is going to open the way for one of the religious extremists grab for nomination in 2016.  And that candidate is going to go down to an epic defeat, because he or she will be so monumentally out of sync with where the country actually is.  Keep in mind that the fastest-growing belief segment is ‘none of the above’ — not just atheists and agnostics, but various non-Christians, and the spiritual but not church-bound, who number about 20% in all as of last counting, and most of whom feel alienated by the GOP’s narrow-minded religious extremism.  So if the Republicans run someone in the mold of a Santorum or Bachman, all the Democrat will have to do is have a pulse, and not drool on camera.  Personally, I’d welcome that — it would send the party to the wilderness for a decade or so, and they might come back having learned some humility.

…so why is this election even close?

Here’s what I don’t get.  You have an intelligent, moderate Democratic president who, despite a Republican-controlled obstructionist House, has managed a recovery — modest, slow, and fitful, but a recovery nonetheless — left him by a Republican president and Republican laissez-faire ideas that have dominated national economic policy for thirty years.

About ‘moderate’.  Yes, moderate.  Not liberal, but only slightly left of center — and I have studied the relevant political theory, so I know the difference.  Obama is a centrist, not a socialist, and in any other democracy he’d be considered a moderate conservative.

Facing him is a man who, having been governor of one of the most liberal states in the country, could have been the face of New Republicanism, bringing the party back towards a more sensible center and abandoning the cultish and extremist ideology of the teabaggers and their ilk.

Instead, Romney went straight for the Kool-Ade, signing on to an extremist economic policy that caused the financial collapse we’re still trying to recover from, and to an extremist social policy that mistakes one narrow-minded misinterpretation of one religious book for civil law.

What I really don’t understand is why the business interests are aligned against Obama.  Historically, the major market indices almost always do better under Democrats than under Republicans.  Let’s take a look at the granddaddy of them all, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and we’ll take the first full day and the last full day of a president’s term that the markets were open (or in the case of Obama, most recent data as of this writing: 24 October 2012).

Obama 8,228.10 13,077.34 +4,849.24 +58.9%

Bush II 10,578.24 8,281.22 -2,297.02 -21.7%

Clinton 3,253.02 10,587.59 +7,334.57 +225.5%

Bush I 2,218.39 3,253.02 +1,034.63 +46.6%

Reagan 946.25 2,239.11 +1,292.86  +137.6%

Carter 962.43 970.99 +8.56 +0.1%

Ford 767.29 968.67 +101.38 +26.2%

Nixon 929.82 784.89 -144.93 -15.6%

Johnson 743.52 935.54 +192.02 +25.8%

Kennedy 639.82 732.65 +92.83 +14.5%

Eisenhower 287.60 632.39 +344.79 +119.9%

Truman 159.75 286.97 +127.22 +79.6%

Roosevelt 62.10 158.06 +95.96 +154.5%

Hoover 305.20 53.84 -251.36 -82.4%

Hm.  The only presidents to turn in end-of-term losses are Republicans.  Who’s better for business, again?   No wonder we use red for the conservatives in this country — it equals the color ink we should use for their economic policies.  The only Republican presidents who’ve outperformed Obama’s DJIA to date have been Reagan and Eisenhower.  Hoover, Nixon, Ford and both Bushes fail to measure up.  Best performer of all?  Clinton, of course.  Followed by Roosevelt.  Let’s go ahead and put them in order, shall we?

Clinton 3,253.02 10,587.59 +7,334.57 +225.5%

Roosevelt 62.10 158.06 +95.96 +154.5%

Reagan 946.25 2,239.11 +1,292.86  +137.6%

Eisenhower 287.60 632.39 +344.79 +119.9%

Truman 159.75 286.97 +127.22 +79.6%

Obama 8,228.10 13,077.34 +4,849.24 +58.9%

Bush I 2,218.39 3,253.02 +1,034.63 +46.6%

Ford 767.29 968.67 +101.38 +26.2%

Johnson 743.52 935.54 +192.02 +25.8%

Kennedy 639.82 732.65 +92.83 +14.5%

Carter 962.43 970.99 +8.56 +0.1%

Nixon 929.82 784.89 -144.93 -15.6%

Bush II 10,578.24 8,281.22 -2,297.02 -21.7%

Hoover 305.20 53.84 -251.36 -82.4%

Average standing of Democratic presidents out of the last 14 presidents?  6.29.  Of Republicans?  8.71.  So much for who’s better for business.

When you throw in a toxic social policy that says people should be legally discriminated against simply on the basis of whom they love, you come up with no legitimate reason to vote Republican.