Thursday, April 3, 2014

JOHN BOEHNER CONVENIENTLY CROSSES THE LINE


We all know that once open enrollment began for the healthcare exchanges as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), there were multiple problems. The federal website crashed regularly. So did some state's websites. The marketplaces did not offer comparisons of various plans like was promised. No surprise then that the completed enrollments were fairly slow at first.

Despite the troubled rollout, millions of people still visited the site. The technical glitches were being worked on around the clock, and over the months following the botched virtual ribbon-cutting, the site's stability dramatically improved. Slowly, even more people began to visit. 

Of course, still not every visitor completed the journey from starting the application to actually enrolling in a healthcare plan via the online exchanges. Still no surprise though. Choosing a healthcare plan is not like picking out which shirt to wear in the morning. It demands lots of comparison shopping and thoughtful consideration. It SHOULD take more than one visit to complete. 

Factor in the predictable rush to enroll as the deadline approaches, and it's no surprise that heavy traffic might cause website crashes, and long waits via in-person and phone-in enrollment options. There would inevitably be many who would miss the March 31 deadline as a result.

That's why President Obama offered the deadline extension for those who began the process by March 31, but were not able to complete their enrollment by midnight. As long as you began the application process by March 31, you would still be allowed to complete your enrollment and get covered.

John Boehner had a fit over this, claiming that 

"this is part of a long-term pattern of this administration manipulating the laws for its own convenience."

Let's just be blunt about this. John Boehner's comment shows him off as the blatantly hypocritical partisan who worries not about the best interests of his fellow Americans, but who instead only seeks any angle to sabotage President Obama. The damage done to the rest of America is just acceptable collateral damage.

This is no aggrandizement. Face it. The PPACA ("Obamacare") is here to stay. Refusing to work to improve the law is not going to change that fact. Actively working to sabotage it and keep people from enrolling blatantly harms Americans. It may be "convenient" that such inexcusable action also dings President Obama's image for some, but the real convenience here is John Boehner's ability to so quickly and blatantly contradict himself if it offers him the opportunity to take a pot-shot at President Obama. It was only in October that Boehner was actually calling for delaying the deadline for everyone. Now he is demonizing President Obama for simply letting people complete the healthcare applications they started but could not complete by March 31.



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I find these continual attempts to make President Obama a failure incredibly disgusting, and as much as I desire to refrain from questioning anyone's love of country, it is a greater misdeed to not call out this Republican obsession as patently un-American. This is especially so when your attacks on Obama hurt millions of Americans - not with demonizing words or approval ratings you seek to inflict upon President Obama - but with extremely serious real-life effects. When you actively seek to keep Americans from healthcare, Americans suffer not only real-life effects of your obsession, but real-death effects. It is one thing to criticize a sitting President if you disagree with policy. John Boehner's comment however is just the latest example of blatantly crossing the line into un-patriotic attacks on our President. We all suffer for it.

Now, here are my TOP TEN RESPONSES to John Boehner's comment...

10. What's next? Turning away people in long lines to vote?
9. So then, by your own logic, making healthcare enrollment an INconvenience for Americans is YOUR political "convenience".
8.Are you afraid that over 7 million will get health insurance - DESPITE your endless obstruction?
7.The GOP has placed nearly all its political eggs in the "making-Obamacare-a-failure" basket. And YOU are the one arguing that its degree of success is more about a political convenience - rather than it actually being about ending pre-existing condition exclusions, reducing the reality of emergency-room-as-primary-care because of such high rates of uninsured Americans, eliminating worthless junk insurance policies that bankrupt family savings because they don't cover the costs of major illnesses, ending annual and lifetime caps on needed care, making it illegal to not renew someone's insurance because they became ill, all while working to halt the hurtling rate of healthcare cost increases over the last decade? Really?!? YOU spend millions of taxpayer dollars trying to endlessly block fixing all these things, and then claim that OBAMA is the one acting only out of political "convenience" rather than for the good of Americans? I don't know what is more bronzed - your face or your brass balls!
6. When your political "convenience" relies on making healthcare reform an inconvenience for as many Americans as possible, YOU need to re-assess your values. 
5. Seriously?!? You are bitching now because people who started the signup process by the end of March will be able to complete their healthcare enrollment in April?!? YOU were bitching only months ago that there was NO delay in the deadline for individuals to sign up. The only "convenience" here is your ability to attack President Obama and "Obamacare" by any and all angles - even if you have to blatantly and directly contradict your own arguments.
4.You really want to talk about  "manipulating the laws"? It was only back in October that H. Res 368 took away the power of any House member to propose re-opening the government and put that power exclusively in your control. YOU made sure the government shutdown continued by blatantly "manipulating the laws".
3. The fewer people that sign up for healthcare, the more ALL our premiums will increase next year. Stop screwing us all, you idiot!
2. We'll make it "convenient" for you to find a new job in November, John
1. A**hole!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BILL KRISTOL'S REPEAL AND REPLACE FANTASY


On the Jan 26, 2014 Face the Nation, Bill Kristol went back to his repeal-and-replace fantasy yet again.

“Senior Republican Senators tomorrow are going to lay out the outlines of legislation, which I think will become real legislation, that would be a Conservative reform, alternative to 'Obamacare'. It would deal with the pre-existing condition problem, it would have tax credits for the poor, it would get rid of all the ridiculous bureaucracy regulation limitations of 'Obamacare'… but I think it really will make it harder for the President and for Democrats to say the Republicans have no alternative.”

So finally, after roughly five years of repeated empty rhetoric against health care reform and over forty attempts to only repeal, but NOT replace the PPACA, Bill Kristol says THIS time they really mean it. They intend to repeal-and-replace. He predicts it will likely pass in House and in the Senate if GOP wins Senate control. 

Then he proposes, with that inescapable poker tell grin of his -

“…and again, then it’s up to the President whether he wants to abandon 'Obamacare' and sign on to a sensible healthcare reform.”



Of course trying to now "…deal with the pre-exiting condition problem" is laughable in itself. 

For anyone who has forgotten, "Obamacare" is not the name of the law. Frankly, neither is it The "Affordable Care Act". The healthcare reform signed into law by President Obama is called the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act". Virtually everyone ignores that vital first part. Maybe just for brevity's sake, but the "Patient Protection" component of the law is, to quote someone else, a pretty "big f@&king deal!"

So let's just restate the obvious. PPACA has already ended denial of coverage for simply having a "pre-existing condition". Additionally, it also has subsidies for the poor.

They can claim all they want that their real goal is to provide the patient protections and reforms that already exist in law now. They can sell the rebranded "repeal and replace" talking point all they want in an effort to say that they actually "...do have a positive reform agenda with healthcare." while they simultaneously do everything they possibly can to sabotage it, including shutting down the government over trying to simply repeal the law. Conservatives can do this all they want, but they cannot escape the blunt reality that their biggest objection to the health care reform law is the "Obama" part. 

Had they honestly wanted to "...deal with the pre-existing condition problem..." or offer "...tax credits for the poor...", they could have worked with Democrats and President Obama five years ago rather than put all their efforts into trying to make President Obama a failure. 

Better yet, they could have made such reforms themselves sometime in the past century when they had the power to do so.

But since it is the "Obama" part that they are so objectionable to, and not the patient protections, or the opening up of healthcare access to the poor, I have a really simple solution. 

Stop trying to kill "Obamacare". Instead, embrace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that actually exists as law. Do your job as members of Congress to tweak it and improve it, but stop trying to sell us the latest "repeal and replace" BS.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pope Francis - Liberal Lapdog or Honest Christian?


Far right Conservatives would have you believe that Pope Francis is being led by "the liberal media". 

How else could a Pope speak ill of trickle-down economics and note its devastating effects on the poor? How could a Pope be more concerned with how we treat the least amongst us rather than with supporting economic policies that continue to redistribute wealth upwards? It MUST be that he feels a need to placate "the liberal media".

A Foxnews.com piece stated this rather directly. Sarah Palin showed great concern that Pope Francis seems so *liberal*. Rush Limbaugh continues to make millions upon millions of dollars through his purposefully incendiary remarks against anything not far right by todays's standards. Even if that means trashing the Pope because he dared to address poverty rather than support the wealth of people like Rush.

How could any Pope possibly be so un-Christian? It just has to be "the liberal media" telling him what to say.

Of course this is asinine, but the co-opting of Christianity by the far-right has reached a paradoxical degree of disconnect from the reality of the teachings of Jesus. So much so, that while shocking, it really is no surprise that the loudest mouths of the far-right would rather trash-talk the Pope than recognize that their own agendas of trying to remove assistance to the least amongst us is diametrically opposed to any answer of WWJD ("What Would Jesus Do"). 



Twenty years ago, it would have been unthinkable to turn on your radio and hear a defense of ignoring the poor in some bizarre conflation of the Pope, the President and orgasm. Yet that is the degree to which Christianity has been co-opted by the far-right. Not only is it now thinkable, such comments when spoken on the radio for any to hear are not even enough to to cause repercussions to those trying to profit from such shameful remarks. The hi-jacking of Christianity by the far-right is so thorough that even the Pope is no longer sacred.

But that only makes sense given that the actual teachings of Jesus Christ himself are mostly ignored in this new rendering of Christianity. Rather than ponder WWJD, they attack any who stand in the way of their ideologies. Never mind that their ideology of trickle-down economics counters the foundational teachings of Jesus. Never mind that Jesus would neither shun nor condemn those with "different lifestyles". Christianity is less a means to assist in their personal spiritual development. It is more an institution they convert to justify their far-right ideologies.

It is certainly shocking to hear Conservatives attack Pope Francis for addressing poverty and economic systems that continually widen already massive wealth gaps. Shocking, but it is not surprising. 

Even less surprising is to hear such condemnations of the Pope be used to further whine about "the liberal media". 



Note the date of the Chris Matthews quote in the image. Matthews (a Roman Catholic) made this statement shortly after Pope Francis was announced. Conservatives now chastising the Pope would claim that is somehow first evidence of "the liberal media" controlling Pope Francis from the start. 

I have a different take. I think it is an early example of outspokenness by those who maintain their Christian identity because they connect with the timeless teachings of actual Jesus, and reject the modern day invention of Republican Jesus. 

As Pope Francis leads the way on expressing this difference, it will be most interesting to see in the coming months and years how many more Christians will begin to speak out in support for such a Christianity. A Christianity that, considering the teachings of Jesus Christ, is in fact a more "Christian" version of Christianity than that which is espoused by the far-right. 



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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Put "Christ" back in Christians


Roughly a month ago, there was a non-verified viral story about a Pastor who made his first appearance to his new congregation disguised as a hungry homeless man. In the story, he appeared well before the church-goers began to congregate for the service where they would meet their new Pastor. The idea was to see how they would honestly treat such a fellow human. Many told him to leave, ushers escorted him to the rear pews. Many would not look at him as they crossed paths. The overwhelming reaction to his presence was disdain. The tone in church changed dramatically when the new Pastor was introduced, and the homeless man they had sidestepped took the pulpit. 

Jesus spoke of helping the poor more than anything else.
Today, millions who claim they model their lives
after Jesus greatly miss this fundamental teaching.

The story was powerful. But it was never verified. The image used with the story was a stock photo of a homeless man.

Now the same general scenario played out in real life. Click the link below to see the news story from KUTV channel 2.


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Nutritional Assistance to Women Infants and Children is Everyone's Responsibility


Providing nutrition to Women, Infants and Children, the WIC program has long been vital to millions of low income Americans. 

On day 9 of the government shutdown, North Carolina ran out of money to operate the WIC program in the state. Those in need of WIC assistance in NC were instead referred to food banks in the state.

Later the same day, the North Carolina based grocery chain Food Lion stepped up with a massive donation of $500,000 in Food Lion gift cards to various food banks in NC.

Food Lion's $500,000 contributions to North Carolina food banks is EXTREMELY generous. I cannot state enough gratitude to them for this financial contribution to address the ongoing food needs of low income children and parents despite the tomfoolery in Congress. More companies with the means should be following Food Lion's example.



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There is a concern however. How much of the core problem is actually addressed beyond the headlines?

$500,000 is a LOT of money.  

Many people reading that headline will quickly make the false assumption that the problem is solved, even if only temporarily. Maybe even most people will assume that Food Lion's great generosity has filled the need gap in the WIC program for North Carolina for the duration of the government shutdown. In fact, that is the implied message of most reporting on Food Lion's generous donation to NC food banks. Most don't bother to go beyond the headline and actually look at how far that fills the degree of need in NC.

Here are the numbers.

The WIC program in North Carolina costs $205 million per year.1

Divide that amount by 365 days, and you realize it costs $0.56 million per day.

Let the scope of that need here just sink in for a moment. In North Carolina alone, just meeting basic nutritional needs of low income families with children under 5 costs $560,000 per day. 

Despite the extreme generosity of Food Lion's contribution towards this need amidst the government shutdown, their entire contribution does not even meet the challenge for one day!

This simple arithmetic is glossed over or flat out ignored in nearly all reporting on Food Lion's good deed.

I point this out not to diminish in any way the contributions of Food Lion, but rather to demonstrate the ignorance of narrow ideology that not only fails to recognize the importance of government programs, but seeks to end the majority of them.

There is a streak in American political thought that fails to recognize the importance for us all to keep the least amongst us from slipping into abject poverty. Those expressing this philosophy view themselves as victims when our collective tax dollars are used to address this need. In their philosophy, "compassion" is a matter solely for the individual, or the church, or the small non-profit organization. Penn Jillette's comments from an old Time magazine interview encapsulate this too-oft repeated ideology.


Penn Jillette offers a view that helping the least among us is best left to
the individual's sense of compassion, and is not a role for taxpayer dollars.
Tim Whittemore points out that "...such individualized help
proves woefully incapable of meeting the basic challenge. "

In this graphic, two quotes express heavily contrasting viewpoints over the role of government safety nets. Jillette offers that there is great joy in helping people yourself, but then expresses feelings of victimization when his tax dollars are used to fund such government programs, even going so far as to complain that such "bullying" is done "at gunpoint". In contrast, Tim Whittemore points out that leaving "compassion" to only the private sector has numerous drawbacks, including an inability to keep the safety net high enough for just basic needs.
"…To believe that simply leaving 'compassion' or safety nets to the sole responsibility of the individual or small non-profit group will ever be either adequate or consistent is pure fantasy….Regardless of what minimal safety nets against absolute poverty we may instill via government, the individual can always show true compassion by helping poor and suffering people themselves. Nothing stops anyone from doing so. Yet such individualized help proves woefully incapable of meeting the basic challenge…" - Tim Whittemore


"Yet such individualized help proves woefully incapable of meeting the basic challenge."

When Food Lion's generous contribution of $500,000 to North Carolina food banks meets less than one day's needs in just one state, the evidence for that statement should be overwhelmingly obvious.

Monday, April 8, 2013

REDEFINING SMALL


On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", Greta van Susteren brought up the talking points of "job creators" and Washington hurting "small businesses".

Without defining how she categorizes what makes a business "small", she offered the following.

"We're strangling small businesses, I mean, no one's paying much attention to these small businesses, the regulations that are strangling them, some are laughable and silly, but they have profound impact on the job creators, those who are making jobs. They can't afford to hire people to do them."

The Small Business Administration (SBA) views 500 employees as a small business for most industries. Using a very different yardstick, the ACA(Obamacare) considers businesses with 50 or more employees large enough to require them to provide healthcare to their staff. Additionally, the smaller the business, the more ACA tax credits they get for offering health care to their employees.



In an extremely rare inquiry into what one means when they use the abstract rhetoric of "small business", George Stephanopoulos asks van Susteren if some businesses cut off their work force at 49 employees in order to avoid Obamacare responsibilities. She does not respond by defining what constitutes a "small business". Rather, she avoids the definition entirely, and offers more abstract rhetoric...

"Instead of looking at just numbers, if you actually talk to them, a lot of them are struggling with this, they don't understand a lot of those things that happen, they don't understand a lot of things that happen in Washington. They're very cautious because they see a real dismal economy out there, and that does have an impact."

Though no one pointed out that van Susteren first claims small businesses are being "strangled" by regulations, then claimed that "small business" owners aren't hiring because they "don't understand", Paul Krugman points out "If you actually talk to them, that's not what they say."

But the crucial question of who "they" really are is virtually never addressed despite endless rhetoric about the plight of "small businesses". The term itself is extraordinarily misleading. Intentionally. The term "small business" conjures up the image of a "Mom and Pop store". Politicians rarely use that term however, since when they speak of "small businesses", they are including under that umbrella quite large businesses with up to 500 employees.

Of course very few people have actually given thought to just how do you really define a business as "small". You would be very hard pressed to find a random voter that thinks a business the size of a Wal-Mart store is actually a small business. What about 250 employees? 100? 50? 

Personally, I think that if your business is successful enough to employ 50 people, you are no longer a "small" business. 

But exactly what magic number of employees or annual company profit anyone uses to personally view any business as "small", the label is little more than an abstract impression. We root for the small business person to grow their company and be very successful. We love the narrative of rags to riches. We also don't define when riches have been more than adequately reached. Such a concept is contrary to the American psyche. As a result, we never speak of "medium" businesses. The general (political) references to business size in America is self-restricted to just small business and corporations.

Consider a handyman with one part-time employee, or a self-employed artist, or a small carpet-cleaning business with 4 employees, or a Mom and Pop store with 6 employees. These are truly small businesses. That huge gap between "small business" and corporation does a real disservice to every one of them. When we allow politicians to imply they are referring to THESE small business people when in fact their umbrella-term "small business" is speaking of large companies even bigger than a Wal-Mart store with up to 500 employees, we are all being duped.

I suggest that every time you hear a political talking head, or a politician refer to "small business", you demand from them a definition of that term before accepting the remaining rhetoric that follows.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

SEQUESTRATION SOLIDARITY


Patrick Murphy(D-FL) follows Tammy Duckworth, Chuck Hagel, Shuan Donovan, Maurice Jones, President Obama, Mark Begich and Claire McCaskill in forgoing part of his sequester-exempted government salary.

While most Congressional and administration staff is subject to pay cuts and furloughs as a result of the sequestration, the pay of actual Congressional members and administration officials is exempt from the sequestration cuts. Those listed above must accept their paychecks in full, then write checks to equal the cuts they vowed for themselves.

Some, like President Obama, are returning the percentage they promised back to the Treasury.

Others, like Patrick Murphy, will be writing those checks to various charities. In Murphy's case, he will write a check each month to a different Florida cause.

For all the talk about a bloated budget and government over-spending, I have to wonder if Allen West would have done the same had he won a re-election and Patrick Murphy did not replace him in Congress. I'm not aware of West having done that when he actually was in Congress.

After a prolonged contesting of the election results,
Allen West lost his House seat to Democrat Patrick Murphy.


Frankly, I don't know the political affiliation of HUD deputy secretary Maurice Jones, but there is a noticeable pattern in the eight people listed above who are vowing self-imposed pay cuts. Other than Chuck Hagel (and the unknown of Jones), the list is overwhelmingly made up of Democrats.

At the moment I am not aware of any others vowing such salary sequestration solidarity. Even despite the never-ending cry from the GOP about how government spending must be cut, then cut some more, that talking point seems to end when it comes to THEIR bloated salaries.