Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My letter to Congress on health reform

As a retired OIF veteran, I am fully covered by the VA for my medical care. This "socialized" care has served me very well so far. But I didn't go overseas and put my life on the line only to come home and watch my fellow Americans' lives threatened by our own insurance monopolies.


The only way to do this is to introduce true competition, via a robust public option. We currently spend twice as much as any other country on health care, with shameful outcomes. You know the figures; you've seen the charts. It's time to do something NOW.

I am a very new political activist, awakened at the beginning of Barack Obama's campaign for President. But I have remained a tireless activist, and I am currently committed to directing all this activist energy AGAINST anybody who opposes real reform. Sen. Baucus is tops on my list, and I will strenuously support any organization who opposes him and his ilk. I will also personally donate to his opponent.

This is how strongly I feel about taking care of my fellow Americans. And this debate will not even affect me personally. I don't do it for me -- I do it for the country I love.

Please, do it for the same reason.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Response to a right-wing article on healthcare reform

I was in my folks' car the other night on the way to a birthday dinner, and happened to pick up a publication that was opened to the following article (my comments inserted).

Those of us who oppose a massive increase in the role the national government plays in health care

Offering an affordable insurance option to those currently shut out of the system would not represent a "massive increase," especially if you accept the right wing's assertions that we "only" have a few tens of millions, not 47 million, uninsured right now.


This is a derisive term, and its use within the very first sentence marks this entire essay as prejudicial.

do so because we fear the immense and unsustainable national debt it would incur

The President has stated that any plan he signs must be deficit-neutral. Besides, where were all of you when we were racking up a trillion-dollar deficit in Iraq? Is killing little brown people worth more to you than saving American lives right now?

and because we are certain that medical care in America would deteriorate.

Please provide some substantiation or precedent -- any -- for this assertion.

But there is a bigger reason most of us oppose it: We believe that the bigger the government becomes, the smaller the individual citizen becomes.

Are you talking about the government that tapped your phones and data-mined your email and threw your citizens in prison for years without habeas corpus? Well, okay. Or the one that wants to be sure you can visit a doctor when you need to? Somehow I cannot see the sinister intent in this.

Here are five reasons why bigger government makes less impressive people.

Oh, okay, here we have a clue! Providing health care to citizens would keep them from having to stitch up their own wounds. Yes, that is very impressive! Certainly more than I would undertake, myself. Perhaps I need to cut myself real bad, and treat the wound myself, to be a more "impressive" citizen.

1. People who are able to take care of themselves and do so are generally better than people who are able to take care of themselves but rely on others.

Is this label of "better" a moral judgment or factual? In what way are they "better"? Did Jesus differentiate between "better" or "worse" people, apart from the self-righteous Pharisees whom He bitterly derided for trying to deny the common folk a bit of relief?

Of course, there are times when some people have absolutely no choice and must rely on others to take care of them. Life is tragic and some people, despite their best efforts and their commitment to being a responsible person, must have others support them.

Of course. And? Your proposal?

Even if one believes, as the left does by definition, that the ideal society is one in which the state takes care of as many of our needs as possible,

I don't consider myself a member of "the left," although I do wholeheartedly support President Obama's health reform proposals. The state takes care of as many of our needs as possible? I have never heard this anywhere, nor seen it promoted by any left-leaning pundits. Would like some examples.

one must acknowledge that this has deleterious effects on many, if not most, citizens' moral character. The moment one acknowledges that the more one takes care of oneself, the more developed is his or her character, one must acknowledge that a bigger state diminishes its citizens' characters.

This statement is completely theoretical and not supported in practice in any country that has a national health care system.

Presumably one might argue that there is no relationship between character development and taking responsibility for oneself. But to do so is to turn the concept of character, as it has been understood throughout Judeo-Christian and Western history, on its head. The essence of good character is to care of oneself and then take of others who cannot take care of themselves.

Awesome idea! So how come all these people of "good character" haven't succeeded in eliminating the health care access problem in our country? Why was my next-door neighbor despondent last night, forced to move due to no new job prospects despite a long and diligent search, and if his wife loses her job, without any health coverage at all? Where are all these people of "good character" in his predicament?

2. The more people come to rely on government, the more they develop a sense of entitlement -- an attitude characterized by the belief that one is owed (whatever the state provides and more).

Please provide examples.

This is a second big government blow to character development because it has at least three terrible consequences:

First, the more one feels entitled, the less one believes he has to work for anything. Why work hard if I can look to the state to give much of what I need, and, increasingly, much of what I want?

People in France work less hours per week and less weeks per year than Americans do. They also experience far less stress (what a surprise!) leading to longer life expectancies. They have socialized medicine, yet still manage to maintain a functioning economy. It was OUR economy that nearly toppled the entire world financial system.

Second, the more one feels entitled, the less grateful one feels. This is obvious: The more one expects to be given, the less one is grateful for what one is given. Third, the more entitled and the less grateful one feels, the angrier one becomes. The opposite of gratitude is not only ingratitude, it is anger. People who do not get what they think they are entitled to become angry.

Again, please provide examples. Are the French holding mass rallies protesting their health care system? Are they generally angry about it?

3. People develop disdain for work.

One of the effects of the welfare state on vast numbers of European citizens is disdain for work. This is in keeping with Marx's view of utopia as a time when people will work very little and devote their large amount of non-working time writing poetry and engaging in other such lofty pursuits. Work is not regarded by the left as ennobling. It is highly ennobling in the American value system, however.

Do French people not work? Also, what's wrong with poetry? I would rather live a life surrounded by poetry than by people who slave away in a paper bag factory for 20 years, hating every minute of it. These are the people who are most likely to "go postal" someday. No thanks.

4. People become preoccupied with vacation time.

Along with disdain for work, one witnesses among Western Europeans a preoccupation with not working. Vacation time has become a moral value among many Europeans. There have been riots in countries like France merely over working hours. In Sweden and elsewhere, more and more workers take more and more time off from work, knowing they will be paid anyway. In Germany and elsewhere, it is against the law to keep one's store open after a certain hour, lest that give that store owner an income advantage and thereby compel a competing store to stay open longer as well. And, of course, Americans are viewed as working far too hard.

Umm, yes. Western Europeans are very adamant about their vacation time. And their health benefits, according to WHO rankings placing us in the 37th position. Americans DO work too hard. And we spend about twice as much as any other developed country on health care, for worse outcomes. Is our goal to make Americans healthier and happier, or simply to make them work harder?

5. People are rendered more selfish.

Not only does bigger government teach people not to take care of themselves, it teaches them not to take of others. Smaller government is the primary reason Americans give more charity and volunteer more time per capita than do Europeans living in welfare states. Why take care of your fellow citizen, or even your family, when the government will do it for you?

Which charity will help my next-door neighbor in his dilemma? I don't want to lose this family as neighbors -- isn't there some charity that will pay a portion of their rent until he can find work again? Please?

This preoccupation with self includes foreign policy: Why care about, let alone risk dying for, another country's liberty? That is the view of the world's left.

Yes, why should I go overseas and risk my life for some other country's liberties when my own countrymen are dying at home for lack of health care?

Of course, there are fine idealistic individuals on the left, and selfish individuals on the right. But as a rule, bigger government increases the number of angry, ungrateful, lazy, spoiled and self-centered individuals. Which is why some of us believe that increased nationalization of health care is worth shouting about. And even crying over.

Show me one country where that "rule" plays out, in the case of nationalized health care. Just one. Please.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My letter to the editor on health care reform

The cartoon you published yesterday depicting a hospital emergency room was misleading and offensive on several counts. It shows a nurse addressing an obvious extra-terrestrial, saying "I'm going to assume, since I can't ask, that you are a U.S. citizen." The caption reads, "Under Obamacare" -- a derisive term adopted by the anti-reform crowd. The implication is that reform measures would somehow change the current system wherein ERs are already prohibited by law from requiring proof of citizenship. That isn't going to change with reform, nor should it. How inefficient would ERs become if they had to send people home to find their birth certificate or passport before treating them? Would this apply even to people who showed up with a massive head injury? Would you like to be that patient yourself? Who would pay to train them in forgery detection? Who would be penalized if a non-citizen slipped through? Etc. But another problem with the cartoon is that nothing in any reform measure would change the delivery of health care. All it would do is add another affordable insurance provider to the mix, that could cover those for whom premiums are currently out of reach. That's it. No death panels, no abortion funding, no illegal aliens on the plan -- just another, publicly-funded insurer, kind of like we have public schools that compete with private schools. What is so scary about that?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whenever you think you don't make a difference

For years (since the beginning of Obama's campaign in February '07) I've been steadily on the comment boards of the TNT, first advocating for his nomination, then for his election, and now for his policies. Often it seems like I'm the only one arguing for "our side," and my posts are routinely outnumbered 3:1 or better. It could be easy to get discouraged. But I know enough about the 'Net to know that those who post are FAR outnumbered by those who merely skim and read, and THOSE are the ones I'm aiming to persuade.

So it was a special treat to read this message tonight, in response to a user's derisive dismissal of a fellow poster's support for me:

Thank you, frosty for your kind words. You're correct, she does do a brilliant job. I'm in awe of her knowledge and her tenacity, especially under fire.

Sometimes, it's nice to show ones appreciation and support and to let her know that she's not alone out there. She's way out in front of any other poster as far as understanding the in's and out's of health care reform.

Maybe it's not needed, as you say, frosty, but since I can't add much to her vast knowledge base, and since I'm benefiting from her hard work, a pat on the back is the best I can do.

Aw shucks... That makes me feel just as good as I did last time I called KZOK just a moment too late, regarding a health care reform call-in segment, 'cause they were moving on to a scheduled guest. But before saying goodbye, the call screener thanked me for "all my expertise" on the health care issue (they know me, when I call and introduce myself as "Cheryl from Tacoma," and it's always when they're discussing the hot political topic of the day).

Hey, I consider myself an absolute politics dummy. I don't really know what "report language" means or what "reconciliation" entails. I'm not up on the delicate heirarchies within the Senate and House, and how their political maneuvering might play out. I just focus on one thing -- what needs to happen. However it needs to happen, it NEEDS TO HAPPEN, NOW. I do not label myself a Democrat and refuse to be drawn into debates on what prior Democrats did or didn't do. I keep my eyes on the prize -- HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW.

I'm not tooting my own horn, because I'm not special. What I am doing, every single one of us can be doing. And we SHOULD be doing it. Don't be intimidated even if on every blog you seem to be outshouted by the wrong-ies. Because for every one of their nasty, insubstantial, ad hominem attacks, there are dozens of thoughtful citizens pondering your words, appreciating them, and perhaps integrating them into their own conversations on the subject. They may not all take the trouble to let you know that, but trust me -- they are there.


Friday, September 4, 2009

On keeping kids home from school Sep 8

Below is an email I just sent to our local Glenn Beck group, of which I am a member. Of course, my aim is to get a few of those parents to actually listen to an entire Obama address, unfiltered by right-wing pundits. It might be the first time for many of them, and I'm betting a lot of them will be astonished to find they agree with everything he says. But, FWIW, here is my message:

Hello all,

I hope you'll forgive my $.02 here, as I have never had kids and never will, but I do have some thoughts on some parents' plans to keep their kids out of school Tuesday on account of Obama's address.

I think those who do keep their kids home are doing the kids and themselves a great disservice. The first day of school is where friendship cliques begin to form, and where kids begin to figure out the teacher's style and expectations, and what the year has in store for them. All the kids are on the same footing that first day, and anybody who comes in on the second day will already be behind the power curve, having to play catch-up. I don't feel this is the right way to begin a challenging school year.

Also, it sends the wrong message: to fear dissenting opinions rather than hearing them out and developing a sane, rational rebuttal based on facts. This critical thinking skill will serve them lifelong. What better opportunity for them to start developing it?

A better option, in my opinion, is to go to school with your children that day. This gives you a chance to meet the teacher, the other kids, and most likely a few other parents, because you won't be the only one. It can also serve as a great springboard for discussion, as you can sit down with your children later and pick their brains: "What stood out most for you in the speech? What does that mean to you? Does it fit with what you believe? What alternatives might be better?" etc. This kind of discussion could give you great insight into your children's worldview and how equipped they are to think for themselves.

Just my opinion. I welcome any comments, of course.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My fax to Harry Reid

Dear Senator Reid,

I am one of many progressive Independent voters who are becoming increasingly worried at what we see as the erosion of support for a public option among our lawmakers. The vexing part is, we cannot understand why. We currently have a Democratic White House, a huge House majority, a healthy Senate majority, and 78% public support for it! Yet we are afraid that those charged with crafting a bill are caving to special interests, which is NOT what we voted for last November! Americans overwhelmingly voted – and not just voted, but pounded pavement, burned up phone lines, made signs and flyers and buttons at our own expense, held meetings, and, like me, became very involved in the political process for the first time in our lives. Politics is now in my blood, and I am still in the fight. As a veteran whose health care is fully covered by the VA, I have no personal stake in this issue, but it is very important to me because this crisis threatens our economy and the very fabric of our collective lives.

The only way to true reform is a robust public option. “Co-ops” just won’t be powerful enough to negotiate with providers and drug companies. Besides that, even Group Health – the model currently being touted – took 60 years to develop. We don’t have that long to wait. Americans are losing their homes, their livelihoods, and indeed their lives due to medical costs. Our nation has become a worldwide laughingstock, as other countries cannot understand why we seem to be trying to kill ourselves!

If the bill that comes out of Congress this fall does not contain a robust public option, I predict massive Democratic losses in 2010, and Obama will become a one-term president. I, for one, promise to support the opponent of any lawmaker who votes against the public option, whether they represent my state or not. That’s how strongly I feel about this issue, and I am one of millions.

Democrats need to stand up against the lobbyists and special interests NOW, and do what’s right for the American people. You know what’s right, regardless of what the right-wing media pawns are feeding a fear-conditioned populace. Please do it. As soon as President Obama signs a bill containing the public option, to be enacted immediately (not in 2013!), his approval rating will soar and Democrats will find renewed support among the people. If the bill Congress sends him doesn’t measure up, it will only give Republicans the ammunition they need to paint Democrats as weak and unable to pass a bill even with an across-the-board majority.

Get your Senators in a room, shut the door, sit them down, and lay it out for them. Get Ed Schultz in there if you have to – he has offered his services if that’s what it takes. Just get it done. Our nation is looking to you – don’t let us down.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fred Meyer employees fired for random mistakes

I am a regular customer at the Fred Meyer Tacoma/Pacific store, as it is literally a 5-minute walk from my house. Today as I walked past a house on the next block, a rolled-up flyer in the cyclone fence caught my eye. It was about a couple of former Fred Meyer cashiers fired for accidentally handing back customers' checks for $12 and $26, asking that the customers who mistakenly received those checks return to the store to make good on their purchases.

I didn't take the flyer with me, in case by some coincidence that homeowner was actually one of the check-writers. But I remembered the name Juanita Carroll, and as soon as I got home I searched the Internet for some kind of petition or blog post about this lady's predicament. Nothing. I called the store and spoke to a manager, and even offered to pay the amount of the check, but the manager told me that unfortunately this was the store policy, and even if the employee offers to pay the amount, they must still be fired (they are eligible for rehire if they remain active in the union).

That's when I went back to the house where I'd found the flyer. I knocked on the door and explained that I would like to take it with me, once the man had read it just to be sure he wasn't one of those customers. He seemed to find my request rather laughable, but I didn't care. I came home and called the union straightaway. Apparently this has only recently become a problem with Fred Meyer. And it's a problem I really can't understand. Why would you fire an experienced 19-year employee who says she loves her job (that kind of person can't be easy to find -- I'd have to pop happy pills or wear a hidden vibrator to make it through a day as a cashier!) only to have to turn around and go to the expense of hiring and training someone new, someone who might not even last once they got a taste for what it's really like?

I couldn't believe the union didn't have an online petition set up to pressure Fred Meyer corporate to amend or at least reconsider this policy. I couldn't believe they didn't have diaries posted at DailyKos or HuffPo or even our local newspaper, the TNT. I rely routinely on Fred Meyer for many of my shopping needs, but I would boycott them in a heartbeat to get them to change this heartless policy. In today's economic environment, a job loss can literally be life-threatening. I didn't go put my life on the line in Iraq only to come home and see my fellow citizens' security jeopardized not by fanatical terrorists but by greedy corporate policies.

This is not the end of this, but only the beginning.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

For those who think government can't do anything right

From an email forward -- I can't take credit, but this belongs in a blog:

Once again, for the benefit of the government-can't-get-anything-right flock:

This morning you were awoken by your alarm clock (powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy). You then took a shower (in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility). After that, you turned on the TV (to one of the FCC regulated channels) to see what the national weather service (of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) determined the weather was going to be like (using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration). You watched this while eating your breakfast of (US Department of Agriculture inspected) cereal and taking your blood pressure medication (which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration).

At the appropriate time (as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory), you get into your (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved) automobile and set out to work (on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation), possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel (of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency), paying in cash (legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank). On the way out the door you deposit any mail you have to be sent out (via the US Postal Service) and drop the kids off at (public) school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work (thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), enjoying another two meals (which again do not kill you because of the USDA), you drive your (NHTSA) car back home (on the DOT roads), to your house (which has not burned down in your absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it's valuables thanks to the local police department).

You then log on to the internet (which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) and post on www.freerepublic.com, www.redstate.com and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

The only reason government doesn't work NOW is because conservative Republican administrations defunded and/or patronage staffed them with people with ties to special business interests: to wit the last FDA, Dept of Interior and Agriculture under Bush. No one seems to have a problem with pumping over $500Bil to the Defense Department, which last I heard is a socialized entity.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some replies to random criticisms of the President and his plans

NOTE: The following exchange picks up in the middle of what began as a phone conversation and turned into a series of emails. So there's not necessarily a lot of continuity or background here, but I'm not up to rewriting it at the moment. There are also a couple of graphs missing, but they were just added originally for emphasis, and don't contribute anything vital to the gist of what is said. Much of it centers on the health care debate, so if there's anything here you can use, you're welcome to it! ~~C.)

LEGEND: Barb's words in brick red, Cheryl's in teal blue

I don't need to respond to this except to say that your dad and I still don't believe that mankind is the primary reason for any so-called "global warming", which we note has been changed to "climate change" by some, so that if it's either global warming or global cooling, it's still man's fault.

It's true that topic is still being debated, but regardless of whether we're warming or cooling, and why, I wholeheartedly support efforts to reduce pollution on principle. Cap and trade was hugely successful in curbing the acid rain phenomenon (at a fraction of projected costs), so it's proven to work.

We want to make it clear that we really don't care if President Obama turns up the thermostat or not, leaving a bigger "carbon footprint". What bothers us is that we heard him say in one of his speeches that Americans need to "tighten their belts" regarding energy use. We reiterate - should he not lead by example? We mentioned that Jimmy Carter turned down the thermostat in the White House and wore warm sweaters. That's comfy. And we think he had a lot of stress also – rampant inflation, gas shortages, American hostages in Iran, etc.

All I can say is that I know he welcomes every American's opinion. Jimmy Carter set a good example, that's true. Perhaps the Obamas could do more. Instead of criticizing him behind his back, why not let him know how you feel about it? He may not even be aware how this issue is being perceived.

And as for his little trip to New York, we wonder what it cost the taxpayer, or did he pay for it out of his own pocket? Going to Camp David is a far cry from going to New York where the city had to foot the bill for hundreds of extra police, etc. We think all presidents need to get away for vacations, but this was not what we consider a vacation, but a little personal "junket". And this after he criticized CEO's for taking trips to Las Vegas.

Well, for one thing he was keeping a promise, which I support on principle. It took him four months to make good on it. And Mayor Bloomberg responded to the criticisms by saying, "We're ecstatic to have the Obamas come here. I can't think of anything that is better as an advertisement for our tourism industry, for Broadway, for our restaurants, for saying that this is a safe city and an affordable city… I would love to have the Obamas come back here as much as they want. It does cost us a little extra in security but given the advertising value of having the President and the First Lady come here is worth many times over that. It's a very good deal for us." That said, what would you guys have thought if I had constantly criticized Bush's 77 vacation trips to Crawford so he could clear brush and ride his bicycle, to the tune of $226,072 per trip, or $17,407,544 all told? I'm pretty sure it was Dad who once chided me for criticizing him during his presidency, as he felt it was unpatriotic.

I don't know if you know that the CBO head was a Democratic appointee. The office itself is bipartisan. They have no ax to grind with either party.

I consider myself an Independent, so any official's record is going to matter much more to me than his declared party.

It's interesting to note that you accept their views on tort reform, but not on the health care bill estimates.

It just makes sense to me. Yes, it's going to be real hard to project savings from universal access, because you have so many variables, so why even try? You don't know how many more people will seek preventive care and how effective that will be in hard figures. You can make general projections based on surveys and third party compilations, but would the CBO be comfortable basing a report on those? Probably not. It just stands to reason that as more people get regular, routine care at the doctor's office rather than the ER, costs would have to go down. One guy (on your side of the debate!) claimed to have found a report indicating that in Austin, one patient visited the ER 145 times in one year! Obviously the ER was not equipped to deal with his condition (did he have a vitamin deficiency? Allergies? ER's aren't set up to deal with those), and if he'd had a regular doctor who could monitor and treat him steadily, the system would have saved enormous sums of money. Here's one ER story from today, a local person who comments on the TNT blog:

"About 5 years ago my daughter scratched the inside of her wrist with a thumb tack while fooling around with some friends. A counselor at her high school saw it and over-reacted thinking she was some kind of "cutter". He sent her to the emergency room. This was 2 days before I qualified for health insurance through my work. My ER bill was almost $500. The doctor who came into the room to look at her wrist and asked her what happened was in the room for less than 5 minutes. I got a bill from the Physician's Group for nearly $1000. Additionally we were charged almost $100 for the band aid to cover her scratch. She was not allowed back in school until she saw a shrink. Another $120.

Yeah, health care costs are out of control and something needs to be done about it as soon as possible."

It's worth noting, though, that the New England Journal of Medicine projects savings of $1.5 trillion over ten years if its proposed mix of reforms is adopted.

Tort reform, on the other hand, is pretty easy to quantify. You have historical evidence of how much was awarded in malpractice suits, and insurance companies must certainly be able to provide some sort of figures on how those impact premiums. They can compare that with the impact to premiums from insurers' investment losses and make pretty solid conclusions. It's apples vs. oranges, to me.

It's our understanding that the main cost to insurance companies for medical malpractice cases comes from the settlements for the "pain and suffering" (not the medical costs) of the patient. This needs to be capped. Trial lawyers take on these cases for free and then reap a large percent of the money given to the aggrieved. John Edwards is a perfect case in point. He made millions off of such cases, and then put the money into special shelters so that he didn't have to pay as much income tax on it. Trial lawyers make large donations to the political parties. Whoever is in control, they should put a stop to this.

So if you go into the hospital to get a mole removed and by accident, they get you mixed up with someone who was supposed to get a double mastectomy, you should only be compensated the cost of the double mastectomy? Or maybe the cost of the DM plus the mole removal, as a consolation? What if you develop a systemic infection and need both arms and both legs amputated? (True story, see link below.) All that aside, though, the evidence shows that in states that have enacted tort reform, malpractice rates have actually risen, as they did when Texas instituted it.

There is an article on the House health care bill that I would like you to read. You can access it on http://www.nypost.com/php/pfriendly/print.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nypost.com%2Fseven%2F07172009%2Fpostopinion%2Fopedcolumnists%2Fos_broken_promises_179667.htm

This woman has read the House bill twice, and has noted some very disturbing things.

I don't know which bill that woman read, but I don't see anything about any "managed-care plan with limits on your access to specialists and tests" – if anything, the opposite is true! Currently if you have an HMO, a PPO, or a POS plan, these are all considered managed care, and frankly, I don't know of any other type of health insurance plan out there. The insurer gives you a list of "preferred providers" from which to choose. They give you a drug formulary from which your doctor must prescribe. Under H.R. 3200, there are minimum services that must be covered in a qualified plan, but no limits! They cannot put a lifetime cap on your benefits. There are other such protections, but if you read them, they all work to benefit the patient, not to limit anything!

As far as these nefarious "counseling" sessions to which Ms. McCaughey refers, this appears to be a pilot project consisting of not more than 30 providers who must meet rigorous standards in order to participate, the results of which will be used to compare "the understanding by Medicare beneficiaries of their medical treatment options, as compared to comparable Medicare beneficiaries who do not participate in a shared decision making process using patient decision aids." Many Medicare patients, even the non-elderly, are completely at a loss to understand what their benefits and options are. Did you know I'm officially covered under Medicare too, and I would never dare use it, simply because I don't have the foggiest idea how to access it? This program would apparently attempt to help people who find themselves in this boat. See Section 1236 and read it for yourself.

And then she skips from the House bill to the Senate bill, which, BTW, doesn't even exist yet – it hasn't even gone into markup in the Finance committee, as far as I know! And she complains that "huge sums" go into preventive care. Well, I don't know about anybody else, but my gut feeling says that preventive care costs a LOT less than corrective care! Much cheaper to pay a pregnant mother a home visit than to have her make stupid mistakes that'll wind up in a deformed baby who'll need intensive care all its life, wouldn't you say?

One other thing not attached to the above article. The Congress and the President (along with all government employees) will not have to partake in this program. They are exempted. Why is that?

First, they are already covered by a "heavily managed private plan" – and aren't you opposed to "managed care" (which I presume you currently have)? As for why the President and family shouldn't go on a public plan, well, if you watched his press conference, he said he already has a doctor following him around everywhere he goes. Would you really expect the POTUS to have to go downtown and sit in a doctor's office waiting for his checkup, while crap is hitting the fan back in the Oval Office? Not to mention the huge motorcade, security details, spending an hour beforehand clearing and securing the building, patting down all the employees, etc. Would that really make anybody happier? Besides, that argument is akin to asking, "If the mayor thinks a housing project is such a good idea, why doesn't he come live in it himself?" Does the First Family have to go on WIC just to prove it helps mothers with infants? It's a completely irrelevant question, IMO. A program can help a lot of people without making everybody from the top down participate. THAT would be socialism, wouldn't it? One thing Obama has promised from the beginning is that if you don't want to switch your insurance, you won't have to – and that includes him and members of Congress.

We want to recommend that you spend a little time listening to Michael Medved's radio program. He is on KTTH from 12-3 every weekday. He doesn't always talk about politics, but he is very knowledgeable. He is a conservative (formerly a liberal), and has a nearly perfect recall of facts and figures. He loves to debate, just like you. You will hear of some of these things we talk about that you have never heard of. Your dad listens to Air America also, besides just conservative talk. He listens to Ron Reagan, Stephanie Miller, and 2-3 others, so he gets a good cross-section of ideas. Talk radio is a very good place to hear news and ideas. A good addition to the Internet.

I listen to talk radio in the morning, but because I lack an AM antenna, the only station I can get is KIRO, 97.3 FM. They have guys from all over the spectrum there, pretty much. I am almost never within "radio range" from 12-3 p.m. on weekdays. However, I did get to hear an interview with Medved on that station the other day, where he was decrying the "birther" movement (people who still claim Obama isn't a US citizen). Knowing his conservative bent, I was pleasantly surprised.

We find it hard to believe that a child is still living in a hospital after eight years. Where is CPS in that state? There are many services available to such a child. Our friends John and Michele Wilbur are foster parents to two such girls; they have cerebral palsy, and Catholic Services worked with CPS to put them into the Wilbur's home.

What could CPS do? Doesn't foster care placement require the parent's consent except in cases of abuse or neglect? A child in the hospital isn't neglected, is she? I don't know all the legal ramifications – that's just from a letter that a social worker sent to Sen. Bernie Sanders in response to his solicitation. He compiled many more letters from his constituents into a booklet. To me, this is truly a pro-life issue. Read some of the stories. People dying of colon cancer because they couldn't afford screenings. A diabetic mother cannot afford her checkups and medications and leaves behind two orphans. Self-employed people with a family history of cancer who are afraid to go to the doctor for fear of having something noted in their record that would indicate a pre-existing condition, preventing them from ever getting insurance. This is an abomination in a prosperous country like ours!

We think they should have let them go into bankruptcy. The bankruptcy courts are very qualified to handle this sort of thing. They would have sorted out the mess and then regrouped to pay off creditors, re-do their business plans, etc. This happens all the time. The automakers would not have ceased to exist, they would have been reorganized. The government should not have interfered. We think the unions had a large part in this decision.

So the heads of the Big 3 came to Washington, not once but twice, to beg for help, and the unions made them do it? I can't even begin to think of a scenario where this could happen. Not that I believe all unions are evil, as some seem to think, either. There has to be a counterbalance to corporate greed. I'm afraid that too many in America have equated unfettered capitalism with godliness – seriously. They have begun to worship money. "Your life is not worth saving if I have to pay for it." Putting a price on a human life! "If you're poor, or sick, or a foreigner, tough luck – go crawl in a hole somewhere and stop sucking MY precious tax dollars, and taking up my doctor's valuable time. I'm busy, you know! Too busy to wait behind the likes of you. I've got money to make, while you – I can look at your bank balance and tell you what you're worth: ZERO!" Maybe I've been getting caught up in too many debates lately, but this is the kind of attitude that has my jaw on the floor, time after time – from some of the very people who elsewhere sanctimoniously declaim about the value of every human life. Does an embryo contribute to society? Of course not. But they'll defend an embryo to the death while condemning an illegal immigrant whose work helps put their lettuce on the table more cheaply! It boggles my mind.

As you may already know, your dad and I were against all three of the stimulus/TARP plans. Two in 2008 and one in 2009. We believe President Bush and President Obama were both wrong in doing this. The economy would have sorted itself out sooner than it is doing now. We heard on the radio today (7/21/09 - if we remember correctly, it was Geitner speaking) that the Administration does not know how the banks spent the money. This is very disturbing.

It is disturbing indeed. The previous administration wasn't real big on accountability (remember all the no-bid contracts that paid billions to Iraq contractors for work that was never completed, or worse, so shoddily performed that it actually killed soldiers). I believe that's one reason the current administration insisted on tight controls, and part ownership, in the auto companies – so that they could show taxpayers that they were indeed getting something for their money. Namely, a share in the companies. That's more than what we got for the bank bailouts!

I suppose no one will ever know what would have happened if the administration had not stepped in to save the auto makers. There were supposedly rumors that the Chinese were poised to buy them, and I don't fully understand all the ramifications of that, but I'm sure we don't want to become any more beholden to them than we already are.

Final Note from Dad:

He thinks that this is part of God's judgment which we have invited upon ourselves, currently through the mechanism of the voting process. He believes that God is quite unhappy with our persistent continuation of abortion and its legalization. Our current president in his viewpoint is not doing anything to alleviate it, despite his promises, but rather to encourage it through possible legislation (Freedom of Choice Act).

"God is not mocked, whatever a man (or nation) sows, that also shall it reap."

(Galations 6:7)

I will not for a moment defend abortion, any more than I would defend lying, cheating, hypocrisy, or adultery, all of which God strongly condemns in the Bible. Is America also under judgment for not criminalizing these practices? In Islamic societies, women are still put to death for adultery. Here in America, we see prominent figures routinely engaging in all that and more, and not only are they NOT harshly punished under our legal systems, they still get to be congressmen and even governors! Will God not also condemn us for allowing those acts without so much as a trial and imprisonment, let alone the death penalty?

The Bible also condemns oppression and denying justice to the downtrodden. Jesus says in Matt 12:7, "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent." Yet we've held some 800 men at Guantanamo for years, with no trial, no lawyer, no access to appeal, knowing all along that only a couple dozen were actually terrorists! This came from a former aide to then Sec of State Colin Powell, and was reported on FOX News. Are we also being condemned for our voting process, which allowed those responsible for that to come into power?

Opposition to abortion should support measures that will actually prevent it, IMO. Evidence shows that criminalization does not eliminate the problem, and indeed, in countries where it is most harshly punished, it is most prevalent. Mexico's rate is 40% higher than it is here, despite highly restrictive policies. It is lowest in Western Europe, where it is easily accessible (12 per 1000 women) versus Latin America, where it is mostly illegal (31 per 1000).

Women do not get abortions because they are legal – they get them because they do not see any other way to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. When you can't get regular medical care and have trouble keeping food on the table just for yourself, the thought of trying to raise a child can be simply overwhelming. Yet critics decry expenses in proposed health care plans that would provide care to expectant mothers, and affordable access to medical services! Obama has said from the start (I know you both read his book) that he supports preventive and supportive efforts to both decrease the rate of unplanned pregnancy and provide feasible options for those who find themselves with one. Health care reform could do much to alleviate the problem. How many teenage girls, finding themselves pregnant with nowhere to turn for sound medical advice or social support, see no way they could possibly handle it? Without legal options available, they will try any means – a friend suggests drinking this or inserting that, or some opportunistic individual seizes a new market niche and sets up shop in his kitchen, and we have a new crisis on our hands. When a woman develops a systemic infection from a botched abortion, is she going to seek real medical treatment, knowing she could be prosecuted? I told you the story of that woman in El Salvador (?) who already had one young child and got pregnant again. Her parents would surely kick her out of the house if she had another baby, so a friend gave her something to eat or drink (I don't recall which now), which made her very ill but didn't end the pregnancy. A month or so later, someone else told her about a woman she could see. There were no sanitary measures, and it was very painful, but she went through with it, mostly because she was drugged to dull the pain and couldn't resist strongly. When it was over, the woman told her she would have a fever for a few days, but not to seek medical attention because she would be arrested. Then her child got sick, so she took him to the doctor. The doctor noticed her jaundiced condition and questioned her on it, but she admitted nothing. She was taken to a hospital and examined, where evidence of the abortion was found. The woman was sent to prison.

Look what happened with Prohibition. It did nothing to curb alcohol use, but created a whole industry of bootlegging, speakeasies, and corruption. Look at the "war on drugs" – it costs us untold dollars in enforcement, creates a lively and lucrative smuggling industry, pads the pockets of the Mexican cartels, inflames violence at the border, and makes little impact on actual marijuana consumption.

I want us to focus on more programs that work, rather than naïvely believing, against all available evidence, that laws against any particular activity will eliminate it. Instead, criminalizing an activity often just drives it underground and provides fertile soil for corruption. People who cannot legally grow their own marijuana wind up buying it, creating a nefarious network of street dealers on the one end, and powerful drug cartels on the other end of the supply chain. Why should criminals be making money off drugs? I would rather see the issue brought out into the open, and the problem approached from an educational standpoint:

You can't really educate someone on the drawbacks of something that's illegal. Look at the massive anti-smoking and anti-drinking campaigns – these are legal substances, yet education and dissuasion programs seem to be successful. Smoking among adults has decreased from somewhere like 50% in the 60's to, I think, less than 25% today.

So anyway, I didn't mean to overwhelm you with statistics. My point is, I believe Obama IS taking steps to tackle the abortion problem – he's just taking a different approach than the one you think would be most effective.

Can you tell me, honestly, that you believe criminalizing abortion would eliminate it? And can you cite hard statistics to prove it?


Sunday, July 19, 2009

My letter to the President re: health care reform

Dear President Obama,

I just finished watching your July 17 weekly address online. Yet not one hour ago, I heard on the radio as I was getting out of bed that the proposed health care legislation coming out of the HELP committee, of which my Senator Patty Murray is a senior member, contains strong protections for the pharmaceutical industry. It bans the importation of medications from across the border; guarantees 12 years market exclusivity for brand-name drugs; and does not allow the federal government to negotiate prices. This is not the change you promised us during your campaign, Sir! Until now I've always felt comfortable that Sen. Murray would really act in the people's interests, so this revelation is particularly shocking to me, but it now falls upon you to promise to veto any new legislation that coddles Big Pharma. We can do so much better than this! I have been actively advocating for health care reform in my community, but unless we can find a way to rein in drug costs, any "reform" will wind up bankrupting us, as its opponents claim, and play right into Republicans' hands, as they will be able to continue to chant about "tax and spend" Democrats.

Please, use your veto power to put these important protections back into the bill before you sign anything! Real Americans are depending on you right now to give us real reform, which will go a long way toward not only making us healthier, but also toward balancing the budget and easing everyone's economic burden.

Please let me know what you will do to allow importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada, development of "generic" medications, and direct federal government negotiation with drug companies for the best prices.

Also, people keep asking me why there is still no way to view proposed legislation online for 5 days before you sign it, as you promised during your campaign. We voted for a transparent, accountable government. It's been six months now, and it's becoming harder and harder to mumble about possible technical barriers, licensing or privacy issues, etc. Please tell me why this is still not possible!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Soldier's rant about Michael Jackson coverage

Received this in email this morning -- wish I could say I wrote it, but it is purportedly from a soldier serving his 3rd Iraq tour:

Okay, I need to rant.

I was just watching the news, and I caught part of a report on Michael Jackson.. As we all know, Jackson died the other day. He was an entertainer who performed for decades. He made millions, he spent millions, and he did a lot of things that make him a villian to many people. I understand that his death would affect a lot of people and I respect those people who mourn his death, but that isn't the point of my rant.

Why is it that when ONE man dies, the whole of America loses their minds with grief. When a man dies whose only contribution to the country was to ENTERTAIN people, the Amercian people find the need to flock to a memorial in Hollywood and even Congress sees the need to hold a "moment of silence" for his passing?

Am I missing something here? ONE man dies and, all of a sudden, he's a freaking martyr because he entertained us for a few decades? What about all those SOLDIERS who have died to give us freedom? All those Soldiers who, knowing that they would be asked to fight in a war, still raised their hands and swore to defend the Constitution and the United States of America. Where is their moment of silence? Where are the people flocking to their graves or memorials and mourning over them because they made the ultimate sacrifice? Why is it when a Soldier dies, there are more people saying "good riddence," and "thank God for IEDs?" When did this country become so calloused to the sacrifice of GOOD MEN and WOMEN that they can arbitrarily blow off their deaths and instead, throw themselves into mourning for a "Pop Icon?"

I think that if they are going to hold a moment of silence IN CONGRESS for Michael Jackson, they need to hold a moment of silence for every service member killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They need to PUBLICLY recognize every life that has been lost so that the American people can live their callous little lives in the luxury and freedom that WE, those that are living and those that have gone on, have provided for them. But wait ..., that would take too much time because there have been so many willing to make that sacrifice. After all, we will never make millions of dollars. We will never star in movies, or write hit songs that the world will listen too. We only shed our blood, sweat and tears so that people can enjoy what they have.

Sorry if I have offended, but I needed to say it.

Remember these five words the next time you think of someone who is serving in the military;

"So that others may live.."

If you ever want to bring tears to somebody's eyes, just do this next time you meet a soldier in uniform. It'll make you both feel good.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Letter from a right-wing nut job to legislators

Okay, here is a letter that the Glenn Beck fan club is apparently sending to their legislators. Note the highly persuasive use of facts, examples, and logic:

I'm a home grown American citizen, 53, registered Democrat all my life. Before the last presidential election I registered as a Republican because I no longer felt the Democratic Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. Now I no longer feel the Republican Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. The fact is I no longer feel any political party or representative in Washington represents my views or works to pursue the issues important to me. There must be someone. Please tell me who you are. Please stand up and tell me that you are there and that you're willing to fight for our Constitution as it was written. Please stand up now. You might ask yourself what my views and issues are that I would horribly feel so disenfranchised by both major political parties. What kind of nut job am I? Will you please tell me?

Well, these are briefly my views and issues for which I seek representation:

One, illegal immigration. I want you to stop coddling illegal immigrants and secure our borders. Close the underground tunnels. Stop the violence and the trafficking in drugs and people. No amnesty, not again. Been there, done that, no resolution. P.S., I'm not a racist. This isn't to be confused with legal immigration.

Two, the TARP bill, I want it repealed and I want no further funding supplied to it. We told you no, but you did it anyway. I want the remaining unfunded 95% repealed. Freeze, repeal.

Three: Czars, I want the circumvention of our checks and balances stopped immediately. Fire the czars. No more czars. Government officials answer to the process, not to the president. Stop trampling on our Constitution and honor it.

Four, cap and trade. The debate on global warming is not over. There is more to say.

Five, universal healthcare. I will not be rushed into another expensive decision. Don't you dare try to pass this in the middle of the night and then go on break. Slow down!

Six, growing government control. I want states rights and sovereignty fully restored. I want less government in my life, not more. Shrink it down. Mind your own business. You have enough to take care of with your real obligations. Why don't you start there.

Seven, ACORN. I do not want ACORN and its affiliates in charge of our 2010 census. I want them investigated. I also do not want mandatory escrow fees contributed to them every time on every real estate deal that closes. Stop the funding to ACORN and its affiliates pending impartial audits and investigations. I do not trust them with taking the census over with our taxpayer money. I don't trust them with our taxpayer money. Face up to the allegations against them and get it resolved before taxpayers get any more involved with them. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, hello. Stop protecting your political buddies. You work for us, the people. Investigate.

Eight, redistribution of wealth. No, no, no. I work for my money. It is mine. I have always worked for people with more money than I have because they gave me jobs. That is the only redistribution of wealth that I will support. I never got a job from a poor person. Why do you want me to hate my employers? Why ‑‑ what do you have against shareholders making a profit?

Nine, charitable contributions. Although I never got a job from a poor person, I have helped many in need. Charity belongs in our local communities, where we know our needs best and can use our local talent and our local resources. Butt out, please. We want to do it ourselves.

Ten, corporate bailouts. Knock it off. Sink or swim like the rest of us. If there are hard times ahead, we'll be better off just getting into it and letting the strong survive. Quick and painful. Have you ever ripped off a Band‑Aid? We will pull together. Great things happen in America under great hardship. Give us the chance to innovate. We cannot disappoint you more than you have disappointed us.

Eleven, transparency and accountability. How about it? No, really, how about it? Let's have it. Let's say we give the buzzwords a rest and have some straight honest talk. Please try ‑‑ please stop manipulating and trying to appease me with clever wording. I am not the idiot you obviously take me for. Stop sneaking around and meeting in back rooms making deals with your friends. It will only be a prelude to your criminal investigation. Stop hiding things from me.

Twelve, unprecedented quick spending. Stop it now.

Take a breath. Listen to the people. Let's just slow down and get some input from some nonpoliticians on the subject. Stop making everything an emergency. Stop speed reading our bills into law. I am not an activist. I am not a community organizer. Nor am I a terrorist, a militant or a violent person. I am a parent and a grandparent. I work. I'm busy. I'm busy. I am busy, and I am tired. I thought we elected competent people to take care of the business of government so that we could work, raise our families, pay our bills, have a little recreation, complain about taxes, endure our hardships, pursue our personal goals, cut our lawn, wash our cars on the weekends and be responsible contributing members of society and teach our children to be the same all while living in the home of the free and land of the brave.

I entrusted you with upholding the Constitution. I believed in the checks and balances to keep from getting far off course. What happened? You are very far off course. Do you really think I find humor in the hiring of a speed reader to unintelligently ramble all through a bill that you signed into law without knowing what it contained? I do not. It is a mockery of the responsibility I have entrusted to you. It is a slap in the face. I am not laughing at your arrogance. Why is it that I feel as if you would not trust me to make a single decision about my own life and how I would live it but you should expect that I should trust you with the debt that you have laid on all of us and our children. We did not want the TARP bill. We said no. We would repeal it if we could. I am sure that we still cannot. There is such urgency and recklessness in all of the recent spending.

From my perspective, it seems that all of you have gone insane. I also know that I am far from alone in these feelings. Do you honestly feel that your current pursuits have merit to patriotic Americans? We want it to stop. We want to put the brakes on everything that is being rushed by us and forced upon us. We want our voice back. You have forced us to put our lives on hold to straighten out the mess that you are making. We will have to give up our vacations, our time spent with our children, any relaxation time we may have had and money we cannot afford to spend on you to bring our concerns to Washington. Our president often knows all the right buzzword is unsustainable. Well, no kidding. How many tens of thousands of dollars did the focus group cost to come up with that word? We don't want your overpriced words. Stop treating us like we're morons.

We want all of you to stop focusing on your reelection and do the job we want done, not the job you want done or the job your party wants done. You work for us and at this rate I guarantee you not for long because we are coming. We will be heard and we will be represented. You think we're so busy with our lives that we will never come for you? We are the formerly silent majority, all of us who quietly work , pay taxes, obey the law, vote, save money, keep our noses to the grindstone and we are now looking up at you. You have awakened us, the patriotic spirit so strong and so powerful that it had been sleeping too long. You have pushed us too far. Our numbers are great. They may surprise you. For every one of us who will be there, there will be hundreds more that could not come. Unlike you, we have their trust. We will represent them honestly, rest assured. They will be at the polls on voting day to usher you out of office. We have cancelled vacations. We will use our last few dollars saved. We will find the representation among us and a grassroots campaign will flourish. We didn't ask for this fight. But the gloves are coming off. We do not come in violence, but we are angry. You will represent us or you will be replaced with someone who will. There are candidates among us when he will rise like a Phoenix from the ashes that you have made of our constitution.

Democrat, Republican, independent, libertarian. Understand this. We don't care. Political parties are meaningless to us. Patriotic Americans are willing to do right by us and our Constitution and that is all that matters to us now. We are going to fire all of you who abuse power and seek more. It is not your power. It is ours and we want it back. We entrusted you with it and you abused it. You are dishonorable. You are dishonest. As Americans we are ashamed of you. You have brought shame to us. If you are not representing the wants and needs of your constituency loudly and consistently, in spite of the objections of your party, you will be fired. Did you hear? We no longer care about your political parties. You need to be loyal to us, not to them. Because we will get you fired and they will not save you. If you do or can represent me, my issues, my views, please stand up. Make your identity known. You need to make some noise about it. Speak up. I need to know who you are. If you do not speak up, you will be herded out with the rest of the sheep and we will replace the whole damn congress if need be one by one. We are coming. Are we coming for you? Who do you represent? What do you represent? Listen. Because we are coming. We the people are coming.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Clean energy, now!

For posterity and comment, here is a letter I just sent to Rep. Norm Dicks:

As one of your loyal constituents, a wildlife enthusiast and an American concerned with the future of my country, I strongly urge you to defend, strengthen and pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) to safeguard our communities and our natural world for generations to come.

Clean energy is a win-win-win proposition: good for the economy, good for the environment (which is in desperate peril right now due to global warming) and good for national security by reducing our dependence on oil obtained from nations that might not have our best interests at heart.

This issue is probably the most important to me out of all the challenges facing America right now, and my votes all the way up and down the ticket will go to those candidates who strongly support clean energy in our communities and our nation. Sadly, that support is difficult to detect sometimes, but with your leadership, we can make clean energy a priority where it counts -- in our own backyards.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The handyman

It was last week, I think, when I attacked my backyard with my mower, and afterward, my weed-whacker. It was really hot out (when I was in Iraq, I vowed never ever to complain again about the heat in WA, but it was hot). Afterward, I decided to take a stab at the tall weeds behind the garage, but quickly gave up. They were just too tall and it would have taken too long.

Across the alley a little later, visiting a friend, I spied a man driving down the alley picking up aluminum cans to turn in for money. I went up to him and asked if he might know someone who'd be willing to take out all those weeds and grasses, and the ivy between the two garages. He took my phone number, and Sean called me the next day. We arranged a time for him to come over and estimate the job.

Sean was quite a bit older than I had expected. He had a slight frame, a scraggly appearance, and a few missing teeth that were visible every time he flashed his frequent, cheery smile. As we talked about the job and what I wanted done, it seemed he couldn't wait to get to work -- he was idly bending down and pulling up weeds and ivy as we spoke! Sean estimated 4 hours at most, $10 per hour. Wow. Preparing for the worst, I tried to mentally justify $40 for this job even as we agreed he would come by at 7:30 the next morning to do it. I told him I'd check on him after a couple hours and see how things were coming and whether I wanted to continue.

The next morning, I peeked out my window at 7:45 and could see his truck outside my back fence. I poured a glass of ice water and prepared to bring it out to him. As soon as I opened the back door, Sage began barking, loud and long. I thought it was just because of the truck, but when we reached the fence, I realized Sean had brought his dog, too! I hesitated a moment -- I had never met this dog, and what would happen if I opened the gate? But finally I decided to take the risk, and Sage and Tank met one another and went through their heirarchy rituals until Tank found a shady spot to lie down and Sage concentrated on her favorite bone.

I went out and told Sean there was a glass of ice water on the bed of his pickup truck. To my amazement, he was already almost done with the ivy, and the tall grass behind the garage was already mowed down! There was very little left for him to do, really... As we chatted, he mentioned his union job and how they kept telling him to hang on, there was work coming, but each day nothing, so he had to take odd jobs in the meantime just to make ends meet. He mentioned another job he had started, and was supposed to finish, but the husband decided to finish it himself. Sean seemed to maintain a very upbeat attitude in spite of all this; he was hopeful, cheerful, and respectful, calling me ma'am throughout his work here.

When he finally finished around 8:30, I went out to inspect his work. Everything was done to perfection -- nothing more and nothing less than what I had asked, even though my directions might have been a bit vague ("just clean this all up, get rid of this junk," etc.). It was perfect. And he had done it in a little over an hour. I paid him for an hour and a half.

Sean took his first drink of the ice water I'd brought him when he was all finished. He obviously relished it, and when he tried to hand the glass back to me half-full, I said, "No rush, finish it if you'd like!" He took another couple big swigs and was done. Tank was already in the truck, and Sean described the full day ahead of him, including applying for a production job at a Sumner bakery.

It took Sean a while to leave, though, because he had an interlock device on his ignition, and it took a while for it to warm up. I found that out while I was rolling up my extension cord. Now, I know that anybody with one of these devices is paying a pretty penny to keep it installed. Which made me admire and appreciate Sean all the more for showing up on time and knocking out this job in a quarter of the time he had originally estimated.

Going through my morning routine, I couldn't get him out of my mind. Finally, about noon, my brain woke up and I called his cell, to let him know he could put me down as a reference on any job application he might turn in. He wasn't going to the Sumner bakery that day, though -- his union had called and he was on a flagging job as we spoke.

Something made me sniffle a little as we hung up. Maybe it was the hope that Sean would finally find some permanent employment despite his former setbacks. Maybe it was a bit of shame, the Susan Boyle variety, for having sort of judged him as a rather lazy ne'er-do-well based on his appearance, when he turned out to be one of the most reliable, honest, and hardworking helpers I've ever hired. Maybe it was a measure of regret for not having paid him more. I mean, he could have followed my instructions to a T, but that would have meant removing a section of fence, since one section of ivy/blackberry bushes covers an area where there's no fence underneath. Removing that would have left my backyard vulnerable. And Sean was wise enough to alert me to this before just plowing ahead. I hadn't even known about this. I assumed my yard was fully fenced!

Some of my neighbors made fun of me for having someone else do this work instead of doing it myself. But I don't feel bad. Sean needed the work more than I needed the money. And in the process, I was privileged to meet somebody who truly maintains a positive outlook even when circumstances might dictate otherwise. Despite all the reasons Sean might have had to complain about one thing or another, he never did. Not one word of complaint ever escaped his lips in my presence. I wonder if I can live up to his example.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts for a graduate

© Make up your own mind. Everybody sees the world through his or her own lens, and none is 20/20. Value others’ opinions, and even seek them out, but ultimately stay true to what YOU know.
© You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself. Do something every day just for your own well-being, and consider it your most important task of the day. This is one more way to serve your fellow man, by maintaining your physical, mental, and emotional health.
© Cherish your passions – they are the bubbles in the champagne of your life, and may provide clues to its purpose.
© It is easy to be friends with people who are popular and “cool.” It is hard to be a friend to those who need it most. But, which would you rather be remembered for?
© Vote in every election. It is not only every citizen’s duty, but also a priceless privilege that better men and women than you and me have fought and died for.
© Learn to laugh at yourself. Remember, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”
© The earth was God’s first gift to us, and one of His first commands was to take care of it. Do your part every day to make the planet a little better place to live. It’ll make you feel good inside, I promise.
© Befriend an animal. Even if you cannot be an animal guardian yourself at certain stages of life, there are always neighbors who need a dog walked once in a while. Animals possess a special wisdom, and you will learn much from them.
© No matter how successful, benevolent, or wise you may become, you will always have your critics. Even Jesus had them. Embrace whatever truths they may reveal to you, and let the rest fall by the wayside. If Jesus couldn’t please everybody, neither can you.
© Hold fast to your hopes and dreams, and know that cynicism is a cancer of the soul. It will blunt your awareness and cut you off from life’s joy and beauty. Don’t let it take root.
© Potatoes were once considered poisonous. What people, places, or things have you deemed toxic? Make it a point to go on an inner “potato hunt” periodically, and update your assessments, or you may miss out on some enriching experiences and relationships.
© Nourish your body with good, clean food; your mind with good, clean pursuits; and most of all your soul with love – because ultimately your body and mind will grow feeble, but your love can stay strong forever.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tiller's killer, and -- empathy?

Dr. Tiller's murder was a cold-blooded act motivated by nothing other than self-righteous hatred, and deserves full prosecution as such under the law. I hope his killer serves every minute of the hard time he's got coming to him.

Having said that, though, I feel a note of empathy needs to be inserted here amidst all the righteous outrage. Yes, empathy, our (or rather "their") favorite new dirty word. Because we'll never overcome that type of blind bloodlust unless we can begin to understand what motivates them.

I know a couple of passionate anti-abortion crusaders. They're my own folks. We've had many an animated discussion of the subject. So I know what kind of brick wall we're up against here.

Plain and simple, Dr. Tiller was, to them, a mass murderer bent on destroying innocent babies. Never mind the mother's rights, such as they may or may not exist -- the important thing was the babies' rights, and if the mother wouldn't defend them, then it was up to somebody. Murdering Tiller is, in their view, as noble an act as taking down someone who is about to start spraying shotgun fire into a packed stadium crowd.

I'm pretty certain my folks don't condone Dr. Tiller's murder. But I'm not so certain they don't condemn it, either, and I believe I understand why.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

The story of Sage and me

When I got back from Iraq in 2004, I was seriously messed up. Fortunately, I found a good therapist within a month of my return, and spent 2 weeks in an in-patient program in Seattle.

Part of my therapy involved walking. I loved to walk at Point Defiance, as well as in my neighborhood. Whenever I walked, I carried dog treats, and I got to know all the dogs along my route.

One of those dogs was Sage. I used to pet her through the fence and give her a treat before moving on, just like everybody else.

One day, Sage was out of her yard, on her porch. This was very unusual. I called the number on her collar, the vet, and they told me the number they had on file was disconnected! Had she been abandoned?

I gave my phone number to the fire department just down the block (I was living in a no-pets apartment) and asked them to call me if no one came home.

No word from the fire department. A few days later, I was walking by the same home, and the front door was open. I introduced myself as the lady who had found Sage in the front yard. "Oh yeah," said the man, "She's been getting out a lot lately. I'm gonna hafta start chaining her up in the backyard when I go to work." Chaining her up??? I replied, "I walk every day. Could I walk her, too?"

He relented, and I made it my business to be there before noon each day to walk Sage. Even in the winter, when I couldn't even get my car out of my apartment complex, I took the bus to walk Sage. Eventually I bought a house right across the alley from her, so we never have to be apart.

Sage is my love and my life. All three classes of antidepressants had failed to quash the suicidal urges welling up within me. When the docs gave up and asked what I wanted to do, I said "Let's see how it goes without meds. I have a wonderful puppy to help me."

Sage has adapted to her role perfectly. In the store, she walks beside me, stopping wherever I do. In therapy sessions, she lets go and lets everybody pet her. She knows how to negotiate sliding glass doors. People always think she's way older than she is. That's because they've never seen her chase deer!

I used to put a hunting collar on her, which would emit a loud sound when the remote was activated, just to be able to know where she was. No, her owner never contributed to the cost of that. But the collar wore out and I decided not to replace it. She had demonstrated that she would come back within minutes, enough times that I figured it was safe to trust her.

And that's what's makes me smile -- the trust. I can run up to her and act like I'm going to stomp on her head, and she won't even flinch. I love that. It mean she knows I would never ever hurt her. It demonstrates a level of trust that I don't have for anybody yet, except maybe Sage.

Thank you, Sage, for saving my life. You are the most precious girlie in the whole wide world.


Monday, May 18, 2009

My foray into Glenn Beck-land

Curse my inveterate curiosity, but I just had to join the Tacoma 9/12 Project Meetup group and attend their second meeting the other night. It was interesting, to say the least.

I arrived promptly at 5:00, but the meeting seemed to be already underway. Soon we moved into a smaller, private room, though, which was nice because I was afraid the background noise would interfere with my sound recording. We had to start with the Pledge of Allegiance, which meant the group leader had to dash out to his truck to retrieve a small American flag.

Then we moved on to introductions, new people first. When it came my turn, I just said I had found them on Meetup.com and was intrigued, so decided to come see what they were all about! They seemed happy about that...

One new member was from the Federal Way area, and was there because her own area's Meetup group was "kinda dead." Why does Tacoma seem like the magnet for right-wing nutcases? Is it some kind of poison gas the port's spewing out or something? Even our "progressive" politicians aren't worth the ink I'd waste in putting an X by their name. A friend seriously suggested I run for city council, because if Tacoma's ever going to turn its reputation around, we citizens have to start getting involved in a bigger way.

They discussed the merits/demerits of mailing letters directly to legislators. One lady thought that if something arrived in a sealed envelope, the legislator was obliged to open it him- or her-self. I actually cut in to say that not only wasn't that true, but that mailed hard-copy letters might take longer to reach a legislator than email or faxes, due to security measures. Hey, I live to serve, even misguided folks like these!

The leader then shifted to a discussion of our nation's "extreme vulnerability" to EMP threat. I listened as long as I could before interjecting that I had studied this topic over 20 years ago, and it was hardly a new threat. The fact is, we're always going to be vulnerable to EMP, as long as nuclear weapons technology exists. You can't put knowledge and technology back into the bag, even if all nuclear weapons were abolished. But the leader didn't want to hear it. We weren't vulnerable, he contended, until Iran and North Korea began working on their own nuclear capabilities. I didn't argue, but that just makes us more threatened, not more vulnerable. There's a distinction.

Ironically, he had just criticized the media for, "even before this administration," feeding the American public "crisis-mentality news." Does he realize that that means they were reporting on Bush? That's who was devoted to scaring us into forfeiting our Constitutional rights and invading a country that was no menace to us. And did he not see the incongruence of this remark, coming as introduction to his EMP threat warning? Obama is "very naïve," he complained, for using diplomacy to defuse the potential for nuclear holocaust, thinking we're all going to "sit down and sing Kumbaya together." Does he not realize that Iran's nuclear program started in the 60's and 70's, with US assistance and blessing? And that concerns about its misuse began under Bush's watch? All our bluster and bombast hasn't deterred them one bit. Our invasion of Iraq only showed them that the only "shocking" thing about our fearsome "shock and awe" campaign was how easily we were driven back by a rag-tag band of insurgents. Rummy let us get beat by refusing to acknowledge the resistance we'd meet, and deploy adequate forces in the first place. That's what has emboldened Iran -- NOT the olive branch Obama's now offering them.

Next rant: disclosure of interrogation techniques in the form of Bush memos. I couldn't help remarking that I figured any detainee that ever got released probably talked long and loud about his detention, and whatever was in those memos, while news to Americans, was probably old news to Arabs and fundamentalist Muslims. But I backed off when the leader rather pointedly retorted that the bad guys were most likely still in detention. Well, that may or may not be -- we'd have to actually interrogate and investigate them to know, and in many cases, investigations weren't even conducted. But I bit my lip: who's being naïve now? Hundreds of them have been released, guilty or innocent. Does anyone imagine that each and every one has not told stories over and over again about what they saw, and heard, and experienced while incarcerated? And this is the modern world now -- word travels fast. No, the only people who didn't know, and didn't want to know, what was going on behind those walls were the American people.

Next up: public schools. I know, what's this got to do with EMP or interrogation techniques? Only one thing -- common right-wing agenda. Leader, a teacher, bemoaned the encroachment of "the PC" in public schools, "under the false premise of separation of church and state." He read an excerpt from this book they're all reading, in which it says that the Founding Fathers intended to promote "all religions" equally. I couldn't resist asking how they were supposed to do that. Was told that that was part of our later discussion. Otay.... Incidentally, I wonder if I might have blown my cover by noting that I had never heard of the book before then, only to discover in an Amazon review that apparently Glenn Beck has been hawking it on his show!

But the leader's intent was to show that, rather than separating church and state, the Founding Fathers really intended to offer all religions an equal opportunity to flourish and utilize public facilities if they so desired. How this led into a discussion of the encroachment of Islam on modern society escaped me -- it seemed to happen in a flash, and nobody apparently even noticed that if you're going to say "all religions," you've got to include Islam too! The words "fear" and "scare" kept popping up in every other sentence, until the leader shook his head and sadly informed us that it was "probably going to be like the French Revolution," leading one older lady to go off on "living in Montana," and something about guns. My head was spinning, trying to keep up with it all. One minute we're talking about school curricula, and the next we're wringing our hands in fear of a Muslim takeover?

In another blinding pivot, literally within the space of one sentence, the discussion then shifted from a serious examination of Montana gun laws to gay marriage! It's a good thing I got it all on audio, because if I had been taking notes, I would have suspected some pretty huge gaps in my recording. One astute member informed us triumphantly that just last week, the AMA admitted not having found evidence of a "gay gene." Thus, being gay is a choice! The younger man sitting next to him noted that gays already have the same rights as everyone else -- "they could still marry an opposite-sex person!" Now, why would any person want to marry any other person, gay or straight, to whom there was no sexual attraction? Sure, some do it for money, citizenship, or similar practical reasons, but the vast majority of people want to marry someone they desire to be intimate with. Does this guy really believe that, just because a gay man has the right to marry a lesbian, they have the same rights as straight people? In order to have the same rights, wouldn't you have to be allowed to marry any consenting adult human being you wanted to?

The leader then assured us that he would "like to see us all have happiness." What? Was he really going to come out in support of gay marriage? "But don't destroy the institution of marriage." Oops, I guess not.... Because gay marriage would inevitably lead to polygamy -- it's about to happen in Canada right now. God help us all!

How this led to a questioning of President Obama's birth certificate wasn't entirely clear. But the leader made sure we knew that the copy we've all seen online isn't a birth certificate -- it's a "certificate of live birth," and there is a difference, he stated! I couldn't resist remarking that my own original birth certificate says "Certificate of Live Birth" at the top. Perhaps I'm not a US citizen after all?

At this point, my recorder stopped. But it's worth noting that all of these topics were raised and discussed within the space of under 45 minutes! EMP, interrogation techniques, public schools, Islamic rule, Montana survivalism, gay marriage, Obama's citizenship, and more! Amazing, these people.... But oh so predictable.

I wonder if they've pegged me as an infiltrator. Indeed, near the end of the 2-hour meeting, one lady piped up and actually asked, "Should we worry about being infiltrated?" The general consensus seemed to come down to "no," because there really wasn't any way to prevent it. And besides, as soon as anybody heard the logic and reason behind their carefully thought-out positions, they could not help but be converted anyway. Righhhht....

Will I go back? I haven't decided. They don't really seem to have an organized campaign afoot to target legislators and trumpet their agenda. It's mostly on an individual level right now, although they are planning to stage a protest at the health care rally coming up in Seattle soon, at which Patty Murray will be speaking. And, those who can will be attending the weekly Pierce County Council meetings at 3:00 every Tuesday. This might be something we need to think about doing as well, because this county, and Tacoma in particular, seem to be home to an oddly disproportionate percentage of these folks, and the last thing we need is for them to shout the loudest.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dan Choi and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

There's a lot of outrage among liberals right now at the Army's dismissal of Dan Choi, the gay Arabic linguist lieutenant who came out publicly on TV. Well, unlike some of my more conservative friends and family, I really have no personal rancor toward or condemnation of gays. As long as they don't harass me (and that goes for straights, too), their sexual practices are a personal matter between them, their partners, their doctors, and God, who sees beyond appearances and judges every heart rightly. In short, it's just none of my business.

But I think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a terrible policy to enact. I was a sergeant on active duty when Clinton first proposed allowing LGBT to serve openly. My first gut reaction was, "What a leadership nightmare. Now we're going to have to deal with troops who refuse to shower or bunk together; blanket parties; cliques and "black sheep" when we're having a hard enough time building unit cohesion and esprit de corps; hell, possibly even fragging and other tragic consequences. You can't FORCE people to truly accept one another. The military's not ready for this!"

Military leaders must've voiced the same concerns, and the right undoubtedly pressured him to retract in order to score their own political points. So Clinton, rather than retracting completely, goes, "Allright, we won't go that far, just don't ask, don't tell... (winkwink)" At that point, I thought, "How chickenshit. Grow a pair, please, Mr. Prez."

There was a young gay black private in my unit, although not in my squad. He used to confide in me about his trips to see his boyfriends and such. Nobody seemed to have a problem with him, fortunately, but he was pretty discreet. I doubt anybody in command knew anything about it.

Choi's mistake was in trotting out his orientation on national TV, for what? To get attention? To force the administration's hand? Sorry, Mr. Choi, but have you noticed that the President has just a few little emergencies he's sorta tied up with right now? Could this have just waited a while, ya think? Because right now, DADT is still in effect. And surely you're smart enough to know that Obama's not going to suddenly throw all his political capital your way when he needs it for so many other things. Some of us are wearing ourselves ragged pleading for environmental and species protections, health care reform, and other priorities that are literally matters of life and death to many Americans. So could we just stop stirring the pot if possible, at least until the country and the world are in a little more comfortable spot economically, environmentally, and strategically?

Choi knew what he was doing. What did he expect Obama to do in response? I don't blame the administration one bit.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My questions for Jim Merritt, running for Tacoma mayor

After listening to the online interview, I have a few questions, if you don't mind:

1. How important is it to you that Tacoma become a "model city" in the PNW of sustainable, eco-friendly living? And how would you, as mayor, work toward that goal?

2. How can the mayor/city hall rejuvenate neighborhood councils? I personally have pounded pavement, worked with Safe Streets, and asked for help from our local leaders to get a neighborhood coalition going, to no avail. How specifically can you, as mayor, help?

3. How would you encourage use of public and/or no-emissions transit? Would you be open to radical ideas like allowing pets on the buses, or a community bike program? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_bicycle_program...

4. What is your view on using federal stimulus funds to convert foreclosed/abandoned housing into homeless shelters? And could the mayor/city hall feasibly put these shelters to good use in improving their surrounding communities?

What are your questions for Jim, after listening to his interview?