30 December 2009

New Year's Warning!

Happy New Year, y'awl! Please drive safely, don't drink and drive, select a designated sober driver and tell that person to be especially careful as there will be thousands-and-thousands of "amateur " drunks out on the road....

Be back Monday, January 4th 2010.

29 December 2009

Fighting The Texas Jobs Crises

In my e-mail today from "Jobs with Justice".
Dear Shane Fox,

Fight the Jobs Crisis!

In separate meetings, North Texas Jobs with Justice and our
Workers Rights Board Task Force on the Jobs Crisis have been
working out preliminary plans to fight the jobs crisis and
advocate for the unemployed and underemployed. Meanwhile,
National Jobs with Justice has joined with the AFL-CIO, NAACP
and other organizations on national plans for economic justice.

Here are our local plans so far:

Continue demanding an extension of unemployment benefits and the
COBRA subsidy for health insurance for layoff victims and their

Both the House and Senate passed jobs bills along with their
versions of funding for the military. Included is the extensions
we have been advocating. They also plan to use some of the
leftovers from the bankers' bailout to ameliorate the jobs
crisis. The two bills must be combined and voted into law

Advocate, Investigate, and Seek Allies
*The Workers Rights Board is scheduling hearings on the jobs
crisis for February 12 from 1-4 pm. Media will be invited.
*On the day that unemployment statistics are revealed, Feb 6, we
will hold a press conference.
*We must reach out to other leaders and organizations for the
broadest possible group.
*Continue using our own petitions until a national petition is
*The subcommittee will meet on Jan. 29, 2-4 pm

Help by advocating for services
*Encourage donations to the North Texas Food Bank
*Adopt the five-point program presented by the AFL-CIO. The Jobs
with Justice program is almost identical
*Continue cooperating with the entire progressive community in
demanding real health care reform. It will help ease the jobs
*Legal Aid of Northwest Texas provides legal assistance
*Texas Law Help has basic, easy to read, legal information
concerning workers' rights, including undocumented workers
*AFL-CIO unemployment lifeline helps re-orient unemployed
*Dallas Work Force Solutions is the state agency that controls
vital benefits
*Telephone "211" for help

Organize the unemployed and underemployed
*Encourage unemployed and underemployed people to join North
Texas Jobs with Justice
*Also encourage them to join Working America (AFL-CIO) and to
tell the Texas AFL-CIO Communications Director. A $5 fee is
requested, but is optional. The Texas AFL-CIO provides complete
information of interest to Texas working people

From our small start, can we really make a difference?
Absolutely! Watch the video from our determined Workers Rights
Board Task Force:

Join or donate to North Texas Jobs with Justice:

28 December 2009

Support the House Bill!

I, along with many of my liberal and progressive friends, because of our strongly stated support for the House of Representatives' version of health care reform over the Senate's, are finding ourselves vilified and marginalized as "dissenting radicals" by...no, not the conservatives..., but by way, way too many of our colleagues and brothers and sisters in the democratic party .

Well, there are strong and legitimate reasons why we support one over the other and why we regard those who are pandering to the administration's support for the Senate version as sell-outs or criminally naive.

First, it would leave 6% of the uninsured, still uninsured! And, it would penalize, through taxation of health care benefits, working families who negotiated their so called "Cadillac" health plans in lieu of higher salaries, longer vacations and other benefits. There needs to be no second, or third. The first suffices as reason enough to say, "Hell no!"

The disheartening thing of it is that now we are witnessing the country-club, chamber-of-commerce, golf-playing, and wine-and-cheese partying democrats joining with their Republican brethren in an all-out attack on the middle-class and working America.

And, while the rank-and-file Democrats cluster like stewing hens while grandpa sharpens the axe, clucking; "it's progress, we'll get what we can and make it better later, and (my favorite), at least some of us get help", their senators have cut deals which range from relieving mine owners of the burden of providing health care to workers suffering from work-related disease and shifting that cost to Medicare to language which would relax the standards on information to be gathered on new gun-buyers.

Deals?, you ask. Yeah, I reply, the business-as-usual and same sort of scummy deals that we so despised during the "K-Street" revelations of the Bush II era. Only, this time, it is the Democrats at the trough, and I promise you, the names will surprise and disappoint you.

23 December 2009

For My Faithful Readers - Christmas Card

Merry Christmas

Click above to view!

We're taking a holiday break and will be back in business Monday, December 29.

18 December 2009

It's Melting, It's Melting!

Health Reform Will Not Include Medicare Buy-in for Those 55-64

A week ago, a compromise Senate deal on health reform had nixed
a public insurance option and replaced it with provisions
letting those 55 or older buy into Medicare and allowing
nationwide nonprofit private plans overseen by the federal
Office of Personnel Management.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), who opposes the public option,
seemed to be in agreement. By last Sunday, however, Lieberman
had changed his mind. According to The Boston Globe, the
Medicare buy-in became as objectionable to him as the public
option. His explanation for the flip-flop is that expanding
Medicare would add to the federal deficit, but he came to
this conclusion before the Congressional Budget Office had
its analysis.

Senate Democratic leaders have now laid out an ambitious
timetable for passing the health care bill on Christmas Eve.
To be successful, the plan assumes Majority Leader Harry Reid
(D-NV) will have three key elements before the weekend: the
bill's cost estimate from the Congressional Budget
Office; the legislation completely written and available to the
public; and assurance from all 60 members of his caucus that
they will vote for the package.

"There will be good things for seniors in the Senate bill.
However, the House bill is far superior, and we will work
tirelessly to include specific pieces from the House,
like the public option, and to exclude the Senate's excise
tax on higher-cost insurance plans, when the bill gets
to conference committee," said Barbara J. Easterling,
President of the Alliance for Retired Americans".

She continued, "The Senate bill includes some relief for plans
with early retirees as well as delivery system reforms that may
lead to lower costs in the long run. And Senate leaders have made
a commitment to close the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole,
which is so important to seniors. However, the Alliance continues
to insist that employers pay their fair share, and that genuine
health care reform must bring down health costs, hold insurance
companies accountable, and assure that Americans can get the
health care they need."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted against an amendment to loosen
prescription drug importation rules as part of the health care
bill. The measure had been sponsored by a bipartisan group of
lawmakers led by Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
However, it fell short of the 60 votes needed for approval - the
final tally was 51 in favor, 48 opposed. Click HERE
for the complete results of the vote.

Dorgan criticized an alternative amendment, sponsored by
senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both
New Jersey Democrats, and Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), as
inadequate, because it would only allow the importation of drugs
if the federal government's health secretary certified they were
safe and lowered costs. This amendment also fell short of the 60
votes needed for approval; the vote was 56 in favor, 43 opposed.

Those results are available at click HERE

Since last Friday, Alliance for Retired Americans community
activists and volunteers had sent more than 3500 letters to all
Senators urging them to vote in favor of the Dorgan-Snowe

17 December 2009

Senate Bill Inadequate - Support the House Bill!

The following is the official statement by AFL-CIO President Trumka
about the
Senate bill.

December 17, 2009

The labor movement has been fighting for health care for nearly 100 years
we are not about to stop fighting now, when it really matters.

But for this health care bill to be worthy of the support of working men
women, substantial changes must be made. The AFL-CIO intends to
fight on
behalf of all working families to make those changes and win
health care reform
that is deserving of the name.

The absolute refusal of Republicans in the Senate to support health care
and the hijacking of the bill by defenders of the insurance
industry have
brought us a Senate bill that is inadequate: It is too
kind to the insurance

Genuine health care reform must bring down health costs, hold insurance
companies accountable, assure that Americans can get the health care
they need
and be financed fairly.

That's why we are championing a public health insurance option: It is
the way to break the stranglehold of the insurance industry over
consumers that has led
to double digit premium increases virtually
every year.

Employers must pay their fair share.

And the benefits of hard-working Americans cannot be taxed to pay for
health care reform.
That's no way to rein in insurance companies and
it's the wrong way to pay for health
care reform.

Those are the changes for which we will be fighting in the coming days.

The Senate bill does some good things: It will provide health insurance
to 30
million more Americans and provide subsidies to low-income
individuals and
families. Benefits will have to meet minimum standards
and insurance companies
will no longer be able to deny coverage based
on pre-existing conditions or
impose lifetime or unreasonable annual

The bill also includes some relief for plans with early retirees as
well as delivery
system reforms that may lead to lower costs over the
long haul. And Senate leaders
have made a commitment to close the
Medicare prescription drugs doughnut hole which is so
costly to seniors.

But because it bends toward the insurance industry, the Senate bill will
check costs in the short term, and its financing asks working people
and the
country to pay the price, even as benefits are cut.

The House bill is the model for genuine health care reform.

Working people
cannot accept anything less than real reform.

16 December 2009

"Die Ins" & Free Clinics in Insurance & Drug Company Parking Lots

Acceptance & Surrender works fine in 12-Step Programs...But not in politics!

As we sit in stunned disbelief (damn it sometimes cliches serve just because they are so freekin' apt!) while the Senate Democrats cower on their backs and whimper with little squirts of piss as "Benedict" Joe Lieberman commands them to fetch him a castrated health reform bill, which, in the long run will favor the very companies we set out to regulate, some Democrats are counseling that we should moderate our tone and accept what we can get.

I so disagree and see very clearly why progressives keep getting the nasty end of the stick. The faint-hearted among us are willing to accept the droppings from the table like cringing house dogs. Incrementalism and gradualism is anything but progress. It is rather like taking a step sideways when your opposition is racing full-tilt to the finish line.

Essential moral imperative, not to mention basic human decency, demands that we as a nation provide health, protection, wellness and succor for our poor, our disadvantaged, our children, our older people and all others needing help. And to say to these people, "Be patient, we're making progress" in the face of resistance from right-wing reactionaries, insurance Tsars and drug oligarchs is disingenuous and self-delusional at best and outright cruel at worst!

In court one might enter a "plea" and win. In life and politics, one gets what one demands. And, to effectively exercise one's demands one must have a base of strength and power...this ongoing health care fiasco demonstrates very clearly just how weak we are.

For way too long progressives and liberals and various forms of populists have acted as supplicants and in return we have been sneered at, vilified and/or over looked and neglected.

Frankly the time for patience and moderation is long past, those have availed us nothing. Unless we progressives get busy, active and involved at the precinct level of the Democratic Party and work to build a progressive strategy of getting "progressives" in party, and local, county, state and national elective offices we will continue to be sold out by country-club, Chamber-of-Commerce Democrats who are way too comfortable in the presence of bankers and corporate executives.

Someone, whom I respect and like, recently called me a zealot. Well, by name of the goddess, I liked that...because were it not for zealots, just quick a historical eye-blink ago, we would all be sipping tea and eating cucumber sandwiches at three in the afternoon.

Fine! Here we are at the watershed moment for our generation and the tail end of the depression and WWII generation failing our children and grandchildren through moderation and capitulation.

Kill the Bill! It is meaningless unless some White Knight emerges to save it. Kill it and prepare for "die-ins" on the home lawns of the opposing Senators, set up free clinics in the parking lots of the drug and insurance companies, and for the sake of whatever you find holy, find, recruit and get elected to party and political office progressives and liberals who will work for the people rather than against them.

15 December 2009

OMG The Right-Wing Nutters Said What?

Okay, folks....change of pace today. Let us have some fun with the lunatic fringe and earn ourselves a sticker. Take this simple multiple choice test on what the wing-nuts are saying and doing now. Click HERE.

And, that's not all. No--no Ginzu knives and there's nothing up my sleeve...but each participant earns a 10-cent donation from Credo to People For the American Way!

Let me know how you score in the comments section of this post--please-thank you!

14 December 2009

Senator Joe Lieberman is Toxic for Older Americans

Senate May Vote to Offer Medicare to Those 55 - 64

President Obama hailed a tentative health care agreement
announced in the Senate last week,
saying that he would support
it, and majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sent the proposal to

the Congressional Budget Office for cost analysis the next day.

However, Joe Lieberman announced that he would oppose the
"Medicare Buy In". If you have not
already, now is the time to
let Lieberman know that he is being watched by Older Americans.

Click HERE to sign the "Stop Joe" petition.

Click HERE to "Adopt Connecticut" and join with, and support
that state's activists
who are standing up to Joe!

According to The New York Times, the deal would allow some people
ages 55 to 64 to buy
coverage through Medicare beginning in 2011.

At first, they would pay full cost.
Eventually, the legislation would
allow them to obtain subsidies to help defray the cost.
advocates view the Medicare expansion as a major step for people
nearing retirement who
face some of the biggest obstacles to obtaining
insurance and pay some of the highest prices.

The agreement also calls for creating a menu of national insurance plans,
modeled after those
offered to federal workers, including members of
Congress. The new, nonprofit insurance plans
would be overseen by the
Office of Personnel Management, which now runs the Federal Employees

Health Benefits Program. The deal maintains the public option as a
fallback plan, to be
"triggered" if private insurers do not step up to
offer the new national plans.

Activists rallied outside the Senate last Thursday (December 10),
pressing senators to drop
a tax on higher-end insurance plans. At issue
is a proposed 40% excise tax on health care
plans costing more than
$8,500 annually for individuals and $23,000 for families.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who spoke at the event, has introduced an
amendment with
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to strip out the insurance
plan tax. "The House approach, which would
raise income taxes on
individuals making more than $500,000 a year and couples making more

than $1 million, would not have the detrimental effect on coverage for
retirees and older
workers that the Senate's excise tax would," said
Barbara J. Easterling, President of the
Alliance for Retired Americans.

On the Senate floor on Thursday, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and
McCain (R-AZ) pushed an amendment to allow U.S. pharmacies and drug
wholesalers to import
Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs from
Canada, Europe and a few other countries.

See my blog immediately below this.

A vote is likely to occur on Early this week---Maybe today! Be ready
to call your Senators and
ask them to support Drug Re-importation.

11 December 2009

Drug Re-importation - It's a Good Thing, Let's Support It!

The U.S. Senate may vote as soon as Monday, December 14 to allow
the safe re-importation of drugs from other industrialized

Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have
introduced an amendment to the Senate health care legislation
to allow safe drug re-importation.

Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world,
five times more to fill their prescriptions than consumers in
other countries such as Canada. Retirees and older Americans are
particularly hard hit by high drug costs because they have more
acute and chronic illnesses. In addition to consumer savings,the
Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Dorgan-Snowe
Amendment would also save the government about $19 billion
over 10 years.

This is a win for retirees and all taxpayers.

For several years, the Alliance for Retired Americans sponsored
bus trips to Canada for seniors who are forced to make the trips
to purchase prescriptions that costs hundreds of dollars less than
in the United States. However, bus-trips are not a solution. The
Dorgan-Snowe amendment, with rigid safeguards to ensure
quality control, is a necessary measure to reduce ever-increasing
prescription drug costs.

Click SPEAK OUT! to send an email to your U. S. senators
today and urge them to vote for the Dorgan-Snowe
drug reimportation amendment.***

10 December 2009

It's Back! Social Security Privatization to Seep Into Health Care Debate!

So you thought the current recession, banking, automotive-industry, housing, credit-industry, and Wall Street investment firm debacle along with the slow, lingering, death throes of newspapers, were enough to forever dry up the notion of Social Security Privatization. Right? And if not forever, at least for one generation. I know I did, and boy was I ever wrong!

The Whack-A-Mole "Friedmaniacs" are already popping their beady-eyed, nose-twitching little faces up and into the health care reform debate with an insidious ploy to rein in budget deficits through a committee to study entitlements, whose formation would be attached to a final health care reform bill. Just a rhetorical aside here, Why are there never committees to study tax dollars pissed away on wars, the defense industry, congressional perquisites and earmarks?

New Hampshire Republican, Judd Gregg, (a long-time proponent of Social Security privatization) said in October, ...the Democrat's efforts to extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans "creates a brand-new entitlement without at the same time controlling the cost and expenditures of existing entitlements", such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. We should have been listening, because that sentiment has found its way into the health care reform debate and threatens to find "bipartisan support". Dubious bipartisanship at best, but enough to earn the label.

Here is the form that it is taking.

Gregg is joined by infamous, anti-public option, Blue Dog Democrat, Kent Conrad of North Dakota in proposing an attachment, to health care reform legislation, which would create a committee to study entitlements, which actually translates to searching for ways to cut entitlements, including Social Security. Both are on record as supporting some form of Social Security Privatization. If these two are not enough to send a chill from your butt to the base of your skull consider some of the others joining in this infamous venture: Even Bayh, Diane Feinstein, Joe Lieberman and Mark Warner.

Now that I've given you a chill, let me suggest a scenario which should give you a permanent hand tremor and nervous twitch of the mouth: President Obama, in all likelihood, cut a deal with Conrad to allow him "to tinker with" Social Security in return for Conrad's ceasing opposing some form of public option. That's the word around Washington...we'll see how long it takes to become an open issue!

09 December 2009

Stop The Lies & Scare Tactics

The Alliance for Retired Americans Launches Ad Directed at Insurance and Drug Company Lies Attempting to Scare Older Americans.

Big insurance companies are spending millions of dollars to frighten Older Americans about health care reform.

Their scare-tactics are intended to kill urgently needed changes to a health insurance system that rewards corporations that deny care and increase premiums.

Please this television ad that exposes the lies and underhanded tactics of the health insurance industry.

This ad is going on air today aimed at Senators who are wavering in their support of health care reform.

Please click through to help get the word to as many people as you can. By clicking through, you will be taken to a page that will assist you in spreading the word. Feel free to copy and e-mail the link to your friends or post on your Face Book page! Click here, now!

08 December 2009

Rachel Maddow Exposes 60 Plus as Drug Lobby

Yesterday, we saw Ed Coyle, Executive Director of The Alliance For Retired Americans take on the lies of right-wing lobbyist Bill Miller of "60 Plus". Today, watch as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow exposes that organization (60 Plus) as yet another right-wing front for the Drug Company oligarchs out to prevent health care reform.

The moment is upon us, now is the time to make that call to your senator and tell them to support "Medicare For All" and join the Alliance for Retired Americans in fighting the lies from the Insurance Tsars and Drug Oligarchs!

07 December 2009

Setting The Record Straight For Older Americans

Ed Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans sets the record straight on the phony insurance company claims of Medicare cuts and "death panels".

03 December 2009

Afghanistan - Why The Surprise?

Some progressives and Democrats have their knickers all knotted up over President Obama's decision to deploy more troops to Afghanistan.

I find their shock and awe over that decision to be decidedly disingenuous.

Here's why.

Afghanistan (Taliban & Al Queda) was the issue from the beginning and its boundaries with Pakistan were always the haven for terrorists and their training grounds from which the 9/11 and other attacks on civilization were launched. The neo-cons of the Bush administration diverted our attention, energy and resources to Iraq and neglected to seal the deal in Afghanistan.

So, it should have been obvious, that at some point, we would have to go back and finish what we started or else be prepared to see that area regrow its ability to inflict misery on our people. It is a very ugly and dangerous world and the notion of holocaust and unraveling of civilization is the fundamental goal of some groups hell-bent on acquiring the means to do that in one nuclear, biological or chemical stroke. That danger is real and its nexus is in that region along the Afghan/Pakistan border.

Having said this, I find the stated approach to be very troubling and sounding way, way too much like "nation-building" for my comfort.

In the first place, Afghanistan is not a true nation in the sense one thinks of nations. It is a collection of tribes, war lords, and religious zealots largely peopled by illiterate peasants in sparsely scattered villages armed to the teeth with AKs and other cold-war weaponry supplied by the US when the Soviet Union was exercising its futile attempt to colonize the area. Its economic base is opium poppy production and its political/social/economic infrastructure is based on corruption and brute power.

This is not a "nation" waiting to become stabilized and democratized. It is a festering sore of a country--not even a failed state, as it is not actually a state.

So the notion that we're going to go in and stabilize the border, eliminate the Taliban, eradicate Al Queda and train Afghan security forces a la Iraq is supremely naive in its ambition and fore-shadows yet another quagmire followed by escalation followed by despair, disillusionment, outrage and failure.

Yet, we can't ignore the reality that is Afghan and parts of Pakistan. There is a lot of potential misery centered there and we can't afford to be passive and play the waiting and counter-punch game. But let us not pretend we're bound on some sort of mission to stabilize and bring democracy to Afghanistan.

Let's be honest and say we're going to go there in force and kill terrorists and terrorist enablers and sympathizers, and destroy their bases, training camps and dry up their resources so they do not have the capacity or opportunity to harm us ever again.

If we do not do those things, we will find that 9/11 was merely a dress rehearsal for the real thing.

02 December 2009

Joe Lieberman Won't Like This!

Now You Can Fight Back For Health Care Reform -- Adopt A State

Thanks to MoveOn.Org and the Service Employees International Union we have a tool with which to fight back against the likes of Lieberman, Lincoln,

The AP has reported that opponents of reform, led by the U.S. Chamber, have poured $24 million into an advertising onslaught in the last month alone. The fact is, we will be outspent by corporate special interests. But we can do something corporate American can't - we can talk to fellow voters, and have personal conversations about health care.

We elected Barack Obama, in part, by calling tens of thousands of voters in key "swing states." This year is no different. Voters in Arkansas, Nebraska, Connecticut and Louisiana need to hear from us about what's happening on health insurance reform. I hope you'll "adopt-a-state" and start recruiting for your team today.

Connecticut...Joe Lieberman

Arkansas...Blanche Lincoln

Louisiana...Mary Landrieu

Nebraska...Ben Nelson

The insurance oligarchs, drug Tzars, and Chamber of Commerce are hoping that their money and delaying tactics will sap our energy, resolve and efficiency and muffle our voices. Let's join together in this historic battle and let them know they are wrong! That we want health care reform that is equitable for ALL Americans, and we want it now!

29 November 2009

Part 2 - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2009

Yesterday we examined how the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act of 2009 (PPACA, H.R. 3590) would act to improve health care for America's older persons.

Today, we continue that examination.

Keeps Nursing Homes Safe - The PPACA requires long term care facilities to conduct criminal background checks on prospective employees. Through this legislation, families will have greater assurance that their loved ones receiving long-term care are safe if the people who provide care have passed a background check for previous criminal behavior.

Brings Savings To Medicare - By eliminating wasteful over-payments to private Medicare Advantage plans and create new incentives for coordinated, high quality care across the health care spectrum. Medicare Advantage plans currently rake in an average of 14% more per person than does traditional Medicare or added perks without any demonstrably better medical results. Ending these over-payments will be an important step toward insuring the long-term solvency of Medicare's Trust Fund.

Helps 55-64 Year Olds Stay Healthy:
  1. Eliminates pre-existing condition and health status exclusions.
  2. Establishes a "basic benefits package" that ALL health Insurance plans must provide.
  3. Limiting Premium Costs and Out-Of-Pocket costs
  4. Making Health Insurance Affordable by offering a Public Option alternative.
  5. Supporting Coverage for Retirees by creating a $5-billion fund to assist employers offset the costs of expensive health claims for its 55-64 year old retired employees.
From the setting of minimum standards of what must be included in every health insurance plan to helping employers pay for retiree costs and establishment of competition to drive down rates and ending over-payments to Medicare while preserving the existing doctor of choice, PPACA 2009 remedies many of the ills of the current system and insures that older Americans are not left behind in the process.

Okay, it is not perfect. Granted. But, it is what is available right now and if we miss this opportunity the likelihood of ever achieving equitable health care for all Americans diminishes greatly. The drug Tsars and insurance oligarchs will have won again.

Coming Tomorrow: Have a real effect on the debate. Adopt a key senator!

Patient Protection and Affordibility Act of 2009 (The Facts)

Part One of Two Parts:

As the U. S. Senate prepares to begin debate on health care reform older Americans need to have the facts and to understand their stake in the outcome. The coming Senate floor debate is a huge step forward in bringing equitable health care to all Americans, but our goal (Alliance for Retired Americans) of affordable and accessible health care for all Americans is still to be fulfilled.

We hope that the Senate will take this opportunity to improve what the House brought forth and completely phase out the doughnut hole; allow the government (Medicare) to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs; and remove the tax on the health benefits of retirees and working families.

Regardless, there are many positives in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 (PPCA), H.R. 3590 for older Americans.

Lowers Your Prescription Drug Costs - By requiring drug makers to provide 50% discount to Part D beneficiaries for brand-name drugs and biologics beginning July 1, 2010. It will also shrink the "doughnut hole" by $500 per senior for 2010.

Protects Your Choice of Doctor - By preventing a scheduled 21% cut in Medicare doctor payments in 2010, ensuring that doctors will continue to serve seniors and seniors can continue seeing their preferred doctors.

Makes Preventive Services More Affordable - Today, Medicare beneficiaries must pay 20% of the cost of preventive services. Much of those prohibitive costs will go away, meaning no copay for immunization, cancer screenings, cholesterol screening, bone calcium level screening, and colonoscopies, among other procedures. Older Americans will, at last, have an opportunity doe free annual check-ups, with comprehensive health risk assessments that will help identify chronic disease, modifiable risk factors and emergency or urgent health needs.

Helps Seniors Prepare for Long Term Care Costs - Ten million Americans today need long term services and support---including 4-million under age 65. Despite this urgent and critical need, fewer than 10% can afford the incredibly expensive private long term care insurance policies. To met this urgent need and to promote independence the PPACA will create a new, voluntary national insurance program (to be known as the CLASS Independence Benefit Plan) that will help seniors pay for care in their own homes rather than premature entry into a nursing home in order that they get care through Medicaid.

Coming Tomorrow: Nursing Home Safety, More Medicare Savings, & Helping 55-64 Year Olds Stay Healthy.

24 November 2009

Let me be the first - "Happy Holidays"!

Here we go again....reading that can't you just hear Ray Charles somewhere back in your memory banks? But, the here we go again is not Baby Ray's soulful rendition of that great country ballad. Or even Dean Martin's more straight forward version. No, not even close.

The here we go again I refer to is the fact that here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving eve and we're already hearing rumblings of our annual religio-culture war about whether the "reason for the season" is the celebration of the birth of the Jewish prophet "Jesus of Nazareth", on whom Christianity is based, or of a highly evolved pagan winter tide celebration wrapped up in capitalistic consumerism, gift-giving and football schedules. Unless, of course, you are Armenian, then you celebrate the birthday of Jesus on January 6th. I'm not certain about their gift-giving traditions or football schedules. I am dead-on certain about the Armenian January 6 thingee though!

The truth of the matter is very clear to any fair-minded, reasonably well-educated individual; there is absolutely no historical proof of even the year, let alone precise day, of Jesus's birth. I do not care what you believe, or what you believe the bible tells you, or what your preacher Jimmy Ray Billy Bob tells you, there is no historical evidence of even the precise year of Jesus's birth. Yes, there are a couple of conflciting date ranges extrapolated from biblical reference and known historic dates. But, nothing that tells us exactly when Jesus was born. Hence, since such proof or evidence is non-existent, I really would prefer that you not try to force on me and others your overly sentimental and fact-denying belief that the holiday season is about the birth of Jesus and somehow tied to the founding of the United States, Thanksgiving family dinners, the flag, WWII, and the Rose Bowl.

Got it? You are free to believe what you want...no matter how ill-informed is the foundation of your beliefs. What you are not free to do is to try to bully me and others into adhering to your narrow belief system.

I am going to celebrate the holidays, each and every damned one of them that I can fit into my schedule (even the ones I don't entirely understand) and revel in gorging on rich foods, spending too much on presents, and making certain I watch at least one version of the Christmas Carol, read at least once the story of The Little Match Girl, stay up til midnight on Xmas eve in yet another futile attempt to see if animals actually do talk on the stroke of twelve, and fit as many football games into my schedule as my wife will let me get away with.

So, with that, let me be the first; Happy Holidays!

23 November 2009

The Right-Wing Scam in Your Mailboxes

Let's say that, as an older American you get something in the mail from an organization calling its self the "Christian Seniors Association", you, I think, would be disposed to view them rather kindly...wouldn't you. Maybe even send them the $12.95 membership fee. After all the name Christian Seniors Association sort of conjures up mind images of grey-haired folks holding pot-lucks and planning raffles in the church basement.

Well, don't you believe it for an instant. It is just another scurrilous, fund-raising scam perpetrated by a family of right-wing homophobic zealots who find it easier to rip-off seniors by preying on their fears than to travel about the country selling crankcase oil as driveway black-tops or aluminum siding. It's a different scam, yeah. But, the end result is the same.

Let's take a moment to examine who and what is behind the scam which is lurking in mailboxes near you. But, first...The Letter & Pitch. The letter opens with this question: "Do you SUPPORT or OPPOSE the far-Left Agenda now being pushed into law by President Obama, Liberals who control Congress and AARP?"

Yeah, that well-known, undercover cell of the Communist Party, AARP. OK, OK I know I'm being a bit snarky, but for crying out loud, the AARP as a far left organization? Gimme a break, will ya!

Then it goes on with some phony questionnaire/ballot throwing about all the far-right's buzz and code words: "far-left", "socialism", "Socialist Agenda", "traditional moral values", "fighting for religious values", "AARP aggressively promotes homosexual lifestyle", "Crushing Burden On Our Grandchildren" and other equally profane and ridiculous bilge.

Then it moves into its main purpose. An appeal for membership at $12.95 and an "additional gift, above and beyond your regular membership dues...."10, $15, $20, $50, $100, or perhaps even more.

Sound faintly familiar? Well it ought to. This letter preying on frightened and unwary seniors comes from none other than Rev. Lou Sheldon, his daughter Angela and son-in-law, Jim Lafferty.
Sheldon is best known for his bug-eyed homophobic attacks on homosexuals through his umbrella front-organization, the Traditional Values Coalition and for his role on the Republican Congressional Committee and leadership in the Lindsey Graham for Senate campaign.

Son-in-law, Jim Lafferty is well-known Republican flack who served as Tom Delay's press-secretary from 1994-1995 and was a senior adviser to that frightening specter of wrath, she of the make up applied with a trowel, former Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. Yeah her. The one that paved the way for that dry-drunk sociopath, George W. Bush to ascend into the White House.

Daughter Angela, one assumes, licks stamps and stuffs envelopes when not serving as Katherine Harris's make-up advisor.

A very unsavory lot and about as Christian as the pimple on a donkey's butt. Which is to say, not at all Christian.

And, now let us play the right-wing Republican game of guilt by association and implied menace through clever juxtaposition of words and letters: Christian Seniors Association, yep CSA. One has no problem envisioning them draped in the Stars and Bars.

20 November 2009

Grassroots Action Needed Right Now

Saturday night, the Senate is expected to vote on whether to allow debate on health care reform.

It’s only because of concerenced citizens, activists and people willing to be heard that we’ve gotten this close to fixing America’s broken health care system. Now you need to keep the heat on.

No matter how your senators feel about the Senate health care bill itself, tell them they must vote to allow the debate to begin.

Call your senators toll free today and tell them to let the debate begin:

The process can seem glacial, but every day we get closer to real reform—and this is another critical vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 senators to support the process for moving forward. To be clear, this isn’t a vote for or against the bill—it’s merely a vote about whether to allow debate of the bill on the Senate floor.

Call your senators toll free today and tell them to let the debate begin:

We are further along in the process for real health care reform than we have ever been. The House has already passed a historic bill that will end insurance company abuses, require employers to pay a fair share and establish a strong public option to lower costs and make insurance companies compete. And it won’t tax the benefits of hard-working middle class families.

The bill put forward by the Senate leadership moves us closer to the historic goal of real health care reform in America, but it's not perfect and some of it needs to be fixed. To keep the reform process moving and to fix the bill, it's critical that the Senate start to publicly debate its health care reform bill.

Call your senators toll free right now and tell them to let the debate begin: 1-877-702-0976

19 November 2009

Senate Health Care Package Faces Saturday Hurdle

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid brought forth the senate version of a health care reform bill which is very similar to the version passed earlier by House. And, while the house vote was much closer than most progressives wished, the Senate vote in going to be even tighter as Senators posture to their base and/or adhere to rigid, well-defined party lines.

Do not expect a final vote this year! The skirmishes are behind us, the real battle in well-underway. The first open fight in that battle takes place Saturday as the Senate considers and then votes on whether or not to bring the bill to the floor. If, democrats stand as one and overcome GOP attempts to filibuster, it will mean that, at least initially, there is enough Democratic support at this point to move a final bill (based on amendments) through the Senate into conference committee.

Meanwhile, older Americans should be pleased with the progress that is being made.

815 16th Street, NW, 4th Floor ¨ Washington, D.C. 20006 ¨ (202) 637-5399 ¨ www.retiredamericans.org

For Immediate Release Contact: David Blank (202) 637-5275
November 19, 2009 dblank@retiredamericans.org

Retirees Praise Reid Health Bill

The following statement was issued today by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans congratulates Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for putting together a strong health care reform bill. The proposed legislation would make great strides in helping Americans of all ages better afford to see a doctor or get a prescription filled.

“Our nation’s retirees need lower prescription drug prices, the ability to get life-saving preventive screenings and testings, and an end to the Medicare Trust Fund-draining subsidies to the private insurance companies who run Medicare Advantage programs.

Senator Reid’s bill offers solid progress in these important areas.

“We are pleased to see the bill include a public option. Because of Medicare, retirees know first hand how important the public option is. Medicare is a great American success story. It has helped reduce senior poverty by two-thirds, and has shown a valuable role for the federal
government in improving health care. A public option would be a refreshing alternative to the exorbitant premiums charged by the big insurance corporations who profit by denying care and discriminating against pre-existing conditions.

“As the bill moves through the Senate we will continue to oppose the taxation of health care benefits at any level. This would disproportionately harm retirees and older workers, as it may lead employers to eliminate or greatly reduce coverage for this age group. Moreover, these are individuals who sacrificed wage increases over the years in exchange for retiree health coverage.

“Grassroots activists with the Alliance for Retired Americans will continue to urge their elected officials to quickly pass a strong health reform bill. Millions of Americans need help right away. It is time for Congress to finish the job.”

# # #
The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 4 million retirees and their families.

18 November 2009

Canned Beer - Church Keys - Mimeograph Machines

Do you know what is a church key? Better yet, do you know what is a mimeograph machine?

OK, here I go with the phrase that validates the gray hair on my head...Back in the day, both were ubiquitous and necessary items. Much like number two pencils and legal pads.

I come to this because while at work I happened to mention both in passing to the quizzical, eyebrows raised look that tells me when my younger colleagues (which actually means all of my colleagues) are convinced that I'm setting them up for a punchline at their expense.

So, I found myself explaining that back-in-the-day nary a church basement where the ladies club held its meeting or school office from hence the daily lesson plans and cafeteria menus made their way to cork bulletin boards or to be Scotch-taped to classroom "black boards".

OK, since there is a likelihood that you have no clue at all as to what is a "mimeograph" machine, here goes: It is a mechanical duplicator that produces copies by pressing onto paper through openings in a stencil.

Aha! The stencil was created by loading it into a typewriter--you do know what that is...right?--and typing on it what ever it was you wished to be circulated. The typing created holes in the stencil which was then tightly wrapped around a drum or cylinder and secured in place. The cylinder was then turned (back in the days before back in the day, it would have been hand-cranked--more modern ones had...gasp..electricty) pressing against an ink saturated roller which forced ink through the stencil onto sheets of paper.

Yep, you got it. A handy-dandy primitive printing press of sorts.

Now, as I mentioned these devices were immensely popular with church clubs and school offices and were ubiquitous. And, the responsibility for running them were ALWAYS assigned to the nerdiest kid or sternest most humorless staff member.

Which brings us to "Church Keys". No, they were not keys given to the trusted person who ran the mimeograph machine. Au contraire', these people probably to this day do not know what was a "Church Key".

Come back into time with me to a period when beer was, for the first time in history, being sold in cans. Those early cans were not soft aluminum and did not have pop tops or pull tabs. They, instead, were made of a heavy metal requiring that they be punched open with an opening device which was no more than a sharpened triangular point which was levered into the can top opening a Vee-shaped hole from which one could "suck suds".

This opener was called a "Church Key".

There it is, and you'd be amazed at how many people, who "suck suds" never heard of a "Church Key". And you can put that in your mimeograph and circulate it it where you will!

17 November 2009

Jobs With Justice - Time To Help Them

I think you're pretty smart (hey, you're reading this, right?).

Now you can put your knowledge to the test and help Jobs with Justice raise some money at the same time. Their friends at CREDO mobile phone company have figured out a way to put all those crazy things the right-wing nuts say to work for progressive causes like us.

They put together a quiz to test you on the latest conservative claptrap - it's called OMG GOPWTF?!.

Every time you answer a question correctly, Jobs with Justice gets 10 cents. There are five questions, so that means that if they get 1,000 people to take the quiz and you score okay... they get $500 dollars.

TAKE THE QUIZ: http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/Q1_CDOp1cBAt/

You'll want to act fast. The quiz only benefits Jobs with Justice from November 16 to November 22. Next week, it will be a new quiz and a new organization, so don't wait!


Shane Fox

P.S. Tell your friends! Just forward this blog link to them.

16 November 2009

GOP's Game Plan to Derail Health Care Reform

Short and sweet today...a peek into the Republican playbook for derailing helath care reform: Click Here!

13 November 2009

House Passes Historic Health Care Reform Bill

On Saturday, the U.S House voted to pass H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, a bill that will help retirees and all Americans with their access to quality health care. The historic 220-215 vote was close - all except 39 Democrats voted for the bill, and all Republicans except Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana voted against it.

For a complete tally of the vote, click here:

The bill will help retirees right away. For example, in 2010, Medicare beneficiaries will no long have to pay co-payments for screenings for cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. The Medicare Part D doughnut hole coverage gap will immediately close by$500 and will be phased out. In addition, early retirees, who are not old enough for Medicare, will get help keeping or finding affordable health insurance.

More than 500 Alliance of Retired Americans members sent thank you notes to their Members of Congress who voted to pass the bill. Three videos on the Alliance's YouTube station give more details about how the bill helps seniors:"Stick to the Facts: Reform Good for Seniors," and "Facts: Health Care Reform & Seniors," and "New Hope That Every American Will Have Decent, Quality Health Care,"

"The insurance and drug industries threw everything they had to stop the bill,"said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. "I want to thank the 220 members of the House who voted to stand up for the seniors and all Americans across the nation who will benefit from reform."

11 November 2009

Not At All Remarkable

We all have certain trailmarkers and persons in our lives whom we celebrate--or should celebrate. One such man in my life was my grandfather, James E. Martin. The "E" was for Ebenezer and you just don't find many men with that name in the modern age. This is apropos of only one thing, grandfather Martin was a man of a different age and with values which seem to have been lost by all too many of us.

I was a young, barefoot, burr-haired tad down in Southern Illinois when I would hear him exhort me and my cousins with things such as, "If you're going to take a day's pay from a man, you owe him a day's work". Or, "Damn it! If it ain't yours, keep your hands off of it".

Now back then a day's work might mean square-baling wheat straw behind a mule drawn baler and flatbed wagon from sun-up to sun-down in the blistering August heat and crushing humidity of what passes for late summer in that patch of black earth known as Little Eygpt for maybe 10-15 cents an hour--if you were lucky. And, keeping your hands off something that didn't belong to you meant that you leave another man's tools alone, they were the key to his livlihood.

Last week I thought of my grandfather while I was on a week-long voyage of reconciliation and discovery to my birthplace in Alton, Illinois. I was standing in line to place my order at the St. Louis Bread Company outlet on Homer Adams Parkway. If you're not familiar, it is one of those modern chrome and bright light places offering soup, sandwiches, cute food, designer breads and pasteries...there are places just like it, under different names, all the country. They are part of the new age...I don't think my grandfather would have been all that comfortable with the concept.

OK, now we come upon the crux of this tale. The guy in front of me placed his order, paid from his pocket and took his receipt and dropped to the floor right in front of me a folded one-hundred dollar bill. And then he turned to walk away and wait for his order--he didn't notice his loss.

I nudged him and pointed down at the bill on the floor and said, "You might need that before the day is out."

Embarrassed but grateful he bent down and retrieved his money and was effusively thanking me while several women in the line were commenting with how wonderful I was for calling his attention to it.

I exclaimed that I didn't think it was really all that remarkable and that it seemed to me the only logical thing to do. This set them off in a new spasm of how wonderful and upstanding I was and how it must be my Marine training (I was wearing my Marine Corps jacket) or the fact that midwesterners are so much more neighborly than other places.

I smiled and said, "Maybe, but Ma'am, ahm frum Texas".

Despite my demurrals, the guy insisted on paying my tab while I argued that I had done nothing noteworthy to earn his generosity. Finally, just to shut them all up, I accepted.

Afterall, grandfather Martin taught me all those years ago that if it wasn't mine, I should keep my mitts off of it. So, I don't think it was a bit remarkable to help that guy recover his money...and think it's a shame that we've reached a point where people are surprised by such behavior and find it remarkable.

Thanks, grandpa!

A World at War & Childhood Memories.

Memory, childhood and a world at war:

There is a place in my memory that is hugely cavernous, dimly lit and noisy with distant sounds of shouting voices muted by hissing steam and the metallic clangs of great pieces of metal slamming together. It is the sort of place where an adventuresome and independent 5-year old decides the best part of valor is to cling tightly to his mother’s hand. Even rambunctious little boys were intimidated by St. Louis’ Union Station at its peak in 1944.

Much has been written and spoken about the Greatest Generation (the young men and women of World II), but my memory of it is much like, and inextricably tied to, that old train station; noisy, dimly lit, incredibly busy, with flashing bits of reflected impressions overloading my senses, each of them compelling and often more than just a bit frightening. It was at Union Station that I first met "the boys".

My mom and I were taking a trip on the L&N Railroad (Louisville & Nashville) to visit my grandmother in southern Illinois. We had set off on the Inter-Urban from Woodriver, Ill., to St. Louis very early in the morning.

Back then, trips were indeed exactly that — trips! We left home as the sun was rising to arrive in Union Station at mid-morning, in order to catch a midday train that would arrive at our destination in the late afternoon or early evening. Our entire journey covered no more than 150 miles. It would be an easy three-hour drive today. But then, if one had an automobile and if one could get the gasoline ration to drive it, the drive easily could take twice or three times that long. So, like so many others, we were taking the train.

My memory of the scene at the station is an impressionistic blur of khaki, olive-drab, brown, blue and white uniforms, scarlet and gold patches, silver and brass buckles and medals, and blue, orange, yellow piping, trims and lanyards. The "boys" were loud and wildly garrulous, tanned as berries and lean as wolves. The air reeked of the acrid fumes of diesel and coal fumes. Impatient black men in resplendently official dark blue suits and red and white caps hustled about importantly, directing people to their proper exits and entrance gates. Everywhere there was swirling motion, loud clangorous noise and vivid colors smeared against a canvas of khaki, while our nostrils took in strange, sweetly unpleasant smells.

All that is merely memory now. All has gone, except for memory and recollection, perhaps romanticized and certainly made hazy by time. Who, but a dwindling few, recall victory gardens, paper and scrap metal drives, collections of rubber tires and inner tubes, saving of household grease, peeling tin-foil from chewing gum wrappers to roll in large balls, winding huge balls of twine; all which somehow helped "the boys over there battling Tojo and Hitler"?

How many others remember peanut butter that had to be stirred, Cracker Jack toys made of tin rather than "real" metal, cheese that came in wooden boxes that later served as the frames for home-made radios, kites made of newspapers, string and school paste, stretched tightly on crosses of slender tree branches?

There are other, later, memories, too. How many remember VJ Day and how people came out on their porches and cheered, or shouted, or fired a rifle, shotgun or pistol into the air; or merely stood silently with tears streaming down their faces? Who remembers how some cried for the joy of those who finally would be coming home, while other wept for those they would never again see?

Of all my memories, the one with the most clarity is how we neighborhood children were turned loose to run and race along the sidewalk on our tricycles and scooters, yelling and screaming, and how our terrible-tempered, child-hating, shift-working next-door neighbor, Mr. McMillan, called several of us over to his yard and handed us sticks so we could pound on his tubular metal lawn furniture, adding to the din and bedlam. Somehow the moment was too much for him, too out of character. For, while we kids pounded and shrieked, he ascended his porch and went back inside closing the door and drawing the curtains and the pull down shades.

There are other memories. Memories of how it was when the "boys," my uncles and cousins and neighbors and their buddies and buddies of buddies, came home. How some of them strutted and preened for their gals, and others limped along on canes or crutches. There are memories of shirts with empty sleeves pinned to the shoulder and of empty pants legs pinned to the waist. Some were happy and full of hope, while others were quiet and withdrawn. All were different than when they had first left. Perhaps, some were those same garrulous soldiers that I had seen at Union Station a year or so before. No matter, the boys were home and the future was full of hope.

Those boys and girls, the young men and women of WWII, were very different from you and I. I can’t tell you exactly how, but they were.

They’re leaving us now. Each day, there are fewer and fewer among us. Respect them, love them and revere them, because when they are entirely gone our country and our world will be the less for it.

10 November 2009

Happy Birthday Marine!

Lieutenant General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller - In Korea, when told by his adjutant that the regiment was surrounded by the Chinese, his reply was, "Good, that will simplify the problem!"

234 years ago, following an act of congress, the United States Marines began recruiting in Philadelphia at Tun Tavern, a combination bar and brothel. And, to this day, it is said that good Marines are never far from either.

Marine Corps Birthday: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)

Ask any Marine. Just ask. He will tell you that the Marine Corps was born in Tun Tavern on 10 November 1775. But, beyond that the Marine's recollection for detail will probably get fuzzy. So, here is the straight scoop:

In the year 1685, Samuel Carpenter built a huge "brew house" in Philadelphia. He located this tavern on the waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley. The old English word tun means a cask, barrel, or keg of beer. So, with his new beer tavern on Tun Alley, Carpenter elected to christen the new waterfront brewery with a logical name, Tun Tavern.All U.S. Marines are gung-ho.

But, few can match the vision and total commitment of the famous 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune. In 1921 he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921.Gen. Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps.

Thereafter, 10 November became a unique day for U.S. Marines throughout the world. Soon, some Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania, staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Quantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won, 9 to 8.

The first "formal" Birthday Ball took place on Philadelphia in 1925. First class Marine Corps style, all the way! Guests included the Commandant, the Secretary of War (in 1925 the term "politically correct" didn't exist; it was Secretary of War, not Secretary of Defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials. Prior to the Ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and an evening of festivities and frolicking.

Over the years the annual Birthday Ball grew and grew, taking on a life of its own. In 1952 the Commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the cake-cutting ceremony and other traditional observances. For example, Marine Corps policy now mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present. The second piece goes to the youngest Marine. Among the many such mandates is a solemn reading of the Commandant's birthday message to the Corps. Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual Birthday Ball has evolved from simple origins to the polished and professional functions of today.

Nonetheless, one thing remains constant, the tenth day of November! This unique holiday for warriors is a day of camaraderie, a day to honor Corps and Country. Throughout the world on 10 November, U.S. Marines celebrate the birth of their Corps -- the most loyal, most feared, most revered, and most professional fighting force the world has ever known.

08 November 2009

Diversity is not to be tolerated--It is to be Celebrated!

There is a perverse streak of ugliness in the current political and cultural wars waging throughout America. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it is new or particular to the issues of our day such as health care reform or attitudes toward people of differing sexual preferences. Mistrust of strangers and intolerance of difference and demand for conformity have always been a source of violence and ugly behavior in the quest for national unity.

These things have always been there. Strong feelings coming out of political or cultural conflict have been by expressed acts of violence throughout our history...witness H. Rap Brown saying, "Violence is as American as apple pie". But, there is something new and frightening about how these things get expressed in today's climate. And, the level of acceptance of that which should be abhorred and shunned,

With utter impunity people show up carrying sidearms at Presidential events, letters to the editors of newspapers carry barely veiled calls for violence against strangers who represent a point of view which differs from that of the writer. Decent people are shouted down, threatened and intimidated by ugly displays of hatred and threat. Fear and loathing, once kept to one's self, now are trotted out and put on display as though they were merit badges or medals of achievement. And, those with the vilest and most extreme displays are venerated and looked up to as "leaders" of those afflicted with mob mentality. Again, this is not especially new. It has always been there. But what is new is the level of acceptance of such behavior by people who should know better, people who call themselves Christian.

I would suggest that differences are not to be resolved by one powerful group--particularly those groups who choose Christianity as their base. For in their worldview is it not true that we are all created by "God" and if this should be true, would not our differences be gifts from that "God"?

Oh yes, there are those in that crowd who would hurry to claim that they are "tolerant" of differences. I would suggest to them that differences are not to be tolerated, but rather, to be celebrated! I fear that what they do not realize or are unable to grasp or accepts is that unity comes not from conformity but, rather, from reconciliation and understanding.

All of which, of course, is damned hard work.

But, remember this. Remember this and grasp it to the bosom of your soul as carefully and with as much nurturing as you would a newborn: When we welcome and celebrate strangers, we may very well be welcoming angels.

28 October 2009

SCOTUS Ruling on Corporate Campaign Donations Due Any Day

FROM: Common Cause

We may be just a week away from a Supreme Court decision that could shake the foundation of our democracy, and pave the way for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on the direct election or defeat of federal candidates.

That's because the Supreme Court could rule as soon as November 3 on the Citizens United case – which began as a narrow fight over funding for a political documentary, but has morphed into a case calling into question a century of campaign finance law. If the long-standing ban on corporate political spending is thrown out, it could unleash a flood of money into the political system. Precisely how much is hard to say, but according to new Common Cause analysis:

* If corporations and unions spend on political ads what they spend now on lobbying, they would be spending four times as much -- $6 billion -- as the $1.5 billion that all congressional candidates spent in the last election.

* The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently launched a $150 million advertising campaign to support a specific version of the health care reform legislation. That is one trade association on one bill -- imagine the implications for federal elections.

* In the 2008 elections, the winning candidates for the House of Representatives spent an average of $1.4 million on his or her campaign, roughly equivalent to what the health care industry spent daily on lobbying during the first six months of 2009.

We have a three-point plan that we will launch as soon as the Citizens United decision is handed down. Common Cause will work to minimize the impact of a bad ruling, prevent Congress from taking counter-productive actions (like increasing contribution limits) and enact an alternative system that allows congressional candidates to run vigorous campaigns without relying on money from big special interests. Without immediate action, ordinary citizens' voices could be drowned out by corporate spending on elections.

27 October 2009

Age 55-64 The Bridge Years > Now There's Help!

Building the Bridge to Secure Health Care

The nation needs health care reform — and, thanks to strong leadership and a lot of hard work by the Administration and Congress — a great deal of progress has already been made.

As the legislative process continues, Congress should remember the 33 million Americans in their "Bridge Years"(between ages 55–64) who are moving from full employment towards what they hope will be a secure retirement. They are workers; they are small business owners; they are parents; they care for their own elderly parents.

If these Americans lose their jobs, they will find it hard to obtain adequate health care coverage. Medicare is, of course, not available — they are "too young." But private insurers view them as "old" and higher risk — resulting in significantly higher premiums and, for many, denial of coverage altogether.

So we have come together — representing tens of millions of America’s workers in all 50 states; as well as manufacturers, large and small businesses, faith groups, non-profits, and more.

We ask Congress to combine the best elements of the Senate Finance, HELP committee and the House Tri-Committee bills to enact real health care reform. Particularly, we urge Congress to adopt fair age rating, create a fully funded reinsurance program, and continue to protect Medicare D reimbursement.

Together, we can ensure Americans in their Bridge Years have permanent access to quality, affordable health care coverage that is not contingent on age, health, or employment status.

Alliance for Retired Americans
Communications Workers of America
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
National Coalition on Health Care
National Consumers League
Small Business Majority
United Parcel Service
Verizon Communications

To read the full text of our letter to Congress, along with data on the health care challenges faced by Americans in their Bridge Years, go to BridgeYears Health Coalition

26 October 2009

Democratic Candidate Hank Gilbert on Reid's Public Option Announcement

TYLER-Hank Gilbert (D-Whitehouse), a candidate Texas Governor, issued the following statement regarding the announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the Senate would go forward with healthcare reform legislation which includes a public option:

"Contrary to the rightwing noise-boxes that manage to get themselves on television and radio in Texas, Texans overwhelmingly favor legislation which would include a public option.

The Senate's bill contains provisions which will allow states to "opt out" of the public option. What this means for Texas largely depends upon who the governor is and the make up of the Texas Legislature after the plan passes. If we have Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, or any of my other opponents, it will be nothing more than remaining at the status quo for us.

I favor the public option. Due to monopolies in many states and other non-competitive practices, there is no other realistic way to force the insurance companies to actually increase efficiency. There is no other way to make sure that everyone has access to affordable coverage which must be a key in any plan to unburden local and state governments from having to pay for indigent care."


  • Roughly 12 million people in Texas get health insurance on the job1, where family premiums average $13,525, about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job.2
  • Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 104 percent in Texas.3
  • Household budgets are strained by high costs: 17 percent of middle-income Texas families spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care. 4
  • High costs block access to care: 20 percent of people in Texas report not visiting a doctor due to high costs. 5
  • Texas businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $1,800 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured. 6


  • 25 percent of people in Texas are uninsured, and 75 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker. 7
  • The percent of Texans with employer coverage is declining: from 57 to 50 percent between 2000 and 2007. 8
  • Much of the decline is among workers in small businesses. While small businesses make up 70 percent of Texas businesses,9 only 32 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006 -- down 5 percent since 2000. 9
  • Choice of health insurance is limited in Texas. HCSC (Blue Cross Blue Shield ) alone constitutes 39 percent of the health insurance market share in Texas, with the top two insurance providers accounting for 59 percent. 10
  • Choice is even more limited for people with pre-existing conditions. In Texas, premiums can vary based on demographic factors and health status, and coverage can exclude pre-existing conditions or even be denied completely. 11


  • The overall quality of care in Texas is rated as "Weak." 12
    Preventative measures that could keep Texans healthier and out of the hospital are deficient, leading to problems across the age spectrum:
    • 20 percent of children in Texas are obese. 13
    • 25 percent of women over the age of 50 in Texas have not received a mammogram in the past two years.
    • 44 percent of men over the age of 50 in Texas have never had a colorectal cancer screening.
    • 66 percent of adults over the age of 65 in Texas have received a flu vaccine in the past year. 14

The need for reform in Texas and across the country is clear. Texas families simply can't afford the status quo and deserve better. President Obama is committed to working with Congress to pass health reform this year that reduces costs for families, businesses and government; protects people's choice of doctors, hospitals and health plans; and assures affordable, quality health care for all Americans.

(This information is taken from the U.S. DHS's website HealthReform.gov.)


1 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey. HIA-4 Health Insurance Coverage Status and Type of Coverage by State--All Persons: 1999 to 2007, 2007.
2 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2006, Table X.D.
Projected 2009 premiums based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "National Health Expenditure Data," available at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/nationalhealthexpenddata/.
3 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2000, Table II.D.1.
Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2006, Table X.D.
Projected 2009 premiums based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "National Health Expenditure Data," available at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/nationalhealthexpenddata/.
4 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 2006.
5 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007.
6 Furnas, B., Harbage, P. (2009). "The Cost Shift from the Uninsured." Center for American Progress.
7 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey. Annual Social and Economic Supplements, March 2007 and 2008.
8 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey. HIA-4 Health Insurance Coverage Status and Type of Coverage by State--All Persons: 1999 to 2007, 2007.
9 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2006, Table II.A.1a.
10 Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey - Insurance Component, 2001, 2006, Table II.A.2.
11 Health Care for America Now. (2009). "Premiums Soaring in Consolidated Health Insurance Market." Health Care for America Now.
12 Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. 2007 State Snapshots. Available http://statesnapshots.ahrq.gov/snaps07/index.jsp.
13 Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health.
14 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007.

23 October 2009

Older? Live in the country or a small town? Too bad!

Bad news for rural & small town seniors;

The Senate voted 47-53 against invoking cloture on a Medicare doctors' reimbursement bill on Wednesday, falling 13 votes short of stopping a filibuster.

The bill, S. 1776, would have fixed a formula in Medicare that currently would have doctors' reimbursements cut 21% in 2010 and another 5% in years beyond 2010. All Republicans voted against the bill, as well as the following 13 Democrats: Evan Bayh (IN), Robert Byrd (WV), Kent Conrad (ND), Byron Dorgan (ND), Russ Feingold (WI), Herb Kohl(WI), Joe Lieberman (CT), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bill Nelson(FL), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Warner (VA), Jim Webb (VA), and Ron Wyden (OR).

Congress for the last several years has stopped the cuts in a piecemeal fashion - often one year or 18 months at a time, and S. 1776 would have permanently fixed the problem. It is likely that the Senate will now go back and again do a one-year fix. Opponents wanted the bill "paid for" in budget terms, although this Congress had passed a resolution earlier this year exempting this and other crucial issues, like war funding, from the normal budget process.

"Seniors need certainty and security to know that their doctor will always be there for them. This bill would have given seniors on Medicare the security they need," said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance for Retired Americans. The bill was especially important in smaller communities and rural areas, where there are fewer patients and where seniors need to make sure that there are enough doctors to treat them.

This issue deserves a permanent fix. Rural areas and small towns already have a difficult time recruiting family-practice physicians and since the populations of these areas are top heavy with older Americans who rely on Medicare for their health care, it is patently obvious that until a permanent fix is in place these people will see a decline, if not an exodus, of family practise physicians.