28 May 2009

Voter ID Bill is DEAD - GOP Looses

Yea! Yippee! Hoorah!

This came in my e-mail this morning. Good job by all of you who fought this piece of right-wing idiocy.

Dear fellow Democrat,

Thanks to the efforts of our legislative Democrats - and your support - the Republican Voter ID bill was not considered by the Texas House.

We commend our legislative Democrats for their principled effort to protect every Texan's right to vote. Democrats didn't choose this fight - the battle lines were drawn by Senate Republicans on the very first day of the legislative session, when they changed the rules to push an unnecessary, partisan Voter ID bill through their chamber.

When confronted with a partisan agenda that Republicans cannot justify as a matter of public policy, Democratic members took a stand to protect the most fundamental right in our democracy.

After House Republicans set a calendar that put a Voter ID bill ahead of major pocketbook issues, House Democrats offered motions time and again to put more important legislation ahead of Voter ID, but Republicans insisted on holding those issues hostage to their mean-spirited, divisive partisan agenda.

Take a moment to thank your House and Senate Democrats for their refusal to stand for an assault on your voting rights. Here's where you can find contact information for your legislators: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Address.aspx

We are proud that our Democrats insist on putting progress ahead of partisanship, and today it's clearer than ever that we will not have a state government that works for the best interests of all Texans until Democrats are the majority party in our state legislature. I'm proud to have your support as we continue taking the fight to the Republicans on the road to winning back our state in 2010.

Your fellow Democrat,

Boyd L. Richie

Boyd L. Richie

Chairman Texas Democratic Party

27 May 2009

Sonia Montemayor - A Brilliant Selection

Once again President Barack Obama demonstrates his consummate skill at the game of hard-ball politics. His choice of Sonia Montemayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter was brilliant on several counts and places the Republicans in an untenable position of attacking a female Hispanic with all the needed qualifications and credentials for the job.

Of course, they’ll inflame the throngs of slack-jawed, mouth-breathing no-necks and knuckle-draggers who have become the “base of the party” with dire imprecations and warnings of a liberal, left-leaning judge taking the court into the briar patch of “ultra liberalism” or maybe even "SOCIALISM" based on empathy and feelings.

But, any fair-minded person (this means virtually everyone except conservatives and Republicans) will quickly see that not only does that old dog not hunt, it don’t even leave the porch! I’ll not bore you with case law, but I will assert this: Any in-depth examination of her past opinions and rulings will reveal that she is primarily very moderate, centrist and invariably on the side of the law.

The right-wing nabobs of negativism will natter endlessly about empathy and feelings not being a part of law when what they really mean is that they do not want a woman from humble origins interpreting law. They would prefer another middle-aged, white-guy, child of privilege, and scion of eastern establishment background and ivy-league education protecting them from the rigorous demands of the Constitution.

But, the president has snookered them, and placed them in the position of challenging a highly qualified female Hispanic merely while posturing in defense of an ideology which each day becomes more irrelevant. There is no winning for them and that is the brilliance of this particular nomination. It is not that she is female, or that she is Hispanic, it is that she is extremely well qualified, experienced and credentialed which leaves them only ideology. And that issue is belied by her record.

They’ll huff and they’ll puff, but in the end they’ll fold their tents and try to pick a different fight on a different day because in this particular battle, President Obama has adroitly removed all their weapons.

25 May 2009

Memorial Day

As a child of divorce, my holidays were divided between maternal and fraternal families--the Martins and the Foxes. For example, the Fourth of July was unalterably a maternal holiday spent either with the Martin clan down in the black earth area of Southern Illinois known as "Little Egypt" or with my mother and stepfather fishing and eating hot dogs, pork & beans, and "roastin' ears" on Scot Jimmy's Island in the Mississippi river channel a few miles south of Alton.

But, Memorial Day was always a Fox holiday. And, it had a script that was followed year-after-year up until the time that many of the players had either died or became too frail to continue, which coincided with my entry into the teen years.

Imagine, if you will, the curtain rising on a gathering of people at Valhalla cemetary. Myra Fox, my grandmother, her sister Alberta and her husband H.G., my uncle Dexter (Deck) and his wife Sherry, and some years my aunt Dorothy would come in from Kansas City, and my father Allan and stepmother Kay, and as an infant and toddler, my brother Chris, and of course me, your narrator. Graves were visited, tears were shed, flowers were left behind after whispered memories of events and times spent with those now removed from caring.

Then, we would all pile into cars for the trek to Alberta's (Aunt Bate) large white Victorian with black wrought iron fence at the corner of State Street and McPherson in Alton where we would gather in the back yard for croquet, lemonade and sugar cookies while the meal was being prepared inside. Depending on the weather, there might be enough of a nip in the air for a light jacket, but usually it was pleasant and warm and occasionally you could hear in the distance the mournful horns of the riverboats making their way through the locks.

But, let us hasten to the meal, as it was, in many ways the purpose of the day--the Foxes were, and, I suppose, still are serious eaters! And after all, one can get just so far on lemonade, sugar cookies, croquet and adult conversation about world affairs or the time that the mysterious uncle Dirk Slaten disappeared--probably got drunk and fell into one of the quarries in Grafton, according to my father.

Always. Each year. It was de riguer I tell you, we had pot roast. A good honest, Methodist, Midwest, belt-loosening, sort of pot roast that was cooked to succulent, tender perfection with potatoes, carrots, celery and onions basted in their own juices. Several boats of gravy made from the roast pan drippings, grandma Myra's Porter House rolls (often attempted by others since-but, never ever matching her yeasty melt-in-the-mouth perfection), creamed pearl onions, tossed garden salad, chilled radishes, green onions, cauliflower dripping in melted butter, sliced tomatoes, pickled beets, and a large bowl of ambrosia.

Desert would be pie or cake with fresh churned ice cream or strawberry shortcake piled high with freshly whipped heavy cream.

After desert and coffee, and the dishes were cleared, there would be more talk and memories of those who had gone before, and usually, if it were early enough, another round of coffee and some sort of game. The TV remained off, and if the radio was on it was tuned to one of the network symphony stations.

We didn't barbecue, drink beer, have blaring music, or arguments and divide up by generations. We came together as family and enjoyed the company of each other and whatever sibling or familial rivalries, jealousies or misunderstandings might have existed were never in evidence.

That is either how it was, or how I remember it. Either way, I think we've lost something along the way.

22 May 2009

Friday's Featured Site - The Human Rights Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign bills itself as working for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered persons and I have been a proud member for nearly five years. I support the organization not because I am gay myself, I am not, but because I believe in the work that they do on behalf of all of us.

The torture and murder of Matthew Shepherd because he was gay did not just diminish the humanity of his friends and family and community, it diminished the humanity of all of us collectively and of each of us individually. Standing alone, we can't change the attitudes, environment and ignorance which breeds such violence. Collectively, we can!

In exactly the same way, each unchallenged whisper, smirk, demeaning comment or gesture diminishes us. But worse, people who stand by silently as ignorant fools (there's that word again) characterize standing up for gay equality as being on a par with condoning bestiality or pedophilia are contributory to the headline crimes and excesses which all too often capture our morbid but transitory interest. It is our collective acceptance of such vile characterizations which gives "permission" to those hate-filled low-enders who regard "gay-bashing" as sport.

So, let me say this: Speaking as a straight, former Marine, married for 46-years, middle-aged, white-guy, I, nor my marriage, are threatened by the notion of two people loving---hell no--love isn't even the issue, of two people who want to provide sexual pleasure and/or emotional comfort to each other. Likewise, my community, neighborhood, way of life, or any other damned cliche you can drag out, are not threatened or diminished by such human behavior.

We have far bigger problems to contend with than whether same-sex partners should enjoy the legitimacy and benefits provided by civil marriage. Such is a basic human right. And certainly, no one can successfully argue that the state should or can dictate to any religious institution as to whom they can offer or deny their various rituals. If your church does not want to conduct marriage ceremonies for gays or lesbians, fine. There are those that will and do.

So, there it is, part of the reason for my support of and membership in the Human Rights Campaign. Visit their site, and make up your own mind.

20 May 2009

CVS - A Menace to Health & Well Being

The nation's largest retail pharmacy chain is earning a very bad reputation among older Americans and in minority communities for, among other things, selling expired goods and health code violations. These expired items include dairy, infant formulas, and child and adult medication.

In late February 2009 volunteer surveyors visiting 90% of the CVS stores in the Houston area found only three stores with no expired products on their shelves. Some examples of what the surveyors found:

  • Nesquick Strawberry milk over two weeks past its expiration date.

  • Nutrimigen Lipil, an infant formula, which had expired a full year previously.

  • CVS-brand Non-Drowsy Nasal Decongestant two years past its expiration date.

  • CVS-brand Sinus Relief Nighttime nine months past its expiration date.
The City of Houston health inspectors have cited nearly half of the CVS stores for dirty refrigerators or for maintaining food in coolers with missing or malfunctioning thermometers. Outside Houston, in Harris County, the citation rate was nearly 20%.

In more than one in six visits inspectors found expired infant formula or other adulterated food items on its store shelves.

Mind you, these are not isolated incidents limited to a small geographic area or the results of one bad manager, but, rather, a significant nationwide disgrace. In other cities across the country, such as Detroit, New York and Philadelphia, CVS is more frequently cited for health code violations in communities of color. Nationally, CVS has been repeatedly caught selling expired drugs, food and infant formulas.

And while the problem is more severe in communities of color and low-income areas, the company's disgraceful exploitation of consumers is endemic to the entire chain. In Massachusetts CVS Pharmacies is the single most penalized food retailer for overcharging.

CVS's mission statement contains these words, "to improve the lives we serve by making innovative and high-quality health and pharmacy services safe, affordable and easy to access." CVS has repeatedly demonstrated an arrogant and willful disregard for its own stated mission and an exploitative business model targeting the weakest and most vulnerable Americans.

Such bad business behavior belies their mission statement and requires that each of us join in the grassroots movement to bring CVS back into standards of acceptable business practice and human decency.

For more information visit CureCVSNow.

19 May 2009

Taxation of Benefits & Medicare Advantage Subsidies

The fight to fix America's health care system is upon us. Last week, President Obama laid out his road map by announcing three principles for health care reform and calling on Congress to act this year. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded, pledging to bring real health care reform to a vote by July 31st!

A key issue will be the taxation of health care benefits. Such tax code changes would impede good health care benefits and act to further suppress employer-based coverage. While one wants a tax code which is more progressive, one also firmly believes the best way to achieve that is to directly tax the income of the highest earners, not the cost of a person's health care.

In fact, health care reform and the tax code should be written in a way to reward employers that have been providing affordable, comprehensive benefits to their employees.

Medicare and long term services and supports are essential to the future of our health care system and both must be addressed, whether as part of health care reform or separate from it, in order to ensure the long term sustainability of coverage for the elderly and disabled.

Additionally, reform must include a halt to over payments to Medicare Advantage private insurance companies. Over payment runs anywhere for 14% to 19% on average and is extremely wasteful in a system already facing revenue challenges. The solution is quite simple; level the playing field so that insurance companies are paid neither more or less than regular Medicare.

Private plans must be required to provide benefits at least as strong as traditional Medicare, and must include services such as home health care.

Let us close by saying, once again, the opportunity is upon us to right the wrongs of the Medicare Part D program, provide better preventive services, and other improved benefits including; vision, dental, and long term care.

15 May 2009

Today's Featured Site: Cliff Osmond

Today's featured site is that of my acting teacher and coach Cliff Osmond.

I began my professional acting while studying with Cliff in San Antonio, Texas in the late eighties and have since worked on stage, in commercials, dinner theater, industrial films, voice overs and as a photographer's model in many newspaper and magazine advertisements. I mention these small achievements only to underscore the promise made at the time: "At the completion of the course, the actor will be prepared to ply his/her craft in any market in the country."

Cliff Osmond is a veteran actor, director, writer, and teacher based in Los Angeles. He is a long time member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars), the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the Emmys), the Screen Actor's Guild, AFTRA, and the WGA.

Cliff has appeared in dozens of films and hundreds of episodic television shows and movies of the week. Most notably, Cliff appeared in four Billy Wilder films including starring roles in "Kiss Me Stupid" with Dean Martin and Kim Novak and "The Fortune Cookie" with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Lemmon and Matthau were Cliff's sponsors into the Motion Picture Academy. He also wrote and directed "The Penitent" starring Armand Assante and Raul Julia.

Cliff teaches acting and scene study in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas. For more information, please visit Cliff's website or feel free to email him at cliff@cliffosmond.com

That is from his bio at his website. What it doesn't tell you is that Cliff is an admirable and decent man.

He once described himself to me as being a "scourge of persistence", which resonated with me as I was myself engaged in the process of self-rediscovery and reinvention after several years of being severely misused and dehumanized while in corporate management. He has had to reinvent himself many times in an industry which is unrelenting in its insatiable hunger for new, for different, and for young. For decades; from actor, to writer/director, to teacher/coach, to on set coach, Cliff has brought a unique focus and talent affecting and making better at their craft countless actors and directors.

I'll not go into all that I owe Cliff, or the things I've learned from him (both about acting and life--which are actually inseparable) but, I will say that he has affected my human development nearly as profoundly as my experiences as a Marine. In some ways he reminds me of my father--each with an ability to uncomplicate and see clearly the vital essence of things that most of us encumber with obfuscating layers of uncertainty, self-doubt, and caution.

I think you'll enjoy his blogs: Cliff Osmond Unedited and Cliff Osmond on Acting. Take a few minutes and drop in.

14 May 2009

May is Older Americans' Month

May is Older Americans' Month which gives us an opportunity to recognize the achievements of seniors and to highlight the needs of our over 50 citizens.

As Congress prepares to take up health care reform this summer, we are provided a historic opportunity to improve and strengthen Medicare, while advocating for universal health care.

The coming reform should provide a public health plan available to anyone who wishes to take part in it. Such a plan should make coverage more affordable with lower administrative costs and should have a standard benefit with continuous coverage so that individuals are not faced with annual decisions between many different plans.

It should provide opportunities for all Americans 55-64 to "buy into" Medicare since this group finds it extremely difficult to find affordable private health insurance. Or else, we should expand Medicare eligibility to commence at age 55.

Older Americans need an improved drug program, better preventive services, and other improved benefits.

Older Americans (50 or older) use more prescription drugs than any other age group and pay the highest prices in the word for prescription drugs. Currently, prices under Medicare Part D are at least 50% higher than prices for veterans, because the Veteran's Administration is allowed to bargain, while Medicare is not. The high prices force Plan D recipients into the infamous "donut hole" where they continue to pay premiums but receive no benefits. Also, without bargaining, Medicare is overpaying drug companies by 12%, further increasing the plan's long-term solvency problems.

If Medicare could negotiate directly with drug companies, the Part D program savings over the first eight years would be nearly $560-billion, enough to completely eliminate the "donut hole".

You're encouraged to contact your legislators by phone, e-mail, letter or personal visit to let them know that those of us 50 and older have an important stake in helath care reform. Also, take a moment to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and talk to your friends and family about the need for all of us to be engaged in this issue.

To stay up to date on this and other important issues visit the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans' website, or the national Alliance for Retired Americans' website.

13 May 2009

Do Not Panic Over Social Security & Medicare News

From today's headline's:

Social Security and Medicare are fading even faster under the weight of the recession, heading for insolvency years sooner than previously expected, the government warned Tuesday.

Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, a year sooner than projected last year, and the giant trust fund will be depleted by 2037, four years sooner, trustees reported.

The Alliance for Retired Americans responds:

The following statement was issued by Edward F. Coyle, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to Trustee Reports issued today for the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds.

“The impact of the recession on the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds underscores the critical need to support President Obama’s plans to reform health care and create a lasting economic recovery. Putting more Americans back to work will send more money into these Trust Funds, and a universal, more efficient health care system will alleviate the severe strain that our health care crisis imposes on both families and employers. Our nation’s inter-related economic and health care problems are what should demand our lawmakers’ immediate attention.

“Current and future retirees should be suspicious of ‘sky is falling’ predictions of doom for Social Security and Medicare. These warnings mask an ongoing ideological agenda to cut benefits to current and future retirees. Instead, we should focus on strengthening Social Security by raising the cap on earnings, and ending the nearly 20 percent overpayment that taxpayers give to the big insurance companies to offer privatized Medicare Advantage programs.

“Today’s reports are a reminder that we must focus our energies on the lasting benefits of improving our economy and reforming our nation’s health care system. This is neither the time nor place for ideology or heated rhetoric. Instead, our nation’s retirees are looking to Washington to take specific steps to improve retirement security in America.”

12 May 2009

Limbaugh - Sykes - Right's Crocodile Tears

The right-wing's noise machine is blasting away full-volume over comedienne Wanda Sykes's digs at Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondent's Dinner.

In case you missed it, she mused, "...he was the twentieth hijacker on 9/11, but he was so strung out on Oxycontin that he missed his flight."

Now the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging conservatoids are in full umbrage claiming that Sykes's "went over the line!"

First, to these idiots I want to say, there is no damned line! Line? Get a grip and shut up! It was a joke by a comic, brought in to make jokes. But by comparison, let's review twenty of that fat, loud-mouthed, dope-fiend's more outrageous utterances--which, by the by, were not intended as jokes and which got no censure from the inbred right-wing.

1. “There is no conclusive proof that nicotine’s addictive... And the same thing with cigarettes causing emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease.”

2. “Columbus saved the Indians from themselves.”

3. "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act... This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."

4. “[African Americans] are twelve percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”

5. “Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentlemen, a worthless shred of human debris.”

6. “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”

7. “We are a growing country and everybody needs energy! We're not going to stay the United States if we start reducing energy usage. Conservation is not the answer.”

8. On torture at Abu Ghraib: “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation. And we're going to ruin people's lives over it, and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people—you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?”

9. “Screw the world. Do you really think we ought to govern ourselves based on what the world thinks of us?”

10. "President Obama ordered the killing of three black Muslim kids."

11.I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

12. “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed”.

13. Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

14. “Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons.” There, I said it.

15. “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

16. They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”

17. “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back”(to an African American female caller).

18. “I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve.”

19. Limbaugh attacks on Obama. Limbaugh has called Obama a ‘halfrican American’ has said that Obama was not black but Arab because Kenya is an Arab region, even though Arabs are less than one percent of Kenya.

20. “I hope he fails”. (On Obama’s election as President)

Line? What damned line?

11 May 2009

Rove - Cheney: Destroying the Republican Party

Would each of you please help me out a bit and take it upon yourself to sit down with any Republican acquaintances you might have and explain to them that “elections have consequences” and that they lost in 2008.

Lost really big at that!

Earlier this month we endured Karl Rove insisting that the right must oppose anyone Obama picks to fill the Supreme Court seat soon to be vacated by David Souter’s retirement. Indeed, this is the same (still not yet indicted) Karl Rove, who while Bush (the second) was president, told the Washington Post that “the President was owed deference to choose a qualified nominee and the opposition party had a “responsibility to back” that pick”

If you can, set aside the hypocrisy of these utterances and give thought to this simple summation. The Republican right wing, does not know whom Obama will choose, but whomever it is they are planning to throw sand in the gears. Loyal thoughtful Americans that bunch.

And yesterday we hear Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney on Face the Nation saying that he prefers Rush Limbaugh’s brand of Republicanism to that of Colin Powell. "If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh. My take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican", Cheney said.

He also claims that we, you and I, and all of America are less safe because of Obama, “… getting rid of certain harsh interrogation techniques or a terrorist surveillance program reduces the flow of good intelligence.”

Got that? The Torturer in Chief wants a return to the Days of Darkness despite the facts that most credible experts say that information coming from torture is not reliable and can best be obtained in other ways. But, putting that aside, we had an election in which this issue was decided—Americans do not condone torture!

And he prefers the politics of a drug-addled blowhard to those of a man who distinguished himself in war and peace and who has served his country both as a warrior and high ranking cabinet member. It really is a matter of values.

So please do this thing for me. No, do it for yourself. For the good of all of us. Take a Republican to lunch and explain to them that elections have consequences and that they lost the last election because, among other reasons, men such as Rove and Cheney do not reflect that which is good and decent about America. They are the foul, rotting underside of the worst sort of politics and if Republicans do not cast them aside and move on, there will soon be no Republican party, as it is known today!

08 May 2009

New Friday Feature - Blogs & Sites of Note

Today's featured site is The Aggressive Progressives.

Where you'll find an outstanding essay by Bob Fertik about Cheney's war with Pelosi. Fertik writes that "Dick Cheney may be out of the White House, but he's still doing what he loves best - waging a secret war based on deliberately distorted "intelligence." But he's no longer waging a war on Terror. Instead he's waging a war on Nancy Pelosi.

Cheney has, according to Fertik, launched a blackmail operation against Pelosi based on the recently emerging right-wing smear that the CIA briefed her about waterboarding on September 4, 2002, and she approved.

The right-wing noise machine has been trumpeting this allegation for weeks as Republican Senators, Republican Congress persons, media pundits, and "journalists" such as Rick Klein of ABC and Greg Miller of LA Times prance about mouthing the canard. The problem with all this is that Pelosi adamantly denied the smear in a press conference on April 23, 2009.

"We were not, I repeat, we were not told that waterboarding or any of these interrogation methods were used." What they did tell us was they had some legislative counsel opinions. And if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time," said Speaker Pelosi.

Here's the why. Cheney and other Bush minions are terrified that Attorney General, Eric Holder, will investigate the Bush administration's war crimes. It is not difficult to picture the behind the scenes cabal of Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, David Addington, Cathie Martin, Mary Matalin and a gaggle of other Team-Cheney co-conspirators churning out the lies to their addled and pixilated right-wing audience.

Elections have consequences and chickens come home to roost.

Visit the site to read the full essay along with others.

07 May 2009

Matthew 23:24 & Republican Hypocrisy

Let us be careful not to gag at a gnat and swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:24)
I have come to the conclusion that my congressman is naught but a damned fool. I assure you that I do not use that term loosely as one of the worst dressing downs I ever received from my mother involved my calling someone a "fool". Seems that's the eleventh commandment or something; Thou shalt not call anyone a fool. It's prohibited somewhere in the bible, or so my mother fervently believed.

So, to this day I hesitate. Jackass is ok, dumbass-ok, short-bus candidate-ok, and on the right occasion stupid mo-fo works, but calling someone a fool? well that is very serious business. But, sometimes, one just has to squint, spit on the ground and come out with it, "That old boy is just a damned fool!"

Oh yeah! Here's what's going on. My congressman is Jeb Hensarling and he now blames our financial crises on the Community Reinvestment Act. "One can look at the Community Reinvestment Act--very noble in intent, designed to deal with a very serious problem of redlining at the time," he said, "But ultimately it helped put the federal government's seal of approval not so much on helping raise the economic opportunities of the borrower but instead bringing down the lending standards of the lenders." Or so he says on March 9 of this year.

But back in the heyday of subprime lending he spoke from a different side of his mouth, "I need not remind my colleagues that America enjoys the highest rate of home ownership in the history of America," Hensarling ballyhooed on May 24, 2005. "With the advent of subprime lending, countless families have now had their first opportunity to buy a home or perhaps be given a second chance," he went on blathering.

So now those "countless families" i.e. low income or minority borrowers are not the victims of the economic crash, they are the cause of it. By extension that makes only the well-to-do worthy of low interest rates.

Well that is the gnat that's gagging our boy Hensarling. Here are the camels he's wolfed down. An auto industry manufacturing and marketing gas-guzzling behemoths adding to our energy dependence and influencing a foreign policy of invasion and occupation to protect "our" middle east oil, billions poured into the rat hole of the Iraq occupation and "reconstruction", a deregulated wall street and financial institutions rewarding greed and paying bonuses for outright criminality, and insurance oligarchs raping, plundering and pillaging our entire health care system, just to name a few.

Hey Hensarling! Working people, poor people, and disenfrachised Americans of all sorts are not the cause of the economic melt-down. They are the most vulnerable victims of it.

I suspect my mom, were she alive, would agree with me. Jeb Hensarling is naught but a damned fool.

06 May 2009

Urgent Request for HELP!

We've been asked to help in spreading the word on SB 1569 which would allow Texas to take $555-million in stimulus money that Governor Rick Perry wants to reject! See the MEMO below.

I have written on this twice before, but it is so critical that I am posting again. Here, for more information and background, are the links to my earlier posts.

To: Union Members, Retirees, Friends
From: Becky Moeller & Paul Brown
Date: May 5, 2009
Re: Urgent Action Needed on Major Unemployment Insurance Legislation

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Labor’s signature bill of the 2009 legislative session – SB 1569, which would allow Texas to accept $555 million in federal economic stimulus funds for unemployed Texans – may be debated on the Texas House floor as early as Thursday.

We need you to call your state representative NOW and ask him or her to SUPPORT SB 1569.

The bill:

1) Delivers $555 million to Texans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own;

2) Expands unemployment insurance eligibility to cover 45,000 more jobless Texans, mainly those who are low-wage or part-time workers;

3) Will cut taxes for employers who are struggling in the recession.

Please call your representative by clicking here, or through the House switchboard – (512) 463-1000 – with this simple message:

“Hello, my name is ________, a constituent of Rep. ____________. I am calling to ask him (her) to SUPPORT SB 1569, the Unemployment Insurance bill, so that deserving unemployed Texans may receive benefits and employers will have lower taxes in this tough economic period. Please take the money! Thank you.”

Thank you for taking action on this critical bill for working families in Texas.

In Solidarity,

Becky Moeller Paul R. Brown
President Secretary-Treasurer

05 May 2009

Seniors Gain Influence in Congress

Marking May as Senior Citizen's Month, the Alliance for Retired Americans has released a comprehensive report detailing the voting record of every U. S. Senator and Representative on key issues affecting Americans 50-years and older.

According to the grassroots activist group's President, Barbara J. Easterling, last year's (2008) voting record showed a continuation of a pro-senior trend which began in 2006. "There were more perfect scores on the voting record this year with fewer zeroes," she said.

"This indicates a higher commitment to improve health cars, strengthen Medicare, and put seniors ahead of drug and insurance companies," she continued.

The document examines 10 key Senate and House votes in 2008, showing the roll calls on issues ranging from stopping Social Security privatization to fully funding the low-income energy assistance program. A number of votes dealt with Medicare, including the override, of Bush's veto of a bill making improvements to Medicare such as providing preventive and mental health benefits and adjusting the asset tests so that more low income beneficiaries can receive help.

In the Senate: 58 members received passing grades (higher than 60%), with 47, including then Senator Obama, achieving perfect scores of 100% and 42 receiving failing grades, with only Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) scoring zero! Senator McCain (R-AZ) was absent for all ten votes included in the tally.

In the House: 259 members received passing grades, with 197 scoring perfect 100s, and 42 receiving failing grades, and 14 receiving scores of zero. One seat was vacant during the votes included in the tally.

Those of us laboring the senior activism vineyards see in this analysis a reason for hope that we can now achieve positive change for all 50 and older Americans. It is now up to each of us, you and I, all of us, to stay informed, keep engaged, organize and mobilize to the extent of our individual abilities, whether by attending rallies, holding house parties, joining letter or phone campaigns, or merely sharing our concerns and interests with friends and family.

Click here and follow the prompts to read in detail the full report and to see how your Senators and representative scored.

04 May 2009

Banks Win - You Lose!

If anyone doubts the power wielded by banks, they need but to watch this...

And for whatever it is worth, there's a reason I'm no longer in talk radio. It dates back to the early 80s when I was doing my show on KTRH in Houston. I uttered the words that, "A banker will rob you quicker with fountain pen than a south side car jacker with a Saturday night special."

KTRH was owned, at the time, by John T. Jones, who also was Chairman of the Board of Texas Commerce Bank. Truth hurts I reckon as it was shortly after that that I was out of there on my butt!

01 May 2009

National Health Care Debate - Some Recommendations

The United States has no coordinated, national public-private system for delivering service and supports to people with chronic health care needs. The gap is the largest for people over 50 and people with disabilities.

Older Americans have a major stake in the success of comprehensive health care reform which offers a choice of providers, affordability, efficiency, effectiveness and which reduces disparities in health care with cost containment methods that are both equitable and sustainable.

Yesterday, The Leadership Council of Aging Organization(LCAO), a coalition of national nonprofits concerned with, and representing, the well-being of America's over 50 population, released its recommendations in advance of the coming debate on national health care. Its sixty members offer expertise and advocacy on many issues affecting the 87-million Americans 50 and over.

"Congress has an opportunity to improve the quality, affordability, and accessibility of health care for the fastest growing segment of our country. Out health care crises is a big reason why so many Americans worry that they will not be able to retire securely--even if they retire at all", said Edward Coyle, Chair of LCAO and Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Here are the highlights of those recommendations:

  • Create a national public-plan option for an alternative to private health insurers.

  • Allow early retirees aged 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare.

  • Close gaps in Medicare coverage such as the "doughnut hole".

  • Expand Medicare coverage of preventive care and disease management.

  • Improve Medicares prescription drug plan by adding a national public plan that uses the government's bulk purchasing power to negotiate volume discounts from drug makers.
    Expand Medicare coverage for low-income beneficiaries.

  • Broaden eligibility for Medicaid.

  • Create a national insurance program to help families afford long-term care.

  • Expand the Older Americans Act to improve access to home and community-based services.

  • Improve the quality of nursing home care by increasing transparency and accountability among nursing home owners and operators and expanding resident's rights.

  • Increase training for workers who care for older adults.

The full recommendations are available at http://www.lcao.org/