29 January 2010

Preview: Middle Class Task Force Recommendations

Middle Class Task Force Recommendations Emerge
The White House Middle Class Task Force, led by Vice President
Joe Biden, has released a preview of its recommendations for
strengthening the middle class. The president's budget will be
made public on Monday, February 1.

The recommendations include a few core items for seniors, such
as expanded funding for care giving, respite care, promoting
401(k) transparency, and the availability of annuities. The
respite care and expanded funding for the Department of Health
and Human Services would help seniors maintain their independence
and live in the community for as long as possible, as well as
assist their family caregivers with essential elder-care

The Task Force will advocate automatic workplace IRAs with an
opt-out option; a saver's credit that would match workers'
retirement savings; an update of 401(k) regulations in order to
ensure transparency; and increased availability of optional
annuities as well as other forms of guaranteed lifetime income.

The Alliance for Retired Americans is also urging the White House
to include a $250 stimulus payment to Social Security recipients
since there is no Cost of Living Adjustment in 2010.

"Americans have seen their retirement savings plummet. It is
important that the government renew their commitment to
all citizens," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the
Alliance for Retired Americans.

Next month, the committee will deliver its year-end report to the
President, and it is expected that Congress will be pressed to
create legislation supporting the Task Force's suggestions.


28 January 2010

SOTU - A Huge Expectations Gap!

We Americans are a conflicted lot. We want our political representatives to be just like us but we also want them to be ideologically heroic and without any of the failings which plague all of humanity. This is to say that at some psychological level, we want our politicians to be heroes and heroines. And, at that same level, we become outraged and scourge those politicians who fail in reaching the high level of our expectations when we first put them into office.

We want men and women who are veritable demigods; courageous and of noble purpose nearing the divine. We project these qualities on those politicians we choose to vote for and send off to represent us. We want them to be better than we are, less human and more divine and always of noble purpose. But, at the same time, we want them to harken to our best interests to the exclusion of competing interests or ideals. We want them to share our expectations and to always act upon them in ways we prefer.

We expect much of our politicians and react with anger and frustration when we inevitably learn that not all of them share our high expectations. Put aside, if you can, the notion of those with conflicting ideology, or fundamental beliefs and philosophies contrary to ours--those people do not get our vote. I am talking of those who got our vote and then fall woefully short of our expectations.

Thus, I find myself like many Americans on the morning following Mr. Obama's first SOTU; outraged, disappointed and thoroughly saddened that this man whom I expected to stand firm against the poisonous philosophies of the neoconservative policy makers and neo-liberal economists spoke as though those dangerous notions were the way forward.

I listened and watched in great discomfort as Mr. Obama touted tax cuts and a bi-lateral federal spending review committee as part of the solution to today's economic ills and the burden to be left our children and grandchildren. I listened and watched with a gnawing pit in my stomach as he uttered a few gratuitous lines about saving the "middle-class" without a word about strengthening worker rights to organize and negotiate. Notably absent from his laundry list of the obvious things which must be done was any reference of support for the Employee Free Choice Act. None!

Merely stating a wonderful grasp of the obvious with eloquence and passion does not put people to work, provide affordable, high-quality health care for those without, and it does nothing at all to advance the dreams and hopes of working America. At the same time, early indicators are that the market remains underwhelmed by recent words emanating from the administration. To that point, I would suggest that the market is never really about "now" but more about reaction to future risk assessment.

If my gut reactions and the market are reliable indicators, American workers are in for a very long and drawn out rough patch with little real job creation, few protections for those who still have jobs, and frighteningly volatile potentials for retirement security through 401Ks and investment.

Damn it! More of the same. And that was not part of my expectations of an Obama led federal government. Like I said, we have high expectations of our politicians and are outraged when they fall short. But, at least, I would like to have seen the effort put forth.

So, maybe I am like everyone else; disillusioned by expectations unshared and set too high, which were brought about by a belief that somehow, following the depredations of Bush and his coven of deep-forest hobgoblins, river trolls, liars, thieves, cut-purses, and mendicants, we had found a hero who would lead us to victory against the forces the forces of darkness. I was mistaken. Mr. Obama is turning out to be no hero at all.

I'll not be making that same mistake again.

27 January 2010

Mr. President, Here's a Well Deserved Dope Slap!

Take these numbers and set them aside for a moment, we'll come back to them >> $1.05-Trillion. (Yes, I know, the trillion ought not be in caps, but, what the hell, that much money should be in bold caps.) and $700-billion..no caps there, it's only billions.

Tonight, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to America and we are promised that he will talk about spending freezes on non-essential and redundant federal programs and agencies. He will also talk about Democrats uniting behind the Senate version of health care reform and he'll give a wink and nod to jobs creation, and let us know that we're not going back to the moon any time soon.

So, Mr. President, let's talk. Shall we?

I am wondering if those programs are redundant and non-essential, why in the name of Aunt Gertie's persimmon butter are they still around? Huh? You've had a year!

And, Mr. President, I feel that; since I opened my purse to your campaign, spent hours speaking from various stumps in Texas, and worked diligently on election day to help insure that you got the needed votes, I am entitled to give you a dope smack on the back of the head from time-to-time. Well, I am aren't I?

Squint your eyes and clinch your shoulder and neck muscles Mr. President because here it comes.

Sir, too many of your base constituents are feeling let down and are beginning to wonder if maybe you're not an Eisenhower Republican or a Chamber-of-Commerce Democrat. We do not care a hill of hammered rat dung for the farcical Senate version of health care reform. We want real health care reform with, at the very least, a federally subsidized "public option. We want the government to invest in jobs, not cut programs; and we want you to work to restore the American middle-class by creating those jobs with the assurance that workers can organize and bargain fairly for better standards of living, health care for all, retirement security and federally enforced policies that will protect all Americans from the rampaging greed and exploitation by the stateless corporations, and their world-wide financiers, (which)--- oops, SCOTUS has turned that into "who" --- have so corrupted our legislative process that we have come to the point that our military is used to advance their worldwide expansion and profits.

Back in the late 50s, when Ike sat in the oval office and "Public Relations" was becoming the reigning science of politics, America was similarly suffering. It took John Kennedy, with the support of the unions, to turn back a depression, called recession by the Chamber of Commerce, and launch America into its most prosperous years. That transformation was accomplished by investing in working families and bringing them into the emergent middle class with affordable higher education for their children to insure that the process would continue.

That was the road to economic recovery back then and it remains so today. With unemployment at 10% and likely to climb another 2% to 5% higher and nearly 6-million people on extended unemployment benefits with at least another 6-million Americans, way too many of them children, living on nothing but food stamps, a symbolic spending freeze and curtailment of space exploration does not suffice .

Mr. President, we are not stupid---we used those opportunities for higher education and understand clearly the dynamics of the present. Wall street and the financial sector cashed in on $700-billion in TARP funds and are now back in business as usual giving themselves huge bonuses, fleecing the American public through unregulated exploitative business practices, and buying and corrupting our legislators while their public relations arm, the Chamber of Commerce, attempts to misdirect our attention from their own responsibilities for our current depression called recession.

That $1.05-TRILLION, I mentioned up yonder. That is the amount projected to be pissed away on Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 through fiscal 2010. I'll not belabor the obvious. Thanks to our middle class upbringing and opportunity for education, we caught on to the significance of that amount right quickly, we did.

26 January 2010

Health Care Reform - It's Not "Mother May I?"


Let me set the record straight. Both the House and Senate versions of health care reform are positive steps in the right direction. However, one is reminded of the child's game of "Mother May I?", in that the House bill is a "giant step" while the Senate bill is a series of "baby steps", "side steps" and "back steps". The issue should be clearly understood, we're not playing a child's game!

Right up front, we find the house bill contains a "Public Option" and the Senate bill does not. That fact alone should be sufficient to give one pause---and it has. Last summer when the House bill was passed, the majority of Americans favored it and supported a "Public Option". After the Senate bill was voted through, the public became wary and suspicious and support plummeted despite the administration's nearly frenzied attempts to whip up "grassroots" support.

By eliminating the Public Option the Senate and administration have capitulated to the Insurance Tsars and Drug Moguls and put forth a piece of legislation that will insure that those vested interests have no real competition and become even more powerful and rich from our illnesses, health conditions, and accidents than they already have.

But, like a late-night TV huckster, the Senate says, "But that's not all..." and targeted older Americans with charges and costs much higher than would be allowed under the House bill. They also targeted union workers and retirees who negotiated away higher wages and "fringe benefits" in order to obtain better health care coverage. the unions manage to push back some of that, and therein lies a lesson for all of us...fight back and organize, educate and mobilize others to join you.

Under McCarran-Ferguson, Fortune 500 insurance companies enjoy antitrust exemptions which would be repealed under the House bill but not under the Senate version. If it were to be included in the final version the Feds could go after the Insurance Tsars for misleading or dishonest business practices.

Appalled yet? Well consider this. The House bill would provide coverage to 94 percent of the uninsured while the Senate bill will leave 6% of the uninsured----still uninsured!

Supporters of the Senate bill say pass it, any bill bill is better than no bill and we'll improve it as we go along. I strongly disagree. In any negotiation process what you get is what you're going to have...Medicare Part D is resounding proof of that!

So what's to be done. Quite simple really. The Senate has 59 Democrats, well sort of actually, and 41 Republicans. In the vernacular of the day, "Do the math". Surely they could muster a simple majority of 51 and Lieberman, Nelson, etc.. be damned!

With that majority, the Democrats could do what the public, unions, progressive organizations and most members of the house want: Pass extension of Medicare to 55-64 year-olds, close the Medicare donut hole, allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices and the Medicaid expansion which both houses have already approved. The more contentious items such as the Public option can be passed by a simple majority in the parliamentary process known as "reconciliation".

Of course, for this to happen, Democrats need to develop the will, and stop reaching for the tissues every time a Republican sneezes, and stop playing "Mother May I?"


25 January 2010

The Top Ten Reason Progressives Oppose Senate Version of Health Care Refrom

  1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not.
  2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS.
  3. Many will be forced to buy poor-quality insurance they can’t afford to use, with $11,900 in annual out-of-pocket expenses over and above their annual premiums.
  4. Massive restriction on a woman’s right to choose, designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
  5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.
  6. Many of the taxes to pay for the bill start now, but most Americans won’t see any benefits — like an end to discrimination against those with preexisting conditions — until 2014 when the program begins.
  7. Allows insurance companies to charge people who are older 300% more than others.
  8. Grants monopolies to drug companies that will keep generic versions of expensive bio-tech drugs from ever coming to market.
  9. No re-importation of prescription drugs, which would save consumers $100 billion over 10 years.
  10. The cost of medical care will continue to rise, and insurance premiums for a family of four will rise an average of $1,000 a year — meaning in 10 years, your family’s insurance premium will be $10,000 more annually than it is right now
Tomorrow: Why the House Version is better...and how to get it passed!

22 January 2010

Massachusetts Swing Voters: We Want Public Option & We Want Jobs

Yesterday, we reported that the exit polls demonstrated a startling and resounding truth about why the Democrats lost a pivotal Senate seat in Massachusetts. Today, after deeper analysis and careful review of the polls another clear fact emerged. It was one to which the Democratic party should pay heed: Be bold, fight for more change--not less, and pass health care with a public option, and get real about unemployment and jobs creation.

The corporate media continues to shill a different message; "Back off! You're doing too much and the American people don't like it"! Tragically, out of touch Democrats, including some Obama operatives in the field, are losing their nerve and are calling for Democrats to "back off" and just pass the Senate health care bill despite its glaring inadequacies and cruel exclusion of millions of uninsured Americans.

What they should know by this point was that it was not Republican voters who turned this election--it was stay-at-home voters and Obama voting independents frustrated with this administration's failure to initiate and lead the promised change. Eighty percent of those "swing" voters think the Senate version of health care is inadequate and want a "Public Option".

Those working class voters who did go to the polls were issuing a very loud and clear "Wake-Up!" call. The issue for them is not that Democrats were doing too much, but rather, they are doing too little. They are aware of, and if not themselves, they personally know someone who is affected the 10% unemployment rate--and that congress recently voted its self a raise while failing to rein in and regulate the high bonuses and salaries of the nation's banksters and their wall street cronies. already there are more than 6-million Americans subsisting on nothing but food stamps.

Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL/CIO has this to say about the election results:

Let me close this now with some very applicable words from the man whose holiday we just celebrated, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."

21 January 2010

"Scum-Bag" Liberals Demand the Promised Change

When Mr. Obama was elected as President of the United States he included in his victory speech these words: "This victory alone is not the change we seek--it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen without you."

On these lofty words, he began his administration with the support and the goodwill of the majority of America and with as favorable a legislative balance as any Democrat has had in many, many years. We liberals (and progressives, as I really see no distinction) were hopeful and confident that change would come about. That a real jobs program would be created to offset the tragically high rate of unemployment, that small and medium sized businesses would find support rather than rhetoric, that we would ratchet down our military presence in the Muslim world, and that we would see true regulation and restraint placed on Wall Street, its bankers and financiers and that there would be meaningful home-ownership relief to forestall, prevent or even end the horrendous rate of foreclosure. Those were some of our liberal hopes.

But most of all we dreamed of health care reform that would insure that never again would any American die, remain sick or crippled, or left bankrupt and in poverty because of lack of access to quality, affordable health care. We thought that at last we had a President and Congress who would do those things.

Now our dismay has turned to outright anger as we saw all that squandered on the naive altar of bipartisan negotiation and cooperation as though goodwill would be sufficient to get the monied interests and their legislative lackeys to do the right thing. We're angry because it is still business as usual, we're angry because the Senate version of health care reform does not do a damned thing to effect real change and that the administration through its grassroots campaign organization, "Organizing for America" is touting that the Senate bill is the best we can get.

Now, that is fine. That is politics. But, when a major regional figure in O. F. A. has the effrontery and gall to characterize a sitting Democratic Congressman as a "scum-bag" because he will not go along with the administration's marching orders, I think that perhaps it is time for people to take a deep breath and ask themselves if the promised change has happened, is happening, or looks likely to happen. And if one's answer is no, where do we turn to bring about the change we so urgently need to restore and insure the survival of an American middle class.

At least that is what this particular "scum-bag" liberal, who adamantly opposes the Senate version of health care reform, is thinking

20 January 2010

Here We Go Again - Aqui Nos Vamos Novamente

Yesterday the Democrats of Massachusetts failed to hold on to the seat held by Ted Kennedy through a combination of things, which are being well belabored by the pundits and do not require any additional commentary from me. Mainly because they are all utterly wrong.

Turncoat Joe Lieberman suggests that Democrats should move to the center....Joe, the center is not the center, it is the not quite so moderate wing of the Republican party with garbage truck loads of "independents" who are for the most part; uninformed, uninvolved and uneducated.

Turncoat Joe is joined by many national commentators who say that the Democrats lost the Senate seat because the Congress is "too far to the left". Here we go again...

Heart breaking rendition of an old country standard. Here we go again.... A bit off topic and gratuitous, maybe..but it reinforces my point--In politics as in love, we sometimes repeat the same stupid action over-and-over expecting different results while deep down knowing that we're heading into disillusionment and pain.

Turncoat Joe Lieberman is dead wrong and the pundits are dead wrong. The Democrats got shellacked, not because they're doing too much, but, rather because they're doing too little. Democrats do not need to act like Republicans to win!

Exit polls by Research 2000 found that even Scott Brown voters want the Democrats "to be bolder and they want health care reform that includes a public option". And six to one, Obama voters in 2008 who stayed home yesterday agreed with 80% of all voters wanting a public option. Democrats failed to mobilize their base by attempting to be Republican Lite and are paying the price.

The Democrats have one chance to salvage health care reform and in so doing insure their future viability....no! not viability...their very future. They must listen to their progressive and liberal base and take strong action. They must invoke budget reconciliation in order to enact the major points of the House version of health care reform which will require a simple majority of 51 votes. Either that, or they will Be singing a really sad song come November 2010.

19 January 2010

Attention Banksters:: FINAL NOTICE!

I got this today from Working America and it is too good not to pass along to you. Here's your opportunity to tell the "Banksters" they are past-due with you and that you're giving them their Final Notice!

"Wall Street banks threw our economy into crisis. Bailing them out cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, with unemployment at 10 percent, those same Wall Street banks are planning to give six- and even seven-figure bonuses to the executives who created this mess.

It's time to say enough, and send the banks a final notice. Payment is past due on the harm they've done to the economy. Payment is past due on all the ways they've mistreated their customers—from excessive credit card fees to risky mortgages.

We're letting the bankers know: Since they won't rein themselves in, the government is going to have to do it. And we're letting our senators know we want the banks to face consequences for their actions.

  • President Obama's proposed financial crisis responsibility fee on the largest banks will help get back the taxpayer money that bailed out those same banks, without penalizing community banks and small firms.
  • We need a consumer financial protection agency to provide strong oversight so banks can't play Russian roulette with our economy again, and to protect customers from being bled dry."

Your message also will go to your senators, to urge them to rein in the banks."

18 January 2010

Celebrating the Dream - MLK Day 2010

We gathered at the downtown square and marched, singing and chanting, to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception four or five blocks down Broadway and packed our selves in with people lining the aisles, balcony, apse and nave. A standing room only mixture of white, black, brown, young, old, male, female, rich, and poor to celebrate the dream of the single most important person of the 20th Century.

Martin Luther King's dream of white and black, son of slave and son of slave owner, sitting at the table of brotherhood was more than a theme today, it was reality!

Our featured guest speakers were The Honorable Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Reverend Dr. Stuart Baskin, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Tyler, Texas. It was Dr. Baskin's great-great grandfather who had owned (my god, what a dreadful, painful, sickening notion--that one man might legally own another), and after the civil war, set free the great-great grandfather of Chief Justice Jefferson. Two men, inextricably linked by time and history, one white, one African-American, literally and physically as well as symbolically, embracing and sharing love, brotherhood and reconciliation on this day set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.

Afterward some of spoke together quietly of the progress which has come and the hard, troubled road to the strenuous work which still awaits our doing. For you see, Racism, bigotry, ignorance and hatred still lives. Oh no, the violent opposition has slithered back into primal darkness from whence it came. It has been replaced by something uglier and more difficult to deal with; it is there in the snickering, wink-wink complaints about "political correctness", it is there in the "knowing shared glance" between whites when a person of color enters their presence, it is there in the avoidance of being alone with an African-American man by certain "ladies of gentility". It is there!

It was certainly there when I moved to East Texas from Missouri and my co-workers, when asking about my house buying plans, urged me not to look on the "North" side, you'll be a lot happier of the "South" side and always accompanied these "warnings" with an unspoken but clearly obvious "wink-wink", "nudge-nudge".

So yeah, the fear, hatred, anger, angst, and ignorance of racism is alive and well while not being as open and violent as in the past---we have at least made it that far. But, secret, hidden and tacitly accepted or tolerated racism is as, if not more, deadly than it was when Dr. King led us to the top of the mountain and shared with us his dream.

14 January 2010

Alliance for Retired Americans Opposes New Plot to Privatize Social Security

Just over a month ago, I wrote warning of a right-wing stealth attempt to slip into the health care reform package, without floor debate, legislation which would reintroduce Social Security privatization and Medicare curtailments.

Well folks, while we've been fighting for an equitable final health care bill, the dementers and death eaters from the right and so-called "center" have been busily advancing their cause under the aegis of the misleadingly titled group; the Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Action Act of 2009 S.2853.

Yesterday, the four-million member Alliance for Retired Americans issued and delivered to the Senate their letter of opposition:

"...We oppose attempts to attach it to debt ceiling or any other legislation. We cannot support the bill's fast-track means of implementing vast changes to programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid outside the regular legislative process.

Under the legislation, jurisdiction for major and long-term changes to programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be turned over to an 18-member task force, made up of 16 members of Congress and 2 administration officials. Regardless the expertise of task force members, their recommendations would be crafted behind closed doors and subject to fast-track up or down vote by Congress. Forcing changes to these critical benefit programs by eliminating open debate or amendments is an undemocratic way to address the future of such programs.

Since their creation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have worked well to keep millions of America's seniors healthy and out of poverty. Social Security has been the bedrock of income security for nearly all Americans, providing guaranteed benefits to retirees, those with disabilities, and the survivors of retired and deceased workers. Likewise Medicare and Medicaid has helped our nation deliver the promise of well-being and improved quality of life for retirees.

Currently, congressional committees of jurisdiction consider changes and improvements to these vital programs with the opportunity for due consideration and debate. These committees, with their broad-based and detailed knowledge of the programs under their jurisdiction, are the proper forums for considering any changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We strongly caution against a process that would bypass the regular legislative process in favor of an expedited, fast-track process that leaves room for little accountability and almost no room for input from the American people.

The Alliance for Retired Americans is committed to enacting legislation that improves the quality of life for retirees and all Americans..."

The letter was signed by Alliance President, Barbara Easterling, Secretary-Treasurer, Ruben Burks, and Executive Director, Edward F. Coyle, and dated January 13,2010

13 January 2010

Senior's Groups Unite to Issue Health Care Demands

The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations has issued a strongly worded letter to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid iterating the key provisions of the two (House/Senate) health care reform bills which the senior's umbrella organization wants to see in the final version of the legislation:

* Closure of the Medicare Part D doughnut hole,
* Elimination of Medicare Advantage over-payments,
* CLASS program provisions,
* Nursing home transparency and improvement,
* Criminal background checks for employees of long-term care providers,
* Provisions to support and bolster the health care workforce,
* Improved care coordination services for chronic conditions, and
* A reinsurance fund for pre-Medicare eligible (55-64) retirees.

In the letter, LCAO Chairman, John Rother, strongly urges inclusion of provisions in the final bill which will address:

* Strong support for Home and Community-Based services (HCBS).
* The expansion of low-income subsidies in the Medicare program.
* Full inclusion of the Elder Justice Provisions from H.R. 3590 to prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
* Deletion and exclusion of any and all age rating of insurance premiums in order that premiums are made affordable for everyone, regardless of age.
* Improve Medicare Part D by allowing real authority for negotiation of drug prices, outreach and assistance for Part D low-income drug programs, disease prevention and promotion of wellness.
* Simplify the annual beneficiary election period for Part D plans by extending the the option period to October 15 - December 7 of each year.

On Monday, President Obama heard from labor leaders of their deep concern and opposition to plans to help pay for reforms by placing taxes on top-end health care benefit plans. In many cases workers, through past negotiation, accepted those plans in lieu of wage increases or expansion or addition of other benefits. The initial concern was that this would affect only union workers and retirees, however, there is emerging a growing opposition to the tax notion from other affected non-union workers and retirees leaving the administration scrambling to lighten the blow while at the same time keeping its promise that health care reform would not add to the federal deficit.

11 January 2010

Why 2010 Elections Are So Important to Democrats

History Drives the Vehicle of the Present.

It is not over statement to say that the 2010 Texas elections have worldwide implications. Remember that 2010 is a census year and from that census will be determined the number of congressional seats Texas, and all other states, will have from 2011 through 2020.

A quick digression to explain "worldwide" implications: Think Bush and GOP majority (partly the result of Tom DeLay's redistricting strategy in Texas and elsewhere with the Texas delegation counting only 12-Democrats to the Republican's 20 as the result of that mid-decade gerrymandering) and catastrophic world affairs and foreign policy. ....OK, got it?

Now, back to the census and apportionment of congressional seats to the states. Based on population growth certain states stand to "pick up" seats while others could lose seats if their populations have sufficiently declined. Projections are that Texas will "pick up" three to four seats. But the fly in this batch of balm is that Texas currently suffers and languishes under a Republican majority, which if allowed to persist past the 2010 elections, would create a scenario, wherein it would be the Republican Texas legislature, through the redistricting process, that would determine whether those new seats become Republican or Democratic.

A brief look to the past will tell one how that works.

Remember that in 2002 when the Republicans captured the Texas House of Representatives for the first time in 100-years they used the opportunity a year later to initiate very controversial mid-decade redistricting to utterly butcher the Texas' Democratic delegation to the U.S. Congress. That much of that gerrymandered redistricting lost in subsequent court battles (for instance, Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett's "fajita district") is beside the point, as the end result is that the indicted, but not yet convicted scofflaw, Tom DeLay and his PAC (TRMPAC) has now wrecked havoc on the state's Democrats and their supporters for nearly a decade.

Right now, the Republicans hold a 76 - 74 margin over the Democrats in the Texas House and a 19-12 edge in the Senate going into the 2010 elections. Now that margin in the Senate provides both parties the ability to dodge any redistricting bill they regard as damaging to their interests. But, it doesn't stop with that. The Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, could decide to bypass Senate tradition and circumvent the two-thirds rule--it's been done before!

Still with me? Good. Here is where it gets quite thorny. If the legislature is unable to come up with a redistricting plan, the task transfers to the five member Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB). Who, you ask, is on that board? Good question, and here is the answer good to chill any democrat's blood: the House Speaker, Land Commissioner, Comptroller (correctly pronounced, by the way, "controller"), Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor. All blood red Republicans, every damned one of them!

So, do you understand why I'm saying that past is prologue and driving the bus we're on here in Texas? If you don't like the scenery you're seeing out of your window, understand that you will be seeing more of the same but worse unless Texas Democrats develop the will, and mine and use the resources needed to educate, organize, and mobilize voters to put them in a position to prevent a redistricting such as happened in 2003.

This election is as much about this issue as was the 2008 national election was about the make up of the United States Supreme Court!

08 January 2010

Health Care Leaders Sand-Bag GOP Plans to Stall!

Senate and House Iron Out The Differences in Their Health Reform
Bills Without a Formal Conference Committee Process.

Senate passage of its version of health reform legislation on
Christmas Eve completed a historic year in Congress and in the
nation's domestic policy debate. The House and Senate will still
have to resolve important differences in their bills this month
before they can send a final bill to President Obama.

Whether to tax health benefits to fund coverage for the uninsured;
whether to create a public insurance health plan option to hold down
health costs and keep insurers honest; and how to address the
"doughnut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage are three top

Instead of a formal conference committee, the process
will involve leaders shuttling the measure back and forth, until
both chambers have agreed to the same text. Democratic leaders
believe that many Senators and Representatives would use a
formal conference to delay, not improve, health care reform.

Both the House and Senate bills provide more affordable coverage
for retirees and seniors. They each provide cost relief for
early retiree coverage: a new re-insurance program will pick up
85% of the cost of treatments between $15,000 and $90,000 for
retirees ages 55-64. They also offer a $500 immediate increase
in the Medicare drug allowance; a phased closing of the doughnut
hole, during which seniors have to pay 100% of drug costs; and a
50% cut in the price of brand name drugs for seniors in the
doughnut hole until the gap is eliminated.

On Monday,the Alliance for Retired Americans signed onto a letter
from the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a broad
coalition of seniors groups, urging Senators to close the gap as
quickly as possible.

Both bills would also contain costs in a variety of ways. For
instance, they would reduce over-payments to private Medicare
Advantage plans by $135-$170 billion over ten years; eliminate
co-payments for preventive care, thereby lowering the odds of a
more expensive, catastrophic illness down the line; and
ultimately reduce the federal deficit by approximately $130
billion over ten years. Both bills prohibit denial of coverage
or higher rates due to pre-existing conditions and ban annual or
lifetime limits on claims payments by insurers. They also reduce
age-based variation in premium rates. Differences between the
bills include whom to tax and how many people to cover.

The Senate wants to tax higher-end health plans valued at over
$8,500 for most individuals and $23,000 for couples, raising
$150 billion. For retirees, the amounts are higher: $9,850 for
individuals and $26,000 for family coverage. However, the House
wants to increase income taxes on the wealthiest Americans - a
plan the Alliance for Retired Americans considers fairer.
"While the final version is unlikely to include all that we have
been fighting for, I believe our grassroots efforts have helped
immensely in building political support," said Barbara J.
Easterling, President of the Alliance.

07 January 2010

Let's Finish the Job Right!

Please take a minute to watch this TV spot and then click on the "You" below to make your voice heard:

To finish the job and deliver a health reform bill that meets the needs of America’s families, we urge that you and conference leaders resolve a number of critical outstanding issues. These issues may be summarized under two goals:

1. Make GOOD health care affordable
Low and middle income families must be able to afford health insurance, and employers must be asked to provide good health coverage for their employees so health care is affordable at work. Health care should not be paid for with a tax on health benefits.

2. Hold insurance companies accountable
If the insurance companies win, we lose. Insurance companies must be held accountable with strong regulations and consumer protections, and we must be given the choice of a national public health insurance option available on day one across the United States.

You have my full support in addressing these critical issues before legislation is sent to the White House for a final signature.



Click on the "YOU" above to send this letter to your representative, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid & President Obama

06 January 2010

It Is Not Over! Fight Back Today!

The fight to bring affordable, quality health care to all Americans has been waging for over a century and our generation is on the verge of claiming victory in this historic human rights struggle.

However, the insurance Tsars and drug oligarchs have so corrupted our representatives that we are left on the verge of losing and settling for "reform" which is little more than the establishment of some rules and regulations that common-sense would have dictated should already be in effect. Millions will still be left uninsured, seniors will still be left holding the bag---choosing between rent, food or prescription medicines, and children will still suffer the long-term debilitating effects from lack of health care in their early, formative years.

Turncoat Democrats like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson have crafted an insurance industry friendly bill and guided it through the Senate with an eye-wink and wave through from the Obama administration causing an outpouring of outrage from progressive and senior's groups. That is the bad news, but there reasons for us to continue in the battle with renewed vigor and focus.

The House bill and the Senate bill are heading for conference committee work with some "closed door" negotiation already underway with members of the House being "pressured" to accept the deeply flawed Senate bill as is. Yes, that is part of the bad news. But, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is in a position to continue the fight if we, you and I and every one we can mobilize into taking action let them know we support them and want them to fight back against the insurance industry, Big Pharma and other corporate stakeholders that are attempting to gut, stymie and halt real reform.

Go to CREDO Action and tell the House progressives to keep fighting! Do it for yourself, your children and your grandchildren...it is time now to take action. Don't delay, just click on the link above and sign the petition and let Congress know that we aren't beaten yet!

05 January 2010

Ramping up 2010 - Important Contacts & Dates


Texas Democratic Party - (512) 478-6800 - www.txdemocrats.org
Resource Page: www.txdemocrats.org/grassroots/resources

Green Party of Texas - http://txgreens.org/drupal/ - txgreens@txgreens.org, or call or toll-free (888) 944-7839).

Texas Governor - (800) 843-5789 - www.governor.state.tx.us

Texas Senate - (512) 463-1252 (Capitol Switchboard) - www.senate.state.tx.us

Texas House - (512) 463-1252 (Capitol Switchboard) - www.house.state.tx.us

Texas Secretary of State - (800)-252-2216 - www.sos.state.tx.us

The White House - (202) 456-1414 - www.whitehouse.gov

U. S. Senate - 202-224-3121 (Capitol Switchboard) - www.senate.gov

U. S. House of Representatives - (202) 224-3121) - (Capitol Switchboard) - www.house.gov


Feb 1 - Last day to register to Vote in March 2, 2010 Primaries
Feb 5 - First day to File for Place on Ballot in May 8, 2010 Local Elections
Feb 12 - First day to apply for Ballot by Mail for April 13, 2010 Primary Runoff
Feb 16 - First day of early voting in March 2, 2010 Primary Election
Feb 23 - Last day to apply for Ballot by Mail (not mail by date, must be received by date) for March 2, 2010 Primary Election
Feb 26 - Last day of Early Voting in March 2, 2010 Primary Election
Mar 8 - Last day to File for Place on Ballot in May 8, 2010 Local Elections
Mar 9 - First day to apply for Ballot by Mail for May 8, 2010 Local Elections
Mar 15 - Last day to register to vote in April 13, Primary Runoff

04 January 2010

The Senility Prayer

Well, I tried. I really did try. And tried really, really hard I'll tell you! But, what I found is that I can't do the first post of the year without a reference to the effects of the inexorable accumulation of years. So, thanks to my pal Nina, here's my contribution to get the new year rolling along:

THE SENILITY PRAYER : Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

And remember this:
"You don't stop laughing because you grow old,
You grow old because you stop laughing!!!"