Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rangel calls for a war tax and a military draft

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) called for a draft and a war tax.

Rangel said that tough talk is cheap, when it comes to the question of going to war;  and, if there are no consequences for the majority of people -- and to their congressional representatives -- it becomes too easy to vote for war.

That was said in the wake of Congress adjouring until after the November elections without taking a politically consequential vote on authorizing war against the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL).  Congress did vote in favor of a $500 appropriation to train and arm Syrian rebels -- but took no vote to clarify that the airstrikes inside Syria are legal.   

Rangel was one of those who voted against the appropriation, saying that, instead:
"It just seems to me that we have not had the debate that's needed with such extraordinary actions being taken.  I would feel better if we had some taxes attached to it, or a draft attached to it.

"It just makes sense. If it’s national security, you’ve got to feel it. If it’s somebody else’s problem, then I don’t think we’re giving this the debate that it deserves. . . .  It should be something that forces us to think. What could clear your mind better? . . . 

"We’ve got to have a war tax, because with the deficit we have, with education, jobs, housing, healthcare -- how the hell are we going to do all that? . . . The last wars we lost 6,000 people and had two tax cuts."
Rangel is not going to get many takers for this idea.   But I am one.   I've long maintained that we wouldn't be nearly so ready to go to war if everyone had to pay the price and suffer the consequences.   We would not have invaded Iraq.   We would not have the deficit we have today, nor have lost those lives.  And Iraq would be a more stable place than it is today.  Arguably, even the Iraqi people might be better off under that dictator than they are in the utter chaos that resulted from Dick Cheney's war for oil.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Obamacare keeps defying the negative predictions

Republicans who planned their political campaigns on being against the Obama Affordable Care Act are running out of talking points.   One by one, their dire predictions are proving not to come true.

The latest one that bit the dust was the claim that it would destroy the private insurance market.  Not that I think that's a bad idea;  I'm in favor of our going to a single-payer, Medicare-for-everyone type of program.   But that was their choice to oppose it, and they were ever so wrong.

The new HHS Secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, told the Brookings Institute that the number of private insurance companies offering health care plans on the ACA marketplace for 2015 will show a 25% increase to 248 companies.

The giant United Health Group is jumping in, after not being in last year.  This is good, because premiums tend to be lower in markets where more companies are competing.  One example is New Hampshire, which last year had only one company on the marketplace;  in 2015 it will have five.

More than 10 million previously uninsured people gained coverage through the exchanges or the expansions of Medicaid and the Children's Health Program.    According to an estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the potential is for up to 29 million people that eventually could be covered.

And yet some want to say that President Obama has not been able to get anything done.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Democrats could win all six top races in Gerogia

In a new SurveyUSA poll conducted for 11Alive, the six top races in Georgia (governor, lt. governor, senator, attorney general, secretary of state, and school superintendent) show the Democratic challenger to be clearly within winning distance.

Nathan Deal  (R)    44%                 Two weeks ago:   Deal ahead by 1%  
Jason Carter  (D)   45%                   

Lt. Governor                                   Earlier poll:  Cagle ahead by 16%
Casey Cagle (R)      47%                   
Connie Stokes (D)  43%  

David Purdue (R)    46%                Two weeks ago:  Purdue led by 3% 
Michelle Nunn (D)   45%

Attorney General            
Sam Olens (R)        48%                  Unchanged from two weeks ago
Greg Hecht (D)       41%

Secretary of State
Brian Kemp (R)        46%                 Previous poll:  Kemp led by 17%
Doreen Carter (D)   44%

School Superintendent
Richard Woods (R)   46%                Six weeks ago:  Woods led by 12%
Valerie Wilson (D)    44% 

The momentum is with the Democrats If we turn out the vote, we can have a full sweep.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rick Perry's demagoguery . . . exploiting Joan Rivers' tragic death.

If anybody still cared about him as a presidential candidate, it might be considered another "Oops" moment for Gov. Rick Perry.   But it seems to be just settling into the mire of tortured moments that we've come to expect from him.

Perry seized upon the circumstances of Joan Rivers' death in a non-hospital surgical center to push his anti-abortion agenda.  Having gone in ostensibly to have an endoscopy (putting a tube down the esophagus) to see if acid reflux might be the cause of her hoarseness, some complication occurred and she died.

Apparently her doctor, who was medical head of the facility, had also agreed to let Rivers' throat specialist come in to take a look at her vocal cords during the same procedure.  That's actually a good idea -- checking into two possible causes of hoarseness at the same time.

The details of what happened have still not been released, but apparently somewhere during that examination (was a vocal cord biopsy performed?), Ms. Rivers either went into cardiac arrest or perhaps laryngospasm.

At least she was not getting enough oxygen circulating, and apparently suffered brain damage.  Despite efforts to revive her, she never regained consciousness and died a few days later after being on life support.

Where does Ric Perry figure in all this?   In his attempt to halt abortions in Texas, he signed a law that requires abortion facilities to meet hospital-level operating room standards.   The presumption here is that the New York clinic where Joan Rivers was a patient did not have such standards, although those are not spelled out in the information we have.

Perry was trying to point out that here is an example of what can happen when you have patients being treated in outpatient facilities.   It's not as safe as a hospital.   Abortions shouldn't be performed in them either.    Here is why he is wrong.

First, an abortion does not involve deep anesthesia;  it is a very safe procedure.   The same is true for endoscopy.   There is no need for hospital type operating room facilities.

Second, absent more details about what actually happened, we don't know what equipment -- if any -- was lacking that would have made a difference.   There was an anesthesiologist present.  Outpatient facilities are equipped with what is needed for this kind of procedure. 

We do not know that Joan Rivers would have survived the same procedure -- and whatever went on in her body -- any better in a hospital.   Until some medical authority with knowledge of what happened says so, then I can see no reason to blame the facility for being the problem.

Was it malpractice on the part of either of the doctors?   Or was it simply one of those complications that are rare -- but nevertheless occur under the best of circumstances and with the best of care.   People also die from surgical complications in the best equipped hospitals in the world.   But, when they occur in a celebrity -- or to us -- we want to blame someone and try to fix the problem so it doesn't happen to someone else.

There is nothing to indicate that Rick Perry's linking of the two is appropriate.  For a crude politician like him to exploit this human tragedy to make his false case for a draconian law is despicable.   

Let Gov. Perry answer this question:   What do you say to the fact that, for every woman who dies having a safe, legal abortion in a clinic like this, there would be dozens or maybe hundreds who will die from illegally performed abortions in truly horrible backrooms and alleyways -- if you have your way and close down all these safe clinics?


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Doing something about climate change: Rockefellers giving up oil

There's Henry Ford and automobiles.  Andrew Carnegie and steel.  And then there were the Rockefeller Brothers and oil.

They founded Standard Oil Company, the world's largest oil refiner at the time.  They turned much of their fortune to philanthropic work, including helping to establish the University of Chicago.

Along with 49 other groups, they announced yesterday that the family charitable foundation will divest itself of investments in fossil fuels, including major oil and gas companies, coal mining, and tar-sands mining.

Further, they will then re-invest in the development of renewable energy sources.  And we're talking in the high hundreds of billions of dollars.

This is hugely significant, coming a day after the 400,000+ People's Climate March through New York and the day before the opening of a major summit with world leaders to address climate change.   The president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund told USA Today that the fuel divestment movement is snowballing.

Good.   This is what's been needed.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Georgia #1 . . . in highest unemployment

Georgia has replaced Mississippi as the state with the highest unemployment rate:   8.1%.   So much for our civil rights era mantra "thank God for Mississippi," meaning that at least Georgia wasn't the worst.

The slight silver lining to this dismal statistic is that it can be another arrow in Jason Carter's campaign ammunition against Gov. Nathan Deal.    Let me recount some of the others:

1..  Ethical and shady financial deals -- insufficiently hidden by his staff's heavy-handed interference with two successive directors of the ethics commission.   Clearly abuse of power.

2.  Refusal to expand Medicaid coverage through the ACA, which would have provided medical coverage for another 600,000 Georgians;  and then pushing through a law that makes it impossible for him to reverse that decision without the legislature approving.

3.  Consequences for this refusal to expand Medicaid include:   rural hospitals forced to close or downsize to emergency services only;   loss of thousands of health care jobs;   Georgian's tax dollars going to help pay for such expansions in other states, while we get nothing.

4.  Slashing state funding for education, then partially restoring it in the current budget and crowing about how he has increased spending on schools. 

5.  Slashing state funding for public sector jobs and services, while offering sweetheart tax breaks to corporations to locate here.     Leading a trade mission to Israel at taxpayer expense, publicizing his appearance with top Israeli officials -- clearly to remind voters that Carter's grandfather is not popular in Israel because of his honest about the Palestinians' plight.

6.  Deal is a practitioner of the worst in crony, backroom politics.   He's good at the first rule of that method:   make sure your fingerprints never appear on the crime evidence.   Otherwise, he might well be facing multiple lawsuits.

And what was the worst that Deal had to throw at Carter in their recent public forum confrontation?   1.  Carter voted for Deal's budgets that cut education funds -- up until the last one, after he had decided to run for governor.   2.  His idea about a separate budget dedicated to education won't work, according to Deal;  but he doesn't say why not.   3.   Generally trying to portray Carter as lacking the experience to be governor, trading on his grandfather's political connections.

It's going to be close -- but an incumbent whose support has declined from a 9% lead to a 5% lead should be very worried this close to the election.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Huge crowds in People's Climate March in N.Y.

Kicking off the summit of world leaders on climate change at the United Nations beginning tomorrow was a People's Climate March through streets of New York today.    March organizers estimated the crowd at over 310,000 over 400,000.

Ironically, on the Huffington Post home page, the article immediately below this one about climate change was the headline:  "The World Spewed More Carbon Pollution Last Year Than Ever Before."

No, we can't afford to do what needs to be done.   Yes, we can't afford not to do what needs to be done.

Which will it be?   Soon it will be too late to have that option.


"Voter-fraud" zeal run amok in Kansas

Some of the background for this comes from John Judis' article, "America's Worst Republican Could Soon Lose His Office:  Why everyone must tune in to Kris Kobach's race in Kansas" in The New Republic:

What had been a three-way race for senator in Kansas, with nobody polling a majority, has now become the hottest senate race in the country -- because a tactical decision was made by the Democratic candidate to drop out, giving the Independent candidate a better chance of defeating incumbent conservative Pat Roberts.

One reason it has captured national attention is that Kansas -- yes, Kansas -- could beome the state that lets Democrats retain control of the senate, assuming that the Independent Greg Orman would caucus with them.

The other reason it has captured attention is the antics of Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who has turned this into high drama.    Koback has been a crusader against illegal immigrants and (non-existent) voter fraud and has been associated with ultra-conservative causes, like trying to keep Barack Obama off the ballot because he "hadn't proved his citizenship."    He managed to disqualify 20,000 people who tried to register but couldn't produce proof of citizenship, like one 92 year old woman who does not have a birth certificate and can't get one. 

Koback said the Democratic candidate's letter of withdrawal had not included all the information necessary, like explaining why he couldn't serve;  and therefore his name would have to remain on the ballot (the deadline for withdrawing having already passed).

When the Kansas Supreme Court over-ruled him on Thursday and ordered him to remove the name, he then said that the Democratic party would have to name another candidate.   The deadline for sending out absentee ballots to our troops overseas was Friday.   But Kobach told the media that the Department of Justice had given him a week's extension on sending out the ballots.

The Democratic party said Koback had no authority to order them to name another candidate, and they had no intention of doing so   And the DoJ said they had not even talked with Koback about an extension.   

So then Friday he did send out the ballots with just the two names but included a confusing letter, telling the service men and women that they could use this ballot to vote, but that they might get another one later with three names;  and, if so, they could use that one if they wanted to and had not already sent in the first one.

But this raised questions about the legality of some voters having 2 options and some 3.   So that's obviously not going to be approved by the courts.   And that's where it stands here on the weekend.

Kobach is not looking too good right now, especially given that he is running for re-election on the issue of stamping out voter fraud.  Is all this (and much more) enough to lose the race for him?    His opponent is a former Republican who switched parties just to run against him.

Stay tuned.