Saturday, June 27, 2015

Millions helped, saved even, by ACA not important to Roskam

Go to my Congressman Peter Roskam's website and there's no mention of the game changing Supreme Court decision upholding the federal subsidies provision of the Affordable Care Act, allowing six million folks to afford health insurance for the first time. That is because 'Shelby County v. Holder' put the final nail into the coffin of the GOP attempt to destroy the ACA. For the past seven years Roskam has been working feverishly first, to prevent its passage, then voting 55 times since its 2010 start up to overturn it. His website today makes nary a mention of the revolution that has occurred by granting 15 million Americans health care. Six of those millions are low income folks, getting subsidies by Uncle Sam, amounting to an average of $3,300, nearly 75% of their annual health care costs. Much of those subsidies are going to younger, healthier enrollees, slowing the rate of increase for all. How slow? While Roskam endlessly trots out the GOP canard the ACA will spike insurance costs, the 2015 increase is a mere 2%, well below the annual average before ACA.

But the  ACA revolution improving the lives (saving thousands actually from early death) of the 15 million new customers spreads far beyond those previously shut out. The health insurance industry is thriving, reinventing itself as companies develop new business models to accommodate the vast new customer base. Their innovations such as increased use

electronic medical records and tighter coordination between large and small hospitals, is cutting costs and improving efficiency. Merger interest in these thriving health insurance companies has spiked; something the fear mongering Roskam could never have foreseen. Wall Street loves the ACA.

In Roskam's bizarre, know nothing worldview, the ACA is still 'job killing Obamacare'. That only works if you, like Roskam, utterly dismiss the average of 240,000  new jobs created every month since the ACA became law. Unlike an elephant, Republican Roskam forgets, but only those nasty, inconvenient truths.

Other critical issues aside, Congressman Roskam's conduct on the ACA is a disgrace to the legislative process. It is cynical beyond calculation when you consider the millions of folks who would be bankrupt, suffering poorer health, or even dead without it. At some point Roskam should examine his heart and his soul to determine if this is the best he can do as a public servant, indeed, as a human being. We Sixth District residents should call his office at 202-225-4561 to voice our opposition to seven years of false, unconscionable fear mongering using the medically uninsured as political props. Be concise, polite but firm in requesting he stop impeding the greatest improvement in societal medical care in our lifetime.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Racist, homophobe dinosaurs marching to La Brea Tar Pits

What a truly astonishing week for human freedom, dignity, decency and hope. First, the Confederate Flag, a symbol of racism, sedition and slavery, began being ripped down from our public culture, 150 years after it was defeated on the battlefield. Just moments ago, marriage equality became the law of the land. Our 228 year old Constitution was reborn today, proving once again it is a living, breathing symbol of inexorable human progress. Inexorable, that is, only when millions of decent citizens push forward the ball of human progress. And the procession you see forming? It's the dead-end dinosaur racists and homophobes, some of whom are running for president, lining up for a painful march to the La Brea Tar Pits of extinction. There is much, much work still to be done. But let's take a moment to pause and celebrate. Moments like this don't come very often. Savor it.

Idaho only state not restricting minority voting rights

Idaho may be a red state, but when it comes to practicing Republican soft racism against blacks by restricting voting rights, The Potato State passes. It is the only one of fifty since 2,000 to have a clean record on Republicans' favorite way of dishonoring democratic ideals.

In 2011 and 2012, 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in forty-one states, with new laws adopted in nineteen states that made it harder to vote. Many were overturned in court but two years ago the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Shelby County v. Holder. As a result 21 states implemented voting rights restrictions last year. From 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in forty-nine states. Half the states in the country have adopted measures making it harder to vote. The fifteen states previously required to pre clear their voting changes with Uncle Sam under the 1965 law, have been the most ferocious in restricting voting rights since that unfortunate Supreme Court case.

Bear in mind that voting restrictions don't just involve voter ID laws. They also include shortening registration and early voting, shutting down voter registration drives, disenfranchising ex-felons; even attempting to re-instate a form of poll tax. In the first few weeks of this year alone, forty new restrictions were introduced in 17 states.

Between 2000 and 2013, when the Supremes decided it was no longer necessary, 148 objections to new voting rights restrictions were filed under the Voting Rights Act in 29 states. Anti democratic Texas led the pack of shameful states with 30 complaints.

Yesterday, Democrats introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 to reinstate the protections nullified by Shelby County v. Holder. Republicans, feverishly working against democratic ideals to disenfranchise millions to have a sliver of a chance in 2016, want nothing to do with extending voting rights to all.

I'll be lobbying my Republican Senator Kirk and Republican Congressman Roskam to support the VRAA of 2015. Knowing their heartlessness to the newly disenfranchised, that will be a challenge. And in a symbolic nod to the lone holdout among states, I think I'll order an Idaho baked potato at my next restaurant meal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

While removing racist flag; rescind racist voting restrictions

Removing the Confederate Flag from state institutions and other elements of our culture is an important symbolic step in eradicating institutional racism. And that flag, embedded in state government and culture, is institutional racism. When racial dead enders claim it's merely their way of honoring the gallant soldiers defending the Old South, they are rewriting history. For eighty-three years after their defeat,... the South virtually ignored the flag. It was resurrected by the Dixiecrats, the Southern Democratic third party that mounted a presidential challenge to President Harry Truman in 1948, because he desegregated the military and implemented equal employment protections for blacks. From 1948 through the 1960's the flag was used mainly as symbol of resistance to civil rights. After integration was realized, It hung around due to the false narrative of regional pride. 
The politicians and the media would have us believe that flag etiquette is the only lesson to take from the Charleston massacre. But symbolism doesn't keep minorities from voting, preventing them full, unfettered citizenship. The substance of voting restrictions is the most insidious form of institutional racism, and it must be ended. How many are even aware that the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, being introduced today by Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem. VT) and Representative John Lewis (Dem. GA) will do just that. It would restore voting protections to millions of minorities whose voting rights are jeopardized by two troubling developments: hundreds of restrictive voting laws passed by Republican legislatures to suppress the black vote, and the Shelby County v. Holder, Supreme Court decision of June 23, 2013, that eliminated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required 15 states with a history of voting discrimination to submit any voting laws to Uncle Sam for approval. Sadly, Senator Leahy couldn't find a single Republican to co-sponsor his critically needed bill.
Following the burst of revulsion over the slaughter of innocents, inspired in part, by a racist symbol, and a white supremacist hate group that showers contributions on Republican presidential aspirants, its easy for GOP leaders to tear down the dreaded flag. When they smirk about their magnanimity, demand they do the heavy lifting: support the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

GOP's elephant in the room? Racism

When Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act that June, GOP leaders said he'd never get the 1964 GOP presidential nod. He did. Outside the South, the anti black segment of the nation had already gravitated to the GOP. Goldwater's self described vote against was based on principles of states rights and anti governmental intervention, not racism. But bigots knew the 'code' and rallied to the charge, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice", pushing Goldwater to the GOP pinnacle. Moderates in the GOP, like Nelson Rockefeller, were no longer welcome. .
Inside the South, white supremacist Democrats ruled the racist Solid South for a century, creating a two headed Democratic Hydra; Southern Dems championing segregation, the rest pushing black civil rights and equality. President Johnson, a New Deal Democrat from Texas who never bought into white supremacy, used his accidental presidency to pass the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts, destroying de jure segregation and black vote suppression.

After passage of the '64 Act, LBJ said, "I know this will cost us votes in the South." But even Johnson underestimated the transformation. A year earlier, white supremacist SC senator Strom Thurmond, took his racism to the GOP. Over the years, nearly every other Southern Senate and House seat flipped to the GOP, becoming a home for the previously Democratic racists.

Richard Nixon exploited this trend, concocting his "Southern Strategy" to grab the presidency in 1968. He courted Thurmond, won his endorsement, and by extension, put the South in the GOP camp for the following 47 years (with a couple of defections for Obama in 2008 and 2012).
Ronald Reagan, as savvy as they come, learned the drill, kicking off his successful 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, MS, home of the infamous triple killing of civil rights workers in 1964. Reagan's pitch? states rights.

And in 2015, we learn more every day about the white supremacist tentacles poisoning the GOP. The hate group Council of Conservative Citizens, a mentor of mass murderer Dylann Roof, has given some of its $57,000 in donations to four GOP presidential aspirants, as well as a number GOP congressmen. The Council as been addressed by top GOP leaders including former Senate leader Trent Lott and former Republican National Chairman and presidential contender Haley Barbour.

Now, GOP leaders are scurrying like rats on a drowning ship to disavow the Council and its symbol of slavery, racism, and sedition: the Confederate Flag. SC Gov. Nikki Haley, who waffled at first, gets kudos for coming out strongly for taking down Dylann Roof's favorite logo ware from the Capitol grounds. But even Haley is tainted by the Council, having had one of its members on her campaign advisory committee. We don't know exactly what he advised the governor, but it surely wasn't about outreach to the black community.

From whining that the mass murder was not about race but either 'religious liberty', a crazed loner, or even 'gun control', the GOP is starting to get the message: soft racism to win elections only works under cover of darkness. Dylann Roof's deadly rampage has turned a light on the GOP that will shine long after the sparks of his deadly gunfire. That should be his fitting legacy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Time for new US motto?

The unofficial motto "Land of the free; home of the brave" is a bit arrogant. Every land has brave people and many have free people, especially the needy, who are much freer than our needy, shut out from critical government services. The official motto: "In God We Trust" is a relic from the 1950's McCarthy era Cold War hysteria. We needed a narrative to distinguish us with Russia. Voila! Russia represents godless atheism; US has god on its side....NOT.... Besides, atheism is the fastest growing belief system in the land of the godtrusters.

How bout "Massacre capital of the civilized world"? It distinguishes America from every other civilized country and exemplifies our "can shoot" mentality. Have a grudge? Grab one of the 300 million guns floating around and start blasting. We've experienced 70 gun massacres (4 or more killed in one burst) since 1982; 33 since just 2006. 2012 was a doozy with 7, one every 52 days, giving America bragging rights no country seeks to emulate.

It's certainly more accurate and representative than the current motto; but might be tough to fit on a dime.

Haley should kill defective flag; not defective human

SC Gov. Nikki Haley seeks to kill the wrong defect in the SC church masscre. "We absolutely want him to have the death penalty" was Haley's obtuse way of saying she wants to kill the apparently defective Dylann Roof for the murders of 9 church members Tuesday. It doesn't matter a whit to Haley that Roof is no longer a threat to society, that justice will be provided by a life sentence, and that sparing Roof's life will not... encourage similarly defective humans from copying his crime. Haley is simply playing to the dwindling majority of Americans who seek bloodlust for perpetrators of heinous crimes. That is not leadership. That is not moral. That is simply pandering to the basest instincts of our citizenry.

Haley would better serve the healing process by working to kill of the defective flag that desecrates the SC capitol gounds. Yes, the Confederate Flag, a symbol of slavery, racism and sedition, still haunts racial reconciliation in SC and the nation.

There is much substantive work required to topple America from its shameful perch as massacre capital of the civilized world. Much involves reducing access to the hundreds of millions of guns readily available to defective humans like Roof. But Gov. Haley should take an important symbolic step and use her bully pulpit to put Stars and Bars in its grave. A hundred fifty years after being defeated on the Civil War battlefield, it burial is long overdue.