The Gates Controversy

One good thing about being away for two weeks without television is I missed the latest Michael Jackson news.  I assume he’s still dead.  The non stop talking heads have had a field day with the controversy over Professor Gates and the issue tells us we have much to reconcile about race and class.  I’ve been in Cambridge, Mass (a nephew lives in nearby Medford) and it is a very nice place.  The home of Harvard sits just outside Boston and is a nice, gentrified upper middle class area.

The affair began when a woman called 911 to report two large men seemingly forcing their way into a home.  It turned out that Prof. Gates had a difficult time entering his own home and the police responded when called.  All this would be uneventful, routine 911 call and police report, until race entered the picture.  Both the professor and the police officer over reacted based on their experiences and perspectives.

We all know, or should understand, the antipathy minorities feel towards police due to the historical record of law enforcement looking the other way, being involved with, or tolerating crimes against minorities.  Too many Black and Hispanic men are charged with “driving while Black” and the stench of racism pervades almost every interaction between Blue and Black (not to mention other minorities including GLBT and Hispanics).

Being accused of breaking into one’s home incited Gates to think he was being profiled because of his race.  Given the record this is understandable.  People react based on their experiences.  I know how negatively I react as a gay man with police based on my experience with too many bigoted cops.  It isn’t hard to cop a negative attitude when you’ve been mistreated before.  

The police officer, well trained in racial profiling, should have understood Gates’ point of view but chose to ignore it and got ugly at being disrespected.  Unfortunately many people disrespect police due to our experiences with them and they must comprehend and understand these biases created by too many bad cops.

The entire incident got blown out of proportion because of race, class, publicity, and insensitivity.  What’s to be learned?  We have a long road ahead of us still when it comes to race and class.  Continuing to blow i tout of proportion on TV may get the correct conversation going but I sincerely doubt cable news is up for this challenge.  Now where is that latest Michael Jackson update?

GOP is disingenuous on job loss

I hear of a headline on the front page of today’s Reading Eagle that decries the impact that healthcare reform or overhaul of the system will have on small businesses, specifically the GOP’s complaint of likely job cuts.

Job Cuts?!  Job Cuts!!!  Hello!!!!  McFly!!!  Have any of you GOP folks looked around lately…?????  We got more job cuts than you can shake a stick at.  You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a business that has made or is making job cuts.  What are you doing about these job cuts now?!  Things are already amok and screwed, wake the hell up!!!

Stop trying to paint a picture that the GOP gives one damn about job cuts, except when you believe they will be tied to something other than “business as usual”  for you and your supporters.  

Pot calling the kettle black!!

News websites like MSNBC.COM and others have FINALLY gotten to the truth that I’ve seen and preached about for a while now.  With all these job cuts to help make business more profitable and survive, we’ve seen economic recovery in the market, because the market doesn’t give a damn about jobs, only margins and only raw, cold, data.  You fools are now realizing just how idiotic the plan was to cut jobs to keep profits, to help stimulate a recovery, that is actually precipitating a horrible impending crash into prolonged decline and depression.  

So, tell me again, how the markets help to bail us out, when things go wrong?  You all didn’t learn a damn thing, you didn’t want to.  You took the damn federal money and still spent like you were on easy street and then got all offended when the government tried to make you stick to the rules.  

So, don’t tell me about what government efforts might or might not lead to job cuts, we’ve already seen boat loads of job cuts and I don’t recall hearing the GOP folks out there doing much about it, or saying much about it, other than being happy that the market rebounded…wow!   I hope you enjoy your market, because after a while it will be more than likely all you’ll have left.  

Now it is the insurance companies’ turn to buck up and resist change, but really it is just the second wave of the economic multi-national, investment groups stepping up to try its damndest to maintain the failing and crumbling status quo.  They are showing their ugly true colors and I hope everyone is watching and realizing just how little they give a damn about healthcare and how much they don’t want to lose their lucrative investment business in people’s health and well-being.  In Africa, we have nations that deal in blood diamonds, which is a despicable situation that needs to stop and deserves righteous condemnation.  In this country, right now, we are seeing just what kind of “blood” money industry insurance is.  Oh and don’t fall for the nonsense of future savings by reduction in costs, which translates to more healthcare problems and lack of service and quality, not actually lower costs, with no loss of service level or quality.  Also, future savings can be vastly overrated and overestimated to help pad peoples’ position.  

The publicly run option at this point, given how much we rely on healthcare and how much we can expect to do so, in the future, is the ONLY option and folks we are not Canada or Great Britain, we can do better than those examples, after all, we are America, and ingenuity is supposed to be our hallmark, or has that been another casualty of job cuts?  

Get down to business, stop the nonsense, make the tough, ugly decisions that need to be made and stop letting those who need to be overseen make up the rules, set the policies, and keep us from taking steps to ensure the health and future of our nation, all of us!

Quinnipiac: Specter, Toomey Dead Even

A new Qunnipiac poll shows Arlen Specter and Pat Toomey in a statistical dead heat in a general election.  Arlen is at 45% and Pat at 44% in the latest survey of Pennsylvania voters.  Specter’s numbers continue declining and his prospects of a new term in the Senate are growing dimmer by the day.  The fact an extremist such as Toomey can be polling neck and neck in what is mostly a moderate state is alarming for the Senator.  It is excellent news for Congressman Joe Sestak who will be formally announcing his candidacy soon.  Polls are showing that the more voters learn about the former Admiral the better his chances and numbers and the worse it seems for Arlen Specter.

Anne Lazarus for Superior Court

Judge Anne E. Lazarus was our guest this morning on Democratic Talk Radio and I had the opportunity, once again, to discuss important issues regarding the state’s appellate court system and the importance of these elections.  We discussed many of the issues, how she tries cases, her broad experience as a Judge in Philadelphia, the importance of ethics and integrity and her experience campaigning for the state’s second highest court.  She generously stayed after the show to tape several video segments for The Pennsylvania Progressive.

I have supported and endorsed Judge Lazarus for her integrity, ethics, experience, class and adherence to the principles of what good judges should be and her reverence for the law.  She discusses the numerous things Judges sacrifice to do these important jobs and it illustrates their, and her, devotion to public service.  While watching that segment one wonders why a lawyer would accept a substantial pay cut in some instances and all the restrictions which come with being a Judge.  The answer is simple:  these dedicated public servants feel strong passion for the law and devote themselves to insuring those appearing in court receive fair trials, proper representation and access to the justice system.

More video clips are available in the “more” segment and previous Democratic Talk Radio shows are available on our website.

ARRA Funding $220 Million For Health Care Training

The prospect of healthcare reform may result in significant numbers of Americans qualifying for medical care after 2013 when the plan proposed by Congress would begin covering people.  Why it would take that long to implement when Social Security and Medicare were launched on much shorter timetables is a question for another day.  Meanwhile the Obama Administration announced a $220 million grant from the stimulus bill (ARRA) for healthcare training.  People in need of medical care and treatment cannot wait four years for coverage.

TOPEKA, Kan. – During a visit to the Shawnee County Community Health Center as a stop on the Obama administration’s Rural Tour, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced a $220 million competition to fund projects that prepare workers for careers in the health care and other high-growth industries.

“An important part of our nation’s continued economic recovery is ensuring that workers have the necessary skills to enter high growth industries,” said Secretary Solis.  “Health care continues to offer workers opportunities to enter career-track jobs, earn good wages and make a positive impact on the communities in which they live and work.”

The competition announced today will result in grants to fund public entities and private nonprofit organizations to train individuals for careers in the health care fields of nursing, allied health, long-term care and health information technology.  Training also will be provided for careers in other growing industries based on specific regional needs.  Approximately $25 million of total funds will be reserved for projects serving communities impacted by automotive industry restructuring.

“Today’s announcement is another way that President Obama is making it a priority to get help to auto communities in an efficient and meaningful way,” said Dr. Ed Montgomery, executive director of the White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers. “America’s auto workers have sacrificed enormously during this economic downturn.  These grants will help those auto workers who have been displaced learn valuable new skills, while giving them the support they need to find new employment in high growth and emerging industries.”

Grants awarded through this competition will be funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). In an effort to earn the maximum return on each investment, the Labor Department is encouraging prospective grantees to align their proposals with other federal agencies’ Recovery Act investments intended to create jobs and promote economic growth. Projects funded through these grants will be conducted in partnership with the public workforce system in order to prepare workers to enter careers in targeted industries.

Philly Airport Gets $724,694 For Improvements

I don’t normally use the Philadelphia airport because it’s so busy, Allentown is closer, and I appreciate my bags arriving with me.  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a new grant for improvements at the Philly location as part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  It’s funny how I encounter people who swallow the GOP talking points that no stimulus money is getting out and no projects are benefiting.  Funny because I keep listing them here as they are announced for Pennsylvania.  If some of these morons had a brain they’d use it to do some online research before blowing off their misinformed stupidity on others.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will provide $724,694 to the City of Philadelphia for the Philadelphia International Airport to rehabilitate Runway 8R/27L.

The FAA is moving swiftly to work with airport sponsors to ensure that eligible projects have completed or nearly completed, design and planning requirements.  Under the ARRA, the FAA received $1.1 billion to provide discretionary grants to qualified airports. That funding has been allocated based on a project priority system that addresses airport safety and security, infrastructure, runway safety, increased capacity, and mitigation of environmental impacts.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made $48.1 billion available for highway, road, transit, bridge and airport construction and repairs nationwide, including $19 billion that has already been obligated to fund more than 5,300 projects in 55 U.S. states and territories.  Currently, more than 1,900 transportation projects, using $6.4 billion in Recovery Act funds are underway across the country.

About 3,400 airports designated as part of the national airport system are eligible to receive ARRA dollars.

Obama: “I’ll Support a Robust Public Option”

President Obama and David Axelrod conducted a blogger conference call early this evening about health care reform.  I had some connection difficulties and joined the call a few minutes late but the President was on the call and definitively described his version of a “robust public option.”  It sounded unrealistic for a policy initiative which isn’t single payer because all of his objectives can only be accomplished via single payer.  The fact single payer is off the table leaves a diluted public option as the best scenario.

The President is aware of the partisan delaying tactics being devised to stall the policy making and kill health care reform as part of an overall Republican strategy to weaken his Administration.  It is the Rush Limbaugh tactic of doing everything possible to make Obama fail so the GOP can rise again.  Screw the country, screw the uninsured, screw the underinsured, their only objective is themselves.

The President and his team discussed the process where both the House and Senate will be passing bills which then will be hashed out in conference.  This is where the real work will be accomplished… or not.  A question was raised about Kent Conrad’s proposal to include health care coops and the President said he is looking into them but has serious reservations about their viability and efficacy.  I asked whether the White House will support our efforts to pass single payer on the state level since it is off the table nationally.  Axelrod said the White House certainly does support our efforts and that doing this on the state level is an important step.  They also mentioned meeting with Gov. Rendell last week about health care reform.  Maybe during their next discussion with him they can get Ed to stop blocking our bills.

Overall my question didn’t get a direct answer.  The White House is willing to support us but they failed to mention any concrete, specific ways of doing so.

It was great to have the opportunity to listen to the President and have this sort of access to the very top levels of government.  They listened carefully to each question and interacted strongly with us and mentioned how important the blogosphere is for getting information to the public and providing forums for discussion.

Prescribing Cake to Cure the Health Care Crisis

by Walter Brasch

           Marie Antoinette, contrary to popular opinion, never said a solution for the starving masses of revolutionary France in the late 18th century was, “Let them eat cake.” But, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) apparently said something close to it.

           At a public meeting, one of Grassley’s constituents asked him, “Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and so much better than my insurance?” He then asked, “How come I can’t have the same thing you have?” Grassley’s response was a flip, “You can. Just go work for the federal government.” Grassley, who opposes universal health care, is happy with health care programs paid for with tax dollars and available for every member of Congress, all Congressional staffers, everyone in the executive and judicial branches, and the military and their families. He doesn’t even oppose Social Security and Medicare. He just doesn’t want the masses to have the same quality of medical care that Senators have.

           In response, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has led the fight for universal health care for more than four decades, writing for the July 27 issue of Newsweek, argues that “quality care shouldn’t depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.”

           The liberals, and most Democrats, are outraged that 46-48 million American citizens still don’t have health care coverage, and millions more have such minimal coverage that they often decline to get medical help when necessary. About 62 percent of all bankruptcies are the result of extraordinary medical costs, according to a report to be published in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine. Of those who declared bankruptcy because of medical bills, “78 percent of them had health insurance, but many of them were bankrupted anyway because there were gaps in their coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services,” Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, the study’s senior author, told CNN. “Other people had private insurance but got so sick that they lost their job and lost their insurance,” she said.             Liberals complain that the problem has become even more acute during the Recession when every day about 12,000 workers are losing health insurance, either because of forced layoffs or because a company cuts back on its insurance coverage for its workers. They question why the same drugs sold in Canada are significantly less expensive than ones sold in the U.S., and why the conservatives have blocked all attempts for Americans to go to Canada to buy the less expensive drugs. The liberals also point to a scientific study by the Commonwealth Fund that concluded, “Despite having the most costly health system in the world, the United States consistently underperforms on most dimensions of performance, relative to other countries.” That study also concluded that the U.S. “fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries [Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom], and as shown in the earlier [studies], the U.S. is last on dimensions of access, patient safety, efficiency, and equity.” Of the top 50 economies in the world, only the U.S. doesn’t have universal health coverage.

           Two major competing plans-Single Payer and Public Option- are proposed to alleviate the problems of health care coverage. Under the Single Payer health care system, there would be one program, similar to Medicare but with all citizens covered. Although President Obama, as a senator, advocated the Single Payer system, he now believes the best proposal is the Public Option. The Public Option plan allows more than 80 million workers to keep or change their insurance coverage, buy into the government-run public plan, or go uninsured. The Public Option plan would protect the insurance industry, while reducing costs; the Single Payer system would threaten the industry, and relegate it to providing only supplemental or special needs insurance. The Public Option plan allows workers and employers to keep their own insurance or to enroll in the government insurance; there would be no choice in Single Payer system. Advocates of the Single Payer system argue that by enrolling all citizens into one system, costs would be significantly less because of the ability to negotiate with the health care industry and the probable reduction in administrative costs. The Public Option would also influence drug companies and health care providers, but the result could be less reduction than under the Single Payer system. Both Single Payer and Public Option plans eliminate or significantly reduce deductibles and co-pays.

           The conservatives, and most Republicans, don’t buy into either plan. They complain they don’t want government running any part of anything, especially health care. They ignore provisions of proposed Single Payer legislation that remove the middle-men insurance companies. They claim that no bureaucrat should step between a physician and a patient. Of course, they don’t mind that private enterprise, in the guise of the megagoliath insurance and drug industries, do that all the time.

           The conservatives argue that competition between insurance companies keeps costs low, but they ignore a study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine that concluded that about 30 percent of all health care costs are for overhead expenses, including executive bonuses and aggressive advertising and marketing campaigns by drug and insurance companies. They disregard the reality that patients and their physicians, dentists, optometrists, and other health care providers will determine the best treatments, and not an insurance clerk reading myriad pages of rules and regulations established by-who else?-insurance companies. They ignore the fact that universal health care coverage would reduce “cherry picking,” the enrollment of only healthy persons in order to “maximize profits.” The Public Option plan allows insurance companies to continue to “cherry pick,” but has provisions for those who are denied coverage to enroll in the Public Option plan. Under the Single Payer system, there would be no denial because of pre-existing conditions.

           Conservatives falsely claim there won’t be any choice when government takes over health care, but disregard the reality that under both plans Americans can still choose whoever they wish to be their health care providers. But if the conservatives want to push what they call the terror of “no choice,” let them realize that even with excellent private insurance, patients currently have no choice in some situations. Those who go to an emergency room already have no choice of personnel. Except in the smaller hospitals, hospitalized patients, no matter how admitted, usually receive care from anonymous residents and hospitalists who are neither the patient’s primary care physician nor the patient’s own specialists.

           In yet another attempt to scare the working class, the conservatives tell the masses that government-run health care will be as much a boondoggle as the Post Office. But, while every organization has myriad problems, six days a week a member of the working class, a letter carrier, comes to almost every house or business in America and cheerfully delivers the mail on time, stopping occasionally from 10-mile routes to chat.

           Conservatives claim that a universal health care system will cost $1 trillion. They conveniently forget that George W. Bush, with the approval of a lame Congress, ran up far more than $1 trillion in debt during his two terms and that the cost of the unnecessary war in Iraq, begun by a jingoistic president and vice-president who lied to the people, will easily cost more than $1 trillion.

           Nevertheless, the conservatives are right about two issues. They are right that the proposed Public Option plan doesn’t specify which taxes are to be raised or what would be required for both individuals or businesses to become part of a national insurance plan. However, proposals for the Single Payer system, such as one proposed in Pennsylvania, will impose a 3 percent personal income tax; each business would pay 10%, significantly lower than what most businesses that insure their workers currently pay. Additional revenue would be from existing programs, including Medicaid.

           Conservatives also are right that there will be some fraud and the cost will probably be far greater than the projections, something that is part of almost every large private business and government-run programs. However, the conservatives conveniently ignore the reality that the Bush-Cheney Administration, again with little Congressional concern, handed out innumerable multi-million dollar no-bid contracts, often to their friends and business associates, and did little to investigate cost over-runs, wasteful spending, and fraud.

           Although President Obama is firm that there would be no additional tax for persons making less than $250,000 a year, conservatives are worried that the government will increase taxes for anyone making a net of $1 million a year or more. Apparently, impoverished conservatives and their conservative representatives must protect millionaires from harm.

           About six of every ten Americans, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll in February 2009 say they want the government to provide universal health care coverage. Groups as diverse as the AFL-CIO, the AARP, and the American College of Physicians want universal health care coverage. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, only one-third of physicians oppose universal health care coverage.

           “America’s health care system,” said Walter Cronkite in 1993, “is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” Nothing has changed since then.

           Sen. Grassley has no worries about health care coverage. Under a quasi-socialist system for all three branches of government, including the military, he gets the best medical, dental, and optometric care in the country. As for the rest, like his conservative colleagues, Sen. Grassley believes that cake is the best medicine for those without adequate coverage.

[Walter M. Brasch is a university professor of journalism, award-winning social issues columnist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available from amazon.com, bn.com, and other stores. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com. Assisting on this column were Rosie Skomitz, Ron Stouffer, and Rosemary R. Brasch]

 

Obama Administration Awards More than $39 Million for Pennsylvania’s State Energy Program

From the inbox:

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced

$39.8 million in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Pennsylvania.  Under DOE’s State Energy Program, Pennsylvania proposed a statewide plan that prioritizes energy savings, creates or retains jobs, increases the use of renewable energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Secretary Chu today announced a total of more than $162 million for State Energy Programs in seven states and territories states including: Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico. Each grantee is receiving 40 percent of its total State Energy Program (SEP) funding authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“This funding will provide an important boost for state economies, help to put Americans back to work, and move us toward energy independence,” said Secretary Chu. “It reflects our commitment to support innovative state and local strategies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy while insisting that taxpayer dollars be spent responsibly.”  

With today’s announcement, Pennsylvania will now have received 40 percent of its total State Energy Program (SEP) funding authorized under the Recovery Act. Pennsylvania will now have received 50 percent of its total Recovery Act SEP funding. The initial 10 percent of total funding was previously available to support planning activities; the remaining 50 percent of funds will be released the state meets reporting, oversight, and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act.  After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, Pennsylvania will receive nearly $50 million in additional funding, for a total of almost $100 million.

Pennsylvania will use its Recovery Act SEP funding to provide grants and other support for energy efficiency and conservation efforts with the goal of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and stimulating growth in renewable sectors.

Pennsylvania Green Energy Works! will offer grants to businesses, non-profit organizations, universities, local governments, and utilities to deploy shovel-ready efficient, environmentally sustainable and economically worthwhile energy projects across the state. Over a longer time horizon, Pennsylvania will continue to fund advanced energy projects, tailoring programs to specific economic sectors. For example, the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority will continue to serve business needs, while the Pennsylvania Energy Harvest will support schools, nonprofits, and local governments across Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania will also establish a Green Development Loan Program, a revolving loan fund that will provide clean-energy and energy-efficiency financing for facilities projects, resource efficiency measures, and advanced and renewable clean-energy technologies. In addition to originating loans and leveraging private capital, this fund will make outright awards to cover the costs of project feasibility studies, energy audits, or project design, which can often present significant barriers to sustainable development investments.

Activities eligible for State Energy Program funding include energy audits, building retrofits, education and training efforts, transportation programs to increase the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles, and new financing mechanisms to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

The Recovery Act appropriated $3.1 billion to the State Energy Program (SEP) to help promote energy efficiency and clean energy deployment, as well as to support local economic recovery. States use these grants at the state and local level to create green jobs and address state energy priorities.

Transparency and accountability are important priorities for SEP and all Recovery Act projects.  Throughout the program’s implementation, DOE will provide strong oversight at the local, state, and national level, while emphasizing with states the need to quickly award funds to help create new jobs and stimulate local economies.

 

Sestak Hosting Working Families Summit

Senate candidate Joe Sestak is hosting yet another useful, well organized, important summit conference for the people of his 7th Congressional District.  While Arlen Specter continues supporting Republican initiatives Sestak is serving his constituents.  I’ve attended and covered two of his summits this year, one for small business and one for veterans, and they are valuable resources.  He brings governmental and local businesses together with those able to benefit from their services in one location.  This greatly facilitates the efforts to gain information, contacts and ease through the processes of gaining contracts, business, services and aid.

Summit to Connect Working Families with Government Agencies and Service Organizations

Media, PA – Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) is pleased to announce his first-ever “Working Families Resources Summit” to be held at Interboro High School on August 1, 2009. The summit will feature a panel discussion and Q&A session, followed by a service fair that will connect members of the community with government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and local resources. The exhibitors will cover a variety of issues including housing relief, employment, adult education, credit counseling, legal issues, elder and child care, health services, Veteran benefits, and more.

“As the result of our Nation’s extraordinary economic recession, I have seen families throughout the 7th Congressional District struggle across three generations to cope with historically high unemployment, record foreclosure rates, loss of pension plans, devalued homes, rising costs of education, expensive health care, and the ever-present threat of increased energy prices. While I am aggressively working with my colleagues in Congress to address these issues legislatively and through my constituent office to engage the unique problems of individuals, I believe more must be done,” said Congressman Sestak. “To that end, I am committed to networking the many organizations in our region that are chartered to help citizens weather difficult times.”

WHO: Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07)

50+ Service Organizations

Residents of the 7th Congressional District of Pennsylvania

WHAT: Panel Discussion, Question and Answer Session, and Service Fair to help connect working families of the 7th District with helpful service organizations.

WHEN: Saturday, August 1st, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

WHERE: Interboro High School (16th and Amosland Ave, Prospect Park, PA 19076)