Monday, August 31, 2009

Healthcare Reform Misinformation From The Church

My in-laws attend the St. Lawrence O'Toole Catholic Church in Brewster, NY. This past weekend the church distributed with its bulletin a two page warning about specific New York State and Federal proposed legislation. NY State bills are the Marriage Equality Act and the Reproductive Health Act. The Federal bill is Health Reform. Part of the misinformation distributed by the church appears to have been generated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has distributed multiple letters and videos ( attacking health reform.

Any church and its members have the right to disagree with any legislation and to publicly oppose it. However, it is very disappointing that this church has chosen to disseminate misinformation. Apparently this church is willing to break one commandment in order to defend another.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Legislative Accomplishments

Ted Kennedy was a hero to all who joined or supported his fight for social justice. It is a shame that some will not forgive him for a 40 year old mistake. But, rest assured that God did.

Ted Kennedy authored more than 2,500 bills throughout his career in the United States Senate. Of those bills, several hundred have become Public Law. Below are some of those laws, which have made a significant difference in the quality of life for the American people.

  • Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act of 1986
  • Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act of 1990
  • National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993
  • Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
  • Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997
  • Project BioShield Act of 2003
  • Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2005
  • legislation to create a federal initiative patterned on volunteer programs in several states to feed the elderly, either with meals delivered to their homes or in group settings. Kennedy’s bill established permanent federal subsidies for these programs (the first was $250 million over two years), and he fought the Nixon Administration’s attempts to completely eliminate funding. In 2007, 141 million meals were delivered to 916,000 individuals and 95 million meals were provided to 1.6 million seniors in community locations. It is estimated that over 6 billion meals have been served since Kennedy’s bill was signed into law.
  • Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC).
  • Public Health Threats and Emergencies Act
  • Project BioShield Act, creating stronger defenses to bioterrorism
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) Revitalization Act of 1993
  • legislation that quadrupled the amount of funding for cancer research and prevention (1971)
  • Mammography Quality Standards Act (1992)
  • 21st Century Cancer Access to Life-Saving Early detection, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Act
  • Empowered the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) power to regulate tobacco products
  • Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
  • Mental Health Parity legislation to help eliminate unjust annual and lifetime limits on mental health coverage
  • Mental Health Early Intervention, Treatment and Prevention Act of 2000
  • The Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act
  • Healthcare Research and Quality Act, which established the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) Program
  • Federal funding of the Vaccines for Children Program
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1982
  • Voting Rights Language Assistance Act
  • Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 (vetoed by Ronald Reagan)
  • amendments to extend the Fair Housing Act of 1968
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991
  • Employment Non Discrimination Act
  • first ever bipartisan campaign finance bill (1973)
  • Deregulation of the Airline Industry (1974)
  • Immigration Act of 1965, which ended the selection of immigrants on the basis of their national origin that began in 1924
  • Refugee Act of 1980 which established a comprehensive U.S. policy to provide humanitarian assistance, admission and resettlement to refugees around the world
  • Violence Against Women Act (1994, 2000)
  • Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002
  • McCain-Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform bill
  • “truth in sentencing” legislation to reform the federal criminal code and require all federal judges to follow specific guidelines in sentencing offenders convicted of particular crimes. Kennedy believed in the idea that prisoners should serve their sentences in full.
  • 1994 Crime Act, which provided funding for 100,000 new police officers, imposed strict new penalties for crimes involving gangs and firearms, and authorized the Police Corps, a program that gives talented young people college scholarships in return for their commitment to serve as police officers in their communities.
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
  • Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978
  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. The legislation restored strict scrutiny for certain religious free exercise claims. The legislation was in response to the Supreme Court decision -- Oregon v. Smith in 1989, which invalidated the use of strict scrutiny in cases involving acts by governments which had the unintentional effect of violating an individual’s right to free exercise of his or her religion.
  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)
  • conducted the first Congressional investigation of Watergate
  • strongly opposed the death penalty. His opposition is a matter of principle, based on his understanding of the stark racial disparities involved, the lack of competent legal representation in many cases, and the unacceptable danger that an innocent person may be executed.
  • Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. He felt strongly that those who old enough to fight for their country are old enough to vote.
  • Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1982
  • Voting Rights Language Assistance Act
  • Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 – passed in spite of President Reagan’s veto.
  • Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which was the centerpiece of the War on Poverty and created Head Start.
  • Early Head Start, created by Senator Kennedy in 1994, serves infants and toddlers in poverty.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
  • bipartisan Star Schools Program Assistance Act in 1987
  • Goals 2000 Education America Act
  • Higher Education Act in 1968
  • Vocational Education Amendments of 1968 modified the existing vocational education programs and established a National Advisory Council on Vocational Education.
  • Academic Research Facilities Modernization Act of 1998
  • Workforce Investment Act of 1998 created new training provisions that now guide most federal training investments.
  • National and Community Service Trust Act, creating AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand opportunities for citizens to serve their communities, and most recently with his good friend Senator Orrin Hatch, the Serve America Act of 2009
  • New National Defense Education Act (2006)
  • leading Congressional proponent of a fair minimum wage, which was increased 16 times during his nearly half century of Senate service.
  • Pension Protection Act of 2006, the largest reform of the nation’s pension system since 1974.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to restore a fair rule for filing pay discrimination cases.
  • bipartisan mine safety reform legislation, the MINER Act
  • Employee Free Choice Act, which will protect the right of workers to organize and join a union, and stop the epidemic of employer anti-union violations (introduced in 2009)
  • Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act of 2000
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
  • National Military Child Care Act (1989)
  • National Guard and Reserve Mental Health Access Act of 2008 to improve access to mental health care for our returning Guard and Reserve men and women
  • Civil Rights Commission Act Amendments of 1978, which expanded the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission to protect people from discrimination on the basis of disability.
  • Air Carrier Access Act. This law required that facilities and services be provided to people with disabilities traveling by air.
  • Fair Housing Act Amendments to extend the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include people with disabilities and families with children.
  • Crime Victims and Disabilities Awareness Act of 1998
  • Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act, which made work incentives for disabled individuals a permanent fixture of the Social Security Act (1986).
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities, regardless of their severity, in all states (1975).
  • Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986, which overturned a Supreme Court decision and allowed courts to award sensible attorneys fees to parents of children with disabilities winning in due process proceedings and other court actions under part B of the Education Act.
  • bipartisan Family Opportunity Act. The law provides states the option of allowing families of disabled children to purchase health coverage through Medicaid.
  • legislation to create a “bill of rights” for people with developmental disabilities. The bill also provided funding for services for people with this type of disability, supplemented funding for affiliated university facilities and created state-based systems of protection and advocacy groups in all 50 states.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Michele Bachmann Calls For Prayer and Fasting To Defeat Healthcare Reform

Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina jointly held a townhall meeting via telephone to discuss healthcare reform. Bachmann and Foxx repeated all the lies about the healthcare reform bill being developed in the House, such as the Death Panel. Bachmann stated that the Death Panel is real since Sarah Palin said it is so! Bachmann suggested that it was Religious Destiny that put her and others like her in congress at this critical time. Bachmann then called for prayer and fasting to defeat healthcare reform.

Shall we all pray to God that congress does not pass legislation to reform our ineffective and increasingly unaffordable healthcare insurance and services? Here's some online responses to Michele Bachmann:

"Praying so some Americans won’t get any health care insurance? Does Mrs. Bachmann’s God accept such petitions?"

"I strongly support Rep. Bachman’s call to fast. I think she should begin, NOW! Under no circumstances should she stop until Obama is deposed and Bachman’s vision of righteousness rules this fair land. We’ll be sure and let Rep. Bachman know when she can quit. Maybe she could also hold her breath? Let the countdown clock begin…."

"Fasting is quite easy when one’s foot is already filling one’s pie hole."

"What does this say about the constituency who elected this nut job to Congress."

"Interesting that this chat was sponsored by a “pro-life” group. They will fight tooth and nail to bring every child into this world, at the expense of a mother’s health or the child’s safety, but as soon as they breathe life outside the womb, they’re on their own, including the mother. Interesting…"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CIA War Crimes Will Be Investigated, Finally!!

By now everybody who's not in a coma knows that the Dept of Justice has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations of war crimes committed by the CIA and some of its contractors. The decision was made by Eric Holder in spite of President Obama's preference to only look forward. Months ago Obama ordered that torturers that did not exceed the limits established by a couple of Bush's DOJ lawyers would not be prosecuted. However, the CIA Inspector General's report from 2004 clearly shows that several CIA operatives and contractors far exceeded the DOJ limits established under Bush, which also violate both the Army Field Manual and international treaty.

Those who oppose prosecuting these war crimes warn that CIA personnel will be demoralized, reducing the effectiveness of the CIA. However, the majority of CIA personnel did not commit war crimes and a number of them refused to participate in spite of the directives received from their superiors. I am concerned that these people, the majority of the CIA, will be demoralized if, after having properly refused illegal orders, they see the guilty go unpunished. What message will we send to them if the crimes are not investigated and the guilty prosecuted - no matter whom the guilty are... no matter how high in our government they are now or were then?

I applaud Eric Holder for doing the right thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Obama's First Vacation

President Obama has been in office 209 days. He just started his first vacation which will last 7 days. That's less vacation than the average working person takes in the same period of time.

So why do his opponents feel justified in complaining that he is vacationing? Why are they complaining about where he has chosen to vacation? Why are they complaining about how much the vacation might cost when he is personnally paying for it?

This is just another petty attack by those who take every opportunity to disagree with Obama.

For the record, the presidents who spent more of their presidency on vacation than all other presidents are GHW Bush (37%), GW Bush (33%) and Ronald Reagan (15%). For comparison: Carter, 5%; Clinton, 5%; Obama, 3%.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Michael Vick Served His Sentence

I'm an animal lover. I would have given Michael Vick a sentence that would have kept him in prison for a lot longer than 18 months. However, the court sentenced Vick and Vick has served his sentence to the satisfaction of the Justice System. Why then are so many people debating whether Vick has the right to return to his career in sports?

Although Vick has apologized, which is not a legal requirement, many people are not accepting it and feel that Vick has not adequately paid for his crime. They never want Vick to play professional football, again.

Martha Stewart, the perfect everything, in spite of her amazing wealth sold to innocent investors $160,000 of stock in a company that illegally warned her that the value of its stock was going to tank. Martha did her time and, although Martha never apologized for her greed and crime, she has resumed her career that is likely more lucrative since she violated the law than it was before. Who has demanded that Stewart forfeit her career because of her crime of greed?

Vick has served his time for his crime. He doesn't owe us anything else. Society must allow him to resume his life. That's how the system is supposed to work.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

GOP & Right Wing - Corruptors Of Our Democracy

A Right Wing fanatic showed up at the president's townhall meeting yesterday carrying a gun and a sign declaring that "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time." The complete quote continues with "the blood of patriots and tyrants." The message is clear: this fanatic is prepared to use violence to force his opinion on the People.

Under the most peaceful circumstances it is irresponsible to bring a gun and a sign that threatens to use it to a public forum. Townhalls, thanks to the GOP, healthcare industry paid activists and Right Wing thugs, are not an opportunity for All to speak their mind in a respectful manner - respectful of the rights of those with whom they do not agree.

These activists are corrupting our democracy. They don't believe that "government of the people, by the people, for the people" applies to each and every citizen of the United States. They don't believe in majority rule and respect for each citizen. GOP leaders and spokespersons are publicly promoting this undemocratic conduct. When the GOP has controlled congress and the presidency they did nothing to reform healthcare. Now that the Democrats and Obama are in the position to reform healthcare the GOP says NO. They want to defeat any proposal for reform but can only do so by making false accusations about the proposal. Although some of the accusations are outrageously unbelieveable, many, many people are accepting them as fact.

I support everybody's right to present their opinion and differ with all others but it must be done responsibly. Physical intimidation and violence are not acceptable means for persuading others to accept one's ideas.

I believe that tactics like this will ultimately destroy the GOP. Responsible Republicans - fiscal and moderate social conservatives - will abandon the GOP which has committed itself to far right social conservatives and racists. However, in the process I fear that the United States will not reform its healthcare system.

Finally, what somebody calls the person that shows up at a townhall meeting with a swastika sign or paints a swastika on the office of a U.S. Congressman is not the issue. These acts of Hate and Intimidation are the issues. These are acts of a THUG. Why don't the conservatives who take exception to calling out-of-control protesters THUGS, complain when Palin and Limbaugh call their opposition un-American, un-Patriotic, socialist, communist and Nazi?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sarah Palin Is Lying About Healthcare Reform

Sarah Palin is lying about Obama's healthcare reform because she is surely not stupid enough to believe what she has said. "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

I believe Palin is familiar enough with the reform proposal to know that it does not propose a Death Panel or anything like it.

My son Jon has Down Syndrome. Jon's life has always been and continues to be significantly better because of government funded programs from Early Intervention before he was one year old to the adult employment program through which he has a job. In Jon's life the only significant cut in the Department of Mental Retardation funding occurred under the administration of Ronald Reagan - the same administration that reduced the maximum income to qualify for assistance thus creating a new class called the Near Poor and defined ketchup as a vegetable to reduce the cost of Head Start school meals.

As Alaska's governor, Palin reduced funding of The Department of Education and Early Development of Special Needs by more than 60%.

Palin isn't interested in the truth about healthcare reform. She knows that she must lie to defeat beneficial reform. With much regret I concede that there might be enough voters who are stupid enough to believe her.

Consumer protection laws require truth in commercial advertising. Why don't we require truth in political advertising? Is it only because we cannot find enough people who are able and willing to render an honest opinion that is free of ideological bias? They don't have to judge the opinions they only have to determine if the claims are supported by facts. I believe there are many people who could fulfill this role, however, since they must be appointed by politicians, unbiased candidates don't have a chance.

Don't listen to the political rhetoric. Read the reform proposals and judge them for yourself. We won't all agree about the reform. But, we should agree to be honest with each other.