Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why We Loved Teddy Kennedy

The liberal lion passes. Teddy Kennedy RIP. A tireless crusader for the poor, underprivileged, and the average American worker, Kennedy showed the nation what true, Senate leadership looks (and sounds) like.

We loved Teddy, with all his flaws and imbroglios, he was a giant of American politics and the last little bit of Camelot in the US. Though wealthy, he spoke with the voice of the common man, confident and empowered to speak truth to authority. He was a champion, and now he is gone. We remember him with great affection and respect. Why? Just watch the video below. Kennedy at his best on the Senate floor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Small Press Expo Poster

If you're going to be in Bethesda, Maryland in late September, you may want to consider attending this exposition. If you do, you're sure to see some fantastic graphic novels and other mind-bending eye-candy. Co-sponsored by my favorite purveyor of fine comic titles, FantaGraphics, this show is where independent comic books live. 2009's expo features legendary cartoon artist Gahan Wilson as the keynote. Just check out the poster. You knew it was going to be killer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let America Be America Again - Support Herta

Originally posted on Citizen Orange. I missed a whole day of Netroots Nation pouring my heart out into this post. Please digg it, tweet it, stumble it, etc.

Another day another DREAM. Over the last few days, I have been working hard with Herta Llusho and her brother Lirjon to support their campaign to defer Herta's deportation on August 19, 2009. If you haven't read her story yet, I recommend that you do. Please, take the following actions in support of Herta and help her stay in the only country she knows as her home:


  1. Join the facebook group for immediate updates:
  2. Sign petition which will be hand-delivered to targets:
  3. Use SEIU Click to Call Action Tool to call DHS:
  4. Call
    Senator Carl Levin at (202) 224-6221. Urge him to a) introduce private
    bill for Herta, and b) write letter to DHS asking them to stop Herta's
  5. Call Senator Stabenow at (202)
    224-4822. Urge her to a) introduce private bill for Herta, and b) write
    letter to DHS asking them to stop Herta's deportation.
  6. Call
    Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick at (202) 225-2261. Urge her to
    a) introduce private bill for Herta, and b) write letter to DHS asking
    them to stop Herta's deportation.
I first heard about Herta through the folks at, whom I have been working and spending a lot of time with, lately. In typical fashion, if you get involved they'll find a way to use you anyway they can. So, while I was in Michigan visiting family, Mo from contacted me and told me Herta and her brother, Lirjon, would be coming over so that I could meet with them and help Herta tell her story. I worked closely with her on her story, and I also recorded the above video.

Lirjon and Herta are incredible people. Herta is especially lucky to have a brother like Lirjon who has been tirelessly advocating for her. Even in the short time that Lirjon and Herta introduced themselves to my family, they had a huge impact. It was a special moment for me, too. My family is used to seeing me type away at a computer. This was the first time they got to meet the real people whose lives I'm affecting.

I've written time and time again how people like Herta are my heroes. Herta describes the emotional turmoil she's going through in the video better than I ever could:

It's this constant battle everyday where you are at war and then one day you're at peace, 'cause your like, "well, tomorrow God will handle this because he's in control" and then the next day -- panic -- 'cause you feel that you're human and you want to be in control.
Herta Llusho (5 August 2009)

Despite this emotional battle, Herta was still able to excel at school and find a way into college. I know for a fact that I would not be able to do the same if I were in her situation. That's on a personal level, but, on a larger level, DREAMers like Herta also inspire deep introspection on my part. The U.S. has forced Herta to go through so much. She's fought through years of legal battles, tried to do everything right, and the U.S. is still deporting her. During the process, the U.S. became her home. Now, the U.S. is essentially telling her that she doesn't have the right to exist in her own home. Despite all of this Herta still believes in the "promise of the American Dream." She still speaks of the U.S. as a "land of opportunities, values, and ideals." She wants nothing more than "to contribute
to the country that has given [her] so much". This is why DREAMers like Herta are my heroes on a larger level.

Herta would probably not want me to describe it this way, but the U.S. has spit in her face and she has responded only with love. That deep, true, and endearing love in the face of injustice, when acted upon even by one person, does more for the betterment of the universe than millions of angry demonstraters will ever do. By fighting to stay in the U.S., Herta is participating in what Gandhi would call "satyagraha", which the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. often translated into "truth-force" or "love-force." Those who support Herta are participating in satyagraha, too.

I can truly say that the love DREAMers have for the United States has truly changed my heart, and restored my faith in this country. I will admit that growing up, I was what self-proclaimed "patriots" would call an "America hater." It was hard not to hate the U.S. when I grew up in a country, Guatemala, where a democratic government was toppled by the CIA into decades of brutal dictatorships and a civil war where hundreds of thousands died. It was hard not to hate the U.S. when I would go over to play with the children of U.S. foreign servants only to hear many them deride the country grew up to know and love. I could go on, but suffice it to say, when I hear of promises of the American Dream, I still think of the vast majority of people who suffer from the American Nightmare.

My views haven't changed so much as it is that they have been enriched by people like Herta. While I still believe in siding with the oppressed by privileging the narrative of the American Nightmare, DREAMers have also taught me the power of believing in the American Dream. It is not so much that the believing the American Dream can help an individual overcome the odds. I actually believe that line of thinking is what is harmful about the American DREAM. I do, however, see the value in believing in, and aspiring to, shared ideals. This relationship between the American Dream and the American Nightmare is "dialectical". In other words, it is through the "juxtaposition" of these "conflicting ideas" that one arrives at Truth.

I apologize for using Herta's story to wax philosophic. In the face of the immediacy of Herta's case, I have been much too academic and self-serving, up to this point. Fortunately, there is a famous poem by Langston Hughes that illustrates this dialectical relationship between the American Nightmare and the American Dream with more immediacy and passion than I ever could:

Let America be America again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.

The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Langston Hughes' poetry applies as much today as it did in 1938 (another Langston Hughes poem, "A Dream Deferred," has also inspired many DREAMers). In the poem above, Langston Hughes uses verse to illustrate how the narrative of the American Dream neglects the stories of those who have only suffered the American Nightmare. Hughes brings both narratives together at the end in a way that brings Herta's story, and everything I've been saying in this post, all together. Herta could very well be saying the following words Hughes wrote so long ago: "I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek...O, let America be America again -- the land that never has been yet -- and yet must be -- the land where every man is free."

While my dark heart still winces when I hear youth like Herta praise the American Dream they have been denied, I recognize that their love for this country is changing the culture war that is the U.S. migration debate more than my angry words ever will. If we stop Herta's deportation on August 19 we will be laying another brick in the groundwork for a movement that is much bigger than Herta. Today, Herta. Tomorrow, the world.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Town Hall Meeting Madness

You know, my favorite Sri Lankan proverb is sometimes point on. The proverb: The Higher a Monkey Climbs, the More it Exposes its Ass. To wit: the gaggle of conservative wing-nuts that are part of the vast right-wing conspiracy to derail health care reform, hand the insurance companies a victory, and embarrass the president. After the spectacles we've seen at the town-hall meetings of our legislators, this crew has their rosy-reds pretty damn exposed. Not a pretty sight. Thanks to Markos at Daily Kos for producing this video shocker. Just look at these fools. Makes a thinking person worry.

Technorati Tags: Health, politics, Teabaggers

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Health Care Reform Lies - Email Alert

There is a detailed, well-written email circulating today that you may have already received from a family member or co-worker. It looks to be a thoughtful critic of health care reform and it is alarming. Trouble is, it is full of lies and deceptions.

It relies on mis-interpretation and deceit. Arm yourself with the truth and beware of the well-funded propaganda pieces being authored and paid-for by special interests including the current health insurance companies. I've included below a point-by-point response and rebuttal provided by Health Care for America Now.

Please cut-and-past the body copy and forward it to anyone who may send you the email. You'll know it when you see it. And remember through all the barrage of bullshit, we really don't *need* insurance companies at all in the equation. They're the ones that have been raising our premiums annually, eliminating older and infirm citizens from their roles, increasing deductibles while reducing coverage, then denying needed coverage to loyal clients. Ask yourself this: Are you happy with your health insurance coverage and rates? If the answer is no, then you agree we need reform. Let's get it done.

---begin pasted text ---

The contents of the email I am replying to are patently false. If the anonymous writer of this email had actually read the bill, he or she would know better.

Here are the facts. Anyone can verify them by reading the bill at

Actual itemized contents of the Health Care Reform Bill:

"Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure!"

TRUTH: This is not an "audit," it's a study. Moreover, the bill states (pp. 22-23) that the report will "include any recommendations the Commissioner deems appropriate to ensure that the law does not provide incentives for small and mid-size employers to self-insure or create adverse selection in the risk pools of large group insurers and self-insured employers." This is almost directly the opposite of the email's claim.

"Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed!"

TRUTH: Page 29 continues to define the "essential benefits package" and discusses limits on what Americans will have to spend on health care under this minimum standard. In no way does this section stipulate the rationing of care.

"Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)"

TRUTH: Page 30 begins to describe the Health Benefits Advisory Committee which establishes certain minimum standards for health insurance plans. In no way does this committee deny treatments and benefits to Americans with health insurance.

"Page 42: The 'Health Choices Commissioner' will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None."

TRUTH: Page 42 begins to describe the Health Choices Commissioner's duties. The idea that this person will decide what benefits Americans receive is patently false, given that most Americans will keep their current plans under reform, and Americans within the exchange will have the choice of purchasing many different kinds of health plans. Rather, the Commissioner will establish minimum standards to protect Americans.

"Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services."

TRUTH: Pages 50-51 contain a provision stating that discrimination will not be allowed in the provision of health care services. Nowhere does the bill state that non-US citizens will be provided free health care services. The bill prohibits federal dollars from being used for undocumented immigrants.

"Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard."

TRUTH: Page 58, in the context of a discussion of administrative standards, mentions that "determination of an individual's financial responsibility at the point of service and, to the extent possible, prior to service, including whether the individual is eligible for a specific service with a specific physician at a specific facility...may include utilization of a machine-readable health plan beneficiary identification card." In no way does the bill state that such a card would be national, or that it would be issued to every person, or that it would, in fact, be used at all.

"Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer."

TRUTH: Page 59 continues the discussion of administrative standards, and authorizes electronic transfers of money within the government. In no way does this provision grant the government access to individual bank accounts.

"Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (read: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)"

TRUTH: Here's what page 65 says: "Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall establish a temporary reinsurance program to provide reimbursement to assist participating employment-based plans with the cost of providing health benefits to retirees and to eligible spouses, surviving spouses and dependents of such retirees." No mention is made of unions or community organizations.

"Page 72: All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange."

TRUTH: That's true! Plans have to have a minimum standard of benefits, bat can offer other plans as well. But that's fair, isn't it? Private insurers can continue to operate outside the exchange if they wish - should the government establish no standards for the exchange? In that case, how could reform end insurance industry abuses and help to control costs?

"Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Healthcare Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)"

TRUTH: This section says is that if private health care plans want to operate in the Exchange, they must provide a basic benefit package.

"Page 91: Government mandates linguistic infrastructure for services; translation: illegal aliens"

TRUTH: Some American citizens are more comfortable speaking a language other than English, especially in a sensitive situation like a consultation with their doctor. This provision in no way opens the door for coverage of undocumented workers.

"Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan."

TRUTH: Page 95 makes no mention of ACORN and Americorps; all it says is that the Commissioner can conduct outreach to vulnerable populations, making them aware of their options.

"Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter."

TRUTH: People who are eligible for Medicaid will not have to face the burdens of paperwork and other bureaucratic struggles. Far from depriving people of choice, this measure will ensure coverage.

"Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No 'judicial review' is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed."

TRUTH: This section describes rate-setting under the public health insurance plan option, which will compete with private insurers, who can set their own rates. Because of inherent advantages like their established administrative and provider frameworks, private insurance companies will not be "crushed" by government competition.

"Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages."

TRUTH: The government will negotiate rates with providers under the public health insurance plan option. However, private insurers will continue to pay their own rates.

"Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives."

TRUTH: This is simply not true. Employers with more than 20 employees aren't even eligible to participate in the exchange, let alone the public plan, until several years after the exchange launches in 2013. Moreover, no employer will be forced to participate in the public plan.

"Page 146: Employers MUST pay healthcare bills for part-time employees AND their families."

TRUTH: Employers are required to pay some benefits for part-time employees on a basis proportional to what they pay for full-time employees. No language on this page or the next stipulates coverage for the families of part-time employees.

"Page 149: Any employer with a payroll of $400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll"

TRUTH: The payroll penalty applies to employers with payroll over $500,000 who do not provide insurance to their employees. The percentage for employers with payroll from $500,000 - $750,000 is 6%. Employers do not have to offer the public option to avoid this penalty, they can offer private insurance if they wish.

"Page 150: Any employer with a payroll of $250K-400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays a 2 to 6% tax on payroll"

TRUTH: This is false, see above.

"Page 167: Any individual who doesn't' have acceptable healthcare (according to the government) will be taxed 2.5% of income."

TRUTH: Pages 167-173 detail what "acceptable health care" means (basically, insurance coverage) and also allow for many different kinds of exceptions to this rule.

"Page 170: Any NON-RESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes (Americans will pay for them)."

TRUTH: Non-resident aliens do not have to pay the penalty for not having health insurance, nor will the receive federal assistance, because they are not required to purchase health insurance. They are not exempted from individual taxes generally.

"Page 195: Officers and employees of Government Healthcare Bureaucracy will have access to ALL American financial and personal records."

TRUTH: This is a gross overstatement. For the purposes of determining affordability credits for Americans who need financial assistance in purchasing health insurance, employees of the Health Choices Administration will have access to tax information that the federal government already keeps. As is clearly stated on page 196, "Return information... may be used by officers and employees of the Health Choices Administration or such State-based health insurance exchange, as the case may be, only for the purposes of, and to the extent necessary in, establishing and verifying the appropriate amount of any affordability credit described in subtitle C of title II of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 and providing for the repayment of any such credit which was in excess of such appropriate amount.''

"Page 203: "The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax." Yes, it really says that."

TRUTH: This quote is taken out of context, and is in fact referring to a calculation used in the bill. Full context of quote: "'(4) NOT TREATED AS TAX IMPOSED BY THIS CHAPTER FOR CERTAIN PURPOSES.-The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax imposed by this chapter for purposes of determining the amount of any credit under this chapter or for purposes of section 55.''

"Page 239: Bill will reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors and the poor most affected."

TRUTH: This section has nothing whatsoever to do with reducing services. It makes much needed changes to the way in which physician reimbursement is recalculated every year. The bill will, in fact, create much more opportunity for seniors and the poor to receive necessary care.

"Page 241: Doctors: no matter what specialty you have, you'll all be paid the same (thanks, AMA!)"

TRUTH: Page 241 does not say this. Nowhere does it say this. It does say that physicians will be grouped into certain categories regardless of specialty. These categories merely determine if the physician is engaged in primarily therapeutic or preventative care.

"Page 253: Government sets value of doctors' time, their professional judgment, etc."

TRUTH: There is no good response to this assertion as it appears to have been made up completely. The section deals with 'misvalued codes' meaning that the government is potentially not paying an acceptable rate for a specific service. This will allow the government to, for example, pay more for services that require more payment, such as high-overhead procedures. The author of these criticisms separately attacks the bill for paying the same rate to all doctors, then attacks again for paying different rates.

"Page 265: Government mandates and controls productivity for private healthcare industries."

TRUTH: This section amends the Social Security Act to include productivity measures. There is no mandate or control of anything. This merely updates the way in which doctors and hospitals are paid through Medicare.

"Page 268: Government regulates rental and purchase of power-driven wheelchairs."

TRUTH: This is simply not true. This slightly amends existing guidelines for payments for medical equipment, in this case power-driven wheelchairs. This section introduces no 'regulations' that are not in the Social Security Act.

"Page 272: Cancer patients: welcome to the wonderful world of rationing!"

TRUTH: Overusage of the hot-button word "rationing" is a way to deflect attention away from the actual language of the bill and incite unjustified fear. This section only compares costs incurred by cancer hospitals to costs incurred by similar hospitals, and adjusts payments to reduce the possibility of fraud and abuse.

"Page 280: Hospitals will be penalized for what the government deems preventable re-admissions."

TRUTH: This is almost correct. The section is one of the first efforts at targeting excessive readmissions. Excessive readmissions are physically and emotionally damaging to patients, while simultaneously putting them, and the health care system, in far more financial risk than is necessary. The American Hospital Association recommended reduced payments for avoidable readmission in testimony to Congress.

"Page 298: Doctors: if you treat a patient during an initial admission that results in a readmission, you will be penalized by the government."

TRUTH: This is patently false. The section is about possible methods that the Secretary of Health and Human services might consider in order to address the growing problem of patient readmission. This section does not, in any way, create a penalty, nor does it even mandate policy. It merely provides examples of recourses that might be considered.

"Page 317: Doctors: you are now prohibited from owning and investing in healthcare companies!"

TRUTH: This provision only limits Doctor's investments in health care facilities that they refer patients to The effort to limit self-referral has been ongoing for many years as an effort to reduce fraud and abuse. This is, essentially, the medical community equivalent of insider trading. Limiting this incentive works to put the patient's health above all other considerations. Doctors remain free to engage in investment opportunities in areas that don't create a significant conflict of interest.

"Page 318: Prohibition on hospital expansion. Hospitals cannot expand without government approval."

TRUTH: This section regulates physicians' investment in hospitals to make sure that physicians are not unfairly benefiting from their power to refer patients to hospitals they have a stake in. The section does not prohibit hospital expansion.

"Page 321: Hospital expansion hinges on 'community' input: in other words, yet another payoff for ACORN."

TRUTH: In the ongoing effort to demonize community-based groups such as ACORN, every instance of the word "community" has become associated with that group's efforts. In reality, this provision allows for anyone to provide input. This includes homeowners, religious leaders, neighborhood groups, and others. There are no payoffs. There is no money exchanged in any way.

"Page 335: Government mandates establishment of outcome-based measures: i.e., rationing."

TRUTH: This provision is included in order to allow the government to base payments on practices that work. Nowhere does it say health care will be rationed. The attempt to isolate what works and what does not work in Medicare Advantage plans only benefits the health care system in general.

"Page 341: Government has authority to disqualify Medicare Advantage Plans, HMOs, etc."

TRUTH: The government can disqualify some Medicare Advantage Plans from receiving some additional payments, but only if those plans are not meeting necessary requirements.

"Page 354: Government will restrict enrollment of SPECIAL NEEDS individuals."

TRUTH: This section only deals with how to handle special needs individuals who need to enroll outside of the open enrollment period. Almost every type of plan operates with open enrollment periods. This section does not create more restrictions.

"Page 379: More bureaucracy: Telehealth Advisory Committee (healthcare by phone)."

TRUTH: This section merely expands existing Telehealth programs, which supplement but do not replace other health coverage, and provide a vital resource to Americans in rural and remote areas.

"Page 425-430: More bureaucracy: Advance Care Planning Consult: Senior Citizens, assisted suicide, euthanasia?; Government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc. Mandatory. Appears to lock in estate taxes ahead of time; Government provides approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in death; Government mandates program that orders end-of-life treatment; government dictates how your life ends; Advance Care Planning Consult will be used to dictate treatment as patient's health deteriorates. This can include an ORDER for end-of-life plans. An ORDER from the GOVERNMENT; Government will decide what level of treatments you may have at end-of-life."

TRUTH: All of these hysterical claims have been debunked elsewhere. HR3200 provides for the reimbursement of a voluntary session of end-of-life counseling with your physician once every five years. This in no way means the government will make decisions for patients or encourage doctor-assisted suicide. Counseling simply makes patients and their families aware of their options.

"Page 469: Community-based Home Medical Services: more payoffs for ACORN."

TRUTH: ACORN is not a Community-Based Medical Home.

"Page 472: Payments to Community-based organizations: more payoffs for ACORN."

TRUTH: This is clearly still referring to community health groups, not ACORN.

"Page 489: Government will cover marriage and family therapy. Government intervenes in your marriage."

TRUTH: Covering marriage and family therapy, as many private insurance plans do, does not mean that the government "intervenes in your marriage." The types of individuals who are recognized as therapists are clearly defined on page 491; in brief, professionals only, not bureaucrats.

"Page 494: Government will cover mental health services: defining, creating and rationing those services."

TRUTH: This section expands government coverage for mental health services under various government programs, and ensures that all mental health services will be offered by qualified professionals.

Technorati Tags: Health, reform, Congress

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Author Frustrated - Starts Pirate Party

Pirate Party of Oregon
A Draft Manifesto

We are driven in extraordinary times to take extraordinary actions to protect our Union and preserve our rights and way of life.

The Country was founded at such a moment, and we find ourselves gripped by historic challenges and opportunities once again.

At the same time, we recognize that powerful special interests, like the banking & investment giants, large Pharma, and the insurance companies have accumulated richly funded war chests with which they’ve purchased vast amounts of influence. Just check out the lobbying reports around the current attempt to reform health care. Special interests are spending billions to buy our democracy right out from under us. Congress is clueless and out-of-touch; and, when they’re not, our legislators are hopelessly deadlocked and unable to lead. The net result is government by special interest. Top-down, prescribed by CEOs, Lawyers, Bankers and members in good standing at the local country club. Do you really think *this* is what the founders had in mind?

So with this backstory, and an enormous amount of impatient frustration with both political parties, Pirates everywhere are taking action. Aarrrrgh.

The Pirate Party of Oregon, as The Author imagines it, will be built on a commitment to reform, transparency, and, bottom-up governance. That's right, bottom-up. What a concept. Think of us as Open Source politicians. The party was founded by techies in Sweden and The Netherlands around copyright & patent reform, net neutrality and personal freedom…with a focus on privacy protection & open technology standards and systems. That sounds about right to a lot of Oregonians as well. The European Pirates just won several seats in the EU parliament, so the movement is for real. New Pirate Parties have already started-up in Germany and Switzerland. Not a joke.

The Pirate Party of Oregon believes in citizen-moderated State involvement in regulation, ensuring basic rights & basic services, health, education & safety.

Pirates believe Government needs to be out of everything else, especially the “social” issues like individual choice in marriage, reproductive and end-of-life matters. In a Pirate Party world, Govt. stays out of herbal and minor drug enforcement, while maintaining vigilance over criminal cartels pushing dangerous, hard drugs until such a time as a general consensus has been reached on how to move forward. Legalization is on the table. We believe that government functions best when it facilitates freedom and the pursuit of happiness. And we don't believe that the federal government has any business spying on American inside US borders, so we have trouble with the wholesale interception of voice and text communication of average citizens by the NSA.

Pirates pick their fights carefully and stay out of foreign wars whenever possible. So the Pirate Party believes in reduced military spending and a changed focus in public and foreign service to planetary renewal, combating climate change and reducing our footprint. But don't even think about taking our guns away from us. That doesn't mean we feel comfortable with our current status as the No. 1 weapons producer and seller to the world.

Pirates demand sustainability…and accountability. Hey, it takes a Pirate to steal back our country from the special interests. Make no mistake about it, that is just what we need to do and it will be a long and hard fight. Just right for a band of angry Pirates. That said, Pirates are techies and the Party has a commitment to continued space exploration specifically, and to unfettered scientific investigation in general.

Government’s legitimate role is to safeguard and promote individual rights & liberties; protect citizens; provide health, education & basic safety-net services; and, act as the voice and authority of the people in dealings with mega-corporations and sovereign, foreign nations.

Pirates recognize that it takes money to run the state, and believe that a fair and equitable system of taxation, subject to regular review and renewal, is a legitimate mechanism for our elected authorities to employ as a funding mechanism. In general, Pirates believe that taxation should be progressive, not regressive; and that the tax code must be simple and non-punishing. The Party believes that tax breaks, exemptions and loopholes are often complex, difficult to understand, and tailored for a select few – so they would be subject to review and re-configuration. No more millionaires who pay no taxes or corporations receiving public subsidies and tax exemptions. All should pay their fair share, and the authorities must be accountable for the expenditure of our funds. Or we'll make them walk the plank.

Pirates also understand commerce, and we know thievery and exploitation when we see it. There’s a lot of that going on right now, in creative fee structures, unexpected charges, and a variety of bank-driven financial manipulations. So ironically, Pirates are strong supporters of vigorous regulation and enforceable transparency. We’re not big on closed-door deals that don’t stand the light of day. Pirates allow that currency and the exchange of goods is the foundation of commerce, and that commerce is a source of creativity, value and growth. But we’ve seen too graphically in the last few years what rampant greed in an unregulated environment can bring – the damage it can do. Don’t want to go there again anytime soon. So Pirates want to see the masters of the financial universe constrained, supervised, and only then cut-loose to do what it is they do that feeds the star-maker machinery behind business.

And you may have noticed that Pirates come in all sizes, shapes, colors and sexual orientations. Not a mistake, that. Our tent is really, really big – so you need no special doors to enter. If you’re mad as hell and you just won’t take any more, consider becoming a Pirate. If you’re frustrated with both the Republicans and the Democrats, think about the Pirate Party. No really. Our fellow pirates in Europe have set an example, hooked-up and got stuff done. Not a revolution, but a great start. We can do that. America’s got talent, and lots and lots of pirates. Join now.

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