The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Health Care - False Assumptions and more

Friday's blog post hit a nerve with some folks, and I went back and forth with people I don't know on Facebook about Health Care Reform.

At issue: "Real" Christians and affordability of health care reform.

First, the Christian issue. There is not a consensus on what constitutes a real Christian in the technical sense. Some say you must accept Christ as your personal, born again type of savior. Others think believing in Christ is enough, or being baptized is necessary, or daily prayer, or targeted hatred (Baptist preacher Fred Phelps believes this), or treating others a certain way, or a combination of these things with God keeping a scorecard. Rack up enough points and you're in.

I wasn't getting into that argument. I put the word "real" in quotes to indicate I meant something else. I meant real Christians as in those who follow the things that Jesus did, like being concerned about the poor and then doing something about it. His concern about the poor, and the sick, would lead me to believe that he would love assuring that everyone had affordable, quality health care. To me, the real Christians would follow. The fake Christians would not.

The other issue is affordability of health care reform. Specifically, of adding everyone to the "insured" category. I said (in a comment on Facebook) "I have a problem with people saying we can't "afford" health care reform. So, those who are left off, their lives, and health, are worth less than the rest of us. Health care should be a right, everyone should have the same access and the same choices."

The conversation took off from there, but it led to a discussion in my home that brought up some frequently false assumptions regarding health care in this country.

One is that people don't want to be forced to pay for other people's health care.

In fact, however, that is what we are doing now. If an uninsured goes to the hospital, he or she will get treated, and sent home. They can't pay, the hospital uses their indigent patient care portion of their budget (and they feel good about this) to take care of the bill. The hospital then passes the costs of those treatments to other patients, and this results in higher insurance premiums for everybody. So we are being "forced" to pay for the treatment of others.

That uninsured patient goes home, but does not have the money to pick up the prescribed medicines that will keep him there. So within a few days, or a few weeks, depending on the condition, he or she returns to the emergency room, where you and I will cover their expenses once again. This results in higher insurance premiums for us again.

This leads to another false assumption: that everyone gets health care whether they are insured or not. They "get to go" to the emergency room, federal law gives them that right.

That is not health care. That is being treated for something that needs treatment.

Health care includes preventive care, annual physicals, vaccinations, mental health care, nutritional counseling, vitamins, fitness evaluations - all those things and more are parts of an individual's health care.

Of course, Health Care Reform does not include all of these things, that would only happen in a more perfect world. But for most of the indigent uninsured people who go to the emergency room for a "condition," if they had insurance and better health care, they would have had some preventive measures or counseling, (which is much much cheaper than a trip to the emergency room) and not only would dollars be saved (thus resulting in lower insurance premiums for the rest of us) but the patient would not have suffered for weeks or months until they had to seek treatment.

So, Health Care Reform not only saves us money, it is also more compassionate, resulting in less suffering for the poor.

Now I'm tempted to bring Jesus back into the picture, because he would just love this. But even without him, I would hope most Americans would want those who are less fortunate to suffer less.

So that's just a little information for the Health Care Reform detractors to chew on.

Here is "Missed the Boat" by Modest Mouse.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nurses, Doctors, "Real" Christians support Health Care Reform

I don't know what I did to deserve it but somehow I got on the email list from the Christian Coalition of America.

How Christian does this sound?

Click here and join our campaign to demand the repeal of Health Care

That's what they said, except they used the term Obamacare instead of Health Care.

I love, by the way, that they have attached the name "Obamacare" to the concept of better health care and more affordable insurance for more people. In 10, 20, 30 years from now, people will be calling it that, and thanking their parents and grandparents for having the foresight and the stick-to-it-iveness to pass "Obamacare," the landmark legislation. The name Obama will forever by inscribed in the nation's lexicon.

Back to the subject.

The Christian Coalition says that the current Health Care Reform law will "mandate taxpayer funding of abortion." That is a lie.

Were they not around when Bart Stupak almost killed the bill but then supported it after he got wording inserted in the House version that guarantees abortions are not covered? Do they not remember that the Senate version did not include the same wording, and that the president then issued an executive order banning funding of abortion. Do they not understand that the Hyde amendment already restricts funding of abortions with taxpayer dollars?

The Christian Coalition also says that they current Health Care Reform law will "Limit our choice of doctors." That is a lie.

The current health care law contains a Patient's bill of rights that says of itself:

"(The Patient's bill of rights) will help children (and eventually all Americans) with pre-existing conditions gain coverage and keep it, protect all Americans’ choice of doctors, and end lifetime limits on the care consumers may receive."
My advice to the Christian Coalition is to revisit Commandment number IX (or VIII, depending on whose version of the Bible you are reading) about bearing false witness to your neighbor.

We hear all the time about a fear that doctors will no longer be in control of patient care (currently insurance companies are in control, but that is another story). So what do the doctors say?

The president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Cecil Wilson, has a blog. He says the current law has a lot of good in it, and should not be repealed. The good, in his opinion, includes.

• Expansion of health insurance coverage to 32 million people who currently do not have it, and as a result, are at a greater risk of living sicker and dying younger

• Health insurance reforms to eliminate pre-existing condition provisions of policies and lifetime caps on coverage, thus providing protection to millions who change jobs or have severe chronic diseases, such as cancer

• Expansion of benefits for preventive and wellness services

• Closing the doughnut hole in Medicare Part D, thereby helping seniors purchase needed medications

• Research to improve medical care

• Expansion of health insurance market competition through health exchanges to improve choice and price

Now there are some things about it, he says, that need to be fixed. but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, he says; rather to "wash the baby and drain out the dirty water."

President Obama indicated he is willing to do that, as he encouraged lawmakers to work on fixes to a couple of problems with the bill.

What about the ones who really take care of patients. Nurses. What do they say?

The American Nurses Association sent out an email yesterday that said this:

The American Nurses Association (ANA) applauds the president’s strong
commitment to the current health care law. Already millions of
Americans, both young and old, are reaping the benefits of the new
law, and it will strengthen and improve the health care system for
generations to come.

Click on a link in the email and you go to their web site, where you find this.

Last year with your help we won the long fight to enact meaningful Health Care Reform, but it's a new year and a new Congress. The first action of the House of Representatives was to vote to repeal Health Care Reform in its entirety. This is just the first of many threats to come. We need your help to make sure that the vital reforms we worked so hard to achieve aren't rolled back, and that they are implemented effectively. Here are the tools you need to stay informed and get involved!

So health care professionals are strongly against repeal, as are all educated and informed Americans. Oh, and so are least the ones who follow Christ.

Have an opinion about this post? Check one of the choices just below: Funny, Interesting, Cool, Like, Dislike?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Maps and charts and such

Some people have too much time on their hands. Maybe you think I'm one of them.

Here's a chart comparing attitudes in Europe with those of the United States.

I thought I would share a few things from my friend Joe My God

We need to be more like Europe.

Speaking of the U. S. needing improvement, here is the U. S. map of Shame, where you can see what your state is shameful of (or should be).

You can click on the pictures to make them bigger so the labels are easier to read.

And not to be all negative, here's the United States of Awesome! Here you can see what your state does well.

Speaking of awesome, how about Adele. I've posted her video's before, here's one of her singing "Rolling in the deep."

I am re-posting a video of another of her songs, just because it is awesome too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Influencing people

1.) President Obama

The president gave his State of the Union speech last night, and despite the third grade seating arrangement and the anticipated followup by the divided Republican Tea Party, the message from the president was loud and clear:

We can win the future

He called our current place in time "our Sputnik moment."

That means we need to quit lollygagging and get to work. China is pulling ahead in education, energy, infrastructure and more. We can catch up and pass them, like we did the Russians after they put Sputnik into space. We must.

He stressed the importance of education.

"We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the super bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline."

He urged increasing math and science teacher training and urged a redo of the failed and unfunded No Child Left Behind act.

A CBS poll reveals that 91% of those who watched the president approved of the speech.

A CNN poll indicates that prior to the speech 61% of respondents thought that Obama will move the country in the right direction. After the speech that increased to 77%.

You can watch the entire speech, with enhancements (charts, graphs, etc.).

2.) Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates plays an attorney in "Harry's Law" who is changing careers going from a highly paid patent attorney to a "poor but changing neighborhood" criminal attorney. In this week's episode, she represented an elderly black woman accused of armed robbery.

In her closing statement she made a great case for a change in attitude about how we care for the poor, including a statement about Health Care Reform.

Watch the entire episode here.

3.) Oprah Winfrey

And Oprah had Gay Day yesterday on her show. 25 years of coming out stories. This was the promo.

Oprah does a great job of influencing public opinion, and her show yesterday confirmed that. One of her guests was an Indian prince who came out on her show years ago, was disowned by his mother, but the event began a change in India and more acceptance for gays in that country.

One of her guests, Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, came out and wrote a book in 1995. He was a huge influence on my decision to accept who I am, which I did later that year.

I met Greg at the Books-a-Million in Hoover and got his book, Breaking the Surface, signed. I also wrote a letter to him, and had received a postcard back, but the words he wrote in my book planted the idea in my head.

Believe in yourself!

He could probably tell I was a troubled, closeted gay man. I can sometimes recognize that trait in people now. He wrote just enough to get me started, and I am so thankful.

So President Obama, Kathy Bates, and Oprah Winfrey (and Greg Louganis); thank you for the messages that you send. You are making a difference in people's lives and attitudes and beliefs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Municipal Judge

Bessemer is still without a second municipal judge. Former municipal judge Anetta Verin retired last year to assume an elected position. The Bessemer city council is charged with choosing a new judge for the city. In the mean time, Judge Scott Roebuck is handling the entire court, in other words, doing the work of two people.

Maybe he seemed a little too eager to do this when he spoke before the council and told them he would handle it until they choose another judge. That was on November 16, 2010. More than 2 months ago!

Anyway, the field has been narrowed to 5 candidates and the municipal judge committee (that may not be the official name of the committee) will narrow the field down to 3 and the final vote is expected to occur on February 1 at the city council meeting.

Of the remaining candidates only one meets all the qualifications as described by Judge Roebuck and former Judge Verin.

Judge Verin suggested that her replacement be someone who has (1) practiced law, (2) has a passion for the job, including domestic violence, (3) have certain qualities, i.e. honesty, integrity, dignity and respect. Judge Roebuck agreed and added that a judge should have a vested interest in the city and in the community. Both Judge Roebuck and Judge Verin live in the city of Bessemer.

(1) Kathryn (Sunny) Lippert currently practices law in Bessemer.

(2) She has a passion for the job, and I know that because I understand how she immerses herself in her work as an attorney, and I know this would carry over into her work as a judge. In addition, I have visited her in her office and she is already exploring ways the financing and administration of the court could be improved. And she's not even appointed yet.

(3) Sunny is well known in the community and is respected both professionally by other attorneys and court officials, and by her neighbors and fellow citizens of Bessemer as well.

I'm pretty sure that she is the only candidate who actually lives in Bessemer. She has invested in our city by purchasing and restoring a historic office building downtown. While that is not a rigid requirement, it does help satisfy Judge Roebuck's recommendation that a municipal judge should have vested interest in the community.

Sunny Lippert is currently the president of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, an organization that works to improve the community. Projects Sunny has been recently involved with or supportive of are restoring historical signs in Bessemer and the Jonesboro community garden. In this photo, taken in November 2010, Sunny is participating in our garden workday.

She also works with troubled teens in a program that attempts to steer them back into a productive role.

Sunny is truly an asset to our community. None of the other candidates come close to doing for our city what Sunny Lippert does.

And without a doubt, she is the most qualified, by every standard, for the position of Municipal Judge in Bessemer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Put it to rest

Let's put it to rest.

It's not a choice.

Like Peter said,

While I don’t advertise being gay, I never steer away from an opportunity to educate the straight world that gay is who we are and it’s OK. That it’s the way God created us, and that they can either get over it - or spend their lives fuming about it. That is the only choice in the matter!

Many of you have seen my entry on Born This Way, a web site where ordinary people submit pictures depicting early signs that they were gay.

The site is full of mostly happy stories by mostly adults remembering mostly joyful times of their mostly innocent childhoods.

But then there are some that just make you think. The pictures don't always tell the whole story.

Here's John, age 5.

Somewhat typical of many of the photos, John's pose is certainly suggestive of a fabulousness that many gay kids exhibit at an early age.

But John goes on to explain that this photo was taken "before the taunting, before the indoctrination, before the forced sports, before the shame, before the Southern and the gothic."

And, John says the boy in the photo is clearly being himself, but that he "doesn't remember him," but takes "great joy in knowing that somewhere inside me is the boy in this photo."

Now, would a 5 year old boy "choose" to steer himself into situations that elicit taunting and shame?

Or take Matt, another southern boy, at age 6.

Matt joined the Cub Scouts that year. If I remember Cub Scouts correctly, it was about teaching boys the traits that make them into honorable men. Traits like honesty, and being truthful.

Matt was just being honest when he shared his dream of what he would be when he grew up at a scout meeting where they were all sitting around telling what they wanted to be (firemen, astronauts, bee farmers, or the Incredible Hulk).

He was just being truthful and honest when his turn came around.

When it came to me I honestly told the room: 'My husband is going to be a policeman, and I'll be living in a 3-bedroom house, with flowers and a beagle - and I'll make the best ice cream in the world.'

My suspicion about not fitting in was solidified at that moment.

Everyone got upset, and the Scout Master started yelling at me - 'You can't do that! You're an abomination, a heathen!' - and my personal favorite - 'Devil Child!' (you know the drill).

The Scout Master then made me sit outside on the front steps of the church by myself, while they finished their meeting. As night crept in, I remember feeling so lonely and afraid. I must have been out there for a couple hours by the time the meeting ended.

When all the laughing kids came spilling out of the church and into their parents' cars, I asked the Scout Master about calling my mom to let her know the meeting had ended. And he loudly declared 'Oh, I KNOW whoever put you up to this is coming to get you!' Then he left me alone, at night, sitting in front of this locked church, in the dark. I had to get the janitor that came later, to call my mom.

So I guess all that talk of being honest and telling the truth...well maybe they were just trying to prepare him for Don't Ask Don't Tell. I mean, under that policy service members were expected to lie about who they are. Cub Scouts (and Boy Scouts) are expected to do the same, I guess.

And I don't think Matt would "choose" to continue on with being gay after this ridicule (and after what happened when his mom picked him on his link and read).

Here is my little story on Born this Way. Nothing quite that dramatic.

Click on Born this Way and read a few of the stories. And then try to justify saying that being gay, or lesbian, or bisexual or transgender is a choice. You can't do it. Because it is not.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Terri Sewell having an impact

It feels good to live in a congressional district where the representative actually cares about the people she (or he) represents.

Terri Sewell is the only member of the Alabama delegation that did not succumb to the lies and pressures from the big insurance companies and their money when they cast their vote on the Health Care Repeal Act.

Her statement:

"The Affordable Health Care Act is a first step towards strengthening our health care system and is already helping to save the lives of many in my district."

President Obama said yesterday,

"I'm willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we can't go backward. Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can't deny, cap or drop their coverage when they need it the most, while taking meaningful steps to curb runaway health care costs."

Republicans are more interested in those big checks they get from the insurance companies.

And only about 1 in 4 Americans want to repeal the law.

If the law were repealed, 16,600 young adults in Alabama would no longer be able to stay on their parents health insurance plans through age 26.

Republicans don't care about the health or feeling of security that Americans have when they are able to be insured.

Also yesterday we learned that Sewell was elected President of the Democratic Freshmen Class of the 112th Congress.

In addition to serving as President of the Democratic Freshman Class, Rep. Sewell was selected to serve as a Senior Whip by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). This position provides Rep. Sewell a strong platform from which to advocate for constituents in the 7th District and families all across the state of Alabama.

She was also selected to to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Science and Technology. Those would be my favorite committees.

The House Committee on Agriculture creates farm policy and drafts legislation to protect the interests of rural America. The committee’s jurisdiction includes rural development, agricultural colleges, farming, nutrition, renewable energy, conservation, bioterrorism, forestry and many others.

The House Committee on Science and Technology is responsible for overseeing research and development programs at many different federal agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and many others.

Here is what she said about her agriculture appointment.

"I will promote innovative legislation that will strengthen our small businesses, our land grant institutions, support both urban and rural economic development and work to improve the nutritional challenges facing our children, seniors and families. This committee assignment will help to ensure that America remains a dominant exporter of agricultural goods, which will create and protect good-paying, cutting-edge jobs in the district and across the country.”

Here is what she said about her science appointment.

“As a member of this committee, I have the ability to promote legislation that will improve economic development in the 7th Congressional District and throughout the State of Alabama. This includes introducing legislation in emerging scientific industries, encouraging the creation of public-private partnerships and investing in education and workforce development. Scientific advancement is one of the keys to U.S. competitiveness in a global marketplace, and this committee assignment will produce innovative opportunities for the advancement of science, technology and education as we move in to the future.”

I anticipate Terri being one of the most influential members of congress, and being a big help to the people of the 7th Congressional district.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Moving in a backward direction

Federal? State? Local?


In Washington:

The House is poised to vote to repeal the Health Care Reform the country desperately needed, in spite of growing acceptance of the reforms and the realization by the public that such a vote is only for show and a complete waste of taxpayer money and legislator's time.

House Republicans want to go back to a time when young people couldn't be on their parent's insurance, when pre-existing conditions would exempt you from getting coverage, and when (even more) millions of Americans were without insurance.

In Alabama:

Governor Robert Bentley is taking us back to the days of George Wallace with his inaugural statement,

"I will defend our right to govern ourselves under our own laws and to make our own decisions without federal interference".

John Archibald reminded us of how "federal interference" has affected us.
Without "federal interference," blacks and whites in Alabama could not dine together in restaurants, use the same libraries, attend the same schools or live in the same neighborhoods.

It is "federal interference" that returns more than $1.60 to Alabama for every dollar the state sends to Washington. It was "federal interference" that sent the state $650 million last year, allowing Alabama to put off cutting school budgets.

Without "federal interference" we would never have cleaned our air or water.

Without "federal interference" UAB would not be a research giant, NASA would not have brought jobs to Huntsville, and folks in the Tennessee Valley might still burn kerosene lamps at night.

We like our federal interference, it seems.

Governor Bentley also seems to have created controversy has created controversy with his statement that only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior are his brothers and sisters.

With any government, the sheep wonder how they will be treated. Are those who don't ascribe to Bentley's beliefs the black sheep of society? Or will all the sheep be treated the same? As a side note, Equality Alabama is wondering the same thing, and has requested a meeting with the governor.

Local (Fairfield):

The Fairfield City Council is considering reversing some its anti-smoking ordinance.

I don't care what the reason is or who the exemption is for; anti-smoking ordinances save lives. And not just the lives of the smokers.

Local (Bessemer):

Bessemer is moving forward. The City Council is considering raising the city's lodging tax and the sales tax. I don't have all the numbers, and I don't know when certain bond payments and other obligations come due, but here is what I would do.

Some council members want to wait until the financial audit is completed before voting on the tax increases, but that may take several months. And is the audit really going to tell us anything we don't already know about the fact that we need money? No, it may point some fingers (and they need to be pointed), but it won't help us with paying these bills we have today.

So, don't delay. Pass the tax increase. Even if it were passed today, it would be several weeks before any tax money is transferred to the city, that's just the way it works. But vendors and others who we are obligated to would see that we are making a tough move in order to meet our obligations.

Here's an idea. I remember a local government passing a sales tax increase for a specific amount of time, and then it would either go away or have to be renewed. The council could pass a sales tax increase for one year, and during that time could review the audit and make adjustments and look for other sources of revenue and all. The people of Bessemer would respect the council (maybe) for not burdening them with a "forever" tax.

The people of Bessemer would have to realize that we must all sacrifice a bit in order to amend the wrongs to which we have been subjected. If at the end of the year it looked as though the tax would have to remain, then the council would have to pass it again. The lodging tax increase would not be a one year increase. That tax is paid by non-residents for the most part, anyway.

I am still impressed with the Bessemer council and the path they are taking trying to solve the current financial crisis.

And speaking of the council, I must recant something I said previously.

Think of Rice as a continuation of Louise Alexander.

I said that during the campaign, but Sherrina Rice has shown herself to be a thoughtful and inquisitive council member, frequently asking questions in order to gain a better understanding, and often bringing insight to issues.

And in Bessemer, that piece of property that is at the corner of Highway 150 and Lakeshore, that I mistakenly thought was where Dollar General distribution center will be located, is apparently some type of "light industrial" development. Will pass on more information when I get it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK, what do you say?

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been celebrated for 25 years, and I wonder what he would say today.

I attended the Martin Luther King Jr Unity Breakfast in Birmingham this morning. Several hundred people; black, white, male, female, straight, gay, were present. There was definitely diversity in the room. But was there equality? Would King be satisfied?

Those are easy questions to answer: No!

Years ago the buzz word for the gay community was "tolerance."

But we quickly realized that tolerance still left room for indifference, even hatred, as one can tolerate the cold of winter, even if one hates the snow and ice. So acceptance was adopted as a goal, rather than tolerance.

Likewise, diversity was a concept that was aspired to, but just achieving diversity does not satisfy. One can place a diverse group of cookies; say, chocolate chip, raisin oatmeal, and peanut butter; on a platter and call the kids in and 9 out of 10 times the chocolate chip cookies will disappear first. The cookies are not treated equally. So, for people anyway, equality is what needs to be achieved, not just diversity.

At the MLK breakfast, a film documentary about King and his effects on our city was shown. Rev. Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries was one of the people interviewed in the film. "Alabama has never voluntarily stepped into the future," he said.

Douglas is a former member of the Board of Directors of Equality Alabama, so I am sure he would not mind me expanding his words to reflect the challenges confronting the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in the state. The ultimate goal of equality for the gay community is seen to be marriage, and Rev. Douglas and others would agree that we don't expect Alabama to voluntarily acknowledge that right.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell was the keynote speaker at the event. He urged the audience to "confront those in Montgomery (and elsewhere) who are holding you back." This is precisely what Equality Alabama is going to do during the next year.

Mayor Bell also said that we may say, "Woe is us," because Republicans have taken over the state legislature, or "Woe is us," because Republicans have overtaken the House in Congress. But, he said, we should really be saying, "Woe is us," if we sit and do nothing, which is often the case.

Many in the LGBT community "sit and do nothing" to help the cause of Equality. One thing you can do without having to become an activist or a political wonk is to tell your story. Tell your story to your family and to your neighbors and co-workers or fellow students. Let them know how discrimination has affected you, and how your life is not equal to theirs.

Here's a start. You can be fired from your job for the simple reason that you are gay.

You can be kicked out of your apartment or denied a mortgage simply because you are gay.

You can be denied inheritance of your partner's possessions simply because you are gay (including the home you might have shared for decades - you could be out on the street).

If you are a student, you can be harassed or bullied, simply because you are gay, or perceived to be.

If you are a parent, you can be denied custody or visitation rights simply because you are gay.

If you aspire to be a parent, you can be denied the right to foster or adopt simply because you are gay.

If you are partnered, you can be denied tax breaks worth thousands of dollars a year that a straight married couple enjoys, simply because you are gay.

The list goes on.

Equality Alabama
will be looking for LGBT people who are willing to share their stories. Watch for an announcement from Equality Alabama about this in the near future, regarding gay parents. (Also watch for changes to our web site, which we are in the process of updating.)

In the meantime, remember the words of Dr. King as we fight for equality.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Obama versus...

Even though the 2010 elections are barely behind us and the presidential election is almost 2 years away, the campaigning has been going on for month. Actually, the Republicans began campaigning immediately after Barack Obama was elected, but that basically happens after every presidential election.

Anyway, with Obama's fairly high ratings among Democrats (who are the ones that vote in primaries) it is assumed that he will have no challenger from his own party. This will allow him to raise a lot more money; democrats won't be funding other candidates. It will also allow him to focus his message on Republican policies and not have to debate against other democrats and their policies like he did during the last campaign.

Public Policy Polling released results from a poll that pitted Obama against potential Republican challengers in Iowa. Obama beat them all.

Obama leads Mike Huckabee 47-43.
Obama leads Mitt Romney 46-41
Obama leads Newt Gingrich 51-38
Obama leads Sarah Palin 53-37

What is interesting is that in Iowa, which is one of the early primary states that every Republican candidate would love to win, is that Republican support for any of these candidates ranges only from 67-79 %. The Republicans are not really unified around any of these candidates. That could translate into low Republican turnout in the election.

Democrats are more unified around Obama in Iowa, ranging from 86 to 91 %, depending on who the potential Republican candidate is.

The poll also showed that among independents, Obama has a 49% approval rating compared to 40% that are not approving of his job performance.

The pollsters say that these numbers are reflective of what they see across the county; unified Democratic support behind Obama, and not so much support from Republicans around any of their candidates.

Things are looking good for Obama, and that means coattails across the country. After two years of Tea Party politics in the House, I think voters will be ready to replace a lot of Republicans with Democrats.

It's going to be an interesting two years of campaigns.

If you didn't get a chance to see Obama's speech at the Tucson memorial, here it is.

How his detractors could find fault with this, I don't know, but they did, with everything from calling the event a "pep rally" to being critical of the college students that attended and the seating arrangement of those involved in stopping the shooter.

I guess when there is nothing to criticize, and when you feel it is more important to jazz up your conservative viewers than to allow the people of Tucson to express their grief and their hope at the same time, that making up controversy is the only thing to do.

To paraphrase John Stewart, hollers of "Who - hoo" in one culture are not that different than people yelling "Amen" in another.

Watch John Stewart as he takes on the critics of the service.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Veiled Criticism
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Health Care Reform in Alabama - the facts

From Sarah Palin's sorry excuse to the lack of judgment of some people (particularly those who would strike a match or flick a lighter to light a cigarette while being treated with oxygen - thus killing themselves) there are many things I could write about.

But Sarah can cook her own goose and smokers are already showing their poor judgment by continuing to do so.

So with the delay over the Repeal of Health Care Act vote a little info on what Health Care Reform has done for Alabama so far is in order.

As Alabamians learn, maybe they will call their representatives and say, "Hey, don't take away the insurance of those people or the jobs from these folks." Read on.


In Alabama, 30,599 Medicare recipients have received a tax free $250 rebate check to help close the donut hole coverage gap.

Will the Republicans want that money back from our seniors when they rip that hole back open?

33 uninsured Alabamians with pre-existing conditions now have insurance as a result of Health care Reform. There are thousands`eligible for this benefit, possibly the media in our state has not done a good job of educating the citizens, or perhaps those in need have been frightened by the Republicans of "Obamacare" and they are avoiding getting coverage out of fear.

When you think of Alabama people, who comes to mind?

These dancers are regular Alabama women. I took this photograph at an art show in Birmingham. Some of these women are probably students. Some are probably without insurance. Within 30 years, some of them will develop cancer. Remember this fact, I'll refer to it later.

This group of Alabama residents are marching toward the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. I wonder how many of these Alabamians are without insurance. Some of these people are eligible for early retirement. Remember this fact. I'll refer to early retirees later.

Many census workers were students. They probably didn't have insurance. They can now stay on their parents insurance until age 26 under Health care Reform.

This mostly white group of McCalla residents gathered in Bessemer to become informed about the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Facility. Many of these folks are seniors, benefiting from the $250 rebate.

In Alabama, 32 Employers Enrolled in Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program(ERRP) provides much-needed financial relief to businesses, schools and other educational institutions, unions, State and local governments, and non-profits, in order to help retirees and their families continue to have quality, affordable health coverage. Click here to find a list of organizations accepted into this program in Alabama.

In Alabama, $1 million has been given to the state in grant funding to crack down on unreasonable insurance premium increases. This money will help to pursue greater legislative authority in insurance review, Expand the scope of the review process, improve the review process, and increase transparency and accessibility in the review process.

In Alabama, $1 million has been allotted to plan for a Health Insurance Exchange.

In Alabama, $3,708,304 has been awarded to support biomedical research for the Therapeutic Discovery Project Program. This research will advance the goal of finding therapies and cure for cancer over the next 30 years. In Alabama this means 17 projects, with their accompanying jobs, will be supported. For a list of the project credits click here and for the project grants click here.

Other grants made available in Alabama:

  • $1.5 million for Tribal, Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs
  • $500,000 for Medicare improvements for patients and providers
  • $200,000 to strengthen public health infrastructure to improve health outcomes
  • $3.4 million in Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant awards
  • $500,000 to build epidemiology, laboratory, and health information systems capacity
  • $100,000 for HIV Prevention and Public Health Fund activities
  • $5.1 million to support capital development in health centers

So around $16,000,000 will flow through the Alabama economy in the form, mostly, of equipment and wages for those employed in the programs. I wish I knew how many jobs were being created, but it is obviously thousands.

These figures are not complete. They are only current through December 20, 2010.

Every Representative from Alabama with the exception of Terri Sewell wants to do away with these programs, re-open the donut hole for seniors, remove insurance coverage from those who now are insured as a provision of Health Care Reform, and un-employ thousands in our state that are employed in the research and other programs listed above.

Please call your representative and tell them to leave your health care reform alone. Dial (202)224-3121 and ask for your representative. Or use this searchable online directory to find your representative's direct office number.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

War Eagle - AU National Champs!

Unless you've been under a rock you have to know that Auburn defeated Oregon 22-19 in last night's BCS game. I'm part of that Auburn family that Coach Gene Chizik speaks about, having spent 9 years of my life in the Loveliest Village.

I did many of the things that students do (or did during those years a few decades ago).

I've raided the bathrooms in academic buildings to steal toilet paper from the bathrooms to throw over the trees and power lines at Toomer's Corner. Access to buildings was much less controlled back during the 1970's. Here's a live web cam of Toomer's Corner.

Toomer's Corner web cam.

I sat in Legion field as a freshman in 1972 and watched Bill Newton block an Alabama punt and David Langner pick it up and run into the end zone. I then watched the same thing happen again, same two players, and I saw my first Auburn victory over Alabama as a college freshman.

I saw Bo Jackson electrify the crowd as he put it into second gear and carried the ball about 90 yards for a touchdown.

I was in Jordan Hare Stadium on December 2, 1989 and saw Auburn defeat number 2 Alabama 30-20, when Alabama first came to the Plains to visit.

My time as a student at Auburn ended in 1981 on the night of the graduation from vet school, as I skinny dipped in one of the ponds at Conway's trailer park the night of graduation with a bunch of fellow new graduates.

That was a long time ago. And cell phone cameras didn't exist, thank heavens.

Auburn defeats Oregon 22-19 to win the BCS Championship

There were many standout players last night, of course, but let's look at kicker Wes Byrum.

This picture is from his twitter page

He tweeted this early this morning:

What a blessing and unbelievable experience... War Eagle. We national champs baby!!!

In part, of course, because of his last second 19 yard field goal.

Then he tweeted this:

Shout out to all the fans and the whole auburn family! We love you War Damn

I like this tweet from a few days ago.

About to take a much needed nap. What a blessing it is to know everything I've worked for since I was a little kid is only two days away!!!

And this one:

War eagle to the best fans in college football!

Thanks Wes for being such a positive person and for being an inspirational player and...for putting it through the uprights to secure the National Championship for the Auburn family!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Global warming

Today is a drippy, slushy day in Bessemer Alabama.

It's a perfect day to look for evidence of global warming.

Let's go outside.

Here some ice has collected on a pine tree. Much more of this, and the power would have gone out, causing me to miss the BCS Championship Game and Auburn playing tonight.

War Eagle!!!
We are still keeping our fingers crossed (both regarding power...and the game).

Here a holly tree and its berries are cased in ice. The cedar waxwings will take care of these berries, at some point.

This crepe myrtle has a layer of ice on it. This reminds me of northern friends in Pennsylvania who tell me that they can grow crepe myrtles without having to protect them in winter like they used to have to.

These wisteria vines, which I will be fighting again this year, are covered in ice.

Here are some chilled, frosted rose hips.

How about the camellias. There are several varieties on the property, and some begin blooming in late fall. This one has been blooming for weeks. These blooms will be damaged by the ice, but more will open later in the week or next week.

Ah ha! Here is my evidence.

This camellia normally blooms before Christmas. I have taken pictures of its flowers in the past in December, and have used the flowers in decorating for our Christmas Party, during the first two weeks of December.

This year, this is the first bloom on the plant, and today is January 10. There are lots of buds, so I will be enjoying this plant throughout the month and in to February, most likely.

But why is it a month late blooming?

I am not a camellia expert. I wish I knew one who could come visit and identify the dozen or so varieties that we have. But I would assume that the winter blooming camellia buds enlarge and finally open in response to low or falling temperatures. The plant may have perceived warmer temperatures in the late fall, and responded by delaying blooming.

That is the, although anecdotal and without proof, evidence for global warming I was looking for.

Winter days like today make me think of Tasha Tudor and her book, Tasha Tudor's Garden, my favorite garden book. In it she describes her garden in every season, and pictures accompany the descriptions.

If I were to write such a book, I would include this picture. There's just something about evergreens and ice.

Enjoy this cold, wet, beautiful, winter day in the south.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Peaceful Nation


When I was a little kid I grew up, like most kids still do, believing that the United States is the best nation in the world, and basically unaware of the troubles that many in the world encounter everyday.

My grandmother lived near Legion Field in Birmingham. We would visit her on Sundays.

One Sunday I was not allowed to go outside to play because a bomb had exploded killing four black girls.

The troubles of the world quickly became the troubles of my world.

Then came Martin Luther King, Jr., LBJ, Bobby Kennedy, and the events of the 1960's.

But as time went on I really, really thought that the hatred and violence that I grew up so close to was becoming a thing of the past.

Today in Kelly Ingram Park

My plans for today were to attend a rally about peace and human rights in Birmingham that is held every year around Martin Luther King day.


But how can you focus on peace when violence has come to be expected, and a certain amount of violence is thought of as the norm?

When I heard the news of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords being shot, there was a moment of surprise, but then reality sank in. This was predictable. The victim could have been any of a number of congress members. Many of us had spoken or written about the hateful rhetoric of the right, and shuddered at the rantings of Nevada Tea Party angel Sharon Angle who spoke of "second amendment remedies" and Sarah Palin and her "crosshairs" and "reload" and "fire" tweets and Facebook posts and her web site.

Giffords was one of 20 Representatives that voted for health care reform that Palin drew aim at on her web site.

We heard more rhetoric and saw images and video of gun rights advocates carrying weapons at public political events.

We knew then that this day was coming because of messages like this.

Gifford's opponent took Palin's advice, and made Gifford a "Target," allowing supporters to "Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly" (her Republican Tea Party opponent).

Sarah Palin, Jesse Kelly, and whoever wrote this upcoming event blurb, should be held accountable for the murder of a federal judge, the murder of a child, the murders of the the other victims, the attempted murder of Congresswoman Giffords and others. Along with the shooter, who is in custody.

I will post later about the Human Rights rally, held rightfully at Kelly Ingram Park (where just a little over a year ago the Tea Party desecrated the area by holding an event there).

In the meantime, America, remember, you voted the Republicans into office. In doing so, you only encouraged the violence that occurred today. As mom used to say, "You made your bed, now lay in it."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Staying Awake for Human Rights

The Birmingham Peace Project is sponsoring an event on Saturday, January 8 (that's tomorrow).

"Staying Awake for Human Rights" -- the 8th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Event

Birmingham area students will speak:

"Staying Awake for Human Rights"
An essay competition featuring Student Activist Groups. Hear what student activists have to say about human rights.

This event will take place at Kelly Ingram Park at 3:00.

Music will be provided by the Reconciler Praise Team from Church of the Reconciler.

Come join us, bring the family!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The effects of Health Care repeal

While the House of Representatives is enacting a third grade type reading of the Constitution others in Washington are working, in particular, those in the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO has offered a preliminary estimate of the costs of enacting H. R. 2, the Health Care Repeal Act. The CBO says they will give a more detailed analysis later, but due to the short time period allowed for discussion of this bill (forget openness and transparency and allowing discussion and all that) they went ahead and released this.

Here are key points from the CBO letter, sent to Speaker Boehner, and others, including Nancy Pelosi and Jeff Sessions.

Read the letter here.

The repeal of Health Care would increase the federal deficit by $145 billion. Remember, Health Care reform is expected to reduce the deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years. Republicans want to add to the deficit.
Some money would actually be saved by repealing Health Care. For example, $39 billion would be saved by taking money from ongoing programs to benefit Native Americans (sorry, even though you were here first, Republicans don't care about you) and $34 billion would be saved by taking money from federally funded Health Care Centers (sorry minorities, we know these centers mainly serve you, but Republicans don't care for you either).

Under the repeal of Health Care, 32 million non-elderly people would lose their insurance, leaving a total of 54 million without insurance. 83 percent of legal Americans would have insurance after the repeal. If Health Care is not repealed, 94 percent will be insured.

Keep reading that Constitution. But remember, there are 32 million people right now wondering if you are going to take away their insurance. And there are 310,591,294 (current U. S. population - may be different at the link since population is changing) people wondering if you are going to increase their share of the federal deficit.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

Actually, the governments operating in two cities.

The biggest problems facing the government are financial. Huge debts are looming. There's talk of default, and the consequences.

There are new people in government who can rightly say that they didn't cause this problem.

So how are these problems being handled?

It depends on which government you are referring to.

Both our local Bessemer mayor and city council and the President and Congress are facing similar issues, but their approaches to solving problems are very different.

In Washington today marks the start of a new congress, and Republican leaders in the House are ignoring the economy and the national debt and the deficit and are focusing on repealing the health care plan that, besides allowing millions of previously uninsured people to be covered, will reduce the deficit by $1,300,000,000,000 ($1.3 trillion) over the next 20 years, create 400,000 jobs a year over the next decade, and in general improve the economy.

In other words, kill jobs, increase the deficit and at the same time, deny people health care.

In Bessemer the sins of the previous administration are coming to light. At each council meeting, it seems that additional disturbing information about money the city owes vendors, or revenues that are not coming in, or important budget/financial information that was kept from the council and public, is revealed.

This finally reached a crescendo last night during the citizens participation portion of the council meeting when a member of the audience went to the podium and pretty much castrated the former mayor and council (one of whom is still on the council and was sitting right in front of him*); the former mayor for keeping information to himself and the council for not being aggressive enough. He said he might not have been "lied" to, but he certainly feels he was misled over the past few years. Misled to the point that now he doesn't know if Bessemer will be a better place for his children.

(*there are actually 2 members of the former council still in office, but one was not present)

Based on what I heard last night from the mayor and from every council member, either in private conversation or during the council meeting, this group is committed to working together, exploring all options, operating in transparency, and solving the huge problems that lie ahead.

And I think that any vendor that is owed money by the city will appreciate their attitude and be more likely to work with the city regarding payment.

The man at the podium and others in the audience (who applauded after he spoke) expressed their approval for this mayor and this council, not because of any results they have produced, but because we recognize their determination to solve the crisis and because we have the confidence that they can do it.

So, if you want to get your blood pressure up, watch Congress this week, where hypocrisy and showmanship will be on display, and the needs of the people will be ignored.

If you want to see how government should work, and how problems can be solved, come to the Bessemer city council meetings, where the livelihoods of the citizens and their quality of life is of great concern to the members. It's refreshing, and you don't often hear that about government activities.

Celine Dion - "A New Day Has Come"

Monday, January 3, 2011

As the 112th Congress begins

Republicans are going to do what over the next few days?

  1. Waste a colossal amount of time (thus, wasting taxpayers money)?

  2. Show themselves to be the uncaring souls that they are?

  3. Both?
The correct answer is (3. Both).

House Republicans are planning to force a vote on repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as health care reform (HCR), before the President's State of the Union Address.

Rep. Fred Upton (R - Mich) said undoing the law would be "top priority" for the new congress, and he thinks there is enough support to overcome a presidential veto.

It may be a priority for Republicans, but in spite of their claim that support for repeal of HCR is growing, I doubt that Americans want to do away with the gains we have already made. There are no reliable current polls on the matter.

I will review the changes that the bill has allowed later in this post, but when January 1, 2011 rolled around, another set of changes came into effect. Those include the following benefits for seniors and all Americans.

  • Offering Prescription Drug Discounts. Seniors who reach the coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount when buying Medicare Part D covered brand-name prescription drugs.

  • Providing Free Preventive Care for Seniors. The law provides certain free preventive services, such as annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans for seniors on Medicare.

  • Improving Health Care Quality and Efficiency. The law establishes a new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation that will begin testing new ways of delivering care to patients. These methods are expected to improve the quality of care, and reduce the rate of growth in health care costs for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

  • Improving Care for Seniors After They Leave the Hospital. The Community Care Transitions Program will help high risk Medicare beneficiaries who are hospitalized avoid unnecessary re-admissions by coordinating care and connecting patients to services in their communities.

  • Bringing Down Health Care Premiums. To ensure premium dollars are spent primarily on health care, the new law generally requires that at least 85% of all premium dollars collected by insurance companies for large employer plans are spent on health care services and health care quality improvement. For plans sold to individuals and small employers, at least 80% of the premium must be spent on benefits and quality improvement. If insurance companies do not meet these goals, because their administrative costs or profits are too high, they must provide rebates to consumers.

  • Addressing Overpayments to Big Insurance Companies and Strengthening Medicare Advantage. Today, Medicare pays Medicare Advantage insurance companies over $1,000 more per person on average than is spent per person in Traditional Medicare. This results in increased premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries, including the 77 percent of beneficiaries who are not currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The new law levels the playing field by gradually eliminating this discrepancy. People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will still receive all guaranteed Medicare benefits, and the law provides bonus payments to Medicare Advantage plans that provide high quality care.
Add to that the thousands of young people and previously uninsured children who have been added to the rolls of insured, and eliminating the lifetime limits on coverage, provisions to crack down on Medicare and other fraud, funding and strengthening community health centers, and more provisions that were enacted in 2010.

These are all significant changes that will strengthen the health care system, improve the way it is delivered, and reduce the costs for all Americans (or at least lower the rate of increases).

As for the grandstanding republicans in the House, even if you pass a repeal, the claim that you have a veto-proof majority (I doubt that) is useless, since repeal would never pass in the Senate, and the bill would never get to the President's desk for the veto.

But go ahead, start the new Congress by showing America that you are unwilling to move forward, that the "new Republican Congress" is no different than the previous Republican minority; uninterested in helping America move through the recession and back to prosperity, instead they are focused on obstructionism and partisanship.

At least we will have one vote from Alabama against the repeal of HCR. Terri Sewell will have replaced our latest embarrassment, Artur Davis, whose previous vote against Health Care Reform cost him the Democratic nomination for governor, and possibly the chance to be our next governor. He can now wander off into obscurity.