Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Coda to Melanie’s March

Melanie’s March concluded last Thursday.  What long term effect on the Healthcare Debate remains to be seen.  You can see the web site that is an interim result of the march here, Link.  It is an interim result because the march concluded in Washington with a trail of Senators and Representatives and other people in the power structure who spoke about promise and what can be delivered.  Some even placed an Easter deadline on it.  (I remember in the fall they talked about a Christmas deadline.)  A final result won’t be in until we see what the power structure will do to fix this issue.

If there is no solution by Easter, then can one come to the conclusion that our government and those in the power structure are just running the clock on us?  Wear us down and hope we will lose hope and watch this fade into the background?  Will the Democrats resurrect this issue for the fall?  A cynic would look at this healthcare issue much like the GOP trotted out the Abortion Issue for decades and when they had control, they did nothing but raise money and run elections on it.  Who cares if it tears apart the fabric of our society?  Is Healthcare becoming the Democrats’ Abortion Issue? 

I joined the march for Melanie on the last day.  Buses left from Philly at 8:30.  Being a complete knucklehead, I brought pens and index cards to do a survey of my own.  I got up in front of the bus, thank yous to Andre and Katherine for indulging this, I id’d myself as a blogger with space on the Huffington Post, and asked if those on the bus would be interested in participating.  Enough said yes, so the pens and cards went out.

I got overwhelming responses to the thought of Marching again for a Single Payer.  Many said they would do what is needed to be done.  I asked what they would ask of a mucky-muck (Senator or Representative) if they had the chance, as well as the President.  I asked why they came today.  Everybody had the nodding heads.  (I will have another post where opinions diverged.)

Everyone pretty much wanted to know why at least the public option hasn’t been done already.  There is a real sense of irritation at having to come to DC.

After we arrived at Union Station, there were some speeches as people got themselves together.  Those who marched on foot from Philly arrived.  Carnations were passed out to signify those who passed away during the Melanie’s March because of a lack of insurance.  We walked a couple of blocks to the Senate Office building where we were told the carnations we held were considered security threats (I think they are threats to the status quo.).  They, as well as the signs we made and carried, were placed outside as we went in.

Ushered into a Senate Hearing chamber, as I stood and watched the trail of pols attracted to the cameras, I kept thinking that we are being used and duped.  I don’t mind being the human wallpaper for a good cause.  It wasn’t what they said as much as who was saying it.  It was almost as though these pols were looking for cover, and this march was providing it (I am fine with this if it gets the job done).  Senator Reid has not been able to wrangle the cat rodeo called the Senate to do much of anything for a year.  Senator Dodd from the great State of Insurance spoke for a bit.  Arlen Specter, the guy we got in a trade for some used single bullets and an open can of soda, will be a free agent by the end of the year (hopefully the spring) – he ran his mouth for a bit...

I have to say I was impressed with Senator Tom Harkin, he has always been there for this issue.  Senator Bob Casey was surprisingly eloquent when he spoke about the Beatitudes.  Senator Sharrod Brown was impressive speaking about canaries in a coal mine (I was thinking about a proper snark talking about gas inside a senate chamber).  I wondered why Representative Rob Andrews was speaking in a Senate Chamber. Could he be Senator Lautenberg’s groomed replacement?

What began to really strike me was this was a memorial service for somebody, Melanie Shouse, who would have marched for anyone of us.  She could have been standing next to me at a rally like this, or running through walls to get Obama elected.  Her significant other spoke, those who knew her in life spoke.  This is someone who really believes in the America we all crave.  She was cremated wearing an Obama ’08 T-shirt.

She passed away because she didn’t have access to healthcare at the right time.  Others from families decimated in the same way spoke about their experiences.  I can’t exactly say I was happy to be there, but I can say I was proud to be able to help celebrate this life in a way that will hopefully help everybody.  This is what they tell me Melanie was about.  The pols were almost a distraction.

The next day was the healthcare summit – or should it be called the dogs and ponies of Washington, DC.  This life celebration became a warm-up event for the following day.

On the way home I passed out cards and pens once again and many of the fellow riders on the bus were of the mind of we’ll see what those in power will actually do. 

It made me realize the senate chamber was filled with words and a photo op for the opportunist class.  It is saying something about those in power that a woman’s personal struggle needed to be made this public in order to get help to a country that is sick with worry and financially panicked literally to the point of death.  If we need to humiliate ourselves with rallies like this so those in power can feel that superior in order to do the right thing, then I guess we have to do it.

It just feels like we are hunting for shame in the shameless and asking for alms from the greedy.  But we need to keep doing it to fix this problem.

Thank you to those who marched and organized this event, again their link.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Message to Michael

I start my mornings tuned into Michael Smerconish.  

On Sunday he announced in the paper he was morphing from a Republican to an Independent.

Wearing my Democratic hat would tell me – yeeaahh – a conservative talker has left the fold – he has seen the light.  He may get others to follow him because he uses solid logic and reasoning when makes his cases on the air.  People nod their heads in agreement with this guy.  

He will make the GOP weaker and that is always a good thing.  

Or is it?


You left because the extremists have taken over the party.

15 years ago I stood where you stand now, but I approached from the left side of the stage.  Having seen how the far left extreme took over the Local Democrats, I took their disinvitement invitation and left, becoming a Non-Partisan.  I stood there for 2 or 3 years and realized a few things.

First, here are some other tidbits to put in the mix…
  • Pennsylvania is a Closed Primary state.  That means that only members of a party may vote in a primary election.
  • A side effect of a Closed Primary States is the only people on the General Election ballot are those  that can appeal to the most strident bases of the parties.
  • There are different versions of Open Primaries and run-offs across the country. We will call anything that lets anyone vote in a primary and Open Primary.
  • Primaries generally get about 15% of voter turnout, if they are lucky.
  • For sake of argument we will assume 50% General election turnout.
  • We need to make a differentiation between Independent in Pennsylvania, (it is actually a party like Democrat, Republican, Green, Socialist, etc.) and Non-Partisan (not affiliated at all).

I called on Monday morning and asked you to take one of two paths, join one of the major parties and work within their structure, even if you need to wear a gas mask to do it; or work to create an open Primary system in Pennsylvania.  You stated clearly there is no third party leadership.  If you commit to work for an Open Primary in Pennsylvania, I will leave the Democratic Party, effective the day after the Pennsylvania Primary, and join you in the middle.

I was on the local, Philly only, segment of the show.  I know I hit a nerve (it already made my day).  Callers on-hold were referencing my call 15 minutes later on the national segment of your program.  It is rare a caller ever references back to a previous caller even once, I got several references.

As I said I realized a few things while eating grasshoppers in the political wilderness.  People have said some of these things already in different ways.

When you leave the 2-Party System unless you are willing to really commit to creating a vehicle for the non-affiliated to participate in the primary, you have left the political building.  Your absence makes it easier for the extremists to get their way.  You may have only been a traffic bump on their road, but they still had to navigate your presence as a GOP member.

Primaries are where the General Elections are set. With 15% turnout, the winner of a two way primary can go to the General with only 7.5% of the vote.  Let’s make it even worse – an evenly contested 3-way primary can win with a hair over 5% of the vote.  A 4-way primary winner can walk away with only 3.75001 of the vote.  The other side is working with the same set of numbers. So the General sets up with an Extreme Right vs. Extreme Left legitimately representing about 7.5% of the electorate.  That means the other 92.5% of those who did not, or worse, cannot vote are at the will of these folks.  Do you still want to call us some kind of democratic republic?

Now, look at this another way; how much more force do my votes in the Primary and General Elections have over your solitary General Election vote?  If in the General Election we get a 50% turnout of everyone – those who vote have a 2 times more powerful vote than those who have opted out (2 * 50% = 100%).

I am one of the 15% who will remain in a party structure as I hold my nose.  That means I have 6.666 times the power of someone who does not or cannot cast their ballot (6.666 * 15% = 100%).   What is more, my 6.666 times power edge over you allows me to set just what your binary choice will be.  I can eliminate your guy without you even being able to say BOO.

You opting out of the GOP, as much as I am loathe to say it, is hurting the country as a whole.  You are giving these people (and me) more power than they deserve to have.  You cannot act as a check and balance from the outside.  I walked this path.  I rejoined the Democrats.  I pick my spots where I think I can do the most good.

If you want to go after the path of most resistance (being a political salmon, I tend to do this a lot) you are better equipped than most of us, being a connected lawyer.   You can enunciate or help find those who can enunciate a legal path to breakdown the wall that prevents all of us from voting in a primary.

Keep in mind that the closed primary system is using tax dollars to provide a nominating process for 2 semi-private organizations.  I am surprised that some sharp lawyer has not made the equal protection argument that a closed primary system is unconstitutional.  Once the tax dollars are used to staff the polls and run the elections, everybody needs to have a say.

Once you get everybody having a say, the extremists will get washed out because the Independents or the Moderates or the Rastafarians can then flood the system when it is most important, when selecting people for the General Election.  That binary menu choice becomes more centered instead of extreme.

As you leave the GOP, you are also moving into unchartered territory in the talk radio world.  You are pushing the envelope towards the center.  Do you want to go it alone, or do you want to start cloning yourself?  Can you begin to convince other talkers to move with you to the center?  When will you start to develop your own stable of talkers?  You are staking out a large swath of territory, how long can you cover it yourself?  As Rush started out in the 80’s developing the Right Wing Radio, you have the opportunity to develop the Raging Moderates of the Reasonable Center.

Your pulpit will become exponentially larger if you move down this path.  You are at a crossroads.  You have been griping for a while about the state of things.  A lot of us are listening.  You are now a leader, I hope you are thinking where this is going.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Open Letter to Joe Stack

Yo Joe,

(Yeah, I know you may have a little trouble reading this right now…)

I read your rant. I guess that is why you flew your plane into a building - as a publicity stunt? To get the rest of us to have a great big pity party for you - right? We’ll name the revolution after you. We’ll call it the Stacked Deck.

Sorry, you have terrorized a nation committing murder, suicide and mayhem.

I am struck by how both educated and stupid you are at the same time. Look at your buddy, Professor “I went to Harvard” Bishop. Yes, you can read all the books you want. Get all the degrees you want, congrats. I think you guys got self-impressed with your education and thought that YOU knew better than anyone else. Guess what – you get talents in only a few specified areas. After that, you are just like the rest of us, fumbling around like fools.

Your arrogance left you with a blind spot that won’t allow you to take information in, absorb it, and analyze it rationally. If you can’t deal with people – you have nothing. I think St Paul is sometimes a bit over the top, but he does have some crystallizing thoughts. If you don’t have love, you have nothing. Trade for all the money, knowledge, power; even turn your body over to be burned – if you ain’t got love – you ain’t got nothin’.

Another guy I like to read about talks about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. You spent your life railing against Caesar. You joined a cult that was doing everything it could to undermine society. Your quote,
Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having 'tax code' readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful "exemptions" that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy.
It sounds like you were starting to have it in for any institution that would take YOUR money and try to do something with it. I know the Catholic Church has its faults, but so does every other institution that gets the tax exemption (a lot of them do societal good with that tax exemption). You know what, at a certain level, “who cares”, life ain’t always fair. Deal with it.

But you had other ideas; I guess this is where you turned into the Taxed Crusader.
We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the "best", high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the "big boys" were doing (except that we weren't steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.
Sounds like you got some really good legal advice there champ.
The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two "interpretations" for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us... Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.
Oh yeah, this is really smart; tick off all religious institutions, the IRS, and anyone making or enforcing the laws. What on earth are you trying to do? Expose to the rest of us the tax code ain’t fair. Hey, newsflash –we got it – the tax system ain’t fair.

One the next level of brilliance, you complain you are being punished for the laws you are breaking. Robert Blake is probably singing the theme song to his old TV Show, Toma, 

If you can do the time
Don’t do the crime.

What kind of absolute stupidity are you operating with that says the IRS is not going to haul your sorry butt in.

Then, you complain that legislators won’t talk to you. Hello? What legislators like to associate with tax cheats?

You rant and rave about every political disaster to befall the country. It is always someone else’s fault.

Hey, maybe it is you.

Nowhere do you have any realization that you can control your destiny. If you hate the tax codes so much, MOVE ! There are a couple of hundred other countries on the planet. There are places that could use your skills as a pilot or software engineer. No one is holding you here. In fact, the whining about the taxes is tiresome.

We need these taxes to operate the country. We need them to help other people in our society. Yes, things like Obamacare are valid uses of our tax dollars. We get you don’t want to help anyone, that is great. But stop already with the poor me garbage.

You mention a divorce? Did you have kids? Did you ever take the time to listen to others in your family and take to heart what they tried to tell you?

The problem is you are so self-centered you could not stand to see anyone else get ahead. You are smarter than THEM, you need to be at the head of the line.

When it came down to it your life was just about the money. It is all you wanted. The thing is, even when you had it, you didn’t know what to do with it (things like pay taxes on it or invest it properly). I think it was because YOU had a degree, you knew better than anyone else.

Even the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge figured out they had to reform.

If you are getting the idea this letter is really meant for those of you who want to celebrate this coward, you are smarter than you think…

Thursday, February 4, 2010

This is What A Silent Protest Looks Like

There are people who stand up and scream and yell at meetings.  Yeah, I can do that, but why expose myself as a complete nut.

There are people who wait their turn during the citizen comment portions of meetings before they rant.  That is generally more my style.

Sometimes there isn't the opportunity to speak at a gathering to say something important.  You can hold a sign to broadcast yourself.  I've done that.  You become part of the human wallpaper of the event (there is absolutely nothing wrong with being part of the human wallpaper).

Last weekend at the Progressive Summit in Harrisburg Arlen Specter spoke.  I have a real problem with him being the candidate for our party's Senate Seat  (see: this-is-matter-of-self-respect).

I am not going to scream and carry on, signs are too bulky, there is no place to air your gripe at this gathering.

So I stood with my back to him silently for about the 40 minutes that he spoke.  A couple of people wanted me to move out of their way, and I held my ground (I told them later at the bar what I was doing and they got it and we were cool.)

Some reporters snapped shots, and people asked me what was up after the gathering broke up.  Here is a link to the interview that was done afterwords:

When the interview was concluded, Specter passed by me and we shook hands.  I don't think he's a bad guy.  I just think it is not proper for him to be my Senator as a Democrat.

When he first came over I wrote a letter to the editor of the local Republican rag that got printed.  In it I said that Specter changing uniforms may be a pretty good deal.  This guy was supposed to be a master politician.  We don't find people with this type of acumen and 30 years Senate experience every day. As long as he's a Dem we can make the best of it.

As the first week of our new Senator went on, it became clear that he forgot to negotiate any decent position before changing his registration.  Gone were the 30 years of seniority in an instant.  Gone was the leverage that Pennsylvania would have, because he panicked about poll numbers 18 months in advance of a general election.  So much for experience and acumen.

Then he stood at a press conference and had the audacity to say he would not be going along with everything the President wanted.  What was more amazing was both the President and Vice President were just feet away from him.  It is ok to be independent - you just don't need to jam it in Obama's and Biden's faces.

I accepted long ago that Obama is the boss.  Specter still doesn't know what uniform he is wearing.  A couple of weeks ago he was on the Smerconish' Show in Philly where he made a crack about the President going to China with his hat in his hand.  That is language that makes the President look weak.  I call up, got through and gave it to him.  He plays for the Democratic team now.  You don't take shots at the boss, period, end of story.  President Obama is taking enough garbage from the right - he doesn't need it from the rear too.

I am not going to jump on chairs and scream, it may be more effective to silently stand your ground.  Stand with me.

By the way, the Pennsylvania State Committee will be meeting this weekend for an endorsement for the Senate Race.

I will be posting the results of that ballot - with the names of who voted for whom next week.