Thursday, August 30, 2012


The old adage goes something like this: “If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.”

There’s a corollary to this: “If it doesn’t look like a duck, and it doesn’t smell like a duck, and doesn’t quack like a duck, then calling it a duck doesn’t make it a duck.”

Nowhere is this more evident than the Ryan/Romney plan to “save” Medicare.

While they may call their proposed outcome “Medicare”, it’s just one more Republican reverse Robin Hood ploy to take from those who can least afford it in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and unnecessary foreign wars.

Ryan and Romney propose to replace Medicare with vouchers that would be used by senior citizens to purchase health insurance on the open market, thus enriching the for-profit insurance donors.

Let’s say their plan gives each senior a voucher for $8,000. While this may be adequate for relatively healthy people without pre-existing conditions, it will force many to make difficult choices between food and medical care. Policies for a 68 year old with cancer could cost well over $30,000 a year. Those seniors who have spent a lifetime paying into the system will have the rug pulled out from under their safety net. Calling the Ryan/Romney proposal “Medicare” is cruel and misleading.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” neĆ© “Romneycare”) is a better solution. With Ryan’s and Romney’s approach to repeal the ACA, many with pre-existing conditions would simply not be able to afford insurance and many more would not be able to afford preventative care, bringing emergency room costs through the roof, and raising the overall cost to the nation.

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. Single-payer (“Medicare for all”) is a better solution and would bring America in line with our other developed partners. But the election of the Ryan/Romney ticket would move the health insurance industry right into pure quackery.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In This Race Between Christie and O'Malley, I'm Rooting for Christie

There's a chance that Chris Christie may face Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley in the race for President in 2016. That's a race I'd work hard for an O'Malley win. But there's another race - today - between these two men, and that's one that I'd like Chris Christie to win, even though he's not acting like he's even in the game.

The race I'm referring to is to become the predominant state for the offshore wind manufacturing and support industry. The Atlantic Ocean is a ripe territory to harness this energy, both in terms of favorable wind patterns and proximity to millions of consumers. In this race, O'Malley is preparing his state to reap these economic benefits while Christie has hitched his energy wagon to the Koch Brothers and the "drill, baby, drill" GOP platform.

Two years ago, Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA), but his administration has been stagnant on providing regulations and support to make any progress. Today, at the site of the Paulsboro Marine Terminal, elected officials and the Director of the Sierra Club held a press conference to urge the governor to take action.

The site, across the river from Philadelphia International Airport, is 193 acres, formerly an oil tank storage facility. It's been remediated and is ready for economic development.

Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club opened the press conference, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley spoke. Sweeney indicated that there are developers interested in the site, adjacent to the Delaware River and major overland highways, but nothing can happen until the governor directs his bureaucracy to issue the required permits and regulations. Once this happens, several thousand jobs will be created. These are manufacturing jobs to build the turbines, blades, and other portions of the offshore wind farms, and support jobs for transportation and distribution. But if we wait too long, other states like Maryland may beat us in becoming the center of wind energy on the east coast.

I spoke with Senator Sweeney right after the press conference - his remarks as well as video of the press conference are below.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making the Media "Pro-Truth"

Now that the issues of women’s reproductive rights have come to the forefront in the 2012 Presidential election, it’s time to re-examine how the mainstream media continues to succumb to the position of the extreme right on these issues. Specifically, I’m referring to their choice of terminology. The media use the term “pro-life” to describe the anti-abortion partisans. The term is inappropriate and misleading.

Use of “pro-life” implies that those of us who support women are somehow “anti-life.” Let’s examine the policies that the so-called “pro-life” right wing supports, either implicitly or explicitly:

If the policies of the so-called “pro-life” folks are enacted, women will go back to having back-alley abortions or self-medicating to terminate unwanted pregnancies. If forced to carry to term, some will abandon their babies, putting infants in peril. Women and children will die from “pro-life” policies.

Not all people who oppose abortion are from the right-wing fringe. Some people oppose abortion on religious grounds. So to them, I say, don’t get an abortion. But keep your religion out of my government.

In general, those who oppose abortions due to the “sanctity of life” argument support unnecessary wars and the death penalty. Those are things that belie the “pro-life” moniker. And if someone is in favor of free access to assault weapons or limiting medical care for those who can’t afford it, they can’t be “pro-life” at the same time.

So it’s time for the so-called “liberal media” to tell the truth. People like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are not “pro-life”. They are “anti-abortion” and should be described that way.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A "Solution" in Search of a Problem

While neither of the two major political parties is known for altruism, it is clear the Republicans place their lust for power above the needs of the electorate. This has become profoundly apparent in this year’s election with their nationwide voter suppression initiative.

This is not the first time the GOP has pulled out all the stops to grab power. The 2000 presidential election was won by Al Gore - both in the popular vote and, if Florida had been allowed to count all its votes, in the Electoral College. But a politically-motivated Supreme Court would not permit the votes in the Sunshine State to be counted, giving the election to a man who drove the nation into debt, widened the income gap, ignored warnings of a horrific terrorist attack, and placed young American men and women in harm’s way under false pretenses. The Supreme Court’s rationale was so flawed that the justices even noted that their decision should not be considered a precedent for future cases of this type.

Now, in 2012, the Republican oligarchs are taking another tack at usurping the will of the electorate. They are doing everything they can to ensure that groups that vote overwhelmingly Democratic are denied the fundamental right to vote. It started with their destruction of ACORN, whose only “crime” was trying to get African-Americans registered to vote. Now, they are hard at work suppressing Democratic voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio under the guise of “voter fraud”, even though it has been amply demonstrated that such fraud is virtually non-existent.

Voter advocacy groups are fighting these tactics in the courts with very limited success. In Ohio, after protesters rallied against extended voting hours only in Republican counties, election officials relented and reduced voting hours consistently across the state - hardly a victory for the people of Ohio. In Pennsylvania, a Republican judge ruled that hypothetical unworkable scenarios (like each denied voter appealing to a judge on election day) trump common sense - showing that the U.S. Supreme Court is not the only part of the judiciary that is under the influence of corporate despots.

The judicial battle will certainly extend to Election Day and beyond. But we are clearly on a path to inaugurate the second un-elected President in 12 years. The Pennsylvania decision will be appealed to the state supreme court, but those in the know don’t hold out much hope for a reversal. The U.S. Justice Department is looking into violations of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, but with GOP voter suppression so widespread, is this too little too late?

But there’s another approach to ensure a fair election. While continuing to fight these draconian laws, activists should, in parallel, work within the system and get the requisite voter ID cards in the hands of the underrepresented electorate. They can do this by providing rides to senior citizens to the voter registration offices and by promoting vote-by-mail in those states where it is allowed. They can help voters to navigate through the government bureaucracy to obtain the proof needed to secure ID cards.

There’s not a lot of time between now and election day, and the GOP is counting on making legitimate voting more difficult. But if we do nothing, we get the government we deserve. We observed that lesson in 2000. Did we learn anything from it?