Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hey you, with the deep fried Twinkie! What do you think about these important issues?

Apparently, this poll is being taken by visitors to the Minnesota State Fair. I am glad that I found it before I go to the Fair, so I have a chance to actually be thoughtful about my answers. I certainly hope that the answers are not being weighed with any importance for decision making at the legislative level, because I just don't think that the answers will be informed.

Minnesota House of Representatives State Fair Poll

Should the use of medical marijuana for terminally ill patients be permitted in Minnesota?

I say "yes." Further than that, I also believe that drugs should be decriminalized and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes.

Should Minnesotans be permitted to fish with two rods at once?

See, now my first reaction to this one is "who cares?" But I bet I will have an opinion once I look into it. My knee jerk answer is one person-one rod. I found some comments from interested parties, and I am going to stick with my original answer.

When a person registers for a driver's license or state identification card, should they automatically be registered to vote?

I want to say "no" because I have this idyllic belief that registering to vote should be a thoughtful action that all responsible citizens will take by themselves. I wonder what the argument for this is.

Should Minnesota voters be allowed to cast their ballots as early as two weeks before Election Day?

Yes.

Under current law, the governor is permitted to unallot to prevent an anticipated budget deficit. Should he or she have this power?

No. In my mind, this was a disaster, a violation of the separation of powers, a dismissal of the legislative process, and it enabled Gov. Pawlenty to advance his campaign for national office.

Should bill and budget negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders be required to be open to the public?

What are the arguments for and against this? I can see that transparency would be one, and I can also see how some things should probably be private. After our recent budget debacle, however, I might lean toward "public."

Do you generally support budget cuts as opposed to increasing certain taxes in times of economic distress?

Generally, no. Generally. I do believe in efficiency, but I do not believe in cutting programs out of political avarice.

Should speeding violations be placed on a person's driving record if the driver was traveling no more than 10 mph over the speed limit in a 60 mph zone?

Um, what? I thought that tickets went on your driving record. So, they wouldn't go on your record if it was only a little bit illegal?

Should the state lottery be permitted to operate slot machines inside the ticketed area at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, meaning only air travelers with valid tickets could use the machines?

Please, no. If only because of the sound nuisance. Waiting in airports is pain enough, thank you.

The Minnesota Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season. Should any public financing for a new or refurbished stadium be contingent on voter approval?

I am generally opposed to public financing of private, money-making enterprises. If the Vikings want to help pay for my remodel, then I might consider it.

If a charter school does not offer a specific extracurricular opportunity, such as a hockey or debate team, should its students be allowed to participate in such an activity in their resident school district?

I don't know enough about charter schools or this issue to answer.

Should a local disaster assistance fund be established to help local governments deal with the aftermath of a tornado, flood or other natural disaster?

I need more information.

When a homeowner prevails in a court action against a contractor or builder to have a warranty enforced, should the homeowner also be entitled to attorney fees and other costs related to the legal action?

Hmmm... perhaps.


Here's the thing: I try to stay informed, and I know almost nothing about most of these topics. It will be interesting to see if my questions can be answered at the booth tomorrow when we go to the Fair.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank You, Senator Kennedy


I will never forget your heartfelt sympathy at headquarters on the day that Paul Wellstone died. Your voice will be sorely missed in the United States Senate.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Planning on a Vacation?

You may not want to use this map.

But it is something to think about.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Truth Will Out?

The left continues to believe that the best offense against lies is the truth. And this is why we keep losing the Big Arguments. The truth has almost no power over fear and emotion.

Recent hateful, paranoid assertions getting airplay will not be refuted by calm repetition of the facts. When someone believes that an army of AmeriCorps members is going to be taking over the country, telling him that "AmeriCorps is a program that provides math tutoring, neighborhood improvement, and technology assistance to low income residents" is not going to make him go "Oh. Ok! I was just misinformed." Some part of the American population wants to believe that the government is coming for them.

The only thing that can be done, the only thing that has a possibility of even opening a chink in this alarmist armor is turning it back on the individuals. Ask open ended questions. Make them think about what they are saying. Make them elucidate and then support their beliefs. Turn their accusations back on them. Some may only be parroting what they have heard on talk radio, and no one has questioned them. Some may be beyond reason.

But it's not as simple as offering up the truth. The truth is more accessible than ever with our information systems.

And the lies keep getting bigger.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Clunkers for Charity

Remember when people used to donate their crappy cars to charity and take a tax write off?

Yeah, that was cool.

Cash for Clunkers (Thank goodness the government did not fall into the Krazy K spelling and commit the heresy of calling it Kash for Klunkers) has cut into charity's take of the crappy car market (Krappy Kar?). It's another example of how interconnected people and issues are. One things affects another, and unintended consequences can pop up all over the place.

Officially, Clunkers is the "Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS)," but if I wrote that, very few people would know what I meant. My gloss on the program is that it's a good one, at least from a demand/consumer perspective; the environmental returns may prove to be dubious, but at least it's something to goes directly to citizens.

I have an old car. It's a 1991 Honda Civic DX. It runs really well, but we have consolidated our car usage to the point where we are only using one, our 2005 Toyota Corolla. We don't qualify for the CARS program because our cars already get good gas mileage. Even my old Honda comes in at around 30 mph, and Clunkers have to get a combined EPA gas mileage rating is 18 mpg or below. Also, it has been off insurance for a number of months, though its registration and plates are current.

What am I going to do with it?

I'll probably donate it to charity. "Clunkers" has resulted in a decrease in charity cars, and I have my choice of charities in the Twin Cities area. As my car does not qualify, it's not really much of a choice, but I could sell it for significantly more than the average tax deduction of $500. Some charities and nonprofits say they've seen a decrease in the number of donated cars since the program was launched last month. That's not surprising, because the average tax deduction for most donated cars is about $500 and CARS pays $4,500.

Now I just have to decide: Twin Cities Public Television, Goodwill-Easter Seals, Minnesota AIDS Foundation, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, The Courage Center, breast cancer, veterans, arthritis... it's a rather dizzying array of choices. I think I would like to choose something that is local and provides a direct service, but the idea of The March of Dimes is also alluring, as my son was born very premature, and the economic costs of prematurity are staggering: around 26 billion per year in the US alone.

My old-car-that-still-gets-good-gas-mileage is doing no one any good parked in our driveway, and though it's a form of passive charity, it is something I can do right now, like being a celebrity and auctioning off my kidney stone (no kidding), though much less gross.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Action

Petition for the public option.

Write to these guys and tell them you support a public option.

Make the call: support the public option

The White House comment line: 202-456-1111
The office of Nancy Pelosi: 202-225-4965
The office of Harry Reid: 202-224-3542

Contact Other Elected Officials.

Flagrant Mis-use of Baby

I want you...
To call your senator and your representative. Call your governor. Call The White House. Tell them not to drop the public option for health care. Tell them not to cave in to the corporate oligarchy. Tell them not to succumb to their lies, fear, and misinformation.

This is ridiculous.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Little Family

In the car at 26th and Hiawatha, in extremely premature labor, I thought "I wonder if there is anything they can do with the baby; if we can donate it to research or something. I wonder if anything good can come of this." Then I thought "I wonder if our health insurance will cover this. We can't afford this."

After he was born and he was stabilized, I had a chance to revisit my nervousness about money. I called my health insurance representative from my hospital room. They said we were 100% covered. I asked again. "What about the baby?" "100 %" the voice said. I didn't really believe it, but I was relieved.

This was going to be expensive.

As I wound my way through my son's hospitalization and the statements started rolling in; as I learned more about prematurity and read up on the statistics, I started to wonder about other people. Sure, we are fine, but if other people are not, are we really fine?

According to The March of Dimes, in 2006, 12.8% of babies (542,893) were born preterm--an increase of 16 percent over ten years. Furthermore, "during 2004-2006 in the United States, preterm birth rates were highest for black infants (18.3%), followed by Native Americans (14.1%), Hispanics (12.1%), whites (11.6%) and Asians (10.7%)." The associated economic cost in 2005 was $26.2 billion. Preterm birth rates are highest for women over 40 and women under 20. Everything I heard from doctors was that they "don't really know" what causes it in most cases.

If you add in health insurance statistics, it becomes pretty likely that many of these preterm babies are born to women who do not have health insurance: 19.8% of women of childbearing age are uninsured; Hispanic women of childbearing age are twice as likely to be uninsured; Native American and African American women are also more likely to be uninsured; and 40.7% of all births were covered under Medicaid in 2002. Apparently, the care for one baby like mine could pay for the care of 12 "healthy births." To sharpen the focus: 40 percent of preterm births in 2005 were covered by Medicaid (1).

I am not uninsured. I am fortunate that my employer provides excellent benefits, and I would not choose a public option at this point. But what would happen if I lost my job, which is likely due to funding cuts? What would happen if I could not find another job that also provided benefits? Well, in my case, I could go on my husband's insurance. But he works for the same public entity as I, and his job could go away, too.

What would this little family do then?

My baby cost $20,482.62 to be born and another $355,316.80 before he could come home, and he had no complications. What if, like many of the mothers of premature babies, I had no health insurance? If it's not a "right," then is it just too bad, so sad about my tiny baby? After all, he has never worked a day in his life. What happens to the little family? That baby will be cared for, and someone will have to pay. Maybe it will be medical assistance. Maybe it will be the little family, for the rest of its life and beyond, most likely putting them onto, or keeping them on, some sort of public aid. For the rest of their lives. And beyond. Someone will have to pay.

Someone always has to pay.

Do I benefit from the despair of others? Do I benefit when fellow citizens are sinking under economic pressures, many of which are caused by health care expenses? In my mind, we all suffer. We none of us live in a vacuum; our society is only as strong as our most marginalized people, and we will sink or swim together, in the end. Someone always has to pay.

It's pretty obvious where I stand on this issue. I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. I think that tying health insurance to employment does little more, in many circumstances, than keep people in unsatisfying jobs, often thwarting creativity and ingenuity in favor of very real concerns about the household bottom line. I do not believe that "the market" is the appropriate place to put our health and our lives. I do not believe that "the market" has our best interests at heart. I believe that "the market" cares most about "the market," and allowing it more license and access will not make it more responsible to real human needs. When profit is allowed into our health, I think our health suffers. I do not understand why people put so much trust in "the market." And yes, given the choice, I trust the government more. At the very least, the government has an agreed upon charter in The United States Constitution. "The market" has no such responsibility to the public trust.

I believe that Republicans are exploiting libertarians and marginalized people for their own gain, much as they exploited Christian fundamentalists. They use fear and negative emotion to get people on their side, people who--in the end--will not benefit from their policies or their platform. This is not to take a paternalistic view of the American voter who is Not Me. Emotion is a powerful tool, and politicians have always known that. It is the most successful politician who can exploit emotions to his or her own gain. If done in a positive sense, then both participants can gain from the relationship; if done negatively, people line up to participate willingly and loudly in their own demise to the benefit of those in power. I believe that many of the people against health care reform are benefiting or have benefited from some form of government assistance, even as they loudly decry it.

I believe that the current "debate" around the subject of health care reform, while not outside the bounds of historical, American political discourse, is dangerous and deplorable because of its disregard for the ideals of a civil government, its exploitation of fear, and its subtle (and not-so-subtle) manipulation of racism in order to gain a political end of dubious value.

I believe that dissent is essential in a republic in order to create balance and foster healthy disagreement and informed dialogue, but I believe that the current climate is precisely the opposite. I believe that protest from either side should be respected only when it behaves respectfully, and I do not believe that the current protests fit the bill. I believe that the lies being disseminated by the instigators of the opposition are an insult to the intelligence of our nation and are also, in their continuous use of Nationalsocialist comparisons and echoes of the Holocaust, an affront to the many different groups who did suffer cruelly and wrongfully in the 1930's and 40's in Europe.

I believe in this country's ability to eventually rise above this morass of hateful invective, but perhaps not before we can effect real change in how we go about taking care of one another. I believe that everyone who has heard the lies and who agrees with the need for a public option for health care coverage needs to speak out and be heard.

Because I believe that our numbers are larger.

1 Preterm birth By Richard E. Behrman, Adrienne Stith Butler, Institute of Medicine (U.S.).
Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Healthy Outcomes.