Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for March 2010

Finding a political solution to improve school lunches

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School lunches are massively underfunded in this country. Our children suffer as a result, and their education — and the future workers of America — also suffer. Yet in the first attempt to increase funding (except for inflation adjustments) since 1973, the mark stands at 6¢ thanks to Blue Dog Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Our children deserve better.

For a stronger take on this subject, I turn it over to a column I wrote for my food/nutrition blog BalanceofFood.com.

Health care reform package shows childish leadership still rules

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John Boehner is partially right.

Okay, those aren’t words I normally use. But hear me out.

Boehner, the House Minority Leader, was rambling about the health care reform. Mr. No was going on about how this health care reform deal wasn’t what Americans wanted or deserved.

On these points, Boehner is dead on right.

Oh yes, health care in the United States is slightly better than it was last week, even if some of those vital reforms aren’t coming to 2014. So what if you get sick, go broke, or die before then?

Americans want and deserve a better health care reform package. But it just didn’t happen.

We want and deserve better leadership on the tough issues of the day. The leadership on this was bad from the start. You had a perfect storm that would have lead to a better health care scenario. You had a popular grassroots president elected with the largest margin of the popular vote in 20 years, both houses of Congress controlled by the president’s party, and massive economic turmoil forcing a more significant change that otherwise could be passed.

So what happened?

Despite every element in favor of passing significant health care reform, everyone knew the road would be tough. Insurance companies, doctors, pharmaceutical companies — all very powerful and contribute lots of money to politicians. The Republican Party would also fight tooth and nail against every reform because they knew if the Democratic Party got credit for health care reform, their chances of regaining power were virtually nil.

To say Americans need a simple message isn’t necessarily insulting to Americans. But we don’t comprehend legislation on the level of the French, the Germans, or the British.

“Medicare for All” would have been very simple. Pointing out that health care is between a doctor and a patient, and that health insurance companies are the middlemen would have worked. Pointing out the sanity of savings by reducing health care costs (Medicare for All) would have helped.

But what was needed most of all was to gain and keep the momentum. President Obama, as a huge sports fan, should recognize the need for momentum. Once the teabaggers kicked in, most, if not all, was lost.

Never has a movement gained so much power from so much ignorance. After all, the teabaggers with legitimate anger against the system were those who would benefit the most from health care reform.

These were the people that needed to be convinced the most. Instead, President Obama stood back and tried to play conciliator. The scene was remnant of the classroom in Cheech & Chong’s “Sister Mary Elephant.” Except no one is saying SHHHUUUUUUUTTTT UUUPPP.

The people who voted for Obama in 2008, especially those who were reluctant to vote for a black man or a Democratic politician, wanted tough, strong inspired leadership that would solve problems. But Obama along with the Democratic and Republican politicians haven’t got that message just yet.

We’ll need another health care reform package down the road, or five of them at this rate. We need reforms in many other areas. And we still want that dominant leadership.

We also could use a press core — the MSM — that doesn’t insist on rewarding slacking behavior, that rewards negative leadership in the hopes of scoring points on a tote board. It may seem that politics is dominated by childish behavior, but it doesn’t mean we have to bring praise to those who behave the most childish.

Maybe we have received the level of maturity and leadership we deserve from our politicians. But in 2008, and even today, there seemed to be a change of heart, how we were finally going to want, expect, and reward competent adult leadership to deal with a growing list of problems.

We will have to wait and see if that comes true in November.

Ann Coulter doesn’t get that Canadians don’t like hate speech

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We think in the mighty United States that we have the best standard of freedom of speech in the world. It is true — on paper.

And you might think that Canada is messed up because they have laws against hate speech. And it’s true — on paper.

But in the world of reality, the United States allows hate speech up and down the dials of radio and screens of television. They can even flow in newspapers. But only if they are from the right wing.

There is a huge double standard in reality in the United States.

The funny thing about Ann Coulter’s whining over her speech being cancelled in Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, is that she wasn’t banned from speaking.

The protesters in Canada — free speech, remember — were only expressing their views against her brand of hate speech. And they could have been protesting that Coulter thought Canada sent troops to Vietnam.

And those Canadian hate speech laws have a high tolerance: you have to go pretty far to be subjected to the laws. Not even Ann Coulter can hit those marks, so you know they are set high.

Coulter should have the right to spew her hate speech, but she doesn’t need to be on so many MSM outlets and have her views treated without objection. The soft standards she receives in the United States is likely why she is so upset in Canada. Then again, she will likely speak in Calgary, where her views aren’t as objectionable.

For a more detailed analysis on her speech and hate speech laws, check out my take from my other blog, Canadian Crossing.

Written by democracysoup

March 25, 2010 at 12:53 pm

MSM’s concern over health care reform’s ramifications is disingenuous

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The MSM has taken great joy to ask whether voters will punish Democratic politicians for voting for health care reform. They aren’t just asking the question in hypothetical terms; the MSM really believes this is the concern.

What they don’t seem as eager to ask or have any emotion toward this question: “What if voters punish the Republican politicians for not supporting health care reform?”

The MSM, even by its standards, isn’t supposed to take sides. They scream neutrality: “We cover both sides.” In the health care reform battle almost completed, the MSM has had both thumbs on the scale.

The MSM also shouldn’t bow down to what the president wants or Congress wants or even what the people want, even if they do want health care reform. Though they did bow down to George W. Bush for whatever he wanted: tax cuts for the rich, an unnecessary war.

And when there were critical questions to be asked — legitimate concerns about the value of the legislation — MSM went AWOL.

Whether the health care legislation will be a boon on Election Day 2010 is a legitimate political newsworthy issue to cover. The problem is when you insinuate that passing any health care reform is “bad,” you don’t give the impression that you are covering this deal “objectively.”

Written by democracysoup

March 23, 2010 at 8:16 am

Census gives us a chance to (mostly) count in the political process

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Even with the right to vote for most of us — at least those who aren’t targeted as not deserving the right to vote — we don’t always feel like we count even when we do vote.

Now is the one time in a 10-year period that we do count, and we don’t seem that excited by it. Of course, this is all about the Census: the one time we are supposed to count.

Your latest part-time job may be participating in implementing the census. Or you may have seen the Christopher Guest directed 2010 Census TV spots. Or you may have seen the signs in other languages in your neighborhood.

There is this much attention because the dread that comes over the Census also matches the mood over possible jury duty.

If you live in a Rust Belt industrial state, you will likely lose at least one Congressman; if there are fewer people in your area, you get less representation. And you get reduced federal funding. Cynical though you might be about the Census, you do benefit directly from its implementation.

Also  cynical is the notion that the 2010 elections matter because they affect how those Congressional districts are drawn.

Depending on where you live, you might be getting a new Congressman, even if you don’t move. Districts are redrawn every 10 years, and if you are on the borderline, you might shift into a new district.

You could go from a Republican district to a Democratic one, or a long-time stranglehold by the incumbent to a district that has flipped a few times.

The Census is that update on who we are and where we are, and the results do matter.

What would make the census more exciting, other than living in an area of the country that is growing in population, is if we didn’t have to rely on partisans redrawing the districts to reflect keeping those in power from having to seriously sweat re-election.

The redrawing of the 2000 Census put me from a district where I liked the incumbent, one of the harder working representatives in the House to one where the seat jumped from one jerk to another with little regard for the views of the people in the district. Oh yeah, I’ll admit which two jerks I speak of: Rod Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel. No other explanation necessary.

Imagine a scenario where you have two major parties: one that is dominant in a district and one that isn’t. Districts that are drawn to favor incumbents give you two major choices: one whose political philosophies you hate, and one who you might agree on certain items, but with whom you can’t communicate on a host of other topics.

One example from this district: Rod Blagojevich voted for the Iraq War as a representative from the district. This wasn’t likely the view of the people. You could argue that the people could then get rid of him in the next election, and on paper, you’d be right.

The reality of running someone in a primary, given the power of incumbency and the significance with getting signatures on a ballot, is a cold slap of reality. There is a powerful sword implemented by incumbents that gets legitimate signatures to magically not be counted on ballots. And even if you wanted to vote for someone in the other party, that party won’t run a significant candidate, unless the incumbent was with a dead hooker and maybe not even then.

In districts that are drawn on a non-partisan basis, you get Republicans who will run against Democratic candidates, and vice versa. You actually get debate; what a concept in a democracy.

Voters get discouraged over the Census because when they are told it does matter in Congressional districts — and it does — they wish it meant more competitive races, since that increases the chances of having politicians respond to the needs of the people.

Participating in the 2010 census is the best thing you can do short of voting. But it would be nicer if the census meant better representation in Congress.

Written by democracysoup

March 19, 2010 at 12:21 am

Reward leaders who believe in health care reform

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We fear when politicians do what they can to get elected, and not confront the issues where Americans need the power of Congress. But what if, for once, the two seemingly polarizing concepts came together and fought for positive change as one single entity.

What if the Democratic Party had passed a robust health care reform bill?

True, the Democrats — without help from the Republicans and let’s be blunt, some Democrats — might pass a health care bill in the spirit of American beer vs. European lager: very watered-down. But the pace and spirit and the way they went about it has damaged their brand in the eyes of the voters. Not for doing too much, but for not doing enough.

Look what not passing a health care bill has done to the Democratic Party. Really, could passing a robust bill be worse?

So in an election year, we have the party in power running scared after trouncing the opposition in the last election cycle. The pundits were talking about how the Republican Party was lamented, needing to pick up the pieces. All the Dems had to do to clinch the deal was pass a strong health care reform bill.

Oops.

There are some who believe that Dems passing a health care bill is worse than not passing one.  And these are not Republicans.

The last major act of political courage occurred in the mid-1960s when the Civil Rights Act was passed. The Democratic Party lost perhaps a generation of progress for their courageous stance, even if that courage involved bringing the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments back to their originally intended power.

So it’s easy to see why politicians will be afraid. And Dems were afraid the last time they tried to reform health care; and look what happened to their numbers.

What the mainstream pundits don’t understand is that voters punished the Democratic Party for NOT doing health care reform in 1994 and will again punish that party in 2010 for NOT doing health care reform.

If the Dems actually put together a really solid, budget-saving, actually helpful health care bill, and voters did punish them for it, I will commit some public humiliation of some kind.

But I don’t really have to worry. Nancy Pelosi is saying no public option, though that is subject to change another 9 times to go with the 54 changes so far.

Older politicians have been convinced that Americans really don’t want change, or at least positive impactful change. Americans have been receiving negative change for a long time, which is part of the reason why we are in the current mess.

And the hope for newcomers can be dashed, especially when they are as bizarre as Eric Massa.

But Americans who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and even some who sat out of the election want someone to do something to help regular Americans. The anger of the people — not the mostly fake teabaggers — but the real anger stems from watching those say they will bring change and they don’t.

Say this about Republicans: they aren’t as likely to face this level of anger because they don’t actually promise to help people any more. Listen to their speeches. It’s just not there.

After disastrous Republican rule, Democrats come along and say “things will be different under us.” Bill Clinton did this in 1992 and Barack Obama also came through in 2008. Except things are worse in 2008 than 1992. And the needs of the American people are being ignored.

The first party that can figure out how to truly help Americans can be dominant in the political landscape for decades to come. In 1933, FDR decided this would be the Democratic Party, and they were in charge for 20 years.

Would the Democratic Party of 2010 like to do the same? You might think so. All they have to do is pass a strong health care bill.

The teabaggers won’t, even if they are the people who needs health care reform. The Republicans won’t, and they aren’t politically punished for nor trying. Ron Paul likely won’t. Greens, sure. Anybody else?

Realistically, the Democratic Party is the best hope. And that is somewhat depressing.

We should reward politicians for true bravery in political leadership. We haven’t in the past. But we should let them know that this time we are serious. If you got excited about 2008 and haven’t been since, this might be the time to tell your representatives in Washington, “vote for health care reform and we will vote for you. Don’t and we might stay home in November.”

Being positive: not the norm in Washington. Then again, a change is needed on more than just partisanship.

Sarah Palin still can’t tell her own truth about Canada

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Sarah Palin’s relationship with Canada has been a mystery, sometimes even to herself. When Palin was originally asked what foreign countries she had been to, she mentioned Iraq, Kuwait, Germany, and Ireland. Of course, Ireland was a fueling stop, and Iraq, Kuwait, and Germany came only while she served as Alaska’s governor. (Later, it came out that Palin’s venture into Iraq consisted of a quarter mile.)

Palin did not mention Mexico or Canada, though later she mentioned that she went on a vacation with girlfriends to Mexico. Her relationship with Canada was more vague; though clearly she had been to Canada on business as Alaska’s governor, she forgot to mention this. Eventually, her campaign team admitted a 2007 trip to Canada, but didn’t say whether it was business or pleasure.

Of course, Palin was in Canada — Calgary — when she told the story about her family receiving hospital care from Canada as a child. Palin’s memory was either faulty during the campaign, or she didn’t want to reveal this element of her life. And there is a good deal to think about why that would be true.

Palin tells the story as ironic that her family went to Canada for hospital care when she was a child. Ironic, but since Palin has little in the way of a sense of humor about herself, but oh so much more.

“My first five years of life we spent in Skagway, Alaska, right there by Whitehorse. Believe it or not – this was in the ‘60s – we used to hustle on over the border for health care that we would receive in Whitehorse. I remember my brother, he burned his ankle in some little kid accident thing and my parents had to put him on a train and rush him over to Whitehorse and I think, isn’t that kind of ironic now. Zooming over the border, getting health care from Canada.”

Palin’s father admits that the family probably made two trips to Whitehorse, Yukon for medical treatment. He mentions one trip for a daughter for rheumatic fever and when his son, also Chuck, had an infection in his leg. Mr. Heath does not say which daughter — Sarah has two sisters, Heather and Molly (Molly was married to the state trooper that Sarah fired) — had the fever.

However, since Sarah remembers her brother’s accident, and assuming that Sarah wasn’t left behind with a babysitter while the parents rushed a sick child to the hospital, Sarah Palin had been to Canada as a child.

Why would this be so difficult to admit? Going to Canada isn’t shameful. Heck, there were conservatives who went after Obama for living in Indonesia as a child, and it wasn’t like Obama had much say in where the family lived between the ages of 4 and 10.

So the true irony is that Palin had been to Canada, and couldn’t admit it. That actually is irony.

What is also ironic is that Palin told the story of her brother’s injury and left the Canada part out of it. That is also ironic.

There has been confusion on whether the Heath family received Canadian-style health care, as if this is the only issue in front of us. Conservatives have noted that Yukon didn’t have the current system until 1972. However, Yukon created its hospital insurance plan with federal cost sharing in 1960, before Palin was born. And they admitted going to a hospital.

And all sides would agree that U.S. and Canadian insurance isn’t like it is today, getting worse for the U.S. and better for Canadians.

As much as we would like to make this only about health care — and that would be an unfair fight against Sarah Palin and in favor of Canada’s current system — there is another irony at stake.

Once again, Sarah Palin has been caught in a series of lies. And once again, the MSM doesn’t seem to notice or care. They seem to accept that she has a faulty memory, no matter how many lies she tells, and how many lies as a percentage of overall statements.

We should try to hold our politicians accountable, regardless of party. The MSM seems genuinely afraid of confronting Palin’s mendacity.

Written by democracysoup

March 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm