Tag Archives: debate

I must have missed the meeting

downton abbey-Repug versionThe Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired last year and has not been reauthorized. The law has been held hostage by the Republican men on the Judiciary Committee over some asinine pretexts that the law might could be used to expand protection of undocumented or LGBT victims and allow tribal governments to arrest paleface abusers.

VAWA is not your everyday-no-big-deal-who-cares-we-can-live-without-it kind of law. This law changed everything for victims of domestic battering, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes. It also changed everything for those who were trying to help – law enforcement, courts, social services and non-profits. VAWA funded local grants, which brought together and coordinated victim response, funded shelters, rape crisis centers, legal assistance and prevention programs. VAWA made domestic violence a federal crime, and for the first time, began protecting victims with disabilities, victims held hostage by their immigration status, Native Americans, teenagers and families. VAWA became law in 1994, written by then Senator Joe Biden and signed by President Clinton, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with broad bipartisan support. Going back to 1994 is unthinkable.

Last week, the bill reauthorizing VAWA (S. 1925) finally got out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The vote was 10-8 with all Republican men voting against it. No telling when it could be scheduled for a vote or how many Republican men are planning to try and stop it.

If this isn’t about Republican men versus women, then they need to prove it.

Having spent last week listening to a debate about contraception that would have been out of place in episodes of Mad Men or PanAm, it seems now that the issue may not have been settled, at least not if Republican men have anything to say about it. Catholic Bishops, all men, are also not satisfied with the semantic compromise and now acting as if they wish to debate how their religious freedom extends to their corporate businesses and argue that their church’s freedom is more important than people’s freedom or equal protection.

This “religious” debate is about the minimum standards of coverage for health insurance policies — sort of like the minimum things in peanut butter to be labeled, “peanut butter;” or the minimum things included in a car to make it safe; or the minimum standards for clean air or water. In this case, it is about a list of zero-copay, preventive services and medicines, which have proven – yes, using facts – to lower the cost of health care and save lives. (Author’s note: I personally believe that saving lives is more important than saving souls, but realize there is not a bipartisan consensus on this issue.) Contraceptives are included in the list, not because of politics, but because they have been proven to save lives and money. But this debate is not about cost – inclusion of contraceptives is cost neutral and over time will save money.

There seems to be no “religious” argument about free condoms. Condoms are used by men. Men don’t get pregnant, aren’t at risk to die or endure complications while pregnant, don’t carry or deliver babies, and generally, aren’t even in a child’s life unless they want to be or are required by a court of law.

The “religious” argument is only about those working for corporate businesses owned by churches — churches are exempt from the law. The argument is only about contraception and only about denying access to poor working women, which could save their lives, while, in the opinion of their employer, could at the same time damn them to hell. Okay, it is also about individual privacy. Don’t forget, just last month, the Supreme Court confirmed that ministerial exception extended to church corporate businesses – women who decide they’d prefer to risk hell someday over death now, could easily lose their job without recourse.

If this isn’t about Republican men in cahoots with Religious men versus women, then they need to prove it.

What a time to be a woman? Forty years since ERA passed, but fell short of ratification,* we seem to be going backward. Fast. Traditional women’s issues are really family issues — equality, education, environment, healthcare, childcare, and peace — all under fire from the Republican right.

Also last week, we heard way too much clarification from Santorum, the Republican front runner, of his ideas on women —

On women in combat: “my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position.”

On rape: when asked by Piers Morgan, “Do you really believe, in every case, it [sic: abortion] should be totally wrong, in the sense that — I know that you believe, even in cases of rape and incest — and you’ve got two daughters. You know, if you have a daughter that came to you who had been raped.” Santorum responded with, “Yes.”

On unmarried mothers: “The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”

On stay-at-home mothers: “Respect for stay-at-home mothers has been poisoned by a toxic combination of the village elders’ war on the traditional family and radical feminism’s misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect.’’

On equal opportunity: “Radical feminists have been making the pitch that justice demands that men and women be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace.” — Washington Post

This week’s Republican front runner (Author’s note: at posting the decision had yet to be made whether to recount the Maine caucus results, which could either confirm Romney as the winner and this week’s front runner or make Ron Paul the winner and front runner. Should Ron Paul or Newt officially become this week’s front runner, I will add their hateful statements in an update.), Mitt Romney, is a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and once was bishop of his Belmont, Mass., congregation and later president of the Boston stake (Mormon for division or area). While he seldom goes on record, his beliefs on the roles of women are consistent with his church, “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband” (McConkie 844), but evolving. Anti-abortion, even at the risk of the life of the mother unless he’s running for Senate and then he’s supportive of women’s rights unless he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Just two weeks ago, the Republican men in the House were, “mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning…

…include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.” – New York Times

Even our beloved and trusted, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, took a stand against women before they reversed their decision and asked for another chance.

I keep asking myself, how is all of this possible? If there was an organizing meeting on this war against women, I missed it. Surely this isn’t coming from political consultants. There are more women than men, and more registered female voters. Seems like a political strategy destined to lose. It can’t be totally grass roots — I know some Republican men who treat their wives and daughters as if they were equal. There must be more to it.

The poor are always disproportionately women. How can any Republican person of faith or free thinker (forget that, they couldn’t be Republicans) conclude that good policy is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor? Yes, in the Bible, Jesus says, “ye have the poor always with you,” but that should not inspire Republican men to want to have more in poverty. Surely preventive medical care, adequate nutrition and quality schools costs less than generational poverty, prison and emergency room health care. Or is there more to this? Is it to keep wages low to attract industries and inspire real estate deals?

Or could it be the Tim Tebow corollary – God decides who wins, but won’t necessarily pick you every week?

Could it be that male Republican candidates are just trying to win the favor of God?

Does God really hate women or is the Old Testament God still mad about that garden of eden thing?

Or are Republicans trying to win the favor of religious voters fixated on a time way back when dominating men were relevant, though assholes?

Are Republican elected leaders and candidates really that stupid? How can they be pro-family and anti-woman?

Could the increase in partisan misogyny be a delayed reaction to mothers a generation ago switching from nursing to formula?

Then, I turn on the television. The role models for this type of behavior are all there. The stereotypes. The sexism. The boys club thinking. The wealthy who don’t need two working in a household. The idiotic singles sitcoms. Or Downton Abbey, oh, those were the best of times when all was perfect for the gentry – when roles were right and all others were beaten or jailed – when women could aspire to be a maid, but not a butler. All in prime time. Local news may be worse –  by turning a light on the personal tragedy of the hour and asking the “tough questions” of how battery feels or how could such a fine young man go wrong? And then, of course, there is the cable “news.”

Or is this really just about something Republican men are not able to understand? That women are people, too.

Author’s note:  And that’s just in the US. Around the world, …

*Full text, for those who might have forgotten why the Equal Rights Amendment was so controversial, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”) Just for the record, the ERA needed three more states. Here’s a list of those that did not ratify: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia.

We don't deserve them

What an amazing session. To watch and listen to the 10+ hour session and the debates, one could have a sense of how truly difficult it is for a bill to pass – much less anything as important, historic or intelligible. It is no wonder that it took more than one hundred years to pass a health care bill that will have such dramatic and direct impact on every American’s* life.

While the celebrity stars of the drama will get the appreciation (or vitriol) of the political junkies and news and opinion readers, I believe it is time to acknowledge those who do not – those long-suffering, unsung Congresspeople, so often scorned, forgotten and reelected.

It is truly amazing what they do for their measly $174,000 salary. To work so many late nights, Saturdays and Sundays. To endure the long hours of stifling boredom and suffer the almost unending pedantic speeches of their opponents waiting patiently for their yielded seconds in the spotlight to utter these memorable words, “I ask for unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in support (or opposition) to this flawed health bill” – strategically determining as they read the request whether to embellish it and have their side charged with a five-second penalty.**

Enduring the uncomfortable shoes and suits of the dress code, our elected leaders are always ready to gadfly their dear friends across the aisle, or rise to express their moral indignation (with hope it can be used in a future campaign spot) using the lexicon of today’s talking points in support or against whatever rule, motion or point of order – never forgetting to mention a poignant email or lesson learned from devoutly humble (Christian, hard working, common sense, heroic, victim, or folk wise) role models, which they hope will make them seem almost human and somehow connected to what is important to actual or imagined people, living or dead.

How they can even stand up under the extra weight of the devil of ready contributors representing special interests on one shoulder and the angel of protecting our democracy and representing what is best for the people on the other, is beyond my capacity to understand. I am humbled and grateful for the enormous weight of responsibility they bear for our country and those who pay for their campaigns.

To stay awake, seem sober, and maintain electable posture while not confusing the moments when they are to smile and the moments they are to seem serious (anyone remember when Lindsay Graham inadvertently clapped for President Obama during the State of the Union?); to sound thoughtful when parroting sound bites or attempting to clarify a complex issue for which they don’t have a clue what the question was about because it wasn’t in their prep; and stay cognizant of the momental seriousness of what is really going on, while never laughing inappropriately, relishing a moment of undeserved triumph unless on Fox or drawing attention to an opponents personal faux pas – they are special, no wonder so few would be up for their job.

To play their role in an unrehearsed stage drama recorded for history, always hitting their mark, in character, and delivering their lines with proper inflection while an aide is feeding the next words and names into their ear, a person of authority above them is threatening the gavel, and their fellow cast members forming a distracting queue for the next scene. Always ready to make a parliamentary inquiry into the arcane process in the archaic language to buy time or cover a false step.

They are amazing. No wonder America is so great. No wonder our founding fathers are so revered for designing this system. Speaking as one of their bastard spawn, I’d just like to say, thank you. You have made my life seem so sane and exciting compared to what you do for me.

Why do they do it for only $174,000? Must be the benefits. That, and I’m I just guessing, there are no other jobs that reward such talent.

_____________
*There are 10-20 million people currently living in the United States who will not be impacted by this legislation – those who are here illegally or without documentation. You might recognize them in the emergency room during your next visit. This law codifies that these people (that includes their innocent children) who share our genome, our neighborhoods, our schools, our places of worship and our workplaces, will not be allowed to buy into insurance pools and have no right to affordable care while in the United States.

**By uttering these words, they are allowed to submit whatever they want to have said, should they have had the occasion to speak, into the official Congressional record. Should they add a word or two, such as “government takeover,” “baby-killing,” or “he’s not a citizen,” the extra time will be subtracted from their parties alloted debate time.

Hold your nose and swallow

medicinekidsClose your eyes. Hold your nose. Open your mouth. Now swallow. – That’s how my mom tried to keep me from gagging when taking medicine. That’s what our Democrat leaders are telling us now about health care “reform.”

Another gigantic example of big event legislation. A massive bill way too big to fail – or read – or understand – or debate. Chock full of things for just about every special interest so Dems can finally deliver a health care bill.

  • No insurance? We’ll give it to you.
  • Can’t afford insurance? We’ll help you.
  • Uninsurable? No longer.
  • Have insurance? We’re not going to change a thing.
  • On medicare? We’ll close the prescription donut hole.
  • Own insurance or pharma stocks? We’ll increase your markets and your profits.
  • A health care provider? We won’t set prices.
  • Against a woman’s right to choose? Us, too.
  • Against expanding Medicare? Us, too.
  • Against a public option? It will be in name only.
  • Anti-deficit? It’s paid for with savings and new taxes.
  • Anti-health care reform? Your state can opt out.
  • Anti-Obama? Won’t go into effect until after the next presidential election.
  • Anti-immigrant? Us, too.
  • Own a business? Have we got some loopholes for you.
  • Middle class poor with lots of debt? Okay, nothing for you, but didn’t we just pass a tax cut and credit card reform?
  • Healthy and just starting out? There are no jobs anyway, go for Medicaid.
  • Work on K Street? You’ll make your bonus.
  • An accountant or lawyer? Consider it a bailout.

H.R.3590 – Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 (this is the actual name of Senate health care bill which is an amendment of a bill already in the cue to speed it up – aka: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) runs some 2,074 pages containing 327,911 words (War and Peace has 561,893 words). It is the poster child example of the preferred way to govern these days: one gigantic omnibus bill that no one authors (or is to blame) and no one really knows who (or what lobby firm) added or compromised what that ends up in it. Bills that can be labeled, branded, lobbied, spun and base-rallied pro or con. Legislation to do everything, will last forever and we’ll fix down the road, depending upon who is in the majority down the road. This type of legislation is the reason politics is so partisan. And, this is what I hate about health care reform.

Dew_BillWordCounts

Note on the numbers in the chart: I downloaded the documents (transcripts of the older document) and used Microsoft Word’s word count tool. Some of the documents included signers, secretary notes, enactment dates, and other information that may cause count to vary slightly.

Couldn’t we have broken out a few things that we all believe in? Small, understandable bills that could be bipartisan? Simple language to solve some basic problems that simple people could believe government could actually accomplish? Incremental reforms to fix what we all might agree is broken?

  • Why do we have to debate the public option to get rules changed so preexisting conditions don’t prevent people from getting insurance?
  • Why do we have to debate whether every business will be forced to offer – and every individual will be forced to have – insurance in order that individuals and mom and pop businesses are allowed to join group plans at a reasonable cost?
  • Why do we have to agree not to negotiate prescription prices in order to have higher penalties for people who commit Medicare fraud?
  • Why do we have to debate subsidies for the uninsured, just so we can get rid of subsidies of private insurance companies offering Medicare (or at least require them to report quality of care results)?
  • Why do we have to debate changes in tort so that we can pass legislation to cover newborns who don’t have insurance?
  • Or require reporting on the effectiveness of drugs, medical tests and procedures? Or require electronic reporting? Or remove lifetime limits? Or limiting waiting periods? Or insurance plan transparency? Or transparency of physician ownership and investments? Or investments in primary care provider training? Or nursing student loans? Or funding for a National Health Service Corps? Or a national and state background checks for facilities and providers? Or medical bankruptcy prevention? Or improvements in access to immunizations? Or addressing childhood obesity? Or hospice reform? Or chronic disease prevention? Etc.

Wouldn’t it seem more civilized to pass specific bills that we agree on rather than bundling those we agree on with a bunch of controversial issues forcing our representatives to vote up or down on the whole package – or, God forbid, break with their party?

Why can’t we have a separate debate/vote on a public option or expanding Medicare? And a separate debate/vote on allowing insurance companies to compete in national markets? And a separate debate/vote on requiring everyone to have some form of coverage?

What is really going on here? Our leaders just don’t have much faith in us. They act as if they believe that the only way they can build a constituency to pass a bill is to make the issue seem to have epic proportions. To frame a debate as one that threatens our existence or our way of life. To excite the base, shake out the campaign contributions, get TV face time and get reelected. They did this to invade Iraq (Vietnam, Korea, Philippines, Mexico, Indian Wars, etc.). To bail out Wall Street (protect many other industries). And now, to pass health care “reform.”

We need our health care industry reformed. We must find ways to stablize costs. We must become more efficient and more competitive. We must do better in preventive care. We must discuss as a society, how the poor, the unfortunately sick and the innocent should receive health services. We also must find common ground, or we may lose more in the process than gained by any victory or defeat of the bill.

This bill is not about really about “reform” – I sincerely wish it were since I hear and read so much about it. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of great stuff mixed in the 2,074 pages – important, life-improving and life-and-money-saving stuff. But much of this bill and almost all of the cost, is about expansion of health care insurance for those who can’t afford insurance, don’t choose to buy it (preferring, in most cases I suspect, to eat or have shelter), or have been denied it. Reform is mostly packaging.

As a result, we’ll probably get a compromise of a “reform” law. A compromise of a benefit for the uninsured. Certainly a more divided country. And, we’ll probably have to do it all again some day soon because many of the real issues won’t have been honestly included, debated in daylight, voted on, or made sustainable.

On the other hand, what an historic achievement to get it this close. Maybe it really does take this cynical, scare-the-hell-out-of-everyone, Rahm Emanuel-pit bull-but-open-to-compromise-approach to get something done? Please weigh-in with your comments.


Suggested Reading:

We Need to Talk

redblueballons No matter how passionate we are, we need to keep talking. No matter how loudly the speech or how colorful the words, we need to listen. No matter the differences, we need the conversation. It is not about winning the debate. It is about having the debate. The respect of conversation. The dignity of patient dialogue. The appreciation of the diversity of belief. Talk long enough and you’ll find common ground. Find common ground and you’ll discover trust. Find trust and you’ll have a friend. And while friends are hard to come by, they are precious.

Some of my dearest friends disagree with me on most everything, but our common ground is solid. Our love for our family. Our fundamental belief in doing and being good. Our appreciation for the life experience that made each of us who we are – and the respect that not all of it was easy. While we are each misguided, we are each well-intended. While we each may come to a seemingly idiotic conclusion, we were thoughtful in our approach to becoming so totally lost and out of touch. While we each are stubborn and dense – at times outlandishly stupid – we are or were once good enough to be loved by our mothers.  And while they often sound selfish or controlling or arrogant or incomprehensibly self-deceived or just puppeting spin, I recognize that they probably hear me that way, as well, and, yet, we are both honest, hard-working and our lives are guided by our beliefs and moral values.

They may hate my politics, but we can laugh together at a good joke. They may hate my hair like I hate their guns, but I know deep, way deep, really really deep down, there is something redeeming about them and it is worth trying to understand and love. They may hate that I can make them mad as hell, but they know they can make me mad, too, and that we’ll get beyond it. And what provokes thought, often evokes understanding. They might prefer I have a different color skin or different color eyes or different sounding last name or go to a different place to worship if I did, but they also know that if I were just like them or they were just like me, we’d be bored to death. That, and talking to yourself is crazy.

As my then three year old grandson once said to me during a tense moment, “it’s just game.”