Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pick you poison: Trading liberty for security or the “Public Option”

As we continue to argue amongst ourselves about Federal Government’s role in healthcare - the proposed “Public Option,” reforming the Private Health Insurance industry, rationing healthcare [private health care rationing or Federal Government rationing] - the one intrusion by the Federal Government that should be scaring every American but seems to be OK with many, are human rights abuses of terror suspects all in the name of National Security. For many people, abusing and torturing suspected Terrorists is just fine and should be done as often as possible. But, the key word in the last sentence is “suspected.”

But why is roughin’ up suspected terrorists such a big deal? Don’t they deserve it for the 9/11 Terrorists Attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.? Terrorists don’t treat our people like they are staying at a Ritz Carlton, so why shouldn’t we treat them the same way? Why should the average American fear the Federal Government more as it relates to the way the CIA interrogates suspected Terrorist than fearing more government in health care reform?

In my mind, there is one simple reason why we should fear how our government treats criminal suspects. It puts us only a few steps away from doing the very same thing to our own citizens [which some would argue already happens]. Whether we realize it or not, the United States Federal Government, the very government that we either support or don’t, already has access to our financial records, driving records, criminal records, health records, and can monitor/listen in on our calls, emails and the web sites we visit every day.

Private Health Insurance and other private businesses that make billions from the current system are playing off the fear of “Big Brother” to stall or kill any reforms to a private health care system that already rations care to the healthiest and wealthiest. Health Insurance premiums continue to increase at unsustainable rates and millions of dollars from those premiums go to lobbying against any health care reforms, as well as CEO pay and bonuses.

Private Health Insurance administrative costs are massive compared to Medicaid and Medicare, which is around 2 to 3% compared to the average of 25% for private health insurance administration. They are fighting like hell to kill the proposed “Public Option” because it will cost the private health insurance industry billions and force them to actually provide coverage to everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions. But, has the private health insurance industry actually provided a good, quality product that is cost effective and competitive in the free market? If it had, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

But back to what we should really fear: Federal Government listening in on your phone conversations, reading your email, monitoring the web sites you frequent, all in the name of “National Security.” I keep coming back to Ben Franklin’s quote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The CIA broke the law and that is why the United States Attorney General is moving in the direction of prosecuting those that authorized enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists that may or may not have produced reliable intelligence. Former Vice President Dick Cheney can complain all he wants, but he’s a supporter of strictly interpreting the United States Constitution so he shouldn’t have anything to worry about if he wasn’t involved.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Delegate Hamilton and ODU: AH HA! I knew this one stunk to high heaven!

And the truth comes out. As I posted back on August 1st when questions surfaced about the relationship between the powerful Republican House of Delegates Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman, Delegate Phillip Hamilton, and Old Dominion University over a $500,000 state appropriation for ODU's Darden College of Education, that something didn't smell right about this relationship. Back in 2007 Delegate Hamilton sponsored the $500,000 budget amendment that helped fund the ODU teacher training center on the Peninsula. Shortly thereafter, he was awarded a $40,000 per year contract by ODU that came out of that money. Both Delegate Hamilton and ODU President John Broderick denied any inappropriate relationship or "quid pro quo."

According to the Virginian Pilot and recently obtained emails through their FIOA (Freedom of Information Act) request, it is very clear that there was an expectation from Delegate Hamilton to be compensated for his work to obtain the $500,000 in state funding. ODU has now severed it's ties and terminated the contract with House of Delegate's Member Phillip Hamilton (R-Newport News). Hamilton is in a hotly contested race with local attorney and House District 93 Democratic Candidate Robin Abbott.

Now, in all fairness, this deal was cut before John Broderick took over from Rosann Runte as President of Old Dominion University. The nail in the coffin for Delegate Hamilton might be this excerpt:
On Feb. 26, 2007, Hamilton wrote that the center would receive $500,000 in fiscal 2008 and added: "Currently, my part-time salary with NNPS is around $37,000. I need at least that amount from the ODU Foundation to have a part-time salary of $75,000 per year. Of course, more than that is always appreciated."
NNPS is Newport News Public Schools. What Delegate Hamilton has done here is violate General Assembly ethics rules and state conflict of interest laws, that forbid Legislators from benefiting financially for services performed from the work they do in the General Assembly. It is clear from the email that the Virginian Pilot obtained, that Delegate Hamilton's assertion back in July that he did nothing wrong was a lie.

Let's see how fast Hamilton drops out of the race, the rats flee the sinking ship, and the Republicans scramble to find another candidate to run in this heavily Democratic District. It will also be interesting to see if the House of Delegates GOP Leadership asks Hamilton to resign his seat. According to the Virginian Pilot, a violation of state conflict of interest laws is a misdemeanor that carries a one year jail term and a $2,500 fine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Healthcare Reform: AP reports Sarah Palin ABSOLUTELY WRONG about "Death Panels"

While this is an Associated Press story by Richard Alonso-Zaldivar from yesterday, August 11th, this story was front and center on the Lynchburg News Advance web site as of last night. The News Advance doesn't go out of their way very often to highlight obvious falsehoods or do a great deal of investigative reporting, but they went out on a limb this time, so good for them.

The Healthcare Reform debate is bringing out all the anti-government, xenophobic, anti-tax, Tea Baggers, Birthers, and of course the propaganda machines of the Health Insurance Industry. They will be the big losers if real competition is injected into the Health Care System.

One thing to keep in mind when the cries go out from the private sector that there is no way to compete with the Federal Government. Just point to how well FEDEX, UPS, and all the other overnight delivery companies have been able to compete against the United States Postal Service, which is withering away faster than a slug on US 29 in August. Here is the story as printed in the Lynchburg News Advance:

Associated Press
Published: August 11, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP)—Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a “death panel.“ Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong.

Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes. Here are some questions and answers on the controversy:

Q: Does the health care legislation bill promote “mercy killing,“or euthanasia?

A: No.

Q: Then what’s all the fuss about?

A: A provision in the House bill written by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would allow Medicare to pay doctors for voluntary counseling sessions that address end-of-life issues. The conversations between doctor and patient would include living wills, making a close relative or a trusted friend your health care proxy, learning about hospice as an option for the terminally ill, and information about pain medications for people suffering chronic discomfort.

The sessions would be covered every five years, more frequently if someone is gravely ill.

Q: Is anything required?

Monsignor Charles Fahey, 76, a Catholic priest who is chairman of the board of the National Council on Aging, a nonprofit service and advocacy group, says no.

“We have to make decisions that are deliberative about our health care at every moment,“ Fahey said. “What I have said is that if I cannot say another prayer, if I cannot give or get another hug, and if I cannot have another martini - then let me go.“

Q: Does the bill advocate assisted suicide?

A: No. It would block funds for counseling that presents suicide or assisted suicide as an option.

Q: Who supports the provision?

A: The American Medical Association, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and Consumers Union are among the groups supporting the provision. AARP, the seniors’ lobby, is taking out print advertisements this week that label as false the claim that the legislation will empower the government to take over life-and-death decisions from individuals.

Q: Should the federal government be getting involved with living wills and end-of-life questions - decisions that are highly personal and really difficult?

A: It already is.

The government requires hospitals to ask adult patients if they have a living will, or “advance directive.“ If the patient doesn’t have one, and wants one, the hospital has to provide assistance. The mandate on hospitals was instituted during a Republican administration, in 1992, under President George H.W. Bush.

Q: How does a living will work, and how is it different from a health care proxy?

A: A living will - also called an advance directive - spells out a patient’s wishes if he or she becomes incapacitated. Often people say they don’t want to be kept alive on breathing machines if their condition is terminal and irreversible.

A health care proxy empowers another person to make medical decisions should the patient become incapacitated.

There’s also a power-of-attorney, which authorizes another person to make financial decisions for someone who is incapacitated.

Such legal documents have become standard estate-planning tools in the last twenty years.

Q: Would the health overhaul legislation change the way people now deal with making end-of-life decisions?

A: It very well could.

Supporters of the provision say the main consequence would be to formally bring doctors into a discussion that now takes place mainly among family members and lawyers.

“When you execute a legal document with your lawyer, it ends up in your files and in the lawyer’s files,“ said John Rother, a senior policy and strategy adviser for AARP. “Unless the doctor is part of this discussion, it’s unlikely that your wishes will be respected. The doctor will be the one involved in any decisions.“

The American Medical Association says involving doctors is simple common sense.

“There has been a lot of misinformation about the advance care planning provisions in the bill,“ AMA President Dr. James Rohack said in a statement. “It’s plain, old-fashioned medical care.“

Q: So why are some people upset?

Some social conservatives say stronger language is needed to protect seniors from being pressured into signing away their rights to medical treatment in a moment of depression or despair.

The National Right to Life Committee opposes the provision as written.

“I’m not aware of ‘death panels’ in the bill,“ said David O’Steen, executive director of the group. “I’m not aware of anything that says you will be hauled before a government bureaucrat. But we are concerned ... it doesn’t take a lot to push a vulnerable person - perhaps unwittingly - to give up their right to life-sustaining treatment.“

The White House says it is countering false claims with a “reality check” page on its Web site, .

Right now, Democrats, the Obama Administration, every progressive group and social justice organization are getting their teeth kicked in by opponents to meaningful Healthcare Reform. It's time to take off the gloves and bear some teeth. PUSH BACK, AND PUSH BACK HARD. Opponents are hanging Congressional Members in effigy and making banners, posters, billboard with President Obama in Nazi uniforms and Swastikas. Come on!

When people are scared and uncertain about change, they will listen to the craziest propaganda and revert to bigoted and marginalizing behaviors. SPREAD THE TRUTH, KILL THE LIES ABOUT HEATHCARE REFORM.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthcare Reform Events: Change That Works Campaign holding two Emergency Meetings in Danville

Win Carlisle with the Change That Works Campaign asked that I help spread the word about two meetings they are holding in Danville to dispel the misinformation about the current Healthcare Reform proposals and bills being considered in Congress:

August 12th and 13th (Wednesday and Thursday) at 7:00 pm

Change That Works Campaign Office
308 Craghead Street
Danville, VA 24541

For more information, please call Aaron at 616-648-4555.

Please come out and spread the word. It’s time to SPREAD THE TRUTH AND KILL THE LIES about real Healthcare and Insurance Reform that works.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Healthcare Reform: Let's all read the bill to stop the lies about Healthcare Reform efforts

As the chants of "READ THE BILL, READ THE BILL" continue to be shouted across the country, I thought that it would be a good idea to take their advise and read the bill. Well, at least one of them, and well read through some of the bill. But, I suspect that the ones screaming "READ THE BILL" the loudest, haven't read it themselves. So I have a link to one of the bills, the one that has the most traction in the House of Representatives, provided by

I hope that this will help some out there to get the FACTS for themselves and stop "Parroting" the talking points of the Health Insurance Industry. I do think that some of the outrage and disruptions at the Town Hall Meetings across the country are organic, but the vast majority of the disruptions and the drowning out Congressional Members trying to answer questions about this very complex bill are staged and deliberate.

I do have to wonder if people feel ashamed that once they have the facts and learn that all the mis-information that is being shoveled to the public, was nothing more than them being used by playing on their fears? I wonder if they've read the bill, or bills, that they are so opposed to?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Sonya Sotomayor CONFIRMED by U. S. Senate

68 – 31

Warner - Yes
Webb - Yes
Update: 5:25 pm
Republicans that broke ranks:
Senator George Voinovich (OH)
Senator Susan Collins (ME)
Senator Olympia Snow (ME)
Senator Judd Gregg (NH)
Senator Richard Lugar (IN)
Senator Kit Bond (MO)
Senator Mel Martinez (FL)
Senator Lindsay Graham (SC)
Senator Lamar Alexander (TN)

APA concludes that being Gay is OK, programs to make them straight can be harmful

In case you are not familiar with the APA, it's the American Psychological Association. As reported on, the APA has concluded after a two year study and review of 87 other studies since 1960 that "there is little evidence that efforts to change a person's sexual orientation from gay or lesbian to heterosexual are effective."

If the "Family Values" groups haven't picked up on this story, I suspect that there will be a flurry of Press Releases over the next few days. Put simply, scare straight programs and guilt tripping people for being wired differently than "normal" people does more harm than good and THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING GAY. But, this is going to be hard for evangelicals and other conservative groups to swallow.

According to Judith Glassgold, chairwoman of the APA task force:

"Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners,
there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological
interventions to change sexual orientation."
The APA's governing Council of Representatives passed a resolution urging the mental health community and professionals not to recommend that therapy or any other methods can change their sexual orientation.

"The task force noted that some people attempt to change their sexual
orientation because it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and recommended
that their mental health care providers help them 'explore possible life
paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma
associated with homosexuality, respect their client's religious beliefs,
and consider possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and
rewarding life.
Again, for those out there that exclusively subscribe to Creationism and that anything other than heterosexual orientation and a man-woman relationship is outside of the "mainstream," they will still find justification to marginalize and openly discriminate against "those people" that aren't like them.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Post-9/11 GI Bill has perfect timing for increase of VA in-state tution

Talk about perfect timing. The Commonwealth of Virginia got $126.7 million in federal stimulus funds for 2010 to help keep down the increase with in-state tuition. The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill went into effect the first of this month. The State Council of Higher Education reports that tuition at the Virginia's in-state schools will increase by 5% for the upcoming school year.

College affordability is a huge issue for Virginia, considering the economy and the rising unemployment numbers. At least for our nation's bravest men and women who have put their live on the line for this country, this updated G.I. Bill will enable them to afford college during a time when it is increasingly getting beyond the financial reach of so many. This bill was due to the hard work of Senator Webb and former Senator John Warner.

Virginia SCC approves rate increase for Appalachian Power for 7.7%

Appalachian Power got their rate increase, just not the 13% they originally sought. According to news reports, the SCC approval will increase the average utility customer's monthly bill around $7.16 for 1,000 kilowatts of use. The rate increase will go to cover increases in fuel costs for Appalachian Power, who gets 98% of it's power from coal.

This isn't the last application for a rate increase. Appalachian Power has three more in the hopper. Keep in mind that AEP, Appalachian Power's parent company, reported a 2nd Quarter profit even though revenues were down.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Appalachain Power shows 2nd Quarter profit, still seeks rate increase

Rate increases and cost cutting in Virginia, Oklahoma, and Indiana helped boost the bottom line for Appalachian Power's parent company, AEP, by 12% according to an article in the Roanoke Times yesterday. But still, AEP wants another rate increase because "even though the SCC allowed the utility a return on common equity in its Virginia territory of 10.2% in calendar year 2008, the actual return was only 2%." Profits increased despite a drop in revenue.

In other words, they didn't make enough of a profit and they need the rate increase to make more than a 10.2% profit. What they didn't add is that they need the rate increase to help cover the cost of building the new Coal Fired Power Plant in Wise County. Also according to the article, Appalachian Power gets about 98% of its electricity from coal.

A couple of thoughts about this. First, AEP did things to cut cost and increase efficiency across the states they operate, which is a good thing. Second, just like all those conservatives out there that say increasing taxes during a recession is a bad idea, so is increasing utility rates. AEP's revenues were down, which means that their customers were cutting back because of the economy and were trying to conserve energy to put more money back in their own pockets. AEP's request for a rate increase is just like raising taxes on people that don't have the money to spend on more expensive energy. Third, Appalachian Power gets 98% of it's energy from coal. That's way too much. They need to diversify where they are getting their energy from. I know that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of Coal, but the less coal we use and the more clean energy or biomass energy sources (chicken and cow poop) we use, the more we will reduce our carbon footprint.

If this doesn't convince the SCC that Appalachian Power's request for a rate increase is not necessary, I don't know what will.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Delegate Hamilton and Old Dominion University: Something don’t smell quite right

The Virginian Pilot reported earlier this week that Newport News Republican Delegate, Phillip Hamilton, a 20 year incumbent and a senior member of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, received a $40,000 contract in 2007 from Old Dominion University to coordinate the University’s Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership.

Hamilton was awarded the contract after he sponsored an amendment that provided the funding for the center. Since that time, the center has been awarded $500,000 every year since 2007. Yesterday, Old Dominion University President John Broderick said that after a review of Delegate Hamilton’s contract that “Everything that we looked at indicates there’s no conflict here.” Delegate Hamilton says that he wasn’t on the payroll of ODU when the money was added to the state’s budget.

This still doesn’t smell right. So, let me get this straight. Delegate Hamilton introduces an amendment to the state’s budget in 2007 that benefits ODU’s Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership. Delegate Hamilton gets a $40,000 contract from the money he got for the Center. The Center gets $500,000 annually from the state and Delegate Hamilton continues to benefit financially from that state appropriation through his $40,000 contract with ODU. So, I guess neither Delegate Hamilton nor ODU see how improper this appears. No quid pro quo here, right?

By the way, Delegate Hamilton is in a hotly contested race in the 93rd House of Delegates District against Newport News Attorney Robin Abbott. Hamilton has been a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 1988.

I always find it hard to believe any elected official that rails against the size of government and the taxes needed for the state to function, and they belly up to the big government trough for their piece of the pie.