Last night Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner held a town hall in suburban Milwaukee with newly elected State Sen. Leah Vukmir, a right-winger after his own heart. (Apparently Vukmir was hosting the meeting but couldn't face her constituents without backup. And the overbearing Sensenbrenner has decades of experience in dominating and belittling people he supposedly represents.) Progressive citizens brought their signs and packed the meeting room, overflowing into the hallway. From the local paper:
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner shut down Monday night's town hall meeting in Wauwatosa early because the overflow crowd was more interested in talking about the state budget bills with Republican host state Sen. Leah Vukmir, attendees said.
The meeting got off to a tense start, they explained. Sensenbrenner threatened to shut it down if the crowd got unruly.
Wauwatosa resident Ryan Stoltz said Sensenbrenner “swung his gavel anytime someone from the crowd voiced dismay. He threatened to end the meeting anytime the crowd applauded, got too noisy for his liking or talked out of turn. It was crazy how he wouldn’t listen to anyone.”
Notices circulated to progressive groups urged members to come and ask Vukmir hard questions about the budget. Apparently they did, because it wasn't going so well for her:
When Vukmir said that workers would not be losing collective bargaining rights, the jeers started, he said. After another raucous reaction by the crowd, the meeting ended — 27 minutes after it started. (From a comment to the article: "...she talked for a while before Sensenbrenner called the meeting. He stood up to leave THEN the crowd got loud. AFTER he called the meeting because people were asking them questions they did not like.)
City officials were quoted as saying that protesters never got out of control.
If CEOs use corporate cash to invest in their firms, which might create jobs, that would help Democrats retain control of the government. People without jobs who also don't understand how we got into this financial crisis are more likely to vote against the party in power, which just happens to be the Democrats. This worked beautifully in the midterm elections and may be just as helpful to the Republican nominee for president in 2012. So why shouldn't the CEOs sit on the cash as long as they keep getting their own salaries and bonuses?
Opening Medicare to all would spread the risk over the entire population, not just the seniors who on average cost more to treat, thereby strengthening the program into the future. Medicare is proven to administer its system much more economically than the private insurance companies and would get more of every premium dollar into actual health care. It's already up and running. And since Medicare contracts out its paperwork to the private insurance companies anyway, the administrative people would not lose their jobs (but the insurance companies would have no incentive to deny claims because it wouldn't be their money at stake). Sounds like a plan.
The country was in a terrible position economically and involved in two wars, and the voters were finally beginning to realize who created that mess. By nominating two people unlikely to win the election, they could pass the problems off to the Democrats for four years. (I think the fact that they didn't try a last-minute "October surprise" of cooked-up scandal is significant. In addition, I don't recall many reports of voter harassment in the minority community or sneaky business with voting machines.) Then after obstructing and criticizing their way through Obama's first term, spinning everything as his fault, they thought they'd be in a good position to take over again in 2012.
If by some chance McCain and Palin had happened to win anyway, Republicans would have remained in control (probably with Cheney wielding a lot of power behind the scenes).
The right can't say too much against Medicare because so many seniors and their families are satisfied with it. (Republicans are gnashing their teeth now because their long-range goal was to weaken and eliminate Medicare). Lowering the age to 55 will change the mindset that Medicare is only for seniors. Once we wrap our heads around that concept, it will seem natural to lower the age even further. Since the public option has been pretty well gutted, this new plan may be the best tactic--to strike out in an entirely different direction and pass it quickly before the right-wingers know what hit them.
That way most people don't have the energy, time, or clarity of mind to pay attention and really think about what's being done to our country.
We attended F. James Sensenbrenner's town hall meeting last night. It was unlike the usual sparsely attended gatherings dominated by his approving base. This time the large meeting room was filled to overflowing, mainly because supporters of health care reform fired up from the rally in Milwaukee converged on Menomonee Falls. Many brought signs like "dying for health care reform" and "Ozaukee County is fed up with the status quo."
Sensenbrenner lied and blustered his way through the questions. He stated that our representatives are elected to sift through the information and decide what is best. (In other words, don't pay attention to what the large majority of voters want.) Members of Congress are accountable because they have to face the voters for re-election every two years. (Except the many like himself who rarely have serious opposition in a gerrymandered district.) In answering a question about federal employee health insurance, he said there are about 400 plans to choose from and if you want a Cadillac plan you would pay more than for a Saturn plan. (What about the rusty Yugo plans that some of us have to put up with?) Indicating that they also feel the pinch, he stated that the most popular plan among Congress members costs them $4,000 per year in payroll deductions. (Those in the individual market pay two or three times more for plans that cover less. Don't forget that members of Congress make $174,000 per year.)
He misstated the Obama plan as making it illegal to enroll new employees (including newly elected officials) in an employer's insurance plan after passage of the law. (Wrong! This is Michele Bachmann's famous "page 16" lie. New employees would enroll in plans under the new requirements concerning pre-existing conditions and other regulations in the law.) He brought out the tired canard about waiting months for an MRI in Canada. According to him, so-called tort reform limitations on lawsuits would bring down medical costs dramatically. In his opinion, a tax credit to help with paying for health insurance is the way to go. (Would that help the people who don't have to pay any tax because of their huge medical deductions?) He repeatedly railed against government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor. (This brought on groans and laughs from the audience; they understand the insurance bureaucracy too well.)
Sensenbrenner trotted out the Republican talking point that we should slow down the process because Congress needs more time to study such an important bill. (That would be unlike the PATRIOT Act, which members were not allowed to read before voting?) He complained that Democrats were not acting in a bipartisan way. Interestingly, he pointed out that the Democrats have a large margin in the House and a 60-40 margin in the Senate, and they don't need Republicans to pass a health bill.
The session was quite frustrating but definitely worthwhile. No one changed Sensenbrenner's mind or got through to him how ordinary people are struggling with the current health care system. But it was nice to watch him having to respond to challenges he surely wasn't expecting when he woke up that morning.
Today I heard an excellent, if frightening, discussion of the global climate situation and a new concept for combatting the looming disaster. I highly recommend listening to the repeat of this program tonight at 10 p.m. Central time on Wisconsin Public Radio: www.wpr.org (live streaming).
The speaker proposes that we need new techniques to reverse the warming to buy time until carbon-reducing methods take hold. These geoengineering ideas are not without danger, but he says that not trying them would also be disastrous. He also discussed this in an article in the Wall Street Journal:
The concept is called geoengineering, and in the past few years, it has gone from being dismissed as a fringe idea to the subject of intense debates in the halls of power. Many of us who have been watching this subject closely have gone from being skeptics to advocates. Very reluctant advocates, to be sure, but advocates nonetheless.
What has changed? Quite simply, as the effects of global warming have worsened, policy makers have failed to meet the challenge. As a result, if we want to avoid an unprecedented global catastrophe, we may have no other choice but to reduce the impact of global warning, alongside focusing on the factors that are causing it in the first place. That is, while we continue to work aggressively to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, we also need to consider lowering the temperature of the Earth itself.
To be clear, geoengineering won’t solve global warming. It’s not a “techno-fix.” It would be enormously risky and almost certainly lead to troubling unforeseen consequences. And without a doubt, the deployment of geoengineering would lead to international tension. Who decides what the ideal temperature would be? Russia? India? The U.S.? Who’s to blame if Country A’s geoengineering efforts cause a drought in Country B?
Also let’s be clear about one other thing: We will still have to radically reduce carbon emissions, and do so quickly. We will still have to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and adopt substantially more sustainable agricultural methods. We will still have to deal with the effects of ecosystems damaged by carbon overload.
There is much to be said on both sides of this proposal, but at least it should be considered--immediately.
Politicians often use long lists of endorsements on their literature and advertisements, because they think endorsements work, and that's probably true. Yard signs are out there endorsing the candidate 24 hours a day, perhaps for weeks.
Another factor may be even more important in the long run. I remember driving around town looking for Kerry signs so I could offer a Bryan Kennedy sign as well. (It turned out to be a pretty good technique, by the way.) One woman said that was the first time she'd taken the step of putting out a sign and she wasn't ready to jump to two signs yet. I respected her honesty and understood her feelings about going public with her politics, which isn't easy at first. It takes time to get comfortable with that. Having a sign is a way to take that first step beyond just voting in secret, and may lead to more involvement. It also may be the only way that some people (elderly, disabled, too busy supporting the family) can help a campaign, and it's good to give them that outlet.
As chair of the Indian Affairs Committee in the Senate, McCain started an investigation of Jack Abramoff's exploitation of the tribes he represented as a lobbyist. He subpoeaed 750,000 pages of documents from Abramoff's employers, which likely hold information on all of Abramoff's dealings and contacts. But then McCain slowed down the investigation before the 2004 election and finally came out with a report that never went much of anywhere. More importantly, he has put a hold on the vast majority of the 750,000 pages so that they cannot be made public without consent of both parties. So he has played a crucial part in protecting the Bush administration and its powerful allies in the right wing, ensuring Bush's reelection in 2004 and corruption for another four years. (Recall that these are the same people who so shamefully used dirty politics to defeat him in the 2000 primary.) By showing himself to be a team player (or engaging in some brilliant blackmail) he has fully earned the nomination this time around.
See the full discussion by the DailyKos writer who investigated this shocking mess:
Here are three major reasons why Edwards didn't make it to the finish line.
1. Most people don't obsess about politics and seek out everything they can find, so when they didn't see as much about Edwards (and the other five) as Clinton/Obama, they figured he wasn't important. (This shows how powerful our corporate-owned media is.)
2. Those who want their candidate to agree with them on everything from the beginning saw that Edwards had voted for the war and bankruptcy bill and some other things they disliked, and they crossed him off. That he had grown and changed his positions and apologized didn't matter.
3. Lots of people wanted to be able to say they helped bring about the historic moment when the first African American or woman was elected president. Taking back America from the corporations, lifting people from poverty, and giving everyone affordable health care somehow didn't have the same appeal. I guess I can understand that. We are in such a dismal situation right now after two terms under Bush that everyone is yearning for something really thrilling. I hope we get that and then start working on achieving the goals John Edwards set for us.
This year the DNC worked out a plan to get minority voters into the mix in choosing the presidential nominee in early states. South Carolina will add African Americans and Nevada will add Hispanics to the mostly white populations in Iowa and New Hampshire. That's a good thing for our party and our country. Now we learn that they set up a procedure to let the casino workers participate even though they have to be at work at the time of the caucus. Is this showing favoritism? I think it's a valid way to further the goal of getting minorities into the process without risking their jobs.
Caucuses by their nature favor whoever has no other commitments during the limited time when they are held. Maybe it's time to modify the caucus procedure to let some people "vote absentee" or come in earlier in the day or some such thing. I recall going to a caucus in Michigan (1984) that was not operated like the Iowa caucus--we just came in, announced our preference, and then could leave. That system would broaden the range of participants who choose the nominee and lead more people to get involved and hopefully stay involved in the party.
I hope Prof. Walz isn't dropping out of his dual candidacy with Burkee because of some serious disease, in which case, best wishes to him for a speedy recovery. I suspect, though, that these neophytes in the arena of real-life politics didn't realize just how stressful a congressional campaign would be, even one that wasn't serious enough to possibly oust Sensenbrenner. However, the statement on his website alluded to something more sinister:
Citing recent health problems and his desire to serve the best interests of his employer, Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., Walz noted in an open letter to supporters that he “simply cannot continue to make the serious commitment necessary to defeat Congressman Sensenbrenner or give the voters the campaign they deserve.”
“My health and family must remain the highest priority in my life, and the stress of this campaign takes its toll on both,” said Walz in the letter. "I also remain concerned for my school, and I realize the pressures on a small university when two of its professors run a campaign against an influential and powerful congressman. Ending my candidacy will relieve these pressures and allow the campus to return to some normalcy,” said Walz.
I don't quite see how having only one professor running instead of two would relieve the pressure on Concordia, so we'll have to see how Prof. Burkee holds up in the coming months. The Republicans play for keeps, even against a couple of academics engaged in a political science experiment.
Here are the choices you'll have on February 19, chosen today by the Presidential Preference Selection Committee:
Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, Obama, and Richardson
(Since this is, after all, Democratic Underground, I won't list the candidates from the other party, but they are the ones you'd expect. See http://blogs.jsonline.com/allpoliticswatch /)
In case you're interested, here's the procedure:
The Committee consists of eleven (11) members: the President and minority leader of the State Senate, the Speaker and Minority Leader of the Assembly or their designees, the State Chairs of the Democratic and Republican Parties, and one national committeeman and national committeewoman from each party designated by the state chairs.
The first order of business for the Committee is to select an additional member to chair the meeting. It is expected that the committee will select David Anstaett, who serves as the nonpartisan member of the State Elections Board, to serve as chair.
The Committee is charged with selecting those individuals whose candidacy is generally advocated or recognized in the national news media throughout the United States for placement on the presidential primary ballot. The Committee may also add the names of other individuals.
Candidates who are not selected may circulate a petition to appear on the ballot. They must gather at least 8,000 signatures, 1,000 from each of the State’s Congressional Districts, no later than January 2, 2008. Candidates selected for the ballot by the Committee have until January 2, 2008 to withdraw their names from the ballot.
On February 19, 2008, Wisconsin voters will have the opportunity to express their preference for a presidential candidate. In the Presidential Preference Primary, an elector may vote on the ballot of only one political party. The elector may choose to vote by one of the following methods:
• Vote for one of the persons whose names are printed on the ballot; or
• Vote for an uninstructed delegation from Wisconsin to the national convention of the party; or
• Write in the name of another person to become the presidential candidate of the party.
Yes, our esteemed chair Joe W. was there, along with our leading legislators and our national committee members Sen. Lena Taylor (candidate for Milwaukee County Executive) and Jason Rae (a junior at Marquette and a member of the DNC since he was 17, already a force to be reckoned with in the party).
We recently heard a speech by a labor representative from Canada who explained how they do things there. The system covers every citizen for all doctor and hospital costs (no deductibles or copays). You can choose any general practitioner or specialist you want and change whenever you want. The doctor decides what care you will get, not an insurance company. Canada spends a much lower proportion of GDP on medical care than we do, their people are healthier, and their businesses are more competitive because they don't have to provide health insurance. The risk is spread out among everybody through personal and corporate taxes. Providers negotiate reimbursement rates with the provincial governments and don't have to fight with insurance companies for their payments. Labor unions sometimes negotiate with employers to pay for insurance to cover extras like prescriptions and upgrades from semiprivate to private rooms. There have been some problems with people having to wait for elective procedures, but that has been overstated and was caused by inadequte funding rather than by the system itself, and they are improving the situation. They even hope to add prescription drugs, home care, and preventive dental coverage in the future.
When asked how many Canadians are satisfied with their health care, he estimated it at 95%. It sure sounded good to us. You can hear this whole presentation by downloading audio files here:
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