Friday, September 28, 2007

Bush on global warming

According to the WaPo, Bush spoke at a Washington conference of major economic powers today about global warming.

Bush Seeks New Image on Global Warming
President Bush assured the rest of the world today that he takes climate change seriously and vowed that the United States "will do its part" in crafting "a new international approach" to reduce the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.[...]

[...] Bush said "the moment is now" to find a broad consensus on how to confront the challenge of climate change. "I want to get the job done," he told hundreds of envoys, lobbyists and activists. "We have identified a problem; let's go solve it together."
Bush didn't propose any new initiatives and the speech disappointed critics who had hoped he would offer more tangible solutions. The most acerbic criticism came from a Democrat:
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of a House global warming committee, said Bush's only commitment to the environment is to "recycling rhetoric." Markey, who attended the speech, added: "For these countries meeting with the president, this must have felt like attending a prayer session led by an atheist."
Ouch! Markey was a little harsh. Was it justified? Here's video from the conference, you be the judge.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is this what union strikes will look like in the future?

The UAW/GM strike was pretty textbook in terms of the way the strike was conducted, but here's a new twist on an old way of doing things. From the AFL-CIO Blog:

Join Italy’s IBM Workers in a Virtual Strike
IBM workers in Italy have taken the next step in challenging the corporate globalized world—they’ve set a Virtual Strike on Second Life for Sept. 27.

The members of UNI and the Communications Workers of America, through its Alliance@IBM, are waging the online effort after IBM canceled a provision in its contract with Italian workers that resulted in the loss of 1,000 Euros per year for each employee. The works council, supported by the majority of IBM employees in Italy, had asked for a small salary increase. [...]

UNI is a global union for skills and services with 15 million members in 900 unions.

Don’t know what Second Life is? Here’s a good time to give it a try. Second Life is an online 3-D platform that enables you to create your own persona (”avatar”) and take part in virtual group events.

Click here and follow the steps to sign up (basic membership is free), and continue to download the software. The virtual strike at IBM isn’t the first and won’t be the last online action among workers, and it’s a good chance to show your solidarity and build a global community that includes workers as the forefront of the new world order.
Here's some further background from UNI.
“This is the first ever union action in the virtual world,” said the General Secretary of UNI global union Philip Jennings speaking in New York. “Wherever companies go we shall pursue them if they behave badly. It opens new avenues for industrial pressure in the future and brings greater involvement in trade union activities for younger, computer-savvy members.”

“Businesses like IBM are using the new opportunities of the Internet and virtual space like Second Life to reach customers - but they cannot have that space to themselves. The best step forward now is for IBM to sit down in real life with the workers coordinating body in Italy and resolve this dispute.”
Does the idea of a virtual strike seem ridiculous? To some it might, but I think blogger Nancy Scola puts it in perspective:
The IBM strike might not win a lot of pity points from the Italian public for losing their annual bonus, so picketing up and down Italian streets might not be the most effective means of protest. But by striking in Second Life, the Italian IBM workers are letting the tech-savvy company know that they don't appreciate their behavior, while raising consciousness on Big Blue's doings in every tech publication that has picked up the story around the world.
A virtual strike gives the IBM workers a voice, a way to communicate. Sometimes that's enough. Sometimes people just want their voices to be heard.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two Michigans

Recent events in Michigan got me thinking about John Edward's "Two Americas" and it saddened me to realize Michigan could claim a similar title - Two Michigans.

Yesterday, the UAW went on strike against GM in an attempt to hold onto their jobs and keep them from being outsourced to China or Mexico. Meanwhile, our state still faces a shutdown if legislators can't come to an agreement on the budget. Republicans want to cut Medicaid funding, state police, and education, among other things. They also want to
eliminate 2,232 jobs. To add insult to injury, today we learned that Bank of America plans to layoff 1500 workers in Michigan over the next two years. Too bad all these people don't have a union working on their behalf. These cuts will drastically affect the lives of average citizens just trying to give their families a decent quality of life on increasingly stagnant or falling wages.

Contrast that to the lifestyles of those Republicans who would like to be our next president. They recently gathered on Mackinaw Island to hold their Republican Leadership Conference and it was quite the aristocratic affair according to this article in Salon:

The GOP gets gaudy in Michigan
How do Republican presidential candidates woo the beleaguered voters of what may now be a crucial primary state? Party like aristocrats!

For about 36 hours beginning Friday afternoon, more than 2,000 politicians and party activists passed through the Grand Hotel, boozing and slapping backs in one of America's last bastions of Victorian aristocratic nostalgia. One by one, the leading Republican presidential candidates came as pilgrims to pay homage to the gaudy affair. At times, the scene recalled Jack Nicholson's ballroom hallucinations from the 1980 horror movie, "The Shining."

Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel is columned and cavernous, with a candy-striped interior, a pink hair salon, a maroon wine bar and a jewelry store named "The Colony Shop," which was sold out of canary diamonds for the weekend. The wait staff, imported from Jamaica on temporary visas, was entirely black, and they served food to invariably white Republicans while wearing white-tie tuxedos with jackets the color of AstroTurf. (Brochures left in the guest rooms explained that the Jamaican help is provided with laundry and "recreational facilities" at their on-island dormitories.) Croquet and bocce ball could be played down in the Tea Garden, which was decorated with abundant blooming flowers and bushes shaped like horses. At tea time, a harpist in heels played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" while women in maid costumes served tea cakes and champagne just a few steps from an exhibit of vintage oil paintings that showed young girls in lace dresses and young boys with spent shotguns and dead birds. [...]

The candidates' appearances, however, were almost tangential to the real point of the weekend, which was to celebrate the pleasures of money and privilege. The diners supped on cold strawberry soup, prosciutto, and pecan-coated ice cream balls. People did not use the word "money" when they talked about money. "Everyone in this room understands the importance of resources, the importance of finance, in winning campaigns," said Dick DeVos, the son of the billionaire founder of Amway, who lost a costly race for governor last year, which he funded with $35 million of his own fortune.[...]
Yep, two Americas: Those who have the money and power - and the rest of us, the ones who need unions or PACs like MoveOn in order to be heard.

Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.

Thank you on behalf of Seedlings

Last month, I asked everyone to vote for Debra Bonde's non-profit organization, Seedlings (located here in Michigan), in order to help her win a $10,000 prize being offered through Mannington Mills. Bonde's organization provides braille books to blind children and works to promote the cause of braille literacy. I just received good news from Seedlings. Read on:
Seedlings’ Founder is Winner of National Award and Online Public Voting

Debra Bonde, Founder and Executive Director of Seedlings Braille Books for Children in Livonia, was selected as one of the winners of the 2007 “Stand On A Better World” Award from Mannington Mills, a leading manufacturer of fine flooring. Mannington Mills celebrates women who “do the right thing” to make a difference in the lives of people and communities locally as well as globally. Ms. Bonde was recognized in the national category for her work in furthering the non-profit mission of increasing braille literacy by making braille books for blind children, locally and around the world. Tennis great Billie Jean King and ABC-TV’s Deborah Roberts of “20/20” were among the esteemed judges presiding over this year’s awards. More information regarding the awards is available at

In addition, for the first time, Mannington Mills added an award category, Your Better World, which allowed the public to cast a vote online for one of the finalists. Your vote counted! Thanks to all of Seedlings’ supporters, Ms. Bonde was also the winner of the Your Better World Award.

Ms. Bonde will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Wilmington , Delaware , on November 15. Through this program, Mannington Mills hopes these stories will raise awareness and encourage others to make a difference.

We truly appreciate all of your help and support. If you voted, we thank you. If you passed the word along to others, please pass along our thanks to them as well. Your votes made a huge difference. Thanks to you, Seedlings will receive a $10,000 donation from Mannington which will enable us to produce 1,000 braille books! [emphasis mine]

Best wishes,

Julie Connoyer
Community Outreach
Seedlings Braille Books For Children
Congratulations to Debra Bonde and Seedlings and a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make a difference in a blind child's life.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where was this sentiment months ago?

From the Macomb Daily: Granholm's 2-cent tax doesn't look so bad now
Now that the Lansing budget battle has degenerated into bitterness and brinksmanship, it’s too late for lawmakers to pull back and retrace their steps.

But somebody has to say it: The 2-cent tax on services that was proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm doesn’t look so bad now, does it?
No, it doesn't look so bad, and I said that way back in February. Of course, my opinion didn't count, not that it matters. Republicans never wanted a solution. They only wanted to make Granholm look bad.

So, here we sit seven months later on the verge of a state shutdown and this editorial comes to the conclusion that Granholm was right after all, and they give lots of solid arguments to back up their reasoning.
The prospect of an income tax increase has taxpayers up in arms and legislators cowering in fear. Yet, I think we all realize that we’re going to see an income tax boost to 4.6 percent when this melodrama ends.

Compared to the finger pointing and gnashing of teeth in Lansing over the past 10 days, I think the 2-cent tax would have been an easier sell to the constituency — and easier for lawmakers to swallow.

Which would you prefer, a bigger bite out of your weekly paycheck or an extra two cents on the dollar when you get your hair cut or play a round of golf ?

When Granholm proposed the services tax in February, she claimed it would cost the average family just $69 a year. That was probably low, but even if the price tag was $100, that’s about one-third the cost of a higher income tax. [...]

It was a broad-based tax on about 120 services, meaning it would have brought in a lot of money paid by tourists and visitors to Michigan. It would have better reflected the new economy, with service industries emerging as a large and growing sector. It probably would have had minimal impact on Michigan’s national reputation in the business community, since most states already tax a wide array of services.

Most importantly, it would have levied taxes on “discretionary” spending rather than hitting workers’ paychecks. Those who choose to pay for a health club membership or prime seats to a Red Wings game would know that a 2 percent levy was attached.

Anti-tax activists say that people in Michigan are hurting and can’t afford a tax increase. Well, those who are hurting don’t spend money on pedicures and tanning salons and expensive concert tickets. In fact, I suspect low-income families would barely feel the pinch of a tax on services.

In addition, the 2-cent tax would add some symmetry, some logic, to Michigan’s tax system. Why, when we go to a golf course pro shop, should we pay taxes on the purchase of golf balls but not on a round of golf ? Why, when we go to a salon, should we pay taxes on hair-care products but not on a hair cut? [...]

It’s important to remember that the 2-cent tax would have generated $1.5 billion, more than what’s now needed if cuts and reforms take hold. Some controversial levies could have been eliminated from the list of taxable services, or the tax could have been whittled down to a mere 1.5 cents.

But that’s now all hindsight, with our legislators flailing away and embarrassing our state. This whole budget battle could have been avoided if Granholm’s tax had been recognized months ago as a better alternative to a higher income tax.
The GOP failed the citizens of Michigan in their zeal to make Granholm look bad. Was it payback for her punishing win over DeVos? Possibly. Whatever the reason, they need to be held accountable for playing politics instead of working and booted out of office next time around.

No Budget, No Pay!

It's about time our state legislators start being held accountable. From the MI AFL-CIO:


Please send a strong signal to our state legislators that they can no longer delay action in resolving Michigan's unprecedented budget crisis, and take action by signing an online petition at:

The petition calls on legislators' $79,650-a-year salary and benefits to be DOCKED if they do not pass a budget that invests in Michigan's citizens and our future by Oct 1. That means passing a budget that provides funding for police and fire protection, schools, health care, roads, protection for our precious Great Lakes and many other services.

In the real world, we only get paid when we do our jobs. The rules should be the same for our elected officials in Lansing. Send a message to your legislators and let them know working families expect them to do their jobs – or lose their pay.

Sign the petition: .

Thank you for your support.

Friday, September 21, 2007

We have seen the enemy...

I love Barbara Ehrenreich's style. She calls it the way she sees it.

We Have Seen the Enemy -- And Surrendered
Bow your heads and raise the white flags. After facing down the Third Reich, the Japanese Empire, the U.S.S.R., Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein, the United States has met an enemy it dares not confront — the American private health insurance industry.

With the courageous exception of Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic candidates have all rolled out health “reform” plans that represent total, Chamberlain-like, appeasement. Edwards and Obama propose universal health insurance plans that would in no way ease the death grip of Aetna, Unicare, MetLife, and the rest of the evil-doers. Clinton — why are we not surprised? — has gone even further, borrowing the Republican idea of actually feeding the private insurers by making it mandatory to buy their product. Will I be arrested if I resist paying $10,000 a year for a private policy laden with killer co-pays and deductibles?

It’s not only the Democratic candidates who are capitulating. The surrender-buzz is everywhere. I heard it from a notable liberal political scientist on a panel in August: We can’t just leap to a single payer system, he said in so many words, because it would be too disruptive, given the size of the private health insurance industry. Then I heard it yesterday from a Chicago woman who leads a nonprofit agency serving the poor: How can we go to a Canadian-style system when the private industry has gotten so “big”? [...]
How can we not?
Think of the damage. An estimated 18,000 Americans die every year because they can’t afford or can’t qualify for health insurance. That’s the 9/11 carnage multiplied by three — every year. Not to mention all the people who are stuck in jobs they hate because they don’t dare lose their current insurance.

Saddam Hussein never killed 18,000 Americans or anything close; nor did the U.S.S.R. Yet we faced down those “enemies” with huge patriotic bluster, vast military expenditures, and, in the case of Saddam, armed intervention. So why does the U.S. soil its pants and cower in fear when confronted with the insurance industry?
That's a question 89.6 million Americans who found themselves uninsured at some point during 2006-2007 would like to have answered too.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Republicans two-faced about taxes

I wouldn't send a Republican to McDonald's with a $20 bill to pick up a hamburger for me. Not only would they keep the change, they'd probably eat my hamburger. How did I reach this conclusion? Follow along.

From Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, I learned that five MI GOP Members of Congress sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, House Leader Craig DeRoche, Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Thad McCotter, Fred Upton, and Tim Walberg urging them to hang tough against a state tax increase. Michigan faces a government shutdown if the legislature doesn't pass a new budget by the end of the month. State Republicans want $1 billion in cuts; meanwhile, Gov. Granholm and Democrats called the cuts draconian and said they would hurt our citizens, schools, police, etc.

The Republicans are outraged that Granholm and the Democrats would put people and a decent quality of life ahead of tax cuts. How dare they waste tax dollars they ask? Well, what about Iraq? Where's the outrage about the amount of money we're spending there? We've spent over $500 billion on that lie so far, but according to Daily Kos that's just the beginning.
A new Congressional study finds that President Bush's plans for the U.S. in Iraq over the next several decades will reach the trillions of dollars, on top of the approximately $567 billion the war has already cost. That accounting assumes a significant troop drawdown -- and still tallies a daunting expense for the United States [...] [emphasis added]

A prior CBO study estimated that U.S. costs in Iraq from 2009 to 2017 will total approximately $1 trillion. On top of that, under the reduced-force combat scenario envisioned in this CBO estimate, the U.S. will spend another $1 trillion by 2057 -- the lifespan of the U.S.'s Korean presence to date.
Kos says, "I'd respect the Republicans mishandling this war a tiny bit more if they actually worried about paying for this war rather than blather on about tax cuts."

To paraphrase Kos, I'd respect our state Republicans a tiny bit more if they were honest. They argue that no amount of money is too much to spend in Iraq, but when it comes to meeting the needs of people here at home - the ones who send their tax dollars to Washington to pay for their war - they snap their wallets shut and expect the rest of us to follow along. They know this war is based on a lie, but it's more important to stick to the party line than admit they were wrong.

So you see, it's okay for us to send money to Washington so they can continue their war indefinitely - a war that enriches Republican profiteers and CEO's of defense contractors - but we get nothing in return, not even some change to spend on our schools, infrastructure, health care, etc.

We're being robbed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Budget wishes and realities

I read this letter-to-the-editor in the Freep and immediately thought "be careful what you wish for."
Our best hope now in this budget mess is for government to shut down in the state. We don't fear it; we welcome it -- the longer the better. The services we receive are easy to live without. In fact, I can't think of a thing they do for me or a thing I'd miss. Government shutdowns don't hurt any of us who pay the bill, only those on the public dole.

Jon Etnyre, Sterling Heights
So what is Jon referring to? Michigan legislators have till the end of the month to come up with a new budget or the state faces a shutdown. Republicans want $1 billion in budget cuts along with a state income tax hike from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent. Gov. Granholm said the state can't sustain such high cuts without hurting people and has proposed $300 million in cuts. Democrats are also proposing a hike in the state income tax to 4.6 percent.

How did our state get to this point? Jack Lessenberry explains:
The present crisis has been a long time coming. The politicians have starved state government and set up the current crisis by slowly choking off public money through a series of tax cuts.

Stay with me for a minute while I explain how that happened: For many years, Michigan's income tax was 4.6 percent. That was cut to 4.4 percent in 1994, when Proposal A increased the sales tax to finance education.

That was fine and dandy. We wouldn't be in the mess we are in if they had just left it at that. But the Legislature then gradually cut the income tax rate from 4.4 percent to 3.9 percent — without replacing that money.

What that meant was that every year the state came up short. Those who wanted the tax cuts said, "Fine, that means we should cut spending." In fact, the Legislature did, gradually eliminating programs, some of which (sorry, liberals) probably deserved to be eliminated.

But those savings weren't enough to make up for the loss of money, and inflation and other factors (such as the growing prison population) meant the state needed more and more money for legitimate needs.

Things also have gotten worse as the dwindling auto companies threw people out of work, further reducing tax revenues coming in.

What did our lawmakers do about that? Ducked responsibility, that's what. They raided whatever savings and "rainy day funds" the state had. They shoved the problem over into future years. Last May, in a move that should have gotten the legislators all impeached or shot for dereliction of duty, they sold off money the state was due to get in future years for an outrageous fraction of its worth.

According to the national settlement against the tobacco companies, every state gets a pot load of money every year to compensate for medical expenses incurred by the millions of people tobacco kills. Michigan's irresponsible lawmakers traded $900 million in future payments for $400 million right then.

That was, again, to avoid dealing with this year's budget problem. They also shoved a lot of the deficit into next year's budget. Now, the party's over.

There are no more funds to loot — not enough, anyway, to come up with the money needed. Now, the cupboard is just about bare, and the state starts out with a deficit of $1.8 billion. Not million, billion.
Granholm has already reconciled more than $4 billion in budget deficits and state government is at its smallest size since 1973, but Republicans - and Jon - want more cuts that will increase class size in our schools, take police off the streets, take away health care from thousands, and possibly shut down the state. It's easy to say "shut it down," but are Republicans and people like Jon really prepared to live with the consequences? This letter-to-the-editor writer isn't:
I was fascinated by the Sept. 14 letter "Go ahead, shut the state down" (from a letter writer in Sterling Heights), which said shutting state government down would hurt "only those on the public dole."

One out of every three state employees works for Corrections, so I guess we can release all those prisoners; may I suggest Sterling Heights as a nice place to send them? Then there are the remaining state mental hospitals staffed by state employees; we can send those patients to Sterling Heights as well.

I guess the writer eats only at home, so he will not miss the state employees who survey restaurants to make sure they are compliant with public health requirements. And he must never go to the hospital or know anyone in a nursing home, so he will not miss the state employees who survey them for compliance with state licensure and Medicare and Medicaid rules.

The writer must never leave Sterling Heights to visit any of the state parks or forests, so he won't miss the state employees who work there. And he doesn't travel the roads that the Department of Transportation work on, so there is no need for those people. He must never visit the casinos, so he won't miss the state employees who need to be working for those to run.

Hopefully he is not a doctor, nurse or in any other type of job that needs a state license, because the people who process those licenses -- and those who investigate reasons why some doctors, nurses and other professions need to lose those licenses -- will all be gone.

He probably has never been unemployed, so he would not need the state workers who handle unemployment. And, of course, he would never need the state troopers for any reason, nor the Secretary of State's office.

Andrea L. VanDenBergh, Belleville
I side with Andrea on this, and she didn't even touch on the sick, poor or children, all targets of Republican cuts. And what about all the people who will lose their jobs because of the cuts? Our state needs more jobs and more revenue, so how does it help our economy to put people out of work? Those people pay taxes on their income and spend it in their communities.

Lessenberry sums it up best:
Taxes are the price we pay for a decent life. Restoring the state income tax rate to 4.6 percent would cost someone who makes $50,000 about five bucks a week. You blow more than that on vending machines. Failing to raise taxes might double college tuition, lower the quality of our schools at the same time, risk the public heath and raise license fees through the roof.
The cupboard is almost bare, and regardless of what the Republicans or people like Jon say, a majority of Michigan's voters support a tax increase combined with reasonable cuts. "Reasonable" is not throwing people under the bus for a few dollars.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Insurance industry to Hillary: Thanks

Yesterday, I had some serious reservations about Hillary's health care plan because it seemed to embrace the private insurance industry a little too much for my liking, but I was willing to give it a chance until I read what other people had to say. My first impression turned out to be right though, especially after reading this blurb at First Read:
But forget the poll, this positive review from the New York Times’ David Brooks is probably the campaign's favorite clip today. "Hillary Clinton’s health care plan is a huge step forward from 1993. It’s better than the G.O.P. candidates’ plans (which don’t exist)."
If GOP mouthpiece Brooks likes the plan, that means it serves the interests of the insurance industry and not the public. FireDogLake had the same opinion and calls it Hillary's Health Care Sham.
For you to proclaim that your plan provides, “Universal Health Care” is a decided misnomer. “Universal Health Insurance” might be more like it. [...]

Senator, your plan is basically a national version of Republican Mitt Romney’s “Universal Health Care” plan for Massachusetts, which has still left thousands in that state uninsured and even more struggling to make the payments on their new policies, which they are now required to have by law, but which may not pay them one thin dime should they actually become sick or hurt. [...]

Is there anybody here who believes that this plan wasn’t conceived and dictated to Senator Clinton by passels of high-end lobbyists for the insurance industry?
John Nichols believes the plan was defined exactly according to the needs of the insurance industry.
The Clinton plan maintains the current system of for-profit, insurance-industry defined health care delivery. The only real change is that, in return for minimal requirements regarding coverage of those with preexisting conditions, the government would pump hundreds of billions in federal dollars into the accounts of some of the country’s wealthiest corporations. The plan’s tax credit scheme would buy some more coverage for low-income families, which is good, but it would do so at a cost so immense that, ultimately, Clinton’s plan will be as tough a sell as the failed 1993 “Hillarycare” proposal.
And Physician's for a National Health Program have this to say about Hillary's tax credits:
Further, the administrative complexities of refundable tax credits and means-tested premium caps would still leave many without coverage. Coverage will never be universal unless it is truly automatic for everyone.

If we are going to use the tax system to pay for health care anyway then why should we waste funds on the profoundly inefficient system of segregated private health plans? A universal risk pool that is equitably funded through the tax system is the most efficient and least expensive method of ensuring comprehensive coverage for everyone.
Nichols echoes PNHP too:
Despite what Mitt Romney says, Clinton and the Democrats would have a far easier time selling “European-style socialized medicine” that what the senator from New York is peddling. And that does not even take into account the potential appeal of a uniquely American single-payer system that might intelligently combine the necessary efficiency of a publicly-funded and defined payment program for covering costs with the appealing prospect of allowing Americans to choose their own basic plans and doctors.
Sorry, Hillary, but I also prefer a single-payer plan, along with a majority of other Americans based on this latest poll from CBS:
Americans were also asked to choose between keeping the current health care system, with insurance provided by private employers and some people uninsured, and a government-run system that provided universal coverage. Fifty-five percent said they preferred the government-run system, while 29 percent said they preferred the current system. This is an increase in support for the government-run system, which was favored by 47 percent of Americans in February. [emphasis added]
Fifty-five percent favor a government-run system, yet Dennis Kucinich is the only presidential candidate promoting a single-payer health plan. That tells us the others care more about appeasing the insurance industry and lobbyists than they do the uninsured.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hillary's "American Health Choice Plan"

I haven't had time to read or digest Hillary Clinton's "American Health Choices Plan" so I'm going to link to Ezra Klein for some background information. [emphasis mine]
It [the plan] does open the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program to everybody, ensuring that anyone can access the same menu of regulated private options that federal employees get. FEHBP is the program that already insures millions of current government employees, including the members of Congress, by offering a variety of regulated private options to choose from. Throwing the doors to that program wide open is the most basic and ubiquitous of coverage solutions.

More importantly, the plan also creates a new public insurance option, modeled off, but distinct from, Medicare. That's a big deal: The public insurer offers full coverage and is open to all Americans without restriction. [...]

And if you don't go through the newly expanded FEHBP or the public option, preferring to keep your current insurance, you'll still be dealing with a heavily-regulated and reformed insurance industry, which can no longer price discriminate based on preexisting conditions or demographic characteristics, refuse you coverage, or deny renewal of your policy -- including if you change your job. So if you like your current insurance but quit your cubicled existence at MegaCorp, your insurer can't drop you. All this matters because it keeps the private programs from having too much capacity to undercut the risk pools of the other options. It also destroys the elements of the insurance industry's business model that rely too explicitly on screwing you over.
Klein says Hillary's plan is very, very good, and similar to Edwards. Here are some key points:
1. Offer New Coverage Choices for the Insured and Uninsured:

The Same Choice of Health Plan Options that Members of Congress Receive: Americans can keep their existing coverage or access the same menu of quality private insurance options that their Members of Congress receive through a new Health Choices Menu, established without any new bureaucracy as part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). In addition to the broad array of private options that Americans can choose from, they will be offered the choice of a public plan option similar to Medicare. [...]

2. Lower Premiums and Increase Security: Americans who are satisfied with the coverage they have today can keep it, while benefiting from lower premiums and higher quality. [...]

Strengthening Security: The plan ensures that job loss or family illnesses will never lead to a loss of coverage or exorbitant costs.

End to Unfair Health Insurance Discrimination: By creating a level-playing field of insurance rules across states and markets, the plan ensures that no American is denied coverage, refused renewal, unfairly priced out of the market, or forced to pay excessive insurance company premiums.

3. Promote Shared Responsibility: Relying on consumers or the government alone to fix the system has unintended consequences, like scaled-back coverage or limited choices. This plan ensures that all who benefit from the system share in the responsibility to fix its shortcomings. [This shared responsibility includes insurance and drug companies, individuals, providers, employers and the government.]

4. Ensure Affordable Health Coverage for All: Senator Clinton's plan will:

Provide Tax Relief to Ensure Affordability; Limit Premium Payments to a Percentage of Income; Create a New Small Business Tax Credit; Strengthen Medicaid and SCHIP; Launch a Retiree Health Legacy Initiative.

5. A Fiscally Responsible Plan that Honors our Priorities:

Most Savings Come Through Lowering Spending Due to Quality and Modernization; A Net Tax Cut for American Taxpayers; and Making the Employer Tax Exclusion for Healthcare Fairer: The plan protects the current exclusion from taxes of employer-provided health premiums, but limits the exclusion for the high-end portion of very generous plans for those making over $250,000.
I'm reserving my opinion until I have time to read more and compare it with other plans, but I already know one thing about it without picking up a paper - the GOP will hate it. I can hear the sound bites now...socialized medicine, government run program, blah, blah, blah...

Hillary's health plan to be revealed today

Hillary Clinton will be unveiling details of her health care proposal later today. Briefly, the plan would require everyone to carry health insurance and offer federal subsidies to help reduce the cost of coverage.
The centerpiece of Clinton's plan is the so-called "individual mandate," requiring everyone to have health insurance — just as most states require drivers to purchase auto insurance. Rival John Edwards has also offered a plan that includes an individual mandate, while the proposal outlined by Barack Obama does not.
Edwards and Obama may be worried about reaction to her plan if this poll holds up after the public learns about the details.
Clinton's previous effort gives her a voice of authority on health-care coverage now, with 65 percent of Americans in a July Gallup poll expressing ``a great deal'' or ``a fair amount'' of confidence in her on the issue. That's more than any other White House contender.
According to Ezra Klein, Edwards is already on the offensive:
Which may help explain why the Edwards campaign, concerned that they could lose their advantage on the issue, has decided to do the Clinton camp one better and has scheduled a speech outlining their strategy -- as distinct from their policy plan -- for passing health care reform. In the speech, Edwards will directly attack Clinton's performance in 1994, her willingness to take donations from insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists, and announce that on his first day in office, he'll submit a bill terminating the health coverage of the president, the Congress, and all political appointees if Congress fails to pass health reform by July 20th, 2009. In other words, he'll begin raising the stakes on the candidates' political commitments to passing health reform, rather than their policy documents. Should be interesting... [emphasis mine]
Interesting is right. Edwards is delivering his speech as I type and he's getting a good reaction from the crowd.
And his plan to end coverage for Congress if they don't pass health care just got a huge, 20- or 30-second ovation. "It's time for our government, for our Congress, to feel the understand that health care isn't a political, but a moral, issue."
We'll have to wait to see the details from Clinton's health plan, but one thing is certain, voters want health care fixed, which may account for the "take no prisoners" attitude .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rich, white and male? The GOP wants your vote.

Either the Republicans are intentionally trying to alienate voters or they're just plain stupid. From USA Today:
WASHINGTON — Three of the four leading Republican presidential candidates turned down invitations to a PBS debate this month at a historically black college in Baltimore, leading moderator Tavis Smiley on Thursday to accuse them of ignoring minority voters.

Smiley told USA TODAY the rejections are part of a pattern, noting most GOP candidates declined invitations to address several black and Hispanic groups, including a Univision debate for a Latino audience.

"No one should be elected president of this country in 2008 if they think that along the way they can ignore people of color," said Smiley, host of radio and TV talk shows. "If you want to be president of all America, you need to speak to all Americans."

Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney have declined to participate in the Sept. 27 debate at Morgan State University.
Smiley makes a good point, but he should have expanded that a bit to include homosexuals, women, poor people, children, illegal immigrants, and working class Americans.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Republicans don't even try to pretend they care anymore

Several news items caught my eye this week that showed the Republican Party's true colors and/or total disregard and disrespect for American citizens. First, from the WaPo, comes this:
The Justice Department notified Chiquita Brands International yesterday that it will not seek to criminally charge its former top executive and other former high-ranking officers over the company's payment of bribes to a Colombian organization on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.
Corporations trump taxpayers and soldiers. How typical. Why should they be held accountable or have to sacrifice for the war on terror? That's what we have soldiers and taxpayers for according to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). From Think Progress:
In an interview on CNN today, Wolf Blitzer asked House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) about “the Americans who are killed every month” in Iraq and “how much longer” the “military commitment is going to require?” “The investment that we’re making today will be a small price if we’re able to stop al Qaeda here,” replied Boehner.
What arrogance. Even one life is too much to pay for Bush's lie. But, wait, there's more:'s not only going to be a small price for the near future, but think about the future for our kids and their kids.
Does Boehner honestly think we believe he cares about our children? Bush and friends only care about corporations. Take the recent toy recalls by Mattel as an example. This is how Dana Milbank described the testimony of Nancy Nord (acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Bush appointee) when she appeared before legislators to answer questions about all that lead:
Actually, the lawmakers' drilling of Nord made it sound as if every day is a sad one for her agency. Product safety regulators, broke and undermanned, have been powerless to prevent millions of Barbie dolls, Polly Pockets, Dora the Explorers and Thomas the Tank Engines from entering the country from China with lead paint and other defects. Parents -- and therefore lawmakers -- are furious. But instead of showing contrition, Nord treated the lawmakers as if they were impertinent children.

"Are you saying that the Chinese have now adopted a new and different standard when it comes to lead paint?" asked Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the panel examining the issue.

"I think, sir, that that's a question you would really need to put to the Chinese," Nord replied curtly.

Durbin, with some of the offending toys on the table in front of him, asked why the commission didn't do more to block lead in children's jewelry.

"Well, the law is what it is" was Nord's brushoff.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked Nord if she knew what percentage of toys get lead tests.

"No, I don't."

After much hemming and hawing from Nord about her agency's ability to stop dangerous toys coming from China, Brownback got cranky: "Chairman, what I want to hear is you say these products are not going to enter our shores if that's what you continue to find."

"Well, I'm happy to say that," Nord retorted.
It's pretty obvious Nord doesn't care about our children, which turns out to be a plus for corporations.
While dismissive of the senators, the acting chairman was solicitous of the manufacturers. She "commended" the industry for its safety initiatives. A toy manufacturer reciprocated, calling Nord's agency "exemplary."

If Nord sounded a bit like a corporate fox guarding the consumer henhouse, consider her previous employers: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Corporate Counsel Association and Eastman Kodak.

Among the nuggets served up at yesterday's hearing: The CPSC's staff, once 978, is down to 401; its budget is half of what it was three decades ago, in inflation-adjusted terms; its toy-testing department consists of one man, Bob, who drops toys on the floor in his office; and its toy-testing lab is an overloaded workbench in its outmoded headquarters.
So the toy testing department's budget has been drowned in a bathtub. Let me guess. The Republicans trust corporations to do the right thing and test their own products, those same corporations that cut costs by outsourcing jobs to China. The same corporations that never stopped to think that the Chinese might cut costs too.
Why is lead paint — or lead, for that matter — turning up in so many recalls involving Chinese-made goods?

The simplest answer, experts and toy companies in China say, is price. Paint with higher levels of lead often sells for a third of the cost of paint with low levels. So Chinese factory owners, trying to eke out profits in an intensely competitive and poorly regulated market, sometimes cut corners and use the cheaper leaded paint.
So you can see why I don't believe the Republicans and their corporate friends when they say they care about our children. Their actions speaker louder than their words, and because of them, our children are dying or in danger.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Social networking for old people

I find the tone of this article insulting:

New Social Sites Cater to People of a Certain Age
Technology investors and entrepreneurs, long obsessed with connecting to teenagers and 20-somethings, are starting a host of new social networking sites aimed at baby boomers and graying computer users.

The sites have names like Eons, Rezoom, Multiply, Maya’s Mom, Boomj, and Boomertown. They look like Facebook — with wrinkles.
Eons? Wrinkles? I admit I don't have experience with these social networking sites, but alluding to my graying hair and age doesn't do much to convince me to click over. Couldn't they have come up with more flattering names? Maybe "Sage" or "Savoir-Faire?" Or how about "Venerable" or "Seasoned?"

I will admit I've been curious to see what all the fuss is about. I'm also curious about those online dating services. My neighbor recently spent an evening telling me about her mother's matchmaking success through eHarmony and it was quite interesting. Her mother credits the matchmaking service with pairing her up with someone compatible, and saving her the time and effort of having to ask questions in order to learn about her dates.

Sigh...the world is changing. So is the way we do things, particularly when it comes to communicating. The internet has opened up a whole new world to "venerable" people like myself. I especially love webcams. When my granddaughter was born this summer, we bought one so we could keep in touch with her and watch her grow (we live a distance away). I didn't want to leave anyone out so I screen captured a picture of Grace to share with you.

I can't even begin to imagine what technology will be like when she's a seasoned woman like me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Health care premiums continue to rise

If you pay for any of your health insurance through your employer, this latest information won't surprise you. From USA Today:

Health care premiums rise 6.1%, far outpacing wages
Health insurance premiums paid by workers and their employers rose an average of 6.1% this year, outpacing inflation and pay increases and taking a bigger chunk out of families' budgets, according to a survey out Tuesday.

The cost was down from a 7.7% increase a year earlier, according to an annual survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit research group.

This year's slowdown doesn't mean much when it outpaces wages, which rose an average of 3.7%, and inflation, which went up 2.6%, said Drew Altman, the foundation's president and CEO.

The cost for family coverage has risen 78% since 2001, while wages have risen 19% and prices for goods and services have risen 17% in that period, according to the report. [emphasis mine]
As one person commented following the article:
Jesus! Mary! Joseph! as my sainted mother used to say....

I am so discouraged with what is happening in this country I am ready to cry....
If you're interested, click here to read the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits 2007 Annual Survey.

Friday, September 07, 2007

It was a story about America

That's how Don McLean described his song "American Pie." Always one of my favorites, I thought you might enjoy this interpretation of the meaning behind the lyrics.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A new special interest group: The Working Poor

Of all the dumb comments I've heard from politicians, State Sen. Nancy Cassis wins the prize. Cassis wants to delay the onset of a promised earned income tax credit meant to give relief to Michigan's lowest-paid workers until the state's rainy day fund is restored to $250 billion, which last happened in 2001.

Why did Cassis zero in on the working poor? From the
Flint Journal:
[...] Cassis cynically refers to these working poor as just one more "special interest" among many seeking relief.
Special interest? Cassis must be confusing the working poor with Dick DeVos and his All Children Matter PAC. They're throwing around some serious money in Utah trying to win their voucher referendum.

In a post titled,
Why Is Michigan Money Coming Here?, Accountability points to the DeVos family who, "has spent a good chunk of their fortune on the PAC. Along with them, Wal-Mart heirs Jim and John Walton are frequent donors, giving more than $3 million to the PAC in 2004."

Utah isn't the sole beneficiary of their influence, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan have all received funds too.

Why is DeVos' PAC spending money in Utah?
Accountability sees it this way:
[...] it makes it clearer to me why Utah was picked for this voucher plan: It's considered a "small state" by the people who fund All Children Matter, so it would be cheaper here to run a voucher plan through the legislature and past Utah voters, and then use that victory to build momentum for campaigns in bigger states. It means this a national campaign, not just an idea that grew from Utah voters or lawmakers.

And what does this say about our legislature, that this organization targeted us -- a small, cheap state -- to pour money into some legislative campaigns in order to protect or win enough votes to get a voucher plan through the assembly? What does it say that for a few million dollars, these people from Michigan got exactly the bill they wanted, House Bill 148, by a one-vote margin in the House this winter?
Nancy Cassis knows the answer to those questions. She's a Republican. Cassis knows that money talks and money buys influence.

The special interest working poor? They don't have a chance as long as people like Cassis remain in government.

I have a favor to ask everyone, please...

Could you take a moment out of your day to read the information I'm passing along and click the link below? I posted something about Seedlings nearly two years ago if you'd like more background. Debra Bonde's non-profit organization in Livonia, MI depends entirely on fundraisers and donations. Seedlings provides braille books to blind children and works to promote the cause of braille literacy and the $10,000 prize money would really help her continue her work. Voting ends Sept. 7th. Thank you.

Debra Bonde, Director of SEEDLINGS BRAILLE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN, is a finalist for a National Award, and we need your vote! The 2007 “Stand On A Better World” Award, presented by Mannington Mills, recognizes and celebrates women who make a difference in the lives of others.

Between August 15 and September 7, go to

for more information about the award and to cast your vote for Debra Bonde & SEEDLINGS BRAILLE BOOKS (in the National category)!

Your vote could help Seedlings Braille Books for Children win $10,000 and bring some much-needed publicity to the cause of braille literacy.

Seedlings is a small nonprofit organization that Debra started in her basement in Detroit in 1984. Since then she has sent out over 240,000 braille books to children all across the US and Canada.

For more information, see:

Please note: Only one vote is allowed per computer & per email address. They send you a confirming email, and you must click the link in this email to confirm your vote or it doesn't count (some people have found the email in their spam folders so don't forget to look there)! The deadline is this Friday, September 7th!

If you have already voted, we thank you. If you can think of a few people to forward this to (or listservs to post this to), we would truly appreciate it!

With gratitude,

The Seedlings Staff


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My "Pure Michigan" Moment

I spent the weekend with my family at a campground near Jackson enjoying nature and sitting around the campfire. We had a great time. The weather was perfect - hot days and cool nights - and we never had to use our bug spray even once to ward off the mosquitoes! It can't get much better than that, but it did. A hot air balloon club out of Stockbridge spent the weekend entertaining us while they practiced maneuvers over the water. It was a "Pure Michigan" moment.

I took dozens of pictures so I thought I'd share a few with you.

I've never been in a hot air balloon because I'm not crazy about heights or water, (don't laugh... I even wear a life jacket when I ride on a pontoon boat) but after watching this group all weekend, I just might get up the courage to try it someday. How about you?