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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More children may be uninsured than thought

From MSNBC: More children may be uninsured than thought:
Associated Press
Updated: 6:06 p.m. ET July 27, 2005

For every child who lacks health insurance, another has gaps in coverage and is just as likely to miss out on seeing a doctor or getting a prescription refilled, suggests a new comprehensive study of federal data.

The research also reveals some surprises: About four out of five children with insurance coverage gaps have parents who work; two-thirds of them live with both parents; and more than half are white.

At least 9 million U.S. children, or about 12 percent, lack health insurance, based on a federal survey in 2003. Researchers who produced the latest study say that number is likely higher because many kids who lack health insurance during part of their childhood aren’t included in that number.


The original study is published in the 7/28/05 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. (Abstract; subscription required for full text.):
Results During the last 12 months before they were interviewed, 6.6 percent of children in the United States had no insurance and an additional 7.7 percent had gaps in insurance. Children who had full-year insurance coverage (private or public) had low rates of unmet health care needs and good access to care (delayed care, unmet medical care, and unfilled prescriptions were reported in <3 percent, and <5 percent had no usual place of care). Access to care was much worse for children who were uninsured for part of the year and for those who were uninsured for the full year (delayed care, 20.2 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively; unmet medical care, 13.4 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively; unfilled prescriptions, 9.9 percent and 10.0 percent, respectively; P<0.01 for all comparisons with children with full-year, private insurance coverage). In multivariate analyses adjusting for age, income, race or ethnic group, region, citizenship, family structure, parental employment, and health status, the differences in access to care persisted. As compared with the parents of children with full-year, private insurance, parents of children uninsured for the full year were far more likely to report delaying care (adjusted odds ratio, 12.65; 95 percent confidence interval, 9.45 to 16.94), as were parents of children uninsured for part of the year (adjusted odds ratio, 13.65; 95 percent confidence interval, 10.41 to 17.90).

Conclusions Children with gaps in health insurance coverage commonly do not seek medical care, including preventive visits, and do not get prescriptions filled. These findings are important for both research and policy and point to the need for more encompassing and sensitive measures of the situation of being uninsured.

Refer to my post from yesterday, CBPP Study: Government Programs have significantly reduced poverty. Also note that getting kids better access and use of preventive health care measures while they're young, translates into fewer health problems when they're older and therefore lower health care costs in the long run. This is a major tenet of John Kerry's Kids First Act (S.114), which would extend S-CHIP coverage to 11 million more low-income children, greatly improving their use of preventive health care, according to this new study cited above.

Who could be against helping children get better health care? Apparently the Republicans in Congress can, as the Kids First Act still languishes in committee, and Republicans have offered no credible alternative, while they seek to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy and increase the deficit with their Social Security scheme (not to mention $4B/month on the Iraq War).

Meteor Blades: "Congress Prepares to Pulverize 70 Years of New Deal Protections"

I had meant to post about the latest looting of the Treasury giveaway to the energy industry known as the "Energy Bill" about to come out of conference committee, but Meteor Blades at Booman Tribune is about 100 times the writer I'll ever be:

Congress Prepares to Pulverize 70 Years of New Deal Protections

by Meteor Blades
Wed Jul 27th, 2005 at 04:57:03 PM EDT
By Meteor Blades

[Cross-posted at The Next Hurrah].

Montana, that spark of Democratic hope, offers a teensy bit of that scarce stuff on the energy regulation front. But, first, an introduction.

It's taken Dick Cheney and his cronies four years to get an oligarch-friendly, environment-savaging energy bill through the House and Senate. Short of a revolt by the rank and file of Congress, however, that legislation will finally be plunked onto the President's desk before he heads out to pretend through another August that he's a Crawford rancher.

The only thing that makes this putrescent pandering to petroleum interests less awful than the likely confirmation of John Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court is that the Democrats can override today's energy legislation with their own if they're ever in the White House and congressional majority again. Roberts, on the other hand, we'll be stuck with past my 90th birthday.

While some of the details of this 1300-page bill have changed since I first wrote about it here and here nearly two years ago, it's mostly the same old pork pile. Sure, anyone can find something to like in this bill. That's the idea. Stack the bacon so high everybody gets a taste. Too few Democrats dare say no.

"putrescent pandering to petroleum interests"....beautifully precise prose, isn't it?

To read the rest, visit Booman.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Santorum claims there is no right to privacy.

From Political Forecast:

WTF Moment of the Day
July 26th, 2005

Last night on Aaron Brown, Rick Santorum that that Griswold v. Connecticut was decided wrong. This is the same decision that essentially made contraceptives legal across the United States.

Crooks and Liars has the video. And Jesus’s General has a new campaign which I’m on board with.

For us non-legal-beagles, from the cite above, here is what Oyez says about the case in question:

Facts of the Case
Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Both she and the Medical Director for the League gave information, instruction, and other medical advice to married couples concerning birth control. Griswold and her colleague were convicted under a Connecticut law which criminalized the provision of counselling, and other medical treatment, to married persons for purposes of preventing conception.

Question Presented
Does the Constitution protect the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on a couple's ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives?

Though the Constitution does not explicitly protect a general right to privacy, the various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create penumbras, or zones, that establish a right to privacy. Together, the First, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments, create a new constitutional right, the right to privacy in marital relations. The Connecticut statute conflicts with the exercise of this right and is therefore null and void.

Wow. Santorum says that's "wrongly decided"? That reminds me, it's time to donate to Bob Casey's campaign again.

CBPP Study: Government Programs have significantly reduced poverty

Hat tip to geotenn for his post on E.J. Dionne's WaPo article, "In Defense od Success: Government Really Can Lessen Poverty".

But I'll skip right to the source. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently released a series of studies showing the benefits of several government programs.

New Series of Reports Examines Research Findings

Public benefit programs cut the number of poor Americans nearly in half (from 58 million to 31 million) and dramatically reduce the severity of poverty for those who remain poor, while providing health coverage to tens of millions of people who otherwise would be uninsured, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The first set of reports, issued today, cover Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), food and nutrition programs, the Supplemental Security Income Program for the elderly and disabled poor, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Each report includes state-by-state data on the number of people assisted by that program. A separate Center report issued today examines the combined impact of the nation’s system of public benefit programs. Forthcoming reports will cover areas such as housing, child care, and child support enforcement.

Poverty Cut Nearly in Half by Public Benefit Programs

Research and data show that the U.S. system of public benefits — including programs targeted on low-income Americans (such as food stamps, Medicaid, and the EITC) as well as universal social insurance programs (such as Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance) — have helped make millions of Americans healthier and more economically secure.
When people experience crises such as job loss or disability, these programs can cushion them against deep poverty. When people have low earnings or little or no health insurance, these programs can supplement their incomes and provide health care coverage. And when people reach retirement age, these programs provide retirement and health security.

Taken together, these programs lift 27 million people out of poverty. The programs also reduce the severity of poverty for those who remain poor; they lift the average family income of those who are poor from 29 percent of the poverty line to 57 percent of the poverty line. Through Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP, the programs also provide health insurance to tens of millions of people who otherwise would lack health insurance.

You can read the rest of the press release at CPBB's website - it's too long to post here.

But, I do want to post a snippet from the Medicaid/S-CHIP report:

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the percentage of low-income children who are uninsured has fallen by more than one-third since 1997. During this period, SCHIP was established, and numerous states acted to make it simpler for children to enroll in Medicaid (see Figure 1). This improvement in coverage for low-income children is due entirely to higher enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP; private insurance coverage for children has been slipping since 1999.

Recall that S-CHIP developed out of a bill first introduced in 1996 by Senator John Kerry (the Healthy Children, Family Assistance Health Insurance Program). And this year Kerry has introduced a bill to expand S-CHIP, the KIds Come First Act (S. 114). "Kids First" would result in 11 million more children having health insurance coverage, covering kids in families up to 300% of the poverty line.

Monday, July 25, 2005

New Latin American Satellite Network goes on air; minister fears jamming by U.S.

Telesur Goes on the Air Under Fire from U.S.

MONTEVIDEO, Jul 22 (IPS) - Sunday will be the first day of broadcasting for a new Latin America-wide TV network aimed at competing with U.S. and European international news stations.

Telesur, an initiative led by Venezuela, the majority shareholder, is also being financed by the governments of Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, and will gradually become available on local cable TV channels around the region and on the DirecTV satellite system, said Venezuelan Information Minister Andres Izarra.

But the minister warned that the U.S. government could attempt to jam the station's broadcasts, which will initially cover four hours a day: "Our technological capacity is limited, and the United States is obviously superior in that aspect... We do not rule out the possibility of having to seek other routes, besides satellite, to air our programming."

Even before the content of Telesur's programming has become clear, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment Wednesday authorising Washington to create a station that would broadcast exclusively to Venezuela to "provide a consistently accurate, objective, and comprehensive source of news."

"Your tax dollars at work"??
Through its embassy in Washington, the Venezuelan government responded that all continent-wide cable and satellite stations already operate freely in Venezuela, where most of the local media outlets are not only privately-owned, but are controlled by the opposition.

The sponsor of the amendment in the U.S. legislature, Republican Rep. Connie Mack of the state of Florida, described Telesur as a threat to the United States that would undermine the balance of power in the western hemisphere and spread Chavez's "anti-American, anti-freedom rhetoric."

< snip >

Telesur is based on a multi-state concept, with the participation of a number of different stations with their own agendas, limitations and visions. Nevertheless, Telesur's programming will be directed by a central office, headed by Colombian journalist Jorge Enrique Botero.

"Almost by definition, government media are instruments of self-propaganda. Could Telesur be an exception? It's possible, above all because of the involvement of Aharonian and Botero, who have proven throughout their long professional careers to have a good sense of timing, of knowing the right time and place for everything," professor Olga Dragnic commented to IPS.

"In accordance with the ideologues from both the North and South who fervently defend the U.S. postulate of the free flow of information, Telesur should be seen as the exercise of that freedom," added Dragnic, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela and a member of Media Watch.

What some consider nothing more than a propaganda tool created by left-leaning Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is viewed by others as a major step forward on the long march towards a new world informational order, begun 40 years ago by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Left-leaning, ELECTED Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. But - unlike Connie Mack and the others who voted yes on his bill - I'll reserve judgement for now on the degree to which this new network is a propaganda tool or merely providing needed balance.

Update, 7/26/2005: the amendment mentioned in the article is H.Amdt 477 to House Bill H.R.2601, the State Department FY2006-2007 Authorization bill. The amendment was passed by voice vote - no one raised any comments at all in opposition. The comments introducing the bill start on page H6126 of the Congressional Record.

I did not find a corresponding Senate amendment addressing broadcasting, but did find a related amendment, SA.1285 to H.R.3057, which would authorize $2M for the National Endowment for Democracy to operate "democracy programs" in Venezuela, which was "agreed to in Senate by Unanimous Consent." H.R.3057 itself, btw, is fascinating reading (It's the Foreign Operations FY2006 Appropriations bill).

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Iraq on the Record

I just found this nice resource at Waxman's GRMO site:

Iraq on the Record

About Iraq on the Record
Presented by Rep. Henry A. Waxman

On March 19, 2003, U.S. forces began military operations in Iraq. Addressing the nation about the purpose of the war on the day the bombing began, President Bush stated: “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.” Two years later, many doubts have been raised regarding the Administration’s assertions about the threat posed by Iraq.

Prepared at the direction of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Iraq on the Record is a searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq. It contains statements that were misleading based on what was known to the Administration at the time the statements were made. It does not include statements that appear mistaken only in hindsight. If a statement was an accurate reflection of U.S. intelligence at the time it was made, it was excluded even if it now appears erroneous. For more information on how the statements were selected, see the full methodology. The Iraq on the Record Report is a comprehensive examination of these statements.

Well-prepared and useful. Waxman comes through again! (This man is a gem, a true Patriot.)

Not a partisan matter: Security Implications of Rove's betrayal.

This was a dynamite presentation of the real damage done by the leaking of Valerie Wilson's identity. If you didn't watch it, you need to. The cspan video and a transcript can be found at Henry Waxman's Committee on Government Reform Minority Office website, along with pdf files of individual statements, witness biographies, and other relevant documents such as a fact sheet about Karl Rove's nondisclosure agreement:

Former Intelligence Officials Testify About Damage Caused by Outing of Covert CIA Agent

Good news: I just checked the Google News main page and one of the headlines under U.S. is this LA Times article: Ex-CIA Officers Rip Bush Over Rove Leak. And "366 related." Good job, Senator Dorgan and Congressman Waxman!! And Thank You to the brave, patriotic ex-CIA officers who stepped forward to speak the truth!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

You forgot Haiti.

Be honest. You did, didn't you?

Well, Naomi Klein reminds us in this week's issue of The Nation: Aristide in Exile.

It was only ten years ago that President Clinton celebrated Aristide's return to power as "the triumph of freedom over fear." So what changed? Corruption? Violence? Fraud? Aristide is certainly no saint. But even if the worst of the allegations are true, they pale next to the rap sheets of the convicted killers, drug smugglers and arms traders who ousted Aristide and continue to enjoy free rein, with full support from the Bush Administration and the UN. Turning Haiti over to this underworld gang out of concern for Aristide's lack of "good governance" is like escaping an annoying date by accepting a lift home from Charles Manson.

A few weeks ago I visited Aristide in Pretoria, South Africa, where he lives in forced exile. I asked him what was really behind his dramatic falling-out with Washington. He offered an explanation rarely heard in discussions of Haitian politics--actually, he offered three: "privatization, privatization and privatization."

The dispute dates back to a series of meetings in early 1994, a pivotal moment in Haiti's history that Aristide has rarely discussed. Haitians were living under the barbaric rule of Raoul Cédras, who overthrew Aristide in a 1991 US-backed coup. Aristide was in Washington and despite popular calls for his return, there was no way he could face down the junta without military back-up. Increasingly embarrassed by Cédras's abuses, the Clinton Administration offered Aristide a deal: US troops would take him back to Haiti--but only after he agreed to a sweeping economic program with the stated goal to "substantially transform the nature of the Haitian state."

< snip >

Aristide's relationship with Washington has been deteriorating ever since: While more than $500 million in promised loans and aid were cut off, starving his government, USAID poured millions into the coffers of opposition groups, culminating ultimately in the February 2004 armed coup.

And the war continues. On June 23 Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, called on UN troops to take a more "proactive role" in going after armed pro-Aristide gangs. In practice, this has meant a wave of Falluja-like collective punishment inflicted on neighborhoods known for supporting Aristide. On July 6, for instance, 300 UN troops stormed Cité Soleil, blocking off exits and firing from armored vehicles. The UN admits that five were killed, but residents put the number of dead at no fewer than twenty. Reuters correspondent Joseph Guyler Delva says he "saw seven bodies in one house alone, including two babies and one older woman in her 60s." Ali Besnaci, head of Médecins Sans Frontières in Haiti, confirmed that on the day of the siege twenty-seven people came to the MSF clinic with gunshot wounds, three-quarters of them women and children.

Yet despite these attacks, Haitians are still on the streets--rejecting the planned sham elections, opposing privatization and holding up photographs of their president. And just as Washington's experts could not fathom the possibility that Aristide would reject their advice a decade ago, today they cannot accept that his poor supporters could be acting of their own accord--surely Aristide must be controlling them through some mysterious voodoo arts. ...

Please go to the article at the Nation website and read the rest.

Now, let's review. The U.S. backs a coup in 1991 to overthrow Aristide. The U.S. helps Aristide return to power after he agrees to an economic program of privatizing state industries. Aristide agrees to the privatization but only with profit-sharing to the lower classes, approved by Parliament. When such approval didn't occur quickly enough, the U.S. pulls economc aid to the Haitian government and starts funding opposition groups, culminating in a coup in February 2004 to remove Aristide from power once again.

So....the U.S. is doing what in Haiti? "Spreading democracy"?

For those of you who haven't noticed, the "democracy" - also referred to as "freedom" - that the folks behind this stuff are trying to spread, is not "free and fair elections", "free press", "first amendment rights" freedom. No. When these people say "freedom", they are referring merely to the freedom for one person or group of people to grab as much as they can, for as long as they can, with no obligation to support the society that makes it possible for them to grab so much for themselves. It's called unregulated capitalism. And that is what the people in our government who funded Aristide's overthrow(s) want - to force the false "democracy" of economic privatization on every country they can, so that their global corporate patrons can make even more money and pay even higher patronage.

Two totally different definitions of "freedom". Let's not get them confused.

Related Links:

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bill Moyers returns to PBS as anchor for "Wide Angle"

(Hat tip to bumblebums at My Left Wing.)

Bill Moyers returns to PBS as the anchor for the show Wide Angle. To be honest, I want Bill's version of Now back. But I'll take this. And since Bill seems to just get better with age, Wide Angle should be a great show.

The intro, from the Wide Angle "about" page:
Americans, post-September 11, recognize a new and urgent need to understand the political, economic, and social forces shaping the world today. To address this need, Thirteen/WNET New York presents WIDE ANGLE, a weekly series of one-hour international documentaries, anchored by Bill Moyers.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Why is the DREAM Act still only a dream?

This week (Saturday 7/16 - Tuesday 7/19) the National Council of La Raza is holding its annual conference in Philadelphia. As described in this editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the major topics of the convention will be immigration status. As someone who generally leans toward controlling immigration, I would not necessarily expect to find common cause with La Raza on immigration issues. But I found that I can get wholeheartedly behind at least one of their legislative priorities: the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. As summed up in this Inquirer blurb:
The Dream Act would give conditional legal status for six years to students who:

• Came to the United States before age 16.
• Have lived in the United States for at least five years.
• Have good moral character.
• Have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED in the United States.

To become a green-card holder, at the end of those six years, the immigrant must complete two years of university or community college, or serve two years in the U.S. military.

This Inquirer article, Immigrants hit an education wall, describes the situation without the DREAM Act, and how the DREAM Act would give these kids the opportunity to realize the American Dream. After reading about the plight of these kids, I was convinced that this is an immigration door we should open - it makes sense, since post-secondary education or military service is made a requirement. To square with my views on controlling immigration, all that is needed, theoretically, would be to reduce another quota to make room for the estimated numbers of kids coming in through the DREAM door. Except of course, our quotas make zero sense now anyway, and also there may not be any significant impact of legitimizing these kids staying in the U.S., since many are probably staying illegally anyway. The DREAM Act just creates an opportunity for legitimization that requires a little effort on the part of the applicant. And if a group like La Raza likes it, I'm assuming it must be okay from the immigrant' viewpoint.

So, perfect, right? We have a proposal that both (sane) sides of the discussion agree on, that is humane and results in added opportunities for an immigrant to attain legal status.

Well, here's what can be so depressing about following politics. Here's what La Raza's policy summary says about where the DREAM Act sits in Congress:
Both the "DREAM Act" and the House companion bill are awaiting reintroduction in the 109th Congress. At the close of the 108th Congress, both the "DREAM Act" and the House bill had garnered significant support from both Democrats and Republicans. The "DREAM Act" was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 16-3 bipartisan vote and had 48 Senate cosponsors. The House bill had the support of 153 representatives in the U.S. House.

I looked at the Thomas website and found that, in the 108th Congress (last year), the Senate bill, S.1545, was reported out of committee on 2/9/2004. Meanwhile, the House bill, H.R.1684, was referred to subcommittee on 5/5/2003 - never to be heard from again for the rest of the 108th Congress - 19 months. With 152 bi-partisan cosponsors on the House bill, and 48 on the Senate bill.

How in the world does a bill with such broad bi-partisan support just die in Congress like that? No wonder the American public doesn't want to be bothered with politics. Seeing something like this, one really wonders what's the point.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

U.S. Healthcare Costs: It's not the lawsuits.

MSNBC reports today on a study sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, which found that, compared to European countries and other industrialized nations,

[Americans] have less access to most health services and higher costs associated with malpractice insurance have only a marginal effect on overall health spending.

Regarding those lawsuits and their "high awards":

Average awards lower in U.S.
Americans do file more lawsuits, Anderson’s team reported. ”The United States had 50 percent more malpractice claims filed per 1,000 population than the United Kingdom and Australia, and 350 percent more than Canada,” they wrote.

“Two-thirds of the U.S. claims were dropped, dismissed or found in favor of the defendant.”

The average payout was $265,000, lower than the average award in Britain or Canada, they found.

Congress is working on bills that would limit malpractice claims.

Doctors say skyrocketing insurance premiums are driving them out of business while insurers blame big awards and frivolous lawsuits.

The Senate has repeatedly taken up, but failed to pass, legislation that would limit damages, usually to $250,000 per claim. Similar legislation has passed the House.

In 2002 Anderson and colleagues reported that Americans spent $5,267 per capita for health care, $1,821 more than the next-highest spender, Switzerland.

Related Links:

Don't blame lawsuits for rising health costs: Study finds high price of services, drugs account for steep expenses - MSNBC story

Commonwealth Fund home page

Health Spending in the United States and the Rest of the Industrialized World - discussion at The Commonwealth Fund, which sponsored the study; links to the study report.

The study, as reported in Health Affairs. (link to abstract; subscription required for full article). For those with access to a good library that has a subscription to Health Affairs, here's the citation:

Health Spending In The United States And The Rest Of The Industrialized World
Anderson et al. Health Affairs.2005; 24: 903-914.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

If we couldn't laugh: British humour on National ID proposal

if we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane - Jimmy Buffet

Found this on the blog, Just a Bump in the Beltway:

Home Secretary Charles Clarke of Great Britain has pushed for new national ID cards for citizens of the UK for quite a while now. The purpose is to track the citizens and presumably help law enforcement with their jobs. Apparently, these cards are supposed to contain multiple biometric items within them to make them harder to forge and to allow the authorities easy access to the person's identity with a quick scan of the bar code.

As you can imagine, many people have not been very enthusiastic about it and some of them have struck back here . Take a look and have a good laugh but remember that there are plans to change our policies and add biometrics to them in the US.

Conflict resolution: George Ellis speaks on Kenosis

This morning I listened, as usual, to my local NPR station, WHYY, as I gathered my energy to meet the day. This morning the Speaking of Faith program, titled "Science and Hope", featured an interview with George Ellis, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, and recipient of the Templeton Prize "for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities." I found the entire program interesting, but especially when he spoke about the concept of kenosis, a greek word I understood roughly to mean "emptying out." In Ellis' presentation he spoke of kenosis as a technique of emptying oneself of ego and selfish goals. This enables one to sacrifice and take risks for others and/or for the greater good.

The most compelling part of the program to me was when Ellis answered a question about how the concept of kenosis could be applied to a conflict like in Iraq. He gave an actual historical example that demonstrates that an ethical approach to military action can be successful. I highly recommend that you listen to at least that portion of the interview (it starts at about the 41:15 mark).

Listen to the interview with George Ellis here.
Read the notes and view links to many related resources here.

Friday, July 08, 2005

New Jersey enacts Voter Verified Paper Trail!

I heard this on the 8 p.m. top-of-the-hour news on WHYY, but unfortunately was unable to find the story on their website. But WNYC has a brief story, Changes Ahead for NJ Voters, which notes that Acting Governor Richard Codey signed several bills today affecting the conduct of elections in N.J.:

(I'm looking for a complete list of bill numbers. From VerifiedVoting.org it seems the VVPT bill was N.J. Senate bill S.29.)

This is great news. To see how other states are progressing with VVPT, you can look at the map at VerifiedVoting.org.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Some thoughts on the London Bombings, and vulnerable chemical plants.

I heard about the bombings first thing this morning when I woke up and turned on the radio. At that time no one knew yet, for sure that it was a terrorist attack - but it sure sounded like it to me. I cried a little, because even though they weren't yet talking about fatalities, I knew there must be some. It seems so unfair, that people peacefully going about their business, would have their lives shattered like that.

Then I heard Tony Blair making his statement, and I felt for him, too. You could hear the pain in his voice and yet the strength and determination. For all I have criticized Blair for going along with Bush in the Iraq Debacle, I have seen many reasons to respect him lately, especially with his insistence on focusing the G8 on poverty and global warming, and pressuring Bush to at least acknowledge that global warming is a problem. It is plain to see why, despite Iraq, Blair has never had any real problem getting re-elected.

After arriving at my own job, I checked in with Light Up the Darkness and was gratified to see they had already posted a statement from John Kerry, which I'll post here in its entirety (but do go over to LUTD for the comments, if you haven't already been):

"Every American heart feels for the British people and the families of those killed and injured in today's horrific terrorist bombings in London. As a country which has also experienced tragedy at the hands of cowardly killers and which keeps faith with the special alliance Prime Minister Tony Blair reaffirmed on September 11th, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

"In addition to words of condolence and condemnation, America should offer every assistance to Great Britain in dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy and in hunting down and destroying those responsible. We must reaffirm that cold blooded killers will not for a moment stop the critical work of the G-8 nations in showing the world the strength of our shared values and our commitment to ending poverty around the globe. The terrorists should hear from all of us today: the future belongs not to fear, but to freedom. We must also be vigilant here at home to take every step needed to complete the unfinished work of homeland security, strengthening our port security, rail security, protecting chemical plants, and securing loose nuclear materials abroad. While these attacks remind us that the fight is far from over, they also strengthen our resolve to stand together for the right of free people to live in a peaceful world."

I don't know if I can convey how much it meant to me to see that statement, so sympathetic and gracious, yet strong and firm in the right ways, when I was feeling so down about the news. I understand why leadership in times of trial means so much to people. I remember thinking on the morning of September 11th, "if only we had a real president now, when we really need one." I didn't get my wish that day - I have never been able to trust Bush in that way, or be inspired by him - but at least I got my wish today, sort of. At least to hear the right words from a trusted leader, is some help in a time of despair. Now if only John Kerry had the power of the presidency for real, so that he would have more ability to actually accomplish the work that needs to be done.

The second to the last line of Kerry's statment reminds me of an unfinished post that I was working on last night, about an analysis (pdf) just released by the Congressional Research Service which gives a state by state assessment of the worst-case risks of an attack on a chemical plant. The numbers are pretty scary, and N.J. Senators Corzine and Lautenberg are calling for action, as well as the Massachusetts Congressman who requested the study initially, U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey. I wish I had posted that last night as I intended, it would have been great timing, huh. But really, I wish our federal government would get its act together and put better protections in place. Because I don't hold out much hope for "terrorism" being completely defeated anytime soon, even if I do think that in the end, we will overcome it.

In the meantime, my heart and my prayers go out to all of the victims of terrorism today, especially those in London, but also the many victims throughout the world whose plight is somewhat shadowed today by the spotlight on the London tragedy. May we somehow find a way to start resolving our conflicts peacefully, stop motivating terrorism in the first place, but also learn to protect ourselves from the ravaged souls who will always exist, so that we stop hate and violence in its tracks, rather than allowing it to accomplish its ugly deeds and breed more hate. John Kerry is right in calling for vigilance: it is our responsibility to stop these tragedies from happening. Only then can we begin to stop the cycle of hate and violence.

Monday, July 04, 2005

John McCain is no moderate.

Okay, most of my readers knew that already. But I discovered this blog post today that does an excellent job laying it out there graphically - with a comparison to rabid right-wingers Santorum and Frist, vs. a spectrum of Democrats: Reid, Lieberman, Clinton, and Kerry. Check it out. The poster only made one goof that I saw, and that was failing to note the reason for Kerry's low score from the LCV - LCV counts a non-vote as a "wrong vote", and Kerry missed a lot of votes in the last session due to being on the campaign trail. See my post in the comments for Kerry's real record fom LCV. Regardless, it's a great visual on just how moderate McCain isn't. For those of you who had any doubts.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

And so it begins...but what about everything else?

On Friday, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court. Almost instantly, all progressive 'guns' were swung around to bear on the expected appointment of a right-wing ideologue to replace her. But what about

While we are battling the spectre of losing the Supreme Court to right-wing ideologues, will we forget about these other important issues? I sure hope not.

There are so many sites and organizations scrambling around the Supreme Court nomination issue that I think I'll just take a pass, and continue reporting on the other topics that are currently being drowned out by the "Save Roe!" chorus. Okay, probably I will post on the SC confirmation battle occasionally in the future, particularly when candidates are announced. But there are so many other issues to pay attention to, and frankly - sorry to be defeatist - I think the S.C. nomination is essentially a fait accompli, as it was on November 2, 2004, when so many ostensibly "pro-choice" voters went to the polls and decided it was more important to vote for the guy who "hugged Ashley", then the guy who would protect their civil rights and work effectively with other nations - and who, by the way, routinely participates in charity events - like 80-mile bike rides in freezing rain - to actually help people who are hurting. Of course the MSM didn't bother to tell us that side of John Kerry before the election; but the MSM's failure does not excuse, or wash the blood from the hands of, those who voted for Bush: there were far too many obvious - and reported - reasons that Bush needed to be fired; the lies against Kerry were exposed as lies, for anyone bothering to check the facts - and those voters voted for Bush (or against Kerry) anyway.

As the rights of Americans are rolled back over the next decade or three, as more Americans die in criminal wars, as more innocent foreigners - including "women and children" - but aren't the men of equal value? - die in those same criminal wars, the blood on Bush voters' hands will seep ever deeper into their souls. America lost dearly on November 2, 2004. While many of us knew it then, many more still haven't figured it out. I'll predict that a bunch of them are about to.

Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's public statements on Iraq
The Bush Administration's
public statements on Iraq
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