A Quick Eulogy for a Man Who Deserves Only the Kindest Words

17 Dec

Sen. Daniel Inouye, a man for fought tirelessly for justice, passed away today at the age of 88. In both his service in WWII, for which he received the Medal of Honor, the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts among other commendations; and in his legislative service of 3 years of as Representative of Hawaii, and 50 years as Senator; Dan fought inequality wherever he saw it. As a legislator, he fought hard for the civil rights of people of color, women, LBGTQ Americans, and people with disabilities. He worked indefatigably to ensure the crimes the US committed against Native Americans and Japanese Americans were never forgotten, and to restore rights to our Native American population. He helped pass hate crime legislation, and secured funds for victims of domestic violence. He was passionate about making our gun policy safer. Unlike a distressing number of politicians, what Sen. Inouye truly cared about was representing his state honorably, routinely telling his staff members that if he ever got to the point where his aging impeded his ability to properly perform his duties as Senator, they should do whatever they could to get him out of office. He wanted Hawaii to have the best representation it could — with or without him.

Sen. Inouye was one of the good guys: he got where he was because he cared so deeply about the American people. We would be incredibly fortunate if we had more legislators like him. His passing is not just a loss for his family, or for the state of Hawaii, but for all of us. May he rest in peace.

 

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Voter Suppression and Bigotry

30 Oct

For the first time, we actually have international election fraud watchers coming to monitor our elections this year.  Let that sink in for a minute.  We have the Romney campaign training poll watchers in Wisconsin to intimidate potential voters, dispersing false information about whether they can vote or not.  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/10/30/1106961/romney-wisconsin-poll-watchers/ *

It’s ironic: our former president, Jimmy Carter, goes to countries far away to make sure that their elections are fairly counted and free of intimidation. Looks like we actually need him here now. It’s sad and depressing that this is happening in the US in 2012. Too bad that almost 50 years after it was passed, we’re learning that the Voting Rights Act is woefully inadequate.

Voter suppression shouldn’t be a liberal or conservative issue. We should all encourage that Americans do their most fundamental patriotic duty. Instead, we intimidate people at their polling stations. We pass “voter ID” laws to disenfranchise the poor and people of color, even though voter fraud is practically nonexistent. We put up billboards in both English and Spanish in areas with large numbers of Latino voters that say voter fraud is a crime that gets you jail time. We make sure that the punishment of incarceration continues past a man’s prison time; we want ex-convicts to readjust (without little to no help) to life on the outside, but in most states, we won’t give them access to America’s quintessential symbol of freedom. We have lower voter turnout rates than every single country that is even remotely like ours.

We have failed our citizens. We have failed our country. It is 2012, and we’re still enacting poll taxes and literacy tests, disguised by a “color-blind” veneer of worrying about a problem that doesn’t exist. This does not mean these policies are any less racist or xenophobic.

Let me state this bluntly: it is 2012, and there are many influential people in one of our two major parties who are trying their hardest to ensure that our electorate is as white and middle/upper class as possible. These politicians have the support of a large number of Americans.

People refer to America as “post-racial.” Well, congratulations to us. Why risk wearing wearing a white hood when you can talk in code through “color-blind” rhetoric? Why risk organizing a lynching when you can simply wait for so many of our men of color to go to prison, thanks to a criminal justice system that is, at best, unintentionally insanely racist, and at worst, deliberately designed to be that way?** Why use racial slurs when you can say whatever you want as long as you preface it with “I’m not racist, BUT…?”

In an America where openly admitting racism is finally considered a bad thing, people won’t take these risks, and they don’t have to do so. They can be just as hateful, but always have a place to hide if called out on their bigotry. They know that their peers will wonder if their accuser is “playing the race card.”

What does “post-racial” really mean? It means that even though we’ve improved in terms of race, our definition of “racism” hasn’t changed: people still think it reflects intentional individual acts of hatred, such as burning a cross in someone’s yard. Because of this gap in comprehension, institutional racism often goes unrecognized by the privileged group (white people), because it isn’t easily understood as person X doing or saying Y to person Z. This phenomenon combined with the fact that racism is almost universally considered bad by everyone the Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t tracking, means that it is considered worse to be called racist than for (most) racism to actually exist.

So once again, congratulations, America.  We are “post-racial,” and we care deeply about “voter fraud,” and golly, if that means that even fewer people vote, then I guess that’s what has to happen.  Right.

We have failed our country.  We have failed ourselves.

* Shout out to Rich for sharing this link.  I hadn’t yet checked TP today.

** Please read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.

*** If you think this sentence is hyperbolic, think about how so many white individuals respond to an accusation of racism.  Think about how many of their white friends respond when they see their friend accused of it, too.  Think about all the excuses you’ve heard.  Think about all the exclamations of “but I didn’t MEAN it that way,” as if intention is a magical thing that can automatically undo the harm of an act (if I step on your toe, it’ll hurt even if I did it accidentally).  Think about all the times you’ve heard someone say something racist, and you’ve either let the comment slide, or agonized over the most delicate way to phrase that your acquaintance/friend/significant other has said something that “you know, could be, by some people, considered kind of racist, I guess.”  Think about all the excuses you’ve heard for institutional racism: why people of color are more likely to be turned down for loans than whites, even with the same financial situation; why people of color are dramatically more likely to be arrested for drug possession, even though every study has determined that drug use is constant across racial bounds (in fact, one study even showed that a slightly larger percentage of whites use drugs than any other race).  Do you really think my statement was so unreasonable now?

Paul Ryan, Vice President of Truthiness

12 Oct

Every time I see a person writing about how last night’s vice presidential debate was a draw — or that, somehow, Paul Ryan won — I get angry.

Why? Part of it is that Paul Ryan looked like a little boy in a debate with a man. Part of it is that he couldn’t defend his points all that well. Part of it is that sometimes, he sounded utterly incoherent.

The big thing that bothers me, though, is that the fundamental exchange in our debates has changed. Even back in 2008, Obama and McCain each tried to explain why his policy was better than the other’s. While they had very different views of what America needed to do, they accepted (pretty much) the same set of facts. Both of them looked at what was actually happening, and came to their own conclusions about how to fix it. Sure, there was spin. Obama blamed the entire financial crisis on Bush. While that’s almost true, the ball really started rolling under Clinton’s watch when Glass-Steagal was repealed. McCain tried to (ridiculously, in my opinion, considering the obstructionism of the Republicans) shift blame to the Democrats, who had majorities in both houses of Congress from 2006-2008, saying that they should’ve done more. What we saw was mostly spin; outright falsehoods were rare.

That wasn’t the case this time around. The Romney tax plan is NOT economically feasible, and Joe Biden repeatedly pointed this out. Either it adds $4.8 trillion to our debt, OR Romney balances it by drastically cutting expenditures — and you know they won’t cut defense. The costs of a tax cut for the wealthy would have to be on the back of the poor and the middle class. Romney says that the tax cuts will spur so much growth that it will make up the cost of the cut. Even the most optimistic studies have shown this to be false; the degree of growth to which Romney and Ryan are banking on has never happened. It does not make economic sense, and as a self-proclaimed “numbers guy,” Ryan have more a more solid understanding of such basic economics. Biden repeatedly pointed out that it is NOT mathematically possible for the Romney-Ryan tax cut to NOT increase our debt without hurting the poor and the middle class; if the Romney-Ryan tax cut passes, at least one of these scenarios will happen. Ryan just kept saying that it was, indeed, possible. THAT IS BLATANTLY NOT TRUE.

This is just one example. Another example would be that Ryan and Romney repeatedly misrepresented their own healthcare plans. Romney spoke of keeping coverage for people with pre-existing conditions — but this is only true if they have insurance in the first place. If an uninsured person with a pre-existing condition tries to obtain insurance under the Romney-Ryan plan, insurance companies will still be able to legally deny him coverage.  Romney and Ryan have repeatedly said that the Affordable Care Act adds to our debt, even though the Congressional Budget Office determined that the Affordable Care Act actually will reduce our debt by $210 billion over the next ten years.

Ryan also tried to take advantage of America’s poor math scores, implying that the 7.8% unemployment rate was inaccurate because one city, Scranton, had a 10% unemployment rate. The 7.8% is an AVERAGE. This means some cities will have a higher rate; some will have a lower rate.  The average American woman is 5’4.”  The fact that I am 5’11” does not imply that the average is incorrect; rather, my height is statistically improbable, but not impossible.  We can have an average unemployment rate of 7.8%, and have 10% in Scranton.  There are places like Arlington, VA, for example, that make up for all of America’s Scrantons by having a 3.7% unemployment rate (as of June 2012).

In 2008, I was frustrated with McCain’s POSITIONS — not his FACTS. In 2012, I’m pissed off at BOTH from team Romney-Ryan. They are willing to choose their own facts, and then state that they’re true over and over again, hoping that the American public will believe them. It’s like they’re running for president and vice president of the Colbert Nation.

No Person Should Live in Fear

13 Sep

Today is the 18th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  On this day in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the bill drafted by our vice president, Joe Biden, then Senator from Delaware, that has made it possible for millions of women and families to escape violence.

Unfortunately, VAWA expired in 2011.  Why is its reauthorization a year overdue?  You can thank the House Republicans for that.

This hurts women. This hurts families.

VAWA makes sure that rape by a partner is recognized as rape, just like rape by a stranger.

VAWA established the National Domestic Violence Hotline, so that women and families in trouble with nowhere else to turn can get out of dangerous home situations.  It helps over 22,000 victims a month, and has assisted more than three million in total since it was founded.

VAWA makes stalking illegal, so that people who are living in constant fear of being watched or attacked have recourse.

VAWA trains law enforcement so that officers know how to work with abuse victims.

VAWA helps fund the organizations, like rape crisis and abuse centers, where victims can go to feel safe and get help.

VAWA provides specific assistance to get victims with disabilities the resources they need so that they move on with their lives after violence.

VAWA provides legal aid for victims.  The new law gives victims a chance at justice, but without this aid, many will not be able to afford it.

VAWA provides transitional housing to women and families who have been kicked out of their homes because they refuse to be beaten anymore.

VAWA created the “rape shield” law, making it illegal on a federal level for a rape defense to include a victim’s past sexual experiences as an excuse for raping her.

As I said, refusing to reauthorize VAWA hurts women, and it hurts families.

Now, if this bill is so important, why hasn’t it been reauthorized?  Why would the Republicans block this?

The Senate version expanded the original bill. Now, the bill guarantees protections for same-sex partners (currently, organizations that receive funds under VAWA can legally discriminate against LGBTQ people, and this version is rectifying this problem), and expands protections for undocumented immigrants and Native Americans.  The bill would grant more visas to undocumented women and children escaping violent family members, because right now, the limit is set too low; people who are in danger are being turned down and are unable to escape their families.  Also, considering domestic violence is particularly present in the Native American population — 1 in 3 Native American women are raped, and 2 in 5 are victims of domestic violence — it is incredibly important to adopt the Senate version of the bill.  As it stands, tribal jurisdiction does not cover violence upon Native American women if their partners are not Native American themselves.  This is a huge problem because 58% of married Native American women’s husbands are not themselves Native American.

While state and federal prosecutors have jurisdiction on reservations when it comes to domestic violence cases, it is rarely exercised.  See, local jurisdictions tend to handle domestic violence cases, but they do not have the authority to prosecute on reservations: that would be the job of the federal government or the state.  However, since domestic violence is a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony in most jurisdictions, and because federal and state offices are swamped with so many felonies to prosecute, they tend to ignore cases of Native American domestic violence; these cases are not simply unfamiliar, but also less “important” than the others.   The Senate version of the reauthorization allows tribal courts to prosecute any domestic violence case that takes place on reservation ground, regardless of who the perpetrator is.  Without this new provision, it will remain difficult for many battered Native American women to get the help they need and justice they deserve.

Regardless of how you feel about gay marriage or illegal immigration, people’s right to their own bodily safety should be unquestioned. By refusing to accept this version of the bill, the House Republicans are saying that they would rather women be beaten and raped by their partners, often with no ability to escape, and no legal recourse, than allow lesbians, gay men, Native Americans, and undocumented immigrants to live without fear of their partners.  Apparently, it doesn’t matter if people who are LGBT, Native American or undocumented immigrants are raped, beaten or killed by the people who claim to love them.  Considering the Republican-backed House bill actually weakens existing measures to help undocumented victims, it almost seems like House Republicans think these people and their families deserve to be hurt and terrified; it’s one thing to prefer to keep the level of VAWA’s protection where it is, but quite another to actively attempt to reduce the ability of the US to help immigrant victims and potentially save their lives.  At the very least, the Republicans are denying their humanity: they care so little about whether these women are raped, or that their families are beaten or murdered, that they see no problem with making it even more difficult for them to escape violent situations. Also, they want to turn away — or at least retain the right to refuse to help — LGBTQ people, Native Americans and immigrants so much that they’re willing to let VAWA expire, hurting all women and families who are domestic violence survivors.  Of course, it could also be that these congressmen care so little about women who have been beaten and/or raped in general that they’re okay with VAWA expiring.  Something tells me both may be true.

No one deserves to be raped — by a stranger or a partner. No one deserves to be beaten, stalked or killed by a loved one. It doesn’t matter who you are, who you love, or how you got here. No one deserves this. This is why we need to reauthorize VAWA with its new protections: everyone has the basic human right to feel bodily secure in her person. It’s astounding that the House Republicans don’t agree.

The Platform We’ve Been Expecting

23 Aug

The GOP is writing its new national platform just in time for the upcoming convention.  It’s not finished yet, but since issue stances are approved one by one, we already know a lot of what the platform will say.  Not surprisingly, the “new” platform solidifies the Republican acceptance all of the far right extremism we’ve seen since President Obama was elected.  The Republicans are not saying anything new — we’ve heard all of this time and time again from candidate after candidate — but they’re now codifying their dangerous ideas and embracing them on a national level.  This will probably be the most far right major party platform we’ve ever seen in this country.  Here’s a sampling of what the Republicans hope will be the new laws of America.

 

1.  Immigration Policy, or Anti-Latino Bigotry

Today, the platform embraced Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the draconian, xenophobic, racist immigration law the state has that was mostly dismantled by the Supreme Court.  To put it simply: “papers, please” lives on, but the rest is gone.  The court assessed the law in terms of state vs. federal power, determining that out of the four main parts of the law, three of them were unconstitutional because they intruded upon the federal government’s right to set the laws of its own borders (I’d go into more detail, but this isn’t a post about Arizona v. US; I wish I’d written one).  This means that the national Republican party wants to pass this a similar law on the federal level; this way, there won’t be any more supremacy clause issues.

However, in Arizona v. US, the court noted that they were not judging the constitutionality of the law with respect to the 14th amendment, implying that there’s definitely a good equal protection violation argument against the law.  In fact, the little that’s left of the immigration law is winding its way through the judiciary system, with federal District Court Judge (for the District of Arizona) Susan Bolton hearing the case in terms of equal protection violation yesterday.  On Monday, the 11th Circuit allowed for Georgia and Alabama’s (even worse, if you can believe that) anti-immigration laws to stand.  However, I wouldn’t hold my breath for these to stand at the SCOTUS level — or at least, God, I hope these laws are overturned, because aside from being repulsive on the level of civil and human rights, they blatantly disregard the 14th amendment.

 

2.  Protecting “Human Life,” or How to Control a Lady and Faking Scientific Knowledge

Despite Republican condemnation of Rep. Todd Akin, the national platform embraces a stance on abortion that stems from Akin’s principles — it just lacks Akin’s fabricated “medical” BS (I may write more about this in another post).  In other words, the Republicans aren’t complaining about his policy understanding: they just think he should’ve been more vague and less openly misogynistic when talking about it.  The GOP wants to pass a “human life amendment” to the US Constitution, outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest, because as Republicans such as Mike Huckabee have pointed out, a child is always a gift from God. (TRIGGER WARNING) This is true regardless of whether it is conceived out of love; a broken condom; or a violent, potentially PTSD-inducing, and continually humiliating and ostracizing experience that may leave you traumatized for the rest of your life.  After all, wasn’t it worth being brutally raped by your father, a man who is supposed to protect and take care of you, to have your precious little sister-daughter?

Moving on, the platform’s language also praises “informed consent” laws — some of which are very similar to those outlawed in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey — such as mandatory waiting periods; mandatory ultrasounds (like in Bob McDonnell’s original and current abortion laws in Virginia); and regulation of abortion clinics, which may sound fine at first, but what actually happens is that legislatures impose completely unnecessary provisions such as stringent rules on room dimensions that serve no medical purpose.  Instead, they’re solely imposed to force abortion clinics to close their doors because one of their walls is eight inches too short.

Now, since this is a “human life amendment” and not an anti-abortion amendment, it affects stem cell research as well.  If the GOP got its way, there would be no more federally-funded stem cell research.  In other words, who cares if you’re paralyzed?  There are LIVES in there.

I’d like to pose a question to those who claim that life begins at conception: let’s say you’re walking by an IVF clinic, and suddenly, the entire building is engulfed in flames.  Almost everyone manages to get out, but they’re all too injured to go back to save who is left.  You are the only one who can do it, and you can only go in once.  You run in, and there are two rooms.  In the first, there is a sobbing, badly burned four year old boy.  In the other, there’s a container holding ten human blastocysts.  What room do you choose?  Do you save the boy or the container?

You probably saved the four year old, right?  Now, what if there were 50 blastocysts?  100?  1000?

You still want to save the kid, don’t you?  In fact, you’re going to save the kid every single time, regardless of how many blastocysts are suspended in liquid in that container, aren’t you?

In other words, you are prioritizing currently existing human life over potential life.  Clearly, you think that some forms of life are more important than others.  Why does this prioritization disappear when we’re talking about sick people or adult women as opposed to children*?  Considering the increasing number of Republicans who claim that pregnancies should not be terminated to save the life of the mother, why do people think a young boy is more important than an infinite blastocysts, but an adult female is worth less than just one?  How about all those sick people who will die without stem cell intervention — don’t they matter, too?

* You guys DO know that kids get sick, too, right?  Just checking.

Leaving the stem cell discussion behind, it’s important to note that the national party is not advocating a policy position of no abortions EVER, even if the mother would die without one — just a disturbing number of party members.  The official policy does not prefer the blastocyst to the woman.  (TRIGGER WARNING) Rather, the GOP believes it’s more important for a fetus to remain implanted in the womb than for a woman to potentially have her life destroyed once again (because rape on its own wasn’t enough).  Clearly, carrying a rape-fetus to term isn’t 100% soul-crushing to every single one of the 32,000 survivors a year who become pregnant as a result of their rape, but apparently women don’t deserve the choice to see if they can handle it.  In fact, it doesn’t matter if pregnancy as a result of rape IS soul-crushing; the female, currently-living human life’s entire perception of her existence is insignificant.  What IS important is that there could potentially be a baby, although that’s definitely not a given — even though it IS a given that the rape victim is around.  Oh well!  As a female rape victim, she has been honored by a rape-child, and she should shut up about it already and realize just how fortunate she is.

 

3.  Voter ID, or Keeping the Poor and the People of Color Away from the Polls

Countless numbers of exposés, including the fantastic work on the Daily Show lately, have proven over and over again that there is effectively NO IN PERSON VOTER FRAUD.  Since 2000, only ten cases have been documented in the entire US — less than one per year.  Regardless, in the past several years (although this issue has only recently been extensively discussed in the media), many states have enacted voter ID laws.  In other words, you must have a state-issued ID to be able to vote on top of being an eligible, registered voter.

So, if there’s no in person voter fraud, why on earth would anyone want to enact laws that make it harder to perform our most basic civic duty?  Well, as Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, a Republican, has openly admitted, mandatory voter ID is how Mitt Romney would be able to win the state’s electoral votes this November.

Data analysis has shown that Republicans overwhelmingly tend to win elections when fewer people are voting.  This gives the party a huge incentive to restrict the number of voters.  Now, they’ve been doing this for years; for example, we’ve disenfranchised released felons for no good reason for years now (if you really want former prisoners to reintegrate into society, you probably shouldn’t be depriving them of the right to vote, the most quintessential symbol of being a model citizen).  This isn’t enough, however.  There are still a good number of voters.

Who tends to be liberal?  Academics, of course — after all, Republicans really enjoy railing against them — but it’s really difficult to stop them from voting.  Any other currently active groups who tend to vote Democrat who are easy to disenfranchise?  There are several, actually, including the poor, people of color, and students/youth.  Of course, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 makes it a lot harder to disenfranchise people.  Now, you have to provide at least the illusion that voting restrictions are “colorblind.”  For example, people are fine with disenfranchising felons.  This is true even though our criminal justice system is incredibly stacked against people of color (please read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander if you haven’t).  While drug use is constant across racial bounds — and thus you’d expect the percentage of drug users arrested by race to equal their demographic percentages — 37% of those arrested for drug crimes are black.  The problem?  Only 13% of the American population is black.  Despite this, people don’t complain about this disenfranchisement because the term “felon” is colorblind.  ANYONE can be a “felon;” if most felons are people of color, that’s just a coincidence (or, for many, it’s proof that their racism is justified).

Voter ID is a “colorblind” — and ostensibly non-classist — concept as well; after all, ANYONE can have one.  However, the voter ID requirement serves as a modern iteration of the poll tax, and remember, those were outlawed by the Voting Rights Act 47 years ago.

So, how well does it work?  Let’s look at Pennsylvania to check.  Thanks to state Republicans, there’s a voter ID law in effect this fall (unless it’s stopped by the courts, but that hasn’t happened so far), 11% of Pennsylvania voters lack a form of ID the new law requires to vote.  That number on its own is alarming, but when you break it down, you find a disturbing pattern.

8% of white people lack valid ID to vote.

15% of those earning less than $35K a year do.

18% of people under the age of 25 do.

19% of Latinos do.  20% of Asians do.  25% of black people do.

It also needs to be said that 18% of seniors lack suitable voter ID as well.  While this isn’t always useful to the Republican party — the elderly run conservative — it’s beneficial this year because seniors aren’t fond of Paul Ryan (I’ll elaborate on that more in another post).

As you can see, Pennsylvania is disenfranchising the exact people the Republicans don’t want voting.

Now, in response to the law’s backlash and (accurate) comparisons to the poll taxes of the past, Pennsylvania has decided to provide acceptable ID to residents for $0.

You probably thought I wrote that really oddly, right?  Why would I write $0 instead of “free?”  Here’s why: money isn’t the only existing form of cost.

In economics, there’s often talk of “opportunity cost.”  Opportunity cost is defined as the value of the next best choice you’re giving up when you make a decision.  If that sounds confusing, here’s an example.

Let’s say I tell you that you can have two tickets to your favorite band’s concert for no money at all.  However, you have to wait in line for five hours.  Did you get your tickets for free?  Of course not.  Maybe your next best option was being at work, and thus you lost five hours of wages waiting for the tickets.  Maybe the next best option you had was spending time with your family, or going to a party for a friend who is moving away.  Maybe it was running errands.  Regardless of what you would otherwise be doing, you gave something up to get those tickets, and you’re not ever getting those hours back.  In other words, even though you spent no money on the tickets, they had a cost.

Keeping the concert analogy in mind, it’s clear that even though the new voter-friendly IDs may not have a monetary cost, they still have an opportunity cost.  Now, those of us who drive may accept waiting in line at the DMV/MVA as part of life.  However, not everyone drives.  If you’re poor, and you live in a city center, why would you buy a car?  You can’t afford one, and your money would be better spent on, say, food or rent.  If you don’t drive, why would you wait at the DMV for hours and hours?  This isn’t just a question of annoyance.  If you are poor, and you work multiple jobs — and maybe you have kids, too — waiting in line for a few hours is just not a viable option.  The opportunity cost of obtaining ID may be too high, and so you forego voting.  After all, each individual vote doesn’t count for much, and you NEED to be at work, or finally spending some time with your kids, or going grocery shopping with the little bit of money you have.

If everyone who lacks suitable ID comes to this same conclusion, and chooses not to acquire a “free” ID that serves no other purpose than to help you vote and thus is not helpful in any other way, it means that a huge percentage of the population will be disenfranchised.  Beyond this, some people will simply never hear about the voter ID requirement and therefore won’t know they need to get one; after all, people who work three jobs don’t always have time to brush up on electoral law.

THIS IS WHAT THE REPUBLICANS ARE BANKING ON RIGHT NOW.  They’re HOPING that people of color, the poor, and youth will not get a say in what happens to this country.  Wanting this to happen is extraordinarily offensive in a land where “all men are created equal.”  It’s astoundingly racist and classist, and it’s downright disgusting that this is even happening.

 

4.  Forbidding Same Sex Unions, or “Hey, At Least We’re Not Advocating ‘Separate but Equal’”

Finally, the Republicans added to their platform that there should be a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage.  Beyond this, the committee resoundingly rejected a measure allowing for any form of federally recognized same-sex union.  While the pre-Brown v. Board “separate but equal” nature of civil unions and domestic partnerships for LGBTQ people may be categorically unequal and offensive, at least they help people provide for their families.

This basic recognition of others’ humanity is not acceptable to the GOP.  The GOP doesn’t care that there are 1138 federal rights afforded to married straight couples that gay couples will never be able to have if the unbelievably unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act remains standing.  The national Republicans espouse heterosexism and homophobia in and out: they believe there should be legal punishment for being in love while gay.  If you’re gay and have the audacity to want to act on your sexuality, you don’t deserve spousal benefits.  If you and your partner have adopted a child, and he gets sick, you don’t have the right to visit him in the hospital.  I could go on for hours here.  It comes down to this: any LGBTQ ally — or even just a decent human being — should refuse to support the national Republican party due to its deprivation of human rights to what the Supreme Court calls a “protected class” of people.

 

Knowing the national Republican party (Hi, Vermont!  Feel free to break away from the crazies at any point in time), its platform will officially embrace a few more deeply offensive and horrible policies this upcoming week.  To tell you the truth, I’m scared.

Being Sick in America

23 May

(An expansion of a Facebook post)

Ever wonder how the people who actually NEED healthcare feel about America’s healthcare system?  NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health commissioned a poll to determine just that.  Shockingly, people who have actually navigated the American healthcare system find it more lacking than healthy people!

All sarcasm aside, this is a huge problem.  The results are incredibly disheartening.

Healthcare Costs

Four in ten sick Americans report that the cost of their medical care over the last 12 months has caused a “very serious” (20%) or “somewhat serious” (23%) problem for their or their family’s overall financial situation. […] About half of sick Americans say the out of pocket costs of medical care are a “very serious” (25%) or a “somewhat serious” (23%) problem for them.

Also, 73% of sick people think healthcare costs are a “very serious problem,” vs. 61% of the healthy.  9 in 10 sick people view rising healthcare costs as a “very serious” (73%) or “somewhat serious” (16%) problem for America.

Furthermore, cost prevents sick people from getting the care they so desperately need.

One in six sick Americans say that there was a time in the past 12 months when they could not get the medical care they needed (17%). […] Among the sick Americans who could not receive care, 52% report they could not afford the needed care, and 24% say their insurers would not pay for it.

The situation is even worse if you lack insurance.

Forty percent of those who had been without health insurance at some time in the past 12 months say there was a time when they needed medical care, but could not get it

Sometimes, people even get turned away: 1 in 9 sick Americans have been turned away by a hospital or doctor for either insurance or financial reasons in the last year.

Healthcare Quality

Almost half of sick Americans view healthcare quality as a “very serious problem.”  26% of sick people feel the care they receive for their health conditions isn’t managed properly.

14% of sick Americans could not get an appointment or a referral to see a specialist they thought they needed

I’ve seen this firsthand: many specialists do not accept Medicaid (or even any form of insurance).  I watched a dear family friend struggle with life-threatening allergy attacks simply because she could not find a specialist in the DC area accessible by public transit that would accept Medicaid.  She had to go to the ER over and over again, hoping that eventually a visit wouldn’t just temporarily quell the allergic response, but prescribe her medication to stave off any further attacks (luckily, this happened after approximately half a dozen visits).

This poll is extremely important: the voices of people with health problems must be heard, and further, represented in talks of what to do about healthcare.  It’s easy for people who have not had to deal with serious illness to say that it’s fine to deprive people of healthcare, just like how it’s easy for any majority to ignore the needs of a minority group.  Our discourse and policy suffer because we so rarely hear from those who have needed to navigate our healthcare system.

Because we need to have sick people’s opinions out in the open, I’ve decided to share a bit of my story of struggling with health problems (even though I’m frankly a little fearful of doing so).

I take medicine twice a day for autoimmune disorders that, if untreated, cause severe joint pain in my back, neck, hands and feet.  Without insurance, I’d have to pay over $500 a month for medicine that I need to be ambulatory and able to hold my own toothbrush.  I’d have to pay an additional $300+ for medicine that vastly improves my quality of life and makes me able to go about my day just like everyone else my age.  In 2002, I had to have life-saving lung surgery.  Without insurance, all the care that I had over two weeks in the hospital would have cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I am extremely lucky that I have insurance — thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I can be on my father’s plan until I turn 26 in September — and that I can afford my co-pays.  However, even with insurance, my medical costs minus doctors’ appointments are over $200 a month.

Do I deserve healthcare simply because my parents are employed?  Because I can afford it?  If someone doesn’t have insurance, is it morally acceptable to leave her almost bedridden due to excruciating pain when medicine can make her a healthy, productive member of society?  If children don’t have insurance, is it okay to let them die slowly and in agony if they can’t afford surgery (or leave parents so deep in debt they must declare bankruptcy to save their children)?

I was flabbergasted the day I saw the bill the insurance company sent my family for the cost of saving my life: a six digit number magically turned into a three digit one.  The shock — the horror, anger and disgust at seeing that initial number coupled with feeling lucky as hell when it practically disappeared — still hasn’t left me after almost a decade.  We need to find ways to reduce costs and provide universal healthcare.  No one should have to pay so much money just to stay alive.

Thinking Liberally,

Lauren

P.S. If you want to see the poll’s summary report (which is where all the quotations come from), here it is: http://www.npr.org/documents/2012/may/poll/summary.pdf

P.P.S. Thanks to thinkprogress.org, my most beloved liberal news site, for alerting me to this.  If you don’t read Think Progress, you really should.

Now I Can Stop Harassing Facebook

22 May

I figured I should stop inundating Facebook with my myriad opinions and instead create a blog.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with it.

Thinking Liberally,

Lauren