Friday, October 23, 2009


Oddly enough, I received a fundraising letter from the Republican Party, a "2009 Congressional District Census." I live in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia and have voted Democratic for my entire life.

Here are some of the laughable questions or omissions from the survey:
  • Query re my Media sources for political news includes Fox and major networks but not PBS or NPR (which I wrote in)
  • Question as to which political party is best able to handle each of the following issues has the usual list plus "Protecting Traditional Values" to which I responded "Oh, please, what does this mean? Anti-gay?"
  • "Do you feel that the huge trillion dollar solutions the Democrats have advanced to boost our economy will help or hurt or nation in the long run?" Answer: What is your solution? Do nothing?
  • "Would you like Congress to pass additional tax cuts to further stimulate our nation's economy?" Answer: the Bush tax cut re-started the deficit after the Clinton Administration had eliminated it.
  • "Do you think all Americans should be required to have some fort of health insurance even if it requires the federal government to underwrite the costs?" Answer: erroneous question as it mis-states proposed sliding scale subsidy for people of lower incomes.
  • "Using numbers 1 through 5,, with 1 the top priority please indicate the policies you support most to address how the energy should meet future energy needs.

Numbers 0 and 1 are my answers.

0 increase drilling Alaska's ANWR

1 more funds for alternative fuels research

0 build new oil refineries in the U.S.

0 expand off shore drilling

1 greater investment in wind/solar energy

? tap previously unrecoverable oil

0 build new nuclear plants in U.S.

I added to "Other" category: support or increase tax credits for homeowner and commercial energy efficiency programs and weatherization, thus decreasing need for new fossil fuels.

Do you think the Democrat effort to restore the Fairness Doctrine that will destroy conservative talk radio is a violation of free speech? Answer: NO

Do you support oppose or have no opinion on the following social issues:

school prayer, ban burning of the flag, ban human cloning, faith based initiatives, ban all abortions, prohibit homosexual marriage.

Answer: What do you think ? Can't you see the ads now in the mid-term election in 2010?

I would be intersted in knowing if other Democrats received and returned this poll.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Great Endorsements for Deeds and Wagner

On Sunday, the Washington Post endorsed Creigh Deeds in a fulsome and well articulated editorial -- see

Just an excerpt here:
"There are plenty of reasons why Mr. Deeds is the better choice for governor in the Nov. 3 election. He has stood with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the incumbent, and his predecessor, now-Sen. Mark R. Warner, in support of the sane fiscal and budgetary choices that have made the state one of the best-governed and most business-friendly in the nation. . . Mr. Deeds has compiled a moderate record on divisive social issues that reflects Virginia's status as a centrist swing state. Mr. McDonnell has staked out the intolerant terrain on his party's right wing, fighting a culture war that seized his imagination as a law student in the Reagan era.
But the central challenge facing Virginia and its next governor is the deficit in transportation funding projected at $100 billion over the next two decades -- and only Mr. Deeds offers hope for a solution. . . he would appoint a bipartisan commission to forge a consensus on transportation funding, with the full expectation that new taxes would be part of the mix. Mr. McDonnell, by contrast, proposes to pay for road improvements mainly by cannibalizing essential state services such as education, health and public safety -- a political non-starter. And rather than leveling with Virginians about the cost of his approach, as Mr. Deeds has done, Mr. McDonnell lacks the political spine to say what programs he would attempt to gut, or even reshape, in order to deal with transportation needs. "

On Monday, the Post also endorsed his running mate: Jody Wagner. The subhead of the editorial says it all: "In Virginia a problem solver is better than a pol."

You can read the whole editorial at

The Post editorializes about Jody Wagner:

"Smart, tough-minded and capable, Ms. Wagner would be among the best-prepared public officials to assume the job. A former corporate lawyer, she started a successful family business (making kettle corn) before going to work for then-Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) [as State Treasurer]. Then, as Mr. Kaine's finance secretary -- she resigned this year to launch her campaign -- she developed an authoritative command of state government, spending and income, critical knowledge for the challenges posed by the recession. "

She would also be the first woman in 20 years to be elected to statewide office.

Pass it on. Sphere: Related Content

Scary Candidate: Cuccinelli

The focus is on the Governorship in Virginia pitting moderate Creigh Deeds against stealth conservative Bob McDonnell (The Washington Post generously characterizes "Mr. McDonnell's silver tongued embrace of ideas that would mire Virginia in a traffic clogged backward looking past.")

But perhaps the real stealth right wing candidate in Virginia is Ken Cuccinelli who is running for Attorney General and who the Post describes as a person out to re-make the office of Attorney General (according to Cuccinelli's own words). People should read the post article "Cuccinelli's bid puts focus on a job often off the radar: Va. attorney general candidate says there's power in the position"
See article by Amy GardnerMonday, October 19, 2009 :

I guarantee you that you will want to write to family and friends and urge them to vote against this fellow without even knowing that his opponent, Steve Shannon is a moderate Virginia delegate (like Cuccinelli, also from Fairfax) who has also served in a local prosecutor's office. Shannon will know how to deal with appeals on criminal matters (which is what the Attorney General has to handle in terms of criminal law) and he will not decide to use the office to fight a far right agenda.

Cuccinelli doesn't believe in global warming and he would fight federal regulation that deals with greater emission limits from polluters. Thus, it's a small surprise that the Virginia League of Conservation Voters gave him a failing 10% grade on his conservation votes in the state senate, while Steve Shannon received 96% for his votes in the House of Delegates.

Cuccinelli also sees his office as an opportunity to defend the family against gay marriage.

Please ... we do not need to spend taxpayer money for this kind of nonsense.

So if you read this,
1) write a letter to your editor,
2) copy the Post article and put it in emails to your family and friends, and
3) do all that you can to elect Steve Shannon, not Ken Cuccinelli, on November 3. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 16, 2009

Support Deeds

Today I've been writing letters to the Editor about why Creigh Deeds should be our next Governor.

It's appalling that so many people who turn out for the presidential election will not vote on November 3. This means that Deeds will be at a distinct disadvantage, since last year the majority voted for Obama and in my congressional district, for Tom Perriello.

But I have faith that if enough people are reached through knocking on doors, phone calls and letters to editor and personal appearances, Creigh can win.

As I think about him, I realize one of his strongest assets is as unifier:

While in the State Senate he has represented the the area in Bath County stretching from the West Virginia mountains to the University community of the Piedmont area of Charlottesville. He thus understands firsthand the rich diversity of our state. Over the years, he has told his rural constituents the importance of Northern Virginia as an economic engine for the rest of the state.

Deeds is supported by an impressive and diverse group of moderate Republicans, including former State Senators John Chichester of Stafford, Brandon Bell of Roanoke, Russ Potts of Winchester, Warren Barry of Fairfax, and Marty Williams of Newport News as well as former Delegates Jim Dillard from Northern Virginia and Panny Rhodes of Richmond.

Chichester, former Senate Majority leader for many years, also was the conscience and mind of the Senate on fiscal matters. He was probably the most influential legislator during his time as he worked with various governors to solve fiscal dilemmas.

Williams was chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee and Potts, Senate Education and Health, where he stood up to extremist anti-abortion protestors.

These moderate Republicans all worked with Creigh, they endorsed him -- a person not of their party -- because they know he will create practical solutions in terms of financing schools and transportation and protecting our natural resources -- issues they care about.

Creigh was also born into the hard times of Virginia. The child of a single mother, he understands how middle- and lower-income families have to struggle to pay for basic necessities.

But rather than just talk "jobs" like all candidates do, Creigh has actually sponsored legislation to help the economy. This year, for example, he sponsored the Virginia Clean Energy Bill that supports family home improvements that will in turn create jobs for the new energy economy in renewables, efficiency and weatherization.

Creigh has long been a supporter of Virginia’s natural resources and understands how a protected environment and historic preservation are critical to the state’s tourism economy. New businesses seeking locations in Virginia also look for quality of life. Deeds' legislative record of 86% on the League of Conservation Voters’ scorecard contrasts with his opponent’s failing grade of 18%.

Beyond Creigh, I am thinking about Lt. Governor and Attorney General:

Jody Wagner would be the first woman in 20 years to hold statewide office. A Tidewater businesswoman and former State Secretary of Finance, she is eminently qualified to help Governor Deeds move Virginia through this critical period.

Former prosecutor Steve Shannon, a Northern Virginia state delegate, will maintain public safety while fighting such issues as internet abuses and predatory lending. He is non-ideological in approach – in contrast to his opponent who has supported extreme-right positions.

Election Day is November 3; absentee ballots must be filed by October 27.

We need Deeds, Wagner, and Shannon, but we won't get them unless enough people vote.

We need to get the word out for people to vote. Use your networks, use email and remind people of the importance of THEIR vote in THIS election.
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Politics as Usual?

First off, let me say that I'm 100% for Creigh Deeds for Governor. He's smart but modest, he has ideas, not soundbites, and, as a senator, he has been a reliable vote on issues of importance to me -- the environment, education and women.

Yet, I'm having a hard time finding my role in this election. After decades of phone banking and canvassing, I really want a younger generation to take on those tasks. I've volunteered for other things but so far, I've mostly just made modest financial contributions, responded to a few blogs on line and written to a newspaper ombudsman when I read coverage I thought was unfair and superficial.

I'm writing this because I find myself more interested in taking walks, birding or visiting friends or planning to view the fall colors. What's wrong with me? I' advertise myself as woman poltiico, but I don't feel very politico.

Maybe it's because my work -- environmental advocacy -- involves a lot of politics with a small "p." I am constantly thinking about how to approach an issue, how to articulate it, where to press the advantage, who the allies will be, who the opponents, what next steps to take to advance the ball forward.

I'm tired. I need this time of revival.

I want to look at the leaves. I even want to rake leaves. And after viewing Ken Burns "National Parks: America's Best Idea," I want to visit those parks I've never seen -- like Arches and Zion -- and re-visit others -- Crater Lake, Glacier, Yellowstone -- and re-re-visit places like Shenandoah, Hatteras National Seashore and Acadia, which are my sacred places where I first truly felt the importance of nature in my life.

But Virginia poltiics doesn't allow any time for revival. Every year, we have an election -- last year, President, Congressman (Perriello - yay) and Senator, this year, Governor, Lt. Gov, Attorney General and House of Delegates. Next year it'll be Congress again and the year following, the Virginia House of Delegates AND Senate. And on and on ...

Meanwhile at the national level (and the state level), it feels as though politics doesn't stop after the election. Congress is in a battle over health care -- the Republicans don't want to give anything that the President might want. There are real areas of disagreement, but there are also those that simply want to use this issue for political gain.

I'm tired of this politics-as-usual. I want more focus on the issues. In the Governor's race, I want people to be involved and interested in who will lead our state over the next four years instead of just asking "what's in it for me?" As a former politician, I know people need to feel invested, but I wonder what will make them wake up and realize: They're OUR schools, our kids and grandkids who will need the education of the future, our mountains, ocean and Chesapeake Bay that need protecting, our collective community that needs to recommit itself to the common good and to vote for the person who will truly seek to find the common good through working with all people of good intentions, not just those in his/her own party. We need the bridge builders, not the bomb throwers.

It's funny that I'm writing this after having experienced this evening a very beautiful meeting with a small group from my church. There, I felt the peacefulness of giving oneself over to trying to discern the will of God and even spoke about how that had manifested itself in my life in very real and strong ways. Unlike some, I'm not trying to bring God into politics but I am trying to figure out how what we learn about relationship in the church can also apply to how we act collecively and politically --tolerating differences and appreciating similarities and finding a way to achieve the common good for the larger community. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The President Nails It: How We Deal With Health Care Reflects the "Character of Our Country"

President Obama hit the right notes tonight in his speech on health care. He reminded us why we need reform:
  • Ever since Congressman John Dingell, Sr. in 1943 (his son now a senior congressman from Detroit) introduced health care legislation, we have been postponing universal coverage.
  • 30 million people have no coverage, that is, one in three citizens have no health care plan; this includes those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Our costs are one and a half times the cost of other countries.
  • In our premiums, each of us already pays $1000/year for those who are uninsured.
  • Health care, because of the waste and inefficiency, IS our deficit problem.
The two political poles on the issue range from those calling for a single payer system to those who would continue to depend only on an employer-based voluntary insurance program.

Because one-sixth of our economy is based on health care, the President says we should build on the system. Given that there are 5 house bills (4 of which came out of committee) and a Senate Finance bill coming out next week, he opined that we have "80% agreement" on particulars.

He established three goals: 1) more security and stability for those with insurance; 2) coverage for those who don't have care; and 3) slowing the costs of health care.

His program would

1) ensure that current private health care plans, VA, medicare, medicaid coverage remain the same;
2) prohibit denial of coverage because of preexisting conditions;
3) prohibit dropping of coverage when a person is sick and prohibit yearly or lifetime caps on coverage;
4) limit out of pocket payments (thereby stemming bankruptcy due to health issues);
5) cover preventative services;
6) establish an insurance exchange to allow those without coverage to shop for quality affordable choices,
7) create tax credits based on need to allow people to purchase low cost coverage -- a plan proposed by Senator John McCain during the '08 campaign;
8) require individuals to purchase health insurance just as now they must purchase auto insurance (with a waiver for hardships).

Misconceptions the President explained:
1) there are no death panels; 2) illegal immigrants would not be covered;
3) there would be no funding through these plans for abortions; and
4) there would be no rationing of care.

However, the president said there should be a public option to provide accountability. It could be a not-for profit option either through co-ops or government for those who could not afford the other choices. He anticipates that about 5% Americans will sign up for this.

The Plan must pay for itself. He committed to adding nothing to the deficit and to embrace more spending cuts if savings do not materialize. But he emphasized that savings can be found within the health care system.

He also pointed out that there is some waste from Medicare.

Recognizing the valid concerns of those calling for medical malpractice reform, he committed to embracing this issue as well.

The cost of health care reform, asserted the President, would be $900 billion over 10 years, which he noted was less than the amount of the Bush tax cut.

In perhaps the most moving part of the speech, the President spoke of a letter written last spring by the late Senator Ted Kennedy when he learned of the terminal nature of his disease. In it, Senator Kennedy said how we respond to health care reflects the "character of our country," and the President urged us to respond to that character. As he spoke, Michele Obama held the widow Vicki Kennedy's hand, and after the speech, you could see Mrs. Kennedy saying about the speech to Mrs. Obama, "Magnificent, magnificent."

It was indeed.

Now let the lawmaking begin. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Farewell Teddy

Watching and listening to the tributes to Senator Ted Kennedy, I realized that with his death, I am saying goodbye to a representative of a time on which I cut my political teeth.

When I was in college, John F. Kennedy ran for president, and I went on my first door to door canvassing dollars for Democrats. When he won, his inauguration message resounded: what could I do for my country, not what could it do for me. Martin Luther King was preaching a message of equality and dignity, and I was proud to be part of a new generation emerging from the South.

After that first assassination, I was heartbroken but recommitted to the dreams of the time -- I marched in sympathy with Selma in New Jersey, I worked on Lyndon Johnson's campaign against Goldwater in 1964. And I worked in a civil rights group to open segregated housing in the surburbs of Washington in the mid-60s.

But the Vietnam War interrupted, and our country became more and more bogged down in a war we couldn't win. We protested, we marched, we wrote letters. In short, we organized.

Then Martin Luther King was assassinated and 2 months later, Bobby Kennedy. So much sadness, such deep divisions within our country.

(In a different way, I feel those divisions again, paired with an uncontrolled anger -- especially in the town hall meetings over health care reform. )

As part of his legendary family, Teddy Kennedy suffered through personal tragedies that seem the stuff of myths. His own personal shortcomings led to a terrible death of a young person, and subsequently to more anguish and dysfunction in his own life..

But Ted Kennedy had a third act -- In the last 30 years, he rose to become the greatest of our senators. He became not only the voice of the poor and the dispossessed but one of the most respected senators (by both parties). He forged friendships and alliances with people whose views diverge greatly from his -- Orrin Hatch of Utah, John McCain of Arizona. And I know of at least one situation in which his personal attention helped a grieving family settle their affairs. Someone said he was a generous man, and indeed, he was generous in spirit.

Losing Teddy, then, is a huge loss for the Congress and our country. For me, it marks the end of the era that he represented. Yet as it said so eloquently in 1979 when he gave up the presidency:

"For all those whose cares have been our own, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." Sphere: Related Content

Health Care Myths Exploded by White House

Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
We can afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
Reform would not encourage "euthanasia": It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
Vets' health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moran and Dean Participate in a Lively Town Hall on Health Care in Reston, Va

I was surfing the TV after the News Hour tonight when, from the comfort of my living room, I discovered Congressman Jim Moran introducing former Governor and Dr. Howard Dean to an audience of screaming people. The meeting was a live town hall meeting on health care reform in Reston, Va. on C-Span.

This show was better than any of the other fare on TV tonight. Drama: anti-abortionist Randall Terry and followers were shouting "Dean is a baby killer" and "We won't pay for murder." Moran explained Terry had announced his intent to disrupt the meeting, and that he would be escorted from the meeting unless he wanted an opportunity to ask a question and be part of the process.

Terry obviously opted not to be part of the process, and he was removed. The meeting remained lively, noisy and chaotic -- with a vociferous group vying for attention among the several hundred people there.

Moran persisted, laying out a number of myths about the health care reform bills. (Most of these were covered before I found the meeting but I hope he will publish them on his website.) Howard Dean made three points: Health care in the US is 70% more expensive than it is in other countries; many people have no health care; and the way to pay for health care is to eliminate the unnecessary procedures.

After that, Moran drew names out of three boxes (for, against and undecided about health care reform) to get questions from the audience. A pharmicist asked if the Governor supported medical therapy services, and Dean responded yes, and that using pharmicists and nurse practitioners was one way to reduce costs.

Several people asked Moran if he was willing to go on a public plan. He kept responding that, as a federal employee, he is on a public plan for which he pays about $6,000/year. People seemed miffed at this answer.

One man asked whether a system of medical cooperatives would be an acceptable compromise to a public option. Moran responded that this was not a substitute for a public option although there was nothing wrong with the idea. He said a coop would need 500,000 people and start up monies, and that there would be no private incentives for cooperatives to operate.

A woman saying she was the questioner asked "why don't we take $23 million out of bailout?" and then Moran realized she was not the questioner.

Moran answered a question about Part D saying that the pharmaceutical companies agreed to a deal with the bill negotiators that they would reduce the "donut hole" gap in coverage if the government would not require negotiation with drug companies for coverage. Moran said he preferred negotiation as users of Veterans Administration had been able to pay one third to one half of the drug costs because VA was able to negotiate with the companies.

Another person asked why not have a universal coverage without a public land. The response was that the Netherlands and Switzerland, which has no public plan but universal coverage, treats insurance companies like public utilities governing rates strictly.

Another person asked why is medicare so much in the red. Moran responded that medicare costs are rising slower than privately insured costs even though it is true that over time, medicare will run out of money. Medicare spents only 3% on administrative costs; private companies, 30%.

Tort Reform: The issue is how to stop frivolous lawsuits while still allowing people who have been injured by a doctor or hospitals to redress their grievances in court. Both politicians acknowledged that the congressional bill writers didn't want to take on the anti-tort reformers in this legislation. But they agreed tort reform was needed. Dean suggested a plan whereby people would go to arbitration, and the results of the arbitration - while not binding - could be evidence in a tort trial.

Moran claimed that the public plan would be paid for by the revenues coming in, although he did not explain how Congress would fund the subsidies for those who are unable to pay for the public plan and receive the sliding scale subsidies.

At the end of the meeting, Dean pointed out that this had been a good forum in the "spirited American tradition," and that both sides had behaved "pretty well."

After listening to this I tried to find the C Span feed; at the time of writing there was no feed but an announcement of the next time the event would be re-shown on C Span 1 -- several times on August 26, for example: Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Reform

For weeks I’ve been reading the articles on health care reform and grousing because there are so few summaries of the 1000+ page bill. But I’m happy that some writers are finally talking substance rather than the politics of the bills or the uproar at townhall meetings (often over misinformation or dis-information, by the way).

Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post last week wrote about the Republicans propagating falsehoods in the attacks on health care reform. He pointed out several main points of the bill, especially notable the “exchange” idea:

The health insurance exchange that individuals and small businesses could purchase insurance at lower rates than now available. It is this exchange in which the question of “public option” arises. Although the public option is in the House bills floating around, it appears that the bi-partisan Senate bill will probably opt for a “nonprofit cooperative” to take on the role of the public option, and the Obama Administration signaled in a number of press outlets this weekend its willingness to consider such alternatives to the public option.

The Sunday Washington Post had a “handy health care cheat sheet” by Alec MacGillis, although I think it needs to be honed down a bit more. In short McGillis points out that 47 million people are uninsured; and that health care costs have been surging. The proposed solution is making Medicaid available to more people and helping others to purchase insurance through the “exchange.” Everyone would be required to buy insurance. At the outset, large businesses and people receiving coverage from employers probably wouldn’t be able to buy on the exchange.

The cost of expanding coverage, according to MacGillis, would be around $1 trillion over 10 years ($140 billion/year). The funds would be raised by squeezing money out of Medicare and Medicaid from subsidies that go to private Medicare Advantage Plans and some other Medicaid funds.

The bills would set a federal panel to establish Medicare rates free of pressure from providers.

From the House Committee on Energy and Commerce there are a number of other provisions in their fact sheets:
* Guaranteed coverage – Insurance companies will not be able to refuse to sell or renew policies or exclude pre-existing health conditions. Prohibits lifetime and annual limits on benefits. Premiums can vary based only on age, geography and family size.
* Over time a minimum quality standard for employer plans will include preventive services with no cost sharing, mental health, oral health and vision for children.
* Caps on amounts person must pay out of pocket in one year
* Sliding scale affordability credits for low and moderate-income families and individuals.
* The exchange and inclusion of a public health insurance option (or cooperative option) will open many markets in area to new competition.
* Expansion of Medicaid to persons and families with incomes at or below 133 percent federal poverty level and will be fully federally financed.
* Filling of "donut hole" in Part D drug program, eliminating cost-sharing for preventive services and improving low income subsidy programs in Medicare, fix physician payments.

An excellent column by Paul Begala in the Thursday Washington Post warns against Progressives dumping the health reform effort because of compromises such as no single-payer plan or perhaps no public option. Bergala points out that every other major piece of social legislation had to make compromises in the beginning and gives some excellent examples of groups excluded from Social Security initially (agricultural workers and domestic workers) but who later have been included. Although we can be appalled that these workers were not initially included would we have wanted Roosevelt to veto the legislation?

Begala was part of the White House group advising President Bill Clinton in the early 90s urging him to veto any legislation that didn’t meet idealistic goals of real reform – Of course health reform did not get out of Congress in the 90s – it was dead on arrival. Bergala says, in effect, that this time we need to be willing to accept the half-loaf. I agree.

Everyone needs to write their Congressmen and Senators and express their views – however idealistic they may be.

But the bottom line should be: We need health care reform now. We cannot postpone this issue for another generation to decide. Let's begin the reform in 2009.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 13, 2009

Let's Ban Some Phrases

UPDATE ON OLD POST: Please take a look at a political art blog dontcallmesweetie that elaborates on my desire to ban "At the end of the day..." from the political lexicon:

My previous post from 12/08: This is the beginning of a list of hackneyed and misplaced phrases or responses that are frequently used. I'm always yelling at the TV or radio when they're said. Instead, I'm hoping that writing about them here, a few others will join me to lobby to remove from our lexicon

Here they are:
“At the end of the day . . .” Said by media reporters, politicians and everyone making some type of public pronouncement.
Womanpolitico: Try anything else. How about “Finally…” ?

“I have to tell you . . .” used especially by politicians.
Womanpolitico: No, you don’t have to tell me but you want to.
“It’s my opinion …” or “I believe . . .”

“No problem” : said by clerks, wait people, anyone to whom you’ve just said “thank you.”
Womanpolitico: Please just say “you’re welcome.”

I'd love to hear others' pet peeves in the language area. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Ever since the inauguration I've been on the road driving most mornings 60-plus miles to Virginia's Capitol, leaving the car in a high- rise car park and trudging several blocks to the General Assembly Building.

The state legislature has been in session. It adjourned only yesterday.

I've been a lobbyist during this month -- talking to legislators and appearing before committees to try to convince them to vote for or against measures my organization supports or opposes. I work for an environmental organization and advocate for politices and laws that we deem to be good for the environment. Over the pasts 15 years I've lobbyed for bills to improve clean water, provide open space, and allow citizens the right to appeal pollution permits. More often than working for bills, I'm playing defense -- fighting against legislation that would despoil natural resources, allow landfills near public water supplies, lease park areas to private interests, etc.

This year, I had one assignment: EnergyEfficiency legislation. Of course this is all about using elecriticity in the most cost effective way. But energy is exactly what one needs during the General Assembly as I go to bed late and rise early to plan my day and write talking points before driving to Richmond to meet with allies and opponents, and attend committee and subcommittee meetings. One night we were in committee until midnight.

The Governor has dubbed 2009 the Year of Energy and Environment; in the last year of his term, he's trying to take a meaningful step toward a new energy future. After receiving a lot of criticism from enviromentalists for his support of a new coal fired power plant, he persisted in efforts to look at new energy sources through sponsoring a Commission on Climate Change and in this his last session of the General Assembly, forging ahead with energy efficiency legislation the Commission recommended.

However, the Governor is also now the chair of the Democratic National Committee; he has a Republican House and a bare majority in the Senate. This is not an easy time for him, and bi-partisanship has not become the mantra of the Virginia General Assembly.

Still, the Governor is promoting "Energy efficiency," the legislators claim they're all for it, but the term means different things to different people.

After all the votes were counted, one of the Governor's bills, patroned by Senator Ralph Northam of Norfolk got through the General Assembly and onto his desk, albeit in very different shape from how it was originally drafted by the Governor's staff.

What does energy efficiency mean anyway?

For environmental groups, it denotes promoting programs that permanently reduce demand for more electrical supply by using electricity more efficiently, like, for example, home appliances and machinery that are built to use less electricity, better insulation and weatherization of residences, homes and industries, programmable thermostats that help to turn down the heat when it's not needed even when you're not there to do it, and smart meters -- combined with variable rates -- that help you to become aware of the best times to use electricity when it is cheapest (like washing and drying your clothes in the middle of the night rather than at peak usage times).

The end result should be that by making electricity more efficient, we'll consume less, our bills will go down, and there will be excess capacity that can be used for new growth, thus delaying the need (and expense) to build new power plants. Energy efficiency costs about 3 cents/kWh; power plant generation, 9-10 cents/kWh.

But less demand for electricity is dicey for utilities. Their task is to plan so that a reliable source of electricity is always available. While they agree to reducing electricity through company-based programs, they would like to be compensated for their costs of the programs and for loss of revenues they would have received if everyone was continuing to use more electricity.

Energy efficient legislation has to take these factors and more into consideration. To Wit:

The Governor's bills (one beginning in the Senate with its twin in the House) started out with a goal of 19% as a mandatory reduction by 2025 -- 10 % allocated to utilities, 1% to public buildings, 1% to industry, etc. The idea was that the utilities would have to pay into a compliance fund if they didn't hit yearly targets.

You can imagine how well that went over with Virginia Dominion and Appalachian Power, the big utilities in the Commonwealth.

So a "carrot" approach was tried using "enhanced" rate of return to get the reductions rather than the "stick" of the compliance fund. Even with the loss of the "mandatory" aspect, environmental groups worked well with the utilities on language for the bill - agreeing to definitions of various terms and the framework of how energy efficiency programs would be developed.

Still . . . we hit snags.

The manufacturers wanted to be carved out of the bill arguing that they already used energy efficiency to cut costs and therefore should not have to pay for programs serving other consumers (Of course, they will still benefit from the lower costs due to delay of building power plants). So a carve-out was designed and re-designed several times.

The utilities wanted a guarantee that nothing in the bill would prevent them from getting new power plants so they wanted language that in essence would have directed the the State Corporation Commission (SCC) not to consider the impact of reducing demand when they asked the SCC to give them permission to build power plants. With a lot of wordsmithing, the Governor's staff was able to placate environmentalists and utilities.

At the time the Governor's bill in the House of Delegates went to the full House Committee on Commerce and Labor, a number of Republican delegates expressed concerns about the enhanced rates and the costs to ratepayers -- even though studies show that ratepayers would see their rates drop by 2015 an average of $5-20 a month.

Nevertheless, the Governor's bill (sponsored by Del. Plum of Herndon) never got out of the House committee -- It was "rolled into" (i.e. subsumed by) a more innocuous version of rate recovery for energy efficiency program costs (Del. Pollard's bill) Because of the motion to "roll" one bill into another, there was no vote on killing the Governor's bill, but the proof was in the pudding.

Meanwhile the House (and Senate) passed other bills that required a study of the cost effectiveness of "energy conservation" and other measures by next fall.

But the Senate also passed another version of the Governor's bill. By the time it passed the Senate, the mandatory goals had become voluntary; by the time it left the House of Delegates, even the voluntary goals had been stripped away.

Success, however, is getting the bill in relatively unscathed form (no fatal amendments) to the Governor's desk, and that was achieved.

This is probably more than you wanted to know about energy efficiency or lawmaking -- but this , I emphasize, is only a synopsis. There are many more "back stories."

Pollard's bill subsequently became the subject of an effort on on the Senate Floor to require an amendment that would list the cost of energy efficiency programs on consumer bills. Now consumer disclosure is a good thing, but oddly, as Senator Chap Peterson pointed out, the same legislators had not asked for consumer disclosure two years ago when they mandated the building of a coal fired power plant in South West Virginia.

Fortunately, the amendment was defeated, largely along party line vote.

Peterson by the way had sponsored legislation that was far more ambitious than the Governor's in attempting to set a reduction in electricity usage; his bill went down in flames. Senator Don McEachin of Richmond championed a bill with mandatory goals and the compliance fund; his was killed by the committee on an 8-7 vote. Other legislators who championed some aspects of energy efficiency legislation included David Toscano and David Nutter.

The Governor will have two bills on his desk that go to the heart of energy efficiency programs -- Pollard's HB 2506 and Northam's SB 1248. Other bills (that we opposed) that were substantially amended, SB 1348/HB 2531, will also be before the Governor to sign, veto or amend.

The debate over energy efficiency will continue in Virginia. Because it's in your self interest to save money at your home and business, you need to be involved. We also need citizens to help shape future Commonwealth policy on the topic. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama

We stood for 5 hours in temperatures that with wind chills plummeted to 7 degrees, yet we were warmed literally by the proximity of so many other like-minded bodies (and our hand and foot warmers) who had turned out for The inauguration. It is and probably will be the inauguration of my lifetime.

Although I came of political age during the John F. Kennedy election cycle, I was too young (not yet the required 21 at that time) to vote. A southerner, in college I was a meek boycotter of racially segregated movies, but it was a big step for me. Later, as I gained confidence, I committed myself to racial justice and joined a group combatting housing segregation in the Washington suburbs through picketing and sit ins.

During 2008, I started out a Hillary supporter, but Obama not only won my vote (which was never in doubt) but my heart and mind as well. I am ready to do my part and to follow this wise leader.

What touched me at the inauguration was the variety of people who were attending. Sure there were lots of African Americans and lots of white folks and college aged youth. But I was most affected by efforts made by ancient AFrican American women in wheelchairs and the middle aged white ladies using their walkers to get around the inhospitable cold ground of the National Mall. I was thrilled by the middle schoolers from Santa Barbara who asked to interview me for their video website and blog: What do you think Change means, they asked.

I enjoyed the folks we met on the crowded metro lines from North Carolina, Savannah, Ga., Texas, Chesapeake, Va., Los Angeles, and Ohio who were elated, tired, cold and energized just like we were -- all at the same time. They all felt like me -- they had to come.

Earlier in the weekend, my daughter Margaret and I had visited a new exhibit on Abraham Lincoln's life in commemoration of his 200th birthday. It opened last week at the National Museum of AMerican History. Only a few blocks away near Chinatown, the National Museum of Art and the National Portrait Gallery hosted two more exhibits on Lincoln -- one of photographs taken, including the final one before his assasination, and the two life masks -- one created just before he took office and one just before his death. The toll that the Civil War took on him is etched into his face. I thought about Lincoln all weekend as another Illinoian prepared to take the oath of office. How far we have come since Lincoln gave his all to save the union -- and what new challenges have arisen since that time -- just as the new man takes office.

Obama's faith in the people -- sometimes erroneously dismissed as rhetoric -- is returned by the faith that people have in him. Here is a man who can ask - yes, even demand - our sacrifices. He reminds us that he is not perfect, that he will make mistakes, but that change is occurring and that he needs us all to participate.

I'm betting we will be ready to follow. It won't be easy and we may question him -- especially if he wants to cut our favorite program -- or not take up the cause I deem most important. Just so, the public and polticiians questioned Lincoln. Lincoln and Obama have at least one trait very much in common -- they have a focused calmness that inspires others' confidence.

As I looked around at the crowd yesterday, those standing close to me and those at a distance, and I heard the strains of "American the beautiful . . . God spread thy grace on thee..." I felt a lump in my throat and a tear, albeit icy, in my eye.

FOr this scene before me represents America . . . this mass of people wrapped in wintry wool, who have given up at least their immediate comfort and warmth to witness this moment. Why ? Because all one million of us know that this is an important time for us individually and for our country.
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Medicare -- Mr. President-Elect's Internet Team, Take Note

On NPR's All Things Considered, December 27 about medicare drug programs, a guest emphasized the medicare interactive tools but decried that most people over 65 are not web savvy. Well, I’m a senior who is very experienced with the web, but the website failed me. I was trying to compare my current drug program with others for which I would be eligible to see how the costs compared. I could not get the medicare site to do the job it promised.

Now that we are about to get a President who is web-literate and innovative, I hope he will work to make the and other essential government service websites like it user friendly. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 2, 2009

Women in Politics

Okay, here we are again -- how many woman are in Congress? How many women have been elected to your state legislature?

In Congress, 74 out of 435 representatives (17%) and 16 out of 100 Senators (16%)are female. According to the Center on Congress, this is the highest number of women in the history of Congress! Jeannette Rankin of Montana (pictured below) was the first woman ever elected to Congress -- in 1916 -- several years before the Constitutional amendment allowing women the right to vote was affirmed by the states.

In my state of Virginia, it's about the same: out of 100 state delegates, 13 are women (13%); the state Senate percentage is a little better -- 8 out of 40 (20%). Still, for a state where over half the population are women, this is pretty pitiful, especially since none of the top three executive positions (governor, lt. governor and attorney general) have no females and haven't since Mary Sue Terry was attorney general from 1986 to 1994 (and she's the only female to have held one of the "big three").

Why is this? What do you think?

How do we find women willing to run and encourage them? Sphere: Related Content


Born in 1939, I politically was baptized by the election of JFK in 1960. A pre-baby boomer, I took my own babies on picket lines in suburban Maryland and Virginia in the mid-60s to protest housing segregation. Our proudest accomplishment was getting the Johnson DoD to end housing segregation for the families of troops serving during the Vietnam War. In mid-life I went to law school, joined the Southern Environmental Law Center and have worked for 23 years to protect our environment. Along the way, I also served in local government, was mayor of Charlottesville and ran for Congress in a special election against a then little-known politician named George Allen. I learned first hand the difficulties of running an issue-based campaign when Allen attacked me in an ad implying I was disloyal to my country: The NRCC TV ad depicted a rally against the Gulf War in front of the Capitol, a protestor holding a sign reading "Victory to Iraq" and a still photo of me saying "Kay Slaughter and the liberals in Congress opposed fighting Saddam Hussein." The President Elect, who also got into politics because of his principles, ran the kind of campaign I strove to run. I plan to celebrate his victory (with my daughter) and that of Congressman Tom Perriello (VA) on Inauguration Day. I worked for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- canvassing when I swore I never would again -- and standing in the rain at a Republican precinct on Election Day. A lifelong Virginia Democrat, I proffered mint juleps to my election night guests as Virginia went Democratic. I will be in Washington on Inauguration Day as it will be the most significant Inauguration of my lifetime and, I hope, the beginning of a better day in America and the world. Sphere: Related Content