Saturday, October 29, 2005

I need to get better at this...

My vision for this blog... for my own purposes as well as for yours... is to articulate my thoughts based on my experiences and the shared ideas and experiences of others. To bring that vision into reality, I need to be able to cite my sources... to dig a little into their sources... to distinguish fact from probability and hearsay.

For instance, when people talk about the Republican base or the Democrat base, I have read that they are talking about something like 15% of the population who might be described as very conservative or to the right for Republicans or 15% of the population who might be described as very liberal or to the left for Democrats. I need to remember where I read that because, if it's true, that's an enormous opportunity for change! Excluding another 5% of the population too extreme to be represented by either the right or left, that's 65% of the population who've seldom if ever had anyone representing them in Washington... or in Sacramento.

At some level I believe we know this, but we don't believe we can do anything about it. When Arnold was running against Tom McClintock for Governor I'd ask people what they were thinking when they supported Arnold, and they'd tell me that it was because McClintock couldn't win! Because?

Okay, Perot and Nader are both nuts. Senator McCain has made maybe one too many deals. Senator Jeffords? I know next to nothing about him. Is there a John Anderson out there? Is there a John Anderson in your district?

If we're ever to get back to being able to choose from among the best qualified candidates for anything we can't wait for the Republicans or the Democrats to move away from what works for them.

I need to do a much better job of keeping track of where I hear or read stuff.

Friday, October 28, 2005

HM3 Christopher W. Thompson

Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher W. Thompson, 25, of N. Wilkesboro, N.C., was killed in action on Oct. 21, from an IED explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

"Doc" Thompson was assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 8th Regimental Combat Team, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Semper Fi

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Navy Birthday

Today is the 230th Birthday of the U.S. Navy.
I won't go on about it. I think you'd need to have been out there.

Dealing With Hard Truths and Bitter Reality

This is the last Proposition I'm going to discuss at least until I get a chance to study 80 some more.
Proposition 73 on the November ballot calls for parental notification at least 48 hours before termination of a minor's pregnancy. I hate this issue. I think it's a "dad" thing... maybe a "parent" thing... but I hate it.
The "argument" in favor of this proposition begins by saying that a daughter under 18 can't get an aspirin from the school nurse without a parent knowing, but she can have an abortion.
Okay, that's true... it's been true since 1953 in California that a pregnant minor may consent to medical care related to the prevention or treatment of pregnancy. Of course, there is an important second issue that is completely ignored in this proposition which is that if your thirteen year old daughter carries her pregnancy to term and becomes a mother, then she has to make the decisions for the child if she decides to keep the child and not give it up for adoption. Sooner or later the daughter will be making her own decisions for this pregnancy.
I know that it eats at many parents that "just say no" isn't the panacea that they'd hoped it would be, but it just isn't. Go figure!
I have a daughter... and I've been a quasi-dad to another teenaged girl... and I can tell you that, for all of my failings as a husband, by the time Prop. 73 would have become an issue my daughter and I would have had that talk. We did have that talk.
If your daughter has become pregnant before you have taught her your beliefs and values... If your daughter has become pregnant feeling that she could not share her life and her feelings with you... If your daughter has agonized until she got the gumption to go to Planned Parenthood or wherever... then what on earth are you, as parents, going to accomplish by making her wait two more days. Will you love her? Support her? Encourage her? I'm sorry, but I believe that if that was the case you would have already had that talk.
Governor Schwarzenegger is in favor of Prop. 73. Late last week Governor Schwarzenegger also vetoed two bills that would have supported and minimally expanded California's Healthy Families programs (SB 23 and AB 624).
Listen, California has had a "safe haven" law on the books for a few years now... leave a newborn at any healthcare facility or fire station within 72 hours with no questions asked... and this week they found yet another dead full-term baby boy with the umbilical cord still attached next to a dumpster near USC.
Teen pregnancy sucks... abortion sucks... but really what are the chances that these lame-ass parents wanting to get involved at the last minute are going to make things any better?
Let the girl be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

If You Believe This Story You'll Believe Anything He Says

Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill (SB 399) that would have required insurers to pay medical costs ($225 million per year) when Medi-Cal beneficiaries are injured in an accident by an insured driver last Friday.
Last Friday Governor Schwarzenegger accepted a $105,000 donation from the American Insurance Associaton for his reelection campaign.
The Governor's office says there is no reason to return the check because the governor has "never made a policy decision that had any connection to contributors to a campaign."
Arnold, I think your nose is growing.

Who Are You Going to Believe? Me or Your Lying Eyes?

There are four other statewide propositions on the November ballot. I need to study on the Electric Service Providers Regulation initiative... but I am mindful that it was their avarice that put Arnold in office.
Propositions 78 and 79 are both aimed at providing lower cost prescription drugs to low-income Californians. Whew! Our cup runneth over!
I honestly didn't know a damn thing about the drug discount programs in Maine and Ohio until I learned that Prop. 79 is like the Maine program and Prop. 78 is like the Ohio program.
Okay, I don't want to bore people worse than necessary so Prop. 79 says that, if a drug company wants to participate in the state's Medicaid (Medi-Cal) program, they need to provide prescription drugs to Californians earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level for the same price. If they don't then their drugs come off the Medi-Cal formulary.
What does that mean? Non-formulary drugs can still be prescribed, but the prescribing physician needs to certify the medical necessity of that specific drug in this specific case.
Prop. 78 is sponsored by the drug companies. They have a lot of very cool but scary tv ads because they've vowed to spend "whatever it takes" to make sure that 78 beats 79 at the polls. The campaign has already cost them more than $75Million.
The drug companies got an economist to go on record with a prediction that, if the program operated the way the drug companies said it could, the state could lose up to $480Million just in drug rebates. All I knew starting out was that if the drug companies were willing to spend this kind of money in a fight to continue to pay the state $480Million a year in rebates they must be making a hell of a lot of money selling prescription drugs in California.
Under 78, participation by a drug company is voluntary, and they only need to offer their lowest commercial price, and only to those earning less than 300% of the federal poverty level. I was not aware that California had adopted a program similar to Prop. 78 in the past, but it was cancelled in 2001 because... are you ready?... not enough drug companies volunteered to participate!
Okay, let's recap... we can go with Arnold's choice and with the drug companies as Ohio did (Ohio? The Ohio that went for Bush in 2004? Oh, hell no!), or we can go with a viable drug discount program that is delivering brand-name drugs for 25% off retail and generics for 50% off in Maine and is endorsed by damn near everybody except Arnold and the drug companies... or we can vote no on both of them because, even at 25% off, brand name drugs are still way over-priced... but 79 is better than nothing, no?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Oceanfront Property for Sale... Will Build to Suit

Yesterday I said a little about the propositions that are at the heart of this special election. Today I need to give you a little bit of context. If you wandered in here by mistake and have a Schwarzenegger version of this, please, feel free to comment.
If Arnold was ever going to do everything he said he was going to do regarding balancing the state budget, he was going to need help. Of course, he was elected with a lot of help from business... including the California hospitals that had just been hit with new required nurse staffing requirements. One of Arnold's early acts was to suspend the implementation of that law. Can he do that? The California Nurses Association doesn't think so. (By the way, given the acuity of hospital inpatients in 2005, the difference between five and six patients per nurse is not an insignificant issue.)
His first budget borrowed heavily from programs. Funding for California Public Education was written into law years ago in Prop. 98. Arnold went to the teachers, hat in hand, to borrow $2Billion which he would repay in year two. In year two, of course, he did not repay the $2Billion and challenged the whole Prop. 98 funding structure. We're said to be 44th in per capita funding for education as it is. The teachers union pretty much went ballistic on him.
Arnold subsequently looked at restructuring state employee pension funding and entitlements. After all, how much support does a fallen peace officer's or fallen firefighter's family really need? ...and Arnold actually had the hubris to pose firefighters at his news conference from the recent wildfires. Oh, yeah, the firefighters union has been outspoken on the subject of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Anyway, that's what Prop. 75 is about. Sen. John McCain (there's still time to get out, Senator) spoke in California yesterday on giving union members and shareholders a voice in the use of their money for political action. Senator, this whole thing has been funded by business shareholders, and it's been aimed at one group of unions... the ones representing public employees who've been kicking Arnold's butt all year long. These are the "big government labor unions" Arnold blames for his... lack of success: nurses, home health aides, teachers, firefighters, peace officers. If Prop. 75 passes, opposition campaign funding can be tied up forever in audits.
Arnold wants to reorder the state's funding priorities. He wants to extend the length of time he can underpay classroom teachers by three years (Prop. 74), and if they quibble about it their district's funding and their jobs are at risk. He wants to cut personnel expense across the board. Arnold, bless his heart, wants to build highways with that money. That's what Prop. 76 is all about.
Legislative oversight? That's where Prop. 77 comes in. Even assuming for the moment that this three judge panel is legit and impartial, both chambers of the state legislature, the state Board of Equalization, and the California congressional delegation will be looking at new district boundaries. Arnold's aiming to have this in place... a done deal... for the 2006 election cycle. Bless their altruistic hearts, the men and women in Sacramento are going to be worried about whether or not they still live in their districts.
I'd like to believe that Arnold is looking out for me... I would... except that there is nothing in his entire agenda that speaks to the well-being of California households.
Why was Arnold fund-raising for this election all up and down the East Coast?
Why is the Wall Street Journal writing editorials on this election?
...because if this works the way Arnold wants it to work then California is for sale.

Monday, October 10, 2005

When Arnold says "Trust me."...

I don't know how many of you care about California politics, but I have to make a few comments on the November 8th special election.
This election was called by Arnold Schwarzenegger specifically to vote on four propositions:
Prop. 74 to require public school teachers to work an additional three years before getting tenured status;
Prop. 75 which calls for public employee unions to get specific permission from individual union members in order to use funds for political campaigns (such as this one);
Prop. 76 which would throw out the school funding guarantees currently in place, would give the governor much greater control over the budget, and cap state spending; and
Prop. 77 which would take redistricting away from the state legislature and turn it over to a panel of three retired judges... appointed by whom?
These are issues that were all submitted to the state legislature which told him no last year whereupon the Governator vowed to take his case to the people.
The thing is that he hasn't presented his case to the people. Arnold's campaign in favor of these propositions is... at best... disingenuous.
The predominant ad uses actors to present these in simplistic and misleading terms.
"Making new teachers work successfully for five years before they get tenured in a job for life is a good idea."
"Stopping government labor unions from taking workers' money for politics without their permission makes sense."
"Controlling spending to end state deficits and balance the budget is better than raising our taxes."
"Having independent judges draw legislative districts instead of the politicians is better for us voters."
My personal favorite is the lady who wanted to let the new teachers sweat for an extra three years who comes back on at the end to say: "Let's face it. Sacramento is screwed up. Anything we can do to change it, I'm for." Kind of a "Just Say Yes" angle...
I'd like to think that none of these propositions has a shot at passage... but I still can't believe that California elected Arnold as governor. It's possible that the only person with less respect for California voters than me is Arnold.
I'm probably not going to let go of this so, please, bear with me for awhile.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Getting Back to It

It's been too long. Unfortunately most of the topics that have been bugging me recently are somewhat local, but this is what happens when people confuse Hollywood with reality.
Okay, that's not entirely true, but I don't see any light in the tunnels of national politics. Republicans and Democrats are much more interested in remaining in the good graces of their respective parties than in addressing anything I care about.
I'm not going to dwell on the reasons for my absence. Let it suffice to say that my bride now lives in Arkansas, and I still don't have a surgery date... but apparently it is now possible to put a filter in the vena cava between my clot and my heart before the surgery.
I say "my clot" now, because I'm told that we are destined to spend the rest of our lives together. Yes, I'm thinking of a name for it.