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Next Up: A Climate Bill

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 15:02:23 PM EDT

Woo-hoo. The healthcare bill is done.  People will see many of the provisions go into place immediately and then they can decide how they feel about these reforms based on reality instead of frenzied, uninformed rhetoric.  Let's just take a moment to recognize this historic occasion.  
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'All politics is personal'

by: teacherken

Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 16:56:54 PM EDT

Another Speaker, Tip O'Neill once said: 'All politics is local.'  And I say to you tonight that when it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.

So said Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sunday night.  And I agree.  It is, and it should be personal.

But it should not be personal in the way we saw with the kinds of attacks and slurs that were part of the actions of Tea Party members and their supporters among Republicans in Congress.

I take these slurs and attacks personally.  So should you.

While I may be a generous and understanding person on differences of personal belief, my generosity does not extend to when you demean and attack those about whom I care.

So let me tell you why this is personal to me, the health care and the slurs.

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Mission of Mercy - NoVa: a health care diary

by: teacherken

Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 19:17:05 PM EST

Today is a Friday.  Normally I would have just completed a day with my students.  Instead I have done something at least as important as teach.  I have just returned from a day of volunteering in dental triage at the Mission of Mercy event at the Medical College of Northern Virginia Community College in Springfield.   This is my third time, the first at a dental only event (those at Wise and Grundy were held in conjunction with Remote Area Medical).

Springfield is in Fairfax County, a wealthy jurisdiction of the DC metro area, a community very different from those of rural Appalachia in which I had previously volunteered.  

And yet, the need was just as great as in Wise and in Grundy.  

I ask that you continue reading as I share my impressions of the day.

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by: teacherken

Sat Mar 06, 2010 at 09:34:28 AM EST

It is a Saturday morning.  By yesterday afternoon I was so exhausted I left school without some of what I need to plan, albeit only for Thursday and Friday for my AP classes.  When I got home I was too tired to sleep -  the conflict between desperately needing sleep and being unable to fall asleep.  So I began to reflect, a process that continued subconsciously when I finally slept, and during the two times I awoke during that almost ten hour before I awoke a short time ago.

Reflection can be a deliberate process, a slowing down, stepping back, examination of things about oneself, around oneself.  My training as a teacher has always included that as an essential element.  It can also be something else - a not fully rational process, something operating almost in the background while one is in the midst of doing other things, but which arises and insists on full attention when one ceases the activities which have kept in in the background.  

I find I now want my reflection to be deliberate.  For that to happen, I write.  So it is this morning.  Hence this diary.

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Cohen and Robinson (and teacherken) - thoughts on health care

by: teacherken

Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 06:51:17 AM EST

All the fear-mongering talk of "nationalizing" 17 percent of the economy is nonsense. Government, through Medicare and Medicaid, is already administering almost half of American health care and doing so with less waste than the private sector. Per capita Medicare costs for common benefits grew 4.9 percent between 1998 and 2008, against 7.1 percent for private insurers. Why not offer Medicare as a choice - a choice - to everyone? Aren't Republicans about choice?

That is from Roger Cohen's NY Times column, THe Narcissus Society

If the party is going to take a political hit anyway, it might as well get the benefits -- which are considerable.

That is from Eugene Robinsons' Washington Post column, Democrats: Find your spines and pass health reform.

It seems as if editorial voices are more than ready for health care reform.

So am I.

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When stints on payroll hurt the jobless

by: teacherken

Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 07:51:48 AM EST

After nearly a year without work, Gary LaPlante was happy to take a three-week construction job. What he didn't know was that the job would cost him more than two-thirds of his benefits when he went back on unemployment.

So begins this Boston Globe story, titled as is this posting, and subtitled Temporary wages lower the calculation for unemployment benefits.  Why?  

Workers who seek to renew their benefits for a second year - not uncommon during this recession - are finding that their new benefits are based on their most recent wages, even if it was low pay for temporary or part-time work.

In this case LaPlante saw his benefits slashed from more than $600/wk to $178/week.

Which leads me to the following observation:  When a government policy discourages people from from taking responsibility for themselves, that policy needs to be reconsidered.

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... thinking of the young people . . .

by: teacherken

Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 16:33:59 PM EST

I sit in my living room on a day when I expected to see my students for the first time after a ten-day absence due to weather.  Not to be - yesterday evening we were informed that students were not coming to school today, although all staff are required to be there on a two-hour delay - in a sense this is a make-up day for last Friday, which was to be a professional day for teachers.  Yet the lateness of the decision will cause major problems in our school, because today was to be the makeup day for our science fair - originally schedule for last Wednesday - and I now wonder about our ability to get anything close to the normal compliment of outside judges our fair normally draws, an important part of the experience for a school that has within the past decade had the national winner.

I worry about my students, for the loss of continuity in their education.  And with time to reflect, I also worry on their behalf for the loss of continuity in our governance.  Only weather is less of an excuse for the Congress and Administration..  And the damage it done to the future of those students - who are the future of this nation - is potentially far greater than one school year with excessive disruptions due to weather.

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McKibben: Washington's snowstorms, brought to you by global warming

by: teacherken

Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:04:27 AM EST

It won't matter to the likes of Sen. Inhofe, who has his grandkids build an igloo next to the Capitol and label it "Al Gore's New Home."  Bill McKibben is realistic about that.  

And for those who want to harp on emails and some errors in isolation, it probably also won't matter, although as McKibben reminds us,

The British newspaper the Guardian just concluded a huge series on the "Climategate" e-mails with the words: "The world is still warming. Humanity is still to blame. And we still, urgently, need to do something about it."

But for those who are sane, whose minds are not already closed, McKibben's Washington Post op ed, Washington's snowstorms, brought to you by global warming, is a well-written piece, chock full of the material which will reinforce the seriousness of global climate change, aka global warming, as something reinforced, not undercut, by what happened where I live in the past 9 days.

Consider the following:

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Unemployment Inequality

by: teacherken

Tue Feb 09, 2010 at 04:28:48 AM EST

You did NOT misread the title.  That is an accurate description of the contents of Bob Herbert's column this morning, which the NY Times has labeled The Worst of the Pain.  Let me present it simply, but I will give the figures he offers from the bottom income level going down.  These figures are from the 4th quarter of 2009, as analyzed by The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston:

Household Income   Unemployment
Level                      Level

under 12,500          30.8%
12,500-20,000        19.1

40,001-49,000         9.0
50,000-59,000         7.8
60,000-75,000         6.4

100,000-149,999      4.0
over 150,000           3.2

But it is worse even than those figures show

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This is personal

by: teacherken

Fri Jan 22, 2010 at 11:22:21 AM EST

KathyinBlacksburg asked that I cross-post this.  It was written specifically for Daily Kos, and some of it is specifically related to that website/community

I teach government.  I have periodically wrestled with whether I could continue to do so.  I have come close to walking away from it, because I what I saw worried me sufficiently that I wondered what point there was -  signing statements, Military Commissions Act, abandoning Geneva as "quaint"  "enhanced interrogation methods,"  extending executive privilege to energy executive coming to the White House to craft policy could have their identities kept undisclosed, Scalia flying on a private plane across the nation to go hunting with Cheney while the last issue was pending before SCOTUS, ...   was there still a meaningful constitution and political system about which to teach my students?    Meanwhile, educational policy distorting the very process of school itself, depriving those most in need of real teaching and learning of the opportunity to do much beyond prep for low level tests.

Each time I hav wrestled with these issues.   Each time I decided to keep teaching -  "for now" - in the belief I could make a difference, and that the nation would come to its senses.

Now, once again, I no longer know what I will do.

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Bob Herbert has "An Uneasy Feeling"

by: teacherken

Tue Jan 05, 2010 at 06:23:01 AM EST

flowing from his belief that we're not doing enough to create jobs.  He begins his New York Times op ed
I'm starting the new year with the sinking feeling that important opportunities are slipping from the nation's grasp. Our collective consciousness tends to obsess indiscriminately over one or two issues - the would-be bomber on the flight into Detroit, the Tiger Woods saga - while enormous problems that should be engaged get short shrift.
the immediately starts to hammer on his key point by telling us that "nearly a quarter of all homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth."   Add high unemployment (staggering in Martinsville Virginia and Detroit), and no net gain in jobs the past decade, and "Uneasy Feeling" seems very much understated.

We face major crises that  we - all of us collectively - are failing to sufficiently address.

Herbert offers some cogent criticism, which I will repeat.  But even his  

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J Street and Israel on Campus

by: Rusty5329

Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 14:33:31 PM EST

Originally posted by Rachel Tepper of Plight of the Pumpernickel for Sum of Change.

There's a new Israel lobby on the block.

J Street held its first conference last week in Washington, DC since its founding in April of 2008. The organization, viewed by many as a counterweight to AIPAC, boasted an impressive number of young faces.

About 250 college students attended a parallel conference organized by J Street U, J Street's campus activism branch, and dozens of twenty-something political staffers, think-tank interns and bloggers milled in and out of the main conference's sessions.

According to The Nation:

"The few hundred young faces were a welcome sign for J Street leadership and other representatives of older generations of Jews. In the past few years, studies have shown that youth engagement with Judaism and Israel is declining. And as Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, cautioned the audience, "This is a time when many Jews, especially young ones, are walking away from a life that involves Israel." In many cases, younger Jews represent what Ben-Ami calls a new "silent majority," who have felt until now that voicing critical opinions of Israel would expose them to harassment and accusations of anti-Semitism or self-loathing. "Young Jews have no forum to question," Lauren Barr, a college junior, observed. "And so they walk away."

The conference also included discussions directly related to campus engagement. In a session titled Israel on Campus, several educators and campus leaders met to share issues they faced in addressing Israel within a university setting.

A recent JTA blog post noted that "tensions within Jewish groups [on campus] and between student organizations of various faiths played a significant role in student life and continues to be an ongoing problem."

The post also addressed the recent problems experienced by Hampshire College. The institution's president, Ralph Hexter, was a speaker on the panel.

"When asked about the specific nature of these tensions, Hampshire College president Ralph Hexter replied with a chuckle "What tensions don't I face?" Hexter referred to accusations earlier this year that his institution had divested from Israel. These claims, most notably made by political commentator Alan Dershowitz, were later reversed. Dershowitz, as fate may have it, is in fact the parent of a Hampshire College alumnus. On a lighter note, Hexter said that the back and forth between school and pundit was in fact an excellent example of how the school takes care to maintain good relations with the extended Hampshire College family."

The speakers all agreed that campus engagement is essential to getting young people involved with Israel.
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Race - a reflection on fear and more.

by: teacherken

Sat Oct 10, 2009 at 07:16:17 AM EDT

( - promoted by teacherken)

I believe this applies to our current president and his most vocal critics. If he is framed as the foreigner, incarnate evil and indoctrinating Nazi, many won't have to acknowledge that he may just be smart, sophisticated and a devout patriot. God forbid.

And if he is, what does that make them?

That is the conclusion of a thought=provoking piece at Alternet by Jonathan L. Walton, an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of California, Riverside.  It's title is Why Conservatives Are Really Afraid of a Black President and I think you might find it worth your while to read - and reflect upon - what Walton has to offer.

I will below the fold offer a few more snips to entice you, and a few observations from this 63-year-old white man who grew up in an upper middle class family and whose wife is in part a Mayflower descendant.  If you merely read the Walton, however, I will be more than satisfied.

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I should probably be asleep instead of writing this

by: teacherken

Wed Sep 30, 2009 at 18:50:11 PM EDT

( - promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

but I have been online struggling with email problems with earthlink via chat, and there are a few things rattling around my mind, and what the heck.

I think the Burns series on the National Parks is quite good, but it is a trip watching it with my wife - whom I am trying to get to post a diary - because she is an expert on much of this history, and was responsible for making some of the photos you are seeing publicly available.  I take great delight in drawing attention to the good work of others - part of the teacher in me.

That is the only good thing I can offer right now, because I am greatly troubled.  The doings in Senate Finance perhaps makes me realize why.

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When "political sense" makes poor public policy : health care and undocumented aliens

by: teacherken

Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 08:16:07 AM EDT

Rep. Joe Wilson called out "You lie" when President Obama said that the health care plan would not cover illegal immigrants. On this the President may be technically correct.  And certainly that is the politically popular approach to take.  

I disagree with the President on public policy grounds.  I especially disagree with him because I teach in a public school.  And I finally decided to write directly on this topic because of Nicholas Kristof's column this morning.  In The Body Count at Home he writes about a young woman who died for lack of health care, about whom T. R. Reid writes in a powerful new book.  Kristof writes of her,

Indeed, if Nikki had been a felon, the problem could have been averted, because courts have ruled that prisoners are entitled to medical care.
  That is where I start.
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Is health care a moral test on which there is no middle?

by: teacherken

Tue Sep 08, 2009 at 08:25:02 AM EDT

( - promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

It is a core belief of Washington's political culture that policymaking by compromise -- "meeting in the middle" -- is the way to gain and keep the support of the vast, moderate, essentially reasonable group of voters who constitute a coherent political center. My problem with this analysis is that so many of the big decisions that have to be made are binary: yes or no. The terrain in the middle consists only of "maybe" or "kind of," and I see no evidence that the country is in a "maybe" or "kind of" mood.
  So writes the inimitable Eugene Robinson this morning, in a column entitled A Middle Ground Gone Missing  He begins by noting the conventional wisdom of "The Village" that the safest thing political is to run to the center, but that now
the political center looks like the white line running down the middle of a busy street -- a foolish place to stand and an excellent place to get run over.
  It is this idea I wish to explore.
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The real issues of national security

by: teacherken

Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 16:45:40 PM EDT

( - promoted by kindler)

originally posted at Daily Kos, and the links are to the versions of diaries there

The third [freedom] is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

FDR spoke those words on January 6, 1941.  It was part of his aspirations for all peoples, all over the world.  

Until we can make those words true here, at home, in the United States of America, we as a society and the governments we have elected have failed to provide the true security of this nation and its people.

a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants


Physical health. Mental Health.

Healthy food, water and air.

Economic security.

This is the moral issue I wish to explore.

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A different perspective on the health care debate

by: teacherken

Fri Jul 24, 2009 at 22:27:31 PM EDT

This was originally composed for Daily Kos, where it quickly rose to the Rec list.  It belongs here as well -  the event question is in Virginia.  I am doing something I rarely do, which is posting it directly on the front page.  I think it is that important

at least, after my experience of today, which I am still processing, that is what I hope I can offer you.

I am in Wise County Virginia.  I am staying about 2-3 miles from the Wise County Fairgrounds at the home of va dare, who was kind enough to offer me hospitality, so I could volunteer at the annual even that is  Remote Area Medical and Missions of Mercy coc-sponsored.  And, and this is relevant to my experience, is a major effort of the Virginia Dental Foundation.

I thought I had some concept of the healthcare crisis.  Having written about this annual event, in a diary titled This may break your heart - and it should, I thought I was prepared for my volunteering.

I was not.  Today I spent from 7 AM to 5:30 PM - with only about 3 minutes off - working in dental triage with outstanding dentists trying to process as manhy patients as possible.  My heart was broken time and again, and my spirits were lifted by the dedication of all who volunteered.

And I was angered and ashamed at what I saw, which is the only reason I am attempting to explain in this diary.

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Happy Birthday, Delegate Joe Bouchard!

by: Eileen

Fri Jul 17, 2009 at 07:56:38 AM EDT

Help wish Joe Bouchard a Happy Birthday! Today, the 17th of July, send Joe $17! Or if you're feeling particularly generous, send him $1 for every year, IOW $55.

And congrats, Joe, on the great job at last night's candidate forum.  From the campaign media release:

Virginia Beach, VA - Delegate Joe Bouchard (D-Virginia Beach) debated his opponent, Chris Stolle, Thursday evening for the first of five joint appearances of the 2009 campaign. In early June, Delegate Bouchard wrote a letter inviting his opponent to a series of joint appearances that would engage Virginia Beach residents on the critical issues facing our community.

"Since beginning my service in the House of Delegates two years ago, I have listened to the concerns of my constituents who are struggling to make ends meet in this challenging economic climate," Bouchard said. "I am looking forward to engaging the voters in a serious discussion on how we get our economy back on track and solve our transportation issues."

The first forum was sponsored by the Third Precinct Citizens' Advisory Committee and held at the Bayside High School Cafeteria. Virginia Beach residents were encouraged to ask questions of the two candidates for the 83rd District seat in the House of Delegates.

"Delegate Bouchard is known by his constituents and his colleagues as a fiscal watchdog who has worked with members of both parties in Richmond to balance the budget, spend our tax dollars wisely, and keep taxes low," said district resident and Virginia Beach school teacher Dominic Melito. "Tonight, the voters had their first chance to stack up Joe's common sense solutions to solve our problems and his broad experience in dealing with the issues facing our city. I know Joe's support in this campaign will continue to grow as he explains his ideas to fix transportation and create good jobs right here in Virginia Beach."

Delegate Bouchard served in the U.S. Navy for 27 years, including his time as Commanding Officer of Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2007 and serves on the Finance Committee, Science and Technology Committee, the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, and the Joint Committee on Comprehensive Services for At-Risk Youth and Families. Delegate Bouchard lives in Cypress Point with his wife Rita and their daughter Ellen.

(Pictured above is Delegate Joe Bouchard with Sierra Club chairman Fred Adams. As part of Share Shore Drive Day July 11, 2009, Joe rode in the 20-mile ride on Shore Drive, about half of which was in his 83rd District. About 200 riders participated!)

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Palin Quitting as Alaska's Gov.

by: minniebee

Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 17:11:01 PM EDT

Sarah Palin quitting as Alaska's Governor?  What gives?  A cover-up, book deal, and/or TV show?  She would like us to believe that it's "for the good of Alaska," but everything she's done so far is for the good of Sarah Palin.
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