Monday, March 22, 2010

Worth considering

Over at, Katha Pollit argues that the flexibility of prochoice feminist leaders allowed the president's healthcare bill to pass, and that in return, there ought to be a Payback for Prochoicers.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


It is the first day of Spring, and in my little neighborhood in northwest Oklahoma City, there are several inches of snow on the ground. Snow covers large parts of the state of Oklahoma. But I am fairly confident that hell has not frozen over. Therefore, there is no way that my Congressional representative, right-wing Republican Mary Fallin, will vote for the health care bill when it comes before the House of Representatives some time tomorrow. Therefore, I can safely ignore the pleas that have been flooding my email inbox, urging me to call her and ask her to vote for the bill.

As I've noted recently, my overwhelming reaction to the current health care bill is ambivalence. I hope that in 20 years, we will all look back and see this bill as a historic first step toward achieving meaningful health care for all. I fear that we will look back at this as the moment when a Democratic president and Congress sacrificed the well-being of ordinary people in order to serve the interests of insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and for-profit health-care providers.

Regardless of my hopes and fears, despite the united opposition of Republican lawmakers, it now appears that the bill is almost sure to pass. You can see this from several recent posts on Talking Points Memo. The Democrats have abandoned a controversial parliamentary maneuver and now the House Will Hold Straight Up or Down Vote on Senate Health Care Bill. Progressive skeptics are now falling in line to vote for the bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to allow anti-choice zealot Bart Stupak the opportunity to amend the Senate bill, which is slightly less destructive to women's reproductive freedom than the version originally passed by the House. It may not be a done deal. It will be a close vote that could still go the other way. But even the racist and anti-gay ugliness perpetrated today by "Tea Party" protesters at the Capitol suggests a desperate last-ditch effort to stop the inevitable.

So it's Spring, y'all. There was so much snow that the local protest that had been scheduled to mark the seventh anniversary of the Iraq War had to be canceled. It may be rescheduled, and other protests took place nationwide. Tomorrow, immigration rights activists will march on Washington, DC to demand reform of our nation's unjust immigration laws. Activists continue working for single-payer health care. And frankly, my friends, I don't believe there is a hell.And I still believe that if we work really hard, we can make this world better without waiting for torment or paradise in some world to come. I hope you are having a lovely Equinox. As for myself, I am going to go for a walk in the snow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Seven years is too much

There will be a peace rally in OKC on Saturday to protest continued US military interference in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

There's still hope for the public option...

...according to this post on t r u t h o u t:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that the public option is dead, but progressive organizations are mounting an aggressive campaign to resurrect it as Democratic lawmakers gear up to pass a final health care bill this week via a budgetary process known as reconciliation.

Democracy for America, Credo Action, and the Progressive Campaign Change Committee (PCCC) raised $75,000 for a 60-second spot that will air on MSNBC, CNN and a local station in Pelosi's home district of San Francisco. The ad challenges assertions she made last week that the public option does not have enough support from Democratic lawmakers in the Senate to be included as one of the amendments in the reconciliation bill.

On the Web site, the groups, in supporting calculations that the measure has enough votes to pass the Senate, list the names of Democratic senators who have either signed a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supporting the public option, or have made statements saying they would back it or would "likely" cast an "aye" vote if it were introduced as part of the final package of legislative fixes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Irrationality and transcendence

Happy Pi Day, which celebrates and promotes understanding of the number that represents the relationship between a circle's circumference and its diameter. If you take the circumference of any circle and divide it by its diameter, pi is the number you will get for an answer. The number is 3.14159, and so forth, out into infinity, without a pattern ever repeating itself.

The title of this blog post comes from the information in the Wikipedia entry for pi, that pi is a number that is both irrational and transcendent. Which somehow seems like an exceedingly lovely concept. Wikipedia also has an entry on the Pi Day celebration.

You can see pi calculated to one million digits by following this link.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wishing I could have Granny D over for coffee

This past week, I've been down in my back, and have spent quite a bit of time in bed, lying flat on the aforementioned back, listening to the radio. That was how I learned about the death, earlier this week, of grassroots political activist Granny D at age 100.

Doris Haddock career as a liberal political activist dated as far back as 1960, when she and her husband campaigned against hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska. In 2004, at the age of 94, she challenged incumbent Republican Judd Gregg for one of New Hampshire's US Senate seats. That campaign was documented the film Run Granny Run.

She first gained national attention in 1999-2000, when, at the age of 90, she walked across the United States to dramatize the need for campaign finance reform. According to her blog, maintained by admirers, Granny D continued her fight for campaign finance reform when she was honored with a 100th birthday party by the governor of New Hampshire:
People have been asking me how I feel about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to strike down some of the campaign finance reforms that I walked for and have been working on for a dozen or so years.

When I was a young woman, my husband and I were having dinner at the Dundee home of a friend, Max Foster, when a young couple rushed through the door breathless to say that they had accidentally burned down Max’s guest cabin, down by the river.

Max stood up from his meal. He set his napkin down. He smiled at the young couple and he said,

“Thank goodness. You have done me a great favor, and you don’t even know it. We have been wanting to completely redo that old place, and now it will be a clean start. It will be better than ever the next time you come to stay.”

Well, I guess the Supreme Court has burned down our little house, but, truth be told, it was pretty drafty anyway. We had not really solved the problem of too much money in politics. Not hardly. And now we have an opportunity to start clean and build a system of reforms that really will do the trick.
I have been thinking of Granny D today as the Coffee Party sponsors over 400 gatherings across the United States with the goal of countering the right-wing shenanigans of the right-wing Tea Party movement. The Tea Party folks promote their agenda under the guise of liberating us from interference from an overbearing government. The Coffee Party responds that
We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.
That is a noble goal, and exploring the Coffee Party site, it seems that they are dedicated to the grassroots democratic activism -- in the spirit of Granny D -- that might make that goal a reality. But I am also reminded of the many times that the US government has acted as a force for oppression in the world.Radical feminists and leftist activists have often have argued that this is not an accident. Ambivalence seems to be my overriding mood this week. I find the Coffee Party appealing, but wonder if it will end up legitimizing US government policies that I personally find very disturbing.

 Too bad it's too late for me to invite Granny D to talk it all out with me over a cup of coffee.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Majority leader will use reconcilliation to pass health bill

t r u t h o u t has this report about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to use the budget reconcilliation process to pass a health care bill through the Senate. This process allows the Democrats to pass a bill with a 51-vote majority, rather than needing to garner 60 votes to overcome a threatened Republican filibuster. Is this good news or bad news? Commentator Robert Kuttner points out that as long as we have a for-profit healthcare system, costs are likely to continue spiraling out of control, and substantial numbers of people will lack useful coverage. I find myself deeply ambivalent over the question of whether President Obama's bill is better than nothing. It doesn't seem to be clear at this point whether the Senate will even pass a bill with any form of public option. It is oddly comforrting, in the grip of this ambivalence, that my opinions on this subject will have no effect whatsoever on the far-right congressional delegation of my home state, Oklahoma.

There is one thing that I am quite clear about. The various young male progressives out on the 'net who call for the Democrats to "grow a pair of balls" and pass meaningful health care reform are voicing a hope that is patently stupid  The possession of testicles does not qualify someone to help make wise and courageous public policy. We have a genteel sufficiency of testicles in Congress already, thank you very much.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm not buying it.

I'm not posting very much lately because I'm in the middle of rewriting a novel. And posts may be less frequent over the indefinite future because I've canceled my at-home Internet access and landline phone. The phone and the Internet were very nice luxuries, but Cox Communications seemed to keeping finding inventive new ways to raise their prices. I did the arithmetic and figured out that they are getting about $700/year of my hard-earned money.

Cox would give me better rates on phone and Internet if I would get cable t.v. from them. But I don't want or need television, and my total cost would go up substantially. Other utilities -- the ones that are real necessities in an urban environment, like gas and electricity -- have also been going up. So I decided that I could get by with my little by-the-minute cell phone and the free Internet that is available at the public library and local coffeehouses. A side benefit of this is that I will be able to use the Internet more mindfully for the things that are really important to me, and not as a mindless time-waster when I am tired or bored.

My own situation reminded me of a story I heard on The Takeaway a few weeks ago. According to this public radio newscast, "The Obama administration has made universal access to broadband Internet a top priority, but a new FCC study says that access or no access, 31 percent of Americans can't afford the cost." As difficult economic times continue, with many people continuing to lose their jobs and fall behind on their mortgage payments, I would think that the percentage of people unable to afford home Internet service will only increase.

Given that times are difficult and most people would have less money to spend, it would seem odd that Cox would keep raising its prices. The laws of supply and demand would seem to work against this. If people have less money to spend, demand for things like high-speed Internet access ought to fall, and if demand falls, prices ought to fall as well. Maybe the marketing geniuses at Cox have decided that people are looking for ways to spend less money on entertainment outside the home, and will pay more money for Internet and cable t.v.

Free-market fundamentalists would say that capitalists make profits by offering customers superior goods and services, and that prices go up when demand for these services increases.But it is my observation and experience is that real world corporations do their very best to ignore the supposed laws of supply and demand. When demand is stagnant or falling, they try to make up for loss of revenue by raising prices. Whether this works well for the corporations, whether they increase their revenue more than enough to make up for a resulting loss of business, is something that I don't know. But it's pretty clear to me that it doesn't work well for the rest of us.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Obama's OSHA wants to track musuloskeletal disorder

Anyone who has ever suffered a repetitive motion injury at work will probably be interested in this post at t r u t h o u t.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A complicated tea party

This post from The Hutchinson Political Report is the best analysis I've seen of the right-wing "tea party" movement.

Revolutionary crocuses

Alice Walker has her revolutionary petunias, but if I were a poet, I would write about crocuses. How they bloom where they're not planted. How it matters not how desolate the winter, how wracked with war or fraught with flood, here comes Candlemas and there are the crocuses, shoving up through the mud, pushing out through the snow. I half think they could crack concrete if they had a mind to. I saw one growing once where an old slab had been demolished after maybe 40 years.The flower is fragile. A hard rain will melt it in an instant. But the bulb beneath is tough, and next year she will pour forth her delicate color again.

You might imprison her in your garden, but once she's lost the blossom that you captured her for, she will grow her leaves green and fat for her own pleasure and nourishment. Starting alone, she multiplies and spreads far beyond your established borders. She knows when to hide, when to go underground, and when to rise up singing, by the dozen, by the thousand, for she is related to everything and understands all. She may be crushed by the heel of the mighty, but understand, the flame of a million blooming crocuses will transform the landscape forever.

A careful reader of this poem will notice that it refers to crocuses blooming at Candlemas, about a month earlier than they bloom in Oklahoma. That's because I wrote this poem years ago in Western Oregon.