Maybe you missed it because there was no birth announcement. The lack of a birth announcement is probably due to the fact that the parents, Charles and David Koch and their corporate concubines don’t want anyone to know. Just like ACCE’s bigger brother, ALEC, ACCE works best behind closed doors and under a rock. ACCE stands for “American City County Exchange.” This will allow the Koch to – shall we say – get involved in your local city councils and county government.
If the Kochs and their lackey congress critters can’t turn the government over to business at the national level, they will work to do so at the state level through their lackey legislatures. And now if they can’t turn government into their personal servant at the national or state level, they now have a new surreptitious organization to corrupt at the local level. If you feel that government is becoming responsive only to those with money, you are right. This is just what the Kochs want. After all they have the money and lots of friends with money.
ALEC and ACCE just completed a session meeting behind closed doors with corporate biggies rubbing elbows with legislators and now supervisors and councillors. Playing kind of a reverse Santa Claus where Santa sits on the knee of the legislators asking for presents. Later there will be campaign donations in a world where campaigns are conducted mostly on the expensive media.
While ALEC seldom announces their want list, we can make some informed guesses. However, the ALEC watchdog group at the Center for Media and Democracy’s (CMD) PR Watch published what they believed to be on this year’s wish list. So from the the CMD, here is an educated forecast for what we may soon see popping up as “model legislation” for legislatures around the country:
Blocking Local Minimum Wage Increases
Citizens in red states like Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voted overwhelmingly in favor of raising their state’s minimum wage on November 4, as did Republican and Democratic voters in states like Wisconsin, where twenty communities supported advisory referendums in favor of raising the wage.
With such a clear divide between the policies that voters support and those that ALEC corporate interests like the National Restaurant Association (which has been fighting for a $2.13 sub-minimum wage) want legislators to implement, the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force will feature a presentation on “Minimum Wage Preemption Policies.”
ALEC has long pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act” to block city, county, or local governments from enacting progressive economic initiatives like a higher minimum wage. In light of the renewed grassroots push for fair wage laws, this bill to crush a local government’s ability to increase wages in their community will likely be a top ALEC priority in 2015. (ALEC legislators have also been active in banning local paid sick day efforts, passing 10 laws after Wisconsin’s paid sick days preemption bill was shared at ALEC’s August 2011 meeting).
Local Right to Work
The ACCE meeting will also feature a presentation titled “Local Right to Work: Protect my Paycheck.” ALEC has long pushed anti-union “Right to Work” laws, which allow non-union members to free-ride on union representation, reaping the benefits of union negotiations for wages and benefits but without paying the costs. Michigan’s right to work law, for example, was a word-for-word copy of ALEC’s model legislation and sponsored by ALEC members.
With ACCE, ALEC is now trying to promote this anti-union legislation at the local level.
In September, the Washington Examiner reported that “Conservatives are starting to push the idea that city and county governments can pass union-restricting right-to-work laws, even though it may not be legal and has been tried only a handful of times in the last 70 years.” It is unclear whether local governments have the authority to pass right to work under the Taft-Hartley National Labor Relations Act, but in August the Heritage Foundation issued a report arguing that they do. Heritage hosted a panel discussion on local right to work in August featuring representatives of ACCE, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, and highlighted what they viewed as opportunities for local ordinances in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Those are the two top wishes, but of course business asks for a big package which will also include:
Depriving Low-Wage Workers of Health Insurance
Electronic cigarettes – stopping legislation on vaping nicotine
Protesting “Global Taxes” on Tobacco
Regulating Ride-Share Companies – exempting Uber and Lyft from common carrier laws
Industry-Friendly Dental Bills – moving dental services to less trained “practitioners”
Rigging the Game for Insurers – pretty self explanatory
Free Trade! – again self-explanatory
School Privatization – one of ALEC’s perennials, but once more carving out new areas for business to control. From the article: As one ALEC member told an ALEC education subcommittee earlier this year, “we need to stamp out local control.”
Please go to the link and read the sickening details of how the Kochs and their compadres plan to subvert our government for their business interests.
Of course the real story beyond that is that in general, Republicans are a group that believe in Jesus. Now I don’t do religion anymore, but like many I was raised as a Catholic. That meant 12 years of studying the Bible and what Christianity meant. I think anyone in this country can tell you that the very basis of being a Christian is to help the poor. At the same time one of the very fundamentals of government is to keep the governed alive. Since we are self-governing, one of our very, very basic duties would be to keep each others alive.
Cutting food stamps, cutting jobs, cutting unemployment insurance and so on should be called out for those who believe in Christ as the mortal sin that it is. Now religion is not the reason that we should have such policies. We should have such policies because as noted before keeping each other alive is a fundamental of self government. But to be a believer and vote against the basic tenets of your own religion seems to me to earn such people a special place in the hell they believe in.
“Whether or not the president obtains the listed negotiating objectives, the bill would empower the president to sign a trade pact before Congress votes on it with a guarantee that the executive branch can write legislation to implement the pact and alter wide swaths of existing U.S. law and obtain both House and Senate votes within 90 days. That legislation is not subject to markup and amendment in committee, all amendments are forbidden during floor votes and a maximum of 20 hours of debate is permitted in the House and Senate.”
That should scare you right to the quick. TPP will be a disaster for all except the very rich. Odd that this may be the one time that Obama wants something and the Tea Party agrees. The Tea Party knows what a disaster it will be, thus delighting them no doubt. Not sure why Obama would want it.
Gee, maybe our corporatist press could ask him?
Dems In Iowa House Say NO to ALEC
Press Believes Its Own Memes?
One thing that jumped out at me during this Christie affair is that the corporate media loves to believe the themes it develops over the years. John McCain was (is?) a “maverick.” Never was, McCain is a hard right crank, but apparently he must buy the boys a beer once in a while and snarl an occasional quotable line.
– Republicans good at national defense? Not unless you think wasting time, money and personnel wandering in a desert with no plan is good defense.
– Republicans good with finance? Just go look at the markets under Dems, then Republicans. Just look at debt under Dems, then Republicans. You will quickly get that nonsense out of your head.
– Republicans religious? See my comment above. The way they act is condemned by most major religions, thus they have to take one and twist it beyond recognition. Even the pope has called them out on this.
– Christie a bipartisan leader? Never was, never will be. He is a true believer republican, he just avoids the cliches, so must be refreshing for the corporate press. But he is a caricature of the New Jersey thug politician.
Medical Spending Slows
Salon has a quite interesting article on the debate over the cause of the dramatic slowing in medical spending in this country. Most importantly medical spending is slowing like it never has before. Why I do not care, but finally one thing in life is show some signs of coming into control.
Many of you probably got this email from Senator Harkin’s office. If not, I am sure there will be some information of interest in here. Remember, the ACA exchanges are to be set up and ready to go by October 1. Iowa via Gov. Branstad chose to let the Dept. of Health and Human Services set up our exchange.
Because of your interest in health insurance reform, I would like to take a moment update you about an important development in the implementation of the landmark health reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
As you may know, the Health Insurance Marketplace is an integral component of the ACA that offers consumers and small businesses a new way to shop for affordable, comprehensive health insurance. Open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace will begin on October 1, 2013, with plan coverage beginning January 1, 2014. This is great news for all Iowans and small businesses, but it is particularly positive for the 255,072 non-elderly Iowans who are currently uninsured – 92 percent of whom may qualify for either tax credits to purchase coverage through the Marketplace or for expanded Medicaid.
To prepare consumers for the upcoming enrollment period, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched new Marketplace educational tools at http://www.healthcare.gov. This website allows visitors to select criteria that fits their income levels and health needs, and receive detailed information about personalized health coverage options available to them. The website also provides information about ACA consumer protections already in effect, including:
* Access to affordable prescription drugs for seniors, which in 2012 saved 39,260 Iowans over $25.8 million, an average of $685 per Medicare beneficiary;
* Coverage for preventive services with no deductible or co-pay, available to 801,000 Iowans with private insurance;
* New coverage options for young adults under age 26;
* No lifetime limits on health benefits;
* No discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions, a protection that will be extended to all adults on January 1, 2014.
In addition, the new website includes a database of frequently-asked-questions about the law in an easy-to-understand, straightforward format. The Marketplace website also features a 24-hour toll-free call center (1-800-318-2596), online chat, and can provide information to consumers and small businesses in over 150 languages. Representatives are also equipped to assist the hearing impaired through TTY/TDD technology (1-855-889-4325).
I encourage you to visit this website to learn more about the open enrollment period and find out more about the benefits already in place.
United States Senator
One of our daughters lives in Mississippi. This is of course one of the states that would rather watch a woman die than to let her have a needed medical procedure if it was called for. It scares the hell out of her, and it scares the hell out of her parents. At least we currently do have the outlet that we could get her back to Iowa for health care if we had to. She is lucky in that respect. Most women are stuck dealing with the health care where they live. It is hard to believe that in modern day America we have to deal with 3rd world political decisions.
If I were a woman, married to a woman, had a sister, had a mother or had a daughter I would never vote for any politician who would deny any woman health care in America that is deemed necessary between a woman and her doctor. It is the 21st century, folks. Women should be able to get safe legal medical procedures in all of the United States and its territories. To deny that is to deny women their rights as human beings.
“Obamacare” Will Succeed.
As I have said before, the greatest fear the Republican Party has now and has had for decades is that Democrats would pass some sort of national health care. Their fear is that it will work. If it works, much like Social Security and Medicare, it will create at least a generation of voters who will thankfully vote Democratic. And they will vote Democratic also because they will know that national health care will need to be amended to work at its best and they know Republicans will NEVER, NEVER do anything to help such a system.
Let me say that “Obamacare” will succeed simply by comparison to the laughable system Republican policies have backed us into over the past 3 decades. Simply the fact that some 50,000,000 Americans will actually be able to see a doctor will mean the world to them. Then there are the next tier of some 50,000,000 who have insurance but are kept from doctors by prohibitive deductibles and co-pays. The biggest problem we will have will be that the system was built to deny care to a segment of the population, so there will be some overcrowding. Answers will be created to meet these problems and jobs will be created.
Republicans will not just sit back and let the ACA (Obamacare) succeed. No they will do everything they can to undermine the law of the land. Look for major assaults on several fronts trying to stall the January 1st implementation date. Remember these assaults will be carried out by Republican members of Congress who have sworn to uphold the Constitutions and laws of the US.
Walmart Versus Washington, D.C.
Most here know that Walmart got in a tussle with the city of Washington D.C. over the wages that Walmart workers in future stores in DC would be paid. Walmart wants to pay minimum wage and the DC council wants them to pay at least $12.50/hr. There are several aspects to this story. One I have heard very little about is the amount of welfare Walmart get from our government that translates into more money in the pockets of the Walton kids (big winners in the lucky sperm contest).
Because Walmart pays so little and is now moving to using more and more temp workers, many of their workers end up receiving food stamps, medicaid and other government services that you and I pay for. We should be applauding the DC council and hope that other governmental units across the country follow their lead.
Last week Gov. Terry Branstad signed a law which gives him what must be the ultimate among those who desire to hold the control of others’ lives in their hands; he now has the power to decide if a woman who uses Medicaid as their insurance will be allowed to get an abortion paid by Medicaid. Man, other Republican governors must be out of their minds jealous.
When I say “those who desire to hold control of others lives” I mean Republicans. Almost every move since Ronald Reagan has been geared to make those who are not rich lose more and more control of their lives. There are the obvious acts through which a segment of the population loses control over their own lives, such as all the regulations imposed on abortion clinics, which in effect take away choice for women. Having a child imposes huge societal controls on a woman. Now Branstad gets to decide who will have those controls placed on them. And the beauty is that he will not have to contribute one cent of his money to raise the subsequent child.
That is one of many ways Republicans have moved to control our lives in the past 30 years. They have nullified the power of unions and any leverage labor ever had by both busting unions and by passing laws which allow corporations to manufacture overseas without any penalty. This has greatly expanded the labor pool and thus lowered the cost of labor. How does that put the Republicans and the rich in control of your life? Well, have you thought about leaving your job lately? Back in the 70s you may have had a great many opportunities. Today, if you are lucky there might be one or two. More than likely there will be hundreds vying for that job. Since the chances of you leaving your job are slim, the raises and perks that once went with your job have been stunted. If you decide to leave there are a hundred outside the door that are ready to take your place for an even lower wage.
As we come up on birthday #237 for America, the freedoms and liberty that was won so hard against a government that limited freedoms are once more becoming quite limited for the average person. Franklin Roosevelt stated it very succinctly decades ago in a time of great economic trouble. As the country pulled itself out of the Depression, Roosevelt noted the relationship between freedom and economics:
“True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”
Republicans are quite aware that the opposite is also true – people who are hungry and out of a job can easily be controlled. All they had to do was to create the environment in which people were losing their jobs or feared losing their jobs and were either hungry or were getting there. Thus they have passed legislation which funnels government money to the rich. Then in turn they have cut social safety nets which at one time could sustain a person’s dignity. They have also created insecurity in jobs in all sectors through government cut backs, through laws which effectively undermine unions and through laws which allows employers to send jobs overseas for much lower wages.
Republicans have also created a populace they can control by defunding public schools and forcing teachers to teach to a set of tests. This cuts down on the teaching of critical thinking skills. Without those skills, it is harder for a person to understand when someone is controlling them. The rise of corporate and religious run schools with their ideologies also negate critical thinking skills.
And of course the great control mechanism for those in power since the beginning of man and in all societies is religion. That religion is so tied in with Republican Party is no coincidence. The Republican Party using their position in government to pass what should be religious rules is no coincidence either. Republicans know that claiming the mantle of the party of the religious gives them a great way to get votes and a great pipeline to use control mechanisms. Laws pertaining to marriage are a great example. Until just yesterday, our country had a law which controlled who you could and couldn’t marry.
How could you exert control without control of the media? You couldn’t! Usually the first thing the winners of a revolution do is seize the media. One of the first things we did after our revolution was free the media from government control. Yet the media has descended into almost total control by corporations which align themselves with the extreme right of this country. Thus they control the information that is disseminated to us. We now get a very narrow view of what is actually happening. Because of their opposition to the President, one TV network (Fox) refuses to carry anything Obama. They rehash discredited stories such as Benghazi rather than give the president any air.
The last way Republicans exert control is by limiting who can vote. We have a great example here in Iowa with Secretary of State Matt Schultz determining who can vote based on last name. Republicans do not want open elections, they want rigged elections. The gutting of the VRA by the Supreme Court Tuesday will go a long way toward that.
So we have slowly descended as a country into a situation very near what we faced in the 1760s . Once again we have a very small group of very wealthy elites running our lives through control mechanisms that their lackeys in government and industry have imposed on us. I am not advocating a revolution or anything like that. I am pointing out that our freedoms have been usurped. I will also point out that we have the tools to turn the country back to a track of freedom which in turn will bring prosperity. But we have to use these tools. We must run good candidates and vote them into office.
If the thought of Terry Branstad deciding whether a woman he does not know must be forced to give birth and then raise that child with little or no safety nets in place is as repugnant to you as it is to me – get off that couch and get active while you still can!
As I wrote this during the week, Medicaid Expansion looked like it was at an impasse. Now it appears we have a compromise that leans to the favor of the ACA plan. One thing I have learned is not to count chickens before they are hatched or laws until they voted on and signed. But this does look hopeful. And believe me, this is not a we win/ they lose type situation. No, this is strictly a sigh of relief that Iowa did the right thing for it’s citizens. Maybe using health care as one of the things the rich can hold over the heads of the poor is history in the United States
Big Breakthrough For Rechargeable Batteries
A teen in Saratoga, California has come up with a way to to take hours of charging time down to seconds or minutes. I am guessing that like me, your mind immediately leapt to a most urgent need for this capability – charging electric cars. Fast charging has always been one of the two pieces of the holy grail for electric cars. The other half is the long range battery. I am betting that will not be too long in the future. If we could go about 300 miles and stop for about 15 minutes to charge up at a reasonable price, electric cars become quite viable.
Will Branstad Get Credit For Jobs Created By Medicaid?
Here is a question on irony. If a version of Medicaid Expansion passes the Iowa legislature that is close to the ACA version, will Gov. Banstad be able to count the jobs created by the expansion to his credit? Seems like Republicans are great at fighting tooth and nail against any progress, but when it comes time to cut the ribbon on the highway or building they are always first in line to have their picture taken and take credit. So I suspect Mr. Screw-the-Poor will be right there to count each and every job as a part of his brilliance as governor.
Utilities vs. Distributed Power (Solar Panels On Your Rooftop
It looks like we are on the very tip of a revolution in power distribution. With advances in solar panels and other forms of electricity plus advances in storage of electricity, the dream of being off the grid may be coming true for some Americans in the near future. This is going to lead to some very interesting problem in how old utility companies are handled by the public and what their place will be in such a future. Here is an article mulling over some of the future problems to get you to start thinking on this early. As the cost of fossil fuels rise and the problems they cause make giant power plants less attractive we need to be thinking ahead to be prepared for a future possibly off the grid.
Who Pays The Hospital Bills In A Disaster?
Maybe someone can tell me – who pay the hospital bills for those who have no health insurance and somehow get caught in a a natural or man made disaster. To put this question in real terms, if a family has no insurance and they all end up in the hospital after a tornado like the recent Moore, Oklahoma tornado? Or the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre last summer, or any one of unexpected local disasters that will inevitably happen this year.
If a family has no insurance the hospital does not give anyone a pass. Care is never free. Can you imagine having survived a disaster only to have a personal disaster waiting in the form of bankruptcy due to medical bills? This is a follow up to the story of the big disaster that needs to be told.
And for me this is the greatest single argument in favor of universal single payer health care. Is there an investigative reporter out there who could tell us what happens after the media circus dies?
Dubuque Telegraph Herald
Iowa will accept federal funding to expand health care to low-income residents under a compromise reached between statehouse Democrats and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, Senate President Pam Jochum says.
Jochum, D-Dubuque, said an agreement was reached late Tuesday evening on an issue that has dominated the 2013 legislative session. Jochum said the compromise will be included in the Department of Human Services bill, which will be voted on Wednesday afternoon.
The legislation will be called the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan. Jochum said the state will accept federal funding from Medicaid expansion to cover approximately 150,000 new enrollees.
Healthiest Iowa Initiative to Hold “Clock is Ticking” Rally in Waterloo on Wednesday
Community members, local leaders will call on State Rep. Walt Rogers to support Medicaid expansion because “The Clock is Ticking” for Iowans who need health care security
DES MOINES — Members of the Healthiest Iowa Initiative will rally in support of Medicaid expansion on Wednesday evening in Waterloo, to send State Representative Walt Rogers and all legislators a message: the clock is ticking for Iowans who need Medicaid for their health care security — now is the time to support accepting expansion.
Rogers is a member of the conference committee considering whether Iowa should expand Medicaid, which would cover 60,000 more Iowans and cost the state up to $163 million less per year than the Governor’s plan. The current health care plan for Iowans living in poverty is IowaCare, which is scheduled to expire beginning this fall.
“The clock is ticking for Iowans who live on the edge of poverty — they’re at risk of losing their health care,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “Representative Rogers and the legislators playing political games instead of doing their job need to hear from their constituents. We encourage all Iowans to contact their elected officials and tell them to expand Medicaid before the clock runs out.”
WHEN: Wednesday, May 15th, 6:30 PM
WHERE: Outside the Waterloo Public Library; 415 Commercial St, Waterloo, Iowa
WHAT: “Clock is Ticking” Rally calling on State Rep. Walt Rogers to Expand Medicaid
WHO: State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic; Chris Schwartz, Organizer, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa; Members of the Healthiest Iowa Initiative
Medicaid expansion would cover an additional 150,000 Iowans at limited cost to the taxpayers, in comparison to Governor Branstad’s Healthy Iowa Plan, which will cover 60,000 fewer Iowans and cost the state an estimated $163 million more every year. Uninsured young adults, veterans, the working poor, and the mentally ill would all benefit from full Medicaid expansion. In addition, expansion would create more than 2,000 jobs, according to a report released by the Iowa Hospital Association.
Throughout the legislative session, the Healthiest Iowa Initiative has worked to educate Iowans and call them to action in support of Medicaid expansion. The 28 organizations participating in the Healthiest Iowa Initiative include:
AFSCME Iowa Council 61
Americans for Democratic Action
Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa
Coalition for a Better Iowa
Disability Rights Iowa
Hawkeye Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
Iowa Citizen Action Network
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Iowa Human Needs Advocates
Iowa Main Street Alliance
Iowa Mental Health Planning Council
Iowa Olmstead Consumer Task Force
Iowa State Education Association
Iowa Statewide Independent Living Council
NAMI Greater Des Moines
National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter
National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter
Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa
Progressive Action for the Common Good
SEIU Local 199
South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Working Families Win.
In addition to learning about Medicaid expansion at Medicaid Madness events, Iowans are encouraged to sign the following petition at www.healthiestiowa.com:
Iowa has the opportunity to approve a Medicaid expansion as part of Obamacare. We call on Governor Branstad to take this opportunity to help thousands of Iowans rather than pursue a plan that costs more, covers fewer and has no guarantee of federal funding. There are no real reasons – only political rhetoric – for failing to support Medicaid expansion in Iowa.