Friday, July 18, 2008

Yet another reason why I'm not voting Republican

Somehow, I got onto the RNC email list. It's amazing, because the RNC
doesn't care a whit about separation of state and church, and I'm among their
top enemies in that regard. I serve on the Board of Directors in an
organization dedicated to the total separation of state and church, which the
upper echelon of the GOP considers a myth and an undesirable state of affairs.
Never mind that the organization is non-partisan, and that there actually are a
few Republicans who think separation of state and church is a good thing.
It's too bad that they also think that the middle class should be separated from
their jobs and their money.

In any case, I received a survey from the McCain campaign, and I thought I'd share
the questions with anyone who cares to read them, because they're awfully
telling. Most are "Yes", "No", and "Undecided" questions.

Section I: Jobs and the Economy

1. Do you think Congress should respond to the economic slowdown with a
plan of tax cuts to stimulate the economy

Oh, yes, because that's worked so well so far. I thought it was irresponsible
to cut taxes in a time of war in the first place, and I really haven't reaped
benefits from it. The only people who really did reap benefits were people
whose main source of income is dividend checks (capital gains dropped from 28%
to 15%), and really, really wealthy people. The few hundred dollars most
of us ended up getting pales in comparison with the rise in the cost of living
we've experienced of late.

2. Do you believe our economy with grow if we cut taxes and put more money
in the hands of hardworking Americans?

Republican tax cuts haven't been to the benefit of working class Americans;
they've inflated the bank accounts of the wealthiest Americans, and those who
make the bulk of their money from dividend checks made out like bandits, with a
thirteen percent increase in their annual take--if their take remained the same.
Some made out even better, and some have had less luck in the market.
Let's face it, though--people with a lot of money who get it from the stock
market and other investments covered under capital gains know where to put their
money. They aren't hurting.

Also, consider the fact that the middle class has had an average decrease in income of
over two thousand dollars per household per year since Bush has been in office,
that eight thousand houses foreclose per day now, and that prices of everything
have gone up, and you'll see that lowering taxes won't help all that much,
especially since our infrastructure is already crumbling.

Furthermore, our dollar is weaker, we have far fewer jobs for people without
rare skills, and cutting taxes on people who already don't pay all that much in
taxes--relatively speaking--won't stimulate the economy because they will go
from drowning in debt to maybe scraping by. Most of this country lives
paycheck to paycheck, and the average person is thousands of dollars in debt to
credit cards alone, never mind car payments and house payments.

Finally, employers who pay people based on what they'll take home after taxes
will simply pay employees less, so they'll take home about the same amount.
It benefits employers, not employees. Some employers might pass on the
benefit to workers, but the largest employers won't.

3. Do you think the unemployment insurance system needs to be modernized to
meet the needs of displaced workers

Yeah, but I'd want to see what they mean by "modernized". I'm highly suspect
when Republicans get involved in things that unions created. They're
highly anti-union, and will do what they can to benefit employers, not
out-of-work employees.

4. Which of the following do you feel is most adversely affecting the
economy in your area
? [Yes, they capitalized everything!]

-Burdensome Taxes: If taxes are seen as investments in the general welfare of
the United States, they are no longer burdensome. Nobody likes to pay
taxes, but if you want certain services, like roads, schools, public safety,
fire departments, and so forth, you have to pay taxes. I'm all for tax
reform, but let's face it: most of our tax money goes to military spending,
federal law enforcement, and prisons. How about we address the issues
behind that staggering portion of the budget and move on from there?

-Unstable Real Estate Market: Deregulation of the mortgage industry killed the
real estate market, in addition to poor lending practices and yes, poor consumer
understanding of mortgages. I recently purchased a home in this buyer's
market, and the mortgage company tried to push me into an adjustable rate
mortgage after the housing crisis was in full swing. My answer
was, "Are you freaking kidding me?" The corporate predatory lending
practice of marketing unaffordable loans to people who aren't credit worthy
helped create this crisis.

Consumers have to take some of the blame, but I've heard of loans approaching
29% after the interest rate went up--who would have thought the rate could have
gone up that high? It was bad enough that credit cards became deregulated
at the federal level, and can charge whatever interest rate they want, but
having that sort of rate on a mortgage is unconscionable.

Speaking of credit cards, if you want to get out of debt with those people,
don't pay your bill for at least one month, and probably two. You will
incur late fees and possibly over-the-limit fees, but they will put you on
hardship programs, some with 0% interest. You could also close your
accounts and get on a payment plan. You think you might be ruining your
credit, but chances are that you don't have great credit anyway, you're most
likely extended, and home and car loans are more important on your credit report
than unsecured debt. Oh, and medical bills? If you can't afford
them, don't pay them. They don't count when you're looking for a mortgage.
Just wait six months after your delinquency.

Note on the credit cards: turn your ringer off for a month and a half. The
ringing will drive you nuts. After the month and a half is up, start
answering the phone. Don't mess around with debt counselors and don't get
duped into paying the full balance owed or the current past due. Tell them
you don't have the money, and they'll work with you. Be nice. Most
of these people will be nice back. If they're pushy and mean, ask to speak
to a supervisor. They usually won't be pushy and mean if you are working
out a payment plan or settlement.

One more note on credit cards: I think the outrageous rise in interest rates is the
single biggest reason for the economic slowdown. People are in debt up to
their eyeballs and can't buy the consumer goods that drive the economy.
They have less money, so they buy cheap, Chinese-manufactured products.
Stop giving these people your money. Trust me.

-Threat of Terrorism: Terrorism has been on the rise globally since Dubya took
office. His invasion of Iraq has been a recruiting tool for terrorist
organizations. Grampy McSame will continue the policies of Bush the
Younger, so it stands to reason that terrorist organizations will be able to
maintain the recruiting tools supplied by this Republican President.

Do you know why we haven't had an attack on American soil since 9/11? There
are two reasons outside of the diligence of intelligence agencies. The
first is that our soldiers are in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they can be
attacked by terrorists who blend in with the locals really well, and Osama bin
Ladin wanted us over there so he didn't have to fight us over here. By the
way, he also wanted our bases in Saudi Arabia closed. He got both things
he wanted. The second reason is that it's really expensive and
logistically difficult--nearly impossible, in fact--to attack Americans on
American soil if you don't live here and don't speak the language. Read
the 9/11 Commission Report, and you'll see just how difficult it was to
a)recruit people willing to sacrifice themselves for Osama bin Ladin's cause,
b)find such people who were educated enough to either already know English or
learn it well enough to accomplish the goal, and educated enough to learn to
fly, c)finance the operation (yes, Osama bin Ladin has lots of money, but al
Qaeda operates with cash, mostly, and large wire transfers catch the eye of U.S.
Customs), and d)stay under the radar long enough to get the job done. It
is tragically amazing how difficult it was for al Qaeda to execute the
9/11 attacks. The tragedy gets worse, though: word has it that sixty
federal agents possessed prior knowledge that two people involved in the attacks
were on the terrorist watch list and were learning how to fly planes, and
nothing was done to stop them or even keep them under an appropriate level of
surveillance. And don't buy into this nonsense that the scenario was a
"failure of imagination", because that scenario had been advanced several times
before. It happened in "The Running Man", for the love of mud! If
you've never seen that movie, it ends with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character
plowing into a television network's building with an aircraft. If you were
involved in national security and you saw that movie or even heard about it,
wouldn't you go over such a scenario just for the mental exercise?

-Severe Government Regulations: For these people, any government
regulation is severe. If you want to see where failure of regulation gets
you, take a look at the mortgage industry, the credit card industry, and the
food industry. The most recent development in the area of food is the
recall of five million pounds of beef due to E. coli contamination. We've
cut funding from the inspection of food, so our food is coming to us poisoned.
Imagine that.

Speaking of severe government regulations, these Republicans want to restrict
your freedom of reproductive choice (abortion and birth control), your freedom
of choice of partner (they're anti-gay rights), your freedom of expression (flag
burning laws and arrests of protesters) and your economic freedom (unless you're
wealthy already). They build more prisons and make tougher laws to put
people in them, keeping the prison industry alive and well, thank you very much.
They escalate drug law enforcement, which mostly imprisons people for simple
possession, when it's actually far less expensive and more sensible to treat it
as a public health issue. Make no mistake: the Republican Party is only
against "severe" regulation when it comes to anything that involves big
business. They actually used to support the entrepreneur, but they're so
in bed with corporations now, it's disgusting.

-Growth of Government Spending: The occupation of Iraq, the creation of the
Department of Homeland Security, the creation of the White House Office of
Faith-Based Initiatives, and the failure to veto every single spending bill that
came across Bush's desk are all examples of the insane growth of government
spending. Bush cut taxes (for the wealthiest Americans, mostly), but
borrowed most of the money from China to make up for massive increase in
spending he and the Republican Congress from 2002-2006 created.

-Unpredictable Fluctuating Fuel Prices: It's all in the wording, because a more accurate
phrase would be "Apparently Limitless Increases in the Price of Oil".
"Fluctuating" makes it sound like the prices are going up and down drastically,
when they're going up fairly steadily, with very minor, temporary decreases
along the way. The steadily rising price of oil has many causes:
speculation, increased demand due to the overwhelming use of imports, neglect of
automobile fuel standards, lack of refineries, willingness to squeeze the
consumer for every available penny on the part of the oil companies...there are
all kinds of factors here. The out-of-control increase in the price of oil
is causing the cost of everything else to go up, but that's also a function of
deregulation. Reagan deregulated the trading of oil futures. Oh, and
he and Bush the Elder sold weapons to Iran and armed and trained the Taliban,
but that's beside the point.

-Other: I answered "Republican policies".

5. Which of the following is the single most important economic issue
facing your family

This question had relatively benign choices and was one of the very few leading
questions on the survey. Your choices were: Health Care Costs, Price of
fuel, High Taxes, Inflation/rising prices overall, Mortgage Crisis, and Other.
The random capitalization is theirs. I answered "Republicans in office"
under the "Other" category.

6. Do you believe that reducing the federal deficit should be a top

Yep--I don't know why we wanted to owe all that money to China in the first
place. Seems contrary to common sense. Unfortunately, they didn't
want commentary; only "Yes", "No", or "Undecided".

7. Do you think government should reduce regulations and provide tax incentives to
encourage small business growth

If that means that small businesses can ignore safety standards, labor laws, health
regulations, and the promises they've made to employees regarding benefits, no.
I'm sure there are some regulations that hinder businesses, but I want examples,
and I want to decide on a case-by-case basis. The same goes for tax
incentives. I want to know the reason the tax exists, what we're going to
lose if we cut it, and how giving the small business owner that particular cut
is going to give me a return. Is my tax burden going to be lowered because
that employer can now hire people at a more competitive rate of pay, which means
they'll be in a higher tax bracket than they may have been previously?
That's one example of several that cross my mind.

Quite a few people go into business without taking taxes into account in their P&Ls,
and think that the business income is their personal income, with the mistaken
understanding that they are taxed progressively like individuals. Maybe a
progressive tax is fairer when it comes to businesses. I don't think they
should be excused from paying taxes altogether, because the services their taxes
cover must be paid for by other taxpayers or by borrowing more money from China.
There is a certain level of tax that's fair. Businesses get robbed, so
they need the police department. Businesses lose property to fire, so they
need a fire department. Businesses have a supply chain, so they need
roads. Businesses need an educated work force--even the most basic
businesses need people who can do math and communicate properly--so they need
strong schools. I don't think they should be exempt from taxes altogether,
which is often the case for a certain period of years--a period where other
taxpayers pick up the slack.

8. Do you feel the U.S. tax code should be made simpler and fairer?

Yes. I am all for tax reform. I just don't think the Republicans should handle
it. I think a flat tax that begins at a certain income level might
be fair. It would reduce accounting costs, eliminate most of the debatable
necessity of the IRS, and eliminate the inefficiency of overpayment and
distribution of refunds. No tax returns would have to be filed for the
average employee or employer. Self-employed people would most likely be
the only ones with paperwork.

I am not against taxes; I just think they should always be an investment. If we
don't have a clear return in whatever form, the tax should be eliminated.
The interpretation of "return" is very loose here, though, and must be left up
to the people. How the people take the power back is another, much more
complicated matter.

9. Do you agree that Government should aggressively rein-in (sic)

Yes. End the occupation in Iraq. Don't get involved in wars of aggression.
End the war on drugs and start treating drug abuse as a health issue.
Reform the law so that Medicare can once again negotiate drug prices for
participants. Reduce the need for prisons. Stop spending to benefit
corporations and wealthy members of Congress. Dissolve the Department of
Homeland Security and streamline the current intelligence agencies with
technology. Stop auditing individual taxpayers with incomes that make such
spending impractical--the return just isn't there.

10. Should "pork-barrel" spending be completely eliminated?

I want that spending defined first. I have an understanding of the phrase,
but I want examples of the spending Republicans want to eliminate before
answering in the affirmative.

Section II: National Security
[This is where the questions get
really bad.]

1. Should the first foreign policy priority of the next President be
winning the war against radical Islamic extremists

I thought that we were supposed to be going after a criminal organization.
The occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with waging war against radical Islamic
extremists; Saddam Hussein wasn't one, and ran a mostly secular dictatorship
(though his language was just as religious as any of our politicians' in his
speeches). We should never have waged war; we should have tracked down and
prosecuted the criminal organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
They are mass murderers, not a military force, not a nation-state; they should
be hunted down like any fugitives from justice and tried in front of the world.

Allegedly, the prisoners at Guantanamo are people involved in the planning and
execution of the 9/11 attacks. Didn't we deserve to see their public
trials right away? Why did it take years and a Supreme Court ruling to
bring them to trial? Why haven't we captured and tried Osama bin Ladin?

We're distracted, that's why.

I didn't know this was a holy war--or, at least, we've been told it's not.
Are we there to eliminate all fundamentalist Muslims? I thought we were in
Afghanistan to find Osama bin Ladin (who is allegedly now in Pakistan) and
disband the Taliban (whom we armed and trained with our own CIA), not eradicate
fundamentalist Islam. We were told we were going into Iraq to eliminate
the "imminent" threat of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, which didn't
actually exist. It turned out that we went there to profit the military
industrial complex--parasites like Halliburton and Blackwater who capitalize on
military ventures.

2. Should America surrender in Iraq regardless of the consequences in the
Middle East

I almost killed my laptop by spitting out what I was drinking all over my keyboard
when I read this question. Surrender? How the hell would we even do
it? To whom would we surrender? We're not at war with a
nation-state. Ending the occupation in Iraq would simply give the
Iraqis their country back. The graceful thing to do would be to end the
occupation, then fund the rebuilding of the country using only Iraqi labor and
Iraqi companies. It's the least we could do after nearly a million
civilians died and four million had to flee the country, after we destroyed
their infrastructure, after we tortured people who did no wrong, and after we
allowed their national treasures to be looted. Let's not forget that over
4100 American lives have been lost, tens of thousands have been altered due to
grievous injury and psychological trauma, and the cost is going to go over a
trillion dollars in the near future, if it hasn't already (including indirect

You can't surrender to a criminal organization. It's not possible. They
have no authority except what they can take. You hunt them down like any
other criminals and bring them to justice.

3. Do you agree with Democrats who believe national defense spending should
be slashed to fund domestic programs

Where is this policy written? Cutting defense spending and funding domestic
programs are two separate issues, and are treated as such by nearly every
Democratic politician I know. We put more money into military spending
than all of our allies combined. Something has to be done to curb that
spending. The wording of this question is disingenuous.

I will assert firmly here that if we spend one quarter of the defense budget on
real diplomacy, we'd see no reason to spend as much on defense as we do.
The fact is that we're spending quite a lot on offense right now.
The occupation of Iraq does not represent defense by any stretch of a normal

4. Do you support giving our law enforcement agents the tools they need to
monitor terrorist communications

In other words, "Do you think it's okay that we illegally wiretapped our own
citizens, using taxpayer dollars?" My answer is that they already had the
tools, but this administration decided to illegally wiretap without bothering to
obtain court orders, which they are allowed to apply for after the fact, under
FISA law. I don't like the idea of surveillance without oversight. I
think that Bush had surveillance on political opponents and ordinary citizens,
not on terrorists, and even if he did have it on terrorists, he should have
obtained the authorization of the FISA court. He should have already been
impeached over this illegal action, and Cheney--at least--should have been
impeached over the outing of a covert CIA operative.

5. Do you believe that we should set a public date for withdrawing from
Iraq even if it undermines our troops in the field

My eyes rolled after I read this question. Who wants to undermine our troops
in the field? The answer we're supposed to get here, of course, is Obama.

Our troops are already getting attacked regularly by people in Iraq who want the
occupation to end. They're losing limbs and lives because we have a
stubborn idiot in the White House who doesn't understand that this occupation
has cost us infinitely more than we've gained. In fact, I can't think of a
thing we have gained, except for more than a couple of dozen seats in Congress
for Democrats in 2006, and a probable victory for Democrats in 2008. It's a
hollow victory. We have a lot to fix. Grampy McSame isn't going to
fix it. I don't know if Obama can, either, but I've seen how fragile the
Republicans can make this country's economy and stability in eight short years,
and I don't trust them to turn things around.

Section III: Other Issues [The lunatic fringe]

1. Should we appoint judges who will interpret the law instead of liberal activists who
make new laws from the bench

This question comes from the mindset of neo-conservatives who think that judges
should merely interpret legislation, not in terms of the Constitutions of the
United States and the various States, but as they're written and passed by the
various legislative bodies at all levels of government.

Activism from the bench is undesirable, no matter whether it is liberal or
conservative activism. What we should be looking at in terms of judges is
knowledge of and adherence to the Constitution, not their willingness to simply
stick to the letter of any law Congress (or any legislative body) passes.

2. Is it critical for the U.S. to develop alternative sources of energy and
find new supplies of oil in order to fight inflation and keep fuel affordable

In other words, are you willing to sell off pristine land that belongs to you, the
taxpayer, for your enjoyment, in order to burn some more fossil fuel? I'm
all for the part regarding finding alternative sources of energy, but I want to
reduce oil consumption, not enable the addiction.

This would be like saying there's a crystal meth shortage, so while you smoke
marijuana, we're going to find ways to more efficiently produce crystal meth.

3. Do you think we should work to give parents with children trapped in failing
schools more choices to give their children a better future

Translation: Do you think we should funnel money away from public schools to
give parents tuition vouchers for private schools? This practice largely
promotes Catholic education; truly private schools are quite often prohibitively
expensive. Vouchers would not benefit inner city children as much as they
will parents who have money, who will basically get a government-funded tuition
discount on very expensive private schools. While the Catholic schools are
arguably better than the inner city schools, there are quite a few public
schools in the suburbs that compete quite well with them. The answer is
not to promote Catholic education with school vouchers, but to fix the issues
that lead to schools failing in America's urban centers.

I know there are a lot of people who think privatization of education is a good
idea, and maybe non-profits would pick up the slack for the poor kids, but so
far, attempts at school privatization have left even suburban children behind.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention it: some people are all about the privatization of
schools because they don't think they should be forced to pay for the education
of someone else's kids, which is a valid stance, albeit one with which I
heartily disagree. However, the Republican theocrats in charge of the
party currently want schools to go private because they are less strictly bound
to Constitutional provisions. In other words, kids will get a daily dose
of religion, unless they're lucky enough to have parents who can afford to send
them to the cost-prohibitive secular private schools. Not only that, but
they'll bring intelligent design--or worse, young-Earth creationism--into
science classrooms, teach revisionist history, make the kids pray, recite bible
verses, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance like good little conformists.
Sex education, they hope, will be abstinence-only (though my Catholic sex-ed
class taught about birth control, with the accurate numbers).

4. How do you think Congress should best address the looming Social
Security crisis

Of course, this question assumes that Social Security is a looming crisis, when
Medicare is actually under more of a threat of insolvency and costs much more
than Social Security.

Your choices are:

-Raise the retirement age for today's younger workers: This option might
actually make some sense, but where do you draw the line?

-Eliminate the current Social Security tax cap: Social Security was designed
as a safety net for people whose incomes made saving for retirement much more
difficult, or for people who can't work anymore. I'm quite sure
Republicans would scream bloody murder if the tax cap was eliminated, because it
will definitely take another chunk of income from them. However, raising
that cap might be sensible. Social Security isn't keeping up with the cost
of living at the most basic level. It also might make more sense to
strengthen the middle class so that more people are paying into Social Security
at a higher real dollar amount. When salaries and wages decrease, the
amount that goes into Social Security also decreases.

-Offer younger workers the option to part of their Social Security tax into a personal
: Do you know whom this benefits? Investment companies.
You know whom it hurts? Current Social Security recipients, or taxpayers
who have to make up for money borrowed to keep the program going. The
question is moot, though: the more Bush talked about this kind of program, the
less the American people liked it, and the lower his approval rating sunk.
People hate this idea, especially older people, who tend to vote at a higher
rate, and how are a larger proportion of the American population.

Alternative solutions might be:

-Not allowing people with a certain level of assets to collect Social Security, since
they have no need for a safety net (*coughJohnMcCaincough* Yes, John
McCain collects Social Security benefits.)

-Finding a way to fund Social Security for current recipients while allowing
younger people to put money into private portfolios. Something I didn't
mention above about this type of program is the risk involved. You could
lose your entire portfolio if you have a bad broker or you don't know how to
manage investments. The "safe" investments all earn too little for you to
use them for your entire retirement.

-Use Social Security to bankroll student loans and other forms of lending. The
interest could help fund the program.

-The above idea of not allowing people at a certain level of wealth collect benefits
works really well if we make it so less people need the safety net when they are
too old or too unhealthy to work.

5. Do you believe that individuals should be allowed to privately invest a
set percentage of Social Security tax in personal accounts

No. Social Security is a safety net. Private investments carry risk with them.
It's not smart, and it will take away funding from people who have paid in all
their working lives already.

6. Do you think that forcing every American into a socialized national health plan is
the best way to deal with uninsured patients

Look at the wording of this question: "Do you think that forcing..." Who thinks
that forcing is a good thing? However, that's why we have a representative
Constitutional Republic--so we can vote on things that we want. Nobody is
dictating anything here--except the Decider himself, Bush the Younger. He
created the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives by Executive Order,
diverting funds from other Executive programs, including billions from the
Housing and Urban Development budget. Most of that money went toward
rebuilding churches that could not afford to stay open due to empty pew syndrome
and to abstinence-only sex education. It also went to faux clinics set up
to mimic Planned Parenthood so religious fanatics could scare the hell out of
young women who went in thinking they were going to get an abortion or accurate
information on reproductive health.

Okay, moving on: "Do you think that forcing every American into a socialized national
health plan..." Socialized? That sounds like Socialist! I'm no
damned Socialist! Oh, wait...schools are a form of "socialized" education.
Police departments are a form of "socialized" keeping of the peace (ideally).
Fire departments are a form of "socialized" protection of property from fire and
rescue of people from all sorts of nasty situations. Of course, some
people who disagree with a national health care plan also want to privatize
these services. They're ideological in their belief in everything being
part of the free market.

"...national health plan..."

Does "national health plan" mean a national health insurance plan only? If
that's the case, we stand to save a lot of money just by going to a single-payer
system that is administered by the government. Medicare has about two
percent of its costs dedicated to administration. The rest goes toward
paying for health care. We'd eliminate 25% to 35% of the administrative
costs involved in private health insurance, leaving us with enough money--just
based on what we spend on health insurance coverage every year--to insure 86
million more people.

Now, a national health plan would be a better idea. Not only would it be a
single-payer insurance program with low administrative costs (especially if
there's a good technology investment at the beginning), but also with a lot of
reform, the health care industry would become a lot less costly. I think
even pharmaceutical companies should be taken out of private hands. No,
strike that: I think that pharmaceutical companies should especially be
taken out of private hands. Private pharmaceutical companies are all about
maximizing profits, so they have no interest in you actually being healthy, or
creating drugs that do much of anything. They cut corners, as well, and
hide scientific findings in order to market their product. If there's one
thing the government does well--ask Penn and Teller, who said it during their
NASA episode--it's science. Science done with profit in mind involves
deadlines and pushy marketing people. It's not an environment conducive to
intellectual pursuits, which could take time and a lot of trials. Medicine
would become very inexpensive under such a system.

Hospital administration would be a government function under a national health
care plan, so we'd save money there. Health care professionals would not
have to worry about collections, since everything they do would be covered.

No system is perfect, but I've been caught up in the private health care system,
and it's not a picnic. It's far from it. It was a living hell.
After four months in excruciating pain, I was finally diagnosed. I went
one week just waiting to get better, after a doctor told me I would be better in
a week. Then, I went through three weeks of physical therapy, each session
of which made my pain worse. For the next four weeks, I waited to get an
open MRI. For almost two more months, I waited to see an orthopedic
surgeon who specialized in spinal care. For another month after that, I
waited to see a pain specialist, because there was nothing the spinal care
specialist could do. For another month, I had to wait for my first
epidural steroid injection.

During the entire ordeal, I had to document everything and send it to the people
whom my employer uses to pay short-term disability benefits. It's good
that we have these benefits; 70% of my pay is better than nothing, but take away
30% of my pay and add health care co-pays, and my budget was stretched very,
very thin. I made up for it with credit cards, which a lot of people say
was a mistake, but if I hadn't paid my medical bills at the time, I wouldn't
have been able to continue trying to get diagnosed and treated, because
Broadspire, the disability payment people, needed to see that I was paying my
share. Three months into the ordeal, my employer sprung on me the fact
that I would have to start paying my health care premium, which would come out
of my paycheck when I came back from short-term disability. Five months
into it, all of the credit card companies raised my interest rates from the
9%-14% I had been paying to 26%-29.99%, even though I hadn't missed a payment
and I hadn't been late. My balance was just over a certain percentage of
my limit. It was because of this snag more than any other that I forced
myself to go back to work, still in excruciating pain.

I would have had to go back to work anyway, or find another job, because just when
my financial situation was making me think going back to work was the only
choice I had (bankruptcy was an option I hadn't considered, but I should have at
the time--after I went back to work, it was too late because my income exceeded
the maximum I could make before declaring chapter 7, and the way chapter 13 was
designed would have had me barely scraping by for four years, because they make
you pay back the balances now), Broadspire told me I didn't have objective
evidence that I was in pain. Now, I had--still have--an MRI that shows
that I have no disk between L5 and S1, and that the disk above it is
desiccating. I have bone rubbing on bone; L5 and S1 are scraping together
all the time. That scraping causes irritation, which causes swelling,
which causes a pinched nerve. The pinched nerve was so excruciating that I
couldn't take another step if I was walking, no matter what I was doing or where
I was at the time, until I rested a bit and the pain subsided slightly.
Then, I could take two more steps and I'd freeze again. Since the epidural
steroid injections, I'm better off; it still hurts a lot, but my right leg goes
numb instead of exploding in pain when I walk awhile, and I start walking funny.
My back starts hurting like a bad toothache, but no pinched nerve. People
who have sciatica know what I'm talking about, but it wasn't just the sciatic
nerve that was being pinched. I had a sacroiliac injection series to get
rid of that pain.

So I watched the movie "Sicko" a few months back on DVD, and I cried. There was
this young guy from France who had a similar problem to mine. After six
months off at 100% of his pay, his doctor asked him if he thought he could go
back to work. He said he thought he could. The doctor asked him if
he was one hundred percent, and he said no. The doctor told him to take
several more months off, which he was able to do at 100% of his pay, and he went
back to work without pain. Yeah, I cried. After my six months off,
still in horrible pain, I worked my job for a couple months, and I caught a
lucky break. I got to have a desk job at a call center for a month.
I thought it was going to become permanent, but during the last week of that
month, they dropped the bombshell that the facility was closing in five to ten
years (!), and that all positions would be backfilled by people who already
worked at the facility or who were in Memphis. The facility is going to be
around for half a decade to a decade, more than enough time for me to stay off
my feet and allow my back to heal while still being productive, and they
couldn't let me stay. Couldn't make an exception in my case. I was
devastated. The group I was helping out for that month was absolutely
outraged, because I had a unique combination of tech support and field
experience that allowed me to help some of them service the people they
supported--people like me--better, and they enjoyed having me around. They
didn't want someone who didn't know the job coming in and learning it if they
could have someone who hit the ground running on day one.

So I'm thinking of moving to France. Shove your Freedom Fries up your ass.
While you're at it, shove your private health insurance and health care
industries up there, too.

" deal with uninsured patients..."

Right now, the way we deal with uninsured patients is that we let them suffer and die,
like my Aunt Pam did, or we end up making up for what they don't pay in our own
health care costs and health insurance premiums, because hospitals can't refuse
them, and they often wait until their problems become an emergency before going
to the emergency room. I know I did when I wasn't insured and I had
pneumonia in 1997. My Aunt Pam had cancer. She suffered the pain and
fatigue for quite some time before the cancer consumed her entire body.
It's so bold to say that we should just let the uninsured go untreated when
there's no face to put on them. I see my Aunt Pam every time I think about
the uninsured.

7. Which political party do you feel is best able to handle each of the
following issues

A lot of old guard Republicans are the Goldwater type--fiscal conservatives and social
liberals. The Republican Party was the party of the entrepreneur some time
ago because fiscal conservatism and social liberalism go hand in hand in
business--at least, businesses are, by and large, more tolerant than other
institutions in society. It doesn't matter to the bottom line whether the
people who made the money were black, white, yellow, red, or albino; if there's
a profit, you're in business. It benefits business to have the
largest, most diverse labor pool, because labor is cheaper that way and the
employer has a wider skill set from which to choose. They can reach more
markets if they're culturally diverse.

My point is that a lot of people have preconceived, outmoded notions of what it
means to be a Republican. They think Reagan was the Goldwater type, when
he was really more like Bush--but a lot better at communicating. In any
case, the Republican Party is the party of the theocrat corporatist, a person
who wants social control and thinks he is pre-ordained to have more than
everyone else.

By the same token, people have pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a
Democrat. People shouldn't vote along party lines; they should vote in the
best interest of themselves, their families, and their communities. In any
case, here are the issues, with, of course, my not-so-humble commentary:

-War in Iraq: If you think the Republicans are handling the war in Iraq
well, you're not paying much attention. It's not even a war at this
point--it's an occupation, pure and simple. They keep saying they're
fighting terrorists, but I ask you: what good does it do to hold a position when
your goal is to hunt criminals down? What good does it do to put our young
men and women in uniform in a place where people who want to kill them can blend
in with all of the other civilians, so they don't know who the enemy is?
What good does it do to torture innocent people, as we did in Abu Ghraib prison?
We imprisoned men, women, and children in Abu Ghraib, by the way. I
suggest watching "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib", a production that has appeared on HBO,
but should be available in DVD format. It's very enlightening--and
sickening--to know what our government has authorized at the highest levels.

Just to recap: we've lost 4114 soldiers the last time I checked, tens of thousands
have been physically wounded or psychologically traumatized, nearly a million
Iraqi civilians have died violent deaths, and approximately four million Iraqis
are now refugees in other countries or on the border of their own. Am I
missing something? How is this a victory?

Here's something you won't hear on the news: our invasion of Iraq was a
violation of the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, which prohibits wars of aggression.
When we ratified the treaty, we added a loophole that said that we could invade
a country if they posed an imminent threat to us. That's why it was so
important for Bush to fabricate the threat of WMDs. Bush committed treason
when he decided to invade. Our Congress can be absolved of this charge for
authorizing use of force because they were led to believe that there was an
imminent threat. The intelligence they had was cooked.

Torture violates the Geneva Conventions, which is another series of treaties we
signed. Yet another violation that falls under the Geneva Conventions is
the treatment of the prisoners of this "war on terror". According to the
Geneva Conventions, we must treat prisoners according to our own laws.
They have right to a fair and speedy trial in front of a jury of peers.
They're just now getting it--that's not fair and speedy. They've been
treated worse than Timothy McVey, who took out preschool children with all of
the other people he killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, and not all of the
prisoners we are holding actually have evidence against them in regard to being
involved in the 9/11 attacks. A couple do, and they freely admit it--case
closed. I think we should keep them alive so they can't be considered
martyrs; there's nothing worse for them than to die in prison of old age instead
of dying for their heinous cause. I'd like to see what evidence, if any,
we have against the rest.

Remember John Ashcroft? Under his stint as Attorney General, over one
thousand Arab-Americans were arrested, detained, and questioned in relation
to alleged terrorist activity, and we didn't get a single prosecution out of

-War Against Radical Islamic Extremists: I already gave my opinion on
this matter above. I will only add that they are not the only extremists
in the world, and extremism--violent extremism--is not confined to Islam.
Eradicating terrorism could be a worthy goal, but it has to be approached with
intelligence, good police work, and due legal diligence. Terrorists are
criminals, not armies of nation-states, and should not be elevated to that
status. Calling it a war does just that.

-Taxes: Tax cuts in a time of war are insanely irresponsible. 'Nough said.

-Health Care: We've only done worse in this category while Republicans have
been in power. Costs have gone up while quality has deteriorated.

-Federal Spending: Are you kidding me? I'd rather have "tax and
spend" tempered with "pay as you go" than borrow and spend, then have your
grandchildren and great-grandchildren pay. We're ten trillion dollars in
debt, people!

-Social Security: Republicans want to bury it, even taking away what people who
already paid into the system are getting in their retirement. Do you want
old people at the poverty level to start living in cardboard boxes or with their
grown children?

-National Defense: Haven't an estimated 13 million illegal immigrants come over
the Canadian and Mexican borders since 9/11? Don't you think that's a
little bit of a threat to national security? How many al Qaeda members
made it here on student visas, let them run out, and just stayed? Do we
know if there are sleeper cells? What's to stop them from pulling a
Timothy McVey, or even from driving a car filled with gasoline containers into a
crowded area and setting it alight?

They're not inspecting the containers coming into our ports. They almost
sold our port security to Dubai. Their occupation of Iraq has caused more
recruitment for terrorist organization than the formation of Israel. I
think the Republicans are downright worthless on national defense.

-Foreign Policy: I'm not a big fan of bomb first, figure out why later.

-Environment: Ask the people who worked at Ground Zero and lived near there just after 9/11
how good the Republicans are on the environment. "The air is safe to
breathe," EPA political appointee, Whitman, told them. Years later, most
of them are having severe respiratory problems.

Bush wanted to lift regulations on the amount of mercury companies are allowed to
emit. Mercury is a poison. We can process very small amounts of
mercury--well, most of us. We can't afford to have mercury levels rise.
None of us can.

-Economy: Even though I have gotten raises for the past two years, if you measure my
salary against the cost of living, it has actually gone down. Are you
better off than you were eight years ago? Maybe if you were just out high
school or college, but chances are that you're not.

-Immigration: How could you possibly choose who is better on immigration when everyone is all
over the place on this issue?

-Energy: Do you think the oil company executives vote for Democrats? Do you want to
be on the same side as oil company executives?

Republican energy policy has been dismal. Consolidation of energy
production and distribution of power over longer distances has led to a rise in
energy costs. It also led to that major power outage we experience in
Michigan and Ohio a few years back.

The Enron folks were GOP people all the way, as well.

-Education: Nearly ever Republican during the Republican primaries said they'd do away with
the Department of Education. Do you think they really support the
education of your children?

-Protecting Traditional Values: What the hell does this mean? This category
is the one where abortion, faith, and gay rights all come into political play.
All of these issues are private matters. They should be kept private, and not
left to Republicans to decide.

Did you know that abortions went down under Clinton, when the policy was
comprehensive sex education? They're back up now. So are STDs.

If you have faith, do you want Republicans dictating what values your faith
should espouse? Traditional values for some people are different for
others. If you're like me and you don't espouse faith, you most likely
don't want anyone forcing you to pay for religious activities or forcing your
children to sit through religious rituals when they should be learning

Are gay people hurting you in any way by getting married? Think about it:
since gay marriage became part of the Republican platform, you've seen more gay
people kissing on television and going through marriage ceremonies than you ever
would have otherwise.

Part IV: Campaign Strategy [Bet they don't mention voter caging, voter
suppression, and election fraud a la rigged voting machines!]

1. Do you believe it is critical that our candidates stand behind a
hard-charging conservative message of smaller government, lower taxes, new jobs,
and a strong national defense

If that's what your candidates actually stood for, I might vote for them.
They're weak on all points. Republicans don't know the meaning of "smaller
government"; they'll cut welfare benefits and other social programs while
spending a great deal more on military ventures and enforcement of archaic laws.
I don't want lower taxes if it means that we'll have to borrow money to make up
the difference and then some, and if my daughter's children's children will have
to pay back the debt. I'd love to see new jobs, but the only new
jobs Republicans have created have been in India and Southeast Asia. As
for a strong national defense, I think a smart strategy would be to employ
diplomatic measures to prevent war, rather than engaging in constant saber
rattling and waging wars of aggression. We should be able to defend
ourselves properly unless and until we have eliminated the need to do so.

2. Should the Victory 2008 program be focused on turning out the Republican
vote and registering 2 million new Republican voters

If you can find two million people who actually agree with your platform and aren't
being duped into registering as Republicans, by all means, knock yourself out.
I think you're going to need farm more than two million to beat the Democrats
this year, though.

3. Are you concerned about the vast sums of campaign funds being stockpiled
by the Democrats and their liberal allies

If you are a die-hard Republican, I would expect that news would be discouraging.
However, if you think about it, the vast amounts of money the Democrats and
their 527 organizations have raised to elect Obama President means that people
are voting with their checkbooks and credit cards this time around. Obama
is getting his funding from individual donors, not special interests or
corporations. The fact that he can raise so much from individual donors
should tell us how the election should go this year.

There are lots of myths floating around about Obama. Go to to research these myths and dispel them. There is one email going around that has several links to Snopes, but when you check them out, they say the opposite of what the email says. That's how cynical and bold these people have become. They have to spread lies about Obama to beat him.

Snopes has very little on John McCain, which should tell you who is starting the
false rumors in this election. If you want the dirt on McCain--and there's
lots of it--go to

If you want to take the survey, go to

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