Tuesday’s election not just about health care

So on Tuesday, we’ve got a special election here in Massachusetts to fill the senate seat left by the late Ted Kennedy. Naturally, the primary candidates for the seat are a Republican — Scott Brown — and a Democrat — Martha Coakley. I’m very torn as to how I’m going to vote. Without revealing too much, here’s my dilemma.

We’re told that this vote will determine the balance of the senate and — consequently — the success potential of the current health care legislation being considered in the two houses. Voting Coakley is, we’re told, a vote for the current health care legislation and voting for Brown would logically be a vote against it. The trouble is, I don’t agree with some primary items within the health care legislation, so this election for me is more about ideologies going beyond this particular piece of legislation.

Do I send in someone who will maintain the status quo of the current Democratic platform and continue moving things in the direction that they’re going, which is not necessarily a good thing? Or do I send in someone who will attempt to override the status quo with a different kind of status quo that is what I feel the country is trying to run from.

Whatever I end up deciding, please try and see that this upcoming special election is not just about health care — no matter how many well-written radio ads may tell you otherwise.

This is an election about personal liberties, responses to terrorist plots, the war in Afghanistan, the FED, and everything else that is plaguing the country at this point. The health care bill as written does nothing but ensure that health insurance companies will always have customers. Period. No matter what other reforms are within the x-thousand pages of that document, it forces every american to have health insurance. Mandates under penalty of law that we all purchase insurance from some gigantic corporation. Reform? Maybe. Maybe not.

In the long term, there are many other issues at hand than this year’s particular bill, and those are things we need to think about when casting our vote on Tuesday. How will Brown and/or Coakley handle the approvals of a supreme court justice? Potential impeachment? Future bills on domestic security? Vote your conscience, vote your voice.

A babbling tower …

Branches of languages from the Indo-European Tree
Branches of languages from the Indo-European Tree

Just a post of interest. I like to look at this drawing to see how closely related all of us in the Northern Hemisphere really are. The development of languages, of course, happens right alongside the development of culture which lead to prejudices and all of that other wonderful stuff. When looking at all of these languages and cultures on one page, though, I’m inspired to think that perhaps we really can just get along.

When I was a kid, the only story in the Bible that ever really left an impact on me was the Tower of Babel. I never took it literally, of course, but as a reverse allegory. The story tells us that when we all speak a different language, or desire different goals, or fight against each other, we are doomed to simply stay on earth and not aspire for a higher state of being or discovery. If, however, we can come together then we may just be able to do something remarkable.

I still think there’s a chance for all of us to do something remarkable together. A man can dream, anyhow.

Factionalization is killing our country

The United States Congress has betrayed its purpose: the representation of the ideals of its constituents is no longer a primary motive. Rather, the concerns of corporate entities, personal gain, and political favor have corrupted the work our government does and the general population is left to ponder the outcome and live in the aftermath.

This has not happened just this year, nor in the last decade, nor indeed over the last 50 years. It has been a slow and inevitable process brought on by the one weakness in the armor of the United States Constitution: it’s ability to become beholden to factional influence. It is a process described in the Federalist Papers, as well as in George Washington’s farewell address to congress. It is the reason why Washington was against the idea of political parties, and the primary reason why Thomas Jefferson believed that every citizen should be educated: to protect the country from factionization. Their warnings have not been heeded, and our country is failing. It is not the fault of our elected officials, however.

We, the people, have allowed the factions to elect those unscrupulous men and women who pervert their calling in the halls of congress. We have allowed it to happen by not participating in our own government. Congressional elections since the 1960’s have had participation in the 20 – 30 percent range. An average turnout of around 35% has been seen during those elections over the last 40 or so years. After accounting for the non-voting population, that is approximately 17% of our citizenry who are determining who remains a representative.

By deciding to not participate in congressional elections, we have handed our country to the entities that most desired it. Those entities and their bank accounts are now controlling how laws are written and which ones pass.

The cynical amongst you will come forth with some kind of “well, it would have happened anyway” or “my vote doesn’t count” quote. To you I say shut up. The reason your vote is slowly counting less and the reason this is happening is because of that very thought process. Our government only works when everybody participates in its operation. It’s not just a right, but a civic duty to follow, analyze, decide, and act on the decisions your representatives make — in your towns, states, and otherwise.

Whether you voted or not, the people from your district will work to determine your quality of life.

This is not a country for cynical people, unfortunately — a fact I have had to come to terms with myself. Cynics will look at a system and see how it has failed them, see the utter futility of trying to correct what seems so obviously wrong. Our country is designed, however, to be fixable. To provide us the view into what is wrong and the means by which we can repair it. All we need do is act.

The massive turn-out in the 2008 elections and its historic result — while not my personal choice — is an example of the voters trying to fix a system. That election was easy, though.  Can you do it in 2010 when it matters more, but will be far less glamorous? Will you turn out and discard those representatives who have failed you, your families, your neighbors and your towns without the television telling you to do so? Will you become the moral compass for those who have none even if your favorite news station disagrees with your ultimate decision?

We are not lost yet. The factions are winning, yes, but they are no longer a concern when we override them with sheer participation.  We can still reclaim the US Congress and give it back to those who would do a better job of representing the people of this country over corporations. It is, after all, our congress to control. The people who sit in those aisles are merely stewards of our rights. And as stewards, they are beholden to our disgust, our wrath, our choices.

Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduces extension of Patriot Act sunset

GovTrack: S. 1692: Text of Legislation, Introduced in Senate.

With the bill linked above, Patrick Leahy is attempting to move the end date of the USA Patriot Act from December 31st 2009 to December 31 2013. On October 8th the bill was read twice and submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Leahy is chair.

Specifically what S. 1692 will do is amend the USA Patriot Improvement and Re-authorization Act of 2005 by changing ‘2009’ to ‘2013’ in various sections of the law which reference the bill’s “sunset”, a fail-safe date placed into the law in order to make it more palatable to its detractors. The next step for Leahy’s bill is for it to leave the Judiciary Committee and enter debate on the floor of the senate.

If Leahy’s amendment goes through, the USA Patriot act and all that it allows will stay with this country for another four years. This law needs to run its course and end this December.

For eight years now we’ve lived in a shadow of fear brought on by first the destruction of the World Trade Center, the fall-out caused by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and — not the least — the fear-mongering actions of our representatives in congress, of which the Patriot Act is one.

The structure of the United States is such that we can either entertain personal and civil liberties, or we can give all of that up for the illusion of perfect safety. We can’t have both. The Patriot Act represents the latter. It’s time for the former. There is still time for us to contact our senators and representatives and let them know that we’re done with the Patriot Act and the fear it represents.

Mass. House approves “Pandemic” bill

Mass. House approves bill allowing quarantines – Boston.com.

The article written by an AP journalist and published by the Boston Globe doesn’t mention when the vote took place on this bill or what the bill is. That lack of information is unacceptable since this bill has been around some time. Below is a brief history of the bill passed today with links to appropriate texts published by the Massachusetts government.

The two bills that make up this discussion are Senate bill number 2028 — nee, Senate 18 — and House bill number 108. In looking at the history of the Senate bill, you can see that the number was changed to House 4271 after it left the Committee on Ways and Means and was voted on today.

The next step is for the disagreements in the Senate and House versions of the bills to be hammered out, voted on and then sent to the Governor for signing. At this point, my guess is that it will go through with very little debate as the Senate and House bills are very very similar.

If you don’t want this to pass, this is your last chance to do something about it. Call your local representative and tell them why you don’t want this bill to go through. Make your argument very clear, though, and stay away from the “it’s unconstitutional” thing. There is a clause in the Massachusetts Constitution in the article on property rights that reads thusly (emphasis mine):

Article X. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary: but no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent. And whenever the public exigencies require that the property of any individual should be appropriated to public uses, he shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor. [See Amendments, Arts. XXXIX, XLIII, XLVII, XLVIII, The Initiative, II, sec. 2, XLIX, L, LI and XCVII.]

As you can see, as long as Massachusetts citizens’ representatives give permission, the Constitution of this “Commonwealth” allows the removing of one’s property by the government. This bill is, in fact, constitutional according to the rules of the state. It may be unconstitutional at the federal level, but since it only affects state residents that’s a moot point.

You want my advice? Appeal to the more Libertarian nature of your representative and/or senator. Ask them whether they relish the idea of family members being forced to be vaccinated against their will. As them whether they trust future governors to understand exactly what a “statewide health emergency” entails. Is it the flu? An outbreak of the common cold? What about the vastly under-powered “Swine-flu”?

This bill only goes into effect as long as there’s a state of emergency. The logical question, then, is exactly what constitutes that state, and do we trust a single person — Governor — to declare it?

Follow up:

On further reading, the Massachusetts Constitution does allow for protections from search and seizure, however (Article XIV). That said, there is also a clause that allows for declarations of emergency (Article XX). There’s some fodder in there for an argument of unconstitutionality, I suppose, but I still say that the best arguments lie on other paths.