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Three Years For Stealing My Vote

5:52 am in Conservatism, Government, Legislature, Politics, Republican Party, State Government by Ruth Calvo

(photo via Atta J. Turk at Flickr)

The sentencing of Tom DeLay that occurred on Monday has good aspects, most especially that his wily scheming didn’t slip away altogether form the justice system.  In the end, the jury had to declare guilt because the amount DeLay raised from donors matched exactly the amount he pocketed for solidifying the Texas vote that gave him leadership powers.

The judge gave him a sentence of three years, when it could have been for all purposes, life (99 years).   Using powers of office to steal votes from the public just didn’t appear to this judge to be severe enough for meaningful penalties.  In the minds of early settlers in this country who fled from the effects of authoritarian government, their own say in their own government was worth their lives, and they gave them up for it.

In our present day, we look around and see that the country is slipping into authoritarian rule.   We see that the working class is increasingly being deprived of economic opportunity, and has slipped far below equitable income levels as the very rich spend their profits to gain increased power.   The use of power to consolidate power is epitomized by DeLay tactics.   We may soon become aware that by a mere slap of the hands, we’re letting our own power to vote in a government we can live with slip away, as well.

As John Nichols writes in The Nation; “It should be for a lot longer.”

No one did more to corrupt the public life of the country during the Bush-Cheney era than the cruelest and most crooked of their henchmen, Thomas Dale “Tom” DeLay, the Republican Majority Leader turned the U.S. House of Representatives into a cesspool of pay–to-play politics and the elections of his home state of Texas into empty charades.

“DeLay’s brand of politics was one of reckless disregard for the American people. By funneling illegal corporate money into Texas state elections, he helped elect Republican candidates to the Texas Legislature, which led to the tainted redistricting of his state,” says Tom “Smitty” Smith, the director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, which with the group Texans for Public Justice waged the long campaign to hold the former Majority Leader to account.

The evidence of DeLay’s wrongdoing was so clear, and the Republican fixer’s defense was so lame that there was never much doubt that he would be convicted.

In our present day, we look around and see that the country is slipping into authoritarian rule.   We see that the working class is increasingly being deprived of economic opportunity, and has slipped far below equitable income levels as the very rich spend their profits to gain increased power.   The use of power to consolidate power is epitomized by DeLay tactics.   We may soon become aware that by a mere slap of the hands, we’re letting our own power to vote in a government we can live with slip away, as well.

Immense amounts were spent in recent midterm campaigns, much of it from undisclosed sources.    The present majorities of wingnut representatives hold the power to redistrict their states – as a result of the recent census.  The example set by Texas in pushing for redistricting that shuts out their opponents will be of lasting value to the right.   With its political slant against the public, it can’t depend on that public for votes without massive financing for political misrepresentation and fraud.

The U.S. stands in stark contrast with the rest of the world in its low standing for education, wealth, health care and public service.   We are not losing the power of the vote that the DeLay tactics of manipulation manage just because of the other, corporate, side’s wish to keep its wealth safe from public needs.   It’s increasingly a matter of life and death.

Tort Reform Means You Pay For Others’ Errors

4:00 am in Government, Health care, State Government by Ruth Calvo

Tort reform sign at a Tea Party rally against health care reform. (photo: Pittsford Patriot via Flickr)

One of the favorite choices of the wingnuts for actual legislation has always been ‘tort reform’.  It was their hue and cry to get out of making health care productive for most citizens, even though it is not an area subject to federal legislation.

In Texas where there has been extensive tort reform, conditions have been created that are ideal for incompetence and outright fraud. One area that has seen a true disaster is in emergency room care. Under conditions that may include extreme stress, mistakes can occur but the patient maimed for life cannot count on any compensation for those mistakes.

Since the new law went into effect, doctors’ malpractice insurance rates have fallen by nearly 30 percent statewide, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. And 82 Texas counties have seen a net gain in emergency physicians, including 26 counties that previously had none, says Jon Opelt, executive director of the pro-tort-reform Texas Alliance for Patient Access. “It has really enhanced the number of high-demand specialists — neurosurgeons, obstetricians, anesthesiologists — in parts of Texas where there weren’t any,” says Rocky Wilcox, general counsel for the Texas Medical Association.

But medical malpractice attorneys say these developments have come at the expense of Texas patients. Texans expect to receive extraordinary care in an emergency room, the attorneys say. Instead, state courts have ruled that a “lower standard of care” is acceptable for doctors practicing in ERs. They argue the “willful and wanton” rule means emergency room care in Texas is some of the most dangerous in the country, because no one can be held accountable for botched diagnoses or flat-out wrong care.

I happen to live in a small town not too far from Dallas for doctors and others to commute reasonably. Partly for that reason, our hospital is known to be something of a reservoir of physicians that didn’t make it in the big city. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally we know that this hospital ER is really a very last resort. In case of severe injuries, it is generally requested that the patient be transported to a better, that is, uh, better equipped medical facility.

If you are not able to work and pay your bills, face it, knowing you will get no compensation for being rendered disabled is the worst of all possible worlds. Its name is tort reform. Being the ultimate resort of doctors most worried about malpractice claims isn’t the state you want to be in, either.

There are other areas in which tort reform is a full employment plan for the worst practitioners. When I drive through rush hour traffic, I don’t usually think about it to avoid panic. If I am hit by another driver, even under egregious circumstances, damages are not really dependable for the victim. Let’s see, in a state that has provided refuge for medically incompetent doctors, what do you think are the qualifications for truck drivers and delivery personnel. Not a good prospect when you hit the road, is it?  I’d stay out of any construction sites, too, since just taking away barriers to your dangerous zones isn’t going to make the city worry. They’ve got tort reform. Yeehaw.

We’re not all of us ‘slip and fall’ artists, the perpetual  and/or professional victims of injury by encounter with hazards that happen to be insured by a business entity. We all know about fraud by that means, but in the tort reform state an innocent fall on or off of a hazardous structure may cost you your total means of support. If you slip on my front stairs, my insurance company has its own lawyers all set to protect their coffers, not you. Good luck in ER, too. Tort reform is hazardous to your health in many, many ways.

Of course, under present legal constructions, if you are injured by some particularly crazy behavior on the part of another “party”, to collect damages you have to prove “intent”. That other “party” may have driven out in front of you and stopped suddenly, but can you show that the “party” intended to wrack up his own car to collect on the insurance?

The most dangerous elements love tort reform. When the wingnuts insist on its being a great way to save your money, steer clear. They are hazardous to your health and your retirement planning.

Future of U.S. Demands Higher Standards of Education and Care

5:45 am in Education, Government, Legislature, State Government by Ruth Calvo

photo: churl via Flickr

Whenever we have heard the wingers talking about the ‘troops’ we are automatically warned that what is to follow will be resoundingly supportive.   Money and equipment, the forces defending us should all have the best.   Kevlar of all sorts is about to come.

The assumption is that as long as they’re in action keeping us safe we will do it all for the uniformed forces.  Trouble only brews for those troops when it comes to supporting them after they have served, may be wounded, and have lives to live.   That was an assumption used to vote for funds in congress, anyway.

In today’s world of despoiling the economy to get the wingers voted into office, that just isn’t the going frame of reference.   The area of neglect that’s affecting the troops strongly at present is the basic education that the country needs to provide if we are to produce viable troops in the first place.

Nearly a quarter of all students who try to join the U.S. Army can’t pass the entrance exam, a new study says.

The study, “Shut Out of the Military: Today’s High School Education Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready for Today’s Army,” puts the blame on America’s educational system.

(snip)

“In every state in America, the military turns away remarkably high percentages of applicants who, despite their high school diplomas, lack the reading, math, science and problem-solving skills needed to serve in the armed forces,” the study says.

However, while many blame the educational system, nutrition studies are also showing that the ability to think is affected by childhood nutrition as well.  Studies conducted on children threatened with malnutrition that were conducted in several areas have shown direct relationships between inadequate nutrition and educational abilities.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Big Downside to Fracking: Flammable Water

4:42 am in Energy, Environment, Government, State Government, Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Fracking makes tapwater flame up.

(At right: Picture from Texas news outlet WOAITV.)

The ground water many rural households depend on has been affected by the practice of “fracking” that jets chemicals into earth layers containing oil for the purpose of extracting the oil.  It’s common knowledge out here in Texas, where incidents of rural households exploding or at least finding they can ignite water coming out of the kitchen tap have been reported for many years.’

Now the oil companies are beginning the practice in the east, and that practice has alarmed people who have recourse to a working legal system.  As a result, states that have public service orientation are shutting down companies that endanger their citizens.

Environmentalists, joined by some congressional Democrats, have pushed for federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act. That would reverse an exemption granted by congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush in 2005. Halliburton Co. was the main company lobbying on fracturing at the time, and some call the exemption the “Halliburton loophole.”

Environmentalists applauded EPA’s actions, agreeing that Texas has shown the insufficiency of state regulation of oil and gas production.

“This is an example of why federal regulations for oil and gas operations are so important,” said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The EPA found that drinking water may be substantially endangered with the presence of cancer-causing benzene and other contaminants, yet Texas state authorities did not respond to citizen complaints and had no plans to do so.”

When oil companies discovered they could buy off the regulators in Texas, they evidently thought the practice would work just fine in other places as well.   Hopefully, citizens used to protections will fight back and protect themselves.  It would be just great if those protections would spread, even out here to long victimized residents in a state that has been for sale to the highest bidder for much too long.

States’ Rights to Debt

7:20 am in Government, Health care, State Government by Ruth Calvo

photo: jmtimages via Flickr

Increasingly spectacular in his public pronouncements as the right strays ever farther from rational thought, Texas’ governor Perry has moved from suggesting he wants to secede to a threat to cut medicaid off from the state’s needy.   There actually has been study of the prospect authorized by the legislature.  Predictably,  it discovered a few problems, like most of us would.  While decent human beings would choose not to condemn poor folks to death, the study finds that the losses to medical facilities would be really fierce.

Up to 2.6 million Texans — many of them children — could become uninsured. And hospitals would still be required by federal law to treat medical emergencies, potentially adding billions of dollars in annual uncompensated care costs funded at the local level. Meanwhile, Texans would continue to pay federal taxes to support other states’ Medicaid spending, the report notes.

Texas would “lose billions each year in federal funds; billions of dollars in indigent health care costs would shift from the state and federal levels to local governments, public hospital districts, medical providers, and the privately insured; and 2.6 million Texas residents could lose health insurance,” the report states.

Still, the escalating Medicaid costs facing the state — up 170 percent in the last 11 years, and accounting for a quarter of the state budget — have far exceeded the growth in state tax revenue, inflation and population, and are unsustainable, the report notes. The HHSC report says the best solution is for the federal government to give states greater responsibility over program costs

Naturally, this report finds that the unsustainable health crisis individuals would face would be terrible – for the taxpayer and the medical community.

The U.S. being the only ‘advanced’ nation that submits to a for-profit medical system is not addressed by this report.   That our citizens are only a fall away from destitution doesn’t worry the Texas lege.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Waltzing Across Texas

3:33 pm in 2010 election, Economy, Elections, Government, Politics, Republican Party, State Government by Ruth Calvo

photo: Charles Henry via Flickr

[Ed. note: Be sure to note the sizable deficit in Texas noted earlier today by diarist SocraticGadfly.]

The day before the election was an interesting time to drive from just a few miles short of the border with Oklahoma to just above the Big Bend, which rests along the Rio Grande and across the river from Mexico.  In my area, there are very many signs for Bill White for Governor.

When I got about 200 miles south of Fort Worth, I began to see the first signs for Rick Perry.  They were attached to businesses, with a very few actually in yards of houses.   For the entire trip, I may have seen ten Perry signs.  I continued to see signs supporting Bill White all the way.

The ads on television, of course, are non-stop.  Newspaper endorsements, like yard signs, though seem to have heard Bill White’s arguments and found them solid.  He has all the endorsements except the Waco paper.

The lack of real public support for Perry is hardly surprising,  as his connections with lobbyists and use of the taxpayers’ funds for his friends’ businesses is quite remarkable.  Several newspapers cited the use of business incentive funds for his friends’ businesses in their choice of Bill White.

The results of tomorrow’s elections should favor Bill White.  It will not be public votes for the incumbent governor that put him over if Perry wins.

Texas has a protocol for its roads that applies here.   When a driver finds another coming up at a speed exceeding his/her own, it is expected that the leading driver step aside by using the lane northeasterners consider the Parking Lane.  Out here, it’s wide enough for a car to pull onto to let others by.  Time for Perry to pull over and let the public elect a governor of their choice.

Today is November 1, the Day of the Dead.  A dead candidacy should leave now, and let the public be served.

That Ol’ Time Religion Fouls Your Air

2:00 am in Conservatism, Government, Politics, State Government by Ruth Calvo

The Loaned Star State of Texas is coming after your science (and your funds)
from theologyandculture.wordpress.com

Educamate at Your Own Risque.

In a move that ought to make the Texas School Board proud of its scientific larnin’, the state of Texas Friday contested in court the right of the EPA to enforce its standards of air quality. The science of climate change used by EPA is now under attack by the state.

Here in the Loaned Star State, recidivism is a family value. With a candidate for re-election as governor who raises threats that he’s going to secede, there are few surprises left when it comes to the state government’s failures. We even have a lawsuit out here over whether the good-haired chief executive can take Big Bro’s money in the stimulus program and substitute it for state money, which is a tad short. Yes, that chief executive, the one that said out in public that the Big Government bugaboo couldn’t make him take their money.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →