Texas Health Scare: The Silent Majority

In watching the historic litigation over Health Care this week, many are left to wonder what the Supreme Court’s ruling will be. Three days of vigorous discussions that mostly centered on the Individual Mandate. To be certain there is much more debate ahead before the landmark ruling (full audio and transcript here via NPR).

But there is one constant in the HealthCare battle that no one is talking about… the millions of people in our country that remain uninsured. They can’t go to the Doctor, the Dentist, or anywhere to get regular check-ups and wellness visits, but instead have to wait until a crisis point occurs and be admitted to the ER. No where else is this a greater problem than in the state of Texas, with the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured people… roughly 6.3 million residents.

It should come as no surprise that Texas, having the highest percentage of the uninsured, also has some of the nation’s most dire health care crises. Houston’s Memorial Hermann was named the “Busiest Trauma Center in the US” by ABC in 2009. Sadly since then the situation hasn’t gotten much better. Houston-area ERs are still inundated by an ever-growing number of uninsured patients who have nowhere else to turn. Texas isn’t rushing to help them however… the Governor and lawmakers in Austin continue to put their political principles over the needs of real Texans, and are playing political football with the Federal Government in its attempt to help our state.

One of the most recent stunts affects the Texas Women’s Health Program. Governor Perry and Austin politicians have just recently decided to remove funding from the program if it goes to Planned Parenthood (eventhough this has never been a problem in the past). According to the State Comptroller’s Office, Texas Healthcare costs are skyrocketing faster than any time in history. Between 2005 and 2009, state Healthcare expenditures have grown by 36%. Factors cited for this growth include costs that continue to be driven by an unbridled private market, an increase of Emergency Room use across all sectors (but especially the uninsured and MediCaid patients), and a growing number of specialty tests per patient. It’s clear that Governor Perry doesn’t have the money or the time to play with ANY Healthcare funding. If we turn down funds for TWHP, where do we expect them to come from?

More of the same is at play with the Affordable Care Act. Originally a Conservative idea, the GOP has become so obsessed with defeating President Obama that they have run away from their own previous positions and forced the Supreme Court to argue the semantics of the law. Even Liberals will tell you that “Obamacare” is far from perfect, but it is much better than doing nothing, and waiting until costs and emergencies are far beyond our control. We’ll soon have longer wait times, for more severe issues.

So the question remains… Who is going to drop the politics and stand up for the betterment of all Texans?? Apparently we can’t expect our Governor or the Legislature to do so. Our fate lies only among those 9 justices in the Supreme Court. And even then, Perry will probably find a way to shoot us in the foot for the sake of politics. Great… another ER visit!!

Texas’ Man-Made Health Scare… For Women

In the wake of the much publicized Supreme Court showdown this week, it’s hard to keep up with local and state issues with our current Healthcare situations. But one that shouldn’t be denied is the current battle for the Texas Women’s Health Program. In a political “game of chicken”, Governor Perry has decided to withdraw funding from TWHP if it is given to Planned Parenthood, eventhough PP has been allotted funding every year since the program was created. As HHS Secretary Sibelius points out, the 130,000 women that are affected by this are the losers… it has very little to do with those that made the law.

Our only hope is that the Texas legislature wakes up and remembers to put the needs of its citizens above manufactured political principles.

A test for DOMA in the health care fight??

Of course the main swarm of the newsday is buzzing around the Supreme Court, but soon we’ll be talking about some big moves going on in the lower courts that will set up another Supreme Showdown. According to Chris Geidner at PoliGlot, the Obama Administration has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to fast-track it’s review of a case that alleges the Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection clause. This case involves Karen Golinski, who’s wife (married in California) was denied Health Care Coverage because eventhough gay marriage was legal in California at the time, DOMA allowed the insurance company to block her coverage. The Obama administration has called it out and is now pursuing DOMA for discrimination.

Recall that the Obama Administration is no longer defending DOMA… it has already declared the 1994 law unconstitutional. Instead, our tax-payer dollars are being spent by House Republicans on the Bi-Partisan Legal Action Group, or BLAG. Don’t let the “Bi-Partisan” name fool you, this effort is entirely from the GOP, as it was approved by a 3-2 party line vote.

How does this affect the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare?? There is no mention of guaranteed coverage for domestic partners in the ACA (the House version of the Bill had domestic partner protections, but they were scrapped in the Senate version of the Bill). But if the ACA is upheld by the Supreme Court, it could potentially weaken DOMA even further by ending other broad discriminatory practices by health insurance companies. Proving that the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory would cause portions of it to be struck down, or end the law entirely. So as we all watch the showdown over the Individual Mandate, know that another big court fight is ahead… possibly before the General Election.

Zimmerman utters racist remark just before the murder of Trayvon Martin

The saga behind the murder of young Trayvon Martin has shocked and enraged the entire nation. Even more troubling is the fact that under Florida law, the alleged killer George Zimmerman is allowed to walk as a free man. But evidence continues to mount against him. Recently discovered by ABC news, Trayvon was on the phone at the same time Zimmerman placed the 911 call.

In Zimmerman’s conversation, he also utters a racial slur just as he tries to corner Martin. You can hear him whisper it during the call.

Listen very carefully at 2:23… He says “F_____ Coons”. If that doesn’t prove this to be a racial hate crime, I don’t know what else could.

Please for the sake of America’s children, this man needs to be brought to justice.

GOP Primary’s continued attendance problems

From the words of the great Former Congressman Ronald Dellums…
“The Center of American Politics is not static. It’s defined by who shows up.”

I can’t argue with that statement in the slightest, and neither can the GOP. Through all of the hoopla and noise of the Presidential Primaries, the most pervasive sound is actually silence… the unnoticed “elephant” in the room is that the majority of the electorate has yet to weigh in on a single contest. Eventhough it seems that this fight should be winding down, it’s barely even started. Lest we forget, the majority of voters in this country are actually Independents… they don’t claim loyalty to EITHER Political Party. It’s safe to assume that they are in the center of the political spectrum.

In order for one side of the pendulum to tip the scales in their favor, they have to drum up some excitement around their candidate. In essence, they kinda have to BELIEVE in him or her. And thus lies the continued issue of Mitt Romney… nobody believes that he’s going to be President. As we’ve watched vote after vote get cast, what the pundits continue to leave out are two very key factors… GEOGRAPHY and TURNOUT. Both seem to be running away from Romney and any other candidate.
As proof of this, let’s look at the results from the most diverse state in the Primary season thus far… Florida.

Romney beat Newt Gingrich in Florida by an admirable margin of 15%… not a blow-out, but certainly nothing to scoff at. But he did very little to encourage party enthusiasm, as the 2012 primary produced 400,000 fewer voters than its 2008 predecessor. Yes that’s right… 400k. Now mind you that Florida is a growing state. In 4 years there are more Floridians overall, and one would assume more registered voters. Not to mention that there isn’t even a Democratic primary to contend with this year. If the Center is defined by “who shows up”, the Romney faithful are less than impressive.

Far more is revealed when you actually look at the map of where Romney won Florida… major urban centers and their suburbs, and most of the southern counties. Gingrich ruled supreme in the north. If the Romney campaign is relying on urban centers to suddenly turn red in this year’s general election, then they are headed for trouble with a capitol “D”. Urban centers are the DEMOCRATIC strongholds. But even in that case, urban Republicans aren’t in love with Romney either, even if some of them vote his way. Turnout was DOWN in Miami-Dade, Broward and Duvall counties. For all of the money that the Romney campaign raised and SPENT in Florida, they failed at the basic principle of getting their faithful to show at the polls.
Granted, the Florida primaries were held at the very end of January. Surely the GOP is now ready to rally around the presumptive nominee and turnout will increase, right?? Well, umm… not exactly.

Take Oklahoma for example. This state is safely Republican. In fact not a single county went to President Obama in the 2008 General Election. But even the reddest of red states is not enthused for party prospects this year. Turnout for the 2012 Oklahoma primary was down nearly 50,000 from 2008. Again a very large number when you consider the increase in voters and the assumed increase in excitement of having undivided primaries for the GOP. Rick Santorum won, but didn’t excite the typical base voter. Again this is “home plate” for a Red State, but the voting public continues to produce anemic results.

So if you’re watching the 24-hour news coverage and thinking that Democratic prospects are slim-to-none this year, just remember that the Silent Majority of America is still waiting to be called to the stage. Perhaps better advice could come from Nicole Scherzinger… Don’t Hold Your Breath.

Ashby’s Getting High… the price we pay for lax Houston zoning

At long last, we finally have our answer to this most ugly feud. Mayor Parker sent a letter essentially putting the “nail in the coffin” to Southampton’s vehement protests, stating that the city has reached a final settlement with Buckhead development and that Ashby High Rise will get built. After five years of bickering, frivolous lawsuits, 10 rejected city permits, and a host of adult tantrums that could compete for the best reality tv moments on Toddlers and Tiaras, the devlopers have won. And they won by doing what all Houston developers do… abiding by Houston’s laws. Sadly, some of the worst may be yet to come, as the Southampton Civic Club promises to mobilize against Parker and Council Member Ellen Cohen if they don’t get their way.

The big gaping loophole that Southampton residents don’t want to address?? The city of Houston does not have basic, comprehensive zoning laws. Granted there are some city ordinances that have cropped around parking and land size, but there is nothing to actually protect a neighborhood from having a high rise built in the middle of it. The latest attempt at a vote was in 1994, and was overwhelmingly defeated in a low-turnout referendum. Now many argue that there are big advangtages to this… of which the most prominent is affordable housing throughout the city. But then there’s the dirty side of the storm seen through fights like this one. The Ashby High Rise wasn’t just a citizen group in protest, but elevated to become a very ugly stain on Houston’s political history.

Not to be negative towards the citizens of Southampton… in fact I agree with them that the location of this development is terrible, and will add more traffic to cripplingly busy intersection. But instead of spending thousands of dollars to demonize the developers, they missed an opportunity to put zoning on the ballot and let Houstonians decide. Remember the red-light camera debacle? As many complaints as were lodged against the city then, the ballot measure has ensured their removal. Done. END OF STORY. This could have also been the fate of Ashby High Rise, if the residents of Southampton had put 1/4th the energy they did in screaming signs and transferred it to the ballot box. What we have yet to figure out… until the citizens of Houston come together and put comprehensive zoning in place, there will always be another Ashby. And in the end, the developers will win that fight too.

Fox News on Gas Prices– 2008

Part of the beauty of living in Social Media world is that the past can truly live forever. Many on Fox News have been quick to blame the Obama Administration for somehow causing rising gas prices. But back in 2008, as this poignant reminder from Media Matters shows, they were singing a different tune. Some of the commentators even advocate for GOVERNMENT spending on things like Public Transportation, and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Wha-huh?? What a shame that they’ve decided to be so hypocritical now…

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