Democrat Votes for Republican Scott Brown

I’m a life-long Democrat who voted for Republican Scott Brown today, in the Massachusetts special election.  Not because I wanted to, but because I had to.  Sadly, I don’t agree with very critical points of Brown’s politics.  On the other hand, I felt it was the only option left for me to send a clear message to the Democratic leadership in Washington.  My emails to my Democratic representatives have gone ignored.

I am still very much in favor of health insurance reform, but I am particularly opposed to the abomination of a bill that came out of the Senate.   As far as I’m concerned, my vote today was intended as a warning shot across the bough.

My message to Washington … Focus on addressing the costs of health care.  I even support a public option.  But I’ll be damned if you continue to insist on an individual mandate.

For me, it is a matter of personal liberty.  How can it be constitutional to require someone to buy health insurance?  It’s one thing to require buying auto insurance if you drive a car.  Quite another thing to require buying health insurance for simply being alive, particularly when the government wants us to buy it from for-profit companies, who are beholden to their shareholders.  Go back to the drawing board.

In the meantime, I want the heads of the the Democratic Senators from Nebraska (Ben Nelson), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), and Connecticut (Joe Lieberman).  There comes a time when a politician needs to stand up and do the right thing, for the sake of our nation as a whole, and these particular three stand out as notable failures.

The Berlin Wall, 20 Years Since the Fall

Today, I find myself thinking about the Berlin Wall coming down 20 years ago. I was a senior in high school, and the event felt significant to me. I suppose a number of factors had contributed to the sense of exaltation and relief I had felt at the time.

First, I believe there is an innate understanding that human spirit wants to be free.

Second, some of my early memories about the Wall and the Iron Curtain came during my middle school years. Does anyone else remember watching the film “Night Crossing?” (It was projected in my middle school’s gymnasium one day.) Based on a true story, two East German families built a hot-air balloon so they could escape to West Germany. I was probably 11 years old at the time.

Third, I recall reading stories about East Germans who died in their escape attempts to cross the Wall. It was probably a book I was browsing through in the library, but the haunting photos of death and barbed wire are indelible in my memory. A google search turned up the 1962 story of Peter Fechter, who bled to death at the base of the wall, after being shot by East German guards as he tried to escape.

Additionally, I was a child of the Reagan Cold War era. And the Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of that divide between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. There were countless movies that drew their inspiration from that conflict. Nuclear war was something still on people’s minds; there was a controversial television movie named “The Day After,” which was broadcast in the mid-1980s.

Thinking about the years after the wall came down, I recall my first visit to Germany in 1996. I toured the museum at Checkpoint Charlie. I walked in former East Berlin. I went to a flea market in Mitte, where I saw relics of the cold war for sale: communist-era telephones and radios, etc. I remember seeing bullet holes in the oldest buildings. And I recall all the cranes, and the construction taking place in the East, particularly in the Potsdamer Platz area of the city. When I returned to Germany in 2006, I was impressed with the results of all that construction I had seen 10 years earlier. Twenty years has brought a lot of change.

Anyway, take this moment to remember a day when two halves re-united, when two parts became whole again. Here’s to the celebration of freedom and the persistence of human spirit which yearns to be free.

Affordable Health Insurance For All Americans, Not a Mandate

One of the health insurance proposals circulating in Congress is considering a mandate that all Americans acquire health insurance, without also addressing affordability. Naturally, the “for profit” insurance companies really like this bill. What a disaster that would be!

I’ve written both my representatives in the House and Senate. I am sick and tired of corporations peddling their money and influence on Capitol Hill, particularly the “for profit” health insurance lobby.

If you have an opinion on the matter, then write your congressman and/or woman. The following web pages will help you quickly find the “Contact” link to your representative and senator. My letter is below. Copy and paste, if you like, or write your own.

http://whoismyrepresentative.com/
http://www.congress.org/congressorg/officials/congress/

Subject: Affordable Health Insurance For All Americans, Not a Mandate

Dear ________:

There are a number of proposals circulating in Congress regarding health insurance reform.

One of these bills propose that all Americans be required to have health insurance coverage. Unfortunately, such a mandate, without addressing affordability, is not an acceptable solution!

Private health insurance companies have proven repeatedly that they are beholden to the profit motives of their shareholders, and not to their subscribers. Mandating that all Americans be required to subscribe to private insurance plans only makes the problem terribly worse.

Congress should work on the question of affordability, first and foremost. Quite frankly, if health care coverage were to become affordable, there will be no need to mandate that all Americans have it. Many Americans are uninsured because they (or their employers) cannot afford the coverage available.

I request that you do not vote for any bill that mandates Americans be required to obtain health insurance coverage. Instead, write a bill that makes health insurance affordable and available to all Americans.


California Proposition 8 – Gay Marriage – What’s the Big Deal?

Today, Connecticut began offering gay marriages.

On the other hand, California is the state that is supposed to make new things happen, not the state that retreats from them.  California is now so backwards on this issue.  What’s the big deal with gay marriage anyway?

Before I continue, I think it’s vitally important to keep the following sentence in mind as you read the rest of this email.  This country is founded on “freedom of religion” and “separation of church and state”.  Those ideals will be fundamental to how this issue plays out over the coming years.

Now, the church makes the argument that they don’t want to be required to marry two men in their place of worship, so they support CA Proposition 8 (definition of marriage as between a man and a woman).  It’s a false argument, because no one is asking them to do so.  Nor do I believe they are legally required to do so.

I understand that gay marriage is not accepted within the church, but there is an important fact that many people fail to see.  No one church has a monopoly on “marriage”.  Many religions do it: Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, etc.

And because of this fact, eventually, the right of same-sex couples to marry will become commonplace.  California may have passed Prop 8, but I strongly believe that it will be struck down as unconstitutional.

Here’s why.  There are two different meanings of “marriage”.  There’s the meaning within the realm of the government, and then there’s the meaning within the realm of a particular church.  That’s an important distinction.  You can get married in a church, but that doesn’t mean you’re married in the eyes of the state.  You still need to get a “license” from the state to be considered married.  And therein lies the nugget of the problem.  Eventually, within the context of government and state, same-sex marriage will be constitutional and commonplace.  Gay couples will have the same legal right to obtain a marriage “license” as heterosexual Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews.  That doesn’t mean they need to be married in a church, or that a church has to marry them.

The fact that Prop 8 has mandated the California constitution’s definition of marriage as “between man and woman” is no protection against gay-marriage.  To illustrate why, here’s an example.  If California had written into its constitution that Blacks have less rights, does that make it legal?  Of course not.  The US Supreme Court (and probably the CA Supreme Court) would strike it down as unconstitutional.  The same is true of gay marriage.

At this point, you may ask yourself: why is the issue of marriage even a constitutional question?  The answer: because of the fact that the State requires a marriage license to be considered married.  Eliminate that requirement, and you eliminate the whole question.  But unfortunately, you can’t eliminate the question, because the idea of marriage is too interwoven into our society’s fabric.  It determines too many “non-religious” things: taxes, rights to property, inheritance, etc.

There are lots of angles to the same-sex marriage issue.  However, the church should not feel so compelled to instill it’s beliefs on the whole of the society.  As I said before, this country is founded on “freedom of religion” and “separation of church and state”.  And it is those principles that will inevitably see the equality of marriage as being available to both heterosexuals and homosexuals.  Anything less is discrimination.

Links:

The Economist (magazine)

It’s been a while in the making, but yesterday, I broke down and subscribed to the weekly magazine The Economist. In a sense, this is a big step for me, because I’ve not ever subscribed to newspapers or news magazines before. Truthfully, I’ve not ever had to, because I’ve always digested news in a piecemeal manner, picking up whatever print material I happen to find wherever I go. Newspapers have been much more readily available, but I will also read magazines periodically. (By the way, I rarely watch television, except for occasional episodes of 60 Minutes or BBC World News.)

Whether I’m at the airport on my bimonthly trips to Boston, the coffee shop just a few doors away from my residence in San Francisco, the sandwich shop near work, on public transportation, or at the dentist’s office, I’m always reading whatever happens to be lying around near me: San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, BusinessWeek, etc.

Throughout the current turmoil gripping the financial markets in September and October 2008, I’ve been more aggressive in my appetite for news. And the piecemeal approach hasn’t cut it. I’ve been hitting the online web sites of the previously-mentioned magazines and newspapers. In the process of all the reading I have done, both online and offline, I’ve come to realize something fundamentally lacking in the media I read. They have not satisfied my fundamental need for understanding the intricate details of why things are the way they are, in today’s economy. My undergraduate degree is in Business Administration, so I have a fairly good knack for understanding business, finance, and economics. However, these publications do not provide nearly enough detail to satisfy my needs. I have specific questions, and so, I want specific answers.

Being a Unix systems administrator, I’m naturally inclined to look inside of things to understand how they work. That is fairly easy in systems administration, because I can look at the source code of shell scripts and C programs. I can look at the state of memory, disk, network, and CPU on a heavily-loaded system. However, doing the same for understanding the economy’s intricacies seams less accessible to me. I’m not looking to become a professor of Economics at Harvard University, but I would like to understand things better. (Wouldn’t it be totally cool if there was such a thing as dtrace for the economy?)

With that in mind, I decided I wanted to subscribe to a magazine or newspaper that would help me in my quest for deeper understanding. My mind turned instantly to The Economist, a weekly news magazine that I had read a couple times in the past. And during the past several years, some of my Google searches have yielded really good articles I found on their website at http://www.economist.com/. However, I had some concerns about media bias, and specifically about which way The Economist leans.

Suffice to say, I’ve always identified myself as a liberal. I grew up in Massachusetts, and I’ve lived nearly a decade in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, in recent years, I’ve begun to notice that my beliefs and political leanings have shifted somewhat. I don’t exactly know how to characterize them today, but I recognize they are shifting. Though I still consider myself a liberal, I have started to take on more fiscally conservative ideas.

In spite of my political leanings, I have always considered myself a fair and balanced person, and as such, I would like the same of any newspaper or magazine I plan to subscribe to. I realize that human beings are biased by nature, but I still would like to seek out a publication that can be considered fair and balanced. Or at least, one that presents me with some divergent viewpoints, not just those from a predominantly liberal or conservative perspective.

I’ve previously read about liberal leanings and conservative leanings of various publications, but I never stopped to think much about them. I suppose I’ve digested my news from enough sources that I probably managed to achieve a balanced perspective on most topics anyway. But still, now that I was planning to start a subscription, I needed to do a little home work.

Online, I found some research articles regarding media bias, and I read numerous opinions people had about various publications. I was happy to read predominantly favorable and satisfactory reviews about The Economist from various sources. It seems that both conservatives and liberals will find issue with the magazine at times, but overall, it is very well-respected. And that is comforting to me. At a subscription cost of $119 (USD) annually, it isn’t cheap, but I believe it will be well worth it. The fact that it covers such a broad range of topics is also important. On the About page at economist.com, you can read more about the publication’s history and philosophy. What I read there was also encouraging. The paper describes itself as “classical liberalism,” and according to this Wikipedia page, it sounds like those ideas might be inline with my own. I look forward to my first issue.