This year's State of the Union Address will feature a new wrinkle in the Democratic response to the speech: live blogging.
Three Democratic members of Congress will live blog their response following the speech. That means you, the voters, will be able to leave comments at the web logs where they give their response and hold a dialogue with these members of Congress. If you've been wanting to voice your opinion and know that someone is listening, this is your chance.
The live blogging will take place as follows:
* Congressman Rush Holt (NJ-12) live blogging at Bluejersey.net
* Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-6) at New Jersey for Democracy
* Congressman Jim McDermott (WA-7) at Washblog
The exact time when they will show up at the blogs is not known, but they will start within half an hour of the end of the State of the Union, so please be patient if they don't get there immediately. In fairness, they'll need time to write what they want to say to begin with. Join the congressmen at any of these blogs, even if you are not one of their constituents, and see what a real electronic Town Hall Meeting is like.
Note: The list is growing: Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio will be at mydd.com as well.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Monday, January 30, 2006
In february 2003, after a decade-long battle against methamphetimine use, I finally sought out treatment. At the time, I was woefully under-insured and those twenty-eight days that i spent in a drug treatment facility in West Philly simply would not have been possible without the assistance of Medicaid. As I sit here and type away, I definitely consider myself lucky to have nearly 3 years sober and a new lease on life. But in retrospect, it seems doubly lucky that i got help when I did. I remember how my doctors and drug councelors repeatedly stressed durning rehab that "these types of places and treatment options simply may not be here a year from now!" I have to admit, that grim prospect seemed unlikely to me then, yet looking back, those warnings have mostly come true. And the republican plan to slash Medicade funding in a feeble attempt to balance the budget will only make things worse for the low income Americans.
Like many addicts, I come from an alcoholic background. Both my grandfathers & my father returned from WAR with substance abuse issues. It remains my firm belief that their wartime experiences contributed mightily to their tendancy towards alcoholism.
With ~15o,ooo American troops in Iraq and Afganistan, it seems reasonably certain that many will return stateside with a predisposition for chemical dependance. AT A TIME WHEN WE SHOULD BE SPARING NO EXPENSE TO PREPARE FOR THIS EVENTUALITY, THE REPUBLICAN-LED CONGRESS WANTS TO FIX ITS BUDGET MESS BY DENYING LOW INCOME AMERICANS ACCESS TO DRUG TREATMENT.
A rather galling lack of priorities if you ask me, but this example highlights the moral imperative of keeping Medicaid off of Congress' chopping block. After all we ask of Vets and their families, for us to NOT provide a robust network of social services for them is SHAMEFUL! It's also terribly unpatriotic.
I urge you to contact your members of congress and give them an earful. Don't be timid to harass these guys, remember they work for you. If you're not sure how to contact your voice on Capital Hill, check out this link, click on your state and that state's congressional contact info will appear.
bookmark that link!!!!
(This is a re-post of an entry I did a few months ago when no one read my blog:D)
January 29, 2006 at 12:24:51 EST An interview with Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey will be available as a podcast at Bluejersey.net on Monday, January 30. Subscribe to the podcast now and listen to a fascinating discussion that goes to the heart of issues of the day.
Congressman Rush Holt on the war in Iraq and Homeland Security:
"I have found no one who actually feels safer, and can demonstrate that she or he is safer, because of our war in Iraq."
On warrantless domestic surveillance:
"I see no justification for the program that the White House has described. I see no reason to have an ongoing spying mechanism against Americans...now you have some functionary in the NSA, or worse, some political appointee in the White House, deciding whose phone is going to be tapped, whose email is going to be bugged, whose life is going to be invaded."
On presidential overreach and whether Congress should have limited White House power when authorizing the Iraq fiasco:
"The majority leadership certainly dropped the ball on this."
On the question of "Where are the Democrats?":
"I think there are many Democrats who are standing up and fighting...Jim McDermott, Louise Slaughter, there are a number of us who are standing up, who are speaking out. But remember, we are in the minority."
Congressman Holt is refreshingly honest, something his constituents have learned to expect from the transplanted West Virginian and former assistant director of the Plasma Research Laboratory at Princeton University. He doesn't speak in sound-bites, but tells the whole story with exceptional clarity.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
By getting married, he would get a housing stipend and permission to move off base. And as his legal wife, she would get health coverage and a cut of his extra money. Benefits like these are standard throughout the U.S. military. Married service people can sometimes get more than 1,000 bucks extra every month to support their dependants. And spouses share some of the most comprehensive health benefits out there. At a time when more than 30% of young Americans are uninsured, that makes marriage look pretty good! Even if love's got nothing to do with it.According to Ortiz, this trend is on the rise. And considering how little military service personal get paid, this sounds like a remarkably progressive arrangement!! Dr. Morton Ender, a sociology professor at West Point agrees :
If I were a commander and someone came to me and said, "Sir, I don’t necessarily love my spouse but we got married for financial reasons, " I don’t necessarily think a commander would have recourse against that. There’s not a rule in America that says (heterosexuals) can’t get married for financial reasons.Now this got me thinking about my own experience growing up in the 1980's, son of a career Marine. Looking back it was a great childhood, being a military brat. Sure, we moved every three years, but that seemed normal. In fact, I find myself feeling a bit nostalgic as I recall what a good life it was. There were lots of advantages.
First of all, every post we lived on had a pool, golf course, tennis courts, gyms, soccer fields et al. Having safe and abundant places to play is an ideal environment for any kid to grow up in. Also, the Department of Defense provided my brother (Adam) and me with a first-rate primary school education. I went to school on base until 8th grade and recall being challenged academically that whole time. My classmates and I had access to top-flight facilities and equipment and we all enjoyed access to robust arts, athletic, and after-school programs.
I did after-school gymnastics, played soccer and was in the band. As I recall whenever the band would perform we'd usually do patriotic numbers and maybe one or two other tunes. One year, in 5th or 6th grade, we did a program which included the anthems of all four branches of the military followed with the theme from "Ice Castles" for the finale. How funny is that?
Anyway, there was also a strong focus on the emotional needs of "student-brats." For example, students whose fathers were deployed abroad got to join the "overseas club." The group would meet twice a week and have a chance to talk about how we were coping having Dad away from home. Military kids are a hearty and precocious bunch, mostly we coped just fine . But the idea that there were social workers there for us seems reassuring in retrospect. My Dad spent about 1/2 time overseas, usually in Okinawa, Japan or South Korea. All credit to my Mom who did an awesome job raising my brother and me while Dad was off defending the country. At least my parents never had to worry if Adam and I were getting a good education. They knew we were. Money couldn't have bought a better education. I am grateful for that. Afterall, my education was a teesny part of Ronald Reagan's Coldwar defense budget. That's your tax dime.
I suspect Mom and Dad also took great comfort knowing that if we got sick, we'd be covered. Growing up, healthcare was never a problem for my family. In fact, we were covered from head to toe: doctor visits and prescriptions, eyeglasses and contact lenses, full dental, hospitalization and even my braces were included! When my little brother was diagnosed with juevenile diabetes at age 6 my folks were able to focus on getting him the best care they could find without having to worry about how to pay for the care he needed. Can you imagine a health care package like that today? It seems inconceivable! My father earned these benefits with his service to the country of course, but it still seems like one helluva safety net.
Keep in mind I grew up during the Reagan Administration and (unlike George W. Bush today) it was an era when little expense was spared to accommodate the needs of Veterans, active duty servicemembers and their families. I believe my family managed to cope so well with the hardships like moving all the time and being sepatated because we were taken care of by the military village.
I certainly hope that President Bush will realize the moral and patriotic imperative of taking care of our men and women in uniform and their families and Veterans the way President Reagan in the old days. When I read stories like this of War Veterans losing benefits, it really bums me out. It makes me wonder if the "overseas club" even exits anymore.
I went to this school 4th-6th grade while my Dad was stationed at Parris Island, S.C. in the mid 80's.
Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense website.
Peace and Semper Fi
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
(Vince at Welcome To My Truth Reports)--
I usually don’t do much to celebrate Easter. I don’t go to Mass. I don’t hunt for eggs. I don’t reflect on the image of a crucified Jesus coming back from the dead to save my soul. Like most holidays, I usually spend Easter alone on the couch with my three remote controls and a plethora of viewing options.
But this year, I've decided to hop a plane to Washington D.C. and join the pastel merrinment on the White House lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll.
Now before you get all up in arms and denounce me as a Bush-loving super Christian, let me explain. This year gay rights organizations are urging gays and lesbians to bring their children to partake in the patriotic fun of the religious holiday. In doing so, gay rights leaders are hoping to show the White House that these families are no different from the stuffy Republican families who will undoubtedly show up in droves.
And I plan to be there.Can’t you just see it? I’ve already got the perfect pink ensemble picked out, complete with lace, ruffles and a very elegant Easter bonnet. Besides, I’m a sucker for rolling eggs. Especially if gay men and their baskets are involved.
Monday, January 23, 2006
(Feel free to add your reasons, too. Constructive criticism welcome)
Asbury Park & Sandy Hook
These are my favorite spots at the Jersey Shore. Asbury Park (of Springsteen fame) has seen better days, but's no question it's on the way back. This beachtown has a funky, progressive tenor that's hard to resit, the first time I visited I felt at home. Any town with a lesbian mayor gets my vote. *( Ashbury Park's "beach cam")
Sandy Hook gets the nod because here's a beach where you can hang out naked & smoking pot with a view of the Manhattan skyline. Nuff said?
Full Service Gas
Most folks don't know this but in NJ there's some rule prohibiting self-service at the gas station. So we get full service treatment at self-service prices. What can be cooler that that? I think gas stations do this for insurance purposes, but whatever the reason it's real easy to get spoiled, especially in winter. The last time I had to pump my own gas out-of-state I had no idea what I was doing. It was then I realized how soft I've become.
Location and More Location
I live about fifteen minutes from Philly, 1 1/2 hours from New York City, 2 hours from DC, and an hour from the shore. If you're a day-tripper like I am, you see why NJ is perfect.
Our Governor and both US Senators all are Democrats. Additionally, both houses of state government enjoy a comfortable liberal majority. More importantly, the people here tend to celebrate progressive values and ideals. Don't like it liberal? Hey, there's always room in Texas!
Saturday, January 21, 2006
*Fast, Athletic, Flirty
Those numbers seem about right for me. I've always loved the Flash& Spiderman and was pretty ambivilant about Batman. I'm glad to see that I am 14% more of a "Superman" than "Supergirl." (Not that there's anything wrong with Supergirl. Now that i think about it, why isn't she called Superwoman?)
How does your personality profile translate into the Superhero world?
|by: jmelli |
January 21, 2006 at 10:00:26 EST
| "This is one of the happiest days of my life...I feel like David conquering Goliath," said Laurel Hester on Saturday morning.|
After nearly a year of refusing to grant Lt Laurel Hester the right to pass her pension benefits on to her partner, Ocean County's freeholders will finally grant Hester her dying wish when they vote on Wednesday.
Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality: "Truth be told, we did lose hope for a reversal in the last couple of weeks. We had applied all the pressure in the world, embarrassing the freeholders and few public servants had ever been embarrassed before in the state of New Jersey or in this country, and they would not budge. Finally they did. Hallelujah! There is a God....Now that the Ocean County freeholders have done the right thing, we thank them with all our hearts and welcome them to the New Jersey of the 21st Century, where compassion and common-sense prevails over hatred and outmoded homophobia."
The change of heart came after the freeholders had a political meeting with other Republican leaders in the county.
Freeholder James Lacey: "I think we're doing the right thing now. I feel comfortable."
But there's more:
In addition, state Sen. Andrew Ciesla, R-Ocean, has asked the state Office of Legislative Services to prepare a bill he will sponsor that will eliminate the difference in the pension inheritance rights of members of the police and fire retirement system and other state public employee retirement systems.
I want to thank the freeholders for deciding to do the right thing before Laurel dies. Today is a monumental victory for civil rights. Justice prevailed over bigotry, and a Laurel Hester can die in peace knowing she left the world better than she found it.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Take last year's flu-shot shortage as an example. Last thing any of us want is a nasty influenza, right? While everyone was wondering how they were gonna get theirs, I got my flu-vac a week before flu-season began. I guess in retrospect the shortage wasn't all that bad, but there was a lot of anxiety swirling abound leading into flu season. I had no such worries, although i do recall a twinge of guilt. (Who's giving up theirs so i can get mine?)
Anyway, today was the first time I refilled my meds in the new year. Needless to say the pharmacy was a madhouse, thanks in large part to the implimentation of Bush's new goofy prescription drug plan. So now I'll get back to my original point of HIV having some bizarre advantages. I've been on meds for like 10 years and during that period my health insurance situation changes several times. At times I 've been totally covered, other times (like now) woefully underinsured and even a year with no coverage at all. At no point in the past 10 years have I ever had a problem getting my meds. Even during the lean times when I leaned on public assistance assistance ("welfare"), getting meds was never the challenging part. Would you believe it is because of (rather than in spite of) my HIV status that I am ensured continuity each and every time I go to the pharmacy??
I am not sorry that my trip get refills was quick-n-easy. But there were at least a dozen others milling about the pharmacy who were in various stages of the prescription- approval process. Most looked completely impatient and defeated. There were a few old folks there too, who probably were in the worst shape. I was too ashamed to even make eye contact with them.
But it was my pharamcist who really seemed bent over a barrel since Jan 1st. She sure seemed happy to see me.
"You're an easy one, Jay. " refering, of course to my 'script plan that come-what-may has been water-tight for the past decade. It's old-school style. Give her the script, walk away with the pills. No muss no fuss.
When I asked my phamacist how it's been since the curious Bush plan kicked in, she told me in no uncertain terms just how bad it was. She looked like hell, totally beat up. I felt awful for her. My business took about 5 minutes and as i was leaving i got some frustrated snears from the others whose prospects seem a lot more complicated than mine. "Yo! why didn't his require a phone call??!!" Little did they know, I'm an HIV-VIP.
Let's face it, HIV meds are BIG BUCKS!! I may be covered, but somewhere a drug company big-wig is smiling.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Washington (Reuters reports)--Democrat Robert Menendez was sworn in as senator for New Jersey Wednesday, taking over the term of Jon Corzine, who was sworn in as governor this week.
Menendez, a 52-year-old seven-term congressman, faces a Senate election in less than 10 months, with possible primary challenges in the heavily Democratic state and then a possible challenge in the November election from Republican state Sen. Tom Kean, son of a popular former governor.
Corzine tapped Menendez to take over his Senate seat, skirting a special election. Democrat Frank Lautenberg holds New Jersey's other Senate seat.
Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, was the first New Jersey Latino in the state legislature and in Congress. He represented the state's 13th district and was the chairman of the House Democratic caucus.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
I am against capital punishment and I feel it should be abolished. But that hasn't always been the case. Until a few years ago, I believed the state reserved the right to impose the death penalty on offenders who commit the most henious types of crimes. It wasn't until about three years ago when I heard a speech made by the late Pontiff John Paul II, that I began to re-evaluate my own position on this compicated matter.
At the time the Pope weighed in, I was skeptical that there would be much common ground between a liberal queer activist like me and the leader of the Catholic Church. I should note that I was raised Catholic and I always took a dim view of their rigid dogma, particularly concerning issues of sexuality. But when I heard Pope John Paul II discuss the death penalty in the context of forgiveness and vengance, I was moved to revisit the issue (and my own ideas of forgiveness.)
The Pope mentioned that support for the death penalty is generally rooted in desire for revenge. He acknowlegded the legitimate urge for justice, but suggested that justice can never be achieved through vengance. He admonished those who cite Biblical scripture to justify a pro-death penalty stance. According the the Pope, the oft-repeated proverb "an eye for an eye...." (Lev. 24:20) was not a recipe for vengance, rather to meant to serve as a cautionary tale against the escalation of violence in general. The Pope also pointed out that Jesus' position on the death penalty was clear: rather that reltaliation, we should "turn the other cheek" and extend our hand in healing, blessing, and forgiveness. (Matthew 5:38-55)
Rather that relying on a second-hand account of stuff I heard John Paul II say three years ago, I wanted to find some actual quotes from the Pope which support the values I've just described. It wasn't difficult. A Google search on the words "Pope John Paul + death penalty" turns up 641,ooo hits. The Vatican has its own website complete with an archive of transcripts from many Papal speeches and masses. (Who knew?) From paragraph 56 of Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) Pope John Paul II states:
It's clear that for punishment to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought to not go to the extreme of executing the offender except when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, such cases are practically non-existent.The Pope advanced the argument that when a prisoner (who poses no threat to society) is executed, it sends the message that life is worthless, thus we can view the death penalty as an injustice to the sanctity of life. I share the Pope's belief that execution does not end with the death of the criminal, but affects each and every one of us living in a society which justifies capital punishment. I admit it's instinctively pleasing to jugde those who commit henoius crimes as worthless or "less-than" but we should resist this temptation. If we convince ourselves that some among us deserve death, then we forget that all of us deserve forgiveness and the grace to ammend our lives. Fighting violence with violence for the sake of vengance does not serve a useful role in this country. Nor does it allow society to cultivate less vengeful methods of dealing with violent crime.
A 1994 piece entitled Confronting a Culture of Corruption: A Catholic Framework for Action the American Conference of Catholic Bishops states: