Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Where have the Republicans Gone?

"I cannot emphasize enough how deeply
I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement,"
John McCain said regarding attacks on Khzir 

"I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement," John McCain said in a statement regarding the Trump Campaign attacks on Khzir Khan, the father of a decorated Muslim American soldier killed in action in the Middle East. Trump and spokespeople implied the father was a propagandist with ties to the Islamic State. Mr. Khan had addressed the DNC national convention on the previous day.

The last Republican I voted for was John McCain. He was a bit of a maverick to some party loyalists because he spoke his mind when he disagreed with the party line. McCain, Arlen Specter, and Bernie Sanders had a bad habit of speaking the truth when it was contrary to their own party's talking points.

Free thinkers in politics are becoming an endangered species. 

Notice I said "free thinkers" not "free talkers", of which we have an abundance.

I voted for McCain in the primary. When Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president I realized that McCain had bowed to the pressure of party politics. Obama and Biden complemented each other and earned my vote.

Had McCain chosen Mitt Romney, a sound business mind that balanced McCain's understanding of foreign affairs and defense policy, he would have gotten my vote for President. This was the first time I felt failed by the Republicans.

Four years later, Mitt Romney fell into the same trap. Mitt, a great economic mind, chose Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan was the tea party darling who put up laughable alternatives to the Obama budget and Obamacare. They Ryan budget was repeatedly debunked by economists, including Reagan's advisor who crafted the original trickle down economics. I'm certain Romney could see through this GOP prop.

The Republicans failed again. I would've thought by now they realized that Americans want substance.

The day Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced his candidacy I refiled as an independent. The party had left me completely. Not only had the GOP failed to come up with substance, they had become obstructionists and were catering to conspiracy theories. Clearly, Ted Cruz cared more about getting elected than serving the people. He attempted to discredit his own scientists, turned against net neutrality, denied climate change and perpetuated fear.

Cruz's popularity created a flood of Republicans ignoring truth and their obligations as civil servants in favor of easy to digest sound bites.
  • Rick Scott removed the term "climate change" from all official documents despite the fact that Florida will be among the first affected. 
  • Scott Walker took union busting to the extreme, crippling his state in the process. 
  • Republicans railed on net neutrality, calling it an internet tax, when it actually encourages capitalism and free enterprise, two republican ideals. 
  • Dozens tried to prevent gay marriage, only to be invalidated by the Supreme Court. 
  • Dozens tried to retract 40-year old rulings on abortion rights. 
  • They defended the confederate flag; a symbol of racism, separatism, and treason. 
  • They glossed over an important argument on state's rights by turning it into a discussion about transgender people in the restroom, destroying a legitimate law on self-determination and creating hate in the process. 
  • Drug tests for welfare recipients failed to yield results, and cost more money testing than it saved. In the process further alienating minorities and the poor. 
  • Obstructing Obamacare and ignoring Medicaid expansion, two things they passed two years earlier penalizing the poor and uninsured in their states, only to adopt them later when the benefits of Medicaid expansion became clear.
  • And the pride and joy, a Ted Cruz filibuster that nearly caused the US to default on debt payments, which would've cost Americans billions primarily from private retirement accounts. Not ironically, the same private retirement accounts the GOP pushed forth after depleting Social Security under President Bush.
Of course, there is the traditional lobbying. Once corporate America saw how comfortable the Republicans were lying to their people, they filled the coffers and asked them to tell us how clean coal is and how safety depends on people buying more guns, ignoring that previous efforts in pollution control and crime prevention have virtually eliminated these problems from our pasts.

Then came "he who shall not be named" who put the final nail in the GOP coffin for thousands of us. In its stead, he replaced fiscal conservatives with the dregs of humanity. He catered to racists, religious zealots, xenophobes, and the conspiracy theorists, and the GOP let it happen.

As an independent, I wanted to support integrity and quality, regardless of party affiliation. Then I learned about Bernie Sanders, who had dedicated 30 years to constituencies through extremely consistent but unpopular views. The world came to Bernie. America evolved to be more like this old man. Socially we were catching up to Bernie's perception of American greatness.

While I personally found Sanders' democratic socialist objectives to be lofty, his vision and long-term commitment were clear. It became apparent that Pennsylvania's late primary could be influential for the first time in many years, so I reregistered as a Democrat. Bernie didn't win, but his valiant attempt will certainly resonate in the party going forward.

The history of the GOP was one of integrity, intellectualism, fairness, freedom and empowerment.

The Party of Lincoln and of Judeo-Christian values in only eight years had platforms and practices that would have left Abe and Jesus whimpering in a padded room.

How far we have strayed. Some Republicans say I abandoned them, but I didn't. Republicans abandoned us, the entirety of the American people.

The voice of the stupid and bigoted has been heard. But had it been squelched? In the past Democrats and Republicans compromised to create a better America for all people, including the under educated and socially backward. Between the 1860s and 1990s our two-party system created the balance of freedom, social justice, industrial ingenuity, societal wealth and opportunity for all people to pursue happiness. The American Dream certainly wasn't a guarantee, but absolutely was available to us all.

The 2016 GOP isn't making America great again… It's always been great. It is great because people can disagree, dissenting opinions make for a democracy that is both Republican and Democrat, fair and balanced for all. Our greatness wasn't created by one side or the other winning, it was created by putting the best minds with differing opinions together and choosing solutions for our Republic.

This process of polarization will ultimately pass power to Democrats, who will have unbridled control to enact the most liberal of social and economic policies. The greatest fear of conservatives will likely become the norm because conservatives allowed their party to be hijacked. As a conservative I'm not supportive of all the decisions President Obama has made nor do I support all of the ideas of Hillary Clinton's platform, but I'm saddened because the GOP has refused to provide an intelligent conservative motivated by the best interest of the people within the context of the Constitution.

Instead, they've given us a clown car of social backwardness, complete idiocy, and egocentric narcissism.

Again, I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left us.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Funnies: Dog Days of Summer

L.A. public pools don’t have lifeguards—[they] have life coaches. If they see you struggling in the water, they say, “Are you happy with the decisions you’re making?” and give you a pamphlet for a yoga studio.

~ Craig Ferguson
– –

A commuter train from New York to Washington DC suddenly lost power and slowed down to a crawl.

The conductor comes on the intercom. "Good news and bad news.The bad news is we've lost power and are coming to a stop. The good news… You're on a train not an airplane."
– –

We use a really strong sunblock when we go to the beach with the kids. It’s SPF 80: You squeeze the tube, and a sweater comes out.

~ Lew Schneider
– –

Summer has the dumbest names for holidays.

What day do we try to get everyone together? Independence Day.

What day does everyone have off work? Labor Day.
– –

A shepherd was teaching his apprentice

"Lad, how many sheep are in the field?"

After a moment the apprentice said "18".

"Well done, now round them up."

– –

Some people take up swimming for exercise so they will live longer.

Some people take up swimming just to live longer.

Friday, July 15, 2016

I'm Disabled and I Can Prove It

I'm disabled. 

I was born in 1970. About a year later I was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. I never walked. I got my first wheelchair at kindergarten age, and my first power wheelchair in sixth grade.

Yet, around 4 to 6 times per year I have to, for one reason or another, prove that I'm disabled.

Granted, I'm 5 feet nothin', 112 pounds and sit in an electric wheelchair, but apparently that's just anecdotal evidence… We need science!

The Good Doctor

Every couple months I have to send my physician a form and ask him to fill it out. He has to state that I have spinal muscular atrophy, identify the diagnosis date, explained that my prognosis is something akin to "ain't getting better any time soon" and sign it.

With new Medicare regulations, the good doctor is not allowed to sign the said form without seeing me "face-to-face" to prevent fraud. Although I'm extraordinarily healthy, hospitalized last in 1996 for something unrelated to my disability, I go see my doctor every six months like clockwork.

Here's my typical conversation:

Doc – "Good afternoon, Mr. Tweed". One reason he is my doctor is that he speaks to me like an adult. I'm 46 and he has about five years on me. He could call me Jason, but he definitely shouldn't call me "son", "sweetie", "hun" or any of the other condescending titles I've been given by various healthcare practitioners.

But I digress…

Doc – "Good afternoon, Mr. Tweed."

Me – "Good afternoon, Dr. P." I'm not going to publish his name, but it's one of those extremely long last names common to the Indian peninsula. I purposely learned his name and its proper pronunciation. Given his level of respect, it was the least I could do.

Doc – "What brings you in today?"

Me – "Just here to prove I'm still disabled."

Doc – "That time again. Let me take your vitals".

Apparently "vitals" are pretty important to the process. They always take them. None of the paperwork said that I had to be alive, just disabled, but I figure it's better not to argue. If I have no vitals, they will probably cancel my insurance.

Blood pressure – Yep. Pulse – Yep. Respiration – Check.

Then he looks in my eyeballs to make sure they are still there. He checks my ears, freshly de-waxed. He sticks a Popsicle stick down my throat and looks deep into my soul. Nothing remarkable.

He listens through the stethoscope and taps my belly. I'm not quite sure why, but maybe he is superstitious and my belly resembles The Buddha. Good luck.

Then he opens up my chart. He has a piece of paper in my chart that tells my diagnosis, date of diagnosis, and prognosis. He copies those on to the form, and handwriting that is stereotypically chicken scratch, adds a date and the signature.

Doc – "See you in six months."

Me – "Hopefully no sooner."

Why Do I Have to Prove My Disability?

I understand some of the reasons I have to document my disability. Medicare and Medicaid fraud aren't rampant, but they do exist. I receive disability insurance payments, which are permanent, as long as I am alive. (Now I remember why vitals are important.)

However, let's take a look at some of the things I've had to ask my doctor to fill out over the years.

Prescriptions for a wheelchair, actually that takes several. First he has to refer me to a physical therapist, who has to determine that yes, indeed, I can't walk.

Prescriptions for an adjustable bed. Apparently wanting to watch television isn't a good enough reason.

Prescriptions for mechanical lift, to get in said adjustable bed.

Authorizations for a catheter bag, because they don't want any normal people urinating in a bag just for the fun of it.

Orders for a shower chair. After all, the toilet on wheels is a luxury. I'm sure lots of people would skip the whole walking to the toilet, and standing in the shower.

Maybe I don't want to shower, how about a bath. I'm going to need a special permit for the device to get in the tub. Apparently sitting during hygiene must be well regulated.

The Pharmacist

I take ibuprofen for headaches. It's difficult for me to swallow pills. I can take children's ibuprofen, but to get those adult dose I have to drink about a quart of purple flavored phlegm. So my pharmacist mixes ibuprofen into a suspension. I only need to take one filled shot glass. Apparently, this highly specialized medicine also requires a note from my doctor.

Pharmacist – "Well, at least we can charge it to your prescription coverage now."

Me – "Great. Out of curiosity, how much would it be out of pocket?"

Pharmacist – "$3.00"

Me – "Seems legit. Here's my card."

Pharmacist – "Your plan has a co-pay. $2.00"

Well, I saved a buck this month. Thank goodness for Dr. P.

The DMV for Non-drivers

So I can't drive. Pennsylvania used to charge a fee to have a state ID. The ID card used to be called a "nondrivers license" (WTF?!) It was $15 for a license not to drive.

The DMV rocket scientist brigade offered me the chance to get my ID for free since I am disabled. Terrific.

We just need a doctors note verifying your disability. Apparently, sitting for an hour in the DMV in my wheelchair wasn't verification enough.

Back to the doctor. Verified. Another hour at the DMV. 

DMV - Here's your card and your fee has been waived. 

Me - Great, how much did I save. 

DMV - $15

DMV – Would you like to apply for a disabled parking permit?

Me – Yes, please.

DMV – Great. We just need a doctors signature on this form verifying your disability!

Me – Doesn't the other form I gave you today apply?

DMV – No, we have to have an original signature on both.

Me – Why wasn't I giving both forms at the same time?

DMV – You requested a non-drivers license. We didn't think you would need to park.

My parking permit would arrive in a week or so. It'll hang on my mirror with its oversized bright blue wheelchair. Then I'll be able to park in a space with an oversized bright blue wheelchair on it, marked by a sign with an oversized bright blue wheelchair. It's conveniently near curb cut, marked with… Yeah.


Outside the DMV, my van was parked on the street in a handicapped space.

Under the wipers, a ticket.

My van has a raised roof, a lower floor, and a ramp that slides underneath. The body extensions to cover the works make me feel like I'm driving one of those GTA vehicles, running from the cops, and shooting at pedestrians. All I needed is some lights underneath to be a playa'.

Then I remembered that I'm driving a Toyota minivan. I ain't no playa, it's just how we roll!

Apparently the Parking Enforcement Officer, which is only one initial shy of a PEON, gave me a ticket for parking my accessible van in an accessible parking space. Handwritten on the violation was the words "no permit". Apparently this permit thing that I haven't had for years is a bigger deal than I had imagined.

Went back inside the DMV. They said they couldn't do a thing. Fill out the form and plead "not guilty" and write a letter explaining the situation.

Form filled. Form mailed.

10 days later, I open the mailbox.

DMV, office of handicap parking. Looks official. Yeah, parking permit.

District Magistrate, Office of Appeals. Also looks official. Boo, my not guilty plea means I have to go to the magistrate in person a month later.

I rolled into the magistrate court with parking permit in hand.

The Judge

His Honor – "Handicapped parking violation? How do you plead?"

Me – "Not guilty."

His Honor – "Do you have a parking permit?"

Me – "Yes, it's right here."

His Honor – "Why wasn't it on the vehicle?"

Me – "I was inside dropping off the application."

His Honor – "So the permit was not yet valid on the date of the ticket?"

Me – "No Sir. Am I required to have a permit to use the space?"

His Honor – "No Son (again with the "son"). The permit prevents fraud."

Me – "Is there an abundance of parking fraud?"

His Honor – (Clearly getting perturbed) "Apparently there is, we wouldn't have a permit."

Me – "So I am legally allowed to use the space if I'm disabled, even without a permit."

His Honor – "Yes, absolutely. As long as you were disabled at the time of the incident."

Me – "Okay. I've been a wheelchair user for 40 years."

His Honor – "No problem, I will find you not guilty pending documentation for the record."

Me – "Documentation?"

His Honor – "Yes, it's simple. All we need is a note from your doctor!"