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Nothing will get me back to blogging quite like sheer frustration. And this week in local Oregon politics has been, well, infuriating.

So last week, the Oregon House of Representatives passed HB2020–a carbon cap and trade bill. It’s not a perfect bill. If you ask me, we’re too late as it is and nothing we do now will reverse the coming climate catastrophe. But I will be happy if we can slow it down or decrease it, and this bill is a step in the right direction. The ultimate goal is to slash emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

I will add that this is personal for me. I have gone to the Capitol to lobby for this bill, I have called and e-mailed my legislators about it, I have donated to the organizations fighting the good fight. When the bill passed the House, my friends and I celebrated. “Now all it needs to do is pass the Senate!” I enthused to my husband.

“Oh, is that ALL,” he chuckled. Smart man.

Piece of cake, right? Oregon has a Democratic supermajority in both the House and the Senate at the moment.

And then…the Republicans did what you do when you’re about to lose a vote and you don’t like it.

They ran away.

Yep. Conservatives love to fling the word “snowflake” around, but these Republicans acted like complete snowflakes. They couldn’t handle being in the minority, so they threw a temper tantrum, took their toys and went home. Or in this case, just vanished. Word is, they escaped across state lines to Idaho. Governor Kate Brown has sent out the Oregon State Police to look for them and bring them back to vote, so they apparently felt they would be safer out of state.

By going missing, the GOP have denied the Senate the quorum needed to actually vote on the bill. The Oregon Constitution stipulates that at least 67% of the Senate needs to be present for a vote to take place.

Mind you, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Earlier this session, the GOP Senators did the exact same thing when there was an education funding bill they objected to. They returned after four days and the education bill passed, but in return they negotiated with the Dems to kill a couple of other bills they didn’t like–a vaccine exemption bill and a gun control bill (grrrrr). Part of the deal was a promise from the Republicans that they wouldn’t walk out again. That explains why the Governor isn’t messing around this time, and has indicated she is willing to have the escapees arrested.

So where do we go from here? It’s hard to tell. The Senate was going to continue in special session over the weekend, but that was called off because local right-wing groups were planning a Saturday rally which was to include armed militia members, and legislators were scared for their safety. If you think they’re being paranoid, consider that one of the Republican Senators hinted that if the state police were to come after him, they better be “bachelors” and “heavily armed.” The mood both in our state and our country is growing more and more unpleasant….

Over the past few years, my family and I have been watching the climate in Oregon change. Temperatures in the summer are much hotter than they were when we first moved here. Rain has decreased. Winters are colder and drier. We’ve had a couple of years in a row now during which thick smoke from wildfires has plagued us and made it difficult to breathe.

So if this bill, this last-ditch effort to help, goes down in flames, I’m left with some very uncharitable thoughts. The people in rural districts who oppose this bill so vehemently…if their farms and businesses are affected by drought or other climate disasters in the future, I hope they don’t come crying to me about it. I certainly hope they don’t ask for financial help from us Portlanders. After all, we’re just stupid city folk who bought into the climate change conspiracy, right?

Sigh. I realize that is unkind and I should be looking for my better angels, but I am having a hard time finding them right now. As much as I have been MIA from this blog, I will try to update either in posts or comments about how this whole mess ultimately works out.

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Well, the 2020 election season is starting to fire up, and here comes the predictable chorus saying the same thing we always hear.  When it comes to people who actually want to transform the system we live in–people who support things like a single payer health care system, a higher minimum wage, affordable college…

You want free stuff!

Lazy moochers.  You want a handout, don’t you?  You want to be given something for nothing.

Let me just stop this tired old song before it even gets started.  I’m not a moocher.  I’m certainly not lazy.  I drag myself out of bed and work my ass off every single day.  I don’t want a handout–I just want what I’m rightfully owed for my hard work.  A decent wage.  The ability to see the doctor if I’m sick.  A roof over my head.  Working people should be able to have access to these basics.

Conservatives twist this into the idea of class envy.  If you want these things, it must be because you’re envious of what other people have and want to take that away.  I don’t envy the rich their lifestyle.  I certainly don’t envy Donald his garish, gold-covered absurdity of an existence.  I’m not asking for what belongs to anybody else–I’m asking for what is already mine.  The fruit of my hard labor.

Most Americans I know are like that.  I’ve known a couple of people over the course of my life who I could genuinely describe as moochers, but they were a small minority.  The majority of people I know in this country work themselves to the point of burnout and exhaustion, and they get screwed over in return.  It amazes me that so many of these working class Americans still support Trump.  The man has done his best to weasel away even more from them–everything from overtime pay to the ability to file a workers compensation claim for an on-the-job injury, and he certainly hasn’t helped with the tax situation.  Yet they continue to love the guy who robs them of what little they have.

So no, I’m not interested in “free stuff.”  But hey, getting treated with some dignity by the country I’m investing my life and work into?  Now that actually sounds like a good deal….

I have sadly, sadly neglected this blog.  However, I have continued writing and editing for my local Democratic party chapter.  I posted this over on their blog, and thought I would share here, as well.

As I look at pictures of women and children getting tear gassed at our border, my mind can’t help but drift back to a time when I was a frightened little kid.

Back in the 1980s, my parents made a brave decision which a lot of Americans on both sides of the political aisle would have approved of. They stood up to the Communist government of our native Poland. They became active members of Solidarity, the trade union movement which fought against totalitarian oppression and for free speech, fair elections, better working conditions. Because of this, my parents were blacklisted by the government and unable to find employment anywhere. The threat of arrest was always looming over them. There were contingency plans for who would take care of me if they were taken away.

My father decided that, for the good of the family, we would leave Poland.

My parents managed to obtain visas for a six-week vacation to Holland–our suspicion has always been that the government was happy to get rid of us because we were troublemakers. Nobody who saw us leave would have been fooled by the vacation bit. Our little Volkswagen bug was filled to the brim with sheets and pillows, clothing and books, so much so that it almost broke down at the border between East and West Berlin. After many adventures, we made it to Groningen, a town in the north of Holland which would become our home for the next few years, and there my parents made their next brave decision.

We overstayed our visa.

Yep, that’s right–we broke immigration law. It was our only chance at a new life, since there was no way the Communist government in Poland would have officially allowed us to move elsewhere. As weeks and then months went on, the realization hit me that this really wasn’t a vacation and I really wasn’t going back home. I suffered from intense homesickness, but in time, I got used to Dutch culture and I grew to like living in Holland.

And I’m so grateful that the Dutch government didn’t just immediately kick us out.
I’m even more grateful that they didn’t arrest us, or separate me from my parents, or attack us with tear gas. The Dutch understood that we were asylum seekers and they put us through the normal asylum appeal process. In time, the Berlin Wall would fall, and with it Communism–much sooner than we thought it would–and at that point, our asylum claim was denied due to the changed political situation. But we were given a fair shot.

And while, yes, we had some scary times in Poland, what we went through is nothing compared to what some of the refugees trying to get into our country have experienced. The families from Central America who have seen family members get kidnapped and killed. The Syrian kids whose homes were bombed into rubble. And we can’t extend a helping hand to them? Because these people are “illegal”? Since America is supposed to be such a devout nation, I will speak in a language it might understand–like the Pharisees in the New Testament, you are obsessed with following the letter of the law, not the effect it might have on the life and spirit of your fellow human beings. Jesus would not be proud.

When I have brought up my family immigration history to Trump supporters who are all about keeping the migrants out, I get only silence in return. People literally don’t want to discuss it. I can guess why this is–there are only a few options for how one can respond, none of them very pleasant. One would be to admit that you’re wrong about the refugees and maybe we should allow some of them in–not something a MAGA fan would be willing to do. Another would be to tell me that yes, Holland should have deported us back to Communism–again, not a point that a conservative would enjoy making.

And then there’s the worst possibility of them all–that if the Trump supporter were being honest with me, they would say “Well, we would be okay with you coming in as a refugee, because your skin is white. You’re European, so we can empathize with your fear and pain. But these migrants–they’re brown-skinned, they’re Latino, they’re Muslim. It’s just not the same thing.”

I suspect that this is what’s behind the silence, and that is a painful conclusion to reach.
To those who think that way, I would say this: You’re not only hurting the migrants, you’re hurting our country, too.

Immigrants make this country stronger and better. We work hard, we’re innovative, and America is enriched by including many different cultures, religions, traditions.

My family has been incredibly lucky. I can’t simply turn my back and close the door on other desperate families, other frightened kids. Let’s give them a chance at a new life, too.

Time for a little update about my midterms activities here in the Portland region.  I have been insanely busy canvassing and phone banking, as well as editing and writing articles for my local Democratic Party.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of my time volunteering for the re-election campaign of Kate Brown, our kickass female Democratic governor.

This race is the perfect example of why the midterms are so important.  It’s very easy to get complacent in a place like Oregon.  This is a blue state–the Democrat will win, right?  But while we were being complacent, this has suddenly turned into a very tight race, with polls showing Governor Brown and her opponent to be very close.  Not least thanks to Republican Knute Buehler cleverly portraying himself as a moderate, since he knows that’s the only way he can possibly win the Portland metro area.  Knute says he’s pro-choice in his ads!  He’s liberal on social issues!  He’s got an independent streak!  He criticized President Trump that one time!

While Knute does his “I’m really not a conservative!” song and dance, the Democrats are stuck with the problem of having a competent and hard-working incumbent who doesn’t get any exciting PR for being that way.  I frequently hear voters say “If only Kate had done something impressive!”  After I’ve done some deep breathing and lowered my blood pressure, I direct them to this list of accomplishments.

Some of my favorite highlights include:

She approved a minimum wage hike for the state.

She mandated 40 hour paid sick leave for all Oregon employees.

She set up a state-run retirement fund for any workers who are not provided a retirement plan at work.

She signed a bill which ensured that all Oregon kids receive health care.

She increased funding for the Oregon Promise Act, which helps low-income students attend community college.

She signed legislation to enforce universal background checks on gun purchases.

And she helped pass the motor voter bill, which makes any Oregon resident with a state ID automatically registered to vote.

My climate activist friends are rooting for a carbon pricing bill which is currently working its way through the state legislature.  If Governor Brown is re-elected, she is likely to sign this bill.  If Knute Buehler is elected, bye-bye carbon pricing.  Likewise, Knute claims to be pro-choice now, but before he started his centrist run for the governor, he voted against a bill expanding abortion rights.  A Governor Buehler would be much more likely to restrict reproductive rights for women.

Has Kate Brown’s leadership been ideal? Has she done everything I would like her to do? Nope, but I don’t expect that, because I inhabit reality and not a fantasy world. But…have the things she has done had a real effect on people’s lives? Absolutely yes. I would say she’s made a difference to the kids who were able to get health care, the women whose ex-boyfriend stalker wasn’t able to buy a gun, or the people who will get paid a higher minimum wage.

The problem is that all these things take hard, unglamorous, daily work.  And that kind of work is much less likely to get attention than, say, somebody sitting on his ass and sending out offensive Tweets, or heavily armed dipshits coming to our fair city and hoping to cause trouble.  And chances are even higher that a hard-working and qualified politician will get overlooked or criticized if that politician happens to be a woman (I can think of someone that happened to not that long ago, ahem).

Hopefully voters will take Kate Brown’s achievements into consideration in November. (I know, I’m asking American voters to actually think…that can seem like a stretch sometimes.)  Or, maybe Portland progressives will do what they do best…let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Aaaand months from now all those political purists will be complaining about something the Republican governor did which they don’t like.  Hey, don’t come crying to me…I was out here trying to prevent that from happening!

Speaking of which…the weekend is almost upon us, which means time to lace up my canvassing shoes and get out there.  Hope all of you are getting ready to fill out that ballot.  Only two and a half weeks left until the election!

First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. — Todd Akin

The facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever. — Rep. Henry Aldridge

Yeah. Remember these geniuses? Republican politicians trying to claim that women cannot get pregnant from rape, including Rep. Stephen Freind who theorized that when a woman is being raped, her body “secretes a certain secretion” which kills sperm.

I recall hearing about these statements and being amazed by them. I attributed them to a certain kind of ideological dishonesty. These politicians were trying to appeal to a voter base which would like to outlaw abortion–but even those who are pro-life will feel some sympathy towards victims of rape and incest, and it’s harder in those situations to trot out the standard accusation of “Well, she chose to have sex, so…” What better way to dismiss that twinge of compassion than by suggesting that a woman is not physically able to get pregnant from rape?

It still slays me how naive I am sometimes. No matter how cynical I claim to be, I don’t look to use and attack other humans, and so it doesn’t penetrate my thick skull that others do, and how easily they do it. I assumed that these quotes had to do with how these conservative men felt about abortion–but what if they also had to do with how they felt about rape? What if at least some of these men want to believe that they can sexually assault women with no consequence?

After all, they still think of women as objects to be used, whether it’s as sex toys or obedient wives. What could be better than to think that you could rape a woman without having to worry about unwanted pregnancy or the sin of abortion? Really, it might be enough just to make other people believe this. If she got pregnant, she secretly must have wanted it…the slut.

This puts a lot of insane Republican comments about rape into perspective. Like when Rick Santorum said women who did get pregnant from rape should “make the best of a bad situation.” Or when candidate for Texas governor, Clayton Williams, suggested that rape victims try to “relax and enjoy it.” Right! Relax and enjoy it when we assault you…after all, this is your job. Your role in life. Seriously, you should be thrilled this is happening to you.

Every time I peel back another layer of how these “virtuous” and “moral” people think about the world, it causes a wave of nausea to come over me. I will never completely understand where they’re coming from, and I probably don’t want to.

What I do understand: ­­­­Women absolutely have to vote this November. If we don’t want to live in a world in which rape is acceptable and tolerated, we need to speak up. Let’s, in Todd Akin’s words, shut that whole thing down.

I write all day at work. Lucky! you might say. And yeah, it’s the kind of work I’m good at. But it’s not that simple.

You see, I work for a health insurance company, and my job is to write correspondence, all day long, letting doctors and hospitals know why we’re not paying them for treatment–or not paying them as much as they thought we would be.

There are all kinds of reasons for why a medical provider might not get paid. They didn’t jump through the hoops of getting the treatment authorized. They did not sign a contract with us. Our medical experts have reviewed the treatment and deemed it to be experimental.

I can take some slight comfort in the fact that most of the time, when the insurance coverage is denied, the provider is required to write the charges off–so they are not allowed to bill the denied amount to the patient. Still, I’m sure the extra costs are passed on in one form or another.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, just to let you know that I am, in fact, what Sarah Palin and the Tea Party warned you about back when they were screaming about Obamacare. I am the bureaucrat who stands between you and your health care.

Of course, Republicans are strangely silent about people like me. Apparently, the fact that I’m getting paid for my health care denials by a private corporation rather than the government makes them more acceptable. On their end, medical providers have to create entire departments to deal with insurance billing and authorization rules, time and money which isn’t being spent on treating patients. Once again, though, the same conservatives who abhor extra government regulations are very capable of turning a blind eye to those same regulations when they are created in the name of private profit.

The truth is, health care costs will need to be controlled, no matter what the system in place. If we ever do have a single payer system, it will be funded with taxpayer money, and that taxpayer money should be treated with respect. We will still have to determine that the treatment being prescribed is reasonable, and that providers aren’t recommending unnecessary procedures (and by the way, providers trying to charge patients for fraudulent or ineffective treatment is something which happens frequently in our for-profit health care system). Republicans try to paint a scary picture of a single payer system in which you will be restricted from getting the care you want, whereas they claim that in a privatized health care system you have the freedom to choose any doctor and treatment you like. That is simply not true. Sure, you are free to choose any service you like–if you can pay the sky-high uninsured costs for it, which the vast majority of people can’t. You need health insurance to help pay for your care, and when you have insurance, the insurance company restricts what care you can get.

Of course, in our system the very wealthy do have the freedom to pursue whatever kind of medical treatment they want–and travel to get it wherever they like–and these are really the only people the conservatives in Congress care about, anyway.

My fundamental point is that single payer health care is nothing to be scared of. Your health care options are not going to be any more restricted than they are now, and you will be able to get treated for your illness or injury without having to go bankrupt in the process. Not a bad idea at all.

Take it from a health insurance bureaucrat.

I rarely ever post non-fictional political blogs anymore, mainly because everything is just too depressing.  And it’s not just the scandalous tweet of the day….it’s all the stupid little things.  Today I was once again reminded that we left the UN Human Rights Council a couple months ago, and felt another little pang of regret for another stupid decision.

Sure, the UN is mostly a rambling deliberative body and isn’t capable of stopping war and conflict in the world.  But it’s the symbolism of the thing.  The Human Rights Council continues speaking out on rights violations in Myanmar, Sudan, Syria.  The United States is not a part of that anymore, only confirming the suspicion that it didn’t care much about this stuff in the first place, anyway.

Is it a coincidence that we’re leaving the Human Rights Council just as our country is on a not-so-subtle slide down the road to fascism?  Legal residents are having their passports taken away.  Journalists are condemned as the “enemy of the people.”  Many refugee children torn away from their parents have still not been reunited with them.  What other human rights violations would the Trump administration love to be able to get away with?  What violations is it planning to get away with in the near future?

Anyway, there are my sad musings for the night.  For what it’s worth, another reason I have less time to blog is that I have been phone banking and canvassing like crazy for my local Democratic Party.  Will there actually be a Blue Wave coming in November?  I have no idea.  I’m the wrong person to ask, because I’m naturally a pessimist…about everything.  But I will keep working for it, whatever the chances of it happening may be.  Lord knows we need someone different than the people in charge right now.

 

 

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