Politics

On Shame As A Tactic, Or, Betsie Gallardo: She Won...And So Can You!

We have been following the story of Betsie Gallardo lately, she being the woman that, due to a medical decision, was being starved to death in a Florida prison.

She has inoperable cancer, her death is imminent, and her mother was working hard to make it possible for Betsie to die at home with some dignity.

As we reported just a couple days ago, half the battle was already won, as the Florida Department of Corrections had agreed to place her in a hospital so that she could again go back on nutritional support.

On January 5th, the Florida Parole Commission voted to allow her to end her life at home—and that means you spoke out, made a difference, and achieved a complete victory for the effort.

But even as we celebrate that victory, I think we should take a moment to realize that there is a bigger lesson here: the lesson that the fights over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), benefits for 9/11 first responders (the Zadroga Bill), and Betsie Gallardo’s imminent release are all actually pointing us to a political strategy that works, over and over, if we are willing to understand the wisdom that’s been laid before us.

On Starving In Prison, Or, Who Gets Pardons In Florida?

If you were with us on Christmas Day you heard the story of Betsie Gallardo, who, unless something changes quickly, is going to be intentionally starved to death in a Florida prison after being convicted of spitting on a cop.

In fairness, the State did not decide simply to starve her; instead, the Department of Corrections (DOC) first chose to withhold any further treatment for her inoperable cancer…and then they decided to starve her to death.

Her adopted mother is trying to get her released on humanitarian grounds; the DOC recommended in October that she be allowed to go home and die, the Florida Parole Commission refused.

Governor Charlie Crist chairs the Executive Clemency Board, who could also agree to let her go…and so far, they’ve also refused to take action.

Funny thing is, the Governor and his Board have been more than willing to step in when other Floridians requested pardons and commutations, even in situations that seemed a lot less dire.

Today, we’re going to look at that history—and to be honest, as with many things in the Sunshine State, from the outside…it all looks a bit bizarre.

On Death And Clemency, Or, Here’s A Real Christmas Story

There are many gifts to be given and received this holiday season; some that you can wrap and put under a tree, and some so intangible and ethereal that they cannot be held within the boundaries of paper and ribbon.

Instead, they exist within the boundaries of our hearts.

Among those intangible presents, few matter more than the chance to be with those we love—and at the time of our death, it’s the most important thing of all.

We have a chance to bring all of this to a dying woman and her family—but the only way it can happen is if we convince the Florida Department of Corrections not to kill her first.

It’s not a tale of light and joy—but if we get lucky, there could still be a happy ending.

On how to honor the brave, or, why we hate Republicans

We are coming down to the end of the 111th Congress, and we are all surprised that a number of things actually got done: a nuclear arms reduction treaty appears to be on the verge of approval, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed; we have new health care and financial reforms (admittedly, they’re imperfect solutions, but…), food safety reform, a better way to do student loans, and a credit card reform act that‘s forcing issuers to spend thousands of labor hours to develop new and better ways to work over consumers.

And yet there is one important bit of legislation that is still being blocked by Republicans, and, amazingly enough, it’s a bill that would provide health care and compensation for those people who ran down to the World Trade Center site on September 11th, and for months thereafter, in the effort to rescue and recover victims, and to restore normal operations in the city after the attack.

Yes, folks, you heard me correctly: the Party of waving flags and “Second Amendment solutions” and tri-cornered hats and Rudy (“noun, verb, 9/11”) Giuliani is now engaged in a desperate battle to screw over the very 9/11 first responders that you would think they would be…well, putting up on a stage somewhere next to Rudy Giuliani.

On honoring a legacy, or John Edwards, we need to talk

So it has come to pass that Elizabeth Edwards has died.

Despite having more things thrown at her than anyone I’ve ever had the chance to support in my entire political life, she managed to represent, in her very presence, a sense of grace and kindness and concern for those who were looking to have a better life than the one they had now, and I don’t know that I could ever live up to the quiet courage she showed as her life came to an end.

And, bless her heart, it appears that she took the time to make sure that her kids knew her, and that she helped them put away enough “past” to, hopefully, ease some of the pain of the future.

But now the time has come to look beyond death, and, John...that’s why I want to talk to you today.

On Pushing The Unwilling, Or, Laughter: A Tool Of Asymmetric Warfare?

So here it is, almost halfway through this President’s first term, and it’s starting to become abundantly clear that there is no way Obama is going to pursue the same agenda that he ran on in 2008.

In fact, as the President announces a deal that even he agrees the majority of the American people do not support, and he prepares the Nation for the news that we’re going to have to borrow money for the very tax cuts he said we couldn’t afford a few weeks ago, it’s starting to look like Obama isn’t even going to pursue the same agenda he campaigned for in October.

Now it is true that a lot of the problem here is the President’s—but it’s also fair to say that we Progressives have failed to force the President, and certain reluctant Members of Congress, to govern in a way that promotes that agenda.

That’s a real problem, and it needs a real solution; before we get done today I’ll offer a suggestion that could be not only highly effective, and a lot of fun besides, but a great chance to release your artistic muse as well.

On Asking And Telling, Or, 115,000 LBGT Troops? How Many Is That, Exactly?

I took a couple of weeks off, as Thanksgiving and snow came around (a subject we’ll address in a day or so), but we are all again occupied as lots of things we’ve been talking about either will or won’t come to pass, and it seems like all that’s happening all at once.

Today we’ll take on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT); this because the Pentagon’s top leadership just came out and reported that revocation of the policy, following a period of preparation, would be their preferred way to go.

There will be lots of others who will take on the question of what’s right and wrong here, and exactly how implementation might occur; my interest is, instead, to focus on one little fact that makes all teh rest of the conversation a lot more relevant.

That is the fact that about 70,000 LBGT troops serve in the military today, DADT notwithstanding, and, that if it wasn’t for DADT, almost 45,000 more troops would be serving that aren’t today.

And that one little fact leads to today’s Great Big Question: exactly how much military would 115,000 troops be, exactly?

On issue advocacy and Pyrrhic victories

Many reading this are at least spritually connected to a favorite issue or issues, if not physically attached and impacted by progress (or regression) in those areas. And you're fairly well-informed on these subjects, too, which has served to solidify your support over time. But how many other people share your views? In your neighborhood? In your extended family? At work? These are the people who (are most likely to) know you, and place credence on what you believe to be true. But it doesn't work like that, does it?

Social Security: If The Rich Paid Taxes Like You And Me...Problem Solved

Over the course of the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking about how the War On Social Security was about to get under way and what happens when countries choose to privatize their systems.

Today we take on another bite-sized chunk of economic analysis: how can you get to a situation where Social Security is financially stable for the next 75 years?

We’ll describe some proposals that are out there—but the big focus of this conversation will be to look at one change that, all by itself, could not only solve the entire funding problem, but could actually allow us to lower the Social Security tax rate, immediately, and still achieve fiscal balance.

“Well, if that’s such a bright idea” you might ask, “why haven’t we adopted it already?”

That’s a great question—and after you hear the proposal, you may well have explanations of your own.

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