Sunday, August 23, 2009

Activist vs Extremist

“Well, she is an environmental activist,” or “He's a political extremist!”

We've all heard this, one way or another. These terms get word-smithed into various conversations as tiny little golden nuggets or strategically placed verbiage bombs of analysis to persuade the listener. I recall a day when these nouns had real meaning, but today they are generalized into social stereotypes.

Another such term was “fundamentalist” used specifically and most commonly along with a reference to someone involved with organized religion. But to be a fundamentalist you had to earn it. You didn't just “think” a certain way, you had to act our in a certain detrimental manner. “religious fundamentalist” were blowing themselves up or taking an entire 747 hostage.

Today these terms mean only one thing: you get involved with a goal of affecting some kind of outcome. The only other differentiating factor is whether that involvement is viewed as positive or negatively correlated with the person performing the analysis. For example, imagine someone who advocates for the environment. If they picketed dirty businesses or advocate frequently for public recycling, or attempt to get people to sign petitions, “well, she is an environmental activist.” The key is that you believe a certain thing and then that you try to have an influence on the world around you. But activist isn't a dirty word. It just seems to mean “involved” but in a way that the person doing the analysis prefers.

Now let's look at the other side. If someone is involved in wanting to influence the world around them toward their values but the person doing the analysis of their behavior doesn't like what they are doing, then you simply change the noun from “activist” to “extremist.”

Let's go back to the environmentalist. Take them off the picket line and simply have them sign a petition to require all city management to recycle. They value the environment and they are taking action via their signature. But if people don't like that petition they just cast it as an “petition put forth by environmental extremists,” and suddenly it gets the right negative spin. In this scenario, “extremist” is basically reduced to meaning “I don't like your cause because I don't share your perspective and I will call it extreme because you are getting involved but not in ways that I support."

Back to “fundamentalist.” The greatest abuse of word-smithing seems to happen around this generalized label. According to the free dictionary the term is defined as (1) a religious group, (2) adhering to fundamental core beliefs, (3) who are intolerant of other perspectives, and (3) who are militant (historically.) But that definition is changing. Today people get called “fundamentalists” for simply promoting a piece of legislation. In fact, to judge something as “not tolerant” is a pretty subjective act in reality. For example, let's remove militant and religious from the definition altogether and see how this terms could be applied under a looser definition like what we experience today.

Let's go back to the environmentalist. They want a bill that requires city management offices to recycle. In that law they in fact want to require that recycling be mandated. So, any law like this qualifies as “intolerant” because it makes no room for alternative perspectives on recycling. By definition only one perspective wins and it would be called "a law" and laws have a funny way of not tolerating being broken. Next the proposition of recycling would be considered adherence to a core environmental protective belief. It isn't a loose definition. It is a core belief that drives one to feel that to protect the environment we need to save it from ourselves.

(Before I go on, I want you to understand that I am not advocated against recycling. It is just an analysis of terms here. Please stick with me. We are almost there.

So by examining any effort to move a belief into law we could well define the advocates of that belief as “fundamentalist.” Suddenly the term gets smothered to nothing and what was an “environmental activist” has moved to “environmental extremist” or worse yet “environmental fundamentalist.” But these are just words.

Crazy as it may seem I think it is time to rethink our dialog. It is one thing to examine history and talk about our values and align ourselves with belief systems or liken one thing to another thing to more clearly understand it. But these terms are just labels meant to influence how you feel about the person or the associated defining adjective...

education advocate, animal rights activist, political extremist, religious fundamentalist, etc.

The more obvious attempts at influencing you come in their one-two combination as they sandwich the adjective...

extreme left-wing fundamentalist

So the next time you get into a conversation and someone starts talking about an activist, extremist or fundamentalist, don't assume you know what they mean. Maybe they are imagining the old definition of fundamentalist, and you might want to ask a refining question. For heaven's sake, don't get sucked into the buzzword war...

Those crazy neo-environmental fundamentalists are trying to get my office to recycle.

You reply, “Did they hijack your garbage can again?

Your friend ponders your question, "Ah, no, but they are trying to create a rule about recycling."

In an effort to cool his jets you offer an equally silly buzzword-laden reply, "Those fascist totalitarianists should keep their garbage-management-values to themselves and let us LIVE OUR LIVES!!!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Many Faces Of Health Care Reform

I can't keep up these days... and I am really trying. But the winds at the White House are changing so fast. or maybe they are not and it is just a tactic, I don't know. I hate to think the worst but when something totally stumps you, you have to look at the possible alternatives.

The big debate right now on Health Care Reform is "the public option" meaning government would provide a competitive alternative to current insurance plans. Many people fear that because the government will play the role of both "health care insurance company" as well as "health care insurance rules judge" that they will always beat out any competition. This will result in the government taking over health care both in terms of (1) health insurance and (2) health insurance regulation, but also in providing health care (because of new regulations on Doctors and the fact that they would then be paid by the government.)

The other side of the debate has everything to do with providing health care for uninsured people. Forget the fact that not everyone wants to buy insurance and that senior citizens would be forced into the government program (if they don't spend their money on a government-approved alternative.) The fact is that the other side of the debate is concerned with providing health care insurance to the currently uninsured. Whether they understand how this gets paid for or if millions of Americans flooding into that new solution creates health care rationing, just about anyone agrees with the altruistic goal of helping people. That isn't the debate. The problem is in the "how."

So, this blog post is not about the details of the plan. This post is about the mixed messages coming from the bills largest proponent, the President.

Over the weekend the Washington Times (and a number of other news groups) wrote that the White House communicated President Obama was not married to passing a Health Care Reform bill that contained a "public option." Since that time other Democrats went on the record saying that the Public Option didn't have enough Democrat support in the Congress to pass the reform bill and that we should move on to focus on "reform" and stop flogging that dead horse. The White House even did a little more face-saving by saying, ...We have been saying this for about two months now. Now, I thought I was paying attention and I don't recall them ever saying they were fine with supporting a bill that didn't include the "public option."

Next in the time line comes a letter from the Congressional Democrats sent to Obama asking, "What the? No Public Option?" This only just happened and was likely the result of so many Democrats hitting the road to pimp Health Care Reform including the public option and taking a beating in public forums.

Now, in today's Washington Times President Obama is said to be back in vocal support of the Public Option. The source: his letter back to Congressional Democrats. Obama basically writes back and says, wait a sec... I still want a public option and nothing has changed.

So how do we take this? Here are my alternative explanations for this kind of double-talk:

Semantical Accuracy: If you look at both sides of what President Obama is saying at the same time, then he is communicating... I want the public option just like you, Liberals, but I am not married to it and would sign health care reform bill into law without it, like you, Conservatives.

Liberal Bias: If you look at this as a liberal, then you think that the President saying he is fine without it but really wants it simply means that he wants people to cool their jets in opposition to it, while he gives a wink to the liberal folks and says, ...hey, keep pushing for it because we really still want it. At the same time liberal folks who have stuck their necks out and said stuff like health reform without a Public Option is a waste of time (Nanci Pelosi) are worried that Obama might be simply pandering to them if he is really willing to sign a Health Care Reform bill into law without it.

Conservative Bias: If you have your conservative hat on then while you thought that the President's wavering commitment to the Public Option felt like a move in the right direction, now you simply wonder if he was pandering to conservatives while still sending support to the senators who are hitting the road pimping the Public Option. The conservative mind feels worried that the President is pandering at best and lying at the worst if he isn't really willing to sign a bill into law without the Public Option.

At this point the double-talk only serves up one outcome for those who are paying attension: a loss of trust for somebody. If you are a liberal and you want him to simply be pandering to the conservatives but in the end he signs a bill into law that doesn't include the public option, well, then you lose trust. If you are conservative and he refuses to sign a bill without the public option, then he is a liar to you, and you lose trust. Someone loses trust as a result of this experiment in words.

There is one other reaction at this point that I can think of and it goes like this...

Fan-boy: The substance of the President's words matter less that your ability to spin them into unwavering support. One week ago you were championing along with the President for Health Care Reform that included the Public Option and this week (for at least a moment) you were celebrating the seemingly bi-partisan move to not be married to a bill that must contain the Public Option.

The problem with fan-boy is that the only guiding value in that scenario is unwavering support for the icon that is the President. If you were a proponent of the Public Option and looked at the details then you would likely have a very difficult time cooling your jets and suddenly be fine with not including it. If you opposed the bill then you understood the ideological, social and financial difference that the Public Option made and were not about to simply start endorsing it. If none of that mattered to you, then I have a difficult time imagining that you were paying attention, because one way or the other a decision in this category would end up shaping the lives of Americans. So the details matter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Forgot My Drupal Password

From time to time I use a web content management solution called Drupal to build websites. Drupal (pronounced Droop-pull) let's you build websites that are secure, that allow you to write articles and blogs with ease and basically manage the content of your website. Sometimes the trouble with Drupal is that it makes web development too easy.

Having said that there is one problem I keep bumping into with Drupal. Often times I will be setting up a site, and then I get side tracked and need to come back around later only to have forgotten the administrative password. Ugh! In a real implementation for Drupal, that would never be a problem. If you forgot your password, Drupal has the capability (out of the "box") to send an email message to the email associated with the a user so that user can reset their password. The problem is, if the site is in development and running locally, sometimes the email feature of Drupal doesn't get configured basically breaking the ability of Drupal to send that email and start the password reset process. Here is a work around for that!

On a local installation you probably have access to your MySQL database for the Drupal site. This is not typically something that someone on a live site would have access to, so this is a safe procedure. Drupal also protects against SQL Injection so what I am about to show you is pretty darned safe.

Go to your MySQL Database for the Drupal site using a tool like MySQLAdmin. Now, find the "user" table and "browse" it. Notice that you can see the user names in the table. At the same time notice that the passwords saved in the "pass" column seem encrypted. That is because, well, they are. Specifically they are encrypted using the MD5 algorythm. Now, if you know anything about MD5 or security then you know that the MD5 algorithm has been cracked. In reality, while this is true, you pretty much have to be super-human to hack MD5 encrypted messages so there really isn't anything to wory about.

So, how do we figure out this encrypted password? We don't. The trick is to simply change the password. Assuming that the password you want to change is associated with the user id "1" (the field or column should be called "uid") open up your MySQLAdmin "SQL" tab and run the following SQL:

UPDATE users SET pass = MD5('newpassword') WHERE uid = 1

...and that should result in telling you that one record was updated.

Now go back to your Drupal site and attempt to login with your new password. Easy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Purpose for H.R. 3200 is Not Misdirected, sort-of

H.R. 3200 is such a hot debate, but what is interesting (at least in the D.C. area) would be that people are willing to talk about it. Only one month ago in my office people would be quick to make small talk about T.V. shows or movies or ideas for new T.V. shows or movies, but just this week things have changed. I have noticed that there are quite a few people who will just bring up a news tidbit about what is going on in Health Insurance Reform (that would be the “street name” for H.R. 3200) and ask each other questions or share what they have read about it.

This week in the news the Congressional Business Office decided to release a preliminary review of the cost estimates for the bill if it were set into motion. While I would love to discuss the social ramifications of H.R. 3200 on the average American, I will decline to do that right now. If you want to know how the bill would affect you where you live, then go read the 1,036 page bill at...

At the moment there is only one part of the bill I believe is worth reviewing for the sake of this blog: the charter statement at the beginning. It goes like this...

To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce
the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.

As a goal I think that people aren't going to say such a statement in a vacuum is a bad thing. I want people to experience affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduced growth in health care spending. The last phrase bothers me a little, however. The phrase “and for other purposes” is a catch-all phrase which supports two relatively common abuses of extravagance in government: it allows for the funding and addition of special pork-barrel projects within the documentation and it hides the fact that the bill actually does much more in the last phrase than it does in the first two phrases. Allow me to demonstrate.

Nothing in life is free. We all know that. When the government spends money, it is always our money. If you are willing to say something like, “Well I make so little money I don't pay taxes, so it isn't my money,” then you are missing the point. It is someone's money and you are disrespecting that reality.

The first phrase in this declaration of purpose is “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans.” Well, let's quickly test the phrase affordable. At this point the CBO says that the government program will add $239 billion to the federal budget deficit over the next 10 years. beyond the first ten they are specifically not willing to estimate but have said that if there is any saving in the second ten years into the program, it is so small that it wouldn't be considered any economic advantage. And this is just the beginning of the estimates. This is if nothing changes in that healthcare program from day 1 to 20 years into it. It also does not include the cost of the Government administrating the plan. Again, if you are imagining health care cost savings, then you have to imagine revenue and there isn't enough of it built into the program. This means that while they are proposing paying for this by raising taxes (again there is the real cost bearing it's weight on Americans), after 10 years of deficit spending we would realize a real net deficit of around $65 billion added onto the national debt. Affordable as a term quickly becomes a meaningless selling point if there really is no savings.

Next let's look at the word “quality.” This last week I drove to work a couple of day. Typically I take the metro, but I was running late and driving gets me there quicker even if parking is a horrible problem (let's just say that I recently invested $40 to the City of Alexandria because a meeting ran long and I couldn't get outside to move my car fast enough.) On the drive home the classical music station I sometimes listen to was reporting news about the causes for the rising cost of health care. The top two items on their list: government regulations (for good or for bad, a necessary evil or a federal fundraiser, they are whatever they are, let's not debate that now) and the demand for improvements. You see, as people get smarter we create smarter ways of doing things. And some of those smarter things mean new cutting edge technology or retraining doctors. All of this adds cost.

A number of years ago I worked for an electronics manufacturing company that built everything from cell phones to medical devices. My job was to be sure that the statistical data that was generated as a result of testing the quality of devices being produced was accurate and easily reported in near-real-time for our clients. While the nature of testing electronics is mostly the same regardless of the product being produced, the regulations around electronics varies quite a bit. Take for example a cell phone versus a heart monitor. Nearly everyone has read that little sticker on devices that claim it was tested to not create radio interference. Now imagine the quality demanded out of medical devices! This is no cheap venture.

So how is the government going to increase the quality of care? Well, first they tell you in the bill that a committee will be the one to define that. You can begin to imagine a conflict of interest by it's nature on this one. If a car company were to claim “we make the safest cars” and then you found out that they are the group who gets to define what “safe” means, this word “safe” would become (again) a meaningless selling point.

Now let's look at the phrase “for all Americans.” At this point if you are like me then you've been hearing the number 40 million a lot lately. Congress tells us that this is a number of Americans who don't have health insurance. Then you find out where that number comes from. 40 million is the number of any American who was without health insurance at some point during the last year. This is a very flexible number, in other words. In an alternate universe called “reality” something like 8 million are currently without health insurance rather than this very unspecific and knowingly inaccurate 40 million (which implies we currently have 400 million Americans walking around right now without insurance of any kind.) When all of the more realistic math is cut and calculated the number of uninsured comes down to about 2% of the U.S. population. What does that mean then? Well, it should mean that with such a huge program generating such an amazing deficit we really ought to be able to help out those 2% of U.S. citizens right? Well, sadly this is not true either. The fact is that there are Americans who aren't poor enough to qualify for certain benefits outlined in H.R. 3200 while at the same time don't make enough money to purchase private health insurance. H.R. 3200 doesn't bring a remedy to these people either. So the phrase “for all Americans” is also meaningless since the plan actually doesn't serve all Americans.

Finally, let's look at the phrase “reduce the growth in health care spending.” How will they do this? Can Congress put a “cap” on health care spending? Will they “cap and trade” our benefits and we pay a penalty if we use too many? Are they going to control the salaries of doctors or overrule medical law suites to contain costs? Will they approve less medical procedures, reducing demand hence reducing costs? Are they going to hand out coupons for “half off an appendectomy?” The fact is that we don't know and they don't know. In only a few industries has the government jumped in and controlled a pricing structure. More importantly, if the government does force prices down, then those services will get cut in another way to offset the artificially low cost. That is the nature of economics. In fact I believe this item in the list is nearly meaningless simply because it completes with the other items in the list. Now, from time to time an industry will innovate and create ways of reducing product or service costs. That innovation sometimes means more revenue and it sometimes means more people are able to more cheaply gain access to those products or services. That is a result of traditional Capitalism. But at the same time the government of the U.S. to-date has NEVER INNOVATED IN A MANNER SO AS TO CONTAIN COSTS. Zero times, people. If the U.S. Government wants more, then they KNOW they have to spend more. They don't have the “technology” to pull off this goals and history proves that I am correct on this point (though, please prove me wrong if you can come up with stories that validate how the U.S. Government innovated and generated lower costs that resulted in more people gaining cheaper but better benefits.)

Base on these issues alone I don't see how this plan will be able to achieve it's own dream. It is dead on arrival. In the spirit of fixing Wall Street and using their lingo, this entrepreneurial effort is a poor investment because it will not meet it's own goals set forth by it's charter. If Congress where a health care company, and H.R. 3200 was it's business plan, I would deny it's request for start-up-capital investments.

To end, I want to share a small insight I gained from having swapped a couple emails with the U.S. Senator representing northern Virginia. This last week I wrote the man a letter and he wrote me back. There is nothing he said in that letter which shed any new light on either H.R. 3200 or that gave me confidence that he even understood H.R. 3200. In fact the content of his letter defied the information coming out of the CBO. This is no surprise because even the White House is now reinventing history telling us that H.R. 3200 isn't about “cost savings” even though, as you can see here, they claim it is. I am convinced that Congress is doing a whole lot of posturing around the content of a Bill they they haven't even read.

So, to the Senator representing northern Virginia. If you would spend as much time reading H.R. 3200 as you do crafting opinion papers that defy the facts rather than represent them, I think America could benefit from any true insight you can bring to the situation. As well, please remember that you represent us, and that this is not a monarchy. We send you as much to vote on our behalf as we send you to be our voice and not your own. Please be a leader and not a follower.

And to my reading friends. Write your senators. Tell them your story and how you feel. If you believe that we should help the uninsured then write them and request they your Senate regains focus and drafts a Bill that simply does that and avoids clauses like “and for other purposes.” Tell them that you support helping others but that this Bill does more harm than help simply because it has already been proven to not accomplish it's charter objectives. And if you feel that it is not the job of the government to provide health care, then let them know that they are extending their own power without the approval of the citizens. Tell them that they draft their authority from you and not the other way around. Remind them that this government is “by the people” and that they are only your employees at the end of the day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Windows 7, You Make Me Glad I Bought A Mac

I really hope someone from Microsoft reads this blog post.

Last year I invested in my first mac ever. It was a macbook pro laptop and after much deliberation I finally got the guts up and pulled the trigger and forked over the bucks for a mac. They are a bit more expensive and I was worried about the cost of converting my software over to mac but I was ready. Here is why I went mac and how looking at Windows 7 made me fall in love with Apple all over again.

About every year I blow at least a week of my life formatting my PCs. Many people do this and they do it for a number of reasons: they like to start anew with a fresh system; they need their Windows system to perform well again and Windows performance seems to degrade over time; their computer crashes and they have to start all over. Now, I am a computer programmer and while you might imagine that means I tinker with my computer and tweak it to death causing it to die annually, I don't actually do that. I try to keep it very clean and yet each year Windows just seems to take a fatal nose-dive and I have to reinstall the operating system and all of my software again.

This whole effort of reinstalling means I lose time and as we all know time is money. In 2008 I had to reformat my system twice! Before you start thinking I own some sad old machine that should be retired, it is an HP AMD64 dual core machine with 6 GB of RAM and about 1 TB of hard drive space with dual digital monitors and nearly 1GB of video RAM, so I should be good to go. Needless to say I started doing the math. If the rumors were true about Apple computers being fairly maintenance free then I would save enough time each year to nearly purchase a new Mac computer annually rather than invest that time/money into fixing Microsoft Windows. So, starting with a laptop seemed to be the right next move toward a switch.

After co-existing with Windows Vista for over a year and having the Mac book pro laptop as long, the crash happened again. At this point I didn't need to do the math again. The main computer took the final crash and I was ready to go all-mac-all-the-time. So I bought a 24” iMac and never looked back... until the new buzz about Windows 7 came out!?

Windows 7: it loads quickly, no more Vista crashes, no more constant warning message interruptions, easier user interface, tons of usability enhancements... did I go to the iMac too quickly? Should I have been more patient?

Then I hear about the free Windows 7 Release Candidate downloadable from Microsoft. It is at this time that I fall in love with my Mac all over again.

Like Charlie Brown depending on Lucy to hold the football one more time in hopes that she won't pull it away YET AGAIN just before he kicks it, I decide to waste some bandwidth and download Windows 7.

First off, you can't easily download Windows 7 in anything but Windows Internet Explorer. The Windows 7 download crashes Firefox. Next up, I have to load up my Windows Vista in Parallels on my Mac just so I can fire-up IE and download Windows 7. 3 hours later I have Windows 7 on a DVD and I am read to install.

Here is where my investment in Apple pays off and vindicates me. After three attempts to install Windows 7 which is interrupted 3 times with the installer crashing my computer, I finally couldn't boot the machine anymore. Just so you don't panic, I am not attempting to install Windows 7 on my Mac. I am installing Windows 7 on my crashed Vista computer. It was even a completely fresh installation, new partition on the hard drive and everything! To no avail could I get Windows 7 installed and running. What a piece of... crap!

Needless to say I decided immediately to sit down on my Mac and write out this blog. Ah, my beautiful, flawless and painless Mac. It runs, it plays, it works... alas it does not crash!

So Windows is no more. On the upside, I happened to burn the Windows 7 installer on a reWritable DVD so I didn't even waste the DVD. I am now about to install Kubuntu Linux on that PC and be done with it. Never again I tell you. Never again!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

White House FY 2010 Budget Has A New Name

The Fiscal Year 2010 Budget from the White House is now being renamed by Obama's Treasure Secretary. While it was once described as “A New Era of Responsibility” it has now been labeled “an exploding budget deficit.” And do you think that the answer should be to tame that budget by cutting back programs that we cannot afford, the same tactic that all Americans employ when faced with a financial short come? No. We are being told that the answer could be a tax-hike for the Middle Class.

One of the latest additions to an already run-amuck budget: H.R. 3200. The H.R. 3200 bill, dubbed “America's Affordable health Choices Act of 2009,” seems anything but affordable. At the minimum it promises to add $1 trillion do our national debt and since President Obama doesn't want to appear irresponsible, rather than simply tack that onto our national debt (nobody wants that) his White House staff are leaving the door open to ask the Middle Class to foot the bill. When National Economic Council Director Larry Summers was asked if Obama would tax the Middle Class rather than keep his campaign word when he repeatedly vowed "you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime," Summers said "There is a lot that can happen over time... it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what."

Now, I know a number of Americans who would like to stick it to the high priced insurance companies and find a way to bring down the cost of health care. The trouble is that H.R. 3200 is so far reaching that it funds programs, makes decisions and eliminates choices faster than it brings in alternatives or a savings. To answer your question in advance, no I have not read the entire bill consisting of more than a thousand pages. But I have struggled through the first 50 pages, and it is painful. For the government to create an affordable competitive plan they first have to take over the game. In fact, for them to compete they have to pretty well fix the game. To bring to light a comparison, imagine the following scenario:

Imagine that the U.S. Government wanted to make buying cars more affordable. Well, according to this plan, first it needs a horse in the race. So it goes and buys a car company (hmmm... check that off the list.) But owning a car company doesn't make cars more affordable. So what does it have to do? Well, it needs to control the features on the car, “optimize” them to keep the costs down. How does it do this? By creating a committee that decides who (which Americans) get what features. That is the first part of the equation: keeping costs down. But how does it make it competitive? Well, private car companies could just offer nice features at a reasonable cost and keep the U.S. own car company out of the game, right? We all win then, right? Well, no. You see the U.S. also needs to define what it means to be competitive. How do they do that? Well, they allow existing car companies to maintain their existing cars for the next four years, at which point all non-government-owned car companies now have to play by the new rules as defined by the government. Literally all of the cars older than four years old would have to come off the road at which point everyone would have to get into a car that now played by the governments new rules. In other words, if you are happy with your car, feel free to keep it... well, for the next few years, at which point all cars will have to look like the government cars. Hmmm? And the committee keeps deciding whose car gets what features? You guessed it.

Now we do the math! If you are in the Middle Class then you are currently paying a good sum of money for your health care. Next, imagine that H.R. 3200 gets passed. Now you are paying for your private health care and at the same time paying for other peoples health care because your taxes just got hiked up. I thought this was supposed to be cheaper... or “affordable?” Apparently, it is only affordable if you aren't paying taxes at all. But wait for it! You might anyway. Since Joe Biden was voted into the White House as the Vice President he has headed a task-force to define WHO the Middle-Class really is. So, for all you know even if you make less than $50,000 per year (currently the cut-off for the Middle Class), soon you might fit into the definition of Middle-Class. At what point does this plan become affordable?

Well, if you are anything like me, you are seeing a pattern here. The American public was first duped when Obama said he wouldn't raise your taxes. During the election he defied John McCain when he confidently declared to America that he could pull off his budget plans without raising taxes. He named his first fiscal budget “An Era of Responsibility” but we all now know that it is “an exploding budget deficit” at the admission of his own Treasury Secretary. I am waiting for the same Americans who voted President Obama into office to finally realize that the “America's Affordable health Choices Act of 2009” is both not affordable and oxymoronically eliminates “choice” by simply becoming the gatekeeper for the definition of what our “choices” will eventually be.

As a sidenote to this health care debate: research the history on Medicare and Medicaid. These struggling programs are constantly in jeopardy due to the way they exist and are managed by Congress. While you are at it understand that H.R. 3200 is modeled after elements of both of those programs as well as the Social Security system all of which have been bailed out over the years due to the unsustainable fiscal reality of those programs. Why are we sitting on our hands imagining that Congress is suddenly able go from mismanaging those three programs and yet we are cool with them taking on something so much larger and further reaching!?

CALL, EMAIL or WRITE YOUR CONGRESS-PERSON and tell them NOT TO SUPPORT H.R. 3200. If ever a public health care plan was a good idea, this is not that plan (and Congress knows it... now you need to tell them you know it too!)