truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Dear Senator Johnson:

Thank you for speaking out against Senator McConnell's methodology, which looks suspiciously more like tyranny than democracy. I hope that you will publicly refuse to vote to repeal the ACA with nothing lined up to take its place. McConnell's plan is catastrophic and could only be put forward by someone who neither knows nor cares anything about the healthcare needs of his constituents. I am strongly in favor of bipartisan reform for the ACA, and I hope that you will reach out to your Democratic colleagues to make that happen.

I know I will never persuade you that you are wrong about the effect of the free market, but, because I choose to believe that you are acting in good faith, I have to--in good faith--try again:

The problem with the free market is that it erodes ethics. Free-market capitalism says that ethics are irrelevant--if they're not actually a liability, making you less able to compete. This is why it is crucial that the government regulate corporations. The government doesn't need to worry about corporations making money. They'll take care of that part themselves. The government needs to ensure that they don't run roughshod over employees and consumers in the process. Deregulating everything and trusting to the free market to solve the problem is like opening all the cages and trusting the tigers to solve the food supply problem. Corporations, like tigers, will solve the problem for themselves. We need the government to make sure the problem is solved for everyone.

This is why we need government. This is why government should never be run on the corporate model. It is not a corporation, and if it is to succeed in providing justice for all citizens, it cannot be a corporation. It has to be the balance to the corporations, to keep their untrammeled free market competition from literally poisoning everything they touch. In the past fifty years, America has proved repeatedly that deregulation is not the answer. Deregulation only and always makes things worse, because--hey, wait for it--our country is not a corporation. Treating it like one merely destroys it.

This is why ethics are not something that can be discarded. Because without ethics, you get the Trump administration, and I have to tell you that, no matter how it looks from where you are, from where I am, all I see are tigers.



There's also email to Governor Walker about why isn't he one of the governors speaking out against ACA repeal?
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Dear Senator Johnson:

For most of this week, I've been too angry to write a letter. I'm angry at Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Steve Daines and all the rest of the smug Republican apparatchiks who think scoring points against Barack Obama is more important than the lives of tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of their constituents. I'm angry at the way the GOP is trying to bully the Congressional Budget Office into giving their healthcare bill a better score. And I'm afraid, Senator Johnson, that means that I'm angry at you.

Your weaseling around to try to make the CBO score "better" infuriates me. First because you're trying to change the rules of the game (to use Senator Daines' extremely unfortunate metaphor) so that you can reach the goalposts your party has moved with your actions this year. Second because, while l6 million people uninsured may be fewer than 22 million people uninsured, it is not BETTER.

I wish I thought I had any hope of making you understand that.

It appalls me that you have any say in the governing of our country. (You're not alone in that. I'm equally appalled that Paul Ryan has any say in the governing of our country. Not to mention Donald J. Trump.) It makes me cringe to think that when I say, "I live in Wisconsin," people will now immediately associate that with the guy who argued that 16 million people uninsured was a meaningful improvement over 22 million people uninsured. And it infuriates me that you, my elected representative to the United States Senate, demonstrably and out of your own mouth care not a single iota about my welfare, or the welfare of 99% of your other constituents.

We both know you won't read this letter. Honestly, that is the least of my disappointments in you.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Senate Republicans have sent the BCRA back to the CBO.

1. To Senator Ron Johnson:

Dear Senator Johnson:

You and I disagree fundamentally on what's wrong with the BCRA. This is only to be expected, given your belief in the power of the private sector, whereas my experience of being an American citizen for the past 42 years is that privatization and deregulation ALWAYS MAKES THINGS WORSE. *ALWAYS.* And your horrifying analogy between health insurance and car insurance gives me no confidence that you will ever understand my point of view.

However, I appreciate that you disagree with the BCRA, and I appreciate that you are willing to say so publicly. Please, even if we disagree on why it's wrong, continue to oppose the BCRA. The democratic process and democratic government only work with public and honest debate, NONE OF WHICH THE BCRA HAS HAD. Please vote against it. Please insist on public hearings.

Thank you.

2. To Senator Tammy Baldwin:

Dear Senator Baldwin:

Thank you for your opposition to the BCRA. This bill *TERRIFIES* me, both on my own behalf and on the behalf of my family and beloved friends. The BCRA threatens my ability to afford the health care I need to manage a number of "pre-existing conditions," including major depressive disorder, restless legs syndrome, and chronic migraines. Without management, these conditions will destroy my ability to be productive, and they will make my life a daily misery. I promise I am not exaggerating. My friends who are self-employed artists, who were only able to pursue their dreams because of the ACA, are now facing the loss of the health insurance (i.e., the access to affordable and sufficient care) they, too, desperately need.

Please continue to speak out against this cruel bill. Please continue to fight it.

Thank you.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Dear Senator Johnson:

Yesterday, you compared me, not favorably, to a car: "We’ve done something with our health care system that you would never think about doing, for example, with auto insurance, where you would require auto insurance companies to sell a policy to somebody after they crash their car."

I cannot tell you how furious I am.

First of all, in comparing health insurance to car insurance, you are implying that:

(1) we can avoid illness, cancer, strokes, etc., the same way a driver, hypothetically, can avoid accidents (although accidents can't always be avoided, either);
(2) human beings are nothing but machines;
3) if we are not useful--as, say, children or elderly people no longer able to work are not useful--we are not worth taking care of;
(4) we decrease in value when we are damaged.

All of these implications are wrong. Frankly, they are all reprehensible. Also, a car accident is in no way, shape, or form like a "pre-existing condition." "Pre-existing conditions" are chronic. You can't deal with them once and then move on, the way you can buy a new car if yours is totaled. You have to deal with a "pre-existing condition" for the rest of your life; it goes on being expensive, eating up energy, and making your daily life harder long after the crisis point (the accident, in your analogy), if there even was one. Many people's "pre-existing conditions" start before they're even born. It is a false and pernicious analogy which you should never have permitted yourself to make.

Moreover, my "pre-existing conditions" are not things that I did, or things caused by my bad choices. The same is true of my friends who are bipolar. The same is true of any child who has cancer. Illness, whether mental or physical, is not a moral judgment, and a person's value, which is inestimable, is neither measured nor affected by the health care they need. And no one can predict the health care they're going to need--in much the same way no one can predict a drunk driver crossing the median and colliding head-on with their car.

Frankly, I have never expected you to oppose TrumpCare, whether it's called the AHCA or the BCRA, and I was angry enough about that. But the contempt this analogy shows for your constituents and for their need to have effective and affordable health care--a need that does not correlate with either their socio-economic status or their moral rectitude and that should never be thought of in terms of free-market capitalism--is appalling, especially from someone who claims to consider it "an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Wisconsin." I sincerely hope that this analogy is not a reflection of your true opinion of your constituents.

Senator Johnson, I AM NOT A CAR. I am a person, created equal with yourself, and I deserve to have my elected representatives respect my humanity and treat me with dignity.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
ETA: Per Snopes, the Warm Springs Foundation, which provided Senator McConnell with polio rehabilitation, was a nonprofit organization with extremely close ties to the federal government (as we'd probably phrase it today). If someone from Senator Johnson's office contacts me to point out my errors, at least I'll know they read my letter.

ETA(2): ALSO THIS.


[via email]

Dear Senator Johnson:

First of all, thank you for speaking out against the speed with which Senator McConnell is trying to force his Better Care Reconciliation Act through the Senate.

Secondly-- As it turns out, Senator McConnell had polio as a small child; his health care was entirely government-funded. This is exactly the kind of health care--the kind that provides needed services to children whose parents *are*not*wealthy*--that he is trying to destroy. The hypocrisy of this infuriates me, above and beyond all the other things that I think are appalling, shameful, and horrifying about the BCRA.

The BCRA is potentially catastrophic for me. I have a number of chronic conditions, including Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Restless Legs Syndrome, that are controlled, entirely or in part, by medications--medications that I cannot afford without health insurance. Without the chemical assistance to straighten out my brain chemistry and neurology, I will very quickly become paralyzed by the apathy of depression and the brain-lock induced by OCD--not to mention the chronic sleep-deprivation caused by RLS. And these conditions are all incurable. They can be *managed* very successfully, but I will never be free of them. I need these medications for the rest of my life. (I'm 42. I'm hoping "the rest of my life" is a very long time.)

Right now, I have insurance through the State of Wisconsin. But--as you are possibly aware--the state has been steadily chipping away at its employees' health benefits for the last 20 years, and if the BCRA passes, it gives Wisconsin greatly increased leeway to make state employees' health benefits ever more meager, which will mean my out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions and doctor visits will continue to increase and increase, while my insurance covers less and less of the care I need. (The medication which principally controls my RLS already has a co-pay of more than $100 a month.) And if I *lose* that coverage, I will be uninsurable. I am a walking compendium of "pre-existing conditions"--I didn't even tell you about the chronic migraines or the fibromyalgia or the Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Senator, I need health insurance. I need it to be affordable. I need it NOT to be contingent on my never having been and never becoming sick, because that door slammed shut a long time ago. I need it to PROTECT ME, not benefit the health insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

I am hoping that, as my senator, you care more about my well-being than you do about providing tax cuts to a handful of people who do not need them. I am hoping that you recognize Senator McConnell's rank hypocrisy and that it angers you as it does me. I am hoping that you will defend me and your other 5.77 million constituents who need, as a matter of quite literally life or death, the access to affordable healthcare that Senator McConnell and his BCRA are trying to strip away from us.

Please continue to oppose the BCRA. Do not let this unconscionable bill be your legacy.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Dear Senator Johnson:

I'm writing to ask you to put pressure on Senator McConnell to release the text of the AHCA bill and to hold public hearings before the bill is put to the vote. I ask this in a nonpartisan spirit, simply as a principle of ethical governance. Patrick Henry said in 1788, "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. . . . to cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend to his country." I believe that's as true now as it was then.

Please don't let Senator McConnell set a precedent with the AHCA. Insist that the text of the bill be published. Insist that there be public hearings. We fall short of the ideal of American democracy a lot of the time, but we are better than this crude and childish attempt to strong-arm an unpopular bill through the Senate by refusing to let anyone see it.

It would only take three Republican senators refusing to vote for the AHCA without proper disclosure and hearings to make it impossible for Senator McConnell's strategy to succeed. I would like to believe, not only that there are three Republican senators who have the ethical and moral strength to make that refusal, but also that the senior senator from Wisconsin is one of them.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Dear Senator Johnson:

I try very hard not to think that you are a bad man.

I try to believe that you act on principles that you hold as deeply and fervently as I hold mine. I try to believe that you have the best interests of your constituents always at the forefront of your mind, and that even if you and I don't agree on what those best interests entail, you are doing the best that you can possibly do to serve the people of Wisconsin.

Senator Johnson, sometimes you make this very hard to believe.

In particular, your recent support of President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, your continuing attempts to dismantle the ACA, and your complete failure to demand that the Senate hold public hearings about their AHCA bill all make me think that, in fact, you are no different than your fellow Republican power holders, interested only in profit and power, motivated only by selfishness and bigotry.

If you truly believe that the AHCA will "rescue the American people from the disaster of Obamacare," as Vice President Pence puts it, then there is no reason to rush it to a vote. There is no reason why there can't be public hearings, or why the Senate can't wait for the CBO score. There is no reason for all the urgency and secrecy and backroom deals--unless, in fact, neither you nor your fellow Republican senators actually believe that the AHCA is in the best interests of the American people.

I know, really, that there's nothing I can say that will change your mind about the Affordable Care Act. But please show me that you have the courage of your convictions. Show me that even if we don't agree, I can respect you as a principled man. Insist publicly and loudly that the Senate hold public hearings on the AHCA. If the AHCA is in the best interests of the American people, then you have nothing to fear from public hearings. If it isn't . . . if it isn't, why aren't you fighting it tooth and nail?



N.b. (1) I will also be calling Senator Johnson and Senator Baldwin's offices. ETA: I have called Senator Johnson and Senator Baldwin's offices. Got real people both places. Again, props to Sen. Johnson's staffers for being polite and friendly and sounding sincerely interested in my opinion, despite us all knowing that Sen. Johnson does not give a damn what I think.
(2) Again, anyone wanting to use this or any of my other letters as templates is welcome to do so.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Dear Senator Johnson:

If the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency have shown us anything, it is that ignorance is neither harmless nor innocent. Ignorance is destructive and dangerous, and the more power it has, the more dangerous it becomes. Donald Trump must be removed from office, not only because he is clearly colluding with Russia, but because he is equally clearly incompetent. Trump is not competent to be President of the United States, and in his ignorance, and the fear and hatred that his ignorance engenders, he has already done incalculable harm to America: to her people, to her relationships with her allies, to her land and air and water. And he plans to do more harm and greater harm, in the service of nothing but himself.

There are so many things I'm angry about that I had to make a list:

1. The continuing efforts to repeal the ACA.

2. Trump's incredibly stupid decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. And your support for his decision does not make me happy, either.

3. His equally stupid attempts to use Pittsburgh and Detroit as symbols of his "putting America first," when both those cities were overwhelmingly against him in the election and are overwhelmingly in favor of America participating in the Paris agreement. And are both prime examples of why the Paris agreement is necessary.

4. The deaths of Second Lieutenant Richard Collins III, Sergeant First Class Rick Best, and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, and the failure of the Trump administration to call their murders what they are: white supremacist terrorism, committed by Americans on American soil.

5. Trump's plans to privatize air traffic control. Senator Johnson, I know you are a loyal Republican, but even so, surely you can see that privatization never works.

6. Trump's Tweets about the terrorist attack in London, and the breath-taking irresponsibility and ignorance they show.

7. Kim Weaver's decision to withdraw from the Iowa House race because of retaliatory measures taken against her by Iowa state officials and because of death threats.

8. The budget cuts being imposed on vital parts of the federal government, like the EPA.

9. The White House's failure to recognize LGBT Pride Month.

10. The ongoing efforts of officials who have recused themselves from the investigation into collusion with Russia to control that very investigation.

11. The increasing number of states passing voter restriction laws. They don't prevent voter fraud, because there isn't any. They don't prevent electoral fraud, because they're focused on the wrong people. All they do is prevent American citizens from voting, and that is absolutely heinous. Voting rights should be coterminous with citizenship, and every elected official and representative in America should be trying to get more people to exercise their constitutional rights, not fewer. I am 100% in favor of electoral reform, but it needs not to focus on the voters. The voters aren't the problem. (See #7 above.)

12. The North Dakota pipeline and the treatment of the protesters.

13. Trump's attempt to undercut the status of our National Monuments with Executive Order 13792.

I don't suppose I need to go on. We both know that you won't read this letter. I am writing anyway, because I--perhaps stupidly--continue to believe in the Constitution and American democracy. Which leads me to the final thing I wanted to bring up: your failure to hold a Town Hall meeting during this Congressional recess. Republicans nationwide are choosing to avoid their constituents during the recess, and I have to ask: if you aren't willing to face their anger, why are you willing to support legislation that makes them so angry? How does this count as representing your constituents?

I post all of my letters to you on my blog. Full disclosure: they are open letters, and I won't stop writing them.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Dear Governor Walker:

Since President Trump made the horrible and stupid mistake of pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, seven states have joined the U.S. Climate Accord, and an additional seven have announced their support of the Paris agreement. My question to you is: why isn't Wisconsin on either of those lists?

I urge you to speak out in support of the Paris Climate Accord. I urge you even more strongly to join the U.S. Climate Accord. Show the world that Wisconsin values our planet more than President Trump.

Thank you.

[Similar letters will be going to my state senator and assembly representative.]
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
1. There comes a point in every pro wrestling tag-team match where one of the Faces is in the ring alone with both Heels, getting the tar whaled out of him or her. That's what today is like, the Heel tag-team being Migraine and Fibro. I try not to give in to chronic pain (because once I start giving in, there's no good stopping point), but today I went back to bed.

2. Yesterday, I used 5calls.org to contact the relevant people about the Paris Climate Accord. I got voicemail at Senator Ron Johnson's office; talked to real people at Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Mark Pocan's offices; and the EPA's voicemail box was full. I also used RESISTBOT to send this fax to Senator Johnson and Senator Baldwin:
Trump has already made the United States a global disgrace. Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord will make us--rightly--a global pariah. Trump has already done so much damage. If impeachment is what it takes to stop him, then we have to impeach him NOW. Because he isn't waiting. Please protect your constituents, your country, and your planet. STOP TRUMP.

I know that I'm, on the one hand, preaching to the choir, and on the other hand, trying to teach a pig to sing. For Senator Baldwin, all I'm trying to do is give her data: I am one of her constituents and I am vehemently opposed to Trump. With Senator Johnson, honestly, the best I can hope for is that I annoy the pig.

3. I have NEVER IN MY ENTIRE LIFE been as politically active as I am right now. I'm not actually happy about this.

4. The mayor of Austin, Texas, is made of awesome.

5. The Harriet Tubman Home is asking for donations so that they can participate in the bidding war for a newly discovered photograph of her.

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