A few reminders for Bleeding Heartland readers

It’s time for another post about guidelines for participating on this blog. Since the last time I covered this ground, many new users have registered at Bleeding Heartland, and competitive elections can bring out bad behavior on political blogs. Here are a few rules to keep in mind.

I welcome diaries by other contributors and will promote some of them to the front page. Diaries can be about any local, statewide or national subject you think would interest the Bleeding Heartland community. A news report or post at another blog can be the basis for a diary, but do not post lengthy excerpts or the entire text of copyrighted materials. Legal “fair use” involves posting a link to the original article and an excerpt of a few paragraphs. Going beyond that will get your diary deleted.

If you write a long diary, put the first few paragraphs in the “main text” section to let readers know what you’re writing about. The rest of your diary should go in the “extended text” section. E-mail me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com if you have trouble creating an account or posting diaries here.

The upcoming elections should provide plenty of material. You can offer your own take on one of the statewide races; last summer American007 posted early odds on Republican race for governor. You can take a longer view, like BJazz did in predicting that marriage equality is here to stay in Iowa. You can educate us, as ragbrai08 did in this post on “Redistricting the Iowa Way.” I would love to see detailed write-ups on state legislative campaigns, so if there’s a competitive Iowa House or Senate race going on in your corner of the state, please consider writing about how the campaign looks from the ground and local media reports.

You can put a personal spin on your diary. For instance, PrairieBreezeCheese mentioned how unemployment affected his own family in this post about the need for different priorities at the Federal Reserve. I love first-person accounts of candidate forums and town-hall meetings. You don’t have to be as detailed as John Deeth (though that is useful). You can write up highlights from the event, like IowaVoter did for one of Chuck Grassley’s meetings in 2008 and iowademocrat did for a Tom Harkin meeting on health care reform last summer.

I can’t keep track of everything going on at the statehouse, so go ahead and write about specific bills being considered if you think those are newsworthy. Sean Flaherty brought a bill on post-election audits to our attention recently.

While this is a Democratic blog, feel free to criticize Democratic candidates or elected officials where warranted. (I wasn’t a cheerleader in high school, and I’m not interested in being one now.) If you have a beef with a fellow Democrat, though, you need to do more than call names. For instance, if you are upset about a bill that Iowa House or Senate Democrats are or are not supporting, tell us the bill number, what the bill does, and why that’s a good or bad idea. If you feel someone is running a bad campaign, explain what you don’t like about the campaign strategy and/or how it could be better.

Bleeding Heartland commenters and diarists can write under any screen name they choose. No one is required to reveal real names or any personal information. “Outing” other Bleeding Heartland users will get you banned here. I do ask Bleeding Heartland users not to make false statements about themselves. You’re free to never mention your age, gender or location, but if you say you are a 40-year-old, Jewish mother living in Windsor Heights, you should be a 40-year-old Jewish mother living in Windsor Heights.

I also ask that you stick to one username whenever you comment at Bleeding Heartland. In other words, creating “sock puppets” to lend support for your own position is not acceptable.

Democratic candidates are welcome to post here, and I generally promote their diaries to the front page. In order to avoid problems that have cropped up at other political blogs, I ask paid campaign staffers to disclose that fact if they write about the campaign they’re working on. However, someone employed by a campaign can post anonymously about topics not related to that candidate’s race.

Bleeding Heartland has fortunately attracted very few trolls. Registered users can rate comments, and comments are hidden if they receive too many “zero” ratings. I posted some guidelines for rating comments here and re-posted those after the jump.

Final reminder: a free Bleeding Heartland application is available for iPhone or Android users. The application lets you read posts, view recent topics covered, and search for stories containing certain names or keywords. The application can also send you alerts (free text messages) within a few minutes whenever a new post goes up here, and lets you access the story faster than if you used your phone’s web browser. After the jump I’ve posted a couple of screen shots of the new application, which looks the same on iPhone and Android. Here is the link for the Bleeding Heartland iPhone application at the iTunes store. Android users, including those who have Android 1.5, can find it by searching for “Bleeding Heartland” on your phone.

Feedback and suggestions about the blog are welcome in this thread.  

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Thoughts on raising altruistic children

Miep Gies, the last surviving protector of Anne Frank’s family, died last week at the age of 100. During the Nazi occupation of Holland, Gies risked her life on a daily basis to keep the Franks and other Jews safe and fed. She also gave Anne books of blank paper to write on, and retrieved and preserved Anne’s diary after the Franks were arrested.

Reading accounts of Gies’ life, I was struck by the way she described her decision to help conceal Dutch Jews: “I simply had no choice.” “I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time.” (continues after the jump)

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Obama must deliver on health care

I don’t expect to get everything I want from Democratic politicians in power. Probably liberals like me will have plenty of disappointments in the coming years. But if Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress only follow through on one big campaign promise, I hope it’s health care.

The many injustices of our current health care system have been thoroughly documented by nyceve, among others, but I want to add my two cents.

The 46 million Americans lacking health insurance represent one very large part of problem. Some can’t afford insurance, and others can’t find a private insurer who will sell them a policy for any price. You could spend all day listing the ways uninsured Americans get a raw deal on health care. They can’t afford preventive care and routine diagnostics, so they are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage, incurable cancer. They are less likely to receive care for any number of chronic illnesses. They live with terrible, crippling pain. Few Americans without health insurance coverage are able to receive organ transplants, though many become organ donors after dying prematurely.

We need to get these people covered and get away from our broken employer-based health care system. Every day Americans who thought they had good benefits are joining the ranks of the uninsured–like my friend whose husband got laid off in October, right before his employer (a small manufacturer) went under. It turned out the boss had secretly stopped paying the health insurance premiums some time before. Or the retirees who worked at Maytag or at John Deere for many years and are now losing some of the health benefits they were promised.

Employer-based health care is also a huge drag on large corporations and our national economy, as clammyc pointed out in this recent diary.

In an ideal world, I’m for a Canadian-style single-payer system (also known as HR 676 or “Medicare for all”), but as a political compromise I would settle for something like what John Edwards and Hillary Clinton proposed during the primaries: mandatory health insurance, which would be portable with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and the option for any American to buy into a public insurance plan. Momentum is building in Congress for this kind of reform.

But getting Americans health insurance will solve only part of the problem. It’s shocking how many Americans with “good” insurance go without needed medical care. Only occasionally does a case makes national news, as when the teenager Nataline Sarkisyan was unable to get a liver transplant last year. A recent study found many Americans with chronic illnesses forgo medical care for cost reasons, even if they have insurance.

Then there are the “lucky” people who get the care they need for a medical emergency, but later face financieal ruin when their insurance company denies coverage. Medical bills are implicated in about half of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S.

When I had a medical emergency last winter, I got to the doctor relatively early, I received good care in the hospital, no lasting damage was done to my body, and my insurance company covered almost all of the costs (once we had exhausted our deductible). I remember our relief when the biggest bill arrived in the mail, for about $18,000, and our required payment was only $600. (I recognize that $600 would be a hardship for many families, but we are fortunate to be able to pay that without cutting back on any essentials.)

Yesterday I was reminded again of how things could have turned out very differently for my family. If you are a regular at Daily Kos, you may recognize the handle AdmiralNaismith. Among other things, he wrote a series of diaries about the political scene in all 50 states between April and October. The links to all of those pieces are here, and he wrote an interesting post-election wrap-up diary here.

AdmiralNaismith doesn’t write many personal diaries, but he recently discussed his own family’s “medical horror story”: Drowning in medical bills, despite insurance (another link is here).

He describes the sequence of events, including his wife’s life-threatening embolism, which left his family owing thousands of dollars for medical care–more unpaid bills than AdmiralNaismith earns in three months. He asked fellow bloggers to help pay down the three largest bills, which will otherwise be sent to collection agencies within 30 days. (He’s not asking anyone to send him money directly but provides contact details for the insurer, with name and account number.) A few hundred people paying $10 or $20 each would help enormously.

I will be calling to make a payment on Monday, and I encourage anyone who’s ever benefited from reading AdmiralNaismith’s informative diaries to do the same.

But equally important, I ask the community of Democratic activists, who did so much to elect Obama, to hold his feet to the fire next year on delivering the comprehensive health care reform he promised.

I haven’t been thrilled with Obama’s cabinet appointments so far. My number one hope for the new government is that Ezra Klein is right about what Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services means:

This is huge news, and the clearest evidence yet that Obama means to pursue comprehensive health reform. You don’t tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That’s not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress. You tap him because he understands the parliamentary tricks and has a deep knowledge of the ideologies and incentives of the relevant players. You tap him because you understand that health care reform runs through the Senate. And he accepts because he has been assured that you mean to attempt health care reform.

Please share your thoughts or health care horror stories in the comments.

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