Thursday, April 21, 2011


Republican Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) heads the House Budget Committee and he’s on a harsh legislative mission to cut and slash health care for sick seniors and push others out of nursing homes. 

By the way, if you consider yourself middle class, no matter what may be your upper income aspirations, he’s not your friend either.  

If you are among the hoity-toity wealthy, then this is your man, the servant of your every selfish desire.

The government spending you want cut, is the spending on you he’s prepared to cut. 

The income tax you want reduced, is the tax on the wealthy that concerns him, not your taxes.

Ryan has publicly explained the personal philosophy that led him to his unconstitutional budgetary dystopia.  He’s a self-admitted Ayn Rand cultist. 

Rand, a Russian √©migr√© wrote a book titled, “The virtue of selfishness.”  She decried any “altruism” – any hint of selflessness, or sacrifice for anyone or any thing else.

According to Rand, in a 70-page rant by her hero, John Galt, in her 1,168-page “philosophical” tome, “Atlas Shrugged,” it is all about “the man at the top of the intellectual pyramid” and he “contributes the most to all those below him.” 

Galt declared, “the man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.”  Thus, Galt’s oath: “I will never live for the sake of another man…”  So much for the golden rule.

In recent years, Rand’s newest recruits unsurprisingly arose out of the Tea Party movement – a “me movement,” funded by the Koch Brothers, and almost unparalleled for its selfish and elitist objectives. 

Ryan publicly praised the late Ms. Rand in D.C., stating, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” 

Ryan reportedly instructs his Hill staffers to study Rand’s elitist philosophy with its felicific calculus favoring the wealthy including the Koch Brothers, and declaiming the parasitic middle class.

It’s this core belief that became the bill he wrote that passed Congress last Friday.

Ryan’s bill kills Medicare dead 11 years hence, starting with slowly raising the age of eligibility, and then granting $8,000 vouchers to retirees to hand over to private insurance companies, no matter what the premiums cost, nor how they may increase over time, and without regard for how much health or prescription costs may go up.

Ryan’s bill cuts Medicaid $700 billion in the next decade.  No matter that Medicaid now pays for two-thirds of all nursing home residents.

Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute, explained Ryan’s medicare proposal in this way, people “must take care of themselves as they grow older.”

Ryan proposes to cut the wealthiest individual tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, without reducing total tax revenue.  No money fairy is making up the difference.  They are going to have us, that “parasitic” middle class, pay the wealthy’s fair share.

Fortunately, Randian Ryan’s newly minted law has no legs in the U.S. Senate. 

But, if we’re not careful, we’ll yet awake to a Randian Ryan nightmare come true, a nation that no longer provides for our general welfare.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011


Host Robert and Luciana Duvall
Photo by John Flannery
Everyone knows Academy award-winner Bobby Duvall - perhaps our greatest living actor. 
But he has also made a significant contribution to our region.
I first saw Duvall in the 60s in Greenwich Village playing Eddie Carbone in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge.”  He became that haunting Arthur “Boo” Radley, mentally disabled, appearing as if out of thin air from behind a slowly swinging door in an unforgettable scene with Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  He was the Corleone’s mob consigliere to the “Godfather,” the Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore who loved the smell of napalm in the morning in “Apocalypse Now,” the Texas Ranger, Gus Macrae, who chose death rather than have his leg cut off in “Lonesome Dove,” and so many more sensational roles on stage and screen.
But Bobby is also a great neighbor. 
Bobby Duvall and his wife Luciana worked hard to help defeat the PATH transmission lines; they also resisted separate development plans by Disney and Walmart’s that might have destroyed the historic Bull Run Battlefield in Manassas.
Now, they are helping the PEC encourage us one and all to “buy fresh and buy local” from neighboring beef, pork and poultry farms, from vegetable and flower gardens, from Virginia wineries, and local bakeries. 
This way, our local farmers earn more than the discounted prices wholesalers pay them, remain viable, and continue to supply us with what’s fresh and healthy.
Bobby and Luciana hosted a “Meet the Farmer” gourmet tasting buffet prepared by Chef Claire Lamborne at their 360 acre horse farm, the Byrnley Farm in the Plains, to show us what’s available in the region.
But first you have to hear the story behind the venue where they convened their tasting.
Years ago, Bobby found he loved “the seedy” and “the sweetness” of the tango dance. 
While in Argentina working on a film, he met Luciana, a younger, striking, tall, dark-haired beauty. 
They shared an interest in the tango, and they made a film that Bobby wrote and directed. 
Bobby posed a critical question, by his character: “If I were younger, would I have a chance with you?” 
Luciana’s character answers, “You have a chance now.” 
And so he did.
They danced the tango on a finished polished barn floor at their farm. 
That’s where we had our tasting – at the soulful center of their homestead.
Bobby spoke before the dinner was under way. 
He insisted we had the richest soil in Virginia, praised the fresh chicken that was free of antibiotics, the beef better than that found in his beloved Argentina, without any hormones or steroids, the fine pork passed down through generations since James Madison, and the bread and exceptional wines. 
Bobby finished by declaring, without a murmur of dissent, that “Virginia is the last station before heaven.”
Former Congressman Tom McMillen said this was “a communal celebration of the produce, once tasted, that you can commend to others.”
Anne Donovan Larson said, “Loudoun was once the breadbasket of America, and could be significant once again.”
We must preserve and buy fresh produce from our local farms, and thank the Duvalls for reminding us of the treasure we have before it’s squandered.
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Thursday, April 7, 2011


You may have health insurance now but can you keep it and can you be insured if you change jobs or, worse, become unemployed?
One of the significant bars to getting “new” insurance is a “pre-existing health condition?” 
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, anywhere from 50 million to 129 million non-elderly Americans have “pre-existing health conditions.”
It could be acne, hemorrhoids, toenail fungus, allergies, tonsillitis, bunions, but also chronic conditions including heart disease (affecting every third adult), cancer (affecting about 11 million Americans), diabetes, asthma, hay fever, lung disease, or a sports injuries; domestic violence is a pre-existing condition (in nine states).  It can even be a disease you’ve never had.  For example, if you have hay fever, you could have respiratory system diseases including bronchitis or pneumonia, and this possible affliction is treated as “pre-existing.”
Health Insurance companies in Virginia may discriminate against you if you have a pre-existing condition and seek to buy insurance in the individual insurance market.  This is particularly important when job-based health insurance group policies are declining, when those who separate from their employer can’t always afford the job-related insurance available under COBRA, and when we still have high unemployment.
Pre-existing conditions prompt insurers to charge higher premiums, demand larger deductibles, require bigger co-pays, set life-time benefit limits, and bar coverage entirely.
One 45-year old real estate agent had a kidney transplant and, afterwards, lost his insurance because he overlooked to complete a health questionnaire.  He couldn’t get new health insurance coverage to pay for the critical immunosuppressant medication required to guard against his body’s rejection of the new kidney; he had to pay $2,000 a month out of pocket.
The health insurance reform legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, HR 3590, signed into law by President Barack Obama, prevents insurance companies from refusing insurance because of your medical history or health risk.  Insurers also have to renew your policy provided you pay the premium, and they may not deny renewal or dilute coverage because you got sick.  But the rub is that this reform does not go into effect until January 10, 2014. 
Meantime, insurance companies, their lobbyists and our compliant public officials, are demanding this health reform be repealed.
One principal argument they make is that this health reform requires those who can afford health insurance to pay for insurance policies. 
The reason is that those who are healthy, if not required to buy insurance, could otherwise stay out of the insurance pool until they are sick and then free load on this reform granting them insurance coverage for any pre-existing condition. 
This program will only work if the insured pool is large, encompassing both those with relatively few claims (mostly the young and healthy), as well as those with serious medical challenges; in other words, only if the fund’s paid in premiums exceed the medical insurance claims that we file.
We need a law mandating insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions; a mandate that those who can afford health coverage get health coverage, and we have to resist those who would repeal this critical protection.