August 16, 2009

My OFA (Organizing For Astroturfing) Adventure

Filed under: Activism,Health Care,Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:45 am

OrganizingForAstroturfing0809The author finds little activist energy for ObamaCare in Southwestern Ohio.

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Note: This column originally appeared at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog with additional exhibits and updates on Friday morning. See the tease and this Saturday post for updated and supplemental information on the pathetic results of Organizing For America’s “Office Visits for Health Reform.”

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I hope the establishment media is monitoring and interested in reporting the real results of the attempt by Organizing for Astroturfing, er, America, to lobby individual members of Congress to support ObamaCare. Sadly, I doubt they are.

If what I have learned this week holds elsewhere, it will turn out to have been a complete bust, and will demonstrate that, despite attempts to make it appear otherwise, there is no grass-roots groundswell for statist health care.

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Sunday evening, I received a compelling e-mail that I simply could not ignore calling me to action (click here to see a graphic of the full e-mail):

All throughout August, our members of Congress are back in town. Insurance companies and partisan attack groups are stirring up fear with false rumors about the President’s plan, and it’s extremely important that folks like you speak up now.

So we’ve cooked up an easy, powerful way for you to make a big impression: Office Visits for Health Reform.

All this week, OFA members like you will be stopping by local congressional offices to show our support for insurance reform.

Sign up now to visit Rep. Jean Schmidt’s office in Cincinnati this week.

Well, as a bona fide, long-ago signed-up “member” of Organizing for Astroturfing, er, America, I could not turn down such an important request. (Never mind that the e-mail refers to “health reform” and “insurance reform,” which, last time I checked, are different things.)

So I went to the OFA web site, and found this sign-up form (opens in new window; red box at link added by me). It informed me  of the 2nd District Republican’s office hours, address, and phone number, and asked me to select a time to visit. You’ll notice that the form also required me to provide my phone number, “so that an organizer can follow up with you.” How thoughtful.

Separately, in keeping with the spirit of OFA’s e-mail, I “cooked up” the idea of also visiting the office of 1st District Rep. Steve Driehaus, whose district’s boundary is about ten miles away from the BizzyBlog bunker. Driehaus is, at least in theory, one of the “on the fence” Blue Dog Democrats. At an August 4 town hall meeting that made national news, he got an earful from those opposed to the plan, and told those who attended that he hasn’t decided how he will vote. Thus, Driehaus is a guy OFA should be targeting.

I made a commitment to visit Schmidt’s office at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, August 10, and to visit Driehaus at 3:00 p.m. In each case, I received a confirming e-mail response that also directed me to a two-page “Office Visits for Health Reform Guide” (PDF; opens in a separate window).

As you’ll see, the Guide has a few amazing claims, with no sourcing, about “The Cost of Inaction in Ohio”:

  • 1,500,000 are uninsured today in Ohio, and 1,180 Ohioans will lose their health coverage every week because of rising costs.
  • The average family premium in Ohio costs $1,000 more because our system fails to cover everyone.
  • Our broken health insurance system will cost the Ohio economy as much as $7.1 billion this year in productivity losses due to lack of coverage.

I did my own sourcing, and determined that the claims are either flat-out wrong or squishy deceptions.

It may be that 1.5 million Ohioans are uninsured at some time during any given year, which is the operating definition of the Census Bureau, but they are not, as the first point contends, uninsured “today.”

The second assertion comes from the far-left and conceptually challenged Center for American Progress. CAP’s alleged average national per-family premium addition due to uninsured care is $1,100; Ohio’s average is supposedly $1,000. CAP naively assumes that every dollar of care provided for free is automatically added to premiums. That’s obviously baloney for more reasons than can be counted here. One of the of the biggest is that the figures providers report as non-reimbursed care often are at “list” prices that don’t reflect what patients with negotiated rates would pay. Another is that providers include fixed costs in their figures, while the true out-of-pocket costs of providing uninsured care are mostly variable.

The third claim, also from CAP, is an updated torturing of a 2003 study from the Institute of Medicine, which at the time speculated that “insuring the uninsured could $65-$130 billion in better health each year.” Six years later, CAP has almost doubled that figure to $124-$248 billion. Ohio’s share of the higher number is $7.1 billion, which OAF, deceptively using non-speculative terms, entirely and erroneously ascribes to “productivity.”

The Guide also has a small space where an OFA visitor can hand write his or her own message to their congressperson.

Now let’s get back to my OFA field trip.

Since Congressman Driehaus’s office is on the 30th floor of a downtown office building, most of his constituents can’t come to see him unless they pay to park somewhere (as I did). Of all the sites he could have picked as his one and only the First District office, he picked one at its furthest southeast end downtown. This doesn’t seem like a guy who’s a man of the peeps.

I got there at 3:25 p.m. You might think that I was worried about being late. After all, the rest of the 3:00 p.m. OFA crowd might have filled up the available meeting room, and my precious activist voice might not be heard.

Not exactly.

That’s because I was the first and only visitor from Organizing for Astroturfing, er, America, that day. This either means that no one from OFA had committed to visit Driehaus’s office during any of the previous six hours, or that if they did, they didn’t show up.

Either because Driehaus was either not there or not available, the front-desk person located the congressman’s Community Outreach/Field Representative, who told me that he had to be on a conference call shortly. He gave me his business card and said that he would be glad to meet with me at some other time to discuss ObamaCare. Since I didn’t get a chance to do so during the visit, I separately spoke with that person on Wednesday and told him that I oppose ObamaCare, and that the Congressman both as a representative and as a Catholic should vote against it. Frankly (I didn’t say this at the time, but should have), if alleged Catholic and Cincinnati Bishop Elder High School graduate Steve Driehaus doesn’t understand how fundamentally immoral ObamaCare’s statist health care is, especially from a Catholic perspective — even if abortion is totally excised from it — he’s beyond help.

Because my visit to Driehaus’s office was so brief, I was able to get to Congresswoman Jean Schmidt’s office 13 miles away on time to meet my 4:00 p.m. “commitment.” Ms. Schmidt was not there; her communications person has told me that some of the few OFA visitors who have come fully expected to actually meet with Ms. Schmidt, but to be fair to OFA, I don’t believe they are creating that impression.

The front-desk person at Ms. Schmidt’s office (which, by contrast, is located in a building where visitors can park for free), showed me that he had three earlier visitors who had dropped off their OFA “Fact Sheets.” One, who had written the word “FREEDOM” in large letters inside OFA’s message box, used the opportunity to encourage Ms. Schmidt to oppose ObamaCare. I did as well, without bothering to print anything out. The other two visitors to Schmidt’s office that day were ObamaCare supporters.

So let’s recap: In 15 possible visiting hours on Monday, the two members of Congress had four OFA visitors — two for ObamaCare and two against. I have since followed up with the offices of Schmidt and Southwestern Ohio’s 8th District Congressman, Republican John Boehner. They have reported slightly higher turnouts, but they were nowhere near even one person per office per hour overall as of late Tuesday afternoon.

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I doubt that readers are blown away by the grass-roots support Organizing for Astoturfing, er, America, has been able to generate.

Now you know that if OFA brags about how many of its people pestered their congresspersons this week to support the President’s statist health care designs, you can subtract at least two alleged supporters, and perhaps many more, from that total. Based on my experience, if OFA tries to claim that thousands upon thousands of its “members” visited their representatives, you have great reason to doubt them. Beyond that, even OFA doesn’t really know if the people who committed to visiting really did.

I sense an epic fail. How will the establishment media report it? Or will they?

Positivity: South Carolina woman readies for joy in religious life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:03 am

From Greenville, South Carolina:

Aug 15, 2009 / 02:07 pm (CNA).- After two years of contemplating a religious vocation, Virginia Cotter thought she was finally ready to visit some orders for a closer look. When she arrived at the Sisters of Life convent in New York last year, she was in for a shock.

“Most women, and certainly girls, would be shocked at the joy that they will experience with a visit,” Cotter said. “I was on cloud nine for a week after I first visited. I could not believe the genuine joy there; all of these sisters just, like, beam.”

Even so, deciding to dedicate her life to God as a consecrated woman meant a major change in lifestyle for the 28-year-old. She will have to sell her house and other belongings, leave the company of her friends and family, learn a different way to work and dress, and a new way to pray.

“Not many lay persons pray for four or five hours a day, and that’s what the Sisters of Life do,” she said. “I’ll be going on an act of faith. But my parents raised me to do what God called me to do.”

Her parents, Mary and Tim Cotter of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, sent their daughter to Our Lady of the Rosary School for eight years. She graduated from Mauldin High and then from Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic school in Ohio that was recommended by her maternal grandparents, Elizabeth and Richard Wolcott.

Among her post-graduate experiences was a year in Los Angeles living in community with the Volunteers For Life and working in a maternity home for teens. She moved to Wyoming to work with troubled youth and then returned home to work at St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

She has been a college counselor at St. Joseph’s for three years, but Cotter will leave the post to enter the Sisters of Life convent on Sept. 5. Her application to the order was accepted on July 13.

Her first year in the Bronx motherhouse will be spent in further discernment and formation, followed by two more years of formation. She will be permitted two visits home during the first year, and none for the following two.

As a postulant and then a novitiate, Cotter will be integrated into the apostolates of the order, all of which have a strong pro-life flavor.

“We take four vows: poverty, chastity, obedience, and a vow to protect and enhance human life,” she said.

The Sisters of Life community was founded by the late Cardinal John O’Connor, of the Archdiocese of New York, in 1991, after a transformative visit to the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. The order manages the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and offers help for pregnant women, especially in their Holy Respite homes. They operate missions, including one in Toronto, the Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat Center in the Bronx and a library of human life issues. The order also gives retreats for women who have had abortions. They are 64 in number, and are young, active and growing fast, Cotter said. The sisters wear simple navy blue and white habits.

Cotter said her years at St. Joseph’s have been good for her, with the opportunity for daily Mass and what she called “a welcoming Catholic community.” She enjoyed working with teens and has advice for any young men or women who think they may be hearing the small voice of God calling them.

“I would say you need to be open to what God’s plan is for you. Consider your options, not just assuming automatically that he wants you to marry and have a family. The thing is, nothing bad comes from discernment,” she said. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.