Monday, August 31, 2009

Healthcare Inusrance Financial 'Bonanza.'

In the fight to keep our healthcare system as a single payer system, the health insurance industry have mobilized 50,000 employees to lobby Congress to defeat the public option.

That's right. We do have a form of single payer healthcare system!

For most people, the insurance companies are the only option for health insurance that we have.

And the insurance companies desperately want to kill any form of a public option. Because a public option would give the American people a choice. We all know that choice brings competition and therefore lower prices.

According to the Los Angeles Times, healthcare insurers now have the "upper hand" in dictating healthcare legislation.
Already, the health insurance industry has flexed its muscle to water down reform. After spending millions on lobbying, advertising, and direct contributions to lawmakers, the Senate Finance Committee made a major concession allowing insurers to reimburse only 65% of medical bills (down from the 76% proposed requirement).

Most group health plans cover 80% to 90% or more of a policyholder's medical bills, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Industry officials urged that the government set the floor lower so insurers could provide flexible, more affordable plans.
Think Progress has reported that "AHIP — the multimillion dollar lobbying juggernaut for the health insurance industry — is one of the most effective stealth lobbying firms."
AHIP’s grassroots lobbying is being managed by the corporate consulting firm Democracy Data & Communications.

Although AHIP has made grandiose promises of self regulation, many insurers have recently broke promises made by AHIP President Karen Ignagni. On June 16, despite Ignagni’s pledges of commitment, insurance executives from UnitedHealth Group, Assurant, and WellPoint specifically refused to “commit” to ending the controversial practice of rescinding coverage after an applicant files a medical claim.

With DDC’s stealth lobbying assistance, AHIP may well kill the public option too.

So what does this mean for the health insurance industry?

The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers -- many of whom would get government subsidies to help pay the companies' premiums.

"It's a bonanza," said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc.

Rep Anthony Weiner [D-NY], has succinctly stated:

To insurance company lobbyists and – from the sound of it – nearly every Republican, the public option is more a confirmation of their fear that the Obama administration is out to nationalize another industry. They argue that the public option would soon become the only option because it would have too many advantages in the marketplace.

Without acknowledging it, both sides seem to agree with the argument for a single-payer system.
But the arguments for a public option do leave you wondering why you would need or want a private insurance plan. We know that insurance companies rely on a formula to provide as little health care as possible for each dollar they take in. This isn't because they are uncaring. It is because they are good business people.

Implicit in the Democratic plan – and the Republican opposition to it – is a tacit recognition that single-payer health plans like Medicare are the best way to go.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Like-Minded Vile Rhetoric.

Interesting article by Steve Benen, about Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) raising the "Prospect of 'Revolution'".

One of these days, it sure would be nice if Republicans felt the need to denounce this kind of radical, vile rhetoric.

At a town hall Wednesday night, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told constituents, "We're almost reaching a revolution in this country."

Inhofe also said he doesn't need to know what's in a health care reform bill to vote against it.

"I don't have to read it, or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways," he said at the event in Chickasha, Okla.

The senator was in good company, with most of the audience agreeing with him and expressing their disdain for big government and Democrats. One man said, "No more compromise. We're losing our country."

I can't begin to understand why Inhofe and his like-minded extremists are so angry. But for an elected member of the United States Senate to speak publicly about the possibility of a "revolution" is deeply frightening.

What's more, let's not forget that Inhofe isn't the only one throwing around insane rhetoric like this. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has encouraged her supporters to "rise up" and be "armed and dangerous." Several GOP lawmakers are talking up the idea of "nullification," which is effectively secession-lite. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's former press secretary recently wrote about "the coming revolution," which he suggested might be similar to "Project Mayhem" from the movie "Fight Club." (In the film, "Project Mayhem" involved militarizing terrorist cells that blew up banks.)

Inhofe is a U.S. senator, and he's decided to fan the flames.

I'm reminded of something Josh Marshall wrote a few weeks ago: "[L]et's all collectively throw a little cold water on our faces and just realize that this is some really crazy stuff. The health care debate is now being driven by a perverse nonsense feedback loop in which the Palin/Limbaugh crowd says all sorts of completely insane lies, gets a lot of ... how shall we put it, impressionable people totally jacked up

over a bunch of complete nonsense."

It's getting worse, the perverse nonsense feedback loop is getting louder, and elected members of Congress are dues-paying members the Palin/Limbaugh crowd.

It was just a couple of years ago when prominent conservatives told us criticism of the president and the United States government in the midst of a crisis was borderline, if not outright, treason. The love-it-or-leave-it crowd, after just seven months of a Democratic administration, has reached a very different conclusion about standards of patriotism in the 21st century.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Truth in Advertising

Proposed Health Care Bumper Stickers:
* My Other Car Is A Health Insurance Payment

* My Death Panel Is An HMO

* One Nation, Underinsured

* My Car Has Better Insurance Than I Do

* Underinsured Baby On Board

* Hate Socialism? Repeal Medicare!!

* It's Okay.... Congress Has GREAT Insurance

* Kill Healthcare! 30,000 Lobbyists Can't Be Wrong!

* Every Time A Claim Is Denied An Adjuster Gets His Wings
Pass to on to Everyone!!!!

Rep. Anthony Weiner: A Very Sane and Sensible Voice

How About the 'Kennedy Public Option Plan'

Joe Conason at Salon notes that, Ted Kennedy wanted the public option.

Forty years ago he began the quest for universal healthcare that became the cause of his life when he introduced his first bill outlining that goal. His final bequest to the Senate is the Affordable Health Choices Act, his version of the Obama administration's reform proposals, which was passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last month. Republicans now say that if Kennedy had not been forced by illness to relinquish the chairmanship of that committee, he would have negotiated away the strongest provisions of that bill to win passage.

Kennedy's Republican friends should not make that disingenuous argument in his lamented absence. Lest there be any doubt about what he truly wanted, his bill includes a robust public option along with all the insurance reforms and cost controls that the president has endorsed since this process began.

How would he have handled the intransigence and dishonesty of the Republican opposition? We know that he could shout as well as whisper — and that he could be partisan as well as bipartisan. He believed that the time for incremental changes had passed. He was ready to fight. The tragedy of his death is not only that he didn't see the triumph he had dreamed, but that he fell before he could lead the nation to that final victory. Now that victory will have to be won in his name.

David Waldman from Daily Kos suggests that we, Name the Public Option After Kennedy, Not a Watered Down Bill.

The temptation to name the health care reform bill after fallen health care champion Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) is as understandable as it is overwhelming. But with the bill currently still at the mercy of players who are, shall we say, not as clearly dedicated to a product that offers the kind of help Kennedy envisioned, I suggest that we not offer them the opportunity to attach his name to anything less than a bill he would have fought for.

So while it's undoubtedly in that spirit that the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and others have begun their drive to honor Kennedy's memory by demanding that the HELP Committee's bill be passed and named after him, I suggest that it serves us and the Senator's memory better if our essential element -- a strong public option -- carries his name instead.

With the Kennedy Health Care Plan intact in the bill, there's no reason the legislative vehicle that creates it cannot also bear his name. But while there's still a fight ahead about just what will be in this bill, if we're going to lend Ted Kennedy's name to something, let it be done in a way that keeps him in the fight to fulfill his vision right to the last, and which keeps his name on people's lips when they are finally able to take their families to the doctor without fear of financial ruin, saying, "We're covered by the Kennedy Plan."
Possibly there are a few Republicans who have guts to join Democrats in order to pass a Healthcare bill which includes a the 'Kennedy Public Option Plan'.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Flexible Timetable for Withdrawal from Afghanistan

On August 24, 2009, Senator Russ Feingold told the Post-Crescent that the U.S. needs to think about developing a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Be an advocate for a just foreign policy.
A majority of Afghans are sick and tired of war.

American public opinion has turned against the war in Afghanistan.

We need an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

There is a bill in the House that would require the Pentagon to release a plan for getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, but there is no companion bill in the Senate. Any congressional action to bring the troops home must go through the Senate.

Do your part and tell the Senate that we need to begin a public discussion on a U.S. exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Sign the Petition at:

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Benefits of Single-Payer Health Care

The Republicans have equated single-payer healthcare with "socialism". The insurance companies are trying to kill any system where they are not the sole insurer. The Democrats are afraid of raising the issue of a single-payer system. The Blue-Dog Democrats are joining forces with the Republicans on the issue of insurance reform. The "gang of six" really wants the status quo.

We know that our present healthcare system of private insurance doesn't work. Now Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York has even gotten Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough, to admit that a single-payer system of healthcare has virtues.

As Weiner acknowledges, there two powerful forces against change are the status quo and the insurance lobby. The real question is "why we do we have a private plan."

The Nation's Leslie Savan has noted:

Something rather remarkable happened on Tuesday's Morning Joe. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York pointed out that the health insurance industry has no clothes, and Joe Scarborough, after first trying to spin it some gossamer threads, broke down and said, By God, you're right, this emperor is a naked money-making machine!

Well, he didn't use those exact words, but Joe did seem to finally get that America has granted insurance companies the right to create bottlenecks in the financing of healthcare in order to extract profits out of the suffering of ordinary people--without providing any actual healthcare whatsoever.

"Why are we paying profits for insurance companies?" Weiner asked Scarborough. "Why are we paying overhead for insurance companies? Why," he asked, bringing it all home, "are we paying for their TV commercials?"[...]

"It sounds like you're saying you think there is no need for us to have private insurance in healthcare," Joe asked at one point.

Weiner replied: "I've asked you three times. What is their value? What are they bringing to the deal?"[...]

Maybe the real turning point came when Weiner asked, "How does Wal-mart offer $4 prescriptions?"

Watch these 2 videos of the show:

Rep. Anthony Weiner Discusses Public Option Health Care Reform on Morning Joe - PT 1

Rep. Anthony Weiner Discusses Public Option Health Care Reform on Morning Joe - PT 2

20 Foods for Brain Power

EcoSalon has the top 20 foods to "supercharge" your brain.

Simply put, your brain likes to eat. And it likes powerful fuel: quality fats, antioxidants, and small, steady amounts of the best carbs.

On a deadline? Need to rally? Avoid the soda, vending machine snacks and tempting Starbucks pastries and go for these powerful brain boosters instead. The path to a bigger, better brain is loaded with Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Give your brain a kick start: eat the following foods on a daily or weekly basis for results you will notice.

1. Avocado
2. Blueberries
3. Wild Salmon
4. Nuts
5. Seeds
6. Coffee
7. Oatmeal
8. Beans
9. Pomegranate
10 Brown Rice
11. Tea
12. Chocolate
13. Oyster
14. Olive Oil
15. Tuna
16. Garlic
17. Eggs
18. Green Leafy Vegetables
19. Tomatoes
20. Cacao nibs
On the other side, here are "things that drain your brain"
Corn Syrup and Sugar
A High Carbohydrate Lunch

To read the full account of these items, click HERE:

"Gang of Six"

Baucus (left) and Grassley hatch a plan

The dictionary defines the word "gang" as an organized group of criminals. Robert Reich wants to know why are 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats, led by Senator Max Baucus and known as the "Gang of Six", Deciding Health Care for Three Hundred Million of Us.

Last night, the so-called "gang of six" -- three Republican and three Democratic senators on the Senate Finance Committee -- met by conference call and, according to Senator Max Baucus, the committee's chair, reaffirmed their commitment "toward a bipartisan health-care reform bill" (read: less coverage and no public insurance option). The Washington Post reports that the senators shared tales from their home states, where some have been besieged by protesters angry about a potential government takeover of the nation's health care system.

It's come down to these six senators. The House has reported a bill as has another Senate committee, but all eyes are fixed on Senate Finance -- and on these three Dems and three Republicans, in particular. But who, exactly, anointed these six to decide the fate of the nation's health care?

I don't get it. Of the three Republicans in the gang, the senior senator is Charles Grassley. In recent weeks, Grassley has refused to debunk the rumor that the House's health-care bill will spawn "death panels," empowered to decide whether the sick and old get to live or die. At an Iowa town meeting last Tuesday Grassley called the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi "intellectually dishonest" for claiming the opposite. On Thursday Grassley told the Washington Post that Congress should scale back its efforts to overhaul health care in the wake of intense anger at town hall meetings. But -- wait -- the anger is largely about distortions such as the "death panels" that Grassley refuses to debunk.

This week on Fox News Grassley termed the House bill "the Pelosi Bill," and called it "a government takeover of heath care, exploding the deficit because it's not paid for and it's got high taxes in it."

I really don't get it. We have a Democratic president in the White House. Democrats control sixty votes in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster. It is possible to pass health care legislation through the Senate with 51 votes (that's what George W. Bush did with his tax cut plan). Democrats control the House. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a tough lady. She has said there will be no health care reform bill without a public option.

So why does the fate of health care rest in Grassley's hands?

It's not even as if the gang represents America. The three Dems on the gang are from Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota -- states that together account for just over 1 percent of Americans. The three Republicans are from Maine, Wyoming, and Iowa, which together account for 1.6 percent of the American population.

So, I repeat: Why has it come down to these six? Who anointed them? Apparently, the White House. At least that's what I'm repeatedly being told by sources both on the Hill and in the administration. "The Finance Committee is where the action is. They'll tee-up the final bill," says someone who should know.

The Gang needs to be kicked out!

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Barney Frank Responds to Nonsense

Barney Frank Confronts Woman At Townhall Comparing Obama To Hitler

At a Barney Frank town hall meeting in Dartmouth, MA, a constituent asks, "Why are you supporting this Nazi policy?"

Frank responds: "On what planet do you spend most of your time?" He then calls her approach "vile, contemptible nonsense." He closes by saying: "Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Obama and Israel

The following post was forwarded to me from a friend. This letter is a response to all of the negative, fear mongering, truth bending emails which have been directed against Barack Obama regarding his position on Israel. The letter speaks for itself.

I’ve always said I’d criticize Obama if he departed from America’s pro-Israel positions, and now he’s done it—today he announced that he’s forcing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. Oh, wait. That was President Eisenhower in 1956.

But consider this: Today Obama announced that he is suspending the delivery of F-16 fighters to Israel and is supporting a UN resolution condemning Israel. Oh, wait. That was President Reagan in 1981 after Israel bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak.

Here’s the ticket: Today Obama announced that he’s opposing loan guarantees as long as Israel continues settlement in the West Bank and Gaza and that he opposes new “settlements” in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Oh, wait. That was President George H.W. Bush in 1991 (Bush complained that he was “one lonely little guy” up against thousands of lobbyists on the Hill).

Now we’ve got him: Today Obama announced that he’s denied Israel’s request for specialized bunker-busting bombs needed to attack Iran’s main nuclear complex and that he’s denied an Israeli request to fly over Iraqi airspace to reach Iran’s main nuclear complex at Natanz. Oh, wait. That was George W. Bush—the same Bush who pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections against the advice of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it never could have otherwise obtained.

But I know Obama’s done something bad. I just know it. My Republican friends are sending so many emails. Ah, here it is. Not actions, but words. Check out this quote:
Israeli settlement activity has severely undermined Palestinian trust and hope. It preempts and prejudges the outcome of negotiations and, in doing so, cripples chances for real peace and security. The United States has long opposed settlement activity. Consistent with the report of the committee headed by Senator George Mitchell, settlement activity must stop.
Oh, wait. That was Bush’s Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in 2001. But here’s the smoking gun against Obama. The non-partisan Jewish Forward reports:
a growing apprehension over the widening gap between Jerusalem and Washington on the matter of settlements…the administration, from the president on down, continues to insist on a “total freeze” on settlements, in accordance with the road map, and rejects Israel’s insistence on continued expansion of the settlements within the limits of their “natural growth.”
Oops. My mistake. That Forward article was from 2003, reporting on an upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and George Bush. Darn Google.

I’m going to try one more time. If this doesn’t convince you that what’s going on now is unprecedented in the history of U.S.-Israel relations, nothing will. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Secretary of State herself said that:
"the United States doesn't make a distinction" between settlement activity in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and that Israel's road map obligations, which include a building freeze, relate to "settlement activity generally."
I almost got that one right. The quote was indeed from the Secretary of State, but it was Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, on January 8, 2009.

You get the point. Some of you reply to my emails, using all caps and exclamation points to show how much you mean it, that Bush is not the issue. But Bush is the issue, along with other administrations, for two reasons.

First, without historic perspective, it’s impossible to assign significance to Obama’s recent statements on settlements. Judging from the hysteria of some of our Republican friends, you’d think not only that the sky was falling, but that the stars themselves were landing in our backyards. The truth is that U.S.-Israel relations have been far rockier under other Presidents, and that Obama is simply restating long-standing U.S. policy on settlements.

What’s different about Obama is not his position or public statements on settlements, but that unlike so many other administrations, he’s not taking action against Israel. This is a disagreement between two allies, nothing more. You want pressure—what Eisenhower, Reagan, and the Bushs did was pressure. They coupled words with actions wholly inappropriate for the strategic and moral alliance that defines the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Second, characterizing the American position on settlements as “Obama’s position” undermines a cardinal principle of pro-Israel advocacy: Support for Israel should be bi-partisan. If Obama does something wrong, we should call him on it, but to argue that Obama is not pro-Israel because he articulates, sometimes almost word for word, the same policy as his predecessor is counter-productive. I’ve even had some people tell me that Obama’s statements “prove” that he was influenced by Rev. Wright. Could be. And maybe George Bush attended Wright’s church too—after all, Bush’s policies on settlements were the same as Obama’s. Come to think of it, maybe Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush Sr were there too—turns out that Wright was a regular Billy Graham.

If you want to disagree with American policy on settlements and Jerusalem, that’s fine. I disagree too. But put the partisanship aside and focus on the policy, not the person or party, unless the person or party is uniquely responsible for the policy. Partisanship absolutely has its place. On many issues, the parties and personalities have significant differences, and we should not hesitate to point those out. But Israel is one of the few issues where bi-partisan consensus remains. Let’s keep it that way.

I don’t want to clutter your in-box with unwanted emails, so if you no longer want to receive these, please hit reply and tell me to remove you from this list.

Take care,
Steve Sheffey

P.S. President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress are advancing a solid pro-Israel agenda. This list keeps getting longer and longer, but that’s the point:
~ No Administration in history has come into office with a Vice President, Secretary of State, and Chief of Staff with stronger pro-Israel credentials than this one.

~ Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s director of executive branch relations for 23 years, has written that Obama's appointments are no cause for concern from a pro-Israel perspective.

~ Rosen was very concerned about Chas Freeman, but that appointment by Dennis Blair was never final and was rescinded--exactly what we'd expect from a pro-Israel administration that listens to the pro-Israel community.

~ Obama fulfilled his campaign promise to boycott Durban II unless ALL of our conditions were met.

~ On May 1, Obama renewed sanctions against Syria because it posed a continuing threat to US interests. Obama, in a letter to Congress notifying it of his decision, accused Damascus of "supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining US and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq."

~ Obama was the first President to host a seder in the White House. To my right wing friends who try to read “signals” the way the ancients read animal entrails: What signal do you think Obama was sending to the world?

~ President Obama issued a proclamation deeming May Jewish American Heritage Month, the fourth year the president has issued such a proclamation since the House and Senate, spearheaded by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), passed resolutions urging that May be marked in such a manner.

~ Obama will fully fund the development and production of the Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system. United States officials told Israel of its decision on May 20 during a strategic dialogue between the two countries. The Arrow 3 will be a longer-range version of the Arrow system that the IDF currently operates, capable of intercepting missiles at a farther distance and a higher altitude from the Jewish state.

~ The Obama administration reiterated that it will maintain the US policy of ambiguity on regarding Israel’s nuclear weapons (5/21/09).

~ On June 4 in Cairo, President Obama told the Arab and Muslim world that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable.” He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.” He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is “deeply wrong.” He said that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” And he said that “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.”

~ Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a staunch supporter of the Jewish state, said in an interview that it was no small thing for a U.S. president to offer an extended defense of Israel before a Muslim audience. “If you’re delivering a speech in Cairo directed to the Arab world and you mention in the speech that Israel has a right to exist and right to exist in security, that it grew from the ashes of the Holocaust and that America has an unbreakable bond, that demonstrates extraordinary courage,” said Engel.

~ Dennis Ross, a key pro-Israel advisor to Obama during the campaign, will be playing a major role in Middle East matters in the Obama administration, the Washington Post reported on June 24:

~ The Obama administration assured Israel it will continue defending Israel at the United Nations despite the allies' dispute over West Bank settlements, Israel's U.N. ambassador said on June 29.

~ On June 30, the United States reapproved loan guarantees with Israel.

~ On July 5, Vice President Biden said that the United States would not stand in Israel’s way if Israel decided to attack Iran. Also: This is not a green light for Israel, but it’s an improvement over the Bush administration’s clear opposition to action by Israel:

~ On July 13, President Obama met with 16 Jewish leaders from 14 key organizations and explained that forceful pressure is being applied to the Palestinians to move forward on the peace process and that he has been very specific with the Arab world on incitement, violence, commitments on accepting the reality of Israel and conveying that to their street.

~ On July 15, Secretary of State Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations that “we know that progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States – or Israel – alone. Ending the conflict requires action on all sides. The Palestinians have the responsibility to improve and extend the positive actions already taken on security; to act forcefully against incitement; and to refrain from any action that would make meaningful negotiations less likely. And Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region. The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But we believe that more is needed. So we are asking those who embrace the proposal to take meaningful steps now. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein crossed important thresholds, and their boldness and vision mobilized peace constituencies in Israel and paved the way for lasting agreements. By providing support to the Palestinians and offering an opening, however modest, to the Israelis, the Arab states could have the same impact. So I say to all sides: Sending messages of peace is not enough. You must also act against the cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict.”

~ On July 15, Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called upon Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “immediately to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal for unconditional talks on peace.” Berman said that “As everyone familiar with Israeli politics knows, Netanyahu has taken a politically courageous and substantively important step in endorsing the idea of ‘two states for two peoples,’ and he has also taken significant steps to ease travel and access in the West Bank by dismantling numerous checkpoints and roadblocks.”

~ In its meeting with Jewish leaders on July 13 and in Hillary Clinton’s speech on July 15, the Obama administration left no doubt that it will do all that it can to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

~ On July 24, the Democratic-controlled Senate unanimously approved legislation calling on the president to implement stiffer sanctions on Iran if it does not stop its nuclear program by late this year.

~ On July 31, Obama extended sanctions against Syria.,7340,L-3754953,00.html

~ On August 13, the Jerusalem Post reported that House Foreign Affairs Committee member Shelley Berkley (D-NV), a Democrat and supporter of Obama, stated that "I believe Israel has given up a great deal over the years for peace. It gave up the Sinai to have peace with Egypt. It withdrew from Lebanon and got Hizbullah. It unilaterally left Gaza. So to suggest that natural growth in the settlements is the cause for Palestinian inaction is, I think, absurd. There is nothing in history to demonstrate that if all the settlements went away tomorrow, the Arabs would then be any more willing to recognize Israel's right to exist."

~ House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on August 13 that the unwillingness of Palestinian leadership to sit down and negotiate with Israel, not the settlements, is the biggest issue impeding the peace process.
P.S. And for the record…

Rahm Emanuel did NOT link progress on Iran to Israel’s willingness to create a Palestinian state: z/what_rahm_emanuel_really_said.php

The Obama administration is NOT spending $20 million on resettling Palestinians with ties to Hamas in the United States.

Obama has been clear that it is NOT his place to decide Israel’s security needs and that no options are off the table regarding Iran:

Obama does NOT believe that the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering are morally equivalent:

Obama’s position on settlements IS virtually identical to George W. Bush’s:

Bush rejected Israel’s request for arms needed to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities:

It is UNCLEAR whether or to what extent Bush reached a secret agreement with Israel regarding settlements:

Several members of the Bush Administration have said that there was no agreement:

Some in Israel say that an agreement was never fully implemented:

Others suggest that the Bush Administration deliberately chose not to inform the Obama Administration about the extent to which there were understandings:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hypocrisy ~ Stupidity ~ Dishonesty?

All of the above...

Enough is Enough!

The Daily Kos has addressed the Republican opposition to health insurance reform by countering each of the GOP talking points in, Alright Republicans, We Give Up:

Dear Republicans,

Over the past week, we have seen your passionate protests and heard your concerns about Democratic proposals for health care reform. We have considered your insightful and well reasoned arguments, and on behalf of progressives everywhere, I am here to say: OK! We give up! We are willing to compromise on the proposals that concern you. You've won! Yay!

In accordance with your cogent and potent criticisms, these are the terms of our concession:

  1. We will not euthanize your grandmother. This is the big one, and I really hope you guys appreciate how much of a concession this is on behalf of the progressive movement. Since the days of the Bull Moose Party, progressives have wanted nothing more than to slaughter old people by the millions. That much is obvious. After all, if we wanted senior citizens to have long and healthy lives, why would we have created Social Security and Medicare? Think about it. Death to grannies has long been the core of progressive policy, so it's not without some consternation that we give it up. So there: no euthanizing old people. You've got it.
  1. Rahm Emanuel's brother will not kill Sarah Palin's baby. While this will require us to gut HR 3200 "America's Health Choices and Murder Sarah Palin's Baby Act of 2009," we're currently working with Henry Waxman to remove the extensive Sarah Palin's baby-killing provisions from the final bill. While this will probably cost us Andrew Sullivan's support, we recognize that this is a necessary sacrifice for securing broad bipartisan support of health care reform.
  1. The government will not nationalize hospitals and other health service providers. This is another big one. Though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has correctly pointed out that current Democratic proposals involve adopting the British health care system, we now recognize that this is not politically viable. The final bill, accordingly, will not involve the nationalization of hospitals and other health service providers. This will be a major setback to Obama's well known communist agenda, but again, we progressives agree with the Blue Dogs that we need to reach a broad national consensus by responding to Republican concerns.
  1. We will make the health care reform bill available for all Americans to read as soon as possible. I know that conservatives and pundits have been eagerly anticipating an opportunity to read the final health care reform bill, and after extensive discussion, we have decided to comply with your request. While we would like to have unseen drafts languishing in committee forever, we have asked Senate Democrats like Max Baucus and Kent Conrad to deliver a bill as soon as possible in order to allow the public to read it. As you know, progressives wanted nothing more than to keep these drafts hidden for as long as possible, but in the interests of transparency and bipartisan consensus, we recognize that it's vital to move the legislative process forward. In fact, it is our hope that Baucus and Conrad will return from the August recess early in order to ensure that the public has as much time as possible to inspect their work.
  1. We will not subsidize abortions with your hard-earned tax dollars. Despite the fact that both and Politifact insist that we already made this concession months ago, we're going to make extra-special-super sure that we did. Just give me a second...




... yep, we did.

  1. We will not allow the government to have direct access to your bank account. I know several conservatives I've spoken to are deeply concerned about this measure, and while we progressives are always looking for new ways for the government to unlawfully violate your privacy and steal your money, we have decided to remove this provision from the final bill. While we may include a way for individuals to voluntarily set up an electronic funds transfer with their insurance provider, we will no longer push for government access to all individual bank accounts. You've won this one.
  1. We will not provide illegal immigrants with unlimited free health care. Though progressives want nothing more than to provide unlimited social services to illegal immigrants while denying them to everyone else, we now recognize that this plan was, perhaps, a bit inequitable. However, while they will not be receiving unlimited free health care, each illegal immigrant will still receive a pretty pony. I'm sorry, but we have to draw the line somewhere.
  1. Private health insurance will not be eliminated. Though, as Drudge recently pointed out with a damning YouTube video, the long-stated Republican goal of moving away from employer-based coverage somehow means "eliminating private insurance" when Obama talks about the same thing, we've decided to preserve private insurance plans for those who want them. However, we have yet to convince ultra-socialist Charles Krauthammer to drop his communist crusade against employer-based (i.e., according to Drudge, "all private") coverage.
  1. You will not be issued a "National Health Insurance ID." While we thought this was a fun idea, the final version of the health care reform bill will not require you to have any kind of ID when you're pulled over for drunk driving or found loitering outside of a military base. In fact, you are hereby encouraged not to carry any proof of insurance whatsoever. Trust me, it's a terrible idea!
  1. There will be no super-secret-awesome health care program for ACORN employees. Though we love our election-stealing squirrels, we have decided that they'll have to settle for the same options as everyone else.

With these concessions having been made, I trust that we can now move forward on health care reform with a broad, bipartisan consensus. Blue Dogs and Republicans, you can now rest easy knowing that the concerns of the town hall protesters have been met. While the progressive dream of a nation in which old people are slaughtered to pay for the abortions of ACORN-employed illegal immigrants will again have to be deferred, we are willing to settle for a bill without these measures in the name of bipartisanship.

Congratulations, Republicans. You've won this round.

The above article is dated August 9th. In the last week, the Obama Administration has indicated that it might give up on the Public Option. Let's hope that the concessions stop. Enough is enough!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stop Max Baucus

Peter Dreier offers an interesting perspective in his article, Is Max Baucus the New Phil Gramm?

Senator Phil Gramm, the Texas Republican, was a free market zealot who was more responsible than any other politician for the mortgage meltdown that led to the epidemic of foreclosures and the current economic recession. Now Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat, is playing a similar role in the battle over health care reform. Although certainly more moderate than the right-wing Gramm, Baucus is nevertheless using his influence to undermine President Barack Obama's efforts to enact meaningful regulations that would require the insurance and drug companies to act more responsibly.

Just as Gramm argued that the banking industry could police itself without government rules and safeguards, Baucus is tying the hands of Congressional reformers who understand that we can't trust the insurance and drug companies to protect consumers and control costs. If Baucus is successful, health care costs will continue to skyrocket and hurt the nation's economic well-being, compounding the damage caused by Gramm's reckless role in stifling banking reform.

Read the article here.

Put the Fearmongering Scare Tactics Aside

Let's look at reality for a moment. Joshua Holland has an interesting article on 10 Awesome Things That Would Happen If Health Reform Passes.

"Forget the fearmongering scare tactics of the right, here's how your life will actually be better." The following is a snippet from the complete article that can be seen here.

Unable to win the debate on the merits of their arguments, opponents of health care reform have resorted to a dizzying array of outright falsehoods to terrify Americans into opposing a process that might deliver real benefits to their families.

All of these serve the same ends: using the politics of distortion and distraction to capitalize on people's natural fear of change and compelling them to fight noisily against their own interests. And it can be somewhat effective -- that's clear from the raw, populist anger unleashed into the health-care debate in recent weeks by well-heeled corporate-lobbyists bent on derailing the democratic process.

So let's get past the fearmongering and look at some of the highlights of what's really in the more progressive legislation working its way through Congress.

1: The First Thing That Will Happen Is Absolutely Nothing

2. New Protections for Consumers

3. Medical Bankruptcies Would Plummet

4. People Who Could Never Get Decent Coverage Will Finally Be Able To

5. (Almost) Everyone Gets Covered

6. Those Who Can't Afford the Premiums Will Get Help Paying

7. No Free Lunch for Businesses

8. More Low-Income Workers Eligible for Medicaid

9. Some Things Will Change, but You'll Never Notice

10. Over Time, the System Will Become Healthier
Sounds good to me!

The "Down-the-Middle" Approach

Drew Altman's observation during a discussion on Bill Moyers' Journal about the healthcare issue raises an important point:
It's part of our democracy, but I think it's actually kind of sad because the left, doesn't like this legislation a lot. They're not really enthusiastic about it. They would prefer a single-payer approach with more government. And on the conservative side, they're not crazy about it either. They would like a market approach, people getting vouches or a tax credit and just shop in the marketplace. This is down-the-middle legislation. And yet we see these fears and concerns as if this were a radical approach. It's not a radical approach. It's just a down-the-middle approach.
The conservatives have launched an effective opposition to Obama healthcare reform.
It appears that this "down-the-middle" appraoch isn't working for anyone. The Democrats, liberals and progressives need to get together on this issue. Otherwise what will be passed will be so watered down that the needs of the people will not be addressed.

Maybe we just need to support a single-payer approach to drown out the opposition.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finally a Newsman talking Sense

From Crooks and Liars, Lawrence O'Donnell calls out Rep. John Culberson. This is a must watch video:

Lawrence O'Donnell actually uses the "L" word with Rep. John Culberson. This is the end of an over ten minute segment where O'Donnell continually asks Culberson whether he would have voted for Social Security and for Medicare and Culberson gets mad at him for interrupting him, which he does. He interrupts him though because he's trying to avoid giving him a straight answer to his questions.

After finally getting Culberson to admit that he would have voted for both Social Security and Medicare, O'Donnell calls him out for the fear mongering done by Republicans on the issue of health care reform, and tells him they're lying to the American people every time they demonize socialized medicine, but refuse to vote to repeal Medicare.

Culberson obviously wasn't too happy with O'Donnell for both the interrupting or for calling him a liar. His retreat was to attack MSNBC and say no one watches them, and go on the defensive about being called a liar and say that O'Donnell doesn't know him personally.

I hate to break this to you Congressman, but he doesn't have to know you personally to watch you and the rest of the Republicans fear mongering about socialized medicine. Culberson then goes on to prove O'Donnell's point.... by attacking government run health care and more fear mongering.

It's about time that someone besides Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow confront Republican politicians on their bogus talking points.

15 Reasons Not To East McDonald's

The following are 15 reasons not to let "anyone you love get near those Golden Arches."
1. Real food is perishable. With time, it begins to decay. It’s a natural process, it just happens. Beef will rot, bread will mold. But what about a McDonald’s burger? Karen Hanrahan saved a McDonald’s burger from 1996 and, oddly enough, it looks just as “appetizing” and “fresh” as a burger you might buy today. Is this real food?

2. You would have to walk 7 hours straight to burn off a Super Sized Coke, fries and Big Mac. Even indulging in fast food as an occasional treat is a recipe for weight gain…unless you’re planning to hit each treadmill in the treadmill bay afterwards.

3. Containing less fat, salt and sugar, your pet’s food may be healthier than what they serve at McDonald’s.

4. In 2007, the employees of an Orlando-area McDonald’s were caught on camera pouring milk into the milkshake machine out of a bucket labeled “Soiled Towels Only.” That particular restaurant had already been cited for 12 different sanitary violations. Though McDonald’s proudly stands by its safety standards, and not every restaurant has such notorious incidents, the setting of a fast food restaurant staffed with low-paid employees at a high turnover rate arguably encourages bending the rules. (McDonald’s isn’t alone in this, of course – Burger King is actually ranked as the dirtiest of all the fast food chains.)

McDonald’s supports the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Much of the soy-based animal feed used to fatten fast-food chickens is grown in the Amazon. Are those chicken nuggets really worth acres of irreplaceable trees? (Especially considering how important carbon sinks like the rainforest are to halt global warming!) Fast food supports a completely unsustainable system of agriculture. It’s cruel to animals, unhealthy for humans, and bad for the planet.

6. Even Prince Charles, while touring a diabetes center in the United Arab Emirates, commented that banning McDonald’s is key to health and nutrition. Don’t let the salads and chicken breasts fool you. The “chicken” at McDonald’s, by the way, comes with a whole lot more than chicken.

7. As if feeding children high-fat, high-sodium, low-nutrition “food” weren’t bad enough, some Happy Meals in 2006 contained toy Hummers. It’s as if McDonald’s was encouraging a whole generation of kids not only to guzzle food, but to guzzle gas as well. Would you like a few barrels of petroleum with that?

8. The processed fat in McDonald’s food (and other fast food) promotes endothelial dysfunction for up to 5 hours after eating the meal. Endothelial tissue is what lines the inside of blood vessels.

9. For those who enjoy sex, take note: erectile dysfunction is connected to endothelial dysfunction. Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me commented that his normally healthy sexual function deteriorated in just one month when he ate only food from McDonald’s. Even his girlfriend commented on camera that “he’s having a hard time, you know, getting it up.”

10. How many cows does it take to keep the world loaded with Big Macs? I had to do a some research and a little math, but according to a brief video inside one of McDonald’s 6 meat processing plants, about 500,000 pounds of beef is processed per day, per plant. If an average beef cow weighs 1,150 pounds, that means 2609 cows a day are turned into burgers. That’s 952,285 cows per year. And that’s just in the United States. Eating a hamburger may not be worse than driving a Hummer, but it’s bad. One hamburger patty does not necessarily come from one cow. Think about that. You’re eating bits of hundreds of cows.

11. Maybe you just pop in for an inexpensive latte. Watch out for the caramel syrup (Sugar, water, fructose, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor, salt, caramel color (with sulfites), potassium sorbate (preservative), citric acid, malic acid) or the chocolate drizzle (Corn syrup, water, hydrogenated coconut oil, high fructose corn syrup, glycerin, nonfat milk, cocoa, cocoa (processed with alkali), food starch-modified, disodium phosphate, potassium sorbate (preservative), xanthan gum, artificial flavor (vanillin), salt, soy lecithin). Please don’t put that stuff into your body. Eat healthy cheap food instead – you can be well and still save cash.

12. Are you a vegetarian with a French fry craving? You better skip McDonald’s because their fries actually contain milk (and wheat) and though they’re fried in vegetable oil, the oil is flavored with beef extract. (McDonald’s famously misled customers for years.)

13. Do you want high blood pressure? Hit the drive-through. Eating a McDonald’s chicken sandwich (any of “˜em, take your pick) will give you about 2/3 of the recommended daily amount of sodium. And if you actually do have high blood pressure, that’s way more than you really need.

Finally unveiled: the secret of the Big Mac’s “secret sauce.”

Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor).

15. Yum. Cheap oil and cheap syrup. Many people depend upon cheap food such as the sort offered at McDonald’s, whether due to the economic conditions we currently face or low incomes. So shouldn’t we be examining regulations that subsidize corn syrup but consider fruits and vegetables – the building blocks of a healthy body and green planet – to be “speciality” crops? Shouldn’t we be promoting urban gardening, community gardens and spreading information about low-cost farmers’ markets and CSAs? And focusing on the abundant choices of cheap food that are tasty and green?
Think of all fast food in the same light. They are unhealthy! It is the time to start eating healthy.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Republican Politics in the 21st Century

What has politics in America in the 21st century come to?

Steve Benen has an answer:
In this environment, it's hard to anticipate just how paranoid some people will choose to be.

Yesterday, for example, White House Office of Health Reform Communications Director Linda Douglass appeared in a three-minute video to debunk one of many bogus far-right claims. The White House blog post on this noted:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

This hardly seemed controversial. There's an aggressive campaign underway to mislead Americans, and the White House wants to help set the record straight. If some especially pernicious lies are making the rounds, folks can let the White House know directly, so officials can get the truth out.

Except, that's not how the right sees it. RedState interpreted this to mean "the White House wants you to report ... anybody publicly opposing" health care reform. Soon after, Rush Limbaugh had embraced the same line, and Malkin wasn't far behind. Naturally, Drudge joined the fun.

By late yesterday, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was asserting that the White House wants Americans to report on each other. Today, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) appears to have completely lost his mind.

Cornyn says this practice would let the White House collect personal information about people who oppose the President.

"By requesting citizens send 'fishy' emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email, addresses, IP addresses and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," Cornyn wrote in a letter to Obama. "You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program."

Cornyn asked Obama to cease the program immediately, or at the very least explain what the White House would do with the information it collects.

Fueling the right-wing rage with paranoia and fear:
Quite right. All of these far-right clowns almost certainly recognize reality here. To help overcome lies and whisper campaigns, the White House wants to know what folks are hearing so officials can respond with the truth. Cornyn, Cantor, Limbaugh, et al, however, need to fuel right-wing rage, and since reality won't do the job, they're reduced to trash like this.
That's Republican politics in the 21st century.