Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are We at the Point of Accepting the Unacceptable?*

Health insurance coverage is only one aspect of the health care crisis that Americans are facing. The healthcare legislation passed by Congress mandates insurance for every citizen. But questions still remain regarding what will be covered and if it is affordable.

Marcy Wheeler at FireDogLake looks at how this legislation will affect a family of four making around $66,000 a year (three times the poverty line).
Here’s a version of one family’s total household costs under the plan: a middle class family with two cars and some child care costs. Note, in this scenario, I’m assuming the middle class family will pay 7.9% of its income for health insurance premium, significantly less than the 9.8% the plan assumes that family could pay to get the subsidies available. This, then, shows what a family would be required to pay (or incur a penalty) under the 8% opt-out rule.

301% of Poverty Level: $66,370

Federal Taxes (estimate from this page, includes FICA): $8,628 (13% of income)

State Taxes (using MI rates on $30,000 of income): $1,305 (2% of income)

Food (using “low-cost USDA plan” for family of four): $7,712 (12% of income)

Home (assume a straight 30% of income): $19,275 (30% of income)

Child care (average cost for just one pre-school child in MI): $6,216

Health insurance premium: $5,243 (7.9% of income, max amount before opt-out w/o penalty allowed)

Transportation (assume 2 cars, 12,000 miles each, @IRS deductible cost of $.55/mile): $13,200*

Heat, electricity, water: $1,500

Phone, cable, internet: $1,200

Total: $64,276 (97% of income)

Remainder (for health care out-of-pocket, debt, clothing, etc.): $2,091

In other words, assuming this family had no debt (except for that related to the two cars), no clothing costs, and no other necessary costs–all completely unrealistic assumptions–it would be able to incur just $6,970 of medical care out-of-pocket costs before spending all that $2,091 and going into debt (the opt-out is based on an insurance plan that provides 70% of costs, so this assumes the family will pay 30% of health care costs). Yet that family would be expected to spend up to $5,882 more out of pocket before the “subsidies” started picking up its out-of-pocket expenses. (If the family paid the full 9.8% of its income on premiums–at which point it would become eligible for subsidies under the plan–it would have just $825 left to spend on all other expenses, including health care out-of-pocket expenses.)

This family couldn’t even go through a normal childbirth without going into debt.

Nate Silver at Five-Thirty-Eight takes issue with Marcy's analysis. He believes the healthcare plan passed by Congress will be beneficial to most low or middle income families.
First of all, several of of Marcy's cost estimates are on the high side.

As Marcy points out, her assumptions may be favorable to this family in other ways -- her family doesn't have any debt, for example. Nor do I doubt that there are some families who would fit Marcy's template almost perfectly (although they should still be able to take advantage of the significant tax breaks that Marcy hasn't accounted for). But in general, this is significantly more than most two-child families will be spending on these services -- probably by a margin of $10,000 or so.

Nevertheless, that's not really the most important point. Rather, what is this family spending on health care now? ...if the family isn't buying insurance, their health care costs certainly shouldn't be figured as zero.

Frankly, unless they're living in New York or the San Francisco Bay or some other place where the cost of housing is very high, the family that Marcy draws from -- one which pays $1,600 per month for rent but does not buy health insurance for themselves or for their children -- does not have a reasonable and responsible gameplan to begin with. If they can't figure out how to squeeze out $430 per month in insurance premiums, what are they supposed to do in the status quo when somebody actually gets sick? You can object to the Senate's health care bill on libertarian/paternalism grounds, but it will leave the overwhelming majority of low- and middle-income families better off.
Yet Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic looks at what families can actually afford. He believes that the Senate bill is worth passing yet the reform is not good enough. He supports his position by acknowledging the dichotomy of his assessment.
Without reform, this family would either be uninsured altogether or paying high premiums for coverage that is, most likely, far less comprehensive that what the Senate bill would guarantee them. [...]

Families dealing with serious medical problems, particularly chronic diseases that require ongoing care, have enough problems without having to sweat out every penny. And even the best insurance policies leave people on the hook for expenses that fall outside of covered benefits and, as a result, don’t even count towards out-of-pocket limits.

Making those two arguments simultaneously is not easy. It's the political equivalent of walking and chewing gum at the same time. But if progressives can figure out a way to do it, the people that already stand to benefit from reform will benefit even more.

The sad part about all this analytic journalism is that if you need to pick through and parse out the benefits versus the disadvantages of the bill, then maybe the complexity is itself a detriment of this legislation.

For progressives, the answer lies in the clarity and simplicity of a single-payer, not-for-profit system. Of course, a public option or Medicare for all would be acceptable. No matter how many ways you look at it, this healthcare bill is not!


J. Lester Feder at the Nation has a review of the pro & cons of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by the Senate. The Senate's draft of the bill must be merged with the much more progressive version passed by the House. Feder believes that despite very serious shortcomings of the Senate bill, it is necessary to pass healthcare reform now otherwise "another generation may pass before another chance will come to try again."

Despite these very serious shortcomings, however, the bill the Senate passed would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by 31 million by 2019. The Medicaid program will be open to new ranks of the country's poorest residents, and the near-poor and middle class will get subsidies to buy insurance. The Senate also advanced some important delivery system reforms that could chart a path towards reining in costs.

As disappointed as progressives are with the compromises Democratic leaders made to get this bill through the Senate--and as tempting it is to believe they may have gotten a better deal if they'd pursued a more aggressive strategy--they are on the verge of doing many other lawmakers have tried and failed to do. And if this effort fails, another generation may pass before another chance will come to try again.

Lester's view is common among people who feel defeated on the healthcare issue but who think this is the best that could be achieved. The attitude is "something is better than nothing."

Was that Ben Nelson's attitude when he fought against abortion funding? Was that Joe Lieberman's attitude or Max Baucus' position when they fought against the public option?

Hell NO!!!

They stood their ground and fought for the position they were espousing.

There wasn't one Senator that stood his/her ground on support of the public option. They all caved in. Do you really think any of the Representatives in the House will fight for 'The People'? Or will they allow the bullies of Congress to dictate from the moneyed corporate pulpit?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Politicizing National Security

In the after-math of an attempted terrorism attack on a a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, the Republicans are lining up to slam the Obama Administration on its soft stand on terror.
Republicans Pete Hoekstra, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Peter King of New York joined Sen Jim DeMint of South Carolina to lay some blame on the Obama administration.

The attack should remind everyone “that soft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo, these things are not going to appease the terrorists,” DeMint said on “Fox News Sunday.” “They’re going to keep coming after us, and we can’t have politics as usual in Washington, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got right now with airport security.”
Wouldn't these Republican Congressmen also be critical of the the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration? Probably they would, if there was an administrator to hold accountable. But that position remains vacant because of Sen. Jim DeMint.

Obama nominated Erroll Southers — a former FBI special agent, the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence, and the associate director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events — to run TSA in September. Southers’ nomination was approved by two Senate committees, but Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has placed a hold on Southers “in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union."

The post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Barack Obama's nominee in opposition to the prospect of TSA workers joining a labor union.

Thom Hartmann asks if there is really a choice between terrorists and unions?
The TSA – which keeps us safe from airplane bombers – is without a director. Why would one of our most vital security agencies be headless?

Well, it’s actually quite simple.

President Obama nominated a very highly qualified candidate, former FBI special agent Erroll Southers, but Southers has expressed his support for federal employees being able to be members of unions – which most are.

Senator Jim DeMint, the Republican from South Carolina who’s also a member of the notorious Washington DC Christian Taliban cult “The Family,” thinks that having our baggage screeners have better pay and working conditions is a bad thing, so he put a hold on Southers nomination, effectively blocking it in the Senate.

Jim DeMint is more concerned with destroying unions and good wages for working people than he is with whether or not your next flight is blown out of the air.

You may want to consider calling his office and letting him know what you think of that, after you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and tell everybody you know what an enemy of the American working class multimillionaire DeMint is.
Do Republicans really want to politicize national security?

Steve Benen notes that a "variety of congressional Republicans seem awfully anxious to play partisan games with the terrorist threat, and exploit the Abdulmutallab plot for electoral gain."

However, if the Republicans want to "turn the attempted terrorist attack into a partisan fight" then the Democrats should "welcome the opportunity."

There is, for example, the fact that the nominated head of the TSA can't get confirmed because of Republican obstructionism. Then there's the fact that congressional Republicans also opposed funding for the TSA, including money for screening operations and explosives detection systems.

And then there's this unpleasant tidbit.

Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia, where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.

As Ron Chusid put it, "Just imagine the Republican response if Barack Obama or Bill Clinton had released prisoners to enter an 'art therapy rehabilitation program.' This sounds almost as silly as an American president sitting and reading a children's book while the country is under attack."

Yes, just imagine....

What We'll Get...

From Thom Hartmann's blog, Healthcare: First They Came For The Banksters

With apologies to Pastor Niemöller*:

First they came for the banksters, and showered them with money and put them in the Administration in a way that was not change we could believe in.

Then they came for the military industrial complex, and sent more and more of our children to die in faraway lands that had never attacked us in a way that was not change we could believe in.

And now they’ve sold out our hope for a national health care system not run by millionaire gangsters in suits. And who is left to speak for us?

President Obama is playing the Bill Clinton game of throwing people a bone and telling them it’s steak. Perhaps he’s doing it because he thinks it’s his only choice; perhaps it’s because he’s surrounded himself with Bill Clinton advisors (and Hillary as Secretary of State); whatever the reason, while it worked for Clinton, it won’t work for Obama.

It worked for Reagan, and for the first Bush, and even worked somewhat for George W. Bush.

But it won’t work anymore. Here’s why. [...]

He’s betting that he can do like Bill Clinton did to us with NAFTA and the World Trade Organization – hand us a turd and tell us it’s gonna blossom beautifully if we’ll just wait a year or three or five. Rahm’s betting that if he can “deliver health care reform” – even if the fundamental system of gangster corporations standing between us and our doctors while skimming 40 percent off the top for their mansions and private jets is intact – we’ll be all excited at his “victory” and elect more Democrats in 2010 and reelect Obama in 2012.

Ditto for cosmetic repairs of the banks, which is really just trickle-down Reaganomics on steroids. Rahm and his DLC buddies truly believe that this “change” brought to us by Bush’s man Tim Geithner or Clinton’s man Larry Summers is something we’ll “believe in.”

We don’t.

We oldsters of the Vietnam era, and the youngsters coming up who see how college loan banksters are screwing them as badly as their Clinton-era parents were screwed by the mortgage scammers, are all now fully awake.

President Obama, sir: Meet what is in large part your own creation – the High Information Voters of 2009/2010.

We’re awake, we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more. Natalie Portman to Matt Taibbi to Arianna Huffington to Bill Moyers represent the span of our four awakened generations; generations who have figured out how the game is played. And don’t like it.

First Obama continued Bush’s policy of giving the banksters money, and we protested feebly.

Then he expanded Bush’s wars, and we protested more loudly.

Now he’s going to force us to give trillions to the gangsters who run the “health insurance” companies (while they promise to behave nicely in return) and thinks we’re going to go along with it and it’ll get him re-elected.

He’s wrong.

Please, President Obama, step up and lead. We’d like some that “change we can believe in” that’s actually the real thing.

Kill the bill.

*"First they came ..." is a popular poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

"Traditional Marriage" GOP Style

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting article about "traditional marriage" and Republican hypocrisy. Apparently, Karl Rove was recently granted a divorce in Texas.

Karl Rove is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, citing "5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage" as his justification. He also famously engineered multiple referenda to incorporate a ban on same-sex marriage into various states' constitutions in 2004 in order to ensure that so-called ""Christian conservatives" and value voters" who believe in "traditional marriage laws" would turn out and help re-elect George W. Bush. Yet, like so many of his like-minded pious comrades, Rove seems far better at preaching the virtues of "traditional marriage" to others and exploiting them for political gain than he does adhering to those principles in his own life:

Karl Rove granted divorce in Texas

Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, has been granted a divorce in Texas after 24 years of marriage, a family spokesperson said. Dana Perino, the spokesperson, said: “Karl Rove and his wife, Darby, were granted a divorce last week. The couple came to the decision mutually and amicably, and they maintain a close relationship and a strong friendship. . . . A family friend told POLITICO: “After 24 years of marriage, many of which were spent under incredible stress and strain during the White House years, the Roves came to a mutual decision that they would end the marriage.

Rove obtained his divorce under Texas' "no-fault" divorce law, one of the most permissive in the nation. That law basically allows any married couple to simply end their marriage because they feel like it. Texas, needless to say, is one of the states which has constitutionally barred same-sex marriages, and has a Governor who cites Christian principles as the reason to support such that provision, yet the overwhelming majority of Texan citizens make sure that there's nothing binding or permanent -- i.e., nothing traditional -- about their own marriages. They're willing to limit other people's marriage choices on the moral grounds, but not their own, and thus have a law that lets them divorce whenever they feel like it. That's the very permissive, untraditional and un-Christian law that Rove exploited in order to obtain his divorce. [...]

I've long thought that the solution to the cheap, cost-free moralizing that leads very upstanding people like Karl Rove to want to ban same-sex marriages (which they don't want to enter into themselves, and thus cost them nothing) is to have those same "principles" apply consistently to all marriage laws. If Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and their friends and followers actually were required by law to stay married to their wives -- the way that "traditional marriage" was generally supposed to work -- the movement to have our secular laws conform to "traditional marriage" principles would almost certainly die a quick, quiet and well-deserved death.

Greenwald has a point. Let's not allow those who are opposed to same-sex marriage the ability to espouse rules that they don't follow. They should live by the rules they force unto others.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Al Franken Amendment Protects Rape Victims

Sen. Al Franken's (D-MN) first piece of legislation is a "rape amendment," which
withholds defense contracts from companies that "restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

Yesterday, it was signed into law. The Yea votes came from all Democrats , except Byrd (D-WV) and Specter (D-PA) who were not present for the vote. Also voting Yea were 10 Republicans and 1 Independent.

There were 30 Senators who voted against the Amendment (Franken Amdt. No. 2588 ). All who voted Nay were [male] Republicans. Which means that 75% of the entire Republican Senate caucus -- voted against this.

Digby had an interesting comment on this.

The reason I think it's good news isn't just on the substance (which it certainly is) but on the politics. Franken's amendment is driving the Republicans crazy because they basically voted to protect rapists and are now paying a political price for that. And now they are whining that Franken was somehow "uncollegial" because the amendment put them in an embarrassing position (which makes me wonder how many other things issues are swept under the rug because it would make members of the opposition uncomfortable.)

That's the kind of thing the Democrats should do more of. Expose the Republicans' hypocrisy and cruelty by forcing these issues on to the agenda.

Steve Benen notes.

WHATEVER IT IS, THEY'RE AGAINST IT.... It's tempting to think a measure like this one would pass unanimously. After all, it's not as if voters would elect monsters to the Senate, right?

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

All Franken's measure would do is allow victims of rape and discrimination to have their day in court -- not exactly controversial stuff. When Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) accused Franken of pushing a "political attack directed at Halliburton," the Minnesota senator explained that it would apply equally to all defense contractors.[...]

When the Senate considered a measure yesterday to give rape victims who work for U.S.-subsidized defense contractors a day in court, 30 out of 40 Republican senators said, "No."

The notion that the majority should be able to reach constructive, worthwhile compromises with this minority is clearly ridiculous.

AVATAR, the Movie...

AVATAR is a must see!!! It is visually expansive, emotionally energizing, intellectually refreshing, politically relevant and an edge of your seat experience.

Official Avatar Movie

Friday, December 25, 2009



"What are we making Weapons for?

"What are we making Weapons for?" is the sub-title for the song written by John denver, "Let us Begin".

We all know the answer!

The Anniversary of...

Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) says there's "a sad and ironic twist" to Christmas Eve.
As we begin our deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, this Christmas Eve will also mark the 3,000th day of the war in Afghanistan and the 30th anniversary of the initial Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Thus far, this war has already cost the American taxpayer a minimum of $300,000,000,000 according to the Congressional Research Service (and that's just the funding that's "on budget").

Sadly, the fact that we're spending about $101 million per day in this war is the good news. The financial cost of this war is nothing compared to the fact that 937 American troops have been killed, and 4,434 have been wounded (and that's not counting the thousands more that will carry the memories of this war for their entire lives).
That is why Rep Massa, a 24-year retired military officer and former special assistant to the then Supreme Commander of NATO, General Wesley Clark, has called for "an end to this war of occupation and attrition."

As Massa says, "Let's declare that enough is enough on this 3,000th day of the war in Afghanistan. It's time to bring our troops home."

ReThink Afghanistan From Brave New Foundation

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Way the Game is Played

Michele Bachmann: The New Welfare Queen

Michele Bachmann who has complained that health care reform and any government handout is nothing more than socialism. Michele Bachmann who whipped up "the so-called tea-baggers with stories of death panels and rationed health care." That very same Michele Bachmann has been accepting money from the government.
Bachmann’s financial disclosure forms indicate that her personal stake in the family farm is worth up to $250,000. They also show that she has been earning income from the farm business, and that the income grew in just a few years from $2,000 to as much as $50,000 for 2008. This has provided her with a second government-subsidized income to go with her job as a government-paid congresswoman who makes $174,000 per year (in addition to having top-notch government medical benefits).
Wait a second. Isn't that what she calls SOCIALISM?

According to Yasha Levine, Michele Bachmann "has called for a revolution against what she sees as Barack Obama’s attempted socialist takeover of America..." Michele Bachmann has been saying that presidential policy is “reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom.”

Yes, Michele Bachmann "has been padding her bank account with taxpayer money."

I would call that SACRILEGE!!!

But she's not the only one. Nope, other Republicans and Democrats, who have been so vocal against what they see as government buy-outs, have been taking government subsidy checks.

According to Levine, "Bachmann isn’t the only welfare recipient on Capitol Hill. As it turns out, there is a filthy-rich class of absentee farmers—both in and out of Congress—who demand free-market rules by day and collect their government welfare checks in the mail at night, payments that subsidize businesses that otherwise would fail. Over the past couple of decades, welfare for the super-wealthy seems to be the only kind of welfare our society tolerates."

Who are the other these other Congressmen/women?

The Republicans include Chuck Grassley, the longtime Republican senator from Iowa who warns his constituents of Obama’s “trend toward socialism,” has seen his family collect $1 million in federal handouts over an 11-year period, with Grassley’s son receiving $699,248 and the senator himself pocketing $238,974. Even Grassley’s grandson is learning to ride through life on training wheels, snagging $5,964 in 2005 and $2,363 in 2006. In the Grassley family they learn early how to enjoy other people’s money.

Sen. Grassley railed against government intervention in the health care market, telling The Washington Times, “Whenever the government does more ... that’s a movement toward socialism.”

Then there’s Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., whose family has been on the government take for at least the past 11 years, pocketing some $500,000. The senator recently held a “prayercast” with Michele Bachmann to beseech God to kill health care reform as soon as possible because it would bring an evil socialist spirit into America. Like Bachmann, Brownback has a fierce belief in God, the free market and a two-year limit on all welfare benefits—unless it’s welfare to rich Republicans who don’t need it.

Not surprisingly, Blue Dog Democrats are on board with this welfare-for-the-rich thing.

Max Baucus, the fiscally conservative Democratic senator from Montana who did his best to sabotage the health care reform process before it ever began, collected $250,000 in taxpayer subsidies to his family’s farm while fighting to keep Americans at the mercy of free-market health insurance.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, another Democrat, also helped hold the line against so-called socialized medicine for Americans who need assistance, even though her family farm business follows the socialized subsidy playbook to a T. The Lincolns pocketed $715,000 in farm subsidies over a 10-year period, and the senator even admitted to using $10,000 of it as petty cash in 2007.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Sandlin of South Dakota stayed true to her conservative free-market roots by voting against the public option. Meanwhile, her daddy, Lars Herseth, a former South Dakota legislator, collected a welfare jackpot of $844,725 paid out between 1995 and 2006.

That’s just the way the game is played these days. Republicans and conservative Democrats bitch and moan about the allegedly Marxist underpinnings of universal health care and do everything they can to deny struggling Americans access to social services. Meanwhile, many of them profit off taxpayers in a massive welfare program.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Question of Leadership

You want to win the center? Emanate strength. Emanate conviction. Lead like you know where you're going.
An article by Drew Westen lays out the problem with President Barack Obama's leadership style. Westen is a psychologist, a neuroscientist and a professor at Emory University.

The complete and lengthy article is here. The following are excerpts from the article,
Leadership, Obama Style, and the Looming Losses 2010: Pretty Speeches, Compromised Values and the Quest for the Lowest Common Denominator.

Somehow the president has managed to turn a base of new and progressive voters he himself energized like no one else could in 2008 into the likely stay-at-home voters of 2010, souring an entire generation of young people to the political process. [...]

What's costing the president and courting danger for Democrats in 2010 isn't a question of left or right, because the president has accomplished the remarkable feat of both demoralizing the base and completely turning off voters in the center. If this were an ideological issue, that would not be the case. He would be holding either the middle or the left, not losing both.

What's costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting.

The problem is not that his record is being distorted. It's that all three have more than a grain of truth. And I say this not as one of those pesky "leftists." I say this as someone who has spent much of the last three years studying what moves voters in the middle, the Undecideds who will hear whichever side speaks to them with moral clarity.

Leadership, Obama Style

Consider the president's leadership style, which has now become clear: deliver a moving speech, move on, and when push comes to shove, leave it to others to decide what to do if there's a conflict, because if there's a conflict, he doesn't want to be anywhere near it. [...]

It's the job of the president to be in the fray. It's his job to lead us out of it, not to run from it. It's his job to make the tough decisions and draw lines in the sand. But Obama really doesn't seem to want to get involved in the contentious decisions. They're so, you know, contentious. He wants us all to get along. Better to leave the fights to the Democrats in Congress since they're so good at them. [...]

Do you think Americans ought to have one choice of health insurance plans the insurance companies don't control, or don't you? I don't want to hear that it would sort of, kind of, maybe be your preference, all other things being equal. Do you think we ought to use health care as a Trojan Horse for right-wing abortion policies? Say something, for God's sake. [...]

No Vision, No Message

The second problem relates to the first. The president just doesn't want to enunciate a progressive vision of where this country should be heading in the 21st century, particularly a progressive vision of government and its relation to business. He doesn't want to ruffle what he believes to be the feathers of the American people, to offer them a coherent, emotionally resonant, values-driven message -- starting with an alternative to Ronald Reagan's message that government is the problem and not the solution -- and to see if they might actually follow him.

He doesn't want to talk about social issues, even though they predictably have gotten in the way of health care reform and will do the same on one issue after another. Abortion? You don't advance a progressive position by giving a center-right speech at Notre Dame that emphasizes cutting back on the number of abortions without mentioning that sex education and birth control might be useful means to that end, mumbling something about a conscience clause that suggests that pharmacists don't have to fill birth control prescriptions if it offends their sensibilities, and allowing states to use health care reform to set back the rights of women and couples to decide when to start their families based on somebody else's faith. If you believe that freedom includes the freedom to decide when you will or won't have a child, say it, say it with moral conviction, and follow it up with action.[...]

The problem with the president's strategic team is that they don't understand the difference between compromising on policy and compromising on core values. [...]

The Politics of the Lowest Common Denominator

And capping off all of these aspects of the president's leadership style is his preference for the lowest common denominator. That means you don't really have to fight, you don't have to take anybody on, you don't take any risks. You just find what the public is so upset about that even the Republicans would stipulate to it if forced to (e.g., that excluding people from health care because they have "pre-existing conditions" is something we can't continue to tolerate) and build it into whatever plan the special interests can hammer out around it.

Unfortunately, what Democrats just can't seem to understand is that the politics of the lowest common denominator is always a losing politics. It sends a meta-message that you're weak -- nothing more, nothing less -- and that's the cross the Democrats have had to bear since they "lost China" 60 years ago. And in fact, it is weak. [...]

We shouldn't have had to settle for half a loaf. If the president had simply placed appropriate blame on the health insurance industry for its pre-existing conditions, it's cutting off care for breast cancer victims in the middle of treatment, and its doubling our premiums and co-pays during the Bush years, he would have harnessed populist anger and pushed this bill through six months ago, and it would have looked like the change we were told to believe in. But if you cut backroom deals with every special interest who is part of the problem and offer the American people no coherent message while the other side is messaging straight out of the messaging memo written by Frank Luntz ("government takeover," "a bureaucrat between you and your doctor"), you can expect half a loaf.[...]

Am I being too hard on the president? He's certainly done many good things. But it would be hard to name a single thing President Obama has done domestically that any other Democrat wouldn't have done if he or she were president following George W. Bush (e.g., signing the children's health insurance bill that Congress is about to gut to pay for worse care for kids under the health insurance exchange, if it ever happens), and there's a lot he hasn't done that every other Democrat who ran for president would have done.

Obama, like so many Democrats in Congress, has fallen prey to the conventional Democratic strategic wisdom: that the way to win the center is to tack to the center.

But it doesn't work that way.

You want to win the center? Emanate strength. Emanate conviction. Lead like you know where you're going (and hopefully know what you're talking about).

People in the center will follow if you speak to their values, address their ambivalence (because by definition, on a wide range of issues, they're torn between the right and left), and act on what you believe. FDR did it. LBJ did it. Reagan did it. Even George W. Bush did it, although I wish he hadn't.

But you have to believe something.

I don't honestly know what this president believes. But I believe if he doesn't figure it out soon, start enunciating it, and start fighting for it, he's not only going to give American families hungry for security a series of half-loaves where they could have had full ones, but he's going to set back the Democratic Party and the progressive movement by decades, because the average American is coming to believe that what they're seeing right now is "liberalism," and they don't like what they see. I don't, either.

What's they're seeing is weakness, waffling, and wandering through the wilderness without an ideological compass. That's a recipe for going nowhere fast -- but getting there by November.

I feel Westen's frustration. It seems that what Obama has traded in for the Presidency and now needs to assert, is his PASSION!!!

If you Live in IL, Meet David Hoffman

Meet David Hoffman from Hoffman for Illinois on Vimeo.

Vote for David Hoffman in the IL Primary on February 2, 2010.

Chicago as well as suburban voters have a choice of
dozens of locations around suburban Cook as well as in downtown Chicago to vote early. Early voting for the Primary Election is from January 11 - 28, 2010.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Message for President Barack Obama

David Sirota wrote a May 11, 2009 article for Open Left which is very relevant in light of the Health Care bill which just passed the Senate.

is a must read:
In light of the White House's big hand-holding session today with the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries today, let me take this moment to note that a cynic - or, perhaps, a realist - might look at President Obama's statements on health care and see a politician moving farther and farther away from his progressive roots and closer and closer to the Washington/money Establishment.
David Sirota :: The Move Away from Single-Payer
In 2003, Obama said he supports a single-payer health care system, and that the only reason we "may not get there immiediately" is "because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House" - which, of course, we have:
"I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program...I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House." - Barack Obama, 2003

In 2006, I spent a day with Obama in the U.S. Senate, and he said he supports a "debate" on single-payer, but that he also had started having doubts, now that he was in the Senate:

I asked him to give me some specific examples of what he meant. Is a proposal to convert America's healthcare system to one in which the government is the single payer for all services revolutionary or reformist? "Anything that Canada does can't be entirely revolutionary-it's Canada," Obama joked. "When I drive through Toronto, it doesn't look like a bunch of Maoists." Even so, Obama said that although he "would not shy away from a debate about single-payer," right now he is "not convinced that it is the best way to achieve universal healthcare."

By last week, it became clear that Obama and his allies in Congress will use their legislative leverage to prevent even a debate about single payer. Here's the Associated Press:

Baucus and many others, including President Barack Obama, say single-payer is not practical or politically feasible.

"Everything is on the table with the single exception of single-payer," Baucus said.

My guess is that Obama still believes in what he originally says, because he knows the evidence about the supremacy of a single-payer system is irrefutable. But I'm also guessing that he's afraid of being attacked by moneyed interests that enjoy the status quo, and he's surrounded himself by Clintonites who, after the health care debacle of the early 1990s, aren't interested in antagonizing the insurance industry.

However, let me just echo Ta-Neishi Coates who recently wrote that "while a good politician accomplishes what is possible, a great one expands the realm of possibility - he doesn't simply accept the lines of argument as they're drawn and hew to the side with the most soldiers, he tries to redraw those lines to benefit his ideals."

The whole idea that single payer is the best option but politically "impossible" is simply unacceptable. Last I checked, electing an African American president was politically "impossible"...until Barack Obama went ahead and got himself elected president. The entire notion of "politically possible" and "politically impossible" is a canard that justifies the status quo. So while it's certainly terrific that Obama is fighting for some sort of universal health care system, and one with a public option (which could ultimately become a single-payer system), let's just remember: Nothing has been politically "possible" until it actually happened - and so if that's the major argument against single payer, it's not just a poor argument, it's a fraud.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Known Universe by AMHN

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

For more info:

Dorothy Would Be Screwed Today

The Wizard of Oz

the wizard of oz emerald city

Is 70 years old.

Today, if Dorothy were to encounter

Men with no brains, no hearts, and
no courage

She wouldn't be in Oz

She'd be in Congress!!!

Pros & Cons of Senate Healthcare Bill

The Democrats now have 60 votes for Health Care Bill. As with the debate over the technicalities of the bill, there are varied opinions on the effectiveness of this legislation.

Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann and Markos Moulitsas (that's Kos, of DailyKos) are opposed to this version of the health care bill.
Dr. Howard Dean says this is "basically the Mitt Romney bill in Massachusetts except it doesn't insure as high a percentage of people." Dean reiterates his view that it is necessary to kill the Senate bill and start all over.

Keith Olbermann says, "The men of the current moment have lost to the mice of history...They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill for the sake of a big signing ceremony...President Obama...Sir, kill this mutated version of the bill."

Kos says that Massachusetts is an "example of a state with mandates, but no cost control. And the results, thus far, aren't encouraging. Monopolies don't make a habit of passing on the savings to consumers without being forced to by 1) government regulations, or 2) real competition. We have neither in this Senate bill...So not only does a mandate-centric health "reform" plan not control costs, but also continues to leave people it pretends to cover in the dust, too poor to afford steep co-pays and deductibles. Bravo, Senate Democrats. It's hard to see how you could screw this up any worse...
Firedoglake thinks this bill is even more insidious with Emperor Ben Nelson to Women: All Your Uterus Are Belong to Me.

graphic: twolf1

graphic: twolf1

Robert Reich says that We are Slouching Toward Health Care Reform.
We are slouching toward health-care reform that's better than nothing but far worse than we had imagined it would be. Even those of us who have seen legislative sausage-making up close, even those of us who never make the perfect the enemy of the better, are concerned. That two or three senators are able to extort as much as they have is appalling. Why hasn't Reid forced much of the bill into reconciliation, requiring only 51 votes? Why has the President been so cowed? In all likelihood, the White House and the Dems eventually will get a bill they can call "reform," but they will not be able to say with straight faces that the reform is a significant improvement over the terrible system we already have.

On Bill Moyers Journal, Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect and Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone both agree that the Senate health care bill is a bad one. But Kuttner believes the bill should pass, while Taibbi thinks it should be killed."

BILL MOYERS: Yes or no. If you were a senator, would you vote for this Senate health care bill?




The video is a must see. Here's the full transcript; here's the full video.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Andy Borowitz Nails It

Details of Healthcare Plan Revealed

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - The United States Senate today unveiled details of its health care plan, tentatively called CompromiseCareTM:

  • Under CompromiseCareTM, people with no coverage will be allowed to keep their current plan.
  • Medicare will be extended to 55-year-olds as soon as they turn 65.
  • You will have access to cheap Canadian drugs if you live in Canada.
  • States whose names contain vowels will be allowed to opt out of the plan.
  • You get to choose which doctor you cannot afford to see.
  • You will not have to be pre-certified to qualify for cremation.
  • A patient will be considered "pre-existing" if he or she already exists.
  • You'll be free to choose between medications and heating fuel.
  • Patients can access quality health care if they can prove their name is "Lieberman."
You will have access to natural remedies, such as death.

not Health, not Care, not Reform

Keith Olbermann's Special comment on HR 3590 the Senate Health Care Reform Bill.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A few nuggets of Olbermann sanity:
The men of the current moment have lost to the mice of history.

They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill for the sake of a big signing ceremony.

They've done it for the money, lots and lots of money.

The American insurance cartel is the 'Death Panel' and this Senate bill does nothing to destroy it.

Pre-existing know 'Being Alive!'

Who do we have to blame for this? There are enough villans to go around. Grassley (R-IA)...DeMint (R-SC), Baucus (D-MT), Nelson (D-NE)...for lots and lots of money..and Lieberman (I-CN)...has become a Senatorial prostitute.

And sadly, the President of the United States has not provided the leadership his office demands.

Mr. President, the line between compromise and compromised is a thin one.

Sir, if they're going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just.

So why not give the haters, as the saying goes, something to cry about?

...this is the equivalent of medical mobster protection money.

This bill is less fetish and more bondage.

President Obama...Sir, kill this mutated version of the bill.

The golden rule of heath care reform...First, 'Do No Harm.'

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Howard Dean: Kill the Senate Bill & Start Over!

Dr. Howard Dean says this is "basically the Mitt Romney bill in Massachusetts except it doesn't insure as high a percentage of people."

On MSNBC with Dr. Nancy, Dean reiterates his view that it is necessary to kill the Senate bill!
"We can't cave into the interests of special interest groups."
On the issue of pre-existing conditions, Dean says that the "insurance companies can raise rates up to 30%. Basically there is no cost control in this bill."

Dean says "critical mistakes were made early on when it was decided not to go for reconciliation."

Dean believes that Democrats are not tough enough. "Democrats don't have to be mean but they have to be tough."
Crooks and Liars also has the story.

Fanning the Flames of Joe Lieberman

William Rivers Pitt has a truthout Op-Ed about, Joe Lieberman and the Health Care Train Wreck.

When last we heard from Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, he was throwing sand into the gears of the Democratic push for health care reform by declaring he would filibuster any legislation containing the so-called public option. "I feel so strongly about the creation of another government health insurance entitlement," said the senator back in November. "The government going into the health insurance business - I think it's such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single senator to stop a final vote."

At the same time, Lieberman indicated his plans to actively campaign for GOP candidates during the 2010 midterms.

"There's a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans," he said at the time. "There's a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side. And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them - and that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who's not a Democrat."

How did Democrats respond?

For some reason, these twin insults did not motivate the Democratic Congressional leadership to expunge this hypocritical cretin from their ranks. Lieberman kept his committee chairmanship and was not even mildly censured by his colleagues.

Biting back the hand that pats your head.

One month later, the decision to ignore his brazen disregard for his colleagues has come back to bite us all, for Mr. Lieberman has once again elbowed his way into the center of the health reform debate, and with a vengeance. "Mr. Lieberman threatened on national television to join the Republicans in blocking the health care bill, President Obama's chief domestic initiative," reported The New York Times on Tuesday. "Within hours, he was in a meeting at the Capitol with top White House officials.
Once again the Democratic response was to grovel at Lieberman's feet.
And on Monday night, Democratic senators emerged from a tense 90-minute closed-door session and suggested that they were on the verge of bowing to Mr. Lieberman's main demands: that they scrap a plan to let people buy into Medicare beginning at age 55, and scotch even a fallback version of a new government-run health insurance plan, or public option."

Sickening and Appalling

This turn of events is sickening and appalling on a couple of different levels.

First, of course, is the shameless reality that is Mr. Lieberman himself. During his 2004 presidential run, and again during his 2006 Senate campaign, Lieberman actively supported the public option's inclusion in any health care reform, and specifically supported the expansion of Medicare. As late as this past September, Lieberman continued to support such an expansion, as reported by The Connecticut Post. "As to how 47 million uninsured will afford coverage," said The Post, "Lieberman said only 12 million don't have insurance because they cannot afford it. By allowing citizens who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid to buy in for a rate below the private market, the government can extend coverage to more of those who are currently uninsured, he said."

That was then, and this is now. In one of the most astounding examples of political flip-floppery, Lieberman opened this week by declaring himself dead-set against the very health care reform policies he once championed, and once again announced his intention to don a Republican cloak and tear up the Democrats' legislative efforts. Again.


One would have to be deep into a severe state of personal denial to believe Lieberman has legitimate concerns about the impending health care legislation, given the fact that he very recently supported the exact provisions he now wants removed or destroyed. The only sensible explanation would seem to be that Lieberman is actively needling the Democratic leadership, and has become such an obnoxious obstructionist only to keep his name in the news. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo explains the situation, and what it means going forward:

The key issue senate Democrats now have in dealing with Joe Lieberman isn't his position on the Medicare Buy-In. They need to confront the problem that Lieberman isn't negotiating in good faith. No surprise that Republicans are giddy with what a problem he's creating for Harry Reid & Co. But in my conversations with them, it's as clear to them as it is to anyone else that he's now basically mocking his Democratic colleagues by moving the goal posts every time a new agreement is struck.

This puts the Democrats in an extremely difficult, politically untenable position. Yes, they need 60 votes. But they're not going to be able to hang on to Lieberman's vote long enough to get the bill passed. That now seems unquestionably clear. People who say that the Dems should just move to reconciliation don't necessarily realize the difficulties involved - either procedurally or politically, in terms of losing even more Democratic votes. Personally, I'd like to see them try it. But I don't know if it's possible.

Until a couple days ago I was close to certain a health care bill would pass. I still feel relatively confident one will simply because the Dems just don't have any choice but to pass one. Once it is passed, if it is, it's definitely time for the Democratic caucus to strip Lieberman of all the benefits he receives as a member of the Democratic caucus. But that doesn't accomplish anything at the moment. The only path I can see for the Dems is that they need to try to put 60 votes together with Sen. Snowe. Yes, that sounds crazy to me too. But I think she actually has a set of policy priorities that could be met. I don't think that's true with Lieberman. So further negotiating just means more game-playing.

The Solution?

The solution to all this, one would think, would be for the Democratic leadership in Congress to wrap Lieberman in bright red wrapping paper, slap on a bow, and ship him across the aisle to his ideological compatriots in the GOP as an early Christmas present. Strip him of his leadership position, show him the door, and publicly denounce him as nothing more than a stinking chunk of cholesterol clogging up the arteries of progress.

But no.

Of course that isn't going to happen. Instead, Democrats appear poised to once again knuckle under to this fraud and further denude what has already become a half-a-loaf bill. According to several sources, Rahm Emmanuel and the White House are actively pressuring the Democratic leadership in Congress to give Lieberman whatever he wants in order to pass some form of health reform legislation, no matter how ragged, damaging and useless the final product may turn out to be.

What about Joe?

The Senate won't vote on health care reform until next week, and the process has changed course two dozen times already, so the outcome of this latest idiot eruption is far from certain, but the writing does appear to be on the wall this time around. Joe Lieberman doesn't give a tinker's damn about the people he represents, the party that coddles him, his own positions on key issues or anything else beyond getting his mug in front of television cameras in the guise of someone who actually matters.

What about the Obama Administration?

The Obama administration is once again moonwalking away from doing the right thing on this issue, and the jellyfish pond that is Congress appears poised to do what jellyfish do: float, flop, flounder and drift with the scum in this rising tide.

In short, this whole thing is about to become a train wreck of galactic proportions. Stay tuned.

This isn't an issue of politicians standing up for the issues that they believe in. Once again we have a politicians acting on behalf of their own interests rather than the interests of the people who voted them into office and who they were elected to represent. This reality includes Lieberman as well as Obama and his administration.