Wednesday, September 30, 2009

For Shame

Max Baucus screws over millions of America people, while taking millions from the insurance industry.

What a guy buy.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Jon Kyl thinks insurance shouldn't cover maternity care

Hat tip to Rum, Romanism and Rebellion: And they wonder why they have a gender gap

This is our very own Senator from Arizona and the Senate Republican whip, complaining that his insurance plan (which he is part of a pool that includes females) covers maternity.

Is it any wonder, when Republicans keep electing chauvinists like Senator Kyl to their leadership, why women have voted more and more heavily Democratic over the years?

I hope he will write a thank you letter to female members of his insurance pool next time he gets a prostate exam.

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Men who are not police force a protester into a car and drive off in Pittsburgh

These are not police. They are wearing camouflage, NOT police uniforms. The vehicle that this protester is wrestled into (without being read any rights or any other statements) is NOT a police car.

There were certainly scuffles between police and protesters around the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh today but this 'arrest' (I don't know if you could call it that) is something new, something sinister.

Paramilitary squads now operating openly in the United States. Keep in mind that in other countries in the not-so-distant past, paramilitary squads did things the police could not do, including torture, murder and 'disappear' people.

I don't know if this was a leftist or a rightist protester, nor do I know who sent out the goon squad or what their agenda is. It doesn't matter. If they can do this to him, they can do it to you or to me.

UPDATE: Some chatter around the internet suggests that these MAY be members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. If they are and are operating under federal authority then that would be a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of federal troops (including federalized national guard) to conduct police operations within the United States. If they are national guard troops and if they were operating under the direction of Governor Ed Rendell then they have the legal right to act, but the method of arrest in which the protester was not read his rights and was wrestled into a car which then departed for an undisclosed location is still of questionable legality.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

They don't call it, 'Cracker Barrel' for nothing.

Tasha Hill, a black woman and an army reservist was leaving a Cracker Barrel restaurant in suburban Atlanta when Troy Dale West almost smacked her seven year old daughter with a door.

She told him that she did not appreciate his action, and he responded by beating her badly, using the 'n' word and the 'b' word repeatedly as he pounded her with closed fists.

What is amazing is that there were a fairly large number of customers outside but not one bothered to intervene (though they did tell the police what they saw.)

What is even more amazing and disturbing was the tenor of the interview that Hill and her lawyer got from CNN. They were repeatedly asked whether she 'provoked' the attack.


Excuse me, but how the heck could she have 'provoked' this attack? Although Hill says that all she did was tell him bluntly that she did not appreciate the way he nearly slammed the door on her daughter, it really doesn't matter what she said. Nothing she COULD have said (though witnesses said she didn't say or do anything 'provocative') could possibly justify a brutal assault that still has her nursing bruises a week after the attack. It's that simple. He has no right to physically assault her no matter what she said to him. what is disgusting is that she and her lawyer were even asked if she 'provoked' him. I guess since the victim is a black woman and the perpetrator is a white man the white men doing the interview simply assume that he must have been 'provoked.' It's an outrage that anyone even has to ask about this. I'm not sure that we shouldn't just retire the term, at least when talking about human beings (yeah, you can 'provoke' an animal to attack but humans are supposed to be more highly evolved than animals, though maybe not in Mr. West's case.)

Beyond this, there is something more that is troubling about this as well. It's that the restaurant where this happened was a Cracker Barrel. In this case the restaurant clearly bears no responsibility for Mr. West's actions although the people who failed to intervene were presumably customers on their way in or out. But Cracker Barrel does have a disturbing recent history of racism. Even into the twenty-first century they have practiced de facto segregation such as forcing black customers to sit in the smoking section (including those black customers who don't smoke.) Even Chris Rock's mother has experienced racist treatment at a Cracker Barrel, only three years ago.

So it may well be that there is an undercurrent to this attack: Troy West represents exactly the demographic that Cracker Barrel seeks to attract. Keep in mind that even the name is vaguely racist. "Crackers" (derived from 'whip-crackers,' a term that hearkens back to the worst memories of slavery) were the young southern men who during the worst of the Jim Crow days would keep blacks 'in their place.' Generally this meant through fear and intimidation but often included violence, beatings and even murder.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Victims Of Health Care Reform?

Will Ferrell and Move On join up for this new video about the "victims" of health care reform:

And if you believe those CEOs are "victims", then I've got a bridge you may be interested in.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yippee! We're Number 37!

Doesn't that make you feel good? [*/snark*]

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Wing Nut Short Term Memory

You have to wonder where these screechers were during the eight years of the Bush administration.

Dancing With The Czars:

Richard Nixon had 'em, Ronald Reagan had 'em and George H. W. Bush had 'em, too.

So... Why are "czars" (advisors) now a problem?

Because the right-wing lunatic fringe is trying to make crazy main stream?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Baucus plan may fail in committee; reconciliation more likely

The last Republican who was working with Max Baucus on his vain attempt at producing a bipartisan bill in his Senate Finance committee, Olympia Snowe of Maine, has apparently given up on supporting Baucus' plan.

As I pointed out the other day, the Baucus plan is a bad one, featuring mandates that would drive up the cost of health care for poor people (and not enough offsetting tax credits, even for those who could afford to pay insurance premiums upfront in exchange for a tax credit next year.)

Snowe cited that objection (making her more reasonable on that point than Max Baucus) and also how the plan to tax expensive health plans would probably cost many of her constituents in Maine where insurance is already among the most expensive in the nation.

The Baucus plan also has no government option, which caused one of the committee's liberals, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to say he won't support it. If the rest of the liberal Democrats on the committee follow Rockefeller's lead then Baucus may suffer the embarrassment of having delayed work on health care reform for months while chasing a compromise only to see it fail in his own committee, done in by a coalition of Republicans and liberal Democrats.

The truth is that Baucus' vision of a bipartisan bill was an illusion from the beginning. That became clear during the recess, when the other two Republicans that Baucus had been negotiating with, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) both made it clear that they were against reform, including the bill that Baucus was supposedly working with them on. In contrast to Grassley and Enzi, who I believe simply strung things out as part of a GOP grand strategy to delay, deflate and defeat any significant health care reform bill (which we know very well they've been angling for all along, as Jim DeMint made clear a couple of months ago,) I think that Snowe was probably sincere, but she can't support the Baucus bill for the same reason I don't support it. If you're going to force people to buy health insurance then you have to help people who can't afford it pay for it up front, period.

What this does mean is that whatever goes to the floor of the Senate will probably much more resemble the bill that came out of the Health, Education and Labor Committee several weeks ago. That bill does include a Government option.

Because it does a handful of Democrats (Baucus, Kent Conrad, the two Nelsons, Evan Bayh, Mary Landreau and possibly independent Joe Lieberman) have expressed some doubts about whether they will support such a bill. Because the death of Ted Kennedy leaves Democrats with one less vote than needed to break a filibuster even if they do get all their members to sign on to something, it seems likely that Harry Reid will resort to reconciliation. Reconciliation is a parliamentary tactic that will mean that only 51 Senators will be needed to pass a bill, and a clause in a bill passed earlier this year gives Reid the option to use it after October 15 to pass a health reform bill. Republicans did the same thing in 2001 in order to push through the Bush tax cuts without having to break a filibuster.

And really, there is no reason anymore not to use reconciliation. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell says it would amount to a 'declaration of war,' and that the Senate GOP would do everything they could to block health care and the rest of the Obama agenda. And if McConnell and his caucus had done anything less than that since the President has taken office that threat might have to be taken seriously. But whether it is declared or not, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in Congress have already been marching in lockstep against the Obama agenda, they have already bottled up virtually all of Obama's judicial appointments and many other appointments and they have already signaled their intent do everything they can to delay, disrupt and obstruct the President's agenda. Health care reform was supposed to be 'Waterloo,' remember? So the Republicans have already been fighting a scorched earth, take no prisoners kind of war against the Democratic agenda. So WHY NOT use reconciliation? Max Baucus is learning the hard way that there can be no compromise with this crew, so if he's smart he'll realize that the only way forward is to reconnect with his fellow Democrats.

If nothing else though, the apparent failure of the Baucus attempt should make it clear to everyone that any appeal to bipartisanship is folly, and it will take a long time to revive it. Four committees (three in the house, one in the Senate) got a bill out of committee before the August recess with party line Democratic votes. In contrast to that in the Finance Committee, the Democratic leadership (Baucus and Conrad) led a serious attempt at bipartisanship, and it's taken much longer and now they may not even get any bill out at all.

Just write that down and pull it out next time some Republican complains about 'cramming something down their throats.' Because using the muscle of the majority to cram stuff down the GOP's throat is about the only thing that works anymore.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009


The disconnect from reality is stunning, isn't it?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Challenging Joe

Well, now. Just who is the big liar, huh?


America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009


Can it be any plainer?

So much for the lying liars, especially people like Joe Wilson (R-SC) that choose to ignore facts and act like they are at a town hall instead of an address to Congress.

Democrat Rob Miller, a retired Marine and an Iraq veteran, is running against Rep. Joe Wilson.

Shortly after Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's address last night, the ActBlue page listed Rob Miller's donations at almost $68,000. Then, things started happening. Bless those Kossacks who created their own page and all those others who are also repulsed by the lack of integrity and decency expressed by Mr. Wilson. Click the links and go see for yourself.

And know that Rob Miller appreciates that support:
I am proud to have received the support of thousands more hardworking people who believe we need to change the way things are done in Washington DC. The outpouring of support has truly been humbling. I look forward to working to bring back common-sense leadership and fighting for the hardworking families of South Carolina.
If you can, toss a few dollars Rob's way, too.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

President to say 'God' in public school classroom. Fortuitously censored by the right so lots of kids won't hear it.

Well, today is the day when President Obama will speak to the kiddies, and thousands of followers of right wing talk radio have either promised to pull their kids out of school or in some cases forced their local schools to not even carry the webcast (I know, I know. I'm too sensitive about this, the truth is that these parents were just as angry a generation ago when President Ronald Reagan spoke to students via television.)

Craig at Random Musings has posted the text of the President's remarks tomorrow.

Mostly it's pretty innocuous stuff, telling kids about how important his mother felt it was to make him study and why they should do it and about how they should listen to their parents. He goes on to point out that no matter what their circumstances are, they have no excuses if they don't study and get the education they need. Study hard, stay in school, listen to your parents and your teachers. You know, the standard Marxist/socialist propaganda that the right was up in arms about.

But then he finishes with this shocking last line:

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Wow! Those right wingers were right after all keeping their children at home or pressuring the school districts not to show the speech. There really is something in it they will never hear their teachers say in a classroom. The word, GOD is in the speech. In fact he says it twice in that last line.

Now you know and I know that if you or I or your kids' third grade teacher said, 'God' in a public school then the big, bad ACLU would come and haul us into court and put us on trial for intolerance and have us sent to an atheist re-education camp where we would be forced to learn secular humanism. Isn't that true, right-wingers?

But here we have the President of the United States saying the word, 'God' and it will be webcast right into hundreds of thousands of classrooms all over America.

Wow! Good work, right wing wackjobs. Thank you for saving so many children from hearing the word, 'God' spoken in a public school. Atheists all over America will owe you a debt of gratitude.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

For The Workers

Dropkick Murphys: Workers Song

Yeh, this one's for the workers who toil night and day
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
We've often been told to keep up with the times
For our skills are not needed, they've streamlined the job
And with slide-rule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

We're the first ones to starve, we're the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And we're always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat's about

And when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
Who's given a gun and then pushed to the fore
And expected to die for the land of our birth
Though we've never owned one lousy handful of earth?

[Chorus x3]

All of these things the worker has done
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
We've been yoked to the plow since time first began
And always expected to carry the can


Sunday, September 06, 2009

We Need To Reform Health Care

Lobbyists Attack Reform Without Disclosing Work For Health Insurance Companies

Chart: Who's Paying to Kill Health Reform?

We've got the rest of the world baffled

The American healthcare system has long proved incomprehensible to those living in other rich industrialized countries where long ago all people gained access to good medical care. The real mystery has been why Americans have accepted that in the richest country on Earth, which spends far, far more on healthcare than any other country on the planet, almost 50 million people go without health insurance.

Health Care Reform Is Not About Pleasing Conservatives
Republicans have diminished themselves to irrelevancy — it doesn’t matter what they think about the public option because they have admitted that will not vote for a reform bill.

And so, it’s no longer about pleasing the other side. It’s about increasing access, lowering costs, ending predatory insurance practices — and whipping Democratic support for reform. Let’s get to it.

Insurance Company CEO Compensation 2006-2007
Aetna - Ronald A. Williams
2007: $23,045,834 - 2006: $19,802,476

Cigna - H. Edward Hanway
2007: $25,839,777 - 2006: $21,014,486

Coventry Health Care - Dale B. Wolf
2007: $14,869,823 - 2006: $13,034,126

Health Net - Jay M. Gellert
2007: $3,686,230 - 2006: $6,066,913

Humana - Michael B. McCallister
2007: $10,312,557 - 2006: $5,798,613

UnitedHealth Group - Stephen J. Hemsley
2007: $13,164,529 - 2006: $15,549,028

WellPoint - Angela Braly
(2007) - $9,094,271

WellPoint - Larry C. Glasscock
(2006) - $23,886,169

Leading health plan CEO paychecks, 2008
Aetna - Ron Williams - $24,300,112

CIGNA - H. Edward Hanway - $12,236,740

WellPoint - Angela Braly - $9,844,212

Coventry Health Care - Dale Wolf - $9,047,469

Centene - Michael Neidorff - $8,774,483

AMERIGROUP - James Carlson - $5,292,546

Humana - Michael McCallister - $4,764,30

Health Net - Jay Gellert - $4,425,355

Universal American - Richard Barasch - $3,503,702

UnitedHealth Group - Stephen Hemsley - $3,241,042

The Cost of Not Having a Public Option
The California Nurses Association just sent out a press release highlighting new report from the Commonwealth Fund that projects a 94% increase in health insurance premiums by 2020, if effective reforms aren't enacted. From the e-mailed release:
Private insurance premiums for employer-sponsored coverage will rise by 94 percent by 2010, on top of the 119 percent increase since 1999, according to the Commonwealth Fund report. The increases in premiums from 1999 to 2008 were four times greater than the rise in family incomes, even prior to the current recession.

"These findings are merely the shocking state of premiums, not even including a concurrent jump in out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-pays, and other fees. It's no wonder that medical bills now are the leading factor in 62 percent of bankruptcies, and half of American families are rationing medical care because they can't afford it," noted Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of the 86,000-member California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.
California's Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 21% of Claims
More than one of every five requests for medical claims for insured patients, even when recommended by a patient's physician, are rejected by California's largest private insurers, amounting to very real death panels in practice daily in the nation's biggest state, according to data released today [September 2, 2009] by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

CNA/NNOC researchers analyzed data reported by the insurers to the California Department of Managed Care. From 2002 through June 30, 2009, the six largest insurers operating in California rejected 31.2 million claims for care – 21 percent of all claims. [...]

With all the dishonest claims made by some politicians about alleged 'death panels' in proposed national legislation, the reality for patients today is a daily, cold-hearted rejection of desperately needed medical care by the nation's biggest and wealthiest insurance companies simply because they don't want to pay for it," said Deborah Burger, RN, CNA/NNOC co-president. [...]

"Every claim that is denied represents a real patient enduring pain and suffering. Every denial has real, sometimes fatal consequences," said Burger. [...]

Rejection of care is a very lucrative business for the insurance giants. The top 18 insurance giants racked up $15.9 billion in profits last year.

Independent Inquiry into HMOs' Handling of Health Insurance Claims
Los Angeles - Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today [September 3, 2009] announced that deputies in his office are launching an independent inquiry into how Health Maintenance Organizations review and pay insurance claims submitted by doctors, hospitals and other medical providers.

This investigation is prompted by reports that California's five largest health-insurance providers are denying insurance claims at rates of up to 39.6 percent.

"These high denial rates suggest a system that is dysfunctional, and the public is entitled to know whether wrongful business practices are involved," Brown said.

$2.3 Billion Pfizer Settlement Is Not Enough to Deter Organized Crime in the Pharmaceutical Industry
[September 2, 2009] Today's $2.3 billion settlement between Pfizer and the U.S. Justice Department for unlawful prescription drug promotion may sound large, but it's not enough to ensure drug companies will curb their bad behavior. In fact, it just shows there is competition in the pharmaceutical industry. Pfizer has broken a record just set by Eli Lilly & Company in January for what was then described by the Justice Department as the "largest individual corporate criminal fine" in U.S. history (more than $500 million in criminal penalties for off-label promotion of Zyprexa). Now, a scant seven months later, Pfizer has broken this record with a criminal fine of $1.2 billion, the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the U.S. for any matter. (The rest of the $2.3 billion represents civil penalties.)

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry, long one of the most profitable in the country, with profits last year of close to $50 billion, has engaged in an unprecedented amount of criminal activity in the past decade, all aimed at increasing sales, often by illegally promoting drugs for diseases for which evidence that benefits outweigh harm is lacking (also known as illegal off-label promotion). When doctors are induced, either by being bribed or misled by drug companies, to prescribe drugs for such purposes, there is a reasonable chance that the drugs will do more harm than good and patients may be seriously injured or killed by such promotion.

In addition to Pfizer and Eli Lilly (Pfizer also pleaded guilty to criminal charges for off-label promotion of Neurontin in 2004), other drug companies found to have engaged in criminal activity in the past 10 years include Abbott, Schering-Plough, Astra-Zeneca, Purdue and Bayer.

Unfortunately, the ever-escalating fines are unlikely to stop drug companies from continuing to bribe doctors because they represent just a fraction of drug company profits and no one has gone to jail.

There is no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has made major contributions to the health of the public, but it must also be considered part of well-organized crime in this country. [...]

Until corporate titans are forced to fork over a much larger proportion of their illegally gotten profits and are put behind bars, nothing will change.

California Attorney General Called To Investigate Insurance Companies’ Anti-Health Reform Advocacy
The Los Angeles Times reported today [September 3, 2009] that the California-based Consumer Watchdog has submitted a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown calling for an investigation of insurance giants Wellpoint and United HealthCare (UHC). The complaint comes in response to the insurance companies’ practice of actively encouraging employees to engage in anti-health care reform political activity. According to Consumer Watchdog, “while coercive communications with employees may be legal, if abhorrent, in most states, California’s Labor Code appears to directly prohibit them.”

UHC was exposed last month for creating a call center that directed employees to anti-health reform protests. More recently, Wellpoint launched a “grassroots Web site” urging employees to “make [their] voice heard” by contacting Congress in opposition to health reform. It appears that these tactics may have been a violation of California law. According to the watchdog organization’s letter, UnitedHealthCare’s anti-reform hotline and Wellpoint’s astroturf lobbying website may violate California laws meant to prevent employers from influencing the political activity of its employees.

Red States Have the Largest Numbers of Uninsured. They're Also Opposed to Healthcare Reform. Why?
And of course, they're the people who have been regularly told that taking any help from the government is "socialism" - although Medicare does seem to have slipped in under the radar.

Reform, Irony And Self-Interest
A couple of weeks ago, Sam Stein noted the states with the highest rates of uninsured people, which just so happen to be the states where opposition to reform is strongest. Gallup found "large swaths of populations in the South and West" with large segments lacking coverage, and these are the same parts of the country with "the largest percentage of populations who believe widely perpetuated mistruths about the Obama agenda."

In other words, those in states that stand to benefit most from reform have been convinced to oppose reform.

Focus on Justice Makes Health Solution Obvious
At its core, our health care debate is also about justice. Unlike most developed nations, we continue to treat health care as a commodity. We ration it (no nation has the resources to meet all its citizens’ health care needs), but we ration capriciously, by income and employment.

Ironically, the cure is right at our fingertips: Simply expand Medicare to all Americans.

Dear President Obama
It would be so easy. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with this so-called “public option” that’s a whole new program from the ground up. Medicare already exists. It works. [...]

Most of us will do damn near anything to get out from under the thumbs of the multi-millionaire CEOs who are running our current insurance programs. Sign me up!

This lets you blow up all the rumors about death panels and grandma and everything else: everybody knows what Medicare is. Those who scorn it can go with Blue Cross. Those who like it can buy into it. Simplicity itself.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Health Care Is A Human Right

WWJD? Certainly not what some of His so-called followers do.

Why Is Universal Health Care ‘Un-American’?

Rev. Jim Rigby:

I can't believe I am standing today in a Christian church defending the proposition that we should lessen the suffering of those who cannot afford health care in an economic system that often treats the poor as prey for the rich. I cannot believe there are Christians around this nation who are shouting that message down and waving guns in the air because they don't want to hear it. But I learned along time ago that churches are strange places; charity is fine, but speaking of justice is heresy in many churches. [...]

I believe the American dream was not about property rights, but human rights. Consider the words of this national hymn:

"O beautiful for patriot's dream that sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears."

Doesn't that sound like someone cared about the poor? There are those who consider paying taxes an affront, but listen to these words:

"O Beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life."

"Mercy more than life" -- have you ever noticed those words before? Supporting universal health care does not make you socialist or even a liberal, it makes you a human being.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rally and March

Americans United for Health Care and Insurance Reform

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

~Ted Kennedy

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