Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wet Chilly Autumn

After summer was over
we knew winter would come:
we knew silence would wait,
tall, patient calm.

~William Stafford, Tragic Song

I saw old autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like silence, listening
To silence.

~Thomas Hood


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Governor's races show Democrats are better off being Democrats

Democratic strategist Bob Shrum has a point.

He's not just talking about the upcoming gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, but he's drawing a critically important contrast.

In Virginia, polls showed Democrat Creigh Deeds in a close race with Republican Bob McDonnell during July and early August, while in New Jersey Republican Chris Christie was as much as fifteen points ahead of incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine at about the same time.

Today the situation is reversed. In Virginia it is Deeds who appears headed for a big loss, while Corzine has now drawn even or possibly even slightly ahead depending on which poll you look at.

Keep in mind of course that these two races have historically gone against the party in power in the White House so in both cases the Democrats are running against history and the cyclical nature of politics.

That said, there is a big difference between the races and even allowing for factors like that Deeds is a poor campaigner and in New Jersey an independent appears to be drawing more votes from Christie than from Corzine, Shrum hits the nail on the head when he points out the biggest difference between the races.

Criegh Deeds has tried to run as a 'Republican light,' alternatively saying he supports some Democratic principles but then distancing himself from them, most recently the idea of a public option on health care-- going so far as to say that if there is an 'opt-out' provision and he is Governor he might exercise it on behalf of his state.

As Shrum points out, this is a poor strategy:

Blue Dog Democrats who abandoned Bill Clinton on health care in 1994 were conspicuous among the casualties of that November's congressional elections. Their flight from Clinton alienated Democrats without placating other voters. Just ask Sen. David McCurdy of Oklahoma or Sen. Jim Cooper of Tennessee.

Oops, they're not senators. Both were favorites who lost their respective races after calculated decisions to turn away from Clintoncare. If they had stayed the course, they might not have won; but in 1994, they and others proved that apostasy is not the path to victory. (McCurdy now runs a trade association. Cooper is back in Congress after eight years in the wilderness.)

The truth is, that conservative voters in Virginia are probably going to vote for McDonnell anyway. Even Deeds' erstwhile supporters on the right turned their back on him when he needed them the most. For example, Deeds supports gun rights. This cost him directly, being cited by former Governor Douglas Wilder as the primary reason he could not endorse Deeds even after a personal appeal from President Obama. What about the NRA, which has supported Deeds in the past, most notably in his primary victory over Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran earlier this year? Well, the NRA endorsed McDonnell. Now, I'm a Democrat in support of gun rights myself and I don't fault Deeds for taking this stance if he honestly agrees with me, but any Democrat who relies on the NRA for support is a fool because they are clearly 'fair-weather friends' who will abandon said Democrat when he or she gets into a tough race against a pro-gun Republican. Running this year as a conservative Democrat will not win votes from conservatives who will still vote Republican, but it may prevent liberals, who see no good reason to vote for a Creigh Deeds from even bothering to vote at all (which will also hurt Democrats in down-ballot races.)

Deeds paradoxically asked the same President he has not pledged to support on important issues to come and campaign for him. President Obama did, appearing in Newport News and Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia. In fact, that may be the only part of Virginia where Deeds will get even close to the percentages and turnout numbers he would need to win.

In contrast, Corzine has embraced the Obama agenda, especially on health care and has done everything he can to appeal to liberals in his state. Now, granted New Jersey is a much more liberal state than Virginia (though that was true this summer too when Christie was still way up in the polls.) According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, though Corzine's favorability/unfavorability rating is still negative, he has improved it significantly over the past couple of months. In other words, a Democrat campaigning on Democratic themes has come back from way down. Corzine could still lose of course, but the comeback is nonetheless significant. Unlike Deeds, he's not shied away from the President and has been very openly grateful for the President campaigning for him.

The bottom line is that a Democrat campaigning as an independent and running away from his party's themes has gone from even in the polls to fifteen points down, while a Democrat campaigning as a Democrat has gone from fifteen points down to even.

That should send a strong message to Democrats in Washington about what works and what does not.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Public Option and Ironic Hypocrisy

They've got theirs, but don't want you to have yours?

Anthony Weiner Points Out the Hypocrisy of Members of Congress on Medicare but Against the Public Option

Video Cafe, C and L:

From Think Progress: Rep. Weiner Identifies 55 Republicans On Medicare Who ‘Steadfastly Oppose’ The Public Option
Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) office today released an internal study showing that 151 members of Congress “currently receive government-funded; government-administered single-payer health care — Medicare.” Of those 151 members, 55 are Republicans who also happen to be “steadfastly opposed [to] other Americans getting the public option, like the one they have chosen.”
Rep. Weiner talked explained why his office released that study on C-SPAN's Washington Journal.
Well it’s more kind of another way of looking at this debate, this discussion about the public option, to put it in focus. We went, just out of curiosity, looked at how many members of Congress get the public option. And I know a lot of people have said, “Well under the new bill, how many of you members of Congress would choose the public option?”

Well there already is one; it’s called Medicare. And we found that 55 Republicans and 151 members of Congress are on Medicare right now. So they’re already getting the same type of public option that we’d like people who are without insurance to be able to get. And I guess the purpose of this list was to kind of point out some of the hypocrisy of this debate.

You have members of Congress thumping their chest how they’re against government health care, against government control of health care, socialized medicine and yet when it’s time for them to accept Medicare, they’re like, ‘Sign me up!’

“No government run health care. And keep your hands off my Medicare!”



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keep It Lit

Keep their feet to the fire and keep that fire burning:

Is It Possible The Insurance Companies Stepped On Their Wangers?

Hmmmmm. It appears that the worm may be turning... Seriously, did the insurance companies step on their wangers?

A few days ago the public option was on life supports, seemingly just days, or moments away from time of death being called.

Then the insurance companies produced a quick "study" that turned out to be cooked, threatened to raise everyone's health care premiums if the public option passed, and now all of a sudden I'm hearing optimism about the public option surviving everywhere I turn. [...]

Is it possible? Did they over play their hand and start a bit of a backlash?

Nate Silver at did a little "10 reasons" thing on the 20th on why the public option is probably gaining momentum...#1 being:

1. The tireless, and occasionally tiresome, advocacy on behalf of liberal bloggers and interest groups for the public option. Whatever you think of their tactics -- I haven't always agreed with them -- the sheer amount of focus and energy expended on their behalf has been very important, keeping the issue alive in the public debate.

Woohoo! That's us, huh???

Specter: 'We Have 60 Votes Without Sen. Snowe'
Appearing on MSNBC tonight, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) asserted that the Democrats have the votes to break an expected Republican filibuster on health care -- with or without Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"We have 60 votes without Sen. Snowe, so we can still invoke cloture and move to a vote on the public option," he said.


Monday, October 19, 2009

A View On Health Care

A great opinion, from a valued commenter and fellow blogger:

All the national polls and the People's House want a Medicare-type option for everyone. It's time for the Senate and our Majority Leader to represent the people instead of special business interests.

The Constitution begins "We the people of the United States" not We the Special Interests of the United States. The Senate is becoming the House of Lords that our Founder's rebelled against.

The Old Boys Club must not be allowed to ignore the people who gave them power with parliamentary tricks like filibusters and other delaying tactics. Bills are suppose to be passed on a simple majority with an up and down vote. The Senate was not given any special privileges in the Constitution.

If this stalling and obstruction continues, the people have a right, no a duty, to make the Senate as irrelevant as the British people made the House of Lords. A majority is 51...always has been and always will be. It's simple mathematics and common sense.

Enough with the diversions and stalling. The Senate is causing gridlock while this country is in dire straights. Either these old men need to start doing their job or they should be stripped of their power.

If they kill the health care reform bill, We the people of the United States have the option of convening a Constitutional Convention and that's exactly what we should do if this body continues to ignore the will of the people and their responsibility to solve problems when it is necessary...not when they or the special business interests decide they should be addressed.

It's time to pass a health care bill that gives our people affordable, available options including a Medicare one that our seniors now enjoy. It's not only what the majority of people want, it's necessary to save our economy and the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" that this country fought for.

The Senators must give us ALL the health care options that the Senators now enjoy or they need to lose their power. Enough with the Country Club conservatives and their friends on our side of the aisle.


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Out of the mouth of a babe

President Obama held a town hall format meeting today at the University of New Orleans. After entertaining several questions from adults, nine year old Terrance Scott got a chance to ask a question.

Terrance's question: "Why do people hate you?"

I thought the President did a pretty good job of answering the question, explaining that a lot of it is just politics and that there are also some people who are frustrated about the economy, losing their homes, losing their jobs, losing their health insurance, etc.

Of course there are still those who just plain hate the President too, and we all know that. Apparently so does the next generation of America's children.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The "world's greatest health care system" and Winslow hospital are failing my daughter.

My 13 year old went to Winslow hospital on Monday because she is experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Did they actually bother to test her? No.

They said that the CDC has told them not to bother with the blood work but that people should 'assume' it is the swine flu and drink plenty of fluids.

Did they admit her? No.

They said she should just stay home and sent her away.

Did they give her any medicine? No.

What happened to all that Tamiflu that was supposed to be being stockpiled for when people actually need it? I know that Senator Collins cut the pandemic preparedness funding out of the stimulus, but the least they could do would be to give her a prescription that we could shop around for it.

They told her to follow up with her doctor. But the doctor's office is overwhelmed, and they can't get her in until Thursday.

So is what they told her to do working? No.

Despite taking tylenol and ibuprofen, her fever has gone up, last night it was at 103 degrees. This morning she was coughing and having trouble just breathing.

So this is how the World's Best Health Care System is supposed to function (and by the way, we DO have health insurance) ???

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Crazy Lady Taitz

Birther wingnut Orly Taitz has gone off the deep end. Again. Judge Land has sanctioned her with a $20,000 fine, and she says she's not paying.

TPM has more on the ever evolving story, here:

Judgment Day: Birther Taitz Fined $20,000 For Misconduct
Finally fed up with Orly Taitz's repeated frivolous and conspiracy-ridden filings in a Birther lawsuit, the judge in the case has fined the crusading attorney $20,000.

...and here:

Orly Taitz Responds To Judge's $20k Fine: Shove It!
Still defiant after months of legal wrangling and, by our count, three written denunciations by federal district court Judge Clay Land, Taitz said she had absolutely no plans to pay the $20,000 fine.

Wacko doesn't even begin to describe it.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Support a Natalie's law provision in health care legislation

Remember Natalie Sarkisyan? If the name rings a bell, it should. Natalie was a seventeen year old girl who needed a liver transplant. Only when they finally found a donor her parent's insurance company, CIGNA, which provided full coverage through her father's insurance refused to pay. After a lot of bad press they relented nine days later but by the time the procedure was performed, Sarkisyan was literally hours away from death and did not survive.

Her parents went to court to sue CIGNA for damage caused by the company's denial of their daughter's transplant. The court threw out the complaint, not because they hadn't caused her death but because of a 1987 Supreme Court decision that prevents victims from suing over coverage decisions. The decision relates to 1974's Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, which governs employee retirement funds and benefit plans.

So last year Natalie's parents, Hilda and Krikor Sarkisyan went to CIGNA's corporate headquarters on October 29, 2008 to ask for an apology. What they got was a front man who came out and told them that he was very sorry but that the company would not even offer them an apology, and further that the CEO or anyone involved with the decision would not come out and talk to them. Not that they didn't see someone higher up, of course. What they got was the man upstairs throwing them 'the bird.'

Hilda and Krikor Sarkisyan are not giving up in trying to change things though.

The catalyst for this came not only in the judge being forced by the 1987 court decision to have to dismiss Natalie's wrongful death suit, but also from CIGNA's official press release after this.

"Cigna said the dismissal of the wrongful-death case in April showed that the court "agreed with our position that the Sarkisyans' claims regarding Cigna's decision making were without merit."

In fact, the court did not consider the merits of the family's wrongful-death claims. Instead, it decided those claims could not be heard.

Not heard because of the Supreme Court decision!! If it were based solely on the merits of the case then it could be heard. The pure and unadulterated arrogance and contempt on display CIGNA, knowing very well that they have nothing to fear if they do kill someone, is stunning.

The Sarkisyans have proposed 'Natalie's law,' whereby Congress would put in place a mechanism by which insurance companies like CIGNA will be held accountable (even if it is by fines rather than by direct compensation to victims or their families) for injuries or death that it can be proven was caused by withholding payment for a procedure.

According to the linked article, at least one CIGNA employee did have a conscience and quit his job so he could stand with the Sarkisyans:

"ERISA is a license to kill," Glovsky said. "The companies know that they can deny treatment with the sick or dead member having virtually no recourse."

Wendell Potter, a Cigna spokesman who quit after handling the publicity surrounding the Sarkisyan case, agreed.

"HMOs and insurers are largely free to deny access to care without fear of reprisal or financial consequences," Potter said in a speech to the Civil Justice Foundation in San Francisco.

Right now, as Congress debates health care overhaul it is time to undo the disastrous ERISA provision. The truth is that tort reform is long overdue-- instead of aiming lawsuits at doctors whose hands may well be tied by the knowlege that some procedures will likely be denied even if they ask for them, maybe the truth is that it is the insurers who should be included in these suits.

Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to key congressional leaders urging them to undo the ERISA ruling, and group President Jamie Court said Nataline's case shows why such a move is crucial to any healthcare reform.

"If the insurer decides they don't want to pay for the treatment because they can save a lot of money, there is not a dime available in damages if the person dies or is injured," Court said. "It's cheaper to kill you. If you die, you can't go to court.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Keith's Health Care Reform Special Comment

If you missed Keith Olbermann's extended Special Comment on Healthcare Reform this evening, DarkSyde over at KOS has posted all five MSNBC videos.

Here's the transcript:

Health care reform: Saving American lives

Keith Olbermann on what really matters when it comes to health reform


Friday, October 02, 2009

No Backing Down

We need to have many more Democrats standing up and using their spines, like Rep. Alan Grayson has done:
Rep. Alan Grayson discusses the Republican health care plan and GOP charges about him with Ed Schultz on Oct 1, 2009.



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