Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks Giving 2009

As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget
that the highest appreciation
is not to utter words,
but to live by them.

~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

GOP Purity?

The GOP is sending around a resolution outlining 10 Reagan principles that they want potential candidates to abide by or else the RNC will not endorse or financially assist that candidate. So, how would Reagan do on that purity test? Not so well:

From Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
Conservatives take loyalty oath

Nov. 23: Republican National Committee members are being asked to adhere to, and distribute, a ten point purity checklist to make sure they’re right-wing enough. Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis discusses. 5:28


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Health Care Bill Moves Forward

This evening, the Senate voted 60-39 on the (cloture) Motion to Proceed to the consideration of H.R. 3590 [pdf], the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Floor Schedule:
Monday, Nov 30, 2009

2:00 p.m.: Convene and begin a period of morning business.

Thereafter, resume consideration of H.R.3590, regarding health care reform.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Countdown: Health Care

While the obstructionists continue to play their games and block the passage of health care reform, people continue to suffer, and more will die.

Countdown with Keith Olberman

Transcript: Monday, November 16

The health debate continues…
Nov. 16: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks about the Republicans delay tactics to prevent health reform from being passed before the new year. Video: 7:35

Health reform’s human stories
Nov. 16: Countdown’s Keith Olbermann reads an account by producer Rich Stockwell of the free health clinic held in New Orleans over the weekend, in which over 1,000 people attended. Video 6:10

'Countdown' senior producer Rich Stockwell shares his experience attending the free health clinic by the Association of Free Clinics in New Orleans on Saturday.

From the transcript:
Health reform’s human stories

After watching for hours as the patients moved through the clinic, it was hard to believe that I was in America.

Eighty-three percent of the patients they see are employed, they are not accepting other government help on a large scale, not "welfare queens" as some would like to have us believe. They are tax-paying, good, upstanding citizens who are trying to make it and give their kids a better life just like you and me.

Ninety percent of the patients who came through Saturday's clinic had two or more diagnoses.

Eighty-two percent had a life-threatening condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hypertension. They are victims of a system built with corporate profits at its center, which long ago forgot the moral imperative that should drive us to show compassion to our fellow men and women. [...]

Politicians continue to tell us we are the most compassionate and caring people, and clearly we have done much good in the world. I left the event overwhelmed by the hard work and dedication of the volunteers, doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, as well as ordinary citizens who came to help. I am left with one overwhelming question: what does it say about us as a nation of people who can live in a country so rich and yet allow this to continue?

National Association of Free Clinics


Friday, November 13, 2009

Sen. Tom Coburn Doesn't Support Our Troops

Sen. Tom Coburn, (R-Okla.) is blocking passage of a health bill that will give help to our veterans and their families:

Tom Coburn Continues To Oppose Funding For Wounded Veterans And Their Families

Because while Coburn may wave a flag and have a properly pinned lapel when it suits him, he's not interested in the pleas from:

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AmVets, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Blinded Veterans Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Jewish War Veterans, plus the Military Officers Association of America, National Military Family Association and Wounded Warrior Project.

... to get this bill passed, even though:

Thousands of disabled veterans with serious medical conditions and the family members who care for them are counting on this additional support.

Veterans Urge Coburn to Lift Hold on Vets Health Bill
We the undersigned call on you to stop this disgraceful move of holding up some very important veteran legislation, S. 1963, "The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009." While this is a legal move, we think it is morally wrong for you to hold up any veterans benefits during a time when our men and women in uniform are giving so much to our country.

You are denying veterans a myriad of benefits and services. One of these benefits is caregiver assistance to our most wounded veterans. Severely injured veterans often need assistance to do some of the smallest tasks, and generally family members often putting quite the strain on those family members do that assistance. This bill will provide much needed relief for those caregivers by allowing for family caregiver assistance and lodging and food assistance for attending caregivers.

You are blocking some benefits specifically for women veterans. Title 2 of this bill deals with issues like Military Sexual Trauma, women-specific health care matters, and newborn health issues.

Other aid in the bill concerns rural veteran health care issues, mental health care matters and programs to help ease the burden of veteran homelessness. You are blocking that too.

Now is not the time to play petty political games with our veterans. What you are doing is shameful, and those of us who are veterans and support veterans will not stand for it.

S. 1963, The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Backwards Move In Health Care

The Stupak amendment should have never been allowed to be introduced in the House, and it should never be allowed into the final Health Care bill, as it would overwrite already existing laws in order to restrict the legal right of choice even more. The Hyde Amendment already restricts Federal funds for abortion. Shame on those who still aim to have further dominance over women and their bodies and limit their access to medical insurance coverage. Especially those "elites" who think they are "specially chosen" and can dictate rules that they don't always follow themselves.

Why The Stupak Amendment Is A Monumental Setback For Abortion Access

Wonk Room, Think Progress:
If you thought that just because abortion is a constitutional right and part of basic reproductive health care it would be available in the reformed health insurance market known as the Exchange, think again. The Stupak Amendment, passed Saturday night by the House of Representatives after a compromise deal fell apart, potentially goes farther than any other federal law to restrict women’s access to abortion.

The claim that it only bars federal funding for abortions is simply false. Here’s what the Stupak Amendment does:
  1. It effectively bans coverage for most abortions from all public and private health plans in the Exchange...
  2. It includes only extremely narrow exceptions...
  3. It allows for a useless abortion “rider”...
  4. It allows for discrimination against abortion providers...

Will the Stupak Amendment Force Women Who've Miscarried to Lose Insurance Coverage?

I think so.

Robin Marty, RH Reality Check:
This weekend, a group of male pro-life Democrats gambled with women's health, and women lost. By broadly writing in that insurers can chose whether or not to cover "abortion services," pro-life amendments don't just affect their intended victims -- women seeking a way out of an unwanted or medically harmful pregnancy. They also affect another group of victims -- women whose pregnancies have already ended but have not yet miscarried.

- - - - -

Hospitals and doctors in general do not have terminology to classify a difference between the termination of a live pregnancy and one in which the fetus has already died. To them, a D&C is a D&C, regardless of the state of the "conception materials" removed.

Who Subsidizes Abortion?

Eyal Press, The Notion:
As is now widely known, added to the health care reform bill just passed by the House of Representatives was a provision barring access to abortion called the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. Passed with the support of sixty-four Democrats, Stupak-Pitts doesn't merely prohibit coverage of abortion in a public option. It also forbids women who receive a federal subsidy from purchasing any health insurance plan that covers the procedure, even if the abortion is paid out of a separate pool of private premium dollars (for all the background and details, see my colleague Emily Douglas' post).

If this highly regressive amendment makes its way into the legislation that Barack Obama eventually signs, millions of less affluent women who obtain access to affordable health insurance will thus join the ranks of low-income women on Medicaid, most of whom live in states that don't cover abortion procedures. The two-tiered system that dictates who in America has "choice" (more privileged women do, less affluent women do not) will be further entrenched.

But if the social consequences of Stupak-Pitts are clear, the logic is not. Supporters of the provision evidently want to assure taxpayers that they will not be forced to subsidize abortion in any way. But if they are serious about this, why haven't they drawn up an amendment abolishing tax breaks for employer-sponsored health insurance? As Jonathan Cohn has pointed out, this is by far the largest subsidy in health care policy today. (It is also a regressive subsidy, but that's another story.) If the employer-sponsored insurance that a worker gets happens to cover abortion – which, in roughly half the cases, it does – than that taxpayer already subsidizes abortion.

The purists who don't want any of their dollars to subsidize abortion have another problem. As Amy Sullivan of Time has observed, plenty of pro-life people likely have no idea whether their private health insurance plans include abortion services (in which case their premiums indirectly fund the procedure). The same goes for pro-life organizations. Sullivan did a bit of digging and found out that Focus on the Family provides its employees insurance through Principal, a company that -- you guessed it -- covers abortion procedures.

The Price of Health Reform: Abortion Rights?

Why Bart Stupak's last-minute amendment to the health care bill is even more radical than you think.

By Rachel Morris, MoJo:
The Stupak amendment mandates that no federal funds can be used to pay for an abortion or "cover any part of any health plan" that includes coverage of an abortion, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

The first part of the amendment isn't new. The 1976 Hyde Amendment already prevents the use of federal dollars to pay for most abortions. Where pro-lifers won big was on the second part, which could significantly limit the availability of private insurance plans that cover the procedure.

That’s because Stupak’s amendment doesn’t just apply to the public option—the lower-cost plan to be offered by the government. The House health care bill will also provide subsidies to help people and small businesses purchase plans on an exchange. This represents a lucrative new market for insurers: anyone earning less than $88,000 for a family of four qualifies for assistance, as well as certain small companies. But to gain access to these new customers, insurers will have to drop abortion coverage from their plans.

This is About One More Burden for Women Navigating the Health Care System

C and L, VideoCafe:
Dr. Nancy Snyderman sums up how a lot of us feel about this absolutely horrid Stupak amendment. No, it's not fair and it is outrageous. It's bad enough we've got one party that wants to keep women living in the 1950's. We don't need two. And we don't need the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops writing legislation for Democrats.

Catholic Bishops Call the Shots on Health Care Reform

James Ridgeway, MoJo:
We now know that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which in the end run reports to Rome, was involved in the crafting and promotion of the Stupak Amendment, the provision that transformed a tepid health care victory for the Democrats into a serious loss for women’s reproductive rights. Hard as it is to believe, this sober conclave seems to have outstripped even the screaming fundamentalist Protestants in wielding influence over Congressional policymaking in this instance.

The Stupak Amendment was promulgated by a devout Catholic Democrat from Michigan, who is now being celebrated as a pro-life hero. He and 63 other Democrats insisted on the anti-choice measure, under threat of crushing the whole bill, and they reportedly worked with the USCCB to come up with "acceptable" language for the amendment. The bishops apparently had a direct line to the Repubican leadership, as well: According to Politico, "Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called Republican leader John Boehner to make sure the GOP didn’t play any games with the Stupak (abortion) amendment, sources said.”

The Rachel Maddow Show: Bart Stupak's C-Street Gang

C and L, VideoCafe
Rachel Maddow runs down the list for us of C-Street family members who also voted for Bart Stupak’s anti-abortion amendment yesterday. Nothing like having what amounts to a secretive religious cult making health care policy for women in the United States. As Rachel noted that list includes:

Rep. Bart Stupak D-MI
Rep. Joe Pitts R-PA
Rep. Ike Skelton D-MO
Rep. Mike McIntyre D-NC
Rep. John Tanner D-TN
Rep. Lincoln Davis D-TN
Rep. Dan Boren D-OK
Rep. Heath Shuler D-NC

Jeff Sharlet joined Rachel to discuss The C-Street Family's ever growing influence within the Democratic Party.

What's Really Pissing Me Off

Meteor Blades, DailyKos:
"Irrational." "Hypersensitive." "Overreacting." "Hysterical."

Women recognize these words all too well. They're put-downs many of them have had thrown at them all their lives anytime they raise issues about their treatment in relationships, school, the workplace or society at large.

These words and others of similar ilk have found their way into diaries and comments here at Daily Kos yesterday and today around the abomination known as the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. Calm down, little lady, is the tone. Get real. Be adults. Doncha know how politics really works?


Many of these sexist critiques are then followed up by a distortion of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment itself, all of which amounts to the view that this is no big deal, that it does nothing more than the Hyde Amendment, the sexist, classist abomination that has been on the books in one form or another since 1976. In fact, as mcjoan pointed out earlier today, the Stupak-Pitts coathanger amendment goes a good deal further than Hyde.

So besides engaging in put-downs, the patronizers have it dead wrong. This isn't a tempest in a teapot. It matters. And it matters big time, as at least 40 members of Congress led by Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette have made pretty damn clear. If the Democratic leadership doesn't come to grips with this, they're heading the party for big trouble next November, an election month that already may be a difficult time for the party given the state of an economy that may be getting better on paper but is, at best, many months away from even beginning to trickle down to where people actually live their lives.

- - - - -

Over the decades, while engaging in a campaign of intimidation, harassment and murder, the anti-abortion movement has managed, nibble by nibble, to get ever-more restrictive legislation into place. Ultimately, the right of affluent women to obtain an abortion hasn't been much affected - except in the case of late-term procedures. But affluent women always had options even when abortion was illegal in every state. They could fly to Puerto Rico or Japan and get a safe abortion there without having to risk potentially lethal chemicals or abortions at the hands of unlicensed doctors or other providers operating on somebody's kitchen table in less than sterile conditions.

Thanks to Hyde, low-income women in most states are still at a disadvantage when it comes to getting an abortion. Stupak-Pitts, if it survives the conference process, will not only reinforce this classist attack on women, it will also broaden it.

Being ferociously opposed to it is, therefore, not irrational or hypersensitive or over-reactive. It's called standing up for progressive values.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Health Care Bill Passes In House

By a 220 - 215 vote, the House of Representatives has passed H.R.3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Tancredo Pwned

Okay, I admit it. I had to laugh while watching The Ed Show. The MSNBC video is here. [ 7:27 ]

Tom Tancredo walks off the set of The Ed Show after Markos calls him out as a chickenhawk

C and L:

Tom Tancredo stormed off the set of the Ed Show when he was debating health care with Markos Moulitsas. Poor baby.

It all started when Tancredo started trash-talking the Veterans Administration, at which point Markos brought up his chickenhawk past. He got angry and tried the standard conservative whine, realized he was better quitting while he was behind, and then stormed off. [...]

Too many of these cowards discuss our troops when they themselves refused to serve when they had the chance. Here's Jed Lewison:
A few minutes ago on The Ed Show, Tom Tancredo tried to make the case against government health care by claiming that the Veterans Administration is unpopular with U.S. military veterans. The only problem for him was that he was up against Markos... who is one of those veterans, unlike Tancredo, a pro-Vietnam War chickenhawk who got a 1-Y deferment.

When Markos pointed out that Tancredo was (a) wrong about the Veterans Administration and (b) not qualified to speak for veterans, Tancredo exploded in anger, demanding an apology. Markos did not oblige, and Tancredo stormed off the set.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Galbraith Interview

Bill Moyers interviews James K. Galbraith, son of John Kenneth Galbraith, about the economic downturn that the Bush administration and its minions knew was happening and chose to ignore.

From the transcript:

Bill Moyers: Suppose that your father were around today, and '08 had happened, the Great Collapse. Do you think he might have said, "Aha. Told you so?"

James Galbraith: He did say, "I told you so," in this book, in--


James Galbraith: --in THE GREAT CRASH. He talked about the conditions under which it would recur, and he said, "No one can doubt that the American people remain susceptible to the speculative mood, to the conviction that enterprise can be attended by unlimited rewards in which they, individually, were meant to share. A rising market can still bring the reality of riches. The government preventatives and controls are ready. In the hands of a determined government, their efficacy cannot be doubted. There are, however, a hundred reasons why a government will determine not to use them."

And that's the point about the crisis, is that it could have been prevented. The people in authority two, three, five years ago, knew how to prevent it. They chose not to act, because they were getting a political and an economic benefit out of the speculative explosion that was occurring.

Bill Moyers: You mean, the people who could have prevented the dam from breaking were too busy fishing above it, and reaping big rewards to want to fix the crack in it?

James Galbraith: Sure. The Federal Reserve, in particular, knew that the dam was cracking. Alan Greenspan, I think, almost surely knew this, and chose to wait until it had washed away.

* * * * *

Bill Moyers: I want to show you something that resonates with what you're saying. I've been looking at it for a while now. It's an excerpt from a speech that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made in 1944, in the midst of war, a speech that not many people have seen, but take a look at this excerpt.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: In our day certain economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. A second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, or race, or creed. Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines throughout the nation. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom, freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

The right of every family to a decent home. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment. The right to a good education. All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward in the implementation of these rights to new goals of human happiness and well-being. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

Bill Moyers: What do you think about, listening to that?

James Galbraith: It's wonderful. It's splendid. It defined what we should have achieved in the last 50 years and in many ways, what we still need to achieve.

It's a test. It's a test for the country as a whole, as to whether we have the capacity to state and pursue a truly public purpose. We've come through a generation where we have really denied the existence of a common good or a public purpose. And I think we've recognized that that path leads to collapse, the collapse that we've seen. And that the way out is to somehow reestablish for ourselves this vision of what we really could be.

PBS video here.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Conservatives could still pull the chair out from under Republican opportunity

We've been hearing for weeks about how the sour economy, slow recovery and historical factors (such as that the incumbent President's party nearly always loses seats in the midterm elections) all portend doom for the Democrats.

While I would suggest that I expect things to be better next year than they are today and that these predictions are both premature and likely overstated,

a prerequisite for losing is that you have to have an opponent that can put a team on the field to beat you.

That wouldn't be the Republican party, apparently.

Last year after the election some pundits made the prediction that the GOP would degenerate into an increasingly more and more extreme right-wing minority whose pursuit of ideological purity would cause it to leave the universe of rational discourse at record speed.

Since then we've heard more about how poised the GOP was for success, including by recruiting moderate candidates to run for the Senate like Mark Kirk in Illinois, Charlie Crist in Florida and Mike Castle in Delaware. But the truth is that the underlying rift between conservatives and moderates remains, and it appears that the conservative base is so intent on purifying the party at all costs that they seem ready to turn whatever chance the GOP has of winning next year into a chance to make heads roll-- Republican heads.

This week we saw a prime example of that. Republican Dede Scozzafava, whose voting record overall is slightly to the right of the rest of the New York legislative delegation but who had angered conservatives by backing same-sex marriage and abortion rights and-- horror of horrors-- President Obama's stimulus plan (which given the magnitude of state budget problems I bet she's not the only legislator who actually had to write up a budget who was grateful for the help from the stimulus)-- was running for election to a vacant house district in heavily Republican upstate New York. I say was-- because she withdrew yesterday as out of state conservatives dumped huge amounts of money into the state in support of Doug Hoffman, the candidate of the New York Conservative party. A Sarah Palin endorsement of Hoffman was followed in short order by a number of other far right figures. Glenn Beck even went so far as to say during an interview with Hoffman on his show that Scozzafava is a follower of Karl Marx.

A Marxist? So now according to these wingnuts even a standard conservative Republican is a Marxist. No wonder that Scozzafava endorsed Democrat Bill Owens a day after dropping out (undoubtedly misinterpreted by the far right as proof that they were right about her all along.) I mean, when did a GOP legislator with a solid record of fiscal conservatism suddenly transform into a Marxist? Does the right even know what a 'Marxist' actually is, or is it just a cheap name to throw around?

It gets worse. They've organized their own national campaign, "Remove the RINO's" and are dedicated to running conservative challengers against insufficiently conservative Republicans (a 'RINO' is a 'Republican in name only,' what the far right likes to call Republicans who are are not conservative enough.) They already induced Arlen Specter to switch parties, and intend to defeat all three of the above named GOP Senate recruits (Kirk, Crist and Castle) in primaries next year. Never mind that Kirk and Castle are about the only Republicans who might be able to win the Senate seats in Illinois and Delaware, two solidly Democratic states, or that Crist, a popular Governor could easily keep the Florida Senate seat in GOP hands, according to the paragons of the far right, they must be punished for their sins and they will go down in primaries. The funding behind this effort comes from organizations like the Club for Growth, which has been pushing for doctrinaire conservatives for a long time. What is new is the organization on the internet, talk radio and twitter that has allowed these zealous 'keepers of the faith' to find and network with each other to produce a potent political force.

What they do not understand is that while I'm sure that everyone at their tea bag rally probably agrees with them, their viewpoints are way out of the mainstream and reflect the views of fewer and fewer Americans all the time. If they drum every Republican they can find who ever makes less than a perfectly conservative vote out of the party (and rock-solid conservatives like Richard Lugar and both the Diaz-Balart brothers are on their hit list) they may eventually achieve the 'pure' party they crave-- and when they want to go someplace they can fit everyone onto a bus.

House minority leader John Boehner also bears a little of the responsibility for empowering this monster. By insisting that 100% of the house Republicans vote against high profile Obama-backed initiatives like the stimulus and health care, Boehner has, without winning the vote, sent a message to these wingnuts that no heresy can be tolerated, and therefore one could see this coming-- it is only a short jump to the idea that heretics must be burnt. According to the far right they are doing Boehner (who had endorsed Scozzafava) a favor by protecting him from having a Marxist in his caucus who would have voted for the stimulus. Oh, my.

Imagine Senate Republican campaign chair John Cornyn pulling his hair out on the day of the Florida Senate primary, when his prize recruit, Charlie Crist, is defeated by Marco Rubio, a conservative who at best would be a long shot to hold the seat in a general election, or when Kirk or Castle lose their primaries to little-known conservatives who have little or no chance of winning the general election. Well, don't imagine it for too long, because for Republicans this scenario is coming closer to becoming a reality.

Maybe some of the underlying factors next year are working against Democrats but if Republicans keep shooting each other in the back before the election Democrats could still come out of it looking pretty good anyway.

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