Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bon Voyage

Safe Voyage

~Margaret Traina

Be your sail always full of the breath of the Lord
To take you to places both here and abroad,
With your hand at the helm and sea mist on your lips
And a chorus of Angels as mates of your ship.
When a lusty wind turns life into rough seas
Cursing, creaks in the mast, and you drop to your knees
With a glance to the heavens, jibe-ho head low.
Though your vessel drinks water and heels to and fro
Bear away my friend, raise up from your kneel
For the Lord holds on tightly while guiding your keel.

It was Irish weather, not a day to be sailing. But the skipper was leaving Boston for the last time, and 1,400 or so of Ted Kennedy's friends gathered to wish him bon voyage.

Excerpted from: President Obama's eulogy for Ted Kennedy
Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed -- the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act –- all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.


We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.

What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.

This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy.

Video Of President Obama's eulogy: Part 1Part 2


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Senator, Statesman, Friend

Senator Ted Kennedy introduced over 2500 bills during his decades in the Senate, a record only to be matched by his ability to reach across the aisle in championing good causes for the people. He will be missed.

Senator Bernie Sanders: Farewell Senator
Ted Kennedy will go down in history as one of the giants of the U.S. Senate and one the most accomplished legislators in American history. He will also be remembered, by those who knew him, as an extremely warm and caring human being whose public service was a brilliant reflection of his love and devotion to his country, his friends and his family.

As a member of the Senate health and education committee, chaired by Senator Kennedy, I was always impressed by his intelligence, knowledge and seriousness of purpose. His career in public service was driven by a deep sense of compassion and a belief that, in this great country, every American should be entitled to quality health care, education and other basic needs as well as equal justice under the law.

His passion was that every single American has health care as a right of citizenship. He understood that there was something lacking in our country today when we remained the only nation in the industrialized world that does not provide health care to all people.

Brave New Films

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The End Of An Era

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat and icon of American liberal politics who was the last surviving brother of a legendary political family, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., his family announced. He was 77.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Song of the G.NO.P

The party of "NO!" theme song:

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Infotainment Healthcare Coverage

Irresponsible media coverage doesn't even begin to describe it.

The Entertainment Value of Snuffing Grandma

Joe Bageant:

Every day I get letters asking me to weigh in on the healthcare fracas. As if a redneck writer armed with a keyboard, a pack of smokes and all the misinformation and vitriol available on the Internet could contribute anything to the crap storm already in progress. Besides that, my unreasoned but noisy take on this issue is often about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. None of which has ever stopped me from making a fool of myself in the past. So here goes.

There ain't any healthcare debate going on, Bubba. What is going on are mob negotiations about insurance, and which mob gets the biggest chunk of the dough, be it our taxpayer dough or the geet that isn't in ole Jim's impoverished purse. The hoo-ha is about the insurance racket, not the delivery of healthcare to human beings. It's simply another form of extorting the people regarding a fundamental need -- health.

Unfortunately, the people have been mesmerized by our theater state's purposefully distracting and dramatic media productions for so long they've been mutated toward helplessness. Consequently, they are incapable of asking themselves a simple question: If insurance corporation profits are one third of the cost of healthcare, and all insurance corporations do is deliver our money to healthcare providers for us (or actually, do everything in their power to keep the money for themselves), why do we need insurance companies at all? Answer: Because Wall Street gets a big piece of the action. [...]

Whatever happens, we will not see Congress stand up against the extortion of its people by the healthcare industry. We will not see even the most ordinary kind of healthcare declared as a human right, as it is in so many other nations. We will see, however, greater access to the public treasury by the insurance corporations.

Every nation in the world is now party to at least one treaty that addresses health as a human right, including the conditions necessary for the delivery of health services. Healthcare is a right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hell, even Saddam Hussein provided healthcare.

That Americans cannot grasp this fundamental aspect of human rights (but then we cannot even get child nutrition, or limiting the number of times you can taser an old lady in an airport, out of the starting gate) and join the civilized world and assure its people of such things is testimony. Testimony that we live in a vacuum exclusive of the accepted standard of mercy and decency common to civilized democratic nations elsewhere. Testimony that even we the citizenry would rather maintain and spread lies than accept truths such as most people in countries with universal healthcare would not ever give it up in favor of the U.S. system.

Most of all though, it is testimony that we live under an induced mass hallucination where spectacle replaces fact, information and common sense. In place of actionable information, we are served up screaming red faces -- angry mobs manufactured for TV protesting "government interference in the people's healthcare choices." One must wonder what inchoate anger is really being tapped by the organizers of these strange "citizen protests."

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Worst Persons: Lying Liars

Countdown's Keith Olbermann notes Andrew Malcom, Tom Delay, and Betsey McCaughey as tonight's Worst Persons In The World:


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

From Planet Wingnuttia, Obviously

Another crazy, clueless town hall protester...

Barney Frank Confronts Woman At Townhall Comparing Obama To Hitler

Barney: When you ask me that question I'm going to revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question. On what planet do you spend most of your time?

You want me to answer the question? Yes. As you stand there with a picture of the President defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis, my answer to you is as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.

Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Novak: Prince of Darkness

Robert Novak has died from complications of a brain tumor.

David Zurawik. Baltimore Sun:

Novak titled his 2007 memoir, "The Prince of Darkness," and he was indeed a very dark force in cable TV news contributing mightily to the toxic culture of confrontation, belligerence and polarization that so defines cable TV and American political discourse today. There is no way to be nice about his impact on cable TV during its formative years -- and his contributions for the worse to the tone and style of what passes for political conversation today.

There are some things we shouldn't forget, like the ugly way Novak's career ended at CNN when he used vulgar language on-air and then stormed off the set. The backstory was that he knew a question was coming from host Ed Henry about his role as the first journalist to disclose the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ten Things, Times Two

While we are seeing increases in personal bankruptcy filings, with more than half due to medical costs, and thousands of people daily losing medical coverage, the insurance companies continue to raise their rates, because the medical industry needs to able to lobby against health care reform and still hold onto their huge profits because that is more important to them than actually helping patients.

The Republican 10 Point Plan for Health Care:
In a nutshell, the GOP is proposing to extend the status quo for a nation gripped by a collapsing health care system.
  1. 50 Million Uninsured in America
  2. Another 25 Million Underinsured
  3. Employer-Based Coverage Plummets Below 60%
  4. Employer Health Costs to Jump by 9% in 2010
  5. One in Five Americans Forced to Postpone Care
  6. 62% of U.S. Bankruptcies Involve Medical Bills
  7. Current Health Care Costs Already Fueling Job Losses
  8. 94% of Health Insurance Markets in U.S Now "Highly Concentrated"
  9. Dramatic Decline in Emergency Room Capacity
  10. Perpetuating Red State Health Care Failure

    On the other hand, here are

    10 Awesome Things That Would Happen If Health Reform Passes:
    1. The First Thing That Will Happen Is Absolutely Nothing

      At least that's the case for a lot of people who now have quality health insurance.

      If you have a decent health plan through your job, nothing will change for you in terms of your insurance.

    2. New Protections for Consumers
      Regardless of your place of employment or the kind of coverage you have now, new regulations would take effect in 2010 that would go a long way toward curtailing the insurance companies' worst abuses

    3. Medical Bankruptcies Would Plummet
      One of the most significant of these regulations is in the House bill: a cap on out-of-pocket expenses. If the measure passes, individuals would face a maximum of $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses a year, and families no more than $10,000. For poorer families, the limits would be much lower: $500 per year, for example, for a family making less than 1.33 times the poverty rate.

    4. People Who Could Never Get Decent Coverage Will Finally Be Able To
      The reality is that small-business people, their employees, independent contractors, freelancers, entrepreneurs, part-timers and the "marginally employed" would be the biggest winners from the legislation if it passed as currently drafted. Small business owners and their employees -- as well as those other groups -- would, for the first time, be able to get decent coverage at a fair price, and if eligible, both employer and worker would be able to get extra help paying for it.

    5. (Almost) Everyone Gets Covered
      That brings us to another "controversial" -- but ultimately commonsense -- piece of the puzzle, the "individual mandate." It means that (almost) everyone would either have to buy health insurance or pay a modest penalty that would contribute to the system. In the House bill, the penalty would max out at 2.5 percent of income.

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

      Ultimately, even if the public exchanges were to succeed in bringing the price of health insurance back to earth, a lot of people would still be priced out of the market.

      All of the Democratic plans come with subsidies to help those at the lower end of the economic ladder get access to decent health care. The most generous are in the House bill, and how extensive the subsidies will be in the final legislation will be a point of heated debate.

    7. No Free Lunch for Businesses
      Currently, large employers that rely on low-skilled workforces usually offer little or no health coverage, and much of these workers' health care is already subsidized by taxpayers in the form of Medicaid and Medicare payments, other public programs and unpaid bills for emergency-room visits. Under the proposals in Congress, medium and large firms would face a simple choice: Offer their employees decent coverage or pay something into the system to offset the burden their employees' health needs impose on the American taxpayer.

    8. More Low-Income Workers Eligible for Medicaid
      All of the plans being considered by Congress make more of the working poor eligible for Medicaid by lifting the income limits on eligibility.

    9. Some Things Will Change, but You'll Never Notice
      The right's fearmongering is only effective because the health care debate is often so complex. Opponents of reform paint dark conspiracies about some of the more-obscure provisions in the reform package (a good example being the gross mischaracterization of a rather innocuous provision that makes counseling on living wills and other end-of-life decisions available to ill seniors as a "government death panel").

    10. Over Time, the System Will Become Healthier
      Everything depends on what the final legislation entails. But if it were done right, those systemic changes -- greater competition, tighter regulation, technological improvements, a greater emphasis on prevention, the buying power and efficiency of less-fragmented insurance pools and an end to treating the uninsured in emergency rooms -- would gradually "bend the cost curve" of health coverage and offer insurance to tens of millions of people who today struggle with the health problems and stressful economic insecurity of living without insurance.

    "Let's get this done."


    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    RIP, Les Paul

    An amazingly talented man has left us.

    Billboard: Les Paul: Original Guitar Hero

    Legendary guitar and recording innovator Les Paul, 94, died Aug. 13 from complications of severe pneumonia at White Plains (N.Y.) Hospital.

    A key pioneer in electric guitar sounds, responsible for developing and lending his name to what many consider rock'n'roll's definitive guitar, Paul's career spanned from the jazz age through the new millennium.

    Les Paul Trio - "Over The Rainbow"

    Rolling Stone: Les Paul (1915-2009)

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Irresponsible Deceit

    Into another dimension of bat-shit crazy:

    Sarah Palin Joined the 'Deather Movement' Because the New Face of the Republican Party is Fear

    Meg White, BuzzFlash:

    As Obama himself explained at a recent town hall meeting, "The intent here is to simply make sure that you've got more information, and that Medicare will pay for it," a statement independently verified by

    ‘Death Panel’ Palin dangerously irresponsible

    Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
    Aug. 10: In a Special Comment, Countdown’s Keith Olbermann decries former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s “death panel” invention in her criticism of President Barack Obama’s health care agenda, pointing out that by peddling frightening lies to her mob of ill-informed followers she puts the safety and security of the nation at risk.



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    Monday, August 10, 2009

    What if your fire department was run like an HMO?

    From the Data Port blog:

    If fire departments were run like HMO's:

    Your house is on fire. You dial your fire service and have the following conversation.

    FMO:“Fire Prevention Maintenance Organization”

    YOU: : “Quick, send the fire truck, my house is on fire”

    FMO: “Just a moment, Sir, have you called your fire evaluation gate keeper to determine that yours is an eligible fire?”

    YOU: “No I haven’t, for God’s sake send the fire truck!”

    FMO: “Oh, Puleeze! We can’t spend money sending fire trucks out willy-nilly. Is yours a pre-existing fire? Are you requesting a merely elective fire extinguishment service?”

    YOU: “No of course not…hurry.”

    FMO: “Certainly, Sir, We’ll send one out immediately. Would you care to make an appointment?

    YOU: “What do you mean would I care to make an appointment? Of course not, my house is on fire. Do something now!”

    FMO: “Well I’m sorry, sir, but some of the fire departments are no longer with us, because we didn’t pay them enough. We have an excellent fire department in Casa Grande, shall we send it?

    YOU: “Yes, anything, please…koff koff.”

    Pretty scary, huh? Can anything be done? Sure it can. Demand that a public option be part of healthcare reform.

    I love it!

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    Sunday, August 09, 2009

    It's time for the President to lead

    With the health care debate in full swing, with members of congress and Senators out there seeing their meetings being disrupted by organized action by the right wing, I will admit that I am getting the input that a lot of Democrats have at least been wondering why the President isn't taking more advantage of the absence of congress from Washington to control the news. And he could be saying (or at least have his administration saying) plenty: As Nate Silver points out, the administration has already cut taxes on 98.6% of working Americans. But not very many people know that because no one in the administration has actually bothered to point it out. In fact, with Republicans out there screeching about hypothetical tax increases that haven't even been written by anyone yet, probably more people incorrectly think the administration has already raised taxes than correctly know the administration has lowered them. This administration should also point out that a relatively modest investment in auto bailouts plus cash-for-clunkers (which total less than the amount given to just a couple of banks) has saved hundreds of thousands of jobs in factories, parts suppliers and dealerships. What are they waiting for? To win an "aw-shucks" award for being humble?

    After all, isn't this the time when he has the podium all to himself if he wants it? I will grant that there are certain events (such as the North American summit and the annual presidential speech to the VFW) that he is obliged to attend, and last week was a good time for him to go on vacation, with the Senate still in session and focused on confirming Justice Sotomayor.

    But that's done and over with now. Now is the time for the President to lead, to inspire. And if he wants to talk about health care then he shouldn't just go out and spout statistics like he did in the news conference a few weeks ago on the subject, he should be talking about the battle his mother had with insurance companies just to get her cancer treatment covered (that resonated on the campaign trail.) He should be talking about how our lack of preparedness for the swine flu coming back this winter is exacerbated by the fact that people with no insurance may not seek treatment right away and in the meantime could spread the virus rapidly throughout the whole population-- darn right, this is a national security issue. And one which will in the end also cost a lot of people some serious money. He should be talking about people like my neighbor who was recently ripped up by two pit bulls only a block from my house and had to be helicoptered to and spent a full week in the hospital (story is here) as she saved the lives of her young children by taking the attack herself, and why she shouldn't have to worry whether she can pay all the bills for something that was no fault of hers.

    The President is at his best when he is talking about the big picture, with passion. And it's time for him to be at his best.

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    Linky Sunday, August 9, 2009

    To try to understand better much of the craziness that is now going on over proposed health care reform, there's some good reading up within the links below:

    Are Republicans and their thugs killing off the Town Hall as a democratic forum?
    Does anyone remember when Town Hall forums were civil affairs that gave citizens a chance to speak freely to their elected representatives in a civil conversation?

    Yeah, that would have been last week. In the days since, Republicans and their astroturf gangs of protesters have transformed town halls into outlets for their prearranged shoutfests ginned up by Fox talkers.

    The old town-hall forum may never be the same. And the country is the worse for it.

    Idiot Nation
    The whole Republican party can absolutely make stuff up, no question about it, 100% lies, no factual basis whatsoever, outrageous, known false stuff about euthanasia and "death panels" and denying care to people that are no longer "productive", stuff that's right out of the most venomous propaganda playbooks around, weird-assed, depraved, paranoid stuff that would be perfectly at home in a Henry Ford tract about the secret methods of the evil Jews or the like -- and not a goddamned news outlet on the planet is making a story out of the fact that these supposed leaders of their party are gleefully lying through their teeth about all of it, or that the "teabaggers" carrying these selfsame lies into public meetings aren't just angry Americans with a different point of view, but people spreading known, 100%-goddamn-freaking-false-and-false-from-the-very-first-time-it-was-uttered bullshit, and intentionally doing it so loud that they hope nobody can possibly shout them down.

    Just Throw Grandma From the Train
    The health-care deniers are out in full force now since the feckless members of Congress decided to pack it in until September and these lying liars are scaring the elderly as much as they can. I wonder how many heart attacks these cretins are causing with their fearmongering tactics. But it's not surprising at all since we've seen this same flick over and over again. The Religious Right/Right-to-Life/Conservatives make this crap up all the time. They failed during the Terri Schiavo fiasco, but they are like ants. They always come back and find the cat food dish.

    Shouting Down Reason
    Instead of speaking to actual issues, waves of unruly crowds swarm scheduled events for the express purpose of preventing civilized, informative discourse from occurring. The most peculiar feature of this obstructionist conduct is that participants seem to lack any real understanding of what health-care reform would involve. "It's not my America anymore", one tearful attendee exclaimed. Oddly, many of the protesters are elderly, no doubt already receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits. By some contorted mental process, encouraged by unprincipled pundits and organizers, these folks seem not to grasp that the programs in which they are enrolled are in fact government-run.

    And in what has become standard operating procedure among right wingers, crude methods are passed off as acceptable expressions of dissent.

    The Only Prescription is Change
    Make no mistake. This is the best opportunity America has ever had for the kind of universal health-care reform the rest of the Western democracies long ago embraced. For all the other important domestic priorities Democrats campaigned for last year, health care was the centerpiece of the homefront platform on which they were elected.

    The insurance industry is acutely aware of this, just like its allies in Congress. Which is why we've seen the recent all-out, kitchen-sink campaign against reform. Knowing it could be in its death throes, the for-profit health industry is lashing out with all it has left.

    Republicans Use Chaos as a Shock Doctrine to Create Authoritarian Rule
    There is a method to this madness of chaos and obstructionism that is the hallmark of modern Republicanism.

    It is to do politically what Naomi Klein detailed in her economic analysis in the "Shock Doctrine"; it is to so bollix and confuse and make feel vulnerable the displaced white working and middle class that they will turn to authoritarian leadership out of fear.

    Star-spangled-bannered authoritarian brutes
    They proclaim an extreme patriotic fidelity to national and traditional values, but are fascinated by, and attracted to, the undemocratic, the brutish, the brutal. One can't reason with them, because they're irrational (often along racial and anti-ethnic lines); and on a matter such as healthcare for all, one can't appeal to their sympathy for the deprived, because they regard sympathy as a human weakness. [...]

    It's not that "they" are back; only that this twisted personality-type never left us.

    Swiftboating Town Halls
    With federal lawmakers returning home this week to begin their month-long recess, the far right is welcoming them with large, angry throngs at "town halls gone wild." "Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops [and] congressmen fearful for their safety" have marked the ugly scenes that have become the rule in recent days, as normally respectful meetings between representatives and their constituents have been inundated with right-wing protesters focused on killing health care reform. [...]

    These encounters are being orchestrated by the same lobbyist-run groups -- Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks -- that brought together the tax day tea parties in April. While trying to give the appearance of a "grassroots" uprising, the demonstrations are cover for a corporate-lobbyist engineered harassment strategy that encourages participants to "yell," "stand up and shout," and "rattle" elected officials in favor of reforming health care. Their goal -- recently outlined by an influential lobbyist as "delay" then "kill" -- is apparent: Having successfully delayed a vote until after the August recess, lobbyists are seizing on town halls to ambush lawmakers in an attempt to fool them and the greater public into thinking there is wide opposition to health care reform.

    Health Care Town Halls "Gone Wild": Right-Wingers on the Rampage
    Patients United, a front group maintained by AFP, is busing people all over the country to protest health care reform. America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry, is also sending staffers to monitor town halls in 30 states. Meanwhile, Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR), led by disgraced hospital executive Rick Scott, is running a national campaign against a public health care option. Yesterday, the group took credit for "helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country, raising questions about their spontaneity." Earlier in the week, a representative of CPR "sent an email to a list serve (called the Tea Party Patriots Health Care Reform Committee) containing a spreadsheet that lists over one hundred congressional town halls from late July into September." And last weekend, CPR announced it will send staff to "confront" lawmakers at town halls and then transition to negative ads.

    Are Republicans and their thugs killing off the Town Hall as a democratic forum?
    No one has a problem with right-wingers marching in protest of the health-care plans. That's certainly their right. And no one minds that they choose to participate in these forums. But town halls were never designed to be vehicles for protest. They have always been about enabling real democratic discourse in a civil setting.

    When someone's entire purpose in coming out to a town-hall forum is to chant and shout and protest and disrupt, they aren't just expressing their opinions -- they are actively shutting down democracy.

    And that, folks, is a classically fascist thing to do.

    'Brown Shirts'? Town Hall teabaggers' ranks are indeed riddled with right-wing extremists
    Along with their extremist beliefs -- including a bevy of conspiracy theories and scapegoating narratives, as well as an unmistakable racial animus -- the violent and thuggish tendencies of the Patriot movement is a matter of well-established public record. So it is not a surprise to see such behavior bubbling up whenever and wherever they are involving themselves. [...]

    All of this tends to lead to Sara's question: Are we there yet? Are we looking at an outbreak of fascist behavior on a large scale?

    My own take: Real fascism is always violent. We’re getting some light violence around the edges here, but fascism always openly embraces the ethos of violence, and that’s not present here ... yet. But we’re getting closer all the time, and the town-hall-forum hooliganism -- particularly the growing presence of right-wing extremists in their ranks -- is definitely a significant step down that road. We may not be there, but we are cruising the parking lot.

    Fascist America: Are We There Yet?
    Unfortunately, all the noise and bluster actually obscures the danger. These people are as serious as a lynch mob, and have already taken the first steps toward becoming one. And they're going to walk taller and louder and prouder now that their bumbling efforts at civil disobedience are being committed with the full sanction and support of the country's most powerful people, who are cynically using them in a last-ditch effort to save their own places of profit and prestige.

    We've arrived.

    Right-Wing Turncoat Gives the Inside Scoop on Why Conservatives Are Rampaging Town Halls
    There is no daylight between the Republican Party, the health-care insurance industry, far right leaders like Dick Armey, the legion of insurance lobbyists, and now, a small army of thugs. All we're missing is actual uniforms, otherwise we now have a full blown American version of the Nazi Brown Shirts. [...]

    It's time that this whole shabby (and insane) business be exposed, vilified in run out of town on a rail by whatever responsible Republicans -- if any -- that are still in the party and who want to see the fortunes of their party revived. Republican leaders taking insurance industry money via lobbying firms and using it to organize what amounts to roving bands of thugs not only need to be exposed but thrown out of the public debate forever. They should become absolute pariahs.

    It's time to give this garbage a name: insurance industry funded fascism.


    Thursday, August 06, 2009

    Sotomayor Confirmed

    Senator Al Franken presided over the Senate chamber as Judge Sonya Sotomayor was confirmed as the newest Justice on the United States Supreme Court in a 68 to 31 vote.

    Only nine Republican Senators -- Alexander (R-TN), Bond (R-MO), Collins (R-ME), Graham (R-SC), Gregg (R-NH), Lugar (R-IN), Martinez (R-FL), Snowe (R-ME), Voinovich (R-OH) -- joined the the two Independents -- Sanders (I-VT), Lieberman (ID-CT) -- to vote with the Democrats for the confirmation.


    LA Times: Senate confirms Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court

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    Wednesday, August 05, 2009

    Phony protests against health insurance reform


    This was what was portrayed by the media as a 'citizen riot' which stopped the Miami-Dade recount in 2000.

    We now know that these were paid Republican congressional staffers who were put on a chartered plane from Washington DC and flown to Miami where they basically served two purposes; they created so much chaos that the elections board was unable to finish the recount (while also being put in fear of their personal physical safety,) and they defined the media story as angry 'ordinary citizens' being outraged that 'Democrats' were trying to 'steal' the election. The identies of the protesters were not known for several weeks and by that time we were already into the Bush presidency.

    I bring this up because it seems like the GOP and their allies in the health insurance industry are apparently going back to the same playbook.

    Reports coming from seperate townhall meetings held by congressmen from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas all have rowdy members of the audience carefully choreographed and shouting slogans to drown out the answers that the members of Congress gave to questions that were asked about health insurance reform. Apparently these folks have no interest in the answers the congressmen gave themselves but only in shouting so loud that they can't give an answer at all. In Austin, Texas after congressman Lloyd Doggett was shouted down so loudly that nobody at all could hear what he was saying, protesters outside the event physically followed Doggett to his car and blocked it from leaving.

    My own congresswoman, Ann Kirkpatick, held a town hall last week. I listened to it-- by phone. She held it by teleconference and people who wanted to ask questions gave their names to a call screener who let them on one at a time. Congresswoman Kirkpatick gave thoughtful, detailed answers. Maybe next time Lloyd Doggett holds a townhall that is how he will do it too.

    If this were a genuine citizen revolt, that would be bad. Only it isn't. After it was reported that some of the protesters arrived in a group and were bused in, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs specifically fingered an organization called, "Conservatives for Patient's Rights," that organization took responsibility today for organizing the protests. And they said they will continue to do it, too. They even acknowlege that they are using the listserv for the 'teabaggers.' I guess the same group of zanies have more than one hat they can put on. Given what happened eight and a half years ago, I think it's fair to ask how many of these folks are paid Congressional staffers. It's almost funny now to hear them call things like this 'the teabagger movement' or the 'private insurance movement.' Yeah, they make me think of a movement all right, and I'll leave it there and keep it clean.

    Conservatives for Patient's Rights is headed and funded (to the tune of millions of dollars) by one man-- former hospital CEO Rick Scott. Scott had to step down as CEO of the Healtcare Corporation of America, a for-profit chain of hospitals after financial fraud led to the company having to pay $1.7 million in fines. In other words, let's say he's an 'outcomes-based' kind of guy, how he gets there doesn't matter. And the outcome he wants right now is to defeat health insurance reform.

    So the tactics the right is using to derail health insurance reform apparently include shouting down any attempt at a normal rational discussion, creating chaos, theats of violence and physical intimidation (ask congressman Doggett about that.) I guess the good news is that they must know that they can't win an open debate based on the merits of their position (if they thought they could, they would allow the debate to just go forward, feeling confident that if the facts were on their side the proposal would just cave in under its own weight, sort of George W. Bush's social security reform plan did in 2005.) So knowing that they would rather revert to the kinds of tactics that worked for them back in the Florida election dispute.

    It's worth pointing out though that there are other guilty parties besides Scott for putting misinformation out there.

    We now have seen two of the main righty bloggers cross the line into full out manufactured video tape. The issue in question concerns a video that was featured on Matt Drudge's site (courtesy of Andrew Breitbart) that apparently shows Obama saying his goal is to eliminate the private health insurance industry. Only it now turns out that Breitbart in fact pieced together clips of Obama speaking the words he needed and cut and pasted them sort of like old ransom notes used to be put together with words clipped from a newspaper. People who intentionally manufacture stories to fit their point of view like that give all bloggers a bad name.

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    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    Special Comment, August 3, 2009

    Keith Olbermann is back from vacation, rested up and on a roll:

    Olbermann: Legislators for sale

    Aug.3: In a Special Comment, Countdown’s Keith Olbermann slams members of Congress for acting more in the interests of their health industry campaign donors than their constituents who so clearly favor health care reform.



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    Saturday, August 01, 2009

    GOP Nincompoopery


    Republicans Lying to Old People About Euthanasia, Robots

    Bob Cesca, July 29, 2009:

    There appears to be a simple two-pronged strategy for killing health care reform.

    One of those prongs involves, of course, delaying reform until it's too late. If it's not passed by the end of the year, there won't be the political balls to do so because of the fast approaching 2010 midterms when members of Congress will be much more focused on raising money (health care industry money) and pandering to voters.

    Another reason for delaying health care reform is it gives the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats plenty of extra time to inject their special cocktail of mind-bending crazy into the discourse and make it stick, furthering both the current delay while also eroding any voter impetus to pick up the issue again after the midterms. That'd be prong number two.

    Not a single dose of the aforementioned "mind-bending crazy" actually holds up when run through even the most cursory fact-checking scrutiny, and, in every statement, the obstructionists trafficking in these lies further underscore their already obvious contradictions and ideological hypocrisy. [...]

    Yes, if you believe what these cranks are selling, the Obama administration is engaged in an elaborate plot to rid the nation of its burdensome population of old people. All this fluff about a public option, all the debate about reducing costs and making health insurance more affordable is merely subterfuge in the White House's scheme to impose a final solution to the nation's obvious elderly problem.

    Seriously, this is a legitimate argument being used in mainstream Republican circles right now. [...]

    How many more examples of GOP insanity must we enumerate before the aforementioned Democrats stop taking seriously the nincompoopery on the right? Is there no level of ridiculousness too intolerable before enough is enough? [...]

    And they're getting away with it because, despite their utter lack of seriousness, they continue to be granted untold latitude and legitimacy through this inexplicable Democratic bipartisanship deference (not to mention a wide berth from the establishment press), while peddling an obvious lie. And then, next week, there will be another one. And another one. Until healthcare reform is dead in the water. [...]

    Another serious question here is: Are the Republicans knowingly lying to senior citizens, or are they just morons who believe anything they hear on the Rush Limbaugh show? (Answer: Both.)

    The Perpetual Republican War on Medicare

    Jon Perr, July 20, 2009:
    Even as Republicans wage their new war against the latest efforts at health care reform, they are still fighting the last one. 44 years after the passage of Medicare, Republicans leaders like Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) are attacking Democratic proposals by blasting the popular health system for America's elderly. Sadly for the GOP, Medicare's proven success in reducing poverty among the elderly and its strong support from beneficiaries belies Price's claim that "nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government's intrusion into medicine through Medicare."

    GOP Health Plan Is Modeled on Banking Deregulation

    Ian Millhiser, July 30, 2009:
    Apparently incapable of coming up with a single new idea, House Republicans plan to release a health plan today which is plagiarized almost entirely from the McCain-Palin health plan that voters soundly rejected last November. Amazingly, the “new” GOP plan even lifts McCain’s widely-panned proposal to deregulate the health insurance industry in exactly the same way the banking industry was deregulated over the last several decades. [...]

    The choice is clear. President Obama has promised to cut health care costs, expand coverage and eliminate discrimination against Americans with preexisting conditions. Conservatives have a very different vision. They think that insurers “don’t need to be ‘kept honest’ by the government,” and they plan to dismantle many of the existing laws which Americans rely on to ensure that their medical conditions are covered. We have already seen the cost of bank deregulation on the nation’s economy; it is truly mind boggling that conservatives want to do the same thing to health care.

    The Republicans Can't Afford for America to Succeed: That's Why They Oppose the Government Option

    Mark Karlin, July 30, 2009:
    The goal of Wall Street in terms of consumers is to drive people into debt.

    Given that America has been a nation that has experienced a steady decline in producing real "things," our biggest product now -- by far -- is debt and the interest consumers pay on it. As some perceptive economists have pointed out, the stagnant and disappearing wages of the American worker have been replaced with staggering debt. And on this debt, we pay interest that goes to Wall Street -- where they gamble it away -- after buying off enough senators and representatives to ensure that they, in the words of Assistant Majority Leader Senator Dick Durbin, control Capitol Hill.

    Therefore, if everybody is insured for health care, that means there will be billions of dollars in less debt for banks to charge usurious interest rates on.

    Are you beginning to get the picture? [...]

    The gilded, fantasy lifestyle enticingly portrayed in advertising for credit cards is financed by consumer debt at soaring interest rates and penalty fees. What workers and middle class managers should be getting in salary increases is now charged away and borrowed, thus making Wall Street fatter and more capable of taking on higher risk wagers at the financial gambling table.

    So, if America succeeds in providing health care to nearly all its citizens, it cuts off one more avenue of personal debt. (True reform would also shift unnecessary profit on the part of the health care insurance companies into savings in the healthc are system, which is equally abhorrent a thought to the fat wallets of Capitol Hill.)

    Republicans and the Blue Dog RepubliCrats need Americans to fail in order to ensure that Wall Street can continue its lavish, reckless lifestyle. And ensuring that means that the campaign contributions keep flowing into the coffers of Max Baucus and company.

    It's one heck of a racket, a legalized fleecing scheme.

    New GOP health plan creates opening for WH, Dems

    Jed Lewison, July 31, 2009:
    Yesterday, with little fanfare, Republicans finally introduced legislation putting down on paper exactly what they think health care reform should look like.

    The GOP's "Empower Patients First Act," sponsored by Republican House Study Committee Chairman Tom Price, is a $700 billion giveaway to the health insurance industry and its introduction creates a huge opening for the White House and congressional Democrats in the health reform debate. It has three main elements:
    1. Health insurance deregulation. The bill would deregulate the insurance market, dismantling state-level consumer protections and allowing insurance giants to sell their plans nationwide without fear of oversight. (Edit, 9:41AM: The problem here is that the GOP plan creates an unregulated national market, unlike the Democratic proposal for a national insurance exchange, which would create a national market, but with consumer protections.)

    2. Subsidizing private health insurance. The bill would give private health insurance subsidies to lower-income individuals and families. This sounds good at first, but subsidies in the absence of other reforms will simply increase the cost of health insurance for everybody else, leading to another inflationary spiral in health care.

    3. No comprehensive plan to pay for plan. In order to fund subsidies, the bill calls for a 1% annual cut in Federal discretionary spending each year for the next decade, yielding about $120 billion. Although this would result in major across-the-board cuts in federal spending, it still leaves nearly $600 billion unfunded. Republicans say they can find "efficiencies" in the health care system to cover that $600 billion shortfall, including malpractice reform, but fail to offer specifics, suggesting the legislation would dramatically increase the deficit.
    In sum, the Republican health bill would be a disaster for ordinary Americans, but it's the health insurance industry's dream. It slashes consumer-protection regulations, it increases health care costs by subsidizing private insurance while simultaneously deregulating it, and it would create another explosion of federal debt. [...]

    For some reason, even though the public isn't buying it, Republicans have managed to maintain the appearance that they are winning the debate on health reform. What better way to reboot the narrative than to knock GOPers flat on their feet by forcing them to defend their own legislative proposal?

    It's true that the House will be in recess next week, but that doesn't mean cable tv, newspapers, or online media are shutting down. In fact, political reporters will be hungry for a good story. Why not give it to them?

    This week, Republicans made a big strategic mistake by giving Democrats a juicy target to attack during the August recess. Next week, they should start paying the price.

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