Tag Archive: congress


I generally am skeptical about the “name” pundits and media stars like Olbermann, Maddow and all the experts they have on their shows that they repeatedly call on to explain things. Even though I generally agree with them, their shows always end up balancing the political spectrum as if the true place where the world should exist is somewhere between the right wing nut tea baggers and the progressives who want universal health care and an end to all war.

Think about that for a minute. What kind of world is it where we agree to accept war just to balance the political spectrum? Why isn’t war horrifically wrong and something that should never ever be resorted to as long as people can talk things out. It’s not like the middle ages where in order to negotiate you have to travel thousands of miles to meet with your foes. Every nation in the modern world has an open dialog with every other one. The fact that we attack territories like Iraq or Afghanistan to rid ourselves of “terrorists” is absurd. No group of people or enemy lives within the borders of any single country. If you attack them, they simply pick up and move to another territory, just as Al Qaeda exists in countries all over the world.

Paul Krugman - Nobel Prize Winning Economic Scholar

But back to the media pundits. Paul Krugman is one that I find a little less “balanced.” That’s a good thing. He attacked Obama for the selection of the same assholes that brought down our economy as the people to run our treasury and economics. He was left out to dry by the media for that, which indicates to me that he was doing something right. The media is owned by conservatives, even MSNBC, the one thought of as progressive. Olbermann and Maddow take their stories from their higher ups at MSNBC based on what is marketable to the progressive leaning audience. The fact that MSNBC is bent as far as it is toward progressives, indicates that progressives are actually close to center and not on an extreme end of the political spectrum. But when Olbermann talks about Limbaugh or the Fox News dickheads, he’s just giving them free advertising. If he truly thought they were of as little importance as they really are, he’d ignore them completely. They are nonentities and don’t exist in my world.

Now the Senate just passed a healthcare bill and Krugman is applauding that as a great step forward. Is Krugman trying to get back into the media spotlight by going middle of the spectrum here?

Krugman writes in the New York Times article, Tidings of Comfort, about the split of people into three distinct areas of the political spectrum: the far right teabaggers, the fiscal conservatives and the progressives, as if this defines left, right and center.

First, there’s the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people — a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. In the past, there was a general understanding, a sort of implicit clause in the rules of American politics, that major parties would at least pretend to distance themselves from irrational extremists. But those rules are no longer operative. No, Virginia, at this point there is no sanity clause.

A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which — in the judgment of leading health economists — does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past.

But, with few exceptions, the fiscal scolds have had nothing good to say about the bill. And in the process they have revealed that their alleged concern about deficits is, well, humbug. As Slate’s Daniel Gross says, what really motivates them is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is receiving social insurance.”

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.

There may not be a Congressional majority in favor of single payer, but there is (I think) a popular majority among all Americans in favor of it, or would be if they understood what it really is and were not misinformed by conservative owned media.

And that’s at the heart of what’s wrong in the U.S. government. It doesn’t act on the will of the majority. It’s not representative. This is one fact that pretty much all of these three groups agree on. Taxation without representation is alive and well.

The other point here is that progressives are painted as far left of center, when in fact they are more middle. With the extreme right moving into the spotlight in the Republican party it makes progressives perceived as being far right only because of a popular obtuse sentiment that these two groups have to be balanced.

Nothing could be farther from reality. Progressives don’t balance with right extremists any more than right balances with wrong. You might think that right does balance with wrong, and if so then you exemplify my point. If right balances with wrong then we should allow just enough crime to balance with the good that people do. If a hero saves a life then it should be OK to murder someone for balance.

And so for Obama and others to say we have to compromise and balance the political spectrum is completely absurd, irresponsible, and morally corrupt.

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NOW members protest the Stupac-Pitts amendment

NOW members protest the Stupac-Pitts amendment

NOW (National Organization for Women) warns that the Senate will vote on an amendment similar to Stupak-Pitts that would prevent millions of women from obtaining insurance coverage for abortion under their version of health care reform, S1796. Is that the bill number or the year they intend to regress to?

It appears advocates will use this amendment to hold health care reform hostage unless this affront against women is included.

This comes on the heals of the passed house Stupak-Pitts, anti-abortion amendment and the more recent mammogram media blitz tactic that blamed the White House for an independent private sector task force recommendation. It appears the health care insurance industry and their friends in Congress are out to target women in an all out effort to discredit health care reform.

NOW posted the following to it members on their website:

Reportedly, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Bob Casey (R-Penn.) may offer a version of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to be attached to the Senate bill. That means, in all likelihood, if the Senate adopts this harmful amendment, it will remain in the final Senate-House conference bill and become law. Alternatively, a modified variation of Stupak-Pitts could be incorporated into the bill. Either way, millions of women lose — big time.

Please Take Action NOW!

The Stupak-Pitts amendment explained:

* The ban on abortion coverage in insurance would apply to both the proposed public option and to private health insurance plans sold in the new regional health insurance exchanges. It is estimated that some 36 million uninsured persons would be purchasing insurance policies through new exchanges and would be eligible for federal affordability subsidies.
* Health insurers may not sell plans that cover abortion to customers who are paying without a subsidy, if even just one person who is receiving the federal affordability credits (the subsidy) were to purchase a plan. In other words, even if you are paying 100 percent of your insurance costs, abortion coverage would not be available in your plan if anyone with affordability credits joins the same plan.
* Women may purchase a separate abortion “rider” for coverage, though many doubt that these riders would be offered by the insurance companies.
* Small companies (fewer than 100 employees) would also likely purchase health insurance through the exchange, but if any of their employees received affordability credits no abortion coverage could be included.
* Eighty-seven percent of employer-based insurance plans now cover abortion services, but if employers withdraw coverage and send their employees to the health insurance exchanges, those employees would likely lose abortion coverage under these new prohibitions.

There may be a modified version of this harmful amendment that is included in the Senate health care reform bill that will be debated next week. We want to make sure that Stupak-Pitts language is not used and that no variation of this harmful amendment is passed. Please send a message to your senators that you oppose any restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion. Thank you for all the work you do for women’s rights.

Dan Pfeiffer writes, “One of the hallmark tactics from opponents of health insurance reform has been to grab onto any convenient piece of information and twist it into some misguided attack on reform, no matter how unrelated it may actually be….. and Fox News obliges them with the headline ‘Critics See Health Care Rationing Behind New Mammography Recommendations.'” He says the media outlets feed on this kind of opportunistic “controversy.” Ya think?

Gee, how did the mainstream media miss this statement coming from the White House?

Pfeiffer continues that it’s ironic that the the right would spin this government agency recommendation as “health care rationing” that is part of the insurance reform movement. In fact health care reform proponents want to see increased preventative measures, as do most doctors.

One very basic problem with U.S. healthcare is that we have a policy of only providing free health care to people when they are in an emergency or at risk of death. By that time it’s often too late, especially in cancer cases. Staunch reform proponents want socialized medicine for all people to have health care as they need it, when they need it, for all ages – Medicare for all.

So the right is spinning this (what I would call suspicious) recommendation from the independent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Note the word “independent.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius had stated that she expects no changes to take place in the government or in the health insurance industry as a result of this (independent) USPSTF report. In fact she stated Wednesday that women should continue to get checked at age 40. Yet the right wing liars, as per usual, keep saying this stuff will be part of health care reform.

On the other hand we should indeed keep watch that the health insurance industry doesn’t try to sneak in this kind of cut back on preventative services which would benefit them and which they could blame upon reformers with this kind of media spin. How hard can it be to influence an independent task force when you’re an insurance industry that already has Congress on it’s payroll and has written the recently passed health care bill with lobbyists? This is all out media warfare. The pen is mightier than the sword.

Pfeiffer’s blog continues with the following clarification FAQ:

Will Medicare now stop paying for breast cancer mammography for women because of this recommendation?

Women who are currently getting mammograms under Medicare will continue to be able to get them. There are no plans to change that. The law states that in order to change Medicare coverage of mammograms a formal rule making process must be undertaken and that is not happening.

Isn’t this the first step toward denying coverage for mammograms?

No. The Task force is an independent panel of experts in prevention and primary care that evaluates available evidence and makes recommendations about effective clinical preventive services based on scientific information. Under the health insurance reform legislation, the USPTF would have no power to deny insurance coverage in any way. Their recommendations would be used in health reform to identify effective clinical preventive services.

How will this recommendation affect private health insurance coverage?

The Task Force does not address insurance coverage and payment issues; it focuses on the science of the clinical services it evaluates. Each insurance company is different and makes its own coverage decisions. The Task Force recognizes that clinical and policy decisions involve more consideration that this body of evidence alone. Clinicians and policymakers should understand the evidence but individualize decision making to the specific patient or situation.

Tommy Thompson said the Task Force recommendations were the official position of the U.S. Government. Is that your position?

We have tremendous respect for the Task Force and the work they have done. They are an independent scientific body that makes recommendations based on scientific evidence; however they do not set official policy for the federal government. Under health reform, their recommendations would be used to identify preventive services that must be provided for little or no cost.

Won’t the USPSTF be used to ration care under health reform?

Absolutely not. The USPSTF, an independent task force made up of some of the nation’s top doctors and scientists provides science-based recommendations regarding the most effective preventive, treatment and screening services. The Task Force’s recommendations would be used to help determine the types of services that must be provided for at little or no cost and the Task Force would have no power to deny insurance coverage in any way..

What do these recommendations mean for the current health reform bills?

While the bills are still being drafted and debated in Congress, health insurance reform legislation generally calls for the Task Force’s recommendations to help determine the types of preventive services that must be provided for little or no cost. The recommendations alone cannot be used to deny treatment.

http://www.youtube.com/v/VA5GOSiZ9Q8&hl=en&fs=1&Over 50,000 die every year for lack of health care and more for denial of care despite having health insurance. That’s well over 100 deaths per day. 50 million (and growing) in the U.S. have no health care at all. This is why nine Lieberman constituents and members of Mobilization for Health Care Now were arrested today as they sat-in Lieberman’s DC office and demanded to see him.

Five of the Lieberman Nine have been released. The other four intend to stay in jail until Lieberman meets with them to discuss rejecting the money he accepts from insurance companies!

Meanwhile ABC News reports: “Later we will see much a larger protest from the other side of the political spectrum as potentially thousands of protesters gather with Republican lawmakers on the West side of the Capitol. Those protesters will lobby against Democrats’ health care bills in large part because they include a public option..”

Congress is getting it from all sides. Their compromises with the insurance industry infuriate progressives and as weak as what’s left of a public option is, the right are protesting it’s inclusion. You can’t please everyone so you may as well have a single payer system, medicare for all, problem solved, which is what is buzzing about as we hear that Pelosi is allowing a vote on the Weiner amendment for a single payer system!

Huff post reports the following:

Nine protesters were arrested Thursday in a demonstration at the office of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to demand that he pledge to stop accepting from the health insurance industry.

Lieberman, who last week said he would join a GOP filibuster of any health care bill with a government-run public option, has accepted about $1.5 million from health professionals and insurance agencies since 2003, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Twenty protesters, including four students from the University of Connecticut, marched into the senator’s office in the morning and demanded to speak with him. Aides denied their request, offering constituents a closed-door meeting with two legislative aides, which was rejected. Nine protesters then staged a sit-in, saying they would not leave the office until they could have a discussion with the senator in person.

“We’re waiting to see if the senator for Aetna is ready to be the senator for the people,” explained one protester, Kai, who wouldn’t give his last name. Aetna has spent over two million dollars on lobbying in 2009, and has donated $65,000 to Lieberman’s campaign committee.

Within 10 minutes of the protesters’ arrival, Capitol police were on the scene. They dragged away nine protesters, including two of Lieberman’s Connecticut constituents, as Senate staffers watched from the lobby and office hallways.

After the arrests, five of the remaining protesters continued on to Lieberman’s committee hearing, which was already underway. They stood in the back of the chamber and quietly held up signs reading “Patients Not Profits” and “Insurance $$$ Makes Me Sick.”

“It’s ironic Lieberman is chairing this meeting on corporate crimes,” said Medea Benjamin, who characterized the practice of accepting campaign donations from health insurance companies as criminal.

Mobilization for Health Care has a petition to sign urging Lieberman to “publicly pledge that he will no longer accept any money from any insurance companies.

Over 2000 signed this petition within just a few hours of this story breaking.

http://www.youtube.com/v/oAawqXBUzhc&hl=en&fs=1&Med students have gone to Congress to plead with them to stop provisions in health care legislation that would outlaw affordable generic drugs for the sake of protecting corporate competition. They have seen first hand how people suffer and die because of the inability to obtain life saving drugs, a painful, slow, horrible death for many. This is sadistic. Sign the petition to help.

http://current.com/e/91088270/en_US
President Obama recently mentioned at a town hall on health care reform that he didn’t support a single payer system because it would be too disruptive. He didn’t explain what he meant by disruptive but industry professionals assume he refers to health insurance industry management and employees who would become jobless in short order under a single payer system. It’s not clear if management outnumbers other employees. 

Obama is keeping these insurance industry jobs on as part of the government public option plan to persist health insurance industry control over people’s health care. Even without a public option, insurance companies stand to have an even better stake in the health care market. The future looks bright for health care insurance employees who will be able to continue their never ending thankless job of denying health claims to people in need of medical care. 

The 45,000 people who die every year due to lack of health care and from denial of insurance as well as the 14,000 daily who lose their health insurance are apparently forsaken for the few hundred thousand jobs in the health insurance industry. What’s a few hundred thousand lives and disrupted families every few years to as many well fed well paid industry office workers’ jobs? We need to have at least one or two industries that continue to make record profits while the rest of us face financial ruin. 

The move by Obama is in line with America’s ongoing shift toward corporate welfare socialism. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not have a single payer type system to ensure all it’s citizens have health care and have healthy productive lives. It’s not certain if this fact is the symptom or the result of America slipping into the list of third world countries where 5% or less of the population control 95% or more of the country’s wealth and power. America is no longer considered a democracy by most people who understand the meaning of the term. We are at best an oligarchy, with our government under corporate control by the wealthy few.

In light of America’s failure to deliver health care, despite our advanced technology (only available to the very rich here) we now rank 37th in the world in health care. France is number one.

My suggestion is that Americans stop buying health insurance if they can avoid it. Vote with your wallet. That’s the only thing these people understand.