Archive for August, 2009

Health Care Reform — Now It’s Personal — Obama Video Address: August 22, 2009

In this week’s video address, President Obama takes another stab at calming fears about impending health care reform legislation. The basic points:

  • The new bill will federally fund abortions — BUNK
  • The new bill will make it easier for illegal aliens to get free health care — BUNK
  • The new bill will incentivise euthanasia — BUNK
  • The new bill is a total takeover of the health care system — BUNK

Obama repeats another statement that he has been making consistently and that up until recently I felt was misleading. He stated that if you like your current insurance you’ll get to keep it. I have always argued that your insurance choices are dictated by your company and if they dump all choices but the public option, then you will indeed have to make a change. I tuned into Obama’s meeting with Organizing for America (OFA) at the DNC headquarters last week and finally someone asked him how this statement could be true. For the first time I heard an answer. The bill will contain what Obama referred to as a “firewall” which will explicitly make it illegal for companies to “dump” their employees into the public option. With this measure in place, my only major misgiving about the legislation has been answered.

In the days since Obama recorded this message, the fight for health care has become even more personal. Of course, for Obama it always was since his mother spent her final months fighting with insurance companies to pay for her cancer treatments. But the latest event to make the matter more personal was the passing last night of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts. Kennedy spent decades fighting for universal health care and it was a prime imperative that he thrust upon the new President, even before Obama was elected.

Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about the politicization of Kennedy’s death. There seems to be a theme emerging among politicians with a pro-reform agenda, that to oppose the new health care bill is to dishonor the memory of Senator Kennedy. I consider this emotional blackmail and to some degree, disrespectful of the late Senator. Be that as it may, Kennedy himself would probably be quite pleased if his death “guilted” the opposition into cooperating with reform. We shall see what the impact is in the coming weeks.

And now the President of the United States of America:

The Kennedy Paradox

While we’re on the subject of Kennedy’s passing, one cannot let the event go by without discussing the unusual paradox that is the Kennedy clan. Legend has it that John and Robert Kennedy were voracious philanderers, even going so far as to “share” Marilyn Monroe. Ted Kennedy’s own presidential aspirations were ruined by his own detestable handling of an automobile accident at Chappaquiddick in which a female former campaign worker of Robert Kennedy was killed. We live in a forgiving country (can anyone say “David Vitter”?) and had the accident at Chappaquiddick happened last year and not 40 years ago, I still think the ultimate reaction would have been of forgiveness.

Yet the paradox remains. Embodied in the Kennedy brothers was at once an unsteady moral compass, at least in matters of sexuality, and a dogged commitment to public service. Few men have served this country so long and with such dedication as Ted Kennedy. There are those for whom Chappaquiddick erases any good deeds Kennedy did before or since. For me, the Kennedy’s teach us how complicated it is to be a human being and how readily good and evil can co-exist within us all.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

August 27, 2009 at 12:02 am 476 comments

How the Death Panel Gets You Your 15 Minutes of Fame

This morning I watched the extended interview between Jon Stewart and Betsy McCaughey and I have to admit it saddens me that it takes a comedian to show what a horse’s ass this woman is. If only this interview could have been conducted before Sarah Palin took the dynamite stick and lit a match to it, perhaps the entire “Death Panel” controversy could have been averted.

For your reference, here are links to the full interview:–1—betsy-mccaughey-extended-interview-pt–1—betsy-mccaughey-extended-interview-pt–2

While Ms. McCaughey apparently lost her Director position at a medical device company, she at least managed to get more than her 15 minutes of fame. This got me to thinking that perhaps my fast track to fame could go similarly. Join me on a flight of fancy for a few moments:

The House of Representatives writes a bill to help inner city kids. A portion of Bill 1234ABC appears below:

Article 1.
Every year, 2.5 million dollars shall be allocated across the country to establish and maintain playgrounds in inner city neighborhoods so that children will have a safe and constructive place to congregate, keeping them off the streets and out of mischief.

Article 2.
To monitor the progress of this program, volunteers shall be solicited by the government to periodically visit these playgrounds, observe the activities and conditions there, and report back on findings.

Blogger Rutherford Lawson reads the bill and alarms go off in his head. Who are these volunteers monitoring the playgrounds? Will they be given background checks as part of the volunteer process? Bill sounds dangerous. We don’t want “strange” people observing kids at playgrounds.

Lawson’s comments go into limited circulation until they are seen by several vocal national figures. The story progresses:

Sarah Palin writes on her Facebook page: “I will not allow my Down Syndrome baby to grow up in a country that allows child rapists to salivate over his every move! A country that allows this is a country that is evil.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner comments: “I knew that President Obama and I disagreed on a lot of policy issues, but I never believed until now that he supported perverts.”

Michele Bachmann: “This is the first step down a slippery slope to Saddam and Gonorrhea! Oh, by the way, God told me to say that.”

Michelle Malkin: “My investigative efforts have unearthed the following critical fact. Have you ever noticed that in the immediate aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death, Obama never condemned the freak for his history of child abuse? What does this say about our President?”

Before you know it, the protesters are out in full force. This is just one of the posters seen at rallies:

Uncle Sam Perv

Well, now all I need to do is find a real bill, totally distort it, and then I’m off to the races!

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

August 22, 2009 at 4:36 pm 142 comments

30 Years to Life — or Cancer, Whichever Comes First

Apparently we have entered the age of  “compassion” for the guilty.

The first case that struck me was that of the “Great Train Robber”, Ronnie Biggs. Ronnie was convicted in the early 60’s of a huge haul from a mail train. During the heist, a man was knocked unconscious but not killed. Ronnie was sentenced to 30 years in the slammer. Ronnie escaped and spent about the entire time of his sentence on the run, much of it in Brazil. In 2001, Ronnie, his health on the decline, suddenly decided he’d be better off in a British prison and surrendered himself to the authorities. Now by my reckoning, that means old Ronnie should not have been released from prison until 2031. But you see, old Ronnie got pneumonia and the Brits felt sorry for him and commuted his sentence. As it turns out, he was too ill to actually leave the prison hospital and as far as I know, he is there to this day.

When I first heard the story I said to myself “what gives”? He’s sick. So what? He was sentenced and the sentence should be served. Little did I know that just a couple of weeks later a new case would make the Biggs story look like Romper Room.

On August 20, Scotland released Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi who had been serving a life sentence for involvement in the explosion of Flight 103 over Lockerbie. Was his case overturned on appeal? No. He was released on “compassionate” grounds because he has termnal prostate cancer. The only form of death penalty that I favor is the spiritual death that results from a lifetime in prison. There are people who show such reckless disregard for life that they should not be allowed to live among civilized people.  Megrahi was one such person.

I watched a relative of one of the victims of Flight 103 comment this morning. She said that she found it so ironic that this man was boarding a plane that would safely take him home to Libya, when his actions 21 years earlier made Flight 103 the last flight any of its victims would ever take.

This post does not need to be a long one. The time for compassion is at sentencing. If there are mitigating circumstances that dictate that a man should not go to jail for life, then you don’t sentence him to life. If you do sentence him to life, it means until he dies and it doesn’t matter what he dies of … stabbed and beaten by other inmates, or prostate cancer. It does not matter. A life sentence is a life sentence.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

August 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm 31 comments

My New Hero: House Representative Anthony Weiner

Why do I call Anthony Weiner, Democratic Representative from New York, my new hero? Weiner is the first politician (including Barack Obama) that I have heard make a bold and unambiguous stand on health care reform. He says very simply to extend Medicare to everyone. His interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is a brisk cool breeze blowing through the humid murky summer discussions of this topic. The host, Joe Scarborough is a former Republican Representative from Florida and the lone conservative voice on the otherwise ultra-liberal cable channel.

This video is broken into two parts and is well worth the watch.

Notice when Weiner asks Scarborough what value private insurance brings to the table, Scarborough is speechless.

Notice Weiner’s salient points:

  • What value does the health insurance industry add to the health care “transaction”?
  • When has the health insurance industry ever operated at 4% overhead?
  • Why does the Medicare “CEO” make $250,000.00 compared to the several million made by a private insurance CEO?
  • What would a 50 year old man who was just laid off say if offered Medicare?

How does Scarborough react? He basically says that Weiner’s solution is a government takeover of health care and an interference with free market capitalism.

Baloney! We are confusing financial mechanisms with delivery mechanisms. Health care is about doctors and hospitals providing the best care possible to their patients. No one is suggesting that the government can do that better than private health care providers. No one is suggesting a government takeover of health care. Health care is something that can be shopped for and the free market system is the best way to find the best doctors.

On the other hand, reimbursing people for their health care expenses is not a commodity. It is what should be a simple financial transaction based on using pooled money from member contributed premiums to lower out of pocket cost to patients. There is no skill involved in this financial transaction. There is no special trick that makes one health care insurance provider any better at this than any other. There is no value add. It is a financial transaction that should be executed with the lowest possible overhead, and with no discrimination against the premium payers. Much of the current debate revolves around preserving the health insurance industry. Why? As Weiner says, what value do they add to the transaction?

If you were 50 years old and just laid off and you therefore lost your employer based private health care, wouldn’t you very likely think at some point, “man, I sure wish I could get Medicare.”? Why is it that the very next thing that everyone says after they decry “socialized medicine” is “don’t touch my Medicare”?

Do we expand Medicare in one fell swoop? Of course not. Too much too soon. We phase it in by age. In 2010 extend Medicare to 55 and older. In 2011, 45 and older. In 2012, 35 and older  and so on.

The argument that Medicare is going broke is a diversion. Costs are rising in private insurance as well. The difference is private insurance can always raise rates on a captive customer base. The answer to the argument is you fix Medicare and extend it. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Republicans will work to defeat any change in the status quo so why settle on half measures? Let’s enact legislation that is at once simple and bold. Obama needs to take a page from my new hero.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

August 19, 2009 at 12:20 am 178 comments

Bucking the Status Quo — Obama Video Address: August 15, 2009

This week, President Obama continues to hammer home his campaign for health care reform. He highlights the extremes to which reform opponents will go to scare the crap out of you. Bogeyman number 1 of course are the “death panels” made famous (and made up entirely) by former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.

As I wrote in a prior post, Obama may be trying to do too much with this initiative. Recent changes in tone from Washington indicate that the administration is starting to realize this. The controversial “public option” is being deemphasized in recent discussions. The end of life counseling that inspired the Death Panels lie, may also be off the table. The far left will say this is a bad thing. I don’t necessarily agree. Surely there are ways to encourage true competition in the health insurance industry without ongoing government intervention. As I said last week, much of what ails the insurance industry can probably be fixed by tougher regulation.

But make no mistake, some of the folks opposing reform have been itching for a fight going all the way back to the 1960’s and earlier. There was a revealing moment on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday when Dick Armey, lobbyist extraordinaire, was basically forced to admit he opposes Medicare and Social Security. Let more politicians echo that sentiment and then watch how fast the elderly whom they’ve scared with Death Panels, turn on them. In fact, I quite delighted last week in watching Lawrence O’Donnell, sitting in for Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” nail all these opponents of socialized programs. He asked them if, since they opposed Obamacare because it’s a government program, then surely they must oppose Medicare and Social Security. Not a single one would agree. You see logical consitency might lose them the entire elderly vote in 2010.

Politicians, including a disturbing number of Democrats, simply don’t want to rock the boat. Logical consistency be damned. No socialized medicine because it will turn us into a fascist state except for all the socialized medicine we already have. Just keep the status quo. If we change anything, voters might not like us anymore and of course, that is what government is all about right? Winning the popularity contest.

If we take any message from this week’s video address, it’s that the status quo will not do. If you want a bureaucrat between you and your health care, keep things as they are. Since the bureaucrat works for the insurance industry, that makes it ok, right?

And now the President of the United States of America:

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

August 18, 2009 at 12:02 am 41 comments

The Latest Hit by the Bachmann-Palin Overdrive

It’s been a long ten months since the musical muse last visited me. That song was in honor of John McCain and his then notorious brother.

Lately I’ve been humming songs by that great Canadian import the Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Today after hearing one more idiotic story about Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman from Minnesota, I was struck again by musical inspiration.

So here for your trivial consumption is my first song for the newly formed duo, the Bachmann-Palin Overdrive:

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (sung to the tune of, of course, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”)

I used to be the Governor
I was having fun all day
They made me run for VP
Then they took my fun away

I say that any fame is good fame
So I take what I can get
Yes I take what I can get
And then I wink at you with my big brown eyes
and say

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
No b-b-baby you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
I’ll say something stupid that you never will forget
No no no you ain’t seen nothin’ yet

(I need to be educated
Gotta go to school.)

Now I’m from Minnesota
I do not have a brain
I say stuff that is crazy
Folks think that I’m insane
But I say any fame is good fame
So I take what I can get
Yes I take what I can get
and then I look at you with my crazy eyes
And say you ain’t seen nothin’ yet
B-b-b-baby you just ain’t seen n-n-n-nuthin yet
I’ll say something dumbass that you never will forget
No no no you ain’t seen n-n-n-uthin yet

I let them interview me
Wearing fishing wader pants
The government will kill you
If you give them half a chance

I say that any fame is good fame
So I take what I can get
Yes I take what I can get
And then I wink at you with my big brown eyes
and say

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet
No b-b-baby you ain’t seen nothin’ yet
I like to shoot down wolves while riding in a jet
No no no you aint’ seen nothin’ yet

You know I fear the census
It’s a socialistic plot
And all my peers in Congress
Want our government to rot

But I say any fame is good fame
So I take what I can get
Yes I take what I can get
and then I look at you with my crazy eyes
And say you ain’t seen nothin’ yet
B-b-b-baby you just ain’t seen n-n-n-nuthin yet
I sputter nonsense like I suffer from Tourette
No no no you ain’t seen n-n-n-uthin yet

(I need educatin’
Gotta go to school)

(Michele and Sarah)
We two girls have a tactic
We’re crazy like a fox
We want to scare the masses
When we talk outside the box

We say that any fame is good fame
So we take what we can get
Yes we take what we can get
And then we look at you with those vacant eyes
And say you ain’t seen nothin’ yet
B-b-b-baby you just ain’t seen n-n-n-nuthin yet
We’re a crackpot and a beauty pageant vet
No no no you ain’t seen n-n-n-uthin yet

Respectfully (?),
Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

August 15, 2009 at 6:00 pm 77 comments

Straight Talk or Dodge? Obama Video Address: August 8, 2009

In this week’s video address, after making a brief comment about some (minimally) positive economic news, Obama gave a cursory discussion of the health care debate going on today. He used a phrase that really got me thinking: consumer protection.

Just how much better would this bill be going down if it had been framed as a consumer protection bill, a bill that protects those who have health care from unscrupulous insurance companies and those who don’t have health care at all. To do this, you eliminate the so called “public option” and you simply legislate serious regulation of the insurance industry. What could be regulated?

  1. Caps on premiums.
  2. Low cost plans tailored for the poor with corresponding premium caps.
  3. Minimum standards of coverage must be met by agencies. i.e. mental health coverage, end of life consultations, etc.
  4. Prohibition on denial of service based on prior condition.
  5. Prohibition of termination of coverage when a claim is made.
  6. Mandatory enrollment in SOME plan for everyone (so that the premium pool is large enough to fund claims). You drive a car, you have to insure it. You have a body, you have to insure that too.
  7. Don’t touch Medicaid and Medicare except to enhance efficiencies and eliminate waste.

Couldn’t these measures be legislated, perhaps by establishing a regulatory agency that would vet every private insurer for compliance? The cost to taxpayers making more than $250,000.00 a year would be neglible and there would be no perception that government was taking over health care.

Well, that’s not the course we’re on. While I maintain that the air is full of melodrama right now, with Chicken Little’s of all persuasions running around yelling and screaming, I don’t think the White House or Congress has done a good job of education and that is perhaps because the bills being discussed at least sound like they are doing too much too soon.

A much more informative discussion of these issues took place at a New Hampshire town hall meeting hosted by Obama today. I watched the town hall live.  A good “live blog” of the town hall can be found here. Obama dismissed some of the foolshness going on but “dodged” a couple of points that will continue to undermine his effort until he frankly discusses them.

The Highlights:

  1. Obama dispelled the death panel rumor.  There is a provision that will allow patients to be reimbursed for advisory sessions with their doctor concerning end of life issues. Period.
  2. Health care will be rationed … nonsense. Health care is already rationed. This legislation will restrict companies from denying coverage or dropping coverage altogether based on prior illness or an expensive claim based on sudden catastrophic illness.
  3. If it’s good enough for us why not good enough for Congress? A nonsensical argument … we will be given a plan comparable to what Congress already has. Our public option will resemble their Federal Plan. Why do they need to be on a plan comparable to what they already have?
  4. The “snitch list”: One town hall questioner made a passing reference to and Obama pounced on it. He griped that he makes an attempt to hear what people are thinking about and he gets accused of creating an “enemies list”. I’ve stated before (in the comments section of earlier posts) that the so called snitch list was a good idea executed poorly.

The Lowlights (and Dodges?):

  1. Obama repeated something he has said all along, namely that if you like your current doctor and your current plan, you won’t have to change. The problem is that Obama has no control over this. He is writing a check he can’t cash. If the public option lowballs all private insurance, and private insurance refuses to lower their premiums, employers will choose to offer their employees ONLY the public option. This would indeed force employees onto the public option with a potential change in coverage and doctor. Until Obama acknowledges this possibility, he will take a credibility hit.
  2. He was asked why he changed his mind from being for  single payer years ago but not for single payer now. I was quite disappointed to see Obama completely dodge this question. He reiterated his support for the current plan which is not single payer, but he did not acknowledge his prior position (which is well documented) nor why or whether he has had a true change of heart.
  3. In an attempt to assert that the public plan will not drive private insurance out of business, he said, “If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.” Yikes! If he had just said UPS and FedEx are doing fine he would have made his point but then he went the extra mile and said the USPS is having problems. What does that say? Private insurance will do just fine because the public option will be the one that’s “always having problems”? Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

This blogger concludes that the Obama administration has lost control of the message in large part because the message is too complex. Consumers love to be protected. Make the bill about consumer protection and then we’re in business!

And now the President of the United States of America:

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

August 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm 402 comments

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