Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reform Debate Continues To Be Dishonest - Business As Usual

I don't watch the Senate and House debates on C-SPAN much anymore because it only frustrates me to listen to the dishonest arguments.

Yesterday the Senate was debating Health Care Reform.  One of the Republicans said that the Democrats wish to reduce the Federal income tax medical expense deduction.  Unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income are currently deductible.  The Democrats propose raising the limit to 10%.  The senator stated that this would result in a tax increase that would affect middle income families the most.  He stated that the tax increase for a family with an income of $57,000 would be more than $3,000, which is a gross overstatement.

A family with an adjusted gross income of $57,000 can currently deduct unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of $4,275.  The Democrats propose to raise this to $5,700 (10% of $57,000).  The maximum difference between the current and the proposed is $1,425 if the family's unreimbursed expenses equal or exceed $5,700.  A family with a taxable income of $57,000 will pay federal income tax at the rate of 13.54%.  Therefore, the maximum impact of the Democratic proposal is 13.54% of $1,425 or $193.

The typical family of four earning $57,000 doesn't have unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding 7.5% so most families will not be affected by this change.  The families and individuals that do have unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding 7.5% are likely to see those expenses reduced by far more than $193 due to positive affects of health care reform - reduced insurance premiums, increased coverage, lower costs for service and drugs.

The good senator's misinformation is not going to cause any Democrats or Republicans to vote against the proposal as long as they have a basic understanding of the tax laws and middle-school mathematics.  Therefore, the senator had no expectation of impacting the results of a Senate vote on reform.  Was he trying to mislead the C-SPAN audience?  I think the number of C-SPAN viewers who could be mislead by the senator's false statements is very small.  If responsible news media reported on the senator's statements, I hope that they recognized that the statements were false and reported them as such.

So... the good senator has perhaps only delayed voting on the bill, which was probably his sole purpose - keep talking to delay a vote.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Unemployment Lags In The Economic Recovery

Obama's stimulus bill is taking a hit, again, because unemployment is not dropping in spite of other improvements in the economy.  Unemployment did not increase as rapidly as the economy slowed down, either.  Many employers tried to weather what they hoped would be a shorter recession since the cost of restaffing when business resumes is significant, especially because rehiring would introduce new employees who must be trained.

Many companies were forced to shutdown when the economy collapsed and many of them will not reopen as their pre-collapse business is assumed by their competitors who were able to survive through the collapse.  When the pre-collapse business volume resumes, fewer companies will be needed to satisfy the demand.  The total employment of these companies will be less than the pre-collapse employment for a couple of reasons.

Economy of scale allows companies to produce more with fewer employees.  When the typical business doubles its volume it usually can do so without doubling its employment.

A second factor, which contributes to the lagging employment, is that the companies that survived did so in part because they made changes that reduced their overhead and production costs.  These companies learned how to survive with fewer employees and less overhead.  As the business volume recovers many of these companies are able to meet their pre-collapse business volume with fewer employees.

New businesses will be required to reduce unemployment and the unemployed must be retrained to do different work.  New business will come in part from new Green industries.  Developing the new technologies will create new jobs.  New businesses resulting from the new technologies will require new employees.

We should expect unemployment to lag the rest of the economy.  The stimulus was focused on maintaining state and local government employment in spite of decreases in state and local tax revenue.  The stimulus was also focused on directly stimulating the economy through infrastructure improvement projects.  Although these projects do not create permanent private sector employment, they do put money directly into the economy through the workers employed and the construction materials required.

I'm pleased with the rate of recovery of the economy.  We shouldn't expect a complete resumption of the old business as usual.  Survival required permanent change and the changes are incomplete.  If we allow our government to stimulate the development of new technologies through tax incentives and spending, the needed changes can be made and will be made sooner and America will be better in the end.

Hang in there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deference Rather Than Political Correctness Contributed to the Ft. Hood Shootings

Many people are claiming that the Army failed to prevent the shootings at Ft. Hood by Major Hasan because they were being politically correct.  One such person is Sarah Palin who recently made such a claim on Sean Hannity's TV show.  Palin said, "profiling in the context of saving innocent American lives, I'm all for it."  This is the same excuse that Dick Cheney uses to justify the use of torture.

Like Sarah Palin, these people blame Liberals for forcing our society to be politically correct to the extent that government and business is handicapped by it.  Sarah Palin said that the Army failed to properly deal with Major Hasan because it would not risk being accused of profiling.  "I say, profile away," Palin said. Such political correctness, she continued, "could be our downfall."

A fear of political incorrectness is not why the Army did not discharge Major Hasan for being unfit.  If the military was concerned about political correctness they would not have discharged more than 13,000 personnel in 16 years for violating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

I think the single biggest reason that the Army did not prevent the Ft. Hood shootings is that they willfully neglected to respond to the abundant evidence that Major Hasan was a risk to the safety of other military personnel.  A contributing factor to their neglect is that military officers are reluctant to punish other officers.

I witnessed this when I was in the Navy.  In fact, one of my ship's captains was unfit in many ways.  One such way affected me personally.  As a seaman apprentice I was assigned to take navigational readings whenever the ship was exiting or entering a harbor.  When I was promoted I was given a new assignment, however, the captain was not satisfied with my replacement's performance during foul weather and ordered me to perform the task whenever the weather was bad.  Eventually, the captain made the assignment permanent, however, this was not a reason to find the captain unfit but this is only the beginning of the story.

After having performed this task dozens of times during a period of more than 2 years without incident, the captain flew into a rage near the end of one such detail and had me removed from the bridge.  After the incident the captain said nothing to me or my supervisor to explain what I had done wrong.  On the very next and all future occasions of performing this duty, the captain threw me off the bridge just before the detail would have ended.  The captain never mentioned these events afterward and nobody ever asked him for an explanation.

After six months of being thrown of the bridge, the ship's executive officer - the second in command - called me to his cabin shortly before a detail was to begin.  He told me that he did not know why the captain was acting this way and he said that protocol prevented him from asking the captain for an explanation.  He then instructed me that the navigator would thereafter relieve me just before the time when the captain typically threw me off the bridge.  The executive officer assured me that the captain would not require me to return to the bridge only to throw me off.  He was right.  For the next several months until my honorable discharge, I slipped off the bridge just before the captain would throw me off.

Years later, the officer who had been my captain was tried at court-martial for forcing one of his male stewards to have sex with him.  The court-martial found him non-guilty.  However, at a ship's crew reunion almost 40 years after my discharge, one of the officers who had served with me, told me that all the officers knew that the captain was abusing one of his stewards.

In the 1950's Humphrey Bogart played Captain Queeg in the movie The Caine Mutiny.  Officers under Queeg relieved him of his command because they were convinced that he put the ship and its crew at risk.  When those officers were court-martialed for mutiny, questioning by the naval lawyer for the defense caused Captain Queeg to reveal just how mentally unfit he was and the officers were found not guilty.  However, after the trial, the defense attorney told them that he was ashamed of having destroyed Queeg's career and that they should have, out of respect for Queeg, made the effort needed to avoid the mutiny that destroyed Queeg.

That's the attitude that allowed my ship's captain to serve for decades when everybody knew he was unfit and I think that the same attitude was a factor in the Army's neglect regarding Major Hasan.

The Department of Defense is going to thoroughly investigate the Ft. Hood incident.  They will identify causes and might assign blame but the attitude that an officer, as a gentlemen, is owed deference at any cost, will not be raised as an issue.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Representative Chaffetz Thinks Carrie Prejean Has Star Power For Politics

Utah's Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz thinks that Carrie Prejean has the star power needed for success in politics.  Rep. Chaffetz said, "[Carrie] has the ability to draw crowds and if she has a strong message to go with that, who knows what she can do? She has star power which can open doors."

This is the facial expression that reveals what Chaffetz is really "thinking" while he is speaking of the doors that Carrie can open.  Star Power?  Was Chaffetz thinking of Prejean's sex videos?

I wonder what the voters in Utah were thinking when they elected this adolescent to our Congress.  Let's hope the newspapers in Utah run Chaffetz' interview about Prejean on Page 1.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Detainees Will Be Tried In US Civilian Court

US Attorney General Eric Holder made a courageous decision to try the GITMO detainees in a civilian court. Courageous because most Americans disagree with Holder's decision even though they know nothing about the US laws and international treaties that apply to the detainees.  Worse yet, they probably don't care about the applicable laws and treaties.

Holder's opposition argues that the detainees will escape US prisons or other terrorists will invade the US in order to free the detainees. These are the same terrorists who are not already terrorizing our homeland because they can't. The detainees who are expected to escape our supermax prisons and professional guards have as yet to escape from GITMO's chainlink fences and military police.  But, our security is not the only reason given for not trying the detainees in the US.

US Senator James Webb (D-VA), past Secretary of the Navy, claims that trying the detainees in civilian court is "potentially counterproductive" by which Webb means that one or more of the detainees might not be found guilty by a civilian court. Either Webb has no confidence in our civilian courts or he IS confident that a military tribunal is the only sure means for finding all the detainees guilty. Webb isn't interested in being just, which should be as great a concern for Americans as for the detainees.  We aren't a just society unless we treat everyone justly. Anything less will not only diminish our society; it will diminish America internationally.

Of course, many conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, think that America is superior to all other nations and can and should when convenient act above our laws and international treaties.  These are the same people that accuse President Obama of "apologizing" to other nations for our past conduct.  These are the people that justified torturing the detainees.

I believe that a fair trial, whether military or civilian, will find the guilty detainees "guilty" and the innocent detainees "not guilty."  However, I think that the world and especially the terrorists should see the detainees tried fairly in a civilian court rather than a military court.  Our imprisonment of the detainees and our refusal to try them in a court are recruiting assets for the terrorists.  It is important in the war against terrorists to resolve the detainee issue in our civilian courts in full view of the world and our enemies.  Saddam Hussein was tried in an Iraqi civilian court rather than a US military court because Saddam's crimes were crimes against Iraq not the United States and unfriendly nations could accept Saddam's trial and punishment by his people but not by the US military.  Trying the detainees in our civilian courts rather than our military courts will make it more difficult for our enemies to interpret these trials as unfair.

I also believe that our security will not be at risk because we have detainees in US prisons.  I especially believe that should our courts find any detainee to be not guilty, that detainee will not be a risk if he is released in the United States, furthermore, I don't anticipate that a detainee released in the US will opt to stay in the US.  I would leave as soon as possible if I were in that position.  Not only would this person be unwelcomed by many Americans, he would also be in danger of physical harm.

I congratulate Eric Holder on having the courage to make the right, albeit very unpopular, decision.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pat Robertson Attacks Muslims Again After Ft. Hood Shooting

Pat Robertson used the Ft. Hood shooting to again denounce Islam on the 700 Club, his personal platform for making sick prophecies and violent condemnations.  Robertson claimed that Islam is not a religion but a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination.  Robertson urged that Muslims be treated as we would communists and fascists.

For a moment I was confused, I thought Robertson was referring to Evangelical Christians when he spoke of world domination but in this case it was only "the pot calling the kettle black."

Robertson can't see that he is what he claims his enemies to be.  Robertson is everything that a Christian should not be.

Here are several Robertson quotes from to remind you just how intolerant and hateful this being is.

  • "Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."
  • "Lord, give us righteous judges who will not try to legislate and dominate this society. Take control, Lord! We ask for additional vacancies on the court.”
  • "Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."
  • Regarding “gay days” at Disneyworld: "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate -- this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor."
  • "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
  • "I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period."
  • After city of Dover, PA dismissed its school board for deciding to add intelligent design to the curriculum: "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there."
  • Robertson explains why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke: "God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.' ... He was dividing God's land. And I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations, or the United States of America.' God says, 'This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'"
  • Calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The House Passes The Affordable Health Care For America Act!!!!!

I'm pleased but amazed that the House passed their health care reform bill.  I was beginning to think that Congress would not enact health care reform and we still lack a Senate bill and reconcilliation between the House and the Senate.  So there may still be a long way to go and we don't know what the final reform will include if Congress passes it.  I expected the House vote to be more strongly in favor of passage but it was close, passing with only a 2 vote margin.

The following is the content of an e-mail from my US Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT), which is his view of the process leading up to the passage.

Dear Friends,

Decades from now, I think I will look back on Saturday, November 7th, 2009 as one of the most important days I spent in public service. That is the day the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, marking an historic step in the hundred year fight to bring health care coverage to all American citizens. The bill will extend health coverage to millions of Americans, end the practice of pre-existing condition discrimination by insurers, lower health insurance costs for small businesses, and eliminate the Medicare drug donut hole for seniors. It’s a good bill, and Saturday was quite a day.

I thought you might enjoy a short behind-the-scenes look at a few of the more interesting moments over the last 24 hours.

Helping a New Congressman Get Started

On Election Day, New York’s 23rd District elected Bill Owens as their new Congressman. Bill ran as a pro-health care reform candidate in a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the Civil War, so he was preparing to cast one of his first votes for the health reform bill. One of my responsibilities here is to help oversee freshmen legislators as they navigate their way through Congress, so I started Saturday with a 9am meeting with Owens. For a guy who hasn’t slept in three weeks, Bill seemed remarkably chipper! We spent a little time walking him through the schedule of votes for the day so he wouldn’t be caught off guard by any of the amendments. He seems like a really sharp guy, and even has a nice Connecticut connection – his son is in his first year at UConn Law!

One Last Push for Votes

I firmly decided to support the bill this week, but as of Saturday, it was still unclear whether we had the votes to pass the bill. I offered my help to persuade the few remaining undecided Members, and I found that one of my close friends was on the list. At about 10 a.m. the first round of votes were called (on non-health care related bills), and I found him in the cloakroom off the House floor. He was forlorn. In his gut, he said, he wanted to vote for the bill, but he worried his constituents would not support a "yes" vote. This is always the toughest position for a legislator. I made the case for the bill, but I could tell his mind was made up. My constituents are in a different place than his, and so he needed to go his own way.

President Obama and Fox News

President Obama was scheduled to speak to the Democratic Caucus at 11am, which was timed well for me since I committed to do an interview on Fox News at noon. But President Obama was late, and he didn’t start speaking until 11:45am. Even worse, the producers at Fox News couldn’t get their act together, and every two minutes, they would e-mail to change the location for the interview. Finally, they agreed to do the interview right outside the Caucus room at 12:15pm. Unfortunately, President Obama was just hitting the high point of his speech when I had to run out. I thought to myself as I snuck out the back door, "What would President Obama think if he knew I was walking out on him to do an interview with Fox News!" Luckily, the interview went off without a hitch – a good conversation, and I know people were watching because they immediately called the office to let me know their thoughts on the bill.

My Speech on the Floor

I hate when this happens! When you speak on the House floor, especially on major bills like this one, the Chairmen of the relevant Committees divide up the debate time between people who want to speak. Friday night I was told I would have two minutes to speak, so I wrote a two minute speech. But as I was sitting on the floor, a few moments away from speaking, and an aide approached me to tell me that they were running short on time, and I needed to cut my remarks down to one minute. Argh! I furiously scratched out half of the paragraphs of my speech and hoped that what remained flowed. I scurried down to the well of the House at around 3pm and got my speech in just under the minute mark. I immediately got a text message from a friend: "Fabulous!" Whew.

The Vote

I spoke early in the debate, so I went back to my office to get some work done in the late afternoon. But as the debate continued, I felt like I had to be on the floor, to witness history in person. As the vote neared, more Members came to the floor, and by 10:30 p.m., when the votes were to begin on amendments and the bill, the chamber was jammed with 435 Members and seemingly just as many staff and guests in the gallery.

As the final vote approached, around 11 p.m., the atmosphere was simply electric. The word was out that we likely had the votes to pass the bill, but no one was celebrating yet. As the clock began, people didn’t waste time casting their vote, and quickly we were up to 214 in favor, four short of passage. But strangely, the total stalled here. Aides were rushing around with the list of missing votes, and it turned out the people that hadn’t voted were in favor of the bill. Where were they? With about five minutes left in the vote, we hit 217, and as the deciding vote was cast, the place erupted in sustained applause. Three more people, including one Republican, made it a 220-215 final.

As I write this final paragraph, the hour is nearing 12:30 a.m. This was a truly amazing day. The legislation certainly isn’t perfect, but it will extend health insurance to millions more Americans, lower costs for small businesses, and decrease the deficit. I was proud to vote for it, and play a role in its passage.

Now, just for that small matter of the Senate…

Every best wish,

Christopher S. Murphy

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Military Is Responsible For The Shootings At Ft. Hood

The Pentagon, the US Army and the Commander of Ft. Hood are responsible for the deaths of 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood.  Major Hasan was a devout Muslim who has for years openly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Major Hasan had asked for a discharge from the Army because he would not fight a war that he oppose conscientiously.  Federal law enforcement officials have revealed that six months ago Major Hasan became a suspect in the authoring of Internet postings that discussed homicide bombings and other threats.  Major Hasan is well known for arguing with military personnel who support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Major Hasan defended the acts of suicide bombers, whom he said did not commit suicide but rather sacrificed their lives for their fellow soldiers.

Why didn't law enforcement and/or the military take action to prevent what should have been an obvious risk of violence?

It's important to note that Ft. Hood has the highest suicide rate in the military.  Since 2003 they have averaged one suicide per month.

Now 13 murdered can be added to toll of lives lost at Ft. Hood under the ineffective and seemingly incurious command of our military.

I've complained about the higher than normal suicide rate of uniformed military personnel, not to mention veterans.  When I was in boot camp in San Diego in 1965 five recruits committed suicide and within my training company three recruits were discharged when they suffered severe emotional breakdowns.  These breakdowns were no surprise to their fellow recruits and our company commander, yet no preemptive active was taken.  These men were only hospitalized after they acted out uncontrollably.

The military also has a serious spousal abuse problem.  The rate has been increasing since the 1990's and is as high as 24 per 1,000 couples in the Army and Marines, 15 in the Navy and 14 in the Air Force.  The Dept. of Defense has sought help from civillian professionals to develop the means to prevent or properly respond to spousal abuse but the problem keeps growing.

If I were the parent or spouse of one of the soldiers killed or wounded at Ft. Hood I would sue the military for their wanton negligence.  The Dept. of Justice and the President should intervene to ensure that the military is doing everything possible to prevent violence and suicides in its ranks.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bush Tax Cuts Cost 2.5 Times As Much As Proposed Health Care Reform

The Republican Party has been complaining that Health Care Reform proposed by the Democrats is too expensive.  The cost has been estimated to be as much as $1 trillion over 10 years.  The GOP didn't complain when President GW Bush asked them for tax cuts that cost almost 2.5 times as much as Health Care Reform.  The Bush tax cuts (including interest) cost $2.485 trillion.  More than 30% of that benefitted the top 1% of wage earners.  That's worth almost $500,000 to each taxpayer in the top 1% compared to $7,200 to each taxpayer in the middle income category.

Health Care Reform will benefit everybody, whereas the Bush tax cuts benefitted the rich much more than the middle class and the poor.

The AMA and AARP both strongly endorsed the proposed health care reform but Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader, discounted both endorsements.  Cantor said the AARP is a Washington DC based organization that is not in touch with the people and the AMA does not reflect the opinion of its membership.  Congressman Cantor is more than willing to say anything in his effort to defeat health care reform.

Remember who the GOP is representing the next time you go to the polls to vote.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Maine Voters Repeal Same-Sex Marriage Law

Ignorance and Intolerance have a home in Maine.  The voters in Maine have reversed their legislature's decision that made same sex marriage legal.  The majority of the voters have been convinced by anti-gay activists that same sex marriage will destroy marriage and the family.  Same sex marriage could only help marriage statistics in America, which heterosexuals and especially fundamentalist Christians have already destroyed.  The very group that is fighting hardest against same sex marriage is statistically the group with the highest divorce rate in the US.

Good going knuckleheads!  Can I get an Amen!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Senator Mitch McConnell Says "Public Option May Cost You Your Life"

The man in this picture is warning the citizens of the United States that the Public Option for health care insurance coverage "may cost you your life."

Please note that this is also a picture of a lying jackass.  He goes by the name Mitch McConnell.  He is the senior United States senator from Kentucky and the senate minority leader.  God only knows how this jackass gets re-elected to the U.S. Senate but I bet that the good folks of Kentucky will re-elect him again.

McConnell is not representing the interests of the voters who elected him.  He has a history of representing the special interests that contribute generously to his campaigns.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named McConnell one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress in 2009.

McConnell's concern for the health of Americans is demonstrated by his support of the tobacco industry, which makes products that kill people.  In exchange for his support the tobacco industry has donated $419,000 to McConnell's campaign fund.

Apply the Rule of Common Sense when you listen to our elected officials.  Forrest Gump's mother would explain McConnell statement by saying "stupid is as stupid does."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Internet Freedom Act: John McCain Sells Out To The Telecom Industry

In my post Republicans Oppose FCC Policy Changes Intended To Ensure Net Neutrality I told you that several Republicans, led by Senator John Ensign (whose parents bribed his mistress' family to protect little Johnnie), were opposing proposed revisions to FCC policy intended to ensure net neutrality.  The policy changes would ensure that:
  • Network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.
  • Providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.
In that post I wondered what motive(s) these Republicans have for opposing policy that ensures that the Internet remains an open platform to which everyone has equal right and access.  I said then that opposing net neutrality is like allowing the bigger, richer oxygen-breather greater access and control over the oxygen in the atmosphere.

Simply opposing the policy changes wasn't adequate so Senator John McCain has proposed the Internet Freedom Act, which would allow internet service providers to give preferred handling to their own web content by slowing or blocking their competitor's access to other content on the Internet.

At what price has John McCain sold domination of the Internet to the telecom industry?  As of March 2008 McCain had received more than $750,000 from the telecom industry and its lobbyists.  In the last two years McCain has received a total of $894,000 from the telecom industry.  More than any other member of Congress.

One year ago John McCain admitted without hesitation that he knew nothing about the Internet and e-mailing and relied completely on others, especially his wife to handle Internet communications.  Not long after that admission one of McCain's senior policy advisors told reporters, "You're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped to create" while holding up his personal Blackberry.  But McCain didn't stop there!  With "tutoring" from the telecom lobbyists McCain is now the GOP's lead legislator for Internet matters.  It's amazing what one can achieve with a lot of money in such a short time when ethics don't get in the way.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Will Bank Executive Compensation Limits Weaken Banks?

President Obama has limited the salary and bonuses of employees of banks that received and have not repaid TARP funds. The banks affected complain that their valuable employees will leave for jobs at banks that aren't affected. The affected banks warn that their performance will suffer.

I would prefer that the compensation be determined by the shareholders of all publicly traded companies instead of the boards of directors but that is not how it is done. I think the shareholders would if the could reduce compensation more than President Obama. So, I agree with President Obama's limit on compensation.

Why would the banks that did not need TARP funds or have already repaid the funds want to hire the executives of banks that have yet to fully recover? If you were the CEO of a successful bank would you replace your employees with those from unsuccessful banks? I wouldn't.

Here's another way to look at this matter. If we gave every American who is unemployed by Wall Street's collapse of the economy an equal share of all Wall Street bonuses this year each share would worth more than $30,000. Who deserves that money more?

Fools And Liars Should Be Excluded From The Health Care Reform Debate!

Recently, I participated in an online discussion about whether it is ever reasonable to refuse to debate with somebody and whether a tolerant person would refuse. I'm of the opinion that it is sometimes reasonable for a tolerant person to not debate.

We all know to "never argue with a fool" but, fool or not, we also should not bebate with anybody who is not acting in good faith.

The current health care reform is one such occasion when refusing to debate is reasonable.  Most, if not all, of the legislators who oppose health care reform are in my opinion either fools or not acting in good faith.

Representative Michele Bachmann is an excellent example of a fool with whom we should not debate.  Bachmann assures us that the government will establish death panels under the proposed reform legislation and, in my opinion, only a fool could believe in death panels.

Senator Jon Kyl is an example of a person who will not debate in good faith.  Although 60% of the health care insurance providers will not cover maternity care, Jon Kyl disagrees with requiring all health care insurers to cover maternity care.  Why?  Jon Kyl stated that he does not personally require maternity care coverage and therefore does not want to pay for it.  I say that Jon Kyl is not debating in good faith and does not deserve to participate in the health care reform debate.

The Senate and the House should ensure that their members are acting responsibly and should censure its members when they do not.

I do not doubt that some people will claim that Michele Bachmann's speech is protected under the Constitution but I argue that Congress is responsible for representing the People accurately and fairly and any other conduct is a corruption of our government.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Arianna Huffington: "How About a Little Coverage of the Millions of At-Risk Kids Not Trapped in a Balloon (or Hiding in the Attic)?"

The following post by Arianna Huffington asks why the media (and Americans) will devote so much attention and sympathy on the "Balloon Boy" and so little time on the millions of children that are at risk every day in America. In my opinion, we watch news coverage of stories like the "Balloon Boy" just as millions of us watch TV tragedies like "Law and Order - Special Victims Unit." It's usually a fast, short, emotional and sometimes "feel good" immersion in life's trials. We get a jolt and can immediately go back to our lives. The end of the TV show, whether happy or sad, is a convenient end to our involvement. For millions of at risk children in America the drama doesn't end. There is no happy ending for most of them and certainly no end to the reasons that millions of children live at risk.

The media doesn't often show us all the children who are really and continually at risk and frankly most Americans don't want to be reminded that this problem exists, is getting worse and seems to be unfixable. Most attempts to solve this problem are smothered by politics and any so-called solution will result in an increase in our taxes. None of us wants to hear "increase in our taxes." Most of us are moved by the harsh reality that is life for millions of children but not so moved that we collectively solve or significantly improve the lives of all or most of these children. It would be so convenient if life's tragedies were one-hour TV shows but alas they are not and, worse yet, most of us are not the hero or the heroine.

How About a Little Coverage of the Millions of At-Risk Kids Not Trapped in a Balloon (or Hiding in the Attic)?

Arianna Huffington
Posted: October 19, 2009 05:52 PM

No matter what happens in the unfolding legal saga of the Heene family, the most appropriate response to the whole matter was that of Falcon Heene. He vomited. Twice. On national TV. Well, let me just say that Falcon speaks for me.

I had to stifle the same urge as I watched so much of the media devote so much of their resources to the story of the boy NOT in the balloon.

And, sure, I know that asking the media to have some sense of perspective on a story like this is like asking a dog not to bark. It's in their nature to give breathless, wall-to-wall coverage to these kinds of stories. But, even knowing this, I was shocked how little changed in the volume and tone of the coverage even after it was known the boy wasn't in the balloon. Even then, after we knew the balloon was empty, they kept running footage of the balloon, hour after hour.

As Bill Maher said on Real Time, "they're calling him Balloon Boy, which is so stupid, because the one thing we know about this kid, is that he was not in a balloon."

We actually know a lot more about Falcon. And we certainly know how concerned every anchor covering the story was about his welfare.

If ever we needed an example of the difference between sentimentality and empathy, this was it. As the story unfolded on Thursday, Wolf Blitzer told us how "deeply worried" he was about Falcon, and that he was "totally fearing the worst." Rick Sanchez talked about the "big hug" he'd give his own child if it happened to him (does Rick have a giant balloon in his backyard too?). And one Fox anchor expressed relief that a skydiver she was interviewing while Falcon's fate was still up in the air (sorry!) gave her "a little bit of hope" about the weather conditions the balloon was flying in because she was "worried about how cold this child might be."

Who knew the media were so "deeply worried" about the welfare of children? Well, as it turns out, their concern only extends to children in certain circumstances -- such as when they are thought to be trapped in a runaway hot air balloon. Or when they have been washed up on U.S. shores in an inner tube and are forcibly repatriated to Cuba.

Remember Elian Gonzales? Watching the media's collective palpitations over Balloon Boy -- even after he turned out to be Attic Boy -- my mind immediately did a flashback to 2000 and the emotion-laden coverage of Elian, including Diane Sawyer standing on her head.

Back then, I felt the same uneasy feeling about what it takes for the media to care about at-risk kids.

In the midst of the hysteria over Elian, Jonathan Kozol came out with a book called Ordinary Resurrections, which featured the moving story of a boy named Elio who was the same age as Elian.

He was, as I wrote in a column in May 2000, a "little boy... living in the South Bronx, surrounded by gunfire, families being evicted, hungry people begging in the street. His mother works at a drugstore near St. Ann's church; his father is 'upstate' -- South Bronx shorthand for prison."

And while Elian was on the cover of Time magazine three times, no news magazines were writing about the thousands of Elios around America. "Why do we feel so much for Elian and so little for Elio?" I asked. "Why are we doing everything we can -- trips to Disney World, Nintendo games, playmates flown in from Cuba -- to make Elian happy, while leaving Elio to fend for himself?"

It wasn't a rhetorical question. I didn't know the answer then and I don't know the answer now.

The media are addicted to small-bore, high-drama stories like these. Two years after Elian, I wrote about the media binging on the Robert Blake trial and called for an intervention to help the media break its ersatz crisis habit. My call wasn't successful, to put it mildly.

Three years after that, the media devoted countless hours to the case of Natalee Holloway, the young woman who went missing in Aruba. "When defending these choices," I wrote in June of 2005, "news execs inevitably fall back on the old 'we're just giving the people what they want.'"

And not surprisingly, they're saying the same thing now. Which was why, when I went on the Ed Schultz show to talk about Afghanistan, I ended up spending most of the segment talking instead about a runaway balloon with no boy inside.

I find the media's obsession with these non-stories especially galling when they lead to endless agonizing over the welfare of a child -- agonizing that is sorely missing when there isn't a hot air balloon or inner tube in shark-infested waters involved.

So now that we know that Falcon is safe, how about repurposing some of that concern for, say:
  • the over 1.5 million children who are homeless.
  • the 42 percent of homeless children who are under the age of 6.
  • the one in six homeless children who suffers from an emotional problem.
It doesn't have to be wall-to-wall coverage, but how about some coverage of the 75 to 100 percent increase in the number of children who are newly homeless because of the foreclosure crisis? Or the 13 million American children living in poverty?

Not going to happen, you say? What if we built a giant balloon, put all 13 million of them in it, and just let it float away? Even better, let's just say that we did. It'll be a win-win-win. The news producers will have a giant balloon to shoot, the news anchors will have a fresh outlet for all that concern, and millions of kids in desperate need of some concern, attention, and time in the media spotlight will finally get it.

Inspired by Livia McRee's blog post

Read more at:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Utter Lack Of Compassion, Willing To Say Anything To Prevent Health Care Reform Or Both?

When Senator Kyl of Arizona was asked on Meet The Press if it is "a necessity to tackle the fact that there are more and more Americans who die because they don't have access to health insurance?"  Senator Kyl replied, "I'm not sure that it's a fact that more and more people die because they don't have health insurance. But because they don't have health insurance, the care is not delivered in the best and most efficient way."

Amazing!  Amazing that such a person continues to be elected to the Senate.  Amazing and very disappointing.

I assume that Senator Kyl is aware of the recent Harvard research study that estimated that 45,000 Americans die each year because they lack access to health insurance.  Can it be that Kyl is so uninformed on the key legislation in Congress?  Does he not read?  Does he not hear?  Does he not care?  Ah, yes!  Perhaps he simply does not care.

Is there other evidence that Kyl doesn't care?  Yes, indeed!  Kyl recently joked that he doesn't need maternity care while he was arguing that insurance companies should not be required to provide certain types of coverage.  Really?  Do you think any of the women, whose insurance providers will not cover maternity care, thought Kyl's remark was as funny as he did?  Since 60% of the insurance companies do not provide maternity care coverage, this is no laughing matter to a lot of women.

Kyl doesn't seem to care much about women's issues.  Kyl (and Arizona's other senator, John McCain) recently voted against an amendment that would have provided legal protection for women who are sexually assaulted in the workplace.  Protection against sexual assault, like maternity care, is not a personal issue for Senator Kyl so as far as he is concerned it's not an issue worth addressing.

Who in blogdom will offer a defense for Senator Kyl?  Is Kyl's perspective regarding health care reform fair to his constituents?  I should ask is it "fair to all Americans" since his vote on reform will impact all of us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is The War In Afghanistan A War Of Necessity?

At the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington wrote about whether the war in Afghanistan is necessary.  Joe Biden and others think that it is not and would, at least, pull our ground forces out of Afghanistan.  McChrystal wants to add more troops and escalate the war.  President Obama must decide whether the war is necessary and then whether to escalate as McChrystal recommends.  McChrystal is responsible only for waging war successfully.  President Obama is responsible for deciding whether to wage this war.

Huffington's post is an excellent discussion of this issue.  I no longer believe this war is necessary for the defense of the United States.  I no longer believe that our presence in Afghanistan will be a benefit to the citizens of Afghanistan.  I hope President Obama decides that this is not a war of necessity.  Read Huffington's post and tell me what you think President Obama should do.  Huffington's post is long but well worth the read.

Why Joe Biden Should Resign

Arianna Huffington
Posted: October 14, 2009 02:32 PM

Joe Biden met with CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus this morning to talk about Afghanistan -- an issue that has pushed the vice president into the spotlight, landing him on the cover of the latest Newsweek.

I have an idea for how he can capitalize on all the attention, and do what generations to come will always be grateful for: resign.

The centerpiece of Newsweek's story is how Biden has become the chief White House skeptic on escalating the war in Afghanistan, specifically arguing against Gen. McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy there.

The piece, by Holly Bailey and Evan Thomas, opens with details of a September 13th national security meeting at the White House. Biden speaks up:

"Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?" Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. "And how much will we spend on Pakistan?" Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. "Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?" The White House Situation Room fell silent.

Being Greek, I'm partial to Biden's classic use of the Socratic method -- skillfully eliciting facts in a way that lets people connect the dots that show how misguided our involvement in Afghanistan has become.

It's been known for a while that Biden has been on the other side of McChrystal's desire for a big escalation of our forces there -- the New York Times reported last month that he has "deep reservations" about it. So if the president does decide to escalate, Biden, for the good of the country, should escalate his willingness to act on those reservations.

What he must not do is follow the same weak and worn-out pattern of "opposition" we've become all-too-accustomed to, first with Vietnam and then with Iraq. You know the drill: after the dust settles, and the country begins to look back and not-so-charitably wonder, "what were they thinking?" the mea-culpa-laden books start to come out. On page after regret-filled page, we suddenly hear how forceful this or that official was behind closed doors, arguing against the war, taking a principled stand, expressing "strong concern" and, yes, "deep reservations" to the president, and then going home each night distraught at the unnecessary loss of life.

Well, how about making the mea culpa unnecessary? Instead of saving it for the book, how about future author Biden unfetter his conscience in real time -- when it can actually do some good? If Biden truly believes that what we're doing in Afghanistan is not in the best interests of our national security -- and what issue is more important than that? -- it's simply not enough to claim retroactive righteousness in his memoirs.

Though it would be a crowning moment in a distinguished career, such an act of courage would likely be only the beginning. Biden would then become the natural leader of the movement to wind down this disastrous war and focus on the real dangers in Pakistan.

The number of those on both sides of the political spectrum who share Biden's skepticism is growing. In August, George Will called for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan and "do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units."

Former Bush State Department official and current head of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haas argued in the New York Times that Afghanistan is not, as Obama insists, a war of necessity. "If Afghanistan were a war of necessity, it would justify any level of effort," writes Haas. "It is not and does not. It is not certain that doing more will achieve more. And no one should forget that doing more in Afghanistan lessens our ability to act elsewhere."

In Rethink Afghanistan, Robert Greenwald's powerful look at the war (and a film Joe Biden should see right away), Robert Baer, a former CIA field operative says, "The notion that we're in Afghanistan to make our country safer is just complete bullshit... what it's doing is causing us greater danger, no question about it. Because the more we fight in Afghanistan, the more the conflict is pushed across the border into Pakistan, the more we destabilize Pakistan, the more likely it is that a fundamentalist government will take over the army -- and we'll have Al-Qaeda like groups with nuclear weapons."

And Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet and Biden confidant, told Newsweek that, while "there are a lot of differences" between Vietnam and Afghanistan, "one of the similarities is how easily and quickly a nation can get bogged down in a very dangerous part of the world. It's easy to get into but not easy to get out. The more troops you throw in places, the more difficult it is to work it out because you have an investment to protect."

And doing so, as we've seen, usually means losing more and more of that "investment": each of the last six years of the Afghanistan war has been more deadly than the one before.

Both sides of the Afghanistan debate were represented on this Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Sen. Diane Feinstein offered up a few rationales for why Obama should rubber stamp Gen. McChrystal's wishes. First, she said, "there has to be a process of finding out, which of these people can we work with and which can we not." Really? Seven years in and we still haven't checked that one off our to-do list?

Feinstein then broke out the latest trendy, new-for-fall reason why we need to up the ante in Afghanistan -- it's all about the women. " I particularly worry about women in Afghanistan," Feinstein said, "acid in the face of children, girl children who go to school, women who can't work when they're widowed, huddled on the streets, begging, women beaten and shot in stadiums, you know, Sharia law with all of its violence."

This is indeed very tragic, and I share her concern. But missing from the discussion was the fact that "Sharia law with all of its violence" has just been made the law of the land by President Karzai -- you know, our man in Kabul. The Sharia Personal Status Law, signed by Karzai, became operational in July. Among its provisions: custody rights are granted to fathers and grandfathers, women can work only with the permission of their husbands, and husbands can withhold food from wives who don't want to have sex with them. On the plus side, if a man rapes a mentally ill woman or child, he must pay a fine.

Of course, even with America standing guard, only 4 percent of girls in Afghanistan make it to the 10th grade, and up to 80 percent of Afghani women are subjected to domestic violence. As one of the Afghan women interviewed in Rethink Afghanistan sums up the current situation: "The cases of violence against women are more now than in the Taliban time."

So can we please put to rest the nonsensical rationalization that we're there for women's rights? And don't be surprised if that reason is soon replaced by another -- those pushing for escalation in Afghanistan seem to have learned the Bush administration's old tactic of constantly moving the goal posts. Don't like this reason? Fine, here's another one.

Countering Feinstein on Stephanopoulos was Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, who has taken the lead on this issue in Congress, introducing a bill calling for an exit strategy in Afghanistan.

"I think adding more American forces to Afghanistan would be a mistake," he said. "I think it would be counterproductive. And I think there's a strong case to be made that the larger our military footprint, the more difficult it is to achieve reconciliation."

McGovern then amplified Biden's concern that the real threat is elsewhere:

When I voted to use force to go to war after 9/11, I think I and everyone else in Congress voted to go after Al Qaida. That was our enemy. And Al Qaida has now moved to a different neighborhood, in Pakistan, where, quite frankly, they're more protected. And we're told by Gen. Jones that there are less than 100, if that, members of Al Qaida left in Afghanistan... So we're now saying we should have 100,000 American forces to go after less than 100 members of Al Qaida in Afghanistan? I think we need to re-evaluate our policy.

Or, as Biden put it, "does that make strategic sense?"

In June, Gen. Jones, the president's National Security Advisor, was at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, meeting with U.S. commanders there. This was shortly after the arrival of the 21,000 additional troops President Obama had sent over. Jones raised the question of what the president's reaction would be if he were asked for even more troops. Well, Jones said, answering his own question, if that happened, the president would probably have a "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment." In other words, wtf?

Well, Obama has gotten that request, but it wasn't a "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment" for him after all. Sadly, Newsweek reports that Obama is typically "looking for a middle way." But this isn't a negotiation for a used car, where you split the difference. It's either in our national security interest to be there or it isn't. It's either a necessary war or it isn't.

Newsweek's profile makes much of Joe Biden's loyalty. He's a "team player," one close friend says. And after he dissented on Afghanistan this spring he "quickly got on board."

I have no doubt that Joe Biden is a loyal guy -- the question is who deserves his loyalty most? His "team" isn't the White House, but the whole country. And if it becomes clear in the coming days that his loyalty to these two teams is in conflict, he should do the right thing. And quit.

Obama may be no drama, but Biden loves drama. And what could more dramatic than resigning the vice presidency on principle? And what principle could be more honorable than refusing to go along with a policy of unnecessarily risking American blood and treasure -- and America's national security? Now that would be a Whisky Tango Foxtrot moment for the McChrystal crowd -- one that would be a lot more significant than some lame, after-the-fact apology delivered in a too-late-to-matter book.

Read more at:

Confession Of An Anti-Gay Zealot

If God Had Wanted Me To Be Accepting Of Gays, He Would Have Given Me The Warmth And Compassion To Do So

OCTOBER 13, 2009

I don't question God. The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall put none above Him. Which is why I know that if it were part of God's plan for me to stop viciously condemning others based solely on their sexual preference, He would have seen fit—in His infinite wisdom and all—to have given me the tiniest bit of human empathy necessary to do so.

It's a simple matter of logic, really. God made me who I am, and who I am is a cold, anti-gay zealot. Thus, I abhor gay people because God made me that way. Why is that so hard to understand?

Here, let's start with the basic facts: I hate and fear gay people. The way they feel is different from how I feel, and that causes me a lot of confusion and anger. Everyone knows God is all-powerful. He could easily have given me the capacity to investigate what's behind those feelings rather than tell strangers in the park they're going to hell for holding hands. But God clearly has another path for me. And who am I to question His divine will?

Compassion, tolerance, understanding, basic decency, the ability to put myself in another person's position: God could have endowed me with any of those traits and yet—here is the crucial part—He didn't. Why? Because the Creator of the Universe wants me to demonize homosexuals in an effort to strip them of their fundamental human rights.

I'm sorry, but you can't possibly ask me to explain everything God does. He works in mysterious ways, remember?

Try to understand. If I were capable of thinking and acting any other way, then I'm sure I would, but God seems to be quite adamant about this one. He's just not budging at all. So unless our almighty Lord and Savior decides to change His mind about my ability to empathize on even the most basic level—which I find highly unlikely—then everyone is just going to have to accept the fact that I'm going to keep on hating homosexuals. And I know that He will fill me with the strength to remain mindless and hurtful in the face of adversity.

Which isn't to say that my faith hasn't been tested. Believe me, there have been times when I've drifted from the bitter and terrified life God has chosen for me. When my younger brother told me he was gay, it shook my faith to its very core. But here I am, 27 years later, still refusing to take his calls. Just the way God intended.

It's actually pretty astonishing how many complaints to the school board you can make regarding the new band teacher you've never met when you are filled with the Light of Christ and devoid of any real kindness or mercy toward His other children.

At the end of the day, I'm just trying to lead a good Christian life. That means going to church on Sunday, following the Ten Commandments, and fighting what I believe to be a sexual abomination through a series of petty actions and bitter comments made under my breath. Sure, I sometimes wish God would just reach into my heart and give me the ability to treat all people with, at the very least, the decency and respect they deserve as human beings. But unfortunately for that new couple who moved in three houses down, He hasn't yet.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have God's work to do.

Healthy 4-Month Old Infant Denied Health Care Insurance Because Of His Size

Alex Lange, infant son of a Grand Junction, CO TV news anchor, was denied coverage by his family's insurance company, Rocky Mountain Health Plans, only because the baby's height and weight put him in the 99 percentile of his age group.  The baby's father says that Alex is breast-fed only.  "We can't put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill," said his father.

After the denial was made public the insurance company quickly reversed their position and said that they have modified their guidelines so that this will not recur.

Call me a cynic if you will but I suspect that Baby Alex would still be without coverage if his father wasn't a TV news anchor with the ability to broadcast the insurance company's denial across Colorado.

If you are one of those "folks" who still believes that health care reform is an un-American assault on your freedom for the benefit of the undeserving or a socialist take-over of a benevolent insurance industry, think about Alex Lange and then think again about your opinion of reform.

Read more at:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Glenn Beck Compares Fox News to Jews During The Holocaust

I can't imagine that anybody intelligent watches or listens to Glenn Beck except as they might watch the Jerry Springer Show to see how unbelieveably ignorant some people are.  I don't think Beck is stupid enough to believe what he says but does he think that his audience is stupid enough to believe him?

From Huffington Post: Leave it to Glenn Beck to take things too far. On his radio show Tuesday Beck drew a rather over-the-top analogy between, of all things, Fox News and Jewish persecution during the Holocaust. The basis for this comparison was the White House's recent criticism of Fox News' reporting, in which it called the network "the communications arm of the Republican Party" and said that its reporting style is more opinion than straight news. Beck suggested that the campaign against Fox was only the beginning of a full on assault by the Obama administration against the press.  Read more at:

PolitiFact Update On Obama's Campaign Promises

According to PolitiFact the following is the current status of Obama’s 515 campaign promises after only 9 months in Office.

7 promises broken – 1.4%

  • End income tax for seniors making less than $50,000
  • Allow five days of public comment before signing bills
  • Tougher rules against revolving door for lobbyists and former officials
  • Create a $3,000 tax credit for companies that add jobs
  • Allow penalty-free hardship withdrawals from retirement accounts in 2008 and 2009
  • Recognize the Armenian genocide
  • Negotiate health care reform in public sessions televised on C-SPAN
47 promised kept – 9.1% of 515 promises, more than 5 per month
  • Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners
  • Establish a credit card bill of rights
  • Expand loan programs for small businesses
  • Extend and index the 2007 Alternative Minimum Tax patch
  • Expand eligibility for State Children's Health Insurance Fund (SCHIP)
  • Expand funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners
  • Increase funding to expand community based prevention programs
  • Sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Appoint a special adviser to the president on violence against women
  • Direct military leaders to end war in Iraq
  • Send two additional brigades to Afghanistanc
  • Give a speech at a major Islamic forum in the first 100 days of his administrationc
  • Grant Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send money to Cuba
  • Restore funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program
  • Establish an Energy Partnership for the Americas
  • Release presidential records
  • Require new hires to sign a form affirming their hiring was not due to political affiliation or contributions.
  • Remove more brush, small trees and vegetation that fuel wildfires
  • Push for enactment of Matthew Shepard Act, which expands hate crime law to include sexual orientation and other factors
  • Create a White House Office on Urban Policy
  • Support increased funding for the NEA
  • Add another Space Shuttle flight
  • Use the private sector to improve spaceflight
  • Partner to enhance the potential of the International Space Station
  • Use the International Space Station for fundamental biological and physical research
  • Explore whether International Space Station can operate after 2016
  • Enhance earth mapping
  • Appoint an assistant to the president for science and technology policy
  • Establish special crime programs for the New Orleans area
  • Rebuild schools in New Orleans
  • Fund a major expansion of AmeriCorps
  • Appoint the nation's first Chief Technology Officer
  • Work to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear
  • Appoint an American Indian policy adviser
  • Ban lobbyist gifts to executive employees
  • Create new criminal penalties for mortgage fraud
  • Weatherize 1 million homes per year
  • Invest in all types of alternative energy
  • Enact tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars
  • Support high-speed rail
  • Invest in public transportation
  • Provide grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes
  • Get his daughters a puppy
  • Appoint at least one Republican to the cabinet
  • Raise the small business investment expensing limit to $250,000 through the end of 2009
  • Extend unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits
  • Reverse restrictions on stem cell research
12 promises compromised – 2.3%
12 promises stalled – 2.3%
122 promises in the works – 23.7%
315 promises no action to date – 61.2%

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What You'll Need To Survive The Apocalypse

I stumbled upon a website that provides survival information for an apocalypse.  There are apparently people who are expecting an apocalypse that will destroy civilization.  This is not necessarily the apocalypse of Revelation.  The website I found is hosted by one such person and he provides a checklist of the equipment you will need to survive.  Each item is ranked 1 (least important) to 5 (critical for survival).  I noticed that the list does not include food or water.  The only item with the least important rank of 1 is a gas mask; a harmonica is more important with a rank of 2.  An adjustable wrench and two screwdrivers are critical to survival with a rank of 5 and more important than a knife, a water purifier and a crank flashlight.  A Russian bomber hat is more important than either a radio or fishing equipment.  A Russian Bomber Hat???

I admit that I have no survival training but my common sense tells me that this list is not going to be my guide to surviving an apocalypse, that is, if I decide to prepare for an apocalypse.  But, I could be wrong.  What do you think?  Do you need to be prepared for an apocalypse and, if so, what would you put on your equipment survival list?

Survival Equipment Checklist:

5 Wool Socks
5 Dust Mask
5 Rain Coat
5 Long Underwear
5 Down Coat
5 Gun
5 Matches, Magnifying Glass, Magnesium, Flint and Steel
5 Phillips and Standard screwdriver
5 Adjustable Wrench
5 Compass
5 First Aid Kit
5 Map
5 Canteen for Water
5 Canteen for Fuel
4 Goggles
4 Extra Clothes
4 Mittens/Gloves
4 Iodine Tablets
4 Collapsible Saw
4 Crowbar
4 Hunting Knife
3 Russian Bomber Hat
3 Pump Water Purifier
3 Crank Flashlight
3 Can-opener
3 Needle and Thread
3 Binoculars
3 Tarp
2 Leatherman (folding multi-tool)
2 Fishing Equipment
2 Small Radio
2 Harmonica
1 Gas Mask

Friday, October 09, 2009

My Insurance Company Has Denied Further Coverage Of Interferon

I've been on interferon for 6 months.  My physician submitted a prescription renewal to continue treatment for another 6 months but my insurance company denied it for clinical reasons.  I can't determine from the customer agent what the clinical reason is.  The medication costs $500 per week.  Maybe that is the clinical reason.

I need to take my shot today but I have no medication, it isn't approved yet and if it is approved it will be a few days before it arrives.  I wonder if a gap in the treatment will be a problem.

Sure, we don't need no stinking health care reform.  This is working well for me.

UnitedHealth CEO Is Paid $57,000 Per Hour

This is incentive to deliver large profits not necessarily effective affordable health care. How much is the CEO willing to pay his lobbyists and our representatives to protect his salary?

If the shareholders of public companies set compensation instead of the board we wouldn't be thinking about regulating company salaries.

President Barack Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Congratulations! The Nobel Committee is saying "you are leading the world in the right direction, in the right way."

I can hear the GOP leadership and their foul-mouthed talhing heads saying that the award is Obama's 30 pieces of silver for selling out the United States. What a pity! I'll bet Cheney is having a fit in his undisclosed location.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Betsy McCaughey On Health Care Reform: Lies and Name-Calling

Betsy McCaughey and Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) debated health care reform with Dylan Ratigan yesterday on Dylan's Morning Meeting show on MSNBC.  Dylan challenged some of McCaughey negative statements about reform.  Like any liar when cornered with facts, McCaughey refused to answer Dylan's most revealing questions, and finally complained that he was an "unfair moderator."  She was no less unhappy with Rep. Weiner and called him "ignorant."

McCaughey said that the Democrat's proposal for paying for reforms included cost cuts in the Medicare system, which she said would result in higher premium costs and/or reduced services.  Dylan Ratigan and Rep. Weiner both disagreed that cost reductions would require increased premiums or reduced services.  When asked how she proposed to cut Medicare costs to ensure its survival she said she would increase the minimum age to qualify for Medicare from 65 to 70!

That's an ingenious plan.  Everybody that I know who is retired or considering retirement but is not 65 is very concerned about how they will pay for health care insurance until they qualifiy for Medicare.  Most of these people will be or are receiving a monthly retirement benefit from their past employer but health care coverage is not provided.  The cost of non-group health care insurance is $9,000 to $12,000 per year.  Some of these people may not retire until they are covered by Medicare but many others were recently forced into retirement by their employers after the collapse of our economy late last year.  Without Medicare they will be spending a lot of their retirement savings or retirement checks for insurance for the 3 to 5 years until they reach age 65 and some will risk not having insurance for those years.  If the minimum age is increased to 70 it will be a financial hardship to many of the senior I know who are under the age of 70, retired or will be retiring soon.  Many who lost their jobs due to the economy or fear that they will be and some of those who were already retired may have to find full or parttime jobs until they are 70.

Oh by the way, McCaughey was also a major opponent of the Clinton reform bill when Bill Clinton was president.  She has made a mini career out of preventing health care reform.

American Academy of Family Physicians - Health Care Reform Recommendations To Its Membership

The AAFP, which supports the Health Care Reform Bills and the Public Option, provided the following FAQ for their membership.

Why would family physicians support the bills in Congress?

The legislation in the House of Representatives contains numerous provisions that are designed to support primary care physicians. There is a bonus payment to primary care physicians of 5 percent (10 percent if the practice is in a physician shortage area – usually rural areas). The SGR is eliminated (which is good for all physician practices) and the replacement system has higher conversion factors for E/M and preventive care services, which are the ones that most family physicians provide. Primary care services in Medicaid are paid at least at the Medicare rate, which is a substantial increase in some states. The legislation invests in a broader pilot-testing of the medical home practice model. And payments to departments of family medicine and to family medicine residencies are increased, and there is increased tuition assistance for medical students who choose family medicine (or other primary care specialties). The legislation is the first major investment in primary care that the federal government has made in years. Finally, the bill is consistent with our long-term policy of supporting health care coverage for all – and this legislation is a step in that direction.

Many of my elderly patients are concerned that Medicare is going away. What should I tell them?

There is nothing in the current bills that would take away Medicare. Please tell your patients that Medicare will still be there for them – even if health care legislation passes Congress. The legislation does not eliminate the program, nor does it eliminate benefits.

Why is the AAFP supporting a so-called “public plan?” I think that will lead to a single-payer system or socialized medicine.

The legislation preserves the private insurance market, so medicine will not be socialized. But what it is intended to do is to provide some competition for insurance companies, especially in areas where one company is dominant or a monopoly, which are often rural and where many of our members have no leverage in negotiating with the major plans. Members have been asking for years to find some method to give them some bargaining power with the major plans. While this is not the best mechanism, it is a start.  In addition, it is not at all clear whether or not a public plan will be part of any final bill. Many Members of Congress – particularly in the Senate – are discussing the idea of a “co-op,” which would be a non-profit entity run by the members at the state or national level. However, the AAFP Board of Directors discussed public plans at length, since this option has been part of the discussion for quite some time. The Board came up with principles on a public plan option, consistent with those set forth in the New America Foundation document “A Modest Proposal for a Competing Public Health Plan” (12-page PDF file; About PDFs).  These principles are:

  • administrators of the public plan must be accountable to an entity other than the one identified to govern the marketplace -- in other words, the authority overseeing the marketplace and responsible for enforcing its rules should not have an incentive to favor a public plan compared with private plans;
  • the public plan cannot be Medicare;
  • the public plan must be actuarially sound;
  • the public plan cannot leverage Medicare or any other public program to force providers to participate;
  • the public plan should not be required to use Medicare payment rates;
  • insurance market rules and regulations governing the public plan must be the same as those governing private plans;
  • the public plan cannot be granted an unfair advantage in enrolling the uninsured or low-income individuals, who presumably will be eligible for subsidies in the new marketplace;
  • public and private insurers should be required to adhere to the same rules regarding reserve funds; and
  • the public plan would need to contribute to value-based initiatives that benefit all payers.
We have used these principles as a yardstick to measure the public plans in the House and Senate bills. We have found that the bills are consistent with our policy. The bills do not force providers or patients to participate and plans will negotiate rates with providers.

 Do these bills change how I will get paid?

 The House bill includes language that replaces the current SGR formula with another volume-control payment method. This includes better payment rates for cognitive services, like office visits and preventive health services, than for procedural services. The new formula is GDP + 2 percent for E/M and preventive services and GDP + 1 percent for all other services.

This does not benefit primary care physicians exclusively, since most physicians provide at least some cognitive health care services. It encourages the effective use of a physician’s training and skills. Whether it is sufficient is always an open question until the data is in. Our early review of the revised payment structure suggests that it is a step in the right direction for our members and is a good down payment for better enhancement for primary care.

And, without the House bill, physicians get a 21 percent cut in Medicare next year and cuts in the 5 percent range annually for the foreseeable future. This bill is a major step forward out of a failed Medicare formula that has plagued us since 2001.

The Senate Finance committee has not yet released their legislation so we cannot review it at this time.

 Why is my Academy supporting bills that will increase the deficit?

The cost of health care reform may be significant, but part of the reason is that we have postponed dealing with the problem. As significant as the cost is now, it will only get higher if we continue to put off the necessary decisions. Paying for health reform will require a combination of measures like tax increases, reductions of tax benefits, and efficiencies in the health delivery system.b

The goal of the legislation is not to increase the deficit. Specifically, while the House legislation would rebase the SGR, and this money would be added to the deficit, members of Congress continue to seek various means to pay for the reform legislation.

Won’t the comparative effectiveness research give federal bureaucrats the power to make medical decisions for your patients and force rationing of health care?

We do not believe that more knowledge about how various treatments, procedures, and products compare with each other will lead to rationing. Instead, we believe that the more objective information physicians and patients have about health care issues the better their choices will be. It is valuable to have a respected agency like the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality as a disinterested moderator of this information.

How come I’m not hearing anything about medical liability in these bills? Wouldn’t medical liability reform cut costs?

There are clearly additional costs due to defensive medicine. The AAFP’s policy has called for a cap on non-economic damages, and we have signed a letter to Congress, along with several other physician groups that calls for medical liability reform. There are many alternatives that Congress has considered from time to time. For example, we have supported bills that would give some states authority and resources to try out alternative methods of dispute resolution and liability settlements.

Right now, the bills do not contain medical liability reforms, but we know that many Members of Congress are interested in including different reforms. We are advocating that these reforms be added later as the legislation works its way through the process.

What about nurse practitioners? I heard they now will be treated the same way as physicians.

No. Members of Congress are keenly aware of the differences in training between physicians and nurse practitioners. Nevertheless, in an effort to help provide health care access to some rural areas, the House bill does make some changes.

While nurse practitioners are potentially able to head primary care medical homes, this is only in pilot programs and only in states where they have independent authority to practice. In addition, their payment rates under Medicaid – like physicians’ – are increased, but the differential between NPs and physicians is maintained. Finally, both physicians and nurse practitioners are eligible for Medicare payment incentives – 5 percent for selected primary care services. This language is part of the House bill’s overall goal of providing more funding for primary care.

Why won’t employers simply “dump” their employees into any public plan?

In the House bill, employers are prohibited from selecting the public plan for their employees. They are required to provide coverage or pay a payroll tax. Specifically, their options are to continue to buy a group policy as they do today; set up a self-funded plan, or make a defined contribution so that their employees may purchase a plan through the Exchange.

In the HELP bill, there is a requirement that if someone is offered employer sponsored coverage they cannot enter the gateway and thus the community health insurance option unless that offer is unaffordable to them (using a rigorous test). CBO has estimated no net loss of employer-sponsored coverage.

Isn’t the Patient-Centered Medical Home just another version of the failed “gatekeeper” model run by the HMOs many years ago?

Good question and here’s the difference. The medical home model is on which patient care is an integrated team with the primary care physician at the center.

Patients are active participants in their own health and well-being. They are cared for by a physician who leads the medical team that coordinates all aspects of preventive, acute and chronic needs of patients using the best available evidence, appropriate technology, and referrals to sub-specialists when needed.

But, aren’t you taking away the individual’s freedom of choice through a Patient-Centered Medical Home?

The short answer is no. In the medical home model, the primary care physician and the patient decide together which path to take. If they decide that the patient would benefit from a particular treatment provided only by a subspecialist, then the primary care physician would work with the patient to make that happen. Importantly, however, the primary care physician would stay involved, i.e., after a particular treatment, both physicians would discuss next steps, in conjunction with the patient.

What about sub-specialists? What financial incentive is there for them to participate if all money goes to primary care?

As physicians who all have take the Hippocratic Oath, we clearly believe that our sub-specialist colleagues will continue to see patients, even under a reformed health care system that places more emphasis on primary care. In addition, our sub-specialist colleagues will be able to treat those extraordinarily complex cases, in conjunction with the primary care physicians, for which they have been trained.

Nevertheless, there is no simple way to predict how physicians – or the market – will react. Our goal in supporting health care reform simply is to establish the best system that provides the right kind of care for the patient at the right time.

I’ve heard a lot of about “insurance reforms.” What sort of reforms are in the health reform bills?
  • Protects patient choice  
  • Prohibits pre-existing condition exclusions  
  • Requires guaranteed issue and renewal for insured plans  
  • Requires parity in mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits consistent with AAFP policy  
  • Ensures adequacy of provider networks.  
  • Ensures value and lower premiums  
  • Requires coverage of essential benefits package including prevention  
  • Requires fair marketing practices by health insurers  
  • Requires fair grievance and appeals mechanisms  
  • Requires information transparency and plan disclosure  
  • Requires timely payment of claims c 
  • Requires administrative simplification  
  • Closes the Medicare Part D donut hole is also big for our patients.  
  • Eliminates annual and lifetime caps on losses.
How do these bills help family physicians, like me?

The AAFP is strongly committed to health care reform legislation that will increase the number of family doctors and boost your Medicare payments. c

The House bill offers strong support for primary care in a variety of ways, including medical home demonstration projects, improving Medicare payment for primary care physicians, expanding scholarships and loan programs for those who choose careers in primary care, and reforms the way that Medicare updates physician pay rates that recognized the value of primary care.

The bill that was passed by the Senate HELP committee also includes a number of primary care provisions. While the committee does not have jurisdiction over Medicare – that is handled by the Senate Finance committee -- the HELP bill supports training for family medicine; gives priority to programs that educate students in team-based approaches to care, including the patient-centered medical home; Increases the supply of qualified health care workers by providing low-interest student loans and loan repayment programs and creates a Primary Care Extension Program to provide assistance to primary care providers about evidence-based therapies, preventive medicine, health promotion, chronic disease management, and mental health.

It also funds Community Health Teams to support the development of medical homes and to ensure a patient’s care is coordinate by a team that includes primary care providers.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Republicans Oppose FCC Policy Changes Intended To Ensure Net Neutrality

The Chairman of the FCC has proposed policy changes to ensure Net Neutrality. The Net Neutrality policy changes would ensure that...
  • Network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.
  • Providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.
Access to the Internet is made through an ISP (Internet Service Provider).  AT&T, Comcast, Cox Communications, RoadRunner are a few of the many, many ISPs.  When you access information or an application on the Internet you are almost always using not only your ISP but other ISPs as well.  If I send an e-mail from my Comcast account to a friend in El Dorado, Kansas, my e-mail will be handled by both Comcast and Cox Comunications - my friend's ISP.

The proposed policy change states that no ISP can restrict my use of the Internet.  They cannot limit the speed of my communication, so that another user's communication will not be limited by the volume of all communications.  They cannot limit my usage because I use Internet Explorer instead of FireFox.  The can't limit my usage because of the hardware or software that I or my ISP uses.  The ISP's network management practices must be transparent to the FCC so that the FCC can ensure that their policies are not being violated.  This is the same as the FTC's right to know how an investment company manages the money invested by their customers.  You might say that an Internet user's access to the Internet should be as unrestricted as an oxygen-breather's access to the oxygen in the air.

However, the congressional Republicans oppose Net Neutrality.  Senate Republicans have proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill that would allow them to block funding of the new FCC policies but the Senate Democrats are in the majority and will prevent the Republican's amendment.

The appropriations bill amendment is co-sponsored by Senators John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), David Vitter (R-La.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and John Thune (R-S.D).  The two Republican FCC commissioners oppose the policy changes proposed by the three Democratic FCC commissioners. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said in a release: 'We must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations.  These new regulatory mandates and restrictions could stifle investment incentives."

How do you feel about Net Neutrality?  Should the biggest and richest oxygen-breather have the right to restrict the smaller oxygen-breather's access to the oxygen in the air?

What reason(s) might the GOP have for opposing Net Neutrality?  Whose interests is the GOP representing?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

When Should Sex With An Employee Be Harassment?

David Letterman has had to admit to having affairs with employees of his show. If these women were co-workers rather that his employees or he was not the star of the show with control over every aspect, including who works on the show, then the affairs would only be a personal matter - mostly between Letterman and his wife (he was dating his wife while having an affair on the side). But, he is the star and they worked for him, which makes it a legal matter: sexual harassment of an employee. It doesn't matter, in my opinion, if the woman was willing; Letterman has probably violated the law. I assume, as does the law, that his employer status, not to mention his celebrity and her young age, gave him an unfair advantage over her that should be a legal issue.

How will CBS handle their Late Night Superstar?

What would you do with Letterman if you were in charge of CBS?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Glenn Beck Crying On Cue!

This video shows how Glenn Beck uses Vicks under his eyes to make them look like they are wet with tears.

I wish I could say that Glenn Beck's TV show is only a farce but that is not all.  It's also a tragedy because so many people watch his show and actually believe what he says.  His words and his audience's response to them corrupt our democracy.