Brown’s got me down, let them eat cake

Image via the Washington Post.

So a Republican won Teddy Kennedy’s seat in the Senate last night.  This kills the Democrats’ 60 seat super majority, though it’s worth reminding people that they still have a majority, and only 51 votes are needed to pass legislation– I saw a few people claiming on Twitter last night that the Republicans now “control” the Senate, which is completely untrue.  They’re just now able to filibuster more easily, meaning it will be easier for them to waste everyone’s time keeping the Senate from voting on things.  I’d like to remind the 59 remaining Democrats that Bush got more done with less of a majority than they have now, so I expect them to get shit done anyway, even without Coakley.  Of course, knowing what spineless wretches the Democrats, particularly the Blue Dogs, are, I don’t have a whole lot of hope.  Which brings me to a wonderful post by Ezra Klein on what Teddy Kennedy would say to the Democrats.  Ezra writes:

For now, it’s worth observing that a Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn’t a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power. If they don’t believe in the importance of their policies, why should anyone who’s skeptical change their mind? If they’re not interested in actually passing their agenda, why should voters who agree with Democrats on the issues work to elect them? A commitment provisional on Ted Kennedy not dying and Martha Coakley not running a terrible campaign is not much of a commitment at all.

Exactly. Continue reading “Brown’s got me down, let them eat cake”

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does racism have anything to do with it?

Image via Think Progress.

Yesterday, I wrote about what I believe is willful ignorance on the part of some of the loudest and most visible opponents of President Obama and his agenda.  I asked why so many people choose to believe the most terrible things, things which could be disproven by means of a simple internet search.  I wondered why people who have heard the truth explained to them over and over again still refuse to believe it.  Then Jimmy Carter went and offered an explanation: racism.  And the whole country flipped out.

In an interview, former president Carter said,

I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African American…And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the south but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.

And you know what? I agree with him. Continue reading “does racism have anything to do with it?”

dunces

A friend posted the following as her Facebook status this morning:

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” – Jonathan Swift

And, while I’m less of a Jonathan Swift fan since studying “A Ladies Dressing Room” in my 18th Century Women Writers class, Swift’s line just got me thinking of something I’ve been mulling over as I watch the people protesting against health care, and, seemingly, Obama’s presidency and entire agenda.  These are the dunces.  And I don’t just mean the people waving signs.  I’m talking all the way up to Joe Wilson, who screamed “you lie!” after a statement which was in fact A FACT, which I pointed out in a previous post.  These people seem, in large part to be afraid of a monster in the closet which isn’t there.  And yet they keep insisting it is, even after “dad”, whether he take the form of Politifact or the president, has opened the door, pushed back the clothes, and shined a flashlight in the corner to assure us that there is really nothing to fear.

And I’m sure some of my readers are already irked that I used the title dunces in reference to protesters.  I’m not saying that ALL people who oppose health care reform are stupid or ignorant or dunces.  I’m not even sure most of them are.  But a large, large number of people seem to be moving into the willful ignorance category.  What else can you call it when people insist on believing scary myths, even when confronted over and over again with the truth?  When the truth is just one Google search away?  When organizations like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact have read the entire health care bill and are handily debunking myths and distortions from BOTH sides (seriously, at the time of writing this, PolitiFact’s front page features statements from Obama and Howard Dean which fall on the wrong end of the truth-o-meter)?  I mention the evenhandedness of PolitiFact for a reason: many love to talk about how the media, all of it, everywhere, with the exception of Fox News, is biased.  Clearly there are sites out there, like PolitiFact, which are taking care to monitor the statements of people on both sides of the political spectrum.  There’s really no excuse for believing or perpetuating easily-disproved lies.

One such example is the “death panels” trope, the idea that “Obama wants to pull the plug on grandma,” when in fact, the section of the bill Sarah Palin and others were attacking were about empowering patients like grandma to make their end-of-life desires known, so that the patient’s wishes would be followed in those times, rather than doctors or family members or anyone else deciding how a patient should die (not to mention when!).  But through the fun-house-mirror of the opposition, empowered patients becomes government bureaucrats telling people what to do.  And despite vigorous debunkings of this myth, it persists! Here’s some photographic evidence of the persistence of this lie, from last Saturday’s Tea Party Protest in Washington DC:

via Flickr

Continue reading “dunces”

guess his mama didn’t raise him right

The outburst, caught on film.

Here in the South, there’s not much to brag about, but one thing we generally have a lock on: good manners.  Southern hospitality.  That’s not to say we can’t turn a nasty phrase, but we’ll do it with a smile and a Bless Your Heart.

But last night, bless his heart, Congressman Joe Wilson apparently lost his breedin’.  As President Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress, Congressman Wilson shouted out “You lie!” (for video, go here), heckling the President of the United States on the floor of Congress.  It was an outburst which revealed Congressman Wilson’s lack of respect, decorum, or decency.  It’s perfectly within his *rights* to express himself, but it should be beneath his office to express himself in such a way.  The president gave a speech, the GOP had another Howdy Doody fellow rebut it (why do they keep choosing Louisianans?), and surely the next day members of Congress would be free to issue statements, appear on news programs, write op eds and otherwise express any disagreements they had with things the president said in his address.  All are appropriate ways of participating in political dialog about this often contentious issue.  Yelling in the middle of a speech in what should be one of the most respected houses of government in the world is NOT an appropriate means of expression.

This brings me to what Wilson was responding to.  Was it a lie?  According to Politifact.com, a non-partisan fact-checking organization, Wilson was responding to this statement by President Obama:

“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants,” Obama said. “This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

According to Politifact, it is WILSON who is the liar, as Obama’s statement, that health care reforms would not apply to illegal immigrants, was true. Politifact writes:

We read all 1,000-plus pages of the health care bill and were struck by the fact that it is largely silent on health care for illegal immigrants. Keep in mind that experts estimated there were 6.8 million uninsured illegal immigrants in the United States in 2007, out of a total of 11.9 million illegal immigrants. Right now, most states have laws on the books that require hospitals to treat severely ill people who arrive at the hospital, regardless of immigration status, and we didn’t see anything that would change those laws, either.

Most illegal immigrants are also now excluded from Medicaid, the government-run health care for the poor. We didn’t see anything that would change that.

One place where the bill does mention immigration status is for “affordability credits.” These are tax credits for people of modest means need to buy health insurance. The credits would help them buy insurance on a national health insurance exchange. The bill specifically says that people in the United States illegally are not eligible for tax credits, on page 132, section 242….

The best argument that we find that health reform would help illegal immigrants is that some might be able to purchase the public option — if it passes, and it might not — on the new health insurance exchange. They would purchase that at full cost. Obama’s said “the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” which Wilson said was a “lie.” Actually, Obama can make a pretty thorough case that reform doesn’t apply to those here illegally. We don’t find the public option argument enough to make the case that Obama “lied.” We rate Wilson’s statement False.

Perhaps a Member of Congress could be bothered to do some research before getting so fired up about health reform’s effect on illegal immigrants that he completely loses his mind on the floor of Congress with the entire nation watching.

And yet, Wilson has STILL not done his research, because, while he apologized for the outburst, he still says he disagrees with the president over the issue of illegal immigrants and health reform.  So he clearly still misunderstands the bill.  I would also note that Wilson apologized to the president, but I feel he should also apologize to the people of South Carolina for embarrassing us in this way on the national stage.  He should also apologize to the other members of Congress for dishonoring the office.

I have a feeling this outburst is going to hurt Congressman Wilson quite a bit, and in the 12ish hours since his eruption, his 2010 Democratic challenger, a former US Marine named Rob Miller, has raised over $100k from more than 3,000 donors, and of course, suddenly most of the state, not to mention the nation, knows his name.

And as for health reform, Obama’s speech seems to have won over many independents and undecideds, whereas Wilson’s heckling decidedly turned them off.  The only people who liked his shouting are the kind of folks who were already doing the same kind of thing at town hall meetings.  Final verdict: JOEWILSONFAIL.

As for me, I’m hoping someone in say, Mississippi can do something lame and take the focus off South Carolina for a while.  I’ve had enough of the embarrassments for a while.

co-operation makes it happen?

I probably don’t need to tell you that I’m deeply interested in the health reform debate.  And lately I’ve noticed that the new buzz is all about “co-ops.”  Before I jump in, this is what *I* think of every time I hear the word co-op:

Now that you’ve got that stuck in your head for the rest of the day, on to health care co-ops, which somehow seem way less fun than a community garden filled with puppets.  The co-op plan has been presented as some sort of alternative to a public health insurance plan.  The thing is, as Ezra Klein has pointed out, co-ops solve a POLITICAL problem, but not our actual health care problems.  Ezra writes:

To put it bluntly, the co-op does not solve a policy problem so much as it solves a political problem. That political problem was, “How do you finesse a compromise on the public option?”

You could imagine a co-op proposal that actually offered a meaningful alternative to private insurers. Some months ago, Conrad, alongside public plan supporter Chuck Schumer, seemed to be edging in that direction. But I haven’t heard anything similarly encouraging since then. The co-op is now a favored alternative for Republicans who don’t agree that the profit motive is a problem in health insurance and who don’t agree that single-payer or Medicare-for-All represents an appealing alternative to the current situation. Given that constituency, it’s not likely to satisfy people who have the opposite perspective on all of those questions.

I wish I could spend this post enumerating the problems with the co-op proposal, except that, as the New York Times points out,

the co-op idea is so ill defined that no one knows exactly what it would look like or how effectively it would compete with commercial insurers.

As far as I can tell, every one agrees that not enough people are covered by our current health care system, costs are too high for the level of care received, and insurers are ill-inclined to listen to their policy-holders’ concerns or actually cover their care because they care only about profit and face very little to no competition for their market share. Solving this problem means creating an alternative, and it seems the co-op idea is about creating pools of people, much like the workforces of large companies which provide group insurance plans, to purchase group care from private insurers. This sounds like a half-assed, complicated, and expensive way to achieve exactly what a public insurance plan would achieve, but a public plan would achieve it with much lower costs (Kent Conrad, who proposed the co-op, says it is not a plan that would lower costs), with the added benefit of creating COMPETITION for private insurers, rather than just handing them more individuals paying premiums that add to their bottom line.

And would the co-op plan really solve the political problem with the public option, namely that Republicans and “Blue Dogs” say they won’t support it?  Not likely.  Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly‘s Political Animal blog notes that Republicans are already rebuffing the co-op plan as well, not to mention, “Republicans don’t support health care reform. Weakening the bill and scuttling good ideas to garner their support doesn’t make sense, since they fully intend to vote against literally any bill.”

I guess my major thought is, if you agree that insurers are a major part of the problem, if you agree that not enough people are covered, if you agree that we need to create some sort of alternative way to give people health coverage, wouldn’t you want to support the means of doing so that is most efficient, covers the most people, and cuts costs the most?  That method is the public insurance option.

UPDATED TO ADD: This post can now also be tagged “Annals of South Carolinian Ridiculousness” because of good ole Sen. Jim DeMint(ed).  DeMint apparently can’t tell the difference between a co-op and a public insurance plan:

Whatever they call it Neil, this is a government takeover. They may try to call it a co-op. They can call it a public option, but you know they’re all on record saying they want a single payer government system, so any Republican now that helps them pass a bill is helping them pass a government takeover of health care.

All the more reason to scrap this stupid co-op idea and go with REAL reform which includes a public option. I guess this means that DeMint won’t be taking to heart the letter I wrote to him last night expressing my wish for a public option.

mr. whole foods is nearly wholly wrong

Via Flickr user gezellig-girl.com
Via Flickr user gezellig-girl.com

I am the kind of person who reads The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  The kind of person who watches “King Corn” and “Food, Inc.”  The type of person who pays $5 for a carton of eggs because I can buy them within walking distance and they were raised locally and humanely.  The type of person who gets excited about a baby eggplant in the garden.  The type of person who shops at farmers’ markets and Whole Foods and Earth Fare.  The type who carries around a stainless steel water bottle and uses her own bags at the store and even has a reusable wrapper for the sandwiches she packs for lunch.

I’m also the kind of person for whom health care was a major issue in the last election.  The kind of person who worked very hard to elect Barack Obama precisely because I liked his health care proposals.  The kind of person who cried on election night with joy and pride.  The kind of person who cried on inauguration day with joy and pride.  The kind of person who really doesn’t understand how so many people can act like health reform is such a surprise when it was so clearly laid out before the election, and American VOTED FOR THE GUY who proposed it.

Apparently the CEO of Whole Foods doesn’t understand that the majority of his customers are people like me.

So he wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal opposing most of President Obama’s health care plan.  And he pissed off a lot of Progressives, who are now overwhelming Whole Foods’ website with complaints.

But I knew that we (being those of us in favor of health care reform and of the mind that America supported this idea when it elected Barack Obama) might have trouble when my husband mentioned that he had read the editorial and thought the guy made some good points.  So.  I’m taking it upon myself to refute some of those points, because I don’t want to see this gaining any traction.  The quoted portions are John Mackey, and the rest is my response. Continue reading “mr. whole foods is nearly wholly wrong”

paranoia strikes deep

A friend shared this image via Facebok. LOVE the guy in the striped t-shirt and his sign. So much of this could be cleared up if these folks would just get some info from someone other than Rush or Glenn or Lou or Sean.  I mean, lady, we HAVE term limits.  And sir, yes, we the people are the government.  We the people just had an election.  You lost.  That doesn't mean that democracy somehow died, it just means your side lost.  Try again next time.
A friend shared this image via Facebook. LOVE the guy in the striped t-shirt and his sign. So much of this could be cleared up if these folks would just get some info from someone other than Rush or Glenn or Lou or Sean. I mean, lady, we HAVE term limits. And sir, yes, we the people are the government. We the people just had an election. You lost. That doesn't mean that democracy somehow died, it just means your side lost. Try again next time.

All the protests over health care reform reminded me of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”:

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
(in this case, it’s the protesters with the guns)

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down…

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid

It strikes me as deeply ironic that all the hoo-ra, gun toting, macho men of the right are the ones who are just so SCARED right now. What they are afraid of, I’m not really sure, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t actually have anything to do with health care.  And the fears they CLAIM are related to health care are related to things that aren’t even being proposed.  No one has proposed: socialized medicine, single-payer health care, death panels, taking away your health coverage if you like what you have now, government takeover of health care, rationing of health care, deepening the federal deficit.  Basically, this reform will only affect you if you are unhappy with your current insurance or currently uninsured.

It will do things like: keep your insurer from denying you care based on what they call a “preexisting condition,” keep your insurer from kicking you out of your insurance policy when you finally need real care, cut down on the amount of paperwork and haggling between you and your insurer and your health care provider, provide subsidies to people who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little to secure their own private insurance, encourage more employers to provide health coverage to their workers, and raise the income standards so more people can qualify for Medicaid.

I’m really hoping we get a public option, though it’s looking less likely, but even if we did, it’s an option, a government run insurance program exactly like something we already have now: the health insurance the government provides to federal employees.  Far from destroying the free market, this might actually help CREATE a free market, by injecting some competition into an industry that is increasingly made up of monopolies.  And it would be OPTIONAL.

When you lay the actual proposals bare, there’s very little room for paranoia and fear.  But like the song goes, paranoia strikes deep.