Obama and the Oil Spill

President Barack Obama, National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, and Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph look at the effect the BP oil spill has had on Fourchon Beach in Port Fourchon, La., May 28, 2010. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza), Image via the Official White House Flickr Photostream

I am angry about the oil spill, and unlike President Obama, I’ve been angry ever since it happened, on Earth Day– I didn’t have to be badgered by reporters into packing my angry eyes, just in case (Toy Story reference, heck yes). But more than just being angry, I want answers.

I’ve been annoyed with the right wing meme that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is “Obama’s Katrina.” But, if the problem with Bush’s handling of Katrina was that he downplayed the extent of the disaster, failed to make it a proper priority, kept incompetent people in charge of the recovery even after their incompetence was known, and failed to take responsibility for his administration’s role in the disaster, well then, I’m starting to think maybe this IS Obama’s Katrina after reading this piece, “The Spill, The Scandal, and the President,” from Rolling Stone. (Though I remain frustrated with the comparison, because obviously, Katrina involved a huge loss of human life and a huge amount of human suffering, and the response involved a heaping helping of racism.)  Because I know not everyone has time to sit down and read a 10 page piece, I thought I’d *highly encourage* you to check it out, while also hitting some of the high points here.  If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know I’m generally a big Obama fan. But I think he and his administration dropped the ball bigtime on this disaster. Continue reading “Obama and the Oil Spill”

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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?”

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.

STAT

slow? or STAT?
slow? or STAT?

I just finished doing my favorite new lunch break activity– shutting the office door and watching the previous night’s Rachel Maddow Show via iTunes, and after wanting to write about health care for a while now, I finally know what I want to write about.

Rachel showed clips of several Republican leaders clearly using what has been an agreed-upon talking point.  Each expressed concern that Democrats are trying to “rush” health care reform, and what we really need to do is slow down.  Quotes taken from the transcript:

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is too important to be rushed. We need to take our time and do it right.

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: It is urgent and it is indisputable, but the problem I have with it is the rush that is underway here.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This doesn’t take effect for four years, Matt. We don’t need to pass it in two weeks.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: The president and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: But I wish he’d say three things. I wish he’d say, first of all, we’re going to slow down.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: It is pretty clear that they’re going to rush ahead.

Of course, as Rachel pointed out, with video, we’ve actually been trying to achieve health reform for SIXTY ONE YEARS.  Yep.  She had a clip of Harry Truman asking Congress to pass a health plan.  So, this isn’t a “rush.”

But even if it were, it SHOULD be.  Every day that we delay on health reform, the deeper our nation sinks into debt, the more people lose jobs, health insurance, and homes, the more people get sick and even die for lack of health coverage.  We need health reform and we need it STAT.

Here are some reasons:

  • “Nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007, the latest government data available.” And with unemployment rising so precipitously in the past 2 years, we can assume the total is much much higher, both because of people losing the jobs that provided their insurance or because they lost the job that allowed them to pay for their private insurance.  (NCHC)
  • “The number of uninsured children in 2007 was 8.1 million – or 10.7 percent of all children in the U.S.” (NCHC)
  • “Lack of insurance compromises the health of the uninsured because they receive less preventive care, are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and once diagnosed, tend to receive less therapeutic care and have higher mortality rates than insured individuals.” (NCHC)
  • “About 20 percent of the uninsured (vs. three percent of those with coverage) say their usual source of care is the emergency room.” (NCHC) This drives up costs for the rest of us because EDs are NOT money makers for hospitals.  In order to remain profitable, hospitals must collect what they lose in the ED by increasing prices on all other services. Also from the NCHC: “Hospitals provide about $34 billion worth of uncompensated care a year.”
  • “The increasing reliance of the uninsured on the emergency department has serious economic implications, since the cost of treating patients is higher in the emergency department than in other outpatient clinics and medical practices.” (NCHC)
  • According to Elizabeth Edwards on last night’s Rachel Maddow Show, “Sixty-two percent of bankruptcy is being caused by medical costs; 50 percent of home foreclosures.”  And if you don’t think home foreclosures affect YOU, think again.  If the house next to yours is foreclosed, or a house in your neighborhood, it hurts YOUR property values.
  • Health care costs are rising faster than we can even begin to keep up: “In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation.” (NCHC)
  • “Although nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured, the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations, and those countries provide health insurance to all their citizens.” (NCHC)
  • The rising costs are HURTING our businesses and our economy: “Health insurance expenses are the fastest growing cost component for employers. Unless something changes dramatically, health insurance costs will overtake profits by the end of 2008.” (NCHC) How many companies could be expanding and creating jobs, but can’t, because of the burden of health care?
  • And because this list is already long enough, I’ll just point out that the QUALITY of our healthcare is nowhere near what it should be for the amount we spend.  You can read more here.  I know that fear mongerers love to point out cases of people “dying in Canada” or wherever because of evil socialized health care, but there are people and babies dying right here in the USA thanks to our system.

Hopefully you can now see why this situation is so urgent.  We can’t listen to Republicans telling us to slow down, when really, they are just hoping to kill health reform altogether.  So get educated.  Read about the major provisions of the proposed reform in the House bill.

It seems the biggest point of contention is the public health option, similar to the health insurance provided to federal employees.  Did you read that last part?  It’s a government-run health insurance program.  Anyone who tells you that this is “socialized medicine” is flat out lying.  It’s absolutely the KEY piece of the puzzle in the reform process.  Why?  Because health insurance only works by creating large pools of people to spread risk around and share costs.  The bigger the pool, the lower the premiums, because the risk is spread across many people paying in to the system.  It is very hard for new insurance companies to get into the health insurance business, because they can’t get enough people together to form a large enough pool to make a profit.  Thus, though there is a “free market” the tendency is toward mergers and monopolies, not conducive to the kind of competition that really governs a free market.  Via Talking Points Memo I learned of a report

released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), [which] uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

In other words, people who claim to be concerned about public-private competition will drive private insurers out of business should know that in most places, there’s no such thing as health insurance competition, and competition is necessary to keep costs and premiums down. If you have private insurance now, you can keep it! But the mere existence of the public plan may help drive YOUR costs down.  The only entity big enough to create a pool large enough to inject real competition into the health are industry is the government, period.

Also, the government plan would have to adhere to stricter rules, helping to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and to prevent people with serious illnesses from being kicked off their coverage due to costs.  In order to compete, private insurers would also have to adopt these standards, which would truly be a victory for everyone.

Finally, the government plan would be large enough to enact real changes in terms of compensation structures to health care providers, helping to encourage preventative care to keep everyone healthier, and to ddrive down costs.  Hopefully doctors and groups like the AMA which represent them will grab a seat at the table to help make sure these changes are equitable and in patients’ and providers’ best interests.

So. I finally wrote a health care post.  It’s by no means comprehensive, and I am by no means an expert.  I’m just the daughter of an ER doc an APN and an RN, and I’m married to a pediatrician.  I’m someone with a healthy interest in health care and a lot of time to read and get informed.  I urge you to read and get informed too, and to get involved in the process.

Image via Flickr user Hermes, under a Creative Commons license.

land of the free, home of the…educated?

John Adams, Founding Father and education advocate.  Image licensed under Creative Commons.
John Adams, Founding Father and education advocate. Image licensed under Creative Commons.

I’m reading David McCullough’s biography of John Adams, and one thing that has struck me again and again is how strongly Adams believed that education was essential to the success of the American system.  As a younger man writing about what he thought a government should be, Adams wrote:

Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially for the lower classes of people, are so extremely wise and useful that to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.

Later, after the Revolution had ended and he began advocating for the type of government that would be instituted for the United States in its wake, Adams wrote:

Knowledge must become so general as to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher. The education of a nation, instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the formation of the many.

Even at the end of the 1700s, Adams understood that the best way to lift people out of poverty was through education.  And Adams also fully believed that educated people not bogged down by poverty made the best citizens, able to be engaged with and participatory in our truly revolutionary system of democracy.

Over the years that followed, we sometimes lost our way.  Sometimes we were eager to say that there was nothing we could do to overcome poverty, because there was nothing we could do about poor people’s intelligence– it was just genetics, you see.  Maybe the best we could hope for was to give them welfare and other government assistance and hope for the best, but we’d always have poor people, and it was just a fact. Continue reading “land of the free, home of the…educated?”

i bet president obama doesn’t whine about HIS blackberry

So.  I’ve ranted about pod-people only to become one.  And now, I fear, my technology addiction may only get

This is what my new baby looks like.  Can you show me how to work it?
This is what my new baby looks like. Can you show me how to work it?

worse.  You see, last night, I got a Blackberry Crackberry.

I didn’t set out to get one.  In fact, I wasn’t going to get one.  Our 2 year cell contract was finally up, and Jon especially was in dire need of a new cell phone.  About a year ago, he washed his nice LG flip phone in the washing machine, and had been using a 5-year-old Motorola since then.  Not only was this phone 5 years old, complete with walkie-talkie-style telescoping antenna, but Olive had gotten ahold of it and chewed the crap out of it.  The battery was held on with duct tape.  Now, considering what it had been through, the Motorola was holding up pretty dang well.  In fact, if we hadn’t recycled it, we probably should have sent it to Motorola to use in ads, like Timex– takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.  Pretty impressive considering cell phones are basically DESIGNED to break within a year so you have to buy a new one (talk about Planned Obsolescence!), and there’s no one out there who will actually repair a cell phone.  They think you’re nuts.  Just go get a new one seems to be the attitude. Continue reading “i bet president obama doesn’t whine about HIS blackberry”

Obama’s National Security Speech

Yep, President Obama and Dark Lord…I mean…Former Vice President Cheney went head to head today to speak about

Image by newscom/upi via talkingpointsmemo.com
Image by newscom/upi via talkingpointsmemo.com

national security.  I already took a look at Cheney’s speech, and now I’m checking out Obama’s.

I can’t help but feel that this:

For the first time since 2002, we are providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

is a dig at the previous administration’s decision to get bogged down in a war in Iraq, which did not attack us on 9/11 nor have connections to those who did until after we invaded their country, distracting that administration from the necessary conflicts in Afghanistan-spilling-into-Pakistan.

This:

We are building new partnerships around the world to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. And we have renewed American diplomacy so that we once again have the strength and standing to truly lead the world.

is also a nod to the previous 8 years whose diplomacy manual seemed to be “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.” Despite all the handwringing that talking or shaking hands with people with whom we disagree is making us less safe, diplomacy is a smart and essential national security strategy, and it makes us safer.

But this:

I have studied the Constitution as a student; I have taught it as a teacher; I have been bound by it as a lawyer and legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen, I know that we must never – ever – turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake.

is where we get to the good stuff. Cheney recently misquoted his own Oath of Office saying he swore to protect and defend the American people, rather than the Constitution of the United States.  This, I believe, belies a fundamental misunderstanding on Cheney’s part about our democracy and our leaders’ role in it: their job is not first and foremost to protect us from outside threats, but to protect our system from threats, both from within, by those seeking to compromise our laws and freedoms for the sake of safety, and from without, by those seeking to compromise our safety perhaps because of how they feel about our laws and freedoms.  You can’t compromise the system in order to keep it safe. Continue reading “Obama’s National Security Speech”