Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Joe Wilson's Habit

Apparently, Joe Wilson makes it a habit to label truths he doesn't like lies.

On C-SPAN, Talk of War Gets Awfully Belligerent

Facts can be such difficult things.

Donate to Wilson's Democratic opponent here: Rob Miller for Congress Because revenge really is the best revenge.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pastor Asks God to Give President Brain Cancer



(h/t SANFU-ed)

It Really Is This Simple

Simple question, simple answer.

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
8/28-31/09; 1,010 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)

Now thinking specifically about the health insurance plans available to most Americans, would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?

55% Favor
41% Oppose
Time for the President to Lay off the footwork and throw a punch!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Playing Citizen for Big Blue

Last month, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, asked permission to raise its rates by up to 49%.

The "non-profit" health insurance company, headquartered in Wilkes Barre, recently attracted a policyholder suit for accruing a "surplus" of over $400,000,000.00 -- while increasing premiums. That lawsuit was thrown out (because the judge said that policyholders didn't have the right to contest the "nonprofit's" accumulation of profits). In apparent response to the fallout over the "but it is not a profit" disclosures, the NEPA insurer has been spending down the surplus, by doubling its "administrative expenses" over the last five years.

Among those increased administrative expenses are the efforts to defeat health insurance reform, including strong arming employees to play "citizen" and help defend those tremendous profits, err, "surpluses" (which, we are certain, will start to rebuild once all this silliness over reform has passed). Thus, this "confidential" memo by the Big Blue's CEO to the employees, teaching them how and what to say to targeted legislators (don't be alarmed -- I've disabled the 'take action' buttons). The woman that received this missive happens not to live in the Districts of the Congressmen mentioned, but clearly understood that her boss wanted her to use the "right" zip code so that she would appear to be in their District:

To: Enterprise Employees
From: Denise S. Cesare, President & CEO
Subject: Health Care Reform: An Invitation To Stay Involved
Date: September 1, 2009

As you will recall, earlier this summer I asked you to consider contacting Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators on health care reform – an issue certain to have a dramatic effect on our Enterprise and our customers. I am pleased to note that an overwhelming 65 percent of our employees responded to this message and told our Senators that, while we agree that the time is right to reform our health care system, control costs and provide coverage to all Americans, the creation of a new government-run health plan should not be part of the solution.

I am again asking for your help, this time with our service area members of the U.S. House, Congressmen Chris Carney (D) and Paul Kanjorski (D). If your home zip code falls outside the districts of these Congressmen, we are asking you to send the same type of message to your members of Congress as dictated by your home zip code – our message still applies. Contrary to reports earlier in the summer, the U.S. House and Senate were unable to pass health care reform bills prior to the August recess. The fact that the path to reform has slowed and become a more deliberative debate is a direct result of citizens across the country – including us - getting actively engaged in this issue and speaking out.

Health care reform remains at the top of the legislative agenda and there is certain to be specific legislation under consideration this fall. Since Congress returns to session just after Labor Day, now is an ideal time to take action and contact members of Congress.

We will continue to advocate that all Americans have health insurance and for market reforms including a level playing field with no pre-existing condition exclusions or medical underwriting. At the same time, we continue to believe that a government-run health plan would be problematic for numerous reasons, some of them outlined below:
o Millions of Americans are likely to lose the private coverage they enjoy today. Millions are likely to move to the government plan that will have many price advantages such as lower provider reimbursement rates based on the Medicare model and exemption from federal and state taxes. These factors will lead to lower premiums in comparison to the private market, making it nearly impossible for private plans to “compete.”

o The government plan would underpay providers, leading to severe access problems. Provider underpayments will lead to access issues within the health care system such as long wait for services, or trouble finding a physician to provide such services. As provider’s revenues decline from lower payment structures under the government plan, facilities may be forced to suspend hiring of physicians and staff, and even close facilities.

o The government plan would undermine much needed delivery system reforms critical to controlling costs. History has proven the government can be slow to innovate and implement changes due to restrictive legislative and regulatory processes. Conversely, the private sector is free to innovate within a highly competitive marketplace. As one example, our Blue Health Solutions program has produced dramatic results in reducing healthcare expenditures and in improving employee health by engaging members in an active approach to managing their health and well-being. A government-run plan would not have the same cost control flexibility.

I am asking you to consider taking immediate action. If you are an Enterprise employee based in Pennsylvania, please click here to voice your concerns to your member of Congress. Once on the site, go to the updated “Featured Alert” and click on the “Take Action” button. Enter your home zip code and press “Go!” You will be taken directly to a custom letter that will be sent directly to your local member of Congress. Simply sign your name and fill in pertinent information, and hit “Send.” Your letter will arrive immediately via e-mail to the appropriate Congressional office. Please note: If your home zip code falls outside the districts of Congressmen Carney or Kanjorski, please continue to send the letter to your local member of Congress as dictated by your zip code – our message still applies.

If you are a BCNEPA employee who is NOT based in Pennsylvania, click here to send a message to the members of Congress in your state. Simply enter your zip code in the box on the left-hand column, and then fill in the required information to send the pre-populated letter. If you have trouble accessing the above information, please contact Arielle Phillips of our Government Affairs Department at .

Thank you.

Sigh. Among the misrepresentations being fostered by the insurance companies to protect their profits, sorry, "surpluses":

Millions of Americans are likely to lose the private coverage they enjoy today. -- Under the House bill, the public option is initially limited to small employers and people without any coverage whatsoever -- a number growing by over 10,000 a day. This is one of the compromises already placed into the program in the spirit of bi-partisanship. It is designed to give hte profit/surplus-makers time to adjust their offerings. Like good capitalists, they will. After all, I haven't seen FedEx having a problem competing with the Postal Service.

The government plan would underpay providers.
-- Where to start. First, nothing in the plan sets rates. Second, provider participation in the government health insurance option would be voluntary. Third, I don't see Medicare or the Veteran's Administration running short of providers.

The government plan would undermine much needed delivery system reforms critical to controlling costs.-- this is just argument by iteration, and I am not even sure what it means. But I do know that Medicare has administrative expenses of 3-7%, while the private insurers had admin costs of up to 30% and are paying executives millions in annual compensation.

Big Blue, spoon feeding its employees and teaching them that if they input a zip code from a target Congressional District, they will look for all the world like a "citizen" from that District, "alarmed" about a series of reforms that will cut into their profits and multi-million dollar salaries.

Time to mow the astroturf.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On Getting Fooled Again

Witnessing the spectacle of the town halls and the irrational anger towards the reform of health insurance, I was more often left shaking my head in disbelief.

"They" didn't get it, "they" were spouting absurd arguments which bore no relation to reality. There was something familiar in all of this.

I suspected that, for most people, their opposition to health insurance reform was the product of indignation fueled by ignorance. The recent NBC News poll on the Health Insurance Reform initiative confirms that suspicion -- when you strip out the Republican misinformation and misdirection campaign, 53% of respondents favor the House plan currently on the table.

But, you wouldn't know that from reading any of NBC's own coverage of its own poll.

One would think this was the most newsworthy item in the poll -- the opposition to the proposed Health Insurance Reform initiative is based purely on misinformation and when people are presented with the facts, they favor the program. Indeed, when presented with the facts, only 29% are "strongly opposed" to the Democratic plan (roughly the same fringe element who still think the previous occupant was a great President).

First, let's take a look at the poll question in question:

12. Now I am going to tell you more about the health care plan that President Obama supports and please tell me whether you would favor or oppose it.

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower- and middle-incomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

Do you favor or oppose this plan? (IF "FAVOR/OPPOSE," ASK:) And do you strongly or only somewhat (favor/oppose) this plan?
Favor: 53%
Strongly -- 35%
Somewhat -- 18%
Oppose: 43%
Somewhat -- 14%
Strongly -- 29%

The same poll found a number of misconceptions about what the proposals on the table would and would not do -- and those misconceptions figured in the NBC news coverage of its own poll:
*** Rampant misinformation: One of the reasons why the public appears so wary about Obama’s health-care plans is due to all the misinformation out there. Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants (55%), would lead to a government takeover of the health system (54%), and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions (50%) -- all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Additionally, 45% think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly, which also isn’t true.
The same poll confirmed that a combined 60% wanted to see the system overhauled and more than that thought the Republicans were doing a bad job on the issue. Yet, NBC news has failed to highlight the most newsworthy bit in its poll -- we are (again) making decisions as a nation based on Republican-led and inspired misinformation (anyone recall when 70% believed that Saddam was behind 9/11).

Talk about burying the lead.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Soon

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Second of July!!

It is July 2, which means it is time for my annual tilt against the History you learnt.

This may be news to those of you not history majors (or my children, who had to listen to the story every year for the last couple of decades)-- but, the Continental Congress did NOT declare independence on the Fourth of July. That actually happened on July 2, 1776. (The vote was 12-0, New York abstained.)

Months before, Richard Lee and John Adams had arrived at the Continental Congress prepared to argue for independence, fully aware that those sentiments may not be entirely embraced by the gathering.

In early June, Lee proposed a resolution severing colonial ties to the British:

"Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."


Adams seconded the Lee Resolution.

Initial debate on the Resolution revealed a majority in favor, but a significant number of the colonies yet unsure or lacking appropriate instructions on independence. Congress was adjourned to allow time for the representatives to obtain instructions from their colonies, and for lobbying.

In the meantime, anticipating adoption of the Lee Resolution, a committee was conscripted to draft the argument for independence and the justification for what was, clearly, a treasonous and seditious act. In short, they were assigned to draft the new Union's first talking points memo.

Appointed were John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson. Franklin, concerned that Adams was a little too much the aggressive litigator, suggested that Jefferson put together a draft. Adams, nothing if not self-aware, readily agreed and lobbied the reluctant Jefferson to accept the role. Jefferson, borrowing heavily from George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights, produced a rough draft. He then presented it to Adams and Franklin, who made some changes to the document before it was sent to the committee, which approved it without further change.

Congress reconvened on July 1, 1776 and the Lee Resolution was adopted July 2, 1776.

It is thus on the Second of July, 1776 that the Colonies Declared themselves Free and Independent States -- the true birth of our Union. That day, Adams famously wrote home how the date would be celebrated through history with picnics and fireworks:

The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.


Immediately after declaring independence from England, the Congress took up Jefferson's Committee Report. They reviewed, debated, and revised it in sessions on July 2, 3 and 4. On the morning of the 4th, they adopted the Declaration of Independence.

It was sent to the printer the following day and the first signatures were affixed in August, 1776, when most members of Congress were present to sign the document. But the final signature would not be set for over five years.

So, you all go off and enjoy the Fourth. I'll start raising my glass(es) to Jefferson, Lee, Adams, Franklin and the rest of the gang today. (All this and more at the National Archives .)

(PS. On July 7, the NY Assembly voted to instruct the delegation to vote in favor of the Lee Resolution, making the vote for independence unanimous.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Pennsylvania Senate Proposing to Eliminate ALL Funding for Legal Services

The Pennsylvania Senate introduced SB 850 as their proposed 2009-2010 state budget on Friday, May 1st. That legislation is poised to be voted on, and adopted, by the Senate tomorrow, Wednesday, May 6th. SB 850 eliminates all state funding (all $3,172,000 of the state's appropriation) for civil legal services. Access to justice is fundamental to a civil society. The reduction of funding for legal services at a time of substantially increased need due to current, severe economic recession is remarkable.

Please call your state senator immediately. Implore him/her to restore the state appropriation for civil legal services. Tell him/her that access to justice for the poorest among us is not an appropriate "bargaining chip" for budget negotiation. Need contact information for your State Senator, go here (the search tool is in the upper right hand corner -- serach by zip code or county).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Big Fat Slob is Cleaning His Room

and going on a diet . . . . be seeing you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Inaugural Address for Our Time

For many reasons, including the encouragement of the man himself, the ghost of Lincoln hovers above the Mall today. There is a certain visceral satisfaction to seeing today as the fulfillment of that arc of History. But more frequently coming to my mind as I anticipate today's spectacle, is another Historic election.


At an earlier time, but not that much earlier, a progressive Democrat was hoisted on the shoulders of his fellow-citizens. They carried him Washington, ending a long regime of Republican control. Facing an increasingly destabilizing international scene, his main pressing task at the outset was to lead his Nation out of the economic devastation wrought, in some significant measure, by the Republican's laissez-faire approach to market regulation and the irrational over-investment which it encouraged.

When FDR took office in March of 1933, he rode into office on the strength of the new Democratic coalition which he cobbled together -- the poor, the labor movement, northern city dwellers as well as Southern whites. Taking office in the full flower of the Great Depression and promising change in outlook, philosophy, and emphasis, re-reading his first inaugural I can imagine the words being spoken in the cadences of the man who will be speaking on that same National platform today:
This is a day of national consecration. And I am certain that on this day my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency, I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impels.

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; and the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.

Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True, they have tried. But their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.

Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation is asking for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing great -- greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our great natural resources.

Hand in hand with that we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.

Yes, the task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products, and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, the State, and the local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities that have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped by merely talking about it.

We must act. We must act quickly.

And finally, in our progress towards a resumption of work, we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order. There must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments. There must be an end to speculation with other people's money. And there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

These, my friends, are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the 48 States.

Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time, and necessity, secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor, as a practical policy, the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment; but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.

The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not nationally -- narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States of America -- a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that recovery will endure.

In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor: the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others; the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective.

We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at the larger good. This, I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us, bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in times of armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Action in this image, action to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple, so practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has ever seen.

It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations. And it is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly equal, wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But, in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis -- broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

For the trust reposed in me, I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded, a permanent national life.

We do not distrust the -- the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.

In this dedication -- In this dedication of a Nation, we humbly ask the blessing of God.

May He protect each and every one of us.

May He guide me in the days to come.