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Posts Tagged ‘health care reform’

(In no particular order)

1. Tax cuts for the wealthy

2. Curtailment of female reproductive rights

3. Repeal of Health Care Reform and, ultimately, social safety nets

4. Privatization of everything (see above)

5. Crush unions

6. Start least one more war

7. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

8. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

9. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

10. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

11. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

12. Obama is an uppity —— who hates America

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This is a simplistic post, even a wildly uninformed one. It’s based merely on gut feeling about right and wrong, not a comprehensive grasp of the intent of the Founding Fathers, Constitutional law, economic theory—micro or macro— or the intricate sociopolitical tapestry of this great nation of ours. (Have I left anything out?). I can recite the presidents and their birth and death dates in order, and give you the lifetime batting average of just about every member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame. And that’s pretty much it.

With that mea culpa in mind: Of late, I’ve been thinking of rights. Americans are way, way into rights. Preserving them, expanding them, taking them away. And arguing about what the hell they are. For the latter, most folks consult the Constitution of the United States, a document with which I am embarrassingly unfamiliar (see above), a deficit I suspect is shared by the vast majority of Americans, even the ones who wave the Constitution around like a cudgel.

What troubles me is that we live in a country where a large segment of the populace believes owning a gun is a right, but —as Rep. Ron Paul suggested the other day—access to health care and education is not. And for some odd reason, a quirk of character, perhaps, that strikes me as totally batshit.

Yes, I get the whole gun thing. Enshrined in the Second Amendment—I know that much about the Constitution—and protected by the NRA, perhaps the most influential lobbying group in the history of humankind. And why wouldn’t it be? Americans fetishize firearms like no other people on the planet.  It is a quasi-erotic obsession (and maybe not so quasi). And for many archconservatives, the rallying cry whenever a Democrat runs for office is “(Fill in Name) is coming for our guns.” (Even when the Democrat has no intention of doing so.)

We can—and do—argue about gun rights and gun control, whether Jared Loughner should have been able to purchase high-capacity ammunition clips, whether college kids should be allowed to pack heat, whether our national firearms fixation is disturbing, or at least embarrassing. But the right to bear arms is settled law. Settled 18th-century law, etched into the Constitution at a time when the new U.S. had just fought a guerrilla war for independence on its soil, and much of that soil was pretty unnerving wilderness.

(An aside: As someone who admits only rudimentary knowledge of the Constitution, I probably shouldn’t say this, but while the cherished document is a model for the world, it was crafted by flawed people—many of whom owned slaves. Just as I don’t advocate unquestioning adherence to the Bible, I don’t get constitutional fundamentalism. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin were visionaries. But not divinities.)

There is nothing about health care in the Constitution, I’ll give the Teabaggers that much. Except, of course, the Right to Life. It’s generally used in the context of abortion—in the extreme, giving microscopic zygotes personhood rights at all costs, even the life of their mothers. The zygote lobbyists are as fierce as the gun lobbyists—if they had their way, I suspect they’d put the little darlings on currency. Perhaps the dime, to replace that radical socialist FDR.

But once zygotes become little people visible to the naked eye who annoy us at restaurants and on public transportation, some of the same folks who fought so hard for their prenatal rights—well, postnatal rights, not so much.

And this is my problem. I think all of us ex-zygotes, all of us womb alumni, should have equal access to the best health care. I don’t think wealth should enter into it. Ask yourselves, is Bill Gates’ or David Koch’s or Kim Kardashian’s life worth more than yours? Or your spouse’s? Or your children’s? I’m not talking about net worth. I’m talking about innate value. If we truly revere life, believe it’s precious, why put a price tag on it?

Perhaps I’m just a romantic, or a bleeding heart. But I’ll be damned if I want to live in a country where the wealthy and privileged have more Right to Life than my wife.

I’m somewhat less passionate about education. For one thing, I have no kids, lucky for them. But the war on public schools disturbs me. My grasp on the debate is tenuous, and I know there are economic and pedagogic arguments that support privatizing schools—I’m sure some smart conservatives like George Will or David Frum or David Brooks could talk me into submission about it. But I can’t let go of the idea that eliminating public schools will explode the underclass.

Right-wingers in flyover states love to whine about “elites.” But wouldn’t privatizing schools just churn out new generations of elites? When I was growing up in Metuchen, N.J., we played on a level field from K-12. The idea was that even the poorest of us could perform well enough to gain admission to an excellent college

When it does come to college, well, that’s where the class system kicks in. You can get into Harvard, but even with scholarship aid you may never get there. What’s unsettling is a fear—unfounded or not—that privatizing schools could institutionalize that class system from the start. It just seems to be the inevitable outcome.

But maybe I can be argued out of it. After all, I went to public school—and, as I said, now know nothing but batting averages and presidential birthdates.

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Above I have posted two images. On top is a zygote I have named—in my weakness for alliteration—Zippy. Frankly, I don’t know whether Zippy’s male or female; he or she is microscopic, and I’m never quite sure where to look.

Still, for the so-called pro-lifers, at least the zealots whose mission it is to deny women the right their reproductive rights, Zippy is a person. For more about Zippy and zygotes, I refer you to an article excerpt taken from a pro-life web site. The excerpt is from a much longer piece by Dr. Donald DeMarco, professor of philosophy at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and a member of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission.


Human life begins at fertilization when the spermatozoon fuses with the ovum to form a zygote containing 46 chromosomes that bear a genetic code that is different from those of the new human being’s parents. Unlike the gametes from which it was formed, the zygote has the power to, and immediately begins to direct itself through a process of continuous development to become one day what it had begun to be from the outset, namely, a complete human person. “

Now, on the bottom, that’s Houston Tracy from Houston, Tex. Houston was born with a congenital, potentially fatal, heart defect. Surgeons saved his life in March 2010—but then his family’s insurance company refused to pay for the vastly expensive operation, because Houston had a preexisting condition; while Congress had just passed President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Health Act, which bans insurance discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions, it would not take effect until September.

The Tracys were lucky, though. Through the intervention of Democratic state legislator Chris Turner, among others, the insurer was shamed into paid the claim.

Other babies—children, teenagers and adults—with preexisting conditions won’t be so lucky if the current incarnation of the GOP in Congress has its way. That is, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Act—Obamacare, they call it—will be repealed, or at the very least starved or gutted.

So, the “pro-life” Republicans aren’t so high on the likes of Houston. But they’re way, way into Zippy. They’re on a rampage to protect the little guy/girl at all costs—even to the point of narrowing the definition of rape and incest in H.R. 3, their “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act. That sparked overwhelming outrage, and eventually they withdrew the language. But as Talking Points Memo’s Evan McMorris Santoro tells us:

“The controversy over “forcible rape” may be over, but now there’s a new Republican-sponsored abortion bill in the House that pro-choice folks say may be worse: this time around, the new language would allow hospitals to let a pregnant woman die rather than perform the abortion that would save her life.

The bill, known currently as H.R. 358 or the “Protect Life Act,” is an amendment to the 2010 health care reform law that would modify the way Obamacare deals with abortion coverage. Much of its language is modeled on the so-called Stupak Amendment, an anti-abortion provision pro-life Democrats attempted to insert into the reform law during the health care debate last year. But critics say a new section of the bill inserted into the language just this week would go far beyond Stupak, allowing hospitals that receive federal funds but are opposed to abortions to turn away women in need of emergency pregnancy termination to save their lives.?”

Got that? You take your wife or daughter to a hospital to save her life, and the “pro-life” surgeons are perfectly willing to let her die. Now, to be fair, a woman’s pregnancy almost certainly has to be much farther along than the zygote stage to require a life-saving abortion. Still, doesn’t anybody who’s not a religious fanatic see how nuts that is? If someone did that to my wife—well, that’s probably one thing that would drive me to “Second Amendment remedies.”

“Protect Life?” Bullshit.

I do, believe it or not, respect in general the pro-life position; abortion is a tragic, or at least painful option. I have no doubt that millions of Americans are genuinely emotionally invested in those zygotes. And, more plausibly, fetuses. Especially if they’ve had children, or perhaps a special needs child who might have been terminated.
But it is entirely possible to be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time–to allow women to make that decision themselves. My quarrel is with the zealots of the Christian Right—yes, as Markos Moulitsas wrote, the American Taliban, the radicals, the C-Streeters, who mean to foist their absolutist views on the nation. Who, essentially, strive to force women to bear children, even against their will. And the legislators– 173 of them, apparently– who would do so even if that woman was gang raped, or date raped, or a victim of forced incest. As long as there’s no bruising.

How can anyone with any soul force a rape victim to bear some monster’s child? Sharron Angle might call it turning “lemon into lemonade” but I call it sadism.

How can anyone allow a hospital to let a mother die a terrible death, rather than receive an emergency abortion?

Does anyone really believe all that fervor is entirely about protecting life—especially when many of those same legislators wouldn’t flinch at throwing little Houston under the bus—or the 45,000 Americans each year who die because they’re uninsured?

Do we really think the sight of Zippy up there gets John Boehner all dewy-eyed?

No, a good deal of this anti-choice zeal is bout two things:

1) Fear, or repression, of non-procreative sex—in particular, women having it. Doing it. Enjoying it. Notice how many anti-choicers are also against birth control? How many of them say abstinence education is the only answer?

2) Above all, religious fanaticism—and I am speaking of the fanatic here, not the reasonable and humane. Those who are under the spell of unyielding, unquestioning fundamentalism, the ultimate totalitarian mindset. Which is largely about covering one’s own ass. A lot of these “pro-lifers” don’t give a shit about babies—at least after they’re born.

I am reminded of a man—an Ohio man—I saw interviewed at a town meeting during the 2004 presidential race. He said he agreed with John Kerry on virtually every issue. But he just couldn’t pull the lever “because of abortion. These good folks’ priests and pastors have drummed it into their heads that if you even support a pro-choice candidate, you’ve sinned, and you’re going to hell. Or at least, you’re gonna have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

I’m not “pro-abortion.” No one with a shred of humanity could feel otherwise. I don’t think this sad, anguished last resort should be taken lightly. My wife is as pro-choice as they come, but she has said that, unless it was medically necessary, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

But with every shred of my being, I am pro-choice. Don’t take away a woman’s right to her own body, her own future. Don’t look at women as merely vessels, factories.

Don’t let the government invade women’s bodies.

I believe the expression is “Don’t Tread on Me.”

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This Congress will be remembered for its arrogance, corruption and stupidity.”

That’s what Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn wrote on the RealClearPolitics blog almost exactly a year ago, in the opening of a lengthy piece denouncing the impending Health Care Reform legislation. Now the archconservative Republican is living his own words (again) by vowing block the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (otherwise known as the 9/11 First Responders Bill) which would fund medical care for the seriously ill police, firefighters, construction workers and other heroes who charged into the World Trade Center ruins, trying to save lives after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The bill is named for James Zadroga, who died  in 2006 of a respiratory ailment blamed on his exposure to toxins at the Ground Zero site.

Coburn’s complaint is ostensibly about procedure—on Fox News earlier today he claimed the bill was never considered by a congressional committee or discussed in a hearing.

As Rep. Joe  Wilson might put it, “You Lie!” ThinkProgress points out that the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee did hold a hearing on the bill in June —something Coburn knows damn well, since he sits on that very committee.

Of course the whole GOP caucus had been blocking this bill all along—first to allow their sacred tax cuts to pass, then (presumably) over funding concerns. But relentless —and heroic—Democratic sponsors Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York claimed to have picked up sufficient Republican support after slashing $1.2 billion from the original $7.4 billion cost. As Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reports, Democrats have offered to pay for the legislation, “by setting a fee on federal government contractors with foreign countries that have not signed certain procurement agreements with the U.S and by extending a fee that already exists on certain H1B visas. The latter fee had unanimous support among Republicans and Democrats earlier this year.”

For years under George W. Bush Republicans used 9/11 as a political weapon, and its heroes and victims as political props. And they’re  still at it, with their zealous campaign against the proposed Park 51 Islamic center—which conservative demagogues dubbed The Ground Zero Mosque.  The sheer hypocrisy of the GOP’s stand on Zadroga is breathtaking; and while Coburn & Co. maneuver to run out the legislative clock, American heroes get sicker and sicker.

Ther GOP’s behavior in this matter is appalling beyond words.

Even the words “arrogance, corruption and stupidity.”

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1. Nobody outside Alaska would know the name Sarah Palin

Or Bristol. Or Levi. Or Willow. Or Piper. Or Todd.

Sigh.

Palin was thrown up—take that any way you like—as a Hail Mary by McCain advisers hoping to capture some of Hillary’s PUMAS. Had Hillary won, they’d never have run Sarah Louise, opting for a more conventional pick approved by the Christian Right. Also.

(One Addendum: Impeccable sources tell me a major celebrity magazine had a Palin story in the works for months before she was chosen as the mavericky running mate—an apolitical human interest piece focused on raising a Down Syndrome child—but kept postponing it. Until… So had Palin been passed over, for Veep, I’m sure they’d still have run the story eventually, and some Lower 48ers actually would know Palin’s name.)

2. Barack Obama would be Vice-President of the United States

Hillary would have needed the charged up Obama voters—especially African-Americans and young people. For Obama, it would be hard to resist, as a path to the Presidency in 2016, when he’ll only be in his mid-50s. Caveat: He might’ve bailed after one term, feeling trapped.

3. Given Numbers 1 & 2 above, the 2008 election would have been marginally closer, if at all

I’m no Nate Silver, of course. And this is contingent on Numbers 1 &  2 above. Without Obama for Veep, Black turnout might have been significantly lower. Especially after some of the bad blood left over from Bill’s comments during the primary. You’d also lose the anti-Palin vote, which motivated a lot of independents. But it’s a tough call—sans Barack, quite a few more working class and middle class white males might have voted Democratic. And perhaps some of the same independent women who turned out to vote against Palin would have come out for Hillary.

4. Health Care Reform Would Have Passed Sooner. Or Later.

This is a huge bone of contention. Some pundits say Hillary would have been tougher in pursuing her signature agenda, determined to avoid her debacle of the 1990s. Others say she was gun shy after that experience, and wouldn’t have pursued it immediately. Some speculate that she’d never have let the whole process grind on for 15 months, extracting huge political capital, and might have cut her losses, settling for provisions on children’s health insurance and preexisting conditions. And then focused on jobs and the economy.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has written: “I’ve heard Clinton was skeptical about the prospects for bipartisanship from the very beginning, and so some suggest she wouldn’t have let things like the Gang of Six drag on so long. But given that Max Baucus ran the relevant committee and he — and other moderate Democrats — wanted to either have a bipartisan bill or show that they gave a bipartisan bill every possible chance, it’s not clear what Clinton would’ve done differently. The Obama White House didn’t love the Gang of Six either, but they didn’t really see a way around it.”

Certainly the insurance industry would have been just as active in mobilizing opposition to HRC. And we’d have had some contentious town hall meetings.

But….

5. There would be no Tea Party (as we know it).

That is, there might be one in name, but it would never have the same force. No one will ever be able to convince me that race was not the energizing factor in the movement we’ve cringed at over the past two years.Yes, the anti-Clinton Right would have been hard at work, Rush and the bloggers virulent, and Bill’s infidelities, real and imagined, would have been dredged up—and devoured by a sensationalistic mainstream media.

But that train left the station in about 1998. America is over it. Among the right wing Yahoo base, none of that gossip would carry the same power as the hateful, “I want my country back” bullshit that went on during HRC—and still goes on. Even with Obama as Veep, those tactics wouldn’t have the same force. There’d still be birthers and “Obama’s a Muslim” lunatics.

But Hillary would be President.

6. Democratic losses in the Midterms would have been far less severe

I think Hillary would’ve held on to more independents (some states —like Pennsy—would have stayed blue); she’d also have motivated fewer crazies. And again, I don’t think the Tea Party, if any, would have so much teeth.

7. Angry Progressives would not be calling Hillary a wimp for compromising with the GOP. A triangulator, maybe.

Hill’s the one who coined the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy.” She went through Paula Jones, Whitewater, Monica, etc., etc. She has no dreams of”Obama Brand” postpartisanism. So she’d have held out far fewer olive branches. Publicly, at least. But she is a Clinton, and she did show bipartisan acumen as a senator.

8. Angry Progressives would be just as pissed, wondering what would have happened if Obama had won…..

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