It Won’t Be Long Until You Hear The Sound Of A Big Lawn Mower In The Congress!
US Senate Panel Rejects Republican Healthcare Moves
Democrats said the requests were a tactic to stall President Barack Obama's top domestic priority, a broad overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry ...See all stories on this topic
Pelosi "Hopes" To Have A Bill Next Week
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told House Democrats on Wednesday that she hopes to have the final version of the House health care bill by the end of next ...See all stories on this topic
John Boehner: Health-care 'reset button': The Swamp
By Mark Silva
Peter Orszag, the Office of Management and Budget director, confidently told Bloomberg News this week that he believes it will take about six weeks to get that health-care bill that the White House wants passed. ...
The Swamp - http://www.swamppolitics.com/
Hi, I'm the public health insurance option.
People have been saying all sorts of untrue things about me lately, so I decided it was time to stand up and set the record straight.
First off: the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I'm happy and healthy. And I'm proud to play a starring role in four of the five health reform bills currently on the table.
Second: I have a lot of friends. President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi support me—as do 77% of the American people.1 In fact, I'm feeling pretty popular.
But there is one area where I could use your help. The Senate Finance Committee is considering a "trigger" proposal that could kill me through indefinite delay.
Can you call your senators, Mark Warner and Jim Webb, and tell them that health care reform must include a real public health insurance option that's available immediately—not a "trigger"?
Here's where to call:
Senator Mark Warner
Senator Jim Webb
Then click here to report your call:
A "trigger" that would make me wait to become available is just a trap designed to kill me. As Senator Charles Schumer has pointed out, "any reasonable criteria for triggering a public plan has already been met" because insurance companies have already failed to rein in costs and expand coverage.2
Here are some other things you might not know about me:
- I like candlelit dinners, overseas travel, and long walks on the beach. Whoops, sorry—wrong email.
- Some people say they don't like me because I'm too expensive, but that's just a flat-out lie. Keeping me around will actually save money—I'd cost 10% less than the typical private plan.3
- I'm the best way to keep insurance companies honest. Like my friend Senator Jay Rockefeller has said, "Without the steady, positive influence of a public plan option in the marketplace, we will never truly solve the health care crisis in this country. Private health insurance has a long history of cutting people off or charging too much for too little."4
- Over 60 House progressives have publicly pledged to only vote for a bill that has me in it.5 So without me, health care reform doesn't have enough votes make it through Congress.
And I'm counting on your help to make it through the Senate. Can you call Sens. Warner and Webb today?
Senator Mark Warner
Senator Jim Webb
Then click here to report your call:
Thanks for all you do.
–The public health insurance option (and the MoveOn team)
1. "New Poll: 77 Percent Support 'Choice' Of Public Option," The Huffington Post, August 20, 2009
2."A 'trigger' for the public health insurance option? Already triggered." NOW! Blog, May 20, 2009.
3. Letter to Rep. Charles B. Rangel, Congressional Budget Office, July 14, 2009
4. "Rockefeller Unveils Public Plan Option," Office of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, June 10, 2009
5. "60 Members of Congress Say 'No Public Plan, No Conference,'" Firedoglake, August 17, 2009
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Your Daily Glenn Beck; 9.23.09
By Diamond Tiger
Fascism Is Socialism With A Veneer Of Capitalism One of the largest search terms that brings people to the Monster is "impeach obama" and the related "how to impeach obama". Now folks, please remember that the House has to bring ...
Logistics Monster - http://logisticsmonster.com/
Does Glenn Beck Support The Slave Trade Or Is He Just An "Idiot"?
In a chapter in his new book purporting to explain to "idiots" what "our Founding Fathers really intended," Glenn Beck praises an obsolete provision of the U.S. Constitution that prohibited Congress from outlawing the slave trade before 1808 and capped taxes on the slave trade at $10 per slave. In his explanation of the provision, Beck does not mention slavery, saying instead that the provision means that the Founders apparently "felt like there was a value to being able to live here" and lamenting: "Not anymore. These days we can't ask anything of immigrants -- including that they abide by our laws."
Beck claims to provide authoritative explanation of Constitution's meaning
Beck explains to "idiots" what "our Founding Fathers really intended" in the Constitution. In the introduction to a chapter titled, "The U.S. Constitution: Lost in Translation," Beck mocks "idiots" who don't share his interpretation of the Constitution:
How many times have you argued with your idiot friends about what's constitutional and what isn't? You may even show them the Constitution, but the disagreement continues. That made me think that maybe the problem is that the entire Constitution is written in English -- a language that is very difficult for the average idiot to comprehend. In addition, there are several words in the document longer than three letters, making it a tougher read than the "Dick and Jane" books they normally struggle through.
What follows is a translation (from English to Idiot) of several important parts of the U.S. Constitution, leaving no doubt as to what our Founding Fathers really intended. [Beck, et. al, Arguing With Idiots, Page 267]
Beck praises constitutional provision protecting slave trade
Beck praises "Migration or Importation" tax provision in taking cheap shot at "immigrants." In the chapter, Beck reprints and then praises Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 of the Constitution. Beck specifically highlights in yellow the phrase "ten dollars for each person":
Section 9. The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
That's right, the Founders actually put a price tag on coming to this country: $10 per person. Apparently they felt like there was a value to being able to live here. Not anymore. These days we can't ask anything of immigrants -- including that they abide by our laws. [Arguing with Idiots, Page 278]…
1. "Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck bad for America?" Time, 9-17-2009
2. "The Glenn Beck Moment," The New York Times, 9-22-2009
In the discussion over ways to make health care more affordable, Senator Max Baucus of Montana and other health policy wonks have mostly talked about greater premium subsidies based on income.
But few have noted that there are plenty of other premium subsidies already implicit in the Baucus plan — for, among others, big families, young women and old men.
In Senator Baucus’s plan, the premium prices that insurance companies would be allowed to charge different people on the individual market are all relative to each other. Put another way, there are strict regulations for how much price variation there can be between the cheapest premium sold for a given insurance plan, and the most expensive premium sold for the same plan.
The only categories upon which health insurance companies will be able to price-discriminate are tobacco use, age and family composition. The requirements:
- 1) An insurance company would be allowed to charge tobacco users a health care premium that is one and a half times as high as the premium charged people who don’t use tobacco.
- 2) A plan’s oldest subscriber could be charged five times as much as a plan’s youngest subscriber.
- 3) A single adult with a child could be charged 1.8 times what a single adult alone could be charged; a “family” — which, from what I can tell from speaking with actuaries and insurance company representatives, generally refers to two adults plus at least one child — can be charged three times the premium a single adult is charged.
To help you visualize these price differences, here’s a chart showing the ratios:
(Under the Baucus plan, premiums could also vary among, but not within, state-determined rating regions to reflect geographic differences in health care spending. Taking together all allowable risk factors, premiums within a family category could not vary by more than a 7.5:1 composite ratio.)
I was curious about whether these ratios were actuarially fair — that is, whether these ratios truly reflected the different annual costs to an insurance company of covering a smoker versus a nonsmoker, for example, or an older person versus a younger person. Representatives of both America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry group, and the American Academy of Actuaries, a public policy organization, said that these ratios were pretty close to being actuarially fair.
Still, the 3:1 ratio for families versus a single person seems to be a big subsidy for families with lots of children. That is, a family with two parents and six children can apparently be charged a premium that is no more than three times the premium charged a single healthy person — even though the total cost of that family’s care is almost certainly more than three times the cost of the single person’s care. (Is this perhaps a pronatalist policy?)
The age ratios also may be a slight subsidy for older people, though Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman at America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the permissible age ratio is not too far from reflecting the relative costs of covering the old and the young. He noted that previous health reform proposals had set a more elderly-subsidizing age ratio of 2:1 — meaning that young, healthy people would be paying much higher rates proportionate to their actual health costs in order to prevent older, less healthy people from paying rates that reflect the (actual) high cost of providing the latter medical care.
“Everybody would love for older people to not have to pay exorbitant premiums,” said Cori Uccello, a senior health fellow at the American Academy of Actuaries. “But keep in mind that the more you lower them beyond average cost, someone else will have to pick up the tab.”
If younger people have to pay rates that they think are unfairly high, she cautions, they may decide that buying health insurance isn’t worth it, even if the law requires that they purchase health insurance coverage. (The Baucus plan has such a mandate.) Perhaps young people will decide that it’s cheaper to pay a fine for forgoing health insurance than to pay for an expensive health insurance plan.
“The ratios are important, but the insurance mandate also has to be effective and enforceable,” Ms. Uccello said. “Otherwise the low-risk people who don’t think they’re getting a good deal will just say forget it.”
There are also lots of other risk factors that the premium-price ratio guidelines don’t allow insurance companies to consider.
For example, the Baucus proposal does not allow premiums in the individual market to be set based on gender. Gender, however, can be a pretty good predictor of risk.
Generally speaking, young women tend to incur higher medical costs than young men, even excluding the costs of maternity care. At some point around age 50, though, men start to cost more than women. So having unisex premium rates means that at some point in their lives members of each sex would be subsidized by, or subsidizing, the other sex.
By John Fritze, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in both parties remained skeptical of a plan to change the nation's health care system despite a push by a key architect of the legislation Tuesday to boost benefits for middle-class families.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, offered the changes to build support for his bill, but the frosty response underscored the challenge he faces as the measure slogs toward a vote by his committee this week.
PERSONAL LOOK: Faces of the uninsured in the USA
TAX FREE: Health expense accounts could face cuts
"The time has come to have the courage to take on this daunting task," Baucus said as the finance panel began the first in a series of hearings on the bill after months of behind-the-scenes talks failed to produce a bipartisan compromise.
Democrats on the committee called the measure a good start, but Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia added that he nonetheless has "serious concerns." Republicans continued to object to its cost and scope. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the bill is a "stunning assault on our liberty."
Heading into the committee meeting, senators proposed more than 560 amendments. Baucus incorporated dozens of them — including a handful from Republicans — before debate got underway. Among the most significant changes:
• Low- and middle-income families would get slightly larger tax credits to help pay for insurance premiums. Individuals earning $32,490 to $43,320, for instance, would be eligible for a credit covering premiums that exceed 12% of income.
• The maximum fine imposed on families who do not meet a requirement to buy insurance would fall to $1,900 from $3,800.
• An annual cap on tax-free contributions to flexible spending accounts would increase to $2,500, up from the $2,000 ceiling originally proposed.
Baucus said the bill would now cost about $900 billion over 10 years.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who is being courted by Democrats to support the bill, said the measure includes many good ideas, but she cautioned Baucus against moving too quickly.
"We are far from the finish line," Snowe said. "There are many miles in this journey."
Redundancy alert: WashTimes launches new right-wing blog
Media Matters for America
TheConservatives.com - a joint online media venture from The Washington Times and the Heritage Foundation - is a tool to "reinvent the right" and help move ...See all stories on this topic
Washington Times Teams Up With the Heritage Foundation to Save the ...
I'm guessing that if, say, the Washington Post teamed up with a progressive group to create a new website called TheLiberals.com, right-wing activists and media critics would have a complete meltdown. I'm likewise guessing that we will ...
Right Wing Watch - http://www.rightwingwatch.org/
If the Republicans ever manage to retake Congress, they will absolutely try to impeach President Obama. And it'll be based upon a supremely ridiculous charge such as, say, the president refusing to nourish our crops with a sports drink instead of water.
Okay, so maybe the Idiocracy example is over-the-top, but if we follow the current trajectory of far-right attacks to their logical yet insane conclusion, it makes sense in a very eerie way. Have you seen the television commercials solemnly defending our right to poison our kids with "juice drinks and soda?" There you go.
I've been following the Republican descent into the realms of the bizarre for some time now, and it wasn't until the "czars" thing broke that I became convinced that if they retook Congress the Republicans might try to impeach the president. The grounds for both the impeachment and the language used to sell it will likely be fabricated by either Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.
I mean, 100 Republican members of Congress have signed onto Rep. Jack Kingston's cartoonish czar bill. 100 House Republicans out of 177 have attached their names to a bill that was essentially invented as a television bit by Glenn Beck without any regard for the fact that "czar" is a nickname invented by the press, and that every president -- all of them! -- has employed policy and political advisers within their administrations. But it functions as an effective Beck attack because he knows his audience isn't bright enough to distinguish "czars" from "communists." By the way, not to be out-crazied by his House colleagues, Senator Ensign introduced an amendment to the Finance Committee health care reform bill called "Transparency in Czars." This might as well be "Transparency in Hobbits" because it's just that ludicrous.
Nevertheless, there's a growing conventional wisdom in the press alleging that both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of wackaloon attacks and conspiracy theories.
Granted there might be one or two very fringe exceptions but this is otherwise a false equivalency written by the establishment media as part of their self-conscious effort to seem balanced. The distinction is that any "fringe" attacks from the left during the Bush years weren't mainstreamed and legitimized the way the wingnut attacks are today, even though the fringe attacks from the left turned out to be mostly accurate.
On the right, we're hearing about communist takeovers, birth certificates, Oval Office dress codes, teleprompters, death panels, czars and a return to segregated buses. During the previous administration, on the other hand, the left insisted that Iraq didn't have WMD. This turned out to be true. The left insisted that there wasn't a connection between Saddam and 9/11. Also true. The left alleged that George W. Bush was incompetent. The rest of the nation caught up with the left when Katrina slammed into New Orleans, shattering the levees while Bush was eating cake with John McCain.
Some, but not all, of the left thought Bush had prior knowledge of the September 11th attacks. It's a matter of record that he knew an attack might be imminent based upon the famous PDB titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." So that one was partially true.
The left also accused the administration of using illegal wiretaps, torture and other human rights violations. All true. Did Bush have business connections with the Bin Laden family? Yes. Did 100 Democratic members of Congress co-sponsor a bill calling him out for it? Of course not.
And throughout the Bush years -- no matter how accurate the left's "fringe" attacks might've been -- liberals were marginalized and laughed off by the establishment press, ignored by certain leaders in our own party and attacked as unpatriotic by the Republicans. Sean Hannity, Tom DeLay and Bill O'Reilly, who are all busily ripping the current president an array of new holes, actively accused the left of undermining the troops because we were criticizing the commander-in-chief during wartime. Ah yes. They abandoned that one faster than Newt Gingrich abandons sick wives, didn't they?
As for the name-calling, it's to be expected given its long and distinguished history in American politics. (Teddy Roosevelt once called Howard Taft a "puzzle-wit." Fightin' words!) But again, it's a matter of who's doing it and in what context. Yes, some people on the left were guilty of violating Godwin's Law and compared Bush and Cheney to Nazis. But in terms of the ideological spectrum, it's far more likely that a conservative, reactionary, corporate-friendly administration engaged in secret detentions, eavesdropping, torture and endless war might have fascist tendencies. On the other side of the coin, I don't know when Nazis suddenly began to embrace biracial, liberal children of African immigrants, but if I missed this development then bravo Nazis! You're doing better than South Carolina! Of course I'm kidding, South Carolina. Maybe.
Yet on the right, we have legitimate politicians, talkers and writers accusing President Obama of being everything from a fascist to a communist to a foreign usurper -- as if all of those accusations are somehow interchangeable. In other words, on the left there were fringe protesters ballyhooing the "Bush is a Nazi" thing, but on the right, everyone from cable news people to members of Congress are questioning whether the president was even born in the United States.
Fortunately, no Republican members of Congress would stoop so low as to compare President Obama to Hitler -- oh wait. Correction. Congressman Gohmert did exactly that back in July on the Alex Jones radio show no less -- Alex Jones, who makes Glenn Beck and Michael Savage appear centered.
All of this is all set against the backdrop of the infamous Republican Southern Strategy: a well-known tactic from the GOP playbook employing racially-suggestive code language and imagery for the sole purpose of consolidating white support by stoking racial resentment.
This is nothing new, and so it's a little strange and nearsighted of the very serious Sunday morning television people to laugh off racial connotations in right-wing attacks against the president, given the Strategy's prevalence in Republican politics. Pat Buchanan, the official cable news grampy, practically invented it. Later, Lee Atwater laid out the semantics like so: Republicans "can't say 'nigger' -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff." In the present day context, Atwater might've been happy with dog-whistles like "ACORN" or "community organizers" or "third world" or "exotic."
So some of these Republicans need to drop the "who me?" act. Credit where credit is due: at least Rush Limbaugh, the de facto head of the Republican Party, is honest about his racial dog-whistles and epithets. Calling for segregated buses in order to protect white kids from violent black kids in "Obama's America" is pretty obvious, no? In light of what happens on his show for three hours a day, it's remarkable that there's such denial coming from the press. (The Obama administration has no choice but to deny it, or else they'll only succeed in feeding it.)
Ultimately, this is how the Republicans will likely proceed with an attempted impeachment of the president should they manage to take back Congress next year. If precedent is any indicator, they'll likely concoct some sort of ridiculous charge torn from a Beck or Limbaugh transcript, while generating public support for it using a Brundlefly hybrid of the Southern Strategy and neo-McCarthyism. And why not? It's exactly what they're doing now.
Vice President Biden said this week that the administration's agenda would be crushed if the Republicans manage to take back Congress. He's right, but I think it'd be worse than that. Much worse. The 1990s will seem quaint by comparison, and it's clear that no matter how ridiculous the charges, the media will devour the spectacular drama while simultaneously excusing their behavior using false equivalencies and overcompensating with right-leaning conventional wisdom.
Of course, I hope I'm very, very wrong on this one.
Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/the-impeachment-of-presid_b_297330.html
Wednesday, Sept 23rd, 2009
ECONOMIC GROWTH VS. DEFICIT REDUCTION.... In the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, respondents were asked to prioritize from a list of issues the federal government may address. "Job creation and economic growth" was easily the top priority (pdf), though it's down a bit from July, and "health care" was second. Coming in third was "the deficit and government spending."
But later in the poll, we find this:
Which of the following two statements comes closer to your point of view?
Statement A: The President and the Congress should worry more about boosting the economy even though it may mean larger budget deficits now and in the future.
Statement B: The President and the Congress should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down, even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover.
Given the seriousness of the economic crisis, and the demand for an improved job market, it stands to reason the first statement would draw much higher numbers. Indeed, when given an open-ended choice in the exact same poll, "job creation and economic growth" was a much higher priority than the budget deficit.
Except, the results weren't even close -- in the other direction. A 62% majority said policymakers should focus on deficit reduction, even if it means delaying economic growth, which is more than double the 30% who said it's better to boost the economy. In June, prioritizing deficit reduction over economic growth also had a clear majority, but the margin is getting bigger not smaller.
Once in a while, policymakers have to be responsible enough to ignore polls and do the right thing. If these results are accurate, people care more about the deficit than the economy. But that's crazy. Imagine politicians telling a person who's lost her job and benefits, and who's struggling to stay afloat, "Yeah, but at least I've helped lower the deficit by a fraction of a percent in relation to the GDP!"
If the poll is right, the majority is wrong. Following this line of thinking is a recipe for a double-dip recession.
'Dictators Tend to Be Tiny' - Laugh Lines Blog - NYTimes.com
By By Alan Lee
Last week, Dick Cheney had buck surgery. You know Dick Cheney? Dick “Shotgun” Cheney? You know, it's the complications from carrying Bush for eight years. That's what it was. Doctors are optimistic about the surgery. ...
Laugh Lines - http://laughlines.blogs.nytimes.com/
The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The ...
Los Angeles Times
The gripping story of how hawk-turned-dove Ellsberg's explosive actions circuitously led to the impeachment of Richard Nixon and, in turn, ...
See all stories on this topic
Lou Dobbs: The Most Dangerous Man in the World for Latinos?
By Staff, GRITtv
Roberto Lovato thinks so, and discusses why with Laura Flanders. more »
After the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) instructed Humana and other Medicare Advantage (MA) organizations to cease sending health care reform mailings to Medicare beneficiaries, numerous conservative media figures -- including several Fox News hosts -- have advanced the talking point that the Obama administration is "threatening" or "suppress[ing] free speech" rights of reform opponents, in a manner Glenn Beck said "sounds like Joe McCarthy," often failing to note CMS' rationale. In fact, CMS expressed concern that the mailings -- which directed beneficiaries to contact Congress in opposition to Medicare Advantage payment cuts -- is "misleading and confusing to beneficiaries, represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the Medicare Advantage program, and is potentially contrary to federal regulations and guidance."
Beck cites McCarthy, conservative media rush to claim administration threatening to silence opposition, suppress "free speech"
Beck: "Boy, it sounds like Joe McCarthy, doesn't it?" Citing the Humana story, Glenn Beck stated on his radio program, "Now you tell me. Is this government encouraging freedom of speech? Encouraging diversity and diverse thought? Or are they trying to stomp down any -- using the arm -- the investigative arm of the federal government to shut you up. Boy, it sounds like Joe McCarthy, doesn't it?" [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, 9/23/09]
Dobbs: Obama administration "is threatening health companies ... with lawsuits for opposing the legislation." During his CNN program, Lou Dobbs claimed it was a "fact that theObama administration is threatening health companies -- health care companies like Humana with lawsuits for opposing the legislation and the initiative, particularly charging Humana with scaring seniors." [Lou Dobbs Tonight, 9/22/09]
WSJ editorial: Baucus targeting Humana "for daring to criticize one part of his health bill." A Wall Street Journal editorial asserted that in calling for CMS to scrutinize the Humana mailings, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is using "bullying tactics" because "the Senate Finance Chairman has sicced federal regulators on the insurer Humana Inc. for daring to criticize one part of his health bill" and that Baucus was "playing the role of Congressional censor." The editorial concluded that "Humana merely made the mistake of trying to tell seniors the truth" and that Baucus and the Obama administration intend to make Humana "an object lesson to the rest of the business class, and that means they won't stop until Humana cries uncle or is ruined." The editorial noted that CMS said the mailer may violate laws relating to marketing for a program that is publicly funded. [Wall Street Journal, 9/22/09]
Limbaugh: "In addition to fascist, this is Stalinist, and that's who these people are."Asserting that "[t]his infuriated me when I heard about this," Rush Limbaugh quoted the Wall Street Journal editorial and stated, "In addition to fascist, this is Stalinist, and that's who these people are." Limbaugh noted, as the Journal editorial did, CMS' concern about potential violations of regulations for federal health programs. [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show,9/22/09]
Fox & Friends: "We're talking about chilling a First Amendment" with "gag order." During a discussion with Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr., Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked, "Is this a government gag order?" and later asserted, "[I]t is a scary day in America when, as you say, this information from Humana is absolutely accurate, and for the federal government ... to come out and shut down debate because it's not helpful to the president's plan, that is, to use your word from earlier, chilling." Johnson Jr. stated, "For a government to say to a private corporation, you don't have the right to contact your subscribers and inform them truthfully, as it is, about a public policy change that will dramatically affect their health care, that is a frightening prospect." He added, "We are talking about gag order, we're talking about prior restraint, we're talking about chilling a First Amendment right to free speech, we're talking about destroying the dialogue." During a separate discussion, contributor Jonathan Hoenig stated of the Humana story, "I thought free speech was protected in this country," and that "all Humana is doing is simply trying to inform their customers that, yep, a change is coming, and maybe you ought to call your congressman ... and let them know that you don't want a government takeover of health care." Hoenig later asked, "[I]sn't this government cracking down on dissenting opinion?" [Fox & Friends, 9/23/09]
Hemmer: "Is the White House trying to silence certain health insurance companies?"Fox News host Bill Hemmer asked, "Is the White House trying to silence certain health insurance companies with the threat of legal action?" His guest, Mike Tuffin of America's Health Insurance Plans, stated that "a gag order [has been] issued from Washington," adding that "the timing of this and the tenor of it -- it has a chilling effect on free speech." Hemmer read a statement from Humana but did not provide the rationale given by CMS for its actions. [America's Newsroom, 9/22/09]
NewsBusters' Baker: Obama abusing power "to suppress free speech." In a September 23 blog post, NewsBusters senior fellow Brent Baker characterized the Obama administration's move as "using the full power of a federal regulatory agency to suppress free speech -- specifically, to silence Humana's predictions about the impact of proposed ObamaCare cuts to the Medicare Advantage program." Baker further asked, "[W]ill the media champion free speech and be outraged by the abuse of power to suppress it, or will most journalists not mind the government hushing voices which go against Obama?" [NewsBusters, 9/23/09]
Hot Air's Morrissey: White House "should spend a little time re-reading the First Amendment." In a September 21 Hot Air blog post, contributor Ed Morrissey asserted that Humana "had the temerity to commit the heinous act of free speech with their customers." The blog post further stated, "Only a government afraid of its people and afraid of the truth would turn that kind of communication into a crime. Maybe HHS and the White House should spend a little time re-reading the First Amendment instead of attempting to intimidate people out of the political debate, especially the stakeholders." [Hot Air, 9/21/09]
CMS concerned that mailer offered "opinion and conjecture" advertised as "official" benefit information
CMS concerned that the mailing was misleadingly represented "as official communications" about MA. In its September 18 letter to Humana, CMS stated that the mailer-- which claimed that under health care reform, "millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services" of Medicare Advantage and instructed beneficiaries to contact Congress -- was included "in an envelope that states it contains 'important information about your Medicare Advantage plan -- open today!' " The CMS letter further expressed concerns that the Humana mailer may be "contrary to federal regulations and guidance" for federal health programs:
CMS has learned that Humana has been contacting enrollees in one or more of its plans and alleging that current health care reform legislation affecting Medicare could hurt "millions of seniors and disabled individuals [who] could lose many of the important benefits and services [emphasis in original document] that make Medicare advantage health plans so valuable. The message, which is included in an envelope that states it contains -important information about your Medicare Advantage plan-open today!," makes several other claims about the legislation and how it will be detrimental to enrollees, ultimately urging enrollees to contact their congressional representatives to protest the actions referenced in the letter (see attachment).
CMS is concerned that, among other things, this information is misleading and confusing to beneficiaries, represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the Medicare Advantage program, and is potentially contrary to federal regulations and guidance for the MA and Part D programs and other federal law, including HIPAA. As we continue our research into this issue, we are instructing you to end immediately all such mailings to beneficiaries and to remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your website. [emphasis in original]
CMS: Mailer claimed to provide Medicare information but instead offered Humana's "opinion and conjecture." In a September 21 memo, CMS instructed all Medicare Advantage organizations to discontinue mailings similar to Humana's and "remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your websites." The memo stated that CMS was "concerned about the recent mailings as they claim to convey legitimate Medicare program information about an individual's specific benefits or other plan information but instead offer misleading and/or confusing opinion and conjecture by the plan about the effect of health care reform legislation on the MA program and other information unrelated to a beneficiary's specific benefits."
From the September 21 CMS memo:
Our priority is ensuring that accurate and clear information about the MA program is available to our beneficiaries. Thus, we are concerned about the recent mailings as they claim to convey legitimate Medicare program information about an individual's specific benefits or other plan information but instead offer misleading and/or confusing opinion and conjecture by the plan about the effect of health care reform legislation on the MA program and other information unrelated to a beneficiary's specific benefits. Further, we believe that such communications are potentially contrary to federal regulations and guidance for the MA and Part D programs and other federal law, including HIPAA.
CMS investigation centers on Humana's use of "lists of Medicare enrollees for unauthorized purposes." CMS stated in a September 21 press release that "CMS is investigating whether Humana inappropriately used the lists of Medicare enrollees for unauthorized purposes." The press release also quoted CMS official Jonathan Blum's statement that "[w]e are concerned that the materials Humana sent to our beneficiaries may violate Medicare rules by appearing to contain Medicare Advantage and prescription drug benefit information, which must be submitted to CMS for review."
Understanding Each Other, Diversity and Dissent: More Afgan fun ...
Le Café Politique De Camus De Café · Healthcare Show Down Takes Shape And Updating The Mid East War Zones - Healthcare Show Down Takes Shape And Updating ...
Israel, Gaza, and the Goldstone Report: A Call for Self ...
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
He was a member of the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina (CEANA) which was established in 1997 to identify Nazi war criminals who had emigrated to Argentina, and transferred victim assets (Nazi gold) there ...
God's Politics Blog - http://blog.sojo.net/
Here are today's news items from Media Matters for America, click on the title or 'read more' to read the entirety of each story.
Hannity, Andersen advance discredited claim that Ayers helped Obama pen his autobiography
During an interview on Fox News, Sean Hannity and author Christopher Andersen agreed that "Bill Ayers helped [President Obama] with his book" Dreams From My Father and that "literary devices and themes [in the book] bear a jarring similarity to Ayers' own writings" -- a conservative talking point during the 2008 election that Andersen also advances in his new book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage (William Morrow, 2009). However, an Oxford professor who conducted a computerized analysis of Obama's book and Ayers' memoir Fugitive Days at the suggestion of former Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) reportedly found that it was "very implausible" that Ayers helped Obama write his autobiography. Read More
Beck, Fox News lead conservative media in uniformly decrying "McCarthy"-like violation of Humana's "free speech" rights
After the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) instructed Humana and other Medicare Advantage (MA) organizations to cease sending health care reform mailings to Medicare beneficiaries, numerous conservative media figures -- including several Fox News hosts -- have advanced the talking point that the Obama administration is "threatening" or "suppress[ing] free speech" rights of reform opponents, in a manner Glenn Beck said "sounds like Joe McCarthy," often failing to note CMS' rationale. In fact, CMS expressed concern that the mailings -- which directed beneficiaries to contact Congress in opposition to Medicare Advantage payment cuts -- is "misleading and confusing to beneficiaries, represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the Medicare Advantage program, and is potentially contrary to federal regulations and guidance." Read More
Hannity demands Obama "turn this water on now" in Central California -- but pumps have been on for months
Broadcasting live from California's Central Valley, Sean Hannity continued his oft-repeated attack on "radical" environmentalists and the Obama administration for supporting water pumping restrictions that protect threatened delta smelt, by claiming the restrictions are "drying up this once fertile area" and calling on President Obama to "turn this water on now." But according to the Department of the Interior, the pumping restrictions ended on June 30 and have been returning to capacity since; moreover, water resource issues in the valley persist for many reasons, including years of drought in California, despite conservatives' attempts to blame problems solely on the restrictions. Read More
REPORT: ACORN OBSESSION: Beck, Hannity obsess over ACORN while virtually ignoring major corruption scandals
In light of the recent attention Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have devoted to a supposed corruption scandal involving ACORN, Media Matters for America reviewed the coverage each host has provided on his respective television programs to a selection of well-documented political scandals and instances of corruption by companies that have received thousands of times more money from the government than ACORN has in the past 15 years. Our findings show that both hosts have been obsessed with ACORN, devoting a massively disproportionate amount of attention to the story in comparison to their coverage of controversies involving military contractors that have received billions of dollars in federal contracts and instances of Republican corruption at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Furthermore, since Beck joined Fox News, the amount of attention he has devoted to ACORN has skyrocketed, while his interest in other corruption scandals has remained limit ed. Read More
Beck ignores reported arrest to attack "Nanny State" road checks for drunken drivers
In his new book, Arguing with Idiots, Glenn Beck attacks "Nanny State-ism" by criticizing drunken-driving laws, writing, "The Nanny State approach is to use the police department to set up roadblocks and spot-checks," and that stating since "[t]he largest percentage of vehicular deaths related to alcohol are from repeat offenders," the "commonsense solution is that you lose your license after a second DUI. Forever. Problem solved." In criticizing "roadblocks and spot-checks" and advancing his "commonsense solution," Beck did not address his reported arrest for "speeding in his DeLorean with one of the car's gull-wing doors wide open," after which a former colleague said Beck was "completely out of it." Read More
Wash. Times enlists in Beck's crusade against FCC diversity officer Mark Lloyd
In a Washington Times article, Amanda Carpenter promoted Glenn Beck-favored right-wing attacks on Mark Lloyd, the chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission, by reporting that Beck, Andrew Breitbart, and conservative websites "unearthed" "provocative comments" Lloyd has made about Hugo Chavez, freedom of speech, minorities' access to leadership positions, and ways to promote liberal radio. Additionally, Carpenter wrote that "bloggers are questioning Mr. Lloyd's commitment to free speech" based on his writings about the First Amendment, but in fact, the text of Lloyd's writings make clear that he was criticizing distortions of the First Amendment, not the amendment itself. Read More
Does Glenn Beck support the slave trade or is he just an "idiot"?
In a chapter in his new book purporting to explain to "idiots" what "our Founding Fathers really intended," Glenn Beck praises an obsolete provision of the U.S. Constitution that prohibited Congress from outlawing the slave trade before 1808 and capped taxes on the slave trade at $10 per slave. In his explanation of the provision, Beck does not mention slavery, saying instead that the provision means that the Founders apparently "felt like there was a value to being able to live here" and lamenting: "Not anymore. These days we can't ask anything of immigrants -- including that they abide by our laws." Read More
The rights to freedom of speech and protest are keystones of democracy. Since 9/11, however, protesting has become much more difficult.
The recent decision of Federal Judge Gary Lancaster in Pittsburgh allowing protests at the upcoming G20 summit is an important one because, since 9/11, protesting against the government has become quite a bit harder.
Six peace and justice groups sued local state and federal government officials over severe restrictions on protesting at the gathering this month of the industrialized world's leading Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors -- precisely the sort of public event that free speech rights were designed for. The case, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Pennsylvania ACLU, resulted in the government giving more permits to protest and the court allowing a tent city protest.
The First Amendment was enacted to allow challenges to political authority and protests were expected to be unpopular. The rights to freedom of speech and protest are keystones of democracy. Since 9/11, however, protesting has become much more difficult. The decision of Judge Lancaster is a step in the right direction.
I have litigated several cases and participated in dozens of protests across the country since 9/11. In every major protest exercising the right to dissent has been much more difficult than before 9/11 because the forces of government have been working overtime to limit protest and the right to dissent.
There are three main reasons that protesting is more difficult since 9/11. First, there is political advantage to keep fanning the fires of fear and insecurity and suggesting to the public that violence could well be a part of protests even though over 99% of protests and protestors since 9/11 have been completely non-violent (except for the right-wing gun toting folks at the healthcare forums -- can you imagine if African American protestors did that?) Second, government has poured billions into law enforcement with the result that their response to protests are in many cases no longer civil law enforcement but now quasi-military, a chance to both show off their new toys, and an opportunity for security forces to practice their mass response actions. Third, federal forces have taken over the leadership for security at any large protest so that local and state law enforcement have less and less to say in how the event is managed.
Since 9/11, there has been an insistent drumbeat from the highest offices in the U.S. on down that people have much to fear. This culture of fear has been used by the government as a rationale to refuse to allow protest. When protest is allowed, the same fears of violence and terrorist attacks are used to try to isolate the protestors into the infamous protest zones where government can isolate and limit protestors as was the case in New York City at the massive 2003 anti-war rally.
Additionally, local and state law enforcement forces have been given billions of extra dollars to fight terrorism. Hundreds of millions of these dollars have gone into special riot control and high tech security equipment. This means all police departments have lots of extra headgear, shin guards, shields, batons, pepper spray, tasers, bigger weapons and communication equipment. Most big city police departments have new armored vehicles and helicopters to fight terror. Every big police department has an anti-terrorism squad now. At big protests it is now common to see local police dressed up like and acting like military commandos. This militarization of law enforcement clearly inhibits the free exercise of the First Amendment right to protest.
After 9/11, the federal government was embarrassed and outraged by their lack of preparation. One of the changes made after 9/11 was to give federal officials more authority over protests which would have been handled by local and state law enforcement in the past. This means that protest organizers can no longer just talk with familiar local law enforcement to set up the ground rules for a protest, they must now deal with nameless faceless FBI and Secret Service bureaucrats who view every big gathering of people as a potential terrorist bomb opportunity.
Taken together these measures amount to what I believe is an unconstitutional assault on our freedom of speech. Judge Lancaster's decision is a step in the right direction but we must continue to be vigilant if we are to protect this essential fundamental right.