Archive for December, 2009

Yo Mama’s Annual Review of Obama

December 31, 2009

As you have noticed, I have been unavailable, in Maine, this past week.  It was a quiet time and I had the luxury of very limited media exposure.  So I actually had time to think, take stock and put things in perspective.

2009 was an incredible year.  I remember the excitement associated with the new Presidency of Barack Obama.  The fervor, the optimism and the anticipation was like no other year in my life.  Also, the political battling by the GOP, the infighting within the Democratic party and the compromises made by my liberal hopes somewhat altered the initial euphoria.  This is called a dose of reality.

President Obama earned a solid B+ for his leadership for 2009.  His avoidance of another depression, his cool presence in the face of destructive and obstructionist opposition and mostly, his success in passing (fingers are still crossed) an initial health care policy were all stupendous achievements.  Yet, perfection is not on the table.  The increased deficit necessary for the financial bailout is indeed worrisome, as are some of the health care reform measures left out of this bill.  However, the President has taken the first steps in what could be a major rehabilitation of the United States.

What I have come to realize is that the excitement and positive energy of his campaign was a completely different animal that the raw realities of governing such a diverse nation, including the contentiousness of the GOP and the self-interest within the Democratic party.  The structure of our government was designed to provide many checks and balances against too much executive power and, as we have witnessed this past year, that built-in safety mechanism can work against the purity of what the electorate expected. 

So be it.  Besides the major issues inherited by President Obama, plus the seriousness of the new problems, he has been faced with the weekly/monthly crises that popped up unexpectedly, i.e. the Cambridge affair between Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley, an incident rife with racial profiling and prejudice that nonetheless ended amicably with the “beer summit”, the honor and following controversy of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and the terrorist incident on the Delta flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, which showed a deep ineptitude of our intelligence agencies’ communication abilities.  Just when he thought he could escape for two weeks vacation with his family, this terrorist event took place and the response of the pertinent agencies was disastrous.  He looked exhausted from the health care fight, from the “no-good-available-choice” for Afghanistan strategy and from the constant battle with our financial industry to clean up their act — and payment schedules.  Within 24 hours of his plane hitting Hawaiian soil for a much-deserved rest, the Delta plane headed for Detroit came a hair away from being blown up on Christmas day.  Don’t get me wrong: he knew the risks and pressures associated with being President.  He is a young, healthy man and he will deal with all of it.  Yet, it would have been nice for the Obamas to have had maybe a carefree week.  Not in the cards and he knows that and accepts the challenges.

All in all, this year has been a year of thrilling political events then tempered by a large dose of reality.  I am grateful for President Obama’s leadership and stamina, yet frustrated at some of the compromises he had to make.  This is not his problem: it is mine and I will deal with it.   I thank President Obama for his firm leadership this past year and  wish him continued strength and fortitude for the year ahead —– and a few moments of peace.

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The Empty Decade: Smoke and Mirrors

December 23, 2009

As the first decade of the twenty-first century draws to a close, there is not only despair for the people and events that have crossed our path, but also a fear for the future.  As I will explain, our country has fallen to new moral and ethical lows during this time period, characterized by a flagrant disregard for much that we hold near and dear.  Still, we might not yet have hit bottom.  That is the truly scandalous and scary scenario.  The decade of the “naughts”, of the zeros,  was aptly named: promises and principles were ignored and subjugated for personal gains.  The smoke and mirrors, indicative of a bankruptcy of values, prevalent in this decade is just dead empty.

Frank Rich, in his Op-Ed article in the New York Times this past Sunday (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/opinion/20rich.html?scp=2&sq=frank%20rich&st=cse),  wrote of his analysis of this decade.  He held Tiger Woods as the ultimate symbol of an era typified by scams, shams, and devoid of any ethical underpinnings.  I beg to differ with Rich, although only in matter of degrees.  I would choose Tareq and Michaele Salahi as the epitome of this empty decade.  At least Tiger had some real talent/ability and expertise.  The Salahis have neither, yet were able to convince many people to the contrary.

The underpinnings of America as a moral beacon have come undone.  That is precisely the sickness that is affecting our government, our financial and corporate entities and of course, our individual citizens.  With simply a hope and a prayer supporting their schemes, the crooks and fake icons of this decade, from Enron to Madoff ,  from the heinous sub-prime mortgage scandal to easy credit, from the unrelated impetus of us starting a war with Iraq based on a purposeful deceit for its inception, from the bailout to the recent health care “reform”, from Craig to Spitzer to Sanford to Ensign to Tiger and to the Salahis, this country is in so deep that it might not be possible to extricate itself from this downward spiral of ethical neglect and betrayal.  Thus, we are running on empty.

Historically, Americans love their con men.  All you have to do is to read about  Ivar Krueger, “The Match King” and Charles Ponzi (whose name tells the whole story) to understand the infatuation the United States has with their heroes/goats.  The reason escapes me, but may have something to do with their love of risk especially if the potential payoff is huge.  The Enrons and the Madoffs of this decade are merely repeats of scams that have come before.

However, this decade has seen the greed and corruption, the selling of products and services that were nothing more than empty promises (Enron’s energy, financial industry’s derivatives, etc.) and the gall of the guilty to insist they did nothing wrong and continue to avoid scrutiny and accountability.  Our government has likewise avoided real legislation and called it a victory for the people, piling nothingness upon nothingness.  Shoot: if everyone else can do it, why not our elected officials?

To me one of the worst violations of our code of ethical conduct are those incurred by the non-profit organizations.  Remember the Red Cross after 9/11?  They collected a huge amount of donations after that tragedy and then announced that not all of that money would go to aid the victims of that fateful day. The Red Cross was going to “put aside” a chunk of the donated funds for any future catastrophes or needs, no specifics given.  All too often, charitable enterprises abuse their not-for-profit tax status.  The term non-profit is misleading because it applies to these associations only after all salaries are paid.  All too often, the executives receive millions of dollars of compensation packages.   So while their tax status might be non-profit, their major employees are quite for-profit.

Many hospital associations and universities are run exactly like this.  Just the other day there was a story on the radio about hospital alliances that pay out millions of dollars to their leadership staff.  In fact, the head of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City was cited as having a salary approximating $3 million per year.  Remember the graft and corruption, the “misappropriation of donations”, that wracked the United Way in 1995 and again in 2004?  The same open disregard for the rules, as demonstrated by our government’s buying and selling of Congressional votes and and our corporate entities’ raping of the economic structure ( e.g. AIG, Goldman Sachs, etc. ), is thriving in the one industry, that of charity and good deeds,  that we thought was above such deceit and distortion.  The irony is particularly stinging because of the legal tax-exempt loophole that permits these non-profits the same indulgent, top-heavy compensation packages as private industry.

In our halls of government, it is a contagion present on both sides of the aisle.  Today, Harry Reid begged for civility in the Senate:

Reid implored his colleagues to tone down the heated rhetoric and work together to finish the process. “There’s a lot of tension in the Senate,” Reid observed from the floor. “And feelings are high. And that’s fine. Everybody has strong concerns about everything we have done and have to do.”

Reid invoked the name of Rodney King in calling for calm. “But I would hope that everyone would go back to their gentlemanly ways and I would hope that — I was trying to figure out how to say this — gentlemanly ways. We used to say in the House, ‘Gentlewomen.’ So, I guess the same here. So anyway, I hope everyone has — I’ve said to a number of people, Rodney King — ‘Let’s just all try to get along.’ That’s the way we need to do it,” Reid said.

How in all the world can the members of the Senate act like gentlemen when the policies they are espousing are not worthy of the humanity they falsely support?  They are a bunch of carpetbaggers, consumed by their own special interests to further their re-election goals and personal wealth ideals.  Real gentlemen beget real legislation and do not compromise away the promises they made to the people who put them where they are today.  On the GOP side, John McCain called the compromise give-aways by the Democrats to their fellow party members as indicative of a corrupt government takeover.  He called the concession granted Mary Landrieu as “The Louisiana Purchase” and the similar gift to Ben Nelson as “The Cornhusker Kickback”.  Despite the hypocrisy of these trade-offs, McCain’s memory is seriously impaired if he fails to mention the many times the GOP bought off their members.  The horsetrading in Congress, not the concern for our citizens, is the driving factor in making new laws.  Further, McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his Presidential running mate smacks of exactly the overriding concern for a re-election bid rather than an emphasis on ability, intellect and temperament in providing America with potential leadership in its top position.  So both of America’s political parties have proven themselves devoid of principles and character.  It is next to impossible for such a dysfunctional governing body to produce any sort of functional policies and laws.

As a result of this dysfunction at every level of our society, some experts are speaking to the issue that political science and economics are more close in character today to the social sciences/psychology.  David Brooks of  the New York Times wrote this piece about how economics is being transformed into psychology, mainly as a way to alter the corroding underpinnings of our society:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/22/opinion/22brooks.html

Then read what Drew Westen, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, had to say about President Obama’s actions during the last year, as campaigner and as Commander-in-Chief, again explained within a psychological framework:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-westen/leadership-obama-style-an_b_398813.html

Being faced with such complicated and divisive issues, President Obama has chosen a path of survival: non-confrontation.  I appreciate his need, a real one, to preserve his strength for the many battles he still has to fight.  However, though still in praise of his eloquent words, a  more in-depth follow-up and support to his proposals would have gone a long way towards real reconciliation.

This decade has been emblematic of an erosion of our founding values.  The Salahis are the creme de la creme of the ague that infects us.  Selling themselves as productive and charity-loving members of society when all they have to show are endless unpaid bills for services rendered to them is the ultimate act of moral emptiness.  Yet, their facade was enough to allow them entry into the highest echelons of social and political circles in this country.  As goes the “respected” members of our community, so goes their corporate and governmental counterparts.  The ethical core of our country needs shoring up and only time will tell if we will undertake that task or continue to speak caring words with no restorative actions to follow.

One can only hope the admission of the smoke and mirrors will shake us all up for the coming decade.  We still have the option of acting upon values, ethics and morals.  The possibility of making corrections to our underlying, Constitutional principles and  social mores still exists.  I am of the opinion that until we do the hard work of altering our current behavior, no amount of legislation can pick up the shortfall.  Changes in our basic structure are necessary.   It can get done, but must be accompanied by a willingness followed by heart-rendering honesty to redistribute wealth and benefits, just to get back to some semblance of equality and justice.  We are absolutely capable of filling up our empty tank.

I thank you for your readership during the last year and wish you a better next year filled with promise turned into reality.

OUR AMERICA: SMOKE AND MIRRORS

SENDING YOU HOLIDAY GREETINGS OF GENUINE JOY

PEACE, BABY!

With much love,

Yo Mama For Obama

Post-Mortem:The Final Word of the Beginning?

December 22, 2009

In an effort to gather my thoughts, I have tried to make some order out of our new health care bill, as passed by the Senate.  A lot of reading follows, but it has much value.

On one hand, with 60 Democratic votes in the Senate, the difficult time this legislation faced before passage shows what a tough issue health care is for this country.  It should not be so, but it is.  Shoot.  I really should be five feet, eight inches.  But alas, I am merely almost four feet, eleven inches.  Such is life.  So be it.  Even with majority leadership in Congress and a sitting Democratic President, this was not an easy feat.

On the other hand, the politicos believe that all the compromise necessary to ensure enactment will not matter in the long run; this bill is just the first stepping stone to a system of universal coverage.  I am not yet convinced because with a current majority in both Houses, we may never have such strength for a long time to come.  This bill might be as good as we can get for another 20 years.

On my brighter days, I appreciate this landmark legislation as the structural foundation of a health care system that may provide decent, equal and cost-efficient care.  On my darker days, I am as angry as hell that the decent, equality and cost efficiency was sacrificed in favor of the private insurers’ bottom lines.   Allow me to provide two view points on this issue, both by respected journalists.  The first is in support of this bill, although not entirely enthusiastic, by Paul Krugman:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/opinion/18krugman.html?scp=3&sq=PAUL%20KRUGMAN&st=cse

The second article is by David Brooks.  While he comes to a different conclusion than Krugman, Brooks also is kind of on the fence:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/opinion/18brooks.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=brooks&st=cse

I will let you pick your poison and decide for yourself which side of the coin you prefer.  Meanwhile, there are a few glaring examples of hypocrisy and self- interest that I cannot ignore.  Both Senator Landrieu and Senator Nelson finally voted “yea” on this bill only after they were literally bought.  Both states will receive hundreds of millions of dollars for their Medicaid expansion.  Also, Nelson won major concessions to limit abortion rights.  Thus, he must feel pretty powerful now that his strong-arm reaches half of America’s population: the women.  Both of these politicians are dirt.  Here they are, major critics of health care because it expands the role of government too far into American life.  Additionally, they believe that the costs of health reform are nothing short of catastrophic for our country.  Yet they both accepted the huge funding for the government program of Medicaid for their own states.  Isn’t their acceptance of these “gifts” completely antithetical to their strongly held position of less government and less costs?  They are whores, the lot of them.

And everyone and their mother state as their first accolade of this bill that 30 million uninsured Americans will now have insurance.  What they are not so vocal about is the fact that the bulk of these people will get health care mainly through Medicaid.  The care offered by Medicaid does not nearly approximate the standard of care our federally elected officials receive through their plans, the cost of which we pick up for them.  I hold firm in my principle that until all Americans are afforded equal access and levels of care, i.e. universal coverage, the whole system is rotten.  Separate but equal: been there, done that.

Another oh-so-obvious inconsistency that has surfaced during this debate is overwhelmingly depressing: the GOP lacks any real concern for governing.  Instead, their overriding concern is for the survival and strength of their own party, which in and of itself includes a healthy dose of individual self-interest.  Just yesterday, Senator Tom Coburn just about called for a death in the Senate, like perhaps the ancient and infirm Senator Robert Byrd, so that the bill would not have the 60 votes to pass:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/21/robert-byrds-death-seemin_n_399038.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HP%2FPolitics+%28Politics+on+The+Huffington+Post%29

Further disconcerting is that the party on the other side of the aisle, the Democrats, are not too far behind in their denial of what is good and right in favor of their own welfare.

None of this is news.  There are those observers who believe that President Obama is running out of political capital:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-sullivan/president-obama-loses-his_b_395835.html

But more typical are rationalizations of this Senate vote.  Paul Krugman blogged acceptance of this bill:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/the-wysiwyg-president/

As did Andrew Sullivan, saying that the bill we got was the bill President Obama had promised us:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/12/the-bill-obama-promised.html

I guess my take on all of this is much disappointment buoyed by some hope.  It doesn’t much matter for me personally:  I am at that stage of my life where I have savings to cover the annual premium increases of 30% that keep on coming plus, in six years, I will be eligible for Medicare.  But what of the younger generations?  I still worry so much about them.  The saddest thing is that they will not even know what they are missing because they never had the comfort and security of just and affordable coverage against which to gauge any recent incarnation of health care.

As a result, my battle continues to educate what it is they really are missing and what it is we should continue to fight for.

Humor: Tripping the Light Fantastic

December 21, 2009

Once again, I was disqualified from my neighborhood's "Best Decorated House Contest" due to my attitude!

A money-saving Christmas idea

Thanks go to Ms. Seven Striper and LonBen for their contributions.

Isn’t She Lovely?

December 20, 2009

ISN'T SHE LOVELY?

ISN'T SHE WONDERFUL?

ISN'T SHE PRECIOUS?

ISN'T SHE PRETTY?

TRULY THE ANGEL'S BEST

ISN'T SHE JUST SO DAMN LOVELY?

Yes, Virginia — There is a Santa Claus

December 19, 2009

Yes, dear sweet Virginia —- there is a Santa Claus.  If only for one day of the year, all that Santa symbolizes — holiday spirit, compassion, benevolence — is alive and well.  Without the intent of bursting your carefree childhood bubble, I must educate you as to the other 364 days of the year.

The innocence of childhood is all well and good.  However, without adding a dose of reality to the mix, I fear you will grow up to be irrevocably disillusioned.  That would not be productive for either you or our society.  So please allow me to temper your belief in all that is good just a bit.  Upon becoming a parent so very long ago, I assumed the responsibility of teaching my children values.  I also took on the obligation to be as honest as I could with my children.  To avoid the issues for the sake of maintaining a happy, carefree childhood would be providing a false hope.

Although we live in a country that was founded upon great principles of freedom and equality, the attainment and maintenance of those ideals are much more difficult to achieve and preserve.  Our hopes and wishes are admirable; our actions to deliver them are not.  In our rush to claim the all-important American victory, regardless of its emptiness, we are supplanting idealism with pragmatism.  We are forfeiting our principles and disregarding our promises.  We have lost sight of our mission: to take care of each other.  By choosing our current path, we have relegated not only our individual personal integrity, but also our national ethos of freedom, equality and justice — to the garbage heap.

No author or politico could have written a script that approximates the selfish and destructive events that our country has recently experienced.  Imagine: a country, historically the richest and most freedom-loving on our planet with an ego large enough to pride themselves on this dedication to its founding principles, void of a national health care plan.  This country is on the brink of economic collapse due to the unethical games played by its financial and governmental parts.  Ours is a country of mutual consent for harmful policies as well as progressive ones.  Its President correlated further economic downfall with a lack of a comprehensive, fair health policy.  He especially underscored the importance of a public option, the only way to ensure fair competition as a natural process to control costs and set the standards for equal access and non-discriminatory care.

The majority party in power of this nation, while in the procedural throes of designing and enacting such policy, stands aside, looks the other way, when one of their own, i.e. Joe Lieberman, completely derails the process so he can have legislation that caters to his special interests underwritten by the private insurance industry physically headquartered in his state.  All the while, this same nation, with the same political party in power, attacks and demeans its very own Chairman, Howard Dean, a physician himself and an individual who has the guts to speak the truth despite Party ties.

Have a look at Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska.  He is the only Democrat in the Senate who will not vote in favor of the health care reform bill because he wants harsher restrictions on abortion as a trade for his vote.  I am baffled by his position and cannot reconcile his stance with actual concern for his constituents.  How can he be so protective of unborn life while trading down the river those who have already been born?  It is unfathomable to me how disingenuous he is by his super-concern for the feeding and care of unborn children yet so callous to the plight  of those already on our planet.  Could his rationale be that unborn babies do not cost the government a red cent, while live babies cost a mint?  Why is he so caught up in denying our legal rights rather than funding them?

Also, the state of Virginia’s new Governor-elect, Bob McDonnell, based his successful campaign on “no more taxes”.  Now the state is four billion dollars in the hole and the shortfall must be addressed.  In recent statements, McDonnell is holding to his promise of no more taxes and has said he will make up the deficit by instituting cuts.  Of course, the first item mentioned to potentially be on the chopping block was education.  I feel for you, little girl: because you do not have the protection of the vote, your rights are usually the first ones to be tossed out the window.  I am so sorry.

Ultra-senior Senator Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have held up passage of $656 in funding for our military in the (yes, quite unrelated) hope to delay health care reform legislation from Senate passage.  Once again, this tack merely punishes innocent Americans, our freedom-fighting troops.   Holding as hostages our supposedly valued soldiers,  in response to a health bill deemed unacceptable by the GOP,  is criminal.  Their efforts to kill the bill are misguided and destructive and certainly do not embody the intent real patriotism.

So despite this sorry state of affairs, please Virginia, enjoy your Santa Clause, if only for one day.  Revel in his existence and all that he stands for.  Dive right in and partake of all the joys of childhood, knowing that there are people out there who will continue the fight to protect and provide for our children.  After all, that is really the only way you will be able to continue the battle when you are all grown up and fighting for your own children.

Happy Christmas, little one!

It’s Not My First Rodeo

December 19, 2009

Thanks go to my husband for this phrase “It’s not my first rodeo.”  Allow me to elaborate.

Been there, done that.  As I get older in years and longer in the tooth, I find a bit of wisdom attached to those scars of life.  The insight is totally worth it.  I might not look so hot anymore, but my brain power and experience are worth it.

The Senators, especially the Democrats led by the terribly disappointing Harry Reid, have fallen off a cliff.  Instead of passing health legislation, with a public option that the people are screaming for, they have turned this debate into what’s in it for them.  I have news for the Senators: it is not about you.  Not that it ever was, but especially this time.  The American people are responding, both the right and the left.  Some reconciliation at last.

As I sit here, awaiting the foot or so of snow that we expect, I will be blogging often this weekend.  But I promise, I will provide some comic relief along the way.  While the right  wingers are concerned about the intrusion of too much government in every aspect of our lives, the left is railing against the hypocrisy of government’s presence.  So while these two combative ends of the political spectrum are separated by their expected goals, the culprit is the same for both sides.

I have had insights as to why there appears to be validation between the right and the left: it is a reaction to the deceit and lies of our elected officials.  While the goals of the right and left are different, the complaints are the same: a violation of ethics and values.  Whether the financial industry, the for- profit insurers or the deception of our elected officials, the whammy to the American public is flagrant and crosses party lines.  In my wildest dreams, what could the tea-baggers and the liberals actually agree on?  Decency.  Honesty.  Fairness.  It is actually quite heartening that all Americans, despite their political loyalties, can find common ground on which to coalesce.

I still believe in President Obama; I believe in his purity of purpose, yet understand the confinements of governing.  And I will be damned to hell if I condemn his whole being, his entire agenda, because I am unhappy, so far, with his participation in health care reform.  In fact, I find hope:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/18/white-house-will-try-to-p_n_397022.html

I am a very loyal person and I find no rationale to desert this man of promise.  I could not imagine the pressures he is under.

Kudos to the novice Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken.  Finally, fin-al-ly, we have a Senator who talks of real facts and nails the liars on their attempts to purposely deceive.  Watch this video of Franken rubbing John Thune’s face in his own disgusting lies:

It is this outright and purposeful distortion and fraud that citizens of both parties are rallying against.  Franken should be given a medal for good citizenship. He is a one-man morality tale: yesterday he gave Traitor Joe Lieberman a dose of his own medicine and today he is demanding true facts and accountability from the Party of No.  Who would have believed that this was Franken’s first rodeo?  Make no mistake about it: Al Franken is the real Maverick of the Senate.

I truly do appreciate the difference between campaigning and governing.  Governing is wicked more complicated.  Take Jimmy Carter as an example.  He was a President of impeccable honesty, goodwill and high expectations.  However, he could not run an effective shop for the life of him.  So all of his admirable qualities were rendered moot because he could not translate ideas into actions.  Further, as much as I admire Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, who is to say that they would be effective at the top level of our government?  Who knows?  Yet their honesty and integrity is to be much admired.

The perfect storm is brewing for the mid-Atlantic states this weekend.  We are expecting over a foot of snow.  My mood has somewhat elevated with the possibility that all Americans are now well-aware that the perfect storm is also brewing in Congress.  There is comfort in numbers.  Know that I am a reasonable person.  But temper that thought with the fact that above all, I am for the children.  Sometimes, civil obedience includes taking an unpopular stand.  So be it.

This is not my first rodeo, nor will it be my last.

POSTSCRIPT:

A reader has kindly apprised me of the source for the title of this post, “It’s Not My First Rodeo”.  The lyricist is the country singer Gosdin Vern:

This ain’t my first rodeo

This ain’t the first time this old cowboy’s been throwed…

This ain’t the first I’ve seen this dog and pony show

Honey, This ain’t my first rodeo.

Hammer Time

December 18, 2009

I stand with Howard Dean on the health care issue: the fight must continue.  We must fight fallacy with fact and broken promises with accountability.  Americans, especially the Democratic ones, are very angry at their elected officials for negotiating their health care rights right out the window.  The two largest unions, the AFL-CIO and SEIU, are livid at our President for his abstinence from his strong campaign promises and hot under the collar at our Congressmen for turning their backs on their promises for working people, even after these two unions spent millions of dollars in advertising in support for the Democrats’ reform proposals.  Lies and deception produce some ugly results.  You thought democracy was messy.  Just wait: the country’s response to our supposed “democracy” can get a hell of a lot more messier.

Keith Olbermann said it perfectly in his little speech:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/17/kill-the-bill-debate-rage_n_395449.html

Olbermann’s use of the term “cartel” is apt for describing the role ascribed to the private insurers by our President’s silent nod of approval and Congress’s sacrificing the real reform  in the most recent incarnation of health care reform.  It is stunningly ironic that every individual  American who does not buy coverage will face a hefty fine for “going naked”.  However, since the private insurers will be their own policemen, who will monitor them for their lack of adherence to the new rules?  I guarantee you that the fines imposed on Americans who refuse to buy a product offered by a monopoly with premiums having no cost controls will clearly outpace the fines imposed on the for-profit health cartel.  The for-profit insurers must cover all pre-existing conditions, but they will still be allowed to increase premiums hundreds of times over to cover those conditions, making affordable health coverage, and thus any kind of coverage, a mere fantasy.  Then, with no other option available,  those Americans will also be fined for opting out of any insurance.   The taxpayer, the voter, are still at the mercy of private corporations.  How is this reform different from what we already have?

I received an email from Senator John Kerry today requesting a donation in support of global climate control.  Is he out of his mind?  His timing could not have been worse.  The text of the letter follows, and is subtitled “Fight Back For The Truth”:

Hello Bonnie,

I took a quick break from the Senate debate over health care to spend a day at the Global Climate Change meetings in Copenhagen.  It was worth the jet lag to help convey the message that the United States is back in the game and ready to act.

And yet, I see the news back home, and there’s still this ridiculous debate over the reality of climate change.

Talk about the tale of two cities: Copenhagen vs. Washington, DC.

In Copenhagen, island nations plead with the world to act before their homes are destroyed by rising sea levels, developing nations talk about their farms turning into deserts because of a changing climate, and scientists give their latest assessments of the incalculable damage that awaits us if we don’t act. But in Washington, DC the forces of the status quo are putting enormous resources into warping the conversation, pushing polluter-funded discredited junk science and faux controversies.

It’s a little preview of the bare knuckled debate we’ll have this spring 2010 when the Senate debates the issue. And it’s time to fight back with everything we’ve got. That’s why today, I’m launching TruthFightsBack to help give everyone a voice to fight back against the distortions and lies, but it won’t work without you.

Please head over to TruthFightsBack, join the fight, and give what you can to help.

It was no small irony that this week as I finished my speech for Copenhagen, spoke by phone with Al Gore, and checked in with the Obama Administration officials in Copenhagen, over on my tv screen I could see more ads paid for by Big Oil, using scare tactics to try to stop reform. They’re using all the usual tricks – the ad I saw made outlandish claims about gas prices, I’ve seen others lie about taxes (the legislation I introduced doesn’t raise taxes) or the deficit (it won’t add a penny to the deficit, either).

And on the science, there’s distortion after distortion — from bizarre theories about medieval warming, to heat in the troposphere. Literally anything they can think of to try to distract people, create confusion about the science, and delay action.

TruthFightsBack can cut through all of that, give you the truth and the tools to spread it.

So go to TruthFightsBack.com and join the fight.

We need you to report the distortions you hear, fight back with the truth, and drown out the distortions. And we need your help to put the resources behind it that it needs to succeed. Because – believe me – if you don’t put resources behind the truth, the lies can win.

Please give what you can to help.

Thanks for all your help.

Sincerely, John Kerry

Being the polite person that I am, here is my email back to him in response:

Dear Senator:
I just received an email from you requesting a donation to “fight back for the truth” to benefit climate control.

Is the “truth” you are talking about the same “truth” we have seen exemplified by our Democratic President and Congressmen on the health reform issue?  How long can our elected officials squeeze their electorate and then completely ignore our needs and why we voted for them in the first place?

The American taxpayers are not only unable to afford their own decent health coverage, but they are also paying for the gem of a policy each and every elected official receives.

When I get the same health care access and delivery that you get, at the same price, then you can get back to me on any sort of donation to one of your “causes”.

Most sincerely,
Bonnie Marcus

P.S.:

Unless you are willing to address my specific issues, do not respond with one of your canned letters.  I am too busy trying to earn a living to pay for my health care and the ongoing annual premium increases of over 30%.

Finally, such a sensible person wrote a blog to TPM accusing the furious American public of being cop-outs.  He wrote that the process we are now going through is just “politics as usual” and that it is an acceptable form of government.  Man, did this writer ever get it wrong:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/12/health_care_reform_and_the_ravening_masses.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Talking-Points-Memo+%28Talking+Points+Memo%3A+by+Joshua+Micah+Marshall%29

This author accepts the “it’s just politics” salvo as a valid excuse for ignoring the needs of our population while fulfilling the hedonistic goals of each politician.  He calls our reaction, our outrage and anger, perhaps refusing to vote, perhaps total disillusionment, as a cop-out.  The call for pragmatism is a sham in accepting the status quo.  The only cop-out is the squeeze play the President and Congress are conducting on the electorate.

For every one American who chooses not to fight for a fair piece of legislation, there is at least another one who is  fighting the good fight.  Watch  newbie Senator Al Franken shut down Joe Lieberman in the Senate.  Even though this oh-so-cordial  repartee was more symbolic that effective, I like the retaliatory message Franken is sending, which magnifies the absurd shenanigans of Lieberman’s recent behavior:

So I stand with Howard Dean.  I will continue to hammer and hammer away at our elected officials who are selling me down the river, from the empty notions, outright lies,  of covering all pre-existing conditions to premium cost controls to not violating my gender rights to denying my children the same health benefits that they get to decent, affordable, timely and equal care.

Please go back to my post of December 16, 2009, “Nothing Equal or Right About It”, to gain more insight on these issues from the thought-inspiring comments left by some readers:

https://yomamaforobama.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/nothing-equal-or-right-about-it/#comments

Miserable Miscreants of the Senate

December 17, 2009

It appears the Senate is still one Democrat short of the sixty votes needed to pass health care reform through the Senate.  Nebraska’s Ben Nelson is not on board because he wants tighter restrictions on abortion.  We all know that if this is the sticking point between passage and non-passage, the malleable miscreants in our Senate will horse-trade away women’s rights in a heart beat.  As if it wasn’t insulting enough to deny Americans fair competition in the health care market.  As if it wasn’t an insurmountable conflict of interest to make the private insurers their own policemen.

Here are two videos for you.  The first one is Chris Matthews interviewing Howard Dean.  Dean is as honest as the day is long, and believes that we have handed over, despite campaign promises of a public option, our health coverage and care to the private insurers:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/16/dean-landrieu-matthews-hardball_n_395137.html

In the second video, Andrea Mitchell is interviewing Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a strong proponent of the public option and/or an expansion of Medicare.  In this particular sit-down however, he presents himself as the sensible and mature elder statesman, who will vote for a bill that sacrificed everything he held so dear.  Phony baloney:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/16/jay-rockefeller-tears-int_n_394967.html

When Rockefeller says that the proposed bill will force insurance companies to spend between 85% to 90% of premiums on actual health care, there isn’t a bone of sincerity in that promise.  After all, without any kind of public competition, the private insurers can do anything they choose.  And supposedly, there will be a federal watchdog  arm that will monitor the adherence to this stipulation.  Fantasy once again: if there are infractions, by the time the patient goes through the appeal process and maybe even win, he will most likely be dead.

This entire process of passing health reform reminds me of our folly in handling the meltdown of our banks and financial industry.  The institutions we provided bailout funds for were “too big to fail”.  As a result, 133 smaller banks failed this year and yet, the large banks we deemed worthy of saving took the money and still have not changed their greedy and corrupt practices.  That is not reform, and neither is this watered-down, over-compromised health care bill.  We still have the private, for-profit insurers calling the shots.  I should live long enough to consider this as real reform.

As Sir Walter Scott wrote: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”  With our lawmakers losing sight of not only what is best for Americans, but also placing a higher priority on making the deal that is best for the politicians first and foremost, they are initiating a reversal of Democratic principles and promises.  The final nail in the coffin will be to attack women’s gender rights.  Women, children, sick people ….. they are all expendable.  Once they have voted, the allegiance of the elected officials to that electorate is washed down the drain.

All for the opportunity to claim victory.  In fact, by acting on the belief that everything is negotiable, nothing remains sacred.  As far as I have observed, there are only two politicians who have been true to the cause and substance of real reform: Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich.  Unfortunately, explicitly because of their honesty and adherence to standards, they are now being ripped apart by their own party members.  How attractive.

Thus, if the Democrats will essentially eat their young to get any semblance of a “victory”, I daresay the next item on the chopping block are my rights as a woman.  I am trying to prepare myself for this ultimate invasion of my Constitutional guarantees so that I will not sink into even deeper despair when it happens.

The name of my party, the Democrats, is proving to be an oxymoron.  The Devil you know is not necessarily better than the Devil you do not know.

POSTSCRIPT:

In today’s Washington Post, Howard Dean wrote a straightforward, concise Op-Ed article about his opinion on the health reform in front of us.  Please take the time to read it.  At least in this venue, Dean is able to make his points without being constantly and so rudely interrupted and talked-over by Chris Matthews:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/16/AR2009121601906.html

Nothing Equal or Right About It

December 16, 2009

How many times has Barack Obama stated that health care is a basic human right?  How often has he adamantly spoken that all Americans deserve equal human rights?  Too many to count.

What we now have on the table, disguised by political spin, is hardly reform giving all of our citizens equal access and care.  With a sitting Democratic President and majorities in the House and Senate, The United States has sold down the river the reform that over 70% of Americans want.  The exception, of course, are the approximately 600 lawmakers in Congress who will get to hold on to their Cadillac insurance policies.  Mission accomplished.  Now that is democracy (it seems never to be “messy” when the issues concern those in power).

To enact a measure that creates and magnifies different tiers of health care is reminiscent of our battle for civil rights.  Sure: the Civil War freed the slaves.  However, it has taken almost 150 years for the concept of freedom to become a reality.  We had the Jim Crow laws.  Then we had separate but equal.  This was the way we defined our Constitutional-granted equality for over a century.

Change takes time, especially alterations to our social structure.  Certainly, with the proposed health care reform relegating the uninsured to the rolls of Medicaid and placing the private insurers in charge of policing themselves creates a double standard of care for this country.  Have we learned nothing from our past?  Even President Obama seems to be willing to settle for some rights now, as opposed to equal rights.

Do not tell me that I speak from emotionalism.  Damn straight.  Why should a poor person have to wait for care because of the red tape involved in securing Medicaid?  Why should a policyholder be denied care based on the effect such care will have on the bottom line of his insurer?  Oh yes, they can appeal the decision, but most likely, for the sickest of patients, they will be long dead before a decision is reversed.  Is that the kind of equal rights our Congressmen have also?  Until every American can walk into a clinic or hospital, sign their name and receive timely and decent care, our dedication to equal rights in this country is about as emphatic as it was 150 years ago.

The politicians can offer lip service and spin all they want.  If their ultimate goal (and it appears this is their real motivation) is to keep their cushy jobs, which legally fosters the acceptance of funds meant to sway their votes plus the divine benefits such as incredible health care and full salaries upon retirement, the Democrats are making a huge mistake here.  If they think by passing a watered-down, virtually empty piece of legislation will give them the right to claim victory for their own benefit at the polls, they need to think again.  With 70% of Americans supporting a public option, America will show up on Election Day 2010 and throw their cavalier asses right out of office.  It does not matter that the Republicans have nothing better to offer: the fact remains that Americans who voted for this President of hope and change and elected majorities to both houses of Congress are mad as hell.  If they actually do show up at the polls (and when Americans stay home, the GOP is always the victor), the political pendulum will be reversed.  History has proven this but once again, the short-sighted politicians cannot see farther than their own pockets.

Everything in life comes with risk.  Surely President Obama took many risks to get where he is.  Why then, is he playing it so safe now?  Is it to be able to say that he passed health care reform during his first year in office?  More semantic spin with no substance.  This political novice has news for him and his Democratic cronies: by allowing one man, Joe Lieberman**, a Senator who caucuses with the Democrats, to bring down health reform for an entire country, is degrading.  They have assigned, and accepted, the role of “goat” to one of their own.  Further, they will then have to go over to the Republican side and anoint a “hero”, perhaps Olympia Snowe, to be the savior of this health care legislation.  Not a good omen, and certainly a political strategy worthy of shooting oneself in the foot, for the 2010 elections.

There is nothing “equal” or “right” about the current health care legislation.  President Obama was disingenuous in his campaign stance that health care is a universal right because now that he is in office, this “right” seems negotiable.  Our President and lawmakers can harp all they want about initiating real reform for our country.  When your housekeeper cannot get the same health care that you do, when your grown children can afford only the most catastrophic of health care policies, when the vast majority of Americans do not have access to the exact medical care as do our elected representatives, when our Constitutional rights are threatened because of our many-tiered health care plan, equality of human rights is just a term of endearment; it bears no resemblance to what is spelled out in our celebrated Constitution.  Did we not fight the Revolutionary War against England because we were denied freedom and equal rights?  To what end?  To establish the exact system for which we battled so long and hard against?  One class system replacing another does not make for a free, equal society.

If President Obama and our elected officials sincerely believe that decent and affordable health care is an unalienable right, they will move to put effective policies in effect, rather than using “procedural obstructions” as excuses.  Funny thing: I do not see our government officials horse-trading away their health benefits for the sake of national cost-saving measures.  (Please note: The one exception is Senator Sherrod Brown, who has refused Senate health care coverage until all Americans can get the same degree of care at the same price.)  The ultimate slap in the face: not only are the President and the almost 600 members of Congress denying Americans the same benefits as they have, but they are also making us pay for their coverage.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Talk about discrimination and class distinctions.

I will not settle for what we can get instead of getting what we need.  Compromise may be the deciding factor in our form of government.  However, the compromise always seems to be on the part of the people, never the law givers.  Mr. President and our majority legislators of Congress: it is time to make your rights equal and available to all Americans.

**
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/opinion/16wed4.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
POSTSCRIPT:
Perhaps the following letter from Jim Dean of Democracy For America makes the issue clearer:
I’ll get straight to the point.

If Democrats remove the choice of a public option, they can’t force Americans to buy health insurance.

Here’s the deal, Senate leaders are all over Washington claiming they finally have a healthcare reform bill they can pass, as long as they remove the public option. After all, they say, even without a public option, the bill still “covers 30 million more Americans.” The problem is that’s not really true.

What they are actually talking about is something called the “individual mandate.” That’s a section of the law that requires every single American buy health insurance or break the law and face penalties and fines. So, the bill doesn’t actually “cover” 30 million more Americans — instead it makes them criminals if they don’t buy insurance from the same companies that got us into this mess.

A public option would have provided the competition needed to drive down costs and improve coverage. It would have kept insurance companies honest by providing an affordable alternative Americans can trust. That’s why, without a public option, this bill is almost a trillion dollar taxpayer giveaway to insurance companies.

We must act fast. Both Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senators need to hear from you. Please stop whatever else you are doing and make the calls right now.

Senator Harry Reid
DC: (202) 224-3542

Carson City: (775) 882-7343
Las Vegas: (702) 388-5020
Reno: (775) 686-5750

Call your Democratic Senator too — Senate Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

REPORT YOUR CALL AND TELL US HOW IT WENT

Without the choice of a public option, forcing Americans to buy health insurance isn’t just bad policy, it’s political disaster for Democrats — a ticking time-bomb for years to come.

Does anyone think Republicans won’t use this against Democrats in 2010?

What about in 2014 after the mandate goes into effect and the press reports all the horror stories of Americans forced to choose between paying their monthly health insurance bill to Aetna or paying rent?

The mandate is toxic and Democrats will own it. By the 2016 presidential election, is there any wonder how this will play out for Democrats?

CALL SENATOR HARRY REID NOW AT (202) 224-3542 THEN REPORT YOUR CALL HERE

The message is simple: No public option? No Mandate!

Thank you for everything you do,

-Jim

Jim Dean, Chair
Democracy for America