Health Care Reform: Maneuvering Through the Minefield

US House of Representative speaker Nancy Pelosi finally unveiled the democratic proposal for health care reform today.

Beside the expected prohibitions against insurance companies refusing to cover pre-existing conditions and canceling coverage when a person needs it the most, it contained language for a public health option, i.e., a government-payer plan similar to Medicare.

However, the “public option” is not the robust plan the most liberal members wanted, i.e., Medicare pay plan plus 5%, in which providers’ only options are to take it or leave it.  Nor was it what conservative wanted to see, which is no public option of any kind under any circumstances for any reason.  Instead, it was a compromise that is intended to bring the more conservative “blue dog” democrats into the larger democratic fold.

Of course, it is somewhat baffling to consider that most of the folks who hate the mere idea of a public option, where the government is the payer instead of a private, Wall Street listed, for-profit insurance company, are also extremely satisfied with their Medicare coverage.   One is reminded of the woman who attended one of the health care reform “town hall meetings” held last August.   She shouted out at the congressman at the podium in front of reporters and television cameras that she wanted the government stay out of any health care reform because she absolutely didn’t want the government interfering in any way with her Medicare!

On the other side of the issue, the most liberal of the democrats will be lamenting the demise of the so-called “robust” public option, i.e., Medicare for all.  Ostensibly, this “robust” plan would at least be available to those who do not have health insurance, and later possibly to anyone who wanted it.  Doctors and other providers would be paid Medicare fees plus 5% for services, period.  That would keep the public option costs low and consistent, with no possibility of unusual cost growth.

Well, neither side got their first choice.  Instead, a “watered-down” version of the public option, wherein negotiations over pay with providers would be a critical part of the plan, is the way the house leadership intends to go.

The “blue dog” democrats are expected to at least accept this plan because the government would no longer unilaterally control the fees to the providers.  Thus, private insurance companies would more easily be able to compete.  By requiring negotiations with providers, the plan now starts to look more like the private insurance plans which are currently available to federal employees and retirees under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program, as well as many union-provided plans.

In these plans, premiums go up each year after the government negotiates with the private insurance companies for premium rates.  This, in effect, neuters the ability to keep costs low, consistent, and within the rate of inflation because recurring negotiations with providers easily allows for large yearly increases.  This year, for instance, premiums are rising as much as 15%, depending upon the plan.  And for comparison, the rate of inflation for the past year was negative 1.3 %!

What speaker Pelosi and the house democratic leadership have done is craft a compromise that should bring in the votes necessary to pass health care reform in the House of Representatives.  If both the extreme right and the extreme left are dissatisfied, then it must be the most balanced plan that could be achieved.  And that’s important, because if the democrats can’t remain united behind the plan, it will fail to pass the house.  In that case, the disaster will probably eat up everyone, democrats and republicans alike, and President Obama as well.

If you’re a conservative, you still have a shot having the public option stopped when a similar bill is debated on the senate floor.  The senate is much more volatile then the house because the democrats normally only have a tenuous 60-40 margin to stop the promised republican filibuster, and that includes Joe Lieberman, (I-CT), who has already said he will actually join the republican filibuster if a public option is included in the senate bill.  That would bring the tally to 59-41, insufficient to stop a filibuster.  So it is by no means certain that a public option will survive in the senate’s final version of the bill.

On the other hand, if you’re a liberal, the watered-down version of public option in the house bill may be strengthened during floor debate, and even it isn’t, the separate final bills that pass both the house and the senate have to be reconciled and then re-voted upon before the final version go to the president for signature.  So, at this point, it’s still a crap shoot.

As a wise man once said, there are two things most people will never want to watch:  How a sausage is made, and how a bill becomes law.  Both will disgust and turn your stomach.

C-SPAN, anyone?    🙂

Conservative Talk Show Host Impersonator Arrested!!

A news item today mentioned that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will very soon be studying the issue of lop-sided talk radio in the USA, which has become overwhelmingly ultra-right-wing over the past several years.  In fact, this writer had been a liberal talk show host on a radio station in Rhode Island in 2005 and 2006, along with another liberal talk show host on the same station.  In December of 2006, both hosts were “let go” within a a day of each other when the station “suits” decided to swing the radio station over to the extreme right.

The FCC will hold a seminar to determine whether talk radio is reflective of predominant local attitudes, or whether the various talk radio stations throughout the USA have their agendas set in corporate headquarters, thus locking out opposing philosophies.  With that in mind, special investigative reporter “Secret Sam” was right on the spot and submitted this most timely report, exclusively for We, the PEOPLE!!:

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Fox news viewers were stunned today as they witnessed the live on-air arrest of a man that police say has been impersonating the popular afternoon television talk host Glenn Beck for the past 1 ½ years.

Chuckie H. Lawrence, a Glenn Beck look-alike, was arrested during the late afternoon program as he was finishing up a segment of the week-long series “Obama: The Anti-Christ”  and was about to begin an interview with a man who says he was President Obama’s Kenyan love child.

Lawrence has been identified as an escapee from the Rhode Island Dual Home for the Hopelessly Insane and State Government Refugees, where he was receiving treatment for severe paranoia and delusional seizures after an incident in which he attacked several clerks in a candy store with a licorice stick.  He claimed to have found alien messages written on the wrappers of Mars candy bars.  He also claimed that the Almond Joy candy bars were emitting “moans that sounded erotic in nature”, but were more likely secret encoded messages directed at the Mars bars.

Viewers reacted to the on-air arrest with a mixture of shock and disbelief.  Some said that it was all a liberal conspiracy to hide the truth about both the Mercury Dime and the Communist symbols on Rockefeller Plaza.  Yet others claimed that it was nothing more than an effort by liberals to squelch the ongoing Fox poll, which is asking, “Anti-Christ as President:  Good or evil?  We ask.  You decide!”

Upon hearing the news, one woman broke down in tears, stating, “This man, whoever he is, has given us so much inspiration and hope.”  She sobbed, and then continued, “He told whatever it is, like it is, but how will I know now what the “whatever” is or what the “is” really is or whatever it ever really was?”

Other outraged viewers expressed, well, outrage.  One man charged, “This so-called arrest is nothing more than an attempt to cripple those who daily struggle against fascism, Communism and intellectualism.”

Police say the hoax might have continued unnoticed had it not been for an alert viewer who discovered that much of the material Lawrence presented was pirated from a British comedy show called “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”  as well as “Monty Hall’s Flying Circus“.

A spokesperson for Fox News said that although the network regretted the incident, it has to be noted that the impostor Lawrence has received multiple critical acclaim from numerous conservative sources.  One such source is the World Net Daily, which last month described the program as “leading the way for Conservatives everywhere”.

Another is Sean Hannity, who in the past has said that Lawrence “is an inspiration to me and to other clear-eyed  Conservatives everywhere” .  Even weighty Rush Limbaugh weighed in, having praised the program many times as “a example of what America could become if Conservatives were just given another chance.”

In the meantime, the real Glenn Beck will be returning to Fox on Monday with his guest, republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann.   They will discuss the topic:  “Man in the Moon: Always over us;  Always Watching.”  Beck says he will not dwell excessively on the fact that the man in the moon is black.

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So there you it.  And while it’s understandable that someone might try to impersonate a talk show host, what with all the perks these folks receive, there is only one question that really begs for an answer:

If someone is going to impersonate a talk show host, why on earth would he or she want to impersonate Glenn Beck (who describes himself as a rodeo clown)?

In fact, why would anyone want to impersonate any right-wing nut-job, who makes his money babbling at other right-wing nut-jobs??

One of life’s baffling mysteries.  🙂

GOP: Wrong (Again!) About the Recession

Imagine that “Joe” knocks a glass off a table.  Imagine further that “Joe” refuses to admit that he did it.  Then imagine that “Bill” comes over, cleans the broken glass from the floor, and replaces the glass.  Would you then blame “Bill” for failing to correct the problem?

That’s exactly what the GOP is doing by claiming that the current Obama administration has failed to fix the recession.  Today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 10,000 for the first time since October 7, 2008, which coincidentally was just about the same time that the Bush administration finally admitted to the existence of the economic recession, which actually began in December 2007, according to economic experts.

The GOP controlled both the presidency and congress for six years, but they were extremely reluctant to even remotely admit to the existence of an economic recession, especially in light of the fact that they were facing the November 2008 elections with their worst election prospects in years.  They certainly couldn’t blame the democrats, who only regained a majority in the House of Representatives in January of 2007.  But they absolutely didn’t want to admit that fighting a very expensive, very failed and totally unnecessary war in Iraq, coupled with massive deficit spending and the GOP’s “Let-Wall-Street-Do-Whatever-it-Can-Get-Away-With” policies were responsible for causing an economic fiasco which was finally coming home to roost.

So when they lost the both the presidency and congress in November 2008, they did the only thing left to an group that never admits to a mistake:  They blamed everyone else.

Immediately following President Obama signed the second economic stimulus package into law, the GOP began to claim it was a massive failure.  Of course, they never mentioned that they supported Bush’s economic rescue package which was signed into law in the closing days of the Bush administration.  But then, that package was designed to bail out Big Business on Wall Street, while Obama’s economic package was primarily designed to bail out small businesses and the American worker.  Remember, the GOP knows who pays them the biggest campaign contributions:  Big Business on Wall Street.

One thing about Wall Street, though:  It doesn’t care where the money comes from.  Wall Street only cares if the money is there and if it can get its hands on the money.  They don’t care who brought the money, i.e., democrats or republicans.  If Wall Street thinks it can get a piece of the action, the stock market goes up.

It’s been going up since March, folks.

In the meantime, the GOP continues to rant and rave about how Obama’s economic policies are a universal failure because jobs are still being shred.  What they don’t mention, though, is that since the Obama economic stimulus package became law in February of this year, the monthly rate of job loss as well as the monthly total of jobless has slowed to less than half of what it was when Bush left office in January.

They also neglect to mention that the expert economists are publicly proclaiming that the recession is over, and that the job market, always the last segment of the economy to show recovery, will catch up in the months ahead.  They refuse to admit that it was their party’s policies over eight years that actually incited the recession. Instead, they choose to mislead the average person who really doesn’t understand economics.

In fairness, there are moderates in the GOP who have not been bashing and blaming everyone and everything.  Those folks represent the real and traditional GOP.  They understand that government works best when people work together, even across the political aisle.  They really, truly believe in less government spending for all the right reasons.  They’re clearly not the ones who advanced eight years of out-of-control spending during the Bush tenure.

Unfortunately, they’re forced by their own party to remain silent while the lie-spinners and hate-mongers in the GOP attempt to bamboozle everyone who will listen.

So what it comes down to is this:  You can believe the loud, angry voices in the GOP when they say that we’re all headed for economic ruin because of President Obama and those pesty liberal communistic socialists who control Congress.  So put all your money in your mattress to protect it from the lies of the dems and their paid-off professional economists.

OR………….

Emulate the financial experts and invest NOW in the stock market as it continues to react to go up and up, as it has steadily since last March when the Obama economic stimulus package began to really kick in, because even if you believe the GOP, you also have to believe the Dow Jones average, which was in the 7000’s last winter, and is now banging back over 10,000.

And remember…the loudest screamers in the GOP are probably also the biggest investors in the Wall Street markets.  After all, some of the GOP’s biggest “friends” are the same huge mega-corporations which make up the Dow Jones Industrial  companies.   🙂

When Religion and Government Mix, Sex Hurts

A man boasted about his sex life on a television show.   He was in his bedroom and displayed some sex toys.

So what?

Well, yesterday (Wednesday), this very same Saudi Arabian man was convicted of boasting about his sex life and displaying his bedroom and some sex toys.  On a Lebanese television station, no less.

His sentence:  Five years in a Saudi Arabian prison and 1000 lashes on his body with a whip.  Presumably, these lashes will not be administered all at once, since 1000 lashes all at once would probably kill him.  And if he dies, he can’t endure the full term of his five-year sentence in a brutal Saudi prison.

Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States, primarily because it possesses, buried beneath its desert sands, the world’s largest petroleum reserves.  The USA and the rest of the western industrialized world know better than to seriously piss Saudi Arabia off, a lesson learned during the 1973 oil embargo.  As a result, one cannot expect that there will be any official protest lodged by any government.

Saudi Arabia is a monarch-based nation-state that follows Sharia law, which influences most Muslim countries to some extent.  Many westerners raise their eyebrows at such a religious government.  But then, every major deity-based religion on earth has its own version of Sharia.  For instance, Christians have the new testament and every denomination of Christianity has its own interpretation of Christian Law; the same applies to the Jewish religion, which is governed by the Talmud, or their book of laws.

Unfortunately for the average hedonistic human, a major theme of all of these deity-based religious laws is their attempt to firmly control human sexuality.  For instance, early in the history of the USA, people attempting to impose their personal brand of religious control passed laws against all forms of sexual activity that they personally did not agree with.  Those laws became known as “blue laws“.  Later, blue laws also encompassed other activities besides sex, such as what you could and could not do on Sundays, out of forced respect for the Christian sabbath.  It didn’t matter that in some religions the sabbath is on Friday or Saturday.  Someone in the majority wanted to impose their personal religious beliefs on everyone else, and blue laws were the way to do it.

Most western countries have since repealed such laws, although several states in the USA still have some of these crazy blue laws on the books.  Most notable are the laws against certain sexual activity (between consenting adults), and laws prohibiting or severely controlling the purchase of alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

When we read about a gang-raped woman in Saudi Arabia being convicted and whipped for her “role” in the rape, we shake our heads and condemn the Saudis for being primitive and brutal.

However, there is a common denominator at work here.  It is the majority imposition of religious beliefs, laws, or philosophies on civil government and particularly, the majority dismissal of any other opposing religious or philosophical views held by the minority.  In Saudi Arabia, the ruling group is Muslim and the result is strict adherence to Sharia law via civil or criminal laws.  It makes no difference that someone may not believe in following the Sharia.

In the USA as well as some other not-as-enlightened countries, there are still many folks who continuously attempt to impose their own brand of Christian law and dogma on the entire population through the passage of civil and criminal laws.  It doesn’t matter that a significant minority of the population doesn’t practice these same religious teachings.  The only thing that matters to those “majority” folks is that they got to control everyone else.

Significantly, it is not just everyone’s sexual activity that these zealots seek to control.  A recent additional example is the issue of teaching religious-based “intelligent design“, previously known as creationism, as an alternative to science-based evolution as the explanation for the origin of humanity.  These religious imposers were recently successful in getting certain school districts to teach the religious idea of creationism as though it was based upon scientific research (which it is not). This was later repealed.  But the fact that these folks were even initially successful is frightening because it means that this form of religious imposition is always in the background.

Finally, the outrageous subjugation of women in those Sharia-governed countries is an illustration of the dangers of mixing religion and government.  In Sharia-dominated areas, women are often seen as property, are not to be educated and are not even allowed to drive a car.  The more these religious beliefs influence government, the stronger the subjugation becomes.  And yet, this concept also exists to some extent in the more extreme forms of western religion as well.  Ergo, the danger of going down this road in the first place.

We, the PEOPLE!! strongly believes that religion has no place in government.  The US Supreme Court has affirmed this position on multiple occasions.  But if you disagree, which is your right, then perhaps you would be happier living in a place like Saudi Arabia.  They obvious believe that religion and government should be “married”.

So does Iran.

So if you really still want religion in government….consider moving there.  But if you do, then, unless you’re a married man, become celibate.  Or embrace pain.