Wednesday, May 27, 2009

. . .

O, who r u, little i?
all z z zing away
the daze of our li(v)es?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rachel Maddow Skewers Obama's
Anti-Constitutional Proposals

Liars, Damn Liars, and Barack Obama

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship offer comments on Barack Obama's reversal on single payer health care — a nice summary of how the discussion on health care hasn't jumped the tracks, it's never even left the station.

Moyers and Winship are fair, insightful and keep their opinions modest and moderate.

I'll state things more dramatically. Barack Obama is a self-serving liar who, as with the bailout, is sacrificing the well-being of the American people in the pursuit of political gain.

I see no evidence of any kind that Obama is making unavoidable sacrifices to the political reality of the United States. Almost wholly, systematically excluded from Obama's 'team of rivals' are the voices of Labor, Human Rights, Single Payer health care, . . . . I say almost because, as Amy Goodman revealed in an interview with Vince Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Obama will tip his hat to, say, human rights lest he be susceptible to the charge of hypocrisy by ignoring preogressives absolutely.

But this is the president who began the discussion of health care reform by ruling out single payer, just as Bill Clinton did in 1993. This is the president who, through his puppet Timothy Geithner, ruled out nationalizing banks despite numerous calls to do so by leading, non-right-wing economists. This is the president who has repeatedly turned to the very architects of economic calamity to 'oversee' and 'regulate' the reform.

I cannot overstate how revolting I find this 'democrat', a liar in the deepest sense, a con-artist, a traitor to the people who (still overwhelming delusional) voted for him in droves.

Here the text of the Moyers/Winship essay:
Rx and the Single Payer

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

In 2003, a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama told an AFL-CIO meeting, "I am a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program."

Single payer. Universal. That's health coverage, like Medicare, but for everyone who wants it. Single payer eliminates insurance companies as pricey middlemen. The government pays care providers directly. It's a system that polls consistently have shown the American people favoring by as much as two-to-one.

There was only one thing standing in the way, Obama said six years ago: "All of you know we might not get there immediately because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate and we have to take back the House."

Fast forward six years. President Obama has everything he said was needed -- Democrats in control of the executive branch and both chambers of Congress. So what's happened to single payer?

A woman at his town hall meeting in New Mexico last week asked him exactly that. "If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense," the President replied. "That's the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world.

"The only problem is that we're not starting from scratch. We have historically a tradition of employer-based health care. And although there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with their health care, the truth is, is that the vast majority of people currently get health care from their employers and you've got this system that's already in place. We don't want a huge disruption as we go into health care reform where suddenly we're trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy."

So the banks were too big to fail and now, apparently, health care is too big to fix, at least the way a majority of people indicate they would like it to be fixed, with a single payer option. President Obama favors a public health plan competing with the medical cartel that he hopes will create a real market that would bring down costs. But single payer has vanished from his radar.

Nor is single payer getting much coverage in the mainstream media. Barely a mention was given to the hundreds of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who came to Washington last week to protest the absence of official debate over single payer.

Is it the proverbial tree falling in the forest, making a noise that journalists can't or won't hear? Could the indifference of the press be because both the President of the United States and Congress have been avoiding single payer like, well, like the plague? As we see so often, government officials set the agenda by what they do and don't talk about.

Instead, President Obama is looking for consensus, seeking peace among all the parties involved. Except for single payer advocates. At that big White House powwow in Washington last week, the President asked representatives of the health care business to reason together with him. "What's brought us all together today is a recognition that we can't continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years," he said, "that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait."

They came, listened, made nice for the photo op. and while they failed to participate in a hearty chorus of "Kumbaya," they did promise to cut health care costs voluntarily over the next ten years. The press ate it up -- and Mr. Obama was a happy man.

Meanwhile, some of us looking on -- those of us who've been around a long time -- were scratching our heads. Hadn't we heard this before?

Way, way back in the 1970's Americans were riled up over the rising costs of health care. As a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter started talking about the government clamping down. When he got to the White House, drug makers, insurance companies, hospitals and doctors -- the very people who only a decade earlier had done everything they could to strangle Medicare in the cradle -- seemed uncharacteristically humble and cooperative. "You don't have to make us cut costs," they promised. "We'll do it voluntarily."

So Uncle Sam backed down, and you guessed it. Pretty soon medical costs were soaring higher than ever.

By the early '90s, the public was once again hurting in the pocketbook. Feeling our pain, Bill and Hillary Clinton tried again, coming up with a plan only slightly more complicated than the schematics for an F-18 fighter jet.

This time the health industry acted more like Tony Soprano than Mother Teresa. It bludgeoned the Clinton reforms with one of the most expensive and deceitful public relations and advertising campaigns ever conceived -- paid for, of course, from the industry's swollen profits.

As the drug and insurance companies, hospitals and doctors dumped the mangled carcass of reform into the Potomac, securely encased in concrete, once again they said don't worry; they would cut costs voluntarily.

If you believed that, we've got a toll-free bridge to the Mayo Clinic we'd like to sell you.

So anyone with any memory left could be excused for raising their eyebrows at the health care industry's latest promises. As if on cue, hardly had their pledge of volunteerism rung out across the land than Jay Gellert, chief executive of Health Net Inc. and chair of the lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans, assured his pals not to worry abut the voluntary reductions. "We believe that we can do it without undermining the viability of companies," he said, "and in effect enhancing the payment to physicians and hospitals." In other words, their so-called voluntary "reforms" will in no way interfere with maximizing profits.

Also last week, John Lechleiter, the chief executive of drug giant Eli Lilly, blasted universal health care in a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "I do not believe that policymakers have yet arrived at a full and complete diagnosis of what's wrong and what's right with U.S. health care," he declared. "And I am very concerned that some of the proposed policies -- the treatments, to continue my metaphor -- will have unintended side-effects that make our situation worse."

So why bother with the charm offensive on Pennsylvania Avenue? Could it be, as some critics suggest, a Trojan horse, getting the health industry a place at the table so they can leap up at the right moment and again kill any real reform?

Wheelers and dealers from the health sector aren't waiting for that moment. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, they've spent more than $134 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009 alone. And some already are shelling out big bucks for a publicity blitz and ads attacking any health care reform that threatens to reduce the profits from sickness and disease.

The Washington Post's health care reform blog reported Monday that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has hired an outside PR firm to put together a video campaign assaulting Obama's public plan. And this month alone, the group Conservatives for Patients' Rights is spending more than a million dollars for attack ads. They've hired a public relations firm called CRC -- Creative Response Concepts. You remember them -- the same high-minded folks who brought you the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the gang who savaged John Kerry's service record in Vietnam.

The ads feature the chairman of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, Rick Scott. Who's he? As a former deputy inspector general from the Department of Health and Human Services told The New York Times, "He hopes people don't Google his name."

Scott's not a doctor; he just acts like one on TV. He's an entrepreneur who took two hospitals in Texas and built them into the largest health care chain in the world, Columbia/HCA. In 1997, he was fired by the board of directors after Columbia/HCA was caught in a scheme that ripped off the Feds and state governments for hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus Medicare and Medicaid payments, the largest such fraud in history. The company had to cough up $1.7 billion dollars to get out of the mess.

Rick Scott got off, you should excuse the expression, scot-free. Better than, in fact. According to published reports, he waltzed away with a $10 million severance deal and $300 million worth of stock. So much for voluntarily lowering overhead.

With medical costs rising six percent per year, that's who's offering himself as a spokesman for the health care industry. Speaking up for single payer is Geri Jenkins, a president of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee -- a registered nurse with literal hands-on experience.

"We're there around the clock," she told our colleague Jessica Wang. "So we feel a real sense of obligation to advocate for the best interests of our patients and the public. Now, you can talk about policy but when you're staring at a human face it's a whole different story."

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at www.pbs.org/moyers. Research provided by editorial producer Rebecca Wharton.

SEE ALSO

The Bill Moyers Journal, 22 May 2009. And, from The Bill Moyers Journal website:

Public Citizen Health Research Group
"Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts"

Physicians for a National Health Program
"Physicians for a National Health Program is a non-profit research and education organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance."

Side-by-side comparison the major health care reform proposals.
Assembled by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Why Not the Best? Results from the National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance, 2008"
THE COMMONWEALTH FUND, July 17, 2008.

Senate Finance Committee white paper on health care
White paper by Senator Max Baucus's committee discussed in the interview.

"Obamacare to Come: Seven Bad Ideas for Health Care Reform"
By Michael D. Tanner, CATO INSTITUTE, May 21, 2009.

"The Moral-Hazard Myth"
By Malcolm Gladwell, THE NEW YORKER, August 29, 2005.

"TIMES TOPICS: Health Care Reform"
THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rights? Who Gives a Damn. (Not Barack Obama.)

Rumor has it that (President) Barack Obama taught constitutional law — at the University of Chicago. Given the right-wing leaning of many at Chicago, he might be forgiven if he is hazy on the notion that human beings have rights. But he also, according to rumor, studied at Harvard, home then to the late John Rawls (though also to the likes of Charles Fried and Alan Dershowitz).

One way or another, it seems at least plausible that Obama may have, at least once, have come across this line:
Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.
This comes from John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. It expresses one of the core principles of Western moral thought, one that has spread around the world and motivated countless movements for human rights.

It a notion that Barack Obama is, despite his rhetoric, abandoning in his support for Bush-era crimes supposedly in the name of "national security".

The simple fact is this: There are some acts that cannot be justified, no matter what the 'good' that is promoted by the act. This is a notion that Americans embrace with near universality (the likes of Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez, Condoleezza Rice being among the few exceptions). It is worth noting that no one is promoting the "ticking time-bomb" argument with regard to strictly domestic criminals.

The only reason that Obama might get away with his criminal denial of rights to Guantánamo detainees is that they are (1) Arab (or Afghan, or 'Middle Eastern') and (2) Muslim. There is a long history of due process being accorded to the most dangerous, most reprehensible individuals. Think of some American organized crime bosses, or Nazi war criminals, or serial killers. Surely profoundly dangerous. In the case of organized crime figures, surely individuals with wide networks that could threaten communities home to the prisons holding these criminals.

I find ite nearly impossible to believe that Barack Obama, whom people routinely describe as the 'smartest person' they've ever met, doesn't grasp this. That he is willing to sacrifice so fundamental a priniciple of American law for the sake of political expediency condemns him and his presidency to the same moral status as his loathesome predecessor.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alien — The Musical

Coming soon to Broadway! Alien — The Musical!

Check back here for more on this exciting new musical extravaganza! Auteur Hugh Sansom is currently seeking a composer to collaborate on this new, innovative musical.

AlienTheMusical.com will soon be live with updates on creative development.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Barack Obama Is a Public Servant

Neither President Obama nor his predecessors nor any of his peers in Washington or in state and city governments around the nation seem to remember that they work for us. They are our servants.

Why do people stand as the president enters a room? Why do they say, "Mr. President"?

They should be address us — The People — with honorifics.

But now, rather than respect public demands, Mr. Obama is treating us again with the contempt for the common people that he has displayed throughout the bailout. He and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, have resolved that none shall be prosecuted in the case of Bush administration war crimes. Granted, this has not been officially proclaimed, but we now have reports that Holder's justice department has determined not to press criminal charges against the authors of the "torture memos" (Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury). I'll eat my hat if they do anything more than offer vague criticisms of the conduct of even the most reprehensible of the Bush brigade.

Just to review, here is the short list of Bush-era war criminals:
Remind us, Mr. Obama, why did we vote for you? Why did we choose you to work for us? And just what is it, if anything, that you plan to do for us? You've made it fairly clear:
  • no national health care (rather, some handwaving that will keep insurers happy)
  • bailouts for billionaires, lifetimes of tax burdens for The People
  • coddling of Republicans and right-wingers
  • continued war in Iraq, and ramped-up war in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • rumblings of attacks on social security
  • the beginnings of a capitulation to major corporate polluters
Yep, sounds like a mighty big change.