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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Losing Ugly 

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx has an interview with GoBlueRidge up this a.m. She utters the words "leftist" and "very radical leftist" and then pivots immediately to point with alarm at Mexican people: "I believe the next thing that will be done will be to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants."

If you can't win on the facts, pound the table and yell, eh Madam Foxx?

This from the fine and upstanding human being who said the following things:
"There are no Americans who don't have healthcare. Everybody in this country has access to healthcare." July 24, 2009, in a Capitol Hill press conference

A Republican health care plan would "make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that ensures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government." July 28, 2009, on the floor of the U.S. Congress

"I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that [health reform] bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country." November 2, 2009, on the floor of the U.S. House

"I don't see raising the minimum wage as helping American workers." Quoted in an article in Roll Call, Dec. 10, 2009

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Hypocrisy Watch 

NYTimes quoted a certain local Congresswoman late last night RE the health insurance reform bill:
Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, said it was "one of the most offensive pieces of social engineering legislation in the history of the United States."

Let's see now: the interference of the Republican Congress in the Terri Schiavo case in March 2005 was not, then, the most obnoxious "social engineering legislation in the history of the United States"? We watched Bobblehead Foxx cheerleading in the U.S. House through that particular debate.

She's against "social engineering legislation," except when she's for it.

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North Carolina's Blue Dogs 

On passage of H.R.3590 (219-212), North Carolina Democrats Mike McIntyre, Heath Shuler, and Larry Kissell all voted with the Republicans. Those no votes won't earn them any support from Republicans come November, while driving away their own base.

Kissell, particularly, can ill afford losing his base ... unless, of course, the Republicans actually nominate Machine Gun Tim D'Annunzio to run against him.

Shuler ... who knows? Haven't seen any Republican challenger among those running in the primary who looks like a winner.

McIntyre ... he's been voting with the Republicans so long he's barely indistinguishable from ... Howard Coble.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

David Frum: Republicans' "Waterloo" 

Worth reading: Conservative columnist and former speech-writer for George W. Bush, David Frum's slashing attack on Fox News and the yak-masters of talk radio for making it impossible for Republicans in Congress to compromise with this president and save themselves from their "Waterloo" moment ... which is happening right now, tonight, in the health insurance reform vote.

Frum thinks Republicans are waaay over-optimistic about taking back Congress come November.

Frum points out that the bill being passed tonight is really very "Republican" in basic outline (and, gee, thanks for reminding me about why I secretly hate it!):
...the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Frum sez to his tea-partying confreres: Get over yourself! This bill will never be repealed.

And he sez this: "We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."

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unCivil Rights 

Foot soldiers for the Republican minority in Congress -- a devil's sabbath of tea partiers, birthers, racists, bigots -- invaded the Capitol yesterday. They chanted "faggot" at Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). They chanted "nigger" at Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.), both members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Someone spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), another black legislator, and House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, "I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus."

That's just the slime that's gotten reported.

Yup. We shore do hope these fine specimens of humanity are the people who get control of our government!

At least one Republican member of Congress on the Sunday Morning Gasbag shows tried to excuse the behavior -- "Well, people are just so angry" -- without bothering to acknowledge that the misplaced rage has been artificially ginned up by a wealth of misinformation and outright lies spewed by leading Republicans and going back at least a year. Sarah Palin had her tongue all wrapped up in that. And Michele Bachmann. So did our own Rep. Virginia A. Foxx ("at least we Republicans won't be putting people to death like the Democrats!"). The gullible, the naive, the under-informed either fell for that bilge or find it convenient to hang their racism from those particular hat racks.

Haven't been personally enthusiastic about the Senate bill about to be passed, but I confess to being driven to root now for its passage, witnessing the desperation of Karl Rove on ABC this a.m. Rove was either severely over-caffeinated or showing the true panic of realizing a Democratic victory in this matter will damage his own ... shall we be generous and call it "his own legacy"? (His credibility was already as damaged as a Pinto in a roll-over.)

Or take the true creepy mendacity of the fake memo trotted out on the House floor by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) yesterday. Unfortunately for Garrett, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) also happened to be present, and he don't take no shit. Weiner called out Republicans for the lie, while our own Virginia Foxx tried futilely to come to Garrett's aid. Watch it.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Talk to the Hand 

Congressman Heath Shuler (NC-11) sez he isn't influenced by who's giving him money.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that on March 4 Congressman Shuler was the beneficiary of a breakfast fundraiser at the offices of Patton Boggs, a super powerful Washington law firm that shills for the health care industry. "Patton Boggs represents ... Fortune 500 companies, major trade associations, insurers, physician and care providers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies." They invited all their powerful lobbyist buddies to come on down for a bagel and cream cheese with Congressman Shuler. Don't you know they all whipped out those check books.

"We don't vote based on who's made contributions, never have," said Shuler's chief of staff, Hayden Rogers.

No, hanging out with those well groomed, expensively heeled "suits" would never sway the likes of Congressman Shuler. We're supposed to believe that (having not only fallen off the turnip truck yesterday but also having landed on our heads).

Footnote: There was some oo-ing and ah-ing last week among North Carolina organizers for OFA that Shuler had budged slightly, going from definitely against President Obama's (Senate) plan for health-insurance "reform" to "undecided." If we could discover within us any enthusiasm whatsoever for that Senate bill, we might be mildly inclined to cluck over that tiny morsel. It's not how Shuler ultimately votes that bothers us so much as his bland denial of the wholesale theft of democracy going on under his buttered toast.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Always a Liar 

Madam Foxx held her townhall in Statesville on Monday and then went to Congress on Tuesday and lied about it:
Yesterday I had a town hall in Statesville, North Carolina, with about 175 people there. They are very upset about this proposed health care reform bill.

The estimate of 175 people is off by 50-75, but worse is her complete failure to admit that at least 40% of that crowd supported the president and not her. Until her staff started screening the questions, they were running 2-1 against her position. Then suddenly, the only people called on were fawning sycophants.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Billy Kennedy Responds to Virginia Foxx's Town Hall Event in Statesville 

Guest blogging: Billy Kennedy, candidate for Congress:

After Rep. Foxx's health care town hall today, I searched the Constitution to see where it says we taxpayers are supposed to be subsidizing her personal health care insurance. I couldn't find it.

You see, Rep. Foxx says unless something is expressly written in the Constitution, then we the people have no right to want or expect it. In fact, that was the exact question I had for her today (had I been called on). I wanted to know, since she's been a politician for the last 27 years, when was the last time the taxpayers weren't paying for her insurance?

It's fine for Ms. Foxx to stand up there today and tell folks that the people need to handle their own health care costs, that the government can't do anything right (so why even try?) and that our current system is the best in the world, when she lets the government handle her health needs and expects us to hand over our hard-earned dollars not just for our health needs, but for hers too.

Our health system is indeed the greatest in the world. For her. For those of us who aren't on government programs like Medicare or Medicaid, or Tri-Care or the Federal Health Care plan, not so great.

The saddest moment of the day came when a gentleman stood up to talk about how his son had tried for seven years to get government disability due to his cystic fibrosis. This nice man choked up when he recounted how his son had died shortly after he received disability benefits he'd fought so hard for. Ms. Foxx's reply was, "Government shouldn't have been handling this."

Now I thought to myself: if government shouldn't have been handling it, just who does Rep. Foxx thinks should have? Does she honestly believe private insurance was an option? But then, I checked. Indeed, there is nothing in the Constitution about helping out people who have a disability from the coughing, fatigue, pneumonia and pain of cystic fibrosis. In fact, I couldn't find a single one of those words, so I guess, by her view, she's right.

Ms. Foxx says she is all about health care reform. She says we need to do something, and that her idea is to lower health costs by expanding Health Savings Accounts, limiting the ability of people to sue if they have been physically injured through the actions of a hospital or their doctor, and allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines.

Of course all of us know that Health Savings Accounts are mostly just an option for healthy and wealthy families, since a lot of us just don't have the money to pay into one in the first place and, even if we did, we could never be able to save enough to pay for cancer treatments out of pocket.

When someone asked how it would work if we let health care companies sell their policies across state lines since the states regulated the companies, Rep. Foxx replied that working people might not really want "all those restrictions on the health care corporations" anyhow. Of course, as a wealthy politician who's covered by a taxpayer-subsidized insurance plan regulated by the federal government, she has nothing to lose from letting the rest of us fend for ourselves in an unregulated insurance free-for-all.

As for tort reform, the Congressional Budget Office says that wouldn't reduce total U.S. health care spending by more than about 0.5 percent.

...But I'd be willing to talk that one out with Rep. Foxx -- if she'd agree to give up her government health care in return for it.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Does Madam Foxx Have Listening Ears? 

All of our shaming of Virginia Foxx for being afraid to face the people in an open setting has finally paid off: The representative is holding a "Health Care Solutions Town Hall" in Statesville tomorrow morning at 11:30 a.m. (Statesville Civic Center, Room B, 300 South Center Street).

11:30 a.m.?

Doesn't seem like a time that might optimize attendance by working people. Just sayin'.

It's also physically about as far away from Watauga County as you can get in the 5th District, but the roads are paved from here to there, so distance can be overcome.

What probably can't be overcome is the Madam's inability to actually hear any opinions that differ materially from her own. So we'll see.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Billy Kennedy on Health-Insurance Reform 

Follow-up on the last post immediately below: DownWithTyranny has a blow-by-blow of the Republican obstructionism yesterday, followed by their complete capitulation on the anti-trust exemption for the insurance industry.

It happens that the DownWithTyranny blogger got in touch with candidate Billy Kennedy here in Watauga to get his take on the insurance industry (comments which we are reproducing at length here):
The insurance companies spend most of their waking hours trying to figure out how to avoid paying for people's medical expenses so they can boost their profit margins. They get away with massive premium price increases and benefits cutting because they have virtually no competition. This is because they enjoy an anti-trust exemption which allows them to engage in price fixing and collusive activity.

The result? By 2008, according to the American Medical Association, a single health insurer controlled 30% or more of the health insurance market in 90% of the metropolitan markets in the country. And, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health premiums have gone up by 131% for family coverage from 1999 to 2009.

If we are serious about promoting competition among insurance companies to hold down costs, the repeal of the anti-trust exemption is a no-brainer.

Apparently, judging by her vote on the final bill, Virginia Foxx actually agrees with Billy Kennedy. Not.

Turns out this is not the first time Billy Kennedy has appeared recently on DownWithTyranny with a statement on health-insurance reform. In a posting on Tuesday of this week, "How Worthwhile Is Obama's Healthcare Bill?" (the answer: not very, since it contains no public-option competition for profit-gouging private insurance corps), the DownWithTyranny blogger got in touch with a number of Democratic candidates for Congress for their opinions. Among them was Billy Kennedy, and his response (again reproduced here at length) is very instructive:
I am an independent person and will be an independent candidate and office holder as well. I am not beholden to, and will not put myself in the position of becoming beholden to, the corporate interests of the insurance and the pharmaceutical industries over the interests of working Americans. I, like the majority of Americans, am a strong supporter of a public option in any health care reform proposal, but would consider an optional Medicare buy-in in its place. I believe such a buy-in, if well constructed, would get us started on the path of providing competition and cost controls for a greater number of Americans. While there are some good beginning reforms outlined in the President's proposed bill, there is little to nothing in the bill to control costs or drive them down, and there is no proposed Public option or Medicare buy-in. There is no anti-trust exemption repeal, and there is no national exchange. Furthermore, Americans will be mandated to purchase insurance policies they can't afford from for-profit companies subsidized with tax-payer dollars to for-profit companies without some competitive agent (like a public option and/or a Medicare buy-in). In other words, we're a long way from true reform. The good news, however, is it appears the President and the Senate Democrats appear ready to pass health care reform through reconciliation (and it's about time). The unfortunate reality is that the President is not going to push for a public option or Medicare buy in, so that means those of us who believe so strongly that this is essential to any reform must find another means to deliver to Americans what they have strongly supported from the get go: strong non-profit competition to insurance companies. At the time I'm writing this, 20 Senators have signed onto a pledge to vote for a public option through Senate reconciliation. It seems to clear to me at this time, this is where we must apply pressure and demand accountability.

Those words clearly set Kennedy apart from Madam Foxx, who has spent the past year attacking all Democratic ideas for insurance reform and believes, anyway, that "There are no Americans who don't have healthcare. Everybody in this country has access to healthcare" (July 24, 2009, in a Capitol Hill press conference).

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Foxx: So Much for Those Free-Market Principles 

Turns out that Virginia Foxx is a gutless wonder. Yesterday she voted twice to obstruct a provision that would remove the anti-trust exemption for the insurance industry, and when those efforts to derail the legislation failed, she voted for the actual bill. In other words, in this election year she turns out to be a typical politician, watching her backside and apparently not wanting to be on record as favoring the anti-trust exemption for insurance (the ONLY industry in America that benefits from that exemption, and look where that's gotten us), though perfectly willing to do what she can to prevent the reform from coming up for a vote.

The first procedural vote yesterday was to even consider the bill (H.R. 4626) "to restore the application of the Federal antitrust laws to the business of health insurance to protect competition and consumers." Every single Republican in the House (and eight blue dog Democrats including the inestimable Heath Shuler) voted to obstruct consideration of this important reform.

Then the Republicans tried to kill the bill by a motion to recommit, which also failed (Foxx voting with all the Republicans save three).

Having failed to derail the reform, on final passage Foxx and most other Republicans voted for the bill, 406-19.

So what was that all about? That was about the obstructionism the Republicans have been practicing for the last year PLUS their pressing need now in this election year to keep their obstructionism and their toadying for the corporations more or less below the radar of what most voters even notice.

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Shuler the Mule 

There's playing politics and then there's sticking one's finger in your best friend's eye.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blue Cross of N.C.: Pigs at the Trough 

Fact: The NC Department of Correction's spending on hospital care for prison inmates has been out of control over the past decade: it shot up from $17.5 million in 1999 to $55.8 million in 2009.

Fact: Last Aug. 5, the NC General Assembly passed its budget bill, which included a provision mandating that inmates treated at hospitals would be billed at the same rates as the State Health Plan for state workers and teachers, a reform that would have saved the state millions on hospital treatment for inmates.

Disgusting Fact: On the day that Gov. Perdue signed the budget law, state Democratic Sen. Tony Rand inserted language in a legislative housekeeping bill that effectively gutted the money-saving provision.

Really Disgusting Fact: It comes to light in an investigation by the Raleigh News & Observer (published today) that Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. was sending secret e-mails to Sen. Rand containing the language that he subsequently inserted to help that monopolistic health-insurance provider (so to speak) continue to rip off the state's taxpayers.

These are the same corporate tools who have gotten hysterical over the threat of actual health-insurance reform, like the "public option," and who have used the U.S. mails to induce their naive subscribers to put pressure on Sen. Kay Hagan and others not to do anything in Congress that might cause their cash cow to give less milk.

Non-profit corporation ... there's an oxymoron!

Tony Rand is now gone from the State Senate, pursued closely by the bears of prosecutorial retribution. Might his collusion with BC/BS of NC be added to the list of offenses, or was that perfectly legal in the way that only politicians could devise unethical string-pulling to be "perfectly legal"?

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fault Finding 

Wouldn't it be great if the president we elected now actually showed up?

Wouldn't it be great if the president who promised "change we can believe in" now actually started believing in it himself?

Wouldn't it be great if the lessons of Massachusetts did indeed put a stop to that awful Insurance Entitlement Act that the Senate passed and which our president has clearly preferred over the much better House bill?

Wouldn't it be great if our president stopped trying to cuddle up with Wall Street and Big Pharma and all the other bigs and started leading for the people, to take our government back from the Cleptocracy?

Wouldn't it be great if Barack Obama fired Rahm Emanuel? And the entire Treasury Department?

Whatever lessons they're learning this a.m. in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac, we very seriously doubt that any of the above is included.

This is President Obama's fault.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Kissell's Vote Against Health Care 

Myron Pitts writes in the Fayetteville Observer under the headline "Kissell's no on health care reform hasn't hurt him." Pitts is basing that take on Public Policy Polling results that show Kissell ahead by double digits of all his potential Republican opponents.

The most interesting factoid from that poll, however, is that some 44 percent of those polled, a plurality, "believe Kissell did indeed vote for the [House] bill."

Now that's a wrinkle! What does it mean that Kissell is winning among people who think he voted for insurance reform? What happens when they find out he didn't vote for the only bill that actually offers some reform?


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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Never a Good Idea 

It's Politics 101: Never appear to waffle.

So we experienced one of those head-slapping moments just now, brought on by too much waffle ingestion. NC-8 Congressman Larry Kissell, he who voted against the House health-insurance reform bill in November (one of 39 Democrats who did so), is quoted today in the Charlotte Observer as liking the House reform bill much better than the Senate "reform" bill, which is especially galling now that the Obama White House has signaled very clearly that it wants the Senate bill and not the House bill, so what difference does Kissell's inconsistent druthers and his voting record make anyway?

"I happen to think the House bill is better," sez Kissell.

Whattya gonna do with hind-sight like that?

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hang Dog 

Sen. Ben Nelson gets no Blue Dog love in Nebraska. How tragic, how sad, how well deserved.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009


"Abstinence only" indoctrination for American teenagers has proven to be mightily productive of unplanned pregnancies and not much else, except pious posturing by conservatives who say they want government out of our lives except when it comes to teenager indoctrination. Yet abstinence only proponents are hoping that any new health reform legislation will empower their stupidity with more government money.

According to the WashPost, "The health-care reform legislation pending in the Senate includes $50 million for programs that states could use to try to reduce pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease among adolescents by teaching to them to delay when they start having sex," even though the budget signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year zeroed out such funding as hilariously ineffective.

Some powerful senator or group of powerful senators managed to squeeze $50 million back into the conservative trough, and if we know Obama the Great Compromiser, he'll go along with it.

Albert Einstein called it insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Well Okay Then 

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) sez that the watered-down Insurance Conglomerate Protection Act of 2009/2010 is just all right with her, including the bribes paid to Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and others not yet disclosed.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Obama Losing His Base 

It's his fault. It's President Obama's fault. What ... he thought he could rev up a coalition that wanted real reform and then betray it with a sell-out to corporate money and to Joe Lieberman? Apparently, he and his advisors naively thought that everyone would just fall right into step behind The Insurance Company Bail-Out Act of 2009, that his fans would accept any bill rather than a good one.

The web-based Obama troops, 13,000,000 of us on the Organizing for America (OFA) listserv, received e-mails on Wednesday, asking us to phonebank our senators to support the Joe Lieberman version of health insurance reform. We contacted Kay Hagan, all right, but not to urge her to support that piece of garbage. Politico sez the revolt is widespread and going viral:
One leading OFA volunteer in Florida blasted an email to a statewide listserv urging activists to "just say no" to the phone-banking effort -- uncorking a torrent of frustration from Florida Democrats -- while some OFA subscribers replied directly to the call-to-action email with angry messages and others asked to be removed from the list entirely.

Dave Hearn, an optician in Iowa who helped organize for Obama's campaign said that the president "is taking for granted that the volunteers who worked so hard for him were going to buy in to whatever strategy he chose to pass his major legislative initiative .... What am I going to say: 'I hate this bill, but we're Obama people, so let's do it?' "

That ain't working. Ain't working on any number of levels, and it's Obama fault for not fighting for what he said he wanted, both during the campaign and right regularly since he took office.

"If this bill passes, it will be because Joe Lieberman threw a hissy fit and was allowed to control what went into the bill," said Susan Smith, an OFA activist from Tampa. "That means that in the end, he had more power with President Obama and Senator Reid than we do. If he is rewarded, this tactic will be used over and over again to kill the progressive agenda."

Susan's got it right. Obama's got it wrong. It remains to be seen if this president can be a leader and a reformer or merely a jet-setting speech-maker.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Larry Kissell's Possible Primary Opponent 

Larry Kissell, the first-term Democrat representing the NC-8, voted against the health insurance bill which the U.S. House passed and which is several light years better than the hardened turd favored by Joe Lieberman and Barack Obama in the Senate.

Kissell has been in trouble with his Democratic base in the NC-8 ever since.

There's a movement to recruit lawyer Chris Koury to run against Kissell in the 2010 primary, and no less than the chair of the Mecklenburg Democrats is cheering Koury on.

There's going to be a lot more of this sort of primary activity if the Democrats in the U.S. Senate get their way with what they are currently proposing as "reform" of health insurance.

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Faith Healing 

Trying to find some relief from marinating our noggins in the corporatocracy of Washington, D.C., and the craven Democratic Senate, and trying to avoid the growing thought that Democrats are no more capable of reform than the goddamned party of Virginia Foxx, I turn for relief to the obituary of Oral Roberts, the self-aggrandizing faith-healer of yore who died yesterday at the age of 91.

When I was growing up a rawboned teenager in West Texas, the TV in our house was tuned to Oral Roberts every Sunday afternoon. My mother totally gulped that particular display of righteousness, and so did I, wishing to please my mother and, naturally, the Lord.

"Be healed!" he shouted at men and women and little children, holding them firmly by the shoulders and then striking their foreheads with his open palm. Many fell backward, dazed by the power of God or of man and suggestion, into the waiting arms of two strong men strategically positioned for that purpose.

My mother totally believed. So did I, mainly, though there was maybe an occasional wee shadow of a doubt that crept through my synapses even at that age. I had been trained to recognize doubt as the voice of Satan, nothing less. But seeing the man on crutches have his crutches confiscated after being smote on the forehead by the Reverend Roberts, yet still require the strong assistance of those two evangelistic side-men to get back off the stage, could make even a devout 14-year-old risk eternal damnation and say, "Hey, wait a minute."

Well, Oral Roberts, your version of health care is gonna be more in demand, if the Democratic Senate (a.k.a., the for-profit Insurance Industry) has its way, and equally effective, most like.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eff Them All 

The effing Senate Democrats, at the behest of effing Rahm Emanuel, are producing an effing DISASTER of a so-called reform of health insurance, while making effing Joe Lieberman the Supreme Dictator of its contents, which puts us in the effing awkward position of having to applaud the inevitable NO vote that effing Madam Virginia Foxx will cast against whatever piece of shit finally emerges from the combination of the House and Senate bills, because, probably, the effing House Democrats will capitulate too.

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Democrats Determined to Self-Destruct 

Mr. Rahm Emanuel, representing the wishes of Mr. Barack Obama, ordered Sen. Harry Reid to kiss Sen. Joe Lieberman's ass yesterday, and Sen. Reid obediently got on his knees.

From all appearances, there will be no health insurance reform that means squat. Plus, from all appearances, Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Obama are intent on losing their majorities in both houses of Congress next year, because (hey!) the profits of Big Insurance Companies come first.

For his part, Sen. Lieberman is going to need more compass to strut:
Mr. Lieberman could not be happier. He is right where he wants to be -- at the center of the political aisle, the center of the Democrats' efforts to win 60 votes for their sweeping health care legislation. For the moment, he is at the center of everything -- and he loves it.

"My wife said to me, 'Why do you always end up being the point person here?' " he said, flashing a broad grin in an interview on Monday.

Sen. Lieberman is a post turtle who thinks God put him up there. We all know it was Rahm Emanuel.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

This Just In 

POLITICO Breaking News:

"The White House is encouraging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to cut a deal with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), which would mean eliminating the proposed Medicare expansion in the health reform bill, according to an official close to the negotiations. Lieberman threw health care reform into doubt Sunday when he told Reid that he would filibuster the bill if it allowed Americans ages 55 to 64 to purchase coverage in Medicare."

Oh Jeez.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Burr: Senator or Sock Puppet? 

Sen. Dick Burr has taken $274,586 in campaign contributions from the health insurance industry throughout his career, which certainly helps explain his dependable shilling for the health insurance industry in trying to defeat health insurance reforms in the U.S. Senate:
* In an interview with Fox News in September, Sen. Burr claimed that "no plan, currently considered or passed, in either the House or the Senate," extends coverage to all Americans. However, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that House bill would cover 97 percent of Americans. [North Carolina Policy Watch, September 30, 2009]

* In a November radio interview with radio host Bill LuMaye, Sen. Burr said about the House bill, "It doesn't have reforms in it. The only reform that's really there is that we do away with preexisting conditions." In truth, however, the bill contains numerous other insurance reforms, including caps on out of pocket expenses and lifetime limits, as well as market accountability through health insurance exchanges. [North Carolina Policy Watch, November 17, 2009]

Thanks to Public Campaign Action Fund for blowing this particular whistle.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Proud To Be a Parrot 

Heath Shuler (NC-11) got called out here and in many other places for obediently inserting language in the Congressional Record supplied to him by a major drug company ... by way of justifying a further watering down of health care reform (giving Big Pharma 12 years of shielded exclusivity to "biologic drugs" before cheaper generics could be introduced; alternative legislative language would have granted five years of exclusivity).

The Shuler organization has decided to handle the bad press on this issue by coming out and essentially saying he's pleased to be a Huge Tool.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Laundryline 

For all the dissension in the Democratic Party, the Republicans have their own internal rotting fish heads.

Congressman Heath Shuler (NC-11) following not just PhRMA's talking points but the talking points that PhRMA specifically tailored for Republican members of Congress ... about protecting PhRMA's huge profits by way of prohibiting generic versions of certain cancer & AIDS drugs. UPDATE: Tom Sullivan at Scrutiny Hooligans goes a more complete blow-by-blow of all this under the appropriate headline "Corporate Ventriloquism."

The Barracuda bites the hand that fed her.

North Carolina Republicans, even with headliner Dick Armey and the personal blessing of Jesus Christ, can't get but 400 measly protesters out in Raleigh over the weekend? Who'd a thunk it!

Republican conservatives dismember their most promising politicians. Fine by me.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kissell Has Some 'Splainin' To Do 

Rep. Larry Kissell is North Carolina's newest representative in Congress, elected in 2008 from the NC-8 (which includes all the counties on the South Carolina border, from the eastern suburbs of Charlotte to Cumberland County and Fayetteville). Most analysts agree that Kissell won his seat against the wealthy Republican Robin Hayes partly on Barack Obama's coattails, since Obama carried the district.

Which makes Kissell's vote against the House's "Affordable Health Care for America Act" last Saturday very puzzling. Make that "very maddening," since Kissell was elected on the strength of progressive activism and was thought to be an actual Democrat, as opposed to NC representatives Mike McIntyre (NC-7) and Heath Shuler (NC-11), the Blue Dogs who owe some secret, shadowy allegiance to the political power cult known as "The Family."

For his part, Kissell has been ducking comment since Saturday, while his constituents are pouring on some heat. A group of protestors organized by the Cumberland County Progressives stood in the rain outside Kissell's Fayetteville office yesterday, holding up wet signs that said "Blow the Whistle on Larry Kissell" and "Give Kissell a Big Dismissal." (Rhymes are apparently still the preferred genre for political protests.)

"In the 8th District, we only have one voice in Congress, and that one voice voted against us," said a spokesman for the group. "We're upset that Kissell has been elected -- and really by the coattails of President Obama -- to represent a district where a lot of people need health care," said the president of the local NAACP. "And he didn't vote for it. That bothers me."

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Black Bart 

To get the Democratic votes for the narrow victory on Saturday for the House's "Affordable Health Care for America Act," Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced into a corner by the Blue Dogs, led by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan. She allowed a vote on the Stupak amendment to the bill which not only outlaws abortion coverage in any public option insurance plan (a redundancy, since the so-called Hyde Amendment already did that) but also outlaws abortion coverage in any private insurance plan if it participates in the eventual federal "insurance exchange."

In other words, the Stupak Amendment effectively bans abortion coverage in all insurance plans, both private and public, an interference in women's health care that is not just a step backward but a naked slap at what has been a legal right of American women since 1973. Some 64 House Democrats voted for this crap. And all the Republicans (save one). They had a major assist from the League of Catholic Bishops.

Bart Stupak is not just your garden-variety Blue Dog. He's also a "C-Streeter," a resident of the Capitol Hill row house where some holier-than-thou male members of Congress pray loudly to God, often about the proclivity of some of their residents to fornicate freely with lesser mortals. The C Street residence has been the safe retreat for several superior "Christian" men, including Mark Sanford of "hiking the Appalachian Trail" fame and John Ensign, who screwed a staff member and then paid her off.

Residents in the C Street house are members of a shadowy and secretive fundamentalist Christian group calling itself The Fellowship. Founded in 1935, it has held clear theocratic designs on government. And also on women, who are obviously supposed to be their obedient vessels.

After Bart Stupak successful cornered Nancy Pelosi into throwing American women under the proverbial bus Saturday night, he dutifully cast his yea vote for final passage of the thus severely restrictive "Affordable Health Care for America Act" and then was observed from the gallery of the House chamber to do the following:
Stupak, during the vote on the final bill, didn't stick around long. He cast his vote quickly and shook the hand of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), then headed over to the GOP side, where he was warmly welcomed.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a strident partisan, was the first to greet him, shaking his hand and slapping him on the back. Stupak then found [Republican Minority Whip Eric] Cantor and [Alaskan Rep. Don] Young, shook their hands, and retired from the floor to the Republican cloakroom.

Birds of a feather.

Meanwhile, another key group of the progressive coalition, pro-choice women, is hung out to dry. And Democrats wonder why they may start losing more than just Virginia and New Jersey.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Madam Bobblehead 

Madam Virginia Foxx stood on the west front of the Capitol yesterday, shucking and grinning as one of Michelle Bachmann's backup singers, basking in the glow of some 5,000 anti-abortionists and tea partiers bused in by Americans for the Prosperous to shut down the government and kill health-insurance reform. Many of the demonstrators were covered in fake blood and carried mangled dolls, representing aborted fetuses, as someone else dressed as the Grim Reaper mimicked leading them all to hell. Other demonstrators chanted "Weasel Queen," their favored nickname for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In Madam Foxx's line of sight were a number of protestor signs: President Obama in white coat, his face painted to look like the Joker; "Stop Obamunism"; "Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds" [sic], accusing Obama of being part of a Jewish plot to introduce the antichrist; and a pair of 5-by-8 foot banners proclaiming "National Socialist Healthcare, Dachau, Germany, 1945." Both banners showed close-up photographs of Holocaust victims, many of them children.

Those huge Nazi death-camp signs were the visual manifestation of what The Madam had already said on the floor of the U.S. House this past Monday.

Anyone who watched any of this bizarre Michelle Bachmann rally yesterday ("Taking the GOP Off the Cliff") could not miss Madam Foxx and her helmet of white crazy-lady hair. While others ranted at the microphone, she was always nearby, the perfect marionette, though for all her mimicking of great pleasure at being there in the company of so many other political whores, she looked as nervous and as pained as someone secretly passing gas in an elevator.

When her turn came at the microphone, she bellowed, "This Congress is on a collision course with the principles of freedom and liberty that our Founding Fathers bled and died for. We will not be silenced. We will kill this bill."

Well, they ARE clearly the Party of Death.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Who Is Scarier Than Any Terrorist Right Now in Any Country? 

As un-self-aware as Foxx & Friends are in the hallowed halls of Congress, they occasionally actually hit on the truth. Madam Foxx's terror about Democratic health reform does indeed have something to do with her own survival.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sort of inadvertently hit on it in an interview he did with right-wing CNSNews. After throwing out all the standard red-meat talking points ("socialism," "government take-over," "tax us to death," "unconstitutional"), he let the real truth slip out, that the American people will like reform too much and thus endanger the future electability of Republicans:
And if they get there [to a public option, for example], of course, you're going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody's going to say, "All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party."

And that's why Madam Foxx is saying health-care reform is scarier than Al Quaida, because even her sorry, lying, thieving, whoring after momentary wing-nut applause ... might actually come to an end.

Which is to say, even the Madam can be beaten in an election, even in the Fifth District. Watauga County has already proven it. That's merely because the people in her home county actually know her. All it will take is for people in the other counties to know her too.

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Take That, Blue Cross NC! 

The latest Elon University poll found that 54% of North Carolinians support health insurance legislation that would include a public option. Some 41% said they would use a public option plan should one become available.

That latter number amounts to a huge razzberry directed at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NC, which has spent a secret amount (the corp. won't say how much) sending out multiple propaganda pieces opposing health-care reform, the most recent featuring a postage-paid, pre-printed postcard opposing any public option reform that the recipient is supposed to sign and send to Sen. Kay Hagan. Many people have been altering those cards to reflect the feelings of a majority of North Carolinians (see above), like NC House Rep. Pricey Harrison. We heard about one guy who taped his edited card to a brick before sending it on through the postal system, which apparently is totally legal and costs Blue Cross of NC slightly more than 28 cents.

Next we can expect Blue Cross's $4-million-man, CEO Bob Greczyn, to claim that the high cost of his insurance is due to "socialists" in the state abusing his postage-paid propaganda.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Foxx Shows Her Ass 

Keeping in mind that Madam Virginia Foxx is actively scared to death of actual voters in her district and that she does not appear anywhere that doesn't offer "safe," pre-screened, ass-kissing fans of hers, her truly violent statement today on the floor of the House has to be taken with the usual tablespoon of salt, as well as a generous dose of laudanum:
Everywhere I go in my district, people tell me they are frightened .... I share that fear, and I believe they should be fearful. And I believe the greatest fear that we all should have to our freedom comes from this room -- this very room -- and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill. I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.

You can watch the whole sorry display here.

So, you understand, right, that the "threat" of health-care reform is worse than the threat from any terrorist in any country in the world?

This is a respected representative of the political party that is counting on us giving them control again over our lives, our welfare, and all our futures in 2010.

No thanks.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Yes We Can't 

A few days ago a large manila envelop arrived in the mail. In it, an 8 x 10 glossy photograph of the 44th President of the United States, a little keepsake just for us (and a few million other of his supporters, we guess), a small reminder that he still holds us in high esteem, a billet-doux with a clear subtext: "Do you still love me?"

How did he know? How did he guess that our affection has been going south ever since it became abundantly clear that his message during the campaign about actual, fundamental change to American corporate cronyism was pretty much political theater (and just as nourishing)?

Okay, okay, we know all that cobwebby stuff about pragmatism and compromise being the lifeblood of political progress, that no one ever actually gets immediately what would be right and just but must accept baby steps and half-measures ... like, say, the House Democratic health-reform bill trotted out yesterday by Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the party leadership as though it were The Tablets brought down from Sinai.

So far, we ain't buying it, keeping in mind that the severely watered-down House version of health reform is just the starting point for further watering down, as everything in the weeks ahead tips rightward toward the real bill that will eventually emerge as the so-called "victory" for Change in America: that is to say, a huge corporate give-away with a mythical "trigger" meant to rein in the corporations some day down the road, like maybe never.

I think I'm just not cut out for compromise. "Compromise is never anything but an ignoble truce between the duty of a man and the terror of a coward." Somebody said that. I don't know who. Whoever it was obviously knew some Democrats, probably Blue Dogs.

It dawned on a lot of us months ago that the 44th President of the United States made a deal with big insurance corporations and Big Pharma and gawd knows who else approximately 30 minutes after Rahm Emanuel installed his favorite coffee mug on his White House desk, a deal that this administration would NOT challenge corporate control of our government and the legislative process. They've been dodging around ever since, trying to get someone else, like Harry Reid in the Senate, to take the fall for failing to deliver real reform. The White House is the culprit. They have not negotiated in good faith, far as we can tell.

So, no, I ain't happy, and I haven't framed your picture yet.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Using Blue Cross's Dime 

It didn't take long for North Carolina citizens to figure out what to do with those Blue Cross NC postage-paid & pre-printed messages to Sen. Hagan opposing health-care reform. If you got one of those little pieces of propaganda, you might want to take a lesson in what to do with it.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

This Person Is on Medicare 

Virginia Anne Foxx ... Medicare recipient.

Virginia Anne Foxx, who HATES "socialized medicine," is receiving socialized medicine.

Virginia Anne Foxx, who has HERS, will deny you YOURS.

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Blue Cross Is SO Going to Hell 

The North Carolina insurance monopoly of Blue Cross/Blue Shield NC, the company raking in the "nonprofit" profits to enable it to pay its CEO some $3.99 million -- MILLION -- in "nonprofit" salary -- that company is flooding the state of North Carolina with little postcards designed for postage-paid mailing to Sen. Kay Hagan, saying we're opposed to socialistic, communistic, zombie-istic health care reform that might eat into said "nonprofit" profits.

If you get such a card, be prepared for the robo-call followup, as testified about in an e-mail this a.m. from some Ashe Countians:
Have people in Watauga County been receiving the BCBS postcard to send to Kay Hagan? At our house it was followed up by a robo call the next day telling us how easy it would be just to sign the card and send it in. I called the Greensboro Hagan office and learned that hundreds of cards had already been received. It is discouraging to fight a gorilla with so much money.

So much money that is otherwise NOT going to the health care of their clients but rather to fight much needed reform of the sort of criminal immorality that Blue Cross NC so amply illustrates.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dear Heath Shuler 

Congressman, can you read? Or has all that Special Interest cash seared your retinas?

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office sez that the House bill with the "more robust" public option would reduce the federal deficit in the first 10 years.
Moderate [sic], "blue dog" Democrats in the House largely oppose the robust public option and instead argue for a government run insurance option that could negotiate reimbursement rates directly with doctors and hospitals. CBO's analysis of that approach was not available according to Democratic sources, but aides say the preliminary analysis shows it does not save as much as the approach pushed by Pelosi.

Or, by tomorrow, will there be a new excuse for not supporting actual competition?

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Problem Senators 

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), quoted in this a.m.'s NYTimes: "There are 52 solid Democrats for the public option. Only about five Democrats oppose it. Should the 52 give in to the five? Or should the five go along with the vast majority of the Democratic caucus?"

Harkin doesn't name "the five" (though six might appear to be the correct number, if 52 + 6 still equals 58, which is the total number of Democrats in the Senate, not counting the two unaffiliated senators who caucus with the Democrats). So let's guess:
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas)
Kent Conrad (North Dakota)
Ben Nelson (Nebraska)

That's five right there, based just on public statements and some committee votes. That's five without adding Max Baucus, since he has said he'd be for a public option, if the planets in this and every other solar system aligned just right.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

If We Have To Apologize to Harry Reid, We Will 


On our knees, in the snow ... if he actually comes through.

Still don't think he's much of a leader for the 21st Century.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Howard Dean Supports the Opt-Out 

He sees the opt-out compromise as a pragmatic step for getting a public option.

The opt-out is being heatedly dismissed on the left, but we implicitly trust Dr. MeanDean, especially on health-care reform.

Given a strong public option in a national health insurance reform, we would bet that many of our more Republican states would allow their political leaders to huff and puff about how awful it all was while conveniently forgetting to opt out ... sort of the way they publicly eschewed the stimulus money but took it anyway.

And those red state legislators who do opt out will be exposed to their constituents as caring much more about insurance industry profits than their citizens.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009


Since Sam Stein's report on Huffington Post yesterday about an opt-out compromise to a strong public option in health care reform ... the InnerTubes have been absolutely ablaze with consternation and denunciation and ... dawning delight. We're daintily sipping from that last chalice, at least for the moment.

If there's a strong national public option out of which individual states may choose to excuse themselves (and all their citizens), that would appear to kill two birds with one shot, both the need for offering universal coverage (with emphasis on the offer) and the interests of individual red states to protect their citizens from awful "socialism." Don't know how but we're sure the "states-righters" will find a way to scream that they don't want the option. Perhaps the state legislators of, say, Alabama will not want to face their constituents while piously "saving them" from affordable health insurance.

We note that our reform guru Jane Hamsher is bitterly opposed. With all due respect.

But we're more persuaded by the reader's comment posted by Josh Marshall:
It's a game changer. The proposal is consonant with Obama's own approach to reform -- what Cass Sunstein labeled 'visionary minimalism' -- in its incremental, consensual approach that nevertheless possesses transformative potential. Instead of coercing adoption by imposing a mandate on the states, it invites their participation and preserves their choice.

As compromises go (and that often ain't far), this seems pretty good to us. Perhaps because we would not expect North Carolina to opt out. I mean, how stupid could we be?


Monday, October 05, 2009

Is There Water in Those High Clouds? 

At last, signs that the "public option" is far from dead and that President Obama is beginning to work behind the scenes to match his leverage to his election race rhetoric.

Jane Hamsher, however, remains skeptical.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Oh, Shut Up 

Ex-Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist, safely out of office so that he can prevaricate at will about what he would have done, told Karen Tumulty of Time magazine that he would vote for the Democratic health-care reform bill (whatever that ultimately turns out to be): "As leader, I would take heat for it .... That's what leadership is all about."

If you can suppress your gag reflex long enough, recall that this is the same senator who confidently diagnosed Terri Schiavo's condition from hundreds of miles away and led the U.S. Senate on a midnight charge to interfer in a private family's decision, all in the interests of "right-to-life" politics.

If Bill Frist were still in the U.S. Senate, he would be talking daily to the microphones about "Obama's socialized medicine," ululating like a Swiss goat-herder yodeling in the Alps.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Harry Reid Blows Hot 

Noted frail reed Sen. Harry Reid, our least favorite Democratic Senate Majority Leader since the last Democratic Senate Majority Leader, put it on the record yesterday that there will be a public option in the final health insurance reform bill that goes to the president's desk.

Reid will be on the reconciliation committee, to meld House and Senate versions of reform. That much is a cinch. So he would be in a position to deliver on that promise. Not that we believe him in the first place, and not that we have any actual hope that the reconciled bill will contain any public option that isn't (a) "triggered" (something Congressional Democrats can later renege on, which they are so good at) or (b) so weak and watered down as to be meaningless (something else Congressional Democrats have shown past talents at accomplishing).

Jane Hamsher's take on the back-stage maneuvering is, once again, invaluable.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Meet the Fockers II 

To recap: the five Democrats who voted against the Jay Rock public option amendment to the Baucus health reform bill in the Senate Finance Committee: Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Carper of Delaware, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Bill Nelson of Florida.

What's the insurance market like in those five senators' states?
NORTH DAKOTA -- 89% controlled by Noridian/Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota

ARKANSAS -- 75% controlled by Blue Cross Blue Shield Arkansas

MONTANA -- 75% controlled by Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana

DELAWARE -- 42% controlled by CareFirst/Blue Cross Blue Shield

FLORIDA -- 30% controlled by Blue Cross Blue Shield Florida

NOTE: The U.S. Department of Justice defines a "highly concentrated" market as one where a company controls at least 42% of the market share.

An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics found that those Senate Democrats who opposed the public option amendments got more cash from insurers than those who supported it:
* The Democrats who voted against the Rockefeller amendment have collected $97,472 more on average from insurance companies since 1989 than the Democrats who voted for it -- $325,424 compared to $227,952.

Hat-tip: Chris Kromm & Sue Sturgis of Facing South

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meet the Fockers 

Which part did you like best, that the five Senate DINOs below voted with their puppet-masters, the insurance corps, yesterday on the Rockefeller amendment, or that Sen. Baucus said he actually supported a public option but wasn't voting for it because it couldn't pass the Senate because he would vote against it?

The Corporate Kleptocracy is alive and well in the U.S. Senate and doesn't even bother any more trying to cover its own hilarious twisted logic. Thank you so much for playing, and don't forget your parting gifts:
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Max Baucus (D-MT)

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Never Go in a Room Alone With Rahm Emanuel 

Jane Hamsher sez that Richard Trumka, the new president of the AFL-CIO and heretofore a strong advocate for the public option, has been summoned to the White House today for a conference with that prick Rahm Emanuel, which means, according to Hamsher, that Trumka will cave to the Profane Blowtorch.

For the long-term health of a recently reborn Democratic Party, here's the crux for Hamsher, and for us:
"...I defy anyone to find me one single example of the White House twisting one arm for a public option. Just one. But when Rahm and Trumka meet today, it will be after a month of very serious threats to the AFL-CIO carried out at the highest levels. It's the kind of 'arm twisting' that only the executive branch is capable of, and it has been done to crush support for a public option, not opposition."

We didn't vote for Rahm Emanuel to be the head of government.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

History of Blue-Dog Barking on Health Insurance Reform 

By the only writer we trust on the awful sausage-making in Congress.

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HoneyBaked Ain't So Sweet 

The HoneyBaked Ham Co. is a large national corporation and, as such, exemplifies corporate values to a tee. Case in point:

Richard Huether, an employee at the HoneyBaked Ham Co. store in Cary, N.C., was closing the store in Crossroads Plaza last April when a gunman approached him, attempted to rob him, and then shot him in the stomach.

Huether has been on worker's compensation since April. When those benefits expired, HoneyBaked Ham terminated his employment, canceled health benefits for him and his family, and helpfully suggested he would be better off on the government dole. Or as Laura Leslie put it, "why should the company cover the medical bills [Huether] incurred defending its store when it can stick taxpayers with the bill instead?"

That's just one reality of health insurance in America today.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Republicans Blew Their Wad 

All that August noise from Republicans about socialist Democrats seems now in the cooler shade of September to have done nothing particularly harmful to health care reform and several things very harmful to the Republican "brand." From this a.m.'s NYTimes:
...recent polling ... done for The New York Times and CBS News in the last week ... gives Democrats a clear edge over Republicans as the party favored to deal with health care issues. The same polls show significant support for a public option despite months of criticism from Republicans, who describe it as a government takeover of health insurance.

On the issue of reforming corporate, for-profit insurance, the Republicans are truly irrelevant, except as background noise and the occasional clown eruption. Democrats from red states or red districts are the entire story for what's to come.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Some Blue Dogs Back on the Porch 

Ryan Grim is reporting that "whip counts" of the Blue Dog Dems in the U.S. House is showing that the overwhelming voter support for a public option in health insurance may be having some impact. Grim writes that there is now a "lack of concerted, ideological opposition to a public option." The Blue Dog caucus is split.

The bluest of the Blue Dogs, and the leader of their opposition to actual health care reform, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), has a looming scandal on his hands. Ross took a big fat payoff (or ... "bribe") from an "Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate [on health care reform] plays out."

When a dog turns this blue, there's usually corporate money supplying the color. We're looking in your direction, Heath Shuler.

Not that these Democratic outliers in the House will ultimately matter to reform or to history. It's the corporatist Democrats in the Senate that hold all the power on this issue.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay Rockefeller, New Lion in the Senate 

At least on the issue of health insurance reform, he's being a mensch. Just today, in the Senate Finance Committee markup of the awful Baucus bill, about an amendment offered by Sen. Jon Cornyn of Texas, Rockefeller said:
"This is a very, very important amendment and it's a very, very bad amendment. If there's anything which is clear, it's that the insurance industry is not running this markup, but is running certain people in this markup."

That's stating the plainly obvious, of course, but these days too many Democratic members of the U.S. Congress can't face the plainly obvious, let alone call it by its name.

We were sufficiently unimpressed with Sen. Rockefeller during the late, unlamented presidency of George W. Bush, especially his weak service on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And his uncritical support of everything the coal industry in West Virginia wants to accomplish, including the decapitation of scores of formerly green mountains, has given us heartburn for years.

So it's something of a blessed relief to be able to applaud his strong advocacy for real health-care reform and, incidentally, for his unblinking frankness in calling a weasel by its proper name.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Allure of Corporate-Think 

Ezra Klein, on just one section of the Baucus health insurance bill unveiled yesterday (a.k.a., "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act of 2009"), language dealing with "employer mandates," a provision known as the "free rider":
It is not only the worst policy idea in the bill, but one of the worst policy ideas I've ever seen.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kay Hagan finds a lot to love in the Baucus dreck.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Senator Baucus Disposes 

After months of stupid delay, while even stupider "negotiations" with Republican Senate obstructionists produced precisely zero, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus expelled a giant legislative fart all over Capitol Hill today, otherwise known as "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act of 2009."

No Republican on the Finance Committee supports it, and, turns out, that's a useful thing. An even better thing is that progressive Democratic senators on the committee are already lining up against it. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has so far expressed the bluntest disdain, but senators John Kerry and Ron Wyden are also grumbling. Those three Democratic votes would be more than enough to kill the bill, which is what needs to happen.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shuler Mad at Democrats in His District 

Heath Shuler of the NC-11 reportedly held a meeting with Democratic Party leaders in Haywood County that reportedly turned rather ugly. Seems that those Democratic loyalists were pressing Shuler on why he was such a g.d. Blue Dog and wouldn't support a public option for health insurance. Shuler has shown flashes of irritation before with Democrats who just don't seem to understand that a Blue Dog hears a different whistle.

Shuler's name is now the first signature on a letter that Blue Dogs wrote to Henry Waxman demanding that certain language in H.R.3200 that PhRMA doesn't like be changed to language that PhRMA likes much better because (hey!) PhRMA wrote it after Billy Tauzin and other big drug company wheeler-dealers had a meeting with Rahm Emanuel and the President during which a bribe of $150 million was offered by PhRMA to promote the president's health-care "reform," so long as that "reform" did not include any price controls on the drug industry. Matt Taibbi has the inside scoop.

So guess what? Heath Shuler is about to be the recipient of some pro-Heath Shuler advertising by PhRMA, in appreciation for his service to killing real reform.

And actual Democrats are left wondering just how are we better off with corporate interests buying our guys just as assiduously as they bought the other guys.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Company She Keeps 

Sen. Kay Hagan was one of 16 Blue Dog Dems in the U.S. Senate summoned to the White House this p.m. for a meeting with President Obama (ABC is reporting).

Quite the list of frail reeds (and a few who ought to be ashamed to be clumped up with any kind of obstruction): Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Mark Warner of Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Tom Carper of Delaware, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Foxx Laughs at the 5th District 

Back safely in D.C. yesterday, far away from any constituents who might confront her in a parking lot or otherwise disturb her townhall-free summer vacation, Madam Doctor Virginia Foxx said on the floor of the U.S. House, "Mr. Speaker, it was a long, hot August for many members of Congress who returned home to face the displeasure of constituents fed up with Washington's tin ear syndrome. Over the past month I have heard from more people than I can count who have had enough of the explosion of Washington-style big government."

If your voice wasn't anti health-care reform, she didn't hear you. She didn't even hear you if you agreed with her, because she wasn't listening to anyone but her own inner demons. That line, "I have heard from more people than I can count," is just a bald-faced lie.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

It's Really Pretty Simple 

What Bill Moyers said Friday night:
"...Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company's share price and profits.

"Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website He's a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He's offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you're 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

"This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter."

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Wal-Mart, Dark Over-Lords of the Universe 

Hat-tip: Chris Kromm and the Institute for Southern Studies:
Rank of Wal-Mart among the largest private employers in the U.S.: 1

Rank of Wal-Mart among the world's largest retailers: 1 [source: same as above]

Profit made by Wal-Mart last year alone: $13 billion

Amount Wal-Mart earns in profit every minute: $34,880

Accumulated wealth of the Walton family that owns Wal-Mart: $158.4 billion

Rank of the Waltons among the world's richest families: 1 [source: ibid.]

Number of U.S. residents who visit Wal-Mart each week: 150 million [source: ibid.]

Number of workers Wal-Mart employs in the U.S.: 1.4 million [source: ibid.]

Percent of Wal-Mart's U.S. employees who do not have health insurance coverage through the company: 52

Average percentage of employees at large U.S. companies who are covered by company health insurance plans: 65 [source: ibid.]

Percent of Costco's employees who receive health insurance through the company: 85

Percent of their income average full-time Wal-Mart employees pay for the company's least expensive insurance plan: 20 [source: ibid.]

As of 2005, percent of Wal-Mart employees who got assistance from Medicaid, a public insurance program for the poor: 5

National average among employers: 4 percent [source: ibid.]

As of 2005, percent of Wal-Mart workers' children who were on Medicaid: 27 [source: ibid.]

National average among employers: 22 percent [source: ibid.]

Number of petition cards being distributed by a coalition of Wal-Mart workers, community leaders and activists that say, "I think Wal-mart should stop forcing taxpayers to cover its workers' health care": 50,000

Date on which a coalition of labor, environmental and community groups launched an initiative to hold Wal-Mart accountable for how it treats workers: 9/1/2009

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wish Never To See This Face Again 

Rahm Emanuel ... there's a swell guy.

Bad advice sometimes indicates a bad advisor.

If President Obama goes with Rahm, it's his trip. We'll not be joining him.

We'll concentrate instead on what we can do locally and turn off the national feeds, recognizing that there's not a damn thing we can do about the president following bad advice and throwing the progressives in his own party under the proverbial bus ... which is where Rahm has always seemed to prefer them.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Some Balls! 

Taking a page from the George W. Bush playbook (speak only before friendly, pre-screened audiences), Sen. Dick Burr did some back flips on health-care reform in Charlotte yesterday, assisted by John McCain and Mitch McConnell, to an invitation-only audience. During which Sen. McCain had the unmitigated gall to praise the screaming mobs who've disrupted Democratic townhalls, which have most assuredly NOT been invitation-only.

Shorthand version: These GOP senators LOVE to see Democrats shouted down by people who don't know what they're shouting about, while the senators bask in the warm puppy-love of invited corporate slaves, who are evidently very comfortable with the level of ignorance among the general public.

However, one doctor in that hand-picked audience yesterday in Charlotte wandered a bit off-message. He had the balls to challenge (finally!) the standard Republican line ("We've got the best health-care system in the world") and challenged McCain's assertion that only 12-15 million Americans are uninsured.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Burr on a Leash 

Big phony health-care event in Charlotte today on behalf of Sen. Dick Burr, at which fellow senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell will also appear, saying approximately (1) the U.S. has the greatest health-care system in the world and (2) we're all completely and totally in favor of reforming the greatest health-care system in the world, so long as the big corps get to keep all their profits and even increase them.

The event is being paid for by big corp Carolinas HealthCare Systems, which runs 25 hospitals in Charlotte and South Carolina.

No conflict of interest here. None.

Meanwhile, the multi-millionaire CEO of N.C. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the insurance giant that has grown obscenely rich from maintaining a monopoly over state employees' insurance (among others), says he's against competition (duh) but very much for a public mandate that everyone buy insurance, since that will increase his profits several billionfold.

If these blood-suckers were capable of shame, which clearly they are not, they'd be hiding their fat faces in the sub-basement of the Department of Can We Get Any More Greedy?

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Shuler Leaves Bad Taste in Polk County 

This account, via BlueNC.

Liar and jerk are two nouns that spring to mind.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Michael Steele Argues With Himself 

I heard this interview with Michael Steele this a.m. on NPR and couldn't believe my ears. A flabberglasticon of contraditions and confusions, Steele was all over the map, trying to sound half-way competent about the facts and stumbling repeatedly instead into deep potholes of faulty logic and twisted reasoning.

Hence, he's the perfect spokesman for the Party of No, the Party of Torture, the Party of the Smugly Prosperous.

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Blue for Money 

It should come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever that the so-called Blue Dog Democrats are currently raking in money from the health care industry by the bushel.

But, please, let's call Heath Shuler (NC-11) and Mike McIntyre (NC-7) and the rest of that illustrious crew what they in fact have become ... obstructionists to reform. Their new motto: "First we count the money, and then we cast our votes."

McClatchy Newspapers is reporting, "On average, Blue Dog Democrats net $62,650 more from the health sector than other Democrats, while hospitals and nursing homes also favor them, giving, respectively, $5,680 and $5,550 more, according to the Center for Responsive Politics...."

However, for all their current whoring for the health-care industry, even the Blue Dogs can't hold a candle to the Republicans: "House Republicans, however, tend to collect more than Democrats-- including Blue Dogs -- from insurers, health professionals and the broader health sector, the Center for Responsive Politics found."

Just ask Madam Foxx, who knows a thing or two about whoredom.

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Face-to-Face with The Madam 

What it takes to get a meeting with our U.S. Representative in Congress...
I saw Virginia Foxx in the parking lot of a grocery store last Sat. in Boone. Actually, I saw her vehicle & realized it was hers by her license plate and so I waited for her. I went up to her and said: "Virginia Foxx." She turned around and said "yes." I said, "How does it feel to lie to America?" She knew immediately what I was referring to. She said: "I didn't lie." I said, "You most certainly did lie." She said, "What's your name!" I said, "My name doesn't matter. I am not the one who LIES to America."

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Well, It IS Monday 

Unfortunately, this pretty much says it all.

The author, David Michael Green, teaches political science at Hofstra.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Dick Burr: Options Are Scary, Like Voters 

Afraid he might be breathed on by actual North Carolina voters, Sen. Dick Burr held a closed door meeting with criminally underpaid hospital administrators in Hickory who hate the idea of a "public option" for health insurance and believe that a foreign-born Muslim president has no right whatsoever to be trying, even, to reform health care in America and possibly no right to even be living upon the earth.

Health insurance options would erode the fabric of America, said Burr, who allowed a reporter for the Hickory Daily Record within 20 feet of His Presence only after the reporter had been sprayed with a strong disinfectant. Why are we crapping our pants over the threat of options? Because options might horribly impact insurance companies' profit margins, and what are we as American senators if not guardians of The Prosperous? And voters might never again vote for a Republican, at least not until Tom DeLay wins Dancing with the Lying Scumballs.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Foxx: "Americans Have No Constitutional Right to Health Care" 

The moment came on a question from her seventh caller in the Rep. Foxx telephone townhall Thursday night: "Has anyone asked whether health care is a right or a privilege?" asked "Mr. Spivey from Kernersville." Turned out to be the right question.

Foxx: "The Constitution doesn't grant a right to health care or grant the federal government rights to deal with health care, and I'm trying to live by the Constitution."

Well, okay then. Conversation over. One wonders, therefore, why go through these motions, even to the point of propagandizing for the first 15 caller-less minutes of this piece of low political theater about the mythical Republican rival plan to reform insurance and health care delivery, when our Congresswoman professedly doesn't believe that the federal government, let alone the likes of her sorry self, have any rights whatsoever to even be dealing in such topics?

The little-over-an-hour of this particular townhall charade was actually a bit pitiful, since the same Congresswoman who has made national headlines with outrageous claims about Democrats' itching to put old people to death was studiously non-confrontational. And her callers were all marvelously polite and respectful (though several asked excellent questions or made smashingly logical comments), but The Madam did not engage in the manner of her Washington persona, the person we're all so familiar with. When "Charles from Fleetwood" made a heart-felt and eloquent point that a public option for health insurance would offer competition and thus lower costs, Madam Foxx said in response, "There was no question there, so we'll just move on." Might as well have chanted, "La la la, I can't hear you!"

Plus she obviously felt so severely insecure on the topic of health care generally that she brought a ringer in to help her ... Rep. Phil Roe from Johnson City, elected to represent the 1st Dist. of Tennessee. How puzzling it was to have this other congressman taking up literally half the hour, a congressman we don’t know and who doesn't represent us. He was her mouthpiece, took most of the hard partisan lines (like bashing European systems, which one caller astutely contradicted), and actually lectured callers on why their viewpoints were sorely misinformed. And why would he be making so bold on The Madam's dime? Because he's also a medical doctor. Pay no attention to me, Madam Foxx seemed to be admitting. Listen to him instead. He's a doctor. (And a partisan hack, but let that go.)

Having a ringer on the show with her just made her look weak and uninformed.

There were two guffaw moments during the hour, the first when "Lloyd of Statesville" said he was a retired federal employee, "one of the privileged ones" (he said) who has the federal employee insurance just like Madam Foxx's, who declared himself totally against socialized medicine. That never gets old.

And then at the end, the laugh-out-loud pronouncement by our Congresswoman, judged by independent observers to be an accomplished partisan battle axe and the second loosest cannon in all of Congress, who summed everything up: "Health care is not a partisan issue."

Laugh? I thought I'd cry.

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