A collection of newsworthy information as reported from newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

New 'Coffee Party' suddenly hot

MISSION: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

No corporate sponsors, No paid speakers! I would encourage coffee meetups to be held at local independent coffee shops and restaurants, homes, or public spaces. Avoid national/international chains (Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc...), lets be true to an independent grassroots identity!

The group is growing fast, however painful that is. Annabel Park, the documentary filmmaker who dreamed this thing up, tells the Washington Post she's been flat-out on the volunteer project: "We have to relearn how to talk to each other, to deliberate. It's also about regaining confidence that we can come together, that we can come to the middle and agree on things."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Health care - Democrats push ahead - Contact Congress

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, center, accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., speaks with reporters outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, following a day of meetings with President Barack Obama at Blair House on health care reform.

WASHINGTON— Democrats pushed hard to revive President Barack Obama's stalled health care overhaul on Friday _ and pointed to glimmers of hope _ but the long odds facing them seemed little changed after Obama's extraordinary summit with both parties' leaders. (We must help them get this Health Care Reform Bill passed with all the Provision that the American People want in it. We must be flooding the e-mail boxes of every Democrat who is against this Bill and pushing and demanding that they support the Passage of health Care Reform using "Reconciliation." That is each one of us task for now and until this bill is passed and signed into law.)

Contact the Representatives and the Representatives leadership at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Contact the Senators and their leadership at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would unveil a "way forward" next week on legislation that has been his foremost domestic priority. Obama, who will first discuss the strategy with Democratic congressional leaders, said at Thursday's bipartisan marathon that he's open to several Republican ideas, including medical malpractice changes.

There were signs of intensified activity on Capitol Hill.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and top adviser David Axelrod discussed health care in an early evening meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. And a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said White House officials have asked the senator to submit details of suggestions he made at Thursday's meeting on rooting out fraud from the medical system.

In addition, a pair of retiring Democrats who opposed the legislation when the House approved it in November appeared willing to reconsider. And some supporters of a House provision strictly banning federal financing for abortion _ a complicated sticking point _ indicated an openness to different language.

The outcome could affect nearly all Americans, remaking the way they pay for health care, the kinds of care they're likely to receive and where they're likely to get it. Or there could be smaller changes _ or none _ outcomes the Democrats say will lead to crushing budget problems and tens of millions of people still being left out. Republicans see problems in the health care system, too, but recommend less-far-reaching prescriptions.

Despite the signs of movement, a day after television cameras brought the nation Obama's unusual daylong discussion with top Republicans and Democrats there were no clear indications of a major change in Congress. The equation remained the same: Democratic leaders, especially in the House, will have to scramble to find votes to pass any health legislation and they're almost certainly going to have to do it without Republican support.
And there are Democratic doubts, as well.

"People who voted 'yes' would love a second bite at the apple to vote 'no' this time, because they went home and got an unpleasant experience" because of their votes, said Rep. Jason Altmire, a moderate Democrat from Pennsylvania. "On the other hand," he added, "I don't know anybody who voted 'no' who regrets it." (Flood this man's e-mail and make his telephone ring off of the hook.)

Top Democrats spoke of plunging ahead anyway.

Pelosi said she saw "good prospects for passing" health legislation and contended Thursday's meeting showed a GOP content to accept the status quo of insurance companies bullying consumers.

That was echoed in the Senate by No. 2 Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois, who said, "We are not going to wait."

The Democrats seem ready to use "reconciliation," a seldom-used procedure that could let them push legislation through the Senate with a simple majority. Until now, Republicans have used a filibuster to force Democrats to find 60 votes in the 100-member Senate _ one more than they have.

Republicans say reconciliation should be used for budget changes, not a dramatic reshaping of national health care policy. With polls showing some voters consider the process unfair, some moderate Democrats have expressed a reluctance to support it. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., said Friday she will be a "definite no" if it is used. (The passage of health Care Reform will have a significant effect on the national Budget.)

But in an interview with The Associated Press, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she was open to using the process "because the Republicans have just decided that they don't want to negotiate."  Spokesmen for the House and Senate Republican leaders said Friday their party does not plan a formal response to Obama, having made clear a belief that Democrats should scrap their bills.  Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said Obama would likely unveil his proposal on Wednesday. He suggested it would be updated with concepts that had been put forth by Republicans at the summit, and that details of Obama's announcement were not set yet
Obama had said just Thursday that he wants to determine whether it is possible to work with Republicans on a serious effort to resolve a health care deal within a few weeks, a month or six weeks. What he meant there, one senior administration official said Friday, was a timeframe for final action, not a timeline for how long the president would wait before deciding how to proceed.

By revealing now that Obama would announce his way forward next week, Obama was not signaling a deadline to Republicans that they have until Wednesday to get on board, said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy. The official described it as more of a straightforward declaration that Obama plans to announce his next steps as a natural follow-up to the summit.

The primary problem for Democratic leaders is the House. That chamber approved its bill 220-215 in November. But one of those "yes" votes came from the only Republican who supported the bill, Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana, who now says he will oppose the bill. Three other "yes" votes came from Reps. John Murtha, D-Pa., who died this month, Robert Wexler, D-Fla., who has left the House, and Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who retires this weekend to run for governor of his state.
In fact, Democrats following the legislation say House Democratic support for the legislation has sunk to 200 votes or less in recent weeks, following the stunning GOP victory in last month's special Massachusetts Senate election and the bill's modest showing in polls.

Providing the Democrats with some hope were indications that two retiring party members who voted against the legislation would consider switching. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., said he is now "totally undecided" and liked how Thursday's summit showed Obama had reached out to Republicans for support. And Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., said it was time to look at "everything fresh." (These are people we must flood with e-mails and telephone calls.)

There were even signs of possible flexibility among Democratic foes of federally financed abortion, many of whom have threatened to oppose the health measure if House-approved restrictions are eased. Altmire did not rule out supporting slightly less strict Senate abortion curbs if they are part of an overall health measure he liked. (These are people we must flood with e-mails and telephone calls.)

But abortion remained an unresolved issue, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterating Friday that it was opposing the overall Senate bill on the grounds that it would open the door to some federal support for abortion.  And for every Democrat touting optimism about the overall bill, there was another expressing wariness about legislation that polls show gets mixed reviews from the public
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said he chatted at the House gym Friday morning with fellow conservative Democrats and found that Obama's session had produced no new momentum. (These are people we must flood with e-mails and telephone calls.)  "I don't think it made a nickel's worth of difference," he said, adding, "It's fair to say the trend is going against the bill."

At the summit, Obama said he was open to several Republican ideas _ including medical malpractice changes to address the issue of defensive medicine. He is also open to other ideas, such as programs that encourage hospitals and doctors to promptly admit mistakes, offer financial restitution and fix problems to prevent more patients from being harmed.  The legislation would curb insurance industry practices like denying coverage to people who are already sick, extend coverage to about 30 million uninsured people,and help many low-income people pay for it, financed by Medicare cuts and new taxes on higher earning Americans and health providers.

At least for now, Democrats envision prevailing by getting the House to pass a Senate health bill, and also sending Obama a separate measure making changes in the Senate package. The alterations include deleting a politically toxic provision that would have Washington finance expanded Medicaid coverage in Nebraska, easing a new tax on high-priced insurance policies and making federal subsidies for poorer people more generous.

Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Charles Babington, Erica Werner and Ben Feller in Washington and Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.

(There are very few Republicans we must flood with e-mails and telephone calls, but there are 5 to six that voted for the Jobs bill.)

'Health reform is going to happen.'

Race Talk

Why We Need to Have Empathy For Tea Party Lunatics - March 2, 2010 

If we don't understand how decent, god-fearing, victimized people can come to espouse such dangerous ideologies, we won't be able to fight them effectively.  http://www.alternet.org/story/145848/why_we_need_to_have_empathy_for_tea_party_lunatics_

Trent Frank, Arizona Republican Say Blacks Better Off as Slaves

So, bad move, Mr. Frank, very bad move.

The number of hate groups in America has been going up for years, rising 54 percent between 2000 and 2008 and driven largely by an angry backlash against non-white immigration and, starting in the last year of that period, the economic meltdown and the climb to power of an African American president.

Student admits hanging noose in campus library - February 26, 2010 

A conversation with Dr. Cornel West

Dr. Boyce Watkins analyzes the fight between Tavis Smiley and Al Sharpton -

Sharpton-Smiley fight reveals rift in black leadership over Obama
By Dr. Boyce Watkins - 11:09 AM on 02/24/2010

CEO Loses Job Over First Lady as Chimp E-Mail

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Health Care Summit - Political Theatre? NO!

Blair House is the official state guest house for the President of the United States.  Blair House is now a complex of four connected townhouses, including the original Blair House. During the 1980s, Blair House underwent significant restorations, with a new wing added on the north. An adjacent townhouse, Trowbridge House, is being renovated to serve as an official guest residence for former U.S. presidents while in the capital. The combined square footage of the four adjacent townhouses exceeds 70,000 square feet, making it larger than the White House.

On the eve of President Barack Obama's health care summit, Weiner opened his speech by accusing Republicans of having the "chutzpah" to be complete obstructionists.  "You know, you've gotta love these Republicans. I mean, you guys have chutzpah. The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of an insurance industry—that's the fact," Weiner said, voiced raised.  As the bizarre scene unfolds, whispers repeating the "subsidiary" line can be heard in the C-SPAN footage, which is when Lundgren (R-Calif.) rose to ask that Weiner's statement be struck from the record.  Weiner then paced the floor, returned to the podium and agreed to retract his statement—only to enter replacement words in the record.

"Every single Republican I've ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry!" Weiner yelled even louder than before.

"Deal with it" should be the new Mantra of the Progressive movement"

Health care summit: Transcripts from every speaker
Missed the health care summit -- or even just a few words? The Post has compiled transcripts from the whole event:
Democrats have wanted this for five decades
Obama said, and the American people can no longer wait. He set a deadline of a month to six weeks or so for Republicans to join them on this issue, but warned that the Democratic leaders of Congress would then go it alone to try to get it done.

President Obama gathered with congressional leaders of both parties yesterday for an open, honest, and productive discussion on health reform. It was a strong success, focused on substance -- as CNN put it, "a win for our country."  While disagreements remain, the meeting uncovered considerable areas of overlap, including many Republican ideas that were already in the President's proposal. And with all the best ideas now on the table, the President made it clear that no excuses remain: Congress must put aside partisan divides and swiftly complete a final bill.  This is a message the whole country needs to hear, but most people weren't able to watch all seven hours of today's summit -- and we can't let the special interest spin machine drown us out. That's where you come in.

The President was crystal clear about his commitment to pass reform that puts Americans in charge of their own health care, reduces costs, and expands coverage for tens of millions without insurance. We've come too far to scrap a year's worth of work and start over. And the millions of Americans that are suffering can't afford another year-long debate. There's simply too much at stake.  Yesterday's bipartisan meeting was a huge step forward toward passing reform. And today, you can help make sure we go the rest of the way: Meeting highlights

I refuse to let others write my agenda.  This is my letter to MO Repulican Senator Kit Bond:
Dear Mr. Christopher Bond

In the game of politics, you adamantly held up a GSA appointment to add pressure to Congress for your desire to move 1,000 Federal employees from a dilapidated building to a brand new building costing $175 million. This 10 month delay caused the Government to waste money because they paid an additional $180 million for an antiquated phone system because the contract could not be signed. You explained this action as “the way to do business in Washington.”
You are voting against healthcare reform. You claim that the people don’t want this. I don’t know what people you’re talking to, but everyone I know wants the healthcare reform bill to pass.
You are about to retire with a $68,000 congressional pension. Could you afford to pay $12,000 of that income for a spousal healthcare policy that may increase 39-56 percent next year? In other words, your health insurance will be provided. During your tenure, your family was covered on your policy. What if after retirement, you had to purchase your wife’s policy separately and the cost was $1,000 a month? Suddenly, your $68,000 retirement income is reduced to $56,000 before taxes.
You see, an individual health care policy is overpriced. Once you’ve had a good health care policy, the catastrophic plans just aren’t good enough. A high deductible is not an option. We want what you have and so does your spouse.
You represent Missouri. Reach across the aisle and vote for health care reform. Don’t just acknowledge that something needs to change, do something about it.

Jo Ann Brown

Use this link to contact anyone voting against health care reform:

Feb 25:  Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown calls the Republicans' pleas to start over on the health care bill "childish" and a missed opportunity to present their platform.

Dr. Boyce Watkins discusses health care

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Unemployed Now Have Their Own Union, and It's Catching on Quickly

In case you haven't heard about it, the union's name is "UR Union of the Unemployed" or its nickname, "UCubed," because of its unique method of organizing.

The idea is that if millions of jobless join together and act as an organization, they are more likely to get Congress and the White House to provide the jobs that are urgently needed. They can also apply pressure for health insurance coverage, unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits and food stamps. 
Joining a Cube is as simple as it is important. (Please check the union web site: http://www.unionofunemployed.com/). Six people who live in the same zip code address can form a Ucube. Nine such UCubes make a neighborhood. Three neighborhood UCubes form a power block that contains 162 activists. Politicians cannot easily ignore a multitude of power blocks, nor can merchants avoid them.  The union is built from the ground up. Cube activists will select their own leadership in each cube, neighborhood, block and higher group as well.
Source:  http://www.alternet.org/story/145797/the_unemployed_now_have_their_own_union%2C_and_it%27s_catching_on_quickly#wp-comments
"This Senate jobs bill is not perfect," said Mr. Brown, whose election victory in Massachusetts last month put an end to the Democrats ability to mount a 60-vote majority in the Senate, the number of votes needed to overcome filibusters. "I wish the tax cuts were deeper and broader, but I voted for it because it contains measures that will help put people back to work."  Mr. Brown was joined in voting yes by fellow Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, George Voinovich of Ohio and Christopher Bond of Missouri.

Source:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704454304575081732384684088.html?mod=WSJ_newsreel_us

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Labeling something as a civil rights bill doesn't play well to the average teabagger.

Limbaugh has trashed progressive efforts to improve America’s health care system for years, but notice he didn’t start talking about “reparations” and comparing reform to a “civil rights bill” until the President of the United States was African American. The nauseating message is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

"Republicans feel no compunction to run from this hatemonger.”

Dems keep fringe liberals at arm’s length, but Republicans can’t wait to associate themselves with a racist, drug-addled radio personality, who seems to have more influence in GOP politics than anyone. Indeed, when a Republican dares to disagree with Limbaugh in public, he/she invariably reverses course and begs Rush for forgiveness.

The caller misquoted the Senate Health Bill.  Under the Senate proposal, insured group health plans must comply with the nondiscrimination requirements for self-funded plans (IRC Sec. 105(h)(2)), including rules that the plan does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated individuals as to eligibility to participate or to benefits provided under the plan. 

Since the discrimination rules for self-funded plans were issued in 1980, employers have adopted fully insured plans to provide executives and key employees with tax-free reimbursements for out-of-pocket medical, dental, and vision expenses. These new prohibitions against discrimination in fully insured plans will compel employers to use other methods to reward executives.

Basically it's saying that you can't provide extra incentives to the executives that you don't provide to everyone. In what way is that wealth redistribution?
Source:  http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/02/23/limbaughs-reparations-crowing-hits-a-new-racist-low/

When Are WE Going to Get Over It?

Andrew Michael Manis is a historian, author, and professor at Macon State College, in Macon, Georgia.  Dr. Andrew Manis is an award-winning historian whose research focuses on the role of religion in American life, with particular attention placed on the Civil Rights Movement.  Andrew M.. Manis is associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia and wrote this for an editorial in the Macon Telegraph.

When Are WE Going to Get Over It?

For much of the last forty years, ever since America "fixed" its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, "When are African Americans finally going to get over it?  Now I want to ask:

"When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?

Recent reports that "Election Spurs Hundreds' of Race Threats, Crimes" should frighten and infuriate every one of us. Having grown up in "Bombingham," Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than "talk the talk." 

Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.  We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent.  Conservative whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right. Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes.  Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster. 

But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we're back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we've proven what conservatives are always saying -- that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president.  But instead we now hear that school children from Maine to California are talking about wanting to "assassinate Obama."  Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, "How long?"

How long before we white people realize we can't make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us?

How long until we white people can - once and for all - get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color?

How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior?

How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin?

How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?

I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners?  How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?  How long before we starting "living out the true meaning" of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that "red and yellow, black and white" all are precious in God's sight?

Until this past November 4, I didn't believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don't believe I'll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem.

But here's my three-point plan:

First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I'm going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people.

Second, I'm going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama.

Third, I'm going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can "in spirit and in truth" sing of our damnable color prejudice,

"We HAVE overcome."

Another interesting opinion article:
OPINION: Ron Paul Is A White Supremacist

By Casey Gane-McCalla February 24, 2010 3:13 pm

This email was sent to me:  Let this be my Obituary

What I am about to say may endanger my life, or what little I have left. Because the Rich and Powerful and the Republicans and the Conservatives will not like one word of this.

I am A 68 years old WHITE MAN and have led a long life. One I have enjoyed, some regrets yes, but not many, more Joy and happiness.

I have lived through and can remember many of the injustices that have been perpetrated upon all of the Minorities in this Country by the Rich and Power White man. I have read books on the Revolutionary War and the Civil Wars, I have read books about the Black, Asian, Hispanic, Indians and European immigrants and what they Have endured under the Rich and Powerful White man in this Country. I have been all over the United States of America and seen for myself the Discrimination that goes on in every State perpetrated by the White Man. I also have seen what has been done to discriminate against White Women in this Country along with all the Rest of the what are now Protected Minorities.

I know for a Fact that we can not provide an Honest education to the children in this Country because we will not write the History of this Country Honestly and Fairly. We will never be able, in my Life time, to expose how the White Man has held himself in the place of God and ruled by the White Mans beliefs, wants and needs. How the White Man cloaks himself in Religion and then breaks every Commandment that was given to us to follow. Yes I am a Christian and I hope that I make it to Heaven when I die.

What I now see in this Country is the Rich and Powerful, The Republicans, The Tea Baggers and the Conservatives trying to do is take us back a hundred to two hundred years in time and making more of us slaves to them. If we allow them to do that then we deserve it to be done to us. If we join together and Fight them as a United representation of the Good this country stands for then we can not fail. Every Race, Creed and Sex must join together to prevent these people from accomplishing there Goals or agenda. They are going to do it in the Next election if they can gain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. They will succeed unless we become Vocal, Writing and Demonstrating against them and what they stand for. WE MUST NOT EVER USE VIOLENCE!!!!

It is not enough to sit around and complain and not to do anything. It is not enough to write to your Representatives and to your Senators. They no longer listen to us "The People." There are a few who do, but the Majority no longer do. They have joined the Rich and Powerful of this Country. Look at the Salaries that we pay our Representatives and Senators. Look at the Fact that they have made it the Law that they get a Pay Raise if they do not vote against it. They do not have to vote in favor of getting it.

I do not know when Corporation Executives, Companies Owners, Government Elected Officials and People lost their Character, Honesty, Compassion, Integrity and their Christian belief that they should look out for what is best for this Country that was founded on the belief that All are created Equal and that there should be Justice for all. Maybe our Educational Institutions no longer teach this Doctrine. When did the Almighty Dollar take over the Souls of these people? When did GREED dominate the World and this Country.

I was in Management with many of the Largest Corporations in this Country and was very successful because I never forgot that I did not produce anything that was product to sell and make a profit on. I understood that it was my job to make sure that everyone that reported to me had my full support in being successful at their jobs. I was the person who made sure that they had everything they needed to produce and succeed. That also meant that I provide then with a Safe and Enjoyable Work Environment.

The time once again is quickly coming upon us when "We the People" of the United States of America will have to UNITE and stand up against the Evil in this Country. Those who would return us to the Dark ages of Open Discrimination and Suppression. We will have to STRIKE and shut down every Corporation, Company and Institution to make our UNITED rage over what they are doing to us and this Country known. We will have to UNITED and make the Largest March on Washington D.C. that has ever been done in History. To demand that our Elected officials do the Will of the People. To Outlaw Lobbyists, To Outlaw PORK BARREL AMENDMENTS, To OUTLAW DISCRIMINATION of any kind, to REFORM the Justice System so that it is truly BLIND. To Outlaw Plea Bargaining, To require that every Prosecutor either prosecute or drop charges. To make every Corporation, Company, Institution and organization reflect the Ethnic make up of the community it exists in.

If we allow the Rich and Powerful and the Republicans and the Conservatives to make this a Country of only two classes (the have's and the have nots) this country is doomed. Government must be of the people, by the people, for the people

Monday, February 22, 2010

The President’s Proposal puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care. | The White House

“No Republican is going to go back to his home district and say, ‘You know what? I was wrong about the health care bill.’ ”

Republicans have shown little interest in negotiating a big compromise. Remember how Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, kept moving the goal posts last summer? This is basic game theory: the better Mr. Obama looks, the worse the Republicans’ chances are in the midterm elections. Philosophy plays a role, too. Some Republicans believe it’s not the government’s job to help people get insurance.

Bust the Health Care Trusts
White House: Obama backs repeal of health insurer antitrust exemption

The President’s Proposal puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care. The White House

Source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/business/economy/24leonhardt.html?th=&adxnnl=1&emc=th&adxnnlx=1267020623-AK5oIM5tcMxXqJpcLjgLug

Feb. 24:  In a Special Comment, Countdown's Keith Olbermann shares his personal experience with a real life "death panel" situation and scorns the unfairness of health insurance in America.

Feb. 24:  Rachel Maddow points out that health insurance companies don't care about the well-being of Americans and shouldn't be expected to because they are businesses so their goal is making money.  Because American health care is a profit-making system, not a health care system, the incentives are wrong to provide Americans with adequate care.

Feb. 24:  Senator BarbBoxer joins Rachel Maddow to set the record straight on the difference between the so-called "nuclear option" and the Congressional process known as reconciliation, and call out Republicans for deliberately using those terms interchangeably to cause confusion.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Reid Offers Support For Public Option Through Reconciliation

Reid Offers Support For Public Option Through Reconciliation

Yesterday, we added Senators Chuck Schumer (NY) and Barbara Mikulski (MD) to the growing list co-signers on the letter calling for passing a public option using reconciliation, which would keep Republicans from using a procedural trick called the filibuster to block a majority vote.

As of this morning, we have 18 Senators, 119 House Democrats, and over 300,000 Americans who have signed on to endorse this strategy as the way forward for healthcare reform.  One of the biggest driving forces behind Senators signing on is you. Your phone calls are making the difference. Don't stop now. If your senators haven't sign on yet, pick up the phone and call again today.

If your Senators are Republicans or are Democrats who have already signed on, then keep the momentum growing by adding your name as a co-signer to the Senate Public Option Letter too and get the number to call Majority Leader Harry Reid.  BECOME A CITIZEN CO-SIGNER RIGHT NOW

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow each covered our campaign last night. When Rachel Maddow asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius directly, if the White House would fight for a public option if the Senate put it in the bill, she answered "Absolutely."


The President points to outrageous premium hikes

Linda Bergthold: Health Reform D-Day Approaches

Obama to Offer Health Bill to Ease Impasse as Bipartisan Meeting Approaches - NYTimes.com

Obama to Offer Health Bill to Ease Impasse as Bipartisan Meeting Approaches - NYTimes.com

Racist Ad Draws Unwanted Attention To Texas Paper

The message reads "EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY the term 'N***** Rigged' is absolutely no longer acceptable, you will now refer to it as a 'Presidential Solution.'"

Late Thursday afternoon Diana Hilton, the owner of the company released the following statement:

"We have never had any type of incident of this nature during our time of publication. We sincerely apologize to our readers and our advertisers. It is never our intentions to degrade or offend any persons. Our content is provided by various outside sources and does not necessarily reflect the view of the publication or its owners. It was an unfortunate error that this was not caught by our editing department prior to publication. Once again, we apologize."

Source:  http://cbs11tv.com/local/saint.jo.advertisement.2.1504422.html

Long time residents like Sickles say the apology should have been made days ago, along with a retraction



Lobbyists Spend Millions to Influence Health Care - Washington Post

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine Speaks

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday to talk about the party's strategy for the midterm elections. He predicted that the party would "do better than people expect."  The former Virginia governor confirmed that the Democratic party will focus on three things as part of their midterm election strategy: good candidate recruitment, the passage of health care reform, and Republican hypocrisy. Kaine also said that the party needs to push for legislation that will help the economy. He told Maddow that it was "critical" that

 At least 116 Republican governors, senators, and representatives have spent the past year railing against the Recovery Act, while simultaneously requesting funds to create jobs in their districts and taking credit for projects at ribbon-cutting ceremonies.  As the independent PolitiFact put it, they're trying "have their cake... and vote against it too." They know the Recovery Act is creating jobs, but they think attacking it will bring them victory in the 2010 elections.  Not so fast. We're preparing to meet every hypocritical attack with press conferences in states across the nation and a rapid-response program to fact check every lie.

The Nation's Chris Hayes talks with Rachel Maddow about the growing awareness by Americans of a significant number of Republicans who speak out against the stimulus bill despite having solicited stimulus funds and celebrated its effectiveness in their home district.  See complete list of Republicans http://thinkprogress.org/touting-recovery-opposed/

Supreme Court Got It Wrong

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that the vast majority of Americans are vehemently opposed to a recent Supreme Court ruling that opens the door for corporations, labor unions, and other organizations to spend money directly from their general funds to influence campaigns.

As noted by the Post's Dan Eggen, the poll's findings show "remarkably strong agreement" across the board, with roughly 80% of Americans saying that they're against the Court's 5-4 decision. Even more remarkable may be that opposition by Republicans, Democrats, and Independents were all near the same 80% opposition range. Specifically, 85% of Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans opposed it. In short, "everyone hates" the ruling.

The findings of the poll are a bit surprising considering the fact that the case split the Supreme Court, with the five conservative justices in favor and the four more liberal justices against it. The decision was almost universally hailed by Republicans in Washington, who saw it as a victory for the free speech provided for under the Constitution, while President Obama and prominent Democrats in Washington almost universally derided it as a dark day for American democracy.

Left and right united in opposition to controversial SCOTUS decision -http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_ts1137

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eliot Spitzer suggestions for Democrats to regain momentum

Republicans are winning the war of political rhetoric. Here's how the president needs to fight back.
By Eliot Spitzer

The sense of hope that swept in with President Obama has been supplanted by existential doubt: Can the nation ever address its critical structural crises in health care, financial services, energy, and education?

While it is true that legislatures generally are quicksand to transformative ideas, it is now also the case that within the Congress, the Republican Party has become the party of nihilistic opposition to any proposal for reform. The GOP does this partly by smartly exploiting the rules of the Senate but mostly by being much better at telling stories, narratives that through their simplicity appeal to the public.
Their principle narrative—the small-business owner creating jobs, government as interfering, destructive force—has dominated the past 30 years. After the economic cataclysm of the last two years, you might think that selling this narrative would have gotten tougher. But somehow the Republicans are still the masters at telling a story that grips the public psyche.
Exhibit one is health care reform, which fell prey to stories of "death panels" and demands by Medicare recipients to "get government out of my health care." The Republicans successfully exploited the public's disdain for government—even though it is government itself that is providing the Medicare they so prize.

Nobody is better at the use and mastery of this language than Frank Luntz, who helped script the demise of health care and has now told Republicans how to end financial services reform. Luntz has a new memo—"The Language of Financial Reform" (scroll down to see a PDF of the full memo text)—to manage the death-paneling of financial reform. In the memo, Luntz is effectively advising them how to use language of change and reform while stymieing every meaningful structural shift.

The clear political imperative of the memo is simultaneously to appear to be empathetic to the victims of the economic crisis and pro-reform while fundamentally opposing any change that might harm major financial institutions seeking Republican support. The political strategy is to turn government bureaucrats and low-income borrowers into the blameworthy parties.

Luntz's advice and language are simple: focus on what he calls "words that work." "Bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats" created the crisis; "Taxpayer bailouts reward bad behavior." "We don't need another federal government agency." "The architects of failure are now designing the rescue." "[T]he Financial Reform Bill and the creation of the CFPA makes it harder to be a small-business owner …"

In the face of this language, Democratic support for the critical elements of reform—implementation of the Volcker Rule, creation of a specific consumer protection agency, overhaul of the market for derivatives, and establishment of appropriate capital and leverage ratios—is crumbling.  There is a strong temptation for Democrats to sulk about the distortions of the other side and crawl off in self-pity at the public's failure to grasp the critical arguments we are making. That would be useless, but all too typical.  What we need, in the alternative, is a full-throated response to Luntz from the Oval Office. Here are a few off-the-cuff suggestions for phrases Democrats can use to regain the momentum:

1.  It is time to get the cops back on the beat and the bank robbers out of the bank vault. It is your money—not theirs.

2.  "Heads I win; tails you lose" is a first-grade joke—not a theory for our banking system. Yet that is the game that has been played on us.

3.  If Wall Street wants to gamble on a casino economy, they will not use the American taxpayer as a chip on the table.

4.  For the first 50 years after the Great Depression, we avoided disaster—but then Washington bought the oldest line in the book from Wall Street bankers—trust me. We have learned the lesson—and we don't, and we won't.

A counternarrative has to be told: A market needs rules, and those who play by the rules must be protected from those who do not. The Republican rhetoric must be called out for what it is: a defense of the very institutions that caused the crisis and a mere continuation of the "Party of No" ideology that has prevented us from moving forward. The public anger that has so far been channeled by Sarah Palin and Scott Brown must be redirected in favor of the necessary structural shifts.
This is the moment for the president to establish that he is, in fact, the great communicator we saw during the campaign. The alternative is to let the sense of foreboding that is sliding across the nation metastasize into something far worse—a sense of defeat and cynicism, a sense that another decade of stagnation will leave us dangerously at the precipice.

Hardball’s Chris Matthews and panel talk about Sen. Evan Bayh’s claims that Congress is in “desperate need of reform.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olbermann: Beware fear's racist temptation

Shocking: Tea Partiers Mostly Rich, White, Christian Guys

There's a New Gang in Town: The Tea Party

Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on this Presidents' Day celebrating George Washington, and the Founding Fathers he represents and Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation he represents.

And I think, having now been one for 51 years, I am permitted to say I believe prejudice and discrimination still sit, defeated, dormant, or virulent, somewhere in the soul of each white man in this country.

Sixty three years after Jackie Robinson and 56 after Brown vs. Board of Education and 46 after the Civil Rights Act and a year-and-a-half after the presidential election this is not a popular thing to say.
This is also not a thing that should be true even as a vestige of our sad past. But it is. Discrimination is still all around us in so many ways, openly re-directed towards immigrants who are doing nothing more than following the path that brought my recent ancestors here and probably yours, too or focused on gays predicated on a mumbo-jumbo of biblical misinterpretations or leeching out still against black people in things like the Tea Party movement.

I think the progress we have made in the last 60 years in this country has been measurable and good. But I think discrimination has been tamed, not eradicated. For, our society still emphasIzes our differences as much as our similarities.
We may be 63 years from Jackie Robinson but we are not yet 63 days from a man going on national radio and telling us the president of the United States was elected only because of the color of his skin.

Discrimination, I've always thought, is a perversion of one of the most necessary instincts of survival. As a child, put your hand on a red hot stove and you'll quickly learn to discriminate against red hot stoves.  But if at that age you are also told you need to beware of black people and you will spend your life having to fight against wiring created in your brain for no reason than to reflect someone else's prejudice. And it need not even be that related to trauma. The other night in the hospital my father was telling me about seeing Satchel Paige pitch.
At Yankee Stadium this was. The time was about 1941 and the team was the New York Black Yankees. And my father shook his head in amazement. "It never occurred to me, it never occurred to anybody I knew, that he couldn't play for the other Yankees," he said. "We just assumed he didn't want to. That none of them wanted to."

These thoughts still linger in our lives, still actively passed to some of us by people who are not like my father, who never questioned their own upbringing or parents or school or world. That older, brutal, prejudiced-with-impugnity world which reappears every day like Brigadoon with virulence as in Don Imus's infamous remarks; sometimes with the utter arrogant tone-deafness of John Mayer's Playboy interview; sometimes with a kind of poorly informed benign phrase like Harry Reid's comment about "dialect;" sometimes with the lunkheadedness of surprise that nobody is screaming "Emm-effer, I want more iced tea" at a Harlem restaurant.

But it's still there. I'm not black, so I can't say for sure, but my guess is the reverse feeling still exists, too — the same doubt and nagging distrust, only with the arrow pointing the opposite way.

And I guess it's still there too among Hispanics and Asians and every other self-identifying group, because this country, since the Civil War, has not only become ever-increasingly great not merely for dismantling the formalized racism of our first 200 years on this continent, but because we have been dismantling a million years of not fully trusting the guys in the next cave because they are, somehow, different.

This all still lingers about us, all of us, whether we see it or not. And since it's no longer fashionable or acceptable, it oozes out around the edges and usually those who speak it don't even realize that as good as their intent might be, as improved as their attitudes might be from where they used to be, or where their parents used to be, or where America used to be — it's still racism.

Thus it has become fashionable —sometimes psychologically necessary — that when some of us express it we have to put it in code, or dress it up, or provide a rationalization to ourselves for it that this has nothing to do with race or prejudice, the man's a Socialist and he's bent on destroying the country and he was only elected by people who can't speak English.

Or was it: he was only elected by guilty whites. The rationalizations of the racists are too many and too contradictory for the rest of us to keep them straight.  Read more

In a special comment, Keith Olbermann explores the relationship between fear and racism and encourages Americans who are distressed about the nation's future to avoid political groups that appeal to their less noble inclinations.

Feb 17:  Richard Mack, a Tea Party supporter, discusses whether the Republican Party establishment and the new movement can collaborate.

Feb 17:  Politics Fix:  A Hardball panel debates whether President Barack Obama can save the Senate for the Democrats.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Is Obama Too Thoughtful?

President Obama’s thoughtfulness makes him a fat target for Republicans like Sarah Palin. Michael Signer on why Obama needs fire in his belly.

“[W]e need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.” That’s what Sarah Palin told Tea Partiers in Nashville last weekend, triggering uproarious cheers. A few weeks earlier, she had dismissed Obama’s State of the Union as “quite a bit of lecturing, not leading.” Meanwhile, John McCain just borrowed the “lecturer” line to attack Obama in the Financial Times.

Palin and her partners seem intent on turning one of Obama’s strengths—his thoughtfulness—into a liability. Such broadsides threaten to dominate political and policy debates not just in November’s mid-term elections, but the 2012 presidential election as well. The administration should take note and pivot quickly. The fact is that voters often need a bolder narrative, one whose plot turns on actions and victories, not just the calls to civil discourse and contemplation that have come to mark Obama’s presidency.  Read More

Joe Biden Tears Into Dick Cheney On 'Meet The Press'

In a much-anticipated Sunday showdown between Vice President Joe Biden and his predecessor Dick Cheney, Biden has drawn first blood.

DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you about some of the criticism that's been leveled at this Administration by former Vice President Dick Cheney. He has argued that this Administration has failed to treat the fight against terrorists as war. He cites the decision related to Khalid Sheik Muhammad to offer him a civilian trail as one example. Giving the Christmas Day Bomber the privileges of the American criminal justice system is another example. The decision to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison. What do you say?

 VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Let me choose my words carefully here. Dick Cheney's a fine fellow. He's entitled to his own opinion. He's not entitled to rewrite history. He's not entitled to his own facts. The Christmas Day Bomber was treated the exact way that he suggested that the Shoe Bomber was treated. Absolutely the same way. Under the Bush Administration there were three trials in military courts. Two of those people are now walking the streets. They are free.

There were 300 trials of so-called terrorists and those who engage in terror against the United States of America who are in federal prison and have not seen the light of day. Prosecuted under the last Administration. Dick Cheney's a fine fellow, but he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged. I don't know where he has been. Where was he the last four years of the last Administration?

DAVID GREGORY: What about the general proposition that the President according to former Vice President Cheney doesn't consider America to be at war and is essentially soft on terrorism? What do you say about that?

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don't think the Vice-- the Former Vice President Dick Cheney listens. The President of the United States said in the State of the Union, "We're at war with Al Qaeda." He stated this-- and by the way, we're pursuing that war with a vigor like it's never been seen before. We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates. We are making, we've sent them underground. They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don't know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it's one thing, again, to-- to criticize. It's another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?

DAVID GREGORY: You have often said, when I've asked you and others, that you never impugn a man's motives. But why do you think Dick Cheney is speaking out and being so critical of the President and the Administration so publicly?

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don't know. I-- I-- I'm not gonna guess about his motive. All I know is he's factually, substantively wrong. On the major criticisms he is asserting. Why he's insisting on that. He either is misinformed or he is misinforming. But the facts are that his assertions are not accurate.

DAVID GREGORY: You would not be this outspoken or critical when you're out of office. Is that fair to say?

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, I-- I-- I would hope I-- look, it's one thing to be outspoken. It's another thing to be outspoken in a way that misrepresents the facts. And I-- I guess-- again, I-- it's almost like Dick is trying to rewrite history. I can understand where the-- why that would be-- you know, an impulse. And maybe he isn't-- literally, I'm not being facetious. Maybe he's not fully informed of what's going on. I mean, the progress we have made. There has never been as much emphasis and resources brought against Al Qaeda. The success rate exceeds anything that occurred in the last Administration. And they did their best. I'm not-- I'm not impugning their effort. It's simply not true that the President of the United States is not prosecuting the war against Al Qaeda with a vigor that's never been seen before. It's real. It's deep. It's successful.

Mark Thiessen, author of "Courting Disaster," joins the Morning Joe gang to discuss President Barack Obama's decision to end a CIA interrogation program and its impact on national security.

The New Yorker's Jane Mayer discusses her recent article on the U.S. record on getting information from suspected terrorist and trying them in civilian courts.

Other related articles:

Why Dick Cheney Attacks -

Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/13/AR2010021303748.html

New York Needs a Terror Trial - http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-12/new-york-needs-a-terror-trial/

Democrats to push Republicans to go on record against key bills

“The challenges we had to address in 2009 ensured that the center of action would be in Congress,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “In 2010, executive actions will also play a key role in advancing the agenda.” The White House is getting ready to act on its own in the face of partisan gridlock heading into the midterm campaign. “We are reviewing a list of presidential executive orders and directives to get the job done across a front of issues,”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that the senators were "responding to both the political pressure of the president" and "to the political pressure from the American people." Reid never got McConnell's guarantee that the bill would be allowed to come to a floor vote. The revised jobs bill continues to include hiring incentives sponsored by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah)."  (Note:  Early in Orrin Hatch's career, he introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and once referred to Democrats as “the party of homosexuals.)  In proposing the new bill, Reid told reporters, "Republicans have to make a choice. I don't know in logic what they could say to oppose this." "We're not going to force symbolic votes that take 30 hours of debate on someone who is not going to be approved at the expense of a jobs bill."

The idea is to make Republicans either vote for a series of more modest bills identified as popular with the public or explain to constituents this fall why they opposed them.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to offer a pared-down jobs-creation bill and dare the GOP to oppose it is the most visible sign of the plan so far.

White House officials and congressional staff members say it will be followed in coming weeks by a House vote to lift the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, measures to assist small businesses and extend unemployment benefits, and a proposal to levy fees on Wall Street banks that received bailout money. "If they support the measures, great," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy. "But if not, the votes will show their hypocrisy and obstruction, which will demonstrate something in itself."



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sebelius Call On Anthem Blue Cross

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today sent a letter to Anthem Blue Cross and called on the company to publicly justify its decision to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39 percent. In her letter, Sebelius notes that the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, WellPoint Incorporated earned $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009.

“As we continue the health insurance reform debate in Washington, this announcement reminds us that too many Americans can be left with unaffordable insurance each time the rates or rules change in the private market,” Sebelius added. “It’s clear that we need health insurance reform that will give American families the secure, affordable coverage they need.”

The text of Sebelius’ letter is below.
Dear Ms. Margolin,

One of the biggest pressures facing families, businesses and governments at every level are skyrocketing health insurance costs. With so many families already affected by rising costs, I was very disturbed to learn through media accounts that Anthem Blue Cross plans to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39 percent. These extraordinary increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make health care unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy.

Your company's strong financial position makes these rate increases even more difficult to understand. As you know, your parent company, WellPoint Incorporated, has seen its profits soar, earning $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009 alone.

I believe Anthem Blue Cross has a responsibility to provide a detailed justification for these rate increases to the public. Additionally, you should make public information on the percent of your individual market premiums that is used for medical care versus the percent that is used for administrative costs. Policy holders in the individual market deserve to know if their premium increases would be invested in better medical care or insurance company overhead costs like salaries, profits, and advertising. I am aware that the State of California is investigating this matter, and urge Anthem Blue Cross to cooperate fully. In the meantime, I will be closely monitoring the situation.

At a time when health care costs are a critical threat to families as well as the nation's economy, I hope you appreciate the urgent nature of this request. I look forward to your prompt reply.


Kathleen Sebelius

Secretary of Health and Human Services

Anthem’s parent is WellPoint, one of the largest publicly traded health insurers in America, which runs Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states and Unicare plans in several others. WellPoint, through Anthem, is the largest for-profit health insurer here in California, as it is in Maine, where it controls 78 percent of the market. In Missouri, WellPoint owns 68 percent of the market; in its home state, Indiana, 60 percent. With 35 million customers, WellPoint counts one out of every nine Americans as a member of one of its plans.

Antitrust laws are supposed to prevent this kind of market power. So why are giant health insurers like WellPoint exempt? Chalk it up to an anomaly that began seven decades ago in the quaint old world of regional, nonprofit Blues. They were created in part by hospitals to spread the costs of expensive new equipment and facilities over many policy holders. Collaboration was the point, not competition. The 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act made it official, exempting insurers from antitrust scrutiny and giving states the power to regulate them, although not necessarily any power to regulate rates.

The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 gives states the exclusive authority to regulate the "business of insurance" without interference from federal regulation, unless federal law specifically provides otherwise. The Act provides that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, the Clayton Act of 1914, and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, apply to the business of insurance only to the extent that such business is not regulated by state law. Thus, the Act exempts health insurance companies from federal antitrust regulations that apply to nearly every other industry, rules that protect consumers from anti-competitive business practices. Repeal of the Act would ensure that health insurance issuers and medical malpractice insurance issuers cannot engage in price fixing, bid rigging, monopoly practices, or market allocations to the detriment of competition and consumers.
While the lack of competition in the health insurance industry may well have other causes, which may or may not be cured through a repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, the insurance exemption from the federal antitrust laws has not helped. Repealing the Act coupled with increased antitrust enforcement is a relatively simple first step if the ultimate goals are to rein in health care costs and provide health care to the largest number of consumers.

What would happen if the exemption were repealed?

An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the antitrust exemption for health insurers "would have no significant effects on either the federal budget or the premiums that private insurers charged for health insurance." The CBO found that premiums might increase or decrease, "but in either case the magnitude of the effects is likely to be quite small."

Defeating the bill is not a top priority for America's Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance industry's top trade association; officials said the legislation targets a problem that does not exist. But they say they are worried that any repeal could lead to an increase of lawsuits because lawyers may jump to challenge insurer practices that may be legal even without the exemption.

But J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America and a former federal insurance administrator, said repealing the law could have an enormous impact on how insurers do business. He cited a recent case in New York where insurers were sharing pricing information on out-of-network procedures. "That wouldn't happen without an antitrust exemption," he says.

David Balto, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, and a former policy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said it's important for the federal government to take a more active role in regulating insurers because state regulation has been uneven. "Less than a third of states have brought consumer protection actions against insurers," he said.

Balto added that ending the antitrust exemption is long overdue. "There's no industry where competition is so clearly vanquished as in health insurance industry," he said.

Today, 02/24/10, the President announced the administration’s strong support for repealing the antitrust exemption currently enjoyed by health insurers. At its core, health reform is all about ensuring that American families and businesses have more choices, benefit from more competition, and have greater control over their own health care. Repealing this exemption is an important part of that effort.

Today there are no rules outlawing bid rigging, price fixing, and other insurance company practices that will drive up health care costs, and often drive up their own profits as well.  That was transmitted to Congress in a statement of administration policy as the House considers that legislation over the next couple of days.


Rachel Maddow reviews the unconscionable premium increases by Anthem Blue Cross, a subsidiary of WellPoint, and the unwanted scrutiny they now face from Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.

Editorials on Health Care - This is a selection of editorials examine the policy challenges and the politics behind the crucial national debate on health care reform.

Small Ideas Won’t Fix It
Some of the Republican ideas on health care reform are good, but they would barely make a dent in the system’s most critical problems.

Don’t Give Up Now
Democrats should take another look at what really happened in Massachusetts and then summon the nerve to enact comprehensive health care reform.

Cadillac Plans
An excise tax on high-cost insurance plans is the most significant measure to slow the relentless rise in health care spending.

Health Reform, the States and Medicaid
The House and Senate leaders should look for ways to lessen the Medicaid burden on hard-pressed state budgets — and ensure that relief is fairly apportioned.

The Next Step on Health Reform
It will take great political will to fuse the Senate’s health care reform bill with the more expansive reform approved by the House and enact a final version.

A Bill Well Worth Passing
The Senate health care reform bill has some imperfections, but is worthy of support from lawmakers.

Can We Afford It?
The argument that the nation cannot afford health care reform is at best disingenuous; the pending bills would actually reduce deficits.

A Modest Public Plan
Even a weak public plan would expand the choices available to Americans and could help slow the relentless increases in the cost of health insurance.

Reform and Medical Costs
The fundamental fix for health care reform is likely to be achieved only through trial and error and incremental gains.

The Ban on Abortion Coverage
The House health care reform bill passed with a steep price. The Senate should work to preserve a woman’s right to abortion services.

Mandates and Affordability
To guarantee coverage for tens of millions of uninsured Americans, health reform must provide financial support for those who need it.

The Public Plan, Continued
While an inclusion of a government-run insurance plan in health care legislation makes the most sense, there are some basic issues to consider.

The Baucus Bill
The Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform bill should be viewed as the least that Congress should do — a foundation upon which to build, not the final structure.

Abortion and Health Care Reform
There should be no restrictions on abortion coverage in the new insurance exchanges that would be created by pending health care reform bills.

Medicare Scare-Mongering
What the Republicans aren’t saying — and what the Democrats clearly aren’t saying enough — is that Medicare coverage should improve under health care reform.

A Clear Responsibility
Any critic who still questions the need for health care reform should look at the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the number of people without health insurance.

President Obama Steps Forward
The president’s rhetorically powerful speech must be only the start of a sustained campaign to get health care reform legislation passed.

Majority Rule on Health Care Reform
The Democrats may have little choice but to adopt a high-risk, go-it-alone, majority-rules strategy to enact health care reform this year.

The Uninsured
There are tens of millions of people without insurance, often for extended periods, and there is good evidence that lack of insurance is harmful to their health.

The Public Plan
If President Obama wants to jettison the now-weakened public health plan to dampen overheated opposition, he should say what he will insist on instead.

Lining Up for Help
Any project as ambitious and expensive as health care reform must be robustly debated, but Americans need only look to the clinics last week in California to see how much we need reform.

Health Reform and Small Business
A vast majority of small businesses and their workers are likely to benefit greatly from pending health care bills. They should be supporting, not opposing, reform.

The Massachusetts Model
Calling Massachusetts’s experiment in near universal health care coverage a fiscal disaster is an egregious misread, and while imperfect, it may provide a road map for national health care reform.

Curbing Runaway Health Inflation
To absorb the cost of a health care plan to cover uninsured Americans, a variety of approaches and “game changers” should be used to slow the rate of growth in health care spending.