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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bush Spent Millions To Insure Iraq Had Universal Health Care

Article 31 of the Iraqi Constitution, drafted by the Bush administration in 2005 and ratified by the Iraqi people, includes state-guaranteed (single payer) healthcare for life for every Iraqi citizen.  Article 31 reads:

"First: Every citizen has the right to health care. The State shall maintain public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and health institutions.
The Bush administration's top health-care official defended the $950 million that will be spent to help Iraq establish universal health care.  Congressional Democrats have criticized the administration for helping Iraq to establish universal health care without doing the same for U.S. citizens.

We need comprehensive HC reform with a new paradigm, not our current "sickness system" for those fortunate enough to have it. It's about maximizing value--we have more than enough dollars in the "system". These dollars need to be properly allocated to provide value and healthcare for every American said Dr. Michael Rushnak.

How the development of ACOs plays out over the next few years is likely to have lasting implications for the practice of medicine, patients’ experience of health care, and health care costs in the United States.

Video: Insuring Your Health: Looking At The Changes 2011 Brings




Friday, December 24, 2010

"Others Dream. Obama Does."

President Obama is a realist who gets things done: he makes his case, counts votes, makes his best deal and the country moves forward. That’s progress.http://progress.barackobama.com/?source=FBS  He doesn’t gloat or count enemies but moves to the next task.  In contrast, others hold to principle and accomplish nothing. Purists for health care reform, for example, insisted on the best solution in 1993 and came away with nothing. Mr. Obama took the best he could get and came away with sweeping improvements to the health care system.  Ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” major financial industry reform and a critical nuclear arms treaty are just a few more examples of the accomplishments as a result of his modus operandi.

The American political landscape is littered with lost causes in which noble stalwarts led a righteous army into the realm of folk song glory and nothing much else.  Mr. Obama promised change we can believe in, the politics of the real — not the remotely possible, or the “should have been.” He has delivered on his promise. In these difficult, complex times, we are fortunate to have Mr. Obama in the White House. by Ed Morales

The frustration that we’ve seen from the likes of John McCain, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner (not to mention, outrageous outbursts such as Joe Wilson’s “You lie!”), have bordered on obscene temper-tantrums. All of which make the contrast between themselves and this affable president all the more striking. His Zen-like focus on the issues before him, and away from the caterwauling of the peanut gallery has already driven the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs to the brink of insanity, and now it appears, the Caporegimes of the GOP are following suit. The cooler he is, the hotter they become.

During events attended by leadership of both parties, he gazes over at the gallery of red-faced buffoons on the Republican side; seething with hatred... and he flashes that winning smile. Because while they’ve been playing checkers, he’s been playing chess. Not without a few take-back moves, but for the most part, passing the legislation that the American people sent him there to do, while the likes of John Kyl, Mike Pence and John Cornyn grumble their dissatisfaction to anybody who will listen over at Fox News.  The point being, is that president Obama’s magic bullet is one that none of his adversaries possess - an almost uncanny ability to avoid becoming rattled by anything. And thus far, that gift has served him well.

Always taking the high ground has not only allowed him to ignore the taunts that are intended to distract him from his agenda, but it also spotlights who they are... an angry mob of dysfunctional, purely-partisan, mostly old, white, southern sycophants, whose only goal is the destruction of one man, and that man’s increasingly successful presidency. And the higher the ground he takes, the lower, it by default, puts them.  And throughout it all; after being called a liar, a socialist, a Marxist, a secret Muslim, an illegal Kenyan plant, all the racial innuendo, even attacking his wife -- he just keeps smiling! Because he knows that the cooler he stays, the angrier it makes them. And the angrier they are, the more it exposes their agenda of hate. 

Stay cool Mr. President, stay cool. Your character may yet be their downfall.  by Bruce Linder  
“If you would have told policy people and political scientists two years ago that halfway through his term in office, Barack Obama will have accomplished 85% of his agenda, they would have laughed at you and told you how impossible that would be given the amount of polarization in our legislative process. If you would go on to tell them that after one year Obama would lose his 60 vote majority in the Senate, and would still pass major legislation the experts would have told you to seek mental help, but this is exactly what President Obama has accomplished.” ~ Rachel Maddow, December 22, 2010What has Obama done so far?

Get Your DCCC Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet - http://www.dccc.org/  

Rachel Maddow - 06-25-10

Before he’d served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds — including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter — are sticking with our President.  Why?– because he is succeeding.  

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe , the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition – from both the right and left.  Here is what Obama faced when he took office– none of which was his fault:

An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries

Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral

The worst economic crisis since the depression

America ‘s standing in the world at the lowest point in history

A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war

A health care system in free fall

An educational system in free fall

A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done nothing)

An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left

A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally irresponsible Bush administration.

And those were only some of the problems sitting on the President’s desk!

“Help” from the Right?
What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked conspiracy theorists — that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time Obama took office — do to “help” our new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he wasn’t a real American, didn’t have an American birth certificate, wasn’t born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating “racist”, was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted “death panels” to kill the elderly! They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized “tea parties” to sound off against imagined insults and all government in general and gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) “commentators” from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.  The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who was trying to actually do something about the poor, the environment, to diminish the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: “No!”

In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy American far right,combined with the educated but obtuse neoconservative war mongers, religious right shills for big business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bug, gun-loving crazies, child-molesting acquiescent “bishops”, frontier loons and evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at all costs!

“Help” from the Left?

What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of them excoriated the President because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he’d inherited from the worst president in modern history!  Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President’s economic policies had “failed” before the President even instituted them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minutes of the President taking office, they’d been “betrayed”! (Never mind that Obama’s vocal support to the gay community is stronger than any other president’s has been. Never mind that he signed a new hate crimes law!).  Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how “disappointed” they were that they’d not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House! Where was the “change”? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals!  And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay attention for longer than a nanosecond. “Governing”?! What the hell does that word, uh, like mean?” The President’s critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone reality) thrown in for good measure.

Then of course there were the white, snide know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just couldn’t imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren’t as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn’t consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong! The Obama critics’ ideological ideas defined their idea of reality rather than reality defining their ideas-say, about what is possible in one year in office after the hand that the President had been dealt by fate, or to be exact by the American idiot nation that voted Bush into office twice!  Meanwhile back in the reality-based community – in just 12 short months –President Obama:
Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Restored America ‘s image around the globe (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Banned torture of American prisoners (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Stopped the free fall of the American economy (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Put the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort to halt global warming (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Stood up for educational reform (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Won a Nobel peace prize (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial system of checks and balances (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had failed to even begin (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Responded to hatred from the right and left with measured good humor and patience (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Stopped the free fall of job losses (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and carrying Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the “blood of tyrants” needing to “water the tree of liberty”. (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Other than those “disappointing” accomplishments — IN ONE YEAR — President Obama “failed”! Other than that he didn’t “live up to expectations”!  Who actually has failed……are the Americans that can’t see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the smart ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this President to fail so that they could be proved right in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned “news” into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.  Here’s the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his lefty “supporters” or hate-filled Republican detractors! by By Frank Schaeffer

Before President Obama took office - January 2009:  We have learned that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout signed into law under George W. Bush turned out to be pocket change compared to the trillions and trillions of dollars in near zero interest loans and other financial arrangements the Federal Reserve doled out.

2008 DNC National Convention:


Sunday, December 19, 2010

West Wing Week: 12/17/10 or "All These Pens"

Walk step by step with the President as he signs a landmark childhood nutrition bill, urges passage of the compromise on tax cuts and unemployment insurance, discusses the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, and more.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fix the Filibuster Rules

Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) predicts "fireworks" on Jan. 5, 2011. The day a new Senate convenes, fifty-one Senators can set the rules for the body with a simple majority vote. January 5, 2011 is the day that the Senate should adopt rules that limit the ability of the minority to obstruct and circumvent the will of the majority by using the filibuster and secret holds.

Sign the petition:  Fix the filibuster rules

Rachel Maddow rounds up the number of senators who have told her personally that they support reforming the filibuster rule and points out that there is only one day at the start of the new Congress when this can be done.


Details of how this will be done - by Tom Harkin:

We are coming on the fifth to basically send a motion to the vice president ... that will change the rules and there is a procedure to provide 51 votes to do that.  Essentially, that path to reform requires Vice President Joe Biden -- who supports weakening the filibuster -- to rule on the first day of the next session that the Senate has the authority to write its own rules. Republicans, presumably, would immediately move to object, but Democrats could then move to table the objection, setting up a key up-or-down vote. If 50 Democrats voted to table the objection, the Senate would then move to a vote on a new set of rules, which could be approved by a simple majority.Senator Tom Harkin has proposed a plan to lower the number of votes needed to cut off debate (to end a filibuster) gradually over a number of days. The first day it would take 60 votes. Two days later it would take 57 votes. Two days after that, 55 votes -- then 53 and finally 51.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) has also been exploring options for filibuster reform, and suggested that the Senate might exercise the "constitutional option" and change Senate rules with a simple majority of votes on the first day of its next session. Since the Constitution gives the House and Senate the power to set their own rules, Udall's proposal would seem to bypass the higher threshold required to change Senate rules.

Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has held meetings on the idea, and the options for reform include ideas ranging from requiring senators to speak continuously during an actual filibuster to lowering the threshold of votes that can end a filibuster.

Others have proposals to shift the burden of maintaining a filibuster to those who want to prevent a majority vote. You might, for instance, require that at any time, at any hour, any member could ask for a "Cloture Call,", much the same way they can ask for a quorum call today. If 41 Senators did not report to the floor to answer that they wished to sustain the filibuster, then the filibuster would end. Such a rule would require those who want to filibuster to actually filibuster -- and to constantly provide the votes to sustain it. Under the proposals of those who want to shift the burden of maintaining a filibuster to the minority, any quorum call would automatically trigger an end to the filibuster. Reformers have proposed a variety of other changes, such as ending filibusters for nominations, eliminating onerous time requirements intended to make it impractical for the Senate to consider controversial issues or nominations, and ending "secret holds". The 60-vote rule gives the Republicans every incentive to try to kill legislation. If bills required a simple majority, the minority would be forced to negotiate if they wanted to affect the shape of legislation since they would no longer have the power to obstruct them outright.
What has caused a need to change the filibuster?
The answer is the Senate Rules. Democrats currently have a majority of 58 votes in the Senate. But to pass anything meaningful they need a super-majority of 60. That's not because the Constitution requires such a super-majority. It's because of rules adopted by members of the Senate -- that have been abused by the obstructionist Republican minority.

That movement is fueled by growing frustration among Democratic voters at the way Republican leader Mitch McConnell calls so many shots in the Senate, even though Democrats are in the majority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is forced by the Senate rules to get 60 votes for almost any substantial piece of legislation. Democrats want their members of the Senate to stand up and fight back. Voters want an end to partisan gridlock.

In fact, the current Senate rules not only empower minority Republicans, they also empower Wall Street and other special interests. It's very hard to get a 60- vote super-majority for any major policy in America. The 60-vote super-majority means that special interests can concentrate their efforts -- and contributions -- on recruiting just a few Senators who can then prevent the Senate from taking any action that compromises their interests. It empowers political "hostage takers" who represent the most powerful elements of corporate America rather than the majority of Americans.

Things could have been different:  Just Imagine
Just think how different the last two years would have been if every measure did not require 60 votes:

• Congress would have passed a substantially larger economic stimulus plan in early 2009 that could have materially increased the rate of economic growth and put millions of Americans back to work. Not only would that have benefited everyday Americans, it would have translated into much better Democratic performance in last month's elections -- and all that implies over the next two years.

• The health care reform bill would have included a Public Option that would have helped control health care costs, cut the long-term Federal deficit, and -- because it was one of the most popular elements of the president's health care reform -- would have increased the popularity of the entire measure.

• Comprehensive Immigration Reform would have passed the Congress and been signed into law.

• "Don't Ask Don't Tell" would have been repealed.

• And, of course the tax cuts for the Middle Class and unemployment insurance would have been continued -- and tax breaks for the wealthy would have been discontinued. Who knows, Congress might even have been able to pass legislation imposing a large tax on the outrageous, obscene multi-million dollar bonuses being paid by Wall Street to its top producers -- just in time for Christmas.

So if you're furious at how Mitch McConnell's Republican minority is holding America hostage, the time has come to do something about it. Ask your Senators to support changing the Senate rules that allow the Republican minority to obstruct the will of the majority.

Sign the petition: Fix the filibuster rules!

Additional Sources:

• Aside from the filibuster problem, there are other insidious problems with senatorial rules. For example, unanimous consent: http://michiganmessenger.com/40742/levin-blasts-republican-abuse-of-senate-rules-for-obstruction

• Another abuse is that of secret holds: http://www.politicususa.com/en/gop-secret-hold

• Here is an article outlining the preferences for change: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/12/15/929229/-Where-the-filibuster-reform-campaign-stands

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

5 Things You Should Know About The Bipartisan Compromise on Taxes

The Bipartisan Compromise

The White House explains the compromise.  Heated discussions ensued as the compromise was being discussed.   Representative Anthony Weiner of New York got up and asserted that Mr. Obama was acting like a “negotiator in chief” instead of a “leader” who gets things done.  Mr. Biden erupted. “There’s no goddamned way I’m going to stand here and talk about the president like that,” the vice president said, according to two people in the room.

This is a hopeful sign that Obama has learned the lessons of the health-care debate, when he acceded too easily to the wishes of Hill Democrats, allowing them to slow the legislation and engage in a protracted debate on the public option. Months of delay gave Republicans time to make their case against "socialism" and prevented action on more pressing issues, such as job creation. Democrats paid for that with 63 seats.

Things began the same way this time. The White House left matters up to congressional Democrats, who postponed a vote on taxes until after the election. But when lawmakers continued their foot-dragging, Obama cut them out of the negotiations.

Payroll tax cut worries Social Security advocates.  If the payroll tax is indefinitely lowered by 2.0 percentage points, then Social Security's finances will appear much more shaky. As it stands, Social Security is fully funded through the year 2037, but that doesn't keep The Washington Post and National Public Radio from running endless scare stories about the program's funding crisis.

Social Security is funded by a 6.2 percent payroll tax on the first $106,800 earned by a worker. The tax is matched by employers. The package negotiated by Obama would reduce the tax paid by workers to 4.2 percent for 2011. Employer rates would stay unchanged. A payroll tax cut is an efficient way to stimulate the economy by immediately increasing take home pay for about 155 million workers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office agrees, and many business groups and Republicans support it.

The payroll tax cut would provide relief to any worker earning a wage. The payroll tax credit would be more generous to individuals making more than $20,000 and married couples making more than $40,000. Workers making $106,800 — the maximum amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes — would see their payroll taxes reduced by $2,136. That worker's spouse could also get a payroll tax cut of up to $2,136, if he or she makes at least $106,800.

Obama's Making Work Pay tax credit, which has provided modest increases in most workers' paychecks for the past two years. Making Work Pay, which expires at the end of the year, gives workers a tax credit of 6.2 percent of their wages, but it is capped at $400 for individuals and $800 for couples. The credit is phased out for individuals making more than $75,000 and couples making more than $150,000.

A worker would have to make $20,000 in wages for the payroll tax cut to equal the $400 Making Work Pay tax credit; couples would have to make $40,000. For those making less, the payroll tax cut would be less than the Making Work Pay credit.

"The payroll tax cut has absolutely no effect on the solvency of Social Security," said White House economic adviser Jason Furman. Social Security has accumulated a $2.5 trillion trust fund since the 1980s. But the government has borrowed that money to pay for other programs. The Treasury Department has issued special bonds to Social Security, guaranteeing the money will be repaid, with interest. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, Social Security will pay out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes.

"Barack Obama showed me one thing - that, above all the hype, he's a man of immense compassion. He put his neck on the line and put his people, the people of America - white, black and brown and anything in between - first" by Joe McKee

Democrats need to learn how to stick together. No matter how damaging Sarah Palin has been to the Republican party, no revolt has been led against her by Fox News, Rush or any of the other loud voices. Our progressive media - is providing a disservice to the Democrats when they speak anti-Obama sentiments. I have no doubt that President Obama is doing everything he can for middle class Americans. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

President Obama Answers Questions - Bush Tax Cut Compromise

President Obama spoke to reporters about a deal he negotiated with congressional Republican leaders for the extension of tax cuts made during the George W. Bush administration in exchange for the extension of unemployment benefits. He also answered reporters' questions.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

$700 Billion Bailout is Pocket Change Compared to Trillions Given by Fed. Reserve

"As a result of this disclosure, other members of Congress and I will be taking a very extensive look at all aspects of how the Federal Reserve functions."

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704594804575648683678596728.html#ixzz16yHG2x00

On March 3, 2009, at a Senate Budget Committee hearing, Bernie Sanders asked Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to tell the American people the names of the financial institutions that received an unprecedented backdoor bailout from the Federal Reserve, how much they received, and the exact terms of this assistance.  my amendment also required the GAO to conduct a top to bottom audit of all of the emergency lending the Fed provided during the financial crisis to be completed on July 21, 2011 which will take a hard look at all of the potential conflicts of interest that took place with respect to this bailout.

What have we learned from today's disclosure?  And, this is based on a 4 hour examination of over 21,000 transactions.  We have learned that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout signed into law under George W. Bush turned out to be pocket change compared to the trillions and trillions of dollars in near zero interest loans and other financial arrangements the Federal Reserve doled out.

We have also learned that the Fed’s multi-trillion bailout was not limited to Wall Street and big banks, but that some of the largest corporations in this country also received a very substantial bailout.  Among those are General Electric, McDonald's, Caterpillar, Harley Davidson, Toyota, and Verizon also received a bailout from the Fed.

Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations including two European megabanks -- Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse – who were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed's purchase of mortgage-backed securities.

Deutsche Bank, a German lender, sold the Fed more than $290 billion worth of mortgage securities and Credit Suisse, a Swiss bank, sold the Fed more than $287 billion in mortgage bonds.

Has the Federal Reserve of the United States become the central bank of the world?

Note:  The money starts flowing on December 12, 2007 and go up to January 16, 2009--just before Obama is sworn into office.

December 12, 2007- 375 Billion for Liquidity Swaps

December 17, 2007- 448 Billion to a Term Auction Facility

February 13, 2008- 168 Billion (Stimulus OK'd by Congress)( I think these were our "rebate" checks in the amount of $300 per person)

March 11, 2008- 115 Billion for Term Securities Lending

March 14, 2008- 29 Billion to Bear Sterns

March 16, 2008- 25 Billion for Primary Dealer Support (Fed)

September 7, 2008- 85 Billion to Fannie Mae

September 16, 2008- 85 Billion to AIG

September 19, 2008- 13 Billion to Money Market

October 3, 2008-700 Billion for TARP

October 7, 2008- 249 Billion Commercial Paper funding

November 8, 2008- 22.5 Billion to AIG (again)

November 23, 2008- 234 Billion to CITI group

November 25, 2008- up to 100 Billion for Mortgage Market Support

November 25, 2008- up to 500 Billion in Mortgage-backed Securities/Mortgage Market support

November 25, 2008- 200 Billion for TALF (Term Asset-backed Loan Facility)

January 16, 2009- 118 Billion to Bank Of America

Grand total>> $3.467 TRILLION dollars.....all before Obama was even sworn in!