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More Violence and Anger at Town Halls August 26, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare.
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Add Rep. Jim Moran’s town hall Wednesday to the constantly growing list of incidence of violence by right-wing extremists. Last night a man wearing a Cato Institute t-shirt punched a supporter of the proposed health care reform. The victim of the attack, Jeremy, has written his account of the incident on Carrots and Sticks, a DC-based Action Think Tank.

The violence resulted when the Cato-clad man attempted to steal the “Health Care for America Now” signs from pro-reform activists. The man in the Cato shirt began crumpling the signs up and attempting to throw them away. Jeremy would not stand to be bullied in this way; so Jeremy followed him, grabbed his Cato shirt, and then suffered a forceful blow to his face. After the punch, the two were split apart, and the police escorted the attacker off the premises.

Cato Clad Man. Do you know this teabagger?

Cato Clad Man. Do you know this teabagger?

The man in the Cato shirt was not the only infuriated right-wing protester at Rep. Moran’s town hall. Below is a video of a crazy man screaming a young girl. About 10 seconds in, just after you see a young girl showing her support for the bill, the same angry man screams: “You and Pelsoi are going to hell! You suck!” According to activists in attendance, this man had been screaming at this young girl repeatedly. The wild man then continues to rant and shout at anyone who will listen. He then starts clenching his fists and getting in peoples faces until a friend comes over to restrain him. Watch:

Another video of this same man ranting and screaming can be found here.

People like the irate man in the video and the attacker in the Cato shirt are two of many using violence or intimidation rather than discussion and reason to voice their opinions at political events. Last Monday, at a speech President Obama gave in Phoenix, Arizona, a dozen men were seen with guns, some of which were assault rifles. This also happened in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and elsewhere.

Though these firearms are legally brought to the political rallies, it is tremendously scary. In April, the Department of Homeland Security released a report, originally commissioned by the Bush Administration, that found there is a growing resurgence of violent right-wing extremism in the United States. The DHS report explains that the economic recession and the election of the first African American president has caused a sharp increase in threats and recruitment. Similarly, one federal law enforcement official told the Southern Poverty Law Center that the current climate is ripe for domestic terrorism: “All it’s lacking is spark.” Frank Rich has been writing about this subject ever since anti-Obama folks shouted “Terrorist” and “Off with his head” at Sarah Palin rallies last fall.

Political discourse does not equal violence. This is a huge problem and something must be done.

I’ll let Jeremy, the victim of the Cato-clad attacker, have the final word:

It’s highly unfortunate that people like him feel the need to resort to violence to get their way… That is exactly what is wrong with the American political discourse; when one side feels okay using tactics of intimidation and physical aggression just to advance an agenda, it poisons the whole debate and good policy takes a backseat to who can yell the loudest. We can do better than that.


Tea Baggin’ Tactics: Sabotaging the American Democratic Process August 5, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare.
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The Republicans and their right-wing pundits spent July spreading misinformation or just blatantly lying about the health care legislation. You have heard their claims: Americans will be forced into a government-run plan, the bill is an “assault on seniors,” they will be locked up in “medical homes,” and instructed by their physician to commit suicide. All of these myths and others have been repeatedly debunked here.

Now their strategy for August is to continue the misinformation and ratchet up a new campaign that is equally appalling and un-democratic. They are mobilizing a small minority of radical extremists who use nefarious tactics to disrupt town hall meetings, an important forum in the American democratic process.

Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity are the two main national clearinghouse organizations that have been coordinating the malicious and hateful mobs who describe themselves as “tea baggers.” These two groups have been leading the “tea baggers” since the spring when their raucous crowds made headlines protesting on National Tax Day.

In order to incite these riotous and hateful mobs, Freedom Works et al. have been disseminating instructions such as “How to Organize Your Own Tea Party Protest,” and How to “Rock the Town Halls.” Freedom Works also distributes “Town Hall Recess Action Kits.” It is sickening to read these documents. The authors refer to themselves as a “team” hoping to sabotage the town hall meetings. Their stated goal is to make the Representative “feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.” The “Rock the Town Halls” guide explicitly instructs its brainwashed followers to, “watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early. If he blames Bush for something or offers other excuses –call him on it, yell back and have someone else follow-up with a shout-out.” Think Progress has more on this here. Their goal is clear: to destroy the town hall as a medium for discussion and actual analysis of the health care legislation.

The Right-wing has attempted to classify these outrageous obstructionist tactics as natural and spontaneous occurrences from angry Americans. However, like most statements from the Right these days, this is blatantly false. Think Progress(link) has done a fantastic job documenting the methods Freedom Works et al. use in order to engineer and coordinate the town hall disturbances. Their organizational tactics include: the “how-to” documents mentioned above, ideas for signs, sample press releases, actual press releases, astroturfing, and ballot initiatives to codify their radical reforms into law.

So what exactly are the obstructionist tactics the conservative extremists are employing to sabotage nearly all constructive dialogue at the town halls? They are shouting and screaming, booing and hissing, interrupting their Reps., and generally disrupting the American democratic process. At a hateful rally in Setauket, NY, police were forced to intervene in order to keep Rep. Tim Bishop safe by escorting him to his car. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that a group of malicious protesters lynched Rep. Frank Kratvoli in effigy. Rachel Maddow may have put it best when she said: “This is orchestrated, mob mentality intimidation. This is called hooliganism.”

One consistent theme throughout all of the town hall’s fanatic crowds has been a chant of “Just Say NO!” Just one example is Lloyd Doggett’s (failed) attempt to talk with his constituency in Austin, Texas earlier this week (See Below). Riotous shots of “Just Say NO!” drowned out Rep. Doggett as well as any constituents who had legitimate questions or comments to raise with their congressman. These unruly fanatics represent the Party of No, the Republican Party. Just as chants of “Just Say NO!” prevented grass roots, democratic dialogue from occurring in Austin, the same mindset is obstructing the comprehensive reform that will benefit all Americans in both the short and long-term (for more specific reference of what that reform looks like see HCAN principals…link). The Republican Party has become the Party of No! They are the obstructionist party preventing legislation that will provide quality, affordable health care for all!

So that is what is happening all across our country. What should the progressives, the Democrats, the supporters of health care reform, and even the supporters of plain, old respectful political discussion do? First off, people with comments or questions at the town halls should be residents of the district. No compensated activist, as many of these people are, should be allowed to move from district to district ruining the town hall conversations. (Evidence suggesting this is exactly what is occurring can be found here and here). Rules must be laid out, security should be in attendance, and disrespectful attendees must be kicked out immediately. The Democratic Alliance of Northwest Indiana held a successful town hall meeting, and they have explained their strategies for success.

The Left needs to out-mobilize the Right. Our opinions and solutions, which by the way are a majority, must be more widespread and visible than a small group of fanatical Right-wing extremists using nefarious tactics to disrupt town halls, which are a key medium in the American democratic process. The majority of Americans support the public option; the Congressmen and women in the House and Senate should reflect the American people’s wishes, and vote to pass comprehensive health care reform with a robust public option.

Timeline for House Health Care Bill July 21, 2009

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Here’s a clear and informative piece. This type of information is insufficiently understood and known; thus I re-post it here. (And because my previous health care “update” is laughably outdated)….


America’s Affordable Health Choices Act: Implementation Timeline

from CAF BLOG!

Alex Lawson
Health Care Research Associate

America’s Affordable Health Choices Act: Implementation Timeline

In 2010, the House Proposal Will:
• Prevent insurance companies from rescinding existing health insurance policies
• Reduce paperwork and other administrative burdens and costs in the current health care system
• Help companies that provide health benefits for early retirees aged 55-64
• Prevent pay cuts for physicians and enhance payment for primary care services under Medicare
• Encourage new organizations among physicians that will increase quality and efficiency of care
• Expand preventive care services in Medicare, Medicaid, and local care centers
• Give discounts on drugs to certain rural and other hospitals
• Allow states to extend Medicaid coverage, with federal support, to HIV patients
• Provide for 12-month continuous eligibility in CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program]
• Sustain the National Health Service Corps, enlarge workforce training programs, increase reimbursement for primary care in Medicaid, and increase funds for community health centers

In 2011-2012, the House proposal will:
• By establishing new standards, increase the value of health insurance and lower premiums
• Narrow gaps in drug coverage under Medicare Part D and eliminate barriers and increase financial assistance for low-income enrollees

In 2013, the House proposal will:
• Prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell or renew policies due to an individual’s health status and excluding coverage for treatments based on pre-existing health conditions.
• Limit insurers’ ability to charge higher rates due to heath status, gender, or other factors and cap the amount by which premiums can vary based on age, geography and family size
• Open the Exchange to uninsured individuals and to employers with fewer than ten employees
• Create a new public health insurance plan available only within the Exchange
• Make Health Insurance Affordability Credits available through the Exchange
• Require individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage or pay a small penalty
• Require employers, by 2018, to cover workers and their families or pay a small penalty
• Exempt businesses with annual payrolls under $250,000 from the requirement to offer coverage, introduce small penalties for businesses with payrolls between $300,000 and $400,000, and provide a tax credit to small businesses that choose to provide health coverage
• Expand Medicaid – with full federal funding – to 133% of poverty
• Provide temporary Medicaid coverage to babies born without proof of other health coverage

In 2014-2018, the House proposal will
• 2014: open the Exchange to businesses with up to 20 employees and to individuals who cannot afford their employer-sponsored coverage
• 2015: continue expanding the Exchange to larger employers as circumstances allow
• 2018: end the grace period for employers outside the Exchange and require them to meet essential benefits package and minimum contribution levels

Source: House Tri-Committee, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act: Implementation Timeline,” July 2009.

[And for more detail]

Health Care Update, 7/6/09 July 6, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare, Politics.
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The latest news from Heath Care for America Now:

A health care House tri-committee bill will pass by the end of the month. They are asking the progressive community to keep producing positive stories on a public health care plan since the Senate version may not/is not likely to pass before the Summer Recess on August 1st. And Republicans will most likely come out strongly against a public plan during August. After the House passes their bill, the August recession will be spent arguing over the specifics of the bill. “Moderate” or “Centrist” Democrats will be the target whom both sides will be trying to influence. Read more about this here.

The Senate HELP committee has produced a pretty solid bill. Though, not quite as good as the House tri-committee bill, but it does have a public option. Details of that bill can be found in Krugman’s article today http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/06/opinion/06krugman.html

Once the two legislative bodies pass their respective bills, a joint Conference Committee is formed to reconcile the two bills. The Conference committee produces a new bill which is then approved or disapproved of by each legislative body. Then the President must sign it. Obama has demanded the Conference committee’s bill on his desk by Oct. 15, a demand which is looking increasingly difficult to achieve.

A solid health care bill passed behind schedule is way superior than rushing a bad one into law.

Health Care From the House June 19, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare.
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The House of Representatives released today the outline of their health care reform bill. The Politico covers the story here. The House proposal would establish a public insurance option, expand Medicaid, and require employers to provide coverage or pay a tax (play or play). This bill is more alligned with my ideal reforms than either of the bill proposals being discussed in the Senate currently.

The main lobbying firm for the private health insurance providers is a firm called America’s Health Insurance Plans. Their spokesman, Robert Zirkelbach, obviously criticized the bill. He argued, mistakenly, that the government-run insurance option would “dismantle employer-based coverage, add additional liabilities to the federal budget and turn back the clock on efforts to improve the quality and safety of patient care.”

This statement is so blatantly wrong that it is clear he represents a special interest group, the private insurance companies.

In fact, the public option would not “dismantle employer-based coverage”; on the contrary, it would maintain that framework, and reform within it. The house proposal mandates that employers ‘play or pay’ — they must provide insurance or pay a tax which will help fund the public insurance option.

The rest of Zirkelbach’s statement are nonsensical, egregious lies.

Health Care: Clear and Concise June 17, 2009

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This is a great, simple article by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post. He explains the basics of the debate over the comprehensive health care legislation that is currently in progress.

Personally, I strongly support a strong public plan. Let’s pass it NOW

Health Care Reform for Beginners: The Many Flavors of the Public Plan

For most of you, this is the big one. The inclusion of a strong public insurance option has become, for most observers I know, the single most recognizable marker for victory. If the public plan exists, liberals have won. If it’s eliminated, or neutered, then conservatives have triumphed.

The public plan has a very particular political lineage: The lesson liberals took from the 1994 health reform fight was that you couldn’t threaten the insurance coverage individuals already had. For many policy wonks, the central problem in health care was the existence of private insurance coverage. For most Americans, however, the central problem was that they could lose their private insurance coverage, and be left with something they didn’t like, or nothing at all. This effectively ruled out something like single-payer, or even Bill Clinton’s managed-care-within-managed-competition model. It ruled out anything that began by changing the health care coverage of those who wanted to keep their current policies. (more…)

Homophobia & Public Health June 11, 2009

Posted by greeley in Healthcare, Politics.
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The results of this study should come as no surprise:

“We found the effects of tolerance for gays on HIV to be statistically significant and robust – they hold up under a range of empirical models,” says Hugo Mialon, an assistant professor of economics….”Intolerance is deadly,” Mialon said. “Bans on gay marriage codify intolerance, causing more gay people to shift to underground sexual behaviors that carry more risk.”

Obviously there are many sources of homophobia. But the government’s failure to recognize the validity of same-sex relationships has serious public health ramifications. Not nebulous effects like eroding family values – but real, tangible, and quantifiable ones. When the U.S. sanctions discrimination against gays, it makes them less likely to seek treatment for HIV. The stigma of being both gay and HIV positive is unbearable, pushing the disease farther underground.

The worst example of this deadly phenomenon isn’t marriage — it’s immigration. The U.S. — along with Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia — bans HIV-positive visitors from entering. Even China has repealed its ban. Passed during the hysteria of the early 1990s when AIDS was the “gay disease,” this relic is government-sanctioned discrimination, plain and simple. It encourages illegal immigration. It makes immigrants who do have HIV less likely to seek treatment. It impedes international cooperation to find a cure for the virus. It’s based on irrational stigma and fear. And it increases the spread of the disease. Removing the ban would send a strong signal that the US doesn’t discriminate against people with HIV, many of whom are doctors, lawyers, academics, and others who can make important contributions to progress. Being HIV positive should not be a condition for citizenship, just like being straight should not be a condition for marriage.

Stimulus Chart April 11, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Education, Energy, Healthcare, History, Politics.
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Here is a chart that nicely breaks down the recent stimulus bill. I stole it from my friend Rob’s blog TheStocksBook.com which I’ve also added to our blog roll. You can click the photo to make the image larger.