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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

National Review's Derbyshire: Women Should Not Have the Right to Vote

by Faiz Shakir
Think Progress
9/30/-0 12:45pm

John Derbyshire, a British-American conservative author and columnist for the National Review, has written a new book titled We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. The book contains a section called “The Case Against Female Suffrage.” Yesterday on his radio show, Alan Colmes asked Derbyshire to articulate his argument.

“What is the case against female suffrage?” Colmes asked. “The conservative case against it is that women lean hard to the left,” Derbyshire responded nonsensically. “They want someone to nurture, they want someone to help raise their kids, and if men aren’t inclined to do it — and in the present days, they’re not much — then they’d like the state to do it for them.”

Colmes then pressed Derbyshire on whether women should have the right to vote. “Ah…” Derbyshire sighed, attempting to dodge the question initially. “I’m not putting forward a political program here,” he said. But then Derbyshire slowly began to open up:

DERBYSHIRE: Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I’ll say this – if it were to be, I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep.

COLMES: We’d be a better country if women didn’t vote?

DERBYSHIRE: Probably. Don’t you think so?

COLMES: No, I do not think so whatsoever.

DERBYSHIRE: Come on Alan. Come clean here [laughing].

COLMES: We would be a better country? John Derbyshire making the statement, we would be a better country if women did not vote.

DERBYSHIRE: Yeah, probably.

Derbyshire reasoned that we “got along like that for 130 years.” Colmes countered by asking if he also wants to bring back slavery. No, Derbyshire responded, “I’m in favor of freedom personally.” Colmes noted that freedom didn’t extend to women’s right to vote, however. Derbyshire said, “Well, they didn’t and we got along ok.” Listen here.

UPDATE: Previously, Ann Coulter has suggested that women shouldn’t have the right to vote:
If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

Census data: Arizona second in police, corrections spending, 38th in education

By Evan Wyloge, Cronkite News Service
Arizona Capitol Times
Published: September 30, 2009 at 7:58 am

Arizona outspent all but one state on police protection and corrections as a percentage of overall state and local expenditures while its education spending ranked 38th in U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday (Sept. 30).

“You get what you pay for,” said Jeffrey Chapman, Arizona State University Foundation Professor of Applied Public Finance. “We’re a low-tax, low-expenditure state. We like police, we like corrections and we don’t want to spend money on public services.”

The census data, based on 2007 expenditures, shows that Arizona’s spending patterns remained fairly constant from previous years. Chapman said that demonstrates shortsightedness on the part of leaders, promoting construction and industries tied to growth and preparing people to work in those jobs.

“They’d rather see retail clerks, construction workers and corrections officers in Arizona,” Chapman said. “They’re giving no regard to our children or our grandchildren.”

The data also showed that Arizona ranked fourth among states in expenditures on fire protection, 21th on public welfare and 28th on highways.

House Appropriations Chairman Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, defended the state’s spending on police protection, which was second only to Nevada, and on corrections, which was second only to California.

“Of course we spend more proportionally on law enforcement than other states,” Kavanagh said. “We have to be tough with criminals, as a matter of justice and deterrence. And being a border state, we deal with cross-border crime and we have one of the largest populations of illegal aliens.”

Kavanagh also said it’s wrong to suggest that Arizona isn’t committed to education.

“We actually have a very median educational performance record,” he said. “I prefer to judge our educational system by performance, not spending.”

Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, said Arizona would be better served by shifting its priorities.

“For four years I’ve been trying to change this,” she said. “And I think the public is unfamiliar with these numbers, so I’m glad to hear that they’re being talked about.”

Roger Hartley, associate professor of public administration and policy at the University of Arizona, said the money states spend on education correlates with earning potential, while poverty correlates with crime.

“We can see that we’re putting more money into putting people in prison rather than educating and thereby keeping people out of prison,” he said.Kavanagh called that conclusion overreaching, and pointed to Washington, D.C., as evidence.”

They have one of the worst crime rates, and they spend more than just about anybody per student,” he said.

Travis Pratt, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at ASU, said crime rates aren’t simple enough to link one-on-one with education, but he said it would be wrong to dismiss any connection with education.

He said spending on law enforcement pays political dividends much sooner than education.

“Budgets aren’t limitless, and Arizona devotes a greater portion of theirs to controlling rather than preventing crime,” he said. “And because spending on institutions like education and social services might not pay off for 10 or 15 years - not before the next election - politicians don’t see a reason for it.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Maddow: The Truth about the Lies Demonizing ACORN

26 Dems Editorial Note: The Republican propaganda machine has confused the public and landed serious blows to the reputation of ACORN, the community organizing group who helps poor people register to vote and fight predatory lenders.

ACORN was caught in a sting by two filmmakers, posing as a pimp and a prostitute in search of funding for their enterprise. The two were funded by right-wing friends who hunted workers across the nation to catch a few unsuspecting ACORN employees on tape.

ACORN became the target or "wedge issue" for Republicans because they were registering people likely to vote for Democrats. This latest scheme has resulted in the U.S. Congress defunding federal support for ACORN and now the Bank of America cutting all ties to the organization.

Rachel blames the media for buying into the FOX news noise machine that unjustly framed ACORN.

WATCH these VIDEOS to deprogram FOX lies and learn the FACTS.

Growing Momentum for Public Option

By Robert Creamer, Political organizer, strategist and author
Huffington Post
Posted: September 29, 2009 04:31 PM

In a surprising vote Tuesday, ten Democrats voted to add a public option to the most conservative of the five health insurance reform bills working their way through Congress. That's just two votes short of passage.

This robust support for the public option -- in what most observers consider the most conservative committee in the Senate -- signals a sea change in Congressional opinion toward the public option. The odds are now very high that some form of public health insurance option will be included on the final bill when it emerges from a House-Senate Conference Committee later this fall and is ultimately passed by Congress.

The three bills that have passed House Committees, and the Senate Health Committee bill, all contain a public option. And increasingly it appears that the strongest form of public option will come out of the House.
In the midst of the right-wing, town hall onslaught last August, the pundits -- public option opponents -- all but declared a public option dead and buried. This narrative was amplified by the private insurance industry that doesn't want to compete against a not-for-profit public health insurance program focused on providing health insurance instead of maximizing the ever-ballooning profits of Wall Street investors and the salaries of CEOs that take home tens of millions.
The big private insurance companies don't want to change the status quo that has allowed a few big players to corner the market in most markets. An AMA survey, released in late January, gives a score gauging the concentration of the commercial market for 314 metropolitan statistical areas. The report showed 94% had commercial markets that were "highly concentrated" by standards set by the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department.
A Robert Woods Johnson Report indicates that over the last ten years wages have gone up 29%, health insurance rates have gone up 120% and the profits of the private health insurance industry have gone up 428%. No wonder they don't want competition.

So why the resurgent Congressional support for a strong public option? There are three reasons:
1) First and foremost, voters' support for a public health insurance option is as strong as ever. All of the right-wing talk about a "government takeover" has not fooled voters who are forced every day to deal with the stranglehold that the private insurance industry has on their health care.
Last weekend's New York Times poll showed that 65% of all voters support giving Americans the choice of a public option and only 26% oppose it.
More importantly, the public option is also popular in swing Congressional districts. The firm of Anzeloni Liszt just released the results of a poll it conducted in 91 Blue Dog, Rural Caucus and Frontline districts. The poll found that 54% of the voters in these battleground districts support the choice of a public option.
And the poll also found that the voters in these districts want reform and want it this year.
The polling report says:
Overall, 58% of voters believe the health care system is in need of major reform or a complete overhaul, and almost 59% are concerned that Congress will not take action on health care reform this year. The risks of inaction to Democrats in swing districts increases if voters perceive opposition stems from ties to the insurance industry, as 74% are concerned that the health insurance industry will have too much influence over reform.

Those kinds of polling results get the attention of Members of Congress.

Continue reading here.

Robert Creamer is a longtime political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.

The Lie Machine: Rolling Stone obtains internal documents, uncovers"plot to unleash irate mobs at town halls"

GOP operatives are running a secret campaign to kill health care reform, and it's based on Karl Rove's old playbook

Posted Sep 23, 2009 9:01 AM

Read Tim Dickinson's full story in the new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands now.

On the first day of August, a mob of 200 right-wing Texans stormed the parking lot of a Randalls grocery store in southwest Austin. They were united in a single goal: Disrupt the "office hours" that Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the district's congressman, had scheduled for his constituents. The protesters targeted Doggett for his role in crafting the House's bill to reform health care, brandishing signs that read "No Government Health Care" and "No Government Counselor in My Home!!!" But their anger seemed to encompass a universe of conservative fears: higher taxes, illegal immigration, socialism. The threat of violence was thinly veiled: One agitator held aloft a tombstone with the name Doggett. Screaming, "Just say no!" the mob chased Doggett through the parking lot to an aide's car — roaring with approval as he fled the scene.

Conservatives were quick to insist that the near-riot — the first of many town-hall mobs that would dominate the headlines in August — was completely spontaneous. The protesters didn't show up "because of some organized group," Rick Scott, the head of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, told reporters. "They're mad about the stimulus bill, the bailout, the economy. Now they see that their health care is about to be taken over by the government."

In fact, Scott's own group had played an integral role in mobilizing the protesters. According to internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Conservatives for Patients' Rights had been working closely for weeks as a "coalition partner" with three other right-wing groups in a plot to unleash irate mobs at town-hall meetings just like Doggett's. Far from representing a spontaneous upwelling of populist rage, the protests were tightly orchestrated from the top down by corporate-funded front groups as well as top lobbyists for the health care industry. Call it the return of the Karl Rove playbook: The effort to mobilize the angriest fringe of the Republican base was guided by a conservative dream team that included the same GOP henchmen who Swift-boated John Kerry in 2004, smeared John McCain in 2000, wrote the script for Republican obstructionism on global warming, and harpooned the health care reform effort led by Hillary Clinton in 1993.

"The insurance industry is up to the same dirty tricks, using the same devious PR practices it has used for many years, to kill reform," says Wendell Potter, who stepped down last year as chief of corporate communications for health insurance giant CIGNA. "I'm certain that people showing up at these town halls feel that they're there on their own — but they don't realize they're being incited, ultimately, by the insurance industry and the other special interests."

Behind the scenes, top Republicans — including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Minority Leader John Boehner and the chairman of the GOP's Senate steering committee, Jim DeMint — worked hand-in-glove with the organizers of the town brawls. Their goal was not only to block health care reform but to bankrupt President Obama's political capital before he could move on to other key items on his agenda, including curbing climate change and expanding labor rights. As DeMint told an August teleconference of nearly 20,000 town-hall activists, "If we can stop him on this, the administration won't be able to go on to cap and trade, card check and the other things they want to do." Continue reading here for more of the excerpt.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mom Goes Blind So Her Daughters Can See (VIDEO)

Mom Goes Blind So Her Daughters Can See (VIDEO)
By Julian Hattem
First Posted: 09-28-09 02:15 PM | Updated: 09-28-09 05:22 PM

As part of the Huffington Post's efforts to bear witness to the effects of the current economic environment on ordinary Americans, we're rounding up some of the most compelling stories reported by local news organizations around the country.

Monique Zimmerman-Stein has been nearly blind for the last two years from Stickler syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. She recently decided to forego her own treatment to save funds to treat her two daughters, who also suffer from the condition, reports Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times.

The family is covered under husband Gary's Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, but that coverage only pays for 80 percent of medical expenses.

She will no longer get treatment to preserve that last slice of light. The injections that might help cost $380 after insurance, and she needs one every six weeks. She could be spending that money on her daughters' care.

If forgoing treatment might help them see, she said, "That's a choice any mom would make."
The expensive care has already forced the family out of their home, which was foreclosed, and forced them to sell their furniture and to cash in their life insurance.

Tampabay.com put together an excellent video to accompany the story:

Continue reading here about stories of other families who face financial hardship because of inadequate health insurance: how a teen's family faces foreclosure because of daughter's brainstem tumor; how a man was arrested because he could not pay medical bills for his diabetes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kyl: "I don't Need Maternity Care in My Health Insurance"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Private Medicare Cheated My Elderly Mother Out of Stroke Care/Arizona Medicare Advantage

posted by 26Dems

President Obama has called for cuts in private Medicare Advantage plans because costs have ballooned nearly 20% since the Medicare Advantage program began. Medicare Advantage costs the government an average of 14% more. The Bush administration encouraged the expansion of this program ostensibly to provide more choices, but the effect was to increase insurance company profit. Seniors were wooed into these plans with promises of extra coverage for eyeglasses and in some cases dental care and health club memberships.

Now Republicans are scaring seniors that they will lose benefits if the Democrats make "cuts" to Medicare. What they are really afraid of is losing the government's welfare subsidy for private insurance companies. Indeed seniors should consider the consequences of allowing a private corporation to take charge of care when you are healthy, and then deny you care or give you inadequate care when you have a heart attack stroke, cancer or anytime when your medical needs cost them too much money.

A Real Life Senior Horror Story

My active 80-year old Mother signed up for a Cigna HMO in the early 90's. She complained that her doctor didn't accept what Medicare set for payments requiring her to pay extra. Cigna invited her to a dinner and made attractive promises that she wouldn't have to pay a dime for anything extra. Then--she had a stroke. Her speech slurred and one side of her face drooped. Her right arm was partially paralyzed. Proudly independent, but legally blind, she found herself helpless and depended on neighbors around her to take her to the clinic. She could not speak clearly. Cigna doctors saw her and prescribed aspirin and sent her home. They set no further appointments, nor recommended any CT scans or blood tests. Finally when my mother had regained her speech, she phoned me. I tried to get copies of her medical records. Cigna refused. I then took steps to restore her membership in traditional Medicare. Her regular doctor ordered an MRI and found that she had suffered a rather severe stroke. With proper medical care she lived another 6 years. Had my mother not had someone to look out for her the insurance bureaucrat administering Medicare + Choice rationed care might have "killed Granny" sooner.

In 2007 Linda Brown of the Arizona Advocacy Network wrote an article published in the Tucson Citizen "The Public Cost of Privatized Medicare."At that time 37.5% of eligible Arizonans were enrolled in private Medicare plans, one of the highest rates in the nation. In 2005 nationally 88% of Medicare enrollees were served by traditional Medicare. Only 12% selected Medicare Advantage plans. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report Medicare HMO's have been available since the 70's and the Balanced Budget Act in 1997 expanded to Medicare+Choice.

Seniors in Pima County face bewildering choices if they decide they want to enroll in a private plan. Insurance marketing and PR often influence seniors to make a hurry-up choice without comparison to what benefits they would get under traditional Medicare.

49 plans are offered in Pima County in 2009. These include Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO); Private Fee for Service (PFFS); Preferred Provider Organization (PPO); Special Needs Plans (SNP). According to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) seniors should evaluate these plans on cost, choice of doctor, benefits prescription coverage, flexibility and convenience. Download the (SHIP) pamphlet for more information.

A truly independent evaluation of health risks of signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan vs traditional Medicare requires counseling for consumer and health protection.

Contact Pima Council on the Aging for advice.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who’s Getting The Advantage From Medicare Advantage?

By Monica Sanchez
Campaign for America's Future
September 23, 2009 - 4:49pm ET

Conservatives in the Senate Finance Committee are fighting hard to protect the current payment structure that gives private insurance plans in Medicare up to 19 percent more (pdf) than it would cost to care for the same people in the public Medicare program. It is... shall we say puzzling?... to hear so-called fiscal conservatives trying to defend a program that overpays. But perhaps it is not so inscrutable when you realize that they are not so much interested in saving taxpayer money as they are in shifting that money into private pockets.

First, a little background. Medicare—the federal health insurance program for people over the age of 65 and those with severe disabilities—contracts with private health insurance plans that compete with the public Medicare program for membership.

The Kaiser Family Foundation gives the following quick overview of the history of private plans in Medicare (PDF):

"As the private market for health insurance has evolved, Medicare has been modified so that beneficiaries can elect to get their Medicare benefits through a qualified private plan rather than the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program. Authorized in 1982, the Medicare risk-contracting program provided for enrollment in health maintenance organizations (HMOs). In 1997, Congress expanded private plan authority to include preferred provider organizations (PPOs), provider-sponsored organizations (PSOs), and private fee-for-service (PFFS) plans as the Medicare risk-contracting program was absorbed into Medicare+Choice (M+C). The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) replaced M+C with the Medicare Advantage (MA) program in 2004, raising payment rates and making other changes in anticipation of the Medicare drug benefit in 2006."

Notice the change in names for the private health plans that contracted with Medicare? "Medicare risk-contracting program"—not very appealing. "Medicare+Choice"—more choice, that's more appealing. "Medicare Advantage," now that's really appealing—who doesn't want to have an advantage?

But just who is getting the advantage when it comes to private plans in the Medicare program? I’ll give you a hint: Just this past July, UnitedHealthcare reported its profits had soared 155 percent:

“Despite a continued drop in commercial members in the recession, UnitedHealth reported Tuesday better-than-expected earnings for the second quarter because of lower administrative costs and strong growth in its public-sector businesses, Medicare and Medicaid.” [Emphasis added]

How are private plans making such high profits off Medicare? As Families USA reported (PDF):
"Overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans and regional PPOs could easily cost more than $60 billion over the next 10 years...

"As part of the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, Congress substantially increased payments to Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage plans are overpaid compared to traditional Medicare.
In 2005, Medicare overpaid private plans by at least seven percent per beneficiary. Taxpayers lost $2.7 billion in 2005 to private Medicare Advantage plans and their parent insurance companies.
In 2006, under a new payment formula, overpayments to plans are 11 percent per beneficiary (after accounting for health care status). With growth in Medicare Advantage enrollment, this amounts to at least $4.6 billion in overpayments this year alone."

As the Medicare Rights Center put it:

"Private plans came into the Medicare program with the claim that they could save taxpayers money. Instead, they cost between 12 percent and 19 percent more per person than the public Medicare program, amounting to $5 billion per year in unnecessary cost to taxpayers."

But what of the claims that people will suffer if they lose their Medicare Advantage plans? The fact is Medicare Advantage plans can be quite disadvantageous for people with Medicare. Two separate studies found that people could end up with higher out-of-pocket costs in a private plan than in Medicare, or in one private plan over another.

A study (PDF) by MedPAC found that some Medicare private health plans have high cost-sharing for "nondiscretionary" services such as chemotherapy. For example, looking at the cost of a year of care for a 70-year-old male with advanced colon cancer, the study found out-of-pocket charges of $7,100 for one plan, $6,550 for the second plan and $1,990 for the third plan.

Similarly, a study (PDF) by the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund found that out-of-pocket costs for private health plan members vary widely by health status and plan benefit package. The report shows that costs for plan members in poor health would actually have been higher than Original Medicare in 19 of the 88 MA plans examined: "Despite the high payments, relative to fee-for service [public Medicare] costs, that MA plans receive from Medicare to enrich enrollee benefits, these plans may not always be a good deal for sicker beneficiaries who use more health services."

It’s time to put the advantage back where it belongs—in the hands of people with Medicare, not in the pockets of insurance companies. Let Medicare Advantage plans compete on a level playing field with public Medicare!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maddow Reveals "Blue Dog" Mike Ross' Conflict of Interest

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Maddow: Blue Dogs Oppose Consumer Protection Agency Vs "Gouging" Banks

Maddow: From Fear to Eternity

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Man Arrested For Asking Anthem Blue Cross/Shield About His Rate Increase

By Susie Madrak
Crooks and Liars
Friday September 18, 2009 04:00 pm

It gets more unbelievable by the day, doesn't it?

Joe Szakos leads the Virginia Organizing Project, an almost fifteen year-old community organization that Health Care for America Now works with in Virginia to organize for health care reform. Szakos's organization employs dozens of people, and they get their health care through Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

This year, Szakos was informed that Anthem was going to increase the premiums on Virginia Organizing Project's health plan by 14.1%. Around the same time, the Virginia Organizing Project received an email from Anthem:
We strongly support reform that builds a strong, sustainable private-sector health care system - and strongly oppose creating a government-run health plan. We are urging our elected officials in Washington to take bipartisan action that will accomplish that. We are educating policymakers in Washington and working with our trade associations to encourage Congress to build on the current system and not disrupt the quality, affordable coverage on which our members depend....

As our elected officials debate health care, they need to hear directly from you.

Szakos immediately had some questions for Anthem. Chief among them, why is Anthem using its resources to lobby against health care reform with a public health insurance option while at the same time increasing rates by 14.1%?

Szakos, along with three other Virginia Organizing Project board members, went down to Anthem's offices in Richmond, VA to ask. He left in handcuffs.

Szakos, a customer, couldn't get an answer from Anthem. There was no justification for raising rates on one hand, and spending money lobbying against health care reform on the other. And instead of trying to offer Szakos an explanation, they had him arrested.

As Szakos said in the video, this is about greed and force. There is no good explanation for these rate increases, and there is no justification for Anthem to spend money it collects in premiums from customers suffering under its "health care" plans on lobbying against reform that would help these very same people. The only thing motivating Anthem - and all insurance companies - is greed. And they get and keep their money by force.

Friday, September 18, 2009

In defense of ACORN

The right-wing crusade against ACORN is a far bigger fraud than any misdeeds a few employees might have committed

By Joe Conason

Sept. 18, 2009 | For many years the combined forces of the far right and the Republican Party have sought to ruin ACORN, the largest organization of poor and working families in America. Owing to the idiocy of a few ACORN employees, notoriously caught in a videotape "sting" sponsored by a conservative Web site and publicized by Fox News, that campaign has scored significant victories on Capitol Hill and in the media.

Both the Senate and the House have voted over the past few days to curtail any federal funding of ACORN's activities. While that congressional action probably won't destroy the group, whose funding does not mainly depend on government largesse, the ban inflicts severe damage on its reputation.

In the atmosphere of frenzy created by the BigGovernment videos -- which feature a young man and an even younger woman who pretend to be a prostitute and a pimp seeking "advice" from ACORN about starting a teenage brothel -- it is hardly shocking that both Democrats and Republicans would put as much distance as possible between themselves and the sleazy outfit depicted on-screen.

Like so many conservative attacks, the crusade against ACORN has been highly exaggerated and even falsified to create a demonic image that bears little resemblance to the real organization. Working in the nation's poorest places, and hiring the people who live there, ACORN is not immune to the pathologies that can afflict institutions in those communities. As a large nonprofit handling many millions of dollars, it has suffered from mismanagement at the top as well -- although there is nothing unique in that, either.

Yet ACORN's troubles should be considered in the context of a history of honorable service to the dispossessed and impoverished. No doubt it was fun to dupe a few morons into providing tax advice to a "pimp and ho," but what ACORN actually does, every day, is help struggling families with the Earned Income Tax Credit (whose benefits were expanded by both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton). And while the idea of getting housing assistance for a brothel was clever, what ACORN really does, every day, is help those same working families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.

Perhaps the congressional investigation now demanded by some Republican politicians would be a useful exercise, if conducted impartially. A fair investigation might begin to dispel some of the wild mythology promoted by right-wing media outlets.

Among the most popular canards on the right, repeated constantly by conservative pundits and politicians, is that ACORN has been found guilty of engaging in deliberate voter fraud, using federal funds. In reality, ACORN has registered close to 2 million low-income citizens across the country over the past five years -- a laudable record with a very low incidence of fraud of any kind.

Over the past several years, a handful of ACORN employees have admitted falsifying names and signatures on registration cards, in order to boost the pay they received. When ACORN officials discovered those cases, they informed the state authorities and turned in the miscreants. (That was why the Bush Justice Department's blatant attempt to smear ACORN with rushed, election-timed indictments became a national scandal for Republicans rather than Democrats.) The proportion of fraud is infinitesimal. For example, a half-dozen ACORN workers were charged with registration fraud or other election-related crimes in the 2004 election. They had completed fewer than two dozen false registrations -- out of more than a million new voters registered by ACORN during that cycle. The mythology that suggests that thousands or even millions of illegal registrants voted is itself a fraud.

If only the Republicans who have worked up a frenzy over ACORN's alleged crimes were so indignant about real and damaging voter fraud -- such as the amazing case of Young Political Majors, the firm that ran GOP registration efforts in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona and elsewhere before the authorities in Orange County, Calif., busted its president, Mark Anthony Jacoby, and sent him to jail last year. He had built a lucrative partisan career by teaching his minions to deceive thousands of voters into registering as Republicans rather than Democrats, among other scams. Of course, the only on-air mention of the Young Political Majors scandal on Fox News was made by blogger Brad Friedman -- and the national media, mainstream and conservative, generally ignored it. They were too busy generating "controversy" over ACORN.

Continue reading here about how Republicans are targeting ACORN.


By U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall,
Posted by Stephen Fox
Op-Ed News
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Legislation Would Protect Privacy Rights and National Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman today joined in introducing legislation to reform the Patriot Act and other surveillance laws to better protect Americans' constitutional right to privacy while providing the government with the tools necessary to effectively fight terrorism.

The legislation, titled the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act, would:

  1. Add reasonable safeguards for the FBI's use of National Security Letters, which require the disclosure of sensitive personal information by banks, credit card companies, and telephone and Internet service providers. NSLs don't require judicial approval, and recipients are barred from revealing that the records were demanded.
  2. Repeal retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies that complied with the government's illegal warrantless wiretapping program.
  3. Modify the so-called “John Doe” roving wiretaps, which allow the government to monitor suspects who may be trying to escape detection by using multiple phones or other communication devices.
  4. Revise the “library records” provision, which currently allows the government to obtain orders for private records of American citizens even if they are not suspected terrorists. New safeguards would require the government to show that the individual has some connection to terrorism or espionage.

“The 2001 Patriot Act, its 2006 reauthorization, and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 failed to protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans and did nothing to guard against potential abuse,” Udall said. “The JUSTICE Act strikes the right balance between respecting the needs of our law enforcement to pursue suspected terrorists and upholding the rights of law-abiding citizens to live free from unnecessary government intrusion in their lives. I firmly believe we can keep our nation secure without infringing on the inherent rights of the American people. ”

“We must provide law enforcement with the tools they need to protect our country, and do so in a way that also safeguards Americans' rights. This legislation addresses both of these important objectives by ensuring our security and upholding our cherished constitutional protections,” Bingaman said.

Udall, a former federal prosecutor and New Mexico attorney general, was one of just 66 members of the 435-member House of Representatives to vote against the 2001 Patriot Act. He also opposed the 2006 Patriot Act reauthorization and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act after expressing strong objections about the impact of the proposals on the privacy rights of Americans.

The JUSTICE Act has been endorsed by more than two dozen organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, the Brennan Center of Justice, PEN American Center, and the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation.

Sponsors of the legislation include: Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Continue reading here for FACT SHEET about the JUSTICE ACT.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New study finds 45,000 deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage

Uninsured, working-age Americans have 40 percent higher death risk than privately insured counterparts

SEPTEMBER 17, 2009


Nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance, according to a new study published online today by the American Journal of Public Health. That figure is about two and a half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002.

The study, conducted at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

“The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health,” said lead author Andrew Wilper, M.D., who currently teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.”

The study, which analyzed data from national surveys carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assessed death rates after taking into account education, income, and many other factors, including smoking, drinking, and obesity. It estimated that lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually.

Previous estimates from the IOM and others had put that figure near 18,000. The methods used in the current study were similar to those employed by the IOM in 2002, which in turn were based on a pioneering 1993 study of health insurance and mortality.

Deaths associated with lack of health insurance now exceed those caused by many common killers such as kidney disease. An increase in the number of uninsured and an eroding medical safety net for the disadvantaged likely explain the substantial increase in the number of deaths, as the uninsured are more likely to go without needed care. Another factor contributing to the widening gap in the risk of death between those who have insurance and those who do not is the improved quality of care for those who can get it.

Continue reading here.

Sotomayor Issues Challenge to a Century of Corporate Law

Wall Street Journal
Sept. 17, 2009

WASHINGTON -- In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.

During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court's majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.

But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong -- and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.

Judges "created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons," she said. "There could be an argument made that that was the court's error to start with...[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics."

After a confirmation process that revealed little of her legal philosophy, the remark offered an early hint of the direction Justice Sotomayor might want to take the court.

"Progressives who think that corporations already have an unduly large influence on policy in the United States have to feel reassured that this was one of [her] first questions," said Douglas Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

"I don't want to draw too much from one comment," says Todd Gaziano, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But it "doesn't give me a lot of confidence that she respects the corporate form and the type of rights that it should be afforded."

For centuries, corporations have been considered beings apart from their human owners, yet sharing with them some attributes, such as the right to make contracts and own property. Originally, corporations were a relatively rare form of organization. The government granted charters to corporations, delineating their specific functions. Their powers were presumed limited to those their charter spelled out.

"A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible," Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1819 case. "It possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it." Continue reading here.

Pima Democrats Oppose Prop 200 -- A Growth Lobby Gimmick

Pima County Democratic Party
Jeff Rogers, Chair
September 17, 2009

The Pima County Democratic Party opposes Proposition 200 -- a fiscally irresponsible quarter-billion-dollar unfunded mandate that would raise taxes and slash money for kids, families, seniors and neighborhoods.

Prop 200 would cost the city $150 million over five years and Pima County $110 million at a time when revenues are collapsing. It's a spending spree and the Republicans behind it have two ways to pay for it: Force a tax hike on families; and gut every program that helps kids, cuts families a break and improves the quality of life of seniors.

When the growth lobby began crafting this initiative, the city spent just over half the city general fund on public safety. After deep cuts to other programs, public safety now accounts for nearly two thirds of general fund spending. Simply to protect current staffing levels next year, public safety would swallow nearly three quarters of available money.

And Prop 200 backers still say the city has not made public safety a priority. Despite the fact that cuts to TPD and TFD have been dramatically less than the cuts made to all other departments within the city. And the cuts that they have had to make have not been to personnel. Simply put: this council puts public safety first.
If Prop 200 is approved, the City Council would have to raise regressive sales taxes to continue paying for parks, after-school programs, transit and help for non-profits giving a hand to struggling families. The Pima County Board of Supervisors would have to raise property taxes to pay for more prosecut ors and expand a jail already teaming with petty drug offenders.

Prop 200 threatens to:
  1.  Wipe out after school programs that keep kids safe and off the streets;
  2. Lay off more than 300 city employees;
  3. Strand the disabled in their homes with the elimination of Van Tran;
  4. Make permanent a temporary city moratorium on fixing neighborhood streets;
  5. Raise taxes on people who can least afford it.

"This is a wild spending spree we can't afford in this economy," said Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers. "Tucson families understand this as they try to balance their checkbooks. The last thing they are doing is spending money they don't have."

Crime rates have fallen over the last 14 years, while class sizes have risen, the poverty rate is climbing and our neighborhood streets continue to suffer wear and tear. The Tucson City Council has made public safety the top priority but there's more work to be done.

"A city as diverse as Tucson should be able to afford more than one priority," Rogers said. "We can responsibly keep Tucson safe without slashing help for Tucson kids, families and seniors."

Speaking at a public forum earlier in the week, City Manager Mike Letcher described the impact of Prop 200 on our community as “very catastrophic.” We agree and urge voters to oppose this growth lobby gimmick.

How corporate P.R. works to kill healthcare reform

Health insurers have become expert at using P.R. to get what they want. I got out before the latest

Salon Editor's note:
Wendell Potter, formerly a communications officer for the private health insurer Cigna, is now the Senior Fellow on Health Care for the Center for Media and Democracy. He delivered the remarks below at the Center for American Progress.

By Wendell Potter
Sept. 15, 2009

It is easy to think of efforts to influence lawmakers as the exclusive domain of K Street lobbyists. Much has been said and written about the millions of dollars the special interests are spending on lobbying activities and the hundreds of lobbyists who are at work as we speak trying to shape healthcare reform legislation. Very little by comparison has been written about the millions of dollars that special interests are spending on P.R. activities to accomplish the same goal and that are vital to successful lobbying efforts.

One of the reasons I left my job at CIGNA, where I headed corporate communications and was part of the Legal & Public Affairs division, was because I did not want to be involved in yet another P.R. and lobbying campaign to kill or gut reform. I finally came to question the ethics of what I had done and been a part of for nearly two decades to influence decision making and bill writing on Capitol Hill.

When I testified before the Senate Commerce Committee in late June, I told the senators how the industry has conducted duplicitous and well-financed P.R. and lobbying campaigns every time Congress has tried to reform our healthcare system, and how its current behind-the-scenes efforts may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street far more than average Americans. I noted that, just as they did 15 years ago when the insurance industry led the effort to kill the Clinton reform plan, it is using shills and front groups to spread lies and disinformation to scare Americans away from the very reform that would benefit them most. The industry, despite its public assurances to be good-faith partners with the president and Congress, has been at work for years laying the groundwork for devious and often sinister campaigns to manipulate public opinion.

The industry goes to great lengths to keep its involvement in these campaigns hidden from public view. I know from having served on numerous trade group committees and industry-funded front groups, however, that industry leaders are always full partners in developing strategies to derail any reform that might interfere with insurers' ability to increase profits. My involvement in these groups goes back to the early '90s when insurers joined with other special interests to finance the activities of the Healthcare Leadership Council, which led a coordinated effort to scare Americans and members of Congress away from the Clinton plan.

A few years after that victory, the insurers formed a front group called the Health Benefits Coalition to kill efforts to pass a Patients Bill of Rights. While it was billed as a broad-based business coalition that was led by the National Federation of Independent Business and included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Health Benefits Coalition in reality got the lion’s share of its funding and guidance from the big insurance companies and their trade associations.

Like most front groups, the Health Benefits Coalition was set up and run out of one of Washington’s biggest P.R. firms. The P.R. firm provided all the staff work for the Coalition while an executive with the NFIB, which has long been a close ally of the insurance industry, served as a frontman.

Continue reading here.

America Can't Wait

by Gov Howard Dean MD
Daily Kos
Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 09:57:02 AM PDT

We're in the final stretch in our campaign for healthcare reform including a public option.

The good news is we're winning.

I know that sometimes it is hard to tell. After all August was a brutal month filled with right-wing fear mongering and misinformation. Whether led by Glenn Beck, FOX news or Rep. Joe Wilson, too many Americans were told to disrupt Town Halls rather than participate in them. And of course the media covered every moment of it.

But the real story of August is that these scare tactics didn't work. Support for President Obama's Healthcare Reform Plan which includes the choice of a public health insurance option has increased since the beginning of August.

This is a testament to the fact that you never gave up. All summer we worked together to make sure Congress got the message that inclusion of a public option in any healthcare reform bill passed this year is non-negotiable. And every time Republicans tried to kill it or the insurance industry claimed it's already dead, you stood up and proved them wrong.

Now what we keep hearing is that Congress doesn't have the votes to pass a public option.

Once again, thanks to your help, we have proven them wrong...

Gov Howard Dean MD's diary :: ::

We've asked everyone in Congress where they stand. At least 218 House and 51 Senate Democrats have said they would vote for the final healthcare bill if it included the choice of a public option rather than vote against the bill and kill reform. That's means Congress has the majority votes needed to pass a public option -- TODAY. You can check out Chris Bower's post on OpenLeft.com from last night if you want more specifics on the Senate count.

Now is the season for action. The majority of Americans want it. Majority votes in Congress will pass it. Join President Obama in calling on Congress to get the job done this year.


As I said in my message to the members of Democracy for America earlier today, it's a myth that it takes 60 votes to pass any bill in the U.S. Senate.

It's a myth because while any Senator can attempt to block most Senate bills with a procedural tactic called the filibuster there are exceptions. Senate rules don't allow filibusters of certain bills that affect the budget. That's means the healthcare reform plan including the choice of a public option can be passed in a budget bill by a majority vote in the U.S. Senate.

Don't take my word for it. Numerous budget scholars and experts on Senate procedure have staked their reputations on it. Stan Collender, a contributing editor at the National Journal, contributing writer for Roll Call, and author of "The Guide to the Federal Budget" is an expert on the subject. Here's how he's explains it:

"Reconciliation, which was part of the Congressional Budget Act when it was adopted in 1974, wasn't used until the start of the Reagan administration. Although it hasn't been used every year since then, reconciliation has become such a regular part of the budget process that it's now generally considered a staple. It has been used by Republican- and Democratic-controlled Congresses alike for both spending and revenues.

The most important and obviously controversial part is that reconciliation bills can't be filibustered because the debate is limited by law."

"The House-passed version of the 2010 budget resolution allows health care reform to be included in a reconciliation bill and, therefore, adopted in the Senate with 51 votes..."

"First, contrary to what some have been saying, reconciliation has become such a standard part of the budget process that using it for health care would be neither surprising nor precedent-setting. When they were in the majority, Republicans insisted that reconciliation was allowed by Senate rules and used it in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Back then, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who has been one of the biggest opponents of using reconciliation this year, made what in retrospect is an almost infamous floor speech about the appropriateness and legality of using reconciliation.

Second, health care reform will have a substantial impact on federal finances and so can't be said to be unrelated to the budget, which is one of the critical criteria for using reconciliation. In fact, given that at least two of the largest mandatory federal spending programs — Medicare and Medicaid — are health care programs, health care reform and reconciliation would seem to be a perfect fit."

Over 25 times in history the Senate has passed major reforms this way, including the Bush tax cuts and funding for the Iraq War. Whether the Senate passes reform through a budget bill or in a different bill that has overcome a filibuster, the truth of the matter is it only takes a majority vote to get the job done.


We have only a short period of time to reach the critical mass we'll need to pressure Congress into passing healthcare reform including a public option this year. We can reach 250,000 signers by Oct. 15th if we work together to gather support.

But gathering signatures isn't the only action we should take to make it happen. We need to thank those in Congress who have confirmed their support. Please visit ‘The Yes Vote' page at AmericaCantWait.com and see if your member of Congress is there -- then contact them and thank them for committing to stand up for you.

You can also contribute through Actblue and support those who will stand up for a public option. I suggest starting with the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who have been on the front lines working to pass real reform. Blue America PAC has already raised over $400,000. Help them take that amount even higher here.

President Obama can sign a healthcare reform including a public option into law this year if we make sure Congress passes real reform.

When we work together, we're unstoppable. Thank you for everything you do.


Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
A project of Democracy for America

Top global investors appeal for action on climate change: UN

China View
2009-09-18 00:30:11

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- The world's largest investors -- collectively managing over 13 trillion U.S. dollars in assets -- have issued a United Nations-backed call for concrete action in the fight against climate change, UN officials said here Thursday.

The statement signed by 181 investors on Wednesday in New York called for a strong binding treaty to reduce pollution and catalyze global funding for low-carbon technologies, the officials said.

They signed the statement just less than one week before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convenes the UN Summit on Climate Change on Tuesday to generate momentum for a deal at the UN talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, where nations are expected to "seal the deal" on a new pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"Climate change has quite rightly been framed as the greatest market failure ever," said Rob Tacon, chair of the UN Environment Program's Financial Initiative (UNEP FI), a partnership between the agency and more than 170 financial institutions around the world.

"The magnitude of the negative economic impacts and the potential of climate change to bankrupt our global financial system, as well as to threaten the planet's life-supporting natural ecosystems, are calling," he added.

UNEP FI was one of the four top investor groups on climate change which coordinated Wednesday's statement.

The document calls for a new global climate treaty to include a target for emissions reductions of between 50 and 85 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, as well as for government support for energy-efficient and low carbon technology.

It also appeals for action to reduce deforestation and support, as well as for support for adaptation measures. www.chinaview.cn

Victims of 'Health Insurance Bureaucracy' Speak Out/Lawmakers See Need to Reform Health Insurance Claim Delays, Denials

ABC News
Sept. 16, 2009

"These guys are just playing with my life."

Witness makes plea during hearing: "I need you people to let me be a daddy."

Erinn Ackley still remembers her father's words as he struggled with an aggressive form of cancer in 2006. Bill Ackley had health insurance through his job as a public school teacher. But as his life hung in the balance, his insurance company questioned the necessity of a potentially life-saving treatment doctors prescribed and, for a time, refused to pay.

After months of appeals to overcome the "bureaucratic roadblocks," Ackley finally received approval for the treatment he sought. But to his daughter Erinn, the delay just might have cost her father his life.

"Dad was finally transplanted 126 days after the first transplant request [but] he never returned home," said Ackley. "He passed away at the age of 57, leaving a grieving widow and daughter, and only one grandchild born 17 months later, that he will never play with."

"When a loved one is going through a life or death struggle, you can hear the clock ticking every minute," she said.

Ackley's story was one of several accounts shared with members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday of the often heart-wrenching struggles some Americans face in dealing with the "private health insurance bureaucracy."

Click on picture to watch ABC News Video

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

“The Most Dangerous Man in America” New Documentary Chronicles Story of Daniel Ellsberg, Whose Leak of the Pentagon Papers Helped End Vietnam War

From Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
September 16, 2009

"Daniel Ellsberg once faced espionage charges and possibly life in prison after leaking what became known as the Pentagon Papers, a 7,000-page classified history outlining the true extent of US involvement in Vietnam. Daniel Ellsberg’s actions directly contributed to the end of Nixon presidency and the Vietnam War. His story is chronicled in the new documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. We speak to Ellsberg, his wife Patricia, and the film’s co-director, Judith Ehrlich."

Watch Video

26Dems Editorial Note: Daniel Ellsberg and John Dean were guest speakers at a recent New York forum. Read more about the exchange between these two Nixon whistle blowers about how telling the truth brought down the Nixon administration. Their whistleblowing experience can tell why it is important that Americans must relearn the same lessons today in Danny Schecter's article "Dan Ellsberg. John Dean and the Power of Telling the Truth."

A film trailer and more information is available on the film's web site Most Dangerous Man.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Many Employers to Raise Cost of Health Benefits, Survey Finds

By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Though Americans who already have medical coverage may be wary of change, a new survey indicates that they may be hard-pressed to escape it -- even in the absence of health-care reform.

As businesses contend with rising costs, many workers face an erosion of health benefits next year, according to an annual survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.

Forty percent of employers surveyed said they are likely to increase the amount their workers pay out of pocket for doctor visits. Almost as many said they are likely to raise annual deductibles and the amount workers pay for prescription drugs.

Nine percent said they plan to tighten eligibility for health benefits; 8 percent said they plan to drop coverage entirely. Forty-one percent of employers said they are "somewhat" or "very" likely to increase the amount employees pay in premiums -- though that would not necessarily mean employees would pay a higher percentage of the premiums. Employers could simply be passing along the same share of the overall increase that they are doing this year. Continue reading here.

'Save Talk Radio!' Really? Republicans amass an army to retain corporate control of the public airwaves...

Guest blogged By Sue Wilson
On 15th September 2009 @ 14:53
The Bradblog

I was strolling through my local county fair this summer, a small fair, a friendly fair, where cows, sheep and pigs outnumber food vendors.

The Republican booth caught my eye, but not because of the red white and blue decorations. What caught my eye was the sign they'd posted, the sign that summed up the one key issue of importance to local Republicans.

What would it be, in this raucous political summer of 2009? Anger over bailouts, fear over death panels? No. The number one issue for Amador County Republicans: "Save Talk Radio."

I hadn't realized that the industry that just signed a $400 million contract with Rush Limbaugh needed saving, but they thought so; they even had a petition to save it...

Sponsored by a group called "First Amendment Now," [1] the petition read:

We hold dearly our right to freedom of speech and the right for others to express their views. We believe that Government should stand aside rather than stand in the way of the discussion of ideas. We believe that because the First Amendment should be about freedom of choice.
Therefore, we the undersigned oppose all efforts of any Government to limit, censor, or restrict in any way our unfettered right to free speech on our radios, televisions, the Internet or any other medium.

Wow, I thought, a Republican petition that I can really get behind! Then I read on:
We reject any effort to institute (1) the "Fairness Doctrine" or (2) "localism", which in its various forms seeks to establish local committees of "community leaders" to determine if talk radio is "reflecting" the views of the community, or (3) a quota system for ownership of radio stations - or any variance of any of those.

In other words, they advocate free speech for giant corporations, but not for local people. Hmmn.

I wondered how pervasive petitions like this might be. It turns out there are many such petitions on line, promoted by groups much more familiar than "First Amendment Now." So many, in fact, that they have amassed an army of more than a half a million to silence local views.

The Christian Coalition

They want to pass what is known as the "Fairness Doctrine", which is nothing more than a way for the federal government to demand that all broadcasters must give "equal time" to all points of view.
Equal time to all points of view? What a radical concept.

The Family Research Council

We need to be aware, however, that liberals may achieve their ends without passing legislation, or even without a new FCC "fairness" rule. They could do it by requiring a fixed amount of local content for radio.
Local content on local airwaves? It must be a Communist plot.

It is easy to dismiss these petitions as fringe. But postings from the Free Speech Alliance [4] reveal something greater:

  1. Obama's FCC will use "localism," "diversity of media ownership" and serving the "public interest" as a backdoor "Fairness" Doctrine.
  2. We must make any attempt by Obama's FCC to silence talk radio a political third rail, one that the Administration or Congress dare not touch.
  3. We will defend talk radio from these governmental assaults on their industry, and build further the case for free speech in all things.
The Left dominates every medium of news delivery, save for talk radio. And they can't stand it, so they want to wipe it off the media map.

The Free Speech Alliance
is an arm of Brent Bozell's rightwing Media Research Center (MRC), which for years has been claiming liberal bias in the media with little evidence to back up the claim. This group has been quietly building an army to "go to war" in support of corporate-owned media and to squelch local voices. From another MRC/Free Speech Alliance petition [5] [emphasis added]:

MRC's Free Speech Alliance --- with 69 organizations now involved --- seeks to build the largest possible grassroots Alliance army. So far, we have over 550,000 members, but we need the maximum number possible to go to war when free speech is threatened.

Among the 69 groups in support are: Accuracy in Media, American Conservative Union, National Taxpayers Union, National Religious Broadcasters, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, World Net Daily, Salem Communications, and Clear Channel.

The creator [6] of the Free Speech Alliance is Seton Motley, the same Seton Motley who appeared on Glenn Beck's show on Fox [7] to target FCC Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd with fabrications about his suggestions in the Center for American Progress/Free Press study "The Structural Imbalance of Talk Radio" [8] [PDF] to give local audiences more control over what they get on their radio stations over their public airwaves. (To see an interview with Mark Lloyd about that report, see the documentary Broadcast Blues [9], or see a clip of the conversation with Lloyd at right.)

It is clear that the "right" has been quietly assembling troops and is now mounting their attack, an attack largely unanticipated by media reformers, an attack now staged on "Conservative" talk radio and TV (not that there is anything conservative about opposing localism.) Their dominance over radio, where "conservatives" voices outnumber "liberals" by nine to one, means their army is growing every single day, while the other side didn't even know there was going to be a fight.

An army of 550,000 from County Fairs and the internet. How many more will there be as recruitment shifts to the public airwaves, currently under the private control of those who wish to keep it that way?

And who will stand ready to fight back?

Shortly after Barack Obama was sworn in as President last January, as Brad Friedman reported [10] at the time, the new White House website "Technology" page [11] signaled a hopeful change, and a call to re-examine the oversight of our public airwaves:

Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership: Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum.

A few months later, after the campaign from the right had kicked into full gear, charging that liberals were trying to prevent free speech on the radio, the paragraph was quietly removed from the White House website.

So I ask again...who will stand ready to fight back and in favor of real free speech on our public airwaves?


Sue Wilson is the Emmy Winning Director of the media reform documentary "Broadcast Blues" [12]. View Trailer here.

Ed Schultz Show: Huffpost Editor Blasts Baucus Bill; Paid for by $3M in Campaign Donations

Greenwald: The Health Insurance Racket

Health Insurance Insider Slams Baucus Bill: ‘An Absolute Gift To The Insurance Industry’

By Igor Volsky

On the eve of the Senate Finance Committee’s release of its much anticipated health care plan, Wendell Potter — the insurance industry whistle blower and former communications director of health insurance giant Cigna — called the Baucus framework “an absolute gift to the industry.” And if that is what we see in the legislation, [America’s Health Insurance Plans chief] Karen Ignagni will surely get a huge bonus,” Potter said at a briefing for reporters.

The bill establishes a new regulated health insurance exchange and compels every American to purchase qualified health insurance coverage by 2013. Americans with employer-sponsored insurance can stay in their existing plans, while the uninsured would have to enroll in an expanded Medicaid program, a new plan in the Exchange or the now-regulated individual health insurance market. According to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cover 94% of Americans and cost $880 billion over 10 years.
Potter argued that the lax employer requirements would shift the cost and risk of coverage onto the individual and maintained that the bill’s “network of cooperatives” would be unable to compete in today’s concentrated health insurance markets. “The co-ops won’t stand a chance,” he concluded.
Reform must also do more to regulate insurers, who have agreed to accept applicants with pre-existing conditions but are insisting on benefit and rate flexibility. Potter argued that the benefit package standards in the Exchange and the high deductible option for younger beneficiaries would allow insurers to design almost anything that they can sell in the health market place and push the country towards consumer driven health care.

Under the Baucus legislation, private insurers could also charge older individuals up to five times more for coverage. “You’re just using age as a proxy for health status,” Uwe Reinhardt, an economics professor at Princeton University told the New York Times.
Reinhardt estimates that “Senator Baucus’s age-rating plan would allow insurers to cover roughly 70 percent of the additional risk they’d take on by being required to accept all comers, regardless of health.”
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Claim: Baucus health proposal written by former health insurance VP

Published: September 9, 2009

The compromise health care reform proposal introduced by Sen. Max Baucus on Monday appears to have been literally written by a former health insurance company vice president, several bloggers asserted Wednesday.

The proposal, which does not provide a public option but compels individuals to purchase health insurance, was written by Liz Fowler, a former vice president of WellPoint and currently the senior counsel to Baucus, writes blogger Marcy Wheeler at the Firedoglake Web site.

Wheeler points out that the name “Liz Fowler” appears as the author in the document properties of the PDF file circulated by Baucus’ staff earlier this week. (The PDF can be found here. To see the author, save it to your hard drive, right-click on the icon, and select “Properties.”)

However, it’s unclear to what extent Fowler wrote the document herself. As Jane Hamsher pointed out Wednesday morning at her Campaign Silo blog, parts of the document match, almost word for word, a health bill amendment put forward by House Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, a Blue Dog Democrat, in July.

Hamsher cites blogger Jon Walker’s comparison of the two texts:

Ross’ amendment:
  • The governing documents of the cooperatives incorporate ethical and conflict of interest standards designed to protect against insurance industry involvement and interference in the governance of the cooperative.
  • Baucus’ framework:
  • Its governing documents must incorporate ethics and conflict of interest standards protecting against insurance industry involvement and interference.
The health reform proposal was put forward by Montana Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat who is part of the “gang of six” Republican and Democratic senators who are working on a compromise health plan that could pass the Senate.

Amanda Terkel reported at ThinkProgress on Tuesday that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs admitted the document had been sent to special-interest groups before it reached the White House.

The plan has taken criticism from all sides, not least because of its requirement that all individuals under the age of 65 must purchase health care coverage, under a penalty of $3,800, as Jed Lewison states at Daily Kos.

By comparison, under the plan, the penalty for companies employing 50 or more people that do not purchase health insurance for their employees would be $400 per employee — a fraction of what it would cost to cover those employees, and therefore unlikely to serve as incentive to purchase employer-provided health care.

Even without a public health option, the Baucus plan is estimated to cost $850 billion to $900 billion over 10 years, according to the New York Times.

NBC’s Ken Strickland reports that the “gang of six” have not decided yet whether to accept Baucus’ proposal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's 'Tough' Choice: Uninsured Father Takes on Health Insurance Industry

Robert Reich On Public Option: Last Chance to Make Yourself Heard: Call/Email/FAX the President and Congress