The Slow Death of Obamacare

Posted May 5, 2017 on 2:36 pm | In the category Healthcare, Politics, Press, Taxes, TRUMP, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“Trumpcare isn’t a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a transfer from the sick and poor to the rich and healthy.” – Robert Reich

The near death of Obamacare, long prayed for by Tea Partiers and Republicans arrived yesterday in the House of Representatives, but once again a stupid, useless bill from the Paul Ryan Chamber of Horrors will most likely suffer a slow, painful, disappearance in the Senate. As for Potentate Trump – this victory will not satisfy him, because nothing really satisfies him other than a standing ovation, which he will not get for this atrocity.

The Republican members of the House of Representatives voted yesterday for a bill that will make health insurance too expensive for those with pre-existing conditions and others including those older Americans not yet on Medicare, while lying about the actualities of the bill. This is obviously a time for the American press to do its job. Report the facts and tell the truth.

The plan is a classic trump “deal”, promise and renege. Trump’s history of not paying for services is well known and well reported. Bankruptcies and simply refusing to pay for services rendered is the playbook of a petty crook and thug – well documented – joined in this instance by Paul Ryan in applying this tried and true Trumpian approach to scamming people – this time out of their health care. In joining forces with Trump, Ryan is learning from the master scammer. A recent obvious example is Trump University which had to pay out $25 Million to scammed students.  There is a useful and entertaining catalog of his scandals and scams in a recent issue of the  Atlantic, which can be found here.

Here is how this scam works – for those with pre-existing conditions – like cancer, diabetes, birth defects, (even pregnancy!) etc. , insurance companies no longer would have to accept them at normal insurance costs, but the federal government would provide some financial assistance to those states that develop high risk pools to help cover the costs associated with insuring these people. There is absolutely no question that the amount of money in the bill is inadequate to cover such costs but those mythical “moderate” Republicans felt they had sufficient cover to vote for it.

In Republican America that is all that is required – sufficient cover to allow a vote that is inexcusably dishonest and venal. And what are the chances of states like Kansas and Wisconsin providing that kind of support? How about zero.

It is no longer a reasonable expectation that Republican Representatives will vote on reason, facts or the good of the country. But as long as the Senate avoids drinking the Kool Aid it remains a meaningless vote. Ryan’s crew may think they have fulfilled their wildest dreams, might need to change their pajamas, and can go home to their districts and boast that they voted to screw several million people out of health insurance. Witness the bizarre, obscene celebration at the White House yesterday afternoon.

This really is a time for the press to step up and explain to their readers/listeners just what it all means: That the losers are: the poor, the middle class, the old, Planned Parenthood, state governments, hospitals, medical professionals, people with pre-existing conditions, and veterans.

The winners include: the rich, who get a nearly $600 billion tax break by reducing healthcare taxes that primarily affect the wealthiest 10%, insurance companies who can now charge 5X for premiums for older people, and of course, Congressmen/women, who are exempt from the rules of the bill. A good analysis of the financial aspects of the bill is provided by Robert Reich.

Pressure now lies on the Senate to prove that America has not gone totally insane. I’m not recommending anyone bet on that; save your money for your increased healthcare costs.

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AMERICA’S GREAT EBOLA SCARE

Posted October 22, 2014 on 11:32 am | In the category Ebola, Election, Healthcare, Politics, Press | by Jeff

Arriving in Boston from Tanzania last Friday I was welcomed into a country caught in deep fright over a disease that had killed just one person in America – a visitor from Liberia who went to the emergency room of a Dallas hospital when he developed ebola symptoms. For whatever reason, the hospital staff misdiagnosed him, sent him home and a few days later he was back with a full blown case of a disease that killed him. It is apparent that an earlier correct diagnosis would have increased his chances, but of course, mistakes do happen.

We had spent nearly three weeks in Africa and ebola had come up in conversation exactly once. People understood that Tanzania, located in East Africa, was some 4-5000 miles from the epicenter of the ebola outbreak and also understood that it was almost impossible to become infected without coming into contact with an infected patient’s bodily fluids. So Tanzanians were informed, behaving responsibly and showed no sign of panic. So just why is America in a frenzy over a disease that has been successfully treated in several American hospitals, has to date killed one person in the country and which has led medical authorities to take very aggressive quarantine steps for any person (or dog) that came into even casual contact with the patient or with the two hospital staff who unwittingly became infected while treating him.

I suppose there are many possible causes of the panic, but three factors seem especially relevant. First is basic ignorance and an unwillingness to learn about the disease by simply reading responsible press reports or listening to the many medical experts who have addressed the issue on radio and tv. Second is the predictably poor performance of much of the press in reporting on the disease, all too frequently emphasizing the dramatic nature of the many deaths in West African countries that have extremely poor medical systems. A third reason – and the one that is almost scandalous in its self-serving irresponsibility – is the use of the issue in the political campaigns for next month’s midterm elections.

Republicans and America’s courtier press have managed to blame President Obama for everything from the civil war in Syria to the failed democracy in Libya, to the corruption in Ukraine, to the failed democracy in Egypt, ad infinitum. Too much of the press carries these rants with a straight face and enough of the people buy it to give it legs. So, we now have Americans hiding under their beds to escape a disease that is largely restricted to the African continent while our Republican leaders (sic) blame Obama for not stopping a disease that basically does not exist in America. Meanwhile a teacher in Maine is put on leave because he flew on a plane that previously had carried a woman that once upon a time had come into contact with the Liberian patient. Three Oklahoma students returned from a trip to Ethiopia, where there are no reported cases of ebola, and have been refused entry into school. Syracuse University barred a Washington Post reporter from a conference because he had done some reporting from Liberia; he had been cleared of any signs of ebola. A Mississippi school had been closed because its principle had been to Zambia, an African country thousands of miles from the West Africa ebola outbreak. A Southwest Airlines flight captain in Orlando called in authorities to remove a person from the plane because he had been in West Africa in late August (the incubation rate is 21 days and he proved to be healthy).

Last night Massachusetts has-been Scott Brown, who has moved to New Hampshire to run against Senator Jeanne Shaheen, joined a Republican national chorus and devoted a large part of a debate appearance to criticizing President Obama (and by implication Senator Shaheen) for not closing our borders to anyone coming from West Africa. The fact that that is a policy that no responsible health professional supports and that it is functionally not possible to accomplish did not deter Brown from trying to scare the bejesus out of the good folk in New Hampshire. Let’s hope the “live free or die” New Hampsherites come out from under their beds and send Brown home to Massachusetts.

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Hucksters and Suckers: The Politics of Healthcare in America

Posted November 20, 2013 on 10:13 am | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press, Republican Party, Tea Party | by Jeff

For over four years we have been barraged with misinformation, disinformation, lies, and misrepresentations by the Republican party, its politicians and media hacks that has apparently convinced many Americans that a national attempt to bring down costs of health care AND to make it available to all is a bad thing.

America has the most expensive health care system in the Western world, with per capita costs 25 to 300% higher than other Western democracies’ plans. While one might assume that we get better results, one would be mistaken. Bloomberg News did a ranking of national Healthcare systems using data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health organization and the Hong Kong Dept, of Health (for Asian data). For any American who has bothered to look at facts beyond the political game shows played on their local TVs, the results are not surprising. The U.S. spends over $8500 per capita on health care; this is almost 4 times what Israel spends; almost 8 times what Hong Kong spends, almost three times what Italy spends, etc. See the chart at Bloomberg News.

There is no country that spends more but there is a boatload of countries that while spending less, get equal or even better results. The statistics for all of this are readily available to both American voters AND their congressional representatives and Senators. Bloomberg News’ study ranked the U.S. at 46th among nations for the effectiveness of their healthcare system. Among the countries ahead of them in the rankings were all the Western European countries, most of the advanced Asian countries, and some surprises that included Libya(!), Israel, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the list goes on. Every part of the world except most of Africa (beyond Libya) is represented. It is – and continues to be – for the U.S., a national disgrace.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – dubbed “Obamacare” by Republican and Tea Party hacks, is an approach to a problem that was clearly out of control. Costs were becoming prohibitive, significant parts of the population were unable to obtain affordable insurance, people with chronic, serious diseases were unable to get insurance, people that got sick soon found themselves dropped by their insurance companies and medical expenses became the most frequent driver of personal bankruptcies.

In this context the Republican party has spent the past four years lying about the ACA, promoting scare stories about its content, insulting in almost racist terms the President who initiated the plan, – in short doing everything possible to make the plan fail while presenting NO alternative plan. It has been a criminal – even traitorous – approach abetted by all Republicans, even those so-called guardians of moderation like Susan Collins of Maine. The lies have been obvious, easy to disprove by simple fact-checking, but abetted by a supine press willing to pass on the nonsense and lies without vetting or comment. The press should be ashamed for treating an issue of such fundamental importance to the public good as a crass political game.

This could not happen without a population too lazy and/or too stupid to seek and care about the truth, and a political party that has no interest in governing the country for the good of the country.. We are a country of hucksters and suckers.

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What’s the Matter with Maine?

Posted February 25, 2013 on 9:45 pm | In the category Healthcare, Politics, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” — Herman Melville

The short response to the question above is: Governor Paul LePage and the members of Maine’s Tea Party. They personify the political dynamics in Maine that led to the election of a governor who is now doing serious long-term damage to not only the people of the state. but also to the political culture of the state.

Lepage’s 2010 election was the result of the support of Maine’s Tea Party and, Maine’s historic pride in being strongly ‘independent.’ LePage garnered less than 40% of the vote in his election but since the majority of the vote was split between Independent and Democratic candidates, it was enough. So the people of Maine have a governor, elected by 38% of the voters, who is committed to an “ideology” created by Tea Party fanatics who have a slim grip on cause and effect reality and a demonstrated non-existent learning curve.

Among LePage’s antics:

  • removing  serious historic works of art depicting workers from the states Department of Labor building because of a written complaint from a “secret admirer” and complaints from unnamed business owners. Among the inflammatory works was one portraying Rosie the Riveter;
  • promising that when elected he would “tell Obama to go to hell” ;
  • hiring his wet-between-the-ears 22 year-old daughter to a $41,000 job with $15,000 worth of benefits AND a $10,000 housing allowance while she lived in the Governor’s mansion;
    hiring his brother-in-law to a $68,000 state job;
  • resisting the banning of BPA in baby bottle and other plastic containers because heating up plastic bottles only causes it to “give off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards…”
  • pushing legislation that would allow public funding of religious schools despite state constitutional issues;
  • and, offending many with his characterization of the Supreme Court decision to allow the Affordable Care Act to proceed as a decision that “has made America less free. We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the I.R.S.”;

He did a sort-of apology for the use of the term “Gestapo”

According to a recent report in the Boson Globe, he has joined those Republican governors who refuse to accept federal funding for an expansion of Medicaid; an expansion that would provide medical care to a significant number of uninsured citizens of Maine. This most recent step by LePage plays to his base of Tea Party fanatics in a state in which – unlike most states – unemployment is growing.

LePage’s leadership has resulted in Maine’s ranking last among all states in personal income growth and – again, according to the Globe – Maine’s median income is less than $48,000 and 27% of the state’s residents are already enrolled in Medicaid – compared to the national average of 20%.

The Globe provided examples of those who will lose benefits due to LePage’s actions and it is not pretty. The victims are the usual mix of the elderly, the uninsured seriously ill who cannot afford insurance, the working poor, etc. .

So one result of the Maine commitment to its treasured image of being populated by “rugged Independents,” is a political system that has allowed only 38% of the population to elect a Governor of tremendous mediocrity – even crass stupidity. It is their democracy and they can cherish it, but they will pay for this in many ways that will show up in very human terms while the Tea Party continues to work against their fellow citizens.

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Newsless in Vieques

Posted March 29, 2010 on 9:26 pm | In the category Bush/Cheney, Healthcare, McCain, Palin, Politics, Press, Republican Party | by Jeff

A week on the beaches of Vieques left me anxious for news from the Capitol of the World. So I gather we have a healthcare bill of some sort, that president Obama grew some cojones and that the Republicans are in some kind of shocked disbelief that their Tea Party did not prevail. As for Scott Brown, I guess he stayed true to whatever values he might have hidden away and managed to vote against the bill that replicated the Massachusetts Senate bill that he voted for a couple of years before. Go figure.

And oh Lordy, ABC News told me that Obama had made 15 recess appointments that – again – the Republicans are simply shocked that they were not allowed to hold them up for another year or two. I mean talk about uppity? Who does this black dude think he is? President? Interesting that the white guy on ABC ends the broadcast wondering why Obama has not changed the way Washington works. Cannot make this stuff up.

Thankfully for Congressman Boehner (pronounced “boner”) and Senator Mitch Rhino McConnell, their Tea Party comrades got their collective shit together to spit on black Congressmen, yell “nigger’ at them, call Barney Frank a” faggot”, and all in all bring to the forefront what seems to offend the Boners of the world – the country is going to hell with all these different looking people taking over. Throw in the Mexicans and the Asians and all of a sudden the Tea Party begins to look a lot like the hierarchy of the Catholic Church – white, old, male, totally confused about right and wrong and scared of losing the illusion of power.

And good old Big Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz figured out that lawyers who defend accused people in America are not to be confused with patriots, but rather to be lumped in with Arabs, Terrorists, people of color other than Justice Thomas, and Benedict Arnold. Great to see a former Vice President setting an example.

And then I turn the channel to find Sarah Palin pimping for old geezer McCain in Arizona. Poor old Crash McCain has this deranged smile on his face as Sarah points her fingers here and there after exhorting her people via her website to “reload” and go after the President – that would be her President as well as mine. She then moves on to some little town in Nevada, known mostly for being Harry Reid’s hometown – to lead a group of 6 or 7 thousand tea partiers in a semi-Christian bible meeting aimed at driving old Harry the Antichrist out of office.

Probably the best stories revolved around one of my favorite cities – Rome – with side trips to a Wisconsin School for the Deaf, several Bavarian catholic churches, and the evil New York Times. No need to rehash the story here but it sure did not warm my heart to see the  Catholic  Church excusing itself from accountability for the abuse of thousands of young children on the twin bases of “everyone else was doing it” and “the New York Times is picking on us”.

The Vieques beaches are wonderful, there is no wifi on them, and I recommend them to all.

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Massachusetts: The Victory of Anger Over Intelligence

Posted January 20, 2010 on 10:03 pm | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

“The Mass. election was a bummer …The greatest concern I have is for the economy and social stability. Deep down my attitude          towards health reform, the environment, energy is ‘not my problem’.  I have health insurance, live in the country and won’t live long enough to run out of home heating oil or gasoline. I support those issues more out of social responsibility; if society doesn’t care, why should I? “– Anonymous

In the wake of Scott Brown’s Senate win n Massachusetts, there are many scapegoats: the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, was a weak campaigner who thought it was a lock and behaved accordingly; the national Democratic party which totally missed the influx of outside money from insurance companies and Dick Armey’s tea party idiots; and the press that rarely looked at the substance of the issues, choosing instead to focus on the process of the campaign. But in many ways President Obama has the largest responsibility for the loss and the most to learn from it.

It begins with recognition that the people are pissed off – and with reason. That they are apparently incapable of or too lazy to truly understand the issues and to recognize what the Republicans have done to destroy America’s future in order to destroy Obama is irrelevant.  Obama is the President and he can choose to fight it out or to continue to pretend that bipartisanship is desirable and possible.

Obama’s cool, rational, smart approach is ill suited for the times – his idealistic search for bipartisanship looks in hindsight like innocence – even naiveté. There is substantial evidence that people do not think, do not read, do not discuss. They listen to Rush Limbaugh, watch Glenn Beck, take orders from their preachers or priests, and refuse to take responsibility for the nature of their lives. Scott Brown won because he is a handsome hunk who drives a truck and throws raw meat off the back end at all the poor souls looking for success in all the wrong places.

The low level of discourse in this country on issues like healthcare reform is appalling; always discussed without the long view. Between 17 and 22% of all healthcare expenses go to insurance companies who provide no healthcare –  they only serve as gatekeepers to deny insurance to those who most need it. The U.S. pays double for prescription drugs what other countries pay for the same drugs. The per capita cost for healthcare in the U.S. is double that of every other Western democracy. While one might believe that therefore we have the best medical care in the world, virtually all measures indicate that is simply not so. There is a reason the stocks of health insurance companies went up substantially yesterday; their investment in the Brown campaign was paying off and investors knew it. There is a huge reckoning coming on healthcare and the American people are in for bad surprises unless costs are contained and there is no evidence that the issue will be addressed in my lifetime. As for the current bill – Obama tried too hard and too long to get Republican support for a plan and gave up too much to get a semblance of bipartisanship.

There is a strange sense among Americans that if the people vote for something or someone they must be right. This has been wrong as often as right – people sometimes make good judgments and sometimes bad. Since we are all grownups and different people we are allowed to disagree. What is neither useful nor smart is the kind of grandstanding done by people celebrating the victory of an empty suit by dumping on those who disagree with them. Tea Party mythology has it that liberals are smug elitists; they are proving that smugness is a more common  ailment.

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Is Massachusetts Turning Red?

Posted January 13, 2010 on 11:58 am | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

The special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat has apparently become surprisingly close. At least that is what the pundits are saying. Massachusetts has a health care program similar to the national program being hammered out in the Congress, allows same-sex marriage, voted overwhelmingly for Obama, and has not sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Ed Brooke was defeated for re-election in 1979.

Scott Brown, the Republican candidate is a state senator with a not especially compelling record but has run an aggressive campaign with considerable outside support from conservatives. He has vowed to be the 41st vote against national healthcare reform, does not support abortion rights, runs Cheney-style terrorist threat ads in his National Guard uniform, opposes same sex marriage, and once sponsored an amendment in the state senate to allow hospital staff to refuse contraception to rape victims.

Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, has run a bland campaign until recently and has belatedly stepped up her rhetoric. If Massachusetts goes against its historic liberal roots, it will be a nasty wake-up call to Democrats nationwide and could signal the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency. While this seems unlikely it is now a possibility.  No one would have predicted this scenario when Senator Kennedy died.

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Healthcare Reform: Baby Steps

Posted December 20, 2009 on 1:18 pm | In the category Healthcare, Lieberman Watch, McCain, nelson, Politics, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Watching the healthcare reform legislative process was like watching someone remove a huge splinter from my finger. Hurt like hell and made me mad. But maybe I will feel better when this particular splinter is out. Not really sure. The Senate bill that is finally about to pass eliminates the public option and the buy into Medicare for those over 55. It is basically an insurance reform bill that does little to control costs or to improve delivery. But it is all we could get due to Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and all of the Republican Senators.

Theories abound as to just why Lieberman continued his evolution into one of the Senate’s worst obstructionists. Some think it is because he is not so bright; others that he was in the pocket of the insurance industry; for a few others it was more simple and basic – that his core values influenced his obstructionist behavior. But the explanation that may make the most sense is that he is seeking revenge on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for having forsaken him. He ran for president and got nowhere, lost the Democratic nomination for his Senate seat and then had to run as an independent. Whatever the case – whether it is one or more or all of the above – I do hope the day will come when the Democratic leadership will finally tell him to go screw himself.

Ben Nelson used his opposition to mollify Christian right folk in his state of Nebraska (whose population is about .6% of the country) by reducing the separation between church and state to get stronger anti-abortion language in the bill. Curiously, the day before he agreed to support the Senate bill he was lobbied by three religious leaders in Nebraska to support the bill; one of those leaders was a Jesuit priest. The other payout he got for his fellow cornhuskers was a permanent increase in federal contributions to the cost of expanding Medicaid in Nebraska. The fact that other states did not get this – or require being bought off – is indicative of just how venal Nelson is.

As for the Republicans, they are as hypocritical as ever. They fell all over each other to support Bush’s criminal Iraq War that killed hundreds of thousands but cannot bring themselves to support a bill that will save people’s lives. Sam Brownback is crying over the continued existence of at least a shred of the separation of church and state; John McCain has supported wasteful wars his entire career but cannot find a way to stomach spending a dime to improve his constituents’ healthcare. Olympia Snow had a day or two in the spotlight only to disappear into the Maine woods and Judd Gregg continues to pontificate with self-serving charts and elegant ways of saying “no” to everything. But they have done their damage. We will have a bill that gives the health insurance companies a windfall and avoids the tough issues related to costs.

If the final bill actually gets passed some 35 million Americans will newly have access to health insurance, children under the age of 18 will not be denied insurance for “preexisting conditions” and, in time (2014) all Americans will have that protection. It is a baby step on the way to full maturity and compassion in the way we provide healthcare in this country. But it is a start.

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Taxes, Healthcare and the American Way

Posted November 17, 2009 on 3:49 pm | In the category Europe, Germany, Healthcare | by Jeff

Living in Europe provided a particular view of the relationship between taxes and quality of life, both of which are higher in most European countries than they are in the United States. While Americans are always attracted to lower taxes they do not always seem to understand the relationship between what they pay in taxes and what they get – or don’t get – in services. The trade-offs became obvious to me during three years in Munich in which I paid higher taxes than I would have in the U.S. and enjoyed benefits mostly unknown in the U.S.

The healthcare reform debate currently deadening many American’s brains is a case in point. Talk to almost anyone in Germany about their healthcare and they wonder what the hell is going on in America. The figures are well known – we pay TWICE as much, per capita, for slightly worse outcomes when measured in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, percent of those covered, etc. And, in Germany you would never worry about having your insurance cancelled for any reason. The payment for health insurance – which is mandatory and therefore covers everyone – is through a combination of taxation based on salary and employer contributions. Health insurance is viewed as a social contract among the German people unlike the U.S. where someone can opt out even though they fully expect expensive care when they need it – a kind of anti-social contract.

Taxes in Germany also pay for an excellent education system, roads and bridge maintenance that is unknown in the U.S., welfare nets that eliminate the worst consequences of poverty, and a healthy life style that includes six week vacations for most workers, generous medical leave policies, trains that run fast AND on time, airports that treat people as though they were human, and a food supply network that ensures healthy and fresh food.

While it may be hard for many Americans to understand just how bad they have it, what is worse is their unwillingness to consider alternatives; their belief that America is best in everything. Many Americans who complain about taxes focus on Reagan’s largely mythological welfare mothers or the current Republicans’ concern over costs of possible health care reform. In addition to the huge costs resulting from our lack of focus on preventive medical measures, Americans also typically ignore the overwhelming costs of our care and feeding of our military and military contractors, and the cost of misadventures like the Iraq War, both of which become exercises in jingoism which we willingly fund while much of American society seems to be crumbling.

The American press is of course part of the problem but at the end of the day the blame is ours for being too lazy to pursue the ramifications of our knee-jerk negative reaction to any suggestion that our taxes be raised..

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Democracy is Coming to the U.S.A.

Posted November 14, 2009 on 2:45 pm | In the category Healthcare, Lieberman Watch, Politics, Press | by Jeff

From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
Leonard Cohen

Three weeks on the road was a welcome break from the silliness of American politics but back home in the U. S. of A. and time to begin to catch up.

Good to see our old friend Joe “LOOK AT ME!” Lieberman once again finding a way to suck himself onto the national stage. While it is difficult to imagine his doing more damage than his unbridled support of the unnecessary and ultimately failed war in Iraq, his fighting to deny health care insurance to 36 million Americans is a pretty good start. Coming from the state that is home to 72 insurance headquarters, with three times the U.S. average of insurance jobs as a percent of total state employment I suppose it should not be surprising. Nor should we be surprised by his pompous, pontifical commitment to self-interest.

Also good to see the state of Maine – population 1.3 million (or ca. .004% of U. S. population) finding itself one of the chief arbiters of  health care reform through its Senator Olympia Snow. Having watered down the stimulus package to satisfy Maine’s other Senator, Susan Collins, Senate Democrats seem to be doing all they can to emasculate the health care bill to satisfy Senator Snow. All in the name of a kind of faux bipartisanship.

Then there is the Catholic Church hierarchy and its willingness to threaten the fires of hell on any Catholic senator ignoring its health care reform abortion edicts. This from the church that discriminates against women, forces celibacy on its priests, facilitated thousands of pedophiliac rapes, seems to believe that condoms increase the risk of HIV infection, and actually still believes birth control to be a sin.

One highlight of our recent travels: sitting in a Munich apartment watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spend an entire hour interviewing the balloon boy and his family about the great fabricated adventure that managed to suck Wolf into a kind of parallel universe where truth is irrelevant and a family’s bizarre hope for attention is satisfied by a lazy, gullible press, willing to track an empty balloon for hours on end only to learn that they were the victims of a fraud. This turned out to be perhaps the funniest TV show of the year. Can’t wait for the Emmys.

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