Saturday, September 26, 2009


As President Obama likes to pepper his speeches for health care reform by giving first person stories of people who have had tragic experiences with the tyranny and injustice of insurance companies.

Probably the most tragic is the case of Nataline Sarkisyan.

In 2007 Nataline Sarkisyan, a 17 year old girl with leukemia whose family had health insurance through Cigna was told by her doctors she needed a liver transplant. Cigna refused to pay saying that the operation, one of the most expensive that can be done, was "experimental".
The assertion was absurd since liver transplants have become common, though still very expensive, but as a result of Cigna refusing to pay for the transplant Nataline was taken off the donor list.

Her family and her doctor appealed and for a second time Cigna insurance refused to pay for the operation.

When the California Nurse's Association found out, they staged a massive demonstration in front of Cigna Headquarters in Glendale California and urged their membership to call Cigna to protest.

Under the glare of the TV cameras and protesting nurses, a public relations nightmare for Cigna, they reversed themselves and said they would pay for the operation.

Two hours after Cigna's reversal Nataline Sarkisyan died.

This isn't an isolated incident but it is one of the most tragic. So much so that the Sarkisyan's lawyer, Mark Garragos had considered petitioning the Los Angeles DA to file murder charges against Cigna.

And if you think this cant happen in your family, remember, no one does.

Death panels do exist. They're called insurance companies. And most people never realize the power they have over them and the injustice they are capable of until it;'s too late.

Healthcare reform with a public option is best the way to make sure there are no more Natalines. And the best way to make sure there is a public option is for people to call their member of congress 202-224-3121. It's not a recording its a real live operator at the Capitol switchboard who will connect you with the office of any member of congress you choose.With Obama wavering from one day to the next,it is congress who will forge the bill that Obama will sign. And a reform bill with a public option will put an end to the real death panels

Monday, September 21, 2009


As the health care debate rages there is one person whose persistent silence has become conspicuous by her absence. Michelle Obama. Until last weekend.

This isn't about a First Lady going out into the country and using her good will and a smile to further her husbands agenda. At one time before Obama ran for President, her biography lists her as having been a hospital administrator.

As such one would think she'd have something to say and contribute to the debate and it might be considered curious that she has had little to nothing to say and has been kept conspiculously silent during the debate.

That is, conspiculously silent except to the mainstream press who, before her weekend speech, hasnt seemed to notice.

But the answer to why we havent heard from Michelle Obama might lie in the administration trying to keep her old job at the non-profit University of Chicago Hospital out of the limelight because it is clear her job was part of the problem regarding health care costs and not part oft the solution.

Michelle Obama having been part of the problem could actually be something the administration could use to their advantage if they were willing to be honest about it, but asking most politicians to be honest is like asking a dog not to bark and Obama might view it as politically embarrassing.

Probably because Michelle Obama's job as a "hospital administrator" had nothing to with medicine and nothing to do with administrating. It was all about PR.

Her official title was Vice President for External and Community Affairs. But that title and that job was so unnecessary, that , it not only didnt exist before she got it, when she resigned the position to campaign with her husband, no one was ever rehired to fill it, and the job itself was terminated after she resigned..

The circumstantial evidence is that it was only Barrack Obama's election to the US senate in 2005 that caused the creation of the position specifially for Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama had been working for the University of Chicago Hospital at a salary of $121,000 a year. But in 2005 after Barrack Obama was elected U.S. senator, Michelle got the promotion to Vice President of External Community Affairs, -- a position that didn't previously exist -- and a $200,000 a year raise -- to $316,000.

John Easton, a spokesman for the University of Chicago Hospital told the Chicago Tribune that Mrs. Obama was one of 16 other vice presidents at the non-profit hospital making a similar salary which was approximately $100,000 a year more than an anesthesiologist made.

And salaries like that, especially for a postiion as unneccesary as Michelle Obama's helps to drive up the cost of medical care which in turn drives up the cost of insurance premiums people pay.

This is the kind of waste Obama is talking about eliminating and that argument and need for reform would be made pretty powerfully if Michelle Obama herself helped make it.

Would it be embarrassing? Momentarily. But it would also be honest. And the honesty and sincerity and the conviction behind the need for reform would trump the embarrassment in the long run. People respect honesty and respond to it. .

Michelle Obama standing up for the good of the country and making the case about hospital waste from personal experience and admitting she was part of the problem, would have a powerful effect.

It's obvious that the President has made a personal decision to keep Michelle out of the debate to keep her from politically embarrassing questions rather than use her and her experience to further the reform the country needs.

Using Michelle Obama's former job and that of the 16 other vice presidents at Chicago University Hospital in what seems like unnecessary positions and over payment, would make the point in even a stronger way of why radical reform, including a public option is needed.. There is no doubt that a government paid public option would never be spending tax dollars on medical care that factored in anything as frivolous as those salaries.

But so far Obama has chosen to try and keep it buried. But it would help the cause of reform if he didnt.

The word from the White House is that they hope to use Michelle Obama in a "softer" way. I hope not. She can have a much stronger impact talking about the 17 vice-presidents at Chicago University Hospital, a non-profit hospital, who are making over $300,000 a year and how we need to eliminate things like this to bring down the cost of health care, even if it means biting the hand that once fed her.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The Tea Party Express hit Washington and while there are many sincere people involved in the Tea Party protests and they have valid points to make about government spending, the entire movement is stained by the fact that its organized by conservatives who are the ones responsible for the mess in the first place and who haven't to this day, taken responsibility for their own mistakes and the economic mess they created by letting George W Bush get away with his disastrous policies.

The problem for the sincere Tea Party protesters is the entire movement is conservative organized which. unfortunately completely undermines iits credibility.

It was the conservatives who, after 8 years of the greatest economic expansion in history during the Clinton years, came to power and intentionally undid everything Clinton did, reversing all of Clinton's policies. And anyone with half a brain knows that if you do the opposite of anything you will get the opposite results. And that's what the Republicans did. And that's what the country got. Now the conservatives are shaking their baby rattles and complaining.

It was a conservative Republican administration and a conservative Republican congress who blew a $5 1/2 trillion budget surplus. They destroyed the balanced budget they inherited, and after Clinton had eliminated the deficit, they exploded the deficit to record levels with their war and tax policies.

It was a conservative Republican government that took the country from the greatest economic expansion in history, lowest unemployment in 40 years, a balanced budget and record surpluses to deficits, unemployment and the greatest economic crisis since the 1930's.

So during these Tea Party protests conservatives are showing why the word "hypocrite" should be part of the dictionary definition of conservative.

They said nothing and did nothing while Bush and the Republican congress were getting the country into deeper and deeper trouble. The conservatives who organize the Tea Party protests sat on their hands and did nothing. They did nothing when the balanced budget was destroyed, nothing when Bush exploded the deficit, nothing when Bush cut taxes instead of raising them to pay for the war he started.

This means that nothing the conservative organizers have to say can or should be taken seriously or be seen as anything other than cheap partisan politics. And that is too bad since there are legitimate issues to be dealt with. And while not everyone who is protesting is a conservative, the protests bear the conservative stamp. And that is the Kiss of Death. Because conservatives forfeited their right to be taken seriously by playing Hear No Evil ,See No Evil ,Speak No Evil during 8 years of the disastrous Bush Administration.

They proved there are no real principles behind the organizing of these protests even if some of the people who join them do so out of principle. But for the organizers its only a lust for power and their motivation is politics.

When Bush became the first President in history to take the country to war and cut taxes at the same time they said nothing. They just happily took their tax cuts, supported the unnecessary war in Iraq and were happy not to pay for it and pass the cost along. Exactly what they are complaining about now. They simply don't want to pay for their mistakes. But they will, like it or not. Which is why the Tea Party protests from conservatives have not so much to do with tea but with whine.

If the legitimate Tea Party protestors want to be taken seriously they are going to have to split from the conservative Republican organizers of the movement who have no credibility. As long as the Tea Party protests are conservative organized and motivated they will never be taken seriously by the only people in congress who matter -- the Democrats who control both houses.

The Tea Party conservatives not only don't want to pay for their mistakes they don't want to admit they even made mistakes while Bush and the Republicans ran the country's economy into the ground. Instead they want to blame the current president and the current congress.

It isn't a coincidence that now that the Democrats are in power these fiscally concerned conservatives have suddenly found their voice.

The honest Tea Party protestors will need to divorce themselves from any affiliation with Republicans or conservatives, the people who created the problem in the first place and did nothing, if they want to be taken seriously.. Otherwise the only thing these protesters can expect in the end is a lot of tea but no sympathy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


President Obama finally got specific and did what people have been wanting him to do for months -- put down some markers.

On the most controversial issue, the public option, he made it clear he supported the public option, even though, almost in the same breath, he equivocated and said he was open to other ideas.

This is what he said:

"But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. ...It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight."

He did leave the door open for some squabbling when he said..".....some have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring."

Actually they are not worth exploring and would only put off a public option and make it more complicated than it needs to be, but it's hard for Obama to be definitive about anything and this is as close as he's going to get. And it may be enough. It is unlikely the Democratically controlled congress will put out a bill that doesnt contain the public option as originally conceived.

He made it clear enough with this: "...but I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice"

That choice is the public option and Obama's laying down a marker that health care reform has to include it in some way, probably is enough to propel the public option in the senate where Democrats favor it by a count of 46 yes, 13 maybe, No 0 .

In the House the public option has overwhelming support.

Obama may have accomplished what he set out to do with the speech. Stop the squabbling among any Democrats that opposed the public option, as small a minority as they are, since its clear it is now part of the agenda. And he may have also made it clear that Republican opposition is not going to be enough to stop it or even slow it down and that, taking the cue from Dick Durbin, a bill will be passed even if it means without any Republican support.

There seems little the opposition can do now. It is up to the Democrats to draft the bills, vote them out of committee and send them to the floor for final votes. Bills that will have the public option. And get the show on the road.

As for the Republicans, Joe Wilson, a Republican member of the House yelled out during the speech that Obama was a liar. Obviously he has future training conservatives who go to town hall meetings. He may have done Obama a lot of good since it generated so much condemnation from members of Congress it could be an end to Republicans lying about the reform package and if they have legitimate issues with it, to deal with those instead of the "pulling the plug on grandma" nonsense.

There is a good chance that the speech and its specifics might have spelled the end of any hopes the Republicans have of derailing the public option. Had Obama given the same speech three months ago, it would have solidified support for the public option then, and avoided all the nonsense of the last three months instead of empowering Republicans.

But, as the saying goes, better late then never. Now lets hope Obama continues to to break his mold, and not change his mind.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


CNN is reporting that, 8 months after he should have, President Obama is considering drawing up his own legislation on health care and submitting it to congress. Most people feel that as far as it relates to Obama himself it is too little too late. And also not very smart.

One aspect of the legislation includes a dropping of the public option to appease Republicans, a party in such a minority their votes arent even needed to pass any legislation the Democrats want.

What Obama is considering in place of the public option is this silly idea of a "trigger", a Republican smokes screen for putting the public option on ice.

The "trigger" idea is that the public option would only be triggered after insurance companies are given a chance to meet certain benchmarks and if they don't a public option would be triggered.

What these benchmarks would be and how long insurance companies would have to meet them would have to be negotiated and anyone with two cents for a brain knows that Republicans are not going to agree to a time table or benchmarks that Democrats would go along with. It also would effectively put off a public option for years which is the whole idea.

Obama is either dumb enough to fall for it, or thinks other people are dumb enough to fall for it but the whole idea is for Obama to do, not whats best for the country but to politically take the heat off himself.

Olympia Snow has said she would vote for such a "trigger" and so it seems Obama is willing to throw the public option and his whole party under the bus in order to get one Republican vote. Not every smart. And it's not going to work.

Obama's problem is the Democrats in the House have made it clear, especially to him that they consider a strong public option essential to any health care reform. And it is. The fact that Obama would consider dropping it is showing the Democrats he can't be trusted.

How stupid is this decision if in fact Obama tries to sell it? The only people opposing the public option are Republicans and the town hall mini-fascists with the Hitler signs and swastikas that have obviously made Obama's knees buckle. And by trying to mollify them Obama is on the verge of alienating his own party.

Someone who CNN identifies as a "Democratic aide" but who is clearly someone inside the White House, suggested to CNN that Obama doing something that "makes the liberals mad at him is not a bad thing to do now". First, notice that the statement has nothing to do with considering whats best for the country,only what they think is best for Obama politically. And it shows just show smarmy and political Obama is.

The second part of that statement is that it was obviously suggested by someone who can only be called a political village idiot who is trying to shape the debate.

What makes this "aide's" statement so idiotic is that if Obama tries to forge a bill that doesn't have the public option he will not just get the liberals "mad" at him. They will not vote for it and it will go down to defeat in the House, and will be as humiliating a defeat at the hands of his own party as any President has had in American history. In fact it would probably have Republicans rolling on the floor laughing and Obama's entire presidency at that point will have blown up in his face.

He will be seen as a totally ineffective and ineffectual non-leader who will not have the backing of his own party. He will certainly not have the backing of Republicans who want nothing more than to defeat him in 2012. He will be a President without a party, without a constituency and without support of the American people. Those who oppose him now will continue to oppose him and those who supported him will oppose him also.

To add to his humiliation, a bill containing a public option will most certainly be brought to the floor of the House and would most certainly pass. As far as the senate which supposedly is where the problems lie, the reality is according to a Whip count there is now not one single "no" vote among Democrats for a public option. The current count is 46 "yes" votes, 13 "maybe's" and Sen. Kennedy's seat up for grabs.

If a bill does come out of the senate without a public option thanks to Obama's knee buckling it will never get reconciled with a House that will not pass a bill that doesn't have a public option. If the result is no health care reform, Obama is finished for the rest of his term and will be little more than a public joke, a cigar store Indian of a president, a symbol and president in name only. And if he tries to sell anything without a public option to appease Republicans as "don't let the good be the enemy of the perfect", he may get a job writing greeting cards but he is finished as a president.

If the White House thinks its okay to alienate liberals and moderates in the House over the public option, Obama is in for the surprise of his life, and for those who thought he couldn't mess up health care even worse than he has, it will get a lot worse. But mostly for Obama himself.

If health care reform gets passed with a public option and without Obama's steadfast support, Obama will be irrelevant for the rest of the legislative session. And if it should stall in the senate, Obama will be blamed for it as well he should be. In other words Obama has put himself in the incredibly stupid political position of getting no credit for reform or the public option if it passes (though he would certainly try) and all the blame if it fails. And he will deserve what he gets.

The rest of Obama's presidency is going to be decided on health care. And the way it looks now, he is going to be so damaged as a result of his own disingenuous political actions that no matter what happens, dont be surprised if his own party asks him not to run in 2012.

His only chance is to drop this idea of a "trigger" as some kind of political bait and switch on the public option, stand up for ithe public option since he has claimed he supports it and fight it out. Otherwise he could be headed for oblivion. But he's had so many chances to redeem himself before on health care and has blown it each time, that passing a health care reform bill with a public option is much more likely than Obama redeeming himself. But one can still hope.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Everything Obama has done politically in his 12 years of elected life has always been about one thing -- the next political step. This is why he voted "present" more than 100 times in the Illinois State Senate, voting neither for nor against a bill more than 100 times. After all if you don't have a record its hard for anyone to run against it.

Now that there are no more political steps, Obama's way of doing things are catching up with him. His constant reversals on torture and torture prosecutions, reversals on the release of torture photos, not having a clear plan on where to send the detainees once Gitmo was closed all unsettled a lot of people. But it has been his mishandling of health care reform that is now blowing up in his face.

His approval ratings have declined more sharply than any president in history and he came into the White House with more good will than any president in history. Of course why any news or polling organization was doing job approval polls a week after his inauguaration when he hadn't yet done a thing is another story. That's why I call it more good will than anything else. But that good will is quickly disappearing among Democrats and independents.

And while people have become more and more disenchanted with him for a number of reasons, this latest sharp drop in the polls can be directly attributable to his ineffective response to Republican lies and tactics on health care reform and more to the point, there is at least circumstantial evidence that the decline can be tied to his short lived attempt at dropping the public option as a political compromise with Republicans which resulted in almost immediate repudiation by the Democratic House leadership, Howard Dean and a number of Democratic House members.

Obama's testing the waters on dropping the public option has undoubtedly cost him both Democratic and independent votes while gaining him nothing with Republicans. And it has undermined both his creditiblity and the credibility of health care reform in general. After all, it wouldnt be unreasonable for people too busy to investigate the issues for themselves, to think that if Obama was ready to drop ithe public option, then maybe its not that important after all.

But the public option is not only the centerpiece of reform, less than 2 months ago a CBS poll showed 72% of Americans favored the public option and 57% were willing to pay higher taxes to get it. CNN had a similar poll with 66% favoring the public option and 60% willing to pay higher taxes to get it. And most recently a CNN Quick Vote showed 80% of the country believed health care was a fundamental American right not something that should be based on ability to pay.

That Obama has turned a proposition that 72% favored into negative numbers is an exercise in incompetence I thought we had seen the last of with George W. Bush. The only thing Obama has going for him so far compared to Bush is that so far his handling of things hasnt killed anyone yet.

The only thing that's changed since 3/4 of Americans favored and wanted a public option has been Republican attacks and disinformation that both Obama and the news media, who would rather report on a good fight than the truth, have been pathetically ineffective in refuting.

Obama has always tried to be all things to all people politically but he is seeing that approach isn't working anymore. The Democratic congress has taken the reins with health care and with the House Democrats saying there wont be a health care bill without the public option and Dick Durbin saying the Democrats will pass a health care bill with no Republican votes if they have to, Obama is on the verge of being irrelevant unless he decides to put on the brakes and join the fight.

Right now no one is looking at Obama as a leader. He gave no direction to congress on health care, had no plan of his own, laid down no markers, drew no lines in the sand. And signalling, even for a day that he would be willing to drop the public option made it worse. And the polls are reflecting it.

Health care will get passed with him or without him since its a congressional initiative and not one that came from Obama. But there is still time for Obama to become a leader and act like one. But not that much time.

If he doesnt take a stand and soon, then he may be headed for another LIncoln Moment. The one that goes " you cant fool all of the people all of the time".