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Archive for July 24th, 2009

U.S. Foreign Wars Not Going According to Plan

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:44 am by HL

U.S. Foreign Wars Not Going According to Plan

For all America’s trouble, Iraq has turned out to be a sectarian, authoritarian ally of Iran with no interest in working with the U.S. The “new Vietnam” of Afghanistan, meanwhile, is turning out to be worse than Vietnam.

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Cynthia Boaz: The “Birthers” and Our Ailing Political Culture

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Cynthia Boaz: The “Birthers” and Our Ailing Political Culture
These birthers represent a small but vocal minority in this country who have somehow failed to grasp that American democracy is rooted in a set of principles, not a set of demographic characteristics.

Eric Alterman: Think Again: Why Not the Best?
The position of many health reform opponents in Congress is that America has “the finest health care in the world now.” I decided to look at just how well we are doing health care wise.

Bill Maher: New Rule: Not Everything in America Has to Make a Profit
When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what’s in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.


In WSJ , serial health care misinformer McCaughey at it again

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

In WSJ , serial health care misinformer McCaughey at it again

In a July 23 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “GovernmentCare’s Assault on Seniors,” former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed the House Democrats’ tri-committee health care reform bill will “pressure the elderly to end their lives prematurely,” referring to a provision in the bill that she characterized as “ensur[ing] that seniors are counseled on end-of-life options, including refusing nutrition where state law allows it.” In fact, the “Advance Care Planning Consultation” section of the bill McCaughey refers to simply amends the Medicare Act to allow coverage for patients to receive counseling about end-of-life care options every five years if they so choose. Moreover, prominent medical societies have supported such counseling.

From the bill:

SEC. 1233. ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION.

(a) MEDICARE.–

(1) IN GENERAL. — Section 1861 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x) is amended —

(A) in subsection (s)(2) —

(i) by striking ”and” at the end of subparagraph (DD);

(ii) by adding ”and” at the end of subparagraph (EE); and

(iii) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

“(FF) advance care planning consultation (as defined in subsection (hhh)(1));”; and

(B) by adding at the end the following new subsection:

“Advance Care Planning Consultation

(hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years.”

Subsection (s) of the Medicare Act currently provides:

(s) The term “medical and other health services” means any of the following items or services:

(1) physicians’ services;

(2)(A) services and supplies (including drugs and biologicals which are not usually self-administered by the patient) furnished as an incident to a physician’s professional service, of kinds which are commonly furnished in physicians’ offices and are commonly either rendered without charge or included in the physicians’ bills (or would have been so included but for the application of section 1847B);

[…]

(DD)[450] items and services furnished under an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program (as defined in subsection (eee)(4));[451]

(EE)[452] kidney disease education services (as defined in subsection (ggg));

 According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, section 1233:

Provides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify ‘Medicare & You’ handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician’s quality reporting initiative.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) stated in a July 21 release that the claim that upon the bill’s passage, “The government will pull the plug on dying seniors (i.e. end-of-life planning)” is a “myth.” From his release [emphasis added]:

TRUTH: There is nothing in health reform that will deny seniors or any individual needed medical care. Health reform provides for voluntary advanced care planning consultations under Medicare so that seniors can sit down with their health care providers to discuss end-of-life care, rather than leaving these decisions to families during difficult times. The advanced care planning provided for in the legislation allows for thoughtful discussion between a senior, their family, and their health care provider. The government will have no authority over the contents of such plans.

In a “Statement on End-Of-Life-Care” posted on its website, the American Medical Association expresses support for “[t]he opportunity to discuss and plan for end-of-life care. This should include: the opportunity to discuss scenarios and treatment preferences with the physician and health care proxy, the chance for discussion with others, the chance to make a formal ‘living will’ and proxy designation, and help with filing these documents in such a way that they are likely to be available and useful when needed.”

Additionally, in an article on “End-of-Life Care: A Guide for Seniors and Caregivers,” posted on the website of the American Geriatrics Society, Dr. Steven Lipson wrote that “[a]dvance planning-discussing such issues while you are still healthy-is always a good idea. Be sure your family and other caregivers know your plan.” Lipson also recommends to patients, “Always discuss your wishes with your doctor.”

McCaughey previously falsely interpreted the House provision on advance planning in a July 17 New York Post op-ed, in which she wrote that “[o]ne troubling provision” of the bill “compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years … about alternatives for end-of-life care,” adding that the “mandate invites abuse, and seniors could easily be pushed to refuse care.” On his July 17 radio show, Sean Hannity cited her Post op-ed in stating that according to McCaughey, “under the House provision and the House version, perfectly healthy senior citizens are going to be forced to undergo, quote, ‘end of life counseling,’ apparently to encourage them to check out before their time is up.”

Other claims in WSJ op-ed

McCaughey also wrote in the WSJ that a measure supported by the Obama administration for inclusion in a health reform bill that would establish an Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC) with the authority to make recommendations on Medicare payment rates and other reforms “is designed to circumvent the democratic process and avoid accountability to the public for cuts in benefits.” In fact, in a July 17 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referenced by McCaughey, White House budget director Peter Orszag made clear that there are democratic mechanisms involved; all IMAC recommendations would need to be approved by the president before their implementation, and Congress would have the power to stop changes via a joint resolution.

From the July 17 letter:

This proposed legislation would require the President to approve or disapprove each set of the IMAC’s recommendations as a package. If the President accepts the IMAC’s recommendations, Congress would then have 30 days to intervene with a joint resolution before the Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to implement them. If either the President disapproves the recommendations of the IMAC or Congress passes such a joint resolution, the recommendations would be null and void, and current law would remain in effect. The review process would permit intervention if the IMAC’s reforms are not in keeping with the goals of Congress or the President, while retaining autonomy for implementing annual payment updates and other Medicare reforms for the IMAC.

McCaughey also wrote: “The assault against seniors began with the stimulus package in February. Slipped into the bill was substantial funding for comparative effectiveness research, which is generally code for limiting care based on the patient’s age.” She later added, “In Britain, the formula leads to denying treatments for older patients who have fewer years to benefit from care than younger patients.” McCaughey’s claims echoed misrepresentations of a provision in the recovery act that establishes a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research and calls for funding to “be used to accelerate the development and dissemination of research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies” and for the Health and Human Services secretary to “consider any recommendations” by the council. But the law in no way empowers the council to dictate which treatments may or may not be prescribed and, in fact, specifically states that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to permit the Council to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.”

As Media Matters for America has documented, McCaughey frequently appears in the media to advance falsehoods about progressive health care reform proposals. On February 11, CNN health care reporter Elizabeth Cohen debunked an earlier health care reform assertion repeatedly advanced by McCaughey. Cohen reported of McCaughey’s claims that provisions in the economic recovery act would permit the government to control health care: “I had a PDF of the bill up on my computer. I said, ‘Show me where in the bill it says that this bill is going to have the government telling your doctor what to do.’ And [McCaughey] directed me to language — it didn’t actually say that.” Cohen added, “Now when we asked the folks who wrote this bill, ‘Hey, is this bill going to allow the government to tell doctors what to do?’ they used words like, ‘preposterous’ and ‘completely and wildly untrue.’ “

From McCaughey’s July 23 WSJ op-ed:

Since Medicare was established in 1965, access to care has enabled older Americans to avoid becoming disabled and to travel and live independently instead of languishing in nursing homes. But legislation now being rushed through Congress–H.R. 3200 and the Senate Health Committee Bill–will reduce access to care, pressure the elderly to end their lives prematurely, and doom baby boomers to painful later years.

The Congressional majority wants to pay for its $1 trillion to $1.6 trillion health bills with new taxes and a $500 billion cut to Medicare. This cut will come just as baby boomers turn 65 and increase Medicare enrollment by 30%. Less money and more patients will necessitate rationing. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 1% of Medicare cuts will come from eliminating fraud, waste and abuse.

The assault against seniors began with the stimulus package in February. Slipped into the bill was substantial funding for comparative effectiveness research, which is generally code for limiting care based on the patient’s age. Economists are familiar with the formula, where the cost of a treatment is divided by the number of years (called QALYs, or quality-adjusted life years) that the patient is likely to benefit. In Britain, the formula leads to denying treatments for older patients who have fewer years to benefit from care than younger patients.

When comparative effectiveness research appeared in the stimulus bill, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., (R., La.) a heart surgeon, warned that it would lead to “denying seniors and the disabled lifesaving care.” He and Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) proposed amendments to no avail that would have barred the federal government from using the research to eliminate treatments for the elderly or deny care based on age.

In a letter this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House budget chief Peter Orszag urged Congress to delegate its authority over Medicare to a newly created body within the executive branch. This measure is designed to circumvent the democratic process and avoid accountability to the public for cuts in benefits.

[…]

While the House bill being pushed by the president reduces access to such cures and specialists, it ensures that seniors are counseled on end-of-life options, including refusing nutrition where state law allows it (pp. 425-446). In Oregon, some cancer patients are being denied care by the state that could extend their lives and instead are afforded the benefit of physician-assisted suicide instead.


Yet More Obama Secrecy: Won’t Release Info On Visits From Health-Care Execs

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:40 am by HL

Yet More Obama Secrecy: Won’t Release Info On Visits From Health-Care Execs
And the beat goes on…. Here’s the latest example of the Obama White House mimicking its predecessor’s reflexive preference for secrecy over openness: the administration has turned down a request from a good-government group to release the names of the…





CORRECTED: Oops! Baucus Caught Out On Claim He Renounced SAYS HE RETURNED Health-Care PAC Dollars
LATE UPDATE: A BAUCUS SPOKESMAN TELLS TPMMUCKRAKER THE DONATION WAS RETURNED. Gotcha’s don’t come much purer than this one. Today, the Washington Post reported that although Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance committee, has raked in big bucks…

Feds: Brooklyn Man Trafficked In Human Kidneys
There’s a lot to dig into on this story about New Jersey mayors, lawmakers, and rabbis being charged in connection with a federal corruption and international money laundering probe. But we’ve been focusing on one of the few New Yorkers:…


The Out of Control Corporate Health Care Monster

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:38 am by HL

The Out of Control Corporate Health Care Monster


Daily Pulse on Health Care Politics

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:37 am by HL

Daily Pulse on Health Care Politics
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision “to postpone a final vote on President Obama’s health care proposal until September sets up a one-month campaign sprint between supporters and opponents of the legislation that will span over Congress’ August recess,” the Washington Post reports.

The New York Times says Democratic leaders “fended off suggestions that health care legislation could lose momentum if there is no action until the fall. But the delay will give Republican opponents ample time to highlight what they say are the bill’s flaws, and will subject moderate lawmakers, many of whom are on the fence, to a barrage of questions, including whether the nation can afford the $1 trillion, 10-year price tag.”

In the Senate, Roll Call reports that Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said the decision to postpone a full Senate vote “makes it somewhat easier for the gang of six bipartisan negotiators on his committee to reach a deal.”

In the House, CQ Politics notes top Democrats “are holding out a small bit of hope that they can meet the deadline before their chamber’s scheduled recess at the end of next week. It seems unlikely to happen, however.”

Quote of the Day
“And for those out there who believe, that would like to have something optimistic to look at, we are plotting the demise on a week by week basis of where Bill Clinton was in 1993 and where Obama is today and his demise ratio is greater than Clinton’s was in 1993.”

— Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), quoted on Janet Parshall’s radio show, on President Obama’s health care reform efforts.

Think Progress notes Inhofe also predicted, “If he is unsuccessful — which I anticipate and will predict he is — on getting a vote prior to the August recess, then I would say there’s no way in the world they’re going to get this done this year.”

Palin’s Favorability Ratings Drop
As Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) “prepares for the next stage of her political career, a majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of her, and there is broad public doubt about her leadership skills and understanding of complex issues,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

“Overall, the new poll found that 53% of Americans view Palin negatively and 40% see her in positive terms.”

“Perhaps more vexing for Palin’s national political aspirations, however, is that 57% of Americans say she does not understand complex issues, while 37% think she does, a nine-percentage-point drop from a poll conducted in September just before her debate with now-Vice President Biden. The biggest decline on the question came among Republicans, nearly four in 10 of whom now say she does not understand complex issues. That figure is 70% among Democrats and 58% among independents.”


The Strange Politics of Tobacco (or Why I’m Fine Paying $10 a Pack)

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

The Strange Politics of Tobacco (or Why I’m Fine Paying $10 a Pack)
Charging high taxes on smokes is the only way to push people to quit. And I don't <i>want</i> the individual freedom to be suicidally stupid.

Obama’s $100 Billion Investment in Our Schools Begins: What It’ll Take to Have a World-Class System
We need to address persistent underachievement and high dropout rates while developing the competencies required for global competitiveness.

Pentagon Furious at Fox News Analyst for Calling For Execution of Captured Soldier
Fox News analyst Ralph Peters said on July 19 that the Taliban should murder 23-year-old Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl.

Crazy "Birther" Conspiracy Theories Get Boost in Mainstream Media
The movement is a sinister attempt to paint Obama as illegitimate, foreign, and suspect. Why are pundits like Lou Dobbs taking it seriously?


High frequency traders – a phoney explanation when nobody seems to know the real explanation

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

High frequency traders – a phoney explanation when nobody seems to know the real explanation
Goldman Sachs made 5.7 billion dollars of trading revenue in the last quarter. That run rate (over 22 billion per annum) is almost as much as the pre-crisis peak.$22 billion per annum is roughly $200 per year per household in…


Sponsored Topics: GoldmanSachsBusinessInvestingStocks and BondsNew York Times

Bergdahl is doing the right thing: Analysts who second-guess the captured G.I. are a disgrace
U.S. Army Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, is no longer a combatant in the Afghanistan war. Instead, he is now playing a part in an increasingly desperate information war being waged by the Taliban. Pfc. Bergdahl was…


J.P. Freire: ?I Can?t Remember Anyone Saying? The Bear Market Was Obama?s Fault

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

J.P. Freire: ?I Can?t Remember Anyone Saying? The Bear Market Was Obama?s Fault
Today, ThinkProgress Editor-in-Chief Faiz Shakir appeared on MSNBC opposite the Washington Examiner’s J.P. Freire to discuss President Obama’s handling of the economy. During the segment, Faiz brought up the fact that many conservative pundits have a habit of blaming stock market downturns on President Obama, a charge which Friere said was “made up”: FAIZ: Remember […]

Today, ThinkProgress Editor-in-Chief Faiz Shakir appeared on MSNBC opposite the Washington Examiner’s J.P. Freire to discuss President Obama’s handling of the economy. During the segment, Faiz brought up the fact that many conservative pundits have a habit of blaming stock market downturns on President Obama, a charge which Friere said was “made up”:

FAIZ: Remember back in October, November, December, January of this year, when Karl Rove and so many Republican pundits were going on TV and saying the market is failing because of President Obama? That the market was reacting because President Obama was now in office? What happened to that? Have their memories just completely been forgotten here?

FREIRE: I think that’s a brilliant strawman you made up. I can’t remember anyone saying that.

FAIZ: Are you kidding me?

The set reacted with uproarious laughter to Friere’s convenient memory loss. “I can’t believe JP doesn’t remember that,” said MSBNC’s Tamron Hall. “People were tracking the stock market and how many days Obama had been in office and comparing the two.” Co-host David Shuster chided Freire’s “selective amnesia.” Watch it:

For J.P.’s benefit, here’s a reminder of some right-wing rhetoric regarding Obama and the stock market:

KARL ROVE: “How much of it is the market saying, ‘You know what? The economy is not in a good place and we’re looking at the future, and how much confidence should we have in the team that’s coming to make the economy better?’” [Fox News, 11/20/08]

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama’s policies have become part of the economy’s problem.” [3/9/09]

LOU DOBBS: “[T]he stock market has lost 20 percent since this president was sworn in. He has his own bear market. That’s the definition of a bear market, a 20 percent decline. This is now the Obama bear market.” [CNN, 3/9/09]

SEAN HANNITY: “Obama, since he’s elected, has tanked the markets.” [Fox News, 3/10/09]

A slew of Fox News pundits, in fact, had blamed stock market downturns on Obama. Today, the Dow closed above 9,000 for the first time since early January. We’re eagerly awaiting conservative proclamations of the Obama bull market. The GOP’s more recent efforts to blame job losses on Obama ring as hollow as the “Obama bear market” attacks did.


At Big Moment, President Obama Goes Small

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 24th, 2009 4:30 am by HL

At Big Moment, President Obama Goes Small
Ben Smith, Politico

Bush and Cheney’s Final Days
Massimo Calabresi & Michael Weisskopf, Time

Obama’s Comments Intensify Spotlight
Thompson & Wilgoren, Wash Post