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Archive for August 21st, 2009

U.S. Commander ‘Frustrated’ by Training Pace in Iraq

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:44 am by HL

U.S. Commander ‘Frustrated’ by Training Pace in Iraq
After Wednesday’s multiple bombings in Iraq, which left about 100 dead and more than 500 wounded, Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, the U.S. commander in charge of training Iraqi troops before the Americans’  departure, said there’s “much work to be done” during and after the hand-over.  —KA AP via Google News: “We must continue to develop the capability inside the Iraqi military,” Helmick said. “We are doing that as fast as we can. My frustration is we — I, am not doing it fast enough.” He said he doesn’t know who was responsible for Wednesday’s coordinated bombings, which killed more than 100 people and wounded 500. One blast was near Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is blaming Sunni insurgents for the attacks. The nearly simultaneous attacks intensified questions about the capability of Iraqi security forces and underscored doubts about the government’s plan to begin reopening streets and removing blast walls along major city roads. Helmick told a Pentagon news conference U.S. trainers have built up Iraqi infantry and police forces but tasks such as developing forensic teams, logistical capabilities and intelligence are coming much more slowly. Read more READ THE WHOLE ITEM

Helmick and al-Mufriji

After Wednesday’s multiple bombings in Iraq, which left about 100 dead and more than 500 wounded, Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, the U.S. commander in charge of training Iraqi troops before the Americans’? departure, said there’s “much work to be done” during and after the hand-over.? —KA

AP via Google News:

“We must continue to develop the capability inside the Iraqi military,” Helmick said. “We are doing that as fast as we can. My frustration is we — I, am not doing it fast enough.”

He said he doesn’t know who was responsible for Wednesday’s coordinated bombings, which killed more than 100 people and wounded 500. One blast was near Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is blaming Sunni insurgents for the attacks.

The nearly simultaneous attacks intensified questions about the capability of Iraqi security forces and underscored doubts about the government’s plan to begin reopening streets and removing blast walls along major city roads.

Helmick told a Pentagon news conference U.S. trainers have built up Iraqi infantry and police forces but tasks such as developing forensic teams, logistical capabilities and intelligence are coming much more slowly.

Read more

READ THE WHOLE ITEM

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John Maki: When It Comes to Claims of Actual Innocence, Courts Need to Consider Recantations

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:43 am by HL

John Maki: When It Comes to Claims of Actual Innocence, Courts Need to Consider Recantations
You might think that judges would be willing to review convictions based on testimony that was later recanted, but in fact courts frequently ignore recantations. Scalia went so far as to suggest that innocence should be irrelevant when the Supreme Court reviews a death sentence.

Robin Sax: Human Trafficking: A Problem of Language?
Why is that human trafficking is so pervasive and yet so misunderstood? Why do we assume that it’s really an “overseas” issue? Why do most…

Adam Lioz: “On What Planet Do You Spend Most of Your Time?”
We were thrilled to hear Rep. Frank call this woman out for her ridiculous and hateful comments. So thrilled, in fact, that we wanted to commemorate the occasion with the button you see here.


Myths and falsehoods about health care reform

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Myths and falsehoods about health care reform

Media Matters for America identifies and debunks 14 myths and falsehoods surrounding the health care reform debate.

MYTH 1: There is no health care crisis

CLAIM: The health care system currently works fine, and only a purportedly small number of uninsured people would benefit from reform.

  • RUSH LIMBAUGH: “There really isn’t a crisis in health care in this country. The crisis in health care that — if you wanna say, that does exist — is the fear that a major illness or catastrophe could wipe you out, which isn’t gonna change. In fact, the odds of you being wiped out by a catastrophe or accident once the government gets started running this stuff is greater than if the private sector — but day-to-day, there’s no health care crisis in this country. You can get it. So, it isn’t about health care, per se. This is just about gaining control, taking money, and controlling people’s lives, and wiping out Republicans — a nice cherry on top.” [Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/18/09]
  • STEVE DOOCY: “Currently, 90 percent of all Americans have got some sort of health care coverage, which means they are effectively blowing up the system for 5 percent. Now, the 5 percent, you gotta worry about them — you gotta worry about everybody who doesn’t have it. But is it worth all of this for 5 percent?” [Fox News’ Fox & Friends, 7/30/09]

REALITY: Roughly 25 million Americans were underinsured in 2007. According to Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of The Commonwealth Fund, “From 2003 to 2007, the number of adults who were insured all year but were underinsured increased by 60 percent. Based on those who incur high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income not counting premiums despite having coverage all year, an estimated 25 million adults under age 65 were underinsured in 2007.” [Testimony from Schoen before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 2/24/09]

The underinsured do not receive adequate care and face financial hardship. Schoen explained that the “experiences” of the underinsured were “similar” to those of the uninsured, noting that “over half of the underinsured and two thirds of the uninsured went without recommended treatment, follow-up care, medications or did not see a doctor when sick. Half of both groups faced financial stress, including medical debt.” [Schoen testimony, 2/24/09]

Insurance companies currently rescind policies when their insured customers need treatment. Insurance companies restrict or deny coverage by rescinding health insurance policies on the grounds that customers had undisclosed pre-existing conditions. On June 16, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing exploring this practice, with the goal of examining “the practice of ‘post-claims underwriting,’ which occurs when insurance companies cancel individual health insurance policies after providers submit claims for medical services rendered.” The committee also released a memorandum finding that three major American insurance companies rescinded 19,776 policies for over $300 million in savings over five years and that even that number “significantly undercounts the total number of rescissions” by the companies.

Currently, insurance companies deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen wrote in a May 14 CNN.com article, “According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 21 percent of people who apply for health insurance on their own get turned down, charged a higher price or offered a plan that excludes coverage for their pre-existing condition. … The health insurance industry doesn’t deny that people are rejected or charged higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions.”

MYTH 2: Health care reform will impose rationing

CLAIM: Progressive health care reform proposals will introduce a system of “rationing” into American medicine.

  • SEAN HANNITY: “We’re gonna have a government rationing body that tells women with breast cancer, ‘You’re dead.’ It’s a death sentence.” [Fox News’ Hannity, 6/19/09]
  • MICHELLE MALKIN: “Big Nanny Democrats want to ration health care for everyone in America — except those who break our immigration laws.” [Malkin column, 7/22/09]

REALITY: Insurance companies already ration care. Insurance companies acknowledge that they ration care, restricting coverage of procedures and tests like MRIs and CAT scans and denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

Sanjay Gupta: “I can tell you, as a practicing physician … who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time.” As Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, explained: “[P]eople always say, ‘Is there going to be rationed care?’ And I can tell you, as a practicing physician, as someone who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time. I mean, I was in the clinic this past week. And I — you know, at the end of clinic, I get all this paperwork that basically says, ‘Justify why you’re doing such and such procedure. Justify why you’re ordering such and such test.’ And if the justification is inadequate, the answer comes back, ‘Well, that’s not going to be covered.’ Which basically is saying that the patient is going to have to pay for it on their own, which is, in essence, is what rationing is, in so many ways.” [CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, 8/12/09]

Insurance companies ration care by rescinding coverage. As former senior executive at CIGNA health insurance company Wendell Potter explained in June 24 Senate testimony, insurance companies restrict or deny coverage by rescinding health insurance policies on the grounds that people had undisclosed pre-existing conditions. President Obama recently cited one such example, noting that “[a] woman from Texas was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Three days before surgery … the insurance company canceled the policy, in part because she forgot to declare a case of acne. … By the time she had her insurance reinstated, the cancer had more than doubled in size.”

MYTH 3: Health care reform provides for euthanasia, “death panel”

CLAIM: House health care reform bill mandates end-of-life counseling that will pressure seniors to end their lives.

  • BETSY McCAUGHEY: “And one of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, is on Page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care. And by the way, the bill expressly says that if you get sick somewhere in that five-year period — if you get a cancer diagnosis, for example — you have to go through that session again. All to do what’s in society’s best interest or your family’s best interest and cut your life short. These are such sacred issues of life and death. Government should have nothing to do with this.” [FredThompsonShow.com, interview archives, 7/16/09]
  • HANNITY: “Now, she [McCaughey] actually uncovered in this bill a particularly outrageous provision — and by the way, there will be more to come in the Obamacare plan. According to McCaughey, she’s saying 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.” [ABC Radio Networks and Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show, 7/17/09]

REALITY: Advance care planning is not mandatory in the House health care bill. Section 1233 of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 — which includes “Page 425” — amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the section “[p]rovides 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.” [waysandmeans.house.gov, accessed 7/29/09]

PolitiFact: McCaughey’s claim that seniors would be encouraged to end their lives “is an outright distortion.” “McCaughey incorrectly states that the bill would require Medicare patients to have these counseling sessions and she is suggesting that the government is somehow trying to interfere with a very personal decision. And her claim that the sessions would ‘tell [seniors] how to end their life sooner’ is an outright distortion. Rather, the sessions are an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning. McCaughey isn’t just wrong, she’s spreading a ridiculous falsehood.” [PolitiFact.com, 7/23/09]

CLAIM: Health care reform would establish a “death panel.”

  • GLENN BECK: “So, why is there no more discussion than there is on Sarah Palin and what she said over the weekend that there would be … [a] death panel for her son Trig? That’s quite a statement. I believe it to be true, but that’s quite a statement.” [Premiere Radio Networks’ The Glenn Beck Program, 8/10/09]
  • BRIAN KILMEADE: “[E]veryone’s talking about seniors, and they’re talking about the middle class and affordable health care. If the upper class is paying for the next two classes, and are seniors going to be in front of a death panel? And then just as you think, ‘OK, that’s ridiculous,’ then you realize there’s provisions in there that seniors in the last lap of their life will be sitting there going to a panel, possibly discussing what the best thing for them is.” [Fox & Friends, 8/10/09]

REALITY: “Death panel” claims have been conclusively discredited. In one of more than 40 media reports debunking claims of euthanasia and “death panels,” PolitiFact wrote: “We’ve looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn’t. There’s certainly no ‘death board’ that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. … [Palin] said that the Democratic plan will ration care and ‘my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.’ Palin’s statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire!” [PolitiFact.com, 8/10/09]

MYTH 4: Health care reform legislation will cover undocumented immigrants

CLAIM: Under health care reform, you will be denied care, and it will be given to undocumented immigrants instead.

  • DICK MORRIS: “The point about these death panels is that if you restrict the amount — the lifesaving surgeries, and you tell someone, no, you can’t have that bypass surgery — but I’m going to die if I don’t have it. Well, here’s the grief counselor. That will happen. And whether they fund the grief counselor or the end-of-life counselor or not, the rationing will take place when they tell you, no, you can’t have the surgery because we have to give it to a 40-year-old illegal immigrant instead.” [Hannity, 8/17/09]

REALITY: House bill stipulates that those “not lawfully present” may not receive subsidies to purchase insurance. Under the “Individual Affordability Credits” section of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009:

SEC. 242. AFFORDABLE CREDIT ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUAL.

(a) DEFINITION. —

(1) IN GENERAL. — For purposes of this division, the term ”affordable credit eligible individual” means, subject to subsection (b), an individual who is lawfully present in a State in the United States (other than as a nonimmigrant described in a subparagraph (excluding subparagraphs (K), (T), (U), and (V)) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) —

[…]

SEC. 246. NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.

Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

Senate HELP bill excludes those “not lawfully present” from federal funding. Under the “Making Coverage Affordable” section of the Affordable Health Choices Act:

(h) NO FEDERAL FUNDING. — Nothing in this Act shall allow Federal payments for individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

MYTH 5: Health care reform will raise your taxes

CLAIM: Health care reform would be funded by broad-based tax increases.

  •   MARA LIASSON: “But the fact is, what have they been hearing? It has a $1 trillion price tag over 10 years, it’s going to raise your taxes. I think —

CHRIS WALLACE: “Well, aren’t those both true?” [Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, 8/2/09]

REALITY: The surtax in House bill applies only to income exceeding $350,000 per year for joint filers. The House health care legislation would establish a 1 percent tax on joint income exceeding $350,000 but not greater than $500,000 per year; a 1.5 percent tax on joint income exceeding $500,000 but not greater than $1 million per year; and a 5.4 percent tax on joint income exceeding $1 million per year. Single filers would be subject to the surtax starting at income exceeding $280,000 per year. In a July 15 Huffington Post piece, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) stated that “[o]nly the highest earning 1.2 percent of American households will pay a surcharge.”

MYTH 6: Health care reform would tax all small businesses

CLAIM: The House Democrats’ bill will raise income taxes on small businesses.

  • Wall Street Journal editorial: “The health-care bill is a jobs killer, with its 5.4-percentage point income surtax that would hit small business especially hard.” [Wall Street Journal, 8/9/09]

REALITY: Ways and Means committee stated that according to JCT, only 4.1 percent of small-business owners would be affected by surtax. The legislation would establish a 1 percent tax on joint income exceeding $350,000 but not greater than $500,000 per year; a 1.5 percent tax on joint income exceeding $500,000 but not greater than $1 million per year; and a 5.4 percent tax on joint income exceeding $1 million per year. Single filers would be subject to the surtax starting at income exceeding $280,000 per year. The House Ways and Means Committee stated, “Using the broadest definition of a small business owner (i.e., any individual with as little as $1 of small business income), the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that only 4.1% of all small business owners would be affected by the health care surcharge.”

CLAIM: House Democrats’ bill would subject all small businesses to an 8 percent payroll tax as a penalty for not providing insurance to employees.

  • GRETCHEN CARLSON: “[T]he real victim, potentially, of this health care reform … is the small business owner. … [T]hey are going to be hit potentially with this health care reform if they don’t offer health care to their employees — an 8 percent penalty on them.” [Fox & Friends, 7/16/09]

REALITY: Companies with annual payrolls of less than $250,000 would pay no penalty under the House bill. The House bill would establish a 2 percent payroll penalty for employers with combined payroll between $250,000 to $300,000 that don’t offer health insurance to employees; a 4 percent penalty for employers with $300,000 to $350,000 in payroll; a 6 percent penalty for employers with $350,000 to $400,000 in payroll; and an 8 percent penalty for companies with annual payrolls exceeding $400,000. Additionally, the bill establishes tax credits for small-business employers that do provide health care.

MYTH 7: Health care reform would add $1 trillion-plus to deficit

CLAIM: Health care reform “would add around $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.”

  • AP: “But even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that none of the health plans pending on Capitol Hill would control long-term spending, and that ones with the elements Obama wants would add around $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.” [Associated Press, 8/3/09]
  • Karl Rove claimed that House Democrats are “planning on a 1 trillion, 420 billion — 420 million dollar price tag of additional spending over the next 10 years, and what they’ve done is, today, supposedly — we haven’t seen the details — but they’ve trimmed that by 10 percent. So we’re only going to beggar ourselves by $900 billion over the next decade and that’s assuming they get all of the tax increases and all of the Medicare cuts that are built into this.” [Hannity, 7/29/09]

REALITY: CBO found that House bill would increase the federal budget deficit by $239 billion over 10 years — not $1 trillion. In a July 17 cost estimate of the bill as introduced, the CBO explained that its “estimate reflects a projected 10-year cost of the bill’s insurance coverage provisions of $1,042 billion, partly offset by net spending changes that CBO estimates would save $219 billion over the same period, and by revenue provisions that JCT estimates would increase federal revenues by about $583 billion over those 10 years.” CBO thus concluded the legislation “would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period.” The CBO has not released full cost estimates of the health care reform proposals being considered by the Senate.

MYTH 8: House bill would ban private individual insurance

CLAIM: House health care reform bill would “outlaw individual private coverage.”

  • An Investor’s Business Daily editorial falsely claimed that the House bill includes “a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.” The editorial later stated that the “provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage.” [IBD, 7/15/09]
  • HANNITY: “The one thing that we do know in the health care bill is that it’s gonna literally — the bill says — Investor’s Business Daily had an article today — and the bill says that if you don’t have your insurance the year this legislation is implemented, you can’t have a private insurance company. So that will end — hang on — that will end private insurance.” [Hannity, 7/16/09]

REALITY: The bill does not “outlaw” private individual insurance. The provision to which the IBD editorial referred establishes the conditions under which existing private plans would be exempted from the requirement that they participate in the Health Insurance Exchange. Individual private health insurance plans that do not meet the “grandfather” conditions would still be available for purchase, but only through the exchange and subject to those regulations. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted, the assertion “that individuals would no longer be able to keep their personal coverage” is “just not accurate. It’s not in any version of the House bill; it’s not in the Senate bill.” [MSNBC’s Morning Joe, 7/22/09]

MYTH 9: Obama said he didn’t read House bill

CLAIM: Obama “admitted” that he has not read the House health care reform bill.

  • Limbaugh asserted that Obama “doesn’t know what’s in the bill! He admits he doesn’t know.” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/21/09]
  • “Obama Admits He’s ‘Not Familiar’ With House Bill” [Heritage Foundation, 7/21/09]
  • HANNITY: “The president even admitted before the press conference — the day before — he hadn’t read the bill.” [Hannity, 7/24/09]

REALITY: Obama actually said he was “not familiar” with opponents’ false talking point that bill would ban private individual insurance. During a July 20 conference call, a blogger asked Obama to comment on the claim made in the July 15 IBD editorial — which is false — that the bill, in the blogger’s words, “will make individual private medical insurance illegal.” Obama responded, “You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you’re talking about.”

MYTH 10: Co-ops are an adequate substitute for a public option

CLAIM: The co-op “compromise” eliminates the need for the public option.

REALITY: Progressive experts argue public plan is necessary for successful reform. Numerous media figures and outlets have characterized Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) cooperative health insurance proposal as a “compromise,” “hybrid,” or bipartisan “alternative” to a public insurance option without noting the view by progressive experts that a public option is necessary for health care reform to be successful and that any departure from that will result in the failure of reform efforts. These experts dispute suggestions that Conrad’s co-op proposal is a plausible midway point between competing methods of addressing health care reform, because, they say, it precludes a fundamental component of effective reform: bargaining power against the health care industry. For example, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich described the co-op proposal as a “bamboozle” and said that “[n]onprofit health-care cooperatives won’t have any real bargaining leverage to get lower prices because they’ll be too small and too numerous. Pharma and Insurance know they can roll them. That’s why the Conrad compromise is getting a good reception from across the aisle.” And University of California-Berkeley professor Jacob Hacker argued that Conrad “has offered no reason to think that the cooperatives he envisions could do any of the crucial things that a competing public plan must do.” Additionally, ABC’s Charles Gibson reported that “several health care experts” have said, in Gibson’s words, “[I]f you take out the public option in terms of insurance, there’s going to be no restraints on the cost of insurance.” [ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson, 8/17/09]

MYTH 11: Obama is pushing a system like the U.K. and Canada

CLAIM: Obama is pushing a single-payer system like Canada’s or a nationalized health care system like the United Kingdom’s.

  • BRET BAIER: “President Obama spent a good deal of time at that news conference [on June 23] talking about health care reform, and Canada’s medical system has been cited as a possible model.” [Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/29/09]
  • Hannity said, “I think Obama certainly” wants a Canadian-style “single-payer system.” [Hannity, 7/20/09]
  • CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: “[Obama]’s a man who’s expressed … a radical domestic agenda, which involves, as he puts it every time, a holy trinity of health care reform, by which he means nationalizing health care. … And this is all in the service of leveling the differences between rich and poor and leveling the differences between classes.” [Special Report, 4/29/09]
  • JOE SCARBOROUGH: “Of course — of course it’s — not only is it naïve, it’s reckless to suggest that in the midst of a banking crisis that may have a $2 trillion price tag that you are going to choose this time to nationalize health care with a $635 billion down payment.” [Morning Joe, 3/9/09]

REALITY: Obama has rejected Canadian-style single-payer system and U.K.-style nationalized health care. During a March 26 online town hall discussion, Obama was asked: “Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?” He replied, in part, “I actually want a universal health care system,” adding that rather than adopting a “single-payer system” like Canada’s, “what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps.” Indeed, Obama has embraced the creation of a federally funded “public plan” as one of many insurance options available in the health care market, not the sole option, as in “single payer” systems such as Canada. And as PolitiFact.com noted in a March 5 post, “Obama’s plan leaves in place the private health care system, but seeks to expand it to the uninsured” and “the plan is very different from some European-style health systems where the government owns health clinics and employs doctors,” as in the United Kingdom.

MYTH 12: Obama, Dems pushing “socialized medicine”

CLAIM: Health care reform proposals are socialist and will lead to socialized medicine.

  • GLENN BECK: “President Obama has his massive $1.5 trillion health care plan. It’s hogging up the news cycle. The Republicans and, you know, a lot of people are starting to say, ‘Isn’t this socialist here? I mean, this is pretty crazy.’ The answer to me on that one is really easy: Yep, it’s good old socialism. You know, pretty much raping the pocketbooks of the rich to give to the poor. I think that’s socialism.” [Fox News’ Glenn Beck, 7/21/09]
  • LIMBAUGH: “The Obama budget also funds the relentless drive toward socialized medicine. And all that is just the beginning. The way to look at this budget is not with an economic lens, it is with a philosophical one. Liberals want to make America — remake it in their image. And this is how you will pay for it.” [“Rush’s Morning Update,” 2/27/09]
  • Guest-hosting The O’Reilly Factor, Laura Ingraham stated: “Powerful arguments against socialized medicine have been around not for months, but for decades. Ronald Reagan was saying this back in 1961.” After playing a clip from Reagan’s recording, Ingraham added, “I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums where law abiding and hard-working Americans are standing up for freedom.” [Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, 8/14/09]

REALITY: Conservatives have trotted out “socialized medicine” smear for 75 years — and it’s never been true. Numerous conservative media figures have revived the “socialized medicine” smear to undermine the efforts of Obama and congressional Democrats, most recently by promoting Ronald Reagan’s 1961 attacks on a legislative precursor to Medicare. But as the Urban Institute wrote in an April 2008 analysis, “socialized medicine involves government financing and direct provision of health care services,” and therefore, recent progressive health-care reform proposals do not “fit this description.” The analysis also noted: “Similar rhetoric was used to defeat national health care reform proposals in the 1990s and, with less success, to argue against the creation of Medicare in the 1960s.” Indeed, a Media Matters for America analysis found that dating as far back as the 1930s — with respect to at least 16 different reform initiatives including President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s consideration of government health insurance when crafting the 1935 Social Security bill; President Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 legislation establishing Medicare; and the health-care initiative by President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton in 1993 and 1994 — conservatives have attempted to smear those proposals by calling them “socialized medicine” or a step toward that purportedly inevitable result.

MYTH 13: Prominent opponents of health care reform are credible

CLAIM: Betsy McCaughey is a credible health care expert.

  • JOHN ROBERTS: “Former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey is a long-time expert in public health and is currently the chairwoman of an advocacy group for patient safety.” [CNN’s American Morning, 6/24/09]
  • ELIZABETH MacDONALD: “I want to go to my next guest. She’s terrific. We’re going to go fair and balanced now. She’s Betsy McCaughey. She says that cutting health-care costs will only lead to worse care not better. Betsy is founder and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infectious Deaths.” [Fox Business’ Cavuto, 5/11/09]

REALITY: Betsy McCaughey is a serial misinformer who has perpetuated numerous falsehoods about health care reform. The Atlantic‘s James Fallows has pointed to McCaughey as an example of someone for whom there “seems to be almost no extremity of being proven wrong which disqualifies” her from being given a platform in the media. Most recently, McCaughey falsely claimed that the House health care reform bill would “absolutely require” end-of-life counseling for seniors on Medicare “that will tell them how to end their life sooner” — a claim that many in the media repeated. McCaughey repeatedly falsely claimed that the Senate HELP committee’s bill “basically” “pushes everyone into an HMO-style plan.” Additionally, McCaughey concocted the false claim, which was nonetheless widely repeated in the media, that a health IT provision in the economic recovery act enabled government bureaucrats to “monitor treatments” or restrict what “your doctor is doing” with regard to patient care. On multiple occasions, after being challenged on her false claims about health care legislation, McCaughey reportedly insisted that she was right about the ultimate effect of a bill despite misrepresenting what it actually said. McCaughey’s influence over the health care debate is not new. As Fallows has written, “In the early 1990s McCaughey single-handedly did a phenomenal amount to distort discussion of health-care policy and derail the Clinton health bill. She did so through an entirely fictitious argument about what the bill would do.”

CLAIM: Rick Scott is a credible health care expert.

REALITY: Rick Scott was chairman of a scandal-plagued hospital firm. Scott has repeatedly been quoted by CNN, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal opposing Democrats’ health care reform efforts. Frequently, media outlets that have hosted or quoted Scott have failed to note that he resigned as chairman of the nation’s largest for-profit health care company in 1997 amid a federal Medicare fraud investigation. According to a July 26, 1997, Los Angeles Times article, Scott resigned from his former position as chairman of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. “amid a massive federal investigation into the Medicare billing, physician recruiting and home-care practices of” Columbia/HCA, “the nation’s largest for-profit health care company.” According to a December 18, 2002, Justice Department press release describing a tentative settlement with HCA to resolve civil litigation, “When added to the prior civil and criminal settlements reached in 2000, this settlement would bring the government’s total recoveries from HCA to approximately $1.7 billion.” Media Matters has also documented repeated instances in which media outlets and figures have uncritically repeated or aired Scott’s health care misinformation, including that of his advocacy organization, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.

CLAIM: Newt Gingrich is a credible health care expert.

REALITY: Newt Gingrich has a financial stake in opposing Democrats’ reform proposals. Gingrich has been quoted by Politico opposing the public plan, but Politico did not explain that his Center for Health Transformation is a for-profit entity that receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a direct interest in whether a public insurance plan is part of health care reform. Moreover, Gingrich himself reportedly profits from his involvement with the group. Indeed, the group’s website notes that the “Center for Health Transformation and The Gingrich Group are corporate for-profit organizations not affiliated with any other corporation or organization” [emphasis added]. Gingrich has also repeatedly spread misinformation about health care reform.

MYTH 14: Government can’t run a health care program

CLAIM: Medicare has failed, and so the government can’t be trusted to “run health care.”

  • HANNITY: “But why would you have so much faith, trust, hope, and confidence? Are you happy when you go to the DMV? Are you happy with the Postal Service? Social Security is bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. Why do people have faith that the government can run health care?” [Hannity, 7/20/09, from the Nexis database]

REALITY: Medicare costs have risen more slowly than private insurance. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted, “since 1970 Medicare costs per beneficiary have risen at an annual rate of 8.8% — but insurance premiums have risen at an annual rate of 9.9%. The rise in Medicare costs is just part of the overall rise in health care spending. And in fact Medicare spending has lagged private spending: if insurance premiums had risen ‘only’ as much as Medicare spending, they’d be 1/3 lower than they are.”

Medicare is extremely popular. A May 2009 Commonwealth Fund study concluded that “elderly Medicare beneficiaries reported greater overall satisfaction with their health coverage, better access to care, and fewer problems paying medical bills than people covered by employer-sponsored plans.” And as Mark Blumenthal wrote for National Journal, a survey by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that in 2007, “56 percent of enrollees in traditional fee-for-service Medicare give their ‘health plan’ a rating of 9 or 10 on a 0-10 scale. Similarly, 60 percent of seniors enrolled in Medicare Managed Care rated their plans a 9 or 10. But according to the CAHPS [Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems ] surveys compiled by HHS, only 40 percent of Americans enrolled in private health insurance gave their plans a 9 or 10 rating.” Blumenthal added, “More importantly, the higher scores for Medicare are based on perceptions of better access to care. More than two thirds (70 percent) of traditional Medicare enrollees say they ‘always’ get access to needed care (appointments with specialists or other necessary tests and treatment), compared with 63 percent in Medicare managed care plans and only 51 percent of those with private insurance.”

The government currently provides the “best care anywhere.” In a 2005 Washington Monthly article headlined “The Best Care Anywhere,” Philip Longman wrote of the Veterans Health Association (VHA): “Outside experts agree that the VHA has become an industry leader in its safety and quality measures. Dr. Donald M. Berwick, president of the Institute for Health Care Improvement and one of the nation’s top health-care quality experts, praises the VHA’s information technology as ‘spectacular.’ The venerable Institute of Medicine notes that the VHA’s ‘integrated health information system, including its framework for using performance measures to improve quality, is considered one of the best in the nation.’ “


Sweeney Charged With Drunk Driving Felony

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Sweeney Charged With Drunk Driving Felony
Troubled former GOP congressman John Sweeney was indicted this morning on a felony drunk driving charge, reports the Albany Times-Union. The charges concern an April 5 incident. But in 2007, Sweeney pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunk driving charge offense….

Sen. Ensign’s Dad Withdraws Kansas Casino Bid
Mike Ensign, casino magnate and the father of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), has reportedly dropped a casino proposal in Kansas. The Associated Press reports that the group Ensign was working with, South Central Gaming Partners, decided to drop their proposal…


GFY

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:37 am by HL

GFY


Obama and the Dems Just Sound Too Wonky on Health Care

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Obama and the Dems Just Sound Too Wonky on Health Care
Barack Obama ran the best-framed presidential campaign in history. How is it possible that he and his team are communicating so poorly on health care?

Black Conservatives in the Age of Obama
The most prominent voices for conservatism in African American communities continue to be those of Christian church leaders.

Black Conservatives in the Age of Obama
The most prominent voices for conservatism in African American communities continue to be those of Christian church leaders.

7 Delicious Meat Alternatives (and Not a Lick of Tofu in Sight)
Cutting back on meat consumption is one of the most significant ways to help the planet. And it doesn’t require subsistence on tofu.


Obama, Afghanistan– and St. Augustine

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:35 am by HL

Obama, Afghanistan– and St. Augustine
Pres. Obama gave a speech to the veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention on Monday in which he spelled out his view of the US’s now-declining strategic stakes in Iraq and its continuing strategic stake in Afghanistan. His words were…


Sponsored Topics: IraqUSAfghanistanUnited StatesWarfare and Conflict

Veterans: Newest Addition to the Health Care Debate
For weeks now, health care reform has taken center stage in Washington, on every news program, and in contentious town halls across the country. Not even the Army’s troubling suicide numbers, the fate of the American POW being held by…






Sponsored Topics: United StatesHealthcare reformWashingtonHealth careCongress


ThinkFast: August 20, 2009

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:34 am by HL

ThinkFast: August 20, 2009
Polls have opened in Afghanistan’s presidential election. The vote “has become a critical benchmark of the nation’s progress for the Afghan government and the Obama administration.” Despite the presence of 30,000 Afghan and international troops, the day was still punctuated by attacks and intimidation by the Taliban. According to a new poll, “a majority of […]

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Polls have opened in Afghanistan’s presidential election. The vote “has become a critical benchmark of the nation’s progress for the Afghan government and the Obama administration.” Despite the presence of 30,000 Afghan and international troops, the day was still punctuated by attacks and intimidation by the Taliban. According to a new poll, “a majority of Americans” do not believe the war is worth fighting.

In a comparison of OECD countries, Gallup found that “respondents in countries with universal coverage are somewhat more likely to express confidence in their national health systems and satisfaction with the availability of quality healthcare in their communities.” The United States had the second widest gap between satisfaction with availability of local care and confidence with the national system.

The Obama administration has secured commitments from nearly a dozen countries willing to accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay. The Washington Post reports that “four E.U. countries have privately told the administration that they are committed to resettling detainees, and five other E.U. nations are considering taking some.”

The federal budget picture will look slightly better next week,” as the White House is set to announce that the still-record-breaking deficit for fiscal year 2009 will be “about $262 billion less than officials predicted earlier this year.” The drop in projected deficit is mostly due to the administration’s erasure of “a $250 billion contingency fund it had penciled into the budget in case Wall Street needed more government help.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) sent a letter to Massachusetts lawmakers asking them to change state law to allow for faster temporary appointment of US senators. Kennedy also suggested in the letter that the person temporarily appointed to fill the seat should not run in a special election.

After meeting with North Korean diplomats, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson reported that North Korea believes it’s “owed” bilateral talks with the United States after releasing two detained American journalists this month. Senior Obama administration officials quickly rejected that notion yesterday.

President Obama has invited conservative radio host Michael Smerconish to broadcast his radio show at the White House today. Smerconish plans to use this afternoon’s show to air “pointed direct and substantive questions about health care” from listeners.

Obama will be rallying Organizing for America supporters around health care reform in a conference call at 2:30 p.m. ET today. Obama will “update supporters on what’s happening in D.C. and around the country, and he’ll lay out our strategy and message going forward.”

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) told The Associated Press that his affair was different from former President Bill Clinton’s relationship with a White House intern “because he didn’t lie about it under oath.” Ensign said that is why he voted to impeach Clinton. “I haven’t done anything legally wrong,” added Ensign.

Wyoming Sens. Mike Enzi (R) and John Barrasso (R) pledged to fight cap-and-trade legislation. Enzi called it a “ponzi scheme,” while Barrasso said, “There’s nothing good about it. … I’m going to do everything to make sure it doesn’t pass.”

And finally: PBS host Gwen Ifill was featured as an “expert” Tuesday night on the TV show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” but unfortunately, she didn’t have the right answer. Contestant Jennifer used Ifill as an “Ask the Expert” lifeline on the question: “When Richard Nixon wrote his famous letter, ‘I hereby resign the Office of the President of the United States,’ he addressed it to whom?” “We have a question that she thinks is right down your alley and I do, too,” host Regis Philbin told Ifill. Ifill, however, guessed Tip O’Neill; the correct answer was Henry Kissinger. Ifill was reportedly mouthing “Sorry!” as Jennifer left the stage.

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Faith in Obama Drops As Reform Fears Rise

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:33 am by HL

Faith in Obama Drops As Reform Fears Rise
Public confidence in President Obama’s leadership has declined sharply over the summer, amid intensifying opposition to health-care reform that threatens to undercut his attempt to enact major changes to the system, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Kennedy Looks Toward Succession
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has brain cancer and has been absent from the Senate for most of the year, has asked that state law be changed so his seat could be filled more rapidly in the event of his death.

Ailing Kennedy Asks for Speedy Replacement Process
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is suffering from brain cancer and has been absent from the Senate for most of this year, has sent a letter (PDF) to Massachusetts electoral leaders asking for a change in state law to allow his replacement to be put in place more rapidly if his seat becomes …

Key Senators Discuss Trimming Health Bill
Senate health-care negotiators agreed late Thursday to ignore the increasingly strident rhetoric from Republican and Democratic leaders and to keep working toward a bill that can win broad support from the rank-and-file in both parties, according to sources familiar with the talks.


Among the Cynics

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 21st, 2009 4:30 am by HL

Among the Cynics
Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason

Democrats’ Push to the Left is a Critical Error
Nolan Finley, Detroit News

What Health Care Consensus Looks Like
Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe