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An inspirational girl

Look, we know there is a lot of stupid in the world.  And, over the past few weeks, the stupid has really been coming out to play.  I was all set to do a post today about two such idiotic comments, but I’m not.  I’m not going to spend much time on Tom Smith or Rush Limbaugh.  Instead I want to tell you about Alice, a 16 year old girl who has been living with cancer for the past 4 years.

But before we get to Alice, let’s touch on two people who could learn a thing or two from her.

Tom Smith – Mr. Smith is a Republican running for the United States Senate in Pennsylvania.  In an interview with a local reporter he compared the difficulty a woman faces when she is raped to when she has a pregnancy out of wedlock.   He now claims he never intended to make that comparison, but it is clear to me from the transcript that it was a deliberate comparison.  The fact that Smith has now joined the rowing chorus of men (mostly) on the right trying to minimize rape and take decisions out of the hands of the victims is horrifying to me.

Rush Limbaugh – We’ve talked about Rush once or twice on here before.  In the category of “you can’t possibly believe what you are saying, Rush” comes this latest gem.   Essentially he believes (or claims to believe) that, somehow, President Obama manipulated the weather forecast to make it look like Hurricane Isaac was going to hit Tampa.  Then, once the Republicans canceled the first day of their convention, he redirected the forecast to what was actually going on.  It would be hilarious, if there aren’t so many people who are ready to believe anything this man says.  It’s dishonest and it’s shameful.

Now, on the flip side, let’s meet Alice Pyne.   Alice is 16 and has terminal cancer.  Last year, when faced with her prognosis, she made a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do and experience.  A couple of weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of total strangers and those in her community, she completed the last item on her list.   I hope you’ll all take the time to read through her blog.  As someone who lives with a chronic medical condition – Marfan Syndrome – I have so much appreciation for how she has chosen to live her life and approached her medical challenges.  I could write volumes on Alice an others like her – people who have taken a diagnosis as an opportunity to make a difference through their deeds. Alice has gotten thousands of people to give blood, join bone marrow registries and, I’ll bet, re-evaluate how they look at life.   I’ll admit to having tears in my eyes reading about Alice and I think we call learn something from this remarkable young woman.

So why did I include her in this post?  Alice didn’t start this blog for fame or to bring attention to herself.   She and her family weren’t thinking about personal gain or their own ambitions.  She started her blog as a way to chronicle her progress towards her bucket list.  Once it went viral, however, they could have used it to promote themselves the way Rush Limbaugh loves to do.  Instead, they used it to raise awareness about bone marrow registries and have, no doubt, saved many lives through their efforts.  Reading through it, it is refreshingly honest and genuine.  Alice demonstrates a remarkable ability to care for other people, even she battles her own cancer.  An ability to care that so many, like Tom Smith, don’t seem to have.

Finally, I read about Alice’s experiences, her doctor appointments and her health struggles and I can’t help but wonder.  What if Alice lived in America and was born to a poor family who didn’t have health insurance? What if she lived in America and her family had similar policies to what many middle-class families have today? What then?  Alice’s parents never had to worry about choosing between medical care for their daughter and paying their mortgage.  They never had to worry about being dropped from coverage because Alice is a fighter and isn’t going to give in easily to this disease.  Survival doesn’t bring financial stress, rather it breeds an opportunity for this girl to inspire millions with her attitude, perspectives and accomplishments.  Would that have happened here to a poor or middle-class family?  If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, like Governor Romney and Congressman Paul want, will it ever?




Will Rush leave?

As you may remember, back on March 9,  Rush Limbaugh announced on his intention to leave the USA if the healthcare bill passed.  Well, it has passed and now the Rush watch begins.  With a Facebook group “Help Rush Limbaugh remember to leave the country” reaching over 57,000 members (as of 8 AM EST. on 3/22) and growing rapidly, it will quite interesting to see how if/how he responds.  Now, to be fair he is far from the first person to make the exodus threat (see re-election of Bush, George W.) but it is still quite amusing.  However, if does decide to be true to his word and needs help packing, he should feel free to email me.    

Of course, as David Frum points out in his excellent column, the passing of healthcare may be exactly what Rush was hoping for.   If Frum is right, and I think he is, not only will Rush be sticking around, he may become more popular than ever.  The same people who helped Congressman Wilson raise millions of dollars after he shouted “You Lie” at the President are going to look to Rush to help fuel their anger which, in turn, will continue to drive up his ratings…exactly what he wants.    But, in all likelihood, those people would vote for the conservative candidate anyway so it doesn’t really hurt the Democratic party.  It is the moderates on both sides of the aisle who tend to decide elections and those voters have shown that they do not have patience for the lack of civility and incredible disrespect that Rush’s fans demonstrate.   

So, on second thought, I say stick around Rush.  Ramble away and make the moderates mad.  Fire up your base to say stupid and offensive things.  Finally, and most importantly, continue to make sure that when people think of the Republican party they think of you instead of some of the more reasonable Republicans.  If you do that for us, I promise that we’ll stay in power and will continue to do things that make the Country better, which will keep your ratings strong.  It’s a win-win!

My takeaways from yesterday…

History was made yesterday.  The House has sent to the President’s desk the first piece of meaningful health reform in decades.  This is not a perfect bill, but it goes a long way towards taking the power away from insurance companies and giving it to people and their doctors.  This bill will finally allow more than 32 million Americans to get health insurance.  This bill will reduce the cost of getting health insurance and, through subsidies, ensure that everyone will have access to care.  This bill will create millions of jobs, pays for itself and will reduce the national deficit.  This bill forces insurance companies to stop their discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and will stop the despicable practice of coverage being rescinded when someone needs it most.   This bill will ensure that being unemployed doesn’t mean you can’t have health insurance.  This isn’t a perfect bill, but it is a bill that will improve the economy and help millions of Americans.  Thank you to all those who made its passage possible.

A few take-aways from the debate and vote last night:

  1. The Democratic party showed it can be politically savvy as well – Republicans had proposed a roll-call vote on the bill so that they could use that footage in campaign ads, but were rejected.  In addition, the House leadership knew that the Republicans might try to send the bill back to committee (effectively killing it) by calling for a vote on re-inserting the Stupak anti-abortion language back into the bill.  Well, they were right and boy were the Democrats ready for it.  After Steny Hoyer made a brief statement in response to Republican speeches on the matter, he yielded his time to Bart Stupak who made a passionate argument against killing the bill causing his fellow Democrats to rise as one to cheer him.  It was a brilliant speech and helped ensure the Republican plan would fail.  Very effective and very well executed!
  2. The Republican Party, once again, has to deal with an embarrassing incident – 6 months ago it was Joe Wilson shouting “You lie” at the President.  Over the summer it was those awful town hall protests around the country.  Two days ago it was anti-healthcare protesters shouting racist and homophobic things towards members of Congress.  And yesterday, it was a Republican Congressman shouting “Baby Killer” at Rep. Stupak as he delivered his remarks on the House Floor.  This stunning lack of decorum and respect might energize the base, but it turns off the moderate voters who so often decide elections.  Yesterday’s outburst was especially unfortunate because the Republicans had done a very good job throughout the day highlighting a number of their members and make significant progress in ensuring that the voice of their party would not be Ruth Limbaugh.  But that will be overshadowed by a stupid and inappropriate outburst.
  3. No one kills time like Wolf Blitzer – For anyone who has spent any time watching CNN over the past few years, this statement will come as no surprise.  Waiting as the vote totals climbed to the magic 216 number, Blitzer bantered, questioned and cut off as appropriate to keep things entertaining while making sure viewers did not miss the key moments.  Well done Wolf.

So now the reconciliation bill goes to the Senate (that should be fun) and the main healthcare bill goes to the President.  Stay tuned…

Healthcare is getting closer…

After months and months of endless debate, the House appears poised to vote in favor of the most important piece of social legislation in this country in many years.  This is not a perfect bill, but it is a bill that will make a positive difference in lives of the American people and will reduce the national deficit at the same time. 

Here are three key provisions that make this bill well worth supporting.

1. There will be a mandate to have coverage, subsidies if you can’t afford coverage, and a requirement that insurance companies must cover those with pre-existing conditions at the same rate others are charged.  – Many opponents to this bill had insisted that it was irresponsible to pass this bill all at once and that a piecemeal approach would be smarter.  However, these three provisions are linked and, for any of them to be effective in both expanding coverage and controlling costs, all must be enacted at once. 

2. Insurance companies can not rescind coverage when someone gets sick – Should be a no-brainer, but this is an all-too common practice in today’s marketplace.  Imagine paying your premiums for years but, just at the moment when you need your coverage, your insurance company tells you that they have decided to no longer cover you.  Well, this bill will prevent that from happenning.

3. Clinical Trials must be covered – This is something that hasn’t gotten much coverage, but it near and dear to my heart.  Clincial Trials are an essential tool to assess new treatment options and medical advances but, in today’s world, many insurance companies won’t cover them (another example of profits before patients).  Requiring them to be covered will make it much easier for investigators to reach enrollment goals and get real answers on best to diagnose and treat patients.

I wholeheartedly support this bill and am thrilled that we are one step closer to ensuring that patients come before profits and medical care will finally be a basic right.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Click here to read a statement from Rep. Brian Baird (a former medical professional) who voted no on the original house bill but will be voting yes today.

Thank you Paul Krugman

The brilliant columnist Paul Krugman (who really looks like George Clooney) is at it again with a great piece on why this healthcare bill is an important one.  With so much debate and back and forth currently going on, Krugman gets past the political posturing and focuses in on why this bill is so important for the American people. 

In the past few days we have seen so many different options for getting a bill passed floated.  These ideas range from a straight up or down vote to reconciliation to passage through affirmation.  My personal feeling is that these issues are so important that we must pass something by whatever means necessary.  Despite what the opposition would have you believe, all of these tactics have been used many times, by both parties, to get past blockades.  For example, since 1980, reconciliation has been used 9 times when Republicans had control of both houses and 6 times when Democrats had the same control.  It is an accepted practice and, if it was appropriate for 3 major Bush tax cuts, it is appropriate here.  According to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, healthcare represents the single greatest cause of long-term budget troubles and, since reconciliation is to be used for budgetary measures designed to reduce the deficit (which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has found it will), it makes perfect sense to use it here. 

If the Republican party is determined to block it at all costs then the Democratic leadership is completely justified in finding other ways of to pass this budget-reducing bill.  The CBPP has a great explanation of how it would be used and what that process would look like.

One thing we know for sure is that the next few days will certainly be quite interesting…

Now what?

Congratulations to Scott Brown and his campaign team for a very impressive win last night.  They ran a fantastic campaign and, quite frankly, deserved to win.  A few take-aways and thoughts after a very disappointing evening in Massachusetts.

1. Healthcare is not dead – Despite what you may have heard/read today, the fight to fix our healthcare system is far from over.  I would expect that, in the next few days, the House will take up the Senate bill and will pass it with no changes, thus negating the need for another Senate vote.  Failing that, they will be forced to chop up the bill into smaller parts (something the American people seem to want anyway) and pass what they can.  This allows them to claim some level of victory and move on to other issues voters seem to care more about right now.  It would be a huge mistake on their part for them to try to force through a bill before Scott Brown is seated – it would send a terrible message to the country and would be political suicide. 

2. 41st vote – I don’t think there are words sufficient for me to describe my frustration over the perception out there that, because the Republicans now have 41 votes, the Democrats can’t do anything despite still holding 59 of 100 seats in the Senate.  As Ann Woolner notes, in her fabulous piece in Business Week, “These days political parties are so polarized, so short on ideological moderates and so bent on each other’s demise that compromise on hot-button issues is the rarity.”  With one party being hell-bent on destroying the President, no matter the cost to ordinary Americans, and using filibusters at every turn, 60 seats has become critical to accomplishing almost anything.   The Founding Fathers intended a simple majority to be needed to pass legislation and, as Woolner points out, “If the Founders wanted a supermajority for everything, they would have said so.”  The fact that it is a well-accepted conclusion that, because Brown won, the President’s agenda is dead, is a sad comment about the state of this country.

3. The President – Make no mistake about it.  This was a loss for President Obama and is another reminder that the American public is extremely anxious and impatient.  Obama has only been in office for a year – not nearly enough time to fix the problems he inherited – but people are hurting and they want and need real results.  In some ways this loss is a good thing for him.  It drives home the challenges the administration is facing and gives them 11 months to right the ship before the all-important mid-term elections.  They must find a way to make people feel better about the direction of the country and focus on important issues like job creation.  In a recent poll, 75% of Americans said that they like Obama personally.  That provides an exceptional opportunity for him to get out there and rebuild public confidence in his administration.

4. 2010 and beyond – In Massachusetts, the Democrats lost the mantle of the being the party of the people.  Scott Brown was engaging and convinced people he was an everyman who would look out for their interests.  On the other hand, Martha Coakley, until the end, came off as aloof and entitled.  There is a lesson here about how to run campaigns, even if you are the front-runner.  Going forward, Democrats have to get back to the populist message that made them so successful in 2006 and 2008 and remind voters of who got us into the mess we are in now.  All is not lost – far from it – but there are important lessons to be learned from Massachusetts (and VA and NJ) and how well those lessons are learned will affect what happens later this year.  It remains to be seen if MA, VA and NJ are accurate measurements of the mood of the country or it is simply an example of less than stellar candidates running poor campaigns.

5. Remember who elected you – I would encourage Senator-elect Brown to remember that it was largely on the backs of independent voters that he sailed into office.  You can bet the people of Massachusetts will be watching very closely and, in 2012, will not think twice about casting him aside should he prove to be more focused on the President failing than on making the country better.

Link for 12/4 – More healthcare

Check out this website for a great explanation of a risk that Harry Reid took in his constant effort to please everyone.  In the next few days we will say if Reid can get past the bluster of certain members of his caucus and give everyone just enough to ensure he has the 60 votes he needs.  This will take all of his negotiating skill and it will require him to make some deals and maybe, just maybe, play hardball with colleagues on his side of the aisle.  How much would you love to be a fly on the wall in his office right now.  Finally, now is when Senator Kennedy’s powerful voice is really missed.

Link for 12/3 – The debate has begun…

Stupak is to the house as _____ as to the Senate?  What are our clues?  Well, we need someone in the Senate who is a Democrat, but is solidly anti-choice.   There were several potential choices but, now, we have our answer.  Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting Ben Nelson of Nebraska.   According to several media reports, Nelson is introducing an ammendment based on the one that passed the house that would severely restrict the ability of women to get abortions. 

There has been much controversy around this and rightly so.  What we are really talking about is banning a safe and completely legal medical procedure?  And, we are settting up a system where all operations that men have are covered, but we aren’t covering an operation that women have.  I have a real problem with that.  Just because you may be opposed to the procedure doesn’t mean that we should make it nearly impossible for others to have it.  The Hyde Ammendment is bad enough in that it prohibits any Government money paying directly for abortions.  But to go further, as Republicans and some Conservative Democrats are doing, smacks of the kind-of big government micro-managing that these folks claim to be against.    Going further means that NO insurance company that receives any government subsidy would be allowed to cover this legal procedure.  Going further means that women would have to either pay for abortions out of pocket or buy supplemental insurance which, in all liklihood, would be extremely expensive.  Going further means that some women who keep their current insurance will lose services that are currently in their plan.  Going further is a terrible idea.

In the Senate version of the bill there is a provision which, like the one proposed by Representative Lois Capps in the House, essentially maintains the rules set forth by Hyde.  The difference is that Capps and Reid do not change the rules to make them more restricitve and make abortions significantly harder to get.  It is ironic that the only ones who would be changing the rules (Nelson and Stupak) claim they are doing what they are doing to in order to keep the rules from being changed.

Link for 11/20/09

Check out this site for a full accounting of the Senate version of the healthcare bill.  Should be a VERy interesting weekend as some in the Senate try to block debate on the bill – does Harry Reid have enough votes to defeat the block?  We shall see!

Link(s) for 11/17/09 – Sports AND politics

Today I give you a few links for a few different worlds.  I’ll try to keep my commentary to a minimum and just let you enjoy the link.  However, I do want to point out that I am very close to 100 comments – I think what I will do is give a little prize to the 100th person to post a comment on my blog…and it could be you 🙂 I think I’ve given you a wide enough range of subjects so everyone has something to say. 

If you read back a couple of entries, you will see that I said that I understood the rationale of the choice Belichick made to go for it on 4th and 2.  Now, statistics and percentages have proven me right!   (Sorry Tony Dungy)   This article does make the REALLY good point that, if you were planning to go for it on 4th down, running it on third down would have made more sense.

According to ABC news, the Congressional Budget Office is about to release their findings on the long-term costs associated with the health care bill and, according to sources, it will be good news for the majority party and the president.  We’ll have to wait and see for specifics but this may help some moderate senators get on board if they see it might actually reduce the deficit in the long-run.  Of course, the really interesting question becomes if those opposed to the bill will ignore the CBO findings and make up their own numbers about the impact of the bill on the economy.  Can’t wait!

Yeah right.

Oh, Senator Sessions.  Why must you go back on your word?    Senator Sessions is reportedly considering a filibuster of Judge David Hamilton, an Obama nominee to the 7th circuit court of appeals.  However, back in 2003, Sessions (who was denied a floor vote in 1985 for a nomination to be a Federal Judge) said ““Of the many reasons why we shouldn’t have a filibuster, an important one is the Article I of the Constitution. It says the Senate shall advise and consent on treaties by a two-thirds vote, and simply “shall advise and consent” on nominations.”  But now, with a Democrat in the White House, he has changed his mind.  This continues the long-standing practice of the majority party deriding the minority trying to block the business of the senate and impose their will, only to change their mind when they lose the majority.   It’s like not stopping for a pedestrian when you are driving, but then calling the police when a driver doesn’t let you cross at the EXACT same intersection.  It is so transparent and is one of the many reasons people don’t trust their congress is actually working for them.   Just look at this quote from another article addressing this important issue “Two dozen conservatives led by former Reagan-era Attorney General Edwin Meese have signed a letter calling on senators to invoke the justification of “extraordinary circumstances” to block Hamilton’s nomination…Nine of the individuals who signed the memo also signed the 2005 letter to GOP leaders calling for them to abolish the filibuster of judicial nominees…”  The explanation for the about-face might go something like this ‘See, uh, the thing is, uh, well Sarah Palin told us, no, I mean I got a letter from Bill Belichick telling me to always go for it.  Yeah, see the economy is in trouble and, well, I don’t want to be dramatic, but we have to filibuster sometime, otherwise how am I going to get in the news and then campaign that the majority doesn’t do anything….also what if Barack Hussain Obama nominated his cousin Osama?  What then.’

Because I want another sports link and this list is priceless! (fair warning, a few are a bit creepy)

Candidate Tuesday coming later today on Joe Kennedy…No, no, no.  Not that one.  The other one.