Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Democratic Party and President Obama Are Roundly Defeated on National Healthcare Reform Legislation--and We Pay the Price for their Defeat


It's now official: The Democratic Party and President Obama have completely sold us out on national healthcare reform. This is nothing but a huge victory for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and a massive insult to the average citizen/consumer. The rightwing thugs of the Republican party and their neoconservative Democratic Party lackeys bullies the "gliberal" DP wimps and a President who simply doesn't have the courage, conviction, and independence to do anything but kiss the ass of his mortal political enemies and falsely claim that he's the "winner." Like hell he is. Shameless. Pathetic. Predictable.

Read it and weep...


"The Senate bill is a legislative fraud that will enrich corporations, impoverish young, underemployed adults, and diminish women's rights. This is a huge setback for America's health, a mean-spirited victory for Lieberman and the Republican Scrooges, and a moral disgrace that should and will shame Democratic Party candidates in 2010 and Obama in 2012. This defeat follows serious policy setbacks with finance industry reform, foreclosure relief, consumer protection, government secrecy, rendition, unconstitutional signing statements, escalation of war in the Middle East, military tribunals, domestic spying, climate change, and every other controversial issue. What issue is left to be hopeful about?"

--One of many similar comments following the article below. Go to the article link above to read the entire comments section

Reid Has 60 Votes Needed to Pass Health Care Reform Bill
Saturday 19 December 2009
by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a final compromise Saturday morning to the Senate health care bill that some progressive Democratic leaders, labor unions, and grassroots organizations said has been gutted of any meaningful consumer reforms and amounts to a bailout for the insurance industry.

The language in Reid’s 383-page "manager's amendment" includes further concessions over abortion that were made in order to win the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, (D-Nebraska), who had said he would not vote for the bill if it did not include tighter restrictions prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion.

On Saturday morning, after marathon negotiation sessions with Reid, Nelson announced that he intended to put his weight behind the bill, becoming the crucial 60th vote. Reid needs the support of 60 senators to cut off debate and fend off a Republican-led filibuster.

At a news conference Saturday morning, Nelson said, “Change is never easy, but change is what’s necessary in America. And that’s why I intend to vote for health care reform.

Reid tweeeted Saturday morning, "Thanks to Sen. Ben Nelson for announcing his support for the Senate health care bill, making him our 60th vote."

Under Reid's new proposal, according to the New York Times, "states would have the authority to bar coverage for abortions by new government-approved health insurance plans."

A section of the bill titled “state opt-out of abortion coverage” explains how this would work: “A state may elect to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an exchange in such state if such state enacts a law to provide for such prohibition.”

Some health plans receiving federal subsidies could offer coverage for abortion, but they could not use federal money to pay for the procedure. They would have to use money taken from premiums paid by subscribers and would have to keep it separate from federal money.

The government would subsidize premiums for many low- and moderate-income people. Under Mr. Reid’s amendment, some health plans receiving federal subsidies could offer coverage for abortion, but they could not use federal money to pay for the procedure. They would have to use money taken from premiums paid by subscribers and would have to keep it separate from federal money.

The Hill reported that Nelson also won "a major concession on the proposed expansion of Medicaid to everyone with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. "

Nelson, along with governors of both political parties, expressed anxiety that the expansion would burden state budgets. Under the manager's amendment, the federal government will cover more of the cost of the expansion than under the original bill.

Nearly two months after Reid announced details of the Senate health care bill, which included the coveted public option and an "opt-out" provision, meaning individual states could decline to participate; the legislation has been dramatically altered to the point of being unrecognizable.

The public option has been dropped entirely, although Reid, as recently as last week, insisted that it was still part of the final package albeit in the form of a provision that expanded Medicare to individuals beginning at age 55.

But Reid stripped that provision from the bill this week after Sen. Joe Lieberman, (I-Connecticut), said he would move to filibuster the legislation if the amendment remained intact.

The concession, which came at the urging of senior Obama administration officials, angered some Democratic lawmakers and lead grassroots organizations, such as, to launch an online campaign urging supporters to sign a petition calling for the Senate bill to be defeated.

“The latest Senate health care bill has no public option. No expansion of Medicare. And it does too little to guarantee that uninsured Americans will actually be able afford the coverage they'll be required to purchase,” said Moveon’s “No Deal” email sent to supporters Friday.

In a statement Saturday, President Obama said, "As with any legislation, compromise is part of the process."

But the president said he's "pleased that recently added amendments have made this landmark bill even stronger. Between the time the bill passes and the time when the insurance exchange gets up and running there will now be penalties for insurance companies that arbitrarily jack up rates on consumers.

"And while insurance companies will be prevented from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions once the exchange is open, in the meantime there will be a high risk pool where people with pre-existing conditions can purchase affordable coverage."

The way in which Democrats now propose to expand affordable health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans is simply by tightening regulations governing the health care industry.

Reid, according to The Hill, did leave intact a proposal to create multi-state, nonprofit health insurance plans that "would be negotiated by the federal Office of Personnel Management, which manages the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, as an alternative to the traditional insurance plans that would be offered under the bill."

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a cost analysis of the revised bill Saturday, which said the legislation would cost $871 billion over 10 years and cut the federal deficit by $132 billion during that timeframe.

Reuters noted that the figures "meet President Barack Obama's goal of cutting the deficit and having a total cost of about $900 billion over 10 years. The rosy report card could help the proposal gain support."

Still, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, (D-California), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Thursday the Senate bill “is much more expensive than it appears and will leave taxpayers holding the bag for a huge give-away to the private insurance industry.”

“The Senate plan requires everyone to buy health insurance, creating some 30 million new customers for insurers, but it does not have a public option to control costs,” Woolsey said, calling the Senate bill a “gift” to health insurance companies. “By providing low-cost competition, the public option would have forced insurers to rein in the spiraling costs of premiums.”

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted this week underscored the discontent among liberals over the fact that the public option had been scrapped.

According to the poll, 47% said the health care package in its current state is a “bad idea,” while 32% said they believed it was a “good idea.”

MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd, said via Twitter Wednesday that much of the “movement on the 'bad idea' comes from some of the president's core support groups, folks upset about lost public option."

Todd added that “large majorities of the president's core support groups believe his plan is a ‘good idea,' but the margins have shrunk."

Still, according to the poll, 41% of respondents said they believe that the Senate should pass something as opposed to not passing reform legislation at all.

Woolsey said the public might not realize that the Senate bill will cause financial hardship for many.

“The Senate bill insists that people buy insurance that many cannot afford now, and many more will not be able to afford in the future, given that premiums are rising four times faster than wages.” she said. “So who will pay when people must buy health care insurance they can’t afford? Taxpayers.”

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, however, said it's time to "take a deep breath."

"Consider just how much good this bill would do, if passed — and how much better it would be than anything that seemed possible just a few years ago," Krugman wrote Friday. "With all its flaws, the Senate health bill would be the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare, greatly improving the lives of millions. Getting this bill would be much, much better than watching health care reform fail."

The fractious nature of the health care debate among Democrats reached a boiling point earlier this week when Howard Dean, a physician and the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, told Vermont Public Radio Tuesday that the health care bill marked “the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate.”

“Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill,” Dean said.

The former Vermont governor followed up his statements with hard-hitting opening salvo in an op-ed published in Thursday’s Washington Post.

“If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current health-care bill,” Dean wrote. “Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.”

White House senior adviser David Axelrod reacted angrily to Dean’s earlier statements and said it would be “insane” to derail the legislation because of ideological differences over the inclusion of a government-run insurance program to compete with the private sector.

"We're on the verge of doing something that would make an enormously positive difference for people," Axelrod said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” "I don't think you want this moment to pass. It will not come back again."

Former President Bill Clinton agreed.

He said Thursday that although the Senate bill is not drafted the way he would have drafted it, nor does it contain "everything everyone wants," abandoning it would be a "colossal blunder" for the Democratic party and "far more important, for the physical, fiscal, and economic health of our country."

Labor unions, including the Services Employee International Union (SEIU), meanwhile urged passage of the Senate bill, but the groups were critical about the concessions Democratic leaders made this week to secure passage of the legislation.

SEIU president Andy Stern said Thursday, “We don’t like the bill. It has to be improved. But we don’t think that these senators are going to do any better.”

Unions spent millions of dollars on lobbying efforts this year to gain support of health care reform, due in large part to assurances by Democrats that a bill would include a government-operated insurance program.

Stern said he holds out hope that earlier proposals along the lines of a public option will find its way back into a final piece of legislation before it’s sent to Obama for his signature. In a letter to union members Thursday, he called on Obama to uphold his campaign promise before signing legislation into law.

“President Obama must remember his own words from the campaign. His call of ‘Yes We Can’ was not just to us, not just to the millions of people who voted for him, but to himself. We all stood shoulder to shoulder with the president during his hard-fought campaign,” Stern wrote.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, however, registered deep disappointment with the Senate bill, saying in a statement Thursday that “it bends toward the insurance industry, will not check costs in the short term, and its financing asks working people and the country to pay the price, even as benefits are cut,”

“The House bill is the model for genuine healthcare reform,” Trumka said. Working people cannot accept anything less than real reform.”

Republicans, who stand united against the health care bill, promised to make it difficult for Democrats to hold a final vote on the legislation, expected to take place Christmas Eve.

U.S. Imperialism, Obama's False Consciousness, and the Rancid Ghost of Orwellian Doublespeak


Another appropriately fierce, scathing, and brilliant takedown of President Obama's pompous, dishonest, and hubris filled "Nobel Peace Prize" speech and his openly immoral and arrogant defense of 'American Exceptionalism' (better known and understood in the real world as U.S. imperialism). Read Part II of this article for the relevant details....Like I said in my earlier editorial in these pages on this subject (see
: The Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama, and American Foreign Policy posted on December 11, 2009) Orwellian doublespeak is alive and well in the White House...


December 15, 2009

Miraculous Organ
Blair, Obama and the Narcissist's Defense

In recent days we have all witnessed two vomitous eruptions of moral nullity that would tax the powers of a Voltaire or a Vidal to do them proper justice; they quite o'er-crow the meager gifts of a hack like me. But I will sketch a few observations here nonetheless, if only to add one more small voice to those few who bear witness to the evils perpetrated by our unaccountable leaders.

We speak of course of Barack Obama's Nobel speech and Tony Blair's recent comments on the Iraq War. Let's take the lesser figure first.


Since leaving office, Tony Blair has dipped his blood-smeared snout into various corporate troughs, amassing millions, while simultaneously becoming one of the great whited sepulchres of our day, making a great show of his conversion to Catholicism, his "faith foundation," and so on. He has even lectured at Yale Divinity School. But this holy huckster looks more haunted every day. The glaring, bulging eyes, the frantic rictus of his grin – indistinguishable from the grimace of a man in gut-clenching pain --- and the ever-more strident, maniacal defense of his war crimes give compelling testimony to the hellish fires consuming his psyche.

Next month, Blair will go before the Chilcot Inquiry, a panel of UK Establishment worthies charged with investigating the origins of Britain's role in the invasion of Iraq. Although the worthies have been remarkably toothless in their questioning of the great and good so far – the smell of whitewash is definitely in the air – the inquiry has at least performed the useful function of bringing the forgotten subject of Iraq back into the public eye, while collating and confirming, with sworn testimony, much of what we have learned in dribs and drabs over the years about the rank, deliberate deceit behind this murderous catastrophe. One choice bit that has emerged from the inquiry is the revelation that the centerpiece of Blair's case for immediate war – the claim that Saddam Hussein could hit Europe with WMD-loaded missiles on just 45 minutes' notice – came from unconfirmed, third-hand gossip passed along by an Iraqi taxi driver.

As Blair's turn on the well-padded Chilcot cushion draws near, he has launched frantic efforts to keep his testimony secret while at the same time trying to undercut the rationale for the whole war origins inquiry, which has focused on the professed justification for the invasion: disarming Iraq's (non-existent) WMD. So last week, Blair gave an interview to a friendly, timorous chat-show host in which he made the brazen admission – no, the proud boast – that he would have found a way to drive Britain into war with Iraq even if he had known for certain that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. (And of course, given the nature of the "'intelligence" that Blair used in his pre-war WMD claims it is certain that Blair was indeed certain that Saddam had no such weapons when the invasion was launched).

Thus it is now Blair's contention that there is no charge to answer concerning the origins of the war; all this WMD guff is meaningless. He would have found "other arguments" to persuade Britons to follow George W. Bush into the war that American militarists had long been planning.

Blair's admission has drawn a remarkable response from another Establishment mandarin, Sir Ken Macdonald, who served for five years as Director of Public Prosecutions under Blair's government – and now works in private practice at a major law firm…alongside Tony Blair's wife, Cherie. The headline in The Times puts it plainly: "Intoxicated by power, Blair tricked us into war." In his column, Macdonald writes:

"The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions and playing footsie on Sunday morning television does nothing to repair the damage. It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner George Bush and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war they had made perfectly clear they didn’t want, and on a basis that it’s increasingly hard to believe even he found truly credible.

"...Mr Blair’s fundamental flaw was his sycophancy towards power. Perhaps this seems odd in a man who drank so much of that mind-altering brew at home. But Washington turned his head and he couldn’t resist the stage or the glamour that it gave him. In this sense he was weak and, as we can see, he remains so. Since those sorry days we have frequently heard him repeating the self-regarding mantra that “hand on heart, I only did what I thought was right”. But this is a narcissist’s defence and self-belief is no answer to misjudgment: it is certainly no answer to death. “Yo, Blair”, perhaps, was his truest measure."

Macdonald also gives us a sneak peek inside the workings of the elite, with observations that doubtless apply equally well across the ocean:

"In British public life, loyalty and service to power can sometimes count for more to insiders than any tricky questions of wider reputation. It’s the regard you are held in by your peers that really counts, so that steadfastness in the face of attack and threatened exposure brings its own rich hierarchy of honour and reward. Disloyalty, on the other hand, means a terrible casting out, a rocky and barren Roman exile that few have the courage to endure. So which way will our heroes jump?

"We must hope in the right direction — for it is precisely this privately arranged nature of British Establishment power, stubborn beyond sympathy for years in the face of the modern world, that has brought our politics so low. If Chilcot fails to reveal the truth without fear in this Middle Eastern story of violence and destruction, the inquiry will be held in deserved and withering contempt."

It is almost certain that the Chilcot inquiry will produce little more than the usual blood-flecked whitewash. Certainly, Tony Blair will face no official action for his crimes; he will not even lose any of his corporate sponsors, unlike the heinous Tiger Woods, whose sexual intimacy with consenting adults is obviously far worse than the murder of more than one million innocent people. (We'll never see Woods lecturing at Yale Divinity School now!)

But keep looking at Blair's face; watch, year by year, as it brings forth the hideous fruits of the inferno within. For as one of his illustrious countrymen once put it: "Murder, though it have no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ."


"A narcissist's defense." As a description of Obama's Peace Prize speech, Macdonald's phrase could hardly be bettered. But the intense, near-pathological self-regard in the speech was not Obama's alone, of course; we must do him the credit of acknowledging that in this regard, at least, he was what we so often proclaim our leaders to be: the embodiment of the nation. His soaring proclamation of American exceptionalism, in a setting supposedly devoted to universal principles of peace, was breathtaking in its chutzpah – but entirely in keeping with the feelings of the vast majority of his countrymen, and the ruling elite above all.

Many have already remarked on Obama's adoption of Bush's principle of unilateral, "pre-emptive" military action, anytime, anywhere, whenever a leader declares his nation is under threat. This approach -- which Bush called "the path of action" -- was roundly scorned by critics of the former regime, many of whom now scramble to praise Obama's "nuanced" embrace of aggression. But again, let us give credit where it is due; in this aspect of the speech, Obama did in fact go beyond Bush's more narrowly nationalist conception, saying: "I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation."

Thus Obama would, apparently, extend the right of unilateral military action to "any head of state" that feels the necessity of defending his or her nation. But of course this is just empty verbiage, a pointless, bald-faced lie that not even Bush would have tried to get away with. Would Obama accept a unilateral, pre-emptive strike by Tehran against Israel, where top legislators and government officials routinely talk of attacking Iran? Would Obama cheer the "right" of Russia to strike unilaterally at Poland if the U.S. "missile shield" deal, now on hold, was suddenly consummated? Would Obama support a unilateral strike by India at Pakistan -- or vice versa -- in the still-seething cauldron of tensions on the subcontinent, where both nations legitimately feel threatened by the other? Would he support the right of Kim Jong-il to "defend his nation" by attacking South Korea the next time there is a threatening border incident there?

No, it is clear that only the United States -- and its allies, like Israel -- are to be allowed the supreme privilege of unilateral war. The line was inserted in the speech simply because it would sound good in the moment, and create a temporary emotional reaction that might carry listeners past the macabre incongruity underlying the entire event: giving a peace award to the bloodstained leader of a military machine hip-deep in the coagulate gore of two, vast, civilian-slaughtering wars.

Obama staked his boldest claim to American exceptionalism with a passage that he lifted, almost verbatim, from his West Point speech just a few days before, when he announced his second massive escalation of the war in Afghanistan:

"Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other people's children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity."

Here is chutzpah -- and hubris -- raised to the level of the sublime. Obama has taken the words he used to instigate the certain death of thousands of human beings and the acceleration of hatred, extremism, chaos and brutal corruption around the world -- and offered them as justification for the hideous, unabashedly Orwellian doctrine at the core of his speech: War is Peace. In this perverse inversion of values, Obama, as a warmaker, is actually a peacemaker, you see -- and thus a legitimate heir to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who was evoked at several points in the speech.

And here we come to what was for me the most revolting part of the speech. And perhaps the most significant too. All the cant about America's altruism and "enlightened self-interest" in killing millions of people (Indochina was one of many convenient blank spots in Obama's historical survey) for the sake of all the children of the world (red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in our sight) was just par for the rhetorical course. It was nothing that had not been said many times before, including the references -- so lauded by Obama's liberal apologists -- to those inadvertent "mistakes" America seems to keep making, out of a surfeit of good intentions, no doubt. But I don't think an American president has so openly and directly traduced the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi before. (And to do it while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, no less! Oh, that sublime brass....)

Although larded with usual hyper-yet-flaccid, florid-yet-false oratorical stylings that have become Obama's trademark, his words about King and Gandhi drip with scorn and condescension. I was actually taken aback when I read these passages:

"I make this statement [about the moral justification for war] mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: It merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms."

The intellectual incoherence and arrogant sneering behind this supposedly laudatory passage is staggering. After claiming to be the personal embodiment of King and Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent action, Obama gives the game away with this line: "I face the world as it is." Those two guys, they were just dreamers, they were unrealistic, they were unserious; they didn't "face the world as it is," they weren't savvy and pragmatic, like me. I have to go to war because I'm a head of state "sworn to protect and defend my nation."

[Here, Obama indulges in a trope that is pandemic among his apologists: the idea that he was somehow forced to become the head of a militarist state waging endless war around the world, that he has somehow woken up and found himself "the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. But of course he chose to pursue this kind of power in this kind of system -- chose it, pursued it, fought like hell to win it. It's what he wanted. Yet still this notion of Obama as a helpless victim of fate -- lost in a world he never made -- persists.]

He then goes on to give the lie to his previously stated admiration for Gandhi and King: "A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." Thus, King, Gandhi and any practitioner of non-violent resistance to evil are, ultimately, naive, ineffectual -- weak.

Notice the incoherence – or perhaps deliberate elision – at work here. Obama says he must face down "threats to the American people" -- and then talks about Hitler's armies, immediately coupling, and rhetorically equating them, with al-Qaeda's scattered handful of hidden fugitives. Are the American people now threatened by Hitler's armies? Are al-Qaeda's paltry forces -- less than 100 of them in Afghanistan, according to Obama's own war-wagers -- the equal of Hitler's armies of millions of men?

But there is a deeper untruth beyond these cheap rhetorical tricks. For it is blatantly untrue to say that "a nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies." First of all, one cannot make that statement because this approach was never tried. Therefore you cannot state categorically that it would not have worked. Doubtless it would have cost millions of lives; but as Gandhi himself pointed out, the violent resistance to Hitler's armies also cost tens of millions of lives. But Obama's formulation -- which is a hackneyed one indeed -- only deals with one view of non-violent resistance to Hitler: i.e., from the outside, resisting his armies as they poured across the borders. There is another way in which a non-violent resistance movement without any doubt could have "halted Hitler's armies": if it had taken root and spread throughout Germany itself, including among the armed forces and its supporting industries.

In the event, this did not happen. But it was not, and is not, an impossibility for humankind to pursue such an approach. Therefore it is fatuous and false to state what cannot possibly be known: whether non-violent resistance would have thwarted Nazism, and whether this would have been more or less costly than the way of violence.

Similarly, it is false to say that "negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." The only response to this bald statement is: How do you know? Has anybody tried it? No. Therefore you cannot call it an impossibility -- and then use this supposed, untested "impossibility" as your justification for laying waste to whole nations. You may say that it would be unjust to negotiate with al-Qaeda, that those who use murderous violence to achieve their ends should simply be killed or prosecuted. (Where then would that leave the leaders of the exalted, exceptional, unilateral United States?) But of course this is precisely what Gandhi did: he sat down and negotiated with the representatives of an empire that had caused the deaths of millions of his own people. He negotiated with them in good faith, with good will, despite what they had done and were doing to his people -- and despite the fact that many of his interlocutors, such as Winston Churchill, hated him with a blind, racist fury. And he was successful -- although again, not without cost, both before and after the liberation. But Gandhi, and King, knew the costs of non-violence – because they were genuinely savvy, and genuinely realistic about the nature of evil.

In any case, aside from the particulars of any real situation or hypothetical scenario, the speech is a glaring example of Obama's deep-seated (and perhaps unconscious) contempt for the path of peace, and its practitioners. It is also a manifestation of his own inferno, of his desperate need to justify -- to himself and to the world -- his free, deliberate choice to follow the blood-choked "path of action" as the commander-in-chief of a bloated, brutal war machine.

No one forced any of these decisions – or these specious, obscene justifications – on Obama or Blair. Their own narcissism -- their own lust for power and their love for the system that gave them that power – has covered them with the blood and shame that now taint their every word and deed.

Chris Floyd is an American writer and frequent contributer to CounterPunch. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at

Friday, December 18, 2009

AFL-CIO and SEIU Unions Demand that President Obama and the Democratic Party Fight For Progressive Agenda in National Healthcare Reform Struggle


Like my beloved late father and all my uncles and aunts and siblings and damn near every friend and associate I have ever known I am and shall always remain A UNION MAN...'Nuff said...


Nation's Largest Union: Change Health Care Bill Or Else
by Sam Stein

Huffington Post

The nation's largest union group said Thursday that it will not support the Democratic health-care bill unless "substantial changes" are made to the current Senate version.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement to reporters that without a public option for insurance coverage or an employer mandate - and with a tax on high-end insurance plans that some union members get - the health care legislation supported by Senate Democrats falls far short of meeting his group's standards.

"[For] this health care bill to be worthy of the support of working men and women, substantial changes must be made," said Trumka. "The AFL-CIO intends to fight on behalf of all working families to make those changes and win health care reform that is deserving of the name."

The remarks are a strong indication that the coalition of pro-health-care-reform groups has begun to fray. Earlier in the day, Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern penned a letter to his fellow union members in which he called out President Barack Obama for abandoning his own principles of reform.

"President Obama must remember his own words from the campaign. His call of 'Yes We Can' was not just to us, not just to the millions of people who voted for him, but to himself. We all stood shoulder to shoulder with the President during his hard fought campaign. And, we will continue to stand with him but he must fight for the reform we all know is possible," Stern wrote.

"Our challenge to you, to the President, to the Senate and to the House of Representatives is to fight," Stern continued. "Now, more than ever, all of us must stand up, remember what health insurance reform is all about, and fight like hell to deliver real and meaningful reform to the American people."

Stern, like Trumka, called for Democrats to make changes to the legislation as the process moves forward. And his rebuke of Obama - a staunch personal ally - was a telling sign of the growing frustration within the labor movement.

Both labor leaders were particularly incensed over the concessions made by the Senate's Democratic leadership to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), the 60th member of their caucus. "The public option is declared impossible. Americans cannot purchase Medicare at an earlier age. The health insurance reform effort we have needed for a century is at risk," Stern wrote.

Officials at both unions met late into the night on Wednesday in emergency sessions to discuss the Senate bill. Aides say the conversations were lengthy and, at times, emotional. The labor community, while privately angry with the White House and Democrats in Congress, still needs the support of these lawmakers on other legislative priorities. Meanwhile, having poured millions into advertisement and man-hours in order to get health care passed, they have watched in horror as the principles they worked for were abandoned in a matter of days.

Officials are also aware of how much would be lost by simply scrapping the bill altogether. Stern noted that under the Senate's bill 30 million additional people would be covered, pre-existing conditions would no longer be an excuse to deny coverage, and people who get sick would no longer lose their insurance. Trumka, likewise, pointed to "good things" in the Senate bill, including the fact that "insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or impose lifetime or unreasonable annual limits."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joe "The Jerk" Lieberman, The Obama Administration, Congress, and the Legislative Sham called "National Healthcare Reform"


The current national healthcare reform bill sham and one of its major reactionary leaders in the Senate--the relentlessly corrupt, opportunist, and arrogantly retrograde jerk Joe Lieberman. Just how thoroughly backward is he and this bill?: The venal insurance and pharmaceutical industries and their massive corporate army of lobbyists are dancing in the streets over these developments. Incredibly, the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party are allowing this asshole to get away with it! --This is what a gigantic political sellout, ethical cowardice, and spineless abdication of principle smells like. Please read article below and pass on the very bad news...


Joe Lieberman and the Health Care Train Wreck
Tuesday 15 December 2009
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

When last we heard from Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, he was throwing sand into the gears of the Democratic push for health care reform by declaring he would filibuster any legislation containing the so-called public option."I feel so strongly about the creation of another government health insurance entitlement," said the senator back in November."The government going into the health insurance business - I think it's such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single senator to stop a final vote."

This pronouncement came at the same time as word got out that Lieberman was also planning to actively campaign for GOP candidates during the 2010 midterms, further undercutting his erstwhile party's hold on the majority in Congress."There's a hard core of partisan, passionate, hardcore Republicans," he said at the time. "There's a hard core of partisan Democrats on the other side. And in between is the larger group, which is people who really want to see the right thing done, or want something good done for this country and them - and that means, sometimes, the better choice is somebody who's not a Democrat."

For some reason, these twin insults did not motivate the Democratic Congressional leadership to expunge this hypocritical cretin from their ranks. Lieberman kept his committee chairmanship and was not even mildly censured by his colleagues. One month later, the decision to ignore his brazen disregard for his colleagues has come back to bite us all, for Mr. Lieberman has once again elbowed his way into the center of the health reform debate, and with a vengeance. "Mr. Lieberman threatened on national television to join the Republicans in blocking the health care bill, President Obama's chief domestic initiative," reported The New York Times on Tuesday. "Within hours, he was in a meeting at the Capitol with top White House officials. And on Monday night, Democratic senators emerged from a tense 90-minute closed-door session and suggested that they were on the verge of bowing to Mr. Lieberman's main demands: that they scrap a plan to let people buy into Medicare beginning at age 55, and scotch even a fallback version of a new government-run health insurance plan, or public option."

This turn of events is sickening and appalling on a couple of different levels.

First, of course, is the shameless reality that is Mr. Lieberman himself. During his 2004 presidential run, and again during his 2006 Senate campaign, Lieberman actively supported the public option's inclusion in any health care reform, and specifically supported the expansion of Medicare. As late as this past September, Lieberman continued to support such an expansion, as reported by The Connecticut Post. "As to how 47 million uninsured will afford coverage," said The Post, "Lieberman said only 12 million don't have insurance because they cannot afford it. By allowing citizens who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid to buy in for a rate below the private market, the government can extend coverage to more of those who are currently uninsured, he said."

That was then, and this is now. In one of the most astounding examples of political flip-floppery, Lieberman opened this week by declaring himself dead-set against the very health care reform policies he once championed, and once again announced his intention to don a Republican cloak and tear up the Democrats' legislative efforts. Again.

Why? One would have to be deep into a severe state of personal denial to believe Lieberman has legitimate concerns about the impending health care legislation, given the fact that he very recently supported the exact provisions he now wants removed or destroyed. The only sensible explanation would seem to be that Lieberman is actively needling the Democratic leadership, and has become such an obnoxious obstructionist only to keep his name in the news. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo explains the situation, and what it means going forward:

The key issue senate Democrats now have in dealing with Joe Lieberman isn't his position on the Medicare Buy-In. They need to confront the problem that Lieberman isn't negotiating in good faith. No surprise that Republicans are giddy with what a problem he's creating for Harry Reid & Co. But in my conversations with them, it's as clear to them as it is to anyone else that he's now basically mocking his Democratic colleagues by moving the goal posts every time a new agreement is struck.

This puts the Democrats in an extremely difficult, politically untenable position. Yes, they need 60 votes. But they're not going to be able to hang on to Lieberman's vote long enough to get the bill passed. That now seems unquestionably clear. People who say that the Dems should just move to reconciliation don't necessarily realize the difficulties involved - either procedurally or politically, in terms of losing even more Democratic votes. Personally, I'd like to see them try it. But I don't know if it's possible.

Until a couple days ago I was close to certain a health care bill would pass. I still feel relatively confident one will simply because the Dems just don't have any choice but to pass one. Once it is passed, if it is, it's definitely time for the Democratic caucus to strip Lieberman of all the benefits he receives as a member of the Democratic caucus. But that doesn't accomplish anything at the moment. The only path I can see for the Dems is that they need to try to put 60 votes together with Sen. Snowe. Yes, that sounds crazy to me too. But I think she actually has a set of policy priorities that could be met. I don't think that's true with Lieberman. So further negotiating just means more game-playing.

The solution to all this, one would think, would be for the Democratic leadership in Congress to wrap Lieberman in bright red wrapping paper, slap on a bow, and ship him across the aisle to his ideological compatriots in the GOP as an early Christmas present. Strip him of his leadership position, show him the door, and publicly denounce him as nothing more than a stinking chunk of cholesterol clogging up the arteries of progress.

But no. Of course that isn't going to happen. Instead, Democrats appear poised to once again knuckle under to this fraud and further denude what has already become a half-a-loaf bill. According to several sources, Rahm Emmanuel and the White House are actively pressuring the Democratic leadership in Congress to give Lieberman whatever he wants in order to pass some form of health reform legislation, no matter how ragged, damaging and useless the final product may turn out to be.

The Senate won't vote on health care reform until next week, and the process has changed course two dozen times already, so the outcome of this latest idiot eruption is far from certain, but the writing does appear to be on the wall this time around. Joe Lieberman doesn't give a tinker's damn about the people he represents, the party that coddles him, his own positions on key issues or anything else beyond getting his mug in front of television cameras in the guise of someone who actually matters. The Obama administration is once again moonwalking away from doing the right thing on this issue, and the jellyfish pond that is Congress appears poised to do what jellyfish do: float, flop, flounder and drift with the scum in this rising tide.

In short, this whole thing is about to become a train wreck of galactic proportions. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Big Betrayal: The Democratic Party and the Obama Administration Sell Us Down The River on National Healthcare Reform--With our Complicit Support


There's no other way to say it and still tell the truth so I ain't gonna pretend that there is: The national healthcare 'reform' legislation presently stumbling along toward severely compromised passage in the Senate is nothing but a huge sellout to the criminally avaricious insurance and pharmaceutical companies. A shortlist of what is fatally wrong with this egregiously backward proposal can be described as follows: This massive bullshit bill does not provide universal coverage for American citizens, does not provide public-based economic competition against the current de facto corporate monopoly/oligopoly of national healthcare services and protection, does not keep down or regulate soaring and largely arbitrary healthcare costs, does not provide cheaper and more comprehensive coverage and protection for the poor and working classes, does not extend or expand medicare coverage to younger citizens under 64, and does not advocate or provide any kind of institutional alternative to the prevailing legal, economic, and political domination and control of the conservatives and rightwing opposition in both the Democratic and Republican parties. In a word: WE'RE SCREWED.

As Rolling Stone political journalist Matt Taibbi pointed out so clearly and prophetically in his long, stunningly brilliant, and groundbreaking article/essay 'Sick and Wrong: How Washington is screwing up health care reform--and why it may take a revolt to fix it' originally published August 19, 2009 in Rolling Stone, reprinted on September 3, 2009 online: and reprinted in this magazine on September 12, 2009, this current debacle is as much our own fault as duped, ignorant, and cynical citizens as it is of the typically corrupt, cowardly, opportunist, and on-the-make hustler politicians on both sides of the aisle. As Taibbi made crystal clear in August of this year the stark political and economic reality we are all faced with as corporate capitalism runs rampant in our lives is epitomized and represented most dramatically in the now largely lost fight for genuine national healthcare reform:

"To recap, here's what ended up happening with health care. First, they gave away single-payer before a single gavel had fallen, apparently as a bargaining chip to the very insurers mostly responsible for creating the crisis in the first place. Then they watered down the public option so as to make it almost meaningless, while simultaneously beefing up the individual mandate, which would force millions of people now uninsured to buy a product that is no longer certain to be either cheaper or more likely to prevent them from going bankrupt. The bill won't make drugs cheaper, and it might make paperwork for doctors even more unwieldy and complex than it is now. In fact, the various reform measures suck so badly that PhRMA, the notorious mouthpiece for the pharmaceutical industry which last year spent more than $20 million lobbying against health care reform, is now gratefully spending more than seven times that much on a marketing campaign to help the president get what he wants.

So what's left? Well, the bills do keep alive the so-called employer mandate, requiring companies to provide insurance to their employees. A good idea — except that the Blue Dogs managed to exempt employers with annual payrolls below $500,000, meaning that 87 percent of all businesses will be allowed to opt out of the best and toughest reform measure left. Thanks to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, we can now be assured that the 19 or 20 employers in America with payrolls above $500,000 who do not already provide insurance will be required to offer good solid health coverage. Hurray!

Or will they? At the end of July, word leaked out that the Senate Finance Committee, in addition to likely spiking the public option, had also decided to ditch the employer mandate. It was hard to be certain, because even Democrats on the committee don't know what's going on in the Group of Six selected by Baucus to craft the bill. Things got so bad that some Democrats on the committee — including John Kerry, Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez — were reduced to holding what amounts to shadow hearings on health care several times a week, while Baucus and his crew conducted their meetings in relative secrecy. The chairman did not even bother to keep his fellow Democrats informed of the bill's developments, let alone what he has promised Republicans in return for their support of the bill. "The Group of Six has hijacked the process," says an aide to one of the left-out senators.

This leaves Democrats on the committee in the strange position of seriously considering pulling their support for a bill that will emerge from a panel on which they hold a clear majority. Other Democrats are also weighing an end run around their own leadership, hoping to sneak meaningful reforms back into the process. In the House, Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York refused to support the bill passed by the commerce committee unless he was allowed to attach an amendment that will enable Congress to vote on replacing the entire reform bill with a single-payer plan (Bernie Sanders is working on a similar measure in the Senate). On the labor committee, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio took a more nuanced tack, offering an amendment that would free up states to switch to a single-payer system of their own.

It's highly unlikely, though, that the party's leaders will agree to include such measures when the five competing reform bills are eventually combined. On the House side, "Pelosi has unfettered discretion to combine the bills as she pleases," observes one Democratic aide. Which leaves us where we are today, as Congress enjoys its vacation, and the various sides have taken to the airwaves in an advertising blitz to make sure the population is saturated with idiotic misconceptions before the bill is actually voted on in the fall.

The much-ballyhooed right-wing scare campaign, with its teabagger holdovers ridiculously disrupting town-hall meetings with their belligerent protests and their stoneheaded memes (the sign raised at a town hall held by Rep. Rick Larson of Washington — keep the guvmint out of my medicare — is destined to become a classic of conservative propaganda), has proved to be almost totally irrelevant to the entire enterprise. Aside from lowering even further the general level of civility (teabaggers urged Sen. Chris Dodd to off himself with painkillers; Rep. Brad Miller had his life threatened), the Limbaugh minions have accomplished nothing at all, except to look like morons for protesting as creeping socialism a reform effort designed specifically to change as little as possible and to preserve at all costs our malfunctioning system of private health care.

All that's left of health care reform is a collection of piece-of-shit, weakling proposals that are preposterously expensive and contain almost nothing meaningful — and that set of proposals, meanwhile, is being negotiated down even further by the endlessly negating Group of Six. It is a fight to the finish now between Really Bad and Even Worse. And it's virtually guaranteed to sour the public on reform efforts for years to come.

"They'll pass some weak, mediocre plan that breaks the bank and even in the best analysis leaves 37 million people uninsured," says Mokhiber, one of the single-payer activists arrested by Baucus. "It's going to give universal health care a bad name."

It's a joke, the whole thing, a parody of Solomonic governance. By the time all the various bills are combined, health care will be a baby not split in half but in fourths and eighths and fractions of eighths. It's what happens when a government accustomed to dealing on the level of perception tries to take on a profound emergency that exists in reality. No matter how hard Congress may try, though, it simply is not possible to paper over a crisis this vast.

Then again, some of the blame has to go to all of us. It's more than a little conspicuous that the same electorate that poured its heart out last year for the Hallmark-card story line of the Obama campaign has not been seen much in this health care debate. The handful of legislators — the Weiners, Kuciniches, Wydens and Sanderses — who are fighting for something real should be doing so with armies at their back. Instead, all the noise is being made on the other side. Not so stupid after all — they, at least, understand that politics is a fight that does not end with the wearing of a T-shirt in November."


[From Issue 1086 — September 3, 2009]: Rolling Stone

Check out Matt Taibbi's blog for updates on this story and more.

December 15, 2009

Senate Democrats Likely to Drop Medicare Expansion
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leaders said Monday that they were prepared to drop a proposed expansion of Medicare and make other changes in sweeping health legislation as they tried to rally their caucus in hopes of passing the bill before Christmas.

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal.

“It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be scrapped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”

Under the proposal, uninsured people ages 55 to 64 could purchase Medicare coverage. The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, floated the idea about 10 days ago as a way to break an intraparty impasse over his earlier proposal to create a government-run health insurance plan.

The signal from the party leadership came after the closed-door session to gauge sentiment for moving ahead with a pared-back measure that would not contain elements that liberal lawmakers had sought, particularly a public health insurance option.

Lawmakers and top aides said that the overriding view at the session held just off the Senate floor was that they had come too far in the health care debate to give up and that they should forge ahead with some legislation even if it was not all that they wanted.

After the meeting, lawmakers said they believed that chances were increased for completing a health care bill and that a final product would be a substantial improvement over the current system.

“If you compared it to the alternative, it looks good,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, about the prospect of moving ahead with a measure that does not have a public health insurance option. “If you compare it to the possibilities, it looks pretty sad.”

Democrats were scheduled to meet Tuesday at the White House with President Obama to discuss health care. The party meeting in the Capitol came at a crucial time since the leadership must begin taking procedural steps if Democrats hope to reach a final vote on a health care plan sometime next week.

At a brief news conference after the caucus meeting, Mr. Reid refused to answer questions. He said: “This is like a steeplechase race. The last big puddle is in front of us.”

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the health committee, appeared to be laying the groundwork for a decision to abandon the Medicare buy-in.

“There is enough good in this bill that we ought to move it” even without the Medicare buy- in, Mr. Harkin said. Among the most important provisions of the bill, he said, are stringent new federal regulation of health insurance and coverage for a wide range of preventive health services.

Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, said, “If dropping the Medicare expansion is necessary, that’s what should be done.” He reported that “there was some disappointment by some members that some of the provisions could not be retained.”

The idea of expanding Medicare to cover younger members of the public ran into trouble this weekend when Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, indicated he would not vote for that proposal. Given the need for Democrats to keep Mr. Lieberman in the fold, Democrats sought to find ways to ease his objections. Mr. Lieberman and Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska and another potential Democratic defector, were both in the private meeting but did not speak, lawmakers said.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who switched parties earlier this year to become a Democrat, urged his colleagues not to let obstructionists stand in the way. “I came to this caucus to be your 60th vote,” he said to a round of applause, according to observers. Democrats need 60 votes to pass the health care bill over Republican objections.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

December 14, 2009
Lieberman Rules Out Voting for Health Bill
New York Times

WASHINGTON — In a surprise setback for Democratic leaders, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said on Sunday that he would vote against the health care legislation in its current form.

The bill’s supporters had said earlier that they thought they had secured Mr. Lieberman’s agreement to go along with a compromise they worked out to overcome an impasse within the Democratic Party.

But on Sunday, Mr. Lieberman told the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to scrap the idea of expanding Medicare and abandon any new government insurance plan or lose his vote.

On a separate issue, Mr. Reid tried over the weekend to concoct a compromise on abortion that would induce Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, to vote for the bill. Mr. Nelson opposes abortion. Any provision that satisfies him risks alienating supporters of abortion rights.

In interviews on the CBS News program “Face the Nation,” Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Nelson said the bill did not have the 60 votes it would need in the Senate.

Senate Democratic leaders, including Mr. Reid and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, said they had been mindful of Mr. Lieberman’s concerns in the last 10 days and were surprised when he assailed major provisions of the bill on television Sunday. He reiterated his objections in a private meeting with Mr. Reid.

A Senate Democratic aide, perplexed by Mr. Lieberman’s stance, said, “It was a total flip-flop, and leaves us in a predicament as to what to do.”

Democrats are desperately trying to round up 60 votes and conclude Senate debate on the health care bill before Christmas.

Mr. Reid could not immediately figure out how to achieve that goal at a meeting he held Sunday with senior Democratic senators and White House officials, including Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, according to Senate Democratic aides.

Marshall H. Wittmann, a spokesman for Mr. Lieberman, said the Connecticut senator “notified Senator Reid on Friday that he had severe misgivings about the Medicare buy-in proposal, so his comments on ‘Face the Nation’ should not have come as a surprise to the leadership.”

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that passage of the bill was looking less and less inevitable. The Democrats “are in serious trouble on this,” he said, “and the core problem is the American people do not want us to pass it.”

On television Sunday, Mr. Lieberman said: “We’ve got to stop adding to the bill. We’ve got to start subtracting some controversial things. I think the only way to get this done before Christmas is to bring in some Republicans who are open-minded on this, like Olympia Snowe.”

Senator Snowe, of Maine, has tried to find common ground with Democrats, but has rejected Mr. Reid’s proposal to let uninsured people 55 to 64 years old purchase coverage under Medicare.

“You’ve got to take out the Medicare buy-in,” Mr. Lieberman said. “You’ve got to forget about the public option. You probably have to take out the Class Act, which was a whole new entitlement program that will, in future years, put us further into deficit.”

Class Act refers to a federal insurance program for long-term care, known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act.

Mr. Lieberman said he would have “a hard time” voting for a bill with the Medicare buy-in.

“It has some of the same infirmities that the public option did,” he said. “It will add taxpayer costs. It will add to the deficit. It’s unnecessary. The basic bill, which has a lot of good things in it, provides a generous new system of subsidies for people between ages 55 and 65, and choice and competition.”

Mr. Nelson said he wanted to know the cost of the Medicare buy-in. “I am concerned that it’s the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option,” he said.

Mr. Lieberman said: “The bill itself does a lot to bring 30 million people into the system. We don’t need to keep adding onto the back of this horse, or we’re going to break the horse’s back and get nothing done.”

Even if Senate Democratic leaders were prepared to meet Mr. Lieberman’s demands, they would still need to resolve intraparty disputes over insurance coverage for abortion.

Aides to Mr. Reid met Saturday with advocates of abortion rights to explore ideas for a compromise.

Details were sketchy. Under one idea, some health plans receiving federal subsidies could offer optional coverage for abortion, but they could not use federal money to pay for the procedure. They would have to use money taken from premiums paid by subscribers and would have to keep it separate from federal money.

Critics of abortion say such requirements for the segregation of funds are an accounting gimmick.

In hopes of placating opponents of abortion, Mr. Reid is also considering an increase in the federal tax credit for adoption of children and a new program to provide services to pregnant high school and college students.

Both ideas were proposed by Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who opposes abortion but generally supports the overall bill.

“Many teens and women who face an unplanned pregnancy do so with little or no support,” Mr. Casey said.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company