Thursday, June 11, 2009


Right Wingers Continue To Pretend Their Rhetoric and Histrionics About Socialism Don't Contribute to Right Wing Extremism.

When a Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism was released earlier this year, the conservative media responded with outrage and mockery. In light of Wednesday's attack at the Washington D.C. Holocaust Museum, Fox News' anchor Shep Smith pointed out that "they warned us for a reason." Media Matters has looked back at how those warnings were ignored.

"There are no Timothy McVeighs out there right now," declared James Dobson on Fox News in April. "They're making a big deal out of something that hasn't happened and may not happen."

Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros dismissed the report's findings as a "made up threat."

Joe Scarborough reacted with both anger and indignation, expressing shock that the report was "targeting veterans returning from war" while also laughing hysterically when it was brought up: "This is a funny story this is a laughably -- they're nuts, Janet Napolitano has gone nuts -- this is funny."


Get HuffPost Politics On Facebook and Twitter!


Fox News Double Whammy: Shep Smith Decries "Crazies" then Glenn "Never Went to College" Beck Incites those same Crazies.

Glenn Beck Spins the Holocaust Museum Shooting

Joseph A. Palermo

This afternoon Glenn Beck and two of his guests argued that Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party were "leftwing"; that "political correctness" led the committed white supramacist, James Von Brunn, to shoot a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC; and that ultimately President Barack Obama is the one responsible for the violence because his "bailouts" and "Socialistic" policies are engendering widespread anger. Beck denounced those who claim he is "churning the pot" because, he says, "the pot is already boiling."

Seeing this spectacle with subtitles at the gym today led me to wonder if there are any laws on the books against using the public airwaves to incite violence. Because that is clearly what Beck is doing. I only caught about ten minutes of the show (about all I can stand) and it was a white reactionary tour de force -- incendiary, stupid, and racist.

In Beck's world President Obama brings "identity politics" and "political correctness" to the White House, and it's the "Left" that is "racist" because unlike conservatives, who judge people only on their individual merits and character (the three white men sitting at Beck's table nodding in agreement), all liberals see is people of different races and classes and genders, which "divides" America. And Obama's "socialistic" policies are leading people of dubious sanity to become unglued, and therefore the outbreak of right-wing violence is Obama's fault. Talk about spin! Only through a conscious and disingenuous effort could anyone link the shooting today at the Holocaust Museum to President Obama.

Beck and his guests at the opening of his show today all agreed that the Nazis were not rightwing but a bunch of leftwingers (like Obama and Nancy Pelosi). That is pretty weird when you think about how that tidbit of agitprop must disappoint a lot of white supremacists. All those white guys who hail Hitler and the Nazis because they were so good at kicking the crap out of Socialists, labor unionists, Communists and Soviets, women who didn't know their place, and even "degenerate" Dadaists and surrealists, and don't forget the Jews. What self-respecting Neo-Nazi or Ku Klux Klansman (or good ol' boy at the Council of Conservative Citizens) wants to hear that Hitler was like Michael Moore and Al Franken? But it doesn't matter because Beck is not appealing to his viewers' brains but to their guts. And all those "isms" sound the same to 'em anyhow.

And since this James Von Brunn guy targeted a museum where the murder of millions of Jews is memorialized Beck took the opportunity to run a short audio clip of an interview he had with Benjamin Netanyahu three years ago. He then segued into a riff on how our currently tough economic times will lead some people to scapegoat Jews and that means that Israel should bomb Iran right away. Somewhere behind Beck's talking points there is real thinking going on. No one should dismiss Beck as a hack or "entertainer." He is a propagandist.

It's also clear that Beck and his fans just can't get over the fact that a black man is now their president.

The television and radio producers behind Beck's shows are bright, highly educated Republican strategists at FOX News who are expert at calculating each talking point for the host to pull on the jingoistic heartstrings of his viewers. And it works. Beck's writers are creative people because they've found numerous ingenious ways to denounce Obama because he's black but in ways that don't sound racist.

Beck's good at what he does. I'm sure his viewers get fired up during every show. He's also dangerous. He talks up a grand conspiracy of liberals and "Socialists" who are destroying everything that makes America great and constantly uses alarmist rhetoric as if the whole country is falling apart around us. He does so by emoting on command and with practiced histrionics. I urge you go to Netflix and put on your queue "The Goebbels Experiment."


When the doctors start acting like businessmen, who do the people turn to for doctors?

American Medical Association Trying To Torpedo Health Care Reform Again

Sam Stein at HuffPo

Just days before President Barack Obama is set to address the American Medical Association to pitch its members on his vision for health care reform, the 250,000-member physician group announced it would oppose a major component of that effort.

On Wednesday night, the New York Times reported that AMA was "letting Congress know" that it would resist a public plan for health insurance coverage.

Politically, the revelation could be a potentially significant blow to progressive health care reform advocates, who contend that a public option is the best way to reduce costs and increase insurance coverage. AMA has the institutional resources and the prestige to impact debates in the halls of Congress.

Historically and philosophically, however, AMA's opposition is hardly newsworthy. Despite a lofty reputation and purported commitment to universal coverage, AMA has fought almost every major effort at health care reform of the past 70 years. The group's reputation on this matter is so notorious that historians pinpoint it with creating the ominous sounding phrase "socialized medicine" in the early decades of the 1900s.

"The AMA used it to mean any kind of proposal that involved an increased role for the government in the health care system," Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina, told NPR in a 2007 interview. "They also used it to mean things in the private system that they didn't like. So, at one point, HMOs were a form of socialized medicine."

Indeed, the role played by AMA throughout health care reform battles past has often been primarily as the defender of the status quo. In 1935, fears of an AMA backlash helped persuade Franklin Roosevelt's advisers to drop a health care article from the Social Security package -- fearful that the opposition would sink the legislation altogether.

Concerned about government restriction on and oversight over surgical activities -- not to mention the loss of physician income -- the group deployed the "socialized medicine" argument to undermine Harry Truman's effort at a national health care system years later.

In 1961, AMA organized a campaign to block Medicare. Titled "Operation Coffeecup," the effort insisted that the government-sponsored system would lead to a varying form of totalitarianism. For a spokesman, the group turned to Ronald Reagan, who lent his famous actor's voice to a 10-minute plus recording.

"One of the traditional methods of imposing state-ism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine," said the then-future president. "It is very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it."

During the most recent effort at reform -- the Clinton administration's go at it in the early '90s -- AMA found itself, once again, the spoiler. The group, worried about cost-control measures, poured $3 million into defeating Hillary Clinton's proposal. Perhaps as significantly, it lent its name (and the prestige of its members) to the political opposition. In 1995, AMA endorsed then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Medicare Preservation Act. It was interpreted, at the time, as a patently political ploy - an effort to align with the party that held the keys to legislative power.

The same cannot be said of the American Medical Association's decision to oppose a public plan in the current health care reform quarrel, in which the Obama White House holds the vast majority of political power. Indeed, up until Wednesday, AMA, like most other private players, had kept its powder dry.

So why speak up now? The group cited impossible-to-avoid policy disagreements.

"The A.M.A. does not believe that creating a public health insurance option for non-disabled individuals under age 65 is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs," read an organizational statement to the Senate Finance Committee. "The introduction of a new public plan threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans."

Without private insurers in the market, the statement added, "the corresponding surge in public plan participation would likely lead to an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers."

On this front as well, AMA's critics have room to scoff. Indeed, in mid-February, the Commonwealth Fund put out a report on the most cost-effective ways to revamp the health care industry. The public plan, it concluded, "plays a central role in harnessing markets for positive change" by lowering premiums for many Americans by, potentially, $1,000 a year. In addition, the Commonwealth Fund added, a public plan would help decrease the number of uninsured in the country from "an estimated 48 million in 2009 (16 percent of the U.S. population) to 4 million by 2012."


It's time for Universal Heath Insurance.

The Health Insurance Mafia deserves a good Screwing.

Bob Cesca at Huffpo

Not so long ago, I lost my health insurance.

The coverage was provided through my small business, that is until the carrier (rhymes with Screw Costs) decided to triple the monthly premium completely at random, leaving me with a common ultimatum: either cancel the plan or spend myself out of business. So I canceled the plan.

Good timing, considering that while riding my bike last year I was hit by a car and, upon being hurled to the street, I fractured my T10 vertebra. (My auto insurance covered my medical expenses free and clear, and I'm gratefully back to riding 80 or so miles a week.)

Coupled with my wife's back surgery from the middle 1990s, though, there are currently two fairly serious preexisting conditions on our family medical records, and so now whenever I shop for health insurance, I'm either turned down or quoted a premium that amounts to a request for voluntary financial rape. There are an array of other craptastical tricks and awfulness dished out by the insurers, but those are the most common walls I run into.

My only other option is to abandon my career and take a job that provides health insurance. As happy as that might make some comment trolls, I'm not in a position to do that either. But even if I did, there aren't any guarantees that the insurer wouldn't deny coverage that I paid for, along with a mélange of various other screwings the health insurance industry routinely gets away with.

This story isn't unusual, unfortunately, though I doubt other stories too often involve ricocheting off of a moving vehicle onto hard pavement with nothing but a helmet and garish road cycling regalia to break the fall.

So needless to say, I'm anxiously anticipating the public health insurance option -- as long as it's not crapped up with triggers or trap doors.

Actually, "anticipating" doesn't suffice to define my mood right now. I need it. My family needs it. Because the private health insurance companies have essentially told me that either they want all of my money, or nothing. And if I were to acquiesce to their thievery, I could once again count on premiums randomly being jacked up and, as so many Americans have experienced, coverage being outright denied, all for the sake of profit margins, stock quotes and obscene executive salaries.

A government healthcare plan, on the other hand, would be specifically tailored for stories like mine, and it's my only real chance of having health insurance anytime soon.

In addition to putting the "insurance" back into "health insurance," the public plan would force the private insurers to figure out how to compete -- or face bankruptcy. How excellent would that be for a change? The health insurance companies under financial pressure brought on by a competitive entity that we own.

Honestly, I hope they choke on it. I can think of no other American industry that more closely resembles a criminal shakedown of the public than the health insurers.

Even calling it "insurance" is a sick joke. Insurance implies a guarantee, and no matter what we pay, there are never any guarantees. I propose replacing the word "insurance" with the word "maybe?" -- including the question mark -- as in "health maybe?" Maybe they'll pay when we get sick. Maybe they won't randomly hike our monthly premium by 30 percent. Maybe they'll cover our preexisting conditions without gouging us -- that is if they agree to cover us at all. Maybe they won't let our family members die after refusing coverage.

The entire business model of the health insurance industry is based around a basic truth: people have a natural will to live, and in many cases we'll go broke paying someone to prevent death. The cost of healthcare is so expensive -- in some cases conspiratorial by design -- that we need these other companies to step in and help us pay for it. That's the whole scam. Pay or die.

Consequently, the basic animalistic fear of pain and death coerces us to keep paying whatever we have to pay, and allows the health insurance companies total latitude to get away with their criminal enterprise. (It's a similar fear that keeps us hooked on a cocktail of prescription drugs even though the freakish excretory side effects are often worse than the ailments themselves.)

The public option is an escape hatch. A light in the tunnel. It's actual insurance and not some sort of twisted form of legalized Mafioso extortion.

The Republicans along with the several cowardly Democrats who oppose the public option, in addition to mostly being bought off by the dons who run the industry, are actually preventing competition when they otherwise claim to embrace it. They're preventing you from having a fair choice in this thing.

Competition is what capitalism is all about, yes? The spirit of competition mandates that the marketplace -- you and I -- have the flexibility to move towards the path of least resistance, thus competition is generated, prices are controlled, service improves and the companies that can't compete are killed off. If we don't like one form of crap on a stick, we can stop buying it in lieu of better, cheaper crap on a stick. Choice drives competition and competition drives the economy, right?

As it stands now, there are no choices so there's no real competition.

If we opt to bail on our insurance company because we think they're being unfair or generally screwing us, there are no guarantees the next place will be better or cheaper, or that they'll even have us. And what if we developed an injury or illness on the previous policy? So our tendency is to stay put or, like me, roll the dice.

We're very literally trapped and we have no leverage. We're effed coming and going. We're in a compromised, boxed-in, no win situation and the health insurance companies, along with the politicians they're buying off, know it. So they're exploiting our captivity (and our basic will to live) for profit and political gain.

Tell me again how this is an industry that needs to be defended and protected. Tell me how this isn't organized crime.

Ultimately, the public healthcare option has the potential to end the systematic screwing. It'll force la cosa nostra to compete -- to become more efficient and less criminally coercive. If they can't or if they refuse, then too goddamn bad. Or maybe they'll actually do the right thing and become better than the public option and everyone will want to buy in.

Yeah, that last thing won't happen. After all, there are obscene CEO paychecks to support.

* Ron Williams - Aetna - Total Compensation: $24,300,112.
* H. Edward Hanway - CIGNA - Total Compensation: $12,236,740.
* Angela Braly - WellPoint - Total Compensation: $9,844,212.
* Dale Wolf - Coventry Health Care - Total Compensation: $9,047,469.
* Michael Neidorff - Centene - Total Compensation: $8,774,483.
* James Carlson - AMERIGROUP - Total Compensation: $5,292,546.
* Michael McCallister - Humana - Total Compensation: $4,764,309.
* Jay Gellert - Health Net - Total Compensation: $4,425,355.
* Richard Barasch - Universal American - Total Compensation: $3,503,702.
* Stephen Hemsley - UnitedHealth Group - Total Compensation: $3,241,042.

These people are, of course, compensated based upon the potential profits they're able to generate for their respective shareholders. And those profits are generated both by charging ever-increasing premiums and by refusing to pay out. Put another way: screwing you. And, by the way, while they're screwing you they're locked into the recession-proof tobacco industry -- investing $4.5 billion dollars in a product that's been proven to kill you.

Seriously. Good people.

The health insurance companies and their guardians in Congress can't be allowed to win this one. The Obama administration is giving you and me -- our government, accountable to us -- a chance to compete with the health insurance crime families. We have to draw the line here. There can be no capitulation or compromise on public health insurance. More than any other issue on the table right now, this is about our lives and, in a very serious way, our human dignity. And at no other time in recent history have we had a similar such opportunity for victory in a system that is transparently designed to otherwise screw us.

Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog! Go!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?