FDL Action Health Care Update: Friday (10/30/09)

Here are the FDL Action health care reform highlights for Friday, October 30.

1. Jane Hamsher blogs the “Lieberkini.” Let’s just say, this is appropriate for Halloween, maybe even a creative costume idea if you haven’t come up with one yet. Ha.

2. Jon Walker writes that although the “media is making a lot of hay about the CBO conclusion that with its negotiated rates, the House’s public option will have premiums slightly higher than private insurance on the exchange,” in actuality this means is that “the public option would be able to provide high quality, low hassle health insurance at a better unit cost.”  However, it gets a lot more complicated than that –  the “adverse selection” paradox and “an insufficient ‘risk adjustment’ procedure.” To learn more, read Jon Walker’s excellent analysis.

3. Jane Hamsher invited everyone to join medical students and her earlier today at the Russell Senate office building to “treat, not trick” for generic drugs. Hamsher also points out that “These events were cosponsored by POP, as part of our ongoing effort for health care advocacy.”  You can join the POP facebook page here. Don’t worry, it will be a treat not a trick!

4. Jon Walker points to a new “Research 2000 poll sponsored by the PCCC shows that the public option is dramatically more popular than Blanche Lincoln.”  Which makes it, well, not the most politically savvy move that “Lincoln has already twice voted against the public option in committee.” But I’m sure she must know things that the rest of us don’t know. (snark)

5. Jane Hamsher writes about “pro-life” Rep. Bart Stupak’s threat (or is it a bluff?) to block the House health care bill from passing over the issue of tax dollars for abortion. Hamsher asks, “Where the hell is Planned Parenthood? How about NARAL?” The answer so far: “crickets”.

6. Jon Walker argues that the “Dutch health system shows [the] necessity of [a] strong risk adjustment mechanism.”  Walker adds, “This dangerous lack of sufficient risk adjustment mechanisms is the Achilles heel of reform.”

7. Michael Whitney reports that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) “isn’t even sure she’ll let health care be debated on the floor of the Senate, let alone allowing to go to a vote.”  All the more reason, Whitney argues,  to contribute towards organizers in Arkansas for a possible primary challenge to Lincoln. Needless to say, that would definitely not be a “treat” for Blanche Lincoln!

8. Finally, Jon Walker blogs about CBO Director Doug Elmendorf apparently “no longer sure what ‘bending the cost curve‘ even means.”  As Walker notes, this is “probably not what the Blue Dogs were hoping for…” The question with the “Blue Dogs,” of course, is whether their bark is worse than their bite. It appears we’ll be finding out in short order.

Happy Halloween from everyone at FDL Action!

Supreme Court Dismisses Tainted Luzerne Cases

In the end justice prevailed.  That isn’t much sympathy for the thousands of youths wrongly incarcerated and denied their rights to due process by two Luzerne County Judges under prosecution for corruption.  The PA Supreme Court dismissed 6500 juvenile court cases from Luzerne County which were involved in a kickback scheme between two Judges and a privatized juvenile prison operation.  Nothing, however, can balance the angst, grief and life interruptions forced upon these 6500 youngsters who were railroaded and then incarcerated, sometimes in shackles.  How do we wipe those memories from the victims of this corruption?  We simply cannot.

Justice was served, or is being served.  The system worked because someone filed an anonymous complaint to the state Board responsible for judicial ethics.  Superior Court Judge Jack Panella headed that Board and the case was referred for investigation.  The U.S. Attorney prosecuting the judges has said Judge Panella did everything properly.

The issue of judicial corruption is hanging over next week’s appellate court elections and should be.  Corrupt judges rigging cases for personal profit is something which appalls us all.  That is why I have endorsed this slate of candidates:

Supreme Court:  Jack Panella

Superior Court:  Anne Lazarus

                Teresa Sarmina

                Robert Colville

                Kevin McCarthy

Commonwealth Court:  Linda Judson

                    Barbara Behrend Ernsberger

It is vitally important we elect judges with high moral standards, judges who will protect our rights and judges who will uphold the law.  Be sure to vote Tuesday because, if anything, the scandal in Luzerne County reminds us all of the importance of these positions.  

Romanelli, Otter Forced By Dems to Pay $80,000

No wonder Green Party members hate Democrats with a passion.  The state Supreme Court declined to review a Superior Court decision ordering former Senate candidate Carl Romanelli to pay over $80,000 in costs for a challenge to his petitions by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in 2006.  Romanelli was the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate and Democrats feared he’d siphon off liberal votes because their candidate was conservative Bob Casey.  Republicans wound up giving the Green Party contributions to fund their petition drive.

Pennsylvania law makes it extremely difficult for third parties to gain access to the ballot.  Romanelli had to obtain over 60,000 valid petition signatures, a very repressive number for anyone who truly believes in democracy.  As if challenging his petitions weren’t an awful enough deed the Pennsylvania Democratic Party then went to court to force Romanelli and his attorney Larry Otter to pay the costs of the challenge.

This has been despicable behavior by Democrats.  It was also stupid.  They managed to give Carl Romanelli tons of free name recognition as news organizations covered the struggle over ballot access.  Carl never could have raised enough money to get so much publicity but forcing him now to come up with $80,000 is a reminder of why I left the Democratic Party.  Maybe more of us should do so and inform the State Party office that this case is a primary reason we did so.

Murtha Caught in Ethics Probe

Jack Murtha is one of thirty Members of Congress being investigated for ethical lapses according to a report leaked to The Washington Post.  Most of the questionable conduct stems from Defense Department lobbying and influence peddling.  Allegations against Congressman Murtha have stalked him repeatedly the past few years and he has arrogantly denied them.  There’s an awfully lot of smoke coming from this fire however and he has steadfastly refused to explain relationships which appear to be corrupt.

Congressman Murtha needs to come clean about all of the allegations of unethical conduct levied against him instead of attacking the media and bloggers for reporting on the issue.  To me this simply confirms my suspicions.

Specter Supporting GOP’s Dawn Johnsen Filibuster

Since Joe Sestak entered the Democratic primary Sen. Specter’s voting record has taken a severe turn to the left.  After supporting repressive measures infringing our freedoms under George W. Bush and being instrumental in putting fringe Justices on the Supreme Court he has shifted his voting strategy to attract Democrats.  The question this raises is obvious?  How soon will he swing right back to the right after winning another term?  Specter promised Republicans he’d behave and remain in their fold after his last re-election in return for his Chairmanship.  History often repeats itself and we are reminded of the Senator’s frequently shifting voting patterns and loyalties.

Last April I wrote about the blocking of Dawn Johnsen’s nomination as head of the Office of Legal Counsel.  This is a critical position within the Justice Department formerly occupied by John Yoo.  The Stanford professor used his substantial authority in the position to create fictitious legal briefs legalizing torture for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  Sen. Specter had no problem confirming the likes of John Yoo to this position so why is he continuing to filibuster Johnsen’s appointment?  Is Sen. Specter obstructing it with his former Party colleagues on the same basis as they?  Republicans don’t like Dawn Johnsen’s history as an advocate for women’s rights.  This doesn’t bode well for Specter in the upcoming primary and Joe Sestak jumped all over it today:

“As the administration deals with crucial legal issues from interrogating and prosecuting terrorists to closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Arlen Specter and Senate Republicans have decided to tie the President’s hands by denying him a critical advisor,” said Joe. “Arlen has already reversed his position and followed my leadership on the health care public option, the Employee Free Choice Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — it’s time for him to do so again and stop joining the GOP stonewalling of Professor Johnsen. It’s one thing to oppose the nominee, but it’s unacceptable to support the Republican’s obstructionist tactics to block a fair vote.”

When asked about Professor Johnsen when he left the Republican Party, Arlen Specter declared flatly, “I’m opposed to the nominee.”(1) His opposition stems from a report in the right-wing National Review highlighting a footnote in a decades-old legal brief issued by NARAL during her tenure as legal director. During confirmation hearings, Specter said: “In your writings you go pretty far to one end of the political spectrum.” (2)

A Professor at University of Indiana law school, a Yale law graduate, and former acting head of President Clinton’s OLC, Professor Johnsen is highly qualified for the position. (3) She has earned the support of Republican Senator Richard Lugar and drawn bipartisan praise from previous OLC chiefs Walter Dellinger, who served under President Clinton, and Douglas Kmiec, who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. (4)

“Opposition to Professor Johnsen does not have to do with her qualifications to head of the Office of Legal Counsel,” said Joe Sestak. “Rather, it has to do with her pro-choice views and her vocal, but justified, opposition to extra-legal practices of the Bush administration. I call on my colleague, Arlen Specter, to state unequivocally that he will stop supporting Republican obstructionist tactics and stop depriving the President of his most important legal advisor in this difficult and dangerous time.”

FDL Action Health Care Update: Thursday (10/29/09)

Here are the FDL Action health care reform highlights for Thursday, October 29.

1. Jon Walker writes that by stopping the “robust public option tied to modified Medicare rates,” Blue Dog Democrats handed “a huge victory [to] the health insurance industry, hospitals, and PhRMA.”  Walker adds, “If I were an insurance company CEO, I would be writing each of them a very large thank you note (i.e. a campaign contribution).”  I’d say “don’t give them any ideas,” but unfortunately it’s probably way too late for that!

2. Walker reports on the unveiling of the House’s health care reform bill. The bill will cost “$894 billion over the next ten years,” will be “fully paid for,” “will expand coverage to an additional 36 million Americans and eventually close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole.”  The full text (PDF) of the bill – all 1,990 pages – is now available. Happy reading! :)

3. Walker discusses the health insurance “exchange.” Walker concludes that “by 2015 all employers, and therefore all Americans not on Medicare or Medicaid, could start using the new health insurance exchange for health care.” At least in theory, that is. We’ll see what happens.

4. Michael Whitney reports that “in just 24 hours, the FDL community has raised more than $15,000 from more than 400 people” to put pressure on Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. If you’d like to contribute, please click here. Thanks.

5. Jane Hamsher writes that, despite “much celebration on Capitol Hill today with the announcement of the new House health care bill,” she feels “tremendous sadness and disappointment…with regard to the lifesaving biologic drugs I took when I was in chemotherapy that will cost many of my fellow breast cancer survivors everything they own, and quite possibly their lives.” It’s an issue I don’t know much about, but obviously Jane Hamsher does. Click here to read more.

6. Given that “most of the planned health care reforms will not kick in until 2013.” Jon Walker asks, “What Will Health Care Reform Do Right Away?” The answer is a list of the 14 reforms that would take effect in 2010. The big question is whether “the voting public will think it is sufficient.”  We’ll find out, one way or the other, in a little over a year. Let’s hope the Democratic leadership knows what it’s doing politically.

7. Walker lists “11 Ways The House Bill Is Much Better Than The Baucus Bill” as well as “How The House’s Public Option Might Differ From The Senate’s”. I’ll tell you, it’s going to be fascinating to see how the House Bill and whatever comes out of the Senate are merged in conference committee.  Ah, the making of sausage…

8. Finally, Walker reports that the “CBO has concluded” “that the House bill will reduce the deficit over the next ten years, and will also reduce the federal deficit over the next twenty years.” So much for that Republican talking point?

Summary: Sierra Club Rally to Support the EPA and the Clean Air Act (10/27/09 in Philadelphia)

On Tuesday the US Senate Environment and Public Works committee started hearings about the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

To kick off the festivities the Sierra Club gathered with citizens at 17th and Arch (EPA Mid-Atlantic Office) to Rally in Support of the EPA and the Clean Air Act. Speakers included Dennis Winters (Chair of the PA Chapter of the Sierra Club), Joe Minott (Executive Director of the Clean Air Council), Pam Johnson (member of SEIU 32BJ), Bill Walsh (District Director for Congressman Sestak) and Jason Brady (Sierra Club) who read statements from Congressman Brady and Senator Specter.

With the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) in June and the start of hearings for the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the Big Coal and Big Oil companies are reading the writing on the wall. With no intention of supporting clean energy, they are committed to undermining a clean energy future for America. Their high paid lobbyists are working to convince Senator Specter to eliminate the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Air Act in regards to global warming pollution from coal fired power plants. This is unacceptable because without the EPA no one will be keeping an eye on the coal fired power plants.

Please take a moment and call Senator Specter and ask him to create a clean energy future that includes the EPA enforcing clean air laws for coal fired power plants. The number for his Philadelphia office is 215-597-7200.

3-2-1 Countdown: Another Step Towards Equality

Watching President Obama sign the federal hate crimes legislation into law was inspiring.  This has been a long time coming especially for hate crime victims like myself.  Protection from those who choose hatred, bigotry and intolerance is a giant step forward.  I salute those who fought for an passed the Mathew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill.  While one milestone is reached others remain elusive however.  Next Tuesday three referendums are on the ballots in three states.  Kalamazoo, Michigan, the state of Washington and in Maine.  The effort in Maine has raised the consciousness of many while the others have received scant press.

The Kalamazoo vote is about an ordinance barring discrimination against the LGBT community.  Non discrimination laws are very important because they protect the community from bigots throwing s out of homes and off jobs.  Equal access to public accommodations is essential also.  Pennsylvania has no such protections though the bill is in the state legislature…again.

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees every citizen equal justice under law.  That is the ideal AND the law of the land bbut NOT the reality.  Members of the GLBT community are second class citizens paying the same taxes as straight citizens for less rights.  Perhaps if our tax rates were realigned with our second class status others might see the injustice.  In Maine a struggle is underway for equality.  This 3-2-1 blogswarm is designed to raise awareness about these three ballot initiatives and gain your assistance for equality.  Thousands of blogs are writing about this today.

Voters in Maine are able to vote for marriage equality Tuesday.  The contest is very close as right wing religious groups fear monger normal people who want nothing more than the same rights everyone else have.  Personally I have no idea why my friends want the same miserable existence straight people have.  You know what I mean:  committed to the same person for life, only having sex on Saturday nights, having to raise a bunch of rug rats, going through divorce if things don’t work out, making family court dockets much more interesting as people who actually know how to dress and coordinate fill their dockets (OK, I’m being facetious here).

This about basic civil rights, about everyone being equal in the eyes of the law:

Karl Rove Jumps Into Supreme Court Race

Political mastermind Karl Rove added his two cents to the race for Supreme Court in this morning’s Wall Street Journal.  In an op-ed piece he mentions the Panella/Orie-Melvin contest as a barometer for voter’s satisfaction with President Obama.  I’m not sure how a state appellate court race qualifies for that status but I’m happy to see the likes of Rove jumping in on behalf of Orie-Melvin.  There’s nothing like memories of the eight years just past to awaken people as to why voting Tuesday is important.  

Karl Rove was George W. Bush’s political mastermind and politicized the entire federal government including the federal Department of Justice.  He subjugated the prosecution of people based on political goals.  He had a sitting Governor imprisoned for political purposes.  Do we really want Karl Rove telling us Joan Orie-Melvin is the person to put on our Supreme Court?  If you liked Alberto Gonzales, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft then take Rove’s advice.

I wonder why someone who appears at Teabagger rallies and speaks anti-government accepts government paychecks and government health care.  This IS Joan Orie-Melvin.  Her sister is a State Senator.  Isn’t it hypocritical of her to perform for fringe elements at Tea Bagger events in Allentown then cash her Superior Court paycheck?  Shouldn’t she then renounce her Pennsylvania government health care?

No, instead she runs smear commercials claiming Judge Panella acted improperly in regard to the Luzerne County Judges when everyone involved says otherwise.  Instead she claims he’s selling justice by accepting oney from trial lawyers while she, herself, is accepting money from the same group.  If Panella is selling justice what is she doing?  Is Orie-Melvin this stupid?  Does she not comprehend that taking money from the same people makes her just as complicit IF that is the case?  Face it, lawyers are always involved in judicial races.  So are big corporations and businesses with stakes in the process.  Though she always sides with big business on the bench Orie-Melvin hasn’t refused their contributions has she?  I haven’t heard Judge Panella accuse her of selling her seat on the bench in return for those contributions.

There is a clear choice for this Supreme Court seat.  Do we want someone so stupid she can’t think clearly or someone with a proven record of competence, integrity and ability like Jack Panella?  Make sure you vote Tuesday.

Wagner Calls For Unity Behind Ticket

Auditor General Jack Wagner, campaigning for Governor in next year’s election, called for Pennsylvanians to unite behind this year’s ticket and to get out to vote Tuesday.  “Judges, school board members, and other local officials have a tremendous impact on our everyday lives,” Wagner said.  “Let’s keep working hard to elect our Democratic candidates on Election Day. We must continue to elect good Democrats to all levels of public office,” said Wagner, reminding the audience that “there is no such thing as an off-year election.”

Jack is correct.  Local elections are very important.  This year we have the additional emphasis on seven appellate court openings.  As representatives of working people and families, minorities, and those without a voice in the big money game of politics this is our opportunity to shape our state’s courts.  On your local level borough, township, school boards and county wide row offices are on the ballot Tuesday.  Local government affects everyone of us directly.  These are important elections so please get out to vote Tuesday!