Monday, August 31, 2009

Tell Congress: Let's Get It Done - Health Care Reform NOW

Join Health Care For America Now (HCAN), Organizing For America (OFA), Community, Faith, Labor and Business Leaders in telling Senators Feinstein, Boxer and our California delegation in the House of Representatives that we expect members to side with their constituents and support quality, affordable health care for everyone and side against the private insurance companies, their lobbyists, and their disruptive mobs.

Thursday, September 3 from 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Cornfield Park, Chinatown
1245 North Spring Street
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Tuesday, September 1 from 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Fresno Amtrak Station
2650 Tulare St.
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Wednesday, September 2 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
San Francisco City Hall Plaza
1 Dr Carlton B. Goodlett Place
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Thursday, September 3 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
San Diego City Park
300 block of Broadway between 3rd and 4th Ave

Saturday, August 29, 2009

President Obama's eulogy for Ted Kennedy

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery Eulogy for Edward Kennedy

Mrs. Kennedy, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the U.S. Senate – a man whose name graces nearly one thousand laws, and who penned more than three hundred himself.

But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, "The Grand Fromage," or "The Big Cheese." I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend.

Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock. He was the sunny, joyful child, who bore the brunt of his brothers’ teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off. When they tossed him off a boat because he didn’t know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail. When a photographer asked the newly-elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, "It’ll be the same in Washington."

This spirit of resilience and good humor would see Ted Kennedy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. He lost two siblings by the age of sixteen. He saw two more taken violently from the country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his own life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.

It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Teddy to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that.

But that was not Ted Kennedy. As he told us, "...[I]ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in – and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves." Indeed, Ted was the "Happy Warrior" that the poet William Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote:

As tempted more; more able to endure,

As more exposed to suffering and distress;

Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.

Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed -- the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act –all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.

We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights. And yet, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that is not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw him. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect – a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.

And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause – not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch’s support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by having his Chief of Staff serenade the Senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; and the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas Committee Chairman on an immigration bill. Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the Chairman that it was filled with the Texan’s favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the Chairman. When they weren’t, he would pull it back. Before long, the deal was done.

It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support on a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave him my pledge, but expressed my skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how he had pulled it off. He just patted me on the back, and said "Luck of the Irish!"

Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy’s legislative success, and he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, "What did Webster do?"

But though it is Ted Kennedy’s historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, "I’m sorry for your loss," or "I hope you feel better," or "What can I do to help?" It was the boss who was so adored by his staff that over five hundred spanning five decades showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. Senator would take the time to think about someone like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study – a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office the first week he arrived in Washington; by the way, that’s my second favorite gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories – the ones that often start with "You wouldn’t believe who called me today."

Ted Kennedy was the father who looked after not only his own three children, but John’s and Bobby’s as well. He took them camping and taught them to sail. He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him. Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, "On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love."

Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted’s love – he made it because of theirs; and especially because of the love and the life he found in Vicki. After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted Kennedy to risk his heart again. That he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana. And she didn’t just love him back. As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him. She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.

We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.

What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.

This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved.

In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack. But he didn’t stop there. He kept calling and checking up on them. He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling. He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along. To one widow, he wrote the following:

"As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved one would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us."

We carry on.

Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image – the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God Bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.

Lord, Hear Our Prayer

"For what my grandpa called the cause of his life - in every part of this land that every American will have decent quality healthcare as a fundamental right and not a privilege. For this, we pray to the Lord. Lord hear our prayer."

11 year-old Edward Kennedy III, channeling the words of his grandfather during this morning's funeral service.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Disciple Of Obama-Hating Preacher Brought Assault Weapon To Obama Town Hall

Well, the story of Pastor Steven Anderson, the Obama-hating preacher, just got more interesting

Chris Broughton, the man who brought an assault rifle and a handgun to the Obama event in Arizona last week, attended a fiery anti-Obama sermon the day before the event, in which Pastor Steven Anderson said he was going to "pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell", Anderson confirmed to TPMmuckraker today.

Anderson also said Broughton had informed the pastor about his planned show of arms-bearing, but "he planned out the AR15 thing long before he heard that sermon," delivered Sunday August 16 at the fundamentalist Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ.

This is the second example of the gun-toters at the Arizona Obama event tied to the violent fringes of American life.

"I don't obey Barack Obama. And I'd like Barack Obama to melt like a snail tonight," Anderson said in the sermon.

The sermon, which was titled "Why I Hate Barack Obama" and also contained virulent anti-gay themes, continued:

... you're going to tell me that I'm supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things -- you're gonna tell me I'm supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he's in Phoenix, Arizona?

Nope. I'm not gonna pray for his good. I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell."

Anderson told TPMmuckraker today that Broughton, who also has ties to right-wing groups, joined the church about three months ago.

The pastor said he encouraged Broughton to make sure he would not run afoul of any federal laws. And he insisted he was not encouraging acts of violence toward the president.

"No where in the sermon did I advocate vigilantism," Anderson said today, reached at the church. "It's a spiritual battle."

He continued: "I'd rather have him die of natural causes anyway, that way he's not some martyr. I'm praying for him to die just so he gets what he deserves."

The connection between Broughton and Anderson was first pointed out by the Phoenix New Times. During an appearance on the radio show of noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Broughton mentioned that Anderson was his pastor.

On his blog, Anderson posted a video of Broughton at the Obama event under the headline "Brother Chris carries an AR to Obama event 'because he can'".

The post contains only this text: "Good job, Chris!"

Arizona Preacher: Obama Should Die; Gays Get Death Penalty; Adulterers Should Be Stoned

This week Alan Colmes interviewed Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church. At 6:10 into the below video: “I hate Barack Obama.” God hates him, too, says this “man of God.”. In sermons to his congregation, he's stated that Obama should be killed, his children left fatherless, his wife a widow.

Anderson recently achieved fame for his sermons preaching that gays are out to rape children in order to recruit them and declaring that the only way to stop them is to kill them.

Anderson did not back down when asked on his homophobic views:

Colmes: Everybody who is gay is a predator?

Anderson: Well, if you disagree with that, that's fine. But every gay person in the Bible was a predator, from Genesis to Revelation.

Colmes: Well, I don't know about the Bible, but do you believe that every gay person in the world is a predator?

Anderson: That's what I believe, yes. And every gay person that I've ever known personally has been a predator ...

Colmes: Define "predator." What do you mean by "predator"?

Anderson: A predator as in someone who tries to molest other people, to force people into things that they don't want to do ...

Colmes: So, let me get this straight, every homosexual in the world forces other people to do be gay?

Anderson: I believe that every homosexual in the world is a deviant, is evil, and is a predator that is out to recruit others through molestation, through rape. It's in the news.

After some discussion whether someone like Rep. Barney Frank was a "predator" and "molester" the conversation turned toward Anderson insistence that every gay person he has ever known has been a predator and molester and that being gay is a choice they have made. When Colmes asked Anderson when he chose to be straight, Anderson replied that nobody chooses to be straight because everyone is "born normal" and that it is "only people who go against nature and become more and more sick" and get into "weird, sick, deviant things" like homosexuality or bestiality which, in Anderson's views, are all the same thing.

Oh, and he also believes that those who commit adultery should be stoned to death.

By the government.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

RNC Chair Michael Steele All Tied Up In Knots Over Health Care Reform

In an interview with Michael Steele, NPR’s Steve Inskeep repeatedly asked the RNC chairman to explain why Republicans keep defending Medicare at the same time they claim that the government is incompetent at running anything.

Steele grew frustrated with the questioning, telling Inskeep to stop being “cute” and “doing a wonderful little dance.” But even while admitting that people “like Medicare” and it’s “a valuable program is it’s the last line of opportunity to receive health care for a lot of our seniors,” he continued to attack it as “bloated” and inefficient. “I’m not saying I like or dislike Medicare,” an exasperated Steele finally said. “It is what it is.”

At one point, Steele tied himself into knots trying to explain his view on the proper role of government after saying that “there are issues in the insurance market that we can regulate a little bit better”:

INSKEEP: Wait, wait — You would trust the government to look into that?

STEELE: No, I’m talking about the private — I’m talking about citizens. I’m talking about — (CROSSTALK)

INSKEEP: Who is it you — You said it is something that should be looked into. Who is it that you think should look into that?

STEELE: Well, who regulates the insurance markets?

INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.

STEELE: Well, and so what. Now wait a minute. Hold up. You’re doing a wonderful little dance here and you’re trying to be cute. But the reality of this is very simple. I’m not saying the government doesn’t have a role to play. I’ve never said that. The government does have a role to play; it has a very limited role to play.

INSKEEP: Mr. Chairman, I respect that you think I’m doing a dance here. I just want you to know that as a citizen, I’m a little confused by the positions you take because you’re giving me a very nice nuanced position here —

STEELE: It’s not nice and nuanced. I’m being very clear.

Steele also had to admit that sometimes private insurers do get “between the doctor and the patient,” but he quickly added that if the government were involved, it would be “10 times worse.”

Toward the end of the interview, Inskeep also asked Steele whether it was “challenging” to explain the health care situation to Americans in a way that “doesn’t just kind of scare people with soundbites.” Steele insisted, “No one’s trying to scare people with soundbites. I have not done that, and I don’t know any leaders in the House and the Senate that have done that.” (Of course, many Republicans in Congress have been using these soundbites, and Steele himself has endorsed them.)

Steele has been all over the map in recent weeks, trying to square the GOP’s dogmatic positions with the realities of health care in America. He has fear-mongered about death panels, and then said that no one should be using such soundbites. He has criticized cost-cutting savings to Medicare, then said that such measures may be warranted. In today’s interview, all those positions finally caught up with him.

Waxman Gears Up for Health Care Showdown

By the time Congress returns from its recess and takes another whack at the health insurance mess, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., will have started revealing the deceit that protects health business profiteers.

Waxman has already begun by demanding that major insurance companies reveal how much they pay top executives and board members and, most important, the size of their profits from selling policies.

He is getting to the heart of the health insurance debate. It’s all about the health business—insurance, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, medical equipment makers and others.

Their economic goal is bigger profits. Their political goal is to protect their interests by making sure the 2010 election puts enough Republicans and sympathetic Democrats in Congress. Even if the Democrats retain control of the House and Senate, health care lobbyists will pour celebratory drinks as long they have enough power to shape legislation. That’s how it works. Don’t be deluded by party labels.

Last week, I talked to Waxman about what’s happening in health care. I found him at UCLA, at a forum on another of his interests, preventing climate change.

If you’re a reporter looking for a hot quote, Waxman’s the wrong man to see. Anyone watching his “Daily Show” appearance with Jon Stewart could tell you that. Waxman is all policy, determined to explain everything in detail. But he’s smart, tough and knows how to get results. He showed that last year when he went against the House seniority system and took over the Energy and Commerce Committee by unseating John Dingell, its longtime chairman.

I asked Waxman whether he expected the insurance companies to reply to his letters. “Oh yes,” he said. “When we write letters, we expect to get answers.” And what was his purpose in seeking the information? At first, he was reluctant to discuss the investigation. Finally, he gave a guarded reply: that many folks perhaps take too benign a view of private insurance companies.

Perhaps his findings will open their eyes.

The letters from Waxman and his colleague, Bart Stupak, chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, went to every major insurance company, ranging from Aetna to Wellpoint. The lawmakers want to know the pay, stock options, perks, incentives, and retirement and other financial information of executives earning more than $500,000 a year. They are curious about the cost of promotional junkets. They are seeking disclosure of premiums, revenue, claims payments and sales expenses for health insurance policies. This includes sales to employers, individuals and the government. Interestingly, while insurance companies rail against the federal government, they earn money from participating in a number of federal programs, such as Medicare.

Hopefully, the investigation will also reveal more about another source of insurance company and hospital revenue—their monopoly status. Professor Jacob Hacker of Yale shed some light on this last week with the release of a detailed paper on pending congressional health care plans.

Hacker cited an American Medical Association study which said that in 314 metropolitan areas in the United States, 94 percent have one or two insurers dominating the market. The same is true for the hospitals. Hacker reported that one or two hospitals dominate the market in 83 percent of metropolitan areas.

And the hospitals and insurance companies work together. He said insurance companies pay monopoly or prestigious hospitals “well above costs” to ensure they will work with the big firms. And costs, he noted, “are often excessive” because of hospital inefficiency.

Hacker’s paper makes a strong case for giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans.

Such a plan would break the insurance companies’ monopoly and probably interfere with their collusion with hospitals. Those seeking insurance wouldn’t have to be held hostage to high private insurance rates. They could join the government plan, or not join it, having the option of shopping among the private plans for something more to their taste. But whatever they choose, the government plan would assure choice—and a yardstick with which to judge the private plans.

The reform bill approved by Waxman’s committee provides for a government plan. But the health business is mobilizing for a fight on the House floor and has already all but wiped out the government option in the Senate.

They have an effective representative, Tom Daschle, whose role in the fight was explained in a New York Times piece last weekend. Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, had to withdraw from his nomination as health secretary because he didn’t pay all his taxes.

He is an expert on health care. He is a well-paid adviser to hospital, drug, pharmaceutical and other health industry clients represented by the law and lobbying firm that employs him. He is an adviser to President Obama and to members of the presidential health insurance team. Most important, he favors nonprofit insurance cooperatives in the reform package, rather than the government plan. The government plan, he said, will never pass the Senate.

It’s unclear how these health insurance cooperatives would work. Some of them now exist. Small business owners, writers, farmers and others have banded together in organizations to bargain with insurance companies for coverage. The cooperatives, however, would probably be so small, scattered and weak they would provide little competition to the big insurance companies.

Obama’s stand is, to be charitable, unclear. “We think that the key is cost control,” he said last week. “That’s the end that we’re seeking. And the means—we can have some good arguments about the best way to achieve it.”

The best solution would be government health insurance—Medicare for all. But that’s a tough sell in Congress, and Waxman didn’t include it in his reform bill. Advocates of that system, along with those who back an optional government plan, gathered outside the UCLA building where Waxman was speaking at the climate change forum. Marcia Schneider, a nurse, brought a group of government option supporters with her to Los Angeles from Southern California’s Simi Valley. She said they wanted to show they “had Henry’s back on health reform. He has been leading the charge and we appreciate that.”

Waxman told me “I think there will be” a health reform measure passed this year. “I think you will get a better picture when we get back in September.”

That’s the time to watch. Will the winner be the health industry and its man Tom Daschle, moving with insider ease between the Senate and the White House? Or will it be the dogged Waxman, the man who beat the legendary John Dingell for committee chair last year?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Biden On Kennedy, "He Was Never Small"

"Don't you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his foes embrace him"

- Joe Biden, August 26, 2009

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die

Senator Edward Kennedy speaks passionately about trying to get health care reform passed during his career. In this video he talks about his own family's struggles in the past with sickness and injury, and how he faces a battle of his own with cancer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ted Kennedy - Dead at 77.

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the Senate's most iconic liberals, has died at the age of 77 from brain cancer.

Kennedy had recently requested Democratic governor Deval Patrick and the state legislature change the succession process so that there would be an appointment instead of the required waiting period before a special election; however, it looks like that we'll need to wait until a special election occurs to fill the vacancy.

Thanks to PostBourgie for pointing this out:

From Michael Kelley’s legendary GQ profile, “Ted Kennedy On the Rocks”

Even a partial listing of the major bills in whose passage Kennedy has played a part is impressive. Whether you admire them or not, these are the measures that transformed—mostly liberalized—America in our time: the first Immigration Reform Act; the Voting Rights Act and its extensions; the Freedom of Information Act; the Gun Control Act; the Campaign Financing Reform law; the Comprehensive Selective Service Reform Act; the Eighteen-Year-Old Vote law; the Occupational Safety and Health Act; the War on Cancer bills; the recodification of federal criminal laws; the Bilingual Education Act; the Fair Housing Acts; the Age Discrimination Act; the Airline and Trucking Deregulation bills; the Job Training Partnership Act; the South African sanctions; and the Grove City Civil Rights Restoration Act.

Far more than either of his brothers, who were lackluster senators, Kennedy, over the past three decades, has been responsible for changes in the complexion of this country and in the lives of its citizens. He has been an ally of blacks, American Indians, the poor, the sick, the aged, the mentally ill, starving refugees worldwide and immigrants. He has been an outspoken liberal, unafraid to take the controversial positions—on issues such as busing, abortion, gun control, the Vietnam War (late but forcefully), the nuclear freeze and capital punishment—that other senators clearly avoided.
In a rare moment of irritation with the American Civil Liberties Union, the senator once said, “The ACLU thinks that it defines liberalism in the country. *I* define liberalism in this country.”

No quibbles here.

Investment Group Calls for Whole Foods Board to Remove CEO John Mackey

CtW Investment Group has written a letter to the Whole Foods Board in which they call on the Board to replace John Mackey as CEO.

Events of the past week establish yet again that John Mackey’s lack of personal discipline makes him a liability for Whole Foods Market, Inc. Despite past indications that the board needed to exercise independent oversight of Mr. Mackey and supervise his external communications closely – most notably his postings on the Yahoo! Finance bulletin board, which led to an SEC inquiry – you and your fellow directors failed to take meaningful action to prevent Mr. Mackey’s uncompensated brand and reputational risk to our Company.

We therefore call on the board to immediately undertake the following:

* Immediately remove Mr. Mackey as Chairman of the Board.

Whole Foods ... has benefitted from growing environmental and health consciousness among affluent urban consumers. However, this leading position makes Whole Foods uniquely vulnerable to disaffection from these core customers if they perceive that the company is not managed in a manner consistent with their values.

While we respect Mr. Mackey’s First Amendment right to express his political views, as he did for instance in noting that the Constitution contains no "right" to health care, we hasten to point out that neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of the Constitution give Mr. Mackey or any other CEO the right to retain their position regardless of behavior or performance. Moreover, Mr. Mackey’s article was not a citizen’s "letter to the editor," but a lengthy op-ed that explicitly tied him to Whole Foods by identifying him as the CEO. Given Whole Foods’ unique exposure to a key segment of the customer base, Mr. Mackey’s decision to express his views in such a public way, and on an issue of such enormous moment, seems ill-advised at best.

We first called on the board to remove Mr. Mackey as chairman and to evaluate his suitability as director and CEO in a letter to you over two years ago. In that letter, we specifically called the board to investigate whether Mr. Mackey’s Yahoo! Finance postings violated Whole Foods’ code of conduct and to establish clear disciplinary policies for unsanctioned executive communications. Unfortunately, you failed to take any meaningful action, and now Whole Foods shareholders again face potentially damaging fallout from unmanaged and uncompensated reputational risk.

Similar inaction now is unacceptable. The board must act immediately to address the burgeoning crisis caused by Mr. Mackey’s undisciplined behavior or shareholders will have little option but to conclude that you and your fellow directors are unable or unwilling to hold management accountable.

Stay tuned for further developments. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

California Republican Party, "Let Them Eat Cake"

So, seems like the California Republican Party will be throwing themselves a little party this fall. I'm sure they have lots to celebrate. After all, what's not to love about bouncing 60,000 young children from the healthcare rolls, killing off AIDS patients who can't afford their drugs and shutting down 220 state parks?

Break open the champagne, boys!

Be sure to read the whole thing. It's the gift that keeps on giving.


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Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Tells Weeping, Desperate Constituent That Government "Isn't The Solution"


Yesterday CNN’s Rick Sanchez aired a segment from a health care town hall where a weeping constituent explained to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that her husband’s health insurer refuses to cover his treatment for a traumatic brain injury. As the woman continued to cry, Coburn told her that his office would try to assist her individually. But, he added, “the idea that the government is the solution to our problems is an inaccurate, a very inaccurate statement.” Watch it:

CNN’s Sanchez follows the segment by asking, “What’s interesting about that is that Senator Coburn just essentially said, ‘The government is not the solution.’ But then you have to ask yourself, he just told her to come and see him. Isn’t he the government? By the way, after helping her, what will he do about the other 46 million, 999 thousand Americans who don't have insurance? And the thousands upon thousands of Americans who say they do have insurance, but, like her, they're not getting coverage?”

Siding With Their Ideals Rather Than Their Candidate

In the latest signal that he will not echo voter pleas for a robust "public option," President Obama used his Weekly Address to draw attention away from the one issue that has galvanized the most ardent supporters of health insurance reform in America.

Emphasizing that the main goal of his reform initiative is "consumer protections," President Obama then went on to say that much of the " fears about government-run health care" were a result of "confusion over what’s called the public option"

Contrary to President Obama's argument, however, there is mounting evidence that the passionate demand for a "public option" has finally produced a clear, symbolic focus with the potential to rally widespread support for a healthcare bill amongst the majority of the President's supporters. In this perspective, the problem in the health care reform debate is not public fears stemming from a focus on the "public option," but the vague, evolving language used by the Obama administration in its attempt to rally support for health insurance reform from the health insurance industry itself.

The new effort to switch focus away from the public option comes at a time when grassroots organizations are leading the public in a highly visible, fast growing movement to make the public option the essential element of any health care reform bill.

Part of the reason why these outcries have reshaped the debate in favor of reform is the nature of the phrase "public option" itself.

Whereas the Obama administration has repeatedly pushed the language of economics and accounting in its attempt to rally support for "consumer protections," advocates for the "public option" have invoked a much broader narrative about health as a moral good. The phrase "public option," thus, is gaining ground as the most straightforward and sensible solution to the unethical business practices of insurance companies that cause harm to individuals when they are most vulnerable.

Obama's decision to fend off the cries for a robust public option, rather than join them, suggests that the White House is reluctant to embrace the political risk of treating healthcare reform as a popular movement, choosing instead to approach it as an exercise in legislative negotiation.

For many Obama supporters who supported President Obama's candidacy because they believed he would rally the public to pass a reform agenda, the White House focus on legislative chess in the healthcare debate has resulting in grumbling about whether or not President Obama is the President they voted for. Fairly or unfairly, Obama now faces a rising tide of doubt in his administration from the very supporters who have backed him most steadfastly since the election.

Many of these supporters are now using internet tools and small donations to signal that their support of healthcare reform anchored in a robust public option would be stronger than their support for an Obama administration willing to negotiate away or weaken a public option.

Thus, weeks before any final bill has actually been written, the healthcare debate has already brought about the most significant change in the American political landscape since Obama won the Iowa caucus to become the leading contender for the Democratic nomination.

The idealists who elected the President are siding with their ideals rather than their candidate.

We Defeated Socialism! INSUROCORP!

Here's a little freemarket/teabagger health care utopia for ya.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Teabagged By The Media

You know what I love about this?

We had easily 400 supporters of not only health care reform in general, but of the public option specifically, at the Waxman rally on Friday, yet this rally is what the media chose to cover.

Not one single news report on the Waxman rally. Not one.

I guess it doesn't count unless you're willing to pin a Hitler mustache on Obama or hang lawmakers in effigy.

200 demonstrators picketed outside Rep. Jane Harman's office Friday night, demanding that the South Bay Democrat hold a town hall on health care.

The protesters, organized under the banner of the South Bay Tea Party, carried flags and signs and chanted slogans against "Obamacare."

"I have no faith at all that the U.S. government will be capable of managing one-sixth of the U.S. economy without driving it into the ground," said Kerry Lohr-Williams, 66, of Marina del Rey, who carried a sign reading "Harman Hides, Obama Obscures, Voters Veto."

Opponents of health reform proposals have spoken out at congressional town halls across the country. So far, though, Harman has not scheduled any public forums during the August recess.

"We think she needs to have a dialogue," said Nathan Mintz, who organized Friday's protest. "Most people are interested in civil discourse. You can't control the wingnuts, but those show up at every event. Ninety-nine percent would be polite."

In a break with many of her fellow "Blue Dog" Democrats, Harman has come out in favor of a public option that would compete with private health insurance.

Her office said this week that she may hold a public event to address her health care position closer to Labor Day......

Though the health care debate provided the impetus for the demonstration, many of those who attended took issue with the full spectrum of President Barack Obama's agenda, including the stimulus bill, the cap-and-trade program and the auto manufacurer bailouts.

"I don't recognize the U.S.A.," said Gere Brooker, 74, of Hermosa Beach. "I'm worried. I'm scared, and I want this to stop."

The picketers carried signs such as "Obama lies and Grandma dies," and some carried images of Obama rendered to look like the Joker, with the tagline "Socialism."

"I have good health coverage right now," said Carol Wood, 54, of Holly Glen. "I like to choose my doctor. I don't want it to change."

Supporters of Lyndon LaRouche distributed leaflets depicting Obama with a Hitler mustache.

Blue Dog Dem Jane Harman Indicates She'll Vote Against Any Bill Without a Strong Public Option

FireDogLake's Mike Stark caught up with Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36) before the August recess to talk about health care reform, and specifically a robust public option.  Although a Blue Dog Democrat, Jane Harman has broken publicly with the caucus over their stand on health care reform. In the video, it's clear she no interest in co-ops as they've been proposed and thinks a robust public option is the way to go.

After initially being caught off guard, Harman settles into a pretty good discussion about 2:40 in. Watch it.

"My specific issue is what more can we do to cut down on drug prices.....I was strongly against the vote a few years ago to prohibit Medicare Part D from negotiating for lower drug prices. It was a big mistake and I'm for repealing that.

The reason I favor a robust pubic option is it's a forcing mechanism to require private sector options to compete with each other. I haven't heard a co-op idea that makes sense to me....I did make that commitment, in writing, that I would vote against a bill that did not have a strong public option in it."

Deep Thought For The Day

Sunday, August 23, 2009

California Lawmaker Praises Self-Proclaimed "Right Wing Terrorist" (UPDATED WITH NEW VIDEO!)


US House Representative Wally Herger, of California’s 2nd congressional district, expressed “enthusiastic approval” of a town-hall attendee who described himself as a “proud right-wing terrorist,” newspapers in northern California report.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, an incident broke out at a town hall at Simpson University in Redding on Tuesday when Herger signaled encouragement to a 67-year-old town hall attendee, Bert Stead, who called himself a “proud right-wing terrorist.”

“Amen, God bless you,” Herger reportedly replied to the comment. “There is a great American.”

UPDATE: This just in, video of the individual claiming to be "a proud right wing terrorist" and Herger's remarks in response.

That was enough for 50-year-old Marisa Hewitt, who called the largely anti-health reform crowd “a bunch of racist haters” and started “using the f-bomb” after the controversial comments.

That did not sit well with crowd. One individual grabbed Hewitt by the arm and ejected her from the hall with the words “you’re outta here.”

Herger also told the crowd that the health care reform legislation currently before Congress is a “threat” to American democracy.

“Our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today,” the Mount Shasta Area Newspapers quoted Herger as saying.

Herger, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1986, has been sending out fliers in which he states that the health reform bill will create “havoc” in the US health care system.

CA-02, a largely rural district dominated by agricultural and timber interests and stretches from Yureka to just north of Sacramento, voted for John McCain by a 12-point margin.

Rep. Maxine Waters Draws The Line At The Public Option

From the LA Times:

At a town hall meeting at Los Angeles Southwest College, Waters said President Obama has been trying to win a compromise with Republicans, but "it is not going to happen." 

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said she would refuse to vote for a healthcare reform package that did not include a provision for creating a government-run medical insurance plan that would compete with private insurers -- a statement that drew loud cheers Saturday at a town hall meeting at Los Angeles Southwest College.

The statement appeared to illustrate hardening lines in the battle over healthcare reform in Congress. Waters voiced dismay with comments made by White House officials last week that have been widely perceived as backing down from the so-called public option.

"President Obama has been trying to reach across the aisle" to win a compromise with Republicans, Waters said. "It is not going to happen."

Then Waters made a public appeal to Obama.

"The people of this country elected you and gave you a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. . . . Yes, we know that you are a nice man, that you want to work with the opposite side of the aisle. But there comes a time when you need to drop that and move forward," Waters said. "We're saying to you, Mr. President, 'Be tough. Use everything that you've got. Do what you have to do. And we have your back.' "

The town hall meeting was notable for those who didn't show up: enraged hecklers adamantly opposed to healthcare reform, who have disrupted similar events across the country.

Linda Krausen, a South Pasadena resident who attended a contentious town hall in Alhambra earlier this month, marveled at the difference. In Alhambra, "it was such a shouting match," Krausen said. "I could actually understand what's on the table here."

Waters reserved her most searing critiques for Senate Democrats who have not embraced the public option.

"Not only are we going to do everything we can to organize and put pressure on the senators -- some of whom are Neanderthals -- we're going to say to the president, 'We want you to use every weapon in your basket in order to get those senators to do what they should be doing,' " Waters said.

The town hall meeting was held in an area of the county that is home to impoverished neighborhoods that have long struggled with inadequate access to healthcare.

The need for healthcare services was vividly illustrated in the last two weeks when thousands of people lined up for hours at the Forum in Inglewood at an eight-day free health clinic. The crowds were so large that many in need were turned away.

Joseph Price, an emergency medical technician from Pico Rivera who volunteered at the Forum, was upset that so many had to depend on chance to find healthcare.

"It shouldn't have to be a matter of winning the Lotto," Price told the town hall.

Some attendees at the meeting, while supporting reform, were worried that they were not winning broad support for the public option. One man noted that Waters expressed her vision for healthcare reform by going over more than a dozen key points, and said that the complicated rationales for healthcare reform were making it difficult to win converts.

"This is not an easy idea" to argue, the man said. "The question is, how do you simplify the message? Until it gets simple, how can you win the debate?"

There was no easy answer.

"Every day, we're working to try to refine the message," Waters said.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Spread The Health" Health Care As A Moral Right

One of the most frustrating things about the health care debate going on in this country right now isn't the about idiocy of "death panels", "socialism" and "government takeovers". No, it's about forgetting one simple thing. 

The Golden Rule. 


And this, I had to be reminded of from a film critic, of all people:

I believe universal health care is, quite simply, right.

It is a moral imperative. I cannot enjoy health coverage and turn to my neighbor and tell him he doesn't deserve it. A nation is a mutual undertaking. In a democracy, we set out together to do what we believe is good for the commonwealth. That means voluntarily subjecting ourselves to the rule of law, taxation, military service, the guaranteeing of rights to minorities, and so on. That is a cheap price to pay.

How did we lose sight of this? More importantly, how did Barack Obama? For all the talk of "bending cost curve" and CBO scores, how is it our Teacher-In-Chief missed the most important message of all?

Maybe that's about to change:

President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.

“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.......

In a late-afternoon telephone call with religious leaders on Wednesday, Mr. Obama cast the difficulty of the health care debate in terms larger than his presidency, comparing it to the creation of Social Security and Medicare.

“These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said. “That was true in the debate over Social Security, when F.D.R. was accused of being a socialist. That was true when J.F.K. and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”
I believe in my heart that most Americans do believe that access to adequate health care should be a right, but I also believe that most Americans are scared to death to lose what they already have.

The Republican spin machine knows this too, and has made an industry playing to American's worst instincts. 

This toxic atmosphere allows to idiots like Whole Food's CEO John Mackey to feel they can get away with saying that Americans have no "intrinsic right to healthcare, food and shelter" without fear of retribution. 

So yes, I still have some hope that we can play to American's best instincts and not their worst. 

And if I have to take my lead from a film critic to make that happen, and not a President, so be it.

Kathleen Sebelius Changes Her Tune On The Public Option

In a visit to the Ohio State University Medical Center today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reasserted the Obama Administration's strong support for government-run insurance as part of a new health-care system.

Although she did not rule out a compromise that excludes a public insurance option, Sebelius today avoided repeating her comment on CNN Sunday that a government-run alternative to private insurance is "not the essential element" of the administration's health reform effort.

Speaking to reporters after viewing examples of Ohio State's leadership in the use of electronic medical records, Sebelius said incorporating a public insurance option into health-care reform remains President Barack Obama's goal.

"There's no question the president believes and I believe that the best way to make sure that we have choices for consumers and cost competition for the private industry is with a public option and a new marketplace," Sebelius said. "He continues to say that, I'll continue to say that."

Sebelius acknowledged "other ideas" about creating competition and lowering costs for health insurance, but pointedly said that four committees that helped draft health care reform legislation in the Democratic-controlled House have "made very clear" that a public option "is an essential component of the plan."

Deep Thought For The Day

Friday, August 21, 2009

What If You Held A Teaparty And Nobody Came?

Real life is getting in the way of writing up a full report, but in a nutshell, there were about 400 health care reform supporters outside the Waxman climate change forum in Westwood today.

 In contrast,  a dozen opponents showed up.

And if signage is any indicator, supporters were overwhelmingly in favor of the public option.

Compare and contrast:

Tea baggers

Not teabaggers