Monday, March 22, 2010

The Health Care Reform Bill passed the House... and I'm...

...happy about it.  If nothing else, this is important for what it represents.  For the first time in 40+ years, a President has been able to care enough about the people of this country to push through at least some form of health care reform.  And while the bill is still severely lacking, make no mistake, it does provide immediate relief for some and does have some important reforms that take effect in a very short time, that will help people... lots of people.

My hope is that the country will look back at this at the amount of time and effort the Republican party spent trying to oppose this bill... trying to oppose legislation whose only goal was to help American citizens... in a politically fed, partisan flop-sweat attempt at just opposing any legislation the Obama administration put forth, just because it is Obama putting it forth.  It has been a despicable display of the ugliest order and I think in the end the Republicans will be irreparably damaged for it.  In fact, they stand to become even more publicly humiliated once they begin using pathetic stall tactics in the reconciliation phase of this bill for all to see.  It will be infantile and silly, and will be wide open for the entire country to see.  More on that later...

But first, now that the bill is passed, the important questions are: what does this bill do and what does it not do for the American people?  I've refrained from posting about this bill until now because I wanted to wait till I could see in what form it was passed. I'll try to break it down in failry simple terms.  This bill is huge, and it is complicated.  But the items that are important to you the people can be broken down fairly simply, so I'll attempt to do that as much as possible.

First, what does the bill include?  Well, its components are broken down and will be phased in over time.  In six months, here are the following items the bill will enact:

  • Insurers will no longer be able to refuse coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions (this provision kicks in for the rest of us in 2014... which sucks, but is still better than nothing).
  • Insurers will no longer be able to dump a person's coverage because they get sick.
  • Insurers will no longer be able to cap how much coverage a person can receive in their lifetime.
  • Parents will be able to carry their kids on their insurance plan until they are 26.
So... this is a good start.  So what are the other things that kick in down the road?  Below is that list along with the year they become effective:

  • Insurers will no longer be allowed to deny anyone of any age coverage because of pre-existing conditions. (2014)
  • Each State will create a "insurance exchange" for both individual buyers and small businesses, which will consist of several insurers, based on minimum requirements for benefits, and have strict limitations on how much their premiums can vary... so that insurance plans for the elderly and ill can not cost considerably more than for young and healthy individuals.  People can then buy from insurers in the exchange based on the best cost and plan for them. (2014) --- I have my doubts about how well this will work, but I'm willing to see how it goes.  Again, it's still an improvement over the status quo (or as I call it, the Republican Plan of Doing Absolutely Nothing)
  • Subsidies for buying insurance will be offered on a sliding scale, so that families making less would pay less for the same coverage as families making more. (2014)
  • There will be an excise tax on the most "plush" of health care plans.  (2018).  This was once referred to as the "Cadillac Tax", but as this would have effected many policies currently used by Union workers, this has been amended to include only the very most opulent plans, and is now referred to by Nancy Pelosi as the "platinum Rolls-Royce Tax".  Whatever.  It still stinks to me. I don't care for this provision but I do understand the necessity as a means to pay for the Reform Bill.
  • High Income households (individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000) will see an increase in their contributions to the Hospital Insurance payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.5%. (2014)
  • Those same households will see an increase of 3.8% on taxes of income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rent. (2014)
  • You will be penalized for not having insurance.  (2014) This has been an issue of much debate and heated argument, but looking at the reasons for having such a penalty (similar to auto insurance, costs come down when everyone is insured, because the chance of having to eat the cost for services for the uninsured goes down) versus the actual fines that will be instituted ($95 a year or 1% of your income, whichever is greater), it's ridiculous to argue that this is the wrong thing to do.  If you choose to not carry healthcare even though you can easily afford it, fine... but you will help to make sure when you do get sick and we have to eat the cost, you've helped contribute to that.  And if you simply can't afford it, well then the $95 fine is hardly a hardship (and those for which it is an undue burden, you will have the ability to have this fee waived).  So quit whining about this provision... it's the right thing to do in a system that isn't single-payer.
  • Employers who don't offer their employees insurance will face fines of up to $2000 per year, per employee.  Small businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt, but small businesses will be able to use tax credits to help pay for insurance through the State insurance exchange. (2014)
  • Provisions have been put in to attempt to lower the costs for Medicare, and close the "hole" in the prescription drug policy for Medicare. (2014)
  • Primary Care physicians and surgeons will receive a 10% bonus from Medicare as a push to improve preventative care (2011).
  • Additional education funding falls into this bill, including funds specifically for colleges and universities that serve large numbers of minorities. (2010)
  • Oh... and facilities that use Tanning beds that use UV lamps will be taxed 10% starting July 1 of 2010 

There are some other odds and ends in there, but those are the important pieces.  Now, let's talk about what's not in this bill that is of interest to my fellow left-leaning, people loving liberals:

  • No public option.  BOOO.  Big, huge, loud, resounding BOOOOOOOO.  There was no reason this bill could not have included a public option through reconciliation.  And it would have passed.  But the Dems got cold feet about passing the House, and chickened out.  This is the biggest failing of this bill.  People deserve to have the option to have a cheap, medicade-like option available to them the same way the people putting the goddam bill together in the first place have.  The same way our armed forces veterans have.  I am proud of our veterans, but are the truly more deserving of basic, affordable health care than the average citizen?  The lght at the end of the tunnel here is that I do not think this part of it is over... as the summer rages on and the Senate begins to hear the clamoring that the country wants and needs a public option, this may come back to the fore-front. Or maybe not.  We'll have to wait and see... but for now, big, huge thumbs down to the Dems for not getting this done at the one, single time in history they could have.
  • Several of the "back-door" deals that had been put in to win support from certain Senators (most notably the deal with Ben Nelson of Nebraska in which all new Nebraska Medicaid enrollees would be paid for by the Federal government, forever) are thankfully gone.  There are still a few "back-door" deals in place for certain circumstances (all of which do serve a "public service" at this point), but the most egregious of these have been removed.
Those are the two biggest "left out" issues.  Some of you may take issue with some other things that aren't there... but I think these are the two that matter to most people.

So... is this a slam dunk now?  Well, no... not really. It will in all likelihood get passed, but there are some items the House added to the Senate Bill (some of the things listed above fall within that area) which must be passed through reconciliation.  Essentially this means that the Senate need only agree to the addenda or changes attached to the Bill by a majority 51 vote.  And while this will happen, the Rethuglicans have already stated that they will take whatever measures necessary to delay this reconciliation process indefinitely.  To do so, they will use the tactic of proposing amendment after amendment to the bill, which they can do an unlimited amount of times, and must be voted down each time.  And they will come up with some pretty boorish and stupid things, just to delay the process... for example, put forth an amendment that all insurance cards must be printed on pink velvet.  It is likely to get pretty boorish, and I really hope the Rethuglicans try this route, because it will expose them for what they really are to the American people who will, I predict, have little patience for this behavior.

Also, there is the looming issue of the abortion language in this bill.  For some reason, middle-aged to elderly white men still think it's somehow their right to limit resources to allow a woman to decide what's best to do to her own body.  It's disgraceful and I'm hoping the will exists to shut these assholes up, but we'll have to see.  It could be a real problem if enough of these god-bothering, misogynistic assholes have their way. 

So, at the end of the day, I feel a sense of tempered excitement over the passing of this bill. As I said above, it's an important message that after decades of deciding the american people were not worthy enough for the government to step in and take steps to stop the insurance companies from publicly raping and ultimately killing hard working Americans, a president has been able to step up and say "This is the most important thing on my agenda. Period." And actually get something done.  Is it all we should have or all we deserve?  No.  Is it all we're going to get going forward?  I don't think so.  The faucet of Health Care Reform has been turned on... even if only a trickle. And once on, I think it will be much easier to open it up further than it will be to shut it back off.  Go ahead, Republicans.  Try it... I dare you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is a vile, disgusting, evil, horrible little gobshite.

Recently the Roman Catholic Church has come under a great amount of scrutiny for the sex abuse scandals that hav rocked the church, especially in Ireland.  Today, CNN has been running an expose on these incidents, highlighting the lengths the RCC has gone to to cover up the scandals and protect the priests in what has to be one of the more vile, despicable ongoing acts of criminal and abhorrent behavior in any organization over the last 75 years or more.

These are despicable, vile, indefensible acts... and of course no-one would be fool-hardy, grotesque and evil enough to defend the church... right?

Ha!  Obviously you've never met Bill Donohue, the grotesque little ghoul at the head of the Catholic League, a self-created and non-affiliated apologetics organization whose sole purpose is to advance the myth that catholics are persecuted, defenseless innocents.

Donohue posted an editorial on CNN in which he unbelievably, but unsurprisingly, takes the position of defending the Catholic Church, and once again reinforces the more and more common realization that the Catholic Church is a singularly horrible, overly powerful force for evil in this world.  I take on his editorial below.


OK... let me first say, could there be a more appropriate image of the evil, despicable Donohue than the one next to his editorial on CNN?  He looks like the RCC personified.

But let's get to the bullshit he writes:

Employers from every walk of life, in both the U.S. and Europe, have long handled cases of alleged sex abuse by employees as an internal matter.

Right.  The "everyone else is doing it, stop picking on us" debate.  And, notice he makes such assertions without a shred of proof or a citation.  He just thinks it, and then asserts it.

Rarely have employers called the cops, and none was required to do so.

Ah... I see the propensity for lying starts off immediately.  Employers are not required to call the cops regarding cases of sexual assault.  You lying piece of shit.

Thus it hardly comes as a surprise that Cardinal Sean Brady in Ireland did not summon the authorities about a case involving a priest in the 1970s. What is surprising is why some are now indicting him, acting as if his response was the exception to the rule.

No, Bill, you unfathomably evil little mongrel, we are indicting him for covering it up!  Whether it was more common practice or not it is still wrong and evil you vile little hobgoblin.

Selective indignation at the Catholic Church is not confined to Brady. Why, for example, are the psychologists and psychiatrists who pledged to "fix" abusers treated so lightly? After all, employers from the corporate world to the Catholic Church were told over and over again that therapy works and to give the offender a second chance.

It's hard to believe Donohue can go so completely off the rails so quickly... but What. The. Fuck??? Your defense of rapist, pedophile priests is that we should go after the psychologists and psychiatrists that treat abusers?  How the... what the... this is so batshit insane it restricts the ability to even respond coherently.  How about we'll just say that we might be able to know if therapy would have helped these abusers if they weren't protected and the abuse not covered up in the first place.  But as they just pretended that nothing happened, therapy was not necessary.  

 Had the Catholic Church simply tossed the offenders out, it would have been branded as heartless.

So failing to even OFFER such help or therapy, and then lying about it and covering it up was a better option?  You really are a fucking piece of work, Donohue.

There is also much noise about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- now the pope -- approving the transfer of a priest out of his archdiocese in Germany for therapy. That happened 30 years ago. Again, he did exactly what virtually every other leader, clerical or secular, did.

That still doesn't make it right, asshole!!  And, are we still going to pretend like members of the catholic clergy are just like everyone else?  Are you going to try and make the case that priests don't hold a position of power and control over their followers that is far different from the general public?  That they are not in a unique position to exert extreme pressure and power over people?

Stop trying to make the case that this situation is the same as any other sex abuse situation.  It's simply not, and only an immoral asshole wouldn't realize it.  Priests are in a position of reverence and unquestioned authority.  They hold far greater influence over the people in their charge then in just about any other walk of life.  Stop pretending you don't know that, Donohue.  That's why this is different.  That's why it's so much worse and commands so much attention.

Anyone who maintains that in North America or Europe it was common practice for employers outside the Catholic Church to file a police report about suspected wrongdoing by their employees needs to put up or shut up: Where is the evidence?

Nice attempt at more deflection.  Define "commonplace". And, you made the statement that is was NOT commonplace, YOU provide the evidence.  You don't get to make outlandish claims out of laziness and then dare everyone to prove you wrong.  You're full of shit.  Prove otherwise.

And again, how does this in any way change the points I made above about why the CHURCH and its clergy are different.  Even if the claim you're making is right, it's irrelevant.

Beyond that issue, the focus on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is far out of proportion to the attention given by the media to the sexual molestation of minors when committed by non-Catholic clergymen.

This statement is just too disgusting to even address. I don't know enough curse words.  What an asshole.

According to a report by the New York Times in October, the Brooklyn district attorney's office had filed charges in 26 cases of sexual abuse involving members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Ahh... and now he shows himself to be an antisemite. How completely unsurprising.  

The next two paragraphs are devoted to Donohue presenting the case that Jews and Public School teachers are just as bad, but we don't give it nearly the same attention cause we love to persecute the largest majority in America. And frankly, I don't have the stomach for it.  

Bill Donohue, you are a vile, disgraceful, pitiful, sorry excuse for a human being and if you were on fire I wouldn't piss on you to put you out.

Lastly, the disclaimer from CNN:

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bill Donohue.

Yeah... no shit.  There's an understatement.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Out of commission

I'm sorry I haven't been able to post  much recently, but life intervened and recently I was involved in a very serious car accident... I hit a tree on a snowy road and it took them an hour to extricate me from the car.  I've just been discharged from the hospital and I'm a bit laid up right now with a broken sternum and some broken ribs along with various other painful injuries.

On the bright side, I was able to walk out of the hospital and given the seriousness of the crash it could have been much much worse.  I'm honestly lucky to be alive.

So I'll be taking some time to heal before I post again or before I begin interacting again on the sites I normally do like pharyngula.  Good health to you all and I hope to be back writing again soon. Feel free to leave a comment and say hello.

Take care.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A loss for Dems in Massachusetts... will they get the actual message?

So democrats lost a Senate seat last night as Scott Brown won the special election for Ted Kennedy's vacant seat... a seat he held for 47 years.  More importantly, dems lost the filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate, making pretty much any legislation they'd like to pass a virtual impossibility now that the party of "no" can continue being just that and do so with actual teeth.

But let's be honest, here... it's not as if the friggin democrats were actually taking advantage of the super-majority they held.  So in the end what's really different?  What's changed?  Ultimately nothing.

Look, the big foofooraw from the left is that this will mean the end of healthcare reform.  Whatever... that ship sailed, frankly, when the senate neutered it to the point of being useless several weeks ago.  No useful bill that included anything the American people actually need regarding healthcare was going to come out of the senate anyhow.  The house bill was weak but still WORLDS better than the senate bill.  Frankly speaking, I think that health-care reform in its current presentation is dead, and I have to say I'm not going to mourn its loss.  There is a growing sentiment that to save face the dems should just send the senate bill, as is, to the president to be signed.  This would be a HUGE mistake as I think most Americans don't LIKE this bill, and if it is passed you can guarantee a huge swing to the republicans in the mid-term elections.  Besides, are the dems interested in just saving face, or actually passing a friggin bill that helps US citizens?

Of course republicans will try to spin this the completely wrong way... they will say that this is clear indication that the people don't want healthcare reform.  You wait... that's what they will say.  And of course, only a moron with limited mental capacity would ever be stupid enough to make that claim... but that's what will happen.

No, the message here is NOT that the people don't want healthcare... it's pretty clear to me, anyhow, that the message is that people are fed up with the pandering, slow moving, deal-making, capitulating methods that the dems have taken regarding health care.  Every poll taken shows that a major majority of american citizens want a STRONG health care plan with a PUBLIC OPTION. That's what we want, but we sat back and watched as democrat after democrat caved in to the republicans and the health care lobby, at the one time they didn't have to.  With 60 dems in the senate, all they had to do was listen to the will of the american people, craft a solid, comprehensive plan that gave every US citizen the right to affordable health care and then just send the goddam thing up for vote, where it would easily pass.  But instead they decided to kowtow to a party that was never going to vote for ANY plan, no matter how much the dems gave up.  They were never going to put a single vote in... but for some stupid reason the dems wasted everyones time and taxpayer money on countless hours of negotiations to please republicans who would never be pleased, not to mention battling the creeps in their own party (I'm looking at you, Lieberman, you vile excuse for a senator) trying to make sure they kept the health care lobby happy.  It's been a farce, to say the least.

The people want healthcare reform... the people want a public option... this should be enough to make it happen... but US politics has become so overrun with lobby interests and the money that comes with it that the idea that legislation has anything to do with what the people want is a punchline. This, more than anything else, is what needs to change.  The only way to really fix what is wrong with our political system is to get rid of the lobbyists altogether.  Make corporate donations to public official's campaigns illegal.  However, the reality is that such reform would take the members of the House and Senate voting as a majority against their own greedy, pocket-lining interests... and that's less likely than the US getting a universal, single payer health-care system.  Such is the tragedy... it's a built-in flaw of the system that legislators are allowed to vote on their own self-interests... I believe there should be special conference that convenes to vote on issues regarding such matters, such as pay raises for legislators or legality of Lobbyist money being given to campaigns... but I'm dreaming, really... so I'll move on.

Ultimately, what I think is the message that is being sent with yesterday's election is this:  While the democrats may have good ideas, the party is slow, soft, and frankly incompetent.  That is the perception.  You can't just be a party of "ideas" and expect to be able to affect change.  We have to be a party of action. We have a majority.  The majority of the US is democratic, if not outright progressive, in philosophy.  BUT... in difficult times, people want leadership, and they want action.  We are in difficult times.  People in the US are impatient and reactionary even in the best of times... you can't expect them to sit back and wait while the democratic party continues to fumble around clumsily looking for the best way to please everyone.  It's time for the dems to stop fucking around and actually DO SOMETHING.

THAT is the message, democrats.  Ignore it at your own peril.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dammit, get over it already and get out and VOTE, Massachusetts

It's an important day in my former home state, and the republican strategy for regaining seats in the senate is looking to pay dividends already...

I've long understood the republican strategy since Obama took office and the democrats took control of the senate... and it is brilliant in its simplicity. They understood that the whole "change" movement was a sweeping success and ushered Obama into office. They also know that the American public is fickle and impatient, and that while everyone on the left was caught up in this "change has come" movement and hoping for, nay expecting this wholesale rapid turnaround and these sweeping social policies to just come pouring out of the president's office, the pace of government is trudgingly slow and the president himself has little to no effect on procedure and pace. So, knowing the short attention span and lack of patience of the american people, republicans knew that all they would need to do is simply stand in the way and gum up the works long enough and eventually liberals would become dissatisfied. They can do the math that dissatisfied voters don't turn out, and now you can introduce weak opponents and pour money into their campaigns in otherwise solid democratic areas, get an already energized republican base to show up at the polls while grumpy, impatient and unrealistic democrats sit at home and pout.

It's a strategy that has worked in MA and I fear might carry over into the mid-terms. Wake up, dems... you really think allowing a republican like Brown to take this seat is the better option than the dissatisfaction you might feel over what Obama hasn't delivered on yet? Ridiculous. Get over it, get out and vote before we return to the dimly lit slide into the abyss of the prior 8 years.